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Glimpse Inside Fables: Pirates of the Aetherial Expanse
Jul 1, 2022

Article by Joe Raso

“Hail and well-met travelers! Would you care to hear a Fable?”

Since joining Ghostfire Gaming this March, I’ve been busy helping finalize our latest Fables campaign, polishing the remarkable work of James J. Haeck and his writing team to be ready for our July release. They’ve crafted an exciting swashbuckling pirate adventure that will keep you enthralled with every episode.

But before I share details of our new campaign, I think I should first explain to newcomers what Fables is and why it’s a fantastic way to game at your table.

The Fables Subscription

Fables is a subscription service offered by Ghostfire, providing members with a new digital episode at the start of every month. Each episode contains a .pdf adventure booklet and all the digital tokens and maps needed to play that episode.

Each release provides gaming groups with enough exciting content to support a month worth of weekly gaming sessions. Folks starting subscriptions after a Fable has already begun can always purchase past episodes if they wish to experience the full campaign.

Every Fable consists of six-monthly episodes, with each campaign exploring different sorts of fantasy stories. Our first Fable was Citadel of the Unseen Sun and was set in Ghostfire’s Grim Hollow, a dark, gritty gothic horror campaign setting. Future Fables will visit new worlds and delve into other exciting fantasy genres such as superheroes, spies, stone-age survival, and of course, our newly released swashbuckling adventure, Pirates of the Aetherial Expanse.

We build each campaign using familiar 5th Edition rules, though we’ll often provide exciting new options for GMs and players to try at their tables.

Currently, we offer our Fables products as digital downloads. We’ve received several inquiries to offer these campaigns in printed form. For the time being, we are focusing on delivering the best possible monthly Fables experience, though offering physical books may be on our radar for the future.

Sailing Aetherial Expanse Fables 5e

Artist: Carson Lowmiller

The Aetherial Expanse

Our second Fable, Pirates of the Aetherial Expanse, takes place in a brand new campaign setting. Our first episode includes an immersive campaign guide exploring this wondrously magical region.

Here’s an excerpt from the campaign guide’s introduction:

“Floating in the endless void of the Astral Plane is a sea of silver starlight, a vast expanse of aetherial liquid that shimmers as comets shoot through its surface. The Astral Plane is the plane between planes, and portals to these manifold realms tear themselves open and seal themselves shut as if guided by an unseen will. Upon this Aetherial Expanse, a story of sails, cannons, empires, and high piracy is set. Two great powers fight over the Aetherial Expanse: the Kingdom of Ayris and the Karelagne Empire. Both hail from different worlds on the Material Plane, and see the expanse as a land of untapped riches and a means of infinite expansion. The Karelagne Navy’s mighty ships strike fear into the hearts of all, and the privateers employed by the ruthless merchants of the Kingdom of Ayris will stoop to any level to ensure they’re well paid.”

In contrast to Grim Hollow’s dark fantasy world, the Aetherial Expanse is an age of sail, pirate-themed setting where magic is turned up to 11! Mysterious dangers abound, and mighty navel powers battle to control the expanse and all the treasures they conceal. Ancient evils lurk in the depths threatening to devastate any who sail upon this magic-filled ocean on the astral plane.

New Character Options

Astral Emergent DnD 5e Fables

Artist: Carol Azevedo

As the setting for this Fable is in the Astral Plane, characters of nearly any origin are an excellent thematic fit. Portals from countless words and almost any plane could bring travelers here, seeking adventure or survival.

Our setting guide offers two new character races – the Astral Emergent and the Astral Merfolk. Both make their home in the expanse, thriving in its magically tainted waters.

Here’s a description of Astral Emergents, a race born from the essence of the astonishing Aetherial Sea itself:

“You were born from the thoughts and dreams of mortal beings. Your consciousness was once a string of thoughts and desires lost within the aether’s vastness. Then, your peaceful existence as thought alone was disturbed when a body crashed into the aether. This body was torn, broken, and dying, or dead already. Your essence surged into this shattered vessel, and you willed the aether to heal its flaws.

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Not long after, you emerged from the waves and marveled at your new, physical form. It was a body, one which walked on two legs and had senses of sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound that you could only dream of as a flickering, aetherial thought. The body you emerged from the astral waves with was once rent asunder, but is now healed; the former wounds glowing with the light of stars and nebulae.

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Your features resemble those of the creature who died beneath the aetherial waves, but your thoughts and feelings are wholly new, fashioned from the collective unconscious of the cosmos.”

New Mechanics

Every good pirate tale is filled with swashbuckling adventure on the decks of mighty ships exploring the high seas. During this Fable, you can participate in dramatic sea battles reminiscent of the Age of Sail.

We’ve created new rules to help GMs run exciting ship-to-ship combat, simulating battles between sailing ships that required large crews to operate effectively.

Want detailed tactical ship-to-ship combat? We’ve got that! From pursuit mechanics to ship mobility to raking cannon fire, we’ve compiled a robust set of rules to help you create stories of high adventure on the turbulent seas of the expanse.

Perhaps your group isn’t interested in detailed grid-based naval battles. We have also included simpler, narrative-based mechanics that allow you to add a dash of exciting ship-to-ship combat to challenge your players as they navigate our newest campaign.

Claim Your Ship, Build a Crew

Our new mechanics include rules to customize the ships you use to explore the aetherial sea. A variety of sailing vessels await, from the modest Sloop to the mighty Man o’War. Perhaps you’ll use your hard-won plunder to upgrade the hull, mystical sales that can catch the most ephemeral breeze, or add blistering weapons to create a genuinely fearsome vessel. Your ship is what you make of it.

However, experienced sailors know that even the best ships can flounder without a good crew. You’ll have a chance to assemble the officers and crew to man your ship and grow your reputation on the magical seas. Will your crew become a bastion of hope for free folk or a violent scourge to be feared by all?

And as your reputation grows, the powers seeking to control the expanse will take notice. Will you aid the expansionist nations in their quests to conquer, or will you ally with the pirates of the Isle of Drakes in their struggle to remain free? How you respond to this Fables’ challenges can dramatically affect the future of this piece of the astral plane.

Fables Aetherial Expanse DnD 5e

Artist: Maggie Ivy

Experience Adventure on the High Seas!

On top of these exciting new rules, our second Fable delivers an engaging story spanning six swashbuckling episodes.

You’ll start at 1st level as shipwrecked sailors looking to survive and escape Shipgrave Reef. Eventually, you’ll rise to 13th level, and over the course of the campaign, you’ll come into conflict with terrible powers threatening the expanse and all within.

Throughout your adventures, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to explore this exciting new campaign setting. The expanse is open for exploring, and you’re free to wander and exult in its mysteries of the aethereal sea.

So get ready to learn the ropes, trim the sails, and hoist your colors when you enter the Aetherial Expanse, a realm of high fantasy, seafaring piracy!

“So what’ll it be cap’n? Ye lookin’ for a crew?”

Game Master’s Spoilers

In the following section, we provide some broad spoilers of the plot lines for our next Fable. If you’re not going to be the GM of this campaign, we’d recommend you look the other way.

I also don’t want to spoil the whole story, so I’ll only share overviews of the first four episodes. You’ll have to wait until we release the final two episodes to learn the thrilling conclusion.

Episode 1: Treasure of Shipgrave Reef

A group of shipwrecked sailors must band together to form a makeshift crew, and test their nascent bonds of fellowship against the allure of treasure within Shipgrave Reef.

Episode 2: Come Sail Away

The characters depart Shipgrave Reef and travel to the Isle of Drakes, a pirate haven in the Aetherial Expanse. They can explore its inhabited islands before settling on its citied central isle and using it as a base of operations.

Episode 3: The Lost Constellation

Tensions between the Kingdom of Ayris and the Karelagne Empire heat up as zealots are discovered kidnapping astral emergents for devious experimentation. Gather allies, gather tools from dangerous outposts, and save the day!

Episode 4: Lost to the Aether

The characters become involved in the affairs of the Sistren of the Constellation Isles, and must swim, climb, and cut their way through the Fallen Isles on the hunt for an ancient merfolk palace that contains a world changing artifact. But not before they tread water with trouble like merrow, angry merfolk, a double-crossing swashbuckler, and more.

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