Prologue

“He is no King who is subject to Death.
Sovreignity is His who fears no mortal thing.”
~traditional Arabic proverb

In a globular cluster out in the Galactic Halo, a dead world orbits an ancient neutron star. Though the world lost its atmosphere millions of years ago, it still bears the traces of an ancient and mighty civilization. One mountain range is carved into the visage of an alien being, its outstretched arm holding an entire palace in its paw. The monument is pockmarked with myriad craters, the slow erosion of a million years of space dust. Though the monument is nearly half a million light-years from the nearest habitable world, it is still a pilgrimage site for races from around the galaxy. It is one of the only surviving monuments left from the ancient empire of Shen, the godlike being who once ruled two galaxies for a million years, before finally passing on from this realm to the next. The visage of Shen is too eroded to clearly make out, but each pilgrim who comes to climb the ten miles of stairs that wind up his legs and body, and up the mighty outstretched arm, to stand on the observation tower of the palace, is sure they see some trace of their own species in the enigmatic blank surface where his face once had been.

In ancient Zhatar, he is worshipped as the Pancreator, the divine progenitor of their imperial bloodline. A statue of him, carved in the rock of a hillside, shows him with the features of a Burzekalian, holding a celestial orb in his hand, while a hundred-eyed dragon is coiled about his feet.

In Kormar, near the galactic hub, a species of sentient pitcher-plant call him The Gardener, and weave living statues of him out of flowering vines. Although they bear not the slightest resemblance to him, still they see their own forms mirrored in his, and speak of him as the one who gave them life, who Planted the Seeds long ago.

Among the stars which whirl about the Great Vortex, the super-massive black hole at the center of our galaxy, the Nocturne, an ancient and potent race of night-loving creatures, very nearly living shadow at this stage in their development, have constructed a great object to serve as the reverse of a Dyson Sphere, blocking out the light of the many stars that surround them. They used the mass of their own sun to build the shell, and thought it no great loss to have done so. Within the sphere, mathematically arranged rosettes of worlds wheel and spin like a vast gravitational engine. The void between these worlds is filled with the gas from a nebula, siphoned by the Nocturne as a medium from which to make a breatheable atmosphere for them, allowing the strange shadow creatures they have bred for aeons to serve them to fly from one planet to the next. They are so advanced that other races might call them Gods, yet they too worship him, invoking Shen as the Father of Darkness, calling for the day when He will devour the stars.

Five million light years away, in the heart of the Andromeda galaxy, the Most High and Imperious Queen, She Who Rules Without Mercy, the Eternal and Beloved Ardatha, is known on a thousand subject worlds as the Bride of Shen. She has sat upon her marriage-throne, waiting for the Immortal Emperor to take her as his concubine, for five thousand years, just as her predecessors have done for aeons without count.

Scattered across the rim of our galaxy, an ancient race known as the Xipap speak of him in hushed words as the Opener of the Way. Although they have descended into barbarism, their once mighty psionic technology now little more than empty ritual, still they speak of He Who Crossed The Threshhold in awe and reverence, and speak of the day when he came to their world astride the back of a mighty sky-serpent, bringing with him knowledge of the Fifth World.

On a world without a name, in the distant reaches of the Triangulon Galaxy, there is a race of beings, not unlike our own race in form, who tend to gardens planted with herbs that bear no resemblance to any other lifeform on their world, and neither do they. Their traders bring minute quantities of these herbs, perfectly preserved in crystalline sap that hardens to amber over the length of its voyage, to our galaxy, where once every thousand years the herbs can be bought from them. These lozenges of Royal Amber were the rarest spices fit for the Emperor’s table, and one milligram of their essence is worth a hundred kilograms of gold or more to the one who can purchase them. A liquor of their essence is made into a drink which brings about a langorous sleep in the one who imbibes it, showing them visions of distant places and unimaginable vistas.

He was Shen, mightiest of all beings, a living god. In a place that was not a place, a pocket out of space and time called the Otherverse, Shen created an entire solar system, sculpted whole planets out of primordial dust, carved their features to his liking and for his personal pleasure, and enthroned himself as Emperor of two galaxies. The door to the Otherverse was lost long ago, but it is believed that his treasures and his palaces still spin through space, waiting for the one who can unlock their secrets.

Our starting place is Earth…

…But not the Earth that we live on. This is an Earth like that seen in the comic-books, parallell to ours, but shaped by the advent of beings and technology beyond anything we have, save in the fevered corners of our imaginations. The time is now, more or less, but perhaps one should not look too closely at the calender, for it seems that numerous events all seem to happen in a single month, and certain heroes seem to find it easy to appear in Tokyo, London, and New York in time to involve themselves with things going on there. Likewise, months can go by for a particular hero, yet somehow it is still the ineffable now.

Momentous things are happening. Earth is part of a larger cosmos. Embroiled in a war with distant powers, she has been forced to form a stronger unified government, in order to reach out to her nearby neighbors, to embrace diplomacy on the level of whole worlds and species. This is the future we always dreamed of, the future that has somehow eluded us.


Work in Progress.

Dark Flow is an amalgamation of numerous campaigns that have, over the span of nearly three decades, all more or less taken place within the same mutiverse. The setting is a bit of a mashup, with elements taken from Villians and Vigilantes, Traveller, and a variety of other sources. My last attempt at running a game in this setting used Mutants and Masterminds. The system took too much adaptation. In the end, more often than not, Dark Flow was, is, and will most likely remain a V&V setting, simply because V&V is more forgiving of random modification, and too much of the elements of the setting comes from old V&V campaigns.

Dark Flow is a Contemporary Outer Space setting. That is to say, it is within a few years from now at any given point in the campaign, but includes worlds beyond the scope of Earth. Relevant material from previous campaigns often gets retconned when the setting is rebooted, to keep the timeline coherent.

The last three campaign continuities have all defaulted to the same basic story in the end, so all three universes are being effectively merged into the current “Prime” reality. Earth has become central to a small coalition of worlds in the Orion Spur, banded together to defend against the threat of outside agression by older, more powerful galactic civilizations. Now all I have to do is figure out which coalition I’m using, and I’m in business.

More to come.

Dark Flow