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About this game
Imagine low-powered, noir-flavored supers in Lovecraft Country... Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and Buster Keaton as Savage Men of Bronze and Mystery combating evil spawn from beyond space and time. Casablanca meets Indiana Jones and Watchmen, with tentacles. A grim, romantic epic set against the war to end all wars, featuring conflicted heroes of a bygone era of hope and prosperity battling forces beyond reckoning, not only for their souls but for those of all mankind...
Everything listed in Adventure!’s Inspiration and Resources section, starting on page 265, falls squarely in our ball park. In particular, The Phantom, The Shadow, and the Indiana Jones trilogy fit the bill, as do many that aren’t mentioned there: Weird Tales, Doc Savage, The Spider, Ghost Stories, a lot of the darker Batman stuff, and that’s just on the pulp end. Great noir influences are D.O.A., Thief, L.A. Confidential, The Naked City, Double Indemnity, The Maltese Falcon, Ministry of Fear, The Dark Knight, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, The Usual Suspects, Mulholland Falls, to name just a few. Google pulp, noir, and neo-noir for plenty more.
There is a shadow creeping over the world, yet there’s also light... a thousand tiny pinpoints of brilliant luminescence, shining in the hearts of true heroes. Sometime before the summer of 1922, famed inventor Dr. Sir Calvin Hammersmith discovered a seemingly miraculous source of power he dubbed “telluric energy,” or “Energy from the Earth.” He endeavored to introduce his findings to a small, open-minded group of forward thinkers in those fateful months, only to have his “Telluric Engine” suffer a catastrophic malfunction that left his home a smoldering ruin, and many of his closest friends dead in the rubble.
Those who survived were... changed. Some manifested incredible physical abilities, and others perceived truths beyond the bounds of conventional wisdom. A few even exhibited facilities that by any rational measure could only be described as superhuman, or magical. Each was unique: one vanished into thin air given half a moment out of sight, while another’s skin would grow so hot it melted door handles. As everyone who stumbled away from the smoking ruins soon learned, a new strain of humanity had awakened, and it was beyond reckoning.
One of the survivors was bold humanitarian Maxwell Anderson Mercer, who in 1923 founded the Aeon Society for Gentlemen with the stated intent of “exploring the new world around us.” Privately, Mercer used the group to spearhead investigations into the nature of telluric energy, and the strangeness it left in its wake. The Society took to calling its curious, often subsonic vibrations “Z Waves,” and catalogued countless wonders that would have awed the foremost fantasists of the time. Soon, they also learned they were not alone. Whatever impossible reaction had gifted them with amazing abilities was doing the same for others across the whole world.
Aeon did its best to keep a lid on the situation, and its efforts were mostly a success. Many touched by Z Waves — those who could share Aeon’s idealistic view of a better future — were recruited into the fold, while others with malicious intent were dealt with as cleanly and quietly as possible. Witnesses were bluffed with stories of pioneering movie magic, reporters were paid to look the other way, and government agencies were assisted in exchange for help with the Society’s loudest encounters with the unknown.
Still, it wasn’t enough. Tales of masked “mystery men” crept into the headlines. Blurry pictures circulated of what some called “lightning troops” — not after any fast-strike training but because the soldiers literally crackled with raw electricity. In Borneo a village claimed to be guarded by intelligent apes, and across Europe a gambler known only as Venture dominated at every game, seemingly knowing each moment before it came to pass.
Yes, the Aeon Society had its hands full in those years. It was the dawn of a new age, flush with promise and adventure, and Mercer and his allies were going to seize every opportunity. They were going to change the world.
Too bad something else wanted to destroy it...
Style of play
- The game begins in the late 1920’s and after an introductory run will shift to the early 1940’s. Please conceive your heroes expecting them to age approximately 15 years early in the campaign.
- Your heroes are new recruits of the Aeon Society, some touched by Z Waves and others for their extreme natural talents. As the game begins they’re been in the fold for weeks or months, and have participated in at least one Aeon effort. The heroes are familiar with Mercer’s private mandate, and know about the fallout from Hammersmith’s discovery.
- This will be a globe-trotting campaign, and so heroes should a) blend into a wide variety of regions and cultures, and ideally b) be multi-lingual (even if it’s just one extra language). Also, every hero must speak English, even if it’s not their first tongue. Note that languages are handled as defining interests (see Realms of Cthulhu, page 9).
- Money will not commonly be a problem (the heroes work for a rather large and well-funded organization with private oversight), and so everyone should feel free to build heroes with backgrounds that they find fun, rather than advantageous.
- Expect mystery-style investigation and pulp combat in equal measure, though probably in spurts of each. Heroes don’t have to be good at both, but should be good with at least one. Suggested roles are listed in the Heroes section (which covers character creation), and players are strongly advised to work together to cover as many bases as they can.
- Expect many clues and leads that you as players will have to piece together. This is a truly epic story and some details introduced as early as the very first session will matter all the way to the bitter end. Be prepared to take notes and collect handouts, and to review them on a regular basis. Fortunately, we have Realm Works to help us keep track of it all, and consolidate the party’s suspicions and findings.
- Expect enemies both human and… not. Your heroes shouldn’t be either screaming ninnies incapable of dealing with the Mythos, nor iron-willed hard-asses who casually shrug off the supernatural. The rules ensure that the Mythos can and will affect you… eventually. Make sure your hero’s background and personality allow for the possibility, but don’t tank your chances with poor character choices (like d4 Spirit or Smarts, for example).
- Along similar lines, the campaign won’t heavily play up fear as a debilitating factor for heroes, though no such promise is made for NPCs. We won’t be using the formal Fear rules featured in Savage Worlds, and your heroes will regularly be able to bury panic in the name of saving the day. That said, Sanity is a very real concern, and it’s being handled in a fashion that I hope will entertain in and out of the story (see the Rules section for details).
- Players are encouraged to get at least passingly familiar with the source genres (pulp and noir), as well as the target time periods (the late 20’s and the early years of WWII). Embracing these in the game will improve everyone’s experience, and will be recognized in play.
- Players are advised not to read further about the Cthulhu Mythos or Nyarlathotep. Some players will know more than others in this regard, which is fine and can be largely incorporated into hero knowledge in the 1940’s. The Aeon Society is just coming into contact with the Mythos in the late 1920’s, and so players should do their best to “play ignorant” of anything they know in that early period.
- Heroes should generally embrace impossible odds (after all, the Aeon Society faces them every day). When in doubt, try something incredible or daring — it will nearly always be rewarded.
- Heroes are not fools, however, and while reckless behavior won’t generally be punished, it will tend to go unprotected. Choose your moments, because they’re what will make or break your heroes and the game, but choose them wisely.
- Finally, death is a reality of the campaign. Sacrifices will be required for the greater good and not everyone will survive. Death will be cause for grief and profoundly impact the story, but heroes should not live in fear of death; it runs counter to both our primary genres and undermines fun. Death will be momentous, not random, and even in death you’ll see rewards for your efforts (as described under Experience in the Rules section).