Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Kzinti Reloaded

What could be better for Christmas than a Kzinti ambush? We're thinking a bit today about how the Kzinti will be upgraded for our "Ringworld Reloaded" scenario at Con of the North in February. As with our exploration of the reloaded Puppeteers yesterday, one of the key questions for the scenario is how the transhuman technologies of Nova Praxis have affected the Kzinti. There are also a bunch of other canon-changing questions that we'll get into here.

Larry Niven introduced the Kzinti as something of a foil for the humans as they expanded into space. As a decidedly uncowardly, impulsive, and aggressive species, the Kzinti also made a wonderful contrast with the cowardly, conservative, and cautious Puppeteers. Given the role that honor, proving one's bravery, and making a name for oneself has played in Kzinti culture, I don't see them readily adopting the entire panoply of transhuman technologies.

Chuft Captain

Any technology that makes "the final death" irrelevant or impossible (such as backup copies of one's mind), or even worse, pervasive forking would tend to dilute any claims to honor or glory. Exactly which copy or which fork gets to keep an honor-name earned by a deceased "original"?

That being said, Kzinti telepaths, who are seen as cowardly anyway, might actually experiment with a number of transtype technologies - especially shells, backups, and forks. These would create an even greater social gap and sense of disdain and distrust between the warrior types and the telepaths, but I think ultimately the Kzinti would appreciate having a limited number of these experts working on behalf of their warriors.

Kzinti Telepath

For their own safety, the transtype Kzinti telepaths would probably use Shells out in the field. They'd scan the enemy with their meat-body from a safe distance away, while their Shell works directly with a ground combat team to infiltrate and counter the enemy's networked systems. In order to protect the Kzinti combat honor-system, the telepaths' Shells would be only lightly armed; the warriors wouldn't want any competition from cowardly telepaths.

The Patriarch would almost certainly demand that the transtype telepaths be physically, socially, and technologically isolated from the rest of Kzinti society when not actively part of field operations. The transtype telepaths might even have their own world or an orbital tucked safely away somewhere within Kzinti space, no doubt kept under the constant watchful eye of numerous ECM-shielded Kzinti warships.

Cyberwear, though, that's a different issue. My guess is that Kzinti warriors wouldn't eschew a variety of cybermodifications as long as those are hidden beneath their ample fur. So, reinforced skeletons and muscular systems, special organs to process and clear toxins and contaminants, maybe even internal stasis fields to protect a few vital organs (brain, heart, etc.) in the case of a lethal blow - any of those might be fair game, as long as they can't be seen at a casual glance, and don't erode the Kzinti cultural preference for unique personal identities that can be accorded honor for specific deeds.

The Puppeteers will sell this cybertechnology to those Kzinti warriors who want it. Kzinti should expect to pay full price for the tech, or the Puppeteers may offer them an opportunity to barter for it.   The barter might involve having a warrior check out a strange planet, orbital, or ship, or investigate other space phenomena that the Puppeteers (naturally) fear to investigate on their own.

Puppeteers would be all to willing to keep quiet about their surgical interventions; they are cowards after all.

There's still the issue of sexual dimorphism. I haven't decided what to do about that, but Larry Niven's notion that Kzinti females aren't intelligent just isn't very appealing to me as a GM. We may opt for more of a gender-based cultural dimorphism, along the lines of SF author Eleanor Arnason's Hwarhath:
  • Males are violent, impulsive, and irrational. They are kept away from females and children. 
  • Males guard the borders of the civilization; they are the military. It's where they can do the least harm to society.
  • Females have an equal capacity for violence, but are much more discerning in its application. Their aggression is more often channeled into economic and political affairs. And of course poisoning and assassination.
  • Females and males consequently live very separate lives; homosexuality is the norm and heterosexuality is a shameful form of social deviance.
  • All biological reproduction happens through artificial insemination; females raise all the offspring. Males, of course, are sent to the border when they become juveniles.
  • Females run government and economy. Most females stay on the core world(s). 
  • Kzinti economies tend to be autarchic in nature, since females do not often go to the borders to negotiate with aliens. In certain periods, non-threatening aliens (e.g., Puppeteers) are invited to the core worlds for trade negotiations.
  • A certain degree of black market trade and smuggling occurs on the borders of Kzinti space. This is usually managed on the Kzinti side by members of the military. It is a form of corruption and graft, which is considered neither honorable nor dishonorable in itself, as long as it doesn't distract military officials from their core duties of defending and expanding the borders of Kzinti space. Occasionally such black market trade leads to important technology transfers; this can advance ambitious officers' careers to the General Staff itself.  
  • In this general scheme, there would be no Patriarch, but instead a Matriarch and a Council of Elders (all female, of course) - and an all-male General Staff.  
  • Diplomacy is a bit of a sticky wicket. First encounters almost always involve the all-male military, and are invariably accompanied by violence. Wars usually start spontaneously and impetuously, rather than as a matter of policy. 
  • In the event that a war needs to be ended through some sort of negotiation process (a denouement which is the rule in Kzinti wars, rather than the exception) the end of hostilities is negotiated by a delegation composed equally of Kzinti female officials, diplomats, and traders, and members of the Kzinti General Staff. 
  • Such negotiation processes typically break down numerous times before they reach a successful conclusion. In practice, these negotiations are a three party affair: the alien party, the Kzinti government party, and the Kzinti military party.


  1. Cloning would offer the Military a way to circumvent the matriarchs.That could get almost Tleilaxu-like weird fairly quickly...

  2. Great insight. There might be VERY loose ties between the military and the Matriarchy of Kzin. Like many pocket statelets on the borders, each doing their own thing, and periodically requiring Matriarchy diplomats to come out and solve their wars for them.