Wednesday, September 18, 2019


(by ashpwright)
I'm embarking on a new worldbuilding endeavor! Inspired by Sunless Skies and its incredibly compelling gameplay loop, I'm writing a space fantasy sector for players to venture through in a spelljammer or some other sort of suitable starfaring vessel. It'll be procedurally generated as players explore, with encounters and locations discovered on the following tables.

Beyond the compelling setting and beautiful backdrops, Sunless Skies generates really neat situations as you travel around its regions from port to port, merely through putting a few actors in the same area and letting them blow each other to bits. Sometimes you'll run into a rebellious scout trading cannonfire with an imperial dreadnought, or swarms of space-bees mobbing a fungal mass that's intruding on a hive. Driving into a massive god-storm while a radiant dreadnought and crystalline dreadnought pound each other into flaming husks, while you pilot your own to capitalize on the engagement, is a fantastic encounter not easily forgotten.

RPGs make this medium even more interactive. Put a few actors and locations in the same place, figure out what they think about each other, and then throw the PCs into the situation - with tools outside of "fire cannon," "dodge," and "run away." Far more possibilities than a standard random encounter table, with just a little bit more work. Truly emergent behavior is one of the strengths that tabletop has over video games, and it's one I've always wanted to delve into.

The tables, right now, are just lists of evocative names. I'll be fleshing them out over the next few weeks, interspersed with my regular content.

Cool Digital Space Art by Flavio Montiel
(by Flavio Montiel)
Welcome to the edge of the cosmos. Stars fan out below. Only darkness lies above, save for the single illuminating peak of Monarch Mountain, the King of Space. Mages come here to seek knowledge washed away by the brightness of stargods, to study the true heavens untainted by starlight. Forgotten things come here to die. Would-Be-Kings come here to seek rulership, to chip shards of monarchium (the metal of royalty, the alchemical right to rule) off of the Mountain-King. Utterly dark, colder than a dragon's heart. The promise of riches beckons. The promise of death reigns. Venture forth, and seek destiny.

Your voyage begins at the Last Lighthouse 'Til Never. A small settlement of a scant hundred permanent inhabitants, but sometimes ten times as many adventurers/criminals/refugees using it as a staging point for expeditions into Darkspace. Try the locally-brewed mountshine, and stay a day or two (but never too long) at the Inn Error. Sleep through the public discussions at Assembly Hall (or, y'know, participate in democracy for once), where residents and renowned sky-captains bitterly battle over the future of the Lighthouse, and where to point its night-piercing beam . Sell your wares for painfully low prices, or buy vital supplies at markups that'd put the greatest imperial monopolies to shame. Fight off the gleaming call of petty kingship, or succumb.

At his heavenly court, speak with the thralls of Voamithrax, the Dragon Vampire King, and marvel at his twin hoards of art and blood. His viziers scheme and game in cavernous halls for his favor and the barest fraction of his riches and attentions. Become a donor, of beauty or elan vital. Become a thrall. Win his favor yourself; the more outrageous and soap-operesque your schemes, the better. Slay his rivals, or become a dragonslayer where so many others have failed, and died, and been reborn as bone-statues in his undead gardens.

Dwarvengineers chart the night, seeking chronotite, monarchium, and other rare metals to mine and add to the glory of Emperor Kharun. Their spell-engines are wonders of stone and steel, each a unique marvel incorporating its master engineers' and artificers' personal magnum opi. Help in their missions will be rewarded with machines unlike any in the cosmos; opposition will be met with the same. Of course, plundering one returning to the Emperor would be a trove of riches...

The Guillotine Light opposes the Mountain King with the harsh brutality of unfiltered idealism. When the stars find the mountain infringing on their rights as gods and rulers of physics, they unleash a hail of light that slaughters kings and lords and emperors and captains alike. It's pure anti-authority, controlled powerfully by the stars themselves, but tossed freely into the realm of rulers like landmines into a demilitarized zone. Many a vessel cruising through darkspace will find a crowned head or neckless robed body splattered on their helm, a victim of the dread Guillotine Light.

You Encounter...
1. a Location! Perhaps a port in the infinite void, or a small settlement - or a wondrous thing, or a horror beyond mortal ken. Reroll the result if the players have already found it.
2.  a Being! From beasts to broadsides, the void is anything but empty. Roll on the reaction table to see what it's doing.
3. an Event! Something's happened. Fortune favors the prepared.
4. a Location, and a Being nearby!
5. two Beings, interacting!
6. a Being and an Event
7. two Events, simultaneously
8. Roll twice!

1. The Court of the Dragon Vampire King
2. The Crownless Bastion, where all go as kings-without-crowns
3. Emperor Kharun, the King Under The Mountain
4. Admiral's Haunt, the staging ground for a fleet that will retake a kingdom or die trying
5. Library of Brains, tended by illithid mind-gardeners
6. Carcica, the pirate-prison
7. Port Manteau, an observatory run by a cabal of wizards staring deep, deep into the dark
8. Forge Finality, where darkness was once spun into weapons and spelljammers and scrolls
9. Idols' Idyll, a temple-city built of forgotten holies
10. The Last Lighthouse 'Til Never, a village of wanderers on the edge of the bright and the night
11. Rock of Cats, many cats, people never stay long
12. Temple Yesterday, where adepts train to wield weapons of chronotite
13. Portal to Everywhere
14. The Last Light, a cryo-frozen refugee wreck
15. Colosseum of Kings
16. Monarch Mountain, the King of Space
17. The Crown-Well, a black hole that crowns those who venture in and return
18. The death-ship Ultima Ratio Regum, covered in dessicated crowned skulls
19. Apocalypse Nebula, where Eschaton Elementals are born
20. Beholder God-King-Corpse

1: Floating Dead
2: Hole Wyrm
3: Adventuring Party
4: Shelljammer
5: Chronotite Daemon
6: Bat-King
7: Minor Beholder
8: Caravaneers
9: Librainrian
10: Eschaton Elemental
11: Prince Elemental
12: Crownless Glory-Hungry
13: Dragon Vampire Thralls
14. Admiralty Crew
15. Dwarvengineers
16: Kingslayers
17: Oracle Mages
18: Yesterday Adepts
19-20: Roll twice, both

Roll on reaction table (2d6)
2-3: Hostile. Gunning for a fight.
4-5: Hunting. On the trail of something they desperately want.
6-8: Voyaging. In transit from one place to another. Perhaps they don't yet know where.
9-10: Hungry. Out of supplies. Willing to do anything to make it to the next port.
11-12: Hailing. Want something from you. An alliance?

1. Well-Wind
2. Prionic Space
3. Guillotine Light
4. Mountain-Loom
5. Fire Aboard!
6. A Mutinous Plot
7. The Nightmares Inescapable
8. It Is Not The Day It Was
9. Monarchium Deposit
10. Chronotite Deposit
11. A Wreck
12. A Corpse (roll for what it once was on the Being table)
13. Crowned!
14. Bastard Fields
15. Stars Align
16. Distress Call
17. Far-Off Lights!
18. The Trail of a Great Beast
19-20. Roll twice, both

1 comment:

  1. Even at the end of all things, we shall not escape feudalism. Looks exciting!


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