Archive for August, 2012

Progress: The Party So Far

August 15, 2012 8 comments

Just a quick heads up because some people were wondering earlier what the party was looking like. I’m doing this from memory so if you’ve changed the details since then don’t hesitate to point it out.

JPH is playing a Halfling Rogue

A Rogue (PHB1) is a Striker meaning a focus on hit and run tactics with sneak attack damage

Krellen is playing a human Artificer

Artificers (Eberron) are Leaders who focus on imbuing items with arcane magic to buff allies

Desgardes is playing a Watersoul Genasi Warden

Wardens (PHB2) are primal defenders who draw on the power of nature bolster their abilities while hindering their foes

Jarenth is playing a Dragonborn Cleric of Bahamut

Clerics are divine  leaders with inexplicable martial prowess as well as healing capabilities

If anyone else has given me their character breakdown then I’ve just forgotten about it and you should remind me in the comments.

Of the six people who posted in the sign ups thread (seven if the timing works out) that’s what I’ve got so far. There’s no particular rush, I’m willing to get going whenever you are, and until then I’ll keep posting worldbuilding. If anyone has any particular requests that are important to their character concept, again, that’s what the comments are for.

Future topic possibilities:

  • Zero Gravity fighting – you continue moving every turn unless stopped
  • Circumventing the vacuum – the difficulties of cosmic existence and the magic used to get around them
  • Starships – So they’re like ships, but not for water?
  • Races and their homeworlds – how did they all get here and what are they doing?
  • Factions and figures – who are the big names in Arcanauts?
  • Science fantasy – exactly how much science do people understand?
  • New races – It’s a galaxy teeming with life after all?
  • Technology – what do people have and what does it do?
  • Power sources – So psionics aren’t the background radiation from someone opening a door in reality?

I’ve got a tonne of ideas, and there’s always going to be more stuff to discover in the game itself. These posts are just a brief overview of common knowledge with a few helpings of rumours and theories thrown in.

Categories: News

Rules: Feathered Dragonborn

August 13, 2012 2 comments

“Our ancestors took to the stars, now we take our rightful place among them”

Who are they?

When the dragonborn discovered their long-abandoned homeworld, they discovered another civilization living in their place.

Feathered dragonborn (or Orin as they refer to themselves) are a proud, yet peaceful race who lived with a lack of technology for the majority of their existance, relying on primal magic to improve their way of life. They tend to be smaller and weaker than regular dragonborn, making up for it with improved agility and a more thoughtful nature. Their lightly coloured feathers often compliment their cool, blue-green scales and enable them to blend into the tropical jungles of their homeworld, Avorus. These dragonborn grew more adept at tool use than their cousins, losing their breath weapon, but by the mountainous reagions they dwell in pushed them to regrow their once-vestigial wings. Despite their agility, they lack the capability for true, sustained flight, only being able to stay aloft in short bursts.

They look upon the new, interstellar civilization with great curiosity and take a special (though not always appreciated) interest in their scaled cousins, seeking to understand their place in the cosmos.  They greatly favour natural or agile classes such as rogues or rangers, knowing they must rely on their wits to adapt and survive in a new environment. Because their natural language (Oran)is a derivative of ancient Draconic, they often have an easy time picking it up, meaning most Orin speak it with a fair degree of competance.

Characters who speak Oran and grew up among draconic speakers or vice versa can learn the other language for free.

This will not however allow you to understand more than a few words of one just by speaking the other.

What are their stats?

Average Height: 5’8″-6’6″

Average Weight: 180-240lbs

Ability Scores: +2 Dexterity, +2 Wisdom

Size: Medium

Speed: 6 squares

Vision: Normal

Languages: Common, Draconic, Oran

Skill Bonuses: +2 Nature +2 Acrobatics

Feature – Dragonborn Agility: When you’re bloodied, you gain a +1 racial bonus to reflex saves and also to armour class if you’re wearing light or no armour.

Feature – Draconic Heritage: Your healing surge value is equal to one-quarter of your maximum hit points + your Constitution modifier.

Ability – Draconic Flight: Encounter Power (Move action, Personal Range)

Effect: Fly a number of squares equal to your speed. At the end of your turn, you float down to the ground if you aren’t already there. If you are falling at a harmful velocity this will allow you to land without taking damage.

Categories: Mechanics, Races, Setting

Mechanics: Astronomy

August 11, 2012 2 comments

In space you really don’t spend a huge amount of time exploring dungeons – although dungeons and cave systems still exist, they’re not considered important enough to be their own field of study. On the other hand, knowing how the cosmos work is increasingly valuable in a time like this. If there are any particular questions, do ask.

What about Dungeoneering?

In vanilla Fourth Edition, dungeoneering allows you to:

  • Forage for food underground
  • Identify aberrant or subterranean monsters
  • Identifying subterranean flora
  • Navigate underground (both in terms of altitude and cardinal directions)
  • Noticing changes in your environment from recent construction

Basically, all this stuff is an underground version of Nature so most of these effects can simply be folded into that skill. Identifying Aberrant monsters will be part of astronomy though.

Changes to Nature

In addition to folding the stuff from Dungeoneering into it, nature has the ability to analyze an alien creature you’re unfamiliar with. Creatures on new planets won’t have been studied or classified the way they were on the Motherrock, but knowledge of nature and evolution can give you some insight into its physical capabilities.

Astronomy Does…

Astronomy is the study of the cosmos, celestial bodies and the cold vacuum of space.

It governs:

  • Navigating a space ship or similar vehicle (Navigation in general, plus principles of motion including gravitational slingshotting around large bodies to save fuel. Actually operating it is Arcana)
  • Identifying cosmic phenomena (Celestial bodies, nebulae, gamma bursts, different types of stars etc)
  • Navigation in space (Orienteering via the stars, not getting lost in an asteroid belt etc. This can be used in the traditional sense to navigate at night when there are no nearby landmarks.)
  • Identifying the properties of a celestial body (Does a planet have a breathable atmosphere etc)
  • Understanding cosmic space-time phenomena (Relativity, gravitational effects, Newtonian dynamics etc)
  • Identify the system you’re in or the planet you’re on via the starry sky.
  • Familiarity with Wyrmhole locations (To get from where you are to Wyrmweb station)
  • Analyze aberrant monsters (So does everything weird live underground in D&D or something? It doesn’t any more – it’s aliens now.)

Astronomy Sample Skill Checks


You can identify the nearby stars to orientate yourself – it’s an easy check to note nearby constellations and remember them, but identifying specific systems might vary in difficulty depending on how well-known the local area is. You get a circumstance bonus on astronomy checks for orientation in when using a star chart.

On the ground you can use this information to navigate on a clear night.


Piloting a vehicle is going to be easier or harder depending on the maneuverability of the ship, and the complexity of the action, but a successful astronomy check can get you where you need to be. In addition, you’ll need to use astronomy to aim weaponry making this a very important skill for a navigator.


You can use astronomy to identify a cosmic phenomena or discern the properties of a cosmic body. You have to be able to see or sense the phenomenon in question so it would be very hard to identify dark matter unless your ship was actually being affected by its gravitational field. Identifying the properties of a planet is generally a really good idea before deciding to land on it or breathe in its atmosphere , but as always caution is advised. Most planets with known life have breathable atmospheres within certain parameters, so although you’ll be able to survive, a successful astronomy check might identify specific effects on different races.

Categories: Mechanics

Setting: Wyrmweb Station

August 11, 2012 5 comments

Here’s some pretty major backstory of one of the most important areas in the setting, one which you’ll probably be seeing a lot of. It also goes over basically how space travel is accomplished in the setting, and the ideological differences between different classes that developed as a result of the new discoveries of the interstellar age.

Space Travel

Space travel began, like many other things with the inventions of wizards – great crystalline batteries could store and release arcane energy spurring a revolution in technology, and spurred on by the adventurer-driven nature of the Motherrock those efforts quickly focused towards exploring further and further. The use of illusion magic to bend and focus light in new ways meant the heavens could be studied like never before, while wards and invocations could be placed on an intrepid explorer to protect them from the dangers of space travel. Shortly thereafter primal, psionic and divine power sources were identified and a magical space race began. Psions would command massive geodes of psi-crystals to power space craft with pinpoint efficiency, while clerics could venture further and further via their mastery of ward spells, while druids used their command over nature to establish colonies on the nearby moons and asteroids.

With the laws of physics subjugated to their commands, mages of all domains were able to press further and further outwards, turning journeys that would take lifetimes into matters of months, reducing navigation to trivia through arcane beacons which could be easily scried and beginning the first steps of interstellar colonization. As they did they discovered a universe teeming with life – angels, demons, fey and all manner of monsters were found living in the sector in varying degrees of civilization, but also vast alien forests, unfathomably deep seas and scorching wastelands. The great revelation of the interstellar age was that not only were they not alone in the universe, but the origins of life spread far and wide. The indigenous home of the Fey was discovered resembling a caricature of home as if the gods had taken a few goes to get it right, and the entire concept of evolutionary biology began to take shape in the minds of the druids who studied it. These vast new fields of science are still poorly understood as civilization attempts to make a millennium of progress in two short centuries, but amid the so much hope, philosophical and ideological differences threaten to tear civilization apart at the seams.

Domain of the Shardminds

As tensions began to rise, and explorers ventured further and further few took into account the mysterious shardminds – the only race whose history remained just as mysterious as it was before. But when portals began to open in the skies above civilized worlds, the other races discovered a massive interplanetary hub, built in secret with gates allowing travel between all the known universe. The labyrinthine station was only ever accessible though shardmind portals, and its exact location was nigh-unknowable, but the sheer utility of the station, immediately propelled the shardminds into the position of the first true galactic power. Existing as a neutral zone between vast ideological conflicts, the station acted as a powerful force for order in the cosmos, allowing free philosophical discourse and travel, quickly supplanting the Motherrock as the seat of galactic power.

Arrival of the Dragons

All was not meant to last however as the eternal greed of the dragons had not been content to merely sit by and allow lesser races to prosper untaxed. A few short years after the establishment of the Shardmind Hub, it found itself under siege by the ancient Wyrms, lead by Yarluth, The Celestial Fire – a colossal Red dragon who sought to add the hub itself to her hoarde. For the first time since it’s creation, the portals to the Shardmind Hub were closed, and when they reopened it was to a wasteland. The Hub was scorched and burned, with casualties on both sides – Yarluth herself had fallen in battle and his Emerald council had proposed a truce. What is now referred to as Wyrmweb Station is now considered property of the Emerald Council, but it is run and shaped by the shardminds who enjoy a security detail like no other.

As of the Campaign

Wyrmweb Station is the seat of galatic power – a cosmopolitan, labrynthine city of unknown size, location and proportions built to facilitate travel anywhere in the known universe. For the purposes of most travellers it’s a means to an end, but the real adventure lies where the Wyrmholes can’t take you – on the frontier. The station itself has only ever been seen from the inside – some believe it occupies its own pocket dimension, or the core of a planet, others suggest it occupies nowhere at all – it’s merely a single point in space multiplied upon itself an infinite number of times. Whatever the case, the unique nature of the station itself is not in question – it is truly a product of portals. The actual geometry of the station lacks any internal coherence -non-Euclidian paths warp in around and on top of each other, storefronts exist on walls too thin to be occupied, staircases rotate a full 720 degrees getting you to twice the height you’d expect in half the space.

The Collective Unconscious

The only thing stopping this Escherian nightmare from being the death of those who travel it is the collective unconscious – a conglomerate of psionic focus that scans the thoughts of travellers, projecting directions and information directly into their minds. Psions upon entering are asked to join their focus to the unconscious in order to better aid others. Psions who do so lose access to their abilities for the duration of their stay while the unconscious draws upon them, they cannot read or influence the thoughts of anyone onboard the station, and as far as anyone knows, the unconscious has never attempted to influence anyone either. It’s generally accepted by travellers for it’s usefulness, but mistrusted by wizards and psions for its potential to do harm, though to anyone’s knowledge, it has never been used to do so, and indeed, is too powerful for any one psion to influence to their own ends.

In Practice

The internals of the station resemble rock and crystal caves of vastly varying size with massive stained glass tubes separating pedestrian traffic from the depressurize shipping lanes. Branching halls, impossible spaces and subtly placed portals make the geometry feel arbitrary and unpredictable to all but the Shardminds, who understand its logic on an instinctive level. Many more naturalistic races have staked out their own areas of the station, planting grass, trees and wooden panelling to create more favourable environments, which the dragons are more than happy to allow – for a price. As a trading hub you can find nearly anything there, you need only think the right thoughts to be directed, however all purchases are traceable and many prefer to only buy supplies there, lest they be noticed by the dragons. By that same logic there is high demand for smugglers who are willing to spend time bypassing Wyrmweb in order to ensure goods are delivered discretely via the impossible to police conventional channels.

Categories: Setting

Rules: Character Creation

August 11, 2012 5 comments

Character creation is going to be pretty standard, with a couple of things to keep in mind:

  1. We’re using 22 Point buy (the details of which can be found on page 17 of the Player’s Handbook 1)
  2. If you’re missing a book, we’re setting up a shared dropbox folder, so simply let me know via twitter direct message the email you want an invite sent to.
  3. Dungeoneering is being replaced by Astronomy, which will have several implications for builds. The classes that get it are the same though (Wizards, Rogues and Rangers). The actual rules on that are upcoming, but it’ll be used for celestial mechanics, identifying cosmic phenomona and ship piloting.

So if there are any questions, just reply here


Categories: Uncategorized


August 10, 2012 9 comments

Quick update: Planning is going well – I’ve been doing a lot of worldbuilding stuff even outside discussing feathered dragonborn, but I’m leaving most of the story idea vague. I don’t like the idea of planning it in detail simply because I’ll inevitably have to change things up further down the line, but for now the ideas I have got seem solid enough.  Aside from that I’m mainly just going over the rules and making sure I know what the hell I’m doing here.

So far I’m very happy with the player turnout and want to thank everyone whose expressed interest in the campaign. I’s certainly very motivating knowing the audience I’m making this for because I think collectively we’ve written enough words on bad writing and RPG design to fill several books at this point so  mean to really put my money where my mouth is here. Hopefully I’ll be able to find a time that fits everyone in, – It might end up being evening for me, during the day for people in the US/Europe, because I’m pretty sure during the day for me, aside from early morning is like midnight over there or something.

Signups and character ideas that I know of so far are:

  • Jarenth
  • TheSpecktre (Swordmage?)
  • Krellen (Wizard)
  • JPH (Rogue)
  • Mumbles

With Ranneko and Desgardes expressing conditional interest.

If anyone’s stuck on character ideas, Fourth Edition has four main roles to fill – Leader, Defender, Striker and Controller. The ideas I listed above cover all the positions except leader, which might be nice to have. But that said, anything goes really – those ideas aren’t set in stone and people could end up playing completely different characters to what I’ve listed there.

Because this post is content light, so here’s my first draft for the Whetstone-Tuatha Alliance logo, which was rejected because I’ve got to have some standards here:

I wanted to make the caption “In space, nobody can hear you scream… except us” but that wouldn’t fit without shrinking the font size.

Their current logo is more fantasy, less Aliens, because unlike Weyland-Yutani, I like to think they actually have character traits beyond being stupid evil all the time. Of course, any more detail about their agenda/s would be telling.

Categories: News

Setting: Whetstone-Tuatha

August 9, 2012 4 comments

Who are Whetstone-Tuatha?

To run a colony you need gold. Lots of gold, and nobody wants to make a deal with a dragon. That’s where Whetstone-Tuatha comes in – an Eladrin/Dwarven cooperative between two highly successful organisations dedicated to the welfare of colonists. In an age of space travel, the only names you’re ever likely to see more than once or twice a decade are the biggest of the big – the guys who got in on the space travel business back when it was still being founded and were able to ride it all the way to the elemental demiplane of gold, which is what the inside of their treasure vaults resembles.


The Order of the Platinum Whetstone was an ancient Dwarven order of weaponsmiths known for their willingness to mass produce high quality weapons and armour for anyone willing to pay. Known for their business savvy the Order has made countless riches supplying adventurers, explorers and governments, eventually leading to their alliance with the Children of Tuatha. Their insignia, a silver ‘W’ is said to be a symbolic of their commitment to quality, however that claim is hotly debated by almost every other Dwarven clan.


The Children of Tuatha were a druidic order of Eladrin who originated in the Tuatha forest back on the Motherrock, though their members have swelled to include all walks of life. They are committed to the study and preservation of nature wherever it lies and to that end dedicate themselves to exploring and charting the cosmos. They often travel with colonists, catering to their survival needs as long as they proceed in peace and in the spirit of exploration. Having a Tuatha druid or appointed representative with you opens a lot of doors in polite society. They joined with the Order out of the necessity – not all foreign life is friendly, and they can’t be around to babysit colonists all the time. Their insignia – a T with leafy branches resembles the birch trees that grew where they once originated, though that forest is long gone now.

Dealing with them

The two parties play well in theory, but in practice they have a lot of disagreements – an armed colonist is a colonist tempted to kill a funny looking alien, and an unarmed colonist is probably either too dead to be a customer or some sort of mage. To that end there’s some competition in the ranks and though they’d never admit to it in public, the two halves of the alliance are always looking for ways to improve their negotiating positions. Understanding whether you’re dealing with an employee who favours the Whetstone or Tuatha philosophy can be very useful to a savvy traveller looking to get their services on the cheap.

In the Campaign

In your colony you have a series of permenant Whetstone-Tuatha employees, including several druids, some craftsmen and a representative sitting on the colony board of governers. In addition, the moon mining operation is a Whetstone-Tuatha venture so any temporary residents are likely to be employees on leave.

Gaining favour with Whetstone, Tuatha or both can get you some serious benefits in the exploration business, and put you on the radars of information brokers wanting to sponsor you in exchange for a heads up once in a while. On the other hand, making some trouble with them has a tendency to be smiled upon by their competition, as well as any anticorporates who while not as big, tend to sell more specialty gear, and value their regulars much more highly. There’s also a huge market for Tuatha willing to loan their credibility to shadier organisations, which can be highly beneficial for anyone looking to get places above their usual social status.


Categories: Setting

Setting: Ferrosa Colony

August 9, 2012 5 comments

Edit: A lot about Ferrosa has changed both conceptually and narratively since I wrote this post. Take what you read (and see) here with a grain of salt.


Four people is enough to start, but it’ll take some time. Until then, here’s a quick primer on the starting area of the campaign.

Original Concept for Ferrosa.

The frontier colony on which your adventure begins is a small metal-wrought village atop a cliff, near the base of a mountain range. It’s mostly self sufficient as a result of the colony’s druidic order who reside in the nearby biome and create food and clean water and keep the local fauna away. That’s not to say the nearby seawater or forest are unsuitable for use, but most of the planet’s fauna are subterranean, and the seawater of course requires purification before it’s fit for consumption. The village itself consists of 243 people of varying races, faiths and creeds – they’re a hardy and innovative folk as colony life requires active participation from everyone, so if there’s something you need done, there’s usually someone who has some idea how to do it. The colony itself started as a series of holiday homes for people mining the moon, as it’s considerably more hospitable, but most of the residents live there full time.

The planet itself has slightly above howeworld-gravity and a slightly thinner atmosphere which although breathable by all races requires oxygen for prolonged hikes for those races unsuited to more extreme conditions such as humans or elves. Eldarin, gnomes and other Fey creatures tend to not find the lack of oxygen a problem in the least. It has a single moon comprised of significant quantities of iron and a fluctuating gravitational field that causes rust to occasionally rain down on the local landscape. In addition the planet suffers from frequent lightning storms and the village was originally designed as a Faraday cage of sorts, though recently any effectiveness it would have had at diverting lightning has been nullified through rennovations. There are networks of tunnels going throughout the mountains which have as of yet yielded nothing of value, particularly compared to the moon above, but they are host to a variety of alien life forms that feed on the luminescent fungi growing within.

The forest below the wizard’s tower consists of a massive herd of non-sentient flightless birdlike creatures whose feathers resemble leaves, but who live a mostly sedentary life, absorbing nutrients from the soil via long prehensile tounges. They migrate from one side of the river to the other each season and are occasionally, to the chagrin of the druids hunted as food. They are said to taste like calamari.

By and large however, the lightning, rock falls and other hazards are attracted toward the wizard’s tower on the edge of the sea, where his wards and enchantments draw most of the planet’s dangers away from you. He’s a solitary type as most wizards are, but those of you who have met him have gotten the impression he’s a rather kindly fellow, probably more good-natured than the local druids who essentially run the colony in all but title.

Categories: Setting

Sign Ups are Now Open

August 7, 2012 9 comments

Arcanauts is a custom campaign setting for Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition based around the idea that any sufficiently advance magic is indistinguishable from science.

Long ago when the Motherrock was the only home civilization knew, there was a meeting of the most brilliant minds in the world – Wizards, Psions, Artificiers and others at the peaks of their respective crafts got together to solve perhaps the greatest challenge ever posed – they were to conquer the cosmos themselves. From there work began tirelessly – manipulating the stagnant political system, uplifting and educating the unskilled labour of the world, and funding their endevour with conquered or bought draconic hoardes a concerted effort was made to tear the world from the dark ages and into enlightenment.

A quarter of a Millenium later that dream has become real – the Motherrock is all but abandoned now, as the myriad races comprising global civilization have spread to the stars.  Powerful magic enables faster than light travel, shields colonies from cosmic debris and enables organic races to breathe the empty vacuum. Dwarven miners fuel an interstellar economy with riches found in asteroids while Elves seek to understand nature on a galactic scale. Humans colonise new worlds while warforged constructs build massive space stations. Races once thought to be extraplanar have been discovered living indigenous to alien worlds, now accessible through conventional travel.

It’s a time of great technological innovation and philosophical uncertainty – the burgeoning civilization of the galaxy stands to cement it’s place in the cosmos, but what exactly that is has yet to be decided.

You take the role of interstellar explorers – pioneers on the edge of known existence whose expertise keep civilization running, even if they aren’t always spoken of in honest society. You’ll navigate vast spatial  anomalies, discover new species and do battle in some of the most inhospitable locations known to sentient life. You’ll need quick thinking, a trusty blade and enough mystical power to turn a sun supernova if you want to survive the final frontier.


So who’s in?


Categories: News