Saturday, April 26, 2014

Father/Daughter Worldbuilding - Aether's Light - Session 1

Aether's Light

There are few "skills" that I feel qualified to pass down to further generations.  I can't fix a car, build a cabinet, perform minor plumbing, install any new wiring… the list of things I can't do (but other fathers can) is pretty long.  I'm a nerd, I do nerd things.  I can show my daughter how to set up the port-forwarding on our router or walk my three-year old son through building a basic house on Minecraft.  But I've always wanted to do something with my kids that will last, something that they will remember.  True, I do game fairly often with my girls, and if you haven't had a chance to read them yet, I invite you to take a look at our Numenera: Disenchanted Tales.  But for me it just wasn't enough.  Leave it to my 10 year old daughter to give me the source of inspiration necessary to kickstart some new ideas! 

Carrie, an aspiring podcaster, YouTube celebrity, and internet sensation, is an amazing storyteller recently coming into her own.  Her story concepts that she writes at school are incredibly well thought out, complex, and detailed.  So when I approached her about working on a project together she jumped at the opportunity.  Our plan was simple: create a campaign setting for our own use and share it with the world, from initial conception to play tests.  With both of us sitting on a blanket at my middle-daughter's soccer game today we started putting our notes together.  

First Steps

While I've created many of my own home-brewed settings over the years, since this is something new for Carrie I decided to walk her through the entire process step by step and show her my methodology.  True, I haven't written a setting in many years, mostly because of all the evil and dark distractions that come with being a grown-up.  For me this is a fantastic new opportunity give my own imagination a stretch.  After Soccer practice, Carrie and I dragged all of the books off of my shelf that we thought would be helpful in our initial campaign design.

From our initial conversations last night we had a very rough concept:  Space Fantasy.  So for today's session we focused on figuring out the following:  Theme, Inspirations, and Choosing a Game System.

Theme:  Magic Space Marauders

Although Carrie was immediately fascinated by my Space 1889 and Spelljammer books, both of which could be used to create a Space Fantasy campaign, she was insistent (much to my delight) on creating a setting from scratch.  We decided that the heroes of our world will be at a severe disadvantage, living in a planetary system where all of the moons are habitable, but where the monsters have "won."  Carrie liked the idea of including magic in a science-fiction game, but wanted the magic to be limited, and not something that everyone could do.  I suggested that we link magic to a resource, and so the gas giant at the center of the system (which we are calling Aether) has a series of rings that are the source of arcane materials.  The humans of a very small moon orbiting far from the four main moons of Aether need the arcane "stuff" to power other "stuff", and so they must raid the inner moons.  This led us to a Viking theme for the humans.  We're going to go into more depth on the magic system in our next session.

As to technology, as much as we decided to limit magic, Carrie didn't want to limit science too much yet.  She liked the idea of using a technology level akin to Firefly, so some computers, guns, and most importantly ships that look like traditional space ships.  We talked briefly of the kinds of ships you could find in Spelljammer or Sundered Skies, and she thought it best that we have a more conventional look to our vessels.  I showed her some pictures from PDF's that I've downloaded over the years from 0-Hr: Art & Technology and she leapt and the images of streamlined starships.  So our "Marauder" player characters will be outfitted with these ships and use them for excursions to the inner moons and on raids of the "monster" infested worlds.  


When I write a setting I like to think about other things that I've read, watched, or played that help me get in "the mood" to create.  For me, I need visuals to get passionate about a project.  Our initial source of inspiration was The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, featuring heroes that for some reason or another were from a very small planet or moon.  The way Carrie was describing the idea in general was sounding a lot like a Final Fantasy game to me: magic crystals, good versus evil, an epic tone.  Being a ship-based game, we'd also be borrowing ideas from Firefly and Serenity as the characters will have their own vessel at the start of a typical campaign, and it would be both their own as well as their means of travel.  I'm sure we will continue to look for more sources of space inspiration, and will probably be drawing from other movies like Disney's Treasure Planet, Titan AE.  Finally, and perhaps due to the fact that we were watching Fullmetal Alchemist just prior to our first world-building session, I think we expect some Anime tone to be tossed in the mix.     


With everything that Carrie wanted to do, we decided that Savage Worlds was the only way to go.  While there are other generic systems out there, both Carrie and I have the most experience with Savage Worlds as well as most of the books.  Also, the action-adventure feel of spell-slinging-space-pirates pairs very nicely with the pulp feel of Savage Worlds.    

Next Steps

We have a basic layout for the Aether System, with some names and notes about what sort of things have been happening to this unfortunate part of space.

While we were listing the kinds of races/species that players can pick, Carrie thought that having each one come from one of the moons would be a great idea.  We only have the following basic concepts beyond human:

- A race/species with mastery over magic
- A race/species that is animalistic in nature
- A race/species that is an absolute ogre-like brute
- A race/species that is alien in nature originates from another planetary system
- A race/species that is cute (a gift for my middle daughter Evie)
- A construct type that can be used as a player character

We are also going to start defining the Archetypes that players can choose, as well as the Arcane Backgrounds we are going to allow.  

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Carrie's Corner

I am very excited about doing this activity. I would LOVE to be able to play this when we are done, but there is only one problem: I would know the whole thing!  One thing that I like about this campaign is the space theme.  I absolutely love space.  I love how you can go beyond our real space world and see things that might (probably not) be out there!  I hope we can keep on doing this and maybe it will become a daily thing!!!


  1. Wow, this is so great. My daughter is only four years old, but I try to support her creativity, and hopefully, one day we'll be able to do things together like this.

    1. Thanks Jason! I've been very lucky to have a daughter with similar interests as myself. Here's hoping my middle daughter and younger son are just as interested a few years from now! ;)

  2. This was a great read. Had a smile on my face the whole time. Good luck James & Carrie!

  3. Thank you so much for reading Jeremy!!! Just posted Session 2 :)

  4. Perhaps the two of you could co-GM a campaign in this setting. I ran an adventure once with a co-GM and it was a lot of fun. The way we did it was that one of us (me) handled the adjudicating of the plot, while the other GM (my friend) helped adjudicate individual rolls. We also split up the main NPCs between us, so he always roleplayed certain NPCs and I always roleplayed certain NPCs. Now that she's created her own setting, she's gonna want to GM it. :)

  5. I think that's an awesome idea. I know that once we're done I plan on switching my current Savage Worlds group to this setting, but Carrie also wants to have some of her friends play with me helping her GM. Maybe she'll help me and I'll help her ;)

  6. Wow. That is absolutely awesome. I hope you and Carrie can keep the momentum. I am already inspired by what you have posted.

    1. Thanks! We had another great session today!