Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fragments: X-plorers: The Stoneworkers of Tol

Fragments: Ideas that I began to develop, but will not likely finish.

The ring of the pick calms the spirit.
Work saves us from ourselves.

The sound of the shovel deadens the senses.
Work saves us from ourselves.

Filling the bucket satisfies the hunger.
Work saves us from ourselves. 

     -Excerpt from the Song of the Stone, which takes an entire day to sing

Tol is a undeveloped planet that has yet to be divided and commoditized by the corporations. This is mostly due to its remote location. Furthermore, the planet's legal status is still being determined since it is home to an indigenous species of proto-men.

     The proto-men of Tol are rather single-minded creatures. They survey a square that measures five kilometers to a side, clear the topsoil, divert any waterways, then go to work on the bedrock beneath.

example of cleared terrain with rerouted stream
     With simple tools they level the stone, then carve elaborate geometric patterns. At one kilometer intervals they also tunnel down to create subterranean spaces built around a deep, central shaft. In a 25 square kilometer area there will be 25 such underground structures.

     The structures house groups of workers, although only a handful are needed to house the population of any given cleared area, which numbers about 250. The rest of the underground structures are vacant, although many have become lairs for all manner of insect, beast and ooze. 

     Maps of the planet assembled by orbiting satellites have identified thousands of cleared areas. Best estimates indicate a world population of about 50,000 Tolians divided into groups of roughly 250 working various 25 square kilometer plots.

     The people of Tol are simple, peaceful creatures. This makes them easy targets for predators. The predators vary by terrain. For example, in an area of vast plains, the Tolians are hunted by a predatory species of avian. The avians have a rather simple hunting technique: They swoop down, lift up one of the Tolians, then drop him onto the rock below. They then devour the flesh. Recognizing that the Tolians offer no resistance, the avians have learned to shadow workgroups. In this manner, a kind of symbiotic relationship has developed. The avians stay fed and the weak, frail and old among the Tolians are thinned. This balance is respected regardless of the predatory species.

     The men of Tol understand this, so they make no effort to defend themselves, seeing it as part of their life-cycle. When a worker is killed in such a manner, a male and female - determined by lots by a foreman - will immediately couple to produce a replacement worker.

cross section of bunker complex
     The workers do not interact with non-Tolians. They simply ignore any stranger in their presence. They just continue to work and sing their song, which has themes of delivery of the flesh and spirit through work.

     If an interloper is so disruptive that the Tolians are no longer able to work, a frightening transformation occurs. Roll a 1d4 on the table below to determine the result:

Work Disruption Result, 1d4
1. The Tolians fall upon one another in a savage display of violence and cannibalism.
2. As above, but the Tolians first attempt to destroy any non-Tolians before attacking one another.
3. The Tolians will walk to the nearest underground structure and throw themselves into the pit.
4. The workers will stand about in a catatonic state. They will stare into space until they are able to work. If their tools are taken away, they will stand in place until they collapse from hunger, fatigue or dehydration. Death inevitably follows.

     The Tolians have a very simple hieratchy. Each group of 250 Tolians is led by a foreman who seems to do very little other than draw lots when a worker is killed and must be replaced through breeding. The foreman leads the survey team and directs all work activities. The various groups of Tolians do not appear to interact with one another at all. The genetic similarity among the groups hints at a universal ancestor and the lack of diversity could be due to generations of inbreeding.

     Among themselves the Tolians communicate very little, although they do sing "The Song of the Stone", which is a work anthem that may synchronize their activities.


  1. Replies
    1. I couldn't sleep the other night and this is what happened. :)

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Robert. I'll probably flesh this one out at some point. I've been reading a lot of pulp-y sci-fi and the stoneworkers of Tol dug their way out of my imagination. :)

  3. You like X-Plorers???? I had no idea!

    1. I've been taken by the system because it has a clean, basic design that is wide open for tweaking. I had looked at some other sci-fi games in print and they just seemed very cumbersome to me. X-plorers is like the S&W of sci-fi. :)