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Babylon 5 1e: The Narn Regime Fact Book

The Narn Regime Fact Book

This book contains a wealth of information about the Narn, once a peaceful agrarian species content to farm without much thought of galactic affairs... until the galaxy, or at least the Centauri, thrust rudely in upon them. Whether you want to know more about this species, fancy playing one or wist to give them more depth in your game, you will find plenty here to meet your needs. The story of the Narn is one of explosive growth in technology fuelled by hate, first to evict Centauri invaders and then to pursue them across the galaxy, for being free from their opression was not enough, bloody revenge had to be taken.

With snippets from the Book of G'Kar throughout, we are treated to information about Narn biology, anatomy and physiology.... more than many Narns know as, prior to the Centauri invasion, they treated the remains of dead Narns with great respect and the thought of dissecting them would never have been tolerated. They are very tough and resilient, and here we learn how the way their bodies are structured and operate go towards making them so. Narn senses are very acute, and there is a detailed run-down on them as well, highlightinh similarities and differences with other species. The anatomical information goes a long way to explaining Narn physical toughness: virtually every organ is duplicated, for example. Much of this is presented in terms appropriate to instruct a non-Narn doctor in treating a Narn patient, indeed this whole section is wrapped up as a medical text. Where appropriate little snippets of game mechanics are included.

Next is the Sociology and Psychology of the Narn. Like their physical forms, it's a mix of primitive and more advanced and complex behaviours - philosophical yet given to rage and warfare in a brutal manner. There's a fascinating note from G'Gar to Sheridan when he became president of the Interstellar Alliance in which he pleads that only a Narn can understand Narn (and the same for other species...) and in which he recommends that Sheridan studies the Book of G'Kar in an attempt to understand at least something about how Narn tick. Their society is tribal and structured, but even those of the lowest classes are cherished as Narn rather than derided or ill-treated for their lowly status. Despite chafing under injustice meted out to them by the Centauri, as soon as they'd thrown off that yoke they sprang forth into the galaxy and had no compunction in enslaving others, brushing aside claims of injustice by stating their manifest destiny to rule... and see no irony in the situation.

Moving on to their psychology, they are a very private people, not given to opening up about their emotions outside of their own families. However their emotions can be intense, but often masked by strict codes of behaviour with honour and civic obedience being important. To see more fully how the Narn become what they are, the typical birth and upbringing of young Narn are described in fair detail. Relgion is very important in the process, particularly at early stages. Education is regimented and very vocational, learning for the love of it is rare and only scientists study much once they have completed formal education. Narn are often viewed as uncultured and poorly-educated, which isn't true: they know a lot about what they need to know to do their jobs to a high standard. The entire culture is work-focussed, with service to the community and do the best job you can being paramount. Most Narn work until they are not physically capable of performing their profession, and even then look for something else that they can do. Death is welcomed as a time when an elder can take a well-earned rest, and this passage into whatever lies beyond is marked with solemn rituals.

Rather sadly we hear next that the Narn used to take great pleasure in the arts but of late have chosen to concentrate on conquest and revenge on the Centauri. Yet those who pursue careers in folklore, art, and other cultural disciplines are highly-regarded in Narn society, and most Narn enjoy entertainment, they just don't spend much time upon it. Poets, painters and musicians often lead sheltered lives, being spared the harsher aspects of contemporary Narn life to enable them to concentrate on their work. Music and literature are especially favoured, but whatever form of art is being created is always made with one eye to what it might teach. There's some fascinating information here showing how a given species' culture reflects many aspects of that species. There are no art galleries, for example, as the Narn believe that a piece of artwork should be created specifically for a given location and always viewed in that location. They also decorate vehicles and items of equipment, but then continue to use them whilst taking pleasure in the design. In music, drums and vocals are preferred, although stringed and wind instruments also exist. A discussion of literary styles leads into an analysis of the Narn language itself. Interstellar relations with other spieces and the matter of religion are also touched on here.

The next chapter covers Narn Government and Organisations which is mostly historical in nature: the Narn are only just picking themselves up from the recent devastation of their homeworld by the Centauri. Prior to that, since they'd driven off the original Centauri occupation a couple of hundred years earlier they had been governed by a council of elders called the Kha'Ri. Since then they are led by the sole survivor of the Kha'Ri, the individual known to residents of Babylon 5 as Ambassador G'Kar. The Narn are traditionalist, however, and when they re-establish governmental systems, they are likely to look like those which went before. Of course, if your game is set before the devastating 2260 Centauri attack (or if your timeline changes so that it never takes place) they will be operational. When one speaks of "the Kha'Ri" it is normally the inner circle of seven individuals, the actual rulers, that is meant; strictly speaking the entire government apparatus goes by this name, many thousands of Narn in a multi-tiered organisation. Members of this inner circle are selected by the other members, with many places being inherited: no democracy here... and little further down the system either. After an extensive analysis of all nine circles, we read about how secure government buidlings are, and get a run-down on the Narn military. Other organisations - including the Thenta Makur, official assassins - are also covered. The post-war remnants are also discussed.

You've probably picked up a fair bit already, but the next chapter is devoted to Narn History. They are a young race that have gone through an awful lot, something worth remembering before dismissing them as a bunch of uncultured thugs that have a deep chip in their shoulders about the rest of the galaxy, and are determined to conquer and exploit others to their own benefit. Starting off as agrarian hunter-gatherers, over time they aggregated into Seven Tribes before becoming one people... and somewhat stalling in their development as they could grow what they needed so why develop further? With telepaths to lead them, it was not until they got religion that they developed the written word (how else do non-telepaths learn about their deities?), which led to a time of exploration and development on their own world. Then they met the Shadows... and it took quite a while for them to figure out how to strike back, which they needed to as the Shadows were scouring out all the telepaths and killing them. By the time they figured out what was killing the telepaths they only had about an hundred left! Many years later, the Centauri came... it all makes for fascinating reading.

This long and fascinating account is followed by a gaxeteer of Narn colony words and the way in which the operate. Ther's also more detail on the Narn homeworld, bettered thiough it is. This is followed by chapters on Narn Technology - weapons (including poisons) and ships predominate, but clothing and other items of equipment are also included.

Next we come to game-related material (although apposite rules information and statistics are scattered throughout, particularly in the Technology chapter). There is a chapter on Narn Characters, with plenty of detail to inform playing a Narn (or running Narn NPCs), loads of ideas as well as new feats, traits, and skills for them; and an array of prestige classes to aspire towards.

Finally, a chapter on Narn Campaigns is replete with ideas for running games in which Narn are central. It covers campaigns in which all characters are Narn, and those where Narns and other species co-exist. Different eras are explored, and there are extensive notes on smuggling and gun-running, something at which Narn excel. These include information about how every world has its own ideas about what is and is not legal, security, and the penalties for those who get caught! It also may prove amusing to send Narn to other worlds to mix with other species, a sophisticated game in which both Narn and others wrestle with prejudice and preconception could result. The chapter rounds off with some generic Narn NPCs as well as significant characters fully described and statted up.

There's an immense amount of information here, seamlessly extrapolated from what can be learned from the TV show to create an entire species and its history and its presence, its part in the galactic whole. Those who just enjoy knowing more about one of the significant species in the TV show will get almost as much out of it as those seeking further expansion of the role-playing game.

Return to The Narn Regime Fact Book page.

Reviewed: 28 January 2020