A favorite setting of mine is Fading Suns. Just as with the Mystara-setting for D&D it employs historical parallels in its setting, which allows me to dive into European Medieval history and use elements from this thousand-year period.
Fading Suns is originally published by Holistic Design, and these last years it has been kept alive and kicking by Red Brick Publishing, who are working on a third edition of the game – and I am about to begin a campaign proper with Fading Suns. My Delta Green “Hoarfrost Dragon”-campaign is nearing its end, and it seems, that it might happen some time during late summer. So let’s plan a new campaign.
A few words on Fading Suns
It is year 5011 – as the campaign-setting stays 3000 years ahead of us – and there is a new emperor on The Phoenix Empire’s throne ushering in a new era of wealth and stability. The empire is an interstellar realm coming out of a dark age, yet it is still in the end times, as the stars are mysteriously fading. The setting is a medieval space opera functioning much as a parallel to the 11th-13th century Holy Roman Empire, and before the newly risen empire, there was the First and Second Republic (The Greek City states and The Roman Empire). On one border of the empire are the ferocious Vuldroks (marauding Vikings), and at the other end is Kurga Caliphate (Medieval Muslims/Persians/Ottomans). Note that the parallels the setting draws to historical elements are rarely one to one, but often slightly changed, so you often have to two or three interpretations. Certain elements in the setting are also reminiscent of Dune, which is a favorite of mine, so I don’t mind.
It is a world of nobles, priests and guildsmen. The players create characters from one the three groupings, they choose houses, orders and guilds, they acquire extra advantages or specializations such as dueling, theurgy, psychic powers (the “witchcraft” of Fading Suns), cyberware (though the Church frowns upon the use of too much technology) and special privileges such as the inquisitorial seal. Of course the many supplements have added more variations, so heathens, mutants, barbarians (Vuldroks for instance), military and intelligence agents etc. are available.
There are aliens in the setting, and most of them have some sort of parallel again in medieval Europe, however the worlds of Fading Suns are xenophobic, and aliens are more feared than people from other places.
Questing Knights And Other Campaign Concepts
One campaign style is the idea of the Questing Knight and his retinue travelling through the Empire on behalf of the Emperor looking for clues to lost worlds and lost technology from the eras of the Republics.
However there are plenty others concepts. Some focuses on the conflicts between the noble houses as the vie for control of the emperors throne, some are about the conspiracy of the guilds trying to usher in Third Republic, and meanwhile the Church struggle with the spiritual wellbeing of mankind struggling with the Fading Suns-version of “heretics” (various), “heathens” (Gjartins), “witches” (Psykers) and “demon worshippers” (Antinomists).
The Campaign Concept: Crisis on Leminkainen
Background: During The Emperor Wars the defenses of the planet Leminkainen, a fief belonging to House Hawkwood, was severely weakened, and raiders from the Vuldrok Star-nation was able to seize the planet for a while. Later the Hawkwoods regained their fief, however a large colony of Vuldroks stayed back on Leminkainen, and their regions are still outside the control of the Hawkwoods.
Situation: The campaign centers around the borderlands between Hawkwoods and Vuldroks, and the renewed attempts to regain the lost territories through diplomacy, warfare and mission.
The characters are emissaries sent from the capital planet, Byzantium Secundus, to take part in the campaign to regain the territories.
Theme: The otherness of Medieval Europe. I want to use elements from The Middle Ages to shape the campaign: gift giving, social conflicts, peace negotiations, monks striving to become martyrs, the sacred stealing of relics, sacred bones as a missionary strategy, peasants’ peace etc. etc.
Rules: Fading Suns employs the Victory Point System (VPS), which is a d10 system developed in the mid 90’ies, and is basically a broken system much like the Storyteller system from the same decade, and like it relies on GM hand waving in order to work properly. Red Brick is working on the third iteration of the rules, and they might have revised them so they finally work, but I still have no intention of using them.
Generally I use traditional rules less and less, preferring various indie/forge/story-type rules, or heavily modded traditional rules. Even my D&D-campaigns are morphing steadily, when I play.
Presently I have not decided on, what I want to use, but I will be looking at various solutions. More about that soon.