A Whistlestop Tour of the Awakened World
The history of the Awakened World differs from ours, perhaps beginning in 1821 when Michael Faraday published his description of “electrofluid” which began a revolution in Physics. In 1894, Guglielmo Marconi patented his “etherphone,” which made possible instant two-way communication all over the world and sometimes other mysterious planes of existence. The twentieth century is a time of commonplace wonders: pocket etherphones, flying machines, personal automobiles, trans-Atlantic leisure vessels, underground and elevated electrofluid railcars, pneumatic tube parcel delivery, all are everyday conveniences taken for granted in the civilized world. -nb
In 1889, American inventor Thomas Edison unveiled his electrofluid storage battery, and beginning in 1901 the Edison Storage Battery Company began providing power sources for portable etherphones and other similar devices. This development paved the way for what many consider to be the most significant technological advancement of our age – Clockwork Technology.
In 1904 at the Saint Louis World’s Fair, Dwarf inventor Drexell Hodge unveiled his prototype Clockwork Automaton. Hodge’s Automaton was capable of accomplishing simple tasks in response to Hodge’s control input. What made this amazing, however, was it’s mechanical dexterity in doing so. By 1914, Clockwork technology had advanced to the point that Mages from Princeton University had successfully attached a functioning clockwork prosthetic to the arm-stump of a recent amputee. When the United States entered the Great War in 1917, a full 1/3 of U.S. military forces made use of some sort of Clockwork augmentation. While the bulk of these augmentations were rudimentary, their success paved the way for the advent of Stemwinders as we know them today.
Literally a “knowledgeable spirit,” the daemon makes possible many of the consumer goods in the Awakened world. A daemon has no natural body; it inhabits some man-made device and operates by producing the answers to a sequence of yes-or-no questions. The resulting operation may be very simple, as with a toaster oven, or very complex as with the manifold operation of the internal combustion engine and gear shifting of a modern automobile. It is even possible to “encode” a few pages’ worth of typed information onto the memory of a typewriter daemon by rendering each typed character as a short sequence of yeses and noes.
A daemon becomes corrupt if it gathers too much information and acquires self-awareness. Corrupt daemons are dangerous as they often seek to leave their host devices and inhabit other bodies. This fact places an upper limit upon the practical computing power of a daemon. Work by C. Babbage suggests that “calculators” capable of great feats of computation are theoretically possible, but such an engine would corrupt its daemon in mere hours or minutes.
When devices inhabited by daemons (such as text-adventure game typewriters, phones with ringsongs, animated pornographic playing cards, etc) wear out, or worse, become corrupted, they must be discarded. For obvious reasons, one doesn’t throw out such objects in a regular landfill, for fear that the daemons might escape and possess, for example, a classic car. (Cf. the sensational US v Ford Motors and “Christine” of 1922) Thus, they are consigned to specially-warded and hermaneutically [sic] sealed buildings.
The intrusion of energy from other planes into our own has made magic a day-to-day fact of life in the Awakened world. Magic is very useful to those who can harness it, but also dangerous. A user of magic (called a mage) becomes a conduit for the passage of energy into our plane, much as a Franklin rod allows ethereal energy to pass from a lightning storm into the great energy sink at the core of the earth. If fumbled, a magic spell can cause damage to the user.
Any human being’s spirit makes a ripple in the spiritual plane. When many observers are gathered, it becomes progressively more difficult to practice magic. To perform safely a simple conjuring trick before a thousand pairs of attentive eyes would require a mastery of magic impossible for anyone but a dragon. That is why mages love narrow alleyways, lonely huts and darkened rooms. A dark, empty street is the worst place to cross a mage.
Magic can be used to attack another person directly, say by throwing fireballs or bolts of lightning, but this too can backfire. Merely by opposing the attack with his will, the target can cause eddies in the spiritual plane that can disrupt the mage’s casting. Offensive magic in the hands of a master is a powerful and reliable weapon, but Thompson submachine guns are about as lethal and less prone to backfire.
United States of America
Despite the upheavals to society brought by the Awakening and a stunning reversal in the Indian Wars which resulted in the cession of nearly half the land mass of the United States to the First Nations, the Congress has decided that alcohol is enemy number one. The Eighteenth Amendment passed in 1920 forbade the use and production of alcohol, creating at one stroke a tremendous black market for the stuff. “Shadowrumrunners,” heretofore mainly Southern moonshiners who used automobiles and eldritch powers to avoid paying tax on their wares, were suddenly everywhere. In the large cities they grew so wealthy and powerful so quickly that they soon became neighborhood celebrities, especially in the metahuman ghettos. -nb
Chicago, The Windy City
Chicago is the center of organized crime in North America. Her streets are ruled by warring syndicates who operate in the shadows, and at times openly. Our story takes place here. See more information here, or join the story in progress.
Gary is a steel town some twenty-five miles southeast of Chicago, home to one of the largest trolltowns in North America. The mills are known to hire laborers per diem and favor trolls for unskilled labor, dwarves for engineering and humans or orcs for overseers. Gary is a gritty city full of passers-through trying to regain footing after a hard landing and jaded lifers slowly burning down the wick. The only happy stories told here involve escape.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans has been overrun by the undead and cordoned by the United States Army. Navigation up and down the Mississippi River is still possible, but passage into the Gulf of Mexico is risky. An alternative route through the (greatly enlarged) Erie Canal and over the Great Lakes was completed in 1920; Chicago now rivals New York in importance as a port city.
Cordoned by the Army under (possibly spurious) quarantine, home perhaps to a clandestine ork breeding program. River traffic on the Ohio is under tight Army supervision. A first-hand report.
The Transcontinental airship line (see Transportation) runs New York-Chicago-St. Louis-Denver-Salt Lake-San Francisco. Saint Louis stands on the border of First Nations territory; an enormous steel arch on the banks of the Mississippi River protects the habitation from Shaman curses. Denver is a United States treaty port in Pueblo territory. Salt Lake is a lonely bastion of white civilization surrounded by hostiles; Mormon mages wielding the sacred relics of their prophet wage ceaseless shadow war against the Ute tribe.
Republic of California
United States protectorate. San Francisco is the major Seaport on the West Coast. Los Angeles is a small but rapidly growing boom town. San Diego is a land and sea fortress guarding against incursion by the Republic of Mexico. The Central Valley is a major food source for the United States and subject to raids by First Nations expeditionary forces.
Seattle is nominally ruled by a council of Five Tribes, home to several large foodstuffs and transport corporations, and a playground of intrigue by agents of the United States, the Canadian Federation, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, as well as the First Nations and Corporate Sovereign autocracies.
Riven by war and poisoned by the use of chemical weapons and offensive magic, the nations of Europe endure a chilly peace under the rule of a fractious and unstable political apparatus. It is rumored that dark wizards are pulling the strings. In the midst of it all, the United States American Expeditionary Force, 1st and 2nd Divisions garrison “Fortress France” – a massive earthwork rampart stretching from Calais all the way to the south of France.
Tír na nÓg
Formerly known as Ireland, this island is home to sprites, pixies, brownies and other oddities. Much of the human population has emigrated to Great Britain or the United States.
The fearsome Empire of Japan mastered the use of magic and steam power earlier than its neighbors and now rules over much of the Pacific Rim with an iron fist. The Mikado’s sea and air ships project power over Manchuria, the Siberian Far East, and Alaska.