Friday, January 25, 2019

Psi-Wars Atlas VI - The Sylvan Spiral

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The Sylvan Spiral has long hidden its mysteries not behind a veil, as with the Umbral Realm, but with a mysterious web of hyperspatial filaments that prevent travel deep into its heart. Throughout most of galactic history, this meant that march of conquest across the galaxy largely left this arm untouched. Those who have braved its depths find wondrous worlds, flush with life and untouched by time.

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The Sylvan Constellations

  • The Spindel Web: The gateway to the Sylvan Spiral, bio-technological adept Shinjurai clans rule this constellation and have tamed their worlds into beautiful gardens.

  • The Morass: The great bulk of the Sylvan spiral has its hyperspace lines cut apart by alien “thalline-filaments” along which its space-based lifeforms travel. These interconnect the ecologies of its many varied worlds, and make for extraordinarily diverse life found within the thousand worlds of the Morass

  • The Serpentis Constellation: On the farthest edges of the Sylven Spiral, outsider civilizations from beyond the galaxy wage war on one another and make alliances with the Slaver empire.

The Spindel Web

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The Spindel Web stands between the treacherous Morass and the rest of the Galaxy, making it the entry point for journeys deeper into the Sylvan Spiral. Where the initial settlers of the Arkhaian Spiral focused on robotic and cybernetic technology, the settlers of the Spindel Web tapped the amazing resources of the Morass to fuel research into genetics and advanced bio-technologies. The worlds of the Spindel Web share some the sublimely beautiful natural landscapes of the Morass, but are far more accessible, and have often been tweaked into cultivated garden-worlds by their inhabitants, which makes them wonderful tourist destinations

The Spindel Web serves House Apex (see Sidebar), who has allied with neither the Valorian Empire nor the Galactic Alliance. Instead, House Apex remains strictly neutral; it allows both to pass through its space, and its worlds often host diplomatic conferences for both sides. House Apex has not revealed what it used to purchase guaranteed neutrality from the Empire, but some speculate that they’re working on a clone for the Emperor.

House Apex
When Alexus Rex waged war upon the Spindel Web, the actions of a single hero ensured his success. In reward for his martial prowess, Alexus Rex immediately bestowed him with the rank of Marquis and granted him dominion over the constellation. The newly minted lord took on the name of Apex.

Apex Prime perfected his physique through some unknown means (some suspect that he was a natural master of psychometablism), and he wished to pass on this perfection to his heirs, believing that none could rule the Spindel Web as well as himself. He took no wife (though he did take on lovers); instead, he turned to the clone masters of Xen to create a successor to his exact specifications. Thus began the tradition of the Clone Lords of Apex.

Each successive generation consists of one or more clones; while their genetics don’t quite match the perfection of Apex Prime, each has their own unique traits, a variation on his idealized template. Sometimes, at the request of the current Marquis, they alter some trait, changing gender, disposition or, in one ill-conceived attempt, granted psychic powers. At present, the current, aging marquis has commissioned a record number of twelve Apex clones, far more individualized than any previous generation of clones, and intends to pit them against one another in a Darwinian succession process.

The Worlds of the Spindel Web
  • Xen: Default Navigational Modifier: +4. The nexus world of the Spindel Web, this began as a Shinjurai colony that mastered the art of cloning and genetic engineering. Today, the population of the world consists mostly of clones specialized by their design, from their diminuitive but hyper-intellegent advisors to their towering soldiers, to their beautiful(and customized to taste) concubines. Xen serves as the seat of House Apex, and the clone masters of Xen spend much of their time perfecting the House’s heirs. Deep in the bowels of Xen lurk their laboratory castoffs, malformed monstrosities with human faces and human skin stretched over bestial bodies.

  • Ys: Default Navigational Modifier: +1. Ys did not begin as a garden world, but its inhabitants cultivated it and engineered its life until it was one. Its masters carefully control ever aspect of Ys, from its weather to the precise timing of its seasonal blooms. They’ve broken the world down into regions meant to resemble the various worlds of the Morass, including importing the beasts of the Morass, such as the xeno-fera, to their world so that they can provide wealthy tourists with impressive (but guarded) safaris. Sometimes, their imported beasts go out of control, and they’ve been forced to interdict one of their smaller continents when giant xenobeasts over ran their designated areas. While the incident occurred decades a go, the ecological masters of Ys have yet to get the planet under control.

The Morass

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The Sylvan Spiral is the least explored part of the galaxy in part because of the Morass, a great expanse of “tough” hyperspace that extends most of the length of the arm. Not only is this space harder to navigate, but it slows a hyperdrive, meaning that not only is the trip uncertain, it costs the traveler more. The nature of the Morass remains a subject of scientific speculation (see the sidebar for more).

Technically, the Morass is not a single constellation. The vast region of thalline-entangled space covers numerous smaller constellations, and its presence has largely disrupted what would be normal hyperspatial routes and creates a certain homogeneity across the space it occupies. That does not mean that those who know the Morass will fail to navigate it well.

Hyperdrives travel at one rating less (half speed for rating one drives); Characters with Area Knowledge (Morass) may apply a +2, rather than +1, on complimentary rolls for hyperspatial navigation, and their hyperdrives may travel at normal speed.

The worlds of the Morass tend to be shockingly abundant with life, whatever their climate. Even worlds seemingly barren and hostile to life will flourish with life adapted specifically for its unique circumstances.

Features of the Morass
The nature of the Morass makes it difficult to travel within, but throughout the history of the Galactic Federation and the Empire, a few survey teams have managed to learn a few of the features that make the Morass the strange place that it is.

Thalline Filaments: Hyperstatial “strings” with biological characteristics can be found stretching from world to world in the Morass. Where these become thickest, hyperspace becomes the most difficult to transverse. Planets connected by Thalline Filaments seem to share similar lifeforms.

Leviathans: These enormous lifeforms, large enough to rival dreadnoughts, travel the stars along the Thalline Filaments. Naturally, they tend to savage starships that they come across.

Xeno-fera: The xeno-fera are a single “species” of highly diverse alien animals. All xeno-fera are genetically compatible with one another and psychologically similar, meaning xeno-fera can breed with xeno-fera, and techniques to control or tame one worth with others. Nonetheless, they vary from building-sized super-predators to tiny, adorable pets. They can be found on any world enmeshed in Thalline Filaments

World Trees: These enormous, mountain-sized trees can be found on worlds enmeshed in thalline filaments, but also out in space, drawing sustenance from stars and the thalline network. Space-based world trees surround themselves with a bubble of atmosphere and have sufficient gravity that people can walk and live among their branches.

Worlds of the Morass
  • Nehud: Default Navigational Modifier: +0. Nehud is the easiest world to reach in the Morass, and thus represents what most people think of when they think of worlds within the Morass. Rich and varied landscapes cover the world, from rolling plains to wind-swept deserts to majestic mountains to great forests to mysterious, each region has an aura of sublime beauty… and lethal menace. The highly adaptable native aliens, the Nehudi, have mastered each domain and formed tribes within each unique biome, where they have tamed the local xeno-fera to serve them, and despite their “primitive” reputation, have mastered unique bio-technologies that let them live in harmony with their environment. The Empire has managed to secure the world and its abundant mineral wealth and hyperium deposits, but their mining efforst face opposition from of the Nehudi. While many have betrayed their tribal lifestyle, prefering to be well-fed and protected slaves to the Empire, others have followed the banner of tribal leaders who have raised the call to a return to a more primal way of life and resistance against the Empire. Shamans with a powerful psychic resonance with their planet lead these more savage Nehudi. So far, the Empire has reported only success in putting down native resistance, but their casualties have begun to mount…

  • Meridian: Default Navigational Modifier: -3. The Meridian system has an overabundance of asteroids, making it difficult to navigate; many who attempt to navigate the system crash on main world of the system: the oceanic world of Meridian. Meridian has vast little in the way of land, but endless seas and great and abundant reefs or great mats of flowering kelp, both of which often prove stable enough to build upon, with a bit of reinforcement. Meridian has an intelligent and amphibious lifeform that armor themselves with great, bio-tech arsenals. They further mastered a “thalline drive,” mimicking the means by which Morass Leviathans travel along the thalline network. This allows them to traverse the Morass without impediment, though they cannot travel outside of it. Currently, they seem primarily interested only in raiding others for natural resources: food, mineral wealth, etc. Their attempts at communication with others usually end badly, as they are unable to form the sounds used by the other aliens of the galaxy.

  • The Mycoidal Moons of Basidium V: Default Navigational Modifier: -2. Deep in the heart of the Morass, a great gas-giant with green bands and white storms circles a distant star. It and its moons seem to defy known physics, as each moon is too small to provide standard gravity yet does so, and the gas giant extends a breathable atmosphere up to its moons, allowing its denizens to “sail the skies” between each moon without any vacuum protection. Tunnels riddle the moons and great forests of bioluminescent fungus stalks, and enormous, house-sized mushrooms cover the moons, creating unique, fungal ecologies. The source of the mushroom’s nutrients are the Morass Leviathans, who seem to flock to the system to dive deep into Basidium V to mate or replenish some vital reserves in themselves. And they also come here to die, settling upon the moons to expire, littering the moons with their great corpses and mighty bones. Those aliens of the Morass capable of space travel (especially the Myrmidon) colonize these moons to harvest vital organs and useful biological deposits from the dead Leviathans to fuel their own biotechnologies.

  • The Lost World of Verdant (Macrobia, Amortis): Default Navigational Modifier: Varies (-2 to -8). Those who believe in the stories of Verdant can find proof of it on old starcharts. It appears on some, but not others, but when it appears, it appears in the same place. Some speculate that some phenomenon phases it in and out of either hyperspace, or out of time itself. A veritable paradise world, lush greenery and sweet, fresh-water lakes and rivers cover Verdant’s surface. An ancient, ruined, alien citadel, similar in design and architecture to the Hammer of Caliban, orbits Verdant, though none have yet mastered or unlocked it. Ruined cities of similar design dots its surface. Treasure hunters seek Verdant not for these ruins, however, but for the rumors of immortality. According to legend, those who reside on Verdant do not age and even return to a youthful beauty given time. The last time Verdant appeared on star charts dates back to the fall of the Alexian Dynasty, and the traitor lords, the Templars, their cultist rivals, and Alexian loyalists all raced to secure the medicinal properties of that world. The outcome of the battle is unknown, for none returned and the planet disappeared. However, if its observed patterns hold, it should return shortly...

  • Jotan: Default Navigational Modifier: -4. Imperial Survey teams traced the thalline network to a single world that rests at the heart of the Morass, where the hyperspatial roots grow to an intense thickness that makes hyperspatial travel almost impossible. A few survey teams have managed to brave the world and send back their results, but not one scientist has managed to make it back off of Jotan alive. Like all Morass worlds, Jotan brims with life, but not the vibrant, familiar life of other worlds, but strange carapace-like lichen growing atop distorted, irregular shapes of stone; black, ichorous rivers flow through valleys; chitinous trees drip with long, fleshy tendrils that twitch in the wind. The world’s atmosphere, while breathable, reeks with the scent of rot and mold. Survey teams also found ruins reminiscent of those found on Labyrinthine worlds, such as Persephone, or the Hammer of Caliban, and in them, the skeletal remains of “giants,” humanoid aliens up to 9 feet tall, who seemed to be eyeless and with sharp-toothed maws, similar to Akashic depictions of the Devils of Persephone, but with a far more imposing size.

The Serpentis Constellation

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The far end of the Sylvan Spiral attenuates into the void beyond. This scattered fringe of stars interconnect into the Serpentis Constallation. The Morass blocks it off from the rest of the galaxy(though one can reach it from the Corvus Constellation, especially Hekatomb), but not from the super-clusters that orbit the galaxy. This isolation makes it a breeding ground for strange aliens and escapees from the Morass. Alien Empires can forge their first toe-holds on the Galaxy here and, provided they can find their way past the Morass, engage with the rest of the Galaxy.

  • The Spire: Default Navigational Modifier: -2. As the Draco Super-cluster reaches its perihelion with the Galaxy, its native race, the towering, reptilian Mug, have begun to reconnect with their ancient colonies and found additional colonies to expand their power base and to begin anew their millennial raids of the galaxy. They have colonies in the remote regions of both the Umbral Rim and the Sylvan Spiral, but no colony greater in size and scope than the Spire, which houses billions of the Mug. They have carved out entire artificial mountains for both industrial purposes, to house their population, and for the nesting of their young. The Spire serves as their de facto capital in the Galaxy. It serves as their base of operations for their raids and conquests, and they receive diplomatic embassies in the Spire. Outsiders from other parts of the Galaxy often express astonishment that a world so reminiscent of the development and population level of the Galactic Core could be found so far from it, and with a completely foreign culture dominating it.

  • The Night-World of Sathra: Default Navigational Modifier: -2. A thick blanket of smokey clouds and lashing storms hides the surface of Sathra from the rest of the galaxy. Its inhabitants, the canabilistic Sathrans, have developed primitive hyperdrives of their own, and raid the edges of the Morass and the Umbral Rim for humanoid aliens, whom they see as a delicacy. Despite their shared reptilian appearance, the Sathrans and the Mug are bitter enemies, and they wage war upon one another to see who will dominate the Serpentis Constellation.

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