From City To Multiverse And Back Again
I know I said that the next setting preview was going to be religion a while ago, but I’ve moved away from that for a bit. Though I have developed a rough pantheon for the City Above, I have been continuing to ponder over the direction of the setting and how it should be best approached. The more I think about the setting and how a new player might approach it or how a different rule set might approach it, the more things are getting tweaked. So today I want to talk about where this setting started, where it went, and where it is going. Fair warning there are kinda-sorta Cracks of the Rift SPOILERS ahead, so if you are looking forward to its return than maybe skip some of this article.
The City of Aggremon
Somewhere around 6 years ago I began setting up a new game. After years of 4th Edition I was craving something a little different and Pathfinder had a lot of good options to explore. Part of this was setting up a campaign with a few different options to explore, running it arc by arc based on what the PCs headed more towards and letting other things play out in the background. The group started in the city of Aggremon on the coast of a land that had undergone some major changes a century previous. It was a tough world with tough people, but still with a need for adventurers and heroes. We spent 3 years playing in that land and really developed the area for the future.
From the saving of a resurrected cyclops emperor to freeing the imprisoned right hand of a dwarven god, the players became embroiled in a variety of long term plans that were coming to a head in the region, all while collecting the displaced and building a new capital. Aggremon had its own problems at the time. That campaign saw the accidental birth of a god (more on Aikos later) and the building of a small, fledgling kingdom. Of course it all started in the streets of Aggremon and an attack from the waters of the port, but the campaign became huge. Despite never finishing the campaign it was headed straight towards exploring other planes and other planets and finding the wreck of the last Worlds’ Anchor. As all those threads were pulling closer and the future of the campaign sat unexplored, my mind kept on working. And that was the beginning of the multiverse.
The Way Inn
Over the next few years we played some start and stop campaigns in D&D 4E, 5E, Star Wars, and more but the setting that built up over the Pathfinder campaign never left my mind. I explored different ideas and had lots of notes for potential places to explore in minor campaigns or adventure arcs. Eventually my pondering came back around to the Savage Worlds system, one I had dabbled in and LOVED. When 3 years ago my friends and I decided yes we would try our hands at actual play podcasts, this was the system I wanted to use. Over the next six months we started figuring out the campaign. That was when I came up with the idea of the Way Inn.
Obviously its a bit of a pun, but this would be an inn and tavern at the center of the multiverse. It was inspired by bars in things like Star Wars and Doctor Who where you can find anyone, everyone, and then some. I thought, ” Why not have a fantasy bar where there are people from literally everywhere and from which we can adventure anywhere!?” So Brave New Worlds became an opportunity to explore all of my ideas. ALL of them. To get the players more involved, I let them make whatever character they wanted from any type of universe they wanted to make. That was the beginning of Luxarrah and Farsight.
Hopping Around The Multiverse
If you have been following me for a while or have explored the back catalog of Untamed Dice, you know that both Brave New Worlds and Luxarrah saw a decent start and even have unedited, unaired episodes on one of my hard drives. It happens and I have learned a lot from all of these games and our explorations of smaller indies in one-shots. Those were not the only explorations of my multiverse, though. Of course back then I wasn’t calling it such, not really. I worked on a lot of ideas. I have notebooks full of them. Some of them were explored for 1 session and others haven’t been touched yet. One I have been playing a campaign in for 3 years. You can see some of those battle pics and mentions of how good my Guild group is on Twitter on at least half of all Saturday nights.
It has been during this time that I have been codifying my setting for something a little more well founded and well developed, something stronger. I set course for having exactly 27 Realms. I combined the idea that, way back in Pathfinder, different universes had and were collapsing in on themselves and that the Way Inn sat within the machine that stopped the collapse. What formed was the City Above, built on the corpse of an ancient star ship, around the Way Inn, and in a spot from which Farsight could keep an eye on the things that existed outside of universes. These were the things that caused the problems. These were Lovecraftian, cosmic, stygian horrors existing outside of existence. Some known, some I have made up myself. That was the beginning of what would become Agents of Farsight.
The City Above
Almost a year ago we began developing Agents of Farsight. It has been a little stop and go, but for the first half of 2018 it was the most well done and continuous podcast campaign we have had. I will be posting some updates on the troubles we have hit with that soon, but sufficed to say we are returning and we aren’t planning on stopping. The point here is how much more I have developed my setting in the past year compared to the previous 5. It is a lot, let me tell you. A big part of this has been Agents of Farsight. I wanted a set of options for the players, some more structure for the game, and a set of clear options for me to direct myself as well. I decided to use it as a springboard for writing draft-work for a future release of the setting me, my players, and our campaigns are creating. Patrons have seen some of that work.
During this time, I was also able to explore some of the concepts and big picture stuff in my Guild campaign. I have inserted all kinds of Lovecraftian horror to that campaign and pushed the boundaries of what is restricted to one world. We explored the Star Trek universe for a few months and then moved into Azeroth of the Warcraft universe and finally moved back into my own world. I gave Nyarlathotep a Ferengi persona. I created a faction of Romulans worshiping my own Great Old One in the Cleft of Shadow in Orgrimmar. It all happened within the context of the campaign and within those worlds but without any worry of how they might shape those worlds or any worry about anything outside the campaign’s context. I got to make more sense of that small part of my setting AND connect it to the bigger picture of my multiverse, but I also had some revelations.
Those explorations made me realize that, for a shared and produced setting, I needed a more grounded framework. As the creator and GM I could go crazy and worry about problems as they developed. I could set ramifications in place and wipe them away at my convenience. You can’t write a setting that way though. There has to be something for other people to turn to. But that was just the start. Briefly this summer I hoped to begin another 5E campaign to replace the hole left by Luxarrah / Strahd not fitting into schedules and that was the start of further development. The core of the setting would be the City Above and from there would be a grounded universe. While we are not playing that game (right now), it got me thinking a lot about how to make such a wild, crazy, all-encompassing setting work. Not just at my table but at others.
And that is where I am now. I am sitting in the City Above. I have the possibility of 5E rules and Cypher rules for publishing. I have the future of Savage Worlds making my entry to that easier. My three favorite rule sets work perfectly for different aspects of exploring my campaign setting without changing it. So now all I need to do is codify it as setting that I can apply those rules to. All these revelations are showing me to step back a little and lay out the whole thing more carefully. Put some things in my own mental folder for myself and later “stuff”. Put some things in the “very important” folder for the setting, the things others actually need. That is what led me towards thinking about my cosmic elements the other week. Sure its big picture cosmology, but it is framework stuff. These, like the basic pantheon layout, is needed in vague detail to play in the setting, but that’s part of what I am doing now. What aspects of each do I need and which don’t I. Or better, which will other people need and which do I want. That has been the biggest set of changes in development lately and that is exactly what we’re going to explore in these articles and I cannot wait to share the setting’s continued development with you.
Welcome to the last Worlds’ Anchor.