Themes and Dramas
Star Crusade has a story -- one told primarily through the players, though also through the broad off-camera sweep of metaplot floating around in staff minds. In general, we conceive of Star Crusade as a drama told in three acts: right now, we are in the midst of Act I, setting up for that opening act's conclusion.
Act I: Rising Action
The Story So Far
- As the Flavian Crusade trickled off and new crusaders took back lands from the Kurgans, tensions began to flare along old lines, between the Justinians and the De Moley and between the landed lords and the landless crusaders.
- For many years, Master Theo of the Brother Battle had served as a caretaker for the Crusader State, but pressure from the Patriarch meant he was replaced as constable by Sir William, an ambitious and tyrannical Sword of Lextius.
- As the war season began again, the Known Worlders had success on the eastern and southern fronts, conquering Zatan and Alivere and beating back a Kurgan landing force at Teldam, but there were glimmerings of trouble elsewhere as Kurgans began to invade the south and there were warning signs in the Craglands, where internal divisions and Kurgan spies were sowing discord. Much of this fighting was brutal on both sides, beginning with the Rape of Alivere by Crusaders but including crusader attacks on Kurgan pilgrims, the burning of churches by Kurgan pirates, the expulsion and execution of Kurgan sympathizers from Jopha and Ghilat and various Kurgan atrocities at the Fall of Ghilat.
- Sir William began to enact more and more tyrannical acts, including the infamous Statute of Dissents and Statute of Lotteries, which appropriated land from political opponents and awarded them to poor refugees. Crusader lords like Count Antonio of Oultrejoyeaux supported him, while others actively defied him, including Countess Amber of Johburg and Count Renaud of Leon. Finally, as he began to make final steps to consolidate control over the Crusader State, he was murdered, apparently by his chaplain.
- Even though the Known Worlder forces were winning in the Craglands, treachery struck a great blow: Lord Martin of Newbridge, one of Auberry's vassals, betrayed his liege and the Crusader State to ally with the Kurgans, taking the Great Keep of Sidon in the infamous Traitor's Banquet.
- The death of Sir William inflamed tensions among the refugee camps, already hubs of discontent and anger, and their nascent rebellion represents a growing threat to the integrity of the state -- and others seemed to have noticed this. Badlanders from the wastelands of Pilgrims' Landing attempted to break open the camps, spilling chaos into the city, and were only barely turned back at the Battle of Roadfall.
The Known Worlders are engaged in several struggles, internal and external.
- Internal challenges
- The refugee camps are growing more and more unruly, and either definitive steps are going to need to be taken to increase their security and turn them into true prisons or something is going to need to be done to reduce the tension.
- While the death of Sir William has taken some of the fire out of radical crusader sails, they represent a problem: with no interest in maintaining a stable Crusader State, radical crusaders both represent needed military aid for beleaguered lords and a serious threat to peace.
- Border wars between the counties threaten: the two Childerics have been on wartime footing for several years, each staring at each other across the River Moss, while Leon and Joyeaux face similar tension. Lord Martin's treachery and the Traitor's Banquet have created similar tensions between Auberry and Leon, creating a need for negotiated peace on all sides.
- External challenges
- The Known Worlders right now fight on eight separate fronts, with a powerful lack of coordination between the various lords. While they are making progress -- campaigns in the East are marching slowly towards the Holy City -- this disunion means that a Kurgan breakthrough could cut off the Known Worlds forces and lead to a general collapse.
- The feared Kurgan general Jalalkan is marching south with a large army. Jalalkan is one of the greatest commanders alive, and whatever front he commits himself to may find itself sorely tested.
- The Sathraist Kingdoms were once the primary opponent of the Known Worlders during the Long Wars. They have been quiet, but who is to know if they will begin to raid again?
Act I Themes
While there is no definitive list of the questions we are asking players, here are a few we've thought of:
- What is the balance between central control and feudal independence?
- How does one decide between the claims of landless lords and the warriors who have liberated their lands?
- What are our obligations to our people? To the refugees?
- What kind of war are people fighting? Is this war as the sport of kings, or is it a much more brutal, no-holds barred sort of conflict?
- What sort of mercy is appropriate for the enemy? Inappropriate?
- How do we determine how to direct the course of a war fought by an alliance of peers?
- Why did the Prophet come to Yathrib? What was he seeking before he saw the Holy Flame?
- What is the source of a disturbing undercurrent of black acts on planet?
- How did the anomalous artifacts some questing characters have found get to Yathrib?
Act II: Epitasis
Without giving too much away, we imagine that many of the stories that have begun in Act I will reach their climax in Act II, with the scale and stakes of conflicts becoming larger as the war moves either to Revelation or to Akko and as the political problems gain new relevance in the face of those advances. The mysteries uncovered in Act I will gain context in Act II, revealing hidden truths.
Act III: The Twist
We will give more information about Act III when it approaches.