GURPS Uplift Bonus Material


What is This?

GURPS Uplift is the official roleplaying adventure game supplement for David Brin's Uplift series. Some of this material is original. Others were left out of the worldbook for space reasons.

The bonus material currently includes:

Fonnir

A-Fonnir, absu-Zhosh, absu-Plkhosh, absu-Plkseuh, absu-Tarseuh, ul-Koahgi, ulu-Ponoh, ulu-Narg8, ulu-$yllobo9, ul-Zemvinee, ulu-Zurinumiree, ul-Norruhk

The Fonnir are an Elder species. In their prime they were respected members of the Abdicator Alliance, and influential in the Uplift and Migration Institutes. They settled many worlds, and acted as Uplift Consort to over fifty client species. The Fonnir uplifted seven clients of their own, but did not manage to encourage strong clan spirit and all but one of these species went their own ways millions of years ago. (Their remaining clients, the Norruhk, are described below.)

Races as old and accomplished as the Fonnir typically seek to join the Retired order, the first step on the road to transcendence. The Fonnir are not an exception. For the last fifty millennia the species has been selectively breeding itself to develop its latent psionic powers. Their advanced vessels have been seen cruising the galactic fringes and E Level Hyperspace, apparently engaged on a mysterious research project.

The Fonnir sold off their war fleets millennia ago and have been in political and economic decline for a long time. The cities of the Fonnir homeworld, K7kakk, are almost empty.  Some are crumbling ruins seeded with mulc spiders. If it weren’t for the world’s meagre but profitable trade in advanced hyperdrives and psionic gear, K7kakk’s population could not maintain its  standard of living and research projects.

The few remaining Fonnir colonies are even less lively than K7kakk. Some have been placed under Preserve status, and two were recently declared Fallow. The Abdicator Alliance has supplied the Migration Institute with powerful interdiction monitors to prevent gene-raiders, tomb robbers, and sooners from approaching these worlds.

Biology

Fonnir are warm-blooded, brachiating bipeds, vaguely resembling six-limbed tree sloths. They evolved as carnivores, but now derive some of their sustenance from photosynthetic symbiotes living in their fur.

Fonnir have two sexes. About 60% of individuals are sterile -- effectively neuter -- from birth. They live a long time but breed infrequently.

Fonnir senses are comparable to humanity's.

Society

Most civilized fonnir organize themselves into buir'8iuu ("concentration societies") of a few score individuals, and live lives devoted to meditation, the practice of mental disciplines, and work on their race's remaining great project: Transcendence. Members of a buir'8iuu isolate themselves in an arcology or rural village, and rarely deal with outsiders. Menial tasks are performed by robots and norruhk servants.

A small minority of fonnir are engaged in trade and diplomacy, and in managing the clan's diminishing industries. Apparently, fonnir are randomly assigned these tasks by a system similar to jury duty. Industries and agriculture are organized into loose syndicates. Personal wealth, property, and power seem to matter little to fonnir.

On some colonies, fonnir live in a wild state, their past accomplishments forgotten. These poor creatures do not seem very interested in breeding, and the few offspring produced are often not sapient. On a few occasions, devolved fonnir have been "discovered" by hopeful patrons and proposed for adoption as new clients! The Uplift Institute promptly rejected the applications, and fined the petitioners for disturbing  the Fonnir's devolved brethren.

Fonnir communicate telepathically with members of their buir'8iuu, and with trusted norruhk. They consider mental contact with strangers distasteful. The clan language is Galactic Three.

Foreign Relations

Fonnir rarely mingle with other races for purposes as trivial as trade. They seldom use their status as a senior elder race to influence outside affairs. A few fonnir hold honorary positions within the Institutes, but their duties are primarily ceremonial.

Most fonnir find it difficult to deal with outsiders. Those who have been coaxed into talking about their plans speak with frightful enthusiasm of something terrible and wonderful.

An Earth clan diplomat recently had an opportunity to ask a fonnir her opinion of the upheavals over the Streaker's discovery. The fonnir replied with a lengthy, painfully convoluted philosophical statement that amounted to: "So it goes!"

Fonnir Characters    170 Points

Fonnir are Small, with an Average build. A typical individual stands about 4'6" high, and weighs about 80 lbs.

Attribute Modifiers: ST +2 [20]; DX +2 [20]; IQ +4 [45]; HT -2 [-15].
Basic Speed 5, Move 5
Dodge 5
Advantages: Alertness +1 [5]; Brachiator [5]; Extra Arms 2 (normal strength) [20]; ESP (Power 4) [12];  Extended Lifespan [5]; Fearlessness +4 [20]; Fur (DR1) [4]; Senior Patron [20]; Single-Minded [5]; Telepathy (Power 4) [20]; Temperature Tolerance 1 [0]; Very Fit (Sunlight dependency) [15].
Disadvantages: Dependency (Sunlight; common, daily) [-5]; Humble [-1]; Late Maturation [0]; Phobia (crowds) [-15]; Racial Reputation -2 (Dangerous powers + insouciance = watch your step! Everyone, almost always) [-10].
Customization Notes: Urban fonnir are Advanced (TL13) [100] and frequently have Fanaticism (Transcendence project) [-15]. Rural fonnir often suffer from Phobia (enclosed places) [-15], are Incurious [-5], and may be Primitive (TL3) [-35]. Most fonnir have Pacifism (Self-defense only) [-15]. Quirks typical of all fonnir: Alludes to undefined Great Destiny [-1]; Confident [-1]; Light-hearted [-1]; May call visitors "my children," [-1]; Utters incomprehensible "wise" sayings [-1].

Norruhk

A-Norruhk, ab-Fonnir

The Norruhk are the Fonnir's sole remaining clients. They were uplifted about seventy thousand years ago, well into their patron's old age, as psionics tools necessary for the Fonnir's plans for transcendence. Tymbrimi have likened the Norruhk's fate to the ancient, macabre Terran tradition of burying live servants with deceased kings. Some rumors suggest that the Norruhk do not wish to share their patron's fate, and plan to break indenture when their masters become too weak to protest. Other rumors hold that the psionic Norruhk have had their psyches enhanced -- or bent -- in a way that dooms them to "pass on" with their masters.

Biology

Norruhk are huge but graceful omnivorous quadrupeds. Their tough hides are covered with a pelt of short, dense black fur. (The fur's remarkable oily sheen has earned them the nick-name "tar elks.") Exposed skin is smooth and dark gray. Norruhk have horizontal posture; their front legs double as arms; the front feet are serviceable four-fingered hands. Norruhk can walk quickly when using all four of their strong, slender limbs. Digits on all four feet are tipped with tough-skinned pads. The pads on the fingers of the front foot/hands are creased with fissures which can be spread apart to a reveal an exquisitely sensitive tactile sensor.

Norruhk heads are roughly conical, with four-way radial symmetry. Their long snouts ends in a complex four-jawed mouth. The orifice usually appears no larger than a human mouth, but it can expand to take in fruit as large as small melon . . . or prey as large as a house cat. The four nostrils, located just behind the lips, are very sensitive to heat. Four eyes are spaced evenly around the base of the snout; four bony ears, like tiny shovel blades, sprout from behind each eye. A norruhk has senses comparable to a human's.

Norruhk have a incredibly high metabolic rate, and require massive amounts of food to stay active. Their normal body temperature is 116&#176 F! Norruhk have the ability to instantly go into a passive, trance-like state. This allows them to reduce food and water consumption to near zero. Severely underfed individuals may spontaneously slip into this state.

Norruhk come in three castes: Seers, Synthesizers, and Critiques. A caste is something a norruhk is born into; it is a genetically determined thing, like gender. Norruhk claim that the castes' inherent personalities complement each other, and are necessary to the proper functioning of their society. All norruhk have mild amounts of true telepathy, a rare talent among Galactics.

There are male and female varieties of each caste. Each sex has a reproductive pouch. Norruhk females lay a few large, soft eggs each year. Most of these are thrown away, but if finances and custom allow a male may slip an egg into a pouch for fertilization. The egg may then be traded back and forth between male and female for several months, but it will eventually implant, rendering the carrier almost immobile for nearly a year. Youngsters are fed with a mix of regurgitated food and a fluid from a gland at the back of each adult's throat.

Members of a caste cannot interbreed. Relations between norruhk of two different castes produces a child of the third caste. (e.g. A critique and a seer couple will have synthesizer offspring.) This odd arrangement makes norruhk unsettlingly xenophilic. Unfortunately, most norruhk aren't very good at interspecies communication. When not restrained by discipline and custom, they can be a terrible pain to be around.

Society

The Fonnir deliberately and cunningly designed a society for their clients that values conformity and loyalty, helps them deal with their mental powers, and inexorably pushes them toward their gloomy destiny.

A few years before physical maturity, children bid farewell to their parents and are enrolled in a caste-specific academy where they are indoctrinated in traditions and disciplines peculiar of their kind. Graduates of these academies have remarkably consistent personalities.

After graduating from academy, norruhk pledges allegiance to an order. Like the fraternal orders common to 20th century America, each has its own unique complement of elaborate rituals, ceremonies, and rites of advancement. These mysteries are more than meaningless fluff; they serve to channel and control the norruhk's psionic talents. Without them norruhk may go insane, or revert to the habits of their wild, herd-beast ancestors. (At least one former colony is inhabited by reverted norruhk. The post-sentient inhabitants roam in vast, telepathically-bound hordes, attacking anything that threatens them.) The rituals, which were designed by Fonnir savants, have another purpose: they are slowly but surely driving the mental evolution of the Norruhk, driving the species toward their strange and terrible destiny.

Each order also fufills a larger social purpose. They may be industrial syndicates, military units, or religious academies.

Some norruhk pledge to directly serve a fonnir buir'8iuu. Though tedious or even degrading, careers in the service of the patrons bring prestige and influence.

Norruhk misfits who don't conform to caste, or are born without telepathy, are identified and recieve special training. Some of these independent-minded fonnir become steadfast members of a Galactic institute. Others serve the Fonnir-Clan diplomatic corp; their very lack of typical norruhk traits make them better able to deal with outsiders.

When not serving their order, norruhk may enjoy a domestic life in families consisting of a male and female of different castes plus their children. Occasionally, a couple temporarily invites a male adult of the remaining caste into their "marriage" so the female may have a child of her actual mate's caste.

Most communication within a family is conducted telepathically; once it leaves home, a norruhk uses telepathy only for carefully delimited ritual purposes. Norruhk typically speak Galactic Three.

Foreign Relations

Norruhk are not a far-ranging species. Few leave the Fonnir retirement worlds, or the colonies where they were born.

Occasionally, small parties of norruhk may be seen conducting clan businesson the worlds of the Ehbu'chi'u Sector. A few norruhk have visited Earth to trade ancient artwork for supplies and "wolfling curiosities." Others accompany fonnir diplomats and researchers.

A small but dedicated order of norruhk have pledged themselves to the Uplift Institute. Insiders claim that they use their psionic powers to test the suitability of potential client species. These researchers are rumored to be obsessed with studying the nature of potential, and the intricacies of Abdicator dogma.

Most Galactics consider norruhk to be unnatural, twisted creations, pitied by many clans, but generally assumed to be up to no good. Others, including the Tandu and Brothers of the Night, "like their style," but the Norruhk have firmly but politely declined all offers of friendship.

Norruhk Characters    Cost Varies

Norruhk are Huge with Light builds. A typical specimen stands about 4'6" high at its shoulders, is about 6'5" long, and weighs 375 lbs.

Norruhk of all castes have these characteristics (287 points):

Attribute Modifiers: ST +6 [80]; DX -1 [-10]; IQ +2 [20]; HT +2 [20].
Speed: 7.25; Move: 7.
Dodge: 7
Advantages: Advanced (TL13) [100]; Armor (Fur and hide): PD 1, DR 1 [28]; Combat reflexes [15]; Extra hit points 6 [30]; Hyperactive [30]; Increased Speed +2 [0]; Metabolism Control 2 [10]; Respected Client [5]; Telepathy (power 5) [25].
Disadvantages: Delusion (believe in Abdicator dogma; constantly looking for avatars of the Great Ghosts) [-5]; Duty (Order, quite often, usually non-hazardous) [-5]; Horizontal [-10]; Inconvenient Size [-10]; Increased Life Support 3 [-10]; Racial Reputation -2 (fey, unpredictable; all Galactics, always) [-10]; Xenophilia [-15].
Quirks: Fatalistic [-1]

Norruhk Castes

Each caste has a different set of stereotypical behaviors and special powers; training and careful breeding assure that norruhk graduate from caste-academy with virtually the same personality. Fonnir character must chose a caste and take the appropriate advantages and disadvantages listed below. It would be difficult or impossible for a fonnir to buy off these traits; an individualistic fonnir would have to take an Unusual Background (genetic freak, or avoided academy training).

Seers    13 Points

Seers are curious, mild-mannered, but emotionally distant observers. When asked to investigate something they'll do so with great skill and passion, seeking to "grok" the subject's essence before delivering an exhaustive but poetically arranged report.

Advantages: Collected [5]; ESP (power 5) [15]; Sensitive [5].
Disadvantages: Attentive [-1]; Dull [-1]; Humble [-1]; Nosy [-1]; Weak Will -1 [-8].

Synthesizers   13 Points

Synthesizers are enthusiastic theoreticians, artists, or "imagineers." They are friendly but socially inept; their gaffes may offend strangers, but acquaintances may find their crass behavior entertaining or endearing.

Advantages: Collected [5]; Language Talent 2 [4]; Lightning Calculator [5]; Musical Talent 1 [1]; Single-Minded [5]; Versatile [5].
Disadvantages: Compulsive Behavior (See below) [-5]; Congenial [-1]; Game [-1]; Humble [-1]; Oblivious [-3]; Staid [-1].
Customization Notes: Compulsive behavior manifests in a way appropriate to the synthesizer's career. Artistic types may sketch, compose ditties, or make up pretentious manifestoes on the fly. Scientifically trained individuals are prone to brainstorming and wild speculation.

Critiques    13 Points

Critiques are caustic, meddling, and judgmental. Stating an opinion in front of them is an invitation for an argument. For better or worse, their incisive opinions are usually dead-on target.

Advantages: Intuition [15]; Strong Will +2 [8].
Disadvantages: Careful [-1]; Compulsive Behavior (critical, argumentative busybodies) [-5]; Congenial [-1]; Dull [-1]; Proud [-1], Staid [-1].

Adventure Seed

This adventure is suitable for many types of PCs, including starting characters. Some of the party should have Galactic social skills, such as Xenology, Savior-Faire (Galactic), and Galactic languages.

As a twist, the "chosen one" character could be a human with a "probationary personality," or a raffish client with Red Card. In this case, he or she would almost certainly be assigned reliable and skilled companions.

"A few words with our master . . ."

Once in a great while, the fonnir researchers working on the Transcendence Project requestan audience with a primitive being. Sometimes the nearest available tourist or trader will do. Sometimes a member of specific race is requested. Sometimes the fonnir has a particular individual in mind. The person could be a client or patron, famous or obscure, living on a nearby world or halfway across the galaxy.

Early one morning, three norruhk appear at an adventurer's door. They speak passable Anglic, in basso-profundo whispers. They introduce themselves as members of the Fonnir Clan diplomatic corps, and request he use their adopted names: Qoatl (a critique), Saladin (a seer), and Helvatia (a synthesizer). The inscrutable "tar elks" will explain that their patron, a fonnir scholar, has requested an interview. They request the character pack for long trip; transportation will be provided and "suitable recompense" made. The norruhk will even allow the interviewee to invite some friends along.

The norruhk won't take no for an answer. Once the characters get used to the creatures' imposing bulk, splendid manners, and grave, portenteous voices, they will get the impression that the norruhk are naive, a bit bumbling, but utterly dedicated to their work. They will hang around the "chosen one's" home, follow him while he makes errands, and wait for him outside of work. If they get close enough to talk, they will quietly plead their case, pile stacks of Gal Coins (up to 3d each day) in his path, and glowingly describe the great honor of having a fonnir recognize a mere wolfling.

The Terragens Council will encourage the chosen character and his friends to accept the mission. A Council agent will meet with the adventurer, appeal to his patriotism, and explain the big picture. The Council sees the visit as a good move diplomatically: Earthclan's new allies, the Thennanin, are members of the Abdicator sect and a good word from the fonnir could result in even more Abdicators. The authorities will also want the character to gather all the information they can on the Fonnir clan and K7kakk.

If the "chosen one" cooperates, the agent will offer to arrange with his employer for a leave of absence (if required), and provide a miniature audiovisual datawell to record the details of the interview. The agent will also pull strings on the behalf of the other characters, if the chosen one makes it clear that their company is a condition of his going.

Agreeing to spy for Earthclan will earn the characters a friend in the Council; treat this as a half point of Contacts in the Terragens Council intelligence wing.

The Trip

Qoatl, Saladin, and Helvatia will accompany the chosen interviewee on the trip to K7kakk. They have at their disposal an ancient, automated fonnir ship with a soft-quantum tunneling drive. The craft's corridors and quarters are huge, with overhead swing-ways for fonnir and lots of elbow room for norruhk. The PCs' quarters are retrofitted with species-appropriate furniture and fixtures; if required, the ship can even be equipped with neo-dolphin swimways and resting pools. The mess will be provisioned with a week's worth of frozen meals from a gourmet ships' caterer.

The ship has no crew per se; a few personality-free robots roam the corridors performing maintenance checks. These automaton will gently deter the ship's guests from tampering with equipment or stealing gear.

The trip will go smoothly and quickly. The trip out takes about five days. The norruhk escorts treat the chosen one with great respect. His companions will receive polite but disinterested treatment. The ship's lounge will be available to all. It has a chess board, a few viewscreens, and great heaps of data-slabs containing an assortment of trashy adventure novels, bloody swords-and-sorcery tele-epics, and other embarassments. The characters will recognize the stuff as the kind of Earthclan media Galactics like most!

The norruhk trio are fascinating to watch and listen to. They are all telepathically mute (only able to erect a Mind Shield) and speak Galactic Three with each other. The seer will spend many quiet minutes staring quietly at something -- a plant in the ship's lounge, a reading on an instrument, a piece of furniture -- then quietly make a pronouncement about it. The synthesizer will take this statement and "run with it," proposing wild theories and possibilities. The critique will quickly point out flaws in the synthesizer's ideas, but isolate anything of value. The trio will then lean against each other, sigh in pleasure, and repeat the agreed-upon finding in unison.

Most of these exchanges are done as a sort of habit, resulting in obvious conclusions about trivial things, but they show how the norruhks' mentalities work. Exchanges about characters reveal an amusing cluelessness about human (and human client) nature . . . fortunately, the diplomats can't read minds! If the trio discusses Galactic politics or Abdicator dogma, however, the PCs are advised to pay attention and roll tape; the Terragens Council will find the norruhks' observations on these subjects highly valuable. (PCs who can understand Galactic Three, and who concientiously listen to the trio, may take a half a character point, applicable toward Galactic Area Knowledge or Galactic Theology only.)

Dry West City

The ship will set down at a spaceport on the outskirts of one of K7kakk's few remaining large cities. The metropolis now consists of a few moderately presentable arcologies surrounding a vast plaza. This expanse, once an elaborate garden, is now dotted with a shabby hostels, warehouses, meeting halls, and other establishments that support K7kakk's almost moribund off-world commerce.

The group will be put up in a suite of austere rooms in an indifferently maintained hostel. The entire group will be instructed and drilled in the specific ritual appropriate for greeting norruhk and fonnir. This practice gives the entire group a +2 Savoir-Faire (Galactic) skill bonus for the duration of the adventure.

The chosen one's guests are free to wander the starport city. Most of the people in the streets are other travelers, on business or looking for something to do. Some are guest-workers from devoted Abdicator Alliance clans. While not overtly hostile, these "eatee" working stiffs will go out of their way to greet "wolfling" characters, forcing them to remember patronymics and perform ritual greetings. Characters who manage to impress an abdicators are invited to listen to a friendly recitation of the alliance catechism.

The arcologies are off-limits to outsiders. Compared to the utilitarian starport structures they appear quite inviting. The exterior of the giant buildings are landscaped to look like terraced mountainsides. Groups of fonnir and their norruhk attendants can be seen strolling through gardens, tiny ornamental forests, cloisters, and pavilions built on the terraces.

Nosy adventurers will discover that it is almost impossible to find a way into the massive structures. Most of the obvious portals open onto arcades and arched galleries that wind along the base of the arcology; these sad, gloomy spaces once housed Dry West City's thriving commerce.

A few galleries have ramps that lead to dank, abandoned service levels. There are plenty of artifacts down there, few of them worth carrying to the surface. (Think of the trash that accumulates around a construction site -- empty empty cable spools, tangles of metal banding strips, nubs of carpenter's pencils, caulk cylinders with all the goop squeezed out -- and imagine the TL12 equivalent.)

Characters who manage find an entrance to the inhabited portions will be met by norruhk or robots and gently dissuaded from trespassing.

Practice

Dry West City doesn't offer anything like a night life . . . except, perhaps, for people who enjoy walks through warm drizzle and the sting of biting insects. Characters who do stay up late will witness something eerie. All of the adult, telepathically adept norruhk in the settlement -- perhaps ten thousand -- will begin filtering out of the arcologies to assemble in an empty corner of the great plaza. While the crowd is still gathering it will resemble a casual gathering: The norruhk mill around, exchange gossip, and engage in playful rough-housing. Outsiders will be utterly ignored.

When all of the norruhk in Dry West City are present, the crowd will fall silent and begin lining up, side by side, with their heads close to each other. The norruhk will edge about until ends of the line close, forming a circle; the circle will then form itself into a complex rosette shape. At this point any observer who isn't totally dead to psi will recieve a vivid telempathic impression, from many sources: A feeling of sadness, resignation, and anticipation of something revolting and exciting. The sending will peak, then fade, to be replaced with blast of emotional white noise. This deafening sending will fade quickly, as the assembled norruhk slump to their sides, toppling like a line of dominoes.

The clients will begin to awake after a few minutes, and silently make their way home.

The Interview

On the day after arrival, the interviewee will be met at the hostel by a new trio of norruhk. After exchanging formal greetings (roll for it), they will introduce themselves as members of a buir'8iuu (an especially prestegious position for a norruhk) and servants of the fonnir who requested the audiance. They will escort the chosen one to one of the city's arcologies. After winding through mildewed halls lit only by watery sunlight, they will arrive at a better-maintained areas high in the structure.

On the way the chosen one will realize that his honored-guest status only goes to far. The servants are fully telepathic, provincial, diplomatically untutored specimens of the race. They are all critiques. Literally unable to relax, dissemble, or talk casually, they are as scary as Qoatl, Saladin, and Helvatia are appealing. Like the butlers and other "above stairs" staff of an old manor house, the servants will always use appropriate Galactic greeting protocol and display perfect fonnir-clan manners, and will demand the same from the wolfling visitor. If the interviewee blows his initial Savoir-Faire rolls, they will run him through a series of humiliating warm-up exercises (repeating the greeting bow-and-gesture literally dozens of times), take the "long way around" to the audiance (a four-mile hike), and on a critical failure insist the poor fellow strip and scrub down in a vat of cold disinfectant fluid.

The interview takes place in a pleasant, gazebo-like structure on the surface of the arcology. There he will have a chat with a fonnir who hangs from a "jungle gym" mounted on the ceiling, answering questions about food, uplift, swimming, bipedal locomotion, binocular vision, old television programs, and taxes. During the talk, the character will feel tugs and twitches in his mind; psionic adepts who try to screen the thoughts out will get a bad headache.

The interview will end abruptly after a half-hour, when the fonnir swings away without a further word. The norruhk attendents will hustle the chosen one back to the hostel, handing over his payment -- a sack of GalCoins worth $300,000 -- before taking their leave.

The next day the hostel staff party will present the party with vouchers good for passage back home aboard a Lesh trading vessel. The ship, which frequently accepts referrals by the Many Worlds travel factors, has many small, utilitarian cabins able to be made comfortable to a wide range of lifeforms. Unfortunately, it isn't due to leave for a week. The diplomatic trio will not reappear, leaving the characters to deal with life in Dry West City on their own.


Return to the Uplift Gateway Home Page



Copyright (C) 2001-2002 by Steve Jackson Games