What’s the “Deal” With Fantasy AGE Arcana Cards?

art by Stephanie Pui Mun Law

“The door of the Great Tower of Uln finally shatters inward, sending splinters flying. It turns out it’s been smashed by a Blade Troll, like the one you fought in the Polemarsh, but bigger, and better-armored. Okay Amanda, it’s your turn. Your mage Soidhe is still on top of the tower, though she can see down the central stairwell all the way to the bottom floor. What’s your mage going to do?”

 

“That troll is going to be a problem! Is Joe’s warrior Ironeye still guarding the bottom of the stairs?”

“Yeah, Joe never said he moved, so that’s where he still is.”

“Great! I’ll cast agent of fate. If Ironeye needs help dealing with that monster, I want to be ready to give him some stunt points.”

“Okay, but you are 20 yards up at the top of the tower. How far away can you use agent of fate?”

“Oh, it’s never come up! We’re always right next to each other. Lemme look. Hey, Joe, can I borrow the Basic Rulebook?”

“Er… sure Amanda. Just don’t lose my spot—I’m reading up on some alchemical stuff. But, hey, isn’t that spell in the Companion anyway?”

Okay, okay, it’s a contrived example. There aren’t that many things to look up during a Fantasy AGE game, and you can write down all the information you need about every Arcana you cast on your character sheet, to avoid having to look things up. And that’s by design, to be honest. If you have the Basic Rulebook and some dice, you have everything your group needs to play Fantasy AGE.

But, especially if you are the GM and have to have new arcana in play every time the players face an enemy mage or arcana-wielding monster.

So, we thought we’d make things easier! The Fantasy Age Arcana Cards have all the information you need for all the spells in the game (from both the Basic Rulebook and Companion) in easy-to reference individual cards. Instead of having to write down all the details for your spells, and update that as you gain higher degrees of mastery, you can just grab the arcana cards you need and have all the information available, without flipping through multiple books. For arcana with spells spread out over multiple books it’s especially useful for having all the spells in one place—no need to flip to the Basic Rulebook for Air Arcana’s protective winds, and then to the Companion for air bubble.

But of course this wouldn’t be a gaming article without suggesting some ways you can use arcana cards for even more than just fast access to fun facts! One of the fascinating things about cards is that they can be used to quickly and easily determine random results? So what can you do with randomly-selected arcana? Well, here are three ideas:

Build-A-Mage: While a player could decide to make a deal-an-arcana character, this is primarily useful for a GM who wants to be able to quickly create very-different feeling mages. Got a witch who knows three arcana? Deal three cards at random and see what you get. For extra style points, build a theme based on those random results. Deal yourself Air, Shadow, and Water arcana? You have created a servant of the Midnight Typhoon.

Chaos Magic: Okay, do NOT dip into this well too often. But in areas of chaos magic, no matter what spell a mage THINKS they are casting, a failed casting roll results in a spell of the same level of expertise from a randomly-selected arcana card.

Random Weakness Generator: Want to make a monster a little weirder? Give it a weakness by randomly assigning it an arcana it is vulnerable to. For example, if you randomly dealt the Fate Arcana card, you could decide the Blade Trolls of Arak-Uln are legendary monsters—each with its own legend that speaks of how they have destroyed the fate of great heroes. But those legends also suggest they have a weakness against Fate itself, and each troll takes 1d6 more damage when struck by an attack modified by a Fate Arcana spell.

Fantasy AGE Arcana Cards will be available as print-on-demand products via DrivethruRPG on October 30th!

Ronin Round Table: Sovereigns of the Blue Rose Introduction

From the very founding of the kingdom of Aldis, its Sovereigns have been beacons of hope, catalysts for change, and exemplars of Aldin ideals to the best of their ability.

Anyone who has played a game of Blue Rose can’t miss the importance and impact of the setting’s Sovereigns, even if they never make an appearance in the game. These people have shaped the setting of Blue Rose over the years. They are directly responsible for making Aldis the egalitarian meritocracy that has made it so unique and interesting, both within the Blue Rose setting, and as a piece of fantasy fiction.

As such, it shouldn’t have been surprising when a fan of Blue Rose contacted me over social media, asking for resources on the previous Sovereigns. They were doing a fan art project, wanting to depict all of the Sovereigns, and had hit a brick wall with some of them.

So, I dove into the project myself, collecting and collating lore about the various Sovereigns. As I did so, it became increasingly obvious to me just how fascinating these characters were. My research included not just what they looked like, but also their deeds (for completion sake, of course). Reading through that list made me want to read more about them. It made me want to get to know them better, and that sparked an idea.

I approached Nisaba editor Jaym Gates with the idea, and she backed me immediately, facilitating the anthology, helping me to round up authors who would be perfect for the project, and generally championing me the entire way.

I also asked Jess Hartley to come in and help me with the editing proper – I’ve edited game books for nearly two decades, and written fiction, but I am still a baby editor when it comes to fiction, so I was very grateful for the experienced help.

Together, fourteen authors and three editors have made Sovereigns of the Blue Rose an anthology that is filled with deep Blue Rose lore, and an absolute love letter to the diverse, egalitarian, romantic fantasy roots of the world as a whole.

I’ve included the Table of Contents for the upcoming Sovereigns of the Blue Rose anthology, in addition to the cover. Welcome, and enjoy!

 

Joseph D. Carriker, Jr.,

Editor

Threefold and the Future of Modern AGE

Threefold is in stores now, though you can of course get it from us, too. I’ve used a lot of words to, frankly, sell you on this setting, for my selfish advantage and because I think you’ll really like it. I like to think it has a thematic core that comparable wide-open settings lack. Threefold is about the power of souls—sapient thought—to steer history, in spite of various catastrophes and other mighty forces that stand in the way. We are more powerful than we think.

Where you go next is entirely up to you. We’ve just given you a map.

As you can tell, I’m invested in this setting. What does that mean for Modern AGE? Is it all Threefold, all the time now? No—and yes! It’s a complicated answer based on how I plan to structure Modern AGE releases.

Threefold is our “flagship” setting, where we’ll provide multi-book support. That starts with Five and Infinity, an adventure book coming in 2020 that is currently awaiting final drafts. Further support will follow, including books providing deeper detail into the setting’s main factions.

Our very next Modern AGE book, Enemies & Allies, isn’t strongly tied to any particular setting. It’s a book of Non-Player Characters and creatures divided into modern fantasy, horror, modern thriller, crime, and near future science fiction categories. However, it is designed to be completely compatible with Threefold, and one of that setting’s elements, the hidden nation of Invindara, was originally devised for Enemies & Allies by author (and now, Fifth Season Roleplaying Game developer) Tanya DePass, and appears in both books. You can enjoy Enemies & Allies without needing Threefold at all. It’s currently in layout.

Future Modern AGE books that aren’t tied to any setting may or may not have a special connection to Threefold. The Modern AGE Mastery Guide, due next year (and currently going through first drafts) won’t. In any event, we remain committed to offering you tools to build and customize your own settings. This is what books like the Mastery Guide and the already-released Modern AGE Companion are all about.

Furthermore, we’ll be doing more settings ourselves. Ideally, I’d like to have three additional original settings besides Threefold. These will not get Threefold’s “flagship” support (well, unless one really takes off!), but will provide comprehensive treatment in a single book. And we are definitely not averse to doing more licensed projects like The World of Lazarus. Modern AGE will never be tied down to a specific setting, and while Threefold provides a focus to the game, it will never be the only universe we explore.

As you can see, Modern AGE’s support plans are expansive, and follow a more aggressive schedule than you may have anticipated. But like all statements about the future, sales, the state of the industry, and what I’m doing can all change how it’s going to go. But this is the way it looks right now, and I feel pretty good about it. There’s more coming for Threefold but there’s more coming beyond it, too. And next time I step up to talk about a book, it’s probably going to be Enemies & Allies. Until then, play well, and talk about what you’re doing with Modern AGE on all the platforms you like. In our setting or yours, I love to see you play. Cheers!

GMing Threefold with Speculative Fantasy

Not too long ago I said I’d talk about Threefold’s speculative fantasy concept. What is it? While you can play any genre in this vast Modern AGE setting, we wanted to create a distinct default way to run the game.

More planes, more problems—if interesting ones.

 

Speculative fantasy describes Threefold’s ability to ask, “What if?”—what if Earth were just one of many worlds? What if the multiverse theory was demonstrably true? Threefold explores experiences radically different from our own and encourages players to dig into a vast playground of discovery. It brings real world mythology and folklore to life, blending legends together and giving them unique twists to keep them fresh and alive with possibility.

What If?

The heart of a speculative fantasy scenario involves taking that “What if?” and making it the central problem of a scenario. Threefold creates speculative fantasy set pieces through its various planes and factions. For instance, in my current game, characters passed through a plane filled with ruins, where each scattered band of survivors thought the others, and any visitors, were the enemies who’d destroyed its former civilization. While my players were just passing through, they had to deal with this problem by making it clear they were newcomers. If they’d dug deeper, they’d have to figure out how to build trust between these communities and investigate where their perceptions of each other came from. Was it a psychic weapon? An ancient betrayal? Answering these questions and putting the information to use would resolve the conflict.

Threefold comes with an introductory adventure: “Identity,” by Jamie Wood. It’s meant to demonstrate this approach in action, as heroes untangle questions of rights and personhood. It’s the sort of scenario we often find in classic episodic science fiction. In some cases, this means you can use allegory to explore real world issues. Whether you do so, however, is entirely up to you.

Classic but Strange

One of the great things about speculative fantasy is that strange problems are often variations of normal ones, by allegory, as above, or through other extensions on more common stories. For example, Romeo and Juliet is a classic story, but it turns bigger and weirder when the lovers from rival houses are Optimates: aristocratic demigods who rule the Divine Empire. Not only must characters deal with superpowered relatives but ask themselves what it means in the context of the Empire, a tyranny reigning over multiple planes. Does healing the breach between two houses risk making the Empire harder to oppose? Can they persuade the lovers to rebel against the source of their own privilege?

Such dilemmas are part and parcel of speculative fantasy play. Should Aethon agents comply with requests to delete an alternate Earth developing apocalyptic weapons, if most of the population has no idea what’s going on? Who is most entitled to a geomantic place of power on Earth? If a god returns to rule their people, should characters stand by while the population rejects the fairer institutions they’ve built for themselves?

Of course, characters need ideological and moral stances to work from. This is why Threefold provides two factions with different belief systems for characters to work with, in agreement or defiance. The explorers of the Sodality represent idealism and have set policies about what their organization considers right and wrong. Aethon’s spies and paramilitary forces represent a more pragmatic point of view. In the end, of course Modern AGE character drives and personal beliefs decide the course of action.

Get Speculating Now

Threefold is out now, for order in our store, at your local gaming establishment, or at DriveThruRPG. Chapter 9 digs into the speculative fantasy concept further, and of course this is just one facet of a very big setting. Later this year, we’ll provide further Modern AGE support with Enemies & Allies, a book of creatures, Non-Player Characters and guidance for making your own friends and foes. Enemies & Allies is suitable for all Modern AGE games, but was designed to not contradict Threefold, making it fully compatible with this flagship setting.

Until next time? Play well in any world you choose.

Ronin Round Table: Pit of Vipers

Sometimes, stories don’t tie up as neatly as we might like.

In February, we released Shadowtide, the first novel from Nisaba Press set in Green Ronin’s Blue Rose game setting. Shadowtide’s story focuses on a trio of the Sovereign’s Finest who are far from home in the hive of scum and smugglers known as Serpent’s Haven. The story follows this trio as well as the various friends, lovers, and family they meet along the way. Though Shadowtide’s narrative is complete within the novel, there are threads aplenty to be picked up by future novels, as well.

While working on my edits, Jaym Gates pointed out a certain element of the story that felt unfinished. Without going into spoilers, our heroes promised to help some new friends to get out of the dangerous Serpent’s Haven. Unfortunately, with the way things worked out, it was impossible for them to do that. Our heroes returned home to Aldis to lick their wounds and grieve their losses, forced to leave those friends behind—but in the Kingdom of the Blue Rose, our heroes keep their promises and don’t leave their friends behind, at least not without doing something about it.

And that is how Pit of Vipers came to be. Releasing this week, Pit of Vipers is an e-book only novella featuring the night woman envoy Ydah and her return (with her new apprentice envoy) to Serpent’s Haven in order to set things right…though they learn that not all has been quiescent in their time away.

 

Pit of Vipers will be available later this week, but you can order your own copy of Shadowtide: A Blue Rose novel, right here! (also available in digital formats.)

Also be sure to check out A Guide to Shadowtide, a free PDF supplement for the Blue Rose AGE RPG, and Shadowtide: Recipes from Aldea by Jess Hartley!

Threefold, a setting for Modern AGE: Available Now!

If you pre-ordered Threefold, the brand new setting for Modern AGE, your order is on it’s way! You can also find Threefold in the finest of friendly local gaming stores everywhere this week!

Curious about what this new setting entails? Check out our series of articles by Modern AGE developer, Malcolm Sheppard.

Threefold

Beyond the modern world, with its magical and technological secrets, other planes of existence beckon. Gates connect alternate Earths to mystic Otherworlds and demon-ruled Netherworlds. Will their threefold secrets bring hope or horror? That’s for your heroes to decide. Threefold is a new original setting for the Modern AGE roleplaying game, designed to support adventures using virtually any genre or character type all within the same grand Metacosm. Explore and protect countless worlds as a member of the interplanar Sodality, or manipulate bizarre alternate histories as a cyborg agent of Aethon. Heroes contend with everything from soul-stealing criminals, to transplanar empires. Threefold requires the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook.

 

 

 

Fantasy AGE: Shaking the Pillars of Heaven

Well, it’s been an interesting run, but it’s time to move on.

Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook

Starting in October I’m going to be leaving my position as Fantasy AGE developer and thus my regular position at Green Ronin. This has been awhile in coming—I’ve known for several months I needed to make a change.

Why? Well, it’s complicated. But mostly? I’m tired. After several years of personal tragedy, heavy workloads, financial and health issues, the occasional resurfacing of past harassment, and so on? I feel a bit like Egg Shen at the end of Big Trouble in Little China:

My work is done. Lo-Pan is dead, the evil spell has been lifted, years ago I promised myself a long vacation…and it’s time to collect.

That’s not entirely accurate of course, but metaphorically? It’s appropriate. For the past several years I’ve been keeping everything going as best I can. Maybe not always as well as I could in a perfect world, but keeping things moving forward as best I could.  I’m proud of the work done; I’m especially proud of the talented folks I worked with making the various books in the Fantasy AGE and Dragon Age lines, as well as the Blue Rose core book.

However, the Fantasy AGE line needs someone who really wants to work on it. Which, despite my aforementioned pride in the work done? That just isn’t me anymore. I’ve walked this road about as long as I can or want to. Again, that’s not a slam on the work, the people involved, fantasy, gaming, or anything else the line intersects with. It’s just where I am now.

I’ll always be happy I took this gig. It was the right thing to do at the time. I’ll always be proud of the work done. And it’s possible you’ll see me again on various Green Ronin projects, either as a freelance writer or maybe even a developer if the right specific project comes along.

Never can tell with me.

And I’m not going to be a hermit or anything. I have four more books for my wu xia/kung fu game, Tianxia, to finish, there are three more John Carter of Mars books in the pipeline and even

Fantasy AGE Bestiary

some other work past that.

But damn, I am worn out. And since I still have a lot of things I want to design, write, create, and so on in the future? I needed to let something go so I can recharge, rest, repair, and then do those things. After a lot of consideration, this was the thing to let go.

Sometimes it’s that simple.

So, I wanted to end by saying thanks to the fans and customers for their support and enthusiasm. To Green Ronin, I want to say thanks for the opportunities to put my stamp on not one but three of the company’s lines (and that’s not even counting the various Mutants and Masterminds projects I was able to contribute to). To Fantasy AGE’s new developer, Owen K.C. Stephens, I want to express my heartfelt enthusiasm and well wishes. I know you’re going to do great. To my various collaborators I want to give my love and appreciation; literally couldn’t do it without you. In particular, I want to give a shout out to Jamie Wood and Matt Miller, two fine freelancers who started on Dragon Age with me and kept working to the current Fantasy AGE projects. While there were so many great folks on various books, you two were always there when I needed you, and that’s appreciated.

And to my fellow Ronins, while it wasn’t always easy or smooth…we really shook the pillars of heaven, didn’t we?

Later,

Jack.


Fantasy AGE Companion

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
Michael Corleone. The Godfather, Part III

Okay, that quote makes it sound like I’m unhappy to be back at Green Ronin, and nothing could be further from the truth! But let’s be honest, how often do I get to use an Al Pacino quote? I may not even be the Gamefather, much less the Godfather, but I know a good quote when I steal one!

Fans of Green Ronin as a company may recognize my name from my time as the Freeport/Pathfinder Developer, or my various freelance contributions to d20 game books Green Ronin has been so kind to include me in over the past two decades, but folks who are primarily fans of Fantasy AGE are likely to have no idea who I am, and I’d like to take a chance to introduce myself.

I have just a couple of small AGE credits, dating back to some GM advice of mine that got used in Dragon Age. But to be entirely up-front, my professional expertise has primarily been in things adjacent to D&D and Pathfinder, so taking the role of Fantasy AGE developer takes me into new territory professionally and I’m extremely excited about that.

Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide

I think Fantasy AGE is one of the most dynamic and exciting RPGs to come along in the past decade, and I couldn’t be happier to be involved with its evolution going forward. Jack’s done a tremendous job shepherding from his first involvement with it to this point, and I want to take a moment to thank him for his hard work on the line, which is in great shape as he and I arrange for the hand-off of projects currently underway.

I don’t officially take the reins until October, but Jack and I (and the rest of the awesome Ronins) are already working at making sure things transition smoothly. We’ll have exciting new things to announce eventually, but for now I just wanted to take a moment to introduce myself, and give people time to get used to the news.

Owen K.C. Stephens

September 2019

Threefold: Rivals in the Metacosm

Over a number of Threefold articles, we looked at the Sodality, who explore this Modern AGE setting’s countless planes, and Aethon, who deal with threats to the progress of Earth’s history. These groups are especially suitable for Player Characters but aren’t the only possibilities. More to the point, they don’t operate without opposition. While potential adversary groups can come in many sizes, today we’ll look at rivals who rule great clusters of planes: the tyrannical Divine Empire, and the warlike Nighthost.

The Nighthost gathers. Composed of many peoples, the Nighthost discriminates only on the basis of martial strength, and unites to liberate Netherworlds, and conquer Otherworlds.

The Divine Empire

At the end of the great Fellwar for the Metacosm’s souls, most of the Hierarchs, gods who’d instigated the war, went into exile, while mortal survivors founded the Vitane, an interplanar government. Many members of the Vitane were Optimates: half mortal children of the Hierarchs, akin to demigods and legendary heroes. Under the old order they were used to privileges and formed the Imperial Party to argue for their renewal. Meeting with little success within the Vitane, Dyraza, a thunder and sky Optimate and leader of the Imperial Party, masterminded coups on over a dozen planes, declaring herself the Empress of the new Divine Empire. Under her direction, the Empire built an Optimate aristocracy of Prefects, a ruling council called the Pantheon, a Curia of worshipful mortals, and other institutions over 199 years of rule. This period of rapid expansion was significantly slowed by her death. In apparent retribution for campaigns ranging into the Netherworlds, Dyraza was assassinated by Avakim, Alastor Lord of Dust, in an incursion into the Empire’s capital plane of Alatum.

Now entrenched by the following centuries, Divine Empire is ruled with an iron hand by Optimate aristocrats. These include the planar Dominii who populate the Pantheon, and regional Prefects and Subprefects. The Empire demands mortal worship of the Optimates and their Emanate ancestors. This is overseen by the Curia, an assembly of priests and anointed arcanists. Where they fail to sway the commoners, a vast network of spies informs the authorities of disloyalty and intimidates everyone they might report for impiety or treason. The mass of mortal commoners is divided among true believers who tolerate their inferior position in the Empire, and small revolutionary cells. The Sodality is often assumed to support an anti-Imperial insurgency, but few are can verify or deny these allegations.

The Nighthost

Born to fight and blooded in the endless battles of the Fellwar, the predecessors of the Nighthost were the terror of the planes. As the Fellwar ended, many Netherworld warriors fled their masters, conquered Otherworlds, and founded an alliance of warlords and mercenaries ruled by thanes who can only be overthrown by sufficiently honorable challengers. As the Nighthost, these rebels founded a new home plane. This is the Fetter, a liberated Netherworld, where they built tribes, cities, and nations under the leadership of the Unchallenged, elders renowned for their deeds. Some say the Nighthost is secretly ruled their old demonic gods, who are marshaling their forces for a final war. But as their forbears were twisted and tormented by these Alastors, the Nighthost bears no love for their ancestral masters. Their ethos is founded in freedom through strength.

The Nighthost has never forgotten how in the aftermath of the Fellwar, the Otherworlds’ inhabitants branded their kind beasts, monsters, and craven slaves of horrific gods. Former soldiers of the Alastors were outcasts on nearly every plane. Only the Nighthost accepted and trusted them. And once given, trust should never be betrayed. To a warrior of the Nighthost, honor is everything, instilled from the moment of birth to their dying breath. Therefore, even as their armies conquer plane after plane and install thanes to rule the defeated natives, they moderate their cruelty with an ethos that grants power to the deserving.

Sodality members most often encounter the Nighthost’s warbands: small groups of soldiers who fill the same strategic niche as the Sodality’s Missions. Warbands have primarily military aims but are neither ignorant nor aimlessly violent. Their members are often as learned and clever as their Sodality counterparts.

Speculative Fantasy?

Oh right! Last time I said I’d talk about that. Well, I changed my mind; it’s coming next time. You can preorder Threefold now with the PDF add-on or get it in PDF to read about the concept in detail yourself or wait for its street date: September 3rd!

Getting Started with Threefold

Threefold, which premiered at Gen Con and hits stores September 3, is a new setting for Modern AGE, allowing characters to explore numerous worlds connected to science, magic, and psychic forces.  It’s very, very big—one universe isn’t enough to contain it! Reviewer Jeremiah McCoy says it feels like a TV show with ten seasons of lore. This is intentional. I didn’t develop this to be a diversion, but a setting even an experienced gaming group could hang the majority of their play on for years. Talking about it, I called it a return to “Big Setting,” like those from 25 years ago and more which offer deep immersion and a variety of stories.

But this begs the question: Where do you begin? Fortunately, Threefold itself provides answers in its text. I want people to play it, after all. Unlike many of the great settings of yesteryear, it isn’t designed to just sit on a shelf.

Earth, Otherworld, Netherworld—each suggests different stories in the wider Metacosm.

Root Factions: The Sodality and Aethon

Chapter 4 of Threefold presents our default focus, split into characters from the Sodality, a transplanar agency devoted to exploring the Metacosm and defending its diverse peoples; and Aethon, who protect Earth’s prime timeline (primeline), meddle in the affairs of alternate worlds, and often accompany Sodality characters.

The Sodality received slightly greater support for play, as it’s integrated into the Vitane’s government of many planes, and characters’ service branches—Emissary, Protector, and Searcher, suggest the social, action, and exploration aspects that define Modern AGE itself. Characters follow the Vows of the organization, and supervisors called Magisters supply them with orders and goals. This makes a Sodality focused game the easiest one when you want to explore the broad setting.

Aethon suits a more conservative approach to the setting. Aethon characters have supervision and objectives to keep them focused, but primarily operate in Earth’s primeline or, using devices called quantum arks, in alternate worlds. They protect Earth from the dangers of alien planes, as well as homegrown sorcerers, psychics, renegade scientists, and miscellaneous strangeness. Aethon is the way to go when you want to gradually reveal the setting. Characters can eventually visit other planes working alongside Sodality members, or on clandestine missions such allies might not approve of.

While these factions are the easiest to start with, nothing in Threefold demands you stick to them. If you want to play Krypteia gangsters or Nighthost warriors, go for it! The Sodality and Aethon are the most approachable options, but not the only ones.

Picking Your Planes

Another way to narrow your focus is to look at different slices of the Metacosm, and decide what sort of worlds you want characters to visit. Threefold is designed to give each of the three major types of planes a default genre. Otherworlds suit classic fantasy adventure, where magic saturates the land. Netherworlds are keyed to dark fantasy and horror. Earth and its parallels lead to stories about the Singularity, transhumanism, and even time travel. Limiting your initial explorations to one of these types of planes can help focus the game. It’s also perfectly possible to run entire adventures, and even campaigns, without stepping through a single gate. This is best supported on Earth, where psychic guilds, rogue scientists, warlocks, and AI-directed criminals provide numerous challenges, but surviving a single Netherworld, or exploring one Otherworld, can occupy players for some time.

Speculative Fantasy

Beyond the core factions and planes, Threefold bases its default play style on “speculative fantasy”—that is, fantasy stories using the story patterns of classic science fiction. Next time around, we’ll talk about that. Until then, remember that while any story is possible, your story, and the focus you give the setting, is paramount, and will define your version of Threefold.

Threefold’s Aethon: Working for the Righteous Machines

For the last two weeks I’ve written about Threefold’s Sodality (Part 1 | Part 2), one of the two leading factions for Player Characters in this new Modern AGE setting. The Sodality’s focus is outward, across numerous Otherworlds. Earth is a matter for its allies in a secret global state, the Peridexion. And of the Peridexion’s five divisions, one deals in words, blades and data flows to protect Earth’s primeline. That’s Aethon.

Aethon’s current symbol, fitting its name, which comes from the eagle that tortures Prometheus daily. Imposing consequences for rash innovations is part of Aethon’s mandate.

Aethon Operations

While the majority of Aethon’s operations are limited to Earth and dealing with threats to the worldlines, coordination with the Vitane is common. Operants (fully initiated agents) often travel the planes alongside Sodality Missions. When Aethon acts alone, however, Earth’s Alts—parallel worlds—are the most frequent exotic destinations, if a team must leave the “real world,” or primeline. Operant teams form Sections: a thousand groups given three-digit designations and occasionally, informal names, such as the augmented shock troops of Team Bear. On Earth or another worldline (accessible via standard quantum ark, a vehicle which is also a definitely computable object reprocessed into its target reality via esoteric mathematics), Sections perform the following missions:

  • Commit: Once properly analyzed, Sections impose desired changes on the status quo, altering the politics, technologies and other critical factors of a worldline, including the primeline.
  • Fork: With the aid of insights from Aethon’s patron, Section operants set specific actions in motion to create branch timelines.
  • Monitor: The most common mission involves keeping watch over the various aspects of Earth.
  • Push/Pull: Defending worldlines against unauthorized change is a task divided into pushing away extraplanar threats such as incursions from the Nighthost, or pulling Earth-based problems, from rogue scientists to warlocks, out of the equation.
  • Delete: For reasons barely understood by Aethon, the transcendental intelligences that rule it sometimes demand the deletion of an alternate universe, typically accomplished by eradicating sapient life on its Earth. The worldlines are gardens, and one must weed.

Such missions may lead to detours to other planes, contending with unauthorized supernatural forces, and avoiding alternate-universe instances of Aethon itself.

Aethon Personnel

Section operants (so named as an indication of how they’re handled) are the epitome of Earth’s potential: highly trained and gifted experts further augmented by swappable posthuman enhancements. These somatic and noetic technologies run the gamut from combat capable artificial limbs to altering probability by remodeling the mathematical substrate of reality. Operant gear ranges from slightly improved ordinary equipment to the reconfigurable MAW weapon system, Panoply-class powered armor, and cantors: cannisters of cloned psychic brain tissue imprinted with a bias toward science, which helps stabilize natural laws in planes where they operate more loosely.

Below the Sections, the Pool provides a steady stream of temporary agents and informants, many of whom don’t know who they work for. Above them, Management interfaces directly with the directors of Aethon and the Peridexion as a whole: the Machinors.

Aethon Leadership

It calls itself Lucifer, but the leader of the Peridexion uses many names and faces, communicating through any electronic devices—and even other machines, sometimes—to command it as the head of a council of six supremely intelligent AIs. Such beings are called Machinors, and not all help Aethon. In fact, a rival cabal, including an uncreated future intelligence interacting with the past, guide the Krypteia, an interplanar criminal conspiracy. In fact, it isn’t exactly certain that the Machinors are really AIs at all but appear this way as contemporary personifications of ordered knowledge. Aethon serves the Peridexion, which honors these six. Loyal subordinates point to the numerous occasions these instructions have saved Earth from catastrophe, but are the world’s other problems signs of flaws, subtle enemy action, or a plan that might leave humanity itself behind?

Aethon and the Sodality

The bond between Aethon and the Sodality dates to the end of the Fellwar, when the Machinors helped refugees from the Otherworlds but an end to it. Earth is said to be the seat of natural laws across the Metacosm, and sacred for it, and even in prehistory, its guiding figures wishes it to remain autonomous. As the Peridexion rose, it negotiated a number of treaties, such as those allowing people with extraordinary gifts and origins—arcanists, arvu, and others—the right to maintain secret communities on Earth. Aethon and the Sodality eventually developed a framework for lending agents and forming common teams, typically in the form of Aethon members joining Sodality Missions.

Through the Gate beyond Gen Con

Threefold is available to pre-order now in our online store, and will start showing up in retail gaming shops in early Sept. Until then, take a look at this preview about primeline Earth (with flashes of other planes on each side to tantalize you)—and see you through the gate.