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[PDQ# engine] With Whose Voice? (A Gnostic Swashbuckling Dark Fantasy)

#1
You live in a world those of us here might recognize if we saw our fantasy worlds through a dark and dusty lens. There are city-states, with mad science that might be magical fueling their empires and their seemingly endless wars, and odds are great that you were not among the ruling elite.

Odds are, you made a living away in the fields of the city-states, getting worked to death for a pittance, knowing no better. And a better life you had than a beggar or orphan on the streets, scrounging to get by, living in "huts" made of castaway junk. You might have been a burned-out Akadem, having huffed too many of your experimental fumes, now rambling the streets of the city spouting your wisdom to anyone who can hear, and might understand. You may belong to one of the numerous outlaw cults, fighting each other in the darkness and the alleyways, because the city-states have a very strict idea on whose religion they favor, and who's is heresy. And the city-states have skyships, and scrying mirrors, and firewands. Maybe you're really "lucky" and are a sky-pirate, or born in the city of Whoresnest, where EVERYTHING has a price tag. You are, odds say, not a prince or princess with a romantic destiny, not a leader of men, not a shaker of the world.

That changed when you died, doesn't matter how. The big deal is that you came back, changed. Your teeth are clean and straight, you don't have lice crawling on you, you have all your limbs and none of your scars, and you can hear, see, smell, taste, feel, and think clearly for the first time in years. You look around, and you realize you can actually understand people speaking in different languages, and you can read. Maybe you can speak and write them, too?

Then the Voice speaks, and you can't help but listen. The Voice has plans for you, orders for you to follow, and if you are a good servant, the Voice will give you power that the nobles cannot even dream of. Mostly, It wants a cult of faithful, who will obey you when you tell them what the Voice says. Who or what is the Voice? It does not say, but It also does not forbid investigation. And sometimes, It wants you to do terrible things. Do you obey? Do you refuse, despite the consequences?

Based loosely on ideas offered here and here, as well as Chad Underkoffler's Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies, this adds a setting whose primary theme is collision, and how to pull things together to make the world a better place.
 
#2
THE VOICES

Who are they, and what do they want? To answer that question, we need to begin with The Demiurge, at the creation of this world.

The Demiurge looked down into the Howling Chaos, and knew not where to begin, for as he watched, the world shifted, slid away, and returned with great fury. But He knew He was The Demiurge, and knew He was The Creator, and could not turn away from His appointed task.
He labored mightily, but this world was not even clay and slipped through His fingers, almost with a mind of its own. At the end of His patience, He sat and sought for knowledge in His dreams.
And the dome of this world split, and the Demiurge awakened to see THE METAURGE and THE AEONS staring back at Him, awaiting His questions. And the Demiurge asked, WHO ARE THESE, AND WHO ARE YOU? For the Demiurge did not remember.
And THE METAURGE answered, I AM YOU, THE YOU THAT YOUR TRANSCENDENCE HATH WROUGHT. AND THESE ARE THE AEONS OF CREATION, WHO ARE ME, AND I THEM. AS YOU WOULD CREATE THIS WORLD, SO I CREATE THE WORLD IN WHICH ALL WORLDS RESIDE. Feeling not much more enlightened by that answer, the Demiurge looked to THE METAURGE and asked, HOW MAY I TAME THIS STUBBORN WORLD?
And THE METAURGE answered Him: GATHER THE FIVE OF THIS WORLD UNDER YOUR YOLK, AS I HAVE GATHERED MY FIVE TO ME, AND THEN YOU CAN CREATE THIS WORLD. AND YOU DO ME PROUD, YOU CAN TRANSCEND THIS WORLD, AND I WILL SEAT YOU IN MY PLACE IN THE PLEROMA, THE WORLD OF WORLDS.
And the Demiurge saw the PLEROMA, and wept, for now He remembered His own Creation, and Everything that came before. Drying His tears, and steeling himself, He descended on the World Below with a mighty roar. He slew, devoured, and thus enslaved the five Titans who kept tearing the world apart, each victory taking one celestial day. The last Titan was that known as Sinurgos, the Broken God, who the Demiurge saw was but a shadow of Himself, as He was but a pale shadow of THE METAURGE. On the sixth day, He shaped the World Below, and set it in motion. The seventh day was spent in contemplation, to divine the future that was to come this time...


So, we have a Meta-Urge, Five Aeons assisting Him (Her? It?), a Demi-Urge, and five conquered Titans serving Him. Can you guess who the voices are yet? :D

No? Well, things go by quietly, and suddenly the Demiurge notices tiny little creatures in the world similar to Himself, called humans. They notice him, and start worshiping him, a cutely passive-aggressive way of saying, "Hey! Little help down here!?" And the Demiurge looks down, and kinda takes pity on them, and gives a bit of help here and there. And they love Him for it, and He suddenly gets this weird surge of energy going through Him that faintly reminds Him of that vision He had of the PLEROMA. So, He starts doing more things, and the next thing you know, His whole time is occupied keeping these little creatures from killing either themselves or each other, sometimes at the same time. To make it worse, these little copies of Him are incredibly crafty, smart, and yet incredibly fucking dense at the same time. He gives them sensible advice, they smile and praise Him, they then mangle it almost beyond recognition, and then go do what they were going to do anyway. And yet they kept coming back to Him with looks of surprise when what they did blew up in their faces. He was at the end of His rope when, to His surprise and without His knowledge, THE METAURGE intervened.
 
#3
There was this dude, from a nowhere village, in a land that was being overrun by invaders about once every 10 years or so. He was called Clude, which in the tongue of his people meant "blunt." He was a sharp child, but had the tendency to ask awkward questions at the worst possible times. It was also rumored that he could sometimes...do odd things.

One day, a horde of invaders came to pillage, loot, and rape. Clude just walked up to them, and spoke to their leader. The leader laugh, and struck him. Then, as Clude stood up and dusted himself off, swarms of insects devoured the the bandit captain in the space of minutes, without biting the bandit's horse. Clude looked expectantly at the rest of the bandits, who decided to leave with a minimum of fuss. The next morning, Clude disappeared.

He went to the nearest city-state, which was under siege by the invader's main army. He demanded an audience with the city-state's emperor. The emperor, in need of a distraction, ordered Clude in. Clude told the emperor he could drive the army away, if the emperor would let him speak in the courtyard. The emperor said that he could, but if Clude did not succeed, Clude would face the emperor's executioners. Clude shrugged, asked to be allowed on the wall of the city. Once there, Clude raised his hand, and a rain of fire came from the sky, which harassed the invading army into retreat. He then went back to the emperor, who granted Clude his request.

Clude spent his days in the courtyard, eating and drinking only what others gave him, and asking those who passed him by all manner of questions, from the esoteric to the profane. If they answered, he would ask more questions. When they could no longer answer, he would suggest how they were mistaken, and that they should try something he recommended instead. Most were offended or uninterested, but a few listened, and began to hang around Clude in the courtyard. A few of the literate people who hung around began to write his lessons down, with edits and corrections provided by Clude. When asked why they hung on his every word, they said, "We were blind, and he gave us sight. We were lame, and he showed us how to walk." And indeed, there were times Clude gave the gift of walking to those who had no legs, or sight to those who had lost theirs. But his main gift was in getting people to look at the world around them in a different way, a way not clogged with prejudice and tradition and personal taste. This way of thinking came to be called "Ecludiation."

Finally the emperor had enough, and politely asked Clude to leave and take his followers with him. Clude and his followers complied, and in the next week, the city-state was invaded and burned by another marauding army. by then, Clude and his followers had turned up at the next city-state, and pulled the same routine. Thus did Clude and his odd band travel across most of the known land. Soon, his reputation preceded him.

His questions pissed off the authorities, quite a few of the regular people, and soon, the Demiurge Himself. Who was this upstart little ape, who upset so many applecarts and dared to perform miracles? The Demiurge could find out nothing, which filled Him with fear, and thus He began to set things in motion.

Soon, Ecludians were hunted and harassed, no matter where they were, except for a few who believed they understood. Thus, despite the persecution, they grew. And still Clude continued to ask uncomfortable questions and even more uncomfortable rebukes to ever-more powerful people. And still, miracles and rumors of miracles followed.

Finally, Clude and those most faithful to him were surrounded and trapped, and those in charge threatened to slaughter them all. Clude made a deal with the organizers: if you just take me, and let my followers teach what they learned from me, I'll come quietly. Fearing a rain of fire, they agreed, and took Clude into custody. Clude was forced to drink a horrible alchemical formula which would make him combust into flames, burning him alive from the inside out. He drank it, but instead of dying, he rose into the sky, and out of sight, wreathed in flames but not saying a word.

The Demiurge saw this, and looked on as Clude pierced the sky and became THE METAURGE once again. I AM PLEASED WITH MY SON, WHO WAS I, WHO HAS PAID ALL THE DEBT TO YOU THAT HUMANITY OWES. The Demiurge said, WILL THEY LEARN WISDOM FROM WHAT HE TAUGHT? THE METAURGE responded, WE CAN ONLY HOPE. BUT NOW, YOU MUST LEARN THE HARDEST TEST A CREATOR CAN LEARN. YOU MAY NO LONGER INTERVENE FOR THEM. THEY MUST COME TO UNDERSTANDING ON THEIR OWN. YET STILL, BE EVER VIGILANT, FOR A GREAT CHANGE MAY COME. And the Demiurge had to be content with that.

Where Clude burst into flames, a great civilization arose, which became the seed of the first World-Empire. Nudged subtly by the Demiurge, they made great advances in alchemical mastery, inventing the skyships, learning how to live on and harvest from the cloud-islands, inventing the scrying mirrors to keep informed of events from a great distance, and (sadly) bettering the arts of war with the Mouth of the Creator (cannons) and firewands (flintlock pistols). They also carried Clude's teachings, some with more attention to the actual substance than others.

Soon, the World-Empire overstretched itself, as did the Ecludian Church, and the various lands grew weary of the taxations and the loss of their ways. A mighty army gathered, and drove itself into the very capital city-state of the World-Empire. And then it happened.
 
#4
And lo, the mighty heart of the World-Empire released a weapon wrought of the cunning and craft of man, to take with them the enemies of the Empire in one final act. As it was fired, there was a flash and roar across the land.
And the Demiurge felt the burning, and lashed out in pain and fear. And the land, the people, the plants and animals, all were turned to glass statues on a flat plain of glass.
WELL, SHIT! cried the Demiurge, for his investigations revealed what the foul weapon was, and he realized that within three generations, humans would build another, one that would surely end the world He Created. Perhaps it would end He Himself!
He stood, and yelled for THE METAURGE. HELP ME!, He cried. And THE METAURGE looked down, and said unto the Demiurge, NOW IT HAS BECOME...INTERESTING.
The Demiurge, in disbelief, recounted what the humans had done, and once again asked THE METAURGE for help, for He could not foresee a way to keep the humans from discovering the secret that would crack the world, not without being allowed to intervene through miracles.
And THE METAURGE asked Him what His choice would be.
And the Demiurge waxed wroth, and yelled, I RESIGN! LET THE HUMANS DETERMINE WHAT THEIR ULTIMATE FATE SHALL BE! BUT HAVE SOME SHRED OF MERCY, AND LET THEM HAVE MORE KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT MUST BE THAN YOU EVER GRANTED ME!
THE METAURGE said, A CAUTION. IF THEY MUST MAKE THESE CHOICES, THEY MUST HAVE ALL THE CHOICES PRESENTED TO THEM, THEY MUST MAKE THEM UNHINDERED, AND THEY MUST WORK FOR THEM, FOR THEY APPRECIATE NOTHING WITHOUT TOILING FOR IT. BUT IT IS AS YOU SAY IT SHALL BE.
And thus was the Great Game begun, as the Titans stirred, free from The Demiurge after so long...


Yep, your characters are hearing the very voices that shaped creation The Meta-Urge, the Demi-Urge, the Aeons, and the Titans all have candidates for them chosen at random, and whichever one gets the most accomplished decides the fate of the world.

The Titans have learned a lot about the world through the eyes of the Demiurge, and they have some big ideas about how they'd remake it. They want to essentially grab the Meta-Urge, drag him and the Pleroma into the World Below, and build a world in their image on HIS broken body. The less said about what that world would be like to live in, the better.

The Demiurge wants the world as it was, but he plans to intervene again. A lot. And His first act will be to beat the civilization and its benefits out of humanity, so that they don't ever again stumble upon that weapon, whatever it was.

The Aeons, who are vastly perfected versions of the Titans (as you may have guessed), have various grand ideas for how they would run the world ever so much better than the Demiurge. Keep in mind, they are somewhat more...distant...from the human condition than the Demiurge is, so their re-ordering might indeed seem just as hellish to humanity as the Titan's rule.

And finally, THE METAURGE. HE recognizes that humanity is simply going to suffer and make the same stupid mistakes as long as they have those stupid brains, stupid bodies, and have to live in those deplorable conditions. So, HE will simply accelerate the decay and destruction of the world, keeping humanity under pressure just long enough to burn away their illusions, their fears, their doubts, their petty hatreds, their ridiculous misunderstandings, and when the time is right, and a good number are ready, they will join the Demiurge and THE METAURGE in the PLEROMA, not as worshippers, but equals. That's the only way it can work, believes the METAURGE, and that is how HE will conduct HIS campaign. Keep in mind, out of all of them, HIS route is likely to be the most accurate and merciful, despite the equivalent of gigadeaths and horrors unleashed.
 
#5
So, we know who the Meta-Urge and Demi-Urge are, but who are the Aeons and the Titans?

First up, there is The Mother Earth, who is basically the provider of stuff both living and inanimate. She keeps the ecosystem running, and keeps everyone as happy as possible. Her designs for humanity include keeping them more in the "state of nature," which means at the mercy of predators and disease. Still, she's probably better compared to her Titan counterpart, The Bloated Infant And The Withered Mother.
Bloated Infant/Withered Mother is one entity, but appears as a huge (8') child in filthy diapers, whose gender is indeterminate. It is connected by umbilical cord to a withered woman, who tends to the Infant with a zealous, if cheerless sense of duty. Every year, the Withered Mother withers to the point of collapse, and is absorbed back into the Bloated Infant, who then swells up and splits apart in a shower of gore and excrement. From the split issues a new Bloated Infant, and the old Bloated Infant becomes the new Withered Mother. This cycle repeats itself every year in sync with the seasons. It is the perverse parody of The Mother Earth, emphasizing less of an ecosystem than a bloody battle where victory is the only real outcome regardless of the cost, and less of life and abundance than viral existence and parasitism.
Both Mother Earth and Bloated Infant/Withered Mother have expertise with the Miracle of Creation.

Second up, for the Aeons, is the Beacon of Light. She is listened to and commands respect because she is truthful, and wise, and someone you inherently trust. She is competence and leadership embodied. She is the Voice of the Meta-Urge, and her word can be trusted to be the way it will be.
Her Titanic counterpart is the Ravenous Icon. What is it? It is the answer to every question you've ever had, every desire you've ever had fulfilled, and every goal you want to accomplish. It is your reason to live, and you cannot refuse its call without dying inside. It is totalism, and it gladly frees you from that pesky individuality you really never were comfortable with anyway. It is mad, and it cares nothing for you, and its gaze is hypnotic, but ultimately hollow. In the end, it draws you in like a moth to a flame, and will devour you, not noticing when you're finally gone.
Both the Beacon of Light and the Ravenous Icon have expertise with the Miracle of Commandment.

Third up is the Aeon The Wise Shepherdess. She assists The Mother Earth in the arrangement of things, and keeps things happening according to very complicated plan. She also sends fortune to those who need a break, and makes sure those who abuse others get the just outcome that awaits them. Her solution to the problems of the World Below is to make a visible, tangible Chain of Being which makes sure everything and everyone understands their places...which essentially will all but remove free will and opportunity for change.
She is constantly thwarted by her Titanic counterpart Sinurgos, The Scorched God. Unlike The Wise Shepherdess, he decides what he thinks should happen based solely on his whims, and arranges them so, mostly to spite The Wise Shepherdess. He appears as a charred corpse of an exquisitely beautiful man with ember-like eyes. He is a builder of flawed, poorly realized things, and his most notorious creation is Unlife, which has spawned the Undead (restless corpses, specters, vampires, and so on.)
They struggle with each other for the mastery of the Miracle of Prophecy. Rather than diving Fate, Prophecy in this world is making events happen according to the way you decree. It is subtle, yet powerful, and at higher levels is absolutely breathtaking.

Fourth up is the hooded Aeon The Keeper of Stories. It is a guide, quiet but quite the communicator if you know how to listen. It reveals secrets when the time is right, guides people and things to where they need to go, and keeps Time and Space functioning the way they should. By It's intervention, the World-Empire was able to unravel the secrets of scrying mirrors and skyships.
It is fought at every turn by the jealous and paranoid Maker of Chains. This creature, essentially a humanoid form made of barbed chains, uses Time and Space to thwart The Keeper of Stories, The Wise Shepherdess, Sinurgos, and basically everyone else. It is the tyranny of distance and time. Its favorite meals are frustration and despair.
They fight relentlessly over the Miracle of Deliverance, which can transcend Time and Space.

Fifth but not least is the Aeon The Windmaker. He makes the storms and keeps things physically in motion. He harnesses dangerous forces, but his sense of justice is harsh, and he will not spare fools. He keeps the fire, the air, gravity, and the storms moving. He is also the Sword of The Meta-Urge.
He constantly tries to leash and tame his Titanic counterpart, The Rain of Fire. It is calamity, disaster, firestorms, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, and the madness of war and violence. And the more of these at once, the better.
Both of them are in eternal combat over the Miracle of Wrath. Of all the Miracles, Wrath is the one most feared for its impact on the world, and the most potent in its devastation.

Now, after a player makes a character, the GM rolls in secret to see which of the above is the Voice the character hears in his head. One six sided die is rolled to see whether it is even (Aeon) or odd (Titan).

The other die is read like this:
1= Earth Mother/Bloated Infant & Withered Mother (Creation Forte)
2= Beacon of Light/Bloodthirsty Icon (Commandment Forte)
3= The Wise Shepherdess/The Scorched God (Prophecy Forte)
4= The Keeper of Stories/The Maker of Chains (Deliverance Forte)
5= The Windmaker/The Rain of Fire (Wrath Forte)
6= The Demi-Urge/ The Meta-Urge (Forte of Player's Choice)

So, why does the GM choose this, and keep it a secret for the player to discover? Because to mere humans, these entities are impossibly vast and difficult to understand. To these entities, the humans chosen are like ants, difficult to tell apart from their distance.

And it's the interesting part of the game: how does a PC deal with the knowledge that the Voice he/she is listening to is one that may not approve the PCs goals or understand the PC at all? It's a twist to the usual character creation process.
 
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Hafwit

Try to remember peace
Validated User
#6
I like it. :) It is a pretty creative twist on the gods vs. titans trope. I also ejoy the writing. :) More to follow as I sober up.
 

Reeze

Zombie Penguin.
Validated User
#9
Dontcha just hate it when that happens? Still, i think these are sufficently different concepts, just with similar ideas.

As to this setting: at a quick glance, i likesies. That sad, it seems pretty damm bleak in some respects, but then, i guess that's part of the point if you want collison, and the possiblity of making things better, as a theme.
 

Aeonite

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#10
There is some conceptual overlap. Voices, most notably, but also issues concerning the Demiurge and Aeons. I suspect the two will play very differently, if for no other reason than I use PDQ2 for Vox rather than PDQ#. PDQ# is specifically very swashbuckly, whereas PDQ2 is more stripped down. My Voice mechanics are custom to Vox.

Now that it's ready, I'm ready to start talking about it, but I won't steal your thunder in this thread.
 
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