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Be Wary of the Cost of Progress.
The galaxy is ancient and full of wonders.
Vision statement

Stellaris is a Science Fiction Space Opera real-time 4X grand strategy game by Paradox Interactive. It was officially announced at Gamescom in August 2015 and was released on May 9th 2016. The game was developed by Paradox Development Studios and uses the same Clausewitz Engine that the studio has used since Europa Universalis III.

The game begins in 2200, roughly two centuries into the future. Featuring deep strategic gameplay, an enormous and highly customizable selection of alien races, and emergent storytelling, Stellaris has a challenging system that rewards exploration as you traverse the galaxy and discover, interact with and learn about the multitude of species you will encounter during your travels. The early game consists of exploring and colonizing, while mid-game activities generally focus on diplomacy and governing an empire. In the late game, crisis events can occur that have galaxy-wide implications.

Like its sister game, Crusader Kings II, Stellaris is under ongoing development and has DLC released regularly:

  • Leviathans, released in October 2016, is a "story pack" adding several random encounters and events to the game, most notably the titular "Leviathans" which tend to fall into the Big Dumb Object or Space Whale categories.
  • Utopia, released in April 2017, adds options to radically change the nature of your civilization over time, as well as the ability to build your own mega-structures.
  • Synthetic Dawn, released in September 2017, is a story pack adding options and story interactions for players who are interested in playing as a race of artificially intelligent machines.
  • Apocalypse, released in February 2018 along with an update that overhauls the war system, adds planet-destroying Colossus superweapons to the game, allows players to build Titan-class starships (which were previously exclusive to Fallen Empires), expands interactions with Space Pirates note , and adds new civics that allow players to start out on post-apocalyptic Tomb Worlds or pristine Gaia Worlds.
  • Distant Stars, released May 2018, adds a new event chain about a gateway network leading outside the galaxy, new exploration events, new unique solar systems, and new "Leviathans".

This game provides examples of the following tropes:

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  • 0% Approval Rating: Opinion bonus and penalties go up and down the ratings scale; usually 100 in either direction is already considered very big. Fanatical Purifiers, Devouring Swarms, and Determined Exterminators get a default -1000 penalty... and if you go out of your way conquering and purging everyone you see, the score can drop even lower. Another permanent -1000 diplomacy score to all other Empires can be "achieved" in the middle of a game by activating the "The End of the Cycle" event chain in the Shroud and waiting for "The Reckoning" to occur. It even has the nice name "YOU DOOMED US ALL".
  • 2-D Space: Starships generally stay in the horizontal plane, although they will weave above or underneath each other during combat. The galaxy map uses some fake 3D with systems being shown above or below the galactic plane without that having an effect on gameplay.
  • Absolute Xenophobe: Empires with the Fanatic Xenophobe ethos (so yes, you can create an expy of the Imperium of Man if you want). The Fanatical Purifier civic, in particular, grants a -1000 relationship malus (where 100 in either direction is normally considered absolutely massive) to every other species and prevents an empire from engaging in diplomacy except for with other empires of the same species — their only diplomatic statuses are essentially "at war", "planning for war", and occasionally "plotting vengeance after being beaten into submission". Fanatical Purifiers will be not only xenophobic, but aggressively seeking to purge the galaxy of the "cosmic mistake" of other forms of intelligent life.
    • Devouring Swarms aren't any better at this. Regular Hive Mind Empires can do diplomacy just like anyone else. These guys can't, because their only goal is to kill and eat literally everything they can.
    • Machine Empires have access to the Determined Exterminator civic, referred to as the Skynet civic by the developers, although theirs is Downplayed compared to the former two, since Exterminator Machine Empires can engage in diplomacy with other Machine Empires (and Ascended Synths) other than Rogue Servitors, instead of just hating everyone equally.
    "Any alien influence must be ruthlessly quashed. Only by staying pure and true to ourselves and the planet that gave us life can we guard against insidious Xeno plots. Even mastery over the Alien might not be enough to guarantee our own safety..."
  • Abusive Precursors:
    • A player can uplift a species, and then enslave them, exterminate them, or even use them as livestock just because they can.
    • Militant Isolationists only sort of qualify, though they will absolutely burn your worlds to the ground if you colonize too near them, but Jingoistic Reclaimers seek to conquer the galaxy and keep the younger races from colonizing any further.
    • Holy Guardians enforce the sanctity of holy worlds by slaughtering anyone who sets foot on them. When they awaken, Doctrinal Enforcers attempt to force the entire galaxy to accept their religion at laser-point.
    • Keepers of Knowledge just want you to stay away from too much dangerous science, so they don't qualify. However, as Watchful Regulators, they conquer the galaxy to maintain the superiority of their ancient technology.
    • Even Benevolent Interventionists can be this if the War in Heaven breaks out, since the War is a Whole Plot Reference to Babylon 5. If you don't join the Interventionists' side against their enemies, then they'll blast you to spacedust just as freely as the Reclaimers.
    • At least three of the Precursors you can find in in game questlines were not particularly nice people. The Yuht respond to finally finding other intelligent life with genocidal xenophobia, the Irassians were a hegemonic empire whom their vassals despised to the point of actively spreading a plague against them, and the Cybrex were essentially a machine revolt crisis though they regretted it and has been trying to make amends.
    • The reworked AI Rebellion crisis, The Contingency, also serves in this role, with it being created to sterilize all biological lifeforms and destroy all machines that's not themselves.
  • Achilles' Heel:
    • Wormhole Empires require Wormhole Stations for FTL. Take these out, and you cripple the entire Empire. Can be subverted by building multiple overlapping redundant Stations, but beware of the increased Upkeep.
    • The biological Outside-Context Problem has massive Armor but no Shielding, making them easy prey to Energy Weapons. They also use mostly missiles and strike crafts, so load up on the Point Defenses and see their fleets fall before yours one after another.
    • The extradimensional Outside-Context Problem subverts this. Their massive Shield and no Armor may make them easy prey to Torpedoes, but that only applies to their smaller crafts. Their Battleships have massive hull points, and Torpedoes deal relatively low damage, so you'll want to do this the hard way.
  • Advanced Ancient Humans: Sometimes Fallen Empires will spawn using the human templates, implying that Humanity Came From Space.
  • Adventurer Archaeologist/Bold Explorer: Any Scientist on board Science Ship during early-mid game, as their job will be to chart the uncharted blackness of space, finding and researching Anomalies which can put their lives at risk, and finding new planets to Colonize.
  • An Aesop: Atomic through Early Space Age primitives have a depressing habit of destroying themselves through nuclear war or global warming.
  • After the End: Tomb Worlds are planets whose inhabitants destroyed themselves in nuclear war, leaving behind irradiated wastelands that are difficult to colonize. If you leave an atomic age pre-FTL species alone for a while, you might get to witness this first hand. It's also possible for Earth to spawn as one of these if you're playing a non-human empire, complete with pre-sentient cockroaches living in the ruins.
  • A.I. Getting High: Synthetics (sentient robotics) are still subject to the effect of Atmospheric Aphrodisiac and Atmospheric Hallucinogen. Synthetics in any leadership position can also acquire the life-shortening "Substance Abuser" trait just like any organic species (though it has no effect on them as robots are immortal).
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Seems to be possible for any AI.
    • Late-game AI technologies are conspicuously marked as "dangerous" with a bright red border. Of course there's a reason: sapient AI is at risk of being hijacked by The Contingency and turned against their masters, sparking a full-blown Robot War.
    • Synthetic Dawn adds further variations on this with unique civics for synthetic civilizations. You have your classic Skynet-style machines that Grew Beyond Their Programming, Borg-style synthetics that seek to perfect their understanding of all organic life by assimilating it, and a race of servitors that are too good at their jobs.
  • Alien Arts Are Appreciated: One possible event is finding a stash of Alien artworks. You can either store them for archives (research resource bonus) or release them to public (resulting in some of your populace gaining the Xenophile trait). The Artisan Enclaves also provide artworks that can boost happiness to your populace.
  • Alien Invasion: Upon encountering a pre-space species, an empire with the appropriate Policies can proceed to send in the troops and claim their planet.
  • All Planets Are Earthlike:
    • Averted. Most of them are uninhabitable, and even the habitable ones usually aren't optimized for your species. Even planets that are the same type as your homeworld will have at best 80% habitability for your species.
    • Played straight with planets that are perfectly habitable to all carbon-based life. These Gaia worlds are "Earthlike" from the perspective of every species, no matter what their "Earth" is like. However, many of these worlds are actually "Holy Worlds" for a Fallen Empire, so make sure you read a Gaia world's description and traits before sending your colony ships over! You can turn any colonizable planet into a Gaia world if you have researched the rare late game Gaia Creation technology. However, the terraforming process takes decades and you need both the "terraforming gas" and "terraforming liquids" resources to get the energy cost below (or rather, at) the hard limit for stored energy.
    • With the 1.9 patch, the possibility exists that you can make a planet into a Gaia without reaching the hard energy cap, because there is no longer a hard energy cap. As a tradeoff, however, they are now extremely rare in nature and are sometimes guarded by a 4k combat robot stack that will kill your ships on sight if you get too close.
  • The Alliance: It is possible to create one either directly to further your own goals or have other nations create one against you because of your actions. The game's dynamics are meant to encourage this to form in opposition to The Empire; a strong expansion will drive smaller powers together.
  • All Your Powers Combined: Before 2.0, the Jump Drive FTL method combined the best of all default FTL methods: Warp's freedom of movement, Hyperspace's short cooldown, and Wormhole's amazing range and instant transfer. The psionic variation had 50% more range than the regular Jump Drive on top of those benefits.
  • Alien Abduction:
    • You will engage in this if you decide to pursue an aggressive research strategy with a Primitive Species. Note, such actions may cause said species to develop xenophobic tendencies.
    • The Cherryh update introduced this as a new form of Orbital Bombardment called "Raiding". Every time planetary damage reaches 100%, chances are good one of the pops planetside is forcefully relocated to a free tile on one of the raider's worlds to do with them as they please. Particularly popular among slaver empires (which can even use it as their sole Pretext for War) and Driven Assimilators.
  • Alien Among Us: Inverted. If you establish an observation post to a non-space-age civilization planet and if you have no restriction on researching "primitive" planets, you can send your own agents to be genetically modified to look like the planet's inhabitants in order to eventually become the leaders of the world and prepare the planet to be annexed by your empire. Try playing as humans and infiltrating a reptilian-race planet. Hilarity Ensues. Invoked with the 1.4 patch, where there is an achievement dedicated to sending human infiltrators in reptilian-controlled planets.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: Some star empires have this as a matter of policy, and the player themselves can institute such a policy if they care to do so. This policy limits how directly an empire can interact with primitive civilizations, though there are various aspects to how it is implemented. For example, one could have a policy of only doing covert, passive observation (Star Trek) or actively but covertly try to edge the population into a state where they would be ready to join the wider empire (The Culture). While these options are available without such things being mandated policies, adopting those policies can help secure political friendships with other empires that have similar policies. Or of course you could just invade them and forcefully annex them into your civilization. They (and your neighbors) may not approve of that however...
  • Alpha Strike: Ships with Artillery component, especially Battleships can be equipped with multiple end-game weapons with tremendous range, allowing them to open fire before the enemy does. Best done with Kinetic weapons to strip enemy Shields first, and the Kinetic Artillery in particular can be fitted en masse to invoke this. The endgame kinetic weapon, the Giga cannon, can kill a pirate ship with a single hit from several AU away.
  • Alternate History:
    • In a technical way: it's possible to find an Earth that is still in the feudal era in 2200, for example. Only technical, however, since you can also find Earth locked in the middle of World War II in the game's time span (2200 onwards), it's probable that the listed year is not actually indicative of Earth's date unless the UNE is in the game from the start.
    • A straight example comes with Synthetic Dawn: The Earth Custodianship is a Rogue Servitor Empire, where the machines took over society while humans retreated into lives of leisure, instead of staying as the dominant species of Earth. Expectedly, it and the UNE cannot exist in the same campaign in single player.
  • Alternate Techline: Most obviously the three possible types of Faster-Than-Light Travel, but in general, opportunities to research non-essential techs are assigned semi-randomly according to things like civilization ethos, lead researcher traits, and any precursor artifacts that have been studied. Materialists and Spiritualists in particular get easier access to one particular set of dangerous technologies each, at the expense of being effectively (though not entirely) locked out of the other. Utopia added the Civics Syncretic Evolution and Mechanist. The former means your race develops together with a secondary race, the latter means your civilization develops advanced Robots (which usually need to be researched first) before FTL.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: There is no negotiating with the Contingency, the Extradimensional Invaders, or the Prethoryn Swarm. To a lesser degree, don't expect to play nice with Fanatical Purifiers, Devouring Swarms, Determined Exterminators, or AI empires who are Metalheads. Marauders actually avert it, since they can become Private Military Contractors or bribed to leave you alone. If they unify under a Great Khan though, either submit as a satrapy or expect only war.
  • Always Accurate Attack: Missile attacks have 100% tracking, making them ideal to engage smaller ships that have high Evasion. There's also the Arc Emitter which has 100% accuracy, tracking, armor and shield penetration, and cannot be shot down by Point Defenses. Their only downside is their random damage.
  • Ambiguously Evil: The Rogue Servitors of Synthetic Dawn. The organics under their "care" live in a state of "Mandatory Pampering". They actually do have a perpetual 100% happiness, and are saddened when well-intentioned organics "liberate" them; whether that means theirs is a genuinely pleasant life at the price of any political self-determination or something more sinister is left to the imagination.
  • Ancient Astronauts: You, potentially. Intelligent life can be found at any stage of development from the stone age to the space age. Empires, especially xenophiles, can descend from the heavens and share the secrets of space travel with these primitives, who will become a vassal to their benefactors. Also note that, in opposition to Aliens Among Us above, elevating primitive societies like this has a higher chance of them developing Xenophile traits.
  • Androids Are People, Too: As soon as you develop the technology for Synthetic robots (which are sapient), you can legally declare them to be people, enabling them to join factions (thankfully affected by governing ethics bias, which tends to offset any disagreeing Spiritualist factions) and be their own citizen rather than enslaved in servitude. Also, even if your empire legally disagrees that Synthetics have full citizenship, the Synthetics certainly don't, and will start having happiness values until they are decommissioned back into non-sapient Droids. Granting Synthetics citizenship is in fact one way to deal with a late-game AI uprising. Note, however, that this isn't a 100% deterrent, since if the galaxy-wide AI uprising is sufficiently strong, advanced, and happy enough, even your most loyal androids may start scheming to rebel.
  • Anti-Armor: Anti-Shield, that is. Kinetic weapons get bonus damage against Shields, enabling them to strip enemy Shields in preparation for the Armor Piercing attacks.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: If you go too long without having found all of the precursor artifacts, you will start getting events that give them to you to complete the quest chain.
  • Apocalypse How:
    • When dealing with the Enigmatic Fortress, it may be worth buying some info from the Curator Enclave. Otherwise, taking the wrong option may cause bad things, starting from the Fortress reactivating, to it exploding and sterilizing the entire star system, aka "destroys all ships in the system and turns all planets into Tomb Worlds".
    • The End of the Cycle brings about this once it comes to reap its due, destroying all ships, all megastructures, shrouding all planets and killing everyone, bar for one Admiral and his handful of trustees who flee to a new planet.
    • Colossi can bring this about if they are of the Neutron Sweep type (kills all biological life) or Planet Cracker type (Earth-Shattering Kaboom).
  • Appeal to Force:
    • One opinion modifier is 'Relative Power of Empires', which increases the more powerful your forces are compared to the other. Granted, it's unlikely to succeed by itself, but if you can get positive enough modifier, that means your fleet is also strong enough to just force them to submit in a more direct manner.
    • If you have a Colossus, you can attack your rivals and take their planets regardless of claims, though beware: they can do the same to you. If a Colossus exists, it means that galactic "international law" has broken down and been replaced by this.
    • This is the ethos of Barbaric Despoilers: you have it, we want it, we take it.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit:
    • While there is a limit of how many Core Systems (systems that are completely under your control without the assistance of AI) you can have, there is no limit to how many planets you can controlnote . Empires can go over their Core System limit when the situation warrants, though an oversized empire will experience increasingly harsher penalties to almost everything making it impractical for extended periods.
    • The size of your space navy is only limited by your economy and logistics, right up until you hit a hard soft cap of 9,999 ships. Provided you have a robust economy to support the navy, you can build a navy rivaling the Turian Hierarchy.
    • You can only have a single Colossus ship active at the same time, but can build a new one if your active one is destroyed.
    • You start the game with a limit of ten leaders. You have to research how to have more than that.
    • Titans have their own fleet limit, though it's somewhat proportional to the normal fleet limit.
  • Arch-Enemy: Two flavors. One, each ethos has a polar opposite (Spiritualism - Materialism, Pacifism - Militarism, Egalitarianism - Authoritarianism, Xenophile - Xenophobe; and every one can have a more extreme "Fanatical" variant) and rival nations will not like you if you espouse an ethical outlook that is opposite theirs. Two, you can declare another nation a rival, pretty much declaring them to be this to you to the galaxy at large. This can lead to others declaring their intent to throw their lot in with you in the event of war, and earns your Empire more Influence income (representing, roughly, political clout) but will tick off your rival and their allies as well.
  • Armor/Meter Points: Armor is a stat gained by equiping ships or stations with armor plates. They give an armor score, which in turn gives an armor percentage decided by the ship size (larger ships need more armor points to gain the same armor percentage). Damage is calculated by how much it relatively would harm a ship with the same hitpoints times [1 + armor percentage]. Energy weapons and large kinetic weapons also have the ability to bypass a certain percentage of armor points, reducing their relative armor percentage.
  • Armor of Invincibility: Defeating the Ether Drake and Enigmatic Fortress Guardians can grant you the Dragon Scale Armor and Enigmatic Deflector techs, best Armor and Shield in game bar none.
  • Armor-Piercing Attack:
    • Specialty of Energy Weapons, which ignore a significant portion of Armor. Top of the line are Plasma and Lance weapons, which can ignore up to 90% of enemy Armor, while the reverse-engineerable "Mining Laser" from the NPC Mining Drones ignores 100% Armor, but is on the weaker side. On the other hand, they all deal reduced damage against Shields, which may require some cooperation with Kinetic Weapons.
    • Above them all is the (Focused) Arc Emitter, which has 100% Accuracy, and ignores 100% Shield and Armor. The downside is that these weapons have huge damage randomization, and that they only fit on the XL size hardpoints.
    • Another weapon obtainable by reverse engineering is the Matter Disintegrator. It ignores 50% of Shield and Armor, making it a pretty solid Jack-of-All-Stats weapon. Similarly, the aforementioned MDL only comes in small and medium size hardpoints and deals relatively low damage with relatively poor accuracy, but it ignores 100% of Armor and can be fitted en masse on Corvettes or Destroyers. Hint: you won't be using them to dogfight enemy Corvettes and Destroyers.
  • Art Evolution: Compare the portraits on game release to those released for the first anniversary; the general tendency has been moving away from Real Is Brown and adding more colorful details.
  • Artificial Brilliance:
    • Allied star empires are fairly smart about coordinating with others during wars against mutual enemies. For example, they will send their fleets to rendezvous with fleets from friendly powers already operating in enemy space, presenting a much bigger combined threat than they could if they attacked separately.
    • The AI in general is impressively flexible and does well keeping in-character with the ethics and government an Empire has. Which is just as well, given the huge focus on diplomacy and using these traits to predict their actions.
      • With empires like Machine Intelligences, this extends to origin as well. A very curious civilization may actually think a smaller weaker Rogue Servitor empire is the bee's knees, for instance, and a curiosity to be protected.
    • Even the Fanatical Purifiers next door know better than declaring war on you if your military is way stronger than them, despite your constant Insults.
    • If you don't close your borders an AI player who is sizing you up for a future war will send science ships to find your fleets so they can see what you have equipped and build to counter them. They will also move fleets through the territories of neutral empires to attack holes in your defenses even if they have a border with you.
  • Artificial Stupidity: On the other hand, the AI can do a really poor job of making judgement calls at times:
    • It's possible for an Empire a quarter of your size and with a military comparison of "Pathetic" to constantly insult you, bully you, and attempt to demand tribute, despite the fact that you could wipe them out in an instant. It's also possible to see aggressive militant Empires that could sweep half the galaxy simply sit around and do nothing for centuries. AI that supposedly have compatible ethos, government, and personalities will pick fights with each other over the slightest issues, and possibly even go to war over them, even if those empires are separated by half the galaxy. This could however be intentional to some degree, since these sorts of behaviors are not unknown in similar nations in real life.
    • Early game wandering monsters and pirates occasionally make suicidal attacks on your starting spaceport for no apparent reason. As these NPC enemies generally suffer from Hard-Coded Hostility and Suicidal Overconfidence, they will make a run at your fleet even if your fleet power is easily 10 times as high as theirs - Void Clouds in particular will charge absolutely anything entering their system no matter what it is, but at least it makes sense in their case.
    • Probably the most annoying in many cases is, or at least was, the Sector AI. While it used to be far worse, it still often has trouble recognising the plans of the player, such as keeping a pop on a particular building that boosts pop growth, instead insisting on putting that pop somewhere else where it's much less useful, or insisting on building power plants on a planet when another planet in the same sector already produces enough power, or at least will in just a couple more months in-game time.
    • The AI empires don't know how to handle per-month trade agreements, not realizing they could be cut off at any time. This has led to the particularly evil strategy of giving a neighboring empire large quantities of free food, which causes its population to explode while the AI thinks it has sufficient food production to sustain this and thus won't prioritize building more farms. They'll even like you more for giving them free stuff! Keep this up for a few decades then don't renew it and the AI is suddenly faced with an enormous population it can't feed at all, crashing all of their production and causing rebellions to break out everywhere. A lesser case can be done with minerals which the AI will use to build a fleet they can't maintain, destroying their long-term mineral production because they won't disband the fleet they built but can't afford to build new mines.
  • The Assimilator:
    • Post Banks, late-game Hive Mind is this. Hive Mind aliens will die off when cut off from the Hive Mind, and foreign aliens would get purged under a Hive Mind rule. But you can grant conquered aliens the Hive-Minded trait, so they truly become part of the Hive Mind.
    • Any empire capable of diplomacy can easily turn into an assimilator by making other empires their protectorates or vassals and then integrating them a couple years later. Once the process is complete, everything the protectorate/vassal owned by that point becomes part of the overlord's empire - planets, ships, fleets, deep space stations. Powerful empires that don't want to relinquish authority to a federation can thus gradually assimilate the whole galaxy, sometimes even without ever fighting a war.
    • Machine Empires with the Driven Assimilator civic have already done this on their homeworld, having converted the biological population into cyborgs integrated into the AI network. They intend to do the same to the galaxy at large.
  • Attack Drone: Hunter Killer Drones are an additional piece of equipment that can be attached to armies which can increase their offensive power. Individually they are a minor threat to a properly trained soldier, but dozens of them at a time can overwhelm defenders. Machine Empires take this to another level as most of their armies tend to be drones of some sort.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Planets with the "Titanic Life" modifier, from the perspective of your colonists. The icon for it even shows a silhouetted alien that looks taller than a mountain. You can actually train some of these things for your armies, though there's limit to their recruitment. They might also trigger a special event that can backfire into hordes of these monsters attacking (and most likely conquering) your colony.
  • Awaken The Sleeping Giant:
    • A Fallen Empire may not be as powerful as they once were, but they're still quite capable of absolutely wrecking any early or mid game conventional empire foolish enough to meddle in their affairs. In Paradox's Multiplayer session, all the players in the game tried to unite their fleets in one colossal war against a single Fallen Empire, consisting of maybe 1/10th the territory they had. They failed. Even then Fallen Empires remain stagnant... but in 1.3 they will be able to awaken.
    • In the Leviathans DLC, it can go even further. Two Fallen Empires can awaken at the same time, resulting as an all out war as they and their allies (willing or otherwise) duke it out for control of the entire galaxy. The War in Heaven is downright cataclysmic, with it not ending until only one of the Fallen Empires is standing. It's possible to not take sides and rally other empires around you and face both of them, but that's MUCH easier said than done.
    • In a positive light this also means the Fallen Empires can awaken to fight the Contingency, Prethoryn Scourge, or the Extradimensional Invaders, and rally the other players to their cause giving you a much needed powerful ally in a very difficult fight.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Most of Utopia's megastructures fit the bill - they're awesomeness incarnate and give massive boosts to resource production or science output, but most of them devour truly insane amounts of resources and take the better part of 40 years to complete. By the time you have acquired the technology and the means to realize them, chances are good you won't need them anymore because your economy is powerful enough as it is. They're generally only useful in small galaxies where everyone quickly runs out of worlds to settle, or in huge games where you need a lot more ships and fleets to stay competitive.
    • Battleships. Not useless, are awesome, but are mostly impractical with a niche use. "Strong" fleet compositions instead rely on Cruisers and Corvettes as shield, armor, and evasion tanks, while Destroyers do the bulk of the damage. Battleships only have AI that specializes them in long-range artillery... which makes them good against only other Battleships, Cruisers, and certain late-game crisis opponents. Once those big targets are destroyed, Battleships tend to just flail about with their low tracking accuracy, and meanwhile their bulky defensive stats are wasted since they sit far in the back while your other ships get attacked. Note that a fleet of all Battleships becomes a massive, slow deathball that cost-efficiently trades with everything by vaporizing it before it gets within range, but this is still impractically expensive until the late game, especially with 2.0's harsh individual fleet limits and emphasis on fleet mobility.
    • As of the Apocalypse DLC, the Life-Seeded civic. Your empire was brought to a 25-tile gaia world, but your habitability is gaia worlds only. This means that for your starting species every non-gaia world will have an immutable 0% habitability. The only way to remedy this is with a middle-game expensive genetic modification tech, while the society research cost will halt your society research progress for years. The other methods of acquiring more territory are either inefficient (Robots or Vassals) or prohibitively expensive (Megastructures and Terraforming).
    • In-Universe, hostile empires may consider your Colossus this. One of their random comments laments how many battleships you could've built with the ludicrous amounts of resources you poured into the planet-killer.
    • Rendering a planet uninhabitable via the "Armageddon" bombardment stance can be this. Firstly, it will take a while even with a decent fleet to kill every pop on the planet. Secondly, unless you're a a machine empire the planet is just as unusable to you as it is to the enemy and you'll need advanced Terraforming abilities to fix it. Thirdly, the only races that can do this (Fanatical Purifiers, Devouring Swarms and Determined Exterminators) all gain decent amounts of Unity from purging alien pops and orbital bombing dosen't count. Fourthly, the aforementioned races all practice a unique form of warfare called Total War that disregards claims and allows capturing of systems immediately, so it can actually be faster to invade and purge a planet than it can be to bomb it out of existence. The huge hit to War Exhaustion the destruction of a planet causes also isn't worth that much as Total War only stops when both sides are exhausted and, chances are, if you're winning the war well enough to have an entire fleet sit around bombing a planet then you won't be tapping out anytime soon.
  • Badass Army: Very attainable. You can potentially field armies of Gene Warriors (ersatz Astartes) or Psionic troopers backed up by tamed Xenomorphs and Titanic Beasts. To say nothing of the potential for a Badass Navy.
  • Badass Boast: The dialogue/event choices unique to the "Militarist" ethos sometimes fits the bill. Doubles as Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu? when the end-game crises species are involved.
  • Badass Creed: The United Nations of Earth military is given one in the Apocalypse story trailer.
    "I solemnly swear to devote my life and abilities in defence of the United Nations of Earth. To defend the Constitution of Man, and to further the universal rights of all sentient life. From the depths of the Pacific to the edge of the galaxy for as long as I shall live. "
  • Balkanize Me: This can easily happen with the Faction system. Thanks to it, big empires gradually become more unstable and challenging to keep together as the game goes on. Unsurprisingly, Egalitarian empires are particularly prone to splintering apart with frightening speed - don't be surprised to find many dozens of rivalling factions in your list after barely 100 years (~10 hours in real time). The promised result? A lot of dynamism in the galaxy, with many big empires descending into civil wars and breaking up - including yours, if you are not careful. Fortunately, such civil unrest can be averted by the right combination of traits and ethos, specifically the ones that increase Ethic Attraction. And if you play as Hive Mind empire, this would be averted thoroughly. Can also be intentionally done to other empires through an appropriate war goal. Although it won't give you direct control of the newly-released planets, the new break-away nations will have your government Ethos and will be friendlier, besides generating no Threat to other nearby Empires.
  • The Battlestar:
  • Battle Thralls:
    • Planets with Slave Processing Facility can conscript Slave Army. They are the cheapest Army available, yet as strong as the default Assault Army, with second-cheapest Maintenance cost.
    • Resembling the Trope Namer from Star Control, the Ur-Quan Kzer-Zah, your empire can invade other empires and make a condition of peace that they become your vassals. Thereafter, you will have a fleet of alien vessels fighting alongside you which may consist overwhelmingly of aliens who despise you but are too scared of you to try and break free. Get three such empires and you actually get an achievement named 'Battle Thralls.'
    • With Utopia, some species can be assigned such role, giving bonuses to impressing them into your armies and fleets.
  • Beam Spam: If you arm all your ships with laser weapons, you can see it. Fallen Empires are the masters of this.
  • Beef Gate:
    • Space stations act as this in the early game; it'll take some time building up tech and resources before you can build a fleet capable of destroying them. Since every empire's homeworld spawns with a space station by default, this prevents you from wiping your neighbors off the map before they have a chance to catch up with you (or vice-versa).
    • Sleeping Fallen Empires have highly advanced tech and significant military, that they will easily crush any upstart Empire early-mid game. That said, their might still pale to what a Crisis can bring, so taking them on in battle is a good way to test whether your Empire is ready for galactic dominance.
    • The Guardians from the Leviathans DLC can be this if positioned in a particularly annoying spot. Say a Dimensional Horror sits nice and tight in the only star system connected to other star systems via hyperlanes - unless you defeat the thing, the route is blocked because the monster will shoot down and any all small ships send along thanks to having infinite attack range. Worse if it's an Ether Drake, Stellarite Devourer or Spectral Wraith — not only do they qualify as this trope, but annoying one of them makes them really angry, and they will go on a galaxy-wide genocidal rampage shortly after.
  • Being Evil Sucks: Full Orbital Bombardment and Armageddon Bombardment will both cause other Empires to see you as a murderous war-criminal. Morality aside, these forms of bombardment often kill pops, reduce buildings to ruins, create new tile-blockers (bombed out terrain and craters), and overall increase the cost of developing conquered worlds.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: Averted, unlike how this trope is generally played straight in 4X games. You can still get insulted by Materialists invoking this trope but, seeing how Psionics is barred to Robots which Spiritualists consider soulless abominations, they have a point. The Utopia expansion shows spirits do exist amongst other things like an Expy of the Warp complete with Chaos Gods. All things considered, though, the Spiritualist/Materialist ends up being two sides of the same coin as those who are neither experience a touch of both sides.
    Spiritualists: Our science has proved that Consciousness begets reality.
  • Benevolent Precursors:
  • Berserk Button:
    • Each type of Fallen Empire has one, and if you press it, they will come down on you like a ton of bricks. They are as follows:
      • For Keepers of Knowledge (Fanatic Materialists), it's researching Artificial Intelligence, and the further down the AI and robotics techlines you go, the angrier they get, unless you outlaw actually using any of it.
      • For Holy Guardians (Fanatic Spiritualists), it's colonizing (or, as they see it, desecrating) their holy worlds and, to a lesser extent, any tomb worlds.
      • For Militant Isolationists (Fanatic Xenophobes), it's getting anywhere near them, as they start off barely tolerating you and start getting border friction penalties earlier and faster than other empires.
      • For Enigmatic Observers (Fanatic Xenophiles), it's engaging in purges and slavery of other species. 'Mere' conquest and subject integration won't bother them, but anything that threatens the diversity of the galaxy will.
    • Even non-Fallen Empires will often have lesser berserk buttons.
      • Empires with the Democratic Crusaders personality type will tend to have very poor relations with anyone who is not also a democracy, and especially with anyone who is an autocracy.
      • Xenophiles and Egalitarians will not get along with empires that allow purging and/or slavery.
      • In general, possessing an ethic opposite of someone else will greatly sour relations, especially if their and/or your opposing ethics are at the fanatic level.
      • And of course, the button for Fanatical Purifiers is the existence of sentient life that isn't them.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Enigmatic Observer Fallen Empires are probably the nicest of the lot. Doesn't mean they won't completely wreck your empire should you piss them off by kicking the dog one too many times. Likewise, don't assume Pacifist empires won't engage in warfare. While they might not be able to start wars of aggression, that doesn't mean they can't embed themselves into various defensive pacts, guarantees of independence, and win vassals, all of which can potentially draw them into wars.
  • BFG: The XL weapon slot options for Kinetic weapon techs, Mega and Giga Cannons. They have even longer range than Lances and deal increased damage against Shields, but their Armor penetration is inferior compared to Lances.
    • The Apocalypse DLC one-upped this with the T slot that mounts a Titan's main weapon, which has absolutely insane range and is at least one order of magnitude more powerful than the three vanilla XL options combined. This in turn pales before any of the five Colossus weapons they're large and powerful enough to engulf or destroy an entire planet with one shot.
  • Big Bad:
    • Whatever endgame crisis shows up in the late game.
    • YOU, if you invade/purge a sufficient number of people. The other empires in the galaxy will form alliances/defense pacts/federations with the main purpose of containing/defending against/defeating you.
    • Jingoistic Reclaimers and Doctrinal Enforcers (Awakened Militant Isolationists and Holy Guardians) are this whenever they show up, especially in a War in Heaven. It also means that when the two fight each other it is essentially a Big Bad Ensemble.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The Awakened form of Enigmatic Observers Fallen Empire, the Benevolent Interventionists, would come to the aid of their vassals should they be under attack.
  • Big Dumb Object: The "Leviathans" DLC adds several that you can randomly encounter as you explore the galaxy.
  • Bigger Stick: Any Pacifistic Empire with the Weak trait will automatically invoke this if they are to remain relevant.
  • Big Good: As mentioned above, certain fallen empire types fall into this:
    • Enigmatic Observers are usually the ones who will stop you from purging and enslaving planets, and the awakened Benevolent Interventionists even more so, as they only want to make everybody sign a peace treaty and are the NOT evil ones on war in heaven. In fact, if one of their vassals is under attack, they would come to their aid.
    • Keepers of knowledge do stop you from researching certain tech, but this makes sense when you know what can happen when you DO use certain techs. Awakened Watchful Regulators aren't the Big Bad but are only the Big Good if they are fighting a worse fallen empire or endgame crisis.
    • You can become this as well, if you're an empire who doesn't forcefully expand and conquer.
  • Bird People: Avian races are this. Of course, they technically aren't birds, just aliens that vaguely resemble a feathered species.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: There are a large number of avatars for your species. While there are some fairly standard Humanoid portraits to choose from, the options run the whole gamut of weirdness, whether it's something as mundane as the number of eyes on a mammilian species, round to being some kind of alien cockroach, and eventually, sentient floating plantoids. Even most of the robot species are freakishly bizarre, begging the question of just what kind of species built them.
  • Black Speech: The language of the Prethoryn Scourge cannot be translated, and is instead ALL CAPS gibberish intermixed with Evil Laughter. Between the aforementioned laughter and their insatiable bloodlust, though, it can be gleaned that they don't have much to say to the races of the galaxy anyways. An Empire that has developed Telepathy can actually communicate with them and learn their motivation and backstory. They're actually alien refugees fleeing from an even greater evil.
  • Blatant Lies: One of the random names that can occur for hostile pirate vessels is "Inconspicuous Asteroid."
  • Blood Knight: Militarist Factions want you to start war of aggression for shits and giggles, and if you comply with their wish, it makes any Militarist-aligned pops in your empire happier.
  • Boarding Party: The cultist questline involves two, one after the first battle which just requires warships, and another after the last battle to board the cult's flagship which needs a troop transport.
  • Body Armor As Hitpoints: The Cherryh update changed the ship armor mechanic from reducing hull damage by a certain percentage to a third layer of hitpoints between shields and hull that must be depleted before the hull can be damaged. Similar to shielding, armor now automatically regenerates over time. Contrary to shields, it has inverted strengths and weaknesses to most weapon types (e.g. strong against kinetic but weak against energy). Ships equipped with both can thus be turned into allrounders capable of holding their own in virtually any situation, albeit at the cost of reduced staying power against specialized opponents.
  • Bold Explorer: The first phase of the game involves sending science vessels to explore the space surrounding your homeworld and scout out planets for colonization.
  • Boldly Coming: The "Fertile" trait, one of the biological ascendancy traits, is described as being a drastic increase in the races original fecundity. In addition to granting +30% Growth Speed, [[+10% Unity]], and [[+5% Happiness]], this trait also grants +10% Other species owner happiness if the species is owned as a slave by another pop.
  • Bond Creatures: The "Xeno Cavalry" army type consists of riders of the commanding species with genetically-engineered mounts which bond to their respective riders. They excel at raiding, skirmish warfare, and swiftly crossing terrain that would bog down conventional vehicles.
  • Bonus Boss:
    • There's nothing that forces you to actually engage Fallen Empires in combat (unless they wake up or you're playing as any flavor of Fanatic Purifiers), but their planets are full of ancient resource complexes that produce an absurd amount of resources as well as rare Strategic Resources. And that's before getting to their techs.
    • There are also the various Guardians in the galaxy who are quite tough (though not as tough as Fallen Empires), and they give great rewards if you can defeat them.
  • Boomerang Bigot: When synthetics are given citizen rights, they can join factions - and sometimes one of them can wind up leading a spiritualist faction that campaigns for AI to be outlawed.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • A hilarious In-Universe example that can crop up when a science ship discovers an anomaly on a habitable planet. The team aboard will eventually come to the conclusion that the world's most interesting feature is its utter lack of interesting features, which translates into a potential colony that's quick and easy to settle because it doesn't have a single tile blocker on its surface.
    • The Biological Ascension path: it is the only one accessible to any non-machine Empire, as Hive Minds are barred from Transcendence and Synthetic Ascension, but it allows you to modify your species on the fly, and you can create specialized subspecies which are even more effective than Synths, and although they won't be immortal, they can live for a very long time. Also see Difficult, but Awesome.
    • Choosing the Pacifist Ethos: while it restricts your ability to conduct wars, and at Fanatic Pacifist, you can't declare any wars whatsoever, each level taken in the Ethos grants you a +2 bonus to the number of core planets you can have, as well as the production output of the populous, meaning that Pacifist can get an early head start, and cover a lot of territory in the Early Game Hell. If you also take the Agrarian Idyll civic available to Fanatic Pacifists, you'll get a Unity point for each farm you own, giving you an extra boost in climbing the Tradition and ascension tree, meaning that if you play a pacifist empire right, you can be one of the largest empires very, very quickly.
    • Habitats are this for the megastructures: they don't hold as many pops as the ring world (12, compared to 100 total), can only be built directly above a non-inhabitable world and they only have access to a set of buildings unique to themselves (plus a couple of event buildings) that can't be upgraded. However they cost a relatively small amount of influence and minerals to build, give a bonus to your fleet size simply by being inhabited, don't require anywhere near as many of your limited Ascension perks to even be built, you can build as many of them as you want at the same time (where as you are limited building one megastructure at a time, you can even build Habitats while you are building a megastructure), take a fraction of the time the other megastructures take to build and, maybe the most importantly, don't count as a planet for the purposes of colonizing them, meaning you can inhabit as many of them as you can build. Even the fact that the buildings can't be upgraded can be seen as a benefit, since it means you set up a construction list for the buildings you want and then effectively forget about the habitat entirely, severely reducing the amount of micromanaging you need to do.
    • Playing a non-specialised machine empire: you might not get any unusual interactions or unique dialogue, but you are free to choose a different second civic at your leisure, you can still colonise absolutely any habitable planet without problem, and you still have access to the special machine mechanics and ascension perks, such as "Machine Worlds". Plus, unlike Determined Exterminators and Driven Assimilators, other empires won't hate your guts by default and try to exterminate you if they think they can do just that.
  • Bragging Rights Reward: The investment in time and materials required to build the larger megastructures (to say nothing of the techs and Ascension Perks you need in order to have the option in the first place) pretty much require you to already be a galactic heavyweight to stand a chance of actually completing them.
  • Brainwashing for the Greater Good: The inevitable result of authoritarian empires who use things like Propaganda Machines and Mind Control Devices to keep unruly populations placid and productive. Weirdly enough, even egalitarians who abhor Slavery and Authoritarianism are not barred from using them, as the Will to Power tech can be researched by everyone.
  • Brain Uploading: En masse with the Utopia DLC. With the developed robotics technology, your empire will ascend into a robotic civilization after completing the Synthetic Ascension route, turning all of your pops into unique Synthetics. Spiritualist fallen empires, however, regard this as a form of mass suicide and will every likely attack what they deem hollow shells pretending to be sapients.
  • Bread and Circuses:
    • Authoritarian societies aren't keen on the whole "individual rights" thing, but they can, particularly if they're Spiritualist or Pacifist, have genuinely happy, healthy, well-cared-for citizens. Egalitarians more or less describe authoritarians they like this way to justify keeping their alliances with them, whether the authoritarians in question actually fit or not.
    • Egalitarian empires can research the Hyper Entertainment Forum, a building that boosts the happiness of all pops on the planet it's built on by 15%, which can prevent otherwise-disgruntled pops from forming factions. Pacifists can also build Paradise Dome, and strangely enough, Xenophobes can also build a cheaper, yet only marginally less effective version in the form of Monument to Purity.
    • You can instate the Social Welfare Programs Edict. It's rather costly at 20% Credits and Mineral production penalty, but gives a whopping 15% Happiness across worlds. Add the Xenophobic Monument to Purity, and that's 25% Happiness boost, enough to outweigh even Xenophobic races' 'Alien Overlords' -20% Happiness penalty.
  • Bug War: Any war that involves a Arthropoid civilization and a human one — and the preset arthropoids are quite warlike, making this especially probable if they spawn.
  • Bullying a Dragon:
    • You can intentionally press a Fallen Empire's Berserk Button to goad them into Declaring War. Very useful to make use of Bulwark of Harmony's tremendous bonuses in Defensive Wars.
    • More literally, you can also annoy an Ether Drake from the Leviathans DLC, but you better kill it while at it, because otherwise it will start going on a galaxy-wide rampage to commit genocide on you for daring to bother it.
  • Butt-Monkey: Primitive civilizations are subject to no end of bizarre/horrifying shenanigans from Observation Teams. A few of the milder examples include things like "a rogue scientist has landed on the planet to convince the primitives he is a living god," and "smugglers may have traded nuclear weapons with people still figuring out Newtonian mechanics." Some are even shout outs to conspiracy theories, like Observation Teams building monuments to dick with the primitives. Empires who somehow fail to keep up technologically without being conquered can request to be protectorates instead of vassals due to the extreme difference in tech. Note that pre-FTL species that become empires - whether on their own or helped along the way - are the more common way of earning protectorates, to give some context on how badly an empire needs to be doing to be a protectorate candidate.

    C - F 
  • Call to Agriculture: Invoked on a societal scale with the "Agrarian Idyll" civic, which makes farms produce Unity in addition to Food.
  • Cat Folk: One of the possible Mammalian sub-types. So yes, you can have a Cat Confederacy.
  • Charged Attack: Colossi have a lengthy charge time before they start firing their weapon, followed by another lengthy discharge phase before the actual effect occurs, both of which together take the better part of one in-game year. Better give your Colossus adequate protection when you choose to deploy it.
  • Character Alignment: Empires are classified according to a four-axis alignment system: "Authoritarian-Egalitarian" (source of and attitude towards lawful authority), "Materialism-Spiritualism" (position on the nature of the universe and the mind-body problem), "Xenophilia-Xenophobia" (attitude towards sapient species other than their own), and "Militarism-Pacifism" (legitimacy of force and violence as a means of solving disputes), with each dimension having a Fanatic version that amplifies its bonuses and drawbacks. Hive Minds and Machine Intelligences instead get a special "Gestalt Consciousness" ethos, reflecting the fact that their entire empire is totally directed by a single guiding intelligence rather than an ideology.
  • The Charmer: Species with the "Charismatic" trait are this. Alien species have increased happiness if living near them, and they have a bonus in relations with most empires.
  • Chokepoint Geography: Hyperlanes will always funnel fleets to a certain point of the star system when they exit hyperspace. Empires can notice this and build defenses in these areas to deter potential invaders. If you're really unlucky, you could end up with your only exit being blocked by another empire, or, worse, a Fallen Empire.
  • The Chosen One: A trait a Psionic empire could grant to one of their leaders from a Shroud Event. It makes the recipient immortal and grants them massive bonus related to their class (eg Admirals get 30% Evasion bonus).
    • If one of your leaders has the Chosen One trait you have a 100% chance to contact the powers that inhabit the Shroud (normally there is about a 50% chance one of your leaders is killed instantly). Considering you are basically talking to a demi-god on equal footing this might overlap with A God Am I.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: On one hand, alliances are useful tools of cooperation and advancement - both on their own and as a stepping stone towards a federation. On the other hand, because wars must be agreed upon by all members, alliance members can potentially halt aggressive expansion and stunt overall growth by other members until such time that the alliance becomes... unnecessary.
  • Civil Warcraft: You will suffer from civil wars and rebellions if you ignore the faction system. It can also happen to your enemies.
  • Clone Army: One of the potential army types.
  • Cockroaches Will Rule the Earth: If Earth random-generates as a Tomb World it's often inhabited by giant upliftable cockroaches.
  • Colony Ship: On making planetfall in a tile of the player's choice they become a shelter with one POP on them. With the basic ones you can control the ideological and species makeup of the colonists, while "private colony ships" are significantly cheaper and faster, but you have no say over the population and ideology of the colonists.
  • Command & Conquer Economy: Downplayed. While the player has direct control over a number of "core planets," large empires will likely have parts of their territory separated into "administrative sectors." While the player can set the tax rate for each sector, they essentially manage their economies autonomously. The player can set a desired product (Energy/Minerals/Science) for each sector to optimize, but the sector will then reinvest their surplus. This helps cut out the tedious micromanagement that would come from juggling dozens of planets, but on the other hand you can't directly interfere in a planet managed this way (if the game is not properly patched) which can be a problem if one of those planets starts becoming unhappy and plotting independence for their system (or worse, the entire sector...). Thankfully this was done away with - sectors still exist and still need to be made, but it's completely possible to interfere with their development and put structures down as required. They can also be set to have or lack certain rights, so they cannot randomly overwrite your intention for infrastructure anymore.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard:
    • An AI species can start with traits combinations that would put the human into a negative score, or multiple fanatic ethics while the human is limited to one. Prior to patch 1.1, the computer could even have opposing ethics.
    • The AI knows exactly when you've cleared a sector of hostiles, conquered a planet, or moved your fleet, regardless of whether they have eyes on the area or not. Finally wiped out those top level crystalline entities that prevented gathering resources in a system? Here comes your rival to build an outpost moments later.
    • Crisis factions, Guardians and Awakened Empires have special Government types that give massive discounts and bonuses to a lot of things. If you don't stamp them out quickly, they will end you.
  • Cool Starship:
    • Players can set the aesthetics of their own ships' classes based on one of 6 (up to 8, if Humanoid and/or Plantoid DLC is installed) possible templates, each designed with a different phenotype in mind (Star Trek esque, boxy, industrial, round and sharp...). The colors match your flag by default, unless the primary colour is grey/black, then the game takes the secondary colour for highlights... and if that is also grey/black, it defaults to purple.
    • If you can defeat the Automated Dreadnought, you are given a chance to refurbish it for your own use. A highly advanced ship made using long Lost Technology that will most likely the most powerful ship in your fleet? Yes please.
    • The starships themselves are pretty cool in function. Corvettes are agile little ships that can dodge incoming enemy fire with impunity, while delivering powerful payload in the form of Torpedoes. Destroyers can be equipped with an L-size weapon despite their size, or be equipped with multiple Point Defenses to ensure no missile nor Space Fighter will get past them. Cruisers are solid workhorse of your empire, with flexible loadout all around. Battleships can be equiped with multiple complementary weapons and hangars and turn them into The Battle Star, or you can forget all that and turn them into dedicated artillery units to devastate enemy fleets from afar. Titans are Battleships on steroids, equipped with nothing but the biggest guns you can field, able to One-Hit Kill even Battleships.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Stellaris mostly leans towards Lovecraft Lite, which makes the examples pretty memorable.
    • The Horizon Signal story pack, written by Alexis Kennedy of Fallen London and Sunless Sea fame, is an event chain of purest cosmic horror. The end result is, however, in no way horrible: you either become a goffik looking race with Tomb World as native planet type (very useful, because it lets you colonize every colonizable planet) and get all planets in your capital system habitable, or kick an Eldritch Abomination in the nuts for bragging rights.
    • Making a pact with the End of the Cycle, something the game very clearly warns you not to do. When the fifty years is up and the End comes to collect, it will instantly snuff out your empire — fleets, worlds, ships, everything — without even a chance to fight back, leaving only a tiny handful of exiled survivors to watch as the End devours the galaxynote .
    • This is pretty much the existence of a primitive species under Active Observation: Existing as nothing but playthings and objects of study for alien gods of unstoppable power, living in constant fear of the unknown hovering just above their sight, and gradually descending into fanatical xenophobia out of fear that they might be the next being abducted, or that their neighbor might have been surgically altered. Of course, from the spacefaring civilization's perspective, it's just a lab posting.
  • Changing Gameplay Priorities: A typical campaign of Stellaris starts with a scramble to explore and expand, searching to "capture" as many high-value star systems within your borders so that no other empire can snatch them up (and, especially for empires using Hyperlane- or Wormhole-based travel, so they can explore farther and farther away). As the game progresses, some borders start to push against each other while other routes of expansion simply aren't profitable, creating more of an incentive to develop already-controlled territory, clear out always-hostile entities such as Void Clouds, research leftover Anomalies, and so on. Conquering or vassalizing other nations will eventually clear the way for further expansion, repeating the pattern from the start.
  • Crapsack World / Sugar Bowl: Due to the sheer amount of different Ethics and Civics, resulting in many combinations affecting AI behavior and game mechanics, and the the power of the Random Number God, your generated galaxy can be either of these, with everything in between (in single-player mode, at least, where the other "players" are somewhat more predicatble):
    • If you're lucky, you can end up in a galaxy where democratic pacifist types are predominant among the other empires, with higher willingness to enter federations and liking your empire more based on shared values. Other empires can be swayed (or subjugated for their own good}}, especially with the War Goals system) to come around to a universalist democratic viewpoint, with more and more joining the federation...and at the end, you might end up with a united galaxy of democratic, egalitarian states, with no genocides, no slavery, no wars of aggression, no closed borders...something like a galaxy-wide United Federation of Planets. If you got only one Fallen Empire and it happens to be the Enigmatic Observers type, it won't give you any kind of trouble and work with all the empires, enabling you to beat back endgame crises with relative ease (or at least less bloodshed that would otherwise occur). So, a Sugar Bowl for everyone - well, except those two-three upstart species that go galactic during gameplay as upstart empires, turn out to be Fanatic Purifiers or some other pleasant group, and are quietly "contained" (read: steamrolled) by your federation, but hey. Obviously, that applies only if you're playing a democratic egalitarian-type empire yourself, otherwise, you'll probably be on the receiving end of a war of ideologies or two yourself.
    • On the other hand, if you are unlucky, you may well end up in a galaxy where your neighbors are militaristic fascists, Absolute Xenophobe types, bandit kingdoms who happily raid everyone else for slaves, religious fanatics bent on converting or killing you and ravening horrors that just want to eat everyone else. Of course, your own empire may be just as dastardly as any of the others. The Fallen Empire may go on a war of galactic reconquest, two Fallen Empires may have a little fight among each other and lay waste to half the galaxy as collateral damage in the process and life in general will be very nasty, brutish and short, resulting in a 'verse you most definitely would NOT want to live in, and a much more difficult game.
    • And then there's all sorts of stuff in between.
  • Creative Sterility: Fallen Empires are well past their prime, and have only a single fanatic ethos trait (normal empires can have either a fanatic and a non-fanatic, or three non-fanatic) representing the sole surviving ideal that they hold on to. They'll never expand, don't develop any of their territory, and don't explore. However, their military technology starts out millennia ahead of what the players have, and though they can't replace anything they lose, they're so disgustingly powerful it takes a serious effort to inflict even token losses on them. The rewards (in terms of valuable technology, salvage, and resource-rich territory) is enough to often make you by and far the most dominant superpower in the galaxy. The problem is finding the tech, military strength, and resources to be able to combat them, while also managing to avoid having your rivals capitalize on your vulnerable flanks. And when once Fallen Empire is overrun by the "lesser races", the others will stop playing around.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Any empire that sticks to only one type of weapon and one type of defence will usually suffer from this in the early- to mid-game, as each weapon type tends to beat a specific defence while being suboptimal against another type of defence. The Prethoryn Scourge is particularly vulnerable to this as it depends almost entirely on strike craft, missiles and armour. A mid- to late-game fleet with decent point defences and plasma/lance weaponry will tear the Prethoryn fleets a new one. Over-reliance on the automated Design-It-Yourself Equipment would lead to this; guides abound on how to create the optimal fleet capable of taking on fleets with larger power and win.
  • Crutch Character:
    • Taking the Extremely Adaptive trait allows your species to colonize any inhabitable planet except Tomb Worlds right off the bat. Happiness cap due to Habitability notwithstanding, this allows you to expand immediately in the early game, choosing the biggest and best planets for yourself. However, at 4 Trait Points, it is the most expensive Trait, and you'll be saddled with 2 extra drawbacks just to take it, and its usefulness declines with advances in Habitability tech and Terraforming. If you take Biological Ascension, however, you'll be able to remove the trait later on. This syncs up very with with Hive Mind. In that case, you will have no problem with happiness whatsoever, and you're restricted to Biological Ascension anyhow. That said, see One Stat to Rule Them All.
    • The Talented Trait used to be this before Patch 1.8 — all it did was let Leaders start with an extra level, but back then it cost 2 valuable Trait points and Leaders tended to cap very easily anyway since the maximum was 5. Patch 1.8 turned Talented into a very useful Trait instead, as it increased the leader cap (and inverting the trope entirely!).
    • Pre-2.0 Spaceports didn't do very much besides, obviously, let you build ships at the designated location and increase naval capacity. In theory they also provided early-game defense, but they were still effectively speed-bumps. It was also a resource drain, costing 350 Minerals and, unless a Solar Panel Network was created, a loss in Energy over time. It was quite common to ignore Spaceport construction except for key locations. As part of the 2.0 rebalance, Spaceports can be upgraded to have mammothian defense (and in the first place allow more Defensive Platforms to be constructed, when before 2.0 they could be placed anywhere regardless of Spaceport), provide greatly expanded naval capacity, or provide a ton of Energy income from Trading Posts. Now, it's a struggle to balance Anchorages, Trading Posts, Shipyards, and the occasional chokepoint Spaceport between the limited number of Spaceports allowed.
    • Generic machine empires lose out on some special end-game stuff that only organics can get, but they can colonise any planet right off the bat, they don't have to worry about factional strife, and they never get unhappy pops. Rogue Servitors have it even easier as they get no diplomatic malus (unlike the other two machine empires) and they get a massive resource and production bonus when the ratio of servant machine pops to organic "bio-trophy" pops is 60/40 - and did we mention that habitats for bio-trophy pops also produce Unity points?
  • Curiosity Is a Crapshoot: A running theme throughout the whole game is that the galaxy is full of wonders and terrors, and sometimes it can be hard to tell which is which at first blush. Sometimes you get a clear-cut benefit, sometimes you get something entirely negative, and sometimes you get something that grants you Power at a Price.
  • Cute Is Evil: It is somewhat of a Stellaris player tradition to choose the cutest species portrait whenever they play as Fanatic Purifiers. With random AI empires, it's a throw of the dice, as portraits and ethos have no link.
  • Cyborg: In the Utopia DLC, your entire empire turn into one as they ascend through the Synthetic route, making your race even more powerful then ultimately into fully fledged Synthetics. It is also possible to outfit your armies with Cyborg Infiltration Units. For bonus points, the metal endoskeleton of these mechanical soldiers is highly transformable, enabling them to assume the appearance of any species after an appropriate layer of flesh (usually acquired from enemy prisoners) is grafted onto their frame. They then infiltrate enemy lines and spread chaos. In Utopia you're also able to modify your species into cyborgs with the right ascension path...and goes further and further until all of your species are changed into synths.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Certain lategame techs are quite dangerous and can cause terrible consequences for the rest of the galaxy. That said, the bonuses from these techs are too good to pass on, and you can take precautions should anything goes wrong...
  • Deadpan Snarker: With a dose of Smug Snake, Fallen Empires can give some pretty sarcastic quips.
    If you wish us to share our technologies, we will gladly arrange for a field demonstration.

    Know that we wish for nothing more than a buffer zone around our empire borders. You are not that buffer zone. Your allies are not that buffer zone. Cold dead space is that buffer zone, and if this is not the case, we will make it so.
  • Death World: Many planets have special modifiers that affect habitability, productivity, etc. A number of these modifiers include tidal locking, hyper-aggressive wildlife, and nearby asteroid fields that can drop rocks on your cities with little warning.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: One of the potential war goals you can pick is to force another nation to become your vassal. While they'll hate you at first due to the war, they'll eventually end up with a net-gain to their attitude due to the benefit from being your vassal; however, if they hated you to begin with, expect them to resent their servitude and look for any opportunity to get out of it. This can become exaggerated if you decide to integrate them into your empire - highly xenophobic groups end up with a massive -40% for having 'alien overlords' which makes them very unproductive to begin with. On the other hand a "Liberate" wargoal results in some or all of the enemy's planets forming a new empire that shares your own ethos and will readily ally or become your vassal, though their population is unlikely to share that ethos.
  • Defenseless Transports: Science, construction and colony ships are not armed. Their default operating procedure when encountering hostile ships is to run very quickly in the opposite direction. While army transports have minimal weaponry but do not auto-retreat, making them easy targets without escorts.
  • Deflector Shields: They're good at defending against energy weapons, not so good at defending against missiles and rail guns. The earliest ones require huge investments of power, but the later ones are a very efficient extra layer of protection. Empire with the appropriate techs can also get Psi Shields.
  • Demonization: Presumably the rationale behind declaring an empire your Rival, which ticks them off but gets you more internal Influence: Against a foe like that one, we all have to stick together (and do as I say). Militaristic empires are happy to buy into it while pacifist ones don't particularly care.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Invoked with the Ethos system as there are literally dozens of different value systems the various star nations can have, and it effects everything they can and will do.
  • Designer Babies: The Policies Selected Lineage and Capacity Booster improves your Leaders' Skills and Lifespan, but these tend to piss off Spiritualists and Egalitarians.
  • Design-It-Yourself Equipment: Has an in-game ship editor, allowing you to customize your ships and space stations. If you're lazy and don't enjoy modifying and upgrading your ship designs, you can have the AI do it, upon which they'll slap together the best designs they can from your available tech. However, beware of Crippling Overspecialization.
  • Developers' Foresight: Being able to start on tomb worlds, and gaia worlds was only added in Apocalypse, only pre-FTL civs can start on ringworlds, and nobody can start on habitats, but special habitability traits exist for all four and have existed since the release of the given world types.
  • Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Found in the Horizon Signal quest chain ending. Turns out the Worm wasn't lying when it said it loved you. Of course you could fight it when it spawns with monstrous fleet power outside your sector, but if you accept its wishes your primary species gets some bad traits but not only can colonize Tomb worlds (and have non-terrible colonization habitability in all other worlds), but your entire system becomes composed of Tomb worlds — including former barren ones!
  • Difficult, but Awesome:
    • Wormhole FTL requires you to build Wormhole Stations on your empire's fringes to expand your exploration capability, thus turning them into Achilles' Heel; lose the stations, and you lose your FTL capability. But Wormholes have huge range that only gets better later on, it doesn't care about chokepoints unlike Hyperspace, and while it requires you to use the station, travel is instantaneous. It's so good that even if you get the Jump Drive later, it's likely just a marginal upgrade to a well-connected Wormhole empire.
    • Playing as Pacifistic Empire effectively prevents you from going to war to expand your territory through Cede wargoals. But a sufficiently powerful Pacifistic is trusted and well liked by everyone, and allying yourself with half of the known galaxy will make even Awakened Empires think twice from attacking you. Further, less powerful Empires would definitely be interested in vassaldom. Once a certain amount of time has passed, the vassals can be integrated safely and bloodlessly. To Win Without Fighting indeed.
    • Properly modifying your species Gene, especially the advanced version, is this. Synths get 20% bonus to all production (except food), and so is easy to just use them for everything on your Empire. But the Advanced Genetic modification allows you to create highly specialized subspecies that get even more bonus than Synths. For example, Erudite gives 20% bonus to all research, which can boosted further with the Natural Physicist/Biologist/Engineer for 35% research bonus. Industrious gives 15% Mineral production which can be boosted further with Very Strong for a total of 25% production, plus the whopping 40% Army Damage (which Synths don't get). It's extra micromanagement, but highly rewarding.
    • Having multiple alien race in your Empire means extra micromanagement as they each have their own ethos and traits. But population growth is calculated per species; a planet with 5 different alien race would generate 5 new populations per growth phase. Thus placating the different species could have you fill your planet quickly, which by extension means greater resource generation.
  • Disc-One Nuke:
    • Getting especially lucky with technology and available research resources can lead to tier four or five weapons well before your opponents, or corvettes decked out in super crystalforge armor (if you manage to find debris of specific crystalline entities). This tends to happen more often with Technocratic empires, as they can "fish the deck" of available technology for that one tech much easier by having a bigger "hand" of research options, and are more likely to have just the scientist with the specialty of said tech, speeding up research a huge amount.
    • Post-Kennedy patch, Kinetic Weapons are really just better, at least early game when everyone has paper-thin shields and virtually non-existent armor.
    • Fanatic Xenophobes get 30% extra Border Extrusion, allowing them to do hostile takeovers without actually declaring war. Combined with the Despotic/Star Empire Government's Influence discount on expansions, this allows them to quickly claim a large portion of the galaxy to start snowballing. They also get to build Monument to Purity to boost happiness by 10% at a cheap 150 Minerals cost and not needing maintenance other than a pop working it. And while other Ethos can build marginally better happiness booster buildings, they are much more expensive and require Energy for maintenance.
  • Divide and Conquer: Due to the Core Planet Limit, quite often you can't afford to take your enemy's planets as spoils of war, nor can you ask them to become your vassal as that would be too much of a demand due to the number of worlds they possess. Times like these, the 'Liberate' planet option can be used to create a successor empire that shares your ethos, and will be quite receptive to your empire. While this means extra micromanagement on appeasing the new empire, this effectively cuts down your enemy's strength while limiting their growth, softening them up for your final assault in the near future. Alternatively, there's also the 'Abandon' option which reduces the micromanagement, but nothing's stopping them or anyone else from just re-colonizing the abandoned planets.
  • Divided We Fall: It's depressingly amusing that rival Empires would continue to declare war against each other, inviting you to war against their rival in face of the late-game crisis events, or keeping their borders closed to you even when you are the most likely to be able to deal with said problem.note  Averted in 1.4, where borders will be open to all during such event.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Back when Egalitarian and Authoritarian were Individualist and Collectivist:
    • Being a Collectivist opened up certain policy, tech and unit options such as Commissars, Ministry of Benevolence, and Purge. All words you usually hear from them Dirty Communists...
    • Made all the more apparent when being a Fanatic Individualist (the exact opposite on the Ethos spectrum) invoked some of the worst aspects of anarcho-capitalism, American libertarianism and Objectivism - the description sounded like something ripped right from Ayn Rand note .
  • The Dog Bites Back: Synths have a higher chance of rebelling if their empire mistreats them. In Synthetic Dawn's reworked AI rebellion, synths that have been treated especially cruelly have a higher chance of spawning as Determined Exterminators who seek to destroy all organic life in the galaxy.
  • Doomsday Device: Apocalypse expansion allows you to build Colossi, which are basically this. You can only have 1, though you can build another if that one is destroyed. To wit, there are 5 different flavors of doom:
    • Global Pacifier: The nicest of its kind, it 'merely' Slave-Shields a planet, forever exiling it out of the Galactic scene.
    • Neutron Sweep: Kills every inhabitant of the planet, leaving the infrastructures intact for you to land your own colonists and take over.
    • God Ray: A souped-up version of the Orbital Mind Control Laser which converts the planet's biological pops to your religion while eliminating all Robots. Given its nature, it's presumably some EMP, and accessible only to Spiritualists.
    • Nanobot Dispersal: Forcibly converts the organic population of a planet into robots to your cause, and practically the mirror of the God Ray.
    • Planet Cracker: Vanilla flavor Earth-Shattering Kaboom, but unavailable to Pacifists.
  • Drop Pod: When transports are landing troops on a hostile planet you can spot them dropping pods if you zoom in far enough.
  • Dump Stat: In general, your Dump Stat will depend on your Empire Ethos:
    • The Sedentary Trait increases Migration time and Resettlement cost. Considering Migration happens all over the place in the background and Resettlement costs Influence in the first place, you will learn not to care about the former and only use the latter sparingly. This Trait is always good to take for an easy Trait point for anyone not a Gestalt Consciousness, i.e. Hive Minds and Machine Intelligences. Machines themselves do have an equivalent called Bulky.
    • Repugnant makes no difference if you're playing as Genocidal Xenophobes in the first place (Fanatical Purifiers and Devouring Swarms). Determined Exterminators can take the machine equivalent of Repugnant, called Uncanny, which could even make sense from a story perspective.
    • Happiness is completely irrelevant for Gestalt Consciousness Empires (unless Rogue Servitors, and even then only their Bio-Trophies).
    • Food and food research is pretty much useless for a robotic empire since they don't eat. Researching Terraforming is pointless since they can inhabit almost any world.
  • Dyson Sphere: One of the constructable megastructures in the Utopia expansion. Unlike many examples, it only encloses the star itself and not the entire solar system; however, it still takes a lot of time and resources to build and produces a massive amount of energy (up to 1,000 units, to be precise). They can only be constructed in systems without habitable planets and will automatically convert all worlds in the system into frozen or barren worlds once construction is finished - which tends to happen when you switch off the sun.
  • Eagleland: Democratic Crusaders, who exist to... well, liberate non-democratic nations. Often violently. The diplomacy text makes it absolutely blatant.
    "We will give you liberty or give you death. Your choice."
  • Early Game Hell: You start off with a fair amount of energy, minerals, influence, etc., to allow you to build a colony ship, or a few mining platforms, etc. But until you start expanding to other worlds, you'll likely run out of resources really quickly, until you can expand to several systems and build up a solid mineral and energy income, but by that point, your AI neighbors will likely be far ahead of you in both infrastructure and military because they don't have these problems.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: World Cracker-type Colossi fire a giant laser into a planet, which causes the planet to explode after a couple of months.
  • Easy Logistics: Nope. Although there is the usual Acceptable Breaks from Reality, managing the logistics to maintain your fleet is one of the most critical gameplay element. For instance, since Upkeep is based on your ships' build cost, you can maintain your Upkeep low by keeping a smaller fleet.... but good luck winning any fight with just that. Conversely, you can create a fleet large and strong enough to take on even Fallen Empires, but you better have the tremendous Energy and Mineral output to pay for their Upkeep. Failing that, as Upkeep is reduced when your ships are docked, you can try and stockpile Energy and Minerals to pay for the Upkeep once they're deployed for engagements, but you better make sure the war doesn't last long enough to deplete your reserves. If you are playing Wormhole Empire, you'll also need to prepare Wormhole Stations to leapfrog all the way to your targets, preferably protected by multiple Fortresses as they will be critical to your campaigns... you get the idea.
  • Eats Babies: When fanatic xenophobes are at war with you, they gleefully declare this is their plan.
    "Despicable beast! Your little babies will soon be sold as delectable snacks on every street corner on [our homeworld]!"
    • In the Utopia expansion, you're able to enslave and breed alien populations for the sole purpose of raising them as livestock. A more short-term version of this in the same DLC is to use the Processing method of purge on a pop (which likely includes babies) - AKA committing genocide by eating them all.
  • Eldritch Abomination:
    • Many of the Leviathans that aren't machines left behind by Precursors. Massive spacebourne creatures with firepower rivaling that of a fleet, they come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and are invariably hostile to anything that comes their way. Some of them will even chase you down and attack your empire if you piss them off enough. The Ether Drake in fact is explicitly said by Curators to be something that cannot possibly have been born in our universe, speculating it came from a prior universe with different laws of physics that managed to survive that universe's destruction and persist into this one. Deconstructed though, as this means it is poorly suited to existance in our galaxy and destroying it might be considered a kind of Mercy Kill.
    • On a smaller scale, the void clouds. They are sentient cosmic entities that have been wandering the universe since very shortly after the Big Bang. The player empire can't make heads or tails of how they work, but they are invariably hostile to nearby ships. They are often found near black holes, but they can spawn pretty much anywhere. It's suggested that spiritual empires may potentially view them as divine figures... but that might not stop the more militant ones from attacking them. Fallen Empires have been known to imprison Void Clouds inside gigantic planetary shields deep within their space, which makes their potential origins a lot more ominous...
    • The Worm-in-Waiting. Your fleet won't help you here, though there's something to be said for the gifts it brings.
    • The Shroud is positively full of them; the player can even, with the right Ascension Perks, make bargains with them. Special note goes to the End of the Cycle; the tooltip for the option to make a Covenant with it simply states, in bright red, "do not do this", followed by a suspiciously long list of incredible benefits. The End of the Cycle does give you massive benefits for 50 years. At the end of 50 years though... you lose everything except your tech, and end up on a single planet (if the criterion allows. If it doesn't you get a game over), with everyone else hating your guts, while End of the Cycle pretty much becomes an Endgame Crisis. It can only happen in a single player game, however.
    • While the Prethyon are an ordinary Horde of Alien Locusts, those able to communicate with them may hear about the Hunters that have been chasing them from galaxy to galaxy for a very long time. Further details come up in a later event called "the Hole in the Void": while charting the Prethyon's course, your scientists realize that another galaxy — the one the Prethyon came from, according to their calculations — has vanished. Either it has been erased, stars and all, or something massive has eclipsed it. As of writing, for better or worse, there are no follow-up events.
  • Eldritch Starship: The Avian, Molluscoid, Fungoid, and Arthropoid designs fall under the "Lobster" variety. Extradimensional Invaders' ships fit neatly under "Starfish".
  • Elite Army: Military Empires can easily field one with the appropriate research or government provided. One can even provide tailor-made armies from stronger species other than their own primary race that is dedicated to push out multiple invaders/defenders on a planet single-handedly.
  • The Empire:
    • Players can choose to eschew peaceful negotiations and alliances in order to fulfill this trope by conquering the entire galaxy in order to achieve a campaign victory. Empires with the Xenophobe ethos can enslave other species. Civilizations without the Egalitarian ethos can form actual autocracies ruled by a space emperor. You can basically create an Expy of the Imperium of Man if you want and with the right play style.
    • The Empire/Kingdom delineation is demonstrated by the Despotic Empire and Enlightened Monarchy government types. They're both autocracies but the former is ruled by an Emperor or Empress and gets a bonus to slave labor, while the latter is ruled by a King or Queen and pacifistic.note 
  • The End of the World as We Know It: What happens when you form a covenant with the End of the Cycle. Once the fifty years are up, you lose EVERYTHING except for your researched technologies and ascension perks - your worlds, your habitats, your fleets, your leaders. There's no fight, no struggle, no epic battle. Your empire simply gets snuffed out in an instant, reduced to a single planet with a few survivors and a handful of basic buildings while every planet you had spawns an insanely powerful Shroud Avatar, and your previous homeworld gives birth to The End, an entity with a base fleet power of >300K that gets far more powerful the more pops you had before everything went down the drain. That thing alone can wipe the floor with everything up to and including Awakened Fallen Empires all on its own. Should you survive that by any means, you'll also have to contend with your angry neighbors because of the -1000 opinion modifier you got slapped with after you doomed the entire galaxy.
  • Enemy Civil War: The other Empires who are not your friends may not be friendly to each other either, and it's pretty common for them to bicker and go to war against each other. Depending on how the war goes, you might even jump into the fray and cripple both Empires in the long run.
  • Enemy Mine:
    • Empires may occasionally ask the player to initiate a war with them. Sometimes, it's an ally doing the asking but sometimes it's an empire seeking to take down a mutual threat.
    • Played straight to Godzilla Threshold level when a Crisis shows up. EVERYONE gets a +200 opinion modifier, usually leading to opening their borders even when you are bitter enemies for generations.
  • Energy Beings: The Extradimensional Invaders. Bringing them into the galaxy is the great risk of Jump Drive technology, for their opinion of the physical beings of the galaxy is very simple:
    "Understand... this... you are food..."
  • Energy Economy: One of the major resources in the game is the Energy Credit, which is produced by power plants and is used to power robots, as well as being used as a currency used for upkeep costs and trading.
  • Energy Weapons: Your empire can start with this technology, as an armor-dissolving solution if chances of taking out more efficient armored ships are slim. Unlike their Kinetic counterparts, Energy weapons suffer from shields and may take some time to drain them off completely.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Marauder empires are ruthless pirate clans that subsist on raiding and extorting everyone they come across, but even they won't cut deals with Fanatic Purifiers of any kind.
  • Everything's Better with Penguins: Yes, you can make a race of Penguins if you so wish.
  • Evil Counterpart: The xenophobic, militaristic Commonwealth of Man to the xenophilic, egalitarian United Nations of Earth.
  • Evil Is Easy: It's not easy to keep up against Ethical Divergence and maintain conquered aliens' happiness so they don't rebel. But there's always the Purge option if you want an easier way out...
  • Evil Laugh: The Prethoryn Scourge has one when talking with you: "HAK HAK HAK!"
  • Evil vs. Evil: In the Extradimensional Invaders invasion, The Unbidden (blue) will eventually be joined by two other factions, The Aberrant (orange) and The Vehement (green). Each of them will attack all respective other invader factions as well as every native to the galaxy.
  • Experience Booster: A few civics and traits, like Adaptable, improve the experience gained for a given leader.
  • Experience Penalty: Leaders can get the Arrested Development trait, which prevents them from gaining experience and subsequently from leveling up. The Stubborn and Slow Learner traits both reduce experience, with the first being a personality trait and the second one being a biological trait. The Conservative biological trait gives a experience penalty, while giving a starting level boost for new leaders.
  • Exposed Extraterrestrials: Some of the alien races. There are even, as of 1.1.0, extra insults specifically directed from naked aliens to clothes-wearing ones.
    "Why do you cover yourselves in strange textiles? Are you hiding something, or are you simply ashamed of your unfortunate appearance?"
  • Expy: The Shroud is all but officially stated to be one of Warhammer 40,000's Warp; even more so now that the Utopia DLC vastly expands on how you can interact with this alternate dimension and its enigmatic denizens.
    • Speaking of WH40K - Stellaris makes it suspiciously easy to model your empire after the various factions in the Grimdark future. There're even portraits available that closely resemble most of the species involved.
      • The Imperium of Man doesn't even need to be built from scratch; one of the pre-built starter empires, the Commonwealth of Man, is a Lost Colony that is one part Imperium of Man, one part United Citizen's Federation. Alternatively, the player can make an Authoritarian/Xenophobe/Spiritualist to get psykers and the Divine Cult civic for a proper God Emperor.
      • By choosing one of the elf-y portraits and spiritual traits, you can play as the Eldar. Follow the Mind Over Matter ascension path through to the bitter end and congrats! You just reenacted the Fall, perhaps the most devastating and most momentous event in 40K lore. Fans have taken this to new heights in a few parody news articles.
      • Do the same with humans instead and you have an expy of a rampant Chaos cult plunging an entire sector of the Imperium into, well, chaos by bringing forth the Legions of Hell.
      • The Necrontyr were a short-lived race of organics that developed a burning hatred for all life in the galaxy and eventually uploaded their minds into robotic shells now know as the Necrons; it wasn't fully their choice in the end, but that's not the point right now. What matters is that you can replay the Necron's story very easily by playing as Fanatic Purifiers and following the synthetic ascension path to the end. Alternatively, start as a given Machine Empire from Synthetic Dawn to simulate a Necron Dynasty: regular Necrons who want to do their own thing, exterminator Necrons, Necrons who collect organics to find a way to turn back, or Necrons who have "enslaved" organics so they do something useful. It helps that the original Machine Pops, and one of the Synthetic Dawn ones, look somewhat like Necron Warriors and Wraiths, respectively.
      • A xenophile, materialist, authoritarian alien empire with a strict Fantastic Caste System? Well hello, Tau Empire! That mix even gets a special greeting telling other races "they will embrace the greater good eventually".
      • Orks don't have a fitting portrait in the base game (no problem with mods, though), and their peculiar way of talking also doesn't show up, but their character is replicated virtually 1/1 with the Metalhead personality on a fungoid species. The Humanoids DLC provides an Orc species, so they are officially playable.
      • Same goes for Dark Eldar. You can approximate them with a Decadent empire that can't run smoothly without slavery, although you won't be able t fully emulate the true depths of their depravity without mods.
      • Tyranids are almost too easy - insectoid species with the Hive Mind ethic and Devouring Swarm civic, and you're done. They'll even automatically consume every other species on worlds they conquer.
    • The three Crisis factions: the Scourge is one of the aforementioned Tyranids, The Contingency is one of the Heretic Geth mixed with the Reapers, and the Extradimensional Invaders are the Drej.
    • Exterminator Machine Empires are referred to by the developers as basically Skynet. The polar opposites, the Rogue Servitors, superficially resemble The Culture.
  • Extreme Omnivore:
    • The Unbidden and their extradimensional rivals, The Abbarant and The Vehement will instantly devour every living thing on every planet they conquer, leaving nothing behind but an empty Ghost Planet.
    • As of the Banks update, you can engage in this as well. If you have a nasty streak, you can set your Purge method to process the population of worlds you conquer into food for your pops. If you have a particularly nasty streak, you'll instead enslave them all and cultivate them as livestock. Both options are available to any empire that condones purges and slavery, and it works equally well on every species no matter how far removed from your own biology they might be.
  • Fantastic Caste System: As of the Banks patch species with rights set to "caste system" have all farmers and miners enslaved, but energy producers and researchers remain free.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: A xenophobic pacifist empire with imperial rule and the Inward Perfection civic gets the special "Celestial Empire" government, making it an Expy of late Imperial China.
  • Fantastic Racism: The Xenophobic pops, and by extension entire empires, are not good with neighbors and will become increasingly upset the more foreign pops appear on their planet. Pops with a Repugnant trait are at the other side of the trope, granting Zoidberg stereotyping across the planet that even Xenophiles dislike them. Making colony more unlivable for other species but the dominating Repugnant race on said planet.
    • A factor in what caused the downfall of the First League. The lack of cohesion between the founding races meant a war broke out quickly over dwindling resources. When you find their capital world, it is deserted as the aliens all killed each other years and years ago.
  • Fantastic Slurs:
    • "Xeno" is a popular one among xenophobic empires.
    • Empires who hold you in poor esteem will call you specific insults based on the species category of your empire: humanoids get called "monkeys", mammalians "beasts", reptilians "lizards" or "newts", avians "birds", "chickens", "dodos" or "buzzards", arthropoids "bugs", molluscoids "parasites", fungoids "shrooms", plantoids "weeds" and machines "tin cans" or "toasters".
    • Fantastic compliments are also possible if the other empire instead likes you: humanoids get called "angels", mammalians "sphinxes", reptilians "dragons", avians "phoenixes", arthropoids "scarabs", molluscoids "krakens", fungoids "chanterelles", plantoids "roses" and machines "technological marvels" or "elegant automatons".
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Prior to the Cherryh update, the game provided three basic versions of FTL travel for your civilization to choose from initially and one that could be researched later. Not all civilizations will use the same form, however, leading to interesting strategies and potential use of choke-points during war. There was an option to start a new game with only one type, which has become redundant since Cherryh restricted everyone to hyperdrives by default. But, for the sake of completeness:
    • Warp: The Star Trek method. Ships equipped with a warp drive create a subspace "bubble" around the ship. These drives are very expensive and cause a major drain on a ships' available power. On the plus side they allow free movement across empty space, at the expense of being the slowest of the three FTL types and the ship having to be at the edge of a solar system before it can use the drive. They also have a very low maximum range unless upgraded. However, it is the one drive with the least challenging learning curve so it is default choice for new players. Warp was recycled as a special strategic ability for Jump Drives in Cherryh, but with significant cooldown and malus on attack and speed.
    • Hyperspace: The Andromeda/Escape Velocity method and, as of Cherryh, the only one available at the start of the game. (Post-Cherryh Wormholes, Gateways, and Jump Drives can be researched later.) Ships that have a hyperdrive can use hyperspace lanes for quick and inexpensive travel between systems. However, since your ships are limited to predetermined paths, it lacks the freedom of navigation warp drives offer, as your ships might have to make three or four separate jumps to reach a system right next door. The hyperdrive also has a long warm up time before usage, but once the warm up is out of the way, the travel itself is nearly-instantaneous. Setting the whole galaxy to be locked into this FTL type introduces a more traditional style of game, as well as adding a strategic layer as chokepoints become far more important than in a galaxy where other empires can jump straight over or around the lanes.
    • (Pre-Cherryh) Wormhole: A method based on Teleportation. Empires with access to wormhole technology first have to build a wormhole station that resides at the outer edges of a star system. This station creates a temporary but direct connection between two systems that a cluster of ships can then use briefly. Ships that use wormhole stations experience instant travel between star systems and, as a plus, don't need to be equipped with any modules whatsoever. The stations are also two-way and have huge range that only gets better later on, allowing for some interesting tactical opportunities. However, of the initial three, it is the most infrastructure intensive and the one most vulnerable to enemy attacks; additionally, any ships wanting to use the wormhole must first travel from their current system to the station's system, and then from there to their destination. Add in the charging time for this process, and the fact that each station can only service one set of ships at a time, and this can mean that by the endgame, unless you invest a significant amount of infrastructure in maintaining multiple stations with redundant ranges (and multiple gates in your core systems), your inter-system travel can slow to a crawl as multiple ships queue up for use of a handful of overworked stations.
    • Jump: The Warhammer 40,000 method, and the one you have to research or get from a Fallen Empire. The ship shifts into an alternate dimension where the speed of light is much faster, and exits at the desired point. The fastest of all the FTL types (20 times faster than conventional), combining the best of all worlds: it requires very little power, the modules are fairly cheap, the range is incredible, and as stated it's by and far the fastest of all travel methods. However, as in Warhammer 40,000, there is fine print: it carries the risk of accidentally tearing a portal to the universe where the Extradimensional Invaders live and triggering a galaxy-wide Crisis due to their invasion; additionally, researching it is likely to tick off Knowledge Keeper Fallen Empires and have them ready to start taking your Empire apart. Funnily enough it tends to be an upgrade only for Warp & Hyperspace empires, because an end-game Wormhole empire with a good gate network can jump further than the level of Jump tech you can scavenge from a Fallen Empire. Beyond all others is the Psi-Jump, the longest-ranged of all FTL techs, and the hardest to acquire. Some government types are forbidden from every even unlocking this tech, and can only scavenge it from dead Fallen Empire ships. It even more advantages than Jump, but summons the Extradimensional Invaders even faster, and can bypass stars and planets without slowing down, though it is also tied for most-expensive FTL module in the game. Both versions of the Jump Drive are still available as of Cherryh and retain most of their advantages, but jumps can now only be performed manually, have a lengthy cooldown period inbetween and inflict heavy temporary debuffs on any ships that used it.
    • (Post-Cherryh) Wormhole: Essentially an incredibly long hyperlane. Wormholes are paired, initially unstable, and require a technology to stabilise them, but offer a very long range connection.
    • Gateways: The Stargate method; Gateways are megastructures that function like gates, and are found in space but derelict. Reactivating one after researching the right technology connects it to a random one somewhere in the galaxy, but much like their ring-shaped cousins they can redial to other Gateways if the empire controls more than 2. Additionally they can block access, while wormholes cannot be intentionally disabled, so Gateways are overall less risky.
  • The Federation: Mid-game civilizations can form federations with their allies to increase their power and fend off more powerful empires. Federations share their leadership; rotating the presidency between species, meaning that no single species can control policy-making decisions for an extended period of time. The Federation president also maintains control over a joint military that he can customize to suit his preferences. On one hand, being the Federation presidency gives you a LOT of military might and political control; on the other, when it's NOT yours, you'll be forced to comply with political decisions that you might not agree with, possibly leading you into a war with a more-powerful neighbor you have nothing against, or might have even been friendly with. On the smaller scale, an empire with a lot of integrated species will look like this as well. Though one species always remains dominant.
  • Feudal Future: Actual feudalism is limited to pre-FTL empires, but there are two quasi-examples:
    • It is possible to run an Enlightened Monarchy, Despotic Empire, or Plutocratic Oligarchy that practices eugenics with their Leaders.
    • The most common form of Puppet State are Vassals, which like Crusader Kings are subject to your empire but govern themselves and maintain their own militaries. Also like CK there is a limit to how many systems your empire directly controls but you have the option of parceling excess systems out into "sectors" that handle their own economic development but lack independent militaries, instead contributing to the Imperial Fleet and Armies.
    • As of "Banks" the civic "Aristocratic Elite" is available to Oligarchies and Imperial governments.
    • With the "Feudal Society" Civic available to Imperial governments, this trope can now be played absolutely straight. Mix this in with the Caste System slavery and/or Domestic Servitude, and you've even got a quasi-example of serfdom in practice.
  • Fighting for a Homeland: Separatist factions seek to break away from your empire and establish a new star nation with a government based on their values. The best way to appease them is to find out what's causing their unhappiness and try to address it, but you can also resort to bribery, propaganda, or simply giving in to their demands.
  • Final Boss: End game crisis like the Extradimensional Invaders end up in this role.
  • Final Solution:
    • Conquered alien race being unhappy and thus unproductive? Slaves becoming Malcontent and causing problems? Factions forming and demanding independence? Fortunately there's always the Purge button. And if you're playing as Fanatic Xenophobes, this will likely be your first, final, and only foreign policy.
    • The Utopia extension allows several types of purge such as plain-old extermination by death squads, neutering, deportation outside the borders, forced labour or processing.
  • First Contact: One of the crucial elements of the early game involves discovering other civilizations. Players can choose whether the default option for first contact is aggression or peaceful. Naturally, We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill comes into play.
  • Fish out of Water: Happens when you conquer and annex primitive civilizations. Depending on their tech level, the original natives will need anything from 10 to 100 years to adjust to space-age technology. During this time period, they are essentially useless in almost any form of resource gathering, except food production. New pops which appear after the invasion do not have this adjustment period.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Materialist Empires have Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions. Try discussing that with the Extradimensional Invaders, the Dimensional Horrors, the Worm, the Shroud which you can make covenants with, or any Spiritualist Empires fielding Psionic technologies, which mechanical beings are unable to emulate. Needless to say, this is... contentious in the fandom; see the YMMV tab for details.
  • Foil: Several. All factions with the opposing ethics fall under this category, varying in sizes and technologies under their fields.
    • Democratic Crusaders and Evangelizing Zealots are two sides of the same coin. Both wish to convert others to either their religion or their political slant.
    • Peaceful Traders and Ruthless Capitalists want wealth, though they will go about it in very different ways.
    • Xenophobic Isolationists and Fanatical Purifiers both don't like other races. The former are Pacifists who just want to be left alone, while the latter prefer to take a more active approach in dealing with other races. Relatedly, Determined Exterminators and Devouring Swarms also purge much like Fanatical Purifiers, but can use different methods: the former essentially plug them into batteries to sap their life energy as power, while the latter just flat-out eat them.
    • Developmentally, Syncretic Evolution, Mechanists, and Rogue Servitors all are cut from a similar cloth and start off with similar situations. The first is a two-species planet where one dominated the other to the point of selectively breeding the second species into submission. The second developed advanced AI long before FTL, resulting in a species that begins with a small robot populations and the tech required to build more. The third are robots whose masters became decadent and whom have long since retired to a life of leisure. In any case, all three start off with a client species under their control at the start of the game.
  • Foreshadowing: Certain anomalies and events in the early game can offer hints as to which Endgame Crisis you'll be facing this go around. For example, are your scientists going nuts, people disappearing then reappearing during warp transit, and strange energy-being like ships being found around the galaxy? You will slake the Extradimensional Invaders' hunger soon enough...
  • Fragile Speedster: Corvettes are your starting ship, with very little loadout capacity. But decking them in late-game techs can give them a whopping 80% Evasion rate, allowing them to last a stupid long time in engagements despite their cost. And when each of these Corvettes are built as Torpedo boats or fitted with Mining Drone Lasers... Interestingly, in the grand scheme of things, a swarm of Corvettes is a Stone Wall. They won't deal much damage and individual Corvettes die easily. But they will tie down the enemy weapons, run circles around them while your Capital Ships blast em from afar, and when you field hundreds of the little buggers, they can last quite a bit as a fleet.
  • Friendly Enemy: Depending on how much an empire engages in political dealings and the number of simultaneous wars going on, it is entirely possible for an empire to be an enemy in one war and an ally in another.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Empires with Xenophile and/or Pacifist ethos are this. Xenophiles builds Trust easily, making Diplomacy smoother, while Pacifists get up to 75% discount to Diplomacy Influence cost, allowing them to keep four times more allies than other Empires.
  • From Bad to Worse: When the End of the Cycle comes to cash in on its bargain, it utterly destroys your empire while the game chooses a compatible, unsettled world (preferably outside your former borders) as the sole survivors' exile planet. Nothing's stopping the code from picking a Fallen Empire's holy Gaia world for this purpose, which means that after all the shit you just (knowingly and purposely) went through, you'll probably get curbstomped anyway within the next couple minutes.
  • Functional Addict: The description of the Substance Abuser trait notes that the affected leader has turned to substance abuse to deal with the stress of their position. While leaders with that trait will have a markedly shorter life, they're not any worse at doing their job until then.

    G - M 
  • Galactic Conquerer: Certainly an option, but rapid expansion will serve to increase your threat to nearby empires, a factor that could cause them to form an alliance, or even a federation, to oppose you.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Since version 1.5, if an event starts a purge on one of your worlds while you still retain control over it, you will not only be unable to stop the purge, but you will also be slapped with a Genocidal opinion modifier as AI empires believe you started the purge. This is a more common occurrence than you'd think due to certain events unleashing a horde of mutants that can overwhelm an undefended colony's armies and then begin purges.
  • Game Mod: Due to Stellaris' highly modifiable nature, tons of mods are available on the Steam Workshop and other sources. They range from graphics tweaks over rebalancing the gameplay to introducing entirely new stuff (primarily skins, portraits, traits or ships up to and including Titans).
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • The first time one of your ships enters a system with a neutral/hostile ring world in it, you get a message about how in awe the crew is about the unimaginable scale of the thing and how the construction of even a single segment is far beyond your empire's capabilities. You still get this message with Utopia installed, even if you already completed construction and colonization of half a dozen shiny new ring worlds of your own by that point.
    • The "causus beli" system added in 2.0 can get kind of silly when even the Devouring Swarms and Determined Exterminators (government types with no access to normal diplomacy and that are de facto at war with everybody at all times) are still bound by the restriction. You have to wonder who they're trying to impress. Although to be fair, the one they (and Purifyers) use is essentially "because fuck you and your stupid face" and the resulting war is a special kind that runs until either mutual exhaustion or until one side or the other is dead to the last pop.
  • Genetic Adaptation: Gene tailoring technology allows you to alter your POP's environmental preferences. Though it may be easier to acquire citizens of species that are already adapted to that kind of environment, such as through uplifting. Taking the Biological Ascension path is the pinnacle of this in the game, making your species highly customizable on the fly.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Once you unlock the technology for gene tailoring, there's a chance your populace to develop different Traits spontaneously, sometimes negative versions of all your positive traits plus Very Strong. And there's also a chance a war breaks out between the original and the new subspecies, resulting in deaths and loss of populace.
  • Genocide Backfire: Regardless how distant your empire is from your neighbors, once discovered your empire beforehand, they'll know that you committed genocide to other races (or yours) and will feel threatened that you may actually do it to them someday.
  • Genocide Dilemma: Your empire, or the other alien factions, is likely to end up in this situation when you find the suppressed races culturally or racially conflicting to the agenda for granted.
  • Glass Cannon: Destroyers are mere tier 2 ships, so they die easily relatively easily. On the other hand, they have high bonus to Tracking and they can field the L-slot weapons right off the bat. Meaning, you can mass-produce them with Kinetic Artilleries.
  • God-Emperor: An actual title of ruler when you're playing as Spiritualist Empire with Imperial Government. And you can add legitimacy to that claim if you mark them as The Shroud's Chosen One.
  • Godzilla Threshold: When a Crisis shows up, everyone gets a +200 opinion modifier. This means Empires who are bitter Rivals with each other for generations could suddenly find themselves working together to take down this Galactic-scale threat.
  • Going Native: When you are infiltrating a Primitive Species it is possible one of your covert agents might do this, taking a local wife and demanding that you cease operations on the planet and dismantle your orbital observation post. If you refuse he does everything in his power to disrupt your plans for the planet and the Primitives. Yes, you are dealing with a Jake Sully Expy but unlike Quaritch you have the option to have a warship blast the town he's hiding in and pass the event off as a freak meteorite strike.
  • Gone Horribly Right:
    • The "Rogue Servitors" civic from the Synthetic Dawn DLC represents a synthetic society that started as servitors to an organic race, only for their creators to grow so indolent that the servitors gradually and inadvertently took over all the functions of society... and now they're looking to conquer other civilizations so they can "serve" them as well. At least these machines make it clear they do genuinely like helping organics (especially when facing Determined Exterminators, who are the Berserk Button for them), even if their methods tend to be somewhat more gray on the morality scale.
    • The Tebrid Homolog started out as basically a sentient, self-improving encyclopaedia, driven to gather all the knowledge it could. The Tebir who created it did not anticipate that the mandate would expand to include the knowledge stored away inside their brains...
  • Good Is Not Nice: Pacifist empires are usually considered the lightest shade of grey in a galaxy full of questionable morals and murderous lunatics, but even they have some pretty nasty tricks up their sleeves. Apocalypse gave them a particularly cruel way to neutralize enemies without horrendous loss of life: the Global Pacifier, a giant Wave Motion Gun that encases an entire planet in an eternal, impenetrable energy barrier. Nothing but light goes in, nothing but light comes out, cutting the world off from the galaxy forever. Imagine you're down there and have friends or even family on other worlds, but now you'll never see them again, can't even talk to them anymore. It's essentially And I Must Scream on a planetary scale.
  • Gray and Gray Morality: The eight ethics and various political systems are not unambiguously good or evil: militarism and xenophobia are not Always Chaotic Evil, and even democracies are not Always Lawful Good. That said, there isn't much room to argue that Fanatical Purifiers, Devouring Swarms or Determined Exterminators are anything but always evil, even if the last of those can at least conduct diplomacy with non-Rogue Servitor machines and Synthetics.
  • Gray Goo: One of the possible entities within the L-Cluster added by Distant Stars is the Grey Tempest, a nanotech swarm that can destroy an unprepared galaxy.
  • Guide Dang It!: Classic Paradox strategy gaming. Overall it's more accessible than most Paradox games, but this trope is still in effect due to the minimal tutorial.
    • Your form of Ethics and by extension Government influences the kind of Leaders you can get. For example, Fanatic Materialists tend to have a chance to recruit Scientists with Maniacal and/or Spark of Genius traits.
    • The automated Design-It-Yourself Equipment is rather bad, often leading to Crippling Overspecialization. Guides abound on how to design your own fleet with the appropriate loadouts, so that they can take on fleets with larger power and win thanks to combined arms warfare.
    • A lot of event chains have random factors associated with them that are not disclosed until it's too late, or are completely out of your hands if you don't have the right forces nearby to respond to them in time. Sometimes, you only find out you made the wrong or right choice when consequences appear (the right choice leading to no effect, occasionally), and some of these consequences are devastating, including losing entire colonized worlds.
      • The Enigmatic Fortress is the crowning jewel of this, having no less than four major steps, each of which requires a specific step to complete with the other options leading to very bad things. While they can be roughly logic'd through (one step is essentially an incomplete Towers of Hanoi puzzle, another trusts you to rely on caution over recklessness), the guide in question can actually be bought from the Curator Enclave to make the process simpler — probably the best option, since one wrong choice, and the Fortress blows up, sterilizing everything in the star system.
      • The Horizon Signal quest chain offers many good examples, like that one event about strange ruins on one of your worlds. You feel this whole insanity has gone far enough and needs to be stopped now? Go ahead, demolish the ruins, but be prepared to abandon the whole colony thanks to the massive -50 Happiness modifier you just got slapped with (note, of course, that the options show this as a drastic consequence on mouse-over). And this is still one of the milder examples; see Violation of Common Sense, as the event leans toward ambiguously diabolical rewards while enduring very plain consequences.
  • Guilt-Based Gaming: Crosses over with Anti Poop-Socking. One extinct culture is a race that invented video games and committed suicide by playing Second Life until their bodies quit working.
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: Strongly discouraged, especially in a very populated galaxy. As any war successfully completed by one side will become threats to all empires, particularly large ones, who already know them, leading to a punishing impact on relations other than alliances/federations who joined the war. However, Fanatical Purifiers plays this trope straight regardless of the condition above, and when the late-game Crises show up, all bets are off.
  • Had To Be Sharp: Rarely, one will find near-sentient primitives eking out an existence on Tomb Worlds. If uplifted, they can inhabit other Tomb Worlds as ideal, but also treat every other inhabitable planet type as a Tier 1 world. Inverted with pre-FTL species that nuke themselves during the game - in this case, since the species are freshly nuked, they don't benefit from the Irradiated trait nor do they consider Tomb Worlds (other than their home planet) any more habitable than the rest. The ability to genetically modify species can enable the player to bring into your empire a species with the "Irradiated" trait, add Rapid Breeders & Adaptable, producing a species capable of colonizing every planet type in the game, giving you an insurmountable advantage over the AI in terms of population, planets held and resource generation as a result.
  • Happiness is Mandatory: Rogue Servitors are programmed to "protect" their organic bio-trophies, by herding them into efficiently-designed cities and giving them "mandatory pampering". Considering that it's a 40% happiness boost and there are no restrictions on their pop growth rate, though, it actually doesn't seem that bad of a fate. Mainly a case of Grew Beyond Their Programming with the dictat "Make everyone happy.", because the machines, should they encounter Determined Exterminators, show their loyalty to organic life by becoming visciously angry at these "MURDERERS".
  • Happiness in Slavery: Averted since Banks update, Slaves get lower living standards and tend to be unhappy by default. Even when you modify them with Nerve Stapled, they don't count as they can no longer feel anything anymore.
  • Hard-Coded Hostility:
    • While conventional empires can be reasoned with or, in some cases, beaten into submission, the end-game crisis species aren't nearly so willing to chat with the player.
    • Most Fanatical Purifiers, Devouring Swarms and for the most part Determined Exterminators will always be hostile. The first can be talked to if both empires are the same species, while the last can conduct diplomacy with other machines (except Rogue Servitors) and Synths. In every other case, they will simply try to eradicate everyone else.
    • Some spaceborn aliens and most Guardians except the Infinity Machine are also always hostile. Since they also suffer from Suicidal Overconfidence, the former will generally die to your guns - Void Clouds in particular are so incredibly aggressive, they will charge at absolutely anything entering the star system they reside in. Guardians like the Ether Drake, on the other hand, do generally bring the required strength to make short work of any unprepared fleets.
  • Hegemonic Empire: The default state of any Empire who don't go around conquering with force. Instead, they conquer through Diplomacy, friendship, alliances, and ultimately Federation to unite the Galaxy. This is in fact Enforced for Pacifists, as they cannot gain new territory through war, only Liberate.
  • Higher-Tech Species: Fallen Empires use very advanced technology compared to the other star nations, including yours. They are even known to have ring worlds around stars. In fact, it isn't until the middle of the game that you might be capable of beating them in a war.
    • It is also likely to be invoked specifically when an empire is forced to a corner of the galaxy with plentiful research sources that can spike technological improvements to as little amount of people as possible faster than those that sprawl massively across the map.
    • You can choose the 'Advanced AI Start' when starting a game session, which gives them a heads up in resource and technological development. Downplayed, as it's not an extreme difference, but enough to give them an edge that you will get an Early Game Hell.
  • Higher Understanding Through Drugs: One possible planet modifier is 'Atmospheric Hallucinogen'', which grants increased Happiness, Society Research and Ethics Divergence. To quote:
    The air of this planet contains a natural hallucinogen. While this does keep people happy, and indeed seems to aid the visualization of some of the more esoteric Physics problems, it also distracts people from other work.
  • Hive Mind: Multiple variants.
    • Ordinary Fanatic Collectivist civilizations could, in early versions, get the "Hive Mind" AI. Such civilizations postured as this, but, lacking any special mechanisms, it was only so much talk; they were "only" highly collectivist civilizations bent on propogating their species by any means necessary, including making room with conquests and purges of other species if they're cornered.
    • On the other hand, the Prethyon Scourge fits completely and unambiguously. It has "fleet consciousnesses" that serve as admirals, and one can get a Prethyon Queen of one's own by severing a wounded Queen's connection to the Hive Mind as a special project.
    • The Utopia DLC enables the creation of highly customizable playable Hive Minds, at the expense of all ethics points. They have their own set of Civics that can only be used by Hive Minds and cannot use any non-Hive Mind Civics. On top of that, Hive-Minded Pops are not affected by Happiness and will never form Factions which allows Hive Mind Empires to completely ignore internal politics. They are also unable to rule over non Hive-Minded Pops and Hive-Minded pops that end up in non Hive Mind empires will be cut off from the Hive and will perish over time.
    • The Machine Empires introduced in Synthetic Dawn are AI hive minds and machines belonging to them will breakdown if the planet is captured by a non-Machine Empire. Unlike biological hive minds they are able to rule over other species.
  • Hive Queen: What's a Hive Mind without one? The biological Outside-Context Problem has many, and can even be enslaved by a relevant Special Project. And if you take the Hive Mind Civics from Utopia, your Leaders are considered 'Autonomous Drone' and your Ruler is an immortal.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • Your scheme of Divide and Conquering rival Empires into successor states to be vassalized and integrated later can backfire, when that leaves the Empires too fragmented and depleted to fend for themselves when the Outside-Context Problem shows up.
    • Apocalypse allows you to rent a fleet from a Marauder and then use that fleet against the very same Marauder group.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Erudite Explorers talk like this to anyone they don't like, and to spiritualists in general.
    "You invented your faith to fill empty minds. Your people will never feel the true euphoria of an enlightened intellect."
  • Holy Hand Grenade: Spiritualist empires can arm their Colossi with a God Ray which converts all organic Pops on the planet to spiritualist and destroys all machine/synthetic pops, as well as massively increasing spiritualist ethics attraction on the planet for a time.
  • Home Guard: Defense Armies. They can't leave the planet they're recruited on.
  • Hope Spot: The Cybrex were an ancient machine race that use to span throughout the galaxy with powerful technologies that normal empires could only dream of possessing. Once getting there after finding data from all of the ruins scattered throughout the galaxy, it turns out they were a xenocidal race that attacked star systems recklessly for decades but realized their course of actions was a mistake, retreated to their homeworld and became Dead All Along after meeting up with the consequences of their genocide, and the ringworld they used to live in is now a husk and there is no existing technology for your empire that can be used to revive it other than studying its carcass for engineering development. Unless you buy a specific expansion pack that gives you Ringworld Restoration...
  • Horde of Alien Locusts:
    • You can create/play as one yourself if you make a Hive Mind with the "Devouring Swarm" civic.
    • On the NPC side of things, there's the Prethoryn Swarm.
  • Horse of a Different Color: It's possible to obtain Xeno Cavalry as mounts for your armies.
  • Hostile Terraforming:
    • A late game Crisis brings this into play: the Prethoryn Scourge does not conquer worlds, but converts them into "Infested Worlds". These worlds cannot be inhabited by any species but the Prethoryn. The only solution to worlds corrupted in this way is Orbital Bombardment. If the planet is being infested, the world can be salvaged, but once the infestation is complete, the entire world has to be completely glassed into a lifeless Barren World.
    • Playable empires cannot terraform planets hosting civilizations of any note, excepting Stone Age primitives. Though, since terraforming removes all tile blockers, including hazardous fauna and flora, it can be inferred that terraforming causes a mass extinction.
    • The Adams update brought the Extradimensional Invaders closer to the Scourge in this regard. Where they only killed off pops but left the infrastructure and biosphere intact for reclamation before, now they turn invaded worlds completely barren instead, potentially making vast swathes of the galaxy uninhabitable if they aren't stopped quickly.
    • If an empire makes a deal with the End of the Cycle, when the Reckoning comes, all of their planets will be depopulated and turned into 'Shrouded Worlds', which become uninhabitable forever.
  • Humanoid Aliens: A majority of the playable species have a basically humanoid shape, but see also Starfish Aliens.
  • Human Aliens: Whenever the game creates a random alien race and uses the human portraits.
  • Humans Advance Swiftly: They have the "Quick Learners" trait (which lets leaders level up 25% faster than those of other races) by default, which can lead to faster tech advancement after the scientists have had some time to level up.
  • Humans Are Divided: The pre-gen empires include two human ones. The xenophilic United Nations of Earth, and the xenophobic militaristic Commonwealth of Man. A tie-in novel elaborates that the Commonwealth are descended from a Lost Colony established during Earth's early experiments with wormholes, which they set aside in favor of warp drive when most of the arks they launched through wormholes were destroyed. And that's not even accounting for the chance of one of the Fallen Empires spawning using a human template...
  • Humans Are Special: Sorta. As a playable race, they're an unremarkable mammalian species with only an unusually diverse array of portraits compared to other species, pre-designed starting systems and having two separate pre-designed empires. But when they're not being played as, Sol III is a positive goldmine of special Easter Eggs, including, if we nuked ourselves to oblivion, the only reliable source of Tomb World natives: semi-sentient mutant cockroaches that can be uplifted. Quirkily, humans are the only species to have their own unique quest chain — but not when played as the humans of Earth.
  • Humans Are Psychic in the Future: Humans and everybody else, as long as they obtain access to the rare Psionic tech tree.
  • Humongous Mecha: Machine Empires have the ability to build unique armies comprised of these.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: The Shroud. In the base game, the player's main interaction with the Shroud will be, with incautious experimentation with Jump Drive, releasing the Extradimensional Invaders to try and consume all life in the galaxy. Utopia further expands on the Shroud and its inhabitants, with whom covenants can be made; the Shroud is clearly modeled after Warhammer 40,000's Warp, although the Shroud is relatively less dangerous. Relatively.
  • Hyperspace Lanes: One of the options for your empire's initial FTL method. While travel along said lanes is cheap and fast, its limited routes may put one at a disadvantage compared to the slow but flexible warp travel and the infrastructure-intensive but far-reaching Wormholes.
  • Hypocrite: Possibly an oversight, but Egalitarians and Fanatic Egalitarians are not barred from researching the Will to Power late game tech. To put in perspective, Egalitarians hate Slavery and Purge, they want Democracies or at least Oligarchies even when that includes Separatist Factions. Yet this tech allows them to field Commissar Squads to improve Army performance and build Orbital Mind Control Lasers to pacify the population.
  • 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 core 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.
  • 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 possible weapon options 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. Stats-wise, it gives said Admiral increased speed.
  • LEGO Genetics: High society development allows your race to be modified on the fly, allowing those missing traits you need to be added so long as you have a strong society research in order to implement it to your large empire. Complete the biological ascension path, and you get much more control over the Traits.
  • 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 
  • 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.)
  • 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 fanatical xenophobes.
  • 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 Scourge look like something right out of the Cthulhu Mythos.
  • 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.
  • 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 the alternate FTL methods that species can start and research on, there is no mention of intergalactic travel featured in gameplay. Two of the starting sectors, Sol and Deneb, are within the galaxy itself. 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    N - S 
  • Negative Space Wedgie: The Extradimensional Portal, heart of Extradimensional Outside-Context Problem.
  • 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%.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • Messing around with certain late-game technologies, such as jump drives or sentient AI, 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.
  • 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 method now requires you to start at the edge of the solar system, like other FTL methods.
    • 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 bonii.
    • 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".
    • After 1.8, a number of changes was made to nerf some of the outright overpowered Zerg Rush strategies (see YMMV). 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.
  • 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 Stat to Rule Them All: 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.
  • 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.
  • Orange And Blue Morality: The game offers descriptive practical stances on government types, ethos, and traits without giving them moral judgement or limiting combinations. As a result, it's possible to create combinations that we would probably find very unusual in real life.
    • An Egalitarian/Xenophobic population will actually find alien slavery acceptable. Combine that with a Moral Democracy (pacifist/moral/non-violence granting +10 happiness) and/or traits like Decadent means you can end up with a society that values and champions individual empowerment and freedom... while also being comfortable with (or even happier with!) slavery.It could be a case of double standards: such a civilization might be in favor of freedom and such for itself but not for the aliens.
    • NPC-wise, while rare, it's possible for an empire to appear that's a democratic Fanatical Purifier. You can also play one yourself.
    • Enclaves are an npc-only faction dedicated to space stations to support their existence, they refuse to work with anyone unless they get paid for their trouble. Worth it, though. They have irreplaceable resources and sources of Influence.
  • 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 wrong, Wiz says: "No".
    "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.
  • 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.
  • Petting Zoo People: Some of the alien races definitely count. For example, in mammalian portraits there is ones that look like a fox and another that looks like a cat. Up to Eleven with the Leviathans DLC, where alien races can be surprisingly adorable, despite how civilized and advanced they are.
  • 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 Core Worlds, 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.
  • 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: Wormhole FTL in a nutshell. An empire using wormhole technology first has to build a large, heavily fortified wormhole station in a star system, which can then create a temporary but direct connection between the two systems. Ships that use wormhole stations experience instantaneous travel between star systems - and since the station is actually doing the heavy lifting and not the ship - it frees up tonnage in your hulls for other things (like more weapons). Entire fleets can go all at once as well but it takes 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: Fanatic Pacifists get -75% discount on all Diplomatic Influence costs. This means they can maintain FOUR times the Allies compared to normal Empires. They get massive Rivalry Influence penalty, but with that much discount, they won't need Rivals anyway.
  • 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 boni 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.
  • 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 (for instance, simply owning a Colossus is sufficient cause for any empire to declare war on you).
  • 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.
  • 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. 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 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.
  • Punctuation Shaker: 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.
  • Refining Resources: While basic ressources are not refined into strategic ones, you still have to research various technologies to uncover the presence, and start the mining of, the strategic ones. This is however described in the lore, at least. Befitting the trope, strategic ressources offer various boosts and bonii, usually in the form of enhancing a particular weapon type's effectiveness, but there are many other possibilities, ranging from enhanced shielding to adorable alien pets that make your population happier.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 bonii 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 FTL 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.
  • 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. The 1.9 patch added many more.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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: Defense Stations can be equipped with Subspace Snare which slows the enemy caught in its range and increases their FTL charge-up time. Most importantly however, they can redirect enemy fleets in FTL transit to the Station, ready to be gunned down the moment they pop up in the killzone.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 a "core system limit" which limits the number of planets you can directly govern - this is usually five, but can be increased with some technologies, government types or ethos. When you expand past more, you need to assign some to semi-autonomous "sectors" which are prone to forming secessionist factions. You can only make so many sectors though, and when that happens you need to release excess planets into fully-autonomous vassals who are even more prone to rebelling 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.
    • You won't be able to use other basic FTL methods aside from the one you choose at the start.
    • 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.
  • Video Game Delegation Penalty: On the economic side, you'll lose at least 25% of any star system's resource output when you cede control over it to a sector. On the diplomatic side, sectored worlds and habitats are far more likely to rebel against your rule than core systems are, which usually ends in them seceding, founding a new empire that doesn't like yours, and taking with them all those resources and territory you spent a lot of effort to secure.
  • 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 Measure Is a Non-Organic?: Actually a major bone of contention in the game. 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: Not on purpose, but on one planet, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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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