The non-human species of the Free Union are largely treated as equal partners once they sign up to the Accords. New species are encouraged to mingle with humans and apply their strength to the Free Union's cause, although some species find this easier than others.
It is possible to create your own vassal species - if you have a great idea for a species, then you can submit it to the game team for possible inclusion into the Orion Sphere universe. See the Vassal Species page for details and guidelines of the kind of things we are looking for in a new species.
The Etherna are a humanoid species from the relic world of Thern II, just on the edge of the Gulf of Cetus. Thern II is very close to its star - too close to be within what most species would consider a habitable zone - and the planet's surface is volatile and partially molten. Thern II is riddled with a network of ancient advanced technology of unknown origin, which projects a powerful layered energy field around the world that extends to the planet's thermopause. The Etherna rose to civilisation under the protection of these primordial barriers, and developed an innate sensitivity to their fluctuations and inconsistencies - which could cause catastrophic earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or exposure to lethal levels of solar radiation. The drive to understand the ancient devices that keep their homeworld together pushed the Etherna towards desperate technological advancement and discovery.
By the time they were discovered by explorers in 3510 PT, the Etherna had constructed an extensive network of orbital stations in their home system and developed FTL drives capable of 500c speeds. First contact between Etherna and Free Union occurred as relative equals, between two survey ships scouting for nearby colony candidate planets. After signing up to the Free Union Accords in 3580 PT, their natural wanderlust and desire to explore has encouraged them to spread out broadly, and they are rarely found in large numbers except from on their home world. They are well-regarded as starship crew, and their inquisitiveness and natural energy sensitivity are generally seen more as assets than liabilities by Free Captains.
Character: As a species beset with historical hardship, the Etherna are somewhat dour and taciturn. They are often slow to contribute to conversation, except when discussing their obsession - etheric science. The Etherna's natural sensitivity to energy fields has engendered a deep and abiding fascination with the discipline, and many patrons of bars and taverns in the Sovereign Worlds have been taken aback by the fervour at which the usually withdrawn Etherna rant about reactor optimisation and the latest discoveries in particle science.
Appearance: Etherna typically share the same build as Terrans, but with purple skin that reflects some of the ultraviolet radiation that the Thern star emits. The skin of most Etherna has been darkened by exposure to a deep purple colour, and all have a scattering of irregular paler pigmentation along the hairline and scalp, similar to leopard-pattern. These elements can be accomplished with makeup.
Etherna have large, pronounced ears, which serve as a means of heat dissipation. Their ears have pointed tips and are long and often broad or - this look is achievable using prosthetics - such as the examples here and here. The Etherna have a diet rich in protein, and have elongated canine fangs optimised for tearing at flesh. Some Etherna however, especially those who spend a lot of time with Terrans, file down their fangs as other species can find them intimidating.
Abilities: Etherna have 2 Body Hits, and a Death Count of 200 seconds. If an Etherna Character purchases the Scientist skill, they immediately gain 1 rank of the Etheric Science skill at no additional cost.
Their innate sensitivity to energy fields allows them to pick up certain phenomena in a manner similar to a scanner or analyser, although the process takes longer. By roleplaying investigating and concentrating for at least 2 minutes, an Etherna can scan the local area for Etheric Science phenomena (they cannot pick up other types of phenomena). Once an Etheric Science phenomena has been identified, they can further investigate it to uncover more information - this process requires at least 5 minutes of additional appropriate roleplaying, and unlike an analyser only returns vague impressions rather than specific information. Both of these investigative abilities require a referee.
The Gardeners are not really an individual species, but rather communicative components of one of a number of vast sentient alien ecosystems, dubbed Cordyceps by their discoverers. The beings called Gardeners are actually human corpses embedded with Cordyceps entities. The first successful contact with the Cordyceps was in 3428 PT PT, after a distress signal was detected from an unsurveyed system in the Saggital Bridge Sector. A scientific party from the Free Union discovered a lone planet orbiting a particularly bright white dwarf star, completely covered by a dense layer of plant and fungal matter. The distress signal originated from a crashed Terran sleeper ship from the ancient Sol system, which had lain dormant on the planet for at least a thousand years. On landing to investigate, the scientists were greeted by humans, who had no memory prior to five years before, and were covered with greenish sores. These humans called themselves “Gardeners” and spoke of a Melody sung by the planet itself that guided them. Fearing an alien contagion, the exploration party retreated to the crashed ship and checked its data logs – the ship had suffered a life support system failure in transit, and its payload of twelve thousand colonists had all perished in their stasis chambers prior to landing. Five years prior to their arrival, the outer hull of the ship had been breached in an earthquake, and the native ecosystem had entered the ship and gotten into some of the stasis pods, somehow bringing the unrotten corpses of the colonists back to a semblance of life. The living immune systems of the explorers would protect them from a similar fate, so they were able to establish proper contact with the Gardeners.
Although the Gardeners generally prefer to stay with and tend to their home ecosystem, the planet encouraged a number of them to go out and learn more about the wider universe, to see how they could assist with the development of civilisation and life, and perhaps bring some of that knowledge back. On learning more of the Free Union and their struggle for freedom from the Ascendancy, it came to regard the Sovereign Worlds as needing its tending and wisdom, and offered to join them as an equal.
Investigations on the Cordyceps world, Thicket, and on willing Gardeners has uncovered more about the process by which they are created. Deceased corpses left in a Cordyceps ecosystem quickly become colonised with native spores, which take root in the body’s nervous system. Plantlike bodies sprout around some of the major organs and emit fluids that revitalise the dead tissues. Over 48 hours or so, the body will awaken as a new Gardener, with no memories of its previous life. The process has been attempted with other species with very limited success – the Cordyceps lifeforms do not seem anywhere near as compatible with non-humans. The bodies of the individual Gardeners still require food, fluids and sleep to stay healthy, but the parasitic flora that animate them derives its energy from chlorophyll sacs which the spores embed across the skin, which leaves a patchwork of greenish flesh, often marked by scarring.
Individual Gardeners often hear the Melody making suggestions and guiding them in general actions, although they do not always have to follow what is said. They understand that everything they experience is shared with their home ecosystem, but the planet has never given individual Gardeners information. It does not provide data, and it would not grant someone knowledge of a password or event another Gardener knew. It may occasionally also provide a feeling, such as discomfort at a person, place or thing, but this is exceptionally rare.
Since being discovered, the Free Union has allowed the Cordyceps to seed on two other worlds, slowly taking over the existing biome. These other worlds - Bosk and Kudzu - do seem to retain a connection with each other, although they do appear to be somewhat separate entities with their own discrete personalities and priorities.
Character: The character of the Gardeners is an extension of the hivemind ecosystem of which they are a part, with some individual variation based on the individual’s role or speciality. They all have an urge to protect and care for each other and their home planet. They have an innate tendency to act in accordance with what they see as “the greater good”, for the Cordyceps as a species and also for those who they regard as positive forces in the universe for protecting life and diversity – the Free Union is the prime example, which they have allied with. All Gardeners are in tune with their home ecosystem through something they call the Melody – a signal that communicates guidance and intent. An individual Gardener hears the Melody of the ecosystem they are from – although they are broadly similar in outlook, there are slight differences between the three.
Appearance: Gardeners are outwardly human, but much of their internal functions have been replaced by the plant or fungal Cordyceps lifeforms. These lifeforms derive energy from chlorophyll sacs embedded in their skin. Chlorophyll sacs impart a patchwork greenish tinge to the skin, which can be physrepped using makeup. The sacs tend to swell over time and can eventually burst through the skin, causing the epidermis to crack and split and leaving angry red scars. The swelling and scarring can be physrepped with prosthetics or scars and wounds painted on with makeup.
Abilities: The plant-based nature of their major control systems make Gardeners quite resilient, although once their systems begin to fail they quickly reach a point beyond which they cannot recover. Gardeners have 4 locational hits and a Death Count of 100 seconds. Additionally, their floral components can rapidly regenerate the tissue that protects them, allowing them to slowly recover from damage on their own. A Gardener automatically regains one lost locational body hit every 30 minutes. Because of the complex nature of their parasitic biology, they cannot interface with Lazarus Corporation’s Rebirth Process as it currently exists, although research is ongoing on creating a viable means of doing so.
Although Gardeners are independent entities, they do retain a degree of connection with their parent planetary ecosystem. This is often described as a “Melody”, and communicates with each host by sending feelings, intents and impressions, guiding them and assisting them from time to time. The Melody typically pushes an agenda consistent with that of the character’s home ecosystem, and a Gardener can roleplay receiving these messages. Messages are rarely specific to the individual circumstances, but more commonly broad expressions or vague images accompanied by the feeling of intent. Characters are not obliged to act on the messages they receive. Occasionally, messages might also be supplied by Refs and other members of the Game Team. It is presumed that this communication is somehow psionic in nature, although Commonality scientists (who are regarded as the highest authority in this area) have not had the opportunity to study the phenomenon to confirm if this is the case.
The Ikunkuma have a reputation as hoarders and scavengers across known space, and are often poorly regarded by the authorities. On many worlds, they are called 'trash puppies' or 'garbage dogs', and many have taken these names to heart and respond to them proudly. Originally from the Kumana System in the Julius Sector, their nomadic freighter flotillas can turn up virtually anywhere, loaded with all manner of junk and some useful goods for trade. Ikunkuma are naturally driven to experience the universe and driven to find interesting things to treasure, trade or boast about. They organise themselves into small tribes, usually consisting of a dozen or so family groups who consider their property to be shared amongst each other. Their society is fairly cooperative, and tribes tend to meet regularly and share useful things – a legacy of their home-world’s sparse natural resources. When they discovered FTL travel, the species spread out across the local sectors, travelling and trading in small groups, accumulating things that they found interesting and valuable and occasionally bringing their hoards back to their home world of Ikuna.
Ikunkuma have an inherent inclination to pick up and take things that they see as just lying around, and cannot really understand the concepts around personal property that other species hold. Although most spacefaring members of the species understand that others get upset when they take things that are still in use, they have little problems with taking things that have been thrown away or discarded. In a short time, an Ikunkuma tribe can accumulate a vast hoard of material and junk, with a few functional and useful treasures among it. Although their scavenging habits are considered somewhat irritating or unpleasant by many, an Ikunkuma tribe will almost always have something of use somewhere in their vast hoard of junk, and can be the saviour of a canny merchant or colony willing to deal with them.
Character: Ikunkuma are scavengers at heart, and rarely pass up the opportunity to pick up things that others have discarded that might be valuable or useful later. Their culture is driven towards extreme conservation of resources, and anything that they see with the potential to be reused or re-purposed has value in their eyes. They are not as a rule dirty or unclean, but see no reason not to make use of things that are lightly damaged, or try to fix things that are broken. Many “trash puppies” feel drawn to the Engineer’s profession as a way of prolonging the life of things or using broken parts to repair or improve things. Ikunkuma society is quite communal and cooperative. They form close bonds with those they see as family, and consider group resources to be shared between everyone for the good of the group.
Ikunkuma characters tend to take pleasure in their senses and in the physicality of things – the smells of a cooked meal, the feeling of a well-made item. They like to touch objects and surfaces and get a feel of things with their fingers (although remember to keep the Conduct rules in mind when interacting with other characters).
Appearance: The Ikunkuma are a mammalian species, with furred bodies and pronounced snouts on their faces that somewhat resemble the canines of ancient Terra – this can be accomplished with a latex dog snout prosthetic or full-face dog-like mask. Their fur is short and tends to be brown or grey in colour, which can be accomplished with makeup. Ikunkuma display their tribal allegiance using elaborate patterns of tattoos on their upper bodies and sometimes faces – a single tribe will typically have a few recurrent motifs that can be found in multiple places across their bodies – concentric crescents, arrangements of diamonds, etc., scattered amongst an array of abstract shapes and lines. These tattoos can be painted on with makeup, or using something similar to tattoo sleeves. Tribal tattoos can cover anywhere on the upper body – from a single arm or hand to the entirety of the arms, torso and head - but will usually have at least some parts that are visible.
The garbage dogs try to dress in a manner similar to fashionable Free Union humans, in an attempt to fit in and participate in Free Union culture. However, their stylistic sensibilities seem to clash with their tendency to gather and hoard, and they often end up looking mismatched and scruffy. They do not really understand why lightly damaged or mismatched items are considered waste by other species, and often end up wearing odd shoes or things with holes in or worn the wrong way around. Regardless of what they end up wearing, their clothes always incorporate large pockets, perfect for stuffing with all manner of trinkets and baubles.
Abilities: The Ikunkuma are a hardy species, and have 2 locational body hits and a Death Count of 400 seconds.
They have an innate fondness for objects and devices, and pick up all kinds of things in the course of their travels (sometimes without the permission of the owners). Most Ikunkuma are well-travelled, and are surprisingly good at identifying the origin of a given object based on its style, design or markings. In certain circumstances (when a Ref is present), an Ikunkuma who studies an object for a while can learn additional information about it. The player must inform a nearby Ref that they are using this ability, and there is absolutely no guarantee that they will learn any useful information at all.
In their travels, the Ikunkuma tend to pick up various bits and bobs of all sorts, and can sometimes acquire objects of real value or usefulness. Ikunkuma player characters can occasionally receive additional things in their player pack at the start of an event. These could be worthless knicknacks, useful game items, bizarre plot elements, stolen items that the owners are looking for, or potentially anything else – what they get, if they indeed get anything, is entirely random and at the whim of the Game Team.
The Yelk are a race of sentient fungi, occupying the caves of Fornax XII in the Veil Sector. The surface of Fornax XII is periodically bathed in lethal radiation from its star, but life thrives in tunnels carved by rivers into the calcium-rich rock that is abundant on the planet. The Yelk evolved as an extremely cooperative society to exploit resources and protect themselves from predators, and were making the first steps towards interplanetary spaceflight when their radio signals were discovered by the Ascendancy in 3294PT. Due to the First Tulaki Invasion occurring at the time, the majority of contact between Terrans and Yelk was visits by independent traders and scientists, most with separatist leanings. The Yelk were among the initial signatories of the Sovereign Worlds Charter in 3370PT.
Physiologically, Yelk are quite resilient. Their bodies are quite homogeneous, and their flesh dense and spongy. They do not have bones or many of the muscular tissue in other species, and their flexible bodies move via a network of fluid-filled chambers, which can empty and fill in by contracting and expanding. This fluid network doubles as a nutrient circulatory system, and areas can be sealed off in response to injury - the substance is affectionately known as “Yelk Milk” by Free Union physicians. Their fluid-filled and pale flesh leads them to be sensitive to bright light and dry conditions, and they tend to prefer dim, moist environments.
Character: Yelk are a highly cooperative species, and enjoy being close to others. They have a tendency towards empathy and being tactile with their friends and allies. They form strong communities and firm friendships in those they trust. It is rare to see a Yelk frowning or angry, as they hold that positive emotions engender positive attitudes.
The spores that Yelk release to enhance their communication has resulted in some traits that other species consider odd. As most sophonts cannot detect the spores and their meanings, most Yelk use extremely thorough descriptive language when speaking to non-Yelk. During a conversation they regularly check to see if they have been understood, and this constant questioning has developed into an “accent” of sorts - a rising intonation at the end of each sentence or phrase is extremely common among Yelk who travel the galaxy. Additionally, Yelk names tend to be associated with the primary odour profile of their spores - when translated into speech, this results in Yelk names that describe their “tasting notes”. Examples include ‘Woodsy with a Subtle Musk’, ‘Petrichor with Ginger Notes’, ‘Bold with a Fresh Flavour’ and so on. Like many names, only a shortened version is used.
Appearance: Yelk are entirely white-fleshed, as befits their fungal nature, although some exposed parts may have become beige or brown due to UV light exposure triggering a protective melanin coating. The irises of their eyes are normally white, although some yelk cover their sensitive eyes with sunglasses or a thin gauze when in bright conditions (you can use contact lenses to achieve this effect, or sunglasses or gauzy materials can be used to cover your eyes if you cannot wear contact lenses). Yelk have an array of long, thick hyphae extending down from their “head” structures (this vaguely resembles smooth dreadlocks), rather than anything resembling hair.
Many Yelk also have spore-bearing structures around their face, neck or other parts of their bodies - these usually resemble gills or shelf-mushrooms like Terran oyster mushrooms, in the same colour as their skin. These structures release spores that aid in communication and identification, and can be simulated with prosthetics - possible examples can be seen here and here.
Abilities: Yelk do not have internal organs – their specialised tissues are distributed fairly evenly across their entire body. As a result, they do not have locational hits – instead, they have 6 global hits, and become unconscious when this total is brought to 0. Each +1LH they would gain normally instead becomes +3 Global Hits. Armour worn by a Yelk functions as normal (i.e., it is locational). Yelk have a Death Count of 200 seconds.