Threefold: What’s in a Name?

Some of you were lucky enough to get the Free RPG Day Threefold Quickstart, and may have learned a bit about this, our first original Modern AGE setting. If not, you can learn a bit more by reading my last article about Threefold, written before the new Quickstart (which we’ll be able to make available to a wider audience in July) dropped.

But what’s in a name? Specifically, what’s in the name Threefold. This got attached to the project early, as a way of acknowledging the three elements I wanted to bind together: modern fantasy, contemporary horror, and near future, Singularity-sensitive SF. As we put it together, nothing else fit better, and in fact, it became even more suitable as we invented more of the Metacosm.

Three members of the Sodality, a branch of the Vitane, survey a new plane.

The Threefold Metacosm

Gates connect most of Threefold’s innumerable planes, allowing passage for those initiated into the Metacosm’s nature. Each plan is unique, but an informed traveler knows they belong to three primary categories.

Earths: Earths consist of the primeline (which connects via gates to Otherworlds) and Alts, branched-off histories (also called worldlines) which rarely have gates, so that they must be reached through Earth via extraordinary technologies. Magic functions poorly on Earth, but natural laws work with such reliable potency that it is the birthplace of the most sophisticated feats of science and engineering. Beings of order and information called Machinors mind the many Earths.

Otherworlds: Otherworlds shimmer with kanna, the creative energy that makes magic possible. Things which are legends on Earth are very real in the Otherworlds, though every myth is inaccurate, incomplete, or out of date. Most of the “gods,” or Hierarchs, have been driven away or gone into hiding, and new societies have sprung from ancient kingdoms. High technology functions less reliably, but magic often replaces it.

Netherworlds: Where Earth’s humans might regard Otherworlds as realms of Golden Age legend, they’d see their Glooms, Infernos, and demonic incarnations in the Netherworlds. Alastor demon-monarchs rule each Netherworld; their personalities influence their domains, and vice versa. Rivers of green fire and bleeding trees are not unusual. Natural laws bend as if influenced by a sadistic intelligence.

A few planes called Heterarchies defy the three categories, as their histories confer unique properties.

The Three Great Powers

Threefold takes place in the present, which is also the waning of the Third Age, which began at the end of the Fellwar: a prehistoric conflict for control of the Metacosm’s souls. Humans of all kinds, from the rough dreygur to the elemental huldra, defied gods and demon lords to bring peace. In that peace, three great powers arose, and now stand at the threshold of a new war, or perhaps some other, unexpected transformation. The powers are:

The Vitane: Risen from refugees of the Fellwar, the Vitane follow a doctrine called the Code of Wisdom which orients its society toward learning, democracy, and respect for the rights of numerous peoples, including the right to be left alone. The Vitane hides itself on worlds where planar travel isn’t common knowledge, including Earth. The Vitane has no true military, but its exploratory arm, the Sodality, includes fighting Protectors alongside its Emissaries and Searchers.

The Divine Empire: The end of the Fellwar threw most of the Hierarchs, the old god-rulers of the Otherworlds, into exile, but their children, the Optimate demigods, still felt they were due certain entitlements. Attempts to acquire these through Vitane democracy failed and eventually, many planes followed a splinter faction under Dyraza, self-proclaimed First (and only) Empress of the Divine Empire. Dyraza was slain by the Alastor, Avakim, and no successor has replaced her, but the Empire’s theocracy, where Optimates rule mortals across dozens of planes, abides.

The Nighthost: During the Fellwar, one host of soldiers commanded by the Netherworlds rebelled, inspiring others to do the same, until they became a mighty warrior society, the Nighthost. Nighthost warbands are raiders and warlords, who respect strength and relish a fair fight—or a properly framed unfair one. They’re a scourge of the planes, but greeted as liberators when they attack Netherworlds, and free their tortured inhabitants.

Okay, there is one more faction, but it’s not transplanar in the usual sense. The Peridexion is Earth’s secret government, under the rule of a collective of transcendental intelligences who monitor multiple spacetime continua. Allied with the Vitane, the Peridexion sends certain agents on missions with Vitane counterparts. We’ll talk more about these organizations next time. As for Threefold, we expect to have it at Gencon—watch for it!

Superteam Handbook Now Pre-Ordering!

Superteam Handbook (Pre-Order)Superteam Handbook is now available to pre-order in our Green Ronin Online Store! As usual, when you pre-order the physical book, you can add the PDF version to your order for just $5, to download right away. If you prefer to shop from your local store, make sure they know about Green Ronin Pre-Order Plus, so you can get the same $5 PDF deal by pre-ordering through them.

No hero can stand up to every challenge alone—nor should they! Legendary heroics demand teamwork, and teamwork demands a team. Are you a super-powered minority fighting to protect a world that fears you? A family of gene-freaks trying to scrape by? Or super-powered ex-cons trying to do right? Whatever brings you together, your teammates are your friends, rivals, co-workers, and family all in one—with all the love and hate that implies. But together you can achieve incredible things none of you could alone. Whether a ragtag band of vigilantes falls in together by accident or Earth’s greatest protectors train to work as a single unit, heroes are always more than the sum of their parts!

The Superteam Handbook sourcebook for Mutants & Masterminds puts the focus on the heroes and their team, with details for players and gamemasters alike to make their team cohesive, dramatic, and fun! Understand what it means to be a team and form a common identity and responsibility, and when to buck the system and rebel. Learn the ins and outs of not just cooperation. Heroes can work closer together than ever before with new, team-focused powers, advantages, and attack options.

In addition to new game material, the Superteam Handbook presents eight pre-made hero teams—ranging from PL 5 to PL 12—to serve as campaign-kickstarters, with guidelines, resources, and advice for running a variety of heroic campaigns, along with background and statblocks for their members to use as player characters, rivals, or villains. Will you save the planet as part of the globe-hopping UNIQUE, battle to keep the urban jungle safe as one of the street-brawling Ferroburg Four, or take on ancient aliens from the cockpit of your giant robot as a member of MagnaForce? Whatever you choose, your friends stand by your side!

Modern AGE: From the Companion to Threefold

I’m leaving for Origins tomorrow and over there, Green Ronin may well have copies of the Modern AGE Companion available (though at this time of writing, pre-order is still a possibility). Yet it also happens that Origins will fall across Free RPG Day. Due to the rules of Free RPG Day, which put the spotlight on retailers, we won’t have our offering, the Threefold Quickstart, at the booth (862), but I’d love to see in in the wild if you find it nearby!

The new Quickstart is all about the upcoming Threefold setting. Let me tease it a bit here, with the very first worlds you’ll read from the full Threefold hardcover, which is on target for Q3 of this year.




What if you could go anywhere?

Let’s unpack that. By “go,” we mean through gates between worlds: magical portals arrayed in routes called chains. We mean using the quantum ark, which threads our waveforms through the needle’s eye of marginal possibilities to other configurations of time.

By “anywhere,” we mean blinding heavens, fiery hells, machine worlds a century ahead of our own, impossibly sharp mountain tops whose residents are sorcerer-hermits. They don’t want you to visit, but they might be the only ones able to answer some esoteric question, which might even lead you to another world: perhaps via Vigrith, plane of a thousand gates, or Alatum, where the children of lost gods rule an empire, or one of the countless planes where the Nighthost, warriors who defeated their demon generals before recorded history, pillage and conquer.

And by “anywhere,” we also mean parts of our world you thought of as legends, old and new. We mean the rotting mansions of psychic secret societies, the secret labs that make soldiers and spies, the Gray Hand where the secret world government they always warned you about meets.

We mean places that never were, or could have been, or places we fear might exist through superstition or some future dystopian twist, and places we hope exist and are sending their extraordinary agents to help us find the better path.

There are too many possibilities to count, but we’ve settled on some rough classifications. Three of them—and three secret forces behind them. But in the end, you’re the one who might determine the ultimate form of everything that was, is, and shall be. That’s Threefold.

Andrzej, a Sodalt of the Protector branch, as is obvious from his scarab badge. What does that all mean? Oh, we’ll get to that.

Welcome to the Metacosm

Threefold is the first original setting for Modern AGE and, as such, requires the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook for use with the new game systems herein. Threefold is cross-genre, embracing fantasy, horror, and science fiction, and it’s designed to make maximum use of Modern AGE’s possibilities. This means players can potentially use any option in Modern AGE to make their characters, including those that give them extraordinary powers. It means characters can come from a staggering array of backgrounds, from worlds where magic and travel between the planes of existence is commonplace, to the most ordinary lives here on Earth—though in the latter case, those lives are unlikely to stay normal. Using the rules in this book, you can play a demon-haunted occultist, a wizard from a magical college, or a tactical cyborg—and all three of these characters could play in the same campaign.

The backbone of Threefold that allows this is the Metacosm: the universe of universes. There are countless realities, or planes of existence, belonging to three basic categories: Earth and its alternate timelines; the Otherworlds, where magic is a powerful force; and the harsh Netherworlds, where malefic forces reign. In most cases, these planes are connected by gates. Gates are hard to create, destroy, or block, so their presence creates routes through many planes, spawning trade, empires, and warfare. Our Earth is one of thousands of these planes, though our unique physical laws and no small amount of conspiratorial effort hide the greater Metacosm from us.


Here and there I’ll be talking about the Threefold setting, releasing further information before it drops later this year. See you then!

Remembering Alejandro Melchor

This week was supposed to be set aside for me to talk about the Modern AGE Companion a little more, but I want to talk about Alejandro (aka Alex, or Al-X) Melchor instead. Alex passed away last week, due to the extended complications of a stroke he suffered in March.

Alex worked on every Modern AGE book currently at any stage of completion. In the core, he wrote rules, focuses, talents and part of the extensive Game Master advice in that book. He brought his talents to the World of Lazarus, the Modern AGE Companion, and the upcoming Threefold and Enemies & Allies, too. I’m currently looking for writers for a new book. It has an Alex-shaped hole in it now.

I first got to know him through a semiprivate community we shared, in 2001. I’d just been invited, as responses to my early professional work for White Wolf had been good. Alex did some work for them as well before taking an intensive gig with Mongoose Publishing in the early 2000s. I drifted away and he was busy, though I knew him through the Open Game License credits I bumped into while designing my own stuff. In the interim he developed an enormous list of credits, tending toward mechanically intensive work. I’d say one great thing about him is he could work on rules that reinforce stories and atmosphere, because getting game systems down was quick work for him.

Steve Kenson got to know Alex well, and took the lead in doing what we could to help when he fell ill. He reintroduced me to Alex, and Alex became a bedrock contributor for Modern AGE. He did so much more, in his own communities, on other games, and with other creative people, but I don’t want to presume to talk about any of that. We worked hard. We made some good ideas playable together. And he was unfailingly nice to everyone, a born collaborator, but didn’t hesitate to point out what he thought would be bad ideas.

According to family and friends, Alex liked proactive, resourceful, tough woman protagonists. Modern AGE uses a loose set of iconic characters created by the writers. Alex created Indra Winchester, the technically-inclined punk, who you can see on the cover of the Modern AGE Companion and inside the books of the line. In examples, he’s her player. I plan to keep it that way.

It seems so inane to go through his qualities as a creative guy, when of course there was more, but he was my comrade in making games. That’s what I’ve got to work with, even though it’s not enough to give the man his due. He was a visual artist, and beloved by various communities. And more, always more. In and out of this industry, I won’t be missing him alone, and won’t be the only one feeling new gaps in what might be possible, in work and life. I’m going to miss him.