Vaylen and the Nature of Genius

If you have a brilliant scientist/inventor - the Davinci, Franklin, Edison, or Currie of his or her age in their prime - would a Vaylen do better by hulling that individual to directly access their ideas or by letting the genius work? Does the genius of the host carry over to the Vaylen symbiotic personality?

I’m not looking for a cannon answer, necessarily, just what different ideas people might have on the subject. I’m trying to figure out what my Vaylen would do with the planet of geniuses they are trying to capture.

Paging Mr Moeller. Mr Moeller, you have a telephone call at the front desk…

If I were a Vaylen, I’d almost certainly hull. Not straight away though. I’d let a real genius in on all the facts of hulling, and then let the genius stew. What wonderful musical works a musical genius might compose knowing their fate; what deliciously bleak paintings a genius with brush might create while pondering the coming event.

The hulling itself would also no doubt be exquisite: I’d guess that a lot of normal folks that are hulled don’t have a refined capacity for self expression and no doubt retreat into a catatonic or lesser state upon being hulled. A genius might be able to retain a greater sense of self and so provide more tangible emotions - horror, despair, impotent rage - than regular old cattle.

You say that there is a whole planet of such geniuses? Hull those cattle already :slight_smile: Again, if I were Vaylen I’d be slavering at the thought of such a prize and I can see planets of blood being spilled in order to be the Vaylen that invaded and reaped the hulls.

The recent rash of posts concerning the Vaylen is top. A companion piece to “Bloodstained Stars” (BS) would be most welcome, haha. Obviously I ain’t read BS yet, but it’d be quality if Baron Drake was hulled towards the end. (Or shown to have been Vaylen all along, although that might dilute the impact of his supposedly Machiavellian genius.)


Ah, Pete, I agree with you as far as your example of a musical genius. But look at the examples Scott gave. I think the point you’re missing, that makes this a hard decision for the Vaylen, is that they actually need the practical work of this genius. You’re not in it for the experience or the symphony, you’re in it for the tank designs and fusion dynamics research. So the question is not so much “Would you enjoy living in that brain” (of course you would!) as “would that brain be more efficient with a worm in it or not?”

A lot of it depends on if the Vaylen can get full cooperation without hulling. If not, hulling won’t destroy the capabilities of the brain, so it’s a better idea than putting a gun to the fellow’s head. You could also use it as a boot camp if the scientist is from a world that lacks some crucial technology and you need to get them up to speed: Just install a worm that knows all about effector tech.

Your point is compelling. I reckon if I was Vaylen I’d almost certainly still hull a genius even if practically it was more expedient to leave them un-hulled and thus preserve their genius. (This assumes that genius is something transient that evaporates when a genius is hulled.) I reckon I’m just characterising one decidedly decadent aspect of Vaylen culture. I’m sure there are plenty of cultural attitudes across Vaylen society; including some who are quite content to make the effective use of tools such as geniuses of any shape, even to the extent of not hulling them.

Order #342! Ho ho :slight_smile:


Cool conversation guys!

I wouldn’t say “evaporates”, but the Vaylen doesn’t think like the host, right? If the Vaylen thought just like the host, it would still be the same person. So if you give the Vaylen a new problem, does the genius of the host apply?

Now that I’ve rephrased it this way, I remembered that “Genius” is a trait and Vaylen take the traits and skills of their host. So, I guess that answers the question mechanically. Hmmm, still seems like there ought to be more to it or that it should be a hard choice for the Vaylen. But I guess that does make the Vaylen scarier if hulling the geniuses isn’t going to cost them anything…

Genius evaporates? Preposterous!

Obviously, as superior mechanisms in this most mechanistic of universes, the Vaylen improves on the genius rather than reducing it.

[Heretical Doctrine + Vaylen Philosophy + Psychobabble-wise]

I think if the genius is a unique resource it’s probably cooler to have the genius destroyed at hulling, since that means that the resource is still contestable rather than being effectively irrevocably Vaylen. You then have the cool bits of thinking why a person like that has sold out humanity (willingly? under pressure? lied to?) and the story around bringing them back - or wiping them out. Perhaps this figure could be emblematic of a whole faction (I am thinking of the picture of the Physicist chap in the Commune LP section of BE…) and taking the faction could mean taking the prize intellect too?

A neat example of this kind of thing is in Sheva’s War, of course, where the genius in question is the greedy psychologist warlord. Hulling definitely seems to destroy the ability to employ Psychology actively so the Vaylen must subvert by other means rather than Hulling.

ASIDE: Scott, if you haven’t checked out the graphic novels, I really reccommend them!

I own them both and I recommend them to anyone who will sit still long enough to let me.

Amen brother! Even if I do seem to be preaching to the choir right now. :wink:

P. 196 states fairly clearly that hulling wipes out the mechanical benefits of the bright mark or mule traits, so no non-mundane uses of psychology there. That page also says that the mind is still alive and active, just forced into a locked-in state and unable to ever use the body (or intelligence, or other voluntary actions, since those are all coopted by the worm), which I read to mean that all genious bits happily transfer to the Vaylen hybrid.

Well, hulled Nikola Tesla retains his Electrical Engineering 6. But he may lose some elements of his remarkable creativity. Or maybe not.

Scott, a Vaylen is neither entirely human, nor particularly worm. It is the drives and motivations and a few skills and past experiences of the naiven, plus all the memories and skills and most of the habits of thought of the hulled human. The Vaylen does think very much like the host, but not exactly.

It’s certainly plausible that a hulled genius might still be a genius, but it’s also possible that the discipline or distraction imposed by the worm might have an adverse effect on the particular pattern of creativity that made this mind so special.

“It’s certainly plausible that a hulled genius might still be a genius, but it’s also possible that the discipline or distraction imposed by the worm might have an adverse effect on the particular pattern of creativity that made this mind so special.”

Genius’ are driven beings, as a general thing. Something in you drives you to excel, and that something, commonly, is a neurosis. How much is a Vaylen’s “new” composite mind driven by the emotional needs and fears of the un-hulled mind? For example, host scientist Ramses grew up without feeling loved or supported as a young man… he learned to be self-reliant. As an adult genius, he tends to over-emphasize his independence and shies away from asking for help.

One day, Ramses is hulled. How much of his history influences the new hybrid creature? Asking for help isn’t a difficult thing in objective terms, it’s difficult for Ramses because of his history. Asking for help frightens him, because he feels it makes him vulnerable.

My sense of this is like Devin’s: that a worm has to be influenced by such powerful emotional forces, operating deep beneath its host’s consciousness. At the same time a worm has a distinct identity of its own, and, if it’s been in human hosts for any length of time, its own vibrant history.

So I would tend to think that a hulled genius would suffer a crisis. He would suddenly be less productive. Some of the magic would be gone. Where he used to sit up all night working, now he has other interests that distract him. He can’t get that old “flow”. He’s still a genius, but suddenly everything comes just a little bit harder.

(hmmm… there really are some good stories lurking in this stuff…)


Thanks for the response, Chris. I think what I’m going to do is play it out in game and let everyone decide what should happen. If I hull the main genius of the planet (head of R&D, who is a burnt, non-FoN NPC) at the end of the phase then we can vote of his genius trait…or not.

Yes! Please write them for us! :wink:

And illustrate them!

Hmm, the genius better be a genius at spaceship building or something… I don’t see that much scope for awesome high tech war-pr0n if he’s a genius at math… :wink:

[Although a Lord-Pilot of the Anvil + Court Mathematician might be a cool idea… I guess I know what I am spending my General Skill Points on next time! :)]

His team built a Robot Psychologist (one of the PCs). I think that might be the most dangerous thing you can build in the Iron Empires universe.

Cool. One of these days I am having a Void World where the Slave/Serf Faction are robots.

“I am having a Void World where the Slave/Serf Faction are robots.”


An interesting thing about the Vaylen is how the two minds are centered on two different locations.

Obviously, the Naiven based mind is near what’s left of the brain stem, where the worm is. As for the human mind, while it obviously can’t be localized per se, the stuff that gets technically referred to as consciousness is more front and outer. The prefrontal cortex in particular is home of a lot of high level control over the rest of the brain, particularly directing attention*. It is what lobotomies aim to destroy. So, if we’re going to point to a particular part of the brain to the home ofa human consciousness confined within its own brain, that would be where to look.

This immediately suggests the horrible condition that the prefrontal lobe is still sending all of its stuff into the rest of the brain, except the worm’s signals overwhelm it as they push up instead of coming down**. Thus, the worm may well learn the ways of the host consciousness from it as it struggles to exert itself, still receiving signals and still thinking it is acting on them, but seeing the results that it is not.

To bring all of this back to the topic (instead of spinning off in to issues of the resin and encoding and so forth***), a hulled genius may well not produce a genius Vaylen at first. However, the original consciousness may unwittingly teach the Vaylen to be a genius by its struggles. Bit by bit, those essential little differences in how this brain is used, compared to the non-genius brain, will be picked up by the worm and perhaps even enhanced.

One hopes the original genius can come to appreciate the greater brilliance that results. It would be some consolation at least.

*Which is very important, it is why cats usually have to look away from something to ignore it, they don’t have the physical resources to ignore interesting things they’re looking at.
**In general, the brain has a bottom-up bias. It is one of the reasons that most dreams are visual-detail fuzzy, the higher visual layers activate and push some signals back down, but can’t push enough to create sharply defined edges and so forth.
***I have a Masters in Cognitive Psychology, and started out in biology, so the Naiven/Vaylen are right up my alley. It is also why I love footnotes.

I would like to see some fiction where a recently freed Kerrn host describes the experience of being dominated by a worm. They are the only ones that can tell us and we haven’t heard from them yet. So much fiction unexplored here!

“They are the only ones that can tell us and we haven’t heard from them yet.”

Great point, Scott. Hadn’t thought of that.

And I love your thoughts on the Vaylen, Tim. Disturbing stuff (as it should be).