Dead Man’s Land

Six months after the zombies first rose, and humanity still survives. In the far north, in high mountaintops, inside walled Sanctuaries humanity holds on.

Zombies throng the fallen cities of mankind, driven to gather by causes unknown. They crowd the streets and fill the buildings, wandering aimlessly… until a victim crosses their path.

Between the abandoned cities teeming with hunting corpses and the remote Sanctuaries of the uninfected lies a vast wilderness, the land of the carriers. Those sick with the rotting disease, but who have not yet succumbed to their inexorable death, are half-zombie, yet wholly sane.

Without fear of zombie bites or the zombie plague, they wander the wastes, performing tasks no one else can do: scavenging supplies, carrying mail, staging raids into the zombie hives, or rescuing stranded humans, then bringing them to Sanctuary.

Solely the province of carriers — those doomed to death via slow zombification — the wastes between the cities and the Sanctuaries are known as…

Dead Man’s Land.

One Perfect Thing

A note about process, before I dive into the meat. Whenever I’m building a setting, I find myself floundering about until I can identify or create one perfect thing, that one thing which is exactly what it should be. This one perfect thing serves as the kernel of the setting, a solid core around which everything else can be built.

In the case of my revised Tharkold, it was the technomagical virtual-reality Grid. In my Tharkold, the Grid is exactly what it needs to be. Its origin, as a work of technomagic, perfectly matches its nature, in an easily explicable way. More, its nature delineates what all technomagic is or can be. In turn, technomagic underlies the history of the cosm, its mythos, and the nature of technodemons and technohorrors. By getting the Grid right, it ensures that the cosm I build around it is coherent and comprehensible.

By identifying and developing (and, in most cases, overdeveloping) that one perfect thing, it allows me to build the rest of the setting with confidence, confidence that everything fits together, that everything belongs, that everything makes sense.

So, what is the one perfect thing for Storm Knights? Possibility Energy.

Possibilities sit at the core of the game. They are what High Lords are here to steal. Reality storms liberate them, Storm Knights are empowered by them, and Eternity Shards thrum with their power. Possibility Energy underlies the Everlaws, Reality, and the game’s cosmology.

Get Possibilities right, and the rest of the setting follows.

This is Torg

This is Torg:

A dozen separate universes, each called a cosm, each different from all the others in fundamental ways. One is a cosm of High Fantasy, where magic is real — including dragons, magicians, and enchanted blades — and the Honorable fight the Corrupt. One is a Technohorror cosm, where cruel technodemons rule an enslaved humanity. One is a Pulp Supers cosm, where costumed heroes fight costumed villains, gangsters drive Duesenbergs and carry tommy guns, and an insane master villain plots to conquer yet another world. There are many more cosms, one of which — called Core Earth — is just like our world.

Each cosm has different axioms: Magic, Social, Spirit, and Tech. Each also has different World Laws, which describe ways in which each is unique, mechanically and mentally. Together, these comprise the cosm’s reality.

These cosms have each invaded the real world, conquering parts of it and enforcing their reality over our own. The rulers of these invading cosms are High Lords, powerful and immortal beings here to drain Earth’s Possibility Energy, the energy of existence. Without our Possibilities, our world, our cosm, will die.

Players are heroic Storm Knights, rare individuals who can cross the roiling reality storms at the edge of the invader’s realms. They come from all the cosms, and are as different from each other as their cosms are. Yet they are all united by one goal: to defeat the High Lords and free Core Earth.

In Torg, a noble knight, wielding the power of his gods, and a cyber-enhanced sneak thief can team up with Captain Heroic to fight bloodthirsty dinosaur-men in a primitive jungle. They can fight dragons in the magical reality of Aysle, scavenge for lost technomagical relics in one of Tharkold’s devastated and decayed cities, stop the insane Doctor Dimension from vaporizing Cairo with his dastardly Omni-destructor.

They can be from a dozen different realities, and can adventure in each of those realities. They can chase a villain across the globe, crossing from fantasy to cyberpunk to technohorror, all in the same game session.

This is Torg: trans-genre roleplaying across many different realities, fighting to save the world.

Storm Knights

There’s a huge backlog of Storm Knights material I want to post. Before I do so, a fundamental question needs be answered: What is it?

Storm Knights is my revision of Torg. My revision of Torg‘s cosms, my revision of Torg‘s mechanics, my revision of Torg‘s metaphysics. Like the J.J. Abrams Star Trek, like the Ronald D. Moore Battlestar Galactica, like the Marvel Cinematic Universe: it uses familiar elements in different ways to create something like the original, but new.

So, what is Storm Knights?

Storm Knights is Torg, remastered.

Points of Divergence

I’m writing Altered States as an alternate history, which hews fairly close to real world institutions and people (as it is a technothriller setting, and verisimilitude is critical). Alternate histories ask the question “Given event Y, what might happen?” (The unstated parenthetical being “…that makes a good story.”) For example, “What if John F. Kennedy was never assassinated?” The critical event is called the point of divergence.

In the case of Altered States, there are two: VITAS and the Awakening of Magic. The campaign background is built around deciding how the real world might react to those two events. (The unstated parenthetical being “…in such a way that it creates an interesting campaign setting.”)

The first point of divergence occurs in July 2010, when VITAS begins spreading. Up until that event, the campaign world and the real world are nearly identical.

(I say “nearly” because I use fictional characters and organizations in building the background. Other than those, the background material uses real world elements and facts as much as possible.)

The second point of divergence is the Awakening of Magic, which begins in 2011 and culminates in the events of Dec. 24, 2011 (the first public appearance of dragons, and the escape of Howling Coyote from Leavenworth). The Awakening underlies much of the drastic changes in the world, including the NAN rebellion and the emergence of Feral Europe.

Taken together, these two points of divergence underlie the world of 2032. How each of them affects the world is the subject of most of the campaign documents of Altered States.

An Alt-History Technothriller Shadowrun

My current “live” project is Altered States, an Alt-History Technothriller Shadowrun. Let’s break that down.

Alt-History: This doesn’t occur in the canon Shadowrun timeline. Altered States has its own timeline, with many events that are similar to the canon (such as a VITAS plague) and many others that are wholly new. There are several differences, among them being:

The US still exists (but is almost balkanized). The NAN has collapsed (plus it had different boundaries in America, and never existed in Canada). There was no Resource Rush and no Seretech and Shiawase decisions, so no corporate extraterritoriality. Mexico, India, and Coastal China (the Republic of China) are the top three nations. UGE and Goblinization occurred at the same time in 2012 (an event called the Emergence). No Immortal Elves or “4th World” Great Dragons. No Toxic Shamans. And so forth.

Technothriller: Altered States is a technothriller campaign, best described as “Shadowrun, as written by Tom Clancy”. Technothrillers are military- and spy-oriented. They focus on national clashes, espionage, special forces units, and bleeding edge developments. James Bond, Jason Bourne, and Evelyn Salt (from Salt) are all inspirations (as well as Clancy’s novels, obviously).

Player characters are specially trained agents of the government, instead of criminals. Other than that, it’s pure Shadowrun.

Play involves stealing data, blackmail, wetworks, destroying facilities, infiltrating installations, extracting people, and all the other Shadowrun goodness players have come to know and love, just in a different context: instead of breaking into a Renraku gene lab, you’re breaking into an Aztlan air force base.

Many of the changes in the history of the campaign are to support the themes of the campaign (countries instead of corporations) and to develop some aspects of the setting more than in the official material (such as the alt-VITAS post, forthcoming).

Shadowrun: This is a cyberfantasy setting, just like Shadowrun’s. It has hermetic mages and shamans, paranatural creatures, and Orks, Trolls, Dwarves, and Elves. It has hacking, rigging, and cyberware. It is still Man meets Magic and Machine.

It isn’t a -punk setting, and draws inspiration from other sources. But it is definitely Shadowrun.

The Beginning

There’s a few inter-related topics this blog will cover:

  • My Storm Knights campaign setting (based on the Torg RPG).
  • Infinity, (more properly the Infinity Gaming System), my own little action-movie RPG, the game engine for Storm Knights.
  • Dead Man’s Land, a nanotech zombie apocalypse campaign, also built for Infinity (but adaptable for nearly any system one chooses).
  • Altered States, my Alt-History Technothriller Shadowrun campaign, also being written for Infinity.

One game system and three campaigns being written for it (so far), that’s the subject of this blog. The “Categories” and “Tags” sections contain links to all the posts in each project, so people will find it easier to begin at the beginning.

Right now, we’re brand spanking new, so everything currently posted is the most basic of basics, intended to introduce people to the above four topics. As such, it’s a little sparse.

As the blog slowly grows (that is, as I post new material), each of these topics will be fleshed out. Those interested can subscribe via RSS, to keep abreast of new posts.

So subscribe, read, and enjoy. Comment, if you’ve the desire. And welcome to Jasyn’s House of Gaming.