My quick outline of getting to understand this sci-fi role-playing game from 2001, created by Matthew Webster.
First impressions: Setting is more space opera than hard sci-fi (lots of humanoid aliens with Earth-animal features, faster-than-light space travel, telepathy), with a dose of cyberpunk (cyberspace, bionics, corporations as sovereign powers, high fashion and street scum).
Gameplay is similar to a light version of D&D 3.0, with some 1980s mechanics here and there. Character creation is a hybrid of influences: Rolling for base stats like D&D, point-buy for skills like GURPS (with “discounts” for class skills) and random mutation tables like from Gamma World.
From the first “Awakenings” book…
CHARACTER ATTRIBUTES – pretty straightforward, close to D&D
* Dexterity (focus on accuracy)
* Agility (focus on movement rates)
* Empathy (emotional side of “Wisdom,” key to surviving cyberwear use)
* Appearance (within one’s own species only, With room for individual preferences)
* Willpower (self-control side of “Wisdom”)
Roll for attributes, point-buy system for skills with some class-grouping suggested.
GAME MECHANICS – similar to 3e/3.5 d20 SRD
1d20 + attribute modifier + skill modifier + other modifiers >= target number
HISTORY OF THE KNOWN GALAXY
The galaxy-spanning Tuluantos Empire was destroyed by extra-dimensional invaders 50,000 years ago, to be followed by a 500-century-long galactic dark age. About 1,000 years ago, various “young” species regained interstellar travel technology across the “local” star systems here called “The Frontier.” During this time a species called the Xro Dinn appeared to study and help other species, then largely disappeared. “Terrans” are barely human anymore and have no loyalty to their unknown home planet of origin. (Ancient knowledge about Earth has been lost.)
RACES OF THE KNOWN GALAXY
Middarians (“mid-DARE-eee-ans”) – wolf-like people with glider “wings” under arms; honor-driven family structure; primitive tech due to fear of “energy demons” in their mythic past; “arrogant and cocky” toward other species. (A bit like Traveller’s Vargr?)
Pjanji (“puh-JAN-jee”) – Short humanoids with big black eyes and no jawed mouths but able to verbally speak; “archno-capitalists” put trade over all else in their society of tight merchant clans; wear lots of jewelry; wide range of technology. (A bit like Star Wars jawas or Star Trek ferengi?)
Quiizbenqq (“Kway-zen”) – snake people who use a lot of bionics/cyberware; society is driven by belonging to a corporation; tend to specialize in their jobs; seem “hardened and cold” to other species.
Sehlmna (“SEE-mah”) – thin, tall humanoids with somewhat goat-like heads, no pupils in their large white eyes, no ears; species able to change gender over time; society is benevolent and intellectually-driven communism (small “c”); seems to have suffered past oppression by the Sharr’Dann (bad guy species); now free, tend toward socially-based jobs.
Terran (“TARE-ans”) – post-humans who descend from genetically modified Earth humans; prone to various mutations and heavy use of personal technology; found in various strains…
* Fridic (“frid-ICK”) – animal/human hybrids who believe “shadows” roam the universe.
* Koriandric (“cory-AN-drik”) – animal/huamn hybrids, balkanized among themselves by root origin (birdfolk, insectfolk, reptilefolk; rodentfolk).
* Merianic (“merry-anik”) – eugenic superhumans, or at least strive to become such.
* Nidic (“NID-ik”) – marginalized mutated poor who worship radiation and mutation.
Xro Dinn (“ZHO-din”) aka Xodar Xro Dinn (mostly an NPC race but PC option in New Horizons book) – Crystal-covered blobs who can adjust their bodies to vaguely resemble other species (not full replication, just shapeshift into a recognizable body outline). Claim to be mainly historians (like The Watchers from Marvel). Once widely assimilated into multiple societies, now largely withdrawn from galactic society for unknown reasons; a source of mystery to other species.
Sharr’Dann (“shar-don”) (NPC only race) – dragonfolk humanoids, “brutal and heartless” conquerers who enslave other worlds. The super-advanced technology, horrible bad guys. Nuke worlds from orbit, vast slave camps, the whole bit. (Think Daleks or space Nazi lizardmen.)
Terran Metamorphs – true shapeshifters, like D&D doppelgangers or Star Trek changelings. The best ones can pull memories. Their physical nature makes other species distrustful on basic principle, like fear of “The Thing.” (“They could be anybody.”)
* Corporate: pan-galactic business executives.
* Engineer: technology expert focused on building tech, per sci-fi standards.
* Freelancer: jack-of-all-trades explorers. Includes bounty hunters, private investigators, reporters, vigilantes.
* Ingenii: psionicist/mentat powers on top of other professions.
* Intelligence Agent: spies, espionage experts, couriers, infiltrators.
* Medic: Healers, cybernetic experts, genetic engineers, field medics.
* Merchant: trade expert, per sci-fi standards.
* Rogue: more streetwise fixer than a thief, though often still a criminal expert.
* Scientist: natural sciences expert, per sci-fi standards.
* Technician: technology expert focused on fixing and operating tech, per sci-fi standards.
SOCIETY AND TECHNOLOGY
There is no “galactic empire” government ruling over all the known worlds, but rather several rival “pocket empires” (mostly species-based) and many private enterprise organizations.
* The Middarian Empire (wolf-folk, conquerers but relatively benign overlords)
* The Kuqhlluqqs Compact (Quiizbenqq and Sehlmna “Space NATO” against the Sharr’Dann)
* The Pjanji Trade Federation (like if the European Union were run by the Ferengi)
* The Terran Confederacy (weak “Government Prime” federation dominated by the two animal/human hybrid factions’ interests)
Technology fits “hard” space opera – recognizable guns, spacesuits, spacecraft, computers – little Numenera-level weirdness. Robots are common on worlds with the appropriate level of technology but don’t appear to have sentience. Nanotechnology not uncommon. No mention of sentient AIs or “giant energy being in space” sort of stuff.
FTL travel is typically 15 hours per light year, which is on par with a Jump-3 starships in Traveller – however, Xro Dinn ships travel by way of something like Star Trek “warp drive,” giving them the ability to monitor “realspace” while in FTL travel.
Quantum entanglement (QE) is used for robust FTL communication, virtually instant data transfer regardless of distance in space, but the transmitter/receivers for such signals seem to be rare (or tightly controlled). Old light-based “radio” signals are still used for very local communication.
* Most technology easily recognized by its species of origin.
* Cyberware risks psychosis if over-used (like in the Cyberpunk RPG).
* Most races use quantum entanglement
* There appears to be a “cyberspace” network for hacking information and “cyber” mind attacks).
* Psionics are rare and limited to telepathy/ESP powers, no telekinetics or teleporting.
From Xro Dinn book 2, “New Horizons”
* Borloan (“bore-LOW-en”) – True shapeshifters, like the creature from “The Thing.”
* Kordron (“CORE-drone”)- Bags of tentacles with three eyes on eyestalks, like some Lovecraftian horror. Brains turn into spores that retain past memories into future generations. Mute but use sign language with tentacles.
* Krik (“KRIK”) – “Inventive and industrious” insect people (like the Star Frontiers’ Vrusk, but a lot more cockroach-like) who live in high-tech communist enclaves. Native planet hot and wet. Males and females have very different stats (males have bigger bonuses to Empathy and Intelligence later in life, females boost Strength, Constitution and Dex early in life.)
* Vajjra (“vaj-RU”) – Another insect people (these look just like the Vrusk) who don’t take politics seriously.
NEW CLASSES / PROFESSIONS
* Investigator: private eye in space.
* Martial Agent: Special ops in the military.
* Officer: Commanders in the military.
* Pilot: Flying for a corporation, freelance or military.
* Scholar: Expert in academic fields.
* Security: Cops.
* Simulacrum Agent: “Blade Runners” who track down and kill Terran Metamorphs (shapeshifters).
* Soldier: Military folk with guns, including mercenaries.
* Spacer: Options for natives to space travel, pair with other profession.
Also, “New Horizons” includes a lot more about the psionic class (the Ingenii), including machine psionics (technomancy to control robots, vehicles and starships).
From a 2020 game with the author, here’s my first character…
PLAYER’S NAME: Stanton
CHARACTER NAME: Gaston “Gauss” Mercurio, Chief Medical Officer of the House Mercurio Fang (a light cruiser)
RACE / CULTURE: Terran / Merianic
AGE: Mature (31 years old)
WEIGHT: 75 kg (165 lbs.)
HEIGHT: 1.7 meters (5-foot, 7-inches)
SKIN/SHELL: Dark red with freckles
SEX / GENDER: Male
GENERAL APPEARANCE: Wears uniform but hair styled more “corporate” than “military,” also has unauthorized tattoos of little bleeding hearts matching local star charts.
TRAITS: Moderately aggressive
MOVE: 5 meters/turn or kilometers/hour
RUN: 25 meters/turn
CLIMB: 1.65 meters/turn
JUMP: 2.5 meters
COMBAT MODIFIER: -7
WOUND MODIFIER: 11.5
STUN (+1 T#): O
HURT: (+3 T#): O O
WOUND (+5#): O O
CRITICAL (invalid): O O O
RACIAL PERCEPTION MODIFIERS
* Level 3 … Bluff, Life and Evasion (Intelligence)
* Level 2 … Bureaucracy: Terran (Intelligence)
* Level 3 … Communication Operation (Intelligence)
* Level 3 … Computer Operation (Intelligence)
* Level 3 … Contacts: Drug Pushers (Intelligence)
* Level 1 … Deep Space Survival (Intelligence)
* Level 3 … Etiquette: Military Terran (Intelligence)
* Level 3 … Etiquette: Starship (Intelligence)
* Level 5 … First Aid (Intelligence)
* Level 3 … Genetics (Intelligence)
* Level 3 … Language: and two Terran (Intelligence) (need to select)
* Level 2 … Law: Terran (Intelligence)
* Level 2 … Lore: Astrophysics (Intelligence)
* Level 2 … Lore: Terran (Intelligence)
* Level 4 … Major Surgery (Terrans, Quiizbenqq and Pjanji only) (Intelligence)
* Level 3 … Mathematics (Intelligence)
* Level 5 … Medical Devices (Intelligence)
* Level 5 … Medical Physiology (Pjanji) (Intelligence)
* Level 5 … Medical Physiology (Quiizbenqq) (Intelligence) (* hallmark skill)
* Level 5 … Medical Physiology (Terrans) (Intelligence) (* hallmark skill)
* Level 3 … Medicine: Cryogenics (Intelligence)
* Level 2 … Medicine: Forensic (Intelligence)
* Level 4 … Medicine: General (Intelligence)
* Level 3 … Medicine: Life Chamber (Intelligence)
* Level 3 … Medicine: Regeneration (Intelligence)
* Level 5 … Minor Surgery (Intelligence) (Terrans, Quiizbenqq and Pjanji only) (* hallmark skill)
* Level 3 … Read/Write: (Intelligence)
* Level 3 … Science: Chemistry (Intelligence)
* Level 3 … Sensor Operation (Intelligence)
* Level 2 … Streetwise (Intelligence)
Altered Senses (Taste): Extremely attuned, automatically sense if food is poisoned when tasted.
Alerted Senses (Vision): Can see into the infrared spectrum, heat images easy to see, sight in darkness if IR light present.
Altered Attribute: Gained +4 to Constitution.
Life Cycle: Needs to hibernate at least 25% of the year.