The world of Xilos is (or was – no one can see through the chronophasic sield around the inner system) home to a vast variety of arthropod-like fauna. Only a tiny fraction had been encountered by the Ghar Empire occupation army or the various expeditionary and task forces that followed it. The primordial jungles are infested with all kinds of creatures both large and small, some of which are highly predatory and dangerous even to well-armed explorers. The long-abandoned subterranean ruins of the Gatebuilders had become the lairs of many of these creatures, and some even appear to have evolved to take advantage of this considerable ecological niche in the bowels of Xilos.
The creatures that inhabit the jungles, mountains and seas of Xilos most closely resemble the kinds of creatures classified as arthropods. They have segmented bodies and shells, some of which are hard casings, others are soft and leathery. Their internal organs are supported by a network of internal ligatures. They have no equivalent of lungs, but breathe through vents in their bodies, and oxygen is dissolved into their blood stream by means of osmotic membranes surrounding their vessels and major internal organs.
These creatures were ferried offworld by Freeborn traders hoping to make a quick profit. Unfortunately, on all the worlds they were placed, they quickly became the dominant creatures in those niches – and proved to be a more complex, single class of creatures that was capable of evolving rapidly to dominate the environment in which it found itself.
Using Xilos Creatures in your games
There are a number of different ways to incorporate Xilos Creatures (as well as other dangerous flora and fauna) into your games…
- You can include a dedicated ‘Creature Player’ to take control of an army of Creatures in a traditional force-on-force battle
- You can include a ‘Creature Player’ to take control of the Creatures as a ‘third party force’ to interfere in a battle between two other forces
- You can simply add them as ‘Random events’ similar to the Rogue Drones from the core rulebook, by including an Event Die for each creature unit into the dice bag during a standard force-on-force game. The control of the creature should be a dice-off each time its Event die is pulled, so neither player knows who next will control the creature, but some basic rules around the creature attacking its nearest prey (unit!) should be enforced.
Gulpers are among the largest Xilos arthropods, although it’s rather hard to tell how big they are because what is seen of them above ground is only the fore-portion of a much longer and bulkier burrowing creature. Although the visible part of their segmented bodies appear worm-like, this is merely the front or ‘neck’ part of a complex arthropod, similar in its general anatomy to smaller Snappers. The entire creature has countless tiny legs that propel it through the tunnels it excavates beneath the loose jungle floor. The upper body usually sits just below the surface, and the creature waits for a victim to pass overhead before lurching upwards to grab it. The unfortunate prey is pulled down, held fast by the gulper’s three huge mouths, and consumed.
Not much is known about the habits of gulpers because they mostly go unseen. They can certainly grow very large, but exactly how big no one knows. The very largest may be referred to as ‘giant gulpers’, but there is no exact standard for measuring such things. The gulpers favourite habitation is loose soil such as that found in the Xilos jungles. Although they are plainly not adapted to live in the rocky interior ofany world, the natural caves, mines and underground ruins of the XIlos Gatebuilders provides a suitable niche to which at least some gulpers have adapted. Those that have adapted to tunnel life are generally smaller, perhaps because the size of the tunnels is a limiting factor, and are sometimes known as ‘cave gulpers’.
Gulpers are deadly to all forms of life and have even been known to cause serious damage to combat vehicles and drones!
Snappers are fairly small arthropods that lived in great numbers both in the jungles and amongst the ruins of Xilos. The explorers dub these creatures ‘snappers’ because of the noise they make as they scuttle about in search of food. It is now thought that the creatures initially regarded as almost entirely harmless are merely one instance of a much larger species that adapts to its environment: snappers may well grow into drummers!
Snappers are communal animals that live in burrows in the ground, among leaf litter, and sometimes within the rotting carcasses of trees. They were common in the Gatebuilder ruins and can be found in settlements on seeded worlds where they dig among the debris and prey upon other small animals as well as scavenging the carcasses of larger creatures. They are creatures of simple instinct with only a rudimentary sense of self-preservation, and this in itself makes them dangerous in large numbers. Like other creatures in their family, they can dig their way through even hard rock.
Drummers are large, solitary arthropod predators, one of the most deadly creatures of the Xilos jungles. The explorers dub these powerful hunters ‘Drummers’ because the noise they make when they attack is like a staccato of drum beats. It appears that this noise confuses the creature’s prey or perhaps even stuns the creatures that make up its diet. Drummers appeared to be a single species, although they vary considerably in size, but with the insights coming from the rapid spread of Xilos creatures elsewhere, it is thought that all the XIlos arthropods are part of the same, rapidly-evolving species that is capable of adapting quickly to its environment. It is now even thought that drummers progress through various life-stages into gulpers.
Unlike the various kinds of snappers, drummers are always found alone and it has been observed that when two drummers meet they either warily avoid each other or fight, with the loser either scuttling away or – often – being killed outright. Fortunately, the percussive noise of two drummers fighting is so intense that it drives all other creatures away and serves as a general warning to all. While drummers are essentially creatures of the jungles and forest, they can also be found deep under the earth in tunnels, caves, mines or subterranean ruins, where they squeeze along the passages made by smaller creatures such as snappers.