A Galaxy Far, Far Everway

Heroic travel among the many worlds of space opera

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Setting

PCs are Spacefolders: people who can naturally move between the Spheres (planets) through shear force of will (think A Wrinkle in Time). Additionally, scientists have found a way to boost this ability, making Foldgates (think Fading Suns) which amplify a Spacefolder’s power such that she can take large objects (such as spaceships) through space, though there must be a Foldgate at both ends of the journey. Just as in Everway, a gate is required for this. Almost all spheres have at least one naturally-occurring gate somewhere upon them, and these gates connect to one or more specific spheres. Any Spacefolder can use any gate, and automatically knows upon touching it the name(s) of the other sphere(s) it leads to, and can choose which one to go to if there is more than one. Some gates are also one-way, enabling travel to or from spheres, but not the reverse. There are also artificial gates. These are generally called “Foldgates”, and no one knows where they came from or who made them. They are only found in space, never within a planet’s atmosphere. While the details of design and decoration vary, they all have basic structural similarities: they are all the same size (several kilometers across) and take the form of a set of objects that form a rough circle. Sometimes the circle is complete–a ring–and sometimes it is made up of several pieces not joined. In any case, nothing known can move or damage a Foldgate or any of its pieces–they always remain perfectly fixed in relation to whatever astronomical bodies are nearest. Most often, they are poised at a lagrange point between a planet and its moon, or occasionally between a star and its planet. Foldgates behave noticably differently than natural gates. For starters, they do not identify their destinations, as they have none, or at least no set ones. Instead, a Spacefolder can select any sphere she wishes, and will appear at the nearest Foldgate to that sphere. Spheres are identified by a series of images from the Fortune Deck. The Spacefolder pictures the three cards laid out (in a triangular divinitory pattern) and these serve as the key that activates the Foldgate. During transit via Foldgates, sensitive Spacefolders often catch images of the cards of both the sphere travelled from and the one travelled to. The other major difference between a natural gate and a Foldgate is “luggage”. A Spacefolder can take not much more than she can carry through a natural gate, and only a very talented traveller can one or two others with her. But Foldgates somehow magnify the Spacefolders ability many orders of magnitude, enabling her to transit entire starships weighing millions of tons. In practice, anything that can fit through the gate can be taken through it.

In either case, the duration of a journey is a highly variable thing. Generally, a journey between two spheres is the same length in either direction, and is roughly constant from trip to trip. The subjective time felt by those travelling often doesn’t match the time as measured by people on either end, but is likewise roughly constant. In both cases, the time taken doesn’t appear to have any obvious correspondence to the physical distance crossed. this journey has minimal objective passage of time, which is roughly constant for any journey. The subjective passage of time is roughly proportional to the distance folded through, and can be as much as a few weeks, for crossing most of the galaxy.

While discovering and using the Foldgates clearly requires sufficient technology for at least simple space travel, the natural gates on nearly every sphere’s surface have guaranteed limited contact between sphere’s since well before technology. This has assured that no matter what sphere you travel to, there are certain common ideas and traits. The two most important are probably that there are recognizable people almost everywhere–often those spheres that didn’t have people to begin with eventually had some settle there, even if there are also aliens native to them–and that nearly everywhere, the Tongue is spoken, if only by some people, as a second language. Once at least one of the spheres that a set of gates connect developed the idea of capitalism, active trade between them often quickly followed. Mostly, this trade took the form of ideas and small, valuable goods (jewelry, portable technologies, etc.), due to the difficulty of transporting bulky objects through the gates. Similarly, wars between spheres are almost unheard of before the discovery of Foldgates, due to the small number of Spacefolders in a given population.

The Fortune Deck is likewise common to all spheres that have discovered Foldgates, and many that have not. While it is sometime brought to a less-advanced sphere by a Spacefolder, it is generally first discovered in the form of hallucinatory/psychic images when using the artificial gates. Eventually, people figured out that the images were a coordinate set, and the right set of coordinates would take you to the gate of your choice. The danger, of course, is in going to an unknown destination, if you don’t know the code for the gate you just left from–and there’s no way to figure out the code except to try going there. The image(s) you get when transitting are generally a jumble of the place you originated from, and the one you’re going to, but often not a complete set of either, so while they give a clue, it still takes some trial and error.

one possibility for the gameworld Fortune Deck:
rather than being found as cards on the various worlds, it is a more recent discovery. when the Foldgates were developed, it was discovered that the intensification/focusing of a Spacefolder’s powers that they created had an interesting side effect: whenever one was used, all of the people that passed through it would be left with the distinct impression of an image. this image would always be the same for everyone folding at once, but varied from time to time, even for the same origin, destination, and person or people. however, as Foldgates became more common, and more people used them, it came to light that there appeared to be a finite number of these images, and they always appeared quite stylized and similar, though not always identical–in particular, they sometimes appeared upside-down. nonetheless, the images were consistent enough that people could generally agree on not only what they were, but on meanings/titles for them. and thus the Fortune Deck was born, as people set these images down in permanent form for use as divinatory tools. Some believe that the images revealed when folding have divinatory significance, while others think they are merely a reflection of the folder’s mindset–and some believe both. no one really knows where these images come from, or whether the entire set has been discovered yet. while their meanings for divination are not universal, most people come to very close agreement on them, even though Spacefolders and Foldgates have originated independently on hundreds, if not thousands, of worlds.

In addition to low-level interaction between the spheres since time immemorial (or at least since someone (or -thing) figured out how to use the natural gates), the Ancients may have had a direct hand in the similarity of people throughout the universe. Similarly, until capitalism, notions of progress, and eventually industrialization, came to the various worlds, this travel had minimal impact, so mostly the spheres developed in the “usual” way (i.e., mostly like Earth). The biggest difference is the occasional (frequent?) world leaping from the early stages of modern society–say mid-renaissance–straight to (post-)industrial due to the efforts of a spherewalker bringing the right ideas and some technological and/or scientific know-how to worlds that were ready for the concepts but wouldn’t have “naturally” developed the ideas for centuries. Likewise, there are some worlds far more advanced than others, because they have chosen not to share their technology. The tension between these two trends (sharing technology with spheres that are not ready for it,and gregariousness in general; and withholding advances in order to maintain superiority, and isolationism in general) has led to a proliferation of worlds with very incongruous tech and social and philosophical levels, such as steampunk, John Carter’s Mars, space pirates with slide rules, Barbarella, and Flash Gordon–not to mention Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and Once and Future King. And Brazil/Kafka! Spheres are all pretty much in the same habitable range in terms of atmosphere, weather, etc., though some are quite extreme (ice planets, etc.) and a few are really weird (the occasional society floating among the dense clouds of a gas giant or completely aquatic, frex). Some things that are surprisingly not common among spheres are the so-called “natural laws.” There are some spheres upon which psychic abilities are common, and others where they are rare, and a few where even those with such abilities lack them. Likewise, there are some technologies that work on some spheres, but not on others.

The Rules

Character Creation

Character creation still follows much the same process as regular Everway. Coming up with a rough concept, finding the Vision Cards, and roughing out the background are the first steps. The only real addition at this stage is the idea of the Concept Statement, something we haven’t used explicitly, but which i’m going to try out. Obviously, appropriate concepts are almost the inverse of those for regular Everway (pretty much anything high-tech, or otherwise not too fantasy-ish).

Name and Motive remain essentially untouched, and have the same importance. While a new Fortune Deck is used, the Virtue, Fault, and Fate are otherwise the same.

Once you’ve done that, the points are very similar. Two additions, the Hindrance and Deficiencies, have been added. Powers is renamed Edges, and Magic relabeled Psychic, but those are mostly cosmetic changes. There is an entirely new set of Aspects to replace the Elements, but they function in much the same way.

And, of course, the idea of the Questions stage to flesh out the character remains.

Concept

Vision Cards

The concept of the character is the element around which you build everything else. The first thing you need to do is find your Vision Cards. These are 5 images that will be the starting point of your character. Any 5 images will do, but you should be able to keep them or copies of them with your character for reference and to show others. In practice, art and CCG cards are often the easiest to handle.

You may pick the images in whatever manner you wish. Some prefer to pick the images and then build the character around them, while some prefer to have a rough concept in mind and find images to support it and flesh it out. Usually a combination of both methods is used, picking three to four images, drawing a concept from them, and then finding the remaining images to flesh it out.

Likewise, the images may be used in whatever way you wish: literally, metaphorically, or symbolically. For example, a picture of a person aboard a rocketship, holding a rose could be taken literally, as an image of the character departing somewhere in the past. Or it could be a metaphor for the fact that she is a traveller who is frequently departing one place or another–though this particular image is not of her. Or it could be a symbol, showing that she is constantly “moving on” in matters of feeling and society, and doesn’t attach emotionally to others. While you may selectively interpret an image (and are encouraged to do so), you should try and take the entire image into account. Don’t simply dismiss an element as inaccurate or not of use for your character. Try and take it into account and explain why it is there; take the point of view that the image is built the way that it is deliberately, and there are therefore no extraneous elements.

Concept Statement

Name and Motive

Virtue, Fault and Fate

Choose or randomly draw 3 cards from the Gnospex. The Virtue is always interpreted upright, the Fault is always interpreted reversed, and the Fate is always ambiguous. It represents a choice between the two meanings of that card.

Points

Once your concept is roughed out, Vision cards selected and explained, Name and Motive assigned, and Virtue, Fault, and Fate selected, you need to assign your numerical stats. To do this, you have 20 points to distribute among the 4 Aspects, Edges, and Psychic. You will also gain up to 3 points from your Hindrance, which may be spent as you see fit on the other areas.

Aspects

There are 4 Aspects that define your character. These are Snake, Rat, Monkey, and Dragon.

Snake is the Aspect of the Body. It governs the “Four Fs” of basic biology: fighting, fleeing, feeding, and mating. Dexterity, agility, strength, and endurance are all elements of Snake. Snake is Endurance and Instincts.

Rat is the Aspect of the mind. It governs reasoning and math, puzzle solving, and other abstract intellectual tasks. Book learning, intelligence, “tricks”, cunning, and curiosity are all parts of Rat. Rat is Understanding and Learning.

Monkey is the Aspect of society. It governs social interactions–problem solving in the context of other people. Perception, empathy, “the heart”, joking, and persuasion are all within the realm of Monkey. Monkey is Adaptability and Culture.

Dragon is the Aspect of the spirit. It governs faith, self-control, self-worth, and other purely internal matters. It is also the Aspect of Something Else–transcendence, “higher self”, “inner strength”, faith, wisdom, and sensitivity are all found within Dragon. Dragon is Intuition and Will.

There are two important relationships between the Aspects: the Circle and the Spiral. The Circle is a balance, looking at the Aspects in opposed pairs. Rat and Monkey make up Nurture, in opposition to Dragon and Snake as Nature. Monkey and Snake together govern Vitality, in opposition to Dragon and Rat, which together govern Stability. The Spiral is a progression, the path of evolution. It is a more-dynamic relationship, while the Circle is a more-static relationship. These relationships are what really flesh out your character, much more than the isolated Aspect values.

Nature and Nurture tell you if your character is more in touch with the natural world or society. Intuition and Instincts are the two sides to Nature. Instincts stems from Snake, and tells how strong your biological nature is. Instincts can protect you before you even know there is a danger. Intuition stems from Dragon, and represents that intangible connection to reality that gives you answers when you have no way of getting them. Nature is the source of love and hate, and other visceral, “irrational” reactions.

Someone with Nature overbalancing Nurture is very animalistic. She may be prone to powerful emotions and/or emotional swings. She tends to react before thinking, though often quite effectively. She may discount that which cannot be experienced. Someone with Nurture overbalancing Nature is a thoughtful person, and tends to rely on training. She will usually solve a problem before responding directly to it, and is good at seeing all angles. She may be prone to discounting that which cannot be proved. When Nature and Nurture are balanced, the character is able to recognize the value of both the felt and the known, and is able to use both as appropriate, without either dominating.

Vitality is the ability to change and accomodate adversity. Stability is the ability to resist change and overcome adversity.

Edges & Hindrance

Edges are all of the special characteristics that aren’t covered by your Aspects (except for Psychic, Q.V.).

Every character also has exactly one Hindrance. A Hindrance is a noticable weakness of some sort that is integral to the character. The Hindrance has a value associated with it, much like Edges do, in order to rate its severity. Analogously to Edges, it can range from 0 to 3 points, depending on how much it impacts the character. The Hindrance is worth 1 point for each criteria it fulfills: Unavoidable, Major, and Compound [Encompassing?]. An Unavoidable Hindrance is one which will affect the character much or all of the time, and which comes into play in such a way that it can’t easily be avoided by simply picking a different means to an end. A Major Hindrance is one which has a very significant impact, not merely an inconvenience. A Compound Hindrance is one with many aspects to it, so that it affects the character in a variety of situations or in a multitude of ways.

Psychic

Archetypal psychic abilities would most often be linked to Dragon–the Aspect of unconscious knowledge and secret worlds. Some archetypal psychic abilites would be linked with Rat–the Aspect of the mind and understanding.

full-color space opera Everway character sheetsimplified space opera Everway character sheet

Fortune Deck

this is preliminary, but i thought i’d put it up anyway, in order to get feedback. in particular, you’ll notice a couple of cards that have no meanings, because i’m not sure if they should be cards, and nothing came to mind for them. also, some of the card meanings are kinda close–too close? and are there meanings that ought to be represented by a set of game-playing/divinatory cards like these but aren’t? card images that should be in a set of scifi tropes but aren’t?
double pipe (“||”) is being used as an “or” when i have 2 different names or meanings for a card that don’t seem to be something i can just amalgamate.

Black Hole unknowable meaning; all laws and knowledge end within a black hole none
The Universals Transcendental worlds
Wormhole Hyperspace: gains far outweigh costs Time Travel: manipulation and chaos Snake vs. Dragon: the transcendental and the physical merging
The Net self-definition, the ability to be who you wish, overcoming personal limitations anarchy, equalization indulgence, hedonism Rat vs. Monkey: the inner realm of the mind and the outer realm of the society merging
The Governments
The Frontier the unknown, danger unexpected gains Dragon
The Colony a hard struggle growth Snake
The Empire Dystopia: tyranny, ignoring individuals, exploitation, beaurocracy/inefficiency Utopia: organization, civilization, protection and benefits Snake & Monkey
Society
Law justice, equality tyranny, misapplied rules Monkey over Snake: society at its best, force at its worst
Religion freedom from temporal concerns Opiate of the Masses: false authority controls Dragon over Monkey: the spirit at its best, society for the wrong reasons
Trade opportunity, betterment, gain greed, profit before ethics Snake over Rat: force used for good, the mind used without restraint
Science The Force Field: new discoveries brought to bear The Superweapon Eugenics: science misapplied Rat over Dragon: the mind exercised in the world, spirituality twisted
The Others
The AI The Computer: great analytical power logic overriding reason Rat
The Alien alternative perspective otherness, paranoia Monkey
The Ancients Lost Knowledge Secrets Man was Not Meant to Know Rat & Dragon
The Energy Being ascension, apotheosis loss of touch with reality Dragon & Monkey
The Mutant abberation, unseen flaw psychic abilities, new-found talents Snake & Rat
The Universe
Asteroid resources freely available unpredictable danger
Big Bang The Beginning The End Outward
Gas Giant great potential, great power unrealized untapped resources
Gravity reliable constants struggling against the inevitable Center
Neutron Star death, loss of power/function Beacon in the Night: new purpose Inward
The Star The Sun: life-giving power Nova: energy uncontained, unstoppable destructive forces
The Technologies
The Android Verisimilitude, seeming deception
Bioengineering ill-considered ramifications adaptation
The Clone lack of individuality cooperation, efficiency
The Cyborg Integration, two disparate things working together lack of self/humanity || perversion
The Robot great labor single-mindedness || overliteral understanding
The Starship travel, freedom homelessness, restlessness, wanderlust
Terraforming rebirth destruction, holocaust
The Professions
The Explorer freedom foolhardiness, alienation Dragon
The Hacker secret knowledge revealed subterfuge, lack of respect for other’s rights Rat
The Mentor maturity, experience sheltering, out-moded values Monkey
The Mystic spiritualism, inner strength misunderstanding: the mystic is often out of place in a highly scientific world; “ancient beliefs & hokey religions are no substitute for a good blaster” Dragon
The Outlaw piracy, selfishness rebellion against false authority, selflessness Monkey
The Pilot self-confidence, leadership overconfidence, not looking before you leap Snake
The Scientist knowledge, discovery lack of imagination || elimination of mystery Rat
The Soldier necessary defense The Mercenary: conflict without reason Snake

Some alternate groupings of the cards:

    • Black Hole
  • The Forces
    • Gravity
    • Big Bang
  • Governments
    • The Colony
    • The Frontier
    • The Empire
  • The Elements
    • Law
    • Religion
    • Trade
    • Science
  • The Technologies
    • Bioengineering
    • Terraforming
    • The Starship
    • The Robot
    • The Net
  • Space
    • The Ancients
    • Asteroid
    • Neutron Star
    • The Star
    • Wormhole
    • Gas Giant
  • The Beings
    • The Alien
    • The AI
    • The Cyborg
    • The Clone
    • The Mutant
    • The Android
    • The Energy Being
  • The Roles
    • The Outlaw
    • The Explorer
    • The Scientist
    • The Pilot
    • The Hacker
    • The Soldier
    • The Mentor
    • The Mystic
    • Black Hole
  • Transformations
    • Bioengineering
    • Terraforming
  • Learning
    • The Mentor
    • Science
    • The Scientist
  • Limits
    • Big Bang
    • Gravity
    • Neutron Star
    • Wormhole
  • The Created
    • The AI
    • The Android
    • The Clone
    • The Cyborg
    • The Robot
  • Space
    • Asteroid
    • Gas Giant
    • The Pilot
    • The Star
    • The Starship
    • Trade
  • The Unknown
    • The Alien
    • The Ancients
    • The Energy Being
    • The Explorer
    • The Frontier
    • The Mystic
    • The Mutant
  • Society
    • The Colony
    • The Empire
    • The Net
    • The Soldier
    • The Hacker
    • Law
    • Religion
    • The Outlaw

The Gnospex

Oh, and it’s not called the “Fortune Deck”. We’re not entirely sure yet, but clearly it needs a more-universal universal name, since technology and alien POVs mean it will often not be a deck at all, but some other physical manifestation. Perhaps “Gnospex”, from the roots for wisdom and (i think) insight.

So far, we’ve posited several forms for the Gnospex on different worlds:

  • a set of flat rectangular pieces of some metallic substance that have shimmery images on one side, with much the quality of a modern hologram or diffraction image. they flex somewhat, like cards, but won’t tear or easily break. when held at the proper angle (which is designed to be when they are flat at the height of a typical table, less than an arm’s reach away), they project a 3-dimensional holographic image into the space above them. the image of course appears upside-down when viewed from the appropriate direction.
  • a small metallic ball, about the size of a large grapefruit. you roll it, and when it comes to a stop the clockwork mechanisms within it settle into a particular action (depending on orientation), and the ball opens to create a miniature stage upon which is enacted a short scene that depicts one of the 36 themes of the Gnospex. the endings of the plays determine the “orientation” of the “image”.
  • a series of indestructible metal rings, a few inches across, with rectangular crosssections. they can be stored on a cord or in a bag. they are utterly indestinguishable from one another, and when one is chosen it is spun on edge on any hard surface. this produces a series of musical tones, a simple tune or other pattern which conveys the meanings of the ring in much the same way that the image does on a card. likewise, the overtones and harmonies convey the interpretations and correspondences. the overall character of the music determines the “orientation”, somewhat like the difference between major and minor keys in our music.
  • a slate or tablet, sort of like an Etch-a-Sketch. the image area is a matrix of complex semi-organic molecules, all of which react uniquely to distinct artificial chemicals. it also contains a special atomic source and a series of chemicals that interact with it. the entire thing is shaken, and when it is then set level, one of 72 possible reactions (36 reactions, each of which has a handedness to the results) occur. this in turn triggers a chemical release which interacts with one of the types of molecules in the slate. the interacting molecules change color, and may even glow dimly, thus forming a pixelated image in much the way that an LCD does.

Files

For my own use, I’ve put together a Gnospex with repurposed art from various sources. I believe this falls within the realm of Fair Use. However, re-sharing those images probably does not. So I’m sharing the Adobe Illustrator files that I used to create them. You can either print them as-is and just use the words, or create your own with art you have access to.

 

 

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