Tremble before my procedurally generated terror!

I don’t really have anything for background this week so I’ll roll some random tables for a new character and build them.  That should be interesting?

Type – Magic, Mystically Bestowed 

Appearance – Tall, overweight 

Disposition – Self-reliant, tough 

Age – Elderly 

Origin – Europe, non-English speaking, large city 

Background – Wealthy 

Powers manifested – Recently 

Other – Physical limitations 

Abilities – Spellcasting 

In this context, mystically bestowed is a power source like Shazam, you speak the magic word or drink your magic tea and you’re transformed from whatever, in this case an old man with physical ailments, to a young strong alternate self.  Who in this case also knows magic.  Which is a little weird, seems like if you knew magic, you’d just know it no matter what. 

I’ll say this guy is from Italy.  The only big city that I know of in Italy is Rome, but that seems too on the nose.  Internet says Milan is the second biggest city in Italy, so we’ll go with that.  So we have a wealthy old man in Milan.   

What was going on in Italy in this alternate timeline?  The Great War (aka WW1) was pretty much the same.  If this guy is old in 1973, he was probably the right age to be in the mix in 1914.  As a rich man who fancies himself a tough guy, he was likely an officer in the Italian army.  I don’t know a ton about WW1, but I think Italy fought a bunch of battles against Austria and lots of people died and it was all kind of pointless.  Which is more or less WW1 in a nutshell.   

I should probably give this guy a name, I’ll go with Dino Fossella, which I think is the name of one of the kidnappers in Man on Fire.  The novel. The movie was in Mexico instead of Italy.  Sidenote – I love that movie and I don’t care what anyone says about it.   

Dino was embittered by his experience in the war, he expected to come home and be a big hero and get a parade but instead, no really cared because they didn’t get all the sweet Austrian booty they were after. (note to self, register domain name sweetAustrianbooty) But old Dino wasn’t going to be denied his fame so easily.  Let’s say he was a big-time piano man and after the war, his goal was to become a celebrated concert pianist. 

He was good, but he wasn’t that good.  But, as a pretty good pianist with a boatload of cash, he managed to get his name out there at the expense of other, better pianists.  So he spends a good decade being a man about town and having concerts that are really just parties for his rich pals.   

I’ve established that there was no WW2 as we know it, just “another war in Europe”.  Without an expansionist Germany and a more laid-back USSR, what was going on?  I’m no historian, so I don’t know the roots of Italian fascism – but let’s say the march on Rome in ‘22 still happened.  So we have France and Britain fighting the Empire of Japan in the east while Germany and Russia are playing it cool.  That probably leaves Italy free to attack the Balkans like they always wanted. 

So we have Italy at war again.  Dino once again wants to be an officer but they say he’s too old – go back to your piano, old man.  Dino doesn’t like that.  He likes it even less when his villa is bombed by Greek and Yugoslavian operatives.  Dino survives but his legs and hands are damaged, no more piano for him, also now he can’t get around so well.   

If you thought Dino was embittered before, oh man, watch out now.  But what sparks Dino’s interest in the occult?  Perhaps one of the operatives was mystically inclined.  One of the bombers supernaturally clouded the minds of Dino’s men and walked right in with the bomb.  Dino saw his guards standing there like statues while a dude just rolls up and plants a bomb.  He becomes obsessed with finding out more about it. 

He spends the next thirty years or so frittering away all his money on raiding Egyptian tombs and whatnot looking for magic.  I don’t know much about Italian folklore, but google told me there’s a tale of a 7-headed dragon that was causing a ruckus in Bergamo province and a big army went to fight it.  The battle was a draw and the dragon retreated into the river.  Folklorists say there was a “maga” – a sorceress – involved somehow but that part of the story is lost.  Here’s the deal, the sorceress was the dragon, transformation style. 

And check this shit out, Milan is in Bergamo!  So old lady 7-heads is injured and she goes into the river to sleep it off for a couple centuries and when she wakes up and looks around she’s like “da fuck? Where’s all the old timey shit I know?”  She goes to the first place she sees, the now empty villa of Dino, where he sits alone and broke being old and bitter.  Probably it would be hard for them to communicate, the Italian language surely changed some in a thousand years, but she’s magic so she figures it out. 

She asks Dino what’s up.  He says give me the magic power and I’ll tell you.  She’s all like “sure” and he wigs out because he’s been after magic forever and now it just falls into his lap.  Dino speaks the word of magic power she bestows upon him, “Drago” and suddenly he’s a young strong able-bodied man that has a little magic of his own. 

But why can he only do magic when transformed?  Let’s say that this form of magic is physically taxing and in his old broken body he can’t manage it.  Dino says “thanks, old time Italian sorceress! Now I shall have the fame and coolness I deserve, by being a supervillain!”  And she’s like, whatever floats your boat man.    

I like duos (of people, not the gum, although the gum is okay) so he’ll probably have a partner but this post is already long so maybe I’ll do that next week.   

One of these days Alice, bang, zoom, straight to the moon!

A brief summary of the history of space exploration.

In 1863 Project Epicus, an effort by Baltimore based industrialists and munitions manufacturers, succeeded in firing a projectile that impacted on the surface of the moon.  In 1865 a second mission was attempted with a capsule-projectile containing three passengers.  Although the projectile successfully circumnavigated the moon and return to splash down on earth, upon retrieval it was discovered that the first “space travelers” had been killed instantly by the force of the acceleration required to escape earth’s atmosphere.   

Despite various proposals to protect potential spacefarers, the fragility of the human body was considered an insurmountable obstacle to travel by means of space cannon.  This was proven incorrect (depending on your feelings about non-baseline humans, evolution, and genetics) in 1909 when Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, known as the indestructible man, was launched into space – although no one would know this until 21 years later. 

Able to withstand the incredible force involved due to his superhuman durability, Gaspard survived the launch, the 5-day trip around the moon, and was headed back towards earth when an encounter with space debris caused his module to deviate from its course.  Although the capsule was equipped with rudimentary maneuvering rockets, Gaspard was unable to course correct to achieve re-entry, and his craft ended up in orbit around the Earth and the moon which scientists predicted would last more than a century before decaying.   

Attempts were made to launch equipment into orbit that could be used to help Gaspard reach earth, but because there was no way to communicate with Gaspard, and due to the limitation of what equipment could be sent because of the large g-force experienced by a ballistic projectile, these efforts were failures.  Gaspard was given up for dead, his silver bullet circling earth a grim reminder of his presumed fate. 

Gaspard proved as good as his name however, his body entering a state of suspended animation after running out of oxygen.  Gaspard’s inert body was examined by an extraterrestrial scout ship that mistakenly took the projectile for an artificial satellite (which technically it was).  Incorrectly surmising that earth had achieved space flight (which technically it had) and therefore was primed for first contact, the alien ship instead found a dormant, yet still technically alive, Frenchman. 

The aliens returned the capsule to Earth in 1930 and a few weeks later, Gaspard revived to tell his astonishing tale.  Gaspard was ready for another trip, he hoped to visit Mars. But in his absence, space cannons had largely been abandoned in favor of rocketry research. 

Gaspard’s return reinvigorated interest in space exploration.  1933 saw the birth of Project Archimedes, which many consider the most progressive scientific undertaking in human history.  Project Archimedes was a top-level scientific exchange involving nearly every major industrial power in the world (the Empire of Japan being a notable exception) with the goal of space exploration and eventually, colonization.   

In order to facilitate this novel project, the city of Artesia on Merritt Island was carved off as a separate legal entity of the United States, like the District of Colombia, where laws could be crafted specifically to serve the needs of the exchange of sensitive scientific information between world powers and to allow for the project’s many unusual requirements.   This project was opposed by many in the US government but ultimately was pushed forward (possibly due to bribery, blackmail, and assassination depending on who you ask). 

Artesia became the site of a massive scientific center, home to more than 15,000 researchers and scientists as well as a residential and office complex for more than 50,000 support staff.  Buoyed by a surge of enthusiasm for space exploration, Project Archimedes was an unbridled success (and a massive financial windfall to the US).  Several of the project milestones are as follows: 

  •  1946 first artificial satellite is launched into orbit 
  •  1948 first pictures taken of the dark side of the moon 
  •  1950 first application satellite launched 
  •  1952 first data retrieved on another planet (Venus) 
  •  1955 first spacewalk
  •  1955 first pictures of Mars
  •  1956 first baseline humans walk on the moon

In 1957 with the aid of several NBH’s capable of orbital flight and surviving in space, a joint CSA, USA, and Canadian project began constructing space station Daedalus, largely using the once abandoned space cannon technology, which proved efficient for transporting freight, fuel, and ruggedized equipment into earth orbit.  This station would work in conjunction with Project Archimedes as part of an overarching plan to construct a base on the moon designed for launching craft to Mars.   

In 1960 as the station was nearing completion, Project Archimedes was derailed in a manner that no one anticipated.  An alien being appeared before Congress and accused many of the top scientists involved in the program of being alien imposters and moreover, galactic criminal fugitives.  The initial reaction of the governments involved in Archimedes was hostile to say the least, but a few months later one of the project leaders, Dr. Kyle David Pennington, came forward and confessed.  He and a dozen other critical members of the project really were criminal extraterrestrials posing as humans. 

The alien law officer declared her intention to arrest Dr. Pennington and his cohorts and remove them from the planet.   Since earth was benefiting from the actions of these criminals, many people were in favor of ignoring whatever extraterrestrial laws or covenants had been broken by Dr. Pennington.  Grant he and his fellow exiles asylum and make them citizens of earth nations – some claimed that the work of Project Archimedes would lead to a golden age, ending world hunger and war, and expanding human lifespans by a hundred years.   

The alien official declared that any such act would be considered unlawful and met with force, a small legion of additional aliens was called in as reinforcements to back up this threat.  The only card the technologically inferior earth governments had to match this force of “alien invaders” was to martial their NBH assets.  The world prepared for a war unlike any had seen before.  Spacefaring aliens against the supermen of earth. 

The conflict did not come to pass.  The governments involved in the project eventually offered their full cooperation with the alien authorities in the hopes that this would build goodwill towards earth’s early entry into The Alliance of Free Stars.  The alien forces took Dr. Pennington and his friends into custody as planned.  However, what was not expected was that hundreds of humans were taken into custody as well, their knowledge considered “fruit of the poisonous tree”.  The aliens stated they could not be allowed to continue teaching and using what they had learned from Dr. Pennington.  This was followed by the further outrage of the disassembly and destruction of all technology created by the project. 

Considering this a betrayal of their good faith agreement, several governments reversed course and once again prepared their NBH assets for an armed response.  However, public opinion had shifted.  Factions that had opposed the project spoke the loudest – earth is for earthlings, take away corrupt alien technology, we don’t need their help.  Rivals and political opponents whipped up anti-alien sentiment into a frenzy.  Many industrial business interests saw opportunity in the collapse of Archimedes and threw fuel on the fire.   

In the end, the project governments backed away from the edge of conflict.  In one of the more shameful moments in history, hundreds of citizens of various nations were allowed to be taken from their homes to spend the rest of their lives incarcerated on alien worlds for the crime of trying to make the world a better place for everyone.   

Many consider the spectacular collapse of Project Archimedes to be the death of space exploration as a human endeavor.  While enthusiasm for space research is certainly at a nadir, there are many who have already started to pick up the pieces and begin anew.  Government funding for space programs has been wildly curtailed, but it persists in one form or another.  As Konstantin Tsiolkovsky said “The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever.”  The dream of space travel can be delayed only, never denied.

The truth is out there

Pictured above “news van”

As one would anticipate from an international trading hub, Madripoor has newspapers from all over the world reprinted in many different languages, as well as a multiplicity of local newspapers.  The competition between these news outlets is often fierce, and like almost everything in Madripoor, sometimes crosses the line into criminal violence.  They range from the publications celebrated and respected across the world to glorified scandal sheets, half of each issue consisting of very poorly printed pornography.  Below all of them in terms of respect is the sporadic and confusing newsletter put out by Dan Hui sang.

Dan Hui sang aka News Dan of the News Dan News Van aka the Dan Man with the Dan Plan roams the city in his armored “news van” seemingly endlessly, day and night, like a shark always in motion – a shark that eats news.  Dan Hui promises to deliver news without “government propaganda or corporate spin” but largely presents news that no one would pay money for, which is why his newsletter is distributed for free out of the back of his van – and stuffed into doors of annoyed households at random when he has extras.   Which is always.

Dan Hui likes to focus on the NBH and “super” community for his news, which he feels is an area underreported by traditional news sources.  He weaves increasingly elaborate conspiracy theories about the underlying meaning of any action taken by superpowered individuals and their connections to what he sees as global shadow government controlled by corporate interests.  He reports on stories that he claims are “news that can’t be found anywhere else!”

If anyone bothered to check or pay attention, they would discover that once in a while, Dan Hui actually does scoop official sources, particularly when it comes to being first on the scene at some kind of super-powered incident.   Dan Hui has no fear when it comes to hurtling into dangerous situations to provide a first-hand account.  The two main reasons he has survived this reckless behavior (so far) are his tank-like armored vehicle and his intern/driver/bodyguard Xu Yiyang. 

Yiyang is able to elevate her adrenaline levels to give her superhuman strength, stamina, and agility for short periods of time.  This comes at the cost of exhausting herself and the probable eventuality of suffering total catastrophic organ failure.  The origin of these power and why someone with this ability would be serving as the assistant to a man who has significantly less credibility than The National Enquirer are both unknown.  

Despite his reputation and flamboyance, Dan Hui truly is a skilled reporter and works hard to pry the truth out from wherever it might be hiding.  He employs a network of informants to gather information for him that is staggering in its scope. He is fanatically devoted to what he does, believing that governments and corporations are all corrupt and represented by propaganda masters that fill the news with lies. His passion is exposing the truth, and he will go to great lengths to get it out there.

He is, predictably, quite paranoid. He believes that he “knows too much” and that the “secret masters” will take him out as soon as they get the chance, so as to stop him from exposing the truth.  In his more lucid and retrospective moments, Dan Hui wonders which truth would be worse – that there is a massive worldwide secret conspiracy trying to kill him, or that no one knows or cares what he’s doing.  

The New Founding Fathers of America

(In retrospect, I wish I had called them something else but I didn’t. Its not like I can change it now, my hardcore fanbase would be outraged.)

The New Founding Fathers are a radical underground organization dedicated to unification of the Coalition States of America and the United States of America into a single nation.  In the intelligence community, it is accepted that the ultimate goal of the NFFA post this theoretical unification is using the resulting military power of a combined CSA-USA state to consolidate the entire North American continent into a single entity – One Nation, Under God, Indivisible.

The New Founding Fathers operate in many groups they call circles – Science, Military, Government, Business, Medical, Military, Intelligence, and so on.  Operationally these groups all can be divided into those that pursue unification through political efforts by infiltrating political parties, influencing media outlets, and swaying public policy.  And those that prepare for the contingency plan – the violent overthrow of the CSA and USA governments – by providing weapons, money, and tactical advice to a wide range of terrorist groups and establishing sympathetic sleepers in military and paramilitary groups in both the CS and US to support a coup attempt if necessary. 

The duties of the first groups (aside from acquiring capital needed for the group to operate) are undermining the existing governments of the CS and US by making them look inept, tyrannical, and uncaring.  They particularly focus on sabotaging diplomatic relations with other nations, trying to isolate the CS and US from foreign support.  This wing love political scandal and use their media contacts to fan the flames of any government agent caught involved in shady dealings (real or manufactured by the NFFA themselves).  The endgame of these activities is that the citizens of the two nations themselves would support the removal of the current regimes and the takeover by the NFFA. 

Working in concert with these efforts are propaganda activities and the support and organization political action groups like One Nation and the True Americans.  The NFFA has controlling stakes in several advertising agencies to help them build popular support for the idea of unification.  Also within the umbrella of the non-violent wing of the NFFA are the intellectuals and career politicians who are laying the groundwork for the new government – cultivating contacts with the industries and organizations that will be critical to the transition of power. 

The other wing of the NFFA is responsible for supporting violent civil unrest of any stripe – even those groups with goals ultimately unpalatable to the NFFA.  Pro-America groups tend to get the most support, but the military branch of the NFFA provides aid to any group looking to perform terrorist attacks that will weaken the faith in the current administration.   

On the other side of the coin, while some NFFA groups support extremists, others spend their time garnering the sympathy of law enforcement and the militaries of both nations.  The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms in the US, as well as the federal police in the CS have both been substantially suborned by the NFFA.  While the NFFA does not yet have a significant presence in the active-duty militaries of either nation, they have made noteworthy in-roads in creating pockets of support in the reserve and various militias units.

To date, their attempts to recruit or suborn NBH assets have been failures.  As a result, their science and medical personnel have partnered with the military operators recently to begin a program of illegal human enhancement.

I got kicked out of model UN for this – The Coalition States of America

After the Rebellion of 1768 successfully prevented the transfer of the French Louisiana Territory to Spain, New France was fragmented between the settlers of the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes Acadians who wanted stronger support from France to resist the British colonies, and the rebels to the south who had lost faith in the continental government.  

When the Treaty of Versailles in 1781 gave all former British claims in New France below the Great Lakes to the newly formed United States, the Upper Louisiana/Illinois Country contingent of New France was pushed into alignment with the southern rebels.   In 1783, the bulk of New France south of the Great Lakes declared their independence from France and formed a new nation called Illinois.  When British forces captured Louisbourg, allowing them to blockade the entrance to the St. Lawrence River, the remainder of the colony of New France threw in their lot with the nascent government of Illinois. 

Facing increasing pressure from Britain in the north and the specter of France capturing New Orleans in the south, the government of Illinois collapsed within two years.  It was replaced by two even shorter-lived governments.  The Native American confederacies that made up more than half of the population of the new nation were the only thing keeping it even slightly viable, but also presented the largest hurdle to coordinated action.  The area was effectively ungoverned until 1791 when the Coalition States were formed at the Saint Louis Convention. 

The Coalition States were strengthened by waves of new settlers in the following years, including many veterans of the US War of Independence who were upset by the events of the Whiskey Rebellion, feeling betrayed by the country that they had fought to create and seeking a new start farther west.  The Coalition States tried to assert authority over the Saint Lawrence and Mississippi Rivers but were largely ineffective, losing New Orleans back to France while Britain maintained control of the river way to the Great Lakes.  The discovery of gold in the Dakotas was the only thing keeping the Coalition States from total collapse throughout the early 1800s.   

The fortunes of the CS turned around with the formation of the Arkansas Republic in 1815.  The United States focused on bringing their “wayward son” back into the fold, and New Orleans (at this time a free city) asked to be annexed into the CS in 1824 after the easternmost chiefdom of the Arkansas Republic destroyed the homes of the Creole leadership and smashed the Louisiana militia.  The Texas Revolution in 1836 provided the CS with a trading partner and protection from Spanish conquest from the south. 

With control over the mouth of the Mississippi and the two Republics as buffers against more powerful nations, the Coalition States were able to take their first significant action as a regional power, defeating British Canadian forces in several engagements to claim possession of the Great Lakes in the 1830s.  The CS was able to establish peaceful relations with Britain and the US, but tensions remained high with the Arkansas Republic throughout the latter half of the 1800s.  New Orleans would be lost to the Republic during fighting in the 1860s and the bulk of CS territory below the Arkansas River would be ceded to the Arkansas Republic in 1872, at which point hostilities were largely over. 

After dedicating significant resources to building up railroad infrastructure, the CS experienced significant growth at the turn of the century, becoming a trading hub for the North American nations.  In the early 1900s while the US indulged itself in military adventurism, the CS took pride (too much many would say) in building “strength through peace”.   

The CS, long considered internationally to be a minor power existing at the indulgence of the US, is starting to move out of the shadow of their more flamboyant neighbor.  While the US is experiencing economic crisis, civil unrest, and violence, the CS is enjoying an economic, scientific, and cultural boom time as they take their first steps towards being a true world power. 

Ten states make up the Coalition.   

Beauharnois 

Illinois 

Ishpeming 

Kanadario 

Louisiana 

Manistique  

Michilimackinac 

Minnesota 

Missouri 

Saint Pierre 

President: Joseph Edelman 

Total area: 233,089 sq mi (603,700 sq km) 

Population (1964 est.): 44,291,413 (growth rate: –0.6%); birth rate: 9.41/1000; infant mortality rate: 8.1/1000; life expectancy: 69.14; density per sq mi: 191 

Capital (1964 est.): Chicago 3,275,000 (metro. area), 2,847,000 (city proper) 

Other large cities: Toronto 2,703,018; Saint Louis, 1,441,622; Detroit, 1,001,962; Saint Paul, 962,024; 

Monetary unit: Coalition States Dollar  

National name: The Coalition States of America 

Official Languages: None at the national level  

Literacy rate: 99.7% (1964 est.) 

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (1964 est.): $333.7 billion; per capita $7,400. Real growth rate: 0.4%. Inflation: 0.7%. Unemployment: 8% officially registered; large number of unregistered or underemployed workers; International Labor Organization est.: 7%. Arable land: 53.85%. Agriculture:  wheat, corn, other grains, fruits, vegetables, beef, pork, poultry, dairy products; Labor force: 22.17 million (1964 est.); industry 18.5%, agriculture 15%, services 65.7% (1961). Industries: coal, electric power, ferrous and nonferrous metals, machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, food processing. Natural resources: iron ore, coal, manganese, oil, natural gas, salt, sulfur, graphite, titanium, magnesium, kaolin, nickel, mercury, timber, arable land. Exports: $71.14 billion (1964 est.): ferrous and nonferrous metals, fuel and petroleum products, chemicals, machinery and transport equipment, food products. Imports: $87.21 billion (1964 est.): energy, machinery and equipment, chemicals. Major trading partners: United States, Canada, Arkansas Republic, Pecos Republic, Mexico, Great Britain, Heavenly Kingdom of Taiping (1970). 

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 12.182 million (1970); Radio broadcast stations: AM 134, FM 289, shortwave 4 (1967). Radios: 45.05 million (1967). Television broadcast stations: at least 33 (plus 21 repeater stations that relay broadcasts from the US) (1967). Televisions: 18.05 million (1967).  

Transportation: Railways: total: 13,433 miles (21,619 km). Highways: 105,442 miles (169,694 km) Waterways: 1038 miles (1,672 km).