Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Tohuls


Luke Campbell

These guys
from Orion's Arm might be my favorite aliens in science fiction. Namely because their gimmick is that they are incredibly close to humans psychologically, but thoroughly alien physically. They're these blind bat-starfish things who live comfortably at 135 C and 70 atmospheres, who would instantly die in at least three horrific ways (freezing to death, lethal alkaline burns, explosive decompression) the instant they emerged into a human-safe environment, but they're still the closest thing to us.

And, relevant to our interests, they can fit in as a viable MoSh player option with only a little hand-waving. (OA features modified tohuls anyway). They think like humans anyway, right? The trade off of the engineering needed to survive in a human environment does unfortunately mean that some of their abilities are not as powerful as they would be back home, but that's not supremely relevant here. Qualitative, not quantitative is the order of the day - "this option has stat bonuses" is boring, "this option will force you to roleplay in a different way" is fun. Qualitative over quantitative.

In a way, I suppose this is just a longer version of Chris' Primordial monster writeups, but for a player option. I added one number in there just because it would feel remiss if I didn't.

So You Want To Be A Blind Space Bat-Starfish

  • Average weight 60-70 kg, but the full scale can go 40 and 100.
  • Tough, leathery skin (+5% armor)
  • Blind - their eyespots can detect the presence of light but nothing more than that.
  • Echolocation - effective both in tight focus and broad-band pings.
  • Can generate and detect electrical fields, though this is only fully effective in water
    • On land, can detect planetary magnetic fields.
    • In water, can be used to deliver a mild shock to stun small prey.
    • Can be used as a form of intimate conversation.
  • Using echolocation / electrical field generation will reveal their presence to anything sensitive.
  • Very good hearing - can shield ears from loud noises.
  • Good sense of smell.
  • Highly developed taste and touch using the small appendages on the underside of their limbs.
  • Gripping pads on hands / feet which aid in climbing and gripping.
  • Feet have opposable digits and can hold objects.
  • Gliding membranes - not very useful out of their native environment, unfortunately.
  • Slow, shuffling walk, can hop around somewhat faster. Their typical jump-glide is only really useful in dense atmospheres or low G environments.
  • Writing is designed to be read either by touch or sonar.
  • Originally nocturnal. Instinctual dislike of being stuck outside without shelter, inclement weather, the cold, and bright light.

If I did this right, it should should be rather easy for someone to pick this up and use their weird alien bat-starfish properties for interesting problem solving. Who needs stats?


  1. Resposting because it's the only way to change a post title properly.

    While they are technically the to'uh'ls, I shan't be playing that game. OA has many great ideas and aspects, but pronounceable or phonotactically pleasant names is not one of them.

    1. I quite liked the point you edited out, but I'm guessing it's being split off into its own post?

    2. Yeah I wasn't happy with the kinda slapdash treatment it got so I took it out for more refinement later.