Introduction to the Future Gifted Saga
It is the year AD 3300. Humanity has fallen into the depths of a new dark age, lasting nearly a thousand years. Now, as people finally begin to slowly rebuild civilization, a very human menace threatens to make the future an endless succession of wars and suffering.
At the Decennial Ball commemorating the anniversary of the Gifting, several people
express concern about the Emperor of the East. This isn't allowed to affect the atmosphere of the party, but after it is over several attendees stay to discuss the problem and what can be done about it. The Last Dragon asks two penetrating questions. "Has
anyone analyzed the long-term impact of his profligate usage of resources?" "Has any-
one tried simply talking to him?" Currently, all is quiet with the Emperor, and some participants hope that he may have either had his fill of conquest or simply be too busy governing what he already has to start another campaign. Others aren't so sure.
The Ball is a chance to introduce the Players to several important Characters. Tiger tries persuading Rickey and others on the board in charge of the facilities to make larger portions permanent, instead of using magic to create what is needed each time. Tal is pretty much quiet, unless someone starts on one of her favorite subjects. Caribe is enjoying the time away from her self-imposed duty, but tends to wander off by herself when the press of the crowd gets to her. Jumper shows off by running errands. Fat is doing feats of casual strength. Poni is head of the entertainment board, and primary dancer. Marian Holst is absent, due to other commitments, but two of her offspring are, along with their father, Adamant. Adamant is his usual obnoxious self. There are short elves all over the place, and even a couple of tall ones, both Founders.
Reach comments on Ivan's absence. This directs the conversation to the fact that his life-bonded love, Trisolda, was turned into a statue in 3203. People are worried that Ivan has gone off the deep end. He has built a shrine around Trisolda, complete with an eternal flame and an alter. Bernie used his bizarre noilamgyp spell, which has proven impossible for others to reverse or break. In fact, it seems irreversible... except that Bernie has revoked it, in other cases.
Head Case is sitting in a corner, giggling quietly and drooling. He hasn't been straight since one brief period in 2280, but tonight he seems particularly bad.
Several party crashers are discovered and ejected.
Crossover is attending, with two of hir husbands and one of hir wives, plus eight of
their children, grandchildren and so forth.
There is a minor altercation between Fat and Ouroborous, with the latter being found
at fault and made to leave.
Starting the Adventure
It is the Summer of 3304. Over the past twenty years, the Emperor of the East has conquered most of the Eastern Seaboard. After five years spent consolidating his latest possessions, he is turning his gaze westward, over the Appalachians, to the valuable
forests and farm lands of what were once West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennes-
see, and to the legendary treasures of wealth, technology and magic remaining from the Golden Age. He plans to progress in two broad sweeps, one going first west through
New York and Pennsylvania and then south, and the other west across the mountains.
The first group will position themselves to the north in the Fall of this year. The following Spring, both armies will start their advance, planning to meet in central Kentucky at the start of Summer. The Emperor anticipates little opposition in the unconsolidated north-
ern areas, while the terrain and the people will slow his advance through the Appalachians. These two armies will join to form a curved force and advance west across the Ohio River Valley and on to the Mississippi River.
The Emperor has enormous resources at his disposal. His is the largest army to be organized since the Fall, with over 50,000 men. He has collected valuable weapons from the Golden Age and makes extensive use of both wizards and ancient construction and transportation equipment. (See note below about his problems with expending resources.)
What the PCs Know
The Emperor has made it plain that he plans to take by conquest anything which isn't surrendered voluntarily. He has offered generous terms to the current small feudal states in the areas he intends to conquer, telling them that by simply swearing allegiance to him they may continue to rule in his name. Many have already accepted his
offer, others are seriously considering it. An added incentive is that those who become his allies will share in the spoils of those who don't. Even if all of the barons, dukes, chiefs and so forth become his vassals there will still be the riches of the unclaimed lands to divide.
The feudal leaders have good reason to want to accept the Emperor's offer. He generally keeps his word, and under his leadership the people of the east are prospering. However, many will reject the deal on an emotional basis, and fight him to the bitter end.
Others will agree to swear allegiance, while plotting rebellion or secret resistance. Still others - individuals, families, villages and entire kingdoms - are planning to move westward, past Centauria and into the unclaimed lands beyond. However, there are also
good, solid, rational reasons for rejecting the Emperor's offer, and these apply especially to the Gifted.
Once they learn some important facts, the Player Characters should be strongly motivated to oppose the Emperor. Though he uses magic, both old and new, the Emperor is
a humanocentrist who feels that any non-human creature should be either killed or enslaved. This includes all animals, natural and otherwise, and all intelligent species which are not human. Under his rule, elves, centaurs, dragons and many other new races
would be destroyed or subjugated. This includes any known Gifted, no matter what their appearance.
Another major problem with the Emperor's government is that it depends on contin-
ued conquest. He is using up and destroying vast resources in his efforts, bankrupting future generations to make life better for those under his rule and to fuel his war machine. One major defeat will mean great hardship for the people of his empire within a few years after. Even if he and his successors continue winning and conquering until all
of Earth is under their yoke, within fifty or a hundred years of the current date there will be a rebound, as the devastation of resources - both natural and man made - takes its
toll. In that case, the recovery would be delayed by centuries.
The Emperor himself does not realize this. If told of the disaster his actions will
cause, he will scoff. Even if convinced that the events foretold will actually occur, he will not be deterred. "Yes, but think of the glory!" will be his reaction.
The Emperor is a genius at Conquest, and this includes making the best use of the
available resources. He has established a major training program to provide skilled practitioners in many arts, including magic. He currently has the minimum number he
considers necessary, which is why he is making his move now. Also, by raiding the ru-
ins of the cities and ancient armories in his domain and having what is found identified and catalogued in an organized manner, the Emperor has obtained and put to use a
number of powerful magical and technological items. These range from autodocs to
heavily enchanted weapons.
Any attempt to reach the Emperor, for whatever goal, will be difficult in the extreme. In addition to having magic users help in his conquests, the Emperor also has them constantly maintaining and improving magical protections placed on himself and people
and places he considers important. The Emperor also carries on his person several pro-
tective charms and an assortment of magical weapons. These are changed every day,
so that he never carries the same combination of items.
Merely killing the Emperor will only help to a limited extent. His officers will choose a successor (possibly his teenage son, who is very much like his father) and continue his campaign, partly because they genuinely admire him and believe in his plan, and partly because of their own greed and ambition. Killing the Emperor and all 18 of his com-
mand staff will solve the immediate problem, but will result in chaos in the lands he already rules. Not only will this be bad for the people there, but roving bands of bandits and smaller "empires" reorganized from parts of the current nation will plague the surrounding lands for decades.
The ideal solution is to somehow gain control of the Emperor and his staff, or perhaps replace them with doubles. Anyone who manages this will still be faced with the prob-
lem of halting and disarming the juggernaut the Emperor has created, then figuring out what to do with the Empire, which will fall into ruin without the support of external resources.
Another tactic is to shake his people's confidence in him. A major defeat or public embarrassment would do this, especially if followed with additional incidents of this nature.
Whatever course they try, there are a number of ways the PCs can gain access to
the Emperor. One of them is to join his forces in some way. Be warned that all field officers possess a skrying glass that allows them to tell if something - or someone - is magical, and that they also have truth charms of various sorts. (Some of these compel truth, others merely detect it.) This is common knowledge. Less well known is that all persons entering any of the major cities in the Empire or any of the large military camps,
or who approach the Emperor wherever he may be, are scanned by elaborate spells designed to detect any magical creature or unauthorized magic item.
One problem with the Emperor's organization is a lack of quick means of communication. The method currently used depends on having at least one low-level wizard with every unit, right down to the scouting patrols. The larger and/or more important the group the more powerful the wizard and the more likely he is to have help. The Emperor considers this so important that new-recruit wizards are trained in communications
spells first, and often are sent into the field before learning anything else. A few ancient com units have been issued to valued officers.
The Emperor does have several personal weaknesses. He loves glory and conquest,
so much that he often takes foolish risks. He is also impatient, enough so that he will not wait to build up reserves, but will take action as soon as he has what he feels is mini-
mum amount needed to do the job.
One of the Emperor's major short-term goals is to find an ancient factory built to cre-
ate items for military use. These include communicators, analyzers, armor and weap-
ons. He has old records confirming orders to shut it down and preserve the factory,
which give a good idea of its general location. Unfortunately, the specific site is given in code. Also, it lies in a wild, uninhabited area, reportedly filled with monsters. ("Around here, the fog comes looking for you!") The Emperor has been searching for this the
past three years with little success. Now he has decided that he doesn't need it, at least
for the time being. However, he is still interested. If the factory is found and put into use, stopping the Emperor will be twice as hard.
Setting the Stage
Relate the events that took place at the Gifted Ball, as described in the first para-
graph. Then begin updating the players to the year 3304, mentioning a number events
and happenings. One of these should be that the Last Dragon has been missing for
several weeks. Checking into this will confirm that he has gone to find the Emperor and have a talk with him.
The winters have been quite hard the past four years, and the winter of 04/05 promises to be just as bad. It seems that the reports that the Emperor plans an early Spring campaign must be in error. However, the prognostications show that the cold and wet
will end early. In the Fall of 04 the Emperor will encamp several thousand men in the
wild lands north and east of his intended target. After successfully wintering over, and after some training and provisioning in the early Spring, they will be ready to begin their march by April, giving him an unexpectedly early start on his conquest. This is not com-
mon knowledge, but the Illuminati committee has found out about this and will warn people before Winter ends.
Civilization in the area west of the Appalachians is made up of a few city states, a number of tribes and some feudal communities. Few leaders have titles more formal
than "Boss," "Chief" or "Sir." Some attempts have been made in recent years to orga-
nize these small groups into something larger, but for the most part a sort of beneficent anarchy reigns. While this lends an idyllic air to the land, it does not encourage development of a more advanced society. The impetus provided by the Emperor and any suc-
cessors will encourage more cooperation among the authorities and the selection of
leaders. This will at first be only on a small regional basis, but eventually the land will be united under a king, and named "East Appalach." It can be seen, therefore, that if the
Emperor can be resisted, even if he isn't defeated, his threat will provide an impetus important in the long-term plan of the Illuminati committee.
Additionally, even if the Emperor falls, the lands east of the mountains will not turn to anarchy. Some organization will remain, and several smaller kingdoms will form in the
next few decades. One of these will be East Appalach.
This leads some to suspect that the Emperor - to a greater of lesser extent - is a tool of the committee. This is not true. He simply came along at the right time by accident. It was, in fact, predicted long ago that within a sixty-year span centered on the year 3285 there would be enough recovery in several areas of the world that some sort of great conqueror would would have a good chance of arising in each. The Emperor of the East
is the first in this part of Earth, but there have been two others before him, one in China and one in South America. The latter is still alive, but his days of martial activity are pretty much over, as he spends most of his effort defending his territory and improving life for his citizens. More conquerors will rise to power in other areas with the coming centuries, and will have to be handled as they arise.
* * *
Bernie is not directly involved in the Emperor's actions, but he is working in the background. He has secretly helped some of the Emperor's wizards, by giving them ad-
vanced spells and powerful magical devices. No one in the Empire knows who he is or that he is Gifted. The Emperor only knows that Mephisto (as he calls himself) is some sort of combination freelance wizard and merchant. Bernie has made sure that "Mephisto" is considered unimportant by the Emperor and his staff.
There are two goals for Bernie in this effort. The first is to let the Emperor get as far as he can, destroying as many Gifted as possible in the process. Then, a few decades
or maybe a century later, long after the Emperor is dead and his successors have
grown weak, Bernie plans to take over.
The main consequence of Bernie's involvement is that the Emperor's wizards will
have spells that are more potent, sophisticated and versatile - and hard to crack - than they should be. Incautious Characters could easily run into a trap if they try to counter one of Bernie's special constructions without examining it carefully first. Secondary to this, wizards and soldiers in the Emperor's forces will have magic items that are more than they seem. Many will be trapped in a manner similar to the spells. Others will have properties that counter or neutralize specific Gifted powers.
Bernie has taken care to hide his role in this. The spells and enchantments are care
fully designed to avoid his normal signature. Still, genius is rare, and it takes genius to make these things. It will look as if the Emperor simply has found a lot of old magic, but a close examination will reveal that most of the spells and devices are of recent origin. That should start the Players thinking.