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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    Default The Swarm/Hive Fleet

    Sci-Fi has a few different forms of the Arachnoid/Zerg/Tyranids/Formics and I have been on a kick about it for a couple months now.

    I'm currently trying to think of a way to make something analagous work without psychic magic and gross violation of the laws of thermodynamics.

    Goals:
    • Race focuses on developing bioweapons instead of technology. Has some mechanism by which they can manipulate their progenies form, as opposed to DNA manipulation/cloning.
    • Some sort of ant-like caste structure. Leaders and followers are innate instead of via social controls.
    • Competitive with humans up to at least the Nineteenth Century.


    Thoughts I have had:
    They grow larva/maggots/caterpillars that just lay around being fat as a kind of storage unit. These are quite large. When they want to grow a new individual the Queen inserts a fetus into the worm, which then makes a cocoon and is effectively absorbed by the fetus to make an adult in a few weeks. Think of how Butterflies grow out of an organ within a caterpillar and the rest is melted and absorbed.

    The queens can influence what the new fetus is going to be like by eating different foods and chemicals in "recipes." She/It births a bunch of the same type at once, which are then fed into the worms. These recipes are analogous to secret tech, and one of the goals of inter-hive wars is to steal each other's recipes. There are several common forms and then lots of secret ones.

    Really big creatures have to be raised instead of just grown. So an elephant sized creature starts small and grows by eating worms until it reaches adulthood.

    Any thoughts on how else this could be done?
    Quote Originally Posted by The Glyphstone View Post
    Vibranium: If it was on the periodic table, its chemical symbol would be "Bs".

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    Default Re: The Swarm/Hive Fleet

    Originally Posted by Tvtyrant
    They grow larva/maggots/caterpillars that just lay around being fat as a kind of storage unit. These are quite large. When they want to grow a new individual the Queen inserts a fetus into the worm, which then makes a cocoon and is effectively absorbed by the fetus to make an adult in a few weeks.
    Not sure if you’re assuming the larvae/caterpillars are the same species or a different species. I would see the queens’ species as something like parasitic wasps, who lay eggs in caterpillars (or spiders, in many cases) and which devour the immobilized prey from the inside.

    In the case of your species, they might parasitize different intelligent species to gain different qualities for their progeny. Depending on how fantastical you want this process, you could imagine that their young could gain specific skills or knowledge bases from hosts which possess those. This would have the added in-game benefit of making PCs especially attractive hosts, since they tend to have more highly developed skills.

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    Default Re: The Swarm/Hive Fleet

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    Not sure if you’re assuming the larvae/caterpillars are the same species or a different species. I would see the queens’ species as something like parasitic wasps, who lay eggs in caterpillars (or spiders, in many cases) and which devour the immobilized prey from the inside.

    In the case of your species, they might parasitize different intelligent species to gain different qualities for their progeny. Depending on how fantastical you want this process, you could imagine that their young could gain specific skills or knowledge bases from hosts which possess those. This would have the added in-game benefit of making PCs especially attractive hosts, since they tend to have more highly developed skills.
    I like the parasitic angle, it opens up more avenues of approach. I had originally thought same species, but I prefer the different species now because it gives them incentive to capture lots of different animals to try injecting eggs into.

    I'm not sure I want to go that far, but I do want them to be able to rapidly (but not instantly) steal traits. Like humans have hands for tools and throwing arms which are totally out of normal for animals, along with big brains. Maybe parasites that eat an animal effectively clone it the first generation, then the Queen eats some of the clones and starts mixing and matching parts experimentally? So there are "humans" running around as spies within a few weeks, but they have to learn languages from prisoners and aren't very good at stuff, but are clearly the person who went missing.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Glyphstone View Post
    Vibranium: If it was on the periodic table, its chemical symbol would be "Bs".

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    Default Re: The Swarm/Hive Fleet

    If queens are able to store and recombine features of the parasitized hosts, this opens up the prospect of some truly terrifying chimeras.

    Not in the mythological sense, but the modern scientific sense of creatures composed of cells from two or more separate donors. Remember the spider-legs from the Iron Spider suit? Now imagine those as extra limbs drawn up tightly on the upper back of the "human."

    This is the approach I always felt the Borg should have taken--not simply adding cybernetic components to baseline humanoids, but swapping organic elements between species for customized drones. Applied to your Swarm, we can imagine chitin being added to a humanoid chimera for work in raw vacuum, with pigments specially calibrated to protect from hard radiation. You can modify further to create biosynthesized moravecs, subdivided into as many castes as you have the need for.

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    Default Re: The Swarm/Hive Fleet

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    If queens are able to store and recombine features of the parasitized hosts, this opens up the prospect of some truly terrifying chimeras.

    Not in the mythological sense, but the modern scientific sense of creatures composed of cells from two or more separate donors. Remember the spider-legs from the Iron Spider suit? Now imagine those as extra limbs drawn up tightly on the upper back of the "human."

    This is the approach I always felt the Borg should have taken--not simply adding cybernetic components to baseline humanoids, but swapping organic elements between species for customized drones. Applied to your Swarm, we can imagine chitin being added to a humanoid chimera for work in raw vacuum, with pigments specially calibrated to protect from hard radiation. You can modify further to create biosynthesized moravecs, subdivided into as many castes as you have the need for.
    That's the direction I'm aiming for. Just like humans the Queens will one day roam the stars and develop the equivalent of advanced technology, but currently they aren't there yet. Their equivalent of a super-weapon at this point is launching, dropping or tunneling in suicide soldiers that create thioacetone .

    One of the differences I am making is the Parasites aren't from space, they are from an alternate history of Earth that gets merged into Earth-ish Earth in the Ninteenth Century. The Parasites have moved from single Queen tribes up to Queen-layered caste empires, with thousands of Queens ranked towards a top Empress. These are in conflict with a number of other Parasite societies, when a big chunk of Earth-# swaps with them and they have to compete with guns and hundreds of millions of working minds.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Glyphstone View Post
    Vibranium: If it was on the periodic table, its chemical symbol would be "Bs".

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    Default Re: The Swarm/Hive Fleet

    I certainly find them interesting but while I will igve them the edge in the weird, odd ball gadget arena, I'm giving humans the very firm advantage in weaponry as I don't see how they could biologically replicate a proper gun.

    A crossbow? Sure, and that's very useful, but a Blackpowder rifle as well as cannons will outrange and out damage them. Should still be a hell of a fight.
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    Default Re: The Swarm/Hive Fleet

    Originally Posted by Blackhawk748
    ...a Blackpowder rifle as well as cannons will outrange and out damage them. Should still be a hell of a fight.
    If this is a set-piece battle, then the Swarm can send burrowers to undermine the cannon and the human ranks in general. Individuals from smaller castes, engineered to spray cantharidin and oxidized hydroquinone, can follow through the tunnels and wreak havoc on humans above and belowground.

    I would also expect flying castes to attack from above, both directly with venomous bites and stings, and also from higher altitude with metal-tipped chitinous flechettes. Some wasps can bioaccumulate vanadium in their ovipositors, so the Swarm should be able to line the sharp edge of their flechettes with vanadium and other metals. If they're confronting human societies from the 19th century, they should have complete air superiority.

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    Default Re: The Swarm/Hive Fleet

    Quote Originally Posted by Blackhawk748 View Post
    I certainly find them interesting but while I will igve them the edge in the weird, odd ball gadget arena, I'm giving humans the very firm advantage in weaponry as I don't see how they could biologically replicate a proper gun.

    A crossbow? Sure, and that's very useful, but a Blackpowder rifle as well as cannons will outrange and out damage them. Should still be a hell of a fight.
    So my thinking on it is:

    Parasite's minimum size is probably a large cat, Queen's are the size of elephants at full grown and the largest non-queens are probably roughly the same size unless aquatic.

    The basic division of the Parasites is into five niches: Air-borne, Terrestrial, Tunneling, Swimming and Snots.

    1. Airborne creatures have a tremendous advantage in fighting, but cost a lot to maintain and aren't fantastic for work. They come in scout, attack and bomber forms.
    Scouts are small, intelligent, parrot like creatures.
    Attack flyers use melee and might have a variety of defense mechanisms like quills on their backs to help with other flyers, or specialize in dive bombing.
    Bombers carry and drops Snots.

    2. Terrestrial Parasites are mostly workers of various designs. Tree strippers, farmers, big earth movers, etc. They lack advantages in combat, but are the most intelligent and multi-purpose. Some of the workers make wattle using stomach bile, letting them construct concrete like structures.

    3. Tunnelers are designed like giant badgers or snapping turtles. The badgers are for digging underground complexes, and attacking enemies. Badgers dig very fast.
    The turtles are guards, they are basically indestructible in a tunnel but can't dig well and are very slow. They manually block the tunnel and kill anything that tries to get past.

    4. Aquatic are an entirely different subject, i imagine they fill the same niches as lots of other sea life.

    5. Snots are pure weapons. They come in a variety of forms, but they are all designed to be a living grenade. Their organs pressurize their body with a chemical and they burst when they die. Some are dog like chargers that come out of tunnels, some are ball like and are dropped from the sky, some are puffer-fish like swimmers. The issue with chemical weapons in nature is you have to wait days or weeks to reload, since the Parasites don't care if snots die they just make them single use.

    The worst stuff they could make is probably thioacetone, which incapacitates people in a half mile radius. But thormic acid and skunk spray equivalents are probably more common.

    In war with humans the early days would be a lot of panic and bad choices on both sides, moving towards the Parasites focusing on night attacks with flyers or tunnelers and the humans focusing on day attacks using artillery.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Glyphstone View Post
    Vibranium: If it was on the periodic table, its chemical symbol would be "Bs".

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    Default Re: The Swarm/Hive Fleet

    If you can make a cat-sized creature, fighting a field battle is always the wrong choice, assuming you have one. Much, much better to send hordes of crop-ruiners in. Poison granaries, water supplies, and so on. Armies are still enormously dependent on literal horsepower, so send nasty venomous little bastards to bite/sting horses, and watch entire columns grind to a halt and artillery abandoned en masse.
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    And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.


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    Default Re: The Swarm/Hive Fleet

    Do you plan on adding creeper? You know, a symbiotic plant/algae goo that replaces local plantlife and acts as an external digestive juice. Sucking nutrients out of the earth. Probably green for better photosynthesis.

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    Default Re: The Swarm/Hive Fleet

    Quote Originally Posted by warty goblin View Post
    If you can make a cat-sized creature, fighting a field battle is always the wrong choice, assuming you have one. Much, much better to send hordes of crop-ruiners in. Poison granaries, water supplies, and so on. Armies are still enormously dependent on literal horsepower, so send nasty venomous little bastards to bite/sting horses, and watch entire columns grind to a halt and artillery abandoned en masse.
    Yes, but the Parasites don't know how Humans work anymore than we know how they do.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rydiro View Post
    Do you plan on adding creeper? You know, a symbiotic plant/algae goo that replaces local plantlife and acts as an external digestive juice. Sucking nutrients out of the earth. Probably green for better photosynthesis.
    No, because I imagine it would get outcompeted in most places by adapted local wildlife. They wouldn't be able to modify it like they do themselves, so it would just be a plant.

    My view of Parasite society is that the fear of air attacks leads to a Rabbit Warren style building system. They produce Accretia, a concrete like substance, using workers and mold it onto dirt and rock to make buildings. Most of the Accretia is used to line tunnels, and workers live in the shallow parts of the tunnels near the surface farms. There are deeper caverns that they house the Maggots in, as well as the Queen. Flying scouts patrol the perimeter around the farm belt, and there are ambush guards combed in to prevent surface attackers. Since size is more variable the workers and guards are of various sizes as well, with fox like guards to catch raiders and big badger guards for bigger fights.

    These colonies would be connected by long moles/tunnels to the surrounding allied colonies, so surplus food can be moved back and forth and the various Queens can contact each other through messengers (which would be little racing forms.) This maximizes the farming surface because the cities don't use up farmland.

    Major wars focus are either based around getting air superiority so you can launch attacks down the tunnels from on top of the colony, or breaching the long tunnels and fighting underground. Terrestrial warfare is too prone to air or ambush attacks so it is mostly fast moving raiders. The tunnels systems go on for essentially the whole of alternate Earth at this point, divided up into countries of various sizes. The larger the country the more surface oriented they become, because their numbers guarantee air superiority so workers can live on or near the surface and guards take up less of the population except around the borders.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Glyphstone View Post
    Vibranium: If it was on the periodic table, its chemical symbol would be "Bs".

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    Default Re: The Swarm/Hive Fleet

    This is a very important question, but when in the 19th century? Cuz once you hit 1860 you get cartridges and repeating frearms and that ups the lethality of an individual considerably. If you go into the 80s or God forbid the 90s you get Pre Dreadnaught Battleships which have very large guns and very thick armor.

    Which raises a question, what are the Parasite's Naval capabilities?
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    Default Re: The Swarm/Hive Fleet

    Quote Originally Posted by Blackhawk748 View Post
    This is a very important question, but when in the 19th century? Cuz once you hit 1860 you get cartridges and repeating frearms and that ups the lethality of an individual considerably. If you go into the 80s or God forbid the 90s you get Pre Dreadnaught Battleships which have very large guns and very thick armor.

    Which raises a question, what are the Parasite's Naval capabilities?
    I was thinking Civil War to Franco-Prussian War, roughly. I'm trying to dial in the Parasite's to be at about that level of ability (while very different basis), but with the feeling they were also in "take off" mode.

    Sea Parasites are probably stronger but have less room for growth. Big "whales" provide "milk" for mobile colonies, protected by shark-like creatures that try to minimize competition for krill. Against ships probably not super effective as they don't have much of a reason to fight land groups. Think if pods of whales sent schools of other animals to attack each other over upswells.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Glyphstone View Post
    Vibranium: If it was on the periodic table, its chemical symbol would be "Bs".

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    Default Re: The Swarm/Hive Fleet

    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
    I was thinking Civil War to Franco-Prussian War, roughly. I'm trying to dial in the Parasite's to be at about that level of ability (while very different basis), but with the feeling they were also in "take off" mode.

    Sea Parasites are probably stronger but have less room for growth. Big "whales" provide "milk" for mobile colonies, protected by shark-like creatures that try to minimize competition for krill. Against ships probably not super effective as they don't have much of a reason to fight land groups. Think if pods of whales sent schools of other animals to attack each other over upswells.
    Ok, so early repeating rifles are a thing and the American Lever Gun is starting it's run. Ya, I can see a lot of countries buying up repeating arms to fight all these little gribblies cuz you REALLY don't need a 308 or 306 for them.
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    Default Re: The Swarm/Hive Fleet

    Quote Originally Posted by Blackhawk748 View Post
    Ok, so early repeating rifles are a thing and the American Lever Gun is starting it's run. Ya, I can see a lot of countries buying up repeating arms to fight all these little gribblies cuz you REALLY don't need a 308 or 306 for them.
    The rapid fire weapon really took off in this period, but ran into ammo logistical limitations AFAIK. The amount of shots per hit rose catastrophically, which caused many militaries to balk at the supply chains required and use slower firing weapons for monetary and logistical reasons. There were also a lot of variations on primitive machine guns, but they couldn't quite get them to do what they wanted. The gatling gun is most famous, but the French developed the Reffye mitrailleuse which was so bad that some historians have argued it kept machine guns out of armies for a decade.

    So I imagine that certain smaller armies would adopt rapid fire weapons, while big armies with larger conscription would avoid them.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Glyphstone View Post
    Vibranium: If it was on the periodic table, its chemical symbol would be "Bs".

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    Default Re: The Swarm/Hive Fleet

    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
    The rapid fire weapon really took off in this period, but ran into ammo logistical limitations AFAIK. The amount of shots per hit rose catastrophically, which caused many militaries to balk at the supply chains required and use slower firing weapons for monetary and logistical reasons. There were also a lot of variations on primitive machine guns, but they couldn't quite get them to do what they wanted. The gatling gun is most famous, but the French developed the Reffye mitrailleuse which was so bad that some historians have argued it kept machine guns out of armies for a decade.

    So I imagine that certain smaller armies would adopt rapid fire weapons, while big armies with larger conscription would avoid them.
    Logistics were part of it but, for the US at least, there was a particular guy in the Ordinance Dept (or whatever it was called in the 1860s, I can't recall off hand) who was near morally against repeating or even breechloading firearms and it really stuck around after he left.

    That and an obsession with 1000 yard shots and stopping power. The Logistics part came about when the US cut it's standing army to like 10% of its Civil War size and had then going all over the place.

    In a fight like this however I could see people very easily making the argument that rapid fire is necessary since the enemy wants to close, and we don't want that. So we need to lay down a proper field of fire to keep them back.
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    Default Re: The Swarm/Hive Fleet

    Quote Originally Posted by Blackhawk748 View Post
    Logistics were part of it but, for the US at least, there was a particular guy in the Ordinance Dept (or whatever it was called in the 1860s, I can't recall off hand) who was near morally against repeating or even breechloading firearms and it really stuck around after he left.

    That and an obsession with 1000 yard shots and stopping power. The Logistics part came about when the US cut it's standing army to like 10% of its Civil War size and had then going all over the place.

    In a fight like this however I could see people very easily making the argument that rapid fire is necessary since the enemy wants to close, and we don't want that. So we need to lay down a proper field of fire to keep them back.
    Good point. What would be the best way to deal with the high number of air units pre-AA guns? The first AA gun is the French 75 AFAIK, which isn't until 1897.

    Something like a punt gun maybe?
    Last edited by Tvtyrant; 2020-09-18 at 03:16 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Glyphstone View Post
    Vibranium: If it was on the periodic table, its chemical symbol would be "Bs".

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    Default Re: The Swarm/Hive Fleet

    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
    Good point. What would be the best way to deal with the high number of air units pre-AA guns? The first AA gun is the French 75 AFAIK, which isn't until 1897.

    Something like a punt gun maybe?
    Oh most definitely, Punt Guns took out insane numbers of birds in one shot. Another option would be to get a cannon at a high angle and fire Cannister shot up at the approaching mass, which should be terrifyingly effective considering that the Parasite shouldn't be able to have massive flyers.

    The other option is a gattling gun with a high angle
    Last edited by Blackhawk748; 2020-09-18 at 03:42 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Guigarci View Post
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackhawk748 View Post
    I don't see how they could biologically replicate a proper gun.
    They could use integral blowguns, evolved from spitting. Pressures of 12 atmospheres or so would be sufficient to act as an air gun. These are higher pressures than muscles could generate directly by about a factor of four, so they would need to be generated by an elastic release (snapping), by slowly pumping gas into a mineralized reservoir and releasing it all at once, or by rapid chemical reactions as in a firearm (e.g. nitroglycerine).
    The gnomes once had many mines, but now they have gnome ore.

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    Default Re: The Swarm/Hive Fleet

    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
    Good point. What would be the best way to deal with the high number of air units pre-AA guns? The first AA gun is the French 75 AFAIK, which isn't until 1897.

    Something like a punt gun maybe?
    A bit early for your setting, but sometimes the old ones are the best... in my opinion, you might consider something like Fighter Kites. Preferably something like the stunt-kite format, where an operator on the ground can steer their abrasive lines into the paths of attacking winged creatures, entangling or abrading the means by which they stay in the air.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rakaydos View Post
    A bit early for your setting, but sometimes the old ones are the best... in my opinion, you might consider something like Fighter Kites. Preferably something like the stunt-kite format, where an operator on the ground can steer their abrasive lines into the paths of attacking winged creatures, entangling or abrading the means by which they stay in the air.
    That is at least visually amazing. You could definitely do the barrage balloon trick, making it extremely hard to fly near the army camp.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Glyphstone View Post
    Vibranium: If it was on the periodic table, its chemical symbol would be "Bs".

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