Now that I have selected Adventurer, Conqueror King as my game system for Dark War, I wanted to outline what Dark War would be about. (Players in my games beware, as there could be some spoilers for Dark War ahead).
There are many ancient evils that have long plagued the peoples of Sentali, the eastern most continent of my world, Ta’nar. The ancient god-king of Abin-Syl, the fallen line of Pathihn Kings, the dark lord known as Thoan, the Daemon lords Demoloth and their respective cults have threatened entire the continent at various points in the millennia of Ta’nar’s history. This does not take into account the world wide threats from entities like Thoan, or Dragon Emperor’s. One of these ancient threats was recently revived due to the misguide efforts of a handful of PC’s. This has set into play a malevolent power on an unprepared world.
The peoples and nations of the 7th Age have just established themselves, and are starting to build something lasting on Sentali. This revived power seeks to return the land to a more malleable state. To do this, it has targeted the primary bastion of law on Sentali, the Kardane Empire. From the outside, there will be no Dark War. There will be many smaller conflicts, which will each threaten to plunge the Lawful Empire into Chaos. Events like the Plague of Spectres, A Threat From the North, the Fall of the Dead, an Infusion of Chaos, and the final conflict that will reveal the fell hand behind Dark War.
I really want this game to focus on the conflict between Law and Chaos. ACKS has simple three point alignment that really resonates with me. Law stands for the light of civilization. Neutrality stands for its own self-interests, those who enjoy the benefits of law without fighting to preserve them from evitable erosion. And Chaos lurks in the dark edges of the world, subverting Neutrality and waiting for the time to strike to bring Law crashing down.
Chaos is not just found in the enraged faces of beastmen and Var. It is not just the corruption of flesh from dark magics and deals with Daemons. Chaos is seductive. It is enticing. It is manipulative and fell. This is the Chaos that I want to oppose the players. A beautiful one that beckons from the darkness, and whispers ‘join me’.
The 7th Age is still new, and has yet to find a tone. This game will seek to define the Age as one of light or darkness.
I want this game to have a threefold feel: paranoia, a looming threat, and hope.
First, I want to portray the hand organizing Dark War to be way smarter and subtler than I am. I want to lay clues that go unnoticed at first to build upon each other, till the preponderance of evidence threatens to crush the characters. And then I want them to know that few believe that any one creature, let alone ‘that’ one, could be behind something like Dark War. It will be a tricky thing to pull off, and require some heavy planning on my part.
Secondly, I want that paranoia to lead to a realization that there are things out in the darkness waiting for them. Not ‘them’ in the sense of all members of Law and Neutrality. But the player character’s personally. This ancient evil has been put down before, and knows how much fate loves its group of 4-6 beings with class levels. So while some threats will be global, some will be very personal.
The final feel I want to thread through Dark War is hope. It may seem in bright contrast to the previous two goals. But, hope, and the events that provide characters hope, are what drive the story forward. I want players to have moments of silver lining from hard won victories, when they can look at events and say ‘this is why we did this, this is why we took our stand here.” I am shooting for more of a Steven Erikson feel, than a George R.R. Martin one.
Definition and change are the goals I have for Dark War. Up until now, Ta’nar has had some events shaped by the characters in the game, but the big events have all been in the past. I want the characters coming out of Dark War to have shaped the nature of the 7th Age. Do they succeed and declare this Age to be one of Light and Law, or do they succumb and usher in an Age of Darkness and Chaos?
That goal goes hand in hand with change. I have set up a lot of behind the scenes moving pieces to Ta’nar. I know how the world works (much better since I started using the Secrets chapter of the ACKS core book). It is time to truly see how this world interacts with players, and allow them to leave a lasting mark on the world. I hope to see gods die, characters walk the Paths of Divinity, important NPCs change, and even, possibly, an entire city redeemed.
Who knows what will happen in the course of Dark War, but I for one want to see my world bloodied up, and to be able to see the boot prints my players leave on its surface.