They were the Elder Ones.
They had ruled the galaxy for a million years.
A thousand races had been uplifted to succulent sapience.
Small rebellions weeded out the weak and foolish among them.
That the Elder Ones might remain strong.
Greatness was built upon dark strength and genius.
Tempting whirlpools of stars spun beyond their reach.
The void between galaxies too great for even elder minds to bridge.
A dozen races died in agony, ground like grain in a mill.
A bridge of death to open a path across the great voids.
For where might death not pass?
But bridges go both ways.
The cry was answered.
Alien power, the stuff of magic, flowed back across the path.
The high circles of the gods too fed on mortals.
Yet more gently, distilling power from prayer and dreams.
Less predator than symbiont and guardian.
Small rebellions became great, irrepressible.
For the Elder Ones were few, and their prey was many.
And marched beneath the banners of the gods.
The Elder Ones stuck back, their powers terrible.
Worlds and races died across the galaxy.
But a million years of rage still marched.
A numberless legion.
The Elder Ones went down into death.
Like their victims before them.
Yet their power, their struggle, and their vengeance was great.
Concepts and patterns, the very stuff of thought, was rent and tattered.
Wounds that would fester for long eons.
Places of fear and darkness where minds might not trespass.
Across a bridge of ancient fear and death.
Held the Gods illimitable dominion over all.
While mortals clustered about the comforting fires of suns.
Broken minds unknowing of what had been lost.
And yet rejoicing in new freedom.
Ages passed like falling leaves, healing wounds.
Technology rose first, a path of tools and hands.
For where one led, ten thousand might follow.
Chipped stone and sharpened bone, wood and reed.
The hammer, the knife, the spear, the bow.
A fire against the darkness, as much within as without.
Magic and Psionics grew more slowly.
Too close to the heart of ancient pain.
Mistrusted, ignored by most,
The province of fools and madmen.
For who would pass again and again into the shadow of death.
To bring forth small wonders?
Still, the upward path, across twice ten thousand years.
The way of engines and fire.
As ships rose once more, to challenge the voids between the stars.
Welcome to the Shadowed Galaxy. Here, where mighty nebula enfold the sky in curtains of luminous gas, where new suns kindle and worlds are born, the galaxy stands at the threshold of an era of conflict. As ancient psychic wounds heal across the galaxy the surviving sapient species are redeveloping ways to reach beyond their worlds. There, among the stars, they are finding their brethren – scattered across nearby worlds by the Elder Ones – exploring the ancient ruins of that near-vanished race, tampering with the eons-old potencies the Elder Ones left behind – and encountering each other. Sometimes peacefully, all to often not.
For the moment, at least, technology dominates. While it is still restricted by the wounds inflicted by the Elder Ones, it is far less damaged than any of the other paths of power – and so, for good or ill, technology levels vary relatively little across the galaxy. There are local and racial specialties, and an occasional genius who actively probes what lies concealed by the damage inflicted by the Elder Ones – but while such mad scientists produce results and devices that may push the technological envelope in bizarre ways, others cannot use them without suffering the terrible agonies that come of pushing their thoughts into places where sanity cannot go.
Longer-lived (and slower-breeding) races have more time to learn – and thus an advantage in building a technological civilization. Shorter-lived races, however, spread more quickly once they do begin to expand into space – and so (by pure coincidence, which has NOTHING to do with wanting the races initial positions to be more-or-less balanced) they mostly have roughly equal spheres of influence.
While psionics are natural to the worlds and peoples of the galaxy, there the damage done by the Elder Ones has yet to heal. Only the lesser powers are available even to those who court madness by pushing the limits – and even they are widely mistrusted and denied. Occasionally devices of the Elder Ones are found – devices mighty and terrible, incomprehensible – and yet operable simply by thought and a will to do so. The wise avoid them. Fools use them to their own destruction. The ambitious attempt to exploit them – with terribly mixed results.
Magic is an unnatural force within the galaxy, flowing over the ancient bridge between the Shadowed Galaxy and the Alssing Galaxy, the Realm of the Gods. It’s power is limited (once again) to the lesser powers, and even it’s lesser powers are often most difficult to develop – and tend to lead to death and destruction; even the gods cannot wholly defy the deathly origin of the Bridge or the ancient wounds.
Yes, you can have a bit of psychic ability – or even, at higher levels, some magic – for your character, but the vast majority of characters are going to be explorers, scientists, mecha and vehicle pilots, diplomats, and spies – for alliances are forming, worlds are being claimed, and whatever is left of the race of the Elders Ones stirs.
- Exalted – The Barques Of A Million Years (ruscumag.wordpress.com)