Psirens

Tchklinxa's picture
Tchklinxa
November 22, 2014 - 8:59pm
Many years ago a BBC sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf had an alien race (genetically engineered) that was called Psirens, this race of creatures lured ships into an asteroid field, getting ships to land or crash so they could scavenge the ships and eat the brains of the crews.

These Giant biped Insect looking creatures used psionic abilities to appear as people they are not and to deceive the crews... often tapping into peoples memories, fantasies and emotional drives to manipulate them and create illusions.

Even though Red Dwarf is a comedy this was a pretty good idea for a scavenger trickster predatory race out in space.








 "Never fire a laser at a mirror."
Comments:

KRingway's picture
KRingway
November 23, 2014 - 1:26am
Those in Red Dwarf were made by human bio-engineers, IIRC. If they were a seperate race, they'd have to hope that they could generally find victims who felt emotions - and one wonders how they evolved and what they fed upon when doing so Wink

That said, they could be something that was created by the Sathar...

jedion357's picture
jedion357
November 23, 2014 - 5:09am
KRingway wrote:


That said, they could be something that was created by the Sathar...


Thue that, it does sound like a sathar plot. Could equally be Klikk, tetrarch or simply a mystery left unanswered accept in the Star Law X files (because the truth may or may not be out there but is certainly gets buried by the government).

I like this, my gut reation is not to make them sathar in origin, however this would be a perfect plot for a phase 1 prelude to a sathar invasion. It disrupts shipping, trade, and resource collection; all of which are stated sathar goals for their agents and it forces Space Fleet and the militias to re-assign resources to deal with it. This puts the Frontier on the wrong footing for the balloon going up.

I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

KRingway's picture
KRingway
November 23, 2014 - 7:16am
Zeb's Guide describes agents being found with parasitic creatures, thought to be made by the Sathar. It seems that the Sathar must have a pretty good idea about the physiology of the various Frontier races. With that in mind, it's always possible that this sort of creature could be a Sathar construct, although have it being perhaps a bit less powerful than shown in Red Dwarf. After all, the Sathar design may have a few kinks which can give it away Wink

Tchklinxa's picture
Tchklinxa
November 23, 2014 - 10:14am
Yes in RD they were a GELF. They could have become more intelligent once they started sucking more advanced species brains, after all they are reading minds then eating them. They could be a Sathar parasite species, they could be older than that, the Techarch's could be responsible for them, or maybe another older race or they simply escaped their world somehow: eating and scavenging other races to evolve themselves.

As a race they are willing to kill each other for fresh brains, clearly are smart enough to lure intelligent prey, pretend to be intelligent unique individuals, attack with illusion and real methods for damaging ships, though illusion is their preferred method. They seem to find it easiest to tap into the part of the psyche that is related to sex, reproduction. protection of mate & progeny or the natural survival instinct to avoid a danger; however, some seem to be able to copy in extreme detail how a person sees them self, or information about other people, can appear as an object too, so I would think some skill is needed to maintain such illusions, with some being easier and others harder. 

The RD ones had kinks in their performance of people, saying things that person would not, recorded video watched (ship's black box) latter did not have a psiren focussing on the illusion so viewers latter see the creatures as they are. There should be a limit in what they can do, range, duration. 

TSR's Doppleganger is an alien creature in Expedition to Barrier Peaks. The Doppleganger seeks to kill people, take their place & kill more people... Doppelganger do consumes brains too & it somehow assimilates memories better this way. As D&D progressed a variety of Doppelganger sub-races developed with various twists. So that is a very similar creature to the RD Psirens in game function.  
One difference between D&D Doppleganger and the Psiren is that the RD Psirens have a clearly different body type meaning though they could create the illusion of being human and even be holding a gun in the illusion, they could not actually hold a gun unless it was designed for their limbs, unlike a Doppleganger which has hands. They are thus limited as to what they can use unless designed for them... they have limbs that do not have hands, they can poke things, stab things, tap things, slash things, hug things but can not really grab things as we do, so they need to trick others to do things they can not... I like the idea of them being more like RD then the D&D Humanoid Doppleganger in physical limitations, this makes the creature have a weakness and forces the creature to use a lot more trickery to achieve their goals and rely on illusion.

As a species regardless of origin, they would still make good assassins & spies in the right situation. As a species I think they could have an agenda of becoming powerful via sucking brains to gain knowledge, tricking other species to build or develop technology or do things for them that helps them evolve and gain power from the shadows. They would be aware that in highly populated technological environments they would be at a disadvantage... security cameras, the limitations of the illusion, bio-scanners and so on would not work in their favor... so they would hide in fringe places & communities.  

You could even have connoisseur Psirens, ones that hunt specific people for their memories, knowledge, or experiences. For instance a scientist Psiren would probably have a personal list of famous scientists they wanted to eat. I am thinking maybe the more brains they eat the smarter/skills they get. Maybe as a species they need to abduct other species to feed their young to start them becoming intelligent... for instance it might be their custom to abduct an intelligent race member/s put them in the room with the eggs, when the nymphs hatch they fight each other over the person/s and the ones that survives and get the brain, then becomes intelligent. It is possible some basic race memory is passed to all nymphs, but this is limited, but might create sort of a limited base knowledge.

 They sort of remind me of highly evolved Cockroaches on RD... so I would like to use that:

Cockroaches:
Nocturnal, like dark warm, wet environments the best. Capable of going with food for a long period of time & being active (1 month), capable of surviving being submerged underwater for 1 hour and a half, capable of surviving without air of any kind for 45 minutes. Some species can hibernate in cold weather and capable of surviving 12 hours at -5 to -8 degrees C. The severed head is capable of survival, wave it's antennae for several hours, longer if refrigerated and given nutrients... (oh this has creepy potential, talking heads in jars, a decapitated head kept alive so another Psiren could gain the knowledge it posses, a decapitated psiren signaling another to retrieve it before it dies dies)... high radiation resistance 6 to 15 times higher.

Maybe all Psirens are descended from Nadezhda, the first cockroach sent into space, first terrestrial creature to give birth in space... 33 healthy but different babies. Wink 
 "Never fire a laser at a mirror."

jedion357's picture
jedion357
November 23, 2014 - 3:04pm
This has me thinking to dust off the rock hound adventure, I needed a climax for it and the void spiders idea didnt feel right. I think the psiren needs to be able to survive adrift in an asteroid field for considerable time while waiting for prey to happen along.

EDIT: Since the discussion of the psiren has emphasized their buggishness then I would say go with them being related to the klicks but not klicks or an outcast member of the species. For example if there was an aberant mutation in a klick leads it to start showing aberant tastes (brain sucking) and PSi powers. When this happens the klikks would put this individual in their version of a escape pod and eject it from the ship. A klikk in such a pod can survive centuries (note the klikks passed through Starmist and presumably the Frontier 700 years ago). Thus there can be Psirens drifting in a number of Frontier systems.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

Tchklinxa's picture
Tchklinxa
November 23, 2014 - 6:40pm
Being Klikk descendants could work or some other buggy aliens... such as the Zuraqqor. I think I will look at the various bug races again... 

I think what ever genealogy I assign them I will work in some mythology & legend for that psi gene coming from a female of the species named Nadezhda (I like the name)... the which ever origin I think the normal descendants of the common root race even might have a fear of the mythic Nadezhda (after all no one wants their brains sucked, and a cannibal loose on a spaceship sucks for any race, and of course it is alleged she still lives... birthing more aberrations in the cold dark of space).  A lot of people might think the Psirens are a tall space tale based on a retelling of old Terra legends, when in fact they are very real and even a danger to the Sathar...

I was thinking recently space is big, full of lots of danger and the Sathar have had their share of bad days at the office not involving the UPF or the other "good" guys. Other scarier races or similar space hazards threaten them too. Psirens would prey on any race. Excellent guys for abandoned colonies, asteroid fields, ship graveyards, crime lord boss, mad scientist, assassins, hibernating at a dig site of the Tetrarchs... in away they could be like vampires/mummies, creatures that operate in the dark, in the shadows, have their own society, agenda and everyone else is potential dinner. 

Imagine one of these things slinking around a mining colony, or living in the bowels of a station. People go missing all the time in RL, space would be no different.



 "Never fire a laser at a mirror."

Tchklinxa's picture
Tchklinxa
November 24, 2014 - 10:18am
I began contemplating how to play a Psiren in the game: I figure it will need several psi abilities.

There is a Red Dwarf RPG: Of course the game is suppose to cause laughter while the PCs try and survive... but I thought looking at their rules for this beasty might be useful at least a little. RD the game uses a very different 6d system. 

"...are able to survive in the vacuum of space without much technological assistance...

Psirens have the ability to project images into the minds of their prey, luring victims into coming closer and lowering defenses. A common tactic is for the Psiren to project itself as a lost family member, lost love, or object of sexual desire. Once the subject gets within arms reach, the Psiren jams a large metal straw into his skull and sucks out the brain. 

Psirens may change their appearance by projecting the desired image into the minds of their victims. This requires 1 round. The Psiren may affect multiple targets with one projection provided they are within 10 meters. The number of targets that can be affected by the Psiren equal it’s PER stat.

The targets of the mental projection can resist by making a Resist check with a -2 penalty. However, Psirens experience mental strain when projecting different images to multiple life forms, so each victim beyond the first to be targeted receives a +1 bonus to Resist Checks.

If this check fails, the mental images appear completely real to the victims, while those who succeed simply look on, wondering what their comrades are looking at (and possibly laughing if the victim is trapped in a particularly embarrassing projection). The images the Psiren projects will be something that appeals to the victim, such as a long lost loved one, or a chance for some good hot loving. Once the victim falls prey to the Psiren’s visions, the Psiren receives a +2 bonus to all Seduction, Empathy, and Intimidate checks against the victim.

Brain Straw: Once the victim is within close proximity and his guard is down, the creature will attack, attempting to shove a large metal straw into the victim’s head. The Brain Straw has a WR of 4. If the attack hits and the victim is not killed instantly, the psiren will continue sucking his brain out on the next round unless the victim succeeds in a Self-Defense check. If the check is successful the brain straw is removed (although a headache is sure to follow and the victim will have a nice new hole in his head).

If the brain straw is not extracted, the victim will continue to take the initial damage and lose one point permanently from PER, INT, and WIL every round. If any of these stats are reduced to 0 the victim dies."

I watched the Psiren episode and typed up a description based on the TV:

Description:

2 meter tall Insectoid (6-7 feet). They do not posses mandibles but instead has 2 soft suction small trunk like mouths that it can manipulate around. It has two long soft and flexible mustache like feelers and two short feelers that hang down one on each side of the mouth where mandibles would normally be. It has two antennae on it’s head along with several coarse short upright insect hairs between its eyes on the top of it’s head. It has two huge oval-egg shaped glass black compound eyes that must allow it to see in a pretty big arc. It has a short neck. It’s forearms are built for poking or slashing, and are curved, ending in a point. It does not posses “hands”, but set back near the joint part of the forearms are additional pincher digits that is capable of holding small objects without difficulty. The creature is flightless. It may or may not be a biped. Two long curved tongs project off their back framing their head appear to be very similar to the forearms but posses no pinchers. They are fussed unmovable part of the creatures exoskeleton back. The softer sections of the main body and around the joints have insect hairs. Their blood is iridescent green.

From Gamma Dawn:

Illusion Generation

Mental; Activated, SL

The character can create an illusion that exists only in the mind of the victim, if the attack (a LOG contest between the mutant and his intended victim, with a bonus of 10xSL) is successful. The illusion must be composed of things that the character has seen or experienced. The illusion affects everyone, including his friends, within 30 meters of him. The mutant must roll a mental attack against each creature in the area of affect to see if it believes the illusion. The illusion itself can appear to be further away than 30 meters, but the target character must active, the illusion dissipates for him only. The character can use this power once every four hours. The illusion is static and unmoving unless the character concentrates on manipulating it. It is complete for all of the senses. However, it has no weight or resistance to a push. Hitting the illusion in combat, doesn't jar the attacker's arm. Being hit by the illusion, doesn't cause the defender to rock back from the blow. A light touch will not reveal this. If a hard push or a successful attack in combat is made against the illusion, a new mental attack roll must be made to see if the victim still believes the illusion. If the victim is expressing doubt and pushes or attacks to test the validity of the illusion, it automatically dissipates. The illusion can be maintained for 3xSL rounds.


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 "Never fire a laser at a mirror."

Abub's picture
Abub
November 25, 2014 - 1:37pm
So... my 8.5 days thread... leads me to this question.

How does ANYBODY get lured anywhere with FLT travel being as it is.  You can't stop if you want to in order to be lured.  The Psions would need to be on ship to guide the crew wrong.

I didn't see this episode (or have forgotten it)... is that how it worked?  The creature was on ship already or did it send a mental attack out over subspace?


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Tchklinxa's picture
Tchklinxa
November 25, 2014 - 3:43pm
Well in the episode they are on Starbug chasing the Red Dwarf which they think has been stolen and to get caught up they decide to go through an asteroid field versus around the TV space hazard.
 
But for SF the psirens would be capable of employing technology & trickery.  These critters could be found accidentally... you know on an abandoned Spacestation, a crashed ship, maybe those occasional misjumped disappeared ships are not all that accidental or a malfunctioning alien piece of technology could be occasionally causing ships on a known navigation route to misjump into a ship graveyard, which coincidentally has all sorts of nasties inhabiting the wrecks, and area. 

It also depends if you decide FTL ships in void can receive no communication or if there is away to communicate to them from regular space. Sort of depends what you want more then what science allows, maybe things happening in regular space can accidentally affect void travel. 

I have been giving the nature of colonization as we imagine it some thought... I suspect there are lots of abandoned places around the Frontier. These would be places that now are unimportant because of FTL travel. For instance in RL the old Highway system went through towns, and often was a less than a direct route, once the Interstate system took over many places where bypassed and died out, even well used roads to places have modern ghost towns along the way as some places are easier to fly to then drive or cars can go a longer range without fueling. Or if you want to figure out where old routes, forts and towns are form the pioneer days of America (that are now abandoned places) you have to know what resources where needed for wagon trains, towns & forts then finding an old fort or town or route becomes easier. Where the Park Service says something was and where it is are sometimes two different places. Wink 

 I decided that pretty much everyone colonizing was using less than FTL travel, so at first they did not even know each other were out there. They would have built up their own systems first and were all busy with that and not even thinking of buzzing around until the great discovery they where not alone... then they developed FTL and that changed everything, resulting in abandoned places. (I suspect FTL tech is one of the things that make the Sathar think you are a threat as a culture.)

So it is sort of up to what you allow to "work" in your universe. 

I figure you could even go all mummy horror story with this idea... archeologist find an ancient alien ruins of a city with some advance broken alien technology and evidence of battle, it is a Corporate/University sponsored dig, the primitive locals say a god slumbers in the city, and every so many years they have a great big ceremony to feed the god... and of course that date is fast approaching, the dig team is dealing with other companies spying and trying to steal artifacts while trying to get some cool big piece of technology working or something deciphered, and trying to connivence the locals dead gods do not need to be fed, when they discover a whole secret tunnel, chamber complex thing and wake up the dead god... who is a Psiren, who is very real, very dangerous, and wants off the planet. Oh and the locals might want to sacrifice the team... for sacrilege! Heck you could even have competing teams or scenarios where unless the companies work together no one is going to live... so the PCs would have been hired... or the ship could be the PC's ship hired to transport the artifacts of pottery, statues, boxes, jewelry, steles, etc and a dead mummified alien back to be studied from a successful dig... except dead alien isn't dead.

What if Psirens can cocoon themselves for hibernation reasons? 






 "Never fire a laser at a mirror."

Abub's picture
Abub
November 25, 2014 - 6:51pm
Well, the trouble with that is... it is IMPOSSIBLE to get one star away from your home planet without FTL travel of some kind.... the only alternative is to have generations of people condemned to space travel.

That is not something most sociaties would do if it was not a dire need.... like a global extinction event.
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Abub's picture
Abub
November 25, 2014 - 6:55pm
I'm thinking the best way to use your idea would be to have a known place adbandoned because of something... like the mineral that was being mined ran out or a disease killed a city or something.... or go all Olmec on it and have the people just vanished and it is a mystery.
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Tchklinxa's picture
Tchklinxa
November 25, 2014 - 11:33pm
Pretty much what I am thinking...

I figure space faring civilizations have come and gone many times in this galaxy, so the chances are there...

Psirens could even stalk people on their dinner list for knowledge or have a few that wait till someone "important" is near death to suck their brains and thus "preserve" the knowledge... 
 "Never fire a laser at a mirror."

jedion357's picture
jedion357
November 26, 2014 - 11:49am
I think we should treat the phrase "sucking out their brains" as a metaphor for what actually happens

Just punching a hole in the brain case is going to cause structural damage to the brain and "ruin" the quality of what the psiren is getting while sucking, and the image of a hose sucking up brain matter also makes me think that the process of sucking is damaging brain structure and thus the Psiren is not going to really be feeding on the mind of its victim but rather a oatmeal like mush.

Sure there are areas on the human skull that are probably eaiser for the creature to punch a probe through like the nasal cavity or an eye or possibly through the soft pallete or the ear canal but again you still get some damage and trauma from this action.

We've already said that this creature preys on the thoughts and memories of its victims so its already in the victim's mind to some degree. Thus it could be that just close personal contact with it allows it to suck out the mind of the victim and that eating brains is about some other biological function.

Perhaps the Psiren uses its bug like mandibles to crush the head of its victims because if it left them they would regain consciousness and be able to sense his location/presense since there is a mental bond between them now.

Or the Psiren is just a distant relative of Hannibal Lector and likes the taste of brains.

or it lays an egg in the brain case of a victim- the mush of the brains being the fertile soil where this seed will "sprout"
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

Tchklinxa's picture
Tchklinxa
November 26, 2014 - 9:19pm
I think you have some good points...

I really like the idea that they suck the knowledge out of another into their brain (versus the visual straw) and this is how they gain a lot of their knowledge. It could be that the victim of such a mind wipe is left brain dead or in a coma... I think they should have a specialized organ for the brain wiping and this is the longer larger trunk mouth like organ. Now the idea in the other RPG that the victim starts loosing stats as this happens is logical and if anyone stat gets too low the victim flatlines. For SF LOG has got to be one of the stats affected for sure, I also suggest INT and PER/LDR should be also affected as these 4 traits represent the persons whole personality, psyche, and knowledge when combined. Victims of such an attack should have some sort of mark on them I would think, even if they don't get eaten.

The second smaller sucker mouth is actually their mouth. They need to eat somehow. If they have mandibles it might be harder for the victim to escape or they may have lost the mandibles but once the victim is mind wiped they then could kill with those super sharp hard slashing poker forelimbs and then don't really eat as much as slurp up blood, and certain organs and chunks of flesh... that would explain the brain eating and the fact that some make a mess out of their victims. A Psiren could easily with the right tools make slushies of ground meats and liquids instead and not be messy. Or they could have a more regular mouth. 

I think they should be able to communicate with each other psionically.
 
I think if they can cocoon themselves and have cockroach like survival abilities that would allow them to survive in some extreme conditions. 

Reproduction... they could be only female and lay a limited amount of offspring. If only female then they would need to find males of a compatible species to mate with, this would greatly limit their population. Or what if they are a few Queens who can reproduce and then the worker/drone class which though female & male can't. So then the males have to come from outside the species from a fertile related species, but the sterile sexes can not suck knowledge rather they have psionic abilities, are born with some knowledge the queen posses some sort of random rolling would be required, and that is how a Psiren colony is set up, only the Queens are capable of mind wiping someone. The sterile group might have mandibles... and can project illusions & read minds but not at the level of the Queen.
 "Never fire a laser at a mirror."

jedion357's picture
jedion357
November 27, 2014 - 3:42am
Queen/worker/drone formats suggest a social specie but seems to me that the live a lonely existance in the asteroid belt.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

Tchklinxa's picture
Tchklinxa
November 27, 2014 - 9:45am
I am good with either, solitary scavenger species either by choice or forced: because when they first appeared early in their evolution they where considered a threat to the root race that would evolve groups such as the Clikk or Vrusk.

I am just spit balling ideas.

I was thinking if the Vrusk had a legend about them it would involve a trade house gone wrong (the trade house part could be untrue or true as it would be a morality tale like all good horror stories) and the Psiren gene might be why the Clikks freak out at such a hardwired level towards other insect species, they had a bad cultural experience too... and the way they deal with it is don't bother to find out if bug people who sort of look like you are potential friends just kill them and all danger is gone then! 


 "Never fire a laser at a mirror."

Abub's picture
Abub
December 2, 2014 - 10:02am
Are klicks in the zines?  

I might need to use a psion in a one shot this weekend. 

My UPF chief engineer will get assigned to command an A. Scout (the UPFS Dart) on a rescue mission of a research ship that had a void drive failure (I'm doing the Jump drive thing). 

So I'm thinking the research ship picked up the psion(s) and were sabotaged only they don't realize it. 
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Tchklinxa's picture
Tchklinxa
December 2, 2014 - 8:33pm
Yes #16 of SFman has the Clikks page 1.

I am working up a submission article for the magazine on the Psirens.


 "Never fire a laser at a mirror."

TerlObar's picture
TerlObar
March 18, 2015 - 8:45pm
These gals are going to be in the next issue of the Frontier Explorer and we need art.  Anyone up to drawing some images?  jedion357 and Tchklinxa had some sketches (which are really nice by the way) that they should post and which we could use or if someone wanted to do other images that would be great as well.  If you're interested, I can send you the article with the final writeup for reference.
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Tchklinxa's picture
Tchklinxa
March 18, 2015 - 9:03pm
PsirenI hope I posted this right... 
 "Never fire a laser at a mirror."