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Space 1889 meets Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell meets Cthulhu

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As Saturday is closing in and I will gm my first Genesys session, here is my layout for my lovecraftean victorian alchemist steampunk setting i will apply.

For this I meshed up the following existing components: the Space 1889 setting, lovecraftean horrors and the transmutation "magic" of Fullmetal Alchemist.

The Setting
The core of the setting will be Uhrwerk's Space 1889. It is a victorian space setting where travelling the space between the planets was made possible by the invention of the etheral propeller, a propulsion system to conquer the ether. The major players of the victorian age of course immediatly started to colonize the inner planets namely Mercury, Venus an Mars (and Luna of course) with the British Empire being dominant on Mars. And there are of course native people, fauna and flora on all those planets an resources to be exploited.
It will also include big chunks of lovecraftian horror lurking unbeknownst to the public. 
This will include those infamous forbidden "magical" books which intellectual consumption comes with heavy costs. In addition comes the  alchemy part of Full Metal Alchemist with all its mechanical aspects, but  regarding the impact on the setting rather in a Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell way.
There are no "state alchemists" though there will be probably at least one royal alchemist and the royal library will be probably  very exquisite. But in general alchemy is rather practriced mostly by the higher classes as a kind of pasttime. Most will  lack any real talent like those arcane societies in said Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell. So true alchemists with actual talent are a rare breed. Alchemy is considered a science so  an indepth knowledge of physics, chemistry, bilology, geology and engineering is required (in mechanical terms with emphasis on the skills mechanics and knowledge). 

Archetypes and Classes
Actually for starters I am very content with the vanilla human archetypes and classes from the core rulebook. I see no need to convert any Space 1889 classes to Genesys as the choice of skills and talents is what truly defines the capability of every player character.

The only adaption I will make is considering alchemy a magic skill, which will be used by alchemists to utilize transmutation "magic".

Fine with the vanilla ones. But eager to expand when Terrinoth is published.

As this is a victorian setting there will be steampunk but rather in a subtle way. There might be clockwork automatons and steampunk "wonders" but not that common in public beyond what already belongs to Space 1889. I like it to be an exotic sight. I guess those bits covered in the core rulebook suffice for starters. 

There will be two kinds of magical sources. The lovecraftian spells from forbidden sources for which I will use the madness mechanics from the core rulebook. Arcana will be the skill to go for those who will meddle with this dark arts. Mostly it will be the domain of NPCs though and arcana will be a skill that has to be purchased separately and only when circumstances makes this sensible.

And there is alchemy. Here the official definition of Alchemy the way Fullmetal Alchemist utilizes it:



Alchemy is, as it is understood in the Fullmetal Alchemist series, the ancient metaphysical science/mystical art of manipulating 
and altering matter by using natural energy. This act is known as "Transmutation"  and its sequence is usually described as:

1. Comprehension - Understanding the inherent structure and properties of the atomic or molecular makeup of a particular material 
   to be transmuted, including the flow and balance of potential and kinetic energy within.
2. Deconstruction - Using energy to break down the physical structure of the identified material into a more malleable state so as 
   to be easily reshaped into a new form.
3. Reconstruction - Continuing the flow of energy so as to reform the material into a new shape.

The proper application of this craft requires not only a full understanding of chemistry and ancient alchemical theory, but also 
a sort of natural talent towards recognizing and manipulating the physical objects with energy, which require uncommon levels of 
intelligence and aptitude. Those remarkable individuals capable of studying and practicing alchemy are known as "Alchemists".

The mystical practice of alchemy to create objects out of raw matter or turn one object into another is widely believed to be capable 
of anything - indeed alchemy is often viewed as magical or miraculous by those unfamiliar with the craft - but it is a science and 
as such is subject to certain laws and limitations, all of which fall under the concept of Equivalent Exchange: 
"In order to obtain or create something, something of equal value must be lost or destroyed."

In standard practice, Equivalent Exchange is separated into two parts:

- The Law of Conservation of Mass, which states that energy and matter can neither be created from nothing nor destroyed to the point 
of elemental nonexistence. In other words, to create an object weighing one kilogram, at least one kilogram of material is necessary 
and destroying an object weighing one kilogram would reduce it to a set of parts, the sum of which would weigh one kilogram.
- The Law of Natural Providence, which states that an object or material made of a particular substance or element can only be transmuted 
into another object with the same basic makeup and properties of that initial material. In other words, an object or material made mostly 
of water can only be transmuted into another object with the attributes of water.

Since the alchemical forces being manipulated are not human in origin, but of the world as a whole, the consequences for attempting to 
bypass the Law of Equivalent Exchange in transmutation are not merely failure and cessation. When too much is attempted out of too little, 
what occurs is called a Rebound, in which the alchemical forces that are thrown out of balance on either side of the equation fluctuate 
wildly of their own accord in order to stabilize themselves - taking or giving more than was intended in often unpredictable and catastrophic 
ways such as accidental mutation, serious injury, or death.


In game terms 1. will be accomplished by primarily either a mechanics or a knowledge skill check to determine the grade of comprehension. Advantages/triumphs/threats/despairs will carry over to the following alchemy skill check which covers step 2. and 3. and will also have a heavy impact on the outcome of the transmutation. At worst, there will be a Rebound, because for example the needed amount of material, its composition and so on was miscalculated.
The following magic actions are selectable: Attack, Barrier, Conjure. The desired effects of a transmutation attempt must be narratively sensible. You cannot create a barrier composed of earth and stone in the middle of the sea on a wooden boat.

To apply transmutation magic a the usage of a transmutation circle of some kind is necessary.


All in all I wanted to find out if roleplaying by the (core rule)book is possible and makes fun without too much effort putting in conversion.

Edited by DarthDude

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I renamed this article in Space 1889 meets Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell meets Cthulhu because I came to the conclusion that a Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell approach to magic including learning few and selected spells from rare tomes which must be searched or obtained in any matter would better suit the Space 1889 setting and the Cthulhu magic approach which includes rare spells in very rare books better.

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