Campaign of the Month: January 2012
Star Trek Late Night
The Quarians are a nomadic species of humanoid aliens known for their skills with technology and synthetic intelligence. Since their homeworld Rannoch was conquered, the Quarians live aboard the Migrant Fleet, a huge collection of starships that travel as a single fleet.
Approximately three hundred years ago, the Quarians created the Geth, a species of rudimentary artificial intelligences, to serve as an efficient source of manual labor. However, when the Geth gradually became sapient, the Quarians became terrified of possible consequences and tried to destroy their creations. The Geth won the resulting war and forced their creators into exile. Now the Quarians wander the galaxy in a flotilla of salvaged ships, secondhand vessels, and recycled technology.
Quarians are generally shorter and of slighter build than Humans. Quarians have an endoskeleton, lips, teeth, and two eyes with eyelids and tear ducts; they also have three thick fingers on both hands which include a thumb and an index finger, as well as three toes on each foot. Their lower legs are bowed backwards significantly, compared to Asari or Humans. Aside from hands and legs, their general body shape and sexual dimorphism is similar to Humans. Their ears or ear analogues differ in a noticeable fashion from those of Humans, with references made to ‘what passes for the Quarian version of an ear’.
The most important fact of Quarian biology is their weak immune system, compounded by centuries of living in sterile environments. As a result, all Quarians by necessity dress in highly sophisticated enviro-suits, to protect them from disease or infection if they are injured. Their suits can be compartmentalized in the event of a tear or similar breach to prevent the spread of contaminants (similar to a ship sealing off bulkheads in the event of a hull breach).
Quarian immune systems have always been relatively weak, as pathogenic microbes were comparatively rare in their homeworld’s biosphere. Furthermore, what few viruses and other microbes were native to their homeworld were often at least partly beneficial to them. After living aboard the Migrant Fleet for generations, the Quarians’ immune systems have atrophied further still due to the years in the sterile environment of the Migrant Fleet. As such, Quarians are given various vaccinations and immunizations to help ward off disease. However, they prefer the safety of their suits even in clean environments and are reluctant to remove them without a good reason.
A Quarian who wishes to remove their suit must take antibiotics, immuno-boosters, herbal supplements, or the like in order to do so safely, and even then there are inherent risks. As a result, physical acts of affection are difficult for Quarians, even for the purposes of reproduction. Ships in the Migrant Fleet often contain ‘clean rooms’ where Quarians can give birth or undergo medical procedures in relative safety, though there are always risks. The most intimate thing Quarians can do is link their suit environments. However, doing so guarantees a Quarian will get sick, although they will usually adapt over time.
Like Turians, the Quarians are a dextro-protein species of reverse chirality from Humans and Asari. The food of levo-protein races such as Humans or Asari is at best inedible and at worst poisonous, most likely triggering a dangerous allergic reaction. Quarians who want to taste something (other than the refined edible paste issued to all who leave on their Pilgrimage) can eat specially purified Turian cuisine.
Hailing from the world of Rannoch, the Quarians were always a technologically capable species. They created the Geth around 2000 CE to be used as laborers and tools of war. The Quarians kept their programming as limited as that of any VI, nothing close to an AI, remaining mindful of the Citadel Council’s laws against artificial intelligence. But as the Quarians gradually modified the Geth to do more complex tasks, developing a sophisticated neural network, these changes altered the Geth to such an extent that they became sentient. One day, a Geth unit began asking its overseer questions about the nature of its existence. According to Legion, while this was not the first time a Geth unit had asked if it had a soul, it was the first time doing so had caused fear.
Panicked, the Quarian government ordered the immediate termination of all Geth in the hopes of preventing a revolution. They underestimated, however, the power and sophistication of the Geth’s neural network. The Geth reacted to defend themselves, and the resulting confrontation erupted into a planetwide war. Billions of Quarians died, and the survivors were eventually driven from their homeworld. After being refused aid by the Citadel Council, the Quarians fled the system in what remained of their fleet. Shortly later, the Council stripped the Quarians of their embassy as punishment for their carelessness. Ever since, the Quarians have drifted from system to system, searching for resources to sustain the Migrant Fleet and also for a new world to colonize. They even retain hopes of someday reclaiming Rannoch from the Geth.
The Quarians’ top priority is the survival and sustainability of the Migrant Fleet. Most of their laws and customs revolve around this goal. It is illegal for couples to have more than one child, so that the fleet can maintain zero population growth (if the population begins to shrink, this rule is temporarily lifted, and incentives may be provided to encourage multiple births). Families are thus very small and close-knit. Because every Quarian depends on his or her crewmates to survive, they are much more community-minded than individualistic species like the Krogan. Loyalty, trust, and cooperation are highly prized qualities.
Quarians enjoy storytelling as a means of escape from their often trying lives aboard the fleet, and are known to hold dancers in high esteem.
Young Quarians are required to undertake a Pilgrimage outside the fleet in order to pass into full adulthood. The Pilgrimage is an opportunity for Quarians to experience the world outside the Migrant Fleet, interact with other cultures, and learn to appreciate life among their own people. Their departure is a major event; the whole crew assembles to see them off, and they are given many gifts to aid them on their journey, along with immunity-boosting injections and advice on surviving on the outside. The young Quarian cannot return to the flotilla until they have found something of value to bring back – whether information, money, or supplies. When they return, they do not go back to their birth ship, but instead select a new ship to join; this helps maintain genetic diversity by preventing intermarriage between close relatives. The Quarian presents their gift to the captain of the new ship to prove they will not be a burden on the crew. Although the gift may be rejected if it is subpar, this is very rare, as most captains are eager to welcome a new shipmate on board. Having a large crew is a prestigious thing, as it means the captain has the financial and material means to provide for many people.
Conditions aboard most Quarian ships are extremely cramped. It is not uncommon for all family members to share the same small living space, which in turn is in close proximity to many other families’ quarters. These spaces are often uncomfortable and ill-designed for living in, having been reappropriated from other functions such as storage. Families decorate their individual dwellings with colorful quilts, which serve to muffle sound and also to make the environment cozier. Quarians place low value on personal possessions, instead evaluating objects by their usefulness and bartering them for other items once they are no longer needed. Every ship has a designated trading deck where those looking to barter can gather to do business.
Quarians wear their environmental suits at all times, partly in case of a hull breach and partly in response to the lack of personal space aboard the flotilla. Because their suits make it hard to identify individuals on sight, Quarians have developed the habit of exchanging names whenever they meet.
Over time, the environmental suits themselves have gained symbolic and cultural significance. and being fitted with their first suit is considered a rite of passage. After returning to the fleet after their pilgrimage, they may alter their suit to reflect their new status as adults. Linking suit environments is seen as the ultimate gesture of trust and affection.
Due to their history with the Geth, Quarians are reluctant to place complete trust in virtual or artificial intelligences, but they also show surprising compassion towards them and are far more likely than other species to treat them as living beings.
Quarians refer to commanding officers of any ships, Quarian or non-Quarian, as captain, regardless of rank. Their reasoning is that the CO’s decisions always carry great weight on his/her own ship.
The Quarians have a very different economic system from the rest of the galaxy. While credits influence what is available in Citadel space, currency is non-existent in Quarian society. Quarians value the little space they have above all else, so no unused items are kept to maximize space. When a Quarian has an item they do not need, they place it in a public area, in what resembles a market. The items available are put into storage lockers, and those in need may simply take what they find. Since Quarian society is based around honor and loyalty to their fellow Quarians, there is rarely disagreement.
However, food and medicine are handled more strictly. The food coming from both the Liveships and from scout ships is put into a central stock and distributed carefully to individuals. Outgoing food is tracked carefully, so as not to put the Migrant Fleet at risk of food shortage, or worse, mass starvation. Medicine is also distributed carefully. However, since the Quarians wear their enviro-suits everywhere, even when aboard the Migrant Fleet, they are at a very low risk of sickness. Controlling the flow of medicine also creates an emergency stockpile in case of a widespread outbreak, which is necessary since the Quarian immune system is so weak.
Another means of resource income for the Fleet is from whatever system that the Migrant Fleet is passing through at the time; the Quarians will strip-mine any promising planets for resources with well-trained efficiency. Any other races with industrial or corporate interests in that system will often offer a ‘gift’ of ships, food, or other supplies to encourage the Fleet to leave. Usually, the Admiralty Board accepts the gift, as the Migrant Fleet is in no position to decline resources. In addition, some ships may linger in orbit over inhabited worlds to sell refreshments, supplies, and various trinkets to the locals.
The Quarians used to practice a form of ancestor worship. This involved taking a personality imprint from the individual and developing it into an interface similar to a VI. The Quarians began experimenting with making these imprints more and more sophisticated, hopefully leading to the wisdom of their ancestors being preserved in an imprint that could be truly intelligent. However, the Geth destroyed the Quarians’ ancestor databanks when they rebelled. Some Quarians saw their subsequent exile as punishment for their hubris, but most accept that the Geth rebellion was a mistake, not a punishment.
However, respect for their ancestors is still prevalent in Quarian society. Admiral Shala’Raan vas Tonbay opens an Admiralty Board proceeding offering thanks to their ancestors, who saved them from the Geth by founding the Migrant Fleet.
Now that the Quarians are reduced to a small, insular population they have one common language. Such words as are known have slipped out from intra-Quarian conversation.
- nedas: nowhere
- tasi: no-one
- vas (ship-name): crew of
- nar (ship-name): child of
- keelah: exclamation
- keelah se’lai: possibly a religious statement, sometimes used in the same terms as a benediction (similar to ‘may the Force b with you)
- bosh’tet: curse/insult, likely being relative to ‘son-of-a-bitch’ or ‘bastard’
Quarian names are composed of four parts – the Quarian’s given name and clan name separated by an apostrophe, the title (‘nar’ means ‘child of’, referring to their birth ship, while ‘vas’, adopted after the Quarian has completed their Pilgrimage and joined a ship, means ‘crew of’) and the name of their vessel.
There are roughly 17 million Quarians on the Migrant Fleet (also called the Flotilla). It is technically still under martial law but is now governed by bodies such as the Admiralty Board and the democratically-elected Conclave, though ship captains and onboard civilian councils tend to address most issues ‘in-house’ before it gets that far. Quarians are divided into several clans that can be spread across several ships, or restricted to one.
The Federation has no political relations with the Quarians because the Migrant Fleet has not yet passed through any Federation-controlled area of space. Other species tend to look down on the Quarians for several reasons, the foremost of which being their supposed ‘unleashing’ of the Geth upon the galaxy. Quarians are often viewed as beggars and thieves.
Because of the Flotilla’s limited resources, Quarians strip-mine the systems they pass through, which often puts them at odds with any species currently settled there. The Migrant Fleet also tends to drop off criminals on planets it passes, because the Quarians cannot support a non-productive prison population – they simply lack the resources. However, life on the Migrant Fleet means Quarians have unique skills. They are masters at maintaining and converting technology, especially ship parts, and they are also expert miners because the Fleet requires huge amounts of fuel. They are able to repair what most species would melt down. This proficiency means corporations sometimes quietly hire Quarians ‘on the side’ if the Migrant Fleet is nearby, replacing existing workers, much to their annoyance.
This unpopularity, and the fact their entire species travels and works as one, makes most Quarians quite insular, caring only about the continued survival of the Migrant Fleet. Their nomadic life and exclusion from the Citadel mean that the concerns of the Citadel races don’t particularly interest or impress them.
- Fitness 2(5)
- Coordination 2(5)
- Intellect 2(5)
- Logic +1
- Presence 2(5)
- Psi 0(5)
- Force 0(5)
- Essence 0(5)
- Area Knowledge, Any 1(2)(2)
- Culture, Quarian 2(3)
- Engineering, Any 1(2)(2)
- History, Quarian 1(2)
- Science, Space 1(2)(2)
- Shipboard Systems, Quarian 2(3)
- Language: Quarian (Fluent/R/W) (+4)
- Language: Any (Accented/R/W) (+3)
- Medical Remedy: Quarian Environmental Suit (+1)
- Zero-G Training (+2)
- Alien Physiology (-2)
- Susceptible: Disease (-3)