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Friday, 5 June 2020

Godbound: The Bleak Reaches

The Bleak Reaches clearly exist as a convenient 'clusterfuck' for GM to use as an adventure and trouble-heavy region. Well, at least on a meta-level of the worldbuilding which went into Arcem as a setting for Godbound. In universe, it isn't as simple as that but looking at the general design and outline of the place its clearly meant to be this adventurers-friendly area full of monsters, ruins, intrigues and political instability much like how Exalted had the Scavenger Lands. That and I haven't written about Arcem in quite a while as I haven't really gotten to use the setting and as such haven't really found any desire to write about it.

Well, It's Bleak All Right...

Concept art from S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
As with the rest of Arcem, the Bleak Reaches are a mess full of monsters, with technology which has degraded from extremely advanced to late Medieval. While everyone (except the Bright Republic) has degraded technologically, the Bleack Reaches (or whatever the hell it was called before) got hit quite bad as it used to be a so-called 'sister civilization' to the Bright Republic. When the Shattering came, the place got screwed beyond repair and was functionally nearly completely abandoned by any stable or structured society. It basically turned into a post apocalyptic wasteland filled with advanced technology now reduced to nothing but junk metal and plastic, unable to be activated. Given it's temperate to temperate-cold climate and the high level of technology, the image it conjures in my head (at least in the wake of the Sundering and the devastation that followed) is that of Metro 2033 or S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl combined with the so-called Original D&D setting.

This is the general image I get from the area: post apocalyptic ruins mixed with all the classic wilderness of Dungeons & Dragons, where small guarded towns exist as a 'point of light' within the monster infested wilds. To a certain extent, even the more 'dungeon punk' look of more modern D&D, especially the more silly art of Wayne Reynolds, could at least partially make sense and exist as people fashion armor from the recycled modern clothes, weapons and armors, cobbling together these bizarre armors and weapons out of whatever degraded material exist. Combine this with most settlers in the area being a later addition, exiles from other lands, and you get a rather eclectic place. It is a place where skeleton-haunted mines, swords & sorcery, old broken concrete roads and moss-encrusted crashed planes coexist.

Art by Jim Ling.
From what the stories of the Atheocracy tells, however, what became the Bleak Reaches was no utopia, not even remotely close to more 'relatable' Bright Republic. According to what we know of the Atheocracy's origins, these people fled the 'cold synthetic gods of a techno-theocracy'. What exactly this means is a bit unclear until one dig into now lost notes by Kevin Crawford back on Google+ where he describes the gods of that place as 'Geiger-esque AI-human god-hybrids'. Therefore whatever veneer of normality we would recognize in that ancient civilization would be but surface level, as their society was cruelly ruled and organized by man-machine hybrids who likely oversaw their society with nothing but cold efficiency or alien cruelty in mind. Kind of like Google but with more flesh-machine fusion and tentacles. Where did these creatures go? It is likely they died when the Sundering destroyed that civilization, these complex entities first to die when the laws of reality broke down, leaving behind only made mutated AI and decrepit mindless machines to wander the Bleak Reaches.

Generating A Village

Vaulters from Endless Legends.
The only any of these communities have in common is that A) life is hard and B) they live in the ruins of an advanced civilization. The only people who live in the Bleak Reaches are people with nowhere else to go and this heavily shapes what kind of village they are. Many of them will have a more 'sinister' side to them, as the region is full of monstrous abominations such as Parasite Gods (who are very common in the area) who will often set themselves up as a protector or God of a local community. To outsiders from calmer, gentler lands these people can come off as obviously in the wrong but one must understand that it is generally a mixture of desperation and pragmatism which drives them. For those who manage to establish a (mostly) stable society in those lands, away from their enemies, then it doesn't seem all that bad. Better a harsh, cruel but free life rather than death at the point of a sword.

The results on these tables should help inform what Features and Problems a village would have should the GM need to stat it as a Faction. For example: if the Ancalian Nobles In Exile result is rolled, it is likely the ruling caste of the community will have leftover transhuman enhancements while a Scavenger village, whose entire society is built on recovering, repairing and even reselling lost technology is going to have a technological edge over its neighbors no matter what.


D10
Origin of its People (Roll Each Column)
1-3
Mixed Origin: This community has come together from disparate origins. Roll 1d3 times on this table.
Political Exiles: These people have fled the authorities of their homeland (or another, nearby community) and created their own village.
Religious Oddities: These people have particularly odd/foul religious beliefs and have settled the land from a mixture of religious reasons and simply fleeing.
Cultural Deviants: Be it Ulstanger pacifists or Bright Republic Anarcho Primitivists these don’t belong back home anymore.
4
Din Survivors: These people are direct descendants of the original inhabitants of what are now the Bleak Reaches who have returned.
Escaped Slaves: This group was oppressed and enslaved, possibly by a nearby community and have since built their own society.
5
Bright Republic Exiles: For one reason or another these people have left or been exiled/cut off from the Bright Republic. Their life sucks, now.
Mutant Outcasts: These people have been cursed/mutated in some way, possibly even before arriving in the Reaches. They are feared, perhaps unfairly. Roll on the Mutations Table.
6
Lomites Returnee: These people have decided that it's better to flee the Atheocracy and go back to these lands than live another day there.
Scavengers: This community, whatever its roots or origins has evolved into a society heavily invested in scavenging and reselling technology. Roll on the Scavenged Technology Table.
7
Ulstanger Exiles: These people are from the Ulstang skerries, or at least their ancestors were. They now live within the Reaches.
Warriors: Whatever its roots or origins, this society has evolved into a hardy and spartan people; part mercenaries, part monster hunters. Roll on the Warrior Ethos table.
8
Ancalian Nobles in Exile: These people descend from some far off branch of Ancalian nobility, now fallen from grace and living a simpler existence.
Parasite God Cult: This community is wholly dedicated to its patron deity, which is a dangerous Parasite God. Roll on the Parasite God table.
9
Faraway Travellers: The inhabitants of this community are from another region which is quite far away and have travelled an absurd distance.
Arcane Research: This community was originally funded by seekers of forbidden knowledge, mages and the likes. This has heavily shaped their society. Roll on the Arcane Secrets table.
10
Night Road Immigrants: This group is not originally from Arcem and has arrived post-Sundering through a Night Road. These people bring with them stranger culture, magic or artifact.
Nanotech Corruption: This community has built its village in an area infested with still functioning nanotechnology, either imbuing and/or cursing the inhabitants in some shape or form while also making them unable to leave without their health failing. Roll on the Nanotech Corruption Table.


1d6
Mutations
1-2
Mutant Outcast Colony: There is no particular origin to these people’s deformities, they are simply united in their misery, welcoming any and all who have been shunned due to mutation and sickness.
3
Night People: Whatever has caused these people’s mutation (disease, magics or else) they cannot tolerate bright lights and have a nocturnal society. The sun either blinds them or burns their skin or they could all be albino.
4
Diseased Outcasts: These people are deformed by a particular metaphysical sickness which can be transmitted to others. They have created this colony to live out the rest of their lives. The sickness is carried in their blood and their children are born with it.
5
Miasma Tainted: These people were normal when they arrived in the Bleak Reaches but quickly became mutated by unseen forces. One side effect of these mutations is they can live in the most toxic/unstable areas of the Reaches without dying.
6
Devolution: These people are, for lack of a better term, ‘devolving’ as each generation is increasingly more beast-like both in appearance and mannerism. They are strong, hardy and well suited for survival but find higher concepts harder and harder.



1d6
Scavenged Technology
1-2
Ancient Firearms: The community has access to a few firearms which are mechanically equivalent to a Bright Republic magnetic gun with the ‘Hardened Tech’ upgrade. Every year more and more guns cease to function permanently.
3
Regalia Armor: The community has scavenged some Regalia Armor from the Bleak Reaches, which looks like high tech suits of armor crossed with an H.R. Giger painting. Malfunctioning suits have a bad habit of trying to merge with the wearer.
4
Unstable Automatons: The community has repaired and reactivated a few mechanical creatures which they can use to defend themselves. These half-broken robots have a chance of breaking down and going berserk.
5
Nanotech Medicine: Extremely limited in supply, these devices can be used to extend life and repair damaged organs...at a cost. The wealthy and powerful who use them are haunted by visions of synthetic gods trying to connect with their minds in vain.
6
Godwalker: The community has repaired and reactivated a fully functional Godwalker which now has a trained pilot.


1d6
Warrior Ethos
1-3
Discipline: When one lives in a monster and mutants-infested land, discipline is paramount. Hard discipline, punishment, stoicism and enforcement of rank and protocol is how this community operates.
4
Berserkers: These guys are crazy. The only way for them to have a fighting chance is through chemicals, fungus or Low Magic-infused battle rages where they feel nothing; not fear, not pain.
5
Warrior Code: There is a complex, philosophical code to these warriors on what they can and cannot do. It could be philosophical, religious or something with a bit of both. This mentality is derived from their origin.
6
Ruthless: The only ethos they follow is ‘we will survive, the enemy will not’. These people are ruthless pragmatics to the very end. While disciplined, they will cheat, fight dirty and do whatever is needed to win.



1d6
Parasite God
1-3
Cruel Overlord: The Parasite God is the typical demanding and very likely insane God, who must be constantly appeased less he or she destroys those under its ‘protection’. As long as it is pleased it will destroy the community’s enemies.
4
Formerly Benevolent: The Parasite God, when it was mortal, was already some heroic champion of its community. The transformation was seen as a blessing but as with all Parasite Gods it is now losing its mind.
5
Appeasement: The Parasite God does not directly interact with its community but rather simply claim the area they inhabit. As long as the locals appease it by giving offerings it will kill any enemies in their lands.
6
Complex Religion: This Parasite God has gone the extra mile to create a complex and compelling religion and mythology around itself to appear to not be yet another dime a dozen despotic monster. It has holy symbols, sacred texts, priests and everything.


1d6
Arcane Research
1-3
Low Magic Traditions: These people have maintained a form of Low Magic, which is stable and reliable enough to be used to enhance and sustain their society. It can be a pre-existing one from the book or a new one.
4
Theurgy: The community has one, maybe two true Theurge who are the inheritors to years upon years of research and experimentation. They could be enlightened or they could be some cruel overlord.
5
Transmuted Slaves: Through a mixture of theurgy, low magic and/or scavenge technology this community has an underclass of mutated slaves who are kept in line. They form the backbone of their workforce or military.
6
Alternative Energy: Through some complex and slightly dangerous magic process, this community is able to generate power for more advanced technologies on a limited scale. It is reliant on specific materials which are limited or human energy in some capacity.


1d6
Nanotech Corruption
1-2
Mutation: Roll on the Mutation table instead but refluff taking into account that it involves rampant nanotechnology.
3-4
Connected: The individuals are partially connected by the nanite colonies, able to sense the intent of others. It also carries a mental impulse to conform and obey.
5
Cyber Husks: The nanite colonies are damaged life support and/or enslavement technology. Those members of the community who die come back to life as biomechanical husks.
6
Assimilators: The members of this community are corrupted by the nanites and use it as a tool of growth and control. They can implant their will in the nanites and infect others with memetic control.

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