Friends and Enemies
Post-Change politics are hard to define. All groups are struggling to survive, some more successfully than others. All major cities are damaged or destroyed, resources are few, and the death toll is tremendous. Food, fuel, and medicine are life itself.
There are too many survivor groups, scavangers, rural towns, and gangs to detail here. The groups that are detailed here are the major players of the moment; it remains to be seen if any of them will endure.
Speculation is rampant about what motivated the CDC and the NSA to take the actions they did in the early days of the Change. Most people believe one of two primary explanations: someone else was giving them orders; or the leadership of the two groups was attempting a coup against the Federal government.
If they were following orders, who issued them in the first place? Favorite suggestions include FEMA, the Elders of Zion, President Ventura, the CIA, and any number of Illuminati groups. Space aliens are suggested now and again, as is a sentient AI run wild (Holy SkyNet, Batman!).
If it was a coup, who was in charge, and how did they plan on keeping power? The NSA's primary mission is data security, not world conquest. The CDC is a public health institution, not a shadow government.
It is a fact that military forces were pulled into service under direction of CDC personnel, running genetic screens for Essex Positive traits in the general populace. It is also a fact that the CDC personnel were reporting to NSA agents. The powers they were invoking were the same ones FEMA is able to assume in times of national disaster, inferring that FEMA was involved at some level. The level of planning and preparation evident in Project Manzanar indicate that it had been in development for years, not conceived in response to a sudden disaster. Troops were mobilizing before the general populace was aware of the rising presence of magic in the world, indicating that they knew about the reality of magic and that they had some way of measuring its intensity.
Project Manzanar shows clear evidence of CDC involvement in its organization and execution. The fact that the project was named after one of the infamous internment camps used to imprison American citizens of Japanese descent during WWII shows that the organizers knew full well that they were preparing for a blatantly immoral action - one that was based on fundamental principles of containing a disease outbreak.
It's obvious that Project Manzanar was intended to halt the spread of Essex Syndrome and to isolate those who had it - a simple quarantine, from one point of view. The fact that it was blatantly unconstitutional and carried out at the business end of an assault rifle leads to some chilling conclusions.
Cordelia Mitchell was able to provide some answers to President Ventura. The data chip she stole contained key documents that showed the inception and evolution of both Project Manzanar and the Essex Phenomenon itself. The cornerstone document was Executive Order 15322 on Authorizing Actions to Protect the Public Order, signed June 21, 2002 by President George Bush Jr. It directed the CDC to take "such steps as are necessary and appropriate" to contain and control the spread of "individual citizens who are sensitive to or able to manipulate the SX Phenomenon" (italics added). It further directed the NSA to begin "aggressively monitoring the channels of public and private discourse" for mention of the Essex Phenomenon. Any attempts to distribute information regarding the Phenomenon or the Government's reaction to it were to be reported to a crisis management group within FEMA.
Other documents indicated that there were several projects underway that were aimed at achieving controlled manipulation of the Phenomenon for military purposes. Another report detailed the autopsy of one of the Phenomenon researchers, apparently the first known waster.
Project Manzanar was conceived in December of 2002 by a Pentagon policy study and implemented under 15322 without further Presidential approval (the document also states that the Project name originated from Vice-President Chaney in a memo condemning the proposal). The CDC task force used 15322 to begin construction of a quarantine facility in the middle of the Nellis bombing range in Nevada. It was initially intended to hold only a few hundred people, but by the end of 2004 the list of Positives scheduled to be forcibly confined there numbered over 100,000 and was climbing rapidly.
Email over the four weeks leading up to the 17th of February 2005 showed a monumental upsurge in "unsanctioned Sophistic manifestation incidents" and a corresponding elevation in the crisis management group's agitation. The wording of 15322 had allowed them to operate almost without oversight (President Ventura didn't even know of the group's existence, since his name was on the Positives list), but the amount of resources they were using was hard to hide. High-ranking officials began looking into the group's activities on the 10th of February, resulting in discovery of the Positives list. In addition to President Ventura, several of the Joint Chiefs and members of the Cabinet were also scheduled for internment. The list was interpreted as being an enemies list and the members of the crisis management group were arrested by the Secret Service on the 15th and charged with treason and conspiracy to overthrow the government. With no central leadership to give direction, the rest of Project Manzanar began to implement its worst-case scenario contingency plan.
They forgot that the Essex Phenomenon reacts best to strong emotions. Their fear of the unknown turned to panic, which in turn began to bring their own nightmare scenario into reality, which in turn fed their panic and began the cycle all over again.
Their troops were deployed according to a plan that had been conceived as a response to a complete and total collapse of society. They were given authorization to maintain control at any cost, including use of deadly force. The fears of the citizens they stopped combined with their own fears to turn many of them into brutal, sadistic, oppressive butchers. The original protocol called for a low profile, calm, professional operation, based on the idea of getting a potentially diseased population into a place where they could be treated. Roadside executions were not part of the plan.
Today, most of the NSA/CDC forces are dead or scattered. Some serve as mercenary groups, while others seek to atone for their misdeeds by becoming guardians of survivor settlements. A very few have become slavers, capturing Positives and forcing them to raise food and perform manual labor. Many survivors consider them to be worse than wasters because of the number of people they killed or interned, and some communities will shoot them on sight.
Deep Sleep is a quasi-religious cult which believes that people should commit suicide on their 21st birthday in order to conserve the world's resources and make room for future generations. DS first appeared six months after the Change, but its roots go back over 200 years, to the writings of Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus, an Anglican minister and economist. In his first Essay, published in 1798, he wrote,
Although Malthus was reviled in his time, his math was sound and his predictions of the consequences of population pressures were frighteningly accurate, as the latter half of the 20th Century proved.
DS grew out of a convergence of several pre-Change political and social causes that were attempting to address world hunger, overpopulation, voluntary euthanasia, and radical environmentalism. A central theme to these groups was the limited carrying capacity the Earth has and the need for population growth management. Groups like ZPG, the Hemlock Society, and Earth First! began experiencing a rapid growth in membership during the late 1980's and early 1990's due to an influx of young, extremely radical environmental and social activists.
Many of these activists were Malthusian Gaianists, followers of a form of Earth worship that taught that humans were a cancer on the body of the Earth Mother, and that the only way to heal the planet and restore its ecological balance was to drastically reduce the number of human beings. Abortion, euthanasia, and eugenics were embraced as positive, altruistic activities that would make the world a better place. Class warfare was both practiced and preached; the wealthy elite were depicted as being elderly parasites, consuming far more than their fair share of resources while oppressing and exploiting the poor in order to pay for the medicines needed to unfairly prolong their unnaturally long lives. Therefore, the sooner these rich, old parasites died, the better off the world would be. The severely mentally and physically handicapped that required constant medical assistance or full-time care were described as having an unacceptable quality of life; a dignified death would be an act of mercy and compassion.
The Reagan-Bush administrations provided a steadily falling pay scale and a shortage of qualified applicants in the health care industry, which in turn provided some of the followers of this philosophy with jobs in long-term care facilities, nursing homes, residential treatment facilities, and hospices. Once inside, they began a quiet campaign of euthanasia against the elderly and handicapped.
A few Malthusians were caught and tried; some were even convicted and imprisoned. Those that were caught explained their actions as being motivated by compassion for the victim's pain and suffering. The cases served to ignite a public debate on the issues of voluntary euthanasia, mercy killings, and the right to die with dignity. While the direct method worked, it was too slow and small in scale to make a significant difference in the number of people in the world. Processing medical claims for a managed care provider allowed group members to kill with impunity simply by withholding approval for all but the most basic medical care. Compared to working at an assisted living facility, it was a much more effective way of beginning a population management program and it usually paid better.
By the late 1990's, Malthusian Gaianists had formed organizations that actively promoted behaviors that resulted in death. They promoted faith healing, refusal of inoculations or needed medical treatment, and 'alternative' healing methods. They campaigned to protect the right of AIDS-infected prostitutes in Africa to practice their trade and supported the traditional hand washing of the bodies of the dead (a custom that frequently resulted in the spreading of diseases) as "preservation of native culture". Abortion for sex selection or in cases of pre-natal diagnoses of birth defects, legalization of heavy narcotics, extreme sports, and the right to carry concealed weapons were championed in the media and in court with varying degrees of success. Unfortunately, the Malthusians were to few in number to make a significant dent in the world's population.
Their ranks began to swell in 2002, when the remake of Logan's Run was released. It followed the original novel far more closely than the 1976 film version or subsequent television series did, and it struck a resounding chord in a large number of teenage rebels in search of a cause. They were drawn to the fictional society's central theme of "live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse". The message that such a philosophy was selfish, irresponsible, and narcissistic was disregarded, as was the story's affirmation of the sanctity of life. Such lofty thoughts faded quickly next to the promise of legal drugs, free sex, and lack of consequences. The Malthusian Gaianists eagerly embraced these new converts and began openly (if unsuccessfully) campaigning for the abolition of Medicare and social security and the creation of public suicide facilities.
During the Change, the Malthusians retreated to well-hidden and well-defended shelters, all established years earlier in preparation for the day when their efforts to bring about a violent and swift reduction in population paid off. Afterwards, they surveyed the damage and decided it wasn't enough. The Change had been a good beginning, but it was up to them to finish the job. The shelters were able to maintain communications between themselves for at least a few months before broken parts and lack of fuel became issues. They spent this time discussing different ways to further reduce the already decimated population. All of their efforts up until this point had been directed simply at reducing the population; very little thought had been put into what level the population should be reduced to. They plotted and planned mass murder, despite the fact that the world's population had been reduced far beyond their wildest fantasies.
One of the many ideas that arose during this time involved members of the group deliberately becoming wasters. The overwhelming damage wasters do to any ecosystem they encounter was considered a small price to pay for the further reduction in the numbers of people on the planet. A number of magically adept volunteers began to attempt the transformation. Their efforts were almost unsuccessful. None became wasters, but one did succeed in becoming something quite different.
Arthur Madison had been fourteen when the Columbine shootings occurred. He empathized with the killers, having been subjected to the same sort of taunts and petty cruelties they had experienced at the hands of more popular students. His anger was not directed at the other students, however; it was directed at the teachers who (as he saw it) aided and abetted the students who were actually tormenting him. He focused on this pool of rage while attempting the transformation, and on what he was going to do to the teachers who had stood by and let him be tormented without ever lifting a hand to stop it. He, alone of all who tried, was able to summon the silver fire to purify and remake himself.
He had lain down a scrawny, underweight, neurotic bookworm. When he arose, he was a sleek, well-muscled killing machine in black. His face was twisted into a perpetual snarl, and his eyes were those of a shark - dead, black, cold, and empty. A crimson crystal blazed in the palm of his right hand. He took the name Angerman, after the archetypal Sandman mentioned in the Logan's Run novel.
He assumed control of the Malthusians and summoned the different groups together. He also called off further attempts at magical self-transformation. As the widely scattered groups arrived, he began selecting the best and strongest of the young people for a very special project. Angerman refused to discuss any details until the last of the other Malthusians had arrived and an assembly could be held.
Angerman declared to the Malthusians that he was the living avatar of the character in the novel, made real by the pure fury Arthur Madison had kept inside himself. Arthur had called him forth and had given his life and identity to give Angerman reality. The old and corrupt had destroyed the world, he said, and it was up to the Malthusians to bring peace and order to what remained - by accepting Sleep at 21. Those who selfishly insisted on living beyond their allotted span would be dealt with quickly and permanently.
Being fictional didn't seem to impair Angerman's ability to enthrall an audience. In short order, his followers were willing and eager to commit suicide on their 21st birthdays. Many of the older members of the Malthusians accepted Sleep publicly, further convincing those who watched of the righteousness of their cause. The young people Angerman had selected for his special project entered training to become Sandmen (a term applied equally to male and female officers). Deep Sleep was becoming operational.
Angerman provided more than structure and leadership - he also provided technology that was far ahead of anything the Malthusians had ever seen before. Whatever the source of his knowledge might have been, the fact remained that his inventions worked. One of those devices was the Gun, the Sandmen's basic weapon. As in the novel, the Gun resembles Sam Colt's Peacemaker, a late-1800's model revolver with a silver-chased barrel and ivory hand grips. It fires six different shells: Tangler, Ripper, Needler, Vapor, Nitro and Homer. Each Gun is keyed to the handprint of its wielder and will explode if someone else attempts to use it.
Now the Sandmen are moving out into the world, spreading Angerman's gospel and executing those over 21 whenever possible. The Malthusians' retreat is slowly changing as the populace bends its collective will to conform to Angerman's vision. Angerman himself watches the progress and is pleased. All the pieces will be in place soon, and then he will bring peace on Earth.
Dragon of Denver
How many lawyers live in Los Angeles? How many agents, directors, and "indie" producers? How many aspiring stars, willing to stab each other in the back to gain an edge? Is it measured in thousands or tens of thousands?
They all became orcs.
Not just any orcs, either. Organized, disciplined, status-conscious, manipulative, treacherous, Machiavellian Yuppie orcs in Armani suits and Bruno Magli loafers. They are themselves, with all the civilized pretensions stripped away, along with what little remains of their scruples and moral integrity.
The Ka Corporation is nominally a monarchy, though it's organized along the lines of a modern corporation. They aren't out for plunder; they are here to make a profit. The only real crime in the Southland region now is generation of a negative profit. It doesn't matter how much you spend on a project, as long as your bottom line is written in black.
Their queen is the worst of them all. Think Bebe Glaser, from Frasier. The Princess of Darkness herself. When she sold her soul, she demanded a receipt for tax purposes. Then crossbreed her with the Grand Nagus from Deep Space Nine.
Of all the groups known at this time, the Ka Corporation stands the best chance of preserving the American way of life - the greed-is-good, rampant-consumerism, live-for-the-moment portions of it, anyway.
Update: Queen Melissa was killed when she tried to assassinate the leaders of Las Vegas, the New Kingdom of the Outlands, the Kansas Coalition, and the Reformed United States of America. Her second in command got her corner office and her parking space, but Ka was otherwise unaffected. Her family recieved a nice fruit basket in condolence.
Montrose Free Zone
The town of Montrose, Colorado did almost everything right when the Change first began. The Mayor called a town meeting and proposed that the town call up every able-bodied adult to form a defensive militia, that the routes in and out of town be restricted, and that the town adopt and enforce a policy of strict neutrality. Several citizens argued against it, while others favored neutrality while demanding that the Positives be banished or killed. The Mayor won the day by arguing that, if Montrose did not first defend itself from outside aggression, that the rest of the issues would be decided by an occupying force that was acting on its own agenda. Once the populace agreed, he asked that any Positives in the populace come forward and identify themselves. A few did, hesitantly. The Mayor reminded the anti-Positive faction that the American justice system requires proof of guilt, not proof of innocence, and asked that all Positives be accepted as citizens until and unless they actually broke the law or hurt another person. Reluctantly, the anti-Positives agreed.
Barriers went up swiftly. Most roads were blocked, and a policy was formulated that allowed only current residents to stay in the town overnight. Non-residents would be ushered out of the town at sundown. Only those coming to trade would be admitted. Anyone "just passing through" would be given an armed escort to the other side of town.
Once the policies were implemented, the Mayor contacted several friends of his who were in the Army reserve and convinced them to come to Montrose with a large supply of weapons and ordinance. The areas around Montrose were mined heavily and several remote-controlled sentry guns were set up around the entrance checkpoints.
By the middle of March, the Mayor's detractors had come around. The anti-Positives (now called Purists) had dwindled in numbers. There was a tacit understanding that some bars were Purist, while some were open to Positives. Several AWOL units, both Loyalists and CDC/NSA, had asked to be accepted as part of the Montrose Militia. Those that could accept working with a force that included women and Positives were invited to become residents. The others moved on. When the month-long snowstorm (known variously as the Grey Hand of Winter, the Big Freeze, and the Frozen Flood) lifted, Montrose Free Zone was ready to open for business.
The first few attackers were repelled easily. The few heavily armed would-be invaders were confronted with rows of heads on pikes and the remains of two wasters as they approached the city walls. Only one group tried its luck. Afterwards, the number of heads outside the walls had nearly doubled.
Now, Montrose Free Zone is recognized by most of the powers in the region as neutral ground. Its zone of control extends out almost 30 miles. The city has electrical power (the source of this power is a closely guarded secret; the vast majority of the residents themselves have no idea what it is) and fresh water. At night, the town residents can watch a variety of television programs on cable.
The Market is the heart of MFZ. All hostilities (and heavy weapons) must be left at the town gates in order to be admitted to the Market. Conflict over outside issues results in the offending parties being expelled from the town or banished for a set term. The only things not sold there are slaves and military hardware. Food, water, seeds, weapons, ammunition, alcohol and other luxuries, vehicles, all can be had. Tobacco, drugs of all kinds, contraceptives, and feminine hygiene products are highly valued commodities; a carton of cigarettes can buy 50 gallons of gasoline on a good day from the right source. Information, however, is MFZ's most prized commodity. Good intelligence commands usurious prices, though many buyers consider it money well spent. Talk to the Overlord of the Holiday Inn if you are in the market, either buying or selling.
MFZ does practice slavery, but only for crimes or as a means of repaying debts. The Convict Laborers (CLs) are usually seen as they clean the streets and the Market, or do other unpleasant tasks. They are not (generally) mistreated, and are freed after they finish their sentences. There are no lifetime slaves; anything that would deserve lifetime enslavement is usually punished by beheading. Hereditary slavery is specifically forbidden, as is selling a family member to repay debts. The Court sets a value on a slave's daily work and their term of enslavement is based on that value. Mistreatment of a slave is, itself, an enslaveable offense; the abuser may find themselves trading places with the abused slave for the duration of the slave's sentence.
Montrose Free Zone buffers the northern border of the New Kingdom of the Outlands. It remains to be seen whether its neutrality will endure in the long run.
New Deseret Republic
The NDR actually encompasses two separate and distinct groups: the theocracy established by the LDS church after the collapse of the Federal government; and the Sanctum movement, which is not a formal part of the LDS hierarchy. The NDR encompasses most of Utah, parts of Nevada, and parts of Idaho, with isolated outposts in other states. It is a return to the vision of Joseph Smith: a separate religious state founded and run on LDS principles.
The Sanctum movement made the NDR possible. It is to Mormonism what the militia/shadow government movement is to mainstream Christianity. The Sanctum membership is composed of male Mormons who have dedicated their lives to preparing resources for the Church to use in the event of a general social collapse. They did their jobs well.
Over the last 60 years, the Sanctum movement has been investing in companies and products that have both high returns and practical survival value. They have purchased a number of decommissioned missile silos and command & control bunkers throughout the western half of America, and stocked these with genetic samples from the church membership, frozen livestock eggs & sperm, weapons, hydroponics supplies, and farm equipment, to mention the most common items. They also have custom built armored vehicles, armories, trade luxuries, and huge libraries of genealogical information. There are twelve of these Sanctums, each one named after one of the children of Jacob. Sanctum Jacob is located near Temple Square in Salt Lake City, and is the operational headquarters both the Sanctum project and the NDR as a whole.
The NDR generally considers Essex Syndrome to be another side of the Mark of Cain. They prefer not to kill Positives out of hand, but they will insist they move on. They are very protective of their territory, which has led to the current open state of war between the NDR and the Sovereign Diné Nation. It is vital to the NDR's future that it gain possession over the coal reserves of the Big Mountain area. The SDN considers Big Mountain a holy place and is not too keen on seeing it strip mined. The Thunderbirds nest on Big Mountain as well; the NDR's plans do not sit well with them.
New Ectopia is located in the rainforests of Washington state and southwestern British Columbia. The loss of life in the major population centers was near total, due to the staggering numbers of coffee-swilling, angst-ridden, nihilistic anarchists that became wasters. On the positive side, the sheer number of people becoming wasters ensured that every Starbucks in the region is now a smoking hole in the ground.
The Pagan/Wiccan community in the region survived largely intact - they were at a five-day festival in Mt. Rainier National Park. Many of them were on site when the CDC set up its roadblocks and checkpoints on the 17th. Some note was made of the unrest, but the vast majority of the festival attendees wanted to hear nothing of the outside world and so largely ignored the news.
By the time the festival was over and the attendees had sobered up and put their clothes on, most of the urban areas of the Pacific Northwest were burning or in ruins. Confronted with the reality of having to live off the land (a vastly different thing from "living in balance with" the land), the Pagan community did what it does best: immediately commenced to bickering.
After duct-taping some of the more extreme members of the community (including the majority of the self-appointed "Guardians of the Fourth Face") the elders of the community were able to call a council of coven leaders and begin a serious discussion of the matter at hand. They might still be talking even now, had not a trio of wasters entered the campground, intent on mayhem.
Magic responds to need and will. The festival attendees may have been disorganized and mutually antagonistic, but magic was something they understood. The three wasters caused a good measure of damage and killed several people, but they were no match for an aroused force of nearly a thousand mages, many of whom discovered that they were very good indeed at magic.
Afterwards, the council reconvened. Funerals were held while the elders talked and planned. This time, reason and logic held sway. Determined to retake the Seattle area and make it their own, they broke camp and marched on the city.
A number of wasters met swift ends before the Pagans reached Seattle. Once there, though, they realized that they had been laughably optimistic. There was no city to retake; the wasters had left the entire area desolate and lifeless. It would be years before the ground would be fertile again. Dejected, the column began to move south, heading for the mouth of the Columbia River.
Once there, scouts were sent to reconnoiter Portland. One team returned, reporting the city was also a total loss. With no options, and almost out of food, the elders decided to make their new home where they stood. They could get fish from the river and ocean, just as the Natives did, enough to see them through the winter.
Some groups decided to strike out on their own. A number of Dianic Separatists commandeered a private yacht and set off for Vancouver, eventually settling on Vancouver Island outside of Victoria. A Druidic contingent chose to return to the Mt. Rainier area. Survivors from the general populace were welcomed into the settlement, so long as they were willing to accept the diversity around them.
By late summer, the different settlements were well established and thriving. Government by council of elders was working at least as well as representative democracy used to and the harvest looked promising. When the concept of New Ectopia was proposed to the elders, there was little resistance from them. The non-Pagans were a different story.
Many of the survivors were Christian, and very uncomfortable with the somewhat more liberal Pagan culture. A quiet movement began, as Christians, conservatives, and others who were unhappy under the Pagan system began to congregate in the Eugene area. On August 1st, while the Pagans were celebrating Lammas, they struck.
Seizing the granaries, armories, fuel depots, motor pools, and broadcast equipment was relatively easy. The guardians were on the borders, not inside the settlement. By the time the council of elders realized what had happened, the rebels held the majority of the supplies and weapons. Several prominent members of the council were arrested for hoarding and brought before a hastily-convened revolutionary court.
Presiding over the court was a former District Court judge, Harold Winston. Winston was an arch-conservative, a fact he made plain immediately when he advised the prisoners that he considered the Change to have been brought by "their kind", and that he intended to sentence the lot of them to be burned at the stake.
Only one elder survived the battle that followed. She used her magic to teleport outside the courthouse just as the roof collapsed. Winston had been killed instantly, by a fire that clung to his flesh and anything he touched, burning him until his bones were cracked and ashen. The remaining rebels surrendered or died. Some were pardoned, but most were banished.
New Ectopia is now a solid theacrocy (government by Goddess-worshippers). "Actions in support of Patriarchy" and "Practices contrary to inclusion" are now criminal acts. Non-Pagan beliefs are allowed, but practitioners are closely watched. The government continues to evolve, becoming more and more a mageocracy. An individual's degree of magical ability is the primary determiner of their social class; those who cannot or will not practice magic are rapidly becoming a caste of near-untouchables. The economy is based on the concept of the Util, a symbolic representation of the utility value of a thing. By working for the settlement, people accumulate calorie credits which are redeemable in Utils. Work enough to generate the Util value of your dinner meal, and you may eat. Magic, by definition, has a very high Util value, which is rapidly concentrating "wealth" in the hands of the mages in the community. Several are willing to donate their Utils to the less fortunate, but many are looking on this as their chance to stick it to those people who teased, harassed and discriminated against them all their lives. Blinded by their overwhelming self-righteousness, they do not see who they have become.
New Kingdom of the Outlands
The New Kingdom of the Outlands was founded by members of the Society for Creative Anachronism who were at the Estrella War when the Change hit. It is the most Positive-friendly of the major political powers of the Four Corners region, and is the home of the player characters.
The Canton of Hawk's Hollow provided much of the initial leadership of the Kingdom in the days immediately following the Change. Canton members coordinated the logistics involved with moving over 1,000 people several hundred miles through hostile territory using vehicles of varying reliability as well as taking care of their food, medical, and sanitation needs. The Canton Seneschal accepted leadership of populace at this time, and continued to lead after the populace arrived at The Crazy White Man's Place. He attempted to rename their new home Hawk's Nest but the new name never really caught on. Unfortunately, the stress of administering the nascent kingdom was too much for the Seneschal to handle, and he gratefully passed the burden of leadership to Malcolm.
The Kingdom is ruled by King Malcolm I and an advisory council composed of representatives of the major guilds and the populace in general. Morag and Jazz speak for the various faiths practiced in the Kingdom. Olivia serves as Vizier and head of the Mage's Guild. Her network of informants gathers intelligence on the state of the populace and the activities of the Kingdom's enemies and allies. Michael speaks for the newly formed Wood Elf community and for the Kingdom's scouts. A token representative of President Ventura's federal government frequently sits in on council meetings but is not a council member.
Hawk's Nest (or "the House") is a massive, rambling building covering around twenty acres on the Southern Ute reservation south of Durango, Colorado. Elephias Tegal, a deranged spiritualist and railroad baron, began construction on the House in the mid-1800s. He purchased permission to build and occupy the House's site from the Southern Ute tribe in exchange for a 200-year endowment dedicated to improving the tribe's living conditions. Once the initial phase of construction was finished, Tegal began adding specialized rooms and hidden passages in an attempt to attract wandering spirits and ghosts to take up residence. Famous psychics and trance mediums in search of a patron (or a handout) swarmed to Tegal to petition him to build them living quarters, séance parlors, and "research" facilities for investigation of the paranormal. Tegal very rarely refused such requests. Electricity and telephones were installed as soon as they were available, even though the cost was astronomical. Even after his money was gone, Tegal continued to expand the house, trying scheme after scheme to attract a spirit willing and able to prove its own existence.
Tegal House passed back to the tribe upon Tegal's death in 1922. Several attempts were made to renovate the ramshackle mansion, but none were successful and the house became a popular make-out spot for the teenagers of Durango.
During the Change, Coyote approached the Southern Ute tribal council and asked them to allow a group of refugees to live in the abandoned mansion. They assented and gave the refugees what aid they could after their arrival. The tribe and the Kingdom are allies to this day, sharing resources and maintaining a mutual assistance and defense pact. The Kingdom also allied with, and later incorporated, the NSA garrison in Durango as well as what remained of the city itself. Over half of the refugees who arrived at the House right after the Change have moved into Durango due to overcrowding at Hawk's Nest (it's big, but 1200 people is beyond even Elephias Tegal's design parameters).
The Kingdom quickly incorporated the survivor settlement at Ridgeway, which quickly became the Kingdom's northern border. The party freed the people of Cortez from drugged slavery at the hands of an Overlord-controlled group of thugs and challenged the Overlord of the Excalibur to trial by single combat for possession of the town. The Overlord accepted, but was defeated when Malcolm decided to forgo using his sword in favor of the ancient art of roshambo. With a cry of, "Respect my authoritah!" and a swift, well-aimed kick, Malcolm brought the Overlord to his knees.
The Overlord's defeat freed a number of his thralls from their mental bondage, and the Overlord beat a hasty retreat back to Las Vegas. Cortez joined the Kingdom, and currently serves as the western border.
Alamosa is the most recent major settlement to join the Kingdom. Malcolm has been strengthening Alamosa's defenses as much as possible over the past winter. The San Luis Valley is the Kingdom's best prospect for a dependable source of food, and Malcolm intends to control it at all costs.
The Kingdom is allied with President Ventura, the Montrose Free Zone, the Southern Ute tribe, the Hopi Council, and the Sovereign Dine' Nation. The only declared enemy of the Kingdom is the NDR, although it remains to be seen how much of the NDR's fighting force will still be viable after the losses inflicted on it by President Ventura's forces.
Currently, the Kingdom population numbers around 15,000, roughly 25% of which are Changed. Militarily, the Kingdom can field roughly 2,000 troops, the majority of which are far more skilled than most in traditional forms of combat. The Mage's Guild has around 60 members and another 30 apprentices, most of whom live in or around the Guild tower in Hawk's Nest. Every city of the Kingdom has at least five mages of 3rd to 5th level and their apprentices in residence, with more being assigned as their level of skill permits.
The Kingdom also has 24 Humvees, one Bradley AFV, and 33 Emissary motorcycles, all distributed to border patrol or messenger duties. The party has a Juggernaut IV that it liberated from the NDR after capturing and looting Sanctum Levi. The Kingdom is also well supplied with both tactical firearms and heavy weapons involuntarily donated by the NDR, including 56 LINDA pistols.
Hawk's Nest and the surrounding grounds are protected by a powerful magical field that renders the technological weapons of hostile parties inoperative. The field further prevents the aerial or satellite photography of the grounds; all that appear in such images is open country. The field was raised by a cooperative magical effort that drew power from the entire population. The party planned out the field's parameters and desired powers, but was unprepared for the effect the field would have on the House and its residents. The House was transformed from a rickety mansion into a solidly built stonework castle. The ground around the House flowed up and over the walls, spreading out to cover the roof. The mansion is now well disguised, with only the front gate, towers, and chimneys to show that this area is not part of the mountain it sits on.
So far the Kingdom has been able to resist invaders, war, bandits, slavers,
epidemic, and personal politics. Its future survival will depend greatly
on whether or not it is able to grow and harvest enough food to last the
next winter. Wheat and corn, not guns and spells, will determine the fate
of the Kingdom.
Overlords of Las Vegas
Overlords are a race of bipedal felines
that once belonged to some rather flamboyant Las Vegas magicians.
The great cats each took over a major casino. Those Overlords that were once smaller cats were left with their choice of a number of smaller casinos, strip clubs, and in one case, a shopping mall.
The military forces on Nellis Air Force Base did not respond well to this change in power structure. Unfortunately, they were as vulnerable to the Overlord's mental powers as the casino workers were, and Nellis fell almost without a fight. An arrangement was reached with Groom Lake to allow the workers based there to leave Las Vegas in peace if they wished, or to remain and continue to work. The Janet terminal is under Overlord control, though the workers are not harassed or restricted. The Janet flights continue undisturbed.
Although the Overlords have individual names, they usually don't use them. They prefer to be referred to as the Overlord of the casino they control. Overlords who do not control a casino are most likely to use an individual name. Of those ruling a major casino, only Caesar uses an individual name.
The Overlord of the Excalibur is known to collect nonhumans for his staff. Evidence suggests that he is getting his supply from Project Manzanar, but this is not conclusively proven.
Las Vegas is still open for business. Prostitution has finally been legalized in Clark County; the Overlord of the Mirage sells permits and collects taxes on the sex trade. Persons wanting to cultivate or distribute narcotics must petition the Overlord of the Luxor. Other vices are similarly divided up among the Overlords. Caesar controls gambling, and all the other Overlords pay him tribute to keep their casinos.
Hoover Dam still provides power. A former cheetah reigns there, supplying power to Las Vegas and selling electricity to those communities willing to pay handsomely for it. The dam is heavily protected from incursion by land, sea, and air; nothing smaller than an army is going to be able to challenge the Overlords for possession of it. Among the defenders is an Azrael and crew under the dominion of the Overlord of the Bellagio.
As for their former owners? They live, kept in the same glass-walled enclosure at the Mirage that the Overlords themselves used to be on display in. And every night, they do their magic show for their masters - with a few minor changes.
More in-depth information on Las Vegas is available here or by clicking on the Las Vegas sign above.
The United States of America
Sovereign Diné Nation
of Native activism and inter-tribal politics is a long and often bloody
one, with disputes often having roots that go back centuries. The conflicts
that lead to the formation of the Sovereign Dine' Nation in the aftermath
of the Change, however, are modern. The vast majority of them can be traced
to a law sponsored by John McCain of Arizona.
The history of Native activism and inter-tribal politics is a long and often bloody one, with disputes often having roots that go back centuries. The conflicts that lead to the formation of the Sovereign Dine' Nation in the aftermath of the Change, however, are modern. The vast majority of them can be traced to a law sponsored by John McCain of Arizona.
In a nutshell, the McCain
bill (S. 1973 "The Navajo Hopi Land Dispute Settlement Act of 1996") ordered
a large chunk of Navajo land to be given to the Hopi tribe. The parcel
in question is right in the middle of the Navajo reservation. The Navajo
living on the reservation were forced to move; those who refused to comply
were taken (often at gunpoint) to a former toxic waste dump. Their property
and livestock were seized and given to the Hopi, usually with no compensation.
In a nutshell, the McCain bill (S. 1973 "The Navajo Hopi Land Dispute Settlement Act of 1996") ordered a large chunk of Navajo land to be given to the Hopi tribe. The parcel in question is right in the middle of the Navajo reservation. The Navajo living on the reservation were forced to move; those who refused to comply were taken (often at gunpoint) to a former toxic waste dump. Their property and livestock were seized and given to the Hopi, usually with no compensation.
The greatest insult was
the sale of mining rights on Big Mountain (Black Mesa) to Peabody Coal.
Big Mountain is a sacred site to the Navajo; strip-mining coal from it
is somewhat akin to a group of people storming into the Vatican and deciding
to turn it into a public toilet.
The greatest insult was the sale of mining rights on Big Mountain (Black Mesa) to Peabody Coal. Big Mountain is a sacred site to the Navajo; strip-mining coal from it is somewhat akin to a group of people storming into the Vatican and deciding to turn it into a public toilet.
The Federal, State, and
local authorities that carried out the forced relocation ignored the Navajo
tribe's status as a sovereign government. This became a matter of world
concern when the tribe was offered membership in the United Nations in
2001, along with the Lakota, the Iroquois Confederacy, and three other
tribes. Their membership (as well as the memberships of the others) was
declared invalid, first by the Bush administration and later by the Supreme
Court (three member of which were Bush appointees). This lead to a 2002
trial before the World Court in the Hague, where the Bush administration
and the United States were charged with numerous human rights violations.
In 2003, the World Court and the United Nations jointly demanded that
the Bush administration recognize the right of the tribes to exist as
sovereign nations. Bush refused.
The Federal, State, and local authorities that carried out the forced relocation ignored the Navajo tribe's status as a sovereign government. This became a matter of world concern when the tribe was offered membership in the United Nations in 2001, along with the Lakota, the Iroquois Confederacy, and three other tribes. Their membership (as well as the memberships of the others) was declared invalid, first by the Bush administration and later by the Supreme Court (three member of which were Bush appointees). This lead to a 2002 trial before the World Court in the Hague, where the Bush administration and the United States were charged with numerous human rights violations. In 2003, the World Court and the United Nations jointly demanded that the Bush administration recognize the right of the tribes to exist as sovereign nations. Bush refused.
More legal challenges
were advanced on all sides. The arguments continued into the Ventura presidency,
mostly on momentum. President Ventura obtained an agreement from all sides
that they would work together on reaching a settlement and set his Secretary
of the Interior to watch the process and keep him informed.
More legal challenges were advanced on all sides. The arguments continued into the Ventura presidency, mostly on momentum. President Ventura obtained an agreement from all sides that they would work together on reaching a settlement and set his Secretary of the Interior to watch the process and keep him informed.
The SDN had existed as
a concept well back into the early '80s, and many of the people in the
tribal government in the 2000's had started off promoting the ideological
transition from the "Navajo tribe" to the "Sovereign Dine' Nation". Several
of them began to push the concept of the SDN in the late '90s as a form
of protest; once the tribe was a member of the United Nations, they promoted
the concept in earnest.
The SDN had existed as a concept well back into the early '80s, and many of the people in the tribal government in the 2000's had started off promoting the ideological transition from the "Navajo tribe" to the "Sovereign Dine' Nation". Several of them began to push the concept of the SDN in the late '90s as a form of protest; once the tribe was a member of the United Nations, they promoted the concept in earnest.
were drawn to the SDN in droves, while assimilationists (who tended to
favor the tribe's "ward of the State" status) were less enthusiastic.
The assimilationists lost a lot of support in the general populace in
2003, when the Moonlight Sanctuary gave the SDN $20,000,000 for housing
and utility improvements. A pilot program of equipping remote homes with
solar cells and storage batteries was expanded, with a goal of bringing
electricity and running water to every member of the tribe. Tribal members
with an interest in electrical engineering were trained to repair and
maintain the solar systems, which brought more income and independence
to the tribe.
Tribal traditionalists were drawn to the SDN in droves, while assimilationists (who tended to favor the tribe's "ward of the State" status) were less enthusiastic. The assimilationists lost a lot of support in the general populace in 2003, when the Moonlight Sanctuary gave the SDN $20,000,000 for housing and utility improvements. A pilot program of equipping remote homes with solar cells and storage batteries was expanded, with a goal of bringing electricity and running water to every member of the tribe. Tribal members with an interest in electrical engineering were trained to repair and maintain the solar systems, which brought more income and independence to the tribe.
When the Change hit,
the first sign of it that most of the tribe saw was the arrival of the
Thunderbirds at Big Mountain. The Thunderbirds called the elders of all
the local tribes together and taught them a law of peace that settled
their ancient rivalries and feuds. The elders of the tribes went home,
and brought the new law to their peoples.
When the Change hit, the first sign of it that most of the tribe saw was the arrival of the Thunderbirds at Big Mountain. The Thunderbirds called the elders of all the local tribes together and taught them a law of peace that settled their ancient rivalries and feuds. The elders of the tribes went home, and brought the new law to their peoples.
Today, the SDN is in
pretty good shape. They are allied with the Southern Ute Council, the
Four Fires of the Hopi, the Kingdom of the New Outlands, and are friendly
with White Buffalo Calf Woman, though they do not follow her. A state
of war exists between the SDN and the NDR; although the NDR outnumbers
and outguns them, the SDN's borders are holding and they have inflicted
serious damage on the NDR's forces.
Today, the SDN is in pretty good shape. They are allied with the Southern Ute Council, the Four Fires of the Hopi, the Kingdom of the New Outlands, and are friendly with White Buffalo Calf Woman, though they do not follow her. A state of war exists between the SDN and the NDR; although the NDR outnumbers and outguns them, the SDN's borders are holding and they have inflicted serious damage on the NDR's forces.
A tribal council, mostly
comprised of surviving elders and younger members with prior military
experience, runs the SDN on a day-to-day basis. The council chairman,
Steven Nakai, has some powers and authority but the real leadership of
the SDN are the elders on the tribal council. The majority of them are
staunch traditionalists who have the support of the overwhelming majority
of the populace. The Thunderbirds serve as guides and advisors, but they
refuse to lead.
A tribal council, mostly comprised of surviving elders and younger members with prior military experience, runs the SDN on a day-to-day basis. The council chairman, Steven Nakai, has some powers and authority but the real leadership of the SDN are the elders on the tribal council. The majority of them are staunch traditionalists who have the support of the overwhelming majority of the populace. The Thunderbirds serve as guides and advisors, but they refuse to lead.
The majority of the 40,000
homes in the SDN still have working electrical power, running water, and
are capable of supporting themselves easily by farming or ranching. Many
died during the Change, and more were lost to lack of medicine over the
first year, but the widely scattered population was too separated to suffer
the catastrophic loss of life experienced by major population centers.
The majority of the 40,000 homes in the SDN still have working electrical power, running water, and are capable of supporting themselves easily by farming or ranching. Many died during the Change, and more were lost to lack of medicine over the first year, but the widely scattered population was too separated to suffer the catastrophic loss of life experienced by major population centers.
The Thunderbirds are listed as a political group (as opposed to a type of monster) for the same reason the Dragon of Denver is: their presence substantially influences the balance of power throughout the entire Four Corners region.
Their power is religious as well as political. Although they will not discuss where they are from or how they came here, they do occasionally make cryptic remarks about "the Maker" or "the Creator" desiring a given task be done. Further, they have specifically said on several occasions that they have two duties in the world: carrying the souls of the dead into the spirit world, and "gathering the smoke of fervent prayer into our wings" and taking those prayers to the Creator. They are frequently seen arriving and departing from their nest on Big Mountain, presumably on missions related to their duties.
They will rarely give advice unless compelled to do so by whatever power they report to. When people come to them for guidance, the response is usually a curt, politely phrased advisement that the best way for a prayer to be heard is to say it properly. Persistent visitors are told that further questions will result in the questioner being allowed to ask his or her questions in person. Anything other than an apology and an immediate retreat usually results in the questioner being fried by the Thunderbird's lightning.
Physically, the Thunderbirds resemble North American bald eagles in form and coloring. The major difference between the two is size. Thunderbirds are as large as a modern airliner, with the largest having a wingspan approaching 250 feet - greater than that of a Boeing 747. They have never been observed to eat; it is assumed they do their hunting in the spirit world or are sustained by the Creator in some other way.
When flying, the sky around them is filled with lightning and thunder, but no rain. At will, they can shoot lightning from their eyes and mouth. These bolts strike unerringly and can be used with pinpoint accuracy. In addition to combat, they often use these abilities to underscore important points with mortals they are conversing with.
In game terms, these bolts are ranged touch attacks at +20/+20/+20 melee. They do 20d6 damage each (DC 20 Fort save for 1/2) and can be independently targeted at different opponents.
People seeking an audience with them are advised to bring gifts (pipe tobacco or sweetgrass is always nice), to approach in a humble and respectful manner, and to have a lot of patience. If the gift is acceptable, the petitioner is well-behaved, respectful, patient, and polite, they have a good chance of having their petition heard. If their request is not one that could be made as a prayer, the Thunderbirds are likely to hear the petitioner out. Once they have done so, they will normally give an immediate response, yes or no, and the petitioner is expected to thank them and leave immediately. Further requests or arguments are not well received. It is also important to note that cigarettes are not considered to be an acceptable gift. If the tobacco is removed from the wrapping paper and tied into prayer pouches, then it is considered acceptable.
Thunderbirds speak all the languages of all intelligent creatures fluently.
Wi - White Buffalo
Lakota tradition teaches that a young girl visited the tribe long ago, bringing agriculture, religion, and culture. She gave the people the sacred pipe and tought them seven sacred ceremonies, including marriage, adoption, and the sun dance. She left a prophecy that she would return to purify the world and restore harmony to the land and the people.
As a sign that her return was imminent, she said, a white female buffalo calf would be born, and that it would change colors four times as a sign of unity to the peoples of the world. Then she returned to the spirit world to await the time of prophecy.
The fulfillment of that prophecy is believed by many to have occurred on August 20, 1994, with the birth of Miracle, a female white buffalo calf, in South Dakota. At the time, a medicine man named Floyd Hand was quoted as saying,
Native Americans from many different tribes regarded Miracle as an event of Biblical proportions, with implications for the entire social, religious, and political fabric of the Native world. A large number of traditionalists began to prepare themselves for her arrival by striving to purify their minds and bodies of all bad things. Their years of preparation were rewarded on the 16th of February 2005. Lead by visions, the traditionalists came to a location in the Black Hills and began to pray. As prophesied, the land opened and Ptesan Wi, White Buffalo Calf Woman, returned to the world.
The chaos of the Change began the next morning. Shielded by White Buffalo Calf Woman's power, the traditionalists, their families, and those who came to her were unhurt and unchanged. Her first command was the purification of Mt. Rushmore. Filled with her power, a small group of elders began to dance and pray in front of the monument. Stones began to rise from the ground, slowly at first, and attach themselves to the massive faces. Soon the stones were rising in massive numbers and the faces were barely visible. A television news crew flying over the area in a helicopter recorded the scene, which was broadcast nationally. What did not make the national feeds was the sight of a pack of wasters being blasted into dust by an elder in a wheelchair, or the ring of young warriors who encircled the elders to protect them from the police. When the police opened fire on the warriors, they found out that their Ghost Dance shirts were not simply decorative, but also totally bulletproof.
By the end of the day, Mt. Rushmore was covered with new growth as grasses and trees leapt from the newly-remade granite slopes. When the dawn came again, the trees were fully grown, and there was no sign that the monument had ever existed.
White Buffalo Calf Woman called her people to withdraw into the Black Hills to ride out the Change. While the modern world destroyed itself, she taught her followers new ceremonies and new prayers that would give them strength in the World of the Seventh Fire. She also taught them that all people must live in balance with the land, and respect what the Creator has made for them. Those that do not do so poison the world and make the minds of the people foul and unclean. To return to balance, the world must be purified and remade, cleansed of the evil-minded.
Ptesan Wi accepts people of all nations and races as followers, so long as they accept her teachings. She will not accept anyone who has an "evil mind" (meaning anyone who is selfish, greedy, disrespectful to the land, has impure desires towards her or puts profits above human lives) as a follower, unless they approach her as a penitent and ask to be remade as a good person. She has no compunctions about slaying the "evil-minded", usually with a cloud of black smoke that burns the flesh and blood from the victim's bones. The black smoke will not harm those of "pure mind", making it an excellent defense against interlopers. Her person is considered sacred; intentionally touching her without asking permission first usually results in a painful death. Children are exempt from this rule and may touch, grab, climb on, and swing from her with impunity.
She does not hate technology per se, only the separation it causes between people and the land. She is teaching her people to live in harmony on the land, and soon will send out her students to carry her message to the people of the world.
In human form, she appears as a young Native American woman in her late teens or early twenties, usually wearing a traditional plains-style fringed dress made of white doeskin. She has never been seen in modern clothing. She wears her hair long and loose, only braiding it for ceremonial purposes. Non-humans who encounter her occasionally see her as being one of their own race.
Ptesan Wi has mentioned Coyote on occasion, and has made statements to her followers that both of them (as well as other divine figures) had been watching and waiting for the time of their return. She will say nothing more specific than that. She does not elaborate on or explain the return of magic to the world. She says that she and the others had never left, but were always here, and that the time had come to be seen again.
Since her return, it has been a daily ritual for her to return to the location where she returned to the world and open the hill each day at noon. When she does, a number of animals emerge and quickly scatter into the wild. These animals are mostly Pleistocene megafauna such as the mammoth, mastodon, cave bear, smilodon, dire wolf, and of course, the bison.
She and her followers are located in and around the Wind Cave in South Dakota. The area has been cleansed of most of its modern works; only the road system and underground utility infrastructure is unchanged. Motor vehicles are not prohibited, but are strongly discouraged in favor of horses. The border guards tend towards traditional dress, but are polite with strangers and newcomers. Would-be attackers discover quickly that the guards are still protected by the Ghost Dance, and that many are not only heavily armed, but carry some of Ptesan Wi's power as well.