Campaign Overview

Quest for the lost city of Empyrea in Frank Mentzer's Aquaria Setting.
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Campaign Overview

Postby ExTSR » Fri Sep 27, 2013 4:41 pm

Backstory:

In the course of Project Cetus (during Old Earth's 3rd millenium), Star Tau of the constellation of the whale produced two suitable planets. Ceti Tau 3 was colonized, and they named it Poseidon. But the 4th planet was home to life; its indigenous specie called it "Oerth". Due to philological roots, some believe it to have been settled by an earlier, unknown history of the original planet... perhaps the fabled Atlantis.

When the Interregnum hit, Poseidon was left to sink or thrive on its own, unable to even visit their sister planet Oerth. But travelers from Oerth found THEM, using TransTek -- resources beyond Technology, unknown in Terran space -- which the Oeridians calmly described as 'magic'. (The source turned out to be the power differential at interplanar boundaries, but that wasn't discovered until Terra reawakened many years later.)

Decades passed. Terra slowly rebuilt their civilization. Poseidon survived, barely... with the help of their 'teleporting' friends from the neighboring planet, who taught them the Old Ways that transcend the hubris of mortal Tek. But then the ship arrived, after slowly crawling the 70 trillion miles (as faster-than-light drives proved, sadly, to be pure fiction), and Poseidon's ties to Old Earth were reawakened.

Decades continued to march by. Trans-Tek was deemed a possible Threat, and Oerth was placed under temporary Terran embargo while its cultures were discreetly examined. But another player -- the Centurians, who did not heed the wishes of man's homeland -- continued their activities in the system, though more covertly. Their Oerth base remains isolated from the aboriginal cultures, the settlers finding their way in this new land of gods and magic...

Oceans away from the Centurian base, the hoomans of Oerth's primary civilized continent were headed for war. This prompted many of their offshoot races -- mostly olve and niz -- to migrate eastward across the great ocean, fleeing the devastation of hooman conflict. When they reached a new continent, they found their kinsmen had preceded them by centuries. And decades later, after the hoomans' wrath subsided, they came as well... pretending that it was they who had 'discovered' the place.


And thus we encounter the three phases of gaming in the Aquarian campaign, each lasting about a century:

1. Colonial: The coast is partially settled, life is primitive, magic is very rare; the realm spreads inland.

2. Empyreal: The age of Empyrea begins, with a new capital ruling most of a continent. Magic becomes common.

3. Evanescent: The capital Empyrea (2,000 square miles) is besieged by evil armies and suddenly vanishes. Its return is prophesied; many heed the call. Magic is ubiquitous, powerful, and dangerous.

(4. Aftermath: Either Empyrea returns and the realm rebuilds... OR the only chance is lost, and a new leadership emerges. You make the difference!)

Three campaigns in one... and the ultimate Quest of the Seven if you choose.
Seven castles, 7 princes, 7 Keys, and 7 heroes to save the world as you know it... or reject it and start over.


So that's the story of the land east of the Solnor.
Should Empyrea be rescued?
Its fate, and that of the Land, is in your hands.
Are you up to the challenge?

F

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Re: Campaign Overview

Postby ripvanwormer » Sat Sep 28, 2013 3:19 pm

This is very interesting. Am I right in assuming Poseidon is a mostly oceanic planet? I mean, moreso than our Earth. Are the Centurians of human descent? Or are these campaign secrets you intend on keeping close to your chest for now?
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Re: Campaign Overview

Postby ExTSR » Sat Sep 28, 2013 3:54 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:This is very interesting. Am I right in assuming Poseidon is a mostly oceanic planet?
Terra has an ocean. Poseidon has an ocean. Aquaculture proved more immediately fruitful to the colony than land-based agricultural hunting/gathering, and the (historically romantic) locals got the privilege to name it.

Are the Centurians of human descent?
Quite. The Terran post-interregnum regrowth produced expeditions to several 'nearby' stars (see expanded notes below).

are these campaign secrets you intend on keeping close to your chest for now?
Nah. The collision of hard SF and high Fantasy is characteristic of the entire campaign. It also produces the core Theme of the whole thing: choose sides, man/mortal creations (Tek) and gods/magic. Turns out these things are incompatible; the capacity for Belief in any sentient being is finite. Belief invested in mortals is Belief not invested in immortals, who depend on it for survival. You can't have both; choose!


On the Rebirth of Terra ("Third Age")

The expansion of man during the post-interregnum millennium can be summarized in four stages: exploration, colonization, empire, and interregnum. (For stage 3, the term “empire” is used very loosely, as interplanetary commerce blossomed but no political hegemony arose. Also see Spenglerian Cyclical History.) Technology supplied the equipment for the expansion, but the commercial and industrial infrastructure necessary to maintain the devices was exclusively the province of old Earth. That was kept as insurance, to remind all the known worlds of the dominance of their predecessor.

Earth’s inevitable loss of control over colonial outposts was a direct result of the immense distances involved. Travel to a single colony could take decades, and though lifespans were increased by technology from the shocking two-digit averages of the old 20thC to a more satisfactory range of 200-300 years (with the usual statistical anomalies running up to double normal), few chose to squander irreplaceable years on travel; there were easier ways to accumulate assets. The colonies thus lost contact with their homeworld, sooner or later, and were left to conduct their own solitary experiments in government and society.

***

The known colonies can be listed, of course. However, many of the larger ones sent out settlers of their own, founding secondary and tertiary colonial outposts with very little contact with other planets. The first bases were in Centauri, Earth’s sister star – a mere 4.3 lites from earth – and regular runs to the southern cross became commonplace, within a few centuries. The second wave of ships, departing even before Centauri was a proven site, headed along two vectors: the “dog walkers” toward Canis Major & Minor, to first visit Sirius (a blue-white “A” class star, much younger than Sol) and, assuming a lack of suitable planets there, to continue onward to the Procyon (11.3 lites from earth), which boasted features much like those of the home system.

The second vector, the Whalers, aimed at another neighborly pair of stars: Epsilon Eridani, in Eridanus the River (10.8 lites) and Tau Ceti (11.8 lites), in Cetus the whale: the former an aging K-class version of Sol and the latter another promising sister (G class). The third and final wave of colonists headed for two loners: at Cygnus, to 61 Cygni (a K-type doublet with a white dwarf) and toward Epsilon Indi, another K-type in the constellation of the Indian, near the “southern birds” (Grus the crane, Phoenix, Pavo, and Tucana).

Alpha Centauri was a known triplet, with the orbits of its Sol-type main star (G0) and K-type partner swiveling around a nearby dwarf. Planets abounded, and several were habitable. Many changes were wrought by the odd configuration of the suns, and seasonal effects rendered some locations unusable, occasionally in tragedy. Nevertheless, primarily by the singular virtue of its proximity to earth, the Centaurians (not their own name for themselves) became the largest and most successful of the colonies.

The Sirius/Procyon venture turned out almost exactly as planned. The planets around the closer star were apparently lifeless, still baking in the young cosmological oven; but two planets around Procyon were habitable, as were two satellites of the outer giants, mirroring the home system quite satisfactorily. Years later, Eridani turned up a puzzling miss – fewer planets than expected, and only one suitable planet – and Tau Ceti offered only two potential colonies. Both Cygnus and Indi were successful, however, and the core colonies began.

These new branches of the tree of mankind were located in many different directions from Earth. Most were toward the galactic center (so distant as to be irrelevant to these travels, merely a photogenic backdrop) or at least within the ecliptic and heading toward the great whirlpool in which, many hoped, some form of galactic civilization might lurk and one day make contact with mankind. The only travelers to head elsewhere were the Whalers, heading out to where stars were somewhat fewer, though of course not into the depths of intergalactic space… further out the same galactic arm that was home to old Sol. (The difference in galactic location has led to the initial hypothesis explaining the emergence of TransTek, aka 'magic', the power source of which is believed to lie in the nature of multiversal existence and the obvious power differential at planar interfaces.)

F
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Re: Campaign Overview

Postby Havard » Sun Sep 29, 2013 9:29 pm

Very interesting!

Finally a lot of things are beginning to fall into place with my understanding of the Aquaria Campaign. It is interesting that several of the early day campaigns seem to be built around a sci fi framework. However, one thing I like about Aquaria is that this theme seems like it is more up in the day with Tek being somewhat available at least through discovery.

The Centaurans fascinate me. Though they are of earth origins the have obviously lived on their colonies for a long time. Have they developed any differences from humans as we know them?

I like the idea of Empyrea's fate being unknown. I am hoping it will return, but through the deeds of player characters. Sounds like something worth fighting for! :)

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Re: Campaign Overview

Postby ExTSR » Sun Sep 29, 2013 11:38 pm

Havard wrote:The Centaurians fascinate me. Though they are of earth origins the have obviously lived on their colonies for a long time. Have they developed any differences from humans as we know them?
The residents of the colonial planets near Alpha Centauri only got there only centuries prior to the 'Whalers', certainly not long enough for evolutionary change. Their major political figures stand united against "Terran interference", and the focused on developing the technological assets to build and maintain their own spacegoing vessels. Tek-wise they will soon pass Terra itself and become a (the?) dominant force in that part of the galaxy. Their jaunts to Tau Ceti are sporadic and unaggressive, merely exploring and expanding the Centaurian influence.... planning ahead for the eventual confrontation (praps a millennium later) with Terra itself.

I like the idea of Empyrea's fate being unknown. I am hoping it will return, but through the deeds of player characters. Sounds like something worth fighting for!
Ah, but would you still feel that way if (as happens in the course of the campaign) you discover that the ruling family (the Aspermans) is already corrupted by Tek, believing that a compromise is best (some Tek, some magic), and -- if returned to power -- will eventually force the immortals to intervene, to preserve Magic itself?

In the Future History (if events are unchanged by character actions), the return of Empyrea leads to "The Day the Stars Changed" (named after the fact) about 260 years later. That's the day when the immortals transplant them all far away from Tek influence... a major Intervention (tho not without precedent, it should be noted, in the annals of the multiverse).

The choice does rest with the heroes... those who either rescue Empyrea or doom it, and whether or not those are PCs. When in the hands of the players, it produces some interesting discussions.

(Again I'll point out that you need not decide to play a world-saver; you can adventure in Aquaria in any of the 3 eras, and it works fine if the epic events unfold entirely separately from your character.)

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Re: Campaign Overview

Postby Big Mac » Mon Sep 30, 2013 12:41 pm

Thanks for this Frank!

I thought this was pretty awesome when I first saw it. I am still trying to take it in.

Jeff Grubb went a slightly different way with his space rules, and I'm wondering what I can do with Aquaria that adapts this awesome stuff to Spelljammer, without loosing any of the spirit of what you wanted to do with it.

ExTSR wrote:(also posted on FB)


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Re: Campaign Overview

Postby Big Mac » Mon Sep 30, 2013 12:45 pm

Havard wrote:Finally a lot of things are beginning to fall into place with my understanding of the Aquaria Campaign. It is interesting that several of the early day campaigns seem to be built around a sci fi framework. However, one thing I like about Aquaria is that this theme seems like it is more up in the day with Tek being somewhat available at least through discovery.


That seems an entirely logical way to do things.

TSR had some science fiction games and bolting them on means that you can just combine two different books for a game.

I do prefer the way that Jeff Grubb made a fantasy version of space, as I find the concept endearing, but science fiction methods mean that you can just grab a real world star map and be good to go.

I've even seen some people suggesting that as technology improves so magic fades from the world (so that the sci-fi universe and the magical universe are two different time periods in the same TSR universe.
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Re: Campaign Overview

Postby Havard » Mon Sep 30, 2013 5:13 pm

ExTSR wrote:
Havard wrote:The Centaurians fascinate me. Though they are of earth origins the have obviously lived on their colonies for a long time. Have they developed any differences from humans as we know them?
The residents of the colonial planets near Alpha Centauri only got there only centuries prior to the 'Whalers', certainly not long enough for evolutionary change. Their major political figures stand united against "Terran interference", and the focused on developing the technological assets to build and maintain their own spacegoing vessels. Tek-wise they will soon pass Terra itself and become a (the?) dominant force in that part of the galaxy. Their jaunts to Tau Ceti are sporadic and unaggressive, merely exploring and expanding the Centaurian influence.... planning ahead for the eventual confrontation (praps a millennium later) with Terra itself.


Pretty interesting. I like the idea of technologically advanced offworlders operating behind the scenes in Aquaria.

I like the idea of Empyrea's fate being unknown. I am hoping it will return, but through the deeds of player characters. Sounds like something worth fighting for!
Ah, but would you still feel that way if (as happens in the course of the campaign) you discover that the ruling family (the Aspermans) is already corrupted by Tek, believing that a compromise is best (some Tek, some magic), and -- if returned to power -- will eventually force the immortals to intervene, to preserve Magic itself?


Well, that does change things. At first I was getting a sense of the lost Empyrea as a kind of parallell to the Once and Future King from Arthurian Myths. Of course, could it be that the Aspermans are right and that the Immortals are wrong about a compromise being a bad thing?


In the Future History (if events are unchanged by character actions), the return of Empyrea leads to "The Day the Stars Changed" (named after the fact) about 260 years later. That's the day when the immortals transplant them all far away from Tek influence... a major Intervention (tho not without precedent, it should be noted, in the annals of the multiverse).

The choice does rest with the heroes... those who either rescue Empyrea or doom it, and whether or not those are PCs. When in the hands of the players, it produces some interesting discussions.


Indeed. How much of this information could possibly be learned by the players?


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Re: Campaign Overview

Postby ExTSR » Mon Sep 30, 2013 6:20 pm

Havard wrote:
ExTSR wrote:
the return of Empyrea leads to "The Day the Stars Changed" (named after the fact) about 260 years later.
How much of this information could possibly be learned by the players?
Hang onto your seat. Time travel (to the distant past before the colonizations, and to the distant future after that Intervention) is part of the A3 (post-Evanescence* "Aquaria 3") campaign. The players learn all these details during their many adventures.

I should note that this is just the core timeline & background info. Secondary quests & objectives abound. In addition to the fabled Seven Keys needed to effect the Return of Empyrea (A3 only), various sub-adventures lurk. Here are a mere seven more:

Whither the Olve?: As Empyrea rose to power, the olve left. All of them. Where did they go, and why? Can they be convinced to return, coexist, and help?

Whither the Dwur?: When evil forces came to contest Empyrea's rise, the dwur left. All of them. But they're down there somewhere, underground... Can you find them and convince them that the Realm will need them, badly (in the future, in the final struggle to restore Empyrea)?

Vortaxion: A powerful ruler arises amongst Dragonkind, uniting them all (!) and establishing a new dragon-realm to protect their race against the ravages of hoomans (who almost universally view dragons as Monsters To Be Slain For Profit -- in sharp contrast to the tolerant attitudes of the demi-humans)...

Shadows Rise: Between the boundaries of Light and Dark, a power arises, sending Ambassadors to many realms on many planets, including the Empyreans. Can you stop the flow of power and help the Realm establish a workable relationship with these new fiends? Or should they be attacked, reduced, and contained?

Elemental Prison of Yog: A large section of the continent stands a full mile above the rest of the land. Atop is a lost world, prehistoric and primitive... and somewhere therein is an island, where an immortal has been trapped. Why? Can (or should) it be freed?

Revolt of the Druids: Evil immortals usurp the Elemental Hierarchs and take over the hierarchy of the druids. Seasons end; perpetual winter ensues. The heroes must rescue the Hierarch of Earth to free and restore the other three, restoring the balance of Nature itself...

Amulets of Power: The four elemental Hierarchs each create an amulet, these being the ultimate rewards for devoted followers. They tap the power of the gods themselves. If you earn them, can you keep them?

And there's more. This campaign has been going since 1977, with active builds before and after my TSR period. A lot has piled up, especially since 1995.

(Note that the 'dwarven' quest for the Rod of 7 Parts, the Egg of the Phoenix, the story of the Convert, and certain other tales of Aquaria cannot be published, being the property of TSR and now WotC. Sorry, but you know the rules. otoh you can see I have plenty of other stuff to be released.)

F


* The Evanescence: the midsummer event concluding the great siege of Empyrea, when the capital -- a huge area of over 2,000 square miles, surrounded by a 90' tall stone wall 165 miles long -- all suddenly and inexplicably vanished when the power-beams of the Immortal Artifacts being used (one on each side) touched... and interacted in an unexpected way.
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Re: Campaign Overview

Postby ExTSR » Mon Sep 30, 2013 7:26 pm

Crowdfunding: Initial thoughts

Were I to try to publish the (entire) Aquaria campaign via crowdfunding, I'd like to do this:

a) call lots of other designers, make it a joint effort (based on my framework);
b) encourage other authors to do a new dungeon or setting within Aquaria, and/or more fully develop a town or geographical area;
c) call lots of artists (including Elmore, Easley, and others); and ::drumroll:

d) make the result available for Your Choice of Old School System, pick one (0e, 1e, B/X, BECMI; S&W, LabLord, DD, etc; possibly C&C, Hack, more)


Why other authors? This is too big to write up by myself. :)

Whatcha think?
All opinions welcome.

Important question: Should it all use Metric measurements?

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Re: Campaign Overview

Postby Havard » Thu Oct 03, 2013 5:33 pm

ExTSR wrote:Crowdfunding: Initial thoughts


I am interested! :)

Were I to try to publish the (entire) Aquaria campaign via crowdfunding, I'd like to do this:

a) call lots of other designers, make it a joint effort (based on my framework);
b) encourage other authors to do a new dungeon or setting within Aquaria, and/or more fully develop a town or geographical area;
c) call lots of artists (including Elmore, Easley, and others); and ::drumroll:


Great ideas! Yes please to Elmore or Easley illos. While a few good dungeons are a must, I would also be very interested in other adventure locations since these are harder to make yourself.


d) make the result available for Your Choice of Old School System, pick one (0e, 1e, B/X, BECMI; S&W, LabLord, DD, etc; possibly C&C, Hack, more)



BECMI please :)

Why other authors? This is too big to write up by myself. :)

Whatcha think?
All opinions welcome.


This makes sense to me, as long as you are coordinating things, making sure the true Aquaria spirit is preserved.


Important question: Should it all use Metric measurements?


I prefer Metric myself, but I am worried that it would be a turn-off for a lot of potential customers. I've heard a lot of Americans say that they think metric doesn't feel medieval enough. Then again, Aquaria is sort of sci fi...

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Re: Campaign Overview

Postby Big Mac » Sat Nov 09, 2013 3:20 pm

ExTSR wrote:Crowdfunding: Initial thoughts

Were I to try to publish the (entire) Aquaria campaign via crowdfunding, I'd like to do this:

a) call lots of other designers, make it a joint effort (based on my framework);
b) encourage other authors to do a new dungeon or setting within Aquaria, and/or more fully develop a town or geographical area;
c) call lots of artists (including Elmore, Easley, and others); and ::drumroll:


Sounds good.

One criticism I have of other RPG Kickstarters I have seen in the past is that they have one big important thing to do and then not much beyond that that encourages further investement. Sometimes they have stretch goals that improve the core products (more pages, more art, or colour printing instead of black and white) but it seems that Kickstarter creators often do not think much further than that.

I've seen lots of "limited edition" stuff, that IMO, is aimed at "collectors" but does very little to boost long term fandom. I would rather see RPG Kickstarters that have stretch goals that all give the fans more stuff to add to the setting. I would rather see a Kickstarter that continues to help the fanbase after it ends (rather than one that includes vanity stuff like T-shirts, your PC in the book or customised limited edition dice).

If you look at what the Bones II Kickstarter did, there was a core product ($50 in their case) and as they got in more money, they used that to create two more core expansions (both $50) and 24 smaller add-on items (between $10-$35). There is not a single useless add-on item in that Kickstarter. And there is not a single vanity item aimed only at rich people. That Kickstarter raised more than $3 million USD, so I don't think that most tabletop Kickstarters could provide that many options, but I would love it if more tabletop publishers put together a Kickstarer plan that was aimed to be useful rather than aimed at collectors.

For a tabletop setting, I think it would be great if there were some stretch goals that unlocked the ability to buy "add on" things like extra products. Poster maps could be something that really help. There are also floor plans scaled to miniatures, but I think that is more of a new school concept (so I'm not sure that would appeal so much to your target audience).

ExTSR wrote:d) make the result available for Your Choice of Old School System, pick one (0e, 1e, B/X, BECMI; S&W, LabLord, DD, etc; possibly C&C, Hack, more)


It is a shame (from my point of view) that this is all old school systems, but that is probably where your main audience lies.

Maybe you could pick one old school system (or retroclone) to start with and have stretch goals that fund a second, third or forth rules conversion. If additional conversions were free Web Enhancement downloads (that backed up the product/products that people were buying) you probably would not need to arrange a separate print run. But maybe a later stretch goal could merge a conversion document and a core product to offer people an alternative copy to buy. That might be a way to have a lower (easier to reach) target, but still provide an incentive for fans to push a Kickstarter towards doing more of the things you want to do.

One other example would be that if you went far above the money needed to fund your 3 part Aquarian Campaign Setting book and also added on the 4th (Aftermath) option, you could maybe have a stretch goal that puts out a conversion document for Lich Dungeon Levels 1 & 2.

ExTSR wrote:Why other authors? This is too big to write up by myself. :)


It sounds good too, from a creativity point of view. Most of the really cool settings that TSR did were the work of more than one person, even if there was one main person at the helm.

ExTSR wrote:Whatcha think?
All opinions welcome.


I think that you have something that is mostly aimed at old school fans (which is probably a sensible thing).

I think that Aquaria is going to be of some interest to Greyhawk fans, so there will probably be some folks who want to know if they can bolt your new Aquaria onto the old school or the later versions of Greyhawk and get it to work. I know your Aquaria is a different thing now and things like Living Greyhawk and Paizohawk* have also made Greyhawk into a different beast. But there may be some people that like the idea of mixing the two. I'm not sure I would want to mix the two, but I would be interested to see if your space elements would fit in for what Jeff Grubb did for Greyspace.

* = The 3rd Edition Adventure Paths and other content that Paizo published Dragon & Dungeon magazine that they located in the World of Greyhawk.

ExTSR wrote:Important question: Should it all use Metric measurements?


Metric is good for things that you want to feel futuristic. Imperial measurements are good for things that you want to feel old. So I would generally suggest imperial for a fantasy setting.

You might also want to look at those old school and retro-clone systems you said you were hoping to support. If they were all imperial and you went with metric, you would be forcing your user base to tweak the rules systems they were using. That might feel like a waste of time to some gamers, but I suppose that a free imperial to metric conversion sheet could do the work for anyone that was too lazy to work it out for themselves.

Anyhoo. Good luck with getting this going. I hope it does well and brings more players to the fanbase. :mrgreen:
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