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.
Kick ass! Looking forward to seeing how your campaign develops. Are you planning on doing recaps?
Thanks. I think I will do a few recaps of the campaign, once we get things rolling.
Sounds cool- I just picked up a chink of the books and have been looking at it again. We played it ten years ago, but haven’t looked at it for a while. There’s some great stuff in the setting and some things I’m not as fond of. When I polled players who’d played in it they had the same reaction: liked it, but had a few things that bothered them. That may be in part a factor of the GM we played with. I think before we go back to play it again, we’ll probably brainstorm on the setting to get the most out of it.
I have only briefly played FS before, but my collection of books have been a constant reminder, that I have to play this some more. 🙂
So which parts don’t you or your players like? For me it is mostly the rules, and then the interpretation of The Symboints in their own book (and I don’t seem to be the only one there).
In our case I think our reaction comes from a couple of different sources. First, when we played last time, the GM took a very “anything goes” approach to the group. Essentially pick what looks cool from the choices and we’ll mash them together. The problem is that some things don’t play together well in FS unless the GM files the rough edges off, the players compromise, or the GM does a huge amount of work to give everyone what they want. The Gm did none of those things, so it felt really patchwork and kitchen sink rather than coherent. Second, a number of us have played L5R and one of the things we like is how organic the Clans and roles feel. Even if the group is “bad” as some might view the Scorpion Clan for example, they still serve a purpose and have a balanced role. You don’t get that with some of the things in FS (like Decados and Chainers for example). There’s little in the way of a shared code or ideology which even the marginal characters could buy into. I think our group would be more comfortable with something like that. BUT that’s our group and I imagine making those kinds of changes would actually remove some of the chaos and grit which attracts some players to the setting.
I have not played L5R, but there is no doubt that FS easily becomes a huge sandbox of diverse characters, who would often have hard time being together in a party – much like putting paladins and assassins into the same D&D-party. As for my FS-campaign the intent is also, that we will be doing a bit of collective brainstorming before character creation in order to create a functioning party. Secondly there will be a few limits to the choice of characters. I will for instance limit the choice of characters to those from the basic rulebook. This however does not rule out Chainers and Decados, but those details will we iron out, when we create the party together.
Came here by way of someone mentioning your blog on the Delta Green mailing list – and then saw this post on Fading Suns which I have considered one of my favorite games I’ve never played since it came out. I’ve mined it for all sorts of ideas in other SciFi games, but never played the actual game itself.
It was kind of nice to see someone writing about it.
I have always liked the idea of the Fading Suns-setting, and it certainly is very rich on ideas to be applied in other sci-fi games.
For some reason I really latched on to Leminkainen. Almost half of the campaigns I’ve run are set on that world. It’s a nice mix of back-water and busy port. There’s a lot of stuff going on on the planet all at once for each of the factions and I think people can really easily grasp what the planet is like without much exposition.
I’ve always found that the best stories in Fading Suns start very small. There’s plenty of scale in the setting so nothing interrupts a story growing in proportion and impact but the characters can look back a few game sessions and talk about how they used to be Skraver circus whores and now they run a very tiny legitimate business and run sketchy deals on the side. Watching the story of your character get bigger is better than a fat pile of XP.
Leminkainen is a nice mix, and I like the frontier-aspect with Vuldroks controlling certain regions creating opportunities for playing different cultures meeting and watching the church sending missionaries to the region without it turning into a fullblown crusade.
My intention was/is (as I still haven’t gotten around to play FS – still too many games to play) the PCs to strangers to Leminkainen, so even though they may not start out smal, they still start out with few contacts and only a little knowledge, so there will be a sense of growth in the story.