The following builds were envisioned around a roleplaying theme rather than statistical superiority. Thus, they seek to portray that theme accurately, even if the selections are not optimal.
Species Traits: Communal (+5% Happiness), Charismatic (+5% Other Species Happiness)
Ethos: Egalitarian (+15% Faction Influence Gain, -10% Consumer Goods Cost), Materialist (-10% Robot Maintenance Cost, +5% Research Speed), Xenophile (+25% Trust Growth, -25% Diplomatic Influence Cost)
Government: Democratic, Beacon of Liberty (+15% Monthly Unity), Free Haven (+50% Migration Attraction)
Explanation: The role of the government, so your species believes, should be to get the hell out of the way. Your society has developed to be happy, cordial, and free from almost all regulation, leading to significant advances in science. Other democratically-inclined species tend to see you as a model of unobtrusive governance, and aliens flock to your borders to enjoy its benefits. How long that lasts before every colony starts throwing a fit about something or other… is anyone’s guess.
Variants: If you don’t care about rights for aliens, you could drop Xenophile (which stops you from conducting unrestricted research on primitive races anyway – big government go home!) to bump up to Fanatic Egalitarian (+30% Faction Influence Gain, -20% Consumer Goods Cost), though this restricts you from being able to give your citizens Poor living conditions, which is technically the most small government option available. This also invalidates Free Haven, so you’ll have to grab Idealistic Foundation (+5% Citizen Pop Happiness) instead.
If you don’t care about rights for Synthetics, you can get rid of Materialist to upgrade to Fanatic Egalitarian or Fanatic Xenophile (+50% Trust Growth, -50% Diplomatic Influence Cost) to show you’re really serious about inclusiveness.
The Imperium of Man
Species Traits: Conformists (+25% Governing Ethics Attraction), Resilient (+100% Garrison Health, +50% Planetary Fortification Defensive Bonus), Repugnant (-5% Other Species Happiness)
Ethos: Authoritarian (-25% Resettlement Cost, -10% Slave Unrest), Xenophobe (+15% Rivalry Influence Gain, +15% Border Range), Spiritualist (-10 Unrest, +15% Governing Ethics Attraction)
Government: Imperial, Imperial Cult (-33% Edict Cost), Philosopher King (+2 Ruler Skill Levels)
Explanation: We’ve all been discussing this almost since Stellaris was announced. So this is our version. An interstellar dominion worthy of the 41st Millennium, led by a God-Emperor who suffers not the alien, the mutant, nor the heretic to live. The population is kept in line ideologically by ruthless inquisitors, and the Imperial Guard holds tenaciously to any world the xenos may strike in their folly. Those who stay true to the Emperor will thrive. Those who do not will be purged.
Variants: A more lore-accurate depiction of the Imperium would drop Authoritarian in favor of Militarist (+10% Army Damage, +10% Fire Rate), but unfortunately you need Spiritualist and Authoritarian to take the Imperial Cult civic. And what were we supposed to do, get rid of Xenophobe? If you don’t care about having that, specific civic (you can still call your leader God-Emperor or whatever), you can grab Militarist and take Warrior Culture (+20% Army Damage, -20% Army Upkeep), Distinguished Admiralty (+8% Fire Rate), or Nationalistic Zeal (+10% Border Range, +1 Maximum Rivalries) instead.
Species Traits: Venerable (+120 Years Leader Lifespan), Talented (+1 Leader Skill Levels), Solitary (-5% Happiness), Slow Breeders (+10% Growth Time), Sedentary (-50% Migration Speed, +25% Resettlement Cost)
Ethos: Pacifist (+20% Monthly Unity, +2 Core Sector Systems), Xenophobe (+15% Rivalry Influence Gain, +15% Border Range), Authoritarian (-25% Resettlement Cost, -10% Slave Unrest)
Government: Imperial, Inwards Perfection (+30% Monthly Unity, +5% Citizen Pop Happiness), Philosopher King (+2 Ruler Skill Levels)
Explanation: For thousands of years, the long-lived elves have been ruled by a benevolent High King or Queen. They developed FTL travel relatively late for a sapient species due to their inherent conservatism. They dislike conflict, but also find it hard to relate to other races—and even each other. Due to their extended lifespans, they have evolved a relatively low birthrate to prevent overpopulation, and can remain productive and vital well into their later years.
Variants: The above assumes aristocratic, aloof High Elves. For wild Wood Elves, change out Authoritarian for Spiritualist (-10 Unrest, +15% Governing Ethics Attraction), and swap Philosopher King for Agrarian Idyll (Farms Produce 1 Unity) or Environmentalist (-20% Consumer Goods Cost).
For Dark Elves, change Pacifist to Militarist (+10% Army Damage, +10% Fire Rate) and exchange Inward Perfection for Cutthroat Politics (+1 Monthly Influence) or Warrior Culture (+20% Army Damage, -20% Army Upkeep).
Most of the negative Species Traits could fit a specific idea of elves, if you don’t like the ones we picked. Decadent (-10% Happiness without Slaves) could model high elves who feel themselves above common tasks necessary to the state, and would rather subject a lesser race to do it for them. Non-Adaptive (-10% Habitability) would suggest reclusive wood elves accustomed to their ancient homeworld – which gives the Wood Elves an extra trait point to get rid of Solitary or possibly add Quick Learners (+25% Leader Experience Gain).
You could also swap Talented for Charismatic (+5% Other Species Happiness), if you want to focus on their sexiness and imply that their excellence comes from centuries of experience, rather than natural aptitude. Elves are a complex folk.
Species Traits: Enduring (+30 Years Leader Lifespan), Industrious (+15% Minerals), Sedentary (-50% Migration Speed, +25% Resettlement Cost)
Ethos: Fanatic Materialist (-20% Robot Maintenance Cost, +10% Research Speed), Militarist (+10% Army Damage, +10% Fire Rate)
Government: Imperial, Mining Guilds (+10% Empire Mineral Production), Functional Architecture (-15% Building Cost)
Explanation: There are few things dwarves value higher than industry, trade, profit, and honorable warfare. The deep mines of their homeworld teem with mineral wealth, and the dwarves know exactly how best to exploit it. While they are highly reluctant to leave their underground cities, their cleverness with invention gives them distinct advantages on the galactic stage.
Variants: The above models a dwarven civilization ruled by a traditional High King. If you want a less hierarchical society where the guilds have more power, Oligarchy works just as well.
If you want to emphasize the dwarves’ skill as warriors over their industrial prowess, you could easily swap Functional Architecture for Warrior Culture (+20% Army Damage, -20% Army Upkeep).
Species Traits: Strong (+20% Army Damage, +5% Minerals), Conformists (+25% Governing Ethics Attraction), Rapid Breeders (-10% Growth Time), Slow Learners (-25% Leader Experience Gain), Repugnant (-5% Other Species Happiness)
Ethos: Fanatic Militarist (+20% Army damage, +20% Fire Rate), Xenophobe (+15% Rivalry Influence Gain, +15% Border Range)
Government: Dictatorial, Warrior Culture (+20% Army Damage, -20% Army Upkeep), Nationalistic Zeal (+10% Border Range, +1 Maximum Rivalries)
Explanation: The orcs care for little but war, marauding across the galaxy and picking fights with anyone who stumbles into their path. Aliens are little to them aside from a chance to prove themselves in battle. Generally, the strongest among them rises to power by killing or cowing all rivals, and remains in power until his death (often in a coup lead by a younger, more savage orc).
Variants: If you switch the importance of your ethics around to Fanatic Xenophobe (+30% Rivalry Influence Gain, +30% Border Range), Militarist (+10% Army Damage, +10% Fire Rate), you can drop Nationalistic Zeal in favor of Fanatic Purifiers (+33% Army Damage, +33% Fire Rate, Disables Diplomacy, Unlocks Armageddon Bombardment, Xeno Pops Automatically Purged) to represent a relentless horde with no goals other than destruction.
Replacing Xenophobe with Authoritarian (-25% Resettlement Cost, -10% Slave Unrest) will give you orcs with more of a sense that each, individual warrior is unimportant in comparison to the success and glory of the horde. These orcs will wantonly fling as much cannon fodder at the enemy as is needed to achieve victory, and not a slavering one of those on the front lines will complain about it. The increased slavery tolerance will also allow you to enslave the stunted goblinoids among your people for a boost early on – or even get rid of Nationalistic Zeal in favor of Syncretic Evolution (Start the game with 4 Pops being of another, subservient species) to provide you with some even bigger, even dumber ogres to exploit for the glory of the warchief.
Species Traits: Hive-Minded, Strong (+20% Army Damage, +5% Minerals), Rapid Breeders (-10% Growth Time), Adaptive (+10% Habitability), Repugnant (-5% Other Species Happiness), Solitary (-5% Happiness) – This is kind of cheating since hive minds aren’t affected by happiness and never live with other species except under very specific circumstances, so I expect the ability to give them those negative traits will be patched out in the future. For now, they’re basically free trait points. But feel free to take something like Fleeting (-10% Leader Lifespan) if you don’t like exploits.
Ethos: Hive-Minded (Rulers are Immortal, Not affected by Happiness, Pops will not join Factions, Pops cannot survive in non-Hive Mind empires, Non-Hive Mind Pops cannot survive in Hive Mind empires)
Government: Hive Mind, Subspace Ephase (+15% Naval Capacity), Strength of Legions (+25% Army Damage).
Explanation: ALL WILL BE CONSUMED. GLORY TO THE SWARM!
This list will continue to be expanded over time.