Æternal Legends games take place in our world. The Unaware are the people you pass on the street or stand next to on the subway. The Aware see the world differently. The car mechanic at the end of the block is really a musclebound dwarf. His assistant is a craft-wise gnome. One of the college dropouts at the bar is a powerful wizard, trawling for guardians and apprentices between drinks. He’s just recruited the woman at the stool next to him. She decided it was better to be a Legendary hero than a database administrator.
The Unaware can’t see real magic. To them, the Clades are just eccentric strangers. Sorcery is coincidence and superstition instead of the boiling blood of Creation. Legends usually fall right off their radar. It’s not that the Unaware can’t see or interact with Legends, but something stops them from caring too much if an elf breaks into a corporate headquarters or a goblin steals somebody else’s car.
Magic is self-belief; being true to yourself in the face of adversity is the key to raw power. Knowing who you really are is the first step toward shaping magical world. Without that knowledge, you can’t even perceive the magic – you’re Unaware. With it, you can work miracles. While Legends are the most powerful Aware, they’re not the only ones who can summon flames or call lightning from a clear sky. Mine-knockers and alley witches populate the secret world, satisfying the same needs as mundane doctors and labourers.
Legends hone their magical natures by taking on a Sphere: an archetypal role that fits their beliefs. A Legend who wants to keep his family or neighbourhood safe joins the Sphere of Strength; a thinker who wants to know more about his Legendary state assumes the Sphere of Splendour. Legends join one of six Spheres at first, but some move on to even higher callings.
A gang of goblins shows off to new members on the streets of Brooklyn. The gang’s boss is a sorcerer who wants to make her mark as a big player. She turns vandalism into murder and with a snarl, throws a bolt of fire at a passing dwarf.
An Unaware shop clerk strides by a gang hanging out on a street corner, keeping his eyes forward as he counts the seconds until he’ll be late back from his lunch break. One thug shouts and gestures in indecipherable slang. Suddenly, a stocky man across the road screams and falls. The clerk glances back. Was some kind of fit? A heart attack? Only timing links the gang to the collapse – even if the fireball passed right through the clerk.
One of the Aware – a gnome barman on his way to work – sees the new wizard on the block and instinctively ducks back. Summoning fire in broad daylight isn’t the smartest thing for the gang to do, but getting mixed up would make him a target.
A Legend sees the attack. She pulls the dwarf to safety, checks him over and turns her attention to his attackers. The goblins pull their weapons but they’ve already lost. This is the Legend’s turf, and she vowed to keep it safe.
Legends eat, drink and breathe adventure. Whether they plot to save a local hero from falling to the Dark or face the goblin hordes of a Dark Lord intent on taking their city, no Legend leads a quiet life. Fortunately, there’s no lack of magical equipment to help them, from flaming swords to shotguns of dragon slaying. They walk to hidden, magical places to find strange creatures, solve ancient riddles, and progress on their personal journeys.
The magic that compels a Legend to a life on the edge also shields her from some of the consequences. The Unaware tend to ignore Legends. This even applies to adventurers kitted out in weapons and armour. When there are too many witnesses or extremely dogged, suspicious Unaware investigators, the Ministry of Administrative Affairs takes interest. The Ministry hides inside government departments, working in areas that Unaware governments scarcely imagine. Different departments cover everything from taxes and licensing for dangerous magic items to covering up the weirder things that even the Unaware might see. The Ministry is often ill-disposed toward Legends who can’t exercise the most basic discretion, and have Legends on hand to enforce their policies, if need be.
On Playing It Straight
Æternal Legends isn’t designed to be a cynical re-examination of the fantasy genre. This is a game about sincerity, idealism and a certain amount of innocence. That means it’s time to return to things you once dismissed as clichéd and time to commit to your characters and stories, even if you’re exploring familiar ground with them. Don’t resist the archetypes – celebrate them.
In Æternal Legends, wizards really do hire Legends in bars to explore ruins. To a Legend, it’s second nature to go on adventures and furthermore, it’s part of a spiritual journey. That’s the heart of the game: fantasy adventure is the mirror of a Legend’s soul, and even the most derivative stories reflect a search for a greater truth. Legends don’t meditate on reality’s nature. They find it in treasure chests, mazes and at the point of a Dark Lord’s sword. Take this “Gnostic quest” structure by the throat and you’ll play the game as it was designed to be played.