Once part of a ravenous hive of locust-like predators, the insectile shirren only recently broke with their hive mind to become a race of telepaths physically addicted to their own individualism, yet dedicated to the idea of community and harmony with other races.
+2 Constitution, +2 Wisdom, and -2 Charisma
6 hit points at character creation
Shirren are medium Humanoids with the shirren subtype.
Shirrens’ sensitive antennae grant them blindsense (vibration)—the ability to sense vibrations in the air—out to 30 feet. A shirren ignores the Stealth bonuses from any form of visual camouflage, invisibility, and the like when attempting a Perception check opposed by a creature’s Stealth check. Even on a successful Perception check, any foe that can’t be seen still has total concealment (50% miss chance) against a shirren, and the shirren still has the normal miss chance when attacking foes that have concealment. A shirren is still flatfooted
against attacks from creatures it can’t see.
Shirrens are used to working with others as part of a team. Once per day, as long as an ally is within 10 feet, a shirren can roll a single attack roll or skill check twice and take the higher result.
Shirrens are eager to learn about new cultures and societies. Shirrens receive a +2 racial bonus to Culture and Diplomacy checks.
Shirrens can communicate telepathically with any creatures within 30 feet with whom they share a language. Conversing telepathically with multiple creatures simultaneously is just as difficult as listening to multiple people speak.
Shirrens were once part of the Swarm, a monstrous race traveling from world to world, consuming all they encountered before moving on. Generations ago, however, a mysterious mutation caused an entire subcolony to break from the hive mind, with each of its members gaining a sense of self. Addicted to the new drug of individualism, these renegades rejected the Swarm’s mindless consumption, forming a new race called shirrens that eventually came to settle within the Pact World system. Shirrens are arthropods with chitinous exoskeletons, large
compound eyes, and sensitive antennae. Unlike many arthropodan races, they walk upright, manipulating items with three-clawed hands. In addition to their two sets of main limbs, they also have two sets of smaller limbs growing from their thoraxes. While often displayed, these “mating arms” are extremely weak and used only for ceremonial and reproductive purposes—to use them for mundane activities would be seen as grotesque and shameful. Shirrens have three sexes: male, female, and host. During reproduction, female and male shirrens provide the initial eggs and sperm, and hosts incubate the fertilized eggs while also adding their own genetic material and immunities. In some shirren societies, a single host queen incubates for many partners and is considered the true parent, while in others, three-party marriages are common. Shirren young spend their first 2 years in a tiny, wormlike larval form, and they are often carried around in protective containers to let them safely observe the world.
Not even shirrens know where the Swarm first evolved, for its vast biological colony-fleet has traveled the stars for ages and feels no need to keep track of such things. After splitting from the Swarm, the newly self-aware shirrens scattered to a number of nearby systems. A large contingent found its way to the Pact Worlds, making first contact with Vercite aethership crews and setting up a colony in Verces’s parched Fullbright region. Since then, shirrens have spread throughout the Pact Worlds.
SOCIETY AND ALIGNMENT
Shirrens define themselves by their individualism. When they left the Swarm, they assumed partial control over the neurological pleasure and pain systems by which they were formerly directed, and even generations later, making choices for themselves can literally flood them with pleasurable neurotransmitters. While this ability is not always beneficial—some shirrens deliberately drug themselves this way, becoming “option junkies” blissed out on sequences of trivial decisions—freedom of choice is crucial to shirren identity. This is especially true with regard to religion, for what choice is more important than how to spend the afterlife? At the same time, having evolved from hive creatures, shirrens remain highly communal by human standards. Even when working with other races, they seek to foster community and teamwork and do what’s best for the group. They are often lawful good, though loyalty and a utilitarian emphasis on “the greater good” can also lead them down questionable paths.
Most of the common races find shirrens agreeable and useful allies, though their telepathic communication and chittering mouthparts can be disconcerting. Shirrens, for their part, are positively inclined toward all the major races, especially ysoki for their communal tendencies and zest for life. Though lashuntas often maintain their prejudice against insectile races, most shirrens don’t hold this against them, as they themselves fear nothing more than the Swarm that spawned them.
Less inclined toward violence than many races, shirrens often sign on with starship crews as ambassadors, medics, technicians,and other such noncombat roles, especially as mystics acting as ship chaplains. They adore working as part of a team and are often voices of reason in chaotic situations. This general friendliness should not be mistaken for weakness, however, as shirrens fighting for the lives of their comrades can be terrifyingly lethal, fearlessly undertaking suicidal missions for the good of the group.
Shirrens rely primarily on telepathy for communication, speaking audibly with their mandibles only in formal situations. Because of their insectile physiology, their “speech-names” can sometimes be harsh and awkward for members of other races to pronounce. Fortunately, they readily accept nicknames bestowed by members of other races, seeing such epithets as honors. Most also have a secret “soul-name” that’s purely telepathic, a concentrated collage of emotions, images, and sense memories that’s shared only with their dearest friends. Some shirren speech-names include Cesca, Halicon, Jchk, Keskodai, Korskal, Noskaru, Schect, Thast, T’sen, Vishkesh, Xylit, and Zenka.