Elder Race
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Basic Information

Not to be confused with The Elder Race from the cthulhu mythos - also known as the Elder Things - these creatures are also almost always a distinct species rather than a race (except in a few fringe cases). What they are, however, is a species of precursors (subtype not withstanding) that are still around and involved in current affairs. They probably have some non-intervention clause - whether a Prime Directive, an agreement with another Elder Race, impending transcendence or simple decadence that ensures that they are not actually running things (even if other species still need to pretend that they are), and to prevent them simply handing out their tech like party favours, but they are still very much a thing. Of course, "not running" does not actually mean "not meddling".

The more powerful kind of Elder Race qualify as sufficiently advanced aliens.


  • The Vorlons and the Shadows (not to mention their own precursors or elder peers) from Babylon 5 are the trope namers.
  • The Meliboneians from Eric Moorcock's Elric novels are a rare example of an elder race which is actually a race not a species, but are distinctly bottom tier as such things go.
1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Consider, as per the precursors entry, an elder race which plays the role of the Chinese (or maybe even the Ottoman) Empire in Earth's history - once a hyperpower with the ability to bully almost anyone with whom it made contact, decadence, stagnation and arrogance have caused it to be overtaken by younger powers who are now feeding on its dying body.
  • Consider also an elder race that is not, perhaps, as far fallen as the one above and is still, theoretically, a power to be reckoned with - everyone must bow the knee to it in public, abide by its diktats and seek its arbitration and it is still more than capable of hammering flat anyone who attempts to fight it. However, in reality the hegemony is sclerotic and decaying - not only do its "subjects" continually probe the limits of control - doing as little as possible of what is required of them and as much as possible that they can get away with in their own interest, but the empire's own viceroys are corrupt, incompetent or xenophilic to a degree that further hampers the elder race's power. Even when action is required, unless the provocation is blatant, internal bickering and distraction may ensure that no response ever comes. Meanwhile their supposedly restricted super-tech leaks constantly into the hands of younger species…
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