Friday, May 24, 2013

Savage World Setting Idea: The Veil

Last year, I was finishing up the last couple books of the Harry Potter series and started on the Dresden series after that. Just like what usually happens, whatever I'm reading at the time fuels what I want to write about gaming-wise. So I set about creating a modern-day fantasy setting set in the real world. I took the Harry Potter universe mixed it with Dresden and added in bits of D20 Modern's Urban Arcana setting. I used the Savage Worlds system for the base and made lots of use of the Horror Toolkit as well as some Harry Potter fan settings. Like a lot of projects, my interest waned after a while, and the idea was set aside. Not abandoned; just saved for later when the inspiration grabs me again.

My wife and I have been watching Grimm (good show, not great, but certainly better than watching another reality show or talent competition), so I got to thinking about this setting again and how the Wesen would be an interesting idea to add to the setting. Then I got to thinking about how I've got a pic of Savage Worlds on my favorite systems list, but I've never really written up anything about it. So, I figured now was as good of a time as any.

This is the first post about "The Veil" (stupid name I know, but I suck at giving settings a decent name). I'm not actively developing it anymore, but I just thought I'd toss it out there in case any Savage Worlds players might get some use out of it.

Theme: A “Harry Potter”-like world.  Modern day real world governments, but there is a secret world of magic and monsters hidden from view from the rest of the world.  Normal people are constantly interacting with fantastical creatures, but “the veil,” a powerful spell that obscures all things fantastical, keeps those that are not either from a fantastical race or a human without the Sight from seeing them as they truly are.  Bugbears may appear a s burly bikers, goblins as midgets or unruly children, dragons flying through the sky appear to be nothing more than a plane.  There are forces that want to tear down the veil and force humanity to see the world as it truly is.

Magic: Magic is very much real. Only a small few have any real ability with magic. This is referred to as having “The Sight” (new Background Edge).  Those born from parents (even just one parent) that have The Sight will also have The Sight (though some with The Sight have no talent with magic, known as “Squibs” or “the Removed”).  About 2-5% of each generation of children born to parents without The Sight are born with it.  These children are detected at birth and upon reaching a certain age (depending on what part of the world they are born in) the parents and child are approached for the child to be sent to a special school for training.  Those with the Sight also see the world for how it truly is.  They see dwarves instead of little people, dragons instead of jets, and magic instead of fireworks. 
Muggles can be opened to the wizarding world as well.  Sometimes, even though they wish they had not seen something, a magical or fantastical event will open a Muggle’s eyes.  Most times, the Council of Magi will remove the memory of these events from the muggle’s mind so they can go back to their mundane lives, but there are some muggles whose minds are more resilient to change and are forever opened to the wizarding world.  These people cannot cast spells, essentially being the same as Squibs.  Sadly, many cannot handle the realization that their world is not how they have perceived it to be all of their lives.  The knowledge that magic and monsters do exist is simply too much for their psyches to handle and they go insane.  The Council of Magi tries to help these people as much as possible with counseling and such, and some have gone on to be liaisons between the Council and the muggle world.  These Muggles are often referred to as “the Awakened” or as being “Clued-In.”
There are many different magical schools throughout the world, and although each has a very similar curriculum, they each have a distinct regional flair. Hogwarts in the UK, Durmstrang in Russia, Salem Witches Institute and the Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts in the US, Beauxbatons in France, Brazilian Wizarding School in Brazil, The Dragon Academy in China, Calcutta School of Magic in India, and the Celestial College in Japan are just a few of the more well known magical schools in the world. Each country also has differing ideas on how mages are utilized. 
There are some types of magic that are considered forbidden.  Magic dealing with time travel, mind control, and raising the dead have all been declared as forbidden by the Council of Magi.  That said there are always wizards searching for forbidden magics. 

Wizards and Government: In most areas of the world, wizards govern themselves.  There is a sort of a UN for wizards known as the Council of Magi that not only deals with matters in the wizarding world (such as determining what magic is and is not allowed), but also deals with Muggle (non-Sighted) governments.  There are laws against wizards openly using magic or enchanted items in front of those without the Sight, as well as for fantastical creatures revealing their natures to Muggles (such as a Gorgon petrifying people in Times Square, for instance).  Each nations’ wizards has their own governing body (in most cases) that deals with policing their own areas, with the Council stepping in only the most extreme cases. 
Many governments also have a secret liaison, always someone with The Sight but rarely a wizard, which works with the wizards in their country.  Some are fairly hands-off (such as in the UK and the US), while other governments want control of their wizards (such as in China) or are openly hostile (most Islamic countries, as well as parts of the US and Europe).

Wizards and Religion: The faith of a wizard is just as varied as that of normal people.  Some are Wiccans, some are Christians, others are Hindu, Confucian, or Taoist.  While the faith of a wizard matters little, the Muggles of a faith are usually the issue.  Christians have a very sordid past with the wizarding world.  The Spanish Inquisition and the Salem Witch Trials have left a black mark on relations that have lasted to this day.  Thanks to interference from the Vatican, wizards are forbidden to make unsolicited contact with Sighted children in Italy and much of the Mediterranean, leading to very few wizards coming from that part of the world.  In the US, evangelical groups still talk of the dangers of witchcraft, even if they don’t fully understand what they are talking about.  However, the greatest source of intolerance is in the Middle East.  Fanatical Islamic counties have their own teams that identify, kidnap, and ultimately eliminate not only children with The Sight, but also the families out of fear that they will bear more heretical offspring.

Council of Magi: The Council of Magi, as mentioned above, governs the wizarding world.  They set the Great Laws (see below) a millennia ago, and continue to protect and oversee wizards and all things fantastical to this day.  Not only do they oversee the education of young apprentices through the setting up of magical schools, but also police wizards and protect muggles from those that would use their magic to harm the world.  There are several Departments that oversee a different aspect of wizarding life (see the list below). The Council is lead by the Minister of Magic.  Wizards the world over are allowed to vote every seven years on a new minister (or sooner should the Minister be declared unfit to serve).  He presides over the Wizengamot, a sort of representative court selected by the wizards of various nations, and casts the tie-breaking vote in deadlocked issues.  The Minister of Magic is also the face of the Council not only in the Real, but in the Cosmos as well. 

Department of Muggle Affairs: This department coordinates efforts between the Council and the nations of the world. 

Department of Mysteries: This is sort of the “X-Files” of the wizarding world.  This department is made up of mostly scholarly wizards studying various mysteries from strange magical artifacts, to important prophecies. 

Department of Aurors: Aurors are wizards tasked with tracking down and brining in wizards who break the Grand Laws.  They are not only skilled wizards, but also trained in combat.  Their magic is more combative than most wizards.  They are considered the best of the best. 

The Wardens: The Wardens are a group of Squibs and Awakened muggles that are trained to deal with fantastical threats ranging from taking out ghouls to the slaying of rogue vampires.  They are highly trained and skilled, and even assist the Aurors in the capture of rogue magi.  Wardens are the only Awakened muggles that are allowed to openly wield magical items (enchanted vests, weapons, etc…).  They all wield silvered, runed swords that are also their badge of office. 

Order of St. Mungo: Mungo was a hedge wizard active during the Black Plague in Europe.  While he wasn’t considered a powerful wizard, he tirelessly used his magics to heal those battling the plague and also made hedge magic and potion brewing a respected area of magic.  The Order of St. Mungo is the healthcare department of the Council of Magi, they oversee the various hospitals and asylums throughout the world devoted to curing magical maladies and offering aid to those that are affected by curses, jinxes, and hexes of a permanent nature (lycanthropy, mummy rot, etc.).

Department of Fantastical Creature Control: This department acts as a sort of conservation agency specializing in non-sapient fantastical creatures.  They make sure that creatures like griffins, mandrakes, and the lesser dragons are kept safe and securely away from muggles. 

Department of Inter-Species Communication: This department handles affairs with non-human, intelligent species like goblins, dwarves, elves, and the like.  Most non-humans in the world have never dealt with and will never deal with this department.  They simply live their lives among humans as a human (at least while out in public).  However, there are some species, like centaurs and giants, that cannot hide behind the Veil to fit into muggle society.  Also, there are groups that arise every so often that demand certain rights or demand changes in policies that restrict non-humans in certain ways; these are the problems this department deals with.  This department also handles contact with the Sanguine Council of the vampires. 

The Grand Laws: Simply stated, the Grand Laws are:
·         No killing mortals with magic.
·         No use of the Unforgivable Curses (Avada Kadavra, Cruciatus, and Imperius)
·         No mind-reading.
·         No necromancy.
·         No time travel.
·         No seeking knowledge and/or power from Outsiders.

The Worlds Beyond: There are other realities beyond our world.  These are places that exemplify ideals or aspects of our world to mind-shattering heights.  Travel to these places is extremely difficult, and once there survival is slim.  Even if someone survives the journey to one of these other realms, returning to the real world is just as difficult as the trip there and returning with any sanity is in many cases doubtful at best. 

Faerie: The Faerie is split into two distinct realms: The Green and The Withering.  The Green is home to Oberon and the Seelie Court while the Withering is home to Queen Mab and the Unseelie Court.  While the Unseelie Court is vicious and evil, do not make the mistake in thinking the Seelie Court is benign.  Both realms feature the extremes of vibrant and dying plant and animal life.  The Green being more dazzling, beautiful, and powerful than anything seen on Earth.  The Withering being more diseased and pestilent that any area on Earth. 

Heaven: No one really knows what this realm is like beyond what is said by the Seraphim (the realm’s only verified residents).  Many religions consider it a place of rest for those who are loyal/pious/penitent enough in their lives.  The actions of the Seraphim don’t really speak to this though. 

The Hells: Known by many names in many religions, the Hells are the homes of the Fallen and the demonic hosts. The Hells consist of many different realms, and not all are lakes of hellfire filled with the screaming souls of the damned. Some are frigid, others are vast, seemingly unending cities, while a couple are rumored to be quite least by the description of demons, and they are less than trustworthy.

The Far Realm: A place of chaos and madness.  This is supposedly where the Elder Gods, and the first whispers of Creation, came from.  Just catching a glimpse of the gibbering undulating horrors that call this place home are enough to drive most mortals insane.  Beings from this place are known as Elders. 

The Real: Also known as Creation and our world. 

The Catholic Church: The Catholic Church is the oldest Christian faith in the world.  They have battled time and again with the forces of darkness.  They have also battled with the wizarding world over the centuries as well.  The Spanish Inquisition sent to death many innocent wizards and fantastical creatures.  While there is an uneasy peace between the Council of Magi and the Vatican, splinter groups on both sides keep the heat turned up. 

The Knights of the Cross: This group of priests and devout warriors that battle demonic forces were born out of the Spanish Inquisition.  They are no longer officially sanctioned by the Vatican to carry out their war on the paranormal, but it is rumored that they are not completely unconnected to the Church either.  Their members are vicious and single-minded in their devotion to their cause.  While they tend to focus their ire on demonic entities, they still strike out at witches and wizards who they consider to be in concert with demons. 

The Exorcists: The Catholic Church has always trained some priests in the rites and tactics of exorcism.  These priests are chosen from the most psychologically and physically tough of those who wish to pursue this course.  Exorcists do not deal with wizards much at all, but there have been some disastrous exorcisms performed on people that were not possessed by demons but were in fact under the effects of a curse. 

Vampires: The culture of vampires is quite complex.  On the surface, there is the Sanguine Council that controls and monitors vampires in much the same way as the Council of Magi oversees wizards. However, their only real goal is the control of the vampire population in the world. Without the Sanguine Council, vampires would have overrun humanity ages ago.  The Sanguine Council is a group of the oldest and therefore most powerful vampires in the world, with the most powerful overall sitting as the Count.  The current count is Orlov Trantesque.
There are many different varieties of vampires in the world, and there are many different factions in vampire culture.  Some wish to keep the peace between the living and vampires (vampires can come from just about any living sentient species), while others want to rule over the other species.  Some factions are made up of various vampire types; while others take a more “pro-strain” viewpoint (the powerful Vampire Houses are of this variety).

Western Vampires: These are the typical vampires that most people think of.  They feed on blood, are burned by holy water, can’t tolerate the smell of garlic, are turned away by religious icons, and so on. 

Eastern Vampires: These vampires are also known as Hopping Vampires.  They look more corpse-like than Western Vampires, and their bodies are very rigid.  While they don't look nearly as dangerous as western vampires, they can leap great distances and their claws can tear through armor and people with ease. They still have a seat on the Sanguine Council, but it has been centuries since any of their number have bothered to take part. 

Nosferatu: These vampires are an off-shoot of Western Vampires.  The nosferatu were born out of Karl Vargus, who refused to feed on sentient species after being turned.  His subsistence of living on rats and other animals warped his appearance into a more ghastly, corpse-like visage with claw-like fingers and large, pointed ears.  These vampires tend to stay in the shadows and wish for peace with the living.  They are called “the Weak” and “Rat-Feeders” by other vampires. 

Psychic Vampires: These vampires do not feed on blood, but on the minds of their victims.  They can psionically drain the spirit from a victim, leaving them as a husk of their former selves.

Lycanthropes: There are two varieties of lycanthropes, those who are created and those who are born naturally, sadly both are cursed. Naturally born lycanthropes have at least one parent who is also a lycanthrope.  They can control when they change, and are unaffected by the phases of the moon, but they still carry the curse.  Cursed or created lycanthropes are those that have contracted the curse from another lycanthrope (cursed or natural, it doesn’t matter).  They typically only transform into their hybrid forms during the full moon, but some have learned to change whenever they like, and few even learn how to change into their fully animal forms.  During the full moon, however, cursed lycanthropes lose all sense of self and become murderous savages.  The Department of Inter-Species Communication tries very hard to keep tabs on all cursed and natural lycanthropes.  Many cursed are taken to one of the hospitals or asylums ran by the Order of St. Mungo, for counseling, and many become permanent residents as they either become insane or find they are unable to make the necessary life changes needed during the full moon each month to keep from hurting others. 
Natural lycanthropes generally live among humans as humans. The curse that they carry was given to them by an ancient pagan shaman thousands of years ago for some slight that has long been forgotten. Some of these natural lycanthropes work closely with the Order of St. Mungo searching for a counter-curse that will finally remove the curse from their species.

Next up: Races!

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