|The World|| Campaign Era|
Designing Worlds of Adventure
|Populating the World|| Power Level & Character Points|
Creating PC Templates
What time period you set your game in (or which time period's stylings you drape your game in) will tell you a lot about what sort of life characters will lead, and what sort of technology the characters will have access to. A game set during Medieval times will have some serious differences than one set in the Industrial Age, for example.
|Technology Level||Time Period|
|Past||0||Stone Age||10,000 BC - 3,500 BC|
|1||Classical||3,500 BC - 500 AD|
|2||Medieval||500 AD - 1400 AD|
|3||Renaissance||1400 AD - 1800 AD|
|4||Industrial Age||1800 AD - 1950 AD|
|Modern||5||Information Age||1950 AD - 2050 AD|
|6||Fusion Age||2050 AD - 2200 AD|
|7||Gravity Age||2200 AD - 2500 AD|
|8||Energy Age||2500 AD - 3000 AD|
|Future||9||Cosmic Age||3000 AD - Beyond|
The stone age was the beginning of humanity's use of technology and tools for the first time. While tool use has appeared in other animals (especially among the great apes), the widespread use of tools (including bone needles for sewing, simple stone blades for cutting meat and hide, and weapons for hunting) defines the beginning of the stone age for mankind. Anatomically modern humans were dominant during the stone age, having out-competed other hominids and successfully migrated out of Africa and across the planet. Thanks to the development of a bipedal posture in their evolutionary history, humans freed up their hands, only to fill them once again with tools during the stone age.
Tools during the stone age were very simple and fragile, relying on constant honing to maintain an edge on a simple stone hand-axe, for example. The tools were most often carefully-shaped rocks, relying on chiseling to achieve the desired shape. Stone weapons and tools helped greatly in humanity's early role in hunter-gatherer societies, where the ability to successfully hunt and kill large game helped increase the protein intake of early humans, further promoting health and brain development. This wasn't humanity's only source of tools, though, as they often used animal hide (for clothing, etc.), bones, and ligaments. However, not all tools were difficult to shape: pottery was coming into widespread use, shaping and then baking clay to produce vessels of a desired size and shape.
The next great leap forward was the move of humanity from a nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a settled, farming lifestyle, made possible by the advents of farming and domestication. Essentially, by taking the prey that humans once hunted and the flora they once gathered and learning how to raise them, human beings were able to abandon the nomadic lifestyle and build the first cities. Further, the ability for a few farmers to create a food-base for an entire society spurred further advances by freeing up many members of the society to pursue other tasks (essentially allowing for specialization unheard of before the advent of farming). This opened the doors for the development of trade later.
Art began to arise during this era as well, as the first humans began painting on walls and creating jewelery. Humans began to concern themselves with not just the utility of objects, but also their aesthetic qualities. Further, humans began to consider abstract concepts, such as religion, in an attempt to explain their activities. Ancient human epics (including the ur-story of Gilgamesh) tend to personify natural phenomenon to give them motive, which early humans could understand (such as blaming a poor growing season on a malevolent spirit or deity). The concept of an afterlife began very, very early in the stone age, as evidenced by prepared burials (also seen among Neanderthals).
A game set during the stone age will likely be concerned with simple tasks, like survival. Characters will have a very rustic lifestyle, and acquiring goods will often be very challenging, requiring a huge effort and teamwork from the party to accomplish something as simple as getting a meal. Establishing and maintaining territory against rival humans or even wild beasts is essential in these games.
A stone age era also is appropriate for post-apocalyptic games, where society has mostly broken down, and technology starts to fail. In such a variant, technology might still exist (such as old internal combustion engines or forges still working), but understanding of the technology may have faded. No new technology is being created, and being able to repair old technology is far beyond the capabilities of remaining humans. This type of setting might be more accurately referred to as "going back to the stone age".
- Domestication & Farming
The Classical Age was the time of the first great empires, which were made possible by the development of strong metal tools thanks to the development of bronze-working (and later iron-working). Armed with stronger weapons and armor, bronze axes and curved bronze swords were the superweapons of their day, allowing an army equipped with such weapons a considerable advantage over under-equipped armies. But beyond their utility as weapons, bronze (and later iron) tools were simply better suited to farming, allowing greater concentrations of people to exist together in a small area, which led to the advent of urbanization (and the city-states themselves made for tempting targets for would-be warlords armed with bronze and later iron weapons). PCs during this age are likely to find their first instances of iron and bronze weapons (which can be represented as their steel counterparts with a -1 and -2 penalty to toughness, respectively). Iron and bronze armor will similarly be limited in effectiveness.
The concentration of society into cities began to spur the development of a more organized and sophisticated set of trade routes, especially in the burgeoning societies around the Aegean Sea. In the near east, the earliest forms of writing began as what amounted to an invoice from one tradesman to another. With the first instances of writing during the Bronze Age came written historical records. This serves as the dividing line between "history" and what is colloquially known as "prehistory". Literacy, especially among the lower classes in these societies, was extremely rare. You might consider having PCs during such an era need to spend character points to become literate, but from an ease of play perspective, having illiterate characters leads to frustration when the group is used to modern assumptions (such as being able to read a map or a note).
The growth of trade in the Aegean (and later the Mediterranean as a whole) helped to cultivate some of the world's first great powers, such as the Persian Empire, the Greek City-States (unified briefly by Alexander of Macedonia), and later Rome. These powers went on to establish trade routes and build roads that would be used two thousand years later. The Roman aqueducts and sewers served for the explosive growth of their cities, as large concentrations could still obtain clean water and clear their waste away safely and quickly. Continuing improvement in technology and expansion of trade routes led to steadily-increasing standards of living. Men and women in wealthier cities could find luxuries like hot and cold running water. For the first time, PCs can be expected to travel from one city to another along roads, and to find a reasonably comfortable life at either end in the cities. They'll also be able to purchase goods with coins, not barter, and will be able to sail to lands explored almost exclusively because of the explosive growth of trade.
- Metalworking & Metallurgy
Following the fall of the Roman Empire, Western Europe began to reorganize itself, first around empires like the one built by the Carolingians, and then in the smaller feudal states, and later in the first period of true urbanization in the northern parts of Europe. Much of the knowledge from the Classical Age was preserved in the Byzantine Empire and in the expanding Muslim territories in the Middle East and North Africa. It was essentially a time when secular leaders and church leaders struggled for power in the post-Roman Europe, and while secular heads of state made important gains during this era, the power of the church would remain strong. But still, nascent nation-states began to develop across Europe.
With the loss of many Roman roads to disrepair and banditry, travel once again became a very difficult and dangerous notion. Under feudalism, most serfs never left their homes (or at least never went very far if they did). People tended to live sedentary lives, bound to their land by their feudal obligations to their lords. Even at home, people lived with the threat of attack from bandits, or for coastal communities, Vikings. Their lives also tended to be slightly worse off than their counterparts during the Classical Era, as many of the technologies of convenience available in Rome failed to find their way to many areas of Northern Europe during the Medieval Age. Disease was also common (including the Black Plague), due in large part to lack of proper sanitation. In fact, one of the reasons beer, wine and liquor became so important across Europe during the Medieval Age was because clean water was largely unavailable, alcohol (which had been boiled as a part of fermentation) would be much safer to drink.
The urbanization of Europe, fueled by the trade routes opened by the Crusades (see below), was crowned with towering cathedrals and castles built in the Romanesque and later Gothic styles. The Gothic style in particular made use of great vaulted ceilings to open up the inside of structures and make the walls thinner than possible (also supported by flying buttresses). Some of the most beautiful and magnificent structures in Europe were built during this time, including Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.
Militarily, the Medieval Age was defined by the consolidation of power of kings and of nation-states, as more and more powerful lords began to use their growing wealth to hire professional armies. European armies also found themselves thrown east into five Crusades. Although the Crusaders were unsuccessful in conquering Jerusalem, they did succeed in revitalizing trade throughout Europe and with the east. The trade routes across the Mediterranean (made possible thanks to improvements in navigation including the astrolabe and the compass) brought to Europe technology and classical knowledge which would change the course of Western history, including gunpowder and luxury goods from China and the preserved texts of classical scholars like Aristotle and Plato from the Middle East. This was the time of knights on horseback wearing chainmail and wielding broadswords, common tropes for fantasy games.
- Architecture (Romanesque, Gothic)
- Navigation (Astrolabe, Compass)
Following the influx of trade from the east after the Crusades, Southern Europe (and later Northern Europe) saw a cultural revival. The growing middle-class in Europe's new towns and cities with the disposable income and time invested in studying Classical scholarly pieces. Art inspired by by classical styles became increasingly popular, especially in the Italian Renaissance, where artists like Michaelangelo created some of the finest art of all times.
The knowledge of the Renaissance was propagated thanks to the invention of the printing press in Germany. Coupled with the movement within the Protestant Reformation to translate the Bible into regional languages and the humanist leanings of the Northern Renaissance, literacy began to spread more rapidly throughout Europe during this era. It was during this spread of knowledge and literacy that major steps forward were taking in science. The scientific method was first formalized during this time, and modern physics was born with increasingly-accurate studies of the movement of the planets.
Splits within the monolithic base of the Church in Europe helped to further spur the development of strong, independent nation-states with individual nationalist identities. The luxuries of everyday life from the Classical Age began to return to common people, thanks in large part to the humanistic pushes of the Northern Renaissance. Peoples' lives began improving, and soon they began to think of themselves in nationalistic terms. And these nationalistic leanings encouraged the further growth of trade and exploration, and later the colonization of new lands.
Plate armor rose to prominence during this era, and fell out of favor on the battlefield with the rise of gunpowder weapons. Firearms began to see widespread use during this era for the first time, and were in many ways crucial to colonization efforts during the age, as guns and steel gave Europeans a serious edge over the indigenous peoples of the Americas and other lands. Trade routes began to circle the world, with Europe at the center, and the main beneficiary, as the European states arose as the superpowers of the world, dominating first the Mediterranean and soon much of the world. These colonization attempts made under the mercantile system would pave the way for the imperialism which was so important during the Industrial Age.
- Printing Press
- Scientific Method
As technology pressed forward, techniques learned during Medieval and Renaissance eras in water- and wind-mills for the processing of grain were put to use on greater and greater scales for manufacturing purposes. Raw materials were coming in from all corners of the world, and the first attempt to make full use of them was in the textile manufacturing sector, as great looms worked by dozens of women allowed businessmen to produce far greater quantities of linen than ever before. It was a time of great wealth and great plenty, at least for those in the markets served by the growing industrial base. Manufacturing jobs became the norm for low-class families, which at the height of the Industrial Age employed men, women, and children alike. This base of unskilled labor was often taken advantage of by the wealthier owners of the manufacturing base, and it was these laborers who became the basis of the labor movement at the end of the Industrial Age.
Firearm technology advanced rapidly during this time, fueled by upheaval after upheaval and war after war. From single shot muskets and rifles to breach-loading rifles and six-shooters to full-fledged automatic weapons, firearms quickly became not just the mainstay of battlefields, but also the dominant force by far. Artillery developed to the point where bombardments were essential to battle by World War I. Weapons technology advanced by leaps and bounds throughout the era, to the point where the close of the era left the world with the predecessors of truly modern firearms. This was also the era when mankind began using steam power to travel the world in river ships, railroads, and soon ocean steamships and even planes and zeppelins.
These transportation technologies served to help "shrink" the world, by allowing people to travel more quickly and reliably than ever before, making possible the intertwining trade routes and military supply lines that were essential to the imperialism of the day. The need to find new colonies as sources of raw materials, strategic bases against other world powers, and even as markets for excess goods (though mercantilism had fallen out of favor by the time the Industrial Age was in full-swing). Armies sailed around the world to stake their claims, creating worldwide empires that would last throughout the age.
By the close of the Industrial Age, manufacturing was turned heavily towards the production of consumer goods, vastly improving the quality of life of ordinary men and women during this era. Families began to push out to comfortable homes, and their growing wealth served to further fuel the growth of a consumer-oriented manufacturing base. Characters during this era are finally able to start to buy mass-manufactured luxury items, including early electronics like phonographs and radios.
- Steam Power
By the Information Age, the comforts and standard of living first seen during the Industrial Age have improved, but the key difference has been in the speed with which information travels. All people have the ability to broadcast information from just about anywhere, starting with telephones (and later on, mobile phones). This is also the age in which the Internet becomes ubiquitous, and the media becomes highly decentralized, and anyone can access (or transmit) information about almost everything from everywhere. Telecommunications are instantaneous, and the only limiting factor becomes the ability to physically transport goods and people. Barriers begin to come down, and the ability to digitize everything from books to music to video places new value on data. Traditional services, such as shopping and banking, began to move into the digital world.
For adventurers, this instant communication is a huge boon. Rapid access to data and information on ever-smaller computing platforms. The earliest Internet-capable computers available to the average consumer were full-size desktop personal computers. Since then, the technology to access the Internet shrunk to the point where almost all mobile phones were web-capable, enabling adventurers instant-access to features like GPS anywhere in the world.
In terms of weaponry, firearms remain similar to those which arose at the end of the Industrial Age, though the perfection of automatic fire weapons has enabled automatic weapons such as submachine guns and assault rifles to become the weapons of choice for military groups. Ground warfare has come to benefit from information-gathering devices and imaging technology, but the largest improvements have come in the form of "smart" weaponry, missiles and bombs which can literally be shot down a chimney. Because of the huge cost of such improvements, warfare becomes increasingly lopsided, as advanced weaponry forces smaller and less-funded forces to go underground and resort to guerrilla warfare and terrorism to combat a vastly superior military force. While such powerful weapons rarely fall into the hands of private citizens (and indeed are heavily restricted in most countries), they could prove extremely useful for any adventuring characters who could get their hands on them.
The first early flight from the Industrial Age progresses at the beginning of the Information Age to exploratory space flight (usually unmanned) of the solar system. It also opens the doors for the satellites which allow for the near-instant worldwide telecommunications of the Information Age. Energy and propulsion systems are still too primitive to allow for truly commercial or wide-scale ventures into space.
Science continues to push forward, and it is during this time that the human genome is first sequenced. The success of pharmaceutical companies in finding and manufacturing treatments for countless diseases and conditions has helped to extend the life-expectancy of people all over the world (combating increasingly-sedentary populations susceptible to obesity). Increasing understanding of human genetics and development leads to novel treatments for previously debilitating diseases by literally allowing doctors to grow new tissue for their patients, which are complimented by ever-improving artificial organs. And while environmentalism arises during this era, the affects of human activity on the planet prove to be a challenge for humans for many years.
Towards the end of the Information Age, humanity is forced to find alternatives to the fossil fuels which fed the Industrial revolution, encouraging scientists to look into new fuel models which helps move the world into the next great era.
- Early Genetic Manipulation and Artificial Organs
- Smart Weaponry
- World-Wide Telecommunications
With the dwindling supplies of fossil fuels, humanity is forced to look elsewhere for its energy needs. Early pushes in this direction during the late Information Age came in the form of expansion into bio-fuels, including plant- and algal-derived fuel sources. Advances in engineering make it possible for the first time to rely on nuclear fusion (as opposed to nuclear fission) as a sustainable source of clean energy. These cleaner energies allow for the continued development and mobilization of electronics which was sparked in the Information Age with reduced environmental impact. Decentralization of data and programs, moving them from individual computers into "the cloud" forces traditional telecommunications companies to switch gears from providing the service directly to supporting the service as content providers, joining forces with the media moguls of old to maintain their viability in the new market.
These advances in computing allow for ever-more impressive feats in the fields of science, including the development of truly practical proteonomic algorithms, which allow doctors to literally tailor a medication to a patient to absolutely minimize side-affects. Coupled with the ever-improving tissue therapies from the Information Age, these medical advances push the average human lifespan up ever higher each and every year. It is during the Fusion Age that the average human lifespan reaches over 100 years, and that the elderly enjoy lives with minimized consequences of aging. Advances in nanotechnology further not just human health, but also unprecedented flexibility and freedom in mobilization of computing technology.
But the most impressive feats in science and technology come in the form of the first near-Earth sustainable communities, propelled into space on ever-more advanced and commercially-viable spacecraft. The first such communities during this age are almost exclusively orbital space stations designed to act as highly-specialized orbiting manufacturing plants, which take advantage of the zero gravity environment to produce some of the more delicate and advanced materials needed to sustain the Fusion Age's growth, including the more advanced nanotechnology impossible to build in environments with gravitational pull. While near-Earth space-flight is increasingly viable, it is still more economical for workers in zero-gravity sectors to live full-time on the stations (where simple centrifugal forces are used to simulate gravity outside of the zero-gravity manufacturing areas). The sustainability of manufacturing becomes even more attractive to companies with high-efficiency solar panels (highly effective in space with no atmosphere to disrupt the harvest of sunlight) which can render space stations energy-independent almost instantly.
In the area of warfare, the trend in most weaponry on conventional battlefields continues to be towards unmanned weapons systems, such as remote-controlled planes and rovers which can enter hostile areas and neutralize targets with minimal risk to the human operator. Improvements in unmanned weapons systems are fueled by ever-increasing sophistication of decision-making in artificial intelligence systems. Traditional firearms continue to be the weapon of choice for sheer practicality, though mounted weapon systems (made possible by ever-improving power sources) begin to utilize first high-energy kinetic weapons (such as railguns) and later beam weapons, allowing for previously-unheard of degrees of accuracy. Miniaturization and power restraints still prevent such weapons from being practical for man-sized weapons, but the first powered exo-armor moves from utility purposes to battlefield purposes, making the prospect almost viable by the end of the age.
- Fusion Energy
- Near-Earth Habitation
The Gravity Age is heralded by unprecedented advances in field and quantum physics. The first firm understandings of how gravity behaves at quantum levels confirms the existence of gravitons, which can be generated by accelerating masses to relativistic speeds. For the first time in human history, control of gravity is possible. The earliest gravity pumps are huge particle accelerators which divert the generated gravitons in a desired direction to cause fluctuations in time-space. Miniaturization allows for gravatic pumps to become gravatic induction drives in spacecraft, allowing for powerful bursts of acceleration by projecting gravitons forward as the spacecraft "slides" down the induced gravity well. As miniaturization of the technology improves, gravity pumps find use in escaping gravity in planetary environments and for generating it in extraplanetary ones. Gravity pumps become essential in overcoming the engineering limitations of building space ships reliant on centrifugal forces to maintain artificial gravity for passengers.
Most importantly, gravatic induction drives allow for truly interplanetary travel, making colonization of near-Earth bodies (such as the Moon and Mars) feasible. The moon shares many of the advantages that orbital space stations do in terms of energy capture from solar sources coupled with the availability of materials for construction which could be harvested from beneath the surface of the Moon and Mars. Initial colonization of the Moon in particular is only viable thanks to gravity pumps, which enable colonists some degree of protection from meteor bombardment.
While gravatic induction drives allow for effective travel throughout the solar system, interstellar travel is still impossible, and travel beyond the asteroid belt simply doesn't seem practical, as colonization and harvesting of the bodies of the outer solar system is still unattractive.
The miniaturization of power sources that allows for smaller and smaller gravity pumps also allows beam weapons systems previously restricted to being mounted on vehicles to be moved onto the now-common powered armor systems issued to soldiers. Projectiles have fallen out of favor, instead replaced by energy weapons which promise increased accuracy from the loss of recoil and the near-instant delivery of the beam's energy to the target. Early beam weapons require bulky power packs, but more advanced models only require such packs for periodic recharging.
- Beam weaponry
- Extra-Earth Colonization
- Gravity Pumps
As gravity pumps became ubiquitous, a new energy source to supplement (and later replace) fusion technology arises from advanced understanding of piezoelectricity and zero-point energy. Piezoelectric principles allow for the mechanical distortion of matter (like quartz crystal) to generate an electric field. By the advent of the energy age, nano-level manufacturing is finally sophisticated enough to literally weave piezoelectric fibers into materials everywhere. Mankind becomes capable of generating energy with every step they take, and every surface becomes an energy generator, capturing power from footsteps, sound vibrations, and even the infinitesimal distortion of a surface being impacted by photons. This further improves the efficiency of gravity pumps, allowing the distortions of matter caused by graviton projections to be harvested. Energy waste and loss is reduced to almost nothing.
This newfound and previously impossible energy efficiency is made all the more potent thanks to the ability to harness zero-point energy, letting humans literally produce energy from nothing. No longer is humanity limited by concerns of energy. Without such energy constraints, computing efficiency and power finally becomes high enough to allow truly sentient artificial intelligence. These systems are able to help push science even further.
One such beneficiary of this enhanced computing is in advanced biology. Now able to literally design proteins and DNA sequences with exacting precision, humanity is able to custom-design entirely novel organisms for just about any environment. Using such technology, humans are able to begin the terraforming of worlds, making them suitable for human life outside of enclosed colonies. The Moon and Mars are the first such areas to be terraformed into habitable worlds, but soon moons of the gas giants in the outer solar system are made habitable. Thanks to the near-limitless supply of energy available in this age, even worlds distant from the sun can be heated to habitable temperatures. By the end of the Energy Age, most of the solar system has been colonized by human beings. The first spaceflight at relativistic speeds allows humans their first travel across interstellar distances, though sublight travel is still too slow to be suitable for much more than small expeditions. It will take another leap forward to allow for humanity to expand beyond the solar system in earnest.
Beam weapons become even more ubiquitous during this era, with the energy to generate more and more powerful blasts becoming even more readily available. These improvements in power also allow for concussive melee weaponry, which uses incredibly small gravity pumps to multiply the force of impact many times over. Armor and energy fields which are increasingly resistant to beam weaponry remains vulnerable to high-impact concussive weapons.
- Sentient Artificial Intelligence
- Zero-Point Energy
The ability to transverse interstellar distances with ease propels humanity out of the solar system and into the universe at large. In just a thousand years, humans went from simple wood-and-canvas planes with wooden propellers to being able to travel to distant corners of the galaxy with ease. The secret to humanity's emergence into interstellar travel lay in the answer to the unified field equations, allowing human spacecraft to generate worm holes in space and travel far faster than the speed of light. The earliest wormholes are created by linked series of rings in space between the planets within the solar system, allowing for near-instant transportation between two worlds within the solar system. Later expeditions to other star systems were made to construct new gates of this type, rapidly opening up new star systems to terraforming and colonization.
Once humanity is able to build ring gates linked by wormholes, they become capable of slowly (but surely) spreading out across the galaxy, using construction crews sent at relativistic speeds to nearby star systems as an advanced party to build new ring gates to link to settled systems. The next great leap forward comes when humanity is able to generate wormholes in space between two points without the use of ring gates, allowing instant transportation between distant star systems with ease. Now an entire galaxy lies open to human exploration and inquiry, and without conventional limitations on energy or travel, all that remains is the ability to harvest resources from new worlds, which a rapidly-expanding human race has always proven skilled at.
During this age, technology becomes advanced enough that it is nearly magical, allowing nearly anything. With the development of molecular assembly from advances in nanotechnology, humankind has the ability to create the first "Santa Claus Machines", which are able to break matter down to its constituent subatomic particles, and them reassemble them into just about any chemical structure desired. More advanced models can also assemble the created materials into just about anything on the spot. Anything the owner desires can be created. The Cosmic Age is marked by plenty.
- Molecular assembly
- Ring gates