Echoes in Darkness

Campaign setting

People are still people, even with all their technology. They live, laugh, and love. They tell stories about the unknown, savoring the thrill second-hand.

They fear the darkness.

For seven millennia, the Imperial House of Yusopov has held dominion over the human space known as The Imperium. Starting as lords over a handful of worlds in a small region of space, the Imperium has grown to cover over one thousand inhabited systems, held together in a complex web of treaties and mutual accords, with the head of House Yusopov presiding over Imperial Space in absolute authority. The Imperium’s apparently-inexorable growth has led it to the borders of a number of other powers, some now vanished into the Imperium itself, and others now forming its borders. The might of the Imperial Navy, Marines and Army are widely respected throughout much of known space, and even in regions where they are not respected, they may be feared.

In the Imperial Core, life continues as it has for generations. Imperial power is absolute, peace is eternal, and progress and growth an inevitability. The Imperial Belt lies sandwiched between the brilliant light that is the Imperial Seat and the darkness of the Fringe and regions beyond, its eyes on the heavens, its feet firmly mired in the muck, struggling to join the Core’s wealth, glory, and life. The Fringe exists as a buffer region between the Imperium and all its neighbors, tense, wary and watchful – knowing that the center of Imperial power lies many parsecs away, and covetous neighbors are much closer.

The Belt and Fringe are frequently seen as barbarous lands of adventure, opportunity, and sharply-shortened lifespans by the natives of the Core. As the Imperial Core dwindles into the distance, the light lessens, the shadows skitter and grow, and the vast certain knowledge of the Core lessens into uncertainty, ignorance, and superstition. In the Fringe, one cannot ever be certain that a world is fully and correctly mapped, that the native dangers have all been identified and contained, that any square inch of land, no matter how long inhabited, is safe. The spaceports and taverns of the Fringe teem with traders, travellers, and other, less savory people and creatures in other, less savory professions. Tales of ghost ships, vast alien ruins, and other wonders abound, as well as more disturbing rumors. The dark, deep reaches of space retain their mystery, their capacity to astound and terrify, much as the oceans and foreign continents must have to pre-spaceflight men huddling upon the primitive Earth of legend. Ships go missing on their runs, and most are never found again. For all the toys and wonders man surrounds himself with, the unknown retains its uncharted power to take, change, and consume him utterly.

Space travel, while common, remains a trip into the deepest darkness between the ephemeral motes of light that make up the “civilized” Fringe. Stories are told in the dim light of bars, told by men hardened with experience, worn down by fears faced, and scarred by their passage, stories of noises heard where no sound should be, things seen where no thing should exist, and men vanishing where they should not. Ships coming out of jumpspace with no crew, ruins of unknowable antiquity that visit disaster upon their discoverers, lost alien places of vast wealth or knowledge – these are the staple background hum of conversation throughout the tiny bars and hostels where mankind hides from the Fringe’s long, dark night.

The sophisticates of the Core generally laugh at such rustic, Fringer superstitions, though it is notable that they bathe their worlds in bright light to ward out the darkness through which spacers must travel to the Belt and the Frige. At their dinner parties, talk of walking through an ocean of tentacles that have risen from the ground generates laughter, but catch one of them in a city park when the lights fail at night, and their laughter takes on a strained tone even as their pace quickens…

Take note, and be aware of your surroundings. Sometimes the shadow is simply cast by that twisted tree over there and the faint sound you here is merely the rustle of leaves in a gentle breeze.

Sometimes the only warning you have in the guttering last seconds of your life is Echoes in Darkness.

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“Echoes in Darkness” has a heavy “Age of Sail” flavor to it in many respects. Between systems, information flows at the speed of travel. Two systems that are more than three parsecs distant from each other will, therefore, have news of each other that is weeks out of date. In this environment, a ship’s captain is truly the master of his domain. “I need to consult with my government” is not a polite diplomatic fiction – it is a real factor in interstellar relations. A great deal of autonomy exists any real distance from central authority, unless one is still close enough for light-speed communications, such as radio, to be effective. Ambassadors have higher degrees of authority than we are used to on Earth, and in many cases are actually empowered to negotiate with foreign governments.

“Echoes in Darkness” takes place in a technologically advanced human civilization as its primary background setting, using the Traveller5 rules set, as recently released by Marc Miller, the father of Traveller. Locally, we generally get our gaming materials from Valhalla’s Gate. There will likely be times when the PCs will move from human world to unoccupied, or non-human worlds environments. Environments ranging from deepest wilderness areas to vast, ancient cities, to the deeps of space will be seen during the campaign.

While the general style of gameplay will vary somewhat from episode to episode, the overarching themes are mystery, intrigue, and horror.

“Echoes in Darkness” plays regularly, normally on every other Friday night. As my personal space is severely limited at the moment, playing requires Skype (our group video chat solution), and EpicTable , which we use as our virtual tabletop solution.

Echoes in Darkness

kingfrog368 Umr_Cocomonk ctwalter Xith Tyranouis mtdeluca highcane Yutorio alcestian