This is the second of a series of articles where I share some of the detailed characters, places, and things created during my recent campaign. The campaign used Evil Hat’s Fate system, and took place in Edward Turner’s “The Aether Sea” world. We decided as a group to use Fate Core rather than Fate Accelerated Edition, so the things presented here will work better with Fate Core. You can also listen to the adventure on our website and podcast feed.
The game items presented here were spun out of an adventure prompt at the end of the Aether Sea book, which I will quote later. First, I’ll describe the setting of the adventure. My group and I had a lot of fun bantering and sharing details of what this kind of place might be like. Here is what we came up with:
1) The Annular Necrocracy
A moderate distance from Tun, the Annular Necrocracy is in fact a group of sectors united not so much by their political ideals - similar as they may be - as by the basis of their economic system. The lich kings of the Necrocracy animate corpses to do most menial tasks, thereby freeing up the time and labour of the living for other pursuits. It works very well… if you can get over the smell. In keeping with the sector aspect, however, nobody really knows where all the bodies come from. Don’t ask, don’t tell.
Sector Aspect: Far away in the deep, dark aether.
There are several sectors within the Annular Necrocracy. There is a division of labour; each sector has a kind of specialization that sets it apart from the others. They all share a couple things in common, however: a relatively small living population, and ubiquitous undead performing menial tasks. There are two that appeared in our adventure:
Noble is like the banking district of the Necrocracy. It is often where deals are brokered, though not necessarily where cargo is to be shipped. It features a single grandiose (but sparsely populated) city, and a number of outlying settlements that support it. Most business takes place in the city. If you use the Snarf racing rules, there is a stadium here!
Sector Aspect: Fancy brickwork and the smell of formaldehyde
Noble has two moons. One of them serves as a remote refuelling station for merchant ships passing through to other sectors. The whole place is ‘automated’ using corpses; it’s not much use to try and deceive them if you don’t actually have money. There is one living soul that manages the moon base. Poor guy.
High Concept: Master of an isolated moon base
Trouble: I can’t believe I’m stuck here
Grange Sector – Wheat barons, plantations, and vast crop fields. This is the agricultural sector of the Necrocracy, providing food and cotton for the living and for trade. The Makepeace plantation is on this planet (see below). Evelyn Grange (male) is the Seneschal to Lord Makepeace. He is the great-nephew of King Grange, the ruler of the planet. His life and that of the King have been magically extended, but they are not undead. Lord Makepeace and Lord Grange both hope to join the ranks of the Necrocracy’s ‘ascended’ lich oligarchy someday; the sooner the better.
Sector Aspect: Ruled by an aspiring lich king.
Planetary Aspect: A land like Dixie...
4) Makepeace Disaster
The drama of this adventure plays out on the backdrop of the Annular Necrocracy described above. The adventure centres on the character of Vanessa Makepeace and her necromantic communications equipment; I added quite a bit to her character, and we squeezed a lot of play out of this scenario.
Here is the text of the adventure, taken from The Aether Sea:
“ Contact: Countess Vanessa of House Makepeace, a Royal of low bearing.
Cargo: Several bound specters, part of some necromantic communications
Destination: The Annular Necrocracy, a short distance away, to be delivered
directly to Lord Makepeace’s estate.
Complication: The binding on the specters is weak. They’ll unbind and
start haunting the ship in transit. “ (The Aether Sea, page 44. Emphasis mine)
The player characters can meet Vanessa in any place, but her destination will always be the Grange sector in the Annular Necrocracy. She will offer a fair price to board the ship with some cargo, and will respond to reasonable attempts at bargaining. The equipment? A steampunk high-powered transistor radio that happens to be animated by bound spirits. She will also board with a small retinue of three zombies that serve as porters and bodyguards.
5) Vanessa Makepeace
A slender, beautiful woman of dark features. She is well-dressed in comfortable travelling clothes. As if by long habit, as soon as a deal is reached she will immediately begin trying to create advantages on the player characters’ trouble aspects, or other social aspects.
High Concept: Secretive Royal of Low Bearing
Trouble: Obsessed with Necronomics
Unconventional genius for using necromancy on the living
Voice like silk
+5 Rapport, +4 Magic, +3 Contacts, Empathy,
+2 Deceive, Burglary, Will, +1 Investigate, Notice, Stealth, Resources
2 Physical Stress, 3 Mental Stress, Consequence slots as normal
Focuses on Necromacy in Alteration. Use Magic to attack, create advantages, and overcome obstacles when Necromancy can be applied.
Soul Reaver. Use magic in place of Provoke to cause mental stress.
Shadow-weaver. +2 to create advantages using Deceive.
Zombie Bodyguards (3)
High Concept: Eat anything that attacks Lady Makepeace
2 Physical Stress
One mild consequence slot
6) Ghost & Spectres
Ghost: As soon as the crew takes the job, a host haunts the crew of the ship. She will only approach characters who are alone, and provoke the daylights out of them, self-compelling to avoid being able to transmit her message. I used the Ghost stats from this fantastic Fate Fantasy Creatures website, so I won’t copy them here. Save the link, though, because you’ll need it once more for...
Spectres: Once the ship is inconveniently far from its point of origin, something (I used an asteroid field) causes the communications equipment to malfunction. I used the character card on p. 43 of Aether Sea for the spectres. If your players decide to try and free the spectres from their chains (which, yes, my group did - I still don’t know why), then the spectres so freed take on the Spectre stats from the Fantasy Creatures site.
7) The Morganis Orb (a.k.a. The Soul Bubble)
This is a facinating artifact that evolved organically as our group progressed through the adventure.
To rebind the spectres, Countess Makepeace will propose a ritual to rebind them. This is not actually necessary – the ritual she wants to perform is actually just her taking the opportunity to test a theory that she can power an old Homeworld artifact by usurping the life force of the living. Players may use Lore, Magic, or Empathy to oppose her Deceive (feel free to use Fate points to win this one). Anyone who participates in the ritual gets the aspect Drained essence. This is permanent until they can deactivate the Homeworld relic – which the Countess will not do willingly. After the ritual, the Countess will go about re-binding the spectres.
The Countess knows that the Orb is an artifact from the Homeworld; she does not know what it does. To let your players shine, here are some overcome difficulties they can use Contacts, Magic, or Lore to gain more information:
Fair (+2) The name rings a bell...
Great (+4) They know the name of the artifact, and can invent one rumour about it
Superb (+5) Tell them why the Orb is a problem for the crew
Fantastic (+6) Give them a comprehensive history, and let them add details, because damn.
If characters want to do something with the Orb, it is a:
Good (+3) Challenge to steal
Epic (+7) Challenge to offload or sell it without any trouble. As you can see, this is kind of a big deal.
The Morganis Orb
High Concept: Indestructible Ancient Artifact
Trouble: Powered by the life force of sentient beings.
Aspect: Necromancy power source.
Soul Sucking - A correctly performed ritual can be used to steal aspects from player characters and replace them with the aspect Drained essence. If a character has all five aspects removed, they go into a coma until the Orb is deactivated, or they die.
Undead Army - The equivalent of 5 lives (25 aspects of living beings) will power the Orb fully. When fully powered, the Orb can animate and preserve an army of zombies.
The Orb is currently animated by the soul of Erica Makepeace, Countess Vanessa’s cousin. Erica is the ghost that is haunting the characters. She and Vanessa performed the ritual together, during which she died and her soul became bound to the Orb. If she manages to communicate with any of them, she will alert them to the nature of the Orb (providing an advantage aspect with free invocations), and ask to be freed from it.
This little episode provided us with weeks of interesting play time. I hope that you can have fun with it, too. Please leave a comment if you decide to use any of these ideas, and let me know how it goes!
Landrew is a full-time educator, part-time art enthusiast. He applies his background in literature and fine arts to his favourite hobby (role-playing games) because the market for a background in the Fine Arts is very limited. He writes this blog on company time under a pseudonym. Long live the Corporation!
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.