The Eldritch Suns Primer

I am still working on this setting.  Wrestling with the cosmology, and it’s slow going.  In the meantime, I’m moving the old Blog Entries from my HERO games Blog Here for archival purposes.

Eldritch Suns I – The Free Port of Torcosia

Torcosia will serve as the initial base for my Eldritch Suns game. Tocosia is a small, diverse city founded on the moon Keerah orbiting Phaen, a desolate world near Zhor-Shant, a garden planet with it’s own rich and diverse civilizations. Few people from Zhor-Shant know that Torcosia exists, or that Phaen is anything more than a bright light in the heavens. Indeed, the vast majority of Torcosia’s population is not native to any of the Zhor-Shant nations, or even the inhabited worlds of nearby solar systems.

Eldritch Suns II – Morals and Metaphysics

The central metaphysical theme of Eldritch Suns (I’m almost a college graduate and I’ve owned three editions of Mage, I’m allowed to introduce metaphysics in my games!) is the conflict of Law versus Chaos. The Guild Empire is the force for Law in the campaign, and Torcosia represents Chaos (not in a pure sense, Guild citizens still have free will, and Torcosia has (some) laws). Thus the lines of Good and Evil are blurred to say the least.

For example, from the point of view of an independent Ship Captain, the Guild Empire could be seen as an oppressive, tyrannical realm with huge fleets, endless fees, taxes, regulations and inhibitions to sailing when and where you will. What’s more, often if a given world declines peaceful entrance into the Guild Empire, often the world is forced in through trade blockades, or outright invasion. In many ways, the Guild Empire can be seen as evil.

By the same token, the Guild Empire brings a level of security and prosperity to all of its citizens unknown in less civilized worlds. The average Guild Commoner works less, lives longer, and enjoys a far higher standard of living than a Commoner living in Greyhawk for example. From the common citizen’s point of view, the Guild Empire is a great force for Good.

Conversely, from the point of view of a Guild Governor, independent Ship Captains are at best smugglers and tax-dodgers and at worst bloodthirsty cutthroat pirates. By taking tax revenue from his coffers (either figuratively or literally) freebooters cause no end of financial difficulties, especially when said Governor has to pay his own tribute to the Imperial Tax Assessor. Torcosia as an independent port gives safe haven and comfort to this unsavory element, and are pretty evil.

But from the point of view of those worlds that the Guild Empire ignores because they’re not blessed with resources that the Empire wants, those independent ships which make planetfall bring wealth, goods, and a way out for inspired citizens to leave the poverty of their world. What’s more, every time a freebooting ship stands up against a Guild Frigate, the story lets people know that the Guild can be resisted. The pirates become a symbol for Good (and freedom!)

So, in this arena of moral ambiguity, why not simply cut a swath of blood through space, taking what you will and leaving no survivors? Reputation. Freebooters who have a reputation of mercy and who steal from “those who can afford it” tend to find life easier. Ports open for them (even if it is under-the-table), and when they find themselves at the mercy of the Guild Navy, it is more likely that they will simply be imprisoned (which offers opportunity for escape). Freebooters who rape, pillage, burn, and are generally a menace to the whole of Aetherspace soon find themselves very much alone. Not only hunted by the Guild Navy, but by their fellow Ship Captains (if not for the cause of common decency, then for the increasingly large bounty on their heads). If caught, the worst pirates can only expect the mercy they’ve shown (when everyone in the party has been hung or beheaded, it’s exponentially more difficult to escape).

Eldritch Suns III – The Aether and the Astral

The space between worlds within a system is filled with a flowing, vaporous substance sages call the Æther. Æther emerges from the interaction between the Material and Ætherial Realms at a central point in the system called the Vortex. Æther flows out from the Vortex to the Verge at the edge of the system, then is drawn back to the Vortex in a series of currents. As these currents conflict and interact with each other, Ætheric storms develop, and in the fiercest of them can create temporary portals into the Ætherial Realm. Adding to the chaos of the Æther is the movement of the planets and moons themselves as they pass laterally through the currents.

When the Æther passes through a world or moon, the connection with the Ætherial is changed to a connection with the Shadow Realm. This has an effect of causing small lagoons of a similar, but different substance from the Æther called the Umbra. The Umbral currents are generated from the deepest planetary shadows, and flow outward, mingling and mixing with the Æther at the twilight areas on the borders. These storms can draw bodies caught within them into either the Ætherial or Shadow Realms as befits the chaotic swirl.

The Æther (and the Umbra) are breathable by mortal races, acting in a manner nearly identical to air. Fires burn, the trajectory of objects are affected by the currents, etc… There are subtle differences, Ætheric currents are very poor at insulating from heat or cold, which makes traveling too near or too far from a sun a dangerous prospect unless preparations are made for the extreme variations in temperature.

In addition, there are denizens that live and swim among the Ætheric currents. Like the creatures of the seas and oceans, these beings run the spectrum from benign to malevolent, from passive to predatory. Though in the gulfs between worlds, many creatures can grow to truly mammoth size.

At the furthest extent of the Ætheric currents, is the far edge of the Material realm known as the Verge. Beyond the Verge is the vast gulf of the Astral Sea. Sailing the Astral Sea allows travel between different Material Realms, and in the deepest horizons of the Astral, travel to the Outer Realms themselves.

The Astral is very different from the Ætheric currents of the Material Realm. Magical Ley Lines crisscross the Astral Sea, connecting worlds and realms in a vast and complex web. Navigating the Astral Ley Lines is one of the most dangerous and difficult tasks that a Shipmaster can undertake. For, while a ship lost among the Æther can always try to catch a fresh current to bring her back towards a planet or port, a lost ship in the Astral Sea can drift for Æons alone and forgotten in the Cosmos.

Time among the different Material planes is subjective and independent. That is to say that time flows at different rates depending on which Material Realm one happens to be in. Often, time is measured by the movement of the heavenly bodies through the Æther, marking the passage of days, months, and years. As can be expected, in different Material Realms, these movements vary. However, in the Astral, the passage of time becomes much more fluid and if possible, even more subjective. In many ways, time passes in the Astral as fast as someone *believes* it will pass. Thus, traveling between Material Realms can cause a vast disparity in exactly how long one has ventured from one to another, unless one takes magical precautions.

Eldritch Suns IV – The Guild Empire pt. 1

Roughly 500 years ago (as the Guild Empire reckons time), seven worlds; Tirynia, the Härsvak, Granlund, Brynlund, Croye, Alkier and Roidoc developed the magical means to explore Astral Space at about the same time. As each of the seven were in close proximity to each other, they quickly encountered and began interaction with one another. Over the course of the following two centuries, after countless wars, peaces, treaties, and most importantly trade, the Imperial families of the seven worlds forged an alliance which became the Guild Empire.

The Guild Empire is in many ways a large, interconnected Bureaucracy with Ministries and offices throughout the seven worlds. As a whole, even seven worlds are nearly impossible to manage from a single court. Thus, a great deal of autonomy is granted to Governors, Marshals, Admirals, and Ministers to manage their charges in the best interest of the Empire.

One of the curious phenomena that has evolved since the founding of the Guild Empire is that the various calendars of the seven worlds, and the oldest colonies have begun to synchronize. Thus time, normally subjective to each individual world has become consistent throughout the Guild Empire. The sages of Empire still have not learned how or why this is occurring.

The current Emperor is Axelfahs IV. He is the fifth member of the Kyrshon House to sit upon the Imperial throne. He is also the first Emperor to move the Imperial court from its traditional seat at Roidoc to Tirynia, as an honor to his elven Mother, a Princess of the Iesonnwy courts there.

Eldritch Suns V – The Guild Empire pt. 2

The Guild Empire, because of it’s economic strength due to it’s ability to draw upon the resources of seven worlds has the luxury of controlling the value of its own currency. Thus, in Guildspace, only Guild Minted currency is legal tender. The Empire, to shepherd it’s supply of precious metals like Platinum and Gold enforces a Silver standard economy. Which means that items within the Empire are measured in silver where the value of the same item outside of the Empire is measured in gold. This leads to a second-tier of exchange in those worlds with regular contact and exchange with the Guild Empire. Zhor-Shant for example. Guild Coins in these border regions are more valuable than their metallic weight would otherwise indicate.

To start, the currency minted by the Guild Empire is as follows (from most valuable to least).
Platinum Great Wyrm (PGW)
Gold Wyrm (GW)
Silver Drake (SD)
Copper Wyrmling (CW)
Bronze Drakeling (BD)

1 Platinum Great Wyrm = 24 Gold Wyrms
1 Gold Wyrm = 6 Silver Drakes
1 Silver Drake = 12 Copper Wyrmlings
1 Copper Wyrmling = 24 Bronze Drakelings

Outside of Guildspace, interworld trade continues to measure value based on a coin’s metallic value. Most ports that engage in interworld trade hold to these exchange rates (though depending on local economic conditions, these rates may vary).

From most valuable to least..
Platinum Coin (pc)
Gold Coin (gc)
Electrum Coin (ec)
Silver Coin (sc)
Copper Coin (cc)

1 Platinum Coin = 6 Gold Coins
1 Gold Coin = 4 Electrum Coins
1 Electrum Coin = 3 Silver Coins
1 Silver Coin = 24 Copper Coins.

In the worlds near the Guild Empire, Silver Drakes are valued the same as Gold Coins. Which leads to the following value chart
1 PGW = 24 GW
1 GW = 6 SD = 1 pc = 6 gc
1 SD = 12 CW = 1 gc = 4 ec = 12 sc
1 CW = 24 BD = 1 sc = 24 cc

These are raw value charts, literally how a character might calculate the value of their coinage. But the only valid currency in the Guild Empire is Guild Coin. Thus the Empire levies a 25% tax on all foreign coin exchanged for Guild Coin. Furthermore, Moneychangers are regulated to charge up to a 12% fee (which nearly all do, Moneychangers gotta make a living too) on all transactions.

Outside of the Guild Empire, reputable Moneychangers charge fees anywhere from 10-30%. However, Guild Coinage is usually valuable enough that most moneychangers will only charge a 10% fee. This is because Guild Coin in these ports are actually purchased at a rate 25% above their normal value.

This means that an “honest tradesman” with 100 gc, can change those coins into 63 SD in Guildspace (100 gc = 100 SD – 25 SD in tax – 12 SD in fees)

That same tradesman in Torcosia with 100 SD can change those coins to 112 gc and 6 sc (100 SD = 100 gc + 25gc markup – 12 gc, 6 sc in fees). Note no taxes in Torcosia (“honest tradesmen” HATE taxes).

Another tradesman in Torcosia looking to buy those 100 SD will be charged 125 gc for them (assuming the moneylender is willing to sell of course). Thus the Moneylender makes a clean 12 gc and 6 sc buying and selling Guild Coin. Or in economic language, our Moneylender has turned a tidy 12 1/2% profit.

Hopefully, this all makes some form of sense. For those of you mathematically inclined, I invite you to critique and possibly break this exchange system.

Eldritch Suns VI – Worlds Without End

Most worlds in the Cosmos are collections of raw elemental material drawn together into a singular mass orbiting the Ætheric Vortex. These worlds are not normally hospitable to most life as is known throughout the cosmos. However, sometimes natives to the appropriate Elemental Realm thrive within these islands in the Æther.

Nearly every system holds at least one world composed of a mélange of all four elemental realms. These worlds, perhaps specially crafted by the Gods for this very purpose, team with life of all types. It is here where mortal beings capable of thought and able to exert their will develop cultures and civilizations. And even though these life-giving worlds contain everything needed to sustain life, a healthy system of worlds in the Æther will have representatives of all Elemental realms travelling in orbits around the Vortex.

Air
Air worlds are cloudy masses of swirling, chaotic storms. In their orbits they boil and clash with themselves in an unending whirl of tempests. Save for the very winds which comprise them, Air Worlds have no real substance. Within their violent horizon, winds reach unthinkable speeds, ripping and tearing at themselves and anything caught within them. Yet, for all of their fury, there are eyes within these endless storms. Islands of calm and stability which can last for moments, or ages depending upon the whims of fate.

Earth
Earth worlds are giant rocks in the Æther. Like enormous mountains drifting in the Ætheric currents, Earth Worlds often hold fortunes in gems, jewels and precious metals. But they are barren places, without water, warmth or so much as a blanket of air, very little grows and thrives here on its own. Still, water, fuel, and air can be imported or conjured and colonies sustained on these rich worlds. Of all the Elemental Worlds, Earth worlds are the most common places for settlements.

Fire
Fire worlds blaze and boil casting light and heat throughout the Ætheric currents. So brilliant, Fire worlds are sometimes mistaken for Gods, and indeed often become homes for Deities of Suns, Fire, Light, and Life. Of all the worlds in the Cosmos, Fire worlds are the most visible, often blinding the residents of other worlds to all else, when their light fills the sky. Within their horizon, Fire worlds are a swirling, unbearable furnace of raw elemental heat. Inside Fire worlds heat and light become so intense that no shadow exists. Only those beings born of the Elemental Realm, or the greatest magic of Gods or Wizards can resist the all-consuming blaze.

Water
Water worlds are shimmering spheres of fluid suspended within the Æther and drifting in their timeless orbits. They are oceans without a floor, and sometimes enormous spherical seas held within a shell of ice. Water worlds can sometimes hold life of their own within their horizons. Sea creatures and merfolk can thrive within the eternal seas, unconstrained by land and never threatened by those bound to the surface. Yet, all is not calm or peaceful within the water worlds. Subsurface currents and storms roar beneath the surface, every bit as violent and destructive as the wrath of Sea Gods but silent and invisible until they pass through.

Arcadian
The Arcadian worlds combine all four elements in one planet. These worlds contain an almost endless variety of seas, mountains, winds, and fire, providing a self-contained world environment where living things can thrive without assistance. Almost unfathomably complex, most sages believe that Arcadian worlds must have been created by the Gods as a home for their children, or as a garden for themselves. Regardless of the origins of the Arcadian worlds, the fact remains that they exist in small numbers, and are the cradles of most living mortal cultures in the Cosmos.

Moons

Some worlds have elemental bodies in orbit around them. The Moons are locked to the Planet they revolve around, and in essence act like smaller versions of the orbiting worlds about the Ætheric Vortex. Moons are nearly always Elemental in nature, and almost never Arcadian bodies. Save for their smaller size, and consequentially lesser influence on the Cosmos, moons feature all of the same characteristics with worlds of the same element. However, moons do differ from their larger cousins in that they regularly pass through the Umbra of the world they orbit. These continuing brushes with the Shadow Realm make moons unique havens for denizens of the Shadow Realm, monsters or fugitive dreams escaping from their twilight home.

The Ætheric currents also carry elemental fragments from the Vortex to the Verge. Known by a host of names reflecting their elemental origin (Comets, Meteors, Asteroids, etc…) these fragments drift through the Cosmos on the Æther. Rarely, these elemental fragments can find a stable orbit around the Vortex or a large world, creating enormous belts and rings of elemental material circling the world or the entire orbit. At times these fragments can fall into the Ætheric Realm through a storm, or the Shadow Realm as they pass through the Umbra, emerging days or ages later, changed by their time outside of the Material Realm. Even more rare are the fragments that escape the Ætheric currents entirely and drift past the Verge into the Astral Sea where they can remain for Eternity or pass between Material Realms, even drifting far into the deepest reaches of the Astral Sea to the Outer Realms themselves.

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