Monday, 8 August 2016

Savaging Settings: Starcraft Broodwar - The Zerg

Few games have made an impact on the gaming world as huge as the Starcraft series. Mostly known for its demanding competitive aspects, the Starcraft games also feature a rich history of an entire cluster of worlds, explored in detail not only through the main game storyline, but through novels, online publications, art-books, developer commentary, and many other sources.

While it may seem limiting in its scope at first, being an RTS game which focuses almost exclusively on the military side of things, the Starcraft universe offers a playground for almost any kind of RPG campaign one can imagine.
This series of Savaging Settings postings will explore each of the three main races of the Starcraft universe from a mechanical side, offer stats, setting rules, and descriptions, and will conclude with an entry about adventures and campaigns. This series will focus on the original Starcraft games, Starcraft and Starcraft: Broodwar. Supplements for the changes and units introduced with Starcraft II may follow at a later time.
I will kick of this voyage with my favourite race:

The Zerg

Surfacing to the public eye in 2499 on the backwater colony world of Chau Sara, the Zerg quickly establish themselves to be a terrifying enemy, a writhing and mutating plague of biblical proportions. Hunted mercilessly by both Protoss and Terrans, the Swarm nevertheless manages to conquer and infest a large number of planets, including the Protoss home-planet of Aiur. Controlled by the Overmind, the Zerg Cerebrates and queens carry its will throughout known (and unknown) space, guiding the Swarm broods towards their goal. The exact nature of that goal is unknown. The Swarm broods seem to attack anything in their way, with only conquest and assimilation on their collective minds.

Live for the Swarm!

Wherever the Zerg go, they infest all living things, assimilate them into their fold to adept to new territories and further the Swarms strife towards perfection. Upon arriving on a new planet a Zerg brood first establishes a hive cluster, a base of operations from where they spread further. Hive clusters consist of buildings, although the term is used lightly. Zerg buildings are their own living, breathing entities, and not all of them are immobile.
Zerg Hatchery
In the beginning of a hive cluster's existence, there is only a single hatchery. This central building spawns larvae, small creatures capable of mutating into any Zerg required by the hive cluster. While transforming into another form, a larva is protected by an egg. Despite their fragile looks, these eggs are capable of withstanding almost any natural and man-made dangers, making a Zerg infestation very hard to eradicate, as the eggs can survive under pretty much any environmental condition.
A Zerg hatchery also functions as a nexus point for the spread of creep. Zerg creep is a thick carpet of organic matter, completely blanketing the area of Zerg activity. Not only does it serve as a foundation for Zerg buildings, it also allows the swarm to move around quickly, supply its buildings and troops with nutrition, and also functions as a kind of warning system. Cerebrates and queens are aware of anything that happens on their hive cluster's creep. Sneaking up on Zerg, difficult under most circumstances, is all but impossible on creep without highly specialised gear... and even then only when there are no Overlords around.
As the needs of the Swarm increase, more buildings are added to the growing hive cluster. These allow the Zerg to access different strains of their vast DNA repository and morph the larvae into different Zerg forces.

Setting Rules

Zerg are vicious aliens, driven by a single intellect of seemingly limitless capabilities. They have evolved over countless generations, assimilating and mutating benevolent strains of traits from creatures across the galaxies. They are, in the most literal sense of the words, a well oiled organic machine bred for war.

Creep Dwellers
The creep provides nutrition, biofeedback, and shelter to all Zerg. While on or above creep, all Zerg make a Natural Healing roll every hour. Zerg buildings regenerate as per the GMs discretion. Creep also allows Zerg for significantly easier movement. All Zerg ground forces increase their Pace by 2 while on creep.

Fearless, not entirely mindless
Only a fracture of Zerg actually possess self-awareness. The mindless broods are controlled by these nodes of the Swarm intellect: Cerebrates, Brood Queens, and Overlords, all of which in turn are under direct control of the Overmind. When not under direct control, Zerg resort to a sort of hive mind. Zerg units receive a +2 bonus to recover from being Shaken when within 5" of another Zerg creature or building.

Infiltration Masters
All Zerg ground forces have the ability to burrow themselves in all but the densest of materials. Even man-made concrete poses little hindrance for their digging abilities. Zerg ground forces may burrow and hide underground. They can't move while burrowed and receive a +2 bonus to Stealth rolls.

Unbound Travellers
Zerg air units are able to leave a planet's atmosphere and gravity field by means unknown. In space they must be supplied nutrition by Overlords.

DNA Weavers
During their crusade amongst the stars the Zerg encountered and assimilated countless creatures, adding their DNA to the Zerg's repository. This allows them to mutate their units as needed for any given environment or situation, at frightening speed. There are possible mutations provided for certain Zerg creatures. These may or may not apply to the encountered Zerg forces as per the GM's discretion.

Zerg Units

Ground Forces:

Cerebrates and the Overmind
Controlling the innumerable broods isn't an easy task, not even for a being as powerful as the Overmind. It created the Cerebrates, huge worm-like creatures of immense psionic power, who in term each control a brood. These broods are often specialised to perform a specific task, or provide highly refined versions of Zerg creatures. The Cerebrates in turn rely on Brood Queens and Overlords to control their forces. The flesh of a Cerebrate may be slain, but unless such an attack is carried out with a very specific type of damage the Cerebrate will regenerate within mere hours. Only during the Brood War was it revealed that the Protoss' Dark Templar possess the power to ultimately kill a Cerebrate. I will not provide stats for the Overmind and its Cerebrates, as both are plot devices and possess psionic power beyond the scope of any character.

Eggs and Larvae
The live of any given Zerg creature starts as a larva, grown in a hatchery. From there the hive mind chooses what is needed for the given situation and the larva is encased by an egg, only to be reborn as the required Zerg. Larvae are truly mindless, they are only capable of crawling a short distance, feeding from the creep, and transforming into an egg. The egg itself is surprisingly durable. It has a Toughness of 20 (10).

The Drone is the basic worker of the Zerg broods. Drones collect resources too sturdy to be directly absorbed by creep, and mutate into buildings. Fully grown drones measure around 150 centimetres.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d4(Z), Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d4
Skills: Fighting d4, Notice d6
Pace: 6, Parry: 4, Toughness: 6 (2)
Special Abilities:
Armour +2: Carapace Armour
Claws: Str + d4, AP 1
Floating: Drones hover slightly above the ground and ignore most difficult terrain
Metamorphosis: When supplied with enough nourishment, a drone may metamorph itself into any Zerg structure required by the Swarm. With the exception of a hatchery this requires creep.

Zerglings are the Swarm's scouts and trackers. They are the vanguard of a Zerg invasion, adept at locating prey and remaining unseen until it is too late. The Zergling in itself is a capable warrior, but easily felled by a trained force. Unfortunately for most defenders, Zerglings seldom appear alone. They usually travel in small to large groups before the actual invasion, and are grown in uncountable numbers during the fighting. Zerglings grow stunningly fast and reach a size of about 180 centimetres head to tail-end.
Zergling with Metabolic Boost ("Speedling")
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d4(Z), Spirit d6, Strength d8, Vigor d6
Skills: Fighting d8, Climbing d6, Notice d8, Stealth d8, Survival d8, Tracking d8
Pace: 6, Parry: 6, Toughness: 7 (2)
Special Abilities:
Armour +2: Carapace Armour
Claws: Str + d6, AP 2
Low Light Vision: Zergling eyes adapt easily to low-light conditions. They ignore penalties for Dim and Dark Lighting.
Possible Mutations:
Metabolic Boost: the Zergling gains the Fleet-Footed Edge
Adrenal Glands: the Zergling gains the Improved Frenzy Edge and their damage becomes Heavy Damage

The Hydralisk is often used as the symbol of the Swarm's power and bloodlust. Evolved from traits gathered from peaceful herbivores, these ruthless creatures are not even a shadow of their former existence. Used in huge numbers as spearhead and shock troops, Hydralisks are found in every engagement. Despite their snake-like appearance, they move with ease across any terrain. Their main weapon, sharp needle spines, are propelled by muscle force alone and are able to penetrate surprisingly thick armour.

Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d6(Z), Spirit d6, Strength d8, Vigor d8

Skills: Climbing d8, Fighting d8, Notice d6, Shooting d8, Tracking d6
Pace: 6, Parry: 6, Toughness: 12 (4)
Special Abilities:
Size +2: Hydralisks grow up to 6 meters tall
Armour +4: Carapace Armour
Claws: Str + d6 AP 2
Needle Spines: Damage 2d8 + 1, RoF 1, Range 24/48/96, AP 4
Possible Mutations:
Muscular Augments: increases Pace to 8
Grooved Spines: increases Needle Spines range to 30/60/120

Lurkers are not created from larvae, but mutate directly out of Hydralisks. They bare little to no resemblance to their former form, as Lurkers are only able to attack at a vastly reduced range and only when buried. Their spines shoot out in waves to the surface, inflicting heavy damage to everything in their path that is not Zerg. While Lurkers are very hard to detect when buried, they are all but defenceless against melee attacks.

Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6(Z), Spirit d6, Strength d8, Vigor d8

Skills: Fighting d4, Notice d6, Shooting d8, Tracking d6
Pace: 6, Parry: 4, Toughness: 12 (4)
Special Abilities:
Size +2: Lurkers grow up to 6 meters tall
Armour +4: Carapace Armour
Needle Spine Waves: like the Burst power, AP 6, used with Shooting.

These towering hulks of muscle and razer-sharp bone-blades are the pinnacle of Zerg ferocity. Bred as siege-breakers, there is little in the known systems to slow an Ultralisk down, let alone stop it in its tracks. Dwarfing even Terran tanks, Ultralisks are capable of taking out entire units of Terran Marines with one swoop of their giant tusks. Even tank-armour is little more than an annoyance to this beast.

Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d4(Z),
Spirit d8, Strength d12+4, Vigor d10
Skills: Fighting d10, Intimidation d8, Notice d6
Pace: 6, Parry: 7, Toughness: 46 (30)
Special Abilities:
Size +9: Ultralisks tower over most tanks
Gargantuan: Attackers add +4 to their Fighting or Shooting rolls when attacking an Ultralisk due to its massive size. Ultralisks may only be damaged by Heavy Weapons.
Armour +30: Carapace Armour, counts as Heavy Armour
Claws: Str + d10, AP 30, HW
Improved Sweep: claws as long as a truck and a surprising mobility make the area around an Ultralisk a death-zone
Redundant Organs: Ultralisks ignore Wound Modifiers when soaking damage.
Possible Mutations:
Anabolic Synthesis: Increases Pace to 8
Chitinous Plating: Raises Armour to +40

Just like the name suggests, Defilers are bringers of pestilence and death wherever they go. Acting as a harassment and support unit, the Defiler has little means to directly defend itself on the battlefield, but can be devastating to enemy formations. Unleashed on civilian populations without protection, a single one of these creatures is able to eradicate whole colonies.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d8(Z), Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d8
Skills: Fighting d4, Survival d6
Pace: 6, Parry: 4, Toughness: 12 (4)
Special Abilities:
Size +2: Defilers grow up to 5 meters long
Armour +4: Carapace Armour
Defiler Abilities: Defilers use Smarts to cast their Spell-abilities and have 15 Power Points
Consume: the Defiler may consume another Zerg creature to immediately regain 3 + Size Power Points
Dark Swarm: The Defiler is able to cast Obscure with a range of Smarts x 5 and with an LBT. This is a large cloud of stinking mists, filled with tiny gnawing creatures.
Metasynaptic Processes: Defilers gain the Rapid Recharge Edge while burrowed
Possible Mutations:
Plague: Fast-acting carcinoma with incredibly high infection rates grow directly on the Lurker, which it is able to eject via poisonous clouds. It has the Blast power with either Acid or Disease trapping (it may choose the trapping every time it casts Plague). The disease is Long-Term Chronic, Major Debilitating.

Air Units:

The flying Overlords are the backbone of the Overmind's control over the Swarm. While not as powerful as the Brood Queens, Overlords make up for their lack of abilities through sheer numbers. They act as relays for the Overmind's psionic signals to the broods, and, depending on their DNA strain, as fast mobile detectors and troop transporters.
Attributes: Agility d4, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d12, Vigor d10
Skills: Notice d10, Tracking d8
Pace: -, Parry: 2, Toughness: 21 (4)
Special Abilities:
Flight: Overlords have a Flying Pace of 4 and a Climb of 0. They may not run.
Size +10: Overlords are immensely huge creatures, capable of lifting up such large beasts as Ultralisks.
Huge: Attackers add +4 to their Fighting or Shooting rolls when attacking an Overlord due to its massive size.
Armour +4: Carapace Armour; counts as Heavy Armour.
Detector: Overlords ignore up to 6 points of penalties when searching for creatures (including penalties for invisibility).
Possible Mutations:
Ventral Sacks: Allows the Overlord to transport ground forces.
Pneumatized Carapace: The Overlord's Flying Pace increases to 6. They may now run.

 Brood Queen
Psionicly connected to the Cerebrates, Brood Queens are powerful nodes of the Overmind's will. They are able to directly control vast numbers of Zerg, and their more direct abilities make them a feared sight on any battlefield.
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d10, Spirit d8, Strength d8, Vigor d8
Skills: Notice d8, Shooting d10, Tracking d8
Pace: -, Parry: 2, Toughness: 16 (4)
Special Abilities:
Flight: Brood Queens have a Flying Pace of 8 and a Climb of 1.
Size +6: Fully grown Brood Queens are about as big as an adult elephant.
Large: Attackers add +2 to their Fighting or Shooting rolls when attacking a Brood Queen due to its large size.
Armour +4: Carapace Armour
Infest Terran Building: Brood Queens may infest any Terran building they can safely approach. Civilians caught this way are then transformed into Infested Terrans.
Queen Abilities: Brood Queens use Shooting to cast their abilities. They have 25 Power Points.
Parasite: The Brood Queen launches a small parasite which attaches itself to any other unit the Brood Queen can see (Range 12/24/48). If the target is biological in nature this parasite bonds with the target and may only be removed by nano-tech medical equipment. This is a trapping of the Farsight Power and allows the Brood Queen to see through the attached parasite. The duration is extended to "1 hour (1/hour)".
Possible Mutations:
Ensnare: Allows the Brood Queen to cast the Entangle Power. The Brood Queen shoots globs of sticky slime at the target(s).
Spawn Broodling: Allows the Brood Queen to cast the Bolt Power. The Brood Queen launches a special parasite at the target, which burrows inside the target and consumes it from within. Should the target die from this ability, two Broodlings burst from the corpse and attack any non-Zerg creatures nearby.
Gamete Melosis: The Brood Queen's Power Points increase to 35.

This winged menace usually appears in large swarms. Their screeching can be heard from far away and strikes terror into the hearts of those who know about Mutalisks. Their large bodies house strong muscles, able to spew glaive worms at terrifying speed. Leathery wings carry the Mutalisk across the battlefield. They are very agile, but slow to take up speed. A Mutalisk's blood is highly corrosive, dissecting specimen is at this point all but impossible.
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d6(Z), Spirit d6, Strength d8,
Vigor d6
Skills: Fighting d6, Notice d8, Shooting d8, Tracking d6
Pace: -, Parry: 5, Toughness: 11 (4)
Special Abilities:
Flight: Mutalisks have a Flying Pace of 6 and a Climb of 3.
Size +2: Mutalisks grow to up to 5 meters tall
Armour +4: Carapace Armour
Glaive Worms: Damage 2d8, RoF 1, Range 12/24/48, AP 4
Bouncing Projectiles: With a Raise on the Shooting roll the Mutalisk may also make a free attack against an additional target within 5" of the original target. This can happen a maximum of two times per round.
Acidic Blood: If a Mutalisk is killed by explosive means everyone under a MBT centered on the dead Mutalisk takes 2d6 AP 4 acid damage (other Mutalisks take the damage, but ignore the AP).
Minor Regenerative Abilities: Mutalisk Extras gain a +2 bonus on Vigor rolls to check if they are Incapacitated or dead after a fight.

These large flying beasts evolve directly out of Mutalisks. Devourers are heavy flyers, bred to take on enemy airborne forces. Most small craft don't even bother them and they are able to face Terran Battlecruisers heads-on. Their mutated anatomy prevents them from shooting at steep downwards angles, so they can't attack ground forces.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6(Z), Spirit d8, Strength d10,
Vigor d10
Skills: Notice d6, Shooting d10
Pace: -, Parry: 2, Toughness: 26 (15)
Special Abilities:
Flight: Devourers have a Flying Pace of 6 and a Climb 1.
Size +4: Devourers measure about 10 metres.
Large: Attackers add +2 to their Fighting or Shooting rolls when attacking a Devourer due to its large size.
Armour +15: Carapace Armour, counts as Heavy Armour.
Acidic Globs: Damage 3d8, RoF 1, Range 24/48/96, AP 20, HW
Acid Spores: When hit by the Devourer's Acidic Globs the armour of the target and all adjacent non-Zerg's units is reduced by 1. This effect stacks up to 10 times and lasts for the entire combat.

The Guardian is the second strain of large flying Zerg to mutate directly out of a Mutalisk. It evolved to complement the Devourer on the battlefield, as Guardians are bred to spit highly corrosive acid over huge distances onto ground forces. Their exact method of flight baffles scientists, as Guardian's have no wings. This seems to result in a rather slow movement. For some reason they are unable to use their ranged attack in space, although they are perfectly capable of space travel.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6(Z), Spirit d8, Strength d10,
Vigor d10
Skills: Fighting d6, Notice d6, Shooting d10
Pace: -, Parry: 5, Toughness: 26 (15)
Special Abilities:
Flight: Guardians have a Flying Pace of 4 and a Climb 0.
Size +4: Guardians measure about 10 metres.
Large: Attackers add +2 to their Fighting or Shooting rolls when attacking a Guardian due to its large size.
Armour +15: Carapace Armour, counts as Heavy Armour.
Acidic Globs: Damage 3d8, RoF 1, Range 30/60/120, AP 20, HW

Scourges are perhaps one of the most terrifying Zerg creatures. Not because of their physique, as Scourges are only about the size of a Zergling. They aren't very durable either. What makes them such fearsome organisms is their means of attack. Scourges descend onto their targets in swarms and trigger a biological chain-reaction inside their bodies, which ends with them detonating in a deadly cloud of carapace shrapnel and acidic plasma. Even a few hits from Scourges can take out a Terran Battlecruiser.
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d4(Z), Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Stealth d8, Survival d8, Tracking d8
Pace: -, Parry: 2, Toughness: 7 (2)
Special Abilities:
Flight: Scourges have a Flying Pace of 8 and a Climb 3.
Armour +2: Carapace Armour
Plasma Metamorphosis: When a Scourge reaches its intended target it detonates itself. This attack automatically deals 3d8 AP 20 Heavy Damage in an SBT centred on the Scourge. This attack requires the Scourge to be airborne, so it doesn't work on ground targets.

Special Units:

Infested Terran
When a Brood Queen infests a Terran Building any humans still inside are caught and assimilated into the Swarm. These Infested Terrans are a terror to behold, clad in pieces of armour and covered by organic Zerg matter. Their personality is shredded by this experience, replaced by suicidal obedience to the Swarm. In rare cases the Swarm keeps a person's intellect intact to further the Swarm's goals. They retain all their memories and skills, but they are completely obedient and loyal to their new Zerg masters.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6(Z), Spirit d6, Strength d8, Vigor d8
Skills: Fighting d8, Notice d6, Stealth d6, Shooting d8
Pace: 8, Parry: 6, Toughness: 8 (2)
Special Abilities:
Armour +2: Carapace Armour
Plasma Metamorphosis: When an Infested Terran reaches its intended target it detonates itself. This attack automatically deals 3d8 AP 20 Heavy Damage in an SBT centred on the Infested Terran.

Growing from flesh-eating parasites injected by Brood Queens into their unlucky targets, Broodlings are small in size, but driven by ferocious hunger and rage. They burst from their hosts and attack anything in sight.
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d4(Z), Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Fighting d8
Pace: 6, Parry: 6, Toughness: 6 (2)
Special Abilities:
Size -1: Broodlings are about the size of a Terran dog
Armour +2: Carapace Armour
Claws: Str + d6, AP 2
Supercharged Metabolism: Broodlings live for only a short time, but they make up for it with reckless abandon. They have the Improved Frenzy Edge. On the downside, however, Broodlings only live for 5 rounds.

Copyright NoticeThe Zerg Race logo and screenshots from the Starcraft II level editor are copyrighted by Blizzard Entertainment. The use in this blogpost qualifies as authorized for fansite use under United States and applicable international copyright law.


  1. Thank you for this! This is perfect for some ideas I've got bouncing around for a Savage Rifts-based game. Can't wait for the other races so I can create a solely StarCraft adventure.

    1. Fun fact: that is exactly how I came to work on Savage Starcraft. ;)