The Plann in Hyperlite
Editor’s Note: An expanded version of this article is expected to be included in a Plann supplement for Hyperlite that is currently expected to be released during the summer of 2011. This article originally appeared in Freelance Traveller’s June 2011 issue.
Though physically similar to humans, the Plann are probably one of the most difficult species to play or to run as a Games Master. They are co-signees of the Sirius Treaty, so on a par with humanity, but it is believed Plann have had foldspace technology for between 300 to 400 years, compared with humanity’s mere century or so. Though their technology is roughly on a par with humanity, but culturally leaning towards less use of personal augments, their society and way of thinking is truly alien to the human mind – no matter from what culture or planet the human may come.
This brief article gives some insights as to how this impacts on the Plann in Hyperlite. It is intended to give Games Masters and knowledgeable Player Characters hints on what to expect or how to run a Plann colony or field force.
Physically, the Plann resemble lithe, leggy humans with angular faces and slightly protruding jaws. Their legs are longer and their arms shorter and more slender than is normal for a human, giving them a slightly misshapen (to human eyes) structure. They are mammalian, but their internal organs show possible signs of longer evolutionary development than humans, having few of the redundant organs still present in humans.
Their home planet is somewhat warmer than Earth, so clothing is less likely to be worn, but on temperate planets they feel the cold more acute than the other Sirius Treaty races. As a result, the Plann tend to colonise warmer planets, other planets typically receiving little more than research or manufacturing stations.
Their preferred dress is loose, brightly dyed sarong, with women wearing a small, light jacket that only just covers their breasts. On their torso and face they apply bold body paint and intricate tattoos, the tattoos indicating their family or planetary background. The paint on their faces is not formal, but tends to be patterned in a fashion subconsciously agreed upon by those amongst whom they spend the most time. As a result, it can be used as an indication of job role and even unit number or corporation, though it takes an extensive database to log the constantly changing patterns.
Though the sarong is their preferred dress, like humans they adapt their clothing to the clime or specialised function. They have battle armour, for example, and even more formal and heavier sarong and jackets for military uniforms.
As stated in the core rulebook, Plann have the following characteristic adjustments: Str –2, Dex +2, End –1. Their long limbs in relation to body mass gives them a very fast move of 8.
Though originally having a lifespan slightly less than human, their own genetic engineering has also given them a much improved longevity and physical health; they do not have to start taking aging rolls until age 50 and first subtract 10 from their age before calculating any DMs. This means that Plann field operatives tend to be somewhat more experienced than their ‘Tsai, human, Atklik or Vayar counterparts.
Their version of the liphecyte augment is given only to off-world field operatives and gives them the same bonuses as humans: +1 End to resist new diseases or poisons and +1 DM to their daily, natural healing checks.
They have no other automatic adjustments or modifications due to their species.
Dealing with the Plann
Their thought processes catch those humans who first meet them by surprise, no matter how much training the contact agent may have. The Plann will never give a definitive answer to a direct question until they have confirmed it and come to a consensus amongst their peer operations group. At times the question has to be escalated to the next tier of peers and a consensus agreed to there. And if they cannot come to an agreement, the question is escalated even further. Eventually it might reach the round table of the Plan High Council – and if they cannot reach a decision, the answer to the question will be delayed until such time as further data, information or influence impinges upon the question, helping shape it into something to which a new deliberation can be applied.
Once a decision is reached, however, and a solution decided upon, the Plann regard it as truth, a perception from which nothing shakes them. The decision and solution has been created by, contributed to and agreed to by all Plann involved, so there are no dissenters. This makes arguing with the Plann over a contested situation extremely difficult, if not impossible, possession of a world found by the Plann being an extreme example: if the Plann have registered it with the Invigilators – and their processes in this area are much faster than humans – then they regard it as their own world, even if another species had discovered it first but had not formerly claimed it.
This deliberate, consensus-ridden, decision-making means their technological and social development times are somewhere between 3-4 times lower than humans: their bronze age, for example, transitioned into the early iron age round about 6,000BC by human reckoning. Though they are a far older species than humanity, with written records going back far further in time to between 12,000 to 20,000 BC, it is likely that humanity will exceed their technological development pace and be the equivalent of 200 years ahead of the Plann in a mere half a century.
This, of course, is cause for a great deal of apprehension amongst the Plann. It is most likely the cause of the fear that ignited the Plann’s reaction against humanity rather than the aggressors who cause them most damage through their random acts of violent acquisition: the ‘Tsai.
As mentioned in the core book, the Plann approach to solutions means the items they manufacture are extremely safe, highly reliable and multiple-system redundant. Their need for communications with peers means that many devices have additional communications capabilities, even if it would otherwise be expected to not require such capabilities.
These two driving forces result in bulky items, even their equivalent of human hand-held items being heavier than expected, sometimes even requiring shoulder straps. Their resilience, however, is much respected amongst those UNE troopers who have trained with (or faced) the Plann.
Every Plann has their own palm computer which has built-in screen projector, merely needing a flat surface, and which can receive commands from the owner’s comms interface as well as through a fall-back, sensor-based keyboard input (again, merely needing a surface onto which the Plann data-entry keyboard is projected). Such handcomps have built-in encyclopaedias and reference books, and can also take up to 10 memory crystals, most of which are user manuals for other equipment they carry.
Thorough training is provided whenever a Plann is given a new piece of equipment. Every facet of functionality is explored and their user manuals tend to cover every eventuality, though are rather long. To cope with this, many Plann are given crystal-based library jack augments early in their careers, perhaps even before 30, and use the crystal memory plugs directly rather than in hand-held computers.
Though they generally dislike augments, the Plann have their own equivalent of subcutaneous comms, though it does not have the organising functions of humans (only having an address book facility) but instead has additional communication security. Coupled with their version of the liphecyte implant, referred to as the Field Medic Augment (FMA) given to those in risky occupations, it also has a slightly increased range (up to 50m).
The FMA is a simpler implant than the human liphecyte augment, the Plann having already applied some genetic engineering to themselves about 400 years ago. This ongoing amendment to their own genetic code boosts their immune system and removes inherited markers to resist and cope with known poisons and diseases.
They do not have Neural Jacks or Neural Comms, considering the risk of compromisation and viral attacks too great compared with the benefits. They regard the human use of such as a positively dangerous augment and mistrust those they know to have such implants. Their own equivalent of AI Assistants and library jacks are relatively commonplace and most likely to be found in scientists, researchers and in all Protected World explorers (their equivalent of the UNEST-SF).
Though they can wear subdermal and supradermal armour, their natural lack of strength limits how much can be applied within slowing them in some way. Each second stage level of such armour they have implanted (subdermal-3 or supradermal-4 or –6) gives a –1 DM to Dex.
At every level of Plann society, their governance, leadership and managerial approach is governed by a agreement of peers and the election of one to act as a communication focus (a tier-leader) to whom the others in the peer group absolve/abrogate some of their authority.
This, effectively, means that the more rigorous or extreme examples of training, leadership, exploitation or exploration are almost unimaginable amongst the Plann. For such to be implemented, every member of the lowest level group would have to agree to its implementation. Whilst they accept the wisdom of those who have undergone similar experiences in the past, and who may have laid down processes and protocols, each protocol, process and regimen is subject to review by each new Plann who examines it.
From a human perspective, this produces an extremely complex society. It appears to be radically post-modern in its regard for an individual’s rights and input into self-determination. However, this is sharply restrained by the need for each individual to ensure that others in the peer group appreciate, agree with and support their actions. This creates a system of checks and balances in which extreme or destructive behaviour is highly unlikely or even removed completely.
Such a system does not produce the flair, imagination and genius that is the product of the successful human societies. Neither does it produce the highly motivated, skilled and driven groups such as may be experienced amongst humanity or the ‘Tsai. What it does produce is highly competent administrative and response protocols that ensure an individual is not disadvantaged by any other or by another group; where a procedure is implemented it is well thought-out, with exceptions catered for, and is carried out by individuals who are concerned about their impact on those with whom they interact from other groups as on themselves.
A human typically struggles to cope with the levels of interaction and these natural checks and balances. Even top diplomats are known to be highly frustrated by the slow pace of Plann negotiations and the need for constant consultation. In reverse, the Plann find it incredible that an individual human can be given so much power to make decisions.
If they are so slow, how come they even evolved? It is because the process has extremely strong advantages: once a decision has been reached, everyone is behind it and snags have been ironed out before they occur; war between the various Plann clans, tribes, countries and early federal structures was considered highly unprofitable so rarely occurred.
The constant peer review and interaction builds strong family bonds and a highly supportive extended family. A Plann merely has to air an issue to find keen, patient listeners interested in finding all aspects of the problem before any physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual support is given.
In production and business matters, the following implementation invariably runs smoothly and very quickly as all the facets of the problem and any risk elements will have been identified up front. Furthermore, those participating in the build or implementation are fully aware of all aspects of the plan, so are aware of the impact of both what they do and if any, rare, unforeseen circumstances occur.
This normally leads to the production of consistently high-quality goods, the maximum available given the manufacturing resources and processes available. In government, it leads to the implementation of policies and laws that have considered virtually all the exceptions and special cases and a legal framework that can deal with any extreme cases with ease. The Plann health-care and social benefits system is the best amongst the Sirius Treaty races. Because of their considered and up-front, preventative and anticipatory approach, it is considerably less expensive to run: preventative medicine is high on their agenda, and fiscal policies are carefully assessed for their impact on Plann society.
Colony set-up is also highly efficient. The process is well-established and, whilst it may take a time to analyse a given planet and come up with what’s needed, once on-planet the establishment of a solid infrastructure is extraordinarily rapid, like other process-based activities. Whilst each colony may not use the latest technology, as it invariably will be in the process of assessment for its usage impact, all the necessary items and materials will be available for the new colonists.
To the Plann, a sergeant is merely one who the others in the peer group acknowledge is the best person to train them. If they do not like or understand his approaches, they will revoke his status as ‘foremost’ in the group and elect or choose another specialist in his place. Indeed, it may be that a Plann group has several ‘foremost’ members, each of which are subject-area experts, and so leaders, in their own expertise only. Decisions, as a whole, are made and agreed to by the group, only the speed required from battlefield decision having much effect on the group decision-making process. Even those decisions are subject to review ‘on the ground’ by the troops issued with what humans may call ‘orders’ but which the Plann regard as ‘subject-area-expert recommendations’.
Invariably, when considering military needs, it results in an incredibly strong defensive position that deals with almost all contingencies. A Plann defensive set-up that has been given time to bed in is always the most effective it can be given the materials and resource available. In contrast, whilst their offensive battle plans may consider every possible move the defenders may make, such plans take so long to put together that their opponents have, occasionally, moved on. Furthermore, they can be caught in apparent indecision if they have not been given time to consider all aspects of their defense.
In the field they tend to rely on standing orders and battle manuals far more than the other four Sirius Treaty species. This means they are far more reliant on communications than the others, new situations in the field calling for constant negotiation and re-evaluation. Whilst a chain of command helps alleviate some of these problems, an officer or sergeant would not believe in going forward with a new plan or approach until he had the buy in or acquiescence of all members of his squad or troop.
This makes them much more inflexible than other forces. They have learnt to overcome this inflexibility through other means, most typically through weight of numbers or thorough training, though other, clear, tactical or strategical advantages are considered as a matter of course. But even when confident of victory through such means, they can be put off their stride by some out-of-the-box initiative from the individualist free thinking and initiatives typical of the Vayar, ‘Tsai or humanity.
They are, however, the least warlike of the Sirius Treaty species: war is inevitably costly and should only be carried out against those who provide a real threat to the survival of an individual colony or even the Plann as a species.
The Plann tend to focus on multiple-arm, long range light infantry tactics on whichever Tech Level they are forced to operate. Their field troops tend to be combat armour equipped, most troops having a lightweight flamer (a broad area beam weapon) for close combat, rarely resorting to actual hand to hand combat. Even on protected worlds their favoured close combat weapon is the spear, able to keep an opponent at a distance, though all troops are equipped with a light, long-bladed, machete-like dagger.
Their low strength means most Plann favour energy weapons. Gauss weapons are used on light support vehicles.
The Plann battle dress armoured infantry are designed for co-ordinated arms work and as mobile communication units rather than stand-alone, heavy or assault infantry tactics. Indeed, their suits were only more widely issued after contact with human Star Marines and, though not as heavy as the human battle dress, they are still a highly effective suit of armour.
The array of communications gear built into their advanced battle armour is extensive, each suit capable of being a mobile command and co-ordination station. Communication facilities on-board range from lasers to masers; flashlight in visible, HR and UV bands; radio comms on multiple EM frequencies, amplitudes and encoding; and complex encryption/decryption capabilities are standard. Even their direct, static, suit-to-suit, microfibre links are longer than humans, typically up to 200m* rather than the simple 50m finewire used by the heavier suits of armour. To handle this the suit comes equipped with a dedicated AI Assistant (Comms-3).
* At such lengths the cable is more likely to be subject to physical damage and interference, so the Plann tend to utilise slightly stronger, heavier cable (though still incredibly fine by 21st century standards).
Before using such armour, the Plann ‘marines’ are given substantial training. Due to its ability to act as a mobile command centre, most commanders in a detached Plann infantry force wear these suits of armour, even though the rest of their troops might only have combat armour.
Field Operative Training
In addition to the FMA, all Plann field operatives are given basic Medic and/or Survival training in a mandatory hostile environment survival course. For character generation purposes, this ages them by 6 months if level 0 is taken in both skills, 1 year if rank 0 and rank 1 is taken, such as Medic-1 and Survival-0, or 2 years if both are taken at rank 1 (Medic-1/Survival-1). Most Field Operatives who expect to be in combat or be highly active on the early stages of Protected World exploitation take the extended survivability course and have rank 1 in both skills.
Luckily for the UNEST-SF, such thorough training tends to limit the number of Plann deployable at any one time in the field.
The core Hyperlite rules provide statistic blocks for Plann Protected World Operatives. The following are provided for Plann in other situations, including a Plann combateer template able to be tailored to a wide variety of situations.
‘In the Street’
Plann, USP 596777, AP 0, Move 8, Age 24+
Basic: Comms-0, Computers-0, Drive (wheeled)-0, Medic-0, Persuade-1, Ranged (Pulse)-0, Pilot/ Mechanic/ Engineer/ Remote Ops/ Trade (suitable)-2, Trade-related Science-1. Those operating in zero-G all have Null-G-1.
Implants: Plann subcut comms; after age 30 typically have library jack-1(trade-associated chip); after age 40 many have an AI Assistant specialising in their trade or occupation.
Law Enforcement Officer
These are fairly rare, most Plann strongly feeling the peer pressure to conform so being highly law-abiding, even as far as keeping to the speed limits on empty roads. The LEOs who do exist track inter-corporate rivalry, those few Plann whose mental genetic markings suggest a throwback to more violent times, and off-worlders.
Plann, USP 596777, AP 0, Move 8, Age 26+
Basic: Comms-1, Computers-1, Drive (wheeled)-1, Medic-1, Melee (Unarmed)-0, Persuade-1, Ranged (Pulse)-1, Recon or Remote-Operations –2, Trade (Police)-2, Social Science (Psychology)-1. Those operating in zero-G all have Null-G-1.
Implants: Plann subcut comms; after age 30 typically have library jack-1 (trade-associated chip); after age 40 many have an AI Assistant specialising in their trade or occupation.
Weapons: Stunner TL 10 +2 3d6+3 (P–1;C+0;S+0;M+0;L-4; 5-shot magazine; spare magazines); Stun grenades
Other Equipment: Small, remote drones or watch-bots [transmit targeting/scouting information: camouflaged with chameleon/sensorsmart coating; pulsed ground-orbit secure comms; scopes; range-finders; F/F transponder/scanner; built-in self-destruct; semi-autonomous AI (Recon-2, Comms-2, Drive (wheeled or tracked)-1); Move 6].
These Plann are for use on TL 9 or 10 worlds. Note that rookies are likely to have the basic skills plus on in their specialist are at rank-0, but Plann ensure that all their field soldiers have undergone two to three years of intensive, basic training. Most Plann tend to be more highly skilled than their human counterparts, but older.
Plann, USP 596777, AP 12, Move 8, Age 22+
Basic: Athletics-0, Battle Armour-0, Comms-1, Medic-0/-1, Melee (Unarmed)-0, Ranged (Pulse)-1, Survival-1/-0, Tactics (Hi-tech)-1. The more experienced would have two * Science or similarly relevant skills, two Familiarities at rank 1 or 2.
Implants: FMA; Plann subcut comms; library jack-1(local library).
Weapons: Extended Power Beam Rifle TL 10 (if infantry) +3 5d6 (S-1;M+0;L+0;VL-1;D-3; E-6; 30 shots/power pack; simple bipod); Unarmed +1 1d3; Light Flamer +2 4d6A2 (C-1; S+0;M+0;L-1;VL-3)
Combat armour TL 10 (AP 12) [IR/UV tracking, integrated battlefield comms/co-ordination and F/F transponders]
Cavalry: Mechanic-1, Drive (relevant)-1/-2; Artillery (Turret)-2/-1, Recon-1; Aerial Cavalry have Pilot (Small)-2 in place of Drive().
Engineers: Mechanics-2, Engineer (Power or Electronics)–1, Remote Operations-1, Explosives-1
Infantry: Ranged (Beam)-2, Recon-1, possibly Stealth-1
Field Support: Artillery (Field), Ranged (Heavy), Sensors or Comms-2; Drive (tracked or wheeled)-1
Commanders: As above plus Computers-1, Persuade-1 and Tactics (Hi-Tech)-2. AP is typically 15 [subdermal-1 and supradermal-2]. See Advanced Heavy Infantry.
Advanced Heavy Infantry/Commander
Used only on TL 9 and 10 worlds, typically only when the terrain is extremely hostile to their cavalry and artillery regiments or when no aerial support is possible. Most Plann Heavy Infantry have either subdermal-1 or supradermal-2 augments in addition to their battle dress. The Battle Dress gives the equivalent of Str 12 and +2 to End.
Plann, USP C98777, AP 19/20, Move 10, Age 24+
Basic: Athletics-0, Battle Armour-1, Comms-1 (Comms-3 from suit AI), Medic-1, Melee (Unarmed)-0, Ranged (Pulse)-1, (Beam)-2, Recon-1, Survival-0, Tactics (Hi-tech)-1 (rank-2 for commander). The more experienced would have two * Science or similarly relevant skills, two Familiarities at rank 1 or 2, Stealth-1 and improvements in their Comms, Recon and Tactics(Hi-Tech) skills.
Implants: FMA; Plann subcut comms; library jack-1(local library).
Weapons: Beam Rifle +4 6d6 (S+0;M+0;L+0;VL+0;D-2; E-4; HX-6; 30 shots/armour-mounted power pack); Unarmed +2 1d3+2; Light Flamer +3 4d6A2 (C-1; S+0;M+0;L-1;VL-3; suit powered, lasts as long as suit); Smoke/Aerosol/Stun/Anti-personnel grenades as appropriate, but launcher not standard
Battle Armour TL 10 (AP 18) [IR/UV tracking, integrated battlefield comms/co-ordination and F/F transponder/scanner, advanced comms setup and battlefield co-ordination facilities, built-in 48-hour PSU, chameleon coating, sensorsmart; basic +1 targeting, scopes reduce range penalties]
Other Equipment: Miniaturised comms transponders/forwarders; 3*Remote targeting watch-bots [remains in hidden location and transmit targeting/scouting information: camouflaged with chameleon/sensorsmart coating; pulsed ground-orbit secure comms; scopes; range-finders; F/F transponder/scanner; built-in self-destruct; semi-autonomous AI (Recon-2, Comms-2, Tactics (Hi-tech)-1)].