Howdy stranger, welcome to Io’Zaalus, the one miserable planet no human would wanna be condemned to die on. But here we are anyway. Don’t worry, she supports life. Too damn much of it, if you ask me.She looks pretty untamed and empty on the surface, but you can’t set up shop just anywhere: you’re bound to park yourself over some natives if you don’t check underneath your claim. We call them Goblins and Dwarves. They’re always fighting for tunnels and caverns in their big, stupid eternal war. Surprisingly, and to their credit, they got to making friendly real quick when the Konzah slag ships that were hot on our heels started dropping shock troopers in their neat little trashcan pods. Lucky us that those clumsy chum for brain sharks don’t know nothin’ more than a sloppy search and destroy. I grouse, but us spacers are just lucky to be here. Count yourself lucky the seeder ship saw fit to dump us here, or we’d be a whole lot of leather upholstery and meat smoothies aboard some Konzah boats.
Anyhow, you don’t need to trouble yourself with all that at the moment. Since you been alive this long, it ain’t like you’ve never fired a gun before… you have fired a gun before, right? You’re gonna need it for when you’re out here. If the Konzah marines or Goblin pit traps don’t getcha, it’s sure to be one of them flying spiders. Learn to make a slug-shooter out of whatever you can find quick, friend, and you’ll be alright… Probably.
Imagine some kooky feller’s got this shed full of psychedelics, and he keeps trapping a new animal inside every day. The only thing to eat that ain’t your neighbors makes you go screwball, and after that all the other critters in there with you start looking like a bunch of hungry backstabbers, and tasty ones at that… So then every little blessed creature of creation stuck in that shed is a mad killer in a free-for-all bid to be top of an overcrowded ecosystem. If you can wrap your head around that stupid allegory, congratulations, you’ve just scratched the surface to understanding what Io’Zaalus really is.
Shadow Tantrum is primarily set on the planet of Io’Zaalus, which has a similar wealth of different biomes and biodiversity as Earth, but with a far more mutable and chaotic ecosystem. Life on Io’Zaalus contorts to the whims of the miracle element Aeonerium, a water-like substance thought to be connected to the eternal minds behind creation and known to have unpredictable mutation effects on organic material in its raw forms. Aeonerium exists in little pockets and clouds all over the galaxy, but so far no other place with such a stable and self-replenishing resource of the stuff has been discovered. Some folks reckon that makes Io’Zaalus someplace special to the Almighty themselves, whatever harebrained divine plans they have in store for it.
Long before the arrival of the displaced Human settlers and the widely spacefaring Konzah, the native Dowungr and Gobaldi (or Dwarves and Goblins) formed their subterranean civilizations in Io’Zaalus’s crust. They tunneled for Aeonerium as we dig for oil or gold, harnessing the energy source to supplement their technology in widely branching fields such as aeon-steel weapons crafting and aeonized medicine. As those with seemingly the most inexhaustible supply of the rare element in the known galaxy, they are the best at manipulating and refining Aeonerium. Perhaps wisely, given the envious and hungry powers like the Konzah in the stars beyond, Dwarves and Goblins kept an insular and underground focus to their civilizations as they waged their endless territory wars against each other. Their mutual secret was kept hidden for a while.
No good deed goes unpunished. When the Underking of the dwarf nation of Dowungr Gotchmere gave shelter to the crash-landed human spacers with a Konzah patrol on their heels, the dwarves’ devastating use of aeonized artillery batteries against the Konzah ships in orbit revealed how much Aeonerium they were sitting on based on how much of the stuff they were willing to waste on strangers. The Konzah scouts retreated and reported their discovery, and soon a decorated Konzah admiral arrived with his fleet in tow to besiege the planet. The more numerous firepower of the invaders eventually destroyed all the orbital defense batteries the dwarves had, but not without significant ship losses. Bombarding the surface of the planet into glass and cooking the natives inside her crust was against the Konzah’s orders, however, as that would likely eradicate much of the precious Aeonerium they had come to claim. So the fleet began their constant orbital drop raids of cloned marines. Soon Io’Zaalus went from an untapped backwater to the stage for a 20 year-long stalemate between a well-supplied imperial flotilla and the hardy guerrilla forces composed of the uncooperative locals.
Humanity came to Io’Zaalus aboard a burning arc, and only a fraction of their number survived the impact. They did not choose this new home, instead, it was chosen for them while they still slumbered in cryo as the ship’s AI determined Io’Zaalus to be the most survivable planet for an emergency landing. Through deadly mutant fauna, raids by isolationist natives, and the fiery showers of marine drop-pods, the hardy settlers have carved out a livelihood on the planet’s surface far beyond the few spaces granted to them by the more welcoming factions among the Dwarves. That livelihood is constantly threatened, however, and those settlements that whether the seasons are few and far between, and some have adopted a nomadic lifestyle since staying still means death in many places. Stuck between the fierce individuality of the frontiers and the security and cooperation of the centralized lands, Humanity on Io’Zaalus is at a crossroads where it seems only one path can be taken.
Not everybody has cushy enough arrangements to be so noble and self-sacrificing to freeloading refugees: many of the loosely organized and self-reliant Goblins see Humans as invaders no better than the Konzah, as well as just another competitor for supremacy on Io’Zaalus. Humanity only brought their own gripes and demands as gifts, and not far behind was a whole empire’s worth of trouble for everyone on Io’Zaalus. Goblins have always tended to befriend and betray whoever they felt like in the moment, and humans haven’t gotten any special treatment in that regard. In fact, they’ve mostly gotten IEDs and hijacked vehicles. But some crazy-brained humans get along with Goblins like fire and gunpowder, for better or worse… mostly for worse.
Not every Konzah dies shedding alien blood and crying their devotion to the Divine Emperors. Some take a minute to look around them at all the ashes and gore and ask what it’s all for. Those Konzah usually end up executed or deserting like the infamous Konzah defection leader Reksha’De. Whether those free-thinking Konzah try to make amends with the surface dwellers and fight for the underdog, join in Reksha’De’s ragtag army or go into a new career of wholesale slaughter and banditry as their own boss, independent Konzah tend to be as rare as they are dangerous. Usually from the vat-grown clone stock of marines, bodies full of performance enhancers and heads full of propaganda holo-vids, a freed Konzah has probably never even seen the Konzah homeworld or their numerous occupied planets. When their truthfully thin attachments to home and country fall away, they become a disoriented force of nature ravenously searching to fill a sudden void of identity which used to be filled by nonsense and violence. Tragically often the violence stays and a new idiosyncratic brand of nonsense takes the old one’s place.
Shadow Tantrum is a setting meant to be played with many TTRPG systems, although it is particularly suited to setting-agnostic open systems such as Tidebreaker. To play Shadow Tantrum you’ll need the setting book which contains all the lore and adaptation rules and guidelines you’ll need to bring this space-western into your preferred system.