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.

 

 

Pre-Order and PDF: Threefold and Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide

It’s the first day of Gen Con, and visitors to Booth 929 are finding our latest releases and advance copies of our upcoming books for sale. But even if you’re not at Gen Con, you can get in on the fun, too! When you pre-order Threefold and the Mutants & Masterminds Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide through our Green Ronin Online Store, you’ll be offered the PDF version for just $5! If you prefer to spend your money at your local store, make sure they know about our GR Preorder Plus program. If they sign up, you can get a coupon for the same $5 PDF deal through them!

Prepare for Gen Con 2019: A Green Ronin Guide

It’s almost time for the Best Four Days in Gaming and the first sign of the end of summer, and we’re scrambling to see what new games we’ll be playing in September – but we couldn’t find anything! Every year tons of new games being released at Gen Con, or at least that’s how it’s been in the past, so we figured we’d give you a quick run down of what Green Ronin has to offer that’s new this year – each of these will be available in limited quantities at booth 929, and released later into your friendly local game store!

Also, be sure to check out our seminars and scheduled games!

Mutants & Masterminds Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide

The first is the new Mutants & Masterminds Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide. The original third edition Gamemaster’s Guide has been out of print for a while now, and the Deluxe guide is a hardcover version with 32-pages of brand-new material and is the best resource for new GMs right after the Deluxe Hero’s Handbook or Basic Hero’s Handbook.

Crystal Frasier had a look at the table of contents and even free preview PDF of a new archetype in Bigger. Stronger. Better. The Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide

If you’re not at Gen Con 2019 you can Deluxe your Gamemastering skills on September 10th.

Mutants & Masterminds Superteam Handbook

We also have the new Mutants & Masterminds Superteam Handbook which brings the focus on super teams. This book includes eight pre-made super teams with details and rules for both players and gamemasters to add more team dynamics to your game. This has been a long-awaited addition to the Mutants & Masterminds game – and retailers will have it on August 6th through their preferred distributors.

If you’re looking for more information about Superteam Handbook you can check out what SuperDev Crystal has to say about it in these links;

Fantasy AGE Campaign Builders Guide

Fantasy AGE has come a long way since its release, and now we’re proud to bring the Fantasy AGE Campaign Builders Guide! Whether you’re looking to make your own fantasy pantheon, advice on interesting locations, how to make effective of entertaining encounters, this book has advice, mechanics, and examples that are ready to plop into your game! 

This will be available in retail on August 20th. Jack Norris has more to say about what to expect in his blog posts

Threefold: A Campaign Setting for Modern AGE

Last year we released Modern AGE Basic Rulebook and seen lots of feedback and released supplements including the successful Modern AGE Companion which we sold out of in the first two days at Origins earlier this year. Now we’re releasing the original setting Threefold, a full campaign setting with secret organizations, multiple worlds, and the ability to change your setting and theme while maintaining the same tone and characters. Threefold aims to be the flagship setting for Modern AGE going forward and will have plenty of books in the future.

Threefold will be available in distribution September 3rd. Does that sound up your alley? Malcolm can tell you all about what to expect in his original setting in these past Roundtables;

Nisaba Press: Height of the Storm – A Mutants & Masterminds novel

Height of the Storm: The first Mutants & Masterminds novel, by Aaron Rosenberg!!Height of the Storm is the tale of a young woman who takes over her grandfather’s role as the protector of her town, working with his old rival to learn to harness the powers she so recently discovered. But not all enemies are as evil as they may seem, and Lindsay finds herself weighing the safety of the city against the redemption of a man caught in events out of his control.

Just check out what Nisaba Press line manager, Jaym Gates had to say about the book, in Nisaba Press Update Height of the Storm

2019 is shaping up to be quite the exciting year for us and Gen Con will be a blast! Keep your eyes locked here during the convention for a special announcement. If you’re at the show, swing by and grab your new favorite book and meet the team.

Through All Doors: Threefold’s Sodality, Part 2

Last time in this series I introduced you to the Sodality: Threefold’s faction of planar explorers, diplomats and defenders of the right (at least by the standards of the Vitane transplanar alliance). The Sodality are one of two factions Threefold emphasizes as suitable for Player Characters, though it’s perfectly possible to run a game with protagonists from other groups. This time, I’ll talk a bit more about their recruitment and operations.

When the Emissary’s words fail and the Protector’s swords break, it’s up to the Explorer to find her Mission a way out.

Joining the Sodality

Most applicants for membership are citizens of the Vitane, of course, since one needs to both know of the Sodality and have access to apply in the first place. Still, recruits from other civilizations are not barred. In these cases, the potential recruit may be unaware of the greater nature of the planes or even the existence of the Vitane or the Sodality If they handle the truth well, a formal offer is made for them to join. On occasion, the Sodality has even found it effective to recruit people who learn about the organization by accident. Before a recruit is formally accepted, they must undergo a series of tests referred to as “the exams.” Some are fairly mundane written or oral tests, or physical trials meant to measure the subject’s physical skills, such as sparring matches or athletic contests. Other parts can be quite esoteric, involving arcane illusions and psychic scans, including psychodramas where applicants encounter their worst fears.

Passing the exams qualified recruits to enter the Academy, an island school in the Staghorn Sea on Vigrith. Training time varies, and training is tailored to the recruit while covering the essentials: the nature of the planes, how to unlock nascent soul talents, diplomacy, tactics, and the ethos of the Vows, which bind Sodalts to defend the defenseless, attempt peaceful contact with civilizations, respect the value of life, and avoid infringing the freedoms of others. Mastering the skills of the various branches may lead to extreme abilities, such as an expanded understanding of Shabda, strengthened intuition, and an understanding of Vidyavira, the “universal language” of violence that supersedes all martial arts. Yet on many occasions, the Sodality values perspective as much as skill, and do not require these specializations in order to take the field.

Once properly trained, a Sodalt joins a Mission under the direction of a magister, who coordinates that group’s efforts with others.

Sodality Missions and Operations

Rendered with a capital M, a Mission is the standard Sodality operation unit: a handful of Sodalts with complimentary background working under a magister on various assignments. Well-integrated Missions eventually give themselves a name and a visual symbol; until then they’re often known by the name of the supervising manager (“Brionne’s Fifth,” for example).

Sodality Missions take on a wide range of operations. First, each Mission has one or more wide-ranging standing orders which the Mission, with the occasional help of their magister, interprets to create their own operations and goals. Examples of such orders include:

  • Counter Praetorian activities on frontier planes.
  • Discover new civilizations.
  • Explore the planes of the Pazunian Chain.
  • Learn the nature of the Thresholders.
  • Protect endangered species.

Specific assignments, as granted by magisters, supplement these general orders. Some Missions are in frequent contact with their magisters, while others must range far from the known planes, and only check in infrequently.

Sodality Ranks

The following ranks exist in the Sodality.

Associate: Associate isn’t technically a Sodality rank at all, but an informal status assigned to non-Sodalts who assist the organization on occasion. Associates are sometimes called upon as “mission specialists” for particular situations where their skills or abilities are useful. Associate status is also commonly used at a magister’s discretion to try out potential recruits to see if they would be a good fit for the Sodality.

Pleb: Pleb is the common nickname for a student of the Academy, in between their status as a civilian or associate and a full member of the Sodality. Plebs are occasionally assigned to work with Missions as part of their education, although the Academy does not often put plebs into the field until they have proven themselves.

Neophyte: Neophyte refers to a new Sodalt, particularly one on probationary duty following graduation or induction.

Viator: Viator is the operational rank of anyone operating as part of a Mission, though most active duty members are addressed simply as “Sodalt,” saving the formal rank for special occasions. Viators within the same Mission do not “outrank” one another, and Mission leadership is decided by consensus or the assignment of the magister for the duration of a particular operation.

Warden: Warden is a particularly trusted Sodality rank, where a Sodalt is permitted to move between worlds freely at their own discretion. Some refer to warden rank as “wanderer” or “unattached” status, able to function more independently, although wardens are still assigned and report to a magister.

Beyond wardens, the Sodality is managed by magisters, monitors and at the very top, the Council of Intendants, headquartered in Cardinal House on Vigrith. These lofty ranks typically belong to supervisors, not front-line heroes, though individuals who hold them tend to be extremely competent.

And Aethon

The Sodality often conducts joint operations with Aethon, the security agency of Earth’s secret government, the Peridexion. We’ll talk about what these transhuman operatives do next time around.

Trust in the Scarab: Threefold’s Sodality, Part 1

“What do characters do, exactly?” To be honest, I have always had mixed feelings about the core story concept in roleplaying games. Many new games are a tad narrow in focus, with excessively defined goals, at least for my tastes, especially when one of the things I love about RPGs are their looser objectives. Threefold fits this ethos in that the setting is enormous, but it presents a bunch of different story levers to pull. It has a few key themes, but you’re supposed to develop your own reactions to them. The book is a conversation we’re having with you, not a set of dictums.

(What is Threefold? Do try to keep up—it’s the new setting for Modern AGE, coming this Gen Con!)

Scarabs can be willed to change size. This one (a Searcher branch scarab) is small for easy or clandestine handling.

However, you have to start somewhere, so Threefold focuses on characters who belong to two factions: The Sodality and Aethon. The Sodality is the bigger partner, so I’ll start with it, and how it focuses characters on certain types of stories.

The Sodality’s Agenda

Ex infinito, intelligentia (“From infinity, intelligence”) is the Latin translation of the Sodality’s motto, rendered in formal Shabda and often perceived as Latin by those who know both it and the all-language. An agency of the Vitane’s interplanar democracy, it engages in exploration, understanding, diplomacy, and—when necessary—intervention, hoping to improve the fortunes of all soul-bearing beings. Its goals are described as “security, sovereignty, and sapience.”

  • Security: The Sodality exists to protect the Vitane and to further its growth and development as a civilization.
  • Sovereignty: Following the Vitane Code of Wisdom, the Sodality respects the rights of civilizations to govern themselves and control their own development.
  • Sapience: Lastly, the Sodality exists to explore, learn, and establish understanding and goodwill among all thinking beings.

Sodality Organization

Missions make up the core of the Sodality. These are small, dedicated teams of three to six Sodalts (as they’re called, individually) and allies who are given a general mandate to interpret as they see fit within the bounds of the Vows, and specific orders when required. The Sodality prefers to staff Missions with at least one Sodalt from each branch, though this is not always possible. The three branches parallel the organization’s goals.

  • The Emissary Branch deals with people, which is a particularly broad group where the Vitane is concerned. Emissaries are trained as negotiators and diplomats, but also understand espionage and how to guard against it.
  • The Protector Branch looks after the safety and security of the Mission, and the Sodality and the Vitane in general. Protectors are trained in security, strategy, and tactics.
  • The Searcher Branch is a group of scholars, scientists, technicians, and explorers who study the nature of the planes, map out their relationships and the routes between them, and delve into the arcane and the occult.

Tools of the Sodality

A Sodalt’s signature accoutrement is their scarab. This gem and metal badge identifies the wearer as a member of the organization, with colors indicating division: amethyst and gold for Emissaries, garnet and silver for Protectors, and emerald and bronze for Searchers. Beyond acting as identification, a scarab has several magical functions. It acts as a communications device, stores magical energy (important on Earth, where kanna, the power of magic, is hard to recharge), sheds light, and provides some protection from the elements.

A complimentary standard issue item, the Shabda Plaque, is a white sheet of stone that says “THE BEARER IS AUTHORIZED” or something similar in Shabda, the universal language. This carries an enchantment where weak and average wills see the proper credentials to enter crime scenes, back rooms, or do anything required, though it doesn’t work on better-trained individuals.

Missions use these and other assigned tools on a variety of operations. They explore the planes, negotiate treaties, keep the peace, and above all, adhere to the Vows, an internal code of honor that, despite disparagement from their enemies, mostly functions to keep the Sodality focused on keeping the peace. Next time around, I’ll talk about the Sodality’s organization some more, from supervising Magisters to itinerant Wardens. Until then, trust in the scarab. The person wearing one is thinking of your best interests.

Threefold: 10 Weird Things in the Metacosm

Hey, I knew I was going to have to toss a listicle in this series of articles about Threefold, our new, original Modern AGE setting, but better to get it out of the way now instead of leaving it for the dregs, right? If you’ve been following along, you know Threefold takes place in the Metacosm, which includes myriad planes of existence, from fantasy lands to alternate Earths, connected by gates. There’s a lot of room for weirdness. Here are ten examples.

Self Pork. Not just good, but good for you. Headless clones only, guaranteed!

Cantor

A life support cannister containing the cloned brain tissue of a mystic who has recited poetry and prose praising science and technology. A properly deployed Cantor mitigates the effects of Incessance, a phenomenon that makes high technology less reliable on certain planes.

Deletion

Erasing an alternate timeline by destroying all intelligent life and sealing it off. One of the duties of Aethon, prime Earth’s transhuman intelligence agency, though they’re not always sure why they have to do it.

Engrammatry

A new discipline in science and engineering in the Haqida Technocratic Republic, a pan-Mediterranean state in an alternate Earth where the Abbasid Caliphate persisted and spawned even more influential successor states. Engrammatry creates physical phenomena through pure computation—reality out of math.

Immortal Crowns: Lands of Wartorn

A fully immersive MMO that allows players to inhabit synthetic “heroes” called Wayknights in the Otherworld of Wartorn. Astrally projected instructions from the player’s rig control their Wayknights, which are themselves relics of a lost civilization. Many normal people also live on Wartorn and fear the bloodthirsty Wayknights.

Krypt

A digital-psychic cryptocurrency rendered unhackable due to a causal interaction with the Titan Core, a future transcendental AI. A Krypt must sync with a physical component, such as a coin or tattoo (the latter has made the skins of certain individuals extremely valuable). The primary currency of the Krypteia, a multiplanar crime syndicate.

Self Pork

A gray market medical foodstuff made of the purchaser’s cloned tissue, prepared as jerky and given a little engineering along the way. Eating self pork made of…well, yourself…instigates rapid healing. The most trusted brand, Choppy, is named for its mascot, who’s got no head and two thumbs up.

Shabda

The universal language, known to wandersouls, those individuals capable of easily perceiving transplanar gates. When one knows Shabda, most languages are translated into and perceived as one’s first language, with occasional unusual nuances, such as posh aliens acquiring comparably posh British accents.

Sky Naga

Creatures who live in floating cloud lairs on the Otherworld of Brylancie. Their aerial battles are responsible for all weather and atmospheric phenomena, so local humans try to appease them by leaving fresh meat out for them at night. Brylancie’s moons are sky naga eggs; their numbers change every few decades. Fallen moon shell fragments are worth their weight in gold.

Shattersouls

Agents of Aethon capable of attuning themselves to their alters, or alternate timeline selves. Shattersouls are valued as deep cover operatives, as they are able to intuit the ways in which a given Earth deviates from the primeline. However, shattersouls are “spread thin,” psychically speaking, and this lowers their resistance to possession and sometimes transfers traumatic memories from alters.

Soulgun

An enchanted firearm capable of sustaining a Relationship (as per Modern AGE) with the user, though this makes said users seem somewhat remote when it comes to dealing with people. Soulguns are particularly favored by arcannoneers, who master channelling magical energy through these and other firearms.

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!

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.

 

 

Introduction

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.

And?

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.

 

Modern Monday: The Companion and Beyond

Last time I was here I gave you a rundown of the Modern AGE Companion, currently at press and available for preorder or just PDF (in our store or at DrivethruRPG). Some of you were surprised our fourth Modern AGE release was already here, but believe me, we’re just getting started.

The world and the game are both bigger than you think.

Using the Modern AGE Companion

My last post provided a rundown of the Modern AGE Companion’s contents. It’s a big book of optional rules, and Modern AGE will generally not assume you have the book when it comes to understanding others down the line, though we may use some of its principles for “back end” design guidance. Thus, a power in a new book might be consistent with the Companion’s rules for extraordinary abilities, but you won’t need both books to understand it.

Some rules in the Companion are integrated with each other (such as the connection between the Demolitions Training talent and the new rules for, uh, demolitions) but in most cases, options exist to disconnect them. Incidentally, here’s a preview of the new rules for blowing things up.

Get a taste of Threefold on June 15th for Free RPG Day.

Burning Brighter on Free RPG Day

Next up, Modern AGE represents on Free RPG Day, with a Quickstart in the new Threefold setting, presenting the adventure Burning Brighter. Think of the old Quickstart as a prototype; this one sends characters across multiple strange worlds, to contend with transdimensional mobsters, the demonic invaders of a subterranean realm, and an unhinged clone—and the baby griffon’s still there, too.

The Threefold Quickstart drops on Saturday June 15 and will be available from participating retailers. While Green Ronin will be at Origins Game Fair this release is a retailer exclusive, so you won’t find it at our booth. However, I would be happy to see any you acquire that you see fit to bring by. I’ll be at the convention all week and would love to see it!

Open the Gates to Threefold in Q3

Threefold is the first original in-house Adventure Game Engine setting since the re-release of Blue Rose for the system. Unlike Blue Rose, which is an entire game, Threefold is a supplement to the Modern AGE core, similar to our licensed setting, World of Lazarus.

Threefold is big.

By “big,” I mean expansive in its ambitions, structure and possibilities for play. I wanted a setting where you could play virtually any character type in any genre, with the three “poles” being transhumanist SF, young-adult style fantasy, and dark fantasy, bound together by the concept of “speculative fantasy,” where weird things have rational underpinnings, and provide dilemmas that can be solved with a mix of clear thinking and idealism. I outlined Threefold as the kind of setting that might last through 20 years and 100 support products, and while I don’t expect that, you don’t get its spirit without wanting that.

“Big” expresses itself in the setting’s worlds—plural. Threefold is a setting of interdimensional travel through alternate Earths, fantasy lands, flame-tossed underworlds, and places that defy easy categories. Connected by gates, the countless planes are more than a mix of possibilities. Transplanar empires commanded by demigods, liberated members of the armies of the damned, and idealistic mystics struggle with each other, while enhanced operatives on Earth “hold the fort,” manipulate alternate histories, and deal with bizarre problems in their own backyards.

I want to tell you more, about the Sodality’s vows, the scarab badges members carry, and the conflict between the AI Lucifer and the counterparts who control organized crime, trading in things like souls and magic swords. But I have to let it drip out slowly. Get the Quickstart for Free RPG Day for more—for now. The hardcover is currently in art and layout, and due for release in the 3rd quarter of this year.

Encounter Enemies & Allies in Q4

Enemies & Allies is a book of strange creatures, useful Non-Player Characters, and optional rules to fit your game to their implied genres. The entries in this book cover modern fantasy, horror, technothrillers, crimes dramas, and near future or secret world science fiction. An appendix rounds things out with options to build creatures and NPCs from scratch, along with guidelines for converting creatures from other Adventure Game Engine games, such as the book’s Fantasy AGE counterpart, the Fantasy AGE Bestiary.

Enemies and Allies is fully written, in pre-production, and scheduled for release at the end of this year.

Get the Word Out

So, this is what’s coming, and when—at least, in terms of things I can talk about. I’ve talked about these books before, but sometimes people miss these messages and default to what they imagine might be happening. I develop most of Modern AGE’s books and follow each of them from conception to publication. I know what’s happening. So, if people are wondering what’s happening with the game, tell them what I’ve told you—or share this article.