In the beginning mankind built the ship Eden to touch the stars, little did they know it would change the course of their evolution.
A journey that would last a thousand years on a single vessel, terminating at a habitable planet in a distant solar system.
The inhabitants of this ship willingly underwent certain genetic changes, some taking on the aspects of beasts and insects so to better survive and serve on the new found land.
Nano machine intelligences in the shape of people were also developed, as pilots and overseers to better guide the people during their 1000 year journey.
The ship was divided up into separate areas, each a half dome 50 miles wide and one mile high. The domes each contained a separate culture from earth, and others a separate environment. From the rainforest’s of south Africa to the Alaskan tundra, they were a piece of home carried light years away complete with holographic skies and artificially induced weather.
Powered by a hydrogen collector fueled drive and overseen by a advanced AI, the ship would traverse the vast distance at a speed close to light. The self contained ecosystems provided for the inhabitants every need, the storage facilities containing the raw materials necessary to build a new life upon reaching their destination.
Unfortunately the creators of the Ark forgot the basic nature of humanity, that of conflict and divergent beliefs. Over the years people grew apart, and some believed more strongly in the purity of humanity than others. These sentiments led to violence, and eventually ship spanning war.
In this final conflict many of the people sought to destroy not only their enemies, but the domes they dwelt in as well, unleashing genetically engineered monstrosities, viral plagues, and nano viruses to disable and destroy their opposition utterly.
Little did they know these nano viruses would also unbalance and ultimately shutdown the AI the guiding the ship, leaving it to hurtle blindly through space unguided and unprotected.
Many of the adults perished from the terrible sickness and wars that swept through the domes, their offspring secluded in quarantined shelters or vaccinated by the last of their advanced medical units.
During the last days of the final conflict, a group of the machine people arose to save what remained of the population, which by then was mostly children. They ushered in a new era of peace, segregating the domes away from each other, and forming a new religion called The Light of Peace.
They decided, after much deliberation, that people could no longer know of the truth of their situation, and that here ever after they would be told they dwelt in the valleys of the gods. From hence forth all land outside their valleys was the realm of gods and off limits to mere mortals.
The domes were separated by blast doors into sections that by then had the most in common with technology and culture, the metal tunnels confectioning opposing cultures sealed off forever.
Other domes were blasted wastelands, torn apart by the horrors of war and shattered fallen remnants of the past. These were sealed off from everyone, and left to ruin and darkness, until even the priests had forgotten their existence.
The children were raised to know their place within their limited number of domes as the houses of the children of the gods.
Many of these domes were fertile crop land, others vast stretches of untouched wilderness, sea and desert. In order to keep humanity humble, and unite the people against a common foe the machine priests created predatory creatures to dwell in the uncivilized parts of the domes. Created to fit a variety of majestic and horrific appearances they served to protect the priests secrets, and give humanity a common foe to rally against.
Technology in some places became a thing of mystery, likened to magic over the centuries, in others it became common place, although within boundaries set by the priests of light. Having experienced first hand the evils of humanity they made sure never to allow them to recreate anything that would shatter the illusion of the valley of the gods the priests had so carefully created.
Now as time has drawn past, the Arc of Eden having drifted aimlessly through space far longer than planned, has encountered the powerful presence of a gigantic black hole. The massive gravity has ensnared the ship in a decaying and ultimately fatal orbit around its event horizon.
The Ai controlling the Ark having succumbed to insanity from the nano virus ages past is powerless to prevent the ships destruction, and quite possibly utterly unaware of it’s peril.
As the gravitonic forces of the black hole tear at the ships structure and shielding, life, within the domes, is about to change…
The Myth of Creation.
Ask any priest how the Vally’s of The Gods came to be and they will relate the following tale.:
"In the beginning the gods walked the land but were lonely. At first they created men to walk beside them, but mere mortals could not walk alongside the gods without their power causing them great harm. In their wisdom the gods created valleys for the people to dwell within, so that the gods may look over them and not fear of stepping upon them. This is why mere mortals cannot leave the valleys of the gods, for they will be crushed by the feet of the gods if they try."
The Myth Diversity.
When asked why some humans have animal and insect characteristics the priests and priestesses are happy to relate the myth of Diversity.
"In the beginning all people looked the same, and the gods grew weary of not being able to tell one apart from the other. In their wisdom the gods changed people, and gave them parts of animals and insects, so that they would each be different and better able to work together, which is why all people are not of the same race.
Those with the attribute of dogs are our guardians from the unknown, the ones with cat aspects the scouts and silent hunters. Ones with the hooves of a horse and bodies of bulls are our carries and runners, delivering messages and transporting heavy burdens between the valleys. Respect your brothers and sisters for their diversity, for only united can we persevere."
Campaign starter idea: Bleeding Salvation:
The player group originates from alow tech village with nothing more advanced then crossbows and horse drawn carriages. While exploring find a oddly square shaped metal dry well mostly obscured by overgrowth. Following this strangely shaped metal tunnel (in reality an air duct) they discover a war torn and largely abandoned, dark and freezing. While there they find many thing of before times, weapons of the gods that sound with thunder and seem to shoot lightning itself.
Also underneath is a sleeping evil of metal, demons with glowing red eyes and bodies of metal. Those that dare trespass here are prey to be hunted and exterminated.
* * * * *
Upon returning form this underground hell the characters are proud to show all their powerful weapons of the gods, until the priests hear of their exploits.
The priests furious and tell them if they wish to keep such weapons of power they must prove their worth by journeying to the shadow valley and retrieving several rare herbs for their potions. (Secretly they hope these young upstarts will die there, along with their weapons.
* * * * *
After player group return safely (having used up all their ammo) the priests are deeply shocked but let them keep their weapons being true to their word.
When the group asks the priests how to get their "weapons of the gods" re-blessed, the priests tell them a person in a distant valley that knows of "before time things" that may be able to help them.
A difficult journey ensues through desert and winter valleys to a primitive jungle tribe area where they meet an aged sage.
This elderly man tells them their weapons are known as "Rifles" (or whatever is appropriate to the energy based equipment they possess) and they need to "recharge the energy cells." After a small mystical he sends them to the remote "valley of metal monsters" to retrieve pieces of the "Holy container of blessing." (parts to build a solar energy clip recharger)
* * * *
While within in this valley combating the metal monsters the player group accidentally damages a holographic emitter and briefly sees a glimpse of outside, and the massive black hole swirling overhead.
On the way back to village shaking earth quakes happen, Terrifying the local wildlife and local tribals. Surprised at their return, the old sage builds them solar e-clip recharger and wishes them well.
However a priest in the tribal village afraid other tribals will want what the players group possesses has blames the players for the earthquake and sends the tribals after them
* * * *
After the long difficult journey home when they tell the priests of their story the priest realize the depths of peril the ship lies in.
After a lengthy council the priests decide to use the group of adventure’s to aid them in restoring power to the ships main systems and preventing it’s ultimate demise within the crushing depths of the black hole.
From here the campaign can branch out with the group making contact with other valleys of higher technological levels, and slowly discovering the truth behind their situation and the true dangers of the task before them.
Campaign Complications/ Plot Twists
Some of the other valleys refuse to alter the dire course of events already in motion, believing it to be the hand of fate that has led them to this place in time. Thus they mobilize and oppose the chars, either subtly or without right declarations of war against their home valley.
The gravitational stresses of the black holes are straining the ships life support systems, causing the domes to suffer gravitational and environmental break downs. It is up to the chars to help the priests repair the failing systems and/or evacuate the people to a safer dome.
Reactivation of the ships AI has also resulted in the awakening of rogue defense programs, designed to protect the ships at all costs. The lowly humans in key valleys must be removed to conserve energy and resources for the journey ahead. The few puny defenders of the valleys cannot hope to stand in the path of it’s army of bio-organics created to harvest the people for their carbon content.
With diverse cultures comes old hatreds. Another valley finds the chars home valley to be of a barbaric evolution and not worthy of existence. Using the failing domes life support to their advantage they launch a desperate attack on their rivals, knowing one less group of people to take needed food, water and air will ensure their own survival.
Rescuing or Escaping from the Ark
Once the chars or cultures at large realize the depths of their perils, desperation and dismay are likely to be prevalent overtones in the campaign.
Fortunately since the Ark is only in the outer fringes of the black holes gravity well there’s a multitude of ways for the chars to "save the day" (and possibly the entire ship) provided they are resourceful or desperate enough to try.
Suggestion 1: Jettison the Domes
The Ark was built to allow the domes themselves to be jettisoned form the main body of the ship int he event of catastrophic main drive overload, or some kind of infection with one of the domes that could not be quarantined.
Equipped with self contained life support systems emergency hydrogen reactors and rudimentary propulsion the launched domes could very likely escape the black holes gravity well and continue on with the original journey, albeit as separate self contained ecosystems isolated from the others by the vacuum of space.
With some careful questioning of the priests, or establishing friendly relations with domes of a higher technology level the chars should be able to discover this "fail safe" system and force it to activate.
However given the damages the ship has suffered thus far, one or more people may be forced to remain behind on the ship to manually trigger the explosive bolts to de-dock the domes.
The opportunity for heroic sacrifice can bring out the best in people, as well as conflicts with those who believe such a course will destroy their domes entirely.
Suggestion 2: Reactivating the Main Drive and AI
Centuries ago during the dome wars the nano viruses released drove the ships main AI utterly insane, and activated numerous automated programs to take over the ships daily operations.
Without the main AI the ship is mindlessly drifting along the last set course, ignoring the peril it is looming ever closer.
With the help of the priests or those from higher technology domes the chars must find a way to either reason with the corrupted AI, or assume manual control of the starship itself, activating the hydrogen thrusters and tearing the ship from it’s decaying orbit within the gravity well.
Unfortunately, the ships current mass is far too great to allow it to cleanly break from orbit. This leaves chars with the difficult task of jettisoning some of the damaged and lifeless domes to lighten the weight, and using the black holes own gravity field to increase their speed to breakaway orbit, allowing them to sling shot along it’s fringes and hopefully back to the original course planned by it’s creators.
Aftermath of success
After freeing the ship from the black holes clutches one way or another, the campaign may well draw to a close, or continue with the ship or separated domes making planet fall on a new world capable of supporting life.
A literal fight against the untamed wilds and indigenous intelligent life forms on the planet (if there are any) is likely to ensue, as well as potential renewed conflicts among the domes with cultural and/or technological differences.
There is also the option to allow the ship, or fleet of domes to enter an area of populated space, making for a higher tech, space oriented continuation of the campaign. In this scenario the inhabitants of the ark must struggle to make positive trade relations with alien species, and discover a world they can call home.