In the Wild Cards series, human history was changed forever on September 15, 1946, when a Takisian biogenetic weapon detonated over Manhattan, and kicked off an age of Aces and Jokers. But what if Takis were not an alien world, but rather, a part of Arcadia? What if the feuding noble houses of Takis are in fact noble houses of Arcadia, and the whole of the Resurgence merely another gambit in the endless struggles between houses?
Well, that would make Dr Tachyon the world’s shortest Sidhe, but leaving that aside, it would also mean that every Ace power and every Joker deformity was actually an example of the power of glamour. In this world, every human has, all unawares, a Seelie and an Unseelie nature – but it took the Wild Card to awaken and empower them. Joker or Ace, it came down which nature a person was manifesting at the time they were exposed. (Perhaps the Black Queen was drawn by those poor buggers transitioning from one to the other at the time of exposure.)
In the modern day, Manhattan’s Joker town is populated for a Fomori host that does not know its true nature, and the Aces all draw upon glamour as members of various kiths. (It may make a little more sense to use the powers and seemings from Changeling: The Lost to represent this, but the setting should remain that of Changeling: The Dreaming).
Now, so far in the books, the Takisians do not seem interested in the results of their little experiment, but it’s unlikely that this state of affairs will remain the case forever…
One of the questions that’s never really answered in any of the Aeon games – not in Adventure!, Aberrant or Trinity – is what the source of these wonderful, terrible powers is. Oh, there are theories, but no one really knows for sure.
So it’s far from out of the question that they are the result of Takisian xenogenetic expertise. But if they are, so what? There’s no room for a Dr Tachyon figure in any of the game’s timelines – unless he’s not overt. Maybe he’s here, but with a lot more control over his own life, and still Takisian to the bone. None of this compassion and cure creation – this Tachy is an expert manipulator schooled in the politics of Takis and with powers of telepathy no human will be able to match, at least not in the eras of Adventure! or Aberrant. By the time Trinity rolls around, things are likely different – but of course, an immortal telepathic manipulator is more than likely behind one or more of the psionic orders (the Ministry of Psionic Affairs and Norça are the most likely candidates, although as a space-faring alien, no doubt Upeo wa Macho would also be of interest).
It’s hardly likely that the rest of Takis is sitting on its hands while one of their own builds an army on some distant planet, but even in the era of Trinity the Takisians remain elusive. (Perhaps they tried an invasion in one of the earlier eras and were repulsed without being identified?) They are certainly not either the Doyen or the Qin (although given the Qin’s skill with biotechnology, they may be some other Takisian’s attempt to build yet another power base).
So, in Adventure! or Aberrant, the Takisians make excellent covert antagonists or alien invaders; in Trinity, they’re a mysterious fourth space-faring power that no one seems to know about – although if humanity, the Doyen and the Qin trusted each other enough, they might have enough pieces to solve the puzzle…
White Wolf’s Aeon Continuum trilogy of games – Adventure!, Aberrant and Trinity – each partake of a classic genre of heroic fiction, from the pulp era action of Adventure! through the postmodern superheroics of Aberrant and on to the near-future psychic intrigue of Trinity. All on its own, the Aeoniverse is a rich setting for roleplaying. But adding one of the oldest legends of humanity to it can create a game that is truly unique.
What follows are descriptions of how to meld these three games with each of the three settings detailed in GURPS Atlantis. Each section begins by explaining how the history and nature of Atlantis differs from the book’s versions, and then suggests specific ideas for incorporating it in an Aeon Continuum game. Some spoilers for the metaplot of the Aeon Continuum games may be found below – nothing you won’t be familiar with if you’ve already read “Trinity: The Story so far” at the White Wolf site, so consider yourself warned.
The Orichalcum Age
The Posiedon who founded Atlantis may have been a god, but it’s far more likely that he was a Nova (whether native to this age or from somewhere in the future). Not only that, he was a Nova one of almost unprecedented power. The default assumption of this setting is that the myths of Greece are merely myths – “Posiedon” is a superhuman playing a role, not an actual god. (Alternately, he may be the original version that the myth is based on – in which case, it is possible that other analogues of the Olympians also exist.) He founded the Royal House of Atlantis, and founded the temples in his own name. He established an order of Oracles around a Pretercognitive ally, and even created Orichalcum. Then he left, and his sons ruled after him. But as the centuries passed, the powers grew weaker, but the Taint grew ever stronger in his descendents. Now Atlantis stands on the brink of war and disaster, and the Pretercognitives who warn of impending doom are ignored.
This is a low magic version of Atlantis. Although some Aberrant powers exist, they are commonly believed (even by their possessors) to be magical in nature. No one realises how dangerous Taint is, mostly because it tends to express itself cheifly in non-visible ways – subtle bodily mutations or insanity. (Although it may well be less subtle in some – the Minotaur and the Centaurs may well be the result of it.) As it is, only the order of oracles, the Royal Family and a few members of the priesthood have any powers anyway. To somewhat compensate for this, the technological superiority of the Atlanteans over the rest of the world should be highlighted – it will make the threat they pose to Greece and Egypt more plausible.
On Earth, there is almost no way this setting will work without seriously deforming the setting or either Aberrant or Trinity. It is possible that some Aberrant still surviving until the days of Trinity has created something like Atlantis on whatever world the Aberrants now inhabit, and just barely possible that a Nova could create this setting in the Aberrant era. But it’s impossible for such a world to have continued on Earth into these eras undetected. It could be located in some adjacent dimension to our own, or in an alternate timeline, but if so, the access to it should most likely be a once only thing, to avoid disrupting the game world too much.
Where Atlantis really comes into its own is in the Adventure! setting. Although it is unlikely to continue in such a high-fantasy guise, the Orichalcum Age is an almost perfect lost world. With some minor tweaks, it can easily serve as such in your campaign. The first thing that will need to be done is to change the location and size of the island. It will need to be somewhere less well traveled than the location given in GURPS Atlantis. Further south in the Atlantic below the Equator, or even somewhere in the Indian Ocean aren’t too unreasonable as locations – it’s still within range of Greece and Egypt (especially allowing for the Atlantean’s technological superiority) – and is still fairly unknown, even in the Twenties. The other change has already been mentioned – making the setting less high fantasy. Magic should be totally removed or dialed back to the “mysterious powers of the mind” level already present in Adventure! Whether magic is real or the native priests are merely Inspired is a question probably best left unresolved.
And of course, in any of the settings, the Orichalcum Age could merely be a far distant era in the pre-history of our planet, reached through the time manipulation powers of an Inspired, a Nova or a Psion. Maybe “Posiedon” is a time-jumping antagonist in your campaign, pursued, inevitably, by the character party. This may work for an interesting turnabout, as the players may well find that their own characters are the “gods” responsible for the doom of Atlantis. Like the alternate dimension variant discussed above, this idea works best as a once only trip. Or maybe the Order of Aesculapius didn’t just choose that name for its mythic connotations. Does Matthieu Zweidler know more than he’s letting on about the secret history of the Aeon Continuum?
Heirs of Minos
Regardless of what the legends and/or histories of the Minoans say, the true source of their psychic powers is most likely the Doyen. The aliens may have concealed themselves as the gods of Olympus, or approached more openly (possibly paralleling the Loi in a GURPS Atomic Horror game. See GURPS Atlantis, p98.) Very likely, this is all lost in the mists of time, although it’s not impossible that some forgotten history records it – or even a Memory Crystal exists that contains an elder who was there. Another option is that the Bull-King, the Minotaur, was an early Aberrant who was somehow able to create psion rather nova powers in those he favoured. If this option is taken, the Minotaur’s influence should still be felt in the conspiracy, as per page 94 of GURPS Atlantis – maybe the Minoans powers are Aberrant after all?
Of the three settings given in GURPS Atlantis, this is the one that fits into the Aeonverse most easily. Just as written, the Minoan Conspiracy makes a dandy antagonist in Adventure! or Aberrant games. In both these eras, the conspiracy is likely to be disturbed by the apparent breakage of their monopoly on psychic powers, and to take steps to restore the status quo. In the early years of both settings, the Minoans are likely to be subtle foes, possibly even presenting themselves as allies while they try to learn more about these strangely powered beings. As time goes by, they reveal themselves as enemies, although rarely overt ones. Wherever possible, the Minoans work by sowing dissension among Inspired or Novas, encouraging them to turn on each other, and thus remove the threat without exposing the Minoans’ hand.
In a Trinity game, the Minoan conspiracy is faced with competition too well entrenched to easily get rid of. The greater experience and range of the Minoans compared to any one Order is balanced against the numerical superiority and public acceptance of the Orders en masse. Still, the Minoans work quietly to infiltrate and suborn the Orders, with the goal of causing them to turn on each other – Minoans may well be pulling the strings somewhere behind the Huang-Marr conspiracy, for example. If the Minoans do not know the source of their powers, they are very likely to have strong suspicions – they will have detected, although not necessarily understood – the arrival of the Doyen, the creation of the Proxies and the recruitment of the Orders. They may even have influenced the Orders to go public before the Doyen planned in the hopes of flushing out the aliens. And it’s certain that they provided a refuge to any Chitra Bhanu or Upea Wa Macho Psions who they could find, in exchange for information on the other Orders. As for the Aeon Trinity, well, it’s likely that the two conspiracies have encountered each other in the past. Are they secret allies, or deadly enemies? And if Dr Primoris knew of the Minoans 200 years ago, does Divis Mal still remember them?
Lords of the Deep
For this variant, a variation of the background given for GURPS Supers should be used. The two warring alien races were the Doyen and the Qin. The Doyen came first, seeking Orichalcum, which is a vital raw material for use in their Prometheus Chambers. They constructed automated factories and used their mental powers to mutate humans into a more amphibious form to do the heavy labour of mining the Orichalcum. The Qin, ancient enemies of the Doyen, followed them to Earth and warred with them here. The Doyen abandoned their mutated human allies and automated mining factories in the face of the Qin attack. Leaving behind the Aberrant-creating weapon responsible for the Black Smokers, the Qin also left. Doyen historical records clearly record visits to Earth, not that anyone’s likely to see them. The Qin have lost records and power over the thousands of years since then, and no one on Qin remembers the race’s first visit to Earth. This version of Atlantis could be located anywhere in the world’s oceans – it may even be able to move around under its own powers (or towed by hundreds of whales, Aquaman-style).
This setting is already designed for use in a Supers setting, so it will fit into Aberrant very nicely already. A few more changes need to be made to use it with Adventure! – a hybrid of the ideas given for Supers and Steampunk versions in GURPS Atlantis is the best approach for the technology of the Lords of the Deep, leaning more towards Steampunk or Supers according to GM taste. See GURPS Atlantis, p118, which has some ideas for GURPS Cliffhangers games that are equally useful for Adventure!
In a Trinity game, Atlantis may still be there, but it is unlikely to be recognised for what it is at first. The most likely means of its discovery is a clairsentient Psion picking evidence of psion or aberrant powers where there shouldn’t be any. The full history of Atlantis is unlikely to be easily unearthed, especially if the existence of the Doyen or the true natures of the Qin are yet known. If the GM prefers, Atlantis may have only been down there since the Aberrant era, and Oceania may be a benevolent Nova still dwelling there, although the creators of the technology should still be the Doyen. In any setting, the Black Smokers are Aberrants created by gene-splicing amphibious humans with Qin DNA, and have a genetic makeup unlike anything else on the planet, one which the Qin will be anxious to eliminate, if they realise it still exists. And what of the returning Aberrants? Will they make common cause with the Black Smokers? Or have they already done so?
Although both GURPS Atlantis and Blue Planet both feature undersea settings, it takes a little work to make them go together. Of the three settings provided in GURPS Atlantis, neither The Orichalcum Age setting nor The Lords of the Deep setting really meshes well with Blue Planet. But the Heirs of Minos setting, with its conspiracy of telepaths? That’s a different story.
There are no overt psionics in the Blue Planet setting, but that’s fine – the Minoan Conspiracy is supposed to be secretive, after all. Clearly, they’ve done a good job of hiding over the years, no doubt aided by their powers. But as the science of biomods develops, the chances of someone developing artificial psionics grows ever greater. Now, merely human companies can relatively easily be controlled by the Minoans, but non-humans may prove more difficult.
Cetaceans guard their privacy jealously, and although their scientific research capacities are limited, that’s not to say they couldn’t engage in some conspiring of their own, with hidden research stations outside the conspiracy’s reach. And what of the Aborigines and their mysterious Creators? Has the whole of interstellar history been the sideshow distracting us from the hidden struggle between the Creators and the Minoans? Or are the Minoans also servants of the Creators?
In the year 2199, things on the Blue Planet of Poseidon are only gettting more interesting. Meanwhile, back in the Sol System, Earth is living up to its name as the World of Darkness.
The declaration of victory in the Ascendance War by the Technocracy at the dawn of the 21st Century set the tone for the two subsequent centuries. As the years went by, the rule of technology and science, through both success and failure, became more and more apparent, and deviation from reality became less and less common.
The rest of mage-kind were not slow to fight back, and as increasing numbers of Tradition mages either went Marauder or were corrupted by the Nephandi, the war only became nastier. The terrorist acts of Zero Nation, the inexplicable failure of El Nino to form in the 2030’s, the Big One that wiped out California in 2033, even the apparently impossible jump of the Blight across species – all these and more were the doing of Nephandus mages and their allies.
The Blight changed everything. As it grew worse and worse, numbers of Vampires grew and grew and grew. Even after the human population topped out and began to fall back rapidly, vampire numbers continued to grow. And as they did, the number of Hunters called to fight them grew also. As global population stabilised at less than half its previous level, the vampires were left increasingly exposed, falling to a combination of Hunter onslaughts, their own savage in-fighting and organised Technocracy pogroms. A last dicth effort, allying themselves with the Marauders, only saw both groups decimated by the Technocracy’s superior power and numbers.
As the worst of the Blight receded, the new status quo arose between the factions of the World of Darkness, as yet unaware of the dangers posed to it by the aborigines of Posiedon.
Increasingly cut off from humanity – and crushed along with the dreams of the mortals they depended upon, the changelings have almost entirely retreated to their freeholds or into the Dreaming. Only recently, with the reports of possible alien intelligences on Poseidon, have many fae returned to the worlds of mortals – and only in limited numbers. The only exceptions to this have been those fae most intimately connected to the oceans – the Selkies, Merfolk and Murdhuacha have always thrived on Poseidon.
In addition, strange new fae have been reported in the Dreaming and in mundane reality. Reports are sketchy at best, but these new fae may have been brought into being by the dreams of the Cetaceans of Posiedon.
Called in record numbers to fight the vampire armies of the Blight years, the Hunters remain relatively common among humanity – certainly vastly more common than at any previous time. But as always, they are divided and factionalised over more human concerns than any other group. There are those who are Poseidon separatists, and those who believe in unity. There are Hunters who believe that the aborigines of Poseidon are simply another kind of monster to fight, and those who think that they are potential allies in the fight against the unnatural.
As a result of the Blight years, the majority of Hunters in 2199 care deeply about environmental issues – and a large faction of these have made a Faustian bargain with the few surviving Bete, striving to clean up the Earth of both pollutants and monsters.
The Technocracy rules pretty much uncontestedly over both the Sol and Serpentis systems. While there are isolated Tradition and Orphan mages, they are necessarily circumspect. But with the Technocracy’s control stretched ever thinner over both Earth and Posiedon, they are finding it easier to escape detection – and even to fight back. For the first time in centuries, the Traditions have the initiative in the long war with the Technocracy – and they intend to push it.
Vampiric bloodlines have been hunted almost to extinction. Only the very oldest and the very youngest vampires still survive – nearly all members of the 7th through to the 14th generations have been wiped out. The major factions of Kindred society are no more – all vampires are, to some extent, Anarchs now. But as the vigilance of their two greatest scourges, the Hunters and the Technocracy, is trained more and more at each other, the vampires are making a slow comeback.
The genetic screening of the early 21st century made things harder and harder for all the shapechangers. The day was only won at last when the Glass Walkers, acting alone, managed to place a virus deep within the computers of the Human Genome Project that would effectively mask the existence of all Bete. By this time, however, it was already almost too late. Although the Glass Walkers, Bone Gnawers , Corax and Ratkin thrived, several other races of Bete seem to have been wiped out altogether, including the Gurahl, and the Kitsune. (The Nagah were reported destroyed, but they have been reported destroyed before now). The Bastet were decimated, and several of their breeds became extinct – only the Swara and Celican have managed to remain at more or less the same populations.
Then came the Blight. Hard-line factions within most of the surviving Bete saw it as a golden opportunity to re-institute the Impergium, and many gladly gave their lives towards this goal. Perhaps half the deaths attributed to Blight-induced rioting or wars were under the claws and fangs of the Bete. In the wake of the Blight, Gaia is in a better condition, in many ways, than she has been since the Industrial Revolution hit its stride. And now that humanity has been reduced to a more manageable level, the Bete are preparing to take this world back from the Technocrats.
Things are different on Posiedon. The few Bete to make it here have almost always been found out and destroyed, with one significant exception: the Rokea. The were-sharks have adpated quickly to this ocean world, although their efforts to communicate with the Aborigines have met with, at best, mixed results. Still, the more isolated reaches of Poseidon are dotted with tiny human settlements that are actually composed almost entirely of weresharks and their kinfolk.
But they are no longer alone in these oceans, and their dealings with the uplifted Cetaceans have been almost entirely a matter of war. Deep out of sight of most humans, and genocidal three-way struggle is fought, too-finely balanced for there to be an end in sight.
The first Wraiths to find their way to Poseidon did so involuntarily. When their fetters were moved there, knowingly or otherwise by mortals, the Wraiths found themselves drawn through the Tempests to this strange new world. Over time, more and more Wraiths joined them there, as colonists began to die. The new arrivals noted two strange phenomena: first, that there is no Labyrinth at the bottom of the Dark Kingdom of the Seas (although there are still a few Spectres – some souls are naturally drawn to that end), and second, that there is a strange kingdom inhabited by the departed spirits of the natives of Poseidon, the so-called Aborigines.
Back in Stygia, the Blight years created an almost constant Tempest, even greater than that of the World War Two years. The Kingdoms of the Dead, all of them, are filled night to bursting, and more souls are drawn into nihils every day. Fortunately for the Wraiths, the rate at which Spectres fall prey to their own natures has mostly kept up.
As with the three films, this setting neatly divides into three parts: prior to the first film, during the period of the trilogy and following the third film.
In the earliest stage, before the events of the first film, Jurassic Park is a sort of battleground between two arms of the Technocracy: the Progenitors, whose baby it is, and the Syndicate, who are holding the checkbook. These tensions are evident in the film – Hammond’s difficulties with his investors are merely the tip of the iceberg.
A game set in this period is probably best run as a game set within the intrigues and rivalries of the Technocracy itself, with the various species of shape-changers providing an external enemy if one is required.
After the first film, when Ian Malcolm writes his book about the Park, the second stage begins. Word about the Park’s existence and nature slowly leaks out – for all that Malcolm is ridiculed for his book, there are those who believe him. It’s only after the San Diego incident that Malcolm is vindicated, and coverage of the Park saturates the media. After this time, it’s public knowledge.
In one sense, this is a victory for the Technocracy: although the Park itself is a failure, the masses are now compelled to accept that technology has advanced, that the world has changed – the Technocracy has strengthened its grip on the paradigm of the masses. Games set during this may wish to concentrate on battles of media manipulation between the Technocracy and the Traditions – it’s not so much the existence of the dinosaurs as the meaning of them that is important now. (The odd alliance of the Verbena and the Sons of Ether that might spring up to defend the dinosaurs is another twist that Storytellers can use to shake things up.)
After the third movie, which concludes with pterodactyls flying off the island, looking for new territories, a third stage begins. In this stage, it is the battle of humans vs dinosaurs that takes centre stage. (This could be set earlier – the original novel includes a group of velociraptors who make their way to the mainland, and the second novel does the same with procompothnagus.) This stage is probably best not played as Mage, but as Werewolf – the new dinosaurs, especially the velociraptors, find allies amongst the Mokole, the Nagah and possibly the Rokea, and institute a new Impergium – with all the rest of the Bete caught in the middle. The grim irony that it is humanity itself who creates the Apocalypse will not be lost on the Garou.
There is, of course, a perfectly logical point of commonality between these two dystopias: the prominence of genetic engineering in both settings. But the exact details of the connection are a little harder to tease out.
So much depends on what became of International Genetic Technologies, Inc (better known as InGen). While the third film makes it fairly clear that the company itself is most likely gone, it’s unlikely that the valuable intellectual properties it developed have been forgotten. We know from the first film that InGen had an industrial espionage problem even when things were going well – how much worse will that have gotten when there isn’t enough money to maintain security?
So one way or another, it seems likely that the genetic advances spearheaded by John Hammond have made their way into the hands of Eldon Tyrell. And Tyrell, of course, took them to the next level, improving on and even perfecting some of the things Hammond had tried and failed to create. (Most notably, of course, an off-switch.)
But there’s no way this experimentation was perfect or painless. Somewhere out there in space – perhaps near the shoulder of Orion, or by the Tannhauser Gate – there is a world (or possibly more than one) populated by the discards of Tyrell’s research. The unusably mutated, the horrifically miscagenated, the irretrievably insane failures of a genetic crash research program. All trying to survive in a world they never made (and to which they are very poorly suited), to build lives and even civilisations armed with little more than race memory. (Being a properly parsimonious businessmen, it is likely that Tyrell uses this place to help train replicants intended for military use – might as well get some return for that investment, right?)
Put aside, for the moment, the question of whether or not androids dream of electric sheep. The question today is why Phil Deckard dreams of unicorns.
And why he doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere.
I think it’s obvious: the man’s an Amberite. An amnesiac Amberite – although as his unicorn dreams suggest, his memory is trying to heal itself. And there’s only one Amberite he could be: Corwin.
Obviously, this suggests that the Amber story as we know it would need to be revised somewhat: clearly, Corwin didn’t awaken from his amnesia quite as early in this variant (or maybe this is it – Zelazny was blissfully non-specific about the exact timing in “Nine Princes In Amber”). The events of the rest of the story can play out more or less as we know them (at least for the first quintet of novels; the second quintet date themselves in our world a little more firmly).
The question then becomes: what was he doing there? And who knows that he is there? Is someone watching him? Is another Amberite behind the Tyrell Corporation? (And if so, is is Brand, or perhaps Caine?) The replicants could be a potentially unstoppable force in open warfare – is someone creating an army? For that matter, has their use in war attracted any Amberite attention – has Benedict glimpsed attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion?
It might defy belief, but simple logic argues that the cosmos of the Vorkosigans lies somewhere out there in the myriad worlds of Shadow. And consider for a moment the nature of their world: a high-tech society dominated by a feudal military caste, with intelligence capabilities and diplomatic weight beyond what its actual size would seem to indicate.
It almost seems tailor-made to be used as a tool by one Amberite or another in their never-ending power struggles. Not that the the Amberite now using this tool is necessarily the creator of it. Of the Amberites we know well, only Benedict seems like one who might create such a world, as a means of observing warfare between two armies of wildly differing levels of technology. He may well have been as surprised as anyone by the eventual Barrayaran victory over the Cetagandans. It’s likely that his interest in Barrayar and its neighbours waned a generation or so ago in Barrayaran times, when all the great wars were over.
But another, slyer Barrayaran might well have taken up where he left off. Likely candidates for this role include Caine, Fiona and Brand, with Bleys, Eric and Corwin as less likely choices. For one reason or another, few of the other Amberites seem likely to have been that interested.
Consider, for a moment, the likely effect on Barrayar when it was finally employed by its Amberite patron. Not only will it completely upend their ideas of the laws of physics, but the court of Amber might well be surprised to learn that there are Barrayarans who play politics at least as well as they do. Emperor Gregor and House Vorkosigan are unlikely to take kindly to being manipulated in such a fashion – which might well lead to a three-front war throughout Shadow with the throne of Amber itself as the stakes. And that’s assuming that Chaos doesn’t get involved…
The basis for this crossover is a fairly straightforward one: Lois Bujold has been quite open about the fact that Simon Ilyan, head of Imperial Security for the Barrayaran Imperium, was greatly inspired by Ilya Kuriakin, agent of U.N.C.L.E.
There’s a few options for this one, most of which involve time travel to allow the two men to meet. What they would each make of the other’s culture and times is a brain bending thought. Both are cosmopolitan in their own ways, and no great believers in their own infallibility, but still there are as many differences between them as there are similarities. Kuriakin might well find Miles more to his taste than Simon, recognising a fellow irrepressible improviser, while no doubt Ilyan and Waverly could trade a few tales over some drinks. The question that needs answering is who goes to whose time period?
Of course, that assumes that it’s the good guys who have the time machine. If it were the bad guys, that would be a very different story. Because if ever there was a Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undersirables and the Subjugation of Humanity (with access to terrifyingly well-developed genetic engineering capabilities), its name was the Empire of Cetaganda.
It might surprise many mages to learn that they have allies among the mundanes who are just as devoted to the fight against the triumph of the Technocray as they are. But there is an entire arm of the United Nations that does little but fight this battle, and often with better intelligence than the Traditions can muster.
That arm is the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, or U.N.C.L.E. for short. And there is a very simple reason why they fight the Technocracy: because it is simply another name for the Technological Hierachy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity, or THRUSH. Undesirables, in this context, clearly means what the Technocracy thinks of a ‘reality deviants’ and the subjugation of humanity is of course for their own good.
There are two ways to play such a game.
The first is to surprise your Tradition Mage PCs with the revelation that they have some very competent allies who are not in any way magical.
The second, and more interesting, is for your superspies to gradually uncover the true stakes of the game that THRUSH is playing, and to make places – possibly even awakened places – for themselves in the Ascension War. (They may well discover that one or two Sons of Ether have already made a home for themselves in U.N.C.L.E., working to create those wonderful toys that Solo and Kuriakin use so often.)
In the High Umbra that the Mages of the World of Darkness travel, the realms that they are encounter are largely conceptual. The High Umbra is a place of dreams and ideals given form. So it makes a certain amount of sense that a setting such as Planescape, which is at base little more than a literalisation of philoshopical differences (expressed largely in terms of Dungeons & Dragons’ alignment system), would exist here too.
But the factions of Mage and Planescape align strangely.
The Nephandi, for example, have some allies amongst the denizens of the lower planes, especially the Gray Wastes and Carceri, but for the most part, the inhabitants of the Planescape are interested in winning the philsophical debating game, not destroying it and all its players. The Marauders have many allies at the Chaotic end of things, from the Beastlands through to Pandemonium (plus the Xaositects in Sigil), and the Technocracy at the Lawful, although the vast majority of them are in Mechanus. The Traditions are a little more varied, rarely allying on the basis of Alignment, but instead forming loose networks across the planes – or with factions inside Sigil itself.
The Euthanatos find much to agree with among both the Dustmen and the Doomguard; the Celestial Chorus and the Believers in the Source find their beliefs qite similar. The Cult of Ecstasy and the Society of Sensation enjoy partying together, while the Akashic Brotherhood and the Transcendant Order prefer practicing katas and meditating.
Some factions are equally attractive to all the traditions: the philosophies of the Sign of One and the Fraternity of Order are equally applicable across the traditions, while every tradition harbours a small hardcore of fanatics who butt heads with but grudgingly admire the Harmonium, the Fated or both.
The Lady of Pain, of course, keeps dark on these subjects – although some Mages speculate about a connection between her powers and those of Paradox… although never while in Sigil.
At first glance, this seems like a strange mix, and it surely is – but I’m not proposing a full-fledged crossover here. A more interesting idea from a gameplay perspective is to take the structure of Person of Interest and apply that to Planescape. It would work like this:
The player characters are based in Sigil. At intervals, they receive the details of a person in trouble, whether as perpetrator or victim, from an unknown source that apparently has limited foreknowledge. (It’s possible that this source may even be the Lady of Pain, although it would certainly be unwise to say so directly to her.) This would work particularly well for a party of mixed alignments, although less well if any of them were evil or lawful alignments. And as to factions, I wouldn’t presume to dictate – the majority of factions would work fairly well with this setup. And the missions can take place literally anywhere across the Planescape – although it’s probably wise for at least half of them to be set in Sigil. Thus, the structure provides a great way to introduce elements of the setting, especially planes and factions.
The beauty of the structure is that it can happen as often or as rarely as you like. If the players want to pursue other missions, that’s fine too, but if they like, the whole game can be on the Person of Interest model. If the POI missions pop up a lot, you’re probably best advised to construct some sort of metaplot tying most, if not all, of the missions together – perhaps the Lady has a particular goal in mind that she’s manipulating probabilities towards…