The Covenant Generation
A Spacemaster Setting
Copyright David Johansen ©2002-2003
Edited by Lowell R. Matthews for The Guild Companion
Years ago, before I got into Rolemaster, I was working on a science-fiction game of my own
design, with the working title of "sf%." The races used in "The Covenant Generation" were
originally envisioned in that first, clumsy set of home-brewed rules. When the Rolemaster Standard System rulebooks were first released, I finally broke down and
tried Rolemaster. After about two years of being torn between
intimidation and amazement, I finally got the hang of the system and fell
soundly in love with it. I anxiously
awaited the release of a new edition of Spacemaster,
even going so far as to pick up the second edition and dabble with a Standard
Then ICE went bankrupt.
I watched as the fans tried to save it and the debate turned to altered
rules, d20 compatibility, electronic publishing, and other mad schemes. Fearing that it would never again rise from
the catastrophe, I turned again to "sf%" and put a great deal of work
into cleaning up the system. Then,
miraculously, ICE was purchased and revived, and, wonder of wonders, there was
no change in the company's direction and Spacemaster
moved ahead once more.
While waiting for the Vehicle
Manual to be released, I continued to work on "sf%," liking to
have loose ends firmly tied up. I
eventually caved in to pressure and renamed the game Galactic Adventures, as many people felt the old title was at best
dull. Now, with Spacemaster firmly on the road to recovery, and The Guild Companion's open call for
articles, I have taken the opportunity to convert my setting and races to Spacemaster.
I tell this story because I'm aware that many people
disliked Robert J. Defendi's Privateers setting,
while I have been one of its staunch defenders. After all, the old Spacemaster
setting has a large number of sourcebooks in the form of the Silent Death line. However, I would love to see an Adventure Kit for Silent Death.
(Are you listening, Bruce?) But, since I had a setting and races already
on hand, and many people aren't fond of over-the-top anime-style space opera,
I've decided to publish my material here as a lower-tech, less-flamboyant
Faster Than Light
Human Rejuvenation Technology
United Astronomers' Union
United Catholic Church
United Nations and Corporations
- Sound Bites
"The answer is still no. As a race, we struggle to overcome a deep urge for irrational
self-sacrifice. How can we admit
missionaries of religions that encourage our worst excesses?" —A
Sheth Immigration Official
"The 'war' between the Dagonites and the Gnar is
brutal beyond our comprehension. The
worst atrocities of Human history are the daily events of their struggle. In no way can we, as a race and as a people,
dare take sides. It would consume us as
it has consumed the Inheritors of the Gnar's legacy." —A
Sheth Peace Speaker
"You Humans misunderstand our demands. We don't want a war at all; we just want
your planet." —A Gryph Ambassador
- Time Line
The United Catholic Church (UCC) is formed from the
scandal-torn remnants of the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches.
General of the Army Stanley Maxwell's military coup
overthrows the government of the United States of America and wins popular
support due to ongoing world terrorism.
In declaring the new American Empire before the United Nations he
proclaims, "Maybe now we can get something done."
Mexico is absorbed into the American Empire.
The Canadian government's announcement of its intention to
join the American Empire leads to widespread rioting. Many Canadian military units form a
revolutionary army. American troops
cross the border but face long years of guerilla warfare and terrorism.
The American Empire's Aerospace Force finishes the
Asteroid Defense Grid, a group of nine satellites armed with ion-driven
nuclear missiles. The United Nations
denounces the system as "a threat to the liberty of all the people of
Powerful corporate concerns including Consolidated Wall
Street Enterprises and Genetic Adventures Conglomerate successfully lobby for
entry into the United Nations, lending new capital, power, and authority to
the crumbling institution.
The Greek Orthodox Church merges with the United Catholic
The American Empire's Deep Space Force launches the Santa Maria manned exploration ship on
a twenty-year mission to Alpha Centauri.
Private interests launch the first corporate extra-solar
The American Empire establishes the first extra-solar
colony in the Alpha Centauri system, a vast space station made of local
materials mined from asteroids.
Plymouth Rock becomes the main port-of-call for further deep-space
A New Frontiers exploratory ship, the Bounty, encounters the alien Gnar species and makes contact. The Gnar give the ship's crew a biotech
faster-than-light (FTL) drive that allows the mission to be completed in
under a year.
The crew of the Bounty
obtains sole proprietary rights to the Gnar drive in a UN&C
court. Analysts speculate that the
decision's blatant contract violations are intended to make the FTL drive
technology public. The money made in
the new venture is lost later that year when the biological components of the
drive are killed in a routine cleaning.
The UN&C and the American Empire clash over asteroid
mining rights, leading to the First Solar War. At first, the warfare consists of little more than mining ships
throwing rocks at each other. Soon
both sides begin building warships in their deep-space shipyards.
The First Solar War is first echoed in ground battles on
Earth. The American Empire quickly
establishes dominance planetside.
UN&C commandos capture several Asteroid Defense Grid
satellites and turn their nuclear weapons on American Empire ground
forces. In space, the American
Empire's Deep Space Force is broken and scattered in the battle of Ceres. The remaining ex-American ships turn to
piracy and raiding.
The American Empire arrives at terms for a peace accord
with the UN&C. North America is
broken into six smaller nations in return for peace. The deal allows the Americans to have more
votes in the General Assembly and Security Council. It is widely noted in the news media that, during the war, the
American Empire never launched nuclear weapons from the Asteroid Defense
Grid. Later evidence shows that the
order was given but the crews refused to act.
The Gnar Empire establishes normal relations with the
UN&C. The secrets of FTL
technology are given to the general public.
Less openly known is the transfer of thousands of radiation-sick North
American refugee children to Gnar transport ships.
The United Astronomer's Union is incorporated as a joint
venture between Gnar and Human corporate interests.
The Genetic Ventures Conglomerate enters bankruptcy
proceedings. A small firm called New
Life miraculously produces the capital for a buyout and forms Immortality
The first of many massive corporate FTL colonization
efforts begin. Many affluent
religious groups soon follow, including the United Catholic Church, the
Church of Scientology, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Many colonies are lost in the Dagonite–Gnar war zone as
the Gnar dwindle and the Dagonite offensive gains momentum.
The Gryph invade several colonies at the same time as
their diplomats arrive on Earth. The
initial hype of Humanity's meeting a second race of friendly aliens is
short-lived as the Gryph Ambassadors frequently attack and eat people who
don't agree with them. Social unrest
begins to grow in the colonies when the fleets of Earth don't arrive to
protect their neighbors until long after the Gryph are deeply entrenched.
A general strike is crushed by the forces of Consolidated
Wall Street Enterprises. NewStream
agents escape the colony with evidence of atrocities. The resulting shock leads to a general
revolt among corporate colonies.
Humanitarian aid groups from the religious colonies suffer
casualties while working in corporate/colonial war zones. A coalition is swiftly formed and fleets
are dispatched. General warfare
between colonial and UN&C forces breaks out.
The first Inheritors of Gnar are encountered by
Humans. The genetically modified
descendants of the American refugee children are far less friendly to
Humanity than the Gnar were. The
Dagonite offensive soon slows to a stop as the new race bolsters the sagging
The Free Colonies League is formed. The headquarters on Ephraim are disputed
by the corporate colonies, but the solid finances of the religious colonies
are too desperately needed to continue the war.
The UN&C fleets are withdrawn from the region claimed
by the Free Colonies League. On
Earth, this is generally described as cutting losses in unprofitable ventures
that had steadily been losing money from the beginning.
In spite of efforts on both sides, the religious colonies
and the corporate colonies finally give up on trying to agree on just about
anything. The corporate colonies
retain the title of The Free Colonies League, but lack the unity to maintain
The last official meeting of The Free Colonies League takes
place on Industrial #645. After this
point, the corporate colonies become little more than independent
nation-states and pocket empires.
Due to a massing of UN&C fleets, a new colonial league
is formed, mainly consisting of the religious colonies. The league is officially named the
Celestial Liberty Association (that being the only name to receive two
votes). The new league is commonly
called the Covenant due to the large number of Christian colonies involved in
its formation. The old headquarters
of the Free Colonies League on Ephraim are renovated to serve the new
A new Gryph offensive is launched, this time against the
Covenant because of two Gryph diplomats being executed for murder. The war is bloody, but the disunited Gryph
are soon put to flight.
A Covenant diplomat kills six Gryph Hierarchs with a
sword. The Gryph normalize relations
with the Covenant and drop all claims to their worlds. Gryph Hierarchs begin to prey on free
Several UN&C colonies rebel to join the Covenant in
hopes of getting protection from the Gryph raiders. The UN&C reprisal is swift, but met by a combined Covenant
and Gryph force. A general war breaks
out, only ending when the fleets and economies of all sides are drained to
the breaking point.
The last battle of the Fools' War (a name long favored by
the media and later ratified by historians) is fought by ragtag fleets of
armed merchantmen. The disputed
worlds become free colonies. An arms
race and cold war ensue; mercenaries and secret agents become the new
The Covenant is offered a seat in the UN&C General
Assembly. They respond by sending a
- Setting Considerations
"The Covenant Generation" is a straightforward
future. Other than the
faster-than-light (FTL) drives, no hypothetical technologies are
available. This FTL drive generates a
wormhole in a particle collider that provides the negative-mass energy
essential to forming the space warp around the vessel. The achronality caused by FTL travel is
drained into a second wormhole in the drive.
The overall effect is a more-or-less real-space FTL drive. A related technology is used to produce FTL
communications and sensors. Psionics as
a field does not exist at all, but there is a strong "psychic"
subculture and popular fiction generally assumes that psionics are real but are
being covered up by the government. The
Human and Gryph worlds are uniformly Technology Level (TL) 20, while the
Dagonites are TL 21. The Inheritors of
Gnar are only TL 20 overall, but are TL 23 in genetic and medical
technologies. The Sheth have not
progressed beyond TL 19 overall, but purchase a fair amount of TL 20 equipment
from the Human colonies. Cybernetics
exists as a field but is not common, and cybernetic individuals carry a certain
stigma of lawlessness that draws them extra police attention.
In general, "The Covenant Generation" setting
is modeled on the modern world instead of a historical era. Space travel is fairly fast and convenient,
communications are nearly instantaneous, and a major power bloc dictates policy
to the majority of Human-occupied space.
The Covenant is more analogous to modern Iraq and North Korea than it is
to the United States. In keeping with a
modern feel, while some worlds may boast royalty, the majority of worlds have
democratic governments. One noteworthy
exception is the Infernal Court, as Immortality Incorporated (II) is often
called. It is as much a corporation as
a feudal state; its members go as far as to call the members of the board of
directors "Lords." Even so,
II officials do not have any imperial ambitions; they just think their
pretentious titles are sexy.
- The United Nations and Corporations (UN&C)
The worlds closest to Earth are governed by the
corporations and governments that funded their colonization. Earth itself is divided into nation-states
and corporate states that have intense rivalries. At any given time, there is likely to be a brushfire war or
revolution occurring somewhere on Earth.
The UN&C maintains the largest fleet of warships in Human territory
and uses them to enforce the resolutions passed by the members of its Security
Council and General Assembly. On Earth
itself, however, the UN&C has no military presence at all and must call
upon peacekeepers volunteered by its members to sort out conflicts. Individual nations and corporations within
the UN&C have their own laws and cultures, but these must be within the
guidelines set within the UN&C's Charter, which dictates minimum degrees of
rights and dignity.
- Immortality Incorporated (II), also known as the Infernal
Immortality is available to the public—for a price. Immortality Incorporated (II) has a monopoly
on Human Rejuvenation Technology (HRT), so its price is very high. This corporation is managed from the top by
an immortal queen, who is the daughter of the corporation's original CEO. The company is arranged like a feudal state,
and its ageless, hedonistic nobility are the media darlings of the stellar
age. The Infernal Court's HRT is
illegal in the Covenant, and this has led to a great deal of the animosity
between the Covenant and the UN&C.
- The Covenant
While the Covenant's worlds are often utopian societies
without poverty or war, this has been achieved through questionable means. Many worlds in the Covenant have very little
law enforcement beyond church-appointed mediators. Criminals, including dissidents, are often treated harshly. Corporal and capital punishments are quite
commonplace on some worlds, but the most common punishment is exile. If an offender will not change his ways, the
typically harsh sentence may be commuted if he agrees to leave the Covenant and
never return, on penalty of death. This
policy has led to a great deal of resentment for the Covenant on neighboring
worlds, as has the tendency of some organizations within the Covenant to fund
mercenary units tasked with carrying out reprisals against outsiders or exiles
who attempted to escape theocratic justice.
The individual worlds in the Covenant generally have only
one religion and an essentially homogenous culture. Ephraim, the Covenant's cosmopolitan capital planet, is the most
- The United Astronomers' Union (UAU)
Scientists have rarely enjoyed working for military,
corporate, or government institutions.
The UAU is a private corporation that crosses political and racial
barriers. While its star maps are used
extensively across boundaries, its main mission is the collection of
astronomical data and the study of stellar phenomena. The mapping division's work pays for a wide variety of scientific
activity. The UAU is governed by a
board of directors drawn equally from the shareholders, the scientists, and the
- Culture and Entertainment
One major change in the cultures of Earth is the decline
of mass-market entertainment. By the
mid-Twenty-First Century, the copyright and patent laws finally collapsed from
overuse and abuse. As a result, not
only has technology progressed at a slower pace with less
corporate funding, but also the gargantuan budgets and salaries of the
Twentieth Century entertainment industry have been greatly curtailed. Live entertainment thrives, and cultured
persons are expected to be able to play a musical instrument, produce works of
art, sing, tell stories, or dance for the entertainment of their friends. In general, it is easier for modestly
talented entertainer or athlete to obtain an income from their work than it was
at the dawn of the Twenty-First Century.
Computer games tend to be integrated with live-action
activities. Historical and fantastic
dramas and role-playing events are far more popular than other types of live
computer games. These are not played in
a primitive virtual-reality rig, but with sensor-loaded props, costumes, and holographic
backdrops. Most professional sports
have developed an open league structure that plays off local teams, with the
champion teams competing in ever-higher tiers until they reach the Interstellar
Championships. With a professional
sports career being a realistic dream, outdoor athletic activities have also
made a strong comeback, both for players and spectators.
- Alien Race Summaries
By way of example, here are some races from my own
science-fiction campaign setting, which are suitable for player characters. Notice that while some of these races are
exceptionally capable, they have distinct limitations. A referee who is creating races for player
characters should keep game balance in mind and tie setting-oriented
restrictions to their nonhuman races.
Editor's Note: The descriptions presented in this article
are summaries for flavor. Full
descriptions and Spacemaster statistics
are presented in a companion article.
Nocturnal, finned, and amphibious predators, the
Dagonites are a nightmare of jagged teeth, sharp claws, and slimy,
mottled-black skin. Dagonites need a
wet, warm, and dark environment to thrive.
This is quite a technological limitation and it has taken them over a
million years to advance as far as most other races do in tens of
thousands. They specialize in robots
and life-support systems and are the recognized leaders in these fields. Their history has included enslavement by
other races that rose and fell while the Dagonites crept forward to the stars.
Dagonites are a sullen and silent race. They have an ancient hatred for the Gnar,
who last held sway over them. They see
Humanity as wild and dangerous upstarts, and distrust them even more, given the
origins of the Inheritors of Gnar. Even
so, the Dagonites have a stubborn sense of justice and a soft spot for less
advanced species, the oppressed, and the exploited. Their allies, the Glimmers, were less advanced, less intelligent,
and less suitable when contacted by the Dagonites, but no one would say they
are treated as less than equals in interstellar society.
On their homeworld, the color-changing, lightning-fast
Glimmers were their world's dominant predators. Their smooth, scaly skin, covering a catlike body with a hooded
head and clawed hands and feet—all vanishing in and out of the background—tends
to leave Humans in their presence disconcerted and feeling hunted. The Glimmers were discovered by the Gnar
before they even reached the Stone Age.
Their intelligence seems to have developed in response to a now-extinct
species of prey that also did so.
Glimmer songs are full of references to the Great War-Hunts before the
coming of the Gnar, whom they call "Sky Devils." To the Gnar, Glimmers were just a
well-designed weapon. When the
civilization of the Gnar crashed down as swiftly as it had risen, the Dagonites
adopted the Glimmers and gave them a place among the stars.
If the dinosaurs had had feathers in adulthood and Velociraptors had achieved interstellar
civilization, they might have resembled the Gryph, a race of feathered, bipedal
predators of the sort that chase prey in packs. They developed tool use, domestication, and villages in response
to shrinking populations of prey small enough for them to hunt. The Gryph are warm-blooded and oviparous like
birds and dinosaurs. Females have gray
to reddish-brown plumage, while males have striking shades and combinations of
reds, yellows, greens, and blues. The
males also have long, extravagant tails.
When hunting in a pack, the males would frighten the prey out of hiding
into ambushes laid by the females. In
modern society, the males tend to be commanders, diplomats, and politicians,
while the females tend to be warriors, technicians, and workers. The Gryph form "packs" of an
"alpha" male, three to five females, and their young. These packs are much looser than Human
A major feature of Gryph character is
flight-longing. The fact that Gryphs
are flightless birds gives them an inferiority complex beyond Human
understanding. Consequently, their
technological mastery of fine aerodynamic systems and lightweight,
high-strength plastics is unmatched.
Male Gryph preen and fight amongst themselves almost constantly, while
the females seem to be able to cooperate with any group to make things work.
The Gryph entered interstellar society five Earth-years
before Humanity and were the first race it contacted. They were also Humanity's first interstellar war. The Gryph lost that one, and the four since,
mainly because of their habit of keeping two or three wars going at a
time. To the Gryph, diplomacy is much
like chasing the prey out of the bushes.
- Inheritors of Gnar
In Earth's late Twenty-Second Century, China, Western
Europe, and North America were in a state of social and ecological
collapse. The United Nations and
Corporations (UN&C) was overwhelmed by the waves of refugees needing
aid. It seemed that the excesses of the
Twentieth Century might yet cause Humanity's extinction. At the same time, some two thousand
light-years away, the last of the Gnar were dying. Their meteoric rise to interstellar dominance, mastery of
bioscience, and racial megalomania had led to loss of vital sections of their
genetic code. As their birthrate
degenerated, new plagues spread through their arcane living cities and
starships. Five hundred years of
progress ended in under a hundred of decline.
Their last agents looked to Humanity for help. The UN&C gave them millions of refugee children. Historical documents show that the UN&C
Security Council had hoped to gain Gnar worlds when the last of their species
died and the Human children matured.
They had not counted on the Gnar capability for biomanipulation. Gnar and Human DNA was mingled in the
children's living bodies; chemical therapies were applied. In the end, a race emerged that was neither
Human nor Gnar. They were bitter,
The Inheritors of Gnar are essentially Human, but their
altered genetic structure is very receptive to biotechnology transplants. They are also keyed to activate and operate
Gnar biocomputers and constructs. Since
the Ceramicoral used in most Gnar structures died with its masters, Inheritor
technology is a mishmash of metal, ceramic, and biotechnology. Most of the Inheritors of Gnar have a number
of biotechnology grafts to help them in their work. Inheritor characters can choose to spend money on racial
abilities at a rate of 5000 mu per graft.
For years, the debate over which of Humanity's animal
cousins should or would be raised to sentience raged. Dogs, gorillas, chimpanzees, and dolphins were all commonly
advocated candidates. Naturally,
laboratory rats arrived first while the debate raged. The Ratz had been bred larger and smarter for use in medical and
psychological research. They showed the
world that they were people too when the terrorist group Rodents of Unusual
Size held the General Assembly of the United Nations and Corporations
(UN&C) hostage for two weeks in 2013 and nuked a major genetic-research
facility in Scotland one year later.
While they have never been recognized by the government of Earth, many
of the Earth colonies have accepted them with open arms. Their small size gives the Ratz a certain
advantage in space and technology since they can climb in places where Humans
cannot easily reach.
With respect to personality, Ratz are a bit vain and
argumentative and are given to acts of violent terrorism. They are a perfect match for the rebellious,
breakaway colonial states.
One would expect a cute and shaggy race with big eyes to
be good at being soft. On their native
world, their preferred method of dealing with carnivores was building
walls. Once the gentle Sheth reached
the stars, they quickly found that other races had a tendency to be
difficult—perhaps because their homeworld was located between the failing Gnar
Empire and the Dagonites. The Sheth
managed to survive the Dagonite retribution crusades against the Gnar largely
due to their diplomatic skills and live-and-let-live attitude, but with the passage
of time, they have learned to defend themselves. The Sheth have always been herdsmen, and they excel in areas of
zoology and animal breeding and training.
While they are technologically behind the other starfaring races, the
Sheth have formed close ties with Humanity, especially with colonies near their
Sheth have about twice the mass of Humans and six stubby
limbs that can serve as hands or feet.
Their fur is a tawny brown that changes to white in cold weather. Humans find the smell of a wet Sheth highly
offensive. Sheth shed fur heavily in
warm weather. Their heads can rotate an
amazing one hundred forty-five degrees, giving them a great deal of
coordination with their rear hands. The
Sheth are oviparous, but the clutch of three or four eggs is laid in a pouch on
the back of the male where they eventually hatch and are carried while they
mature for the first year.