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[DnD4e] Eversky: Eye of the Abyss

   
[DnD4e] Eversky: Eye of the Abyss

Given that my recent foray into a setting wholly out of left field has left me with naught but a few more enemies and lot of pent-up hype for DM'ing, it's time to
brush my shoulders off and channel that excitement into something productive. And so, I present you something a little more traditional, but I have a feeling some of you will like it nonetheless.

Concept: Heroic. Steampunk. Fantasy. A heavily Bioware-influenced, action-packed story of all-out war, political intrigue, and tough moral choices that will ripple through the world, in an Eberron-like setting with some of the wilder elements toned down to make it slightly more gritty. Though it is an open world and players are certainly free to fly way off the railroad tracks, you'll not be wandering around without at least one really urgent hook that needs tending to.

The Setting: Imagine an entire world floating on the winds of change, a world in perpetual transition, barely recognizable today from what it may have been just a century ago. A world locked in a cycle of destruction and re-creation, its lands blessed with eternal rejuvenation, its inhabitants cursed with a never-ending struggle for survival. This is Eversky.

Eversky is your traditional floating sky island world, filled with high-flying swashbuckling adventure, a healthy dose of magic, and a touch of steampunk. Though it borrows many conventions from a number of published WotC settings, it is also a more down-to-earth setting in that players will likely be limited to fewer "weird" races. Geographically and celestially, however, Eversky comes with a couple of key twists that set it apart from the traditional DnD 4e world. The map below gives a rough sketch of how the world is organized. Note that many areas are not named. While half of this is due to laziness/time constraints, I like to think that part of the appeal of Eversky is that, due to the modular nature of sky islands, it allows me to insert new areas either when I come up with them, so that there are still parts of the world that feel like they are uncharted. Just as well, there are some sky islands that heroes have not had the time or opportunity to explore.



The first thing you’ll likely notice about the world map is that there’s only one side of it. This is because one hemisphere of the world, the entire back side of the world not shown in the map, is covered in a thick mist which makes for extremely dangerous travel. The Great Mist represents a daunting frontier beyond which few dare to travel, and from which even fewer return. It is said that beyond the Great Mist lies the Elemental Chaos, a churning tempest of clashing elements – fire and lightning, earth and water, whirlwinds and living thunder. In this crucible are formed the proto-islands which will drift into the world we know. Enormous masses of rock, imbued with the ethereal essence that lift them upwards, and later populated by plants and wildlife before passing through the Mist into the fore of the world.

Opposite of this volcanic continental forge, the fiery wellspring of all creation, exists its equally powerful antithetical force. The Maelstrom (represented by the gigantic whirlpool in the center of our side of the map) is the ever-swirling storm of shadow, chaos, and ruined island fragments, whose attractive force is the focal point of the world. Like a black hole on the surface of Eversky, the Maelstrom draws all physical matter, including the sky islands upon which living beings make their home, towards its deadly center, and down into the crater known as the Abyss. It is the bane of civilizations, creating a constant struggle for continuity among the cultures of Eversky, forcing all to seek new territories nearly every three generations, and challenging notions of immortality and empirical supremacy. With every passing day, every piece of inhabitable land draws closer to its own destruction, and cursed are those left behind without a mode of migration.

Different religions have widely varying interpretations of the Abyss, and its meaning for living creatures. The disciples of The Adamant Tribunal believe that the Abyss was a celestial judgment imposed upon mankind for original sin, and that only by cleansing ourselves through just behavior can we hope to atone for it. Other cultures, such as the elven followers of Sylvanus the Oakfather, embrace the idea that the world is in constant renewal, looking at the upside – admiring that the world in constant reformation is always abundant with resources and that no amount of civilization can ever overshadow nature, or taking comfort in the fact that even the harshest tyranny cannot last forever.

Some say that the Abyss was not always a dark and horrific place, but rather, it has been tainted by all of the suffering that has resulted from mankind’s failure to deal with it appropriately. Every family that was stranded on an island that sunk into the Abyss because they were too poor to pay for passage to the next island, was a failure of society to take care of its own. The sorrow of every victim of murder-by-neglect, purposely abandoned as human refuse on sinking islands during times of “ethnic cleansing”, and the cruelty of those responsible for their suffering, are further reflected in the dark fury of the Maelstrom. Every slave ship that emerges from the rim of the Abyss with a hold laden with desperate passengers (willing or reluctant) to sacrifice anything for mere survival, causes the further darkening of this area of the world. That very darkness feeds the Maelstrom and makes it stronger, such that those who spend too much time under its shadow, particularly the weak-willed or the greedy who come to plunder abandoned ruins for profit, are themselves affected. And so, darkness begets darkness.

The Plot: We join Eversky at one of the most decisive moments in history. The clouds are red from the spill of blood, as war spreads wider. The ever-expanding
The islands outlined in Red are currently under their control, with its capital city located on Anchord. Tymordia has an aesthetic resembling the High Elves of Warhammer or Blood Elves of WoW. Think bright reds and golds and marble towers, not woodsy enclaves
Eladrin empire of Tymordia, under the command of its Machiavellian emperor, Vernus Tyrnael, has proven itself nigh-unstoppable. The Tiefling nations of Verana and Atrice went down first nearly 11 years ago, in Tymordia's initial show of force, after which the Goliath Tribes of Haldar soon surrendered. After a decade of unsteady peace which the Tymordian Empire used to reinforce its aermada with the integration of Tiefling technology, They expanded further eastward, shattering the initial defenses of the Dwarves of Vanir. Facing the advance of the Eladrin aermada, Vanir went to the Kingdom of Illan, a diplomatic crossroads of sorts for the Free Nations of the skies, to plead for allies to join them in resistance to the empire. Returning to the front lines with the aid of the Humans of Breckenan, the Dragonborn of Relquis, and the Illani Royal Navy (led by the overconfident King Belorem himself), the allied forces put up a fierce fight.

Today, however, grim news has reached the Royal Council of Illan. Though severely weakened, the Tymordian advance has endured the brunt of the Alliance's full-scale attack. Though the humans are accomplished shipbuilders, not even a Breckan Galleon can stand up to the arcane-fueled destroyers of the Eladrin aermada. Even worse, King Belorem has gone missing, perhaps captured, perhaps killed. The last line of defense has been broken, and the colossal stone doors of Vanir have been shut as the Dwarves retreat underground. In approximately one month's travel time, Tymordian ships will dominate the skies of Illan and Breckenan. And no one is left to stop them.

Only one man on the
made up of 4 advisers appointed by the King, and 4 "Tribunes" elected to act as a "voice of the common people" by the plebians of the Tribune's respective district.
Illani Royal Council still believes something can be done. This man is the Tribune of the Market District, Lance Boreal, also known as the head of the Boreal Consortium, a ruthless but high-status trading company with a glossy exterior, but an unscrupulous reputation. It is rumored to deal in contraband, extortion, assassination, research into forbidden magics, and the orchestration of the corrupt scheme which led to Mr. Boreal's supposedly stolen election. And Mr. Boreal's proposal is as controversial as his rise to power. Still, as the rather ineffective Council holds no formal executive authority to order arrests on each other, power simply rests in the hands of he who has the money to make things happen.

So it is that one team of desperate heroes, a handful of people with nothing (or everything) to lose, united by their thirst for vengeance against the Tymordian Empire, will receive the full backing of the Boreal Consortium in a suicide mission that could decide the fate the Free Skies. But finding, infiltrating, and reactivating the abandoned Warforge of Arcturia will require going deeper into the Maelstrom than any ship has ever survived to tell about. Even if your party can survive the the pirates and slavers that will cross your path, the roaming bands of crazed, bloodthirsty Shadar-Kai that call the Maelstrom their home, and the unspeakable necrotic horrors that haunt the rim of the Abyss, it is worth remembering that the Warforge must have been abandoned for a reason. There are only an estimated hundred or so living Warforged in existence, after all.

Can you reach the Warforge in time before its island has sunk too far into the Abyss to make it out? Even if you do make it out alive with the Mind Crystal that once powered the ill-fated construct, will it be enough to stop the Tymordian aermada? And can you trust the Boreal Consortium to hold up their end of the bargain? Do you have a choice?

A few more details:
- Given that I've still got quite a bit of work to do to get the lore of this setting online, it may be a few weeks before I'm ready to really start looking at applications. I'll have to figure out just how much time I can devote to the project, based on my school and work schedule. Hence, this is more an interest check than a full game ad.

- I'm picturing a starting level of 5, with free Versatile Expertise. Although I encourage you to wait until the full game ad has been posted before starting to make characters, so that you can actually incorporate the world lore into your applications.

- You may reflavor any Bow or Crossbow as a Firearm by adding the High Crit and Misfire properties. Misfire deals 1[W] to the user on a natural 1.

- Rather than deal with a specific "Piloting" skill, airship combats will be run more like holistic skill challenges, with prompts for characters to contribute bonuses to each other's actions (a high Int character can draft a firing solution for a high Dex character to use to aim a cannon, for example.) Traits useful for helmsmen will be Reflex defense, Bluff, and Nature. First mates and lookouts will want Insight, Perception, and History, to reflect a knowledge of aerial tactics and maneuvers. Gunners will want Athletics or Thievery depending on whether they want to fire larger guns, or smaller, more precise ones. They will also want Nature to judge how wind and weather factor into their shots.

- The following races will not likely be eligible for players: Deva, Gith-Zerai, Shardmind, Wilden, Genasi, Changelings, and Shifters. You also don't want to play a Shadar-Kai. They're not the morbid emo guys you see in the books. They're way too far gone to be players, and you should say their name with the same trepidation as "Reavers" from Firefly.

- If I've played with you before, and you're seeing shades of familiar characters, it's because my creativity has some limits, and I'm quite fond of a "stock" cast of characters that I enjoy seeing in different variations. Hopefully there's no site rules about self-plagiarism. I'm going less for originality and more sheer entertainment.

The setting information in the Game Forums are now officially more accurate than they are inaccurate. I'm about 80% ready to publish the forreals ad, but until then, the information threads should be helpful to those of you who can't help but brainstorm characters prematurely.

I am impressed to see that you wasted no time BDD. Nice job, it looks well-conceived.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BadDecisionDino View Post
- You may reflavor any Bow or Crossbow as a Firearm by adding the High Crit and Misfire properties. Misfire deals 1[W] to the user on a natural 1.

- Rather than deal with a specific "Piloting" skill, airship combats will be run more like holistic skill challenges, with prompts for characters to contribute bonuses to each other's actions (a high Int character can draft a firing solution for a high Dex character to use to aim a cannon, for example.) Traits useful for helmsmen will be Reflex defense, Bluff, and Nature. First mates and lookouts will want Insight, Perception, and History, to reflect a knowledge of aerial tactics and maneuvers. Gunners will want Athletics or Thievery depending on whether they want to fire larger guns, or smaller, more precise ones. They will also want Nature to judge how wind and weather factor into their shots.
This sounds cool. The Firearm conversion is brilliant.

Quote:
- The following races will not likely be eligible for players: Deva, Gith-Zerai, Shardmind, Wilden, and Shifters.
You're testing me, BDD. You're testing me hard man.

...I'm sure I'll get over it though. Carefully culling the overgrown racial elements of DnD is a useful tool that we've all indulged in. But what to make the Swordmage from, then?

I'll go ahead and say that I'm interested in this as well. I'll try to be patient and wait for you to finish your stuff in a couple of weeks, but I'll definitely be here when you do.

Yeah, I know I want firearms in the setting, but I really didn't want to mess about too much with balance. Keeping it simple stupid and all. Plus I just love when fun stuff happens on criticals, good or bad. Oh, I will mention as another house rule - critical failures in my games DO exist, so even though it's becoming easier to ramp up those +15 skill bonuses, I don't like when they make some rolls COMPLETELY irrelevant. Everyone has a brain fart once in a while.

And I know you like your Devas, but when you don't have as much of an "anything goes" setting, some races just disrupt the tone of the game. Drat, that reminds me, Genasi are out too. I'm not saying they for-certain don't exist anywhere...I'd just like to keep them hidden for now, so that if you encounter one of them in your travels, they carry that "wow" factor they're supposed to have by virtue of being so rare.

You also don't want to play a Shadar-Kai. They're not the morbid emo guys you see in the books. They're way too far gone to be players, and you should say their name with the same trepidation as "Reavers" from Firefly. OH! Speaking of races, I haven't introduced my one House Race. Remember those alligator pirates I mentioned one time?...

As for Swordmages, the one nation most likely to be training Swordmages is well...Tymordia. Hah! You can always be a traitor to the empire. Everywhere else is a bit more "low magic", though Illan has an academy as well. It's more history/archaeology oriented, but you might be able to finagle a Swordmage out of it.

Ok... well how about the idea of an order of steampunk mage-knights from the human kingdom or perhaps Ilan? I'm picturing less fancy swordplay and esoteric blade-magic and more like heavy-metal Magitek armor with a mechanistic approach to "magic as exotic power source", fueling the properties of their phasing armor, elementally attuned swords, and industrial strength gauntlet flametorches and tesla coils. A basically more brute-force engineering approach to the same class?

What are the dominant races of Ilan?

I'll be getting into that as I transfer more information from my notes to online.

The dominant races of Illan are Humans. However, Illan is also the most cosmopolitan of the nations, so you're likely to find immigrants from all around. Second most popular are halflings from the nearby island of Wetherby, a few dwarves, some elves from Kenthia, and Tiefling refugees from Verana/Atrice.

Tieflings are actually the most "Steampunk" flavored race in the setting. Being more resistant to fire, they were able to experiment with the technology more recklessly than the other races at first. While human airships tend to look more like flying wooden galleons covered in sails, and Eladrin ones almost look like strange ivory crafts inexplicably suspended in midair, Tieflings are the type to fly in fast-propelled constructions of copper and brass that generate so much heat that they would feel like ovens to anyone else. They're the most Tinker-flavored race, and their cities resemble war-scarred gothic/victorian ruins. Given that they have been under the occupation of the Eladrin for the past 10 years, it's possible for the Steampunk flavor of the Tieflings to have intermingled somewhat with the high-arcane flavor of the Eladrin.

I admit, I'm still holding a bit of a grudge from how things went down at the end of The Thread That Shall Not Be Named, but this game looks good enough that I can just ignore that. Still, before I start thinking any deeper about a concept, I have one thing to say.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BadDesicionDino
They're not the morbid emo guys you see in the books.
SHADAR-KAI AREN'T EMO! You know what happens to emo shadar-kai? They just fade away. They not a race of mopey emo kids, they're a race of teleporting Bam Margeras.

Alright, I care entirely too much about that race's reputation. (Admittedly, only because everyone says the same exact incorrect thing, but you get the idea.) So, back to brainstorming!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dark080matter View Post
So, when you say the setting is steampunk, what you mean is really just for the Evil Empire?
Hahah! Well I do want you to feel like underdogs. =p

But there are enough Tieflings that have fled their occupied lands that there is a healthy core of refugee engineers in Illan helping to retrofit many of the Human airships with the technology.

I also didn't touch on the dwarves, whose airships, while a bit more crude and less clockworky (more oversized gears and iron) look like slow, hulking, flying U-boats.

Also, you're going into the
Android hell!
Warforge! How much more do you want? XD




 

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