Lords of Ether Historical Overview (the well read fantasy enthusiast will likely know many of the works from which the premises here are borrowed – treat as a homage if you will) In 1680, Sir Isaac Newton delved into alchemy and discovered the Ether, a universal energy on the boundaries of science and the doorway to magic that offered great powers and promised vast potential. Unfortunately, its use was soon turned to war, and in 1700 the world was consumed by magic and new science gone wild. With the aid of godlike beings awakened or drawn by this new power, humanity fled its dying world and scattered across the heavens. There on a thousand worlds the cycle of history continued; new civilizations rose, linked by mystical winds through space, these “Star Ways” that traders sailed over as they had the Trade Winds of Earth. However, in time some of these civilizations grew powerful and arrogant, and some challenged the gods that had brought them to this new heaven, bringing about a terrible war that broke the power of both. The backlash of the terrible weapons used created great storms through the Ether that ravaged whole worlds, and made most of the Star Ways fatally inaccessible for almost a millennia. It is now 3982 AE (After Exodus), though to most it is 1000 NE (New Era) measured since the end of the war between Gods and men. The terrible storms through the heavens have subsided over the past two centuries, and those who dare may now venture forth again to build their fame, fortunes. . . or Empires. Basic Premise Lords of the Ether is a story based SD, whose concept is based on the merging of science and magic. The basic element of power in the gameworld is Ether, which is used not just in all magical spells, but also for most high technology devices (super dense Etheric matter replaces uranium for instance). This makes it very valuable, and controlling it the surest route to power, hence the name of the SD. Players choose a group, be it nation; world; trans-stellar non-governmental organization; or even powerful individual (God, hero, arch-mage. . .) and, well, do whatever you want in the game world. But what exactly is Ether. Well, it’s a magical substance of low density but with great conductive properties, and when properly used can generate large amounts of energy. It permeates the universe, but most often takes physical form inside large, dense objects. On planets it tends to gather underground in concentrated areas called Nodes, from which it emerges as a greenish gas, or, more rarely an ultra-dense hardened solid like a glowing emerald (an Ether Geode - very valuable). In its gaseous state it can also be occasionally found in small quantities on the surface layers of large planets like gas giants or even stars (if you’re daring). It can also be found in very rich pockets within nebulas, though the danger of passing through a nebula tends to prevent making harvesting operations there routine affairs. The most powerful mages can also tap hidden “Ley Lines” that run across the universe and draw Ether out of, what appears to the uninitiated, to be thin air. Advanced sciences have also managed to redirect the flows of Ether into waiting Etheric battery cells. Over the past few thousand years, such procedures and magics have tended to pool Ether in a system around those worlds inhabited by Ether using societies. Usually the Ether in the rest of the solar system is thin, dispersed and irregular, and harvesting it more work than is profitable. Some systems and worlds however retain untapped reserves, but most will have to seek new, fallow ground to acquire more. Untapped reserves of Ether can be found in systems not so ravaged by continual harvesting processes, in the lair of magical creatures (who attract it), and in the occasional as yet undiscovered ley line or Node (which can appear in the strangest places). In its useable forms Ether takes many guises. Most technological Powers use it mixed with a liquid compound as the flammable Ethernol to fuel internal combustion engines, on in a more teporary state in charged batteries. Also Ether Geodes are used to power fission reactors. Magical societies tend to keep Ether stored in various receptacles and then temporarily infuse it using transmogrification or certain magical creatures or devices into various magical “reagents” when they need to move it (Wagon loads of caskets filled with Etheric gas are fine, but a bit bulky for a wizard to take adventuring with him). Within the rules, flexibility and imagination is not just encouraged – it’s a must, but there are some key points and then a lot of minor ones. Firstly, keep in mind that the point of (severe) divergence with our Earth was 1700. Earth is also long gone and is now considered more legend than fact, though of course the explorer who can find it would have his reputation made a thousand times over. Secondly, be aware that the difference between science and magic is more a matter of taste than power. A scientifically primitive civilization with vast magical powers against a magically inept civilization with the art of high technology at its command will be more or less evenly matched. Of course, the greatest power is gained from melding the two, but that is no easy task. Lastly, none of the powers, scientific or magical, verge on the “godlike”, even for those who actually *choose* to play gods. There will be no blasting planets to bits with superlasers, or wiping out entire civilizations with spells o’ doom. Even use of more mundane methods of mass destruction such as etheric fission bombs or city-wide rains of magical fire tend to have nasty repercussions, not just politically, but also physically, as the universe itself will react against too much wonton damage. OK, that’s the basic stuff. Read ahead for the specifics. Levels of Power There are three basic levels of power. Play an Empire This is the standard Empire building level of power; where you command a planet or nation, its government, militaries and industries and go forth for the greater glory of your united people. You rule either the most dominant nation on your planet, or even the ONLY nation on the planet. This is the most powerful level for those who want to get most involved in the game as it offers the greatest abilities and the most options. It also takes the most work and dedication though. This level of play is for those who like to see their creation grow and eventually become a power the universe must reckon with. Play a Trans-Stellar This is where you command a non-governmental organization, be it Vast Corporation, Criminal Syndicate, Mercenary Army, Magical Society, etc. While this offers a great number of possibilities, it is, at heart, weaker than a full blown nation or world-empire. However the big advantage is that you start off spread across multiple worlds and with (usually) a far greater store of worldly universal knowledge than the Empires, most of whom have been isolated until the past few decades/centuries, and ALL of whom must start on a single world. Thus, while most Empires will be able to destroy a Trans-Stellar’s holdings in their particular bailiwick if they choose, the depth of resources held by these groups could make such a move incredibly unwise in the long term, and the benefits of co-operation with most Trans-Stellars are a hard thing to loose. This level of play is for those who like to remain neutral from the various wages of power and pursue their own more subtle agendas. . . such as pursuing a universal monopoly. Play a Hero You play an individual. Either a supernatural being (even a god) or a very powerful mortal. You are mythical warrior, a great wizard, or even a super spy. In a heroic age your actions can be the stuff of legends. Your personal power can even include devotees, henchmen or acolytes if you wish, but it must be realized that this is the *weakest* of the three power levels. No Heroic character can ever match an Empire, or even a Trans-Stellar. However, these characters are excellent for the occasional player who does not wish to be continually immersed in game as needed to build a viable nation or company, but also does not wish to be marginalized during play. This allows a player to pop in and out as they choose, and throws a great variable into the mix for established powers. CREATING A POWER A Walkthrough OK, onto the nitty-gritty. Firstly, anything that is capitalized like “Capability”, “Empire”, “Hero” or so forth refers to a specific element of the game and (if I’ve done my job right) is not interchangeable. So, when someone talks about “Industrial Production” everyone should know exactly what they’re referring to. Onward: To create your Power in Lords of Ether, a generic term that describes your Empire/Trans-Stellar/Hero, you get a certain number of Starting Points to assign as you wish to Capabilities and Advantages. You can buy more points by taking various Disadvantages. If you have an idea that requires an Advantage or Disadvantage not listed just buzz me up and we’ll work out a value for it. Starting Points An Empire gets 500 starting points, a Trans-stellar 250, and a Hero 50. Starting points are used only during the initial creation of your Power, and if you don’t use ’em you lose ‘em. They are also not a substitute for an actual concept (the numbers themselves are kinda dull) but are a necessary guide to what your Power is capable of. At the start of the game, you have to purchase these Capabilities them with Starting Points. The Starting Point costs ONLY apply during Power creation. Once you’ve created your Power, the cost to buy anything with Starting Points is no longer important. In the walkthrough I have Starting Point numbers listed in blue. However, the only reason for you as a player posting SP values when you first post your nation is to make it easier to check to make sure all the point values work out to the correct tally. After your Power has been checked and OK’d you can wipe the all and forget about them. CAPABILITIES People People are the number of people associated with your Power. For Empire’s it’s the Population who live and work under their rule; for Trans-stellars its those their Employees, and Heroes have two types: Companions who are specific characters they adventure with (their party if you will) and their Worshippers, be they devotees of a demi-god, or adventurer groupies. Worshippers are of the least physical benefit to a Power (though it never hurts to have friends wherever you go) however the strength of their belief and devotion to a Hero can generate a little extra *kick* of Ether. Empire Population: 1 million Population = 1 SP Every 2 million Population = +1 Industry It costs 1 Starting Point to buy every 1 million Population for an Empire. Because the larger a population, the more industry a state can generate an Empire gains an Industrial Bonus of 1 Industrial Production for every 2 million Population. Trans-stellar Employees: 10,000 Employees = 1 SP Every 20,000 Employees = + 1 Wealth It costs 1 Starting Point to buy every 10,000 Employees for a Trans-stellar. More Employees generate more Wealth, so a Trans-stellar gains a Wealth bonus of +1 for every 20,000 Employees. Heroic Companions/Worshippers: (applies only to Heroes) 1 loyal companion = 1 SP Every 100,000 worshippers = 1 SP Loyal companions are individuals who travel and adventure with the Hero. Defining them is largely up to the Player. However, their powers should roughly equate to those of the very best Special Forces or Master level Magic Users. Unless they are powerful Mages, Companions need no formal Upkeep. However, you cannot take something like a Space Battleship as a companion; you can take the AI of a sentient spaceship as a Companion, but you must still buy the actual warship as a separate unit (and then pay the resultant Upkeep). The same basic idea goes for other high cost units like Great Wyrms and Star Kraken. Note: A ship AI chosen in such a manner does not add to the cost, or the Added Capabilities of the vessel – after having bought it as a Companion its installation in a ship is free. Worshippers are those “civilians” who, well, worship the Hero, either outright as a god, or just with fanatical fan worship. A Hero gains an Ether bonus of +1 per 200,000 Worshippers he or she has. OK, we’ll walkthrough a Hero (being the simplest), so that gives us 50 SP to begin with. Let’s call our Hero Omicra the Ace. His concept is that of a roving mercenary mecha-warrior, out for a quick buck, a good thrill, and a great deal of money. Omicra has 2 Companions; a pair of mecha pilots who form his team. That’s 2 SP spent. Being a merc is a thankless and un-valorous calling though, so Omicra is a bit short on Worshippers, so 0 SP there. Note that these mecha-pilot Companions do not give Omicra the actual mecha – just the pilots themselves. The mecha will have to be purchased as separate military units. So, in the People Capability, Omicra has now used 2 of his Starting Points. Influence Influence is the number of worlds on which you have your people. This is only available to Trans-stellars and Heroes (and only worthwhile for Heros with actual worshippers). A Hero or Trans-stellar will likely know of more worlds than just those on which it has influence, but this is where it has power. The first world comes free – where the Trans-stellar corporate HQ is, or the location of the Heroes Grand Temple, or so on. Every world after that costs 1 SP. Once number of worlds influenced has been determined, the Power should indicate which ones (once we have the map up), and the number of People, Production Points and military units it has on each. Scattering your resources is not just cosmetic – a wider reach allows a Trans-Stellar to maximize its early advantages, and prevents a Hero from facing utter annihilation of his followers if he pisses off the wrong Emperor. Trans-stellar Offices / Hero Worshippers: Every world after the first (free) cost 1 SP Omicra has no followers, and so, while he and his team are familiar with dozens of worlds and travel regularly, he doesn’t need this Capability. He spends no points on it. Advancement for Magic and Science/Technology This is an expensive area of Capability. It’s also critical because it can eat up the majority of points; committing a large number here can give you a very advanced Power, but leave you light on the actual physical strength, or if you stint here, you can start with a massive infrastructure and military, at expense of leaving it somewhat primitive. There are five Advancement Categories in each of Science/Technology and Magic. For Science they are Engineering, Chemistry, Physics/Mathematics, Biology and Psychology. For Magic they are Destruction, Creation, Movement, Mental and Transmogrification. The Categories (see the Advancement section) do not define specific abilities but rather general effects. So there is functionally no difference between the spells of a magic user that destroy a village with a lighting bolt, or one who does it with a disintegration ray. Empires pay 1 Starting Point for every 10 Research Points, so reaching level five in any single Advancement Category would cost them fifty SP. Trans-Stellars pay the same, however they start with ten free levels, which they can assign as they like. This represents their greater basis of knowledge from being out and about a bit more. These free levels can’t be used for anything else though, so you can’t trade them in for 100 SP towards building a bigger army – if that’s what you wanted, you should have taken an Empire. Heroes get it the best – they pay 1 Starting Point for 100 Research Points. This is because heroes are some of the best at what they do. Because they can focus more energies on technology, a Hero will often have a higher overall level of Advancement than a Trans-stellar or even an Empire. While the level system appears very all-or-nothing, there is a great difference between a nation with 300 points in Engineering, and one with 390. Both are still Level 3, but one will be clunking around with WWI tanks, and the other will have MBTs with EM guns and laser defences. Note: advancement-transfer between players is no easy proposition. Specifically, while Heroes can gain tech from others, its nearly impossible for a Trans-Stellar or Empire to gain from Heroes in reverse. But more on that later. There is also a third sub-group to Magic and Science/Technology – Technomagical Fusion. This is an expensive melding of Magic and Science to create the ultimate Technology. The methods for doing so are described in the Advancement section of the rules. A Power can start with some of its Categories already fused if it wishes. For an Empire or Transtellar cost is 10 SP per level of Fusion, for a Hero it is 1 SP per level of fusion. Fusion just works on levels, and there is no difference in point cost between Fusing a technology at 399 RP and at 300R; both are considered level 3. Magical or Technological Categories: Empires pay 1 SP for 10 RP Trans-stellars pay 1 SP for 10 RP, but they also get 10 free levels. Heroes pay 1 SP for 100 RP. Technomagical Fusion Empires and Trans-stellars pay 10 SP for each level of Fusion Heroes pay 1 SP for each level of Fusion Omicra, being a Hero will of course spend most of his points here. Looking at the Advancement descriptions he decides he needs at least Engineering level 4, Chemistry level 3, and Physics level 3 to create Mechs. However, being a Hero, Omicra wants something a bit more special, so he decides to instead Fuse Creation 5 (500RP), and Chemistry 5 (500RP) to create an enslaved mythic beast under an ultra-hard armoured shell (he wants Evas). He throws in Physics 4 (400RP) to give the armour force fields, repulsor impellers for flight, and beam guns, and then tosses in Mental 4 (400RP) for a controlling telepathic link with the beast. Rather than just pay the minimum in each level, Omicra decides he wants to be pretty good in Physics and Mental, and raises each to 450 RP. That’s still level 4 in each, but a more advanced version of the same technology. So Omicra has spent 1,900 RP or 19 SP on Advancement Categories (5 for Creation level 5, 5 for Chemistry level 5, 4.5 for Physics level 4 (at 450), and 4.5 for Mental level 4 (at 450) ). He has also spent a further 10 SP in fusing Chemistry 5 and Creation 5 to create his super-mecha. He has used a total of 28 SP on Advancement – it would have been a monstrous 280 Staring Points, were he not a Hero! Military Military forces are roughly divided as Technological, Magical and Technomagical. Military units are divided into basic Types, to the point value of which is added additional Capabilities, and then the total is multiplied by the highest level of Advancement used, for their cost in Production points. This is detailed in greater depth in the Military section. At the start of a game, the military of an Empire, Trans-stellar or Hero is purchased with Production points. 1 Starting Point buys 10 Production points. Any leftover Production points (numbers don’t always come out in multiples of ten) that are not spent on the military, can be banked as Wealth, and the player can begin the game with them. (see the military section for specifics behind how this was calculated) Now Omicra needs to buy his super-mecha. He looks down the list of Types and sees “Land Dreadnought”. That fits nicely with his desired power level. He then thinks about capabilities. On the magical side, the beasts that form his mecha will have the ability to regenerate (+1), be super agile (+1), and able to fly (+1). Then, on the technological side, they will have powerful defensive force fields (+1), really powerful main weapons (+1), lots of additional smaller weapons (+1), and super strong armour (+2). All told, with all the Added Capabilities, Omicra’s mecha is now a rather expensive 9 points. When multiplied by the total Advancement Level (10 – level 5 Creation and level 5 Chemistry fused) the final cost is a staggering 90 production points. Realizing he’ll be running a bit short on points, Omicra strips the extra weaponry from the mecha of his Companions (two points saved), reducing the final cost of each to a “mere” 70 points. All three mecha now cost 230 Production points, or 23 Starting Points – enough to buy a rather large army. Production Production is most important for Empires and only slightly less so for Trans-stellars, and is of course how you make things. Industry is your factories and such; Wealth the products of your more advanced industries and your economy; Research is your ability to find the answers to new mysteries, and Ether is your ability to gain that most critical resource of all. All these Production Categories produce “Production Points” equal to their rating each month, or in the case of research – each year. Industry is most critical for technological Powers, and for those who wish to build large war machines, but it also is necessary for generating revenue, producing manufactured goods that can be sold. Wealth is most important for building up infrastructure, though its necessity for fielding a military also makes it indispensable to the conquering Empire. Research is just that – R&D – however it also has a second use: Magic Users are somewhat unique in that they are produced by expending Research points so the magical Power should pay some attention to this Production Category. Ether is the fuel for pretty much everything in the game, and this rating describes how much of it you can refine and produce. Industry is notable in that it cannot be “saved”. If Industrial Production is not used to produce something and instead sits idle, that potential production is simply lost. Unlike Industry, Wealth and Ether can be stockpiled if not used. Another point to be aware of is that without a specific Advantage, your Ether production can not be domestically increased in the same manner as the other three Categories. There are still means of raising this value, of course, but they’re not as simple as simply investing in Infrastructure. More on this later. An Empire or Trans-stellar can start the game with a number of items already in production and 50% complete. This number is a value in Production Points equal to the total of all four Production Categories, plus the Bonus given by People. There is no additional cost to doing so. Industry Every 1 industrial production points gained per month costs 1 SP Wealth Every 1 monetary units gained per month costs 1 SP Note: At the start of the game a Power has 5x this rating saved in its treasury. Research Every 1 point of research gained per year costs 1 SP Ether Collection Every 1 point of Ether gained per month costs 1 SP Note: At the start of the game a Power has 2x this rating stockpiled in its strategic reserve. Omicra decides he’s not going to have any steady sources of income. Rather, he’s going to trust that due to the power of his little team, he can earn or steal all the resources he needs to keep his group running. He tallies up his point total: People = 2 (2 Companions) Influence = 0 Advancement = 29 Military = 23 Production = 0 Total = 54 Omicra is slightly over his maximum allowed points, so he begins thinking of Disadvantages. He decides to create one “Personal Enemy (-5): You have a powerful and tenacious enemy who holds a very long and very personal grudge against you.” This is not unreasonable for a mercenary after all. Omicra just hopes the Moderator will be kind and not make that Disadvantage too hard on him. The disadvantage leaves him with 1 Starting Point left over, so on some consideration he takes the variable Advantage “Rainy Day Fund: This advantage can only be taken by Heroes. It allows you to start the game with a small stockpile of resources; Wealth, Industrial goods or Ether. This stockpile can ONLY be used to pay for Upkeep costs, and cannot be used to invest in future projects. 1 Starting Point buys you twenty of any resource in the Rainy Day Fund.” and converts the 1 leftover point into 20 stored resource points: 3 Industrial goods, 3 Wealth, and 14 Ether. Omicra is now finished creating his Hero. Now he just has to worry about playing the game. . .