Setting Information.   Posted by Master of Games.Group: public
Master of Games
 GM, 1 post
Sun 18 Jul 2021
at 22:18
Setting Information
I might move the following to a Wiki later, but honestly, it seems that few people read those and I find it easier to just use threads.

This message was last updated by the GM at 22:49, Sun 18 July.

Master of Games
 GM, 2 posts
Sun 18 Jul 2021
at 22:18
A Short History of the Super Age
There have always been heroes. Legends of warriors and wizards, tricksters and demigods who have gone beyond the humanly possible abound in all times and places. So do more verifiable records of larger-than-life personalities fighting for their ideals and protecting those who could not protect themselves.

Yet something new occurred in the 20th Century. A string of seemingly unconnected incidents over its first few decades has given rise to what would come to be known as “superheroes”. This heading covered mystics and inventors testing the limits of the universe; costumed crime fighters, mere mortals except for their resolve and skill; ordinary people empowered in accidents; beings drawn to Earth from remote times and places; and more. For all their differences, they seemed somehow drawn to each other – and to the fight against crime, corruption, injustice, as well as stranger menaces including their opposite numbers, the first “supervillains”.

Later, some would hint that this strange phenomenon was the work of providence, while others would speculate about some cosmic immune reaction to the turmoil of the time. Even now, despite all the research that went into it, little can be stated definitively on the subject. As far as most people are concerned, it may as well be a coincidence. What matters is that it did not stop there. By the Second World War, the Super Age was in full swing, and the authorities that previously viewed the supers with suspicion now increasingly saw them as useful assets. Wartime heroics have legitimised the supers. Many among them became the darlings of the public and indispensable to the rulers. Another generation emerged, inspired by their example.

Over the next few decades, though, an alarming trend began to take shape. Experts would sometimes compare it to the contemporary arms race between the Western and Eastern Blocs. Stranger, vaster, more astounding threats arose, only to be stopped when superheroes formed teams, recruited allies and found new sources of power. Yet the enemies of peace would adjust as well, figuring out new ways to challenge the world and its defenders. All was well while the superheroes could keep up with the escalation. But then… they missed one. Almost.

---

In the late Sixties, a loose grouping of younger superheroes has narrowly thwarted an enigmatic conspiracy that sought to take over the governments of the United States and the Soviet Union. They did not realize this at first, but at the same time, different prongs of this conspiracy succeeded elsewhere. In the following years, five supervillains have taken over nations in the neglected and impoverished Third World and moved on to carve out regional empires. Together, they proclaimed the World Unity Coalition (WUC, deciphered as the Warlords United Club by their detractors), throwing down the gauntlet to both blocs and to anyone else who would stand in their way.

World War Three started slowly, went on for most of the Seventies, and ended with a bang. The superpowers and the superheroes were both slow to recognise the seriousness of the threat and hampered by their bickering. On the other side of the frontlines, what the Warlords lacked in infrastructure and numbers, they made up for with ruthlessness, audacity, and a keen understanding of the Super Age. They formed their own “superhero” teams and harnessed various strange phenomena, allowing them to score surprising victories early in the struggle. Most baffling to their enemies was the rapid development of WUC military technology that was ahead of nearly anything else on Earth. That might have been their first clue as to what was really going on.

In truth, the Warlords were the catspaws of a race of mysterious superbeings referred to as the Dark Between the Stars. The Dark, as they were called on Earth, had mysterious designs upon that planet, and “world unity” under a compliant regime was one apparent prerequisite. Another was revealed by the otherwise inexplicable “witch-hunts” organised throughout territories under WUC control against psychics and magic users. There were other, less dramatic operations as well. In return, the Dark supplied the Warlords with secret knowledge and technology before and during the War. Then, when the Allies finally rallied and began to strike back in a more coordinated and effective way, the Dark made their presence known directly. Their human allies were reinforced by an armada of cybernetically modified Dark-worshipping alien races (soon dubbed “Cyliens” in the English-speaking press) and the Dark themselves, setting the stage for the final clash.

---

Long story short, the superheroes won – like they always do in the end. Only this time it took years. Earth was repeatedly put on the brink of a nuclear apocalypse or alien subjugation. Countless lives were lost among ordinary people and supers alike. Many parts of the world were left devastated. The fall of the WUC left behind civil wars, unstable regimes, and humanitarian catastrophes. There was no final victory as the Dark merely withdrew for the moment. Reconstruction was hampered by the Cold War starting anew, spurred by the vacuum of power. NeoMcCarthyism swept the West, while hardliners in a reinvigorated Sino-Soviet alliance – the Second Comintern – tightened their grip on the East. Governments and other factions raced to scavenge alien technology and claim any other resources they could find, to get one over their rivals and prepare for the next attack.

Those resources included the supers. True, they helped save the world, but their actions and inactions helped endanger it during the conflict. The public was more ambivalent about them than ever. The rulers, meanwhile, saw both an opportunity and an urgent need to tighten their control. Things could not go on as before – that may have been true, but there was a risk of the Earth’s greatest protectors becoming little more than weapons in the hands of governments and so being kept from where they could do the most good. Then there was the question of how far the powers that be might go to secure those “supernormal assets”…

One particularly independent-minded group of superheroes, known as the Guiding Lights, sought to address all of the problems they saw in the post-War world in one move. Somehow, they created an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. They then used all of their combined clout and guile to get it recognised by the United Nations as a sovereign city-state. It would be a safe haven for refugees, dissidents and those supers who wished to escape their governments’ control. It would act as a neutral territory where internationally important work for the protection and the reconstruction of the world could be done with minimal interference. Above all, it would be an example of the ideals that its founders held dear: justice, freedom, compassion and hope for a better tomorrow. All of that would prove easier said than done.

This message was last edited by the GM at 18:49, Mon 19 July.

Master of Games
 GM, 3 posts
Sun 18 Jul 2021
at 22:19
Free State of New Atlantis
In a world full of wonders, New Atlantis continues to boggle the minds of all who stop to think about it. This tropical island three times the size of Singapore appeared out of nowhere, with no regard for physics or geology. An obvious assumption would be that the Guiding Lights created it with their powers, but none of them have ever demonstrated land-making abilities on that scale before. Even their leader, the super-scientist Lightbringer, did not seem to have such a trick in his extensive arsenal of energy powers. Some speculate that it was teleported from another universe or acquired through a magical bargain, but there is no way to know for sure.

The mysteries of the island do not end with its origins, however, as it also turned out to be perfectly suited for its purpose. When it appeared, it was completely devoid of any sign of past or present life (leaving aside the urban legends about “island fairies” and the like). Yet it proved very fertile once life was brought in from the outside. Its core offered a ready source of geothermal power without any real risk of a volcanic eruption. Several supernatural assaults against the city in its early days went inexplicably awry in ways that implied an innate magical protection. The island possessed plenty of flat, firm ground suitable for construction and several natural harbours. It was shaped very roughly like a wedding cake, with three large, concentric tiers that would soon become the Uptown, the Midtown, and the Downtown – that last designation being somewhat literal than usual.

Dame Illustrious, a distinguished member of both the Guiding Lights and the British aristocracy, turned her considerable connections and wealth towards designing a perfect city from the ground up. She also recruited many of the world’s leading architects and urbanists to help with this effort. The planners saw to it that government, business, and industrial facilities would be distributed widely; that they would be interspersed with sprawling parks and reservoirs; that all areas would be easily accessed with different forms of public transport, including a maglev monorail connecting the tiers. Cheap, functional, eco-friendly building plans were drawn up for all purposes, while leaving room for expansion and more ambitious projects, beginning with the team’s new headquarters, the Golden Needle, in the exact middle of the Uptown and the island.

Still, there were limits to how much the superheroes could plan for, especially if they meant for the city’s future inhabitants to govern themselves (as most of them did). Those inhabitants were not long in coming. Although New Atlantis would receive immigration from all over the world, its geography and regional history meant that it acquired particularly large if highly divided communities of people from South America and West Africa (with one result being trilingualism – English, French, and Spanish languages gaining equal official standing in the new state). Those and other major groups, including political and economic immigrants from both blocs, alternated between mingling in the more cosmopolitan upper tiers or keeping to themselves in ethnic enclaves in the Downtown. Later on, as the inflow of immigrants exceeded expectations, slums would emerge as well – mainly near docks and on artificial land reclaimed to accommodate further arrivals. While unusually clean and orderly by global standards, it was still an ominous development.

By that time, the Guiding Lights had already abdicated their authority over the island to the democratically elected Popular Assembly and the Executive Council of five. It was always their desire to avoid too much being concentrated in anyone’s hands, but the handover was also part of their deal with Western and Eastern Blocs. Many powerful people on both sides only grudgingly accepted the independence and neutrality of New Atlantis, especially considering that many of its early citizens had defected from them. They would have been even less enthused by another super dictatorship led by a known radical. Despite this relief, New Atlantis’ international affairs were further complicated by the presence of the Autonomous Terrestrial Life Assurance Section (ATLAS). This enigmatic though seemingly benevolent organization, represented among the Guiding Lights by Agent Tiger, conducted operations all around the world to ensure humanity’s continued freedom and survival. Although it had acquired significant influence due to its role in defeating the Cyliens and access to secrets, it also frequently clashed with foreign agencies during the post-War scramble.

Even after handing over power, ATLAS and the Guiding Lights both retained considerable informal influence over the affairs of the city. However, they had to share it with a number of forward-looking corporations that deemed the city-state’s ethical rules and guidelines a small price to pay to escape even more stifling regulations in older countries. Besides, the mysterious island with its concentration of superpowered residents presented several unique opportunities for those with the vision and the resources to research the supernormal. Foremost among those corporations was Storm Petrel Adaptations, the vehicle of Saveliy Ignatiev – once the supervillain Burevestnik and Lightbringer’s nemesis. He had since gone legit, having received a full pardon in America due to his crucial assistance in the later stages of World War Three. Nonetheless, in the eyes of many New Atlanteans, the maverick inventor represented all that was going wrong with their society. He was both a “reformed” supervillain who was bound to go bad again and the head of one of the corporations bent on eroding utopia for their selfish ends.

Twenty years down the line, it can be seen that the founders have succeeded in creating a nation uniquely dedicated to individual liberty, social welfare, community, and fair play, despite concerns about the decline of those ideals. The nation’s laws and policies also reflect priorities that may be more relevant to superheroes than to the majority of the population. For example, there is greater acceptance and support for people with nonstandard abilities or backgrounds, a system of justice built largely around the idea of second chances, and an unusual commitment to privacy. While sometimes controversial, by now the long-term citizens have grown used to those peculiarities, if they have not outright embraced them.

However, it is the promise of safety that formed the core of New Atlantis’ appeal for most of the first generation of residents. The Free State has largely lived up to that promise. In addition to the aforementioned magical protection, it possesses an elaborate suite of high-tech defenses; a network of emergency shelters and medical facilities; the world’s most technologically sophisticated police corps equipped with cutting-edge non-lethal weaponry and a fleet of robots; the support of ATLAS, with its multiple bases on and near the island; and, of course, the world’s greatest concentration of superheroes. Several super teams have joined the Guiding Lights in keeping the city safe from all threats. Many of those teams as well as individual superheroes have signed up for the Auxiliary, a voluntary reserve that can be mobilised on a moment’s notice to deal with any major crisis. Those who have not done so can still protect the city in their own way and help ease the pressure on the others.

Yet there is a darker side to the Free State. The combination of effective law enforcement, a prosperous economy and social programs have cut down substantially on mundane crime, but they could not eliminate it entirely. No one is homeless or starving, but some are much poorer than the others are, and poverty can sting even more in such a place. Others have simply never lost the violent habits taught by life in the Mainland (as New Atlanteans call the rest of the world). Muggings and robberies are rarer than elsewhere, but they happen, especially in slums such as the notorious World’s End. Not everything is legal here, generally with good reason – but the possibility of a lucrative illegal trade in unlicensed Cylien technology, military equipment or forbidden substances has created a tempting lure for organised crime. Yet the interlopers from the Mainland soon encountered stiff competition from a previously established local group. The cunning and brutal Rats, led by an enigmatic individual known only as the Rat King, have made most of those foreign criminals play by their rules – for now.

The fears of a foreign invasion have proved unfounded for now, but spies from foreign agencies and other groups are thick on the ground and sometimes put the city-state’s neutrality to the test. Not all reported supernatural phenomena are benign. Paranoia about alien infiltrators still flares up at times. Then there are supervillains: amnestied blackguards who have returned to their old ways, tenacious fiends who never quit in the first place, or upstarts from in and out of the city whose desires and ambitions are not satisfied by being yet another good citizen in a largely safe and affluent place. Besides, even here, there are some who have been wronged or just unlucky, and who for whatever reason could not place their trust in the city’s protectors. The city may be the best equipped to withstand the results of their schemes, but its resources are stretched ever more thinly. The next generation of superheroes will have its work cut out.

This message was last edited by the GM at 18:57, Tue 20 July.

Master of Games
 GM, 4 posts
Sun 18 Jul 2021
at 22:20
Characters of Note
The Guiding Lights are a ragtag group of superheroes that emerged in the late Sixties and gained great prominence during World War Three. Despite their fame, much about them remains a mystery, including how they got together in the first place. The things they have in common are an independent spirit that has kept them from swearing allegiance to any existing authorities, a determination to help people in ways that go beyond fighting criminals in the streets, and a tendency to think outside the box. Many among them have also come upon cosmic powers and profound secrets, letting them wield much greater influence than one would expect of such an eccentric and non-aligned group. The team’s current status is unclear. Their ranks have swelled with like-minded additions since the creation of New Atlantis, but some of the older members (including their leader, Lightbringer) have not been seen in a while. Others have remained active, both around the world and as their city-state’s presumed last line of defense. Sometimes they have been seen to work together, but are they are a team anymore, or just a loosely connected superhero club?

Lightbringer’s identity remains unknown to the general public, enough details of his biography have surfaced. He started out as a radical-minded and recklessly experimental college student in Sixties America. Having deliberately irradiated himself with the mysterious Y-Rays of his own discovery, he gained the ability to manifest that energy in a number of effective ways, each of which was distinguished by a different colour. At first, he tried to use his powers to bring about a non-violent revolution, but before long he found himself fighting a two-front war against corrupt authority figures and more ruthless rebels than himself. The War did not change his mind about the world, but it did adjust his priorities. New Atlantis, a safe haven for those with nowhere else to go, was his brainchild. Ironically, the one-time college anarchist ended up founding a new state, albeit one that was designed to be more hands-off and tolerant than the existing ones. Some say that he then left to avoid being dragged into the kind of politics he despised; others, that he had gone to deal with a threat to Earth, but perhaps overestimated his powers. There are less sympathetic views as well. Either way, his teammates are remarkably silent as to his current whereabouts.

Thanks to her home country’s tabloids, Dame Illustrious’ identity is no longer a secret, but virtually no one uses it these days. The British noblewoman started out as a globetrotting adventuress and crimefighter out of boredom with her life of idle comfort and privilege, only to mature somewhat into an unusually direct philanthropist. The Dame has been known to say that good friends are her real superpower, which does reflect her far-flung connections but is perhaps a little coy for someone whose friends include an energy being from outer space. Glory has saved Dame’s life during an early escapade by bonding with her on a semi-permanent basis. Among other effects, this bond appears to have made the aristocrat practically invulnerable and more foolhardy and courageous than ever. Their relationship, and Glory’s debatable status as one of the Guiding Lights, provides yet more fodder for rumours – not that she is one to care. The two are relatively often seen in New Atlantis, but also in many other places.

No one knows Agent Tiger’s real identity – if he even has one, or remembers it himself. It is unclear whether he has superpowers, but he certainly has many talents, including a mastery of disguises and incredible athletic and combat skills. They say that he came from somewhere in South Asia, that he was raised from childhood to be a foot soldier in the ancient conspiracy known as the Army of Terra, and that upon discovering its corrupt true nature, he singlehandedly deposed its secret masters and reformed the group. If so, then that would make him the founder and leader of ATLAS – but it could just be deliberate misinformation on their part. Tiger, or someone who occasionally matches his known appearance and skillset, certainly does not seem to shy away from action even now. It has been suggested that his pragmatic and cautious nature has often placed him at odds with the more idealistic and reckless members of the Guiding Lights. Nonetheless, their shared outlooks have allowed them to work together in the past.

---

Saveliy Ignatiev hails from the Soviet Union. Little else is known with certainty about his early life, and he has implied that sharing more might provoke an international crisis. It appears that he came to America as a spy and immediately went rogue – or maybe he was a double or a triple agent all along. His motivations and allegiances were never terribly clear. An amoral and brilliant inventor, he soon established himself as a prominent supervillain under the name of Burevestnik. He specialised in acts of terror and daring robberies assisted by bizarre and powerful gadgets of his own creation. Though he did not seem especially bloodthirsty, neither did he balk at taking lives when it suited his purposes. Perhaps that is what motivated Lightbringer to work with the police to finally bring him down. Like many other supervillains, Burevestnik received a pardon in exchange for service during the War, which in his case included reverse-engineering Cylien technology. Since then, Ignatiev has leveraged his genius into Storm Petrel Adaptations, a cutting-edge tech company focused on mastering the supernormal. While law-abiding almost to a fault, he also shows little remorse for his past actions. Indeed, he seems to revel in his infamy and in the discomfort that the city’s protectors exhibit whenever he offers them his help.

The Rat King is still more enigmatic. It appears that he simply showed up one day and swiftly took over the city-state’s budding underworld through an intricate and efficient campaign of intimidation. His Rats range from glorified street gangs to shadowy brokers and are involved in everything from primitive violence to more intricate extortion and blackmail schemes. Even his closest lieutenants have had minimal direct contact with the man, and no one can identify his face. His name and the occasional abrupt shifts in his modus operandi have led some to suppose that there are actually several crime bosses operating under that name, brought together by some unbreakable bond. Whatever the truth, the Rat King seems to know about every criminal operation in the city. Usually that is because he controls it, directly or through a boss that agrees to play by his rules; at times, he does not, but then he swiftly moves to rectify that, occasionally manipulating supers to that end. He seems to have some interest in the city-state’s security and prosperity, although that may just be because he will be there to leech off it.

The Dark Between the Stars are a yet larger mystery. The “space demons” actually seem to be from another dimension, but they project into this one as animated shadows with great powers of telekinesis. They have also been known to possess machinery and cyborgs, or at least their Cylien followers. Unenhanced organic life, on the other hand, repels them. Perhaps relatedly, they have exhibited an apparent abhorrence or even fear of magic and psychic powers, although the true nature and the extent of it remains unclear. Desiring the Earth for some unknown plan, they have tried to work around their limitations by using human and alien minions to take it over. Occasional spurious sightings aside, they have been quiet since the War. While the general populace has started to move on, many organisations and individuals are still anxiously waiting for their next move.

---

The Warlords have never truly been a cohesive group. The leaders of the WUC were simply a handful of ruthless, resourceful and ambitious individuals who accepted the Dark’s bargain. In exchange for help in taking over the world and the right to keep it afterwards, they would remove certain obstacles from the way of their benefactors. When the WUC was declared, it was described as an international alliance aiming to put an end to the Soviet-American duopoly and the threats posed by nuclear weapons and out-of-control superhumans. In truth, however, the Warlords each ran their own empire as they saw fit, molding it according to their personalities and agendas. While they had some projects and priorities in common, it is most likely that they would have betrayed each other and their masters shortly upon achieving victory – and some among them could not even wait that long. Their fates have diverged since the War’s start, but even if none of them will ever trouble the world again, they have left a lasting mark upon it in the form of loyalists, disciples, avengers, hidden weapons, abandoned experiments and the chaos that still prevails in many parts of their former domains.

The Steel Caudillo got his start as a brutally effective street-level vigilante in Buenos Aires. His powers of metal manipulation brought him to the attention of Argentina’s military bigwigs, who used him to overthrow the “soft” civilian government and then employed him as a glorified mascot. With the Dark’s help, the “Steel Colonel” managed to turn the tables on the junta by overthrowing them in turn. Fancying himself a modern day Napoleon, he soon declared himself the Emperor of America and began enforcing his claim great vigour and speed, pushing all the way into US territory before he was finally stopped. Although the “Steel Generalissimo” was not so great a military genius as he imagined, his forces were made extremely formidable by a combination of alien technology and the efforts of his own scientists. His jetpack commandos proved especially effective, while the giant robots were somewhat inefficient but intimidating. Then there were his super teams: the cyborg Steel Legion and the more eclectic Pan-American Guard.

The would-be emperor’s legacy was a mixed one. Ruthless to enemies and prone to excessive retribution, he nonetheless made a show of being magnanimous towards his loyal subjects. Compared to many of his allies, he came across as relatively sane and human. His participation in the witch-hunts seemed decidedly perfunctory, though he did not dare to stop them entirely. Those who did not run afoul of such and did not try to go up against him benefitted from increased peace, order, prosperity, and an expanded access to health care, education, and (often giant robot-related) employment. Nonetheless, as the war turned south and the Dark made themselves known, more and more people rose up against his rule. It all came to a head during the cataclysmic Battle of Buenos Aires, in which NATO forces supported by the rebels overwhelmed the Steel Caudillo’s loyalists and Cylien reinforcements. He has not been seen dead or alive since falling out of his combat walker towards the streets that he once knew so well. That has led to many a conspiracy theory, especially among his diehard Acerista supporters.

The White Devil was the most volatile and least cooperative of the Warlords. Indeed, his inclusion among WUC’s collective Heads of State was mostly nominal. A psychotic white-haired albino soldier of fortune “blessed” with supernatural luck and charisma, he had already obtained great notoriety by the time the Dark approached him. He travelled between the hotspots of the world, whipping up bloodlust on both sides and recruiting the most promising survivors. The “empire” he presided over was more of a roving horde of mercenaries, child soldiers, cultists and everyone else he could pick up in his path, with only the most token effort at imposing a new world order or carrying out the Dark’s mandate. Indeed, given his own likely psychic and/or supernatural nature, it seems likely that their plan was to set him on his path and get out of the way, hoping that he would burn out after doing enormous damage to the Earth’s defenders.

The White Devil’s initial theatre of operations during the War was in West Africa. It was, however, merely a staging area; he soon grew bored of it and embarked upon a massive infiltration/invasion of Southern Europe. This led to some of the most nightmarish fighting in the war due to the crazed fervour of the Devil’s troops and his callous disregard for lives on both sides. But human wave tactics and the surprise factor could only take him so far. The second, third and fourth invasions were markedly less successful, and even his “devil’s luck” could only protect him from enemy superheroes for so long. In the end, he was the first of the Big Five to be defeated – and killed, which was controversial, but much less so than it would have been a few years earlier. The horde he had assembled would go on rampaging in a more disorganised fashion for a good deal longer, not least because he found many apt pupils among his superhumans.

The Archlion was a werelion supervillain who terrorized East Africa and fought both local and visiting superheroes long before the War. During the decolonisation he reinvented himself as a freedom fighter and a true African superhero, a conversion that many of his local enemies and victims took with a grain of salt. Still, his involvement in colonial struggles won him some popularity, and the subsequent instability allowed him to establish and expand his Grand African Protectorate. Though he claimed to hate the White Devil, and indeed may have helped expose him to the strike that took him out, the Archlion had undoubtedly benefited from his ally’s actions: he moved into the terror-stricken areas that the Devil ally left behind and offered the survivors security and peace in exchange for contributing to his war effort. At its height, the Protectorate may have been the most cohesive and stable part of the WUC, though at the cost of enduring an increasingly paranoid and brutal tyranny.

As the War raged on, the Archlion called for African unity in the face of neocolonial threats from the north and formed pan-African teams of “superheroes” to “protect” the extensive territories under his control – often by punishing “traitor tribes” and hunting down “witches”. His forces pushed into Europe and the Middle East, securing a more lasting foothold than most of his allies due to his more practical and patient approach to warfare, leveraging all the resources he could acquire to best effect and working closely with the Cyliens upon their arrival. Yet as the others passed out of the fight, the Archlion was gradually pushed back and only narrowly evaded capture by an Allied task force. Seeing the tyrant’s weakness, many of his previously cowed subjects rose up. When he tried to restore order through a personal intervention, the Archlion met his end at the hands of mortal men – though maybe not before he managed to pass on his curse…

The Nautilian is often seen as the best of a bad bunch. Granted, she was a cold-blooded and arrogant piratical technocrat bent on ruling the seas from her mobile underwater palace complex, but she was generally pragmatic, leery of unnecessary cruelty and fond of winning battles with minimal losses on either side. Of course, part of it was that she had the fewest lives to waste in the first place. Her approach to the witch-hunts was peculiar; the psychics and magicians rounded up by her forces were not killed but concealed in a top-secret facility. She resented wasting useful assets, preferring instead to train and indoctrinate them so that they may be of future use to her plans. Likewise, she was the most dubious about the Dark; though she accepted their deal at the time and made use of what they gave her, she was always careful to minimise contacts, study their technology and be prepared for treachery.

After subduing much of South Asia through an effective show of force against the vital Indian Ocean shipping routes, the Nautilian took her operations global. She inflicted tremendous damage on the Allies’ naval forces and sent out raids to acquire resources necessary for continued expansion of her nomadic fleet. However, some of her lieutenants grew impatient with this restrained approach to warfare. They discovered her deal with the Dark and her contravention of their orders, and tried to betray her to the otherworldly powers. Receiving forewarning from an unknown source, the Nautilian used her “Secret School” to thwart the coup attempt and prevent retaliation from the Dark. Afterwards, she withdrew from the war, clearing the waters for the Allied counteroffensive. She has provided some other undisclosed form of assistance during the Cylien invasion that led to her and her followers’ informal amnesty. Nevertheless, she saw fit to lay low after the war, with only occasional sightings of what might be parts of her flotilla.

The self-proclaimed Black Buddha (or Smoke, as many of the largely non-sympathetic Buddhists prefer to call him) was an enigmatic individual who eventually gave the White Devil a run for his money as the most destructive member of the Warlords. This did not appear to be the case at first. He (at least, people generally assumed he was a he under the cloud of black mist that constantly surrounded him, and he made no effort to correct them) was eloquent in making the WUC’s case to the world. Although his gifts seemed to be more along the lines of smoke manipulation, and his charisma was simply that of any other cult leader, the Black Buddha managed to inspire a vast international following with his promises of a swift and universal liberation from all forms of suffering.

As soon as the War began, the cult moved in swiftly to take over South-East Asia. The bulk of the population in the war-torn region initially welcomed the peace brought by the Black Buddha, especially combined with generous humanitarian relief. Next, his forces invaded China, making vast gains in the confusion that followed Chairman Mao’s sudden and suspicious death. As they advanced, however, resistance stiffened, especially after the Chinese defenders received Soviet reinforcements – including the psychic People’s Talents. The frontlines stagnated, though superterrorists in remote cells continued to cause tremendous damage by means of unnatural disasters throughout Allied nations. It was at around this time that the true nightmare began. Cult forces around the world started by exterminating all the magicians and psychics they could find, in the name of freeing them from the temptation of their powers. Next, they came after their families, to free them from anger and grief. Then, their more distant relatives; and those who tried to shelter them; and those who refused to join in… As those purges spread, countries that previously accepted the Black Buddha’s rule revolted. The empire collapsed in a flurry of violence and madness that seemed to discomfit its ruler not at all. When Allied forces stormed the inner sanctum of his main temple, they found no one there. Smoke’s followers – still alarmingly numerous – claim that he had done all that he could in his mortal form, and now continued his mission on a higher plane. Others speculate that he was one of the Dark all along.