Monday, 7 March 2011

Droyne and Hivers

Cover of Alien Races 3 from Steve Jackson GamesGURPs Traveller: Alien Races 3

by David Pulver, David Nilsen, Andy Slack, and David Thomas


Volume 3 of this series examines the Droyne and Hiver Major Races, considers the links between the Droyne and the Ancients, and presents the Inheritors and Lithkind Minor Races. Amongst the general information on the Hiver Federation, we are given very limited snapshots of the Ithklur (Federation Reptilian Stormtroopers), Gurvin (providers of the Federation spoken and written language) and Za’tachk (the Federation’s Bwaps) Minor Races, plus the tantilising hints that there are human-settled worlds within the Federation, and that there are a number of other Minor Races (the Young Worlds) settled along the Federation’s Rimward subsectors.

I’ve always quite liked the Droyne – what’s not to like about Psionic winged reptiles with compound eyes that prefer living in a pre-Industrial Age bucolic paradise, and may just have access to serious God-Tech? I’ve always liked how GDW first introduced the Chirpers, and then the Droyne, and then hinted at a link between the two until that became canonical.

The Secret of the Ancients Adventure from GDW tied the Droyne to the Ancients and the mysterious figure of Grandfather, though as an adventure, it quickly turned into a magical, mystical railroad ride in that the players had few options except to follow mysterious guides around or get destroyed. Story-wise, fascinating set points; adventure-wise, dull. I can just imagine some of the players from my old group attempting to steal something or blow something up just so that they’d feel like they were doing something, only to then invoke a Total Party Kill from the 300,000 year-old defence systems made by a guy who could disassemble planetary systems and create folded space-time.

If the concept of Elder Races, or Ancients, is your thing, but you dislike the Ancients as laid out by GDW, then I would recomend David Brin’s Uplift series of novels. The basic idea that a sponsor race will uplift a client race to sentience and beyond is quite fascinating. The idea that these sponsor/client relationships can form a chain stretching over millions of years is mind blowing. And the fact that there might have been a Progenitor Race seems totally logical.

The biggest attraction for having Ancients in your campaign is the opportunity to introduce limited quantities of God-tech – matter transporters, disintergrators, ships that use other forms of drive to cross interstellar distances.

So, does your Progenitor Race have to be the Droyne? Of course not. Cannonically, the Geonee Human Minor Race are convinced that they are the Ancients. In my Traveller Campaign, there was a mysterious Interstellar Empire, ruled over by hexapedal reptilians, which dominated local space but collapsed completely 500 years before Humaniti from the 3rd Imperium arrived. As this empire controlled Jump technology in the volume of space my campaign is set in, its fall destroyed any over-all picture of what the empire as a whole was like and so there are conflicting memories amongst the Minor Races who outlasted it as to the nature of the Empire. But you can still have fun sending your players chasing off after Droyne, looking for the missing link to mysterious Progenitor Races, if you so wish.

The Hivers have never been a favourite Race of mine – cannocially too far away from where I set my games, and just plain weird. The Hiver Federation, on the other hand, is quite a fascinating area of space. You have a bunch of curious, voiceless, non-aggressive starfish-like dudes whose main strength is their ability to analyse other people/species and then work out how to persuade them to follow a different set of goals to those held beforehand. It must work, as the Hiver Federation controls some 16 Sectors and has fought only one external interstellar war in the last 3000 years, which it won by turning militant vegetarians into meat-eaters, much to the horror of the K’kree Major Race.

Of the two Minor Races presented in detail, the Lithkind, apart from some rather gruesome practises that make me seriously wonder about them as a viable, high-tech species, are not that really exciting or new – forest pixies have been done elsewhere – though they are presented in quite a logical manner.

The Inheritors, low-gravity Chinese dragon-like creatures, I actually find more interesting. That is, apart from the fluorine-based metabolism. The latter is just so hard to fit into a campaign that, to me, it rather limits their usefulness. If they had been methane breathers, then the whole C.J. Cherryh Compact Space story arc could have kicked in. But fluorine? Having said that, I may adapt them for my game anyway, if only by crossing out "fluorine" in the text and writing in "methane".

So, a bit of an uneven book, but the snippets of information on some of the supporting cast for the Hivers is well worth looking at, particularly if you are contemplating a campaign in the Crucis Margin or Glimmerdrift Sectors.

I seem to recall that I got my copy from Steve Jackson Games’ Warehouse 23, as it came with a separate sheet of Droyne Coyns, printed on light card. I believe that this book is no longer available from there, and it does not seem to be available from Steve Jackson Games’ e-23 ebook repository, either, which is a shame. I would suggest either bugging SJG until they put the ebook up, or watching ebay for a copy to come up.