The Anomaly and Eclipse d20 – The Untremi and Vespene Gas

Quite some time back. It’s hard to be sure when multiple timerates, shifting dimensions, and true time travel may be involved. 

The research vessel/fortification now known as Sturmkanal (“The Lightning Channeled?”) had been established to allow certain… extreme…experiments to proceed unhindered by ethics, practicality, legalities, expense, sanity, and uncooperative natural laws.

It was hard to keep the help around though. Maintenance men, lab assistants, even the people who provided cleaning services all tended to want to leave for another galaxy after getting a good look at the things they were supposed to deal with or take for granted. Worse, all that offering “get rich in a few days” salaries did was get people to sign up for the training program and stay just long enough to become rich before buying a ticket for the opposite side of the galaxy and reporting a nest of lunatics meddling with insanely dangerous stuff.

So naturally the mad scientists who’d built the place tried to address the issue with mad science. Short of finding a reliable source of Igors, what else could they do?

  • Droids were too uncreative and limited. They could not be given the flexibility of a living mind – although, in rare cases, and for unknown reasons a few developed it. Relying on Droids led to all kinds of system failures and a lack of response to novel emergencies – and there were lots of those. They had to rebuild Sturmkanal twice.
  • Raising their own aides didn’t work. Sapient organic beings took to long to mature and teach and all too many of them wanted to do their own thing after they grew up rather than working for the lunatics who’d raised them. Even worse, attempting to rush the development of a sapient brain too much let to unpredictable breakdowns and insanities. They had to rebuild Sturmkanal three times, since some of them liked to think that they were reasonably ethical, and so they couldn’t just dump the kids.
  • Implants stressed the body-spirit link, adding too many of them to an organism – say, enough to give it all the skills and abilities the researchers needed in their support crews – would kill it all too soon. They saw the warning signs soon enough to stop that line of experimentation before any of the test subjects died, but it still didn’t work.

With three failures under their belts, the next experiment attempted to combine technologies from several realms – the Federations genetic manipulations, the Republics droid programs. Stardocks Energy Crystals, the quasi-crystalline extra-galactic silicon-protein bridge molecules of the “Furrypedes” and several more, with an animal base to reduce the ethical conundrums.

The goal… was genetic and biochemical restructuring, allowing later generations of the test species to “grow” quasi-organic “cyberware” as they developed. The systems were meant to include a programmable “droid brain” capable of loading a skill database, training and a basic personality matrix with the organic side to provide flexibility and better learning ability. Built-in tools, communications systems, power sources, and other equipment would make them more capable. Since that equipment would grow as a part of the body during gestation, it would be a natural part of the body, and so would not damage the body-spirit link. Even better… the system could take in power from external sources starting soon after birth, allowing the creatures using the system to grow more quickly, need less food and oxygen, and live longer. The modifications were meant to be an uplift module capable turning later generations of the simple animals they were experimenting on into competent and well-equipped aides, crewmen, and technicians that could be educated in minutes without wasting all that time on actually being taught.

Unfortunately, the result was flawed. The test animals – a species rather closely resembling the Giant Otter – did not fully express the advanced processing and memory capabilities of the computer design even as adults. The droid and skill programs needed more room to run – and so the processing load had to be shared between a small group. Still, even if that meant that a “pack” of six to twenty or so were required for full operation – digital “telepathy” provided communications that were fast enough to compensate as long as the members group stayed within a few miles of each other.

Worse, rather than getting to focus on fixing the problem, the exigencies of life led to an urgent attempt to create a militarized variant. It turned out that setting their research center down in an area that was currently overrun with mad scientists led to problems. Who could have guessed?

Even worse, while that was, at least in principle, simple enough – you simply added second-stage programming that led the quasi-cyberware to upgrade itself into an organic power armor shell – that left even less processing power available for other purposes. All those military systems and designs were pretty processing-intensive. Militarized Untremi were even less able to function on their own than the standard models.

And matters were left there as circumstances caused Sturmkanal to be abandoned. The Untremi sent out militarized scout groups in an attempt to regain contact with their designers – but as the natural laws of the Anomaly shifted, their scouting parties were often cut off in distant regions by intervening zones of reality where they could not function. Back at Sturmkanal, the military groups wanted to use the drive systems to move the installation – and its stable reality bubble – to go to the rescue of their cut-off scouting parties. The maintenance crew, however, had orders not to let anyone try to move the place under any circumstances. The ensuing stalemate would not be resolved for many centuries.

Meanwhile, one of the cut-off scouting groups settled down in the Stardock region, where the local natural law baseline allowed most of their systems to work – but where they were soon exposed to Vespene Gas.

Vespene Gas Geysers only occur at natural energy nexi. While the process is ill-understood, the energy concentration gradually builds up until it converts otherwise normal groundwater into Vespene Gas – which can be used to produce all kinds of gear from rather basic mineral materials with very little actual manufacturing involved. Sadly, the supply takes a good deal of time to build up again after the eruption dies down.

Like most such transformational catalysts, Vespene Gas is linked to a source of patterns. Oddly enough, however, the entities it is connected to offer a rather limited list of patterns, and seem to segregate them by the nature of the people using the stuff; each user-species gains access to it’s own, personalized, list of items. Worse, it doesn’t work on just ANY matter; most of the basic elements must be present already and the overall mass must be reasonably close in form to what is wanted. Still, it can affect a considerable volume of material – much more than similar transformational catalysts with less specific requirements.

Unfortunately, exposure to Vespene gas – including the traces left behind in the equipment and supplies it is used to produce – has serious mental effects. It induces violent tendencies and various fixed delusions designed to turn the various species using it against all the other species using it. So, while the stuff provides a fabulously quick-and-easy technological base (and, in fact, allows young Untremi to mature even faster than they normally would), it inhibits all real progress past whatever technology base it provides. Still, given a good supply of the stuff from a geyser… even a small colony can suddenly produce massive amounts of military hardware. Of course, each faction is roughly balanced against each other faction – and when one faction is in serious danger of being eliminated, they somehow seem to find a bunch of fresh Vespene geysers while the opposing factions stocks start running low, allowing them to rebound or at least to escape to re-establish themselves elsewhere.

Vespene Gas (Relic):

  • 1d6 (4) Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / Only for Reality Editing, only to transform mockups of the right general materials into real equipment, the available equipment list is limited by the faction to which the user belongs, only available from “natural” Vespene Gas Geysers (6 CP).
  • Disadvantage: Exposure to traces of Vespene Gas – including the traces left behind on the equipment it’s used to create – induces Insanity. In particular, a set of delusional beliefs designed to turn the user’s faction against all other factions of vespene gas users and a tendency towards excessive violence.

Net Cost: [6 CP (Base) – 3 CP (Disadvantage)]/6 (Relic) = .5 CP, rounds down to 0 CP.

Yes; a modest supply of Vespene Gas has no cost. Sure, you can get some cheap equipment with it, but it probably isn’t worth the ensuing bouts of insanity.

The group-minded Untremi (the militarized variants are locally known as “Zerg”) are actually much less seriously affected than most since it’s harder for paranoia to take root in their partially-computerized group mind – but they are still affected. They’re quite unable to realize that most of the rest of the galaxy has seriously erroneous, and at least partially irrational, ideas about what they’re up to.

Jacob, the Star Trek Engineer, was able to connect the mysterious pattern-suppliers with the Gamesters Of Triskelion.

The Untremi Uplift Template (Net 32 CP / +1 ECL).

Very young Untremi are basically playful small animals (normally Otters in the current setting, but the same template could be applied to other animals), albeit small animals with a certain amount of built-in protection – one reason why their parents do not worry about them much. Shortly after birth they can accept set of Stardock Power Crystals – allowing them to grow more quickly and play even more energetically. More and more of their systems will gradually come online until – shortly after achieving the medium size category but shortly before they become young adults at about age three – their computer systems successfully boot up.

At that point the youngster makes an instinctive choice, selecting a personality program out of those available to the local clan, any nearby clans, and in any local backups. Factors “considered” include compatibility with their existing (very) clever animal personality, the needs of the larger community, whether a particular local romp (a group sharing a particular Personality Program) needs more members, and the choices made by their siblings, if any.

The Personality Program is basically a Droid program – normally a specialty such as “starship engineer”. With it comes an assortment of skills appropriate to the chosen speciality, languages, and intelligent thought. While each Untremi in a romp is an individual, and has its own twists on the basic persona, they share a common set of skills and functions. In effect, each Untremi gets an instant education – however, since they do not experience a sapient childhood, Untremi tend to remain more than a bit childish, naive, and (absurdly) playful throughout their lives.

Finally, now that they are old enough to handle them reasonably responsibly, the really dangerous systems upgrade to full power or come online and the now-adult Untremi is ready to start helping out with whatever their romp is working on.

  • Immunity to normal campaign restrictions on high-tech equipment availability (Up to Progress Level Eight. Very Common, Major, Great), Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only for Innate Enchantment purposes, only for template abilities, any systems that require ammunition or fuel must have it supplied by normal purchases (10 CP).
  • Assistant (6 CP): Their “Aid Another” actions provide a +4 bonus instead of +2.
  • Cybertolerance / Immunity to the systemic impact of Cyberware (Uncommon, Major, Major; the first six Cybrenetic Implants do not count against the number that can be taken without side effects, 6 CP).
  • Enhanced Lifespan / Immunity/Aging past Adulthood (Uncommon, Severe, Trivial, 2 CP): Rather than 12-20 years, Untremi have a roughly human lifespan.
  • Innate Enchantment (11,457 GP Value), Corrupted for Reduced Cost (8 CP) / functions are significantly degraded, and some items may not work at all, in areas with incompatible natural laws. This may not be a serious problem in many campaigns, in which case the disadvantage (and, very likely, the entire template) should be disallowed, but it is pretty awkward in dimension-hopping settings or those, such as the Anomaly, with shifting natural laws.
  • Action Hero / Crafting, Specialized and Corrupted / only to pay the XP costs for their built-in gear (2 CP).
  • Immunity to Dispelling and Antimagic (Common, Major, Great, Specialized and Corrupted / Only to protect Innate Enchantments, renders protected systems vulnerable to anti-technological measures, 6 CP).
  • Immunity to difficulties in swimming due to lack of buoyancy (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial, 1 CP). Despite all the built-in metal and crystal, Untremi have a net neutral buoyancy in water.
  • Skill Bonus: +1 to Speak Language (Basic “Otter”, 1 CP).
  • Template Disadvantages (-10 Points):
    • Blocked / Cannot Speak: The Template does not include an improved voicebox; Untremi can understand languages, but can only communicate via animal noises, body language, and through digital radio in computer code. This also inhibits attempts to learn most systems of magic.
    • Compulsive / Childish: Untremi never really “mature”. They get bored very easily, spend a great deal of time at play, and are easily diverted. They must make a DC 18 Will check to remain focused when bored and suffer a -5 penalty on rolls to do things like long-term crafting or resist joining a game.
    • Insane / Naive: Untremi aren’t big on being deceptive, and have a hard time unraveling other beings being deceptive. They tend to take all statements, bluffs, and deceptions at face value until or unless the deception becomes blatantly obvious or someone takes time to explain it to them. This makes them quite vulnerable to Bluff, Illusions, and similar effects.

As for those Innate “Enchantments”…

  • Cyberware Equivalents (4175 GP):
    • Artificial Twitch Fiber II (600 GP): +4 Dex.
    • Augmented Sapience Module: Neural Boosters II (450 GP): +4 Int. Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (+12 Int) / limited to +2 plus +1 per two additional Untremi who are running the same droid persona program in the immediate vicinity,
    • Droid Program Module: Feat Plexus with Four Feats (2250 GP):
      1) +6 Skill Points, Specialized for Increased Effect (12 skill points) / Only to provide an “instant education” as appropriate to the droid persona program selected (three skills at +4).
      2) +6 Skill Points, Specialized for Increased Effect (12 skill points) / Only to provide an “instant education” as appropriate to the droid persona program selected (two additional persona-related skills at +4, +2 Languages, +2 to Heal (somehow the mad scientists needed a lot of first aid at one point or another) or another secondary skill).
      3) Any one speciality-related Feat.
      4) Any one speciality-related Feat.
    • Neural Computer Link (450 GP): Computer Use and Research checks become free actions.
    • Redundant Organs II (325 GP): +4 Con
    • Power Saver Chip with Integrated Anti-Shock Implant (100 GP). A PSC allows the user to slow his or her effective metabolic timerate by a factor of twenty-four – similarly reducing aging, the progress of diseases or poisons, and the need for food, water, and air.
  • Arcane Equivalents (Cyber-Upgrades) (5750 GP):
    • Baseline Programs / Automatic “proficiency” with all Racial Innate Enchantment gear: Masters Touch (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use Activated x.7 Personal Only x.7 (automatically covers all their racial “equipment”, but nothing else) = 980 GP).
    • Electrically Augmented Metabolism / Sustenance (The Practical Enchanter): Reduces the need to eat, drink, sleep, and breathe to one-quarter normal. (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use Activated x.7 Personal Only x.8 (Dependent on energy from Power Crystals or other sources, will not work if those are deactivated or removed) = 1120 GP.
    • Aquatic / Touch Of The Sea (Swim Speed 30, +8 to Swim Checks): Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use Activated x.7 Personal Only = 1400 GP).
    • Personal Haste (+30 Movement, +1 Attack when making a Full Attack): Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use Activated x.8 (Adds to Swim Speed, but not other movement modes) = 1600 GP.
    • Built-In Toolkit / Traveler’s Any-Tool (250 GP): An Untremi is always considered to have masterwork tools available.
  • Defensive And Survival Equipment (1046.5 GP):
    • Claws and Teeth / Straight Razor, Purchase DC 4 (Tiny, 1d4 Slashing, Crit 19-20), Small (+2 DC, 1d6 Base), Electrified (DC +2, +4d6 Electrical Damage), Mastercraft +3 (+9 DC, +3 to Attacks and Damage): Net +3 to Attack, 1d6 + Str Mod + 3 + 4d6 Electrical, Crit 19-20/x2) (45 GP, x2 = 90 GP)
    • Cyberskin / Boost Armor (DC 18) with Gravlight (+4 DC), Environmental Seal (8 Hours, +4 DC), Reduced Defense II (-4 DC), Segmented (+2 DC), and Increased Range Of Motion I (+2 DC) (600 GP): Net: +5 Armor, +6 Max Dex, Armor Penalty 0, Speed +10, +4 Str, +2 Reflex Saves.
    • Energy Shield (x5, 162.5 GP): Normally these provide 5 and call for the user to specify what type of energy when the system is activated. Using five, this simply provides Energy Resistance 5 to all forms of energy. While that isn’t a lot, it does mean that they can work in areas that happen to be radioactive, work with live electrical equipment, rush in to extinguish small fires, and deal with all the laboratory accidents that are a normal part of working with mad scientists.
    • Kinetic Barrier / Grav Shield: DR 5/- (175 GP). This helps a lot with lab explosions.
    • Nutrient Reserves: 8 Days worth of Food and Drink (5 GP): An Untremi can store enough internal reserves to handle eight days without power, 32 days with power, or up to two years with power but in “power saver” mode – such as for a long spaceflight. Of course, they will have to eat and drink a lot to replenish their reserves depleting them.
    • Portable Environment Generator (14 GP). Between this and the Environmental Seal, the Untremi can effectively hold their breath indefinitely and are comfortable in pretty much any livable environment.
  • Sensor and Communications Equipment (720 GP):
    • Computer Functions / Desktop Computer (175 GP). If they want to, the Untremi can play video games (they often want to do this VERY MUCH, and do) and run a variety of programs directly in their own heads.
    • Cybersenses / Class-II (Starship) Sensor Array: High Resolution Video, Infrared, Electromagnetic Sensors, Radiation Detection, LADAR Detection. DC 15 computer use check to determine location and general nature of those in the area, identify and locate all visible hazards, identify major weapons and defenses, survey and analyze the environment. Corrupted for Reduced Cost (500 GP) / Unless operating in a large group (and so able to apply interferometry) the Untremi have a very limited range compared to a spacecraft.
    • Internal Records / Neural Recorder (25 GP): Untremi can record both sensory information and thoughts so other Untremi can experience them. Given that this is a basic component of their operation, this should surprise no one at all.
    • Sensory Overload Filter (15 CP): Untremi got a +5 equipment bonus on saves versus blinding flashes, loud noises, and similar sensory assaults.
    • Universal Communicator with Satellite Datalink (5 GP): Send and receive audio, visual, and digital information. Untremi are constantly on the network – if only because they have to be to maintain their intelligence.
  • Power Supply (8 GP):
    • Stardock Power Crystal Implants / 2x Power Backpack, Specialized for Double Effect (LOTS of power) / semi-external; power crystals must be installed into the appropriate sockets for this to work (8 GP). Stardock Power Crystals are cheap, easy to use, and can provide enormous amounts of energy with little weight. After all, it would normally take a power pack heavier than they are or a hookup to a major stationary power generator to keep an Untremi running at anywhere near full capacity. Unfortunately, most universes say “Oh, HELL NO” when you tell them that you want to set up a proton matrix locked in a rather distant grid, set up a cloud of electrons around it to balance the electrical charge, fill it up with a sizeable portion of it’s rest mass in photons, and tap the resulting crystal for power with a rather simple bit of circuitry. This little problem limits the Untremi to operating in a rather narrow range of universes. Of course, since their creators were looking for lab assistants and (later) defenders for their transdimensional laboratory, that was not originally considered a problem, but a wise precaution.
  • Electromagnetic Discharge Systems (157.5 GP):
    • Hologram/Audio Player/Recorder (10 GP).
    • Laser Pistol with Stun Module II (137.5 GP): 2d8 Fire, Crit 20/x2, Range Increment 40′, Fort DC 15 or 1d4 rounds.
    • Microtorch (10 GP): Arcwelder/Cutter, 2d10 Melee Touch Attack. Cuts, welds, etc.

Thanks to it’s embrace of the Innate Enchantment 1 GP = 20 Cr Technology exploit, the Untremi Uplift Template is absurdly powerful for it’s +1 ECL cost. Of course, the corresponding downside is that the affected creatures are only capable of functioning in areas where the local natural laws allow said exploit AND all the technology they’re using. That’s… rare. And where it does occur, it also means that the other local species are likely to be running around in power armor and wielding high-tech weapons of their own. Introduced into a normal (Progress Level 2) d20 setting they effectively have a six progress level advantage. Note that “Cruiser versus Big War Canoe” is only a four progress level advantage.

One Response

  1. […] The Upgraded Untremi and Vespene Gas – The “Zerg” and Vespene Gas’s effects […]

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