Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Airship Has Docked.

It took long enough, too. Let me explain:

There's a campaign setting that's been sitting in my head for...I dunno, three, four years now. It was vague and disjointed; nothing more than a few flashing images, some concepts, some influences. It began when I started to read The Mad King by Edgar Rice Burroughs; or maybe it was when I read a comic book that featured blue-skinned faeries with airships. Perhaps it sparked when I saw the cover of the novel Fitzpatrick's War...then again, it may have burrowed into my head while watching the magnificent swordfight in The Great Race with Tony Curtis. Or maybe it was during The Golden Compass? Of course that my first glimpse at Kurt Busiek's Arrowsmith comic might have --

I don't know. That's how vague the whole thing is -- a disconnected, incoherent webwork.

All I had down was this: It's set in an analogue of Europe, right before The Great War -- only it isn't Earth. There are automobiles and airships and sabers and firearms, and royalty in sashes and epaulets -- real Prisioner Of Zenda stuff. It's not "steampunk"-- the technology is a bit advanced in comparison to our early 1900s, but steam has taken a back seat to...something else. Some kind of technology that straddles science and magic.

There are faeries, and princesses, and castles and dashing scientists and brave soldiers and dastardly villains -- but it's not Castle Falkenstein. It's not all Victorian and stuff; it's a little more like Sky Captain Meets Graustark. So it's got it's own thing going. In fact --

In fact, there might even be aliens.


yeah, I know, right?

And it all crystallized into a vague but specific image: A group of people, obviously the PCs, standing upon a towering platform, a neoclassical analog of Star Wars: Episode I's skyscraping landing pads, bathed in sunset pinks and oranges -- and they're in trouble.

It looked great. Beautiful. Evocative.

But it meant nothing.

Or rather, I wasn't sure what it was about. Who are the PCs supposed to be? How do they fit into this world -- and what's going on it? What's the trouble? No answers ever came. The pot would not boil.

It's been on my mind the last couple of days, although I'm not sure why. It's just been...there. Hovering, insinuating. Taunting.

Today, on the drive home...WHAM.

For centuries, Man followed his own path -- albeit by the grace of the Fae Lords, who made possible the little dollops of magic that Man used to supplement his inventiveness. But with the science of (TBA), Man is ready to make a break from the Fae. With his new science, Man can make almost anything happen -- as it's a process by which a formerly ignored mineral can be converted directly into energy. It's clean, it's safe, and its miraculous. It's Man's own magic.

The Fae are resentful, stewing in their dreamland. They don't want Man to be so independent. They want this technology gone.

Upon the development of the new technology, however, Man found that not only was he not alone on his own world, but that he had other neighbors -- neighbors in the stars. For soon after the development of electro-whatsits, strange but friendly beings came from the skies. They spoke to Man of worlds in the distant starry night, nebulae, whirlpools of matter, ships that can cross the emptiness between the spots of light. And they would give Man the keys, the Stardrive...

...if Man would share his new science.

Man's reticence makes the aliens impatient. They have other motives -- but what do they want? Why are they so anxious for this trade? And will they go so far as to steal it?

Meanwhile, the Continent (read "Europe") is starting to fracture, as kings and revolutionaries plot to control the new technology, or share it with the aliens, or surrender it to the fae. Yet others see this as the End Times.

Yet more see the new technology as a way to pierce The Veil Of Fire, a huge wall of flame that separates the Continent from The New World. What lies beyond it? Who will go? WILL anyone go? Will the Fae make war? Will the Aliens make war? Will the Continent tear itself apart under the strain?


I wonder.