“Every man and woman has felt
In their lives the call of the sky,
To discard the hand that life dealt,
A chance hard to come by
On that silent eve of greatness,
Feel the pure currents of wind
As you let go of your limitations
A piercing moment of truth
All that may come to pass one day,
when initiative and courage
take you high above the trees
To ride among the Auxilia.
Raised above the common folk
Upon wings of glory
But remember, mortal, your wings are but wax
You must beware of soaring too high
For like Icarus you shall burn
Under the jealous Sun
Where eagles dare
And angels fear
It’s the year 999 AS. The world is Adranon.
Steam and soot darken the skies above Russet City, a distant cacophony of clockwork reverberates across the streets from the factories of Bosun Strand where surly workers are starting their shift. The winds sweeping across the city’s majestic skyship harbor blow the choking products of industrial forges into the fey rainforests that dot the knife-toothed mountains surrounding it. Since the earliest ages when the people of Azeria founded this city, they feared the capricious beings that hid in those fog-shrouded peaks. But now as the march of progress and the demands of national defense turn Russet into a garden for artifice and technology, the old faiths and rituals that kept the lurkers of the woods at bay are being abandoned.
The Unseelie Court, the Wild Hunt, and the many spirits of the land long conquered by Azeria’s kings no longer receive tribute, no longer choose the kings of Azeria like they used to, nor can they enter these new cities of steam and steel to demand tithe. The impoverished workers who huddle in factory slums now fear monsters of a different breed, the shadowy children of this new urban labyrinth. Even modern religions offer no defense against this fiend: Man.
Times are changing. The Star Sages have acted as Azeria’s folk prophets since their homeland’s birth, but now they’ve witnessed an omen in the starry wheel of heaven. They say that the herald of a new age, the Fire of the West, is once again visible on the night sky blurred by the airship exhausts of Russet. What the prophets cannot foresee is the face of the coming era, for the visions of those once-trusted seers of Azeria have grown inexplicably dim in the past centuries. Only one thing is clear: A great change is upon us.
In factories throughout Russet City, a legion of mage-preservers, engineers, and shipwrights have finally concluded two years of ceaseless toil. Now well-wishers from across Azeria have come to witness the launch of the world’s mightiest vessel of war: the A.R.N. Empress, impervious to spell and cannon and armed with fire that could slay even a dragon. On the docks, the Azerian Royal Constabulary of the Homeland (ARCH) keeps a close eye on celebrants and troublemakers. But in the shadows, conspiracy and betrayal threaten the technological titan on its maiden voyage.
You are a consultant of some renown working for ARCH. Your deeds and skill have caught the eye of Assistant Chief Inspector Harvey Griffin with whom you’ve had a past working relationship. Griffin has requested that you provide extra security during the christening and maiden voyage of the Empress. This is of prime national importance as King Aodhan himself will be in attendance, and later that day will be giving a landmark speech about the direction he wants to take the country. You take a few steps into the cold spring air from your briefing at the ARCH office. Inspector Griffin told you that you’ll be put to work in a team with other consultants, some of whom you may already know. You’ll be meeting the rest of the team at the yard. As you take it all in, the sights and sounds of almost a million souls going about their lives in a bustling industrial city greet you. These people are counting on you to uphold the stability and security that their ordinary lives depend on.
Good luck, and may the Domains speed you on your way.
My name is Hannu. I presently run 5 paid campaigns on Roll20 for a total of 25 paid players. I have around 12 years of experience as a GM. My games are a mix of roleplaying, investigation, exploration and combat. I listen to my players and their needs. I have gamemastered for over 5000h on Roll20 by now and feel strong in gamemastering. I feel like I could GM anything at any time. I still listen to criticism and feedback though. While I am a game master I'm not a professional voice actor. I used to use live voice-modification software for NPCs or monsters in my games, but stopped when I realized it was gimmicky.
In role-playing there is but one rule: All must approach the game with the intent of having fun. Still I'd like to know a few things about you:
- A bit about yourself:
- Role-playing experience:
- Likelihood to make the sessions:
- (Optional) Character description and story: (Detailed, fleshed out and placed in the world later together with me)
What this campaign is
- Tested and tried
- Mapped with dynamic lighting, maps, art and the whole works. Uses theater of the mind when appropriate.
- Player-driven and will include player-created friends and enemies.
What this campaign is not
- An evil campaign
- A highly murderous campaign out to get you. No Rappan Athuk ty very much.
- A home for murderhobos
- A slugfest of farming via combat and repetitive quests
Unique Features of Steam&Steel:
- Theme Feats: Players often ask for unique abilities because they made a new friend, discovery, or find. This is how you get them. Character themes are a new concept introduced in S&S which give cool and flavorful new abilities. Every character should have a character theme which can be taken at character creation at the cost of 1 trait. You can still gain one more trait for a total of two traits should you also pick a drawback. Character themes grant access to a hidden tree of flavorful Prestige Abilities which can be gained throughout the game via roleplaying, quests, favors, or investigation. The specifics of such abilities are hidden before they are gained. All abilities are active, new, and interesting. Expect to gain no unimaginative +2 bonuses to rolls. The Character Themes of S&S are:
- Merchant of the League of Spirits. Traders whose contracts hold beyond death.
- Eschatologist. Philosopher devoted to the end of the world.
- Gunsmith. Designer and wielder of custom firearms.
- Martial Scientist. Educated and analytical warrior.
- Star Sage. Folk prophet who can see the future and wield the power of the stars.
- Technologist. Design small contraptions and master complex devices.
- Eltaneli Mystic. An avenger devoted to the philosophy of slow, proper vengeance against those who oppress the weak.
- Wreath Survivor. Highly regarded naval war hero.
- Wielder of Silence. Cursed outcast who wields the power of the Cataclysm which ripped Adranon apart.
- Docker. An adventurer from a humble working family. Defender of the downtrodden. Favored by the people.
- Everyone starts with a unique item. There are 100 possibilities, what you end up possessing depends on a d100 roll at character generation. Ask the GM to check your roll for a d100 to determine your unique item. They can be anything from useless, funny, quirky, to great depending on your roll.
- Purchasable Skyships, vehicles, advanced firearms, powered armor, and explosives. Rare. Limited availability, not every option is available everywhere. May require faction favor to purchase. Consult the GM on this point.
- Improved Critical hits: Criticals are stronger for both players and NPCs and are rolled from a custom API-enhancement PowerCard critical generator which delivers them into the game chat at a moment’s notice. Though not a complete list of all critical results since I've added some of my own, you can see some critical hit results at: http://www.d20pfsrd.com/gamemastering/tools/critical-generator/
- Arcane magic is empowered at a dark cost to self and environment. Magic can be amplified by drawing power from living things, at a cost to oneself and the world. This is called Defiling. The ability to engage in it is always there for arcane casters which produces a temptation to empower your spells in a desperate situation.
- Pathfinder equipment fix: The suit makes the man, at least in Pathfinder. Gear is one of the more broken things in PF, and General Universal Renown is my solution for fixing it. For most gear you will have to spend downtime to look for them in order to roll for availability. I won't include the particulars of how this works here, but this simple and easy to use new rule system is such that you will end up with roughly appropriate gear for your level, but will be having difficulty with some items, chosen at random. You can even check for availability for any item in Pathfinder even when the GM isn't there. Most players tend to want to do most of their purchases out of session. This rulesystem is thus necessary for a proper long-term campaign. I can't imagine how other GM's do without.
- Faction Mechanics: Factions exist in the game that will help players based on their Renown score with them. This can be used to call in favors. There are lists for many factions.
- Inspiration Points & Copper, Silver, Gold, and Platinum Inspiration Cards: If you are an awesome player who keeps making awesome moments, I believe you should be rewarded for it. The intended design of Inspiration Decks is to reward coming up with exceptional moments which add to everyone’s enjoyment of the game. Characters gain Inspiration Points for providing the GM with a great character backstory, keeping a session journal, going above and beyond with your in-game actions, doing something amazing/funny in-game. These can then be used at any time to reroll a d20 you just rolled. You use the better of the two rolls.
Inspiration points can also be saved up and used to buy cards from the Inspiration Decks. There are 4 decks: Copper, Silver, Gold, and Platinum costing 1, 2, 3, and 5 points respectively to draw from. You draw the topmost card of a shuffled deck, you may play it anytime you want or hold onto it for as long as you like. Playing a card does not cost an action, and they go on top of every other mechanic normally in the game. When in doubt over which of two effects should happen, the card wins. Max hand size is five cards. There are a total of 100 different cards across the Inspiration Decks. Once all the cards are drawn they are shuffled back to form a new deck.
- Player Guide: There's a secret 303-page player guide for the world of the campaign. None of it is required reading, but you will learn more about the floating world of Adranon there. I won't link it here, all the info you need is in this listing.
General Game information
- Campaign theme is Mystery. The campaign involves role playing, adventuring, combat, vehicle engagements, exploration, and travel. But also many investigations and spy games. The campaign does less of the classic dungeoneering for which D&D is known for.
- Victorian Airship Steampunk. Think fantasy 19th century england in a tropical climate on flying continents. Purchasable, customisable airships using the “Ships of Skybourne” rulebook.
- Campaign is somewhat lawful. PCs starting out will be consultants for ARCH, a fantasy equivalent of Scotland Yard or FBI of the floating nation of Azeria. The main enemy of the campaign will be the Sequence, a world-wide conspiracy intent on enacting their Grand Design, though the existence of the organization is out of character knowledge at the beginning of the campaign. It is possible for the party to defect and join the Sequence later on, or make the campaign about something else entirely, depending on player choices. If done it should be a democratic decision made by the party.
- No evil characters. Characters don’t have to be good, but they should have redeeming qualities to them and be "basically likeable". This solves a lot of problems before they even start. Trust me it does.
- Less random encounters. There will be no rollable tables to make the kind of time-obstacles for PCs that most GMs engage in. Every fight should serve a purpose in the quests and plots the PCs are engaging with.
- Moderate-magic setting. The world of Steam&Steel is not a high-magic setting. Although magical items are available the particular item you're looking for might not automatically be so. You will receive lists of randomly generated items which are publicly available to be purchased. For other items, you can buy anything that costs 4000gp or less, and which also has a caster level of 4 or less. For anything else you will need to use Renown to buy them. If there’s something flavorful which you’d like with an unreasonably high caster level the GM promises to be flexible. I’m looking at you, feather tokens and sovereign glue. But you cannot buy straightforwardly mechanically beneficial items (like better bonus weapons, cloaks of resistance, stat bonus items) without using renown. You can use extra money accrued for buildings and vehicles, in particular airships. There will be both minor and major artifacts to find in the course of the campaign. Artifacts in Steam&Steel are immune to anti-magic.
- Gear purchasing possible out of session: The game features a General Universal Renown system which determines gear availability. There are 25 levels of renown, which basically determine how good gear you have as purchasable for you.
- Faction mechanics. Every player can belong to a maximum of one faction with which he’ll be tracking a renown score. This allows the character to call in various favors, like buying specific equipment, with examples listed later on in this document.
- Normal character wealth progression, plus vehicle/airship and/or base later on. Due to low starting wealth this will mean lagging behind in loot for a while, more in the starting wealth description below.
- Start at lvl3, with lvl1 starting wealth. This makes PCs more distinct than a party of lvl1 adventurers, and gives them access to core abilities sooner which results in more fun. But it still gives that starting-out feeling. This can mean lagging behind in wealth for a good while from normal wealth per level progression, but things should even out somewhere around 7-10. The campaign ends when it ends, likely at lvl20 or beyond.
- Milestone/consensus based leveling. Personally, I don't like XP. In my experience players know when they should level, and so does the GM. Together, they will know when you've done enough to advance in level. The GM has a general understanding at what level people should be at which stage of the grand campaign. We will balance that with leveling by consensus: If everyone agrees that the party has done enough to deserve a level up then that’s when we level up. GM has veto rights on leveling. As a general rule you should expect to level every 4-5 sessions.
- Downtime. The campaign takes place over a period of five years. That breaks roughly into twenty adventures plus downtime. That is to say each of the adventures plus downtime totals to about three months. There is thus regularly a significant amount of downtime in Steam&Steel rendering crafting feats quite powerful. It is also possible, and especially later on in the campaign recommended that you construct and improve your own airship.
- Locations. The Main Plot starts local, in the bustling Victorian era London-like city called Russet, and turns international at higher levels, eventually leading to other planes and realities beyond time and space.
- Campaign style is Storybox: Straddles the line between sandbox and plot-based game. Elements of PC backstories will be woven into the main plot, or whatever else is happening at the time. The world is large and detailed enough to allow the party to go anywhere, but as the gamemaster I would like to request that party goals somehow deal with the things I present in the campaign rather than trying to ignore them. There is a prologue and introductory adventures after which the campaign world opens up more. There is a “main plot” but it’s accommodating and subject to change based on player actions. Discuss both your goals and your chosen means of attaining them often with the GM. He is not there to funnel out of character knowledge from himself to your opposition in order to thwart your plans. He’s there to enable you to have a fun time. Mark your next session goals into the campaign journal chat after a session if you want the GM to be prepared for them next time. This will result in better and more tailored content.
- Banned and Allowed material. Campaign is Pathfinder with all Paizo books, with the following exceptions:
- No monster feats for players. In particular, a player character does not gain multiattack by any means including taking class levels which would normally give that ability. It’s too strong ability in a world which allows you to grow more arms via fleshcrafting, symbionts, or attaching limbs to robots via engineering. In addition, a player possessing more than 4 natural attacks makes the additional ones at a -10 penalty rather than -5. At the moment I believe adding more natural attacks onto the character is one of the more imbalanced things in Pathfinder.
- No 3rd party content unless the GM brings that specific 3rd party thing in. Please do not ask the GM to rule on whether some piece of 3rd party content is acceptable or not. Pathfinder is a vast system and the reason I run it is because it can already accommodate almost anything. I cannot rule on the ocean of 3rd party material out there.
- Leadership is allowed, as are cohorts, but they should not be disposable redshirts but instead have story meaning for the player character.
- Cure Light / Infernal Healing Wand nerf: To clamp down on Cure Light Wand and Infernal Healing Wand spam, a concept called Healer’s Scars is introduced. Healing wands which restore hit points are emergency-care by nature and are not healthy. Being the target of more than 7 healing wand charges per day inflicts penalties due to the rapid patchwork nature of their instant curing magic. For every charge past the 7th you take within a 24 hour period or until you rest for 8 hours, you suffer non-lethal damage equal to your level which you cannot heal in any way until you rest. You take untyped damage instead if you are immune to non-lethal. Healer’s Scars stack and are meant to clamp down on wand spam: Healing scrolls, potions, and spells cast by PCs remain unchanged and do not inflict Healer’s Scars.
- No non-standard bonus crafting: Crafting non-standard modifiers using the custom magic items ruleset is banned (insight, profane, dodge and so forth). You can still purchase existing items that feature such, but they may not be of your own custom design. You can still craft standard modifiers to custom items (resistance, deflection, armor, and so on).