The Grist are a race of insectoid aliens that periodically pass through the sector every decade or so, trading exotic knowledge and technology for massive amounts of radioactive material, which then powers a unknown technology (theorized to be similar to a spike drive on a massive scale) that supposedly translates their fleet to another sector of space to continue their journey.
Grist seem to have evolved from a spider like ancestor, and are coated in a thick (but surprisingly light) exoskeleton (of variable color) dotted with long thin hairs that act as sensory apparatuses that taste the air and sense vibrations. At around 5 ft tall and 5ft in diameter when walking (or 10ft when legs are stretched out) the males slightly diminutive compared to humans, but weigh 2 or 3 times as much as humans due to their exoskeleton and thick inner skeleton. Females on the other hand are often double the size and quadruple the weight of males. Grist speak through a complex series of clicks, clacks, squeaks, shrieks and leg movements.
Unlike how many cartoons depict them, they are not a spider body with a human like torso, arms and head. Grist are completely arachnid in biology, but with an expanded brain that stretches back into the abdomen, allowing complex thought and even weak telekinetic powers in every member of the species. In addition, Grist mouth parts are incredibly complex and highly dexterous, allowing fine and speedy manipulation up to a fraction of a fraction of a millimeter in tolerance and precision. With 6 large eyes clustered around their head, combined with their ability to sense vibrations and taste the air make it nearly impossible to hide from them at close range, but due to poor eyesight and the limited range of their senses, they can barely sense anything beyond 20 meters from them.
Grist are carnivores just like most arachnids, and they farm massive beetle like animals in their ships, which have been modified to be so large and corpulent as to be unable to move. Eventually the farmed beetles are so large their hearts cannot keep up and they die, whereupon workers will cut the body to pieces and seal the semi-liquid remains in small plastic packages, to be handed out and rationed to everyone.
Male Grist are considered by human standards to be "idiot savants", and when born have a natural talent towards a few areas of knowledge and skill, but are often severely deficient in other areas. Females however are often geniuses in nearly all subjects, with vast encyclopedic knowledge and flawless memory. Males also lack the ability to produce webbing, and vastly outnumber the Females(20:1 naturally), due to a lower birth rate of Females and the tendency for Females to compete and kill for a bigger share of Male servants on each ship in the fleet. Males on the other hand are usually complete cowards and will never fight outside of firing a ship weapon across the void at another ship, but when confronted with in person violence will instinctively flee and hide.
Grist reproduction is a clouded issue with very little information, outside of a few Grist sources that have shared information for vast amounts of radioactive material. Unlike most Arachnids, a Female will mate with many Males each day for weeks, collecting genetic material from each mate before devouring them alive. Over this time each male fertilizes a small fraction of the females eggs, and after this period of mating she lays all hundreds of thousands of them at once in her nest. After a few more months they begin to hatch at once, the spawn-ling males then immediately begin seeking out females to serve as adult males begin to deposit chunks of meat to feed them. Both Males and Females begin to develop intelligence after a few months, and begin constant learning and growing (while a number of females are murdered by each other). After 15 or so years a Male is considered an adult, while Females continue to grow for another 10 or so years before reaching adulthood. Both Males and Females have lifespans in the hundreds of years however, and can amass a truly impressive amount of knowledge in that time.
Society and Psychology
All Grist males are completely and totally subservient to other Grist females, however Females are generally kind and appreciative of their servants and treat them with respect. Their large city sized ships are usually shaped like a large cocoon, even down to being wrapped in 15 meters of thick webbing. The interior of their ships are mazes of corridors and passages, all once again coated in generations of layers of webbing. Their technology is highly advanced, far in excess of human standards, and the Grist themselves are highly intelligent. Each ship has approximately 1000 females and untold millions of males serving them.
Civil wars, or conflicts between different adult Females never happen, as all of their male servants refuse to fight in any way no matter what. If a female reaches adulthood, they are pretty much guaranteed to be left alone physically. This does not mean the Females do not compete however, instead they compete like noble families forming an oligarchy on a human world, competing in the areas of trade, science and espionage.
It is incredibly rare for a Grist to leave their home ship (never a female), and rarer still for them to leave their fleet (still never a female). However with the shear number of males in each fleet, a few thousands choose to be left behind each migration. These males are often oddities in that they are less specialized and focused than their normal counterparts, often leaving due to a feeling of wanderlust and curiosity. Unfortunately these Grist often face rampant fear and discrimination from humans, for reasons that these Grist do not understand as they try to walk up to humans and speak to them.
Grist do not understand humans, and feel they are strange and unknowable creatures who don't react like reasonable people. Most wanderer Grist always have a small device clutched near the back of their mandibles, which they use to synthesize a human voice with perfect clarity and expression, aside from the clicking noises that their mandibles naturally produce while moving. They often give themselves a human name (instead of making them try to pronounce their own real name) and even try to act like humans to try and fit in, but often misunderstand a few basics like sarcasm, how context changes statements, backhanded compliments, and how their fearsome appearance can be frightening as they scuttle quickly towards people in what they view as friendly excitement. Once a Grist understands the difference between human males and females, a bit of their natural subservience towards females will emerge again, but certainly not as extreme as towards their own species.
Playing a Grist
To play a Grist, you must be level 3, and have an Int and Dex of +1 or better, and a Cha or Wis of -1. You must select the class of expert for your base class. In addition, you may only use your ability to re-roll any skill check on Tech, Computer, Science, History, Instructor, Language or Navigation rolls, however you can use it twice per hour.
Instead of a Training Package and Background, you gain the following skills at the following levels:
- Culture Grist +1
- Tech Postech
- Tech Pretech
- Tech Medical
- Tech Maltech
- Tech Astronutic
Your class skills are all except Tactics and all Combat (except Gunnery)
As a Grist, you automatically succeed on all perception checks within 20 meters, and fail all perception checks beyond that. When taking time to search for things, this balances out to a flat +0. Every time you upgrade a skill to the next level, you may instead pay 1.5 times (rounded down) the cost of the skill upgrade to upgrade it twice instead. When rolling a skill you are not proficient with however, you are at a -2 instead of a -1 and to raise a skill from untrained to 0 costs 1 more skill point. You also gain the benefits of the psychic power Complex Manipulation (level 2 telekinesis) but with a maximum range of 5 meters. All armor (aside from shields) purchased does not fit you, instead you must purchase the equivalent of 2 sets of armor and take a day to modify it to fit you, however your natural exoskeleton gives you AC 7. Lastly your speed is 30 meters per round instead of 20, and you can crawl on walls, ceilings or anything else without any test or loss of movement.
You begin the game by purchasing the following equipment (which cannot be used by non-Grist), and your character is very depressed not to have them:
- Translator Unit, a small device kept in the back of your mandibles, allows you to understand and speak human langues, Enc:0, Cost 200 credits
- Grist Toolkit, a number of small pouches strapped to the abdomen and legs of the Grist that contains special tools made by the Grist that lets them work on all manor of technology, and counts as any type of toolkit. Enc: 3, Cost 500 credits