Favorite Beasts

Caveat - I am assuming postulating “background colour” compatible with Flat Black is acceptable on this board. If not I am fine with deleting this post.

As Brett discussed in the dev levels thread, domestic animals, usually called “beasts” as a generic term, are commercial products. To me that means that many, if not most, of them have been run past a marketing department to make them “Stand out from the herd.”

As a pure matter of background colour, there should be interesting beast brands, tweaks, and commercial markings.

For example, beasts designed by the Empire might be deepest black with small white spots to invoke the depths of space. They are usually seen in areas in desperate need of food aid, so are not prestigious at all despite their appearance.

Legacy beasts from the colonial period might bear corporate dress or national symbols from Old Earth long past the demise of the sponsor. “Pepsibeasts” and their associated “milk” have been hanging around some colonies so long that pepsimilk is the ONLY acceptable choice for new generations.

“Chocolate Yumyums” are a luxury pet in the Suite. Half puppy, half kitten, and 100% adorable, not only do kids love them but the beast will spew forth a variety of delicious treats when a parental figure signals it’s RF implant with their comgadget.

A surprisingly common colonial beast is the infamous “Slobberbeast,” sent to many colonies with marginal habitability. They roam far and wide during the day, comsuming all manner of noxious garbage and excreting pellets of toxins, and return to the colony at night, where they drool out filtered water and vomit up biomass compatible with the needs of many terraforming organisms. They are also affectionate, playful and fiercely protective of humans. It is thought that many of the less salubrious colonies would have perished after the loss of Eatth without the help of their loyal Slobberbeasts.

Mastiff? St Bernard?

Speaking of biologically-designed pets, the second campaign established the “lissom”, which is a sort of optimised paramustelid with a suite of endearing habits, an affectionate disposition, and a propensity for riding in pockets. A PC bought one during a sequence of adventures that amounted to quests by very rich PCs to find suitable birthday presents for a friend’s fortieth birthday. Another find in that sequence was the Six-Fingered Sword, which one of them found in a junk shop, and which led them on a subsequent quest to Paradise II to discover its provenance¹. That was where my original players formulated the rule of thumb that odd-numbered “Paradises” are grossly overcrowded and even-numbered ones are sparsely settled by dangerous weirdoes who contend with almost-uninhabitable conditions. That’s was a bit harsh on Paradise IV, I thought.

Beasts — well, meat-beasts — have never figured in any of my adventures, PCs (with the exception of one Odyssean) not caring for real meat and preferring to get their meals out of a food synthesiser. I don’t think we’ve ever seen an Imperial with a pet, either.

¹ The Sword turned out to be a genuine Hollywood prop, made in the 21st Century on Earth, and therefore fabulously valuable.

By all means have fun with this, but be aware that I consider that interstellar brands and franchises undercut Flat Black’s theme of parochial insularity, and I very seldom use them.

There is Eichberger Spaceways, of course, and the Eichberger Realty Company, Eichberger Heavy Industry, Universal Imports and the Universal Bank. Apart from that I can only think of Corcoran Industries, Corcoran Militech, Quipo News, and Oberst, a brand that Corcoran uses on three models of sliver pistol.

When I am running Flat Black I try to convey an impression of a mature, commodified tech, in which nearly all the designs are at least six hundred years old and all sophisticated manufacturing distinguished by a sweeping interchangeably of commodified standard parts and subassemblies. Branding isn’t a big thing any more.

Many years ago, when I was managing an apa, I teased one of my players who belonged to it, who liked to play risquée characters, by asking an artist friend to do a cover sketch of her self-defined avatar Offensive Wench with a mustelid pet sticking its head out of a harness about her loins (she was fond of using the phrase “trouser weasel”). Happily, she thought it was hilarious.

Any dog chassis will do. We fondly refer to our dog as “The Slobberbeast” for obvious reasons, and he’s some sort of houndish mutt.

Meat-beasts are probably mostly background colour, unless you sneak in some sort of meat-beast based technothriller plot. There’s a certain something about meat-based intrigue that doesn’t mesh with FB though.

Exowombs, terraforming beasts, guard beasts, and other biotech tools are possibly fun. Exowomb beasts (Mother-Things?) especially seem like they are ripe for PC-facing shennanigans.

I assume farmed fur might have pets, but mink would consider them a waste of resources.

Well, undercutting the theme should certainly be avoided. Also, there is something a bit utopian about it - many imagined high-tech futures envision ever-more intrusive advertising.

Colonial holdovers of old Earth advertising seem like they could easily be parochial, especially if they are the only surviving instance. It also seems that worlds with good terraforming tools might have created a lot of interesting specialist beasts

Even at the level of a single colony, a world is a big place and there is room for a lot of specialized bio-machinery. The lesser shaggy purple slobberbeast is only seen in the upper Chartrusian Penninsula, where it was adapted from the more common bristly purple slobberbeast in order to handle peculiarities with the native vegetation.

Now these sorts of thing are mostly background colour, but sometimes a bit of background color slathered on a plot point makes that plot point more fun, at least in my experience.

Back to odd and interesting beasts: I submit that there is probably at least a significantly large region in some colony where heavy ground fog is prevalent and common. This region supports many beasts adapted to this. Some have huge limpid eyes that use nonstandard wavelengths that penetrate the fog. Others have bat-like faces, or moth antennae. The Girbeasts, with their spindly legs and tall necks are the most distinctive, however, and a shoal of girbeast heads sticking out of the fog as they go about their business is a common sight from the mist-porches of the rural dwellings in the area.

On the other hand, if you have inexpensive gene surgery, you might plausibly have fancifully colored and formed Beasts as a farm owner’s personal statement, a medium for visual art.