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If you excel in life, then you can become Immortal in death. Our Path encourages us all to strive for greatness in our chosen calling, and this drive has forged a powerful empire in the flames of competition and struggle. The inhabitants of the Dominion are guided by the strength of their faith, and with that faith in their hearts they can conquer the galaxy.
The Dominion culture, at its core, is an extension of the tenets of the Path of Tulak, the religion developed by the Dominion's dominant species, the reptilian Tulaki. The Path encourages its followers to strive for greatness in their chosen profession or calling, and this drive has forged a powerful empire in the flames of competition and struggle. From the sacred world of Origin, the ruling priesthood of the Dominion guide the faithful, holding their many and diverse adherents together, and exhorting them towards the heroic acts that might grant them a seat among the Immortals. The ecclesiocracy ensures that healthy competition can flourish in their Dominion, with forces both within and without - a view that has sparked many of the most destructive wars in recorded history.
The Dominion is a place for mighty champions and cunning villains, where power and status are ready to be seized from the hand of a bested competitor - be they a researcher, warrior, pilot or doctor. Meanwhile, the priests whose wise counsel guides the Dominion watch for signs from the Immortal Spirits, the ascended souls of the greatest sophonts ever to exist.
Dominion culture is primarily an extension of the Path of Tulak, the religious doctrine of the Tulaki species. Most social rituals are centred around religious practice, and trying to attract the attention of the Immortal Spirits. The faith exalts those who succeed in their chosen path, and much of Tulaki society revolves around competition, striving towards greater accomplishments, and then seeking recognition for those accomplishments. Failure while striving to do great things is rarely punished severely, but those who lack drive and ambition are looked down upon by Dominion society as “weak-spirited”. In war, victory is more important than things like revenge and killing, and the Tulaki are interested in conquest more than annihilation. Those who are willing to submit to them are integrated into the Dominion as vassals, and if they prove strong enough, to participate in Tulaki society.
The culture of the Dominion lends itself heavily to ceremony and ritual, both personal and as a community. Social gatherings are encouraged, and used as opportunities to boast about one's accomplishments, size up potential rivals or build connections with allies. A group or person's successes might be highlighted and ceremonially recognised by Priests, used as an example to inspire others present, and hopefully draw the attention of the Immortal Spirits. Some ceremonies take the form of declaring your personal goals to a group, or declaring when you have achieved them. Disputes are often resolved by ritualised competitions and challenges, normally administered or judged by a Priest or senior Hero regarded as an expert in the field of the competition. Part of the reason for these public ceremonies is for the Priests to apply a sense of community to what would otherwise be a highly individualistic faith.
The framework of the Path provides the two main modes of advancement and status in Dominion society - the path of the Hero and of the Priest. Heroes are those who are attempting to join the ranks of the Immortal Spirits by superlative achievement in their chosen field, and are afforded status and power as successful and powerful individuals. Priests, on the other hand, have deliberately eschewed the journey towards immortality in order to guide and help others on that journey. Priests are afforded great respect for this choice, and almost all adherents of the Path will listen to the advance and guidance of a Priest. Prominent heroes are typically what outsiders picture when thinking of the Dominion - larger-than-life individuals who boast about their past achievements and are always on the look-out for opportunities to compete or challenge themselves.
Since they have abandoned the quest for individual greatness, Priests are also trusted to be the binding glue that holds Dominion society together. The Dominion is effectively “ruled” by the priesthood, as they are trusted to make decisions for the good of the society as a whole, and in doing so create opportunities for others to excel. They rarely take leadership roles, however, but are commonly found at a Heroic leader's side, offering advice and guidance. Priests have their own internal hierarchy, usually based on their influence and how much the general populace trusts and follows their teachings. Priests with sufficient status will be invited to learn new ceremonies, and may be consulted in decisions about the overall direction of a planet, fleet, or possibly even the Dominion as a whole. Although Priests who abuse their special status in Dominion society are looked upon very poorly, and may be subjected to sanctions by a group of their peers. Because of this, priests who seek greater power and influence are careful to tow the line, or make any adjustments slowly and after sounding out or convincing a network of supporting priests, while also attaching themselves to some high-profile Heroes and distributing fairly popular teachings.
In play, Dominion characters will be expected to participate in group ceremonies at events, in particular a Challenge Moot. In these meetings, characters are encouraged to declare their goals to those present, boast about their achievements and challenge each other. If characters repeatedly avoid these public occasions, then other characters are likely to view them as strange and endangering their spirits.
The Tulaki are a reptilian species that evolved in the Origin system in the Sagittarius Arm of the galaxy. Their genome allows for an extreme degree of physiological variability, which usually resolves into one of a number of distinctive castes. The majority of Tulaki are what the Ascendancy dubs “Saurian morphs”, and are somewhat large than humans, with greater muscle mass, large jaws and clawed digits, and are notably aggressive. The second most numerous caste are the “Serpentine morphs”, who are about the same build and size as humans, with finer features and less aggression. The least numerous caste display even greater genetic variability, but are universally much larger, broader and more physically powerful than humans, but whose intellectual abilities are lesser than other castes - these hulking individuals are collectively grouped together as “Megasaurians”.
The different Tulaki castes have different advantages, usually dependant on the extensiveness of the physrep requirement. All members of the Dominion are allowed to dedicate themselves to the Path of Tulak and become Heroes.
Serpentine Tulaki have the least demanding physrep requirement, requiring a minimum of a scaled effect on their exposed skin, which can be achieved with makeup. They can become Priests or Heroes but have no other particular advantages or disadvantages. Serpentines have 2 locational body hits and a death count of 200.
Saurian Tulaki must have a minimum of a foam lizard or dinosaur mask that enlarges the head shape. They are naturally more aggressive and confrontational as a caste than others. They can become Priests or Heroes, and have 3 locational body hits and a death count of 200.
Megasaurian Tulaki must have physrep elements that significantly enlarge their physical form, such as American football padding or similar. Megasaurians get advantages depending on their subtype and physrep, but all Megasaurians are unable to purchase Professional Skills (including the Priest skill), as they are more instinctive and less capable of advanced cognitive tasks than other castes. Example megasaurians include:
If you would like to play a megasaurian, you will receive a package of abilities based on your physrep. All megasaurian physreps should make you considerably bulkier than a normal human.
The Xak’noth are a race of human-size insectoids from the Xak'dol system in the sector of the same name. They are hardy creatures, covered in chitinous carapaces. They were one of the earliest other species discovered by the Tulaki in their evangelistic expansion, and are strong devotees of the Path of Tulak.
Character: Xak'noth are consumed by the desire to excel in their chosen field, follow the dictates of the priests and spread the truth of the Path of Tulak.
Appearance: Xak’noth are giant insects, looking like beetles of cockroaches. They have hard plates of black or dark red chitin all over their bodies (this can be physrepped by worbla plates or similar rigid materials sewn into a costume). Their faces also have chitinous plates and mandibles.
Abilities: Xak'noth have 2 locational body hits and a Death Count of 200 seconds.
Their hard carapaces serve as a form of natural armour for the Xak’noth. Xak’noth cannot wear armour, but have the equivalent of heavy armour on all of their body locations (3 locational armour hits). This carapace cannot be repaired by an Engineer, however, and must be healed as if it were body hits by a physician who must also either possess at least one rank in the Life Science skill or be a Xak’noth in order to do so.
Xak’noth are also resistant to radiation. Radiation Conditions take twice as long to affect or progress with them.
Hailing from the Vas'Kelk system in the Bleak Sector, the Kelki are more reluctant subjects of the Dominion. While they have embraced the quest for individualistic success that is the heart of the Path of Tulak, they have more problems with the aspects of encouraging others to succeed. The Kelki are a highly individualistic and competitive species. When discovered by the Dominion as they pushed into the Orion Arm, the Kelki were at an early industrial level of technology, and still divided into a multiplicity of small warring states who competed for power and resources
Character: Kelki are fiercely competitive in almost every field of endeavour. They will rarely offer much respect to anyone who has not personally demonstrated their superiority and prowess, or are a close friend. They are argumentative and fractious, but generally relatively good-natured about it, and they forget slights against them quickly - but in the heat of the moment they can lash out at those they see as a threat to their status and superiority.
Appearance: Kelki are humanoid in general shape, but possess pointed ears and heavyset, gnarled brows (both achievable with prosthetics). Their skin is mostly human-like in colour, although their faces above the cheekbones are covered with a light coating of brown fur shot through with silver patches. Psionic Kelki have patchy fur that glows in psionically active areas (physrepped by UV-reactive make-up), and some have irises that do the same.
Abilities: Kelki have 2 locational body hits and a Death Count of 200 seconds. Kelki are latent telekinetics, and with training are able to use their mental powers to affect the physical world in a far more direct way than Elysian psions. Kelki start with 1 Psi Point, and can buy powers from the Telekinesis Root Path and its Branch Paths. The extent of their powers is not well-known among the other species of the galaxy, but it is known that they can generate effects similar to the REPEL and KNOCKDOWN calls.
Klingons (Star Trek), the Covenant (Halo series), Narns (Babylon 5), Nietzscheans (Andromeda), Classical Greeks
Dominion attire is influenced by their propensity towards conflict as well as their utilitarian attitude. They tend to wear simple garb like heavy cotton tunics and trousers as a base layer, but then adorned with leathers and furs (often from alien beasts they have killed). Less martial characters may wear simple robes of heavy cotton, often dyed in rich colours. The tendency towards mastery and display of status encourages a high degree of customisation and personalisation of one's personal effects - ornate, decorative and engraved items are common for those who can afford it.
High-status characters like to show off their wealth by carrying expensive weapons and other gear in an ostentatiously visible fashion, and none would be seen out without a melee weapon of some kind. Warriors prefer to advertise their status by wearing armour plates such as pauldrons, bracers and greaves even in non-combat situations (although they tend to avoid anything with gratuitous spikes on it). Similarly, experts are likely to carry the tools of their trade around with them on belts to display their chosen path in life. Particularly devoted followers of the Path of Tulak may wear personal adornments that show their devotion to particular Immortal Spirits. Tulaki priests are the major exception, and tend to dress humbly in plain robes, but will invest in more ornate and embellished ceremonial tools.
Dominion tech is utilitarian and tough – their devices are often bulky and blocky compared to that of other civilisations. Generic devices are simple and unadorned, but favoured pieces of gear are likely to quickly become adorned or decorated to draw attention to the character's chosen speciality.
See this Pinterest board for an overall impression of the intended look and feel of the Tulaki Dominion.
The Dominion regards their vassals as having the potential for greatness, but requiring a longer distance to get there than Tulaki. While exceptional individuals who prove themselves are considered to be equal to equivalent Tulaki heroes, in general, vassal races are considered to have a lot still to learn. Tulaki tend to regard their vassals as an older sibling might see a younger one - protective, and willing to offer help and guidance, but demanding of respect and a certain degree of seniority. Dominion vassals cannot become Priests, as they are not regarded as having sufficiently pure cultural upbringings to be able to function as effective conduits for the will of the Immortal Spirits.
The Commonality are little known to the Dominion, as their space lies on the opposite side of the Orion Arm. They are seen as being overly mysterious and lacking in substance. The Commonality is, culturally, almost the complete opposite of the Dominion, but there has not been enough friction between the two sides for the Dominion to show them any real regard. There is a general perception that the Elysians in particular are far too arrogant for their own good - while it is important that one takes ownerships of their successes, theirs often feels like a hollow brashness that has no great deeds behind it, and little camaraderie or warmth.
Of particular note, the Dominion regards the self-inflicted ruination of Terra very poorly. Their general opinion is that any species idiotic and selfish enough to destroy their own homeworld is clearly destined for self-annihilation sooner or later.
The Ascendancy was the first powerful culture that the Dominion encountered, and continues to be its greatest competitor. The Dominion has waged numerous wars against them, and regards them to be worthy opponents. While prominent individuals are respected by the Dominion, the Ascendancy culture is considered to a brutal and barbaric, and its oppressed citizens are not given enough room and freedom to excel and develop spiritually.
The Free Union formed during the First Tulaki Invasion, as a group of conquered Dominion and oppressed Ascendancy worlds at the fringe of the conflict ejected their occupiers and declared self-rule. This bold move created a sense of respect for the Free Union that the Dominion has held ever since. However, their “democracy” is clearly too messy and filled with compromises to be tenable in the long run - there is too much scope for governmental bloat and beurocratic stifling of individuals who deserve to excel.
The Path of Tulak is the faith that binds the Dominion together. Its core tenets are as follows;
These tenets are rounded out with numerous rites and ceremonies that give structure to Tulaki life. Adherents believe that the universe is filled with immortal spirits, who were once mortals that excelled in a particular field of endeavour, and upon their death became a disembodied spirit responsible for overseeing that field.
It is possible for many immortal spirits to represent a single field – as long as they are remembered by mortals, their divinity remains intact. In this way, memory is the competition of the spirits – a spirit that is superseded by another and forgotten must return to the cycle of rebirth and endeavour to become a well-remembered immortal once more. This ever-striving nature of the faith is what propelled the relatively stagnant Tulaki society to the great height it occupies today. When laying down the tenets, Tulak clearly left room for all the subspecies of her homeworld to prosper – instead of the purely martial path to success (in which the more physically powerful subspecies had a distinct advantage), the Path gives a route for all to attain immortality in whichever fields they are best suited. You can find information on the most prominent Immortal Spirits here
While the tenets of the Path have been of great overall benefit to the society, they leave space for a dark undercurrent in the faith. Some Tulaki believe in obtaining excellence by superlative achievement in areas that most would consider unacceptable or monstrous – theft, torture, treason or other criminal activities. The priesthood and government of the Dominion roundly reject those who would work to obtain immortality by these means, and consider immortal spirits of such acts to be monsters and demons. However, there have never been any cohesive theological arguments that have managed to hold together for the total rejection of ascension through these methods. Nevertheless, the vast majority of Tulaki society does reject ascension by these criminal routes.