RPG Reviews – Trinity Continuum: Aeon

Trinity Continuum: Aeon

I mentioned in my review of the Trinity Continuum Core Rules that the original Trinity was one of my most memorable gaming experiences. As a result, I became incredibly excited that the game was returning. It would be an opportunity to revisit and revise the setting, rework the rules to account for two decades of game development, and a chance to return to one of my favorite science fiction settings.

I think it’s also timed very well. If art is to have any impact on culture and society it needs to connect deeply to the zeitgeist and provide nourishment for the soul. The themes of the Aeon trilogy: Hope, Sacrifice, Unity are clearly reflected in this game, and in this day and age it’s good to have a little hope in our fiction. In Aeon we see a world that has undergone massive catastrophe, that has sunk into despair, but then risen up to aim for a brighter future for all. We don’t face the threat of alien invasion or Superman-gone-rogue, our struggles are very grounded and human, but like the Star Trek setting it’s nice to think that we may be able to become something greater – in the long run.

Disclaimer: This title has been provided for purpose of review.

How We Got Here

Aeon takes place in the year 2123 on a rather different Earth. In the early 2000s, “Novas” – superpowered beings (and the protagonists of the upcoming Aberrant setting) appeared on the global stage. They had magnificent powers and abilities and used these to aid humanity over a 30-year period known as “The Nova Age”. If you were to take a standard superhero setting and say “Yes, but what if they used these powers to change the world, instead of turn people into dinosaurs” you would have a good idea of the leaps and bounds made during that time. They were able to terraform areas of the planet, reverse climate change, combat world hunger, and abolish afflictions through genetic engineering.

Of course, if you have powered people with good intentions you also have those with bad intentions, and over time things got ugly. “Aberrants”, as they were now known, set themselves above humanity, took control of geographic areas, and caused untold damage around the world, including destroying most farmland in the United States and crashing the OpNet (Internet). Humanity struggled against these beings until China, who had been secretly building and deploying military satellites, threatened to nuke the Earth if the Aberrants didn’t leave. Their bluff was called, the Aberrant-controlled island of Bahrain was annihilated, and it became clear China was willing to end everything. The Aberrants left for the stars, leaving humanity to rebuild.

In the aftermath, a humanitarian group know as the Aeon Trinity stepped forward to assist the United Nations and the governments of world in the recovery process and maintain that assistance to the “present” of any Aeon game. However, things did not stay peaceful forever. In 2105, a group of Aberrants destroyed an asteroid mining station, then attacked the Sydney, Australia spaceport. New heroes came to humanity’s aid in this attack – hundreds of super-powered beings defended against the Aberrants, and once the attack was over, their leaders appeared on the OpNet to explain who they were. These new superhumans were known as Psions and their leaders Proxies. Having harnessed the universal connection to the Subquantum realm (an antithesis to the Quantum-powered Aberrants), psions had awakened incredible psychic powers. Despite trepidation, humanity came to accept psions and in the time since their appearance they have continued to prove themselves worthy of being humanity’s champions.

Humanity has explored the stars, populating closer celestial bodies in our system, and making use of resources further out. We have encountered three major alien species, one friendly, one hostile, and one whose motives remain unclear.

The history section of Aeon is very good. It’s thorough and gives a clear overview of the events that led to the current year. Like any update of a game, I did find myself checking back to see if my specific knowledge of history elements was actually mentioned in this edition, or the original game. Both the history and setting information feels rather dense – a lot has been packed in here – but that’s because there’s nothing extraneous and you will find use in practically every paragraph in the book.

A Battle Rages, You Are the Weapon

The heroes of Aeon are the Psions – psychically enhanced humans who draw on the subquantum (or noetic) universe for their incredible powers. New Roles are provided for character creation – some to reflect the changed nature of Earth, but most to provide background for psions.

People with psionic potential are tapped by one of the Orders (psionic factions) and “awakened” in a device known as a Prometheus Chamber. There are 8 Aptitudes and an a Order focused around each, which possesses the Prometheus Chamber calibrated towards that particular Aptitude. Though the majority of the members of an Order possess the relevant Aptitude, not every member does (which I feel is made much clearer than the first edition of Trinity), allowing diversity of powers in the faction. “Neutrals” also make up a segment of each Order and there’s also the option to include Talents from the core rules.

While everyone in the universe is patently connected to the subquantum, psions have a greater ability to actively channel it. This is represented by the Psi trait. The upper limits are 6 or 7 and belong to the Proxies, founders of the Orders and the most powerful psions. Normal humans rate a 1 and newly triggered psions are a 2. Psi not only allows a user to use Aptitudes, but due to its connection to the Noetic universe it acts as a detector of all things subquantum. Mechanically a power’s die pool is made up of the Psi Trait and the Aptitude level. A psion can attempt to use a power higher than their Aptitude rating by increasing the difficulty and can also gain an Enhancement by using a power at a lower Aptitude level than their Psi rating. It’s a simple way to show breadthe of power while not invalidating beginner abilities.

Each Aptitude has 3 Modes, that represent a more specialized version of the general power and help specialize psions. The Aptitudes are:

  • Biokinesis: control over one’s body and form.
  • Clairsentience: opening the mind to the past, present, and future to view the interconnected universe.
  • Electrokinesis: the ability to manipulate technology and the electromagnetic spectrum.
  • Psychokinesis: the ability to manipulate kinetic energy.
  • Quantakinesis: exploring the relationship between energy and matter (also allowing interaction with Aberrant Quantum powers).
  • Telepathy: allowing a psionic connection with minds.
  • Teleportation: using the “all space is one” nature of the subquantum universe to move noetic signatures between locations.
  • Vitakinesis: the ability to repair, extend, or damage the biological noetic template.

There’s a lot of potential among all the Aptitudes and players will have plenty of cool powers to use. I have a hard time deciding which I like best, as there’s always something really interesting in each.

I would say the same about the Organizations that player characters can belong to. While some psions become Freelancers and work for hire, many will join one of the Orders, or the Aeon Trinity, which enlists a diverse group of neutrals and psions to further its aims. The Orders are based in different geographic locations, which reinforce the themes of the groups. Each section gives character concepts, discusses goals and projects, and guidance on running a faction-specific campaign.

  • The Aesculapian Order (Vitakinetics) are based out of Switzerland and Haiti. Directed by Dr. Matthieu Zweidler they are the largest international emergency-services organization. They provide short and long-term aid to as many people as possible, and operate search-and-rescue and first-response operations worldwide.
  • The Chitra Bhanu (Quantikinetics) operated out of Mumbai under the direction of Dr. S.K. Bhurano. They were the smallest of the 8 Orders and focused almost exclusively on noetic research and study of Quantum phenomena. However, rumors began that they were working with Aberrants, and as this paranoia grew, several of the other orders attacked the CB headquarters and killed them all. There are still reports of encounters with Quantakinetics, so while they aren’t an active, public element of the Aeon setting, they are still included for individual campaigns to use.
  • ISRA – The Interplanetary School of Research and Advancement (Clairsentients) are a large spiritual organization very loosely controlled by the proxy Otha Herzog from the order’s meeting house on Luna. United by their abilities, the members hold very diverse philosophies and despite the perception of ISRA as a cult, view it as a facilitator for their individual spiritual growth. Like the Aesculapians, ISRAns aim to use their powers for the betterment and security of humanity.
  • The Legions (Psychokinetics) are commanded by Captain Solveig Larssen, a member of UN Military Command. They are a military organization with a home base in Australia, and 7 total Legions that operate worldwide and in space, with the mandate of protecting humanity from physical threats (like Aberrants and aliens). There’s a sidebar addressing how to run a game with a military hierarchy and the various pitfalls that can occur, which is very useful when considering a Legion campaign.
  • The Ministry [of Noetic Affairs] (Telepaths) is a sub-division of the Chinese government guided by the Proxy Rebecca Bue Li. Despite the impression that can be made of The Ministry being “secret police”, they are much more diverse, and their various Offices perform Noetic research, social work, and bureaucratic and economic assistance in many places.
  • Psi Order Norca (Biokinetics) began as Sudamerican eco-defender myth and grew into a greater power. Led by Proxy Giuseppe del Fuego, Norca view themselves as champions of life and have a strong environmentalist element. Their connection to the biological noetic template means they spend much of their research capabilities on biotechnology, pharmacology, and biochemistry efforts.
  • Orgotek (Electrokinetics) are the “good” corporation in the fascist-corporatocracy that is the Federated States of America. They have their fingers in every economic pie and “Prexy” (President/Proxy) Alex Cassel helped pioneer the biotech revolution. They are the ally within the system, playing the FSA’s corporate game to change and combat it from the inside.
  • Upeo Wa Macho (Teleporters) only recently returned to Earth after an attack by the alien Chromatics. After the Chitra Bhanu purge, Proxy Bolade Atwan was prepared for the other Orders to turn on the Upeo if they felt there was a threat, and when her fears became too real, the entire order vanished off Earth. Teleporters are rare and the Upeo recruitment process is very exhaustive and thorough. They take on explorers and visionaries, those who are incredibly self-reliant, but who also function well as a team, as exploration can be lonely and grueling, and very dependent on support from others.
  • The Aeon Trinity is not an Order, but works closely with them and world governments to best aid humanity – nearly everyone has a story of being helped by them in some way. They are a humanitarian organization/scientific think tank/nonprofit foundation/secret conspiracy. Operating under the motto of “Hope, Sacrifice, Unity” they were relatively undamaged by the Aberrant War, which placed them perfectly to become indispensable in the rebuilding effort. Aeon Trinity campaigns will have the most diverse set of characters and allow for the widest styles of games, easily encompassing all styles.

The World of Our Future

One of the great things about the Aeon setting has always been its diversity of genre. You can use this setting to play basically any science fiction genre you like – postapocalyptic, space opera, cyberpunk, transhuman, technothriller, futurist – there’s a story for everyone in this world and it feels as if it has all been created organically with nothing shoehorned in.

The impact of the Aberrant War has changed the global landscape – former world powers have fallen and others risen to take their place. The United States has fallen to fascism and after a catastrophe that annihilated France, Europe has become a fractured and decentralized post apocalyptic wasteland/collection of warring nations.

On the other side, Sudamerica and the United African Nations are economic and social powers with a futurist and transhuman direction, Australia has become a center for immigration and a land of opportunity, and China operates a highly-functional surveillance state with excellent infrastructure.

Humanity has also made its way to the stars, and the “geography” section includes informatipn on Luna, Mars, and the extrasolar colonies – all suitably detailed to give a good sense of what life in these places is like.

I really enjoyed this section. It has an even greater level of detail than the history chapter. You learn about culture and society, crime and punishment, and really get a good image of what life is like in the 2120s. It is dense but again, no word is wasted here, so take your time and make some notes while planning a series. On that note, there’s so much to work with here you’ll have a location for any style of game you want.

The Storyguide section builds on that to analyze the different subgenres of science fiction and how they work in the Aeon setting. This is one of the advantages of a two-book system – by having all the core rules in one book, the writers can focus on other elements in the setting books to enhance and provide deeper insight on the game. The Storyguide chapter elaborates on the themes of the game and, as all good science fiction games should, the role of technology in the setting, and how it affects gameplay, especially the nature of the OpNet and Augmented Reality, and how to handle ubiquitous access to information in an RPG.

Technology unsurprisingly receives its own chapter, providing plenty of new options to build gear and examples of those options in action. Besides the conventional “hardtech” the world of 2123 has access to biotech, which has a “noetic”(psionic) connection and can be “formatted” by psions to work more symbiotically with them. There’s a lot of fun stuff here for players and Storyguides to make use of.

With the bulk of the rules having been covered in the Trinity Continuum Core Rulebook, Aeon is free to focus on setting-specific mechanics. Hacking and surveillance, space travel and combat, diseases and afflictions receive simple and straightforward treatment. Statistics are provided for sample allies and opponents, from the different Alien species encountered by humanity to a section to create Aberrant enemies and Aberrant cults (organizations centered around particular Aberrants).

If you’re not going to be the Storyguide for an Aeon game, don’t read the Setting Secrets chapter. There was a time when metaplots were the big thing in RPGs and in a sense, they were cool, as you got to see a setting and story evolve over time. They could also be very constricting if the background secrets weren’t available to the Gamemaster from the start. The paperback release of the Trinity core rules was the first time I saw everything laid out in full, to avoid conflicts later on, and the tradition is thankfully continued here. I’m not going to spoil anything in this review but will reiterate – if you’re not going to run the game, don’t read it. It’ll make things difficult for everyone in your game. Storyguides – the information here firmly ties together the Aeon/Aberrant/Adventure! trilogy and includes a section on the future of the setting – if the players don’t get involved. It’s a lot of fun to read and a great aid in tying your games into the setting at-large.

Trinity Continuum: Aeon is a wonderful book. As a fan of the first game it includes everything I would want in terms of rules and setting – enough for me to run a game with just this and the TC Core Rules. It’s a delight to read, very flavorful, well-organized and with an excellent layout. It has something to appeal to every science fiction fan without diluting the overall concept and themes of the game.

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