Competant Ancient Races

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Balrog
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Competant Ancient Races

Post by Balrog »

Spurred on by my Halo thread, the "incompetent Precursor race" theme seems to be quite prevalent in in scifi books, games, etc. This is especially true if these guys were wiped out long ago by the Big Bad, who in the future gets its ass kicked by plucky humans who have no business beating anyone. So I was wondering, are there any ancient races in scifi who, if not the brightest bulb in the galaxy, at least avoided riding the short bus to school? If there were any defeated by the Big Bad not because they tripped on their own shoelaces, but for reasons that make sense?

Conversely, are there any ancient races that get labeled "incompetent" unfairly?
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Re: Competant Ancient Races

Post by Darmalus »

I remember there was a species, in Larry Niven's Known Space series IIRC, that was very, very old. They were out competed by the newer races because when they evolved, there was a lack of heavier elements, so their biology is simple, resulting in them being both mentally and physically slow. Not stupid, but like they were going in slow motion (or the younger races were going in fast forward, from their perspective).

No (well, very limited) transhumanism in Known Space, so what you evolved is what you are stuck with.
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Re: Competant Ancient Races

Post by ThomasP »

Balrog wrote:Spurred on by my Halo thread, the "incompetent Precursor race" theme seems to be quite prevalent in in scifi books, games, etc. This is especially true if these guys were wiped out long ago by the Big Bad, who in the future gets its ass kicked by plucky humans who have no business beating anyone. So I was wondering, are there any ancient races in scifi who, if not the brightest bulb in the galaxy, at least avoided riding the short bus to school? If there were any defeated by the Big Bad not because they tripped on their own shoelaces, but for reasons that make sense?

Conversely, are there any ancient races that get labeled "incompetent" unfairly?
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Re: Competant Ancient Races

Post by open_sketchbook »

The Prothenan-whatevers in Mass Effect, though defeated by the Reapers, managed to throw a torch into the future in the hopes that if they would not survive, they could help future civilization succeed where they failed. They weren't defeated due to any kind of real stupidity, but rather by being curbstomped by an immortal race of Spaceship Cthulu Robots, so props to them for the effort.
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Re: Competant Ancient Races

Post by Stark »

The Reapers themselves count as fucking retarded ancient races. It's a good thing everyone in ME is stupid as all shit or Sovereign would have been even MORE raped by a bunch of monkeys.
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Re: Competant Ancient Races

Post by Nephtys »

open_sketchbook wrote:The Prothenan-whatevers in Mass Effect, though defeated by the Reapers, managed to throw a torch into the future in the hopes that if they would not survive, they could help future civilization succeed where they failed. They weren't defeated due to any kind of real stupidity, but rather by being curbstomped by an immortal race of Spaceship Cthulu Robots, so props to them for the effort.
Of course the Protheans count as a retarded precursor race. They went 'oh hey, a giant space station, let's make this our super ultra capital without understanding it's mysterious attendants or know anything about half of its systems, or how our FTL gates work, since all of it was left here by an even more ancient dead race', and them go 'oh shit, it's made by evil'.

One or two telepathic magic beacons? Why not just carve 'DO NOT GO TO THE CITADEL' onto every mountain in the universe? Cast out thousands of engraved rocks, gold record plates, and the magic telepathic beacons? While you're at it, how about blowing up that ultra-station/portal to hell while you were getting your ass kicked?
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Re: Competant Ancient Races

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Nephtys wrote:Of course the Protheans count as a retarded precursor race. They went 'oh hey, a giant space station, let's make this our super ultra capital without understanding it's mysterious attendants or know anything about half of its systems, or how our FTL gates work, since all of it was left here by an even more ancient dead race',
That's pretty reasonable. Sure they were suspicious at first. For the first few centuries. Maybe millenia. But over time, with everything seeming to work fine, with no hint of the real builders, complacency set in. Civillians colonised the station and the population increased. Eventually political and practical pressures forced the capital there. Not that it would've made that much difference if they hadn't.
One or two telepathic magic beacons?
Supposedly, they made thousands, but 99% of them got destroyed by the Reapers.
Why not just carve 'DO NOT GO TO THE CITADEL' onto every mountain in the universe? Cast out thousands of engraved rocks, gold record plates, and the magic telepathic beacons?
Because they were quickly losing a brutal war of extermination? I don't think warning potential far-future species was that high a priority. Honestly, what realistic government would devote more than a tiny fraction of resources to such an abstract idea when your population is in the process of being wiped out.
While you're at it, how about blowing up that ultra-station/portal to hell while you were getting your ass kicked?
And how are they going to do that? It would almost certainly have been the site of the main reaper fleet. Most likely any attack would've been ineffectual suicide. The modern races had enough trouble with just one Reaper; the Protheans were more advanced, but if they were the only major species and the galaxy was at peace, then they may have had minimal standing military forces.
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Re: Competant Ancient Races

Post by Darth Yoshi »

I don't know if the Chozo from Metroid count, since they were still active in galactic affairs alongside humans (albeit in a pathetically emaciated state), and were eventually wiped out by raiders colluding with the super AI they built to administer their last community. In their favor, though, the plucky human who cleans up their messes was trained by them to do just that. And they built a floating steampunk city, apparently for SCIENCE! or the lulz.
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Re: Competant Ancient Races

Post by NecronLord »

Offhand:
  • B5 First Ones; all of them. While they occasionally lose battles, there's never any serious question of lesser races defeating them without the aid of another elder race. To even achieve what they did at Coriana 5, the Army of Light had to have about five huge First One motherships on their side. And they still only 'won' because the Shadows and Vorlons relented and departed, not because they were beaten.
  • Most energy beings in ST, 'God' the Prophets and the Q excepted (and the Q, only in later Voyager) are both ancient and powerful. Similarly, some mortal ST elder races come off as competant; the Iconians were taken out by the entire galaxy saying 'we hate these guys' and bombing them from orbit, for instance. The Preservers and the guys who sponsored Gary Seven would be other examples who seemed to have their heads screwed on right.
  • The Old Ones, Necrontyr and C'tan in 40K. Again, none of them seem terribly inept - evil, evil, evil, bastards (and the Old Ones are included in that) yes. Inept no. The Eldar would also qualify for 'competant ancient race' except they did blow up their entire civilization in an implosion of pain. Most of the time, though, the craftworlders are pretty competant.
  • Stargate's Ancients - I know this is going to be contentious, but hear me out. They lost a war with the Wraith, but it's worth remembering that didn't destroy them, and we really know nothing about the situation. As they are now, they are energy squids that can blow up fleets with their minds. They (or rather, Ganos Lal) successfully arranged the extermination of the Ori, an entire opposing pantheon, and the Orici, with minimal force, and one casualty of their own. They're certainly irresponsible, and even evil, but they don't come off as incompetant. People seem to take a weird joy in assuming that because we don't see how the Wraith-Lantean war went in detail, it must have been them cocking up constantly, while drooling and banging their heads against walls.
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Re: Competant Ancient Races

Post by Bluewolf »

I'd say the Precursors’ from Star Control but then I'd have to bring up SC3 and then I would have to detract such a statement. If we miss 3 out then the Precursors were a powerful race that had a large influence and had many decent little tools to help their existence. Though it is a hard call as taking out SC3, little is known about them and if you put in SC3..Well it becomes painful.
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Re: Competant Ancient Races

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The Perry Rhodan Universe has a multitude of very powerful and competent ancient races.
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Re: Competant Ancient Races

Post by Ford Prefect »

ThomasP wrote:They were defeated
Only if you define 'defeated' as 'not even slightly defeated'. The Interim Coalition manages to make them leave the supermassive black hole through Exultant, but it's not really a defeat for a species controlling much of the known universe. And when they did actually take any real notice of humanity, they just stuck the entire species into a box.
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Re: Competant Ancient Races

Post by Xon »

Stargate's Ancients where amazingly competant at terraforming, we haven't seen a single planet undergo something out of Day After Tomorrow despite the scale of thier other fuckups.
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Re: Competant Ancient Races

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Bluewolf wrote:I'd say the Precursors’ from Star Control but then I'd have to bring up SC3 and then I would have to detract such a statement. If we miss 3 out then the Precursors were a powerful race that had a large influence and had many decent little tools to help their existence. Though it is a hard call as taking out SC3, little is known about them and if you put in SC3..Well it becomes painful.
The less you know about them, the more powerful the myth, the imagery, and the story. One of the worst sins a writer can do is introduce a compelling Macguffin... then explain it in tedious and unconvincing detail.

(PS Starcontrol 3 does not exist)
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Re: Competant Ancient Races

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Yeah I liked how it was done in SC2, where races simply came across bits and bobs of the once great race but could never really put it all together. SC3 fucked this up badly and ruined it all. I mean I can remind those who know what I mean of this in one word:

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Re: Competant Ancient Races

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Ford Prefect wrote:Only if you define 'defeated' as 'not even slightly defeated'. The Interim Coalition manages to make them leave the supermassive black hole through Exultant, but it's not really a defeat for a species controlling much of the known universe. And when they did actually take any real notice of humanity, they just stuck the entire species into a box.
I thought the Photino Birds eventually got them.
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Re: Competant Ancient Races

Post by Marcus Aurelius »

Stofsk wrote: The less you know about them, the more powerful the myth, the imagery, and the story. One of the worst sins a writer can do is introduce a compelling Macguffin... then explain it in tedious and unconvincing detail.
Which brings me to the precursor races of the Hyperion tetralogy (the 'Lions and Tigers and Bears'). Even their names are not known, but apparently they were pretty competent: they managed to steal the Old Earth from under the TechnoCore's nose and in general completely screwed the AI's plans to enslave or destroy mankind, despite the fact that the TechnoCore apparently did manage to create their version of the Omega Point, the Ultimate Intelligence, which was supposed to be able to handle the Ancients.

Slightly less powerful, but the Iln in the Culture universe seem quite competent at least when it comes to military tech: Spoiler
They managed to destroy near-indestructible megastructures by the thousands and just one of their AI weapons seemingly easily neutralized and took over the entire local defensive system of a high level involved species after being buried for millions of years
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Re: Competant Ancient Races

Post by Starglider »

Stofsk wrote:One of the worst sins a writer can do is introduce a compelling Macguffin... then explain it in tedious and unconvincing detail.
Granted, however, said detail is not always tedious and unconvincing. For example in Greg Egan's 'Diaspora', about half the novel is about unravelling the details of the precursor's message and escape route.

They count as an example of a competent elder race BTW; foresaw the galactic core explosion, made a very effective and long-lasting warning and escape route for any civilisations that might be affected, endured for many trillions of years of subjective time until they decided that they'd achieved everything they'd wanted to be as a species (and even then, they likely have descendants spread all over the billions of universes they traversed).
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Re: Competant Ancient Races

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Bluewolf wrote:Yeah I liked how it was done in SC2, where races simply came across bits and bobs of the once great race but could never really put it all together. SC3 fucked this up badly and ruined it all. I mean I can remind those who know what I mean of this in one word:

Daktaklakpack.
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It could honestly have been pretty good, and I respect the potential even if I don't like the reality all that much.
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Re: Competant Ancient Races

Post by Spanky The Dolphin »

I guess the Celestials from Star Wars could count, since it seems like they simply declined and disappeared rather than be outright defeated. Although there's virtually no information about them besides that they existed and several of the younger progenitor races might have been terrified of them.
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Re: Competant Ancient Races

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Spanky The Dolphin wrote:I guess the Celestials from Star Wars could count, since it seems like they simply declined and disappeared rather than be outright defeated. Although there's virtually no information about them besides that they existed and several of the younger progenitor races might have been terrified of them.
Didn't they retcon the Celestials into the lame-ass Rakata from KOTOR?
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Re: Competant Ancient Races

Post by Spanky The Dolphin »

No, the Rakata are described as the next big thing in the galaxy after the Celestials faded.
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Re: Competant Ancient Races

Post by Lord of the Abyss »

The Tnuctipun of Known Space struck me as competent. They did pull off a successful rebellion against their mind controlling overlords the Thrint. Yes, they died but only by the Thrint telepathically ordering all higher life in the galaxy to "DIE".
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Re: Competant Ancient Races

Post by ThomasP »

Ford Prefect wrote:
ThomasP wrote:They were defeated
Only if you define 'defeated' as 'not even slightly defeated'. The Interim Coalition manages to make them leave the supermassive black hole through Exultant, but it's not really a defeat for a species controlling much of the known universe. And when they did actually take any real notice of humanity, they just stuck the entire species into a box.
I was talking about the photino birds actually

Dunno, maybe you don't call that defeat :lol:
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Re: Competant Ancient Races

Post by Ford Prefect »

Gil Hamilton wrote:I thought the Photino Birds eventually got them.
Yeah, but just about everyone ever would be beaten by the Photino Birds. It's not exactly like the Forerunners being driven into suicide by the Flood, who are subsequently defeated by some green guy and his plucky holographic girlfriend. Being driven out of the universe after hundreds of millions of years of attritional conflict against an enemy so numerous they redirect galaxies simply by the mass of their forces is not exactly unimpressive.
I was talking about the photino birds actually
Like I just said, this isn't a negative.
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