The World. One hundred years ago it could be called The World. Everyone still refers to it as such, though they know now that others worlds must exist. For, where else could the star dragons have come from, if not from worlds far away in the dark starry sky.
One hundred years ago, those same star dragons descended from the night skies and spewed forth metal warriors carrying weapons of flame and light. War dragged on for years, The World was plunged into chaos, and it was only through luck and courage that the invaders were subdued.
Now iron swords and arcane sorceries mix with the strange, barely understood technologies left behind by the invaders.
Human men are but one race upon the face of The World. They have spread far and wide, settling and usurping many lands. They war with others and with each other. Most live in a generally feudal society, with fiefdoms carved up between lords who owe fealty to those above and demand obedience from the serfs below. A few live nomadic, tribal lives in various untamed wildernesses.
There are lizard folk, obnoxious and territorial brutes who seek to subjugate all and sundry. Luckily for the other races, the lizard folk are too fractious to band together. They live in the swamps and deserts of the world, tribes of fast-spawning warriors who battle constantly for supremacy and deal heavily in the slave trade.
The most civilized and best educated of all the races are the Cyclops. On average they are a head taller than men, strong, and full of vitality. But for the single, centrally placed eye of each individual Cyclops, they could be mistaken for large humans. The land of the Cyclops is well guarded by soldiers, mercenaries, and fell sorceries. Education is available to the rich and many of the middle class, though it is hard to come by for the poorer souls. The arts are highly developed; many sculptors, painters, playwrights, singers, and songwriters are well-provided for and are considered highly regarded members of society. A typical Cyclops can live into the early years of his second century.
To the far south is the land of the snakemen. They are highly insular and will allow none else to enter their lands alive. Those seen outside their home are always secretive and will refuse to divulge anything of their culture. They are known to be among the most powerful of sorcerers. Their magics are unrivaled by any and it was their little-understood involvement in the war against the metal men which helped turn the tide.
Magic is a powerful force in The World. However, it requires many years of study and can only be practiced by those who forswear all other paths. This is purely a product of the time and effort required to gain skill in this art. Advancement likewise will take a great deal of time. Few men are able to fully master the most powerful of spells before entering their dotage. It is speculated that the snakemen live many hundreds of years and that this is how they are able to become so proficient in the use of sorcery.
Enchanted items are quite rare and many of them require sorcerous skill in order to operate. Not just any man can let loose the bolts of lightning from the wand of an eldritch sorcerer. There are neither swords nor armor of magically enhanced metals.
No divine magic exists.
With the arrival of the alien invaders came artifacts of advanced technology. Starships, named Star Dragons by the locals, descended from the heavens and spewed forth beams of concentrated fire. From their bellies trod waves of robots, dubbed steel men, to deal death upon the inhabitants of The World.
Through much loss of life, exceptional bravery, sorcery, and betrayal betwixt the invaders, the attack was eventually repelled. The alien commanders within the star dragons either fled the world or died screaming. The amazing technology which they brought to subjugate the world found its way into The World. None truly understand how these devices work, yet many are able to make them work (after a fashion.)
While there has been no sign of the invaders returning, none know what brought them in the first place. It is truly possible that another wave will arrive. Will The World be ready for such a thing?
For many decades the world has been in the Age of Steam. Great stores of coal are unearthed to power engines of heat and water. Fuel is burned, water boils, and the resulting steam drives machines of all sorts. Turbines whirl and pistons pump. Locomotives chug across the land. Factories produce goods. Horseless carriages begin to travel the city streets.
However, in the past few years a new technology has appeared which looks to change the face of the world in drastic ways. This is the thrilling discovery of what scientists refer to as "Aetherics." By a complex combination of wires, switches, crystals, and other more obscure elements, it is possible to generate a sort of electric power wrapped up in an Aetheric field. Science has only just begun to unravel the mystery of Aetherics and what they are capable of. Some envision a future free of the dark polluting coal, which stains buildings black and makes miners die of an incurable cough. They think fondly of a future run by the amazing power of Aetherics.
Many strange inventions have already been accomplished through this new discovery. Cleaner generation of steam; glowing globes which shed dim yellow light, even at night; the production of new alloys; large weapons capable of launching cannon balls with much greater force and smaller weapons that discharge a sort of electric shock; and, when applied to the living — drastic, but not as yet understood, changes to the mind. Science has only just begun to understand how to make use of Aetherics and is nowhere near an understanding of its true nature.
There is another force in this world — and it is one humanity is not prepared to face. Unknown to most of humanity, the power of Aetherics comes from another dimension: a world of demons and the source of many terrors which stalk the darkest of nights. By making a connection with this other dimension energy is transmitted into the mortal realm, to be harnessed by these new machines.
Aetherics are not a new force in the world; neither are they newly utilized. For creatures of the dark who have long lived in this world rely upon it for their fell abilities, thus keeping their presence a secret whilst allowing them to prey upon mortal souls. Some few of humanity suspect their existence. And even fewer are brave enough to seek out and face such evils. Aetherics give power to the vampires, werewolves, and other nasty creatures of shadow and nightmare.
It is an exciting time to explore the new field of Aetherics. It is also a time when those who know about the darkness are able to put the power of Aetherics to work in combating these evils.
Common character roles include Aetheric scientists, steam techs, soldiers outfitted with the latest in Aetheric-tech, and any other kind of hero in a steampunk world, with a dash of weird science and a splash of Gothic horror. Players may be scientific explorers ready to push the boundaries of knowledge. However, this setting is primarily about combating evil with weird science. There should be supernatural threats which would make short work of a normal, unenhanced human. Armed with the devices powered by Aetherics, however, these same humans have a chance of fighting back and surviving.
It is important to remember that, unbeknownst to the world and minds of humanity, Aetherics are powered by the transfer of energy from a demon dimension into the mortal one. This same power is naturally tapped by the darker races and utilized for superhealing, transformations into terrifying beasts, great feats of strength, mind control, and other amazing feats. The evil which makes these things possible also comes from that demon dimension. Beings who fight for the opportunity to cross worlds and revel in their might over that of human weakness.
Fighting fire with fire, brave warriors face this threat without help from others of their ilk. Perhaps the heroes will discover the reality of this other plane of existence. Perhaps they will finally be able to provide proof of the existence of these creatures. Perhaps they will even find a way to permanently trap the evil in that other dimension. Just as likely, if not more so, these heroes could die horrible deaths without anyone else being any the wiser to the sacrifice...Go to Comment
More than 200 years ago the world ended in fire, smoke, and disease when our world went to war. Now the descendants survivors have crawled from the rubble to take back their future. They know nothing of our ways or technology, though some relics have persisted. As man becomes bolder he begins to do as he has always done: draw lines and seek power. Once again the strong have begun to rule and the weak are left to fend for themselves. Yet even now there may be hope; a new kind of hero has emerged from the wreckage.
The mighty oppress the weak and those who have steal from those who need. The land is divided amongst many petty warlords. The masses huddle together and starve whilst attempting to eke out life from abused soil. In this setting of disparity a new hope has arisen. They call themselves the Knights of the Rubble and it is their sworn duty to bring justice for those who cannot find it alone.
The Knights are secretive to the extreme. None know whence they came nor how they are organized. They appear in places when needed: clearing thieves' warrens, harassing the thugs of whatever dictator has claimed a protected area, providing much needed supplies to the sick and hungry, and any other thing they feel can make a difference in the lives of the oppressed.
Each Knight is a highly skilled warrior, trained in the arts of self defense. They are as deadly with hand and foot as they are with sword or bow. They are also taught stealth, infiltration, the use of poisons, and the art of disguise.
Members of the Knights of the Rubble travel in groups of anywhere from one to a dozen and do their best to blend in with the locals.
The nature of Knights of the Rubble is to play a hero out to protect the average person in a world of barbarism. This is not an easy task. While some few relics still exist from the modern day (there can still be found the occasional weapon or tool) these often find their way into the hands of the petty ruler and so are more of a hindrance to the average hero than a help.
Players take on the role of these Knights in the hope of making a lasting difference in the world of a far distant tomorrow. And while the world at large sees only warriors amongst the Knights, there are also others: support types who scout, investigate old tech for possible use in the war against those in power or to help make the lives of the regular folk more bearable, or help to heal the sick and wounded. Many souls are needed in order to make a change for the better in this dangerous new existence.
The simplest possibility is to place the PCs on a mission to take on the ruler of a petty realm. They may work their way up from minor thorn in the side of the local warlord to becoming a real threat to the power base of the area. Escalating forces would be the hallmark of such a campaign. Complications can include reinforcements, betrayal by friends or allies for profit or to protect a loved one, additional old-world tech becoming available to the warlord, or even illness and a lack of supplies for themselves. The Knights are there to look out for the people but what happens when they must choose between feeding themselves and those around them? Don't be afraid to throw off players' expectations with a well-placed addition of old-world tech.
Knights of the Rubble is a world of darkness, and yet a world filled with the beginning glimmers of hope.Go to Comment
The colony of Free World was established less than 50 years ago. It is a wild world, untamed as yet and populated mostly by free-spirited settlers who are unwilling to give up their new home. The citizens of this brave new planet are a rough lot, the types willing to go to their graves before caving to the whims of outsiders.
Most of the settlements here originally took the form of small enclaves, groups of people who came together for mutual benefit and survival. Some numbered less than a dozen souls while others were comprised of a few hundred. These enclaves were scattered across the planet in a generally haphazard fashion.
The world itself is thickly forested, warm, and humid. There are vast reaches of jungle, with a smattering of oceans, lakes, rivers, and seas. The wildlife is prodigious, diverse, and often dangerous. Wresting a living from such a world takes perseverance and not a little pure grit.
Only a few years ago, Free World was hit by the first wave of a new alien threat. Being at the edge of populated space, Free World was humanity's only warning of what was to come. After an initial assault upon the world, these aliens gave little thought to the widely scattered inhabitants. Instead, they set up a small force and continued on with their invasion of worlds further in toward inhabited space.
Too widely dispersed to be easily wiped out, the citizens of Free World have taken to fighting these invaders using whatever means that they have available.
There are two distinct species of alien: the yellow-skinned, humanoid Klandatha and their insectoid foot soldiers.
The Klandatha are tall, generally thin creatures with large black eyes, leathery skin, and long, delicate fingers. They have highly developed technology based on organics and an understanding of physics far different from our own. Their ships appear as gigantic, shelled creatures propelled by a mysterious, purplish plasma.
The Klandatha's foot soldiers are an insectoid race genetically modified by scientists to be obedient and deadly. Bred from a race just on the verge of sentience, there are many subtypes, each designed to perform a specific task.
The name "Free World" has become a rallying cry for the surviving human inhabitants. At the edge of colonized space, overrun by hostiles, the hardy souls of the world have joined in a loose network of guerrillas. If they can somehow take back the world, they can choke off the invasion point and do much to hamper further intrusions into human space.
Supplies are scarce and the defenders must live by their wits and strength of will. There is a real opportunity to play up the difficulties of survival and success here. No stores exist for purchasing new equipment; PCs can use only what they can make, scrounge from the settlements, or steal from the invading aliens. Their fortunes can (and should) change on a dime. Anything scrounged from the human settlements will be easy enough to use (although it may not be in the best of repair) but the technology used by the aliens will take some getting used to. Any PCs with technical abilities will be at a disadvantage when attempting to figure out or adapt the tools and devices of the Klandatha or their insectoid soldiers. The PCs should always be outnumbered and out-gunned; if they do not out think the invaders, they will die.
As rugged freedom fighters on an invaded world, a Free World campaign is meant to be based on freeing the world and helping to repel the overall invasion. This can range from a few sessions of playing heroes to a long-running campaign that culminates with total success or complete failure. It is even possible to continue a successful game into space in an attempt to effect the total removal of the Klandatha threat.
There are two different worlds: One is the realm of flesh and blood and bone. The other is that of pure spirit. The world of spirit is a strange one, hardly comprehensible to the mortal human mind. It is the land of both the dead and the supernatural and the place where all dreamers go when they sleep. No mortal mind may touch upon it outside of either death or dreams.
The World of Dreams setting is fantasy, yet the only magic is that which can be accessed while in that space outside of our normal reality. The priest must commune through meditative prayer and the wizard must enter the deep trance. Special dream witches ply the darker realms while asleep. Once in the dream world it is possible to rework the mortal one. This is a skill requiring many years of study and countless hours of learning deep concentration. For entering the dream world is one thing; maintaining awareness while there is something else.
Many exist who do not trust the World of Dreams. Some of these act in direct opposition to this power, either because of belief or out of a deep fear of what they do not understand and cannot control. To such it seems that the physical realm should be enough for the needs of mortal men.
More than a few have joined together into what is called the Order of Lightning and Shield. To those who follow this order, the World of Dreams is only meant for the natural dreamer, the dead, and the gods. They strongly believe that living men should never consciously meddle in such a realm.
Membership in this order varies by region and community. Entire nations have turned to this philosophy, though these are few in number. Other groups of the Order are mere rumors in nations which value highly the connection between this world and that of Dreams. In such places the followers of the Order of Lightning and Shield must tread lightly.
Despite the rank and file of the Order coming from those who have never been to the World of Dreams (outside of the normal way), its founder was once an accomplished weaver of dreams. Once night long ago this wizard, the great Tarothian, accidentally entered a place in the World of Dreams which forever altered his outlook upon his life and the lives of others. During this particular foray into the other realms, Tarothian found himself in a place of complete and total darkness. Within this great blackness he began to fear, for he could not find his way out of it. After a great deal of time desperately searching and lost to a blind panic, he heard a loud voice calling out. This voice hold him many things, few of which he has ever been willing to share with others. Mainly, though, his eyes were opened up to the real dangers which lurked within the Dream realms, places which the curious risked disturbing whilst blindly poking around.
Armed with this knowledge, Tarothian began a crusade to warn others about what he had learned. He met with little success and much ridicule for his crazed mutterings about these dark forces. Eventually he found an unexpected ally in those who lived in ignorance of the Dream World. Playing upon their fears, he was able to spread the word about his discovery and obtain the help of many. However, since the founding of the Order, his only success has been in the fracturing of humanity.
All dream magic is based on ritual. There are no quick spells as in most fantasy worlds. There is only the World of Dreams and what may be accomplished within. In order to practice this magic the wielder must enter through some form of sleep, whether that be a deep trance, meditative prayer, or controlled unconsciousness (as in lucid dreaming.) Once within that state it is vitally necessary to maintain focus; without this focus it possible that the dreamer may never wake (although often this simply means that the dreamer wakes either without success or with negative results.) With the correct focus, the dreamer must then go to work creating just the right dream. The spell is accomplished by making a symbolic representation of the change which is desired within the real world. There are many different ways to do this and each dream weaver will use their own symbols. The detail and success of the task is directly related to the dreamer's skill and patience. The effects can vary widely depending on the skill of the weaver. The wounded may be healed, truths may be revealed, enchantments may be cast.
There are three types of entities in the World of Dreams: Dwellers, Demons, and Lords.
Dwellers make up the majority; they tend to be representative of their role or where in the dream world they dwell. Some are elemental in nature while others are tied to the land, a people, or an idea. There is much variety amongst the Dwellers. Whole libraries are dedicated to describing the many types and their abilities and aspects.
Demons are the most like man and also the most interested in their wants and needs. A Demon is always ready to provide information or assistance but this also always comes with a price. The demons know that their skills are highly valued and charge accordingly, though never in real-world goods.
Lords are the true power amongst their realm and demand to be treated with respect by any visitors. They command great forces and should never be underestimated.
Man is not the only being who dreams. There are many beasts of the wilds who are also able to walk the World of Dreams, though their wants and needs are not as that of mortal men. Many are the potential effects of such creatures.Go to Comment
LX-526, dubbed Caldera by the settlers, was never intended to be a thriving colony. Neither was it meant to be abandoned, but when the majority of exploration shifted to more profitable directions, that is precisely what happened. By then, a few generations had been born upon the colony and few were willing to move away.
Twenty years after the last supply ship came and went, Caldera was a hodgepodge of small cities and scattered settlements upon the face of a mostly wild world. Its citizens were hardy, self-sufficient, and well isolated from the rest of civilization.
No one is certain yet of the how or the why. The first sign was when the newly buried began crawling from their graves to wreak havoc upon a nearby settlement, one of the largest. Shortly after, all Hell broke loose. Monsters in the streets, Horrors driving men to madness, death and destruction all over the small world.
Decades passed. What little civilization existed was quickly abandoned for survival. While many learned to fight the demons, both sides suffered heavy losses. Tech broke down and was jury-rigged to work again.
A new generation grew up in the rubble, with the war against the demons the only life they knew.
Caldera is a small, dense world, with a gravity somewhat lighter than Earth, but significantly less land mass. It is very rocky, mountainous, with a fair amount of volcanic activity. The first settlement was created around the mouth of an actual caldera of an ancient volcano that had long gone extinct.
There are many different types of demons, too many to easily classify, but they are a few rough categories:
Openings to the Hell dimension come and go. Often they appear within areas of extremes, such as the heart of a volcano or the frigid ice of the northern waste.
The dimension itself is one of inconceivable suffering. All types of demons dwell here, performing horrid acts on those it can pull through from other dimensions. Many who were lost from Caldera were not killed but brought here. Attempts to rescue people do not often end well, however.
It is a realm without end, a mazework of tunnels and plains of toxic environments full of dangerous demons.
Simply surviving should be the main focus on beginning campaigns, although some may wish to take it further. Is it possible to close the rents in the universe letting in the demonic invaders? Can other systems be contacted for reinforcements, or at least retreat? Can prisoners of the Hell dimensions be retrieved?
The demons can be tweaked in innumerable ways (different strengths and weaknesses, varying tactics, etc) in order to keep players on their toes.Go to Comment
This is simple, straightforward, and elegantly done. It makes me wonder what other sorts of wonders exist in such a world.
If I ever had cause to send the players out on a scavenger hunt, I would include a shard of the sun and/or the moon and then make them work to discover this place. And, perhaps, by having them go to both places they might learn something by what each says about the other. (Not that they'd want them to stop their rivalry! That would be apocalyptic :P )Go to Comment
A lot of nice touches with this one:
Using the runes as a way of marking time shows the importance of the runes to the Dwarven mindset. Breaking the assumption that folk living underground would have the same way of measuring time that we do. Using the length of days as a way to illustrate the Dwarven culture.
Creative and thought-provoking.
While this does fit somewhat into the usual ideal of a Dwarf, it doesn't feel stereotypical to me. The stories told to keep good little Dwarves in line is a nice touch, especially since it has real life analogues. The tankard-axe is pure awesomeness. And even though this is more "real" Dwarf than some of your most recent subs, it still sticks its metaphorical tongue at Dwarven society; despite the stories and the failures of others, Stout has managed to cross the line and live the life he wants.
Even before the end, I had a feeling this was a character you had played. The offhand references to past events had that nostalgic scent to me. Sounds like fun times.Go to Comment
I like that it's focused and pretty straightforward. A section rebutting alternative interpretations could have added a little depth to it, but it is fine as-is. Showing Dwarves through the lens of a scholar gives it a nice, readable tone.
I find myself wanting to know more about the author of the poem. Was it common for one of the lower caste to be able to read and write? Or to be able to write poetry? Was this an individual not representative of the Dwarva caste? Was this someone who felt trapped by their role in Dwarven society but wished for more? These are questions that the sub raises but can't answer because Matteus Carter doesn't know them. I like it when a sub gets me pondering like this.
How has this not been voted on yet?
I guessed at the origins, which, since it wasn't outright stated until the end, made me enjoy this a little more. Despite adapting from an outside source, this still feels like full-fledged Cosmic Era to me. Good work.Go to Comment