Aether and Steamworks
Aether and Steamworks is a TTRPG with elements of Steampunk Inventive spirit, High Fantasy themes and multiple world settings.
Aether and Steamworks
Aether and Steamworks is a TTRPG with elements of Steampunk Inventive spirit, High Fantasy themes and multiple world settings.
This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Sun, May 5 2019 3:03 PM UTC +00:00.
My name is Ty Burruss, and I am an avid fan of gaming in general, having years of GM/DM/Storyteller experience in multiple game formats from D&D (AD&D - 5th edition), Hackmaster, Palladium Fantasy, Rift, Whitewolf games (Vampire, Werewolf, Mage, Hunter, Exalted), various smaller games and personally developed but non-published systems (d10 D&D system, Fallout RPG based on Fallout 1 and 2's system, and more).
As of my more professional credentials I have an Associates in Applied Sciences and am within my final term to attain my Bachelors of Computer Sciences focusing on software development and digital art, determined to begin indie game development (all while likely having to have a more boring job until I get off the ground).
I have lofty ideals, high hopes, and what my friends tell me are good ideas that I hope to share with the greater world at large.
This project is for the development and distribution of a new tabletop roleplaying game called "Aether and Steamworks". This game mixes a variety of themes together into one cohesive and interesting universe unlike anything else on the market today, and hopefully catering to a niche people didn't realize needed to be a thing.
My friends and I are avid role-players, having a pretty steady group playing multiple games and long running campaigns for years. In the interest of starting a new campaign, I had decided I wanted to shake things up a little and was intending on just creating a unique setting for the games we were already playing. The further I developed these ideas, the more the setting and ideas within started to diverge and demand new ideas and mechanics that inevitably became the project as it is now.
I enjoy some aspects of the steampunk dynamic, the idea of endless adventure and inventive creativeness, the seemingly low tech with high tech capabilities, and Airships. I grew up on Final Fantasy and the Airship was always a joy of mine. In this game the steampunk aesthetic becomes necessary due to a variety of factors:
1) Aether fuels many things, but cannot be used with "dead metals" such as Iron, Steel and Mithril. Metals with high conductivity tend to be capable of channeling both Aether and the power necessary for a wide variety of mechanical (Automata) creations. In the world, money is determined by this same utilitarian aspect, as enough coins can be snipped and/or melted into wiring or makeshift parts to enhance/repair invention. Silver is the most valuable metal, followed by copper, gold, and then the others.
2) The use of Aether requires a "whole product" use. Aether can be described as a cup full of colors. As one color is used for various effects (powering furnaces, creating electricity, healing wounds, reading minds, etc.) that leaves behind the other colors. They take a while to evaporate from the cup, but every time you decide to use a color that isn't existing you need to refill the cup with all colors again. In this society, the use of necrotic and corrosive Aether has been outlawed for its potential threat. This leaves a large amount of this version of Aether ambient, causing large clouds of pollution that mix with the ambient and become a compound called by the many "Arsine". This constant threat requires the population to be prepared with both gas masks and goggles to avoid potential harm to themselves in the case of a buildup of the gas. Those who become afflicted by the gas are unfortunately in need of medical help from being "Arsed".
Don't get Arsed my friends.
Also, I really love the dynamic and options available to the high fantasy scene, but didn't find that the variety was ...fun...enough. So I created unique Races and Classes to create some interesting and "Quirky" ideas.
The Story of the game is what the GM and players make of it, like any tabletop game, but of course there is an underlying history and current details for the campaign setting. The general idea is that for the known history of the "Aethersphere" (the solar system the game takes place in due to a large spherical barrier surrounding it all) the Elven Monarchy has had a firm grip over all the other races due to their strength, immortality and long term planning. They had ruled with a modicum of successes depending on how one might look at the long term situation, often making decisions that were more important to themselves than their vassals or subjects, and in order to retain power. Eventually, the other races (primarily driven by the Dwarves) came to recognize some of these behaviors as less than desirable and began to lose faith in the rulership, which elicited campaigns against the Elves to see if new government bodies could be formed.
In reply, the Elves saw this as a more potent and dangerous potential uprising and as such began to research more and more dangerous magical experimentation, inevitably leading to a massive and damaging incident that destroyed an entire colony of civilians and scientists that helped tip the scales into full blown war against the Monarchy. This war was primarily lead by the Dwarves, as they had the most effective weapons against the Elves to begin with: Mithril. Mithril is magic (Aether) immune and as such made for devastating weaponry in the fight for a new order.
The war had lasted nearly 100 years before tenuous alliances, difficult decisions, and potential genocide against the Halflings ended in victory for the Dwarven Empire. The game takes place 55 years after the end of this "Great War" as the societies of the 'Sphere are trying to rebuild in the wake of leadership collapse. Outside of the directly controlled major cities on the major worlds in the 'Sphere lies mostly lawlessness and harsh conditions (similar to the wild west). The major towns and capitals are playing games of political intrigue trying to vie for power and advancement in a newly established government trying to find its footing. Some fragments of the old leadership remain (such as certain factions) and others have been wiped away.
Those citizenry that would not integrate into society have become the hunted, and the Dwarves (being aware the Elves live forever, have intensive long term planning capabilities and will inevitably work toward returning the Aethersphere to their control) have made Elves an illegality, requiring confinement and internment in control camps if not outright killed on sight. This has lead the remaining Elves to going into hiding and using Aether magics to change their appearance so as to pass off as other races. These Elves are referred to as the "Tuvi" and try to avoid conflict, their spirits broken and just trying to survive. Those Elves that refuse to be slowly eradicated or eternally in hiding have named themselves the "Tyell" in honor of a grand warrior who made a great sacrifice for his people.
From a gameplay perspective, the campaigns that can be created for this game can be specific world based, deal with or without political situations, can be connected to factions or locations, etc.
The races of A&S are familiar faces but all with their own bent and spin. Each one of them has been affected by both Aether (the chaotic and powerful essence of everything, and the basis of magic and powersource of many inventions) and their histories.
The Elves are the oldest and (previously) most powerful race in the 'Sphere. They gain high increases in all Attributes, additional languages that come from their long lives, better understanding of Aether and how to control it. They suffer from hubris and pride, believing themselves better than the other races almost as a whole. Playing as an Elf is a large decision, as the character can bring the wrath of the Empire (or other security forces) down on a group just by being found out as an Elf. They have to hide the fact that they are naturally good at most things, never age, and heal much more rapidly than others. This creates a unique campaign dynamic that shouldn't be taken lightly.
The Dwarves in this game come in two flavors: Those that work with the Empire and those that do not agree with their methods. Either way they are similar to Dwarves in other games/settings. They are stubborn, slow but powerful friends, Strong and resistant to magic. They have a homeworld (having abandoned their historical home on Avalon) that is high in the materials required to create Mithril, and is the only world capable of this in large quantity for unknown (and no meta knowledge here) reason.
Humans are charismatic, eternally stubborn and mercurial. They took part in both sides of the war for ideology or money, and as such most races are not quick to judge them from the offset. They are more quickly affected by Aether, and as such tend to be the most "Quirky" race, and humans occasionally become a more Powerful and Etherial being called the Aen. They tend to have the most choice in Attribute direction, as their interests vary.
The orcs are a Matriarchal society (the Female orc is massive, intimidating and powerful, the males are still large by human standards but often more soft and introspective) that is fragmented after the events of the Great War. They fall in two camps: The Suits and the Skabs. The Suits are happy to try and integrate into the Empire and adopt their ways, recognizing that the future of the species might come from more pragmatism and less stubborn tradition. The Skabs are rebels, anarcho-adjacent and believe the old ways should never be forgotten or removed. They strive for an Orc revolution, to carve their own control over the 'Sphere in what ways they can.
The Gnomes are inventive masterminds that spend so much time with the process and Aether that many of them go entirely mad and become the "Svero" or "Mad ones". The Svero tend to be pitied and put in simple positions in government work, or in society as ineffectual citizens. Gnomes are so often found tinkering and using tools that they are colloquially termed "Goggies". They did not appreciate the disdain and abuse that the Monarchy placed on them in their effort for more and more scientific progress and as such ended up joining the Empire efforts as the Dwarves' staunchest ally during the Great War.
Goblins. They get a bad rap in many games, but are often one of my favorite things to NPC for because you can do whatever you want with them. In the 'Sphere, the Goblins are everywhere. When the first fumbling steps were taken to explore the Void (Space), it surprised the Monarchy that they found Goblins on every world they explored. Goblins range from 6 inches to 4 feet tall depending on the variety. The ones that PC's have access to are referred to as "Bodgies" and have the unfortunate inability to lie, which often lands them Government jobs because the public hopes that will at least provide them footing to understand what is going on. Bodgies suffer from goblin impulses, effects that require an action or a consequence will happen that describes their baser nature sometimes coming through (typically in moments of heightened emotion). Bodgies are considered a "Servant Race" alongside Lezrin, Skixen and Halflings, and as such do not tend to garner much power or authority, and can use this status to their advantage by blending in during social encounters. Nobody notices the help.
The halfling race was mostly decimated during the great war by massively destructive inventions designed to target them specifically because they were so effective that the Empire would have lost otherwise. Those that survived are now called the "Chancers", halflings with so much luck that only the foolish play games of chance with them.
Those that were not so lucky as to be killed by the Empire's attack instead were mutated into the rodent-like Skixen. Standing between 2 and 3 feet tall, these rodent creatures are highly intelligent, immune to Disease and Contaminations such as the Arsine, and capable of getting into places other races cannot. This has lead to the Empire using them mostly as mechanics and maintenance workers, placing them in the sewers of the major cities due to the health hazards of sending others into those places. Both the Skixen and the Chancers hold no love for the Empire.
The Lezrin are a new race. They crawled out of the mountains in the last 20 years and over time have been accepted by the others as a non-threat. They speak through their minds and have unique agendas, are powerful, regenerate rapidly and as such are often employed as security or peacekeepers.
Beyond that are half-breeds (Misegnates) which are looked on poorly by most of the 'Sphere due to their propensity towards disease and weakness to Aether, or due to their unknown connection to the Eternals (the Aspects of Ether that work on a different plane of existence to further their own causes and crusades).
The game contains a variety of unique and versatile character classes that emphasize choice and personality. These classes are as such, in simplified detail:
The Jack: A Jack of all trades, this character has the ability to take from other classes abilities to enhance their own unique and varied techniques. They are able to fill any specialty and necessity that a party may be missing. This can lead to some very powerful combinations of abilities.
The Aethermage (Or Chaos Mage, as society sometimes calls them): Aether is strong, difficult to control and chaotic. Aethermages channel this in a variety of ways and specialize in a specific aspect of Aether to do so (Elements, Life and Mind, Space and Time, Corrosion and Necrosis) all at the risk of having their effects (with a Critical failure) going out of control to often strange effect. They must be placed on the Empire's Threat Registrar and must check in with the Department of Aether Defense (or D.A.D.) in order to retain their freedom and autonomy.
The Alchemist: Years of study and training have allowed these characters to manipulate Aether without risk (As much as handling a bomb is unrisky). They are the premier mages of the Empire, as Aethermages are untrusted, and are respected for their at minimum 10 years of study and understanding.
The Tinker: The 'Sphere is full of thoughtful and inventive characters, and this spirit of creativity is culminated in the Tinker. They trade abilities for inventions that provide them a plethora of options, and can create things for party members, repair damage automata, or override various technologies. They specialize in Offensive, Defensive or Augmentive invention.
The Gifted: Ordinary individuals in the worst way, these characters take hits to their Attributes in exchange for a powerful being providing them with improvements, with momentary blasts of brilliance, skills and auras, all culminating in a showdown with the Patron to determine if they will consume the ward or if the ward will inherit the full abilities of the Patron.
The Noble: Money is power, and the Noble embodies this. They have a specific type of house they belong to and through their house, their finances and their specific flavor of Noble help to drive the narrative, as well as gaining more "abilities" through their augments and purchases of inventions over other characters.
The Battle-Scarred: These characters are survivors of war and strife, and haunted by it. They suffer from mental illness all while having advance combat and survival skills unmatched by the other classes, in trade off of social skills and madness.
My ideal for this game was that it could be played in serious manner all while holding a beautiful mixture of creativity and humor. Characters are varied, full of strange quirks (literally as a mechanic) and wholly unique to every player. I was tired of the TTRPG "Tropes" that year after year are only altered in the most minor ways (why break a moneymaking formula you ask? Boredom is my answer.) Each character has unique aspects that the character helps determine that define who that character is, and at the center of this is my "Quirks" system. Each character gains quirks from the start, and increases in the number of them the higher level the character gains as an expression of these heroic beings constantly being bombarded with the chaotic nature of Aether infusing them over and over to fight or overcome challenges. Each of these quirks has a pro and a con to be considered, a double edged coin that helps create a feeling of interesting appeal to each character.
There are a large variety of Factions in the game that could help drive or develop the 'Sphere for any game. Quickly (as this front page is getting rather large) I will run them down: There's the Empire, The Tyell, The Mithril Order (Fanatics that are at the right hand of the Emperor), the Caretakers (Elves that abandoned the Monarchy before the Great War and now exist in hiding but have differing agendas than the Tyell), The Seven (Groups of brave individuals that work on improving the conditions for everyone and on exploring the Void, consisting of the Messengers, the Colonists, the Researchers, the Explorers, the Biologists, the Geoengineers, and the Scouts), The University (the coalition of Alchemists that work to further understanding of the Aether and how it applies to technology), The Savras (the Orcish Marauder faction determined to take rulership from the Empire), and the Vincere (a spartan-esque faction of the Skixen hidden on their homeworld of Miocenis training to take down the Empire in revenge as well).
Each of these factions could play a major part in any campaign, and will hold places in future lore and story in the world.
The worlds of A&S are large and rich, with their own history and future in the setting. They consist of:
Avalon: The homeworld of the Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes, Humans and Halflings. Avalon is the most populous world in the Aethersphere and has a rich cultural history for most races in the game. Giant Titanspikes dot the landscape around the greatest cities, and the surface of the planet is a glittering gem from near overpopulation of the surface and the cities that stretch from shore to shore on each continent.
Silvershield: The homeworld of the Dwarves and of the most minimal (nearly non-existant) Aether of any world in the 'Sphere. The mines of Silvershield are ripe with the materials for Mithril, Iron and Steel, and as such the Dwarves naturally migrated here to expand their materials Empire before inevitably finding themselves in the Great War.
Rulo: The homeworld of Orcs, Trogs, Trolls and Ogres. Rulo is a harsh land where reptiles are the pre-eminent species of fauna behind the aforementioned humanoids themselves. Through perseverance, tribalism and community the Orcs have mostly tamed their home planet, but of course they still respect the world for the dangers its provides. The Orcs fought a 600 year war against Monarchy occupation, and only when the Empire held out a hand to them to fight the Monarchy were they able to finally fully throw the Shackles off, but this has left a Fragmented leadership as the Orcs now have to decide which direction to take their civilization.
Miocenis: The once beautiful chosen land of the Halflings has been decimated by the Empire during the great war, leaving a swampy wasteland of mutated insectoids that often create a constant threat for the struggling Skixen to hold off. Though they struggle, the Skixen are using the trials and difficulties to harden and improve their race, to the best of their ability.
Hornborm: This world is relatively unexplored as it is rife with Aether in concentrations far greater than the other worlds. This leads to massive continent sized Aether-Storms (very powerful and frightening events that crack the ground, reorganize the surroundings, and sometimes mutate living beings), powerfully evolved plantlife that hunts and traps any mobile beings, and mysterious wells of power that are as yet unexplained.
Eris: The scientific outpost located at the edge of the 'Sphere is buried in ice, and intolerable to live on without technology and Aether. Those that live in this harsh environment seek to geoengineer the subsurface into a world comfortable for the colonists, and since the Great War they have gone far more unnoticed and ignored, leading to the need to become more self-reliant. Those that live here are the closest to the Aethersphere itself and have been studying it for years in an effort to find its composition, understand its workings and determine both why it is there as well as what is beyond it.
Xyther: The Ancient world of Xyther is a conundrum. Scientific teams have very limited access to the world as most of it is covered in sweltering magma and highly dangerous conditions. What drives interest on this closes world to the Binary Suns of the system is that there seems to have been an ancient civilization that remnants of can sometimes be found. Discovering ways to gather these ancient relics and fragments is important because over time they continue to degrade from heat damage.
The game lends itself to a variety of play-styles and campaign options. Does your group wish to play a game of bounty hunters, set on chasing down the most dangerous beings in the 'Sphere, including elite Tyell forces? How about a rebel alliance narrative where the Elves are facing eradication and in order to save them a desperate series of events have to occur in order to change the pecking order or to bring political change? In the wilds of Hornborm lie secrets unknown, does your party dare explore the greater mystery of the planet? Do they enjoy political intrigue, the games of cat and mouse the greater Nobles and citizenry play with one another as they vie for power? Or what about heading to the wild and untamed lands outside of civilization where one's gun arm can make or break someone's legend?
There are a lot of options is all I am sayin.
This game's intent is to be connected to its fanbase. It's wholly my intent (whether the game is big or not) to become involved in a communal storytelling, absorbing elements of wonderful stories and making them canon where it fits. The universe of Aether and Steamworks should be one that people feel part of. Help me make this happen for you and I will return the favor to the best of my ability.
I wish to thank anyone that took the time to read the above (That's a lot o' reading), has checked out my game and whether or not they have contributed still enjoys any part of this. All my intention is in this is to bring joy and imagination to others, and being able to provide that in any part makes me happy.
Below are some examples from the game. Feel free to send me any questions you would like answered at firstname.lastname@example.org. Eventually I will have a webpage, but as I'm hyper busy with the game, art, being a dad, going to school, and making sure I don't ignore my spouse....it might take a bit.
I have included Chapter 1 for examples of what can be expected from the game format.
Once I have finished the book, the artwork and promotional materials, I will be either self-funding (hopefully crowd sourcing) publishing for the book, or looking into companies that might be willing to back me if I am unable to secure funding. Worse case scenario I will complete the game and sell it on sites like DrivethruRPG.com in sub-optimal condition if I am unable to get the funding.
As a project update I will provide a couple of captures from chapter 2: Races and show a little more of the flavor of the game. This is currently without artwork as my beta has placeholder artwork that I cannot use in the final project. I am currently relying on myself to create art for this game and as such it is taking more time than I like.
I will continue to update my Kick-starter page with more information, lore dumps, updated visuals and a more appropriate logo for A&S in the future. Thank you for considering me.
Risks and challenges
Common risks to this project are related to having the appropriate time to work on the project as I am a student, father and working while I produce this material. In relation to the rewards they are specifically dependent on if I accomplish the goals required to complete the project.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter