January 21, 2011 by deadorcs
Greetings! On this edition of “Skinning the Frontier”, I thought I’d discuss a bit about how to handle monsters in your Star Frontiers campaign. The Known Universe is filled with creatures of just about every possible imagining. Scientists and explorers can become famous with every new planet discovered, just by cataloging a small sample of its indigenous life. Fortunately, the U.P.F. (United Planetary Federation), the governing body that oversees the planets of the Frontier and the Rim, have methods for keeping all of these creatures straight.
What follows is the actual text recovered from a U.P.F. training manual. How it got to our small planet is unknown, but its contents are an illuminating insight into how creatures are classified:
UPF Standard Training Manual
Volume 8 – First Contact Protocols
Section 3 – Lifeform Classification
As the UPF continues to expand its influence throughout the galaxy; hundreds of new lifeforms are being described every day. As a result of this burgeoning exploration and discovery, it has become important that some system of classification be used to catalog the amazing variety of lifeforms To that end, this document seeks to give an overview of the major types of lifeforms and their corresponding characteristics. IMPORTANT NOTE! This document is meant to be used as a guideline only! UPF personnel are expected to understand that our knowledge of the Galaxy is incomplete, and that many of the lifeforms discovered in future missions may actually invalidate this outline. However, since UPF xenobiologists currently accept this outline as the best way to describe new species, please use this guideline when submitting newly reported lifeforms.
Currently, Frontier science classifies lifeforms into six separate (yet sometime overlapping) categories: Inanimate, Instinctual, Sentient, Enlightened, Dimensional, and Transcendent. The categories are progressive and believed to be evolutionary in nature. Each category is defined below in further detail:
Class I – Inanimate
Inanimate lifeforms are creatures that show no immediate outward sign of actually being alive. In most cases such creatures are stationary and static, and survive by eating whatever floats or fly by them. Essentially living inanimate structures, inanimate lifeforms do not interact or show any obvious response to their environment, except at the microscopic level. In the vast majority of species, inanimate lifeforms cannot plan for future events or change their environment in any significant way. Some good examples of inanimate life forms include most plants, sponges, and one-celled creatures (such as bacteria and amoebae). Although, not technically alive, viruses are included in this group due to their close relationship with all lifeforms.
Class II – Instinctual
Instinctual creatures make up the largest class of described lifeforms in the known universe. Instinctual lifeforms are complex creatures who show obvious responses to their environment; eating, moving, and mating, etc.. Instinctual creatures can be very clever, and may even possess a limited degree of intelligence. Note, however, that creatures at this level do not have any self-awareness and cannot usually plan for future events. Most instinctual lifeforms are intelligent enough to attempt to escape or move away from an unfavorable environment, but most of these creatures are unable to change their environment for themselves. Examples of these kinds of creatures are endless; and run the gamut from jellyfish, earthworms and insects; to fish, lizards, and most mammals.
Class III – Sentient
Sentient lifeforms, like instinctual ones, are complex creatures which show obvious interactions with their environment and each other. Sentient creatures eat, move, and mate just like instinctual creatures. Evolution, though has given sentient lifeforms an advantage –they are self-aware. Sentient creatures can plan for future events, and modify their environment to better suit their own needs. Many sentient creatures have highly developed languages and use tools to modify their environment. Examples include Humans, Dralasites, Yazirians, Vrusk, Osakar, Humma, Ifshnits, and Sathar. Included in this category as well, are the Mechanons, which are a form of sentient machine life. Sentience is a difficult quality to specify. Many creatures that may be sentient do not have an easily definable culture or may not even use tools. As a result, UPF xenobiologists try and use the broadest definitions of the term. In turn, many species end up being classified as Borderline Sentient. Good examples of lifeforms with a borderline sentient status include whales, dolphins, & chimpanzees. Being classified as borderline sentient can be important for a species, due to the fact that any species the UPF considers to be of borderline sentient status or higher; is protected by UPF charter from hunting or slavery.
Class IV – Enlightened
Enlightened creatures have all the characteristics of sentient creatures, but with the additional development of the ability to manipulate their environment without the use of tools. A common manifestation of this manipulation is through the use of psionics (psi-wave energy); although many enlightened creatures use other exotic (and often poorly understood) energies to do work as well. Most of the Frontier and Rim races have several members of their species which are psionically aware. Most scientists now believe that this is a sign that these races are gradually stepping beyond the sentient classification and moving into an enlightened one. In addition, the increasing incidents of mutation in many sentient species also leads credence to the theory that the leading races of the Frontier are on the edge of another step of the evolutionary ladder. Many enlightened creatures are just being discovered by Frontier science, although these lifeforms have been around for millions of years. As a result, many creatures, once known only in myths and legends, are now being seen in TriVid recordings throughout Frontier space. Dragons are real. So to are Eladrin, Gnomes, and Werewolves. The emergence of each of these species will certainly challenge UPF policy makers in the next century, as many of these lifeforms will no doubt have agendas of their own. One final note, the term “enlightened” refers only to these species having discovered a new way to accomplish a task without having to use tools. In no way does the term “enlightened” refer to any philosophical belief or attitude a particular species may have.
Class V – Dimensional
Dimensional lifeforms have all the characteristics of enlightened lifeforms, but exist in more than one dimension. Actually, the term “dimensional” is short for “multidimensional entity”. At this time, very little is known about dimensional lifeforms. It is known that dimensional creatures originate most often in a different space/time continuum. Dimensional beings have the ability to project some form of themselves through void-space and into our own space/time continuum, although this ability is not always under the control of the being itself. Dimensional lifeforms are powerful in this dimension due to the enormous energies such beings must maintain in order to exist in this dimension. As a result, Dimensionals can be very difficult to destroy with anything less than energy weapons. Dimensional lifeforms are often very intelligent and very motivated. Dimensionals can sometimes be found dominating less advanced creatures for their own personal gain, although why this occurs is not clearly understood. Other dimensionals seem to be more benign, and the worship of certain ones is sometimes uncovered in primitive societies. More and more species of dimensionals are being encountered, and this is thought to be due to the ongoing use of FTL drives and interstellar travel through void-space. Examples of dimensional creatures include Angels, Demons, Efreet, Liches, and many other creatures from myth and legend.
Class VI – Transcendent
Transcendent lifeforms have all the characteristics of dimensional creatures with the added ability to manipulate matter and energy at will. Transcendent beings exist in multiple dimensions at will, and operate on a fundamentally quantum level. Essentially “thought-energy” incarnate, transcendent beings are only theorized, as the existence of any has yet to be confirmed. A common theory holds that to most creatures at the sentient level, transcendent creatures would appear as gods. Only the current religions among Frontier and Rim citizens can provide examples of what such beings would be like. Certainly, any encounter with a transcendent being would likely be a combination of enigmatic, exciting, terrifying, and possibly even deadly experiences. Only further discover & research will reveal the truth.
One quick look through a Monster Manual or the Monster Vault will show you that many of the creatures used in Dungeons & Dragons have magical abilities. While I don’t advocate mixing magic into a science fiction campaign (not my cup of tea), there are ways to get around it. In most cases, these powers can be explained by other methods (psionics, dimensional channeling, mutations, etc.). My favorite go-t0 “science” explanation for these kinds of abilities is “nano-bots”. You can wiki that term, but essentially, nano-bots are microscopic machines that are capable of reproducing themselves and performing some kind of function within the body. Go crazy.
Another issue that might come up is creature origins. In a non-magical campaign, places like the Feywild, the Shadowfell, or the Far Realm probably wouldn’t exist (at least as the Essentials rules describe them). However, you might consider such creatures to be from other dimensions as described in the document above. In order to aid you in trying to decide which creatures are classified where, I put together a PDF document that lists every creature out of the Essentials Monster Vault and its assigned U.P.F. classification. I used a combination of criteria including powers, original origin, etc. Feel free to alter these classifications as fits your own Star Frontiers campaign.
Before I wrap this up, let me cover some special creature cases that might come up, and how I would handle them in my own Star Frontiers campaign:
Animated Undead (Skeletons, Zombies, etc.): These creatures are controlled by nano-bots. In some cases (Zombies, Ghouls), they may be the result of some kind of horrible viral disease.
Self-Willed Undead (Vampires, Mummies, Liches etc.): These creatures are usually Enlightened creatures of some long forgotten race. Liches are powerful Dimensional creatures that inhabit a corpse.
Non-Corporeal Undead (Wraiths, Specters, etc.): These creatures are Dimensional entities. Play a campaign where “ghost busting” is real!
Elementals & Immortals (Demons, Devils, Angels, etc.): These creatures are Dimensional entities. Their motivations are strange and obscure!
Dragons: These creatures have a special origin in my campaign (which I’ll share in a future post). As the PDF claims, they are Enlightened creatures.
There are probably other cases as well. If you have any questions please feel free to comment, and I’ll be sure to get you a reply. Keep checking back for more articles on how to re-skin Star Frontiers to the 4th Edition rules.
This Is My Game – DeadOrcs out.