This was a race I devised for a PBeM game that went belly-up before the character concerned could be brought in. I wanted to try to play a genuinely alien character, with different motivations and attributes from any human. The get-out is that Hotter tend to try to act like the races they're near, which was designed to excuse any back-sliding on my part.
Those who have read around the area may recognise that portions of the pod's physical appearance are taken from the Markovians of Jack Chalker's Well World series, and the curiosity is taken from the Creapii in Terry Pratchett's The Dark Side of the Sun. The pseudo-science and the errors are all mine.
At some point, I'll write up the race in GURPS. If you want to try playing one, please feel free to contact me.
Extracted from the CIA Univeral Fact Book, 314th edition.
Although they're not a common sight in known space, the Hotter - more strictly, the Albireans - are known to most of the other races. Their at times single-minded pursuit of knowledge is admired, if not necessarily liked, by the less violent individuals, while the legendary Hotter laser 'pistol' is recognised as a technological masterpiece by the more warlike.
Origin and background
The Hotter originated on Albireo II, a world with abundant water, plenty of volcanic activity and a typical air temperature of 330-340 Kelvin. Unusually for a sentient species, they appear to have developed from bacteria found around volcanic vents underwater. This gives them a tolerance to sulphur - indeed, a requirement for a certain amount in their diet - and a requirement for an immediate environment at around 335 Kelvin. It may also explain their odour.
Hotter appear otherwise to have evolved in a fairly conventional way. Albireo II has all the usual varieties of animal life, although the high temperatures mean that chlorophyll breaks down rapidly and plants have not developed to any extent. Hotter are, therefore, carnivores. At home, they farm the plankton-equivalent that thrive in what's left of the hot, mineral-rich Albirean seas. Elsewhere they will eat whatever they can get their tentacles on without upsetting their hosts. In Human space, meat is preferred over plant tissue, although most Hotter will eat their greens in order to be sociable.
A single Hotter appears like nothing on Earth, except perhaps a malformed squid. In its sleeping form, the Hotter appears as a rough sphere around a metre in diameter. However, its leathery purple skin will stretch to a variety of shapes, allowing the Hotter to double or halve almost any dimension. Three stubby tentacles, each around 30-40cm long, protrude from the bottom. These are used for locomotion, and for transferring any unwilling food into the Hotter's digestive system, as the combined mouth and waste exit is in the middle of these tentacles. Midway up the sphere, a single metre-long tentacle protrudes, ending in smaller trifurcated 30cm tentacles. These allow very fine manipulation, especially as the Hotter's eyes are usually sited just above and to each side of the tentacle. The eyes appear to have followed a similar evolutionary pattern to those of the Terran octopus, having a distinct iris/lens/retina structure. Above the eyes can be found a thin patch of skin with vibration sensors behind - an ear - and a small resonant cavity connected to the Hotter's respiratory system, which opens near the top of the sphere.
Like humans, Hotter can create a range of sounds using the resonant cavity. Most pods (see below) are able to speak [GalAnglic], although a lack of human mouthparts means that Hotter speech sounds like it is being uttered while humming. Hard consonants are particularly troublesome, and so many Hotter will save their 'speech' for emergencies and carry a voice synthesiser. Their hearing range is somewhat narrower than that of humans, and typically ranges from around 20Hz to 2kHz. It is also less sensitive; a typical Hotter can hear sounds over about 25dB. This has proven fatal in some combat situations.
Hotter are rarely encountered singly outside their own planets and stations. Instead, a number of Hotter will join forces - almost literally - to form a larger structure, and it is this structure that is the familiar picture of the Hotter to the spacefarers who know them. Typically, four to eight individuals make up a Hotter 'pod'. The pod is arranged so that it is a rough turnip shape, with each individual Hotter occupying a segment of the whole. All the 'leg' tentacles are at the bottom of the pod; 'arm' tentacles project out at the 'waist', and the eyes are typically moved as high up from the arms as the Hotter's flexibility allows. Given that the Hotter's core temperature must be maintained some 30-40 Kelvin above comfortable Human environmental temperatures, most Hotter pods wear insulation. Typically, this has a stretchy metallic-fibre outer film, a polyfibre insulating layer, and a woven inner skin; it encloses the bodies of the pod, with cut-outs for tentacles and eyes. Most versions include a compact heat exchanger at the top for warming incoming air and cooling exhaled air. Fortunately, Hotter can breathe the standard Terran nitrogen/oxygen mix - although they have complained that it lacks character compared to their own sulphur-rich atmosphere. Creeping up on a Hotter pod is difficult given the all-round sensory apparatus.
Hotter have short-range telepathy, and are able to combine minds to form more powerful organs for thought. Hereafter, these will be known as gestalt minds. This ability is helpful as, although sentient, most individual Hotter could charitably be described as 'thick as planks'. As a rough guide, a pod of five Hotter combine to form a gestalt mind as intelligent as a typical human - this varies depending on the individuals involved. Eight Hotter together could probably found their own research institute. Hotter telepathy works over a very limited range, and each member of a gestalt mind has to be within 5 metres of all of the others. A pod typically operates as a gestalt, although individual Hotter take time out to sleep. Human observers have reported communicating with a pod where apparently only one Hotter was awake, with predictably entertaining results until the other members awoke.
Hotter in gestalt can also combine skills, both mental and physical. Multiple tentacles can be used to perform fine manipulation tasks. However, a gestalt mind has a single focus, and typically one tentacle will be used as a primary, much as Terrans tend to use a single hand. If pressed, Hotter are excellent single-tentacle sharpshooters; at the other end of the scale, beware of a Hotter pod with each tentacle holding a shotgun.
A Hotter pod in gestalt will refer to itself as 'we' and will typically use one mouth or synthesiser to speak. If highly stressed, as under interrogation, the mind will usually split into its component parts and all mouths will be used. Because of this, Hotter make poor secret agents - they reveal information easily.
Each individual Hotter has its own skills and personality, and the gestalt mind's temperament is composed of the individuals'. This can lead to personality problems. In one extreme case where survivors of two pods had combined into one, classic symptoms of schizophrenia emerged, although we have been informed by other pods that such severe integration problems are rare.
Reproduction and life span
Hotter reproduce by asexual fission. Over a period of about 60 Terran days, a Hotter will grow in size by about 50% and develop copies of all organs. At the end of that time, the Hotter will split into two smaller copies. Each has all the memories of the original; one will arbitrarily take on a different name.
Due to the mode of reproduction, lifespan is somewhat arbitrary. Hotter have apparently been observed to live for up to 30 years without reproducing. For some reason, reproduction appears to rejuvenate both parts of the fission; it is reasonable to assume that all the current Hotter are copies of one ancestor, so the 'lifespan' could be stated as 30 years, or several hundred million, with equal validity.
Hotter technology is broadly comparable to the norm. They will often secrete equipment between two pod members, with connecting leads coming out through gaps in the insulating cover. Equipment treated in this way needs to be able to withstand high temperatures. Note that Hotter battery technology is particularly advanced; due to the higher temperatures, reactions can take place faster and therefore the power output (though not the capacity) of batteries can increase.
Hotter are hampered by their unusual bodies, and much equipment has to be made specially for them, or heavily adapted. Although their bodies and leg tentacles can lift considerable loads, their arm tentacles appear to have evolved for sensing and fine manipulation and are unable to lift heavy objects. As a result, Hotter favour equipment that can be split, with the bulk of the weight on the main body or the core of the pod. The renowned Hotter laser weapon works in this way, with the power pack on the core and one or two tentacle-held emitters plugged into the pack.
Hotter are typically interested in gaining novel experiences. It appears that most of the pods sent out from Albireo II are instructed to gather experiences and information, take it back, and share it via telepathy. Most pods will, therefore, do all they can to keep enough pod members alive to deliver the experiences - a fact that has not gone unused in interrogation.
The Hotter pods to which we have spoken in compiling these reports follow local custom very closely; eat local food; wear local decorative items (which can be incongruous) and generally try to blend in as well as a 2 metre purple turnip with tentacles can manage. They are well-spoken, polite, and well-organised. Apparently one pod is serving as the entire engineering crew on a medium-sized starship; each individual stays within range of one engineering console, and the gestalt mind deals with managing all the systems at once.
We like them a lot. We just wish they didn't smell so much of sulphur.