Παρασκευή, 31 Μαΐου 2013

Imperium Reginae, Part One

Orbs spinning in the void, kept in line by ruthless gravity

Human Slaves of An Insect Nation-Imperium Reginae (a bare-bones attempt at creating a steampunk setting)

I was never really partial to steampunk. Not because I found the genre to be beneath me, but because when you’ve been raised on a steady diet of British trip-your-balls-off science fiction and Japanese psychic supermen, well…

You can’t exactly go back to pretending like you give a damn about Star Trek

But steampunk (for all the unnecessary goggles, dials and cogs that it has added to perfectly functional designs), has also added a great deal of awesome to pop culture, the kind that you can’t exactly shrug off and pretend like it doesn’t exist. It bridges fantasy and science fiction in that very special, bullshit science kind of way that I have come to respect and admire.

Steampunk however, as a genre, did not enjoy all that many representatives in the tabletop rpg gaming department. Sure, there were a couple of examples

Space 1889 being the most epic (if too historically heavy for my tastes) among them

But none of them caught my eye like Radiance. I could go on and on about how awesome this system is and the specifics of its make-up, but that would simply derail the article. Instead, I will focus on exhibiting my hype for it by generating a world, heavily based off the existing canon and show it off to the Internet, for your enjoyment and perusal!

But before we continue, some ground-rules:

Imperium Reginae, despite being intended for use with the Radiance RPG system, will attempt to remain as open-ended as possible.

The idea is for this series of articles to focus on creating a setting that’s based on steampunk and 50’s space opera but I will refrain as much as I can from tying it down to the Radiance system.

Imperium Reginae will be an Earth-counterpart, of sorts.

Without of course, going into too much unnecessary detail, or boring the reader with historical trivia. As I have come to terms with the fact that I suck at maps and in generating believable worlds and societies (never mind histories), I will base the Throneworld on 18th and 19th century Earth, with considerable fantasy elements thrown in the mix.

Imperium Reginae is sort of a kitchen sink.

The idea is that this setting is solar-system sized, with considerable regions left uncharted, in order to allow for pretty much everything to co-exist within this impossibly large area. For the interest of this ‘vanilla’ version of the setting, consider it to be electro-tech (as defined within the Radiance book, i.e. as a world with very access to nuclear power and almost magical access to electricity). However, not all societies live off electricity and feature wildly fluctuating levels of cultural progress and development. These, of course, can be modified as each Storyteller sees fit.

With all this in mind, let’s move on to…


Austro-Russian void-ship ‘Bog’ en route from Cibinensis

The Year is 1453 Anno Reginae, the year of the Empress. There were 13 calendars before it and before that, there was fire and steel and anarchy. In the times before the advent of the dominion of the Austro-Russin Empire, the world was a mish-mash of warring nation-states, vying for power and survival in the face of near cosmic collapse.

Empires (insignificant little pretenders to the might of the Empress’ cominion) had risen and fallen by the dozens in the times following what the Romantics have come to call the ‘Age of Myth’. It was said, that in that strange, distant past before history, man would shape the world according to his whim, by using arcane power. It was said that he paid tribute to ancient gods, long since dead and defunct and wage war with impossible creatures, the end result of their terrible misuse of their power.
Little records of the ‘Age of Myth’ remain. Most are papyri that miraculously survived the hardships of age and the cataclysm that put paid to the society whose deeds and epics they contain. Others are stone tablets, their contents unaltered by time or the elements, yet impervious to translation. The specifics of the life and the imagination of the ‘Age of Myth’ are mostly wild speculation.

While a number of reasons are proposed by historians as to what exactly ended that bygone age, all indications lead to one, solid conclusion: a disaster of incalculable proportions that some call the Deluge, while others yet call it the Rift War.

The specifics of the Rift War are not known. From surviving manuscripts and certain epics, this much can be ascertained: forces alien to the world of the bygone age (and perhaps even alien to this continuum) spilled out into the world during a war of such magnitude, tenacity and destructive extent that served to annihilate all civilizations of the ‘Age of Myth’.

The identity or nature of the combatants remains unknown. Historians, choosing to simply call them ‘the Outsiders’, basing their narratives on sporadic findings and anecdotal epics of oral tradition, describe their clash as

“The war which scorched the heavens”

And theorize that the war lasted from any amount of time: from mere weeks to as long as a decade. Despite its actual duration, however, one thing is made certain: the ancient civilizations did not survive the process.

The Outsiders retreated from the world after they had wrought their destruction, for their own alien reasons, leaving behind them shattered continents and myriads dead. But they also left behind them artifacts, remnants of their technology that were either expended, damaged or left behind in the midst of the chaos. 

Historians theorize that those devices (considered to have significantly lost their potency after millennia of function) could have been the cause of most of this unknown era’s unrest. Nation-states, vying for the power of the artifacts, waged war on each other in order to secure the weapons of the Outsiders, while struggling to unlock their secrets.

Mankind seemed doomed in the face of this constant warfare and the fall of its civilizations, until an unexpected binding force came from the East, to unite the masses into a coherent whole, by force of arms:

The Orc Hordes.

Driven by hunger and desperation, the united Orc tribes swept across the world, crushing the pitiful nation-states and uniting the known world. First in the face of a common enemy and then under their reign.

It was during that time, when the age of constant war came to a screeching halt and mankind had finally the time to devote itself to the study of Outsider artifacts, as well as the restructuring of their civilization. The Orcs, once mighty nomads of the steppes, were slowly integrated to human societies and their Empire ended with a whimper, instead of a bang.

Using what little information the alchemist-scientists could glean from the alien technology, new instruments of both war and progress were introduced and implemented: first, firearms. Then, industrialized production. A century later came the gradual rise of the Psionic Sciences and then, finally, the age of Amber dawned.

A world, powered by amber.

It was not, of course, a time of peace but of great upheaval and crimes perpetrated by rising superpowers, who vied from greater dominion upon Terra. Wars were once again waged, this time with weapons designed in factory-cathedrals. Flying engines were utilized and soon enough, Austro-Russian scientists stumbled upon the nucleonic source of power that was hidden within the precious Outsider artifacts in their disposal, unlocking their destructive capabilities.

After the first N-Bomb was utilized in the battle of Londinium, reducing the city to a heap of molten slag a thousand miles across, it had suddenly become painfully clear which the new superpower was.

House Habsburg-Romanov banner.

The Austro-Russian Empire (under the direction of Anastasia Habsburg-Romanov, Empress of All Terras) soon came to dominate the world, its influence and technological prowess allowing it to expand its territories both toward the center of the planet and later on (in 1012 AR), to Luna herself.
 But where the daring void-nauts thought they would find empty landscapes, uninhabited and free for the taking, they found life in such astonishing variety, that they were first astonished, then pushed by greed, then pushed back by the planetary natives and finally, after a bloody reprisal, settled for centuries.

The species that comprise the colonial subjects of the Empire will be covered in a later article. This one will focus, instead on outlining the domains of the Empire and its colonies, which will be later outlined in detail.

The Austro-Russian Dominion Map:

4 out of the 9 planets currently under complete or colonial control.

Moving according to the distance of each planet to Sol, the planets of the system of Imperium Reginae are set as follows (planets under complete or colonial control outlined in bold):

Ostanes: Nearest to Sol and considered uninhabitable, Ostanes began as a small mining outpost for Absolum, a mineral capable of producing three times the output of nucleonic energy in comparison to standard fuels used for the procedure. 

After the depletion of said deposits by 1234 Anno Reginae, Ostanes was re-designed for use as a penal colony, where the Empire’s undesirables are imprisoned and then abandoned, deprived of any hope to escape (or so it would seem).

While reports tend to come in of prisoners coming in contact (or being killed by) some heretofore unknown life forms, the validity of such statements remains to be seen. The fact that the Empire denies expending manpower or risking some of its finest xenologists based on the claims of political prisoners plays also an important part in this.

Artephius: Despite its proximity to the Throneworld, Artephius remains a planet that has resisted any attempts to be colonized or controlled. The overly hrsh climate, its carnivorous jungles and its tenacious and well-organized denizens (catalogued as the Dromites in imperial Xenology) have resisted any attempt of a martial take-over.

Artephius’s climate and humidity make it a perfect environment for disease to thrive. Its native predators (creatures that have evolved to be perfectly adapted to the harsh climate) also pose a considerable threat.

Terra: The Imperial Throneworld and the crowning jewel in the Solar system, it is the only planet that houses such a variety of species (both intelligent and animal). It is the heart of the Imperial political machine and, along with Fulcanelli, the backbone of its armies.

Controlled by the Empress Anastasia Habsburg-Romanov, now in the 4th century of her reign, it is home to the races of man, Atlan and Gnome on the surface. Its minorities include the orc and hobgoblin tribes (whose numbers have severely dwindled in the previous centuries), while Dwarven and Pygmy colonies exist in the Hollow World below.

Terra’s satellite, Selene, is the only other inhabited satellite in the system (with the exception of Titan). Its denizens, creatures that were dubbed ‘Elves’ by the first xenologists, appear to have existed there and maintained a culture since the ‘Age of Myth’. Exceedingly long-lived and (according to archaeological finds) once technologically far superior to mankind, the Elves appeared to have been locked in perpetual war with a race of similar humanoids dwelling on the Dark Side of Selene, calling themselves the ‘Drow’.

Fulcanelli: Home to the serpent-races, Fulcanelli is a planet that has known strife unlike any that Terra or Selene has ever known. The native reptilian races (Drack, Grippli and Lizardfolk), broken into tribes, consumed in constant wars aimed at the extinction of each species came to a screeching halt when Imperial Forces arrived and provided weapons and aid to the Grippli population.

Severely outgunned, the other forces soon desisted and Fulcanelli has since become the Empire’s Foundry, mined for minerals and manned by engineers with the sole intent of equipping its war machine.

Magnus: A planet of crushing gravity and considerable size, it is home to a species that has been named ‘Goliath by Imperial Xenologists. Extremely resistant to colonization or control by virtue of its environment and inhabitants (like Artephius), Magnus is the chief stage of operations of the Empire, with its moons and comet belt manned by Imperial soldiers and officers, intent on achieving absolute control.

The war has gone on for more than four centuries, without any indication of ceasing. Had it not been for the mandates of the Empress herself, the Imperial Army would long since have given up on its attempts.

Agathodaimon: Until recently considered devoid of intelligent life, Agathodaimon showed signs of an advanced civilization having existed in it until recently. It wasn’t until a century later, during a mining expedition, that the indigenous intelligent species of the planet came in contact (initially peacefully, then violently) with Imperial colonists and army officials.

The natives (calling themselves Rakasha and Slith, respectively) have since conceded to tolerating the existence of imperial colonies. Extremely isolationist, both species maintain their hold on any of their ancient technologies remaining and refuse to give them up to Imperial Xenologists for study.

Attempts on behalf of the Empire to enlist the aid of the Tengu natives of Titan against the Rakasa and Slith have since failed. The Tengu, despite their fierceness in the field of battle, were fickle allies to the cause.

Boyang, Vemana and Cibinensis: Attempts to explore or colonize the furthestmost reaches of the system have been numerous, but have all culminated in failure. Any public information on said planets had been deemed classified by Imperial decree and designated as no-man’s land.
But as the Empire’s population swells and the its needs in energy, minerals and luxuries increase exponentially, the Empire finds its hand forced toward having to brave those planets and wrest control on them once again.

Next time on Imperium Reginae, the intelligent species of the Empire!

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