Friday, February 2, 2018

Savage Space: The Stars Without Number Adaptation Part I - Syndirei Culture Vampires

I'm sufficiently enamored with Stars Without Number Revised that I have decided to adapt my Savage Space setting to the SNW ruleset. I'm going to start this off with the various alien races that have appeared in the Savage Space blogs and then work to equipment, foes and other details from there. In cases where prior formats may have touched on different parts of an overall topic I will combine them in to one master feature.

For those of you not familiar with the Savage Space series, it started as a daily feature a few years back in which I built a Savage Worlds-powered setting by finding inspiring SF imagery and then developing the setting, one piece at a time, through the inspiration derived from the art. I'll try to use the original art that inspired these pieces as I upgrade the setting to SWN.

If you remain familiar with the original, then this might still interest you as I plan to upgrade and expand on each entry as I adapt it to SWN.

First up: The Syndirei Culture Vampires!

Syndirei Culture Vampires in SWN

Syndirei have a homeworld: it's yours. They have a language, too: yours. They love what you love, eat what you eat (and work out metabolic treatments for digesting local cuisine if necessary) and want what you want. All of it.

The original homeworld of the syndirei is lost to time. Their rapid adaptiveness to other cultures, languages and even ways of thought are regarded as eerily effective by xenogentic researchers, who have worked hard to amass data for the Federation records on this race, which has been working its way in along the edges of the galactic expanse for six centuries now. One belief is that the syndirei are actually a form of artificially engineered species designed specifically for such an effective level of cultural adaptability. Another theory, however, is that they are a weapon.

The syndirei don't just assimilate and take over your culture: they take ownership of it, and then they start to corrupt it from within. Some xenoanthropologists believe that the syndirei are actually the last survivors of a much older civilization toward the galactic core, and that they may have been singularly responsible for the destruction of said civilizations, based on an careful analysis of exctint cultures on the many worlds found toward the core. 

The rationalization is this: syndirei are extremely friendly and adaptive, joining a new community in the most placating and friendly way possible, then worming their way in at the lowest levels of society, all while taking on tasks and duties that the native civilization could use cheap labor for. Then, in time, they grow, and expand into every niche above, slowly subsuming the greater percentage of population into their own by sheer numbers, but done in such a manner that only the most carefully engineered cultures will notice the shift over time. It takes generations, but one day the syndirei are in direct control and a majority holder in the local culture. That's when things get....interesting.

Syndirei when left to the own devising (such as the trapped population that was found after two centuries of isolation on Tarterus IV) seem to degenerate into a culture of violent might-makes-right fiends, preying on one another with rapacious intensity. The original researchers on Tarterus IV came to the conclusion that syndirei society on its own was naturally violent and destructive; they need a foreign population as a stabilizer, to help them maintain some sort of social contract; without that foreign society to attach to they degenerate rapidly into the most violent form of barbarism.

The problem arises in those cultures in which the syndirei have been enmeshed, and in which they have grown to become them majority population. There appears to be some sort of breaking point, at which the syndirei scales are tipped and the indigenous alien population is eclipsed so thoroughly that the syndirei now rule supremely. When this happens, social disorder begins to manifest, first in the form of random violence and criminal action, but over a matter of one or maybe two generations it spirals into madness, and the entire syndirei-controlled region collapes into chaos and violence. The xenoachaeologists studying the Coreward Expanse dead worlds think this has happened to multiple planets in the past, and they also suspect that the syndirei know about this problem, because certain prominent researchers have recently been found mysteriously dead after trying to go public with their research.

The current and most widespread advance on syndirei is in the region known as the Hexen Expanse. The cluster of worlds in this area are reaching what is believed to be a tipping point....and some may have gone past it, in terms of syndirei cultural absorption and population. Federation officials observe the region with great concern, wondering if the freeworlds in that area are about to suffer a terminal social collapse thanks to the cultural vampires...behind the scenes, agents of the Aegis Division have already conducted illegal tests on syndirei populations and know exactly what they are capable of.

Physically syndirei are humanoid with dusky gray and greenish skin, curiously weathered features and completely hairless. Syndirei have surprising genetic compatibility with humans and can eat human cuisine without any treatments. 

Syndirei Focus:

Charismatic - Synderei are known for being friendly and affable (when they are not experience cultural/population pressures; see Culture Dependency, below). They gain +1 to their Charisma Modifier.

Origin Skll: Verbally Adaptable - Syndirei are incredibly fluid, persuasive and adaptable speakers, and gain the Talk skill at rank 0.

Innate Ability: Linguist - Syndirei are able to pick up new languages with alarming accuracy, even languages not spoken in a conventional manner. For each week a syndirei studies a new language (through recordings or actual use) it may make an INT check (Diff 8) to indicate that they have become proficient. A syndirei can learn any number of languages, and their neurophysiology is considered marvelous for its ability to assimilate almost any form of language that can be spoken.

Culture Dependency - syndirei psychology depends on other cultures. When a syndirei is by itself for a protracted period it (two weeks or more) it must make a Mental Save once per day, with a -1 cumulative penalty per week of isolation. So long as it succeeds everything is fine; when it fails the first time the syndirei begins to develop psychotic and self-serving personality traits. When it fails a second time it begins to lose cognitive reasoning skills (-2 on all Mental Saves, WIS and INT-based checks and skills). When it fails a third time the syndirei stabilizes and regains its reasoning skills (loses the penalty) but now develops an inimical murderous psychotic personality akin to a manipulative serial killer. In this stage the syndirei gains a +1 to attack and unarmed 1D4 damage against other species and a +1 skill rank to Talk when coercing its own kind. It loses it's Talk skill against other species until it experiences a new culture and "acclimates." It then loses all psychotic bonuses.

Syndirei who have reached the third stage of their metamorphosis will behave accordingly until introduced to a new culture (not the previous culture; they have psychologically discarded that culture from their minds) at which time they can begin making a new Mental Save with a +2 modifier. One success means they immediately acclimate, regain mental control and begin earnest efforts to learn the new culture.

The dependency also triggers when syndirei become the dominat population and cultural influence in a region; the exact trigger is not known, but it appears to be when a syndirei population exceeds 60% of the local indigenous aliens. GMs can inform syndirei PCs that they may be making the dependency checks when this threshold is passed locally as well. Large regional populations always trump local events, so a syndirei on an island with ten humans will still feel the degeneration begin to set in if the worldwide population has passed the threshold.

Syndirei in the Federated Commonwealth have willingly agreed to colonize regions under careful monitoring to insure that they do not exceed specific population thresholds, accepting that they may be periodically forced to migrate to reduce the risk of a population pressure "dependency explosion" leading to cognitive decline, then sociopathic and psychotic behavior. Although drugs and gene treatment exist which can supress these tendencies, most syndirei are repulsed by the idea of submitting to such treatments. Gene therapy has the added complication of causing other more dangerous and debilitating side effects, including cancer and even stranger behaviors. The Medical Treaty Act of the Federated Commonwealth prohibits such gene treatments without consent, anyway.

Most syndirei are not willingly living under controlled conditions in the Core Worlds, however. The vast majority of syndirei groups dwell in regions such as the Hexen Expanse, where they have assimilated into local colonies and more densely populated worlds without much familiarity on the part of the locals as to their nature. Some regions have dangerously large populations of syndirei, and Watchdog groups from the Commonwealth try to identify these colonies and warn them when it appears the syndirei are reaching dangerous population levels. Other, smaller communities are often obliterated before finding out the risk. The syndirei themselves, meanwhile, have developed a sophisticated special organization known as the Cleaners. The syndirei high clans pay in to support this secretive order which supplies the agents used to keep their cultural secret exactly that: a secret. This includes exterminating nosy Commonwealth agents in the outer rim expanses as well as exterminating their own kind in situations that could lead to widespread risk of exposure.

Syndirei Commoner
HD 1; AC 10; ATK +1; DMG by weapon or unarmed 1D2; MOVE 10m; ML 6; Skills +1; Saves 15+
   This represents an average, normal, culturally assimilated syndirei. Usually a syndirei is armed with a personal sidearm or melee weapon for protection.

Syndirei Psychotic
HD 2; AC 10; ATK +2; DMG by weapon (cleaver 1D6+1) or unarmed 1D4; MOVE 10m; ML 8; Skills +1; Saves 14+
   A psychotic syndirei loses Talk as a skill against other species but is at Talk-1 with its own kind. They prefer melee weapons but are still (usually) stable enough to sophisticated weaponry. A cluster of psychotic syndirei are a serious threat!

Syndirei Cleaner Agent
HD 4; AC 16 (combat field uniform); ATK +5; DMG Disintegrator weaponry (see below) or molecular arm blades (1D8+1)
MOVE 12m; ML 10; Skills +2; Saves 11+
Augments: Panspectral Optic Enhancement,  Molecular Arm Blades (1D8+1; Shock 2/AC18)
Special Augment: Viral Breakdown Protocol - bodymass destroyed in 1D6 combat rounds on death or by command
   Syndirei are armed with combat field uniforms that have specially reinforced gauntlets designed to absorb up to 10 points of damage dealt directly to the wearer's hands (see below for why). They use special disintegration weaponry which they favor due to the fact that so little forensic evidence is left behind. A typical syndirei disintegrator works as follows:

Syndirei Disintegrator Pistol (Damage 2D8; Range 25/50; Cost 1,500; Magazine 8; Attr. Dex; ENC 1; TL 4)
   These aren't much larger than laser pistols but are powered by a destabilizing quantum burst which doesn't so much actually disintegrate the target (which would be an immense amount of energy) as cause a massive quantum destabilization effect which scatters the target's atoms across a light year of space. Forensic efforts (Know skill) to identify a victim of this weapon with the right tech are at a minimum difficulty 12. Any target reduced to 0 HP by this weapon is effectively annihilated. If the attacker with this weapon ever rolls a 1, roll a D20 a second time, and on an 11+ the weapon implodes, dealing it's damage to the shooter.

Syndirei Disintegrator Rifle (Damage 2D10; Range 35/70; Cost 2,500; Magazine 8; Attr. Dex; ENC 3; TL 4)
   The rifle is similar to the pistol in effect, but is a bit bulkier and packs a real wallop. It's range is just as short, however, due to the fact that the weapon's quantum "spray" deteriorates rapidly with short distances. It has the same chance to implode on a critical failure as the pistol. 

 Syndirei special forces agents are part of a special group which engages in long-term therapy to improve their resistance to the species-wide capacity for murder in isolation. These agents are part of a group which works to keep their cultural time bomb a secret. Each agent wears a tight body suit under their armor that will initiate a destructive biofeedback explosion on death to disintegrate their remains. Failing that they also hold subdermal viral implants which will reduce their flesh to a pulpy, unidentifiable mass within seconds should they be caught and killed; it can be triggered with a mental command, as well. Despite their similarity to human physiology these implants only affect syndirei.

Cleaner agents don't just go after nosy xenoanthropologists and Federation Agents looking to make their careers on scrutinizing syndirei; they also take out rogue syndirei, or find and exterminate colonies of their own kind where social order has degenerated into chaos and for which there is risk of discovery.

Aegis Division agents have tangled with the cleaner agents on several occasions, and succeeded in keeping one alive long enough to extract a tissue sample for proper identification. Agent Lu Varn still recalls the horror he saw under the dermaskin armor....the syndirei was physically unidentifiable as any specific humanoid species due to the severe nature of the dermagraft with his armor. It was estimated that it would take 2-4 months of careful therapy to remove such a suit and repair the graft damage. Problem is...when you capture a cleaner agent, you only have seconds before their self-destruct protocols kick in.

Cleaner agents regularly hire clueless mercs and criminals from other species to get jobs done for them. Most agents work behind the scenes, though they always take direct action when it comes to corralling "defective" syndirei.

A note About The “Tipping Point:”
Syndirei aren’t prone to going crazy when they have large clustered populations in a region….not until the total population of a given region reaches critical mass, that is. This trends to function at a city-wide level (the largest identifiable “unit” of syndirei society which appears to respond to their psychological imperative for social stimulation/destruction). In cases of high tech worlds where the population is wide and dense, or spread out over a world-wide arcology, it is possible for the syndirei to sustain to the point where their population reaches critical mass at a world-level scale. This can prove disastrous to an entire planet. Researchers from the Academy in conjunction with the Aeon Group believe that the tipping point is extended due to the globalization of communication and travel; that syndirei are biologically wired to become violently hyper-competitive when they reach a dominant population percentage apparently gets “defeated” to a certain degree by mass communication and globalization. Still, it is suspected that there is a certain degree of either pheremonal, radiopathic or telepathic communication between syndirei as the numbers are very precise in determining that the population, when it hits 60%, even globally, causes the entire species to plunge in to psychotic madness at their neighbors.

Syndirei Plots:
1.      A local colony took in a refugee ship of syndirei a few years ago but the population is already reaching critical mass due to the relatively small population of non-syndirei in the area. The PCs are part of an Aegis Group mission which identifies and warns of threats like this, and need to convince the syndirei to depart before disaster strikes (by coercion or force).

2.      Deep in the Hexen Expanse is a remote colony of nonhuman Fadelik who are unaware of the syndirei threat. This is a large, densely habited world and the syndirei have been a local population for close to two centuries now; as the world population reaches critical mass, the threat of a syndirei psychotic episode on a global scale becomes a major threat. Can the PC agents convince the risk-averse fadelik to help deport syndirei populations before the seemingly benign immigrants turn in to rapacious, terrifying predators?

3.      Investigators at a colony which went silent discover a massacre, and stumble across cleaner agents in the middle of a calculated “fix.” A colonial port overrun by psychotic syndirei, cleaner agents, and desperate human survivors must be resolved.


  1. Seems like some social commentary with this race. Intentional/unintentional?

    1. In a subversive way, perhaps....(the concept of an external "other" that arrives, assimilates, and then beats you at your own game and ultimately murders you and takes your place completely strikes me as a compelling SF/horror concept).