Vulcan Philosophical Schools

The Vulcan species has been an important and beloved part of Star Trek since the very start and fans have delighted in seeing the species and culture grow. A great leap forward in this is the information in The Way of Kolinahr supplement from Last Unicorn Games. Personally, I love these schools and wanted to bring them into the present with Star Trek Adventures. If you feel the same way then read on and enjoy!

Long ago, Vulcan was a planet of blood and death. More than two thousand years ago the warlords who battled each other over the course of centuries and brought atomic warfare to the world. The Vulcan species (and the Romulans) could have been literally torn to pieces by the conflict if it weren’t for the efforts of a Vulcan scholar named T’planat-Hath, the lead historian in the city of ShirKahr at the time.

He taught many prominent students and laid the groundwork for the Time of Awakening, the pivotal moment when the Vulcans turned from violence to logic. Modern Vulcan philosophy in all its forms all stem from this time, though their interpretations of the commonalities are varied. Below are six schools of philosophy from Vulcan and Talents to go along with them.

The School of Surak

The largest philosophical school is based on the teachings of Surak, often viewed as the founding figure of modern Vulcan society. Though he died during the horrific period of war that preceded the logical period of the planet, Surak’s teachings formed not only the dominant culture for the Vulcan species but the popular image of Vulcans among others. The school of Surak’s teachings is by far the largest philosophical movement in Vulcan society.

Surak taught that peace is gained by divorcing oneself from ego. The root of violence and harm, this school posits, is pach-te which is often (simplistically) translated as “selfishness.” Rather than follow your impulses and untamed emotions, Surak says to concentrate on six virtues as logical paths to see the bigger picture and find the most constructive and beneficial course of action. The six virtues of Tu-Surak (the Way of Surak) are Courage, Temperance, Charity, Truthfulness, Justice, and (most controversially) Shame. While it might challenge many people’s view of Vulcan psychology, followers of Surak’s teachings are told to feel ashamed when they fail to live up to the philosophy’s teachings and to use that feeling to improve their adherence in the future.

Tu-Surak

Requirement: Vulcan or Gamemaster’s permission.

You strive to maintain the six virtues of Surak’s teachings, something that helps you see situations clearly. When you attempt a roll related to an Extended Task and you have an applicable Focus, you gain the Scrutinize 1 quality (core rulebook, p. 91).

Image © Paramount Pictures

The Kolinahr Path

Many see the path of kolinahr as the natural evolution of other Vulcan philosophical schools, but others see it as a dramatic leap forward. Founded by a hermit named Sanshiin, a former bloody warlord turned logic teacher, the practice of kolinahr involves using a mental ritual called t’san s’at to purge all emotion from the student’s mind. Many equate kolinahr with the teachings of Surak but they are, in fact, different traditions. Only a small fraction of the followers of Surak’s teachings (the largest school, it must be remembered) and some who undergo the ritual of kolinahr follow another path or no formal teaching at all.

When Sanshiin founded this movement he was blending the philosophical teachings of Surak with the psychic practices of the Kolinahru mindlords who nearly destroyed the planet. This mix has created the combination of logic and psychic ritual which continues as the core to modern Vulcan society, and which has led to some of the biggest events in Vulcan society during the past centuries, both positive and negative.

Kolinahr

Requirement: Vulcan or the Gamemaster’s permission.

You have undergone the t’san s’at, the ritual journey to purge all emotion. You reduce the Difficulty of all Tests to resist coercion, mental intrusion, pain, and other mental attacks by two.

Image © Paramount Pictures

The Way of Jarok

While Surak is undeniably T’plana-Hath’s most famous and respected student, Jarok was a close second and the two had a strong rivalry through their centuries of teaching. It was a respectful rivalry and the two agreed on the foundational belief that emotions must be mastered to avoid the sort of violence that nearly ended life on Vulcan two millennia ago. In sharp contrast to Surak’s teachings, however, Jarok taught that embracing inner emotion and fully understanding them. 

Like Surak, Jarok espouses a list of virtues to guide followers: Compassion (“the ability to see suffereing selflessly”), Temperance (understanding want instead of being ruled by it), and Justice (understanding that you belong to a greater whole). It’s easy to see from this list that followers of the path of Jarok (Tu-Jarok) are not raving, emotionally-charged maniacs. Their embrace of emotion is a mastery, not a surrender. This is similar to athletes using momentum and gravity to empower their performance rather than fighting against it. They are more expressive than other Vulcans to be sure but they also see themselves as part of something much larger so they are hardly hedonists.

Tu-Jarok

Requirement: Vulcan or Gamemaster’s permission.

You have trained yourself to confront your emotions and refuse to be ruled by them. By being in touch with your emotions and understanding them on a level that most individuals never will, you are able to navigate emotionally-charged situations well. When engaging in a social conflict and attempting Deception, Intimidation, or Negotiation you reduce the Difficulty by one.

Image © CBS

The School of Nirak

The philosopher Nirak was a student of Surak but also an admirer of his rival Jarok. He set out to join together the disparate schools of thought, a task that seems almost inconceivable to many. Like Surak he believed that purging emotions would stop violent impulses and destructive tendencies but like Jarok he believed that one could coexist with emotions without succumbing to them. Nirak taught his students to purge negative emotions including anger, intolerance, and jealousy. This leaves more room to explore and embrace constructive emotions such as joy and curiosity. Fully understanding these emotions, Nirak taught, grows the Vulcan into a stronger and more helpful member of society. Though only a very few Vulcans follow the teachings of Nirak, those that do are often very vocal about their adherence.

Tu-Nirak

Requirement: Vulcan or Gamemaster’s permission.

You have purged yourself of negative emotions, focusing on positive feelings of curiosity and satisfaction. When you attempt a Task to resist being intimidated, the effects of fear, or other emotional manipulation you add a bonus d20 to your dice pool. 

The One Mind School

The Time of Awakening was a time of great change on Vulcan, a period of shifting and coalescing ideas as an entire species reinvented itself. Among the first students of Surak there were many different ideas being discussed, and for the philosopher T’mor saw enlightenment in these discussions coming from the distant past. Like his teacher, T’mor taught that emotion clouded a Vulcan’s vision but he went further to propose the idea of predestination as the ancient Vulcans did. Purging oneself of emotion, T’mor taught, allows you to see the grand pattern of the universe and the solution to all problems that ever will be. Though logical sequences of cause and effect are widely used, most Vulcans have difficulty accepting this level of consequence. The One Mind School is considered a “fringe school” and has only a very few adherents.

The Answers are Predetermined

Requirement: Vulcan or Gamemaster’s permission.

You follow the philosophies of the One Mind School and the principles of predestination. You have purged yourself of emotion to focus your mind on the broader patterns of the universe, seeing the answers blocked by the cloud of emotion as T’mor taught. When attempting an Extended Task involving the Science or Engineering Disciplines you gain the Triumphant quality (core rulebook, p. 91).

Image © Paramount Pictures

The Hakihr Way

The ancient Tinsha Monastery in northern Khomi is immensely old, predating the teachings of Surak and the Tmie of Awakening. Their martial arts practices of the monastery and their spiritual beliefs changed with the influence of Surak’s teachings, becoming the modern physical practices known as Hakihr. They see a bond between mind and body, following a famous teaching of Surak’s. “The mind controls the body; control the mind and the body will follow.” They see the influence as flowing in both directions, working on their physical body to focus the mind and control emotional response. Hakihr training creates a psychic ability much like Vulcan mind melds, but rather than influencing others’ minds Hakihr creates a biofeedback loop which greatly improves reaction and focus.

Hakihr

Requirement: Vulcan or Gamemaster’s permission.Your mental focus turns your body into an intensely living weapon. Your Unarmed Attack gains the Accurate quality which makes it a very precise attack. If you have Mean Right Hook or Martial Artist Talent (from the Operations Division Supplement) then the damage effect or either or both of those Talents apply as well.

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