Aethera Campaign Setting: Life On Ice

Today we’ll be dipping back into Aethera’s icy world of Orbis Aurea, starting with the inhabitants of the place. One might think a frigid planet like this would be relatively unihabited, but when things live in the void of space a little permanent glaciation isn’t going to stop anyone.

The main sapient races native – at least native since the Collapse – to the planet are the okanta, the various giants, morlocks, troglodytes, and the catch-all term of azaka that covers the multiple insectoid sapients on the planet. Given the presence of some of these on other worlds, it strongly suggests that the Precursors at least transplanted species between worlds, if they didn’t outright engineer some of them into existence.

In addition, the world is far from empty of other kinds of life; wolves and bear, great cats, mammoths, aurochs, and so on occupy environmental niches on the land, while the icy seas have whales, sharks, seals, walruses, and more. This suggests a much richer ecosystem than you’d expect from a science fantasy ice planet – which, much like how the desert homeland of humanity has mention of forests and other greenery, makes me happy. The writers paid attention to the classic sci-fi one-biome-world mistakes and didn’t step right into them.

Other races – humans, phalanx, erahthi, and infused – have found their way here over time. The first humans arrived during the Century War, during a failed colonization effort that discovered the atmosphere’s netherite barrier, and which led to the founding of the human city of Wighthaven. Despite the Heirarchy’s best efforts and desires, they have a rather limited grip on this world – in large part, it seems, because the Paragons they sent here don’t really care about the Hierarchy, but do care about the infused who survived the war.

Given the impressive aetherite reserves of the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes the central point of a whole new mess of shifting tensions – the okanta and giants (and to the degree they can be communicated with, the azaka) not wanting their homeworld despoiled and pillaged; the Paragons (and infused and phalanx) wanting a place to call home away from the Hierarchy’s grasping hands; the erahthi wanting to look after the investments their people have made in the aetherite trade and wanting to explore the Progenitor ruins for answers; and the Hierarchy itself wanting absolute control over everything, because the powers that be get nervous when things don’t go according to their version of the prophecies.

Thankfully, the Paragons are good at managing power balances, and their long-standing alliances with the natives and beneficial treaties with them means the bulk of popular support remains on their side. This hasn’t stopped new arrivals from Akasaat from trying to pry power loose from them, and to some degree they’re slowly succeeding – enough to create plenty of room for GMs interested in that kind of intrigue to cook up adventures for their groups. Those who consider themselves part of the planet’s native humans, however, are likely to side with the Paragons and the okanta, recalling the long years of difficult survival and apparent abandonment by the Hierarchy when the colonization failed.

So if anyone was worried that Orbia Aurea is just a Vikings In Space kind of world, rest assured, it’s just as deep and rich in potential as any other planet in the Aethera system.

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Aethera Campaign Setting: Life On Ice

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