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Tharkold: Technohorror and Technomagic

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The Dead Never Rot In Tharkold [pt 1]


To understand this cosm, you must know this: the dead never rot in Tharkold.


You can burn the bodies with fire or plasma, hack them apart with a sword or an axe, even feed them to a creature or a hound. But left on their own, human bodies never rot in Tharkold.


Abandoned buildings never collapse in Tharkold. Though the Spasm happened five centuries ago, the cities of the Great Age of the Race are as vast and glorious as they ever were, monuments to a time of majesty and peace.


You can kick down doors, crash a speeder through a wall, even blow up a building (given enough explosives). But left alone, buildings simply do not crumble and fall. Abandoned buildings never collapse in Tharkold.


Salvage doesn't rust or decay in Tharkold. The empty cities of the Great Age are filled with relics of the time before the Spasm. The relics sit there, year after year, and the wind blows, and the rain falls, and the sun rises and sets, but the relics never tarnish or corrode or age. Time passes in the cities, but time never seems to have its say. Salvage doesn't rust or decay in Tharkold.


In Tharkold there are empty cities and in the cities there are spires, tall and majestic, built using ancient knowledge now forgotten. In these spires are fallen men lying in the dust, their bodies nearly as fresh as the day they were slain — five centuries ago.


And in their hands are tools that can't be made anymore, but which can work wonders. And in the cities there are technomagical monsters and in the skies above technodemons and other dark flying things. And people come here to salvage, but very warily.


Warily, because the dead never rot in Tharkold. But sometimes, just sometimes, the dead do stand up and walk.

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Technodemons, Technohorrors, Technomagic [pt. 2]


Tharkold is a post-apocalyptic Reality, but not just any post-apocalyptic Reality: it's the Reality of Techno-Horror. It's the cosm of technodemons, technohorrors, and technomagic.


Tharkold is a magical Reality. Magic is a prominent and pervasive force; it shapes everything else in the cosm. Technohorrors are malevolent creatures marked by the combination of both magic and technology; much of the technology of both human and demon incorporates magic, and the Tharkoldu themselves are DEFINED by the melding of technology with magic. It's right there in their name: "techno" + "demon".


Magic on Tharkold is technological, technology is often magical, and technohorrors and technodemons partake of both. This is all a consequence of the magic of the cosm, and it cannot be any other way. The magic of Tharkold is called "vril", and vril is why the cosm's magic manifests in the form of technology.


Vril is bound up in pieces of matter, and there is no vril that is not: vril cannot exist on its own. Vril is present in every single atom of all of the water, air, and minerals of Tharkold.


Plants take in matter as they grow, and hence become charged with vril (some becoming strange and magical thereby). Animals eat plants, and the animals become charged with vril (some becoming strange and magical thereby). Humans eat plants and animals, and they become charged with vril (but being only human, stay human). And the demonic Tharkoldu eat everything, but live off only vril, slowly consuming it to support their unnatural lives. Tharkoldu are vril-eaters.


Vril sustains all magical creatures on Tharkold, even the technodemons. Vril is also the reason why the dead never rot in Tharkold.


More, next post.

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A Magic of Vril and Atoms [pt 3]


In every atom, there is vril. And vril is magic.


Technodemons discovered techniques to dominate that magic, to bring it under their control. They learned how to control the atoms of Tharkold, and thus were born motes.


A mote is an atom, or sub-atomic particle like a photon or electron, that has been dominated. Motes are capable of receiving simple instructions (or sets of instructions) from their dominant and carrying them out. (They are exceedingly literal and not creative. Stupid instructions usually bring disastrous results.)


Motes are astonishingly versatile. Among other, more unusual powers, they can change from one type of atom to another, an atom of oxygen changing to an atom of carbon, or can change other atoms they interact with. They can link up to form complex molecules (and later delink), as well as cause other atoms to link or delink. They can send and receive photons, allowing them to communicate with each other, to repeat messages or instructions.


And they can replicate.


Motes can find normal atoms (those with vril, but not under anyone's command or domination) and convert them to serve the mote's owner. Via this method, motes can spread. And they have.


Tharkold's history is long, and storied. There have been many ages of history: the Age of War, the First Dominion, the Wars of Liberation, the Great Age of The Race, and the current age, the Second Dominion. After the Spasm, which began the current age, motes spread across the face of Tharkold, replicating themselves with abandon.


Today, they exist everywhere. In the air. In the waters. In the land. And nearly all vril in the entire cosm is bound up in motes.


Motes infuse the bodies of those Race members killed during the Spasm. Motes infuse the Race's Great Age buildings and technomagical tools.


Being motes, and being commanded to do so, they preserve the bodies, the buildings, and the tools. They preserve the bodies, that demons may draw forth the vril (for when bodies decay, the vril slowly leaves). They preserve the buildings and the tools, that the Tharkoldu may raid them for knowledge and plunder.


The dead never rot in Tharkold, because the architect of the Spasm, Warlord and High Lord Kranod, willed it so. Demons dominated those motes, and the motes obey their dominants.


But the Race has their own motes, which they command.

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Building the Cosm & Motes [pt 4]


Here's the secret of designing a game: everything we do is for the players. If a game doesn't meet the needs of the players or GM, it doesn't matter how intellectually satisfying the game system is, how clever or neat your made up languages or monetary systems are, or how awesome the art looks — If it doesn't work in play, it's useless in play.


So what's the point of vril and motes? Yes, they provide deep answers about some historical events I haven't talked about yet. Yes, they explain why the Race built such beautiful and impossible cities and arcologies. And yes, they explain setting details that provide for endless adventure opportunities in the cosm itself. But they also matter to players.


There are, right now, five SFX systems tied into motes. Motes explain why these exist, what they are, and how they work. More, each of the FX systems ties into the "baked-in secrets" of the campaign world. How the systems function and what they can and cannot do are actually clues to secrets of Tharkold, secrets that (if discovered and exploited) allow the Storm Knights to materially hurt the High Lord, the Tharkoldu, and help not just Core Earth, but the invading cosm itself. Motes and vril are built to matter.


On the level of actual play at the actual table, these rule systems are built to offer enjoyable options for players and GM's: fun toys for players to play with and interesting backgrounds and points-of-view for characters (PC or NPC). Here's an example.


Cyborg: Cyborgs specialize in transforming flesh into metals, ceramics, and plastics, transforming their bodies into living cyberware. This process is lengthy but persistent (it lasts until they change it again). More, the most skilled cyborgs can do this for others. Cyborgs are also healers: they can cause their own flesh and metal to knit up and repair. They can also heal other people, and other's living cyberware.


This takes immense concentration and willpower, the ability to conceive of the desired manifestation and will the flesh to transform. Cyborgs understand their bodies better than anyone else, even if only implicitly, and have learned how to master them.


Technodemons were the first to develop the cyborg art, but Race technomancers in Jhou developed techniques to apply it to Race physiology. Cyborgs can be found in many roles in Race society, depending on what cyberware they chose to manifest and their own skills and knowledge. They are fairly rare, perhaps .1-.3% of the population, but in high demand. As for the Tharkoldu, all technodemons are cyborgs, technically speaking, though not all choose to specialize in it.


Designer Note: The idea of a person who can change themselves into a cybernetic organism through concentration and willpower is intriguing, and not commonly seen. Cyborgs are versatile, they can easily focus on stealth, combat medicine, front-line combat, or many other roles. They make sense in Tharkold: technomagic, technodemons, and technohorrors, cyborgs fit in with all of that. I think players will get a kick out of playing a cyborg, including the fun factor of choosing which augmentations to manifest and when.


I like cyborgs, I want them in my game, and they can ONLY exist and make sense because of motes and vril. THAT'S why they matter in actual play.

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