You are were born in the Dalean Empire, a prosperous nation whose dominion stretches across the known world. While there is magic in this world, it is powerful and dangerous, and it has largely been suppressed by the Empire; it’s not part of everyday life.
The Empire itself has been prosperous and peaceful for centuries…at least, it was until three years ago. That was when the Dread began: a wave of terror that has shaken the very foundations of the Empire. We’ve faced all manner of supernatural horrors. Dead soldiers have risen from their graves to prey upon the living. Skinchangers and stranger beasts lurk in the wilds. We’ve lost entire cities a chant that turns all who hear it into crazed killers. Any nightmare you can imagine—there’s a good chance you can find it somewhere in the world today. And worst of all: We don’t know why this is happening. We don’t know if these attacks are somehow connected or if our world is simply falling apart. All we know is that we’re at war and we are losing. Mortal soldiers can’t defeat the forces of the Dread, and we have lost almost a third of the Empire to these horrors.
We have only one hope—and that’s you. You’re a Phoenix. In your first life, you could have been anyone: a soldier, a farmer, a child. But you died a remarkable death and were given a chance to return stronger than before. You are imbued with supernatural strength and power, and if you die, you can return again up to a total of seven times. There are a hundred Phoenixes in the world today, and all of you are part of an organization called Dawn Command. You are charged with fighting the forces of the Dread—doing your best to protect the innocent and find out anything you can about why this is happening and how we can turn the tide. Your missions will be dangerous. You may not survive, and you may not always succeed. Don’t be afraid to die—just make certain each death has meaning.
One critical point: As a Phoenix, you are a remarkable person… who has died and returned as a Phoenix. All Phoenixes work with Dawn Command to fight the Dread. This isn’t due to some sort of compulsion; it’s because only people who will be willing to serve are given the chance for rebirth.
One of the critical questions for every Phoenix is why you came back – what exactly you are fighting for. Are you working with Dawn Command because you care about the Empire as a whole? Or are you fighting to protect your homeland, your family, or to avenge your death?
In any case, it’s important to understand that what you’re building here is the story of who you were before you became a Phoenix… and part of that question is also going to be how you finally died. You may have been a hero or champion in your first life, but it’s not a requirement. You could have been a teacher, a child, a poet, or anything else. You may have possessed remarkable skills to begin with, or you may have learned what you needed to learn in the Crucible – the spiritual trials all Phoenixes undergo.
The questions you ask when creating your character include:
- Who were you?
- How did you die?
- What gave you the strength to return?
Phoenixes are split into six Schools. Your School determines what skills and supernatural abilities you possess: the Durant is a stoic warrior, the Devoted a healer who strengthens others, the Shrouded excels at stealth and uncovering secrets. Your initial School is determined by the nature of your first death. The Devoted died to save others; the Shrouded died because of a secret. As you review the Schools, think about the character you want to play… and then work backwards to think how your first life and death fit that. If you want to play a Forceful Phoenix, then your death needs to deal with your not being fast enough or facing an obstacle you couldn’t overcome.
The six Schools are described in detail on the following pages.
Each School has a set of Skill Specialties. These are the core talents common to all members of that School, and consider this in creating your story. However, when you create a character, you can swap one of these out to fit your story. So while MOST Durant Phoenixes are trained in military strategy, you could decide that your Durant was actually an orphan who grew up on the streets of the big city, and drop War in favor of Streetwise.
Dan and Keith will help with these details; the important thing is that while you want your concept to fit the general mold of one of the Schools, it can be personalized to fit your story.
Each School also has a list of Archetypes. These are examples of concepts that fit within that School. These are intended solely as inspiration. You don’t have to use one of these archetypes; they’re only there to help you develop your own ideas.
NAMING YOUR PHOENIX: Cogs
As a Phoenix, your first life ended when you died. Phoenixes can’t hold property or lead normal lives. From your first rebirth until you die your final death, it’s your duty to serve with your Wing and protect the innocent. To symbolize this, each Phoenix takes a new name when they’re reborn. This your cognomen, traditionally shortened to cog. A cog is typically descriptive, often related to your School—so Ash is a fiery Elemental, Shepherd a protective Durant, and Wolf a predatory Bitter. However, nothing prevents you from having a traditional name as a cog; it simply can’t be the name you had in your first life.
SAMPLE COGS. Aegis, Anima, Ash, Badger, Bastion, Birch, Blade, Blaze, Bloom, Book, Cage, Cat, Cinder, Dawn, Drake, Dusk, Elegy, Ember, Faith, Forgotten, Genial, Grim, Hearth, Honor, Hope, Joy, Judge, Justice, Kestrel, Lock, Mercy, Nemesis, Noose, Omen, Page, Pierce, Preacher, Quill, Reaper, Regret, Royal, Rue, Rust, Savant, Shadow, Shepherd, Shrike, Slate, Smith, Summer, Steel, Stone, Storm, Swift, Teacher, Thorn, Verity, Willow, Winter, Wolf, Zephyr. The italicized names are cogs of Phoenixes that currently appear in the setting material.