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The StarCraft storyline is the history of the StarCraft universe.
As with many such games, StarCraft came with a series of pre-set combat missions for gamers to play against the computer. These series typically start with introductory missions and become ever more challenging battles. These campaigns are set in a time and place in a fictional universe, and events in one battle lead to the next in the campaign. Unlike Blizzard Entertainment's first two Warcraft games, StarCraft campaigns aren't alternative histories that vary with which side the player chooses, but are sequential parts of a single larger timeline. Also, the background for StarCraft is far more detailed and complex than many other video games', including the personal stories of tragic and heroic main characters, and was created with the help of professional science fiction authors and artists to give it a full cinematic depth. The campaigns in StarCraft I were called "episodes" and are numbered, similar to the Star Wars movies.
Besides the events in the game missions themselves, video clips and text stories and descriptions supplied with the game flesh out the background of the universe. Blizzard has authorized some independent novels, covering events beyond the StarCraft games.
StarCraft features three races: the renegade human terrans, the noble psionic protoss, and the horrific insectoid zerg. The storyline covers the fortunes of these three races and their leaders, fighting for dominance in a remote region of the galaxy. Typically, the player's race makes gains during an episode, but never completely conquers the other races.
The xel'naga are a seemingly extinct race of extragalactic scientists. They arrived in the Milky Way Galaxy in their worldships, and there they began manipulating various species, intending to create something with purity of form and purity of essence, as a necessary part of their life cycle.
They first modified the protoss, an intelligent psychic species they discovered on the outlying world of Aiur. To their joy, they discovered the protoss had both purity of form and essence. However, the xel'naga pushed their creation too far, causing their psychic link to disappear and their purity of essence to vanish. The protoss fell into madness as the xel'naga abandoned them.
The xel'naga discovered another species, the zerg, on the central world of Zerus. These small insectoids demonstrated purity of essence. The xel'naga created the Overmind, which contained their sentient desires, holding them together with a hivemind. However, the Overmind became aware of the xel'naga's presence and, upon acquiring space flying breeds, ordered its minions to attack the worldships. The greater whole of the xel'naga race was wiped out.
The protoss, bereft of their gods (as they viewed the xel'naga), fell into the Aeon of Strife, a massive generations-long civil war. The mystic Khas, using the power of xel'naga artifacts called khaydarin crystals, reforged the protoss psionic link, which he called the Khala, and helped heal their racial wound. The sanity of the protoss was restored.
The new protoss society divided itself into three castes – the Judicator Caste which consisted of religious leaders, controlled by the Conclave; the Templar Caste, the warriors who protected the people; and the Khalai Caste, which provided laborers and artisans. The protoss used much xel'naga technology.
The protoss expanded their influence over many worlds formerly controlled by the xel'naga, and both protected and manipulated lesser races according to their philosophy of Dae'uhl. When the terrans arrived in the Koprulu Sector, in the shadow of protoss space, the protoss secretly protected them too.
Shortly before the Great War, the protoss became aware of the zerg, another race modified by the xel'naga. The zerg had secretly begun infesting a number of terran worlds. Executor Tassadar of the Templar Caste was ordered to take his fleet and purify the most heavily-infested world, Chau Sara. Tassadar followed his orders – sparking panic in the Terran Confederacy – but when ordered to purify the next world, Mar Sara, he refused, as he believed the terrans there still stood a chance against the zerg.
The Dark Templar
A number of protoss, called the Rogues, refused to submit to the Khala and tried to hide themselves from the Conclave. Eventually the Conclave ordered the leader of the Templar Caste, young Executor Adun, to terminate them. Adun taught them how to hide themselves from the Conclave instead. However, the Rogues were unable to control their powers without the Khala and their presence was revealed when they accidentally created massive psionic storms over Aiur.
Unable to hide their presence any longer, the Conclave ordered them banished from Aiur. Over time, they became known as the Dark Templar for their habit of cutting their psionic appendages to separate themselves from the Khala.
The zerg are a biologically-engineered species and the second (after the protoss) to be engineered by the xel'naga. Possessing a purity of essence, the zerg were originally a race of worm-like parasites which over time could "absorb" the genetics of their victims. They were controlled by the xel'naga-crafted Overmind, which broke contact with the xel'naga and eventually spurred the Zerg Swarm into destroying its masters, stealing their knowledge. The Zerg Swarm formed into a hierarchy, led by the immortal Overmind, the immortal cerebrates underneath it, and the overlords. The modern Zerg Swarm emerged as a collection of breeds, capable of living in harsh conditions – most were adapted for combat.
The Overmind became aware of the protoss and was determined to assimilate them into its own species. Upon discovering the terrans, it intended to assimilate their psionic potential to help it in its conquest of the protoss. When the zerg overwhelmed Chau Sara, the protoss responded by destroying all life on the planet's surface. By then, the zerg had already infested numerous other terran worlds. The zerg prepared to fight a war with the protoss, leaving the terrans trapped between them.
The humans of Earth fell under the control of the United Powers League in 2229. The new government believed in the "divinity of mankind" and worked to eliminate anyone who had undergone genetic engineering or used non-essential cybernetic equipment. Government forces also cracked down on criminals, religious people, political activists and other "dissidents".
About forty years later, scientist Doran Routhe collected thousands of such prisoners onto four supercarriers as part of a colonization project. The prisoners were cryogenically frozen and supplied with materials needed to found colonies, including ATLAS, a revolutionary new AI. However, the ships sped right past their target planet.
During the journey, ATLAS detected a relatively high rate of mutations leading to psionic powers in the prisoners, sending the information back to Routhe.
The lost ships ended up in the Koprulu Sector after three decades of travel, approximately two hundred years ago. The new terran colonists settled the worlds of Tarsonis, Moria and Umoja. The colonists of Tarsonis had access to ATLAS and would form the most powerful of the three civilizations – the Terran Confederacy.
The Confederacy engaged in economic warfare with the military of the Morian colony, the Kel-Morian Combine, continually stealing their mining claims. Ten years before the Great War, this eventually broke out into the Guild Wars in 2485. The two sides fought for almost four years before the Confederacy claimed victory.
The Confederacy mistreated its colonies, and eventually its most prosperous one, Korhal IV, rebelled against it. The Confederacy killed the rebel leader, Angus Mengsk. However, this action was a mistake, since it put his genius son, Arcturus, in charge. The younger Mengsk immediately began a series of bombings and assassinations. When Mengsk was visiting the allied Umojan Protectorate, the Confederacy struck Korhal IV with a massive nuclear blast, destroying all life on its surface. Mengsk, now calling his rebel movement the Sons of Korhal, continued a guerrilla-style struggle with what few forces remained under his command.
Arcturus Mengsk renamed his movement the Sons of Korhal, which engaged in a lengthy guerrilla war with the Confederacy. In his first mission against the Confederacy, he raided a secret installation, rescuing a ghost, Sarah Kerrigan, and becoming aware of secret experiments with newly discovered xenomorphs. 
The Great War
The zerg, then called "xenomorphs" by the terrans, arrived on Chau Sara and began infesting the planet. The Confederacy sent Alpha Squadron troops and the "Cerberus" attack squad to contain and suppress knowledge of the alien invasion. The Confederacy were using zerg for weapons development and wished to keep any knowledge of them secret; they did not yet know the full danger the Swarm posed.
The protoss were not so complacent. The protoss were the scions of the xel'naga, and in the zerg they recognized another offspring of their ancient mentors. The protoss were wary of the zerg's potential and their fears were confirmed when they witnessed the infestation and destruction wrought on Chau Sara. They took decisive action and cleansed the planet of all life. However, it was too late to stop the zerg spreading to other terran worlds.
The Confederacy flew into a state of panic, throwing a fleet in the path of the protoss in an attempt to protect the nearby colony of Mar Sara. The Confederacy fell into a multi-sided war with two alien races.
In a short period of time the terrans had come into contact with two seemingly hostile species. The Great War had started.
- Main article: Battles of Mar Sara
Even as Chau Sara was being put to the protoss torch, the zerg had already arrived on neighboring Mar Sara and begun infesting that planet as well. The Magistrate of Mar Sara was charged with protecting the local colonists, but as on Chau Sara the Confederate military, locally led by Edmund Duke, was more interested in suppressing knowledge of the zerg than helping the colonists secure their homes. The Magistrate and Marshal Jim Raynor were arrested by the Confederacy after taking a proactive stance against the zerg. They were freed by the Sons of Korhal, an anti-Confederate group led by Arcturus Mengsk; the colonials needed little persuading to join the rebels after their treatment by the Confederacy. With Mar Sara falling to the zerg and the Confederacy evacuating, the rebels managed to acquire data showing that the Confederacy was purposely attracting zerg to disloyal colonies with secret devices called psi-emitters.
- Main article: Battles of Antiga Prime
Mar Sara was lost to the zerg and then to the protoss cleansing. The rebels moved on to Antiga Prime where they hoped to foment open rebellion against the Confederacy and gain additional support. Here Sarah Kerrigan, a telepath and former covert agent, became friends with Raynor, and Arcturus Mengsk forcefully persuaded Confederate Alpha Squadron commander Edmund Duke to join his side. The colony was liberated before the arrival of the Confederate counter-attack. The Sons of Korhal used psi-emitters to unleash the zerg on the Confederate blockade and the rebels escaped. The protoss followed on the heels of the zerg and cleansed Antiga Prime as well.
The road to Tarsonis was clear. The Sons of Korhal attacked the capital as the Confederacy scrambled to meet the threat posed by the aliens. Nonetheless Mengsk was not confident he had the strength to fatally cripple the enemy alone. Therefore he again, above the protests of subordinates, ordered the use of psi-emitters. The converging zerg crushed the defenses and began devastating the cities. Mengsk sent Kerrigan to defend the zerg from the pursuing protoss so the zerg could complete their work. Kerrigan held off the protoss but was subsequently overrun by the zerg; despite pleas for evacuation Mengsk abandoned her. This betrayal led Jim Raynor and his troops, Raynor's Rangers, to forsake the Sons of Korhal and form Raynor's Raiders.
With Tarsonis in ruins the power of the Confederacy was broken. The Sons of Korhal transformed into the Terran Dominion, a new hegemony based on Korhal, with Mengsk as its Emperor. Raynor bitterly realized that the ideals he had been fighting for had been betrayed.
The Overmind and the Fall of Aiur
- Main article: Battles of Char and Aiur
The zerg were the second "perfect creation" of the ancient xel'naga, and gifted with the "purity of essence". The zerg continuously assimilated new species into the hive mind. Control and the collective sentience of the Swarm was invested in the Overmind. The zerg trek from their galactic central homeworld to the distant Koprulu Sector was driven by knowledge forcibly assimilated from the xel'naga; the protoss were the xel'naga's first creation and the Overmind wished to assimilate the protoss such that the zerg might become "perfect". Unfortunately the exact location of the protoss homeworld, Aiur, remained unknown; in addition the zerg sought a counter to the protoss' immense psionic powers. A solution for the latter seemed within reach when the Swarm stumbled upon the Koprulu Sector terrans, a species with immense, but as yet untapped, psionic potential.
The zerg captured Sarah Kerrigan on Tarsonis and began transforming her into a zerg/terran hybrid. The Overmind created a new cerebrate, a brood-level control creature, to oversee and safeguard Kerrigan's gestation. The hybrid Kerrigan was instrumental in unlocking the secrets of how to assimilate the protoss. The zerg withdrew from Tarsonis to Char. They fended off attacks from terrans and protoss inadvertently lured by a gestating Kerrigan's psionic calls. Forces led by protoss Executor Tassadar, protoss Dark Templar Prelate Zeratul, and terran Jim Raynor were stranded on Char and formed a three-way alliance to survive. Ironically it was one of the alliance's major victories that revealed the location of Aiur to the Overmind.
Cerebrates were nominally reincarnated by the Overmind upon death. It was thus a shock to the Swarm when Zeratul managed to permanently kill the Cerebrate Zasz; only the Dark Templar wielded the energies needed to perform such a feat. However, when Zeratul killed Zasz the protoss' mind briefly touched that of the Overmind, allowing both to read the other's mind. The Overmind extracted the location of Aiur from Zeratul.
Aiur was invaded in short order and the zerg established themselves on the surface. The Overmind relocated from Char to Aiur.
Tassadar refused the Conclave's summons to return to Aiur after the fall of Tarsonis; he journeyed to Char without the knowledge of his superiors and was stranded there. While there he became allies with the Dark Templar Zeratul and Raynor's Raiders; from Zeratul he learned the ways of the Dark Templar, something forbidden to the Khalai, the protoss of Aiur, by the Conclave. Tassadar was still out of contact when the zerg invaded Aiur and the Conclave opted to promote Artanis to executor in Tassadar's place.
Tassadar finally managed to contact Aiur and explain his recent activities. The former executor's admission of cooperating with the Dark Templar sparked outrage in the conservative Conclave. Ultimately the Conclave ordered Artanis and the Fleet of the Executor to arrest Tassadar at Char. It was a diversion of force the defenders could ill afford; contrary to the Conclave's beliefs, the zerg were winning the war. Tassadar was dismayed that an entire fleet was sent from the beleaguered homeworld just to arrest him because of an ideological issue.
Tassadar was willing to return to Aiur and face judgment but not without first finding the Dark Templar, whom he believed were the only way to defeat the zerg. Artanis was sympathetic. The Fleet of the Executor returned to Aiur with Tassadar and his allies, the recovered Dark Templar and Raynor's Raiders. The war with the zerg was faring quite badly under the Conclave's inept leadership. Tassadar caused a civil war by attempting to remove the Conclave from power; this failed when Tassadar surrendered rather than continue to witness protoss fight protoss. He was saved from execution by the Dark Templar. Once free Tassadar sent his allies to fight the Overmind. The assault broke through the defenses but began faltering after severely damaging the Overmind. To make matters worse the creature began opening a warp portal in a desperate bid to escape. Tassadar brought the battle to a decisive end by channeling the combined energies of the Dark Templar and high templar through his ship, Gantrithor, and rammed the carrier into the target. The Overmind and Tassadar were annihilated.
Following the protoss and zerg attacks on the Terran Confederacy, the government of Earth re-formed, calling itself the United Earth Directorate. The UED planned and launched an invasion of the Koprulu Sector, intending to overthrow the local governments, take control of the zerg and pacify the protoss. The invasion was led by Admiral Gerard DuGalle and Vice Admiral Alexei Stukov.
The Brood War was a massive zerg civil war between forces "loyal" to Daggoth and his second Overmind against those "loyal" to Infested Kerrigan, against a backdrop of the protoss struggling to survive and the UED attacking the Terran Dominion and the zerg.
- Main article: Protoss Survival
Following Tassadar's sacrifice, the zerg on the protoss homeworld were overwhelmingly numerous but in disarray. Protoss refugees retreated to the homeworld of the Dark Templar, Shakuras, despite protests from Aldaris. The zerg followed them to Shakuras. The protoss and Dark Templar reluctantly joined forces with Infested Kerrigan's zerg forces, after she explained she was free from the Overmind's control, and she needed help with a new Overmind that was growing on Char. Kerrigan asked for their help to kill it before it reached maturity and took control of Kerrigan's mind again. She promised them a favor in return: two ancient crystals, fused with the powers of the dark and light templar, had to be recovered and put in the xel'naga temple to defeat the zerg on Shakuras, and Kerrigan would assist in this quest. Aldaris strongly opposed this alliance, but was overruled by the Dark Templar Matriarch, Raszagal.
During the quest, a massive terran fleet from the distant United Earth Directorate intervened. However, the protoss recovered both crystals.
Aldaris, troubled by their relations with the "traitorous" Dark Templar, split off and declared war on the Dark Templar and their ally Artanis. This was because Aldaris had become aware of Kerrigan's manipulations of Raszagal's mind. After Aldaris had been defeated, Zeratul and Artanis activated the xel'naga temple by placing two crystals inside. These energies spread across the planet, wiping the zerg from the face of Shakuras.
The UED Invasion
- Main article: UED Invasion
A captain joined the United Earth Directorate Expeditionary Fleet, assigned to subdue the Terran Dominion worlds in this sector. The UED made some initial successes, teaming up with the Confederate Resistance Forces and capturing a powerful anti-zerg weapon, but their high-handed tactics quickly made enemies of all the various zerg and protoss factions as well. Mengsk's Dominion was the first to fall. Infested Kerrigan convinced Jim Raynor to rescue Mengsk. Though crippled by the treachery of a zerg-infested terran-seeming spy, the UED succeeded in capturing and enslaving the new Overmind and taking control of zerg swarms.
Rebirth of the Swarm
- Main article: Rebirth of the Swarm
Infested Kerrigan was severely threatened by the growing control the massive UED fleet had over the zerg swarms. By painting herself as a victim and arguing that the combined UED and zerg forces were the greater enemy, Kerrigan gained the reluctant assistance of the scattered terran, protoss and Dark Templar forces. As the UED was beaten back, however, she turned on each of her "allies" with the assistance of an enigmatic minion. The new Overmind was killed, Kerrigan gained control of all the zerg... and her minion disappeared.
Zeratul discovered revealed a hidden plot behind the scenes of the story, a secret project of combining zerg and protoss genes. When Zeratul approached the last stasis cell containing the zerg/protoss hybrid creature, the voice of Kerrigan's enigmatic "minion" was heard.
He explained he was not really Kerrigan's servant, and had served a far greater power for millennia. He told Zeratul that destroying the cell would not hinder the project, as there were other cells in locations across the universe and Zeratul would not be able to find them all in time to stop the evil plan.
Enslavers: Dark Vengeance
Five missions follow the protoss storyline in Brood War, dealing with a new threat involving enslaved zerg and the Dark Templar renegade, Ulrezaj.
Three bonus missions follow, which dealt with the saga of Alexei Stukov, who had been mysteriously brought back from the dead. Two of the missions (Deception and Mercenaries II) are available for download as Blizzard Maps of the Month, while Resurrection IV was originally just available as a StarCraft 64 map. However, there are unofficial ports of this map to the personal computer allowing the greater StarCraft community to experience it.
Tamsen Cauley's Agenda
- Main article: StarCraft comic
Terran Dominion official Tamsen Cauley used to be a Confederate bureaucrat with resources including the team of outlaws, the War Pigs. Fearing Arcturus Mengsk would defeat the Confederacy, he ordered them to kill him, but they failed. He moved on to a new set of warriors, the Cerberus Program, and joined Mengsk's side. However, the War Pigs escaped Cerberus, and bore knowledge of how Cauley had previously tried to have Mengsk killed.
In 2502 Cauley again tried to have them killed. He first recruited them for a task – the assassination of Jim Raynor, which he believed would increase his power. Then his Cerberus Program force would terminate the War Pigs.
The War Pigs eventually discovered Cauley's treachery and escaped from the Cerberus Program. They vowed revenge upon Cauley.
- Main article: StarCraft: Ghost
Mengsk began a secret project codenamed Shadow Blade. The program used terrazine gas to alter the genetic makeup of ghosts. These ghosts were transformed into spectres - shadowy superhuman beings bent on executing the will of their true master.
The Dark Templar Saga
As the next war approached, more xel'naga artifacts appeared throughout the Koprulu Sector. This drew the interest of Valerian Mengsk, an archaeologist. He hired another archaeologist, Jake Ramsey, to investigate a temple found on the dead world of Nemaka, along with a "protector", R. M. Dahl. Within the Temple, Ramsey made shocking contact with the protoss; a dying preserver named Zamara implanted her mind within his. She told him she had a dread secret that she had to bring back to her people, and even the death of her body would not stop her from carrying out her mission.
Ramsey and Dahl were both imprisoned by Dominion forces, and it was only through strange circumstances that they were freed. Mistrusting Valerian Mengsk, the two fled to the only man Dahl trusted, crime lord and ex-mercenary Ethan Stewart. Unfortunately, Stewart also betrayed them, resulting in Dahl shooting him and the fugitive duo fleeing again. Ramsey, drawing upon his new knowledge of protoss psionics, distracted his opponents with a psychic connection.
However, this "attack" drew the attention of both Infested Kerrigan, and the dark archon Ulrezaj. The former sent minions to Stewart's former base of operations, and found him undergoing surgery. He was abducted and converted to Kerrigan's cause. In addition to serving her as a warrior and consort, he could also tell her about the preserver in Ramsey's mind.
The fugitives fled to Aiur, looking for mysterious technology under Zamara's guidance. They were all surprised at what they found there; a world flooded with zerg, and protoss survivors, calling themselves the Shel'na Kryhas and the Tal'darim. The fugitives took shelter with the Shel'na Kryhas, but the Tal'darim, unknowing servitors of Ulrezaj, opposed them.
Discovering several dark secrets in the Tal'darim's lair, such as mysterious psionic creatures in vats, the Shel'na Kryhas and fugitives found themselves in a midst of battle between Ethan Stewart, Valerian Mengsk and Ulrezaj himself, all interested in the preserver in Ramsey's head. The fugitives managed to escape from Aiur to Shakuras, using a warp gate, and leaving behind dead friends and angry enemies.
The gate guards at Shakuras were surprised and disturbed by the opening of the gate and redirected it. While several Tal'darim and Rosemary Dahl emerged at Shakuras, Jake Ramsey and Zamara ended up on an unidentified world. They located Zeratul, intending to ask him for help, only to find him soul-sick. Ramsey and Zamara convinced him to throw off his lethargy, after which they traded information. Zamara revealed the life cycle of the xel'naga, while Zeratul told what he knew of Samir Duran and the hybrids. Zamara said that Duran's experiments were a "perversion" of the xel'naga's natural cycle, and the resulting hybrids would not be xel'naga.
Zeratul brought them to Ehlna, a Nerazim sanctuary moon, which held a shrine where Zamara could be separated from Ramsey. While there, they encountered a Dahl and a small force led by Executor Selendis, who had come there looking for them. Zeratul did not remain, instead seeking out a fresh xel'naga temple at Pegasus and following the emerging energy creature, which converged with numerous others and created a wormhole with a mysterious planet at the other end. Zeratul traveled there.
The forces seeking Ramsey – Ethan Stewart's zerg, Ulrezaj and Valerian Mengsk's Terran Dominion forces, also arrived. A massive battle erupted, with Ulrezaj on the winning side, until Zamara, now in a khaydarin crystal, used the moon's unique energies to seal Ulrezaj in the crystal with her. The Dominion won the battle, and Stewart was killed. The Dominion took control of the site, taking Ramsey and Dahl captive, along with some of the treasures. However, Emperor Arcturus Mengsk had donated the force to Valerian and, cheated of the preserver, insisted on using his minions to drain Ramsey's brain of information, which would cripple him. Valerian and his ghost servant, Devon Starke, came up with a plan to keep Ramsey safe, but it involved sacrificing Starke to the emperor.
StarCraft II takes place four years after StarCraft: Brood War.
Wings of Liberty
- Main article: Wings of Liberty
Raynor's Raiders are poor and demoralized. They strike at the Dominion while collecting strange artifacts for the Moebius Foundation in hopes of some quick cash. Zeratul appears before Jim Raynor, saying "I bring tidings of doom. The xel'naga return, the cycle nears its end, the artifacts are the key... to the end of all things."
Heart of the Swarm
- Main article: Heart of the Swarm
Legacy of the Void
- Main article: Legacy of the Void
The initial storyline of StarCraft was in a sense, a science fiction spin-off of its counterpart franchise, Warcraft. More of an action shooter, it featured clans of 'space vampires' in a sci-fi setting. As design on StarCraft shifted towards an RTS game, it was decided to simplify things into recognizable traits; spidery aliens and psychic brain aliens would be easily recognizable to an audience.
Initial StarCraft lore was much different than what the universe originally became. The game was originally set in the 28th century, and in this version, the terrans had controlled the stars for over six centuries, though were now living in a shadow of their former glory, scattered over more than a dozen worlds on the fringes of their once great civilization. The protoss ignored the terrans, considering them to be quarrelsome, petty, and short sighted, but were thrown into crisis through the emergence of the zerg (which, in this conception, were bio-mechanical creatures).
- Official Blizzard StarCraft site
- Blizzard's StarCraft Compendium
- Official Blizzard StarCraft II site