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From the prow of your ship you see the island come into view. At first it is nothing but a glint on the horizon, then a shining sphere.. a ...

Friday, November 22, 2013

The setting Framework, in other words "The Fun Stuff"


Setting Notes
Setting / Game name
Shards of Thimbral.
Holy cow I actualy have name for this thing!
Yes the game is now known as “Shards Of Thimbral” I hope that is evocative enough to hang my hat on as I move forward.

My last post was all admittedly dry, mechanics and chance this and reward that ~!BAHHHHH!~ That side of game design is only a small percent of what makes a game fun. Today we get to put the meet in the proverbial sandwich .

Setting is difficult, Time consuming and risky.
A good setting can capture an audience's imagination and make people want to play a game.
An uninspiring setting will turn players off and kill even the best designed game system.

What I am offering up here is the original setting design document, the frame on which I'm going to hang the Shards of Thimbral game and fiction on.

I have three goals:
I want to make the setting evocative and fun, with a range of narrative possibilities to satisfy a range of players and play styles.
Secondly, (Though this is going to sound counter to what you just read.) I'm also not trying to create a setting that is everything to everyone. In my view that is a bad trail to start down and I have never had much luck with “catch all” settings. So I am going to work on a game setting that feels solid and real with a history and a running narrative that the players can pick up and add too. That leads me to my third goal.
The players will have a big part in creating this setting as they play. No two Shards of Thimbral settings will or should look exactly alike not even after the first game, not even after character creation. My third goal is to simply leave enough space to grow. In other words If I started trying to define every floating island in the Shards of Thimbral setting I wouldn't only be doing a large chunk of work on the fiction of the game, but I would be doing the game it's self a disservice.

So that's that:
With out further adieu...

“The Shards Of Thimbral” setting notes Version 1.

15 generations ago, the lands of Thimbral were a prosperous holding bordering the great assure sea to the west and the Kings-Throne mountains to the north, the people enjoyed great comfort and wealth brought to them by skilled merchants, a strong fleet and a powerful monarch.
The Thimbral family had ruled the kingdom for many years, and they did so through exploration of and experimentation with the natural forces of magic. The Thimbral employed and trained a large school of wizards, and the Royal family Thimbrals were themselves said to be accomplished in the magical arts.
If the merchant fleet needed good weather, the school of magic would make it happen, if the army need support defending the kingdoms boarders the war mages provided. How far their dealings into magic went no one knew.

When the first small earth quakes shook the forests north of the mountains only the elven kings took note. They spoke to the woods and the winds and learned of the great amount of magical energy the Thimbral kingdom was drawing. The elves sent spies.
When the first fissures began to open up in the mountain passes the elves sent assassins, but none returned. The elves retreated deep into their forests and began to prepare for what they felt was coming.

The mages of Thimbral had initiated a program of energy projection, or the process of sending raw magical energy through the air to power their ships and industry, even amenities in their homes.
Magic however is and was a force for and of the land , and the land resented the magic being cast through the air, the mages of Thimbral had ignored their own basic principles and a price would need to be paid.

Cataclysm:
There used to be 300 days in the calendar of Thimbral, now there are only 299, the day of the Cataclysm is a day unrecognized even now, a day out side of time not spoken of, non-existent.
The name of Thimbral is used to identify the world as the mages left it. Man calls his world Thimbral as a constant reminder of the cataclysm.
In the capital the mages of Thimbral had created a great nexus of magical ley lines in order to cast more magic to far off receivers. The nation was fulled by magic, drawing more and more each day as the people of Thimbral found more and more uses for the seemingly free power.
On the 300th day of the calendar, the land and the air came together to bring the world back into a new balance.
The earth was rent, opened along the lay lines, the cities were struck by huge earth quakes, lava poured fourth from, the sun blotted out by he clouds of steam and ash.
The striking horror of the quakes has come to be known as the rending , what came next reshaped the world forever.

The Rising.
After the rending huge slabs of land some miles crossed, others much smaller began to rise into the sky.
For miles they floated some crumbling apart and crashing g back to a new scared land below. Others crashed violently into other floating islands, creating masses of loose floating debris.
Towns, homes, people, forests, mountains, lakes, all of the old world floating to the sky.
Vensie The capital city of Thimbral was rent along the four main ley lines and each quarter met a separate fate. One rose then crashed back to the ground creating a massive tower of rubble. Two other quarters rose swiftly buildings still intact some rent in half, the population struck dumb with fear. The fourth quarter spun off and rose much higher, lost to the clouds and the thinness of the air.

The land below was left scared beyond recognition. In the mountains the dwarfs deepest delving were laid bare, their small but stubborn population all but whipped out. The sea rolled into the land, finding deep places and hot pools of lava, huge gout’s of steam erupted, some engulfing the floating land, others forming huge permanent steam banks, hot walls of huge broiling clouds.

The Now:
Thimbral is far from the only land effected by the Rending and the Rising. It was soon after learned that other nations some very far flung had suffered the same fate.
The land had joined with the air and man was caught in the middle, but man is resilient and found ways to survive, rebuild an even start over.

Thee miles is a long way from the surface world and man always resilient has found ways to prosper. The Earth and the air have taken back their magic and locked it away, the golden mages lost their sway, and in the dark early days were cruelly prosecuted, none of their kind are known to still exist.
There are however, still points of magic in the world, islands of stone that have running springs, as if attached to some deep place far below. Buildings floating in the clouds mysteriously held together as if built in the sky, islands that seemingly hold an atmospheres of their own, constantly under rain, or snow, some even holding still air while quickly orbiting larger land masses, and many other mysterious sights. Mas has had to learn to adapt to his new seemingly impossible reality, so in the years since the rising he has turned to his natural inventiveness.

Age of steam:
The inventors among men began to experiment with the heat that could be harvested from the massive steam banks that rise from the sundered earth below. The first experiments were slow, but soon balloon flight was helping the islands of man reunite into small clusters of aligned communities. Ships were built with massive steam powered oars and hydrogen filled ballasts making trade and travel among the clouds a possibility.

Steam now powers an industry of gears and grease, with harvesting steam banks a big business, and finding floating chunks of land containing veins of ore an equally profitable venture.

The lost earth.
The earth below is a land of massive scars, bare stones, massive pools of lava, and ruined cities. The old land is not dead however. Survivors of the rending have scraped out an existence in the ruins, their minds and bodies twisted by the wild magic that still rips at the world below the risen lands. They are known as the rendforgged or the un-risen and they live a life of savagery competing with the other twisted surface creatures for what is left. The rendforged resent any incursions and are a constant threat, going as far as to pirate any airships that land on the surface so that they can strike upward on raids and sprees of seemingly blind violence.

Explorers and retrievers.
As there is no new magic in the lands, remnants of the old magic can be very valuable, so some brave souls will venture to the surface and search the rubble for old artifacts, weapons, treasures, and even simple raw materials like iron and bronze.

Bullet Points (sans Bullets):
As an aesthetic.
A mix of steam punk and low fantasy aesthetic
The risen lands of Thimbral are a industrial revolution level industry, with no gunpowder.
Steam has been used in very ingenious even technically impossible ways (this is a game after all).
Adventurer types are generally very swashbuckling, using airships to go from floating land to floating land and sometimes even to the surface.

Races:
Humans generally.

Dwarves are extremely rare in the risen lands, the ones that are seem detached form dealings with man preferring not to interact but just to mine where they can.

Elves are also extremely rare, but not unheard of, They are not friends to humans at all as they blame them for the rending.

with literally thousands of floating islands both stationary and moving out there, almost any race could pop up.

Magic items are a hot black market commodity but using them openly is frowned on by the general populous who no longer trust magic.

There are no spell casters it does not work any more.

The rendforged and a threat like orcs or revers ore barbarian hordes would be in other settings.

With all these islands floating around there can be vast differences in folkways and mores, climate, culture, and people for island to island. Some societies have become very sheltered from the outside world. Other islands can become extremely xenophobic.

Magic events in nature happen, they are not common, but there are amazing sights to be seen.

Some terms:
If two floating islands slam into each other it is called a “LandFall”

If an island for some reason plummets from the sky it is called “Casting” It is rare but it does happen.

People who harvest hot vapors from steam banks are called “Skimmers.”

The rare magical or that can be chipped repeatedly to create great heat is called “Flare-Stone”

Slang for an abandon surface city is “Bone Yard” or simply “Yard”

A repairman or an inventor is a “Tinker” or a “Tink”

..end

There you have it. The skeleton of the new setting. After the first two play tests the players seem to have taken to the new world in swashbuckling style. New islands have been described, races uncovered, gambling houses built, and dwarfs, well O.K. I have to be honest the dwarfs just ignore every thing.
I think it will be a fun place to find adventure.
I know this was a lot to read in one shot the old wall of text syndrome sets in pretty fast.

Thank you for reading, and as always questions, comments, and shenanigans welcome.