StarFall: Setting Info
phantom_belcher at yahoo.com
Fri Jun 11 10:26:52 PDT 2010
StarFall Universe Setting Information
The Reality Quake
The so-called Reality Quake of 2000 AD is the result of what some
physicists have called a "cosmic collision" in 11-dimensional
physics. (Author's Note: I'm not even going to *try* to pretend that
I know what is actually described at that level, as my knowledge of
physics only extends into the four dimensions that we can measure on
the macro scale.) While the quake was recorded by physicists the
world over, the news media also recorded it - or, at the very least,
they recorded its effects on the mundane world.
There wasn't any cosmic alignment of note. There was no special
phase of the moon, no solstice or equinox, and no particular time-
frame. It was the second Tuesday of August, at 2:18pm, Greenwich Mean
Time, when the first effects were noticed. All of a sudden, reports
were streaming in: tripodal machines that matched the description of
Orson Well's Martians in New Jersey; superhuman battles between people
straight out of the comic books in every major metropolis in the
world; aliens matching those of the Grays landing in Roswell, New
Mexico, asking for their crashed flying saucer back; things matching
Cthulhu and other monsters straight out of Lovecraft; dinosaurs
rampaging through the Great Plains, southern Siberia, and the
Serengeti. All this and more happened for more than an hour,
Then, just as suddenly as it started, it stopped. (The Grays never
did get their saucer back, and one family in Nebraska did mention they
liked the taste of the Triceratops the father had shot with his great-
grandfather's old lever-action Winchester.)
There were lingering effects from the quake, however. The laws of
physics had been subtly altered. The field of parapsychology came
into its own that day, as psionics and genetic mutations granting what
could only be called "superhuman" powers became evident. Magic, once
never taken seriously by the public, having been relegated to the
fantasy genre and "New Age" bookstores selling worthless trinkets,
also flared. Physicist Stephen Hawking even announced that he had
come up with scientific formulas that enabled people to break the
"light barrier"; engineers are still trying to figure out how to build
a faster-than-light drive for space probe.
Psionics and Super-Powers
The most notable and publicly known consequence of the Reality
Quake is the emergence of some individuals who have acquired what can
only be classified as super-powers.
Powers are divided into psionic and physical powers. Psionic
powers are those that stem from application so the mind: telepathy,
psychokinesis, weather control, etc. Physical powers are those that
derive from physical alterations to the body: size control, superhuman
strength, superhuman durability, shapeshifting, etc.
Some powers may have abilities that can be bot psionic and physical
in nature. For instance, a super with "sand powers" may have a body
composed entirely of sand, giving him superior durability, which would
be a physical power, but also have the ability to control any sand he
comes into contact with, which would be a psionic power.
Technological countermeasures have been developed to temporarily
neutralize a super's powers. Rumors of a neutralizer powerful enough
permanently neutralize a person's powers have abounded since the
temporary neutralizer was unveiled, but nothing has been confirmed.
The truth is that a permanent neutralizer DOES exist, but only at the
Tesla Institute (see "Mad and Weird Science", below). Some physical
powers, such as those that are the result of major physiological
changes (such as the super composed of sand in the above example)
*cannot* be neutralized. Normally, the neutralizer takes the form of
shackles which inhibit the super's control over the power; a
weaponized neutralizer that fires a cone of anti-psions out to sixty
feet is available to most big-city police departments SWAT divisions.
Biotechnology has advanced considerably since the Reality Quake,
due in no small part to studying the emerging superhuman population.
The main biotechnological areas are medical technology, electric
biological modification (biomods), genetic engineering, and cloning.
The largest advances in medical technology are in the development
of the diagnostic bed, the hibernation capsule, and numerous
pharmaceuticals. Of the various new drugs available, several require
The first drug is best known by is street name, Sizzle. Sizzle,
developed in secret by the United States Department of Defense, is
designed to affect a super by turning his powers against him. In
small doses, the effects are temporary, but incapacitating. Larger
doses have resulted in a super permanently "burning out" his powers,
and occasionally cardiac arrest. As can be expected, public reaction
to the drug's existence has been mixed; however, at present, the
drug's use has been restricted to require Presidential authorization.
This has not prevented various anti-super factions from illegally
obtaining their own stockpiles of it.
Another notable drug is 'Squelch'. Squelch was developed due to
the reactions against Sizzle's harmful side-effects. It is used to
suppress a super's powers without causing lasting damage. So far, its
use has been restricted to hospitals, prisons, and SWAT-ASTF forces;
the US FDA and similar agencies worldwide are debating whether to make
it available by prescription to the general public. Long-term effects
are unknown at present.
A third drug of note is known as Boost, but sometimes also called
Crash; the latter name is taken from the near-incapacitating
exhaustion that occurs after the drug wears off. It is a short-term
steroid intended to give the recipient superhuman strength,
durability, and reflexes. The effects are known to last about an hour
if inhaled as a gas or injected as a liquid; while available in pill
and powder forms, these take longer to "kick in", and aren't as
popular. Boost users are often known as "boosters" or "crashers".
Successive doses have diminishing returns on extending the duration of
the effects, and increased duration of the following exhaustion.
Biomod technology is still experimental, but many biomod test
subjects go on to enter the supers game, either as a hero or a
villain. It's estimated that about 5% of all supers are actually
biomods, and hence not subject to technological or pharmaceutical
countermeasures. The most common biomods are in superhuman strength
and durability, although superhuman agility and animal features are
also encountered in sizable numbers.
Biological modification through elective surgery is the most
successful method. In the last year, a number of plastic surgery
clinics in the United States, Europe, India, Hong Kong, and Japan have
begun offering "anthromods", grafting fur to skin (often made to match
the subject's natural hair color), larger or pointed ears, and claws
to hands and feet; many also have a dental surgeon on staff - sharp
teeth are often part of the anthromod package. (Furries love this.)
These biomods are not able to be inherited.
Less successful, but still encountered, are genetic biomods.
Through use of using an RNA retrovirus, changes can be made directly
to the body at the genetic level. This process is still highly
experimental, with an 89% fatality rate among volunteers - the body's
own immune system rejects the changes. The fact the losses aren't
closer to 99% is attributed to increased effectiveness in
The science of genetic engineering has progressed to the point
where people - primarily the rich and famous - are able to specify
which traits to give their children at or shortly after conception.
Same-sex couples eagerly await the time when the procedure is
inexpensive enough for everyone to benefit. Of all the new biotech
now available, this has me the fiercest opposition from religious
leaders around the world; ironically, this is one area where
conservative Christians and radical Muslims are in agreement.
Genetic engineering has been banned in the United States for the
past six years; those wishing for "customized" babies must travel to
Europe for the procedure.
The science of cloning has become the "black sheep" of science
following a proclamation by Pope Benedict XVI that clones do not have
souls. Pressure from conservatives have led to a virtual ban on human
cloning. Despite this, fast-growth tanks and the unexpected
resolution of the telomere loss problem have enabled scientists to
grow a clone to adulthood without the clone suffering from premature
Mad and Weird Science
Nikola Tesla is back, and his ideas, thanks to the infusion of
modern technology, while still considered "ahead of their time", are
now becoming practical. (*HOW* Tesla returned is still a mystery; all
he will confirm is that he took advantage of the Reality Quake. Even
more mysterious is that he remembers his entire life up to his death
in 1943, but only appears to be in his mid-40s at present.)
Tesla currently heads the Tesla Institute for Exploratory Sciences
and Engineering, a research institute in the San Francisco Bay area
which works to develop what has euphemistically been called "Mad
Science" by its more conservative detractors. Despite objections from
the Institute, several inventions have been impounded and declared
classified by several United States government agencies. As such, the
Tesla Institute has taken a rather adversarial position against
governments in general, and the United States government in
particular, although they've outwardly done nothing more than
publicize their information.
In addition, there are rumors floating around that the US
government - and likely other national governments - has opened up a
warehouse to store and contain dangerous artifacts. These rumors have
been fueled by a highly-publicized second FBI raid on the offices of
Steve Jackson Games, confiscating all information on their announced
_More From Warehouse 23_ supplement.
Tesla and his Institute are not the only people exploring
"unconventional" science and engineering. Others around the world
have been able to get devices which operate by means that appear to
defy the laws of physics. Not surprisingly, some of these devices
only appear to work for their inventors.
_Mythbusters_ is having a field day!
The Dark Arts
Magic can be defined as "The art, science, and practice of
manipulating ambient energies that exist outside the realm of
First and foremost, magic is an *Art*. No two magicians practice
their craft in exactly the same manner. Despite this, magic tends to
take one of two forms: "path-working" and "will-working".
Path-working is the classic idea of magic, with the magician
performing a ritual to achieve the desired effect; this is the most
common form of magic encountered. These rituals could be subtle - a
wave of a hand and the uttering of a single word - or elaborate - a
dozen people dancing naked around an open bonfire while others chant
in Creole and play drums.
Will-working, on the other hand, dispenses with the bells and
whistles, the pomp and circumstance, of path-working in favor of
focusing on manipulating magical energies through sheer force of
will. Very few will-workers are known to exist; those searching for
mystic knowledge are more likely to discover path-working instead.
Everyone has the potential to use magic. However, most people do
not believe in magic or are opposed to it on general principles. (The
latter is usually a result of a strict religious - usually
fundamentalist Christian - upbringing.) Because of this prejudice
against their craft, the majority of magicians live and operate on the
fringes of modern society.
"SWAT-ASTF" stands for "Special Weapons And Tactics - Anti-Super
Task Force". These are police officers operating in the larger cities
of the world trained in heavier weapons than the standard SWAT teams,
weapons designed to help subdue superhuman opponents. They have
access to military anti-material rifles, reloadable rocket launchers
(for some reason, the Russian RPG-7 is a common sight, even for US
SWAT teams), and power neutralizing restraints.
Despite the Reality Quake, current "mainstream" technology has
proceeded at the same pace as our "Real World" tech. SWAT-ASTF teams,
however, have access to slightly more advanced technology - when they
can afford them.
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