When one awakens in Ainvar…
What must be known about the world of Ainvar
GURPS TL4 is the age of pirate ships and early gunpowder. The world of Ainvar has a smattering of black powder, projectile weapons, the Chevalier (shev-al-YAY) being the best known example. Cannon have been seen in previous Ainvar adventures. A few small armies may be equipped with such weapons; however, they are by no means common. Players are likely to run into a few of these exotic weapons in the course of the campaign. They may be familiar with these instruments, depending on their background, and should explain within their backstories whether or not they are familiar with black powder and the weapons that use it. Please play characters appropriately to their understanding of these weapons, and request game master permission before starting your character off with one. Black powder weapons will be far more expensive in the Ainvar campaign than in general TL4 GURPS campaigns because they are rare.
In past Ainvar campaigns, sailing skills have come in handy. The first short adventure I have planned will not likely require seafaring skills, but future ones might. It may be worth reading up on how many people are required to run a ship with a skeleton crew, and what disadvantage unskilled sailors may have at sea, though there is nothing planned at this moment. Passages on a voyage can be commissioned from NPC sailors at the right price, if you are lucky enough to find a trustworthy crew… Pirates run rampant.
Consider this campaign world to be “pre-steampunk.” Deference will be given to technology (black powder beats magic missiles, mechanical might beats prayers and spells) wherever rules are unclear. The Source (the universal power and mana provider in Ainvar) is a force of science and does not seem to exercise any emotions, thought, or control over the world, though the sentience of the Source is a prime question of moral debate.
Ainvar is a world of low magic, in most respects. GURPS Magery level 2 is the maximum and is rare. Only a select few individuals in the world would have Magery 3, and these would be renowned for their power. All magic here is empowered by the Universe itself (the Source) in a nearly scientific way. In order to wield a spell, a player whose character intends to invent or learn the spell must first create a somewhat convincing explanation of how the spell would work in scientific terms. In other words, a player who would like to invent a fireball spell must explain that it functions by separating the air into its component parts, causing the highly inflammable oxygen to concentrate in a small area. Outside of this area, therefore, would be a space filled with the expelled gasses, mainly carbon dioxide and nitrogen. These gasses are expelled directly toward the “caster” of the spell very quickly, causing the ball of oxygen to rocket away from the caster and toward its target. The caster must supply the ignition of the gas by some form of spark, such as with flint and steel, a torch, or some other ready source of fire. The only mystical force in play, then, is the action of the Source on existing matter. Nothing is brought into being that did not already exist, only the arrangement of the environment has been changed. The Source can be used to control the elements, but it does only function within the range of scientific laws, such as conservation of energy.
Players may work with the GM to create these explanations and understand their ramifications in the game. For instance, using a torch to ignite the oxygen will not require an additional dice roll, but using a flint and steel in such a circumstance should require a modified fire building or similar skill check to accomplish; igniting a ball of oxygen should be much easier than building a fire. This explanation also helps determine what might happen on a critical failure, as one can imagine. Magic is relatively low in Ainvar due to these scientific restrictions; however, it is more creative and imaginable. Most importantly, the descriptions in the GURPS books alone are not sufficient for Ainvar. Players who wish to cast spells must supply functional explanations which will enrich gameplay and aid in storytelling and consistency.
Brother Mendhel’s explanation of the Church of the Source: “You want wisdom. Here is wisdom. Mysterious are the ways of the Source. It is the Source of all creation, the Source of all blessings. None are higher. Hallowed be the works of the Source, and hallowed be the places that the Source has given for Its blessings. Glory be to the Source for all that is good in the world.”
While a great deal of the history of Ainvar can be gleaned by reading the longwinded beginning of the previous campaign, I do not expect players of this new campaign to take the time to read the fifty page document. If you are curious, you are certainly welcome to read as much of the first post on the Adventure Log as pleases you.
What you must know in order to create a compelling Ainvar character is that you will find yourself in the hire of a local lord (or duke) whose goal is to investigate mysterious goings on which he suspects are related to a tide of cataclysmic recent events. Ainvar is a campaign world on the verge of discovering its terrible fate.
Among the reports that your character will likely have heard will be that as of recently the ocean, or great sections of it, have begun to suddenly freeze over in the evenings, creating massive and dangerous icebergs and destroying ships at sea. The first freeze will have taken place only about ten days before our game begins. Horrendously massive fish kills of unprecedented size have washed up on the beaches in many local towns during the daytime. Arctic nights have been followed by relatively normal weather during the days in towns in all directions.
Aside from the incredible climatic changes, there are also many reports of strange beings and strange happenings from religious individuals. Many people go on and on about demons (or daemons or deamons) running rampant, demonic possession, and all manner of otherworldly activity ever since the first big freeze. It’s quite the religious epidemic. You should also include in your character’s description what his beliefs might be regarding these stories, if he has not himself witnessed some of them. Feel free to ask your game master for advice if you would like to include a demonic or otherworldly weather event in you back story. This is a fairly flexible aspect of the campaign, but we want these things to be cohesive and fit reasonably into the same world.
PCs shall have only the option to play a human character on their first go around in Ainvar. The only fully sentient beings known to PCs at the beginning of the campaign are humans, so this is the only option; however, if during the course of the game a player comes into significant contact with a new race or sentient creature, the option will be available to negotiate with the GM in the future to create PCs of newly introduced races.