08/09/2020 at 07:46 #142889
Aotrs Shipyards very proudly presents the release of the Army Of The Red Spear starfleet!
This has been a project that has its roots twenty-five years back, worked on and off, over the decades. As this is a special release, things are going to be a bit different (hense why it is its own topic, not a standatd scofo release).
First of all, each of the coming releases will be coming with a part of A Guide to the Army Of The Red Spear, as there is A LOT to talk about over the coming months. The starfleet will be releasing once a month, followed by the 6mm (1:300th) fighter forces and a release of the 10mm (1:144th) ground forces (currently available only at Shapeways) to the direct sales and TheShop3D webstore (updated with the modern locking turrets) to finish off, so there is a lot to come.
This initial release is a big one, as in addition to the new releases, it is a re-release of some of the early models I did (around 2010) to Shapeways – before the Shipyards was my day-job – which have been updated, sprued and the fluff significantly expanded to bring us up to date.
Links to each part as a seperate article at Wargames Directory
Guide to the Army Of The Red Spear: Part One
Speak of the Army Of The Red Spear or the Aotrs to a citizen of the galactic community and you will rarely fail to get a reaction – and few of them positive. For most, is a name that inspires dread, a name synonymous with everlasting fear and evil, a dark cloud on the horizon. To others, the most sceptical or insular, it is a myth, an unbelievable tale told by the credulous, hinging on the existence of magic (and tragically for many of those sceptics, one brought to horrifying inescapable reality when encountered). To rare others, it is a dark utopia, and place of order and power.
But there will be few denizens of the galaxy that will not have heard of it, at least by reputation, even the most far-flung of alien nations in known space.
 Pronounced “a” as in “hay”, “oat-ers”
So, what is the Army Of The Red Spear? At its heart, it is an interstellar nation-state arisen from a paramilitary army that was uniquely composed in the majority of Liches. One might envision, from that description, a bleak totalitarian state where the living serve their Undead masters in abject slavery before their animated corpses are used for labour, but the reality is entirely different.
The Aotrs state rose first from a national power to an interplanetary national power before even achieving spaceflight, and then expanded to an planetary power and beyond, to become a interstellar power small in size, but that is nonetheless one of the major powers of the galaxy.
The Army Of The Red Spear was formed just under 2750 years ago by Lord Death Despoil. The official founding date is 391BC by the galactic standard calendar. Lord Death Despoil would have been, according to his official birthday, twenty-two at the time. How accurate these dates truly are is uncertain. Lord Death Despoil’s origins – and even his name in life – are shrouded in mystery and supposition. The truth is known only to him, if even he remembers. Not all of this is deliberate – the simple march of the better part of three millennia has taken its toll on the Aotrs’ earliest histories.
The Aotrs takes its name from the titular Red Spear, an artefact of significant power that was at the time his chosen weapon. The weapon itself still exists, but as the march of years passed, Lord Death Despoil supplanted it with better weaponry – Deathblood, his tomb-blade among them – and his burgeoning magical power meant that his active engagement in melee combat has become vanishingly rare. In the modern era, while he may sometimes carry the Red Spear into battle, he is most likely to be using a coldbeam pistol as a sidearm, if he uses one at all. The Red Spear, then, is now of largely symbolic value – though it is still a very powerful weapon even in its own right.
The origin of the Red Spear itself is unclear. What little has been gleaned is that it was not a weapon Lord Death Despoil himself created, but found, and its actual pedigree remains unknown.
(The acronym incidentally, includes the typically omitted “of” and “the” as a deliberate choice – mostly for the simple reason that “ARS” would have been merely one letter away from a joke (and while Lord Death Despoil is far from lacking a sense of humour, this was not an area to be made light of); but secondly that “Aotrs” is considerably more unique.)
At the time of founding, Lord Death Despoil is believed to have been on am HPE-L world listed in official Aotrs records as “Macronis IV.” The actual location of Macronis IV is yet another mystery. Certainly it is unlikely that a pre-industrial society, even on an HPE-L world, would have used a late-age planetary designation. Where the world was truly called that, or whether it is a later appellation is unknown – it is even possible it is called by another name in modern times. Lord Death Despoil had arrived there from his unknown homeworld (believed to be a different HPE-L world) via magical means, already a Lich, having been killed and driven away from that world, only escaping at the moment of his death to the elemental plane of Fire.
Little is known – or at least remembered or recorded – of this early history, but it set the stage for the power that the Aotrs would become. From those humble beginnings in a medieval age, the Aotrs rose through time and power, gaining in both technology and the science of magic. They are now rated in the top ten most highly-technologically advanced powers in the known galaxy. (Though the gap between the Aotrs at the very top is still much wider than between the Aotrs and the galactic standard.) As magical advancement is much harder to parse (especially given that comparatively few powers have significant access to it), there is no official standard, but the Aotrs must surely rank among the very highest.
At the current time of writing in 2346, the Aotrs state controls fully 26 fully inhabited worlds (twenty-seven officially, though this counts the HPE-L Myst, which is otherwise unoccupied by intelligent life and is thus something of a dubious assertion), and numerous colonies, outposts and bases and stations throughout its territory and even beyond. The Aotrs proper, the military arm, is composed in the majority of Liches, mostly a phylactery-less form know as Spirit-Bound. The civilian and second-line military forces are living beings in the overwhelming majority. (The number of civilian Undead is greater than in any other known power, but as that is by-and-large functionally zero in most other powers, this is not perhaps surprising.) The largest proportion of the living populations of the inhabited worlds are of elf or human stock, with various orc-kin (e.g. orcs, goblins, kobolds) making the next largest segment.
 Harbinger Probability Engineered, Lellantisiroloth-paradigm. Named after the Royal Elven Kingdoms homeworld, an HPE-L planet is one in which the engineered probabilities retrocasually applied by the Harbingers to create a world which is terrestrial in size, atmosphere and native life, with high background magic and variety of intelligent species. Inaccurately, but illustratively, it can be considered a “fantasy planet” as is seen in traditional fictional media (which itself might be partially a product of the probability engineering). A full discussion of the Harbingers and their probability engineering is a complex topic that falls outside the scope of this document.
The ultimate goals of the Aotrs remain a mystery, known only to Lord Death Despoil himself. It is not simple conquest; each world the Aotrs have conquered was not chosen at random. Given the power of the Aotrs, it would be entirely possible for them to have expanded significantly more aggressively than they historically have. The Aotrs operations, both the large and the small, are often centred on the acquisition of magical artefacts or technologies; almost, but never quite, seemingly at random.
The Aotrs exists in a curious state of limbo, politically. It has not ever been officially recognised by many powers (such as the Royal Elven Kingdoms), who will not have dealings with an openly evil necromantic power, as a legal state entity. It thus exists in a state of de facto war with any power that is has not explicitly signed some form of alliance or trade agreement with. Yet at the same time, the Aotrs limited operations generally place it in a position that is below that of the much more pressing threats such as the Cybertanks. Lord Death Despoil actively promotes this status. The threat of what the Aotrs COULD do if threatened with a large enough force that it would be certainly defeated means that no powers are willing to attempt to form the sort of inter-power crusade to attempt such a feat. Even the Aotrs’ most fervent enemy, the Royal Elven Kingdoms, draws short of attempting full-scale war, given the tremendous toll it would take.
The Aotrs state does conducts trade outside its borders, though given this status of de facto war with many powers, this is often via front companies that are nonetheless legitimate businesses who may be mostly or wholly unaware of their ultimate trade-partner is. Other relations, such as, with the Herosine Empire, are open. It is thus not impossible to visit Aotrs space, though getting in requires a considerable amount of paperwork and vetting. But provided one genuinely doesn’t have anything to hide, it is possible.
The primary language of the Aotrs remains Galactic English, though many also speak Galactic Elven (those wacky Harbingers and their probability engineering!) The Aotrs also have their own language, Chillspeak, which is particularly notable in the military. Like much of early Aotrs history, the origin of Chillspeak is unknown, but it is at least in part an artificial language unique to (or at least spread by) the Aotrs. It is postulated it was originally a purely verbal language of some sort of undead. Spoken – perhaps more aptly, keened – Chillspeak sets off a sense of cold dread in the ears of a living listener, like the screams of the literary Nazgul. It is particularly difficult (and taxing) for most living humanoids to be able to replicate. The written script is a runic one, with a more standard 26-character format. This was definitely an invention of Lord Death Despoil; as often as not, runic Chillspeak is used as an alternate character-form for Galactic English, particularly in military applications. Quite why this is the case is one more mystery. (The two sets of crossed gold blades over the Red Spear of the Aotrs symbol are the runes for D; “DD” as in “Death Despoil.”)
Though the Aotrs imports a surprising amount of entertainment media culture, very little of Aotrs’ own cultural works spread beyond the borders, simply due to their association with an Evil power, and more because often such works tend to be more uniquely Aotrs and don’t tend to follow what would be far more conventional narrative themes. (The “good guys” don’t always win, for one!)
The Aotrs is egalitarian culturally. As long as one is competent and one’s job – no matter the grandeur or lack thereof of that job – sex, gender (and lack thereof), species, physical construction (organic or technological) and mortality and any changes between any of the former are considered of negligible importance. Bigotry is in fact actively purged, and can even be an executable offense.
The people are generally comfortable and polite and you are likely to be as safe walking down the street at night as in almost any other advanced society. Walk through an Aotrs city and you will see the sights you might see in any other – and some breath-taking vistas that can be seen nowhere else. There are tourist spots – though they mostly cater to internal Aotrs state tourists. So if you are polite, reasonable and willing to follow the rules, an Aotrs world can be hospitable, even pleasant and affable.
Given this, one might be forgiven for forgetting, for a moment, that the Aotrs is still ultimately an Evil power. It does not even try to pretend otherwise. This layer of civilisation only goes so deep. The people of large parts of the shattered world of Tushanos, for example, are left mostly to their own devices in their own little isolated valleys, many in pre-industrial conditions – left to fight among themselves, and occasionally be brutally reminded that they pay tribute to their masters. Punishment for wrong-doing can be extremely harsh, and execution is not even the worse fate that could befall one in a civilisation of necromancers.
The Aotrs military consists of a standing army and navy of relatively small number of extremely professional soldiers. While the Aotrs does use some disposable troops as a supplementary and sometimes literal cannon-fodder (such as animated Undead or their War Droids), the bulk of their operations are performed by this elite core.
Though the Aotrs military is composed of Liches in the majority, Lichdom is not mandatory, and there are even a few living beings (who are likely to become Liches in time).
Behind the Aotrs proper lie second-line and garrison forces, notably the Dark Elf Troopers, Orc Stormsoldiers and the elite Kobold commandoes. These, by vast majority, composed of livings beings. Despite their names and a broad bias towards that species, each of these is a full military organisational branch with no restrictions on the species of its members. The names stem from ancient times when from which these branches were formed. Additionally, there are the Pathfinders, a group who work as mostly-independent operatives whose remit is to explore and/or gather information in the galactic community; often under the veneer of a legitimate pioneer. Many of the personnel in Pathfinder service are livings (especially in the latter capacity, where it does not require magic to blend in). The Pathfinders are often considered something of a halfway-house between the Dark Elf Troopers and the Aotrs proper, and a good way to gain some experience.
While many of the recruits to the Aotrs proper do come from the ranks of these second-line militaries (often including voluntary Lichdom), a good number of recruits come from individuals encountered throughout the galaxy on Aotrs operations. A not insignificant number of these secondments are post-mortem recruits.
The Aotrs starfleet has a long history. The first spaceflight was accomplished by the industrial era Aotrs in 1598; it was 1707, however, before the Aotrs first-generation FTL starships entered service. It was only a scant twenty-five years after that the first Aotrs colony was founded.
Lord Death Despoil’s speciality, outside necromancy (and perhaps even beyond that) has always been interplanetary and inter-system transportation – which had allowed the Aotrs to expand and conquer worlds without spaceflight. It was his Gate spells that were eventually adapted into Aotrs’ unique starship Gate drive. At first, this emphasis regulated the starfleet to a primarily defensive nature. As time and technology passed, the Aotrs starfleet became larger and took a more prominent role, until the modern era where it is now the principle branch of the Aotrs military.
The Aotrs starfleet has divided into generations by the advance of technology, the delineation generally being a whole new set of hulls and technology. The time in service of each generation has averaged around 60-80 years. The ill-fated 3rd generation was the shortest, at 21 years, and the 6th the longest at 92. The current 10th generation’s first ships rolled out 2320; the oldest vessels have already had their first mid-generational upgrades.
The 10th generation has thus far never lost a battle. Part of this is due to the careful picking of battles that mark Aotrs operations, even allowing the Aotrs to score a victory against the top-tier Shardan Marauders on one notable occasion, due to extenuating circumstances. But while Aotrs remains at de facto war with numerous other powers (most notably the Royal Elven Kingdoms), it has not engaged in a full-scale war during this period. The increased technological disparity between it and most of its enemies – and notably the stagnation until the past decade of the Royal Elven Navy – has comfortably allowed this record to ride unchallenged.
It is, however, becoming a point of concern that while this reputation is a powerful weapon in its own right, it will eventually instil a dangerous sense of complacency, or recklessness in an attempt to avoid being the first admiral to lose a battle. The morale loss of having the record broken after so long could itself be damaging. The problem is likely to need to be addressed within the near future. It has been theorised that Lord Death Despoil himself may deliberately command a losing battle, which would likely minimise the effects of such a loss, in both terms of ships and crews and on morale – once the record is broken, it is no longer a rod for the backs of commanders, and if it was Lord Death Despoil himself that lost, it would also remove any blame or shame that another commander might suffer – lancing the boil, as it were.
Generation Year of Introduction Duration
1st Generation 1707 62 years
2nd Generation 1769 63 years
3rd Generation 1825 21 years
4th Generation 1846 64 years
5th Generation 1910 83 years
6th Generation 1993 92 years
7th Generation 2085 86 years
8th Generation 2171 73 years
9th Generation 2244 76 years
10th Generation 2320 Estimated 70-80 years
11th Generation Estimated 2390-2400 Estimated 70-80 years
The Aotrs ground forces, meanwhile, have had significantly less fortune. The disparity of technology is much less magnified in ground combat than in open space, and so the Aotrs ground forces have taken considerable attritional losses, most notable on the backwater planet of Muisis, armed only with aging human power exports. This issue has been exacerbated due to the incredible demands on the Aotrs’ finite manufacturing facilities during the era of the supercruisers in the past century. The demands of those massive vessels meant that fighters and ground vehicles and even many eighth and ninth generation starship hulls were imported and refitted, rather than built internally. It has taken until the late 2330s for the ground forces to finally return to pre-23rd century manufacturing levels. In the past decade, there has been a proliferation of new vehicles and an upgrade for the older vehicles that places the Aotrs ground forces in a much better place than they were priorly.
All that the Aotrs has achieved is remarkable for a power of its size. The secret to this success comes from the Aotrs greatest asset – the leveraging of their immortality. The greatest reason for the Aotrs continued success is that they have no haemorrhaging of their skill-base. A mortal race will lose experience to old age. It is often noted that the old veterans of any job, the experienced “old boys (sic)” network, who know how the job is done – and not always what is said on paper. But these experts retire or die and there is only a finite amount of time for a mortal to pursue a career or calling. A Lich, however, can continue to do their job for decades into centuries into millennia. An immortal race, such as many Elves or even a very long-lived one, loses these skills at a much lesser rate; but even they will lose to accidents or violence and life-restoring magic remains for the vanishing few; and even much of that cannot help old age.
Spirit-Binding a soul into a Spirit-Bound Lich suffers none of these problems – it does not even (certainly in modern times) require the body of the deceased. So the Aotrs can – albeit slowly – recover even Liches destroyed in combat or accident. The binding of a spirit into a new body often comes at the cost of some personal power. Still, especially for those lost in space, it can be a long time before they can be retrieved to be raised. So the Aotrs Liches are no more keen to die than a living being, despite this fail-safe. Those souls placed in positions where they cannot be summoned back are few enough between that those who would keep such a soul are likely to invite an Aotrs rescue attempt. Even the soul being in the realms of the divine or the fiendish is no barrier to Aotrs Gates.
But it is by this method that the Aotrs retains all its skill base. With a culture of professionalism instilled in it from the top down for nearly three millennia, it has created what is arguably the single greatest assemblage of talent of any power. The Liches know their jobs – and it is the jobs that are not simple combat duties that are among the most important in retaining this edge. Personnel management and assessment, backed by centuries of experience, is one of the most critical aspects. None more so than those Liches who vet potential new recruits to the Aotrs military proper.
While skill is prised, it is the right mind-set that is what the Aotrs particularly look for in recruits. It is a balance of skill and initiative, matched with responsibility and obedience (never blind) and tempered ambition that is sought. The talented “loose-cannon mavericks that don’t play by the rules” are always discarded (sometimes, at best, retained for a brief period while they are used and then terminated). Those whose ambitions would lead them to betrayal or corruption or just to power for their own hedonism are weeded out and quietly disposed of. This, of course, comes after millennia where mistakes were made. Coups were attempted (though not many, and most very early on), corruption occurred, misjudgements occurred – and even Lord Death Despoil was never infallible.
But it is the retained knowledge and experience of centuries of practise, the remembrance of these mistakes, these misjudgements and errors and having learned from them, that allows the Liches who now oversee this process in the modern times to ensure they get the recruits of the their desired standard. The Aotrs can afford winnow through to take a steady plodder with potential and spend decades training them up to a high standard. Or to take those from primitive worlds who have to be educated all the way up to modern technology.
It is this careful psychological parsing, in particular, that ensures the Aotrs functions with a minimum of internal strife. One of the marked cultural oddities of the Aotrs is that unlikely most military forces, interservice animosity – such as between ground troops and space forces, or fighter pilots and ship crews – is highly frowned upon on and a considerable social faux pas on a level akin to sexism or racism and is liable to disciplinary action. While this is often strictly officially true for most other militaries, in the Aotrs, making such a comment is liable to engender a cold silence from all involved.
As a result of this modus operandii, the majority of the Aotrs proper’s military personnel tend to be a few decades old and experienced before they enter the ranks – though it is far from unknown to find a bright young rising star of the right sort of temperament inducted early.
The Aotrs is arguably a true meritocracy – the skilled and professional rise to their level of skill. Lord Death Despoil’s centuries at the top have instilled a cultural professionalism in not simply the Aotrs military, but the state as well. Corruption is ruthlessly eliminated – though the simple fact of the assessment of personal suitability means that the corrupt virtually never get into a position of power. This has trickled down to the civilian populace – for a power that is ostensibly (and unashamedly) capital-E Evil, the Aotrs civilian crime rate is surprisingly low.
As a result of this meritocratic outlook, incompetence is punished very harshly at all levels of society and is an executable offense. As a result, even at the civilian level managers tend to be either good at their jobs or only in their position for a very short time.
With this advanced personnel management expertise, the Aotrs can reliable assure that people are not promoted above their level of experience or rather, they are not promoted to their level of incompetence. It is general practise that any one officer is likely capable of competently executing the job of one, two or even three ranks higher, and excelling at the rank they are. The cultural emphasis is placed on doing the job to the absolute best of one’s ability over the accumulation of authority. That comes with time – which Liches have an unlimited supply of – and usually as the Aotrs slowly expands.
The emphasis one day-to-day operations is particularly on working smarter, not harder. Aotrs personnel are allotted a generous amount of personal, leave and leisure time, and as Liches have less physical requirements – usually only meditation to recharge their magic – the Liches have disproportionally time more than many other soldier’s powers to play with. Outside of a crisis or operation, the atmosphere is often relaxed and comparatively informal. One of the keys of this is that the trained veterans know how and when to switch that off when a crisis arrives.
In addition, the option for re-assignment to a completely different branch is always open to those that become tired, bored or not stimulated enough by their position. With functionally unlimited training time, the Aotrs is quite prepared to support this level of dramatic change. In one celebrated case, a celebrated admiral of some centuries’ service transferred down to become an infantry soldier, starting very near the bottom. (Not quite at the bottom, as his combat and leadership skills were already considerable, due to his previous centuries of service.)
This level of personnel management, on such a wide and enduring scale, is perhaps the Aotrs’ single greatest achievement, more than all their technological or magical advancements.
Taken from Irodinath’s Idiot’s Galaxy Guide, 3rd edition, circa 2346
(Note: measurements are taken from bounding box extremities.)
Liche’s Wrath Superdreadnought
The Liche’s Wrath has become the symbol of the 10th generation Aotrs navy, and one of its most prised vessels. None have ever been lost in battle to date, and every battle they have participated in has been an Undead victory. They are popular with crews and assignment to a Liche’s Wrath is highly sought after.
Part of the vessel’s success is its mobility – not many vessels of its size have such powerful engines. Moreover, it has heavy defences. The superdreadnought has very heavy shielding and extra-light ablative armour in large quantities. This allows it to take much more of a pounding than similar ships of its size, while still carrying a very heavy weapons load.
The Liche’s Wrath was initially designed to become a new secondary command ship, more mobile and less of a target than the Chillbone, Lord Death Despoil’s unique supercruiser. The distinctive four wings and four forward jutting pylons of the Liche’s Wrath all form part of a runic ritual array, like the first such devices seen in the Chillbone’s massive wings.
These runic cores, channelled by the Chillbone’s massive wing geometry, fundamentally turned the supercruiser into one giant magic “circle” for projecting powerful magic rituals. The precise nature of the rituals that would require such an enormous focus are classified, but must be formidable indeed, on a scale, perhaps, to that which cleansed the planet of G’Nayel into the Aotrs capital world, Fearmore. At a more practical level, the ritual matrix can also be used as a focussing aid to assist calling back the spirits of destroyed Undead to be restored to unlife, especially those in starship combat or ways that would otherwise be irretrievable.
The runic cores in the Liche’s Wrath as considerably more efficient and smaller, retaining proportionally more power despite the reduction of an order of magnitude in size.
The Liche’s Wrath is armed with eight fixed coldbeam cannons, two on each wingtip, and eight plasma-pulse cannons, a pair either side of each forward pylon. Numerous smaller coldbeam blisters contain anti-starship and anti-fighter coldbeams, providing a significant amount of all-around fire.
Two enormous railcannons are mounted either side of the hull. The latest advancements in Aotrs railgun technology are culminated in these weapons. On firing, the weapons impart a similar relativistic field to that of sublight engines. Without the need to deal with crew or delicate components, the massive, solid slug can be exposed to much more relativistic distortion, allowing the railgun slug to be fired at FTL speeds. The field imparted only lasts for a scant few tens of milliseconds, and is disrupted by any sort of impact. It cannot, then, actually increase the damage of the slug, but it does increase the flight speed to between two and three times lightspeed, greatly improving accuracy. The target will have moved less far in the flight time, and only computer systems advanced enough to be able to detect FTL collisions can have any hope of even starting evasive protocols. At extreme ranges, it is possible for the weapon to strike before the light of the muzzle flash reaches the target, though this is more or less impossible to witness on nondigital reaction times. The conditions of this event to occur are typically outside the railguns accuracy envelope, meaning that to even be possible, it has to be a shot against a static target. After the initial FTL burst, if the slug doesn’t strike a target, the field dissipates, slowing the slug down to “normal” relativistic sublight speeds.
The Liche’s Wrath was the first vessel in the 10th generation to be fitted with a brand-new ECM system, fully 50% more effective than the 9th generation systems it replaced. The system can provide protection for any escort vessels that are escorting the superdreadnought.
The Liche’s Wrath’s final armament is a pair of small warhead launchers on the port side.
One last trick remains up the Liche’s Wrath’s sleeve. The specific position of the weapons on the wing and pylon tips allows a Howling Void to comfortably sit nearly engine-to-skull nestled between the superdreadnought’s forward pylons. The clearance allows both vessels’ weapons to fire unrestricted, only preventing the Liche’s Wrath warhead launcher from firing any unguided warheads. This formation is of little advantage in a normal starship battle – but it places the Howling Void in exactly the right position to synchronise with the Liche’s Wrath’s runic matrices, allowing further ritual magic to be applied to the Howling Void’s thaumic lightning cannon. This is termed the “god-slayer” formation, as an upgrade to the Howling Void’s normal “god-killer.” It is not known if this formation has ever been used in anger, if so, all instances have been classified.
As with the Howling Void, a few instances of the Liche’s Wrath have replaced the plasma-pulse cannons with light railguns.
Starting in 2345, the Liche’s Wrath began to receive the twenty-five year upgrade. Recent advances in generator technology allowed the Liche’s Wrath’s power core to be upgraded. The improvement to power and reinforcement and optimisation of the engines allowed, for under a 5% increase in mass, to increase the vessel’s already considerable for its size engine output by a full third. In addition, the point-defence systems were overhauled. With the introduction of the Spiritwrack and Spectral Glow dedicated PDM ships, the necessity of the Liche’s Wrath to carry longer-ranged light coldbeam turrets was reduced, and they were all replaced with short-range versions; this also helped keep the mass increase from the generator and drive upgrade down. Finally, the plasma-pulse cannons were slaved together as on the Howling Void, greatly increasing their range.
Howling Void Battlecruiser
The Howling Void was the first ship of 10th generation of Aotrs starships. The 10th generation brought a swathe of new improvements, not least the reduction of sublight drive mass by nearly half. The Howling Void sports improved generator technology, and with the quantum leap in shielding technology, allows it to carry twice the shielding of a similarly-sized 9th generation vessel. The Howling Void has twice the speed and agility and almost double the total protection of its immediate predecessors, but at the same time, retains the same offensive power.
The Howling Void’s most notable features are the three scythe-like blades projecting from its forward superstructure. These form the generating core of the Howling Void’s thaumic lightning cannon. Introduced in the late 9th generation, the thaumic lightning cannon – often referred to inaccurately as an “electroblaster” after the groundside lightning-shooting infantry weapon – is only dedicated magical starship weapon in the Aotrs arsenal. While warheads and occasionally other weapon systems can be enchanted to be magical, the thaumic lightning cannon is the only weapon to be inherently magical in effect. When activated, the internal runic cores channel magical lightning down the three scythes from the tip and into the hull, concentrating the power at the maw of the skull and discharging it as a single spectacular blast. (Which can be quite disconcerting to nonmagical opponents under the impression lightning is an atmosphere-only effect.)
The enchantments are much more complicated than merely allowing lightning to function in a vacuum or even be magically charged. Like a highly-enchanted magical blade, the lightning cannon’s discharge carries all manner of debilitating magical rider effects. These could have been placed on almost any elemental energy type, but the optimal efficiency and carrying form for the specific combination of enchantments favoured electricity. The magical optimisation allowed the thaumic lightning cannon to function as a normal starship weapon at all other times. Most of the enchantments are of limited effect against a starship, rendering it overall no more effective than a normal starship weapon against such a target, but make attacks on specialist vessels – or large living entities – considerably more deadly. The efficacy of the weapon is also considerably improved when fired into atmosphere (and extraplanar space with atmosphere), where the lightning doesn’t have energy lost to propagating in space. The weapon is informally labelled a “god-killer” and indeed such extra-planar magical creatures are one of the weapon’s potential targets.
The Howling Void’s other weapons are more mundane. The rear shield-pylons each house a short-range plasma-pulse cannon. A trio of warhead launchers nestled in the hull fire through the gaps in the lightning pylons, and numerous light coldbeam turrets provide point-defence.
Following the success of the Frostbeam A refit, Aotrs engineers attempted a similar procedure with the plasma-pulse cannons in 2345, as part of the twenty-five year design overhaul. While not quite as successful in slaving all four together, they manage to slave them into pairs and the range was likewise increased. The initial tests managed to get three working as a single weapon system, but the remaining weapon suffered. Work is underway to improve the technology further, and it is likely that before the end of the 10th generation, the Howling Void will have a second upgrade. All current Howling Voids have been updated to the new standard.
A handful of individual Howling Voids replace the plasma-pulse cannons with light railguns, trading their short-range higher-damage weapons for a longer range.
Sorrow Skean Cruiser
The Sorrow Skean is a new fast attack cruiser. It was first fielded during 2337 with the 10th generation’s second wave, alongside vessels like the Keening Abyss. It has the typical heavy shields and armour that characterise the Aotrs fleet, but its main protection is its enormous agility and speed, which eclipses most escort vessels. Only the Keening Abyss and Subterfuge can keep up with it at full speed.
The Sorrow Skean’s primary armament is provided by four heavy railguns allowing it to work at both long and close ranges. It can kite an opponent from range, firing a salvo and then manoeuvring to open the range with its superior agility, or charge swiftly to close range.
At the close ranges, the railguns are supplemented by a spinal mount plasma-pulse cannon, which provides some extra punch and can be devastating against a target that has lost shields and had its armour penetrated.
A point-ECM system and numerous anti-fighter/anti-missile defences enable Sorrow Skeans to operate as a roving pack more-or-less independently of the main fleet.
Spiritwrack Escort Cruiser
Bringing a fresh approach at fleet point-defence capability, the Spiritwrack was the first of the second wave of 10th generation ships, entering service in 2336. The Spiritwrack and the later Spectral Glow shifted the onus of area-defence away from other vessels, which in term allowed the Aotrs to replace such systems with more or better weapons on their other ships.
The Spiritwrack’s principle means of achieving this objective is by the use of point-defence missiles. A pair of twin missile launchers can provide a salvo of forty point-defence missiles to intercept an enemy salvo. For closer range work, it boasts a wide array of long-range light coldbeam turrets. A series of capital-scale coldbeams (including a trio of turreted heavy cannons) provide it with some anti-capital ship offense as well. Against a lighter vessel, it can be devastating – the main coldbeams take out shields and armour and the point-defence weapons can do their grisly work on the unprotected hull.
While initially conceived as purely an escort cruiser, in practise, about 15% of the Spiritwrack’s typical missile load consists of regular warheads, allowing it a few salvos of anti-capital ship fire. Due to the inherently flexible nature of Aotrs missile technology, changing the Spiritwrack’s mission profile is as simple as changing the reloads, allowing it to potentially fill other roles as well.
Defensively, the Spiritwrack has good speed and manoeuvrability, and excellent shields and armour for a medium cruiser. It also carries a point-ECM system to further protect it from the enemy missile fire it itself is likely to attract.
Fettered Star Medium Cruiser
The Fettered Star is a general purpose medium cruiser, typically serving as escort to other vessels (though it is not a dedicated escort vessel.) It is armed with a mix of weapons.
It carries mid-range anti-starship coldbeam turrets, and a mix of short and long-range light coldbeam turrets for point and area defence. For longer ranges, it carries a pair of warhead launcher either side of the armour bow. A point-electronic counter measures system supplements its active defences.
Finally, it carries a pair of energy beam turrets,
The energy beam weapon system used by the Aotrs fire a coherent beam of pure energy (discharging white in visible light). They have a very high energy output, but require charging when fired at maximum power. They also decohere quite quickly compared to a coldbeam of the same mass, but tend to be built as much larger weapon systems. A powerful energy beam – such as found on the Midnight dreadnought – is capable of slicing an enemy ship in half, though their effectiveness is reduced significantly by shielding or heavy armour.
The turrets on the Fettered Star are much smaller than those of the Midnight, a third of the size. Though the Fettered Star can use them to slash enemy ships at close ranges, the Fettered Star’s small arrays are used for a second purpose. An energy beam array’s enormous power output can be harnessed to fire a much longer sustained beam by firing at about one-third the power output. Though it has the same decohering issues over range, in the effective range, this makes the weapon considerably more accurate because of the longer firing time. In this mode, light energy beam arrays have often been used for precision attack work, picking off individual systems from an enemy ship. (Small energy beam arrays are sometimes called as “needle beams” when used in this fashion.) While the larger arrays as just as capable, for this sort of work involved, multiple smaller arrays typically allow more chance of hitting the target. So the Fettered Star, rather than carry a single heavier beam, carries a pair in turrets either side of the hull.
With appropriate munitions and support, the Fettered Star can make quite a capable capture-assist vessel with its energy beam arrays, though their small size means it has to get close. The Fettered Star’s diverse armament makes it a jack-of-all-trades but master of none.
Overwhelmer Light Cruiser
The Overwhelmer serves as medium-close range attack vessel. Its function is to accompany smaller attack vessels and assist in shield stripping. The Overwhelmer is an early 10th generation vessel, and its 10th generation engine and shield technology give it high speed and manoeuvrability for a vessel of its size.
The Overwhelmer carries a pair of heavy coldbeam cannons fixed-forward. This long-range firepower is supplemented at short to medium range by the lower six-barrelled plasma-pulse cannons.
Plasma-pulse weapons are a relatively new weapon, dating back to the 7th generation, though it was only the 9th generation before they became significantly more powerful. These weapons use railgun technology to hurl tear-drop-shaped bolts of white plasma energy at their targets. The plasma-bolt is built up inside the weapon, and the accelerator, a moving cylinder containing a power magnetic field throws the bolt out of the weapon. They can have their rate of fire as either single shot or fully automatic. A single shot takes more time to build up the plasma bolt, and throws it harder; fully-automatic fire spends less time charging the bolt, and the accelerator moves back and forth faster, and so also cannot pack as much power into each bolt, thus range and power are degraded at the expense of rate of fire. 10th-generation plasma-pulse weaponry typically does not have a mechanical accelerator as found on some earlier versions, relying on more typical magnetic linear accelerator technology; a plasma bolt requires less energy to hurl than a solid slug. While some more advanced races have refined the technology so that an additional accelerator located at the weapon’s tip mechanically accelerates the bolt as well as static electromagnetic acceleration, this requires a level of friction reduction technology that the Aotrs current tech cannot equal.
The Overwhelmer’s arsenal is completed by numerous coldbeam turrets for point-defence.
The plasma-pulse cannons are themselves capable of dealing significant damage to a vessel stripped of shields and armour. Overwhelmers are thus frequently seen operating with Shadowfang Frigates and medium and short ranges (where they deal the killing blow), or supporting Subterfuge scoutships at close ranges (where they aim to strip the shields and armour).
The Shadowfang Frigate is a solid mainstay of the Aotrs fleet. One of the first wave of 10th generation ships, it is second only to the Subterfuge in numbers. Manoeuvrable, well-protected and carrying a good offensive load, the Shadowfang performs well all-round. It has delivered consistent – if unremarkable service in the past quarter-century, and continues in limited production even with the introduction of its larger descendant.
It is armed with four fixed-forward coldbeam cannons, and several various coldbeam point-defence weapons.
The Aotrs coldbeam is a unique piece of technology that started as a ground-based magictech weapon that has transitioned to a purely technological one and eventually reached the starship-level, supplanting lasers and lazers during the 8th generation. These weapons fire a beam of proto-elemental cold (that is, not merely the absence of heat, but its privative). This usually causes the target to shatter as the matter in it contracts due to extremely high rates of enthalpy change, even in the near absolute-zero temperature of space.
Coldbeams discharge a pale blue beam, which creates a kkkeeyyyoooooou sound in atmosphere (and internal sonic environmental awareness systems). There is no real recoil, and combined with the advanced focusing systems give it low dispersion, and hence high accuracy and good range – rivalling that of lazer weapons. Coldbeams can also be configured to discharge a series of short blasts or a continuous beam, though as with other energy weapons, the requisite reinforcement for continuous discharge requires some sacrifice of power.
Early model coldbeams, while they were still confined to a ground-based infantry weapon, required special cartridges to function. These contained a source of elemental cold and discharged via magnetic acceleration; indeed, forces on primitive tech worlds still use this technique. More advanced weapons use technology to directly create the cold energy, giving higher rates of fire and more reliable equipment.
The Shadowfang’s biggest limitation is that its anti-capital ship weapons can only engage targets to the bow, but its superior speed and agility compensate for this significantly.
Shadowfang Mk II Frigate
The Shadowfang was one of the earliest ships of the current 10th generation, and after fifteen years of advancement, there were many improvements that could be made. In 2337, the first Shadowfang Mk II Frigates entered the prototype stage. Unlike the Frostbeam A, which was a refit applied to all existing models, fine-tuning the weapon systems, the Shadowfang Mk II is a new model, adding in new technology, but not making changes severe enough to warrant a new class. The Mk II hull is 20% more massive (though its overall size has changed little), but it maintains the same mission profile. Most of this extra mass is due to the enlargement of the coldbeam cannons, which have been increased in power and range by 33%, giving the Mk II even better firepower. Numerous additional point-defence systems have also been added, which enmasse somewhat compensate for the main cannon’s poor firearcs. Shadowfang Mk IIs are now a common sight Aotrs fleets, supplementing their older brethren.
Introduced in 2337, the Hoarfrost Frigate’s primary role is to supplement the Spectral Glow and Spirit Wrack in their role as fleet defence. The Hoarfrost provides mid-range point-defence for squadrons. Larger and much sturdier than the Spectral Glow, it is armed with a battery of long-range point-defence coldbeam batteries, but no anti-starship weapons.
The Hoarfrost A is modified for close range point-defence. By modifying the long-range point-defence systems for continuous discharge, it gains considerable more stopping power but only half the range. It was initially hoped that the weapon systems would be configurable to either mode, but unfortunately this was still beyond practical Aotrs technology. However, both sets of weapons share 95% of the components and the remainder were made modular, so refitting from one variant to the other can be done comparatively quickly, in just a few hours. The Hoarfrost A has become the most common configuration in use, leaving the majority of the long-range interdiction to its missile-bearing cousins.
Keening Abyss Corvette
The Keening Abyss, operational in 2337, is designed on the same principles as the older and successful Howling Void Battlecruiser. The Keening Abyss, however, is designed for close-range attack, taking over the role that the Frostbeams had been fulfilling. The Keening Abyss has larger drives, making it faster despite its greater size and yet the same protection. The Keening Abyss’ primary armament is a cut-down version of the Howling Void’s, “god-killer” thaumic lighting cannon. (This has been humorously termed the “god-botherer” by the crews.) The single array, while not more powerful than the Frostbeam’s initial turrets in tandem, has the same range as the Howling Void’s. While nowhere near as powerful as the Howling Void’s the Keening Abyss’ ritual core functions in the same way, allowing the same sort of weapon enchantments to be applied; though at either greater caster investment or a significantly smaller return. Theoretically, a Keening Abyss could even function is place of a Howling Void in “god-slayer” formation with a Liche’s Wrath, though likely such an instance would have to carefully monitored so the channelled power did overload the Keening Abyss’ less powerful array.
The Keening Abyss also mounts three short-range plasma-pulse cannons. In concert with the thaumic lightning array, the Keening Abyss can strip away a lot of enemy shields and armour, allowing the Subterfuge that it is often deployed to accompany to slice the enemy to pieces. Even alone, the greater efficacy of the plasma-pulse cannons against an unarmoured hull makes it a dangerous vessel.
A quartet of light coldbeam turrets provide a little defence against missiles and fighters – or further offence against capital ships who shields and armour is has blasted away.
Spectral Glow Defense Corvette
Introduced in 2336, the Spectral Glow is a fast heavy corvette to provide additional anti-fighter and anti-missile protection to groups too small or too fast for the Spiritwrack.
The Spectral Glow carries the same double warhead launcher that the larger Spiritwrack does, though its internal magazine is significantly smaller. It is thus usually only equipped with the point-defence missiles as it lacks the capacity to perform its primary job and perform anti-ship duties at the same time. It carries only a couple of light coldbeam point-defence turrets for its own defence against missiles.
The Spectral Glow is armed with a small thaumic lightning cannon. While nowhere near as powerful as the Howling Void’s, or even the Keening Abyss’, it affords the Spectral Glow some offensive against starships, albeit at close range. The thaumic lightning cannon was chosen as a compromise, as despite the higher manufacturing cost compared to a like coldbeam, it did not require as much mass or a bulky turret to fulfil the same role. The ritual cores of the Spectral Glow are not powerful, but enough that a single one-lich meditation circle was added to allow the use of some ritual casting.
The vessel relies on speed and evasive capability for protection, possessing minimal shields and little armour. Given it is a highly evasive corvette and found performing escort duty, it would generally expected to suffer less fire, as the vessel it is escorting is a higher priority target. But its reliance on expensive warheads on a relatively fragile hull makes it a tempting target.
With a faster manufacturing rate than the larger Spiritwrack, a small number were quickly deployed to every fleet group.
Liche’s Wrath Superdreadnought
Direct price: £24.00
The Shop3D price: £19.80 (Nylon)/£14.35 (Resin) Link
Howling Void Battlecruiser
Direct price: £8.00
The Shop3D price: £6.09 (Nylon)/£4.52 (Resin) Link
Shapeways price: $10.97 (£10.09) Link
Sorrow Skean Cruiser
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Spiritwrack Escort Cruiser
Direct price: £3.80
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Shapeways price: $5.50 (£5.15) Link
Fettered Star Medium Cruiser
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Overwhelmer Light Cruiser
Direct price: £3.50
The Shop3D price: £3.37 (Nylon)/£2.58 (Resin) Link
Shapeways price: $5.50 (£5.15) Link
Direct price (for 2): £3.20
The Shop3D price (for 2): £2.49 (Nylon)/£1.94 (Resin) Link
Shapeways price (for 2): $5.60 (£5.15) Link
Shadowfang Mk II Frigate
Direct price (for 2): £3.40
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Direct price (for 3): £3.60
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Keening Abyss Corvette
Direct price (for 3): £4.90
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*Because This Is 2020, even at the last minute nothing goes smoothly; the Keening Abyss seems to have been missed from Nylon at TheShop3D, so this will have to be edited when when they ge back to me; I didn’ want to delay AGAIN just for this.
Spectral Glow Defence Corvette
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Accelerate and Attack! Aeons of War
Photos of Sorrow Skean, Shadowfang, Shadowfang Mk II, Hoarfrost,Keening Abyss and Spectral Glow in nylon (Shapeways VPN), all others of Replicator 2 versions.
Next month, we will continue with the second wave of Aotrs forces, complete with more lore. There’s a lot to cover: Gate magic and technology, the supercruisers, notable world, notable persons to name but a few elements!08/09/2020 at 19:48 #143771ian pillayParticipant
…not enough skulls…😉
however they look good painted up! Fantastic project. Well done.
Tally-Ho!08/09/2020 at 20:52 #143772GunDogMiniaturePaintingServiceParticipant
I’ve now read through this and taken it all in. Amazing backstory, great imagination. Love the models as well. Superb.
Gun Dog Miniature Painting Services
Sniffing out unpainted armies!29/09/2020 at 18:56 #144833
Here we are with wave two – a smaller one this time, since this is all new stuff, plus a look into magic and Gates!
(Edit, Okay, TWW doesn’t NOT like centred titles, lesson learned…!)
Guide to the Army Of The Red Spear: Part Two
The Fundamentals of Magic
Magic is an extremely complex subject. It is functionally its own branch of science, and as such, attempting a thorough and detailed discussion of it is impossible, as even a shallow look in detail would fill libraries of technical details, just as with any other science. So what follows is a merely a precis on the subject, but one that must be covered before the magic specific to the Aotrs can be examined.
The Aotrs have had nearly three thousand years to make a study of magic and science of magic. One of the most importance discoveries was that of background magic. Long theorised, background magic was only proven to exist during the early information age, as before the advent of computer technology, neither technology nor magic – both in a fundamentally analogue state – could simply not be refined enough to detect it. Even many magic-using societies miss the existence of background magic unless they, like the Aotrs, dedicate the sort of resources to scientific magical research as generally is expended on scientific technological research.
Though it is called background “magic,” this is not strictly an accurate term. Rather, it is a substrate, found throughout the universe like background radiation, that permits magic and all other supernatural or para-normal phenomena to exist. Magic, psionics, superpowers, the special abilities, even, of many species – any effect that cannot be accomplished the direct application of mundane physics, at its core, draws power from background magic.
As an analogy, para-natural abilities can be thought of as being like fire. They require ‘fuel’ (a caster’s mana or a superhero’s own endurance) and a source of ‘heat’ as a catalyst (the casting of a spell or the activation of a superpower, passive or otherwise) and these two elements are so obvious and important that the existence of the ‘air’ (more properly ‘oxygen’) – the background magic – goes generally unnoticed. Even anti-magic and power-suppression devices tend to work by interfering in one or two of the ‘fuel’ or ‘heat,’ rather than disrupting the background magic, which is extremely difficult. (Putting out the fire by removing the heat, rather than removing the oxygen in our analogy.)
The amount of background magic present often varies from system to system, world to world. It even fluctuates in open space. The levels are broadly classified as High, Low, Minimal and Null magic zones. While background magic on a particular world can vary in strength it is rare – though not unheard of – to find very significant pockets of High, Low, Minimal or Null magic on the same world, and even then, this is rarely natural and most frequently caused by some magical catastrophe. A full discussion of the various bands is outside the scope of this document (and very technical), so a broad presentation will suffice. For simplicity, the following uses “magic,” but equally, it tends to apply to all other para-natural power forms and supernatural effects.
High Magic zones exist where magic is very prevalent. By definition, HPE-L worlds are High Magic zones. Magic is relatively to extremely common on systems or world with High Magic. A High Magic world will almost always have some sort of magical traditions, magic and supernatural creatures.
Most typical star systems are Low Magic zones. Low Magic worlds do not impede the use of magic or other supernatural abilities. At the lowest end of the spectrum, some Low Magic places may, at most, reduce the rate than mana re-accrues from the low background magic. In general, magic-users and supernatural phenomena are rare in Low Magic areas. Magic is often rare to the point of near-myth and there are often few, if any, truly powerful spellcasters. In many cases, no magical phenomena appear at all, or so vanishingly rare as be thought of as urban legend. In some of these places, superpowers or supernatural phenomena are more prevalent, but magic itself is unheard of and unknown.
Minimal magic zones have so little background magic that only the weakest of magic effects can function at all, and the restoration of magical powers is drastically reduced. Minimal magic zones almost unilaterally never generate any spell-casters or para-natural phenomena and are functionally entirely mundane if no outside supernatural phenomena are brought in. Most HPE-E worlds (that is, Harbinger Probability-Engineered Earth-paradigm) fall into the upper end this category, with only a couple reaching into the bottom of Low Magic.
Null Magic zones are extremely rare, and are usually only found in smaller pockets. In a Null Magic zone, no supernatural abilities can function at all, and magical reserves will tend to dissipate into nothing over time.
The functioning of magic itself is best envisioned as akin to running an internal combustion engine. A spell is like the engine, a manufactured unit, made via the caster’s incantations. This is the bulk of what casting a spell does, creating the magical engine with which the mana will provide the desired effect. The spell is fuelled by the mana, which acts like petrol, being used up as the spell continues. The amount of mana used in the casting of the spell is like filling the tank; the duration on an effect from a given quantity of mana represents the ‘fuel economy,’ with a more powerful spell caster getting more ‘mileage.’
So the first stage of casting a spell is to create the ‘engine’ (weave the spell itself), followed by ‘fuelling it’ (using mana). Finally, the spell is initiated by the caster (like turning the ignition key) which starts the spell running and it takes effect. Most of this happens so fast the stages are not noticed, however.
Dispelling a spell is like destroying the engine. Anti-magic will, in effect, turn the engine ‘off’ while within the area of effect. In a Null Magic zone, the ‘engine’ loses its ‘oxygen’ to burn and will stop.
In the case of a constant effect, like a magic item, there is a very long initial set-up phase (the item enchantment), but very low mana cost as constant magic items have an infinitesimal mana requirement. They will run out of ‘fuel’ eventually, but it is usually measured in terms of centuries, like material half-lives. For example, a magic sword might take many thousands of years to burn up its initial mana (which is put in during the creation process). It is possible, though it takes a rare skill to do so, to ‘recharge’ such an item. The spell, the ‘engine’ itself would be intact as long as the form it was enchanted remained. Disposable item like potions and scrolls tend to age and fail most quickly; potions tend to spoil or evaporate long before the magic would fade; however that change of composition or lack thereof ruins the magic within. The same is true for books or scrolls, and eventually other magic items made of corrodible materials as well.
Fundamentally, magical (and para-natural) effects are produced by the manipulation of the mana (or other power source) across the substrate of the background magic to create a specific effect. For the vast majority of casters or other para-natural ability users, this is manipulation not a conscious effect. In the case of a spell, the words and gestures (and sometimes intention and emotion) act in sympathy with each other to create a result far more complex than its components. (In the same way a biological mind performs complex trigonometric calculations to catch a thrown ball without understanding the maths behind it.) Innate magical abilities take this manipulation to an even more complete level.
It is only with the aid of extremely advanced technological assistance (allowing a fine enough perception) that the mana can be manipulated into form in a direct fashion. To use another analogy. It is the difference between anyone being able to use a computer and a trained technician being able to build a computer for a specific purpose from components. But even a trained technician cannot create new components without access to (several) factories.
Even in the Aotrs, this direct manipulation of mana into spell form is extremely difficult. Mana-moulding, as it is known, is functionally the creation of a new spell on the fly, by using known components and various tricks learned over the centuries. It is extremely difficult and incredibly dangerous, and it only taught to very powerful and capable spellcasters, and even then it stands an alarming chance of going wrong. It has been aptly likened to attempting to create an improvised explosive in the dark by only touch.
A creature that could use this direct manipulation would have to be a highly advanced technological one with an equally high understanding of magic. There are no confirmed cases of any such existing; though the Aotrs suspect there may be one in one of the galaxy’s most technologically advanced powers, based on empirical data.
The Magic of the Aotrs
Within these fundamental lines, magic is, like technology, something that can be highly variable in form across the galaxy. But, like, technology, common forms based on convergent properties tend to emerge (especially given the prevalence of HPE-L worlds from Harbinger probability engineering).
The form of magic most prevalence in the Aotrs is learned, rather than innate. This type magic requires manipulation of magic through spells, drawing from a reserve (which almost all creatures that are not specifically anti-magic naturally possess) which is generally termed a mana pool. Unlike some forms of casting, this does not require memorisation of a discrete spell in the caster’s mind to be expended like a spell from a scroll, nor does it require any material focusses (though they can be of benefit). Once learned, a caster can cast the spell as long as their mana reserve remains.
This sort of magic (technically “erudite mana-valanced spell-casting magic” though this is only used in very technical applications) is the most common in the known galactic community. It is divided into approximately five broad categories – Ambient, Divine, Mind-Magic, Arcane and Prosaic.
Ambient magic draws power to the caster’s reserves principally from the background magic, and is expressed by the caster into form via the spell’s casting – either by learned rote, or in the case of innate casters, through instinct. This is the traditionally form of magic ascribed to wizards or mages or sorcerers and their ilk.
Divine is the magic of and derived from deities. Here, rather than create the spell themselves, the caster provides the mana for the spell and makes what is fundamentally a complicated prayer, but the weaving and initiation of the spell is actually undertaken by the deity itself. To be strictly inaccurate, but illustrative, a divine spell may be conceptually reduced to the caster saying “dear god, here is a big handful of magic, please hit that gentleman twenty feet away from me and ten paces to the right with a big ball of fire.” Though the deity is aware on some level of the spells being cast, and could consciously choose to block if they wished, the deity is not typically consciously aware (nor would want to be) of every spell they are granting.
This is why divine casting is generally not as restrictive in regard to armour, since the gestures that actually weave the spell are, in essence, just being out-sourced from the caster. The request/prayer (the spell) is perforce of a simpler form than a spell an Ambient caster has to weave.
Mind-Magic (as opposed to psionics, a different, but related, paranatural field) is channelled through the caster’s mind and brain. This is similar to the way in which deities themselves manifest spells, but on a microscopic level. The limitation is that not requiring so many (or any at all) gestures or wordings confines the versatility of the mind-magic user to generally much less overt effects – though it inherently lends itself to affecting other minds with greater ease than either Ambient or Divine magic.
Arcane is an older from of magic, from before the previous three were separate fields. It is broadly more powerful, but hard to find and to learn. Furthermore, most sources of Arcane magic are more difficult to control and more unstable. In only one or two powers (including the Aotrs and the United Concorde of Divine Realms), all of which have a very significant emphasis on magic, has Arcane magic been refined with modern spell-casting safeguards and is more readily available.
The final category, Prosaic, is not so much a separate form of magic, but covers sufficiently simple and low-power effects that they are very easy to learn for anyone.
Within this form of magic, spells are classified into levels. Spell levels are fundamentally discrete packets of energy, not dissimilar to electron valences. A given caster will usually have a maximum level of spell, based on their experience and power, they can safely cast, but if they know a spell, they can attempt to cast it regardless of level. However, casting a spell beyond their safe level rapidly becomes extremely dangerous, as the caster can easily lose control and suffer all manner of deleterious effects. It is even possible to attempt to cast spells without sufficient mana reserves, but this is even more dangerous.
The spells within reach of most average casters throughout the galaxy tend to range between levels five to ten. Notably, the Aotrs-standard Lightning Bolt, taught to many Line, Drop and Power infantry in lieu of a light anti-armour disposable weapon, is level 10. Level 20 spells are extremely powerful and this is generally considered the break-point to be considered truly epic or powerful as a caster. Lord Death Despoil is known to capable of safely casting at least level 100 spells – whether he has any higher level spells at his disposal is a matter for conjecture. This makes Lord Death Despoil one of the strongest casters in the galaxy that has been measured. (This is, as Lord Death Despoil himself would observe, distinctly not the same thing as being one of the strongest casters in the galaxy, period.)
Given the valences of spells as being known energy packets, and that the efficiency of a stronger caster scales linearly in the effects a spell can produce from this energy and the capability to directly measure magical strength numerical with sensors, it is possible to determine an efficiency or “strength level” for a caster as well. (It is one of the instances where life – or in this case, unlife – mirrors art, to a degree.) It should be noted, however, that unlike the “caster level” in a game, a magic-user’s recorded caster strength level is a derived functional aggregate. Like most things in the real world, it is far more granular and complicated, and not a convenient whole integer. (Though for conversational convenience, it often is rounded – to what degree often depends on the caster themselves!) Among the reasons are that a magic-user’s caster strength level may vary from type of magic or even from spell to spell, and is much more prone to fluctuate in circumstances or in the moment (though in general, caster levels rise with age and experience). And further, while there is very generally a close correlation between a given caster’s safe casting level and their casting strength level, they are not one and the same.
With millennia of refined techniques behind them, the Aotrs can teach access to magic via spells that can be taught to almost anyone. The Aotrs have divided the spells into “lists”, which is simply a convenient label for collection of related spells of increasing power, learned as a package. It is entirely possibly to learn spells individually; though in many cases, some spells are merely more powerful and refined versions of lower-level ones. Learning such spells without first learning the weaker versions would thus be as much effort (if not more).
These lists have been all adapted for the various divisions of magic, so whether an Ambient or Mind-Magic caster, the same list can be learned by all. For those who are not already casters, this further allows the Aotrs to teach the version that a given person is most suited too.
Aotrs basic training teaches all recruits ten levels of four spell lists – one that deals with animating dead and spirit-binding, a second to do with summoning and controlling a spirit, one to deal with controlling Undead and one set of spells dealing with the manipulation of shadow energy (that is, the privative of light, rather than illusion), including two shadow bolt spells as offense.
Creating a Spirit-Bound lich (the predominate form of lich in the Aotrs) requires animating a body, summoning a spirit and binding it to the body, and so this allows all Aotrs the basic capability to create liches or at a pinch, to restore a destroyed lich to Unlife in a different body. (The topic of Spirit-Bound Liches is one worthy of its own expansion.)
Summoning and controlling a spirit allows necromantic interrogation – and unlike dealing with a living creature, a summoned and controlled soul is vastly easier to force into compliance. A careful necromancer can ensure the soul is forced to comply with both the spirit and the letter of commands, and a powerful one can ensure that, far from resisting, they cannot even try.
Control of undead is not typically ever needed to be used on the Aotrs themselves, but as a weapon to deal with any other Undead that they might encounter. However, sometimes very power necromancers can use these spells to take brief control of someone to assist with a particularly difficult task – Lord Death Despoil is the most common and deft practitioner of this feat. In this case, it is less control and more a direct form of guidance.
The shadow spells provide a measure of direct offense and a limited ability for battlefield control on a personal scale via darkness and freezing darkness.
Aside from these basic spell lists, two others are commonly taught. Almost all primary spell casters learn the various Gate spells (which will be expanded upon later) that formed the basis for Aotrs FTL technology. A significant percentage of infantry troops are taught the Combat Law list, which comprises a set of defensive buffs (shields, magical protections against general spells and light and holy attacks in particular) and several tried-and-tested offensive spells, most notably Disintegration Bolt, Fireball and Lightning Bolt. Fireball often serves as a back-up grenade, and, as previously noted, the Aotrs Lightning Bolt serves as a light anti-tank weapon. Disintegration Bolt is a modern offensive spell for point-targets, which supersedes many of the early similar elemental bolt spells.
However, it must be noted that knowledge of a spell does not equate to proficiency. With the exception of Lightning Bolt, which has the battlefield usage, the other bolt spells on these six spell lists are not overall better than the Aotrs’ personal coldbeams and so are supplementary weapons at best. In practise, most Aotrs liches don’t tend to use a significant amount of magic unless they are primary or secondary casters, but it does give them a wider range of options to fall back on. Of all these secondary options, the most used by combat troops is Animate Dead, to create a screen of cannon-fodder, and even that has only very limited applicability on the modern battlefield. Animated Dead are mindless and so have to be ordered around and generally are only any use in ambushes. The number of casters and bodies required to make a true horde of animated Undead is rare to be able to find in one place on the dispersed fighting zone of armoured warfare (and completely useless in space-faring combat).
Gates, Spells and Technology
If one were to consider the speciality of Lord Death Despoil, one might be forgiven for assuming it was necromancy. Certainly, he is arguably the most skilled necromancer in the galaxy, and one of the most powerful, but necromancy is not his greatest focus. That lies, instead, in portal magic; and specifically in that of interplanetary, interplanar and interstellar distances. And it is from this study, which pre-dates the Aotrs itself, that gave rise to both the Gate spells and Gate technology which move personnel and starships on the local through galactic level.
Lord Death Despoil’s world of origin is unknown. However, it is almost certainly from one of the HPE-L worlds that was involved in the Xakkath Demon Wars ten thousand years ago. A full examination of that topic is worthy of a later discussion itself, so here we will touch on it most briefly.
In that conflict, using a mighty artefact called the Demon Orb, the Demon Lord Xakkath united all the fiends and waged a war on the material plane. Far from being contained to a single world, Xakkath created what was called the Xakkath Pathways. In essence, the pathways linked worlds by sympathetic magic and allowed standard teleportation magics to reach from one to the other. The key factor is now finally properly understood – the worlds created by the Harbinger Probability Engineering were the ones that were similar enough to allow the sympathetic magic to link them. Xakkath was eventually defeated, and the Demon Orb destroyed, and the Pathways decayed, leaving only forgotten fragments of a war at the dawn of civilisation.
Nevertheless, in some places, remnants remain. It is almost certainly a place wherein such information had survived what would have been nearly seven millennia that Lord Death Despoil discovered and which would become the basis for the Gate spells. It was a proto-gate spell, in fact, that allowed him to escape from the world of his birth at the moment of his death to the Elemental plane of Fire and from there to the world known to Aotrs history as Macronis IV, where he met the future Lord Deather and the Army Of The Red Spear truly formed.
Other rumoured remnants of those ancient times or any other form of magic interplanetary transportation are among the highest priority of targets for acquisition by the Aotrs, by methods from small operations to outright invasion and conquest. And so the Gate spells have been refined, slowly at first, and then more quickly and efficiently as magical research entered the digital age as well.
Before the Aotrs developed flight, let alone spaceflight or FTL flight, Gates remained the way in which they moved from world to world. In the beginning, only Lord Death Despoil himself could create a Gate capable of interplanetary transit, and only at great expense of time and energy and complex rituals. Such a mammoth undertaking is still beyond the safe level of most casters in the Aotrs still but the spell itself is now just that – a spell, not a complex ritual casting.
In these early years, Lord Death Despoil would take the Aotrs army from Kalanoth and/or, later, from Fearmore to new worlds via Gate transit, relying on other servitors in his absence when on campaign. Eventually, however, as technology advanced, the Aotrs looked into the void of space. It was natural, then, that rather than develop the more commonly found hyperdrive or even the teleporting warp drives, that the Aotrs should turn their magic into technology and the first Gate drives were created.
This is not so much a stretch as one might think on the face of it. Almost all forms of FTL transport find some way of compression normal space, leaving it altogether – for example, portal-FTL forms like hyperspace or the elenthnar’s GV- space – or via teleportation, such as warp-drive or the elenthnar Dro’Sanla (both purely technological) or even the United Concorde of Divine Realm’s overtly mystically-orientated magitech teleportation.
In the most cursory examination, the Aotrs Gate drive works very similar to other portal-time FTL drives – a portal is opened, a vessel enters and flies through an other-dimensional space over which material space is functionally compressed – and emerges on the other side. The major difference in the Aotrs Gate spells and technology is that the “realm” is entirely artificial.
In the modern era, Gate spells and technology, then, fill in for both FTL transit and the role occupied by the shorter-range teleporters used by other powers. This latter role can be filled by spellcasters themselves, or specific personnel-Gate systems, not at all dissimilar to a teleporter room on a more conventional starship.
An active Gate effect, be it from a spell, a starship’s FTL drive or a Gate-room that fulfils the role commonly filled by teleporters, is all the same in effect – the difference is simply magnitude, size and efficiency. An entry point is selected (within range of the effect) and a destination point, which is chosen by the caster or via co-ordinates for technological systems.
A Gate portal first appears as a white point which expands rapidly to rectangular opening, leading into a nearly featureless white space, that nonetheless imparts a feeling of being a square-walled corridor. The portal and corridor range in size from the smallest at about five feet wide by seven feet high, to the enormous ones opened by supercruisers that can be miles wide. Streamers of pale roiling coloured light spills out from the very edge of the Gate for perhaps a third the width of the Gate portal again. The Gate is only visible (and enterable) from the front direction; from past the 90º point to the side, only the roiling colours can be seen outlining an invisible rectangle. It is possible to even walk through the reverse side of a Gate portal without harm, save perhaps for the shock of finding oneself suddenly standing in front of a corridor that wasn’t there a step ago.
This Gate corridor runs in a straight line to an exit point, and anyone can enter through either portal and travel down the passage. The length of the corridor depends on the scale and efficiency of the technology or magic and the distance traversed. The positioning of the entry points need not face in the same spacial direction (nor even be vertical), so it is entirely possible for a Gate to be opened with both entry points next to each other, facing the same direction, so that one enters the left Gate, travels in a straight line and emerges out of the right Gate, facing the opposite way relative to the material plane than when they entered. Gate transit can also be used both for time or inter-dimensional travel (with correspondingly longer “lengths”), though this requires either high-level Gate spells or a reconfiguration of a starship’s Gate drive. (Such effects are usually beyond most personnel-level Gate systems.)
This flexibility of the Gate technology and spells means it functions much closer to teleportation than typical portal-form FTL. Unlike true teleportation, however, the limitation is that whatever moves into the Gate must do so under its own power. While this is true for most forms of portal-FTL drive and so no true drawback, at the personnel level, it is a limitation. Ground troops cannot be simply “beamed up” as with a teleporter, they have to be able to move into the Gate. (That said, a spell caster or a skilled Gate-system operator can, in a pinch, orientate a Gate such that the entry appears horizontal so things naturally fall into it via the prevalent gravity.)
What the Gates gain over teleportation, however, is reliability and safety. Gate spells and technology are extremely safe, arguably the safest form of FTL transit available, since Gate space has itself been engineered to be specifically non-hazardous. Once formed, the Gate corridor will maintain cohesion even if one end collapses. It is metaphysically impossible for both ends to collapse, as Gate space is essentially self-sustaining while anything remains within it. If one end collapses (for example due to the ship that initiated it being destroyed), the corridor gradually shrinks and essentially gently pushes anything left inside it out of the remaining end before vanishing. Gate space, even when created by a magical effect, is not itself magical. Dispelling an active Gate spell is possible, though difficult – 2700 years of research into spell efficiency and advanced means that part of the spell formula of a modern Gate spell contains basic anti-dispel protections. And even if the spell is dispelled, it will only cause the targeted end to collapse – it is metaphysically impossible to “destroy” an active Gate corridor, nor trap anything with Gate-space.
Gate-space contains a breathable and sound-transferring (to a set cap of maximum volume) “atmospheric” medium that takes the properties of the atmosphere at the entry point or a default standard oxygen/nitrogen mix. This is not precisely an atmosphere, though creatures used to a typical oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere are hard-pressed to notice any difference. In this way, it is entirely possible to leave a starship transiting in Gate space and be able to breath and not be deafened by the noise, while also not having the starship burn up like in a true atmosphere. Despite appearances, the Gate portal’s atmospheric medium does not actually allow passage of true atmosphere in Gate space.
Gravity also orientates automatically, by default, to the properties of the entry point at a set strength of 1G, such that a Gate placed vertically will have the gravity orientated to the “floor,” whereas a horizontally opened-Gate will orientate gravity towards the exit point, essentially making anything that enters falls down the length of the corridor. A starship Gate is set to default to zero-gravity, except for a three-metre 1G field on the “floor” (relative to the ship’s default gravity). The generous size of a Gate compared to the size of the ship that creates it ensures that this does not interfere with normal operations, and an emergency Gate jump disables this feature. Personnel Gate-room systems also typically allow a level of environmental control and orientation customisation settings.
A skilled caster or Gate-operative can modify these defaults, though the more complex the alteration, the more skill is required. It is extremely difficult to modify a Gate’s “atmospheric” medium and gravity of an active Gate, requiring a massive amount of computer skill for a technological Gate and only marginally less for a Gate spell, since it effectively means holding the effect “open” and thus making it more prone to disruption and collapse of the entry or exit point (and thus locking the setting and ejecting the corridor’s contents out one or other end unceremoniously).
Gates are also very hard to block. They will penetrate through most conventional starship shields, requiring the improved and advanced shielding technology such as the Aotrs themselves have to actually stop. In addition, both spells and technology have built-in safeguards. Unlike teleportation spells, for example, a caster trying to enter a region where the Gate cannot form will instead get a warning that the destination point is invalid and abort the spell (with a frequently negligible loss of mana instead of the spell’s full power). Similarly, a Gate spell which would open to a fundamentally hostile environment (such as the heart of a sun, a black hole or crush-depth at the bottom of the ocean) will inform the caster that the destination is hostile and allow them to abort the casting safely or proceed. While these sorts of safeguards would naturally be expected within a technological device, that the Gate spells are themselves capable of such determination shows how incredibly advanced Aotrs thaumaturgy has become.
The most common Gate spells are compiled in the Gate Law list, which is taught to many spellcasters. The Gate spells in that package are by no means exhaustive, but represent the most useful and efficient Gate spells at personal or vehicular (as opposed to starship) levels.
Gate I is a mere level 3 spell. It creates a five-foot-by-seven-foot Gate whose entry point can be within ten feet or within a short distance (assessed at approximately five feet by caster strength level) if in line of sight. The destination can only be within some tens of feet (assessed at approximately ten feet by caster strength level), and the length of the corridor is the material-plane distance reduced by a factor of ten. (This factor is called the distance compression.) It remains active as long as the caster concentrates or a short time (approximately about ten times the caster’s strength level in seconds) otherwise.
Gate III (a level 5 spell) extends the exit point distance to ten times further at the same compression factor. Gate X, a level 10 spell, and marking the limit of the portion of the list that is taught to non-primary or advanced casters, can reach miles based on caster strength levels and at a distance compression of 1% of the true distance. The spells between increase the size of the portal (though Gate VIII and IX are not taught as part of the Gate Law list, have very specific functions.)
Gate XV (level 15) extends the range to hundreds of miles and the ability to cross planar boundaries; Gate XX (level 20) to thousands of miles and travel through time. Gate XXV, at level 25, marks the first point where interplanetary transport becomes possible with an astounding range of approximately three times the caster’s strength level in light-years. By this stage, there are considerably fewer casters capable of using such a powerful spell, but even so the Aotrs has a significant number.
Gate True is worthy of note; currently rated at level 100, it has (as far as been determined) unlimited range and has been recorded as being up to ten miles in dimension. Lord Death Despoil is the only caster capable of using this spell – in addition to the complexities of a level 100 spell that put it well outside the use of most mere immortals, the spells is keyed to him personally, and anyone else trying to cast it suffers catastrophic and fatal thaumic feedback. How much of this is intentional (for some of it surely is) and how much is that it is so fundamentally intrinsic to the Lichemaster’s own mental workings is a matter for debate.
Technologically, Gate drives and Gate-rooms have access to the much greater readily available reserves of starship’s power core and they can create the Gate without having to manipulate mana, which means they can easily reach much further more easily.
This means that the Gate-rooms can comfortably open Gates from ship to surface or ship to ship; current Gate-room technology reaches to about 56 000 miles (or 90 000 kilometres) both for infantry and for vehicles.
However, the enormous power requirements required for interstellar distances mean that even a starship must charge up a store of energy (held in a capacitor) to meet the output level. The longer the distance, the longer the time required to re-charge the capacitor. An Aotrs starship can thus make a lot of very short hops quickly (such as in-system), but will require a longer time in realspace to charge between jumping a long distances. These recharge times are significantly less than those that a more typical teleport-FTL requires, though this is of course mitigated by the fact that transit through Gate-space is not instantaneous. In terms of average FTL transit speeds, then, between the time taken to transit and to recharge the Gate drive’s capacitor, the currently 9th generation Gate drive gains the Aotrs a solid 50% increase in average FTL speed over the galactic average hyperdrive speed.
Vessels using Gate drive are additionally capable of making very long, near-instantaneous Gate jumps, resulting in FTL “speeds” considerably beyond what are normal Gate drive speeds. This ability is derived from the principles used in Lord Death Despoil’s most powerful Gate True spell. This severely drains the ship’s power reserves beyond the Gate capacitor, and ensures that after making such a jump a significant refractory period is required. This ability is not common knowledge (if known at all) outside of the Aotrs, and only used very sparingly in emergencies, since it can leave the ship almost or completely without power.
On very rare occasions, Aotrs ships have been known to chain-Gate. Ships will cluster very close together, enough that they can all follow through one ship’s opened Gate. This is not normally done – save for when having to tow a disabled vessel – since it requires the ships to be relativistically so close together and the saving in energy is not worth the vastly increased vulnerability. (Typically, Aotrs vessels deploy at distances of about 60 000-80 000 kilometres (37 500 to 50 000 miles) apart.) One vessel opens the gate to the maximum distance (and size) it can manage with all its reserves, and the ships go through, leaving the vessel behind. Then the next vessel opens a Gate and so on, leaving behind a string of almost or actually powerless vessels for later recovery. This is feasible, since while Aotrs vessels do have life-support (a necessity, since gravity and sound-transferring air aside, living beings can be part of the crew), if all livings (whether biological or technological) are removed from the ship, the Undead do not NEED power to survive, and if the ship is entirely shut-down, while interminably boring, the crew can await rescue. These vessels are generally only left in open space – i.e. not in a solar system – where there chances of being accidentally discovered are small, but where the Aotrs know where they are. (It would take phenomenally extreme circumstances to attempt this if there was even a chance the ships would be stranded forever.) This is still an extremely dangerous position to be in, and thus chain-Gating is only ever authorised by the high-command, typically by Lord Death Despoil himself, and the number of incidents of this technique being used can be counted on the finger of one hand.
Editor’s note: Elements of the 2nd fleet conducted a mass chain-Gate event in November last year (2345) to a classified location far across the galaxy, only a few months before (in May 2346) the sudden and shocking emergence of the Grand Terran Sovereign Republic, which overthrew the majority of all human powers at once. The precise nature of this operation is not known, nor how it pertains to the GTSR, but under the circumstances, is believed not to be co-incidental timing.
Ships of the Aotrs Navy, Part Two
(Note: measurements are taken from bounding box extremities.)
The Midnight class Dreadnought is the most common of the Aotrs capital ships, appearing where most fleets would have battlecruisers or battleships. The Midnight was a late first-wave ship which benefitted greatly from the designs of just a few year’s prior. It combines an excellent turn of speed for a vessel of its size, with a powerful weapon loadout and superior protection.
The Midnight’s prevalence is partly due to the end of the supercruiser era. With the supercruisers finally having stopped occupying the docks and supplies, the Aotrs had an abundance of engineers and shipyards now used to building larger ships. As typical for the Aotrs, a skill-resource is never squandered and many of these shipyards set to building Midnights. The Midnight fills many of the supercruiser’s roles in miniature. It is in many ways, then, the spiritual successor to the supercruisers.
The Midnight often serves as a command ship for smaller fleets and a ship of the line in large ones. It also often deployed in its own as commerce raider, at which it excels; as few convoys are prepared for an ambush by a dreadnought. Military supply convoys have learned to dread the sudden appearance of a Midnight bearing down upon them, like a battleship of ancient times.
The Midnight’s armaments start with the two massive Class 30 warhead launchers in the bow. Thrice the size and power of the typical warheads used by most of the fleet, the Midnight’s weapons can devastate an opposing target from range. In addition to the heavier missiles, capable of punching though armour, the Midnight’s larger tubes can fire heavy torpedoes, capable of tearing right through both shields and armour before detonating. The Midnight typically has a further range of munitions available to it in its cavernous stores.
Once a target is softened up by long-range fire, the Midnight can close into the range of its numerous heavy coldbeam turrets and emplacements. A little closer still, and the opponent, likely now badly damaged and bereft of shields and armour, is easy prey for the dorsal energy beam cannons in their double turret mount. Both beams can rotate independently of each other and the main turret platform itself, allowing a wide range of potential applications or targets to be engaged.
In one notable instance, the LSS Annihilating Execration was tasked to retrieve valuable equipment (of a classified nature) from an asteroid base. Captain Skyslaughter manoeuvred the Annihilating Execration so that the asteroid base was above it, and fired the twin beams vertically, while spinning the main turret. The twin beams neatly cored the station around the vital gear like an apple. By then corkscrewing out the beams, the dreadnought sliced apart and scattered (due to the direction of the force) the rest of the asteroid and the base with it. The cored section was then easy to simply grab with the Annihilating Execration’s tractor beam and tow away at leisure. This attack has been successfully conducted on at least two other occasions on a large enemy capital ship and once against a swarm of surprised light vessels by other captains taking Captain Skyslaughter’s example.
Finally, the Midnight has a dedicated point-counter measure system and a plethora of anti-fighter turrets. It originally had half as many of these, but improvements and refinements to the engines as the new 10th generation engines were shaken down allowed a little more mass to be added with no let loss of drive power or drain on the power core.
In 2345, the Midnight family completed its first full upgrade. Further power plant advancement enabled the ship’s engines to be upgraded for even more speed. This was facilitated by the Midnight’s supercruiser ancestry – having learnt the lesson the hard way about how large components like power cores could become difficult to replace on large ships, the Midnight’s was designed in modular sections, so that dismantling it and removing and replacing it did not require cutting apart the entire ship to get to it, and could even be done segment-by-segment. Despite a 7% increase in mass, the Midnight was a third faster, and with additional power to add 6% more shielding.
The Midnight has two principle variants in the field, the Midnight A and D (which will be covered at a later date). There are other variants of the Midnight believed to exist or be planned, but no concrete information about these vessels is known.
Bloodsteel Assault Cruiser
The Bloodsteel is primarily a heavy warhead platform. Sporting currently the largest warhead launcher class in the starfleet, fully 20% of the Bloodsteel’s mass is taken up by those weapons. A torpedo from one of the Bloodsteel’s launcher can smash through a typical vessel’s shield and armour and deep into the hull almost as well as a heavy railgun slug, and even if the vessel survives, there is a strong chance the impact will send it spinning.
The Bloodsteel is an early 10th generation warship. The position of the warhead launchers on wings echoes the position of the massive coldbeams on the wingtip of the Chillbone and Liche’s Wrath – and for the same reasons. While the typical 10th generation warheads are not themselves volatile, the Bloodsteel’s mission profile is designed to accommodate a wider variety of munitions than the other warhead-carrying vessels. This includes and custom-built or situational warheads; which often can be volatile. Secondly, as on the Chillbone and Liche’s Wrath, the wings serve as runic core to focus enchantments. In this case, the Bloodsteel’s are all focussed towards bestowing appropriate magical effects to the warhead launchers when required – meaning the Bloodsteel can fire, quite literally, magic missiles. The occasions where this is necessary do not come up often in starship combat, but are another weapon in the Aotrs arsenal against potentially marauding divinities or extra-planar threats.
Safe, conventional munitions are carried in magazines under the wings. With a little artful manipulation of internal gravity to orientate it parallel to the wing and perpendicular to the launcher, the Bloodsteel’s massive magazines can rely on mechanically-assisted gravity feed – making it one of the largest gravity-feed weapon systems in the galaxy.
The Bloodsteel carries some medium-range coldbeam turrets to support its warhead launchers, and numerous coldbeam turrets for point-defence. As a high value target, it has strong evasive capability, powerful shields and a point-countermeasures system to further protect it from missile fire.
One of the earliest ships of the current 10th generation, the Frostbeam is a straightforward combat vessel, capable of performing both attack and escort roles.
The Frostbeam is armed with several light coldbeam turrets for point-defence, but its main offence are the two coldbeam turrets. It is very well protected for its size, and boasts good manoeuvrability. However, the Frostbeam’s turrets were not particularly powerful, and only suited to mid-to-close range work, which exposed them to greater risk of damage and destruction.
In 2335, a prototype Frostbeam-A upgrade was developed. This used more recent advances in coldbeam technology to replace the turrets with upgraded version, doubling the range at the expense of slaving them together for effect. This improvement in performance was considerable, and while it meant the turrets were more vulnerable to being knocked out – destroying one would disable the other, due to the linked power systems – it allowed the Frostbeam As to function as support and escort for other cruisers and still be able to contribute to the battle and to be able to engage on their own from a safer distance. By 2341, all remaining Frostbeams had been refitted to Frostbeam A variants. Frostbeam losses saw a corresponding drop.
The Subterfuge Scoutship was originally conceived as a scout vessel, but in practise became a supplementary warship. The Subterfuge uses “reconnaissance by observation” rather than by an advanced sensor array. While it has improved sensors compared to most Aotrs warships, it is only a small improvement, and mostly in the passive portion of its sensor array. Rather, the Subterfuge will directly enter a system to observe what is present around and rely on its considerable speed to extract itself from danger.
The Subterfuge is not with teeth, however. The first Subterfuges that rolled off the assembly line were armed with a single ventral energy beam turret, capable of engaging targets with the forward 180º arc. Combined with its shields and speed, the Subterfuge is extremely dangerous to other ships of its own weight class. Though the weapon is only short-ranged, the Subterfuge’s speed and manoeuvrability – comparable to some fighters – allows it to easily get into position to fire. In a mass battle, a swarm of Subterfuges can close to range and “disembowel” a hapless enemy with its energy beams; but only if other vessels have first weakened it by stripping the shields and armour. Against shields and armour, the Subterfuge’s effectiveness unsupported drops sharply, even as a pack.
The Subterfuge was also initially very vulnerable to missile or fighter attack. Advancements and optimisation of the engine patterns allowed the addition of a small Point-Defence Missile (PDM) rack at the top of the vessel, which was later improved with the addition of light coldbeam turrets. These refits were implemented fleet-wide as typical Aotrs policy, on rotation. Despite these improvements, the Subterfuge still struggles against heavily shielded foes. However, the addition of the missile rack, small though it is, affords the Subterfuge the possibility of replacing the PDM rack with another missile type, though at current this has not been attempted.
The Subterfuge is one of the most numerous vessels in the Aotrs fleet, and with the mid-generational improvements, it is more dangerous than ever in a wolfpack.
Bloodsteel Assault Cruiser
Photos of Replicator 2 versions.
Next month, we will have wave three, and take a look at two broader, but related, topics that have been mentioned – Harbinger probability engineering and the Xakkath Demon Wars!30/10/2020 at 18:23 #146163
Little later than I would have liked, but just squeezing in, here we are with part three, this time touching on two complex topics previously mentioned – the Harbingers and the Xakkath Demon War.
Guide to the Army Of The Red Spear: Part Three
The mysterious and enigmatic Harbingers are the earliest known civilisation in the galaxy. Their earliest located and dated remains date to about two to three million years ago and the Harbingers appear to have reached their apex about one million years ago. Sometime after that, they disappeared. While several candidates for the descendants have been postulated, none have been conclusive.
Dating the Harbingers precisely is difficult, since that technology which has survived to make the attempt on is often sufficiently advanced in material composition it is near-impossible to date via conventional means and so old and alien even unconventional ones (such as psychometry) cannot provide more insight.
“Harbingers” is even a modern appellation, by some consensus only, and even then there are regional variations and various suffixes applied; and that is just the powers who speak Galactic English. The Royal Elven Kingdom labels them “Syenetheti,” (lit. “precursors”) the Shardan call them “Lartensar” (lit. “Ancient Ones who were First”) and even the Cybertanks have been known to discuss “Species 000”. It is certain that the elenthnar powers also have their own name too, though contact is too scant for that to have been revealed.
It is unclear as to whether the Harbingers were one civilisation or a succession of civilisations, but they were at the time, the only known activate sapient/sentient power. At the height, the Harbingers had a command of technology that has been unrivalled until modern times and the absolute tip of the most advanced modern powers and in some ways, not even then. The Harbingers seemed to have a preoccupation with particularly esoteric fields of study, though magic does not appear to have been among them, notably, almost, by its absence. Rather, it was the sciences of hyperspace, temporal and probability manipulation, dimensional compression and creation, teleportation and other, even stranger fields.
Their remnants are scattered throughout the known galaxy, and possibly even beyond. Most are located on planets, in tucked-away places, often seemingly at random. A few more are located in space and not a few in the void of intersystem space between stars where ships don’t generally travel in real-space. That there are working facilities at all speaks to the extreme durability of the Harbinger technology. These remnants, however, are usually extremely dangerous places. Aside from the dangers presented by tens of thousands to millions of years old exotic technology, sometimes in a dangerous state of decay, the facilities are often guarded by robots of various sorts, all of which are armed with exotic weaponry and a shocking propensity for violence to intruders.
These robotic defenders have been encountered enough that their most common form, that of a gravitic cylinder-shaped combat unit, which was so prevalent and successful across so many millennia, it has been echoed in derivative form by powers as far apart as the Herosine Empire’s Psiloi Gravitic Orb Scout and the Phystyulon’s TAV-98 Armed Robot Scout.
It is possible that the facilities that did survive were not “civilian” in origin, with the more degradable such places having simply been lost to time, but that is far from a certainty.
Despite the condition of the facilities, actually getting data on the Harbingers themselves is extraordinarily difficult. Even with the heights of Harbinger technology, data is lost or corrupted after countless millennia. This is further compounded by an extraordinarily complicated language and an even more complex computer language (and perhaps more than one, intermingled so thoroughly as to be indistinguishable). That any data can be gleaned at all is based on the collaborative work in creating translation algorithms by numerous modern powers. Even the Aotrs have occasionally contributed, as have the likes of the Shardan Marauders, at the top of the technology scale.
Very little, then, is known of the Harbingers themselves. They pre-date the existence of all contactable divinities. Their facilities are almost all metal and technology, and purely decorative organic material long since having past, leaving no clues. They were as post-scarcity society, so there is little clutter and artefacts to be found and what might have once been there is likely to have been cleaned away by the robot maintenance drones – many now long-deteriorated themselves.
We know from inference that they were approximately humanoid, and shared a preference for a terrestrial oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere. (In fact, from the later discoveries, it may be more appropriate to say that humanoids are approximately Harbingeroid and often share the Harbingers’ atmospheric preferences.) Beyond that, no data of what a Harbinger actually looked like has ever been recovered – to the point some scholars suspect the Harbingers had some form of racial paranoia about storing such data without an now-impossible-to-break encryption cypher, if digitally at all.
Their mind-set is similarly alien. The facilities that remain often perform odd functions, such as collecting and storing examples of life over thousands of years (sentient, sapient or otherwise), running strange devices, doing things that are not understood. If one can avoid the robots, many Harbinger facilities display further oddities, like the lighting changing colours seemingly at random, changes in gravity. It is unknown whether this is by intention or merely effects caused by the extreme age of the sites – or perhaps some combination of both.
Some Harbinger sites that have been discovered are hidden away behind enormous stasis fields, keeping whatever is within sealed away beneath an opaque silvery dome of energy in a state of temporal suspension. Not even the most advanced of the modern powers have ever been able to crack on of these places before their allotted time is up. What might lie beyond such fields is open to conjecture – Harbingers themselves, hordes of robot soldiers, or perhaps even things the Harbingers themselves sought to seal away. The vanishingly few occasions where a facility has unsealed or something has garnered a response to too much probing have all almost invariably lead to disaster. It has become near-unilateral policy for any power to monitor these places, but leave well alone.
It has long been questioned why the Harbingers were the first civilisation. Surely, it has been said, in a universe as old as ours, why are there not remnants, clues, fragments of older civilisations? The leading theory was that it simply took that long since the creation of the universe for a civilisation to develop intelligent life, but to many, this was a hollow theory, backed only by the lack of any evidence.
It was only in 2329, not even two decades ago, that finally a breakthrough discovered was made, that not only shed a little dim light on some of the mysteries of the Harbingers, but on several other pervading mysteries of the galaxy. But, like much of the discoveries of the Harbingers, it raised more questions than it answered.
Due to pure chance, a group of adventurers discovered a late-era Harbinger facility with a functional teleporter pad, leading to a chain of events that lead to the discovery of a deep-space station designated the Omicron. (This, too, was an appellation, rather than the Harbinger’s name for it.) The Omicron was built about a million years ago. It was a vast machine, several miles wide and tall. Initial information seemed to suggest it was able to bend space and time to allow instant travel throughout the universe, at any point in the past, present and future. It was also supposed to be capable of manipulating space and time in other, less obvious ways, the recovered information suggesting being able to create planets and solar systems at the drop of a hat, or turn one into a floating pile of gases.
It was apparently lost in deep space, either due to some suggestion of internal struggle – this was roughly the point at which Harbinger civilisation began to decline – or perhaps AI malfunction or decision. It reportedly could cloak itself, but it was implied that the temporal systems were heavily damaged when it left.
The actual recovery of the Omicron was conducted by the most elite of the most advanced good-aligned powers, due to the extreme dangers, both on the personal and technological level. During the recovery operation, it was necessary to permanently destroy and disable the most dangerous systems to avoid such small problems of the universe being inverted – and further to ensure that no-one who might use that power again would be able to get their hands on it.
Nevertheless, a great deal of information was recovered, and this was freely shared around the galactic community. How much of the truly dangerous science was retained by these powers is a matter for conjecture, but considering the enormous potential for damage – if, for example, the Strayvians or the Cybertanks got hold of it – some things are perhaps left buried.
This was reinforced by the discovered of exactly the kind of power the Harbingers truly had – the discovery of Harbinger Retrocausal Probability Engineering.
Harbinger Retrocausal Probability Engineering
At its heart, retro causal probability engineering is the process of making everything be the way it always was. It allows the manipulation of past probabilities at the sub-quarkic level across possibly the entire universe, to create the present. It is not revision of history, because it always would have happened, but it is effect before cause. Unlike the comparatively “simple” changes in time-mutable areas that can create alternate timelines, the effect of probability engineering is completely impossible to detect, since it literally always existed in the timeline. One could not activate the device to effect a change to history, then, since it would mean that reality would always have been that way. This may sound at first useless until one realised that the universe we exist in has already been manipulated by this engineering. There is no “before” this engineering, because it always was; if “before” was possible, it would not merely have been wiped from existence, it never would have existed at all.
A power such as that is truly frightening to comprehend, more so when it is clear that Harbingers apparently freely used it. It has caused not a small degree of concern in some of the deities of the galaxy, to realise that, even if they created their worlds, they perhaps choose to do so at the behest of probability manipulation that nudged them to make specific choice.
(It is unclear if the Omicron was the device used to effect this power, whether it extended predominantly beyond our galaxy or whether the technology still existed at the time it was recovered. What it certain is that if the technology did, it was absolutely destroyed by the recovering parties (who are beyond reproach on such matters) and put beyond use as impossibly dangerous.)
The Harbingers seem to have used this power to manipulate life – or at least the formation of intelligent life – to roughly synergise to come to fruition across the galaxy in the same geological time period – at least, after they had emerged. This explains likely why there are no prior civilisations before the Harbingers – they essentially secured their own dominancy retrocausally. Whether this was a facet of their apparent paranoia or whether they intended to allow other species as experiments or future servitors is one more riddle posed to us. Nor was this even the most alarming extent of their power.
The discovery of retro causal probability engineering finally explained some of the biggest mysteries – why so many worlds were so alike in habitability, right down to the same set of repeated species. It even, perhaps, offers an explanation to other mysteries, such as the Cybertanks. And it also posed answer to the Mirror Sector phenomena for the first time since its discovery.
The Mirror Sector phenomena was one of the most frighteningly sobering revelations to the space-faring human powers of the previous century, more world-shaking than the discovery of magic when human ships first met the Royal Elven Kingdoms: there was more than one Earth.
The phenomenon is centred around whole sectors of space, varying from a radius of a few light years to the largest pair, nearly three hundred light-years in diameter. At the centre of each mirror sector is the Sol solar system, or rather a copy of it, and the local stars around it. Each Earth has a differing history from a certain point, as if cut-and-pasted from an alternate Reality. Otherwise, in at least the broadest recorded details, they are identical. Deep, in-depth studies have found differences in the minutiae of history, but all the major events are the same to the branching point.
These alternate sectors are quite far apart, which is why the phenomenon was discovered only quite recently. Currently only three of these Earths are known to be at an FTL-capable level. Only the three FTL-capable Earths, two occupying the largest discovered mirrored space sectors, are close enough to have met by the FTL speeds of the majority of the galactic community.
It is impossible to know whether any of the Earths are “original” or “copies,” since by the very nature of probability engineering, they were all created at exactly the same time and none is less “real” than the others.
This, then, is the most potent observed power of Harbinger Retrocausal Probability Engineering. They reached back in time, to the point where the stars were still fluid and altered probabilities, altering the random chances for matter to coalesce into the desired (and existent) patterns. There appears to have been an “end point” in mind for each of these patterns, wherein the histories start to diverge in very obvious ways. It is not clear why the breaks appear where they do, as they appear to be different for each mirror sector and the Earth it contains.
We do not know how many of these mirror sectors the Harbingers created, given the distances between them. It is likely not a co-incidence that the largest two we know of are close enough to discover each other eventually (if the Harbingers wanted to observe what the Earths would do when they met).
The complexity of creating probabilities so close and tapping into the power to historical inertia so that it produced results such that objects, places and even as far as can be determined, people, were mirrored to the point of being all but identical to the molecular level is terrifying. In a very real sense, none of the mirror sectors are “copies” as such: while they may have been created to a pattern, and historical inertia had its sway, the results are as real as they can be and the choices the peoples made were their own – albeit ones they would have always chosen based on who they were.
For some time, it was believed that Earth was the only planet subjected to the Mirror Sector phenomena (which did not help the most humanocentric human’s viewpoints), but very recently, information has been discovered that the elenthnars also have discovered Haron/Urrot-centric mirror sectors as well. This leads to the possibility – even probability – that there are more than two worlds subjected to this apparent grand experiment by the Harbingers.
Harbinger Retrocausal Probability Engineering is also now known to be the root cause why there are so many planets which share near-identical habitability – same oxygen-nitrogen atmospheres, the same day length, nearly the same year length, the same gravity. It is believed that the creation of such worlds might even be “spill-over” from the main thrust of the probability engineering, whether accidental or deliberate. It explained why there were so many “fantasy” planets which shared so much in common in species, magic, flora and fauna – and perhaps why places such as Earth had myths and legends to term “fantasy” in the first place. It explained why some languages were identical across the galaxy, even for places that it would not make sense.
In the decade following the Omicron’s discovery, a concerted study was made to categorise the worlds by the level of Harbinger probability engineering.
The broad umbrella of HPE covers all the worlds that have that same habitability. Beyond that, there are several paradigms.
HPE: HPE worlds without a further designation are ones which share the habitability and some of the flora and fauna, but which are geographically diverse, and typically only have one intelligent species (later artificial life notwithstanding).
HPE-L: Lellantisiroloth paradigm. This covers the “fantasy” planets; all the worlds which are geographically diverse, but have much of the same flora, fauna and intelligent species in common, and as well as a high background magic level. Variances occur, but in the grand scheme of all probabilities of what a planet COULD be, these are comparatively minor.
This paradigm was named for the Royal Elven Kingdom’s homeworld, where the study was first conducted, Lellantisiroloth being the easiest and safest HPE-L world to perform such a study on. Some of these worlds are cosmologically linked to “local” planar realms, despite their real-space distances, and there are several such cosmologies. The HPE-L worlds are intrinsically linked to the Xakkath Demon Wars. This is by far the most common discovered paradigm. The Royal Elven Kingdoms, the Aotrs, the Orc Fearcrushy and the Zirakthargûm Divinity all started on and contain several HPE-L worlds.
Some of these worlds are Tech-Locked , another poorly understood phenomena. A Tech-Locked world is in a state of technological stasis – in all recorded cases, pre-industrial – and existing technology of beyond that period brought in simply fails. While often said to be the work of a pantheon, ensuring a world is protected, many scholars now believe that it may be one more facet of the probability engineering and that the deities local to that world (usually having no contact outside their own cosmology) would never realise their decision to do so was prompted by something else.
HPE-E: Earth paradigm. This covers the five known Earths. They, and the Mirror Sectors they reside in, are functionally (though not quite completely at the finest level of detail) identical in geography, flora and fauna and, until their “branch” point, even history. Only two of the five have anything more than a minimal background magic – one in which this manifests in a limited psionic fashion (Earth-I) and another than manifests with a high proportion of metahumans (Earth-M). The most prominent of the known Earths is the one from which most of the human space-faring powers originate (designated Earth-N). Earth-U and Earth-I are both parts of small interstellar alliances or federations in the local sectors, and due to distances, fairly minor powers. Earth-U is approximately at the same level of development as the wider community, with Earth-I lagging behind a century. Both Earth-M and Earth-E are approximately at the level of the early 21st century; Earth-E is has minimal background magic and has not made official contact with any other powers. It is entirely possible that there are further Earths even further apart.
HPE-B: Borderline paradigm. This category covers worlds which have a very similar (and compatible), but not necessarily identical, habitability index, and possess unique indigenous flora and fauna and sometimes intelligent species. The homeworlds of many other species, such as the Vivrathk, the Shardan or the Jalyrkieons fall into this category. They may be products of probability engineering, or they may simply be “natural” rolls of the dice.
“HPE-HU: Haron/Urrot Paradigm.” This category is more broadly nominal, as there has thus far been little official contact between the local galactic community and the elenthnars. The United Concorde of Divine Realms, while itself based from HPE-L worlds, is sufficiently “alien” to that quarter of the galaxy (there are very few HPE-L in that portion) and has only recently in contact with our local galactic community and thus have only just received this information. Thus they are only just assimilating these discoveries themselves and thus have not yet made the scholarly contacts with their elenthnar neighbours. In principle, it would apply to all pairs of the Haron and Urrot double planet system on which the elenthnars arose. Without the knowledge of more than one of these pairs, Haron (the primary planet) would have been assumed to be an HPE-B. (It is currently not known whether an equivalent of an HPE-L world exists for Haron/Urrot – the rarity of such double-planets would suggest this is probably unlikely, however.)
Despite the discovery of an explanation to the phenomena, we are still left with yet more questions. The biggest question of all is now simply: why? What prompted the Harbingers to embark on a retro causal moulding of the galaxy, perhaps even the universe, in such a fashion? Was it just a grand experiment in quite literal social engineering? If so, did the Harbingers disappearance after so long interrupt it? We may never discover the answer.
But it may yet be out there, in a yet undiscovered Harbinger facility lying in silent space or on some forgotten world, awaiting discovery, or lurking behind the walls of frozen time.
Perhaps the most important question, though, given the power and apparent capriciousness of the Harbingers – do we want – do we dare – to know?
The Xakkath Demon War
Approximately ten thousand years ago, using a mighty artefact called the Demon Orb, the Demon Lord Xakkath united all the fiends and waged a war on the material plane. He fought against the gods, their servitors, and the primitive peoples of the time. Xakkath was destroyed finally by the hero Drispnul on the planet of Voth and his Demon Orb shattered.
Far from being contained to a single world, Xakkath created what was called the Xakkath Pathways. In essence, the pathways linked worlds by sympathetic magic and allowed standard teleportation magics to reach from one to the other. The key factor is now finally properly understood – the worlds created by the Harbinger Probability Engineering, and more specifically, the HPE-L paradigm worlds.
The Xakkath Pathways linked first worlds in the “local” cosmology, through sympathetic magic. As Xakkath become more proficient, this allowed him to extend his reach to worlds outside that cosmology, using, as the basis, the similarity lent by the probability engineering.
The Xakkath Demon Wars were thus fought over uncounted HPE-L worlds. It was a galactic-scale war, all fought without any FTL transit, world-to-world, between the fiends, the gods and the primitive peoples of the age. The signs of the Xakkath Demon War can be found all over the galaxy, from Lellantisiroloth to Kalanoth to Grotfang and beyond.
With Xakkath’s death and the shattering of the Demon Orb, the Pathways decayed and almost all knowledge of them faded in the ensuing centuries.
Given the primitive state of the civilisation of the galaxy – synergised, it would seem, by the Harbingers – records are few and far between. While some societies, since fallen, had written records, most of them were still in the Stone Age, still in the stages of hunter-gathering or only in the earliest stages of farming. This problem is further compounded by planets in the war being Tech-Locked and unreachable by modern scholars (though the magically-inclined Royal Elven Kingdoms have made some in-roads via that method). And even the few beings that were alive at the time have difficulty with precise details from so long ago, so even a handful of eyewitness accounts can be somewhat vague.
A full study of the history of the war, then, is likely almost as impossible as a study of the Harbingers. The scope of the war and number of HPE-L worlds involved may never be fully known, especially as not all of the worlds that existed then still do (catastrophes are known to have claimed more than one), and those that do may have no records, or be known by an entirely different name to the scraps that exist – and some simply cannot be accessed to even look.
By the best dating methods available from worlds where it can be actually used, it has been determined that the Xakkath Demon Wars lasted for about two hundred years from start to finish, though its duration on any given world varied considerably. The world of Voth, known to be the epicentre of the war and the place where Xakkath first emerged into the material plane, is Tech-Locked. Voth is known to currently house a small Aotrs garrison (having access via suitable magic), but no particular efforts have been made by the Aotrs specifically into historical research.
However, from the broad history of the world, it is surmised that that the then-gods of the world were killed, and the relative few that reside in the “local” divine realms moved in following the conclusion of the Demon Wars, in part, it is assumed, ostensibly as guardians.
Xakkath never managed to completely conquer any world. Eventually, the fiends were displaced, though in some cases, it was not until after his death that they were finally expelled. Scholars attribute this in part to the continuous opening of new fronts, rather than consolidation of forces. It is clear that while Xakkath was skilled in warfare, he was by no means a prodigy. He was, however, a master politician and it seem almost certain that the continuous expansion was one way of controlling the unruly hordes of fiends (many of which were antithetical in outlook to each other) and concentrating them on fighting an enemy and not each other. With no room for establishing a long-term power-base, and offered a fresh supply of souls to take, in this fashion Xakkath was able to keep the war effort rolling, especially as it took a long time for any kind of organised resistance beyond that on a planetary scale.
It also served his second purpose. One of Xakkath’s most important goals in the war was to move to increasingly disparate worlds on the edge of the similarity, and thus extended further and further the type and variety of worlds he could reach. He never succeeded in getting outside the HPE-L paradigm to HPE, HPE-B or HPE-E worlds, though he was starting to come close before the end. Most notably was the legendary world of Syalin, right on the very edge of the HPE-L paradigm. Syalin had elves and humans, but they were they only native intelligent species and vast majority of its other flora and fauna was not terrestrial outside one single continent. Syalin could only be accessed at all due to an extremely high level of background magic.
Editor’s Note: Access via to United Concorde of Divine Realms historical data suggests a very strong probability that their homeworld of Nurathose could well be Syalin. This would likely be a certainty, but for the simple fact that identical or near-identical worlds are something the Harbingers created, so until historians have chance to reach a definitive conclusion, it remains merely extremely likely.
Had Xakkath taken Syalin, he could have expended much further and the history of the galaxy would have been greatly different. It is not hard to imagine what a rampaging army of demons could have done to a magic-less Earth in the Neolithic period; and it would have been a scene repeated on the homeworlds of almost all the galaxy’s other terrestrial species.
Persistent rumours in the Aotrs indicate that the establishment of a top-secret facility significantly across the galaxy in the past couple of years, followed by the rapid transfer to unspecified placements of the Aotrs most skilled xenoarcheolists and xenoengineers, is related to the Harbingers. It is further suspected to be related to the emergency chain-jumping of the 2nd fleet last year (2345) to locations unknown, prior to the surprise emergence of the Grand Terran Sovereign Republic, with some sharp minds suggesting the sheer dumb luck which the GTSR kept its powers-wide conspiracy secret may not have been natural after all.
Though even more unsubstantiated, it is also rumoured that the facility location is a ruin which pre-dates the Harbingers.
Ships of the Aotrs Navy, Part Three
(Note: measurements are taken from bounding box extremities.)
Traitor Recon Destroyer
The Traitor Recon Destroyer is the Aotrs’ primary sensor ship. As part of a fleet, it functions as an electronics warfare vessel, providing sensor support and electronic counter-measures and serves as a communications hub.
But as often as not, the Traitor will operate independently of a fleet. Equipped with the Aotrs’ best stealth technology, the Traitor can slip quietly into system, hiding near asteroids or moons and keeping watch on nearby conflicts without ever being spotted. Traitors are also known to lurk in interstellar space, listening in on interstellar communications and monitoring those FTL transit routes that the Aotrs’ superior sensor technology can track. In this role, the Traitors are responsible for gathering a significant proportion of Aotrs intelligence. They are considered one of the most invaluable ships in the entire fleet.
In combat, the Traitor is not a soft target. It carries a small but respectable battery of coldbeams, both anti-capital and anti-fighter. It is the only 10th generation Aotrs fleet vessel currently fitted with torpedo tubes (rather than warhead launcher that can use both missiles and torpedoes), slung either side of the ship. Though it might seem as though the tubes were intended to be turreted, in reality, their position allows them to do double duty as additional sensor and communication masts, like the rear bone-like spires. The torpedoes give it a considerable reach that foes might not expect from a recon vessel and enabling it to contribute firepower during a fleet battle.
Given its major role as a long-range stealth observation unit, the precise numbers of Traitors the Aotrs possess is unknown – even on the rare occasions when an individual Traitor is actually detected, identifying it as a single unit for a count is difficult.
Midnight D Drain Dreadnought
The Midnight D Drain Dreadnought was a test-bed for the Aotrs experimental Drain Cannon, work on which started in 2325. The Drain Cannon is a hybrid technological/magic weapon that drains all forms energy from a target. This includes electrical, thermal, life-force and even the energy within atomic bonds. A target struck by a Drain Cannon eventually reaches the point its atoms and molecules cease to hold together and the structure physically decoheres – though typically it (and the unfortunate crew) will have ceased to be combat effective long before that point. Like many of the Aotrs more exotic weapons, the Drain Cannon is an extension of similar function spells at low level.
At this stage, the new technology is currently best suited for a support role against larger vessels or specialised targets, debilitating a target, though not in the same way an ionising weapon would. While an ionising weapon can disable a vessel for capture, a Drain Cannon deals too much damage for use for that purpose in its current form.
At first the Midnight D was confined to a single vessel, the LSS Shadowdrain, which completely replacing the coldbeam armament with drain cannon batteries. After over a decade of testing, the Drain Cannon was been deemed to be at an operational status, and several more Midnight Ds have been constructed. Once at operational status, the refinements to the drain cannon reduced the original mass of the systems. Because of the greater cost of producing the Drain Cannons, the excess mass and power was added to the Midnight D’s shield generators, increasing them by over 30%. All Midnight D Dreadnoughts produced aside from the Shadowdrain itself have been to the 2345 Midnight Upgrade standard, only coming online in the past eighteen months; the Shadowdrain has itself only just completed its own refit in the past six months.
The small number of Midnight D Dreadnoughts will allow the weapon to be appraised more thoroughly in deployment, and if the proves to be viable, further research will be conducted. Such would include scaling back the weapon to fighter, ground and personal weapon scales over the next few decades or perhaps fine-tuning of the energy drain type which would eventually allow it to supplant ionising weapons by doing that job while also retaining a use as a direct weapon. It is likely that, given the prior progression of Aotrs technology, than in a generation or two’s time, if it does prove valuable enough, the system will become an entirely technological one. If it does not prove valuable enough in the field the Drain Cannon is likely to be confined to very specialist usages and eventually mothballed until needed, added to the Aotrs’ bag of tricks accumulated over the centuries, joining such not-quite-failed weapons as the Negative Energy Burst cannons and the Flensing Beam.
Blackhole Drone Carrier
First carrier vessel of the 10th generation, Blackhole Drone Carrier is little more than a pocket carrier designed to transport a single fighter squadron, most often of twelve Foul Wings or six Craters. Given the advances of 10th generation technology, it is both much faster and better protected than similar designs from prior generations, but that merely means its agility is average and its shield-strength above average for its size. The Blackhole sports an unusual ventral drop-launch hangar bay, which in theory makes it less vulnerable to attacks aimed at the hangar.
Its distinctive shield-plates are just that, though not quite in the same sense – they are a holdover from the 9th generation shield technology, where these structures were the primary emitters. Similar devices can be observed on the early 10th generation Howling Void, Bloodsteel and Havoc. Early 10th generational advances rendered further use of these structures unnecessary, and later ship classes ceased using them. (The dismal failure of the first Dark Fear prototype was attributed in part to problems imparted by that system.)
The Blackhole’s main role is to operate in small groups or even independently, carrying its squadron of fighters to perform policing and security operations, particularly with an eye towards stemming small pirate attacks. Early versions had a mix of light coldbeam and small anti-capital ship weapons, but the latter was quickly replaced by additional light coldbeams. This renders the Blackhole capable of dealing with small groups of pirate fighters quite respectably, even without its fighters, but against modern military heavy starfighters, it requires assistance.
On the larger battlefield, the Blackhole falls into the escort role, using its point-defence systems to support larger capital ships (which in turn, tends to mean the Blackhole itself suffers less fire).
The Blackhole A configuration replaces half of the hangar space with troop quarters, and hold typically six Fallen Soul multirole AFVs (most commonly in their ship-side role as boarding pod) or a single Murder Fighter Cruiser and a pair of Dirge War Droid Transports. Half of the coldbeam weapons are also replaced by fighter-scale ion pulsars for disabling enemy vessels. Blackhole A vessels are almost exclusively used in the policing operations and are not common in a fleet battle unless capturing an enemy ship is a specific objective.
Even more rarely seen – in both a figurative and literal sense – are the Blackhole –S configurations. The –S is a Blackhole or Blackhole A fitted with stealth systems, used by covert operations units. Not as effective as a full cloak, the stealth system only protects the ship from passive sensors, but this is often the edge it needs to sneak a team in. Blackhole AS are the more common of the two versions. The actual number of Blackhole –S that exist is a matter for debate. Given how rarely they are spotted suggests the number is small – but the counter-argument is the Aotrs preference for surgical, small-unit operations and a successful operation conducted by a Blackhole S or AS means the ship is not spotted to be counted. Some quarters even suggest the name itself (and the way it is a single word, not two), may be a clue to the vessel’s true purpose, referencing not the spacial phenomenon, but a rumoured type of Aotrs covert operation. Lending some credence to the theory is that the –S configuration appears no externally different to observation than the regular Blackhole, so in truth, the regular Blackhole may simply be a derivative of the stealth version.
The Crater looks as though it should lumber through space, but the reality is very different. While it is not as agile as the Murder fightercruiser or Apparition fighter, it is the equal of many fighters half its size and more than most bombers.
The fightercruiser is dominated by the two huge warhead bays that sit to port and starboard. Each one contains a pair of warhead launchers. The Crater’s cavernous bays are highly modular, capable of accommodating all sorts of munitions. Furthermore, its well-concealed and armoured ventral loading doors do double duty for a variety of other tasks, from gravity-bombing ground targets to holding small vehicles or even boarding parties.
The Crater’s normal load-out gives it mix of anti-fighter and anti-capital ship warheads, allowing it to deal with a wide range of targets. By simply changing the composition of the warhead loud, the Crater can perform any mission. Strike, Superiority, Strike Support, Capture and Interdiction missions are common enough to each their own default load-out and many commanders will customise their loads to their own liking, if given the opportunity before a mission.
In addition to the warhead load, the Crater is well-armed with energy weapons as well. It had a dorsal quad pulse-fire coldbeam cannon – an enlarged version of the one carried by the Vampire Lord IFV. Two side-mounted plasma-pulse cannons can rotate 360º in the vertical arcs, which allows it to easily conduct surface strafing runs (on either ground targets or across the hull of an enemy starship). A pair of coldbeams under the nose are supplemented by a pair of heavy coldbeam cannons, one under each warhead bay.
The Crater has a crew of three. The pilot controls the fixed guns, the gunner the turret and the commander typically the warhead launcher, though with the standard Aotrs computer interfaces, each one can do the job of another if necessary.
The Crater is very reliable, easy to maintain and durable. It has fair sensors for its size, and these can be enhanced by a Probe load which has both sensor pods and probes on board. But the Crater’s greatest asset is its flexibility. It is so successful that as time has passed, it has come to outnumber it smaller brother, the Foul Wing.
Standard battle deployment is in a squadron of six, divided three flights of two. They are often supported by fighter escort, but are equally found operating alone. It is also quite common for the flights in each element to act in differing roles.
Traitor Recon Destroyer
Midnight D Drain Dreadnought
Blackhole Drone Carrier
Fleet scale (stand not included)
Photos of Replicator 2 versions.
Next month, we will have wave four, where we will look at Liches themselves and the other races that form the majority of the peoples of the Army Of The Red Spear… Before death, anyway…!24/11/2020 at 17:45 #147397
Before we start, a quick announcement: due to Shapeways “changing design standards” some models can no longer be guaranteed to be printed at Shapeways in their base white versatile natural material. This will only be known when it actually gets printed.
I have had at least one occurrence so far (the Keening Abyss Corvette), and given Shapeways’ approach to customers (as evidenced by the recent “price change” they would not even come out and say was a price increase), I can only expect more.
As such, in such an instance, I will once again note that the models are available by direct sales from me, or at TheShop3D https://theshop3d.com/collections/aotrs-shipyards (and I particularly again point to their excellent resin, which I am increasingly of the opinion is both better and more affordable than the nylon (which is also low-cost than Shapeways.) And again, if such a model is not yet up on TheShop3D or priced in the direct sales catalogue please do contact me, and I will make a special effort to get it ready.
I will ALSO note that TheShop3D has also “changed its prices” on its resin and in this case, down! Next month’s Midnight variant has dropped by about 30% compared to the others. We are working on getting that all worked through to be applied to existing models (their shop-owner backend is still being developed so I can’t do it myself yet), but at least in the short term, anything new will be even cheaper!
And in case you don’t follow the moderns releases, here is some of their resin, 144th scale Phystulon rocket cycles painted up:
Right, with all that preambled out of the way, here we are with part four!
Guide to the Army Of The Red Spear: Part Four
Denizens of the Aotrs
The Army Of The Red Spear state is composed of a wide variety of races and species native to the multiple HPE-L worlds within its borders. Furthermore, due to the recruitment policies of the Aotrs proper, the military has an even wider range, with a handful of members from alien species. A few examples of nearly every race that has been known for any length of time can likely be found somewhere.
However, despite this diversity, the bulk of the populace of the Aotrs in composed of a relatively few races, which we will look at today.
As the most important component in the Aotrs make-up and one least familiar in their capabilities, we will first look into Liches in detail.
(Pronunciation note: “lich” (or “liche” as occasionally spelled, though the ‘e’ is considered something of an embellishment) is always pronounced as to rhyme with “witch” and never “lick.”)
The Aotrs proper (i.e. the military) is composed predominantly of Spirit-Bound Liches. The prevailing make-up of the liches itself is a microcosm of the Aotrs’ overall population distribution. The greatest majority are of former human or elven stock, since these two races make up the largest proportion of the civilian populace (and of the local powers outside the Aotrs), with a smaller proportion of orc-kin.
Spirit-Bound Liches are a form of created Undead. Spirit-Bound Liches are distinct from Phylactery-Bound Liches in that the soul is bound directly to the body, not to a specially prepared artefact. The process of creating a Spirit-Bound Lich is comparatively simple, requiring only spells. Unlike the ritual to bind the caster’s soul to an artefact that produces a Phylactery-Bound Lich, this has one disadvantage that the would-be lich cannot cast these spells on themselves, since to be bound, the creature need to be dead and the soul separated from the body.
It is possible, under very rare circumstances, for a Spirit-Bound Lich to form “naturally.” This requires a necromancer to be killed at the precisely right moment during the casting of the right sort of necromantic spell and the negative energy and magic to intermix in the exactly right way. It is certainly a sufficiently small chance that it would far too risky to try deliberately, but it can happen inadvertently. Lord Death Despoil himself is the result of such an instance and it was his Lichdom that prompted the Aotrs in that direction.
Thus most Spirit-Bound Liches in the Aotrs are created by the Aotrs, using the spells that have been refined over the centuries. Unlike a Phylactery-Bound Lich, who must be a spellcaster to use the rituals involved, a Spirit-Bound Lich can be created from a nonspellcaster. Such individuals are typically referred to as Skeleton Warriors – as the liches that retain any flesh are very few and far between – but this is nomenclature only. As Aotrs basic training requires learning basic necromancy spells (e.g. creating animated undead), only those individuals completely unable to learn magic of any sort – a very rare phenomena – are Skeleton Warriors in Aotrs service. Skeleton Warriors thus make a smaller proportion than even the number of living beings in the Aotrs proper.
A Spirit-Bound Lich is created with the appropriate spells first by animating a dead body as a skeleton (typically the body of the soul in question), summoning a spirit (i.e. the soul or ghost) of a given creature and the binding it to the animated body, transforming it into a Spirit-Bound Undead. The body does not have to be a skeleton – or necessarily, the creature’s own body – but the former is Aotrs cultural preference and the latter is preferred for other reasons, such as Spirit Vessel Will Reinforcement (discussed below). At the most advanced levels, it does not strictly have to be a body at all, though such a binding is beyond the level of the basic Aotrs training packages and is the remit of powerful casters.
The spirit-binding process – like so much magic – varies from world to world, depending on the functioning of magic. The specific version of Aotrs-standard spirit-binding is the most advanced, since it has been refined to perfection over the course of almost three millennia.
Spirit-binding is similar to how a living soul is attached to a body. There are ultimately only so many ways in which a soul can be tied to the physical plane. Consider how to attach two objects to one another. There are, when down to basics, only so many ways of doing so. They can be melded together (e.g. welding), or attached them via some sort of physical link (screws or nails or rope) or stuck together by some sort of adhesive. While the specific details of those methods may vary, the broad conceptual methods are few.
Spirit-Binding in this fashion ties the soul to the body much closer than a living soul’s bond. This close bond allows a lich to consciously and subconsciously affect their body in ways that a non-Spirit-Bound undead cannot. It is illustrative to imagine a typical haunted house scenario, and all the sort of tricks and abilities that a haunted house is often shown to use; the noises, speech, the mysterious lights, blood appearing spontaneously, poltergeist activity (as opposed to a free-roaming poltergeist); regeneration of damaged parts and so on. A Spirit-Bound Lich is in the same position, but “haunting” their own body instead of a location. Because the volume is smaller (and in the case of Aotrs Spirit-Binding, the bond itself much more advanced and engineered), the effect is more pronounced.
A Spirit-Bound Lich on the physical plane appears as a skeleton with glowing red points of light (“eyeglows”) in their eye sockets. (While it is possible for Liches to have other eyeglow colours, it is extremely rare.) These eyeglows convey emotion in a manner not unlike the subset of the living eye and eyebrow. An intense emotion (hate, rage, triumph) will causes the glow to brighten or even spill luridly forth from the eyesockets; quieter, more retrospective moments cause the glow dim soften, perhaps even to a dark pink. The expansion or contraction of an eyeglow is akin to the widening or narrowing of the eye; and a single expanded eyeglow is the equivalent of a raised eyebrow. A lich can even “close their eyes,” which turns off the glow – or to blink. It is thus surprisingly possible to read the emotions of a lich, despite the lack of a facial expressions (or mobile bones, as many inaccurate depictions show), once the differences are understood.
A Spirit-Bound Lich observed on the ethereal plane – especially one who is young (i.e. has not been a lich for very long) will typically appear as a ghostly version of themselves in life. This image is, however, determined by what the soul sees itself as, rather than strictly what it was. An image may appear to be younger, or as the gender, if different from the sex – or in very rare, but not unheard of cases, as a different species. As it is tied intrinsically to a lich’s self-image, over time, most liches naturally transition to their skeletal forms being what they are. And so that is all that will be seen even in the ethereal plane, except to the most observant viewer using appropriate magic or technology – and even those might only be able glean a hazy, half-remembered image.
Powers and Abilities
As is the case with a lot of Undead, the specific powers of one individual can vary considerably, as by the very nature of the effect of the soul on the body, it will manifest in different ways. Aotrs Spirit-Binding tends to produce more standardised result than other methods, but even there, the common abilities may be present to a greater or lesser degree. Age and experience also has an effect.
The general plethora of powers granted to a lich by Aotrs Spirit-Binding run as follows.
• By the nature of the bond itself, it means that a resurrection or other life-restoring spell simply cannot function against a Spirit-Bound Undead, since there is no free soul to restore. Nor can it harm a lich since the bond of soul to body is different from, but analogous to, the bond of a living creature’s soul to its body.
• Extremely high resistance (more-or-less immunity in practise) to almost all forms mind-attack and control. Almost all of these effects typically work on the brain and as well as the mind at some base level, and Spirit-Bound Undead don’t have any actual physical brain structure to work on, nor even an analogue to one, like technological creatures do. As an analogy, a typical mind-control spell would still work on a Cybertank (a xenocidal, tank-shaped technological creature), as they have a brain, just not an organic one; but not on a lich. The lack of physical brain is not the only factor at work in granting this resistance, but one single most important one. But even those effects which do not affect or work in from a physical brain struggle to gain any purchase on a lich’s mind.
• Regeneration of damage from most sources at a rate that varies from several orders of magnitude above natural healing (i.e. damage heals in minutes, not weeks), to outright full body-regeneration, depending on the individual. Portions of the body severed will slide back towards each other and reassemble over time.
This regeneration does not apply to everything – attacks imbued with holy (and/or positive) energy attacks, and attacks which deal heat damage (i.e. fire, lasers and most energy weapons) deal “permanent” damage. “Permanent” damage is like damage to a living creature; it will heal, but at more a conventional rates, akin to a living being’s natural healing rate. By the nature of this effect, it means that positive energy harms, rather than heals, undead in the reverse of what it does to living creatures.
The same process essentially renders a lich immune to most-shape-altering magics. This is not quite a blanket immunity; a lich forced into another form will likewise tend to gravitate quickly back towards their natural form, nor does it stop such changes if they are initiated by the lich him or herself.
As a by-product of this, liches will over time alter their bodies towards their own self-image state. Thus a the body of a female lich bound into the body of a male (either due to having to be bound into the only corpse available or naturally transgender) will over time alter to become female – though admittedly, such changes are likely only perceptible to bone specialists. Similarly, a lich bound not into their own body will over time, will eventually transform the new body into a copy of their old one. The rate of these changes varies, but is typically on the scale of decades to centuries, though body dysphoria can accelerate the process.
• An aura of supernatural fear and awe, as emitted like powerful supernatural creatures (angels, demons, dragons, demi-gods etc.). The size of the radius depends on the individual and their power, but usually starts at about ten feet and is not usually more than twenty or thirty. A lich can simply choose not to emanate this aura if they choose (the Aotrs tend to refer to it as “turning it on/off”).
• The ability to drain the life-force and health of a living creature, on touch, and to a lesser degree, merely by standing in proximity; as a by-product, both of these effects also produce a great deal of elemental cold energy, increasing the harm further. The life-drain is essentially permanent and irreversible, aside from rare magic (or even rarer very high technology) or over a long period of natural healing (as in, often years, if ever completely in a mortal’s lifetime).
These effects are strongest on contact, but, depending on the individual, the radius of effect can vary from 5 feet to much greater. The strength and radius of both these and the fears effects are the most variable of the typical Lich traits and a lot depends on personality, strength and even desire. Like the fear aura, a lich can suppress (“turn off”) one or both of the effects at will, and independently of radius and contact.
A skilled lich can further control the rate of the effect – it is possible, with some training, so stand next to someone and slowly turn the aura up until their life subtly drains away, with the first indication the moment they collapse but seconds from death.
• Because the nature of Undeath and negative energy, the status of Undeath combined with the bond provides significant protection to privatives energies. (I.e. the forms of energy that only exist without magic or high technology as absences of their opposite energy form – cold to heat and shadow to light – and, of course, negative energy to positive energy.)
This grants absorption (i.e. the energy heals, not harms) of both negative energy and elemental shadow energy (i.e. the privative of light, best thought of as being like a darkness-version of a laser). Similarly, a Spirit-Bound Lich is highly resistant (to the point of immunity on a practical level) to cold energy (and totally immune to the harmful effects natural non-energy cold). This does not necessarily preclude the sensation, just any potential harm.
• Considerable innate resistance to magic, psionics and similar supernatural energies.
• Slightly enhanced senses, especially with regard to vision and hearing; liches can see much further into the EM spectrum and hear higher and lower frequency sounds than humans. They can also see the emanations of life-energy coming from living creatures; this ability is best thought of as seeing life-energy as a “colour” rather than an illumination.
• Enhanced speed and strength due to the “haunting” effect, and increased intelligence and the projection of one’s will (going hand-in-hand with the fear aura). The intelligence boost is a combination of both the lack of physical brain capping thought-speed and various other factors (including some inherent boosts laid down by the Aotrs Spirit-Binding spells in addition).
• The “haunting” effect also allows the Spirit-Bound Lich to perform other “minor haunting” effects on their own body – essentially allowing manipulation of the immediate physical world. What this boils down to is that a lich has the ability to do pretty much any action a living creature could do in life (except excrete and perform sexual activity), including eat, speak or sigh in exasperation.
Consumption bears special note. Ingested food does not visibly drop down into the stomach (nor drop out of it like in a cartoon), but disappears into the ethereal body.
As an anecdotal side-note, it is possible to surprise a lich who has just drunk something enough to do a spit-take, but rather than spew out what was just “swallowed,” it either creates or pulls a random liquid from somewhere in the universe. (Again this is due to the “haunting” effect.) Most of the time, it is usually related to what has been consumed (which has, of course, been absorbed and re-radiated as energy on the ethereal plane), but not always.
Comparison to Phylactery-Binding
As a comparison, Phylactery-Binding has only two major advantages over Spirit-Binding. Firstly, and most notably, a Phylactery-Bound Lich is only killed when the phylactery is destroyed. If the body is destroyed, it can re-form. A Spirit-Bound Lich is killed if the physical body is destroyed (by sufficient amounts of “permanent” energy damage). A Phylactery-Bound Lich can also ascend themselves to undeath, whereas a Spirit-Bound Lich needs to be dead (not Undead) so its spirit can be rebound into the body. (In the same way a resurrection spell is used on a living being.)
The former advantage is the most notable, but the trade-off is that, in general, a Phylactery-Bound Lich does not get anywhere near the amount of abilities as a Spirit-Bound Lich.
As their souls are not bound into the body, Phylactery-Bound Liches fundamentally cannot be affected by Spirit Vessel Will Reinforcement. At best, the long-term effects might see a slight benefit to the strength of their phylactery, but no more than this and they are incapable of getting the sudden surges that some Spirit-Bound Liches get. This lack is caused simply by the degree of splitting the soul bind between the phylactery and the body. In theory, a lich bound solely into an object via advanced Spirit-Binding could eventually undergo Spirit Vessel Will Reinforcement, though this would have the obvious mental side-effects on the psyche for being trapped in an object for centuries.
The general cultural consensus held by the Aotrs is that a Phylactery is a good stop-gap measure to avoid death, but being stronger and thus less likely to be killed in the first place (and/or being part of an organisation that will make an effort to get you back even if killed) is more preferable. That said, there are a few Phylactery-Bound Liches in the Aotrs and on occasion, their specific primary talents can prove very useful.
Phylactery-Binding also has several other disadvantages – it is much more risky, can only be accomplished by a (living, usually) spellcaster and requires a large amount of time and money and resources to create the Phylactery. By comparison, an Aotrs-trained spellcaster can create a Spirit-Bound Lich permanently in the time it takes them to cast three (component-less) spells.
Spirit Vessel Will Reinforcement
Spirit Vessel Will Reinforcement or “SpiV-Wi-Re-ment” as it is commonly abbreviated to, is the process by which, over time, a Spirit-Bound Lich ‘s soul’s bond to the body intensifies, granting further and improved abilities, granting increased physical, magical and often mental abilities.
The abbreviation of “SpiV-Wi-Re-ment” was coined on Lord Yeller’s insistence, by all accounts simply because he found it funny to pronounce it in that fashion. Lord Death Despoil, who has never been known for his lack of sense of humour, understated though his own often is, was apparently amused enough made it official. Despite this humorous and perhaps undignified appellation, SpiV-Wi-Re-ment is no laughing matter. (This is, of course, precisely why Lord Yeller found such levity in using such a reductionist absurdity.)
For many liches, SpiV-Wi-Re-ment happens as a very slow gradual incremental improvement that comes along with experience and practise over centuries – indeed, the previously mentioned changes to a lich’s appearance of body is a mild part of the process. It is a passive process that occurs simply by the lich existing; the longer they spend as lich, the closer the bond between soul and bound-body becomes. While training and experience does have something of an effect on lich abilities as with anything else, the increases that come from SpiV-Wi-Re-ment specifically are more to do with subconscious self-image and self-acceptance.
But for some liches, SpiV-Wi-Re-ment can occur in a sudden dramatic leap once every few centuries. As the will portion is deeply personal, such leaps tend to come at moments of drama, or crisis or enlightenment. These sudden instances can and often do have profound effects on the lich, sometimes granting entirely new mutations or powers.
Aside from a spike in physical, mental and magical power, such an occurrence will often feature abrupt changes in body pertaining to sex, species or stature that normally only occurs over centuries. In very rare cases, a lich’s entire body might be transmuted from bone to metal or crystal or a lich might regain (or lose) flesh or develop extra limbs or wings or even might permanently manifest some form of energy like an internal flame or wings of energy. All of which depends on the personality and desires (conscious or subconscious) of the lich in question. Such extreme instances are very rare, but over the Aotrs history they have happened enough not to be particularly remarkable.
For the majority of liches, a sudden SpiV-Wi-Re-ment event is not something that happens until they are already old and powerful, but particularly adept and driven younger liches have been recorded to have such events in mere decades.
It is traditional for the Aotrs, upon ascending to lichdom, to choose a new name for themselves. On a symbolic level, this represents leaving behind what they were, acceptance of their new state, allegiance to the Aotrs and the self-admission that they are, ultimately, joining the unhallowed ranks of an Evil power. It has also, and perhaps not unjustifiably, been likened to a superhero (or more accurately, perhaps, a super-villain) choosing their pseudonym.
There is a certain thematic style which started from Lord Death Despoil himself, and has pervaded through the millennia – one that is rooted in Undeath, aggression and generally intimidating nature.
Rather than strictly a forename and surname structure, these names form rather a primary name and secondary name.
Some liches take only a single (primary) name, which may be one or two words; notable examples of the former are Lord Deather or Lord Yeller and of the latter Lord Foul Skream and Lord Death Despoil himself.
(It should be noted in passing that such two-word names are not a forename and surname, but a single one – thus it is always “Death Despoil” and never “Lord Despoil” nor “Death.”)
In the more modern times – and with the Aotrs being many orders of magnitude larger and thus being less space for uniqueness – it is not untypical to have a primary and secondary name. Sometimes, a lich will retain from life their forename or a surname or both; while the practise of taking a new name is widespread, it is not universal – a good number of liches retain their names in life.
The primary name (which is often analogous the surname for liches with a secondary name) is what the lich is officially called in the line of duty or by friends; the secondary name is used usually only on occasions where differentiation or a full name is required.
Occasionally, this practise is performed by someone who is not a lich, but is joining the Aotrs proper or as a direct sign of allegiance. The most celebrated example is Lord Lungrender, the living Dark Elf who is the head of the Dark Elf Troopers and the primary overseer of the Aotrs civilian administration.
Humans, Elves and Half-Elves
Humans, elves and half-elves are collectively by far the numerically largest proportion of the Aotrs civilian make-up. The pre-space-flight worlds that formed the backbone of the Aotrs were all HPE-L planets and those typically have large human and elven populations. The exact ratio of human, elf and half-elf varies from world to world, with Kalanoth skewing to an elven majority on the one hand and Semilkar to human on the other.
Kalanoth was the first world the Aotrs completely conquered. It was there that Lord Death Despoil met and recruited the Dark Elf known now as Lungrender and his Dark Elves. Once national and racial boundaries common to pre-industrial societies had begun to dissolve following the conquest, interbreeding between the various peoples became a natural facet of society. Like many of the worlds in the Royal Elven Kingdoms, but atypically among HPE-L worlds, the Kalanoth elves blood runs dominant. The Kalanothi Dark Elves in particular have strong genes, and they are ultimately responsible for a disproportionate amount of the ethnicity of the Aotrs-wide elven populations.
In many other worlds, interbreeding of elven and human populations often results in the elven population slowly fading out over time. On Kalanoth, as in the Royal Elven Kingdoms, the reverse is true. The human population of Kalanoth has largely been absorbed over the millennia by interbreeding with the Dark Elves; Kalanoth’s native dwarf and halfling population functionally disappeared quite early, due to interbreeding with both the genetically dominant Kalanothi humans and elves. There are small enclaves of dwarf and halfling populations on other worlds, though they are not large. The human population has only remained in existence as a notable minority at all due to the constant flow of population from other worlds – such as the later conquered Semilkar, with an entirely human native population that has more dominant genes than the humans of Kalanoth.
The boundaries of ethnicity (both of humans and elves) on the oldest worlds have largely been dissolved – ethnicity is typically not given any more thought than skin or eye-colour. However, there remains, especially on worlds more recently conquered, geographical areas of populations of human or elven ethnicities. This is most notable on the shattered world of Tusharnos, where the devastation following the Xakkath Demon Wars broke the planet and left it a world full of valleys and lowlands separated by near-impassable cliffs. Aside from the areas wherein the Aotrs have modernised the world, these self-contained valleys hold their own little civilisations, though all are under the overall control of the Aotrs.
The elven populations of the Aotrs worlds have immortal longevity (in that they do not die of old age). The number of elven ethnic groups on the only two worlds which merely had long-lived elves was always very small; one of these worlds was Fearmore and that population was obliterated when the planet was Scoured along with almost all other life. In the remaining population on Akamo, the trait is recessive (and in later years, easily repaired with minor gene-therapy).
Due to the inbreeding with elves over the centuries, a significant portion of the remaining the human populations outside of human-dominant Semilkar have a marked tendency towards longer longevity even before the application of modern medical techniques, due to trace elven blood. However, with their shorter-by-comparison lifespan, a larger proportion of humans are more motivated to work to enter the Aotrs proper and achieve lichdom than the elves, who can take their time. (This is especially true on Kalanoth.) Thus there is a slight bias in the Aotrs military populations towards former-human liches than former-elven.
Orc-kin are traditionally among the most varied of races commonly found on HPE-L worlds (their classification even varies on local terminology). It is uncertain why this is, when humans and dwarves in particular are so much more frequently identical, and elves show relatively minor physical differences.
As a result, then, the orc-kin of the Aotrs show a marked variation between various worlds. The populations on Kalanoth and Raytayne are functionally identical, with differences no more than between humans of any two worlds. This group of orc-kin (referred to collectively as Kalanothi orc-kin), being among the earliest recruited to the Aotrs and the most favoured now comprises the largest populations of orc-kin throughout Aotrs space.
Kalanothi orc-kin and divided into the four traditional groups of descending builds – orcs, hobgoblins, goblins and kobolds. Orcs are generally slightly taller and more heavily built than humans, hobgoblins about the same height but more slenderly built, goblins about the height of dwarves or a little less (about four to four and a half feet) and kobolds little more than three and a half at most (with the notable exception of Lord Unlucky). All have green to dark green skin colouration. While (originally) culturally brutish and genetically disposed to aggression, Kalanothi orc-kin also proved the most manageable to the Aotrs’ disciplined state. While they can theoretically interbreed with other humanoids, even after the many centuries of cultural hegemonic drift, there is still a divide in the desired qualities of mates between orc-kin and humans and elves. While more open than the other varieties of orc-kin, even Kalanothi orc-kin are still largely de facto segregated into their own enclaves (though they all retain the same legal status and rights as the other species).
Little is now known of the orc-kin populations of Fearmore, as they were wiped out entirely by the Scouring and were encountered only in small numbers of orc bands on the continent the Aotrs was operational on prior to the Scouring ritual. They were believed to be more porcine and barbaric. No notable hobgoblin or goblin races are known, though a small dog- or -rat-like race were locally called kobolds.
The orcs of Akamo were both different from those of Fearmore and the Kalanothi orc-kin. “Orc” was an appellation given to a race which resembles Kalanothi orcs in stature and broad appearance, but was otherwise unrelated. Goblins and Hobgoblins existed close to the Kalanothi standard, and there was a third, larger group locally called bugbears which were significantly bigger than Kalanothi orcs, verging towards ogre-sized. All three groups locally were called goblinoids. “Kobold” was applied locally to a race of small reptiloids. The Akamo orcs proved too chaotic and rebellious and their enclaves were eventually exterminated. The goblinoids remain in small enclaves, but as genetically recessive to Kalanothi orc-kins and Akamo humans, it is only the semi-segregated state that preserves them as a distinct ethnicity. Akamo “kobolds” survive as a minority (as they cannot interbreed with the more prevalent mammalian races), but are now known as “Saraki” (their name for themselves in their own language).
The orcs of Temnis are different again, though in later years it has been discovered that this group is functionally identical to the genetic stock of the orcs of the Orc Fearcrushy from their homeworld Grotfang. The Temnis orcs also are divided into the four traditional analogous orc-kin groups – though in this case, “breeds” is more appropriate. The Temnis orcs are slightly larger, and tougher than Kalanothi orcs (and a little more bestial in appearance) but notably are intellectually inferior the human standard, with only an occasional mutant exception. This is not to say they are truly stupid, exactly, as they can have a certain cunning, but they have a brute-force approach to problem solving that does not gel well with the elite and organised, meticulous approach the Aotrs are famed for. So while they can be more easily corralled and controlled than the Akamo orcs were, they do not generally have the ability to function as part of the Aotrs proper, given their propensity for recklessness and inability to truly grasp complex concepts. The Orc Stormsoldiers retain a few regiments of the more promising recruits as shock-troopers, but otherwise the Temnis orcs are generally confined to their enclaves and left largely to their own devices. Interbreeding with Kalanothi orcs has not had significantly improved results, as neither genepool is dominant.
(It is worth noting in passing that High Shaman Gutrug of the Orc Fearcrushy managing to wield this version of orcs into a space-faring power of slightly-below galactic average technology level through sheer dint of effort over almost twice the length of time the Aotrs existed is an astounding achievement.)
Due to the nature of the Aotrs, there is a small fraction of the populace and thus the military arm that is nonLich Undead. The most common of these Undead are vampires, ghosts, wights and wraiths. Vampires are the most commonly seen serving among regular troops, followed by wights, where the incorporeal ghosts and wraiths tend to serve in support or specialist capacities (though by no means all).
Vampires, notably, are the only group in the Aotrs where there is a culturally-accepted level of animosity between them and other Undead (largely one-sided in their direction). This stems from the typically-held (external) beliefs that vampires are the most powerful (or popular) form of Undead, which is something that apparently aggravates even Lord Death Despoil and the backlash to that thought thereof. This is in the vast majority, confined to good-natured ribbing and vampires occupying the tradition idiot’s punchline role in jokes requiring the rule of three, or centred around the vampires traditionally (and widely known) vulnerabilities (which most other Undead are not subject to). However, it is also notable that the largest contingent of hostile Undead the Aotrs have to occasionally deal with (from outside their own space) is statistically vampires, so there is an element of truth to the adages. (Like everything else, such behaviour is sharply stepped upon if it interferes with duties or imperils a serving officer.)
There is a scattering of every kind of intelligent Undead throughout the Aotrs, including unique Undead (who often because of that uniqueness, are well-placed for recruitment if their personalities match).
Unintelligent Undead see some use. Notably, animated skeletons and zombies (the Aotrs has a traditional preference for the former) are used in many places – most notably the labyrinthine Citadel on Fearmore – for very simple household duties that do not require significant oversight (such as cleaning) where other powers might use a simple robot. Animated Undead, being mindless, are not well-equipped for the modern battlefield. Even the advanced magic of the Aotrs can only impart a relatively limited amount of programming (as animated Undead do not use the soul of the body’s former occupant), working on top of the psychic residue left by the body’s death. This programming is much more advanced than in the early days, but it is still crude. On the battlefield, then, animated Undead are used mostly as cannon fodder, or in ambushes or during a close assault. They are dangerous enough that an enemy force can’t ignore them, but into doing so, they have to expend ammunition and worse, be pulled out of position and formation, leaving themselves open. This allows a follow-up attack by Aotrs troopers while the enemy is disorganised following the melee, placing the liches at a significant advantage. As this sort of basic necromancy is part and parcel of the basic magical training all Aotrs personnel receive, it is always an option on the table if there are corpses around.
Like almost every other technologically advanced power, the Aotrs uses robots, drones and droids for a variety of purposes in utility, maintenance and even combat roles. Also as is typical, the Aotrs has a small percentage of intelligent (i.e. sapient and sentient) technology-based entities (e.g. androids and the like) among the military and the civilian populace. This includes recruits from outside Aotrs territory in the Aotrs proper from the recruitment methods as well as a few ascended War Droids. Intelligent technologicals are treated with the same rights and privileges as organics (living or otherwise). A vanishing few of these are Undead themselves.
One of the drawbacks of the Aotrs particular method of operation is that their liches are inherently valuable assets and not a resource of limitless depth. And sometimes, a situation simply calls for additional bodies on the field. It has often been practise to thus bulk out the elite forces. In the earliest days, this was with animated undead, but as warfare advanced and as the Aotrs got geographically bigger and spread thinner, it became more practical to use robotic troops for this purpose.
As every power that has dabbled in robotic troops has discovered, there is a very fine line to be walked. The smarter a robot or computer is, the more the chances of it becoming sapient/sentient rise sharply. And this almost inevitably ends in some sort of strife between the technologicals and their masters, just as with any other minority. The Aotrs skirted the worst troubles early on, with forward thinking so that when the first instances took place, Lord Death Despoil already knew how it was to be handled. In their cases, with necromancy to hand, it was relatively trivial to identify such instances, as the very action of becoming sapient/sentient means there is a detectable soul, albeit one that nonadvanced necromancy often cannot recognise as such. (The study of souls in the scientifically necromantic sense is a very complex technical topic, but it suffices to say Aotrs necromancy can detect the difference in this case quite easily.)
The solution, then, implemented by almost all the powers wishing to use robotic troops (or even advanced computer systems) en masse as disposable, has been, almost invariably, creating anti-sapient programming. Even notable heavy war droid users like the Herosine Empire have done so; not through any moral reason, but when such troops outnumber their biological ones, they could not afford such a rebellion. Anti-sapient programming functionally makes a robot or computer brain be unable to become sapient/sentient (and become a true person, not a machine), cutting it off before it can even begin to form; in essence, keeping them as Artificial Intelligence and not Artificial Sapience. These are very difficult and complex problems to solve; and what it fundamentally means is that such robotic troops are generally fairly stupid by comparison. While not entirely dumb, they are not capable of innovative thinking and tend to operate in very straight-line ways.
While the Aotrs had used general robotic troops for some time prior, it was not until the introduction of the War Droids their use proliferated significantly. The 1st generation War Droids were bought directly from the Herosine Empire’s arms merchants, starting in the closing years of the 22nd century, during the period of the Supercruisers were taking the majority of the Aotrs on in-house manufacturing. Since then, the Aotrs have steadily switched over to the on internal production. Unlike the Herosine Empire, which has sufficient wealth it can throw out bleeding-edge top-of-the-line equipment and still treat is as disposable, the Aotrs has had to take a more circumspect approach.
Modern 4th generation War Droids are comparatively easy to mass produce (in comparison to training up new soldiers), and can be transported in large numbers easily. They are relentless troops, but focussing on cost-effectiveness over efficacy means that their intelligence and initiative is somewhat lacking. To be effective, they have to be controlled by a dedicated command droid (which uses a more advanced, higher-value brain), which is attached at the top level of an attack force, to avoid the possibility of conflicting orders. They are, however, treated as drones and fundamentally disposable. The basic War Droid brain is used in the humanoid robots, the Hunter Drones and a slightly-more cut-down version in Scarab Mines and Sentry Drones.
The Enrager Mk 1 and new Mk 2 Heavy War Droids and Profaner Siege Droids are larger and more valuable targets, and so a correspondingly greater expense was made on their intelligence, though they are by no means bright.
As intimated earlier, even this programming is not always 100% effective, and sometimes extreme circumstances can cause a war droid or robot to develop sentience. In the Aotrs, in such an instance, they are immediately evaluated and (most often) transitioned into the regular forces and no longer treated as a disposable asset.
Finally of note are the Desolation Commandoes. This is an elite branch of the Aotrs special forces, composed of (originally organic) liches who have been spirit-bound into a robotic body (which is essentially a highly modified War Droid). While terrifyingly effective, the methods uses and stresses it imposes mean that very few liches pass the psychological analysis to undergo the process. Of the ones that are, even the Aotrs liches themselves tend to find the Desolation Commandos unsettling.
Ships of the Aotrs Navy, Part Four
(Note: measurements are taken from bounding box extremities.)
Dark Fear A Destroyer
The Dark Fear Destroyer had a troubled design history. Planned since the conception stage of the modern 10th generation fleet in 2319, the Dark Fear was plagued with technical issues and problems from the very start. This earliest version was a typical ship-of-the-line warship, akin to the Frostbeam, but on a larger scale. The first prototype woefully underperformed and the process began, moving through no less than five prototypes and subsequent re-designs before the original Dark Fear was scrapped entirely.
The name Dark Fear and its attendant the ship category (destroyer) was appended to numerous other prototypes as the need for new ship designs changed. The Dark Fear’s numerous alternate designs attempted to forge it into something to meet the current requirements, but it never seemed to work right, and was out-paced by other designs. The Dark Fear name was appended to a missile ship (scrapped), a point-defence vessel (out-performed by the Spiritwrack), a standard warship (inferior to the existing Shadowfang and Overwhelmer) and at least one abortive try that failed to even get off the drawing board as a long-range recon/carrier. It was long-rumoured the name itself was cursed (despite Dark Fear previously having a long, storied history as a vessel in the Aotrs starfleet right back to the 1st generation). It had even been investigated, but no evidence of an actual curse could be found.
Finally, in 2340, work began on a new heavy destroyer version of the Dark Fear, using the solid and proven base of the Shadowfang MkII and Overwhelmer, between which it fitted in scale. But even this too was had issues – the primary armament (and thus function) was in hot debate between whether it should be a coldbeam vessel, a railgun warship or a missile ship. Eventually, the unfinished prototype – unarmed save for the point-defence turrets – was taken out for a test flight. A series of apparently unrelated happenstances followed; three highly improbable mechanical failures occurred (in systems identical to those used by other 10th generation ships for twenty years with only a single instance in one case of failure), an encounter with a spacial anomaly and finally an attack by a pirate band. But the Lichemaster had hand-picked the test-flight crew personally, from a variety of disparate sources. This new crew came together in the crisis, and defeated each and every problem them were beset with. (It can be speculated that this was the Lichemaster’s intention, given his foresight abilities.) The Dark Fear prototype returned triumphantly to the spacedock, damaged but victorious, having won its first space battle without even being completed. From that point forward, whatever misfortune had dogged the Dark Fear seemed to melt away.
The Dark Fear finally entered service in 2345, the name-ship being crewed by the same crew that had taken it out for its maiden voyage. The armament problem was solved in the end – not least to a discovery made as part of that shake-down cruise – by simply having four configurations of the Dark Fear to meet all the roles. The configurations are not modular (though that was considered), though refitting one to another would be possible as part of a general refit (except for the Dark Fear C configuration, where the changes are more extensive).
The Dark Fear A is armed with six fixed-mount coldbeam cannons, of the same type as the Shadowfang MkII and intended to function in the same role. The coldbeams are mounted in three pairs; port and starboard double mount like the Shadowfangs and one dorsal double mount. Each of the configurations replaces these weapons.
With the great manoeuvrability provided by the engines and shielding equivalent to some less advanced battleships twice its size, the Dark Fear A’s lack of anti-capital-ship weapons in the other arcs is not an easy one to take advantage of.
Dark Fear B Destroyer
The Dark Fear B replaces the fixed coldbeams of the A version with six turreted coldbeam cannons. With a similar range to the A’s fixed guns, the B performs as escort, either covering the unguarded arcs of the A and D Dark Fears, or accompanying larger capital ships such as the Midnight and providing additional firepower and point-defence.
Dark Fear C Destroyer
The Dark Fear C carries six warhead launchers, each capable of hurling five missiles in a single burst (twice that with the smaller semi-guided rockets and point-defence missiles). It can carry over five hundred missiles and a torpedoes. A typical load splits this between long range, standard and point-defence missiles, salvo rockets and standard and ioniser torpedoes, with enough quantities to fill any required role. More specialist vessel carry load-outs biased towards their particular job.
Because the missiles make it a higher-value target, the Dark Fear C carries almost twice the amount of shielding as the other versions, making it an extremely difficult nut to crack. In addition, it has a second fire-control suite to allow it to strike at more targets. Given the plentiful size of the warhead launchers, it is not even an easy task out attempt to out-last the storm of missiles, when the vessel would be largely defenceless.
Dark Fear D Destroyer
The Dark Fear D is a railgun destroyer, carrying six heavy railguns. Though seemingly of a similar in mission profile to the A, the D is principally an artillery vessel, using its agility to stay at range to pound away at enemy vessels. It often acts in concert with the Dark Fear A and Bs, with the other vessels forming a screen. Another common companion is the Sorrow Skean – the Sorrow Skean, being even more agile, is much more suited to closing to short range with its own railguns, while the Dark Fear Ds can support from longer ranges.
Despite this, a vessel getting too close to a Dark Fear D is only more likely to be hit by the massive railguns, quite capable of punching through shields to strike armour on most conventional vessels. The Dark Fear’s native agility means it is still quite capable of performing in the close attack role, though not as adeptly as the larger and faster Sorrow Skean.
Suicide Stellar Missile
The Suicide Stellar Missile is an intersystem capital missile. The Suicide was never intended to function as part of a fleet, though it is fully automated and technically meets the qualifications (and capability) to function as a capital starship. Should a need arise (perhaps for a specific target at long-range), the Suicide can travel with a fleet until the point it can be deployed to attack.
While a few of such designs have been created over the generations by the Aotrs, the Suicide was the most prevalent. The Suicide is the oldest unit operational in the Aotrs fleet, dating back to the early 8th generation in design. During the age of the supercruiser, the Suicide enjoyed a brief period where targets were potentially plentiful, and a considerable stock of them was created. They saw only occasional use, however, and their principal prey, supercruisers, waned in time. Aotrs doctrine rarely calls for the deployment of apocalyptic weapons (not least for the dangers of rousing the galactic community that that would bring), so the Suicides have been tacitly mothballed. The number that remains made decommissioning them not practical, and their warhead technology is now dated compared to the Aotrs’ current technology, so there would be little to recycle in any case. Given the rarity of the use of such weapons, no new design was seen as necessary, so the Suicides that remain are still kept in operational status in the various shipyards. When the stocks become sufficiently depleted, an upgraded version could be developed and manufactured relatively quickly, but given the low rate of expenditure, the Suicides will be waiting in their moorings for many years to come.
Dark Fear C Destroyer
Suicide Stellar Missile
Photos of Replicator 2 versions.
Next month (and fairly shortly, since it is December and a short work-month!), we will have wave five, and we will look at the notable worlds of the Aotrs.
(Astute observers may even notice that next month’s releases are already up in TheShop3D’s webstore, the better to facilitate getting everything out nice and early!)26/11/2020 at 17:32 #147494Mr. AverageParticipant26/11/2020 at 17:49 #147495
I don’t have a website (that is impractical at this time, in both terms of time expended and/or money), so that is not an option, I’m afraid.
There are pdf downloads of each part of the current guide from the Aotrs Shiyards Facebook page or alternatvely, each one of these is a seperate article at Wargames Directory, with a forum thread link for the releases and the release+lore posts.
(There is not a lot of difference between the two lists currently, since Wargames Directory has only just started up, and the scifi release there started with the Guide to the Aotrs; the lore posts there will be back-filling in other released stuff (as there is currently no other source for it). I had sort of intended to do this on Facebook to start with, but as they took the ability to make notes (i.e. formatted posts) away, that is not an option.)
That said, the information is still presented in the same fashion (though the pdfs are better formatted, since they can be) in those other sources.
The only thing I could do here is if there is a tag for collapsables (my initial experiment on that didn’t seem to work), and I could place parts under that in each post.26/11/2020 at 21:49 #147506Mr. AverageParticipant27/11/2020 at 14:27 #147546
Okay, then let me throw this question to the rest of the audience. What do everyone else think?
Should I instead simply link to the Wargames Directory posts instead? Would – if possible – placing the bulk of the bits under collapsables improve the situation? Would it be better to pst each release here as a seperate thread?
I could certainly edit link to the individual Wargames Directory posts in the OP, if that would be of benefit, regardess.08/12/2020 at 15:39 #148021
Okay, since no-one else has chimed, in, what I’m going to do is edit in the links to the Wargames Directory posts in the OP, and include a quick link to the top of the page to the first post of this thread at the top of each new post, but otherwise continue as previously.
(EDit: Okay, that went HORRIBLY wrong for various reasons, so I won’t try that again, instead linking the single-form at the of each new post in future!)
In case you missed the Facebook annoucement, Shapeways apparently changed their designs standards, such that the detail materials are likely now to all bounce on any starship or VTOL models, because the flight stand hole are considered to small. (The ground vehicles, not having a floor, will be unaffected.) Apparently, during the pricing change, Shapeways wnated to eliminate the cost savings for hollow models (which probably explains the price rises). As at this point, given how their services are deteriorating, I am not going to waste my time re-uploading special versions for the detail models with oversized holes or solid versions (to see which is the best price); that time is better spent doing the work to get them uploaded to TheShop3D and re-printed for my direct sales. So from this point, I can now neither garentee that the starship models (many of which formerly printed fine) will print in EITHER VPN or the details materials. Ridiculous, but that is what Shapeways is at the moment.
(I will again note that, EVEN WITH the postage cost spike from the UK to the US that appartently happened earlier this year, that cost is subsumed by the lower prices of both myself and TheShop3D over merely about three model’s worth.)
Right, that stuff out of the way (and yes, it is the second time in barely over two weeks I’ve had to make that sort of statement):
Here is part five, which in addition to the ships, we look at some of the Aotrs’ notable planets. (I had to split the Notable Worlds into two parts, once it became apparent that it would have been easily twice the size!)
Guide to the Army Of The Red Spear: Part Five
Notable Worlds of the Aotrs, Part One
(Note: Dates listed are in accordance with the current year 2346. To translate to Earth-E Julian calendar, simply subtract 326 years.)
Macronis IV is the world history – or at least Aotrs history – records as the birthplace of the Aotrs. Lord Death Despoil arrived there from his unknown homeworld, having fled into the elemental place of Fire at the point of his death, in what is estimated to be 391 BC. This is not a truly precise date, but the best later studies have determined. Here he met the future Lord Deather and his unit of soldiers who would become the Defilers. Lord Yeller (and the Bellowers) and Lord Foul Skream also made their first appearances here sometime later. The Aotrs left Macronis IV in around 220BC, leaving it behind entirely and arriving on Kalanoth.
Aside from these few facts, very little concrete information is known about this earliest phase of history of the Aotrs. This is in the vast majority, simply because there are no records left to historians to examine. The primitive technology of the time would not have lent itself to survive the march of two thousand years and at this point the Aotrs were not the meticulous record-keepers they would become in later years. At this point, the Aotrs was merely an army – and a fairly small one at that – and without a pressing need for logistics (aside from to replace their gear); information was not simply kept. The precise location of Macronis IV is not even known. Later records list it by that name, but a planet with such a primitive civilisation would not have used a space-age numeral designator. They may not even have called it “Macronis” at all – perhaps that might have been the name of the star.
The only records, then, of Aotrs activity during this first two-century period remains in the memories of the previously mentioned Lords and the oldest surviving members of the Defilers and Bellowers. And even then, the events of the following two thousand years mean that by their own admissions, the memories are somewhat sketchy. Drawing out exactly what happened, then, would require a concerted effort that would take up the valuable time of the Aotrs’ most high-ranking officers and soldiers, which is simply not feasible. What little is known has been pieced together from the rare times were it was possible to perform an interview on the subject over the centuries.
Macronis IV is theorised to be an HPE world or HPE-L world that tended towards HPE. Most descriptions seem to suggest a dry, desertous place (though this may simply have been the region the nascent Aotrs were operating in) as well as nontypical HPE-L fauna. Humans are recalled as being the only intelligent race represented. All of which skews the likelihood more towards HPE than HPE-L.
The Aotrs formed upon a chance meeting between the newly-arrived Lord Death Despoil and Lord Deather and his soldiers. Lord Deather and his unit were already Undead. They had been sacrificed as pawns by the empire of their birth (where they had been a legion of regular soldiers) to stop an unspecified enemy threat. Lord Deather freely admits he simply no longer recalls the specifics and the remaining Defilers’ memories are little better. Lord Deather has even postulated that the manner in which they were killed may have damaged their living memories, and in the years that followed, as they did not dwell on their former lives, that knowledge just ebbed away.
What is recalled is that the Aotrs did a great deal of raiding of ancient tombs in search of power, and that the Defilers (now bolstered by Lord Yeller and the Bellowers, whom had joined in the intervening years) did successfully seek revenge on the nation and the individuals that had had them killed. It is generally held that this activity had stirred up too much of a response from the nations of Macronis IV and so Lord Death Despoil, having finalised his goals in this first century, determined they had to leave for safer pastures. The then-Aotrs retreated into a defensible fortress in the depths of the desert while Lord Death Despoil researched ways of leaving not just the region, but the planet altogether, which is believed to have taken something over a century. (He noted to one interviewer rather dryly that at the time, had he better resources available in later years, he could have completed the spells much sooner.) A few of the Defilers interviewed over the centuries recalled that the final retreat was made after an increasing series of raids and attacks by adventurers, lured by the idea of a citadel of Undead guarding untold treasure. A couple have recalled they dimly remember that there might have been army approaching, or being assembled, which could have been fatal to the Aotrs as a whole at the time. However, the liches all agreed that the departure was made in good time and good order long before this possible army arrived on the scene.
At this point, Macronis IV fades out of Aotrs history. The world has never been re-located, and the ensuing centuries. It is possible that it remains undiscovered in the modern age; equally, even Lord Death Despoil admits, it could be a little-known region on some existent HPE-L world, now known by an entirely different name. Given the small size of the Aotrs during their time there, if this is true, the events surrounding the Aotrs have simply fallen into the cracks of history.
Fearmore is the Aotrs’ capital world and the very literal throne of Lord Death Despoil. The massive and ancient Citadel, a monumental complex larger than many starships, is the world’s focal point.
Fearmore’s precise co-ordinates are a state-level secret. It is stated to be in the Malevaor sector (along with Kalanoth). It is known to be towards the upper rim where there are solitary stars not near other clusters. It is one of a number of similar, unremarkable stars in the region. Bounded by Aotrs territory below and the inter-galactic void above, a hostile power wishing to locate Fearmore would have to travel a route right through the centre of one of the galaxy’s major powers, or attempt a dangerous round trip into intergalactic space where they would be extremely vulnerable to detection and interception. The planet’s very sparse settlements mean that even to sensors, it does not have a very visible signature to distinguish it, further adding to the primary layer of defence of obfuscatement.
The world now known as Fearmore is in many ways, what the mind first imagines when speaking of a world belonging to the Undead. It is a largely barren wasteland of rocks and grey deserts. The dark, stormy seas do not smell of salt, but instead in the majority have a sulphurous tang. Time itself seems to crawl, as the day and night seem unnaturally long and drawn-out. The surface is almost devoid of life, with only a few hardy small plants and animals living in the de-facto deserts. In the seas, life has survived better, if not well – the temperate seas in particular support plankton blooms and an order of whale-like creatures which feed upon them. Ruins lie dotted all over the surface of civilisations long fallen. But it was not always this way.
The Aotrs arrived via Gate on the world of G’Nayel in around 190BC. At this stage, the Aotrs has just reached its second century of existence, and a technology and thaumaturgy level roughly around the 7th century AD level. The Aotrs was still very much an army and not a state. While it had in the three decades prior begun to establish itself on Kalanoth, it still lacked a true base of operations. G’Nayel was originally intended to be a safeguard – a second world where the Aotrs could retreat to if they attracted attention that on Kalanoth they could not defeat. Lord Death Despoil recalls that it was the first world he attempted to reach – as if instinct drew him to it. He recalled it bore superficial resemblance to Macronis IV – and at the time, deserts and mountain regions provided a strong defensive barrier for a relatively small army with few logistical concerns.
G’Nayel was always a harsh world, with many desert plains and mountain outcroppings. G’Nayel would have been classified as an HPE-L world, though it was towards the boundary of that classification. The day length was 26 hours (atypical for HPE-L) and the planet was (and still is, technically) in the grip of an ice-age with only a relatively small hydrosphere, meaning that only 40% of the surface was water. There were thus a lot of deserts and wind-blown mountains for the Aotrs to potentially hide in.
G’Nayel had some of the typical elements of an HPE-L world – humans, elves, dwarves and the local type of orcs were known on the region (continent for want of a better word, though perhaps not strictly accurate) that the Aotrs arrived in. It also had what would later be known to be nontypical HPE-L flora and fauna that was entirely unique.
And it was one of these elements that would eventually spell doom for G’Nayel.
The Li’Tier plant is humble enough. It resembles, to an untrained eye, a sort of wheat stalk, but one with a grey-ish stem and whose seed heads appear metallic. But the unusual-looking seed head hides a most remarkable secret – it contains a metal element, a unique alloy named lityite, formed partially magically by the plant itself from trace metal elements. Even in the modern era, this alloy is not practically replicatable. Lityite alloy added even in small measures, significantly improves the strength and durability of the metal, and furthermore, inherently boosts the quality of any defensive magics applied to it. This has applications, aside from in weapons and armour for all manner of summoning and protective enchantments. It was also discovered in the later ages to have other applications in reducing energy signatures in powered mundane technology.
The Li’Tier plant was a strategic resource of sufficient importance that it became clear that G’Nayel would need to be secured properly for the future empire and so the Aotrs began to divide its forces between G’Nayel and Kalanoth.
As the Aotrs expanded, it began to transform from military army to true nation-state, and over the next few hundred years expanded to other worlds. Kalanoth and G’Nayel were relatively geographically close, and from them, the Aotrs scouted out and then invaded Akamo, Temnis and Raytayne over the next eight hundred years, making slow but steady progress.
It was Raytayne which sealed G’Nayel’s final fate. Raytayne was the furthest away of the worlds (located in what is the now the far edge of the Hate sector). From there, Lord Death Despoil was able to compose the first true primitive star map of the Aotrs worlds in a truly geographical sense. As the G’Nayel’s location became apparent, its defensible position and the valuable resource of the Li’Tier meant that it became the top priority to be fully secured.
The Aotrs had grown by this point, to be able to begin opening other fronts to establish footholds on the other planets. The focus of operations changed, however – what had been a slow-but-steady conquest changed to the acquisition of rare magical resources on Akamo, Kalanoth, Raytayne and Temnis while G’Nayel received the lion’s share of the expansion. While the Aotrs continued to expand on the other four worlds for the next seven centuries, it was at a reduced rate.
Finally, in 759, Lord Death Despoil, using resources and knowledge gleaned from five worlds, and the top casters of the Aotrs conducted a massive ritual on G’Nayel – the Scouring. In the decades leading up to it, it was inevitable that information leaked out, and the Aotrs was hard-pressed to fend off waves of armies. The final ritual casting was performed at a magical conflux site, while all available Aotrs forces, pulled away from all four other worlds (leaving only a bare-minimum second-line garrisons), fought off a combined attack from an alliance of five disparate armies and their attendant heroes.
The Aotrs prevailed, stalling long enough for the ritual to be complete. The Scouring, once activated, swept across the globe, wiping out the vast majority of all life, like an artificial mass extinction. At its core, the Scouring was fundamentally a transmutation effect, based on petrification magics. It had thus no effect on nonliving or Undead creatures, but transformed living creature into sand (specifically, a mix of white silica and black carbon sand, which gives Fearmore its distinctive grey deserts). The ritual was design to occlude certain specific living creatures (the Li’Tier plant and by extension, many of its relatives) and only affected creatures of about the size of a cat or larger. The effect was significantly degraded by the presence of water, and so the sea life suffered far fewer losses.
The Scouring completely ended any resistance on G’Nayel. The aftermath and cost, however, was enormous. Firstly, the battle ensured that the Aotrs’ then living forces could not retreat safely off-world (since Lord Death Despoil was the only one capable of casting a spell of sufficient power). While the most important units and leaders (such as Lungrender) were able to escape via spells stored beforehand, the vast majority of the remaining forces were wiped out. Their sacrifice was not in vain, as over time, they were restored as liches, but this was a considerably undertaking – just finding enough bodies to bind the souls into required years.
Enemy forces on Akamo and Temnis took advantage of the garrison’s weakness and inflicted significant damage in the Aotrs’ absence in the majority. In Temnis’ case, the damage caused and territory lost put back the conquest of the planet nearly two centuries.
The environmental damage to G’Nayel was catastrophic, as could be imagined, far worse than Lord Death Despoil could have predicted with the knowledge available to him at that time. The ramifications are still being felt over 1500 years later. On top of the massive devastation to the eco-system, the magic unleashed has actually slowed the planet’s revolution speed, dragging out the day/night cycle by over 10%. With the almost-total extinction of all larger lifeforms and the day and night the better part of three hours longer, the small lifeforms on land and surviving sea creatures underwent their own mass extinction in short order and only a relative handful of species survived. Even the Li’Tier plant was severely endangered, as planet-wide dust storms swept the world, only abating with the establishment of the weather control network. Only a massive effort to preserve viable crops in sheltered locations enabled it to survive. Finally, as later exploration of the ruined cities and places over the globe discovered, whole civilisations had been wiped out without the Aotrs ever knowing about them and their knowledge lost and destroyed by the unforgiving sands. Some of these ruins were rendered highly dangerous due to the uncontrolled and undirected magical effects.
The Aotrs has their secure capital world, but the price had been phenomenal. But it had also been instructive. After the Scouring, the Aotrs have been very markedly averse to using cataclysmic or mass-destruction weapons. The mere attempt at deploying such a weapon had driven the Aotrs closer to total destruction than it has arguably ever been. And so that early on, the dangers of possessing such a weapon were clearly illustrated. But the efficacy of such weapons was also demonstrated. The Aotrs from then on would continue to develop such weapons, but hold them in reserve and only a handful of them have ever been deployed and only ever in a limited fashion. The Scouring ritual has itself long been secured away. Lord Death Despoil has stated on many occasions that he does not intend to ever use it or its like again; but by the same token, the aftermath of the Scouring taught him that he should not assume he can perfectly predict the future and that one day, circumstances might align to change that intention.
Following the Scouring, G’Nayel was re-named Fearmore. The Citadel, which had started as a temple-tomb complex old even when the Aotrs arrived on the world, expanded over the centuries into its current labyrinthine standards.
The population of G’Nayel now consists primarily of Undead. The High Command have their personal chambers within the Citadel. Outside the Citadel and its legions of staff that form the machinery that run an interstellar empire, the few settlements deal almost entirely with farming the Li’Tier plant. Even processing the lityite has largely been moved over to Melimfar. A few garrisons watch over the regions, but vast swathes of the planet are uninhabited.
To aid in keeping the planet innocuous to long-range emission observation, modern technology is built in shielded locations wherever possible, under the guise of stone backed with a thin internal layer of lityite. This extends even to the garrison; rather than standard Aotrs armour, the troopers use so-called “Garrison Plate” which has a high concentration of lityite and aesthetically resembles ancient plate armour. With only a few, heavily stealthed, satellites in orbit, Fearmore does not even have an orbiting fleet; its in-system defences are secreted away in the emissions of the Aatras system’s largest gas giant, Dark Shroud.
Kalanoth lies in what is now the Llactidraen (Galactic Elven lit. “sun-tomb”) system. If Fearmore is the Aotrs Capital proper, Kalanoth is the financial centre and economic capital. The Aotrs arrived on Kalanoth in approximately 220 BC via Gate from Macronis IV. Kalanoth is a high-magic, fully inhabited HPE-L world and was one of the first worlds to be truly conquered by the Aotrs – indeed, the second only if one counts the Scouring of Fearmore.
While officially conquered nearly a millennium and a half ago in 802 when the majority of the nations had been subdued or exterminated, it took many more decades of work and smaller wars before the entire world was finally solidly under Aotrs control. Kalanoth was, functionally, the true test bed for the amount of time and effort to completely conquer a fully inhabited world. That is took “merely” a thousand years, given that the technology level by the time it was officially conquered was roughly equal to then High Middle Ages (circa mid 1100s), even with magical assistance, is an impressive feat.
Kalanoth is the homeworld and seat of power of Lord Lungrender, the most senior (and famous) living Dark Elf in the Aotrs. Though Lungrender is technically part of the Aotrs High Command, he is also the overall commander of the Dark Elf Trooper legions. He also is Kalanoth’s ruler and these duties keep him mostly planet-bound, unlike earlier times, leaving the more active duties to the High Command’s Liches.
Kalanoth is the most populous of the Aotrs worlds, with its high density population distributed both on and below the surface, underwater and in orbital habitats. Despite the large population, the planet is not completely urbanised, though wild areas are now confined to the national parks. The population itself consists of elves (especially Dark Elves) by the majority, followed by humans and half-elves, liches and the Kalanothi orc-kin, the latter predominately in their own national regions. Over the centuries, the Aotrs has expanded across the globe, with the Aotrs favoured-races having largely supplanted or exterminated the other races which once dwelled upon it, except in a few isolated communities in unimportant areas.
Kalanoth is neat, ordered and well-planned; Lord Lungrender and Lord Death Despoil have both spent considerable effort over centuries – the former especially – in optimising Kalanoth’s infrastructure, the results of which are shared with the Aotrs’ other worlds. In most respects, Kalanoth is typical of a power’s capital world – aside from the larger number of skeletons walking down the street, Kalanoth would seem little different from any of the worlds of the Royal Elven Kingdoms or Saiyvalyss Alliance, for example.
Kalanoth differs in one respect, however – it has an unusually rate of occurrence of meta-natural phenomena. First detected by the Aotrs early in their history through the significantly higher rate of magic items that became cursed or developed strange side-effects, these phenomena range from the insignificantly mundane to potentially cataclysmic if not contained. In the later centuries, the root cause is suspected to involve an early incursion (pre-dating the Xakkath Demon Wars) via the extra-Reality entities known to the Aotrs as the Ackna-Kreel, which is believed to have functionally worn thin the fabric of Reality in the system so that there is “bleed-through” from other Realities in unpredictable fashions. Even today, some of these phenomena have not been fully explained by Aotrs science or magic. Kalanoth thus houses the Kalanoth Paranatural Security Division, a group composed of a cross-section of all four parts of the Aotrs’ armed forces, the Pathfinders and civilian scientists and operatives.
The KPS Division is tasked with locating and securing these phenomena when they prove to be beyond even the Aotrs normal capabilities and so ensuring they can be contained (or destroyed as necessary) where they can be researched and the general populace can be protected from their ill-effects. While the focus remains on Kalanoth, the KPS Division is sometimes called in to handle such problems on other worlds (notably, the after-effects of the Scouring have produced a disproportionate number of such instances, though it is still a fraction of Kalanoth’s). Due to their nature, the KPS Division is also particularly adept at exorcisms (both necromantically and via extra-planar possession) and sometimes is called upon to deal with particularly difficult instances.
In the space-flight age, the KPS Division’s primary containment facilities were moved off-planet as much as possible, and they reside in several high-orbital facilities around Nestrotar, Llactidraen’s outermost planetoid.
While not the industrial giant that is Melimfar, Kalanoth’s centralised location and economic importance means that it boasts a wealth of shipyards and manufacturing facilities, both in orbit and in the Llactidraen system, second only to Melimfar’s shipyards themselves.
Tusharnos has retained its name – with some lingual drift – from as far back as the Xakkath Demon Wars. Formerly a relatively unremarkable HPE-L world, Tusharnos was one of the major battle grounds during that conflict and the face of the world was forever changed into one of sweeping vistas, fantastical cliffs and enormous valleys rent by the numerous divine combats.
When the Aotrs invaded in 1287, Tusharnos was still a struggling world. Much of the hydrosphere blasted away, and there are only three small oceans occupying what was once the deepest portions of the world’s land. The towering plateaus borne the brunt of the unforgiving sun, Kul, while the once-lush forests were confined to the valleys and crevasses. The planetary capital city, Shining Spires, dates back to before the conquest. It was the seat of power of the High Elves, who had carved one of the few true empires of Tusharnos. Much of the rest of the world was divided into patchwork nations or city-states (mostly human or Elven), divided by near-impassable cliffs and mountain ranges or gulfs of burning deserts. The High Elves had an astonishing command of engineering, even by the standards of the Aotrs at the time of the conquest. They had constructed an impressive series of lifts (modernised versions that still stand today) that climbed from the top of the Naetith Valley to the top of the Dansin plateau, and there built a city of towering spires to look over their realm. Shining Spires is treated to the most fantastic sunsets of any city in the Aotrs, as the plateau behind it is almost completely flat and lies above the now-low median cloud layer.
Tusharnos today still has a relatively small population for a world of its size and age. The remnants of the Xakkath Demon War (the primary impetus for conquest) have been largely found, though every so often another one might come to light in some forgotten region. Selective terraforming and climate control has improved and stabilised the waning hydrosphere; though by design, much of the surface remains desert still. A millennium of Aotrs conquest has seen the disparate tribes and mini-nations subjugated, though many are still very primitive and pre-industrial, never worth the effort of exploiting and are more-or-less left alone to rule – or bicker – among themselves, with only the occasional reminder of who truly controls Tusharnos required.
In late 2345, an anomaly on sensors was detected by the Tusharnos defence fleet. Upon investigation, a pocket dimension dating to the period of the Xakkath Demon Wars was uncovered, centred around a temple to the time god Tyme. It had been used for some decades prior as a base of operations for the Brotherhood of the Grey Lizard, an order of human temporal ninja-monks under the control of the Time Drake Timeshade. The Brotherhood of the Grey Lizard is active throughout time and human space, attempting to subvert the course of history in favour of Timeshade. Timeshade was believed to have originated from the planet of Skraasskasstor.
(The Skraasskasstor civilisation – an HPE-L world where dragons dominated which had achieved early FTL level – disappeared six hundred and fifty years ago in mysterious circumstances, perhaps not even a decade before the Aotrs developed FTL Gates. The world remains uninhabited and now lies Ujuquju space, renamed Sukjujkus. The Lujuqujul have left the world alone, due to the gravity being three times their own comfortable level.)
Timeshade was reputedly assassinated via adventurers on the behest of Tyme, the actual death occurring at some point in the distant future (though due to nature of time travel, both Timeshade and his killers were from the present era). Remains found in the pocket dimension indicated he had at some point returned as a lich, set up this base of operations without being detected but was subsequently destroyed shortly before the pocket dimension was discovered. The entire pocket dimension area had been subjected to a severe temporal flux and residue indicated that some form of temporal-based ritual had been conducted prior to the anomaly’s detection which aged all living sentient creatures and technology within the area (outside of what appeared to be a ritual circle) to death. Neither Timeshade nor any of the remains could be used to summon the spirits of the dead for questioning, as the artificial aging process had taken them beyond even Lord Death Despoil’s limit of elapsed time since death.
Analysis of the anomaly indicated that it was consistent with Shardan Marauder teleporter signatures. In concert with other information discerned and a surface investigation, a picture of what happened emerged. The Shardan appeared to have brought the adventurers responsible for Timeshade’s death to complete his destruction and then facilitated their escape, bringing the adventurer’s ship into and out of the system under cloak (which is almost impossible for Aotrs technology to detect, given the technological advantage the Shardan have, being in the top three most technologically advanced powers). The adventurers infiltrated the atmosphere by what appears to be utilisation of lityite. (Aotrs command was apparently aware of the group and confirms that this usage would have depleted the supply they were known to have had.) Once down, a single ship making surface flights in a backwater a region did not immediately flag up a warning; especially on Tusharnos where such civilian flights are unremarkable. The ship appears to have been recalled via teleporter. It is unknown how the Brotherhood of the Grey Lizard or Timeshade infiltrated the planet, but investigations continue.
This incident had only a relatively minor in impact to the Aotrs in and of itself; the security breech, given the exotic methods used by both infiltrating parties, was considered functionally unpreventable at this time (pending the results of the investigation into the Brotherhood) and no Aotrs personnel were at fault. (Indeed, commendations were given for the prompt response to the detected anomaly, with forces arriving on the scene in minutes.) However, barely a month later, a Brotherhood of the Grey Lizard force attacked a top-secret Aotrs facility outside Aotrs space, necessitating the 2nd fleet to make an emergency series of chain-jumps.
Melimfar (Galactic Elven: “night-iron”) is located in the Kreetaaik (Chillspeak: “forge-wraith”) system of the Hate sector. Melimfar is the third of the Hate sector’s habitable worlds, along with Akamo and Temnis, but the least hospitable to terrestrial life. It has an atmosphere of nitrogen, methane and ammonia, a sidereal day of fifty standard days and proximity to its red star makes it hot and bathed in solar radiation. It has life, however, and in plenitudes, adapted to the world’s hostile environment, though no intelligent species. Melimfar’s background magic sits almost exactly in the centre of the medium magic band. The background magic pervades the planet, and it resonates particularly closely to the Elemental Plane of Earth.
The planet is only slightly smaller than a typical HPE, approximately 70% of the volume (5700km radius), and with a slightly lower density due to the lack of an iron core, leaving it with 0.85G gravity. The surface temperature, warmed by the star Kreetaaik, is also about 50ºK above HPE standards. (Kreetaaik itself is a cool giant, only massing 0.5 solar masses and with a size of 11 solar radiuses.)
Forests of domes of fungus-like vegetation cover much of the land surface. Fungal mats cover the seas; Melimfar has no moon and so with no tides to move them around, these aquatic matts are as dense and deep as any jungle on land. In the skies above, the high, thin atmosphere held by the low gravity nevertheless supports a family of floating animals that have more in common with dirigibles than winged creatures.
But it is below the surface where Melimfar’s treasures truly lie. The crust is porous, with a massive network of subterranean caverns running for almost three hundred miles into the planet before reaching the planet’s mantle. With the slow rotation and lack of any resonant bodies in the system, Melimfar has little volcanic activity to disrupt this network.
The cavern system is itself a massive, complex ecosystem every bit as equal to any of other world, and perhaps even more so. Even the modern Aotrs is still exploring and discovering new species in the depths of the planet – it has been suggested that, because of the dramatic increase in functional volume for life to exist, Melimfar has more species than any two or three other worlds in Aotrs space combined.
But even that wealth pales into comparison to the Melimfar’s mineral deposits. Due to the planet’s resonance with the Plane of Earth, a staggering variety and quantity of ores, gems, crystals and stones are present across the planet. Even more valuably, partly due to the background magic, and partly due to the complex ecology of various mineralivores, many of these are renewable resources, formed as waste by-products or slowly growing over time.
The Kreetaaik system takes its name from Akamo mythology, being central to a constellation relating to a god of metal-crafting (who had ceased to be long before the Aotrs arrived, if he was ever fully formed at all). Whether serendipitous or prophetically, when the first trans-system probe arrived in the system in 1710, even the probe’s primitive sensors could detect the masses of resources contained beneath the Melimfar’s surface, and in Kreetaaik’s three copious asteroid belts (the Karn, Urgdon and Lulge belts, named after the god’s chief servitors). The probes had been dispatched just three years after the first FTL Gate system was developed but it was not until 1757 that the Aotrs colonised the system, having first expanded to closer systems (such as Vasbatros in the Frost system).
Given the ecology and the mineral formations were inextricably linked, Lord Death Despoil, practical and forward thinking as always, resisted the urge to strip-mine the planet for resources. From the start, Melimfar has been exploited carefully. So Melimfar today is home to a massive industrial base, both on and under the surface and in orbit, all meticulously managed to deal a minimum of environmental damage. Mineral farms which slowly but consistently produce material are maintained in many of the largest caverns, ensuring a steady supply for the processing facilities.
Melimfar has a huge amount of orbital facilities, including the single largest shipyard docks in Aotrs space. The surface facilities boast the highest concentrations of Undead and a robotic population segments of anywhere in the Aotrs, being immune to the nonterrestrial atmosphere. Even so, there are many domed cities on the surface, underwater or in the caverns and in orbital habitats, where the living population can live and work in safety.
Melimfar and the other in-system facilities still produces a staggering 9% of the Aotrs entire resource production, and during the days of 2nd through 4th generation of the starfleet, this number approached almost 50%. As a result, the Kreetaaik system boasts the second-most extensive defensive fleet deployment next to Kalanoth.
Ships of the Aotrs Navy, Part Five
(Note: measurements are taken from bounding box extremities.)
Midnight A Dreadcarrier
The Midnight A Dreadcarrier is a hybrid carrier/warship variant of the Midnight Dreadnought, first deployed in concert with that dreadnought in a support role. The Midnight A removes some of the turreted coldbeams (leaving it with approximately 75% of the firepower) and downgrades the warhead launchers from Class 30 to “merely” Class 20, and replaces the freed-up mass and space with a hangar bay for a squadron of fighters. However, the smaller missile magazine (where the space is devoted instead to the munitions for the fighters) means it cannot carry quite the same breath of warheads types as the Midnight.
Unlike the smaller Blackhole, the Midnight A’s hybrid nature does not lend itself to smaller operations. The Blackhole can carry the same amount of fighters and with more efficiency due to is smaller size, whereas the Midnight A would be an over-commitment of resources for doing the same sort of job. Thus, the Midnight A typically operates part of a larger fleet group. It is very rare – though not entirely unheard of – for it to function as an independent commerce raider like the Midnight does.
In this battlefield role, the Midnight A tends to carry a squadron of general purpose fighters – either the Foul Wing or the Apparition, with the former being the most common. Their role is generally the interception of other fighters, or providing top-cover to other craft like the Crater or more specialised fighters like Rends. Both fighters are capable, with a simple change of warhead load-out, of performing anti-capital ship duties if that is required, however, and the Foul Wing’s standard weapon load-out allows it some measure of capability against all types of targets regardless.
Despite the downgrading of the Midnight A’s anti-ship armaments, it remains a serious threat, especially when acting in tandem with the escorts and warships it is supporting. The Midnight A still carries the dorsal energy beam cannons, so is quite capable of slicing enemy ships apart, though without support, its shield-stripping power is not as great as the standard Midnight. That said, with its squadron of supporting fighters to assist, the Midnight A is better at dealing with targets with more active defences, since it forces them to split their point-defence between the incoming missile volleys and the strafing fighters.
The Midnight A and the Blackhole remain the Aotrs’ main carrier craft, with the rarer and larger Death Swarm Battle Carrier performing closer to a more traditional fleet carrier role.
Havoc Orbital BombardmentLength: 507.2m
The Havoc is a rarely seen sight in the Aotrs fleet. Despite being one of the earliest 10th generation ships to be designed and built, the Havoc has seen the smallest operational use. Modern vessels can accomplish tactical orbital bombardment with their main weapons; the Havoc is designed for serious and extended planetary bombardment or as a weapon against enemy supercruisers, none of which are common requirements. Typically the Aotrs prefer to capture or perform surgical operations on the surface. Supercruisers are an increasingly rare sight and even against space-stations it is often more time-consuming but much safer to bombard them with railgun fire from extreme range or via tow-launched asteroids, so the Havoc is rarely required.
The Havoc is built around the core of a huge planetary-scale plasma-pulse cannon, which masses fully half the hull. This weapon is very powerful but ponderous and only has a short range before the pulse destabilises and both accuracy and damage sharply fall to nothing. Against mobile targets, its effectiveness low and the long time to recharge makes it a poor anti-ship weapon. But against a stationary target (as in, one that cannot manoeuvre; a predictable course and speed (such as an orbit) is fundamentally no different to a static target), the effect is devastating.
The Havoc’s manoeuvrability is strictly average. Though it has shields and armour only a little below average for a typical heavy cruiser a third larger than it is, the Havoc’s lack of other weapons make it a poor combatant in a straight fight. With only a few point-defence turrets to fend off missiles and enemy fighters, the Havoc is almost totally reliant on escorts to get into position to do its only job.
The Havoc is only stationed with mobile fleets, and not even all of those possess one of these vessels.
Foul Wing FighterLength: 15.57m
The Foul Wing is the Aotrs’ primary heavy fighter. It was the first fully 10th generation fighter design. The Foul Wing has good, if not exceptional, manoeuvrability, tough shields and is well armed. It is has a pair of coldbeam cannons mounted under the nose. A pair of plasma-pulse cannons mounted on the sides can rotate in the vertical axis. A light twin coldbeam turret is mounted on the dorsal fuselage.
Two large warhead bays, each with a twin warhead launcher, provide the bulk of its striking power. The designated Standard load-out of the Foul Wing consists of four Reaper short-range missiles, four Reaver medium-range missiles, four Harpy medium anti-fighter torpedoes and four Skull anti-ship/anti-armour torpedoes. The second-most common Strike load-out retains the four Skulls and four Reapers and adds two more of the latter for a total of six, but replaces the other warheads with four Slayer heavy anti-starship torpedoes. The voluminous bays can be outfitted to fire any of the Aotrs’ fighter-carried warheads, and there are several other stock configurations (Strike Support, Capture, Superiority and Heavy Strike) before mission-specific loads are considered.
The Foul Wing shares a great deal of similarities to the Crater; indeed the Crater is essentially a Foul Wing built to a larger scale. The Foul Wing is a solid craft, but as the generation has advanced, the refinements on the Crater have favoured the larger fightercruiser. The Foul Wing’s only advantage over the Crater is that it has a 10% higher relativistic cruise ceiling. It is operated only by a single pilot, though, it has been the subject of debate whether this is advantageous or whether the Crater’s larger crew gives it the edge. In manoeuvrability and range, the Crater is the Foul Wing’s equal; in weapons load, survivability and operational capacity, the Crater is strictly superior.
The Foul Wing remains in production, though in recent years, it has given way to the Crater in priority. The Foul Wing’s own survivability is likely to ensure it lasts until likely the end of the generation, but as time goes on, the Crater more and more takes over the Foul Wing’s job. The one area where the Foul Wing has its niche are those instances where the number of vessels matters (such as in a massed dogfight or running patrols or long-range recon in rotation). Here, the fact that the Crater is twice the size of the Foul Wing (and so can only be carried in half the same space and mass) works against it. Foul Wings are thus increasingly only commonly found in large fleet deployments, performing a general-purpose role and leaving the more specialist, smaller-scale jobs to the Craters.
Apparition Light FighterLength: 10.95m
Height (Unladen): 1.94m
The Apparition is the Aotrs adaption of the highly-successful Spectre II fighter from the open market. The Apparition was selected as a modification, rather than an in-house design as during the 9th generation, the Aotrs shipyards were pushed to their limit with dealing with the supercruisers and there was simply not enough manufacturing capability left. By buying in designs from the open market that were intended to be modified by the end-user (notably from the Herosine Empire), the Aotrs were able to eke out their manufacturing capability to cover both fighter and ground forces adequately.
The Apparition design worked so well that when the Aotrs switched over to internal production, they continued to build the Apparitions in their own factories. The Apparition holds the distinction of being the only starship craft to remain in full production throughout the 9th and 10th generation. While the front-line and new Apparitions have improved 10th generation engines and Gate drives and their avionics have been upgraded, the Apparition in service now (the Mark 6) is fundamentally the same as the Mark 1 that entered service in 2251 and is expected to last until the end of the 10th generation and possibly even into the 11th via some descendant.
The Aotrs upgrade to the Spectre II replaced the twin 35mm Gatling cannons with two rotary plasma-pulse cannons. The Spectre II’s internal bay was reconfigured to feed a pair of warhead launchers in place of the Spectre II’s distinctive, atypical ventral bay hatches. The four exterior missile hardpoints were retained; the hard points were strengthened in the Mark 5 to allow 25% more load. The Apparition can be configured for a wide variety of warheads, but four set load-outs are the most common.
The Standard load-out is four Reaver medium-range missiles in the bay and four Reaper short range missiles for use at dogfighting ranges on the hardpoints. The increased load of the Mark 5 and 6’s hardpoints allowed the Interdiction load of the Apparition to carry two Reaper and two Pierce light Interdictor missiles externally, plus two Reaver and two Puncture medium interdictor missiles in the bay. The Strike load-out carries two Reapers and two single-shot Harridan light anti-fighter torpedo launchers on the hardpoints, and four Skull torpedoes (anti-armour/anti-starship) in the warhead launcher. The forth common load-out is the Strike Support, which replaces the Strike’s Skulls with 28 Horde semi-guided warheads.
The Apparitions have had many notable successes; in one operation in 2326, a squadron of Apparition fighter attacked an enemy supply base during a resupplying operation, and destroyed over thirty enemy fighters and transports plus a corvette, for the loss of a single fighter (whose pilot was recovered).
*Please note, at time of writing, the render on TheShop3D appears to be wrong, showing the Foul Wing instead. The model itself is correct as far as I know, since the price is not the same as he Foul Wing but it is being investigated! 2020 again…!
Photos of Replicator 2 versions.
Next month will be about the last of the starfleet, I think, and in subsqeuent months, the 144th ground force will be following for its re-release to TheShop3D.20/01/2021 at 14:57 #149797
Test post to see if it’s actually going to show up (and/or prompt it to show the post that it thinks it posted today, but isn’t showing…)
(If it doesn’t in a few hours, I think I might have to make a new thread for the last parts, since editing the OP last month REALLY made the system cry for some reason…!
Fortunately, I always save a copy of my posts to disc before hitting submit…)
Edit: Well, this post showed up right away. Not a hugely encouraging sign, is it?
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