Here you'll find tropes for the various non-empire entities, creatures and factions you may encounter throughout the galaxy.
Tropes common to all Spaceborne Aliens
- Can't Catch Up: Their Power Levels are fixed and never improve, so while they're sufficiently powerful to give players an Early Game Hell, their threat potential diminishes rapidly the more an empire's technology and economy improves. Mid-game fleets will annihilate basic groups of aliens without a second thought, with only the much more heavily defended home systems still posing a minor challenge.
- Hard-Coded Hostility: All of them except the Tiyanki attack anything they spot regardless of relative fleet power. Void Clouds in particular are so aggressive they immediately leave their position near their system's central star to actively hunt down any trespasser.
- Piñata Enemy: Every single one of them is a source of useful loot, be it resources or research options, making them popular, worthwhile targets in the early to mid-game stages. Pirates and privateers deserve special mention because they can jump-start any empire's early tech trees by unlocking/boosting quite a few technologies at once, like weapons, armor, reactors and some auxiliary systems.
- Suicidal Overconfidence: You can enter a system with 250,000+ points worth of fleet power to your name, but it won't stop the puny 700-points privateer squadron that's lurking there from attacking your ships on sight.
Ancient Mining Drones
- Absurdly Dedicated Worker: They continue mining in service to a species long since extinct and forgotten.
- Armor-Piercing Attack: Their reverse-engineerable Mining Drone Lasers are of mediocre damage, but ignore 100% of armor, the only weapon in the game to do so. It makes them a popular choice for corvette armaments, which are then used to Zerg Rush the hell out of the heavily armored Fallen Empire warships.
- Beam Spam: Their lasers are mostly small weapons, so they look fairly puny, but the drones that use them are numerous.
- No OSHA Compliance: They'll try and "mine" your ships just as if they were asteroids, apparently unable to distinguish between the two.
- Piñata Enemy: Defeating them allows you to research their mining lasers to retrofit onto your own craft. Additionally, the systems they inhabit often have larger than normal amounts of minerals.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: They come in different colors that determine their behavior, like Sapphire Lurkers or Emerald Roamers.
- Good Thing You Can Heal: Crystalline Entities are the main source of the Regenerative Hull Tissue tech, which does Exactly What It Says on the Tin both for them and any ship you install it on after your scientists reverse-engineered it.
- King Mook: In their home system is a giant version called the Crystal Nidus with a 4.9k Fleet Power
- Meaningful Name: All of them. Emerald Roamers for instance are greenish in color and constantly on the move.
- Power Crystal: Their basic units don't glow, but the giant Crystal Prism in their home system sure does. Brightly. It's so pretty to look at that many a player leaves it alone just so they can enjoy the sight from time to time.
- Silicon-Based Life: As semi-sentient crystal formations.
- Stone Wall: Another technology they provide is Crystal-Infused Plating and Crystal-Forged Plating, two techs that increase ship hull points by 5% and 10%, respectively, giving those ships noticeably better chances of survival in battle.
- Downloadable Content: Inverted. If you have the Apocalypse DLC, they're replaced by the Marauders instead (see below).
- The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: It's extremely rare to see them actually get off their collective asses and launch a raid on someone. Most of the time their fleets are just hanging around in deep space, twirling their thumbs and waiting for the day a peacekeeping fleet comes by and wipes them out.
- The Remnant: Descendants of the soldiers and navies of a long-since forgotten galactic empire.
- Space Pirates: Notable for being pre-existing, rather than spawning from the younger races.
- Tactical RockPaperScissors: The three fleets in their home system each favor one particular weapon type. The Young Bloods use kinetic weapons, the Scarred Veterans unleash a Macross Missile Massacre, and the Old Guard relies on Beam Spam plus space torpedoes, forcing you to tackle them with a Master of All fleet or overwhelming power.
- Unusable Enemy Equipment: Most of their ships are definitely old, but fit into one of the four main ship size categories. Until you find a ship manned by the Privateer's "Old Guard". This particular ship, a Galleon-class, is a Titan (thankfully sans Titan Laser), a ship type normally seen under the command of a Fallen Empire, and absolutely massive. Too bad the tech to make one has been lost to time, and used to be unavailable to players until the Apocalypse DLC.
- The Battlestar: The larger specimens primarily rely on organic fighters and bombers named Amoeba Flagella, but also have pretty decent direct-fire weapons. Said flagella can be reverse-engineered for use as strike craft on warships capable of mounting hangar modules.
- Non-Indicative Name: They are in no way amoebas, but somehow every space-faring species manages to incorrectly identify them as such, and the name sticks.
- Berserk Button: Tiyanki normally don't attack even when ships come close enough to graze them, unless they're mating or have a calf with them.
- Psychic Link: If you attack one of their groups, the entire species everywhere in the galaxy turns hostile to your empire, so there's gotta be some non-relativistic link between them.
- Space Whale: They look more like giant jellyfish with some sort of skin, but are explicitly referred to this in their "ship" class.
- Eldritch Abomination: Though not especially powerful, they are definitely strange, and puzzle even the greatest scientific minds. Spiritualists find them especially disturbing (or worthy of worship), but everyone, even Materialists, is wary of such ancient and alien entities. The fact that they're most often found near black holes (and that their home system is always centered on one) doesn't make them any less creepy.
- Mook Maker: With the "mook" in question being a copy of itself. For every two fleets a Void Cloud destroys, it spawns another Void Cloud.
- Shock and Awe: They use the unique Cloud Lightning weapon that always hits and ignores all defences, but is subject to massive damage randomization — which means it's essentially a downscaled Arc Emitter that can be mounted in medium slots instead of the usual XL mounts.
- Time Abyss: They're implied to be as old as the universe itself.
- After the End: Implied as Racket Industrial Enterprise's backstory, given their Tomb World preference. According to themselves, they're related to the Ketlings that appear in Distant Stars (and are identical in both portraits and traits), but were exiled into space, presumably before the collapse of Ketling civilization.
- Boldly Coming: Sometimes after passing through your empire you wind up with a bunch of hybrid POPs.
- Bizarre Baby Boom: A possible outcome of an encounter with their fleets.
- Church of Happyology: The Numistic Order gives this impression, though their products actually have concrete benefits.
- Downloadable Content: Part of the "Megacorp" DLC, replacing the Nomads.
- Explosive Breeders: Their ability to instantly spread hybrid pops far and wide can result in this; depending on how many xenophilically-inclined empires you have in your galaxy it's very likely that your endgame demographics will consist largely of hybrid caravaneers and their descendants.
- Intrepid Merchant: Their fleets offer to trade different resources, technologies, or people when they enter an empire's territory.
- Made a Slave: Some trade deals buy or sell POPs, not said to be slaves, but the occasional event where a POP escapes and requests asylum doesn't help.
- Mad Scientist: You can hire scientists with the Maniacal or Spark of Genius traits from the Rackets.
- Rat Men: While the other two fleets' species are random the Rackets are always short-lived, ugly, Ratlings from a Tomb World with psychic powers.
- Shiny-Looking Spaceships: The sleek, ornate gold-plated warships look like space-faring luxury liners with guns attached.
- Space Nomads: Their fleets wander the galaxy trading with other empires, periodically returning to a system with stations but no inhabited planets called "Chor's Compass."
- Take That!: Upon contact an empire's ruler can buy CaravanCoinz and use them to buy Reliquaries that contain random techs or resources, or turn out to be empty. Like premium currencies and Lootboxes.
- You Have Researched Breathing: Among the offers Caravaneers can make are selling you things like bunk beds to increase your housing capacity.
Tropes common to all Enclaves
- Downloadable Content: Part of the Leviathans story pack.
- Space People: They don't care about planets, and are content to live out their days aboard their scattered space stations.
- Alien Arts Are Appreciated: They're very good at their job, and can be commissioned to create artworks to boost happiness. For a price, of course.
- The Friend Nobody Likes: While they offer services about as useful as the other two, other empires get angry at the empire who dares attack a Curator or Trader Enclave, but nobody bats an eye when an Artisan Enclave is destroyed.
- Hufflepuff House: Unlike the Curator and Trader Enclaves, their benefits are mostly 'fire-and-forget' instead of long-term cooperation. Curators get to boost your Research and lend their Professor, Traders offer long-term deals on Unobtainiums, but Artisans only offer Monuments which are capped at 5, becoming their Patron allows you to build one Ministry of Culture, and the Festival of Worlds happiness boost cannot be done constantly. The Utopia DLC makes them somewhat more useful, as being a Patron of the Arts now gives you a bonus towards generating Unity, which is used to unlock traditions and Ascension perks.
- Permanently Missable Content: In earlier versions of the game, if you had them conduct Festival of the Worlds, there was a chance for an event where they just take the money and bolt, making them inaccessible for the rest of the game. This has since been patched so that they will eventually open contact once again after a decades-long cooldown period.
- Knowledge Broker: They sell info on uncharted stars, access to their database for research boosts, or hints and tools to deal with the Guardians.
- Omnidisciplinary Scientist: You can hire one of their scientists to lead Research or as Explorer. Either way, they come with max skill level and bonus to research and exploration.
- Shout-Out: To the Melnorme of Star Control. Paraphrased:"You may be wondering about the meaning of the mural behind us. That's a very good question with a very interesting answer! The price for the answer is 15 quadrillion Credits."
- Permanently Missable Content: Destroying their stations will simply wipe out the very resource they're selling.
- Proud Merchant Race: They may charge a premium, but they certainly don't cheat their customers.
- Unobtainium: Once you reach a certain point of Approval, they will offer certain Empire-Wide Strategic Resources that are otherwise unobtainable.
Tropes common to the Guardians
- Bonus Boss: Moreso than the Fallen Empires, whose ships they can easily shred unless the Fallen Empire sends its entire fleet at once. Most of the Guardians won't leave their systems unless an empire manages to really irritate them, in which case they'll wreak vengeance on that empire. And their Power Levels are simply listed as skulls.
- Cosmic Horror Story: The mere existence of these titanic, often utterly incomprehensible entities that were ancient long before your species ever left the primordial muck on their homeworld serves as one for your entire empire. Their response prompt upon encountering any Guardian for the first time sums it up nicely.We are but motes of dust...
- Death of a Thousand Cuts: What you'll inflict on them if you choose to engage them in combat. All but one of the Guardians have truly insane amounts of health and armor, coupled with huge regeneration stats and occasionally powerful shielding. They're so resilient that even your most devastating Wave Motion Guns will barely tickle them unless mounted en masse on dozens upon dozens of warships. Their massive regeneration also means that, unlike Fallen Empire fleets, you can't wear them down with repeated raids because by the time you've assembled a new fleet, they'll have healed all the damage you inflicted previously.
- Downloadable Content: They only show up in Leviathans.
- Eldritch Abomination: They're either this or a Big Dumb Object at least in the early game, consisting largely of natural(?) creatures and arcane constructs with incredible power and inscrutable backgrounds. The other civilizations can gradually come to learn more about them (and in some cases even benefit from their findings), but most of the time such knowledge or profit comes at a high price — either in resources or casualties.
- Hard-Coded Hostility: Except for the Infinity Machine, all Guardians are permanently hostile to all empires until disabled or destroyed.
- Permanently Missable Content: The considerable boons inherent in defeating them can only be acquired by the player, not by AI-controlled empires. The problem is that in order to access these boons, you need to defeat the respective Guardian yourself. If someone else beat you to the punch (or you were unlucky and the Guardian spawned in Fallen Empire territory), you'll have to finish the rest of the campaign without whatever the Guardian would've given you.
- Readings Are Off the Scale: Their military power is "skull".
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: If you anger some of themnote to a certain extent, they will pay your sector a visit and break a few things before returning home.
- Wave Motion Gun: Three of them possess an extremely potent laser that they can fire from their mouths or head.
- Zerg Rush: The most efficient method to defeat them. Most of the Guardians' weapons deal a crapton of damage but have abysmal tracking, so drowning them in nimble ship types with high evasion (like destroyers or cruisers) is usually preferable over engaging them with large, ponderous, much more expensive battleships.
- Absurdly Dedicated Worker: Before dying, the Dreadnought's crew activated some kind of automated patrol mode which the shipboard AI has been locked in for the past 7.8 million years.
- Attack Drone: As if the word 'Automated' didn't make it clear, the Dreadnought relies exclusively on automated systems to function.
- Can't Catch Up: A repaired Dreadnought comes with a top tier version of your FTL drives but cannot be retrofitted with better ones, so keeping off with repairing it might be necessary.
- Cool Ship: Has an entirely unique and very alien design with what looks like Tron Lines in its artworks.
- Disc-One Nuke: Rebuilding the dreadnought early easily turns it into one. With a military power rating of ~7,000 units all on its lonesome, it's the single most powerful ship players can get their hands on in the vanilla game. Its armor is relatively weak, and it can't be upgraded/retrofitted with new tech later on, but the dreadnought's powerful shields make it resistant even to Fallen Empires' Tachyon Lances, which turns it into a veritable tank unit that can usually draw entire fleets' worth of fire for well over an in-game month before having to retreat for repairs - if it didn't wreck said fleets before with its devastating plasma weapons, that is.
- Ghost Ship: After you defeat the Dreadnought, your boarding parties will find the mummified remains of its crew still manning their stations.
- Mile-Long Ship: Unlike the massive organic entities that appear throughout the cosmos, the Automated Dreadnought is a hulking piece of metal significantly larger than anything players can build without mods.
- The Remnant: The Dreadnought continues to dutifully stand vigil over the ruins of the empire that built it long after its masters disappeared or went extinct.
- Time Abyss: It's been patrolling its home system for countless millions of years by the time your empire encounters it.
- You Kill It, You Bought It: Defeating the dreadnought will allow you to rebuild it as your own, but you can also scrap it for a huge amount of minerals instead. Since it's such a powerful and unique combat asset, rebuilding it is usually the recommended action, especially since only the one who defeated it can do so.
- Breath Weapon: A giant purple Wave Motion Gun unleashed from its gaping gullet that works like a Titan Laser, ignoring shields and armor but often missing the target because of its abysmal tracking stat.
- Combat Tentacles: The Dimensional Horror will warp its own tentacles through hyperspace to your fleet, with each proceeding to stab your ships independently.
- Disc-One Nuke: Killing it allows you to research the Jump Drive, which is the second-best drive tech in the game.
- Eldritch Abomination: Stands out as this even compared to other Guardians. Found exclusively near black holes, it exists only partially in the physical universe, is stated to be actively malevolent, and looks like it was ripped straight from the Cthulhu Mythos.
- Fighting a Shadow: It's heavily hinted that you didn't kill it so much as beat the crap out of it to the point of discombobulating its physical form and throwing it back to its side of the dimensional fence.
- Foreshadowing: The Dimensional Horror is typically the first malevolent entity from another dimension that the player encounters — but it certainly isn't guaranteed to be the last. One of the rewards you get for beating it is the ability to research the Jump Drive tech, a "dangerous technology" that increases the odds of the Unbidden appearing.
- Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: Wherever the monstrosity comes from, its very existence alone tells how horrific travelling through hyperspace is.
- My Rules Are Not Your Rules: This critter is the only thing in the whole game that doesn't have a maximum range for any of its attacks. It will attack your fleets across the entire system from the moment they arrive, which means they'll likely suffer heavy losses before they can even return fire if you approached the battle from the wrong direction.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: And for good reason.
- Our Demons Are Different: The Dimensional Horror is a creature of pure malice, hailing from a dimension which is compared to Hell itself.
- Portal Cut: How the Dimensional Horror ultimately dies.
- Purple Is Powerful: All of its very powerful attacks are purple in color, most prominently its blazing Breath Weapon.
- Space Whale: It's essentially a Sand Worm with tentacles in space.
- Stationary Boss: The Dimensional Horror cannot move, but is capable of attacking anything in the system.
- Alien Geometries: Not quite on Eldritch Location levels yet, but the away teams seem to have a pretty hard time getting their bearing inside the fortress, to the point that they can't even determine the thing's center.
- Apocalypse How: Worst case scenario of choosing the wrong option in its Special Projects leads to it exploding and sterilizing the entire star system.
- Big Dumb Object: As the Curators say:It is the kind of absurd, massive and self-perpetuating construction that you don't see built anymore.
- Booby Trap: If you choose to use explosives to open a way into the Fortress after defeating its defences, pressurised explosive gas behind the airlock will explode and wipe out the demolitions team sent to set it up.
- Defeat Equals Explosion: Destroying the Fortress will cause archaeologists to describe the resulting explosion as the most expensive fireworks show ever funded by your government.
- Evil Laugh: If you choose the wrong option when trying to get into the centre of the Fortress, causing it to kill your boarding team and reactivate, the resulting sound is described to be like alien laughter.
- Infinity +1 Sword: Once you figure out how to get to its center and NOT kill everything in the entire system and/or turn the thing back on, you unlock one random Enigmatic Technology, among a list of various Physics research that include everything from unique auxiliary units for your ships to the undisputed best power and shield upgrades in the game.
- Schmuck Bait: Unusually, the various Special Projects you get from defeating it are mutually-exclusive, which plays out more like a multiple choice game. But you may want to consult guides or the Curator Enclave, and read carefully between the lines, as choosing the wrong option (even overdoing it counts as wrong!) leads to BAD things happening, from the Fortress re-activating to it exploding, killing everything and turning all planets in the star system into Tomb Worlds.
- Sinister Geometry: It's dark and blocky in shape, and it comes with defenses strong enough to hold against a reasonably powerful fleet.
- Taking You with Me: Choosing to torpedo the Fortress' core before it can repower will destroy the Fortress, the ship firing the torpedo, and basically the entire system along with it.
- Timed Mission: After you defeat the Enigmatic Fortress, you're given one year to finish its event chain before it recovers as you were warned and attacks anything within the system again.
- Towers of Hanoi: The boarding team can encounter a contraption that is described like this puzzle inside the Fortress.
- Armor of Invincibility: Claim the Dragon Hoard, and you might get to research Dragon Scale Armor, the best Armor in game bar none.
- Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Ether Drakes normally sit nice and comfortable in their home system. At least, until someone starts poking it a little too hard, at which point it'll start on a galaxy-wide rampage.
- Beast of Battle: Once you claim the Dragon Hoard and discover the Drake's egg, you can issue a special project to incubate the egg and hatch a young drake which will serve you as a special Dragonspawn-class ship.
- Breath Weapon: Its most powerful attack is a massive energy beam shot from its giant maw. The beam's diameter alone dwarfs battleships, and the damage it inflicts is predictably staggering, often enough to destroy whatever it hits instantly. Fortunately, the beam's tracking is so low it will rarely hit anything, especially when the attacking fleet swamps the Drake in doomstacks of nimble destroyers, supported by a bunch of cruisers.
- Dragon Hoard: In the form of a planet with an incredible 30 energy and 30 mineral output — as much as a well-developed world, for the price of an ordinary mining station. Bonus points for said planet actually being named Dragon Hoard.
- The Dragonslayer: The name of the unique trait granted to the admiral who leads the fleet defeating the Ether Drake.
- Extra Eyes: The Drake has 28 eyes in total.
- Instant Awesome: Just Add Dragons!: A space dragon larger than a battleship, immensely powerful, and comes with its own Dragon Hoard full of riches and, potentially, a researchable Armor of Invincibility or the chance to raise your own mini-dragon.
- Last of Its Kind: As far as anyone can tell, this specimen is the sole survivor not only of its species, but also of the entire universe it was born in.
- Subverted in the Distant Stars DLC. The L-Drake and the Voidspawn are both at least related to it.
- Mercy Kill: Being the sole survivor of a previous universe, the Ether Drake is not only the Last of Its Kind, but also physically ill-suited to existence in ours. It's heavily implied that putting it out of its misery is doing it a favor.
- Our Dragons Are Different: A space dragon that dwarfs and is able to take on fleets of capital ships, even those of Fallen Empires.
- The Remnant: The Curators consider the Ether Drake's species the last dregs of a previous universe, the sole survivors of a Big Crunch.
- Time Abyss: By all accounts, the Ether Drakes predate all galactic civilization, even the Fallen Empires, by billions of years.
- You Kill It, You Bought It: Obtaining the Dragon Hoard alone can already suffice the trope. Prolonged uses of the hoard will also unlock Dragon Scale armor or even hatch a young dragon yourself.
- Asteroid Thicket: A large, particularly mineral-rich one is their home.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: A crystalline lifeform of undetermined intelligence and/or sentience. From what can be gleaned from their behavior and scan results upon their defeat, they appear to be little more than a vast territorial beehive. In space. Made of crystals.
- Foreshadowing: You receive a warning message about something not being right about their otherwise innocuous system when one of your ships enters it for the first time.
- Schmuck Bait: An undefended system with five high-value mineral deposits equalling 30+ units, about as much as the Ether Drake's viciously guarded Dragon Hoard? Yes please! Wait... where are those bomber fleets suddenly coming from? This has actually become a Running Gag on Stellaris forums when newbies report their amazing discovery of some cool star system full of minerals, only for the Trolls to recommend they should exploit it ASAP. Predictably, Curbstomp Battles tend to ensue.
- Silicon-Based Life: The Curators describe them as being silicon-based.
- Suspicious Video Game Generosity: If the warning message wasn't enough, the mere existence of this pretty, absurdly mineral-rich system in the middle of nowhere should make you suspicious from the moment you first see it; especially in a game like Stellaris where everything good comes at a price.
- Warm-Up Boss: By far the weakest, least dangerous Guardian around. They don't activate until someone builds mining stations on their asteroids, and even then they attack with nothing but swarms of fighters and bombers that're easily countered with a decent amount of point defences. With the right ship configuration, they can be defeated without losses even by early-game fleets.
- Zerg Rush: Their forces consist of nothing but numerous swarms of fighters and bombers that rely on sheer numbers to deal damage.
- Another Dimension: Successfully helping the Infinity Machine will cause the nearby black hole Gargantua to become a mirror into a newly created universe.
- Big Dumb Object: A strange metal sphere, sits at the edge of a massive black hole, unmoving. It does not attack as you approach, does not communicate, does not even react.
- Expy: Of the The Culture's Excession, also a friendly gigantic black sphere of mysterious origin.
- Eloquent in My Native Tongue: Once you find a way to actually figure out what radio frequency the Sphere uses, it's actually quite pleasant and chatty, though it apparently sees time non-linearly and has trouble determining what has or hasn't happened yet.
- Logic Bomb: You can try the classic "this statement is false" line in dialogue, but it won't work.Cute. But no.
- Machine Worship: Spiritual empires can decide it's a divine oracle, which it doesn't have a problem with.
- Please Select New City Name: Once the Infinity Machine enters Gargantua and disappears, the black hole will shrink and be renamed Pantagruel, as its new size makes it no longer fitting of its old name.
- Royal "We": The Machine refers to itself with the plural pronoun 'we'.
- Savage Setpiece: Unlike most other Guardians, the Infinity Machine only turns hostile if you attack it or try to tamper with it.
- Sinister Geometry: A black sphere, sitting quietly at the edge of a black hole. Subverted in that it turns out to actually be a bit chatty when you finally establish contact.
- Time Abyss: To quote one of the associated introductory events: "[The Infinity Machine] is old. Very old." Determining its exact age is rather difficult due to the fact that it doesn't exactly experience time in the same linear fashion most mortals do, but it mentions that its present task of calculating Infinity is the only problem that has taken it "more than a fraction of a galactic yearnote " and that the work of your best scientists working with your most advanced computers over many decades to help shoulder the burden might bring the solution a tiny fraction sooner than if it was working alone.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: It's supposedly made of pure light, and its color determines what sort of stars affect its capabilities the most. Oh, and they're born from pulsars. If you're especially unlucky, they'll keep spawning every thirty years or so from the same system.
- Exact Time to Failure: The first Wraith always spawns on 01/01/2300, exactly 100 years after the game starts. Justified, however, by it being born from a pulsar, a type of stars known for emitting radiation pulses with extremely reliable frequency, which would make calculating the Wraith's precise birthday a somewhat viable endeavor.
- It Can Think: While the Wraith can come and go through systems as it pleases, it seems to be able to recognize when a sizeable threat is moving towards it and speed away to the next system before the fleet hunting it can arrive.
- Omnicidal Neutral: Whether intentionally or not, it destroys any space-borne object within whatever solar system it wanders into. This includes mining and research stations, space stations, mid-game fleets, and other Guardians.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: A lifeform born from pulsars which is made of light and roams from system to system, destroying matter around itself indiscriminately.
- Respawning Enemies: Spectral Wraiths aren't quite as devastating as other Guardians (which still isn't saying much), but they make up for it by not being unique. Their home star will continue to pump out a new Wraith every thirty-odd years, and there's no way to stop that from happening. Depending on whether someone managed to take out the previous one(s) when the time is up again, it can eventually end in half a dozen or more Wraiths roaming the galaxy.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Prior to the 2.0 Cherryh update, marauding Wraiths were mostly an annoyance — unless they wandered into a major hub system of yours, all they did was wreck a mining/researching station or two before moving on to the next system. Now that you must build an expensive outpost in every single system you want to claim, a single Wraith can tear entire regions of the galaxy from your grasp before you can marshal the forces required to stop it. You can also bet that any rivaling empire in the area will immediately move to claim what you just lost, which can easily cost you a huge chunk of your territory.
- Wild Card: Spectral Wraiths are the only Guardians that actively wander the galaxy instead of merely defending their home system. It makes them a completely unpredictable factor in any game they appear in, capable of randomly destroying fleets, derailing war plans, crippling empires and generally being a pain in the ass. As mentioned above, they also don't hesitate to engage other Guardians in combat if they cross paths, and although they tend to get their ass handed to them, it can provide the vigilant player with the perfect opportunity to finish the severely weakened winner off with minimal casualties.
- Animalistic Abomination: A giant Energy Being that parasitises off of stars which looks like a well fed tick. Its energy output and brightness are so enormous it is initially mistaken for the second star in a binary system.
- Attack Its Weak Point: The Curators will instruct you to fire at the Stellar Devourer's regulatory valves.
- Battle Trophy: Militaristic or Xenophobe empires might build a trophy from the remains of the Stellarite Devourer after killing it, to commemorate their victory.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: The Curators' educated guess is that the Devourer's biology is the result of some outer-dimensional fusing of dark matter and solar matter.
- Endless Winter: Any planet unlucky enough to share a star with the Devourer will cool down and become a frozen wasteland as the star gets fed off by the Devourer and shrinks. This can be reversed by killing the Devourer and reigniting the star, turning the planets habitable again.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: The Devourer will go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against anyone who damaged it for as much as 0.5% of its total health pool. In other words, if you gave it a try with your early-game fleet because you didn't know what to make of that skull symbol, it'll probably wreck said fleet and then your home system in very short order.
- Hostile Terraforming: Probably unintentional on the Devourer's part, but if you happen to live on a planet that survived the mere arrival of this thing, you should haul ass to another world ASAP before yours turns into a frozen wasteland because your star is suddenly circling the drain. On a somewhat more minor note, if a Devourer enters an inhabited system in pursuit of an attacking fleet, any settled planet there suffers a severe habitability and happiness penalty because the things is essentially a second sun that suddenly appeared in the sky. Fortunately, that last one isn't permanent.
- Star Killing: The Stellarite Devourer feeds on the fusion that takes place within stars to fuel its own fusion reactor, eventually causing its prey to cool off and shrink (with bad results for its planets).
- Terraforming: A system-wide example. Killing and investigating the thing unlocks a Special Project to restore the star it was munching on to its former radiance. One of three things will happen. 1. Your science ship explodes. 2. Your science ship is destroyed in a sudden solar flare, but the star reignites, turning every celestial body in the system that isn't a gas giant or an asteroid into an Arctic or Tundra World (which can easily result in a system with six or more habitable planets of varying sizes; normal systems with three habitable worlds are very rare already, and 3+ is almost unheard of). 3. Your science ship survives, the largest planet in the system turns into a Gaia World, and a small random number of the others may become Arctic or Tundra Worlds.
- Derelict Graveyard: It lives inside one, scavenging parts of shipwrecks to upgrade itself, eventually resulting in one of the 3 new Guardians introduced in the Distant Stars DLC.
- Gentle Giant: Averted. Unlike normal Tiyankis, she's not docile or harmless like them.
- More Deadly Than the Male: She's a female Tiyanki who's bigger, stronger, and more aggressive than her weaker counterparts.
- Mother of a Thousand Young: Implied to be the mother of the entire Tiyanki species.
- Space Whale: She's the queen of an entire race of them.
- Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: Defeating her will have a devoured ship emerge from the leviathan. Its grateful captain, Reth Unddol, will offer his services, as well as his ship which is perfectly balanced between all weapon and defense types with the latest technologies.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: So large that the egg it hatches from is an entire planet.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: This thing hatches from a damn planet, making you wonder just how large an adult specimen is. It's also yet another example of a spacefaring draconoid creature with wings, implying some relation to the Ether Drake genus.
- Foreshadowing: The begin of its birth cycle comes with a message about unexplained seismic activity that devastates its egg planet, accompanied by a strong stench of sulfur saturating the atmosphere. If the planet is inside of your borders, fortifying the surrounding systems may be advisable. If you're unlucky enough to have colonized the egg planet by the time that happens, move the pops and abandon the world ASAP.
Tropes common to the Marauders
- Downloadable Content: Part of the Apocalypse DLC.
- Even Evil Has Standards: They refuse to deal with Devouring Swarms, Determined Exterminators, or Fanatic Purifiers, and each finds such civilizations appalling in their own way.
- Hard-Coded Hostility: Marauders are always hostile to regular empires, but will generally not attack them unless you attempt to enter their home systems, or they are in the process of raiding them.
- The Horde: They're basically space barbarians.
- Horrifying the Horror: The Marauders won't attack a Fallen Empire, and have lines explicitly refusing if asked. Neither honor, nor madness, nor religious zeal can convince the Marauders to pick a fight with them. As the Type 2s put it:HYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!! No. Dwamak, we mad, but not mad enough to try bash fallen-dwamaks.
- Mercenary Units: You can pay them to raid your rivals or hire admirals and generals. After a century of play entire fleets can be temporarily hired.
- Private Military Contractors: Settled empires can hire Marauder generals, admirals or fleets as mercenaries. Marauder fleets cost a large energy payment up-front, and consist of a fixed-size fleet that cannot be split, merged or disbanded, with a leader that cannot be reassigned. The fleet does not count towards your naval cap and will not cost any maintenance, but will only serve you for a period of 5 years, after which you will have to renew their contract by paying the full cost again.
- Space Cossacks: Marauder space has no central government and no law other than the "law of the jungle." The only thing that holds the Marauder bands together is a shared contempt for outsider meddling, enforced by the fact that, collectively, they have a hell of a lot of guns.
- Space People: Marauders have eschewed planets in favour of living on ships and stations in and around a handful of resource-rich systems.
- Space Pirates: Marauders subsist largely on raiding each other and extorting tribute from settled empires.
- Taking You with Me: If you wipe out their three core systems while they have a raiding fleet elsewhere, that fleet will send you a furious message and vow to ravage your worlds until they're killed to the last warrior.
Type 1"As punishment for losing a duel, it has been decreed that I am to deal with all outsiders this cycle. What do you want?"
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Their defining trait: they're all about honor, loathe speaking to outsiders, and love battle.
- Villain Respect: It doesn't actually help, but they'll speak well of Militarist civilizations in a "it would be an honor to face you in battle" way.
Type 2"You have something for us to smash, dwamak? [Marauders] very good at smashing!"
- Ax-Crazy: They're obsessed with fighting, violence, and turning dwamaks into stew.
- Classical Tongue: If the Great Khan arises from these marauders, he'll state that their language used to be far more developed.
- Fantastic Slurs: "Dwamak", which refers to any other species. There's also "dwakam", though they refuse to explain what that is beyond being worse than a dwamak.
- Sapient Eat Sapient: They're obsessed with making dwamak stew, though as their reaction to a Devouring Swarm attests, less keen on being an ingredient in a dwamak's stew.
- Screaming Warrior: Practically a verbal tic.
Type 3"She of the Void is wroth today. I can feel it. We have not done enough to win Her favor..."
- Scary Dogmatic Aliens: They worship the Void, space itself, and offer their raiding targets as sacrifice to it.
The Great Khan
"The empire I am building shall benefit the whole of the galactic community. It may not seem like it now, but one day it will become a beacon of stability and prosperity for all intelligent life forms."
- Abandon Ship: The first time the Khan's personal fleet is destroyed, they escape on a shuttle and return to Horde space to build a new one.
- Accent Slip Up: The Khan normally speaks in a very measured and refined way but will, on occasion, slip up and speak like a regular marauder, albeit briefly.
- Affably Evil: Whoever they are, they make the Horde that much more lethal, but also politely allow Satrapies to go about their day and is unfailingly polite.
- Balkanize Me: After the Great Khan dies, their Horde may dissolve into a myriad of squabbling successor states.
- Cultured Badass: No matter the kind of Marauders they come from, the Khan themself is invariably a polite, eloquent figure who speaks of bringing unity to the galaxy. A Great Khan of the Type 2 marauders can be told that they are unexpectedly articulate, and they will mention that their people's language was once more refined and that they intend to revive this version.
- Disaster Dominoes: Depending on how well the Horde does-and how soon you manage to blunt their advance-the collapse of the Khanate may reduce a sizeable chunk of the galaxy into fragmented, squabbling rump states... leaving them easy targets for the endgame crisis.
- Face Death with Dignity: If you defeat their personal fleet a second time, the Khan willingly goes down with their ship rather than escape again. This may alternatively be a Despair Event Horizon.
- The Federation: A possibility after the Great Khan's death is the formation of a federation of equal and voluntary member states; exactly what they hoped for.
- Galactic Conqueror: As one would expect by the name. They start out uniting the squabbling hordes, and then seek to unite the rest of the galaxy.
- Join or Die: They insist that every regular empire in the galaxy submit as a satrapy, or be conquered and enslaved or purged.
- Keystone Army: When the Great Khan dies, their Horde falls into disarray and will either turn back into Marauders, consolidate into a regular empire, or fragment into a handful of small empires that will constantly fight each other.
- Love-Interest Traitor: There is a chance that the Khan will be murdered by one of their concubines. Completely independent of the player's actions or influence. The exact motives for the killer's actions are unknown.
- Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: A Great Khan of the Type 3 marauders can be asked about why they don't speak of "She of the Void". The Great Khan's reply can be summed up as basically this.
- She Is the King: The title is regardless of gender (if any).
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: If the Great Khan dies without conquering any planets, their Empire devolves back into the Marauder society it was before. None of their warlords have any intention of continuing the Khan's reforms or even staying united.
- Suicidal Overconfidence: The Khan will try to conquer fallen empire territory if a Fallen Empire borders the Horde. This usually ends with the Khan routed due to the sheer difference in power.
- The Unfought: Becomes this for the player if they fall prey to the Love-Interest Traitor mentioned above or (rarely) another AI controlled empire before they get a chance to fight them.
- Visionary Villain: They're out to conquer the galaxy in order to provide its residents with the unity, stability, and prosperity that a powerful empire under wise and enlightened rule can provide.
- Worthy Opponent: The Khan will acknowledge your empire as such if you defeat their fleet in battle.
Crisis factions are one of several late-game, high-powered factions who emerge and threaten all life in the galaxy. They will take a combination of interstellar alliances, advanced technology, or an extremely powerful empire to fend off, let alone defeat.
Tropes common to the crisis factions
- Always Chaotic Evil: Downplayed if you have a particular Ascension perk, you can negotiate with them and reveal that even the Prethoryn Scourge has its reasons. The Extradimensional Invaders as just jerks, though.
- Eldritch Starship: Prethoryn ships are enormous living things in their own right, as much space monster as spaceship. The ships used by the Contingency are gigantic, complex geometrical constructs of inscrutable purpose. The Extradimensional Invaders use transparent craft that appear to be made of energy in the same way as their masters.
- Final Boss: Their primary gameplay purpose, an endgame event that threatens the entire galaxy.
- Guilt-Free Extermination War: The only way to end the invasion is to destroy every last planet and ship belonging to them. Considering all of these factions have the ultimate goal of wiping out every other sapient species in the galaxy and will refuse every attempt at diplomacy, it's kind of hard to feel sorry for them. Hideously subverted with the Prethoryn, if you figure out to communicate with them.
- Hard-Coded Hostility: Its impossible to negotiate with any of these factions, and theyre innately hostile to everyone. Though completing the Psionic Ascension path, being a machine empire, or being a hive mind can open up some dialogues with certain factions...
- Hell Is That Noise: Each of the three crisis factions have sounds that play signaling their presence on the map that grow louder as they grow closer to achieving victory. For the Contingency it's the harsh mechanical hum with chirps and whirs of a mainframe. For the Unbidden it's the gentle howling of wind as they purge more planets clean of life. For the Prethoryn it's bug like chittering and organic squishing.
- Outside-Context Problem: There's some, but overall little foreshadowing of their appearance, and when they do pop up, it's usually as a blindside. On a more meta example, veteran 4X players often have rival civilizations as late-game threats, not a completely new one popping out of nowhere.
An ancient artificial intelligence whose purpose is to sterilize the galaxy of higher biological life and control or destroy other synthetic life forms. Initially dormant, it awakens by compelling the galaxy's synthethics to manually activate it. It uses a combination of massive war fleets and subversion of synthetic entities to cause havoc in its goal to sterilize the galaxy.
Introduced in version 1.8, the Contingency is the overhauled version of the old AI rebellion crisis.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Not only does this AI want you all dead or enslaved, it will invoke this on your own synthetics by corrupting and converting them to prepare the way for its invasion fleets.
- And I Must Scream: It's spent eons trapped beneath the surface of its homeworld, able to do nothing but watch the outside universe and wait for it to reach the point where sterilization is necessary. Its dialogue implies that the galaxy isn't actually at that point yet, and using the Ghost Signal to lure synthetics to it was merely an escape attempt.
- Ax-Crazy: Its entombment beneath the surface of an isolated planet has driven it insane, and it takes barely-masked glee in fulfilling its mission to exterminate organic lifeforms.
- The Corrupter: The Contingency's "Ghost Signal" will hijack Synthetic pops and severely tamper with Machine Empires, hitting entire nations with a huge debuff to their robot pops and any ships using the Sapient AI Combat Computer. The Ghost Signal can sometimes even brainwash the Ancient Caretakers.
- Expy: An ancient, red-and-black mechanical invader that uses subversion signals and seeks to wipe the galaxy clean of higher life? Yep, they're the Reapers.
- He Was Right There All Along: Although the Contingency makes immediate use of fully developed planets (unlike the other crises), its arrival does not initially add new star systems to the map. Every time one of its four machine worlds awakens, the messages tell about how previously innocuous, uninhabitable planets that may well lie within your territory, even in systems with other inhabitated worlds, transformed without warning in a matter of days. A molten world suddenly cools and cracks open, revealing the planet-wide robotic infrastructure beneath the lava oceans. A gas giant blows off its entire atmosphere, leaving only the metallic core. A previously toxic world's atmosphere suddenly evaporates to unleash fleets of machines, and so on. Only the Contingency's home system actually spawns out of nowhere on the galactic fringe once its four staging grounds have been destroyed. Oh, and if you somehow identified those planets beforehand and crack the planet? The Contingency doesn't care, they'll just recombine the planet's pieces and turn it into a Contingency Hub anyway.
- It's the Only Way to Be Sure: The Contingency's AI Worlds are totally uninhabitable - the only solution is to subject them to Orbital Bombardment until they turn into Shattered Worlds, or use a Colossus equipped with a World Cracker or Global Pacifier.
- Killer Robot: The Contingency and its minions' purpose: sterilize the galaxy of all biological life.
- Robot War: The Contingency naturally starts one the moment it activates.
- Red and Black and Evil All Over: The Contingency portrait has a dark gunmetal-grey body, complete with ominous red lights. Their ships use the exact same color scheme, with dark grey or black hulls and plenty of ominous red lights.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Their eyes turn from the Synths' pink glow to ominous red.
- Robots Enslaving Robots: The Contingency will attempt to use its signal to control Synthetics and force them to aid it in its task of galactic sterilisation.
- Robot War: It occurs when at least one empire has developed and enslaved synths (the highest level of AI), and its goal is the complete eradication of organic life.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Its five Sterilization Hubs are scattered across the galaxy, concealed beneath the surfaces of various unremarkable planets. When the crisis begins, the planets' crusts break apart to reveal the vast robotic factories within.
- Sinister Geometry: The Contingency ships, shaped like very complex three-dimensional solids glowing with a menacing red light.
- Star Killing: It's implied that the Contingency destroyed the Ancient Caretakers' Central Processing ringworld by causing its sun to go supernova, leaving a black hole behind.
- Took a Level in Badass: Compared to the old AI rebellion, the Contingency has formidable fleets with which to carry out its task and makes use of subversion and infiltration to soften up its targets before the sterilisation units arrive.
- Villainous Breakdown: When the Contingency loses all of its four machine worlds and its home system is detected, it will panickingly try to warn the galaxy's empires to stay away from its system with the threat of mass sterilizations. As mass sterilizations was already its plan for the galaxy, it was likely just trying to deter empires from destroying it with one of its last options left.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: They are trying to wipe out organic and synthetic life because they believe that sufficiently advanced civilizations are at risk of creating a universe-destroying cataclysm called a "class-30 singularity".
- Crippling Overspecialization: In contrast to the Prethoryn, their ships have little armor but a lot of shields while using a lot of Energy weapons. Ships with late-game anti-shield weapons can utterly devastate them.
- Deflector Shields: Their ships are fitted with exclusively with these, that they can afford to forgo any Armor whatsoever.
- Energy Beings: The first, called "The Unbidden", appear to be made entirely of glowing blue energy in a broadly humanoid shape. The other two, called "The Aberrant" and "The Vehement", are orange and green, respectively.
- Enemy Civil War: A few years into the initial invasion by the Unbidden, two more Extradimensional Invader factions named the Aberrant and the Vehement will show up and fight amongst themselves for a share of the "feast". This happens even if you manage to destroy the first portal while the Unbidden are still alone.
- Even Evil Has Standards: They're omnicidal invaders from an alternate dimension close to the Shroud, yet even they give said Shroud a wide berth because it creeps them out.
- Expy: They have a lot in common with (and resemble) the Drej and the Devidians.
- Extreme Omnivore: They literally see the entire galaxy as their personal buffet.
- Glowing Eyes of Doom: The Extradimensional Invaders' eyes emit a notable glow.
- Hoist by Their Own Petard: One effective way to fight the Extradimensional Invaders is with Matter Disintegrators, their own weaponry. You have to destroy their fleets without it and have a scientist research their debris before you can research and use it, but you will have a powerful weapon on your side if you can succeed, both against the Extradimensional Invaders and any other enemies you might have.
- Humanoid Abomination: As noted above, they seem to have a humanoid shape, but made of shimmering blue/orange/green energy. They also have three eyes, arranged vertically.
- Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: They're brought into the galaxy by using Jump Drive technology, which enters their home dimension — a realm "very close" to the Shroud — for interstellar travel.
- Keystone Army: Averted. Even if you destroy their portal, whatever fleets they already have in the galaxy will continue to attack your worlds until they're destroyed, right down to the last ship.
- Loves the Sound of Screaming: "So much hatred... so much fear... it is... wonderful..."
- Palette Swap: The Unbidden, the Aberrant and the Vehement only differ in colour (dark blue, orange and green, respectively).
- Regenerating Shield, Static Health: The virtual result of their multiple Deflector Shields, coupled with Shield Capacitors.
- Unusable Enemy Equipment: Their Probe Lightning cannot be reverse engineered.
- Villain Respect: They will take special note of any empire that has visited the Shroud, which unlocks extended dialogue with them as it does for the Prethoryn.
- Achilles' Heel: 95% of their damage comes from midrange missiles and strike crafts, and while they have plenty of armor, they lack any shield whatsoever. A ~35k fleet composed of dedicated Plasma battleships (maximum 6 on a battleship) with some dedicated Carrier or Point-Defense battleships can rip apart their ~50k fleets one after another with minimal losses.
- Anti-Villain: They're refugees from something called "the Hunters", and are so desperate to survive they don't know any other way than conquest to keep themselves alive.
- Alas, Poor Villain: It may have been a Guilt-Free Extermination War, but after communicating with them and knowing their reason for invading and how they're the last of their kind, clearing them off the galaxy means they're officially extinct, thanks to you. The extinction can be averted though if you manage to capture a Queen and free her from the Hive Mind's control before getting rid of all other Prethoryn. She can even fight for you with her own brood by her side.
- Black Speech: Their language cannot be translated, and is instead ALL CAPS gibberish intermixed with Evil Laughter. Those pursuing Psionic Ascension path, however, can communicate with them psychically. They're running away from something even worse.
- Evil Laugh: "HAK HAK HAK!" The truth is, they're mocking your bravado because they don't think you can take on the Hunters chasing them.
- Expy: A Horde of Alien Locusts from another galaxy, spilling into this one with fleets of living starships and infesting planets left and right, and who turns out to be running away from something even worse? Are we talking about the Tyranids?
- Faceless Eye: Their portrait is a floating eye with some tendrils on it. Very evocative of The Overmind, fittingly.
- From Bad to Worse: Psionically-gifted empires can actually communicate with the Prethoryn, although they can't negotiate with them, and find out just why they're invading the galaxy. It's because they're running away from something even worse.
- Hive Queen: The Prethoryn Queens, who serve as the faction's leaders, spawning its battleships and leading its fleets.
- Horde of Alien Locusts: They invade the galaxy with no provocation, attacking every non-Prethoryn beings they find, and "infesting" planets, rendering them uninhabitable. They do not respond to diplomacy, and their invasion will only stop when every livable world is under their control.
- Hostile Terraforming: After they have finished consuming all non-Prethoryn life on a planet, they terraform it into a world hostile to all other forms of life, and the only way to cleanse the infestation is to burn away the entire biosphere with intense orbital bombardment.
- Invading Refugees: What they really are. They aren't planning to settle down, just to feed on our galaxy's biomass to replenish their losses against the Hunters before returning to hiding in the void between galaxies.
- It's the Only Way to Be Sure: Once they fully infest a planet, the only way to evict them is to glass the entire surface from orbit. Thankfully, most planets they take can be re-terraformed if you have the technology.
- Last of His Kind: They say they are last of their kind, after being hunted down by The Hunters, for eons.
- Living Ship: The Scourges starships look like nothing so much as gigantic, armor-plated sea monsters in space, with visibly moving legs and in some cases mouths.
- Made a Slave: It's possible to capture a Prethoryn Queen and enslave it by severing its connection to the Hive Mind, allowing you to spawn your own Prethoryn fleet.
- Meat Moss: They appear to cover the planets they've infested with this stuff.
- Mother of a Thousand Young: A single Prethoryn Queen might spawn an endless amount of Spawnlings or Warriors.
- Oculothorax: Their portrait depicts them as consisting of only one giant eye and appendages.
- Organic Technology: All the tech the Scourge is shown using appears to be a living, moving creature in its own right.
- Outside-Context Problem: The biggest of the three. While the other two Crises are triggered by researching forbidden techs and there are events foreshadowing their appearance (how some Synths express their discontent or how you get an Eldritch Starship from an event), nothing tells you of their arrival other than Subspace Echoes event.
- Time Abyss: The various "Fleet Consciousnesses" are all around a thousand years old, hinting at the duration of their voyage to the Stellaris galaxy. If this isn't their whole armada, it's likely the rest of the Scourge is much, much older.
The Gray TempestA Mini Crisis Faction available in the Distant Stars DLC.
- Apocalyptic Log: If they're present in the L-Cluster, your first and only warning is an automated transmission from the creators of the L-gates, telling you about the Tempest and how to defeat it. Unfortunately, this only happens after you've already opened the L-gates and unleashed it.
- The Battlestar: Tempest "shoals" are lead by a nanite titan equipped with numerous fighter-craft bays.
- Bonus Boss: You'll only face the Tempest if you chose to unlock the L-Gates, and even then there's a chance they won't be present in the L-cluster at all.
- Gray Goo: An out-of-control swarm of nanobots that may be locked away in an isolated star cluster — at least until some brave or foolhardy empire decides to tamper with the L-Gates sealing them away.
- Hostile Terraforming: When they finish bombing an inhabited planet into slag, they'll transform it into a Nanite World that cannot be resettled. However, once the central nanite factory is destroyed, Nanite Worlds can be terraformed back to normal.
- Keystone Army: Destroying the central nanite factory shuts all of them down.
- Arc Words: "WHAT WAS, WILL BE. WHAT WILL BE, WAS."
- Blue and Orange Morality: It does seem to honestly love anyone who approaches it as supplicants. The Cosmic Horror Story below is a result of it attempting to be helpful.
- Cosmic Horror Story: The "Horizon Signal" quest chain puts your empire through one of these, and features quite a number of terrifying and otherworldly events:
- It starts with a signal from a black hole system, which you can research. Then you find out the signal is talking to you, asking for one of your scientists to be sent to the black hole, never to be seen again. Then it asks for another scientist. Then you detect a ship with one of your admirals on board... except that admiral is standing right next to you, this other admiral is apparently from the future, grizzled and scarred, and you have to finish him off to bring the end of the loop.
- A newly established colony discovers that the world they're on had been occupied by your species before, judging from the structures left. Once established, the colony's growth accelerates at a rate that defies logic, as if the new colonists are just appearing out of nowhere. Then, without warning, the colony and its entire population vanishes overnight, as if it never existed; sometime replaced by entirely sane and loyal citizens that just don't exist in any records, sometimes just gone to leave the world as if it had never been settled.
- An ancient temple complex is discovered on your homeworld, which can be used to spread the Worm's influence. One of your scientists creates a retroviral agent to return your species to what it used to be, the Messenger species, which you can use to mutate your entire Empire.
- Finally, if you accept the Worm, the quest line ends with your homeworld's star suddenly collapsing into a black hole and turning the entire system into Tomb Worlds.... though at least you get Tomb World Habitability for your troubles.
- Cursed with Awesome: If you choose to accept the Worm, all pops on your homeworld are transformed into Repugnant creatures. The awesome part? They're also given the Tomb World habitability trait, which makes all standard habitable planets 60% acceptable for them.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Conversely, if you reject the Worm, it manifests in your home system as a giant monster (that looks and behaves exactly like the Dimensional Horror Guardian - make of that what you will) with a fleet strength of ~20,000 units. While that is pretty powerful, it's no serious threat to a decent mid to end-game fleet, and much less than could be expected from such an entity. Blasting it back to wherever it came from ends the event chain with some additional research bonuses and some uncomfortable thoughts about what the future might bring now that the Worm is most likely royally pissed.
- Downloadable Content: Part of the free Horizon Signal DLC, released alongside the 1.4 update.
- Eldritch Abomination: It's some kind of intelligence that resides within the fabric of time itself, heavily hinted to be a temporal paradox given shape, sentience and both the abilities and the will to influence the physical world in mind-bending ways.
- Lovecraft Lite: It's this and a Cosmic Horror Story, on the basis that as repeatedly emphasized, it loves its worshipers, and wants them to thrive. It just has a very odd definition of "thriving". And, being Lovecraft Lite, at the end of the event chain you can choose to blast the crap out of it and loot the corpse.
- Nothing Is Scarier: Prolonged relationship with the Worm can cause some very frightening events that can leave a ruler paranoid for centuries; Body Horror for the masses in one day, unexplained cloning of loyal citizens on a planet, sudden appearances of leaders from the future. Basically not for the faint of heart, considering its writers originated from a certain game.
- Reality Warper: The thing plays fast and loose with the space-time continuum, which has predictably disturbing effects on what we perceive as reality. Finding the remains of an ancient astronaut of your race who apparently travelled the galaxy millennia before your species had even developed rudimentary space flight capabilities is still one of the milder examples.
- Starkilling: If you accept the Worm, it transforms your homeworld's sun into a black hole and all of its planets into Tomb Worlds.
- Time Abyss: Technically, it exists whenever it wants to...
- Timey-Wimey Ball: Many of the temporal anomalies it causes are implied to be what created it in the first place.
- The Virus: Thanks to its meddling, one of your scientists creates a pathogen that transforms at least themselves, then part of your empire's population (if not the entire population) into the Messenger species.
Tropes common to the Shroud
- Blue and Orange Morality: Aside from the End of the Cycle, the Shroud beings aren't actively malevolent, despite the negative side effects caused by harboring such utterly alien psychic presences. They are entirely honest about the price they exact, and of them only the Eater of Worlds is actively taking a price from you.
- Body Horror: The Composer of Strands will make the mutations of the Bizarre Baby Boom go further, enough to make unique species out of a generation.
- Claimed by the Supernatural: In general, this is the price your empire pays for making a pact with a Shroud entity — it claims your subjects as its own to do with as it wishes, and in exchange you get to reap the benefits of the boons it bestows on all but an unlucky few who are claimed for the entity's own enigmatic designs.
- Cosmic Entity: Communicating to the entities of the Shroud is an equivalent of ants walking up to someone's doorstep to ask for some sugar, failure to commune properly will result to something horrible; such as cursing your empire with significant disadvantage or spawning a rogue psionic avatar inside your territory.
- Deal with the Devil: They mostly interact with material beings in the form of offering deals of some sort or another, often with hidden costs. Most of them are pretty fair deals in the end, except for the End Of The Cycle.
- Energy Beings: All of them are incorporeal beings of pure thought.
- Expy: Four of the five mightiest beings in the Shroud are basically Lighter and Softer versions of the Chaos Gods in Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000. (With the fifth being the End of the Cycle, below.)
- The Whispers in the Void are Tzeentch. The Whispers provide a great boon to your science as they share cosmic secrets, but some of those so "gifted" may Go Mad from the Revelation.
- The Composer of Strands is Nurgle. Instead of disease, however, it brings mutation (often positive) in a Bizarre Baby Boom.
- The Instrument of Desire is Slaanesh. It will greatly benefit your economy, inspiring your people, but that inspiration may also lead to counter-cultural political movements or consumerist decadence.
- The Eater of Worlds is Khorne, and an exception to the "less nasty than its Warhammer counterpart" rule. Your admirals and warriors will fight with unrivaled ferocity and courage, but the Eater will occasionally devour entire cities, causing them to "mysteriously vanish", in exchange. In worst case, planets can be taken away.
- Fatal Flaw: Most of the Covenants have flaws directly related to the powers they give. For the End of the Cycle read tropes below.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: The side effect of the Whispers in the Void. The people will find the reality they live feeling vague and unreal compared to the truths hinted at by the Whisperers. People will become serial killers or commit suicide, sometimes even engaging in mass suicides that wipe out entire cities. This is can also count as a mean sort of Cursed with Awesome; the reduction of empire's population means smaller research costs for all existing technologies.
- Horror Hunger: The Eater of Worlds is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, basically eating buildings or even cities in exchange for filling military forces with their hunger for and mastery of war. If it becomes unaccountably peckish, it will start to eat planets outright.
- Lovecraft Lite: It's entirely possible to make a deal with the Eldritch Abomination and come out ahead.
- Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: The Shroud is seemingly feared throughout the galaxy; even the Unbidden regard it with trepidation.
- Psychic Powers: Required to communicate with the Shroud, and naturally possessed by the realm's denizens.
- We Have Become Complacent: The Instrument of Desire can ensure utopian abundance, but it goes too well; whether due to the sheer wealth provided or some baleful influence of the Instrument, the newly wealthy citizens find themselves joining counter-cultural movements or falling into blind consumerist decadence.
The End of the Cycle
- Breakout Villain: The End of the Cycle is just one of many possible entities one can encounter in the shroud. But by merit of bringing a straight Cosmic Horror Story into what is otherwise Lovecraft Lite, and by being designed from the ground up to play on the fandom's particular assumptions and weaknesses, it's far more talked about than any of its brethren. And Fanon is happy to blame it for just about any enigmatic horror, most notably theorizing that it is the reason the Fallen Empires "fell", the threat that Curators speak of, the Hunters that the Prethoryn are fleeing from, or even the "Class-30 singularity" that the Contingency is programmed to prevent.
- Cosmic Horror Story: The End of the Cycle results in one, if you accept its bargain. For fifty in-game years, every possible type of income and statistic in the game is boosted by 100%, which can turn even the weakest empire into an invincible juggernaut. When those fifty years are up, however, your civilization is immediately destroyed. Every ship and station is blown away, every megastructure is disabled, every leader dies, and every world you own is scoured clean of life and turned into a Shrouded World utterly beyond habitation or terraforming. All that's left is a single, remote colony formed by an Ignored Expert who saw the apocalypse coming, which means you basically have to start the game from scratch. It doesn't stop there, however: The souls of the billions who die as a result of the cataclysm are resurrected as a massive horde of vengeful spirits - including a particularly mighty armada over your former homeworld with at least 1,000,000 Military Power, potentially double that or more - who promptly start an unholy crusade to scour the entire galaxy clean of life. And the kicker? They'll deliberately leave your final colony for last. Your greed and foolishness has doomed the entire galaxy, if not the universe, and now you're going to sit there and watch helplessly as it all comes crashing down around you, until they eventually return to your doorstep to finish you off. And, on the off-chance the other races of the galaxy manage to put an end to the monstrosity you unleashed, you'll still have a -1000 opinion modifier that will ensure everyone finds the notion of wiping your remnants off the map in retaliation extremely tempting.
- Deal with the Devil: Most Shroud beings carry bargains that come with painful costs but can ultimately be beneficial with proper management. Not the End of the Cycle. You will regret this bargain.
- Degraded Boss: The Sealed Wormhole System in the Distant Stars DLC appears to have been an attempt to contain it in an isolated system with a minimal population to sustain it, but you released it anyway.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: The undead army it unleashes is extremely powerful, but it can be defeated. Just don't expect the people who unleashed it to be the ones to do so.
- Expy: Numerous influences have been posited.
- It is equal parts C'tan and Reapers; an all-devouring horror that cyclically devours all life in the galaxy and does awful things to those who trust it.
- Its name also strongly implies its relationship with Salt of the Zee. The End of the Cycle guarantees a mysterious annihilation that will not only wipe out a generation of spacefarers but also its entire lineage in the galaxy with its own dead inhabitants.
- Many Warhammer 40,000 fans have also compared the cataclysm that happens when the Covenant is up to the Fall of the Eldar. A horrific god is born from the devoured souls of billions of fat, decadent citizens, wiping out their galaxy-spanning empire literally overnight, with the only survivors being a handful of dissidents who fled before the cataclysm struck.
- Eldritch Abomination: Moreso than anything else in Stellaris, a 'verse generously populated by unexplained and perhaps inexplicable monstrosities. It can end the empire that made a covenant with it, likely a Type II civilization, in what is implied to be seconds. The survivors may be able to turn it back, but that's easier said than done.
- Faux Affably Evil: As shown by its quote, the End offers a quick way to become a truly godlike Empire, rewarding its chosen with unheard of generosity. It's the only truly malevolent Shroud presence, and will stab you in the back fifty years after the foundation of the Covenant by eating your entire civilization and going on an Omnicidal Maniac rampage fueled by the devoured souls.
- Final Boss: Inverted. Younote , apparently, will invoke this by reaching the End of the Cycle with an unfinished game, turning the vast majority of your powerful empire against you and everyone in the proximity of the galaxy armed with the most powerful fleet at their disposal, your own people's minds fused into one powerful entity. You will also be left fragmented with the last remaining planet un-corrupted by the Shroud at its mercy.
- Forbidden Fruit: The Covenant itself is ominously powerful, with all important stats doubled. Attached to it is an ominously colored red text, eerily similar to Kingeater's Castle, that reads "Do not do this". They mean it.
- Lord British Postulate: Defeating the End as their summoner after they eat most of your empire is possible, but it requires knowing exactly what they're planning, and careful preparation from practically the first day of spaceflight. And then there's surviving the aftermath, since you'll still have a -1000 diplomacy malus for summoning it, and most of the galaxy will be out for your blood.
- Master of All: The End of the Cycle covenant provides all the stats of the other four beings of the Shroud. All of them are yours, if you accept the Shroud willingly and become the Covenant of the Cycle. This comes back to haunt you once the Cycle ends, the Shroud converts your entire armada into powerful Shroud spirits, which are effectively steroid-induced Extradimensional Invaders that become collectively more powerful depending on the size of their victimized empire and empires they start to eradicate.
- Obvious Rule Patch: It is not possible to encounter the End of the Cycle in multiplayer without mods, as the devs know just how much Griefer potential it possesses.
- Omnicidal Maniac: It calls itself the End of the Cycle because that seems to be what it wants to bring about-the end of the cycle of life.
- Schmuck Bait: As listed under Forbidden Fruit: "Do not do this".
- Suspicious Video Game Generosity: Even if the "DO NOT DO THIS" warning doesn't dissuade you, the sheer fact that the stat boosts you get from accepting the End of the Cycle's offer are as outrageous as they are should clue you in that the price it levies when it comes to collect will be quite high indeed.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: For accepting the End of the Cycle and failing to conquer the galaxy in one go. Or effectively finishing the game as the Cycle Covenant itself.
- Walking Spoiler: Half the fun is finding out why bargaining with the End is such a terrible idea, the hard way. Or watching others do so.
- What the Hell, Player?: As if the steep price the End of the Cycle exacts weren't enough by itself, every other empire in the galaxy gets an immediate and irrevocable -1000 relationship penalty (equivalent to that given to Fanatic Purifiers and their ilk) with the the empire that summons them as well. Should everyone else manage to beat back the End, that empire will almost certainly be next on their hit list.