Introduction To Ethnis
You have arrived at a Strange and Dangerous Time
Ethnis is on the other side of a vast divide of history, yet is closer to the present than you would like. There is a war going on and everything is on the line. This war is The War, the sum of life and death; every reason to fight played out at once, a controlled burn of faith, pride, politics, money, bigotry, and necessity.
Somewhere, in all of this, is you.
You live in Ethnis, among its people. You know of the Meta, and how it allows you to command the nature of the world around you. You know of the Wayhall—the path through the stars—and you know of the Banners, the Sophont, the Sovereigns, and most importantly: The Wheel.
You know this because Ethnis is home.
Fear becomes passé when it is constant.
It is our lot to rage against the dying of the light, to fight with primal furor and disarm that primordial dread of its scythe and hourglass with the wonders of science. We have slain the horsemen, stolen their steeds, and now use them to terrorize each other.
This era is not one belonging to Death, it belongs to unrepentant, unforgiving, unrelenting life.
Make it count.
To be sophontic is to possess wisdom, wit, and reason. It is the umbrella term for intelligence within Ethnis. You, reader, are sophontic. You are self-aware in a complex way, capable of introspection to depths which other life cannot comprehend.
There are tiers of sophonce lower than yours, and tiers above. Your mind is ineffable to a mouse, though whether or not that is of any consequence to the universe is yet unknown.
An ancient people with a complex history. Each Verin is a new entry in the ongoing chronicles of a species unified by a tale sprawling back beyond memory.
Their past is defined by hubris. The terrible mistakes they made recurr and are punished again and again, like ripples in a pond lingering long after the splash.
To be Verin is to have an intimate bond with Consequence.
The chosen ones. Chosen not by fate to fulfill some grand design, but engineered by the Verin to serve. They were borne to parents more proud of the act of creation than of its fruit.
They chose another path. They fashioned their chains into armor and engineering into a weapon. They chose to define themselves, rather than be defined by their creators.
To be Sazashi is to have an intimate bond with Purpose.
Humanity grew up alone on a world which was theirs to shape, or to destroy. Their short lives made for short plans, and their children were forced to pay penance for their actions.
This transcience is humanity's boon and curse, feeding cycles of growth and collapse. With each iteration, members arise to embody and shape the dream of the collective unconscious.
To be Human is to have an intimate bond with Choice.
Not all sophontic entities are seen as such. Some are seen as mere aberrations, or have more 'worth' if they remain treated as soulless. Systemic oppression is their norm.
Uplifts, Constructs, and Infomorphs are the common victims. They usually awaken as individuals, alone, and live and die trying to be seen—let alone treated as equal.
To be Unseen is to have an intimate bond with Struggle.
You Are A Sophont,
Higher sophonce means experiencing yourself and the universe through a more complex lens.
You are a sophont, a tier of complexity within Sophonce which has a soul and the ability to manipulate the Meta.
Of A Kind,
Within each Sophont is a colorful variety of Kinds, otherwise known as subspecies. Each has their own unique physiology, capabilities, and norms.
Ethnis is a vast tapestry of unique experiences, both emotional and physical.
Belonging To A Tribe
The Banners are too large to be homogenous. Even against an intergalactic backdrop we seek Tribes for safety and comfort.
Crews, clades, gangs, and parties. Who will you join? What will you form? What role will you fill?
You are a Face in the Crowd
You don't choose the Banner you're born into. You mature moulded by its norms and values, shaped by it until you carry it with you.
For most, that's the beginning and the end of the story. Changing Banners means uprooting your entire life, something few are truly willing to do. So they live in the pattern of life common to their Banner, and they die there.
The Banners are the high powers to whom all other factions swear fealty. To see them purely as political is to misunderstand their formation and trajectory.
Their differences are spritual. Shatter them and another power of a different name and the same spirit will fill the void. They are the inevitable responses to our oldest questions:
They are the final forms of civilization before the next step. Only one will cross the threshold.
Will it be yours?
And Bearing Great Power
Technology in this era is fantastic, alien, and dangerous.
Humanity may have made great advances in terms of mechanics and chemistry, but the Verin and Sazashi of Jhoutai made great strides in metaphysical and organic technologies. Now, all three are commonplace, intermingling in all manner of configurations.
A flock of leviathan ships swoop down from low orbit. The trees here are wilted, and so the flock leaves stormclouds and rain in its wake. In the distance, an earthquake rumbles. Somewhere, a wildfire rages. All are the doing of the flock, softening the earth to be habitable for life. They sing; and a world flourishes.
On a wild world, squalls of acidic rain veil the slow crawl of soldiers armed with wands and guns and wearing camoflesh biosuits. They're hunting an S-Rex bioweapon. They will fail.
In an arcology, symbiorg brains float in an amniotic pool that will never see daylight or warmth. They parse raw data from the city above and invent upgrades to infrastructure. To them it is a game, a competition, like children at play. They are happier than anyone.
Terrors and delights abound, many handmade with love.
Mastery of Form
Technology is not just tools to bear and wear, it is also what goes inside of the body as well.
It's the cybernetic arm bristling with firepower, the gemstone eye which gives you glimmers of the moments to come, the neurotoxic gland which makes your bite lethal.
It's your declaration of mastery over the shape of your body, whether that's for the sake of aesthetic, identity, or survival.
What will you make of yourself? Will you retain the form into which you were born—sophont, sex, and bearing—or will you become a canvas of beauty or a tool of death?
Choose your form wisely. Your soul will try to adapt to the shape of its vessel, but the friction may become more than it can handle.
We may no longer have to listen to Mother Nature, but, as with any parent, we have come to realize that her lessons held more wisdom than we wanted to believe.
The Meta, Metaphysics, magic. The Verin discovered the most base forms of Meta millenia ago and it has only become more advanced since.
Most everyone has basic grasp of Meta, because as they hone their Skills they also open new avenues of metaphysical prowess. Skilled users are called Psiolic, and accomplish such feats as commanding the wind, spewing fire from their palms, and tearing stone asunder.
All Sophont are capable of Metaphysics. Wielding Meta is the litmus test of Sophonce and Sophont maturity, as most are incapable of casting until they reach the more existential stages of puberty.
To deny Metaphysics is as foolish as to resolve to only ever walk on your palms or eat through your nostrils. It is a great power gifted to us by The Wheel. Seize it.
Inner Strengths; Deeper Truths
Those who master the Meta and their skills often tap into a deeper gestalt and arcane power, and harness it to gain monumental will and incredible capability.
In the distant past, Monoliths were one in a hundred-thousand. Now, thanks to technology, education, and the freedom to explore passions, they are one in ten-thousand, and often comprise the peak of society.
This power is in your grasp.
Monoliths are Sophont who have achieved such a level of mastery over some skill—anything from the mundane to the metaphysic to the fantastic—that they Transcend into a higher state of being, will, and power.
There is a higher force at play in the universe, some source for the Meta, the Soul, the Wayhall, and the Sovereign. It is the root of the greatest mysteries of Ethnis—the prime enigma. The nature and presence of this force is is a topic of great debate. Many, even academics, point to a higher mind: The Wheel. The nature and presence of this force is is a topic of great debate. Many, even academics, point to a higher mind: The Wheel. For some The Wheel is a placeholder term for the unknown, something to not be considered seriously; for others it is the will of God, or God itself. It is an ongoing conversation, often played out in deaths.
The Chosen of The Wheel
The Sovereign are the supposed chosen of the Wheel and the keepers of the afterlives. There is one each for the Sazashi, the Verin, and Humanity.
Prophecy foretells the rise of a fourth, but who?
You Will See Many Worlds
The WayHall is the expansive web of WayPoints which define the borders of civilization and links the worlds. Its existence allows for mass transit and commerce beyond the capabilities of the Sophont.
Without it the peoples of Pillar Spoke and Via Lactea would never have met, and intergalactic travel may not have happened for thousands of years to come.
A millennium ago, the Banners sprawled through the stars, fighting viciously over worlds and WayPoints. They were unstoppable, until, for unknown reason, the WayHalls closed and their Indices disappeared.
Overnight, the universal economies collapsed and the Banners imploded to base parts as they struggled to maintain grip wherever they were. At first they turned their energy towards re-finding the Indices, but only a couple were found before the apocalyptic state of the Hub forced their energy towards conservation and to abandon hope of growing.
Within the last century, the Indices have begun to appear en-masse, and once more the Banners grow...
Many Worlds Beckon,
Rife with Opportunity,
And Relics of The Past
And You Shall Stake Your Claim
What are you?
The Ethnis Universe is an expansive one, with ambition to match. As it progresses, it will have many stories to tell, and many ways to tell them. Dive in, and lose yourself in a rich tapestry of interesting characters and wild worlds.
The RPG allows you to adventure within Ethnis. Make rich, interesting characters with intriguing backstories and lofty goals, fight gods, save worlds, and rise to become a renown power in a diverse and wild setting.
You want more—you want to be involved, to contribute, to help Ethnis get out into the world. Support comes in the form of time (sharing Ethnis on social media) or money (backing us on Patreon and other platforms, and we deeply appreciate both.