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This article originally appeared in the November/December 2015 issue.

300,000 years ago, the Ancients seeded tribes of primitive humans from Terra across known space. Forty-six known subspecies of humans now exist in the Third Imperium and beyond. All adapted to alien environments over time or were altered by the Ancients to survive in their new homes. The Ilurians are an example of the latter. Modified for life on a world with a cold climate, they are a true product of that environment, but have still managed to take their place among the trillions of Imperial sophonts.


The Ilurians’ sole mention in Traveller canon is an entry in Supplement 5: Lightning Class Cruisers (GDW, 1980). A list of ship names includes several which include the names of several human races with the suffix High Lightning attached (ex: Azhanti High Lightning, Vilani High Lightning, Geonee High Lightning, etc.) One of these vessels is named Ilurian High Lightning. Therefore, the Ilurians are established in canon as a minor Human race.

Referee’s Notes

The world—referred to in the text as Iluria—has been left deliberately vague to allow the referee to determine its best role in his or her campaign and to avoid the possibility of contradicting Traveller canon. Similarly, historical timelines have been left vague, again to prevent conflicts with canon and to allow for customization by the referee.


When the Ancients (Droyne) arrived in the Iluria system, they decided to seed a planet of the system—one with a harsh climate—with human life, after first adapting them to survive there. The Ancients then left the world and the proto-Ilurians behind. Their interest appeared to be only the humans and their new world; there are no known Ancient sites in the system.

Over the subsequent millennia, the Ilurians tamed their unforgiving planet, living strictly as nomadic hunter-gatherers. Around -65,000, some tribes developed a form of agriculture featuring a particularly hardy native plant, and domesticated some of the native animals, but only a minority of Ilurians—perhaps 10%—settled down afterward. Ilurian society remains largely mobile to this day. Such mobility worked to the ancient Ilurians’ advantage, as wandering helped settle previously-unexplored areas of the planet and ensured genetic diversity as various tribes met and intermarried.

The use of fire by the Ilurians should be addressed. The Terran transplants had full knowledge and control of it. The ancient Ilurians thus certainly had this knowledge, but their strict physical adaptations (see below) meant that fire wasn’t used for warmth. Rather, it was only used for cooking and warding off predators. Even so, the nomadic Ilurians abandoned habitual use of fire due to their weakness to heat (see below). Only the 10% that had settled down kept their ability to control fire, despite their biological limitations. These individuals in due course became important and influential members of society for their willingness to risk heatstroke in the performance of their duties. The “fire-keepers” became a class similar to the Vilani shugilii.


The Ilurians’ lives changed forever when they were contacted by the Vilani, who conducted limited trade with them, but also reinforced social and racial inequality. When the Consolidation Wars came (-5400 to -4045), all pretense was dropped and the Ilurians were treated little better than vassals. The only thing that kept their culture from being completely swept away by the conquering Vilani was the fact that their world was considered inhospitable, even with technological aids, so colonization wasn’t a priority.

Thus it was when the Terrans (who had forced the collapse of the Vilani Imperium) contacted the Ilurians, the tone was much friendlier. Trade flourished, and several mutual agreements between the Ilurians and the Terrans ensured the natives were well-treated. It was during this period that the Ilurians left their planet in substantial numbers for the first time, benefiting from Terran chillsuit technology (see below) and starships.

When the Long Night fell, the Ilurians who had emigrated had a choice: be stuck on unfamiliar worlds far from home amidst a declining empire, or make their way back to Iluria. Thousands opted for the latter, making the journeys in whatever ways they could. Their stories are legend among the Ilurians, especially that of the nephew of a revered leader, whose Odyssean efforts to get home became an epic saga. Meanwhile, the native Ilurians bore witness as the Terrans all but abandoned them. Along with the Terrans went the trade and the cultural exchanges. The Ilurian leadership felt betrayed; that feeling of betrayal over time manifested as anti-Terran sentiments. Terran concepts and influences were brutally purged from Ilurian society and a fundamentalist movement took hold.

By the time the Scouts contacted the Ilurians in the early days of the Third Imperium, the anti-Terran sentiments that had taken root during the Long Night had become full-blown isolationism. Several elements of Ilurian society wanted nothing to do with the newcomers, but the leaders decided that the need for trade outweighed the desire to be left alone. Agreements were hammered out, with the proviso that the Ilurians had the right to refuse engagement with the Imperium at any time. The Imperium, in turn promised never to turn their backs on the Ilurians, as the Terrans did; and not to treat them as vassals, as the Vilani did. Still, Ilurian suffered social unrest as isolationists—who wouldn’t let their prior treatment by the Vilani or Terrans go—agitated for their leaders to disengage from Imperial society. Violent protests punctuated the demands in several cities before the insurrectionists were pacified by the grant of some minor concessions.

During the Solomani Rim War (996-1002), the Ilurians allied themselves solidly with the Imperium. While isolated malcontents aligned themselves with the Solomani out of contrariness (and soon came to regret their choice), many Ilurians served in Imperial units—especially on frozen worlds where they had the environmental advantage—or in support roles. After Terra was taken, Ilurians manned a garrison on the planet’s Antarctic continent.

The Ilurians today are generally staunchly pro-Imperial. While the Isolationist faction still presses for the complete dissolution of the bonds between Iluria and the Imperium (sometimes violently), the bonds between the two have never been tighter.

The World

Iluria has been left deliberately vague for the reasons stated above in Referee’s Notes. The referee should decide its location and physical features. Even the name is subject to change. The only unalterable requirements are its frozen environment and breathable atmosphere.


Ilurians are utterly adapted for a frigid environment. In fact, they are so well adapted, they have difficulty operating in temperatures most humans find comfortable.

Ilurians are bilaterally symmetrical, with typical humanoid morphology. Their features are distinct; they have higher, narrower noses and larger jaws than other humans. Their heads are also slightly larger than other humans’ although a close examination is required to detect this. These features are also adaptations to the cold.

Their builds are on average short and stocky, with relatively short appendages; this reduces the body’s surface area and aids in heat retention. Their bodies except for their faces and the palms of the hands are covered in soft, short fur with hollow follicles which trap a layer of warm air next to the Ilurian’s body. The fur is generally light colored, with blond, silver, or white the most common colors. A mutation occasionally creates an Ilurian with darker fur; these individuals are typically ostracized. The Ilurian foot is a more radical departure from human norms. The feet are constructed wide and splayed, with much coarser fur on the soles. This aids in walking across snow and gives some traction on icy surfaces. Ilurians can use footwear such as boots and shoes, but prefer to go barefoot when possible.

Ilurians possess the same senses as other humans, with the same parameters.

The skeletal, immune, excretory, and nervous systems all conform to human norms. They have a somewhat higher muscle-to-body ratio, which allows them to carry the extra weight required by their physical adaptations. Ilurians have tremendous endurance, since one way for them to generate heat is to stay active.

The respiratory system is typically human with two slight differences: narrow nasal passages prevent atmospheric moisture from freezing and protects the lungs and brain from the cold. There are also many more turbinates (folds of tissue) within the nose. These structures are rich in capillaries, which help in warming inhaled air.

Speaking of capillaries, the Ilurian cardiovascular has three times the number found in other humans. The circulatory system is closed. The blood vessels utilize a countercurrent heat exchange mechanism, which allows them to utilize a natural mechanical heat transfer process to retain body heat.

The Ilurian digestive system is adapted to processing protein, especially high amounts of fatty foods, which generate heat as they are broken down in the gut, which in turn results in a higher metabolic rate. The high metabolism also demands a high food intake: an Ilurian must eat at least 5,000 calories a day. While they can ingest vegetable matter, such foodstuffs offer little nutritionally, and are therefore not a dietary priority.

The endocrine system sports a larger thyroid gland, which increases the output of the hormone thyroxin and in turn further increases metabolic rate. As noted above, the integumentary system is highly hirsute. Underneath the fur, the skin is dark, which facilitates heat absorption and offers protection from UV radiation. Skin tones range from dark brown to blue-black.

Ilurians can interbreed with other humans with little trouble; the resulting children tend toward Ilurian physiology, although they are not as furry and do not have the Ilurian parent’s full tolerance to cold. Ilurian children have shorter gestational (6-7 months) and maturation times; an Ilurian is physically an adult at 14.

The Ilurians’ tolerance for frigid temperatures works against them in other climes. They are so well adapted to the cold that they cannot tolerate temperatures other humans find comfortable. In particular, Ilurians run the risk of heatstroke if they are exposed to temperatures above 15C for any length of time. Temperatures above 10C cause them discomfort, although some Ilurians have become acclimated to this level of warmth. Ilurians who must operate in temperatures above 15C must wear chillsuits (see below) to avoid heatstroke, and most who need to operate for extended periods in temperatures above 5C will choose to wear them.

Ilurians are capable of psionics, although due to the Imperial prejudices against them and failing to find them of any real utility (see below), they usually don’t seek to develop such talents.

Psychology and Culture

The ancient Ilurians grouped together as defense against Iluria’s hostile environment with bonds tighter than those of their Terran ancestors. This was necessary; to become separated from one’s companions on Iluria—especially during one of the planet’s frequent snowstorms—meant death. In fact, the Ilurians’ closeness over the millennia has transformed into monophobia, or the fear of being alone. To an Ilurian, the larger the group, the better. They are even perfectly at home in crowds.

The basic social unit on Iluria is the Assembly, or large, extended family, which can include hundreds of interrelated individuals. Each Assembly is headed by a small group of elders, with the oldest member of the Assembly designated the Chief Elder, whose word is law. Within the Assemblies, group marriage is practiced, with all participants having equal duties in raising children.

Prehistoric Ilurians quickly found that whatever had no usefulness simply existed to kill them. Therefore, the concept of utility is strong in the Ilurians. They view everything—even acquaintances—in terms of how useful a person or item is. This attitude can be quite brutal; if an item or person has no practical use, then it doesn’t merit attention.

Laws on Iluria are few but strict; most are designed to enhance survival. Broken laws on Iluria threaten the survival of the entire Assembly and are swiftly and harshly punished. Major crimes such as murder are punished by isolation—a fate worse than death to an Ilurian.

The Ilurian language follows their practical nature. Idioms and figures of speech do not appear in the Ilurian vocabulary. Non-native speakers often perceive an Ilurian as being very blunt. The language also has a large nonverbal component, in order for the speaker to be clearly seen and understood from a distance and to help stay active. The nonverbal component carries over even when the Ilurian is speaking another language; thus, Ilurian speakers are also very demonstrative.

Ilurian society is egalitarian. Each member of society is expected to contribute to the whole in a dangerous environment, regardless of their function, from housekeeper to starship pilot. Traditional gender roles don’t exist. Exceptions are made for the injured, the disabled, the elderly, and children; but others who cannot or will not contribute are shunned, even banished.


Iluria is at an average Imperial tech level, although most tech is imported. They can use any equipment designed for humans.

Ilurian PCs

Playing an Ilurian should pose no difficulty for players. Despite their differences from other humans, their psychology and culture is relatable. The only physical accomodations that need be made are their constant dependence on chillsuits.

Physically, Ilurians receive +1 STR and +2 END. Ilurians with SOC A+ have the option of being considered a member of the “fire-keepers” (see above). When playing an Ilurian, players should keep the following points in mind:

Ship’s Locker

Chillsuit (TL10) Cr12,500.
A specialized form of vacc suit fitted with a helmet, advanced coolant supply, and insulated tubing designed to keep an Illurian’s body at an optimum temperature. While chillsuits can be worn by other humans, the amount of cold they generate is dangerous. Chillsuits provide the equivalent of Cloth armor while worn, and come with a rechargeable battery sufficient to drive the coolant pump, and a small tank of coolant. The suit’s endurance is 24 hours for the power source and one week for the coolant. Weight 2 kg.