Hi. My name is Calvin Studzinski, and I am here to introduce Age of Æther, the historical steampunk fantasy role-playing game.
A new age has dawned.
It is an age of innovation, discovery, and progress. New frontiers await to be explored, from the vast expanses of undiscovered continents, to the technological potential of steam and clockwork, to mysterious planes of spirit and magic.
It is an age where massive armies square off on smoke-shrouded fields armed with muskets and bayonets, and dashing rogues live and die by their skill with a blade. Where wealthy nobles sail the skies on massive airships and the unwashed masses eke out a living in the shadow of growing industries.
It is an age where new ideas of science and reason challenge the old order of superstition and mysticism. Where the oppressed underclasses cry out for revolution against the depredations of the wealthy, the ennobled, and the privileged.
Welcome to an age where science, magic, and industry have become inexorably intertwined to produce unprecedented wonders.
Welcome to the Age of Æther.
Imagine if a traditional fantasy setting advanced out of the medieval era, and into an age of Enlightenment, Exploration, and Industrialization. Set in an alternate 18th century, the Age of Enlightenment has only just chased away the superstitions of the dark ages. Settled colonies thrive on the melding of steam and arcana, the foundations of industry. The steady march of the Industrial Revolution has left its mark on the economy, but despite this progress, conflict lurks. National rulers engage in a deadly game of chess, buying and selling territory with the lives of their soldiers while ignoring the needs of their people. Enlightened thinkers and the common folk question the nobility's right to rule. Those in power are reluctant to relinquish it while those left behind by the advancement of time await their chance for revolution.
Powerful nations expand their colonial empires, pressing into unexplored territories, supplanting the local peoples and claiming the land as their own. The colonial game is not without risk, as colonies can be conquered by a foe, rise up in independent revolt, or be destroyed as the indigenous people defend their land from encroaching settlers.
It is an age of transition in conflict as well. Massed musket and cannon-fire can defeat almost every foe through shear firepower, but traditional weaponry still has a place. Cavalry relies on swift charges with sabers and lances as they thunder down upon an infantry square. A longbow has greater accuracy and rate of fire compared to a musket, even if it requires far more skill to use. Even the musket-armed infantryman will have a bayonet in case the enemy comes too close.
Things are complicated by magic. Elves, dwarves, minotaurs, orcs, pixies and goblins rub shoulders with humans, gnomes, sasquatch, and the spirit-bound clockwork beings called Clockgeists. Mages were once the undisputed masters of the world, but with the rise of technology, the supremacy of magic has waned. That is not to say that the old forces have no power. After all, mages can still fling lightning bolts, stop time, summon beings from other dimensions, and dominate the minds of weak-willed people, but now they can be matched by a mundane individual with the right equipment.
Though history influences this fantasy world, steampunk technology, or magitech, bridges the gap between the accurate and the fanciful. Airships soar overhead while steam locomotives thunder by on iron rails. Gadgets such as chemical gas masks and pneumatic grappling guns ease an adventurer's life. Impossible materials, like bulletproof cloth and lightweight alloys, allows the construction of advanced armored clothing. Magitech revolvers and breachloading rifles, though expensive and uncommon, give the gunslinger a fighting chance against a master swordsman or a mighty mage. Contraptions such as telescopic scopes and alchemical gunpowders further enhance firelocks for those who can afford them.
Age of Æther's game system is designed to work with your character and your gamemaster. Bonuses and penalties change your die type and character traits directly influence the story.
Because Age of Æther is designed around the principles of imagination and potential, character generation is open-ended, allowing you to create the exact character that you want to play. A powerful mage can swagger about with a broadsword on one hip and a six-gun on the other, and the burly orc with a mean right hook may also be an intelligent and nimble thief. With advancement, you may buy any upgrade desired, learning new skills and abilities that your original character never possessed, allowing you to alter your play style with the same character you spent so long building and enjoying.
Attributes and skills are not linked in Age of Æther, allowing a great number of diverse player actions in an easy-to-learn system. When you decide to make a skill roll, the game master decides which attribute pairs with your skill for that roll depending on the context. While a standard pistol shot may require dexterity, a quick-draw showdown will require a Pistols + Quickness roll. Grappling with a foe for the gun would be a Pistols + Strength roll, while firing at a distant enemy at the edge of your range would use Pistols + Intelligence to judge bullet drop and wind effects. Firing at a grey-cloaked figure flitting in and out of the smog-tainted fog of a city street at dawn would be a Pistols + Awareness roll, and working up the courage to shoot the changeling who has taken the shape of your lover would require Pistols + Willpower. Gripping a red-hot pistol which has been lying in a fire necessitates a Pistols + Toughness roll, and finally, performing impressive, flashy, showy trick shots will require a Pistols + Charisma roll to suitably impress the crowd. This simple yet flexible mechanic encourages cooperation between player and game master, speeds up the flow of combat, and makes Age of Æther easy to learn yet complex enough to entice experienced players.
Age of Æther is built on a step-die system, which modifies the dice you roll instead of granting flat numeric modifiers or extra dice. Say you have a d8 in your pistols skill. A +1 step bonus gives you a d10 instead of a d8, and a +2 step bonus would grant you a d12. Conversely,a -1 step penalty would make you roll a d6 instead of your d8, and so on.
The rules are complete and fully play-tested. Your money will go towards purchasing art, design, and printing services so that I can give you a fully-finished gaming rulebook.
I hope that you will support me in making Age of Æther a reality. I’ve had fun making it, and I’m certain you will have fun playing it.
You've invested in Age of Æther, but where is your hard-earned money going?
All money raised by this Kickstarter will go towards printing and producing an Age of Æther rulebook, including purchasing artwork, graphic design services, and formatting so the book looks professional and aesthetically pleasing.
The Kickstarter funds will be divided as so:
-40% Printing and Shipping costs
-20% Incidentals, Kickstarter Fees, and float to prevent cost inflation.
All shipping within the US is included in each tier. Shipping to nations outside of the US may require additional cost.
Add-Ons and Upgrades
Physical Copy - $45
Choose this add-on to add an additional physical rulebook to your order.
PDF GM Screen - $5
The add-on for the savvy GM, not only will you receive 3 print-ready PDF panels of art for a GM screen, you'll get 3 cheat sheets you can slip into the inside panels so you don't have to rummage through the book for crucial rules.
PDF Adventure, Single - $10
Can't come up with an adventure idea? No problem! Just choose this add-on and receive a stand-alone PDF adventure "High Spirits." With your airship mortgaged to the hilt, a smuggled shipment of rum to a university town bar is the only way to pay the debt. However, corrupt sheriffs, boisterous students, and a bunch of moon-shining sasquatch stand in the way of you and your well deserved (if ill-gotten) profits. High Spirits can be run on its own, or used as a springboard for your own campaign.
PDF Campaign, 4 Adventures - $20
This add-on delivers a PDF four-pack of adventures based around the Pirates of the Savage Wind. These missions tell the complete story of a group of ne'er-do-wells who break a pirate captain out of prison, hijack a haunted ship, take over an island while disrupting a necromantic wedding, and finally perpetrate the airship heist of the century.
PDF Campaign Setting - $20
Purchase this add-on to receive the Greyleaf Campaign Setting. The City of Greyleaf is ripe for revolution in a dozen directions. A massive underclass toils in slave-like conditions at the lumberyards, factories and mines of the lower city while the gentry and nobility luxuriate in palatial estates atop the massive cliffs. The city's ruling class was once an organization of mad scientist-mages, but has recently been conquered by a foreign military force. The mages resent the soldiers, the soldiers hate the mages, and the workers are ready to rise up against both tyrannical rulers. Whose side will you choose?
PDF Character Sheet Pack, 10 - $15
This PDF add-on provides all 10 sample characters from the rulebook with full character sheets to supplement the templates in the book. This add-on also includes PDF prints of the character artwork.
How to add an Add-On or Upgrade to your existing Kickstarter pledge
- You must first have a minimum pledge level of $1 to select Add-Ons and Upgrades.
- On the Age of Æther Kickstarter page, click "Manage Your Pledge." This option is only available if you have already backed this project.
- Increase your pledge in "Pledge Amount" by the total cost of the Add-Ons and Upgrades you'd like. All Add-Ons and Upgrades are in USD.
- You do not need to change your reward tier to add any Add-Ons or Upgrades. If you choose to change your reward tier, calculate your new total based on that pledge amount.
- Once the Kickstarter is complete, you will receive a survey asking which Add-Ons and Upgrades you would like to receive with your pledge.
A note about Stretch Goals: Age of Æther, the game, is complete. I have built, run, and play-tested the system extensively. I am confident in the product that I have right now, that my 170 pages of rules create a fun and engaging game that anyone can enjoy. That's why I am giving the un-illustrated PDF of the rules to anyone who funds above the Proletariat level, because I know that even that will be fun. I will deliver this un-illustrated draft once the kickstarter ends, so that you can start playing immediately while the polished and attractive rulebook is assembled.
What I need help with is making the book a complete experience. I want to provide artwork so that you can see the world I have come up with, stories so you can dive into the universe and start creating your own narratives. I want to give visually stunning character sheets and an RPG core rulebook that you will be proud to have on your bookshelf.
That is what this kickstarter is about. I need you to help me make that vision a reality. Every page I devote to a cool setting story adds to the printing and shipping cost, and every picture costs money to fairly reimburse the artists. Accordingly, I could just say that every dollar pledged adds 40 cents to the art budget and 40 cents to the printing & shipping budget, but you would like to know exactly how your investment will improve the Age of Æther core rulebook. The actual final result will depend upon how much this kickstarter raises, but here are some examples of how I would like to add to the product.
$2,500 - FUNDED! The 8-page setting story "Business as Usual" will be included in the rulebook, as well as additional artwork.
$3,000 - FUNDED! An upgraded character sheet, with a period aesthetic, artistic design, and attractive border.
$4,000 - FUNDED! 1-page narrative stories will be included at the beginning of each chapter, adding flavor and depth to the world of Age of Æther.
$5,000 - FUNDED! Colorization! Not only will you get more artwork, but the images introducing each chapter and the template character portraits will be painted in color instead of black and white.
$6,000 - FUNDED! 4 additional sample characters will be added to the book, for a total of 12.
$8,000 - Physical Game Master Screens will become available. This ad-on will come in eight cardstock sheets, 4 artwork, 4 GM cheat sheets, that you can insert into the pockets of a four-panel customizable GM screen. Each sheet will have landscape orientation, 11" wide by 8.5" tall.
$10,000 - Every copy of the Age of Æther rulebook will be upgraded from Paperback to Hardcover.
Every additional dollar raised will increase the amount of art in the Age of Æther rulebook, as well as improve the quality of the printed product.
Risks and challenges
Long Production Time:
Although I have completed and play-tested the rules, the book is not professionally formatted and there is very little art procured thus far. This is the reason I am running this kickstarter, to create a fully-fleshed out handbook instead of 170 dense pages of rules.
Artwork takes time, though, and it might take a considerable time to get all the pieces commissioned, finished, and incorporated in the final product. I also need to hire a graphic designer to finish the page design and someone to paste all the components together.
While I do not plan to miss my production estimate, I feel that it would be foolish not to prepare for such an occurrence. To prevent any delay in your enjoyment, everyone who funds Age of Æther at the Proletariat level or higher shall receive the current un-illustrated PDF upon the successful completion of the Kickstarter. That way, you can start playing immediately, and not have to wait for the collaborative efforts to wrap up before you start rolling dice.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)