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The savage Garganz of Sheol are a new but exuberant arrival on the galactic scene, known in their region as pirates and mercenaries who have carved out a small empire for themselves. They are strong and tough but not especially bright, well-endowed with low cunning and good cheer. There's nothing they love more than a good brawl followed by a hearty revel (which is sometimes followed by another brawl). They appreciate guile, but prefer more direct means when available. They are known to possess Planet Busters and consider the Galactic Code to be more of a set of suggestions.

It is worth noting that the Garganz did not achieve space travel on their own; their only interest in rockets was using them to blow each other up. They were climbing and clawing their way back to civilization after their third nuclear war (having failed to learn anything from the first two) when a pirate happened upon their battered world and thought to beam up some spice from one of their ruined cities. Unfortunately, the spice crate that the pirate selected was actually being used as the home for a band of raiders and refugees. One short but very bloody fight later, the Garganz found themselves in possession of a spaceship. They managed to puzzle out its operation, easily conquered the rest of the planet[1], made contact with other pirates and races willing to trade with them, and have been a minor menace to the spacelanes ever since.

Most Garganz agree that they should expand their empire - to increase their power, glory and wealth, as well as a hedge against the extinction they nearly brought on themselves - but are divided on whether they should do so by taming new worlds or by taking them from others.

Biology[]

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Garganz are warm-blooded reptiloids/dinosauroids who evolved from pack hunters on the grasslands of Sheol, chasing their prey down and tearing it apart with their claws and teeth. Over time they grew larger and smarter, acquiring a more upright stance and losing their tails. Even as a "civilized" species they retain sharp claws on their hands and feet. Their diet is primarily meat, fish and eggs, with some fruits and herbs added for flavor as spices or sauces. They are egg-layers. Their skin is scaly, with light-colored speckles over a darker base layer. They have wide jaws, with a slight underbite, and good binocular vision. Many of their thoracic vertebrae have large processes; an adult in good health will usually have three or four exposed nubs or ridges along their spine. Their senses of sight and smell/taste are excellent, but their hearing is poor - they do not have external ears, only tympanic membranes. They tend to make up for this by being VERY LOUD.

Garganz are surprisingly agile for their size and bulk, striking swiftly and powerfully in personal combat. Ritual dancing and parade-ground pageantry appear often in their cultures; a hundred Garganz warriors in traditional war paint performing elaborately-choreographed maneuvers on the field, showing off their coordination and discipline, can be quite an impressive sight. They are fast runners with a digitigrade stance.

Society and Culture[]

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Garganz culture is hedonistic and focused on living for the moment, because you could die tomorrow (hopefully in a glorious battle for which you will be long remembered). They are enthusiastic followers of the Philosophy of Force. There is also a strong thread of shamanism and ancestor worship going back to the tribal stage of their development. Zealot sects arose on Sheol late in the first age of civilization, but were eradicated (in one of their major wars) for "being annoying." Few modern Garganz give much thought to the matter of a creator-god.

Their system of government is also nearly unchanged from the tribal period, being a form of feudalism where a chief rules over other vassal chiefs (and so on down the line, all the way to ship captains and their crews). The position of chief is non-hereditary, though the chief's children can challenge for it along with anyone else. Challenges are resolved by single combat, usually employing only the Garganz' natural weapons; they may be made at any time (though custom and what passes for manners among Garganz keeps them from being too frequent) and are only rarely to the death, especially with modern medicine. The winner and loser of a challenge swap social ranks; a particularly weak or disgraced male will keep getting challenged until he wins one or ends up pushing a mop.

Garganz society is very sexist, with females protected because of their importance to breeding but held as property by the males. A male may have as many wives as he can keep, support and protect. Many legendary duels were fought more for a single desired female than for all of the chief's other possessions - this is what passes for "romance" among the Garganz. Despite their subservient position, females wield considerable power in the household; nearly all matters of business and child-raising are left to them, and a male interferes or goes against the wishes of his wife only at great risk of social censure (from both genders). This can lead to a challenge, if another male thinks he could do better...

All property technically belongs to the chief, who gives it to his vassals as gifts, rewards for service, and to make use of on his behalf. For a chief to have more property than he can personally enjoy, and not part with any of it, is considered ostentatious and miserly; a good lord shares his bounty and puts it to work rather than letting it clutter up a hall. When a chief dies by accident or old age[2], his holdings pass back to his lord's estate to be redistributed.

Garganz have an unusual custom when it comes to taking prisoners of war. Most foes are simply killed in their cheerful bloodlust, but those who are taken captive are given the opportunity to become vassals of their captor, with the full rank and privileges of their new position. To refuse such service under a new chief is considered an honorable death, as if it had occurred in battle. The vassals of a captured chief are given the same option, to serve under their lord's new lord or die honorably. The spoils from the slain - booty, land, females, etc - go to the victor; it is customary to give a share of the prize to one's lord, and if it is not offered and he wishes to force the issue, he has the right to demand it.

Garganz children are also considered property, and are included in the price for their mothers. Upon reaching the age of majority, young males choose a chief to swear fealty to, while fathers begin accepting bids for their daughters.

Relations[]

The Garganz tend to be difficult neighbors. They get along well with other Warrior races and Bards, but camaraderie can turn swiftly to combat if they want the same prize or someone gives offense. They are glad to pay Traders and Scientists for things that those races can make better or more cheaply, but sometimes turn around and raid those same systems for whatever they can carry off. Diplomats are regarded with amused contempt and considered easy targets, but are often left alone because they pose little threat. Shamans are greeted warmly... by the Garganz shamans, who are glad to have someone to talk to, while the rest of the crew ignores them or politely pretend to listen without understanding a word. Ecologists are simply prey.

Zealots are the natural/favorite enemy of the Garganz. Not only are they a generally humorless and intolerant bunch, they are quite willing to provide the fight that most Garganz seem to always be looking for (and are just as loud). Garganz will not parlay, trade with or work for Zealot races and will attack them as soon as is prudent (sometimes before). Other races are usually content to let them both grind each other down, unless the collateral damage spills over into their own systems.

Notes[]

  1. Few of the other tribes put up much of a fight, especially after seeing a nearby hill, abandoned building, or their chief vaporized with one zap of the ship's laser.
  2. Such deaths are rare among the Garganz, but they do happen.
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