However, the Empire has suffered a catastrophe that has eliminated much of its technological know-how. This loss threatens not only the lifestyle of its citizens, but the spiritual mission that unifies the culture. The Empire is declining into a Dark Age from which it may never emerge. Only brave adventurers, brilliant scientists, inspired artists, and daring radicals such as you can defy tradition to restore the glory of the Empire! Against you are the forces of hatred, prejudice, inertia, treachery, greed and self-righteousness. But with you are imagination, ingenuity, and innovation!
In the Purple Pomegranate campaign, you are one of many types of fantastic creature, each designed to match a role-playing archetype. You live in a wonderous city, the Crystal Palace, which is literally suffused with magic. Inside the city, magic is commonplace; outside, rare and precious. Until the catastrophe, the Empire was bound together by two things: the paradise being created by the intelligent near-immortal tree-like Makoo from their magically unified dreams; and the Crystal-based technology that allowed magical energy to be transported throughout the Empire.
At its height, the Empire's magic-based technology surpassed that of modern Earth. The catastrophe occurred about 7,000 years ago (the recent past by the Makoo scale of time). For an unknown reason, the Science Tower, home of the city's most brilliant minds and irreplaceable magical artifacts, become uninhabitable. The artificially intelligent Photisms controlling most of the technology turned against the city. The Empire has begun to recover from this devestating blow, by re-discovering technology and artifacts from the ages before Photisms were introduced. But much knowledge and territory has been lost. No one alive really understands the infrastructure of the Crystal Palace, or the nature of the danger that still lurks in the Science Tower. Disaster could strike at any minute.
Three political parties have grown up around three approaches to the crisis. The Inward Faction presses for spiritual growth, accellerating the Makoo program so that paradise is achieved before the Empire's inevitable collapse. The Outward Faction stresses a return to the Empire's former boundaries, through military force if necessary. Finally, the Phoenix Faction encourages exploration and experiment, putting first priority on reclaiming lost knowledge and making new discoveries.
The game will center around the Purple Pomegranate a pub/cabaret which is known for avant-garde art, Phoenix Faction politics, and a fun-loving, rowdy, adventurous clientele. Player characters should be regular customers or employees of the Purple Pomegranate. Although they will be generally competent and adventurous, player characters will not usually be full-time heroes or adventurers. Most will have jobs, family, friends, and interests that go beyond adventures. The games will try to interleave adventures with roleplaying more mundane events from the PC's lives. ( However, what's mundane in the Crystal Palace might be highly exotic from a human viewpoint!)
So far, PC's include a special effects expert, a socialite artist, a policewoman, a technician with Public Works, a spiritual counselor, and a private detective. Many of the above use magic routinely as part of their jobs; others have jobs with elements of danger. They are achieving fame both for capturing a wanted criminal and for a controversial puppet show. They've saved many lives, and thwarted some villainous schemes. But they do not view themselves as heroes, just patriotic citizens.
So far, we have been playing free-form, not using any system. I do have Xcel spread-sheets for character design (available on request) but we've been using character sheets mainly as a reminder for abilities. Occasionally, we roll some dice to see whether an outcome is favorable, but typically characters succeed at anything they are listed as being competent in. I have a home-brew system that I would eventually like to test, but the free-form game has been working so well that I don't want to break the momentum.
Since the setting is exotic, I've tried to make a lot of background information available. Basically, I have made all of my own campaign notes available on this web page. Don't be overwhelmed; players aren't expected to know all this stuff. On the other hand, it's all common knowledge from the characters' point of view, so if you enjoy it, please go ahead and browse. If something comes up in a game, I'll fill in the background as needed. To brouse the game notes, go to Outline of notes on Radiant Empire .
If you use the spread sheet, you'll have 250 character points to spend, plus up to 75 more from personal limitations. About 100 points will be pre-spent on species abilities and common skills. To be in the top 5 \% of a profession corresponding to a special training package, you should spend 80-120 points on special training. An amateur, specialist, or dilletante might spend 40-60. (If you are familiar with Hero games, each of our character points is worth about 1/2 hero character point. Thus, characters are basically 75 point "heroic" characters, with about 50 additional points of species abilities, and up to 35 in disads.)
These last two goals are hard to reconcile. Unfortunately, extreme behavior or abilities often alienates characters from the rest of society. Next to these colorful characters, family, friends and jobs seem dull and mundane. Extreme characters tend to be loners or outcasts. We decided to allow characters to be both extreme and in the mainstream of society by making society extreme.
More precisely, we decided to have a multi-cultural society whose citizens represent various types of extremes that are common choices for player characters. So that there would be no "normal" citizens to compare the PC's to, all of the cultures would be of non-human species. Without resorting to the cliches of the fantasy genre (dwarves, elves, etc.), we chose images for our species that we hoped would evoke the archetypes they were meant to capture: werewolves for "feral warriors", Oriental dragons for sages, unicorns for innate magicians, gorillas for "bricks", chameleons for "sneaks", etc. A few less traditional images were added for flavor, or because they became important for societal cohesion. For example, we added a race that loves to do mundane work, the Darby, because we realized that none of the extreme types for player characters would be much interested in or competent at necessary chores! To see a description of the different character species, see Inhabitant list
Another way we decided to make even daily life colorful is to envision an extremely high magic society. We pictured a city suffused with magic energy, where very little special training or talent was necessary to perform magic. Magical items would be commonplace in the city. However, to paraphrase Clarke, a sufficiently reliable magic is indistinguishable from technology. To avoid making magic too reliable, we pictured a society that had once had a magic-based technology at the level of say, 22nd century earth. However, a catastrophe had eliminated much of the knowledge underlying this technology, while leaving behind many usable devices and a near infinite supply of magical energy. Thus, magic would be potent and readily available. but operated largely on an unreliable basis of guesswork and memorization. Magic describes the different types of magic that have evolved in the Empire.
The other files give more detail about the game world that the campaign is set in, and the options for characters. So far, we have not been using a game system, but just constructing stories free-form. Next Document: The Manifold Game World