Apex – The Playable Races Part I; The Hominidae

Apex is an experimental setting focused on exploring very different types of intelligence – races which simply do not think like humans do. That’s somewhat awkward – it’s hard to properly play characters who don’t think like you do – but it seems worth considering. The game is set up using Hero System Rules (4’th Edition) for the moment because Spellweaver – who’s been writing it up – finds that easier to work with.

Afrikans – the youngest of the current fully sapient races – evolved in Africa, and spread to the rest of the world with surprising speed. They’re currently dominant because most of the other races became extinct or near-extinct long ago and are basically the local version of Homo Sapiens – as Homo Sapiens might be if full sapience was dependent on a link with the Astral plane that limited the spread of sapient species but which can also be tapped into to power magic. Unfortunately, the nature of the magic available to any given race is strictly limited by the underlying structure of the minds using it – meaning that each race can only use a limited selection of abilities.

  • Physical Limitation: Elemental Powers Only. Afrikans can create and maintain advanced “conventional” technologies (which do indeed require a bit of magic to keep working in the face of supernatural resistance) and can manipulate the various elements, the states of matter, and the elemental forces of life and death (Frequently/Fully, -20 Points).
  • Normal Characteristic Maxima (-20 Points). As fairly normal humans, Afrikans characters have attributes in the normal human ranges.
  • Psychological Limitation: Pyramidal Psychology. Afrikans form large organizations easily, but have difficulties handling internal feedback within those organizations and with understanding systems involving it. Dominant leaders thus tend to hear only what they want to – and so less-dominant subgroups resort to factional infighting to advance their ideas. Groups of Afrikans have been known to obey obviously stupid orders simply because they came from the top – and may select very poor leaders and then follow them blindly. (Very Common, Strong, -20 Points)
  • +3 Levels with Ranged Combat (15 Points). Afrikans have explored a unique evolutionary niche as projectile predators (originally rock-throwers) – hunting considerably larger and stronger prey while remaining out of their effective reach. This has driven a massive evolutionary expansion in their brain, simply because the precise timing required for accurate throwing requires averaging across extremely large numbers neurons – since, as individuals, neurons are extremely inaccurate timers.
  • Basic Equipment Allowance: 15 Points (15 Points). Even if they start with nothing at all, an Afrikans character will very soon have at least the basics – being easily capable of turning rocks, sticks, hides, and fiber into weapons, protective armor, and other gear. That isn’t that hard even without their natural magic, and is remarkably easy with it.
  • Afrikan NPC’s have baseline attributes of 8, for -25 Points. This pays for basic skills and things.

Atlanteans are closely related to the Neanderthals, and reached full sapience amidst the World Tree forests on the subcontinent of Atlantis (an uplifted section of the mid-Atlantic ridge). As melee pack hunters and gatherers, their drive to intelligence was slower and more erratic than that of Homo Sapiens; improved pack tactics have a less direct link to increasing brain capacity. Their development of full sapience was thus a genetic quirk amongst a rather small isolated group. With their new access to psionic abilities, including the generation of energy weapons and personal protections, these “True” Atlanteans rapidly assumed near-total control of their subcontinent – but their relatively small and concentrated population remained extremely vulnerable to natural (and unnatural) disasters. After narrowly evading extinction, the remnant Atlantean population is expanding rapidly in partnership with Afrikans.

  • Physical Limitation: Symbolic Powers Only. For Atlanteans, names, symbols, and concepts carry a reality of their own, rather than, as they are for the other races, being something who’s “reality” exists strictly within their heads. As such, they may employ psionic abilities, manipulate symbols to empower rituals and sorceries, and employ memetic and nymic effects – most famously, altering the properties of materials by naming them. Sadly, this leaves them unable to effectively work with “independent” forces that lack symbolic aspects. (Frequently, Fully, -20 Points)
  • Normal Mental Characteristic Maxima, Physical Characteristic Maxima are increased by 50%: (-15 Points). Thanks to subtle psionic enhancement of their physical forms, Atlanteans can achieve routinely achieve levels of strength, speed, and durability that Afrikan individuals can only reach with the aid of powerful boosting effects – and can use their own temporary boosting effects to go well beyond those levels.
  • Psychological Limitation: Patterned Mentality. Atlanteans think in complex interacting patterns, rather than linearly. They organize themselves in complex networks of semi-independent clans and – amongst may other social effects – this leaves them unable to clearly separate products from their creators, making the idea of an assembly line or multistage manufacturing incomprehensible to them. This effectively limits their technology to what can be personally crafted (peaking at about the level of Imperial Rome) and their large-scale organizations to being personally run by unusually dominant groups. Worse, persistently disruptive elements are considered existential threats, rather than annoyances, leading to genocidal wars (Very Common, Total, -25 points).
  • Pattern Dance: When working with systems that involve many interacting factors – and ONLY when working with such systems – Atlanteans gain the benefits of two Overall Levels (EG: Not for Acrobatics – unless, perhaps, to make up for penalties from trying to perform in a ships rigging in a storm – or for breakfall, climbing, computer programming, concealment, contortionist, etc. They are, however, generally usable in melee (but rarely ranged, and certainly not for target shooting or sniping) combat, Oratory (and other performing arts), and for things like ecosystem dynamics, weather prediction, medicine, genetic manipulation, magneto-hydro-dynamics, neural network tuning, and other similarly complex or chaotic systems that prove to be difficult to adequately model with a reductionist mindset (-.25 limitation, 16 Points).
  • Attribute Bonuses: Str +5 (5 points), Con +3 (6 points), plus Damage Reduction 3/3 on PD/ED (3 points).
  • Atlantean/Afrikans Crossbreeds are possible (especially with a bit of Atlantean genetic meddling). Such individuals may swap out the physical limitation in their package and one of their two secondary benefits, but otherwise lean towards one race or the other. Such individuals are usually sterile with either parental species barring additional genetic meddling (which generally results in offspring typical of the other parent’s species, if often with genetic flaws), may face racism from both parental species, and are very, very, rare, with the oldest just now coming of age since it took some decades to work out how to make it possible in the first place.

Lemurian Racial Package (Reconstructed, Presumed Extinct):

The semi-aquatic Lemurians appeared on “Lemuria” (the exposed, and somewhat larger, Kerguelen Plateau) during an active uplift event and a severe global sea level minimum. Their rise to sapience was apparently triggered by a pressing need to adapt to a very rapidly changing landscape and shifting climate, favoring active thought over instinct. Unfortunately, with most of the Kerguelan Plateau currently deep under the arctic ocean and only a few of what would have been the most desolate peaks exposed as arctic islands, information on the Lemurians is very hard to come by. It is generally believed that the Lemurians went extinct when rising sea levels and subsidence left their microcontinent underwater and uninhabitable.

  • Physical Limitations: Harmonic Manipulation Only. Lemurians possessed the ability to gradually mold the world to their desires, patiently reshaping it’s landscape and species to suit their needs. While this is a broad-ranging and potent ability, it is anything but fast. Secondarily, it allows the user of Megalithic Magic, shaping the ley lines of the Earth into potent effects via massive stone constructs (Frequently, Fully, -20 Points).
  • Normal Physical Characteristic Maxima (-20 Points). The Lemurians were apparently fairly normal primates physically and did little or no “hunting” – unless you count fishing, clamming, and other forms of riverine and shoreline aquiculture.
  • Physical Limitation: Asymbolic. Lemurians are incapable of even comprehending advanced symbolism; they do not and cannot have a language as the current races understand them, They view their world as a series of unique events, rather than by sorting things into categories and narratives. For them, “consistency” was a feature of personalities and of their own works, not of the natural world (Frequently, Fully, -20 Points).
  • Harmonic Shaping: 1d6 Cumulative Minor Transformation, to any (natural-seeming) variation desired, affecting up to a 4″ radius, no range, requires one week per die roll (7 Points).
  • Telepathy, 3d6, Half (0) End Cost (+.25), Only to communicate images, emotions, and gestalt impressions (-1) (9 Points). An augmented function of already-enhanced mirror neurons, the Lemurians possessed empathy at the telepathic level.
  • Swimming, +3 (3 Points).
  • Immunity/Needing to Breathe more than once every few minutes (2 Points).
  • Immunity/Penalties for functioning in water (2 Points).
  • Immunity/Requiring basic implements. Lemurians were capable of giving temporary form to liquids, allowing them to serve as effective tools (3 Points) – making it easy to fish without nets, fish spears, lines, or even coracle-like “boats” since such things could simply be shaped from the water around them. (This could also be bought as a highly limited transformation ability, but it really isn’t worth the trouble).
  • Immunity/requiring records to transmit their cultural information. The Lemurians possessed a limited “racial mind”, and needed little education to function (2 Points).
  • Whether the Lemurians are actually extinct remains unknown; given their abilities, it is entirely possible that some decided to adapt to the ocean depths, or escaped into artificially-generated pocket dimensions or environments. Similar abilities have occasionally been observed in “defective” Afrikans specimens, although never to the full extent of the abilities listed here. Unfortunately, such individuals are invariably incapable of effective communication.

Hyperborean Racial Package (Reconstructed, Presumed Extinct, A.K.A “Giants”, “Jotun”, “Golden Lords”, “Bridge Builders”, etc):

The Hyperboreans (possibly a derivative of Paranthropus Robustus?) arose on the arctic landmass of Hyperborea (corresponding to the Lomonosov and Alpha Arctic Ridge systems, with some elements of the Mendeleev Ridge and the Chukchi Plateau, mostly forming a ring around the Makarov Basin) when geothermal activity gave rise to a local northern temperate climate. They had a morphology resembling a gracile gorilla, but were far more massive – averaging between ten and twelve feet tall. Socially, they were apparently extensively influenced by their instinctive competitiveness, uniting only under particularly dominant individuals and operating in roving bands when not under such control. Oddly enough, a Hyperboreans effective mental capacity is highly variable: while they can use their connection with astral space to “supercharge” their neural structure – potentially gaining vast intelligence in short bursts – their neural structure is poorly organized when not so supplemented, leaving them somewhat apelike much of the time. If a Hyperborean declares that “The Time For Debate Is Passed!” he or she probably really, REALLY, means it.

  • Physical Limitation: Materialism only. Hyperboreans are capable of manipulating the physical properties of matter and of imbuing it with mental energy (given a sufficient source), but they cannot access other powers. Such imbued constructs range from simple talismans imprinted with knowledge, energy, and possessing minor powers based on the material up to full-scale golem-style automatons – something well beyond the abilities of the other races. Secondarily, they can create and maintain midlevel technologies, such as steam engines (Frequently, Fully, -20 Points).
  • Mental Characteristic Maxima of 25, Physical of 15. Their great size provides some inherent benefits, but it also places considerable stress on their biological systems (-15).
  • Physical Limitation: For Hyperboreans mental energy is a very limited resource that they must spend to theorize, engage in complex debates, design structures, or otherwise perform mental labors – and their supply is relatively limited and slow to recover. Treat this as an Endurance Reserve, with a maximum reserve of (Con x 10) endurance and a recovery rate of 5/hour, 10-20 per hour in the presence of a Titan, depending on power level. The exact cost of various mental labors is up to the game master, but their mental energy is always a resource that must carefully managed. As a side effect, Hyperboreans tend towards very direct and simple solutions (regardless of how much physical effort they may involve) and their mere presence is troublesome for Titans, who find them quite draining. More skillful Hyperboreans can focus their energy reserves into simple astral blasts, shields, and weapons – making them quite effective (if very swiftly exhausted) when fighting astral entities.
    • This may in fact be a self-protective adaption, developed after the Ethereal cataclysm – allowing a Hyperborean to shut down vulnerable higher mental processes in the face of astral disruptions and to operate effectively outside of the areas with the astral overlays that allow full sapience.
  • Growth, 3 Levels, 0 End Persistent Always On and Physical (-.5); it cannot be turned off, means needing a lot of food, creates massive physical stresses (as noted above), and so on (15 Points).
  • Materials Manipulation Variable Power Pool (12 Points), Only to take on the properties of various materials or to imbue them with psychic energies (-5), must have a source for psychic energies (-.25), must touch the material to be affected or to copy its properties (-.5). requires a full phase to change (-.25) (14 Points), +1 Point towards the Control Skill (8- Base. 1 Point).
  • It is quite possible that some Hyperboreans are still around – whether having transferred their minds into golems, having taken on the nature of stone and entered stasis until conditions improve, or still surviving clustered around deep sources of geologic heat. Given their tendency to suppress thought and curiosity in the areas about them, they would be extremely easy to overlook.
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