Waxing lyrical, or the matter of Crux.

So what’s this Crux malarkey, anyway?

Matt Keevil: Crux is a Weird Fantasy Western set in the plane of new beginnings, a place formed from the remnants of a thousand worlds that faced Armageddon and didn’t have the heroes they needed to survive.

Tom Cole:  Yep. It’s a multicultural Weird West game set on the accreted remains of several apocalypses, borrowing from elements of the cultures who survived and continue to wash up on the shores.

So what is it?

Matt: Gameplay and tone on Crux is heavily influenced by themes of personal choice and conviction, a world where acting like a hero gives you the power to pull off the feats that make you a hero.

Tom: I’d say it’s a chance to do some extensive worldbuilding without necessarily having to deal with typical fantasy tropes. Some of the earliest brushstrokes were run as a D&D homebrew about 10 years ago, and gently entertained. When Matt and I started writing for Corporation we found that our worldbuilding brains played very well with each other, so several completely unrelated late-night conversations actually have found their way into the version of the game we’re writing now.

So it didn’t spring, fully realised and conspicuously naked from the sea foam

Tom: It really came tgether with the idea for The Most Metal Setting Ever.

Matt: …which involved “Cancer is part of nature too” elves and eusocial technofascist humans in vertical cities
and dragons as owl-like night hunters with bacteriological breath

Tom: Yep. Too much metal for one hand.

What’s with all the different genres? What do you think this is, TORG?

Matt: Right, well in Crux’s case it’s somewhat justified – it’s a plane comprised of the surviving remnants of thousands of worlds, of course it’s going to be a bit eclectic!
Each world-shard added to Crux’s strangeness, uniqueness and diversity, both in its population, very few of whom are *entirely* human, and its technology, culture and threats.

Tom :and owing to heroics and personal drive being something of a motivating force in th world, they’re going to have different ways of doing things – The concept of something being anachronistic is soemwhere between alien, redundant and rude. Is there a specific word for that?
Anyhow, There have been a few irreverent nods toward certain tropes and conceits within the genre, such as. despite being from countless different realities, everyone speaks the same language. (There’s a second prototype of the Tower of Babel, buried in the wastes somewhere, called the Tower Of Tolk, in case you were interested)

Matt: Crux is also designed to be a “drop in” setting, that can be transitioned to from any other game.
If your group is getting a little bored of their current campaign world but are still attached to their characters, end the world and keep the characters as new immigrants to Crux.

So, is it going to be serious, grimdark and edgier than something made of edges?

Matt: Seriously grimdark? Nope. Nay, never. Well, maybe. But mostly the focus is on the psychological experience of encountering the weird. That can be grimdark in some situations, but not always or even often. Players in Crux are Big Damn Heroes, after all.

Tom: In a post apocalyptic setting it tends to be stereotypically equal parts nihilism and/or objectivism, the whole Ayn Rand meets Camus and Neitzche over dinner and cocaine. We’ve come out the other end of that. The average player character has somehow managed to not only survive the end of the world, but come away mostly unscathed, and has the chance at a fresh start, and prospects new. There’s a bit more of a pioneer spirit prevailing, so there’s an element of hope….

“All the better to take away from you when you thought you were safe, my dear”, said the scaly, tentacled octopus-man. After all, you’ve got to have juxtaposition to get effective weirdness, otherwise you just end up having weird for the sake of being weird – Fishmalk syndrome, and the immersion goes right out the window.

Matt: Yep, the weird should spice the familiar, being buried in weirdness is just chaos.

What kind of things can characters do? Are there classes?

Tom: Well, this could get quite open-ended. Classes, no, although certain types of character will certainly tend towards similar skillsets.

Matt: There are no character classes, characters are created and advanced through a point-based system. There are however factions and allegiances that a character can join which grant access to certain special abilities. Join the Stoneface Marshalls for example and you can acquire the power to see through earth and stone or track a person’s footsteps over any earthen surface. Or become a Brother of the Nematode Oracle and slip your worm-tattooed hands into living flesh and reshape it at will or even blend it with inorganic substances.

Tom: We’ve avoided having a deliberate ‘Caster’ skill tree, again, as it was a trope we didn’t think worked in this setting, but instead, extended the abilities one would think of as ‘spells’ to be derived from equipment.
Or membership and training in a faction group

Matt: Instead characters acquire certain supernatural abilities that are more akin to superpowers than Vancian spells.

Tom: In that they’re always to hand; part of the character, as opposed to taking up a slot in your head.

Better yet, what kind of characters can you play?

Tom: Shall we do one example each and alternate?

Matt: A lawman whose face is a mask of stone, who tracks outlaws no matter where they may hide. Few can outdraw him, none can escape him.

Tom: A snake-oil salesman whose word is an ironclad contract., and is met with fear and trepidation, not because of their horns, or their ruddy skin, but because their pills and potions actually work.

Matt: An outrider for the Rail Barons, seeking to expand the growing webs of the great rail network and invite new arrivals to Crux to join the Ultharine States Alliance.

Tom: A dead man who has finally learned to live; a living ancestor, rewarded for serving faithfully all their life with the gift of blessed undeath, painted up in sacred icons of life and ready to undertake a journey in which they will drink, smoke, feast and frolic with all the zeal of someone who knows that they can’t die.

Matt: A visionary artist who escaped the oppression of the Hivelands, armed only with the power to move hearts and minds, spending each day one step ahead of their kinsmen who seek to bring them back in chains.

Tom: An officer and a Lady in the Swine-Mounted Cavalry, doing your duty and keeping the land safe from bandits with glistening sabre and trusty scattergun, equally at home at a state banquet, or the roughest of dive bars, with her trusty War Hog never far behind.

Matt: A bountyhunter who never sleeps until his quarry is caught, as implacable as an advancing storm and watchful as a hawk, and when close, subdues his target with the force of his own surpressed exhaustion.

Tom: An assassin who was framed for an unsanctioned murder of an important visiting dignitary, and has taken on the office of The Hanged Man, in order to clear their name, as their identity slowly fades, gradually giving in to the constant urgings of the geas woven into their armour.

Matt: A member of the Dustwalker tribes, having just come of age, scouring the world for her Wisdom, whatever it may be, maybe discovering the secret avenues within the raging storms, here to there in the blink of an eye. “The trick is, to get yourself good and lost.” the Elder said…

Tom: …And let’s not forget the theist-for-hire, who’ll believe in anyone if the money is right. There are many lonely former gods out there who are willing to pay good coin for some really zealous supplication, a little reminder of their glory days.

Where will our adventures take us?

Tom: Out there. New lands and new civilisations… Well, what’s left of them. There’ll obviously be some Tomb Raider/Indiana Jones-style delving into newly arrived ruins, in order to find the best loot before someone else stakes a claim to it. There’ll be the opportunity to visit exotic locations, and get yourself into all manner of mischief, intrigue, and chicanery.

Matthew: And of course there’s shard-prospecting, exploring the remnants of a newly-arrived dead world, whether that be to loot it for the treasures it contains, to inspect it for the threat it might pose for its neighbours or to decide if it has promise as a new addition to the nation that employs you.

Tom: Or sneaking into the Planar Observatory out of hours, to plot the time and location of the incoming shardfall before anyone else…

Matt: You may get several shards from the same world Of course there’s then a big rush to find all the “choice” shards and loot them of all their valuables and sell the location rights to the Rail Barons or whoever is looking to develop it.
Basically dungeons just fall from the sky.

Tom: The logical evolution of ‘rocks fall’, but these have PC-accommodating space inside.

Matt: Or, if the rocks hit from the underside, that’s how you get dungeons. It’s currently just headcanon but I picture Crux as being shaped like one of those old sherbet-filled Flying Saucer sweets.

Tom: It is now. You heard it here first. There is a Down-underside, but it’s largely desolate and not fit for habitation. It is theorised that There Be Dragons.

Matt: of course this is all just theory, only cranks and yahoos claim to have been “over the edge” to the Down-under.

Tom: Most importantly, I think, there’s no ‘right way’ to do it. There’s scope for whichever playstyle suits the group’s taste. whether they’re doing Blazing Saddles, Vikings, Dragon Age, House Of Flying Daggers or Unforgiven

Should we also venture the “what kind of things have influenced or inspired you while writing this?

Tom: I’d cite Neverwhere and American Gods, Preacher and Transmet, SLA Industries, Scar Night and Iron Angel by Alan Campbell, most of David Gemmell for the grandiose Big Damn Hero moments. The whole aesthetic of Into The Badlands, elements of Bioshock and  Dishonored, not quite so much Assassin’s Creed, Regretzio – Definitely The Borgias and almost definitely the Dark Souls series. I’d have to say that the biggest influence is down to researching viable technology and working out a plausible, or at least plausible *sounding* model for how a society works. Even if it is situated on the ‘shell’ of a leviathan hermit crab wandering around a swamp.

Matt: For my part I’d say China Miéville’s Bas-Lag trilogy first of all, particularly “Iron Council”. To that I’d add the Oathbound campaign setting and Fallen London for the charmingly weird details and John Hornor Jacobs’ “The Incorruptibles” and “Foreign Devils” for the Western stylings in a fantasy setting. Lovecraft of course gets a nod, though Crux borrows a lot more from the Dream Cycle than the Cthulhu Mythos (don’t worry though, there’s plenty of room for some eldritch horrors to pop up), and finally Clint Eastwood’s whole body of work in the Western genre.

Tom: Why did Clint Eastwood never do a cosmic lovecraftian horror movie?

Matt: A missed opportunity, for sure…High Plains Drifter veered toward it in places…

Tom: This bears rewatching, then.

* * *

Okay, so we hope that’s given you an idea of what we’re working towards, and whether you’d like to know more. If so, watch this space. There will be a facebook community page up and running in the next few days. We hope you like what you see, and are at least half as nerdy-keen as we are to be working on this.

Hard love.

Tom Cole (and Matt Keevil, on the other end of a messenger conversation)


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