“They say whoever controls the flow of history, can write the future. For centuries, The Council has curated the past. But now they are silent, the Reclamation Act ratified, and history once again open to study. The future has yet to be written and the pen is in your hands.”
What is Acheron?
- At its core Acheron is about sacrificing your humanity, both temporarily and permanently, to fight against the horrors that inhabit the world. Whether they be cultists, madmen, beasts, or the strange Outsiders.
- Mystery, monsters, and magic collide in this 1930s era setting where The Government controls the path of History, Factions war for resources, and The Wall looms forever upon the horizon.
- We think tabletop role-playing should be just as focused on Roleplay as it is on combat.
- To that end we have implemented a free-form progression system that allows players to build nearly any character they can imagine, from a blind telekinetic to a Demon infested pacifist.
- Merits and Flaws allow players to spend or receive experience to gain major, character defining bonuses or detriments.
- A realistic Sanity system allows characters to experience three major categories of trauma: Moral, Violent, and Supernatural. It also allows them to regain sanity through different means such as comradery with friends and psychological treatment.
- Our Sanity system reflects the fact that this is a mature game with mature themes. It’s important that Players and Game Masters have the opportunity to explore these themes but should also be aware of their potentially triggering nature.
- There is a huge range of the types of characters that can be created and how they may progress and evolve throughout a campaign will always be different.
- Simplified Realism informs all parts of Acheron. This has led to the implementation of deadly, gritty combat and creation of a believable world and cultures.
- On average a player starts with 6 health, and a 9mm pistol deals 1d10 damage.
- Cover and armor play a large roll in combat. Without taking them into account one will surely parish.
- Many weapons can penetrate armor and cover can be destroyed.
- A large variety of statuses, both physical and mental, can change the flow of combat and a game session.
- No one enjoys their character dying due to an unlucky roll, however. So, we’ve implemented a Die Hard system where players can choose to take permanent flaws to keep their character alive.
- Magic and Mancies (Mancies are akin to sorcery in other settings), are an integrated part of the world and can be used for both Roleplay and combat.
- Call of Cthulhu, Lovecraft, and Cosmic Horror
- Bloodborne is an amazing game with an amazing atmosphere. It inspired a major faction in the world (The Hunters Guild) and many of the more classical monsters in our world.
- Call of Cthulhu has had many iterations but it’s use of Sanity as a primary concern for players inspired us to iterate and bring it to the forefront of Acheron.
- Lovecraft and other Cosmic Horror was the basis for the Wall, planes of Magic, and Outsider enemies within the world. Giving our setting a strangeness that cannot be understood or fathomed by normal people without suffering madness.
- Strong foundation from Dungeons and Dragons 3.5
- 3.5 D&D set the standard for d20 based tabletop roleplaying games. It influenced our core stats and the way skills function and progress in the game.
- World of Darkness/Chronicles of Darkness
- World of Darkness was the foundation of our free-form progression system and using experience points to create and advance your character.
- Dishonored and the SCP foundation
- Dishonored has an atmosphere we wanted to give to our world, where even the city streets can be oppressive yet there is still a wealth of culture, history, and sense of discovery.
- The organizations and large body of work the SCP foundation has produced inspired a lot of the secretive aspects of our Government and other factions.
- Both Dishonored and SCPs were huge influences on our Outsider enemies which can at times be stranger than the Eldritch horrors which roam the world.
- The Witcher 3
- The monsters in the Witcher all have a weakness you can exploit if prepared, we wanted to emulate this fact to give the enemies you fight more depth.
- Value of simplicity in gaming and putting the focus on Roleplay.
- Numenera also influenced the way characters level up in Acheron. Instead of getting experience from every monster killed or objective performed you gain it for completing milestones along a quest.
- Science and History
- Our core team is composed of a Biologist, Engineer, and Anthropologist. For these reasons we have focused on crafting systems and lore that are realistic and believable. Many historical events, such as the Civil Rights movement, suffrage movement, and Anarchism movement of the early 20th century as well as the governmental reaction to those movements were huge influences on the world of Acheron. As were the industrial revolution and tycoons of the time.
- Acheron is set in a 1930’s era world dominated by a singular Government and many powerful factions.
- The totality of the world is surrounded by a massive Wall, thought impenetrable until the Breach which erased centuries of progress and loosed countless horrors into the world.
- The world is broken up into Districts, all ruled by the Government. However, each has its own Governor, laws, culture, and systems of governance.
- At the center of the world, in the Central Districts, most do not believe in magic or monsters while those on the fringes of society know the truth about magic, or at least a part of it.
- History has been covered up and curated since the Breach. Now is the first time it is legal to study the past. This has led to a new age of adventure and societal renaissance. The Reclamation Act, our inciting incident, is the driving force for this shift in culture.
- Magic has grown stronger in the world after the Breach. All domains of which have their own flavor.
- Arcane – Anti-magic, direct damage, and buffs for allies. Uses the Arcane energy found in Ley Lines which crisscross the world.
- Fay – Situational and sly. Controls the lines of fate and allows for trickery and rerolling failed checks.
- Spirit – As varied as nature. Spirit magic allows for many play styles and has three modifiers for every spell based on the leaves, trunk, and roots of the world tree.
- Demonic – Fast and dirty. Demonic magic is about hurting the enemy more than you hurt yourself.
- Eldritch – Terrifying for both the caster and enemy. Sap Sanity and tear at the mind of your enemy ignoring the mundane defenses people surround themselves with.
- Mancies are inhuman abilities that allow seemingly normal men and women set fire to buildings, persuade even the most stubborn enemy, and move objects with their minds.
“Though the majority of citizens don’t even believe in magic, magical ability is possessed by many in the world of Acheron. Many different organizations and peoples have differing ideals concerning the use of magic. Some say it’s not real but are still cautious and hateful of anything they can’t understand while others believe in its existence but believe it is a corrupting force used for evil.”
Diverse of heredity and place of birth but largely uniform in overarching culture since the Governments rise to power.
Creative and curious humans have an eye constantly towards the future.
Humans have many outliers and no singular direction of action unlike other pedigrees such as the Ellsons.
An ancient, tribal people who manage to retain slivers of their unity even under the boot of the Government.
War Born honor and express their heritage though they know little of it.
War is ingrained into every facet of their society from dance and storytelling to education and play.
The most diverse of all great families, the Greys believe in passion. Marrying, generation after generation, to the most brilliant and ingenious minds of the age.
Estranged and odd compared to their counterparts, the Greys are generally seen as outsiders by the masses despite their diversity.
A great stain blemishes the Grey bloodline, the opening of the Breach by one of it’s once most enlightened ancestors.
Older than the Breach and Government, the Ellson house has stood the test of time.
Closed off and suspiciously similar of feature, this family has kept itself in power by controlling the majority of banking across nearly all districts in Acheron.
Aristocrats often thought to be stuck in a bygone age, the Ellsons play for future reward, never allowing themselves to be bogged down by today’s issues.
Gripes of the Church:
Gripes are children born to those in the Twin God’s clergy.
Raised as servants of the Church they may become priests to spread the holy word or Pariahs to protect the faithful.
Those among the Gripes with gender neutral features are prized and hermaphrodites honored as the highest human form of Nyx, goddess of chaos, and Darium, god of order.
Exalted were once outcasts, lepers, plague victims, outlaws, and banished. Their exile under the shadow of the Wall has twisted and mutated them for generations. Now they are barely recognizable as human in origin.
Often Exalted will form conclaves and extensive “families” that perform the dirty work in civilized society others shy away from. Primarily this takes the form of great executioner lineages.
Now, with the Reclamation Act passed, Exalted may walk city streets freely for the first time in memory and become a greater part of the society they’ve been shunned from for so long.
Colorful of skin and personality, Fae Darkleechers are often outgoing and boisterous which their subculture reflects.
Known as the most exotic Darkleechers the Fae often integrate freely into human society where invited or live among Darkleechers as artists, philosophers, and intellectuals.
Their natural connection with Fae magic and Line of Fate make them quite crafty and drawn to mysticism such as horoscopes and fortune tellers.
Spirit Darkleechers are as diverse both in looks and culture as nature itself.
Often these Darkleechers are known for their wisdom but are also known as feral and dangerous among many closed-minded human groups.
A deep connection with the natural world and spirit realm give them a great amount of empathy for all living things but can also lead to a stoic cold heartedness for humankind.
The most human, both in looks and culture, Demonic Darkleechers are often seen mixing freely between both Human and Darkleecher society.
Generally they work as businessmen, lawyers, accountants, and managers. But they are also known for propping up the Freeman family with their hard, back breaking work in factories and fields.
Connection with the Demonic plane has given these Darkleechers a strong constitution and that constitution has allowed them to garner a strong sense of community.
The most alien of all Darkleechers, the Eldritch cousins are often positioned deep within Darkleecher society or at the fringes of Human society. Although this is often not by choice.
Sly and suspicious due to their connection with the Eldritch plane they also have great insight into people, places, and all things unseen by other eyes.
These Darkleechers see themselves as doing the dirty work others do not in many cases, acting as fixers, assassins, and smugglers. However, this is just as often not the case.
Soulmenders are not truly a race of their own and instead are born by capturing a soul within a Soulmetal phylactery. This soul can belong to a Human or Darkleecher.
Once the soul is captured however, the being loses all memory of who they were and what they have done. Some skills remain but the mind is blank of all connections.
This blankness leads many to call Soulmenders monsters while others welcome those saved from death as dear family and friends.
“Darkleechers appeared shortly after The Breach; hundreds of thousands washed up upon the shores without any memory of where they had come from or who they were. The Human population was split on the issue of what to do with them in many places, while others chose to treat them as a pest to be eradicated. Most people thought that Darkleechers were a dark omen, marking great misfortune to come. There were riots in the streets, mass lynchings, inhumane experiments by science cults, and a wave of mass hysteria. Eventually, the Government intervened, resulting in the First Race War. This treatment molded Darklenchers to distrust, to hate, and to become more cunning than the humans who terrorized them.
The Government: The Government is run in name by the National Republic House, which consists of five representatives from each District (Anarchist or otherwise). In reality it is ruled by the Council of Thirteen, never seen but always felt. The Council influences everything though Cerberus, the heads of the Agents, National Police, and Paranormal Research division. On the whole people trust the Government in the Central Districts, however Anarchy brews everywhere, and allegiances to the Government are weak in Districts dominated by other factions. The Government would never admit openly that many place their loyalty elsewhere and does what they can to curb dissenters at every level. The Government fights against disorder, watches the Mages, chains the Mancers, and makes sure the nightmares of the world remain at its fringes.
Church of the Twin Gods: When the Martyrs gave their lives for Unity no one thought the Church of the Twin Gods would be the result. However, hundreds of years later the followers of Nyx, Goddess of Chaos, and Darium, God of Order, find themselves sharing the same roofs and working side by side to spread the teachings of the Twin Gods. These teachings are canonized in the Central Districts but more fringe Darium and Nyxian cults can be found in many townships and cities preaching radical beliefs. On the whole the Church values balance of person, where both God and Goddess have equal influence. Therefore, many within The Church try to make themselves more androgynous and hermaphrodites are praised and groomed with care by clergy.
Greys: A lineage born out of pragmatism, the Greys are a family who have become the leaders in industry, science, medicine, philosophy, art, and more. It is through marriages to the most brilliant and dedicated people, generation after generation, that this dominance has occurred. Grey’s attempt to breed with whoever is a protege in their field, no matter what that field is. For this reason, the Grey family is highly mixed in race and social origin. Even Darkleechers and Exalted have made their way into the Grey family. Pragmatic, brilliant, odd, eccentric, dedicated. All these words can be used to describe the Greys. Brutal, absentminded, and unethical are also words that describe many in the family.
Ellsons: An old family, so ancient in origin their history has been lost even to themselves. Ellsons own the majority of banks in all Districts. This gives them the finances to stay in power, even in places where they are unwanted. Generationally minded, they’ve invested in mining precious stones and metals, acquiring art and artifacts, and most recently historical research. Many branches spread out from the Ellson tree, but they all share the same trait of cold calculation that has kept them on top for centuries. They enact their power through their banks, schools of Mathematics, and Tax Collectors – persons trained since childhood to calculate risk and reward on a deadly level and see that debts are paid in gold or blood.
Freemen: The Freemen fought long and hard for their place in the world. Darkleechers who unified after several bloody wars with humanity, the Freemen hold the major crop producing Districts in Acheron. With permission from the Government of course. They value their space, preferring to live a more rural lifestyle. Art, history, and a varied culture are important to the Freemen who feel they have been suppressed for generations. Segregationists mostly, the Freemen live their lives outside the Central Districts farming, fishing, shipping, and more. This, and their innate connection to the magical planes, makes them more likely to partake in magical rituals, spirit healing, and other customs many Humans generally don’t believe in.
Historians of Galilee: An ancient cult of Historians and Researchers. They are perhaps the only group as Dogmatic about studying ancient artifacts and technology as the Greys. While the study of history was banned for generations the Historians of Galilee disobeyed, researched, discovered, and were executed for it. Now that the Reclamation Act has passed and History is open to study once more, many have joined the ranks of the Historians. Universities of all types employ their ranks as professors and researchers, many of which had never been a part of the group, at least officially, until recent years. Their dogmatism is feared by many who think history should be laid to rest, and the Church of the Twin Gods see them as a religious cult. On an individual level however, the Historians seem to want one thing above all else, truth.
Hunters Guild: Many in the world think monsters are just bedtime stories, things that people made up because of too many nights spent in the dark. But Hunters know beasts roam the world and do everything they can to fight against them. Those from all walks of life become Hunters. Many Greys, Ellsons, Servants, and Farmers have walked the same halls, hunted the same game, all without care for their previous station. Hunters keep the world safe in a way the Government attempts to, but too often fails at. Many powerful people fund the Guild or are a part of it. They operate within the law, mostly, but don’t let anyone stand in their way if a Beast needs to be slain.
Wexler Investigation Agency: A relatively new faction on the playing field. The Wexler Investigation Agency gives smaller factions the strong-arm big players have always enjoyed, for a price of course. Their ranks are ex-cops, private investigators, magicians, Mancers, and even Exalted. The pay is good and morals loose. While they would never admit it, the Wexlers deal in death just as much as security and investigation. However, many of their rank still have clean hands and those who don’t get lost in the crowd, buried in bureaucratic anonymity and red tape only Government Agents can cut through with ease.
Game Size and Content
- Acheron’s Core Rulebook aims to be an all-encompassing package.
- This includes what would normally be found in a “Players Handbook”
- What would normally be found in a “Game Masters Guide”
- And what would normally be found in a “Bestiary”
- A dozen pre-generated characters
- And at least one Module and game hooks to get players started.
- We would like to include more extensive expansions in the future but are focused on making a complete package out of our core rule book.
- We also aim to deliver gorgeous character art, environmental art, and maps.
- In addition to all the above content we have a list of extensive, optional rule which can increase and decrease the difficulty of different aspects of the game according to what Game Masters and Players prefer.
- In the same vein, we have done our best to make sure different mechanics, such as Magic and Mancies, could be cut away completely while still allowing Players and Game Masters a complete experience. We did this because we know many like to play games in their own worlds and while the setting is ingrained with our systems, we also wanted to make our systems portable.
Types of Games Acheron is Suited For
- Acheron, as mentioned above, is a mature game. This is due to the themes that are in the world. However, we also focus on fun and think a lot of different game types can be enjoyed by players in our world.
- Adventure: History is open to rediscovery! This opens a lot of doors for daring, Indiana Jones like adventures where you’re trying to beat other groups, or even whole factions, to the punch.
- Mystery: Magic, Mancies, and even typical abilities lead to many options for mysteries. We have ghosts, artifacts, monsters, murders, organized crime! If it can be investigated, we have it covered.
- On this note our abilities, monsters, magics, etc. can all be mistaken for others by design. This makes it necessary for players to investigate even if it’s a quest as simple as “a monster is terrorizing this village.”
- Horror: There are a lot of different settings and creatures in the world. Many cults and madmen. Horror of almost any type can be played in Acheron and the Sanity system, we believe, does a good job of allowing whole campaigns to be Horror based with little to no combat.
- Thriller/Spy: With the many factions, abilities, and roleplay options in Acheron we think that thriller and spy games are a great fit! While PvP is not necessarily promoted in our system we do keep it in mind while balancing so double or triple crosses can happen while playing games where factions are at war, even if the war is cold.
About Dark World Studios
Dark World Studios is an independent game developer with a small core team of three individuals. We are a Biologist, Engineer, and Anthropologist. Our backgrounds inform the worlds and systems we create. We also have a support network that includes several artists/play testers with their own informative backgrounds such as ex-military and geology. While Acheron is our first major project, we’ve had experience designing other, forever unknown worlds and systems, both independently and together. It is our hope to deliver an intriguing and fresh experience to both new players and veterans alike.