The K'Nes are the only known sentient race to evolve on a moon rather than a planet. Their moon orbits a gas giant planet in the Purrfang system and has a very low gravity yet a very dense atmosphere thanks to gases captured from the planet it orbits. As a result, the K'Nes evolved the ability to float through their native atmosphere by means of inflatable hydrogen-filled sacs along either flank of their cat-like bodies. With the sacs deflated, they resemble Earth Lions to a large extent, although with opposable thumbs on their forelimbs.
K'Nes were generally slightly behind humans in most areas of technology upon first contact, but rapidly caught up via trade, espionage, and reverse-engineering human devices. Their starships feature generally-similar armament to human ships, but tend to be much narrower port-to-starboard and taller ventral-to-dorsal than human ships. This design tendency is due to the lower onboard gravity making it easier to go up or down a level than it is on human ships with a one-gee field.
K'Nes have Magick-users roughly equivalent to human Magi. They tend to focus more on creating and using Magical Artifacts such as rings and amulets than their human counterparts, as those are more easily bought and sold than mere spells. Although the most powerful among them are not quite as powerful as a human Oracle, they average about the same ability and strength as human mages overall. K'Nes do not have an equivalent to werecreatures, nor are they subject to embrace as Vampires, and since vampiric vitae is poisonous to their system, they cannot be turned into Ghouls either.
As aerial predators and pack hunters in their evolutionary past, K'Nes evolved to prefer lower population densities than humans or Jurvain did, and the ease of travel when one can float with the wind fostered a very early development of long-distance trade to tie together distant proto-K'Nes communities. This led to the K'Nes being known far and wide as the best traders and salesmen in the galaxy. Having generally peaceful relations with both the Humans and Jurvain for much of their spacefaring history, the K'Nes rapidly set up trading enclaves and duty-free space station cargo transfer points all throughout known space, filling the same economic niche that Phoenician or Venetian traders did in the ancient Mediterranean on Earth.
For most of their spacefaring history, the K'Nes were governed by a single government under a constitutional monarchy. This kingdom was known as the K'Nes Tor. However, the increasing militancy and xenophobia of the Earth Federation under Arthur Clarke led King Horrath VI of the made the mistake of allying with the Vulthra against the Earth Federation, and the K'Nes Tor went down to defeat at the Vulthura's side. Stripped of their Monarchy and forced to become a protectorate under a human governor, the K'Nes lost their independence but were simply too vital to the human economy as traders to be completely isolated in a quarantine zone as the Jurvain or Arachnids were. The fall of the Earth Federation after the Caal invasion led to the K'Nes once more declaring independence, but this time as an Oligarchy ruled by a council of leading merchants. This new government is known as the K'Nes Llan.
The K'Nes navy has always been something of a joke among humans. Although their fleet is enormous, it is mostly a merchant marine consisting of cargo freighters. They have very few dedicated warships, and they are usually small frigates designed for convoy escort.
A closer look reveals the K'Nes fleet's reputation is not necessarily deserved. Piracy was not unheard of under the Federation, so all K'Nes ships, even freighters, are heavily armored. Furthermore, believing that time is money, K'Nes freighters are designed for speed over maneuverability. Finally, K'Nes freighters are designed to have multiple modular cargo bays that can, if necessary, be quickly and easily swapped out for weapons bays. The result is a large fleet of fast, tough little ships.
Recently, when the first K'Nes planet (the homeworld Purrfang) declared independence after the Federation collapsed, the Ministry of Public Safety (MPS) sent an assault ship to retake the system, expecting little or no resistance. The ship was never heard from again. The K'Nes claimed no knowledge of what happened to it and extended their deepest sympathies to the MPS for their loss. Patriarch Varrless was also quick to point out, however, that under international law the K'Nes were entitled to the salvage rights of any debris found in the Purrfang system… should any happen to drift by.
Season Eight Alternate Timeline
The K'Nes Tor joined with the Jurvain in their allied invasion of an Earth Federation which had been crippled by the Vin Shriak invasion. They too were betrayed and conquered by their supposed allies in the Eastern Bloc. Later, the K'Nes and Jurvain united with a few small human colonies to declare their independence as the Kalintos Republic.
Behind the Scenes
- The K'Nes are inspired in small part by the Kzinti from the writings of Larry Niven, but mostly they are around for comic relief.
- Their name is probably a variation on K'Nex, the shoe brand, but also from the need to put an apostrophe in the middle of a word to make it sound more alien.
- The uber-capitalist culture of the K'Nes was partially inspired by the Ferengi from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
- Storyteller Marcus Johnston (who created the species) originally envisioned K'Nes as spending their entire lives floating in the air, and looking like a cross between a lion and a blimp. In season 4.3, however, player Frank D'Antuono portrayed the K'Nes as looking like panthers and walking on all fours on the ground. This prompted player Ed Stasheff in season 9 to explain away this apparent inconsistency by establishing that K'Nes can inflate and deflate at will, as well as coming up with a semi-plausible explanation of how that was biologically possible.