In the Sword of the Stars II universe, there are many alien races. The Races of the game fall into three categories: Playable, Independent, and Elder Races. Sword of the Stars allows players to control one of six highly distinct races. Each has advantages and disadvantages in their research of technology, colonization of planets, and most importantly, the method by which they travel between the stars. All aspects of the various species are detailed within, but here is a basic introduction to each race.
Are the sentient species of various planets who have developed a unique means of Faster-than- Light transport and developed an Imperialist culture. Each Playable Race and its FTL Engine will dominate one of the six Factions of the game, technologically, socially and politically. Playable Races include Humans, Hivers, Tarka, Liir, Zuul and Morrigi. A brief description of each Playable Race follows this introduction.
Are species which occupy a single Planet or solar System and have not yet developed their own Faster-than-Light drive system. They can be incorporated into a larger Empire as Protectorates and often make important contributions to the Empire, but they cannot venture away from a single home system unaided. Typically Independent Races are hidden away on obscure planets and cannot be detected without a careful Survey of a system. Finding them is a rare and special occurrence, and many of them have interesting secrets and abilities which are only revealed when they have been studied for some time by a nearby Science Station.
Are an ancient species which developed Faster-than-Light transport and highly advanced technology long before the Playable Races of the present era rose to their current Tech Levels. Often players will encounter only ancient machines and failsafe devices left behind by an Elder Races, some of which can be quite dangerous. Encounters with Elder Races and their technology are extremely rare and can be lethal to the unprepared.
Humans are an air-breathing, land-based species of sentient mammals. They evolved from a primate line which can be traced back many millions of years to a tiny tree-dwelling shrew. They have developed their technological power base independently without assistance from any other alien race. Their core technology is a Faster-than-Light engine known as the Node Drive.
The Node Drive allows Human ships to travel along subspace corridors which link one Star System to another. Human ships travel along these channels at very high speed and have one of the fastest transport methods known. These links between Star Systems are called Node Lines and the sub-space dimension between the Nodes is called Node Space. Human movement through space is restricted to Node Lines but is quite fast. Although they enjoy the advantage in speed, the restriction of their movement can offer some strategic challenges.
The Human race dominates the Sol Force Faction. Other sentient species are not permitted to serve in positions of military or political power in Human controlled space, although they can sometimes live peacefully among Humans as Civilians, or be incorporated into the Human empire as Protectorate worlds.
Hivers resemble very large insects to Human eyes, but they are not “insects” in the biological sense. They have an internal skeleton and organs. Their outer skin, which appears “bug-like” is only a coat of armor. The Hiver species is divided into three physical and social classes: the Workers, the Warriors and the Royals.
The core technology of the Hiver race is the Gate Network, a series of portals which allow them to transport their ships instantly from any place with a Gate to any other place with a Gate. Once their Gates are set up Hivers can move more quickly on defense than any other Race in the game. The catch is that in order to set up a Gate, they have to travel slower-than-light to the proposed location and spend a turn setting it up. Gate networks form slowly and have to be defended with care.
The Hiver race dominates the Hiver Imperium Faction. Other sentient species, although they may be tolerated by Hivers as civilians cannot serve the Hiver Queen in positions of military or political power.
The Tarkas are a reptilian species, but they are as far removed from their lizardlike ancestors as humans are from the tree shrews from which they evolved. The Tarka culture is very ancient and has been remarkably stable in the long term, allowing for hundreds of thousands of years of recorded history and over nine hundred years as a space-faring race.
The core technology of the Tarka race is the Warp Drive. A Warp Drive creates a sheathe around a ship, and allows it to become a non-event in normal spacetime. While in this warp state, the ship can accelerate to speeds surpassing that of light and manoeuvre in any direction. The advantage of the Warp is that it is versatile and allows full freedom of movement in the universe. The disadvantage is that its speed is limited.
The Tarka race dominates the Tarkasian Empire Faction. Like Hivers and Humans, the Tarka are able to tolerate and co-exist with compatible aliens as civilians, but non-Tarka are not able to become full citizens, join the military or serve in positions of political power.
The Morrigi are an avian species, but they retain many features of their ancient reptile origin, which gives them the appearance of feathered dragons. Their civilization is very ancient and they were the first of the Playable Races to become space farers and to form a widely scattered empire among the stars. They possess a small number of natural Psionic abilities, including Empathy and Lesser Glamour.
The core technology of the Morrigi race is the Void Cutter engine. The Void Cutter is a combination of propulsion and a generator which creates a ripple of gravimetric distortion in space-time. Using this ripple of distortion as a bow wave, the ship can push beyond the normal speed of light. The real trick, however, is that only one Void Cutter needs to use most of its power to create the distortion. Any other ships that join into the same fleet and fall into formation behind the leading ship can ride the same bow wave, and apply all their engine power to thrust. The more ships join the fleet, the faster the fleet as a whole can move. Morrigi, in other words, move fastest as a flock.
The Morrigi tribes, male and female, have formed a new political Faction called the Morrigi Confederation. They are willing and able to adopt Independent Worlds of any other race into the Confederation, and will allow citizens of these planets to join the military and serve alongside Morrigi in their fleets.
The Zuul are a race of space-faring marsupials. They are not the product of natural evolution. They were created by very advanced genetic tampering, and all members of the Zuul race possess a number of well-developed Psionic powers, including Telepathy and Coercion. Modern Zuul have become divided in their religious beliefs and political views, so they are now members of two different Factions. The Suul’ka Horde retains the traditions of Zuul culture in the past, and remains biologically and culturally identical to the Zuul of the 25th century.
A splinter group known as the Prester Zuul have abandoned the Horde and its culture completely. Philosophical and physical descendants of a Zuul known as the Deacon, the Prester Zuul have formed an Alliance with the modern Liir. Their culture is a fusion of the teachings of the Deacon and traditional Liirian values and practices. They are biologically, socially and psychologically very different from Horde-born Zuul.
Zuul who belong to the Liir-Zuul Alliance use Liirian technology, speak the Liirian language, and have adapted their bodies to the Liir climate. Zuul who remain members of the Horde continue to use the core technology of the Zuul race, the Rip Drive, which tears open space-time to create Node Space tunnels. These tunnels are similar to the ones used by Humans, but they are artificial rather than naturally occurring and they “heal” and collapse over time. The disadvantage of this is that the Zuul must invest some effort in keeping their network of tunnels open and functioning. The advantage is that Zuul, unlike Humans, can drive these tunnels wherever they choose.
The Liir are a cetacean race. They possess a number of well-developed Psionic powers, including Telepathy and Telekinesis. They have ventured into space only in the last few centuries, after having freed themselves from slavery. The Liir were forced to serve and obey the Suul’ka in the past, and they have never forgotten the experience. The relationship between the Liir and the Suul’ka is very ancient, very tragic, and involves pain and hatred on both sides.
The core technology of the Liir race is the Flicker Drive. Rather than achieving light speed by force, a Flicker Drive teleports a ship by tiny increments many times per second. Liir ships have less trouble with inertia than other ships of similar mass, and can manoeuvre gracefully and turn more quickly than their enemies might expect. The weakness of their engine is that it is vulnerable to the curvature of spacetime, as in gravity wells. Although Liir ships move extremely fast in deep space, they are much slower in close proximity to a star system or other large gravity well.
The Liir race has recently adopted a splinter group of Zuul into their midst and now share their technology, living space and values with large numbers of Zuul. Nonetheless, Liir dominate the Liir-Zuul Alliance Faction technologically, politically and socially.
The Suul’ka are a group of seven or more powerful Liir Elders who have gone rogue over the course of the last 320,000 years. While they held absolute power on the Liirian home world, the Suul’ka enslaved all other members of their race to pursue a single great scientific project: to build an armored suit which would enable them to survive unaided in space.
The Suul’ka are the strongest Psionic beings in the universe, who have mastered Telekinesis to such a degree that they can fold space with their minds, and use the folds as a method of Faster-than-Light transport. The first such leap for every Suul’ka has always been the jump from the waters of their home ocean into vacuum. Taking with them a perfect sphere of contained sea water, the Suul’ka begins its life as an immortal within a shell of saline ice. The moment that a Suul’ka shatters its icy cocoon and unleashes itself upon the universe, as well as the cold sociopathic “feel” of their titanic minds, has given them collectively the name “Lords of Winter”.
Each of the seven known Suul’ka has a distinct personality and a set of abilities based upon that personality. The Bloodweaver, creator of the Zuul race, is a highly gifted scientist, and particularly adept at Biotechnology and tailored plagues. The Siren, destroyer of the Morrigi fleets, is the most powerful living coercer known. At present, the Suul’ka are allowed with the Zuul Horde and can only enter the game if they are summoned by an Altar, the highest level of Tribute station. Once they are summoned, the Suul’ka become an active unit, and can be controlled by the Horde player in both strategic and tactical screens.
The Suul'Ka have come to be known almost affectionatly by some players as giant space whales or space Cthulhu.