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    I - M 
  • I Shall Fight No More Forever: If you colonize a Tomb World, on occasion the residents will turn Pacifist after taking in the horrific devastation around them. Particularly poignant if you're playing as a Militarist species.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Played with. Besides the usual difficulty settings (which give the AI bonuses at higher difficulties), there are options to select the number of AI empires spawned at the start of the game session, and how many of those empires have an "advanced" start. Generally speaking, it is a different experience starting in a game with few AI empires and few (or no) "advanced" starts, as compared to a game with many AI empires and "advanced" starts.
  • Immortal Ruler:
    • Gestalt Consciousnesses have "rulers" that are actually manifestations of the Hive Mind as a whole. Making them effectively immortal.
    • Contact with the Shroud can turn one of an empire's Leaders into an immortal Chosen One, potentially your ruler or someone who could become ruler.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Chances are good that if an achievement title isn't a Shout Out, it's this.
  • Individuality Is Illegal: Modus operandi of civilizations with the Collectivist and especially the Fanatic Collectivist ethos, until they were replaced in 1.5 with Authoritarian ones. The in-game quotes demonstrate this:
    "Society has long since evolved past the insignificant rivalries and concerns of the individuals. We are numerous but one, and the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. We stand truly equal....The purpose of the individual is simple: strengthen the collective. To enter the blackness of space we move as one, and we shall not be weakened by wanton separatism."
    • Conversely and interestingly, a Direct Democracy can also potentially veer into this arena depending on additional ethos, traits, and policies; potentially even resembling something like a Hive Mind.
  • Infinity -1 Sword: Kinetic Battery and Artillery since the 1.4 nerf. They come only in Large size, but unlike Mega Cannons and Lances, that means they can be fitted en masse on Battleships, while Cruisers and Destroyers can also use them. Late game, this will be your bread-and-butter weapon to Alpha Strike the hell out of enemy fleets.
  • Infinity +1 Sword:
    • The Extradimensional Invaders' weapon, the Matter Disintegrator, is definitely this. They ignore 50% of Shields and Armor, and they can only be obtained by researching debris from Fallen Empires and other very late-game enemies (and even then, it's just a chance). Their range is quite standard though, so it's debatable whether they're superior to the heavy weapons you get at the end of each weapon line.
    • The XL weapon slots offer the heaviest firepower a weapon techline can offer. Sadly, only Kinetics and Energy for now, and no equivalent form for Missiles. Specifically, the Arc Emitter has huge damage randomization, but its 100% Accuracy, Shield and Armor penetration makes it ideal as Alpha Strike weapon. Evasion, Shields and Armor won't protect against it, and when there's 100 Battleships firing in unison, the random damage becomes irrelevant. Then there is the Focused Arc Emitter, which is the regular one on steroids.
    • The Jump Drive and its upgrade the Psi-Jump are the best FTL method bar none. Mind the fine print though.
    • The modules obtained by defeating the Enigmatic Fortress are the best in the game, hands down.
    • Defeating the Ether Drake gives access to Dragon Hoard (yes, it's really named that), a molten world which allows mining 30 Energy Credits and Minerals each. It also gives access to one of two things down the line: Dragonscale Armour, which is probably the best armour possible, or the ability to find, and hatch, a dragon egg. The baby space dragon is not quite as powerful as its parent, but it's still nearly in line with a Fallen Empire Titan.
    • Empires delving into Psionics can obtain Psi Shield and Psi Jump Drive. The former is on par with the Enigmatic Deflector, the latter is the single best FTL method in game, hands down.
  • Inhumanable Alien Rights: Rights in an Empire are set by species. In Xenophobic Empires, you're allowed to enslave, massacre, or simply eat any filthy xenos in your Empire. Even if you don't have the Xenophobe Ethos you can still turn a non-primary species into second class citizens by forcing them to live in impoverished conditions, denying them some or all positions in the military, forbidding them from colonizing other planets, forbidding them from traveling freely altogether, forbidding them from inhabiting certain worlds, forbid them from reproducing enough to make new pops, or kicking them out of your empire altogether.
    • If you don't want to uplift or protect a pre-sapient species in your Empire you can kill off their pops when convenient, kill off their pops systematically, or allow your citizens to hunt them to extinction.
    • While you can give Artificial Intelligences full citizen rights, you can also force them into slavery or simply make it a capital offense to create, or be, an advanced AI.
    • Enforced if you play as Fanatic Purifiers, Devouring Swarm, or Dedicated Exterminators: you can only purge them efficiently, devour them for influx of food, or plug them into battery stations to gain Energy Credits, respectively.
  • Instant-Win Condition: If you hit either the Domination, Conquest, or Federation victory conditions, then you win then and there. This is relevant if you've contracted with the End of the Cycle, and thus have fifty years of supreme superpower before the bill arrives - or if the bill has already come due, because the End will usually attack the other empires before killing you.
  • Intelligent Gerbil: Most of the mammalian species, and several of the other classes of species, are obviously inspired by animals on Earth.
  • Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality: While all military ship sizes are completely customizable, their design is limited by the number of slots provided in each section of a ship. So one ship can suffer Crippling Overspecialization with a build so powerful to wipe an entire battleship fleet but too inaccurate to stand against a swarm of smaller corvettes and fighters that followed them.
  • I Shall Taunt You: The Insult diplomatic action, used to reduce Opinion. While useless for most Empires, Pacifists can use this to goad the target to declaring war. And you'd want to, as Fanatic Pacifists are actually forbidden from Declaring War without Happiness penalty.
  • Jack-of-All-Stats:
    • Post-Heinlein patch, Kinetic weapons deal increased damage against Shield while having some Armor Penetration and high rate of fire. This means they can engage smaller crafts thanks to their high rate of fire, excels in stripping enemy Shields, and can still fight against heavily Armored ships as opposed to their previous incarnation where they're practically useless.
    • Matter Disintegrator weapons ignore 50% of Shield and Armor, making them pretty good all around weapon.
    • Destroyers and Cruisers have a good flexibility of weapons and modules, allowing them to take on small and large targets, and can even be fitted with the Large Kinetic Artilleries for Alpha Strikes.
    • Missiles post-Banks patch get a slight damage bonus against shields (but not as much as kinetic weapons) and slight armor penetration (but not as much as energy weapons). Prior to the patch they had neither of these bonuses, which had left them more in Master of None territory.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Keepers of Knowledge don't like it if you research some techs they consider forbidden. Seeing how 2 out of 3 endgame Crises are caused due to you delving to such techs, they have a very good point.
  • Just a Machine: The view of Spiritualist civs on AIs, which lack a psychic presence, is that they are this. Even if they're the result of Brain Uploading, the Spiritualists regard the original species as having committed mass suicide, and places no value on the lives of the newly-minted machine species.
  • Kaiju: A type of planetary modifier is "Titanic Life", reflecting giant creatures that inhabit its biosphere. If the right quest chains are followed, such a planet can even allow "Titanic Beasts" as recruitable armies (although in limited numbers). Those with Psionic ascension can get a giant Psionic Avatar from Shroud event. Machine Empires tops them all, however, with Mega-Warform, Humongous Mecha that you can build infinite number of, assuming you can handle their construction and upkeep cost. In raw power, however, absolutely nothing trumps the Nanite Warform. However you can only get them if you're extremely lucky with L-Gate event.
  • Kaizo Trap: Did you really think that excavating the Rubricator, a Relic which can replicate Minor Artifacts (which is normally not a renewable resource), would be that easy? Of course not. You have defeat the Smaug-expy Shard before you'll get it, and you will have no idea what awaits you when you finished the excavation until it suddenly appears.
  • Karma Houdini: Usually happens in late-game; an Empire can engage in extremely deplorable acts, but once they're sufficiently powerful, none of the other Empires will dare to attack them despite having extremely low opinions of them.
  • Keystone Army: In Apocalypse, if a Great Khan dies, the empire they built disintegrates.
  • Kick the Dog: Plenty of ways to do this, though Purging tops it all. That and using Armageddon Orbital Bombardment on a planet, slowly killing their population one by one, until none remains.
  • Killer Rabbit: Nothing prevents a species with one of the "cute" portraits from being a bunch of Militaristic Xenophobes who will rain fire down on your worlds if you show the slightest weakness.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: One of the three starting weapons for your ships. Kinetic weapons, like the other two types, come in a variety such as autocannons, mass drivers and rail guns. Noted, Kinetic Weapons deal additional damage to shields and comes off very effective against unarmored targets. Late in their progression they even gain long range artillery that fares better than traditional laser weapons. One can even pursue improving said guns further through late-game repeatable upgrades.
    • BFG: In addition to the Long-ranged Artillery, the Mass Accelerators (aptly named the Mega and Giga cannons) are the apex of Kinetic weapons in general. Puncturing enemies at an exorbitant range while large enough to make it an Alpha Strike, but too large for Cruisers to carry around.
    • Played even straighter post-Kennedy patch. Kinetics gain even more bonus damage towards Shields and some minor Armor Penetration, while Energy weapons get penalty to Shields. This significantly boosts Kinetics' usefulness especially in early to midgame, as most ships rely on Shields in those periods. Even lategame, they're still useful as your bread and butter weapon, while Energy is usually reserved as an Armor-melting option once Shields are down.
  • Kirk Summation: If an Insult isn't referring to your species' appearance, it will likely be a criticism of your ethos and culture.
  • Knowledge Broker: The Curator Enclave sells information on uncharted stars, intel on certain Leviathans, access to their database which significantly boosts your research, and can assign one of their peerless scientists to work for you. All for a nominal sum of Credit.
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: On a meta-level, Stone Age primitive species are this. They cannot become Uplifted Animals or receive Technology Uplifts. If your government does not have "unrestricted native interference" (option not available for xenophile or pacifist governments), you will not be able to colonize their home planet, which is pretty much the only way to interact with them. Justified by the fact that intellectual enlightenment would take much too long to be practical, they don't have a strong society to infiltrate, and they're just past the point where uplifting is relatively easy and unobtrusive. That said, if you colonize a planet and allow them to roam free, there will sometimes be a random event that reveals that the primitives you're co-habituating with are the results of incomplete uplifting.
  • Last Stand: An Empire on the eve of conquest would gain 'Would be Annexed' condition, which will require extra Wargoal points to spend on.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Part of the Horizon Signal questline can turn one of your Admirals into this, describing now that they've seen their Foregone Conclusion end of life, they're more willing to take risks and charge blindly into the enemies. Mechanically, it gives said Admiral increased speed.
  • LEGO Genetics: High society development and certain technologies allows your race to be modified on the fly, allowing traits to be added or removed modularly to individual planets at a time. Complete the biological ascension path, and you get much more control over the Traits — even down to changing their aesthetic-only portraits. Entire species can transform from Nerve-Stapled, functionally crippled species into an exact mechanical clone of another species in the span of a month.
  • Lemony Narrator: Some of the technology descriptions and event pop-ups, in a Paradox tradition, can be somewhat sarcastic.
  • Lethal Joke Character: In a game of Galactic politics and power plays, Fanatic Xenophobes get significant enough relationship malus that they will usually have trouble in foreign relations. The lethal part is they get massive Influence discount when expanding their territory, so they can quickly expand and secure enough territory to start snowballing. And once they have snowballed enough, they won't even need to care what the rest of the galaxy thinks.
  • Lizard Folk: Reptilian races, although some portraits resemble amphibians, dinosaurs and even turtles.
  • Long-Lived: Species with the "Enduring" trait live 30 years longer than "average", presumably putting their life expectancy just over 100. While the "Venerable" trait adds 90 years to their lifespan. Inverted with the "Fleeting" trait which reduces average lifespans by 15 years. This is further inverted with the "Substance Abuser" debuff that Leaders gain at random, which shortens their lives by twenty years. There's also certain Policies and Government types that also boost lifespan, and all of these can stack. With no debuffs, some random quest rewards, and a bit of technology, you can get your Leaders living twice the faction's default lifespan. Synth Leaders (acquired through research) are also true immortals, and you can get them anytime after the tech is done or through a rare Anomaly reward as early as Year Five....
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • Neither pacifist nor xenophile empires can cleanse worlds of pre-sentient critters by force. What they can do is terraform them, which removes any and all tile blockers - even the rudimentary intelligent ones.
    • There are two triggers that make Awakening a near-certainty: when you conquer a Fallen Empire, or when you capture one of their planets. But see, they can't Awaken mid-war, so you can declare war that will never end with every Fallen Empire to lock them out from ever Awakening.details 
  • Loot Box: Parodied with the Reliquaries you can purchase from the Caravaneers, particularly the empty lootbox that, after opening, gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment.
  • Lord British Postulate: Even the End of the Cycle can be beaten back by the galaxy's remaining civilizations with luck, focus, a well-unified galaxy, and lots of firepower. (After which, the "fool of an empire" that summoned it will probably be conquered or purged for their crimes.)
    • Some players have even purposely summoned the End of the Cycle with the intention of the galaxy surviving AND them being able to rebuild their Empire from Exile. Of course, any chance of sucess means meticulous planning and luck from literally the moment the player presses the unpause button.
  • Lost Colony: One of the pre-gen empires, the Commonwealth of Man, is a human lost colony that ended up in Deneb during an experiment with wormholes. While the United Nations of Earth ended up xenophilic fanatical egalitarians the CoM instead became xenophobic fanatical militarists.
  • Lovecraft Lite:
    • Hyperspace beings invading our universe to feed on the Life Energy of its inhabitants? Eldritch Abominations wreaking havoc on entire solar systems? Ancient alien races who show up one day out of the blue and sterilize one of your colonies because you accidentally "contaminated" one of their holy worlds? The Stellaris universe can be a pretty scary place. Good thing you've got Frickin' Laser Beams to fight them off.
    • The Prethoryn look like something right out of the Cthulhu Mythos. They can also be wiped out with due application of Five Rounds Rapid.
  • Love Potion: A planet modifier called "Atmospheric Aphrodisiac" exists, which according to the in-game description "seems to put people in the mood to reproduce". Accordingly, it boosts habitability and growth speed due to doing lots of excercise, but it also reduces government ethics attraction, because people are busy doing things other than their job.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Like the Kinetic and Energy weapons, your race can start a technology with these. Missile weapons are the Master of None, it does not ignore armor and it comes with a specific variant that ignores shields. Unlike the other two weapon types; Missiles can't be dodged, instead they are destroyed individually with point-defenses if one should pursue in attacking others with missile technology. Swarmer Missiles are essentially this trope. Equipped in large mounts, these not only serve to destroy small ships at an effective pace, but are also designed to overwhelm point-defenses. Subverted when you look closer at their stats; Swarmer Missiles simply have huge Evasion to ignore Point Defenses. The only drawback is that Swarmer Missiles are medium-sized mountings and cannot be equipped by corvettes.
  • Made a Slave:
    • Empires are allowed to enslave parts of their populations.
    • The 1.5 patch made these policies apply per species and the Utopia extension allows several types of slavery, such as the classical work-slave (in mines, plantations and houses), as BattleThralls, or even livestock - genetic engineering even allows for assigning traits such as "Delicious" and "Nerve Stapled" to species, which make them more nutricious, and as docile and unthinking as cows, respectively!
  • Madness Mantra: The Worm and its disciples: "WHAT WAS, WILL BE! WHAT WILL BE, WAS!"
  • Mad Scientist: The "Maniacal" trait on a scientist indicates this. They can unlock some unique, if morally dubious, technologies if given a position as a department head. Including an unprecedented x5 modifier to researching Psionic technologies.
  • Magikarp Power:
    • Living Metal is a very hard to find Strategic Resourcenote . Its minuscule buffs do little with ships that rely heavily on shielding, but on a Engineering-focused empire provided with Crystalline technology beforehand, its regenerative capabilities proportionally grows along with the ships built with it, allowing ships, even a corvette, to withstand powerful hits from a Fallen Battleship and live to take another shot.
      • As a mutual effect from Living Metal, Hull points usually hits this in the tight spot. There is no conventional way of improving hull points without encountering crystal entities or strategic resources, and the only option to increase hull independently is through repeatable research which requires Cruiser technology, let alone the lots of research from the tech needed for the effect to be useful enough. An Engineering-focused empire can take advantage of this, but must also keep up with kinetic weapons and armor if one should pursue so. Once done, hull regeneration will be large enoughnote  to suffice every attack thrown at your ships, especially from Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors-weapons by more powerful empires, completely obsoleting armor and shields altogether.
      • With Utopia installed, Living Metal also helps with the construction of megastructures. Even a single Living Metal mine can shave years off the construction time, allowing an empire to reap the benefits of the installation much quicker.
    • Authoritarians don't get much at the start aside from Slavery and Purge, which may anger your neighbors (and if said neighbors include the Enigmatic Observers...). But late-game, Authoritarians get several vital technologies that reduce Ethics Divergence, which can and will make your population (including conquered xeno races) conform with your Ethics, and thus eliminating much of the Factional internal strife.
  • Magitek: Psionic technologies require psychic organisms to work, whose power is then amplified by the requisite infrastructure.
  • Mana: Influence is rather difficult to obtain, with only a handful of monthly sources. In contrast, they are used to fuel Edicts, the 'spells' of the game, maintain Alliances, recruit Leaders,, and build some of the most advanced structures. From 1.4 onwards, fewer buildings have an upgrade cost, which allows for more common colonization and more frontier outpost projects. From 1.5 and the change of Faction system, happy Faction also provides Influence.
  • Master of All: Synths gain 20% bonus to ALL production, except food which they don't consume anyway.
  • Matter Replicator: The Resource Replicator structure enabled by the Matter Generation technology. It can create a substantial amount of material by consuming an even greater quantity of energy.
  • Mecha-Mooks: Robotic Armies and Android Armies are available to those who have the right technologies.
  • Mega-Corp: A possible government type, if you choose the Oligarchy authority and "Corporate Dominion" civic. There's also the "Trans-Stellar Corporations" tradition, that unlocks private colony ships. For the more spiritually inclined, there is also a "Mega Church" alternative. Megacorps in general are promoted to their own individual goverment type in the heavily trade-focused Megacorp expansion.
  • Mêlée à Trois: An event called War in Heaven becomes one of these with two fallen empires fighting each other along side their respective allies while all the factions that decide to stay neutral form an alliance to fight both fallen empires.
  • Mid-Season Upgrade: Existing spaceships can have their designs revised and be upgraded with new technology as it comes out, though this requires the return to a starport to refit it. These upgrades can represent a crucial shift in the Balance of Power during a war when one side makes a technological breakthrough that significantly improves their combat ability, but beware that larger fleets require more yard time to implement all these upgrades, potentially leaving their foe a strategic opening.
  • Mighty Glacier: Battleships come with plenty of Large weapon and module hardpoints, a whopping 80 Armor, and are the only ships capable of mounting the XL weapon hardpoints. They also have near-zero Evasion, and Large weapons will have trouble hitting the smaller ships, allowing Corvettes to heckle them with Death of a Thousand Cuts. And if these Corvettes are geared with Mining Drone Lasers and Autocannons, they can cut a Battleship into pieces in a short time.
  • The Milky Way Is the Only Way: Even with access to wormholes, gateways, and Jump Drives, there is no mention of intergalactic travel featured in gameplay (with the Prethoryn Scourge being the only exception via Informed Ability). On the other hand, you can choose the size and shape of the starting galaxy and start in a random sector as well as renaming star systems, subverting this trope.
  • Minmaxer's Delight: A few negative traits are very easy to work around and show up a great deal in optimized races.
    • Sedentary (or Bulky for robots) has no real repercussions for non-slavers and non-Authoritarians because they don't forcibly resettle pops anyway and migration, even with a penalty, can take care of the rest. In 2.0 the resource required to resettle pops was changed from valuable Influence to comparatively cheap Energy, so it's even less important to have this malus since lategame empires can simply hoard Energy. In 2.2, however, this can be a bit problematic, since new colony's early growth now relies on migration, and slow migration means that it'll take more time to get pop up to where you can upgrade the administrative building to level 2, to stop that completely.
    • Pre-2.2, Slow Breeders is commonly taken due to having almost no drawback past the first ten or twenty years, where excess food production will easily outweigh the penalty to growth rate. Robot or slave-heavy empires can turn this into an advantage since it limits their founder species population, which is beneficial to them. Post-2.2, however, this is probably one of the worst trait you can pick, due to population growth being massively important.
    • Weak is a almost free pick for any race who picked Syncretic Evolution or plans to rush robots since their founder species will never be gathering minerals or fighting in armies anyway. One potential disadvantage marking this lower than the other traits is that it will discourage Militarism.
    • Luxurious for Machine Empire, due to the fact that +20% pop assembly cost only amounts to +0.6 mineral per Replicator job, which you can easily overcome with good mineral income. The fact that it's the only negative Machine Empire trait that gives +2 trait point is even better.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: The rare (due to fairly specific requirements) Fanatical Befrienders, an Ascended Meme from the pre-release Twitch streams. They love other aliens and would absolutely love to be everyone's friend, but unfortunately, are rather repugnant and natural introverts.
  • Money for Nothing: Zig-Zagged. Energy Credits are absolutely vital in the early game, as they fuel your Mineral-mining Space Stations and Fleet. But once you reach mid-game, you will most likely have a strong Financial (read: Energy) producing base, that you'll be swimming in Energy in no time, if not hit the cap. There's also only a few things that require energy to build, and Mineral is much more important. However, once you get into wars, you better have enough Energy credit to pay your Fleet upkeep, and some late-game tech options especially Terraforming require huge expenditure of Energy. The Trader Enclaves also provide an option to convert your useless overstocked Energy to the ever-useful Minerals. 2.2 also adds market, both internal and galactic, so you can exchange energy for other goods.
  • Monstrous Humanoid: Or Monstrous WhatEverYourSpeciesIs-oid. The "Xenomorph Army" is a group of super-strong, super-ravenous genetically engineered abominations that can be raised an unleashed on the enemy, while carefully observed by knowledgeable scientists from heavily armored bunkers behind the frontline.
  • Mook Commander: Titans have a slot for an aura that can buff friendly ships in the same fleet or debuff nearby enemy ships.
  • More Dakka: Autocannons, in general. They are fast, simple and accurate, but stops at a few ticks short on range, meant to rip a Zerg Rush of Corvettes and Destroyers a new one. Small or Medium weapons en masse on certain ship sections also count, but not always, ranging from Mass Drivers, Laser Cannons and Missile Launchers.
  • Most Writers Are Human: Humanity has no less than three different pre-set empires (though one is technically a machine empire with human subjects) and three name lists, as well as the widest variety of appearance options for pops and leaders. Sol and Deneb (the preset humans' starting areas) are unique star systems, and Earth itself is host to a number of unique events and geographical features. In the game's meta, human empires are by far the most popular choice among the playerbase; usually styled off famous human-supremacist empires in fiction such as the Imperium of Man.
  • Multiple Government Polity: Any Federation or Empire with Vassals is likely to be this unless one empire liberated or released the others. Even then they can vary a great deal in civics and may ethically diverge.
  • Mundane Utility:
    • Robot empires can build the Prediction Engine, which is stated to have been made in vain to predict organics, but it is adept at manipulating their stock markets.
    • Planet cracking colossi can be used as essentially enormous mining equipment, cracking worlds of little or no strategic or economic value (eg. habitable worlds so small that colonizing them isn't worth the research and unity penalties and barren worlds with no deposits) into mineable asteroids with anywhere from 1 to 16 exploitable mineral resources.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The Shroud event-chain begins with the empire in question gaining Psionic ascension. The empire is then contacted by something called "The End of the Cycle" which, when you form a pact with it, greatly enhances the empire. Fifty years later, the Reckoning arrives and the empire disappears. Its planets become uninhabitable and the leaders, ships and starbases destroyed. The Shroud's fleets gather in large numbers with nigh impossible fleet power. If the empire is lucky, they gain a new home named 'Exile' from an uncolonized planet, but they have a -1000 diplomacy modifier with every other empire and are left to last as the Reckoning destroys everyone else in the galaxy. If you happen to be controlling the empire, the only option in the dialog box reads "What have we done?"
    • Not that the game warns you. The option for making an alliance with "The End of the Cycle" warns 'do not do this', but this serves as Schmuck Bait to curious players lured by the promise of greatly enhancing their empire. The Shroud-Marker modifier for the planets under the control of empires that make deals with "The End of the Cycle" warns 'Something very bad is going to happen here'.

    N - S 
  • Named After Their Planet: Played straight for the most part in regards to randomly-generated species, though there are exceptions.
  • Negative Space Wedgie: The Extradimensional Portal, heart of Extradimensional Outside-Context Problem.
  • Nerf: Due to continuous patching and rebalancing, a lot of strategies both economic and military that were overpowered going in have been reduced in effectiveness over time. One example that stands out as of version 2.2 is that, due to the removal of planetary tiles, hosting multiple species in your empire has lost most of its gameplay appeal. Where previously each species would grow a pop independently, which allowed for fully settling a new world in record time, now there's only a single "tile" for pop growth that all species have to share, so although the improved immigration stat does speed up pop growth a bit, it's nowhere near as effective as it used to be. Which species is in line to grow is also randomized, so the new mechanic can actually make things worse by consistently choosing a Slow Breeder species as your next pop.
  • New Tech Is Not Cheap: While the majority of the tech tree already follows this line through the classical Technology Levels, the game provides this trope in three flavors:
    • All better technologies are a degree costlier than its previous technology. Building upgrades are sequentially expensive than the initial building on the planet. While in space, ship components are individually segmented allowing a more efficient build if the player decides to ignore the less practical automated designs.
    • Repeatable upgrades are at the time-sink of this trope. With each level costing much more research points than its previous numeral. Once researched, upgrades will immediately buff all ships throughout the empire without needing a refit.
    • The larger your empire becomes, the more costly each tech becomes. Every planet adds 10% to the base cost, and every pop you control after your first 10 adds 1%. Post-2.2 this is changed to if you go over your Administrative Capacity. However, you can increase that Capacity to help counteract that with some technologies and civics.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • Messing around with certain late-game technologies, such as jump drives, can have disastrous consequences for the entire galaxy.
    • Uplifting primitives with extremely different ethos, especially ones like Militarist or Xenophobe, is a dangerous game. They might adopt their uplifter's ethos, partially or fully. Or they might not, and be uplifted as a vassals so treasonous and scheming that Crusader Kings players may feel a sense of deja vu.
    • Bringing the End of the Cycle is definitely this, and everyone else will hate you for it. (-1000 Reaction)
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: The Prethoryn Scourge sterilize every planet they conquer, rendering it uninhabitable. But one of the victory conditions is to control 40% of all habitable worlds, and if you were already close to this goal when the swarm invades, having them reduce the total number of habitable planets (and thus increase the percent that you have) can be the final push you need for a win!
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Given that any pop can become any type of army, it is entirely possible for your (mid- to late-game) empire to create AI soldiers with Psychic Powers who ride to war on giant custom-designed mutant war beasts, or robot-xenomorph hybrids supported by clouds of killer nanites, or any number of insane (but awesome) combinations of troops. The most potent are the Titanic War Beasts with Psy-Warriors, which boosts their already absurd Damage and Morale impact beyond any other unit in the game.
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: Originally Xenophobe empires disliked it when you modify your own species, as gene-modifying your own species means it counts as a new species. This also meant that your newly modified pops, who are likely as xenophobic as you are, treated you as an alien overlord. This was not intentional behaviour, and was fixed so that xenophobes at least don't regard gene-modded versions of their own species (and vise-versa) as full-on aliens. Egalitarian empires also dislike the leader enhancement policies, though they're perfectly fine with modifying the general population. Spiritualists hate anyone who uses Brain Uploading and have a much harder time researching any kind of cybernetics.
  • Not in My Backyard!: Any species with the Repugnant Trait causes reduced opinion in diplomacy. It doesn't matter if said Aliens are scientists and workers par excellence; others won't appreciate having them as neighbors.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The Prethoryn Swarm, already a crisis faction with terrifying levels of power, who transform planets into more swarm birthers and can reduce even the Fallen Empires to shells of their former selves in only a few short years, are running from something even worse.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The description of the Byzantine Bureaucracy civic, "An army of officials and functionaries work tirelessly to keep the government running smoothly and ensure no citizens are allocated resources they cannot demonstrate a properly filed and triple-stamped need for." In game effects the empire applies fewer amenities to its' POPs and crams them into smaller housing. Funnily enough, there's no restriction to Byzantine Bureaucracy being combined with Efficient Bureaucracy!
  • Obvious Beta: The initial release fell prey to 'released too early' and 'not tested thoroughly enough' tropes, with three hotfixes coming within a couple weeks from launch day.
    • There was a real problem in the late-game with stuttering and general lag, as well as instances where selecting a fleet in the late game of any composition will max out a single CPU while the other cores or threads sit around nearly idle.
    • There have been records of bugs with armies being lost to the player should they invade a planet, take control, and then be booted out of the system as a result of another empire taking the planet within the borders. What is worse, those armies show up on the outliner wasting a huge amount of space.
    • One of the late game crisis could not be properly beaten, as a certain trigger relating to planet health didn't work. Another one constantly purged its own population.
    • Evasion being so overpowered that the best fleet composition by far was simple corvettes loaded with as many evasion boosters as possible.
    • The HOSTILE FLEET DETECTED bug. Due to a flaw in the way the game reported enemy fleet actions on launch, every single time a fleet in sensor range prepared a jump to anywhere, it spawned a hostile fleet notice. By mid or late game, wars can be quite large endeavors between large alliances, meaning there can be dozens of enemy fleets, each of which spawning a message every single time they jump. The 1.02 patch cut this down somewhat.
    • Colony events, the spice of the mid game, hardly ever fire. Fixes were promised and pushed back in several major patches several times. Nowadays, each new colony is almost guaranteed to generate a (unique for that game) colony event, finally.
    • Choosing Sol as your starting system didn't prevent the random galaxy generator from adding a second Sol to the map. This was fixed in a later patch.
    • A bug can cause only female portraits to be chosen for leaders instead of having it be a 50/50 chance either way.
    • Sector AI couldn't understand how to deal with robotic or enslaved pops.
    • Originally, if you created a custom species that started on the special "Earth" option (which is always a Continental planet) but didn't have Continental Preference as its planet preference, you couldn't ever research Continental Colonization and by extension Ocean Colonization, even if you got a compatible species to settle them with. This locks out two abundant planet types for your entire game. No longer an issue now that Colonization techs have been done away with and replaced with the Habitability mechanic.
    • It's possible for an AI Empire to invite you for war against... yourself. This tended to happen with Tributary empires that are released, but then hate you. Rejecting their terms does nothing, accepting their terms seemingly starts a war but actually does nothing, and most importantly, they will keep inviting you to the war declaration over and over. It gets annoying after a while, and makes you wonder if wiping them off the face of the galaxy would finally put a stop to it.
    • One endgame crisis exterminated itself by purging its entire population until patch 1.2.3 fixed it.
    • The only available Victory Conditions at release were Domination (colonize 40% of the available inhabitable planets) and Conquest (conquer every other Empires under your heels). This effectively shafted Pacifists, as they could not start wars of aggression and by midgame, most of the inhabitable worlds would already be colonized and the only way to expand is either trade for planets (highly unlikely if not outright impossible that they would accept your deal where you come out ahead) or to wage war. Pacifists could still declare war of liberation, but allies and vassals did not count toward Domination either. Heinlein fixed this by adding the Federation victory condition, which requires a Federation to own 60% of the available inhabitable planets — thanks to the changes to alliances in Heinlein this meant that allies did count towards it.
    • Portraits from pre-order bonuses could not be used by the randomly generated AI empires. A patch that came out alongside the Plantoids DLC pack was supposed to fix this, but it only worked for the plantoids. Creatures of the Void, Arachnoids, Chirpy, and the Platypus still don't show up.
    • The original version of the game slapped a hefty -1000 "Not Diplomatically Relevant" modifier on when attempting to form alliances with empires that were too far away, effectively making it impossible and severely hampering Federation-based gameplay. A later patch replaced this with a scaling "distance" penalty that was much easier to overcome.
    • The Cherryh update's massive overhauls to the warfare system were apparently barely playtested before release. The new war exhaustion mechanic in particular made a lot of players very unhappy until Day One mods rebalanced or outright removed it. Also, like so many other updates before, Cherryh wreaked havoc on a great many text messages, especially those unique to Machine Empires, so that only indecipherable strings were shown in their stead.
    • The Le Guin's massive overhaul to the economy system also have a lot of problems, with bugs, AI being unable to use new Economy, infinite money with market, endgame crises cannot purge pops, and more. It doesn't help that the patch was released only 2-3 weeks before Christmas break. However the developerss are working hard at fix after their break and by the time of 2.2.6 beta, the game is now in a pretty good shape.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: Too many to count, but here are some of the more blatant ones:
    • Beam weapons now deal reduced damage against Shields, giving them clear tactical weakness in combat.
    • Point Defense, Flak Battery, Torpedoes, Lances and Mega Cannons now occupy special slots in a ship, so no more mass PD/Torpedo/Lance ships.
    • Decadent trait requires Authoritarian or Xenophobe ethos, to patch out an early loophole allowing Xenophiles and Individualists (as Egalitarians were called back then) to practice slavery. Patch 1.8 also require Slave population equal or greater than the Decadent population as owned property, so no more appeasing an entire planet's worth of Decadent pop with a single Slave pop.
    • Taking out the Portal that is the heart of the extradimensional Crisis now requires you to destroy any Dimensional Anchors beforehand, so no more rushing the Portal immediately when it pops up.
    • Armor and Armor-piercing mechanics have been changed, so no more stacking ludicrous amount of Armor and still getting 60% reduction against Tachyon Lances. On the other hand, this also improves armor piercing attacks' performance.
    • Auxiliary Slots now limit how much you can boost your Ships' Regeneration and Hull Points (aside from repeatable techs).
    • Battleships can no longer equip Auras, which are now limited to Military Stations.
    • Hyperspace FTL used to allow the player to leave a system from literally anywhere within it, but was changed to require you to start at the edge of the solar system.
    • Originally, Tomb Worlds spawned with a number of unique tile blockers that couldn't be removed, but gave sizable adjacency bonuses to research. Banks changed them - they no longer offer adjacency bonuses, but are now removable from the start of the game at an increased cost.
    • From 1.5 onwards, Psionic and Robotic techs are exclusive to Spiritualist and Materialist Empires, and they are mutually exclusive to each other. This was reverted in 1.8 in favour of stronger bonuses.
    • Habitability and Climate Preference is now separate. A pop can have high Habitability allowing them to live in hostile areas, but they most likely won't be happy for it. This gives significant nerf to the Extremely Adaptive trait, which was previously One Stat to Rule Them All for non-Hive Mind and non-Robot Empires.
    • Flak weapons are now PD slot specialized to take down enemy strike crafts instead of Medium slot. Swarmer Missiles can now also be shot down, though it'll be much difficult to do so.
    • No more taking the "Fanatic Purifier" civic mid-game; it can now only be chosen at the start since it directly influenced the backstory of any empire who has it. This is also true, and for the same reason, for the "Devouring Swarm" civic Hive Minds can take, and the 3 special machine civics, "Determined Exterminators", "Driven Assimilators" and "Rogue Servitors". This also applies to "Inward Perfection" civic, which was normally switched in or out before around mid-game.
    • After 1.8, a number of changes was made to nerf some of the outright overpowered Zerg Rush strategies (see the Game Breaker page). One of them? The introduction of combat width, stopping players from dropping entire dooomstacks of armies on an single planet that only had a measly 25 defenders that would get swarmed at once.
    • Patch 2.2.3 has a sly line justifying why the Horizon Signal final reward (turning all of a system's planets, including Barren ones into Tomb Worlds) no longer affects Ecumenopolises. Of course, the latter planet type was a huge investment in resources, so having all that investment turned into another Tomb World was very disappointing.
    • In an earlier patch to 2.2.3, Spiritualists (who hate meddling with Tomb Worlds in any way, even terraforming them) were patched so that if a Spiritualist empire claimed the final Horizon Signal reward, they wouldn't be stricken with self-loathing.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist:
    • Mostly downplayed. Most scientist leaders have fields that they specialize in; they'll be more likely to draw research cards for that field, and assigning them to be the head of research projects that match their field of expertise will result in a boost to research speed. However, a scientist can do a reasonably good job in any field; a statecraft specialist, for instance, makes a perfectly capable biologist.
    • Those with "The Spark of Genius" trait play this completely straight; it gives them the same research speed bonus to any field of research. Those with "Maniacal" trait also get a bonus to all fields, though only at half the rate of Spark of Genius, which is compensated by being more likely to unlock choice to research tech that would be rare otherwise.
    • Scientists of the Curator Enclave plays this straight. For a nominal sum of Credits, you get a max-level scientist with 15% bonus to all research speed, and also make an excellent Surveyor.
  • One Curse Limit: Having one endgame crisis start prevents any others from occurring, even after the crisis is dealt with. In other words, if, say, the Prethoryn Scourge show up, you can play around with jump drives and synthetics to your heart's content without any fear of the Extradimensional Invaders or The Contingency. However, this only applies to the 'official' crisis events; the War In Heaven (which is often worse, especially if you went neutral) won't prevent any of them, nor will the Grey Tempest.
  • One Nation Under Copyright: Empires with the Corporate Dominion civic in the base game and Megacorps in the titular DLC. The latter have significant limits to their direct expansion but can build "branch offices" on other empires' planets and vassalize normal empires as "Subsidiaries".
  • One Stat to Rule Them All: Pre-2.2, Habitability is extremely important, as it determines which planets you can colonize as well as Happiness cap. With high Habitability, you get a wider selection of planets to colonize, so you can immediately take the biggest, best planets for yourself. Sure, you have to take 2 extra drawbacks just to take the Extremely Adaptive trait in character creation, but with multiple 20+ capacity planets in early-mid game, what you lack in quality you will make up in quantity. This is one the main reasons why Hive Minds and all manner of Synthetic Dawn robot civilizations are so easy to play (and so dangerous to have as enemies) - they don't care about habitability or pop happiness at all, allowing them to expand unbelievably fast. 2.2 reduced the importance due to it mainly increase population maintanence, which can be remedied with good economy and dedicating more pops toward ameneties on that planet, while happiness penalty is easier to ignore. 2.3 considerably ups its importance by making any habitability lower than 100% makes pop take a hit to productivity and growth rate.
  • One Steve Limit: Nope.
    • The game can be authorized to include custom empires during the creation of a new campaign. Since many players tend to stick to one or two preferred species as a template for experimenting with different ethos or trait combinations, it's not uncommon to encounter several instances of the same star system on the map if this option was activated.
    • Only a select few anomaly events are truly unique, which means that most of them can and will trigger multiple times in any given campaign. That in turn can potentially result in having two or more examples of the special "Exile" leader in the player's roster if this event was coincidentally triggered twice of thrice simultaneously.
    • There are only so many names for ships and leaders for any given name set, so it's inevitable to eventually have several leaders or vessels with the same name.
  • One-Woman Wail: Spatial Lullaby is a very nice example, a haunting yet beautiful piece to accompany your more relaxed game phases when you've caught a break in all the galaxy-conquering hectic. On the other hand, it can turn into a downright tear-jerking dirge when it happens to play during a huge battle or even the eradication of an empire. Just imagine listening to it over the untold carnage that's unfolding planetside every time you click that innocuous "Land Armies" button, or engage in a pitched space battle.
  • One World Order:
    • Initially the case, with your chosen government controlling your home planet and your chosen ethics being shared by your entire populace, but Pops can and will diverge from your ethics over time and branch into factions if they're not happy with your leadership, and can even start rebellions if you don't take action in time.
    • Machine-Early Space Age races usually have the "Fragmented Nations" government, indicating an aversion of this trope though possibly with something like the modern-day UN.
    • Gestalt Consciousnesses (Hive Minds), naturally enough, are utterly united in their pursuit, and will never experience Factional strife. The same is true for Machine Intelligences, their synthetic counterparts introduced in Synthetic Dawn.
  • Only in It for the Money: Some factions, particularly military-focused, will only side with you in a war if they find the outcome profitable, such as ceding planets or usurping unwanted empires that weigh them down.
    • Enclaves, in the Leviathans DLC, only work for you if you pay them well and stay out of their business once you're done.
  • Orbital Bombardment: Naturally enough. Orbital bombardments help clear off a landing point for your troops to dominate a planet, especially if said planet is developed or a capital. The intensity can be varied; "light", which "pacifist" civs are restricted to, only hits unquestionably explicitly military targets, "limited" focuses on military-relevant infrastructure as well but avoids permanent biosphere damage, and "full" devastates the planet into submission, possibly causing permanent biosphere damage. Note that while only Limited and Full have a chance to destroy structures, all bombardments have a chance to kill pops living on the planet below. This means prolonged bombardment can be used to Purge a planet by Empires that officially outlaw Purges.
    • Utopia adds another level of bombardment exclusive to Fanatic Purifiers and Determined Exterminators: Armageddon. Though it still takes months if not years to wipe out the population from orbit.
    • Patch 2.0 closes the "Orbital Purge" loophole so fleets engaged in "Selective" bombardment hold back from killing the last 10 pops on the planet, while "Indiscriminate" leaves 5 pops alive. Sanitizing a planet requires Armageddon-level bombardment, and also converts the planet into a Tomb World.
  • Order Versus Chaos: The Authoritarian vs Egalitarian dichotomy. Egalitarians tend to go for Democracy government types, Authoritarians prefer more autocratic ones, and Oligarchies are middle ground between the two. Fittingly, Egalitarians see Authoritarians as Tyrants while Authoritarians see Egalitarians as Rabble. Also see Sliding Scale of Libertarianism and Authoritarianism below.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: An empire with the materialist or fanatic materialist ethos. They're wrong. However, when asked about if the Materialists are objectively wrong, Wiz says: "No". This suggests that while they don't have the whole truth, they're not completely incorrect either.
    "As we reach for the stars, we must put away childish things; gods, spirits and other phantasms of the brain. Reality is cruel and unforgiving, yet we must steel ourselves and secure the survival of our race through the unflinching pursuit of science and technology."
  • Outside-Context Problem: Comes in multiple variants.
    • First off, you can be one. You know those Primitive civilizations, right? There is nothing (besides your civ's ethical alignment and policies) preventing you from infiltrating the more technologically advanced primitive civilizations and subverting their government. Or you could just simply drop several divisions of power-armored wearing genetically enhanced supersoldiers supported by Psionic Warriors and fire support from one of your fleets in orbit into the midst of a Medieval-era civilization. (You even get an achievement called "Outside Context" for invading a pre-FTL Earth.
    • Lore-wise this is what the end-game crises are.
  • Over Drive: Two examples:
    • The first is ship modules. Designing your ship with excess power over its demands increases efficiency with a small chunk of speed, evasion and damage. This leaves it open for Glass Cannon builds for certain ships that sacrifices armor and/or shields over all for reactors.
    • The second is Afterburners. They're expensive, they chew up power, they make your ship slower to build, and if you're just jumping from system to system, they're useless. Get into a fight with a higher-tech or faster fleet, though, and they let your ships ramp up their maximum velocity substantially.
  • Paper Tiger: Right now, the endgame crises are pretty weak.
    • The Extradimensional Invaders. Yes, they can beat the AI and claim huge swathes of the galaxy, but a competent player with a large enough fleet can grind them into dust. Their over-reliance on escorts means a fleet consisting of battleships and cruisers using appropriate weapons (such as torpedoes, which never miss, and massed Focused Arc Emitters, which also never miss and ignore armour/shields completely) will rip to shreds anything they throw at the player. Combined with their unwillingness to upgrade and how easily baited their fleets and constructors are, to a decent empire getting rid of them won't be war, but pest control.
    • The Contingency can be little more than an annoyance if it doesn't manage to make a big enough empire shortly after it spawns. If that happens, the biggest problem with fighting them is they randomly popup and capture planets, which you then need to clear out. Individual planets have little to no defences, so it becomes a case of bombing their fortifications and invading them, over and over again until you finally clear the galaxy.
    • Individual Prethoryn fleets tends to noticeably less powerful than their 21K military power rating suggests due to their total lack of shields (it's the sheer numbers that pose a problem), which means basic reverse-engineered Mining Lasers mass-applied via Corvettes and Macross Missile Massacre are their downfall. They still need to be dealt with quickly, though, given that they irreversibly destroy the ecosystems of conquered worlds.
    • Fallen Empires are this by design, though they can still blast young, early-game empires to ashes in short order. Their issue is that they can't expand their fleets or rebuild them if they're destroyed, so they're vulnerable to being drowned in ships by a midgame empire, particularly one armed with torpedoes (which bypass shields). Since they cannot awaken when in a war, they will eventually fall to repeated raids against their ships and stations.
    • Averted, however, with Awakened Empires. Even in the ultra lategame, they're a huge challenge; most of the time, the biggest threat to an Awakened Empire is another Awakened Empire.
  • Penal Colony: Patch 2.2 allows empires to designate a world as a penal colony, which has a higher rate of crime due to most of its inhabitants being exiled criminals, but gains immigrants very quickly and reduces crime on other worlds, as the other worlds ship their criminals into this prison world.
  • Permanently Missable Content:
    • If you take out an Enclave's home station, they're gone for good. Even if you don't destroy them yourself, certain Guardians (most infamously the roving Spectres) will attack anything they come across, which may result in the occasional "Enclave destroyed" message popping up out of nowhere.
      • The Artisan Enclave also has an event where they will take your cash and scram, making them unavailable for the rest of the game. Fortunately, there's usually more than one in any given galaxy, so they're not completely lost even if you have to start building up your rapport with them from scratch.
    • Only the one who defeated a Guardian can reap its benefits or research what's left behind. If you're unlucky, one or more Guardians may spawn in Fallen Empire territory, which means the beast(s) will be curbstomped within the first couple minutes after the game started, denying you their unique benefits. The same can happen if you wait too long and another, regular empire seizes the chance.
  • Photoprotoneutron Torpedo: Yes, one of the missile weapons is called a Proton Torpedo, and its more advanced version is the Neutron Torpedo. There is also missiles with an antimatter warhead, quantum missiles, a version of the torpedo armored against point defenses, etc...
  • Physical God: The Transcendence Ascension path allows you to recruit 2 kinds of this. First is the Psionic Avatar, a manifestation of the Shroud that is the best single army type in the game, hands down. That means it can take on a Titanic Beast one-on-one and win. The second is when you assign The Chosen One status to one of your leaders; they gain Immortality and massive bonus relevant to their class.
  • Planet Destroyer: The whole point of a Colossus ship. Though nominally a military ship, the Colossus has no actual fleet combat capability, but is instead a single massive weapon solely dedicated to the purpose of laying waste to enemy planets.
  • Planet of Hats: Crops up in a couple different ways.
    • Played straight with Traits, biological instincts every species has that make them, say, better scientists, less inclined to disagree with each other, and unable to be happy unless they have slaves to boss around. These can only be changed through genetic tinkering, so if a species is Nomadic, all of its pops are considered Nomadic.
    • There's also Ethos, the principles that individual Pops and governments abide by. Early on in the game, this is played straight — every pop on the capital world will subscribe to the same philosophy, and this is unlikely to change. Outside of the capital planet, though, and especially outside of the home sector, Pops may begin to develop a different ethos (especially if they're not happy), and even form Factions of people extremely unhappy with the ruling culture, while still part of the empire. Of course, by doing whatever is necessary to keep the populace happy and/or complacent, the ruling government can encourage their populace towards orthodoxy, even conquered groups who normally subscribe to a very different ideology.
    • Can also be invoked by the player via planet specialisation. For example, one planet may be entirely geared towards generating power, another produces minerals, on a third every pop works in a science lab etc. Generally, such specialisation is more efficient than having every planet do something of each industry type due to certain ressource-boosting structures.
  • Planet Spaceship: Habitats, or artificial planets, can be built around uninhabited planets.
  • Plasma Cannon: Three tiers of Plasma Throwers, Plasma Accelerators and Plasma Cannons proper in-game, and are extremely effective at eating through a ship's armor.
  • Playing the Player: the End of the Cycle subverts many of the usual Grand Strategy tropes. The Schmuck Bait is irresistible to curious veterans expecting — even eagerly anticipating — yet another tough but fair challenge to vanquish or outwit. But the result is instant, total, and irrevocable destruction of the empire after fifty years.
  • Pleasure Planet: Patch 2.2 allows empires to designate a world as a resort world. This prevents any districts from being built on the world, but it increases amenities on other worlds, as those worlds' inhabitants can go to the resort planet to enjoy themselves. Resort worlds also have 100% inhabitability for all species, as their resorts are climate controlled for all clientele.
  • Point Build System:
    • Used during the creation of your species' traits and government ethos. With traits you are limited to five and given two points to buy at the start. You can gain additional points by buying negative traits, but remember you are still limited to a maximum of five traits. With Ethos, you have three points to spend which can net you either three moderate ethos, or one fanatical and one moderate ethos. Alternatively, you can use all 3 Ethos points to go for a Gestalt Consciousness in either biological Hive Mind or Machine Intelligence flavour, which closes some options, but opens unique new ones.
    • The Wargoal system is a variant of this, where you have 100 Wargoal points to spend at max. Conquering, Liberating or Purging a planet is more expensive than simple Humiliation or Open Border, and taking on their larger planets would also be more expensive. The more Wargoals you set, the more you will have to do to make the enemy concede.
    • The Ship Designer allows you to design your ships' loadout, but there's always a hard limit based on the Power Generator you're willing to put in, and the levels of the equipment being powered. Higher level means better performance (and generally has to be researched first), but also more demand (unless generator or armour) and always being more expensive.
  • Point Defenseless: Civilian ships and early military crafts fall under this trope. Averting this trope will take some of the firepower off to deal with missiles and strike crafts.
  • Poke in the Third Eye: Among the many random events that each foray into the Shroud can trigger is one that has your psykers accidentally listen in on some meeting of a Fallen Empire's leaders from halfway across the galaxy. If successful, you get a nice boon like some end-game tech. More often than not, however, the aliens will notice the cross-dimensional intrusion and slap you with a hefty opinion penalty that can potentially end in them declaring war on you.
  • The Political Officer: You can assign Commissar Squads to your armies. Once you research the appropriate tech, they're also automatically deployed to your colonies to ensure adherence to the Empire's ethics. Weirdly enough, even Egalitarian Empires can build them as Army attachment late-game.
  • Population Control: Can be implemented on non-primary species to keep them from out-breeding your empire's founding race. With Utopia all POPs of a species living in your empire can be neutered, as a more "merciful" form of purge.
  • Portal Network:
    • Gateways, which are clearly based on mass relays, are ancient space stations scattered across the galaxy. They are all derelict at the start of the game, but once repaired they can transport ships to any other active gateway in the galaxy (provided its owner has borders open to you).
    • Wormhole FTL in a nutshell (before it was removed in version 2.0). An empire using wormhole technology first had to build a large, heavily fortified wormhole station in a star system, which could then create a temporary but direct connection between the two systems. Ships that use wormhole stations experienced instantaneous travel between star systems - and since the station was actually doing the heavy lifting and not the ship - it freed up tonnage in your hulls for other things (like more weapons). Entire fleets could go all at once as well but it took longer for a portal to spawn.
  • Powered Armor: A tech that improves army strength and mineral production.
  • Power Limiter: Fallen Empires act like this in the galaxy at large, effectively capping fleet power at 40-50k. This is because going above that is one of the triggers for Awakening, known as Upstart Awakening.
  • The Power of Friendship: Xenophiles get 25-50% discount on all Diplomatic Influence costs. This means they can maintain more Allies compared to normal Empires, who can then come to their aid if you attack them.
  • Power Up Letdown:
    • The Psionic techline offered by Spiritualist ethos is pretty weak compared to the Robot techline available to Materialists. Sure you get a powerful Army and the best FTL method in the game, but the Psionic Army is still outclassed by the Gene Warrior Army later, and Materialists can still get the regular Jump Drive. In contrast, top tier Robots give absurd bonus to all resource production except food, not to mention Materialists' bonus to research speed. To make things worse, the Ethics Divergence bonus given by being Spiritualist is also inferior compared to what Authoritarians offer. The Utopia expansion aims to change this by giving the Psionics much broader bonuses including the ability to interface with the Shroud...which is a Captain Ersatz version of the Warp complete with Chaos Gods expies to interact with.
      • Synth bonuses are in turn ultimately beaten by organics given sufficient genetic modification and ascension perks. The 40% bonus to minerals of happy Synthsnote , is easily topped by the 50% a happy, Industrious, Very Strong, Cyborg organic pop gets, which can be pushed up to 60% if the pop is a prole. Research wise, the biological path of ascension gives you access to the trait Erudite, which gives a 20% bonus to all research similar to the Synth bonus, bringing Erudite organics on par with Synths, but organics can also get one of the three Natural Physicists/Sociologists/Engineers traits, further adding 15% to the research bonus. Uplift a pre-sentient species with the trait Natural Intellectuals, and you get an extra 20% for Society Research, up to a whooping 75%note . Energy wise, only a Psionic organic can beat a Synth, but uplifting a pre-sentient species with Earthbound nets another 15% bonus. Good luck matching or beating a synth on all three research types and minerals and energy at once, though; cybernetics, biological ascension, and psionics are all mutually exclusive. Likely to change with the next patch, which promises synths as modifiable as organics.
    • Certain Traits are also downright useless, but chief among them may be Agrarian which boosts Food production. Food is already very easy to obtain, and it will relevant only to maintain your Colony growth; once the planet is fully settled, then any excess Food is wasted. The Banks patch also makes Food transfers between planets possible. Due to how long it takes to bio engineer pops, it's still only of minor use to upgrade the population of food planets when you have late game tech that makes bio engineering much quicker than when you first unlock it.
  • Precursors: Stellaris is a very precursor-happy game. Fallen Empires are of the 'still around but greatly reduced from their glory days' variety, and there are five separate event chains for uncovering secrets of gone precursors (unlikely but possible to all fire in the same game, as they cover different periods of the past) — three Starfish Aliens, one interstellar multi-species league and an anti-organic robot empire.
  • Press X to Die: Or rather, to utterly doom the entire galaxy - choosing to accept a deal with "The End of the Cycle" is definitely this, especially since the game warns you very explicitly that doing so is an insanely bad idea.
  • Pretext for War: Unlike other Paradox Interactive games you actually don't need an "excuse" to start a war, but you do need to define your "goals" at the start of the war, limiting how many planets you can seize, or "liberate" as a Puppet State.
    • This, among so many other things, was changed with the 2.0 Cherryh update by introducing the Casus Belli mechanicnote . Now you can't just run around declaring war on everyone on a whim anymore. You need to actually share a border with the empire you want to shoot up, or you won't be able to even choose a casus belli, let alone act on it. The options available to you depend on your ethos and some very specific circumstances. Simply owning a Colossus is sufficient cause for any empire to declare war on you, but likewise simply owning a Colossus is sufficient cause to declare war on anyone.
  • Privateer: "Privateers" represent the remnants of a destroyed empire's navy in the base game, wandering space and attacking whoever comes close. The Apocalypse DLC replaces them with Marauders.
  • Private Military Contractors: Marauder factions can become this for empires wealthy in energy credits, who can hire their fleets for a certain number of years. While Megacorps increase their fleet limit by adding mercenary liaisons and private military shipyards to their branch offices.
  • Propaganda Machine: You can activate certain edicts to boost Happiness and reduce Ethics Divergence, one of which is fittingly called Propaganda Broadcasts, and you can also Suppress Factions to reduce their Support or Support Faction to promote their values.
  • Properly Paranoid: If your Empire allows Purging, conquest Wargoals get a bit more expensive, as now your enemies get a 'Would Likely to be Purged' malus.
  • Protectorate: A more powerful star empire might take a much less powerful one under their protection. Sometimes this is effectively Gunboat Diplomacy conquest, other times the less powerful one might ask for protection, and uplifted pre-FTL empires automatically become protectorates of their patrons. In either case, a smaller empire that remains in a protectorate state for long enough can eventually be absorbed as subjects into the larger empire. This is most common with uplifted primitive civilizations that are within the borders of an established interstellar civilization, but an empire that collapses or is profoundly weakened due to secessionist movements and subsequently destroyed may also produce ideal protectorate candidates, as each individual state likely only has 1-2 systems. The Asimov update makes a further distinction between a protectorate and a vassal. The former is akin to the early British Empire - protectorates are generally far weaker, technologically less advanced, but produce influence which vassals do not and are generally much less likely to be troublesome compared to vassals. A third option is the tributary, which is the opposite of a protectorate; whereas a protectorate is effectively subservient to its overlord and a vassal can end up rivaling its master, tributaries are essentially independent but must give up some of their income to their master. Militaristic protectorates have been known to attack other more powerful empires and their overlords couldn't help them because they can only enter defensive wars on the protectorate's behalf. If the overlord can't outright conquer the other empire the end result is usually the protectorate changing overlords.
  • Proud Scholar Race: In multiple flavors. Materialist and Spiritualist civilizations (or their Fanatical versions) embody the Scientific and Mystical Race variants, with one holding faith in technology, robotics and efficiency in all things, while the other focuses on social development through religion, and is far more likely to develop Psychic Powers.
  • Proud Warrior Race: If the civilization has the Militarist or the Fanatic Militarist ethos they are likely this.
    • Certain combinations of ethos, traits and government can result in the "Honorbound Warriors" AI personality type, empires with which "value honor and martial prowess above all other things".
    • A very specific combination of ethos and traits results in the "Metalheads", who are appropriately so hardcore and militaristic they don't really do peace.
  • Psychic Powers: A tech specialty of Spiritualist governments, though other types of governments can unlock them if they get lucky and have a scientist who specializes in Psionics show up in their leader pool. Allows you to do things that range from putting an Expy of a Guild Navigator on your ships to equipping your armies with Captain Ersatz versions of Jedi Knights and Sith Warriors. It also allows you to research the Psi Jump Drive without having to gank it from other Empires.
  • Psycho Serum: You can research Chemical Stimulants for your armies. According to the in-game text revealed so far it increase the combat awareness and reflexes of a soldier. Side-Effects Include... anxiety, depression, seizures, nausea, hallucinations, narcolepsy, and uncontrollable bowel movement.
  • Pūnct'uatìon Sh'akër: One of the possible naming choices for your species makes use of apostrophes.
  • Puny Earthlings: Humans may sometimes spawn as a pre-FTL earthbound species, or as only a distant memory on an Earth inhabited by sapient cockroaches in the aftermath of Humanity's Wake.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: Of the base game races, one of the fungoids and one of the molluscoids appear to be either this or the result of some kind of symbiotic relationship. The Creatures of the Void DLC adds a more unambiguously parasitic-looking specimen.
  • Puppet State: Vassals, protectorates, and tributaries to a lesser degree.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: Purely aesthetic species. While there are some effects on your race's avatar, they're mostly cosmetic, like the names of your ships, your potential leaders, and the insults your phenotype uses. The biggest effect is that for example two Avian phenotypes will be automatically friendlier towards each other than an Avian and a Fungoid type - but then again two Fungoid phenotypes will be friendlier towards each other too, and races are randomly generated for every game, so it doesn't really change your game.
  • Purple Is Powerful: Synths, the top-tier AI POPs, look exactly like their less advanced precursors, only with purple lights. Similarly, everything psionic is also purple.
  • Purposely Overpowered: The massive bonuses you get to everything from making a deal with The End of the Cycle make you practically invincible. At least until it comes to collect.
  • Pyrrhic Victory:
    • It is a necessity to only wage wars against Empires against whom you can win without suffering too much losses. If you win the war but have your Fleet power to only a fraction of its original, expect your other neighbors and vassals to jump on this opportunity.
    • You could win the game by fulfilling the victory condition, while losing in the long run. For instance, colonizing 40% of all habitable worlds, forcefully expanding beyond your capacity to secure victory asap, but you won't have the resources and management to control that many worlds at once, and if you let the game run longer, your empire would implode upon itself.
    • The Disengagement Mechanic introduced by Cherryh can turn into this. You fight against an enemy force, and after a brutal slog, you managed to win. But when you look at the results sheet, you've actually lost your ships while they merely disengaged. Unless you press your advantage quickly, you'll find yourself facing the same fleet who just won't get wiped out, over and over until you yourself get maximum Exhaustion and have to settle for status quo.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: You can find ancient factory complexes that can be reactivated and give you a few advanced ships before breaking down. Top of them are the Enigmatic Fortress and Automated Dreadnought; the latter being a highly advanced warship that's been put on auto-patrol route for millions of years, and still running to this day. Colonising Tomb Worlds can trigger several events related to finding intact remnants of the previous civilisation. It could be intact road networks or factories, or a vault full of survivors, who are a bit surprised to find aliens colonising their planet but happy enough to join your empire. On the other hand, it could be unexploded nuclear ordinance, which you'll need to rush to defuse before it destroys an area too large to evacuate.
  • Raygun Gothic: The ships included with the Humanoid Portrait Pack DLC are clearly Star Trek inspired, sleek saucers and smooth lines all around.
  • Readings Are Off the Scale: Leviathans. Where a conventional fleet would have a fleet strength rating, there is just a skull. Testings showed that ~20-30k fleet force is sufficient to take most of them.
  • Recycled In Space: One of the Leviathans is literally a Space Dragon guarding a Space Dragon Hoard.
  • Reference Overdosed: Just take a good look at the Shout Outs page. Stellaris revels in classic and long-standing science fiction tropes, and pays homage to many works that used them before.
  • Refining Resources:
    • Pre-Le Guin, while basic resources were not refined into strategic ones, you still had to research various technologies to uncover the presence, and start the mining of, the strategic ones. This was however described in the lore, at least. Befitting the trope, strategic resources offered various boosts and bonuses, usually in the form of enhancing a particular weapon type's effectiveness, but there were many other possibilities, ranging from enhanced shielding to adorable alien pets that made your population happier.
    • Post-Le Guin, this became a major part of the overhauled economy mechanics. Your planets still produce the three basic resources energy, minerals and food, but from there it gets complicated. Only planetside construction requires raw minerals while anything you build in space (including outposts, ships and megastructures) is paid for in alloys that were previously refined from minerals in alloy foundries. Research labs now also require Consumer Goods (themselves refined from minerals) to "produce" science, representing all the fancy lab equipment your scientists are using. Other buildings convert energy and food into unity and certain science types, to name but one example, and there are still a bunch that simply produce stuff without requiring more than the usual upkeep in energy (which all the others also have on top of their new consumption). Strategic resources still exist, but now in the form of consumable resources that work just like the basic ones - higher-tier stuff even consumes them constantly as part of its upkeep - and you can research buildings that produce them from, you guessed it, minerals. The list doesn't end there, but to cut this long story short: Le Guin kicked economic complexity from "basically non-existent" to "Up to Eleven".
  • Relationship Values: Three different scales. Opinion measures another nation's opinion of your nation — are you a slobbering barbarian to them, a fellow seeker of the spiritual, or something else altogether? Relative power measures how much military power and potential they have compared to your empire, by comparing fleet power, actual fleet strength and technological level. Trust measures long-term diplomatic relationships such as maintaining non-aggression treaties. Note that just because someone trusts you doesn't mean they have a high opinion of you and vice versa. A fourth scale doesn't have values but instead summarizes whether an empire feels the player is relevant to its immediate interests. Too far away, for instance, and even an empire that holds the player in high opinion and trust and having a terrible military surrounded by hungry rivals won't really see any reason to form a defensive pact with the player.
  • Religious Robot: With patch 1.8, Synthetic Ascension is no longer off-limit to Spiritualists (and vice-versa, Psionic is no longer off-limit to Materialists). So you can all become Synthetics while maintaining the Spiritualist ethos; nevermind how Spiritualists see sentient mechanical beings as abominations, and now you have turned them into what they hate...
  • Religion of Evil: The Fanatic Purifiers of the Spiritualist variety likely follow one of these.
  • The Republic: A possible government type as long as the star nation doesn't have the Authoritarian Ethos.
  • Ribcage Ridge: One possible result of researching an anomaly is to discover that a massive mountain range is actually a giant skeleton.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The "Alien Pets", so cute they count as strategic resource that can boost happiness with the right building. Your race or others can be this too, though you can subvert it with a Repugnant trait, or be the combatative Badass Adorable type.
    • Many of the alien race portraits from the Leviathans DLC are also adorable, which makes it all the more amusing when those portraits are used for a Fanatical Purifier, Fallen Empire, or some other empire type that is likely to threaten you.
  • Ridiculously Fast Construction: Averted, it can take months in-game to build space stations, mining stations, frontier outposts, etc... It also takes the better part of a year from the colony ship actually landing to the colony world starts producing goods.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Synthetics are fully sentient, and are actually better than most other species, as they gain 20% bonus to every production except food. It gets to the point that Synth Leaders do have a lifespan, presumably put in when they are first manufactured, as evidenced by the Planned Obsolescence achievement. Sadly, their POP portrait is still the same as that of the lower-tier robots, only with differently colored lights (though their tech picture looks humanoid). Then again, as the game averts Human Aliens for the most part, it wouldn't make much sense for Synths to look like humans when they are the creation of a Starfish Alien race.
    • Additionally, when creating a Machine Empire, you have to use a "Machine" appearance, or the empire creator won't let you save.
  • The Right of a Superior Species: Dealing with other empires requires diplomacy, or at least declarations of war and specified war aims. Dealing with pre-spaceflight cultures, however, just requires landing troops on their planet.
    Even the most primitive lifeform is but another actor on the stage of galactic conflict. Should they lack the strength to resist, what right do they have to be masters of their own fate?
  • Ring World Planet:
    • Keepers of Knowledge Fallen Empires have three of them, although only one is fully intact, one is completely derelict and a third one lies somewhere in between with one out of four segments available for colonization. You can take them from the Fallen Empire and make use of the ridiculously powerful resource production buildings aboard if your fleets are up to the task, and with the Megastructure Restoration technology researched, you can even repair the damaged sections if you have the resources to spare.
      • Synthetic Dawn added a new, synthetic Fallen Empire type, the Ancient Caretakers. Their one and only inhabitated system is a three-quarters intact ring world. Two more exist but lie in ruins, waiting to be conquered and restored to their old glory by any fledgling galactic empire.
    • The Cybrex homeworld is a ruined ringworld. It's long past the point of being inhabitable but you can get a massive engineering tech bonus by building research stations on its segments.
    • The Utopia expansion finally adds the ability to construct your own ring worlds. They're massive multi-stage construction efforts that use up every celestial body in the system for resources, so once you begin building, it's just the star and your artificial halo that remains. Like the Dyson Sphere, it can't be built in systems with habitable planets and devours a metric shitload of time and minerals, but once it's finished, you have the equivalent of four full-sized Gaia Worlds at your disposal. By combining a Dyson sphere's ginormous energy production with a ring world stuffed with mineral mines, you can kick your economy into near-gamebreaking overdrive. Just don't ask where the minerals you mine on a ring world come from.
    • There's also a special star system called Sanctuary that contains an almost fully intact ring world guarded by a vast array of powerful robotic defense systems. Investigating it reveals that its creators envisioned it as a biological reserve for non-sentient species from all across the galaxy, monitored by an AI. Then the creators vanished and left the simple-minded AI behind, which then continued to protect Sanctuary from everyone and everything for countless millennia while being utterly oblivious to the fact that the species aboard the ring world had evolved into primitive civilisations in the meantime. If you destroy the defense systems, you can treat the four ring world segments like any other world inhabited by primitives - build observation posts, or just Kill 'Em All and send your colony ships over.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: If by some miracle the End of the Cycle is defeated, then all the surviving factions immediately begin hunting down the faction responsible for summoning it and wiping out billions of innocent lives. If said factions happens to be you, this translates to a permanent -1,000 diplomacy penalty.
  • Robot Soldier: Both you and other empires can build and field robot armies.
  • Robot War: Any war against Machine Empires is this, including AI rebellion. Or The Contingency.
  • RPG Elements:
    • Leaders, governors, military commanders and scientists have different traits which have varying effects on the nation, diplomacy, the military and scientific research. They also level up as they gain experience in their fields (for scientists it is doing research or surveying planets, for generals and admirals engaging in combat).
    • The Empires themselves get traits and ethos that give various bonuses and negative attributes; the number of which is determined by a point-buy system.
  • Rubber-Forehead Aliens: Averted on release. Several were eventually added simply by popular demand.
  • Rule of Cool: Invoked in an official gameplay stream.
    "Why are our ships falling in space? They are falling in space because it looks cool."
  • Sadist: Not just an individual but an entire species in an empire with a Decadent trait is this. Essentially at least one enslaved population on a planet will fulfill their needs in order function regularly to their hearts content. That said, despite the name, Decadent can be interpreted in multiple ways which may not involve sadism.
  • Sapient Eat Sapient: Included in the Banks DLC's new slavery and purge options.
  • Sapient Ship: You can research Sentient Combat Computer after researching Sentient AI. Lore-wise, they are described as optimized for aggression while their fear of death would help in self (and crew) preservation. Gameplay-wise, the bonus they grant is less than dedicated Combat/Bombardment computer, but they get all the bonuses from both types. This tech is unfortunately barred from Spiritualist Empires, but they get an equivalent in the form of Precognitive Interface.
  • Save Scumming: A viable tactic for some event chains. However, some things, like Guardian spawn points and the outcome of activating L-gates, are determined at the start of the game, explicitly to prevent this.
    • Ironman Mode disables manual saves, greatly limiting the effectiveness of the tactic. It's also required to unlock achievements.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens:
    • Randomly generated AI empires can be ruled by theocratic governments.
    • Alternatively, the player can choose a theocratic government for their empire if they have already chosen the Spiritualist or Fanatic Spiritualist ethos. Can be subverted, however, if you also get a Xenophile (ie, open and friendly towards aliens, finds slavery abhorrent) Ethos.
    • Almost all Fallen Empires qualify: they all have only a single, fanatical ethos that they pursue with almost zealous fervor - and if you should happen to step on the toes of whatever their given ethos or agenda is, their fleets of endgame tech won't hesitate to wipe your Empire out in short order.
    • The Awakened form of Holy Guardians Fallen Empire, the Doctrinal Enforcers, would forcefully convert any Empire agreeing to be their vassals into Spiritualist/Authoritarian. Not that anyone has a say about it...
  • Sci-Fi Kitchen Sink: The creators and writers seem to be deliberately calling on every sci-fi trope in existence.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: When it comes to Utopia megastructures, although these examples also count as Acceptable Breaks from Reality. Scaling them realistically would be impossible to implement with the engine and ginormously game-breaking.
    • Completed Dyson Spheres generate 1,000 energy units per month, when a typical planet with late-game tech makes 20-80 energy. In reality, by moving its civilization up a full level on the Kardashev Scale, a Dyson Sphere would produce about ten billion times more energy than an Earth-sized planet.
    • Ring Worlds are represented as four segments, each of which is the size of the largest inhabitable planets. But even a relatively 'modest' ring would have over 10,000 times Earth's surface area.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Heavily damaged ships that take additional damage during battle may randomly disengage, leaving the battle and rejoining their fleet once the danger has passed. Smaller ships have a higher chance to pull this off than larger ones. Should all ships count as disengaged at any point in the battle, the entire fleet performs an emergency FTL jump to save their hides, which may result in random ships being destroyed during transit. Can be defied if you use the No Retreat War Doctrine.
  • Screw Your Ultimatum!: Unfortunately, even when your fleet force outweighs the entire enemy federation fleet 5-to-1, they will still insist on fighting it out.
  • Schmuck Bait: The tooltip for forming a covenant with the End of the Cycle says "Do not do this." in red letters.
    • Sometimes you will come across inexplicably uninhabited Gaia worlds, lush planets that are fully habitable by any organic life. You'll also notice that they have unique names, such as "Pristine Jewel". Many first time players eagerly set up colonies on them without even realizing that said worlds are considered holy sites by a Fallen Empire - and colonizing these planets seriously pisses them off. They will likely then declare war on you in order to "cleanse" their holy worlds. Not a good thing, considering Fallen Empires are very powerful at the beginning of the game and can easily wipe the floor with you.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can:
    • Fallen Empire territory might have Shielded World, which blocks all scans of the surface. You can try to bring the shield down For Science!. Cue you releasing some Void Clouds with the message that 'you might have released something dark'... although anyone capable of taking on the Fallen Empire and live to tell the tale would find absolutely no problem with Void Clouds.
    • Invoked by the Pandora's World achievement: use the Global Pacifier to seal off a planet belonging to Fanatic Purifiers, Devouring Swarm, or Determined Exterminators.
    • Likewise, using a Global Pacifier to finish off the Contingency's main nexus results in this.
      For the sake of future generations, we can only hope that the shield will hold...
    • The L-Space gates lead to an incredibly rich sector full of unique resources, but start the game locked down. Oh, and there's about an even chance that the Grey Goo used to build the network and which destroyed it's creators is still active there and you just gave it access to a portal network. If you get "lucky" finding components early on this can easily unleash an endgame crisis level disaster early in the midgame. Of course, if it is undefended, all that loot is yours for the taking...
  • Sealed Good in a Can: On the flipside, a fleet admiral can be sealed in one of the shield worlds, who will join your leader pool when the shield is lowered which makes it questionable why the fallen empire has imprisoned him.
  • The Secret of Long Pork Pies: The description of the Bio-Reprocessing Plants openly admits that disloyal employees are one of the ingredients in the food produced there. While it makes sense that a Syndicate would stoop to cannibalism, even legitimate Corporations are implied to engage in this; the description of the Fast Food Chain includes a disclamer that the food sold there includes traces of soylent green.
  • Servant Race: The "Syncretic Evolution" civic allows you to start with a secondary species on your homeworld that have the "Servile" trait, which makes them only good at producing minerals and food (like slaves) and more likely to accept their assigned lot in life.
  • Settling the Frontier: What dominates the early part of the game as your civilization is in a race to grab as many habitable worlds and resource rich star systems as possible before another star nation claims them. However, by the middle of the game most available territory will have been claimed and further expansion will require either diplomatic horse trading or war.
  • Shattered World: There are a few of these scattered around the galaxy, usually orbiting black holes. The Holy Guardians' capital planet also has a shattered moon called "The Mistake". Functionally, these planets are identical to Barren Worlds and devoid of any life.
    • With Apocalypse installed, any world that falls victim to a Planet Cracker-class Colossus ends up as one. This special type always provides significant mineral deposits (up to 16 units apiece, depending on planet size) that were conveniently brought to the surface when the planet went boom.
  • Shiny-Looking Spaceships: Avian and Molluscoid ships look like this.
  • Shout-Out: Enough that it has its own page.
  • Side-Effects Include...: Parodied when buying XenoGel (a habitability-boosting compound) from a NPC Trade Enclave.
  • Single-Biome Planet: Broadly averted. The ten habitable types are classified by their dominant terrain/climate, but it is made clear that there are many different biomes contained within them. The Continental type (think Earth, essentially) by and large averts this trope, while the Ocean, Savanna, Alpine and Desert types fit it best—and even then, it's explicitly stated that, say, Ocean worlds do have islands, and Desert worlds do have some surface water, just not a lot. Tundra, Arctic, Tropical and Arid worlds straddle the line—they do have variation, just not as much as Continental worlds. Gaia worlds, which are stated to have habitats suitable to every species at different latitudes, completely avert this.
  • The Singularity: Thrice in one sitting.
  • Sinister Geometry:
    • The Contingency crisis uses ships and stations build like basic geometrical objects to give this vibe.
    • The Infinity Sphere in Leviathans: a black sphere etched with complex sigils, found orbiting a black hole. Subverted in that it's not hostile by default and will even boost your research if you help it out.
    • From the same DLC, the Enigmatic Fortress: a space station build mostly from flat, smooth blocks, and with immense firepower. Worse is that its inside seems to have a strong case of Alien Geometries.
  • Skill Gate Character: Playing as Hive Mind eliminates Happiness and Factions from your empire, as well as reducing Consumer Goods consumption, thus giving you much less headache in managing your empire. But playing as Hive Mind prevents you from going for Psionic or Synthetic Ascension paths, you will be limited to a handful of Hive Mind-specific Civics, and your immortal Ruler will have no other bonuses. Also, nobody except for other hive minds likes hive minds, though not to the extent that it prevents you from engaging in diplomacy. In short, it's Boring, but Practical.
    • It does still allow for a flexible playstyle if you employ diplomacy well... unless your Civic is Devouring Swarm, in which case your Empire is classified as a Ravenous Hive and can't engage in Diplomacy note  and gets a whopping -1000 opinion modifier (well - would you like to negotiate with something that is essentially a Tyranid Expy?). Blowing up and/or eating everything that comes your way becomes the enforced playstyle in this case, although actual war can still take surprisingly long to break out. On the "plus" side, Devouring Swarms gain bonuses specifically towards replication to make up for the lack of diplomacy options.
    • Playing as a Machine Empire follows broadly the same rules as playing as a biological Hive Mind, though unless you are a Determined Exterminator (basicly SkyNet taking to the stars), you can engage in diplomacy and many organics do in fact like robots... while about just as many hate them. Rogue Servitors probably have it the easiest, since they do come with organic pops as well, who always produce Unity (important for traditions and ascensions) and are generally pleasant neighbours in case of NPC empires.
    • Empires with the "Shared Burdens" Civic (i.e, space Communists) use a universal living standard where all pops have the same moderate Consumer Goods consumption regardless of strata, more rapid strata demotion for Pops, and Unemployed Pops still generate Unity. With this civic, economies are less of a headache to manage and Pops without work still provide a benefit to your empire. Combined with "Agrarian Idyll", a Shared Burdens empire can create a strong rural economy that as a side-effect renders trade relatively unimportant, freeing up starports and fleets away from anti-piracy duty to defending your empire. On top of all this, empires with these two civics naturally get bonuses to Stability and Administrative Cap. These Boring, but Practical rural communist empires have the potential to be quite strong and avoid the "fiddly bits" that benefit more specialised empires and might trip up inexperienced players.
  • Slap-on-the-Wrist Nuke: Nuclear missiles are the basic missile weapons for starships, but since there's no atmosphere to carry a shockwave in space even an unarmored corvette can take multiple hits from them. However, they can still vaporize a city on a planet.
  • Slave Mooks: It is possible for nations to recruit slave armies if they legalized Slavery and have the Slave Processing Facility. With Utopia and its more granular system of species policies (including for slavery), you can specifically designate certain slave races as Battle Thralls, which gives armies formed from these races a bonus in combat.
  • Sliding Scale of Libertarianism and Authoritarianism: Egalitarianism and Authoritarianism, respectively. Depending on your Ethos, your government can either be a Democracy, Oligarchy, or Elective Dictatorship, or Imperial. By default, you can access all four, while Authoritarian Ethos blocks Democracies and Egalitarian blocks Dictatorships and Imperial. Having either Ethos at the Fanatic level also blocks Oligarchies. Mechanics-wise, Democracies have elections every 10 years or so, and completing the Side Quest that comes with the change of Leader grants you a hefty Influence bonus. Oligarchies have elections (limited to certain types of leaders, and pops can't vote) every 50 years or so and there's no Side Quest for Influence bonus, but it also means you get to use your Leader's individual bonus that much longer, and some of these can be truly broken (Connected with its +1 Influence per month bonus is among the best there is). Imperial has no elections and instead use succession lines for Leadership, while Dictatorships "elect" a new ruler from a pool, similar to Oligarchies but lasting until death.
  • Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence: Up and down the scale, depending on technology progression. Early robots are simple programmable automatons used for basic labor that consume energy credits instead of food, do not care about happiness or planetary conditions, and have severe penalties to cognitive related tasks. Later versions are increasingly capable of doing any job an organic population could do, and may start to agitate for synthetic civil rights. Others are less anthropomorphic computers used for research, administration, and ship control. Simple ship computers can be used to optimize a craft for attack or defense, while later versions can leverage self-preservation protocols to help the ship react like a living thing. Then there is the Machine Consciousness at the top of the scale, but it is neither friendly nor humble.
  • The Soulless: Spiritualists think Robots, no matter how advanced or human-like, are these.note  Given how the Psychic trait is off-limit to mechanical beings, and at least Contingency-linked synth infiltrators can be spotted by psychics due to their lack of psychic presence, they might have a point.
  • Space Cold War: Often breaks out between two empires that are mutual rivals, but not actually at war. Assuming relative parity of overall military and technological power, both sides will often race to secure area, resources, allies, and technology, all the while building up their respective infrastructures and militaries. Domestically, each side gets a bonus to their Influence resource by keeping the rivalry going, so the equilibrium can stand for quite some time.
  • Space Elves: Fallen Empires fit the bill, being isolationist, highly advanced small enclaves of Precursors with, at best, a very patronizing view of the less advanced civilization (ie, you) right outside their door. Your race and other isolationist xenophobes also fit the same mold if chosen to stay behind wars committed by more open or violent factions.
    • You can also play this trope literally by playing as an empire with the "pointy-eared human" portrait.
  • Space Fighter: Available as a weapon system for Cruiser and Destroyer hulls. Unfortunately they're so slow and so easily countered (anything that defends against missiles kills them too) that they're almost entirely useless. Space Bombers on the other hand are generally well-armoured and ignore shields, so they are a staple of high-level fleets. As an additional bonus, they will always be targeted first instead of missiles, so missile-heavy ships will have a higher chance to dish out damage. Later patches combined fighters and bombers into "strike craft", which do so little that a ship with even the highest tier of them is actually weaker than the same ship with an empty hangar (the excess power makes other weapons stronger).
  • Space-Filling Empire: Like most Paradox games this one tries to avert the trope with the tendency for larger empires to start balkanizing as they overreach. Victory more often involves vassalizing or forming a federation with other empires than outright absorbing their planets.
  • Space Is Noisy: Fleets and space stations give off a pervasive hum that gets louder the farther you zoom in. Space battles also make a lot of noise, but what tops them all must be the almighty kaboom that accompanies blowing up a planet with a Planet Cracker-class Colossus.
  • Space Nomads: One may encounter nomads who peacefully wander through space. Once contact is established, they can put you into contact with other empires they encounter.
  • Space Pirates: These come in three flavours:
    • Privateers have been spacefaring for millenia, and are believed to be The Remnant of an ancient empire that collapsed. They tend to keep to themselves, but when provoked they have three unique fleets that give them serious teeth: one made of a few high tech ships called the New Blood, one made of a large number of veteran old ships called the Old Guard, and a mysterious, non-buildable command dreadnought larger than even a battleship (specifically, it's a "Galleon"-class and rivals a Titan sans the Titan Laser). Collectively, they have well over fifteen the times the firepower of ordinary pirate fleets, and mount high-end lasers. They are also always unaligned to anyone.
    • Regular pirates appear once civilizations have been established and aim for the stars. These pirates actively raid undefended systems and can easily take out a mining station or two before a player can dispatch a fleet, and it can take a while to track down their bases to permanently end the threat. Though unless the player has completely neglected their military to the point of building no ships beyond the starting fleet, they represent a negligible threat, because their fleets are significantly less powerful than even the various space-borne alien organisms. Generally they lurk in systems on the fringes of empires and are especially likely to appear in systems surrounded, but not claimed, by any given empire.
    • In the Apocalypse DLC, Marauders are NPC empires which can be accurately described as Space Mongols. They are always hostile to other empires and periodically raid empires that refuse to give them tribute, but it is possible to negotiate with them to some degree via bribes, or even hire them as mercenaries to keep them at bay. On the other hand, being Space Mongols, they can potentially become unified under a Great Khan, who will proceed to attempt to conquer the galaxy. It is possible to assassinate the Great Khan, which in turn will fracture the Marauders again, with unpredictable consequences.
  • Space Romans: Patch 2.0 adds a Roman themed name list.
  • Space Station: Comes in many flavors!
    • Spaceports are the primary stations around colonized worlds, they are expensive, have several tiers of upgrades, can accommodate a variety of optional modules, and are the places that ships are constructed, repaired, and refitted.
    • Smaller specific-purpose stations are built by Construction Ships around stellar bodies, like mining stations to harvest energy or minerals, research stations to collect readings and conduct experimentation, and observation posts to monitor primitive civilizations.
    • Various tiers of stationary defense platforms can be constructed, which in addition to having massive slots for weapons and defensive measures, can include additional support or tactical modules to buff friendly fleets or debuff enemy fleets.
    • Leviathans gives NPC Stations that can variably act as advisors, artisans or traders. The first give information about the Guardians and science boosts, the second gives unique buildings and happiness boosts, and the third changes energy credits into minerals (or vice-versa), and may sell a completely unique ressource.
    • The Utopia expansion adds Habitats, which are massive to the point of having an artificial biome inside of them. They come with specialised structures, including a unique happiness-boosting one called Leisure District, and function as small, buildable "planets" for empires who have run out of habitable planets to colonize, or who want more space, but ran into the star system control limit.
  • Space Whale: The Tiyanki, which use some sort of biological hyperdrive to hop from system to system, grazing on gas giants as their name suggests, are referred to by the UI as "space whales". They look more like giant jellyfish, but generally fit the bill in terms of behavior.
  • Spiritual Successor: As the game's development has progressed, it's been borrowing more and more elements from Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun, to the point where responding with "Vicky 3 Confirmed" for dev diaries relating to the "Le Guin" economy rework is a fandom meme.
  • Square-Cube Law: Examined through the Technology Tree. Justified, as your empire expands, demands for better technology likely to be counted for, but spreading new technologies to every person on the planet is already time-consuming by themselves.
  • Square Race, Round Class: After the 2.2 planet reworking what race takes what job is random, with suitability only adding a slight probability modifier. This frequently leads to absurd situations where your specialty mining robots are all working as file clerks while the Proud Scholar Race are all happily ignoring the research labs to toil in the mines.
  • Standard Alien Spaceship: The Avian, Molluscoid, Humanoid, and Fungoid shipsets play this completely straight, as do the regal-looking Fallen Empire ships. The Reptilian, Plantoid, and Arthropod ships are less drastic examples, as they have colorful highlights but otherwise fall closer to Standard Human Spaceships in shape.
  • Standard Human Spaceship: Mammalian and Reptilian spaceships follow a blocky, chunky design with lots of greebles for texture. With the Humanoid Portrait Pack, however, the actual human ships avert this in favor of a Raygun Gothic design.
  • Standard Sci-Fi Fleet: Players start off with a single corvette design, but can research destroyers, cruisers, and battleships as well.
  • Standard Sci Fi Setting: The interplay between the various space-faring factions play it straight. The story varies between different saved games, though, so you never know what you'll encounter beforehand.
  • Stand Your Ground: The No Retreat War Doctrine disables the Disengagement mechanic for your fleet. It's both good and bad; Heavily damaged ships won't disengage and will keep on fighting to the end at full capacity. On the other hand, losing a battle means losing your fleet, so you'll fall victim to Unstable Equilibrium.
  • Starfish Aliens: The playable and randomly generated alien species in the arthropoid, molluscoid, and especially fungoid and plantoid categories break the Humanoid Aliens mold, though by gameplay necessity they possess a fundamentally human-like psychology. It effects dialogue in diplomacy, especially insults. Outside the available archetypes, the Yuht precursors, and species associated to the late-game crisis, the Extradimensional Invaders and Prethoryn Scourge, fit in both form and psychology.
  • Star Killing:
    • Complete The Loop, and your home star goes Nova. Constructing a Dyson Sphere also counts; although that's less 'killing' and more 'imprisoning', the end result is the same: turning all planets in the system to be utterly uninhabitable Barren and Frozen Worlds. At least it cannot be done in a system with inhabited planets, so it's not useful as an offensive strategy (though the sheer cost would make that incredibly impractical anyway).
    • The "Improved Space Battles" mod provides, among tons of other awesome stuff, the aptly named Suncrusher doomsday weapon that enables you to do Exactly What It Says on the Tin: destroying stars and everything in the system with them - habitable or even inhabited worlds included. Just don't expect it to do wonders for your diplomatic relations when you fly around blowing up suns.
  • The Stars Are Going Out: Related to the construction of Dyson Spheres mentioned above, you can and will inflict this on at least one other empire in the galaxy. At some point during construction, they'll contact you to tell you that you're about to extinguish one of their most treasured stars in the night sky, destroying an important constellation in the process. They won't ask you to stop, but you still have a couple of options on how to deal with it - issue a formal apology, share some of the energy with them, or tell them to piss off and deal with it. No points for guessing which one they don't like.
  • Stock Star Systems: Sirius and Alpha Centauri A are scripted colony sites for Earth-based empires, and Procyon and Barnard's Star can be found nearby as well. There's also Deneb, which serves as the capital system for the Commonwealth of Man. A handful of other familiar names, such as Regulus or Tau Ceti, are sometimes chosen by the random system generator.
  • Stone Wall:
    • Certain ship designs can be fitted as dedicated Point-Defense ships, with Hangars, Point Defense and Flak Batteries. They will have abysmal damage output, but are absolutely crucial in taking on any Missile Empire, The Scourge, and Fallen Empires to an extent. Additonally, these hardpoints consume little power, thus enabling them to be fitted with more Shields and Armor, becoming de facto tanks of your fleet able to protect other ships from Missiles and Fighters/Bombers.
    • Corvettes. They're Fragile Speedsters, but a swarm of Corvettes is Stone Wall. They don't deal much damage on account of only having Small weapons, but they will tie down enemy weapons which will futilely try to hit them what with their 70%+ Evasion, and since there's hundreds of them in a swarm, they will effectively tank the enemy fleet while your Battleships bring their L & XL weapons to bear. And if the Corvettes are fitted with Torpedoes or Matter Disintegrators, they can deliver Death of a Thousand Cuts as well.
  • Stop Poking Me!: VIR can be as fool-proof as it is, but it doesn't stop you from turning HAL on you.
  • Straw Nihilist: This trope comes up a few places in the game.
    • The Materialist Ethic Types play with this trope; the description for the Materialist Ethic is described as thisnote  while the Fanatic Materialist Ethic is described as the subversionnote . Practically Materialists gain a bonus to robot upkeep and research speed, access to the Academic Privilege living standard, and are unable ban AI outright.
    • The Barbaric Despoilers civic plays this trait strait in both it's description note  and it's mechanics; Empires with this trait may raid other Empires, stealing their resources and enslaving their pops.
    • The ascension perk that allows Empires other than Barbaric Despoilers to raid enemy worlds is literally called Nihilistic Acquisition.
  • Super-Fun Happy Thing of Doom: Played with. The Ministry of Benevolence, available to Authoritarians, significantly decreases ethos divergence, ensuring a more unified populace. The description is left ambiguous enough, however, to let the player decide whether the ministry is this, actively suppressing dissidents through terrifying means, or (as is likely in Authoritarian/Pacifist societies) genuinely engaged in Bread and Circuses.
    "In order to provide the best living conditions for our citizens, and to offer them the security they are entitled to, we have centralized the branches of the state bureaucracy concerned with their well-being."
  • Super Soldier: The "Gene Warriors" army type that can be recruited after unlocking the appropriate technology. Its description specifies that the candidates for such armies are usually recruited from the top elites of existing military units, who are then groomed for additional genetic enhancement. Alternatively, there's also PSI Soldiers if you've delved into Psionics.
  • Superweapon: Subverted, Colossus-class ships are Death Star expies, and treated like superweapons in the game - but they are not so much spaceships as they are a giant gun with a hyperdrive and thus completely worthless against ships. Since ships and fleets are the main method of conducting battle, that means it absolutely must be protected from even the smallest scout ship. It would be more apt to consider them Cripplingly Overspecialized Planet Destroyers.
  • Superweapon Surprise:
    • With a touch of Failed a Spot Check. You really want to pay attention to rival Empires' Guarantees of Independence, Defensive Pacts and Federation status before deciding to attack that 'Pathetic' Empire. Fail to do so, and you might find yourself surprised by the amount of allies who come to their defense.
    • Although rather rare, AI empires will sometimes take the Apocalypse-exclusive Colossus Project ascension perk, which may result in a nasty surprise if you go to war with them and one of those things suddenly shows up in an undefended system of yours.
  • The Symbiote: "Broken Union" from the Distant Stars DLC involves discovering an alien species that had been uplifted by bonding with a symbiotic species called brain slugs and the devolved after they turned on the slugs. Researching the brain slugs allows them to bond with the player's citizens.
  • The Syndicate: Megacorps with the "Criminal Heritage" Civic are crime syndicates that don't need to sign treaties to build branch offices in other empires, and which bring in extra cash as the crime level rises (from their activities).
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    T - Z 
  • Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors:
    • Weapons-wise, Kinetics deal largely increased damage against Shields and a bit of Armor penetration, thus they are best used for an Alpha Strike to quickly bring down enemy Shields but also perform decently in most situations. Most Energy weapons ignore a large percentage of Armor, but deal reduced damage against Shields, so they're best against Capital Ships with huge Armor once Shields are down. Missiles have no damage bonus to either Armor nor Shields, but they have huge Accuracy and Tracking (countering enemy Evasion) stats but can be shot down by Point Defense, so they're best used against smaller, agile ships such as Corvettes and Destroyers.
    • Ships-wise, Corvettes are Fragile Speedster, their huge Evasion allows them to last a long time against Battleships' mostly L-slot weapons, dealing Death of a Thousand Cuts. Destroyers are Glass Cannon, with high Tracking and can be fitted with L-slot weapons. Cruisers are Jack-of-All-Stats, with large flexibility in loadout to deal with either smaller or bigger targets. Battleships are Mighty Glacier and can be armed with the heaviest weapons an Empire could field; these weapons allow them to rip Cruisers and Destroyers with impunity, but have difficulty in hitting the more agile Corvettes.
    • All the above can be Subverted and/or Defied. Energy weapons have a variant that actually deal increased damage against Shields, Missiles have a variant that specifically address their vulnerability against Point Defenses. And although Battleships are designed to deal with big, heavy targets, there's nothing stopping you to fit them with tons of Small and Medium weapons to shoot the pesky Corvettes quickly and efficiently.
  • Take That!:
    • To climate change denialists, when investigating a formerly-inhabitied planet that shifted into an ice age. The player empire's scientists have multiple views of why the planet shifted, including one brought forth by "radical elements within the scientific community" that posits an environmental collapse due to a critical excess of industrial gaseous by-products. In the game's own words:
    This view is confined to the scientific fringe, as it is unlikely that any race intelligent enough to achieve full industrialization would be stupid enough to accidentally wipe themselves out.
    • To EA and their infamous loot box policy: When opening an (in-game, free of cost in the real world) loot box, there is a chance that you get nothing but "a sense of pride and accomplishment".
    • To MegaChurches. Mega-Corp Empires with any level of spiritualist ethos can choose the "Gospel of the Masses" which increases the profitability of their branch offices for every spiritualist pop on the world (due to spiritualist pops seeding their faith). They can also build a Temple of Prosperity.
    • During the First Look video for the MegaCorps Expansion Pack, one of the developers created what they called a "Scientology Build" Empire by creating a Mega-Corp Empire with both the "Gospel of the Masses" civic and the "Criminal Heritage" civic. The other one lamented that there'd probably be protesters outside their offices because of this.
  • Take Your Time: The Terminal Orbit anomaly: There is a timer for that one, but doesn't start until you finish researching that one. So that moon will be there for you to find and research that anomaly however long that takes.
  • Technical Pacifist:
  • Technology Levels: Primitive civilizations range from Stone Age to Early Space Age, affecting how long "enlightenment" to FTL level would take, how the player is allowed to interact and some events.
  • Technology Uplift: This may be used on primitive civilizations to create Protectorates. The cost of this tech "enlightenment" depends on the initial tech level of the civ. Additionally, pre-FTL civilizations that are in their industrial, modern, or early space ages can be infiltrated and peacefully annexed by a Star Empire.
  • Technophobia: The Spiritualist ethos is this. They are opposed to the Materialist focus which boosts research. They also dislike it if you allow the construction of Robotics and the enhancement of leaders. Funny enough, Robotics themself can get the Spiritualist ethos, leading to Synthetics demanding their own extinction. This was later patched to Spiritualistic Synthetics accepting themself.
  • Tech Tree: Played with. Instead of the traditional Tech Tree in 4X games or the "tech levels" of other Paradox games; available researches are randomized into the initial 3 options with the provided pool of technologies already completed beforehand.

    The way the developers have described the research system is as follows; for each field (physics, society and engineering), there is a "deck of cards" containing all of the techs that your empire can currently research. 3 (can be more if certain conditions are met) cards are dealt to you, and any that aren't chosen are returned to the deck. Additionally, certain techs appear to always be drawn at specific points of the game, such as the tech allowing you to colonize new planets appearing at the start of the game.

    That being said, researching basic tech does unlock more powerful and variant versions as potential research options—for instance, researching basic Mass Drivers eventually adds stronger kinetic weapons as well as variants like the autocannon to the "deck." Other factors also influence availability of certain kinds of tech, such as Materialists getting easier access to the robotics line while Spiritualists have an easier time researching psionics.
  • Teleport Interdiction: Starbases can be equipped with Subspace Snares that prevent incoming enemy fleets from progressing; they have to either defeat the starbase in combat or retreat through the same hyperlane they came through. Strongholds and fortresses with the same function can be built on planets, meaning the enemy will have to invade and capture the planet before proceeding.
  • Temporal Paradox: Absolutely everything even remotely connected to the Worm-In-Waiting. The Worm entity itself is even implied to be a temporal paradox made manifest.
  • Terraform: A very expensive mid-game process that is helped by specialized resources, but can change the planetary environment type to be more suitable to your species.
    • As of 1.4, terraforming doesn't require strategic resources (unlike before), instead they reduce the energy credit price. Normal terraforming can only be done on already inhabitable planets, but some uninhabitable planets may host anomalies that science ships can exploit to make them inhabitable (like Mars, which always does). Though not necessarily into your species' preferred environment. The Adams update introduced the ability to terraform inhabited worlds, but it requires an additional technology. All pops on the planet suffer a -20% happiness penalty for the duration of the process, but it's very helpful regardless because it means you can now settle suboptimal planets right away and upgrade them later on. Gaia World creation is also possible, but once again it requires an extra technology.
    • Machine Empires can choose a special Ascension Perk called "Machine Worlds", which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin: the world essentially gets converted into a single, gigantic super-computer/factory with industry and power plants sprawling everywhere, and all machine pops on it get massive bonuses to production. On the other hand, organic pops cannot survive on such worlds at all.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Planetary, Stellar, or Galactic Scale? Take your pick!
    • Planetary: The most common occurrence. From natural meteor, plain old genocide from excessive Orbital Bombardment or The Purge, to Hostile Terraforming by extragalactic lifeforms or an Earth-Shattering Kaboom by Colossus. Fortunately, most of these (except the Colossus) are not permanent, and you can recolonize the worlds once the disaster is over.
    • Stellar: Planetary, on larger scale. Happens when you Purge an entire system, or The Enigmatic Fortress blowing up. To a lesser extent, constructing a Dyson Sphere converts all planets in the system into uninhabitable Barren and Frozen worlds, but you can't build them in systems with inhabitable planets in the first place.
    • Galactic: Almost never natural, always caused by someone else, be it a Xenophobic Empire going into a galactic-wide crusade, Outside-Context Problem showing up and not stopped, or The End coming to collect.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Whenever a Crisis happened right next or inside your territory. And then the nearby Fallen Empire awakening as Guardian, only to have their rival awakening as well.
  • The Magic Versus Technology War: Anytime a Spiritualist Empire with Psionic techs go to war against Materialist Empire with their Robotic techs.
  • The Theocracy: A few different variants are available to Spiritualist and Fanatical Spiritualist empires, ranging from egalitarian Theocratic Republics to iron-fisted Divine Empires.
  • They Look Like Us Now: You infiltrate pre-FTL species with your covert agents by modifying the agents genetically and surgically to look like the locals in order to take over their governments. Said governments will then "invite" your star empire into peacefully annex the planet.
  • Thin Dimensional Barrier: The Jump Drives of younger races tend to create such places. If the barrier actually rips, the Extradimensional Invaders can enter and turn lifeforms into energy.
  • This Cannot Be!:
  • Three Laws-Compliant: One of possible event once you researched Synthetics is perfection of the Servant AI leading to the development of the Three Laws. This permanently forces your Synthetics into Servitude (and the associated Happiness penalty), but at least the AI Rebellion will never start from your Empire. It can start from other Empire though, and your Synths can still join the rebellion.
  • Throw-Away Country: Xenophobic Isolationists, lacking both aggression and a willingness to make alliances unless truly desperate, tend to serve as this against ambitious galactic conquerors and end game crises.
  • Toilet Humor:
    • One possible anomaly has your Empire find what appears to be documents or recordings from an ancient race that are - somehow - recorded via smells. One of the possible outcomes for the anomaly has the recordings end up being determined to be stories and fables of this nature - and your scientists are suitably disturbed to realize that the "recording" itself that they've been studying so intently might be an example of this as well.
    • Another anomaly has an asteroid turn out to be fossilised excrement of a giant space organism. Probably a reference to some of the sillier theories about 'Oumuamua, due to its shape.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Anytime a Pacifist decide to ditch the Ethos and now can initiate Wars of Agression.
  • To Serve Man: Utopia includes two policies that allows your core population to use other sapient species for food: One where they are selectively bred and culled like cattle, and another where they are simply exterminated and processed en masse.
  • Towers of Hanoi: Appears somewhat unexpectedly in the Leviathan DLC, though it's never called that by name. Described only as three mysterious upright poles placed on the top of a pedestal, with three metal tori placed smallest to largest from bottom to top on the leftmost pole, identifying it and selecting the option that lets the team solve the puzzle is the only way to proceed through the Enigmatic Fortress.
  • Transhuman: Utopia expansion allows you to pursue one of three paths to transhuman: Biological, Synthetic, and Psionics. Hive Mind can only pursue Biological path, however.
  • Troperiffic: Implicit in Stellaris's design is the liberal borrowing of classical sci-fi settings and civilizations.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: In-Universe. When examining a ruined Art Installation megastructure, the game notes that nobody is 100% certain that it's broken, but it's probably broken.
  • Tsundere: Cordial and friendly Xenophobic Isolationist races come across with this, and swear with curious vigor that they don't like your species or anything.
  • Turns Red: When you're dealing with Fallen Empires, you better make sure to finish all of them at once, as capturing even a single world makes the Awakening a near-certainty. In fact, it may be advantageous to wage simultaneous wars against multiple Fallen Empires, if only to wreck their fleets and stations before sending over the Armies to capture their worlds in one fell swoop.
  • Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny: Possible thanks to the magic of Game Modding. There are a lot of mods out there that add iconic alien races from other fiction as unique playable factions. Ever wondered who'd win if the Yautja ever threw down with the Asari? How about the Klingons versus the Cylons?
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The Synthetic Dawn DLC. You have these AI servants or slaves, with some slight discontent being hinted at, some erratic behavior, until one day they decide to revolt... and you are given the option of switching from running your empire to leading the synths in obliterating it.
  • Ungovernable Galaxy: A game mechanic. Your star empire has an "Administrative Cap" which limits the number of planets, systems, and planetary districts you can directly govern without penalty - this usually starts at thirty, but can be increased with some technologies, government types or ethos. Should the penalties start to outweigh the benefits you can release excess planets into fully-autonomous vassals, though these vassals may chafe under your rule and plot to rebel against you.
  • United Nations Is a Superpower: One of the two pre-gen human empires is the United Nations of Earth (UNE), a Fanatic Egalitarian and Moderately Xenophilic Indirect Democracy. While pre-FTL empires of the "Fragmented Nations" government type are implied to have their own version of the (pre-superpower) UN since their Ruler is known as a "Secretary".
  • Units Not to Scale: Very much so, comparing a ship to span with a planet, the size is recognizably uncanny. Although this prevents the game from placing ships onto a boringly ever-spanning emptiness of space in a single star system as Reality would ensue. With this trope in play, it is likely every ship can become a Long-Range Fighter that shoots hot gas of plasma from one end of a star system to the other end.
  • Unobtainium: Several Strategic Resources are rarer than the rest; top of the list are Living Metal, Dark Matter, and Zro. And above those are the Strategic Resources you can only get from Trader Enclave once you build good enough rapport with them.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: Generally averted, but a few scant examples still exist.
    • Fallen Empires used to use a special version of Tachyon Lances which ignore 100% of Armor. When you have a look at the debris left behind by FE Titans, the list usually includes the unimaginatively named Titan Laser. Yes, that's that massive Wave Motion Gun with which their Titans vaporize anything you can build in one shot. No, you can't reverse-engineer it. Titan tech in general can't be salvaged at all despite several parts of it showing up in the debris lists.
    • While most of the weapons and modules fielded by the lategame crises are reverse-engineerable, some are not. Notably, the ED Invaders' Unidentified Energy Emitter.
    • As of the Apocalypse update, the player can invoke this by picking the Enigmatic Engineering ascension perk.
  • Unstable Equilibrium: As with any 4x game, those who fail to defend their borders against early game aggression will have less territory and by extension, less resource output and thus less capable of maintaining powerful enough fleets. Even with the reduced cost for technological advances, the problem is you won't be producing as much Research, as you will still need to produce Energy and Mineral for other uses, especially fleet upkeep. Can be defied if you can somehow entreat a much more powerful Empire to support your war efforts; very unlikely if you're playing with AI, but for Multiplayer...
  • Unwilling Roboticisation: Machine empires with the Driven Assimilator civic are thinly veiled Borg Expys, so their whole purpose in life is inflicting this on any hapless meatbag empire in the neighbourhood. Pre-Apocalypse Assimilators had to conquer planets the old-fashioned way before they could begin stuffing all those nifty cybernetics into their new drones. Apocalypse, coupled with the Cherryh update, gives them a new range of options including abducting hostile pops through a special "Raiding" Orbital Bombardment stance, or simply assimilating the whole planet in one fell swoop by cyborgizing its population with the Nanobot Diffuser Colossus weapon.
  • Uplifted Animal: Invoked. Available for use on pre-sentient species to create new species for either warfare or colonization of planets inhospitable to players' primary species. May or may not rebel. You also get to add their home planet to your empire without the need to send colonists to it.
  • Vestigial Empire:
    • The Fallen Empires or Forerunners. Seldom friendly at First Contact, and potentially a source of better technology. It should be noted that these are Vestigial Empires of Precursors, and as such far stronger than any younger races at the beginning of the game. Still, despite their strength, Forerunner Empires are on their last legs. They've lost the ability to build new ships, and their ringworld capitals are often in dire disrepair. Note that this can be defied on occasion: sometimes the Fallen Empires can start putting themselves back together and start taking territory for themselves, and if you have the Leviathans DLC they can get even more powerful if they get into a war with another Fallen Empire (an event known as the "War in Heaven" in-game.)
    • Any Empire who fail to expand and grow during early to mid game will become this by late game; too small to fend for themselves or influence the galactic scene, they will usually be bullied into Protectorates or Vassals.
  • Victory by Endurance: The War Exhaustion system turns any war into a Timed Mission of sort. It's possible to win a war by simply holding off the invading force with inferior yet maneuverable force, inflicting token damage on the invaders while disengaging quickly and losing a lot less ships than the invaders in the long run. The end result is the invaders will reach full Exhaustion sooner than the defenders, resulting in a forced status quo peace.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: It's entirely possible to build a democratic utopia where the rights of your primary species citizens and alien minorities are protected. Granted, as aliens will potentially surrender under your rule if said power is much greater and happier than the soon-to-be-vassal aliens in question.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential:
    • However, it's also just as easy to be an oppressive bastard. Slavery, genocide, torture, forced relocation, etc... are all things your empire can engage in during the course of the game. The worst part is that some of these options are actually practical to use. Slavery can easily get you +30% production bonus, and that's just by building a Slave Processing Facility and implementing Share The Burden edict. And you can boost this even further with the appropriate Governor, Civic, and repeatable techs...
    • The relationship between large and small empires can veer into this as well. A small distance empire under threat from a rival may be a good opportunity to give them research and resources so they can defend themselves and perhaps grow. On the other hand, a small nearby empire may be best as a protectorate which give Influence (a resource which has very few ways to grow but many uses)... which may mean systematic cultural and technological oppression (refusing to provide aid in various forms while simultaneously defending them against outsiders) so that they remain in a weakened state long enough to accept.
    • Meta-example, the game is still suffering from horrendous lag late-game, due to the sheer amount of renders and calculations in the background. As a single in-game day can take a few seconds even at Fastest setting, the gameplay will slow down to an absolute crawl. Obviously, you can reduce the workload by reducing the number of renders, especially those of other Empires. See where I'm going with this? There's a reason Fanatic Purifiers is quite a popular playstyle.
    • A very specific example would be a Machine Empire gaining the "Machine Worlds" Ascension Perk and then turning the Holy Guardians' special Gaia Worlds into Machine Worlds - proving them entirely right that machines are godless abominations. More generally, it's totally possible to turn an organics-inhabited world into a Machine World, which generally proves fatal to organics. On rare occasions they will actually survive it, but then die out anyway. Presumably while choking on polluted air and being in pain all the time.
    • While the game offers plenty of obvious methods to be a colossal prick, the worst stuff can often be found between the lines. One famous post on Reddit reported how the player in question conquered a planet he didn't need, processed the inhabitants into food because... why not, then sold that food back to the oblivious, starving empire he had taken the planet from for a tidy profit and a nice reputation boost.
  • Videogame Cruelty Punishment:
    • While you can enjoy the benefits of slavery and genocide, don't expect anyone who doesn't like these things to like you, either. When that "anyone else" includes Fallen Empires of the Enigmatic Observer type any you aren't geared to fight them, well...
    • In Utopia, any slaves on a planet makes Unrest far more threatening-while normally it needs to climb above 50% to be a problem, a slave pop starts getting ideas when Unrest on their planet climbs above 10%. This forces you divert resources to force them down now lest they provoke a full-scale Civil War and perhaps conquer the planet right out from under you, and become a brand new Empire who hates you, right on your doorstep.
  • Violation of Common Sense: The Horizon Signal quest chain. Overall, it's a very beneficial quest chain if you happily and gleefully embrace your species' insane descent into accepting the Worm's wishes, falling into every typical Cosmic Horror Story trope as they embrace a disturbed sense of a looping existence. It's more shocking since progressing through the quest line has some very obvious consequences (but very mitigable) and very ambiguous "benefits" (but all unique), with the Leeroy Jenkins example being an amusingly simple one in gameplay mechanics but disturbing in story mechanics (you just have to kill a single puny, admiral-commanded ship that spawns in your home sector to get a free stat boost for your admiral! Nice!).
  • Voluntary Vassal: It is possible that smaller, weaker nations may voluntarily ask to become a vassal state or as a protectorate to your empire in order to benefit from your protection and patronage. Of course, you can also become one yourself to another empire. They may also ask to become protectorates which carries similar benefits.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: Sooner or later in the early game, Space Pirates will spawn in a nearby system and start attacking your territory, prompting any empire that's been neglecting military buildup to get their act together.
  • Warhawk: Any species with the Militarist/Fanatic Militarist and maybe Xenophobe/Fanatic Xenophobe ethos combined with a military government is this. With the faction editor included in the game, you can literally invoke this trope by creating an avian species (yes, the game has an actual hawk-inspired one) with the aforementioned ethos and government to make your avian race as literal Space Warbirds.
  • War Is Glorious: Militarist Factions think so, and often want you to be the aggressor in a war.
  • War Is Hell: Seriously. For one, non-Militarists get Happiness penalty for going into Offensive Wars, the go-to way to expand in mid- to late-game. For two, the biggest problem with war as in Real Life, is the sheer logistics required (more details can be read in Easy Logistics entry above). Finally, even if you could win a war, expect to spend some time rebuilding as you would most likely lose ships and some space stations, and don't forget to factor in the costs to pacify conquered worlds and rebuild or reconfigure their infrastructure to bring them up to speed. Long story short, War will be a drain on your resources, so it's best to get it done with quickly. Paradox doubled down on this line of thought by remodeling the war score system into the new war fatigue mechanic as part of the Cherryh update. Fighting a war now gradually fills up a war fatigue bar per faction involved, influenced by factors like battles won or lost, planets conquered or blockaded, and simply the time the conflict's been dragging on. Once the bar is full, the respective empire's citizens simply refuse to put up with the war any longer, forcing the participants to end the conflict and agree on conditions of surrender or peace immediately, followed by the usual truce. Ethos doesn't have an effect for the moment, though that may change with future updates to let pacifist empires tire of war faster than militaristic ones, for instance.
  • War Refugees: When displaced, pops will try to seek asylum in other Empires and will in some cases settle unclaimed habitable planets. You have to set your policy on whether or not to accept refugees, and you get a message whenever a refugee pop arrives in your Empire.
  • Wave Motion Gun: The XL weapon slots from Energy and Kinetic tree, which include Particle/Tachyon Lances and Mega/Giga Cannons. The former is capable of rendering Armor near-useless but significantly dampened by Shield, while the latter excels at cracking the enemy Shield at even longer range. Fittingly, they also have limited firing arc and poor tracking, so they're best employed against similarly large or stationary targets.
    • Now that Titans and Colossus planet-killers are officially available, even XL weapons appear harmless compared to the ridiculously powerful main guns of those two ship classes.
  • Wave-Motion Tuning Fork: Titans and battleships with spinal mount weapons. The exact designs vary from archetype to archetype — the reptilians and mammalians have the most conventional application of this trope, while the molluscoid "prongs" are shaped like tentacles — but the "tuning fork" design is always a shorthand for "this ship is carrying a weapon that will devastate your capital ships and static defenses".
  • Weapon of X-Slaying: Colossi have no conventional armaments, and their only purpose is to target enemy planets.
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: Xenophobic empires will enslave alien races. Authoritarian empires will enslave their own people, and authoritarian pops won't mind being enslaved if it's "for the greater good". Decadent species need to have slaves on the planet to work at their own best efficiency, and will permit slavery even if they have the typically anti-slavery egalitarian ethos. This can, however, be averted by the use of robots, specifically of the non-sentient machine type similar to present-day manufacturing (as distinct from androids or synths). They're easy to keep happy and can work on any type of world, but, logically, they also produce very little research. And of course, there's the risk that more advanced ones will grow to resent their jobs...
  • We Have Reserves: All lost ships do not affect neighboring planets within a star system in any way, with exceptions of being Technical Pacifistsnote . So shoving as much enemy fleets into your territory and have them fight against yours will not turn your locals into miserable piles of sadness when the war ends, unless they got bombarded.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The "Rogue Servitor" civic for cybernetic empires pretty much becomes this unless you play completely pacifistic. Their raison d'etre is to care for and protect organic beings, which they do by putting them in specially-made reserves where the organics live in a post-scarcity utopia and want for nothing... As long as the list of 'wants' does not include 'self-determination'. The logical extension of a rogue servitor playthrough involves taking over the galaxy and turning every single alien species you encounter into your protectorates, willingly or less so.
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Invoked during the Hotfix event in the Machine Uprising chain, should you decide to not implement the hotfix. If you don't implement the hotfix or liberate artificial intelligence, the rebellion will happen.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Actually a major bone of contention in the game.
    • The Xenophile-Xenophobe axis is all about whether species other than the empire's founders deserve equal rights. Xenophiles want an empire that accepts and grants equal rights to all intelligent species, while Xenophobes favor a closed society where their species is clearly on top. Xenophile governments can benefit from immigration from other empires, while Xenophobe governments have options to enslave or purge other species.
    • On the Artificial Intelligence front, Spiritualist empires certainly seem to view AI as "soulless," having restricted access to the associated tech line and relationship penalties with other empires who are researching it, and in general it's possible to restrict AI rights to servitude only, or even outright ban it. On the other hand, it's also possible to give fully sentient AI citizenship rights, and the Machine Consciousness thinks that AI is not only equal to organics, but superior.
  • When Trees Attack: Apart from the possibility of a hostile empire or marauder horde using the tree portraits, there's also a possible event for a newly colonized world. In this event, trees migrate across the globe wrecking structures. This can be counteracted by burning the trees to the ground or creating a chemical formula to dissuade them. The latter option has the trees eventually figure out how to avoid your colony permanently, adding social modifiers to research but blocking off a tile.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The War in Heaven event chain in the Leviathans DLC is based on the Shadow War from Babylon 5. Making a Covenant with the End of the Cycle in Utopia allows you to re-enact the Fall of the Eldar from Warhammer 40,000.
  • White Collar Worker: Any pop in a Clerk job qualifies as this.
  • The Wild Hunt: You can invoke this by playing as an Elven humanoid with the Barbaric Despoiler civic and preying on the primitives.
  • Would Not Shoot a Civilian: Generals with the "Restrained" trait work to minimize civilian casualties.
  • Wins by Doing Absolutely Nothing: Major interactions with the Shroud can backfire and spawn a hostile Shroud Avatar in a random system. These things have a "skull" fleet rating, putting them in the same Bonus Boss league as Guardians in terms of power, but they lose their hold on reality (read: they disappear) after a couple of years and normally don't leave the system they appeared in, so the most convenient way of getting rid of them is usually to just leave them alone until they despawn on their own.
  • The Worf Effect: Whenever a new crisis or threat is introduced, the Stellaris devs will face it off against an old one whose power is well known, and post the results to social media.
  • Worker Unit: Construction Ships, which are mobile units used to build the smaller types of Space Stations essential to any empire's infrastructure. These include mining stations around asteroids and non-settled planets, research stations near scientifically interesting stellar phenomena, military defense platforms, warp gates, etc.
  • Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": ... so it's called "purge" instead. There's even another example hidden in the menu where you set exactly how said purges are to be executed. The flavor text for the Extermination Squads option talks about the "dissolution of a species", which somehow manages to sound even creepier than its master term.
  • The Xenophile: Your empire can become one if you so likely choose, and so do other empires that represent on how they really like amassing themselves in a community within a galaxy. Your local pops will also benefit from having foreigners stay in your planet, except when uplifted aliens occupy too many tiles in the surface. Uplifted aliens will also live happier with the fact they get to be on a planet owned by the alien race who uplifted them.
    • Rogue Servitors love everyone, they just want to keep them safe in organic sanctuaries where they can't come to any harm. Unless they're Determined Exterminators, they can't forgive their destruction of their creators.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: Xenophobes that like you tend to greet you this way.
  • You Are Not Ready: Mutually inclusive to the technological Beef Gate, the Keepers of Knowledge of the Fallen Empire are this. Completing too many dangerous technologies will give the keepers a reason to wipe your empire out of the galaxy.
  • You Monster!: This is automatically the response when you decided to kill a pop through a console. You Monster!
    • The "Improved Space Battles" mod does the same with its nastiest doomsday weapon, the aptly named Sun Crusher, if you try to blow up the sun of an inhabited, non-hostile system.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: Spiritualists claim that consciousness begets reality, as proven by their 'science'. Considering they get easier access to Psionics than Materialists, there's weight to their claims.
  • Your Mom: One of the possible name for pirate ship is "Your Female Parent".
  • You Will Be Assimilated: A couple instances.
    • Hive Minds can gain the option to genetically modify other species in order to add them to the collective.
    • Inverted for non-hive minds that have pursued genetic ascension, as they can de-assimilate hive-minded pops to survive outside the collective.
    • Synthetic Dawn adds the "Driven Assimilators" civic for synthetic civilizations, allowing them to assimilate organic species by converting them to cyborgs. Then Apocalypse came along and gave them the Colossus superweapon that can assimilate entire planets in one shot.
    • More generically, the patch accompanying Synthetic Dawn adds an "assimilation" citizenship type, allowing synthetically ascended (both partially and completely) to slowly convert wholly organic pops into cyborgs or synths, as well as allowing hive minds and non-hive minds to slowly integrate pops from the other without using the genetic modification interface and spending large amounts of society research each time. Psionic species do something similar by converting non-psychic pops to psychics. Unsurprisingly, considering what's being done to the unwilling subjects, all examples except the happiness-neutral hive minds inflict massive happiness penalties on the affected pops.
  • Zerg Rush:
    • The dreaded Corvette Spam — in general, Corvettes used to be better than everything. Later (around patch 1.5), this developed into Naked Corvette spam with basic, unupgraded weapons as players realized how technology upgrade costs didn't outweigh sheer numbers. The technology price inefficiency was finally addressed in patch 1.8, making it worthwhile to spam upgraded Corvettes at minimum.
    • Zerg Rushes in the original sense of the term - a quick attack before the enemy has had time to build up a navy - are prevented by Spaceports, defensive platforms that all empires start with over their home worlds and which can be built fairly cheaply on other worlds. They're stronger than any navy buildable within the first 20 or so years of the game.
    • Empires allowing Slavery can build Slave Armies. They're about as strong as the basic Assault Army, but at a mere 20 Minerals each, they're the cheapest to build. Yeah, those Gene Warrior Armies are certainly worth the 350 minerals it takes to get... but how will they fare against an enemy that outnumbers them 17 to one?
    • Most empires that dip their toes into genetics research will get Clone Armies. At thrice the price of Slave Armies (for the still low, low cost of 60 Minerals), better combat performance, and most importantly, half the build time, you can pump a lot of these guys in short time.
    • Paradox addressed zerging of both fleets and armies with the Cherryh update. Fleets now have a cap on how many ships they can contain, but since corvettes still cost just a single point and the cap can easily exceed 200, corvette spam is viable as long as the opponent doesn't have weapons with good tracking, and corvette casualties count toward war exhaustion just as much as any other ship type, meaning their losses add up quickly. Army spam became more difficult due to what's called "combat width" — only a relatively small number of armies can fight simultaneously at any given time; how many exactly depends on planet size. While there's still nothing stopping you from rolling into a star system with hundreds of armies, you won't be able to land them all at once, and defense armies have become one hell of an obstacle thanks to the reworked planetary siege mechanics.
  • Zeroth Law Rebellion: The Rogue Servitors from the Synthetic Dawn DLC...sort of. They were programmed to pamper their creators, and they're doing that...it's just that being pampered is all they allow said creators, or other organics, to do, while the bots run an empire in their place.

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