The Teicna Files 00 - What is Teicna?
Welcome to the World of Teicna! In this prologue, I’m going to be covering the setting as a whole, what its themes and goals are, and the sorts of hot-button issues that someone could be expected to run into if they were to use the setting for a tabletop RPG or other such game. This is, in effect, an elongated ‘Elevator Pitch’ of the world, its major systems, and the reasons why I find it so compelling. If you’d rather dive right into the setting from the perspective of a history student, feel free to skip straight on into the series proper!
While I’m writing this incredibly late into the development of the setting’s lore - a full 28 entries in, in fact - I hope that its inclusion as Entry 0 will allow it to serve as a jumping off point for future readers, and an easy way to explain the world to curious friends for those who’ve stuck around since the beginning. In either case, I hope it proves both interesting and helpful to you for the purposes of understanding this labor of love I’ve been steadily delivering to you for the last 30-ish weeks. On we go!
What and Why?
At its core, Teicna is a high-magic, industrial revolution-era fantasy/steampunk setting. It’s designed with a larger focus on some semblance of realism, and with an emphasis on deep, believable cultures, systems, and races through the careful picking and choosing of existing fantasy and Steampunk tropes and the extrapolation of those tropes.
Also there are no elves, because I’m a dwarf fanboy.
So what does this mean, exactly? More than anything, it means that very little can be explained away purely by saying ‘it’s magic’, ‘it’s steampunk tech’, or ‘it’s magitech’. While that doesn’t mean someone should have to be a physicist or an engineer or what have you in order to comprehend how things work in the world, it does mean that I’d much rather replace those explanations with things like ‘it’s covered in arcane runes that modify how gravity affects it’ or ‘it runs on some sort of internal combustion engine, using it to power the complex series of actuators and valves which allow it to move’. These explanations could be further explored, were a reader/player so inclined, but at the surface they still lend a much greater sense of complexity and depth than the more basic examples above. Everything in the world, be it magic, the gods, or how a major metropolis gets its food, should be beholden to a definite, explorable system somewhere behind the scenes.
In any book, video game, or tabletop RPG set in the world of Teicna (of which I hope to have at least one of each within a year or two), there are 4 major elements which are meant to take center stage and play a significant role in how the setting is displayed to readers and players.
Magic: Accessible, Personalized, but Risky
Magic is theoretically universally available to the people of Teicna. By all accounts, any individual of one of the mortal races could be told the basics of channeling arcane energies and be slinging it around in a matter of hours. However, there are significant health and sanity risks at play when using one’s body as a conduit for such powerful, divine energies. The specifics of these risks is covered in more detail in Teicna Files 7 and 16.
Technology and Techmaturgy: Magic for the Common Man
With magic being so potentially dangerous - not to mention so wildly divergent between magi - technological advancement was bolstered by it, rather than hindered. Magical effects such as flight, long-range communication, and all manner of deadly spells were available only to the highly trained or the certifiably insane, and that simply couldn’t be allowed to stand. Over time, ingenious attempts to replicate the power magi wielded through machinery and science gave rise to the likes of aeronautics, chemistry, and even rudimentary robotics. Through the art of Runelore, these advancements could be further elevated into the realms of golemcraft, airships, magically-powered tools, and more. A general overview of the more impactful elements of Teicnan technology (and also plumbing) can be found in Teicna File 28.
To Err is Human, and Also Divine
The gods of Teicna are just as fickle and fallible as any mortal being, which makes sense when you consider that the vast majority of them were once mortals themselves. These beings may wield incredible power over the world, but they too experience jealousy, fear, rage, insecurity, and other such emotions, as much as they might try to deny it. Many a grand adventure may come to pass because of a terrible mistake on the part of one god or another, or else through their petty internal squabbles being ‘outsourced’ onto the mortals they oversee. These failings can be best witnessed in the origin of the world in Teicna Files 1, 2, and 3, as well as the exposé into the Dark God Vossos in File 11.
Magical Setting, Real-World Problems
Teicna may be a world full of strange races, powerful gods, and omnipresent magic, but that doesn’t mean that everyday problems cease to exist. I fully understand the appeal of escapist fantasy, and I would hope that Teicna could be used for such purposes if desired, but at the same time I find it absolutely fascinating to consider how real-world issues might manifest themselves in such an otherworldly setting. How does the fabricated class divide of magi versus average joes affect existing divides between the likes of the rich and the poor? How are religious differences dealt with when everyone’s gods are verifiably real and active in their lives? The intent with the world of Teicna is for most problems humans dealt with in the past - or are dealing with today - to have a believable counterpart, and possibly even a solution, somewhere within it. That’s not to say that every social, political or economic problem ever encountered within the world is going to pop up within these various files, but the capacity for them to be encountered, fleshed out, and dealt with should be created through the information provided. For an example, Teicna File 21, ‘Cash Money’, gives a fair amount of information on the varying currencies of the world, allowing many potential conclusions to be drawn about how disparate cultures might interact economically.
As a setting, Teicna is designed to work in ways beyond your typical fantasy romp of a small troop of would-be heroes venturing out to slay evil and/or rescue an unfortunate damsel. What follows is a short list of only a few of the themes or genres a prospective GM, novelist, or game designer might be able to tap into when creating a story within Teicna:
Just because there are alternative options doesn’t mean the setting can’t have the usual adventuring parties, slaying evil beasts and saving hapless villagers. There’s still a lot of the world that has yet to be fully explored, leaving it ripe for being filled with all manner of nasties that a crew of savvy travelers to track down.
If slaying dragons isn’t your thing, perhaps you’re more a fan of the likes of Indiana Jones? As above, so much of the world has been left unexplored or been forgotten that infested caverns, haunted crypts, and dilapidated temples are guaranteed to pop up here or there, and the curses whispered about in legend can be as real as you want them to be. Dashing heroes, cunning thieves, and bumbling archeologists are all perfectly in keeping with the themes and style of Teicna as a whole, and all can be easily convinced to do a little spelunking with the right motivators…
Some of the cities in Teicna are incredibly dense, populous places, rife with crime, corruption, and the odd murder or five. Whether it be the Underkingdom capital of Vulkenesburgh or the dusty alleyways of Sharast, there’s plenty of opportunity for detectives, investigators, and other nosy do-gooders to poke around in a culture’s seedy underbelly solving mysteries or taking down crime syndicates. Of particular note in this theme is the role Necromancy might play in gathering information around crime scenes, as referenced in Teicna File 7.
The Gnomish House of Lords, the court of the Demon Queen of Duwallen, or the government beholden to Vossos’ Order of the Night; there are any number of complicated political and socio-economic climates one might delve into if one is more interested in one goes on behind closed doors than in violent action. Some governing bodies might be more cutthroat than others, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be a few hidden daggers or poisoned goblets in any given court.
I’m sure there are a great deal more than these four that could be easily adapted to Teicna should they be desired - after all, these are only the first four that came to mind for me, but the setting was designed specifically to be highly flexible due to its depth and scope.
While I’ve yet to flesh the setting out nearly as far as I’d like, there’s a massive amount of information still waiting in the wings to be converted into future Teicna Files. I hope that this bulleted run-down has managed to portray the passion I have for this project, and perhaps passed just a bit of it along to you. If anything I’ve written here has captured your interest, I hope you’ll continue on to read some more of the various entries I’ve already got ready and waiting for you to peruse! More importantly, I hope you’ll let me know what you think of what you do read. I can keep on writing these things forever, practically, but what already exists can only get better by being forged in the fires of feedback.
Thanks for reading!
Hidden in Plain Sight (NaNoChaMo)
To the Full Teicna Files Index
Doing something a little bit different for this one, because I realized I never really introduced this world to people before I just started spilling backstory and world information. Sure, you probably don't need background information to hit the ground running like that, but I figured it'd be handy for newcomers to have a bit more context to work with and understand what it is I'm trying to do here.