Designer’s Diary: Mystical Throne Entertainment – Faith & Demons: The Rising (Savage Worlds)


Faith & Demons: The Rising
Faith & Demons: The Rising is a plot point setting for Savage Worlds published by Mystical Throne Entertainment.
By Aaron T. Huss

Welcome to the thirty-fifth Designer’s Diary, a regular column where designers are given the opportunity to take readers on an in-depth ride through the design and development process of their system, setting, or product. If you’d like to share your product in the Designer’s Diary column, send a message to aaron@roleplayerschronicle.com.

Learn more about Faith & Demons: The Rising here
Download the PDF or purchase the Print-on-Demand book here

Designer’s Description
Faith & Demons: The Rising is a plot point campaign for Savage Worlds placed in Earth’s Dark Ages filled with fantasy, Gothic horror, and mythology. The setting is primarily set between 900 and 1000 AD with 8 major nations being represented: Anglo-Saxon, Bulgarian Empire, Byzantine Empire, Croatia, Hungary, Japan, Kievan Rus, and Scandinavia. While there are many more that existed and were an integral part of that period, these nations were chosen for their mythology, location, or predominance.

The story of Faith & Demons: The Rising involves the rising of the armies of chaos. Throughout the land, demons and undead are beginning to enter the real world, backed by their occult followers and various groups and people who want to further the cause. The demons want to enslave the world while the undead want to kill the humans. Should they succeed, the predicated days of Ragnarok may come to fruition and a massive epic battle could ensue. However, should humanity prevail, the world can be set right and evil will be returned to its dormant state.

The player characters take on the roles of Earth’s greatest warriors united under a supporting noble. These bands of warriors need to unite the various nations to form a great army that can destroy the armies of chaos along with weakening the opposition. Through various means, the warriors seek out those who support the armies of chaos and remove them to improve the allied forces chance of overcoming chaos. In the end, a great battle ensues and the actions of the warriors determine how balanced the sides are and how the flow of the mass battle will occur. The end of the plot point campaign includes a mass battle whereas its setup is determined by the player characters success throughout the campaign and how they react during the mass battle.

Purpose
The setting was originally to be placed within the confines of its own planet in a Dark Ages-like era. The more research I did, the more I realized Earth’s Dark Ages is already filled with conflict to exploit and translate into a role-playing setting. The setting is designed to be turn many of Earth’s mythology and folklore into truths and take the “Dark Ages” and turn it into an extremely dark time by adding additional elements of horror and imminent destruction. The plot point campaign was then designed to be epic in scale building and grandeur as the game goes along. However, I wanted the outcome of each plot point to have an actual in-game effect to the final, epic mass battle. If the players characters do poorly throughout their campaign, they stand a good chance of being overwhelmed by the armies of chaos. In fact, if the player characters fail their objectives, the armies of chaos will easily prevail.

This type of storyline, to me, creates immersion into the setting and gives the player characters a purpose for their existence and each plot point creates an actual affect to the end-story. I like stories where the end is tied to multiple points throughout the story, giving them purpose. In addition, I stuck with the Dark Ages to expand upon the “pagan” religions of the time using their folklore, mythology, and pantheons along with presenting the Game Master with additional adventures involving religious conflict as Christianity spreads across Europe.

Influences
I am a fan of history, dark fantasy (such as Dragon Age), and Gothic sci-fi (such as Dark Heresy). I find the dark elements of dark fantasy and Gothic sci-fi mix really well with history, especially the Dark Ages. While there are no sci-fi elements in Faith & Demons: The Rising, the nature of the setting is similar as you have these supernatural and purely evil antagonists who can be defeated by the heroes, as opposed to fantasy or sci-fi horror where the evil often prevail. I wanted to create an aura of despair while giving the player characters the tools they need to overcome the evil.

Research
Research was one of my absolute main components. I spent a countless number of hours researching the different nations during the Dark Ages (primarily the 10th century) including: location, armies, soldiers, mercenaries, weapons, armor, mythology, folklore, religion, languages, major events, and major cities. I then took what I could and translated it into mechanics for Savage Worlds (including the introduction of Common Knowledge Familiarity). There is a large write-up for religion including different deities and important beings and a large amount of the bestiary comes straight from mythology and folklore. The nations and nation-oriented Edges were all meant to represent (sometimes loosely) what the warriors of those nations were like including access to historical weapons and armor.

Art Direction
The art is a combination of dark fantasy- and Gothic horror-styled pieces. I wanted to visually present the settings major influences within much of the art to further create that aura of fear. All the major pieces were done by Nathan Winburn while the front cover was done by Aaron Acevedo.

Gaming Experience
The Faith & Demons: The Rising plot point campaign is designed to feel like the direction of the story is in the hands of the player characters considering the decisions they make and the success they achieve. The world that surrounds them becomes more and more horrific and desperate as time goes by. The player characters should feel that time is not on their side and that the armies of chaos are so strong that only the efforts of a combined, properly allied force will prevail. At the same time, there are mechanics and fluff involved that allow the player characters to better manipulate the world around them, including some of the chaos that is beginning to build. Not everyone needs to be the divine hero as the antihero working to save themselves is entirely possible.

Comparison
The biggest different between Faith & Demons: The Rising and other fantasy settings is the era. While most are set in a medieval-influenced setting, Faith & Demons: The Rising pushes it back to a time of growth and learning surrounded by death and decay and religious turmoil. Instead of a setting where religions are properly defined, the Dark Ages were filled with Christian missionaries telling “pagan” followers that their beliefs were untrue. Additionally, many nations were vying for power after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. When you look at the greater picture, there are a lot of natural conflicts in the Dark Ages as opposed to many of the defined borders in Medieval times. The constant ebb and flow of the nations produces a lot of variance that can be thrown into a campaign as adventures between the plot points.

Development Process
Development was primarily consumed by research and translation. I started by mapping out the setting in terms of influence and structure. What types of warriors are available and what do they look like? Then I researched the historical equivalents and determined what was available and what was either gone by this time or not yet discovered/created. As noted in the Research section, this was all based on historical fact, fiction, and speculation and mapped on paper. I then had to pick and choose what to use due to space concerns and translate things into Savage Worlds mechanics. I initially started with four nations plus nomads and then expanded that to eight after realizing I wanted more options and the page count was too low.

Each nation was given the same type of development process with a lot of searching to find more about them during the 10th century. I realize after making this book that alternate history is much more labor intensive than pure fantasy. In pure fantasy, you can just make everything up as you go along, in alternate history, there needs to be some semblance of what was/is real or believed to be real and then translate that into game mechanics. If this process is not done, then the setting doesn’t really feel like alternate history and falls short of its purpose. I didn’t want that to happen and thus spent a lot of my development time researching and translating until I felt as though the experience being had would feel like an alternate version of the Dark Ages with supernatural horrors and beings of folklore. In the end, I’m quite happy with the outcome and hope everyone else is too.

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