This land red with blood and poppies
Made our innocent white hearts harden,
And the tears we bled and wept, sowed
The seeds of our poison garden.
~The Great War (excerpt), 1918, Sir Malcolm Kessilmaine
Yesterday, as my SMT: Persona character surfed a door down the side of a collapsed skyscraper (and two fellow party members rolled down in a clumsy clusterfuck), I thought about how important a part setting plays in the nature and tone of a game, compared to the GM and players. It’s true that you can’t walk a 5’ tile in the Forgotten Realms without tripping over some legendary figure from Realmslore, probably Drizzt, while Eberron inspires faster-paced games filled with intrigue and magic train heists.
I’ve seen fit to craft several settings as needs must, over my short career as a GM. Some are less developed than others, or so tied to a setting that converting to Fate would kill the spirit of play. But the I’m writing up the ones that would fit, either originally designed for a Fate variant or systemless and in need of a good home.
I’ve noticed some recurring themes in most if not all of these worlds. Themes of starting again, recovery after war, new ages, magic returning, and a new generation with supernatural powers. I probably need to work on more varied ideas, or collapse ideas down into fewer but deeper settings. I’ve presented them below, so you can be the judge. And if you feel like copying any ideas for your own games, please feel free. Just be sure to tell me how they worked out.
Spirits of Sendai
Genre: Modern Day Supernatural
Inspiration: Dresden Files, Shadowrun
Ten years ago, a vast armada arrived from the depths of space and silently declared war. Out cities burned, countless lives lost in the chaos and destruction. But just as it seemed all hope was gone, our faceless destroyers retreated to the dark side of The Moon and have not been seen since.
We are rebuilding. Nothing will ever be the same again, but we can try. The Moon is now a symbol of the unknown life that nearly wiped us out. So much is now spent on the sciences, especially military technology, looking for anything that’ll give us an edge when the aliens return. Every country is virtually a junta, even if at street level it seems nothing has changed.
But something else awoke, unnoticed at first. A blessed few people started to show signs of extraordinary power, creatures from myth and legend step into the light, and the shadows became filled with restless spirits and far worse.
Magic and wonder had returned.
Spirits of Sendai is a street-level campaign set in the Japanese city of Sendai, coping with the new status-quo of a magic-rich world still rebuilding after the skies burned. People have to go about their daily lives, even if vampire clans have infiltrated the yakuza and local kami vie for control of the landscape.
Extras: Power Stunts.
Final Fantasy: Spirit of the Crystals
Genre: High Fantasy
Inspiration: Final Fantasy Tactics
Ten years after a revolution brought down the monarchy and handed power to a council of regional lords, the tiny kingdom of Aberdel finds itself as bad off as ever. Drained from centuries of wars with its much bigger neighbour Shevandy, it is perched between two major political powers sliding inexorably towards open war.
Aberdel was forged in the fires of war, Saint Anma’s crusade driving the monstrous Rhike races south into the Naraka Mists and delivering the land into human hands. The now-dead king was the last of her divine bloodline, and the kingdom is without direction even as refugees from the now-conquered Shevandy flood in from the east.
But what does the sinister Rhasptine Empire and its legion of airships want? Will they settle for just taking Shevandy, or continue on right into Aberdel? And what does any of this mean for the people on the ground as uncertainty and spycraft unravel around them?
Extras: Racial Stunts (Viera, Burmecian), Class-based Power sets (Similar to Six Viziers)
Stockings & Steam
Genre: Fantasy Steampunk
Inspiration: Anything Steampunk
Yes, a steampunk game. With elves and dwarves and airships and wait please come back!
1880. The kingdom of Anglea spreads its tendrils out into the world, creating the Anglish Empire to counter similar moves by its rival Galloway. Her navies rule as far as Lost Arcadia in the south to the Dragon Sea Passage in the mystical east, gunboat diplomacy being the only kind they know. The colonies are rife with riches all funnelling back into Anglea, and it’s capital Victoria.
Spurred on by the magitech revolution, steampunk and sorcery advance at rapid rates. The Royal Circle investigates the wider world and its arcane secrets, each member a combination of academic, explorer, and wizard. Steamtrains bring the corners of the land closer together while airships sail skies both savage and serene.
Stockings & Steam started as a setting for the D&D Next Playtest, but my growing distain for the direction that was going led me to convert it over to Fate Core. I think it’s an improvement.
The party my players are building for this includes a gypsy elf enchantress, member of the elf religious police, and an angry incoherent little Halfling sorcerer based on Brad Pitt’s character from Snatch. That’s a wild ride all by itself.
Extras: Racial Stunts (Elf, Dwarf, Halfling), Skill-based Arcane Schools magic, Patron-based Divine Domains magic.
The City of Light & The Wild Beyond
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Fairy Tail
Inspiration: Fallout, The Brothers Grimm, The Road
You would be familiar with this if you followed the blog back in 2011. Wow, I feel old.
The City of Light is mankind’s last haven, a post-apocalyptic Gehenna where society has reverted to the worst of gaslight trappings. Petty nobility live the high life of opera and gala balls and gallery openings, while the scholars research in musty academies, artisans toil away by candlelight, and the working classes live in abject poverty.
Outside the city is The Wild Beyond, a fantastical landscape littered with the ruins of humanities lost civilisations. It seems to rotate around the city in a great wheel, and even changes over time.
The land is not ours anymore, other things have claimed it. The Fey, infinite in their variety but all equally cruel, spread their magical flora and fauna across city ruins and vast empty expanses alike. Things have been warped and remade in their twisted image, a mockery of the natural way.
The players are a team employed by a noble, sent out into The Wild Beyond on any number of missions. Maybe you’re scouting a new resource site, or rescuing a settlement from fey attack, or even hunting down the last team your employer sent out. Nobody ever returns the same.
Extras: Stunt-based Powers, Humanity loss as payment (and recovery via magical Consequences)
The Poison Garden
Genre: Historical Pulp Horror
Inspiration: Hellsing, Hellboy, Final Fantasy VIII, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3/4, Shadow Hearts 2
From the ashes of The Great War, a network of orphanages were set up by a noble philanthropist. First built in England, the Leyan Academy of Second Chances later branched out into sister chapters in France, Germany, Spain, and finally the US. Rather than just being boarding houses for the abandoned and bereft, each academy sought to give its charges the best education possible and raise them ready for the adult world outside its walls.
But the best and brightest were kept, enlisted into a shadowy organisation known only as The Poison Garden. They were tasked with being mankind’s first line of defence against the legions of monsters summoned by the horrors of The Great War, but a lack of funding is forcing the organisation to also work as a private military force.
What sets The Poison Garden apart is that each and every member has a Guardian Spirit, a magical being awakened during a powerful childhood trauma. No two Guardian Spirits are the same, from Christian angels and protective ancestors to creatures spawned by pulp fiction, esoteric texts, and even nightmares.
My newest setting. Players are one such Union, tasked with venturing out into Europe and beyond to combat horrors that want to devour humanity, and maybe make some dirty money on the side. The game mixes elements of horror, noir, and two-fisted action.
Extras: Guardian Spirits as Stunt-based extras.
Today’s Lesson: Never stop creating.