30 June 2010: “Vortex” species — humanoids

Berkeley art

Fellow role-players, by now, you’ve probably seen my descriptions of the development of my upcomingVortexspace opera and the “future history” and tone of the homebrew campaign setting. As we get closer to beginning the game, here are some notes on available Player Character species.

In one future, humanity has begun to colonize the Sol system, but struggles for scarce resources persist. Open and official First Contact with alien societies, themselves at war, opens a wider galaxy to explore — if Terrans survive.

Humans and “near” humans

As I’ve noted previously, about 200 years from now, our solar system is home to nearly 20 billion people, most of whom are “normal” humans living on Earth. They’re still the baseline for whatever rules set we ultimately choose (the top contenders are D20 Star Wars: Saga Edition, FATE Diaspora/Starblazer Adventures, GURPS 4e Lite/Space,” and BASH Sci-Fi Edition).

In the “Vortex” universe, as in many space operas, humans are adaptable, corruptible, and lower-tech than their new galactic acquaintances. Still, the upstart children of Terra have great potential.

Also known as “metahumans,” “parahumans,” “posthumans,” and “transhumans,” the broad category of “near” humans includes mutants, genetically modified humans, and cyborgs. About one in 5 million people is born with a random but significant (and mostly helpful) mutation, and during the era of the Societe de Justice Internationale and the “Drake’s Seven,” many were costumed vigilantes or supervillains.

“Gennies” include humans born in the low-gravity environments of the Lunar Free State, the Mars Confederation, or some outer colonies (but not the orbital cities, which have mostly normal inhabitants).
Some people have been enhanced as entertainers or soldiers, while others have engaged in dangerous recreational splicing. As mentioned previously, some cloning exists, but it’s expensive and heavily regulated.

Cyborgs may not seem as high-tech as their genetically modified kin, but they can be nearly indistinguishable from normal humans (in contrast to many gennies, who often flaunt their differences and supposed superiority). Many modifications are to repair injuries, to interface with machines, or to have swappable functions.


“Synths,” or synthetic humanoids, include genetically modified animals and androids and mostly live in Earth’s colonies. Although humans created these client species to be more capable individually than themselves, humans have also been reluctant to grant them equal rights.

Uplifted” animals arose out of the creation of “gennies” and efforts to preserve megafauna that was going extinct. They’re commonly based on dogs and wolves (Canids), large cats (Felinoids), primates (Chims), bears (Ursoids), or cetaceans (Delphines). Uplifted animals are usually stronger than humans but not as smart, and like gennies, their reproduction is strictly controlled. Alien synths are known as “xenoids.”

By contrast, true artificial intelligences may be smarter than humans but rely on robotic bodies. Robots have industrial, exploratory, or military applications, and androids are often confused for gennies and have social or entertainment applications. Humanoid androids, nonhumanoid bots, and disembodied A.I.s all have programming and legal restrictions and are as vulnerable to computer viruses as organic beings are to
regular illness.

Coming soon: “Vortexaliens and occupations!