Injecting More Darkness into T9A Background?

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    • Injecting More Darkness into T9A Background?

      @JimMorr points in this post to a lack of darkness in the Ninth Age background setting as of presently. I haven't caught up on all new material in T9A during the last half year so can neither contribute, agree nor disagree, but in any case this point is an important one for writing any historically based classic fantasy setting: Tolkien's Middle-Earth wouldn't be half of what it is without the cruelty, tragedy, horror, vengeance, judgement and betrayal that is baked into it.


      Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy and 40'000 settings are well familiar here: they were built on a smörgåsbord of grim darkness. 40k in particular was constructed around the tenet of taking the values we treasure today, and twisting them into liabilities in a ruthless future - the dreadful Daemonic fate befalling Human colony worlds which were advanced and tolerating of Psykers being a primary example. Games Workshop basically took everything depraved to be found in history, and baked it together into one glorious setting where the evil empire are the protagonists, and the only force that stand between mankind and annihilation. A stark universe where the plucky rebels burn at the stake:


      There certainly is a deal of this darkness already in Ninth Age background, but does T9A fluff need more of it brought to the fore? The hate, the depravity, the cruelty, the harshness, the horror? The misery and the baleful malevolence? The nightmare ruthlessness built into the very setting foundations? The oppression, the strife and the fanaticism? The raw hunger for power and demented bloodthirst?

      This isn't meant as a time-consuming distraction to hard-working fluff writers, and certainly not as a complaint or call-out to rewrite all background produced thus far: Just a quick collection point for feedback and constructive ideas. If you think more darkness would benefit the background of T9A and have got some detailed ideas how to it could be done, then be welcome to share tips and examples of how to implement it, what takes on dark themes are desirable and which ones ought to be avoided (e.g. for dumbness or completely obscuring non-dark nuances in the background). If you've got no tips and ideas to share, then a simple vote will suffice.

      Thanks to T9A team for all your hard work and good luck with future endeavours. You're well on your way to craft a memorable fantasy world, and threads like this are only intended to help T9A going forward. Cheers

      Edit: Poll does not show up.

      The post was edited 8 times, last by Karak Norn Clansman ().

    • When you talk about Tolkien Middle-Earth there is a huge gap between Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. And another gap between Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. The story of Túrin and Níniel is prime example of Dark Fantasy. In LoTR the only really dark part for me is Denethor. Saruman fall has been sadly omitted...

      WFB has been even 'grim-dark' fantasy (aka grim-dank). At places so grim and dark that it becomes absurd (not to the level of 40k thought). The doomed world ever on the brick of collapsing, assaulted from outside and from within, existing only thanks to the very force that was destroying it. Just lay down and die, you'll suffer less. I don't think we need grim-dark.

      But our background revealed so far seems to be brighter than LoTR. Even the WoDG are not force of destruction set on enslaving and conquering the world, driven by lower instincts but rather a bunch of dreamers hoping for ascension. Darkest Background piece so far is SE... I want more.
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    • I have to agree with @JimMorr here. The small spoilers and tidbits that I have seen about Daemon Legion more points towards daemons interacting with mortals to barter for their souls and this being for a survival cause.
      My impression from long lost discussions about the daemon kin is that they cannot be the all evil and that other nations can be percieved as more evil by others simply by how they perceive eachother.
    • T9A setting is characterized by being believeable.
      Extraordinary care was given to avoid:
      - the manichean Tolkien world where some races are evil because evil is how they are,
      - the bloody setting of WH where countless hordes destroy each other endlessly without ever taking the time to grow again.

      My reply to the OP question is that we need not to have such evil, which was pushed way beyond believability in both cases.

      -=-=-
      This said, the background builders have concentrated on a setting, not a storyline.
      This setting is made so as to be quite stable, and could sustain itself for millenia:
      the 9th Age came after the 8th Age close to 1000 years ago, and there is no sign that a 10th Age would be imminent.
      With no dynamic storyline, we are left without a cause.

      The real missing feature in T9A is what are we fighting for?

      Tolkien gave the reader the sense of participating to a life-or-death quest on which depended the fate of the world.
      WH gave the player the sense of participation to a desperate fight to delay doomsday.
      What is missing in T9A is a storyline, giving a reason to fight all these battles.

      Sure, we have petty border fights, some relic scavenge, succession wars. For the players who just like a good game, why care more than that?

      But for the storyteller, the passionate collector who gives a name to each of his characters, each of his units, sometimes to his champions, that player suffers each time one of his beloved model dies in a challenge, or is pulped by a superior foe.
      If at least it was for a noble cause, but which cause of ample grandeur is offered by T9A?

      There is no "good vs. evil". There is no desperate fight against doomsday.

      Still, there is potential.
      T9A setting is clearly located in the Time of Exploration.
      This is when Vetians start to eplore the world, and they are set to dominate it.
      This alone could be enough to provide a cause: think about how epic (and bloody) was the conquest of Precolumbian Empires by a handful of Spanish Conquistadores.

      But there is a difference in T9A: the world has already been explored by the Saurians during the First Age, and by the Elves during the Second. The Seas are dominated by the Elves.
      There is a subtle opposition structuring T9A world:
      the declining sea power of the Elves, mainly HE, challenged by the growing and ambitious land power of Empire of Sonnstahl.
      These two factions are not monolithic, and playing one of them is not playing automatically that Big Game.
      All other factions have to pick up their fight. Will your faction help to sustain the dominance of the High Elves, or promote its replacement by Imperial Humans? Will you fight merely to resist being a domino in their hands, pushed by force on one or another side?

      Additionally, most factions had their time of hegemony or close attempt throughout the Ages. All of them could hope to be the winning third party to emerge.

      Overall, despite no gloom and evil, there is a potential for epic reasons to fight.
      I would love to see that better expressed in the setting.

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    • Calisson wrote:

      T9A setting is characterized by being believeable.
      Extraordinary care was given to avoid:
      - the manichean Tolkien world where some races are evil because evil is how they are,
      - the bloody setting of WH where countless hordes destroy each other endlessly without ever taking the time to grow again.

      My reply to the OP question is that we need not to have such evil, which was pushed way beyond believability in both cases.

      -=-=-
      This said, the background builders have concentrated on a setting, not a storyline.
      This setting is made so as to be quite stable, and could sustain itself for millenia:
      the 9th Age came after the 8th Age close to 1000 years ago, and there is no sign that a 10th Age would be imminent.
      With no dynamic storyline, we are left without a cause.

      The real missing feature in T9A is what are we fighting for?

      Tolkien gave the reader the sense of participating to a life-or-death quest on which depended the fate of the world.
      WH gave the player the sense of participation to a desperate fight to delay doomsday.
      What is missing in T9A is a storyline, giving a reason to fight all these battles.

      Sure, we have petty border fights, some relic scavenge, succession wars. For the players who just like a good game, why care more than that?

      But for the storyteller, the passionate collector who gives a name to each of his characters, each of his units, sometimes to his champions, that player suffers each time one of his beloved model dies in a challenge, or is pulped by a superior foe.
      If at least it was for a noble cause, but which cause of ample grandeur is offered by T9A?

      There is no "good vs. evil". There is no desperate fight against doomsday.

      Still, there is potential.
      T9A setting is clearly located in the Time of Exploration.
      This is when Vetians start to eplore the world, and they are set to dominate it.
      This alone could be enough to provide a cause: think about how epic (and bloody) was the conquest of Precolumbian Empires by a handful of Spanish Conquistadores.

      But there is a difference in T9A: the world has already been explored by the Saurians during the First Age, and by the Elves during the Second. The Seas are dominated by the Elves.
      There is a subtle opposition structuring T9A world:
      the declining sea power of the Elves, mainly HE, challenged by the growing and ambitious land power of Empire of Sonnstahl.
      These two factions are not monolithic, and playing one of them is not playing automatically that Big Game.
      All other factions have to pick up their fight. Will your faction help to sustain the dominance of the High Elves, or promote its replacement by Imperial Humans? Will you fight merely to resist being a domino in their hands, pushed by force on one or another side?

      Additionally, most factions had their time of hegemony or close attempt throughout the Ages. All of them could hope to be the winning third party to emerge.

      Overall, despite no gloom and evil, there is a potential for epic reasons to fight.
      I would love to see that better expressed in the setting.
      Daemons does not fit in any of that, according to me they should not support any mortal faction but seek to destroy them all. What drive they have and what means should not be those of mortals, because when infinate resources are at hands what use is strategy or tactics? You simply pour on to suffocate the opposition.
      This is the big question for me because DL is 80% why im in this hobby. And giving me an alien human race would be lacking in so many ways
    • @Calisson

      There's a big evil in T9A, but it's not tied to any faction intrinsically. That we're in Age of Exploration territory makes it pretty obvious what it is: slavery. Here's the thing - there's no heroes in this fight; no faction is fighting to end slavery. There's a lot of evil, and no obvious good guys.

      And yes, EoS are definitely slavers, there's a fluff piece in the full BRB about rebellious Saurian slaves. KoE and HbE both have feudal systems and serfdom, which is a form of slavery. The only factions that I can't immediately point to obvious slavery are DH, WDG, BH, and DL. And when your alternative to slavery is worshipping alien entities and raiding settlements - murdering and pillaging, well, it's a lot of bad choices available.

      DH might have the cleanest hands (might), but they aren't doing anything to end slavery either. And they benefit from it by trading with those who use slaves.

      In a world where slavery is rampant and routine, how can anyone see a need for more darkness?
      Just because I'm on the Legal Team doesn't mean I know anything about rules or background in development, and if/when I do, I won't be posting about it. All opinions and speculation are my own - treat them as such.

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    • Squirrelloid wrote:

      @Calisson

      There's a big evil in T9A, but it's not tied to any faction intrinsically. That we're in Age of Exploration territory makes it pretty obvious what it is: slavery. Here's the thing - there's no heroes in this fight; no faction is fighting to end slavery. There's a lot of evil, and no obvious good guys.

      And yes, EoS are definitely slavers, there's a fluff piece in the full BRB about rebellious Saurian slaves. KoE and HbE both have feudal systems and serfdom, which is a form of slavery. The only factions that I can't immediately point to obvious slavery are DH, WDG, BH, and DL. And when your alternative to slavery is worshipping alien entities and raiding settlements - murdering and pillaging, well, it's a lot of bad choices available.

      DH might have the cleanest hands (might), but they aren't doing anything to end slavery either. And they benefit from it by trading with those who use slaves.

      In a world where slavery is rampant and routine, how can anyone see a need for more darkness?
      For me slavery is not dark enough for daemons. Mortals are sustenance and the more they tries, the more they suffer the more delicious they are.
    • Calisson wrote:

      T9A setting is clearly located in the Time of Exploration.
      This is exactly what is opposite to Dark Fantasy. We get TOS in fantasy settings

      "(...) to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!"

      When Age of exploration started in our world within 50 years two mayor civilization has been destroyed, millions natives have been enslaved, baptized and died on plantations. Also hunt for slaves in Africa has begun. Exploration was driven by greed and was dirty, ugly business done by ruthless people. Instead we get James T. Kirk attitude. I love TOS but it is not what I expect in Fantasy Battles setting.

      Calisson wrote:

      My reply to the OP question is that we need not to have such evil, which was pushed way beyond believability in both cases.
      For me it is not about introducing absolute evil into our setting although demons are so alien that could easily become pure evil in you precious non-omniscient human POV. It would be fully justified to describe them so. It is about tainting everything and everyone with small everyday evil. People are driven by hate, greed, fear, lust. Do terrible things with best intentions. The same applies to 'the other people' - dwarfs, elves, orcs. You can make this world dark without bringing Morgoth in. But hell, you've got 7 Sins as inspiration for mayor gods. Make them present. I am sure they desire plain worshipers...
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    • Every army has some evil, every army has some good. No army believes that they are evil (which results in them committing more evil).

      It isn't just slavery. Theft, murder, war crimes, genocide, etc. - all are present.

      Daemons (most likely) feed on souls and suffering. All of those slaves certainly suffer. Those WDG troops offer their souls for power (meaning easy access for daemons). KoE serfs suffer from hunger and poor conditions. Koe nobles are constantly seeking power, so I bet they are an easy temptation target. SE are pretty darn cruel as they hunt down sentient beings that enter their forests. So on and so forth.

      And remember, daemons aren't just faustian temptors - they are an invading force in their own right. If there are places where mortals aren't suffering enough, they can go in and fix that manually.
    • Kapten Kluns wrote:

      Daemons does not fit in any of that, according to me they should not support any mortal faction but seek to destroy them all. What drive they have and what means should not be those of mortals, because when infinate resources are at hands what use is strategy or tactics? You simply pour on to suffocate the opposition.This is the big question for me because DL is 80% why im in this hobby. And giving me an alien human race would be lacking in so many ways
      The way I interpret the story of the Timeless Titans in the WDG book is that Father Chaos, and thus by extension the Daemons, have only one goal. To shatter the Veil and become on with Mother Cosmos. Before anything they were one and the Father wishes to return to that state. That is why Daemons exist, as suitors sent across the Veil to visit the Mother, and to eventually tear everything apart so that the titans can be one again. Though the Daemons are supernal, as are the Dark Gods which Father Chaos has allied with (or something), so they need the souls of mortals to sustain themselves and grow stronger, that is their resource.

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    • lawgnome wrote:

      Every army has some evil
      Show it. Haven't seen any as of yet. Even champions of dark gods coming to a town and seeing gods shrine desecrated just do the renovation instead decimating population on altars in some creative ways.
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    • Looking at the World Hymn and Spacecoyote's primer here on this subforum, I think T9A manages the right balance between darkness and hope. The world has progressively gone more and more to hell during the last couple ages, calamity after calamity has happened. Only just recently, during the Eighth Age, did a new hope arrive, as Sunna liberated Vetia from the Vermin and Uther liberated Equitaine from the reign of the Vampire-King Gilles de Raux. The dwarfs, from whose perspective the World Hymn is told, seem finally to have gotten some respite after having been on the brink for the last few ages. The Ninth Age is (as far as the typical good fantasy races are concerned, at least) a new dawn after a long night, yet one that may still be snuffed out.

      I don't think T9A should have a single overarching story, like WFB had Chaos trying to bring about the end of the world. I'd prefer a multipolar world where every faction has its own story, its own place in the world, its objectives, hopes and fears, and the world is a web of different interactions between the factions, not all of them hostile, few fitting the usual manichean good against evil pattern. Sure, you have Chaos trying to do pretty much what it did in WFB, but it's one faction among many, not a world-dominating force that grand alliances are needed to defeat once every few centuries. I think the existing timeline through the ages does this remarkably well. Orcs seem to have been friends with both elves and dwarfs back in the Second Age after having together brought down the saurians, but turned savage somewhere on the way, perhaps as a result of the chaos following the sudden arrival of the beast herds during the Third Age. The dwarfs survived part because their many enemies started fighting each other over the spoils, and part because their infernal kin unleashed (quite literal) hell on said enemies. Equitaine was ruled by a vampiric king who probably did evil vampirey stuff, but saved his people from much worse by keeping vermin, beast and greenskin at bay. No small number of entities in the T9A world that are reviled as evil could probably make a pretty good claim to be unfairly maligned.

      Those who do not understand say what I do is abominable, that I deny the dead the peace of the grave. Would they rather be conscripted and suffer the horrors and hardship of war themselves? Would they prefer that I fielded an army of living men, whom I might have to quarter in their homes and who might eat their food and molest their womenfolk?
      -Gilles de Raux (likely fabrication invented by necromancy apologists)
      Sunna is not with the big battalions, but with the ones whose parts move with the best coordination.

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Konrad von Richtmark ().

    • Kapten Kluns wrote:

      Squirrelloid wrote:

      @Calisson

      There's a big evil in T9A, but it's not tied to any faction intrinsically. That we're in Age of Exploration territory makes it pretty obvious what it is: slavery. Here's the thing - there's no heroes in this fight; no faction is fighting to end slavery. There's a lot of evil, and no obvious good guys.

      And yes, EoS are definitely slavers, there's a fluff piece in the full BRB about rebellious Saurian slaves. KoE and HbE both have feudal systems and serfdom, which is a form of slavery. The only factions that I can't immediately point to obvious slavery are DH, WDG, BH, and DL. And when your alternative to slavery is worshipping alien entities and raiding settlements - murdering and pillaging, well, it's a lot of bad choices available.

      DH might have the cleanest hands (might), but they aren't doing anything to end slavery either. And they benefit from it by trading with those who use slaves.

      In a world where slavery is rampant and routine, how can anyone see a need for more darkness?
      For me slavery is not dark enough for daemons. Mortals are sustenance and the more they tries, the more they suffer the more delicious they are.
      I'm sorry, but what? Slavery isn't dark enough? Really? ||


      JimMorr wrote:

      Calisson wrote:

      T9A setting is clearly located in the Time of Exploration.
      This is exactly what is opposite to Dark Fantasy. We get TOS in fantasy settings
      "(...) to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!"

      When Age of exploration started in our world within 50 years two mayor civilization has been destroyed, millions natives have been enslaved, baptized and died on plantations. Also hunt for slaves in Africa has begun. Exploration was driven by greed and was dirty, ugly business done by ruthless people. Instead we get James T. Kirk attitude. I love TOS but it is not what I expect in Fantasy Battles setting.
      Point of order: slavery had existed for thousands of years, including in Africa. Europeans didn't start the African slave trade, they took advantage of a trade in slaves that was already going on. (Which isn't to say European slave traders aren't responsible for making it worse - more demand -> more slaving to increase supply. And the character of European slave keeping took on a darker bent with the racial superiority justifications for it that ultimately emerged - 17th century iirc. But let's not pretend it was a new evil.)

      That said, it's not so much James T. Kirk as Columbus or Cook. And that's the stories they tell each other. When evil is routine and uncommented on, isn't that darker? Or if we must speak of Kirk, imagine TOS where the crew keeps slaves and doesn't even think about it as evil. That's not bright and uplifting in the slightest.
      Just because I'm on the Legal Team doesn't mean I know anything about rules or background in development, and if/when I do, I won't be posting about it. All opinions and speculation are my own - treat them as such.

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    • Squirrelloid wrote:

      I'm sorry, but what? Slavery isn't dark enough? Really? ||
      Not necessarily. In real-world history, the actual conditions of slaves have varied a lot between one slaveowning society and another, between the same society at different points in time, and between one slave and another in the same society at the same time. Some slaveowning societies have had legal restrictions to limit abuse of slaves, adhered to ethics on slave ownership that have served that purpose, or both. In the absence of such, slavery is in itself simply an extreme disparity of power between two individuals. Of all individuals who have such power, a significant fraction do not choose to use it for maximum exploitation.

      I would rather prefer that T9A didn't copycat the usual fantasy trope of regarding slavery as an absolute evil.
      Sunna is not with the big battalions, but with the ones whose parts move with the best coordination.
    • Konrad von Richtmark wrote:

      Squirrelloid wrote:

      I'm sorry, but what? Slavery isn't dark enough? Really? ||
      Not necessarily. In real-world history, the actual conditions of slaves have varied a lot between one slaveowning society and another, between the same society at different points in time, and between one slave and another in the same society at the same time. Some slaveowning societies have had legal restrictions to limit abuse of slaves, adhered to ethics on slave ownership that have served that purpose, or both. In the absence of such, slavery is in itself simply an extreme disparity of power between two individuals. Of all individuals who have such power, a significant fraction do not choose to use it for maximum exploitation.
      I would rather prefer that T9A didn't copycat the usual fantasy trope of regarding slavery as an absolute evil.
      "Tell the truth, I didn't used to think slavery was such a bad thing. Then this friend of mine spoke to me about it. 'Tis a poor thing to enslave another...' That was how he put it." - Hob Gadling in The Sandman by Neil Gaiman (in his typical understated way).

      It's not poor treatment that makes slavery evil. The very fact of claiming to be able to own other humans is evil.

      Now, absolute evil? There's no such thing. But debating the difference in degrees within a kind of evil is kind of pointless, and all slavery is the same kind of evil. Definitely among the worst kinds of evil. I mean, even selling your soul to the devil at least involves choice (assuming a world where that's real). It's a strange moral view which sees that as somehow more evil than owning another sentient being.

      The people in the world of T9A don't have to acknowledge it as evil. But we as readers have a responsibility to cast judgement on it as evil, and those who perpetrate it as therefor evil. You can accuse the world of T9A of not being dark enough, but there's no heroes here.
      Just because I'm on the Legal Team doesn't mean I know anything about rules or background in development, and if/when I do, I won't be posting about it. All opinions and speculation are my own - treat them as such.

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    • Can I just say that I'm really glad people are debating t9a fluff. For 2 reasons.

      (A) It shows that the project is starting to mature.
      (B) None of it is my fault.

      Keep going guys....
      :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
      Being supportive & giving useful criticism aren't mutually exclusive.
      Are you supportive of the project? Do your posts reflect that?

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