The setting for Warcaster: Neo-Mechanika is called the Thousand Worlds for good reason. There is a tremendous amount of creative space built right into the setting, both from the scale of the Hyperuranion itself and the broad scope of the established lore so far. This makes the setting beautifully rich in opportunities to create backdrops for your and your friends’ adventures in Warcaster, whether as the sandbox for a narrative campaign or something to weave into your army’s backstory.
That was the sort of thinking that led to a project called Jericho Reach and two seasons of narrative battle reports. With the understanding that big narrative projects can be, at times, overwhelming, I’d like to take a minute to talk about how the ideas for Jericho Reach came about, in hopes of inspiring you to create your own world for your narrative battles.
Rather than set out with the goal of describing an entire functioning planet, Jericho Reach started with a single, visual idea. These ideas come from all over the place, and they’re different for everyone, but ultimately you’re looking for someone that excites the creative part of your brain, because you’ll need that fuel for the road ahead.
Keep an eye out for cool bits in the lore that paint a vivid image in your head when you read them. Some music on your playlist that makes you think of your army or gets you pumped up for a game. Scribble ideas when you can, and don’t be afraid of being ridiculous in your notes. Write down all these things, and mull them over later to see if any ideas stick with you.
The original idea for Jericho Reach traces back to page 8 of the original Warcaster rulebook, describing the harvesting of arcanessence as “from a massive geyser eruption”. It took about four seconds for my chaotic mind to conjure an image of two armies fighting across a plain where raw energy is bursting up around them, throwing soldiers and vehicles aside in explosions that make the weapons of war look pitiful in comparison.
Everything about Jericho Reach followed on from that one visual idea, and establishing what kind of world that would fit and who in their right mind would want to live on it, much less fight over it.
At this point in the process, I now had the concept of a planet that constantly exploded, which is a wonderful place to set a Norweigan metal band, but still needs some work before it’s ready to be the centerpiece of a story. At the time, I knew I wanted to have all three (Empyreans weren’t released yet) factions involved, so the story of this world would need to have a good reason for all three factions to be competing.
I decided to base the Reach around the idea of an old gold rush town, like you might find in a classic western film. The gold, or in this case the arcanessence, had drawn people to the world, but didn’t pan out, leaving the Reach to be largely considered worthless. The Marcher Worlds filled the role of the dedicated miners and townsfolk who refused to give up on their home, while the ISA became the sinister corporate boss-types who ride into town with their cronies and demand tribute. The Aeternus Continuum were cast as the roving bandits, hiding in deserted mines and preying on targets of opportunity.
If you and your friends are simply looking for a canvas on which to play battles, you can stop at anytime and simply let your games tell the rest of the story. For the Reach, I wanted to dig deeper into order to create a storyline for the campaign to follow, so I wrote a MacGuffin, or desirable plot element, into the story: there’s a secret buried underneath this ‘worthless’ planet, and that secret is what drives the conflict that brings all these armies together. The Aeternus Continuum are hiding in their abandoned mines because they are digging for it, while the Marchers and the ISA slowly become aware of it through the story.
Which gives us not only a planet, but a story to push along.
I adore character-driven stories, so I wanted a handful of memorable personalities for the audience (and myself) to follow along through the story of Jericho Reach. A filmed narrative campaign like Jericho Reach is going to require a lot more deliberate structure for this part than a store campaign against your friends/enemies, but a lot of the ideas are the same.
First, the protagonist. During the prologue episodes for Season 1, there was a Paladin Commander who spiked her dice rolls brilliantly and utterly crushed a Dusk Wolf warjack in single combat. When I needed to create a hero for the story to follow, this character was a natural choice and became Commander Taria, leader of one of the strike forces involved in the Reach. Since the audience needs to discover information about the story themselves, Taria is in a position where she is pursuing the truth about the world, and the story can follow her to naturally reveal things as we go.
By contrast, Avarice is a warcaster and a prisoner who almost never appears in the games. His role is to carefully dole out information and lead Taria along her path, simultaneously leading the audience towards the grand conclusion, when he fulfills his sinister plan of [REDACTED].
Both of these kinds of characters can come up during your campaigns and stories as well. Heroes that distinguish themselves in a game deserve a little extra marking, a trophy, or a name themselves. Consider a warjack that’s developing a basic personality as it wades through battle alongside its allies, a particularly lucky squad of soldiers, or a classic hero that holds the line against preposterous odds. Likewise, since you as a player are the warcaster in this game, you can flesh out that character as well, even if they never appear on the board, either for writing purposes or as part of how you play the army.
Back to Work:
In all things, remember the key rule about narrative play: if you and your opponent are having fun with the story, there’s no way to do it wrong. I hope these thoughts were helpful, and I look forward to continuing to see gorgeous pictures and gripping writeups from you all in the future.
For more of Jericho Reach, 2 seasons of narrative video battle reports are here, and the community campaign to win key locations of the reach is ongoing
The Jericho Reach sourcebook is here-
There is also a separate fan project “Tales of Jericho Reach” By Joshua Aaron Smith here