Campaign of the Month: January 2012
Star Trek Late Night
- Planet Name: Vulcan (Ti-Valka’ain)
- Class: M
- Moons or Rings: None
- Gravity: 1.4 G
- Climate: Thin atmosphere, 28% hydrosphere, hot temperature
- Demographics: billions of natives and Federation citizens
- Civilization: Representative democracy with theocratic influence
- Resources: skilled sc ientists, artwork, trillium
An arid world known both for its stoic people and its own natural harshness, Vulcan forged a culture of survival, logic, and complex mysticism. The world stands as proof that species can evolve peace and prosperity in spite of their planet’s limitations and their own terrible urges.
Vulcan, or Ti-Valka’ain, orbits 40 Eridani A, a trinary star system with an orange dwarf, a white dwarf, and a faint red dwarf star. This system lies a mere 16.5 light-years from Earth – a hop, skip and jump in warp distances.
As a founding world of the Federation, Vulcan’s central position is crucial to the well-being of that organization. Vulcan is an important point strategically (on the way to Earth, the Federation headquarters) and spiritually (as a founding world and the home of the diplomats who first introduced Humanity to so many other species).
Arid, hot climes on Vulcan are exacerbated by the planet’s lack of water and its thin atmosphere. Human visitors find themselves sweating profusely and gasping for breath all at the same time. Some geological evidence indicates that Vulcan was not always so desperately close to inhospitabilitiy; scientists theorize that a stellar ejection or a cataclysmic tectonic action led to the shift in Vulcan’s climate at some point thousands of years ago.
Regardless of the reasons behind Vulcan’s climes, the planet only marginally supports life. Even the sehlat, a popular housepet, is dangerously predatorial. The ecosystems of Vulcan are threadbare but robust: There are few different species, but they are all very well adapted to the harsh conditions of the planet. Plant life in particular thrives in cactus-like forms.
Vulcan boasts three enormous continents: Na’nam, Han-shir, and Xir’tan. The Voroth and Sanar seas surround and separate these continents – barely. The oceans themselves are shallow and join at the south pole. Beyond these oceans, running or freestanding areas of water are extremely rare on Vulcan;
ancient city sites almost always spring up around a rare natural spring.
Because of its desertification, Vulcan’s mountain ranges experience little erosion. This leaves them tall and forbidding. In many places, only rocky cliff falls underscore the passage of the elements; strong wind blows cutting sand, making jagged and oddly-colored formations like those found in the deserts of Central America on Earth.
Visitors are advised to give the continent Xir’tan a wide berth. The continent remains tectonically unstable, to the point of unhabitability.
Modern Vulcan civilization is a curious amalgam of the Federation’s highest technology and ancient Vulcan artifice. A Vulcan with a computer PADD in one hand and an archaic musical instrument in the other is not an uncommon sight, and the Vulcans think nothing of having engineering stations and science academies next door to elegantly-carved stone temples and ancient statues.
The Vulcan civilization’s dual architecture reveals their dual nature: While Vulcans learn from a young age to suppress their emotions and engross themselves in logic, they also ascribe to strongly supernatural codes of behavior and ritual. Ceremonies of marriage, funeral, and coming of age all mark Vulcan growth. While there may be little logical reason behind such ceremonies, the Vulcans retain these as part of their cultural identity.
As a result, Vulcan society is a study in contrasts. Logic, order and science are the rule of the day in casual society. Under this veneer, however, many Vulcans continue to practice traditions handed down for generations, even if such traditions have no “logical” basis. Some sociologists observe that these traditions go hand-in-hand with the Vulcan practice of emotional suppression as ritual expressions of order; they provide a centering task, a sense of serenity akin to the Human pursuit of Zen or clarity. Others point to the strong Vulcan tendency toward psionic expression and argue that the rituals descend from ways of channeling psionic power. Both probably have some truth.
An outsider will rarely be at a loss in Vulcan cities; the layout is almost always uniformly logical, and Vulcans themselves are courteous (if distant) to visitors. Nevertheless, Vulcans also do not go out of their way to make visitors comfortable. Even as Starfleet cadets jockey for postings at the prestigious Vulcan Science Academy, offworlders find themselves unable to put up with the pressure of moving among a perfectly orderly, passionless society.
The civilization of Vulcans steps back over two thousand years, although at its outset it can hardly be considered civilized. Vulcans evolved as lean huntergatherers in small communities that sprang up around natural water sources. The combination of powerful emotions and harsh conditions made early Vulcans a hardy but mercurial people: They took pleasures and agonies to heart with great ferocity, often in wild combinations. The hostile conditions of the planet left little opportunity for introspection, or for quiet.
Over the course of centuries, Vulcan tribes spread across the continents. Minor feuds erupted into blood wars, and territorial disputes over all-important water led to the extermination of entire clans. In the background of all of this rose the mindlords – powerful psionic adepts who learned to control minds and turn their burning, raging emotions into weapons that could consume their enemies. Vulcan warfare accelerated their development of weapons and architecture, leading them to create massive stone fortress-monasteries where the mindlords could study in secret and train their armies.
Over time, the wars of the mindlords and the savage tribes soaked the world in green blood. As Vulcan technology improved, so too did the specter of total destruction rear its head. Eventually, two world-spanning forces eyed eachother bloodthirstily from a détente that existed only as a pause between testing battles.
In the midst of this destruction, Surak came. A natural philosopher and orator, Surak posited that Vulcan society must change radically to survive its own violence. Building on the philosophical underpinnings of his predecessors, Surak advocated a radical shift: The use of religious disciplines as a focus for total logic. Surak hoped to banish emotion from the Vulcan consciousness, and to force people into peace by removing the bitter contentions and the spark of anger that flared too easily among his kind. As a natural speaker, he gained many converts, especially due to his passive resistance – his complete unwillingness to resort to violence to spread his doctrine.
Surak and his students succeeded in transforming Vulcan society, although not completely. Many Vulcans gave up their violent lifestyles, hoping at last to find a peaceful, or at least less anguishing, mode of existence. Surak’s philosophies spread through his students and his works, and the pull of logic made powerful orators. Even when his students died at the hands of mindlords or generals, Surak stood by his philosophy. It seemed that critical mass was reached: The Vulcan populace was tired – tired of bloodshed, tired of always living in fear, tired of being controlled and dominated by psionic lords who sought nothing more than venal world conquest.
In addition to the clarity of total logic, Surak brought the strength of conviction. His followers, though not powerfully psionic by comparison to the mindlords and their psionic weapons, could easily resist the influences of outside minds. Over the course of a few generations, the psionic techniques of the mindlords fell into disuse, some because they could no longer sway the majority of the populace, and others because paranoid mindlords took them to the grave. Many Vulcan telepathic disciplines fell into disuse in this time, kept only by a few renegade Vulcans or secret monastic orders. The era of Vulcans forcing their will on others through telepathy or weapons was over. The new era of Vulcans forging their own destinies through logic and self-discipline had begun.
Of course, not all was well in this new paradise. Many Vulcans refused to heed this call. The would be warriors could not sway the populace – thousands embraced Surak’s ideals for each remaining soldier. Instead of becoming obsolete in a culture that advanced without them, these die-hards set off in primitive space vessels hoping to find a home of their own. They succeeded… although it would not be for several centuries that either party knew what became of the other. (See “ Romulus”.)
Guided by logical exploration and a new dedication to peace, Vulcans rapidly advanced in technology. They kept an eye toward renewable resources of their world, and the limited resources proved only to make them more tenacious in their quest. By the time of Earth’s 20th century, Vulcans had constructed warp drive and traveled to many neighboring stars, including Earth’s; they found Earth too primitive for their interest up until a passing vessel spotted Zefram Cochrane’s warp signature from the Phoenix in the 21st century.
After making first contact with the Humans, Vulcans proceeded cautiously. They had no desire to find themselves embroiled in another species-wide war, this one not of their own making. Humans reminded them of their own violent and brutal past; many Vulcans considered Humans to be nothing more than shortsighted children. Still, Humans forged ahead as best they could with the help of (and sometimes in spite of) Vulcan tutelage, first making a world government, then building a Starfleet to explore the Galaxy. While the Vulcans felt that Humanity was not ready, Humans would come to surprise the Vulcans again and again.
By the 22nd century, Vulcans had become a stifling figure to Humanity. While they clearly felt superior due to their embrace of logic and their comparatively advanced technology, the Vulcans also felt no shame in withholding information, meddling in the affairs of other worlds, and denying aid to the less fortunate. Although pragmatic, the Vulcans were insular, suspicious, and not wholly devoted to the true cause of logic.
It was only with the formation of the Federation that the Vulcans finally took their final steps toward the munificent race that they later became. With their outlook tempered by Human compassion, the Vulcans learned to trust that younger species might be able to face the universe on their own terms, instead of having to follow the Vulcan way. The formation of the UFP finally united Vulcan interests with those of other species, declaring their future a mutual one of equals, not a matter of Vulcan parochialism over “young and foolish” races. Vulcans acceded that logic stems from truth, and in a century went from a reputation as spies to a species said to be unable to lie. Interestingly, their devotion to logic only improved over this time. Imperturbable and calm, the Vulcans settled into a position as dispassionate and reasonable mediators, willing to accept that the Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations represented by the Federation could only bring more and better possibilities for the future.
PLACES OF INTEREST
The entire world of Vulcan qualifies as a place of interest to most Federation citizens. Vulcan ranks as a top spot on most Humans’ list of “places to visit someday,” and scientists especially often travel to Vulcan in order to participate in the logical, regimented debates and forums of its academies.
The more mystically-oriented visitors (and natives) consider Mount Seleya the spiritual center of Vulcan. Legend holds that it is here that Surak and many of his followers had the visions and meditations that led to the discipline of total logic. It is here, too, that the most prominent monastic orders remain, and refine their feats of logic and psionic skill.
The typical visitor, of course, can only deal with Vulcan logic for so long; most casual passersby visit ShirKahr, the planetary capital. In order to facilitate the ideals of IDIC and the goodwill of the Federation, the Vulcans of ShirKahr are a cosmopolitan lot, among the most willing to deal equitably with outsiders. Here a Human and an Alpha Centauran can rub shoulders with Bolian traders and Trill scientists, all without drawing any raised eyebrows or expressions of disfavor at their emotional outbursts. Here, too, Vulcan offers up a wide range of its cultural experiences for visitors, in the form of shows, museums, and artistic displays ranging from crystal statuary to live musical performances.