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The Covenant Generation
A Spacemaster Setting

Copyright David Johansen ©2002-2003

Edited by Lowell R. Matthews for The Guild Companion

  1. Introduction
  2. 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 System conversion.

    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 alternative.

    Table of Abbreviations

    FTL

    Faster Than Light

    TL

    Technology Level

    HRT

    Human Rejuvenation Technology

    UAU

    United Astronomers' Union

    II

    Immortality Incorporated

    UCC

    United Catholic Church

    mu

    Monetary Unit

    UN&C

    United Nations and Corporations



  3. Sound Bites
  4. "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

  5. Time Line


  6. 2044

    The United Catholic Church (UCC) is formed from the scandal-torn remnants of the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches.

    2047

    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."

    2048

    Mexico is absorbed into the American Empire.

    2051

    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.

    2052

    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 Earth."

    2063

    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.

    2067

    The Greek Orthodox Church merges with the United Catholic Church.

    2073

    The American Empire's Deep Space Force launches the Santa Maria manned exploration ship on a twenty-year mission to Alpha Centauri.

    2123

    Private interests launch the first corporate extra-solar exploratory mission.

    2127

    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 missions.

    2135

    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.

    2136

    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.

    2139

    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.

    2152

    The First Solar War is first echoed in ground battles on Earth.  The American Empire quickly establishes dominance planetside.

    2153

    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.

    2157

    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.

    2160

    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.

    2165

    The United Astronomer's Union is incorporated as a joint venture between Gnar and Human corporate interests.

    2167

    The Genetic Ventures Conglomerate enters bankruptcy proceedings.  A small firm called New Life miraculously produces the capital for a buyout and forms Immortality Incorporated.

    2170

    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.

    2179

    Many colonies are lost in the Dagonite–Gnar war zone as the Gnar dwindle and the Dagonite offensive gains momentum.

    2227

    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.

    2410

    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.

    2413

    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.

    2414

    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 Gnar lines.

    2415

    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.

    2513

    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.

    2609

    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 internal government.

    2611

    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.

    2614

    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 government.

    2625

    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.

    2640

    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 colonies instead.

    2652

    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.

    2678

    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 weapons.

    2700

    The Covenant is offered a seat in the UN&C General Assembly.  They respond by sending a Gryph ambassador.



  7. Setting Considerations
  8. "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.

    1. The United Nations and Corporations (UN&C)
    2. 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.

    3. Immortality Incorporated (II), also known as the Infernal Court
    4. 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.

    5. The Covenant
    6. 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 notable exception.

    7. The United Astronomers' Union (UAU)
    8. 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 scouts.

    9. Culture and Entertainment
    10. 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.

  9. Alien Race Summaries
    1. 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.

    2. Dagonites
    3. 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.

    4. Glimmers
    5. 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.

    6. Gryph
    7. 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 families.

      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.

    8. Inheritors of Gnar
    9. 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, though.

      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.

    10. Ratz
    11. 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.

    12. Sheth
    13. 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 homeworld.

      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.

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