Public prospectus for starcraft-based alternate universe scenario
Generally references canon except where noted otherwise.
All content is subject to change without notice.
Starcraft fandom wiki, chronicling nearly everything about canon
A list of feats from the canon and analyses thereof, useful for versus debates
Magic undertakes a study of the entire StarCraft script, with notes and analysis of Blizzard's epic sci-fi RTS saga.
Unhappy Anchovy plays all the Starcraft campaigns, provides commentary and analysis.
TSCR reviews the campaigns:
An analysis of numerous inconsistencies and retcons in the plot of Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm: https://starcraftiitroubles.wordpress.com/
Gradius reviews Wings of Liberty: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1vIAIWPu0dfx5OV9dChPsos6FRAIhY5tk4Es7aJiLp58/edit
List of retcons collated by sclegacy.com
Miscellaneous critical reviews
Leovaunt’s Starcraft RPG: https://www.stellarrealmsgames.com/starcraft
While unofficial, this game is extremely useful for getting a sense of how a lot of Starcraft concepts operate in practice since it systematizes them for roleplaying. If you’re writing Starcraft fanfiction then it might be more useful than the Starcraft fandom wiki in some cases.
Starcraft: Origins custom campaign script by Gradius: http://docs.google.com/document/d/1qQseWB2rVS3iJOnfjsUoDnbfOR26AGalZLYnglNKofc/edit?usp=sharing/
The script of the cancelled Origins campaign by Gradius. It aimed to explore the ancient history of the zerg prior to Starcraft, ignoring the retcon that they were enslaved to Amon. Includes neat ideas on characterizing the zerg.
Starcraft: Enumerate by ToxicDefiler aka AcidicCook: https://us.battle.net/forums/en/sc2/topic/17606004934
An alternate universe proposal that inspired my own efforts. I borrowed a few ideas from it.
StarCraft Paradox by RvBOMally: https://www.deviantart.com/rvbomally/art/StarCraft-Paradox-575416975
Another alternate or “expanded” universe proposal based on SC2. Its layout of factions on a territory map inspired my own efforts.
Many millions of years ago, aliens who would later be called xel'naga ("wanderers from afar") arrived in the Milky Way Galaxy from elsewhere. They were scientists driven to advance their knowledge of protogenetics. To this end, they manipulated the evolution of countless species across the Milky Way.
Initially, the xel'naga focused on creating a species that would be defined by a distinct purity of form. The most successful experiment was a humanoid race on the rim world of Aiur, who were adaptable to harsh conditions and extremely physically powerful. Furthermore, they displayed extremely efficient telepathy (named khala) that aided them in hunting. This race would be named protoss ("firstborn").
As the xel'naga observed their development, the protoss eventually advanced into a planetary civilization. At this point, the xel'naga decided to interact directly with the protoss civilization and teach them new things. The protoss welcomed their new teachers and many came to worship the xel'naga as gods, though their teachers were quick to correct this misunderstanding. With the knowledge of superluminal travel and warp gates, the protoss expanded across the stars. The protoss civilization not only learned from the xel'naga but developed countless new sciences and technologies of their own. This pleased the xel'naga, who happily burrowed the protoss' research to advance their own experiments elsewhere in the galaxy. The protoss were not the first nor the last race who would be uplifted by the xel'naga, but in those days they would be considered the crowning achievement.
However, the protoss civilization grew decadent. A rising tide of nationalism convinced the previously united tribes to withdraw from the khala that united their species. The xel'naga were greatly disappointed by this and came to believe that the experiment failed because they pushed the protoss' development too quickly. The xel'naga made ready to withdraw from protoss space and refocus on their other experiments. Meanwhile, the increasingly paranoid protoss heard of the planned departure and turned against their former teachers. Weapons of mass destruction were deployed against the xel'naga world-ships, taking countless lives. Ultimately, the surviving xel'naga were able to escape into the far reaches of space. The protoss, dumbstruck by this perceived betrayal, soon turned against one another.
The countless millennia of intellectual darkness and unimaginable destruction that followed would be named the Aeon of Strife. This period was marked by galactic war waged by the protoss tribes for countless millennia. Ultimately, most of the civilization was reduced to stone age conditions. Even their knowledge of their natural psionics was largely destroyed, limiting most to only those simple applications required for survival. The knowledge of the xel’naga passed in myth and legend, and many tribes came to believe that they were indeed literal gods who dwelled in an infinite void beyond the universe. Whether they were benevolent or malevolent gods depended on the attitude of the tribe in question.
Ethnic cleansing was the rule in this nightmare. Although the tribes had severed their connection to the intertribal khala, they retained the intratribal khala that had first attracted the xel'naga interest. Otherwise brother would have fallen against brother and extinction would follow. Of note is the ethnic warfare between the Shelak tribe and their opponents. The Shelak maintained veneration for the xel'naga and extensive collections of artifacts, leading to hatred from neighboring tribes who resented the xel'naga and forbade handling their relics.
Savassan, a member of the Shelak tribe, discovered psychic crystals that had once served as nodes in the khala. Upon activating and interfacing with the crystals, Savassan was astonished by the amazing feeling of being connected to the protoss race. Thus, Savassan collected followers and devised the Path of Ascension to inform the reunification of the protoss race through the khala. His followers would christen him Khas ("bringer of order"). Although it took a long time, Khas ultimately managed to unite the tribes on his homeworld and rebuild their infrastructure including spaceflight.
Under the guidance of the Path of Ascension, the newly reformed Protoss Empire expanded and reclaimed worlds formerly part of the lost empire. They attempted to reunite the scattered tribes they encountered, but the results were messy. Some tribes rejected the Empire's authority and were either wiped out in pogroms or fled into the furthest reaches of space. The tal’darim tribes were among those who were exterminated or forced into exile. Some tribes adopted the khala but were disgusted by the Conclave’s interpretation and elected to travel far from the empire. Although the Conclave kept it as their darkest secret, they offered amnesty to ascetic tribes who assisted them in fighting the violent heretics. As reward for their sacrifices, the ascetics could live in hidden isolation.
The empire encountered numerous alien civilizations and took it upon themselves to become stewards of the galaxy. The Great Stewardship was devised as a code to inform the empire's behavior toward other civilizations, mandating that the protoss would protect and safeguard the lesser races under their care. Peaceful civilizations cultivated trading relationships. Primitive civilizations were secretly watched over. Xenomorphic threats, of which there were many encountered over the millennia, were harshly dealt with. The Empire would rarely intervene directly except with sufficiently advanced civilizations, and they certainly would not manipulate the evolution of other species like the xel’naga of myth. Less charitable views of the protoss described them as arrogant gardeners and xenophobes, conquering or destroying any life that did not meet their standards.
These periods of expansion, colonization, and conquest would later be known as the Golden Age of Expansion. Because, as with many things that were good and gold, it would end. As the horrors of the Aeon of Strife faded into the past, political attitudes would shift. Some would wonder whether it was moral to continue interpreting the Great Stewardship as it had been for centuries. But then the Discord would occur, and attitudes would be set back.
During the Discord, the Conclave sent Adun to deal with rogue tribes that had refused to submit to the khala. Though they had a treaty with the rogues, the Conclave believed that the rogues had broken the terms by maintaining an underground railroad. This railroad rescued social misfits who had spontaneously rejected the khala, mutilated themselves and fled into the wilderness to escape it. Adun discovered the rudiments of a new science by studying the severed misfits, but disaster struck when several of his students lost control and exploded into devastating psionic storms. The empire openly attacked the rogues, believing the storms were merely a prelude to an invasion. Countless lives were lost and homeworlds were scarred. Adun valiantly sacrificed his life to ensure that the rogues would escape with their lives, and they developed a new culture in isolation. Though the empire believed the rogues were destroyed, their legend lives on in the imagination of the younger generations.
Time passed, and political attitudes again began to shift as new generations were born and raised. The Kalath Intercession proved to be the final straw. While attempting to stop space nazis from committing genocide, the Templar would unintentionally use overwhelming force and nearly exterminate the Kalathi. This was the ammunition that the progressive factions needed to claim power, and they demanded that the Great Stewardship be amended to prevent such atrocities. The conservative faction, to save face, inadvertently wound up assaulting returning veterans at the close of the Intercession. This turned their former templar allies against them and sent many into the arms of the progressives.
Thus, did the Golden Age of Expansion end in disgrace. Numerous expeditions in progress were recalled. But the conservatives did not change their attitudes. They merely concealed it behind honeyed words and masks of tranquility. Centuries later, this allowed the terrans to expand into the bordering Koprulu sector unopposed. Though the protoss watched them from afar and were repulsed by the terrans’ use of mobile factories to unsustainably strip-mine worlds, they did not interfere.
Then explorers discovered deep space probes of unknown origin, and closer examination revealed these were intelligent aliens migrating toward Koprulu sector. The xenomorphs could natively interface with the psychic crystals that formed the basis of protoss technology, suggesting that they had either studied the technology or shared a more disturbing link with the protoss. The Conclave sent an expedition to ascertain the threat in Koprulu. Upon arrival and further analysis, it became apparent that the terrans were fighting a pronounced xenomorph infestation on many worlds. The Conclave demanded that the infested worlds be glassed, considering the terran lives lost collateral damage. Several worlds were glassed and many billions of innocent terran lives were lost. A schism within the fleet defied the orders and opted to fight the xenomorphs more conventionally, saving terran lives rather than ending them.
I left the protoss history largely identical to the broad strokes of canon, aside from minor clarifications and connections here and there. There are only a few major changes I would like to note: khala, Amon, extent, and politics. The khala has been explicitly explained as a natural feature of the protoss biology, which was inconsistently treated in canon. Amon no longer plays any role, so the tal’darim have been changed to heretics exiled by the Empire. I depicted the Empire as a huge interstellar civilization, not limited to a single homeworld or dying of old age. I added a political subplot involving friction between conservative and progression factions, which will play a key role in the protoss storyline.
During the 21st century and beyond, Earth became a cyberpunk dystopia. Transhumanism was running rampant, with cyborgs, mutants, psychics and so forth becoming increasingly common. Corporations and governments shamelessly abused their power to turn the environment into an inhabitable cesspool. Humanity’s initial forays into space travel resulted in the colonization of the Solar system.
Ruins of an alien civilization were found and, by studying these ruins, humanity was able to enormously the development of space travel and transhumanism. Not only were FTL warp drives invented, but it was discovered that a network of warp gates might already exist across the galaxy.
Unfortunately, things went horribly wrong (well, even more than before) when the Eugenics Wars broke out. Ultimately, the Anglo-racist and fascist United Powers League arose from the ashes of civil strife. They conquered Earth over decades and enforced cultural and economic hegemony. The UPL instituted Project Purification to exterminate those they deemed inhuman.
The industrial Doran Routhe was able to acquire tens of thousands of prisoners slated for execution and employed them in a colonization mission. The colonists were placed in cryogenic suspension on four supercarriers managed by the supercomputer ATLAS. The ATLAS mission was intended to colonize the relatively close planet Gantris VI and exploit its predicted resources for Doran’s benefit.
During transit the ATLAS was severely damaged by an unforeseen anomaly, and the supercarriers were lost in warp space. The failure of the project was exploited by Doran’s enemies. He was scandalized and forced to enter hiding in the Centauri Colonies. He was later forced to flee to the Tau Ceti comet farms, where he died in obscurity.
However, ATLAS had survived. Decades later, the four vessels emerged within the Koprulu sector in the galactic rim 60,000 light years away from Earth. This outcome should have been impossible for terran warp drives to accomplish deliberately, much less by accident, yet it happened. One carrier crashed and lost all hands, but the other three were able to successfully crash land separately on the planets Tarsonis, Moria, and Umoja. The colonists were stranded and left on their own to build a new civilization.
Decades later the Koprulu colonies were able to determine why the mission had failed. As it turned out, ATLAS had traveled through a naturally occurring rift connecting Koprulu to the vicinity of the Earthling colonies. It soon became apparent that Koprulu had once been the site of an alien civilization that had vanished millennia before, perhaps even the same ones who had left the relics in the Solar system. Perhaps the rift was a creation of the aliens as well? Contact was reestablished with Earth, allowing an influx of colonists to flood Koprulu sector.
During the interim, the United Powers League had collapsed and been replaced by the United Earth Directorate. Many factors led to this, including rebellions and the fear of potential alien threats. The UED’s reign was marked by a sharp reversion of many of their predecessor’s policies, allowing the ancient cultures of humanity to return and flourish. Attitudes towards transhuman relaxed, especially considering the edge they might provide against alien threats that did not share the same eugenics policies.
Tarsonis, Moria, and Umoja became the first of many colonies in Koprulu. Interstellar nation-states formed and many allied into power blocs. Tarsonis founded the Tarsonian Confederacy, taking inspiration from their ancestral culture in the ancient American South. Many other states would join the Confederacy, ultimately eclipsing Tarsonis. The Tarsonian Confederacy became the Tarsonian Commonwealth, the first state of the many that would form the Confederacy of Koprulu States.
Unfortunately, man grew proud and decadent as he is wont. The Confederacy, a democratic institution dedicated to promoting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, was twisted into a corrupt, despotic, imperialistic oligarchy. Rebellious colonies were brutally destroyed by scorched Earth tactics. Inoffensive neighboring states were annexed. These came to be known as the Wars of Aggression, an ironic callback to the history of the Confederacy of American States.
The Tarsonian Commonwealth waged the Guild Wars against the Kel-Morian Combine, ultimately resulted in the annexation of Moria. When the colony of Korhal protested the atrocities and courted secession, it was nuked, and its surviving populace reeducated. At the same time, plagues of cholera broke out on the fringe worlds owing to faulty water treatment equipment, provoking the largest humanitarian crisis in the Commonwealth’s history.
Umoja, a neighbor of the Commonwealth and a secret supporter of rebels, allied with several other independent colonies as the Umojan Protectorate to protect their own interests. The Protectorate itself would join the even larger Union of Progressive Peoples, an alliance of many other interstellar nations against the depredations of the Confederacy.
The Wars of Aggression broke the movement of trade between Koprulu and the Earthling colonies, and provoked fears among the UED that the Confederacy would challenge their authority. Fleets were dispatched to Koprulu with the goal of ending the wars and returning things to a state of normalcy.
Then the aliens showed up.
Two alien races, zerg and protoss, ruin everything. The zerg harvest people in mass for dark purposes. Some other groups of zerg behave erratically. The protoss glassed a bunch of inhabited planets before mysteriously stopping. More groups of protoss appeared and started attacking the first group. The Orion colonies, including Earth, are under attack! Political maps have been redrawn. People are scared and wanted protection, revenge, etc.
I made much more obvious changes to the terran history compared to the protoss history. While the broad strokes have remained the same (even the transhumanism is part of the canon lore!), the political situation is distinctly different. Koprulu and Earth had public contact, which allowed an influx of colonists to Koprulu, which swelled the population of the sector and resulted in the growth of many nation-states and power blocs. The Tarsonian Confederacy and Umojan Protectorate persist from canon but have been recontextualized as proxies of larger power blocs, the Confederacy and the Union. (Yes, that is an American Civil War reference.) The United Earth Directorate became involved with the affairs of the Confederacy too, rather than waiting until the alien invasions. I retained the reorganization of the Tarsonian polity under the Dominion, but here it does not result in the obliteration of the rest of the greater Confederacy. All of these nation-states are involved in the first contact war.
I briefly noted that the Solar system had alien ruins (a la Mass Effect). This is a simple narrative shortcut to explain away oddities in the terran’s technological development and even the sheer unlikelihood of the ATLAS mission reaching Koprulu.
The xel’naga were disappointed with the failure of the protoss, so they turned their attention to another of their experiments. The zerg were vicious monsters who lived on Zerus in the galactic core, notable because they were telepathic and could arbitrarily splice foreign genes into their own. Initially they were insignificant soil dwelling worms, but xel’naga experiments made them hardier and they proliferated. The zerg became parasites and transformed other species into extensions of themselves, creating the primal zerg.
The xel’naga didn’t want a repeat of the protoss’ failure, so they restructured the natural telepathy of the zerg so that the zerg operated as a swarm intelligence that was programmed to obey the xel’naga. All zerg now shared a single consciousness: this was codenamed “Overmind” by the xel’naga. Overmind represented the desires of all zerg, and they were hungry for new genes and the advancement of themselves.
Overmind ultimately consumed both Zerus and a few spaceborne species that had flown nearby. It detected the xel’naga and decided to attack. The xel’naga tried to stop it, but their control protocols failed. Overmind believed it was doing them a favor by bringing them into its goal of pursuing perfection.
The xel’naga watching Zerus were wiped out and their knowledge was pilfered by the zerg. The zerg hijacked the remaining warp gate networks and leisurely butchered any surviving xel’naga (like the Reapers’ cycle in Mass Effect). At the same time, they started consuming every world they encountered.
Millennia of terror accompanied the zergs’ reign. Countless species and civilizations across the galactic core were consumed and destroyed. The survivors grew to hate and fear the zerg.
The zerg learned of the protoss and thought they looked tasty, but problems cropped up. The protoss were too powerful to assault because of their awesome reality-warping powers and tech that enhanced it, so the zerg spent countless millennia preparing an army for galactic war.
Infesting and assimilating the protoss initially seemed impossible, since they existed somewhere between biological creatures and scifi energy beings. Their biological flesh could feasibly fall prey to the zerg’s living ammunition, but their genomes defied analysis. Infestation and assimilation were impossible under those conditions.
The zerg needed to find a means of combating the protoss and devising compatibility with their exotic genomes. Millennia passed with little progress, and the zerg started to get scared and sad.
Deep space probes discovered psychic signals, and these were traced back to the terrans of the Koprulu sector. The Confederacy’s Ghost Program was experimenting with psychic technology. They captured probes and studied them, but the zerg learned from them too.
The zerg learned that the terrans were on the cusp of becoming powerful psychics comparable to the protoss, but were still sufficiently fleshy that they could be assimilated. From there, the zerg would have both weapons comparable to those of the protoss and the means to infest and assimilate them. The only problem was that they lived on the border of protoss space, so open invasion wasn’t an option.
The zerg spent decades preparing a subtle invasion, fearful of attracting protoss attention. Unfortunately, the terrans proved more resistant than anticipated. The Confederacy poisoned water supplies on fringe worlds, causing mass death and evacuation so the zerg couldn’t harvest test subjects there. Precisely because of zerg presence, Confederate experiments with psychic transmissions increased. The zerg were fearful both because the terrans developed effective anti-zerg weapons and may attract the protoss.
With little choice left, the zerg decided to draw forces from reserve and openly invaded the offending terran installations to destroy military forces and harvest human populations in bulk. Helpfully for them, the insanely dystopian Confederacy enforced communication blackouts to prevent the rest of the sector from learning of this.
Then the protoss showed up and everything went to hell. Multiple infested planets are glassed, and the zerg observe with caution.
The history of the zerg has remained almost unchanged compared to the terran and protoss histories. The key differences are Amon and the reason for the invasion of Koprulu.
Instead of the zerg being enslaved to Amon as part of an evil goal to conquer the universe, the zerg do the same thing of their own accord. Narratively, they are intended to be the overarching villains.
The reason they invaded Koprulu was, putting it bluntly, to consume the transhumans for evolution points. There is really no other reason why terrans would be involved otherwise, so this is a narrative shortcut to justify the three-race conflict in the first place.
The Confederacy wages wars of aggression against their own colonies and neighbors, provoking other nations and rebels to unify in response. Sons of Korhal, Umojan Protectorate, Kel-Morian Combine and others are formed or broken during this period. The United Earth Directorate sends an expedition to Koprulu due to fear that this will negatively affect their own influence.
Zerg vanguard arrives in Koprulu and subtly infest colonies over decades. They fear overt activity due to limited forces and possible Protoss surveillance. They discover a number of inactive warp gates across the sector.
Terran governments discover and study the zerg vanguard. The Zerg leaders become frustrated due to terran interference and studies into psychic warfare. The Zerg are provoked to use dormant warp gates in the sector to bring reinforcements.
A protoss expedition arrives, having followed the trail of zerg deep space probes. They assault the terrans and zerg. Several planets are glassed on the order of the Conclave. Further genocide is halted when many executors rebel against these orders. The expedition splits into two factions, the Reclaimers and the Caretakers. The Reclaimers are led by Ara tribe and the Caretakers by Akilae tribe.
Zerg activity in Koprulu becomes much more cautious in response to protoss presence. A number of broods launch assaults on nearby protoss colonies to interfere with logistics and distract from activities in Koprulu, among many other objectives.
Protoss and zerg forces make their way to the Orion sector colonies. Earth decides to focus primarily on defense, so reinforcements are slow to arrive in less important regions like Koprulu.
The terran polities are thrown into chaos and the political map is routinely redrawn. Anything is possible.
This “first contact war” is the present historical period.
The terran sector is currently in the throws of the First Contact War. Numerous factions scramble to get a hold on affairs in the wake of the alien invasion.
Mar Sara is a battleground between the Mar Sara Separatists and the Confederacy/Dominion. The Separatist movement is currently led by the Mar Sara Magistrate. They allied with various other anti-Confederate/Dominion movements in the region, such as Raynor’s Raiders, as well as protoss forces led by Executor Tassadar and Prelate Zeratul.
The Brontes system is a battleground between the zerg and an unlikely alliance between the New Dresdin Outlaws led by Jack Frost and the Seventh Fleet led by Executor Andraxxus. After facing overwhelming zerg reinforcements on Brontes IV, the alliance was forced to retreat and regroup elsewhere in the system.
Originally an obscure frontier colony, Aridas came to attention due to the ruins of many alien cities littering its surface. Terran, protoss and zerg forces have invaded the planet to acquire any relics that could prove useful to the war effort.
Protoss colonies sometimes name themselves in honor of ancient home worlds, such as Aiur. Of the colonies in proximity to Koprulu, it is the most densely populated and serves as the capital of the sector. During the first contact war, it serves as a staging point for warping troops and infrastructure to the battlefields.
Although the nerazim are generally nomadic, they do maintain various way points and holy sites. Shakuras is the site of several ancient ruins of religious significance. It hosts a powerful terraforming device with potential as a weapon of mass destruction. Having learned of the device, both terrans and zerg have launched invasions.
Previously a vital mining colony of the Confederacy, Char is heavily infested by the zerg and serves as a staging point for invasions. The planet’s crust is full of nydus canals and a number of ancient warp gates are used to warp zerg between other worlds in the sector. Confederate, UED and protoss forces constantly attempt to shake the zerg’s hold over the planet.
The current capital of the Tarsonis-Koprulu system and nominally a benefactor of the other Confederate states. The system is contested by the Dominion, UED, rebels, protoss and zerg.
The protoss and zerg are galactic powers, whereas the terrans are not.
Galaxy map by Shadow Archon:
Earth has many colonies extending through the Orion Arm. They may be fairly large and powerful, definitely comparable to many civilizations the protoss have interacted with in their part of the galaxy. Without a full comparison is it difficult to say how well they would fare against the protoss and zerg in a prolonged war.
During the First Contact War, Earth was attacked by the zerg and protoss. Among other events, protoss templars massacred terrans at the Tau Ceti colony. Occupied with these invasions, Earth is unable to send many reinforcements to the UED fleets in Koprulu sector.
Earth and Koprulu were always in contact (a la Heroes of the Storm). Koprulu sector is a barely noticeable border region. It is notable for being a border sector between the Protoss Empire and the United Earth Directorate.
The Earth sector and the Koprulu sector are approximately 60,000 light years apart. Terran FTL is not capable of traversing that distance within a reasonable timeframe. The sectors are connected by a naturally occurring warp rift that crossed through somewhere in the vicinity of Gantris. It took decades for Koprulu to discover the rift and establish contact, revealing to Earth that the exiles had survived and that the rift existed.
The UED sent a fleet to curtail Koprulu’s wars of aggression, perceiving events in the sector as threatening their own power. Things changed dramatically when the aliens invaded.
The distinction between xel’naga and ancient protoss technology is fuzzy due to their shared knowledge base. The galaxy is littered with their ancient ruins and relics. Indeed, many civilizations have come and gone over the eons and it’s all too easy to conflate them.
The modern protoss empire encompasses hundreds, maybe thousands, of worlds stretching across the galactic rim (specifically parts of the the Scutum-Centaurus Arm and adjacent New Outer Arm). Some of these worlds are claimed by other species including allied states, client states, or pre-spaceflight civilizations.
Koprulu sector is a barely noticeable border region. It is notable for being a border sector between the Protoss Empire and the United Earth Directorate.
Most terrans are unaware that the protoss exist except as the long dead builders of the ruins littering the sector. The governments are aware that the protoss exist and monitor communications along the terran/protoss border. As resources run short, they find themselves looking enviously towards the lush protoss colonies across the border.
There are a number of protoss colonies along the frontier and in proximity to Koprulu. During the first contact war, these colonies served as the primary source of infrastructure and troops warped to the battlefields on the terran worlds. The zerg send broods to invade these worlds for various reasons including distraction from the terran worlds, interfering with protoss logistics, and plundering archaeological ruins.
The zerg claim innumerable hive worlds across the galactic core and adjacent regions. The zerg have burned through at least many hundreds of inhabited worlds, likely much more, in the countless millennia they have existed. They are widely hated and feared by the surviving races of their corner of the galaxy.
The zerg rely extensively on leftover warp gates to reduce travel times.
What follows are lists and brief descriptions of various factions among the three races. These lists are by no means exhaustive.
Power bloc known colloquially as the Confederacy. Descends from people of the earthly American South. Good old boys in space!
The Confederacy was originally formed to promote the values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Over the centuries the more corrupt governing powers grew despotic and imperialistic. Officially a democratic republic, in practice an oligarchy. Their armed forces ruthlessly crushed rebellions and annexed neighboring states. The other stellar nations formed power blocs to protect themselves from these wars of aggression.
The Confederacy is not monolithic. It consists of multiple states, each with their own territories and cultures. The Koprulu system is one such state, with its capital at Tarsonis. Even within the Confederacy, there are many who disagree with the extreme policies of the imperialists.
The Confederate Armed Forces are divided into squadrons generally named after Greek letters, similar to fraternities.
The Confederacy formed the Ghost Program to study the military applications of psionics. All infants were legally required to take psi-aptitude tests. Despite this, much of the population remained blissfully unaware of psychics.
The Tarsonian Commonwealth is a former member state of the Confederacy. It claimed a dozen core worlds and numerous outer colonies across a star cluster including the Korhal, Sara, and Tarsonis systems. Its government collapsed after a majority of the core worlds were attacked and devastated by the zerg and protoss. The Dominion arose to take its place, creating some degree of friction with the greater Confederacy.
The Commonwealth is technically itself a confederacy, with its planetary colonies composing its members. The Commonwealth maintained a federal military and the colonies maintained distinct colonial militia.
Within its own territory, the Commonwealth was colloquially referred to simply as "the Confederacy" by its populace.
Nation-state known colloquially as the Dominion. The successor state to the Tarsonian polity. After Tarsonis and other core worlds were devastated in the initial battles of the first contact war, the Sons of Korhal were finally able to seize control after years of revolution. The state was reorganized as the Dominion and its capital moved to Korhal.
It quickly became apparent that Emperor Arcturus Mengsk’s regime was little better than what it replaced. As with the Russian and Chinese revolutions centuries prior, the Sons of Korhal and the Dominion split into bitter enemies. Furthermore, conspiracies within the Dominion itself have led to the growth of additional Dominion renegades.
Many of the Confederate squadrons remaining in the system have defected to the Dominion. The remnants of the loyalist Tarsonis-Koprulu armed forces have reorganized under the Confederate Resistance Forces. They appear to have allied with the Dominion renegades and UED freedom fighters present in the region.
The Dominion initially appeared to be an enemy of the Confederacy, but instead positions itself as a benefactor and leading example for the other states. Though a fascist state, it projects the image of being a protector of the people against the continuing threat of aliens and pirates. Supports for it grows among a populace dissatisfied by Confederate incompetence.
The Dominion formed Project Blackstone to study protoss and zerg, as well as Project Shadowblade to study the forced mutation of psychics. These were assisted by captured ghost academies and defectors from the Confederacy including Nova Squadron.
The Union, short for Union of Progressive Peoples, is a hypothetical power bloc I suggested to compete directly with the expanded Confederacy. The Umojan Protectorate would be a member state.
The Umojan Protectorate is an alliance of many states against the Confederacy’s atrocities, nominally led by the Umojan Ruling Council.
The Protectorate is opposed to the Confederacy, but does not act openly. They secretly fund rebel groups across Confederate Space. Any covert operations they perform themselves are pinned on rebels. Their largest benefactor is the Sons of Korhal.
Initially an ally of the Dominion, but withdrew their support when the Dominion regime revealed itself as fascist. Now they support resistance against the Dominion as well.
Despite the genocides committed by the protoss, the Umojans sought an alliance with the advanced aliens under the belief that it would benefit humanity. Initial attempts at contact were ignored. After the ethical divide within the expedition, a number of executors extended overtures toward the Umojans and other groups. The resulting “Alliance” is largely experimental.
The Union relies on the Umojan Protectorate as a proxy in the “Umoja-Dominion cold war.”
An original faction of my own invention. The Orion’s Arm Treaty Agreement, abbreviated OATA, is an intergovernmental military alliance between many nation-states of the Orion’s Arm sector. Members include United Earth Directorate, Tau Ceti Federation, and Centauri Republic.
The successor state to the United Powers League. The anglo-racist UPL was overthrown by revolution, instituting the diverse UED in its place. The UED’s military wings are named for the Titans of Greek mythology, such as Atlas Wing and Cronus Wing.
The UED sent a fleet to curtail Koprulu’s wars of aggression, perceiving events in the sector as threatening their own power. Things changed dramatically when the aliens invaded. The UED formed Project Black Flag to study the zerg with the intent of weaponizing the aliens.
During the First Contact War, Earth was attacked by the zerg and protoss. Among other events, protoss templars massacred terrans at the Tau Ceti colony. Occupied with these invasions, Earth is unable to send many reinforcements to the UED fleets in Koprulu sector.
The Tau Ceti Federation is the government that claims the Tau Ceti colonies and their associated “comet farms”. One of their colonies was massacred by the templar. In response, TCF sent a fleet to assault protoss forces in Koprulu. (Reference to old drafts of SC lore.)
The Centauri Republic is the government that that claims the “Centauri Colonies” in the Alpha Centauri and Beta Centauri systems. (Name is reference to Babylon 5.)
The Kel-Morian Combine was formed by an alliance of corporations and mining guilds to protect their interests from Confederate regulation. The Confederacy fought against them in the Guild Wars, resulting in the KMC being stripped of their affiliates and annexed as a client state. They were patronized by corrupt politicians. In exchange for supplying troops and resources, they were protected from prosecution for criminal actions.
Nonetheless, the Combine despises the Confederacy. The First Contact War provides the opportunity they were looking for. Although they appeared to do their best in staying out of the conflict, nothing could have been further from the truth.
The Combine experimented with the zerg in the hopes of weaponizing them against the Confederacy. One of the results was a cybernetic organism known as the psi-cocoon, which simultaneously served as an electronic warfare agent against the protoss and a metabolic booster to the zerg. When protoss forces interfered with their plans elsewhere, the Combine covertly deployed a combination of enslaved zerg and this psi-cocoon to keep the protoss distracted. (little reference to Antioch Chronicles)
Although briefly affiliated with the Dominion and the Directorate, the Combine ultimately achieved independence and currently competes with the other polities for influence. Alliances are opportunistic and transient.
The Sons of Korhal were formed after the initial failed secession attempt by Korhal. In the following years they rapidly expanded into one of the largest resistance movements against the Confederacy. Their success was due in no small part to secret funding by the Umojan Protectorate.
One of the leaders of the group, Arcturus Mengsk, founded the Dominion in the wake of the collapse of the Tarsonis-Koprulu polity. The Sons of Korhal experienced a schism with the Dominion due to the latter’s fascist and nepotistic regime. Mengsk’s faction composes key leadership positions in the Dominion and retain the title “Sons of Korhal” under the Dominion Armed Forces.
The perversion of their dream proved disastrous for the more devout loyalists who rejected Mengsk’s faction. Many have splintered into other factions including the Dominion renegades, the Defenders of Man, the Knights of Freedom and the Koprulu Liberation Front. Some strictly oppose the regimes of the Confederacy and Dominion, while others focus on the alien threat.
The Fist of Redemption is a recently formed religion that has spread across the outer colonies like wildfire in the wake of the First Contact War. The religion preaches rebellion against the Confederacy and claims that the zerg are allies from the stars. Initially they were believed lunatics. The zerg were observed coordinating with them in a number of skirmishes, massiveness strengthening their public image. Secret converts play a role in rebellions and sabotage across the sector.
Over the course of many experiments, both terrans and protoss have developed anti-zerg nanomachines and other treatments that can partly reverse the effects of infestation. Because individuals thus treated retain obvious physical mutation, they are colloquially named “mutates.” A complete cure remains infeasible at this time. Due to the zerg’s rapid evolution, treatment protocols must be routinely revised to account for new pathogens.
A fair amount of intel on the hive mind was provided by interviews with mutates. Such intel was previously unavailable because the zerg refuse communication with other species and prove difficult to decipher through interrogation. A recurring theme is that communion with the hive mind felt euphoric but in retrospect is considered horrifying. Mutates are typically prescribed long-term psychological treatment.
Although the zerg do not engage in diplomacy, they do appear to practice indoctrination and slavery. Organisms known as neural parasites may be planted in the bodies of other organisms, such as terrans, allowing the hive mind to subtly influence or outright control their behavior. As they are not obviously infested, these hosts are employed in espionage and sabotage across the sector.
The Fist of Redemption may hold the largest population of neural parasite hosts of any faction in the sector. Initiates of the cult submit to the parasites willingly. The parasites may be involved in the growth of the cult by forcibly converting new members.
The zerg have long desired to infest and assimilate the protoss, but this proved infeasible for millennia. Many zerg believe that if they can assimilate the protoss then they will become... perfect. The so-called “hybrids” are an embarrassing mockery of this vision. The result of clandestine attempts by Möbius Foundation to combine zerg and protoss genetic material, these inferior wretches are little more than failures and insults. But even failures have their uses…
The terrans have experimented with robotic replicas of the zerg, such as Project Simulant. A number of the self-replicating machines have been stolen or gone rogue, making them another hazard for the polities to deal with.
The clandestine Project Gestalt tried to enhance the capabilities of ghosts by transplanting nervous tissue from captured protoss test subjects. The results were quite effective, if horrifying.
The Zerg Swarm is the largest organization of zerg in the galaxy, synonymous with the zerg race itself. They are unified by a hierarchy of hive minds that extend to planetary scales and beyond. The hive mind itself is a swarm intelligence: zerg become more intelligent in groups. Synapse breeds like cerebrates and queens serve as communication and processing hubs. Other species have mistakenly concluded they control their charges like slaves, but this could not be further from the truth.
The name of “swarm” is deceptive. The Zerg Swarm is composed of many swarms, each dedicated to different theaters in the zerg’s many wars against the galaxy. These swarms are further divided into wings, like a command wing or an attack wing. Each wing is composed of multiple broods. There are innumerable broods in total, with those in the terran sector representing a tiny fraction of the greater swarms. A brood is a lineage bred to pursue a particular directive like hunting, ground warfare, aerospace operations, aquatic warfare, mining, spawning, etc. In this way they are loosely comparable to the infrastructure and forces of other civilizations. The Confederacy identifies broods with code names derived from terran mythology, such as Tiamat or Jormungand.
The hierarchy of the hive minds remains mysterious to other species, so assumptions remain highly speculative. The highest authority within the hierarchy, insofar as such applies to the zerg, is an intelligence known as the Overmind. Its name is a literal description of its nature: an amalgamation of the collective sentience of the zerg swarms. The name “overmind” is applied in a different sense to one of the synapse breeds.
The zerg’s telepathy is comparable to the wireless communications of other civilizations. It has similar limitations. As such, it is possible for zerg to lose contact with the greater swarms for extended periods of time. When this happens, they will attempt to make the best of the situation based on their remaining intelligence and their awareness of the current environment.
Such zerg are called “feral” by other species, but this name is deceptive. Their behavior is not random or unintelligent, quite the opposite. Their natural instinct is to expand and dominate, hopefully reaching a point where they regain contact with the greater swarms.
There are any number of worlds the zerg visited in the past that left feral zerg behind. In the absence of a cerebrate, an overlord may gradually morph into an “Yggdrasil” in order to take over the same role. (Yggdrasil are explored in more detail by Leovaunt’s or ToxicDefiler’s books.)
Feral zerg will typically return to the fold when contact is established. However, there are cases where the ferals will go rogue and seek their own path to domination. Without the greater hive mind to regulate them, harmful mutations will go unchecked.
Whether due to random mutation or brain damage, there are times when zerg fail to identify with the zerg swarm and seek to dominate all by themselves. Such zerg are ruthlessly hunted down by the hunter swarms. In the chaos of the first contact war, there are many opportunities for rogues to escape and establish their own hives. Reclaiming them is obviously difficult, but not impossible.
Some breeds have design flaws that render them prone to going rogue, similar to a biological “paperclip maximizer.” As such, they are generally retired and only deployed in extreme circumstances. These include the swarm guardian (see Leovaunt’s Monsters of Koprulu for details), which is capable of destroying whole worlds if left to roam unchecked. As you can well imagine, the most common source of these creatures in Koprulu are probably the terran governments’ secret zerg breeding experiments.
The primal zerg are the logical extreme of what happens when rogue zerg are allowed flourish, a model example of why the hunter swarms so ruthlessly chase rogues down. The primals lack a hive mind completely, becoming an evolutionary dead end as far as the swarms are concerned. They cannot coordinate above the level of pack and receive every benefit from cannibalizing other packs, so they can never achieve civilization. Nonetheless, these creatures have managed to eke out an existence in obscure regions of space and they have proven a match for the advanced races who would get in their way.
The “control” breeds like infestors, overlords and queens do not literally control their charges. They function more like the synapses that brain cells use to communicate. However, these creatures do serve as access points to all their charges. Through them it is possible to inject harmful effects into the hive mind, analogous to a computer virus traveling through a network. Although the zerg constantly defend their hive mind from intrusion, both terrans and protoss continue to devise various methods of enslaving whole broods in this way. Enslaving even single broods is an expensive and dangerous undertaking, however, so other easier methods of control have been explored.
Individual zerg may be lobotomized to remove their ability to communicate through the hive mind, while leaving their ability to sense the psychic spectrum intact. For example, lobotomized zerglings are employed by the Ghost Program and similar organizations to sniff out psychics; their fast breeding rate makes this cost effective compared to employing wranglers.
Project Bellwood was able to find surprising success by studying bottom-up approaches to control in the decade prior to the First Contact War. The Cerberus Program extensively deploys broods that have been enslaved through a combination of cyber-surgery and brainwashing. Rather than attempting to enslave higher command organisms like brain bugs and brood mothers, they breed and enslave lower ranked breeds directly and use technological substitutes for the command organisms.
Hive mind emulators are capable of spoofing some of the signals used by zerg to communicate, allowing individual zerg to be tricked into believing the emulator is their brood. It has numerous limitations owing to the complex nature of zerg telepathy, but it has proven fairly effective at rounding up feral zerg.
The zerg swarm utilizes similar principles when it attempts to reclaim rogue broods.
The protoss are divided into many different tribes with unique cultures and bloodlines. These are comparable to terran ethnic groups. Several religions and nation-states transcend multiple tribes.
The khalai tribes are protoss who follow some variation of the Path of Ascension, a philosophy/science built around cultivating the protoss race’s innate telepathic link—khala. The khala provides empathy and discipline, preventing the blood feuds that drove the aeon of strife and opening whole new fields of psionic study. The term khalai also refers to the economic caste of the Path’s caste system.
When the Empire imposed the Khala’s Law, a number of the khalai tribes saw the Conclave’s interpretation as unnecessarily harsh. When resistance proved futile, many of the rogue khalai tribes either hid themselves in isolation or fled into space. Some of them would go on to become the nerazim tribes.
Led by a Conclave of tribal elders, the Protoss Empire is the largest and most powerful nation-state. It claims many hundreds, maybe thousands, of worlds across the galactic rim. It remains in contact with a number of advanced alien civilizations, as trading partners or client states, and secretly observes less advanced civilization.
The Empire is the successor state of an older larger empire that existed during the first age. This empire is conflated with the civilization of the xel’naga due to a paucity of reliable records. The full extent of the old empire is unknown, but by some estimates it might have been at least eight times greater than the modern empire and covered thousands or tens of thousands of worlds.
The empire is composed entirely of khalai, and characterized by a fundamentalist interpretation of the Khala’s Law. This bans all other religions, dismisses the xel’naga “gods” as false or mythologized versions of their own ancestors.
The empire includes several tribes: Ara, Sargas, Akilae, Furinax, Auriga, Venatir, Shelak, Velari, et al. If you have watched The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance on Netflix, then they are basically like the gelfling clans.
The Shel’na Kryhas (“those who endure”) is a name taken by the khalai tribes who chose to abandon the empire due to the Conclave’s fundamentalism. Some maintain loose ties with the Empire, others do not.
A Daelaam (“unified”) isn’t a specific polity, but a style of government. In contrast to the racist policy of the Empire, a Daelaam government accepts members of all tribes regardless of belief system. By default, the khalai members are Shel’na Kryhas.
As a result, a Daelaam is perhaps the only type of polity where the Path of Twilight is studied. This path combines the Path of Ascension and the Path of Void to achieve results unavailable to either alone.
The Lost Empire was a protoss civilization that flourished during the First Age. It encompassed the entire protoss species across a massive expanse of space that included Koprulu sector.
The Lost Empire was initially united by a khala, but split apart when a tide of nationalism resulted in tribes withdrawing from it. After the xel'naga withdrew from the territory of the former empire, the tribes waged the Aeon of Strife for countless millennia.
As a result of the destruction caused by the Aeon, almost nothing is known about the history, culture, and exploits of the Lost Empire besides what little may be reconstructed by archaeology.
The Lost Empire developed countless amazing technologies and sciences, such that their former territory is littered with ruins and relics that have plundered by countless raiders over the millennia. The modern protoss have reverse-engineered many things from this period, but have yet to reach even a pale shadow of the Lost Empire at its peak.
It is difficult to distinguish the relics of the Lost Empire from those of the xel'naga due to extensive technological exchange between the two. Indeed, it is difficult to distinguish them from certain other ancient civilizations. The Lost Empire engaged in archaeology of its own, traded extensively with alien civilizations during its reign, and after its collapse its relics were still studied by many civilizations over the millennia.
The modern Protoss Empire considers themselves the successor state to the Lost Empire.
(Credits to ToxicDefiler aka AcidicCook for sharing the idea of a highly advanced pre-Aeon protoss civilization.)
The modern nerazim tribes follow the Path of the Void. Their ancestors originally had the tribal khala, but rejected it to symbolize their disdain for the empire. They practice severance to prevent the formation of khala, as well as meditation techniques that substitute for the ameliorating influence of khala.
Where the forged tribes violently resisted the Khala’s Law, the ancestors of the nerazim tribes were content to live in isolation. Those rogue khalai tribes who refused to flee from their homelands as the Empire grew were able to buy protection from the pogroms by assisting the templar in subduing resistance movements like the forged. The Conclave feared that the Empire would unravel once more if the presence of the rogue tribes became common knowledge, so they were kept hidden as a shameful secret.
The secret peace treaties came to an end some millennia later when it was discovered that the rogue tribes were adopting social misfits who had severed themselves from the khala completely through self-mutilation. The templar Adun was appointed to approach the rogues and either convert them to the Path of Ascension or execute them. The rogues were distrustful of Adun, but he believed he could reach them by showing them the benefit of the new regions of experience opened by the greater khala. Through careful study of the misfits, Adun and the rogue tribes developed the rudiments of a new psionic field: the Path of the Void. From there, Adun and his followers speculated that a “twilight” path combining the void and the khala was possible. However, reckless students lost control of their abilities and unleashed psionic storms that devastated the home worlds. The Empire erupted into war as the armies of the templar and the rogues fought and scarred the home worlds.
Adun and his followers sacrificed their lives, using what little they had learned of the twilight path to produce psionic mist storms that concealed the surviving rogue tribes as they fled into the depths of space. The Conclave maintained their deception and proclaimed Adun a hero who had defeated the rogues and saved the Empire.
Only the rogue tribes knew the truth, and they venerated Adun as their “twilight messiah.” To honor their fallen allies and to symbolize their rejection of the Conclave, they adopted the practice of severance and developed new sciences by studying the void.
(Credits to ToxicDefiler aka AcidicCook for sharing the idea that Adun developed the path of void by studying misfits who had severed their nerve cords.)
When the Protoss Empire first formed and started uniting the disparate protoss colonies, the ancestors of the tal'darim rejected the Path of Ascension. Those who resisted the Empire were brutally slaughtered. Those who fled and survived eked out an existence in the unknown regions of space, continuing the practices they retained from the aeon of strife.
The tal'darim tribes follow the Chain of Ascension, a perversion of the Paths of Ascension and the Void. They reject the tribal khala by taking the drugs terrazine and sundrop. As a result, they are slaves to their fears and worst desires. However, as with many tribal practices, this is not universally true. Some of the tribes who called themselves tal'darim are technically khalai, as they still retain their tribal khala.
The protoss word tal'darim has an ancient history and multiple meanings. In modern times it may be translated as "chosen" or "forged" depending on context. Its earliest known meaning referred to mythical servants of the xel’naga gods, analogous to the angels of terran belief. It soon came to refer to the fanatical worshipers of the xel’naga. Modern tal’darim tribes take the title to indicate their devotion (not necessarily to the xel’naga) in contrast to the heretical khalai and nerazim paths, among other possible reasons.
The protoss have experimented with robotics since ancient times. When the khala was integrated with the psionic matrix, protoss would upload their memories to computer systems. The personalities of dead protoss may be revived and spoken to at the Templar Archives by preservers. They may be downloaded into cloned bodies, cyborgs or wholly robotic shells. They were, and these “purifiers” waged war.
A number of tribes converted themselves to purifiers during the aeon of strife, although their current fates remain unknown. The Protoss Empire experimented with deploying purifiers against xenomorphic threats during the Golden Age of Expansion, but by the present this has ceased for the foreseeable future due to outstanding ethical quandaries. That attitude may change as the first contact war continues.
The Ihan-rii (“great teachers”) are an ancient protoss civilization that ruled Koprulu sector during the First Age. When the Aeon of Strife shattered the first galactic empire, the Ihan-rii were one of the few states that was able to remain stable. In order to avoid destruction, they elected to abandon their capital at Tyrador IX and place their population in hidden stasis vaults scattered across Koprulu sector. Only a small number of observers would remain awake to watch over the sleepers. The chaos of the First Contact War has forced them to awake in mass.
Several of their stasis vaults were destroyed by the glassing of planets, resulting in immediate hostilities toward the Protoss Empire. Even were this not the case, the Ihan-rii’s blatant disregard for the Great Stewardship would have guaranteed conflict. The Ihan-rii consider themselves the inheritors of the xel’naga’s legacy like the Empire, but do so by callously experimenting on other species like the xel’naga of myth. For example, their “animated stone” ships and mechs are grown by a psychic coral/lichen organism created by their experiments in protogenetics.
The Ihan-rii were initially disgusted by the presence of terrans and zerg in their former territory, but soon became interested in experimenting on the strange genomes of the alien invaders. Although terrans are distrustful of protoss in general due to the Empire’s atrocities, some of the Ihan-rii were able to build alliances with some Confederate states. Presumably they either play upon the greed of the Old Families or use outright mind control.
The An’aleem, a sect among the Ihan-rii, are believed to be the first protoss polity to deploy enslaved zerg. Presumably, this stems from their lack of moral compunctions and their greater knowledge base compared to the other polities. (The An’aleem are a reference to SC2 custom campaign StarCraft: Subjection by Gradius.)
An independent terran colony. Originally founded by Confederate immigrants fleeing the wars of aggression. Later occupied by the UED. Attacked by zerg pursuing Earth. Currently allied with UED defectors and deserters. Appears in the SC/BW custom campaign Liberation by J.D.
A colony that formerly fought a civil war involving the local Tark and Ped nations. The two have allied and the colony has made overtures to the Dominion. Appears in the SC/BW custom campaigns E.D.A.S.T. and Celestial Irruption by Desler.
A group of rogue protoss that have willingly infested themselves through means unknown, but were not subject to the zerg’s hive mind. Seemingly associated with Ulrezaj’s tal’darim cult. Appears in the SC2 custom campaign Proditor.
The term khala has many different meanings in the protoss culture. It refers to their instinctive high-bandwidth telepathy, a philosophy/science built around cultivating that link, a system of government and socio-economics, and a communication network and power grid underlying their infrastructure.
Terran psychics experience telepathy as a way to read minds and communicate without speaking. Protoss telepathy works along the same principles. The key difference is that the protoss’ nerve cords increase their bandwidth, making their telepathy vastly more efficient. Having evolved with this sensory apparatus for millions of years, the khalai are dependent upon it for their health. Isolation has similar effects on them as solitary confinement and sensory deprivation have on terrans.
The khala is intimately integrated with the protoss’ technology, with their psionic matrix. They can interface with their technology by thought alone, exchange sensations, refresh their energy, and more. The memories of the living and the dead may be preserved and witnessed elsewhere; whole personalities may be resurrected within new bodies. Where their ancestors were hunters that killed animals and absorbed sustenance through physical contact, the modern protoss are nourished by mere proximity to pylons.
Perhaps the most fascinating feature of the khala, however, is that it allows the khalai to form a functional communist society. Terran civilizations have constantly experimented with socialism and communism to no avail, due to a cognitive limit on the terran mind known as Dunbar's number (known colloquially as the “monkeysphere”). Maintaining any society proves difficult due to this limitation. By contrast, the khala may expand Dunbar’s number to include the entire protoss species. Their social psychology is fundamentally different from terrans.
Terrans like to imagine that the universe is divided into several different planes of existence that are analogous to sheets within a sheaf of paper, like heaven, hell, and earth. This inaccurate understanding of reality was extended to space travel, descripting concepts like “warp space” and “the void” as planes parallel to the plane terrans live in.
This is a completely inaccurate picture of reality. Reality is not a fantasy novel. In truth, there is only one plane of existence: the universe. There is only one universe by definition, said universe is composed of space, matter occupies space, etc. What terrans experience on a daily basis is three-dimensional space. However, the universe exists in more than three dimensions. Warp space is a colloquial shorthand for how terrans perceive their surroundings while traveling at faster than light speeds. To put it in simple terms, a warp drive creates a shortcut between two points by folding three-dimensional space.
Take a flat sheet of paper and imagine it represent a region of two-dimensional space. When the sheet is folded, distant points in two-dimensional space are brought together. The folding itself occurs in three dimensions. By extension, three-dimensional space is folded in four dimensions. Warp drives operate in this way. They do not travel through a separate universe parallel to our own.
Warp space is not an adjacent plane to our space, but the four-dimensional space that our three-dimensional space exists within. Likewise, the void is not a separate plane from our universe. The void is not even a specific region of space or single phenomenon, but many. We use the term “void” all the time to refer to empty space, like the void of outer space. We use “dark” to describe mysterious phenomena like dark matter and dark energy, since we cannot see it and do not know if it actually exists. We did not even know that black holes existed until they were observed through the distortion of light around them, but we predicted their existence. Empty space is not really empty, either: it is a sea of virtual particles, and these create the hawking radiation that ultimately dissolves black holes. Furthermore, if the space we observe can be said to exist within warp space, then what space is there that we do not observe?
The void encompasses all of these things. Cast into the cold dark depths of outer space, the nerazim studied and refined their understanding of these concepts to a degree completely beyond terran science and barely understood by the khalai. The khalai display a mastery of space-time through the use of their technology. They construct a variety of devices that can transport armies in the blink of an eye across unimaginably vast distances. Their stealth technology is so advanced that they can conceal whole armies from the bridge of an arbiter. But the khalai are reliant on their technology to do this. The dark templar can conceal themselves and teleport short distances by willpower alone.
The xel’naga were not magic and neither is their technology. In fact, plenty of technology ascribed to them may not have been manufactured by them. Many civilizations have come and gone over the eons, but such nuances are difficult for younger races to fathom and thus various ill-understood relics are placed under the same umbrella. The protoss of the first age were highly advanced as a result of xel’naga tutelage, but they surpassed their teachers in many ways such as meta-neural study and warfare. Given that a number of civilizations were either uplifted by xel’naga or studied their ruins, this means that many of the relics across the galaxy share similar principles and thus may be mistaken as part of the same civilization.
Since the original creators are long dead, the origins and functions of ancient ruins and relics may only be discovered through analysis. There is a huge market for these alien relics, especially among government and illegal buyers. During the first contact war, numerous forces are sent out to secure potentially useful archaeological finds before the opposition does.
For ease of reference I will be referencing Leovaunt’s excellent StarCraft Roleplaying Game when discussing concepts from the lore.
StarCraft Roleplaying Game Supplement 1: The Zerg Swarm, “Chapter 3”, explains that zerg organisms are ranked under four positions of minion strain, specialist strain, command strain, and mastermind strain. This reflects an in-universe human’s narrow understanding of the zerg hierarchy. My adjustments are presented as follows.
In my alternate universe proposal, the zerg are not a mindless slave race. They are a swarm intelligence, not unlike the Geth from Mass Effect. The command and mastermind strains serve as managers and supervisors of their charges rather than outright slave masters. (An example of this attitude appears in the SC2 custom campaign Annihilation, in which the zerg leader supervises its brood in battle but the underlings are otherwise able to think and act independently.)
This isn’t to say that all zerg are as smart as human beings or think in the same way. Most of them are animalistic, but their collective intelligence scales with their numbers. For example, packs of zerglings and hydralisks trapped in the Flannum Installation exhibited complex tactics absent any higher ranked breeds (ref. StarCraft: Precursor).
The command and mastermind strains, however, are at least as smart as human beings. Although the command strains are bred to excel at certain tasks because the zerg specialize in everything, they can feel emotions, act on their own initiative, coordinate with one another, and even “speak” in complete sentences.
This capability is observed in canon. The short story "Just an Overlord" and the Retribution licensed campaign both depict an overlord speaking in complete sentences. The map "Wings of Liberty Challenges: For the Swarm" depicts a swarm queen speaking in complete sentences. The short story "The Education of PFC Shane" depicts an infestor speaking in complete sentences.
The purpose of my explicitly noting this divergence is two-fold. Firstly, it makes the zerg more dangerous because even so-called “feral” zerg, if left to their own devices, will eventually grow into apocalyptic threats. Secondly, it opens storytelling opportunities for zerg by making command strains like overlords, queens, infestors, etc—or even just packs of minions—viable as characters.
In-universe, such as by Project Blackstone, these ranks are referred to by Greek letters (ref. StarCraft: War Stories). The canon does not elaborate on this, but I provide my own model here. These are, respectively, beta zerg, gamma zerg, alpha zerg, and omega zerg.
The in-universe rationale is that the zerg were initially thought to be divided only into command and minion strains, thus “alpha zerg” and “beta zerg” made sense. When the specialist rank was distinguished from beta zerg, these were named “gamma zerg.” When the mastermind rank was identified, it was named “omega zerg.”
Just in case anyone is interested, since questions keep coming up.
Psionics in general:
The theme of collectivism versus individuality is an enduring theme in human literature. This theme has been present in Starcraft since its inception. It has informed the development of the three races in terms of their societies and aesthetics.
The ending of Starcraft II presupposes that individuality is the right side. In reality there is no easy answer to the countless questions posed by this theme. This prospectus does not aim to claim either side is right, but acknowledges that the theme is inherently messy.
The races may be analyzed as a set of three archetypes. These represent a continuum, each side exploring different facets of the theme. The terrans represent us, the audience, as we struggle with the theme ourselves. The protoss represented an ideal, a future that we aspire to. The zerg represent a nightmare, a future that we wish to avoid.
The protoss and zerg approach the theme in different ways. Both wish to benefit from the strengths of unity and diversity while mitigating the weaknesses. The Khala and the Overmind serve as warped mirrors of one another. While both are group minds, they operate in very different ways.
The conflict between the khala and the void is another representation of the theme. The khala and the void provide a thematic parallel, not only in philosophy but in mechanics. The khala is about presence, whereas the void is about absence. The khala is described in terms of light and strength, whereas the void is described in terms of darkness and vacuum. The conflict between them is a false dichotomy, with a twilight path proposed to unite them.