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Setting: True Names

December 8, 2012 1 comment

TheSpecktre, who plays Knostril asked:

So a Primordial’s true name is like Entish? Telling the story of that individual? :P

That’s an interesting question and it’s not far off the mark actually. The Truth is that True Names are far, far more complicated than that – they form part of the fundamental base code of the universe, and are heavily linked to Divine Magic.

First off, a True Name isn’t a story per se, and it’s not just Primordials who have them – practically everyone alive, dead or otherwise does. Often, a True Name is referred to as a “Soul Name” because it’s something living, conscious beings tend to have, but the label is inaccurate. True names have been at least established as existing for entire species, important locations, philosophical concepts and even, Gods – none of which have singular souls, and some of which aren’t technically “alive” by any practical definition. In addition, it doesn’t just describe their history, but their future as well.

A True name is more like a series of definitions describing the thing in totality than a story. It’s called a “True Name” because it indicates a thing so specifically it only describes them and nothing else in the universe. It’s not just comprised of words, because words carry intent and broad implications that can change within a culture over time. It’s more specific than that, including its own ideas and concepts to provide an objective specific context that gives the words meaning. In fact, a true Name often contains more information than could ever be practical. So usually what you perceive as one is an abbreviated, simplified version of the real thing, interpreted by complex magics to apply your will to the real thing. This limits your ability to use it, but you have to in order for it to have any practical applicability. The thing that makes True Names useful and powerful instead of obscure bits of arcana nobody can interact with is the spells used to access it essentially define it as a mathematical variable, which you can alter by including it in an equation.

The way this works is heavily abstracted, but most scholars agree that True Names are, or are the result of a very pure, very powerful form of divine magic. Most beliefs are vague or conflicted or uncertain enough that they create very little impact on reality unless you have a lot of people believing in concert, but a True Name so completely encapsulates the idea of a thing that all ambiguity or uncertainty is by definition lost. When you gain such a transcendent understanding of some facet of reality, you wield almost surgical power over how it is expressed in the universe. Some say this is how the Gods function, others suspect it might be something beyond even them.

What is less ambiguous is that having a True Name doesn’t just command things, it can change them fundamentally. Major changes tend to be difficult in that they require rewriting and re-contextualizing a huge amount of information, and generally a mortal brain just doesn’t have the processing power to do that even with magical interpretation, but straightforward changes  in behavior, high level functions and attitudes are often “simple” enough to be practical. Where by simple I mean complicated as all hell but not so complicated that powerful mages can’t find a way to use them.

That’s why True Names are often used just to influence powerful beings, rather than to reshape oneself into a God; that and there are really good reasons to limit what you do with them. Firstly, you’d have to have nearly the mental capacity of a God to attempt it, second, if you did you wouldn’t be stupid enough to try fundamentally rewriting yourself because you’d understand the extraordinary risks involved. Risks including defining yourself out of existence by including a contradictory term. Or screwing up the way you interact with the universe in the exact wrong way that you tear a hole in the fabric of spacetime. Or even just altering the way you think, damaging your interpretation of your own name, causing an infinite feedback loop twisting you into a self-contradictory fractal abomination that cannot and should not exist. Among other things.

To be the kind of person who could use a true name to a significant fraction of it’s potential you’d have to be either a God or something more than a mere mortal – even the magically powered icons would have difficulty doing something really drastic without external aid. That’s not to say they can’t get said aid or collaborate with one another, but they rarely, if ever do. To do it yourself you’d have to  not only be supernaturally intelligent (an ancient dragon lord perhaps), able to harness the power of multiple minds working in parallel (say, if you took control of the Collective Unconscious on Wyrmweb and forced its users to think for you) and have an incredibly strong will (the kind it takes to rule a galaxy). And that’s a rather low estimate for a minimum baseline on my part. Luckily, people like that are pretty few and far between.

To give you one last idea of why this is a good thing, imagine a God and a Primordial who know one another’s True Names having a duel. Now Imagine every atom in a universe exploding at the speed of light, while the speed of light itself deteriorates into nothing as all sensibility and reality breaks down into pure, literal chaos. There is potentially no difference between those two scenarios. For that reason, a lot of people praise Ioun, god of Knowledge for making it really hard for people to use True Names.

Categories: Setting

Setting: Myddea Luminastra

November 17, 2012 1 comment

I made a comment earlier that if anyone else were to run a game in the Age of Stars setting I’d want to play a young version of the Astrosage. She’s one of my favourite icons and has what I consider the most interesting backstory of all of them. Somehow that translated into me actually drawing her and statting her for 13th Age. She’s an Aasimar Sorceress with strong ties to the Archmage and his arcane magic, and the High Priestess, though her relationship with the latter is not nearly so positive. I know I’ve always referred to The Astrosage as a wizard, but a Sorceress would really be the more accurate description for the way her powers manifest.

All of Myddea’s powers are space themed.

But before she ascended to greatness she was cast out from the church of Corellon, and left to wander the lands gathering her arcane power and slowly coming to understand her unique situation. As an Aasimar, Myddea has supernal blood flowing through her veins, and comes from a long line of high priestesses – a role she can no longer fulfill. As she travelled her priest’s robes became tattered and she traded her ceremonial staff for a more practical spear, spending what little money she could scrounge together on protection from both her enemies, and the remote reaches of the galaxy.

You can see the original 13th Age High Priestess on which she was based here. Her costume might have initially looked something like that.

Categories: Setting

Setting: The Four Sources

November 2, 2012 4 comments

Magic in the Age of Stars is defined as a product of four different power sources – Arcane, Divine, Primal and Psionic, each with their own unique properties and effects. Because they define a lot about how the universe works, here’s a bit of an explanation of what they are and how they interact. All magic draws on different forces inherent to the universe, and can be wielded through different thought processes, with some being more amenable to certain kinds of thinking than others. Different kinds of magic may be inherited from one’s ancestors or learned as a skill, though not everyone is able to wield it effectively. Often non-magic users are able to unconsciously draw on it in order to perform superhuman feats, but they can’t shape it in the way an actual mage can. These aren’t comprehensive descriptions, as so much about the nature of magic is either unknown or involves conflicting schools of thought, but people tend to agree on most of these facts.

Primal

Primal Magic was the first kind of magic discovered on Nasca and is perhaps the oldest in the universe. It flows from the creative aspects of elemental chaos, rewriting the fundamental nature of the universe, and as such is highly concentrated in nebulae and within stars. This connection to the fundamental forces of the universe has earned Primal magic a reputation as “nature magic” because it is at its most potent where nature has been allowed to grow unchecked. Primal wielders tend to be tribal and traditional, acting on instinct more than reason, strengthening their connection to the primal forces through their passion and more animalistic qualities. As such you get barbarians who perform extraordinary feats through bestial rage, and druids who assume the forms of the animals they live in harmony with. Of course, for different races “getting in touch with nature” means different things, but the broad strokes are similar for most sentient creatures.

Divine

Divine magic is the magic of the Gods, or to be more precise the magic of faith. It flows from widely held ideas strong convictions, and is generally wielded in the service of great causes or steadfast ideologies. As a magic of order it works to impose belief on the universe, reshaping reality to the will of sentient beings. Divine magic does not come from the gods, so much as the Gods come from it. Each one represents a massive concentration of belief, which is what gives them their powers, while their personality comes from a mass cultural personification of the idea. For example, Bahamut originated as a powerful metallic dragon who stood for justice and protection, and in death he became synonymous with it, giving a life and a persona to the concepts as the new god of Justice.

Primal magic is often at odds with Divine magic, and the two tend to aggressively counteract one another. A sufficiently powerful Primal power source such as the one beneath Ferrosa has the power to alter the nature of life and death, allowing for the physical manifestation of souls under certain conditions, even if that soul would not normally manifest*. The gods meanwhile can overpower the magic of nature, resurrecting the dead or performing miracles. Because of this Primal/Divine paradox mages tend to have great power over the fabric of the universe, but their constant spiritual imbalance can result in the effects of their spells being corrupted, sacrificing specific effects of one source with the effects of another.So smiting someone with a lightning bolt might cauterize their wounds or even heal them unintentionally.

*Souls manifesting through primal magic are called spirits and tend to do so because of a powerful emotion or significant event. Souls manifesting through divine magic are ghosts and tend to stick around as a result of unfinished business or to aid a cause they served in life. Psionics can’t cause a soul to manifest but a sufficiently powerful psionicist might leave a psychic imprint on an area, which will resemble their consciousness, but isn’t actually them. Arcane magic doesn’t manifest souls, but necromancy can be applied to an already manifesting soul for fun, profit and undying horror.

Arcane

Arcane Magic involves harnessing raw chaotic power to break ordinary physical laws, and as such can be highly destructive. It seeps through the universe via leylines – magical hotspots that occur through as-of-yet unknown means. Sorcerers, dragons and demons favour this kind of magic because it’s very direct and highly flexible. On the flipside, statistical analysis and complex mathematical operations can be employed to use arcane magic in highly ordered, structured ways. Reducing the uncertainty of certain events happening to a statistically negligible amount is how wizards and artificers operate.

Arcane magic reacts with primal magic by resonating and amplifying one another – Arcane/Primal Paradox Mages can amplify primal spells with arcane power, and imbue arcane spells with unpredictable primal effects, whether intentionally or otherwise. As such, these kinds of mages rarely occur naturally, and often destroy themselves and others with their untamed magical energy before they can fully gain control of their abilities. A notable exception is when one becomes a paradox warlock, in which case the effects of the interaction are much easier to control with two entities managing them.

Divine Magic reacts with Arcane as a lens does with light – focusing or shaping it, changing specific properties to reflect the mage’s beliefs. An Arcane/Divine Paradox mage manifest their spells differently to their peers – a fireball may be cast as a cleansing holy flame for example. Meanwhile a divine ward against physical harm may prevent other magic from affecting the target instead. These effects make arcane/divine paradox mages highly versatile within their chosen fields.

Psionic

Psionic magic is the power of the rational mind created and centered around conscious thought processes. Where Divine magic is concerned with what people believe, Psionic magic is about how they believe it. Whether practicioners being monks seeking to free their minds of earthly distractions to achieve transcendence, or psions using their understanding of physics or psychology to apply telekinetic forces or mental suggestions respectively. This is why psionic knowledge is often considered less important to the skill than the process of attaining the knowledge in the first place. Being able to comprehend the mechanics or influences behind a subject is what grants a psionicist their power, which is why psions tend to gravitate towards scientific understanding and study.

Psionic power tends to be highly opposed to the primal way of thinking, or to be more precise the lack thereof. Where Primal power requires emotion and instinct, psionic power favours logic and rationality. Because of this, Psionic/Primal Paradox mages must reconcile their conscious thought with their unconscious instinct, learning the triggers and connections of their own minds and how even the most logical thought derives from innate primal instinct. Doing this grants a strange kind of focus, turning the manifestations of their abilities from organic shapes to crystalline lattices, making them much harder to dispel or interrupt. It is conjectured that shardminds evolved in such a state, becoming highly intelligent in an environment of extreme primal magic. Much like a diamond is forged through heat and pressure, the shardminds became the way they are today.

Arcane magic tends to be similarly opposed to Psionics, with the chaotic forces of arcana rendered static by psionics. The spontaneous manifestations of Arcane magic defy causal reasoning, so a Psionic/Arcane paradox mage will often cancel out their own abilities. This means the most common paradox mages are some variants of Wizard, using their understanding of arcane theory, rituals and spellcraft to satisfy the requirements of psionic reasoning.  This expertise tends to be highly rewarding however as Arcane/Psionic mages are masters of their craft, shaping new spells from raw effects and manifesting psionic enchantments that confound the mind or heighten the senses. The highest concentrations of such mages are found within the Faraday Corps, which is famous for its use of mental magic in ways that for centuries only wizards could dream of.

Mastering both Psionic and Divine magic requires not only strong convictions but rational philosophy and reasoned logic backing them up. Given the right cause, this kind of mage can have their faith bolstered by logic and their curiosity satisfied by a well explored worldview. This strengthens both aspects of a Psionic/Divine mage’s spellcraft and is considered by monks and clerics alike to be a state of enlightenment, compared to understanding the fundamental nature and meaning of the universe. The level they describe however is rarely achievable, but it is something aspired to by many, even those who cannot wield both powers. Nonetheless, a Psionic/Divine paradox mage is a force to be reckoned with.

Categories: Setting

Setting: The Obsidian Vault

October 24, 2012 3 comments

I mentioned on twitter a while ago I might write another Age of Stars campaign for my friends at home. Whether it pans out or not is yet to be determined, but I thought you guys might find my pitch interesting. It occurs pretty far away from the goings-on on Ferrosa, with different icons to the ones you’ve seen, but there’s some relevant info on Nasca here that you might like.

Categories: Setting

Setting: The Thirteen Seals

October 20, 2012 1 comment

Each Icon in the Age of Stars has their own seal, representing them in some abstract way. These seals are unique to the icon, and are not used by anyone else, except when referring to them. The seals are used by agents of their respective icons to verify that they act with that person’s authority. Often such insignias are used to tag certain areas where the icons’ influence has been exercised as a way to signal other agents. Such marks are typically enchanted by a glamour, allowing only the icon’s allies to see it. Such enchantments can easily be dispelled, but doing so will erase the glyph, and being able to detect an Icon Seal is not the same as being able to read it. That said, some with conflicted or even negative relationships with certain icons have reported being able to detect and read their seals, though it tends to require more effort than otherwise.

Each icon has a corresponding seal, whether chosen by themselves or associated by them by others.

Some Icons choose to use the insignia of their organization as their seal, while others simply use a personal logo. They can be a statement of intent, something the icon believes reflects their personality, or simply a design their followers refer to them by.

What to they all mean?

Ceylon Tuatha chooses to identify himself through his terraforming efforts, the ones that earned him his title. He is immensely proud of it.

The Huntsman’s spiderlike insignia reflects his name and Drow heritage. It is functional, but the Huntsman would prefer to have no identifying marks.

Grayson Faraday encourages others to see the universe as it is, and his icon is about as clear an illustration of his teachings as he could muster. As such, it adorns the uniforms of the Faraday Corps.

Diin Aradesh refuses to use the symbol of Ioun unaltered, though he has had trouble disassociating himself from it due to his station. He insists Ioun’s symbol should be revered, not misattributed to him. As such his symbol is ever so slightly different.

Myddea Luminastra founded the Galactic Order of Astronomy and as such bears it’s symbol. After stepping down as the high priestess of Correllon – a position her preincarnations have held for a millenium – she proved to be an arcane prodigy, earning the right to bear the Star of Correllon once more.

Oona’s many avatars sign her name with a smile. It is customary for her foes to cross her seal’s eyes to prevent her from spying on them.

Shahrukh’s seal came from a political cartoon depicting her holding the fate of the universe within her claws. The webbed wings were meant to compare her unfavorably to Lolth – spider-goddess of the Drow, however she reportedly took a liking to the depiction. That said, she doesn’t breathe fire, she breathes poisonous gas. The cartoonist was reminded of this in the manner befitting a fine steak dinner.

The Blood Emperor’s seal depicts a heart cut in two. Opinions are divided as to whether he uses it literally to refer to his title, or metaphorically to refer to his sensitive, poetic side. OK, so they’re not really divided so much as people like to make fun of him from a very, very safe distance.

The Wild Man’s seal reflects his views on the duality of nature – it’s serenity, contrasted with its ferocity. The fact his ferocity is apparently tearing serenity apart is a connotation he has never explicitly rejected.

The Dwarven Hammer above Briginan Earthroot’s mountains is said by his political rivals to represent the size of his ego. He however would state that it merely refers to the Dwarves rising above their station. With overwhelming force.

Darvill and Amelia represent themselves with the ancestral seal of the house of Whitecliffe, the sun representing a new dawn for humanity.

Quartorzi’s seal is the subject of great debate. The fact she refuses to explain it is only partially owed to her muteness. Most people just settle for crystals=shardmind and leave it at that, but few seriously actually believe that’s all there is to it.

The origin of The Revolutionary’s symbol is unknown. It is used by her followers or supporters to show solidarity, but it is unknown if she ever uses it personally. It is unique in that it is only ever inscribed under glamour, and appears as another icon’s seal to anyone who is not already sympathetic to her cause.

What does this mean in-game?

Spot a seal, an icon had some influence here. You might spot a seal as a result of a successful relationship roll, or simply come across one if you’re in their territory. What it means can vary greatly, but seals are almost always beneficial to those they reveal themselves to. They will show up via detect magic as an indistinct blob splattered onto a surface, but can only be identified through either  successful relationship roll with the icon it represents (positive relationships identify them automatically).

You can also use a seal to identify yourself or others to an icon’s followers, or their enemies.

Categories: Setting

Setting: Ferrosa cross-section

October 16, 2012 2 comments

Area Map of Ferrosa (Session 2)

For those curious, here’s the map of Ferrosa as used in the campaign. It’s not to scale obviously.

The planet Migdol on which Ferrosa is located has an ecosystem of its own, including giant space squids who uproot treebirds from the forest for food, but are otherwise docile.
Because of this, Phillipe is considered the colony mascot, and the druids sometimes feed him from the top level of the biome (the upper dome has openable windows).

As the campaign progresses more of the map will be revealed. There is for example a subterranean cavern system which the party has yet to explore, but are consistently suspicious of.

The design’s a bit different from the original image but that’s because the original is wrong.

Categories: Setting

Setting: The History of Nasca

October 4, 2012 2 comments

Nasca is the Motherrock – the cradle of galactic civilization, so in honour of the fact the campaign is going to be starting this week, I thought I’d write up its history. If there’s anything in particular you need to figure out before then, now’s the time.

Those who originated from Nasca measure time via ages – vast global paradigms that begin and end with world shattering events. There have been 12 so far and Arcanauts takes place in the 13th.
The current age is known as The Age of Stars, which is also what I’m calling this campaign setting (Arcanauts is the campaign itself).

1 – The Age of Darkness
Before civilization really got started, the early humanoid races (humans, halflings and dwarves) were essentially no different from intelligent beasts such as goblins. They lived like the other beasts, surviving from day to day, with only the adaptability of humans, the strength of dwarves and the cunning of halflings keeping them alive.
2 – The Age of Druids
The discovery of primal magic allowed early humans to dominate their environments, cementing their place at the top of the food chain. The dwarves never mastered it in the same way, but were able to keep pace via technological prowess. Halflings could exploit either, though never as well as their cousins. Primal magic lead to an explosion of diversity, including the first elves, half elves, half orcs, half giants, half dwarves, shifters and wilden.
3 – The Age of Gods
The humanoid tribes developed the ability to weild divine magic, settling down and developing agriculture. The races learned to properly comprehend the Gods, understand their wills and draw on their abilities in exchange for worship. Dwarves took naturally to weilding this kind of magic, creating orders of paladins, while humans discovered how to channel divine energy from non-theistic beliefs such as causes or creeds. Divine magic quickly supplanted the practice of primal magic among “civilized” areas, but those in the wild never forgot the old ways. The first records of planetouched date from this era, as practicioners were able to make contact with ‘outsiders’, both friendly or otherwise.
4 – The Age of Arcana
Divine magic was often regarded by philosophers to be incomplete – its laws applying inconsistently to non-deistic casting. It was known that powerful magical beasts could create effects that were neither divine nor primal in nature, and that some people were born with inexplicably similar capabilities. Though initially feared, research into these strange gifts resulted in something new entirely – the field of arcane magic. The ability for anyone of sufficient education to cast powerful spells, and the dedicated facilities required to master them resulted in the establishment of large cities with universities and forums. It also meant the first scientific experiments into the nature of magic, resulting in powerful advances and strange creatures, some of whom (namely minotaurs) formed their own civilizations.
5 – The Age of Exploration
These new city-states were shocked to find Eladrin explorers arriving from across the oceans – already masters of arcane magic, but of a strange unearthly kind. This sparked an era of exploration, sailing the seas and searching for new lands, eventually mapping out the surface of Nasca. In addition, the Eladrin warned of their eternal foes – the subterranean, xenophobic drow, resulting in the discovery of the massive underground system of caverns lacing Nasca’s crust. Drow enclaves assaulted the surface world, plunging Nasca into war both above and below ground. Above ground, Nascan civilization fought off constant assaults, while subterranean incursions were beaten back at great cost by Dwarven Paladins, who prompted the leaders of their race to withdraw to their underground strongholds where they could remain vigilant against future threats. At the end of the war, The Dwarf lords, badly beaten but victorious, bitter from the lack of support from the other races did just that, taking their technology with them.
6 – The Age of Borders
After the defeat of the Drow and the withdrawal of the Dwarves, the surface found itself with its own problems. The massive exploration often resulted in land wars between the races of Nasca, and newfound nations struggled against one another over the few remaining unexplored lands and the first international empires were founded.
7 – The Age of Wills
Shardminds arrived in a massive meteor shower, bringing with them psionic magic, which became a rare and valuable skill taught to few. Even so, it was vehemently fought against by priests for its ability to subvert the will of individuals. This conflict resulted the first monastic orders, created in secret to oppose the outraged clergy. Eventually, advances in philosophy and the regulation of psionics by monks created an uneasy peace.
8 – The Age of Fire
This peace was broken when ancient dragons flew down from the mountains, waging a sudden and bloody war on civilization with the aid of the hitherto unknown dragonborn. Many of the advances of the age of philosophy were lost and monasteries were forced to relocate to cities or be destroyed by the dragonborn hordes. United against a common foe, practitioners of all four disciplines of magic were able to work in harmony to defeat the draconic menace.
9 – The Age of Unity
The empires after the age of fire were united under the four banners of magic, teaching each one in order to create realms of magnificent opulence and mystical grandeur. It was a time of peace and great mystical knowledge, however things were not to be. The scattered reports from that era suggest that artificers were on the verge of a breakthrough in magical technology, which was unfortunately lost as civilization was rocked by cataclysmic magical disasters that obliterated a great deal of information on the final years of the age, and the early years of the next.
10 – The Age of Discord
What is known is that it didn’t take long for the non-magical citizens of Nasca to rise up in revolution against the magocracy, utilizing the very magitechnology they had created to forcibly remove them from power, leveling cities with arcane explosives and waging war on all who practiced the now forbidden arts. Mages, becoming fewer and fewer in number retaliated with the creation of the Warforged – a machine race that brought entire armies to a standstill. Civilization was irrevocably changed as empires changed to be based on magic or mundane ideals.
11 – The Age of Reparation
With civilization shattered and power driving both sides mad, the future of civilization looked bleak, however hope was found in the form of 13 adventurers from all corners of Nasca. Their identities were never recorded – only their titles and the fact that all whom they encountered had claimed to see the stars above reflected in their eyes. They traveled the land, convincing the disparate empires of Nasca to unite once more for the good of all civilization. Their tale was legendary, and their work lasted beyond their lifetimes, with each descendant taking up the mantle of their predecessors to continue the work of peace and understanding.
12 – The Age of Prosperity
When the work of the thirteen families was complete, Nasca stood whole once more. It was a golden age – monsters were pushed away from settlements and into the remote areas of the world, while order reigned over civilization and a new harmony between mages and non-mages ensued. The first of the Whitecliffe line began to preside over civilization, and for more than 1000 years, all was well. Wizards worked to unlock the secrets of the universe, while historians sought to remember lost knowledge and artificers used technology to comprehend the physical laws – scientific understanding was slow, and painstaking, at least until practical uses for that knowledge were found.
13 – The Age of Stars
The ability to channel magic power through specially designed cores allowed for the production of fantastic amounts of energy, enough to travel to the moon and beyond. Early galactic travel involved traveling in repurposed sea vessels at FTL speeds from one planet to the next, under the protection of special wards. Soon after, techniques were refined to protect against the specific hazards of outer space making interstellar travel possible, if impractical for the masses. This changed when the massive Shard Station appeared in the skies, though few knew what to make of it at the time. Shortly it was attacked and taken over by the dragons who reached out to the dwarves for technological aid. The Shard Station was renamed ‘Wyrmweb’ and 200 years later, all corners of the galaxy are inhabited. This is not to imply a ludicrous growth in population, though it has grown, just that colonies are widespread and life is found on many more planets still.

Categories: Setting

Setting: Starships

September 23, 2012 4 comments

When space is involved, there will always be starships – that is a fact of space fantasy. In Arcanauts, starships are a lot like people – simple boats won’t cut it in this kind of environment.

Hardware

Starships come in all shapes and sizes from tiny Pixie Mayflies to massive Draconic Leviathans and anywhere in between. They universally include life support systems, power cores and communications facilities. Often they also include medical facilities, resting and dining areas, projectile weaponry and storage space. More rarely, ships can hold docking bays for other ships, dungeons (both in the historical and traditional sense), hidden compartments,  or almost anything else a being decides to put into space.

At the centre of a starship is its power core – a central battery that determines its capabilities and acts as its heart, brain and soul all rolled into one. These cores come in a few different flavors with their own strengths and weaknesses, and by and large determine the ship’s capabilities. These cores power a variety of simple rituals programmed into them by their creators, and allowing them basic functionality. All decently sized power cores are capable of FTL travel and synthesizing enough food and breathable air for the crew for example, but specialized cores maybe able to render the ship invisible or teleport it short distances. Due to their importance, these cores are often kept in the most heavily armored areas of the ship, and make extremely valuable targets for space pirates.

Anyways, here are the different types of engine you’re most likely to encounter:

Arcane Battery

An Arcane Battery is a large, crystalline structure that stores massive amounts of magical energy. It tends to be favoured for its versatility – an Arcane Battery can run most ships without a lot of trouble, and is the most common kind of Power Core you’ll encounter. Arcane Batteries draw power from cosmic leylines – massive intangible veins of pure magic that arc their way through the stars. The Leylines are often referred to as the “Grand Roads” and are by and large the best way to navigate when one wants to avoid Wyrmweb. This means that your ship will have to rest every so often in proximity to a Leyline in order to refuel, but beware – you aren’t the only ones travelling on the Grand Roads.

Thaumaturgical Capacitor

A Thaumaturgical Capacitor is a dense metal sculpture folded in on itself and inscribed with the prayers of those who use it. It acts as a powerful divine focus, allowing religious travellers to plot a course either at the mercy of the Gods, or through amplified divination spells. Thatumaturgical Capacitors are famed for their powerful shielding effects, though the often lack compatibility with most conventional weapons systems. They draw power from the prayers of their inhabitants, often doubling as an on-board shrine to whoever the crew’s chosen deity is. But beware  falling out of favour with the god who powers your ship can make for an “interesting” Odyssey.

Psionic Nexus

A Psionic Nexus is an artificial consciousness bound to the ship, controlling it as though it were its own body. It communicates intelligently to the crew, acting on its interpretation of their orders, provided they stay on good terms with it. Psionic Nexi tend to result in highly agile ships, but require experience and to be treated as another member of the crew if its pilot wants to get the most out of it. It absorbs power from the conscious minds of those around it while they rest, often manifesting this process as a collective dream that crew members take part in. In cases where this proves insufficient – say, after periods of intense travel or activity, these cores will often require more conventional refueling processes. Psionic Nexi tend to specialize in different areas depending on their personality, but most respond well to enhanced mobility software and enjoy the sensation of flight.

Primal Heart

A Primal Heart is a living, breathing organism that draws on the living power of nature to operate a ship. It absorbs power from the primal cosmic forces of the universe, siphoning energy from the stars around it. Primal Hearts lack any true sentience, but instead possess an empathic bond to the crew, feeling the raw emotions of everyone aboard. At the same time, the crew feel its emotions, remaining calm as long as it does, and becoming agitated if it feels uncomfortable. Nonetheless travelers often report that ships with primal hearts make for exceedingly relaxing voyages.  Primal Hearts tend to be highly compatible with conventional weaponry and their affinity for cosmic forces make them particularly good sensor platforms.

Other Cores and Regional Variants

While theoretically there are other ways to convert magical power into physical effects, and scientific efforts have made major strides in the harnessing of Dark Energy, such custom devices are either extremely rare or unreliable to the point they cannot or are not sold on an open market. Most power cores are variations on those themes, though different regions produce different ship designs and core specifications. Dwarven cores for example tend to be exceedingly reliable, while draconborn cores often sacrifice stability for power. Shardmind Nexi tend to be logical and emotionally consistant, whereas Eladrin Primal Hearts are often as capricious as their makers.

Mechanically this means Starships use the same six abilities as you do, modified by the kind of engine and the design of the ship. STR determines engine power, CON determines hull strength, DEX determines agility, INT determines hardware and software versatility, WIS determines sensor and remote communication capabilities, while CHA affects how the ship looks and in some cases acts.

Software

As stated earlier, power cores are responsible for powering pre-programmed spells and rituals that perform tasks ranging from the simple operation of the ship to shields, sensors and weaponry. The functions an individual core is capable of are determined by built in subroutines (or as people call them, skills) as well as unique hardware capabilities (feats) and of course, the magical effects it has learned (spells/rituals). The cores are mostly self sustaining, but tend to require semi-regular maintenance to ensure their capabilities remain in peak condition.  Starships can generally do anything an adventurer is capable of, provided the right software packages and custom hardware, though obviously through different mechanisms.

For example – recording software (History) can be used to memorize star charts, area data and take recordings. Telepathic warfare suites (Bluff)  can then be used to feed false data to enemy sensors, or they can simply be avoided via cloaking systems (Stealth).  Often the only limits are that of the artificers and mages designing them, as they tend to have significant amounts of magical power to work with, and in some cases, sentient operating systems to make sure their projects are working properly.

In the Game

Ship to ship combat will be a thing, and characters will gain experience from engaging in it. Ships generally don’t get experience, unless they’re Psionic Nexi or Primal Hearts, and upgrades, including level ups usually have to be purchased from shipyards. Instead of armour, they have different hull plating, and they almost exclusively use spells or adapted ranged weapons in combat. Default loadouts will resemble actual classes so feel free to discuss amongst yourselves the kind of ship you’d like to use. No guarantees, but I am curious.

Categories: Setting

Setting: The Emerald Council

September 11, 2012 4 comments

In the previous post I mentioned the Emerald council – the ruling body of Wyrmweb Station.

The Emerald council was originally formed from the 13 dragon lords and headed by the now deceased Yarluth, who called herself the Celestial Fire. At her right hand sat Shahrukh, the Nebula Queen – her lover and and matriarch of the green dragons. They weren’t called that at the time – having taken their titles after the conquest of Wyrmweb, so in Yarluth’s case she was never called that while alive.

Anyway, the dragons fought the shardminds and the Emerald council opened its ranks as a peace offering, forming essentially a dual-government, lording over the galactic travel hub. As of right now, the council holds 30 seats including representatives from the major worlds and exceptional individuals who the dragons see value in. Dragons are prideful and greedy, but intelligent enough to know it is easier to gain the trust of an ally than attempt to conquer them and their planet so soon after a war, so while the majority of seats on the council are draconic, the other representatives are treated with fairness. At least, as much fairness as dragons are willing to give, which would be a lot less had the council not included powerful archmages and warlords who can and do “negotiate” right back.

The result is that the council is effectively the seat of galactic power, holding absolute dominion over legitimate trade routes, and including representatives from most of the civilized galaxy. Their jurisdiction, while focused on Wyrmweb is essentially limited only to their influence – with no concrete borders to speak of, all that determines their power in the remote sections of the galaxy is how many enforcers are stationed there. And enforcing for a group of not only the most powerful, but the richest beings in the galaxy is an appealing prospect when over half the council doesn’t care how you do your job.

That said, it is not without its enemies – The Wild Man being the chief among them. His insurgents are a constant thorn in the council’s side, but so far they have yet to gain any real ground. Additionally, those claiming to work for the Huntsman often attempt to undermine the Council’s plans. The fact that those two options aren’t particularly pleasant for more virtuous would-be revolutionaries means that the seat of their power is essentially unshakable. Of course, should a more charismatic leader arise, that could well change. The real threat for them is, often council members will actively employ any forces at their disposal to undermine any initiatives they didn’t approve. Keeping plausible deniability means that mercenaries and adventurers are often used – the untrustworthy types whose word under torture can’t be verified. Of course, while the “good” council members deny such accusations, the rumors in ports and taverns say otherwise.

Categories: Setting

Setting: The Icons

September 10, 2012 9 comments

EDIT: I’ve updated the biographies of some of the icons with the way I currently view them. They were pretty simple when I first wrote them, but have been further refined as I explored their role in the galaxy, and what each one represents. It’s mostly minor stuff, but hopefully they should be a bit more interesting than before.

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I’ve finished working on an assignment for a bit so here’s an extra-large update on who’s who in Arcanauts to make up for it.

High fantasy is almost inherently about distinct kingdoms of unique races who rarely intermingle except when adventuring. In Arcanauts, they don’t really have a choice. There are still kings and emperors, but if I had to give you a list of the most powerful forces in the galaxy, it would also involve organizations and guilds. So who is running the place? Well by and large existing empires on the various homeworlds still exist, but they lack the strength and scale of a true galactic organisation, often forming alliances to attain a more solid foothold. This is not without exception, however.

Even so, the ones that hold the real power are the Icons. The 13 most powerful mortals in the galaxy.

[Each occupies a transition between the icon roles in 13th Age – though which they started out as, and how they’ve changed is for you to discover.]

The Psiontist

Grayson Faraday is the name of an eccentric Eladrin inventor and arch-psion. In his three centuries alive he has contributed more than any other individual towards the technological progress of the galactic races, so it’s no surprise he’s gained some popularity. The Faraday Corps are an intergalactic association of psionics (and a few exceptional others) dedicated to the technological advancement of technology and the acceleration of civilization. They use their vast mental powers to solve scientific and engineering problems , and while all follow Grayson’s teachings, very few have ever interacted with him for any real length of time. The Corps has expended to include cosmic artificers and merchants who use a vast financial empire to manufacture complex techno-arcane devices. They generally get along well with most people, but being blacklisted by the corps is about the fastest way to find yourself cut off from the rest of the universe with no hope of reconciliation. Grayson recently went missing, his seat on the Emerald council empty an even his apprentices unable to contact him.

The Fey Queen

The planet known as Feywilde is a dangerous place due to the inscrutable and capricious intelligence pervading its life forms and warping their flesh even as it jealously ensnares their souls. Oona is what the entity calls itself – a truly ancient genius loci whose primal tendrils have shaped an entire planet’s ecosystem for millennia or possibly longer. While unable to leave the planet, Oona’s words are hyponotic to fey creatures, and her dryads represent her on the Emerald Council.  Oona is not without a softer side however and rewards her servants well, engendering a following even outside the creatures she claims dominion over.

The World Builder

Lord Ceylon Tuatha is the current co-owner of planetary colonization supergiant, Whetstone-Tuatha. The heir to the company’s founder, Sylvan Tuatha, Ceylon is an unimaginably wealthy philanthropist, using his fortune for the benefit of colonists everywhere. On the outskirts of civilization, he is the only power with any real sway, as enforced by his druidic order which has grown exponentially since its relatively humble beginnings. Ceylon however remains a controversial figure, and can often be seen leveraging his favour for political power, though his supporters deny it with fanatical devotion. He, like many of the other names you’ll see here sits on the Emerald council – the seat of draconic power, which is open to a few exceptional individuals the dragons consider to be assets to their cause.

The Matriarch Wyrm

Shahrukh, the Nebula Queen is the draconic matriarch at the head of the Emerald Council, and was Yarluth’s second in command and rumoured lover while she lived. Powerful and ambitious beyond her nature as a green dragon, Shahrukh is often seen as the true power behind not only Wyrmweb, but the cult of Yarluth. While her enforcers patrol the twisted streets of Wyrmweb, her devotees revere her husband as the incarnation of Tiamat – god of conquest, though many whisper that he may have been something else entirely. Her position offers her more power than perhaps any dragon ever had, though her decisions are never in opposition to her council. Rarely seen outside of religious ceremony, little is know about her except that she is responsible for the way Wyrmweb exists today, for better or for worse.

The Planet King

The enlightenment and the ensuing space race resulted in the home planet of civilization being abandoned in droves, more and more as races discovered their ancient homeworlds. The dwarves, however were content to remain, claiming that the rock and stone that their ancestral halls lay within was home enough. To that end, they renamed Nasca “The Motherrock”, and declared that if they had a true home, it was long since lost to them. Furious debate from humans who considered the planet theirs was quelled when Thornstar Earthroot forged a strategic alliance with the dragons, earning them representation on the Council. Since then, galactic civilization has always considered The Motherrock to be property of the dwarf lords, who are currently represented by his son, Briganan, whose ruthless leadership and peerless ambition decimated the drow armies.

The Huntsman

Everything about the Huntsman is shrouded in mystery and contradiction. Some say he was there from the beginning – a spymaster, or an assassin or even a noble responsible for leading the charge from the Underdark, attempting to wrest control of Nasca from the Dwarves, before being beaten back by Briganan. Despite their moderate success in being able to claim the vast majority of the now-abandoned surface, their leadership felt that it was insufficient – that their true victory had escaped them into space. Shortly after, the vast majority took to the stars, cutting a bloody swathe through all who tried to stop them, before vanishing into deep space. Though their physical presence was erased, there was one who stayed behind. The Huntsman’s title lived on as a boogeyman – some claiming he embodied the seething, xenophobic rage of the drow and could not bear to see the surface-dwellers in peace. Others, suggest he was disillusioned or even exiled from the drow Matriarchy,  unwilling to lie hidden amongst the infinite shadows, always watching, waiting to strike out at galactic civilization the way he fought on the Motherrock. Whatever the case, whether he be killer or thief or exile, his influence is undeniable. Thieves, con men and covert operatives have been recorded as claiming to do his will, while priceless treasures have vanished and best laid plans have been unravelled, each pointing back to a mysterious drow, the true lord of the galactic underworld.

The Astrosage

Myddea Luminastra is the current head of the galactic order of Astronomy – the academic body whose research is what enables space flight to be feasible. While she was once slated to be the high priestess of Correllon, her inability to wield divine magic saw her expelled from her order. A chance encounter with the Psiontist saw her realise a staggering wellspring of arcane power, suggesting maybe the god of magic favoured her after all. Now an arch-mage in her own right, the deva considers herself and her students to be the shepards of the age of cosmic enlightenment, studying the stars and unraveling the mysteries of the universe. Additionally noted for her interest in politics, Myddea was among the first non-dragons to sit on the Emerald council, where she acts as a voice of reason, and scientific advisor. Though she lacks any real political influence over the people of Wyrmweb, or even interest in it, the results of her order, and her spells are said to hold the fabric of the galaxy together.

The Blood Emperor

The man known only as the Blood Emperor is a masked tyrant whose ambition and cruelty are said to match the dragons themselves.  While most planets keep tyrants in check through valiant adventurers, there were no such people around when he rose to power. The Emperor is the ruler of an entire solar system now, and is feared among the free people of the galaxy. However, he sits on the Emerald Council, and is favored by the dragons for reasons undisclosed. All that is known of him is the reason behind his title – at some point, the empire he was once a part of was destroyed. Not through military conquest, but plague and famine – entire worlds tore themselves apart until the emperor was the only one left, and the prime suspect – standing amid the seas of corpses strewn between dead worlds. He is said to have called upon an unfathomable evil, corrupting the very sun that once gave the system life, that it might now give undeath. Soon, his domain had been rebuilt anew, stitched together from the blood and bones of his fallen brethren, now resurrected as his eternal thralls.

The Shard Scion

Quartorzi Attice is the chief artificer of the shardminds – a mute , yet eminently respected woman, Quartorzi is responsible for the treaty allowing the dragons domain over Wyrmweb. It is evident she had some further involvement in its creation, but she has never been seen in public, let alone interviewed. She holds the only shardmind seat on the Emerald Council, her peers having refused to sit with her as it was founded. All that is known is that the shardminds of the station revere her, and her leadership is directly responsible for the uneasy peace kept on the station. Her agenda and reason for building Wyrmweb were never revealed, but she has a knack for knowing things she shouldn’t, and seeing things she couldn’t possibly have seen.

The Enlightened One

The Enlightened One is the high cleric of Ioun – the god of knowledge – and is rumored to be the only one who truly understands what is happening to the gods. He holds a consulting position on the Council, though he has never set foot on Wyrmweb, and spends his days in the massive Warforged archive he designed – a mind-bogglingly complex library rumoured to be capable of storing the imprinted consciousness of a suitable vessel – in this case, the entire warforged race. His life’s work has been dedicated to the preservation and collection of the knowledge of the dead, however contemporary scholars insist he cannot possibly have achieved his goal. Regardless his unique relationship with the warforged and deep understanding of the universe cannot be denied, and he holds a position of unspoken authority over all the churches as a liason to the gods. This general position and his reclusive nature have resulted in severe controversy amongst the followers of Ioun, who feel sidelined in favour of his personal projects.

The Monarchs

Humankind has always been certain of its place as essentially the dominant species in civilization, but the advent of space travel has found that status threatened. Regardless, the kingdoms of men endure, with under King Darvill and his wife, Queen Amelia. The two monarchs live on a terraformed moon orbiting the Motherrock, neither in exile, nor fully home, at the seat of human power in the galaxy. Though they lack a seat on the Emerald council, the other races tend to look to humans for guidance, as the once most numerous and prosperous species adapts to a galaxy in which neither of those things are really true. Through this setback, human ingenuity and the adaption of technology has allowed them to keep pace with the more fortunate races, and their stalwart determination to regain their lost power has spurred humanity on with an energy few other races can match.

The Wild Man

The Wild man is an anarchist – deemed an unpredictable madman, a warlord and a demon worshipper by his enemies, and a revolutionary by his followers. Despite his name, the wild man tends to be clever and well spoken, with only his mismatched eyes giving a hint to his true nature – he tactically dismantles order wherever he finds it, eroding the power structures of civilization in the name of equality and anarchy. His methods often involve driving authorities to madness, and taking extraordinary personal risks to achieve his goals. He opposes the Emerald council vehemently, a stance that has earned him a surprising amount of favor among those who distrust the dragons and their “thralls”.

The Revolutionary

There’s another player in this game. Someone with more influence than anyone knows. Someone born of the machinations of the Emerald council, and seeks their undoing, but holds no allegiance to any of the other icons. Someone who is the subject of rumours and tall tales alike – if there are any who know more than that person’s goal, they’re not talking about it.

Categories: Setting