Monday, November 3, 2014

[Traveller] The Reticulans

Reticulan in Vacc Suit
Reticulans, a major alien race in my Visions of Empire setting for Classic Traveller, are small, slender humanoids similar to the archetypal "Grey Aliens": standing approximately 140cm tall, with large heads and almond-shaped multifaceted eyes, little or no nose and a small, toothy mouth. They exhibit both mammalian, reptilian and insectoid characteristics, and are typically dressed in a utilitarian harness carrying tools.

The Reticulans are shaped by two main biological facts about their species: they reproduce asexually through parthenogenesis (similarly to aphids and certain species of whiptail lizards on Earth), and, originally, were scavengers who ate prey long after the predators killed it and ate their share.

Reticulan Legionnaires in Cloth Armour
All Reticulans are "female" - each lays eggs several times in "her" life, each egg eventually hatching a Reticulan hatchling. No sexual contact with other individuals is required for this form of reproduction. This creates relatively less genetic variety than sexual reproduction, but the hatchlings are not exact clones of their "mother" (though they are pretty similar to "her"). This led to the initial hypothesis (by Humans when they first encountered them) that the Reticulans are all artificial clones - but, in reality, they are not. The implication of this is that all the social constructs based on sexual reproduction, such as family, love and so onm found in Humans, are alien to Reticulans. The basic social unit is the "mother" and her "daughters", and, eventually, a genetic "line" tracing back to a single progenitor "mother". There is never a question put to a Reticulan's parentage: whoever laid the egg is the "mother". It also means that a single healthy Reticulan can colonize a planet in several generations' time.

Originally, the Reticulans were scavengers, eating remains of the prey of bigger predators. They never fought the predator, or the various hijackers, but rather waited for them to finish, then moved to feed on the remains. This made them relatively un-adapted to physical fighting; lacking a reason to fight over mates (due to a-sexual reproduction) made even less evolutionary reason for them to be efficient physical fighters. Tool use allowed them to chase away predators from prey, and thus get a bigger part of the carcass, and, eventually, hunt themselves, and, later on, raise livestock. But poor fighters they remained - except for using various machines to fight the sporadic wars between groups. But, generally speaking, if possible, Reticulans see tools and technology as a solution to things, and their rulers are typically "tool-makers" (in modern times, scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs) rather than warrior-types. As a spacefaring civilization, they fight using robots, as well as alien auxiliary troops and mercenaries. They can fight, but lack the instincts or muscle mass to be efficient soldiers (they are better as spies or as behind-the-scenes tacticians).

The archetypal Reticulan government is a technocracy; their Empire, was led by monopolist mercantile-industrial Great Houses (each controlled by a genetic line), and, on top of that, an Imperial line controlling the biggest corporation. In their later Technate, they are ruled by scientists and engineers, and usually order their society "logically" for maximum efficiency. A certain level of caste differentiation is common in most of their societies.

There is only one psionic "line", or caste, and these serve the Technate in this function, and also as "priestesses" of a sort.