Level Up (A5E) Sunset Riders Fantasy Western! (Campaign Setting thoughts)

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
So I had another sleepless night last night. And in between fleshing out combat maneuvers for Martial Artistry it struck me that there's something that isn't American at all that is also connected to something -deeply- American.

Halley's Comet.

Every 75 years, give or take, it appears in the skies above Earth for about six months during it's orbit around the Sun. Then? Woosh off into the darkened reaches of space, invisible to the human eye and lost in a sea of stars...

It reached it's perihelion on November 16th, 1835, two weeks before Mark Twain was born. And it reached it, again, on April 20th of 1910, the day before Mark Twain died.

... So how about a world where that planar alignment occurs once every 75 years, give or take? Where once every 75 years the Material Plane becomes exposed to the terrible darkness beyond mortal ken when the planes align and the gap yawns wide...

And what's more? How about a world where Halley's Comet is either the Harbinger of incredible danger, a roving star from the darkness that guides evil to our world... -Or- is the physical manifestation of the gap being -closed- when the event is over? Shining down for 6 months to let everyone know that the evil has been cast away, yet again?

Honestly, either direction could be pretty cool.
 

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Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
So I had another sleepless night last night. And in between fleshing out combat maneuvers for Martial Artistry it struck me that there's something that isn't American at all that is also connected to something -deeply- American.

Halley's Comet.

Every 75 years, give or take, it appears in the skies above Earth for about six months during it's orbit around the Sun. Then? Woosh off into the darkened reaches of space, invisible to the human eye and lost in a sea of stars...

It reached it's perihelion on November 16th, 1835, two weeks before Mark Twain was born. And it reached it, again, on April 20th of 1910, the day before Mark Twain died.

... So how about a world where that planar alignment occurs once every 75 years, give or take? Where once every 75 years the Material Plane becomes exposed to the terrible darkness beyond mortal ken when the planes align and the gap yawns wide...

And what's more? How about a world where Halley's Comet is either the Harbinger of incredible danger, a roving star from the darkness that guides evil to our world... -Or- is the physical manifestation of the gap being -closed- when the event is over? Shining down for 6 months to let everyone know that the evil has been cast away, yet again?

Honestly, either direction could be pretty cool.

well Halleys comet is already a Harbinbger of Doom, as it forewarned of the 1066 Norman invasion of England. Caeser was assasinated with an earlier appearance and the Chinese believed it presaged a threat to the country, be it war, earthquakes, floods or epidemics.

I wonder if you could place the ethereal/elemental realm out on the edge of the galaxy, beyond the Kuiper belt - the ‘dark forces’ ride Halleys comet from the Outer Darkness in towards the Sun, and in doing so get a taste of delicious Life on Earth

‘You've come, have you? – You've come, you source of tears to many mothers. It is long since I saw you; but as I see you now you are much more terrible, for I see you brandishing the downfall of my country.” - Eilmer of Malmesbury, 11th Century Monk referring to Halleys Comet
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
well Halleys comet is already a Harbinbger of Doom, as it forewarned of the 1066 Norman invasion of England. Caeser was assasinated with an earlier appearance and the Chinese believed it presaged a threat to the country, be it war, earthquakes, floods or epidemics.

I wonder if you could place the ethereal/elemental realm out on the edge of the galaxy, beyond the Kuiper belt - the ‘dark forces’ ride Halleys comet from the Outer Darkness in towards the Sun, and in doing so get a taste of delicious Life on Earth

‘You've come, have you? – You've come, you source of tears to many mothers. It is long since I saw you; but as I see you now you are much more terrible, for I see you brandishing the downfall of my country.” - Eilmer of Malmesbury, 11th Century Monk referring to Halleys Comet
So that settles -that-! Harbinger of doom!

The current plan is that the elemental planes are going to be practically touching the Material plane, just like the Shadow Plane and the Feywild as mirror-planes. Then there's the Ethereal plane which connects to the different Heavens and Hells and probably lawfully aligned planes.

And then comes the Astral Plane which stretches off into eternity, within which the roiling chaos of the Abyss, Limbo, and the Far Realm all reside, alongside even stranger realms beyond that no one knows anything about, even the gods of this world.

And from the Primordial Chaos of the universe they issue forth to come to this world, this place... Attacking fairly constantly (Hence the Blood War) to try and break through.

OH... OH hell... that... holy crap. That's a brain blast.

The desolate plane. The plane where Glory died? Hell.

It's -now- Hell. Glory twisted to Narcissism. To self-aggrandizement and the weakening and humiliation of the other. Glory the cautionary tale of the Pantheon because she was utterly lost, unwilling to even entertain Truth. But still she fulfills her role of protecting the Prime Material plane, her devils seek souls just as surely as angels do for the other gods, but far more aggressively, more -directly-.

For their glory. For -her- glory. For Glory.

The Blood War is no longer a "Devils versus Demons" exclusive affair. It's -everyone- opposing demons and other chaotic monsters from beyond the Astral Plane. Who come to the Prime for the same reason it's guarded: Souls.

The gods and other spiritual entities of the Prime seek to keep the souls here. To foster and nurture souls and keep them safe as they grow and become more. But these other entities, the darkness beyond... they come and take and do not foster. Do not grow. They -just- steal every 75 years or so.

Which might, in part, be why so many monsters and creatures are soulless? They're a finite resource, maybe? Not 100% certain on that part but...

Holy crap... I like this.
 



Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
Okay... My husband just made an excellent and important addition to the setting.

Something we've been discussing is that every soul that is born into the world grows as you go. Gains strength and power from life-experiences and stuff. It's part of a cycle of rebirth. 'Cause your soul heads to heaven (or hell) to be used to battle the things out in the great darkness beyond the heavenly planes.

Then, when your soul is all but depleted, it's returned to the world to grow anew. Typically as a fresh baby off to learn and grow.

... Which makes Necromancy and the Undeath an incredibly evil act in the setting.

It's not evil because you're defiling a corpse or stealing from the deceased's family... okay it kind of is, but more than that! More than that you're using that soul for your own selfish ends. You're squandering the power meant to protect the world for your mortal desires. Well... If your chosen undead -has- a soul, of course.

Your average Skeleton or Zombie is 100% a soulless automaton. But Vampires? Mummies?

And then there's Revenants... People so bound up in the dark side of justice that their soul -cannot- let go. And burns itself out seeking to take justice into their own hands.

And, really... what undead entity is more "Wild West" than the Revenant? The undead gunslinger returned to gun down the people who wronged them in life... Tragic. Oh, so tragic!

And, of course, Ghosts are the same way. Unable to let go, but for various reasons. The power of their soul fading gradually until there's nothing left but the occasional shadow at the edge of your vision...
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter

Spent over an hour, last night, just laying in bed while "The Ecstasy of Gold" ran through my mind on repeat.

Beautiful piece. Amazingly well written. And then about 2/3rds of the way through, this started interfering with it.


And then I was listening to a Wild Arms-Ecstasy of Gold remix until I finally drifted off.

On a slightly related note. My husband came up with a fantastic concept for the setting, last night, and essentially named the setting: Sunset Riders.

And sure. Riding off into the Sunset is a hell of an image for a wild west setting. But he added some elements to the concept that changes it dramatically. Firstly: Magic horses.

Night Horses are nocturnal. During the waking hours these jet black broncos seek shade or caves to avoid the sun as they sleep. The entire herd work together to stay safe by having a few members basically play lookout. Typically younger members of the herd that keep watch for predators. But once the sun sets, the herd is fully active and thunders across the planes as any horse might do during the day. But their -true- strangeness comes in the twilight hours. For the Night Horses can ride between the land of the living and the land of the dead during the last hours of the day and the start of night.

And time and space in the Deadlands don't conform to reality perfectly. A Night Horse can run along the periphery between worlds and wind up hundreds of miles from where they started before the sun is finished setting. It's how the herd travels with the change of the seasons. They ride hard across the dusk as winter comes to the sweeping plains and find themselves near to Lowmoon's lush grasslands.

And if half-tamed, they can take a rider along their way.

Thus the Sunset Riders. Mostly young men, wiry and thin, expert riders, orphans preferred... are hired on to do "Ride Dusk" to carry important messages across the continent faster than any train could hope to run.

Why orphans? Because if you're in the Deadlands when Twilight ends, you and your Night Horse aren't getting out before Dawn... And because time works differently there, well. Dawn may be a night, or it may be a lifetime.

Which also lead into the thought of Bandits and Outlaws and the occasional Lawman riding dusk. So if you see someone lope into town on a jet black horse you can't tell if they're just riding a normal horse that happens to be black or a true Night Horse indicating they're -probably- an Outlaw ready to flee into dusk at the drop of a hat.

And that introductory "10 Minutes to Midnight" adventure with the Ghost Train? Now it's "10 Minutes of Twilight". The players are riding Night Horses, and the Ghost Train is taking souls from the Deadlands to the Heavens... or Hell. Depending where they get off.

Run by Casey Jones. A folk-hero railman who gave his life to save his passengers in a terrible train wreck.
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
Sunset Riders character thoughts:

New Heritage: Macabre.
Undead or perhaps Quasi-Undead PCs. So far comes in two flavors of choosing to oppose the natural order of life and death. Either revenancy in order to continue a twisted quest for justice, or selfishness and greed against prosperity. Need a name for the prosperity one but that'll be a 'Vampire' concept where you have to either eat flesh or drink blood to maintain yourself at the expense of others. Largely out of New Gold City but every culture can create them, of course. I just need a nice "Lestat" option. In either case you start out with only a portion of a soul and have to reclaim your soul, seek investment from others, or face the slow spiral to soullessness.

And yes, souls as a tracked condition where the further you move toward soullessness the worse you get. Still working out the "How" of it since demanding people roleplay their characters as 'More Amoral' seems lame.

SRD/GPG Heritages: Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes, Goblins, Halflings, Humans, Orcs... But also Planetouched and Zevites with an outside chance of Spiderfolk if they're part of the SRD by release.

Of course pretty much every heritage 'works' within the setting. It just won't be tailored to them.

Planetouched will be a part of the setting exemplifying the spiritual nature of it. Whether they're elemental-touched because the elemental planes are essentially part of the material plane in this cosmology, or angel/devil touched because the heavens and hells are Inner Planes in the cosmology. Way closer, way more direct involvement between the various spirits and such.

For the Zevites it'll be a pretty much "Dark Sun" scenario where they came to this plane and got stuck -ages- ago. Unable to return to the Astral Plane they instead settle down and form their own enclaves. Probably not quite so xenophobically as Gith, but still fairly isolated overall.

Spiderfolk, like the Zevites, are going to be stranded. But unlike the Zevites they'll also have some ability to reach out -beyond- the Inner Planes through the web to try and connect with the Fatespinner through the Spinner Cult culture and Spinner Touched heritage trait, adding a level of mysticism and danger to them. After all, if the Fatespinner is out in the dark, what dangers could it pose to this already harried world?

(Yes, the Ethereal Plane is still an inner plane, but most folk don't know that or know anything about the Fatespinner, so it all comes across as dangerous cult talk!)

Culture: Acadian Hollow, Bayou Born
Those who grow up in the Acadian range know better than to open their door at night, and hold a lot of very reasonable superstitions within a High Fantasy setting.

Bayou Born will kind of be a culture that blends magic with swamp-living. Sort of like High Elf culture but less 'Tree City' and more 'Backwater'

Backgrounds: Gunfighter, Snake Oil Salesman, Prospector, Rail Worker, Sunset Rider
Wild West characters have a tendency to be older and to have more of a history than your typical D&D character starting out. So even at level 1 you can be the San Saba Songbird! It's a fighting background with a second identity you can don or discard. Though people have a chance to recognize you through rolling perception or insight, of course.

Charlatans are more than capable Snake Oil Salesman, of course, but the goal here is to be more 'Crappy Alchemist' background and less 'Bunch of identities' so there'll be some distinction.

Prospectors seeking gold or other resources out in them thar hills are definitely a thing. With benefits to finding stuff and probably a gamey leg that warns you of weather and/or gold in the immediate vicinity.

Sunset Riders are people who were sunset riders in their youth, but no longer pursue that particular line of employment. But you never quite forget the sights, sounds, and feelings of riding along the edge of death itself...
 

Selganor

Adventurer
Then, when your soul is all but depleted, it's returned to the world to grow anew. Typically as a fresh baby off to learn and grow.
Do you intend to tell what happens with a corpse soul if the body is out into an A5E bag of holding (or similar item)? Those can't be raised anymore...
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
Do you intend to tell what happens with a corpse soul if the body is out into an A5E bag of holding (or similar item)? Those can't be raised anymore...
If your body goes into a bag of holding your body can't be raised, nor can you be resurrected... in -that- body. Your soul moves on, though. Heads to the Dusklands and gets on the Ghost Train to the heavens or hell. Unless your soul was marked for reclamation by something else, or you were already soulless.

But True Resurrection still works 'cause it can -create- a body for you to inhabit (50,000gp of Diamonds required). Still requires your soul to be able and willing to return, though.

Hmm... So a person who becomes Soulless through their actions in life, but not through giving their soul away to an entity that will keep it, could have Raise Dead or Resurrection cast in order to be restored to full soul... that's... an interesting interaction. Might need to figure out some options, there, once I've got the soul track structured...
 

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