I am in the process of creating a space-opera-like setting for use with M-Space, but with my own twists that lead away from that Traveller-like setting assumption.
At the moment, I have a couple of vague ideas for some of my aliens, remnants of cool concepts I laid down some 35 years ago as a teenager who hadn't even heard of roleplaying games (in Germany...) but did his world building and solo-roleplaying nonetheless. At the time, Lego produced models for a hard-SF line I couldn't afford, and they published a booklet with models suggesting at integrating a more space-opera setting. A couple of panels with Lego manikins whose heads or body parts were replaced with some of the less regular building blocks, possibly adding a few extras. I looked at those, and was sold, and started to develop the setting on paper rather than with building blocks.
It was the time of Star Wars, so of course my setting then was about rebels against an imperium that I never really defined but that had vast military resources, and significantly more scruples than the Star Wars one. German TV also offered Space 1999 with its underground Lunar base, so that was another influence at the time.
Over time, I added what insights I gathered in scientific facts and impossibilities to reduce the amounts of handwavium and unobtainium in my setting.
So there was this militaristic human culture suppressing free traders and nonhumans with the trappings of armor and elaborate helmets, aided and abetted by a profit oriented Galactic Mining mega corporation operating both inside and outside of the empire, which sometimes proved a neutral ground, imperial citizens or corporations trading at neutral or empire-associated nonhuman spaceports, and of course the “us”, the human rebels and their nonhuman sidekicks and allies. I never really dropped that concept, but upon receiving the German translation of Classic Traveller about 8 years later I couldn’t really get warm with that system and its basically incompetent, one trick characters. (Nobody told or showed me how to use that system as a narrative though crunchy game rather than a simulationist one until decades later.)
So, there are these concepts of two humanoid alien races that I need to stat out. Help and advice appreciated, and somebody might be interested in using them in a different setting.
One of the allies was a minor multi-planetary species of humanoids inhabiting oxygen- and water-rich planets in the Goldilocks zone of blue giants – one distant binary, and at least another smaller one in the same region. The species had inhabited those different planets for long enough to develop speciation. I never came to define their own name for their people, or the official catalogue name, I simply called them Blue Ones. The inhabitants of Gatesea and Gateland (two captured rocky planets with very active biosphere, surface gravities of 0.95 and 0.89, 90% and 50% of the surface covered by liquid water, high humidity, about 30% diatomic oxygen and 2% ozone in the atmosphere at surface levels, and carbon dioxide levels varying between 0.01 and 3% depending on the day/night cycle) were native to Gateland, had colonized and bioformed Gatesea with organisms from their homeworld’s land mass and part of the seas (retaining some of the non-sapient, mostly compatible biosphere there) with slowships, and had established another slowship colony (out of focus of my main activities) around that other blue giant star, the Exos with significantly different appearance, and adaptation to a gravity of 1.1 and somewhat lower ozone and less humid atmosphere.
These guys could work in human environment using breath masks, and vice versa, although humans needed a lot extra protection from ultraviolet radiation and the bleaching effects of ozone.
Blue Ones and Exos ended up as endo-skeleton bipeds with two multi-jointed arms each ending in two opposed sets of four likewise multy-jointed fingers, ellipsoid heads with a ring of sensory organs, including four eyes – one to each side with 190 degrees coverage, and a pair to the front with 120 degrees coverage mostly overlapping to the front. Orifices are located at the lower slope of the skull – two sets of somewhat extendable teethed mouths between the forward and sideward eyes, and venting slits beneath the eyes.
Their skeleton is based on two multi-jointed interior columns extending plate-like ribs enclosing the upper and lower torso, leaving the center of the torso open for a belly similar to the human belly. A central channel is framed by bone plates providing hinges between these two columns, sheltering three separate strings of neural tissue regulating motor functions, vegetative functions, and communication with the neural tissue inside the basket of bone plates forming the skull.
This basic architecture obviously needs to be reflected in the native endoskeletal animals of Gateland (and those that colonized Gatesea and the Exo planets in an interstellar variant of the Columbian exchange, brought along by the Blue Ones). Metabolic rates of the lifeforms on these three homeworld planets (and in their lesser colonies established more recently) are high. Their circulatory system is driven by two separate hearts very similar to mammalian ones. Their blood transports the oxygenating agents in form of complex bound oxygen and as small organic peroxide esters. The peroxide mechanism is used for peak activities, with peroxide esters deposited in cellular caches during low activity periods, while the complex bound oxygen provides the background level of body maintenance.
Cellular membranes must deal with this constant onslaughts of peroxides and radicals. That either means modifications to the phospholipids used by all Terran organisms with a very high regeneration rate or a different, more resilient approach to forming a flexible and extendible cell membrane. Whichever nature these changes have, Terran-descended organisms can consume Gateland-descended organisms (they will need to deal with any stored peroxides, which will be consumed internally if those cells are subject to stress), and vice versa. On a cellular level, organisms from Gateland and Gatesea are compatible. Outside of the cells, both plant and animal life use cellulose, hemicellulose and proteins for their connective tissue, and what we would call modified starch alongside with starch for fast access fuel storage.
Vegetation on Gateland is very active, compared to Terran vegetation. Most plants recede their sunlight collectors (usually frondy leaves) at night and reduce their area during the most intense radiation of noon, or they have permanent hard photosynthetic organs that can activate protective chromophores to shield the cells from too intensive irradiation. Plants collect peroxide esters synthesized from ozone, too, and power their motive processes with this metabolism.
Blue Ones and other endoskeletal lifeforms native to Gateland maintain a rather constant body temperature in the range between 30 and 40 degrees Celsius (303 to 313 K). At rest, they tend to remain at the lower range, while activity can bring up their motive apparatus up to 50°C (about 320K), which needs to be dissipated quickly. Evaporation is their preferred cooling method, somewhat hindered by the high humidity, but boosted by adding low boiling esters from special glands in phases of high activity (the by-product of using up the stored peroxide esters). Sweating Blue Ones smell of mouthwash and cheap perfume, laced with pheromones similar to those in human sweat.
The quadruped life-forms of Gateland share the multi-jointed extremities of the sapients, and their somewhat disk-shaped sensory skulls above their orifices, which display huge variations between different dietary requirements, and generally are larger than those of the bipedal sapients. A lot of the animals move in semi-upright stance, with the forelimbs providing ground contact only in very slow or very fast gaits. Their jointed spines support dorsal flexibility like that of small cats or weasels, allowing for some fast gaits where the body appears to contract and elongate. They don’t have tails but rather flat dorsal extensions, some with rigid bone plants supporting a muscular counterweight quasi-limb capable of vertical movement adding momentum to jumps and buffering momentum on landings, developed from a flat dorsal fin of distant aquatic forebears, and re-used for that function by amphibious variants returning to the wet element. The truly bipedal Blue Ones retain this as a rather atrophied remnant that receives much of their weight when sitting in a rather curled stance.
Variants with atrophied limbs have evolved adapted to water, but usually land dwellers returning to a watery habitat revert to enlarged hind digits supporting muscular flippers.
Aerial fauna exists on Gateland and marine subspecies successfully adapted to Gatesea as well. The endoskeletal variants come in several variants:
The dominant aerial variant adapted half of their digits on all four limbs to chiroptera-like (batlike) wings, employing the remaining digits for grabbing prey or food;
one variant using both sets of digits on their forelimbs to support frondy hollow scales that can be rotated individually along both sides of the digits, creating a feather-like extension of the elongated digits, allowing for a fluttering hovering flight with both stationary and dashing modes;
and finally one variant with elongated hollow rib-bones extending out, supporting skins attached to both fore- and hind-limbs allowing gliding flight.
Herbivores are divided among browsers snatching bits from the frondy green during daytime, whether long-necked, flying, or climbing, the more destructive cracker and diggers going after the sheaths the fronds retreat into, and seed and fruit gatherers.
Due to the high metabolism rates of the autotrophs, the calcium hydrogen carbonate concentrations in the water drop to extremely low levels, leading to an absence of calcite exoskeletons for invertebrates. Silicacious shells or polsaccharid take ths role, as do ligament proteins. They too sport paired orifices, inherited form primitive worms which employed paired sets of cutting tools which developed into separate orifices rather than a single one, and which continued as the motive structure of these worms, and of subsequent arthropods, most of which resemble two-ridged centipedes or crabs. Aerial arthropods don’t use wings but webs of silk spun around a few pairs of elongated legs.
Blue Ones prefer disk-shaped spaceship design with a vertical acceleration vector for constant acceleration and sidewards dashing using lateral thrusters for quick maneuvers. This design was inherited from the gondolas of their slower-than-light solar sailing vessels that carried their colonists. These ships use weak warp drive for intra-system mobility, but rely on the classical jump drive for interstellar travel.
Due to their dependance on hard radiation stars for their atmosphere and their plant lifeforms, they usually don’t use reefs or mobile slowlife platforms.
In multi-species parties, Blue Ones are valued for their keen perception abilities – not so much the quality of their optical and acoustic apparatus as their cognitive system evaluating that information. They value perception highly and produce some of the most advanced telemetry systems available. Other specialities include surveillance, quality testing and fault detection.
Kurus are another bipedal species from my early attempts at designing aliens, inspired by the same sources as the Blue Ones and Exos.
The Kuru homeworld and their planetary colonies were devastated by a giant supernova about 1500 standard years ago, but they managed to use the few decades of warning their FTL ability gave them to evacuate their population and significant amounts of samples of their planetary biota before the catastrophe struck, thanks to their natural ability to hibernate, which they augmented with their technology.
They have since led a nomadic life, collecting resources from interstellar space, uninhabited systems, and trading with planetary races. The loss of their homeworlds has caused a species-wide trauma. Kurus feel trapped on planets and require their habitats to be FTL capable. They do maintain more or less permanent outposts in the systems they claim for resource collection and they maintain trading outposts with extraterritorial status at major trading nexi.
The Kuru homeworld was a rock planet captured as the distant satellite of a gas giant during an inward shift in an otherwise unremarkable K-primary system. The capturing by the gas giant caused a major extinction event on the planet due to the tidal forces bringing increased tectonic activity, but the atmosphere and a sufficient sample of the biosphere survived these changes and managed to adapt to the rather eccentric orbit of the gas giant which carried the planet beween the extremes of a rather comfortable warm Goldilocks distance to their primary to the coldest extremes of said Goldilocks zone, where only the exothermal qualities of the gas giant prevented the atmosphere from freezing out.
The Kuru culture huddled around volcanic vents during the coldest phases, or went into hibernation.
Kuru biochemistry is remarkably similar to Terran biochemistry, but has much higher salinity and requires a slightly different spectrum of trace minerals.
Physically, the Kurus are most notable for their antlers bearing a variety of sensory organs on a broad head dominated by two huge nasal ridges, each reminiscent of the snouts of saiga antelopes. A pair of eyes on a protruding muscular mass is situated above the nose ridge, allowing bifocal front sight and good peripheral coverage. Their beaked orifice holds several arrays of specialized dentition embedded directly in muscle tissue.
The sensory stalks on the antlers carry a range of chemical and acoustic receptors.
They have an endo-skeleton of lightweight hollow bones, surrounded by a regular muscular apparatus and a second layer of musular tissue supporting a quasi-exoskeleton of cartilagenous scales and a down-covered dermis which they can extend over these scales or retreat into a compact fold between the scales. Another well (durchblutet) dermis can be unfolded above this downy dermis and the scales, providing efficient cooling despite the thick double layer of muscle tissue.
Their hands have three opposed pairs of digits in 90 degree opposition, with a claw-like protrusion on their third segment of the fingers. On their feet, these act similar to hooves.
The biological ancestors of the Kurus were opportunistic scavengers, able to dig out hibernating prey out of frozen dirt or ice, but also taking advantage of the rich plant life that exploded regularly when the planet returned into the pleasant regions of the Goldilocks zone.
Inhabiting a K-star system, the Kurus took to the slowlife reefs (one of my setting premises, possibly a leftover from a precursor civilization) with a vengeance as soon as they managed to overcome their gravity well. With habitats of their highly productive plant life available during the cold seasons of the gas giant, their population exploded, and their domesticated biosphere adapted to microgravity. Those organisms that had adapted too well to the massive climate change required hibernation periods, too, which led to the Kurus towing reefs into more eccentric orbits, or equipping mobile slowlife as agricultural platforms.
Kuru plant life’s atmospheric requirements have an optimal range of 30 millibar carbon dioxide, 5 millibar methane, 1 millibar N2O, 170 millibar oxygen and at least 300 millibar nitrogen partial pressure, with a total pressure of 700 millibar or higher preferred. This corresponds to the spring conditions of their lost homeworld, when the great melt would start plant life going into overdrive. Fruit bearing season would see a massive depletion of carbon in the atmosphere and a higher oxygen level. Coincidentally, this is the preferred atmospheric composition for Kuru habitat sections.
Kuru society is very conservative. This is due to the fact that a huge portion of their population still spends a lot of time in suspended hibernation. At any time you will find a few first generation evacuees among the Kuru crews, taking terms to get up to date with current technology and society before returning to hibernation. A few hibernation fleets are known to park at distant Oort cloud objects, producing batches of returnees regularly while receiving returnees to take their turns in hibernation. Since hibernation has a natural rejuvenating effect, there is a steady stream of volunteers taking their turns in cold sleep. It isn’t known how many such hibernation vessels exist, or how many Kuru fleets operate outside of human or other civilizations’ radar. The portion of non-hibernating Kurus is slowly growing as the Kurus work on creating self-sufficient habitat fleets for all of their species.
While the Kurus don’t operate reef and slowlife agriculture any more, they still provide seeding and initialization of reef colonies, and are welcome trading partners and development contractors for the human reefer culture, willing to join in their barter and favor economy. They are interested in buying biomass, and in contracting seed production.