Shadows of the Apt is a book series by Adrian Tchaikovsky that features a civilisation of human like beings who express aspects of insectoid life in their physiology. Before I go any further I heartily recommend you pick up ‘Shadows of the Apt’ Book 1: “An Empire in Black and Gold.” This post will contain mild spoilers for the first two books.

The Kinden, as these beings are called, all have a connection to an Ancestor Spirit which grants them an Ancestor Art specific to their breed. Certain races are also Apt, incapable of harnessing the magical arts but able to grasp technological concepts such as clockwork and engineering. Conversely the Inapt have access to magic and mysticism but cannot understand how simple devices like locks function. They understand that a locked door cannot open, but they cannot envisage how such a device works, even if someone explained it to them.

I thought this would be interesting to try and convert into Cypher System Descriptors. To begin with, I’ll be taking a look at the Beetle, Mantis and Wasp Kinden.

Apt races cannot take any character option related to magic. Inapt races cannot take any character options relating to technology. Shadows of the Apt is largely fantasy based, with aspects of Steampunk.


Beetle Kinden
Beetle Kinden are usually a short, stocky, hardy folk, given to great industry and artifice.

Beetle Kinden are an Apt race.
Choose One Skill: Chemistry, Lockpicking, Machinery, Metalworking, Physics, Piloting, Repairing, History. You are Trained in this skill.

Beetle Kinden have a +2 bonus to their Might Pool.

Ancestor Art:
Most Beetle Kinden are able to anchor themselves firmly through their hands and feet. They are trained in Climbing.

Beetle Kinden are also very resilient to poison. They are considered Trained in Might Defense.

In extremely rare cases, some Beetle Kinden have been blessed with Flight*. Even rarer than this is the ability to see in the dark.

Link to Starting Adventure
 Your latest attempt at a flying machine crashed spectacularly nearby and you asked the party for help.
2) You freed an Inapt party member from unjust imprisonment by melting their shackles with a chemical compound or by picking the locks.
3)  You owe a fellow party member a debt as one of your inventions destroyed one of their prize possessions.
4) You’ve been hired by a party member to complete some sort of great work of artifice.


Mantis Kinden
Mantis Kinden are aloof, deadly warriors who hold honour above all else.

Mantis Kinden are an Inapt race.
Choose One Skill: Philosophy, History, Riding, Perception, Balancing, Climbing, Survival. You are Trained in this Skill.

Mantis Kinden have a +2 Bonus to their Speed Pool.

Ancestor Art:
A Mantis is never unarmed. They have a retractable set of spines in their forearms, which counts as a melee Light Weapon they are proficient in.

Mantis Kinden are superhumanly fast.
Choose One: Trained in Initiative or Trained in Speed Defence.

Mantis Kinden either fly, or can leap great distances.
Choose One: Flight* or Specialised in Jumping.

Fearsome Warriors:
Mantis Kinden martial prowess is feared throughout the Lowlands and their ways seem alien to most. They suffer an Inability on all Pleasant Social Interactions.

Additional Equipment:
Mantis Kinden start with a unique Medium or Heavy melee weapon of choice, often a custom made Mantis Claw, which they are considered Trained in. This benefit specifically applies to the weapon in question, if it is lost, this bonus cannot be regained.

Link to Starting Adventure
 A party member saved your life a while back and honour demands you repay them in kind.
2) You are pursuing a vendetta against someone who gravely wronged you in the past. A member of the party holds information about this individual.
3)  You are a mercenary for hire, a practice frowned upon by most “true” Mantids.
4)  You are travelling home to Felyal to earn your place as a Mantis Weaponmaster.


Wasp Kinden
Wasp Kinden are relatively new to the ways of civilisation having only recently dragged themselves up from tribal society. However, they have a thirst for conquest unseen in other Kinden.

Wasp Kinden are an Apt race, however their inventions lack the elegance and grace of other Apt races. They often press other kinden into servitude to make more refined devices for them.
Choose One Skill: Piloting, Riding, Intimidation, Persuasion, Deceiving, Stealth, Disguise. You are Trained in that Skill.

Wasp Kinden have a +2 Bonus to their Speed Pool.

Ancestor Art:
Distantly similar to the Mantis, the wasp can extrude a pair of curved bone spurs from the back of their hands. This counts as a melee Light Weapon they are proficient in.

A Wasp Kinden is capable of generating a sting (in reality a blast of energy) from an open palm. The Sting is an ability that costs 1 Might Point per use and counts as a Short ranged Light Weapon which they are proficient in. The sting also ignores 1 point of armour.

Wasp Kinden are capable of Flight*.

All Wasp kinden are soldiers, with slaves doing the menial day to day work. All Wasp Kinden possess a rank within the army. In most cases this will be Private.

The Wasp Kinden Empire aim to subjugate the Lowlands and unite it under their banner of Black and Gold. Any social interaction with any non wasp is considered two steps to the characters detriment.

Additional Equipment:
All wasps start with a suit of Light Armour and a Shortsword (Melee Medium Weapon).

Link to Starting Adventure
 You are holding one of the party prisoner.
2) You are fleeing the Wasp Empire as a renegade.
3)  You are masquerading as a renegade and plan to turn the party in.
4)  You are a prisoner of the party.

Note: The Wasps relationship with a “normal” adventuring party will be adversarial at best and the adventure links reflect this.



Beetle Kinden are considered Clumsy in the air. All tasks are considered two steps to the characters detriment while flying.

Mantis Kinden are considered Graceful in the air. They suffer no penalty while flying.

Wasp Kinden are considered Ungainly in the air. All tasks are considered one step to the characters detriment while flying.

The Cypher System is an RPG by Monte Cook Games
Shadows of the Apt is a book series by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Get Book One Empire In Black and Gold now!


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