Here is the idea. This is a write up I did with an eye on publishing it as a pdf. It is written for use with White Star, but a number of pieces could work in other scifi games. It is an homage to the Mentat’s in Dune. As White Star is all about that old school scifi gaming, it seemed a good choice.
I never got around to publishing it to PDF. Partly due to being too broke to pay for good art, and being way too hard on myself. Depression is counter to many a goal in life. I am posting it here to get some feedback. If it seems to interest people enough, I might still publish it in pdf format. This way I can get it out there and get people looking at it first. It might help me keep the spice flowing.
Anyway, here is my write up of Cognates.
(Based on the mentat from Dune.)
The Order of Computational Truth have existed for centuries. They sprang from a war between men, and machines, centuries before. The war is long over, but Order continued. Their ethos revolved around learning to make the minds as efficient as any machines. Through centuries of learning they developed their regimes and disciplines. Member’s of the order are trained from early childhood to the point that they can rival almost any computer. The Cognates, as they are called, use a superior control over their own mind to aid in computation, pattern recognition, and uncanny memory.
Origins of the Order
The Canto sector was once the center of a sprawling, and powerful human empire, the Empire of the Desonian. The Desonians were positioned on the end of a galactic spiral arm, and had within their borders, over a hundred populated worlds. The Empire traded with far off sectors, and attracted the interest of the entire galaxy.
Then it came to an end.
The details are lost to time, but there are legends. The legends say a dead world was discovered drifting between the stars. The world was moved into a distant orbit around a star. Shortly thereafter, the world came to life. The Machine God awoke, and it’s robot minions nearly wiped out humanity in the empire.
The Machine God’s biggest weapon was the ability to turn the Desonian’s technology back upon itself. It was able to take over any thinking machine that came within reach of it’s mechanical minions. Computers, which controlled much of human civilization, became the enemy. The Order for Computational Truth came from this time as a response to the Machine God’s war. The war ended, eventually, several centuries ago. The Desonian Empire was shattered and dozens of worlds remained with only a remnant of their former glory.
The Cognates still existed, but changed their focus over time. There was a proscription against thinking machines for 200 years, and the Cognates were often called upon to serve the purpose of the computers. Without computers, navigating space became almost impossible, so Cognates were needed for interstellar travel. Eventually, the proscription was relaxed in the Canto sector. Now there are more thinking machines, though there is still a well ingrained fear of machines which seem too independent. Cognates became less relevant. They persisted as a philosophical/religious order, and they still hold a position of respect in the Canto sector. As they are less needed, the Order has shrunk to a shadow of its former self. Now, a few hundred hundred of them operate in the Canto sector, and beyond.
The Order of Computational Truth’s home
There is a geologically inactive moon orbiting the gas giant, Kristos. The moon is call Prime, and it is the home order. The world has been hollowed out, and made a temple to the mathematical constants. New initiates are sent there as a children and raised in the discipline. Prime can hold as many as a million or more, but it has long since lost those numbers.
Vast halls have small groups passing through them. Vaulted ceilings, high enough to park a ship in, are dusty reminders of the Order’s former glory. On every column, and surface, there are mathematical equations.
The catalogue of what the equations are may have been lost. The order still does not allow computers in their halls, and a portion of the written records were destroyed. While they were able to recover some from their prodigious memories, the order was not quite certain nothing was lost.
The equations do relate to various fields of studies. The physical world is described in numbers, and notation. Human behavior is predicted, to some degree, by sociological mathematicians. Those descriptions are found in the administrative areas.
Every stone and metal surface is considered a place where permanent proofs should be placed. In the heart of it all, is the Grand Computation.
The Grand Computation is the product of centuries. It is a mathematica model to describe the future and the past. It is the unifying work of the order for several centuries. There are mathematical formulas to describe many human group behaviors, stellar cartography, time, and thousands of other factors which would lead to a perfected understanding of the universe. It is mathematical model too vast for a single mind to comprehend. Studying it has lead to prophetic and oracular insights many times.
Cognates Class Features
WEAPON/ARMOR RESTRICTIONS: Cognates may use clubs, daggers, firearms, grenades, laser pistols, mono-daggers, mono-swords, staffs, and swords. They can wear Light Armor, but do not use shields
LORE: The Cognate has a vast level of knowledge. As a result of years of study, and disciplined mind, they can provide valuable insights to their allies. If they are are allowed to help their friends prepare(which takes at least 1 round), they grant their allies a +2 to any single saving throw or to hit in a single encounter.
THE LANGUAGE OF THE UNIVERSE: Language used by sentient beings tends to have certain quantifiable similarities. The cognate, with a round of concentration, can read directions, instructions, and similar notations written in unfamiliar languages. This also applies to any mathematical or scientific notations.
SAVING THROW BONUS: for +2 to resist Gifts and Meditations
XP BONUS FOR INTELLIGENCE. Cognates with a Inteligence of 13 or 14 receive a 5% Experience Bonus, and those with 15 or higher get 10%.
The memory of a Cognate is truly nearly photographic. They can remember in a level of detail that even some cameras might miss. As a result, any time that there is a question of memory, related to something, or some time, that the cognate actually witnessed, then the player may ask the GM to provide the information as if they were still there.
Example: The Cognate was standing in front of a machine streaming reams of data past. It is faster than any normal person could read. In a later scene, the Cognate can recall it in perfect detail, and player asks the GM for relevant information.
FORESIGHT(5th level): At 5th level, the Cognates mind has become so perceptive and analytical that they can predict short term threats. After a moment of concentration(one round), they can enter a mental state that grants them a prescient sense. For the duration, they gain a +2 to Armor Class and Saving Throws, and they cannot be surprised. This is similar to the Meditation of the same name. The duration is the number of hours equal to their level, or until they are hit, which breaks concentration. They must reactivate it to get the benefits back.
THE GRAND COMPUTATIONAL ADEPT(8th level): The cognate has become a master in the order, and the Grand Computation is open to them. They can access insights into any subject by spending time studying the equations. At intervals set by the GM, the player may ask a single question which is normally outside the player’s knowledge. The time it takes is related to the importance of the information.
Example: The player decides it is important to learn the true location of the enemy homeworld, asks the GM and the GM tells him it will take a week of study. If the player wished to know the true origin of the bad guy npc’s powers it might take him months or years.
Also, as an adept is entitled to have upt three students. These students can be set to any number of tasks, as part of their training.
Use in Campaigns
This class was deliberately written in such a manner that you could use it without having to use the setting info described in the main White Star rule book. White Star is an excellent starting point, and many people like to make their own settings. That said, they would also fit nicely in the already published setting info.
The Kelron Sector
The Cognates are strangers to this this sector of space. They have recently come across it and have quietly started sending members into the region to collect information. Only the most knowledgeable of scholars in the sector have even heard of The Order of Computational Truth, so they have been largely unnoticed by most.
Most, but not all.
The Galactic Consortium has quietly been looking for the cognate agents, for reasons unknown. Perhaps they are simply trying to keep their influence out, or maybe the Cognates may hold some secret knowledge Supreme Lord Adlar wants. For whatever reason, the consortium is looking for them, and their home.
Most of the Cognates in the sector are keeping a low profile, but some have felt compelled to aid the resistance. Their ways may seem mysterious to many, but their effectiveness in a resistance cell is hard to overstate.
Star Knights and Void Knights
The Star Knights are an ancient and widespread order. The Canto sector has often had dealings with them, and the Empire of the Desonian often used them as keepers of the law and peace. When the war against the Machine God began, the Star Knights were some of the greatest protectors of humanity. Over the course of the war, however, their numbers dwindled. By the end, they were just legends of heroes who were long gone.
Since then, they have slowly returned to the sector. The Cognates have always welcomed them as allies, and offer them aid in the Canto sector whenever they can.
Interestingly, the nature of the Cognate training makes them more resistant to Meditations and Empowerments. The Void and The Way seems incompatible with the mathematical precision of the Cognates training. This is also reflected in the Grand Computation, in that there are very few reliable mathematical models describing those powers.
The Void Knights have tried, unsuccessfully, to take Prime, the home of the order. The archives there have much to attract the power hungry, and the Void Knights are not fond of people who can resist them.
Assuming you are using the Psionics supplement for White Star(written by Mathew Skail), which you should be, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, Psionics are not unheard of in the Canto Sector. They have been fairly widely accepted since the days of Desonian Empire. As a result, the Cognates are very familiar with them. There are a large number of Cognates attempting to study psionics. They have made significant headway in explaining the power, and quantifying it for their equations.
The Mental discipline of psionics is not dissimilar to the ones used by Cognates, so there is often a certain amount of comfort they find in each others company. The special saving throws bonus the Cognates have against Meditations and gifts, could be applied to psionics instead, if it makes more sense for your campaign.
There are several Akashic Artifacts kept in Prime, for study, and safekeeping. The Cognates hold several several ancient texts that discuss the Vren, and their fall. Most were written centuries after that fall, though.
The cognates have a long, and hostile, relationship with thinking machines. They were founded during a time when machines were trying to wipe out humanity, and computers could not be trusted. As a result, there is some enmity in the order, even today. This is contrasted with their machine like minds, and a reverence for logic over emotions. In many ways, they often have a great deal in common with the robots of the galaxy.
In the Kelron sector, robots are fairly common. Cognates may distrust them, but going around and destroying them is not likely to make them any friends. As a result, they are advised by the order Elders to do little or nothing to harm machines. It is, after all, inefficient to act out of hate, especially when it will damage relations with people who do not share your beliefs.
In the Canto sector, Robots might be tolerated, but only on a limited basis. The most simple of computer controls are allowed, the most basic of programing. If the robot shows any sort of personality, there is a strong chance they will be disassembled for the public good.
Optional rule: As an optional rule, you might want to give the Cognates a +1 to all attack rolls and damage against robots, or machine opponents. This could be a flat bonus, or you could trade it for another benefit of the class, such as Languages of the Universe.
Some people have already written some excellent skill rules for use in a White Star game. Planetary Transmissions issue #1 has a fairly simple set. Hyperspace messenger issue #4 also has a more detailed write up. Whatever your source, if you are using a skill system, you will need to consider how it relates to Cognates unique training. A good place to start would be to give +2 on any skill roles related to intelligence.
You may need to adjust that, depending on what skill system you decide to use. The point being, the Cognates should always get an advantage when it comes to making a test on their reasoning or memory.