Ok. Here’s Part V. I’ll be talking about the the 20th Century and its impact on the world of the ceteri.
A Circle of Death
Founded in the late 19th century, the Stygian Circle was created by the mysterious sorcerer Lanius. Not much is known about Lanius before he appeared the small hamlet of Vernichberg in Germany where he killed every man, woman, and child, except for seven individuals he seemingly chose at random. Over the course of three days as the corpses of Vernichberg rotted, he spoke to the survivors and showed them the wonders of necromancy and diablerie. No one is sure what he told them or even what he did, but at the end of those three days the first of the Stygian Circle were born. The Circle would go on to plague man and monster alike using forbidden and obscene rituals to gather power and strike down those that opposed them. No one sane voluntarily joined them, thus the Circle spends days and weeks preparing a town for “harvesting” – days of bloodshed and death where they murder, maim, or drive mad the inhabitants of a town eventually forcing their victims to in turn victimize others if they wish to live. This dehumanization makes the Circle all the more dangerous because its members have no limits and believe in the teachings that indoctrinated them. Unfortunately, most Circle members kill themselves before being taken captive and the few that are alive are safely – deeply – in the Labyrinth.
The World At War
The beginning of the 20th century brought with it a sense of renewed hope among human and ceteri – things were finally getting into an equilibrium and the Industrial Revolution brought with it the forgetting powers of the Mists allowing most ceteri to exist alongside humanity with little chance of discovery. At least until the Black Hand – a catspaw backed by one a cabal of sorcerers who sought the death of Archduke Ferdinand for an imagined slight – started World War I. In reality, the cabal were being used themselves by none other than Griogori Rasputin and Lanius himself. Rasputin was Lanius’s brightest pupil and between the two of them they were able to bend the ears of the great powers and plunge the world into a terrible war. The Stygian Circle then used the fog of war to harvest hundreds of small towns and villages until their numbers swelled beyond counting. They easily dominated the remains of the Old World’s power structure. Sorcerer houses, tribes of monsters, and solitary (but powerful beings) all bent to their will. For a while, things were bleak.
Then America entered the war. Backed by the Conclave, the American military began to cut swathes through the Circle. But they underestimated how many of the native ceteri had thrown in with them and soon the Conclave was committed to the war as much as its host nation. The war continued until the Conclave – with the help of a elite unit of monster hunters, sorcerers, and ceteri found Lanius and put him down. Lanius’s death proved the tipping point and by 1921 most of his followers were rounded up, in hiding, or killed.
Though the threat was over, the European landscape of supernatural power lay in tatters. Eventually, it would form itself into something resembling warring city states, but it would take the better part of a decade for this to happen and nothing as organized as the Conclave would come from the ashes
Interbellum and the Rise of the Modern Conclave
The next 20 years saw a surge of progress for the real and supernatural world. More than two dozen Houses would join the Conclave, swelling its ranks further. The Conclave meanwhile would establish the Conclavi Concordant – a codified set of rules that allowed grievances to be settled by trial instead of feuds. The Conclave would also begin to have issues with mortal monster hunters. Being mortal meant the Conclave had no real say over monster hunters in any real way – they were essentially wildcards that most of the Conclave just didn’t want to handle. But they performed a service the Conclave needed – they handled the nastier of the paranormal nasties who hunted humans. The Conclave didn’t have the manpower to be everywhere at once so having dedicated hunters helped to keep things like kelpies, feral vampires, and dark fae from harassing, tormenting, or otherwise killing humans while allowing the Conclave to deny any involvement. This remained the Conclave’s view on monster hunters for the next 80+ years.
World War II
The rise of the Nazi Party in Germany also heralded the rise of the Thule Society in the supernatural world. The Thulian mindset of racial purity leading to magical superiority would resulted in a virulent mix of zealotry and pure sorcerous power. The Thulian’s hunted down powerful and ancient artifacts and used them to benefit the war effort. Soon, much of Europe was under the control of the Nazis. But it wasn’t Japan bombed Pearl Harbor using information the Thulian sorcerers had gained thanks to the Cup of Jamishad. They used the cup to divine the location of ever more powerful relics until they found the Spear of Longinus (the spear that pierced the side of Christ at the crucifiction). Using the spear and an occult ritual designed to draw on its power, Hitler made his forces near unstoppable. (Note: this wasn’t some sort of physical enhancement, but more drawing on luck and probability to add everyday soldiers.)
As had happened in the War for Independence and the first World War, the Conclave got involved (though only after supernatural forces were at play). They sent independent groups of sorcerers, ceteri, and other paranormal troubleshooters disguised as other units like the Jedburgh teams or OSS to help the allied forces. This proved highly effective until the Axis got the same idea into their heads (leading to the Werwolf plan – insurgents who were literally werewolves along with being guerrilla fighters).
Battlefields were littered with zombies, summoned demons, and horrors that were attracted to all the bloodshed and strife. Then the Nazis began experimenting with dimensional forces and through a hellish fusion of technology, alchemy, and magic managed to punch a hole in reality itself. The Nazis had found a way beyond reality itself and into the domain of the Nameless Ones. The Nameless Ones still could not break the barrier (as the Tree was still alive), but they could send servitors through. It’s whispered that Heinrich Himmler brokered a deal with one of the Old Ones for power and troops. As soon as the Nameless Ones entered play, things got messy. Lines were drawn and the Conclave (and its allies) faced one of the deadliest confrontations since its inception. They fought in every field, on every front, and even other planes.
Eventually, the opposed occult forces battled it out on the mountaintop in Kehlsteinhaus and there it was settled. The Nameless Ones were dispersed and the hellish fusion of technology and magic the Nazis employed was destroyed (though some say it was carted away to be studied). In the end, more than half of the Conclave’s numbers were wiped out and many of its ally groups (such as the Blackfeather Lodge or the Venatori) were just gone.
Miscellaneous Modern Day Goings Ons
Many other things happened during this time, but a few important notes:
- The Vietnam War was partially due to several buried demons in the region which worked up chaos and strife.
- The Conclave remodeled itself in the 70’s so that it’s organization was more American-like and easier on new recruits to get a handle on.
- The Conclave had a soft ban on merging technology and magic due to their fears of the Nazi’s black tech during World War II.
- A massive fire in Centralia Pennsylvania is publically the work of a coal fire, privately – the Stygian Circle tried to summon something and harvest the town, but failed due to efforts by a group calling itself the Departed. The fires that burn there are hellfire and no one has been able to put them out yet.
- Murders happening all over the US left hundreds violently dead with no explanation or reason. This happens a score of times with no seeming pattern to them.
Picking Over the Bones
And that’s the last of the Setting posts. This was gruesome to get out – mostly because I haven’t finished the modern day stuff in my own campaign bible yet – this is straight stream of consciousness/napkin notes. I’ve yet to fill in all the gaps in the 20th century because there is so much going on. Moreover in my games, the PCs have just hit the year 2000 – why? Because I like to work what the PCs do into the world’s timeline when possible. Ah well. I hope you’re enjoying these and I’m not just rambling away for the sake of rambling away. Any comments? Questions? I want to hear them.