For a while now it's bugged me that the Tau, at a glance, appear to be the 'good guys' of the 40K setting. That's clearly not the case, but I wanted to go a step further to formalise their own particular brand of evil.
So here's something I cooked up recently for inclusion in my planned DH campaign to make the Tau a little more sinister. Despite the name, this idea had its genesis not in Mass Effect, but in Paranoia by West End Games (now under license by Mongoose Publishing), together with Dawkins' notion of Memes. There's some deliberately simplified concaternation of Utilitarianism with Communism here, which aren't the same thing, but for the sake of adding flavour to the Tau race I think it serves its purpose well enough. The actual mechanics are still rather rough and ready, and advice from more seasoned GMs on refining them would be appreciated.
"The Greater Good"
"You can kill a man but you can't kill an idea."
"An open mind is like a fortress with its gates unbarred and unguarded."
To the unwary, the Greater Good is a seemingly benign promise of hope, happiness, and purpose in an otherwise bleak reality; particularly for the faceless and unappreciated masses of the Imperium's fringe worlds. To those who know better, it is one of the most insidious forms of heresy yet encountered. For this is an enemy without form or boundary, as mutable as Tzeentch's twisted schemes, as infectious as any plague of Nurgle, as seductive and devious as Slaanesh's interlopers; and can see its converts commit slaughter and self-sacrifice on a scale to rival the crusades of Khorne. The Greater Good is not simply an idea. It is a living, virulent entity, that, once taken root in the minds of its converts, can demand a response normally reserved solely for Tyranid infestation.
The meme of the Greater Good spreads through extended contact with the indoctrinated (i.e. those in possession of the trait: Tau Indoctrination). For every day spent socialising in the company of those already propagandised one must test WP, with a cumulative -10 penalty for each day after the first. In addition, Tau Ethereals can actively instill indoctrination via an opposed WP test once a day. This is a psychic ability that demands an opposed WP test, and functions rather like the Navigator ability 'The Lidless Stare' (p180 Rogue Trader core book). The rules for avoiding the Gaze are the same. Would-be victims who possess any of Common Knowledge (Imperium, Imperial Creed, Adeptus Mechanicus, Ecclesiarchy) have +10 to resist for each rank of the skill possessed. Only the highest ranking skill can be used to resist; separate skills cannot be added together for a higher bonus.
Successful resistance means the player is immune from further indoctrination tests for the rest of the day. Failure however, grants the victim the trait: Tau Indoctrination.
Trait: Tau Indoctrination
Whilst this trait is in effect you are at a permanent -10 to WP tests to resist orders and requests from Tau officiates. Orders which demand self sacrifice, or betrayal of close friends and colleagues are made at base WP.
You have a -20 WP test to resist direct commands from Ethereals, with -10 WP for orders demanding self-sacrifice or betrayal. Resistance grants immunity from further commands for the duration of the scene, but also results in such feelings of self conflict that all further actions are conducted at +10 difficulty.
Fear tests are made at +10 bonus against anything directly threatening the Tau race.When in the company of outsiders (i.e. those without the trait: Tau Indoctrination) a WP test must be passed in order to avoid actively espousing the wonders of Tau society and the benefits of the Greater Good. Such overt acts of heresy carry a heavy penalty in the wrong company!
These rules have been written from an Imperial perspective. Other major races will likely be far more resistant, or even outright immune in the case of Orks and Chaos heretics, for example.
The rules can be used in Rogue Trader too. I'd also like to hash out some sort of mechanic for dealing with the spread of Tau Indoctrination to a ship's crew. Something like a daily test against morale, with failure resulting in a steady decline to the point of mutiny unless the necessary steps (likely purgation) are taken.
Regarding potential Kroot characters, it could be assumed that they necessarily are not indoctrinated and so do not have the trait. Alternatively, devious GMs might want to insist their Kroot players have this trait, with all the potential headaches that can arise from it!