Monday, 3 July 2017

The Raxene

I've recently created a design I'm happy with for the raxene (singular raxin), one of the two playable nonhuman species in Ark Frontier.


This has evolved through a few rounds of sketches. My initial concept was of humanoids covered in short fur. I was tossing up between human-like plantigrade legs or more animal-like digitigrade legs; in the end, I went with digitigrade legs ending in hoof-like pads. This feature, and their species name, is inspired by the real-world hyrax.

As you can see from the first sketches below, I was originally experimenting with a muzzled face, but the image I really had in mind was closer to the flatter human-like face shown in the bottom centre. However, I wasn't entirely happy with the look of that sort of face and head entirely covered in uniformly short fur.

There's a fine line to walk when coming up with an "alien" species, between creating something that readers can relate to, and avoiding just making a funny-looking human. To that end, I've given the raxene a combination of unusual features. They appear mammalian, being furry with rabbit-like ears, but also whisker-like antennae and hoofs. In addition, the females lay eggs which hatch well-developed young, so they don't breastfeed.

In this next round of sketches, I worked out the proportions of the legs (I'm not an expert at digitigrade legs on humanoids) and other body features, and experimented with motion and body-types. They have a fairly rotund egg-shaped torso. I got around the uniform face-stubble problem by introducing a short tufty fringe.

I've made sure there's a wide range of possibilities for individuality — different ear shapes and positions (floppy, raised, swept back...) and different fringe styles are the obvious ways to distinguish individuals, aside from face-shape and build.

Species Modifiers

In the PowerFrame RPG, raxene have the following "racial" modifiers:

Ability Modifiers

  • Avoid +1 (because of their size and agility)
  • Move +1 (because their legs are adapted to run)
  • Hunting -1 (because they evolved from herbivores)
  • Stealth -1 (because of their hoofs)
  • Strength -1 (because of their stature)
  • Dark Vision (reduce all Darkness Penalties by 2)
I have considered giving them Acrobatics +1 instead of or as well as the Avoid bonus, since Acrobatics would increase their utility as explorers, but the Avoid bonus gives them an edge in combat that makes up for their reduced Strength. If I want to include Acrobatics as well, I'll need to come up with some other penalty.


Apart from the features already described, raxene are notably swift and agile. They evolved from herbivores whose main defence was outrunning their predators. They are slightly smaller than humans on average. There's very little distinction between the sexes, except that mature females have wider hips.

They lay largish eggs only when fertilised, which take a few months (probably three?) to hatch. The young can eat soft foods straight away, and grow rapidly. They are soon able to move about on their own.


Before the Phantom Storm, the raxene and vaion formed Aratene society together. Due to physiological differences there are roughly twice as many raxene as vaion, and this often leads to the raxene being viewed as the "default" in Aratene society. Raxene are traditionally seen as builders, farmers, warriors, and other physical occupations, although stereotypes are frequently broken.

Raxene have an ingrained respect for eggs and nesting sites. Nests themselves are sacrosanct and can only be entered with permission. There's an order of egg-priests who visit nests to check on the eggs and advise families, and indeed the egg is a sacred symbol in Aratene culture — a symbol recognised by the vaion too, even though they don't lay eggs. A small group of egg-priests have begun preaching that the Ark itself is an egg, from which the children of Arat are about to hatch.

Arat isn't a monoculture, although the Phantom Storm means that mostly members of the local egalitarian culture were rescued by the Ark. Given the relative similarity between the sexes, and the sacred role of the egg, it's likely that several nearby societies were matriarchal in nature and perhaps held eggs in even higher regard. Unless pockets of refugees have somehow survived for the past 18 years, though, it's also likely that most such cultures have been wiped out.

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I'm still working on the design for the vaion. I know I want them to be a unisex species, but I've yet to figure out how they reproduce. They also have a connection to Arat's magical field, meaning they are at once skilled in manipulating magic but also vulnerable to it.