MadCast: Khaos

Late Night Tabletop - Campaign Setting

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  • Warforged (Angelix Round 1)
  • Living Dungeons (from 13th Age lore) (Khaos Round 2)
  • Airships (Caveman Round 1)
  • Elaborate Railroad Systems (Fayea Round 1)
  • Mad Scientists (Angelix 2)
  • Antiquarian Guild with branches in multiple Cultural, Political, Economic, and Population centers. (Munsa 2)
  • A Leper King with a suit of steam power armor


  • Gnomes (Khaos Round 1)
  • War Deities (Munsa Round 1)
  • PC characters mentioned in Microscope (Khaos using GM fiat on this one as I think it would be counterproductive)
  • Science based Laser Swords (Angelix 3)
  • WoW styled goblins


Big Picture:  Rapid technological advancement disrupts the established order.

The seeds are sown. (Dark)

  • The invention of an engine capable of manipulating the energy generated by steam pressure sparks a revolution. (Dark)
    • Question: Who invented steam power?  A human in tradesman's clothing, inspired by The Festering Gyre. (Dark)
  • The Guild of Antiquarians was founded. (Light)
    • Question: What is the AG?  The AG is a loosely organized collection of public and private enterprises with unifying goals of exploration, preserving and cataloging oral and written histories, historical artifacts, and general knowledge.  In major metropolitan areas, the AG maintains museums, cartography agencies, and one globally recognized university.  In smaller towns and frontier areas, the AG will maintain inns and waystations that offer preferential treatment to guild members.  The AG also provides contractible services for governments and large private industries, such as guides for surveying teams, navigators for deep ocean voyages, and skilled advisers from a variety of academic disciplines. (Light)
    • Question: Who founded the AG? The AG was founded by a band of adventurers who made a fortune retrieving artifacts from forgotten places.  During a risky expedition an unfortunate encounter with a restless tomb occupant left not only their valuable quarry, but a civilization's worth of knowledge, destroyed.  They created the founding principles of the Guild and used their wealth to finance its growth from a ragtag amalgam of adventuring companies into an established and respected enterprise that sought out the best and brightest in nearly every profession. (Light)
    • Question: How has the AG evolved?  The Guild's influence has grown steadily over time.  Their services provide ample profit that is reinvested into further operations, research, and expansion.  The seal of the AG is nearly universally respected, and members find themselves with succor in all but the most isolated and desolate of areas. (Light)
  • Increased demand for Iron, Rubber, and Coal results in aggressive border skirmishes between regional powers in resource-rich areas. (Dark)
    • Question: Why did the Ashen Empire collapse?  The Ashen Empire of the Orcs, once a pillar of civilization, learning, and culture, shattered in the face of their expansionist rivals and their new mechan war machines.  The Empire fractured into competing nomadic warbands, struggling to survive in their ancestral territory that has been stripped of resources.  However, the People of the Ash will not soon forget their roots. (Dark)
  • Anti-technologists win civil war in town of Suowjow. (Dark)
    • Question: What is day to day life in Suowjow like?  The Anti-technologists ban technology from the town, including from all buildings, and ban outsiders with tech. (Dark)
  • The people of Suowjow celebrate the first Nullstice. (Light)
    • Question: What is the Nullstice?  Across the continent, on one day a year all non-sentient magic and technology stops working.  Sentient magic and technology reverts to its most basic nature. (Light)

The Golden Age - wherein society prospers on the backs of mechan laborers (Light)

  • Mechan laborers complete an extensive railroad system connecting the major capitals and ports. (Light)
  • A mechan first achieves sentience. (Light)
    • Question: How does the world react to mechan sentience?  The town of Suowjow served as neutral ground for a grand council to assess and agree upon the lone Mechan's claim of person-hood.  In exchange, Suowjow's low-tech customs were to be respected.  Suowjow agreed to open its small territory around the Orobus River for trade and travel.  A powerful cleric of Elusinia, the goddess of Life and Harvest, argued for mechan rights.  The Archmage spoke against recognizing the mechans as intelligent and rights-bearing people.  The council wore on for weeks, and it was eventually agreed, in The Treaty of Suowjow, that Mechans deserved recognition and legal protections as sentients.  (Light)
  • The Mechan Trust is formed. (Light)
    • Question: What is the Mechan Trust?  The Archmage, concerned at a possible backlash from the thousands of business owners large and small being told their mechanized workforce were now sentient people who deserved pay and equal treatment, proposed the Mechan Trust, a bank which would finance the purchase of unawakened Mechans to be assisted by their bretheren, who would collectively share the burden of the loans.  This proposal was accepted by all.  (Light)
  • Pachua, White Queen of Dragons, awakens from a 1,000 year slumber. (Dark)
  • Greedy financiers corrupt the Mechan Trust, burdening the Mechans with unreasonable usury rates.  (Dark)
  • The Matriarch of the Elven Oligarchy hires several tribes of the remnant Ashen Empire as increased border security against unlicensed logging. (LIght)
  • Cult of Dead Steel is formed in the City of Cloublury. (Dark)
    • Question: What is the Cult of the Dead Steel?  Wealthy landowners and industrialists that miss the days of free unlimited labor.  The Dead Steel cultists capture sentient Mechans, and through a series of rituals, convert them back into a pre-sentient state.  These "refurbished" Mechans are kept by the cultists, or sold as warriors and laborers to the highest bidder.
  • The Mechan Trust bank collapses. (Dark)
    • Question: Why did the Mechan Trust collapse? At a secretive meeting between the Bank President (Name), Archmage, and regional leaders, it is revealed that the Mechan Trust is on the verge of collapse.  Bank President floats idea of opening up the Mechan Trust to pubic investment (IPO).  The leaders grudgingly agree to avoid collapse. (Dark)
    • Question: What happens when the mages guild loses the entirety of its huge investment in the Trust? After having invested heavily in the Trust after the IPO, the mage's guild is left in financial ruins. Worse yet, the guild is largely blamed by the populace for the collapse of the trust. (Dark)
  • Mechans found the city of Archival. (Light)
    • Question: Who founded Archival? Jixter Reverb, a famous Mechan bard leads a band of Mechans to an uninhabited area east of the Orobus River.
  • Pachua invests her hoard in the economy of Drakkenhall, shielding it from the economic depression. (Dark)
  • The Cult of the Dead Steel begins funneling large numbers of refurbished Mechans into Drakkenhall. (Dark)

The Persecution of the Mages (Dark)

  • With the Mage's Guild's power severely reduced, some wizards form their own organizations. A growing number of these organizations are secretive, and fund themselves by committing commercial sabotage for hire. (Dark)
  • Leaders use anti-mage stances to gain political capital. (Dark)
    • Question: What is happening beneath the waves?  The Sahuagin Empire off the northern coast is rising in power, and using the chaos upon the land as an opportunity to increase the frequency and ferocity of its raids upon seaside villages.  (Dark)
  • On contract from the Mage's Guild, Hunter Tipperton and BronzeLeaf sabotage a Cult of Dead Steel refurbishment factory. (Light)
  • King Jixter Reverb goes missing, leaving a power vacuum within Archival.  (Dark)
  • The eastern tribes tribes of the broken Ashen Empire  begin to reunite under Eggugat, Priest of Nylexi, the Keeper of Chains. (Dark)
  • A lone Mechan assassinates the Archmage in front of hundreds of witnesses. (Dark)
    • Question: Who killed the Archmage? As his last act, the ancient King Jixter Reverb arranges a public meeting with the Archmage with the stated purpose of resolving Mechan/Mage conflict. At the meeting in the mage guild courtyard, King Reverb strikes down the Archmage and awaits judgment. (Dark)
  • Event: The Mage's Guild hires a group of freelancers to investigate King Reverb's motives in killing the Archmage. (Light)

    • Question: What happened to the Freelancers en route to Archival?  Traveling by a low-altitude airship captained by Aaron McAllister, the Freelancers flew across the sea separating New Earthshine from Archival.  While the bard entertained his fellow passengers, and the rogue Mechan chatted with the ship guards, the airship flew into a trap.  Like a frog catching a fly, a kraken from the depths reached up and grabbed the ship, sending most of the passengers to the floor as the ship came to a sudden halt.  The kraken pulled the airship down into the water and Sahuagin warriors and a Sahuagin priestess, Calls-upon-the-depths, climbed aboard.  The Freelancers engaged the Sahuagin warrios as Calls-upon-the-depths spoke to the kraken.  In response the kraken rocked the ship violently, sending guards into the depths.  Meanwhile, the kraken's tentacles wound their way into the ship's hold and tossed Captain McAllister and several innocent passengers into the sea.  After the Freelancers defeated the warriors, the warlock Trithemius spoke with Calls-upon-the-depths, refusing her demand to surrender and convincing her that there is easier prey.  After building a bond of understanding and respect with the warlock, Calls-upon-the-depths slipped back into the sea and rode off on a hammerhead shark.  The kraken slowly sunk into the deep.  Trithemius took the wheel as the Freelancers rescued Captain McAllister and several passengers, before heading on to Archival to face what awaited them.

    • Question: Where did the Freelancers begin their investigation?  Upon arriving in Archival, the party made their way to The Baker’s Daughter, an inn near the Palace.  While they secured lodgings, the party heard rumors of violence in the eastern gears, and garbled stories of King Reverb’s fate.  The party then traveled towards the fires burning in the eastern gears, but was rebuffed by Captain James Jarvis Strong, III, of the City Guard, who informed the party that mechans were going missing in large numbers, and that magic using non-mechans were also being targeted.  This led the party to Miss Lisette Ophelia Blackwater, leader of the local Mages Guild, while HaT and Kaira explored the local Emerald Club.  Miss Blackwater was stunned to hear of the Archmage’s death and confirmed that mages were being attacked, including Miss Callista Lenora Lovelace, the Guild’s local herbologist.  In turn, Miss Lovelace informed the party that she had been attacked three nights prior on her way to a gala at the Museum of Post-Modern Culture.  With the Guild’s support, the disguised Shadowcrank spoke with the King’s Regent and obtained passes to the eastern gears.  The party then returned to The Baker’s Daughter in time for HaT’s show.  As the government employees trickled in, Trithemius identified Erasmus Joshua Wilde as a likely source of information and sat at his table.  Offering his services as a drinking companion and translator, Trithemius learned of the very recent kidnapping of the King’s Assessor, Mordecai Joseph Babbage, III.

    • Question: Who kidnapped Mordecai Babbage?  Trithemius receives a missive from Erasmus Wilde revealing that Mr. Babbage was taken by his own employees.  The party hurries to the palace gates and discovers that the four kidnappers stole a government carriage and escaped the palace grounds using their real identities.  The kidnappers headed southeast.  The party entered the Assessor's Office and interviewed Mr. Pierce Dorian von Figg.  Mr. von Figg revealed the identifies of the four employees, the time of the assault, the location of each kidnappers' home, and that each of the kidnappers had taken an unusual amount of leave time during the previous two weeks.  At a crossroads, Shadowcrank reached out to his underworld contacts while the rest of the party interviewed the wife of the kidnapper Patrick Alexander Cogsmith.  Ms. Cogsmith revealed that Patrick had been his normal self, but that he had checked into a hospital the week prior complaining of needing repairs.  Shadowcrank's contact put the party on the trail of Mercy Maud Cannon, a member of the Lugnut Syndicate, a criminal organization that operates within the southeastern portion of the government gear.  Ms. Cannon promises to see whether any members of the syndicate had seen the stolen carriage.  While waiting on Ms. Cannon, the party decides to hit the streets, and Hunter terrorizes a mechan woman selling trinkets on a street corner.  She saw the carriage heading east on a central avenue towards the eastern gear.  As the party regathers to discuss this new information they hear a women screaming down an alley and rush headlong to assist.

    • Question: Who watches the watchers?  The party finds itself in an abandoned alley, surrounded by warehouses as the woman's screams grow louder and more desperate.  They charge, and in their haste to save the damsel, allow themselves to become separated.  BronzeLeaf, in the form of a large mechanical bear, hears infernal chanting coming from within a nearby building and pauses to investigate.  A spectral sword appears and begins harrying him.  During this moment of distraction, two mechan warriors leap from second story windows onto Hunter, beating him into unconsciousness with crude clubs.  One mechan, Ironfist, bends to lift the helpless Hunter onto his shoulders.  The other, Cogs, turns to face the mechancial ursine monstrosity.  Trithemius and Shadowcrank charge into the building, hoping to find the source of the chanting, and come face to face with Lucy Malesh, a cloaked mechan woman holding a staff.  As the warlock and the rogue subdue Ms. Malesh, BronzeLeaf finds himself grappling with Cogs, apparently fearless in the face of the bear.  Beyond them, Hunter is hastily carried away on the shoulders of Ironfist.  Fortunately, Cogs is outmatched, and is pummeled by huge bronze claws until he relents and turns to flee, calling for assistance.  Captain James Jarvis Strong III leaps from a nearby window, and turns to face the oncoming bear.  But the bear morphs back into BronzeLeaf, and gestures quickly as vines burst from the cobblestone street and entangle the newcomer and Hunter's unconscious form.  Calling upon reserves unknown to other mortals, Hunter forces himself awake and blasts of ice begin to tear through Ironfists and Mr. Strong.  Ironfists desperately beats Hunter back into unconsciousness as BronzeLeaf morphs back into ursine form.  Trithemius and Shadowcrank join the fray, and soon Ironfists lies dismembered, Cogs hangs dejectedly from BronzeLeaf's jaws, and Trithemius confronts Captain Strong.  Strong mumbles about Masters bringing life and breaking bonds, but Trithemius is unamused, his eldritch greatsword bisecting the Guard Captain with ease.  Trithemius turns to Cogs, who is compliant but unhelpful.  Instead, the warlock reaches out with his mind and is met with a vision that horrifies him. Trithemius is a young child at a magical academy is kidnapped as his teachers and fellow students are slain or chained.  The child is brought before a nightmare, and carried into its gullet, strapped to a strange device, and blinded by pain.  Trithemius awakens as Cogs, stares indifferently at the dead child, and goes out to meet his new brothers and sisters.  The vision ends and Trithemius sits down next to Cogs, explaining his experience with these Masters, and the horrors of the vision.  Shadowcrank volunteers to take Cogs to the Legion of Spell Swords, while the others carry the unconscious Lucy Malesh to the Mage's Guild.

    • Question: Will the party charge headlong into unknown danger?  While LOSS processes Cogs, the party escorts the unconscious mechan cultist, Lucy Malesh, to the Mage's Guild.  They are brought before the local guildmaster, Ms. Blackwater, who asks to speak to the cultist.  As Lucy is awakened, she speaks words of power that open three red and purple portals in the midst of a group of mages sitting down for lunch.  A huge ball of muscle and tentacle explodes from the largest portal, destroying the dining table and consuming shocked mages left and right.  The party stands in defense of Blackwater, and begins to turn back the spherical monster.  However, as their attention is otherwise focused, tentacles reach out through another portal and grab Ms. Blackwater.  A tug of war ensues, and ultimately Ms. Blackwater is pulled through the portal into the dark steel room beyond.  The party bravely faces these tentacled monsters, as Malesh is pulled through to safety.   Having secured Malesh and Blackwater, the portals begin to close, but Trithemius has other ideas.  Pouring his entire being into the struggle, he holds a portal open, before parleying with the intelligence behind the portals.  It laughs, and agrees to leave the portal open, beckoning the group to come through.  Successful, Trithemius casts a blast of energy at the ball of tentacles, causing it to explode and debris rains down upon the group.  Callista Lovelace, the guild herbalist, enters the room, shocked by the carnage all around.  Trithemius approaches her, and names her de facto leader of the Mage's Guild, explaining the circumstances of the Archmage's death.  Despite the grime and blood, he kisses her deeply and enters the portal to establish a beachhead.  Meanwhile, Shadowcrank sends a missive to LOSS and the group rests before entering the portal.

    • Question: Three's a party, is four a crowd?  Newly equipped by LOSS and with a magic latern courtesy of Callista Lovelace, the party enters the portal in force and begin exploring their new environs.  Careful to kill any living creature they find, the party makes its way through a holding area only to discover a torture chamber where Chastity Lenville suffers in a torture rack.  After killing her captors, Shadowcrank approaches the woman, and falls head over heels for her despite the party's misgivings.  The mechanical druid finds a malnourished owlbear locked in a room, and convinces it to join forces with the party.  As they continue to explore, they come face to face with a monstrous Chull, and the druid nearly falls before its onslaught.  Fortunately, the insectoid is slain, and the party prepares to regroup.  But first, Trithemius approaches Ms. Lenville, casting a spell to detect her true thoughts.  He discovers that she wishes him dead.  She orders Shadowcrank to kill the warlock, and the rogue complies by shooting the warlock in the leg.  The warlock is nonplussed, and the bard puts the rogue to sleep before more harm can be done.  Ms. Lenville reveals herself to be a succubus, and now has great interest in Trithemius' power.  As she disappears, the party stops to consider their surroundings.

    • Question:  Why did King Jixter kill the Archmage?  The party takes an opportunity for a quick rest.  As they rest the party hears words within their minds, claiming that Hunter's adversary is the true threat, and that the old ones are working against her.   The voice offers an alliance, and offers Trithemius one truth.  It reveals that King Jixter killed the Archmage to preven the CoG from obtaining critical information to the war effort against Pachua.  After the party rises, they come upon a small room filled with magical darkness.  Using his mage hand, Shadowcrank manipulates a lever that opens a nearby set of huge steel doors.  As the doors open, the party can hear the unique sound of a hammer hitting iron.  They cautiously approach the sound, to find a large human forging a great axe, while a mechan assistant works the bellows.  Trithemius uses a spell to convince the smith, Barnabus William Barclay, that he is a friend.  The smith reveals that the guard commander's quarters are upstairs.  Before the warlock can get more information, the mechan assistant recognizes the ploy and casts dispel magic.  The ensuing fight is quick and brutal, and ends when BronzeLeaf's bear form consumes the smith's head.  In the smithy's nearby quarters the party finds a suit of magic armor with a conspicuous engraving and a cloak made of white dragon scales.  They also find a magical parchment that displays a rotating set of images of a woman and a young man.  Nearby letters reveal that the smith left his wife, Rebecca, and his son Jameson behind when he took employment with the Cult of Gyre.  The party eliminates a few more mechans in a nearby room before coming upon a man locked in a cage dangled over a pit of lava.  They offer to free him, but he is terrified that this would mean instant death.  The party continues deeper into the dungeon, and an overwhelming smell of garbage affronts their senses.  They come to an impassable wall of tentacles, and decide to carry on.  They climb some stairs to find themselves upon a platform overlooking a large room filled with the various detritus of civilization.  Along the far wall is an altar to the elder gods.  Trithemius cannot resist the opportunity and climbs down upon the garbage.  As he approaches the altar he sees a dark spear on display behind it,  The spear has three tentacles hanging from the base of the spearhead.  As he approaches, the ground beneath him erupts.  A beast of legend emerges, all tentacles and teeth.  As Trithemius flies through the air time seems to slow down.  A familiar voice calls to him, naming this the Test of Cunning.  A portal opens that allows Lucy Malesh to watch the ensuing fight.  The party eventually disables the Otyugh and Lucy, but not before Hunter is knocked unconscious once again from a head wound.   Within the altar the party finds a Pearl of Power and other riches.  With these riches in hand, they are able to travel through the wall of tentacles and decide to make camp.

    • Question: Who are these strange bedfellows?  The party awakens, unaware that Shadowcrank slipped away during their slumber and was studied and copied by the mechans inhabiting the dungeon.  The party awakens and travels down into the depths, coming across tight corridors blocked by hundreds of spiders and their webbing.  The ethereal voice calls this the Test of Compassion.  The party adventures onward, in an uneasy detente with the spiders, until they find the dessicated corpse of a mindflayer.  Trithemius takes the dead mindflayer's amulet and the party continues deeper into the spider lair, eventually finding a living dwarf wrapped in webbing lying below an enormous web.  A somewhat feminine voice speaks to the group from the shadows, demanding a trade: the dwarf for a mere taste of the party's blood.  The party deceives the spider queen, calling forth a fey bear to serve as a distracting meal.  With dwarf in tow, the party ignores the spider queen's promise of riches and continues onward.  The etheral voice promises a final Test of Champions, and pits the party against a helmed horror.  The party's relief at defeating the horror is washed away by the realization that the suit of armor was merely chaining a fire elemental.  The party eventually triumphs and comes face to face with the long anonymous conversationalist.  Dexter Hyde, himself a mindflayer, reveals himself as the leader of the Cult of Gyre, and attempts to recruit the party into the Cult's cause against Pachua.  The party at least pretends to join, and accepts a large signing bonus.  Mr. Hyde's first actions are to free Lisette Blackwater, reveal that the living dungeon is entirely contained within the body of a lava dragon, a feat made possible through complex compression magics, and to teach the party how to fly the dragon.

    • Question: What ever happened to Mordecai Babbage?  The party rides the dragon towards Archival and are ported to the mage's guild.  Lisette is understandably upset, but agrees that a temporary alliance with the Cult of Gyre would be in their best interest as they recover the kidnapped mages.  As they speak, the party receives a missive requesting an audience from the King's Assessor Mordecai Babbage, last seen being abducted from the palace grounds by four of his employees.  The party travels to the Assessor's office and agree to accompany Babbage to meet with the Regent.  Despite the party's misgivings, they follow Mordecai and two of the would-be kidnappers down into the depths of the palace to an out of the way chamber.  Inside, the regent awaits with a few guards.  After a few moments discussing the continuing situation in Eastern Archival, the regent throws down a vial of poison and the guards attack.  The dwarf that was rescued from the spider's lair, Griswold, proves to be a mighty ally, absorbing blow after blow that would fell a normal man, and allowing the rest of the party to dispatch the Regent's associates with relative ease.  Unfortunately, Babbage escapes in the confusion.  The regent and his guards are not so lucky.  The regent falls dead, and the last remaining guard intentionally shuts down, exclaiming "Pachua Rises!"

  • The Cult of Gyre feeds the souls of the magic users into a Living Dungeon used to create more Mechans and funnel energy into their waiting god's astral throne. (Dark)

The Age of Mechan Strife (Dark)

  • By assassinating Nylexi, the Keeper of Chains, the Mechans have secured a realm for their deity.  They have but to find the one calculated to ascend. Nylexi was actually a fairly benevolent goddess.  (Dark)
  • Shortly after Nylexi's death, Pachua subjugates the eastern tribes of the Ashen Empire. (Dark)
  • Pachua's forces fall upon Archival. (Dark)
  • The Dispersal of the Cult of Dead Steel and Pachua's Forces from Archival.
    • Question: What happened at the battle of Archival?  As Archival burned, the Legion of the Spell Sword gathered its forces under Lake Steam.  As twilight fell, the Legion of the Spell Swords fell upon Pachua's camps.  Within hours Pachua's forces were routed, and the Cult of Dead Steel was dispersed.  After Pachua's retreat, the Legion of the Spell Swords faded back into the night.  (Light)
  • Fueled by the mass deaths of Mechans, Orcs, and others at the Battle of Archival, Pachua is able to free her children, the Three. (Dark)
Edited by MadCast: Khaos

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I would like to use the Microscope RPG in this thread to build our campaign setting/history for the upcoming late night 5e Campaign.  The author of Microscope describes it as a fractal game.  You start with a very general one sentence description of the "Big Picture", and you proceed to drill down into different time periods (think eras), events within periods, and specific scenes within events.  Like Fiasco, there is a setup stage and a gameplay stage.


If this doesn't get any traction from the players, no harm at all, the campaign won't suffer for it.




In the setup stage the group creates the "Big Picture", describes the first and last Periods, and creates a palette of specific elements that are either banned or are required.  The setup stage ends with each participant establishing one period, event, or scene.


The Big Picture:  The Big Picture is the one sentence summary of your history.  Here's the example I'll be using:  A peaceful spacefaring race encounters humanity, and is fundamentally changed by the experience.


Palette:  In this stage each player takes turns adding concepts to a YES/NO table.  Perhaps you never want to hear the word goblin again.  Put "Goblins" in the NO column.  No player can violate the palette, so no player can introduce a period, event, or scene involving goblins.  Alternatively, if you would like to see something incorporated that wouldn't normally be found in a particular kind of setting, you can put it in the YES column.  So, if you want your high fantasy world to have laser swords, put "laser swords" in the Yes column.


Periods: Each period can represent decades or centuries.  This is very much the 30,000 ft view of a segment of a historical era, such as "The early Romans expand their empire at the cost of nearby civilizations."  We do not care about specific lengths of time.


Event: An event is always nested within a period.  The description of the event should be written as if you are looking back at the entire event from a birds-eye view.  "The Gauls succumb to the technologically advanced Roman legions."


Scene:  A scene is a specific snap-shot of time within an event.  A scene always answers a question.  Such as, why did the Roman general send his son to certain death in the last battle against the Gauls?  In live-play scenes are actually acted out in a role-play scenario with each player taking on the role of a different character.  The scene ends when the players all believe the question is answered. For our purposes we are going to use the "Dictated Scene" options, where a player proposes a question and then briefly describes a scene that answers that question without other player input.


Light and Dark:  Each Period, Event, and Scene has a tone, either light and dark.  Whoever establishes the Period/Event/Scene chooses its tone, and justifies that tone to the group.


Here is an example of a possible game right after setup is complete:


Big Picture:  A peaceful space faring race encounters humanity, and is fundamentally changed by the experience.


- A period of enlightenment leads to the development of interstellar travel within the Xendaru culture. (Light) (BEGINNING PERIOD)


- Cultures collide as the Terrans and the Xendaru meet, each having believed they were alone in the universe (Dark)

  • The Xendaru's first deep-space receivers pick up artificial transmissions. (Light)
  1. Question: What is the first transmission received?  Coq'rtr sits idly at the control panel, completely bored by its position as Second Listener aboard deep space station Trizzix.  Its face slackens in shock as the visual display morphs to show a bipedal creature, wrapped in what appears to be the skins of other creatures, and a bright patch of red fur at the top.  The creature speaks "You know nothing, John Snow." (Light)

- The Xendaru seek diplomatic solutions, while the Terrans gird themselves for war. (Dark)


- The war reaches the Xendaru homeworld. (Dark)  (END PERIOD)



You can already see how this setup is just begging to have the dots connected.  The game is about discovering what happened between.  And there is always a between, between periods, between events, and even between scenes, no matter how close in time they appear to be.  


The Game


The book suggests that I write out this explanation of post-setup gameplay:


"Now that setup is done, we're ready to start play.  We already know more about our history than we did when we came up with the single sentence idea, and as we play we'll find out more and more.


"The basic structure of the game is that we keep going around the table adding to the history, making either a Period, an Event, or a Scene.  For each rotation there's going to be one player called the Lens, and that player is going to pick a particular Focus that everything we create has to relate to.  So if the Focus is a city, each player is going to get to add something to the history that somehow relates to that city.  It's a topic to keep us all on the same page.


"If you make a period or event, just describe what happens as through we're seeing it from a birds-eye view.  You're in charge, and the rest of us are eagerly listening to hear what you have to say.  If you make a Scene, state the Question, choose where to put the Scene in the history (under which Event) and briefly review what we already know, then narrate what happens to answer that Question.  Keep it short and to the point."


Some basic concepts:


1. This is not a game about collaboration (except when playing out scenes, which we won't be doing).  When it is your turn you create a Period, Event, or Scene without any input from the other players.


2. There is no-GM.  When it is your turn you have almost unlimited creative power, subject only to the Palette, and the rule that you cannot contradict what has already been established.  I have no more "power" than any of you, although I will help with rules questions.  You can create any element you wish, characters, locations, etc.  You can also destroy anything you wish.  Nobody has ownership over any story element.


3.  Once we "finish" we will choose a Period or Event that we would like to explore in the campaign.  The future will not be set in stone and the future we create in Microscope will only show what will happen if the PCs do not intervene.


It will make more sense as we begin.  Since the one thing we do know about our setting is that it is high fantasy steampunk, I've taken the liberty of drafting our Big Picture:


Big Picture:  Rapid technological development disrupts the established order.


Last thing, the Beginning Period and the End Period do not signify the beginning and the end of time.  They simply form the bookends of the history that we will be exploring.  Also, don't jump in with your ideas when it isn't your turn.  Play your hand close to the chest.


We have our big picture, so the next step is to come up with our first and last period.  Any of the would be PCs can hop in and propose a starting or ending period.  At this stage we'll discuss them as a group until we are satisfied. Any brave soul willing to make the first suggestion?  Also, I'm always happy to answer any questions about anything that is unclear.


When you post, be sure to indicate where your Period/Event/Scene belongs in the timeline.  "A new scene between [X] scene and [y] scene in event [z]."  "A new period between [x] period and [y] period."  "A new event within [x] period."  I'll be updating our first post with the timeline as we build it.

Edited by MadCast: Khaos

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Ending Period - By assassinating Nylexi, the Keeper of Chains, the Mechans have secured a realm for their deity.  They have but to find the one calculated to ascend.


Dark - Nylexi was actually a fairly benevolent Goddess.


OOC:  I assume that once the campaign setting is built, that it is then treated like a normal D&D campaign with a DM?

Edited by MadCast: Angelix

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Beginning Period: The Seeds are Sown


The invention of an engine capable of manipulating the energy generated by steam pressure sparks a revolution.


A human in tradesman's clothing.  Leather apron, worn.  Black soot stains.  Threadbare shirt.  Stained by sweat.  Hammer, pliers, countless other instruments.  Pitted with use and age.  Wooden bench.  Marred by a thousand minor creations.  All leading to this moment.  On the wall, a votive.  A cog, intersected by a rose. 

On the workbench, a tangle of metal and leather.  A brazier, burning.  Water, boiling.  Brows, furrowed in exhausted hope.  This is not the first attempt.  The remnants of a thousand modifications are strewn across the room.  Oils pool like blood.  Scraps of metal like bones.  A modern battlefield.  Man not limited by muscle, not ruled by magic.  Observed, not controlled, by the gods.  As the bubbles begin to roil, a gesture of recognition, not supplication, towards the icon on the wall.

Torturous minutes.  More sweat.  Mind becomes frantic, calm, mournful, hopeful.  Bladders of leather swell.  A slow scrape, metal moving.  Face twitches, an indulgent smile.  Steam hisses, pressure.  Slowly, ponderously, achingly, a wheel turns.


Dark: The impact on civilization is immeasurable.  While some sneer, and others fear, those without reservation embrace the advent of steam power.  Food production, transportation, and myriad other industries are advanced almost overnight.  Steam and Magic, though their mortal agents may be vitriolic towards one another, are rough allies of pragmatism, and the marriage of the two improves the basic standard of living across the world.


Through all this joy, no one remembered much of the inventor.  History would venerate, few would know the truth of the inventor's life.  The idea, the first seeds of the invention of steam power were planted in the inventor's mind by a being from the Far Realm.  Beyond the limits of Good and Evil, a squamous thing  known only in the most obscure apocrypha as The Festering Gyre made the first move of an unknowable plan.

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Great! I think we have our beginning and ending periods. Munsa, I think you also provided us with an event (invention of steam) and a scene (answering question of how it was invented). It's fantastic so let's keep it all but moving forward we are all limited to adding one period, event, or scene per turn (except in limited circumstances that I'll explain later).

On to the palette stage. We take turns adding common steampunk/fantasy tropes we want to avoid ... Or adding traditionally underutilized tropes we want to add. I'll go first. This stage continues until someone passes. Once someone passes, each other player gets to make one more addition. For ease, just copy the existing list into your post and paste it with your addition.




Anyone can go now, but wait to take a second turn until every other active participant has gone. Any of the other PCs that haven't posted can hop in at any time.

Edited by MadCast: Khaos

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No apologies necessary. That was a master class in the differences between Periods, Events, and Scenes.

In fact it made me realize that I think Angelix's ending period is actually an Event. Angelix, can you create a new end Period which will contain the Mechan's assassination as an Event?





-War Deities

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Yes: airships

Could be fun having some zeppelin fights

Edited by UnusedCaveman42

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Munsa's turn:



-Warforged (Angelix Round 1)

-Living Dungeons (from 13th Age lore) (Khaos Round 2)

-Airships (Caveman Round 1)

-Elaborate Railroad Systems (Fayea Round 1)



-Gnomes (Khaos Round 1)
-War Deities (Munsa Round 1)

-PC characters mentioned in Microscope (Khaos using GM fiat on this one as I think it would be counterproductive)

Edited by MadCast: Khaos

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Dark Event leading to End Period:


After elements within the Serenity faction of the Mechan Council arranged for the assassination of the benevolent Goddess Nylexi, Keeper of Chains, the Mechan Council fractured into factions composed of its three core tenets, Logika, Viva and Serenity.


Although the murder secured a position in the pantheon for the Mechan people, many were disturbed with the method involved and the Council agreed to wait a decade before making any decision regarding the ascension of the one calculated to ascend.  Were no appropriate candidate available at that time, another decade would pass, and so on, for as long as it required. The Mechans, with no known lifespan, could be patient when it suited them. 


Or so they believed.


Shocking the Council, numerous castes arose out of the shadows, all intent on their own agenda, be it nefarious or just, and all determined to gain a foothold in the Mechan Council lest they have no say in the fate of their new deity. 


Each faction also raced to create their own perfect Mechan, one who could best represent them, though most factions failed to consider that their perfect ideals would not represent the Mechans as a whole, and that their perfect creation would likely fail to grasp the nuances necessary to understand a society of such differing interests.


And so, the consensus to wait for the chosen one held, and centuries passed, as the Age of The Mechan Strife grew in both intensity and horror. This was only tolerated by other nations and kingdoms because the war rarely spilled beyond the borders of Archival, the sole autonomous Mechan nation.


End Period:


Now the ascended one takes its rightful place in the pantheon and the Mechans at long last have their deity.  The Age of The Mechan Strife is over, and the world trembles as it ponders what this exotic and newly anointed deity might might have in store for the Mechan people.


State of Uncertainty - End of Period - Has brought peace to the Mechans, but it may not mean peace for everyone else. 


For clarification - Mechans are all mechanical or partially mechanical races in the campaign.  Warforged are a race that belongs to the Mechans, but not all Mechans are Warforged.

Edited by MadCast: Angelix

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No: Wow styled goblins

I'm very interested in the living dungeon part, sounds like a fun gm tool.

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What are WoW styled goblins like?

Alright let's call the Palette section closed. If you haven't added at least 2 feel free to add 1 more to the palette later so long as it doesn't contradict what is already set forth in the timeline.

Last phase of setup asks each of us to add 1 Period, Event, OR Scene. Remember this is like a Russian nesting doll. Events must be within Periods. Scenes must be within Events. If you are adding a scene to an event that already contains other scenes, please say where in the scene chronology it falls. Same with Events.

I choose to add a period between the first and last periods (obviously): The persecution of the mages. (Dark)

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The Goblins In Wow are tinkers like Gnomes, just more explosives.

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Just wanted to say I had fun last night with the prequel adventure test =).

I also wanted everyone to know that I don't normally give advice during an actual campaign unless it is in character. Last night I was in "explain the rules" mode. During a game I don't say anything unless asked to, mainly because I like immersion, and spending every combat round discussing options well beyond the allotted 6 seconds tends to kill that. Just mentioning this in case anyone was asking themself "why won't this guy shut up?" =)

That said, if anyone has questions regarding mechanics or character creation I am more than happy to lend a hand. And while I can make suggestions for things that aren't part of the core rules, the DM always has to approve it. Khaos is awesome though, he approves of fun =)

Edited by MadCast: Angelix

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It was very helpful Angelix.




To get the ball rolling I'm going to make another addition.


Within Period: The persecution of the mages.

Event: A lone Mechan assassinates the Archmage in front of hundreds of witnesses. (Dark)



EDIT: In light of the difficulties of forum based play, let's dispense with some of the structure.  Feel free to add Periods, Events, or Scenes as they come to mind.  You can also call out focuses to inspire everyone else and to drill down on something that interests you.  If someone calls out a focus, then subsequent posts should relate to the focus in some way until someone changes the focus.

Edited by MadCast: Khaos

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whats the turn order in case i wanted to hop in and say one or two yes or no things ?

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