Monday, 24 June 2013

Decados Fiefs


In FS3 House Decados has just suffered twin defeats, the loss of Iver to the Hazat has awoken bitterness between the once fast allies, and the betrayal of the Masseri, which in turn freed House Keddah. As such the House is temporarily wrong footed and focusing its efforts internally to ensure that another minor House does not get ideas above its station.



Decados Fiefs
Today House Decados possess five worlds, four clustered together in an interstellar ‘neighborhood’ and one (Pandemonium) laying three jumps away. Decados Space was once much larger, as the house lost several worlds to closing jumpgates during the New Dark Age. Just how many planets the Mantis House used to control is debatable, as Decados historians have a tendency to claim any rumored Lost World as once part of the mighty Decados homeland. For House Decados, success, by any means, is considered the only acceptable way to conduct business and in practical fact, the Mantis House is a Machiavellian meritocracy; those who fail are seldom given another chance while the successful are sometimes elevated far beyond their station.

Cadavus
Star: Ka (pale yellow star)
System: Atum (0.28AU; Khepri), Gendenwitha (0.96AU; Sosondowah), Cadavus (1.26AU; Spacestation: Murimuria, Joh, Chons), At-bon (3.31AU), Damballa (9.8AU; 57 moons), Kauket (32.26AU), Jumpgate (44.82AU), Bacalou (51.03AU) 
Jumps: Criticorum, Malignatius, Severus
Capital: Thebes
Resources: minerals, fossil fuels
Exports: minerals, fossil fuels, slaves
Important People:

Duke Franz Decados (born 4965): Duke Franz and his wife (and cousin), Duchess Ursula, were given this fief as reward for their actions in the Emperor Wars. It is rumored they were exiled to Cadavus for participating in a failed coup against Prince Hyram. Always hungry for distractions, Duke Franz spends much of his time entertaining guests, and all nobles are welcomed in his court. 
Duchess Ursula Decados (born 4972): Duchess Ursula has grown bitter since she came to Cadavus and is often been heard criticizing the Decados Way. She enjoys entertaining guests and is knowledgeable about Imperial politics and Decados court gossip.
Countess Elena Decados (born 4982): Countess Elena, ruler of the technologically savvy (for Cadavus) Hyksos continent in the south-eastern hemisphere, is renowned as the most beautiful woman in Decados Space. She spent several years travelling with the Charioteers before assuming the Hyksos throne, and she is a driving force behind the reconstruction attempts of space station Murimuria. Since 5009, Elena has spent most of her time on Murimuria in the company of administrator Lady Rihana al-Malik. Countess Elena is also well-known for her dealings with House al-Malik, having stimulated an increase in trade, tax-reduction, and inspections on the space station.
Vis-Marquis Kovann Trusnikron (born 4986): The young Lord of Sudania (south-western hemisphere, its population poor, violent, and frequently heretical) is a foul-tempered, prejudicial, and arrogant – at least according to Decados nobles. Lord Kovann inherited his father’s land in 5000 when the former Vis-Marquise Korban lost his life in a Decados raid that violated the Treaty of Thebes that governs relations between the two houses. Lord Kovann has harbored ill-feelings against his patron house ever since. 
Archbishop Nadia – Metropolitan of the Cadavus Metropilae (born 49??): Metropolitan Nadia holds Church authority over Cadavus, Cadiz, Malignatius, Pandemonium, Severus, Iver (contested by the Aragon Metropliae), and Vril-Ya (claimed). Of Cadavus stock, Archbishop Nadia is staunchly Orthodox in ecclesiastical dealings, but remains unashamedly Decados in politics. Theologically, she is conservatively Hinayana, but she is lenient towards the question of moral and the nobility. Nadia argues that the logical conclusion of the Privilege of Martyrs is to extend the decree to all sins for those burdened to lead, not just sins concerning the use of technology. Although she rarely leaves Cadavus, Archbishop Nadia is one of Duchess Salandra’s closest advisors and the only priest the duchess trusts as a confessor.
Count Gneaus Dextrite (born 4967): Count Gneaus is the new ruler of the lush (by Cadavus standards) Ayizan fief at the north pole, which used to belong to House Masseri. Gneaus used to be a landless baron on Leminkainen serving as a general-for-hire to House Decados during the Emperor Wars, but was elevated to Count after conquering Ayizan in 5007. Count Gneaus is struggling to down-size his army to something his fief can maintain, as there are few retirement options available to his veterans. As a consequence, solders turned brigands plague the Ayizan fief.

Overview:
Cadavus is a dry and frozen wasteland and only the polar regions retain healthy ecosystems. Great mountain ranges, many volcanic, dot the wastes, their mines long since exhausted. The surface is 90% land, divided between two radioactive seas; the equatorial Medicadavan Sea, and the northern Agwe Sea whose shores and tributary rivers hosts most settlements. A severe axial tilt (88 degrees) gives Cadavus only two long seasons. Around the poles, communities are buzzing with activity in the summer and in near hibernation in the winter. Between the poles the seasons are; the Calm Season when the axis is level with the planetary orbit, giving a normal (26 hour) day-cycle; and the Apophis Season when the hemispheres alternate between being in constant darkness and constant daylight, causing fierce storms. Temperatures are usually well below freezing, although the soil and waters are significantly warmer, heated by tectonic forces. The south pole is a pristine and protected natural reserve. 
Sonatath (Cadavus) was discovered in the mid-24th century by Sathraist pilots seeking refuge. The zaibatsu arrived 20 years later and drove off the Sathraists. Strip-mining and exploitation made Sonatath a busy corporate world. The ruling Ramses Solid Ventures corporation claimed noble lineage in the 2540s, but was destroyed by their partners and subsidiaries. Sonatath slid into turmoil, until local paramilitaries seized the world with backing from a Criticorum-based commercial coalition. Over the next millennia, Sonatath changed hands dozens of times. The Omega Gospel tells how Sonatath, in the 28th century, was controlled by the antinomist Durargo, before he and his Apophis Dragon (a native predator) was defeated by the Prophet. Disaster came when the local House O’Niell resorted to defend Sonatath against Li Halan invasion with nuclear bombardment (3293), creating a decade-long nuclear winter that earned the world its current name – “Dead World”. During the 35th century, Cadavus exploded in religious conflict as fanatics of numerous faiths came to battle any unholy threat lingering from Durargo’s reign, but found only each other. During the Second Republic, Cadavus came under the control of the Criticorum-based Bashshar Corporation who attempted to restore the world while continuing strip-mine it. A violent worker revolution overthrew the Bashshar Corporation in the 3980s and declared Cadavus a communist world. House al-Malik sought to retake the planet, while House Decados supported the Cadavan Revolution. But the revolution hated both houses and continued to rebel, and in 4007 shut down the Jumpgate. Cadavus reappeared in 4077 and was acquired by the minor House Aviz, who began an ambitious rebuilding program, before House Trusnikron invaded in the spring of 4089, reasserting and the ancient pattern of conquest and re-conquest. Matriarch Alethea (4204–4287, Matriarch from 4259) sent the Patriarchal Fleet to liberate the Cadavans from noble (predominantly Hazat) rule in 4272. The Universal Church made great efforts to heal Cadavus and the poles were declared natural reserves. The south pole, Locko, still enjoys this protected status, but the north, Ayizan, was given to House Masseri refugees from Symbiot-conquered Daishan in 4900. Cadavus resisted the Universal Church’s benevolent rule, and in 4474 Cadavus was given to the newly converted House Li Halan, who ruled with an iron fist in a velvet glove. As part of the peace settlement after Theocrat Halvor I’s death in 4691, House Li Halan gave Cadavus to the Regency, which began new centuries of overexploitation as each successive Regent extracted as much resources as possible during his/her reign. When the Emperor Wars broke out, Regent Darius Hawkwood quickly abandoned the depleted world, allowing the Cadavus Reeves’ Guild Dean to become governor. Then in 4969, House Decados invaded Cadavus under the guise of seeking a Hawkwood-backed terrorist cell that firebombed the Transvaalite Palace on Severus earlier that year, and the house has held the unwanted world since. In 5007, House Dextrite conquered the Messari domains of Ayizan as part of the crack-down against that house.
Cadavus is arguably the poorest planet in the Phoenix Empire. Few planets can claim such a long history of bloodshed, and Cadavus has endured continuous rebellions for centuries. Little interstellar politics is practiced here, for no other faction shows Cadavus much interest, even the local Decados nobles frequently seek positions off world.
It is claimed that every faction in the Empire has owned Cadavus, and although an exaggeration the world has seen more buy-outs, hostile take-overs, invasions, abandonment, and public uprising than any other. Cadavus is therefore a cultural hotchpotch with every thinkable cultural element found somewhere. Countless monasteries dot Cadavus, representing almost every religious and heretical group known. House Decados is developing the planet’s infrastructure and accommodations, as cheaply as possible (including using slave labor), to stimulate pilgrimage tourism to capitalize on the rich local religious traditions. House Xanthippe owns a moonhaven on the Cadavus’ second moon Chons, from where they export collected solar energy to hungery power grids on the planet below. The Cadavan peoples, counting a little over 600.000, are a tough lot, sometimes violent and usually suspicious of strangers, and many are rebellious by nature.

Cadiz
Star: Plyon
System: Cadiz (0.88AU; Persus), Tarshish (1.45AU), Hammon (12.37AU; 38 moons), Sucellus (18.14-38.87AU), Jumpgate (34.09AU)
Jumps: Severus, Malignatius, Vril-Ya (warning: Vau world), Manitou (warning: Vau world)
Capital: Elibyrge 
Resources: agriculture
Exports: foods, exotics (Vau tech), Heronem cultural objects

Important People
Duchess Salandra Decados (born 4967): Duchess Salandra is often regarded as the perfect Decados and the stories spun about here befit the vilest of Magic Lantern villains. She assumed the throne of Cadiz at age 15, having studied under the Engineers’ Guild for seven years prior. Her rise through House Decados has been swift, and she presumably controls a spy-network more effective than even Prince Hyram or Emperor Alexius I. Her skills at seduction and manipulation are legendary, and it is an established truism that she is the Emperor’s occasional lover, there are also unsubstantiated rumors she was pregnant by the Emperor in 5009, though no evidence has been discovered to indicate that such was ever true or that she gave birth.
Duke Stephan Svanfeld Decados (born 4960): In his earlier years, the Duke of Murciyah enjoyed a reputation as a versatile paramour of men, women, and aliens of all genders. Then he was seduced by Duchess Salandra, falling for the mantis predator as hard as any man ever fell for a woman, only to be summarily discarded and ridiculed at court. Since his disgrace, Duke Stephan has remained a recluse, devoting his time to esoteric studies and genealogy. His political and military acumen are widely respected amongst the Li Halan, whom he fought in the Emperor Wars. The good trade relations between Icon and Cadiz are Duke Stephan’s sole accomplishment, and both worlds are mindful of this debt.
Baroness Eldanna Van Gelder (born 4927): The head of the Cadiz House Van Gelder, a strict and influential liege lady who manages her squabbling Cadizian relatives with equal wisdom and firmness. Eldanna, colloquially known as “the Wise Judgeess”, is beloved by her subjects and respected by her peers and superiors alike. She has, however, never bore children, nor does she have close relatives to inherit her barony, and many fear the power struggle that will follow in her wake.

Overview:
Cadiz is wet and warm. Its terrain is as varied as Holy Terra’s, with the exception that arctic conditions exist only in the extreme south. Almost 76% of the surface is covered in water, with sea levels increasing each year, and the major landmasses are divided into three continents and a few major islands. Cadiz used to be more Urth-like, but following the fading of its sun, which started just before the Fall, the planet has grown warmer, rainfall has increased, waters and rivers have swollen, and much of the land turned to swamps or deserts. Huge, half-finished Second Republic megalopolises dot the surface, housing the dregs of society, and are often reclaimed by water and wilderness.
As usual, humanity cares little for the history of the Cadiz prior to the coming of mankind. Indeed, the Hironem civilization had been united under the Shamash God-King for three centuries, they had spread across the globe and managed a manned moon-landed, and their technology (possibly uplifted by the Vau) had produced firearms and motorization, but this is awarded little interest today. Cadiz was one of the few worlds to be discovered and colonized entirely by a noble house, as House Gloucester established a settlement far from Hironem habitation in 2680. The explorers must have realized the planet was inhabited by city-building sentients, but House Gloucester said nothing. The first Human-Hironem contact came in 2682 (18 years prior to the official first contact with the Shantor), but House Gloucester said nothing. The colonists bartered tech gadgets for Hironem land, but House Gloucester said nothing. In 2698, the settlers met the God-King who declared the sale of his land (which had been conducted without his knowing) void. The Hironem who had sold lands to the Humans were declared outcast (Illu) and the God-King demanded a massive sum in Human technology to legalize the sales, which the settlers paid in full, but House Gloucester said nothing. By 2702, the human settlers owned the continent of Murcyiah, and by the beginning of the 29th century Hironem lands were reduced to a handful of city states, but House Gloucester said nothing. In 2745, just days after humanity’s disastrous first contact with the Vau on Apshai, a Vau warship appeared over Cadiz, a warning for mankind not to provoke the Vau, and widespread panic gripped Cadiz. Human-Hironem relations were mostly peaceful under House Gloucester, for as long as the God-King was supplied with gadgets the Hironem remained docile. But in 2818 House Decados made their coup d’├ętat against House Gloucester and the existence of the Hironem was revealed at last. Jakob Decados formed the dreaded Jakovian Agency later that year, and in 2821 this agency instigated a Hironem rebellion against House Decados, giving the house a legitimate reason to retaliate. In the Semak Massacre, the rebellious village of Semak was obliterated through orbital bombardment, and the God-King was forced to sue for peace, seceding all lands to House Decados. Cadis experienced growth early in the Second Republic, as the planet was developed as the diplomacy world towards Vau Space. But when the Vau chose their world Vril-Ya as diplomacy world, all central funding to develop Cadiz was then withheld. Large sections of half-completed cities were abandoned and great motorways and railroads came to an end in the middle of nowhere. Cadiz suffered more than most from the Fall, as its populace was depended on the welfare system for survival, but House Decados came off as peacekeepers and benefactors. Houses Van Gelder and Li Halan also established fiefs here during this period. Initially, Cadiz served as breadbasket for Decados Space, but its fading sun significantly increased the temperature, flooding coastal regions and farmland with salt water and turning fertile forests and grassland into deserts. House Decados almost abandoned the broken world as more important systems rebelled and closed their Jumpgates, and Cadiz was all but forgotten in the New Dark Age. The Emperor Wars mostly spared the strategically irrelevant Cadiz, although a joint Li Halan and Van Gelder attempt to seize it in response to Decados aggression on Malignatius was countered in 4992. Since Alexius’ crowning, things are looking up for Cadiz as Duchess Salandra Decados has become a major political player. 
For over a thousand years Cadiz has been ignored by the high and mighty, and the majority of the people are poor and powerless. Scravers’ Guilders both protect and exploit the slums while the Urth Orthodoxy, together with some Brother Battle and Sanctuary Aeon influences, holds much local influence. But still, Cadiz is the homeworld of Duchess Salandra Decados and she reigns uncontested. Vau aggression is a constant fear on Cadiz, as is Hironem uprising and peasant rebellion.
The enormous half-finished city sections, originally intended to house dignitaries and Vau ambassadors, stand as slum ghettoes. Cadiz’ people are famous for their hospitality, eagerly welcoming off-worlders and interstellar news, although their prejudice against the Hironem is strong and the vigilante persecution and lynching of known rogues is a common sport. The population counts some 800 million humans and 60 million Hironem.

Malignatius
Star: Niqirtsuituq 
System: Angakok (0.17AU), Anadyr (1.54AU; Quikil), Malignatius (1.94AU; Julka), Arsanerit (9.26AU; 16 moons), Quinkinnaqu (20.49AU; 21 moons), Jumpgate (33.82AU)
Jumps: Cadavus, Kish, Cadiz, Istakhr
Capital: New Jakovgrad
Resources: exotics (animals), prisons
Exports: exotics (animals)

Important People
Duchess Valentina Decados (born 4967): The war hero and former leader of the Screaming Dervishes, Duchess Valentina was largely responsible for liberation of this world. As a warrior, Valentina is without peer, but as planetary Duchess she leaves much to be desired, and some speculate Prince Hyram sent her here to keep her from the refined Severus courts. Valentina is unhappily wed to the priggish Viscount Petya Torenson, whose efforts at decorum are ridiculed in the duchess' household. The day-to-day administration of her estates is largely left to lesser Decados nobles and some Van Gelder conies.
Marquis Zarachia Van Gelder (born 4968): The head of minor House Van Gelder. He rules the continent of Alakshak on behalf of Duke Lev Decados who withdrew from public in 4999. The Duke’s whereabouts are unknown, some speculate he has joined a Zuranist zeppelin caravan or an Amalthan hospice, but he is certainly alive, for messages bearing his seal and signature occasionally arrive at the palace, bringing instructions for his proxies in government. Marquis Zarachia is himself neither a feared nor loved man, but he ranks among the most able administrators of the planet.
Archbishop Ivar Gorecy Decados (born 4943): Archbishop Ivar is a notable power on Malignatius, simultaneously a distinguished Urth Orthodox theologian and respected politician. Once a young scion of House Decados, Ivar chose seminary over knighthood, eventually becoming a respected confessor and feared inquisitor on the streets of Tsaritsyn, Severus. As bishop, Ivar was cushion between the planet’s clergy and nobility, interpreting doctrine with regard to Tsaritsyn’s crowded conditions and the morality of the unique Decados. In 4999 he was the logical choice as Archbishop of the Malignatius.
Countess Amita Li Halan (born 4962): As ruler of the unconquered Di-Long Fiefdoms, Countess Amita is both a sore point and a proud feather in the hat for House Li Halan. This northern fief was never lost to House Decados, the remoteness of this near-arctic mountainous forming a barrier against both Decados aggression and Li Halan influence. But the countess is also a notorious apostate, dedicated to the perverse Manja heresy – or so the Decados insist.

Overview:
Malignatius is the coldest world in the Phoenix Empire. Ice sheet and tundra cover over half the landmass and almost all the surface water (48% of the surface) is frozen over in the winter. The planet has three major continents: Alakshak is the largest, Nunaat the most temperate, and New Tibet the southern polar landmass. Malignatius has an unusually slow rate of rotation, making a full day-night cycle lasting about 11 Urth days. 
Little is known of the initial colonization of Chaucha (Maligantius), but it is certain that the first settlers came from Holy Terra sometime between 2450 and 2550. According to local legends the initial colonists were private citizens who had pooled their resources to purchase settlement rights here to escape the First Republic. In 2908 the history of Malignatius begins in earnest, or anew, as House Li Halan conquered the planet and renamed it Malignatius. They tried for decades to unify the scattered settlements, but met with so fierce resistance that from the 2960s House Li Halan ignored the natives and concentrated on natural resources. Some of the vilest excesses of Li Halan courts happened on Malignatius, for here they were free to indulge their unholy appetites without repercussions. In 3194, Princess Theodora (3146-3232) released a bio-engineered virus that killed the livestock in the rural communities, and dedicated the victims of the famine as sacrifice to the demon Pangeren and other dark powers. Under House Li Halan, Malignatius became more urbanized and organized, attracting immigrants – especially groups of fringe faiths and persecuted cults while the Universal Church grew popular in distant rural communities. During the Second Republic, Malignatius became democratic bud could not compete with more prestigious neighboring worlds and the planet descended into poverty, and when The Fall came the vile Li Halan overlords returned with a vengeance. For four centuries Malignatius was again the playground for the evil house, but with the conversion of Prince Cardano to Urth Orthodoxy taxes were quartered, reforms introduced, and social services resurrected for the first time in centuries. Non-Orthodox religions, tolerated before, were now persecuted by the Universal Church. During the Emperor Wars Malignatius was initially involved only by supporting the Li Halan war effort with troops and munitions. But when House Li Halan focused its efforts on subjugating Rampart in 4991, Malignatius was left vulnerable, ripe for Decados conquest. House Li Halan counted on House al-Malik intervening to keep House Decados from gain another world, but when Countess Carmetha Decados invaded Criticorum with the Stigmata Garrison, House al-Malik was preoccupied defending Stigmata and Criticorum both. House Decados waltzed in took Malignatius with only halfhearted Li Halan opposition, but the local defense force fought fiercely, withdrawing into the wilderness to wage guerilla war for years. When Prince Flavius Li Halan gave up his attempt to seize the Phoenix Throne in 4992, combined Alexius and Li Halan forces attempt to retake Malignatius, but unable to pry the world from the Mantis grip. When Alexius’ peace came in 4995 the Malignatius defenders refused to surrender, and fought for another year before House Decados had finally defeated them. Even today scattered pockets of resistance fighters continue to oppose the Decados rule, many of them former Vorox commandos who fought for the Li Halan but have now gone feral. With Malignatius a Decados world, Church influence is dwindling and old heresies resurface. 
House Decados enforce their rule with an iron hand, aided by minor House Van Gelder who alternates as go-betweens with the locals and ‘problem solvers’. Malignatius is also rife with religious tension Incarnates, Preceptors, Zuranists, pockets of Manja cults, and other heresies abound. The Sanctuary Aeon, whose priests arrived to tend all wounded during the Emperor Wars, are tolerated yet distrusted by House Decados. Urth Orthodoxy is the ruling Sect, but those who remember its persecutions following House Li Halan’s conversion detest them. For nobles who incur Prince Hyram’s wrath exile to Malignatius is a feared punishment, and even worse are the gulags for dissidents and troublemakers, the worst being the subterranean gulag on Malignatius’ moon, Julka. The Free City of Khemta has become a refuge for wanted criminals of all kinds, technically beyond the law the denizens of this place value their independence.
22 million Humans and a small but growing number of feral Vorox reside on Malignatius. Some estimates have put the Vorox numbers as high as 100,000 and they represent a significant threat to landed Decados Lords. The Malignatians are seemingly innately religious, given to share their conviction with others with missionary zeal, while being tolerant to new faiths and converters alike. Decados cultures have been slow to settle outside the courts, and Li Halan, and even older cultures, thrives on Malignatius.

Pandemonium
Star: Hearthfire (bright yellow-white star)
System: Barloom (0.47AU), Sheen (0.8AU), Luck (1.7AU), Pandemonium (2.78AU, Flaxom, Floxom, Everlight), Farcry (44.23AU, 22 moons, Spacestation: Farcry Penal Station), Shiver (67.77AU), Jumpgate (77.3AU), Spacestation: Grange Station (123.1AU), Inoperable Jumpgate (123.4AU)
Jumps: Iver, Rampart, Apshai (warning: Vau world)
Capital: the Hub
Resources: slaves, ancient ruins
Exports: slaves

Important People
Count Enis Sharn Decados (born 4960): The count is the unfortunate ruler of Pandemonium, and despite his best efforts is failing at his job. Count Sharn ought to be beloved by his subjects, for his efforts on their behalf is nothing short of heroic, but the people still suffering and their fingers of disdain points to the top. By urging the population of Grange to flee to Gilgar City (the Hub), and maintaining the infrastructure to transport and care for them, the Count personally saved hundreds of thousands of lives. His assets are tied up in expensive relief programs, and what little remain goes to the protection of Manse Sharn. Lately, the pressure has begun to show and the Count shows signs of depression and sometime apathetic resignation.

Overview:
Post-terraforming cataclysms shake the planet, causing a breakdown in biomes and upheaval in the geology. Pandemonium is 70% land, once temperate but now mostly arid, with several inland seas (many created by the cataclysm). Large areas of grass and farmland have become desert, and woodlands recede from the equator, now huddling along the northern and southern polar regions.
When Grange (Pandemonium) was discovered (2717), it was a cold and dry rock with a fragile ecosystem and a hostile atmosphere. The world had little mineral or other resources, and the soil could not sustain large-scale cultivation. Anunnaki ruins were also scarce, and scholars speculated that Grange had suffered some colossal prehistoric war. Grange was therefore only sporadically settled, and was largely ignored for the remainder of the Diaspora and most of the Second Republic. But in 3799, the terraformer-genius Pardot-Franc Gilgar (3754-3847), Doramos the Worldshaper’s sole apprentice, announced his intention to transform the world into a garden paradise. Gilgar’s work began in 3802 and it took over 25 years to transform Grange from a perpetual sandstorm into a lush paradise. When Grange stood finished the world yielded fertile crops year round, and became a breadbasket for the Second Republic. Gilgar was celebrated as a Hero and the bounty of Grange may well have delayed the collapse of the Second Republic by a century or more. After Gilgar died, his descendants continued to bask in his fame, and by the mid-40th century they became House Gilgar with vast fiefs on Grange. But with the Fall, many factions eyed Grange with greed, and early in 4000 disgruntled terrorists managed to harm the system Jumpgate so that it closed. Grange continued as before, a virtual paradise where famine was a myth. Slowly, however, technology regressed, and only practical knowledge of advanced agriculture and medicine were maintained. In 4899, Count Vano Juandaastas who had received a jumpkey as a gift by the Vau rediscovered Grange. Local noble families resisted the House Juandastaas take-over, among them a small family proud of its Second Republic heritage, the (Grailite) al-Malik. The local houses al-Malik and Gilgar allied against the outsiders, and for decades battles raged with lawyers and soldiers for the planet’s ownership. In 4951, the native coalition, supported by House al-Malik, was victorious and drove House Juandaastas off the planet. Nevertheless, the ownership of Grange fell to an Istakhr noble, Baron Afil al-Malik, who drove the bountiful planet to financial ruin by hunting for un-reclaimed treasures across the world. Facing personal bankruptcy, Baron Afil resorted to selling Grange to an old friend, and current enemy, Count Enis Sharn Decados. Secret negotiations commenced, and in 4981 Duke Hakim al-Malik made the transfer legal and official. The very next year, the Merchant League accidentally discovered a second jumpgate in the Grange system, spurring years of legal wrangling over its ownership, but to the people of Grange it mattered little as disaster struck shortly thereafter. The great terraforming engines that supplied the paradise environment began to malfunction, causing earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and extreme weather to ravage Grange. Count Enis Sharn summoned technicians to maintain the engines beneath the Gilgar City, and soon the capitol was the only safe place on the planet. Grange was renamed ‘Pandemonium’ Gilgar City ‘The Hub’. In 4994, the Merchant League gleaned new jump-coordinates from Pandemonium’s secondary jumpgate, opening the way to Iver. This brought more problems for Pandemonium as houses Decados, al-Malik, and Hazat, together with the League and Church, laid claim to the Lost World.
Pandemonium is a mess. Its total collapse of order, finances, and industry has been equaled to the Fall of the Second Republic. Corruption is ripe and Count Sharn is unable to efficiently govern the failing planet, and outside powers routinely arrive to plunder Pandemonium’s resources or ruin. Within the walls of the Hub, efforts are made to restore civilization, but too many people need too many handouts for official programs to be effective, although black market businesses thrives unscrupulously, and The Hub has become a center for the Muster slave trade. A Phoenix Order recruitment office and a tiny Imperial villa, constructed just out of town in 5009, have led to speculations that the Emperor is planning to assume control of Pandemonium should House Decados prove too be ineffective in ruling the broken world.
An estimated 580.000 humans live on Pandemonium, almost everyone living within or around The Hub. The world is even home to a colony of Ascorbites brought in from Severus to bolster the economy by providing effectively free labor. Very few members of high, or even middle class, society remain, and the gap between the count’s estate and his subjects is a vast gulf. Those within the city can count themselves lucky for access to The Hub is strictly regulated, and just outside the dreg survive on the scraps of merciful donations that the impoverished citizens of “the Circle” donate. The Universal Church re-established itself on Pandemonium in the late 4990s, constructing an oddly shaped great cathedral to St. Hombor in the Groaning Desert of the Badlands – a testament to the Pancreator’s perseverance and the faith of the pious.

Severus
Star: Solan (red star)
System: Vinoush’ok (0.73AU), Severus (1.34AU; Edenya), Svarog (5.13AU; Makosh, Svaroglich), Cronus (17.62AU, 12 moons), Fin-1 (32.18AU), Fin-2 (38.49AU), Jumpgate (51.68AU)
Jumps: Cadavus, Cadiz, De Moley
Capital: Tsaritsyn
Resources: fossil fuels, minerals, ore, precious metals 
Exports: minerals, medical tech, narcotics, politics

Important People
Prince Hyram Decados (born 4934): The cunning and manipulative leader of House Decados since 4966, Prince Hyram is considered an iron-fisted despot by his own supporters. His hospitality and festivities are the stuff of infamy; a true litany of decadence, but in the last decade the Mantis Prince has slowed down, sacrificing debauchery for scholarly pursuits and space exploration. Some whisper that he is seeking something and he frequently disappears for months at a time leaving house affairs to his aids. Some speculate that the Mantis Prince is a tired old man, whispered to be a Selchakah addict, his massive torso supported by cybernetic mantis-like legs that replaces his legs since a would-be assassin’s bullet severed his spinal cord in 4968.
Duchess Nadia Decados (born 4904): Duchess Nadia is head of the Jakovian Agency, the House Decados intelligence organization, which she rules from Jakovgrad, the regional capital of Rhodesland. She is over a century old and still strikingly attractive, thanks to a regimen of longevity treatments and her exceptionally skills in cybernetic aesthetics.
Earl Igor “the Metal Bear” Decados (born 4962): Igor, earl of Varangia, deserves his nickname, being big and covered from the neck down in skin-grafted plate-armor. He publically disdains non-Decados, especially al-Malik, but admits a grudging respect for Emperor Alexius I. Muster Chainer gangs and a bustling mining industry operates out of Earl Igor’s regional capitol Domovoy. The earl spends much time in the Great Hall of the Mantis training young Mantis Knights.

Overview:
Severus is hot, dark, and humid, the temperate polar regions blanketed in constant mist. Warm oceans and lakes cover over 80% of the surface, with the landmass divided into three continents (Carpathia, Leshiy, and Rhodesland) and a major Island chain (Voydanoy Archipelago). Most of the landscape is ancient jungle, with some mineral rich mountains and grassland. The low 15% axial tilt means seasonal variations are minimal, but ocean currents maintain a tropical temperature throughout.
Where the pre-human history of other sentient species is largely ignored, with the Ascorbites of Severus, it remains all but unknown as Ascorbites rarely speak of it and their writings are incomprehensible. But humanity cares little, and for most Severus’ history begins with its discovery by an independent corporation in 2610. A host of thousands of Ascorbites observed the new arrivals from afar before one day, amazingly, issuing a warning in stilted Urthish, “Beware the Amen’ta. They will devour your soft skin and your space vessel as well.” Two nights later, Amen’ta hull rats swarmed the camp and consumed ship and crew alike. The corporation couldn’t afford exploring the hostile planet and sold it to House Gloucester at a loss (2611). The fate of the initial explorers remained a mystery till 2760 when their remains were discovered and footage recovered which proved the Ascorbites sentient. By the 2810s, House Gloucester was crumbling, Severus and Cadiz their last holdings. They made overtures to House Hawkwood (2817), offering to be their vassals. But when Hawkwood diplomats arrived on Severus early in 2818, they were informed that Duke Antonin Decados and his brother Jakob, who had been House Gloucester’s security and intelligence ministers respectively, now ruled the Gloucester realms. House Hawkwood accepted the local transition of power, and House Decados was born. Severus welcomed refugees and outcasts from other worlds, offering a new start under Decados rule. During the Second Republic, Severus experienced mass immigration from central worlds as hordes of prospectors invaded in a lawless frontier mining bonanza. When the Fall came, independent Severus escaped the worst but some decline followed when several Decados worlds closed their jumpgates. A fierce Ascorbite civil war was also spilling onto Human region, and fear of Ascorbite invasion led independent communities to swear eternal fealty to the Mantis Banner, accepting Generational Contracts in exchange for protection. Especially the Ascorbites of Varangia (a Leshiy subcontinent) were hostile, raiding human settlements and killing thousands. House Decados evacuated its subjects and firebombed the subcontinent (4159), eradicating several Ascorbite cities, before resettling it with Human colonists. In-house conflicts were also frequent, culminating in the Great Assassins War of 4379, which killed almost 10% of the family. During the Emperor Wars, Severus was the backbone of Decados’ war-effort. In 4969 Hawkwood-backed terrorists bombed Hyram’s palaces and Jakovian intelligence traced the cell to Cadavus, leading to the Severus fleet conquering that League world the following year. In 4989, Prince Hyram aimed for the Phoenix Throne, pushing for Byzantium Secundus with a large Severus fleet, but Alexius countered with the Regency Fleet. A new attempt was planned to coincide with Countess Carmetha invading Criticorum with the Stigmata Garrison (4991), but the invasion was defeated before the plans could be put in motion. Hyram tried again in 4994, with the Decados-Hazat Siege of Jericho, but this was foiled as well, and Hyram abandoned his claim for the Phoenix Throne and concentrated on defending his realm. 
Most citizens of Severus off-world refugees and expatriates, or descendants of such tied to the Mantis banner through Generation Contracts. House Masseri used to oversee some minor Decados holdings here, but following their betrayal in 5007, this responsibility has been assumed by other vassal houses. Since Alexius’ ascendance, Severus has reestablished itself as a major mercantile power, and Charioteer businesses and Muster operations are thriving. The Ascorbites are quite, save for intertribal conflicts in northern Rhodesland and the Voydanoy Archipelag, free of overt warfare. Severus is enjoying a rare period of prosperity and peace. 
The Severan population, numbering 1.95 billion Humans, an estimated 30 million Ascorbites, displays a wealth of cultural sophistication. Even the lowliest peasant avidly follow the planetary news and entertainment media, keeping track of court developments, nobles’ vendettas, Ascorbite movements, weather forecasts, and fiction dramas. Off-world events concern the sober Severan serfs and freemen little, but the jovial Decados nobility interests all. The Universal Church is weak here, for although personal piety is common, faith is regarded as a private matter, with the clergy have no business in politics. Urth Orthodoxy is the biggest and most influential Sect, although all major sects are represented. Heresies are scarce on Severus, but in 4999 the Orthodox Father Berac’h Nicolyaic from Domovoy was arrested for trying to introduce the Second Coming heresy to his parish.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Symbiot Menace

I present my notes on the redesigned Symbiot Menace. For me the big problem with the Symbiots was the publication of War in the Heavens: Symbiots, which turned them from mysterious bogeymen into space werewolves. No disrespect intended to the original writers. In fact I had several long discussions with both Andrew Greenberg and Bill Bridges on this topic.

Given that WitH was already a canonical source, I could not simply ignore it, but I could redevelop it on the basis that much of its material was subjective and not factual. The general policy of vague-ification served me very well in this regard. Principle changes included the re-defining of the shape shifting as primarily an adaptive capability, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Higher order Symbiots gain progressively more control over this primal survival reflex.

The second and most important was the redefinition of the Urgunzai hive. Removing the demon worship angle but leaving in the "womb of the void" concept. I think this really makes the Urgunzai ideology the essence of what it is to be a Symbiot in FS3.

In the original draft I also documented all of Symbiot worlds beyond the Known Worlds. I removed these extra worlds in the final draft because I felt they should remain unknown until I got to write the Symbiot Menace book, and because I wanted more time to continue their development. I'll see if I can find the text I removed and publish that at some point.


The Symbiot Menace

Few aliens are as feared as the Symbiots, although little can be ascertained about this species, not even their physical form. Symbiots are shapeshifters, able to alter their physical form at will, completely changing their physical structure on a cellular level, a feat well beyond even the transformative capabilities of the Changed Metonyms.
Their shapeshifting ability is tied to the Symbiots rank and intellect. The lowly brood drones have very limited ability to shapeshift, or perhaps they lack the intellect to fully employ their adaptive abilities. Those occupying high-ranking hive positions often display incredible transformative powers, growing carapace as hard as ceramsteel for protection, re-growing lost limbs, or even manifesting extra limbs as the situation demands. It is this ability to adapt that makes the Symbiot so dangerous—what does not kill them, makes them stronger!
Even worse, Symbiots breed by corrupting other life-forms. A victim is impregnated with a Symbiot spore that slowly grows and high-jacks the body. The speed at which the spore festers varies widely – some are converted within minutes of infection, while others withstand the taint for days or even weeks before succumbing. There are, however, tales of Stigmata heroes who have resisted the taint or been able to heal it in others. The transformation is sometimes painful, the victim wracked by spasms as his flesh is consumed from within and replaced by a more malleable proto-Symbiotic flesh. Many find the experience to be a rapturous pleasure-and-pain rebirth that opens their senses to the Lifeweb, that omnipresent force that connects all living things, the manipulation of which forms the so-called “Symbiot hive mind”.
Symbiots can be created from almost any living thing, be it plant, fungi, animal, or even life-forms entirely alien; from the smallest multi-cell microorganisms to the greatest leviathans of the deep. Interestingly, the intelligence of the host does not determine the intelligence of the newly born Symbiot. Many animal- and plant-based Symbiots attain full sentience, while sentient victims of symbiosis sometimes suffer cognitive collapse that leaving them with only base instincts. 
Some Symbiots even possess the ability to bioengineer other species into whichever forms they want, without turning them into actual Symbiots. Much of the flora and fauna on Stigmata has been thusly altered by the Symbiots, passing their genetic changes onto future generations. The jungle creepers are now as tough as corded steel, almost impossible to burn, and recover injuries at tremendous speed. In many ways, this bioengineering is a form of Symbiot terraforming. Over a period of time, the Symbiots could cause massive alterations to the biodiversity of a planet, as has indeed occurred on Stigmata. 

The History of Symbiots

What little information the Phoenix Empire possess on the Symbiots, were gained through the torture and examination of captured infiltrators on Stigmata, and it is often confused and contradictory. Although it cannot be considered definitive, a search of surviving Second Republic records has found no mention of contact with the Symbiot race or anything approximating it. An exhaustive search of alien folklore has produced numerous references to various ‘shapeshifters’ but these accounts would seem to be unrelated or purely metaphorical. The Vau are strangely silent concerning the Symbiots—refusing to share what information they have with the Phoenix Empire. Much of what is described below is unknown to anyone but the Symbiots themselves, and perhaps even they don’t know it all; it is presented here for the benefit of the Game Master, and further supplements might expand upon it further.
The truth is that the first Symbiots were of Human origin. All the shapeshifters existing today are descended from the first ones, a small cadre of human that were unfortunate enough to survive an encounter with the ancient Xolotl. However, no records survived the Second Republic to give any information at all concerning who these first Symbiots were, where they encountered the Xoloti, or how they survived. Indeed there are no records of any kind relating to anything approximating Symbiot activity prior to c.4900 when their first advanced scouts arrives on Absolution are Daishan aboard retrofited Human starships.

The Symbiot Wars (4900-present)
The Known Worlds were not the first interstellar community to face the Symbiot Menace, for the Vuldrok Star-Nation faced a shapeshifter incursion in 4860, which inspired several balkanized worlds to unite locally under planetary thanes who managed to keep the Symbiots from gaining a foot hold in their domains. The Vau on their part, encountered the menace in the 4868 when a ship bearing Symbiots entered the space of one of the Hegemony worlds. After a brief encounter the Symbiot ship was told to leave Hegemony space, and the shapeshifters complied. In 4890, the Symbiots returned to Vuldrok space and conquered Abydos, which lead the desperate Vuldrok to place powerful runes on the Abydos jumpgate that barred Symbiot access to it and the Star-Nation beyond (4897).
In 4900, the Symbiot menace exploded unto the Known Worlds, conquering several outlying worlds, before being halted at Stigmata where the front has stood ever since.  The Symbiot War immediately reshaped the Known Worlds, some systems falling to the parasitic invaders, including Daishan, the homeworld of House Masseri. Several worlds beyond Stigmata were cut off from reinforcements and relief aid. Those worlds are now assumed to be Lost Worlds hiding behind closed jumpgates or annexed by the Symbiots, and no-one has since visited them and returned to tell of it. Exactly where the Symbiots came from is unclear, though many have postulated they arrived by way of a night road to Absolution from some other world lost during the fall.
Stigmata was under shared Merchant League and House al-Malik control at the time, but the League were quick to quit the world and surrender their lands to the Regency, while nearly every single House al-Malik fief made a stand but was overrun. The Regency spared nothing in battling the new alien threat, and Stigmata became heavily militarized. The Royal Houses to their credit recognized the threat that they faced, and huge efforts were focused on military rearmament, especially House al-Malik who was directly enduring the parasitic menace. On Stigmata, the Regency slowly won ground and the Symbiot Wars degenerated to a trench war with little movement on either side. The Regency Star Navy placed the Stigmata Jumpgate under blockade, but despite this measure Symbiot ships occasionally managed to slip past their guard, and in 4907 Symbiot agents landed on Shaprut, but were eliminated before they could do much damage; nevertheless, this episode seeded a Symbiot hysteria from which the planet has yet to recover, and which frequently targets the native Shantor. 
In the early days of the war even a small number of Symbiots could wreck havoc, and paranoia amongst the entrenched Regency troops ran high. Fighting shapeshifters meant that they could be anywhere, be anyone, it was only by the actions of a number of heretical priests known as the Eskatonic Order, who could wield powerful theurgy that Symbiot infiltrators could be recognized and eliminated before they could do much harm. The actions of these priests turned the tide of battle, the route ceased, the fall back halted and even some territorial gains were made. So important was the theurgy of these heretics that the Eskatonic Sect was formally recognized by the Universal Church in 4956 and brought into the fold, though some redefining of their theology was necessary to make them (barely) acceptable to Urth Orthodoxy. By 4958, the war had become little more than saber rattling, with limited skirmishes between patrols in the deep jungle.
The Emperor Wars began in 4964, and the Royal Houses began to use the weapons they had stockpiled to fight the Symbiots upon each other. With more immediate and important threats, the job of defending Stigmata fell almost exclusively upon the shoulders of the Regency and the now named Stigmata Garrison, supported by the Brothers Battle and the elite battle theurges of the Manifest Light.
In 4990 Stigmata Garrison Commander, Countess Carmetha Decados, moved the majority of the garrison off Stigmata and attacked Criticorum in an attempt to seize that world for House Decados. As a result, the Symbiots advanced on all fronts on Stigmata, quickly isolating the fortress of Sylan. The resulting Siege of Sylan lasted for five months and the Symbiots were but days away from crushing all Regency presence on the world, when a fleet of Hawkwood ships, flying under the banner of Regent Alexius, arrived to turn the tide of battle. 
At Stigmata, the Imperial Fleet (formally the Regency Fleet) and the Stigmata Garrison managed to hold the line against the Symbiots. Even with the theurgy of the Manifest Light Legion, Symbiot infiltrators still manage to enter the Phoenix Empire, sowing suspicion and fear throughout the Known Worlds. The Universal Church of the Celestial Sun recently empowered several new Inquisitors, to investigate possible links between Symbiot activity and Gjarti pagans on a number of worlds (suggesting that the heretics are, in some way, in league with the foul shapeshifters).

Symbiot Society
It is a common misconception that the Symbiots are guided by some ravenous hive mind that strips away all individuality, turning the Symbiot convert into a mindless drone. This belief has derives from Symbiot tactics observed by the Stigmata Garrison, where waves of mindless shock troops routinely sacrificed themselves by throwing their bodies at the high walls and ready defenses of Damark Station. In 4955, the Symbiot vulnerability to occult powers was discovered on Stigmata, causing higher-ranking Symbiots to withdraw from the field of battle and leave the front line fighting to their drones.
In addition to the waves of drones, the Stigmata broods have in the past employed infiltrators in large numbers. These are usually newly-converted soldiers who are returned to the Garrison, knowing little or nothing of Symbiot culture, to act as spies, assassins, and saboteurs. Despite initial success however, the rise of the Manifest Light (an order of occultists trained to employ their powers against Symbiots) have since caused a decline in the use of such infiltrators as they are easily detected by occult means.
Contrary to this view, Symbiots possess their own unique cultures and complex society, with intertwined hive politics and conflicts. A hive is a collection of broods ascribing to the same Symbiot ideology, living in proximity to one another, such as on a continent or world, and usually dominated by the most powerful of the local broods. Confusingly, each of the major Symbiot philosophies is also sometimes referred to as “hives”, although these are akin to political factions, nations, or even Symbiot races. Each brood has its own hierarchy, with drones and constructs ministered to by servitors, they in turn serving the will of the brood mother. The brood mother is the sole authority of the brood, guiding and organizing it according to her will, more or less according to one of the central Symbiot philosophies. For despite the outward appearance, of Symbiot society, it is not unified; there are rivaling ideologies and competition between hives – even individual broods of the same hive will sometimes war.
Galzai: The Galzai ideology dictates that some life-forms are better adapted than others to their environment, occupying the apex of the food chain and the natural order, and these have the natural right to rule over lower life-forms. These predators believe that “might makes right”, and lesser flora and fauna contributes to the cycle of life by sustaining and serving the Galzai. The Galzai typically have small broods, forming a personal army around the brood mother, though they are the most numerous of broods, and the dominant hives on Stigmata and Abydos, where fighting continues against Human resistance.
Phazul: The Phazul ideology is a spiritual one, seeking to explore and understand every nuance of the Lifeweb, striving to balance all things. Converts see their new state of being as a gift and a blessing from the universe. The Lifeweb connects all living things, weaving a bond between the environment and the individual that is greater than the whole of its parts. The Phazul typically form small broods, but are the second most numerous Symbiot ideology, and the primary opponent of to Galzai ideals of predator dominance.
Zuldor: The Zuldor ideology is one of bending the transformative capabilities of the symbiosis to modify an environment to best suit the dominant life-form (i.e. Symbiots). Though the Zuldor are shapeshifters, their abilities are mainly focused outwards on re-engineering flora and fauna to suit their particular needs, and they are often close allies (“vassals”) of Galzai broods and hives. Symbiots adhering to the Zuldor ideology often form large hives with a great many drones and constructs to service the will of the brood mother. 
Xanxi: The Xanxi ideology is based on bending one’s own forms and adapting to the environment. They are the most metamorphically agile of all the Symbiots and rarely form hives, instead preferring to explore new opportunities to craft themselves into a better, more capable, life form. The Xanxi represent a tiny minority of all Symbiots and is as a group not much of a threat. With the exodus from Chernobog, the dominant hive on that world became Xanxi, and this hive venerates the world itself as the greatest of all Symbiots.
Ornzai: The Ornzai ideology is almost unfathomable to Human minds, born as it is not from sentient converts, but from awakened plants and animals. These Symbiots are very different from one another, but usually continue to develop their goals and ideology throughout life, evolving as their connection and perception of the Lifeweb deepens. Initially most are concerned with the rhythm of life, with feeding, growing, and procreation. Some become incredibly destructive early in their Symbiot life-cycle, reveling in their new found power, until the Lifeweb brings them back into balance with themselves and with their environment. Interestingly, this ideology produces some of the most spiritual and philosophical of the Symbiots. Very few Ornzai Symbiots ever travel beyond the world on which they were created, for they have deep distrust of the life(web)less void.
Urgunzai: The Urgunzai ideology casts off a planet-centric existence and encourages Symbiots to bring life to the void. While most Symbiots find travel in the void to be uncomfortable at best, these Symbiots have pioneered methods of protection and travel through the lifeless dark. Though other Symbiots construct starships, these are usually based on subverted Human patterns and even incorporate considerable Human technology. The Urgunzai, on the other hand, encountered the Leviathans of the Nemetus system (a Symbiot world unknown to the Phoenix Empire), and have cultivated a mutually beneficial relationship with these void creatures. Now their enormous living ships cross the dark gulf between the stars and bring life where none would naturally develop. The Urgunzai are the most numerous of all the Symbiots, but rarely concern themselves with the known planets or political conflict. Instead they cultivate life wherever they go, taking pride in bringing life to strange asteroid gardens, worlds with no atmosphere, gas giants, and more.

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Symbiot Culture Skills
Culture skills for the Symbiots are quite different from those found in human cultures. A Symbiot character would be expected to have Culture (Symbiot), Culture (Ideology), select a Symbiot ideology, and Culture (planet), select a Symbiot world. Converted Symbiots often also possess culture skills related to their pre-Symbiot existence.
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Symbiot Restricted Skills
Symbiots can come from any race, culture, or social background, and therefore their skills are likely to be restricted by their pre-Symbiot existence. Once the character becomes a Symbiot she may lose many of her pre-existing skills, and is unlikely to advance those that are of a technological nature.
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The Lifeweb
The Lifeweb is a mystical energy field that binds all forms of life together; it may indeed be the very source, or spark, of life itself. To those who can see it, it often manifests as a million filaments of light that radiate outwards in all directions linking everything together. The filaments are strongest between members of the same species, decreasing in strength the less evolutionary related individuals are (i.e. how apart on the tree of life the species are).
The Symbiots have long known about the potentials held, locked inside all life. They often look upon their own condition as the awakening of this potential. Not only do individual life forms link to each other, but also to their biosphere, and to the mystical leys of force inherent in every planet. The greatest concentration of this life force within the mantel of a planet is called “the worldegg” and much like a awakening a living being to the lifeweb so to is possible to awaken this nexus of life giving potential of an entire world.
Worldeggs are often difficult to locate, though curiously they often exist close to or coincide with what the Second Republican worldshapers called “terraforming nodes”.  It is the primary objective of any Symbiot invasion to quickly locate and awaken (sometimes called “hatching”) the worldegg. Once this has been achieve the unlocked life energy baths the planet, empowering individual Symbiots with near limitless potential.
The Lifeweb is the source of Symbiot power, the reason and vehicle of their existence. Symbiots draw energy through the Lifeweb, using it to reshape their bodies or modify other creatures, although this intimate connection with the Lifeweb leaves Symbiots vulnerable to other forms of occultism. 
Examples of Theurgic Rites that have proven useful against Symbiots includes, Silencing the Maddened Wilderness (Saint Horace), specifically designed to severe a Symbiot’s connection with the Lifeweb; as well as Fearsome Majesty (Saint Lextius) and Tortures of the Damned (Saint Maya), both of which sometimes affected entire broods of Lifeweb-connected Symbiots at once. In addition, the Manifest Light, an order of occultists trained to use their weird powers on the battlefields of Stigmata, have developed additional Lifeweb exploiting rites (these will be examined in a future Fading Suns supplement). 
Psychic abilities also prove troublesome for Symbiots, as any creature intimately connected to the Lifeweb is incapable of defending against PSI intrusions (no matter the Will and Discipline). There are even rumors of the Imperial Eye psychically scrutinizing captured Symbiot drones in an attempt to access the minds of its master.

Symbiot Insurgents
Symbiot infiltrators have operated within the Known Worlds since the beginning of the Symbiot War (c.4900). The ability to accurately mimic human form is not an ability that many Symbiots possess and for the few who do simply passing for human is seldom enough. The dangers of a simple cultural impasse can expose the careless Symbiot to scrutiny and the presence of a human occultist can easily reveal their true natures. Such expose is a death sentence or worse.

The first problem that an infiltrator must overcome is gaining access to the Phoenix Empire. There are a number of routes open to Symbiots, the most direct route being through Stigmata which is heavily blockaded Imperial Fleet, alternative routes require multiple jumps through barbarian space, which are just as risky. 

Many claims of Symbiot activity within the Phoenix Empire turn out to be something else when properly investigated. Often the result of superstition, changed or alien activity, and despite claims by the Universal Church that Gjarti pagans are in league with the Symbiots (and other dark forces), no hard evidence has yet been recovered to substantiate such claims. The local peasantry are however fearful of strangers, and the nobility prone to over reaction and exaggeration.

Verified Symbiot activity has focused upon the worlds of Bannockburn, Shaprut, and Istakhr, with a few scattered sightings on worlds as far flung as Cadiz and Grail.

Adaptation – Symbiot Shapeshifting

Contrary to the most peoples’ beliefs, individual Symbiots do not have an unlimited choice of forms to take. There are a number of different areas of expertise and some hives are far more skilled in some areas than in others. The ability to shapeshift is driven by the need to adapt, what doesn’t kill Symbiots makes them stronger. A Symbiot then cannot manifest a resistance to a particular toxin or type of damage until it has experienced that type of effect. Similarly a Symbiot must have direct experience of a creature whose traits it wishes to manifest. To do otherwise is possible, but risks straining the Lifeweb.
There is an additional constraint—the availability of life force present in the local area. A Symbiot in a wasteland or desert, where the Lifeweb is weak, has less life force to draw upon than one in a verdant jungle. Those that travel in the void of space can sometimes draw power from their proximity to a planetary biosphere or life-giving star, a taxing and not riskless endeavor, although some Symbiots have adapted to carry reserves of life force with them on long voyages through the dark.

Using Adaptation
As the newly converted Symbiot has her sense slowly opened to the lifeweb so her perception of reality changes. She begins to experience the connectedness of all things. Perceptions of the lifeweb itself varies widely and is usually translated by the new converts most powerful sense, in humans this is their visual sense and so the lifeweb is often described as filaments of light, the strength of the strands indicating the closeness of the life pattern that two creatures share. But Symbiots who do not have a visual sense experience the lifeweb slightly differently often audibly hearing the songs of all living things.
Adaptation is the ability of change a pattern (usually ones own, but sometimes that of others) so that it reshapes to manifest different attributes. This can be viewed as a form of self guided evolution in action. Often the confused shape of new Symbiots blends numerous different traits from many different life forms, often this occurs very early in the Symbiots new life before they have had time to learn or remember their own pattern making it almost impossible to reassert a fully coherent human form. This pattern is referred to as the “mother form” or the Symbiots base shape. It is from this mother form that all adaptations will be made. 
Adaptation goal rolls are assumed to be a modification to the Symbiot’s mother form. That is to say, a Symbiot with the carapace ability cannot add layers of carapace atop one another, but that each goal roll recreates the carapace over from new atop the mother form. A few powerful Symbiots have also developed unique and powerful applications of their adaptation ability, but these terrifying abilities will be detailed in a future sourcebook: Symbiot Menace. 

Loci of Life
There are some places where life flows more strongly than others, places of massed biodiversity. In these places it is considerably easier for a Symbiot to exorcize its Adaption ability, conversely there are areas that are dead or devoid of life, where it is more difficult to draw upon the power of the lifeweb. Not all areas that appear devoid of life actually are so. Many desert creatures remain hidden during the day, and even a toxic waste dump or volcanic vents can give sustenance to those life forms hardy enough to adapt too their unique conditions. 

These modifiers apply to all attempts to utilize Adaptation while within a given area.

Condition Goal Modifier with Shapeshifting skills
The void of space -5
Devoid of life (barren region, dead world) -3
Little life (arctic, tundra) -2
Some life (cultivate land, city, desert) -1
Lively (park, hydroponics lab) +0
Fertile (steppes, open seas, mountains) +1
Abundant life (woodland, lagoon, reef) +2
Teeming (old-growth forests, rainforest) +3
Ley line or Terrafoming node As per condition, +2
Awakened Symbiot world As per condition, +2

Ability–Layout
A description of the ability and the extents of its capability.
Cosmetic: Suggestions of what the manifested ability might look like.

Augmentation 
Symbiots with the Augmentation adaptation may adapt their physical capabilities by reshaping themselves. This allows a Symbiot to adjust her form to boost any one of her characteristics, skills and to heal herself.
Cosmetic: double-jointed, rugged body, protective blubber, muscles in weird places, additional digits, gripping tail, additional sensory organs, eyestalks, disc ears, enlarged brain
Augmentation VPs per point Typical Cosmetic
Physical Characteristic 3 VPs per +1 bulging muscles, whipcord reflexes
Regeneration 1 VP per Vitality or Fatigue rapid healing, gooey slime
Regrowth Variable*
*depending on the seriousness of the wound, a missing finger might be 1 VP a missing arm might be 5 VP

Carapace
The carapace adaptation is one of the most frequently seen on Stigmata, almost universally known by the Galzai broods that utilize it for protection on the battlefield. There are many benefits associated with carapace, much as with human armors these can be enhanced to resisted specific types of and to seal against gas, smoke or even exposure to the void of space.
Cosmetic: Chitin shell, carapace, bone plates, scales, leathery hide, bark, excess body folds, blubber, crystal deposits
VPs Armor Rating
0-2 4
3-5 8
6-8 12
9-11 16
12+ 20

Communion
This is the ability to communicate with and command other members of the Symbiot’s brood, wither through Lifeweb telepathy, subtle pheromone manipulation, rhythmic vibrations, organic radio-wave squawking, etc. This augmentation is considered essential for all Symbiots intending to lead drones in to battle or for any Brood Mother wishing to keep control of her brood. All members of a brood can receive the communications and commands, although only members possessing the communion ability can transmit. Other non-brood Symbiots or other species can detect Communion if they possess the necessary sense organs. Communion may also be used to enhance the Symbiot’s social characteristics. 
A command issued by communion cannot be resisted, but may only be issued to a lower order of Symbiot. The Brood Mother commanding both Symbiots and Drones, by her Symbiots only able to issue commands to the brood drones. 
Cosmetic: vibrating membranes producing high or low-pitched sounds, pheromones, bioluminescent skin patches, waving tentacles or fronds. 
Enhancement VPs per point Typical Cosmetic
Social Characteristic 3 VPs per +1 pheromone control, angelic beauty
Command Drone 1 VP per 100m distant
Command Symbiot 3 VPs per 100m distant

Form
The form adaptation grants control over the Symbiots basic shape, allowing them the ability to adapt their physical form to better suit a particular purpose or environment. This might include changing the Symbiots physical size, adapting to an aquatic or void environment. The Symbiots whole biochemistry can be altered to survive on whatever is available to sustain life.
Cosmetic:
Enhancement VPs Notes / Typical Cosmetic
Extra Limbs 5 VP per extra action grants additional dice in combat
Increased Size 5VPs per size +3 Vitality each size increase
Decreased Size 5VPs per size -3 Vitality each size decrease
Toxin Resistance 1VP per +1 green blood,
Radiation Resistance 1VP per +1 discolored skin, protective membranes, silica scales
Desert Adaptations 2VPs per +1 Survival moisture seals, protective eye lids, cooling membranes
Arctic Adaptations 2VPs per +1 Survival winter fur, blubber, anti-freeze blood
Aquatic Adaptations 2VPs per +1 Survival rubbery skin, gills, diving reflexes
Herbivore Metabolics 2 VPs swollen belly, additional digestion bags
Carnivore Metabolics 4 VPs snout, sieve mouth, huge maw
Mineral Metabolics 6 VPs rock-crushing molars, acid glands
Photosynth Metabolics 8VPs leaves, photocell patches
Internal Metabloics 10VPs bio-battery

Mimicry
Symbiots with this ability are master infiltrators able to sample a life-form, usually by tasting or consuming it, and then adopting its shape. Though the Form ability allows a Symbiot to change and adapt their bodies as needed, that ability cannot be used to exactly duplicate an individual creature.
Cosmetic: The Symbiot appears to be a replica of another living thing
Quality of Mimicry VPs
Poor Species Mimicry* 0
Good Species Mimicry** 1
Excellent Species Mimicry*** 2
Poor Race Mimicry* 3
Good Race Mimicry** 4
Excellent Species Mimicry*** 5
Poor Individual Mimicry* 6
Good Individual Mimicry** 7
Excellent Individual Mimicry*** 8
Duplication (fools TL3 inquiry/devices) 9, +1 per additional TL
* Must hide in shadows, use cosmetics, or be concealed in heavy clothing to pass. 0 VPs required on Intuition + Observe goal roll to expose the disguise.
** Will pass glancing looks and cursory attention. 4 VPs required on Intuition + Observe goal roll to expose the disguise.
*** Will pass close scrutiny. 8 VPs required on Intuition + Observe goal roll to expose the disguise.

Movement
Symbiots with the Augmentation adaptation may adapt their physical capabilities by reshaping themselves. This allows a Symbiot to adjust her form to boost any one of her characteristics, skills and to heal herself.
Cosmetic: double-jointed, rugged body, protective blubber, muscles in weird places, additional digits, gripping tail, additional sensory organs, eyestalks, disc ears, enlarged brain
Augmentation VPs per point Typical Cosmetic
Fast Pace 1 VP per +1 Pace quadruped, sextaped, joint articulation
Climbing 1 VP per +1 Pace suction cups, balancing tail, climbing claws
Flight 3 VPs per +1 Pace wings, lighter than air gas bladders, air jets
Burrowing 2 VPs per +1 Pace grinding claws, massive jaws
Swimming 2 VPs per +1 Pace fins, webbing, tail, water jets
Leaping 1VPs per +1m bulging muscles, spring-loaded articulation

Projection
The projection adaptation allows the Symbiot to grow organs capable of disgorging acidic bile, bioelectricity, shards of bone or almost anything else.  The goal number employing the projection organ once manifested is based on Dexterity + Shoot (with the usual modifiers etc.). 
Cosmetic: bioelectric organs, exothermic body fluids, chemical spray glands, quill projector
The basic effect for this adaptation is DMG 0, Range 5/10/30, SS Mode, this can then be customized using the table below.
Adaption VPs Notes
DMG 1 1
DMG 2 2
DMG 3 4
DMG 4 7
DMG 5 10
DMG 6 14
Increased Range Band +1 per Range +5/+10/+20
Increased Long Range +1 per Range +0/+0/+50
Mode SB +2
Mode LB +4

Senses
This is the ability enhance existing senses and to manifest new ways of experiencing the world, or evolve new organs altogether including multiple eyes or ears, radar or sonar senses, organs to sense electricity or magnetism, etc. It is also possible to manifest sensory aids like bioluminescence to provide light to see by. The senses adaptation also allows Symbiot to enhance their cognitive organs.
Cosmetic: compound eyes, extra eyes, eye stalks, bioluminescent skin patches, enlarged ears or nose, high pitched voice organ, echo-location feelers, enlarge brain, additional brain-like organs
Senses VPs Notes
Mental Characteristic 3 VPs per +1 additional cognitive organs, extended head
Physical Sense +2 VPs per +1 enhances sight, taste, smell, touch, or hearing
Weird Sense +3 VPs per +1 enable the sensing of occult emanations, Anunnaki energy etc.
Life Sense +4 VPs per +1 enable the sensing of life-forms by examining the LifeWeb*
*This can used to again a bonus to any Observe goal roll against a living target. 

Shaping
The Shaping adaption is unlike any of the other Symbiot abilities in that it does not act upon the Symbiot herself, but instead allows the Symbiots to make modifications to other biological forms, using its other Adaptations. This is most often used to create servitors, biotech devices and other biological constructs. The shaping ability simply becomes a cap to the Adaption ability being used.
Cosmetic: cocooning, coating with slimes, organs the knit or weave flesh

Weaponry
This is the ability to manifest natural close-combat weaponry. Symbiots with both Projection and Weaponry Adaptations may use them in conjunction to add toxins to their projections.
Cosmetic: Claws, talons, mandibles, beaks, fangs, stinger, spines, barbs, quills, bone fists 
The basic effect for this adaptation is DMG 0; this can then be customized using the table below.
Adaption VPs Notes
DMG 1 1
DMG 2 2
DMG 3 4
DMG 4 7
DMG 5 10
DMG 6 14
Venom
Toxicity 1 VP per point vector is always injection or contact
- Fast Acting +5 VP Toxicity is tested per Turn
- Slow Acting +0 VP Toxicity is tested per Scene
Paralytic +1 VP per -1 The victim become woozy suffering poor coordination Fatigue +2 VP per +1 The victim suffers fatigue damage per interval
Deadly +3 VP per +1 The victim suffers injury damage per interval

Breeding
Only a few Symbiots have the ability to create more of their kind; when a Symbiot employs this ability she becomes a brood mother. Symbiot society is a competitive one, and a young Symbiot will usually only be allowed to found her own brood after having left her existing brood, usually this means the death of her brood mother.
Symbiots are unable to breed through sexual exchange of genetic material; instead they must infect other life-forms to change these into Symbiots. Usually this involves the physical implantation of a spore into a host body. The spore then slowly converts the host from the inside out; it can take weeks or even months before the conversion begins to show signs of manifestation. Most achieve implantation through a physical wound, usually with some kind of stinger or ovipositor. Those that have mastered the power of mimicry tend to use seduction and sex to infect their victims.
The most powerful Symbiot breeders are able to infect targets directly through the Lifeweb (often referred to as the Symbiot Taint), by manipulating the victim’s very life force signature. Conversion by Symbiot Taint is extremely powerful and can convert victims in seconds, turning enemies into Symbiots in a heartbeat. Using taint is always considered to be a forced conversion, even on a willing subject (see Dissonance p.XX).
Once a new Symbiot has been converted, the Brood Mother may choose to imprint the subject to ensure compliance to the hierarchy of her brood. Essentially inducing loyalty to her and those to whom she delegates her power within the hive. Imprinting is optional, most often undertaken during times of war when loyalties need to be assured. 
A victim unlucky enough to be infected by breeder must make a conversion test, an Intuition + Discipline goal roll, failure means that they suffer a psychological collapse and become a Symbiot Drone. Success indicates that the newborn Symbiot has retained most of its mental faculties. The speed of conversion will also modify the goal roll.
Imprinting uses and opposed Willpower + Breeding against the targets Willpower + Discipline. Success ensures that the victim will always seek to act in the best interests of the Brood Mother (as they see it), in many ways it is a form of infatuation.
Cosmetic: Blooming spore nodes, egg laying, ovipositor, exhaling spore cloud
Breeding VPs Notes
Drama 1 slow conversion, +2 conversion goal number
Act 2 standard conversion, +0 conversion goal number
Scene 4 fast conversion, -2 conversion goal number
Turn 7 very fast conversion, -4 conversion goal number
Symbiot Taint 10 VPs instant conversion, -10 conversion goal number
Dormant +4 VPs spores remain inactive until some predetermined trigger
Willing convert -2 VPs

[Sidebar]
Symbiot Conversion
The process by which a victim (willing or not) is converted into a new Symbiot is relatively simple. Though the subjective experience for the convert can be anything from sublime rapture to a horrific metamorphosis. In general terms the longer a conversion takes more chance the victim has of retraining its sentience and sense of self. Forced battlefield conversions almost always create mindless drones that function on little more than an instinctual level.
The conversion process always begins with implantation (or symbiot taint). Once the spore is implanted in to the victim’s body he is doomed. There are very few ways to combat the conversion process, though amputation of implanted body part has been known to save veterans on Stigmata. Antibiotics and antiviral drugs seem to have no effect on the adaptive symbiot tissues, although there have been rare recoveries attributed to early theurgic intervention on a miracle of a saint. In some the implanted spore goes dormant to be awakened at some later time, seemingly at random. 
Once the spore begins to grow it will alter the cellular structure of the host slowly spreading to adjacent tissues and organs until the full conversion has been achieved. Most are unaware of the changes occurring within their own body during this process, the first signs will start to be come apparent as the Symbiot approaches full conversion and his untrained metamorphic abilities begin to show. This is also about the time that a convert will start to experience her senses opening to the lifeweb.
Those that are taken by a Symbiot brood are often cocooned or confined in someway until this process is fully complete. At this stage the brood mother will usually imprint their minds with the knowledge they need. Those who have remained free during their conversion usually either degenerate being unable to cope with the transformation they have endured becoming uncontrolled drones, little more than instinct predators. 
[/Sidebar]

Dissonance

With the power to perceive and manipulate the Lifeweb comes the responsibility to use it wisely. A Symbiot who is careless in the manipulation of life patterns, who plucks the fragile filaments of the Lifeweb cause a dissonance between his own pattern and those that she is connected too. The act of making sudden or extremes changes to a pattern twists and yanks those fragile threads of light and the Lifeweb itself acts to preserve the status quo, just like the immune system of a biological body it will over time attempt to repair damage or simply isolate and ultimately reject what it perceives as a diseased or damaged organ.
Dissonance then is the dark side of Adaptation. The degree of damage that the Symboit has wrote upon the Lifeweb around her. To those who can perceive such things the filaments connection the rest of the lifeweb can appear puffy, bruised, discolored, and as the effect grows so the strands of light develop tumor-like growths. If left unchecked the dissonant chords eventually snap severing the Symbiot from the Lifeweb, and from life itself.
Below is a general guideline for what may cause Symbiots to gain Dissonance.

Gaining Dissonance
Taboo temporary Dissonance Gained
Exposure to occult powers, or Urge, Hubris etc. 1
Exposure to evil artefact 3
Using non-Symbiot/non-mongrel technology 1
Rebellion against the hive 2
Wiping out a race (sub-species) of organisms 1
Wiping out a species of organisms 3
Wiping out all life in an area 5-10
Forced Conversion 1
Damaging a World Egg 3-8

Losing Dissonance
Deed temporary Dissonance Lost
Exposure to a Soul Shard 1–2
Exposure to a Philosopher’s Stone 1
Awakening a World Egg 10
Wilderness retreat 1
Forsaking Adaptation powers for three months 1
Close encounter with a World Egg 1-3
Visionquest within the Lifeweb 1-5

Dissonance Pool and Dissonance Effects
As the Symbiot gains permanent Dissonance she manifests corresponding levels of Dissonance Effect. Dissonance effects are always “permanent”, and in effect until the Symbiot is able to reduce their permanent Dissonance level. If the Symbiot has no checks in the temporary Dissonance track, she is fortunate enough to be able to convert one permanent Dissonance check into 10 temporary Dissonance checks, minus the number of temporary Dissonance lost in the life-affirming experience.
Palpitation (Dissonance 1, permanent): The Symbiot begins to pluck the fragile strands of the Lifeweb around her causing a palpitation within the web. This palpitation disturbs the Lifeweb in the local area, causing the Dissonant Symbiot to suffer a -2 penalty to all social interaction goals with other Symbiots.
Clot (Dissonance 2, permanent): The Lifeweb begins to constrict around the Symbiot trying to contain the damage that she is causing. The Symbiot may no longer use abilities or sense via the Lifeweb. Abilities like Breeder or Mimicry must be used with physical contact, not through Lifeweb sensing.
Cancer (Dissonance 3, permanent): The Symbiot’s form shows signs of physical degeneration, tumors begin to grow over the Symbiot’s body and her Adaptations begin to fail. Other Symbiots might find her repulsive (-4 penalty to social interaction goals), and the cancer-ridden body may take longer to recover from Fatigue and Injury (healing at half the normal rate or requiring twice as many VPs if using an Adaptation to heal). 
Metamorphic Limits (Dissonance 4, permanent): The Lifeweb tries to limit the strain the Symbiot is placing upon it, by opposing her shapeshifting, making harder for the Symbiot of access her metamorphic abilities. The Symbiot suffers a -2 penalty to all Adaptation goals.
Thematic Restriction (Dissonance 5, permanent): The Symbiots metamorphic ability becomes increasingly restricted, limiting the range of the cosmetic appearances and effects of Adaptations. The Symbiot must choose a single theme to which all Adaptations must comply, such as: fish-like, reptilian, algae cluster, conifers, etc. 
Metamorphic Sterility (Dissonance 6, permanent): The Symbiot can no longer use the Breeder ability to convert others into Symbiots. Those spores that have been produced but not yet converted a host (even if implanted) shrivel and die. Symbiots lacking the Breeder adaptation can never gain it. 
Metamorphic Lock (Dissonance 7, permanent): The Symbiot can no longer shapeshift. Their forms remain locked and they cannot use their Adaptations on themselves or others.
Metamorphic Degradation (Dissonance 8, permanent): The Symbiot’s form begins to decay, all Characteristics and Skill ranks are reduced to half their normal level. 
Brood Contagion (Dissonance 9, permanent): Other members of the brood begin to suffer the effects of a metamorphic disease that weakens them. The Symbiot’s brood-members suffer the effects of Metamorphic Degeneration. At this point, a brood or hive will usually turn upon itself to destroy the cause of the contagion.
Disjunction (Dissonance 10, permanent): The Symbiot shatters the remaining filaments connecting her to the Lifeweb, effectively cutting her off from the Symbiots source of power. The Symbiot immediately starts to die, slowly desiccating over the course of a few hours, leaving a withered corpse.
Domain of the Symbiot Menace
During the Regency Era, the Known Worlds was considerably larger than it is now. Though most worlds became lost with the Fall and during the New Dark Ages, the single greatest loss of Known Worlds territory in post-Fall times occurred with the Symbiot invasion of 4900. When the Symbiot incursion was finally halted at Stigmata, seven worlds were cut off from the Regency – now assumed to have fallen to the shapeshifting menace. 
Little can be said with any certainly about the state of these lost worlds. There a few people still alive in the Phoenix Empire who remember that time and many stories passed down through the generations. Despite the efforts of the Imperial Eye and the Manifest Light, little is known about the current state of what lies beyond Absolution and Daishan – even the location of the Symbiot homeworld remains a complete mystery.  The territories of Symbiot Space encompass worlds once claimed by the Houses al-Malik, Masseri and Torenson, as well as other bloodlines now believed extinct. Questing Knights and Imperial Eye agents have, however, recently come to learn that Symbiot Space borders the Vuldrok Star-Nation, but that the Symbiot incursion into Vuldrok Space was halted through occult powers wrought in Abydos space. 
The information given below is for the benefit of Fading Suns Game Masters – it does not represent information available to anyone within the Phoenix Empire. Future supplements will expand upon these, and other Symbiot worlds further. Note that although world summaries are usually divided into sections of description, history, politics, and culture in Fading Suns, the politics of Symbiot worlds are not given below. Instead additional information on the environment and condition of the worlds is offered, together with the description, history, and Human culture and/or activity on the planets.

Absolution
Star: Kol (bright white star)
System: Tansin (0.42AU), Topa (0.64AU; Auger), Absolution (1.31AU), Hower (17.2AU; 27 moons), Lynn (22.4AU; rings, 26 moons), Tagin (47.45AU; 13 moons), Jumpgate (57.4AU)
Jumps: Stigmata (warning: Symbiot world), Daishan (warning: Symbiot world)
Capital: None
Resources: ores, minerals, forestry
Exports: None
Important People
Shima (born c.4944): Once a warrior queen of House Donald, Shima’s fitness and natural prowess ensured her selection to become one of the jungle-kin. Once the mother of her own Symbiot brood, Shima returned to her old village to recruit new brood members from amongst her former family and people. She converted the fittest warriors one by one, in time creating a joint Human-Symbiot community where a Symbiot warrior elite rules as nobles. Shima retained her expansionist ideals and imperial ambitions even as a Symbiot, sympathizing with the Galzai philosophy, her community has conquered or destroyed several rival broods over the years.
Overview:
From orbit, Absolution appears as a great, Urth-like world of green landmasses and blue oceans, with a swirl of while cloud. Once a center of industry and mineral extraction, but the scars these left on the surface has long since been buried beneath a thick jungle canopy. The planet has a teaming ecosphere, although corrupted by Symbiosis into a mega-flora world, giving rise to super-sized growths that are much bigger than would be considered natural. Dense forest extends through all latitudes on Absolution, running the range from equatorial jungles through to arctic evergreens forest – and trees often grow up to a half a mile from base to tip.
Absolution was discovered in c.2950 and was quickly exploited for its vast and easily accessible mineral deposits. However, within a couple of generations, colonial interests and mineral extraction efforts were hampered by legal disputes over territorial ownership (c.3020). It took more than a century to resolve all the matters in court, but after a lengthy legal dispute and various appeals Absolution was finally divided between the descendants of the survey team that had discovered the world (3150). This gave rise to three local minor houses, Van Allan, Cheema, and Donald, whom between them controlled all mining operations and mineral wealth on the planet. Absolution continued to function as a mining resources world through the Second Republic, making the mineral aristocracy fabulously rich while their subjects enjoyed a comfortable middle-class existence. In 3949, the Aylon-based House Torenson took advantage of social unrest on Absolution, to occupied large regions of the planet. Although House Torenson had initially played the role of merciful liberators, promising a fairer redistribution of Absolution’s wealth to those natives who supported their take-over, they soon displayed their true face as house troops enforced a strip-mining of its territories while the worker’s salaries and benefits were greatly reduced. The public was in an uproar, but little could be achieved in the face of the complete breakdown in interstellar civilization that was the Fall of the Second Republic. With the New Dark Ages, House Torenson tightened its fist even harder, provoking in the end a planet-wide revolution against the invaders, in which Torenson subjects and neighbors allied to take back most of the occupied territories in 4354. Many Torenson fiefs reverted back to their original owners, although the hated House Torenson retained a trace presence on Absolution for another two centuries. The few remaining Torenson domains on the world were sold to the Regency in 4550, when House Torenson lost its royal status. 4900 marked the arrival of the Symbiots, and Absolution fell to the invaders in a matter of weeks.
The first challenge facing the explorer who’d wish to land here is that there is hardly a scrap of bare ground visible. Even the most daring of pilots is forced to set down on a beach rather than hope to find a jungle clearing. The jungles are extremely difficult to hike through, as the flora grows incredibly densely, and as a result most animal life has abandoned the jungle floor for life in the canopy. The forests are a little easier to traverse, but not much. As the plants grow to incredible sizes, most animals adapted by becoming smaller and more agile – better suited to navigate the tangled labyrinth of tree limbs.
There are still Humans on Absolution, survivors of the invasion reduced to simple hunter-gatherers communities hiding in the wilderness all across the planet - their survival craft second to none. Some communities have made gods out of the Symbiots, giving sacrifices of jungle produce and times willing converts to appease the terrible deities.  

Daishan
Star: Glymar (yellow star)
System: Tumble (0.26AU), Daixi (0.76AU), Dalec (1.02AU, 2 moons), Daishan (1.37AU), Goating (5.3AU; 7 moons), Changtu (12.5AU; 33 moons), Dao (18.1AU; 1 moon), Jumpgate (31.4AU), Donsha (107.3AU)
Jumps: Stigmata (warning: Symbiot world), Absolution (warning: Symbiot world)
Capital: None
Resources: salvaged materials, forestry
Exports: None
Important People
J’azeer (born 4789): J’azeer is an Ornzai Symbiot, awakened on Chernobog where he spent the first 100 years of his life as a giant shob’gn tortoise-analogy. When he was converted in 4889, he could remember little of his previous life, but was fascinated with his sentience. He arrived on Daishan to assist in negotiating a peaceful take-over the world, but was horrified when the Humans scorched the planet. He survived only by borrowing deep in to the earth and drawing upon the energies of the world egg, slipping into deep hibernation as his injuries were healed. His dreams fused with the life energies of the world egg, slowly guiding the restoration of life to the dead world. Slowly, life crept forth again as flora and fauna appeared out of life force hibernation similar to J’azeer’s. He slumbered deep in the earth for close to a century until he finally awoke to discover his new world in 4998. J’azzer converted many of the burgeoning life-forms before discovering a fall-out bunker in which he set up lair. His Symbiot converts now look upon J’azzer as a kind of fertility god – a living embodiment of the world spirit.
Overview:
What Daishan looked like before the Symbiot Wars is no longer of any relevance, for it will never look that way again. The planet was completely destroyed with atomic weapons as the House Massari population fled in 4900, and was left a scorched planet with enormous regions encrusted in glass produced by nuclear bombardment. Soon, nuclear winter fell over the world, and as far as the Phoenix Empire knows, Daishan remain a completely dead icy and radioactive world. But this is not so, for life is again sprouting from the wreaked world, reclaiming more ground every day. The beginnings of a primordial jungle now extend across much of the planet surface, although nothing grows on the great glass desert surfaces, yet.
As with the former appearance of the world, the pre-Symbiot Wars history and culture of Daishan no longer matters much – every piece of art, every local legend and story, every planetary law and achievement, every building and monument, everything that made the planet Daishan, was destroyed in the nuclear holocaust of 4900 and can never be regained. The history of the current Daishan world begins with the Symbiot Invasion of 4900. Symbiot hysteria had already gripped the Regency, and the rich and powerful grabbed whatever they could carry and fled the planet in hast. Daishan was the homeworld of Minor House Masseri, but even they abandoned the planet in a blank of an eye, leaving behind thousands of years of culture and history, not to mention the scores of less fortunate who could not find a way off-world. Even before the evacuation of Daishan was complete, the Regency Navy nuked the planet from orbit, incinerating all life, destroying the biosphere, and turning the vast deserts into great plains of melted surface glass. Since that time the, Daishan has been considered a lost world and access to it has been strictly prohibited in fear of Symbiot contamination. From time to time however, rumors of great treasures left behind as House Masseri ran for their lives, have surfaced, spurring a rare few attempts to illegally send salvage expeditions to the world. The most recent expedition was in 5008, when Count Claudio Masseri, head of the minor house, led a secret expedition to Daishan in an attempted to reclaim his birthright. However, the secret was discovered by Phoenix Empire agents, and the Imperial Navy destroyed the count’s ship when it returned to Stigmata, no questions asked, no chance of explanation offered, the risk of Symbiosis being too high… The fall of Minor House Masseri had far-reaching consequences in the Phoenix Empire, but at least a possible Symbiot epidemic was averted. A top-secret Imperial Eye listening post was maintained in Daishan space up until the second week of 5010 – the ancient space station Edo on the edge of the solar system. The destruction of Edo came as a total surprise, as an un-scheduled transmission was broadcasted indicating that Symbiots had managed to infiltrate the station crew and the station had been triggered to self-destruct – it is unclear even who made the final transmission.
Unknown to the Phoenix Empire, the nuclear bombardment did not destroy everything on the planet, as some creatures, spores, and seeds survived buried deep under the earth or in the depths of the seas. The Symbiots have been careful to nurture life wherever found, and has accelerated the spread and the bio-diversity manifold; now a new native Daishan ecosystem is evolving, guided along by Symbiot perseverance.
There are still pockets of Human survivors on Daishan, descendants of small groups who endured the nuclear holocaust by hiding deep within bunkers or similar shelters. The number of survivors is uncertain, possibly no more than a few thousand, but even these rag-tagged communities have been touched by the dreams of J’azeer, and have themselves evolved to better survive the harsh conditions, each community developing specific adaptations to the environmental niche in which they fine themselves. 

Chernobog
Star: Slav (bright yellow star)
System: Jarilo (0.5AU), Chernobog (1.1AU; Tear), Morana (5.38AU: 14 moons), Perun (12.55AU; rings, 17 moons), Zorya (20.6AU: Radigost), Stribog (32.1.6AU; rings 33 moons), Porvata (77.3 AU, 2 moons), Jumpgate (143.2AU)
Jumps: Unknown, Chernobog once had jumproads to Daishan, Stigmata, Absolution, but these were erased when the Second Republic quarantined the world.
Capital: none
Resources: forestry
Exports: None
Important People
Chernobog/Chi (awakened c.3980s): The very planet is itself alive, a living entity nourished by the world egg.  In the soil of the planet exists a fungi-like life-form, enveloping the entire surface of Chernobog, and this… creature, once Human, is the senses and central nervous system of the world. What might be mistaken for strange flowers or trees, are actually blooming extensions of this fungi form. Strange blades of grass form a carpet of sensory receptors; great fungi tree-like bio-chimneys sample and process the atmosphere, altering the delicate balance of the ecology.  Chernobog is a composite entity, encompassing the planet, the energies of the world egg, and that which was once a Human male called Chi Hashimi; now, however, it is a completely different creature, more than the sum of its parts – in no way recognizable as Human. 
Overview:
Chernobog is a dense fungi-form world great mushroom-like trees grow to enormous proportions, slimes and moulds are plentiful and great bio-films spread cross the areas of water giving it an oily appearance. It is a rich source of resources both mineral and biological, forming the backbone of the Symbiot civilization. The great fungi emit an eerie bioluminescence that can be seen from orbit give the appearance of man-made cities covering the continental landmasses The only except being the ridged peaks of high mountain chains that crisscross the face of the planet. Large bodies surface water do exist, beneath the slime bio-films, but much water is trapped in great ribbons of mist that hang in the upper canopy of the fungi-jungles, or seeping up through porous rock. 
There are no surviving historical records of Chernobog. The world was intentionally forgotten by the Second Republic, all data about it systematically purged in one of the greatest cover-up programs of Human history. Chernobog is the birthplace of the Symbiot species; it was here that the Human founders encountered the alien Xoloti, and were transformed into the first specimens of an entirely new form of life – Symbiots. The war that followed thoroughly shocked the Second Republic authorities. Their troops were defenseless against Symbiot conversion, and more soldiers than not where recruited to fight for the Symbiot cause against the Second Republic. In an attempt to cut the Symbiots off on Chernobog, the Second Republic withdrew completely and sabotaged the jumpgate. Such was the panic that gripped those individuals who had been involved, that instead of studying the Symbiot phenomenon to better understand and prepare for it, it was decided every mentioning of Chernobog or the Symbiots be stricken from every archive anywhere, with no copies retained. Although the data purge wasn’t complete, it was efficient enough that Chernobog and Symbiots ceased to exist in Human memory – there are even some indication that the conspiracy arranged accidents for everyone from lower ranking clerks to soldiers rather than risk them talking about their experiences with the Symbiots. In the centuries after Chernobog was abandoned by humanity, the Symbiots spread across planet’s surface and diversified into every possible niche. They awoken the world egg and nourished the life force of the planet, but  in time ideological differences arose, leading to conflict and ultimately to the great exodus as the living planet sought control over its own destiny. 
The great Second Republic efforts to obscure Chernobog eventually failed, for although all known jumproads from the Chernobog jumpgate was erased, one road remained undiscovered in the workings of that arcane mechanism, and this last jumproad would eventually provide the only route for Symbiot expansion. In the early 48th century, the Symbiots finally left Chernobog to conquer forgotten parts of the Jumpweb, and in 4860 the first expedition into Human territory, that is the Vuldrok Star-Nation, was launched from Chernobog, with the incursion into the Known Worlds following in the year 4900. Today, very few Symbiot hives remain on Chernobog, most having left during the past century.

Other Worlds
In addition to Symbiot Space, the Symbiots also have a major presence on the worlds of Abydos (p.XX) and Stigmata (p.XX). The below entries are intended to provide additional information on these worlds from a Symbiot perspective.

Abydos
The war on Abydos as not gone well for the Symbiots. Initially, the Symbiots seemed to gain the upper hand within a few years; their ships sweeping past the Abydos jumpgate to attacked other worlds beyond. But when the Jumpgate stopped responding to Symbiot ships in 4897, Abydos became a dead end; barring the Symbiots from pushing forward into the Vuldrok Space, or even from retreat back to familiar worlds. The Vuldrok mustered their forces and keep returning to Abydos with a vengeance, their warriors finding glory in fighting the Symbiots, many of their weapons cursed with ancient runes that poison a Symbiot’s connection to the Lifeweb. Even worse, some Vuldrok seemed to be immune to conversion, and a few seem capable of their own kind of shapeshifting. The Symbiots on Abydos can hardly keep up the conversion programs to replace the drones lost, and the world has become a stalemate, neither side capable of delivering a deceive blow, although little would be required to tip the balance firmly in the Vuldrok favor.

Stigmata
The war on Stigmata has gone quiet as of late, not because the Symbiots lack the will to fight but because they have already won. While the surface war cost countless of lives on both sides, the Stigmata hives sacrificed their servitors and drones as a diversion. The main Symbiot objective on Stigmata has always been to discover and take possession of the planet’s world egg buried deep in the Human controlled zone. Locating the world egg was a painstaking process, and burrowing deep into the planet crust to the terraforming node was even harder, but finally Stigmata has been awakened.
Since the awakening there has been an explosion of life on Stigmata, new species come into existence every day, and those already in existence grow to unusual sizes. The jungle has become increasingly dense and life teems in the depths of the oceans. The Symbiots still ambush human patrols straying too deeply into Symbiot territory, but this is more about keeping up appearances that actually seeking to fight a concerted war. When the time is right, Stigmata will unleash its wrath upon humanity, engulfing all life beyond the Stigmata bottleneck. For the first time since the Symbiot Wars begun, however, the Symbiots can afford to take their time, steadily mustering their near-limitless forces, while more and more insurgents penetrate into Human Space to make preparations for the inevitable deluge of life.

Ships of the Symbiot Menace

The Symbiots do not produce electronic and mechanical technology as understood by humans, though many of them are capable of using or even repairing human technology, but only if it was knowledge the Symbiot possessed prior to its conversion. The Symbiots’ ability to shapeshift, altering their bodies to meet specific demands, is their greatest tool and weapon; the shaping of biological materials is central to the growth of their civilization. Symbiot ships are living constructs that somehow survive while swimming through the void of space. The heavily proscribed items known as Symbiot Tech, sometimes available on the Phoenix Empire black market, are in fact of human manufacture, bioengineered by Gene-Techs based on studied Symbiot captives or carcasses. These devices were first employed during the Symbiot War, then later during the height of the Emperor Wars. The Universal Church and the Inquisition have, however, since forced most of these terrors into obscurity once again with cleansing fire.
The first Symbiot vessels to escape their homeworld were actually not really Symbiot ships, but Human vessels salvaged from ships abandoned when the Second Republic sealed the Chernobog jumpgate. Most early starships where rebuilt as hybrid craft, metal frames with biological flight systems and controls grafted on (called “mongrels”). These living systems crew and evolved, and over time the external surfaces of hybrid starships were overgrown with hardened chitin, diamond hard silica scales, or other forms of protective shell.
Then the Symbiots discovered a species of void-dwelling behemoth, bringing new possibilities for conquering space. The first of these great void creatures took years to convert, but the end result was a fully living Symbiot starship (called “Leviathans”). Perhaps it is from these vessels that a legend of void krakens was born. 
Mongrel ships largely follow the underlying design of the ship on which it is grafted, though many of the high tech systems are inoperable, stripped out or replaced with shaped bioforms. With the increasing sophistication of bioshaping, the Symbiots have managed to create innovative new systems that are beyond the ken of human engineers. These include photosynthetic generators, elemental projectors, protective carapace shells, life scanning sensors, and other innovations that make their ships both unique and especially dangerous.
Leviathans have an even greater range of possibilities, as they are true Symbiots and able to shape shift at will to adapt to any situation. This can result in Leviathans forming additional armor when needed or manifesting weapons where they are needed most, and there are no starships anywhere as versatile as Symbiot Leviathans.

Mongrel Class Shuttle
The Mongrel is really not a single class of vessel, but an early description of the first Symbiot ships to arrive at Absolution and Daishan. These ships fuse bioshaping with reclaimed Human starships. The normal sleek combat hulls of the Second Republic ships that usually makes up the core of Symbiot Mongrel Class vessels, were typically badly damaged in the evacuation of Chernobog, and are often patched with strange chitin that seals the breach with bulging organs extending from rents in the hull plating.
The biological components of these ships are crafted with the Symbiot Adaptation shaping. They utilize specifically adapted and grown organisms to patch the ship, provide neural relays between mechanical systems and organic systems that allow the Symbiot crew to control the ship.

Hull Size: 1
Structure: 20 Armor: 4
Drives: Standard (3 months), Jump drive (3 jumps)
Crew: 1 command crew, 1 personnel
Sensors: 5AU
Weapons: equivalent to: Light Battery (Fixed – Fore)
Shields: 0/0
Cargo: 10 tons
Passengers: 0
Power Signature Acceleration Shields
Standby -5 none 0/0
Port -3 Slow 0/0
Cruise -1 Standard 0/0
Attack +3 Standard 0/0
Maximum +5
Benefits & Afflictions: Lander [5], Maintenance (Decent) [5], Poor Design [+3], Shielded Core [5], Alien Tech [+10], Lifeweb Sensors [5]
Benefit Cost: 20pts

Mongrel Class Stalker
The Stalker is a small hunter-killer ship designed for daring hit and run raids. Much like other mongrel ships, the Stalker’s appearance can vary widely. The longer the ship has survived, the more alien its appearance tends to be, as the bioforms creep over the external hull, modifying, shaping, and strengthening it.
Hull Size: 4 Structure: 50 Armor: 16
Drives: Fast (1 month), Jump drive (3 jumps)
Crew: 2 command crew, 9 gunners, 4 personnel
Sensors: 5 AU
Weapons: equivalent to: Grappling Gun (Single Turret–Dorsal), 8× Medium Batteries (4× Port Gun Decks, 4× Starboard Gun Decks)
Shields: 0/0
Cargo: 5 tons
Passengers: 0
Power Signature Acceleration Shields
Standby -2 none 0/0
Port +0 Standard 0/0
Cruise +2 Fast 0/0
Attack +4 Fast 0/0
Maximum +6
Benefits & Afflictions: Lander 50], Maintenance (Decent) [5], Poor Design [+12], Shielded Core [5], Alien Tech [+10], Lifeweb Sensors [5]
Benefit Cost: 66pts

Symbiot Sinners and Saints

Hive Mother Zeeva
Zeeva is a typical Symbiot convert, formally a noble of House al-Malik. She fell in battle during the height of the Emperor Wars, fighting to defend the Known Worlds from the tide of Symbiots that threatened to overpower the Stigmata defenses. Pierced in a dozen places, her last Human memory is being dragged away by a Symbiot creature just as the first of the Hawkwood assault landers screamed in overhead, dropping the man who would be Emperor and his elite guard on to the battlefield.
When she awoke, she was safe, cocooned as the Symbiot spores grew inside her body, her senses slowly opening to the Lifeweb. As Zeeva became aware of the Lifeweb, her horror abated and she embraced her new existence as a Galzai warrior. In the years that followed, Zeeva has fought many battles, against her former allies, and against other Symbiots, but true freedom only came with the death of her brood mother. This freedom scattered the motherless brood and many of its members escaped to become brood mothers in their own right, founding new broods based on their shared Galzai ideology – and in time, Zeeve has come to conquer many broods, having placed herself as a mother of an entire hive.
The greatest battle to save Stigmata is now over, the world egg has been awakened, but Humans still infest the world, stubbornly refusing the blessing of Symbiosis. Zeeva hunts them still in the wild places; her mission to keep them confined to the cities and population centers, and to keep them ignorant of the Symbiot master-plan.
Quote: “I remember you”
Description: Bipedal in form, the figure is now covered in a ridged exoskeleton structure with the exception of her human face. What was once hair has matted back over the scalp into the armored carapace. Over her shoulders extend two extra limbs bearing mantis style talons.
Dex: 5 Vig: (7) 11* Vitality 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -2 -4 -6 -8 -10
Wit: 6 Wil: 5 Resolve 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -2 -4 -6 -8 -10
Int: 4 Pre: 6 Reputation 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -2 -4 -6 -8 -10
Faith: 5 Dissonance: 1
Skills: Athletics 7, Beastcraft 3, Command 3, Culture (Stigmata) 7, Culture (Aylon) 2, Culture (Galzai) 4, Culture (al-Malik) 2, Culture (Phoenix Empire) 2, Deception 2, Dodge 6, Fight 7, Influence 4, Observe 10, Sneak 7, Survival 7, Throw 5, Carapace 5, Form 4, Augmentation 6, Communion 5, Movement 3, Senses 2, Weaponry 8, Breeding 3
Benefits & Afflictions: Alien (Symbiot)
Gear (Current Adaptations): Carapace (AR12, silica scales), Form (Carnivore Metabolics, sinuous body, a maw of silica teeth), Augmentation (*+4 Vigor, lean muscular body), Senses (+2 olfactory senses, elongated nose / muzzle), Weaponry (DMG 3, silica claws)

Galzai Hive (generics)
The size of a Symbiot brood or hive is usually determined by the age and power of its hive mother. Some hives have be very large, numbering hundreds of individuals and composing several broods, while a recently established brood might only have 3 or 4 drones serving the brood mother’s will. Rank within the brood or hive relates to intellect, and the power to control one’s own form. 

Galzai Symbiot Warrior
The brood warriors of the Galzai brood mother Zeeva emulate her feline predatory nature, like her they have taught muscular bodies coated in silvery silica scales, and rely on their sense of smell to track prey.
Dex: 5 Vig: (5) 6 Vitality 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -2 -4 -6 -8 -10
Wit: 4 Wil: 4 Resolve 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -2 -4 -6 -8 -10
Int: 3 Pre: 4 Reputation 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -2 -4 -6 -8 -10
Faith: 2 Dissonance: 0
Skills: Athletics 4, Command 2, Culture (Stigmata) 3, Culture (Galzai) 4, Culture (Symbiot) 2, Deception 2, Dodge 4, Fight 5, Influence 2, Observe 5, Sneak 5, Survival 6, Throw 4, Carapace 4, Form 4, Augmentation 2, Senses 2, Weaponry 4
Benefits & Afflictions: Alien (Symbiot)
Gear Current Adaptations): Carapace (AR8, silica scales), Form (Carnivore Metabolics, sinuous body), Augmentation (*+1 Vigor, lean muscular body), Senses (+1 olfactory senses, elongated nose / muzzle), Weaponry (DMG 2, silica claws)

Galzai Symbiot Drone
Following the theme of the brood mother these look much as they did before their conversion, except that their eyes have a hollow look to them, parts of their bodies a sheathed in silica scales, some not fully formed but instead little more than rough crystallized deposits on the skin. They move on all fours and will fight to the end to defend their brood mother or one of her warriors, other wise they will withdraw when they are injured.
Dex: 3 Vig: 4 Vitality 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -2 -4 -6 -8 -10
Wit: 2 Wil: 2 Resolve 0 0 0 0 -2 -4 -6 -8 -10
Int: 3 Pre: 2 Reputation 0 0 0 0 -2 -4 -6 -8 -10
Faith: 1 Dissonance: 0
Skills: Athletics 3, Culture (Stigmata) 1, Culture (Galzai) 2, Culture (Symbiot) 1, Dodge 3, Fight 3, Influence 1, Observe 3, Sneak 3, Survival 4, Throw 2, Carapace 2, Weaponry 2
Benefits & Afflictions: Alien (Symbiot)
Gear (current Adaptations): Carapace (AR4, silica scales), Weaponry (DMG 2, silica claws)