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PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2011 8:57 pm 
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A spin off from a spin off ... ;)

While working on the Kamarg and the Sanctuary settings I did read some of Moorcock's novels,
and in one of them the Eternal Hero and his companion visited a barren plane of the Multiverse,
one which had not yet been settled by humans.

Well, how do the humans of a fantasy universe settle such a barren plane of the Multiverse, al-
most without any technology for terraforming and colonization ? - Another one of those ideas I
did not get out of my mind, and so I began to make notes for yet another setting ... a barren
plane named Phalanos, a world of mountain ranges with active volcanoes and of vast deserts,
with few small oceans and without breathable air and native life.

Without starfaring scouts to discover and explore new worlds, the magic users of the universe
are likely to become the explorers, because they are the only ones with the means to travel be-
tween the worlds. In this case the discovery was made by a certain Barouk, a diviner who used
his art first to locate Phalanos, then to create the artefacts required to survive there, and final-
ly to visit and explore the new land.

Sharing the fate of many other explorers, Barouk did not return from one of his voyages to Pha-
lanos. His friends and colleagues waited a long time for his return, but after four years they de-
cided to break into his laboratory. They found Barouk's journal with a description of Phalanos and
the magic he used to travel there, and also some of the artefacts he had created for his visits to
the barren world.

Soon after six of the mages came together and founded a covenant, the Covenant of Phalanos, to
search for the missing Barouk on Phalanos, but also to build upon his work and to continue it, by
exploring the new world and by bringing life to it, in order to prepare it for a future settlement by
other humans.

With this background story I began to think about the kind of magic I would like to use for such a
setting. It should fit into my preferred game system, the Cthulhu system with added BRP options,
and it should be "scholarly" magic, not the "flash-bang" variety. In the end I decided to design a
new, mixed system with elements of Harnmaster Magic (the convocations and the basic magic sys-
tem), Ars Magica (the covenant and many of the spells) and Hawkmoon (all spells create material
items, like artefacts or potions, which cause the magic's effect - no purely verbal magic here).

Then I began to make notes for the spells needed for such a setting, for example a transformation
spell / artefact which could transform common plants and animals into species able to survive un-
der the environmental conditions on Phalanos ("magic genetic engineering" ...) or a divination spell /
artefact which could be used to explore Phalanos ("magic aerial cartography" ...), and so on.

Up to this point all this was just a funny thought experiment, but meanwhile I have begun to make
the notes required to turn it into an actual setting, with lists of professions, skills and equipment,
details of the Covenant of Phalanos and its members and resources, and all that. The player cha-
racters of a short series of adventures, perhaps even a short campaign, could be apprentices of the
covenant's mages and their friends, or specialists hired by the covenant for a mission to Phalanos.

It is basically a theme I have often used for my various science fiction "colony settings", but I think
it could make an interesting and playworthy difference to try this once more with magic instead of
high technology - the same general task, but with completely different tools, and therefore hopefully
also a completely different "feel".

Well, I wonder where this one will take me ... ;)


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 9:13 pm 
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You could even back off a bit and have the air partially breathable... similar to Travellers "Tainted" atmosphere. Then low tech options like filters could be built, without magic, that would allow people to visit there. Of course, there would have to be some kind of native life to produce the oxygen, but it could be simple blue-green algae in the oceans, so to a low-tech person, it would appear to be totally lifeless...

This sounds very interesting...

I have been watching Primeval as it has just started up again in the US on BBCA, and I think this series would be a great setting for a game. You can run it with short campaigns that may or may not be tied together as rifts open to different times (past and future). In some ways, your Phalanos setting is similar to what Primeval shows for the far past.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 19, 2011 8:54 am 
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I like the idea of a medieval/magical society settling alien worlds, but worry that the potential for adventure on an uninhabitable, desolate plain is a little limited. I'm reminded of the competition WoTC ran a few years back, inviting submissions for the new D&D setting and thinking how they'd have responded to this one.

Not that this is an insurmountable barrier. I suppose you could build adventure and conflict around competing factions trying to settle the world. Maybe this desolate world is a staging post to more varied and habitable worlds, or perhaps in the ancient past it was actualy full of life but was blasted by a terrible cataclysm, which now threatens the character's home world. Then there's the mystery of what happened to Barouk.

Simon Hibbs


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 19, 2011 2:23 pm 
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Maybe more than one group from more than one Plane is trying to settle it?

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 19, 2011 4:38 pm 
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Thank you both for your comments. :)

As I see this setting, many of the campaign's adventures will take place on the characters'
home world, with the attempt to explore and settle Phalanos as the background, and only
comparatively few of the adventures will actually take the characters to the barren world.

For example, the introductory adventure will deal with the Covenant's attempt to locate
Phalanos.

In order to establish a permanent portal between the Covenant and Phalanos, the mages
need to know the precise position of Phalanos within the Multiverse. Unfortunately Barouk's
journal does not contain the formula required to determine this position, and the artefact
found at his laboratory has only two charges of the gate spell he used left, and it is not at
all certain that this artefact will enable someone to travel to Phalanos - it could just as well
be attuned to some other location Barouk visited.

Since the mages of the Covenant are Fyvriani (nature magic) and Savoryani (divination),
they do not have the necessary knowledge and skills in multiverse astronomy to "retro-en-
gineer" Barouk's calculations with the few informations in his journal or to analyze his gate
spell. They need the help of an experienced specialist mage, preferably Gotar of Wyged, who
lives in the nearby town of Corrinis.

There is only a minor problem. The Covenant was founded by Elemon of Caleme and has Ca-
leme Manor as its seat, and the Caleme family has an ancient and still ongoing feud with the
baron of Corrinis, who is the patron of the mages' covenant of Corrinis, of which said Gotar of
Wyged is a member. Without the baron's permission Gotar will not help the Covenant of Phala-
nos, and the baron is unlikely to support anything connected with the name Caleme ...

So the first adventure of the campaign will be about diplomacy and politics, and only when the-
se problems are solved can the mages of the Covenant of Phalanos create the portal to Phala-
nos and begin the search for the missing Barouk (and, almost more important, his grimoire).

While there will of course be adventures on Phalanos, I think that at least half (and probably
more) of all adventures will deal with the "logistics" of the activities on Phalanos: Rare materials
will have to be obtained in distant places, artefacts have to be designed and developed, relati-
ons with other covenants and with the locals of Corrinis can become important, the money for
the activities on Phalanos has to be earned ... you get it.

In the end each actual expedition to Phalanos will be a rare reward for all those preparations,
not the usual business of the characters.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 19, 2011 9:01 pm 
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Once the portal between the covenant and Phalanos has finally been established,
the first task on Phalanos itself will be to establish a permanent outpost as a base
for all future operations there.

In a science fiction setting this outpost would most probably be a prefabricated mo-
dular base, but I had little hope that my research would find anything of that kind
used in medieval times. To my surprise medieval technology created an example
which even surpassed everything I had ever used for one of my science fiction set-
tings: When France prepared for an invasion of England (which never took place) in
1386, five thousand carpenters created an entire wooden town for the invasion ar-
my, complete with houses for all soldiers and stables for all horses, protected by a
seven meter high wooden wall with wooden towers every twenty meters. The town
was stored as numbered parts on board of the 150 invasion ships, and once assem-
bled in England it would have had a circumference of nine miles ... whow. :shock:

With this example in mind, I think that a prefabricated base for Phalanos is not un-
likely, something small like a four room cottage (living room, two bedrooms, labora-
tory) with magical artefacts for air and heating, water and lighting. It seems that
the creation of air, water and light is an easy basic task in all the magic systems I
have, so the production of these artefacts should also not be difficult in my setting.

By the way, this also makes it comparatively easy to create something like a "Mask
of Pure Breath" (which produces breathable air), so I think it will be no problem to
give Phalanos a typical early nitrogen - carbon dioxide atmosphere without oxygen
and leave it to the mages to come up with a plan for the creation of breathable air.

Once the outpost has been established the next task will be to search for Barouk,
the missing discoverer of Phalanos. My dice have decided that there is no real mys-
tery, Barouk was killed by falling rocks during an earthquake while exploring a moun-
tain range. His body with his personal equipment is buried under the rocks, his gri-
moire and some other gear are at his last camp site, a few miles from where he died.
However, finding him or his camp can be difficult, because the only available divina-
tion spell for this kind of task provides only yes / no answers to questions, and un-
less the mages invent a more useful spell it will take quite a lot of yes / no questi-
ons to find a specific location.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 20, 2011 10:26 am 
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An example of an adventure on Phalanos could be a malfunction of the portal
between the covenant and the outpost on Phalanos.

The characters have the routine mission to bring some supplies and a newly
created artefact throught the portal to the outpost on Phalanos. Unfortuna-
tely the magic aura of the new artefact somehow interferes with the function
of the portal, and the characters arrive on Phalanos, but far from the outpost
and with a delay of several days. The terrain is very different from the region
of Phalanos they have visited before, and even the stars of the night sky are
different - they may suspect that the portal has transported them to another
world, but they are only on the other hemisphere of Phalanos.

There is no immediate rescue attempt by the covenant's mages, because as
soon as they realized that the characters did not arrive at the outpost, the
diviner Temos of Heredyn used his magic to find out whether the characters
have arrived somewhere else on Phalanos. The result was a clear "No", becau-
se at that time the characters were still "in transit". Temos, who is unaware
of the time delay, is therefore convinced that the characters stranded on some
other plane of the Multiverse, and wastes time and magic to find them there.
It will take some time before he will decide to take a second look at Phalanos.

Meanwhile the characters have to find a way either to contact the mages or
to travel to the outpost. The supplies they brought to Phalanos will keep them
alive for several days, but the situation is still rather desperate, and only a
clever use of the available resources - mundane and magical - can save them.

In the long run, however, the failed mission could well become a breakthrough
for the entire Phalanos project, because the characters now know a location
on Phalanos' southern hemisphere, which enables them to use an artefact to
return their later on - they have gained a second "entry point" on Phalanos, a
potential site for a second outpost.

Just an idea for a Phalanos adventure, details still missing ... :)


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 20, 2011 10:42 pm 
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Back to the Covenant ...

Since many of the adventures of this campaign will take place on the characters'
homeworld, I obviously need such a homeworld. :shock:

After some deliberation I decided to use Midgard, the world of the oldest German
roleplaying game, also named Midgard. The rules of this still rather popular game
were developed by a specialist for mathematical simulations (no, not a joke), and
they are both extremely realistic and extremely complicated, for example with ma-
ny different types of hit points and experience points. However, the "fluff" of the
setting descriptions is really excellent, and the Phalanos campaign would be a nice
opportunity to use that material (without the rules, of course).

One of the reasons for my choice is the geography of Midgard. The Caleme Manor,
the seat of the Covenant of Phalanos, is near the port Corrinis, from where it is
comparatively easy to reach the desert states of Eschar, a good region for a mis-
sion to search for artefacts or creatures required for the projects on Phalanos -
and I have the supplements for Alba (the country where Corrinis is), the town of
Corrinis and the Eschar desert, so no need to design the characters' homeland, on-
ly some minor adaptations.


Attachments:
Midgard II.jpg
Midgard II.jpg [ 102.38 KiB | Viewed 971 times ]
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2011 3:20 pm 
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As mentioned earlier, the Covenant is working on an artefact which can transform
plants and animals into species adapted to the environment of Phalanos, a kind of
"magical genetic engineering" to bring life to the barren world.

The problem with this artefact is that any transformation of a creature takes time
and money for rare materials, depending on the size of the creature as well as on
the number of "steps" between the original creature and the transformed version
able to survive on Phalanos. Examples of such "steps" could be Arid - Moderate -
Wet or Arctic - Moderate - Tropical. To turn a plant from an arid environment into
one for a moderately wet environment would be one step, to turn a plant from the
tropical swamps into one able to survive in an arctic desert would be four steps.
The more steps, the more difficult, time consuming and expensive the transforma-
tion becomes, and the higher the risk that something goes wrong. Therefore the
plants and animals best suited for a transformation into "Phalanosian" life forms are
hardy desert plants and desert animals, but unfortunately these are not found any-
where near the covenant.

To solve this problem, the covenant's leading scholar of plant lore and animal lore,
Seleryn of Dostos, plans to travel to the desert of Eschar, and it will be the task
of the characters to accompany, protect and support her on this voyage. Their
voyage will take them from Corrinis to Corua by ship, then south across the moun-
tains into the desert, through the desert with a salt trade caravan of the Al-Asad
nomads, and finally up the Sabil River to Meknesch and back to Corrinis by ship -
all in all a voyage of several months, with many short breaks to enable Seleryn to
search for plants and animals.

The main problems during this voyage will be caused by the strange culture of the
desert nomads, not by the desert itself. Foreigners are rare in Eschar's interior, es-
pecially female foreigners who want to collect living plants and animals, and the no-
mads do not trust foreigners and tend to kill people performing what they consider
witchcraft, which makes Eschar rather dangerous for female mages and their com-
panions. Moreover, during this voyage the party will have to cross several borders
between regions controlled by tribes hostile to each other, the religion of the no-
mads has lots of strange laws, and ... well, you get it. :twisted:


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2011 12:32 am 
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And a first idea what Phalanos could look like ...


Attachments:
Phalanos World Map.PNG
Phalanos World Map.PNG [ 137.04 KiB | Viewed 944 times ]


Last edited by rust on Tue Jan 25, 2011 4:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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