Hands On Review: Fragged Aeternum A Fragged Empire Setting
Fragged Aeternum is a relatively new RPG Product in the Fragged Empires product line by Wade Dryer. Aeternum is the City Eternal, believed to have been built by Celestials even before the age of men. This Gothic “Ecumenopolis” a city spans the breadth of the planet. Some even suspect that Aeternum may go on in every direction without end.
Before we get into this review we need to touch on a few things regarding Fragged Empire and Fragged Aeternum. I will begin by telling you what Fragged Aeternum is not. Fragged Aeternum is not part of the Fragged Empire universe, but it utilizes the Fragged Empire Core rules. It does make some modifications to speed gameplay. Because of this Fragged Aeternum is NOT a stand-alone game! The Fragged Empire Core Rules are needed to play this game. So for those familiar with Fragged Empire what changes can you expect.
Aeternum has been built around dramatic combat and the use of momentum to propel the story forward. But just because things have gotten simpler they have not gotten easier. Combat is deadly and players should learn to accept that death is part of life in Aeternum. Additionally, players will see that much of the FE resources have been trimmed away. Gone are Ships, Trade goods, and Ammo. Lastly, RoF is gone along with many weapons that just would not fit the setting and there are fewer actions.
As I mentioned above death is part of life in Fragged Aeternum, your players will die and die often. In Fragged Aeternum you play the role of the Tethered. Tethered individuals are bound by powerful magic of the celestials to return again and again to face the foes of humanity. Do not confuse the Tethered as divine beings. The Tethered are immortal men that face Fiends and Evils again and again. In addition to being human themselves, they wage battle against unspeakable Fiends. Immortal or not in time they can break and give into madness.
Many of the remaining changes that you will encounter from FE to FA are mostly cosmetic. The Attributes are different but work the same as intended and many skills are gone, new or re-skinned from FE. The two last changes of note that I would like to point out are that Fate is gone from the FA and the mechanics of Strong hits are used for Momentum points.
There are other changes that could be noted but these are the ones that stand out to me, the most that I feel should be mentioned if you are interested in taking a deeper look at Fragged Aeternum.
With that out of the way let’s now take a deeper look at Fragged Aeternum. In Aeternum there are four forces at play in this setting. The World itself, Tethered, Celestials and Fiends.
Fragged Aeternum Setting
Now that we have touched on some of the key differences that set Aeternum apart from Fragged Empire lets take a look at what makes the world of Aeternum tick.
The World of Aeternum
Aeternum is a world-spanning gothic cityscape backdrop for a world where life is hard and death is easy. Death is not the end for a denizen of Aeternum because once your body falls to the ground and your soul claws its way free of its old shell. Then it will either drift skyward or twist and crawl the earth to become a Fiend. The grim fact is far more people who meet their end claw their way into the depths to rise as Fiends. It is up to the Tethered to keep them at bay.
The City itself spans the known world, crisscrossed with rivers, lakes and massive district-sized parks. The districts themselves are separated by massive walls and gated entrances. Many of these districts are independent towns and in some cases, collections of towns could align with their own city-states.
Life is still not easy, yet without the careful planning of the Celestial Architects to bring balance to Aeternum, there would not be enough food or water to go around. Why they do what they do no one really knows. But they have a vision and are not interested in sharing.
When the people of Aeternum need metal they have to scavenge them from abandoned parts of the city, or in times of great need, Underneath it. In the labyrinth of ruins that the city has been built on top of for as long as humans can remember.
Tethered are men and women who have bound their souls to powerful artifacts known as the Great Lanterns thereby allowing them to cheat death. Granting the Tethered abilities far superior to average humans in addition to near immortality. When a Tethered falls his soul returns to the Great Lanterns and he is again reborn. Thus making Tethered the best defense for humanity against Fiends and all other horrors in the world. It is assumed that the players are all Tethered in the game.
Beings of incalculable power rarely descending from the heavens to walk the world for any reason. So powerful are these beings that they are capable of destroying entire districts in their encounters with Fiends. The goals of the Celestials are known only to their fellow Celestials and it is rare to receive anything more than cryptic or mysterious information when they do choose to offer it.
Born from the stuff of twisted nightmares, madness, and the souls of humanity it is thought the first Fiends came from a world that is believed to exist beneath the world of Aeternum. Like Celestials, Fiends are capable of corrupting and destroying entire districts if left unchecked. There is little solid understanding of the true motivation of Fiends as any that study them either go insane or are discredited and cast out and shunned.
To complicate this no two fiends are alike in appearance or motivations.
Magic and Technology
Both of these things exist in Aeternum. Clockworks, and Cogworks and even Golems can be found in the world. But Golems are things forged from magic crafted by skilled craftsmen and given life by rare magic.
Magic itself is beyond the common man; often called Warlocks or sorcerers or in some cases Witches. Magic is widely feared no matter its use or intent.
Fragged Aeterum is a wonderful dark gothic setting that allows you to go to some very dark places at the table. One of the best parts of Fragged Aeternum is the fact that by its very nature players are pitted against forces, factions, and consequences that often are larger than the characters.
The Tethered are beyond death, yet they can’t just throw their life away in a conflict against the power of the Fiends. Death is not without consequence because the players are fighting to protect something worth more than their own lives. They are the first and in many cases the only line of defense for mankind. If a Tethered falls in battle frivolously the result may be the loss of an entire neighborhood or even the loss of a district. More importantly, these neighborhoods and districts are filled with mortal souls many of whom will descend only to return as Fiends themselves. Because of this, even the Immortal Tethered have to weigh the options of their actions in the game.
I know that Aeternum was inspired by the Soulborn games like Dark Souls and such. But I would like to go even more old school as an example of what it must be like to be a Tethered.
I think it’s kind of like the old video game Gauntlet. Not the new one or on a console or PC. I’m talking OLD School… That reaction you had when you dropped a quarter in the machine and took your first steps and realized that your health was already ticking down. Additionally, there was little you could do to prolong your life in Gauntlet. So each life became a race against the Reaper. Get the most of each life you had before you had to resign to death and punch another quarter in the machine to continue your quest.
When you sit down and start a session of Aeternum you know it is not a matter of if you will die, but how. Knowing this you must struggle to make each of your immortal lives matter. Unlike other RPGs where player death is the main threat, in Aeternum you may not die but comes with consequences. Depending on how you live each of your lives and when and how you die can have a vast impact on the world of Aeternum.
Aeternum is not going to be for everyone, but if you are a fan of dark gothic and stories that go well beyond the scope of the player characters themselves you are going to get hooked hard by this setting. It has a powerful feeling that at the table it plays in a very “go big or go home” fashion.
I know it has been cited that it was born of the Dark Souls genre, the setting also reminds me of Malifaux in its supernatural gothic artwork and vibe.
The Fragged Rules are solid and in Fragged Aeternum the FE resource system has been pulled out of this setting, I mention that as the FE resource system was a good solid mechanic but one that personally I was not a huge fan of so I see this as a bonus. Overall it’s a faster smoother game with a great backdrop for high fantasy games.
Considering all of this, I have to say that my Runkles Ranking for Fragged Aeternum is Outstanding. And not just for the reasons that I have listed here, but because in its 165-page count it is absolutely stuffed to gills with information. More than I could cover in 3 blogs.
View my Rank System Here
Much of this is because to run Aeternum it requires the Fragged Core book. This is also my only issue with Aeternum, as a Fragged Setting book you need FC to run the game. Forcing new FE players to have to make two purchases to get in on this game.
If you are interested in picking up a copy of Fragged Aeternum you can get it at the following link
DTRPG: Fragged Aeternum
If you have played FA or have any questions or thoughts on the setting please feel free to comment below