by Michael Brown
This article was originally posted to the pre-magazine Freelance Traveller website in 2006 and reprinted in the November/December 2016 issue.
The Sintoshareeta are a minor Human race adapted for an arboreal existence by the inscrutable Ancients. After an initial period where they feared and distrusted the other denizens of the universe, the Sintoshareeta have woven themselves into the rich fabric of Imperial society.
The Terrans who first encountered them made reference in their reports of the Dryads, woodland beings from Greek mythology; the nickname stuck, although the Sintoshareeta disdain the comparison.
Origin and History
About 300,000 years ago, Ancient starships arrived in the Sintoshee system with a living cargo of primitive Terran Humans. The Human transplants were subjected to biological manipulation designed to adapt them to an arboreal environment and released into discrete areas of the planet. Sintoshee was a world filled with predators of every sort, but constant monitoring by the Ancient patrons kept the proto-Sintoshareeta relatively safe.
When the Ancients destroyed themselves in their Final War, the Sintoshareeta found themselves alone in a world bent on eating them. Despite taking horrific casualties, they eventually learned to survive and flourish, even turning the tables on a few hostile species and domesticating others.
By the time the Vilani contacted the Sintoshareeta in –5988, the natives had achieved tech level 2, with expertise in arborculture. Unfortunately, initial relations with the Vilani did not go well. Social miscues caused relations to sour very quickly, and sporadic hostilities broke out. The later Vilani Consolidation Wars only made matters worse; in response, the Sintoshareeta took part in wides and open revolt.
Following the fall of the Ziru Sirka, the Terrans generally treated the Sintoshareeta in a more evenhanded manner, although they relegated the natives to second-class status. When the Rule of Man collapsed, the Terrans simply abandoned their charges. Sintoshareeta fortunes actually improved during the subsequent Long Night due to their agrarian skills; they weathered the Long Night in good order and had even made some technological progress by the time the Third Imperium contacted them in 18. By then, Sintoshee had reached TL5.
Initial contact with the Third Imperium went almost as badly as contact with the Ziru Sirka had centuries before. Sintoshareeta memories of dealings with extrastellar inhabitants were long, and these new arrivals were, fairly or not, lumped into the same category as their predecessors. Intensive interaction with the Scout Service, along with the Sector Duke’s personal assurances of fair treatment, has allowed the Sintoshareeta to shed some of their intercultural baggage and embrace Imperial society.
Unfortunately, all is not well within Sintoshareeta society; a radical faction opposed to contact with outsiders has recently arisen and undertaken terrorist activities against offworlders. Imperial authorities are working closely with the Sintoshareeta to stop the increasingly violent attacks.
Sintoshee (2640 Corridor)
System Data: primary: G0V; no belts, 3 gas giants
Starport: Class I
Diameter: 6,420 miles; Atmosphere: thin oxygen-nitrogen; Hydrographics: 66%; Population: 79 million Sintoshareeta; Government: Multiple; Control Rating: 6; Tech Level: 5; Climate: Warm; Gravity: 0.63g; WTN: 3
Sintoshee is a geologically stable world with heavily arboreal terrain. Products from the planet’s jungles form the backbone of the economy, and lucrative exploitation contracts have been awarded to those companies willing to follow Sintoshareeta environmental dictates. The most important exports are foodstuffs and wood products.
Sintoshee boasts an astonishing variety of flora and fauna, much of which remains a danger. Predation was a major problem until the Sintoshareeta achieved technology. They have been kept in check through various environmental programs.
The Imperial-built downport is artificially kept at Class I to avoid environmental damage. A Class III orbital port has been built by a conglomeration of private interests and is better able to handle Sintoshee’s flourishing import/export trade.
Physiology and Appearance
Sintoshareeta are undeniably Human, though differing from the Human norm. They average only 60 inches (152.4 cm) tall. They are very slender and lithe, averaging 90 lbs. (40.9 kg) under standard gravity. There are two sexes, with average sexual dimorphism. They sport lush, wavy hair on their heads, but little elsewhere on their bodies. Their facial features have often been described as “elfin.”
It is there that the resemblance ends. The most noticeable feature is the Sintoshareeta tail, which averages almost a yard in length. A vestigial remnant in other Humans, the non-prehensile tail aids balance while traversing narrow areas and jumping. Sintoshareeta skilled in hand to hand combat can use their tails to confuse opponents and deliver surprise blows. Their skin tones run the spectrum from light to dark, but all have a pronounced greenish cast. Even their hair is green; drunk spacers have circulated the wild story that the hair is actually moss. The skin is typically blotched or freckled; the amount individually varies. The feet are longer and more flexible than those of Imperial Humans and the toes have an extra joint, giving the feet a better grip, though they cannot be used as true manipulators. The arms are longer in proportion to the body than Imperial Humans. Because of these adaptations to their arboreal existence, Imperial Humans generally find Sintoshareeta unattractive.
Sintoshareeta typically avoid loose-fitting clothing, jewelry, and other adornments that can catch on foliage. When decorative items are worn, they tend to be close-fitting or applied with temporary adhesives. Sintoshareeta do not wear shoes, protecting the soles of their feet with sandal-like affairs that leave the toes completely free, and only willingly wear footwear as part of an overall ensemble (a vacc suit, for example.)
Sintoshareeta hearing is very keen, and they consider hearing their primary sense. An advantageous arrangement of the structures of the inner ear grants them superior hearing and balance. Such keen hearing is essential in a predator-filled environment; adversaries will often be heard before they are seen. The ears can also better pick up sounds in Sintoshee’s thin atmosphere.
The respiratory system includes a smaller extra pair of lungs. These act as oxygen sponges, absorbing and binding ambient oxygen molecules directly into the pulmonary tissues. Such a respiratory arrangement avoids the “barrel-chested” look seen in inhabitants of worlds with similar atmospheres and has the overall effect of allowing the Sintoshareeta to operate normally in thin atmospheres. The circulatory system is a typical closed type, except that Sintoshareeta blood is configured to bind more oxygen. The nervous, endocrine and immune systems are all typically Human.
The digestive system is frailer than that of Imperial Humans, and cannot digest animal protein at all. It is not known if the Ancients engineered this condition or it developed in response to Sintoshee’s then-alien environment. A result is that Sintoshareeta become violently ill if they try to eat meat. Sintoshareeta traveling offworld are thus scrupulous about what they eat. Drugs intended for Human use have unpredictable effects on Sintoshareeta; medics must consult medical databases or confer with Sintoshareeta physicians before administering drugs.
The reproductive system is typically Human, except that the gestation period is slightly shorter. Sintoshareeta have shorter lifespans, but mature faster. They are considered mature by 13. The onset of aging begins by 30, and aging rolls increase thereafter. The shorter lifespan can be attributed to a slightly higher metabolic rate, which also makes it difficult for Sintoshareeta to get fat.
Sintoshareeta are best known for their chameleoid camouflage ability, a certain result of Ancient bioengineering. They are able to consciously control the degree and distribution of their skin pigmentation to better hide among foliage and thus escape predators. This ability is useless in urban areas or within flora of a color other than green. They cannot become truly invisible, rumor and Imperial adventure fiction notwithstanding. A Sintoshareeta in the jungle is still a fearsome opponent, able to blend into the background until choosing to strike.
Sintoshareeta presumably have the same capacity for psionics as many other Human races, although culturally they share Imperial society’s distaste for such abilities.
Psychology and Philosophy
The dual dangers of falling to their deaths or becoming another creature’s meal while maintaining a precarious existence in the treetops instilled a strong sense of caution in the Sintoshareeta. They are constantly scanning their surroundings for possible danger and sticking to people, places and situations they know and have come to trust. When threatened, Sintoshareeta attempt to escape by climbing, if possible, or by putting obstacles between themselves and the aggressor. Some Sintoshareeta take this wariness almost to the point of paranoia. In modern society, this attitude most often takes the form of a strong conservative streak, colored by a steadfast refusal to accept new ideas.
One of the Sintoshareetas’ earliest defenses against predation was by forming tight cooperative bonds. Sintoshareeta are generally uncomfortable working alone. Conversely, they keep a careful watch on their companions’ backs, and are quick to come to their aid. While part of a group, however, Sintoshareeta tend to remain in the background, shunning the limelight. This may be due to ancient psychological imperatives that led Sintoshareeta to keep quiet and unnoticeable to avoid being caught and eaten.
The twin drives of caution and cooperation cause Sintoshareeta to choose their friends with great care. New acquaintances are viewed warily until their motives are clear. Once they accept someone as a friend, however, a Sintoshareeta will not abandon them under any circumstances, short of physical violence. Considering the care given to the selection of their associates, however, such things rarely occur.
Most of the thousands of belief systems on Sintoshee incorporate holdover elements of ancient totemic or animistic worship. Contact with offworlders has introduced many other belief systems, religions, and philosophies, many of which have been adopted into Sintoshareeta culture.
Society and Culture
Although Sintoshareeta society is organized along clan/tribal lines, what prevents the Scout Service from simply classifying Sintoshee’s governmental structure as that is the degree of cooperation shown between the tribes. Although each tribe maintains a distinctive cultural and familial identity, the Sintoshareeta cooperative drive causes extreme blending and overlap with other tribes, blurring societal indicators the Scouts typically look for. The current governmental classification of Multiple/Balkanized is a compromise. The thousands of Sintoshareeta tribes are called Societies. It is joked among Scouts that the social survey teams went insane trying to catalog all of the Sintoshareeta Societies after contact.
Each Society is composed of a variable number of families. The largest Societies boast hundreds of families while a few families are Societies unto themselves. The cooperative bonds that link the families within the Society are adaptable to a larger scale; thus ensuring that interaction with other Societies takes place smoothly. Family elders handle interfamily disputes, with small councils of such elders called up on an ad hoc basis. Conflict between Societies, and therefore such councils, is rare. Functions within each Society are handled by families best able to do so, from educating children to dealing with Imperial authorities.
The Scouts have noted consistent and relatively uniform laws across the planet, to regulate movement and provide authorities with means to locate those in danger. The assigned CR of 6 reflects this. The consistency of these laws is another indicator of the former homogeneity of Sintoshareeta society. Natives and visitors alike are required to register with Society authorities and natives must escort visitors at all times. Deliberate flouting of laws can bring severe penalties if the actions endanger others.
Sintoshee’s tech level is 5, with strengths in arborculture and ecology. Some Imperial ultra tech has been imported, but most Sintoshareeta seem content to get by as they have for millennia. Because of the emphasis on low-tech tools, craftsmanship of such items is typically of very high quality.
Language and Naming
The bewildering array of societies on Sintoshee has given rise to an equally bewildering array of spoken languages. Fortunately for visitors, many Sintoshareeta have learned to speak Galanglic. Many Sintoshareeta merchants also use a trade pidgin (learned as a M/E skill) for use in communicating with extraplanetary customers. Most Sintoshareeta languages are M/A skills to learn.
Imperial linguistic experts have found common roots in many of Sintoshee’s languages, leading them to speculate that at some point the Sintoshareeta all had a common language. Investigation into this intriguing possibility is continuing.
The exact structure of Sintoshareeta names depends on the particular society in which the individual was raised, but most involve a tribal name, a given name, and a descriptive appellation, in that order. Thus, Salee Kyrris Taloon is Kyrris of the Salee tribe, called Taloon, for a hardy flowering plant known for its beauty and tenacity. Common male names include Aurrin, Coris, Javoon, Davin, Koror, Rilin, Sinorshee, and Taror. Female names include Auli, Deereeda, Fuli, Geli, Kyrris, Nerali, Ronnis, Sireeta, Talis, and Vellin. Common Tribal names include Salee, Karnoon, Bintornis, Tarrin, Mellin, Orsorhee, and Sheehee.
Government and Politics
There is, of course, no centralized government on Sintoshee. Each Society handles its own administrative affairs. Of course, some Societies are larger and more prosperous than others, and tend to take the lead in dealing with large, complex issues such as dealings with offworlders.
Attitudes towards offworlders run the gamut from enthusiastic xenophilia down to hostile segregation. The resident terrorist faction, the Sinsheehee (“fruit of an evil vine”) is the worst example of the latter. They are violently xenophobic, and attack Imperial visitors of any race at every opportunity.
Sintoshareeta in the Campaign
Despite some of the wild rumors concerning their natural appearance and abilities, Sintoshareeta have become part of the rich tapestry of Imperial society. They are often hired as consultants to environmental and farming projects on other worlds. Many migrate to garden worlds, especially those with major forestation.
As part of an ongoing GURPS Traveller campaign, Sintoshareeta are suited to fill almost any niche. Although their racial skills and abilities are nearly useless when away from a natural environment, they are as intelligent and capable as any other branch of Humaniti, and can quickly adapt to changing conditions. As part of an adventuring group, their knowledge of the outdoors comes in handy when the team is in wilderness areas.
Players wishing to play Sintoshareeta should keep a few basic particulars in mind:
- Never abandon your friends; back them up at all times.
- Never work alone if you can help it.
- Don’t seek the limelight; it only invites unwanted attention.
- The universe can be dangerous; stay alert.
- Stick with tried and true methods, innovation only leads to ruin.
Sintoshareeta Racial Template
|3rd Edition||4th Edition|
|Total Template Cost||-21 points||12 points|
|Acute Hearing +2||4||4|
|Chameleon (2 levels, only in foliage, -20%)||11||8|
|Striker (Tail, 4e -2 to hit -20%, Weak -50%)||5||2|
|Delicate Metabolism (3e only)||-20|
|Restricted Diet (4e only, Very Common, Substitution -50%)||-20|
|Short Lifespan (1 level)||-10||-10|
|Primitive (TL5) (3e only)||-25|
|+2 to Acrobatics||4||2|
|Climbing at DX (3e only)||2|
|+2 to Climbing (4e only)||2|
GURPS Traveller Template Suitability
Sintoshareeta are best suited for careers as Farmers (p. GT92) and Hunter/Guides (p. GT93). Sintoshareeta that emigrate can and do take up other careers, including serving in the Imperial military, although they avoid careers that emphasize working alone or in groups so small as to make them uncomfortable, such as Belter (p. GT88), Bounty Hunter (p. GT89) and Undercover Agent (p. GT99). Sinsheehee are often Martial Artists (p. GT95) of some skill.