Stellaris

Galactus

stellaris 3 - Galactus
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Not the Marvel character, but a topic on the subject of world-devouring spaceborne entities in general. I thought his name might make for a good lead-in, to help sum up the idea. There's a conspicuous lack of planet eaters in Stellaris, and I think that's a terrible shame which ought be addressed. It's not like they're… well, alien to the genre.

One that springs to mind immediately is a character from the web serial, Worm. Which is the sort of setting where explaining how anything works is massive spoilers, so you might want to skip the next few paragraphs if you plan to read it.

— Worm spoilers start here —

To shorten a very long story, super powers in Worm are alien in origin. There's a species of other-dimensional alien crystalline/organic brain-computer planet-sized tesseract worm-things whose life cycle can be summed up as space-AIDS for sentient civilizations. They usually operate in pairs (though there are variations), and travel through space seeking out species who haven't developed space travel yet. (They very strongly prefer pre-space worlds, because spacefaring ones are often strong enough to pose a threat – when forced into an encounter with a space civ, they'll try to negotiate for symbiosis instead of parasitism.) Upon locating a pre-space sentient species, they'll abuse bullshit hyperspace physics to invade and infest the population, housing their main bodies in parallel dimensions and extending tiny fragments of themselves into populations of the host species to be used as super powers.

The purpose of this is because the entities (as they're called from their PoV; they lack awareness or identity) are biologically (or, "biologically") immortal, and so have a very realistic chance of having to deal with the heat death of the universe within their lifetimes. At a critical point in the evolution of their species, they were aware that their planet-locked cycle of "devour all life, hibernate until multicelled life evolves again, repeat ad infinitum" was netting diminishing returns and would eventually lead to their extinction, but stopping to communicate meant dropping your guard around other, hungrier, omnicidal abomination worms with their own array of eldritch powers. One of them eventually did, and posed an idea to the rest which was met with much approval: "the universe will eventually die, we have kickass powers but lack higher brain functions, let's go to other planets and run a series of experiments where we parcel out fragments of powers to see how sapient species use our tools so we can puzzle out how to survive in a post-entropy universe, then devour all life on the planet to reproduce like the common cold and to fuel our voyage to other, woefully unprepared planets."

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They ate that one, of course. But the idea carried forward, and they transitioned from individual super worms to collective super worms by way of fighting each other and assimilating the losers, as is apparently their custom, ending up as one giant gestalt intelligence which proceeded to eat its planet, birth thousands more individual gestalt intelligences, then violently detonated itself to propel the new entities into the depths of space where they could track down pre-space sapients and exploit them for science, survival, delicious feasting, and reproduction, except due to how their species works it's basically impossible to distinguish between any of those things.

And that's why the characters in Worm have superpowers: because aliens are horrifying. And by "a character in Worm is relevant to this topic", I meant there are more of them, and the fact that they exist is actually kind of a problem since they go through extensive effort to make sure their hosts never become strong enough to fight back.

— Worm spoilers end here —

So, that there is one example of a planet-eating spaceborne entity. I imagine the Stellaris devs probably wanted to avoid planet-eaters since they might pose an unfairly huge threat to players in the early game, but ones that go out of their way to only target pre-space species would, I feel, add an interesting layer to that side of the game. While also themselves being interesting, what with the matter of symbiosis and all the options that opens up.

Any other ideas for potential planet devourers? Emphasis on examples from other works of fiction, since I titled the thread after one and gave an example from another. I feel like the topic has room for exploration, but by and large doesn't have enough thought put into it. How does a species like that come to be? What is their life cycle? Are they intelligent? Do they have a civilization of their own? How do they view us mere mortals? Can they be fought? Are they inherently malevolent, or do they not consider the matter any more than we would a bowl of cereal?

And, most importantly, how would such a thing fit into Stellaris?

Because, usually when these guys show up in fiction, it's just a one-time feature where the monster is little more than a looming apocalypse for the heroes to fight, and that's the sum total of its characterization. The heroes fight it, the day is saved, and the serial rolls over to its next arc. Very boring, little narrative consistency. Less filling than a planet full of delicious sentient life, 4/10 would not consume again.

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