Psirens: Na’dezh’da

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by Laura Mumma

Come this way, honored Odysseus, great glory of the Achaians, and stay your ship, so that you can listen here to our singing; for no one else has ever sailed past this place in his black ship until he has listened to the honey-sweet voice that issues from our lips; then goes on, well-pleased, knowing more than ever he did; for we know everything that the Argives and Trojans did and suffered in wide Troy through the gods' despite. Over all the generous earth we know everything that happens. (The Odyssey)

What Every UPF Citizen Knows

The physical description of the creature known by spacers as the psiren is somewhat confused. The very existence of the creatures is doubted as nothing more than a space myth. Many folklorists and sociologists amongst humans feel the legend is nothing more than a modernization of the ancient human myths, perhaps influenced by the vrusk morality tales of a creature known to them as na’dezh’da.

However, events on board the mining ship Lucky 7 have led to the reevalution of this supposedly mythic creature by authorities.

UPF Investigative Scientific Report

Authorities were able to recover severely damaged internal security holovid clips from the mining ship Lucky 7, the ship’s log, a few personal logs, and some recovered alien DNA. From this and the bodies of some of the crew, it has been determined the psiren is a real threat and far from a legend.

The origin of this insectoid race is open to debate. Theories include it may have naturally evolved as a split off race from the hypothesized common ancestor of the vrusk and clikk or that the sathar may have developed this creature. It has also been hypothesized that this creature may have no direct relation to known insectoid races and may have developed parallel as a parasite species that eventually infiltrated the hives of other races and fed on those hives. More data is required to rule out any one theory.

Description

The psiren, when standing erect, are a 2 meter tall Insectoid. They have two soft, sucker appendages that can be manipulated, contracted, and retracted with ease. The larger orifice projects out above the mandibles and is actually a specialized organ for facilitating the removal of knowledge from another being’s mind. They possess extremely underdeveloped mandibles near their second appendage.

The second smaller, lower orifice, sits underneath the chin area. This mouth contains rings of teeth on the inside of it. It has two long, soft, and flexible mustache-like feelers and two short feelers that hang down on each side of the mouth near the mandibles.  It can actually wrap these feelers about things; the longer ones can wrap around a neck of a victim easily.

It has two extremely long antennae on its head along with several coarse short upright insect hairs between its eyes on the top of its head. Psirens have a multitude of oval-egg shaped, glass-black, compound eyes allowing them to see from many angels. Long curved tongs project off the back of their heads framing their heads and creating a spiked or crown appearance on some specimens. Their necks are short.

The exoskeleton is solid or variegated greys, black, and dark brown to light tans. Its forearms are built for poking, stabbing, tapping, or slashing and are curved, ending in a point. It does not possess “hands”, but set back near the joint part of the forearms are additional pincher digits that are capable of holding small objects.  The forearms appear to actually be an extreme evolutionary adaptation of one of the pinchers into a solid limb. This creature has great difficulty operating most handheld UPF technology due to the extreme difference in the design with respect to the creature’s natural grip.

The creature appears flightless. The softer sections of the main body and around the joints have insect type hairs. Their blood is iridescent green.

The small amount of DNA recovered indicated that they might be genetically similar enough to vrusk DNA to produce viable offspring. The DNA analysis along with the forceful abduction of a vrusk crew member from the Lucky 7 seems to add credence to the vrusk myth about the Na’dezh’da being known to abduct male vrusk for mating reasons after which the male is, according to legend, killed.

Unlike the vrusk though, this creature appeared at times to be biped. It is possible the creature may be able to move in both a bipedal or quadrupedal manner.

This is a highly intelligent predator (carnivore) that reads the minds of its victims and then projects an illusion that lures the victim closer. Once within striking range, the creature grabs the victim, pulling them in close, and attaches a specialized organ that resembles a small trunk with a sucker to the head of the victim. Victims then appear to have their minds not just read by the creature but actually wiped, resulting in brain damage, coma, and unless, stopped, death. Once the victim of such an attack is brain dead, often the Psiren will then slash into the body of the victim and using their second lower mouth actually start eating the victim.

Psirens seem to prefer soft tissues, body fluids, and very small pieces of the victim. Scientists believe this diet is preferred because of the extremely under-developed mandibles. A psiren was observed actually cracking open the heads of some of its victims with its forearms and consuming the brains after the death of the victims. It was also observed that as the psiren attacked members of the ship’s crew, the creature seemed to gain knowledge about the operation of the ship, making it progressively more dangerous.

Psiren Psionic Abilities

Telepathy

Mental; Activated, LOG+10% x skill level

The psiren is able to read minds and transmit their thoughts mentally. Reading the mind of a hostile creature requires a mental attack (a LOG contest between the psiren and her intended victim, with a bonus of 10 x skill level). The opponent must be within 100 meters, plus 10 meters x skill level. Double the range if the other creature is cooperating with the attempt. When dealing with other telepaths, the psiren can send and receive thoughts with a willing, telepathic partner up to 5 + skill level kilometers.

These same rules work for forcing the psiren’s own thoughts into another creature’s mind. The recipient of such thoughts will know, however, that the thoughts came from an outside source (“voices in my head”).  Note this is a different ability than the Projection Ability. Creatures with telepathy automatically know when someone is trying to read their minds. Other creatures are oblivious to the attempt, successful or not. A psiren must read the mind of another before attempting to use their Projection Ability.

The psiren can scan an area up to 5 + skill level kilometers radius. The referee makes a mental attack (a LOG contest between the psiren and her victim, with a bonus of 10 x skill level) for the psiren for every creature with a LOG of at least 25 within the area to see if the psiren detects their presence. The psiren cannot read a detected creature’s mind or send his thoughts at that range, unless the creature is a willing telepath. However, once in range (see above) she can make another attack roll to read the creature’s mind.

Psiren Projection Ability

Mental; Activated, +10 x skill level

Psirens project images into the minds of their prey, luring their victim close and then they attack. They often pose through projection as a lost family member, lost love, or object of sexual desire. Images projected by the psiren will be something that appeals to their victims. Once the victim is within reach, the creature attaches itself to the skull of the victim and begins to transfer the knowledge in the mind of the victim to themselves. 

The creature may change their projection to another desired image this requires 1 turn. They may affect multiple targets with one projection but must be within range, which is 10 x skill level (SL) in meters. The number of targets that can be affected by the creature is equal to its PER stat divided by 10 and rounded down.

The targets of the mental projection can resist by making a LOG check (note Telepaths receive a +10 x Telepathy SL bonus to their LOG check). This is a LOG contest between the creature and her intended victim, with a bonus of 10 x SL for the psiren. Psirens do experience mental strain when projecting different images to multiple life forms, so each victim beyond the first to be targeted receives a + 20 bonus to making a LOG check.

If the victim’s check fails, the mental images appear completely real to the victim in every way including sound, touch or feeling, while those who succeed see only reality. Once the victim falls prey to the projection, the psiren receives a + 5 bonus to all PER, INT, LOG and LDR checks against the victim.

The illusion can be maintained for 3xSL rounds.

Mind Wipe (“ Brain Suck”)

Mental; Activated, LOG+10% x skill level

When a victim is within close proximity, the creature will attack (DEX check), attempting to attach its specialized mind-sucking organ to the victim’s head. If the attack is successful, the psiren will begin sucking the knowledge out of the mind on the next turn unless the victim succeeds in an INT or LOG check with a -5 modifier. If the check is successful the contact is broken (the victim will have a headache and a mark on his head where the specialized sucker was). The victim will then be able to try and break free from the creature’s grasp.

If the mind wipe is not interrupted, the victim will continue to take damage losing five points permanently from all four stats of PER/LDR, and INT/LOG every turn. (The INT or LOG check to break contact should be done every turn after the first with the new stats as the victim may realize something is wrong and succeed in escaping despite the mental trauma). Once the victim losses 50% of their starting LOG stat they need to make STA rolls every turn thereafter or enter into a coma state and lose their ability to make INT/LOG checks.

In addition, every 5 points of LOG damage results in the loss of one skill level in a randomly determined skill of the victim and transference of the skill to the psiren. The skill affected should be randomly rolled for each damage assessment. If the psiren’s skill level is already higher than the skill level possessed by the victim at the start of the attack, it doesn’t learn anything new during this transference of knowledge and the skill levels are simply lost by the victim. 

If any of these PER/LDR or INT/LOG stats are reduced to 0, the victim dies. When death occurs, the psiren gains knowledge of some of the skill abilities of the victim determined by rolling for each skill left. The psiren’s chance of gaining the knowledge is equal to the psiren’s basic LOG + Mind Wipe SL x 10%. Skills acquired at death in this manner transfer at a level equal the victim’s at the beginning of the attack.

Additional important personal information or experiences the psiren may have gained should be treated appropriately by the referee and is up to the referee’s discretion.

Example

Droolp the dralasite has been caught by a Psiren.  After the first round of attack, the referee rolls and determines that Droolp’s Beam weapon skill is being drained.  Droolp had a level 6 skill in Beam weapons, it has now been reduced to level five and the Psiren gains the Beam weapons skill at level 1.

On the next round, Droolp still can’t break free and the referee determines that his technician skill is being drained.  Droolp is only a level 2 technician so his skill drops to level 1.  The Psiren on the other hand, already has a level 4 technician skill so she doesn’t learn anything from Droolp since her starting skill was higher than his and her skill does not change.

Poor Droolp never manages to break free and is eventually killed by the Psiren.  At this point the Psiren has the chance to gain every skill Droolp possessed at the start of the attack at Droolp’s full skill level.  For each skill Droolp possessed that was at a higher skill level than what the Psiren possessed, the referee rolls the Psirens LOG + skill level x10% to see if the skill is gained.  If our attacker had a LOG score of 40 and a level 2 Mind Wipe ability, the referee would have to roll 60% (40% + 2 × 10%) or less for the Psiren to gain the skill.  Rolling for Droolp’s Beam weapon skill, the referee rolls a 23, less than the necessary 60%, so the Psiren now gains Droolp’s full Beam weapons knowledge and has a level 6 with that skill.  If she could only pick up and use his dropped laser rifle, she’d now be quite deadly with it.

Surviving An Attack

Survivors of this creature’s attack will have amnesia, a headache, lost time, loss of personality traits (basically they have brain damage), and damage to their whole psyche. If they are capable of speech and intelligent communication after an attack, they will report a sense of euphoric bliss occurring while things became harder and harder to remember.  They can also have personal permanent memory loss such as not remembering friends, family members, or important events in their life (details to be determined by the referee).

There are many reasons why a psiren may not have finished an attack: the psiren was looking for specific information and upon getting it stopped the attack, the creature was too weak or too unskilled to continue the attack, there were too many other people approaching, or others physically attacked the psiren. A psiren cannot maintain illusions, mind wipe, or telepathy if physically attacked, as its concentration is broken.

Referee Notes

Psiren Physiology

Average Stats for an adult

STR/STA          35/75

DEX/RS           35/40

INT/LOG         45/45

PER/LDR         40/40

A Psiren has a +2 bonus to its Initiative Modifier because of its superior vision.

Mandible Damage: 1d10 divided by 2 rounded down.

Forearms Damage: 2d10 slashing, stabbing

Movement

Bipedal speed: walk/turn 10m, run/turn 30m, Travel/Hour 5km

Quadruped speed: walk/turn 15m, run/turn 35m, Travel/Hour 6km

Typical Skills

As this race is extremely long lived, it is very capable of amassing large amounts of knowledge, most, however, are living on the edges of society and if younger or emerging from a deep hibernation cycle, they may not have had a chance to acquire more current knowledge. Some consideration should be given to the creature’s environment, possible age, purpose in the adventure, and history prior to the PCs encountering one.  If this is just a scary new monster it is best to keep it younger, less experienced, and less skilled in skills. Below are some suggestions for a “middle-aged” experienced psiren, who perhaps found its way onto a ship, has dispatched the crew, and is lurking in the abandoned ship that has mysteriously come out of the void…

Knowledge of Clikk, Vrusk & other Insectoid languages should be considered a given.

Many other languages are possibly known.  These would be based of the derelict’s crew so knowledge of Yazirian, Dralasite, Human, and Pan-Galactic are possible as well.

Psionics

Telepathy – SL: 4

Projection Ability – SL: 3

Mind Wipe – SL: 3

Military Skills

Beam Weapons – SL 3

Gyrojet Weapons – SL1

Melee Weapons – SL 1

Projectile Weapons – SL 2

Thrown Weapon – SL 1

Demolition Skill – SL 3

Martial Arts – SL of 4 as it is a hand-to-hand hunter.

Note that all weapons & technology not designed for the creature will be operated/used at -30% DEX check; simply because the creature knows how it is operated does not mean it can do so easily.

Technological Skills

Unless the creature has had a chance to gain knowledge in UPF Technology it should be treated as having little to no knowledge of such technology. If, however, this is a creature that has had a chance to say gain knowledge from a ship’s crew as previously encountered in this example:

Piloting Skill – SL 3

Astrogation Skill – SL 2

Computer Skill – SL 6

Technician Skill – SL 6

Robotics Skill – SL 2

Engineering Skill – SL 1

Biosocial Skills

Environmental Skill – SL 4

Medical Skill – SL 3

Psycho-Social Skill – SL 1

These creatures should be treated as individuals. They can also gain skills and knowledge by any traditional means such as studying, practice, learning from teachers, or any teaching technology allowed in the setting, not just mind wiping others. Also remember that if this creature gathers a Skill that has Basic Skill Level Requirements say Piloting Skill it must also gather or already possess Technician 6 and Computer 2 to be able to use the Piloting Skill.

Speech

Psirens still have their speech ability but now predominately speak to each other telepathically, but they can still make all the clicks, buzzes, chirps and whirls of old and can also learn to physically speak Vrusk and Clikk languages without difficulty.  They do however require a poly-vox to speak without using telepathy many other languages.

Reproduction

Psiren reproduction is dependent on a good food supply.  As most psirens live in environments that result in them having to be scavengers, their ability to produce viable offspring is naturally limited by food requirements. In addition all psirens currently are, as legend says, born female and to mate, a psiren must seduce a fertile male from a genetically compatible species, most often this has been a vrusk or clikk male. Copulation is normally fatal for a seduced male as their minds are being wiped in the process. The need for a male from outside their race to breed with further limits their numbers.

Psiren Nymphs

All psirens are born with white exoskeletons that change colour as they age, they are also born with a random amount of knowledge from their parent, determined by rolling d100, there is only a 10% per knowledge skill that the nymph will inherit the skill at the most basic level (skill level 1). All nymphs do inherit the Na’dezh’da language and have the ability to speak, write, and read it. All psirens inherit knowledge of their female lineage back to the first Na’dezh’da.  In addition they inherit knowledge of their father’s culture and a random amount of paternal skills determined the same way as the maternal skills where. All nymphs have skill level 1 in all their psionic abilities at birth. 

Physical Abilities

A naturally nocturnal species, they prefer dark environments the best. They are capable of going a month without food and can still remain active during such a fast. After a month they must hibernate, they do this by cocooning themselves; they can remain in hibernation for years.

They are capable of surviving being submerged underwater for an hour and a half and are capable of surviving without air of any kind, including the conditions of space without a spacesuit, for at least 12 hours before needing to spin a cocoon for long term hibernation. They can hibernate in extreme cold weather, under water, and in space and are capable of surviving in all these extreme conditions for years once cocooned.

The severed head of a psiren is capable of survival, waving its antennae for several hours, longer if refrigerated and given nutrients (in such cases a Psiren may attempt to communicate to another psiren via a telepathic message so it’s knowledge can be passed to another through the brain suck).

In addition, the creatures have high radiation resistance, 15 times higher than a human. The life expectancy of psirens is unknown but it is believed because of their life cycle of hibernating and moments of activity it may be in the thousands of years.

Using Technology of Other Races

When attempting to operate any UPF equipment; not modified for or compatible with the psiren’s forearms; the psiren suffers a -30 penalty on a DEX check to operate anything more complicated than taping buttons or screens. The psiren most often must trick others into operating equipment for it.

Psirens in the setting

Habitat

Psirens are capable of employing technology & trickery.  These creatures can be found inhabiting abandoned space stations, on crashed or drifting spaceships, (maybe those occasional misjumped disappeared ships are not all that accidental), ancient ruins, abandoned outposts or colonies, asteroid belts and the dark fringes of society. 

Society

As a rule, psirens are usually solitary, territorial scavengers.  However, they are sometimes found in mother-daughter pairs or small groups. It is not known if the psiren’s mostly solitary society is one of instinct, choice, or circumstances.

All psirens trace their ancestry back to an individual known as Na’dezh’da who possessed psionic abilities and gave birth to only female children (33 in total) all similarly psionically gifted. There are thus 33 matrilineal clans of psirens.

The Na’dezh’da Insectoid line/race gradually evolved more and more powerful psionic abilities that they used at first as a means to hunt primitive creatures.  In time they began using it to infiltrate and gain control of various hives and colonies in early Insectoid Society. As they evolved they developed the ability not just to be telepathic but also to literally suck knowledge from others and gradually became physically very different from their original racial stock. Once others in this early Insectoid Society realized the danger this posed to all colonies they began purging the descendants of Na’dezh’da from their midst. The psiren written language, if studied, will reveal that it is extremely old and is often very close to the earliest forms of writing of the various other insectoid races.

Clikk and Vrusk

Both clikk and vrusk cultures have a huge amount of myths and legends about dangerous psionic females, queens, or changeling creatures that threatened their societies. There are still some lines of clikk and vrusk that can produce psionic members and these lines are most likely related or linked to a similar genetic mutation or have similar latent sex-linked genes. Such offspring are often born with deformities and almost always female. However, these children are rarely an actual threat, as they do not have the evolved expressions of the total genes necessary to be a psiren. Such children, if not killed outright or abandoned, are often hidden away, given medical treatments to help with their deformity (and potential psychic ability), and sterilized. Vrusk will view such a child as an indication of dishonor to their trade house and something akin to punishment on the trade house from some greater cosmic karmic power. Vrusk use the Na’dezh’da mythos in their morality tales.

Death of Oblivion

Psirens call death before mind passing can be achieved “death of oblivion” as they believe all of the individual is lost forever at the time of death if the dying person’s knowledge is not preserved to another living being. Psirens thus have no problem if mortally injured in consenting to another psiren to brain wiping them, to prevent Death of Oblivion. Psirens culturally prefer such transfers of knowledge to be within their own clan, but if no other clan member is available being mind-wiped by another clan or even enemy is preferable to “True Death” or “Death of Oblivion”.

As Nemesis

Psirens can make useful spies, assassins, and murderous monsters in the Outblack. Connoisseur Psirens: are ones that hunt specific people for their memories, knowledge, or experiences. For instance a scientist Psiren would probably have a personal list of famous scientists they want to mind wipe. The Psiren Puppet Master: the psiren masquerades as a member of another race to get others to do it’s bidding, build psiren friendly tools, conduct research and bring it victims. Psiren Scientist might conduct experiments on the brains of other races, on genetics to end their dependency on other race’s males for breeding, or on further developing new mind powers for their race. The Psiren Fury are psirens that have learned to project things people fear, for the purpose of terrorizing others, this should be treated as a rare occurrence as the psirens evolved their abilities of projection to lure in prey.

Psirens may or may not have clandestine plans for the Frontier. This is a highly intelligent predatory species with its own agendas. Clans may or may not get along well, may have different agendas or specialties.

Clandestine Hibernation Nemesis

Psirens encountered until recently where actually accidentally awakened from their hibernation cycle (that is one reason they are so rare), but that hibernation cycle for the whole race is coming to an end and all will be awaking in mass across the galaxy in “The Great Awakening”. As a result Psirens will be trying to infiltrate as many societies as possible with the expressed desire to gain new knowledge (harvest the minds of other races), breed more Psirens, and work on their own race’s long term goals like they did over 10,000 years ago when the Tetrarchs ruled.

That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die... (H.P. Lovecraft)

References

This creature is based on the Psiren from the Red Dwarf TV series but has been changed a bit:

Red Dwarf T.V. episode “Psirens” written by Rob Grant & Doug Naylor

Red Dwarf the role playing game (based on the T.V. series) published by Deep 7 PO Box 46373 Seattle WA 98146 USA Copyright 2002 Authors Todd Downing, Mark Bruno, John Sullivan, Andrew Kenrick, Lee Hammock, Gavin Downing, Allan McComas, and Samantha Downing.

Star Frontiers Fan expansion reference Gamma Dawn by Scott Ireland edited by Lee Logan for inspiration on how to develop the specialized psionics.

The many great folks at www.starfrontiers.us a special thank you to everyone who gave me feed back on the Psirens: jedion357, KRingway, and Abub.