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Starfinder – Dominion of the Black

I was recently in a discussion on Discord about alien threats in Starfinder. It started off with the Illithid from D&D, but I pointed out that the Dominion of the Black were far more frightening. As the conversation went on it became apparent that a not a lot of players even knew what the Dominion was, much less why they are so terrifying. Time to spread the word.

Brain Collector

The Dominion of the Black have been part of the Pathfidner/Starfinder setting since the Pathfinder Core Rule book back in 2008 – they are the power that fuels cultists of the Dark Tapestry. In fact, the Dark Tapestry (literally the black empty spaces between stars) is often used as another name of the Dominion, though it would be more accurate to say the Tapestry is their territory, and the Dominion is the actual civilization that lays claim to it.

While technically part of the setting, very little is detailed about the Dominion, and almost none of that is in Starfinder material. The largest source of lore about them is Valley of the Brain Collectors from the Iron Gods (in an article by Mike Shel) adventure path. Here is a spoiler free rough summary: The Dominion of the Black is a massive interstellar empire that has existed for at least 18000 years (from before Earthfall on Golarion all the way into 317 AG in Starfinder). While they have some known members, the Dominion seems to span multiple species, and their technology is based in biological manipulation that is both technological and magical in nature. For most of their existence the Dominion has ruled its territory without faster than light travel, instead making their plans and strategies on a timescale that is more geological, planning thousands of years in advance. They are also in open warfare with the Old Ones/Outer Gods, fighting not just the cultists of those beings but actually fighting the vast alien intelligences themselves (and likely have been doing so for well beyond recorded setting history). This does not make them allies to any other sentient species though, in fact far from it. The Dominion absorbs other civilizations and uses any biological life it finds as raw material for their fleshfarms – nation sized or even planet sized semi-living constructs that convert lifeforms into tools and weapons for the Dominion. All non-Dominion life is simply a resource for the Dominion to tap.

Dominion of the Black

Known Dominion life forms:
neh-thalggu (the brain collector)
bah-thegga (no Starfinder stats)
bah-uurla (no Starfinder stats)
deh-nolo
jah-tohl (no Starfinder stats)
rhu-chalik (no Starfinder stats, PF1 Version)
yah-thelgaad (no Starfinder stats, PF1 Version)
chyzaedu (no Starfinder stats, PF1 Version)
haeshi-shaa
shipminds

As well as demi-god level entities that are known to be part of their command structure:
The-Five-Who-Speak-As-One, who reportedly lives on a massive organic spaceship.
Infinity-Ceases-Now, an amoeba-like monstrosity inside a rogue planetoid.
Grandchild-of-Eternity’s-Despair, an administrator of unknowable appearance who rules the Dominion’s fleshfarms.
Tychilarius,They Drown the Gods in Oblivion (sometimes mistranslated as the Drowned God), a tremendous aberration made of thousands of creatures supposedly fused in the heart of a black hole.

So, all of that is in published Paizo material. Now for some rampant speculation. What follows in not in published Paizo works, but rather culled from conversations, Ask James Jacobs threads, and my own theories. That the Dominion of the Black are in conflict with the Great Old Ones/Outer Gods is not in dispute. I think that conflict is even older than what has been hinted at. There are a number of things in the setting that are hinted as being ‘Older than the Gods.’ That’s a nebulous phrase, but based on some hints about the origin of Zon-Kuthon, the age of the Old Ones, and the lore on Aboleths, I take it to mean not just that these things predate the current pantheon, but rather the current version of Reality itself. In this scenario there was a version of Reality that preceded all we know about the Pathfinder/Starfinder setting, but for some reason it collapsed. My theory is that it was the conflict between the Great Old Ones that destroyed this previous Reality. Somehow, in the chaos that followed and gave rise to the Gods and Reality we know, some Great Old Ones survived. I think some core that would become the Dominion Dark did as well, continuing its war against the Outer Gods in this new reality and reshaping whatever life it encounters into the forms it knew from the old. This is why both the Outer Gods and the Dominion are so alien in form and thought to current living beings. On the up side, this conflict gave the new Gods and this new Reality breathing space to develop, as the Dominion continues to counter the machinations of the Old Ones, and they in return fight against the Dominion. On the down side, if either the Dominion or the Outer Gods are able to establish a firm advantage in their conflict, they will no doubt turn their attention to the upstart Deities and the species they shepherd.

Ok, taking the tin foil hat off, how about a Dominion of the Black mech?

Concept art from the movie Skyline
Concept art from the movie Skyline by Kino Scialabba

Neh-Gorthok

CR 16

XP 76,800

Huge Skirmisher

Operator 5 (one pilot and 4 brain clusters that function as additional pilots; PP 3

Speed 80 ft.

Init +6; Senses blindsense (thought) 240 ft., darkvision 120 ft., low-light vision; Perception +19

DEFENSE

HP 180; SP 36; Hardness 6

EAC 27; KAC 29

Fort +15; Ref +15; Will +12

Immunities construct immunities

OFFENSE

Speed 80 ft., fly 60 ft. (average)

Melee chain whip/tentacle whip +26 (8d4+23 S, analog, trip) or Scythe/claws +26 (6d6 S, analog, trip)

Ranged plasma rifle +23 (5d10+10 E&F, line), missile battery +23 (8d4+10, F&P)

Space 15ft.; Reach 20ft.

STATISTICS

Str +8; Dex +6; Con +4; Int +6; Wis +8; Cha +2

Skills  Athletics +24, Mysticism +19

SYSTEMS

Power Core mk 3 Living Heart (functions as an Aeon core); Auxiliary (DC 19) ammo reserve, emp cannon, haste circuit, systems jammer

A fusion of flesh and steel, the neh-gorthok employs several harvested brains as well as an implanted pilot to guide this behemoth into combat. Used to break particularly hardened defenses, a neh-gorthok is a terror to behold as it rips through enemies and architecture alike. In keeping with the Dominion’s general strategy, once implanted a pilot becomes part of the mech, and dies along with it should it be destroyed.


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Categories: Article Writing

Jeremy Corff

Artist and Writer