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Prince Charon 12-18-2012 03:34 AM

Five Earths, All in a Row
 
Due to the length of the post if it were all in one, I'm going to put the sections of it in separate posts, then edit links to the later sections into the OP. There will be tl;dr summaries at the end of each section in bold red, which is also how I plan to mark the game statistics. This was originally written for other boards, so some of you may find some of the GURPS references in the fluff redundant.

On December 21st, 2012, in flashes of light reminiscent of Q (from Star Trek) teleporting something, four new Earth-Moon systems appear, two on either side of us. Shortly thereafter, the Large Hadron Collider, and other cyclotrons and advanced particle sensors, get some very strange readings, and scientists discover a few new particles (said particles, being slightly slower than light, took a while to appear). Each system, including ours, is separated by precisely thirteen light-seconds from barycentre to barycentre (meaning that the two furthest Earths are 26 light-seconds away from our Earth-Moon system, and 52 light-seconds from each other), along the same orbit - the line of sight distance is of course a bit shorter (apparent sizes noted here; the flashes are a little under twice as big as each body, not the whole Earth-Moon system). This means that each Earth is a little less than a day and a half off from its nearest neighbors, and a little less than three days from the next furthest ones.

EDIT: A couple of useful quotes, with illustrations, from the thread on SB.com, to help you get an idea of what the Earths would look like in the sky:

Quote:

Originally Posted by Random832
A picture is worth a thousand words.
http://imgur.com/2g5yC.png


Our moon shown centered for reference. Distance between other earth and its moon shown to scale. It would definitely be resolvable as a disc, not just "barely", and would dominate the sky when the moon is not present, even taking into account that we'd actually only see about half the disc. (and only half our moon, either, when it's positioned between them as in the image)


The distance between earth and the moon is 1.28 light seconds, so there would be a noticeable size swing between when the other moon is close to us vs on the far side of the other earth.

<Incorrect diagram removed.>
Quote:

Originally Posted by Random832
New scale diagram, with correct angles, better visible earths, and 100% less trigonometry. (that the 13 light second distance is specified as an arc length lets me avoid having to use sines or tangents)

http://i.imgur.com/uidK7.png

Note that earth itself is not to scale - it's not nearly a pixel - but the position angles are, along with the orbit and the sun. (the sun may actually be one pixel off)


This should be incredibly dangerous, due to their gravitational fields perturbing the orbits of everything around them, but that isn't happening. Astronomers find, at first, no evidence of gravity coming off the other Earths, beyond things that appear with them orbiting them. After a while, though, a scientist watching one of the closer Earths notices a meteor appearing, passing through the system, being perturbed by its gravity, moving on, and then completely vanishing about three light-seconds away from that Earth. So, might these Earth-Moon systems be giant, incredibly detailed holograms?

No, that wouldn't be weird enough. What we see are Earths in alternate dimensions, visible through permanent 'portals' or 'quasi-wormholes' (for lack of a better term) created by a being or beings of immense power and boredom (who probably chose the date just to troll people). Any orbital path that leaves one Earth-Moon system, curved to intersect with another, will pass through the 'portal'. A vehicle on that course would note that at three light seconds from its starting Earth, three of the E-M systems vanish - specifically, the ones that are neither its starting point, nor its destination. Probes or other vessels not on a course for another Earth notice all four other Earths vanishing at three light-seconds out (unless that Earth's visible zone is behind, so to speak, their starting Earth), as they're out of the light cone emitted by the portals. When a vessel that is on course for another E-M system gets within three light-seconds of its destination, the stars and planets change, as the vehicle has passed into the new dimension.

This phenomenon is discovered when a large probe is launched from the system furthest ahead of us in the Earths' orbit (supposedly by a 'lone genius and his students', according to the radio, though they do have some wealthy sponsors) on a path for our system, and does not vanish when it gets three light seconds from that Earth. Instead, it continues on course, passing through a smallish asteroid without being damaged, nor damaging or perturbing it at all (it's still in the other dimension, and doesn't even see it), until it gets within three light-seconds of our Earth. At that point, another burst of those exotic particles occurs, much fainter than when the Earths appeared, and anything capable of detecting its gravity, does, as it's now on our dimension. The journey takes a little under a month for the unmanned probe, and that's only because they had a few solid rocket boosters in orbit, and mated them to the probe by remote control. It's very visible when slowing down. One observer described the probe's appearance as 'Like the Kerbal Space Program with a Dieselpunk mod.' It was originally planned as a Mars probe, but we're closer, thus both easier (could be done with just the boosters they already had in orbit) and more urgent (huge amounts of very sophisticated radio signals, not to mention what their telescopes are telling them). The probe was launched five days after the new Earths appeared, and broke orbit of its Earth two days later (it takes time to get the boosters mated, check everything that can be checked, and quintuple-check the math). After its last deceleration booster is expended (said booster falling into Earth's atmosphere, and burning up), it uses a few liquid-fuel rockets to settle into a stable orbit, 2,000 miles (3,218 km) above our Earth (the next-to-last booster settles into a lower, less stable orbit, near the ISS, and in range of a Soyuz; they might even use one of the ones that are already there by then, if it can be refueled in orbit, or has enough spare fuel).

Its arrival in orbit will have vast political consequences on all five Earths.

Dieselpunk Earth

Steampunk Earth

Clockpunk Earth

Fantasy Earth

Magic system notes

Overflow


TL;DR: Four new Earths show up on 12/21/2012, two to either side of us: Dieselpunk, Steampunk, Clockpunk, and Fantasy. Weirdness and magic ensue.

All parts now posted.

Prince Charon 12-18-2012 03:40 AM

Re: Five Earths, All in a Row
 
* Since I've already hinted at the nature of one of these Earths, let's talk about that one. It's the furthest ahead of us in orbit, 26 light-seconds and a little less than three calendar days 'later' (well, if we were in the same year), and it's the one we're getting the most radio chatter from. Due to the time of day, one of the first transmissions starts with random telegraph beeping and "Good evening Mr. and Mrs. America from border to border and coast to coast and all the ships at sea. Let's go to press." This is the Earth of 1940, and Weird War II rages in Europe, while the USA tries to maintain its neutrality in the growing conflict (while quietly preparing to be dragged in). It is not, however, the 1940 that we are familiar with.

This is a Dieselpunk Earth, and to a lesser degree, a Wold Newton Earth (although a lot more blatantly abnormal than most WN Earths). On the radio, 'fictional' scientists like Dr. Clark Savage, Jr. and Ted Knight are interviewed, and people speculate about whether the new Earths are related to the Rogue Planet Crisis of 1934, or the Martian Invasion of Europe, back in 1895 (the year Wells started work on WotW in OTL, interestingly enough). Telescopes, once properly aimed and adjusted, will see strange sights over New York, as the original Human Torch and his sidekick Toro fight crime. Also seen would be the original Green Lantern. Other Mystery Men are less easily spotted, but there's a Superman, a Captain America, Bat-Man, Wonder Woman, Uncle Sam, and Captain Marvel. There's a volcanically-heated patch of Antarctica where dinosaurs and giant apes still live, and a few flags flying in places where they shouldn't be - flags of fictional nations and territories. There's a Wakanda in Africa, a Latveria in Eastern Europe (currently under Nazi occupation, as Doom hasn't gotten his Doctorate, yet), a Turk County in Maryland, and an Arkham County in Massachusetts, but relatively little of the geology is different - a few hot spots where they shouldn't be, or lack of them where they should, some extra mountains and rivers, and even a few more islands and paeninsulae... and there appears to be a walled village at the North Pole.

Technologically, this Earth is ahead of our 1940 by varying amounts: a few Gloster Meteors already spar with V-1s and Me 262s over the English Channel, while British Rocket Group missiles bomb German cities, and V-2s return the favor (it's mostly conventional fighters and bombers on both sides, though). Blackhawk Squadron's modified Grumman Skyrockets use the same engines as the Meteors. High above, British 'armoured' dirigibles and German Zeppelins serve as AWACS craft, high-altitude (wildly inaccurate) bombers, and occasionally duel each other with deadly masersHeat Rays! In a remote part of Nevada, the US Army is working on something that looks like a Mackie-variant with all-ballistic armament, and an internal combustion engine - and they're not the only ones working on walkers, though only they have one as big as the four-legger the Germans are testing. Military vacuum tubes mostly use an eccentric design, with simple circuits integrated into each tube, rather than individual diodes, triodes, and such. Rocketry is well past where it should be, though no-one has been able to duplicate the fuel or engine that Dr. Zharkov's rocket used, which crossed nearly a light-minute in less than a week - and of course, neither he nor his assistants ever returned from the rogue planet Mongo (which vanished, but not in the dramatic fashion these Earths appeared - it just got blurry and translucent, then transparent, and was gone). If only he hadn't kept his notes in the rocket-shed. There's a lot of primitive television signals among the radio traffic, far more than we'd expect of 1940, though many of them seem to consist of villainous madmen ranting at their minions (their Germany has more TVs per capita than anywhere else on Dieselpunk Earth, outside of their NYC). The probe mentioned above has RADAR, black & white TV cameras (both visible and infrared - the visible being in a group of three, with red, green, and blue filters, to simulate colour) with telescopes, and a good transmitter, but its main power comes from mercury boilers, which aren't exactly light - and when the tinfoil mirrors unfold, they're bigger than the rest of the probe (not counting the radiators or expendable boosters), which is itself about the size of an Apollo CSM.

Beyond the mundane technology on Dieselpunk Earth, there are far stranger things. The Super Soldier Serum, Starman's Gravity Rod, and many other devices of this world really should not exist, or be able to do what they did. Analysis of samples taken from the spent boosters of that probe, for example, show that the fuel could have produced a most a fifth of the energy that it was clearly observed to. Likewise, there are a few people with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men (or women)... but not as far as the comic books often take it. Superman is more powerful than a locomotive, but not by so much as to lift a battleship, or even a light destroyer (though he's currently tougher than the article suggests, due to continuous, if slow, power growth). For that matter, he can't quite fly under his own power yet, as he's only just beginning to learn to expand his use of psychokinesis beyond enhancing his own body (if he hadn't met Dr. Fate earlier in the year, he'd still think he's 'just' incredibly tough, strong, and fast), and has only recently developed 'X-Ray Vision' (line-of-sight Clairvoyance). He could survive being hit by an artillery cannon, but it would hurt him, and an atomic bomb might kill him - then again, it might make him more powerful than you could possibly imagine. Despite the existence of Superman, there appears to be no Clark Kent, though there was a man using the name 'Hugo Danner', whom Superman resembles in the Foreign Legion in WWI, who later served in an American battalion under a Major Ingall.

Continued next post, due to character limit.

Prince Charon 12-18-2012 03:41 AM

Re: Five Earths, All in a Row
 
If you have access to a copy of GURPS Thaumatology: Age of Gold, that will help you get some of the general feel: a lot of the really implausible stuff is magic, mostly alchemy and Weird Science, along with more than a little sorcery; how the magic works is covered near the bottom of the post, as I'm using the same magic system for all five Earths. The rest of the 'impossible' things are the result of alien technology (mostly from Krypton, caught in the fold-radius/hyperwake/whatever of young Kal'El's spacecraft), or a combination of both. The Super-Soldier Serum (which takes weeks to work, and requires that the subject eat a great deal while it does) is an alchemic preparation, as is that rocket fuel. The 'vita-rays' that enhance and stabilize the serum's effects are likely magical, as the generator hasn't worked since Dr. Erskine died. The android Human Torch is a fire elemental who's fond of humanity, embodied in a very humanoid golem. Dr. Fate and the Green Lantern are humans using powerful magic items (though Dr. Fate's flight and more basic PK powers are those Kent Nelson learned from Nabu - as shown in his first Origin - rather than powered by the Helm). Whether time travel exists or not is uncertain, but Superman appears to have a Legion flight ring, which he uses sparingly (recharging the battery is... very difficult). Most materials with implausible properties, such as the Nth metal or Wakandan vibranium, are magical in nature. Vibranium itself, as far as anyone can tell, is a form of titanium, with no structural properties that can account for its strange powers. The most common superpower on this Earth is probability alteration, in the form of character shields. Oddly, this seems to be mildly, and semi-randomly, contagious.

The study of magic on this Earth, at least in the West, is divided more-or-less between the 'mystery guilds' (along with a few religions and subcults), who study sorcery and sometimes create magic items; the weird scientists, who create technomagic items and rarely realize sorcery exists; and the alchemists, who somewhat overlap both, but use little, if any, sorcery. The mystery guilds are rather like a mix of medieval guilds and Greco-Roman mystery cults (in the historical sense - they rarely have any interest in how initiates live their lives, beyond how they practice magic and maintain secrecy - not secrecy of the existence of magic (which they pretty much given up trying, since around 1908), but of who's doing it, and how), many of which are devoted not to deities or powerful spirits (commonly the Lords of Order or Chaos), but to philosophies, such as the Ethical (from their PoV) Teaching and Use of the Great Art. Mystery guilds tend to exist in small cells of a Master, one or more Apprentices, and the occasional visiting Journeyman. Often, they are hidden within local Lodges (Freemasons, the Loyal Order of Moose, and so forth), Gentlemen's Clubs, or Ladies' Associations, some of which may contain several cells, from different guilds - the London Hellfire Club has three, none of which trust the other two, for example. Weird scientists (some of whom are truly Mad) cast spells, in order to create inventions or experimental results that others cannot. In most cases, they do this unconsciously and unknowingly, and become confused and frustrated when hardly anyone else can get the same results, or get their inventions to work properly (or at all, in some cases). Often they make use of magical materials, which helps non-mages to some degree. Alchemists make more use of magical materials, but generally behave as much or more like mystery guild initiates, as like scientists. In the Mysterious Orient, there are a number of ancient temples, martial arts schools, meditation schools, and so forth, that are generally like similar organizations in our 1940, save a little more secretive, and the Masters and most elite students have demonstrable magic powers. Eastern weird scientists more often know they're using magic, and face less skepticism from mundane Eastern scientists. Lone practitioners in East and West, learning from old books and magic items, vary wildly in attitude.

Scientists wishing to study the theoretical physics of magic are advised to be polite to the weird scientists (especially the mad ones), wary of but polite to the alchemists and martial artists, and just avoid the sorcerers and most spirits entirely. The mystery guilds will strongly, and sometimes violently, object to any in-depth, scientific study of magical physics, though the followers of the Lords of Order will at least be friendly enough to give a better explanation of why than 'Mankind is not ready, you mad fool!' Unfortunately, they lack the background to give the short version that I can: scientific inquiry, by its very nature, requires the sharing of knowledge with all, which includes immature twits who get three letters wrong when spelling 'cool' (when they use letters at all), and try to crash hospital computers for a lark. I don't want to experience a system crash from inside the system, do you? (It's not that anyone currently knows how to crash reality, but advanced thaumatology could potentially reach that point, long before we'd have the sense not to (sure, the atmosphere didn't catch fire and kill everyone, but they thought it might, and set the bomb off anyway!) - especially as there are now more realities to experiment in.) Of course, some of them, especially the more religious ones, have other reasons - Chaos cultists, for example, just really don't like science or scientists, and if not for the Order cults fighting them, humanity on that Earth would be stuck in the middle ages, at best. Regardless of motivation, the sorcerers, spirits, and gods have a variety of ways to screw with anyone who comes to this Earth to understand why magic works. Whether they can and will apply it to the other Earths remains to be seen. If they do, it'll likely be the ones who are sincerely (patronizingly) concerned for us. After all, didn't your parents stop you from doing a lot of dangerous things, when you were a child? For those wondering why they're not interfering with the weird scientists, who says they aren't? Lots of weird engineers and chemists and biologists, but hardly any weird theoretical physicists - and even when you do hear of one, like Ted Knight, he goes and invents some neat gadget to risk his life with, that completely distracts him from theoretical physics.

Continued next post, due to character limit.

Prince Charon 12-18-2012 03:42 AM

Re: Five Earths, All in a Row
 
The governments of this Earth are also limited in their interactions with magic-users. Partly, this is due to a lot of major governments having cultural, religious, or philosophical issues with magic. A larger reason is that a curse was placed on the governments of this world at some point in the past, making them reluctant to bring magic-users directly under their control, and thus, responsibility. Offering them consulting positions on some projects, yes, encouraging them to join a Society sponsored by the Justice Department, sure, but assuming direct responsibility for those loonies? Not a chance. The curse is more than just mental, having a probability effect, as well. This makes the victims less likely to try to resist, and less likely to succeed if they do, along with making people they communicate with less likely to say anything that would make the victims try to resist, or less likely to be heard (or listened to) if they did.

In terms of secret identities, if someone had one in the comics, chances are that the 'civilian' ID that we know is wrong: A Superman, but no Clark Kent, a Green Lantern, but no Alan Scott (though he has the same look), a Bat-Man, but no Bruce Wayne, and so forth (Ted Knight didn't wear a mask, and didn't have super-speed to blur his face, so I'm assuming he didn't bother to pretend he wasn't Starman; the 'magical' nature of the Gravity Rod explains why he's the only one using it, as it works poorly, if at all, for anyone else, and serves to frustrate him, since he's a Western weird scientist). In general, this Earth has a scary number of what we would call fictional characters. The sons of Holmes and Watson run a consulting detective agency at Baker street, Reed Richards and Ben Grimm are in the newly formed US Army Air Forces, Victor von Doom (probably not his real name) is in Tibet, and Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto) is in Auschwitz, learning hatred and madness from experts in the field. While there are a lot of Mystery Men, though, the number of people with actual superpowers is quite low - there are many sorcerers and alchemists, but very few who could rationally consider a normal 2012 infantry squad/section (or one from 1940, for that matter) to be a non-threat, and most of them could be taken out by a well-prepared ambush (mind you, killing Solomon Grundy is sometimes a bad idea). The number that could reasonably expect to defeat a normal infantry squad or section alone is much larger, but there is a wide range between 'can usually defeat them' and 'they aren't even a threat.'

Overall, the human population of this Earth includes over a million extra people, compared to our 1940. That doesn't count the various other sapient species, like the Deep Ones or the Mangani. In total, that's another few hundred thousand people, of various types, including some unique ones like Kal'El. Note that those Marvel calls Homo Superior (mutants), and DC calls Metahumans and Homo Magi, are not a separate race or races, they're just humans with a strangely Lamarkian meta-gene complex that encourages a wide variety of psi powers. There are also an uncertain number of plant and animal species on this Earth, many of which are in danger of extinction, and some of which are psychic/magical.

Observation of the 'dark' side of this Earth's Moon (or more accurately, the side facing away from Dp-Earth) shows that several craters are covered by reflective domes, with smaller domes around them. When the 'dark' side truly is dark, the domes become transparent, and well-lit cities and not-so-well-lit farms and forests can be seen within them, inhabited by Green-Skinned Space Babes in metallic clothes of varying degrees of skimpyness (or existence, in some cases), along with clunky-looking service robots. Contrary to the trend in Star Wars and Mass Effect, these space babes have hair on their heads, rather than being bald-with-eyelashes; Miss Martian's preferred form would fit right in, other than 'wearing' more than the locals usually do. Likewise, they're not all green, but green appears to be the dominant colour - or at least, they're usually the ones with the whips, and the other colours are usually the ones in chains. Travel between the cities appears to be accomplished by monorails enclosed by the same material as the domes, or for more remote cities, by vehicles that resemble giant silver golf balls, each with an antenna extending from the top like long, black thread; these vary in diameter from about 4 metres (13 feet) to a bit over 50 metres (165 feet). All is not well in the Lunar cities: apart from the apparent slavery that's been alluded to (which could just be judicial punishments or mainstreamed BDSM, for all we can tell), some of the robots appear to be broken down and not repaired, several cities have power going in and out in places, and a few domes have been shattered, mummies visible within. The lack of men, or for that matter, women who appear to be younger than about sixteen, or older than about thirty, is also suspicious. They don't appear to use radio, or at least we're not picking up any transmissions from them, but they certainly have telescopes, most of which are pointed at us.

This Earth will be the one of greatest concern at the start of the new era, because they have a demonstrated ability to reach us, and they have a Nazi Germany on the rise - and it's not like that can be kept secret, when anyone with an AM radio, some wire and household junk, a little technical knowledge (available online, or at your local library) and at most a visit to Radio Shack, can build a good enough radio telescope to listen to them, and only a little more would be required to watch their TV; pretty soon, there would probably be YouTube channels for it. Israel is not the only nation contemplating the nuclear option to deal with Hitler, and in some cases, Stalin. Those considering biological weapons might need to be reminded that this world's Superman is likely to be immune, does not have an absolute code against killing, and if everyone else died, would have access to Dr. Fate's helm and Green Lantern's ring.

TL;DR: Dieselpunk Earth, in 1940, with elements of the Wold Newton Universe and some magic, supers, & potential supers.

Prince Charon 12-18-2012 03:47 AM

Re: Five Earths, All in a Row
 
* The next Earth I will describe is the furthest 'behind' us in orbit, and is only other one we're getting artificial radio traffic from. The traffic is in the form of Morse code messages, some of it further encoded in various easily broken (to us) ways, the rest being pretty clearly civilian. Telescopes turned to this Earth will find that they have a fair bit of tonnage in orbit - not nearly as much as we do, but what they have is rather more concentrated, and vastly less of it is junk. There are six space stations, each bearing the flag of one of the Great Powers of this Earth: the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the British Empire, the French Empire, the Papal States, the Russian Empire, and the rather colourful flag (red, white, orange, blue, and yellow layered Nordic Cross) of what is eventually discovered to be the Scandinavian Federation. The rest of the tonnage consists of a few communication satellites, apparently carrying automated telegraph repeaters, and a few inter-orbital vessels. Like the Dieselpunk probe, the stations and satellites are powered by mercury boilers and storage batteries. The stations appear to serve as weather monitors, spy bases, observatories, and repair stations for the oft-finicky repeater satellites, which frequently break down, and are serviced using small pods with waldo arms. A number of larger pods wander through the lower orbits, mostly spying on whatever nations they pass over (in the guise of more weather monitors, which they also do), or collecting space debris. Rockets leave this Earth once or twice a month, mostly to the space stations. Three nations have made Moon landings: Britain, Russia, and the Scandinavians. Each of them have stations in Lunar orbit, and have begun construction of mining bases. Radio intercepts indicate that the Papal States and the Austro-Hungarians are neck-and-neck for the next moon landing.

Looking more closely, observers will see numerous airships, far more than on Dieselpunk Earth, but hardly any powered heavier-than-air craft, apart from the occasional glider with supplementary rockets. A lot of flags are about where they should be, though the flag of the Papal States flies over most of Italy, and the flag of the Scandinavian Federation flies next to the flags of Norway, Sweden, Daneland, Iceland, and the Netherlands, either on another flagpole, or a little lower on the same flagpole. A variety of strange walking machines are visible, mostly of a military nature, though some seem to be in use by European explorers in Asia, Africa, Oceania, and South America. On many farms, especially in the southern USA, mechanical robots toil in the fields. Clothing, and what we can see of the culture, strongly suggests a version of the 19th century.

This is a Steampunk Earth, and the year is 1878. Queen Victoria sits on the British throne, and thanks to Victorian SCIENCE!, her husband is still with her. In France, the Bourbon King Henri V rules, with the aide of an Estates-General dominated by the elected Third Estate. Belgium appears not to exist, although the territories that make it up are extant within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Pope Clement XV leads an Italian Paeninsula united under the Papal banner, along with the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. In the USA, there is little slavery, and there was no civil war, due to the development of worker-clanks; parts of the Western Territories contain numerous 40-acre ranches, apparently owned by black families. In the Empire of Brazil, a space centre is under construction on an island east of Macapį. I could go on like this, but you should get the idea, and probably want to know how this happened.

From an alternate historian's perspective, this Earth is the most 'normal' of the four, in that the differences from OTL started at a specific Point of Divergence, and most of what happened after is different, including many births. Some time prior to May 17, 1823, a man by the name of James Haversham returned from India. Shortly thereafter, he began selling a patent medicine ('Haversham's Sovereign Cognitive Enhancer') which seemed to enhance the mental faculties (as well as cause an initial few seconds of intense synęsthesia), primarily in the areas of focus, creativity, and craftsmanship - in other words, an early form of nootropic drug. The more interesting, and permanent, effect is something that is not noticed at first: those who have taken this drug reflexively create 'magic items' whenever engaging in any act that registers in their minds as 'creative', 'artistic', or 'crafting'. These items may be temporary or permanent, depending mostly on which the item itself is intended to be - e.g. a gun is a permanent item, while a bullet is really not, but can last a long time before being used; a glass is a permanent item, but a pint of beer is there to be drunk, and goes bad fairly quickly. The 'item' need not even be an object - dancing, performing a kata, reciting a song or poem, playing an instrument, and so forth, are all acts of creativity, craftsmanship, or both, and thus effectively, acts of spellcasting (non-material things are always one-shot 'items', with relatively immediate effects - spells, in other words). Likewise, traditional 'magic' is sometimes called 'The Art' or 'The Craft', and often viewed as such by practitioners.

At first, the powers of items created were merely enhancements of things they already did: swords were sharper, less breakable, or less inclined to rust, guns more accurate, beer less inclined to cause hangovers, and so forth, but did not let the user shoot fireballs or summon lightning bolts. This is partly because this is easier to do, and partly because that's usually what the craftsman was thinking it should do, while making it. Of course, eventually, magic items that were clearly magical came into being. Likewise, 19th century magical practitioners eventually tried the Enhancer, and discover their magics working well, where they worked poorly, if at all, before. There is much dispute over when exactly this happened, and who first discovered it, but the first article on the subject in a respectable newspaper was in The Times (London), on October 16, 1834. Interestingly, Haversham himself disappeared five years earlier, on October 16th, 1829, by which point several other people were making his Enhancer (though only those who'd taken the magical version, themselves, were able to truly replicate it - others merely made a mix of absinthe, scotch, ginko biloba, and snake oil, chemically identical to the magical version, but a little warmer, and without its powers).

In April 1825, Charles Babbage and an engineer working with him tried the Enhancer, and Difference Engine No. 1 was delivered to the British government by Guy Fawkes Day. Analytical Engine No. 1 followed in 1829, and the first Mechanical Man, called 'Mr. Clank', after the noises it made while walking, was demonstrated on the Queen's Birthday, 1839 (without the magic of the Enhancer, of course, this would not have been possible). Sales of crude Mechanical Farmers began in the US in 1842. By the 1850s, it was clear that slavery was on the way out, although even in 1878, the wealthier plantation owners still have a few (mostly female) house-slaves, and (mostly male) overseer-slaves to watch the clanks in the fields. Under this USA's 16th Amendment, though, total emancipation in US States and Territories will have taken place by 1888. The new 'big' thing in analytical engines and mechanical servants is the manufacture of gears so tiny that the best optical microscopes cannot see them - only the newly-developed electron nanoscopes have that capacity.

Continued next post.

Prince Charon 12-18-2012 03:49 AM

Re: Five Earths, All in a Row
 
* The next Earth I will describe is the furthest 'behind' us in orbit, and is only other one we're getting artificial radio traffic from. The traffic is in the form of Morse code messages, some of it further encoded in various easily broken (to us) ways, the rest being pretty clearly civilian. Telescopes turned to this Earth will find that they have a fair bit of tonnage in orbit - not nearly as much as we do, but what they have is rather more concentrated, and vastly less of it is junk. There are six space stations, each bearing the flag of one of the Great Powers of this Earth: the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the British Empire, the French Empire, the Papal States, the Russian Empire, and the rather colourful flag (red, white, orange, blue, and yellow layered Nordic Cross) of what is eventually discovered to be the Scandinavian Federation. The rest of the tonnage consists of a few communication satellites, apparently carrying automated telegraph repeaters, and a few inter-orbital vessels. Like the Dieselpunk probe, the stations and satellites are powered by mercury boilers and storage batteries. The stations appear to serve as weather monitors, spy bases, observatories, and repair stations for the oft-finicky repeater satellites, which frequently break down, and are serviced using small pods with waldo arms. A number of larger pods wander through the lower orbits, mostly spying on whatever nations they pass over (in the guise of more weather monitors, which they also do), or collecting space debris. Rockets leave this Earth once or twice a month, mostly to the space stations. Three nations have made Moon landings: Britain, Russia, and the Scandinavians. Each of them have stations in Lunar orbit, and have begun construction of mining bases. Radio intercepts indicate that the Papal States and the Austro-Hungarians are neck-and-neck for the next moon landing.

Looking more closely, observers will see numerous airships, far more than on Dieselpunk Earth, but hardly any powered heavier-than-air craft, apart from the occasional glider with supplementary rockets. A lot of flags are about where they should be, though the flag of the Papal States flies over most of Italy, and the flag of the Scandinivian Federation flies next to the flags of Norway, Sweden, Daneland, Iceland, and the Netherlands, either on another flagpole, or a little lower on the same flagpole. A variety of strange walking machines are visible, mostly of a military nature, though some seem to be in use by European explorers in Asia, Africa, Oceania, and South America. On many farms, especially in the southern USA, mechanical robots toil in the fields. Clothing, and what we can see of the culture, strongly suggests a version of the 19th century.

This is a Steampunk Earth, and the year is 1878. Queen Victoria sits on the British throne, and thanks to Victorian SCIENCE!, her husband is still with her. In France, the Bourbon King Henri V rules, with the aide of an Estates-General dominated by the elected Third Estate. Belgium appears not to exist, although the territories that make it up are extant within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Pope Clement XV leads an Italian Paeninsula united under the Papal banner, along with the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. In the USA, there is little slavery, and there was no civil war, due to the development of worker-clanks; parts of the Western Territories contain numerous 40-acre ranches, apparently owned by black families. In the Empire of Brazil, a space centre is under construction on an island east of Macapį. I could go on like this, but you should get the idea, and probably want to know how this happened.

From an alternate historian's perspective, this Earth is the most 'normal' of the four, in that the differences from OTL started at a specific Point of Divergence, and most of what happened after is different, including many births. Some time prior to May 17, 1823, a man by the name of James Haversham returned from India. Shortly thereafter, he began selling a patent medicine ('Haversham's Sovereign Cognitive Enhancer') which seemed to enhance the mental faculties (as well as cause an initial few seconds of intense synęsthesia), primarily in the areas of focus, creativity, and craftsmanship - in other words, an early form of nootropic drug. The more interesting, and permanent, effect is something that is not noticed at first: those who have taken this drug reflexively create 'magic items' whenever engaging in any act that registers in their minds as 'creative', 'artistic', or 'crafting'. These items may be temporary or permanent, depending mostly on which the item itself is intended to be - e.g. a gun is a permanent item, while a bullet is really not, but can last a long time before being used; a glass is a permanent item, but a pint of beer is there to be drunk, and goes bad fairly quickly. The 'item' need not even be an object - dancing, performing a kata, reciting a song or poem, playing an instrument, and so forth, are all acts of creativity, craftsmanship, or both, and thus effectively, acts of spellcasting (non-material things are always one-shot 'items', with relatively immediate effects - spells, in other words). Likewise, traditional 'magic' is sometimes called 'The Art' or 'The Craft', and often viewed as such by practitioners.

The Enhancer temporarily confers the advantages Versatile and Single-Minded. These last about as long as the buzz from the alcohol content does - call it equal to about two shots of fairly strong whisky. The first time it's taken, it permanently confers Thoughtform Talent 1 (name subject to change, replaces Magery) with an accessibility limitation of 'Only While Being Artistic' (might need rephrasing, see text above) and Wild Talent 1 with the Retention enhancement, the Focused (Psi: Thoughtforms) limitation, and the same accessibility limitation as Thoughtform Talent, along with an 'Always Activated when being Artistic' limitation. Not sure what the art-based limitations should be worth.

At first, the powers of items created were merely enhancements of things they already did: swords were sharper, less breakable, or less inclined to rust, guns more accurate, beer less inclined to cause hangovers, and so forth, but did not let the user shoot fireballs or summon lightning bolts. This is partly because this is easier to do, and partly because that's usually what the craftsman was thinking it should do, while making it. Of course, eventually, magic items that were clearly magical came into being. Likewise, 19th century magical practitioners eventually tried the Enhancer, and discover their magics working well, where they worked poorly, if at all, before. There is much dispute over when exactly this happened, and who first discovered it, but the first article on the subject in a respectable newspaper was in The Times (London), on October 16, 1834. Interestingly, Haversham himself disappeared five years earlier, on October 16th, 1829, by which point several other people were making his Enhancer (though only those who'd taken the magical version, themselves, were able to truly replicate it - others merely made a mix of absinthe, scotch, ginko biloba, and snake oil, chemically identical to the magical version, but a little warmer, and without its powers).

In April 1825, Charles Babbage and an engineer working with him tried the Enhancer, and Difference Engine No. 1 was delivered to the British government by Guy Fawkes Day. Analytical Engine No. 1 followed in 1829, and the first Mechanical Man, called 'Mr. Clank', after the noises it made while walking, was demonstrated on the Queen's Birthday, 1839 (without the magic of the Enhancer, of course, this would not have been possible). Sales of crude Mechanical Farmers began in the US in 1842. By the 1850s, it was clear that slavery was on the way out, although even in 1878, the wealthier plantation owners still have a few (mostly female) house-slaves, and (mostly male) overseer-slaves to watch the clanks in the fields. Under this USA's 16th Amendment, though, total emancipation in US States and Territories will have taken place by 1888. The new 'big' thing in analytical engines and mechanical servants is the manufacture of gears so tiny that the best optical microscopes cannot see them - only the newly-developed electron nanoscopes have that capacity.

Continued next post.

Prince Charon 12-18-2012 04:18 AM

Re: Five Earths, All in a Row
 
This Earth does not quite have the concept of the generalized personal computer; the nearest equivalents are the mechanical brains of the various unspecialized clanks that many people in the middle classes have as personal servants (human servants are more expensive, these days). Dedicated analytical engines, on the other hand, such as the Automated Ornatix which assists women in Society in choosing the right make-up and accessories, or the Artillerist's Field Tabulator that has made artillery fire more accurate than ever before, in nearly any weather, are very common. There is a primitive internet in use, connecting the great analytical engines of most colleges, academies, and universities via the wires first strung up for the telegraph, then expanded for the facsimile machines (invented as early as 1843 OTL, but didn't catch on for a while) that are found in so many homes, even among the upper end of the lower classes (telegraphy is mainly used for radio, these days, as transmitters and receivers fine enough for fax or vox are still experimental), and now used also by the new-fangled telephones that are all the rage among the better households. Few private homes are equipped to use the internet, and those mostly being the residences of Eminent Scientists. Shockingly, university students have sometimes been caught using the system to transfer pornography (gasp, horrors!), despite this being an offense worthy of expulsion (unless one's parents are rich enough to sweep it under the rug).

Aeronefs (aeroneves?), or powered heavier than air craft (in this case, the semi-powered gliders mentioned above), were developed partly as a side effect of research into rocketry, itself studied out of both military usefulness, and the desire to reach the Moon. The first important divergence for OTL in the history of rocketry on this Earth came in 1846, when inventor and rocket pioneer William Hale was sent a copy of Erasmus Darwin's gas-fueled rocket engine concept. This he found to be a very useful design, as it allowed the tiny Steering Engine (a quite small, dedicated analytical engine, with an inertial compass) of a rocket, such as the Royal Artillery's 'rocket-carried, map-following bomb' project, to throttle the engine, which is not something you can easily do with a solid-fuel rocket, without adding fairly expensive magic to it. Of course, gas by definition hasn't got a great fuel density, but it's rather easier to enchant a gas-fuel rocket for greater speed and range, than it is a solid-fuel rocket for throttling. A demilitarized version of this rocket was used by Thomas Mayfield in 1854, to allow his glider to stay aloft for longer period, by firing short bursts. This method, with some variation, has been used ever since.

The next great step towards placing an astronef (manned space vessel, not counting the boosters or any external tanks) into orbit was in 1854, when Ernst Kremholtz replaced the gas bottle with thermos bottles of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. This increase in fuel density allowed made reaching orbit a budgetable option, although it was some time before governments showed an interest. The orbiting of the first unmanned satellite (a large, rubber-and-tinfoil balloon named Marieanne) by the French in 1859, however, insured that the British had to develop an interest, for national pride was at stake! The invention of wireless telegraphy by James Clerk Maxwell in 1863 made it actually somewhat practical, as spacecraft could now send messages in real time on such things interesting things as weather and troop movements. The first permanent space station (a collection of reinforced balloons) was orbited by the Russian Empire starting in 1869, and is said to still be under construction. The fist station to have gravity was orbited by the British on Christmas day, 1869 (though the gravity modules - a pair of inflated, counter-rotating wheels - did not arrive until 1871) The first man to walk on the Moon was Sir Geoffery Thornbury-Wallace (later GCB), in 1875.

The rise to power of the Papal States in Italy came from many factors, but one that stands out was that Pope Alexander IX (who became Pope following the death of Pius IX in 1849) gathered the best Italian generals under his banner- including Giuseppe Garibaldi, who became the first Captain General of the Church in over a century - and managed to take the best advantage of the new methods of logistics allowed by steam power. It also helped that he was rather more popular with the Italian public than the OTL Popes of that era. The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies fell under Papal rule in 1858, and the Pope's control over northern Italy was consolidated by 1862. The Scandinavian Federation formed as a result of a gradual improvement of political and economic relations between Norway, Sweden, Daneland (known as Denmark until 1863), and Iceland starting in the 1830s, with the Articles of Federation being signed and ratified in 1866, and the Netherlands joining in 1873, after the Franco-Prussian War. That war began much as it did in OTL, but went off-course at the Battle of Strasbourg on August 3rd, 1870, when Napoleon III died. The Legitimist pretender Henri V managed to convince the recently-elevated Pope Clement XV, along with the Executive Council of the Scandinavian Federation, to intervene in the war. This lead to Prussia's surrender in 1872, the removal of it from 'Great Power' status, and the restoration, once again, of the Bourbons to the throne of France, under a new constitution. The latter was helped by the fact that Henri was married to Napoleon III's daughter, Marie, of course.

This Earth has far fewer fictional characters than Dieselpunk Earth, and all of the ones that we can be certain are or were real, were born after mid-May, 1823. In Japan, some version of Ruroni Kenshin is playing out. Monsieur Lecoq investigates various crimes in France, and Holmes and Watson are already at 221b Baker Street, London - interestingly, both Holmes and Watson, and many of their associates and cases, are about five years older than they should be in 1878, based on records from Dieselpunk Earth (Dp-Earth's H & W are pretty consistent with the Birlstone Railway's Timeline, at least for ACD's published works). Also, Dp-Earth Watson was wounded in the shoulder, while Stp-Earth Watson was wounded in the leg, at a different battle.

When Clement XV learns of the states of the other Papacies, he's going to claim dominance over the others, on the strength of having the greatest Papal States, and the largest military, as well as being the only one to put a man in space, much less a station. This is unlikely to go over well with them, nor with too many Catholics not from Stp-Earth.

It likely won't be long before there are websites translating the Morse code transmissions of this Earth, or displaying telescopic and satellite photos of it, though YouTube channels are less likely (then again, there should be quite a lot of video from the telescopes).

TL;DR: Steampunk Earth, 1878, with lunar and cislunar space travel, and strange magics.

Prince Charon 12-18-2012 04:20 AM

Re: Five Earths, All in a Row
 
* The closer Earth 'behind' us shows no evidence of artificial satellites, though it does have an oddly dense and colourful ring of asteroids a bit over 3,000 miles above sea level.

In the skies of this Earth, there are no visible lighter-than-air craft, but lots of heavier-than-air craft, in the form of kite-like gliders, and a few propeller planes that appear to be powered by high-tension springs, and launched by catapults or trebuchets, or from high points, rather than under their own power. Several towers, cones, and pyramids appear to have been built for this exact purpose.

Judging by the flags and much of the clothing, this world is at some point in the Renaissance, probably around the mid-16th century. That is, in fact, correct, as the year is 1555. It's a very eccentric 1555, though: a Clockpunk Earth with alchemists, centauroid robot soldiers, wind-up motor-carriages, and may other mechanical contrivances that should not be there. One of the most important inventions of the era is the alchemical development of 'springmetal', a magical alloy that, when coiled into a spiral and wound up, shifts its shape to unwind longer, providing several times the energy put into it. Several ghettos (Jewish communities inside non-Jewish towns) as well as a few shtots, shetls, and dorfs (Jewish-majority cities/towns/villages) are protected by what appear to be golems, though none are as powerful nor as violent as the OTL-legendary Golem of Prague. More golems appear to be workers, rather than soldiers, though they only do work that human would find either too difficult, too dangerous, or too boring. Though we cannot see them with telescopes, a few tiny golems are used by jewelers and chiurgeons, and others who need very delicate work done, though this is a new thing. While golems are harder to make than mechanical robots, the do not break down nor wind down, are generally easier to repair, and are rather harder to damage. The Jews have rather more rights and security in many nations on this world, than they did in the OTL 16th century.

The Pope at this time is Leo X (Rodrigo Borgia of Aragon, very much not the OTL Pope Leo X), son and cardinal-nephew to the late Pope Joan II, better known as Lucrezia Borgia. That alone shows this to be a rather divergent world. Elizabeth Tudor (who oddly enough looks rather more like Cate Blanchett than like any of her paintings on other Earths) is currently High Queen of the Britons (High King of Wales and Queen of England, IOW; also Queen of Ireland, and other titles), just wrapping up a civil war with forces loyal to her late half-sister, Queen Mary I of England.

The apparent point of divergence is in 1457, when a comet passed to close to this Earth, and broke up into the anomalous ring seen by our astronomers, along with other bits that fell into the atmosphere. Shortly thereafter, many alchemists found that they were able to create effects that they never managed, before (though so far, no-one has managed to create a true Philosophers' Stone), as were other mystics. Oddly, this had little effect on the course of history, at least at first. Given all the gadgets and elixirs and spells and such involved, it really should have, and while most of the locals will probably declare it 'The Will of God' (Allah, Vishnu, whatever) when they know to wonder about it, that isn't likely to satisfy those from less dominantly theistic cultures.

In 1499, after the death of her second husband, Lucrezia Borgia asked her father what it would take for him to make her a cardinal. The Pope thought on it for a moment, and replied 'Perform a miracle, and I will make you a cardinal.' A little less than a year later, in 1500, she did: at a feast with several other cardinals present (not all of them supporters of her father), Lucrezia filled her goblet once, prayed over it, and proceeded to fill the goblets of everyone else there from hers. Some of the cardinals suspected trickery, and so she did it again, this time fully nude. Thus it was that Lucrezia Borgia became the first official cardinal-niece. How she became Pope after her father's death in 1505 (butterflies and alchemy extended his life a little) is uncertain, though many claim she slept with all or most of the other cardinals, which is unlikely: she wasn't nearly the slut her detractors would like to depict her as, and a lot of the cardinals weren't corrupt enough (or were too corrupt) for that to work.

King Henry VIII's life went much as his OTL counterpart's did, at least until 1537, though he was named Defender of the Faith by the anti-pope in Salzburg, who used the regnal name 'Boniface X'. He never acknowledged the Papacy of Joan II, though if she had lived long enough to grant him the annulment he sought, he very likely would have. As it happened, by the time he began seriously seeking the non-existence of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, in 1527, Joan had succumbed to what was most likely tuberculosis (Boniface having preceded her due to old age), and the College of Cardinals was quite busy failing to elect a successor. By the end of 1529, the young Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia of Aragon was Pope Leo X, and a lot of other cardinals were rich, dead, or sometimes both. Leo had no intention of annulling the marriage, and so British history proceeded on something mostly like its OTL course for most of the next decade. In 1537, his then wife, Jane Seymour (no, not the actress, she wasn't born yet) gave birth to his only son. In OTL, she died 12 days later. In this timeline, the Royal Alchemist, Sir John Cochrane, created a medicine that allowed her to recover, though she never had another child. This also helped Sir Iain keep his head - unlike his predecessor, Sir Richard Rich (a lawyer in OTL), who was executed as a conspirator in Anne Boleyn's 'treason', owing to his failure to cause Anne to give Henry the son he needed to secure the succession.

Henry VIII died in a jousting accident in 1548 (the alchemists' elixirs allowed him to maintain the sporting life he so loved), leaving his ten year old son to reign as Edward VI. This Edward did not fall ill in February of 1553. Rather, that was when he married his cousin, Lady Jane Grey. Both the King and the Queen, who had recently announced her pregnancy, were assassinated on the night of July 9th, 1553. Naturally, the supporters of both Mary and Elizabeth each blamed the other (with Elizabeth's supporters also accusing the Pope in Rome, who may well have been responsible), and a civil war began, which has only recently ended, due to the death of Mary at the Battle of The Wallops (t'were to big for only one of 'em).

An important difference between the clockwork robots of this Earth, and those of Stp-Earth (apart from the lack of steam), is the degree to which magic is integrated: Stp-Earth Mechanical Men use as little magic as possible, both for expense, and for quality control. In many cases, the only magic involved is intelligence enhancement, and a minor 'works a little better than it should' effect - even the eyes can be mundane, using photostrictive crystals. Clp-Earth automatons, however, tend to be pretty highly magical, as they cannot see nor think, can barely hear, and could only move a short time, without the integration of magic into their structures; indeed, a typical operating engine for such devices is a box of rods, gears, and springs, with various symbols carved or embossed on them, designed to be easily operated by the inhabiting spirit.

TL;DR: Clockpunk fantasy Earth, 1555.

Prince Charon 12-18-2012 04:26 AM

Re: Five Earths, All in a Row
 
* The closer Earth in front of us is also lacking in artificial satellites, nor does it possess a debris ring like the Clockpunk Earth.

In the skies all over the world, various kinds of dragons can be seen, as well as other varieties of flying myths, as appropriate for their regions. There are a number of hot air balloons over India (and a few in nearby regions) and South America, along with flying carpets in parts of the Middle East

The surface looks mostly like Earth in the 6th century, with elements of Middle Earth, and to a lesser degree, 3.5-era Abier-Toril (races, species, and types of items, not specific individuals or places), though the economy looks mostly like what the various cultures on RL Earth actually had in the 6th century. There are the usual people, animals, and plants (along with many unusual ones), there are cities, towns, and villages about where you'd expect them to be (and a few where they probably shouldn't be, including a city apparently made of brass in the least-habitable part of the Arabian paeninsvla, and one with streets paved in gold in South America), and the geography/geology looks mostly the way archaeologists think it did in our timeline in the 6th century (except for several extra or expanded islands & paeninsvlae, a few new or missing mountains, and so forth). In Britain, there's a fairly large wasteland, in large parts of what are now the counties of Denbighshire, Flintshire, and Wrexham, and fairly small parts of Conwy, Gwynedd, Powys, Cheshire, and Shropshire. In certain deserts, Arabia and the Gobi in particular, a few necromancers have quite a lot of undead doing rather strange things. The general nerdity of OTL scientists will likely lead them to the links provided soon enough, though (which have been SFW each of the times I checked them, despite being archived from /tg/; pleasant surprise, that).

The observable point of divergence from our history was in 312 CE (1065 ab urbe condita), when Emperor Constantine was killed at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, having been struck by lightning. This didn't end Christianity, but it did keep it from dominating Europe, and throw off the Imperial succession. Oddly enough, some things still happened, such as the partitioning of the Roman Empire (already begun by Diocletian, in the Third Century CE), and the decline of the Western half. Said decline happened more slowly than in our timeline, and did less damage to Italia. By 500 CE/1253 AUC, the Western Empire had recovered somewhat, and Western Emperor Lucius Tiberius felt confident enough to order the wealthy British cities, victorious over their Teutonic invaders, to pay tribute to Rome. This was something the Britons had stopped doing when the Romans abandoned them in 421/1174 (around 410/1163, in OTL), and felt no reason to resume. Now, in 514/1267, the capital of the Western Roman Empire is Camulodunum, and the Emperor is the Romano-British warlord Ambrosius Aurelianus the Younger (or Ambrosius Aurelianus Romanorum), better known to his own people as Arthur, High King of the Britons. Of course, the Western Empire only controls Britannia, Armorica, Italia, and the cities in Gallia that happen to lie along the best route between Italia and Armorica (though Arthur is mostly allied with the other kingdoms in Gallia).

GURPS Fantasy Chapter 9 (Roma Arcana, pp 195-232) will be a little helpful, here. Arthur is sufficiently faithful to the Romano-British pantheon that all of Britannia, Armorica, and Italia are normal sanctity again, his Legions collectively have Higher Purpose, and so forth. Most of Gallia doesn't quite have the same benefits, though.

Meanwhile, the Eastern Roman Empire, with its capital at Olympia, is almost as large as in OTL 514 CE, despite having a bit of a civil war, between the three sons of the late Emperor Crassus. In the regions of Europe not controlled by parts of the Roman Empire, small nations, city-states, and wandering tribes are the order of the day, and North Africa isn't much better - although the Kingdom of the Vandals is fairly strong, surprisingly wealthy and fertile, and seems to have a good chance of uniting the region.

Outside of Europe and the Mediterranean region, things are going fairly close to our timeline... apart from the weird bits: Japan is culturally and technologically closer to the mid Heian era, except that they already have katana. There's a Pharaonate in Kush (what we would call Sudan), with springs and canals that did not exist in OTL, and a culture with great similarities to Ancient Egypt. The Iroquouis (or a very similar tribal alliance) are having an agricultural revolution, and appear to be mastering ironworking and positional numerology, though the rest of their technology appears to be in the early-to-mid Bronze Age, with an ideographic writing system. India has flying machines called 'vimana', most of which are held aloft by lenicular or spindle-shaped hot air balloons, and are propelled by great cloth-and-wood screws. (Think of the airscrew of da Vinci's helicopter. Turn it on its side, make the shaft longer, and mount another screw on the other end, so whenever you turn it, one screw blows air toward the gondola, and the other blows it away. Thus, you can go forward or backward, depending on which way you turn the airscrew. Steering is accomplished by a folding sail/rudder sticking out the bottom of the gondola, and/or other, smaller pairs of airscrews, perpendicular to the main shaft.)

Most of the strange new species are spirits of various types, embodied in whatever matter fits them. Trolls, for example, are a type of Earth elemental hostile to humans, and 'allergic' to direct sunlight, which can banish them from their stone bodies, and leave them unable to take new ones for years, or even centuries. Dragons are harder to codify, and there seem to be multiple types of spirits who use dragon bodies. Some appear to use fossils - or at lease, that's what's left behind when they're 'killed', occasionally along with crocodilian hide, a powerfully magical heart, or both. Others create their bodies gradually over time, from the food they eat, but all dragons (and most other spirits) start with ectoplasm: dust, smoke, vapor, and so forth, gathered and held in place psychokinetically. Spirits that only use ectoplasm, or pure PK (with or without a visual illusion), to simulate their bodies, are effectively immune to non-magical weapons: there's really nothing there to hit. A wide range of other monstrous spirits exist, mostly having started from local legends, and in some cases, wandering further afield. Some monsters, such as the European Owlbear, were created by bored or mad sorcerers, for purposes ranging from the reasonable to the inexplicable. Many of them, when 'killed', leave treasure behind, having taken into their bodies various items worn or carried by previous victims. Dragons vary in size from little lizards or snakes (which may be possessing the bodies of actual reptiles) to a bit larger than a 747 (which often lack physical bodies, at all).

Continued next post.

Prince Charon 12-18-2012 04:26 AM

Re: Five Earths, All in a Row
 
Of the humanoids, dwarves, gnomes, and halflings or hobbits appear to be just pygmy humans of slightly differing phenotypes: Dwarves are generally the biggest of the Little People, and tend to be aggressive, hairy (even their women have beards), and exceptionally strong, tough, and poison-resistant for their size (an average dwarf can drink an average orc or 'normal' human under the table, and wander home without much difficulty). They prefer to live underground, in great mines and caves (though this seems to be more cultural than biological), and their sense of beauty runs toward practical, durable things. Gnomes average between the dwarves and the halflings in size, prefer to live on the surface, and tend to be quite creative. Many of them are highly skilled in illusion magic, alchemy, and engineering, making gadgets that might best be described as 'Windmillpunk', or 'Proto-Clockpunk'. Hobbits are the smallest of the human Little People, and are surprisingly nimble and sure-eyed, with tough, hairy feet, and great appetites (and proportionally large bellies). They could be said to live underground, in the sense that they prefer to build their homes out of tunnels in the sides of hills (poorer hobbits generally build the hills along with their homes, or must burrow into the ground, and deal with the rain), but they spend far more time in the sun than most dwarves do. Most hobbits are plain, quiet folk, with an aversion to adventures (dreadful things; make one late for dinner!), and a fondness for a mild form of cannabis (not the tobacco of Tolkien's notes) called galenas, or 'pipe-weed' - those who do become warriors or adventurers tend to be thinner, less relaxed, and often disdain the weed.

Giants are mostly the descendents of humans with gigantism, who have settled into there own large-but-somewhat-healthy phenotypes. Some giants are instead spirits who take large, humanoid forms. While the human giants top out at around ten feet tall, spirit giants may be much larger, and are of variable size. The locals don't make much distinction between human giants and spirit giants, save as different races: hill giants (generally human) and forest giants (mix of humans and spirits) are fairly friendly if you don't attack or steal from them, storm giants (all spirits, 'living' on/in clouds) and cyclopes (also spirits, and yes, that's apparently the correct plural) aren't friendly at all, et cetra.

Orcs appear to be Neanderthal -descendents with large canines. They average a bit shorter than baseline humans, a bit less intelligent, rather more vulnerable to heat, and very resistant to cold. They also tend to be a bit stronger, tougher, and more aggressive than baseline humans. Ogres appear to be an orc phenotype with fairly-healthy gigantism, topping out at around 9 feet, but tend towards less intelligence. Goblins and hobgoblins appear to be pygmy orcs, the hobgoblins averaging a little bigger than dwarves and a little dumber than orcs, and the goblins averaging about as large and bright as gnomes, though with less love of art and what humans call beauty. Elves say of them that "They make no beautiful things, but they make many clever ones," which has more to do with goblins having different ideals of beauty than elves (and most humans) do, rather than having no concept of it, at all - like dwarves, but far more so, they love practical things, and many of them would find beauty in the 'dark, satanic mills' of the Industrial Revolution (as long as they're not the ones toiling in them). Of all the orcish races, only goblins build cities - unfortunately, their preferred locations for their cities coincide with those of the dwarves, which leads to a lot of conflict. Both goblins and hobgoblins are sallow-skinned, and all orc-derived races have a tendency to wartyness. Orcs and hobgoblins prefer cold climates, while ogres and goblins might live anywhere humans do (though they prefer to avoid the tropics). Despite what the local humans will say, these races are not Always Chaotic Evil, nor are many of them inclined to eat babies - the humans are hostile to them, so they return that hostility, but among themselves, they're mostly just regular folk of the era. This has been going on for so long that it's apparently instinctive for both sides (and the orcish folk aren't going to see a difference between humans from space, and the local variety).

(Might include GURPS-style kobolds. Was thinking they live in the Caledonian Highlands, either with or replacing the Picts.)

Elves and faeries are spirits, connected to nature, to varying degrees. This sounds nice, but recall that nature doesn't just mean the peaceful green of growing plants, but the red of blood and fire, the white of sharp teeth and the flash of lightning. Nature is beautiful, but do not forget that it is also deadly. The elves are the most human of these nature spirits, and even they are a bit strange. Half-elves generally do have two human parents, it's just that an elf or two were fooling around with one or both of them, and decided to leave an empowerment behind in the child. They tend to be attractive and powerful, but creepy and spooky, from a human perspective.

As with Dieselpunk Earth, there is no specific point at which creatures of magic began to appear. As far as the locals know, they've always been there, though unlike Dp-Earth, they've never really hid. Oddly, in much of Europe, healing is the province of clerics, druids, and bards, with few other magic-users learning much of it.

TL;DR: Fantasy Dark Ages, 514 CE, with a little Middle Earth and 3.5-era Forgotten Realms.


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