As I work on Xenomega, I need to start at the beginning and build it up. What makes this setting what it is? What are the rules needed for playing? What will players do in a game? The foundation needs to be set so that the expansion can develop from there. So this is where we are, the Core Concepts and how to build on them.
Xenomega is our Earth after an apocalypse. Civilization was ruined, cities were destroyed, the environment is a mess and the idea of traveling across the continent or even planet is unheard of. Through a combination of war, environmental destruction and ever increasing numbers of humans, the layout of the land has been altered and, in many cases, ruined.
Most people live their lives in a self-sustenance manner without ever leaving their small village due the abundance of monsters, mutants, brigands and natural dangers. There are few remaining nations of any sort and most of the world is dotted with small towns and villages that center around old places that have resources, manufacturing, or simply good farmland.
Much of the knowledge of the ancient world has been lost as well. There are many technologies that are simply gone and only occasionally found in sealed bunkers. While knowledge is important, most of the world simply cares about surviving to the next sunrise and not expanding outward. There are a small few enclaves of lost knowledge, libraries and universities, but they are small, remote or dangerous.
Before the modern world ended, various nations and superpowers of the world were developing super-soldier programs. Some were modifying humans through genetic alterations, others with cybernetics, while a few were tweaking the genomes of animals to uplift them. Psionics and magic were also being explored, though magic did not take off in power until after the Merging. Artificial intelligence and robotics were also being developed as the information age was taking off and reaching critical levels.
While many nations were focusing on a specific method of creating better soldiers, most of them were also dabbling in other areas as well. The result was clandestine wars with highly-trained super-humans fighting behind the scenes, never letting the world know even of their existence. They were a type of second class citizen, owned by their government and not given the freedom the rest of their population was granted.
When the world ended, the yokes were removed and the super-soldiers were revealed. Some came to power through honorable intentions, others took control by force. The result is the soldiers of old becoming the kings of new. Many of them were able to pass their improved abilities onto their progeny, resulting in dynasties of super-soldiers who were stronger, faster, smarter, or just not human at all.
While things were going poorly anyway, the world could have recovered if not for the Merging. There already existed a multiverse of parallel dimensions, many of them just slightly different than the world of Xenomega. Each time a nuclear bomb detonated, the barrier between these dimensions known as the Veil, grew a little weaker. The rise in cryptids was likely a sign of the weakening barrier, but overall, no one really seemed to notice. Strange things were happening, but not frequently enough to warrant any action. Test sites for earlier nuclear weapons such as the Bikini Atoll and areas of the south eastern US became hotbeds for strange phenomenon. It was unusual, but still relatively contained.
These minor breaking points, called Incursions, were areas where the Veil was weak and allowed occasional transfers of energy, matter, or even lifeforms. As they grew in number and a silent acceptance, these areas were locked down and contained. Beings from other worlds were captured, catalogued, and experimented on, all the while the knowledge of their existence kept secret.
It was not until Day Zero that things spiraled out of control. There was a war, the cause of which is still unknown. Super-soldiers were deployed and bombs were dropped. Lots and lots of bombs. The world was devastated physically, but the greater damage was to the Veil. The potential difference between parallel dimensions was reduced to tatters and all worlds were joined together, become Earth Prime. Chaos reigned supreme as various versions of Earth melded into one. The joining was not easy or smooth though. While most of the multi-Earths were physically the same, some were far different. Strange environments, strange or extinct creatures wandered forth, and magic infused the plants and soil.
Eventually, things settled down
While Day Zero was destructive, the world has reached a bit of balance. There are still some areas where unnatural weather patterns exist like snow in the middle of the desert or a jungle in the Arctic, but most of the extreme environments have been absorbed into their surroundings. Incursions seem to have settled down as well but the creatures that arrived on Day Zero have found a way to survive, reproduce, and expand their territory. Many of them have adapted to the new world and found a way to fit into a new, altered ecosystem.
There are still places where the Veil is weak and leads to other worlds or dimensions. The major areas are mapped and known, especially by locals, but there are still many unknown and uncharted. In some cases, the Incursions are beneficial as they may bring fresh water, an abundance of edible foodstuffs, or some other resource. Many of them, however, lead to inhospitable places. Most Incursions are environmental only such as the source of frequent storms, a spewing geyser of fire and magma, or an area of noxious, sulfer-rich gas. But then there are portals to Heaven or Hell, alien worlds where physics are different, or places where evolution took a very different path than our own history.
Magic and Psionics
Magic was experimented with pre-Merging, but was unable to do much. It wasn’t until after the Merging and the influx of magic energy that the arcane arts became useful. The addition of practitioners from magic-rich worlds helped as well as they taught natives their craft. Magic is at its core drawing arcane energy from other living creatures, funneling and channelling it, and using it to alter reality. Some spellcasters are elementalists, pulling energy from the various beings built solely of one element (in the traditional Greek sense) and use to expel fire, control earth or air, or summon storms. Others are lifeleeches, pulling the very power of the soul from other living creatures to use in their spells. Finally there are the divine casters such as druids and priests, who receive their power from higher beings, whether an actual deity from Norse, Egyptian or First Nation pantheons, or from the power of the Earth itself in the case of druids.
Psionics, on the other hand, use the the power within themselves to affect reality. Psionics have an inner well of power that can be improved and boosted, harnessing their own strength of will and forcing it outward. Psionics can be learned and developed though there are some individuals who are natural talents with no formal training.
Modification of the physical form is a large part of Xenomega. This is achieved through three methods: Cybernetics, Biohacks, and Magitech. Cybernetics are mechanical constructs that can be added to most biological beings. The tech for making new ones is hard to come by, there exist cyber-thieves who actually hunt down cyborgs simply to kill them, remove their cybernetic augments, and sell them to whoever can afford them. Biohacks operate similarly to cybernetics, but are genetic creations, creatures that are bred, grown, modified, and built to replace limbs and add abilities. Magitech augments are extremely rare as their construction is difficult and time consuming, but they have the ability to reproduce spells and do not affect the ability to summon magic energy like cybernetics do.
We need rules for a variety of skills, ways to differentiate combat and magic conflict, and rules for magic and psionics. If we go with the MSRD, most of it is already there, but will need some changes. I’ll take the skills from the MSRD and reduce and combine to something more like the rules from the PFSRD. There are a few skills that are unique to a modern setting (like Computers, Drive/Pilot, and Repair), but most of the skills from the PFSRD can be converted over with little change.
Feats will have to be worked on, or at least limited in number. While the sheer number of feats in the PFSRD is immense, most of them are not needed. We can take some class abilities as well and break them down into feats, making them accessible to any character.
That means we keep the Base Classes from MSRD. They are simple and straightforward, balanced, and well-suited for the modern to sci fi setting of Xenomega. The Arcana supplement had some fantasy-style Advanced Classes and those can be used almost as is or with a little modification. Other classes from PFSRD can be converted to Advanced Classes as well. Simply breaking down a PFSRD class into a 10-level Advanced Class is easy, and it also prevents the huge power leap that higher levels have.
I am going to change magic though, and thus the spellcaster classes. Since magic requires summoning power from other sources, I’m going to look at the 3.5 Dark Sun rules that were loosely touched on in an old magazine of Dragon. I’m also going to probably greatly change the way spells are cast and get rid of memorized spells per day. It simply does not fit in the setting, so there is no reason for a typical Wizard class. Instead, it will be something more akin to the Sorcerer class, but a power source will have to be selected before being able to cast spells. That could be as simple as an element (making their spell list limited to just their alignment) or in the case of lifeleeches, basically casting spells from the Necromantic list with the addition of healing spells.
Priests and druids will likely not be changed very much, except the reduction of dependence on wildshape for druids or making wildshaping druids and spell guardian druids different classes.
I might add the idea of Themes from the Starfinder RPG as well. It would be similar to Occupations from MSRD, but expanded and have more impact on the game. I like the idea of a Bounty Hunter Sorcerer. Make it give them some bonus at certain levels, but still break it down to a similar list from the Occupations of MSRD.
Almost all of the other rules already exist. Ley lines will have to be detailed since a spellcaster can boost their spells while near a ley line, but that could be broken down with a simple feat. Things like Incursions and portals to other worlds can easily be adapted from other sources as well.
What do the players do?
Xenomega will be about exploration much of the time. Characters can wander the world, discover new technologies, piece together the history of the world what happened to it, as well as battle alien monsters and power-hungry humans. There are many different races now existing in Xenomega, some of them expansionistic, some of them happy to just have their small plot of land. There are powers building in the world and taking over or assimilating land and conflict frequently occurs between these.
Players could soldiers for one of the nations, workings as covert operatives in foreign lands, or even frontline fighters. They could be sent out to scout out newfound ruins from the old world or as emissaries and diplomats to other settlements. Maybe they are mercenaries or monster hunters, seeking glory or trophies out in the lost world.
Part of Xenomega will be resource management. It will require the players to track their food and goods, especially when far from civilization. Ammo and arrows should be counted as both are limited. Gasoline and other fuels will usually be hard to come by.
The point is the players will have to figure out how to survive. Whether they find resources by exploration and prospecting, rummaging through ruins, or bartering with travelers and townsfolk they come across, they will need supplies, gear, and allies to survive this world.