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More on the Kukarachans

by Geoff Gander

I envision the Kukarachans (as Jeff created them) to be the products of magical fallout from Alphatian testing in Skothar. Not considering the Jennites to be equals, the Alphers would likely think nothing of firing off all sorts of experimental magics at them, in the hopes of depopulating the region for colonisation later on. The Kukarachans would have been normal roaches who were exposed to just the right mixture of magic, and the rest is history.

Most likely, kukarachans could subsist on almost anything (just for kicks, let them eat metal, wood, gems, the whole lot!) - and their reproduction rate would be frightening. In order to prevent themselves from depleting a region of its resources before too long, let's say the kukarachans are semi-nomadic; they settle in one region and strip it of most of its resources for about 20-50 years, then move on somewhere else. Perhaps their horde also splits into more manageable numbers (say, no horde has more than 2,000 kukarachans or so, otherwise rivalries and infighting become a threat - they may be relatively mindless, but they will fight each other for food).

More on Kukarachans and their Environment:

As the Esterhold Peninsula is a relatively bleak place (aside from a few lush coastal regions) the Kukarachans at an instinctive level know when they have depleted an area's resources for too long, and move on (as discussed in an earlier post). How they choose their next site is open to conjecture, but in all likelihood they amble along in their horde, until they come upon a spot that is relatively predator-free, with enough resources to sustain them, and they build their nests.*

As for how much in the way of resources a horde would need, well, let's say that for a 2,000-member horde, over a 20 year period, would need quite a large swath of land. At least one 24-mile hex, I'd say. Of course, anything found within the claimed territory is considered food - this means adventurers are fair game, as are mundane animals, monsters, plants, and fungi. This is one reason why Kukarachans are so dangerous; when they move into an area, they are capable of wiping out whole villages in a matter of days in order to satisfy their appetites (and a good human or two would sate a Kukarachans for a couple of days). As a result, bigger animals are targeted first, then the Kukarachans are forced to move on to smaller animals, then perhaps insects, and then plants. By the time more of the forests have been destroyed, it's time to move on. Repeat the cycle again.

*I don't think roaches IRL have nests; the ones I've seen didn't at any rate. For the sake of the argument let's say they do - perhaps they dig out a simple burrow underground, and coat the sides with mucous or some other substance from their bodies (a product of their mutation) to add stability. It would not be unknown for hordes on the move to use an abandoned burrow (if there are enough resources nearby), nor would it be out of the ordinary for one horde to exterminate another so it could control the other horde's nest. This could be another way in which the Kukarachan population is kept from growing out of control all the time. Nests would be quite simple - places to store eggs and larvae, and perhaps a simple storehouse or two for food (though Kukarachans normally eat their fill on the spot).

This pattern of growth, depletion of resources, and migration is pretty bad in itself, but every so often, say, once every few centuries, the conditions are just right, and nature is abundant enough, to ensure that almost all Kukarachans are well-fed. These ideal conditions lead to increased egg-laying, and the beginnings of what the Jennites call "Swarm Times".

Swarm Times:

This dramatic increase in population, where hordes split once every few years, as opposed to once a decade or so, leads to a net expansion in the amount of territory the Kukarachans are forced to use. This means, of course, that everything else must be displaced so that the expansion can continue. As a result, the Kukarachans successfully expanded during the last Swarm Time (about AC 890) eastwards from the Esterhold Peninsula onto the Steppes of Jen themselves. Eagerly, they devoured vast swaths of savannah grasses, while nearby Jennite tribes fought to feed themselves. Stronger tribes were able to fight off the Kukarachans, and drive them either back onto the peninsula or displace them southwards, while weaker tribes were overwhelmed and eaten. In the aftermath, those lands that were protected, or regained, were dry, dusty wastelands where only tangled roots and denuded bushes served as testament to the once-lush grassland that flourished there. Even now, 110 years after the last Swarm Time, those lands are still recovering, tended by Jennite druids.

To the Jennites, the Kukarachans are an omen from the Immortals, that great evil is brewing on the peninsula, and that, one day, they must sweep westwards and cleanse it before the entire world is bled of all vitality.

In game terms, Swarm Times occur every 2d100+50 years, and the population of Kukarachans grows by a factor of roughly 200% during those years (i.e.: the average horde size is roughly 6,000 creatures, instead of 2,000). With up to one hundred hordes living in and around the Esterhold Peninsula, this could pose a problem for everything else living in the region.