“There are horrors beyond life’s edge that we do not suspect, and once in a while man’s evil prying calls them just within our range.”
― H.P. Lovecraft, The Thing on the Doorstep
Lux Tenebrae is a setting of eldritch horror and conspiracy in a steampunk fantasy world that is reminiscent of post World War 1 Europe. Magic is rare and extremely powerful. Science and industry has taken precedence over faith. The majority of monstrous threats are rare or have been suppressed by the spread industrial civilization. Airships prowl the skys and iron golems are built in factories. The first major world war has just ended and the industrialized nations are struggling to pick up the pieces.
Welcome to Eurona
Four years ago the greatest war the world had ever seen ended under an armistice, leaving in its wake an uncertain future for the nations of Eurona. As cities are rebuilt new tensions are rising and people struggle to find their destiny. The Great War left the continent in a state of endless political upheaval. It is a time of revolution, fear, and intrigue. Leaders fight for dominance in the halls of power with lies and assassins while most of their people starve and toil in fog choked cities. Behind every allegiance is an ulterior motive, behind every promise is deceit. But behind these shadows are even more sinister forces at work.
During the Great War various nations sought uncanny means of victory when they realized that they couldn’t win by traditional tactics. They used forbidden magics and recruited madmen to create machines of dark science. In their efforts for better weapons of war they called forth forces beyond their comprehension, and awakened worse things. A constant flow of souls from a thousand battles coupled with destructive magics drew the attention of slumbering evil. Although the old gods still sleep, their dreams ripple across reality spilling over into the waking world. In their blind arrogance the nations of Eurona have paved the way to further horror in this strange world of dark science and madness.
- The world: Lux Tenebrae takes place on a planet called Valith. It is a large terrestrial world similar to earth with a single moon. The planet orbits a main sequence yellow dwarf type star and there is a total of 13 confirmed planets in the solar system. Valith is slightly colder then earth with conditions comparable to that of the little ice age. The main continent where most of the major Industrialized nations exist is called Eurona, the continent is similar in shape to that of Europe/Asia.
- The world has recovered from an ancient apocalypse: Long ago Valith was home to the Golden Empire, which spanned many different planes and wielded powerful technology and magic. The Golden Empire was brought to ruin in a divinely influenced apocalypse. Some say the dragons burned the old world to a cinder. Others think that the Penitent Ones, beings second only to the gods, had driven all sentient life to madness; turning all under the rule of the Golden Empire into little more then animals. No one is sure what really transpired during this forgotten era. The Long dead husks of titanic war machines and ancient tombs are all that remain.
- Magic and science exists as two sides of the same coin: Magic is uncommon and very powerful, but due to universal limits it can only go so far. So civilization branched on to a technological path. Steam powered machines and physical sciences drive industry and progress while magic enhances existing machines. Things like ironclad airships and sentient mechanical constructs are possible by combining elements of both magic and technology. Ironically magic is feared and regarded with suspicion by common people. Spell casters are born in this setting, not made; and from an early age spell casters are indoctrinated at Academies to loyally serve their nations as weapons of the state. Rogue spell casters are a major threat and are hunted with impunity by church inquisitors and specially trained mage hunters.
- Age of Imperialism and Revolution: Civilization is rapidly spreading to the furthest corners of the world and boarders between empires are constantly being redrawn after every war. Those subjugated by the expansionist powers aren’t happy toiling under their oppressive masters and fight hopelessly to break free. In other parts of the world the extreme opposite is true as rotting age old empires fight to maintain control over an increasingly disgruntled population.
- True monsters are rare, powerful, and terrifying: Many unusual races and creatures inhabit the world but true monsters lurk in the farthest most strangest places. They are large, terrifying and can strip the sanity off the minds of the strongest adventurers. Some are ancient magical beasts that have drifted into obscurity, others are outsiders that time has forgotten. All of them are a force to be reckoned with.
- The world is full of mystery and intrigue: Greedy companies, criminal enterprises, and deranged cults are constantly scheming and plotting in dark alleys while society remains largely oblivious to their activities. Neither is every thing what it always seems. Some times adventurers could find them selves allied with cultists and monsters with similar goals. All actions have consequences and most adventurers find that they have to be morally flexible in order to do good in the world.
- Dragons are strangely silent: Dragons are incredibly ancient magical creatures that where once heavily involved in the politics of the old world. But after the fall of the Golden Empire their numbers where reduced to a mere handful. Since then dragons have become living myths. People live their entire lives without ever seeing or hearing about one.
- The Gods are distant and mysterious: The age of gods and Demigods has long since passed. Knowledge of the gods and Astral Plane is mired in ancient myth and prophecy. As science has risen, the power of superstition and religion has diminished. Divine spell casters draw from the same source of power as arcane magic and in theory any spell caster can learn to cast divine spells, but without a divine sigil of a select god and strong faith, divine spells wont work.
Its been four years since the Great War ended. Within that time the Usilin Imperium lost its colonies to rebellion and faced near total collapse. The Great War had emptied the empires coffers and famine was rampant due to an unusually long winter. When the people in the capital threatened to revolt, the empires sovereign leader, Empress Agnessa stepped down from power and quietly went into exile. Control of the Usilin Imperium was given over to a provisional government.
The new governing council was corrupt and proved to be powerless to solve the ailing nations problems. One year later the military launched a coup against the provisional government and set up a dictatorship lead by self proclaimed Tsar Volkov. Its been one year since the coup and the new Tsar is still in the process of consolidating his power. The future looks very bleak for the Usilin people as civil war seems just over the horizon. In the mean time the Imperium is threatened by internal dissidents and plague. The government maintains control using a brutal military police force and the many branches of its state intelligence bureau.
As an agent or associate of the Quarts Hall Institute of the Arcane Arts and Theoretical Arcana your job is to defend the Imperium from magical threats within and without. This prestigious academy lies within Ferrumgrad, the capital city of Usilith. The public is aware that the institute is in fact a part of the Imperial state intelligence bureau and also works closely with the military. What few know is that the institute protects the state from aberrations, daemons, undead and a host of other uncommon threats. Your job is to investigate the strange and to keep the common people safe from the faceless enemies that threaten the empire.
(GM’s Note: To use a real life comparison, your a part of an organization that’s a bit like the CIA (or a branch within the CIA), where you are a publicly known organization but your activities are largely shrouded in secrecy.)
Campaign Rules and Features
Early 20th century weapons such as bolt action rifles and sub machine guns exist in this setting. Talk to DM for rules on firearms and check the online wiki, under Firearms You will also frequently encounter enemies using firearms, along with bombs and cannons. Note that these all do alot of damage, ALOT of damage.
Due to the unique nature of the setting I have added additional backgrounds and changes to existing backgrounds. Talk to DM or check under Backgrounds for more information.
Certain firearms come with special attacks. For example, you can fire twice with an automatic pistol for an extra 1d6 to damage or you can spray an area with bullets using a submachine gun. See Firearms for more info.
Botching (rolling 1’s)
A botched roll will result in a negative consequence determined by the GM as appropriate to the situation.
Critical Hits (rolling 20’s)
Critical hits are more lethal then usual and can result in crippling conditions, such as broken limbs and festering wounds. The GM will determine conditions appropriate to the situation and type of damage. See Wounds for more info.
As you battle unnamed horrors and witness horrible sights your characters mental resolve will be tested in the form of a sanity ability score and sanity system. See Sanity under house rules.
Character connections are virtually none existent, but if you wish to make some to connect your characters, then feel free to do so. You come from all walks to life, and you don’t have to like each other, but the current situation has forced you all to cooperate. As the adventure continues you will forge connections as brothers and sisters in arms or… your familiarity will breed contempt.
If you wish you can also start with NPC contacts related to your back story. Talk to the GM about this.
(Note: I much prefer that everyone use hand written character sheets and cards instead of printed ones. Writing some thing down helps players remember things much better and it saves them the hassle of having to print out new sheets every time they level. Please guys, I have had some very terrible experiences in the past involving printed character sheets. If you need help with your character sheet then call me and I will personally help you make it.)
Regarding the history of the campaign setting and material written at the end of this guide, it’s not required reading but I would appreciate it if you at least skimmed over it.
I also require that everyone in the group take a character questionnaire. This will help you better define your character ahead of time and help me understand them better. You don’t have to write an essay long back story, but you can if you want to. Whatever the case I need three things from all of you that must be answered.
1. What are your goals and aspirations?
2. What are you afraid of the most?
3. Why are you risking your life to adventure?
4. Do you think you have a chance?
Character Level and Race
EVERYONE STARTS AT LEVEL 4. Your characters have had some some experience in adventuring and dealing with the unknown. You could be a veteran of the Great War or an experienced investigator.
- Half Orc
- Razor Claw Shifter
- Long Tooth Shifter
- Yaun Ti
- Shadar Kai
- You get to choose one magic item of lvl’s 1-6 to start with in addition to your starting equipment. OR you can choose to have a “unique character item” which your DM will choose or build for you. Unique character items are usually not in the game and some thing that is based off your characters theme or back story.
- Free Items: Some items I will let you have for free if you ask nicely, other free items you MUST have in order to adventure. All player characters start with Travel Papers which identify who they are and where they are from. Some player characters will be required to have mercenary licenses and contracts which give them the right to hire out their services to people.
- Players characters will be given homes or a base of operations based on their back story or social class, talk to the GM about this.
- Players start with 200 gp in addition to their starting funds.
Little Things To remember
- No Drinks on the game table! Keep them on another table or in a place where they won’t easily spill.
- If you’re going to bring vendettas to the table then TAKE THEM OUTSIDE. Respect EVERYONE!
- Initiative and conditions are tracked via combat sheet with magnetic pads or via computer.
- The game will only start when everyone is quite and the DM has had a few silent minutes to gather his/her thoughts
- Dice rolls only count if they are on the table, same for the GM, except the GM doesn’t need to show their dice roll results.
- Guys keep your Laptops and notebooks in places where they wont fall over or be ruined by clumsiness. If anyone is using their laptop computer during the game, then put it somewhere safe.
- Players don’t necessarily need to keep their character sheets or back stories secret, but I do think it adds to the narrative if you keep certain details from your companions.
- All players are welcome to take breaks as needed. If work, school, whatever become a problem players may contact me and you’ll be taken out of the game. However you will be able to come back at any time. Please let me know in advanced.
- With that said, players asked to leave the game will not be allowed to return to the game.
- A few examples of things that can get you kicked are, sexual harassment, and throwing tantrums. (regarding that last one, learn from my FAIL guys!) So keep your hands to your selves or take a walk outside if you’re feeling stressed
- Chewing gum is not allowed at the table , and when the game is in progress you are not allowed to play on any hand held gaming device. (sorry no Pokemon in the middle of game guys!) And if you need to answer a text then please step away from the table so that I know that you are busy.
- Do not be afraid to criticize me, my GMing, my story, my role playing ect…
- Do not be afraid to bring complaints to me, I will be happy to deal with any concerns you have.
If we do manage to some how get this game to take flight (steampunk pun intended) then I plan on giving you an airship and taking the game to distant exotic locals. I built a whole damn fantasy setting and it would be pointless to not allow you to explore it to the fullest. The vast majority of the game will likely be taking place in or around Usilith.
Regarding Technology and History
This game is loosely based on a post World War 1 Earth with elements of high fantasy. I try to maintain a small degree of believably but all in all its still fantasy. So I humbly ask my players to not stress technological accuracy too much if they find anything that seems inaccurate. You can’t hack a tank to pieces with a sword, zeppelins are still prone to bursting in flame, but older technologies such as plate armor and bows are still readily used by armies, and personal automatic weapons like sub machine guns exist as prototypes.
I am also aware that mixing a high fantasy game with early 20th century technology is some thing that is not often done. Fact is, it would be better for me to simply create my own game rather then cutting and pasting D&D and putting it into some thing It was not originally intend to go with. But making a game takes a lot of time and effort; and maybe I someday will try to make an industrial fantasy steam/dieselpunk themed game, but for now I just want to tell a story and have fun.
Guns, Warfare, and the Great War
For four years vast armies clashed against each other across scorched cities and muddy trenches in a war that engulfed the entire world. The front would move after the introduction of some new technological marvel which would later be countered by another equally horrifying weapon. Soldiers fought on all fronts; on frigid mountains to wind swept deserts, and even the horrifying depths of the underdark. For the first time the homefront became a battle ground as cities hundreds of miles from the front lines where threatened by legions of airships and magically created anomalies. Adding to the threat where internal dissidents which threatened the stability of nations. The Great War wasn’t a stalemate as much as it was a massive tug of war between the industrial empires using everything and anything at their disposal. This was the legacy of the Great War.
The Great War stemmed from a dispute between several small nation states after the collapse of the Veladrian empire, which split into six different countries after a brutal civil war. The civil war was brought about by the death of Emperor Uzel Voskinburg and his family who where killed when assassins smuggled a bomb onto their private airship. With no chosen successor and dissension among the ruling class the nation was thrown into chaos. The war lasted 5 years and ended under a peace treaty, but the peace was not meant to last. The former Veladrian empire was composed of a vast number of races and ethnic groups but generations of poor treatment had created deep rooted animosity between them. Worse yet some of these races and ethnic groups claimed rights to ancestral lands that where within the boarders of other states. It was only a matter of time before one would attack the rest.
Lesthad was the largest of the six nation states but wasn’t content to remain that way. Their leader was Prince Ambruzs Varsany, a distant relative of the original Veladrian royal family and had dreams of someday reuniting the six nation states. Opportunity came when a mysterious plague ravaged the neighboring states of Vadrae and Hezghovia. Both countries where quickly annexed. The remaining three countries: Dandrae, Astandrae, Seravan begrudgingly agreed to a defensive pact in case Lesthad attacked, but none of the countries where in any condition to fight a war. The three states appealed to the Usilin Imperium to the east for support. The Imperium agreed to their terms, which began a long fruitful economic relationship. The former Veladrian states where already home to a vast number of Usilin immigrants so the Immortal Empress the ruled over the Imperium felt obligated to help the fledgling states. But in doing so she angered the emporer of
Tactics and military technology has advanced drastically in the past decade. When the Great War began, armies where using cavalry with lances and bayonet charges. Battles where fought according to archaic codes of chivalry, but this changed with the introduction of machine guns and landships. The old conventions of honor and tactics on the battlefield had to be re written.
None of the industrial empires had fought a major war in the last 30 years and most new weapons had only been invented in the last decade. Among them are vast airships referred to as “Ironclades” or “Sky Dreadnoughts.” A single ironclad cost enough to bankrupt a small nation but could be easily shot down by concentrated anti aircraft fire. These behemoths where used more as political bargaining chips then as war machines. At the end of the Great War ironclades where used in conjunction with ground troops as mobile artillery platforms and aircraft carriers. Very few aerial battles where fought between ironclades as they where too expensive to loose. Rigid zepplins, although more fragile then ironclades, are still the preferred aerial vehicle. Modern zepplines are enhanced with arcane engines which allow them to carry more armor, increasing their chances of survival slightly.
To Counter the Threat of airships the industrial empires built tesla.
In the end it wasn’t some new horrific new weapon or revolution in tactics that ended the war, it was the threat of internal collapse. The citizens could no longer be fed, the soldiers on the battle fields no longer remembered or cared for what they had fought for. The industrial empires could no longer financially support them selves and had no choice but to call for armistice.
The Great War ended 4 years ago but the damage it did will take decades to heal. Cities still lie partly in ruin and governments struggle to feed their people. Some nations fell to revolution or simply collapsed into many smaller nations. Worst yet the great war spawned new vendettas between nations and races which threaten to one day spill over into an even greater conflict then the last.
Most of these weapons had only been invented in the last two decades. In the end it was the homefront Gun technology ranges between very early 20th century bolt action rifles and automatic pistols to mid 19th century musket rifles and revolvers. But things like SMG’s and Assault Rifles are in development and have not reached the point where they are practical. Although this is the age of cannons and trenches, plate armor and swords are also still commonly used. Swords are carried more for ceremonial purposes and plate armor is not nearly as large or bulky as that of medieval knights. Most Plate armor is improved by magic and tech, with enchantments to help ward off bullets and motorized joints to enhance movement. Some animals such as drakes and dire wolves have bullet proof hides that make excellent armor. Unfortunately most nations cant afford to outfit their armies with armor, leaving most soldiers with little more then raggedy uniforms. Vehicles such as tanks, ironclad airships and bipedal walkers are all common among the worlds industrialized empires and are used to devastating effects.
Airships are a common sight in this world and every major city has an air dock. Even small towns in the deep wilderness reserve a large clean field some where nearby for airships to land. How do airships fly? Airships use an arcane engine to generate an anti gravity field that essentially makes the airship lighter, (they use the Feather Fall spell) allowing them to be lifted more easily by propellers, rockets, or highly advanced electric propulsion. These arcane engines are powered by electric dynamos, which in turn are powered by diesel fuel or coal. Airships use helium gas bags for additional lift and stability. Ironclad airships that lack helium balloons exist, but are almost exclusively military war ships. Ironclads are also very expensive and take a long time to build, so zeppelin airships are more common. The technology for Ironclads has been around for only 15 years.
As arcane engines got smaller a new form of airship was invented called the Podship. They require no balloon and can be flown by a single person but have a very limited flight range compared to their larger cousins. Near the end of the Great War podships replaced aerial dragonette mounts and revolutionized warfare. Besides warfare podships are used for transportation, recreation, exploration and a host of other things.
Seafaring ships are still in use and equally popular as airships. They are used for trade and recreation. The use of military ships has been in decline since the invention of submarines and ironclad airships. (To be fair though ironclad airships are more dangerous to operate then naval ships since airships don’t have life boats)
Steam trains are the most popular and cheapest form of civilian transportation. Eurona is lined with thousands of miles of rails, they are strategically built at key cities and trade posts.
Automobiles are the new rage in most cities. These cantankerous four wheeled vehicles are still fairly new and most lack safety belts. Automobiles are expensive and reserved mostly for the upper class and upper middle class citizenry. Outside cities the horse drawn carriage still rules supreme.
Society varies depending on location. Civilization covers much of the globe and few places lie untouched by the industrial empires. The older primitive societies of the world are slowly dying away while industrial nations are in a constant state of flux. The last great war broke the power of many monarchies and many nations have utterly collapsed as result. The old orders are slowly being swept away to make way for democratic republics, communist unions, and fascist dictatorships. Revolution is on the rise.
Rapid industrialization has given new opportunities to common people and has heavily decreased the need for feudalism and slavery. Slave labor still exists but only in distant colonies and lawless lands. Paid servitude is common among those that can afford it. Social classes are very rigid but the condition of the poor has been called into question as people have become more educated. Better education has also lead to changes in the social roles of women. The devastating great war has forced many nations to admit women into the military and top educational institutions. Women have also taken over many jobs that where traditionally done by men. Together these things have lead to a society of greater social mobility and a growing middle class. Despite the benefits of better education the vast majority of people still live in poverty.
In cities the poor toil in massive factories and often live in unsanitary conditions. But they are often proud of their work and have a strong sense of purpose. In most places the poor rarely ever interact with the mid and upper classes, preferring to stick to their communities. The middle class live in suburbs and often don’t like political change. Most middle class families can afford servants and nice homes. They also occasionally interact with the upper class.
The upper class carry the most wealth and political power. Both come mostly through inherited titles or won through business ventures and military service. Upper class life has always been rigid and stifling. Children must be educated at elite institutions and take on family business in accordance of tradition. Women often have the job of running households and follow strict social rules. The men can do almost anything they want in their free time but always have the important job of running a company or commanding troops. Strict discipline and life according to tradition has resulted in a new generation of nobles and upper class citizens that seek to challenge the rules. Not being scandalous enough appears to be the only crime a noble can be accused of. (figuratively speaking of course!)
Much of the game will be taking place in Usilith, a large country dominating the north eastern part of Eurona. Usilith is a very cold and politically turbulent country. It stretches from the lawless eastern ends of the white desert to the western end of the continent. To the far south lies the Great Agatia Forest and to the far north are a number of frigid seas and tundras. In the northern heartland of Usilith lies several vast
Flora and Fauna
Many arcane sciences such as necromancy and pact magic are outlawed in most lands. Laws against the practice of “dark science” is enforced by the state and church which monitor all magic users.
- Wait, wouldn’t magic completely trump the need for any technology or science? Answer: NO! Technology puts power in the hands of people; and since mages are rare, people would need to find non magical means to solve certain problems. This would result in the development of technology in a world setting with magic. At the same time magic can do things that technology can’t, so mages will always be in high demand. For a very very long time Valith was ruled by mages and they were not nice people, but then religion came along and imposed rules on magic and a lot of non magic folk liked this. The mean mages had no choice but to obey, because a lot of angry people who think that they are going to heaven can kick the crap out of a few evil mages. With mages being unable to opress their own people under threat of almighty wrath, the people could experiment with ways to do stuff without having to call on their friendly neighborhood wizard. (who was likely off battling goblins, looting dungeons, and chasing prostitutes, the bastard!)Then BAM you have technology!