As I have discussed before the first thing I do when I start to build a campaign setting is decide what the setting assumptions are. That is, what is true, what is false (if needed), and what is thought to be true. This is an intensely important part of campaign building and I can take weeks just thinking about what should be done, can be done, or should not be done with a given setting.
So here we go – the assumptions:
Major Assumption: Superhuman Abilities are Real
Superhuman abilities are real. At first I considered making only “realistic” abilities real (much like the TV show Alphas), but decided against that. I wanted laser fists and muscle beams. I wanted flight and shadow manipulation. If Marvel could do it without it becoming silly I felt so could I. Like most of my work I also sharply defined what abilities could and could not do and regulated what abilities were rare or uncommon. From there I built up the reasons why powers worked this way in the game world. I also created some powers that are hard to do in GURPS in general. For example, Invulnerability is a power that can be purchased and is based off the idea of the Supers scale from GURPS Supers (p. 19). If you had “I-Scale Invulnerability” then you had “Injury Tolerance (Damage Reduction; Cosmic, Rounds Down)” high enough that you could ignore 16d of damage or less. Other levels of Invulnerability were also available. One of the complaints I read or heard about over and over was that GURPS couldn’t handle these sort of absolute abilities. I find that untrue. Once you have a setting you can backport concepts and build from there (just like I did with Invulnerability).
Minor Assumption: Superhuman Powers Are All From the Same Source
AEON has several powers, but all powers draw from the same source: “kyberic energy”. This may or may not be known in game. I also decided their would be tiered powers in the campaign: Cosmic (or pure kyberic energy), Axiomatic (half-way between Cosmic and regular powers), and then all other abilities. Despite wanting a plethora of powers and abilities for characters to have, I didn’t want a kitchensink approach. This lead to me heavily regimiting where powers came from:
Metahuman Powers: Were the result of the TAP in 1999.
Experiment Powers: Were the result of trying to recreate metahuman powers or give powers to others. This also included things like cybernetics.
Magic Powers: The result of learning how to use a specific frame of mind and focus of will to harness reality and have it bend to your will. These powers were considered “Rare” and required an Unusual Background to have in the first place as they broke the assumption that all powers were from a single event.
Chi Powers: Same as magic more or less, but focusing on the body and enhancing it.
Minor Assumption: Player Characters are Heroes and Do Heroic Things
I wanted to put the “hero” in superhero in my campaign. I wanted PCs to feel special and feel a sense of duty or obligation to those without powers. Sometimes this is hard to do because players have their own ideas on what they want to play, but I screened early on for players who wouldn’t give me issues on this front and I lucked out finding good ones.
False Assumption: Superhuman Powers Are Only a Decade and a Half Old
I started the campaign with a bit of a lie: powers are older than the event which supposedly gave humans those abilities. This was intentional. I wanted a whole wall of secrecy the PCs could peek behind later on as they got more and more involved in the campaign setting.
Picking Over the Bones
Ooof. And that’s the assumptions for the AEON setting as I worked it up in my head and on paper. Of course, it evolved a bit as I went (as all game settings do) and overall, I’m pretty happy with how it’s turned out. Stay tuned! Next installment will be about the campaign history.