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…
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.
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.
The Drill Sergeant isn’t interested in your excuses, your dreams or anything else much about you. He has but one purpose in life, and that’s to turn your cringing civilian ass into a lean, mean (and incidentally, Banal) fighting machine.
He ain’t got time to listen to your complaints, your ideas, your daydreams or anything else. He just wants to get his job done, drink a couple of beers, and go back to his spartan private quarters to masturbate over his picture of Mamie Eisenhower. And his job is teach you what you need to know in order to survive in this man’s army – conformity, submissiveness, how to clean a floor with a toothbrush, homophobia and enough racism not to feel guilty about raping enemy civilians. If you’re really lucky, you may learn some combat skills, but don’t count on it.
The Drill Sergeant isn’t necessarily a bad guy. True, he wants to break your spirit and crush your individuality, but he thinks he’s doing you a favour. After all, he’s a soldier, and you’re just a dumb private – and maybe even a dumb conscript private, at that. What he teaches you is for your own goddam good, goddammit. And if it should happen that he believes suffering improves memory retention, that homophobia is the natural state of all men, that the President is something nobler, purer and finer than normal humans (and never farts), and is, in fact, god incarnate, well, so be it.
It might look like an unlikely match-up at first, but it’s one of those things: there’s one little piece that fits together perfectly, and the rest extrapolated from there. So without further ado, let’s get on with it: Continue reading →