Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Center Cannot Hold: Theme and Flavor Document

I've been writing this piecemeal, filling out pieces that appeal to me.  However, I've neglected to set down any sort of framework.  The absence of such a framework makes it harder to see the same big picture of Crux as I do.  Time to correct that.

What follows is a Theme Document.  It'll go over the big strokes intended for use of Crux and perhaps show what directions I have planned for it in my head.  This'll also provide a bit of a guideline to others who might want to make suggestions or additions to Crux.  I'm open to sharing, when I can.

Crux Themes and Flavor Document

Crux, City of Curses is a setting for use in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.  It is a City at the center of the world, built atop a the skull of a long forgotten dead god and sits between the various powers of the world.  An ancient city of arcane ruins, Crux has long been thought to bring curses to all those who try to uncover its darkest secrets- who really controls it, and was Crux truly founded by a wish granted by a Demon?

1. Pathfinder Compatible
Crux is intended to be played using Pathfinder rules in a Napoleonic-Jacksonian era.  Most importantly, most of the magical ideas and rules are assuming that.  Magic and combat occur in Pathfinder-y rules.  Things in Crux might differ in some ways, but they cannot grossly violate the basic assumptions of Pathfinder.

2.Early Industrial Era.
There is a historical conceit as well: Crux is part of a world in the midst of a industrial revolution.  Technology is at a level where guns are everywhere.  Travel and communication are starting to become global and tied together.  Non-magical healing is becoming more and more viable as an alternative to older, divine magical means.

3. Gods are Unaligned and Uncertain.
Borrowing a cue from some other settings I enjoyed, Crux is a setting where the gods have alignments that are unknowable.  They aren't the only unknowable thing- magic functions as it does in other settings.  But non-magick users make assumptions about it because they know nothing about that system.  Anyone of any alignment can serve any god.  And not everyone knows how Wizards do what they do.

4. Political and National Tensions
Crux is set in a world dominated by changing national and political situations.  Although now its peaceful, those among the aristocracy or in change of some nations have grown more and more romantic on the idea of warfare.  Some nations have those who are convinced that theirs is the most powerful of nations, and are eager to pursue that.  They work toward open war, using spies and other means to make that happen, if only so their goals might be accomplished through it, with new technological means to conduct war.  Crux, being at the center of the world, plays host to a great deal of these schemes and counter-plots.  Intrigue is becoming more and more a part of life for those who investigate and seek adventure.

The Four Major Nations of Crux are:

There are a bunch of smaller, tiny states and powers around the world.  But in Crux, only these four nations are thought of as important.  A local bias, if you will.

5. Vampires and Demons
The big supernaturals in Crux, who are behind the scenes and influencing things, are Demons and Vampires.  They aren't allied.  Vampires have their own private society under Crux.  Meanwhile, a cult devoted to a bound and trapped Demon, the Demon's Orphans, work under the belief that Crux itself belongs to them.  One of the foundation myths of Crux is that the City's Founder made a bargain with the Demon Shraxes.  She granted him a wish, and he used that wish to create the beginnings of the City of Curses over two thousand years ago.

There was a caveat to the wish, allowing Shraxes to use Crux as her own personal breeding ground for horrors of her own.  The City's Founder tricked Shraxes, trapping her.  She has never escaped, and no one knows how she was captured to begin with.  Vampires and Demons are known entities in Crux, and the city is a hunting ground for them despite the work of the Church of the Twins, the Order of the Eagle and the Crow or the Esoterium Machina.

6. Steampunk Without Punk; Gothic and Romantic
Crux uses victorian era tech in the very flavor of steampunk, with gears, steam engines and the like.  It isn't steampunk, however.  Steampunk implies a genre convention that shares a punk attitude against authority.  That isn't the aim of Crux.  It calls back to gaslight and western stories, like those of Sherlock Holmes, Huckleberry Finn or True Grit.

Its a subtle distinction, I know, but the point isn't to be the same steampunk hash that seems popular these days.  I want a game that straddles Victorian Gaslight mysteries, weird gothic fiction and old western movies.  My inspirations include Avatar: the Last Airbender, any H.G. Wells novel, Sherlock Holmes movies and stories, as well as a healthy heaping of 19th century European history.

7. The Prince and the Council
Crux is dominated by a series of factions.  The city is governed officially through the City Council, but it doesn't really control the city itself.  A secret criminal cabal, dominated by someone called "the Prince" all but rules Crux in name.  These factions work to take control of Crux for themselves, each with their own myriad sets of goals:

8. Non-Traditional Fantasy Races
Crux doesn't have any Orcs, Goblins, Elves or Dwarves.  Those races aren't part of the setting.  I don't like creating settings that follow the cookie cutter Tolkien-sque model of races.  I want Crux's races to be different, to have their own flavor and stand out in ways that aren't your standard Elf-Drow-Dwarf-Orc stereotypes.

In addition to Humans, Crux has Androids, a slave race created by factories in the Republic of Ith.  Dhampir, part of the heavy influence of Vampires, are staple in Crux as well.  Tieflings, for the same reasons, are born as "cursed" all the time in Crux- often being the basis for cults like the Demon's Orphans.  Crux has its own version of Halfings, a race descended from interstellar conquerors, whose ancient empires have long since crumbled to dust.  Skinwalkers, called Lycans by most in Crux, are another race of note too- most are descended in lines cursed long ago.  Last are the Tengu, migrants from other side of the world who live high above the streets in their own foreign enclaves.