I’m glad you asked! Vaarn is my attempt to make a science-fantasy setting that I can design dungeons for and run games in. I don’t get that excited by the ‘default’ fantasy setting a lot of the material produced for table-top RPGs invokes, so this is my way of making it more interesting for myself and (hopefully) my players. Vaarn draws from novels like Dune, Hyperion, and The Book of the New Sun, as well as the art of Moebius, and the comics of Stathis Tsemberlidis and Lando. If you haven’t read any of those things, that’s totally fine, it will make my theft seem original.

Basically the deal with Vaarn is this: the sun is going out, it’s the end of history, and the players are combing through the ruins and wreckage of the unimaginable eras of the future. Everything that could possibly happen has already happened and faded to dust. I intended this as a bit of an ‘anti-canon’ TTRPG setting where nobody can agree on the world’s history and ultimately it doesn’t matter. I’m interested in emergent narrative and interactivity and player creativity as well as my own. I’m also looking to run a setting where I can have players drop in and out or only play once and not mess up the pacing – hence a setting where the timeline itself is a bit fucked up and things don’t always work by established laws.

That said, there are a few things about Vaarn that I absolutely know for sure:

  • Vaarn is a blue desert full of weird tombs and wreckage.
  • Vaarn is inhabited by ‘true-kin’, who are non-mutated humans; ‘cacogen’, who are mutants; ‘newbeasts’, which are talking animal cyborgs; and ‘synths’, which are self-replicating sentient machines.
  • The sun is a dying red giant, although it has not expanded to swallow the Urth, possibly because of safety measures enacted during the reign of the Titans. The sun won’t go out in a human lifetime, but AIs have reason to be concerned. 
  • Everything is a mix of archaic and futuristic. Think sword fights inside the wrecked husks of ancient spaceships.
  • There’s a place to the south of Vaarn called the New Hegemony. It’s kind of like the Roman Empire. Theoretically the Hegemony rules Vaarn, but they have very little presence besides a few fortified border towns.  
  • Nanomachines are inside everything, and it’s normal to see wild animals with cameras growing out of their backs or humans with parasitic artificial limbs. 
  • Nobody in Vaarn can agree on much regarding chronology, but there was definitely a Great Collapse, which destroyed most of human civilisation.
  • Before the Collapse came the Autarchy, a planet-wide dictatorship enacted by a lineage of genetically modified God-kings.
  • Before the reign of the Autarchs, the Urth was ruled by AIs called the Titans. Something happened to the Titans and they were overthrown, but the details are hazy. A few synths claim they remember this stuff happening, but who trusts thinking machines?

Beyond that I’m really just making it up as I go along. Maybe the Autarchs ruled alongside the Titans? Who knows? Nobody you meet in Vaarn can tell you for certain.

The setting has overgrown my notebooks and brain, so I’m founding this blog as a place to offload some of it. What follows will be a mixture of fiction about Vaarn, semi-factual explorations of aspects of the setting, and Actual Play reports from my player groups when they venture into the blue wastes seeking riches.

9 thoughts on “WHAT IS VAARN?”

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