Welcome to Star Crusade.
Star Crusade is a MUX set in the universe of Fading Suns, an award-winning tabletop role-playing game produced by Holistic Design. Set at the dawn of the sixth millenium, Fading Suns is a science fiction passion play, a story about humanity's grim fate - and bright hopes - among the stars. Central to the Fading Suns setting are themes like the Quest, mankind's relationship to the spiritual, the role of technology in society and the character of human nature.
The year is 5001 AD, one thousand years after the fall of the Second Republic, a universe-spanning society of technology and learning, and one thousand years after every star in the sky began to fade mysteriously, losing light for no apparent reason. The fading suns phenomenon ushered humanity into a New Dark Age, a time of feuding noble houses, church sects and guilds that mankind is only now hoping to emerge from. That hope comes in the form of Alexius I, the recently-crowned Emperor and victor of fifty years of war.
The MUX is set on Yathrib, the recently-discovered planet where the Prophet of the Universal Church received his revelation of the Holy Flame. Yathrib is a world at war, riven between the faithful few crusaders of the Known Worlds and the infidel Kurgan Caliphate - but it is also a planet of mysteries, long lost to the jumpweb. Is its rediscovery a chance for a new beginning, or does it portend the end of days?
This brief introduction to the Star Crusade MUX is by no means exhaustive, and for more detailed resources on Fading Suns we recommend the Quick-Start PDF published originally by Holistic Design, as well as the RPG books themselves.
What is Fading Suns?
Fading Suns is a space fantasy setting set at the dawn of the Sixth Millenium, about a thousand years after the fall of a great interstellar democracy (the Second Republic) that spanned the stars. Much technology has been lost, and the scattered planets - the Known Worlds - are ruled by feudal lords in a sort of New Dark Ages. There is also a very powerful Church as well as the League, merchant guilds who have a monopoly on star travel and technology. All of the planets are linked not via hyperdrive or lightspeed but by moon-sized rings, the Jumpgates, each of which link to a limited number of planets. In total, the Known Worlds plus the nearby alien or barbarian planets known to man number only 50 or so planets, though at the height of the Second Republic there were about 200 worlds.
The setting's recent history is one of war and chaos; for fifty years, the noble houses, Church, and League have been fighting amongst themselves over who will be Emperor of the Fading Suns, and only recently has a victor - Emperor Alexius - achieved a fragile peace. Now, he tries to unify society while sending out noble Questing Knights to bring a measure of justice to the manifestly unjust society of the Known Worlds and to seek answers to the setting's great mysteries.
The setting's greatest mystery of all is the Fading Suns themselves. Fading Suns is space fantasy, not science fiction, and the death of science is an important theme. A thousand years ago the stars began to inexplicably fade; science was unable to explain why the stars were fading or even predict their effects, as the expected physical changes in temperature or climate did not occur in the fashion science would predict. This failure of science was a contributing cause to the death of the Second Republic, and one conflict in the setting is the reconciling of faith and science.
What Makes Fading Suns Special?
Many settings have lords and ladies in space; what makes Fading Suns different?
The setting's designers described Fading Suns as 'a futuristic passion play', and that sentiment separates it from other settings. Historically, the passion plays were medieval morality stories told about the death and resurrection of Christ; while Fading Suns isn't about that, it is about the death of human civilization and its potential for rebirth. Fading Suns is in some ways a post-apocalyptic setting - it is set amidst fading stars in the last days of mankind, and the fundamental question it asks is whether or not humanity deserves to have a future. The setting seeks to ask heroes to chose between temporal success and doing what is right; it asks them to question the difference between what society tells them is good and what seems to be good inside, and it does not have easy answers to these questions.
Fading Suns has a powerful church that is both the source of a great deal of misery and also one of the only moral forces in the setting. It has nobility who both exploit their people and serve as bastions against greed and dehumanization. It has guilds who celebrate freedom and democratic values but sell human beings into slavery - and it asks characters to try to do the right thing amidst all these forces, particularly when doing the right thing may cost them personally.
Few other games place questions about right and wrong center stage in the way that Fading Suns does, nor do they make the answers to moral questions so difficult to discern - and that gives the setting a backbone others lack. Of course, the passion play story isn't the only thing great about Fading Suns: it has politics that are easy for players to become involved in, a natural framework for adventure, a wide diversity of playable characters and a vast array of places and people to tell stories about.
What About Star Crusade?
Star Crusade is set on Yathrib, which is a desert planet lost for a thousand years. It is the site of an important religious event - the Church's founding Prophet received a great revelation there - and it is the site of a great military conflict between Known Worlds crusaders and a foreign power known as the Kurgan Caliphate.
Fading Suns, importantly, is King Arthur + Dune in space, and Star Crusade is King Arthur + Dune + Kingdom of Heaven in space. The game has strong themes about community vs. independence, as characters are on a frontier where they can stake out claims for themselves, as well about collective and individual faith and the role of religion in society. Also, it has knights with blasters and swords who fight space Arabs while cocky Han Solo pilots fly starships overhead.
In feel, Fading Suns draws deeply from classic science fiction and fantasy roots. Gene Wolf's Book of the New Sun is something the designers cited as inspiration, and the setting also has clear, deep roots in Dune. Parts of the world feel quite a bit like Warhammer 40,000, though on a smaller scale, and the setting also has classic fantasy analogues in the Arthurian cycles and even Game of Thrones, though in truth the game was published before Game of Thrones saw print.
Fading Suns has a lot of historical inspiration as well; there are broad nods to history, with the Fall of the Second Republic standing in for the fall of Rome and the history of the setting mirroring Europe's struggle through the Dark Ages. Not all of Fading Suns' inspirations are medieval, though - the Emperor Wars that just finished have an end-of-innocence like World War I, while other places channel the Thirty Years' War or even Vietnam. Star Crusade, particularly, draws a great deal on the historical Crusades, though there are also strong threads of the Spanish reconquista and even the Eastern Front in World War II.
Thematically, Fading Suns has other sources. The setting's designers are avowed Joseph Cambpell fans, and so the Hero's Journey is built into the core of the setting. Religious influences and imagery abound, not just from the Christ story but from Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Mayan mythology and Gnosticism.
What Do People Do?
Star Crusade, the MUX, is still young, but we have three broad groups of characters - intrigue, military, and questing characters.
Intrigue characters play fiefholders, spies, and other political figures, and they have to deal with regular political issues sparked by staff. Example problems that generate shifting alliances and RP include appointments to important positions, whose allies inherit fiefs and the balance of power between the nobles, Church and guilds. Because there is a semi-parliamentary court of nobles and ranking priests, a great deal of RP occurs in lining up other PCs to support some proposal by horse-trading issues of importance.
Military characters focus more on the ongoing war with the Kurgans, though they get pulled in to both political and adventuring stories. Military characters plot plans and strategy with other characters, try to make friends with intrigue characters so they can be given command over joint armies, and look at enemy-held areas as targets ripe for conquest. They may also go on smaller expeditions to try to achieve discrete military goals.
Questing characters explore this newly rediscovered world, trying to find clues to its mystic history and see what they can learn about the source of the Fading Suns. Staff runs regular questing TPs - one or two a week - and so adventuring characters have a lot to do, with RP in between TPs to investigate information they have found or share it with those in the know. In addition to adventure and derring-do, questing characters get to 'put together the puzzle', as there are several broad setting mysteries that staff give small pieces to in each TP.
Of course, in between all these things are ordinary social RP as well as TPs that draw everyone into the game, like attacks on the city (the Known Worlders are at war) or other events. Moreover, there are smaller stories that don't fit neatly into any category - stories about psi and the occult, for instance, or about the conflict between spy agencies - that affect characters of all persuasions as they get pulled into the loop.
Play generally takes place in Akko, the capital city of the Known Worlder territory, though TPs take place elsewhere. Eventually, some fiefs will make it on the grid, but for right now play is centered in the city.
While there are a great diversity of potential characters, some general models come up again and again.
- Barons and Baronesses
- Lords and ladies with fiefs make up the backbone of the intrigue characters, though they also often end up military or even questing characters. As peers, they have votes in the Crusader Council and often have ambitions to become greater lords. There are almost always baronies available for political characters.
- Bishops and Political Priests
- Just as there are lords temporal there are lords spiritual, and the princes of the Church have as much if not more power than their noble peers. These characters also play the political game, but must struggle even more reconciling faith, morality and obedience to the Church
- Merchant Princes
- High guilders - great merchants, criminal kingpins, and the like - have different political goals, seeking to have their guild or business profit. They often become power brokers, offering resources to needy priests and lords in exchange for some cut of the action.
- Crusader captains
- Yathrib is a world at war, and thousands of crusaders pour into the planet. Many of them come in crusader companies, a few dozen knights plus associated soldiers led by an offworld lord. These crusader captains are seeking land, glory, and the liberation of the holy city and the mass of crusaders gives them political and military muscle. These characters have the potential to conquer a fief for themselves at the head of the charge.
- Brother Battle
- The warrior-monks of the Brother Battle are unparalleled Church soldiers with powered armor and intensive training. They fight for faith, but are largely independent of the Church hierarchy and represent a potent independent force. Similar to the Brother Battle are the Swords of Lextius, Church knights sworn more directly to the Church hierarchy.
- The premier mercenaries are the Muster Guild, but soldiers for hire in general profit on Yathrib. Pilots, infantry - individuals and commanders - all are needed and other PCs are constantly seeking to hire mercenaries to forward their plans.
- Adventuring knights, whether they are lone crusaders, members of the Emperor's Questing Knights, or just glory-seeking young nobles fill Yathrib. These are characters who will dash after a rumor of some interesting place or person in trouble, and they also often get involved in military raids and small-scale actions as junior officers or individual cavaliers.
- Inquisitive priests seeking answers to occult mysteries make excellent questing characters. Many are members of the Eskatonic Order, a sort of hermetic order of wandering monks, while others are Amalthean healers, demon hunters, or itinerant priests. Sometimes, they have theurgy, packing occult magics to aid their companions.
- Explorers, Archaeologists and Treasure-Seekers
- The guilds have many free spirits seeking profit and promise over the next hill. Charioteer transport pilots, Scraver archaeologists and Engineer technologists seek lost ruins and artifacts to sell, adapt, or just learn about. Others may serve as bodyguards to nobles or the Church or may just use the profits from boring businesses to finance a sense of adventure as a member of some exploring fraternity.