Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Fading Suns 3, Game Setting 1

As I'm sure everyone is by now aware from previous posts, Fading Suns Third Edition (FS3) will be set in the year 5010. Previous editions were set in 4999 (FS1) and 5000 (FS2), so on the face of things that may seem like a big leap. Fading Suns has a long tradition of slowly advancing the timeline of the game with each new book published. This was true of the HDi releases and RedBrick releases (Church Fiefs and Arcane Tech), which brought the FS2 timeline up to 5007.

One of the earliest discussions that the design team had was how to handle the time frame. Do we do as many other games have done and simply reset the timeline to 5000? Or, do we keep up with the slow advance of time? We had a unanimous consensus that we all wanted Fading Suns to feel like it was a living breathing universe, where things happened and had consequences, where old characters can die and be replaced by younger ones. So for us, there really was no option about a reset. It just wouldn't have been Fading Suns if we had done that.

That is the 'why' we have done what we have done, now for some of the 'how'.

To make the Fading Suns universe feel like it is living means that there must be change. The question was, how much change? A lot can happen in ten years, but we rationalized that the three-year gap from Arcane Tech to FS3 meant that nothing too big had occurred to upset the balance of power to any major degree. Alexius is still in power and remains unmarried, the Patriarch has still not called a crusade against the Caliphate, and the Symbiots have not pushed past Stigmata into the core of the Empire. Everything seems, at least on the surface, to be very much the same as it was at the end of the FS2 game line.

But there are changes within the Phoenix Empire. The jumpweb is slowly opening up. Alexius is cementing his hold on power into a new dynastic house, and all around the politics of power are being played out. Some of the old plot lines needed to be tied up so that new ones could be written and more options and variety be available to the players.

House Hawkwood has become increasingly distant from the Emperor, and now Alexius' brother calls for re-armament against the barbarian threat. Many believe that this is simply a cover to justify a Hawkwood military buildup and some whisper that Alverax might intend to seize the Phoenix Throne for himself.

House al-Malik fears the sudden lull in hostilities on Stigmata as the world blooms with all manner of wild life. The Symbiots have become still and unseen as never before, and their subtle agents take any form.

House Li Halan struggles under the strain of succession as Prince Flavious steps down in favor of his adopted son Akira. In the corridors of power, hushed deals are made as the new Prince struggles to assert his will. To outsiders, the House appears to pull together, but to insiders, old alliances are strained, sometimes to breaking point.

House Decados licks its wounds after the twin losses of Iver and Grail, the betrayal of allied minor Houses costing them dearly. The Mantis is a house of schemes, however, and for each opportunity lost, a hundred more intrigues are formed. The House conspires to place one of its own upon the Patriarch's Throne, even as the father of the Universal Church lies on his death bed.

The Hazat teeter on edge of bankruptcy from their war effort against the Caliphate (and the Emperor Wars), though temporarily buoyed up by the vassalage of their former lords, House Chauki, and the acquisition of the world of Iver. But neither the Emperor nor the Universal Church are being seen to offer support in their war against the heretic Kurgans.

With the impending death of the Patriarch, the Universal Church has turned inwards with thoughts of succession. Candidates now jockey against rivals in a bid for esteem in the eyes of the College of Ethicals. Some seek noble patronage in their quest to rise to the pinnacle of Church hierarchy, while others court the esteem of their fellows (and, some say, darker paths).

The Merchant League continues to scheme quietly. The recent granting of a new interstellar patent brings a sixth guild to interstellar recognition, and some cry foul. New worlds have opened on the jumpweb, but many are savage and dangerous places that threaten the flow of interstellar commerce. The dream of a Third Republic remains just a dream for now.

But still the suns fade, and things not fully understood (nor fully understandable) stir from their long slumber in the deep of the void.