My gaming name is Ike. Welcome to my blog for my Victorian SF campaign. The idea here is to provide background information for the players and for interested strangers about that campaign setting. Might even get a couple of new players this way! Here’s the introduction, along with a more complete map of the world of alternate 1897 A.D.
The Realms and the Wilds constitute the entire world. The Realms are the “ relatively “ civilized parts of the world and the Wilds are … well, the uncivilized parts of the world. Roughly, the British Isles, Western Europe to the Don River, Central Europe south to the Bosporus, the Mediterranean Sea littoral east to the isle of Rhodes, Egypt and the Suez, China, Japan, and India, and parts of North America constitute The Realms and their dependencies. The balance of the world is referred to as “The Wilds” and are decidedly not civilized.
The Realms are governed by variations on the theme of monarchy, ranging from the absolutist government of the Tsars of the Rus to the collegial monarchy of the Italian States, which have no single executive authority, but rather a Committee of Three, selected by the Concilia de Italia to rule with the Council’s approval.
In culture, The Realms range from the stolid British and Scots to the excitable Arabs of Egypt; from the plain houses of Kent and York to the exotic palaces of the present Son of Heaven in Japan or his Imperial “cousin” who straddles the Turtle Throne of the Celestial Kingdom in B’jing.
It is 1897 A.D., and the world is a different place than your reading of history would have you believe. Heavier-than-air craft have never succeeded, but their leviathan cousins the great ships of the sky ply the airways carrying the passengers and goods of the six continents at the speed of an express locomotive train with the safety and comfort of an ocean liner. Enormous warships have never become practical, since they are entirely too vulnerable to the great warships of the skies. Armoured cruisers, some carrying a full battalion of marines, are the largest ships afloat. Beneath the seas, the nemos named for the captain of the Nautilus, a fanciful undersea ship in a story by Jules Verne carry on the battle for dominion of the seas. By solemn treaty – backed up by military force, intrigue and outright murder as necessary – the Realms have agreed to limit wars to The Wilds and to limit the objectives of war to the addition of further dependencies or the re-arrangement of the World Council mandates over the existing dependent states in and near The Wilds. There is war, but it never touches the homelands of the Great Realms, and only touches such of their subjects as venture to play what Brigadier Flashman once called The Great Game.
The World Council consists of one representative of each of the Great Realms of the world: the United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Canada; the Royal Federation of France; the Austro-Hungarian Empire; the Prussian Confederation; Imperial Rus; the Celestial Kingdom of Ch’in; the Italian States; and the Empire of Japan. These eight Great Realms have such a pre-eminance of military might such that no combination of the smaller Realms could possibly defeat the Council’s forces. The Council elects one of their number to preside over their meetings in modest chambers in one of the former palaces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire located in Bern, Helvetian Confederation. In those halls and meeting rooms are the affairs of the world decided.
While open warfare between or among the Great Realms is not permitted by the Council’s edicts, nonetheless Brigadier Flashman’s Great Game is played unremittingly among them. As the Game unfolds each year, the Great Realms seek the covert assistance of such of the Minor Realms as they believe will advance their purposes, which are in general to maintain the balance among the other Great Realms, while simultaneously increasing their own power, influence, and authority in the world.
This is the world in which you find yourself on this second day of January, 1897. Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of England, Scotland and Wales, Queen-Empress of India, Queen-Protector of Ireland, Sachem-Royal of Canada, still walks the halls of Windsor Castle. Many of the crowned heads of Europe are numbered amongst her grandchildren: Friedrich III Deutscher Kaiser und Konig im Preusen, Tsar Nicolas II of Rus, and the Empress-Consort of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to name only a few. The Divine Son of Heaven, Emperor Hirohito, has only recently succeeded to the throne of his ancestors, while the present Emperor astride the Turtle Throne of the Celestial Kingdom Zhao Pieng a former peasant once known as Sun Yat Sen has basked in the light of the Imperial Palaces within the Forbidden City for less than ten years. King Louis XXI has been pleased to offer the office of Premier of the French Parliement to one Viscount De Guise, whose policies in France’s African Dependencies when he was Minister of the Exterior convinced his party to nominate him in the recent elections in that Royal .. er .. Federated .. ahem .. in France. The Italian States’ Counsels of this trianneum are the King of Naples, Duke of Savoy and the Duke of Milan and as is customary, nothing much occurs there of which any note is taken.
Airships of the Imperial Airship Service criss-cross the world, lacing together the Imperial possessions and Dependencies, for it is literally true that the sun never sets on the British flag. Built in airship docks in England and Lower Scotland, these are the finest commercial airliners made today, bar none. Coupled with the auto-gyros, which shuttle passengers and ordinary freight to the proud IAS liners, produced in the Royal Federation by the Santos-Dumont factories, no other airliners in the world offer service which can equal let alone better the IAS for convenience, speed, and ease of passage. The auto-gyros (popularly, gyros) allow the great ships of the air to remain in their natural element, aloft in the skies, while passengers arrive and leave via the gyro landing decks build atop the main hull of each passenger liner. Likewise, the freight and mail carried by these wonderful aerial Juggernauts is shuttled to and from the ground stations by means of the omnipresent gyros.
Each of the other Great Realms has its own commercial and military air services, some owned privately and some by their respective monarchs or governments. In a like manner to the IAS, each commercial air line has schedules of passenger and freight movements, around the clock, from every principal city on the globe. The end result is a continuous cycle of airliners circling the globe, night and day, carrying men and goods from one end of the Earth to another. It is said by those who have been privileged to see the Earth from Britain’s Circum Terra the first and only successful station in space at a distance of 150 Imperial miles, they seem to be beads of light, strung out as if along wires crisscrossing the globe and each other.
At sea no less than in the air, the world’s commerce is carried in ships of great majesty and power. The merchant marine services of the Great Realms conduct the heavier part of the world’s maritime tonnage over the oceans and seas of the world, as they have done for millennia. And, men being men, likewise the Realms’ navies patrol their respective ocean domains, protective of their citizens and subject peoples and abrupt with those who would trespass upon the lands and peoples whom they protect.
Thus it is your choice to select which of the Great Realms in which your character was born and educated, thereby determining his or her knowledge of the Earth, of the mechanical arts, of the military arts, of the academic arts. Decide, too, which of the Great Realms you shall serve in the on-going contest of will and skill, undertaken to preserve the rule of each Realm’s ruler and to enhance His or Her power over the peoples of the Earth. By force of arms, by skills mechanical, by academic lore; by these tools are the interests of the Realms advanced. Read on, and choose your Destiny.
Welcome then, stranger, to this world of Earth and to …
THE GREAT GAME.