"The Age of Thunder has not ended."
"Aden will not slip quietly into the night."
In the early 1990s game publisher SSI was churning up RPGs
based on Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
and was the leader in that area. But the ADnD license was going to expire and relations with its owner TSR were getting progressively sour. Something new was needed. Thus Thunderscape: the World of Aden
Aden used to be a peaceful world where rulers were secretly guided toward bright future by a group of seers. Armies and weapons still existed, but large wars were a thing of the distant past. The discovery of a magic-boosting metal — manite — allowed a number of scientific breakthroughs and precipitated industrial revolution with magic and technology tied into a strange arcane art of mechamagic. In hindsight that was the golden age.
It all was changed one unremarkable day ten years ago. The sun was suddenly eclipsed by an unknown force. The darkness didn't last long, but in this short time nightmarish monsters — "nocturnals" — sprang from every shadow. Beasts long destroyed, terrors only imagined, and things no sane mind had ever contemplated all became real. Countless thousands were slaughtered and an untold number of villages and cities were burned. In hours Aden was plunged into chaos and anarchy. This event and the malevolent force behind it have been dubbed "Darkfall".
After a millennium of peace people were ill-prepared for this ruthless onslaught, and it seemed that mortals would perish without ever knowing the cause. But the people of Aden are hardier than that. With mechamagic, steam golem warriors and the many other strengths brought to bear by the nations of Aden, the world fights back against the Darkfall and its nocturnals.
Two computer games for MS-DOS, three novels and a D6/Masterbook tabletop role-playing game were released. By the time they were published SSI has already been bought by Mindscape. The new owner, allowed to finish the projects, but then cancelled everything. In 2012 the rights were acquired by Kyoudai Games
, which ran a successful Kickstarter
campaign for a new tabletop RPG, this time a Pathfinder
one. It has been released in 2014.
The video games were published in 1995 less than a month apart. They bore little semblance (other than mentioning Darkfall), were set on the opposite sides of the continent and featured unrelated plots. For years they stayed Abandonware
, but were picked up by GOG.com
in 2014. They are:
- World of Aden: Thunderscape frequently called just Thunderscape: A first-person real-time 3D RPG with turn-based combat. A group of heroes are sent to restore magic shields on mountain passes between Northland and nocturnal-infested area. Charitable reviewers compare it with Ultima Underworld, less kind recall Descent to Undermountain.
- Entomorph: Plague of the Darkfall: A Three-Quarters View action/adventure with alleged RPG elements. A lone hero tries to save the island kingdom of Phoros from some sinister plot involving giant sentient insects, transformations and Mind Control. Can be described as a grimmer, high-resolution Al-Qadim: The Genie's Curse. Somewhat influenced by The Legend of Zelda.
The novels are:
- The Sentinel (1996) by Dixie Lee McKeone. A young soldier struggles to find his place in the world after escaping servitude to a tyrant.
- Darkfall (1996) by Shane Lacy Hensley. A paladin and his trusted friends are tasked to escort a mage through hostile territory. Their path brings them close to unveiling the biggest secret of Darkfall.
- Indomitable Thunder (1996) by Mark Acres. Orphaned brother and sister have fought for survival every day since childhood. They struggle to get out of their ghetto into the greater world of Aden. And then they find a cause greater than themselves.
Contains examples of:
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Setting in general
- Adventure-Friendly World: Deliberately designed to allow diverse parties and enemies.
- After the End
- Applied Phlebotinum: Manite, the metal that can store spells. For example casting a heat spell on it makes it permanently hot. Although it's possibly not unique.
- Apocalypse How: Societal Disruption, at least Continental more likely Planetary. As for how, Darkfall employed many methods:
- Asskicking Equals Authority: How Lord Urbane came to power. He was a barely known mercenary warlord until he managed to knock together an army that stopped a large horde of nocturnals devastating Urbana.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: How other rulers managed to stay in power.
- Bug War: This will happen if the giant insects — ilithix — decide to expand their territory.
- Or if somebody needs something on their territory.
- They're even worse now, since the Brood Mother was corrupted by the Darkfall, and her newfound viciousness spread across the Hive Mind.
- Kyan uses insect mounts. War against Kyan will be similar.
- Cassandra Truth: Darkfall killed most of seers. A few disappeared without a trace. These days when a seer appears, he's probably a charlatan. Even if the seer is genuine, nobody would believe him. Except for nocturnals, who will try to kill him.
- Combat Medic: Healer class is one of the best for dealing damage. Radiant Order are one of the elite fighting forces in-universe, and they were the organisation of healers before the catastrophe.
- Cool Train / Tank Goodness: Armoured trains. They don't even need rails.
- Crapsack World: But it's too early to say if Status Quo Is God.
- Cyborg: Golemoids — people with parts of their bodies replaced with mechanisms. Bodies and minds eventually start breaking down, but life expectancy of cripples is even shorter. Scratch that, life expectancy of the front line warriors is often shorter than the time before Wasting starts manifesting.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: Especially far from fortified cities. Especially at night. The authors deliberately defined nocturnals vaguely to allow very diverse enemies.
- Evil Is One Big Happy Family: Zigzags. Stronger nocturnals and Corrupted may prey on weaker ones. But if a powerful Corrupted assembles an army, he can quickly put an end to any infighting.
- Face-Heel Turn: The Corrupted — people that were granted supernatural powers by Darkfall. Some can pass as normal, some look monstrous. Their powers vary greatly. It seems as if anybody can ask Darkfall and may be granted some power.
- Some didn't ask for that power, a nocturnal sensed the potential to become a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds and infused them with Darkfall powers before setting them loose. Thankfully, becoming Corrupted is not always the end - most retain some amount of their conscience and can become Fallen instead.
- Fantastic Racism: Ferrans were originally created as slaves, but got their freedom after a long and bloody war. Rapacians were once considered mentally inferior. Both facts are ancient history by now. Juraks are still regarded as savage dumb brutes and usually don't bother proving otherwise. Meanwhile goreaux are bothered by taller races looking down on them, but definitely aren't Compensating for Something with their mechamagical achievements. That said, all civilized races are more or less equal and a member of any race can appear anywhere and in any capacity.
- On the other hand, trolls are still considered little more than animals, and everybody despises ratlings, even rodent-based ferrans.
- Fantasy Gun Control: Averted. Primitive wheel-lock muskets and pistols are common.
- Five Races: Pretty standard humans, elves and dwarves. Plus magically-inclined fairy/hobbit "faerkin" and mechanically-inclined gnome/goblin "goreaux". There are several more races, though, more animalistic.
- Heel-Face Turn: The Fallen — people corrupted by Darkfall, but fighting against it.
- Hive Mind: Ilithix. Originally a fairly benign one, since they're naturally herbivores, but then the Brood Mother was seduced by the power of the Darkfall...
- Lizard Folk / The Reptilians: Rapacians. They are among the good guys, though.
- Loads and Loads of Races / Massive Race Selection: The video game Thunderscape allowed 8 PC races (human, elf, dwarf, faerkin, goreaux, rapacian, jurak, ferran) plus golem and troll NPCs. The tabletop games added a few more playable races. Pathfinder version promises to bring yet more, most notably insectoid Ilithix. And enemies are much more diverse.
- Magic Knight: Everybody knows a bit of magic and many warriors use it in battle in addition to blades, bows and guns.
- Magitek: From everburning stoves and lamps and enchanted bullets to steam golems, steam trains, steam guns. Usually powered by manite.
- Organic Technology: Kyan doesn't have genetic engineering yet, but is going in that direction with its selective breeding of insects.
- Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Strong, stout, equally proficient with axes and pistols, make good tunnel fighters. Some of them believe that dwarves seeing the sun was the blasphemy that brought Darkfall.
- Our Orcs Are Different: They are covered with fur, they are called "juraks", they have a deserved reputation of bloodthirsty savages, although Badass Bookworms are not that unusual. They've got impressive fangs. And they are among the good guys.
- Petting Zoo People / Uplifted Animal : Ferrans — humanoid-animal hybrids. "Humanoid" being any of Five Races. Actually, there are 3 branches of them: mammals (the most common), avians (nearly wiped out in their war for freedom) and reptiles (scarce due to low reproduction rate). They can only crossbreed with ferrans of the same branch.
- Primal Fear: The Darkfall's main ability - it finds Urban Legends and terrifying myths, then constructs a nocturnal based around that theme.
- Robot / Clockwork Creature / Tin-Can Robot: They are called golems.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: The ones who didn't are long dead.
- The Un-Reveal: Curse it to Infernus, what is Darkfall? Is it sentient? Is it merely a force of nature? Does it give orders to Corrupted? Why is it afraid of seers? No answer... yet.
- We ARE Struggling Together: The kingdoms of Aden seem to spend more effort preparing to fight their neighbours than actually fighting nocturnals.
- Zeppelins from Another World: Yzeem has those.
The game "World of Aden: Thunderscape"
- Arbitrary Headcount Limit: No more than 4 player characters, no more than 6 total.
- Heroic Sacrifice: When you enter Vangard Keep tower, Theros will stay behind to cover your rear and buy you some time.
- Money for Nothing: There are only 2 shops in the gamenote , their goods aren't very useful, and with over 100 merchant skill can buy low and sell high to clean out both shops.
- Self-Imposed Challenge: A glitch allows to start the game with just 1 character or even with no characters, only the NPC Theros. It is still possible to win.
- So Long, and Thanks for All the Gear: There are 2 places where an NPC is supposed to leave with all his/her gear (as the manual says): Theros will leave when you enter Vangard Keep tower (see Heroic Sacrifice); Selene will leave when you leave Vangard Keep tower. Either due to a last-minute change or to a bug they drop all their equipment on the floor of the location you leave, you may come back and pick it. How Theros is going to fight unarmed is not explained. Or maybe he got killed right on that spot.
- With This Herring: So your army is busy on the front lines. And then strategic passes become open, opening your rear to the enemy. How many soldiers do you send to retake the passes? Four. And they have to choose between good weapons and good armour.
The game "Entomorph: Plague of the Darkfall"
- Amnesiac Hero: The hero wakes on a shore barely remembering how he got there. When he comes with a plausible explanation (being thrown off a ship), he stops dwelling upon it. When he meets people he knew, he remembers them. Actually he's been thrown back in time by a time-travelling spider queen. This isn't his first attempt to save the islands. Which also explains his above-average martial prowess — he has already consumed some "juice" and got much faster and stronger.
- And Then John Was a Zombie: If you don't hurry in your last mission, you'll become a Blob Monster spewing out the juice that transforms humans into insects. Just like the queen of Phoros.
- Apocalypse How: Regional/Species Extinction. It is never said if Darkfall brought any nocturnals to the islands, but the islanders lost all their giant insects vital to their agriculture.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: From the moment you see them, it's clear, they are up to no good. Their wealth came from commoners using giant insects to do various works. Now that insects are gone, they want to transform commoners to insects.
- They may look and sound like pushovers, but they are deadly in combat even near the endgame.
- Bait-and-Switch Comparison: "You look like your sister. Only her biceps are bigger."
- Baleful Polymorph:
- The hero consumes various insect-derived substances to boost his strength and slowly transforms into a giant insect. Borderline example, since he knows of the risk and willingly takes it.
- The sinister plot central to the game is to trick inhabitants of Phoros into drinking stuff that turns them into insects that would work for the nobility. The next step of the plan is doing the same on the continent and eventually taking over the world.
- The source of the transforming substance is the queen of Phoros, who got transformed by a cursed scarab planted by an agent of Darkfall.
- Book Ends: In the intro T'Urthrax Mata says "How many more times must I encounter you?" and sends you back in time. Before the final showdown she says the same words, but this time you are better prepared.
- Dark Humour: Quite a few examples.
- If you try to save a brainwashed man from being eaten by a giant ant, he attacks you for "disturbing him while while he is feeding the ants".
- You find a corpse under a fallen tree. He's been driven out of the village for irresponsible spellcasting and was practising a spell to make trees fall to impress villagers to be let back.
- Dying as Yourself: The queen of Phoros. She does become a human when you kill her insect form, only to give you the last quest and die. Redemption Equals Death.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: All hives are ruled by queens. You'll have to kill them all eventually. In other words they are bosses, ranging from That One Boss through Puzzle Boss to Final Boss.
- Have We Met Yet?: The intro looks incomprehensible. That's because the spider travels in time. And the hero has been thrown to the past, but forgot everything.
- Hornet Hole: Actually it's a hive of man-sized bloodsucking bees. Ruled by That One Boss. The ant colony also comes close.
- Mood Whiplash: The game tries to be funny while staying true to the rather grim setting. And it isn't subtle.
- You start in a devastated village with dozens of fresh corpses, and barely save another from becoming the same.
- Then you help to summon a "beautiful nymph" who turns out to be a monstrous octopus. At least she does protect the village as promised.
- Then you meet funny Obviously Evil Harmless Villains feeding people some crap. (Both metaphorical and literal.) And equally funny clueless rebels.
- And then your friends start getting killed. And you can't do anything.
- The storyteller keeps commenting your actions and arguing with his audience until the end.
- See also Dark Humor.
- No Ontological Inertia: After you re-seal the scarab, all transformations are reverted. But the dead stay dead.
- Purple Prose: The storyteller commenting on the hero's actions.
- Stealth-Based Mission: Sometimes you need to use pheromones to blend in with the insects. Unless you wish to fight the whole colony.
The novel "Darkfall"
- Action Girl: Mara, Krysys.
- Badass Bookworm: Narl.
- Blood Sport: Appropriately called "splat". Involves fighting on a rickety frame far above ground. Killing opponents isn't obligatory.
- Dark Action Girl: Arkana. With retractable poisonous Femme Fatalons.
- Escort Mission: The first half of the book is escorting a mechamage who decided to change the employer and soundly fears the retribution. The second half was going to be kidnapping a teenage prince from his father and escorting him to his mother, but unforeseen circumstances conspired to make life more interesting.
- Famed In-Story / Living Legend: Grimlak.
- I Lied: The word of Ice Queen is unbreakable. Her sons, on the other hand, can promise anything... And then break the promise in favour of the queen's order.
- Knight In Sour Armour: Grimlak.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Spyre's ability to understand ilithix surely came at an appropriate moment.
- Noone Could Survive That: The death of Lonage Crouix is never shown. His executor only listened to his screams. This allows to bring him back in a sequel if it ever materializes.
- Redshirt Army: Anybody helping Grimlak risks dying for greater good. Especially if they were introduced less than a chapter ago and their names were never mentioned. Although names don't guarantee anything.
- Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Lonage Crouix gets exactly the reward he was promised. And is left with the reward in the middle of Ice Wastes near a very unfriendly group of snowmads. Although he is killed not for betrayal, but for his earlier actions.
- The Trickster: Spyre.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Spyre's impulsiveness created more problems for Grimlak and Narl than all enemies combined.
- Would Hurt a Child: Lord Urbane is more than willing to golemize his children in attempts to create a perfect heir. Most die in the process or shortly after, but he can sire more.