Saturday, May 10, 2014

Father/Daughter Worldbuilding - Aether's Light - Session 5

History Lessons

Whenever I write a game I like to have a firm understanding of the setting's backstory.  What came before the campaign, and how does it connect the player characters to the setting?  In any great published setting there is an amazing story that gives the game master fuel for dozens of story arcs, plot lines, and character development.  I am trying to share this idea with Carrie, and although I don't believe the two of us are capable of writing out pages upon pages of backstory, I feel it important in any setting to at least put on paper (or on Word/Pages) enough detail to create a "canon" from which all of the game's stories can flow.  The advantage to writing a homebrew setting, rather than trying to publish material for other users, is that you only need to write enough to spur your own imagination, and since the world is "yours" you can change it whenever you want!  

Sidon History Part 1

Pre-Sidon Humanity

Despite advancements in science and technology there is little remembered about the original humans who entered the Sidon system nearly five thousand years ago.  What is known is that the first humans, who originated from a place called Ethar, jumped into this magically enhanced planetary system through a similar wormhole-like anomaly that would later summon the Husk.  The histories state that the gargantuan human craft hailed from the gargantuan "Spiral in the Sky", the galaxy that rises and sets like the Sun, Sidon, and the rest of the moons.  [Thank you to Fox's Cosmos for this idea!  
How such great distances were traversed is still unknown.  The technology available to the original humans suggests that although they jumped such an incredible distance through the vastness of space, they never expected to come quite this far.  Immediately upon entering the Sidon system the massive human craft (which the histories state resembled an enormous disk) lost control, fell towards Sidon, and was gravitationally flung at high speed towards the second moon of the system, which would come to be called Agreon.  

Crash Landing on Agreon and the Founding of Zaenaan

The histories state that most of the humans who crashed on Agreon did not survive the first day.  The force of the impact, despite emergency landing procedures, and the vastness of the craft itself lead to many of the explorers getting trapped within the ship's corridors.  A quick thinking lieutenant named Cam Zaen managed to make it to the surface with several hundred other survivors.  Zaen spent the next several weeks making forays into the doomed saucer, pulling out more survivors, pieces of broken technology, and raw materials.  The weeks turned to months, and although no more living souls were found on board, the massive craft had incredible stores full of seeds, eggs, and animals held within suspended animation.  Using all available resources Zaen began construction of a colony which he named after his mother:  Zama.  

Cam Zaen had full control over the military forces that were available at the time, and his dictatorship, while fair, would set a totalitarian precedent for future dictatorships within the fledging government.  After Cam Zaen's death, Zama was declared the capital of a much greater nation: Zaenaan.  Although the early humans placed little emphasis on the histories of the past, they became great scavengers, adopting as much as they could from the "People of the Disk," that were then long dead.  A scientific caste arose within Zaenaan's civilization, wielding the great powers of the past with little regard for the rest of the culture.  For many within the scientific caste, the advancement of technology would be the ticket back to their ancestral home.  

There was a growing movement however, amongst the scientists that believed it was their place to colonize Sidon and it's moons and give up on any attempt to recreate the technology necessary to return to humanity's ancestral homeworld.  One of Cam Zaen's grandchildren, Tennor Zaen, was in power at this point, and he himself became a fervent "Agreoni", the name the movement took for itself.  Tennor Zaen commanded all research to be focused on only the necessary technologies to finish colonization and terraforming of Agreon.  This "Agreon First" policy angered many of the scientist caste that still felt it their duty to try and bring humanity home to Ethar.  Zaen had the support of the people, and those scientists and their families who spoke out against the government of Zaenaan were often sent to a penal colony on the opposite side of Agreon.  "Go back to Ethar" was a common graffiti at the time, splashed across the conveyances, homes, and businesses of those who wanted to return to the human homeworld.  Goethar became the name for the penal colony, and as Zaenaan reduced it's population of rebellious scientists, the government didn't realize that they were growing their greatest rival.  

… To be continued with the Goethar Science Rebellion!

Reminiscing on Character Trees

One of the reasons that I love Savage Worlds is that there are these incredible Setting Rules that game masters can use to customize their campaigns!  For Aether's Light I wanted to play around with a new Setting Rule that could be useful for those attempting to follow our footsteps, or just as a new modification to your own campaign.  Most D&D players remember Dark Sun, an awesome post-apocalyptic fantasy setting from the early 1990's by Tim Brown.  The setting was revived with D&D 4E, but without one of it's most iconic features:  Character Trees.  Since Dark Sun was such a dangerous and brutal setting, each player got to create up to four characters to have on their "tree", and shared experience, alignment, and possibly even treasure with one another.  If one character died, another could be called up for duty.  It was a great way for players to customize game play as well help them not feel like they were starting from scratch when a beloved character died in the sandy wastes.  

For Aether's Light Carrie and I liked the idea of character trees for two reasons.  Since a main theme of a game focused on Magic Space Marauders is the "away mission", to have the ability to chose which of your characters to take gives the player another sense of customization and control.  Also, leaving a crew behind on the ship to keep an eye on the "base" could lead to all sorts of awesome stories when its not just a crew of NPC's waiting for the players to return.  Here are our proposed rules:  

The Partner System
  • Each player in Aether's Light will be allowed to create two characters at Novice rank when the campaign begins.  
  • Players can only control one character on an Away Mission at a time unless special circumstances call for all of the characters to be in the same place.  This should be reserved for exceptional situations.  
  • Game Masters are encouraged to switch back and forth between the two characters for scenes that could be going on concurrently both on the ground and in the craft orbiting above.  
  • Experience points are earned for both characters as the game progresses, but the GM should give more experience points to the player character that is exposed to the most danger during a mission.  Often this will be the character taking part on the Away Mission, but possibly it could be the character on the ship if the story takes an unexpected turn.  
  • Equipment, and gear can be shared between the two characters, as well as with the rest of the party.  
  • If a character dies, a new character can be created with 5 experience points less than the "departed" PC.  

Next Steps

We are still working on the history of Sidon System.  Carrie's focus is still the Lunarians, and you will read in her section that she's already started writing fiction for the Magic Marauders.  We still need to detail the rest of the species.  On Wednesday evening we went through the Savage Worlds Deluxe core book, Fantasy Companion, and Horror companion to catalog all of the official powers so that we could start splitting them up amongst the different types of spell casters.  Finally, expect to see more history as we do our write ups for Goetha and Lune! 

*     *     *

Carrie's Corner

This was probably the best story I've written so far!!!

Anndrian the Lunarian

Anndrian was a Lunarian in the olden days, when Lune was close to Sidon.  Anndrian was a special Lunarian because she could tell the future.  She knew that the Husk was going to send them flying, but she never told anyone.  Not until one day, four days before the Husk incident. She took her large lizard (the LiZard) out of his pen and put on his LiZard saddle. The saddle was specially designed for the LiZard's back so it is comfortable for the LiZard and the rider.  Anndrian then hopped onto the LiZard's back and kicked it's side.  The LiZard heaped forward and off they went.  When they got to the town of Grutende, Anndrian jumped off the LiZard.  She ran to the Mayor's home and knocked on the door. 

"WHAT," the Mayor said. 

Anndrian looked at the door and said, "I need to announce something to the world, and you're the only person that can help me with that. You have a speaker in your office that goes through all of the world's speakers. May I come in?" Anndrian heard a beep on the intercom, BIG STOMPS down the main steps, and the door opened. 

"Come right on in," said the Mayor. Anndrian walked into the mansion and walked to the room that said OFFICE on the sign next to the door.  Anndrian walked into the room and sat on the swivel chair. She spun the chair around till she saw the microphone, and then stopped. She picked up the microphone and turned it on. 

Anndrian spoke with a smooth, clear, calm voice.  "Attention, all Lanarians. It is me, Anndrian. In four days there will be a force called the Husk that will blast us far away from Sidon.  Please take a minute to collect yourselves and your belongings, and then make your way to a safe place.  Please bring enough food and water to last you a good long while and things to keep you busy.  I would say to also bring something to tell you when it is okay to go outside again. Thank you."  

Then she turned off the microphone, and went home, to do exactly what she just said.


  1. I like the partner setting rule you put together, that seems like it could work for any gritty setting. Plus it increases your cast list which is always beneficial to the story, but are you concerned that the players will rely too heavily on on of the PC's and forget about the other? It seems like the best way to avoid that is to make a story arc where it effects the other identity more and sending in your "main" (to take a phrase from mmo's) would seem forced. Given your setting I imagine if the Magic Space Marauders' captain is a NPC it shouldn't pose too much of an issue since you assign the orders. I guess I am more curious because I usually have players who want to be the captain often, which presents the problem of another player having a say on which PC enters the mission. Don't get me wrong, I really like the idea, just curious if you have thought about this already.

    1. That's an awesome question. My daughter's comment is that it's a similar problem that she had in Pokemon Black , relying too much on Oshawott over other Pokemon and eventually her bench was too weak.

      My response is a bit different! :)

      I've run character trees before and what you stated does occasionally happen. Sometimes a player will play their characters equally and other players just keep the second as a backup. Maybe one solution is to have each character designed for a specific mission parameter, so one is designed to work on the ship and another is a ground pounder. Definitely worth thought

      As to the captain issue it depends on the group I think. My two regular grounds (one Numenera and one Savage Worlds) work exceptionally well together and could easily elect a captain and be okay with the results. But I've had other groups where this wouldn't be possible. Excited to see it in play though!

    2. Actually I am going to ask my players if they are interested in this idea. I probably will use your daughter's answer, as most of my players have been playing Pokemon since its birth (to be fair we are all under 30). Given that my campaign is Sword and Sorcery I may have some different results if they run with the idea. I'll let you two know.

    3. If you check out some of my play reports you'll see we do basic fantasy RPG as well (even played last night) and that game could be served well with a tree too! Lots of character death possible.

    4. So my players, loved the idea. We are going to run with it for our upcoming campaign. Now they are looking back through the book for their partner characters.

    5. I'd love to hear how it goes!

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