This is the first post of many devoted to show what kind of stories I hope you can tell in the world of Arche, when it becomes a roleplaying game.
Archelogists: It’s a strange world
The basis for this kind of story come from Planetary, the magnificent work of Warren Ellis and John Cassaday. As Archelogists, characters will investigate the most secret and mysterious elements of the world, both in the physical plane and in ocean of ideas that is the Arche. They will face societies and groups opposed, for several reasons, to the resolution of said mysteries.
- Whatever happened to the Trelos of the Empire? How and to where did they disappeared?
- There are certain kinds of creatures thought nonexistant or extinct, but in some islands of Aquo and Bris, tunnels of Ignis and valleys of Noah strange and new creatures can still be discovered.
Demiurges: The battle against the Imbalance
The demiurges can not stop noticing how the world is slowly slipping towards the lack of Equilibrium. The black star has started to cause strange alterations in some places and creatures. No one knows what else will happen, but some demiurges do not want to find out. If they manage to avoid unscrupulous taumaturges wishing to use them as bateries, and false demiurges wanting to stealing their powers, maybe some of them learn how to balance again the world.
This if the first of many posts I’ll focus on places in the world of Arche. Today, a place in the facet of Noah.
Until very recently, the facet of Noah was under almost complete control of the great Trelo Empire that rised in Ignis. Almost overnight, the Trelo Empire fell and dissappeared. It took some time to Noah’s inhabitants to realize that their lords were gone for good, but soon they went back to the old ways and broke down the empire and started warring.
Dulbog Plateau was the location of the last conquest battle of the Trelo Empire. Was in this plateau where the alliance of the last free peoples of Noah, guided by the last Jar, the last War Matriarch and the last Humble Archivist, faced the Trelo Army of Marquises. Was in this plateau where the Archivists betrayed the Jar, dooming the forces of Noah to their defeat. Was in this plateau where the Jar knelt before the Great Duke, not a hundred steps away from the corpse of the last War Matriarch. But today, there are few who remember that battle. As was common in the Trelo Empire, the Great Duke did everything he could to erase all history prior to the Empire. Only remains some highly modified oral stories and a few lost records, in possession of the new Archivists.
The plateau is quite high, and is frequently crossed by cold winds of great strength. It is covered by bushes and small isolated groups of strong perennial trees, with thick twisted trunks. In the heart of the biggest of these groves still stands the fort that the War Matriarch ordered built, following the plans of the Humble Archivists. After the battle, the Great Duke decided to keep the fortification, and made the Archivists turn it into a tomb for the dead Marquises fallen in battle. After the disappearance of the Trelo Empire, some people have dared to plunder the Dulbog fort/tomb, but the construction secrets of the Archivists have kept it closed. Its exterior, however, has been totally defaced of all ornaments and additional masonry, leaving it the appearance of a coarse, blank and impervious building.
When the Demiurge created the world with the four basic elements that it extracted from the Apeiron, it gave it a perfect tetrahedral shape.
Now, an eternity later, the world still keeps its shape, although somewhat erosioned since it disappeared.
Distinct living forms succeeded in each facet of the world, each more adapted to their environments.
- Noah is the facet of the earth moon. It is cold and dry. Fire lies far beneath the earth, and only in some points rises forming volcanoes. There is air above the earth, and water is restricted to seas and some rivers. Noah is the facet more similar to our world, but with a cold climate all along.
- Ignis is the facet of the fire moon. It is hot and dry. Here, fire has mixed with air. Only under earth can heat be withstood. There some few underground lakes, usually at great depths. Almost all great civilizations of this facet appeared in the colder underground tunnels and caves. The big exception was the great Trelo empire, which conquered all the facet and even reached out to Noah, and conquered it too.
- Bris is the facet of the air moon. It is hot and wet. Floating earth islands and changing seas fly in an enormous air ocean and, in its depths, a fire abyss roars. The cultures natives to Bris have typically been very isolated, as the floating islands are impossible to leave except to some very specifically adapted creatures. Also, “gravity” in Bris is different. Things do not always fall in a direction perpendicular to the facet plane: if there is near enough a floating island or sea, things fall towards it. Bris inhabitants who have visited other facets found them strange; inhabitants of other facets who have visited Bris found it, at least, disconcerting.
- Aquo is the facet of the water moon. It is cold and wet. A big ocean, with a few isolated islands. Rains and storms are common. And there is the Hollow. More or less in what would be the geometrical center of the facet, ocean dissappears, as if kept aside by an invisible spheric barrier. In the lower side of the sphere (up to, more or less, a quarter of its height) something has happened to water: it has transitioned towards a crystalline state distinct to ice. Under that crystal, the ocean can be seen. And above the crystal, somewhat unexpectedly, some great cultures have developed, always under the vision of huge ocean walls around them but never falling.
There are many species of living beings in the world. Biology studies and classifies them. One of the simpler taxonomies divides living beings by their number of composing basic elements. By this taxonomy, there are four classes (or domains) of living beings:
- Elemental: Their bodies are made of only one element. Almost all the elemental kingdoms can be found in any of the world’s facets. This domain is divided in the following kingdoms, by the element:
- Igneous: No Igneous Elemental has been found in Aquo.
- Aereal: Uncommon in Ignis, but they can be found in all facets.
- Dual: Their bodies are made of two elements. This domain is divided in the following kingdoms, depending on the pair of forming elements:
- Ignae: Mixes of fire and air. Specially common on Ignis surface.
- Terrign: Earth and fire. Very common in Noah undergrounds, but found in the other facets too.
- Ignaquo: Fire and water. Very strange, and very uncommon, beings. The few studied specimens have been found in Aquo’s Hollow.
- Terrae: Earth and air. Very common dual beings, found in all facets.
- Aeraquo: Air and water. Mainly found in the surface of the water zones of Noah, and through all of Bris.
- Aquoterram: Earth and water.
- Trion: Their bodies are made of three elements. Divided in the following kingdoms:
- Terrignae: Earth, fire and air. Mainly found in Ignis, this kingdom stands out for containing the Trelos, builders of the greatest civilization of Ignis (and maybe of Noah).
- Ignaeraquo: Fire, air and water. This kingdom encloses the living beings native to the crystalline surface of Aquo’s Hollow. Most of the species of this kingdom live in the depths of Bris, close to the fire abyss.
- Aeraquoterram: Air, earth and fire. The Holls, intelligent amphibians who live through all of Aquo, belong to this kingdom.
- Aquoterrae: Water, earth and fire. Can be found in most places of Noah.
- Tetrio: Their bodies contains all basic elements. All the members belong to the Ignaeraquoterram kingdom. Can be found in all facets of the world. Humans belong to this domain and kingdom.
This classification does not finish at the kingdom level. After kingdom, usually comes element, that divides the kingdoms in function of the main element of the living beings. Then comes phylum, which groups them according to their internal organization. Then, class, order and family, every step grouping by shared characteristics. Finally, genus groups the more related species, and specie groups beings able to reproduce between them.
This is not the only possible classification of the living beings of the world. Some scholars consider that the elemental kingdoms do not correspond to enough real differencies, which causes confusion in the phylum, class and order levels. Some others, specially the followers of the Logy precepts, decide to completely ignore the elemental aspect and work a classification in base only to the differences observable down to the celular level. Those who follow the elemental taxonomy think that is stupid to ignore the existing knowledge about the elemental basis of the living beings. Those who follow cellular taxonomy think their results are more useful. There are some very advanced taxonomies, known only in the more advanced civilizations, that mix with great success both visions, applying an elemental taxonomy at the cellular level, and a non elemental taxonomy at higher levels of organization (save for the living beings that lack cells).
Like most roleplaying fans, I have had in my head several ideas to craft my own fantasy world for many, many years. Through the years these ideas have changed and evolved, and have been influenced by the great quantity of roleplaying games I have known. Now I am finally trying to round them up and work on them to actually forge a world and a roleplaying game in that world.
I call my idea Argué, Arche or Arché, but the world itself will probably be simply called “the world”. I follow certain classical Greek thinkers ideas, like those of Plato’s, Aristotle’s and Anaximandro’s, and I am heavily influenced by Alan Moore. The Arche is a mix of Plato’s and Aristotle’s world of ideas and of Moore’s idea-space.
It is a tetrahedral world created with the classical elements (fire, water, air and earth) (although I am seriously thinking about adding wood and metal). This elements are “equivalents” to our chemical elements: in the world of Arche, things really are made in diverse combinations of fire, water, air and earth atoms.
The being that created the world of Arche is the Demiurge (with upper-case). It created the world inert, but life appeared (despite its wishes) and, with time, developed a big diversity of sciences/arts/magics of distinct origins. Some of them are:
- Demiurgy: The Demiurge gave a lesser version of its capabilities to some living beings, trying to find a solution to the increase of the imbalance. These demiurges (in lower-case) are able to control, alter and transform an elemental pair, usually two opposed elements, simply with their will.
- Taumaturgy: Many living beings envied the powers of the demiurges, and were finally able to access it and create miraculous acts using the same rules that the Demiurge set up when it created the world.
- Logy: There were living beings who preferred to get away from the powers gifted by an unknown entity as the Demiurge, and decided to create their own science studying the world from the ground up, and not from the Demiurge down.
- Demonology: The study of beings similar to the Demiurge, and how to benefit from them. A hybrid art that employs knowledge from both taumaturgy and logy.
- Epistemology: Not only studying knowledge itself, but the Arche as well.
- Archelogy: Archelogists use epistemologic knowledge to explore the Arche looking for ideas and even trying to change aspects of the world by changing their “true forms”.
- Rhetoric: Appeared in opposition to the dominance of the taumaturgy and the logy, rhetoric is the mastery of words to convince and affect others.
The living beings of the world of Arche are very diverse. There are beings made of only one element, like fire, air, water or earth elementals, that incarnate the main physical and metaphysical characteristics of their elements. There are also living beings of two, three and four elements, in diverse combinations and proportions. Not all living beings are equally sentient and/or intelligent.
These are the big basic traits that this world has had in my head all these years. Now we have to see how they evolve with their writing down.
The Demiurge created the world, using the basic elements of Fire, Water, Air and Earth. He give it tetrahedric form, each face with a moon of an element. He bathed it all with Energy from the Sun.
For forty four aeons, the Demiurge kept the world in equilibrium, not allowing any element to dominate over the others, and making sure that not too much Energy, nor too few, got to the world. And then, life appeared. It could be said the life permetated to the world and got mixed in it, almost like an additional element. Living beings began to appear, made from earth, from water, from fire, and from air; and, soon, stranger combinations showed up. In shor time, all kind of living beings walked the world, affecting the Equilibrium in a way that the Demiurge could not control. So he rised some living beings by teaching them demiurgy. They were the first demiurges.
Many felt envy of the demiurgy and tried to steal it, or reinvent it. The thiefs became demiurges too, but lacked an objective for their power. The inventors, with time, were able to learn much about the world and about how to change it. That was no longer demiurgy, but taumaturgy: Replicable by anyone who learned its principles, but terribly disruptive to the elemental Equilibrium.
At some point (it is not clear exactly when) two events of great importance took place: the Demiurge dissapeared, and the being called Anaximandros, using taumaturgy, discovered the Arche, the source of the idea behind all that exists, and the Apeiron, the substrate of all that is. He discovered that Arche and Apeiron were shared by a myriad worlds. He first stated that the Demiurge had ran away because he was about to be exposed as a fraud; later, Anaximandros declared the Demiurge dead. He was the first explorer of ideas, the first Archelogist.
Now, many generations later, almost no living demiurge is aware of the reach of their mission. Taumaturgy and the exploration of the Arche have changed life beyond recognition. Great empires have risen and fallen. The Sitmur Taumatocracy, in Aquo, is exploring their moon and intends to explore the rest of the celestial bodies. The Eternal Trelo Empire of Ignis dissapeared overnight after centuries of dominion over Noah. Imbalance has rised and a new element has permeated: a black star, opposed to the Sun, which seems to absorb Energy, or maybe emit Entropy.
There are mysteries old and new to unravel. Rising tensions between empires and nations. The ontological risk of the imbalance.