Thursday, October 25, 2012

Empire of Bone: The Dismal Saints

skeletal_throneThe Dismal Saints venerated by the Black Church are Netherworld beings of considerable power, some say rivaling the Bone King who brought about the Empire as we know it. How these creatures came about is unknown to all except perhaps the Hierophant of the Black Church himself, and he does not share the secret.

The Black Church and its faithful speak of the Dismal Saints with fear and reverence. Clergy of the Black Church invoke the Dismal Saints with some degree of trepidation, for these beings severely punish those who earn their enmity. Many a powerful clergy has been laid low by Grims sent by an angered Saint, and a few unfortunate clergy have had the terrible privilege of being visited by one of the Dismal Saints.

Still, the Black Church holds sway in the Empire because of the power of the Dismal Saints, and few are willing to challenge their claim and risk the wrath of these Netherworld beings.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Empire of Bone: Cult of Dismal Saints

The Black Church is a powerful and omnipresent authority in the Empire, overseen by the enigmatic Hierophant. Their dogma runs as follows: undeath is a gift granted by the unknowable beings from the Netherworld. By paying proper homage to these beings, undead can continue their existence untainted by malevolent spirits, increase the likelihood of being resurrected again in case of an untimely destruction, or failing that ensure a peaceful place in the Netherworld.
Whether or not the beliefs of the Black Church are real, the power of their clergy cannot be denied. Calling upon the power of the Cult of Dismal Saints through haunting dirges, chaplains of the Black Church can enact seemingly miraculous powers unseen among other undead.  These invocations of the Dismal Saints allow them to bring deaders back from the brink of destruction or banish evil spirits back to the darkest parts of the Netherworld.
Some say the Black Church and their Cult of Dismal Saints is not too be trusted, that they have an agenda greater than the sanctity of the souls of the Empire. But few are willing to speak openly against them for fear of excommunication.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Empire of Bone: Ectoplasmic Machinations

I’ve always been a sucker for “weird science”. Conceptually, the idea of a crazy guy spending untold hours locked in the lab, challenging accepted notions, and emerging with a wondrous creation (optionally while screaming, “SCIENCE!”) struck a chord with me.  People who push the boundaries of conventional wisdom and create something new and exciting are just plain cool in my books.


That’s why I wanted to include the concept of ectoplasmists in Empire of Bone. Crazy guys refining soul energy to make all kinds of weird – and highly unstable – devices. In a soul-based economy, making efficient use of soul energies is fairly important to the goals of the Empire, and ectoplasmic research provides exactly that.

Of course, what can possibly go wrong with high concentrations of soul energy and highly unstable technology?  Absolutely nothing…

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Empire of Bone: Planning Plot Points

n3tomOne of the great things about the Savage Worlds game settings is the concept of the plot point campaign. It provides gamemasters a framework for running a complete campaign that allows players to chart their own path in the game world without feeling they are being railroaded from one adventure to the next.

The basic framework is fairly simple: there are a number of plot points “wrapped around” the rest of the world and usually tied to some sort of trigger: visiting a location, discovering a vital clue, encountering someone, etc. They are roughly sequential, and playing through them will take you from the beginning to the end of the story.

However, rarely do you play plot points one after another. Instead there are a large pool of related but non-plot adventures that fit between the plot points. These adventures are typically stand-alone and provide the players with new social ties, gear, reputation, etc. and lead you closer to the next plot point.

Additionally there’s the option of an “adventure generator” that takes common plot points, factions, characters, etc. and provides an adventure skeleton for gamemasters to flesh out into adventures. Great for when you want to make your own adventure and need a bit of inspiration!

For example, let’s take the Savage Worlds campaign 50 Fathoms. I had the pleasure of editing the initial release of 50 Fathoms, a great “fantasy pirates” setting written by my friend Shane Hensley. With it the main plot points were based around the rising waters of an island-based world before everyone drowned. The Savage Tales were typically location-based around the myriad islands and seas that made up the world. The initial plot point adventure gave the players a ship and a story hook into the plot point campaign, then let loose to explore the world – a great adventuring experience!

With Empire of Bone, it’s not your typical dungeon-crawl, exploration-based setting. Most of the adventure takes place within the confines of the Grand Necropolis, a Victorian-style city of the dead. While there are plenty of interesting places around the Necropolis, players typically don’t typically wander around in search of adventure. Rather, they are part of a noble house with certain responsibilities to the Empire – if anything, adventure comes to them! So how do you preserve the open-ended nature of plot points within this type of setting?

A few ideas spring to mind for open-ended story hooks:
  • News Sheets – News “one-sheets” can be a great way to deliver any number of story hooks for players to investigate. Depending on the creativity of the gamesmaster, it can be an excellent in-game prop as well!
  • Connections – The noble houses themselves have ties to the Crown, the Church, various industries, etc. If players have a background with loyalties to any one of these institutions, it can be a constant source of story hooks as they request assistance for services rendered.
  • Rumors – Any player characters with street or society ties can get the word on what’s happening in these circles.
  • Special Events - As players are members of a noble house, there have immediate ties to high society and any number of soirees can be made into story hooks for new adventures.
By starting off a new game session with a number of rumors, news articles, and requests, players can get the same feeling of choice as exploration-based plot point campaigns. At least that’s the plan!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Empire of Bone: The Clocktower

As part of my upcoming Empire of Bone demo at DunDraCon, I’m building a few set pieces for the different settings. The Necroblock: Chronometer from WorldWorks Games makes a great landmark piece for the mean streets of “Bleak End”:
Still lots of prep work to do, but it should be a fun little scenario!