Regions, Factions, and Notes
It falls short to describe these as nations (except for Neo-Liyba), but they are definitely embryotic nations to some degree, dotted with city-states and growing factional holdings.
Balkhan, with its jagged mountain ranges and vast steppes, is good to its children and they know how to make use of their land in battles. The Balkhani are a partisan people that stand up to invaders; their attacks are fast and come from nowhere. The Balkhani are also an explosive people; passion smolders in them and just as fast turns into pure, all-consuming hatred. Threats from the outside are the cement that holds the brittle walls of Balkhani politics together. Together, they beat their enemies senseless, but as soon as they triumphantly celebrate the alliances start to crumble. If there is no external adversary, they feud among themselves.
The battles between the Balkhani and the Africans have raged for centuries. Sometimes one side dominates, sometimes the other. The losses on the Balkhani side are growing, however: the overwhelming hordes of Africans become more suffocating every day. The Bosporus seems lost as the Neolibyans construct fortresses there. Yet the Balkhani merely laugh at the advances of their arch enemies; a defeat is only a defeat if you accept it as such; they see success in defeats and draw strength from them; they are the dam that protects the weak Borcan and the cowardly Polleners from the African invasion. All they desire in return is respect.
The area is split into Voivodships (vie-vode-ship), technically provinces but in fact free states ruled by Bayan (bay-on).
Borca (boar-caw) was split apart by the Reaper’s Blow, a tectonic phenomenon starting high in Borca‘s icy north, then cutting through the Alps in an arcing southward bow to reach Africa‘s coasts at the bottom of the Mediterranean. Along this line, the earth is torn asunder, and giant sheets of rock the size of cities form a scar many hundreds of miles long. Magma chambers bloat right beneath the surface and discharge into volcanoes.
Like twins, each half has the same origin, yet the people west of the Reaper’s Blow differ from those in the east, like twins who have spent their youth apart. To the west of the Reaper’s Blow, Borca is a cold and inhospitable place of independent townships. The steel and concrete skeletons of the apocalyptic landscape are nearly uninhabitable; the only thing that deprives the gray monoliths of their sadness is the ever-present crimson mixture of dust, ash, and rust. Mother Earth makes life hard for every Borcan.
The people adapted, not because they wanted to, but because they had no choice. Wrapped in layers of heavy rags and furs and protected by dust masks, they perform their daily chores. The ruins, their legacy, are the center of their thoughts and actions.
The daily search for scrap metal and power is still the dominant theme in Borca. Mines are few in the known world, and the demand for metal never slackens. Towns send out Scrapper squadrons to scour the ruins for scrap metal; unscrupulous warlords and their gangs attack their opponents’ posts to steal metal and food.
Though they share the same past and history, the tribes east of the Reaper’s Blow dared a new beginning in the vast evergreen forests of East Borca: they followed the tracks of their herds and developed into nomadic tribes of eternal migration.
Justitian, the City of the Righteous Fist in West Borca, grew from a union of Chroniclers and Judges in the northern outskirts of the Dustlung region (the dust-clotted Ruhr Basin, home to the small Wupper Crater). The Judges of the city assumed power and governed with ruthless authority. Their Advocates enacted laws that clearly divided the populace into citizens and outcasts. They sent Judges to the surrounding villages to offer protection, and swallowed one community after the other. What used to be independent settlements are today districts of the Justitian city-state, the largest faction in the region.
Home to the Picton clans, Britain has been isolated by the closure of the land bridge. The area is ruled by Argyle the Vulture (also known as The Savenger), an undying king, and none enter the region without permission, upon pain of death.
While vast areas of Europe were afflicted with drought, a tectonic anomaly bound Franka’s water circulation, causing it to drown in its own rotten sewage. Swamps and moors dominate the central areas today. Groups of birches and willows, as well as patches of grass and thorny shrubs, are now the only specks of color amid the miserable brown and black of the morass. Flat boats and huts on stilts are part of the Franks’ daily life. Concrete areas, blackened by the dirt of centuries, are today seen as more of a natural phenomenon than a testimonial to a forgotten culture.
If you leave the central areas of Franka towards the west, deciduous woodlands replace the swamps; the land drains into the Atlantic via the Loire River.
In central Franka the locals live in small villages built on the waterways, while the Resistance (the Liberation Army) battles the servants of the Primer. In the south Neolibyian trade missions control the coastal cities, while in to the west and northwest (called Briton, pronounced bret-on) King Oppolus I rules from Brest; he and his reign are great friends to the Anabaptists, and hostile to the Apocalyptics.
(hubris-spain-eee-uh) With only one modest impact site and a tradition of monarchy (in name, at least), Hybrispania survived as a cultural entity, and a sense of national identify.
Heavy clouds blow in from the Atlantic and move over the Hybrispanian peninsula, bringing rain to the mountain ranges of the regions, as the south turned into vast deciduous forests. A number of rivers slice through the green carpet and partition the country into several hard-won regions. Crossing the rivers has always been risky; it’s impossible to know if the enemy waits for you on the other side.
In the center of Hybrispania, the Castilla Plateau protrudes from the forests. The climate is mild, supporting corn fields nestled between hills and jagged rock formations. This is where life beyond war takes place, as no African has ever set foot here. The ancient cities of Salamanca, Leon, Burgos, and Valladolid, as well as many smaller villages, have been lovingly preserved over the years.
While no more technology survived here than anywhere else, culturally it had a leg up until NeoLibya invaded. The battle for Hybrispania lasted for more than two centuries, and both sides committed atrocities that will never be forgotten.
Since the fall of Gibraltar, the Hybrispanians were on the retreat; city after city was lost to the Africans, until nothing remained except Madrid, Castilla’s last defense. But here the invaders were repelled: the Africans marched through forests strewn with traps, were endlessly ambushed, and were unable to broach the fortress that Madrid had become.
The Hybrispanian people refused to give up the fight, and put all of their efforts into waging guerrilla campaigns against the African forces. Pride and vengeance on both sides intertwined into a twisted knot of hatred and anger. The jungle south of Madrid stank of death and decay as both sides hunted down their enemies and nailed the corpses to the trees as a warning.
The Africans quickly realized the tactical importance of the forests for the guerrillas. The enemy could spring from them, attack with lightning speed, and dive back in to disappear without a trace. In large parts of Al-Andalus in the south, which the Africans control, the forests are being cut back from roads, farmland, and towns.
Hybrispania considers itself a nation, and a king (Carlos II) rules over an unruly collection of barons; how stable this arrangement is remains uncertain, but what is sure is that so long as one African (or Moor, as the locals call them) remains north of Gibraltar unity is the byword of the day.
The Corredores are the mainstay of the resistance, professional warriors fighting for the King.
The Primer started out in Pandora, and then chose the easy route east. To the north and south the Foulness spread more slowly, but nothing was able to stand up to the tidal force.
When the Spitalians came, it was already too late. The spore fields had united with the Balkhan decay in the former Ukraine, creating an impenetrable barrier. Near Brest the Medics tried to block the closing door with a wedge, and they failed. Since then they have led an bitter battle against the utterly potent front of Primer. No one thinks of surrender.
The Pollen are nomadic herdsmen, clans trailing their cattle and sheep across the plains, south in the winter, north in the summer, meeting in the spring and fall to trade and intermarry. They harvest spider silk from the teeming giant horrors that inhabit their land and sell it. Most goes to Wroclaw, where it becomes the foundation of ballistic armor.
(pure-gar) The west coast of Purgare is a Primer-cursed wasteland; to the east it is a fertile land, as the retreating sea left behind rich croplands.
Nine families dominate the region, families growing steadily into the tradition of nobility and monarchy, a transition being speeded by the eternal border war with the NeoLiybians
A corrupt, and hungry, empire (with its back to a growing wall of Primer) has grown along the northern coast of Africa. Unlike other regions, Neo-Libya is a nation.
The NeoLiybians established the Bank of Commerce in Tripoli and united the continent through trade; sent raiding parties into Europe to gather both old Bygone technology from its ruins and slaves from the clans that had survived. This human chattel works in the oil fields, households and mines of Africa. Thanks to its now temperate Northern region and its relative lack of threats and widespread destruction in comparison to Europe, Africa was began to thrive and become a single, unified people in the way that the Europeans had failed to, brought together by the wealth of the Neolibyans. It extended into the grasslands of the new Sahara, but halted two hundred years ago when confronted by the death-wall of the psychovors. Faced with nowhere to go the Africans attacked north, into Hybrispania by land, and the Balkhan by sea. While both efforts have made inroads, the cost has been high, and progress glacial.
The Neolibyians are ruled by a Sultan who presides over regional Caliphs; the courts of all are marked by depravity, bribery, and endless scheming. The Simbas, the central army, answer directly to the Sultan and are the cement that holds the nation together. This need to defend from within has been a major factor in the Africans' slow drive into Europe: the Sultan cannot afford to commit too many troops to the two-front war lest his Caliphs get ambitious, nor sustain too heavy of losses lest the Simbas become unhappy.
Simbas often often paint their helmets light blue, with Times Before insignia added. All Simbas wear a white faceplate into battle, and decorate the 'plate to reflect their service and honors. No Simba is allowed to leave the field of battle without their faceplate, and the organization strives mightily to recover the 'plates of the fallen. Faceplates are never re-issued.
The Leopards are Caliphate troops, often hired out as guards to merchants and caravans, and who also participate in the northward invasion, although cooperation between the Simbas and Leopards is limited. Leopards often paint their helmets white, with Times Before insignia added.
The African people are dominated by the Anubians, a priesthood that has combined the worst of shamanism, ancestor worship, and appeasement of the elements, resulting in a mixture of Human sacrifice and pagan practice coupled with chemistry. Like the Simbas, the Sultan counts on Anubian support to sustain his rule.
The other principle faith of the Neolibyians, the Jehammedans (year-men-deans), are much closer to pre-Hammerfall radical islam. They oppose excess, commerce beyond the acquisition of essentials, technological development, any religion other than their own and (reluctantly) that of the Anubians, the treatment of women as equals, and literacy for anyone other than religious guides (mullahs). Naturally this produces a heavy drag upon the development of the empire in regions where they are a majority.
A major player in this empire is the Commerce Bank, which combines the features of a financial institution, national treasury, and trade ministry all in one; it is a private enterprise with governmental powers, and a wise Sultan always considers the Bank's opinion.
The bulk of the NeoLib population are Masai, poor people who labor for wages while dreaming of the day they strike it rich
Despite their warlike nature, African traders frequent many European ports, and their gold Dinar is one of the two universal currencies in use. Traders always travel with an entourage of Jackals (professional guards), and often hired Leopards as well.
Over the last ten years Neo trade missions have gained full control of several ports on the south coast of Franka through commercial interaction, but this undertaking is viewed with suspicion by the Sultan, resentment by the Simbas, jealousy by several Caiphs, and with doubt by the Jehammedans.
Gambling and conspicuous consumption are major vices in NeoLib circles, and bleed off a great deal of productivity.
Note that NL military ranks are Jandi (private), Arif (corporal or sergeant), Requib (lieutenant), and Mosaid (captain). These are used by Simbas, Leopards, and Jackals.
Factions and Groups
The average European is a simple peasant who never strays far from his fortified village and fields, or his nomadic herd. Even the leaders in the embryonic nations stay close to home; travel is dangerous, and the pressures of life are many. However, there are factions whose members can be found the length and breadth of the continent.
Anabaptists: Christianity survived the Hammerfall, just as it survived a previous Dark Age. Churches and cathedrals are a common sight across Europe, as are the synagogues of the Jewish faith, who likewise had a history of weathering troubled times.
However the Anabaptists (the general faith that produced the Amish, among other sects) saw the growth of a new expression of their faith, one that took an austere and militant form. They seek to renew Mankind by purging from it all excesses and sin, and to eliminate all mutations and deviations. (Think Solomon Kane). They do not mix well with Apocalyptics.
Apocalyptics: Apocalyptics live an unbridled life of self-gratification. They appear in flocks, swooping into gambling dens and nesting in bordellos. Their distillates are stronger, their Burn more potent, their whores more beautiful. Any vice finds a welcome home with them. All emotions are sacred to them and equally celebrated as if they were the last.
They name their flocks for their origins or way of life. Combatants (often knife fighters) are Battle Crows or Owls, while Cuckoos are con artists. Whores, drug dealers, and thieves are Magpies, while Storks steal and sell children. A Woodpecker expands the nest, running shebeens (human trafficking) and smuggling routes, while Vultures deal in scrap, antiques, and other material goods. The Tern line are pirate crews, while the Hummingbird line are the NeoLibyian branch. Above all others, the Raven leads the flock.
The most famous Flock (and one of the largest, having in excess of 800 members) is the Black Flock, based on the isle of Corpse; the Flock are pirates who harry the NeoLibyian sea lanes and cost the Africans untold volumes of revenue. Their flag is black with a skull over a leg bone flanked by a dagger and heart (right) (KG 98)
In the Judges and Anabaptists the Apocalyptics have found their nemesis. They infest any civilization that is formed and see it as their duty to leech wealth and prosperity out of it like a colony of demented parasites.
Chroniclers: The wireless Stream once encompassed the world and touched every mind. It recorded and cataloged every second; the pure, digital knowledge of Mankind bundled into evolutionary algorithms. The Eshaton made the Stream dry up and petrified the sea of knowledge, but the Chroniclers keep up its work, buying artifacts from the Scrappers, fueling an entire market as they search for remainders of the past and the last servers, slowly rebuilding. People consider them strange: their language is riddled with archaic technical expressions, and they prefer the companionship of machines over humans.
The guardians of ancient knowledge, trained from childhood for the preservation of data, the Chroniclers are a force to be reckoned with. They reveal nothing for free, and stay aloof of regional or factional issues (although they have on occasion offered aid in the wars with Africa). They provide the other stable currency in Europe, and have a lock on technology. Chroniclers have no casual contact with outsiders, and are always enveloped in robes, masked, and using voice modulators. Their Alcoves are a common sight in any community where salvage comes up for sale, except for East Borca, where they have yet to establish a presence.
Clans: There are countless independent bands living simple (often barbaric) lives across Europe. These folk are known as Clans. As regions grow into nations, many clans are absorbed while others move away or actively resist.
Notable clans include the Cockroaches, the Exalters, the mammoth-riding Garganti nomads, the Pictons, Pneumancers, Phosphorites, Mechans, Stukov Nomads, the Corpse-Eaters, the Emocja, the Verhan, and the Usudi.
Hellvetics: (hall-vat-ticks) Descendants of the Swiss military, the Hellvetics control the Alps passes and the Rift routes, blocking any African threat and taxing trade (lightly, so as to draw in more) as it passes. As the centuries passed, they began hiring out units as mercenaries, resulting in more income, and insuring that their army did not become rusty with disuse.
Judges: The Judges brought law to the wastelands. With hammer and rifle they confronted the savages, hiding their faces behind wide brimmed hats. They conjured hailstorms of lead, slaughtered the criminals and judged outlaws with a blow of their hammers. They pursued their opponents like a pack of bloodhounds and followed the survivors deep down into their primordial underground. In the city of Justitian, they completed their vision of a just and safe world. The walls were insurmountable, the law was strong, the people were not free, but free of fear. Settlement after settlement placed themselves under Justitian’s custody. The Protectorate was born.
But peaceful times are over. The ruins teem with life again. The clans have grown strong and learned from the past. A Judge can no longer depend solely on his Codex; if he wants to survive in the world, he must master the law of the jungle.
A self-sustaining body whose self-appointed task is to protect the towns and byways from criminals and predators, and to serve as impartial arbiters in cases of law. They maintain very close relations with the Chroniclers, and are especially popular in rural areas where any help is deeply appreciated. They carry war hammers as a badge of office.
Palers: Gray-skinned from lack of sunlight, the Palers are scattered clans who live in deep underground complexes and mumble about ‘Sleepers’ and their duty thereof.
Scrappers: While this term is applied to anyone who seeks treasure in the ruins, it is most properly associated with the Righteous Guild of Scrap-men, a direct descendant of union workers from Great Britain. The Guild is a loose organization, but it maintains contacts and safe houses across Europe, working to help their members see greater benefit from their efforts.
Spitalians: (spit-tail-lee-anns) Mankind’s last line of defense against the Primer and its creatures. They explore the spore fields, dissect dead Psychonauts, develop poisons and weapons. With fungicides they cut swathes into the Sepsis and carry spore-covered mussels in glass tubes which lead them into the aberrants’ breeding grounds.
The Spitalians are scientists as well as doctors and warriors. Every day in the labs brings them closer to understanding and to saving Mankind from the Primer. Every day they devote their time between destruction and healing. Distinctive in their black and white uniforms, and shaved skulls, they are Humanity’s front line against the Primer.
Transit Brotherhood: Professional cargo-haulers who live a semi-nomadic existence moving cargos around Europe. While they tend to operate regionally the Brotherhood is a very real organization.
Travel through much of Europe is very dangerous; besides bandits and Human conflicts, the forces of the Primer are a constant scourge. The Transit Brotherhood has sponsored Travel Camps, which are areas encircled with a ditch and stake belt on defensive terrain, preferably near sources for water and fuel. Often old buildings are part of the camp. The rule is ‘leave it cleaner, stronger, and better-supplied than you found it’. This has become a universal custom, and it is rare to see any traveler who will not add a half-dozen stakes, or spend a half-hour deepening the defensive ditch or chopping firewood to leave behind. Travel camps are usually about 15 miles apart. Over the years smaller versions of the traveler camp, known as Rest Camps, more suited to a group of ten to twenty, are being established at twenty mile increments to serve smaller groups who move faster than caravans.
The chances of finding still-serviceable artifacts from before the Hammerfall has long been untrue except in the rarest of cases or small items of unknown purpose (oddities); however, components of some pre-HF equipment is still salvageable, and even though inoperative, most pre-HF equipment is valuable to the Chroniclers, who study the design of such devices and the materials they were crafted from in the hopes of reverse-engineering their way to lost technology. The People Before also had the capacity to store goods in such a fashion that they never aged, so it is possible to locate a cache of supplies from before the Hammerfall in perfect working order, but this is an extremely rare occurrence.
The major factions and political entities communicate via various methods based on their technical capacity, but even the least technical Faction has Morse code sent by shortwave radio. The Chroniclers have more advanced wireless communications which they will make available to trusted customers (for a fee). The Emocja and Transit Brotherhood also carry mail.
In Europe steam engines are often seen generating power for pumps, drills, and workshops; the Storski clans operate steam locomotives in a small portion of Borca. Seagoing ships and river boats are often steam powered. But although the internal combustion engine is clearly understood, is is seldom employed due to the cost of fuel; small amounts of oil appear on the Franka markets, but it is generally used to make plastics.
The NeoLibians have considerable oil reserves, but bar the sale of oil to Europe. Their ships generally run on oil, giving their warships a decided edge in speed and maneuverability. Their military uses light vehicles (known as Koms) and trucks in its European operations, and some have been captured by European forces, but they are generally sold back to the NeoLibians or scrapped for materials due to the cost of fuel. To date the Africans have not deployed aircraft in any form, either at home or abroad.
Centuries ago they became the stuff of myths and legends as savage warriors and epic leaders. It is said there are not more than a handful of them; only eight have been positively identified, such as Argyle the Vulture, and one of those (Cultrin) is believed to be dead. Allegedly, they are clad in pus-covered bandages as if these were the last things holding them together. With a simple gesture they vaporize their enemies, and depopulate whole villages on their erratic wanderings. One, the IceBreaker, makes an annual visit to the Spitialian home base, and if pleased with what he finds, leaves behind gifts of knowledge. Others are seen only once or twice a century. They are definitely not a product of the Primer, but rather a legacy of the World Before, although of what nature or purpose is unclear. Some Clanners view them as angry gods and sacrifice lives to them in appeasement.
There is no uniform term for the past; you will hear it referred to as The Time Before, Pre-Fall, the People Before, pre-Eshaton, pre-Hammerfall. and countless variations.
(See illusion in Art file) Prior to the Hammerfall there was an unbelievable variety of dogs in Europe. Of these, only one would survive in significant numbers: the gendo. In its fully grown form a gendo's shoulder height reaches around 5’, and they are wiry with gray-black, bristly fur. One of the most surprising facts about gendo is that they do not interbreed with other canines. Gendos are extremely social creatures. Each animal has a set position in its pack and knows its role. If one is injured or killed, the next lowest in the hierarchy will take its place. Gendos hunt in packs and their ability to coordinate is mythical; from the common hunt to targeted herding in dead-end streets and alleyways, they possess an uncanny array of tactics. The dogs are a constant threat to daily life, having developed into an unpredictable danger for traders and locals alike. Villages are watched by the gendos, and lone individuals will end up as food for the pack shortly after leaving their protected walls.
In the year 2556, a pack of gendos descended upon the southern town of Colmar. Not a single inhabitant survived. Since then, the entire region has lived in fear of the so-called Colmar Pack; thirty years later, the pack still exists and has grown considerably during this time. Their craftiness is widely known, and the region is almost entirely depopulated. The few remaining cities are well protected, and visiting caravans are heavily armed. Occurrences similar to Colmar also occurred in the forests east of the Reaper’s Blow.
Glossary of Terms
Awakened: Persons who have been in some sort of stasis since before the Hammerfall. Probably just legends.
Dirty rounds: Weapons or ammunition which have been prepped or created to create Toxic wounds or have enhanced chances of Infection.
Discordance, The: Areas (marked on map) where the Primer goes haywire periodically, if it can be found at all. No one is sure why, or how.
Emocja: (eee-mot-cha) The Emocja clanners have been rolling through forests and ruins in their caravans for centuries; they sell news and magic lantern shows, carry messages, fix tools, and sell small bits of tech. They are the most technologically advanced clan, and are not widely liked or trusted. An Emocja has no real region and few alliances; they survive because they have a lock on the video (magic lantern) and news industries.
Fractal Forests: These strange forests spread along fractal pathways. Viewed from above, they form branching spirals whose branches create smaller spirals in turn. Others are star-shaped or circular, surrounded by other circles on all sides. No one is sure why they exist, but they definitely serve the Primer.
Pandora Crater: Near Warsaw
Reaper’s Blow: This is the impact line of a Hammerfall meteor that struck at an angle, plowed southward across Europe, and finally exploded on entry with the sea, halting somewhere near what used to be Algeria. No Primer has been associated with the Reaper, but it left a great trench across the land that is still hundreds of yards wide and deep in places, creating a barrier to traffic.
Sleepers: See Awakened.
Steel Men: Stories are told of man-like, and thinking, machines, often disguised, roaming the world. Occasionally parts are displayed (particularly the hollowed-out shells, which serve as armor), but it could just be tall tales about loot or exaggerated tales about Vex.
Vex: Advanced machines found in Time Before ruins; these are not thinking beings, but merely advanced devices constructed for specific tasks. Most are crippled by time or damage, and are not much of a threat
Vine Shed: A venue for watching Magic Lantern vids.