As I alluded to before, the Chiss' predominate features are the blue skin and red glowy eyes. These intense characteristics are what drew me to the species in the first place. Maybe it's just my affinity for the blue-skinned X-Men, Beast and Nightcrawler, but something about these individuals creates a sense of strength and subtle mystery.
According to the Star Wars Roleplaying Game by Wizards of the Coast, the Chiss may be long-lost descendants of Humans who shipped out to the Unknown Regions, never to return. Although the books don't explain the blue skin, we do know that Chiss are an off-shoot of Humans and share many of humanity's distinctive qualities, like variations in facial features, general proportions, and life-span.
The Chiss differ from Humans when it comes to culture.
The Chiss live in a quadrant of space known as the Unknown Regions, so named because the majority of navigational charts do not contain any information about the area. I believe the Chiss want to keep it that way; they tend to be independent isolationists. The Chiss Ascendancy, as their government is called, is wary of outsiders and rarely permits its citizens to interact with other cultures. This gives the Chiss people a belief in their superiority over the rest of the galaxy, as if calling their nation an Ascendancy weren't enough.
The ice planet of Csilla sits in the center of the Ascendancy, and it's possibly due to the harsh conditions of this planet that the Chiss developed a very rigid and structured society. The nation is controlled by the current ruling families. During the time of the Star Wars movies, there were four ruling families: Csapla, Inrokini, Sabosen, and Nuruodo. The heads of these families make every decision for the nation, and therefore, family and bloodlines are extremely important to the Chiss as a people. Unfortunately, it's unknown how many or which families rule the Ascendancy at the time of The Old Republic.
Chiss are named by an odd yet simple convention. To illustrate, I will use the name of one of the most famous Chiss in the Star Wars Universe: Grand Admiral Thrawn. Family names surround the given name of any Chiss. Thrawn's full name is Mitth'raw'nuruodo. Mitth and Nuruodo are family names. Raw is his given name. However, because of the emphasis placed on family, the majority of Chiss will accentuate family names by adding pieces of them to their "core name." In the case of Thrawn, he took the "th" from Mitth and the "n" from Nuruado. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Sev'rance Tann appears to abandon her family name, and Hess'irolia'nuruodo uses the core name of Irolia.
Very few Chiss ever study to be Force users. Sev'rance Tann and Nuru Kungurama (Kung'urama'nuruodo) are the only recorded Force-sensitive Chiss in all of the Expanded Universe. I don't believe that it's exceedingly rare for Chiss to be Force-sensitive (like say, Wookiees); I believe that the Ascendancy discourages that type of persuit.
Clearly, Sev'rance and Nuru's circumstances were different. We know that Nuru was found in an abandoned escape pod before being turned over to the Jedi Academy, and Sev'rance was most likely introduced to Count Dooku via Thrawn. It should also be noted that both of these examples took place in the Clone Wars time. I don't mean to say things like this didn't happen before, but during the Clone Wars, the Ascendancy was more open to outside influence.
We don't know whether The Old Republic's Empire was the first to make contact with the Chiss. However, it's been confirmed that the Chiss Ascendancy was the first true ally of the Sith Empire. According to the official website, the Chiss Ascendancy "maintains its own forces, separate from the Imperial military, and most members of the species still retain their characteristic private ways, even when working closely with their heavy-handed Imperial allies." Unlike most planets under the Empire's foot, the worlds of the Ascendancy are untouchable by the Imperial military, and not a single Sith has ever stepped foot on the Csilla, nor will one, according to the treaty.
The Chiss have integrated with Imperial culture since their government signed the treaty. They even take part in the Imperial military, but they still retain a bit of isolationism. Only a very few find a home outside the Ascendancy, which is why the vast majority of the Republic doesn't even know they exist.
When you play an Agent, pay attention to the subtle (and not-so-subtle) references to your being Chiss. Although it doesn't at all change the story, there is a hint and a flavor that certain people don't like you or in some ways fear you just because of your blue skin and red eyes. Let me know if you notice any of that, and likewise let me know if you plan on making a Chiss of a different profession other than Agent or Bounty Hunter when 1.2 comes out. I thought about making a Sith Inquisitor myself, but I'd like to hear your reasons why another class would work for your Chiss.
The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!