Rogue Galaxy Year Zero
For whatever reason, I've had this weird itch for a post-apocalyptic science-fantasy superheroic space opera as of late. I haven't been able to dig up any piece of media that quite fit the bill, so I figured I'd take a crack at drafting up a setting for my favorite TTRPG to do just that. Do bear in mind this is a very rough draft.
So it all starts with the Forerunners, an alien race that already taken the first steps into space travel back when everyone else had only just discovered napped obsidian. The Forerunners probably would have established a thriving galactic civilization had their home planet not suffered a terrible disaster that doomed all life on it to a slow, withering death. Desperate to escape extinction, the surviving Forerunners began to search to search for something, anything that could save their people. Their efforts led them to the discovery of a preternatural, reality warping power – psionics – that could have been their road to salvation. The sad fact of the matter was by the time the Forerunners discovered psionics, only twenty three remained and they all were at death’s door. The survivors ultimately chose to subject themselves to an unproven ritual that, if successful, would grant each immortality. It did indeed bless them with immortality and further imbued each with tremendous psionic power at the cost of destroying their minds in the process. So it was that the Madgods were born.
Armed with overwhelming power and driven by half remembered desires and traumas, the Madgods set out into the galaxy to “spread their blessings” by mutating and enthralling any intelligent life they stumbled across. This carried on up until the Madgods encountered planet Nartrea and the Sathryn, intelligent warm blooded lizard people. During their rampage across Nartrea, a ruthless sathryn warlord that fell victim to mutation managed to resist enthrallment and escape from the clutches of the Madgods. He was able to use his new found powers to develop a way to shield others from the mutative powers of the Madgods and liberate those already afflicted from enthrallment. Proclaiming himself Avatar of the Twelve Divines, the warlord rallied his people and successfully drove the Madgods off their world. In the wake of his victory, the Avatar was able to easily crown himself as God Emperor of all Nartrea. Not being keen on the idea of dying and passing the reigns to someone else, the Avatar managed to cheat death by transforming himself into a lich.
From there, the newly founded Holy Imperium (working name) advanced at breakneck speeds by combining psionics with technology. Within a few decades, the sathryn had become a spacefaring race and spread out across several star systems with reckless abandon. During their expansion, the Imperium came across and subsequently conquered many intelligent species and eventually encountered the Madgods once again. After nearly a century of near constant warfare, the Avatar managed to safely imprison the Madgods. Hardly anyone celebrated their defeat, as most felt they had traded a life of terror under one kind of immortal monster for another. It certainly didn’t help that the Avatar has rigged the Madgod’s prisons to release them in the unlikely event of his death. Now free of the threat of the Madgods, the Imperium marched forward with only burgeoning resistance movements as its only meaningful opposition.
Yeah, there were several resistance movements. Kind of inevitable really given the Avatar’s brutal methods and draconian policies. Of these movements, the most competent and ethical were the Returners (working name). The Returners were striving to bring the disparate resistance factions together so they would both have the might necessary to take on the Avatar and prevent galactic civilization from falling into chaos in the wake of his defeat. The Returners had gotten a quarter of the rebel factions to work as one and were preparing to send emissaries to a newly discovered planet called “Earth” to warn its inhabitants of an impending Imperial invasion when a complete nobody somehow found and destroyed the Avatar’s phylactery, bringing his reign to an abrupt end. With no backup plan in place in the event of the Avatar’s death and the resistance still largely divided, the Imperium immediately erupted into an interstellar civil war. To top it all off, the Madgods were freed from their bondage and used the ongoing chaos to slip away unnoticed.
Earth would get swept up in the chaos in short order. The Returners weren’t able to send warning to Earth with the unexpected death of the Avatar, leaving humanity thoroughly unprepared for the coming danger. The Imperial agent tasked with the subjugation of Earth, War Matron Zerzura, went through with the invasion plan with the intention of making it the centerpiece of her own personal empire. Three months later, the Earth had fallen and Zerzura was preparing to crown herself High Queen of a new empire when the Madgods showed up to rain on her parade. The ensuing battle between Zerzura’s forces and the Madgods was a spectacularly terrible one thanks largely to the fact humanity had not been immunized against mutation. Eventually the Returners and nearly a half dozen other factions became embroiled in the fight for Earth. When it was all said and done, the Madgods were victorious and drove all other forces out of the Sol System. A year has passed since then. One hundred million humans, unmutated and otherwise, have been scattered across the galaxy. Those unfortunate enough to have been left behind on Earth are firmly under the control of the Madgods. The Holy Imperium is crumbling and everyone and their mother is in a mad dash to snatch a piece for themselves before it all comes crashing down. The Returners and rest of the reputable resistance factions have been pushed to their limit, the Madgods are plotting something, and numerous threats once kept in check by the Imperium are starting to rear their ugly heads. Welcome to year zero of the new galactic era.
- Technologically advanced civilizations are extremely rare. Other than the sathryn, the only other technologically advanced species was humanity. Humans were actually more advanced in some fields than even the sathryn thanks to not having access to psionics.
- Life supporting planets are uncommon enough to be highly valued by anyone with more than two braincells to rub together. Terraforming processes are available, but are difficult and time consuming.
- Psionics: Being psionically active means you get some manner of superpowers and can learn how to work reality warping rituals and create all manner of psionically empowered items (represented mechanically by the Ritualist and Artificer advantages). The relevant skill for all matters pertaining to psionics is Expertise: Gramarye. Psionically active characters may choose the higher of Intellect, Awareness, or Presence to modify Expertise: Gramarye to represent their particular approach to understanding and utilizing psionics.
- While they’re not the only immortals in the universe, the Madgods are the only known beings who possess immortality free of any limitation that would prevent them from recovering from death.
As it stands, the intelligent races of the galaxy are as follows:
Unmarked: The unmarked races are species who have not been mutated by the Madgods. At present, there are six unmarked races:
- Sathryn: Warm blooded lizard people. They had the dubious honor of being the Avatar’s first and favored. I’m using Lizards of Divinity Original Sin 2 fame as a rough template for their general appearance. Sathryn lack vocal cords and create sound in a manner similar to parrots.
- Grellock: Space ogres basically – big, strong, powerfully built with thick leathery skin and all that jazz. Compared to other species, Grellock have very little in the way of sexual dimorphism. Grellock were the first of the unmarked to be conquered by the Avatar and his second favorite unmarked race. Grellock were the third most advanced race, having achieved a level of development roughly equivalent to the late Renaissance prior to being conquered.
- Nimhari: A race of intelligent amphibious creatures. I’m still trying to work out the specifics of their appearance. I have decided of all the unmarked races, nimhari are the most alien in form and exhibit extreme sexual dimorphism. Females are much larger and so different from their male counterparts that one might not realize the two are of the same species at first glance. Nimhari are also the only unmarked race other than humans who can see the color purple.
- Human: You know, humans. Two arms, two legs, one head, questionable between the ears.
- Anrodel: Weird looking monkey-cat people. I don’t have much for these guys beyond that they were the most primitive of the unmarked races.
- Synthetics: Any sapient race created through artificial means.
- Awakened: Awakened are members of unmarked, and in some cases synthetic, races who possess psionic abilities. Awakened are the result of undergoing risky procedures designed to bestow psionic capability without suffering mutation or the offspring of psionically active parents.
Marked/Aberrant: Beings who have been mutated by the Madgods. Being partially preternatural in nature, aberrants have forms and physiologies that defy natural law. They are all endowed with some measure of psionic ability.
- Claimed: Claimed are aberrants under the control of the Madgods.
Unmarked and synthetic races capable of sexual reproduction are not interfertile with each other. Aberrants can interbreed with other species thanks to their paranormal nature. The resulting offspring of such unions will either be an awakened member of the unmutated parent’s race or a pure aberrant.
In terms of demographics, sathryn and aberrants are the most common races in the galaxy, followed by grellock, synthetics, nimhari, anrodel, and lastly humans.
Sathryn, grellock, nimhari, and anrodel live about as long as humans do give or take a few years due to differences in size. Thanks to the Imperium’s access to advanced medical technology and restorative psionics, the average person can live to be one hundred without really trying. Those who actually put effort into caring for themselves can easily live to be one hundred and fifty. The lifespan of synthetics largely depends on the exact nature of their construction – some don’t live any longer than humans, while others may live for two centuries or more provided they’re properly maintained. Aberrants stop aging once they reach adulthood and can live anywhere between three to five hundred years. A rare few are biologically immortal and enjoy indefinite lifespans.
The official language of the Holy Imperium is Supernal, a constructed language modeled heavily around the native tongue of the nation the Avatar originally hailed from. All characters receive it free of cost. Centuries of cultural suppression on part of the Avatar has nearly eradicated all other languages once spoken by sathryn, grellock, nimhari and anrodel. The various resistance movements have managed to save some of these languages from total annihilation. Sathryn, grellock, nimhari, and anrodel characters with backgrounds tied to resistance movements may choose to know one of their respective old languages free of cost. Human characters receive their native language free of charge along with any other human language they could reasonably be fluent in given their background. Finally, all aberrants inherently know Alko, the language of the Madgods. It is a haphazard amalgamation of nearly a dozen Forerunner languages and downright bizarre vocalizations of unclear origin.
Kanu is the state religion of the Holy Imperium. Even with the collapse of the Holy Imperium, it is still the most widely observed faith in the known galaxy. Kanu is a polytheistic faith focused around twelve deities, portrayed as majestic draconic beings, who rule a spiritual realm of supreme truth. The twelve themselves are believed to have many names and are primarily referred to by their titles, which are as follows:
Sovereign: Hermaphroditic deity of Time, Cycles, and Wisdom
Muse: Goddess of Passion, Art, and Beauty
Judge: God of Law, Order, and Judgment
Untamed: Goddess of Nature, Storms, and the Hunt
Sage: Goddess of Knowledge, Medicine, and Reason
Architect: Goddess of Wealth, Artifice, and Civilization
Guide: God of Death, Memory, and Renewal
Warrior: Goddess of Strength, Courage, and War
Trickster: Many formed deity of Deceit, Revelry, and Iconoclasm
Scourge: God of Penitence, Trials, and Punishment
Shepard: God of the Fields, Hearth, and Harvest
Wanderer: God of Journeys, Fortune, and Stories
Followers of Kanu believe that living a life of virtue and strict piety brings one closer to the twelve and the lofty realm they dwell in, allowing one to receive the blessings of both. Particularly pious individuals are said to retain a measure of their wisdom from their present life when they reincarnate as a gift from the gods, ensuring a prosperous future for their next incarnation. The most devoted adherents of Kanu are said to be removed from the cycle of reincarnation to live forever amongst the Twelve Divines. The Avatar taught that the Twelve Divines were the only true deities and all other religions were flawed misinterpretations of the Twelve’s sacred truth. He did everything in his power to stamp out all “deviant faiths” to ensure that they would not compromise the spiritual health of the people.