At the time of the Babylonian Empire, humanity was sucked from the safety and order of the Cosmos into a realm of chaos called the Void. Humanity was scattered among the stars. Some managed to find their way to the eternal city of Llyhn, where they were able to band together in order to survive in the alien cosmopolis. This is the scene that Christoffer Schultz Sevaldsen has set for us in his cosmic survival horror RPG Black Void.
What I like about what I’ve seen of Black Void is that it depicts humanity in a weak and vulnerable position. In Llynh, humans have managed to carve out their own district, but it is a slum in comparison to the opulent alien districts nearby. In this caste-based urban society, humans are at the bottom of the ladder, and there are a lot of aliens who would like to destroy or enslave them. Because the city is so diversely alien there is no standard morality. Morals are a point of view. The city is founded at the border between the Cosmos and the Void, where the veil between the two is thin, and it seems like this makes it an attractive place for alien cults who worship the strange and powerful entities that live there.
When it comes to making player characters, Black Void is very nonlinear and modular. All player characters are human (although there are options for creating ‘halfbreed’ characters with alien traits) and abilities are acquired or improved using a point-buy system. At the game master’s discression, player characters can also increase in enlightenment (by increasing their knowledge of the Void) or influence (by gaining power over others).
In the quickstart rules there are options for gaining boons through blood magic. To use blood magic, a character has to ritually sacrifice another creature. Depending on how the ceremony goes, they will get access to a range of beneficial options. There’s also a chance of a botched ritual, which might lead to negative effects. I like the fact that this makes magic seem a bit more dangerous and costly. It seems more like how I would expect magic to work in the ancient human world, and also helps to make the setting seem strange and alien.
The Black Void Kickstarter campaign launches April 11. In the meantime, you can get the quickstart rules and adventure via the form here.
Spool of Ironsilk
A medium-sized spool of dull grey thread (50ft) with the tensile strength of two-inch thick corded hemp rope. Given the fineness of the thread, gloves are advisable if attempting to climb…
A finely crafted clear-glass fountain pen with a polished bronze head and trim. If this pen is traced across a signature while dry, it “records” the signature exactly and can be made to reproduce it when used. Only one signature can be stored at a time.
A 3/3 square puzzle cube with six different face materials: silk, leather, bone, wood, steel, gold. Completing one solid face of the cube and touching it to a surface of the corresponding material dissolves that object into dust.
A pure white acorn. When held in moonlight, an ancient word for “Beginning” appears etched around its shell.
A cheaply made copper alloy pocket-watch stuck at “3:54.“ If fiddled with, the watch surrenders a poorly inserted hollow back to its inside cover. When this circular plate is removed, the true inside cover is seen to have a series of numbers engraved into it. These numbers indicate a fixed grid coordinate somewhere in the nearest ocean and a rotating cycle of annual dates (one every 3 months).
A multicoloured, woven paper tube that constricts gently when pulled in both directions. If two different individuals insert a finger in either side of the toy and tug gently, a permanent psionic link is forged between them allowing for telepathic communication for up to one mile.
Horn of Plenty
A tightly woven wicker basket in the shape of a coiling horn. It smells faintly of cinnamon and sparkles visibly in moonlight. Once per month, this basket can produce a bountiful supply of fruits, vegetables, and grains. It activates when someone nearby says any form of thanks.
A plain glass hourglass about twelve inches tall. Affixed on either end is a round wooden base carved from a dark wood. The glass is extremely durable, showing no marks or scratches, and, somehow, the sand always flows upwards.
A fist-sized geode coloured a dull grey. Whenever any elemental creature comes within 100ft of the geode, it begins to glow dimly. Once per day the geode can be used to banish an elemental by touching it to the creature.
A single-edged steel dagger with a dark leather hand-grip. In temperatures below freezing, the edge of the blade appears frosted white and becomes impossibly sharp. When chilled, this dagger can carve through steel and stone, making it exceptionally good at penetrating armour (always inflicts maximum damage).