Some of you might recall that I interviewed the folks over at Storm Bunny Studios a while back to talk about their new project, Bloodlines & Black Magic. Well, it’s available now and you should check it out! For a quick look at what you can expect here’s a first take on the setting for B&BM. (I just made that abbreviation up and I don’t know how I feel about it).
The Big Picture
The book starts with seven big ideas for B&BM… you’ll find that seven is a big number in this game.
- Magic is real.
- There are global elites.
- Monsters walk the night.
- The Power is in the Blood.
- We are Legion.
- The Veil is real.
- The Archons have a mission.
Some of these are more self-explanatory than others; there isn’t much to interpret on “magic is real” or “monsters walk the night.” Others are more complex, though, like the idea of global elites which is more than just a New World Order. While games like Vampire: The Requiem or settings like The Dresden Files take the position that people are willfully ignorant and the supernatural naturally tries for a low profile, the world of Bloodlines & Black Magic has groups that work hard to keep things quiet.
These are the bloodlines, as in Bloodlines & Black Magic and the Power is in the Blood. There are tons of families out there but only some of them have true power. This doesn’t have to be actual lineage (although it often is): magical power can be passed through lots of mysterious ways like saving or ending a life, true love, the alignment of stars, or through empowered items. There are (you guessed it) seven different bloodlines: fey blooded, dragon blooded, infernal blooded, jinn blooded, seraphic blooded, shadow blooded, and spirit blooded. More on those next time when we get into characters…
For now, let’s get into who might oppose the player characters in a campaign of Bloodlines & Black Magic. There are rivals and power-hungry crazies but the real danger comes from the Goëtic Spirits that lurk on the edges of reality. Best-known from the quote in the Gospel according to Mark, paraphrased here as “We are Legion.” These demons were kept at bay by powerful Archons who have a mission to save humanity from them. For thousands of years they concocted rituals and traditions to control the behavior of humanity and keep back the influence of the Goëtic Spirits but by the time of the Fourth Crusade in the 13th century things had broken down so much that they needed a new plan.
To stop the Goëtic Spirits for good, the Archons partitioned the mortal realm into three parts: the Mundane World which is everyday reality, the Secret World which is secret locations where the supernaturally powerful can stretch their legs, and the Invisible World where fairies and imps and worse lurk. Characters in B&BM get a bonus feat to see the truth behind the Veil (as the obscuring barrier is called) but without that you’d never know that there were demons and ghosts out there. That’s the case for chumps like you and me. I see this as being a division of stuff normal people are allowed to see (the Mundane World), stuff normal people aren’t allowed to see (the Secret World), and stuff normal people physically can’t see (the Invisible World).
Aside from the three parts of the prime material world, there are four other worlds (there’s that seven again) that are much stranger. The Ethereal Plane is a place of death where the ghosts of those people unwilling to move on can be found. There’s also the Astral Plane which is a realm of pure thought (similar to the Planescape version) and ruled by astral dragons. Farther removed from mortal life are the seven tiers of the Celestial Plane and the hell-like prison of the Infernal Plane. These are respectively the homes of the Archons and their enemies the Goëtic Spirits. I wouldn’t recommend going to either one if you don’t want to be squished.
These four worlds are home to all sorts of entities that spread their tendrils into the central three but the biggest cosmic conflict is between the Archons and the Goëtic Spirits. The Archons have a millennia-old design to protect humanity… or so they say. Things are a bit murky and even supernaturally-gifted characters like the PCs are pawns of this powerful forces just trying to survive.
Assessment So Far
I wanted to talk about the setting first without getting into the mechanics. There’s a lot of interesting mystery in this game to keep players guessing and allow GMs to tell all sorts of stories. It would be easy to make this some version of the World of Darkness in a new system and with new factions but this is something different. This is more like a Lovecraftian modern fantasy with a dash of Harry Dresden and some more of City of Mist.
I think this setting is really fun and certainly something I’d recommend to people regardless of system. Next time I’ll be going over the mechanics of this modified Pathfinder system that this game uses, but it’s just as good a setting for a game of Fate, Genesys, or Cortex.