Dark Horizon: Dupalan Species

In my post on character creation in Dark Horizon, I explained that your character will have the descriptor, type, and focus common to all Cypher System characters but also a Species and Culture that will make them more unique with more options for abilities. This is the first of those options, a Species template for the octopus-like dupalans. There are five more of these in store so let me know what you think of this one before I get too off base!

When dupalan scientists first puzzled out the secrets of astrophysics, they realized that their sun was an old, red star nearing the end of its life. The system would be destroyed in only a few million years: nothing to cause panic over but far less than most species had to deal with.

This was the way of things until a chance encounter with a rogue planet disrupted the delicate balance. If the planet had impacted things might have been fine but instead it passed close enough to warp the star’s photosphere and then continued on pulling a plume of material with it. This massive, spiraling flare was going to intercept Dupal in a few decades and shatter the planet. They had to leave.

The worldships that the dupalans built are true marvels to this day. Made of hollowed asteroids the size of small moons they were outfitted with enormous engines to move the mass up to a fast enough speed to leave for another system in search of a new home. It was a rushed plan and none of the nation-states on Dupal could agree where to head. So the more than two dozen worldships left for more than two dozen systems.

Destruction of Dupal
Three of the last worldships flee the doomed planet of Dupal.

Contacting the Vincularium, the worldships settled in their various systems and became asteroids again. Billions left the worldships (which were hundreds of times too big to fit through even large Gates) and in time the dupalans became just another Vincularium species scattered throughout known space.

With the Network Collapse they transformed back. Those aboard the worldships reignited the engines and traveled between the stars again, the means of their exodus once more becoming cultural symbols. In the reconnecting galaxy, dupalans have a reputation as true interstellar travelers, the species that continues to spread when the rest of the galaxy hides in fear.

Physical Description

Dupalans have an internal skeleton but they mostly resemble invertebrates with radial bodies and ropy arms. To humans they most closely resemble the octopus, despite the wiry fur that covers their body and the four slitted eyes on the fronts.

The closest ancestral species to dupalans are amphibious creatures in cold-adapted regions (now, of course, only seem in worldship zoos) and many of those features are still seen in dupalans. While they are fully land-adapted and most comfortable around 70°C they can easily be genetweaked to enhance their aquatic abilities and low-light vision.


They are still predators instinctually and dupalans are usually focused on goals and practical matter. However, they have a predisposition to ambush hunting and part of the comfort with space travel is their patience.

Whether because of natural instincts or the diasporic history if the species, dupalans usually place little intrinsic value in family ties. Simply being related to someone genetically is unimportant if their are not other social ties in place. On the other hand, debts of service are considered very important and many members if mixed-species crews will find their dupalan crewmates eager to quickly repay favors before they feel awkward.

Play a Dupalan if You Want to…

  • be a strange-looking alien with stealthy abilities.
  • be a member of a species with a long history of interstellar travel.
  • have natural mechanical abilities and connections across the galaxy.
Image from ESA/Hubble

Dupalan Species Abilities

Like a flavor, there are unique abilities available to dupalan characters. These can be chosen whenever you would gain a new ability from your type or focus. If you would gain multiple abilities at a new tier from your focus, you gain one of these abilities instead of all of that tier’s abilities.

Tier One Dupalan Abilities

  • Night Vision: Dupalans are often able to see better in the dark than other species, owing ultimately to the dim visible light on their homeworld long ago. While many dupalans have lost this ability, you retain it and are able to twice as far in dim lighting as a human could. You also gain an asset for all tasks related to visual perception in dim situations. Enabler.
  • Spur Attack (1 Speed point): You have trained in unarmed combat to make use of your species’ sharp spurs, hunting adaptations normally ignored by modern dupalans. Your unarmed Speed attacks deal an additional point of damage. Action.
  • Traveling Species: Your people spent a long time traveling before joining the Vincularium and more time traveling after the Network Collapse. You have inherited a comfort with star maps and astronavigation as a result. Choose two of the following skills to become trained in: astronomy, astrophysics, geology, navigation, remote sensing, or ship design. You can select this ability multiple times. Each time you select it, you must choose two different skills. Enabler.

Tier Two Dupalan Abilities

  • Aquatic: Dupalans’ ancestors came from the sea and bringing back those traits is rather easy. You gain the ability to breathe underwater, whether fresh or salty. Water with toxins in it will affect you like airborne toxins in an atmosphere (unless you have an ability or equipment that makes you immune). You also gain an asset on any tasks related to swimming and diving. Enabler.
  • Cultural Hub: While the dupalan worldships remain dominated by your species, others choose to make their home there and many are interstellar crossroads. You gain an Tier 1 Culture ability of your choice from any Culture, representing a community that lived in your worldship. Enabler.
  • Ristabahl (2 Might points): You learn to use the suction cups on your limbs (called ristabahl by dupalans) to grab onto things firmly. Whenever you touch something or hit someone with an unarmed attack you can choose to attach a limb to it. All attempts to hold onto it are two steps easier for the next minute. You can only do this multiple times with your other limbs (up to six unless you have other limbs added) but for each limb after the first the difficulty of all manual actions including attacks is increased by one step. For instance, with three limbs attached to targets you increase the difficulty of manual tasks by two steps. Enabler.

Tier Three Dupalan Abilities

  • Far-Travelled Species: You have travelled much more than most other species have, giving in to the cultural wanderlust of the dupalan species.  Choose two of the following skills to become trained in: astronomy, astrophysics, geology, navigation, remote sensing, or ship design. You can select this ability multiple times.  Instead of becoming trained you could choose to become specialised in one skill you are already trained in. Enabler
  • Repair Technician (2 Intellect points): While on a spaceship, dupalans know instinctively what to do when something breaks. If something is damaged or destroyed in a vehicle you are in, you can learn what it is and how to fix it with a single action accessing the vehicle’s systems. You also gain an asset to repair tasks for this particular problem. Action.
  • Stereoscopic Vision: Dupalans’ eyes can be enhanced far beyond what other species’ can hope to accomplish. You can see five times as far without penalties and gain you gain heat vision, the ability to see infrared radiation. These enhancements together provide an asset for all tasks related to visual perception. Enabler.

Tier Four Dupalan Abilities

  • Ambush Predator: Long ago, your species were ambush predators that waited in the depths for prey to come by. While you are no longer that primitive species, you still have deep-seated instincts for surprise attacks that you can use to your advantage. If you surprise your opponent with an attack or act before they do at the beginning of combat, the difficulty of your attack is decreased by one step. On a successful hit, you also gain an asset on any grappling attacks you make in the next round. Enabler.
  • Deep Diver: In order to select this ability you must also have the Aquatic ability (see Tier 2). You are resistant to hydrostatic pressure, gaining Armor 5 against such effects, so that you can dive as deep as you want in most oceans. In addition you can see underwater without needing any light source and receive no penalties to your visual perception from fog or muddy water. Enabler.
  • Multitasker (3 Speed points): Having six limbs can be confusing but you know how to use them all simultaneously. You can attempt two non-combat physical tasks in one round utilising your multiple appendages, though you are still limited by the amount of Effort you can spend in one round. Each action must be rolled separately. Enabler.

Andromeda Galaxy

Tier Five Dupalan Abilities

  • Camouflage (5 Intellect points): By applying chromatophore cells in your skin and fur as well as precise muscle-control relays you are able to enhance your species’ normal abilities to hide. As long as you don’t move or only move slowly you reduce the difficulty of all tasks related to hiding and sneaking by two steps. Action to Initiate.
  • Optimization: Your species has long had to create wonders out of very little and you know how to do this. All physical cyphers you use function as if they were two levels higher than normal. Additionally, with the appropriate tools and a week of work, you can modify a cypher  so that it functions as if it was one level higher than normal for other people as well. This does not actually raise the cypher’s level and so using Optimization a second time will have no effect. Enabler.
  • Stretch Limbs (5 Speed points): All dupalans can stretch their limbs somewhat, potentially gaining several centimeters to reach things a little out of reach. You have modified your structure to an amazing degree, increasing your reach not by centimeters but by more than a meter. With this ability, you can stretch all your limbs up to a short range for one round, allowing you to attack enemies within a short distance instead of immediate distance with melee weapons or unarmed attacks. Enabler.

Tier Six Dupalan Abilities

  • Galactic Citizen: You are well-traveled and versed in matters from across the universe. You are trained in Intellect defense tasks, or specialized if you were already trained. Additionally, choose two knowledge skills in which you are not already specialized: you are not trained in those skills if you weren’t already or specialized in them if you were already trained. You can select a skill you have no training in and one in which you are already trained if you like. Enabler.
  • True Genius: You can create new artifacts in half the time, as if they were two levels lower, by spending half the normal XP. Enabler.
  • Well-Armed (5 Speed points): When you carry multiple weapons in your many limbs, you can aim devastating barrages at your enemies. When carrying more than one weapon, you can attack a single foe and use your action to bring all of your weapons to bear on them at once. If the attack is successful, you deal 2 additional damage for each weapon you carry beyond the first. Action.

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