Pixels & Platforms

Monday, February 11, 2019

Aquarian Dawn: Intro / Prose

So I'd be lying if I said I'm not extremely stressed out right now with my data engineering fellowship. After the first couple weeks in New York I basically stopped going to the gym, I haven't cooked or baked in forever, and I haven't done anything creative. The majority of what I've posted since January was stuff I pre-drafted or really old stuff I salvaged. I'd like to get back to World of Wonders, but that post was mostly a minor edit of a thing I wrote years ago and don't feel great about, and I don't want to post the rest of it just to say I did it, I want to make sure it's actually good.

I've been thinking about my micro-setting Aquarian Dawn, which I'd like to run for some of my local friends here in New York when I actually have a moment. I've got a whole bunch of ideas I haven't had the chance to properly write up yet, this barely scratches the surface, but I thought this bit of prose might be a decent intro to the setting. I've worried basically since the start of this blog that my setting writeups are too stiff, so maybe this more organic approach will do it some good, even if I feel it's leaving out a lot of worldbuilding.

I'd say the setting has a bit of The Witcher, Vampire Hunter D, X-Men, gritty street-level superhero comics, and Game of Thrones. It's relatively low fantasy and intended to be a bit more reigned in than my usual stuff (we'll see how true to that it ultimately ends up being), and more pre-apocalyptic than post-apocalyptic. I guess it's a bit political too.


The archmages, the few of them left, say the magical things are coming back. That the roads are gonna get dangerous. That the crops'll get ruined. That we don't have the infrastructure for it when it happens, and that a lot of people are gonna die and maybe it'll be the end of us. Nobody's listening. Nobody wants to. That's why there aren't so many archmages anymore.

We killed all the pretty magical things a long time ago, or anyway we left them for dead, when we built the roads. We killed the ugly ones too, mostly. But not all of them. The archmages say when we killed the magical things, to build our roads, that we set off a cascade of sorts, and that's why the elves left the world or ran into the forests, and the dwarves went far above or far below and got all weird. The halflings were another matter. There's no mystery to what happened to them. Just some good old fashioned greed and bigotry and casual genocide. Remember that the next time you read about one of them stabbing folk for their jacket and leaving them to freeze, on the side of the road.

So here we are, living in our comfortable homes, riding along our convenient roads, with more food than we know what to do with. But the food's been enchanted with the gods know what and there's no nutrition in any of it. And there are fewer and fewer mouths to feed anyway because only a fool would have a child in this day and age, and that's why we have so many fools. And every day one of our wonders of science and magic breaks down and there are fewer and fewer left able to fix them. We yearn for the days when we used to turn the dials and flip the switches, forgetting all the accidents and all the gross things the magic used to do to our bodies and minds. Instead we drown in drink and drug, or drown in dread, and I don't think anyone really understands why.

So instead, they blame it on the irrelevant elves and dwarves, or the poor halflings, or the savvy fey-folk. Or the aquarians. The nobles like to talk about them like they're an invading horde, like the monsters of yore. Creatures with no individual will, collectivist insects dredged from the eastern shore to see the end of our way of life. The aquarians don't give a fuck about us. And frankly, I think they might be the only ones left who aren't monsters.


  1. I gotta say, the framing of Aquarians as the defacto good guys kind of rubs me the wrong way if I understand what I have heard about this setting so far. The idea that humanity's normal mode of existence is this terribly evil thing that has little redeeming value at the end of the day seems to lack complexity. Humankind's civilizing influence does often entail the trampling of natural things and we can do terrible things to each other but civilization is necessary because we don't actually have the power to "fix" the world. Evil will always exist and there are and always will be things to fear in the dark and that is why the bulwark of civilization must exist, why competition, advancement, and individual effort must occur, because suffering and evil wait for us to despair or become arrogant and let our guards down. Thus iron sharpens iron: a weapon fashioned to face down the suffering of the world and bring it to heel such as we can.

    And it is because we aim for the heights, dream the impossible dream, and believe in the goodness of Being, including our own, that the dark is kept at bay, that we rise up from the underworld reborn. I don't necessarily think that your setting ought to flip flop and make humans the good guys but let there be at least enough complexity in the structure of this setting for a dialogue to take place in the context of the game world.

    Hope that doesn't seem like too harsh criticism. Obviously my knowledge of what you have in mind for this setting is limited so you may well have thought of some of this already. Given the right amount of complexity, I think that the conversation that would occur in this game would actually be fantastic and I applaud you for such an interesting space to work out these ideas.

    1. I feel like we've had this conversation before haha. Anyway, no worries, I appreciate your input and totally get what you're saying.

      Clearly a major theme of the setting is about the failings of humanity, but I wouldn't say it's as black and white as good guys and bad guys. The players are supposed to be human, or maybe elves, dwarves, or halflings operating in human society, but not fey-folk and definitely not aquarians. So the point isn't so much that they're supposed to be bad guys, nor that they're supposed to get punished by the world just to make a point, but that their civilization has done some undeniably bad things with undeniable consequences, and they need to decide how to deal with that. Maybe it means they turn on the world and fight for themselves, or maybe they become righteous rebels, or maybe they fight for the ideals of what they think their civilization is supposed to be. To me, the position you're taking is totally valid even within this world, and the fact that it evoked that kind of response suggests to me that I'm on the right track in what I'm hoping to do with this setting :).