Thursday, April 28, 2016

23 Things about Assassins of the Golden Age (Part Two)

Here's the second half of my Assassins of the Golden Age campaign background. As I mentioned with the first half this setting's an ahistorical jam session. Whatever the players imagine for the period exists: renaissances, piracy, musketeers, clockpunk DaVinci, etc. To quote the other post, AotGA lifts from Assassin’s Creed, Mage the Sorcerers Crusade, Lace & Steel, The Golden Compass, 7th Sea, Demon the Descent, The Three Musketeers, The Gameshouse, and more.

It's also interesting as the last OCI portal "set up" we'll be doing. Now that we have all five worlds established, we'll be able to return to them for 1-2 session episodes and adventures. When I first presented each setting, we spent at least six sessions playing in it. That gave us enough time to get the tone and dynamics. Each worlds feels different to me (and I hope the players). I'm looking forward to drawing more connections between them and seeing what paths the players trailblaze. 

9. Hiding Your Magick: Casting in a city, can be challenging. You must rely on Coincidental magick. That means when you create an effect, you hide it or make it look like something reasonable. Coincidental magick reduces backlash. The opposite of this is Vulgar magick: big, showy and clearly alien effects. That creates greater backlash. Forces from both sides can use the instruments and signifiers of the other as cover, though with less efficacy. So a Dreamspeaker in a city might use a clockwork to cast, but it isn’t as tuned to their magick. Casting in front of other mages doesn’t create paradox, but casting in front of mundanes does. Supernatural beings themselves don’t generate paradox, but their magick can be hampered in areas dedicated to Reason. Using foci and hiding your effects through coincidence can reduce backlash and paradox.

10. Familiars: Those with magickal talent manifest a “familiar” when their powers first appear. Most often this takes the form of an animal: bird, rodent, snake, cat or the like. In more unusual cases it can be an insect, a spirit, or even an elemental. As the Order of Reason has grown, their familiars have changed. They appear more mechanical. Such creatures might be made of an unusual substance, possess metal eyes, or even be entirely clockwork. Familiars act as a companion; they’re more than an inner voice and possess an independent personality. Familiars can act and travel away, but not for long. Attacking or kidnapping a familiar’s considered a grave offense and harm to one will immediately register with the owner. Some mages develop deeper connections with their familiars, granting them distinct powers. To the mundane, familiars appear as common animals and are often overlooked. All mages have familiars.

11. Europa Europa: Europa is not Europe, both historically and physically. First, the Black Sea runs all the way up to the Baltic, turning mainland Europa into an island. Second the greater gap around Gibraltar makes controlling sea passage through there more difficult. Third, the Suez passage serves as a short-cut to the Far East, fought over by the Algerian Caliphate and the Turkish Sultanate. Fourth, the rich way point islands leading to the New World lie closer to Europa. That means greater piracy and sea conflict within striking distance of the mainland. The map of the world of Europa looks quite different.

12. Getting There: Travel remains a great challenge of the age. Some magicians travel via the nightroads, paths through other realms, often guarded by dangerous creatures. Some travel via vehicles through aether or other substances. The Order of Reason in particular loves novel machinery or simply strangely fine and speedy vehicles. You don’t have to worry about that, as you rely on the powers of the Invisible City. Travel’s easy for you, harder for others.

13. Destroy History: This is an anachronistic world. Ages, peoples, and histories which did not exist together have been merged and rewritten. Di Vinci and Michelangelo operate in Italy under the watchful eyes of the Borgias, Pirates ply the waters around all of Europa, Elizabeth rules in England, Louis’ Musketeers walk the streets of Paris, Spain exists under the rules of Phillip II and his mad heir Don Carlos. If it feels sort of like it fits in this setting, then it does. It obeys no historical reality. This is a crazy, mixed up fictional setting which tosses historical reality overboard.

14. Empires of Science: Some empires aligned themselves with the Order of Reason. Byzantium stands purely as a result of the Order’s efforts. The city sustained itself in the face of an aggressive Turkish Sultanate. That enemy has repeatedly tried to seize the city and surrounding countryside. Byzantine weapons of war and reinforced architecture have repelled them. Still Byzantium has only modest influence in the area. They can protect their own waters and secure trade, but Turkish forces swarm around it, bypassing the city to reach Europa and threaten the Balkan lands. A group of Germany City-States, called the Holy German League has united under Frederick the Wise. They serve as the heartland for the Daedelans. You can find Craftmason workshops throughout the region. Northern Italy remains a bastion of the Consigners, the source of its trading prowess. Their presence has not lessened the conflicts between the city states there. Sections of Austria have come under the Order’s sway, particularly as the Turk presses forward. In each of these places you’ll see more fantastical technologies. You can find Da Vinci gadgets and devices in Genoa, Calculation Engines in Byzantium, and massive land fortresses in Berlin. The Order of Reason dominates some places and it’s easier for them to use magick there and harder for the Covenants.

15. Empires of Sorcery: In other places, magick holds sway, perhaps nowhere more strongly than in Ursus, the Russian Steep Empire. High Warlock Ivan IV has made bargains with the old powers of the land. Giants, monsters from folklore, and supernatural refugees from elsewhere have joined him there. His army of massive, intelligent warbears holds the line of defense. No one’s certain of Ivan’s intentions and he’s spurned any alliance with the Covenants. Likewise, the Turkish Sultanate employs magicians from outside the Covenants, drawn from exiles and broken factions. They rely on ancient powers of the desert and mountains. Both the Turkish and Russian Empires would be more dangerous were they not facing the rising Golden Horde from the East. Still the Covenants have some places of power, particularly old bastions hidden away in France and the Balkans. They also have a foothold in the northern Union of Kalmar, where they have support of two of the three crowns. In places where magick holds sway, you can find more official soothsayers, astrologers, and court sorcerers. In these places magick has power and effectiveness within cities, supported by native beliefs. Magick holds sway in some places, making it harder for the Order of Reason to work magick there.

16. Common Lands: Outside of those places, Magick and Reason continue to do battle. Generally Reason holds the edge in urban centers. But magick holds sway in the countryside and at the boundaries. Too much vulgar magick or technology will summon paradox in either place. Science has the edge in the city, sorcery has the edge in the country.

17. Oddities: Several neutral areas bear mentioning. Spain remains a strong and traditionalist kingdom, strongly supportive of the Church and holding one of the three Popes. The Inquisition has become a hungry institution, constantly on the lookout for new targets. Spain still basks in a kind of medieval chivalry and its nobles battle against the Algerian Caliphate, a rival to the Turkish Sultanate. The Caliphate holds lands in Europa itself, and focuses on trade and sustaining itself against Spanish crusades. The Kingdom of Poland tries to maintain a balance with its neighbors- fending off Russian incursions and German assaults. The principles of religious toleration there have made it few friends. But they hold great power over the Black Sea. Likewise England holds sway over many other sea lanes. Queen Elizabeth’s rule has seen the growth and a consolidation of her hold over Scotland and Ireland. That has been supported by her secret policy of enslavement for magickal creatures and peoples. The English have shackled the Fey and other supernaturals in their realm to their will. How remains uncertain. Many other smaller kingdom, baronies, and city-states lie scattered across Europa: the united Netherlands, German Princes, Balkan Dominions, the Swiss, and more. Some places are crazy.

18. The Third Crown of Kalmar: Two of the three crowns of Kalmar support the Covenants. The bearer of the third crown, Annalis Fredricksson left her country in secret. She travelled to Poland where she fell in love with the prince, Aleksy Sokolowski. She brought with her great powers of sorcery, drawn from old powers and an inner circle of wizards from lost houses. She has been using this in secret to help Poland keep its hold over the Black Sea, repelling Russian and German assaults. She knows revelation of these efforts could turn everything against her. A double serves in her stead in Kalmar, keeping up a pretense of dislike for the Covenants. A Queen of Kalmar secretly defends Poland with magick.

19. Outside World: Major powers and forces lie outside of Europa: African Empires, the Golden Horde, Imperial China, New World Colonies, the Shogun’s Japan, Native American nations, fragments of the Aztec and other South American nations. In general we won’t be dealing with those areas for this portal. Feel free to draw on them for background if you wish. This game will focus on Europa.

20. Magick Dust: Bits of magickal dust falls on the world when anyone casts magic. The bigger the magic, the more the dust. It's also left behind as residue when a powerful mage or scientific creation dies or is destroyed. For some the dust offers proof that both science and magick are real and exist. Some suggest it represents these forces eating away at the world. Still others that it contains a paradox not fully released. Hedge Wizards often use dust to create common “alchemy” and folk workings. Still it remains relatively hard to come by, as it can evaporate or absorb into the air in which it falls. Magick can create a kind of physical fallout.

21. Syphoners: A sub-group of the High Artificers serves a singular purpose for the Order of Reason. They gather magic dust to keep it from the common folk, reducing the belief in magic and therefore reducing the magical influence in some places. They have been studying it for and developed several theories about it. Rumor has it that dust does not have a singular form, but may be attuned to different spheres. Recently the Order of Reason purged and destroyed a research group of Syphoners operating in Ghent. Rumor has it that they had offered a heretical hypothesis about the dust. Syphoners from the Order gather dust.

22. The Prophecy: A French apothecary and a reputed seer Nostradamus has foreseen the destruction of England at the hands of the Kraken - a great aquatic monster, and legendary protector of Atlantis. The order has worked hard to discredit soothsayers like Nostradamus. Yet he’s managed to elude their grasp and deliver other dangerous prophecies. For its part, the English have placed a bounty on his head even as they quietly look to shore up their sea-defenses. The Spanish, at the same time, have taken up the idea as a harbinger of a successful naval campaign against the English. Nostradamus has foreseen destruction for England.

23. A Gathering of Witches: Salina Highmoore, a queen of witches, has gathered a small remnant of her former forces in the Black Woods of Russia. Salina escaped the destruction of the Hermetic House of Diedne. Eventually she joined the Verbena but rejected the treaty and fled. Eventually she managed to gather support among those of the magick who rejected the control of Ursus’ Imperial House. The bonded fey of Ireland managed to contact Highmoore and beg for her assistance. She seeks no to liberate them and perhaps establish a new regime there. Salina Highmoore seeks to free the fey of England.

23 Things about Assassins of the Golden Age (Part One)
Ocean City Interface: What is It?
Building City of Ocean
Sellsword Company
Neo Shinobi Vendetta
Masks of the Empire
Sky Racers Unlimited