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Apr 6, 2009

Aethera Campaign Setting - You got Firefly in my Eberron!

Part One - Early Access Guide and Cantor Playtest

Do you like Eberron? Of course you do.
Do you like Firefly? Of course you do.

Then boy howdy do I have a thing for you. Aethera is a space opera campaign setting for Pathfinder in which humanity has recently come out of the Century War, a long war with the plant-based Erahthi. During this conflict, the humans began activating the Phalanx, a race of genderless automata that are now beginning to find their own identities in the new time of peace.

Aside from the plants, you can see why I mentioned Eberron. It's going to be nearly impossible to escape comparisons to Those That Came Before, because let's face it: There is nothing new under the sun. All we can hope for is to find something that combines the things we like into a pleasing whole. So far, for me, Aethera does that.

I backed the Kickstarter for Aethera at a substantial level, primarily to support my friends. Robert Brookes, the lead designer, is an old friend and DM, and two of my other friends have written significiantly for the setting. There have so far been two sneak peeks released to KS backers: A playtest of the Cantor; a divine bard-type caster, and the Early Access Guide, a run-down of the unique races in the Aethera setting, as well as a few class archetypes and new skill uses to whet our appetites. I'll begin with the Early Access Guide. Being early releases, I'm not going to mention typos and formatting errors. They're here, but understandable.

The first thing we encounter, after a thank-you note and a small bit of boilerplate, is a notice that the common races of D&D: Elves, halflings, dwarves, etc. simply do not exist in this corner of the universe. Humans do, as do many of the special snowflakes like the elementally-touched races and scattered pockets of things like tengu, dhampir, and ratfolk. As usual, "consult with your GM" is their watchword here. Tensions between erahthi and humans still run deep from the recent war, and of course the phalanx were created as weapons of war and only recently emancipated. A mention is made that if you decide to include races other than those explicitly outlined, you should be ready to consider how they interact with other parts of the setting, including the Century War.

I am Groot and I am fabulous.

The erahthi are combination elementals and plants, and grow and animate plants for every purpose, including reproduction. New erahthi bodies are grown to adulthood, then a spirit is channeled into it. Their culture is caste-based, with a given member's caste decided before "birth" via divinations, and their body grown to aid with the tasks required of them within their caste. They live for about 200 years and do not have natural genders, although travelers sometimes choose to present them for the benefit of other races. They worship three god-kings, who each take it in turn to rule the society for a 250-year stretch at a time. The current god-king is Athrakarus, the explorer and warrior.

Mechanically, they are native outsiders who are also treated as plants, have a number of plant-based abilities, and a Con bonus with another bonus that can be added to one of the other stats. Their most interesting ability is the ability to respire through their skin, so they can for instance breathe underwater by keeping a hand above the surface, but this respiration results in a penalty to saves versus inhaled poisons and irritants. Going by their favored class bonuses, they make good barbarians, druids, and monks.

Incidentally, those H-es in erahthi give me the same problem the double A in aasimar does: I have to be very careful not to mess it up.

This fuckin' guy. I wanna be this guy. I want a robo-fox.

Humans are humans. Most of them in the system have dark skin thanks to stemming from an arid planet. Their ruling body is the Hierarchy, who rule from massive arcologies and attempt to maintain iron-fisted control of the tribal inhabitants of the outer wastelands and the off-world colonies. A hundred years of non-stop war has left humanity a little uncertain of their future course. Their primary religion is Scorism, belief in a series of musical prophecies that the Cantor class taps into as a power source.

Humans are mechanically unchanged from base Pathfinder, except that Common is renamed to Hymnas. This is unsurprising, from my relationship with Robert Brookes. At one point while we were prepping for an Eberron campaign, I wound up talking him down from implementing regional dialects. The man just does not like the concept of the Common tongue. I don't blame him, either. Although the most complicated I'd go is making it a trade patois that doesn't have the words to cover certain topics. Very good with numbers, nouns, and certain verbs, but if you want a love poem, go for Elven.

Phazon Aetherite's a hell of a drug, kids.

Infused are humans who underwent enhancement in the Hierarchy's Paragon Project. And if you know anything about these kinds of space opera stories, you know exactly how things turned out. Voluntary or otherwise, high failure rate, infertility and shortened lifespan, memory loss, cast aside, shunned, dystopian as gently caress. Hello, River Tam, nice to see you again.

Mechanically, Infused are a little more badass than baseline humans, but frailer. They have a few telekinetic abilities, including flight in zero gravity or while levitating, and they can form psychic bonds with other creatures with the aether subtype (Currently, this is just other Infused). Their favored classes are brawler, kineticist, and psychic.

It's worth mentioning aetherite here. Aetherite is the handwavium that powers all the whiz-bang rayguns and things that make this space opera rather than just plain fantasy. It's a power source (you need it to spin up the jumpgates between planets), it can be forged into weapons, it's used as currency, and it's radioactive, which Infused are immune to. I'm not sure all those uses are in line with its drawbacks. We're not told exactly what it is in this preview, but a series of infodumps on the Aethera blog reveals that it consists of flash-frozen magical ley lines. It gives me a similar feeling to ghost rock from Deadlands: That shouldn't be possible and is almost certainly a bad idea, but I'm on board anyway.

If that's a druid, and she turns into a bear, is that a downgrade?

Okanta are your Klingons, your Wookiees. A proud and powerful race. They are huge and hairy, bearing aspects of various animals, but they all bear strong, heavy horns. They have very short lifespans and tend to throw themselves into life seeking to make their mark on history. They practice shamanic animism, their shamans capable of hearing the whispering of the aetherite that laces their frozen planet.

Mechanically, they are strong and have Powerful Build, horns, and light sensitivity. Their most interesting feature is the ability to learn a skill by watching someone use that skill for an hour. After this hour they are as practiced with the skill as if they'd spent their whole adventuring life doing it. They can only know one skill at a time this way, but that's still very powerful. Their favored classes are all martial: Bloodrager, Cavalier, Fighter, and Paladin.

How snazzy can one robot be?!

The phalanx were discovered in an ancient vault on Prima, the moon of the human's home planet. I'm picturing kind of a Terracotta Army situation, because that's exactly what they had: However many bodies, but no souls in them. The humans managed to infuse the bodies with aetherite, reactivating them and unintentionally giving them souls and free will. They're warforged, everything you know about warforged applies equally here. I was, however, amused to see that their age and height/weight table entries are only one number. They reach adulthood at 1, do not change statistics through age, are uniformly six feet tall and 560 pounds. That's not a typo. They use body modification to express individuality, ranging from simple paintjobs to mechanical overhauls. Their internal culture tends to be in a state of flux and needs to be defined community-by-community, as they are constantly experimenting with various social structures and philosophies in an attempt to find where they fit or what fits them. Another side effect of the aetherite infusion that reactivated the phalanx is dreams and visions of what seem to be past lives as non-phalanx, which forms the core of their own belief system.

Mechanically, they have Cha and Con bonuses, but a Wisdom penalty. They are constructs, but with a Con score. They have a number of other abilities tied to their phalanx subtype that sets them apart both from normal constructs and the living construct subtype that Eberron's warforged have. They can also tap into the visions of past lives they have in order to gain the temporary use of a feat they don't have. Their favored classes are Fighter, Monk, and Rogue.

Now we move on to some class teasers. The Warsinger is a Bard Archetype, and... and... Holy poo poo.

HOLY. poo poo.

Warsingers specialize in an elemental damage type, similar to the kineticist. They lose most of their gentler bardic performances in favor of firing off literal hot riffs while performing. The abilities they get further down the line let them enhance these blasts, and at 20th level they can change the element they're specialized in at the start of a day.

The Titan is a Brawler archetype that adds guns to the Fighter/Monk hybrid and makes it into a Space Marine. They add heavy armor, are masters of using guns in close combat, can flurry with guns and fists interchangeably, and at higher levels can charge into battle more effectively than a mounted knight.

The Divine Dancer is a Cantor archetype, which we haven't gotten to yet, but it swaps all the party-buffing songs the Cantor gets for a single self-buffing dance. The friend that wrote it says it was heavily cut down for this guide, although for length or balance he doesn't know. I'm hoping just for length, because compared to the Warsinger and Titan, the Divine Dancer is entirely poo poo.

The Aether Soldier is a Fighter archetype that takes the wizard's arcane bond with an item and sticks his sword in it. He gets a free masterwork melee weapon made of aetherite and learns to use it in various and sundry arcane fashions across his career.

The Correspondent spreads a little bardic jelly on the fluffernutter of the Investigator. They add medium armor, replace their trapfinding and poison abilities with the bardic music abilities that boost groups, and swap their free inspiration on Spellcraft for Bluff.

Thanks to some sort of cataclysm or other cosmological wrinkle, the Astral Plane cannot be accessed from Aethera. Thus, the Medium class either taps into psychic forces in aetherite (This is assuredly a terrible idea), or the Ethereal Plane. They provide the Ethereal Dreamer as the modified base class, and allow you to layer archetypes on top of that. Primarily it just crosses out "astral" and writes in "ethereal".

However, they do provide the Shadow Visionary, who functions exactly as a normal (ethereal) Medium, but gets the ability to use Shadow Walk and to contact the Plane of Shadow and ask things of the dead.

And now, skills. Constructing firearms and ammo is now a purely skill-based endeavour, not requiring the Gunsmithing feat. Assumably this means firearms are more prevalent.

And we have a "skill unlock", a new use of a skill you can use if you meet various prerequisites. In this case, we have Elemental Harmony, which can be used if you have the Elemental Tuning feat (Which we know nothing of except that the Warsinger also gets it). This skill unlock allows the user to pull magical effects through the borders of the planes with their musical performances. These effects include a damaging blast, Endure Elements, and... Prestidigitation involving your chosen element. As written, the prestidigitation uses the same daily use as the blast or endure elements effect.

And that's all we get out of the preview guide. Now, before this came out, we also got the Cantor playtest PDF. I've played it up long enough, so let's dive right in.

I lost my arm! Do you hear me whining about it? No, you hear me singing about it!

The Cantor began as an attempt at a hybrid class, and I can see that it has some DNA in common with both the Oracle and the Bard. It has a d8 HD, 2/3 BAB, simple weapons, light/medium armor and shields, strong Will save, 6 skill points to spend on a solidly social/caster skillset, and Wis-based spontaneous divine casting from their own six-level spell list.

They have a skill tax in the form of Perform (Sing) powering most of her class abilities, Naturally, if they can't sing for whatever reason, things stop or fail or whatnot. They get a couple of bardic music abilities, namely countersong and fascinate (The two I've always found least useful), plus the ability to cause rerolls in the same manner. The core of the Cantor class is Hymns, a selected package of abilities that comes with a class skill, a few spells, and some added uses for their bardic music divine song. They also get a selection of Verses, small magical utility powers. As they level up, their divine song, hymns, and verses all improve, with greater abilities popping up, the ability to pick up a second hymn and some of the benefits that come with it (And change this second hymn daily).

Interestingly, what most people would think of as a capstone ability comes at 14th level with the Superior Verse ability, which includes things like Reincarnate, Control Weather, Prismatic Spray, and Create Demiplane. The actual capstone at 20th is the ability to maintain the divine song from the hymn without using actual expendable rounds of divine song.

I'm not going to cover all the hymns and their spell list, let's leave a little mystery about things. But, each hymn is linked to a specific plane of existence, leaving off the Astral Plane for previously mentioned reasons. And also including a Plane of Wood.

In summary, this early access guide has raised some intriguing questions that I am looking forward to having answered in future, and I feel pleased that I backed the Kickstarter. I definitely haven't gotten my money's worth out of it, and I probably won't from a purely economic standpoint, but I appreciated the opportunity to support my friends while I also had the capacity to do so.

Would you like to know more?


Apr 6, 2009

I don't have enough content to make a full post on Aethera, but here's this.

The team did a panel at PaizoCon, a podcast of which can be found here. If you were interested by my first post on the subject, it might be worth tossing it on a player and listening when you have a free hour. Come for the giant dismembered torso flying through space accompanied by white blood cell monsters, stay for the minotaur space pirates flying hollowed-out stolen planets. Everyone attending the panel also got thumbdrives containing the Cantor and Early Access Guide, so expect those out in the wild if they're not already.

Notable for me is that there are no actual gods in the setting. The lack of an astral plane means there's no teleportation, and any outsiders called are stuck. Summoning spells work normally, but if you use Lesser Planar Ally and get something, they're stuck, and not happy about it. There is long-distance transport, but it's taxing, like you're stretched from one point to the other. "If you try to scry-and-fry, you're gonna be puking your guts out while your target looks at you and wonders why you're in his bathroom." No gods also means no clerics. Inquisitors, oracles, other divine casters that don't necessarily rely on deities, those work. There's even a note towards the end that if you have a PC that really wants to be an actual cleric (say, of a concept), they can, but be ready to be in the spotlight because they're going to be unprecedented. With no gods, the afterlife becomes reincarnation. A soul is sucked into the white dwarf of the binary star, scrubbed clean, and sent back out to be born again. Sometimes it gets where it needs to be, sometimes it gets intercepted, "sometimes you wake up and you're a robot, that's weird."

Golarion and Aethera can technically coexist in the same universe, the lack of an astral plane is localized to a few hundred million miles from the suns. Your Golarion PCs can come to Aethera. "I'm sorry for them, but you can do that. Or you can take your Aethera characters and bring them to Golarion and they'll never want to go home again."

They go into more detail on the cosmology and how it interacted with the Progenitors. In this system, each planet was linked to an element. They would cycle elements every ten thousand years, so a water planet would dry up as another element took over, etc. The Progenitors stopped that cycle to power all their poo poo. Until it broke, and dozens of planar shifts happened in a rapid timeframe. The few survivors of the cataclysm became the races present today. The human homeworld used to be a water world, but is now earth-dominant. The arcologies that the ruling class live in are the remains of Progenitor oil wells that were anchored to the ocean floor. I'm not entirely sure how that works with physics, because as they state, the fire planet is currently one of the suns, which implies they take it in turn. Also notable is that the air planet is a gas giant.

Dareon fucked around with this message at 22:21 on Jun 27, 2016

Apr 6, 2009

Actual Play - Beacon in the Black

Those who backed the Aethera Kickstarter at the 420 dollar level got a special reward: a personal session run for you and several of your closest friends, run by Robert Brookes himself. As you may be about to surmise, I backed it at this level. I don't regret it. As I mentioned in my previous review, Robert Brookes is an old friend and getting to chat and play with him again was a delight.

Before the game began, we were presented with an array of pre-generated characters. Our dramatis personae:
A as Hauyne, a phalanx Unchained Rogue. She has boobs.
D as Aleta, an infused spell sage wizard. He's old for an infused.
K as Arakhu, an okanta cavalier. He rides a speeder bike and, thanks to an art mixup, carries a weapon that's literally an anvil duct taped to a pole.
Z as Erryn, a human tech bonded hunter. His robot foxcat pet wound up with better HP than any of the rest of the party. And it still got knocked down to 1 HP.
M as Tillanieh, an erahthi hydrokineticist. She's young for an erahthi.
Myself as Oemathra, an erahthi alchemist. They haven't chosen to express a gender.

You may note the near-complete lack of healers in that party, like maybe the alchemist could be a healer with the right discovery, but. Well, I have news for you: It was a complete lack. Level 1, baby. The most powerful options we had were my bombs and a scroll of Scorching Ray Aleta had.

The adventure begins with some scene-setting. The Radiant Beacon was one of the first Paradigm-class dreadnoughts developed by the human Hierarchy, deployed in 3984 to patrol and protect human interests around the gas giant Seraos. It lasted only seven months before disappearing without a trace, leaving only a brief, garbled message behind indicating an emergency descent into Seraos' atmosphere. After two years of fruitless searching, the Radiant Beacon was declared lost with all 3,212 hands.

Three weeks ago, an echo of the Beacon's final transmission was picked up by a colony outside of Seraos' rings. Rumors of the lost ship surviving for 20 years in the depths of the atmosphere spurred a gold rush, salvagers, glory hounds, and clandestine political operatives all racing to be the first to reach it. The crew of the salvage vessel Stormwrack collected a team of freelancers (guess who), aided by the crew's certainty they could find the Beacon's exact location in the storms.

Gotta admit I'm a big fan of Business Puma.

From left to right, top to bottom we have: Captain Narl, an okanta war veteran. His First Mate Andis Felstrom, who uses his psychometric talents to help triangulate the Beacon's position based on debris we find. "Lucky", the ship's mechanic, who survived a head wound and now has a lot of creaky grindy quirks. And Raija Born of Thunder, Narl's chief of security.
<LucentGM> "The air is good right now," Raija chimes in, the first thing she's said the entire meeting. "Some pockets of bad air," her brows furrow, "bubbling up from below. Dark, purple..." her eyes track from side to side, "more breathable than not." Narl offers Raija an askance look, then nods as if that isn't weird in the slightest.
<LucentGM> "I forgot to mention Raija's... talents." Narl notes, "She's going to be our canary in the aetherite mine, so to speak. She's got a knack for predicting and sensing weather. If the Stormflow is going to collapse, or suck us under... she's going to keep us aware."
OOC: <Oemathra> A canary in an aetherite mine doesn't die to warn you, it starts singing in Enochian.

We also have Gina and Serrem, a pair of salvagers brought on to aid in the hauling-stuff tasks. Meanwhile, the PCs are muscle, the forward team that goes in and actually punches the things that might need punching.

Narl and Andis go over the details of the transmission that sparked all this business. It's definitely a live transmission, by a phalanx, which explains why anyone's alive after that long. The transmission has been narrowed to a region of Seraos called the Stormflow: A region of relatively calm and breathable air that we can actually go and adventure in without being torn apart by winds, crushed by pressure, or suffocated.

Narl provides us with "portable" farcasters - 25-lb backpacks, roughly similar to World War II radio equipment. Erryn's player Z notes that Kitscha, his robo-cat, has a short-range farcaster as well. Erryn also makes a Geography check, discovering and relaying that the atmosphere in the Stormflow occasionally bubbles up toxic pockets of "Seraos miasma" and the planet features subjective gravity: With a simple Wisdom check you can alter which way is "down". Given that he's the biggest and strongest, Arakhu takes the farcaster backpack.
<LucentGM> So far every game has had an Arakhu and every game he's taken the farcaster.

The game begins as a hexcrawl, we descend into the Stormflow and find ourselves in uncharted territory.
<LucentGM> In order for you to find the Radiant Beacon you will need to acquire clues that help lead you to location that the vessel is shrouded in. You need to acquire a total of 10 clues in order to reveal the hex that contains the Radiant Beacon. However you could stumble onto the Beacon by accident as well, depending on where you explore. Fully exploring a hex awards the PCs 1 clue, while other discoveries might award additional clues based on the PCs actions. Once the PCs have acquired 10 clues, the crew of the Stormwrack has enough information to plot a course to the Beacon’s location.
Each different "terrain" (aerrain, more like: Clear skies, high winds, solid fog, or debris field) takes a different amount of time to traverse or search. Searching sticks to the clear spaces for the first day. General player concensus seems to be that until time pressure threatens, we should take it easy.

<LucentGM> Debris Field: Debris field terrain includes small to large debris from asteroids or other solid bodies suspended in the subjective gravity of Seraos' atmosphere. Debris fields are considered difficult terrain for aethership travel (but not travel on foot) and aetherships traveling through or searching a debris field deals 3d6 points of damage to the vessel.
<Arakhu> Oooh. Uh, that comment from earlier... how much health DOES this thing have?
<LucentGM> The stormwrack has 151 hp and DR 10/adamantine
<Oemathra> Worst-case scenario, we discover a new deposit of adamantine.

At the end of the first day, we've gone three hexes in. Our third hex triggers an encounter, as the ship's farseeker (Read: radar) picks up a small derelict. A tiny blockade runner labeled the HAV Skycrawler, it suffered the loss of an engine sometime in the Century War and was drawn into Seraos' atmosphere.

Inside the derelict, Arakhu takes the lead, only to be ambushed and flanked by a pair of hungry corpses: Ghouls with the degenerate template. He tanks things like a champ, taking three or four hits and passing two saves versus paralysis. Erryn does a backflip onto the ceiling thanks to subjective gravity and shoots one of them with his rifle. His cat then bites it to death. Hauyne simply makes julienne fries of the other.
Detect Magic from Aleta picks up some transmutation from the engine room: Some charge remaining in the derelict's aetherdrive, which siphons out into his coin purse aetheric capacitor to the tune of 76 au. An empty holster on one of the ghouls leads to the discovery of a seven-shot revolver known as a hive pistol beneath the control console, capable of firing single shots or all seven as a shotgun blast. Oemathra takes it, since their bombs would have damaged at least one of the other PCs in the fight. The salvage crew then moves in, stripping the usable components and wiring, and finding a few more reloads for the pistol in the process.

Day 2:
First Mate Andis raises some concerns that we're literally fighting off the hungry dead as we search, but Narl brushes him off, especially as we find a large hull piece in a cloud bank. The search continues.

A mysterious asteroid, gray with green iridescence, floats in midair in the eye of a storm, three large tunnels boring into it. Knowledge rolls reveal it's a source of an antimagic ore known as noqual, the eye of the storm around it is an anomaly caused by something besides the noqual, and the nature of the rock indicates it was originally part of a planet, the most likely candidate being Amrita, the shattered homeworld of the Progenitors that now forms the Amrita Belt.

<LucentGM> So, I'm not going to put the dicking arm on the map for this, but assume that the docking arm is available for withdrawl at the northwest entrance
<Arakhu> We need the dicking arm to penetrate one of this asteroid's holes.
* Aleta cries a little
<Arakhu> We're going in deep.
* LucentGM weeping
<Arakhu> And though it may be hard...
<Arakhu> I'm certain good things will come.

<LucentGM> As the Forward team continues down the tunnel, their handlights shine across shimmering metallic surfaces growing up and out of the walls. At a sharp corner inside the planetoid, the noqual fibers embedded in the walls weave together into two six foot wide nodules of wispy, crystalline-metallic noqual. Ancient reliefs in the rock wall, reminiscent of fossils, cover this entire passage. The shapes are the skeletal remains of quadrupedal creatures with long tails, large eye sockets, enormous teeth, and strange orifices along their skulls. Hundreds of these fossils press out from the cavern walls, dusty and ancient.

The nodules -including a large one with some form of mechanical inclusion in the middle of the chamber- begin to shake and rattle, and our team decides discretion is the better part of valor, or at least not getting surrounded is a good idea, and begins to retreat. All except Arakhu, who charges up and tries to pull what is probably the ancient Progenitor machine creating the storm's eye out of the big nodule. Hauyne flips onto the ceiling and moves to defend the big lunk from whatever comes out.

As Arakhu gives up on the machine as a bad job, three zombie-like things with parasitic lamprey mouths come zipping out of the southern tunnels, setting off the readied actions half of us have been taking. Erryn's scrap rifle misfires twice, while Oemathra's alchemist bombs go wide and only singe a couple of them.

Then the eggs hatch.

Arakhu and Hauyne's pogs are upside down to indicate they are on the ceiling.

Inside are a pair of akata- lion-like blue beasts whose bite is infectious- and the larger node disgorges an akata primacy. Things start going badly almost immediately. The smaller akata had 30 fire resistance (And thus functional immunity to Oemathra's bombs and the better spells Aleta has access to) while the multiple attacks of the bigger thing and the void zombies knock Arakhu into negatives and Erryn's robo-foxcat to 1. Erryn notices the biomechanical nature of the primacy and attempts an Aethertech Empathy roll on it. He totals a 20, which is not good enough to change the primacy's attitude, but it does... notice him. As the enemies begin to focus on Hauyne, they seem confused about attacking the phalanx. Almost as if there is some connection between the ancient humanoid construct created by the Progenitors and this biomechanical horror found lairing in a piece of the Progenitors' planet. Hmm. Hauyne, for her part, pledges to not abandon Arakhu ("again" as she puts it. Hauyne has Space PTSD, and A did a nice job roleplaying it) and ties up the worst enemies while the rest of the party escapes. She falls, but we take out the lesser enemies as we retreat, including Tillanieh critting one of the small akata for more HP than it started with, leaving only the big guy.

Most of us retreated a ways, but then we rallied, taking a moment to buff up and actually landing some shots on the thing as it rounded the corner. Oemathra opens up with the pistol, Erryn casts Enlarge Person and starts trying to tank, Aleta uses Color Spray before falling back on repeated Acid Orbs, and Tiillanieh does what she does best: Smack it with water. We drop basically everything we have on it in what amounts to a fighting retreat, as it has three attacks and takes out half or more of anyone's HP in each one. We retreated back to the docking arm of the Stormwrack, intent on having the crew shoot the akata primacy with the ship's weaponry, when the DM fell asleep. Which was expected, we were always planning to go until one of us passed out. The encounter was nearly a foregone conclusion at that point. We could reach the ship easily, their weapons could easily splatter the primacy, and we could return to drag our fallen comrades back. Perhaps borrowing a cargo dolly for Hauyne, she weighs 500 pounds. Plus there was the slight problem that both of them were on the ceiling. We really liked the subjective gravity. According to Robert, only one other playtester had used the gravity at all, turning things sideways in a later area and dropping through windows at enemies. Robert admitted that he'd beefed the encounter up a little for us, since he knew it would be the last encounter we could manage before people started falling asleep.

We had a lot of apparent bad luck with the dice, missing a lot and Erryn's rifle misfiring multiple times, but a statistical analysis showed that the dice rolled an average 10.3. Our good rolls were just mostly on skill checks and saving throws. We might have done a little better if we'd remembered all the features of the pregens, like Aleta's ability to boost caster level by 4, Arakhu's challenge ability, or Oemathra's mutagen, but we did quite well all told and had a lot of fun. Because it was pregens for a one-shot, I think we felt a little braver, a little more willing to sacrifice our characters.

As for the adventure itself, nothing really negative comes to mind except the intentionally inflated challenge of the asteroid fight and the 30 fire resistance on the akatas, which even took Robert by surprise. The pregens aren't built strictly optimally, which is almost never a thing anyway, and K suggested might be a way to get players to think about how they would build differently in an actual campaign. I like the hexcrawling search for the Beacon, and the fact that searching takes significant time implied that we'd be in a race to get to the ship before something else happened, which I also liked. I don't know how much was Robert himself (the man has a knack for florid description) and how much will make it into the adventure text, but the descriptions were vibrant and immersive, and adequately researched, with liquid ammonia and mercury raining across the windows of the Stormwrack at various points, the ship groaning and shaking with the pressures and winds, and the whole thing just feeling appropriate for the actual conditions of searching a planet-wide storm system. The encounters felt right, the first one was dangerous but not excessively so, and the second one was a worthy boss fight. Running it for a table that'll knock out one or two more encounters that same night, I think the un-buffed version of the fight should go okay.

I will be doing a full review of this adventure, as well as the other three that were available for this advance session. But first, the actual setting book should be released within the foreseeable future. In the meantime, have this sneak peek at Arakhu being awesome:

Apr 6, 2009

Aethera Campaign Setting

Part Two - Races & Classes

The full Aethera campaign setting has been released, and Kickstarter backers have recieved PDF copies. Thus, I shall now begin relaying its contents to you, and I will soon no longer need to mentally subtract a significant amount from my bank statements when determining how much money I have.

The book begins, after the standard legal frontispiece and writing/art credits, with a three-page list of Kickstarter backers. And hey, there's my name, right there on the first page, pretty close to the top. For about a decade or so now, I've had this urge to make some impact on the world. And now, having backed a Kickstarter that may very well have failed without my support and seeing my name in the book, a permanent feature of some nerd's library, that feels like I've had an impact. I mean, considering how much attention I pay to the list of backers in any other thing, no one's going to notice that I was instrumental in it or anything like that, but it feels good anyway.

Masturbatory self-congratulations aside, we move into a small discussion of the origins of the setting. In 2006, Robert Brookes and co-creator Jacob Thomas were coming off a years-long session in a homebrew setting inspired by martial arts and wuxia (Which I have also played) and wanted something different. "While many of the names from our original concept changed, the backbone of what would become Aethera surfaced from a desire to move in a direction so far from traditional fantasy that every character, every creature, and every adventure would feel fresh and new."

They worked on it for a while until the release of the Pathfinder Alpha Test made them decide to shelve the idea for a bit until Pathfinder was fully released, and wound up forgetting about it. It's worth noting that this is almost what happened during the kickstarter, because the announcement of Starfinder, a full-on space opera system based on Pathfinder, was announced, and they delayed development until they could get more info on it and decide whether or not to release Aethera for Starfinder instead. Eventually, Robert found the notes on an old hard drive and began working in earnest, assembling a team and freelancers, culminating in not only the book that I will soon hold in my very hands, but several adventures and a splatbook to follow hot on the heels of the core campaign setting. Which you will also be getting reviews of, because he's also sending those to backers as apology for the long delays.

Chapter One: Races

Each chapter begins with a two-page comic spread. Chapter One's involves a man and a robot talking in a dim, noir-esque detective's office. The robot is Hauyne, one of the setting's iconics: A phalanx Investigator, presenting as female and having had a literal boob job to do so. She and the unidentified man are speaking about some hero of the war, who had some pretty vital intelligence and was on a ship that got captured by a race known as the Taur. We don't know anything about them yet, but by inference, they're bad news, and probably space minotaurs, because the term "labyrinth-ship" is used. The comic ends with Hauyne declaring she's going to call in some favors in her investigation as the panel shows four dossiers on her desk, each showing the face of another of the iconics: Arakhu, okanta cavalier; Kasara, human aether soldier; Oemathra, erahthi alchemist; and Surestra, infused brawler.

Most of the content on races in Aethera was covered in my coverage of the Early Access Guide. We do get a page on the origins of some of the less-common races. Elemental planetouched- ifrit, oread, sylph, and undine- are the random result of exposure to various elemental radiations, and appear in all the common races (Except phalanx and erahthi - they don't reproduce sexually), but far more commonly in humans. We're told that zahajin- whatever they are- only produce undine and a very rare ifrit, while the taur either produce no elemental planetouched or butcher them immediately upon birth for the sake of racial purity, no one really knows. Dhampir, on the other hand, are both the result of vampire attacks and of sub-fatal aetherite exposure in one or both parents or an in utero exposure that results in the fetus briefly dying and reanimating.

We do get more detail on the politics of the various races. It's not unheard of for erahthi out in the system to hold faith with Scorism, a group known as the Riders openly opposes the human Hierarchy with guerilla radio, the Hierarchy uses a societal placement program known as the Slotting program to fill gaps left by war casualties, the Paragon Ascendancy on Orbis Aurea hires and promotes a large number of Infused, and okanta use certain surface-level aetherite sites on Orbis Aurea as holy pilgrimage sites and have thus deemed them off-limits to mining operations.

There are also more favored class options than those provided in the preview guide. For instance, Infused make good sorcerors, gaining a free spell with the [Force] descriptor every level.

The less common races are covered in more detail, including local names for themselves, what sort of societal reception they get, and a few tantalizing mentions of exceptions to their general rarity.

Chapter Two: Classes

This chapter's comic is Oemathra, the erahthi alchemist, testing a phytoregenesis serum on a withered plant. The plant begins to smoke and grow, glowing a menacing red. Oemathra calls for quarantine and slips into a spacesuit as the plant's growth begins to crack the dome they're working in. The plant sprouts toothy, leaf-bordered mouths and breathes fire at Oemathra as they remark the phytoregenesis serum is easily weaponized. They hurl a fruit-like grenade at the plant, wiping it off the face of the moon, and request destruction of all samples of the serum.

The classes in Aethera provide more than the standard interaction with the world of hitting things in inventive ways. "Some societies have a higher predilection towards one class than another, or—such as is the case with the human homeworld of Akasaat—fear or prejudice towards some classes." On Akasaat, all magically-capable citizens and certain uncommon races are required to be registered with the Hierarchy or face being hunted down and captured by an elite tracking force. Across the setting, societal roles are heavily tied into one's capability and personal value, and the book recommends thinking of how your character responds to being quantified so thoroughly. The book also recommends playing against type a bit. There's not as many druids in the urban centers and wastelands of Akasaat as on the erahthi homeworld of Kir-Sharaat, so yours would be fairly special.

A special note must be made about clerics (and warpriests). The Aethera System has no deities, and outside deities cannot reach or even see the place. There are no supplemental rules or roles for clerics in the setting, and any cleric you work out with your DM will have to be really special. The book supplies the recommendations of someone from outside the system, or a relic of the past tapping into an unknown power source.

I covered the Cantor in my first entry, they're spontaneous-casting divine bards, but they have some nice tricks. One of their divine performances (read: "bardic music") grants rerolls, first to the cantor themselves, then later to allies, and still later, forcibly to enemies. They gain various utility powers, called verses, starting at things like at-will Feather Fall upgrading to Levitate and Fly, expanding the rolls that can be affected by their reroll ability, and channeling energy like half a cleric, capping out at Prismatic Spray, Control Weather, and sacrificing their own HP to heal everyone around them.

They specialize in an elemental type (called a hymn), much like a wu jen or certain clerics, and these elemental specializations grant them new class skills, spells, verses, and divine performances, and they can be a bit of a day-to-day generalist by practicing a second hymn every day. Each hymn is associated with a plane, and by extension a planet, except for Shadow, which is associated with all the planets, and Void, which is negative energy and associated with spaaace. :jeb: It's a very good class, but not being musically-inclined myself, it was a little hard to keep all the terminology straight.

Humans, Infused, Okanta, and Phalanx have cantor as favored classes. Humans get more verses, Infused make the performances of the aether and void hymns better, Okanta gain new spells from the dream, shadow, and water hymn spell lists, and phalanx increase the number of rounds they can use divine performance.

Barbarians can be found pretty much everywhere. On Akasaat, you have both gangs of raiders on motorcycles and more peaceful tribes that are furious when roused, as well as criminal thugs and disgruntled anarchists in the cities. Okanta barbarians are very common, and commonly adventurers, which feeds the sereotype of okanta as uncivilized. Human barbarians on Orbis Aurea are usually descendants of early human settlers who have gone native and resist attempts by the Paragon Ascendancy to recivilize them. The Amrita Belt has its share as well, either tribes that settled there from early colonization or military bases, or vile cults. The barbarian is rarer on Kir-Sharaat, however: Zahajin tend to become bloodragers instead, and the cosmopolitan lifestyle of the erahthi tends to discourage such levels of rage.

Bards were vital to the human war effort on Akasaat. "Backed up by brass bands and broadcast via radio to the soldiers, their inspiring music was a major factor in many of humanity’s victories." Human society places a high importance on music in general, what with the Score being their big religious deal. Today, in the wake of war, there are also rabble-rousing guerilla radio DJs and whistleblowers, informing the populace of the worst the Hierarchy has to offer. Erahthi bards are generally more offensive in nature. The plant-elemental erahthi are immune to most bardic effects, but the humans they fought were susceptible to charms and compulsions. Meanwhile the zahajin have a strong bardic tradition with many of their tribal leaders holding the class. Most okanta are skalds instead of bards, but those that integrate into human society often take the class. In the Amrita Belt, bards are common, traveling about for new stories, performing in jazz clubs (Phalanx jazz clubs :iia:) and on street corners.

Druids are most common among the erahthi, being plants and coming from a world-spanning forest. Akasaat, meanwhile, slightly discriminates against the class. Human Druidic is virtually identical to erahthi Druidic, and thanks to their tree-loving bent, most human druids were viewed with suspicion at the very least. Most "disappeared" or fled the arcologies, meaning there's still a thriving druidic culture in the wasteland tribes. There are some urban druids remaining, as well. Most okanta are shamans instead of druids. "Some ill-informed human scholars have theorized that powerful druids among the okanta ancestors performed powerful wild-shaping magic upon their race, resulting in both their rapid adaptability and their exotic animal-headed forms. Those okanta who have heard this theory react with a mixture of amusement and frustration."

Fighters are fuckin' everywhere. The most interesting wrinkles are the aether soldiers that use depleted aetherite weapons with just enough mystic skill to make them slightly magical, and those fighters who specialize in firearms.

Monks are common among the erahthi, who have a well-known order: the Heartwood Embodied. They favor defense over the standard monk's agility, rooting themselves in place and battering opponents like a falling tree. The adaptability of the okanta and the harshness of their lifestyle means they learn martial arts styles rapidly and often, most of them knowing and blending multiple styles as circumstances require. Humans, however, favor the brawler class if they want to fight bare-handed, and most of the ones mentally fit to become monks become inquisitors or cantors instead. Wastelanders have more of a monastic tradition, focusing inwards to get their minds off their bleak surroundings. And in the Amrita Belt, all these traditions come together and the place is jam-packed with monasteries, who use the quiet of the stars for meditation and the zero-g environment to expand their studies.

Paladins, despite the lack of deities, exist in Aethera, although mostly among humans. They are welcomed in the wasteland, but the Hierarchy keeps a close eye on them in the arcologies and most people in the Amrita Belt are there to avoid the law, not come face-to-face with a walking embodiment of it. The okanta also have a paladinate tradition, known as the zharatai or aether knights. They consume ritually-prepared aetherite, unlocking its telekinetic powers without harm to themselves. These aether knights are sometimes sought out by the infused if they're ever aware of them. But regardless, only a handful of paladins of either type exist across the system, operating alone or occasionally training a lone student. Yeah, they're basically Jedi.

Rangers. Everywhere. Like fighters, there's not a whole lot to say about individual races' traditions, but space rangers, known as zero rangers, exist.

Rogues are pretty much everywhere as well. The Hierarchy prefers inquisitors for their official espionage, but in the slums and wastes of Akasaat, rogues are common. Similarly, there's not much use for the rogue skillset on the icy plains of Orbis Aurea, but those okanta who integrate into other societies pick up the necessary skills very quickly. "Members of other species who marvel at their towering physiques are even more surprised by the speed with which a skilled okanta can vanish into the shadows."

Sorcerors are fairly ubiquitous, bloodlines cropping up from any of a number of influences. The Paragon Project in particular stemmed from the incomplete research notes from dozens of experiments into sorcerous bloodlines. Zahajin tend towards fey or aquatic bloodlines, erahthi often carry the verdant bloodline with the destined and dreamborn bloodlines being seen as marks of the Tritarchs' influence. Okanta often develop sorcerous bloodlines, although their society does not really allow the arcane arts to flourish. When allowed to, however, their power often outstrips their maturity. The phalanx have also developed sorcerors, which is a source of much philosophical debate. Most view it as a gift from their past souls, while a few others dangerously preach it as proof of phalanx superiority.

Wizards have something of a confusing history. In sort of a refreshing change, there's very little evidence that the Progenitors possessed any form of magic. Normally, any precursor race in a setting like this was advanced in both magic and technology, but all that's been found is crude arcane formulas etched on Progenitor alloy plates in secluded caves. Arcane study only really began about 2000 years after the Collapse. Today, the Hierarchy teaches wizardry in academies, its students closely monitored and registered. Unregistered wizards live a life on the run. Which brings us handily to Amrita. They love wizards. Wizardry is an ideal profession for phalanx, who take easily to the ordered and logical approaches. The infused, however, focus more on the psionic disciplines than the arcane. Erahthi favor wizardry to other avenues of arcane study, but it's very rare among okanta.

That's the core classes, but we've still got base classes, occult classes, and hybrid classes, plus all the new archetypes to run through. Next time!

Apr 6, 2009

For those who might be interested enough in Aethera to snag it, Legendary Games has it for about a week before it goes into wide release.

Also their product synopsis does a better job of covering the salient points than I have. That's slightly embarrassing.

Apr 6, 2009

Doresh posted:

Coming soon to your local Kickstarter: Death to the Quantum Bear!

Tired of lazy GMs whipping out wandering monsters out of nowhere? Appalled by so-called simulationist games switching between clean and perfect combat turns to vague nothing measured in narrative time? Not anymore!

In Death to the Quantum Bear, the player characters will never leave the combat turn structure, allowing the GM to accurately simulate the world around them. Using our revolutionary "Bucket full of Dice (tm)" mechanic, the GM can easily track the positions, routes, interests, needs and breeding habits of any monster the players might ever run into.

"We rolled three 20s in a row and wound up walking into a dragon orgy."

Apr 6, 2009

Halloween Jack posted:

Roman du terroir, I believe. Like an entire genre of Silas Marner, ugh.

I wanted to make a joke intentionally confusing that genre with things like Catcher in the Rye, Children of the Corn, and The Grapes of Wrath, but it's just not coming together.

Apr 6, 2009

Aethera Campaign Setting

Part Three - Classes II

Base classes! :hist101:

Alchemists are common and often well-respected. Some alchemists delve into Progenitor ruins for the secrets of the past, while others look forward and perform their own experiments. Erahthi have a rumor that is always rapidly quashed by the ruling Council: One of the lost Tritarchs originally developed the science of alchemy and was forced into exile for delving too deeply into its secrets. Some versions of the rumor even claim that what he did was create the erahthi race as a whole. Alchemists make good doctors in the Akasaat Wastelands, and of course human bioengineers and aetherite researchers were responsible for the Paragon experiments. Okanta focus heavily on herblore, incorporating giants' alchemy traditions as well.

Cavaliers are mostly only prevalent in okanta society. Live mounts are a liability on, say, a spaceship, and their personalities can sort of clash with polite society. Okanta have a lot of cavalier orders, who have their own clannish politics in microcosm. In the Amrita Belt and the Akasaati Wasteland, cavaliers become western-style posses and bounty hunters. And, for a change of pace, some cavaliers bond with a custom-tuned aethership or take a page from the summoner and summon their own mount.

Gunslingers. While Aethera uses the "Guns Everywhere" level of technology, that does not mean that gunslingers are everywhere. It's the whole deal that Syndrome was on about in the Incredibles: If guns are simple weapons, anyone can be a gunner. As far as actual gunslingers go, there are some things to note. In the Akasaati Wasteland, it's basically the Wild West with the mysterious gunslinger blowing into town to right wrongs and all that. The erahthi didn't have much exposure until the humans started shooting at them, but they reverse-engineered captured aethertech and began their own experiments resulting in the erahthi thornslinger, who bond with their own living weapon.

Inquisitors, as mentioned in the monk and rogue entries, are the most common espionage class. In the arcologies of Akasaat, inquisitors serve as secret police in the fights against both rebel elements and rogue magicians. Erahthi inquisitors tend towards fighting against the zahajin and maintaining the caste system. Okanta, meanwhile, preserve the laws and traditions of their individual clans. Very few infused or phalanx were allowed to become inquisitors, but those who did were the biggest fanatics.

Magi were limited to the humans until the Century War, who hired themselves out as mercenaries or hitmen to pay off their enormous student loan debt. Try doing that with a liberal arts degree. During the Century War, many phalanx took to the class, infused focused on psychic magic, and a lot of pyromancers were trained up really fast and thrown at the forest. The erahthi caste system discouraged blended disciplines like the magi, but they've started studying the techniques in the last twenty years. Okanta, however, have much the same problem developing magi as they do with wizards, but they're growing in number, too.

Oracles are present despite the lack of deities. Elemental oracles are linked to conjunctions of their corresponding planet, and the song mystery is very common. Phalanx in particular are prone to becoming oracles, and no one knows why. They often specialize in the time, battle, and metal mysteries. Oracles hold highly-honored places in okanta society, and tend to favor the ancestor mystery, although other oracular mysteries on Orbis Aurea include waves, heavens, lore, and nature. Akasaat has a lot of metal and stone oracles, and some soldiers disabled in the Century War began developing oracular powers as some sort of karmic response to their injuries. Oracles are most rare among erahthi, but when they occur they favor life, lore, and wood mysteries. And finally, the infused have their own, never-before-seen mystery: Apocalypse.

Summoners seem like sort of an odd choice in a campaign world where you've got no way to contact the Outer Planes, but life, uh, finds a way. Most summoners use aetherite, bringing forth shadows from the past, although some come about through accidental contact with essencite: Aetherite imprinted with the soul of an outsider that died in the Collapse. These essencite eidolons often form themselves based on the unconscious desires of their summoner. Some other summoners just mash a whole bunch of aetherite together and hope to get something usable out. There is surprisingly no word on how any of the cultures view summoners.

Vigilantes as an actual job you can go out and have is a relatively recent development. Disguised heroes have existed throughout history, but they've only just started to have a real solid impact on society. Most vigilantes can be found on Complex Four in the Amrita Belt, fighting crime. The only other notable vigilantes are on Akasaat, operating with the vox riders or as Hierarchy agents provocateur.

Witches are prevalent and suspicious throughout the Aethera system. The okanta are most accepting of them, but still wary. Human witches are usually unregistered, so hunted down and persecuted. Erahthi see them as linked to the fey and thus their ancient zahajin enemies, and neither infused nor phalanx were originally trained as witches, but some might have picked up some tidbits of forbidden lore here and there.

Hybrid classes! :ninja:

Arcanists (Sorceror/Wizard) are at the forefront of magical innovation. Without moral or ethical constraint, the scientist-magi of Akasaat developed horrible bioweapons, plane-shifting bombs that hurled foes bodily into the Negative Energy Plane, and the Infused. Most of them have been hunted down and murdered, or gone very deep into hiding. The class is rare for infused, developing in phalanx, discouraged in erahthi (the caste thing again), and rare in okanta (The arcane study thing again). However, some okanta arcanists, known as khurushai, are trained from birth to blend witchcraft and martial training to wield black blades that have been passed down through the generations within their clan. Some erahthi veterans still utter curses when they hear the name of the "great" khurushai Darkest Night.

Bloodragers (Barbarian/Sorceror) are rare due to the lack of planar influences. No infernal or abyssal bloodlines being sown by horny demons. However, bloodragers do crop up. Among the infused, those displaying the highest levels of anger gained terrifying powers from the Paragon experiments. Dubbed "blue-shifted" due to the azure flames they expressed, they were a terror on and off the battlefield. Many of their development labs did not survive to see them deployed. And the blue-shifted talent is beginning to express itself outside the infused, which worries the surviving scientist-magi greatly. Zahajin bloodragers are common due to fey dalliances among their people. Erahthi bloodragers are vanishingly rare, most of them carefully trained to control their rage. Bloodragers are perhaps more prevalent among the okanta than other arcane casters, the Taur have a significant number of bloodragers, and a hitherto-unknown bloodline developed among the phalanx: The machine bloodline. Most machine-blooded phalanx were lost in the war or vanished after, although in a very Eberron move, one is rumored to be attempting to form a secret army of her kin in order to dominate and destroy humans.

Brawlers (Fighter/Monk) are pretty much everywhere except Kir-Sharaat (erahthi are encouraged to become monks instead). The Hierarchy deployed whole regiments of specialized brawlers known as Titans alongside the Paragons, charging in in heavy armor and just being all over recruitment posters. Most Titans, however, were lost in the Taur invasion, being first into the labyrinth-ships and last out.

Hunters (Druid/Ranger) are moderately archaic in the technological and urbanized worlds of Aethera, but they still exist, mostly among okanta and on the outskirts of the various civilizations.

Investigators (Alchemist/Rogue) are primarily found among humans, and do as investigators do. Amrita in particular is well-suited for private detectives to operate. Psychic investigators also exist, apparently focusing more on combat than pure detectiving. During the Century War, investigators on both sides served as spies and infiltrators, which gives me hilarious mental images of the disguises needed to convert an erahthi into a human or vice versa. Or an erahthi disguising themselves as a potted plant. When the Taur invaded, investigators on both sides made it onto- and back off of- the maze-ships, providing most of what Aethera currently knows about them. "The identical accounts provided by human and erahthi investigators were a major step forward for trust between the two civilizations."

Shamans (Oracle/Witch) are the oldest and most widespread magical tradition, being practiced long before alchemist bioengineers began experimenting with life or bards began singing of the Score. Naturally the okanta are still super into it, followed by erahthi. Most city-dwelling humans have stopped following shamanic traditions, but it's still very prevalent in the wastes.

Skalds (Barbarian/Bard) are also old and widespread, predating bards and cantors. As expected, okanta very yes, erahthi calm down bro. Human skalds found great glory on the front lines of the war, often attached as support units to Titan Regiments or Thousand Blades Rangers. Infused are really angry in general and make good skalds, phalanx weren't really trained in it.

Slayers (Ranger/Rogue) are mostly a product of the Century War. While human assassins and erahthi Reaper-caste endbringers existed, the endless slaughter of war honed their skills to a sharp, bloody edge. Erahthi endbringers are some hot poo poo. Clad in cloaks of belladonna and wielding scythes of deadwood, in the past they served as hunters of marauding beasts and executioners. During the wars with the zahajin and humanity, they committed great acts of genocide and atrocity, often taking to wearing human heads as trophies. Human slayers are said to all descend in blood or spirit from a single ancient master, using garrotes or chains to strangle their victims. Slayers are a bit focused and dishonorable for the okanta, though.

Swashbucklers (Fighter/Gunslinger), like investigators, are most common among humanity and in the lawless areas. Rare among the other races and in the war, although a notable pair from the war are Tri-Terra and Sky Blossom, a pair of swashbucklers, one infused, one erahthi. Inseparable lovers by the end of the war, ardent diplomats and liasons today, their romance both celebrated and vilified on both sides.

Occult classes! :ducksiren:

Kineticists are common and usually raised in the appropriate training when noticed. Their elemental affinities are usually dictated by the planet they're born on, except for Amrita, which is far removed from the elemental radiation of any of the other worlds, but rumors persist of a cadre of void kineticists there. Pyrokineticists are closely watched on Kir-Sharaat, hydrokineticists are welcomed in the Akasaati Wastelands. Infused tend towards telekinesis (aether), and some are angry enough they turn their talents completely towards destruction, being dubbed "aetheric annihilators" by the press.

Mediums function slightly differently in Aethera. The Collapse severed the system's connection to the Astral Plane, so mediums draw power either from the Ethereal Plane or echoes of spirits trapped in aetherite. Phalanx and okanta mediums often take up the role of chroniclers and storytellers, humans and infused are varied practitioners, and the erahthi have two distinct practices: One that channels their god-kings, the Tritarchs; and the other a strongly (and oddly) Oriental-themed practice where they channel the kami of Kir-Sharaat, using leaves from the great trees as ofuda.

Mesmerists are most common leading cults in the Amrita Belt, but the erahthi have a surprisingly long history of mesmerism as well, most of them serving to keep the caste system unchanging. Okanta have nearly none, viewing the hypnotic powers as conflicting strongly with the cultural appreciation for honorable battle. The Hierarchy of course registers and tracks all the mesemrists they can and kills the ones they can't, using their tame mesmerists to deal with rabble-rousers and malcontents, because the best rebel is a brainwashed rebel.

Occultists are a rather academic and cosmopolitan group, studying Progenitor artifacts and psychic relics and sharing their findings with each other. The Enigmatic Order of the Greater Aetheric Mysteries is an almost-secret society that studies aetherite and the memories of the past stored within. Listeners, on the other hand, claim to hear otherworldly voices, whether to warn against calamity or bring it is a matter of debate. Okanta occultists tend to focus on a single ancestral relic of war unless they perform the Quest of Whispers, seeking out all the esoteric knowledge they can and encoding it in the relics they find along the way. Phalanx and infused are both well-suited to becoming occultists, but erahthi are not.

Psychics are one of the most common spellcasting traditions in the Aethera system. Erahthi, with their intellectual and philosophical bent, are well-suited to the study of the mind's power, but deployment in the Century War rendered both them and their human counterparts often broken, drug-addled veterans attempting to dull their pain. Psychics are the most common spellcasters among the infused, some of them harnessing their amnesia to pull spells from the aether. Phalanx, however, were only rarely trained in the discipline, due to assumptions about their mental capacity. Okanta are a bit too focused on punching things to have a lot of psychics.

Spiritualists focus primarily on those souls who cannot reach the cleansing and rebirth offered by the star Aethera. These phantoms may remain behind for any of a number of reasons, but on Orbis Aurea, that reason is mostly because of the netherite shrouding the planet. Thus, okanta are the most commonly spiritualists, but everyone has their own traditions. Humans are varied, of course, and erahthi spirits mostly hang around on the Ethereal Plane, forming tangled forests of soulstuff that spawn immense creatures known as amerta. Erahthi amerta disciples have learned to harness these amerta and cloak themselves in the ectoplasm of their fallen kin. In the Amrita Belt, the mind-twisting deeps of space have given rise to the void spiritualists, who control gravity and summon a shadow instead of a spiritual phantom. Phalanx attract phantoms occasionally, often thanks to the bond between their own bodies and the aetherite core powering them. Many of them focus on their phantom's past over their own future. And the psychic bond between infused sometimes leads to the creation of phantoms when members of their psychic networks die.

Oof, that was long. And next, we have the new archetypes, where practically every one of those classes has at least one! :tif:

Apr 6, 2009

That's one of the reasons I tend to pay closer attention to flavor than crunch, I'm sort of a fan of Gygaxian naturalism, if that's the right term. Otyughs, gelatinous cubes, and rat kings as vital parts of a sewer's ecosystem. A sewer worker's guild training its members to use soulmelds because one of them provides immunity to disease and nausea. Wizards destabilizing the economy with Fabricated Wall of Iron, not realizing that it's more work than just looting a dragon hoard and destabilizing the economy that way. That sort of thing.

Apr 6, 2009

Nuns with Guns posted:

D&D is a big drain in terms of price and time (to read the books/roll the characters/design the campaign/run a session), and it's ubiquitous to the hobby. So you get a lot of people hit hard by the sunk cost fallacy and the assumption that every other tabletop game must require the same level of money/work.

I was that way for a while. Learned with D&D in the early 90s, and the only other systems I became aware of were more complicated things like RIFTS, so I figured ttrpgs were all huge mathfests with a dozen unique nouns and acronyms. I was probably correct at the time, because early 90s.

My mind was loving blown when I got introduced to PBTA and FATE.

Apr 6, 2009

You had me at Squord. What was that in Japanese? I could make a few painful guesses: Takochi? Takotana?

e: Am I reading this right, and each card basically has its own skill you need to roll to use it?

gradenko_2000 posted:

I do get the appeal of that, but D&D hasn't always been successful at drawing a line between "Dark Souls difficulty" and "being an arbitrary player killer"

I reviewed an AD&D module that was intended for a single level 2 or 3 character where the first encounter is in an area of magical darkness with a monster that inflicts blindness. The intended cure for this blindness is to brew a rose in another room into tea. The other roses in the room heal HP if rubbed into a wound, poison you if eaten, and explode into a fireball if thrown into a fire. Nothing anywhere in the PC-facing information tells them this.


Dareon fucked around with this message at 08:35 on Apr 3, 2017

Apr 6, 2009

Zereth posted:

... How is the PC supposed to find the roses if they get blinded first?


Apr 6, 2009

Aethera Campaign Setting

Part Four - Classes III, Archetypes I, Yankees 0

Archetypes, for those without a solid working knowledge of Pathfinder, are collections of alternate class features that allow a given class to fulfill an alternate role or mix in another class without multi-classing or mucking about with prestige classes. Compared to 3.5, archetypes (or at least the focus on archetypes and favored classes rather than the mix of ACFs, prestige classes, multiclassing feats, and racial substitution levels) is one of the few things about Pathfinder that I think is a straight upgrade. At any rate, there are quite a few new archetypes available in Aethera.

Alchemists have several new options, beginning with Bioengineer. They swap the alchemist's typical bomb-throwing ability for Summon Nature's Ally that spawns twisted biological horrors (applying the aetherwarped template), and at higher levels these summons can explode when they die. They also get a few bonuses against mind-affecting effects.

Combat Medic, on the other end of the scale, turns the alchemist into an effective healer: swapping their bombs for healing stabs that get stronger and cleanse various effects as they level, and increasing their effectiveness with the Heal skill.

The Wastelander adds a little bit of ranger and gunslinger to the mix, letting them scavenge up ammunition when they need it, and giving a limited selection of the ranger's favored terrains.

We also add a pair of new alchemist discoveries. Aetheric Plasma Bomb makes an alchemist's bombs deal half fire/half electricity damage and affect incorporeal creatures. They also have a chance of inflicting aetherite poisoning. And Netherite Bomb makes bombs deal negative energy damage, but only against creatures with the aether subtype. They also function like Dispel Magic against aethertech devices.

Dammit, Moon Moon, you sundered the barriers of space and time again.

The Rift Breaker is an arcanist archetype, who loses a bit of their generalist arcane power in order to focus on the elemental powers of the various planets, starting with a basic blast and moving to the main meat of the class, a lasting AoE that fires various effects based on their chosen element. There's not a whole lot of direct combat potential in the rifts, but they have a lot of battlefield control and indirect benefits. With this, plus the typical spells and everything else the arcanist gets, it strikes me as a nice, solid choice for a caster. Plus you can literally give someone a swirlie with a portal to the surface of the sun.

Bards have three new archetypes. The Aether Weaver swaps the knowledge and songs the bard gets for a summoner's eidolon, which is summoned, altered, and boosted with various Perform skills. Any Perform skill, meaning a bard can literally tell a joke so bad the only one who laughs at it is someone he had to create himself. The eidolon is much more bardic than the summoner's combat-focused eidolon, aiding nearby allies and being able to use what few bardic performances the aether weaver has.

The Warsinger was covered in the Early Access Guide, but they lose their softer songs in favor of firing off literal hot riffs, specializing in an elemental damage type and blasting people with it.

The Vox Rider is a pirate radio DJ. Inspiring underclasses, undermining governments, revealing atrocities. She replaces most of her songs with the ability to copy-paste someone's d20 roll, induce bravery (+2 will saves) or fear, suppress charm or compulsion, gather crowds, provoke enemies to attack her, copy-paste spells cast near her, and shift the attitude of an entire crowd to helpful in regards to a chosen creature or organization. That last one lasts for multiple weeks (1 day per level, gained at 18th) and is viral, people under its effect who talk to others about it force Will saves to avoid passing it on. Very powerful, but it takes some setup and comes at 18th level, so maybe that's to be expected.

Blue-Shifted, as mentioned previously, are Bloodragers who first came about from exceptional Infused test subjects, but are no longer limited to their ranks. Their rage is a little less powerful on the face of it, but it cloaks them in searing blue plasma. At first level, this just damages anyone touching or hitting them with their body, and it doesn't do much damage, but it scales with level, does half fire/half electricity and damages incorporeal creatures, and at higher levels it expands into a damaging aura. They also gain some significant benefits in regards to telekinesis: A telekinetic blast, increased saves, and a nearly-free use of telekinesis when they enter bloodrage.

Brawlers have a couple new options, lifted from Overwatch, Destiny, and Mass Effect. That's not cynicism, I know the guy that worked on these archetypes, and he said as much.

The Colossus is Reinhardt, although the Titan Defender from Destiny was a more prominent inspiration. They gain heavy armor, lose some weapon proficiencies, and swap some of the brawler's flexibility to manifest a telekinetic shield. At first this is just for themselves, but soon they can expand it to cover nearby allies, including an aethership they happen to be on. They can also punch with the shield, doing bonus damage and knockdown.

I have no jokes, but that's a very impractical gun.

Titans were humanity's heavily-armored shock troops, mixing the brawler's hand-to-hand effectiveness with the devastating power of firearms. They're the ME2 Vanguard, that charges in with a shotgun and sends enemies flying. They get heavy armor and tweaked versions of the gunslinger's grit and deeds, can flurry with unarmed attacks and gunfire interchangeably, and get a lot better at charging, with a larger bonus to attack, bonus dice of damage, and better AC against their charge target.

Cantors also get a few archetypes, because it doesn't make much sense to introduce a class and leave it overspecialized in comparison to all the others. The Divine Dancer loses all her divine performances, instead gaining a self-buffing dance that boosts attack, damage, saves, and skills; and gets a monk-like AC bonus that's technically a function of the dance as well. That plus uncanny dodge rounds out the changes, so the class still has verses, hymns, and spells. It feels like something of a front-line caster, but the bonuses are a little small for me to really accept it as a solid option.

The Orthodoxist is a hard-line Hierarchy supporter, inspiring solidarity and quashing dissent. They must choose the fire, air, or aether hymn, but the features of those hymns change almost completely. Their divine performance only boosts Will saves instead of whatever the hymn does, they learn divination or enchantment spells instead of the spells from the hymn, and instead of the hymn's verse they gain Command upgrading to Suggestion. They also gain the clouded vision oracle curse.

The Song Councilor is an erahthi cantor charged with safeguarding cultural relics and dealing with the Tritarchs. They focus on the dream or wood hymns, replacing the verse from those hymns with a soothing lullaby. They also gain the ability to transfer wounds from another creature, and invoke a chorus: One target gains temporary HP and an attack bonus, and allies can join the chorus to boost both things and add Fortitude and Will save bonuses.

And rounding out the Cantor archetypes we have the Song Seeker, who is much more of a generalist. They do not specialize in a hymn, instead gaining multiple repertoire hymns and repertoire verses. They also gain the ability to mimic sounds, duplicate any performance ability they've witnessed in the past day, and use countersong to redirect a sonic or language-dependent effect instead of simply nullifying it. I really like this one, though I couldn't give you a solid reason why.

She is the very model of a modern major general. Possibly the only time boobplate is actually appropriate.

Cavaliers get to be Aethertech Pilots. Anyone can learn how to fly and crew an aethertech vessel, but aethertech pilots bond with their chosen ship, gaining a speeder bike at 1st level instead of a horse or giant ostrich or what have you. They channel their social cavalier abilities through the aethership, being able to reroute power to weapons or apply teamwork feats over the radio. They also gain a unique flag or other emblem they can apply to their aethership, granting allied pilots and gunners a bonus to attack and eventually becoming legendary enough to impose a penalty to opposing aethership crews. Their ship is basically a stand-in for the standard mount, getting more HP, saves, natural armor, and upgrades to its base hull size; bonus slots for upgrades; easier control; the ability to reroll checks to fly or maintain it; and it gets harder to destroy, being able to land safely and keep functioning at 0 HP. It's also flavorfully quirky and works better when you kick it.

Druids gain four new archetypes. The Aether-Touched Druid goes weird, focusing on interactions with creatures (and constructs) with the aether subtype, working it into all the druid's features: Basic interactions, summoning, and wild shape. They also add a number of telekinetic spells to their spell list. The Aethership Cultivator takes the erahthi talent for growing things and lets them grow spaceships. They get a slightly altered version of the Aethertech Pilot's bonded ship (The ship is a plant), learn to talk to it and other plant-based aetherships (resulting in a bonus to work on them), and they can rapidly and cheaply grow upgrades for plant aetherships. So cheaply that it may actually be a viable money-making scheme for players.

The okanta have the Occult Druid, who works with the fey, losing a number of their straight nature-based abilities to boost things having to do with the fey: Summon lists, social interactions, and Sylvan as a language. They also gain an occult skill unlock, regardless of prerequisites. And the Symbiont Master again focuses on the erahthi talent for growing plants, although it doesn't seem racially restricted like the Aethership Cultivator. Symbiont Masters trade their animal companion for a plant symbiont, and gain a lot of feats and abilities related to using them without needing the prerequisites. We don't get full rules for symbionts in this section (Or the bonus symbiont feats, that all comes later), but we do get statblocks for the symbionts a master can use. There's some nice little boosts here, I'd be kind of interested to play one.

Three archetypes for Fighters. Aether Soldier grants a free masterwork melee weapon made of aetherite and a wizard's arcane bond with it. They gain the Arcane Strike feat and can use it better than most of the mystic bathrobe men that take it. They also gain spell resistance at 19th level. Gravitic fighters learn about momentum and vectors, boosting their resistance to forced movement, damage with two-handed weapons, and attacks from higher ground. And Resonant Guards are a pop star's bodyguards/backup singers. They get Perform skills, and can harmonize with performance-based abilities, acting as a point of origin and being capable of keeping the song going if the bard is knocked out. While harmonizing, they can also boost the AC of the person they're harmonizing with. All told, some nice concepts, but still fighters.

The Artillerist is a Gunslinger focused on aethership weaponry, although a lot of their abilities function with personal weapons, too. They gain some deeds related to automatic weapons and the ability to make called shots to parts of a ship and parts of the scenery.

The Jump Trooper, meanwhile, is a gunslinger with an integrated goddamn jetpack. :iia: They get a set of Iron Man palm thrusters (complete with chest reactor) surgically implanted at 1st level, a growing pool of fuel for them, and the ability to use the palm thrusters as guns. They gain some deeds related to flying and using the thruster guns. I like this one, because I like being able to do at first level anything that's usually relegated to a higher level.

The Siege Walker approaches the heavy-armor-and-guns angle the Titan covers from the other end, being a Gunslinger focused on heavy siege weaponry. They're the now-classic third-person-shooter enemy, the big beefy guy in a riot suit waddling towards you with a minigun. They fulfill the entire role, being able to carry weapons with the stabilized property at half speed while firing them without penalty, make trip attacks with them, and reload them faster; while the beefy part comes into play with them being able to apply their armor AC versus firearm attacks and straight-up ignore being knocked prone or moved.

And we finish up the gunslinger archetypes with the erahthi Thornslinger, who bonds with a symbiotic gun. It's a nice piece of kit, increasing its damage die over the thornslinger's career, and the thornslinger can take abilities to boost the capabilities of the thorns it fires instead of bonus feats. These abilities are things like rapid-growing vines, automatic fire, a poison gas cloud, or thorny caltrops. They also gain a few deeds to help them use their thorn gun better, or at least faster.

The Tech Bonded Hunter turns the nature focus of the base class into a solid technological specialization. They lose Knowledge: Nature in exchange for Disable Device, Knowledge (Arcana) and Knowledge (Engineering). They cast arcane spells from the magus list instead of divine ranger/druid spells. And they have a little robot buddy. They learn to program their buddy with all kinds of nifty bonuses, from an integrated radio transmitter to first aid tools to a ranged attack that ignores most cover or concealment. Their most powerful ability is gained at 17th level, when they just get ignored by unintelligent constructs.

There are a whopping five new archetypes for the Investigator, although they are all very simple changes. The Correspondent adds medium armor and swaps some rogue abilities for the useful kinds of bard song. The Mindspy casts psychic mesmerist spells and gets further hypnotic talents as they level up. The Mystic Detective adds some nonlethal weaponry to their proficiencies and are good at finding and fighting magic-users, specifically unregistered Akasaati magic users. The Prehistorian is very good at knowing history and can psychometrically read the history and function of ancient relics. And finally a Stellar Prospector can tell you which of them thar asteroids has aetherite in it, and otherwise gets some lackluster bonus feats and alterations to what they can use inspiration on. Except for the prospector, they're all decent options.

And finally for this update, we come to the Kineticist. Kineticists are hard to understand at the best of times without having to worry about an archetype that fundamentally changes the way they play. The Aetheric Scion forges a close connection with the telekinetic element of aether, focusing on it to the exclusion of other elements. They have the ability to "exacerbate" the burn that kineticists normally take, taking more nonlethal damage and using that exacerbated burn to charge aethertech batteries, operate aethertech weaponry, and provide enhancement bonuses (and, later, abilities) to weapons and armor. It's a solid archetype, it changes the risk/reward dynamic that a kineticist has in an interesting manner.

This section also provides new kineticist talents, focusing on the capabilities of aetherite (plasma generation, radioactivity, and teleportation), the other special materials available in the Aethera system, and some odd healing abilities designed to offset the slight lack of divine casters in Aethera (imitating a Restoration spell and a rapid-response Raise Dead).

Apr 6, 2009

Comrade Koba posted:

This table makes it possible for the party to get sexually propositioned by an invisible stalker, which sounds like one of the most interesting encounters in the history of D&D.

I'm pretty sure I've seen that doujin.

Apr 6, 2009

Aethera Campaign Setting

Part Five - Classes IV, Archetypes II, Biology 208

The Medium ordinarily derives power from the Astral Plane. Since that's not an option here, Aethera uses the Etheric Dreamer as its base class, crossing out the word "astral" and writing in "ethereal" in its place. Otherwise, we have a nice assortment of options. The Deathless Guide focuses on the plane of Evermorn, a temporally-fluid realm of Faerie. They gain some resistance to any attempts to muck about with their personal timestream, can muck about with the personal timestream of others, step back and forth between the Material and Evermorn, commune with the fey, and at 19th they become immune to nearby Time Stop. Yes, they can fight a duel that no two others could fight, against the ticking of the clock.

The Modded Medium is a phalanx that tailors its own body in order to better channel a legendary spirit it believes to be its past incarnation. They boost the benefits from that spirit, can always call on it, and emulate one of the racial traits of the spirit. The okanta Speaker for the Ancestors is a party buffer, able to induct allies into her clan and share buffs with them. She also gains the service of an orbisant advisor, a little blue ball that follows her around, boosts Perception, lets her use Guidance at will and Vision 1/day, and can project a telepathic thought to the members of her clan.

The Shadow Visionary draws power from the shadows of the past, acting as a normal Medium for most of their career, but gaining the ability to use Shadow Walk and Contact Other Plane to ask the shadows what's up. This is assuredly a plan without flaw or possibility of error. And the War Memoirist channels the more recently-dead spirits of the Century War, swapping two of the normal spirits for an ace aethership pilot and a war chaplain. The pilot is, of course, a flying ace, granting various bonuses to fly an aethership and getting huffy if you don't fly an aethership or act in a manner befitting a shirtless, volleyball-playing top gun. The chaplain is a spellcaster, granting cantor spells and the ability to grant rerolls to one's allies.

Mesmerists get two new options. Erahthi can become Aromachologists, replacing their hypnotic stare with a cloud of potpourri that's slightly weaker than the normal stare, but affects an area around the aromachologist in exchange. Meanwhile, Hypnotherapists turn the hypnotic powers of the Mesmerist to the cause of good, buffing their allies with group therapy sessions, although tucked in there is an option to make the group more susceptible to charms and fear effects the hypnotherapist creates. There's a world-inclusion note about them dealing with veterans with PTSD, which I find nice.

Gravitic Masters are Monks that harness their chi to freaking control gravity. They focus on reposition and bull rush maneuvers, get some buffs related to zero-g and resisting being moved, can slow fall without a wall, and instead of quivering palm, they get to summon a black hole. :getin:

Oracles get the new Song Mystery, which adds Knowledge (arcana), Linguistics, and Perform to their class skills; a selection of sonic spells to their spell list; and a nice toolbox of revelations, including Cha instead of Dex on defense, revealing everything within 30 feet, temporarily reviving an ally into an unstoppable juggernaut, harmonizing with other performance abilities, and forcing enemies to repeat their last actions.

There's also a very small archetype, the Listener, which hears voices from beyond. Certainly nothing strange about this, no. They swap Knowledge Religion and Sense Motive for Perception in their class skills, and must take a specific revelation at 1st level which grants them a highly-accurate Augury, upgrading to Divination and Commune. And two new curses. Aether-Corrupted gives you radiation poisoning. Joy. Reduced HP per level, adding some telekinetic and clairvoyance spells to your spell list. Meanwhile, Choir-Voiced removes the ability to speak in combat in exchange for some bardic music: Countersong, fascinate, soothing performance and frightening tune.

Aetheric Knights are basically Jedi. "Ascetic psychics dedicated to upholding a strong moral code in the face of what is seen as an inherently amoral and chaotic universe." Three different orders arose independently among humans, erahthi, and okanta, only meeting during the Century War. Discovering that they'd all tapped into the same collective consciousness within the ley lines to inspire their code of conduct, they united and broke away from their native cultures to foster charity, honor, and justice throughout the system.

They're Paladins, but slightly less restrictive. They need to be good and do the whole protect the innocent punish villains schtick, but their code does not require them to respect authority, instead requiring them to never demand payment for their services. Taking rewards if offered is fine, and I'd assume it's all right if they're conveniently out of the room while someone else asks for a reward. They're lightly armored (and gain Wis to AC when unarmored), cast psychic instead of divine spells, can deflect and redirect attacks, use a telekinetic bull rush and some other attacks, and do some telekinetic movement. Yeah, they're pretty much just Jedi.

The Thoughtdrinker Psychic ransacks people's minds to power their own spells. Instead of psychic disciplines, they gain an occultist's implements, can drain them for phrenic power, and can induce fear in a target to restore phrenic power as well.

Aww, look at the wittle baby cthulhu.

The Exostentialist is a Ranger that looked too deeply into that stygian gulf between the stars, and found that something looked back. :cthulhu: They focus on space, gaining zero-g training and space as a favored terrain, as well as the ability to track creatures in space. As well, they get Aklo as a bonus language, wild empathy that only works on space-bound aberrations and animals, and an aberrant companion, a little stellar horror that helps them hunt their favored enemies.

Salvager Rogues rip pieces off whatever aethertech and constructs they come in contact with, cobbling these disparate pieces together to make jury-rigged tools and weapons. They have a d8 sneak attack against constructs, but only a d4 against everything else. They gain a pool of points that can be expended to boost a Craft or Disable Device check, or to create improvised aethertech devices, which replace their rogue talents with things like guns, cloaking devices, explosives, or an independently-operating drone.

Shamans can choose the Aether spirit, granting access to much the same suite of telekinetic abilities as most other aether-wielders. An aether shaman does get the interesting wrinkle of being able to divine the function of aethertech just by touching it, but otherwise it's the same laundry list of Levitate, Telekinesis, Telekinetic Storm, that sort of thing. Don't get me wrong, it's all useful, it's just getting hard to make interesting. Fortunately we're nearly done.

Skalds get two new archetypes. The Adept of the Song stems from an okantan tradition that began to gain ground once they started coming into contact with hostile forces wielding aethertech. The adept's raging song can nullify or repulse aetherite and anything made of, carrying, or using it. Meanwhile, the Space Pirate gets a few boosts to living aboard ship, including the skills to handle an aethership, a song that boosts Dex instead of Str, and a song to keep his allies going longer without air, food, or water.

I don't actually know what class this guy is, I'm too busy staring at his anime leafcut.

Slayers can focus on the gun and become Bullet Dancers, gaining a small pool of grit, a gun, and a few deeds, including the titular bullet dance, which lets them attempt to move out of the way of a shot fired at them from their target. They can also damage their target with a melee attack, make a Bluff check, and render the target flat-footed against the next ranged attack the slayer makes.

Sorcerors gain the Aetheric bloodline, which adds telekinetic spells to their list and provides some free telekinesis and force powers. The most interesting things they get are bonus force damage on elemental spells and the ability to charge and power aethertech by expending spell slots.

The Aetheric Caller is a summoner who draws forth a special eidolon from the spiritual impressions embedded in aetherite. They turn the usual summoner/eidolon dynamic on its head, because the summoner gets armor and martial weapons, while the eidolon gets a Charisma boost, a Strength penalty, and the spellcasting that the summoner would usually get (Plus a few telekinetic spells, as usual). The summoner still has the summon monster ability, though, calling forth aetherwarped horrors.

And finally, we have the Star Corsair Swashbuckler. Tuned to fight aboard aetherships and in zero gravity, they can easily flit about in zero-g and become well-known enough that their very presence carries weight (half their level as a bonus to a social check 3 times a day).

Apr 6, 2009

Barudak posted:

So in Aether, how much print space does each of these archetypes take up? I ask because there is a shocking number of them and the mechanics seem pretty invovled for a few of them.

The shortest of them takes perhaps a quarter of a page, but that's an extreme outlier (the Listener Oracle). More often the short ones take half a page, and the longest are two whole pages or more.

RocknRollaAyatollah posted:

Me too. It's a very interesting setting and I like what they're doing with new classes. Have they said if they're going to come out with more books?
There's a few adventures already, and work is beginning on the Aethera Intrigue Manual. I don't know quite what that will cover, worst case scenario it has a social combat system.

Apr 6, 2009

Ratoslov posted:

Looking good while kicking rear end shouldn't be a roll. :colbert:

Well look at mister high and mighty who knows all the combos. Some of us button-mash you know.

Apr 6, 2009

Aethera Campaign Setting

Part Six - The Precipice of War

Chapter Three: Cosmology
's two-page comic contains SPACE ACTION. Commander Kasara Warder pursues a pirate aethership towards the Akasaat Gate Hub, farcasting ahead to warn Akasaat Gatekeeper Command about the explosives on board the pirate vessel. Gatekeeper Command radios back that they have no interceptors in position, but the pirate ship has lost flight control and is on course for a gate hex leading to Seraos. Kasara sets her own ship on a pursuit course, both ships fly into the glowing blue hexes of the gate hub, and Kasara's ship flies out of an explosion at the other end, radioing Seraos Gatekeeper Command that she just dealt with a pirate and requesting permission to reverse course back to Akasaat. I have to admit it doesn't exactly sell me on the concepts, but I've never really encountered a chapter frontispiece that did.

The Aethera System is a binary star system with four planets and an asteroid belt. Each celestial body is associated with an elemental plane. Researchers have thoroughly determined these connections and discovered that the system shifts elemental associations over hundreds of thousands of years, but something happened during the Collapse that caused them to shift suddenly into the relationships they're in today. There's still a question of causation, but the evidence that it happened is irrefutable. Thanks to the Astral Plane basically not existing in this system (it's a localized phenomenon, probably having to do with the Collapse), the Outer Planes cannot be accessed at all, but there's still lots of planar fun to be had.


Before the Collapse, the system was home to a civilization of incredible technological sophistication that humanity has named the Progenitors. The erahthi know them as Ekhshara, "the Unspoken" and will not talk about them or explore their ruins. The erahthi god-kings, the Era-Sharaat, claim to have been alive since the first days of the Collapse, but will not discuss the Progenitors either. Very little is known of the pre-Collapse days, because the Progenitors did not keep physical historic records, possibly using psionic repositories or some other immaterial and ephemeral method. By contrast, Progenitor ruins are literally covered in scientific formulae and schematics, etched into nearly every available surface like the world's nerdiest wallpaper. It's not as helpful as you might expect, because time and weather have erased substantial parts of the decorations, and most Progenitor technology stopped working in the Collapse, likely due to just not having an appropriate power source anymore. Humans have been working off what knowledge they can understand to reverse-engineer Progenitor technology, filling the parts they don't understand with magic to create aethertech. The grasp of pre-Collapse history is so poor that scholars aren't even sure if the Progenitors are a single race or a coalition, although humans did live alongside the Progenitors and have ancient oral traditions referring to them as a single species. Some parts of the Score seem to predict the return of the Progenitors, although these are hazy and indistinct, implying their return would be in the far future.

For all their technological prowess, or perhaps because of it, the Progenitors were not well-versed in magic, using technology for the same ends and with less resources required. It seems like they knew of magic, but no one knows how much they knew or why they didn't use it. Regardless, historical records of the Progenitors are sparse until the Collapse. Scholars know basically what happened there. See, the Progenitors' interplanetary civilization was predicated on the Gate Hubs, massive satellite complexes in orbit above each world that link together through a transitive plane known as Folded Space. The scholars who study that plane and the warping magic that accesses it think the Gate Hubs were at least partially responsible for the Collapse. Which sort of makes one wonder why people are still using them, but then the same could be said for the use of frozen, radioactive souls as currency.

At any rate, before the Collapse, the planets and their alignments to the Inner Planes would shift slowly over tens of thousands of years. Using the Gate Hubs, the Progenitors put the brakes on this cycle of change. This caused friction in the Ethereal Plane where the Material and Inner Planes meet. Schematics in Progenitor ruins depict vast power assemblies and capacitors to tap into this planar friction as a source of energy, which hopefully sounds like a bad idea to anyone with a basic grasp of physics. :byoscience:

Geology 101: Earthquakes happen when the forces acting on two really big hunks of rock overcome the friction and the rocks slip past each other, just a little. Imagine the "earthquake" you get when the "rocks" are the planar fabric of an entire solar system. Tens of thousands of years of gradual elemental shift happened in a single night. The system's sun, Aethera, collapsed into a white dwarf, and the first planet in the system, the hothouse gas giant Ashra, ignited. The earth-aligned planet of Amrita, suspected to have been the heart of the Progenitor's empire, shattered, coming back together in the form of the gas giant Seraos and the Amrita Asteroid Belt. An arid fiery desert used for terraforming research underwent a sudden mass forestation, becoming the forest world of Kir-Sharaat. The world-spanning ocean of Akasaat dried up completely, leaving a barren desert wasteland and some very confused humans left behind. And a once-lush, verdant world drifted to the edge of the system and froze into the cloud-shrouded Orbis Aurea.

The planar landscape didn't escape unscathed, either. The fey realm of Evermorn still displays echoes of the past in regions of slow-moving or frozen time. Although oddly, the fey inhabitants didn't have much if any contact with the Prime Material plane before the collapse, nor did the inhabitants of the Plane of Shadow, which may imply that the system was even more locked down prior to the Collapse. Or maybe swapped one set of planes for another, because the amount of outsiders that were trapped in the system strongly points towards the Outer Planes being accessible at one point. This is all the human perspective, though, but considering they were contemporary with the Progenitors and most of the other races in the system didn't come into being until well after the Collapse, I'd be tempted to trust them.

The humans claim it has been 4000 years since the Collapse. The erahthi object, because their god-kings, the Era-Sharaat or Tritarchs, claim to have been around for thousands of years before creating the erahthi. However, the Era-Sharaat are incredibly tight-lipped about history, even to the erahthi, and have forbidden exploration of any Progenitor ruins on Kir-Sharaat. Basically the more I read on the Tritarchs, the more I think they're huge jerks. The okanta are only 800 years old as a race, which is actually a pretty long time when you only have a life expectancy of 35. So they know jack-poo poo about the Collapse, and the giants they pal around with also have no record of any time before their world was covered in ice. The phalanx, now, they have something interesting going on. You may recall they occasionally have flashes of past lives. Some of these, fleeting and fragmented though they may be, are pre-Collapse lives. Very intriguing, and most phalanx that make it known they're having these recollections quickly disappear into isolated, secure facilities. At any rate, we shall be dealing with the human reckoning of pre-Collapse history, because the erahthi are a big bag of stamens.

The earliest mythological tales of humanity tell of a planet that actively sought their death. The aftermath of the Collapse left Akasaat wracked with earthquakes, dust storms, and firestorms that shattered whatever pre-Collapse society the humans had and drove them into the scattered clans and tribes that still forms the basis of society outside the Hierarchy arcologies. This period is known as the First Age. Human written records begin around the year 677 (from the time of the Collapse as reckoned by the Luthian Measure), covering tribal migrations, charismatic leaders, and scientific studies. The Hierarchy likes to sell the ancient world as a whirlwind of barbarism that they lead humanity from and the world threatens to fall back into, but academies, observatories, and other scientific evidence from the First Age paints a picture of a more enlightened age than the official record wants to show.

According to the Hierarchy, the golden age of humanity began with the rise of the prophet Luthias in 2963, allegedly the first human cantor and the man responsible for the discovery of the Score. Divining a grand destiny for humanity in its rhythms, he united the clans of the Crescent Tablelands in 3033, leading them to an ancient Progenitor deep-sea research facility where they could retake the legacy of the Progenitors and rebuild humanity to its pre-Collapse glory. Outside of Hierarchy information control, this is widely regarded as so much bunkum, not even the existence of the prophet Luthias is known for certain.

Historical record does show that a number of warring tribes were united and took a perilous journey to the Crescent Tablelands to settle in an ancient Progenitor ruin. This ruin became Central, the seat of the human Hierarchy and the greatest city to exist since the Collapse. From there, they expanded to discover and settle more Progenitor ruins, distancing themselves from their tribal origins. In 3074, the founding tribes mixed together their disparate dialects to create the patois of Hymnas. Humanity united under the prophetic interpretation of the Score through means of the Symphonium, an organization created by Luthias or someone working in his name, whose purpose is the continuous interpretation of the Score and guidance of mankind. Thus, human civilization solidified into a theocratic meritocracy, lasting in this manner for several hundred years until the discovery of aetherite in 3762.

Erahthi history, as mentioned, is ridiculously vague because not only are the Era-Sharaat reluctant to speak of the past, they are infuriatingly cryptic, speaking in parables and mythic terms. The Era-Sharaat are believed to have walked Kir-Sharaat in the days following the Collapse. This period, from some unknown point to the year 243 in the Luthian Measure, is the Age of Awakening. In this time, the five (or possibly six) Era-Sharaat warred against the zahajin, a vicious, amphibious race native to the lightless depths of Kir-Sharaat's world-spanning forest. Only three Era-Sharaat survived these wars: Athrakarus, Erathlias, and Indaarin.

We have a sidebar here on the names of the planets. Luthian actually named them based on transliteration of the Progenitor names for them, but he did so by cross-referencing them with their listed elemental affinities and without knowing about the elemental shift during the Collapse. So he switched them all around. Also, Kir-Sharaat is the erahthi name for the planet with no basis in Progenitor phonemes, and Orbis Aurea was a nickname given because of the auroras seen from observatories on Akasaat. The okanta name for the planet is surprisingly close to the Luthian designation, Horvea.

At any rate, from 244 to 2143 is a period of erahthi history known as The Blooming. The three surviving Era-Sharaat wove the first erahthi into existence from a tree and worked with to develop their civilization and government. The first full generation of erahthi were grown by 263, by which time the Era-Sharaat had taken up the title of Tritarch and begun their cyclical system of rulership where two of them would sleep while one guided the civilization for 250 years. The Council of Song maintains this cycle, and there's a lot of speculation about what actually goes one with all this. The first 250 years, under Erathlias the Guide, was a period of intellectual growth, segueing into Athrakarus the Champion awakening and leading them on a bloody war against the zahajin to expand territory and claim the heartwood trees that are the source of erahthi souls. By the end of this 250 years, erahthi territory had tripled in size and developed a strong military to portect their holdings. When Indaarin awoke, he was horrified and swung the erahthi back to the left. Indaarin believed the Tritarchs were having too strong an influence on erahthi society and started a mostly hands-off policy. The zahajin skirmished and raided against the erahthi for several hundred years starting in 777. After their last defeat, they had sought aid from the fey of the Evermorn, and now had magic and better tactics on their side. This partnership has created some serious tension in erahthi-fey relations ever since. The conflict with the zahajin ended in 1013 when Erathlias awoke and helped broker a boundary accord: The erahthi would hold the lighted areas of the world, and the sunless Darkwild would belong to the zahajin. Subsequent cycles of Tritarch leadership saw Indaarin's initial hands-off stance intensify, such that the Era-Sharaat stopped emerging from the Dreaming Throne in San-Kaishan entirely, speaking through emissaries and only rarely.

2144 to 3902 is the erahthi Enlightenment. A cultural renaissance flourished with the threat of the zahajin removed, and erahthi began breeding symbiotic plants to take the roles of every conceivable machine, including transportation. The single city of Kir-Sharaat spread across an enormous area, creating provinces and more erahthi wherever a new heartwood tree was found to settle around. Erahthi scholars began to study the stars, sparking curiosity about what lay beyond their world, a topic not even the tritarchs knew about. The next step of the culture was obvious: an ascension beyond the knowledge of the Tritarchs into a vast unknown.

Meanwhile, on Orbis Aurea, no one knows what the gently caress was happening. Taiga giant oral traditions claim giant civilizations arose around 1276, but no other giants can corroborate this and hill giant settlements have been found dating back another 3 centuries. However, the planet was not always shrouded in cloud cover, since the words for "moon" and "stars" exist in several giant dialects and even okantan. The period from the Collapse to about 3206 is known as the Time of Darkness. It was around this time that the okanta began to rise in the Time of Unification. From 3206 to 3441, powerful okanta shamans called the Harmarandh established the first- and last- okanta metropolis, Haj-Harmarandh. Using magic power drawn from the whispering spirits in aetherite and the shrouding clouds, the Harmarandh fought against the races of giants and carved out enough space to live for 200 years before an army of frost giants larger than any ever seen crashed over Haj-Harmarandh like a wave, scattering the okanta to the winds.

For the next 400 years, okanta became fully nomadic, wandering about the planet in the wake of the nomadic taiga giant clans. The okanta became deeply enmeshed in giant culture in this Time of Wandering, developing their shamanic magical traditions from the taiga giants and scattered pockets of firbolg and even cloud giants.

Now we jump back to Akasaat for the Second Age, from 3762 to 3902. Aetherite had been known to the humans for quite a while, but its radioactive properties discouraged serious experimentation. However, in 3762 a wasteland salvager and engineer named Willias Thalvadrin witnessed an exposed vein of the crystal get struck by lightning and sublimate into electrified plasma. Plasma gas was one of the fundamental components of Progenitor technology, and something that humanity had had a lot of trouble working around in their attempts to reverse-engineer Progenitor science. Thalvadrin saw the immediate potential of this property of aetherite and for several years after, he and other scholars researched aetherite and its multi-phase properties exhaustively, resulting in the first aetheric capacitor in 3770. A blend of magic and Progenitor technology, this new aethertech allowed people to power reverse-engineered Progenitor machines. By 3790, Thalvadrin had developed the first aetherdrive, an engine that ceates a field of kinetic force that can allow objects to defy gravity. While most of the scientific principles the Progenitors' civilization was based on was still beyond the minds of the scholars of that day, those two developments allowed for rapid industrialization. Farcasters opened the radio waves to instantaneous non-magical communications, lighter-than-air aetherships plied the skies, and aetheric energy became the cornerstone of human society, to the point where businesses began paying employees directly in aetheric energy units.

This started an aetherite rush. By 3802, all surface deposits of aetherite visible from the air were depleted, and mining colonies began cropping up, haphazard and dangerous as all kinds of wildcat venture are. The colony of Altus supplemented its drilling with aetheric blasting charges, which makes about as much sense as using dynamite to mine natural deposits of dynamite. The resulting explosion and sinkhole destroyed the colony and poisoned the land for generations to come. Sadly, drilling and digging on Akasaat proved fruitless, and faced with a looming aetherite crisis, people turned to the Score for guidance, which told them the moon was full of gold aetherite. This began a space race with the entire human way of life hanging in the balance. In 3887, on the verge of a global economic collapse and severe aetherite scarcity, humanity reached the stars.

Sadly, the moon Prima didn't have as much aetherite as expected, but lunar explorers discovered something much more valuable: the Akasaat Gate Hub, in a fixed orbit behind the moon. Referenced repeatedly in Progenitor technical documents, the Gate Hubs were presumed destroyed in the Collapse. Exploring these Gate Hubs, however, ran into the problems of them being defended by still-functioning Progenitor technology, undead, or worse. The Hierarchy sealed most of the actual entrances to the Gate Hubs, because you don't need to go inside to use them and they seemed to be working well enough on their own. Humanity began exploring the Gate Hub network, prospecting for aetherite in every corner of the system. Orbis Aurea proved disastrous as the aetherships that descended into the cloud cover never returned and could not be raised on the farcaster. A few attempts were made to try and recover them, including automated ships, but they too were lost in the clouds and eventually resources were stretched too tight to keep throwing good money after bad. Seraos proved more profitable, as the rings of the gas giant and the rocks of the Amrita Belt proved plentiful in aetherite, although the resources required to mine and transport the aetherite meant that they could only just reach economic equilibrium. In 3891, humanity reached Kir-Sharaat and scanned it visually from orbit. They failed to recognize the metropolis of Kir-Sharaat as anything more than an impossibly large forest. A second expeditionary force visited the planet in 3903 under the auspices of Akasaat's largest mining consortium and discovered what seemed like the solution to humanity's resource crunch.

But let's hop back over to Orbis Aurea and talk about those ships that disappeared. They crashed, of course, but some people survived, establishing the city of Wighthaven in a fjord on the edge of the world's temperate band. The survivors, known later as the Requiescat, bonded with the okanta, introducing them to human culture and technology.

But they're a side note to what's going on at Kir-Sharaat. Six Hierarchy mining ships spotted the continent-city of Kir-Sharaat and sent one of their number to establish contact while the other five started surface divinations for aetherite. The miners that landed in the central district of San-Kaishan were woefully unprepared for a first contact scenario, but they did establish that Erahthi and Hymnas shared a common and improbable linguistic root, so they could communicate at least partially. Meanwhile, the other five mining ships touched down miles from the city. Two were destroyed by indigenous plant life, but the others passed below the light and into the Darkwild, spotting massive untapped deposits of aetherite glimmering in the darkness. They began clear-cutting trees in an attempt to get sunlight down to the forest floor and aid the visual assessment of the deposits. Now, when you're not only born of trees, respectfully use them for everything, and in some sense are trees, clear-cutting is going to be a pretty huge form of desecration. Relations immediately became hostile. It's not known who fired the first shot, but only one mining ship limped out of Kir-Sharaat's atmosphere with exaggerated tales of savage plant-creatures and heroic miners. The Hierarchy, however, faced with an over-extended reach and minimal aetherite reserves, had to return to Kir-Sharaat and get whatever aetherite they could.

A second mining force, complete with military escort, touched down on the side of Kir-Sharaat opposite the erahthi megalopolis and sat there for five years, clear-cutting vast swathes of forest to reach the vital and abundant aetherite. Attacks by the zahajin were mistaken for further erahthi aggression because the humans had no idea of the differences between the cultures. By 3912, the Hierarchy had a permanent mining operation, having laid waste to miles of pristine forest and waged intermittent war on the zahajin. Indaarin, the reigning Tritarch, traveled personally to the site to try and end the humans' abuse of the natural resources and maintain the peace with the zahajin.


Historical accounts claim that when Indaarin appeared at the perimeter of the camp, the Tritarch's voice could be heard for miles, echoing through every living tree. The human miners were terrified by Indaarin's presence, and before a dialogue could be established, Captain Ludaro Welder of the H.A.V. Hammer ordered his vessel to fire on the Tritarch. Indaarin survived the artillery fire, but returned to San-Kaishan critically injured. The shock and horror of this act resonated among the erahthi people, and a war was now inevitable - a brutal, divisive war spanning nearly a century of perpetual battle.

Apr 6, 2009

Regarding the Draconomicon cover and the horse, there's a simpler explanation. Look at the shield in the lower right corner. That's Tordek's shield, so it's probably his horse. :smaug:

Also it might be kind of interesting to compare and contrast the rules in Draconomicon to Council of Wyrms.

Also also, I've always thought amethyst dragons horking exploding crystals at foes was the weirdest breath weapon.

Apr 6, 2009

Kurieg posted:

One of the later monster manuals had this thing called "The Great Game" which was basically what dragons did when they got bored, sacrificing some of their magical power and hoard to get marginal additional benefits but getting to stroke their ego when they manage to out-wit one another even with such a handicap.

Xorvintaal, yeah. I've got a note in my ideas file about a Xorvintaal dragon with levels in Death's Chosen, which essentially turns them into a Renfield. The xorvintaal dragons had the ability to designate characters as, like, pawns in their games for minor benefits. I think I was picturing the dragon making his undead master a xorvintaal pawn so they had this symbiotic feedback loop going on.

Apr 6, 2009

Aethera Campaign Setting

Part Seven - Fortunately, no Space Hitler

In Luthian Measure 3913, war was beginning. The Hierarchy started turning out warships in great numbers, preparing for a quick invasion. The erahthi everse-engineered the downed aetherships on Kir-Sharaat and synthesized them with their symbiotic plant technology to create living ships to repulse a small invasion force. Both sides thought the war would be over quickly, and Indaarin was unable to steer his people away from war. Skirmishing occurred frequently in the early days of the war, with humanity attempting repeatedly to establish forward bases on the forest planet, but beat back each time by the hostile vegetation and erahthi guerilla raids.

The first generation of erahthi plant aetherships rolled out of whatever sort of buds they grew from in 3918, letting the erahthi take to space with ships capable of self-repair. The Hierarchy had only ever fought the scattered Wasteland clans, never in their history had they ever had to worry about an equally-skilled enemy or a technology they themselves did not possess. Initial losses for humanity were in the tens of thousands as they were pushed back through the Gate Hub. The erahthi tried repeatedly to disable or destroy the Gate Hub, to know avail. Thing's resilient and defended. The Hierarchy spent the next two years licking their wounds, skirmishing occasionally as scout ships came and went through the gate. The war might have ended there if not for humanity's aetherite shortage. Fear of the erahthi winning, beating the previously-unbeateable Hierarchy, swept through the arcologies, and the Hierarchy found itself committed to an unsustainable war.

To counteract the superiority of erahthi symbiont technology, the Hierarchy began programs to augment human troops with aethertech and magic. These resulted in many useful advances, like militarized automata prosthetics, powered armor... and the infused. Human aetherite experimentation was already practiced in secret in Hierarchy labs, both morally and legally gray areas. In 3919, a group of alchemists and occultists began the Paragon Project, intended to create superhuman soldiers capable of leading humanity to victory. After a few false starts that produced the same twisted abominations most aetherite biology experiments cause, they reached a breakthrough by starting from test subjects that were already suffering from aetherite radiation poisoning. These volunteers underwent torturous experimentation, losing their memories and bodily health, coming out the other end as the first infused. Before they could be fully evaluated for, you know, not being psychotic, they were trained and shipped to the front lines. The first infused soldiers saw combat in 3921, beginning a new human offensive.

I'm vaguely annoyed by those space battleships. Akasaat has no oceans, where are they even getting boat hull designs?

This new offensive intensified when the H.A.V. Harmonium, the first aethership battlecruiser, was brought online in the Prima shipyards. At the head of a fleet of nearly two hundred aetherships, the Harmonium proved devastating to the erahthi forces, especially coupled with the Hierarchy's newest tactic: orbital bombardment. Launching spears of fire-elemental metal mined from the asteroids around the sun Ashra, the bombardment created immense explosions of heat and light. The Harmonium could have killed tens of thousands of erahthi, if not for a surgical strike by Reaper-caste commandos in 3924 that destroyed the battleship from within. The Hierarchy still doesn't know how that happened. Still, the Harmonium did lead to the development of more heavily-armed and -armored aetherships designed to weather the fiercest assaults.

Meanwhile, the infused were kicking all kinds of rear end, so the Hierarchy threw more money at the Paragon Project, which resulted, in 3927, in the creation of 100 ubermenschen called, fittingly, the Paragons. Towering above a normal human, stronger than a soldier in power armor, and frighteningly intelligent. They entered the war as the erahthi were finalizing spore-based biological weapons. They were initially sent in at the head of squads of infused, but after a couple years of battle and observation, it was discovered the Paragons and infused shared a psychic link with each other, an unintentional capability that had not been in their design specs. The second generation of Paragons was put on hold while the Hierarchy mulled over this new development.

In 3930, the Hierarchy unveiled yet another new weapon of war: the dreadnought-class aethership. The size of a small city and designed for sustained long-range battle, bristling with weaponry, escorted by their own squadron of fighter craft, and with a crew complement numbering over three thousand. The first generation, the H.A.V. Concordant Measure, Defiant Hand, and Radiant Beacon, were used as forward operating bases that could go anywhere within the system. In 3939, the second-generation dreadnought H.A.V. Iconoclast was sent to Kir-Sharaat to lead a third-wave offensive. Unfortunately, industrial sabotage rendered the Iconoclast's weaponry inoperative shortly after arrival when the ship was ambushed by erahthi forces. Rather than die without firing a single shot, the Paragon captain, Aksandar, dropped the Iconoclast into the atmosphere, crashing into and destroying the district of Kir-Arkhal, claiming more than two hundred thousand lives. This is remembered as one of the greatest atrocities of the Century War.

Tritarch Indaarin, through all of this, has been noted as a very poor wartime leader. After the destruction of Kir-Arkhal, the desperate Tritarch violated the ritual that had been followed for thousands of years and awakened Athrakarus the Warrior from slumber. Athrakarus immediately seized control of the military and ordered an all-out assault on Akasaat. A fleet of erahthi aetherships attacked Akasaat in early 3940, leading to a massive battle in orbit. Dozens of small fighters dropped into the atmosphere on indiscriminate retaliatory suicide attacks on human settlements. Human casualties numbered in the tens of thousands, although a higher cost were the crucial aetherite refineries supplying the human war machine. Athrakarus then began moving into the rest of the system, with erahthi setting up mining operations in the Amrita Belt and around Seraos. Desperately low on aetherite, the Hierarchy began drilling deeper into Prima to try and find new veins, and sent the specially-equipped dreadnought H.A.V. Ray of Dawn with a contingent of Paragons to Orbis Aurea, to attempt a mining survey or die trying. Like every ship before it, the Ray of Dawn slipped below the cloud cover, never to return or communicate. All hands were presumed lost.

While the Ray of Dawn was destroyed, the Paragons survived the crash and discovered the Requiescat, the humans that survived the previous scouting attempts. They also discovered that Orbis Aurea was ridiculously rich in aetherite. The Paragons assumed command of the humans and cemented alliances with the local okanta tribes by aiding them against the indigenous frost giants. The Paragons' leader, Lietka, devised a bold plan and set about industrializing the human holdings, creating a city with the goal of reaching up, building their way out of the clouds enshrouding the planet. Over the next thirty years, the Paragon Ascendancy would lay the groundwork for a civilization where Paragon and infused could live outside their creators' control.

By 3947, only 12 of the original hundred Paragons remained alive, and those were lost by the end of 3949. The Hierarchy attempted seven times to besiege San-Kaishan, the capital district of Kir-Sharaat. The Paragons, as powerful as they were, were no match at all for the full might of the Tritach Athrakarus. Stories flow on both sides of the war of Athrakarus challenging Paragons to single combat, downing aetherships with a wave of his hand and turning the entire forest against the human forces. By 3951, a desperate Hierarchy had tripled the number of infused created every year and were conscripting prisoners and wastelanders into the Paragon Project to keep up with demand. It was around this time that the mining projects on Akasaat's moon Prima, while unable to find even a fragment of aetherite, broke into a Progenitor-era vault at the moon's core, containing millions of humanoid robotic constructs. They were rapidly reverse-engineered and fitted with aetherite power cores, trained, and sent into battle by the thousands. Thus was born the phalanx. With no need for food, sleep, or air, they rapidly began replacing the much more fragile infused. The Hierarchy made significant gains in this time period, pushing the erahthi back to Kir-Sharaat and gaining significant victories in the Amrita Belt and area around Seraos, but the last stores of aetherite were beginning to run dry, panicking the upper echelon of Hierarchy officials. With the human resurgence and erahthi numbers dwindling, Athrakarus began sending erahthi children on suicide missions against human targets. Indaarin confronted Athrakarus about this and was immediately returned to slumber. No one except Athrakarus knows if Indaarin put himself to sleep in protest or if Athrakarus forced him into it. Output of the erahthi war garden increased in this period, as well.

In 3955, new aetherite deposits discovered in the Amrita Belt shifted the focus of the war away from the planets and into the Gulf of deep space. Sabotage and counter-offensives ruled the day in this period known as the Long March of the Century War. Fatigue on both sides had begun to set in, and by 3970, the death toll on both sides had reached millions. Erahthi spies had infiltrated Akasaat and began a sabotage campaign to destroy the Hierarchy arcologies. They were successful once, destroying the city of Haven and killing hundreds of thousands. The other arcologies were saved by Protectorate counter-intelligence agents, but Haven whipped the Hierarchy into a frenzy, and for the next 20 years they fought over the skies of Kir-sharaat, leaving sweeping trails of aethership debris. And both sides were running low on resources. Erahthi aetherite reserves were claimed entirely from sunlit areas bordering the Darkwild, and any deeper excursions risked reigniting hostilities with the zahajin and forcing the erahthi to fight on two fronts. Neither side seemed willing to back down, but something had to give.

In 3974, the tide of war seemed to turn in favor of humanity. An aethership of unknown origin emerged from the Akasaat Gate Hub, declaring itself the P.A.V. Herald from Orbis Aurea with reinforcements of soldiers, aetherite, and okanta mercenaries. The Paragons offered to provide resources to the akasaati war machine to defeat the erahthi and end the war on their terms. Now, there was something of a split in opinions on the Paragons. The populace of Akasaat loved them, but high-ranking Hierarchy officials knew that they were a bit... problematic. So they had popular support, and the Hierarchy reluctantly agreed to their terms, recognizing Orbis Aurea as an independent colony. Together, they were poised to end the war once and for all.

But it was not by human action or even erahthi that the end of the war came about. In 4001, during a battle in orbit over Kir-Sharaat, the Gate Hub near the moon of Thycalese unleashed an armada of five thousand ships of unknown design, many of which were made from hollowed-out planetoids. The Taur had arrived. The battle descended into chaos as the Taur began shooting at both sides, launching raiding ships that bored into hulls and disgorged hordes of taur and demons. Quickly both sides turned their efforts on the new enemy, Erahthi fighters breached the walls of maze ships, discovering the atrocities the taur performed as a matter of course. Human battlecruisers bombarded taur world-ships, while phalanx fought tirelessly against taur raiding parties bent more on capture than slaughter. As the fight raged, five taur world-ships encircled the moon Thycalese and physically moved it out of orbit. Shortly afterward, the taur retreated into the Gulf of space, taking the moon with them. Humans and erahthi pursued them for a time, but were forced to limp back home without the resources to follow the taur into the trackless darkness. The Battle of Thycalese was both the longest and the last battle of the Century War.

An emergency summit was called, establishing a truce in the face of this obvious threat to both sides. Afterwards, aboard the P.A.V. Armitage, a series of negotiations by representatives of the Hierarchy, the Tritarch Dominion, and the Paragon Ascendancy resulted in the Century Accords, bringing all military actions by all signatories to a halt in the face of the taur threat. Pockets of violence continued to pop off, from hardliners, holdouts, and people who simply hadn't yet heard of the cease-fire. The taur continued to raid and skirmish, apparently able to travel rapidly across the Gulf without use of the Gate Hubs. All official military activity ceased by the middle of 4002. The Century Accords, however, were not a peace treaty, merely a cessation of hostilities in the face of a threat to both sides. In secret, both the erahthi and humans sent envoys to treat with the taur and enter into an alliance. None returned.

Travel opened between Akasaat and Kir-Sharaat in 4003, heralding a new era of cultural exchange. In 4004, the Hierarchy emancipated every single phalanx soldier, handily making an end-run around the possibility of a phalanx rebellion. At the same time, the Hierarchy introduced the Slotting system, which moved the goalposts on their traditional meritocracy. The Slot system guaranteed Hierarchy citizens a job and a stable income in exchange for their service to society, solidifying the social strata and trapping menial laborers in their current jobs with no recourse. So there's now a growing worker's rebellion, fueled by pirate radio.

The year is now 4006, and the darkest times still lie ahead. Old enemies die hard, racial violence sparks frequently, ideas and alliances are being shared and formed across racial lines, the civilians of the war are starting to express their resentment and frustration, and the threat of the taur looms over everyone. It is this tenuous peace that the player characters will be hurled into.

Apr 6, 2009

The art for the Fire Spiders spell never fails to make me laugh. A quick google to find it resulted in nothing more than a bunch of "kill it with fire" memes and a collage of Regdar getting owned that does NOT include the spell.

Apr 6, 2009

Dragons: What the christ, Io. There's this human here claiming to be killing us in your name.
Io: Yeah, uhh, don't know anything about that, what a wackjob, eh? Psst, hey guy, here's some magic for your armor.

Apr 6, 2009

Alien Rope Burn posted:

Unexplained headgear #3.

Apr 6, 2009

RocknRollaAyatollah posted:

Level One – Incubus Humor: The user of this discipline can influence the emotional state of a target by inflaming one of the four humors. Sanguine influences courage, hope, and lust, yellow bile influences anger and hate, black bile influences melancholia, and phlegm neutralizes emotions.

I have a mild interest in discredited scientific theories, and find it interesting how well that summary explains my own mental and physical state. :geno:

Also, the escalation die is a very useful mechanic, and one I wouldn't mind poaching for other game systems. Mostly the escalating to-hit bonus. The use as timer and cooldown is neat, but would be less susceptible to poaching.

Apr 6, 2009

You can do some very serious looks at things through the lens of mental illness. It's just I would not expect anything of that nature from the players of a roleplaying game.

Apr 6, 2009

Kavak posted:

you know there are perfectly valid reasons to pathologically avoid corners, the shoreline, subway tunnels, Essex County, etc.

Eastern Europe, the Middle East... Wales.

Those are some tastefully-draped pteruges.

Apr 6, 2009

Mr. Maltose posted:

If I make a pulp game where the Chinese get a racial bonus to perfidious villainy it would be both genre accurate and also very bad, so I don't see why mental illness as the wage of sin gets a pass.

Well, SOLID! the d20 Blaxploitation RPG exists. And no one's reviewed it yet, either.

Apr 6, 2009

Aethera Campaign Setting

Part Eight - Aethera, Ashra, Akasaat I

This is a two-page spread in the full book. I enjoy the Art Deco stylings, gives you kind of a reference timeframe based on our world.

Now we get into a breakdown of the planets. Each celestial body has a little sidebar of various physical and demographic statistics.

Aethera is a white dwarf linked to the element of aether. It shrank to its current size during the Collapse, but not in the typical mass ejection that would have sterilized the rest of the system. Instead, the energy of its collapse was funneled into the changes of the other planets. Ashra was a gas giant that shifted to the element of fire, igniting the atmosphere and turning it into a familiar yellow sun. The two stars have some interesting gravitation. Each orbits the other, or technically they orbit a shared point, the barycenter, in 24 hours. You can orbit each one or orbit the both at greater distance, but there are also Lagrange points: areas of lessened or counterbalanced gravitational pull, where an object can remain in the same position relative to its host body. Or at least they'd be called Lagrange points if anyone named Lagrange had discovered them, the technical term is libration points. The book calls them gravitic sinks. These regions tend to collect debris, making them good spots for treasure hunting.

Ashra has all the weather we'd expect from our own sun, but the causation is different. Solar flares are from battles between elementals, sunspots are artificial structures that surface and submerge periodically. No one's sure what those structures actually are. Ashra still has its Gate Hub, floating in a protective bubble in the upper reaches of the corona. Thus, it attracts a significant amount of researchers, traders, and explorers, as well as pirates preying on the aforementioned. The radiation of Aethera has odd effects on aetherite: Raw aetherite levitates and hums, and aetheric plasma induces temporally-cognitive hallucinations and telepathic whispers of a host of voices.

Notable locations in the neighborhood:
-The Ebon Knight is a non-natural satellite around Aethera that was assumed to be an enemy installation by both sides in the Century War. It changes orbits occasionally, and annihilates any ship straying too close to it.
-First Light of Flame was an attempt by the Hierarchy to establish an orbital supply depot around Ashra. A year after its construction, a coronal mass ejection struck it and flung it out of orbit. Originally assumed incinerated completely, fragments of hull have been found in one of the gravitic sinks, suggesting that the station and, more importantly, its large aetherite stores may still be out there somewhere.
-The Silent Cathedral is a taur maze-ship whose crew were slaughtered by the bound demons they once commanded. It drifts in orbit around Aethera, silent and unpowered, but still fully functional.
-Ashra's original moon Torchbearer still orbits as a molten orb of metal and stone, populated by fire-elemental outsiders.
-The Sentinels are a collection of vaguely humanoid statues, each several miles long, drifting in one of the gravitic sinks. Exploration and research teams landing on the statues have all disappeared without a trace. Remote inspection via an Arcane Eye spell resulted in the caster going mad and catatonic, and a clockwork servant sent to record surveillance disappeared as well, only to be discovered fused into a wall in a Progenitor ruin in the Amrita Belt. The Hierarchy confiscated the servant's recording crystal and is keeping its contents under wraps.
-The Snowglobe is a politically-independent trading and resupply station created by a coalition of scavengers and miners from the Amrita Belt who found a comet that was due to crash into Ashra and towed it into a gravitic sink. It's all-inclusive, selling the comet's organics and both ammonia and water ice to anyone who can afford it.
-Vitae Station was a Hierarchy solar power research station. And I don't mean solar power as in green sustainable solar power, I mean "Let's see if the sun puts out the same kind of energy as aetherite." An unknown disaster struck the station, knocking it out of orbit and infesting it with allips and a caller in darkness.

This is not a very useful map.

Akasaat is the arid home of humanity, linked to the Plane of Earth. It used to be an ocean world, and the evidence of that is everywhere. Nearly all indigenous life perished in the Collapse, and honestly I'm not too clear on what kind of aquatic or amphibious fauna could have survived a sudden desertification. It's not completely a desert world, featuring three large deserts, but the rest of the globe is made of dried lakebeds, salt flats, mountains, plateaus, and ravines. And, of course, the scattered ruins of Progenitor structures which now serve as landmarks, settlement foundations, or the lairs of ferocious predators. Any loose water is usually heavily saline, and fresh drinking water needs to be pulled from deep aquifers. Enormous caverns honeycomb the planet, mostly unexplored, and full of fantastic geological features like lakes of lava, mercury, or sulphur.

We get a bit more detail into human history here, or at least the official Hierarchy stance, but it is pretty much just detail, there's nothing in this section that's not covered in my earlier post on history. Human society is split between the authoritarian, arcology-dwelling Hierarchy, and the scattered nomadic tribes colloquially known as wastelanders. The term also encompasses the other sentient indigenous populations of tengu, ratfolk, lizardfolk, etc. But to an off-worlder, if you mention humanity, they think of the Hierarchy. The Hierarchy sees itself as the overseer of all humanity, which tends to grate on those wasteland tribes who prefer being an anarcho-syndicalist commune.

The Hierarchy itself is structured in a combination of military and religious structure, with the Lord Marshal holding the highest temporal power as commander-in-chief, but the Lord Marshal is appointed by the prophets of the Symphonium, based on their interpretation of the Score. The Symphonium technically holds the power to make the Lord Marshal retire, but to date they've all served until death. The prophets of the Symphonium are similarly picked due to prophecy, but they're taken from all walks of life. Below these positions sit the five (technically four) Grand Marshals who represent the ruling elite of each of the other arcologies. The fifth is the honorary, but largely powerless, Grand Marshal of Vale, which was destroyed by erahthi saboteurs during the war. The descendants of Vale occasionally call for him to try and get the Hierarchy to rebuild Vale. I feel like that's another Eberron parallel, what with Cyre and all.

Below the Grand Marshals is the Council of Nobles, who theoretically represent their city's inhabitants and bring concerns from the lower tiers to the attention of those able to do things about them. However, the positions are for life, appointed by the Grand Marshals, and very cushy, so decadence, nepotism, and corruption rule the day. There's also way too many of them. The number of councilors is usually based on the population of the arcologies, but during the Century War the population dropped sharply with no corresponding change in number of council members. Below the Council now lies the Slotted hierarchy. Before the war, the lower echelons fluctuated, with citizens gaining prestigious jobs and power based on accomplishments and merit. However, with the war dealing significant damage to the lower and middle classes, key civil and social positions were in danger of going unfilled. To combat this, the Hierarchy abandoned the free market and instituted a system of appointed employment, where all necessities would be supplied by the government with the agreement that the Slotted citizen was not eligible to move from that station without appointment from a councilor. Those who refuse to be Slotted are afforded no rights of citizenship and have no protection under the law. Presto, a permanent working class, and a system rife with bias and corruption that ensures non-humans (including infused and phalanx war veterans) can never reach a position to affect real societal change.

There's a sidebar on the system of timekeeping on Akassat. It has a 24-hour day, and an orbital period of 365 days, divided into 6 60-day months. Each month is named after one of the first six followers of Luthias. At the end of the year is a five-day "holiday" known as the Reflection where citizens are encouraged to reflect on the past and plan for the future. This Luthian calendar is not used very often outside of Hierarchy holdings, and the wasteland tribes generally measure the year based on pre-Collapse seasons that don't have much impact on the actual weather anymore. Non-human civilizations have their own means of measuring time. I'm always slightly annoyed when a setting defaults to those numbers because it feels lazy, but splitting it into six months with the five-day holiday at the end is a nice nod to the fantastical.

And now we're into the Century War's impact on humanity. Before the planetary defenses were in place, erahthi raids through the Gate Hub killed thousands of wastelanders and tens of thousands of arcology-dwellers. As the human war machine grew and security around the Gate Hub increased, these raids and suicide attacks slacked off. But the sheer length of the war lead to its own problems. Scarcity lead to food riots, lead to crackdowns on public congregations, lead to increased military scrutiny, lead to the word "lead" no longer looking like a word. Citizens were so relieved by the end of the war they hardly even noticed the Slot system going into place. At the end of the war, all Akasaati citizens underwent performance and skill evaluations cross-referenced with their military records. Those with useful tradeskills or talents were placed into positions vacated by war casualties, while less-useful ones were placed into lower-ranking positions. Many retired or injured veterans were stuck in low-paying maintenance and civil engineering positions like waste management.

Many Akasaati who were placed into lower positions, especially wasteland natives who were moved into the Slot system, saw their personal possessions deemed "unnecessary" for their positions and either liquidated by the government or given to higher-ranked citizens. This and other incidents of disenfranchisement lead to protests by Unslotted. Slotted participants within these protests were dubbed provocateurs attempting to destabilize society, and could be moved to lower positions, stripped of citizenship, or imprisoned and shipped to the Amrita Belt for their "crimes". Dissident groups took to pirate radio to air their grievances, taking to mobile broadcasters in aetherships after government raids and signal jamming forced them out of entrenched positions. Known as Riders now (after the term Wave Riders which was coined during the war to refer to migratory anarchic broadcasters), many hide among the populace with forged Slot documentation, broadcasting at night, holding temporary jobs by day.

Today, Akasaat is split between extremes. The wastelanders live as they have for millennia, trying their best to ignore the Hierarchy and offworld problems. Phalanx take human cultural concepts and meld them into their own society, erahthi share their communal agricultural views, okanta fuse their spirituality with human ingenuity... All of humanity was united in fear and hatred of the erahthi, but that's come to an end rapidly. Now the first generation to not have to worry about being drafted and hurled into the inky blackness of space, to not need air-raid drills, the first generation to not need to be raised to be soldiers is coming of age. But they've grown up with the Slot system, with the hand of the Hierarchy firmly clamped on their shoulder and the Riders whispering songs of dissent in their ears at night. Humanity is balanced on a razor's edge, and not even the Score knows which way it will fall.

Speaking of the Score, now we're into religion! The non-humans on Akasaat mostly practice their own religions and spiritual traditions, some of which have been taken up by scattered humans, but Scorism is the big, holey cheese here. The Score was known before Luthias in different names and interpretations, but the Luthian interpretation is the most common now. The Score is interpreted as a divine work that blends music and mathematics into the fabric of reality itself. Prophets of the Score believe that they can forewarn of events and change them by perceiving, interpreting, and transcribing the Score correctly. Cantors and other magical performers use known fragments of the Score to produce many of their effects.

The prophet Luthias was the first (definitely the first human, perhaps the first ever) to determine the prophetic qualities of the Score. Scorist tablature states that Luthias was a warrior who was struck blind by aetherite poisoning, his blindness allowing him to more clearly hear the Score. Other records proclaim he was born blind and was a a philosopher/naturalist, not a warrior. The Symphonium claims the blind warrior account as canon, however. Luthias developed a method to examine the mathematics behind the music and reveal possible branching outcomes. The Score is not a vision of predestination, but illustrates what could be if certain events take place. Many prophets and cantors spend their entire lives contemplating the Score, seeking meaning in the predictions of the smallest and most meaningless events. Interpretation is difficult due to the complexity of the musical and mathematical notation, and the amount of room available for personal biases and projection.

Luthias is said to have proclaimed five prophecies outlined in the Score, each of which outlined his leadership of humanity. The First Prophecy claimed that when the oasis of Shangaraan dried up, it would lead to unprecedented war among humanity. Three years later, the sole above-ground source of water in the Shangaraan Desert dried up, leading to the tribes that shared the space beginning the Tableland Wars. The Second Prophecy predicted that six tribes of humanity found on the Crescent Tablelands would, if united, become the most powerful tribe to ever exist. Luthias fulfilled this by uniting the six tribes under his banner to fight the raiding tribes of the Shangaraan desert. The Third Prophecy said that if the six tribes traveled to the Kashranaan Mountains in the remote Samarasati Tablelands and built a city in the ruins they found, it would last for all time and weather any attack. They accomplished this by founding the city that would become Central, the seat of the Hierarchy. It remains to be seen if the actual result will be borne out.

The fourth prophecy of Luthias claimed that when the elements of air, earth, fire, and water were combined, a power unparalleled in all the universe would be bestowed upon humanity, and through this power they would bring about a golden age. This is interpreted to refer to the discovery of aetherite, which exists in a crystalline form, supercharged plasma, aetheric energy, and an inert liquid state. The Fifth Prophecy claimed the greatest enemy of humanity would come from beyond Akasaat, and that this enemy would be "rebel children of the Progenitors of a world beyond" who would seek to destroy humanity, and in their defeat would a new age begin. Most prophets used this to justify the Century War, and the Symphonium classifies this prophecy as canonically fulfilled, but non-Hierarchy students of the Score dispute this, because the erahthi were never truly defeated, and there's still a few troublesome lines in the prophecy about this enemy being "set in the homes of their foes' fallen" and "cast of the contrast between song and silence." Now who could possibly fill all those criteria? Hint: It's the taur. No one in-universe really knows that yet, though.

The number six features heavily in the prophecies of Luthias, and scholars of such have often proposed the existence of a Sixth Prophecy, but no historical evidence exists and the Symphonium denies any such prophecy exists. Another minor parallel with Eberron, which has the numerical theme of thirteen minus one.

Akasaat's economic history parallels our own significantly. For most of humanity's history, goods and services were paid for in gold coins. When the Hierarchy came to power, it began issuing gold-backed banknotes, which lasted until the discovery of aetherite. Aethertech mining equipment meant more gold was being unearthed easier, the price of gold dropped, and the Hierarchy was forced to decouple their banknotes from the gold standard. This caused the familiar hyperinflation until the top five mining and energy families formed a cartel called the United Consortium and fixed the price of aetherite. The Hierarchy, normally opposed to such cartels, embraced this one and worked with them to devise a new currency system based on units of aetheric charge. The government began collecting taxes and paying salaries only in aetheric units (au), stabilizing prices in a few years and getting the whole of humanity onboard in a generation. This amuses me, because I picture a party of adventurers fighting their way through a monster-infested ruin and getting pissed because the treasure is a chest full of gold. Which was actually a plot in a Star Wars EU story. Aetheric units are basically just reskinned gold pieces, anyway, any item in another book with prices in GP can be bought with au 1-for-1.

After the war ended, Akasaat faced another economic crisis, this time in the form of an influx of phalanx laborers. If the society held true to their meritocratic ideals, eventually they'd have to promote some robots into positions over actual humans. Shock. Horror. The Slot System thus helps to keep them in their place. Involving a licensed psychic, aura reader, or diviner, the registration process ostensibly tests for aptitude and skills, but it also screens out potential rabble-rousers, tracks the magically-adept, and of course, keeps the non-humans down.

All Slots include housing, transportation, meals, and a virtual stipend of au in the form of requisitioned goods and services, no Slotted individual has personal finances. Requisitioned things arrive within 1d6 days, faster the higher-Slotted one is. You can't requisition illegal or restricted items, of course. A Slotted person must work at their appointed job for at least 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Repeatedly missing work or trying to aquisition illegal goods can result in loss of Slot status and all possessions provided by the government. There is an appeals process, but it's long and usually fruitless. There are five Slot levels, determined exclusively by the job you hold. It's impossible to change Slot levels without changing jobs, and an administrator needs to okay any job change.

Slots are essentially like paying for a lifestyle, but provided free of charge to those within the Slot system. Unslotted may buy similar accomodations at a premium, representing heavy taxes and regulatory abuse.
Slot I is for farmers and laborers, the basic unskilled. They get a substandad apartment on the lowest level of an arcology, poor-quality but nutritious meals, and unlimited access to public transportation. Unslotted may buy this for 200 au/month.
Slot II covers soldiers and metalworkers, skilled physical workers. They are allotted a good-quality apartment on the edge of an arcology's second tier, unlimited public transportation, and fair-quality meals. They can procure any nonmagical item worth 1 au or less within minutes with home delivery. This costs 500 au/month for Unslotted.
Slot III gets into the more mental disciplines for technicians, general-purpose mechanics, and teachers. It bestows a high-quality apartment on the second tier of an arcology, a personal aethership shuttle, and good-quality meals. They can get items worth 10 au or less home-delivered in 1d10 minutes. This tier costs Unslotted 1,000 au per month.
Slot IV is for engineers and healers, specialized and important trades. Provides a full-sized home, personal shuttle, and high-quality meals. They can get anything worth 25 au or less with Aethera Prime. 2,000 au a month for the plebeians.
Slot V: Administrators and researchers. Large home, personal shuttle, exquisite meals, anything of 50 au or less to your door in 1d10 minutes. 5,000 radioactive shekels every month if you want to taste the good life.

Unslotted do have their own levels of lifestyle, and this can also represent the lifestyle of a non-citizen visitor.
Destitute characters are homeless and may need to make Survival or Sleight of Hand checks to eat. The upside is it's free.
Subsistence level costs 10 au a month and is usually how people in the wastelands live.
Poverty (100 au/mo) is most common among Unslotted in the arcologies, living in a slum on the bottom of the arcology with minimal food and utilities. They only need to track meals or taxes if they cost more than 1 au.
Freelancers are those Unslotted skilled, connected, or lucky enough to achieve the same standard of living as a Slot II or III citizen. They pay 1,000 au/month, including high taxes. They may have a decent apartment in a low-class area and a pre-owned aethership. They can get any nonmagical item worth 5 au or less within 1d10 minutes and only need to track meals and fees in excess of 10 au.
The Hierarch tier represents those on the Hierarchy's Council of Nobles or people who can otherwise spring for the 10,000 aetheric units a month to sustain it. They're no longer worried about basic expenditures, capable of getting their hands on anything under 100 au within minutes and similarly ignoring the cost of meals or taxes under 100 au. They almost certainly have homes on the third tier of an arcology, may own rental properties, and have magnificent aetherships that may even be space-capable.

This is getting quite long, I didn't know quite how big the sections on each planet were. Next time we'll cover Akasaati organizations, adventuring on the planet (including environmental hazards), and notable locations, including the massive capital arcology of Central.

Apr 6, 2009

unseenlibrarian posted:

Probably kicking them off the forums because given his obsession with Trademarks and complete misunderstanding of IP law he really believes TSR has trademarked Nazis and thus the coalition can't be them.

It's a sad comment on the state of this industry that I can't actually tell if you're being funny or not.

E: also I am surprised new rifts books are still being published.

Dareon fucked around with this message at 23:21 on May 4, 2017

Apr 6, 2009

occamsnailfile posted:

If the laws are "about the same" as the 21st century US then some pretty shifty authoritarian poo poo is legal though I can't imagine the Coalition smiling on the gays.

If those dog boys in the Juicer Uprising picture are Coalition dog boys, they're at least okay with gay furries.

No, I don't automatically assume everyone wearing pteruges is gay. Only if it's obvious there's nothing but dogman dong underneath.

Apr 6, 2009

Just want to mention that Aethera hits all the ideal and actual fascist notes with the human government. And personally I'd rather play Pathfinder than Rifts.

Apr 6, 2009

wiegieman posted:

All random rolling in character creation is disgusting and archaic and should be replaced by point buy.

e:I will die on this hill :colbert:

The random rolling Eclipse Phase added to let its point buy take under an hour begs to differ.

Apr 6, 2009

The pump pistol could slide forwar- yeah, I got nothing.

Apr 6, 2009

I recall one of the Ravenloft books (probably 3E) featuring an early sidebar about how DMs should make the paladin's mount go out and do crimes at night based on the paladin's subconscious desires. That was about the point I put the book down with the realization it held nothing of use to me.

Apr 6, 2009

Alien Rope Burn posted:

(From the Car Wars comic.)

Apr 6, 2009

Aethera Campaign Setting

Part Nine - Akasaat II

Thousands of social and political groups call Akasaat home, but there are five that can be considered the most influential.

The Hierarchy is, of course, the government. They control the truly habitable regions of the planet, which has done quite a lot for ensuring their continued success. They influence the populace through popular media: plays and farcaster shows featuring successful exploration, suspiciously friendly and bloodless conquest, and survival against hostile environments and creatures, seasoned with a healthy dash of propaganda.

The bureaucracy of the Hierarchy has become so complex that most people only understand it at the very basest level. Skilled manipulators can play fast and loose enough to hide personal interests in the budgets of several larger projects. Many do, in fact, in order to enhance their own standing or that of a family member.

There are four official departments within the Hierarchy, loosely following the same classification as the Slot system: Labor, Service, Research, and Professional. Labor and Research tend to dominate any debate between the four, Labor due to its immense budget and Research due to parceling out technological breakthroughs and new interpretations of the Score as needed. Additionally, the Service Department has its fingers in every pie, with every personal assistant technically falling into their purview. The Service Department is even rumored to have its own black budget for handling sticky "human resource problems".

The Protectorate is the Hierarchy's police and military force. In the current absence of an actual war, its members protect the populace from freeloading Unslotted parasites, reckless magic-users, and the perfidious influence of alien values and heretical belief systems.

The Protectorate is politically neutral - no Protectorate member may hold a policy-making position in the Hierarchy at large. Of course, an ex-Protectorate seeking political office is not only perfectly kosher, but can count on strong support from their Protectorate friends.

The Protectorate along with the Labor Department also manages the prison system. Prisoners are expected to compensate the state for the expenses incurred in their incarceration, and to this end are trained for a Slot under the Labor Department's purview while incarcerated. After release, they're assigned to that very same Slot, with triple offenders being placed there permanently with their job literally tattooed onto their body. These jobs are usually the most dangerous and strenuous positions available, like aetherite mining or disaster relief. Long-term prisoners have formed their own organizations within the system, despite Protectorate attempts to disrupt them.

The Symphonium are the keepers of the Score, the guides for all of humanity. Arising from an ancient religious order and still seen that way by most of the populace, the Symphonium today is more of a collection of guilds and fraternal orders of musicians and mathematicians making only the barest of nods to the religious traditions. At the top of the Symphonium are the Prophets, a council of six who serve as advisors and spiritual guides to the Lord Marshal of the Hierarchy. We're given their names, alignments, class (All cantors) and levels. Most of them are female, most of them are Neutral or Lawful Neutral, although two of them are Evil. :ohdear: Their levels range from 10 to 14. All of them are in the middle-age age-bracket or older.

The Symphonium has a few semi-covert arms: The Grand Resonance of the Open Chord and the Order of the Aureate Ratio. They are responsible for recruiting new members and covertly monitoring the Research and Service departments of the Hierarchy. New members are introduced to the concept that makes up the main source of mystical power in the Symphonium: The tritone, or Machine in the Music. Covert members use the tritone as a signaling device by weaving it into compositions, while prophets and researchers use it to attain a greater understanding of the Score.

The Riders are an informal group of the disgruntled, disillusioned, and disenfranchised that arose in the final years of the Century War, including veterans that did not return to service, proactive Unslotted, Slotted who realize their life is going to be poo poo for the foreseeable future, and Wastelanders who openly oppose the Hierarchy. They refuse to organize under a central leader, which sort of limits their effectiveness. Most of the Slotted who aid the Riders are Laborers or Professionals, who help disseminate information, carry coded messages, and pass on job offers. Rider broadcast stations transmit their news as encrypted musical signals, with hourly breaks for weather reports. Joining the Riders is as easy as claiming to be one, but most people won't believe you, and if you're just adopting the name for the fame and glory you'll probably disappear.

The Vanguard are elite Protectorate forces, originally used to protect humanity from supernatural threats like ghosts and aetherwarped mutants. Towards the end of the Century War, however, the rising incidence of magical terrorism caused the Hierarchy to decree that all citizens capable of using supernatural abilities would have to register with the Department of Occult and Eldritch Affairs or face penalties up to and including execution. In this regard, a Vanguard member has absolute authority over any magic-user of any kind in the arcologies. They are usually called in to investigate falsified registration, magical crimes, or unregistered mages. They are played up by the Hierarchy radio plays, with some of the most popular involving Vanguard officers. Corruption is rife within the ranks and many of them have nothing but contempt for the magic-users they supposedly safeguard. While the Vanguard's primary theater of operations are the Hierarchy arcologies, their investigations can leak into wasteland settlements or even off-planet with only the flimsiest of justifications. While they typically operate in pairs, high-threat situations could see response teams of nearly a dozen, all clad in the latest power armor.

"Adventurer" is not a job title that someone on Akasaat puts on their resume. Every Hierarchy citizen has their role to play in this new Slotted society, and no one has the time or resources to go haring off into ancient ruins on the nebulous promise of treasure. At least, that's the official line. The Hierarchy has implemented a number of regulations and laws making it difficult to get firearms, lockpicks, personal farcasters, and other adventuring gear, but they do employ adventurers for certain high-risk covert operations. And of course people break away from the society to adventure, mostly from those in lower Slots who long for something more out of life or retired military that need the thrill. Wasteland tribes are probably a bit more likely to produce adventurers just out of a need for survival.

Adventurers on Akasaat tend to form a loose network that will offer aid when needed, and many groups including the Riders will track adventurers and keep track of who's been helpful when they didn't need to. Packing well and being prepared for any situation is perhaps more vital on dry, cave-riddled Akasaat than in most adventuring locales, thirst being an ever-present danger. You don't need to go out into the wastelands to adventure, however: The arcologies are the remains of Progenitor installations, and the curious can explore beneath the cities mankind has built atop them to their heart's content, perhaps even maintaining a respectable life on the surface at the same time. That's not to say these caves and tunnels are any safer than the wasteland. Poisonous gas, aetherite radiation, and cave-ins are constant dangers, not to mention ancient traps and guardians.

Most of Akasaat is still relatively unexplored, actually. Aetherships can map surface-level features, identifying ruined cities by their wall lines, but very little standard exploration has been done, and even less into the caves that honeycomb the planet. To even get there, most of the time you'll need to traverse the wastes, dealing with the highs and lows of desert temperature, dust and sand, and other dangers that we don't need to consider in terrestrial deserts. Thick, cloying dust storms known as brownouts can reduce visibility to zero, static electricity can crackle across the plains in the company of ferocious half-hour sandstorms that deal 1d6 damage every round, and wind or underground water can create patches of thin ground that give way and dump an adventurer into a cavern hundreds of feet deep.

The polar regions of the planet tend towards peaty tundra and bare rock, with small arsenic-laden ice caps forming in winter. These peat deserts can produce methane that can catch fire, or hold choking pockets of carbon dioxide just waiting for a careless footfall to rupture them and suffocate a hapless adventurer.

Badlands and deep canyons offer their own dangers, including sulfurs and metals from the dried-out oceans tainting groundwater. As for the canyons, usually their sheer depth and steep sides are danger enough. Picture trying to climb down the side of the Marianas Trench. Someone actually carved stairs in some of them, but it's still brown-trousers time.

Even abandoned battlefields from the Century War can be lucrative spots for looting, but the danger of unexploded munitions and undead is high. Erahthi munitions in particular are a valuable gamble, because the Hierarchy would pay good money for samples of mutagenic spores or nerve agents in case the war ever starts up again. On the other hand, mutagenic spores and nerve agents. :vomarine:

Some locations of interest. Ashrana Canyon stretches 1500 miles and was the deepest point in the oceans of pre-Collapse Akasaat, and remains so unexplored that no one has reached the bottom. I assume that's "reached the bottom alive and reported back" because it would be really easy to get down there, but back is another issue. Unstable cliffs, high winds, carnivorous flying squid, and bulettes all combine to make the place risky, but explorers still attempt it occasionally in hopes of finding caches of Progenitor technology or undiscovered aetherite deposits.

All the arcologies are basically Midgar from Final Fantasy VII, with plates supporting the middle and upper districts from the slums on the ground.
Aegis is the most militarized city of the Hierarchy, with the largest standing army, a perimeter bristling with defensive weaponry, and its own fleet of aetherships, including the H.A.V. Lightbringer, a dreadnaught that the city's Grand Marshal rules from. The Grand Marshal is rumored to be preparing some sort of coup, openly criticizing the Symphonium and declaring the war with the erahthi to have been a mistake. Bastion was badly damaged during the early years of the war, collapsing a sizable portion of its middle tier into the slums. Repairs have only begun recently, and will probably take another decade or more. During the war, it had a sizable manufacturing base turning out weapons and ammunition, which is being retooled into civil engineering to aid with the rebuilding. Bastion's Grand Marshal is a vocal opponent of integrating the phalanx into human society and will not let any robots take our jerbs.

Dylath is a town of outcasts known for its alchemists and drug trade. It imports liquid aetherite and refines it into various drugs. There seems to be no law or government, not even a drug cartel. This is because the actual ruler of the settlement is a night hag living on the Ethereal Plane and running the place through a series of mind-controlled proxies. The Far Horizon Mining Facility is the last active aetherite mine and one of the most inhospitable places on the planet, which is an accomplishment. Criminals and undesirable Slotted (read: Phalanx and Infused war veterans) toil here, treated like slaves and in constant danger of aetherite poisoning, cave-ins, suffocation, and a stray spark turning the vein they're mining into a rapidly-expanding cloud of plasma. The director of the mine has secret deals with criminal organizations providing aetherite waste to them for the purposes of drug manufacture.

Haven was once an arcology on the forefront of aethership development, until AVALANCHE an erahthi saboteur team, aided by human subversives, planted a bomb on the #4 aetherite reactor in 3976. Reactors 2 and 3 cascaded along with it, causing the upper tier of the arcology to collapse, crushing the Midlands level and killing hundreds of thousands. The survivors were exposed to fatal levels of aetherite poisoning and the disaster response team took the form of a Vanguard strike team that rounded up the citizenry displaying advanced aetherite poisoning and dragged them off to fates unknown (Hint: It was the Paragon Project). The place is a ruin now, guarded by a skeleton force of Protectorate and holding some tantalizing thoughts of treasure: Haven's factories were allegedly on the verge of a breakthrough weapons program called Project Titan. The current Grand Marshal is an eccentric recluse who hides in the still-standing central column, letting his staff handle everything. The city is understandably a hotbed of raiders and subversives, with a minor in scavengers.

Maarten's Folly is a ship graveyard, named after the aethership captain who made an enormous tactical blunder in the battle of the same name. Dozens of rusting hulls from human ships and hillocks of vegetation from erahthi hulls litter the area, leaking bioweapons and spawning broken constructs, biological horrors, and undead who continue a battle long since passed. Despite these obvious dangers and some less-obvious ones like radioactive aetherite fogs, the place draws treasure hunters like flies.

Sentinel was the second Hierarchy arcology founded, and is home to the Vanguard, with the Grand Marshal also serving as the leader of the Vanguard. Sentinel is a fine place to live, as long as you don't mind the literal police state. The arcology also houses the largest prison on the planet, the Deep Tower housed in the arcology's subterranean levels. It holds hundreds of magical criminals deemed too dangerous for rehabilitation.

The Solenne Oasis is the home of a band of scavengers who settled in the wreck of the H.A.V. Solenne after she was rammed and downed by an erahthi ship. The mutated erahthi hull provides fruit and the water tanks on the Solenne are still intact enough to use. They've set up a druidic circle to protect the area and will gladly trade provisions for goods and news. Rumor says the oasis is a secret outpost for erahthi operations, but no evidence supporting that has yet surfaced.

The arcology of Vale is one of the greatest mysteries of the Century War. During the third decade of the war, the arcology came under attack by an erahthi ship that broke through the orbital defenses. Soon after the initial reports of the attack, Vale went silent. The Hierarchy declared the place quarantined, citing active erahthi bioweapons. Vanguard ships patrol a 100-mile radius around the city, shooting to kill anyone violating this border. From orbit, the place looks intact and the vegetation around it is flourishing, but there are no lights. The erahthi deny they ever developed a bioweapon that could have wiped out the entire city so thoroughly.

The Wave is a swarm of over 200 vehicles, constantly on the move to evade the Hierarchy. Made up of military deserters and disgruntled citizens, it's also attracted Riders who've rigged their vehicles with antennas and broadcast anti-Hierarchy propaganda constantly. Despite their evasive tactics, it is a bigass swarm of vehicles, and with no war to occupy them, it may only be a matter of time before the Hierarchy strikes at them.


Fittingly, the capital city of humanity gets its own in-depth look. Even with the depopulation from the war, Central is overcrowded with a population of nearly 2 million souls (98% humans, 1% phalanx, 1% other). We start with the history of the city, which has been mostly covered in other places, but we get some expansion on some topics and some neat trivia. For instance, Luthias was cremated and his ashes were mixed into the mortar for the first paving stones laid in the city. The stones have since been replaced dozens of times, but you can still get tours of Luthias' "final steps". The city is massively fortified, to the point that in 3075, the fledgling city held off for 9 days against a force of over nine thousand wastelanders, including ogres and giants. Construction of the upper layers came about whenever the lower layers started getting crowded (helped along by the industrial revolution that was aethertech), although these days there's not much higher they can go, and the slums have started spilling out through holes in the defensive wall.

The Foundation layer, often called "Darkside" by locals, is crowded, dangerous, and inhospitable, consisting mostly of slums, tent cities, and industrial parks. The pollution from the factories is so bad that it forces a DC 11 Fort save (vs. poison, so erahthi are kinda screwed here) every hour to avoid being sickened. On hot days, the DC increases to 13 and there's a danger of Con damage on multiple failures. Crime of the organized variety is rampant, and the Protectorate is perfectly happy to let these gangs operate as long as they get a few kickbacks here and there and the crime doesn't bother the respectable folk. Plus there's the common monsters a D&D peasant must contend with.

Midlands was known as Highrise until the third tier of the arcology went up in 3797. Midlands is thus a fairly nice place, starting to tarnish a little. Its architecture showcases the decadent glory of pre-war Akasaat, with metal reliefs on buildings, water features and statuary, and public art pieces depicting industrious, smiling citizens. Water stains and corrosion have set in, and the bright airy plazas have been crowded with assembly lines and other industry. This is where the middle class dwell, and most of the off-world tourists, although there is a core population of lower-class support staff that lives in the oldest buildings near the central spire, in the perpetual shadow from the Highrise district. The bosses of the gangs that operate in Foundation live and operate their totally legitimate businesses in Midlands, as befits legitimate businessmen. The police here are less likely to take bribes and are actually rather more concerned with citizens' well-being.

Highrise is the newest and highest layer of the city, completed in 3817 in response to the aetherite rush. Due to the height, the ambient temperature is usually about 20 degrees cooler than the lower layers, although there is a commensurate increase in wind, which can make temperatures drop by around 50 degrees at night. The architecture consists of graceful buildings of imported marble, decorated with brass and gold reliefs depicting important historical events. Naturally the nobles and richest merchants live here, and while there is a support staff of middle- and lower-class citizens, they're practically invisible. Violent crime is almost nonexistent, but that just means there's more paper crime and the occasional political assassination. Highrise holds most of the schools and universities in Central. These are free to Slotted citizens as long as the lessons correspond to their assigned field. Those seeking outside knowledge pay through the goddamn nose.

The Cathedral of the Symphonium lies above Highrise, but isn't strictly part of the city. It's an aethership, capable of moving across the planet, although the last time it left Central was at the start of the Century War for strategy meetings with each city's Grand Marshals.

We get a rundown of some of the more interesting places in Central, but there's honestly nothing worth recounting here. It all helps to flesh things out, but there's nothing interesting that leaps at me.

We also get details of another city! Teratha is a small city of about 9,000 (75% human, 10% phalanx, 10% infused, 5% other) outside the domain of the Hierarchy. "If the Hierarchy doesn't want you to have it, you can buy it in Teratha" is a common refrain among wastelanders. A group of scavengers found the spire of a Progenitor facility in the middle of a rocky plain, jutting a thousand feet into the sky. They braved the ruins and discovered that whatever purpose it served in the past, it had a set of hydraulic pumps tapping a deep, clean aquifier. With some aethertech refitting, they were able to get the pumps running and make the place into a permanent encampment. Of course, fresh water and Progenitor tech makes for a tempting target, so the scavengers allied themselves with a group of infused deserters, and after beating back a few raids, other scavengers began approaching diplomatically. Dissidents, deserters, and others displaced by the war drifted in over the years, until the scavenger-barons that ostensibly ran the place had to come up with a council to actually rule it. The end of the war, with the implementation of the Slot system and the disenfranchisement of the phalanx, has caused another surge in Teratha's population, but with the Hierarchy no longer focused outward, many feel it's only a matter of time before the hammer comes down on Teratha.

Law in Teratha is fairly simple. Murder: Not okay, but killing in self-defense is fine. Brawling: Mostly okay, but don't stab anyone. Theft: More complex. Value of the stolen goods and prestige of the victim play a role. Might lose a hand or get tossed into the wastes without water.

The city wasn't exactly planned, so it's a bit difficult to tell where one district ends and another begins. The outer walls are made of hull plating from crashed aetherships, with all manner of emplaced weaponry to fend off attack. Otherwise, you've got market districts, housing, and some industry. The specific places are definitely more interesting than Central's, though. The city actually has a fountain. Like, think about that. Middle of the desert, huge-rear end fountain. There's also a dedicated Rider radio station, Radio Free Teratha.

Up next, we come to Kir-Sharaat, and things get much less hitlery.

Apr 6, 2009

Yeah, that feels more like you're populating for a horror movie. Or JRPG, where a "city" is only different from a "village" by maybe having six pointless houses instead of four.

Meanwhile I forgot to actually mention this number, but Central's 2 million is packed into an area of 2 miles diameter, since the city's a circle. It reaches a mile high, but with the smaller sizes of the upper plates, that doesn't particularly reduce the crowding much.

Apr 6, 2009

Let me tell you about my Homestuck fan character.


Apr 6, 2009

Alien Rope Burn posted:

"This isn't a salute, I'm just petting myself! Who needs humans anymore?!"

Dogs can pet other dogs? :shittypop:

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