OverviewHere lay my first effort on designing a VSF genre document.
I've been struggling to acquire enough time to craft a nice backdrop for the "Victorian Sci-fi" genre to use with the MEST rules. What I did was decide that I'm limited to available minis that Aggro84 has, and to the range of available minis left yet unpurchased in the wilds. That is; I don't intend to craft my own line of unique figures any time soon!
- Needs to using minis that people can purchase, preferably stuff we've already got ready for gaming.
- Needs to be able to fit into a strict definition of "Victorian" science-fiction. Therefore I limited, at least for this first iteration, technology and world politics to what was known in 1875 CE.
- Needs to have a "point-of-departure" that is interesting that allows platforming for the crazier VSF concepts. I chose menhirs and aether. Aether being a very interesting thing because it seems to have supernatural "natural" qualities as the so-called "Fifth Element". Menhirs because they look so cool and can be found in silly places. Like caves. So I decided that the it would during the discovery of a particular cave in Prussia around 1866 CE or so.
- Needs to have the rest of history - however sloppy my attempt - extend from that ahistorical event.
And here is my rough overview. I'm not a historian just a lazy gamer with access to Wikipedia and Google Search. I hope this information is entertaining enough to excite others to learn more about this effort. This genre setting includes the 1875 CE campaign map I've been working on here:
Of Werewolves and Tesla Coils
aka Cold Steam Empires
This is Victorian Sci-fi during the reign of Queen Victoria circa 1875 CE. The British Empire rules the oceans, and Prussia with the help of Italy recently (since 1861 CE) defeated France and Austria. Russia and Poland have had their borders pressed by Prussia but they are not ready for what is coming around the bend. Spain and Portugal have folded into France, and Hungary with Romania and Serbia have formed an unsteady alliance with Austria. Most of the other nations of Europe and Asia Minor have yet to understand the events of the the Brave New World.
A New Kind of Science
Science is starting to discover crazy new rules about physics and numerous scientists and engineers, and some mystics and scholars are trying to make sense of this. Everybody is seeing what the New Age of Scientism will do for their country. As such, the nobles and politicians see great potential to wage an unyielding war even though the last war has yet been paid for except by bloodshed. As it can be surmised, new wars are under way this next may bound across the entire globe.
Moongates, an ancient alien technology, have been discovered buried in ancient caves at various locations through-out the world. The first of which - a small circular arrangement of carved basalt stone pillars - was during a fortuitous road excavation in the small town of Wernigerode that sits upon limestone. This set-off an explosion of interest into spelunking with the Prussian and neighboring territories to as far as France and Italy. Many tragic deaths occurred, many fights to clamor for fame happened. Blood was spilled; all for mere recognition to be the person or team that found evidence of previously unknown and mysterious ancient religious practices. Most of these finds were in such poor shape that they appear no more than just exotic, crumbled and broken, menhirs. Others though, with just a tiny blood sacrifice of several pints extracted from tortured criminal convicts, allow travel between worlds. Moongates are rather finicky but allow bodily transportation of persons and their personal effects to the planets Venus, Mars, and to the Moon. Apparently - and to much surprise and consternation - these worlds are inhabited by hostile alien empires some of which have been waging war among themselves for hundreds of years.
The so-called “Fifth Element” or “Quintessence” has been confirmed to exist as a medium for travel between the planets. This has long been theorized by great esoteric authors such as Madam H.P. Blavatsky and Vladimir S. Solovyov but the utmost nature had come from deeper understandings of the Akashic Records. Such “astral readings” were long thought to be a ruse set up by charlatans and theosophists vulturing Oriental Mysticism. However; after much investigation by the Royal Society, these astral readings by the late Sir Alfred P. Sinnet (1840 - 1872) gave The British Empire quite an edge. His posthumous knighthood after his assassination by Prussian spies reflects his position of reverence afforded to him by the Queen and Consort. He will be greatly missed.
Scientists and engineers of the British and the Prussian empires only recently have begun experimenting with designing and building aethercraft to be launched from the Moon. “Cold steam” otherwise known as “Phlostigated Anaphylactic Aether” generates an absurd amount of energy that robs the surrounding environment of heat and often causing the weather to change to snow or rain. It is a problematic force because it requires harvesting from outside of the Earth therefore many facilities exist upon the Moon to collect, compress, and bottle it for use elsewhere. As soon, the majority of traffic through Moongates is shipping cargo containers of derisively named “p-to-a” owing to the stink of the gas itself.
A biological version of aether recently discovered is “Virchow’s Psychoplastic Ectoplasm”. This “life-force energy” can be coerced using “spectromalic light rays” to be consumed by the cells of certain life-forms and can be captured within “electricified crystallites” and transferred into Jacobian clockwork devices. An engineering example of this are the Baconite Automatic Men who gain the essence and personalities of the prior life-form; but these personalities are subsumed with strong application of “Vicente hydraulic tubes” otherwise these per se golems become suicidal berserkers.
There is strong evidence that prior cultures upon the Earth itself have been influenced by the presence of other-worldly beings from distant planets, to which attribute the names of gods and demons. With the discovery of Moongates we see some of these beings insitu still waging war upon the nearby planets of Venus, Mars, and the very Moon itself! These other cultures have been in great decline for thousands of years and the Great Powers’ ad hoc access to their worlds has put them in great upheaval. That fact plus the other in which they are ripe for exploitation and religious conversion makes them prime candidates for cross-planetary domination. Fortunately for them, the Great Powers are only slowly realizing proper technology to fully exploit their diminishing resources.
A stark reality check came recently with the application of earth-bound Aether. With the presence of telescope technologies it can be seen as a fact that the actual Moon itself is uninhabited. However, it appears that reality within the locality of an aether gas cloud gets distorted to perceive the reality beyond the Moongates themselves. Within that locality, reality has been wrought differently and the unbelievable conclusion is that Moongates do travel to other worlds but these exist in other dimensions!
A Brave New World
Queen Victoria of England, Empress of India, is 56 years of age and the discovery of Alchemistry - a pet project of her husband Prince Albert who had long been a secret enthusiast of theosophy - has kept her appearance young and her health invigorated, to enjoy the fruits of her British Empire. The comely royal couple, who appear fit and no older than 27 years of age each, and much the Parliament itself appear to others as charismatic, strict but loving leaders. The people of the Great Commonwealth - to include India and the Northern Africa - have fallen in love of her despite her very strict rule. Slavery within the Empire no longer officially exists as nearly every citizen is willing to die for the Queen. India is still going through much reform after the assassination of the last moghul Bahur Shah II at the armstice of the bloody Indian Rebellion ending in 1857 CE.
The British Empire has an excellent spy network. Due to its shipping and maritime strengths, it also controls the North Sea, the North Atlantic, and most of the “Seven Seas” of the world. With its understanding of the “electricical propertyes” of Aether, it is slowly attempting to build the worlds’ first flying ironclad based upon research and experiments with smaller vessels by Lord Ungarry at Oxford. The Frontier Nations of America are yet a large colony of the British Empire and the Western Territories and the Middle Counties have not yet been acquired from Spain nor from France; so there is no such a thing as “The United States of America [ USA ]”.
France and Greater Iberia
The French have united with Spain and Portugal to form Greater Iberia but this is still in its founding stages with the loss of the Franco-Prussian war. The French Empire has tremendous support from partisans and other nationalist organizations as a result of its recent defeat at the hands of the Prussian Empire. Spain and Portugal as well as its world-wide colonies remain fearsome, nationalistic, and dangerous places to visit unless one is a citizen or an ambassador.
Prussia Uber Alles
The Prussian Empire was first to learn of the Moongate technology by several years but the last to understand how Aether could be used to create Cold Steam. Yes, the British stole the Moongate technology barely a year ago but have men tremendous leaps in understanding its potential uses in regards to Aether. However, it was Herr Doktor Doktor Virchow’s discovery of Psychoplastic Ectoplasm that gave Emperor Wilhelm a fantastic idea; build an army of Automatic Men, the sort alluded to by Sir Francis Bacon nearly 250 years ago. “Bi Gott! We will have a World Empire of 1000 years!” he exclaimed. The idea of enslaving his own people so incensed statesman Otto von Bismarck that he resigned his post and left for Austria.
The humility of losing to Emperor Wilhelm in the last Grossdeutschland War of Unification has left an indelible mark upon the psyche of the Austrian peoples. The arrival of former architect of the Prussian Army Herr Otto von Bismarck was fortuitous for Austria; he mechanized warfare using iron soldiers “Eisen-soldats” and flying fortresses. These “pure efforts of war” are the way for the future he commented. However, it has been noted that many other chancellors and counselers of the Austrian parliament think that a New Austrian Empire is a foolish thought against the fear that Prussia this next time will not be so kind; that Austria will be burned to the ground and its lineages extinguished. Regardless, Chairman Franz Joseph has put great trust into Herr Bismarck and even making him Lord of War, second in command of the Empire.
The Great BlightThe remainder nations of Europe to include the vast populations of the Mediterranean Nations have yet to catch up with the Four Great Powers (Britain, France, Prussia, Austria-Hungary) in terms of understanding science and technology. They do try; spy networks abound and many of the gypsy tribes in those regions constantly roam the wilds reminding all that would listen to their shamans that a “great undoing is coming”, “The Great Blight” Tales of frightful magic are told; of shambling undead, wolf-men, and flesh-golems of terrifying brutality. Indeed, the stories amount to a war greater than the world itself; a war across the entire face of all planets in the Solar system.