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The Gardeners are not really an individual species, but rather communicative components of one of a number of vast sentient alien ecosystems, dubbed Cordyceps by their discoverers. The beings called Gardeners are actually human corpses embedded with Cordyceps entities. The first successful contact with the Cordyceps was in 3428 PT PT, after a distress signal was detected from an unsurveyed system in the Saggital Bridge Sector. A scientific party from the Free Union discovered a lone planet orbiting a particularly bright white dwarf star, completely covered by a dense layer of plant and fungal matter. The distress signal originated from a crashed Terran sleeper ship from the ancient Sol system, which had lain dormant on the planet for at least a thousand years. On landing to investigate, the scientists were greeted by humans, who had no memory prior to five years before, and were covered with greenish sores. These humans called themselves “Gardeners” and spoke of a Melody sung by the planet itself that guided them. Fearing an alien contagion, the exploration party retreated to the crashed ship and checked its data logs – the ship had suffered a life support system failure in transit, and its payload of twelve thousand colonists had all perished in their stasis chambers prior to landing. Five years prior to their arrival, the outer hull of the ship had been breached in an earthquake, and the native ecosystem had entered the ship and gotten into some of the stasis pods, somehow bringing the unrotten corpses of the colonists back to a semblance of life. The living immune systems of the explorers would protect them from a similar fate, so they were able to establish proper contact with the Gardeners.

Although the Gardeners generally prefer to stay with and tend to their home ecosystem, the planet encouraged a number of them to go out and learn more about the wider universe, to see how they could assist with the development of civilisation and life, and perhaps bring some of that knowledge back. On learning more of the Free Union and their struggle for freedom from the Ascendancy, it came to regard the Sovereign Worlds as needing its tending and wisdom, and offered to join them as an equal.

Investigations on the Cordyceps world, Thicket, and on willing Gardeners has uncovered more about the process by which they are created. Deceased corpses left in a Cordyceps ecosystem quickly become colonised with native spores, which take root in the body’s nervous system. Plantlike bodies sprout around some of the major organs and emit fluids that revitalise the dead tissues. Over 48 hours or so, the body will awaken as a new Gardener, with no memories of its previous life. The process has been attempted with other species with very limited success – the Cordyceps lifeforms do not seem anywhere near as compatible with non-humans. The bodies of the individual Gardeners still require food, fluids and sleep to stay healthy, but the parasitic flora that animate them derives its energy from chlorophyll sacs which the spores embed across the skin, which leaves a patchwork of greenish flesh, often marked by scarring.

Individual Gardeners often hear the Melody making suggestions and guiding them in general actions, although they do not always have to follow what is said. They understand that everything they experience is shared with their home ecosystem, but the planet has never given individual Gardeners information. It does not provide data, and it would not grant someone knowledge of a password or event another Gardener knew. It may occasionally also provide a feeling, such as discomfort at a person, place or thing, but this is exceptionally rare.

Since being discovered, the Free Union has allowed the Cordyceps to seed on two other worlds, slowly taking over the existing biome. These other worlds - Bosk and Kudzu - do seem to retain a connection with each other, although they do appear to be somewhat separate entities with their own discrete personalities and priorities.


The character of the Gardeners is an extension of the hivemind ecosystem of which they are a part, with some individual variation based on the individual’s role or speciality. They all have an urge to protect and care for each other and their home planet. They have an innate tendency to act in accordance with what they see as “the greater good”, for the Cordyceps as a species and also for those who they regard as positive forces in the universe for protecting life and diversity – the Free Union is the prime example, which they have allied with. All Gardeners are in tune with their home ecosystem through something they call the Melody – a signal that communicates guidance and intent. An individual Gardener hears the Melody of the ecosystem they are from – although they are broadly similar in outlook, there are slight differences between the three.

  • The Thicket ecosystem is deeply nurturing and caring of those who it feels need its protection. It is the oldest of the Cordyceps ecosystems, and is endlessly patient. It is also the dominant of the three Cordyceps ecosystems.
  • The Bosk ecosystem was seeded in 3520 PT, and has mostly spread out over its planet. Its planet’s environment is harsh, and Bosk has had to spend a lot of energy and effort to adapt to the violent seasonal weather changes. It has had to shepherd its resources, and has developed a cautious and conservative demeanour compared to the other ecosystems.
  • The Kudzu ecosystem was seeded in 3720 PT and is still in the process of spreading out over its planet, and displays a personality that is much more energetic and impetuous than the other two. It has become slightly more hesitant since being infected for a time by an alien virus in 3819PT.


Gardeners are outwardly human, but much of their internal functions have been replaced by the plant or fungal Cordyceps lifeforms. These lifeforms derive energy from chlorophyll sacs embedded in their skin. The chlorophyll sacs impart a patchwork greenish tinge to the skin, which can be physrepped using makeup. The sacs tend to swell over time and can eventually burst through the skin, causing the epidermis to crack and split and leaving angry red scars.

Some Gardeners display external outgrowths of plant and fungal material, such as vines and fungal fruiting bodies. These protrusions are extensions of the internal Cordyceps lifeforms, usually with a sensory or photosynthetic function. Vines, where present, tend to be simple trailing fronds with palmate variegated leaves that resemble the Ivy of the northern continents of ancient Terra. The external protrusions are generally associated with heightened stresses on the individual's symbiote biology, which responds wit outgrowths to gather greater resources from the external environment. Once grown, however, they are likely to remain for some time, as the Cordyceps organisms adapt to the new components. Although these outgrowings are relatively uncommon in the general Gardener population, they are much more prevalent in those hailing from the Kudzu ecosystem in the wake of the recent alien contagion, probably associated with the responses to the infection.

Game Rules

  • Species Keywords: Plant, Parasitic, Undead
  • Default Faction: Free Union

Species Trappings

  • Gardeners possess sacs of photosynthetic plant matter scattered throughout their skin. Over time, these sacs expand and can bulge or burst out through the skin, leaving open wounds, scars and other signs of damage. This swelling and scarring can be physrepped with prosthetics or scars and wounds painted on with makeup. Typically this would be represented by patches of greenish skin, with wounds or a prosthetic in the centre of the green area. The position and severity of these areas varies over time, so you don't need to be particularly consistent with placement, etc.
  • (Optional) Some Gardeners have outgrowths of plant or fungus from their wounds. This can be as simple as a prosthetic that incorporates some strands of ivy-like vines or as complex as a crown of vines wrapped around some protruding mushrooms. Mushroom-like physreps should be coloured deep greens, reds and browns so as not to resemble Yelk trappings. Gardener vines also do not incorporate flowers.


  • 4 Body Hits
  • Death Count of 100 seconds
  • Regains 1 lost body hit on each location every 30 minutes
  • May hear a Melody from their home ecosystem

The plant-based nature of their major control systems make Gardeners quite resilient, although once their systems begin to fail they quickly reach a point beyond which they cannot recover. Gardeners have 4 locational hits and a Death Count of 100 seconds. Additionally, their floral components can rapidly regenerate the tissue that protects them, allowing them to slowly recover from damage on their own. A Gardener automatically regains one lost locational body hit every 30 minutes. Because of the complex nature of their parasitic biology, they cannot interface with Lazarus Corporation’s Rebirth Process as it currently exists, although research is ongoing on creating a viable means of doing so.

Although Gardeners are independent entities, they do retain a degree of connection with their parent planetary ecosystem. This is often described as a “Melody”, and communicates with each host by sending feelings, intents and impressions, guiding them and assisting them from time to time. The Melody typically pushes an agenda consistent with that of the character’s home ecosystem, and a Gardener can roleplay receiving these messages. Messages are rarely specific to the individual circumstances, but more commonly broad expressions or vague images accompanied by the feeling of intent. Characters are not obliged to act on the messages they receive. Occasionally, messages might also be supplied by Refs and other members of the Game Team.

It is presumed that this communication is somehow psionic in nature, although Commonality scientists (who are regarded as the highest authority in this area) have not had the opportunity to study the phenomenon to confirm if this is the case.

species/gardener.txt · Last modified: 2022/01/30 18:03 by conan