Cinders of the Cataclysm Meta

Retrofuturistic cyberpunk/hopepunk/scifantasy

This article was written in conjunction with my wonderful viewers over on Twitch.tv. It is a meta-document describing high-level concepts of Cinders of the Cataclysm. Enjoy!

 

Scope

Motivation
What is your motivation for building this world?

It's been a passion project for almost 20 years now, and I'm huge fan of cyberpunk and I believe I genuinely have something to bring to people. A revival of a dead genre and a dead style roleplaying and RPG worlds. Cinders of the Cataclysm was born out of an accident and it has become my great joy. I would love to bring this into the hands of players and GMs the world over.  

Outcome
What are you hoping to get out of it?

Seeing my work in a printed book is my ultimate goal
Pride, joy, enjoyment, FUN! Seeing my work printed in a physical book would be my end goal. I don't care if I get rich or this takes off or whatever. As long as I can get a printed hardcopy of my own game, I'm done. I can die happy.  

Hook
What is the Hook or Unique Selling Point of your world? What makes it unique or different?

Cinders of the Cataclysm is cyberpunk but in another, completely different world, no humans and no traditional fantasy species. It has elements of scifantasy and a large dose of postapocalypse.   It is an homage to 80's action movies, comic books and cyberpunk works of fiction. It is a glorification of my childhood. Everything I loved and grew up with, everything that shaped me into the person I am today. The unique selling point of CotC is that is an 80's neon retrowave cyberpunk science fantasy romp set in a postapocalyptic weird universe. It is a world full of wonder, lore and despair. The perfect setting for countless adventures.    

Theme

Genre
What’s the Genre of your World?

Postapocalyptic cyberpunk sci-fantasy.    

Player Experience
How does the world feel (player experience)?

Players feel small, initially. It's a huge world controlled by incredibly powerful organizations. Technology offers an alluring shortcut to power and violence, used in the right situation, is a powerful tool. The world is huge, dark and unwelcoming and as a player one has to cultivate contacts and build a network of allies to succeed. Once the players have established their neighborhood and gotten a few allies, they will begin to truly see the potential of their position.  

Tone
What is the tone of your world?

Bleak, wonderous, dangerous and hopeful. It is a dark world, but not grimdark. So neutral-dark or neutral-bleak is a close analogue.  

Character Agency
What is the character agency level like?

There's a huge spectrum based on what kind of campaign you want to run. The average player character is just one person among hundreds of millions and have very little influence on the world. But with enough work, support, subterfuge and power, one person can, and will, have a big impact on the world.

Anvil Advice Character agency describes how much power the PCs have to change the world, and how long-lasting that change might be. In a Noble campaign (think Starwars) one person can change the whole universe, and effect lasting change. In a Grim campaign (think 40K) one person can have only a very limited impact on the fate of the world, and that change often doesn't last long.

 

Recurring Themes
What are the recurring themes which reinforce the genre, tone and feel of your world? (Give three examples)

- Technology is a tool that can be used for good or evil
- No one is truly good or evil. It's mostly shades of grey.
- The realization of self. Self-indulgence.

Anvil Advice These three things should cover the overarching campaign, but do not need to feature in every single session. They are a great way to help underpin that this is the same genre, tone, narrative and campaign, despite the different flavour of adventures within it.

 

Meta

Rule Of Law

Draconian and authoritarian, heavily benefiting the rich and powerful and keeping the "average Joe" powerless.

 

Wealth Distribution

Well, it's cyberpunk. What do you expect? The vast majority of people are of low income. Not necessarily poor or destitute, just "getting by". Society is ruled by money and most of the money is in the hands of a few disgustingly wealthy people who make the rules.

 

Technology Influence

Being a cyberpunk world, technology has a huge influence on story, plot and everyday life. Particularly the ready access to robotics, The Web and Cybernetics have changed life completely as we know it.

 

And now for the rest, because I felt like describing them too

Government Presence
Not a lot. There is a government, but with poor economy it has been forced into debt to several large and powerful corporations and is little more than a puppet government working for the corporations.

  Social Services
For people of the right social class, the social services are excellent. A corporation provides housing, child care, education, medical care, police protection and much, much more for their employees. Those who are not employed are without all of those things.

Economic Strength
You'd think this would be a huge detail, considering the cyberpunk setting, but beyond establishing that people in general are poor and there is a rich elite who owns the megacorps, there is not a lot of talk about economics. It's just set-dressing.

  Agriculture And Trade
Agriculture is done in hydroponics plants throughout the city, or in struggling farms in the wastelands. There is a ton of trade, but most of it happens between corporations and districts inside the city. Settlements in the wastelands frequently trade with one another and being a "trader" that travels between settlements can be a lucrative profession, but also very dangerous due to the wildlife and raiders.

Species Relations
The five (or seven, depending on how you look at it) species of the world have lived in one society for thousands of years and there are no societal strife between species. They are equally valid, but with different strengths and weaknesses. Society has grown to accept these traits and it is accepted that certain species likely won't be found in certain professions.

Class Relations
People in general do not socialize with anyone but their own class. Class A citizens mostly live in Vault of Life and have little interaction with the lower social classes. B-class citizens are too busy trying to become A-class to bother with C-class, and C-class are locked out of most possibilies of advancement and are stuck in poverty hell. There are of course those who break these norms, but they are few.

Gender Relations
In a world where your physical sex is as much a accessory as the clothes you are wearing, gender roles and identities have been muddled. Some people prefer a strong display of one specific gender, while others are much more fluid or neutral. It's generally accepted and normal for gender to be an accessory and personality rather than something you are born with. Kykr society used to be stricly gender-focused, but with the advent of hormone treatments, advanced cosmetic surgery and cybernetics, the lines are blurred and gender have little meaning.

Sexual Orientation Relations
While there are certainly those who still cling to some traditional ideas of gender relations and sexual relations, most do not give a damn about who or what you sleep with.

Military Influence
There is little military in the traditional sense. The government basically has no military power whatsoever. All the military personnel and hardware is owned and controlled by the megacorps. They can rent it out to the government when it needs, but the true power lies with the corporations. The police force is the most military group that citizens will encounter. CorpSec (corporation police forces) is well equipped, well trained and rtuthlessly efficient.

Religious Influence
With the rise of science, faith and superstition gave way to knowledge and science. Even before The Cataclysm religious influence was weak and waning. After the Cataclysm so much of the world's population was dead that the gods simply lost all their power and either left or vanished. No one really knows what happened to the gods, all we know is that they and their influence is gone. The only religious remnants in the world comes in the form of nostalgia, tradition or lunatic cults, such as the Children of the Cataclysm.

  Arts And Culture Influence
Dude, I'm just a nerd ok? I don't know art. All jokes aside, most art is either extremely esoteric, rich people trying to impress or shock each other, or it is in some way political, aimed against rich people and the government.

Anvil Advice Choose three to five focal points of your world from the list below to focus your worldbuilding on:

  • Government Presence
  • Rule Of Law
  • Social Services
  • Economic Strength
  • Wealth Distribution
  • Agriculture And Trade
  • Specie Relations

  • Class Relations
  • Gender Relations
  • Sexual Orientation Relations
  • Military Influence
  • Religious Influence
  • Technology Influence
  • Arts And Culture Influence
  •  

    Drama

    - High crime rates and great civil unrest, particularly in the Perimeter districts.
    - Otherworldly threats (Colossi and The Processor) rising in the Shadowmark.
    - Black Ops operating in the city, primarily in Psion kidnappings and illegal research / experimentation.
      - Corporate intrigue (assassinations, theft, espionage etc)
    - Mutant oppression / uprising
    - Faction warfare in the Shadowmark.

    Anvil Advice Add 5 points of drama to your world - you can use one or two of them for your main plot line, but the rest are just there to create the impression of a larger world in motion.

     

    Setting

    Rules of the World
    What are the fundamental differences in the natural laws of your world compared to Earth?

    1. The world is flat and protected by an energy dome. Outside the dome is just an endless Abyss of "water".
    2. Magic existed before The Cataclysm. The gods were physically present.
    3. Species can interbreed but they will not produce half-breeds. The offspring will be either the father's or the mother's species.

    Anvil Advice Does your world have magic or altered gravity, midichlorians or psionics? Starting with your world’s natural laws is very important, as they can have fundamental repercussions on everything in your world! Get them sorted now and they’ll create fascinating interactions! Forget, and they’ll create holes in your worldbuilding! And make sure you sense-check with your previous answers - if your genre is hard sci-fi, you might not want to introduce magic, for example.

    Cosmology

    How did this world come to be?
    No one truly knows. Heck, not even me. I will explore this concept in Dunia. It is likely that the world is a simulation.    

    Geography

    What does the geography of your world look like?
    Most of the world is a barren wasteland, recovering from the world-ending cataclysm. There are three major continents, of which the world really focuses only on one, Arjin, and really only the western peninsula, where Fusion City lies. The wastelands (known as the Shadowmark) is a toxic and hostile place where it's hard to survive. The survivors of the Cataclysm who live here struggle on a daily basis, akin to a Fallout-esque postapoc world.    

    Initial size of building

    Most campaigns will be focused inside Fusion City. But any GM is free to expand to the Shadowmark, or even the Abyss!

    People and their History

    Who used to live in your active campaign space, and what’s their history?
    The Kykr species have lived in this world for thousands of years. History is...loooooooong. But in short, they've been at war with the Fay species for as long as anyone can remember, and not until the Cataclysm ended the world did the Kykr "win". The five (seven, arguably) species of the Kykr alliance have lived mixed and intermingled for so long that they consider themselves one civilisation. There is no separation of species.


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