Wyrd Daze Six: Worldbuilding with Ethnis

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Wayhall, by Ademal (Fullsize)

Introductions

Ademal

I do better talking about Ethnis than about myself, but here goes: 

I am Ademal, owner and primary developer of Ethnis. By day I lead the exciting life of a middle manager and server database engineer, and the rest of the time I wear a dizzying variety of hats. For World Anvil I am part of the community admin and outreach, for
How to be a Great GM I am a community admin, content curator, and stream helper, and then of course there’s Ethnis, of which I am the owner and central developer.

I like to keep busy.

Ethnis is my life’s work. I have tried to work on other projects, but the moment that they start really growing they end up getting cannibalized by Ethnis.

I hope you have a fraction as much fun reading and playing it as we do creating it.

Barron

I’m the high-adventure loving half of Ethnis. I was introduced to Ethnis while getting my
Bachelor’s in Computer Science along with Ademal. Since the first game of Ethnis I played, a decade ago, I’ve been contributing ideas. Of course that role has gotten a lot more serious as time went on!

I’ve worked as an indie mobile game dev, and I’m currently a hardware engineer, and serving as community outreach for World Anvil.  With all that, Ethnis still remains the true passion, both the Universe and the RPG systems underlying it.

Ethnis is my life goal, and I hope to bring about my own skills and mindset and ideas to help make Ethnis as believable yet fun as possible. So far I like to think it’s going pretty good!

Questions

What is Ethnis?

Ethnis is on the other side of a vast divide of history. There is a war going on and everything is on the line. It’s a war between seven Banners, thousands of planets, and quadrillions of people. This war is The War, the sum of life and death; every reason to fight played out at once, a controlled burn of faith, pride, politics, money, bigotry, and necessity. 

Somewhere, in all of this, is you.

You live in Ethnis, among its people. You know of the Meta, and how it allows you to command the nature of the world around you. You know of the Wayhall—the path through the stars—and you know of the Banners, the Sophont, the Sovereigns, and most importantly: The Wheel.

You know this because Ethnis is home.

Ademal

Ethnis a massive science-fantasy setting which serves as a backdrop for stories in many types of media. It is a careful blend of absurdism, philosophy, adventure, horror, sensuality, and drama, and is equally apt to have you crying tears of joy as tears of sorrow. With multiple large narratives, piles of flashfic, and new content being released constantly, you’ll never find Ethnis lacking in rich stories, characters, and concepts.

Attached to Ethnis is a graveyard of video game implementations and two in-progress RPGs. The first RPG is Ethnis Core, an ambitious system which facilitates doing all of the insane things outlined in Ethnis lore such as creating life, piloting mechs, becoming gods, ruling a planet, and more. The other is Ethnis Lite, which is a stripped-down version of Ethnis Core which focuses on fast, fun mechanics and which is setting agnostic—
we already have 8 other settings by 8 other authors who are in the process of adding it to their own settings.

Fear becomes passé when it is constant.

It is our lot to rage against the dying of the light, to fight with primal furor and disarm that primordial dread of its scythe and hourglass with the wonders of science. We have slain the horsemen, stolen their steeds, and now use them to terrorize each other.

This era is not one belonging to Death, it belongs to unrepentant, unforgiving, unrelenting life.

Make it count.

Parisan Martial by Antti Hakosaari

Parisan Martial by Antti Hakosaari (Fullsize)

What were your inspirations for creating Ethnis?

Ademal

Summarizing the inspirations is a challenge. Ethnis began as childhood ramblings about 21 years ago. It has grown since, both in maturity and scope, but the seeds (and some of the characters) of those early editions remain. Add to that a lifetime intake of media, the 10-year involvement of Barron, and a whole crew of vocal fans, and you end up with many inspirations indeed!

To name a few big ones which come immediately to mind: Stephen King, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, David Cronenberg, Studio Ghibli, Warren Ellis, and Tom Parkinson-Morgan, though I’m sure if you asked us in a month we could get you an entirely different list. The only real constant is that it reflects the issues we face within ourselves and that we see in the world. It wouldn’t be a very good experience if it didn’t have that interpersonal relationship with the readers and authors, would it?

The fact that we have so many inspirations can be a problem unto itself sometimes! We have to be tactical and section our influences out into the different parts of lore, otherwise Ethnis would just  be an incomprehensible mud of ideas. 

Tell us about the Ethnis Novel. Is it a stand-alone or part of a series?

Ademal

Up front: don’t read it. That’s not reverse psychology—I wrote it 11 years ago, it no longer fits canon, it’s overpriced, I barely make anything from it, and I have been pestering the publisher to remove it from their listing. It’s not a terrible book, but there are better ways to support and enjoy Ethnis.

There, disclaimer done. 

It was a great experience. I grew a lot as a writer and an editor at that time. I still had a long way to go, but it made me respect how much I really had to do if I wanted to be an author.

It was meant to be a part of the series, but when I return to that series I’ll be taking it from scratch instead of trying to republish the same novel. I’ve learned a lot since then, and have built the entire rest of the Ethnis Universe in that time.

Vigor Mortis by Ademal (Fullsize

I gather you’re also planning some serial fiction—what kind of stories do you want to tell?

Since the dawn of Kyzan many millennia ago, the Ethnis has always had its major players. Over time, these groups have grown. Tribes merged and became nations, nations merged and became planets, planets merged and became Banners.

Each Banner holds a series of Values that they abide by. They also harbor dark secrets which protect them from their enemies. Most are headed by select individuals or an individual. All of them hold hundreds of planets, trillions of citizens, and enough military power to send all of Ethnis back to square one.  

Faeoverin by Antti Hakosaari (Fullsize)

Ademal

As many varieties as we can manage to, really. At this point I think we have more stories slated than we have life to make them. Some particular serial fiction we have at the moment is Barron’s Ethnis Eats, which is an exploration of food culture, backroom politics, psy-ops, and social media within Ethnis, but we also want to do a series about Euologists, which are essentially people who visit dead worlds and write it a Euology explaining how they failed–a bit like Speaker for the Dead but for a planet. 

Barron

Personally, I love telling stories of high adventure and the exploration of cultures, while I see Ademal telling darker and more suspenseful tales. The important thing I want to get across is that there are so many stories I think we can tell in Ethnis. We are building a massive world that in time will rival the size of community-driven works like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. So if I want to explore something dark, I can. If I want to explore something bright, it’s all on the board. 

Tell us about the art of Ethnis.

Barron

The art of Ethnis until just recently was whatever Ademal and his previous S.O had time and passion to draw. We got some amazing work out of it, but as time went on, Ademal started picking up Photobashing. And now that we’ve become far more public, we’ve experimented with a couple of artists. A commision here and there just to see who we can work with and who fits the unique style of Ethnis.

Right now I’m absolutely in love with Antti’s work, and it’s been a fantastic experience working with him, so I personally hope our relationship keeps growing!

What were some of your experiences playtesting the TTRPG?

Barron

I remember playing the first versions of Ethnis in college, when Ademal was first getting the ideas. I played Johnny Durange, a human sniper-medic (Essentially my Call of Duty class). It was my first TTRPG experience, and it got me instantly hooked on it. I loved being in control of my character and his interactions, it was liberating! Heck I remember in the first versions of Ethnis you actually had to act out your spells by hand and Ademal would tell you what happened. Good times that.

But since then I’ve played a ton of memorable characters that always wind up teaching me more about myself. Most of them can be found on WA in some form. Every time we played, we would find more things to trim and polish though, so even though we were having amazing fun with the stories we were always balancing that and taking feedback and implementing new systems. I think that’s going to continue for a while, especially with Ethnis Core, which we really want to be our end all TTRPG system.

Will TTRPG players be able to influence canon events in Ethnis?

Ademal

My knee-jerk reaction is to say no, but in truth it’s already happened. If two minds are better than one, then a whole party of creative, invested players is going to push me to answer questions and add things I had never before considered.

The overarching narrative isn’t something that the players will be able to significantly change. In fact, I generally consider my campaigns to be non-canon because I have ideas for the books for the universe and I don’t want them or the campaigns to be beholden to each other.

Verin Kinds by Maple A (Fullsize)

Where is Ethnis at now?

Ademal

It’s in a state of constant and exciting growth! Ethnis Lite is well underway, both as its own system and as paving the way for the much larger and more ambitious Ethnis Core. We recently hit a half-million words on World Anvil, and have so much more story left to tell. This is all just the groundwork for other projects—serials, books, tabletop games, video games—whether you’re skimming Ethnis as a light read or with us for the long haul, we’re going to have something for everyone.

Support

How can people get involved with Ethnis?

Ethnis is very interactive. The best way to get involved is to jump into the Discord Community—a very active, inclusive, and friendly server full of welcoming folks. They’ll pull you into the world faster than anything else, and you’ll be around to get constant updates on the written world, the RPGs, and the games of Ethnis that we’ll be running.

Odds are pretty high that if you stick around enough you’ll end up talking us into writing the sort of content you’d like to see.

We would be humbled if you support us on Patreon. All income from the Patreon goes right back into Ethnis in the form of art and promotion.

You can also @ us on twitter with any questions you might have.

Read: https://www.worldanvil.com/ethnis

Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/ethnisstudio 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/EthnisUniverse

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/EthnisStudio

Discord Community: https://discord.gg/2Vz9gfp 

Mirror: https://www.worldanvil.com/w/ethnis/a/discord

It’s a Cycle.

Life and Death. Ecstasy and Agony. Love and Void. These are the elements of the Great Drama, this is the motion of The Wheel.

A stalwart crew explores distant, vivid planets, dancing with those poor folk rich of spirit and fighting against rich lords poor of morals. Their arrival staunches tyranny, their charity balms plight, and their presence brings peace. Are you with them?

There’s a party in a golden palace where every guest is more distinguished than the next.

They partake in writhing meals that morph through many properties as they cross your tongue. Chrome-plated pleasureslaves with laughs like crystal bells weep amphetamine tears while they give their all to a swan-song performance before becoming dessert. Do you attend?

In a ramshackle church on a fringe planet a girl clings to a Somnolent cross. She is whispering the Somme of Hope into its eye. Infernos full of cackling figures consume the horizon.

Angels descend from heaven like a meteor shower in the night. Do you save her?

A band of marauders plate their ship with the carcasses of raided vessels. Their tech and crew is cobbled together from every Banner. Despite a cutthroat nature brotherhoods form amongst them. Can you claim the same?

Four minuscule notches on an infinite Wheel.

Empires are forged, rise, burn, and are devoured in the blink of an eye. The divide between mortal and god is minute and the two constantly wrestle with the fact. Those who place their chips play a high stakes game, all who don’t have their chips torn from them and played anyways.

Who are you?
What are you?
Why are you?

It’s a Cycle.

There’s a Wheel and it’s spinning.

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Wyrd Daze Six: Zenith’s Edge

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Zenith’s Edge: Tempest
Chapter One

In the dark loam of this universe, sources of light are few and far between.

Through this loam a Great Lumbricus wriggles ponderously. Ne feels nir way: skin reacting to electromagnetic fluctuation. Sensing something, ne pushes in that direction. Invigorated by chemical reactions occurring within nir clitellum (where six cocoons are forming), the worm’s consciousness narrows to the present. Ne reaches out to the life-source ahead with metaphysical precision, an awareness forming in nir mind of a slowly spolling discworld with four dense orbiting sun-moons emitting intense waves of light and radiation: one white, one red, one yellow, one black.

The Great Lumbricus drifts, observing the world indifferently until the cocoons mature and are discharged, then on ne goes about nir inevitable business, leaving nir offspring behind.

The cocoons ride radiation waves toward the discworld, exuviating as they enter the atmosphere. The previously impervious cocoon casings crumble to release ethereal clusters of softly luminous protomatter. Four of the six clusters are drawn toward one side of the discworld, scattering wide across the craggy landscape. The remaining two drift circuitously to fall upon the other side, one descending into a vast forest, the other straying further inward. Trees give way to wild hills; still the cluster drifts on the wind, translucent fibers pulsing. A wide river snakes across the landscape and beyond lies a vast cultivated area of colourful and diverse flora: Garden of the Lyal.   

The cluster slips along a breeze into the garden, past the vegetative opulence along the shore of the river, over a verdure lawn, past a grove and on to sculpted pathways where a floricultural variety of Lyal stroll, socialising and showing off blooms. One of them spots the soft pulse of light in the sky and points with cupped hand, its petals trembling as it exclaims, “There’s something,” in a shrill voice. “There’s something!” Heads flourishing a variety of corollas turn to stare, and soon there’s a murmur of assent. There is something. Several voices shout, “Cati!” calling out for the Garden’s guardians.

One of the thick-skinned giants strides over to see what the commotion is about, at eight and a half feet, more than double the height of the average Lyal. Nir bulky body is a waxy green scattered with dark areoles, each sprouting vicious glochidia and a thick spine. The Cati, nir name is Tek, spots the cluster as it drifts over a hedge and dips toward a circular patch of rich soil inhabited by six Lyal younglings, little more than short stipes with incipient fronds at this early stage of their development. Tek runs, agile enough despite nir bulky legs. Heedless of usual Garden etiquette, ne leaps over the hedge, but is too late to stop the cluster landing in the patch like an insubstantial sheet, covering one of the younglings. The protomatter begins to resolve immediately, fluxing into the soil and the life sprouting from it.

Tek shouts and more Cati come: two wearing digging tools shaped from hardwood branches, and another carrying a net weaved from thick grass. The rounded end of Cati arms sprout one or more sharp spines, so nirs tools are built to fit. Under Tek’s instruction the two Cati begin to dig a trench around the affected youngling, whose tiny fronds are already beginning to wither and brown. Where nir stipe meets the soil, a clutch of small translucent eggs spontaneously evolves from the protomatter, unseen. What Tek does see is thin tendrils spreading across the soil toward the edge of the trench. Ne gestures to the Cati with the net, and together they hold it taut while the two diggers deposit the contaminated soil and youngling. Instructing the diggers to remain behind to watch for any signs of taint left in the soil, Tek leads the net away from the centre of the garden. Ne’s never seen anything like it; hopes he can get it quarantined before it spreads. The Lyal keep well away as they pass, though the chattering never stops.

Tek cannot be faulted: almost all of the protomatter is quickly removed to a remote part of the garden, out of bounds to most Lyal. But one tiny translucent worm escapes: freshly hatched from an egg, squirming onto the net and through a gap in the weave as it is being lifted out of the youngling patch. The thing plops onto the soil and slithers toward the nearest shelter, burrowing to nestle amongst the roots of one of the younglings. There, it dissolves, and at that moment a great confluence occurs: the merging of Lyal, Lumbricus… and something else.

* * *

Far away on the craggy coast of the discworld, an Eerise sits on an outcrop, wings tucked close to her back, legs crossed beneath her. The space before her is dominated by streaks of pink aurorae, with the white and red sun-moons in prominence. When a thought enters her mind, she pushes it away. Still, she cannot suppress the burgeoning feeling inside that something important is going to happen. When eventually the vision comes, she feels relief, though the experience is often distressing.

Some time later the Eerise comes back to herself, raising her ridged head to a sky now glowing orange as the yellow sun-moon takes ascendancy. She rises gracefully, stretching delicate limbs, and turns away from the edge of the world with a look of profound sorrow on her face. Soon she runs, spreads her wings, and flies.

* * *

Deep in the forest, Aauru sits in his sanctum, dark eyes reflecting the flames dancing from the firepit before him. At the centre of the glade, what must once have been magnificent tree now stands dead: trunk twisted and bent, eight large branches stretching out with a plethora of offshoots like cracks in the ochre sky. Despite its condition the tree is far from lifeless, home as it is to a glorious array of fungi, insects and bacteria. A copse within the glade serves as Aauru’s sleeping area; a river runs by; the whole area marked by his scent. He is master and mystic to others of his kind, the Bestials.

Aauru barely registers the usual howl and growl of his tribe beyond the boundaries of his sanctum. In the palm of his clawed hand lies a small piece of Kernel, harvested from a Lyal of refined pedigree. He considers splitting the smooth green matter in two to make it last, but dismisses the idea quickly. He feels… no, not reckless… a sense of purpose. He carefully pushes the Kernel into a nutshell, squeezes it shut, then places it in the edge of the fire. Soon his snout wrinkles at the fragrant aroma, his heart quickening in anticipation. The Kernel bakes, and finally Aauru takes his wooden scoop and retrieves the shell, standing to take it away from the fire to cool.

He walks over to the tree, his shrine, and sits on a large protruding root, tipping the shell onto the ground and rolling it about gingerly with his claws. Then he picks up the shell and pulls it open, salivating. Still he must wait, or the Kernel will burn his tongue, and he wants no distraction from communion. Finally, he takes the soft Kernel with nimble claws and flicks it into his maw. Piquant juices tingle his taste buds; one soft bite and the Kernel disintegrates, is swallowed. Already he feels waves of intoxication rushing through him, his perceptions widening. He howls excitedly and runs to the river, wading in. He drinks of the waters and immerses himself, auburn fur darkened when wet.

Aauru raises his head above the water, the yellow sun-moon a vivid pulsing presence in the sky. He howls in worship and is rewarded suddenly with fresh vision and instinct. Something ruinous has come to the world, and though he does not fully comprehend what that means, he knows what he must do. There is an other. A Lyal, yet not. He must gather his kind: his tribe and any others that will follow, and attack the Lyal. This will not be their usual savage raid, but a prepared strike. Aauru will find this other and harvest the Kernel, consume it. If he does this, he will be rewarded. If he does this, he just might survive what is to come.

* * *

Leigh Wright is the curator of Wyrd Daze

He is writing speculative fiction in his Zenith’s Edge multiverse:

There are six of them: Normal, Tempest, Wyrd, Nadir, Faust and Zenith. 
They have existed, in one form or another, since the beginning of time. 
If they die, they are reborn again unto a new world…

Leigh’s alter ego The Ephemeral Man makes sonic paintings and strange art.

Leigh on Twitter

Wyrd Daze Six: Then Space Began to Toll

For the full Wyrd Daze experience, 
access the PDF zine

Then Space Began to Toll

the new sonic painting by
The Ephemeral Man

LISTEN / DOWNLOAD

ft. excerpts from:

Radio Free Albemuth by John Alan Simon

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch
by Charlie Brooker & David Slade

Starfish by A.T. White

Edward Elgar Enigma Variations: Nimrod
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Piano Concerto 21: Andante
Royksopp
So Easy
Gregorio Allegri
Miserere mei, Deus
The Orb
Into the Fourth Dimension (excerpt)
LCD Soundsystem
Get Innocuous (electric lady sessions)
Tangerine Dream
Phaedra
The Who
Happy Jack
Harold Budd
Two Songs: 1. Let Us Go into the House of the Lord
Grey Frequency
In a Clearing
BEAK>
Lulsgate
Osvaldo Golijov
Oceana
The Police
King of Pain

Wyrd Daze Six: The Phoenix Guide to Strange England: Hookland

For the full Wyrd Daze experience,
access the PDF zine

Greenstone Tea Room, Damsel’s Cross

It is the nature of war to spawn secrets. While the many military bases found in the county would be the obvious breading grounds, evidence of wartime clandestine activities may also be glimpsed in some unlikely places. However, the small cottage tea room of Greenstone on the High Street of Damsel’s Cross, must rank as one of the most improbable locations to find details of a once classified Admiralty operation.

Under oak beams and amid embroidered tablecloths, fresh flowers and tables burdened with apple butter cream teas known in the county as Hookland Delight, are souvenirs of the strange life the establishment’s first owner, Mrs. Lucy Bowman. If you ask politely about the vintage Admiralty charts, photographs of First World War U-boats and Royal Navy ships carrying depth charges that hang incongruously on the walls, the waiting staff will likely call the current proprietor and Mrs. Bowman’s grandson, John Moore to your table. With a charm and energy that surprises in being unbroken despite the number of times the tale has been told, he draws patrons attention to various letters from the Admiralty and objects on the walls while unfolding the most surprising biography of his grandmother.

In January 1917, the recently widowed Lucy Bowman offered her services to her country as dowser. In an impassioned letter to Admiral A.L. Duff, who had known her father when they both served above the cruiser St. George nearly two decades before, she claimed that her skills as a ‘spiritual dowser’ would enable her to pinpoint the location of enemy U-boats if she were provided with accurate Admiralty charts. Duff, who had been appointed Director of the Anti-Submarine Division of the Royal Navy, responded with an invite to a meeting at an Ashcourt naval establishment.

It is not entirely clear why Duff took such an extraordinary measure. It may have been out of desperation to tackle the problem of the German’s unrestricted submarine warfare which was costing losses of up to 500,000 tonnes per month and greatly eroding public morale. It may have been due to the link with Bowman’s to father or an existing belief in the efficacy of dowsing. However, after meeting her, Duff granted Bowman access to Admiralty’s secret submarine tracking room where with the aid of an iron saddlery needle suspended by the tail hair of white horse, she attempted to track U-boat movements in the North Atlantic.

As various letters on wall suggest, she was successful enough in her endeavours, to be invited back to provide assistance to the navy on several occasions right up until the Armistice of 1918. Mrs. Bowman’s part in the war below waves was kept secret right up until her death in 1959, after which her daughter turned the tea room she inherited into an informal museum celebrating her mother’s clandestine contribution to the war. When pressed by the author of The Guide about the reaction this revelation caused at the time, John Moore admitted:

“Mother did have a visit from a commander in naval intelligence when she first put the letters up. He asked to take them down, but she gave him short-shift and they soon gave up making a fuss, in the end just asking for a picture of nanna’s needle for their own archives. I am only sorry I’ve no talent for dowsing as that thing only passes down the female side in my family.”

David Southwell is an author of several published books on true crime and conspiracies, which have been translated into a dozen languages.

However, these days, he mostly writes about place.

Creator of the
@HooklandGuide

@Cultauthor