It’s been a year since my last post. Consider this an aside, in lieu of a quick and easy post that turned out to be neither.
EDIT: In retrospect, I posted this without any explanation of what I’m even trying to do here. I’m thinking, in a game, of coming up with cards that are drawn, in worldbuilding, character creation, species design, periodically as play goes on or new discoveries are made(rather in the nature of wandering monster tables) to give specific effects and sequences. This was somewhat implied by the “event trains” in Stellaris(as seen from a distance), and I could see implementing them either as actual cards in a ttrpg or as event-type objects in a more computer-oriented rpg. My apologies for the hasty post…
Living, somewhat active species vs. dead or completely inactive(at least “in this realm”) species/ruins
“They’ve gone beyond these crude material bodies | Discorporated | Energy Beings”/Transcend
The most advanced of advanced sapient species. Almost certainly inactive. An active species at this level would almost certainly be the central overarching plot point, particularly if they’re unfriendly(or too friendly). These people are basically godlike when they choose to flex their muscles.
For the most part, these are of the less-active varieties. Perhaps they have gone on to higher realms and lost interest in the realm in which humans and other “normal” species participate. The Forbidden Space variant(suitable at this level and the level below) is effectively the same as an inactive species beyond the(perhaps very large) patch of space they control.
The Transcend is a dead version of this or perhaps the next level down. Exploring Transcend ruins is an exceedingly dangerous, but potentially very profitable enterprise.
“Crystal Spires and Togas(var. incl. Hidden)”/”Gray Goo(var. incl. Cyber Ghosts)”
This is a step below the Transcendent beings described above. These people are still physically-present unless they are genuinely extinct or “Descended.” The technology is exceedingly-advanced, but not godlike. They can be very arrogant in their dealings with outsiders, and in most cases they should take a fairly hands-off approach to the rest of the starfaring universe. In any case, they are typically utopian(though perhaps with a dark side, but woe betide the outsider that discovers that dark side), beyond any material want. As above, they can go with a Forbidden Space variant, where they turn back, destroy or “disappear” would-be intruders into their space. The Forbidden Space aspect may also just be enforced by outside lesser powers who would just really prefer that their ne’er-do-well citizenry not rile up the otherwise unthreatening, but very dangerous neighbors.
Gray Goo describes a society with exceedingly advanced perhaps ubiquitous nanotech that “went wrong.” Typically, everybody is dead, consumed by the cloud of glitched nanites, but sometimes Cyber Ghosts of the former inhabitants remain within the cloud, or the cloud has attained sapience and regrets its actions.
Descended, are a species that had once attained the level of crystal spires and togas, but has since lost the knowledge and technologies they once had. Perhaps, it is a world like Horizon Zero Dawn or Jack Chalker’s Flux and Anchor books, where Descended shamans go out into the wilderness to “commune with the goo” to gain some of the powers of their ancestors, or hunters kill robots to build tools from their parts.
The Hidden are actual people of Crystal Spires and Togas-level or beyond, who have for one reason or another choose to take on the appearance of much more primitive people. Think of the Organians from Star Trek.
In any case, current or former Crystal Spires and White Togas(Or Crystal Togas and Obsidian Spires?) worlds would be very lucrative, but hideously dangerous places for intruders from outside to go raiding or trying to trade. Probably more of the technology encountered would at least be comprehensible with study than on genuine Transcend worlds, but only marginally less magical.
Other kinds of formerly living worlds
Frequently advanced worlds(industrial-level technology and above) have difficulty attaining technological dominance without damaging their planetary environment. Sometimes the are unable to overcome those problems and succumb. Sometimes, after the extinction or Descent of the former technological species, the environment recovers partially or entirely on its own. Other times, the ecology remains badly scarred or the world even becomes and remains altogether uninhabitable. Pretty much any starfaring society or spacefaring society able to maintain space stations without heavy supply from a habitable world or able to build a functioning space colony should be able to repair the ecology of such a world if it isn’t completely uninhabitable. Any society capable of terraforming could restore even a world rendered uninhabitable.
A variant on the ecocatastrophe, this one is obviously limited to worlds that have attained nuclear power and weapons. Possibly due to a war or a serious nuclear accident, the worlds ecosystem and civilization have been gravely injured. Although in many ways similar to the ecocatastrophe model, radiation is an added complexity to repairing the planet. For any society that hasn’t developed some sort of ultrascience magical nuclear damping technology, the only way to fully restore a Nuclear Wasteland is time and a lot of it.
The remnants of this sort of disaster vary wildly. At its most basic and general, some sort of accidental(or malicious) socio-psychological manipulation. The aftereffects vary widely. Sometimes, it leads to nuclear conflagration, Other times it might be as simple as mass suicides and people roaming around with knives, cutting people up until they’re cut down. The universal result is a fatal breakdown of social norms and sanity, which at best sets the society back significantly.
I’m not sure “conclusion” is the right word, here, but whatever. One of the scenarios that particularly appeals to me is a world inhabited by descendants of the people who had very nearly been turned into gray goo by runaway nanites. They have gradually learned a degree of control over the nanite “flux” and have gradually ventured out from a few areas kept safe by old ultratech “anchors. Certainly, Fallout-like scenarios of worlds ruined by nuclear disasters(wars and otherwise) and just starting to recover would be present somewhere. I’m still coming up with more “special circumstances” to give a bit more unique feel to worlds in my universe.