Serenity Articles : The Society of Natural Philosophers

(Originally published on on August 1st, 2008)

General Description

Gathering the finest minds in the ‘Verse in the areas of botany, zoology, and many other scientific disciplines, the Society is a fraternal organization dedicated to exploring the ‘Verse and its many natural mysteries. They seek to establish the truth of scientific matters by direct observation and experimentation. Members include full-time professional scientists and far more amateur natural philosophers who are prominent in other fields such as politics, the military, or entertainment.


The Society is a ‘learned society’ patterned after the Institut de France and the Royal Society in London. The character of Stephen Maturin from the Aubrey-Maturin series of novels by Patrick O’Brian is a great example character of the Natural Philosopher type.

Common View

“The Society of Natural Philosophers is a bunch of egghead Core folk with too much money and too much time on their hands. Traipsing around the ‘Verse looking at bugs seems like a waste of time. But heck, if they want to hire my ship to take them there, I’ll take their money.” – Captain Donnell, the [i]Glorious Swan[/i], a bar on Boros.

Alliance View

The Society is seen as harmless to those who look for trouble and an honor to those seeking status and rank in society. To be invited to join the society is quite a mark for any scholar be they amateur or professional. The Society Symposium on Londinum each year are a major social event in addition to the revelation of new knowledge as members share papers, findings, and reports of their trips.

Gamemaster View

The Society is a great way to have knowledge-oriented characters connect with each other. Fellow members of the Society usually enjoy sharing a cup or a meal and comparing notes. For enthusiastic members, these meets can last for days or even blossom into plans to travel together.

Adventure Ideas

The Society can influence adventures in many ways. Society members could hire a ship to go to a remote area, bringing the PCs into contact with wildlife or some of the more bizarre fringe settlements. PCs and NPCs can connect as members of the Society, obeying traditions of sharing drink, food, and their latest discoveries and theories. An NPC society member could get himself innocently into trouble with ‘a bad sort of people’ and need the help of our heroes. A PC member enriches their character with an engrossing hobby.

Membership has its Privileges

A member of the Society has the right to visit Society locations in the Core Worlds and utilize their extensive library and collection of natural phenomena. They can contact other Society members to discuss matters of natural philosophy and lean on the general goodwill and aid members provide each other. When visiting a new world or remote area, finding another member probably means a place to stay, good meals, and many hours of discussing the latest discoveries.

More Details

When the worlds of the ‘Verse have been terraformed to Earth-That-Was-like standards, what is there for a natural philosopher to do? Aren’t all the plants and animals already known, tagged and numbered for the journey to these new worlds? Well, yes and no.

Although well-known to the Society, it is not general knowledge that many of the plant seeds and even some of the preserved species from Earth-That-Was were not well catalogued. One ark-ship lost many of its records even though the sophisticated replication equipment still had enough to regenerate species. The original colony worlds of Londinum and Sihnon had existing, human-compatible ecosystems with their own flora and fauna. A few hundred years of cross-breeding and natural hybridization combined with uncontrolled import/export of plants and animals and the migrations of humanity have created a ‘Verse rich with species in many kingdoms unknown to man.

The central location for the Society is the Society College on Londinum. This ornate and extensive campus contains the Society Collection, the Library, several lecture auditoriums, offices, apartments for rent by Society Members, and a well-funded Emeritus Wing for retired and ailing members.

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