Mercury

First Impressions
Physical Data
Mineral Wealth
Weather
Flora
Fauna
Intelligence

First Impressions

Upon exiting the hatch from the Ether Flyer, one is confronted with a great brightness; the rays of the Mercurian Sun cut across one's vision like a scythe. The Sun looks huge from here; three times the width of an Earthly Sun, and it looms on the horizon broodingly, looking even larger as a result. Long dusklike shadows are everywhere, and while things sunward are lost in the glare, objects to darkward stand out in bright contrast, lit brightly by the ever-dawning Sun.

Still, be it morning or evening (and one can never tell which), the air is crisp and fresh, and there is a lightness and a spring in your step that tells you that the gravity here is much lower than Earth's; perhaps just under half. Strange plants abound everywhere, and strange animals as well. A chirping reminiscent of crickets and frogs can be heard, as well as the waves of the wide river, lapping against the bank.

Off to Darkward, a flash of white can be seen on the horizon; perhaps this is a glacier in the distant ice sheath, or the snow-covered tops of distant mountains. The forested far bank of the river looks misty, and calm, but you can see some sort of large animal crashing through the undergrowth. The breeze is flowing gently downriver, and on it you detect a faint hint of smoke...

The concept of time is a foreign one to the Mercurian; days can drift by without any apparent change in the environment. People forget to eat, or sleep too long; when one wakes it is impossible to tell how much time has passed. Most mercurians are careful to carry a pocket watch; without one all concept of time beyond the seasons is lost.


Physical Data

The planet Mercury orbits the Sun at a distance of 36 million miles. It has a diameter of 3030 miles and a circumference of 9520 miles. Surface Gravity is 40% that of Earth's. Mercury does not have a "Day", so to speak, since one side eternally points towards the Sun, while the other eternally faces away from the Sun. However, the Mercurian Year is 88 days long.

Directions
While Mercury does have a north and south pole, these points of reference are not as important as the relationship between the hot side and cold side. The center of the Hot side, the point where the sun is directly overhead, is referred to as the "Hot Pole", while the point directly opposite the Sun is referred to as the "Cold Pole". Anything that is towards the Hot Pole is referred to as "Sunward", while anything that is towards the Cold Pole is referred to as "Darkward". Likewise, Direction on the river is of importance, so the directions "Upstream" and "Downstream" are used as well.

Thus, if one was standing at the North Pole, facing the Sun, Downstream would be to the Right, and Upstream would be to the Left. Forwards would be Sunward, while Backwards would be Darkward. This system is much more practical for the people at Princess Chrisiana Station, since using conventional compass points would mean that all directions one could face from that point are "South".

Occaisionally Mercurians refer to an "East Pole" and "West Pole", respectively; these designations merely refer to the points where the Great River crosses the Equator. The East pole is downstream from Princess Christiana Station, while the West Pole is upstream from it.

Zones
Mercury has an extreme range of temperatures, due to it's orientation towards the Sun. Regions on the hot side get hotter the closer one gets to the Hot Pole, while temperatures decrease gradually the closer one gets to the Cold Pole. These temperatures range widely, from 900 degrees farenheit at the Hot Pole to -400 degrees at the Cold Pole.

The Hot Side

  • The Lead Zone: With a radius of 750 miles, the Lead Zone is the area immediately around the Hot Pole and temperatures range from 670 to 900 degrees farenheit, enough that Lead melts at these temperatures. Zinc also melts at 788 degrees Farenheit and can be found in the inner regions of the Zone. Wood can also spontaneously combust in this region.
  • The Tin Zone: A region 600 miles wide, with temperatures high enough that Tin is molten and paper spontaneously burns; temperatures range from 450 to 670 degrees Farenheit. Cadmium and Selenium, though rarer than Tin, melt at 608 and 422 F respectively and can sometimes be found in liquid form here as well.
  • The Wasteland: A region 600 miles wide, in the Wasteland water cannot exist as a liquid, and boils immediately. Periodically subsurface water breaches the surface in this region, and is immediately turned into steam, creating an artificial geyser, or "hot spring". Lithium, Sodium, and Indium melt at these temperatures, though they are rarely found in their metallic state. Temperatures range from 212 to 450 degrees Farenheit.
The Habitable Zone
  • The Forbidding Desert: A region 300 miles wide, the Forbidding Desert is a region much more like an Earthly desert; liquid water can exist here, though it tends to evaporate rather quickly. The Sun is still fairly low in the sky, so mountains and other terrain features occaisionally block off sunlight, creating "oases" of cooler temperatures. A few hardy plants can be found here, particularily in the outer areas, but overall the Forbidding Desert is pretty lifeless. Temperatures range from 110 to 212 degrees Farenheit. Occaisionally Potassium can be found here in a molten state; it melts at 147 degrees, though Potassium is only rarely found in it's metallic state.
  • The Twilight Zone: 260 miles wide, the Twilight Zone represents the Habitable region of Mercury, and is the home of virtually all native Mercurian lifeforms. A river runs all the way around the planet within the Twilight Zone, powered by the coriolis force. Average temperatures range from 32 to 110 degrees Farenheit, though this region is more subject to seasonal changes than other regions (see "The Wobble", below).
  • The Meltwater Zone: This 150-mile wide region is covered by ice and snow for much of the time, but periodically temperatures rise above freezing here, causing meltwater to flow downwards toward the world river. Average temperatures here range from 32 to 0 degrees Farenheit. There is little life here, though some lichens, fungus, and other primitive lifeforms survive here.
The Dark Side
  • The Ice Sheath: A 300-mile wide region, the Ice Sheath represents a fairly conventional glacier. Snow falls here routinely and the Ice gradually spreads towards the Meltwater Zone, where it ultimately melts and flows into the Great River. Fissures and crevasses are common, and this is a dangerous region to traverse. Temperatures range from 0 to -110 degrees Farenheit.
  • The Dry Ice Zone: The Dry Ice Zone is a 900-mile wide region with temperatures low enough that carbon Dioxide exists as a solid. Water precipitation never penetrates this far Darkward, though dry ice does fall from the sky in the form of snow. The borders of this region are particularily dangerous, since if dry ice gets over -110 degrees it sublimates into a gas. Occaisionally pockets of dry ice buried under regular ice sublimate, and pressure builds until the gas erupts in a geyser of cold carbon dioxide. Likewise, temperatures here are low enough that flesh freezes virtually instantly if exposed to these temperatures, so drastic measures are required to keep warm if humans are to explore this region. Temperatures in the Dry Ice Zone range from -110 to -300 degrees Farenheit. No humans have penetrated more than a few miles into the Dry Ice Zone.
  • The Kelvin Sea: At the Darkward edge of the Dry Ice Zone the atmosphere begins to get thick and soupy, until the gases precipitate out of the atmosphere to become liquid. The Kelvin Sea is a circular 300-mile wide sea of liquid oxygen, nitrogen, and argon. Only a trace atmosphere of hydrogen and helium remains. No humans have ever seen the Kelvin Sea, so this description is purely hypothetical. Temperatures on the Kelvin Sea range from -300 to -360 degrees Farenheit.
  • Kelvin's Land: the remaining 600 miles to the Cold Pole are Kelvin's Land, a large island of solid nitrogen and oxygen ice. A thin atmosphere of Hydrogen and Helium exists here also, and the ground is covered with an oxygen and nitrogen snow. Potentially should a heat source be introduced here, a hydrogen fire could erupt, igniting the hydrogen of the atmosphere with the oxygen on the ground in a major explosion. Such a fire would rage quickly across the surface of Kelvin's Land and the Kelvin Sea, causing massive amounts of materials to be sublimated into a gas. This would temporarily raise the temperature of the region dramatically, but things would eventually return to normal, and the gases would again cool and precipitate out of the atmosphere. Temperatures in Kelvin's Land are below -360 Farenheit, though the lower limit of temperature is not known.
Obviously, travel through the Hot Side and Dark Side is difficult at best. Travel by humans beyond the Forbidding desert is virtually impossible; the air becomes too hot to breathe, and scalds the lungs. Likewise, exposed flesh in the Dry Ice Zone freezes almost immediately, and ice crystals can form in the lungs, causing serious damage.

Travelling in some sort of vehicle is rarely much better; bringing a Zeppelin into the Hot Zone causes the hydrogen gas to expand drastically, causing pressure in the gas bag to increase. Eventually a rupture occurs, and when the hydrogen hits that superheated air, it almost invariably explodes, destroying the craft. The Italian mining airship Siena was probably lost in this way in 1884, though there were no survivors to tell the tale. A liftwood flyer, on the other hand would fare little better, since the intense heat dries out the liftwood and once dry the liftwood behaves erratically. In addition, dry wood in an atmosphere that hot can potentially ignite, and this could just as easily destroy a craft.

The Dark Side presents different problems for a vehicle. The metal hull of a vehicle can become brittle at such extremely low temperatures, and becomes very vulnerable to damage. Also, exploration of the Kelvin Sea and beyond will be impossble in a zeppelin and difficult in an ether flyer, thanks to the lack of an atmosphere. Solar boilers will not work in the gloom of the Dark Side, and a coal fired boiler may be snuffed out by the extremely cold air being brought in by the engine.

Finally, any metal vehicle travelling into the Hot or Dark side must be able to take the stress brought about by the expansion/contraction of the metal due to the heat or cold. Should the metal warp and the seals break, the outside air will be let into the cabin, most likely killing the crew.

The "Wobble"
While the planet Mercury has no "Day" to speak of, this does not mean that there is no perceptible change over time. The Hot Pole never points exactly towards the Sun; rather it is about 0.3 degrees off. This point "circles" the Sun, in such a way that over the course of a complete circuit the Sun will transcribe a circle in the sky that is 0.3 degrees wide. This circuit is completed once every Mercurian Year. This can be considered to be a very slight Axial Tilt.

The effect of this is to give the planet "seasons", as the level of radiation from the sun waxes and wanes because it is rising or setting on the Horizon. Since the level of "Wobble" is less wide than the Sun itself, the Twilight Zone can be divided into three separate regions, each about 80 miles wide:

  1. The Tropics, where the Sun is partially below the horizon for a part of the year but actually clears the horizon in the hot periods
  2. The Temperate Zone, where the Sun is always partially covered by the horizon, though it varies as to how much of the Sun is visible according to the time of year
  3. The Subarctic, where the Sun sometimes is partially visible but for part of the year lies entirely below the horizon
Regions where the Sun is never visible constitute the Dark Side, while regions where the Sun never touches the horizon but remains completely visible all the time constitute the Hot Side.

Precession
The Mercurian day and the Mercurian year are exactly the same length... well, almost. A process is ongoing on Mercury (and most planets, in fact), called Precession. This is a process where very gradually the planet will change orientation. At it's current rate, it will take Mercury about 150,000 years to turn completely around. However, this rate of rotation is decreasing, so each time around will take longer than the last.

This means that about 37,000 years ago, the region that is now at the West Pole (the equator upstream from the North Pole) was at that time directly below the sun at the Hot Pole. This means that the pools of lead and tin that once graced the surface in that region are now cooled, solid masses. They quickly get covered by dust storms and sediments, so by the time that the planet makes a quarter turn they are pretty much unrecognizable. However, large lodes of metals are likely to lie not too far below the surface near the equator, while at the poles this advantage is lost.


Mineral Wealth

It should be self-evident that there are great rewards available to the prospector for traversing the hot side, since many metals will be much more easily available there; in fact, this is the basis for the adventure "The Burning Desert", featured in Tales from the Ether. Once an inventor is able to overcome the technical obstacles involved, then there exists a possibility of reaping large profits from such mineral enterprises.

The main metals that would be feasible for exploitation on the Mercurian Hot Side are Tin, Lead, and Zinc. Of these, only Tin is particularily valuable and would bring in a high profit compared to the expense of building and operating a mining vehicle that would function on the Mercurian Hotside. However, while Lead is not especially valiable, lead seams often contain small amounts of silver (proportionally, that is), and when a pool of molten lead appears, there may be silver present as slag. Since silver is lighter than lead, it will float on the lead pool and silver slag could be skimmed off the surface without too much effort.

The other option is for the players to seek out pools of rarer metals, such as Lithium, Sodium, Indium, Cadmium, and Selenium. These metals, though rarer, are potentially much more valuable. However, no formal market for these metals exists in 1889, and so players attempting to sell such metals will have to develop the market themselves.

Below is a table illustrating the value of commonly traded metals in the years around 1889. The values are taken from the yearly average of prices on the London Metals Exchange. Since these are averages, the prices are listed in decimal system, even though the decimal system was not in use for English Currency. When converting, remember that 0.05 = 1 shilling.

Tin prices
( per ton)
Lead prices
( per ton)
Zinc prices
( per ton)
Copper prices
( per ton)
Siver prices
( per troy oz.)
Siver prices
( per ton)
188586.6211.5013.8743.550.20265909.842
188697.3213.2214.2540.080.18915516.047
1887111.7512.8515.2046.000.18595422.703
1888117.5013.9118.0981.660.17865209.762
188993.0413.4019.2849.730.17795189.343
189094.1713.3923.2554.160.19875796.079
189191.1512.4323.2551.470.18785478.126
189293.3310.7420.8345.660.16594839.303
189385.389.9217.9043.770.14844328.828
189468.719.0715.4340.360.12063517.902
19985,536.97528.021,022.871,652.483.344997,570.21

Fossil Fuels
Fossil Fuels, such as coal and oil are much less common on Mercury than on Earth or Venus, because over long periods of time most of Mercury is uninhabitable, and the habitable zone only remains in one spot for short periods.

However, the regions around the North and South poles have life in them all the time, so some reserves of fossil fuels may have developed near the poles. The burial of organic material by river sediment is the prime factor in the creation of such fuels, so extraction might be a little difficult, dependent on geologic activity in the region since formation.


Weather

Mercurian weather has a reputation for rapid change. While Mercury has similar climactic zones as Earth, these regions are very narrow, and when a weather system moves from one region to the next, effects can be quite spectacular.

Much like the Earth, the Mercurian atmosphere is divided into Cells, which are created by convection currents. On Mercury, these cells run around the world in a similar pattern as the climate bands. As sunlight strikes the ground, the ground and the air above it heats up. This causes the air to expand, and float upwards in the atmosphere. This in turn allows cooler air to flow in from colder areas, underneath the hot expanding air. That cooler air in turn heats and rises. The hot air that is already higher up in the atmosphere flows back towards the cooler zones. As it cools, it once again descends to fill in the gap left by the flow of cool air towards the warm zones.

This means that most of the time, the wind at ground level will be coming from the cooler regions and blowing towards the hotter areas. There it will rise to the upper atmosphere and flow back, and eventually descend again. In addition, the coriolis force, which causes the World River to flow, also causes the wind to tend to blow downstream.

These cells sometimes jostle each other around, and the border between cells can move Sunward or Darkward depending on local conditions. When the border of a cell passes over, there is usually a drastic change in the local weather. Likewise, periodically the pattern of convection is disrupted, causing an inversion, where ground level winds flow from hotside to darkside.

Mist
One fairly common effect of Mercurian Weather is dense mist. These are created when warm air created sunward descends from the upper atmosphere without cooling sufficiently. When the warm air descends in the Meltwater Zone or Ice Sheath, this tends to cause large amounts of water to melt quickly, with the added facet of having a fair amount of this water borne in the atmosphere as mist. This mist will then blow towards warmer regions, and will eventually dissipate in the warmer regions.

Fog
Fog occurs when open water is at a warmer temperature than the air above it. This commonly occurs when a colder than usual wind blows across the relatively warm River, or the River bends to Darkwards in its downstream flow, causing a fairly warm River to enter a colder region. The effect is particularly pronounced when the River widens into a lake of considerable size, as it does many times on it's course 'round the world. Fog tends to be easier to predict, since some areas recieve fog regularily, thanks to the positioning of the Great River, while others do not.

Rainstorm
Occaisionally, a large amount of moisture is carried from the Subarctic and the Meltwater Zone into the Temperate regions, where increased sunlight causes the air to expand. Sometimes, for reasons still not understood by meterologists, this causes the moisture in that air to precipitate suddenly. Since air moving Sunward tends to be fairly close to the ground, such storms can be quite miserable and dark, obscuring sunlight.

Sunshowers
Whenever rain falls from clouds at a high altitude, Mercurians refer to this as a sunshower, since the Sun is not obscured on the horizon. This normally occurs when moisture has evaporated to sunward and is being carried back towards the darkside, where it will ultimately precipitate out as snow, assuming it gets that far. These Sunshowers are rarely as violent as Rainstorms, but often last longer. Whenever there is a collection of "hot springs" in a given area of the Wasteland, this sort of thing occurs regularily downwind of that region.

Windstorms
Periodically, pressure buildups cause a sudden release of air, which rushes out of the cold regions with a vengeance. Such windstorms can be bitterly cold in the cooler parts of the Twilight Zone, and sometimes bring snow.

Tornado
The friction between two cells often creates turbulent wind pockets that result in tornadoes. These effects can spring out without warning but usually happen during warm periods. Water Spouts are sometimes seen when a tornado touches down on the river. Likewise, when such a tornado touches down in a swamp or marsh, many amphibians can get caught up in it, resulting in a "rain of frogs".

Summer Lightning
When the edges of cells meet, the two cells will rub against one another, and cause friction. This will lead to a static charge being built up in the air, which results in lightning. Sometimes this lightning is accompanied by rain, but often lightning stands alone on Mercury, accompanied by no precipitation. This "Summer Lightning" can take many forms; sometimes it is a harmless but frightening and noisy lightshow in the sky, and the electrical effects never reach the surface. Other times ball lightning or conventional lightning is seen, and this sort of lightning can appear in a clear sky. Sometimes luminous areas in the upper atmosphere can be seen from the ground for a few seconds or even a minute or two, before suddenly flashing towards the ground in a bolt of ball lightning.

Collapsing Thunderstorm
When the air in the upper atmosphere is laden with moisture, and that portion of air reaches the Darkward edge of a cell, that moisture will normally precipitate out of the air in a sudden storm. The cloud layer will descend quickly with the air of the cell, so that after the storm begins the sun will soon be obscured. In addition, the presence of the edge of the cell means that static charge will build up, to be released as lightning. Collapsing Thunderstorms often have hail as well as rain.

Dust Storm
When an inversion occurs, air from the Hot regions blows along the surface towards the cooler regions. If this air has passed through a desert region, a sandstorm or dust storm can occur. Sandstorms are more dangerous but only happen fairly close to desert areas. Dust, on the other hand, is much finer and can remain airborne much longer, and sometimes Dust Storms reach the habitable regions of the Twilight Zone. Such storms cause a layer of grit to get into everything, and also obscure the sun and reduce visibility to almost zero.

Steam Shower
Periodically, during an inversion, moisture laden air from a hot region reaches the habitable zone. This moisture is often much hotter than the surrounding air, and while a hot rain occurs, large portions of the rain re-evaporate, turning to mist or steam as they strike the ground. This creates a warm, foggy rainstorm.

Arid Wind
If a wind blows from the hot side without carrying moisture or dust, then the "Arid Wind" occurs. This wind is hot and dry, and will ot only raise the temperature of the region but also dries things out quickly. Amphibians and other creatures that can move in or out of the river tend to take refuge within the river during these periods.

Random Weather Generation

Should a GM need to generate weather randomly, he may use the tables below. Or, he may simply use the charts as a source of inspiration, in order to mandate weather patterns.

The charts are designed to refer to one another; when a "Weather Event" is rolled on the first table, then consult the "Weather Event" table, and so on. Whenever another table must be consulted, this is indicated by the result being in Italics. For the "Cell Event" and "Inversion Event" tables, add 1 to the roll if the weather occurs in the Subarctic or Meltwater Zone, and subtract 1 from the roll if the weather is occurring in the Tropics or the Forbidding Desert.

Ordinary Weather
(Roll 1D6)
  Weather Events
(Roll 1D6)
  Cell Events
(Roll 1D6)
  Inversion Events
(Roll 1D6)
1 Clear / Windy 1 Mist/Fog 1 Dry Lightning 1 Arid Wind
2 Clear / Breezy 2 Sunshower 2 Dry Lightning 2 Arid Wind
3 Partly Cloudy / Breezy 3 Rainstorm 3 Tornado 3 Dust Storm
4 Calm / Hazy 4 Windstorm 4 Tornado 4 Dust Storm
5 Weather Event 5 Cell Event 5 Collapsing Thunderstorm 5 Steam Shower
6 Weather Event 6 Inversion Event 6 Collapsing Thunderstorm 6 Steam Shower


Flora

Mercury is an environment where Earth plants cannot flourish. This would seem odd, since Mercury has an atmosphere very similar to Earth, and a variety of climate ranges that are quite similar to many regions on Earth. However, what makes it difficult for Earth plants to survive is the fact that on Mercury the Sun shines always from the same direction.

Ordinary Earth plants will tend to bend and seek a light source if that light only comes from a single direction. On Earth, light comes from all quarters, since the Sun passes through the sky daily. With the Sun in a fixed position in the sky, terrestrial plants will tend to creep towards it, bending sunward until they either are resting along the ground or are bent over so far that they can no longer support their own weight. Some of the residents of Princess Christiana Station have brought Earth plants with them, which are kept in pots, but these can be rotated regularily to keep the plant from becoming distorted.

Thus, all photosynthetic plants on Mercury deal with this problem in a variety of ways. Firstly, all Mercurian plants (with a few exceptions) "face" Sunward. In the twilight zone this can be a problem since if one plant is in front of another, then the rear plant will recieve little or no sunlight. Plants deal with this in a variety of ways.

Tuft Trees
The Tuft Tree (which represents a class of tree, rather than an individual species) is a type of plant which only has photosynthetic material at the very top, in a tuft of leaves. This tuft collects enough sunlight for the survival of the entire tree, since the bright Mercurian sun can support plants easily. The trees tend to be tall, straight, and slender, and are excellent for building materials. The area beneath a Tuft tree canopy is a parklike area, relatively devoid of undergrowth, though some undergrowth does survive in the dimmer regions beneath these trees.

Tuft forests tend to spread sunward, since the region in front of the forest will have plenty of sunlight for new trees to grow. However, the further sunward such a forest stretches, the drier the region gets, so the leading edge is always vulnerable to forest fires. If it is during a dry season the forest fire will spread through the entire forest, clearing out the area and allowing a fresh Tuft forest to grow. Also, since the width of the tree does not grow drastically, a tall tree is especially vulnerable to aging and eventually the top will become brittle and fall of, causing the tree to die. This leaves gaps in the canopy that allows other trees to sprout.

The Tuft tree demostrates the first strategy of Mercurian plant life, which is to ascend to a height that will allow it to be higher than any obstacles that might prevent sunlight from reaching it.

Mercurian Willow
The Mercurian Willow is a tree with slender branches and leaves that are very thin, almost like hairs. These leaves are dense enough to collect sunlight, but are so thin that most of the light reaching the tree will pass through and reach the tree behind. This is the second strategy of Mercurian plant life, which is to avoid obscuring sunlight as much as possible while still collecting enough light for the tree's survival. Most mercurian plants have narrow bladed leavs as a result of this strategy.

The Mercurian Willow is also known for its beautiful blossoms, which sprout annually.

The Mirror Plant
The Mirror Plant is a large leafy bush which sprouts in all directions. Its leaves are narrow and sharp-edged, and have a high gloss to them that renders them very reflective. The net result is that the Mirror Plant tends to reflect light in all directions, making ii worthwhile for plants to face in many directions at once. Most Mercurian plant life has leaves with at least some degree of gloss to them. This is the third strategy Mercurian plant life uses to overcome this problem.

Crystal Trees
The Crystal Tree is a particularily remarkable plant, and could survive in few places other than Mercury. The Crystal Tree is a tall, slender tree similar in shape to the tuft tree. However, at the crown of the tree sits a rather remarkable crystal. This crystal is grown from secretions within the tree, and gradually becomes larger and larger. The Crystal Tree uses this crystal for two purposes. Firstly, the crystal is a glow crystal, and generates a modest electrical charge. This charge is used defensively by the tree to ward off animals that might otherwise eat it. And secondly, the crystal magnifies and reflects light in all directions, shining like a beacon. A Crystal Tree forest is quite wonderful to look at, but the reflective effect of the Crystal Tree allows other plants to grow underneath it, using the reflected light from the tree for sustenance. The Crystal Tree itself uses this light for photosynthesis, having leaves which spread out laterally from the tree and face upwards.

The Crystal Tree allows regions that are on the edge of shadow on Mercury to have plant life, since the crystal tree can stretch upwards to catch light that is passing overhead. This allows areas that could not normally support plant life to have a profusion of it. These areas can be areas that are in shadow as a result of being occulted by a geologic landform or simply from being too far towards the icecap to recieve light. It is worthy to note that in regions where Crystal Trees exist, Terrestrial vegetation can also thrive, because the light is coming from above. This is also true in the case of Mirror Plant groves, though to a lesser extent.

Much like Tuft trees, the Crystal Trees become vulnerable with age, particularily since the joint between the tree and the crystal itself can easily be broken. Since the crystal continuously grows, the crystal gets proportionally heavier in comparison to the joint that holds it. Eventually this joint breaks, and the crystal topples to the ground, sometimes shattering, and eventually is buried in the forest floor. Sometimes, if the area is well lit, the crystal tree can survive, and grow another crystal, but the loss of a crystal often means death for a crystal tree, especially if the tree is taller than most of the others in the area. Younger and shorter trees can often survive the loss of a crystal, because they are still recieving light from taller Crystal Trees around them.

Note that Crystal Trees are the origin of Glow Crystals; should a glow crystal be found (usually in a riverbank), this means that crystal trees once populated the area. Crystals are often found in the riverbank because the river often undercuts trees on the edge, causing the crystal to fall in the water, and also because the river will wear away sediment, exposing crystals that have been buried for ages.

Some ether sailors have reported seeing lighted regions of the surface of Mercury from space, but these are usually discounted as reflected light from icy regions that briefly catch sunlight. Only about 10%-15% of the world river currently has Crystal trees growing on it, though clearly the range of Crystal Trees must have once been much wider.

Mobile Plants
Many plants on Mercury are capable of moving somewhat; some can uproot themselves entirely and seek a new locale if their source of light is blocked, while others do not actually change location but can move their branches and vines around. A number of plants on Mercury are carnivorous, and seek to trap passing animals in some way.


Fauna

Mercurian animal life bears some resemblance to life in the Paleozoic period. Mammals, Birds, and Reptiles are not native to Mercury; all animal life there is made up of Amphibians, Fish, Arthropods, and Crustaceans. Most Mercurian life is capable of living in or on the river, and the Amphibians and Crustaceans seem to be the most successful in this regard.

Fish
A variety of fish make up the most common type of life to be found on Mercury, and a great many types exist. Most are harmless, and feed on algae and plant life growing in the river, but some are omnivorous, and a few more, such as the Mercurian Pike are predatory. Occaisionally such fish attack in schools, but otherwise they are not especially dangerous to humans.

Flying fish abound on Mercury as well, and the lighter gravity of Mercury gives these graceful fish the ability to remain airborne for long periods; they can breathe air and as such can remain out of water for a long time. These flyers live on waterborne insects and other small creatures.

The Mercurian Serpent is the largest creature on the planet, and large ones weigh upwards of fifteen tons, and lengths of over forty yards. Basically a giant eel, the Mercurian Serpent is the most dangerous creature to be found in the Great River. A smaller relative of the Serpent, the Mercurian Water Snake is a small eel that lives in shallow waters, particularily swampland, and feeds on small animals such as insects and small fish.

Insects
A variety of insectlike lifeforms exist on Mercury, though like Earth such life tends to be small, and sometimes goes unnoticed. The Mercurian Dragonfly can grow to be eitght inches in length, however, and the four inch long River Spider walks across the surface of calm waters like they were glass.

On land, various types of Chilopods exist, and the Giant Centipede is the lord and master of them all; the largest ones on record weigh over five tons and can grow up to thirty feet in length. The Giant Centipede is omnivorous, and eats leaves and grasses as well as live prey.

Crustaceans and Molluscs
The Great River is home to a variety of shelled creatures, such as the Mercurian River Crab, whose irritable nature makes it a serious hazard on the river, where it is prone to attack and overturn small boats. The Squid (a generic name for all Mercurian tentacled aquatic predators) can also be a threat, as large specimens can grab a fully grown man and pull him under the water. Giant Slugs can grow up to ten feet in length (though they are usually much smaller) and inhabit Mercury's forests.

Smaller molluscs exist as well; Oyster-like creatures line the bottom of the river in many places (sometimes growing to be quite large), while the Bag Fish, a sort of jellyfish-like creature floats idly in the river, and is only dangerous if skin comes in contact with their long stingers. Trilobites and other small crustaceans also inhabit the riverbottom and are a common sight.

Amphibians
Many amphibians inhabit the lands around Mercury's Great River. The Runner is a small, salamander-like creature, growing to be at most a foot or so in length. They tend to be pretty harmless and make up the diet of many predators. The Gator is a much larger creature, which tends to be fairly small but can grow to be eight or more feet in length. it has a long, flat, smooth body and four short stubby legs, and a large mouth with sharp teeth. The back of the Gator is speckled green and brown, and it likes to pretend it is a floating log or some sort of other debris, until its prey gets close enough, when it can pounce on something and drag it into the water.

Frogs and toads also inhabit the forests and jungles of Mercury. Tree frogs are quite common, and large bullfrogs can sometimes be seen in the swamps. Reports of giant frogs have so far not been substantiated, but could easily be true.

Hybrids
One thing that is unique about Mercurian life is the Hybrid animal, an animal which has both an animal metabolism and the ability to convert sunlight into energy via photosynthesis. Several species of Gator seem to do this, along with the most noteworthy creature, the Mercurian Badger, a small amphibian with a mass of fleshy tendrils on it's back, which give the impression of hair. The Mercurian Badger is at home on land or in the water, and can be found widely in the warmer parts of the Twilight Zone.


Intelligence

So far, intelligent life has not yet been discovered on Mercury. Your GM may wish to leave it that way. On the other hand, the presence of intelligent life on Mercury can make things much more interesting there. The following are some intelligent species that might exist on Mercury.

Flute People

The Flute People are a race of humanoid plants. They are mobile, having feet and hands, and a head, but their back is covered with star-shapes leaves which sprout from the back in profusion. The rest of the Flute man's skin is a brown leathery texture, and appears from a distance to be like tree bark, though it is actually quite supple. The average Flute Person is small, ranging from 5 foot to 5 foot 6 inches in height.

The Flute man's head is smaller than a human's with wide eyes and mouth, and no appreciable nose; two pairs of nostrils portrude from the otherwise flat face, one pair just above the mouth, while the other is just below the eyes. These tubes go right through the head and out the top, with one pair fairly close to the centerline, and another pair aboout an inch and a half above the ears.

A variety of sinus passages and valves twist about the Flute man's head, in such a way that the Flute man can force air through these passages and produce notes which sound like... well, a flute, of course. The Flute People's language is made up of a variety of hoots and whistles, along with more human-like sounds made with the mouth. Flute people are great mimics and can reproduce a wide variety of sounds. Likewise Flute people are natural musicians, and have a wide range of musical traditions and a strong sense of harmony. Humans trying to learn the Flute language are well served by the ability to whistle.

The Flute People are omnivorous, and consume a wide variety of things both plant and animal. They also can use the leaves on their backs for photosynthesis, though this is not really enough for then to survive on. However, a Flute man can hibernate for long periods as long as his back is recieving sunlight.

The Flute people have a primitive tribal society, and are by nature hunter-gatherers. They require little in the form of technology, disdaining clothing, shelter, or even most kind of tools, though they occaisionally fashion things out of reeds and use wood and flint. Though most Flute people are deathly afraid of fire, the Flute people do use fire for cooking and flint knapping, and a special person within the community, the Fire-Keeper, has a special place in the community, doing both the cooking for the tribe and the fashioning of tools out of flint. The use of fire seems magical to most Flute people, and the Fire-Keepers are believed to have both sorcerous power and great bravery.

The rest of Flute society is essentially similar to most other tribal societies, where the chief directs warfare and the hunt, while the shaman presides over religious ritual. The Flutes have an animist religion, believing in all manner of spirits, but they revere most of all the crystal trees which sparkle and nourish. Many shamans use glow crystals as ritual objects, affixed to wands, staves, masks, and so on, but they never harvest them from a living tree, rather collecting them from the ground from fallen crystals, which they consider a "gift" from the crystal trees.

Flute people are generally quite jolly, and enjoy music and festivals. They are practical jokers, and live a carefree lifestyle. They rarely go to war against each other, and when they do it is generally in the form of raiding or nonlethal ritual combat. Occaisionally, however, flareups do occur between tribes over prime hunting grounds. Then, the Flutes fight using bows, javelins, and occaisionally stone axes.

Flute people have two sexes and mate for life, though every so often (once every twelve years or so) various tribes will gather together and have a large festival which includes some promiscuity and mate-swapping. This prevents inbreeding and helps keep tribal relations positive. To be boycotted from such a festival is a serious blow to a tribe. Sexual relations between Flutes is pleasurable and comparable to human procreation, though aside from genetalia (which remains retracted and hidden most of the time) Flutes of either gender look largely identical. Likewise, since Flutes do not bear live children but instead lay seeds (the Flute Seed is "layed" every 22 days, and is quite small), there are no gender roles in Flute society and males and females both participate in all aspects of society.

Female Flutes produce seeds on a regular basis, though these seeds must be fertilized while in the body to be of value. They are produced about four times each Mercurian year, and are about the size and consitency of a walnut, and once "layed" they can be stored away from water for long periods. When the Flute people know that they will be remaining in a given place for a good lenth of time, they will "plant" these seeds (sometimes a large number at once) preferably in a marshy area, and wait until a Flute child grows. The growth process takes about one year; parents try to guard the region where the children are growing but do not dedicate people to this task full time, so often Flute children are eaten by herbivores in this stage.

After a year, the Flute child is transformed from a fixed plant to a mobile one; eyes open and roots wither away, releasing the toddler-sized Flute child into the world. Flutes are "born" with the ability to walk (though somewhat unsteadily at first), and integrate into the tribe quickly. Flute children are known for being inquisitive, mischevious, and playful.

Flute Life Expectancy is not especially high, ranging from 60 to 100 Mercurian years, roughly equal to 15 to 25 Earth years. Flutes reach full maturity by the age of 20 Mercurian years (five Earth years) and at the age of 80 (20 Earth years) they begin to get gnarled and wrinkly and their metabolism starts to slow down. A Flute does not actually "die" of old age; rather they curl up into a ball and extend roots, turning into a kind of ordinary plant. These plants live for a long time and are revered as "ancestors", and it is said that shamans can still contact these ancestors magically. Most Flutes do not reach this age, however, being killed in the meantime by a variety of diseases or by predators.

Typically elder Flutes go to sacred "Ancestor Groves" to take root; these groves are a sort of "burial ground" for Flutes, and are considered quite holy by the Flute People. Flutes will go to great lengths to protect these places, and will guard the secret of their location carefully. Usually these groves are in secluded or otherwise inaccessible regions, and will be hidden by heavy undergrowth or difficult to traverse landforms. Should an elder take root in a place other than such a grove, the Flutes of his tribe will usually try to transplant the Flute to such a grove. Usually an elder can feel the onset of the rooting process by several hours, and is able to make it to the grove; in addition, the elders of a tribe often spend a good deal of time in such a place, just in case.

Flute Characters
When designing Flute Characters, One thing is very important to remember; it is a fact of biology, and cannot really be changed. That is that Attribute ranges are different for Flutes than they are for humans. The difference can be summed up thusly:

-2 Strength, +1 Charisma, +1 Agility

  • Mercury has a much lower gravity than Earth, so Flutes are substantially weaker than humans; subtract two from the score assigned to a Flute's Strength score, but only subtract one point if the character's strength rating is already less than four, and do not subtract any points if the character's strength rating is already one.
  • Flutes are lively and charming, so add a point to the Flute character's Agility and Charisma scores, unless the character already has a score higher than four in these areas.

Note: Flute People social levels are as follows:
AttributeSocial Level
6
Elder Noble
5
Elder
4
Adult Noble
3
Adult
2
Young Noble
1
Youth

Clearly, Flute social status is based on age, though a distinction is made between nobility and commoners. Chiefs, Shamans, and Fire-Keepers are drawn from the nobility, while other professions are drawn from the rest of the population.

Since Social class is based on age, it makes sense that elders will have acquired more life-experience than young Flutes. If a character has a social class of five or six, he is entitled to take Three careers, if he so chooses. However, he or she will also have a penalty of one to each of his physical attributes: Strength, Agility, and Endurance. This penalty will not cause any of the character's Attributes to fall below one, although typically elders get more and more feeble as they age, until one of these attributes reaches zero. When that happens, the elder takes root and becomes an elder flute plant.

Likewise, characters with a social class of one or two may choose to only take a single career, but without gaining the extra option points for doing so; they only get two option points instead of six as a result. On the other hand, such young Flutes are more vital and energetic than an ordianry adult, and recieve a bonus of one to both their Agility and Endurance attributes. The bonus to Endurance does not apply if the Endurance attribute is already under four, though the bonus to Agility is under no such restrictions (which allows an Agility of seven).

When a Flute character chooses careers, he or she may not take more than one career in the Youth age group, or the Elder age group, though more than one career may be had as an adult. Characters may always select a career from an age group younger than theirs, but never an older age group.

Also note that Flute People do not recieve riding skill as a default; rather, they recieve Music skill (even though it is a charisma skill) as a default based on their Social class.

Forbidden Skills

There are certain skills that Flute characters will never posess, though they may learn them with exposure to civilization:

  • Trimsman
  • Engineering (any except Earthworks)
  • Marksmanship (Firearms)
   
  • Crime
  • Mechanics
  • Science
  •    
  • Gunnery
  • Riding
  • Law
  • In addition, other skills, such as piloting, craft, Labour, and so on will only allow skill types that use technology that is available in a primitve stone-age state.

    "Tribal Skills"

    Tribal Skills are a set of skills that are learned by most members of a Flute tribe. Dring character development, Flute characters may be given a certain number of "tribal skills". Any time this option is given, the number of skill points given in tribal skills may never exceed one point per skill, though if the career allows this skill as well then the tribal skill will add to it. The following skills are considered "Tribal Skills":

    • Foraging 1
    • Wilderness Travel 1
    • Tracking 1
    • Fieldcraft 1
    • Marksmanship 1 (bow)
       
    • Observation 1
    • Throwing 1
    • Swimming 1
    • Music 1
    • Stealth 1

    Shaman Noble. Int 4+.

    • Elder Shaman (Soc 6): Eloquence 1, Theatrics 1, Medicine 1, Arts 1 (Flute Theology), Commune 1, plus any two Tribal Skills.
    • Shaman (Soc 4 or 6): Eloquence 1, Theatrics 1, Medicine 1, Arts 1 (Flute Theology), plus any three Tribal Skills.
    • Shaman Apprentice (Soc 2, 4, or 6): Eloquence 1, Theatrics 1, Medicine 1, Music 1, plus any three Tribal Skills.

    Chief Noble. Str 3+.

    • Elder Chief (Soc 6): Leadership 1, Close Combat 1, Fieldcraft 1, Eloquence 1, plus any three Tribal Skills.
    • Chief (Soc 4 or 6): Leadership 1, Close Combat 1, Eloquence 1, Marksmanship 1 (bow), plus any three Tribal Skills.
    • Junior Chief (Soc 2, 4, or 6): Leadership 1, Close Combat 1, Marksmanship 1 (bow), Fisticuffs 1, plus any three Tribal Skills.

    Fire-Keeper Noble. Agl 4+.

    • Elder Firekeeper (Soc 6): Craft 2 (flintworking), Theatrics 1, Arts 1 (Flute Theology), plus any three Tribal Skills.
    • Firekeeper (Soc 4 or 6): Craft 2 (flintworking), Theatrics 1, Bargaining 1, plus any three Tribal Skills.
    • Firekeeper Apprentice (Soc 2, 4, or 6): Craft 2 (flintworking), Fisticuffs 1, plus any four Tribal Skills.

    Hunter: Common. Str 3+.

    • Elder Hunter (Soc 6): Close Combat 1, Marksmanship 1(bow), Throwing 1, Observation 1, Fieldcraft 1, plus any two Tribal Skills.
    • Hunter (Soc 4 or 6): Close Combat 1, Marksmanship 1(bow), Throwing 1, Tracking 1, plus any three Tribal Skills.
    • Hunter Apprentice (Soc 2, 4, or 6): Close Combat 1, Marksmanship 1(bow) or Throwing 1, Tracking 1, Stealth 1, plus any three Tribal Skills.

    Gatherer Common. End 4+.

    • Elder Gatherer (Soc 6): Wilderness Travel 1, Foraging 1, Observation 1, Close Combat 1, Fieldcraft 1, plus any two Tribal Skills.
    • Gatherer (Soc 4 or 6): Wilderness Travel 1, Foraging 1, Observation 1, Bargaining 1, plus any three Tribal Skills.
    • Apprentice Gatherer (Soc 2, 4, or 6): Wilderness Travel 1, Foraging 1, Observation 1, Stealth 1, plus any three Tribal Skills.

    Craftsman Common. Int 4+.

    • Elder Craftsman (Soc 6): Craft 1 (weaving or tanning), Bargaining 1, Eloquence 1, Observation 1, plus any three Tribal Skills.
    • Craftsman (Soc 4 or 6): Craft 2 (weaving or tanning), Bargaining 1, Observation 1, plus any three Tribal Skills.
    • Apprentice Craftsman (Soc 2, 4, or 6): Craft 2 (weaving or tanning), Bargaining 1, Fisticuffs 1, plus any three Tribal Skills.

    Spear Fisherman Common. Agl 4+.

    • Elder Fisherman (Soc 6): Throwing 1, Swimming 1, Close Combat 1, Piloting 1 (canoe), Engineering 1 (Naval Architecture - for building canoes) plus any two Tribal Skills.
    • Fisherman (Soc 4 or 6): Throwing 1, Swimming 1, Close Combat 1, Piloting 1 (canoe), plus any three Tribal Skills.
    • Apprentice Fisherman (Soc 2, 4, or 6): Throwing 1, Swimming 1, Observation 1, Piloting 1 (canoe), plus any three Tribal Skills.

    "Commune" Skill

    The Commune skill is a social class skill that may only be learned by Shamans. It is the ability to communicate with "Ancestors", the plants that mature Flute People turn into. Shamans go to these plants for advice, communing with them and asking them questions. While this may seem to be a big hoax by suspicious characters, nevertheless these "Ancestor" plants are capable of communicating using levels of sound that are inaudible to the human ear, and only barely perceptible to Flute People.

    Of course, an elder who has just taken root will still have the use of his mouth and hands, but the ossification process comes on quickly at this point, and eventually the only way the Flute may communicate is through his atrophied sinus holes. Thought is very slow for an ancestor plant, and language is difficult. However, Ancestor plants do occaisionally communicate with each other through these subsonics, and a shaman can also communicate with them as well.


    Lobster People

    These amphibious creatures are at home both above water and under it, though they make their home in the great river. They resemble a cross between Earthly lobsters and crabs, though they can grow to up to eight feet in length. They typically are coloured brown or green, though a mottled appearance or stripes are quite common. While they can spend time above water, their skins can dry out; a Lobster man can spend generally no more than three days consecutively out of water.

    The Lobster man has eight limbs, four of which are used for ordinary locomotion as legs, while another two have large pincers, though secondary digits exist as well which can allow these pincers to be used as hands. Finally, another pair of limbs is tucked underneath these, which are stunted and weak, but which have six fingers on each end which are very dextrous. The small hands are used for tasks which require dexterity and coordination, while the pincers are used for fighting and for heavy lifting.

    The lobster man is omnivorous, but generally prefers to eat meat over plant life. Much of their diet consists of products available within the river, such as fish, crabs, water bugs, and a variety of river plant life. However, their ability to breathe both air an water allows them to range the surface for food as well. Lobster people rarely use fire, and in general do not cook their food.

    Lobster People are tribal in nature, having extended clan-families of alliegance. Most Lobster people come in a variety of colours, ranging through green, brown, dark blue, slate-grey, and black. Some varieties have striped or mottled shells. Such coloration is considered a mark of tribal membership, and basic hospitality is always extended to a person with the same tribal colourings. In cases where inter-tribal breeding occurs, the skin colour of the Lobster Person will indicate which tribe he or she belongs to. A lobster person will always assume that someone of the same skin coloration will be an ally and reasonably trustworthy, while those with a different colouration will be treated with disdain and contempt.

    If a child is born with a different colouring than the tribe he is born to, he or she will never be allowed to remain within that tribe. Should the tribe his colouring indicates he belongs to be on good terms with the tribe he is born to, sometimes he will be delivered to that tribe for adoption. Usually, however, the child is simply driven out to fend for himself in the wild (very few ever survive this experience) or sometimes is presented to the gods as a sacrifice.

    Lobster People have a polytheistic religion, which is run by a priesthood. While the Lobster People venerate a variety of gods, a single priesthood is charged with religious observances for all gods. Most gods tend to be brooding and menacing, and their hostility is only appeased through the living sacrifice of creatures, often Lobster People. Variations exist from tribe to tribe; some tribes think that animals may sometimes be used to substitute for people, while others think that only Lobster People are acceptible for sacrifice.

    Most of the gods worshipped represent elemental forces: the Sun, Ice, Storms, Serpents, the Earth (or rather, Mercury), Plants, etc. The only god that is not considered malicious towards the Lobster People is the River God, who is generally benevolent but also rather ambivalent. Lobster mythology generally is about Lobster heroes, and their exploits, rather than the gods themselves, though such heroes often either recieve the blessings or curses of the gods, depending on their attitude. However, defiance of the gods is not considered especially wrong, since the gods of Lobster mythology can hardly be considered allies, though it is usually seen as pretty futile.

    Lobster People posess a warrior culture, and enjoy battle over all other things. Their large pincers make good natural weapons, and their thick exoskeletons make them difficult to hurt, but in addition to this they craft weapons such as spears, javelins, clubs, and axes. They also sometimes make shields out of giant crab or oyster shells. While Lobster people do have notions such as "Honour" and "Glory", they are defined somewhat differently than in human cultures. Lobster people consider there to be two violent states: the duel and the war. Each has a certain set of rules.

    The Duel is always a one-on-one affair, and is conducted generally between members of the same tribe. The duel can be over a posession or rank, or to back up an asserment or insult. Typically the challenger will announce the duel by stating it publically before witnesses, sometimes with the challenged present, though this is not necessary. If it is over a physical item, the challenger will demand that the challenged hand over the item, and if it is over a title, the challenger demands that the challenged surrender the title to him. Likewise, if it is over an insult, the challenger demands that the opponent admit that his statements are a lie or that the challenger's statements are true.

    Whichever matter the duel is over, combat may take place immediately but need not do so. The duel is considered to be on even if the two parties do not fight immediately; they may choose to stalk and ambush one another, looking for an opportunity to gain some combat advantage. If this occurs, it is generally considered crass to simply give chase; it is more honourable to attempt to sneak up on an opponent, and if the opponent does not wish to stand and fight, then that is his affair. If this is the case, the other participant may lie in wait near the other's lair or other places he might be expected to turn up. Once actual hand-to-hand combat begins, usually both sides will continue fighting until it is resolved; the trick is setting up the fight under favourable circumstances. If a stalking duel occurs, the duel could last for days or even weeks.

    Should the challenged yeild, then he makes his own public statement and hands over the object or title in question, or acknowledges the correctness of the challengers' statements if it is over an insult. Unless one contestant yeilds, duels are always considered to be to the death, though either side always has the opportunity to yeild, even after combat begins. If the yeilding occurs during meleé, the one yeilding simply goes limp. However, because such combat is rather intense, the one yielding will often shout that he or she yeilds, to prevent being killed in the heat of the moment.

    Things such as equality of opponents, choice of weapons, or witnesses or seconds never enter into a Lobster duel. The only way to bow out of a duel is to yeild, and whatever weapons are used are up to each combatant.

    The War is a much different form of combat, and tribes often remain at war with one enemy or another at all times. Like Duelling, war is instituted for specific reasons, though there are some differences in these reasons and the reasons for duelling. Like Duelling, wars are often fought over some material thing, such as an area of territiry or a demand for tribute. Slaves are also something that wars are fought for, and capturing an opponent alive brings more glory than killing an enemy. Wars can also be fought by mutual consent for two purposes: the Glory war and the Blood war.

    The Glory war is a war with a limited time scope, and sometimes some valuable item will be wagered on it. The purpose of the Glory war is to give Lobster warriors an opportunity to fight each other and gain glory for their efforts in battle, and is something that is fought with enthusiasm. The war is fought within pre-arranged times and areas, and typically certain totemic areas are used over and over again for Glory wars. This prevents these wars from getting out of hand and interfering with day-to-day life, or interfering with any other wars that might be going on for other reasons.

    The Blood war is declared by mutual consent between tribes when the shamans decree that not enough sacrifices are taking place. This is usually in response to a drought, food shortage, or other natural disaster. The tribes will fight with the purpose of obtaining captives for use in live sacrifices, and when a high enough total of captives are obtained, the war is ended. This way, a tribe with good warriors need not pay as heavy a price in sacrifices as an inferior one.

    A lobster man is never considered a "Warrior" until he has actually slain another lobster man in combat. This is a mark of status in Lobster society and is sought fervently by the "cadets," the younger lobster people who have not made a kill. Likewise a lobster man is not considered a "Hunter" without making a kill of whatever animal he wishes to hunt. Before this he is considered an "apprentice" and again this lack of status is one which young Lobster people all seek to overcome. Being a "Hunter" or a "Warrior" are both important if a lobster-man wishes to have standing in his tribe.

    Lobster people hunt all forms of Mercurian life, and consider there to be a hierarchy of animals based on their difficulty in the hunt. Since Lobster people as a rule do not use bows, and as their bodies are not configured to make thrown weapons possible, lobster people must engage their prey in hand-to-hand combat. Many mercurian animals are quite dangerous and it is a mark of distinction to have slain a Giant Caterpillar or Giant Crab.

    While Lobster people may not use missile weapons, this does not mean that their hunting is without technique. Lobster people know many ways of luring their selected prey into a killing area, where they wait in ambush. With smaller or more timid animals Lobster men often form a beating line, a group of Lobster men who'se job it is to startle wild animals and cause them to run into a predetermined killing zone. Other times prey is lured by the smell of food or the mating scent of the animal.

    Naturally the most difficult prey to hunt is the Serpent, whose size and strength make it not only difficult to catch but also a deadly adversary. A Mercurian Serpent can eat a whole Lobster man in one bite, so catching and killing a Serpent is a difficult matter. Lobster people will hunt the Serpent in an organized fashion as a tribe. They will attempt to set up an ambush, where a large number of hunters lie in wait mostly buried in mud. The lobster people will try to sculpt the area with logs and other debris to limit the Serpent's avenue of movement. Then they will use a variety of lures to try to get the Serpent into the killing zone - sometimes this even takes the form of a lobster-man sacrifice, who is naturally sacrificed to the god of Serpents. When the Serpent reaches the lure the hunters will spring out and attack the Serpent's flanks, keeping away from the head. The closer to the Serpents head a Lobster man makes his attack, the braver he is accounted. The Serpent inevitably thrashes around a great deal and fights fiercely, but the bloodloss from multiple wounds is sometimes enough to slow it down. the hunters usually try to latch on and ride the Serpent out. Successfully killing a serpent is considered a great victory for the tribe, and supplies the tribe with food and other useful materials for weeks.

    The Lobster people have little that would conventionally be of value, since they are nomadic hunter-gatherers. However, they do occaisionally keep pens of small animals such as runners and badgers, and also occaisionally they also manage to create little "ponds" where they can keep crayfish and other small river creatures. However, they do not consider these to be especially valuable, and would think the idea of trading for such things to be foolish.

    However, they do have a currency in the form of pearls. The pearls of the Mercurian river oysters are quite beautiful and varied; they come in a variety of colours and can grow to be exceedingly large, though these are quite rare. The Lobster People have a complex system of interpreting the value of these pearls, so that they are used among them as currency quite easily.

    The Lobster people have little in the way of industry; the chief being the manufacture of weapons. Lobster weapons are generally crafted from wood and stone, though the Lobster people do not have the knack of flint knapping and simply break stones until they can get one the way they want. On the other hand, Lobster People are talented at making things from the very hard Giant Oyster shells that they harvest from the river bottom. They can cut the oyster shells into a variety of shapes and make interesting (though rather alien) carvings on them.

    The Lobster people also place a high value on glow crystals, which have a somewhat totemic value. This is partly because with a simple operation, where a glow crystal is placed under the shell of the upper back, a Lobster-man can use the glow crystal to emit moderate charges of electricity from his body. Crystals implanted this way eventually run out of power, but when first implanted are powerful enough to stun a Giant Crab. The operation is a secret procedure done by tribal shamans, and is only rarely done for those outside the priest class.

    Lobster people also place a high value on gold, a material they refer to as "sun's blood," which they occaisionally find in nugget form in the riverbed. They do not use fire, so their attempts to shape gold are primitive at best, though they do manage to carve simple forms out of them.

    Lobster people are good at making dyes of all sorts of colours, and they know how to make a dye that will fix to various skins or stones, and will not wash off in water.