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1899 - The Hidden Hands of the Aether

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Setup is still in progress; thread has been opened up for the startup of the campaign


Welcome to 1899, a steam punk roleplaying game created from all the best elements encountered during and an imagination honed by nearly 20 years of RPG experience.

This thread starts out by explaining the basics of 1899 and is meant for hosting the first story, The Hidden Hands of the Aether. As such, I hereby kindly request anybody that is not a recognized player to refrain from posting in this topic. For any questions, comments or discussion, be it 'out of character' talk by the players or suggestions and queries from non-participants, I hereby direct you to the Lock and Feather Inn, which is set up specificially for this purpose.

The setting used for 1899 heavily borrows from Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy RPG and White Wolf's World of Darkness, in the sense that both are set in a copy of our own world. The latter uses the exact same world, albeit a couple of shades darker; the former uses the same geopolitical basis, which is then rebuilt through the lens of fantasy.

1899 falls somewhere in between: the game is set in 19th century Victorian London, England, and although the country will look more or less the same as it did in our world and the people will sound the same, it's the influence of the Aether that makes the differences so much more striking than the similarities.

Be advised that the title 1899 was chosen to reference to the 19th century as we know it, and to reflect the fact that the world is on the treshold of some big event. The story (or possibly stories) itself doesn't necessarily take place in that year, nor is the year 1899 in the game laced with the same key events as it is in our history.


The Earth on which this story is set has many similarities with the planet as we know it: it came to be in a similar solar system, with the same sun, same neighbors and same moon. The planet's land masses underwent the same continental drift, so that geographical layout is the same as we know it.

Life on it started from simple cells and evolved into more and more complex forms, and eventually brought us Homo Sapiens some 200,000 years ago. This form of man made the same important discoveries such as the wheel, the alphabet, currency, gunpowder and the steam engine.
Cultural history - at least concerning the Western societies - also followed more or less the same course; there are too many events to even know where to begin, but the following events deserve special mention:

* The Roman and Ancient Greek civilizations existed more or less identically to the way we know them, shaping the foundations of later Western civilizations.
* North America was colonized by settlers from Europe, from which it proceeded to gain independence through the Revolutionary War.
What sets 1899's Earth apart from ours is the presence of Aether, the fifth element. Aether, which by modern science is held to be a manifestation of divine power, has played a huge role in the evolution of man, and indeed of the planet itself (how else does one explain the remains of monstrous creatures, long since disappeared, that are dug up from the depths of the earth every now and then?).

Although different cultures have different views and different myths, they generally agree upon this: long ago the gods still populated the earth themselves; the gods of the light in the south, and the dark gods in the north. They infused life with their breath, the Aether, and as the forces of light and dark opposed each other, so did their followers. Eventually a massive war ensued, in which the domain of the dark gods was largely laid to waste, but not before one of their number managed to banish the gods of light to their own fortified city in the south and entrap them there.
This war is estimated to have occurred around 3,000 years ago, and ever since - although greatly diminished - the lingering Aether seems to be acting as a catalyst for the gods' return, shaping people's ideas and actions.

Fortunately - even if those who can't usually disagree - the ability to manipulate Aether is not available to anyone and everyone; only about one in every five persons is Gifted, meaning they can sense and control the flow of the Aether within or even around themselves. This fifth of the population is further subdivided in Juggernauts and Mages: the former - about three quarters of the Gifted - tend to be limited to direct physical manifestations of their powers, while the latter have a more subtle and complete control not only over themselves but also over their immediaty vicinity and the people in it.
Attitudes to the Gifted, or even to Juggernauts or Mages specifically, differ. In the larger urban areas, the Gifted are usually accepted more easily, with Mages tending to be favoured over Juggernauts. In rural areas, distrust is generally the maxim, although Juggernauts may find themselves accepted - a good strong pair of hands is hardly ever under-appreciated - as long as they keep a moderatly low profile.

As the gods were both sides of the same coin, so does the Aether fall apart into two conflicting and complementing powers; the White or Light Aether on the one side, and the Black or Dark on the other. The Light Aether inspires and empowers to achieve the greatest of benign feats, while the Dark Aether urges to perform acts of great malignity. And although not every soul is affected by Aether and those that are have a heightened affinity with it, the two Aethers are known to manifest in one another's shape on occasion, and more than one Mage or Juggernaut has seen their plans go up in smoke when as their power turned out to stem from another source than expected.


As can be expected, the existence of Aether has had an enormous impact on spiritual life throughout the ages. Contrary to the world we know, religious life on the planet of 1899 is dominated by polytheistic beliefs, all stemming from the same legends and myths about the gods living on Earth. Curiously - as far as Western society has managed to infiltrate elsewhere - the same legends are found all over the globe, being so incredibly similar as to almost rule out coincidence altogether.

Below follows a list of the most important deities of the Anglican Republic. As far as Western knowledge goes, these gods are found in every empire's religion, be they under different names as language dictates, and slightly different functions. The names and functions of the gods of the Republic and the Confederacy are almost identical, seeing as the North American culture mainly evolved from the Anglican.

Durhaeon, king of the gods; god of air, the sky and thunder.
Caraä, queen of the gods; goddess of marriage and family.
Gard, god of water, the seas and tidal waves.
Moria, goddess of earth, fertility and all plants.
Lazerus, god of wine, celebrations and ecstasy.
Simeaon, god of death, the moon and sleep.
Kitariel, goddess of the hunt, the sun, and all animals.
Endrick, god of commerce, thieves and games.
Selena, goddess of light, wisdom and healing.
Arcturus, god of war, violence and bloodshed.
Xana, goddess of love, beauty and desire.
Azul, god of fire and the forge.



Since the Anglican Republic - as an alternate image of our United Kingdom and the stage on which our story is conducted - will deserve more than a little attention to detail, let's starting with a brief summary of other world powers and noteworthy domains.

The Prussian Empire
Prussia, ruled by Emperor Karl-Heinz II, is a nation known best for its engineers and scientists. A lot of the great inventions of the modern Western world were done there, and the art of Technomancy - the merging of industry and Aether - originated within its borders. Their army - the Wehrmacht - is the most technologically advanced force on the entire planet. The Prussian people are held to be industrious, disciplined and reliable; the nation itself is on good terms with its neighbours, especially the Tsardom, from which it buys a lot of raw materials for its industry. Although vast amounts of Prussian technology serve to be the country's number one export product, there are rumours aplenty of all sorts of secret discoveries unfit to see the light of day.
Based on our real life topography, the Prussian Empire stretches from Latvia in the northeast through Lithuania, Poland and Germany to the Netherlands in the northwest; part of France in the southwest (imagine a line through Le Havre and Lyon and you're about right) and Switzerland and a minor chunk of northern Italy in the south. Denmark and the western part of the Czech Republic are also Prussian domain.

The Kingdom of Austria-Hungary
The Austro-Hungarian Kingdom borders on the Prussian Empire in the north and west and runs all the way to the Black Sea in the east, including part of Ukraine in the northeast and part of Bulgaria in the southeast. Albania, former Yugoslavia and Italy also belong to the Kingdom.

The Iberian Free States
The Free States make up the southwestern corner of Europe, bordering on both Prussia and Austria-Hungary. Rumor has it the Iberians even managed to get a foothold in Africa, but this goes unconfirmed as of yet. The Iberians of course, are content to let the rumour spread itself.

The Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman Empire borders on Austria-Hungary in the northwest and comprises Turkey, the entire Arabian Peninsula and runs through most of Iran to the east. The stretch of land between the Black and Caspians seas is also mainly in Ottoman hands, as is the part of Egypt east of the Suez Canal. Interestingly, the Suez Canal does not exist in 1899 nor is it needed: Africa and Asia are separated by the Red Sea entirely.

The Scandinavian Wasteland
The Wastelands encompass Norway,  Sweden and Finland, plus the Russian regions Murmansk, Karelia, Leningrad (including the lost city of Saint Petersburg) and Novgorod.

The Russian Tsardom
The Tsardom occupies the remaining lands between the Wastelands, Prussia, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. It borders the Far East (which runs along the estern coast through to half of the Khabarovsk region) and Sea of Okhotsk and Bering Sea on the other side of its huge territory.

The Confederate States of America
The Confederacy occupies nearly all of the North American continent, stretching from the far north down to the southwestern states of the USA we know. The southern halves of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas (picture a line through San Fransico and Houston) are still in control of the natives.

South America


Far East


The Eyes of the Aether
The two Eyes of the Aether are said to be located at the North and South Poles, with the Black Eye watching from the North and the White from the South. The partly explored Barrens - of which the Scandinavian Wastelands are the furthest outgrowth in the Western world - lend credence to the stories about the Black Eye; the White Eye is shrouded in mystery instead. Any expedition that ventured into the heart of the South Pole seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth, but the overwhelmingly benign vibe that cloaks the region keeps attracting new explorers - only to have them vanish again.


Under the leadership of Prime Minister Burrows, life in the Anglican Republic is filled with luxury and wealth - if you're a member of one of the Patrician families, that is. For the common man, however, life mainly consists of working long days on the land or in one of the Foundries to ensure that Patricians' wealth doesn't diminish too much. The divide between rich and poor is very big indeed, although a man with ambition and a halfway decent set of brains may find opportunities to rise through the ranks aplenty. Although the real power has been in the hands of one of the 23 Patrician families for close to two millennia, the last centuries have seen a shift in the way the power is distributed - the extremely bloody riots following the Prohibition Acts of 1667, in which the Sunderland family was brutally slaughtered by a number of  surprisingly well-organised mobs, have seen to that.
Anglia is now a republic ruled by a Prime Minister, who is backed by a Cabinet of Ministers selected from the Patrician families. Which families are allowed in the Cabinet is determined by an election, in which every adult male who is a member of one of the Guilds has a vote. Elections are held every 5 years.

Since all Guild members have the right to vote, it's fair to say that the Guilds are actually the powers behind the throne, especially the large ones like the Farmers', Founders' and Technomancers'; not quite incidentally, these three Guilds also represent the trades for which the Republic is best known across its borders. The percentage of adult males not enlisted with a Guild - and therefore unemployment - is incredibly small. People who are caught working outside of a Guild's purview are usually swiftly dealt with by the Guild in question; this is not strictly legal, but wetbacks' pleas to the authorities usually fall on deaf ears. There are a number of professions that do not generally have Guilds in their name - artists of all sorts form the largest part of this group, although more than one enterprising entertainer has successfully managed to set one up in order to profit from the benefits they are by law entitled to.

The Republic, being isolated from it's neighbours by the surrounding seas, has always been pretty much self-sufficient; this explains the success of the Farmers' - who represent a large part of the of the country's food industry - and the Founder's Guild - who are responsible for most of the Republic's heavy industry. The latter have always maintained an above average standard, which is evident from such feats as the London Underground and the impressive Anglican Navy, but it is in conjunction with the Technomancers' Guild that the Founders truly shine.
Anglia knows a long history of alchemical and aethereal dabblers and scientists, and most of the groundbreaking discoveries in these fields have been done upon its soil. No wonder that the Anglicans were the first to develop Engines - machines possessed of a rudimentary artificial intelligence - and have the most mentally sophisticated specimen to date, ranging from menial Engines to serve the Patricians to fighter Engines to aid the Navy in its struggle against piracy.

The city of London
Please see these pictures for impressions of the downtown architecture. Please ignore the chick on what appears to be a flying motorbike.

The Lock and Feather Inn
Near the centre of Perry Vale, Lewisham borough, where Woolstone and Allenby Roads meet Perry Rise, stands the Lock and Feather Inn, a middle class pub and hostel of good reputation. Since this will be the starting point of the first story, you’ll find more information about the inn, its owners and patrons further down the thread, namely here.



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