Mass Effect: Ghosts
The Krogan evolved in a hostile and vicious environment. Until the invention of gunpowder weapons, “eaten by predators” was still the number one cause of Krogan fatalities. Afterwards, it was “death by gunshot”.
When the Salarians discovered them, the Krogan were a brutal, primitive species struggling to survive a self-inflicted nuclear winter. The Salarians culturally uplifted them, teaching them to use and build modern technology so they could serve as soldiers in the Rachni War.
Liberated from the harsh conditions of their homeworld, the quick-breeding Krogan experienced an unprecedented population explosion. They began to colonize nearby worlds, even though these worlds were already inhabited. The Krogan Rebellions lasted nearly a century, only ending when the Turians unleashed the genophage, a Salarian-developed bioweapon that crushed all Krogan resistance.
The genophage makes only one in 1,000 pregnancies viable, and today the Krogan are a slowly dying breed. Understandably, the Krogan harbor a grudge against all other species, especially the Turians.
Krogan: Ancient History
The lack of adequately preserved archives presents a significant obstacle to research into ancient Krogan history. Nevertheless, recent archaeological discoveries have shed new light on the topic, revealing a society once rich with cultural, architectural, and artistic accomplishments.
Newly discovered ruins reveal that the Krogan had particularly advanced understandings of structural and geotechnical engineering, as compared to other cultures at similar stages of development. Old Krogan architecture demonstrates seismic loading techniques that would have both resisted earthquakes and diffused the small-scale vibrations from vehicles in their sprawling cities. Curiously, however, Tuchanka has little natural tectonic activity. Instead, researchers believe the ancient Krogan were concerned with safe cohabitation with one of the planet’s apex predators — Kalros, the Mother of all Thresher Maws.
Prior to the genophage, Krogan population growth was limited by predation, disease, and war. Even so, the birth rate exploded once the Krogan achieved industrialization, leading to wars over resources and living space. Other species on Tuchanka suffered greatly as the Krogan expanded. When the Krogan ran out of land, they settled into an arms race that ended in nuclear devastation. Tuchanka’s relatively short Golden Age was at an end.
But this ancient history may yet aid the modern Krogan. Some of the techniques and technology discovered in the ruins could be used to improve standard colonization equipment, signaling economic renewal for the Krogan at last.
The Krogan evolved in a lethal ecology. Over millions of years, the grim struggle to survive larger predators, virulent disease, and resource scarcity on their homeworld, Tuchanka, turned the lizards into quintessential survivors. Perhaps the most telling indicator of Tuchanka’s lethality is the Krogan eyes. Although they are a predators species by any standard definition, their eyes evolved to be wide-set, as any Earth prey species like deer and cattle. Krogan eyes have a 240-degree arc of vision, better suited for spotting enemies sneaking up on them than for pursuit.
Physically, the Krogan are nigh-indestructible, with a tough hide impervious to any melee weapon short of a molecular blade. While they feel pain, it does not affect their ability to concentrate. They have multiple functioning examples of all major organs, and can often survive the loss of one or two of any type. Rather than a nervous system, they have an electrically conductive second circulatory system. A Krogan can never be paralyzed – they may lose some fluid, but it can be replaced by the body in time.
The hump on Krogan’s back stores water and fats that help the Krogan survive lean times. Large humps are a point of pride; being well-fed implies the Krogan is a superior predator.
The most widely-known biological feature of the Krogan is their incredible birth rate and rapid maturity. Once freed from the hostile cauldron of Tuchanka, the Krogan population swelled into a numberless horde. Only the genophage kept them from out-breeding the combined Council races. Now the rare Krogan females capable of bringing a child to term are treated like strategic resources: warlords will trade them at diplomacy or (more frequently) fight wars over them.
Krogan: Blood Rage
Feared throughout the galaxy as nightmarishly violent warriors, the Krogan are both aided and hobbled by their legendary “blood rage”.
In the grip of that madness, Krogan become seemingly invincible, but are merely totally unresponsive to pain. “Blood-enraged” Krogan fight regardless of injury level, to the extent that Krogan shorn of all four limbs continue gnashing past brain death until total somatic death.
The supremely resilient, hyper-violent blood rage is the synergy of two aspects of Krogan neurology. The first aspect is a positive feedback loop in which adrenalin, also activated by fear or rage, suppresses serotonin, the brain chemical that induces serenity. The second is the over-developed Krogan limbic system. In Krogan, as in humans, fear or rage shifts mental control from the frontal lobes, responsible for reasoning, to the limbic system, responsible for aggression and survival. During that shift, Krogan and humans exhibit diminished capacity for logic and self-control.
Prior to the ecological devastation of Tuchanka, blood rage was extremely rare among the Krogan. Back then, while all Krogan were capable of heightened anger and violence in fight-or-flight scenarios, almost none experienced insensitivity to pain. The one percent who did were those suffering serotonin-suppression. At that time, Krogan society regarded the condition as pathological, and medicated or imprisoned sufferers to protect them and society.
Following nuclear ecocide four millennia ago, evolution selected only those Krogan afflicted with blood rage for survival. Today there is no living memory among the Krogan of a life without mindless, murderous fury.
The harsh Krogan homeworld conditioned the Krogan psychology for toughness just as it did the body. Krogan have always had a tendency to be selfish, unsympathetic, and blunt. They respect strength and self-reliance and are neither surprised nor offended by treachery. The weak and selfless do not live long. In their culture, “looking out for number one” is simply a matter of course.
After their defeat in the Rebellions, the very concept of Krogan leadership was discredited. Where a warlord could once command enough power to bring entire solar systems to heel and become Overlord, these days it is rare for a single leader to have more than 1,000 warriors swear allegiance to him. Most Krogan trust and serve no one but themselves.
This solitary attitude stems in part from a deep sense of fatalism and futility, a profound social effect of the genophage that caused Krogan numbers to dwindle to a relative handful. Not only are they angry that the entire galaxy seems out to get them, the Krogan are also generally pessimistic about their race’s chances of survival. The surviving Krogan see no point to building for the future; there will be no future. The Krogan live with an attitude of “kill, pillage, and be selfish, for tomorrow we die.”
The genophage bioweapon was created to end the Krogan Rebellions. From the start, the Krogan had overwhelmed the Council. Only timely first contact with the Turians saved the Council races. The Turians fought the Krogans to a standstill, but the sheer weight of Krogan numbers indicated the war could not be won through conventional means. The Turians collaborated with the Salarians to genetically engineer a counter to the rapid breeding of the Krogan.
The genophage virus gained the energy to replicate by “eating” key genetic sequences. Every cell in every Krogan had to be altered for the weapon to be foolproof; otherwise the Krogan could have used gene therapy to fix the affected tissues. Once a genophage strain could find no more genes to eat, it would starve and die, limited spin-off mutation and contamination. This “created” genetic flaw is hereditary.
The Salarians believed the genophage would be used as a deterrent, a position the Turians viewed as naive. Once the project was complete, the Turians mass produced and deployed it. The Krogan homeworld, their colonies, and all occupied worlds were infected.
The resulting mutation made only one in a thousand Krogan pregnancies carry to term. It did not reduce fertility, but offspring viability. The rare females able to carry children to term became prizes the Krogan warlords fought brutal battles over.
The Krogan are a shadow of their former glory. While the Rebellions took place centuries ago, they are constantly reminded of the horror of the genophage and of their inability to counter it. The release of the genophage is still controversial, bitterly debated in many circles.
After their defeat in the Rebellions, the very concept of Krogan leadership was discredited. Where a warlord could once command enough power to bring entire solar systems to heel and become Overlord, these days it is rare for a single leader to have more than a thousand warriors swear allegiance to him. It is speculated that their instinctive aggression and territorial nature prevent the Krogan from forming any kind of centralized government or parliament that is not based on fear or obedience.
The Krogan homeworld of Tuchanka is divided into multiple nation-states, including the Republic of Ghurst, which was embroiled in a rebellion in 2185.
Krogan: Krogan Rebellions
After the Rachni War, the quick-breeding Krogan expanded at the expense of their neighbors. Warlords leveraged their veteran soldiers to seize living space while the Council races were still grateful. Over centuries, the Krogan conquered world after world. There was always “just one more” needed. When the Council finally demanded withdrawal from the Asari colony of Lusia, Krogan Overlord Kredak stormed off the Citadel, daring the Council to take their worlds back.
But the Council had taken precautions. The finest STG operators and Asari huntresses had been drafted into a covert “observation force”, the Office of Special Tactics and Reconnaissance. The Spectres opened the war with crippling strategic strikes. Krogan planets went dark as computer viruses flooded the extranet. Sabotaged antimatter refineries disappeared in blue-white annihilation. Headquarters stations shattered into orbit-clogging debris, rammed by pre-placed suicide freighters.
Still, this only delayed the inevitable. The war would have been lost if not for first contact with the Turians, who responded to Krogan threats with a prompt declaration of war. Being on the far side of Krogan space from the Council, the Turians advanced rapidly into the lightly-defended Krogan rear areas. The Krogan responded by dropping space stations and asteroids on Turian colonies. Three worlds were rendered completely uninhabitable.
This was precisely the wrong approach to take with the Turians. Each is first and foremost a public servant, willing to risk his life to protect his comrades. Rather than increasing public war weariness, Krogan tactics stiffened Turian resolve.
The arrival of Turian task forces saved many worlds from the warlords’ marauding fleets, but it took the development of the genophage bioweapon to end the war. There were decades of unrest afterwards. Rogue warlords and holdout groups of insurgents refused to surrender, or disappeared into the frontier systems to become pirates.
Krogan: Military Doctrine
Traditional Krogan tactics were built on attritional mass-unit warfare. Equipped with cheap rugged gear, troop formations were powerful but inflexible. Command and control was very centralized; soldiers in the field who saw a target contacted their commanders behind the lines to arrange fire support.
Since the genophage, the Krogan can no longer afford the casualties of the old horde attacks. The Battle Masters are a match for any ten soldiers of another species. To a Battle Master, killing is a science. They focus on developing clean, brute-force economy of motion that exploits their brutal strength to incapacitate enemies with a swift single blow of overwhelming power.
This change of focus from mass-unit warfare to maximal efficiency has increased employment demand in the fields of security and “muscle for hire”. Due to the unsavory reputation of the Krogan, most of these jobs are on the far side of the law.
Battle Masters are not “spit and polish”, but they do believe in being well-armed and equipped, preferably with a gun for each limb. They are callous and brutal, but methodical and disciplined. They use any means at their disposal to achieve their goals, no matter how reprehensible. Hostage-taking and genocide are acceptable means to ensure a quiet occupation with few Krogan casualties.
Biotics are rare among the Krogan. Those that exist are viewed with suspicion and fear. The Krogan see this aura of fear as a useful quality for an officer, and often promote them. Combat drones and other high-tech equipment are likewise in short supply.
Krogan are not shown to have strong religious beliefs. The closest they come is to establish ritualistic burial grounds called the Hollows, where the skulls of their ancestors are displayed to remind them of “where we all come from, and where we all go.” The Hollows are as sacred as any Krogan place can be, and violence there is forbidden.
Ancient Krogan deities include Vaul, a god who stood watch for the enemies of his pantheon. The planet Vaul is named for this god, and its moons are named for Vaul’s myriad eyes and ears.
Krogan are also shown to believe in some form of afterlife. Several Krogan mention a place called “the Void” which Krogan go to when they die. Additionally, the planet Kruban takes its name from a mythological paradise in which honorable Krogan warriors feast on the internal organs of their enemies.
Krogan tradition is steeped in ritual. When a Krogan is born, he suffers the Rite of Life. When he comes of age, he undergoes the Rite of Passage. If he wishes to be considered for breeding, he must take the Rite of Honor. When facing a new enemy, the Rite of Firsts is invoked.
Positions of power also bear the responsibility of more rites, like being clan leader or shaman. The Rite of Passage and all other rites and traditions are preserved by the clan shaman. A shaman can be of either gender: they must undergo lengthy and torturous rites to assume the position, and is required to give up their name. Because of this level of commitment, the shaman is one of the most respected members of a clan.