The great Empire lies in ruins. Their empress is dead. Their gods are dead. Their lands and people are dying. From the land of rivers a powerful legion moves in to mop up the survivors and ensure that the Empire will never rise again. A desperate band of would-be heroes tries to save their lands – and their world – from final destruction.
This is not Creation’s future… and yet some day it might be.
Into this strange, mechanical shadow of a world, a group of shining heroes arrives from the World Before. Their actions may save this place or damn it to final destruction, but neither this place nor Creation will emerge unchanged.
The Splinter of the Machine is like a brass mirror held up to reality. Some views are accurate. Some are distorted. Let us look back to the Splinter’s beginning, that we may better understand its coming end.
Long ago, the gods relied on an ally of theirs in a great war: the Machine God. When the conflict was over, the Machine God still survived. The Chosen were afraid of it, and forced it to retreat rather than remaining in Creation. In this and many other ways was Creation lessened in the early days.
In its retreat, the vast Machine God shed pieces of itself, all unknowing, as an animal might shed hair. One fragment landed in the ocean, where it floated about aimlessly and was eventually colonized. This place was called the Splinter of the Machine. The Chosen eventually banished it too, using its resonance with its long-vanished originator. They sent it in a direction that was neither backward nor forward, up nor down, left nor right. They sent it away. The gears and pipes that were its underpinnings wrapped around it like a cocoon, and none could enter or leave. It became its own reality.
This banishment was when the Splinter’s destiny became strangely entangled with our world. History took on familiar forms – a great war, a military shogunate, an invasion from beyond, an empire, a legion determined to remain independent. These mirrored events took their own time to happen, and the hidden secrets of the Machine God yielded themselves to the Splinter’s natives over the centuries. Devices have been forged here that Creation never saw, but which mirror developments elsewhere, far across the void. The Splinter bore Creation’s history, but created it with the Machine God’s technology.
The natives of the Splinter refer to Creation in the First Age as “The World Before.” Most records of that time are lost. The original settlers of the Splinter were mostly pirates and bootleggers, not much for keeping diaries.
The enormous Splinter itself is now known as the Blessed Continent. Until recently this was the seat of the Empire. The center of the Blessed Continent becomes more and more mountainous until a massive metal spire rises from its hub, once gleaming, now rusted. Mountains cross the continent east-west. Cities dot the coastline and hug the rivers farther inland. Someone familiar with Creation’s Blessed Isle would find much familiar here, at least as far as names go.
Off the Continent’s southeastern coast lies an island from Creation, caught during the Splinter’s banishment. This fertile land is River Island, which bears names and temperaments similar to those in Creation’s River Province. This place is now the home of the Seventh Legion, also known also as Lookshy. It was recently declared as the seat of the New Empire.
Cities in the Splinter are large, with the potential for millions of occupants. Improved technology helped them stay cleaner and grow taller than in Creation. In the countryside there are many places where nature has provided forests and scrublands, swamps and veldt. Though the ground is metal far below, somehow things still grow above. If the apples here taste strangely of tin, well, no one knows that they should be otherwise.
In the Splinter’s sky, beyond the bright white sun and the dancing stars, is a great clockwork that turns slowly as days and ages pass.
The elements of Creation (wood, fire, water, air, and earth) are known here as the Five Exiguous Compounds. They are rare and potent elements with strong magical resonance. The Splinter’s makeup, in contrast, is more like that of the Machine God. Rather than being anchored against the dark by elemental poles, the world is graced with the Six Virtuous Beasts of Alchemy, whose existence stabilizes the land. They are:
- The Brilliant Crystalline Spider
- The Indomitable Metal Ox
- The Unhesitating Tiger of Lightning
- The Cunning Crocodile of Oil
- The Benevolent Stag of Steam
- The Calamitous Vulture of Smoke
Unfortunately, the Blessed Continent has recently lost almost every spirit that watched over it, in an event called the Holocaust of the Gods. The land is rusting and breaking apart. Rivers run with oil. The crystalline conduits in the ground darken and crack. Cities that once were great are now in crumbling disrepair after only a few years of neglect, and many millions have died. Whether the Six Virtuous Beasts remain is unknown.
The People of the Splinter
The people of the Splinter are descendant from those who settled there in the First Age. Most of them are ordinary folk, similar to those of the Blessed Isle, the North, and the Northwest. The most common language is Imperial, a tongue similar to High Realm, with some savants still capable of speaking Old Realm (which they refer to as the language of the “World Before”).
As in Creation, there are some whose awakened essence makes them powerful figures:
- Some mortals (and others) become Technologists – science-sorcerers who invoke the ancient Protocols and call the body of the Maker to perform miracles, or who undertake lengthy Alchemical Workings that exceed the limits of science or reason.
- There are very few Dragon-Blooded. There were none on the Splinter when it was banished, and few mortals with strong elemental bloodlines. Those Dragon-Blooded who do arise here are similar in power to those in Creation, though they are often less strenuously trained in childhood and more in demand for their unusual skills later on.
- God-Blooded are fairly common. The gods here have sired and borne many children over the centuries. With the Holocaust of the Gods, this now seems as much a tragedy as a blessing.
- The Six Virtuous Beasts of Alchemy occasionally select Amalgam Champions who synergize with their power and moral attributes. The beasts personally appoint each of their Chosen as they move across the world. The appropriate alchemical element courses through the champion, empowering them in ways both physical and ephemeral. At a glance they look like ordinary mortals, but they might move like lightning, burn like steam, or have the strength of metal.
- Finally, the Celestial Aions are selected based on their birth time, the patterns of the gears in the sky, the timing of falling stars, the turning of the ages, and a myriad of unknown patterns. When the right clocks align, pure essence strikes from the sky, and an individual finds themselves unexpectedly coursing with essence. Each Aion is aligned with a particular sky-sign, of which there are thousands. Aions are much like the Exigents of Creation, each one having an idiosyncratic nature. Unlike the Exigents, however, Aions were not chosen by a particular god – merely by coincidence and timing.
Both the Continent and River Island are run by a set of ruling families, with names matching those from the Realm’s Great Houses and the Gentes of Lookshy. Dragon-Blooded are slightly more common in these lines, but they are far more likely to sport Amalgam Champions.
The players’ circle passes through a “shallow space” between worlds. Depending on the Storyteller’s preference, this shallow space may be similar to a Shadowlands, or it may be a portal hidden within the Wyld. They find themselves in the Splinter; effectively an alternate Creation. They have a little time to explore, to consider their options – but the world before them is clearly dying.
At some point in their exploration, the circle runs across a secret mission from the remnants of the Empire. Their goal: to destroy the Luminous Godkiller Weapon that murdered the gods, or to turn it against Lookshy and end the war. They don’t realize how catastrophic that decision could be for their pocket dimension. The end of River Island could mean the final death of all gods, and the end of their world.
The players’ circle would be safe if they could escape to their home world in time. However, the shallow space through which they passed means that there will always be a connection between the Splinter and Creation. It may also mean that the Splinter is returning to Creation after so many years. Dealing with the Weapon first may save millions of lives in Creation. Sealing the gate, if such a thing is possible, may doom those in the Splinter. There are tough choices to be made here.
- Shadowlands in Creation are created by death and suffering. If the “shallow space” between Creation and the Splinter is a similar thing, what kind of event might create it? What rules would govern the transition across the border?
- If the “shallow space” is located in the Wyld, what natives of the Wyld will guard it or seek to destroy it? How will this portal look and behave?
- Worse yet, what if the passage is found in the Labyrinth? What are the implications for the Machine God?
- There is an event in the past of the Splinter that mirrors the Fair Folk invasion. Who or what invaded? How were they turned back?
- If the Splinter is returning to Creation, is it because of the Weapon’s resonance with the elements of Creation, or is it because the Machine God itself is returning? How long would it take for the Splinter to return to Creation? Will it be weeks, months, years?
- Is it possible to move the Splinter “alongside” Creation as the Underworld is, or will it reappear as an island? What power might suffice to make the difference? How violent an event would its return be?
- How much will Creation’s future follow the Splinter’s history?