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.

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.