“So, what you’re trying to tell me is that you’re not an elf?”
“And this isn’t the North Pole?”
-“It could be!”
“So… Sargent, have you been trying to mess with my goddamn mind this whole time?”
*”I’m in the fog as much as you are, Major! This ain’t Earth, it’s aliens. Roswell and all! Aliens!”
“Get a grip of yourself. This, err, non-elf can help us. Now, isn’t that right?”
Author’s Note: Two instances of New Jersey in the multiverse. Why? Because it ain’t as bad as everyone likes to say! Also, it’s a little smaller this time. Look out for next time, it’s a big one!
The result of trade and settling vessels from House Cannith getting off course and finding themselves with Minoi of Krynn. But they aren’t alone, a small piece of Terra has found itself here as well. The artificers of Khorvaire and the Terrans are by all means new to this, but the Gnomes have had their go here for a while. If the Twin Desert Winds worlds are one extreme, Metallum is another. The climate of this moon world is frigid, temperatures pushing the denizens to their edge. This push for survival has turned comfort into living necessities. The harsh climate also has its share of strange beasts and curious locals, such as yeti-like snow beasts and multiple legged seals. However, the Titan’s gifts of steam have helped push the limits of the world, improving conditions and helping to accelerate technical advancement in relative solitude.
The Cannith Outposts were an ambitious project, but with an ulterior motive. While the other Dragonmarked Houses of Eberron have been more willing to move past their Last War activities, many in Cannith were not. Within the outposts, new forges were being constructed thanks to a mix of bountiful resources, stolen artifacts and obscure arcana. Baron Merrix d’Cannith himself has given secret orders, blessings and instructions on such matters. Within a year or landing, a new one was operational and thus new warforged were created. These new creations did not have the same purpose as their Last War counterparts. While most were given service or guard duties, others were simply idle. In the case of the last grouping, many started to go mad from a lack of purpose. Ironically, these warforged proved more servile than those on their origin world. “The Crazies” were later repurposed for scouting and reconnaissance missions through the brutal tundra. The discovery of snow monsters was mostly due to these expendable troops. Another discovery proved far more advantageous, a lost colony now filled with frozen undead. The so-called “warmth seekers” were heat stealing monsters that the warforged proved immune to. For most Outposts, these proved the least of their worries. However, Outpost 01 has made a terrifying discovery. It’s an alien life that crashed onto this world through an ornate jammer unlike anything seen before. Said life looks terribly mutated and the victim of some kind of strange “virus” that devours the host and reproduces something… different. 01 has fallen silent for several days. This expedition crew is the only one to feature members outside of House Cannith. In fact, House Vadalis of the Eldeen Reaches has a strong presence here. Other houses were more indirectly involved in the project, like Kundarak for project financing and Orien for travel assistance. Both of which were stationed on their respective home world.
Whimsy Forge has had a far easier time than the Outposts, reaching Metallum 7 years before the Cannith Outposts. This emerging society has all the workings of a Minoi establishment. Their high-class flying ships, called “Dirigibles”, operate on the mystical steam that comes from the Titan. Plus, many of the threats of Metallum aren’t even airborne, making the lives of the gnomes that much easier. From the minerals and supplies within the world, they have cut and polishes all means of gems and jewelry. Due to the remote nature of their land, trade is currently minimal. However, Arcanes who have become interested in the small nation have begun to invest. True to the nature of the Tinker Gnome, there are often faults in their creations. For a savage world like Metallum, this can be especially taxing. More than once, steam based heaters and protective shields have broken down. And thus, the overwhelming eternal winter of the world assaults Whimsy Forge, resulting in expensive damage and numerous casualties. The return of autognomes has mostly brought back stability. Later interactions with warforged have also modified their designs, even resulting of fusions between the two. For the Eberron explorers, this is horrifying as they know deeper truths. For the gnomes, this is fascinating science and magic in play. However, these hybrid forged hate the water for some strange reason. Thus, the gnomes themselves have to explore breaks in the ice to reveal seas below. It is here where they found a delicacy in the six-limbed “star seals”.
Ice Block has a very strange installation that existed before the joint unity between Khorvaire humans and Minoi, the Fort Camden. This military installation actually hails from Terra circa 1948 in the city of Camden within the state of New Jersey, United States of America. 5 years after The Philadelphia Experiment concluded, a next step was carried within state borders. A secret installation beyond and below naval harbors dealt with the workings of reality itself. Needless to say, for the team of scientists and the personnel stationed alongside them, things worked… too well. After exiting their facility, they noticed things had shifted to winter, no tundra. Confused, they assumed that the entire building teleported to Antarctica. Nothing could be traced or recorded, all radar was jammed. Surely, it was a success! The base maintained a state of emergency for over a year, as everyone worked tirelessly to cope with the sudden shift into a frigid wasteland. After nearly 1 year of survival in the strange conditions, nearly 1/4 of those stationed in Fort Camden had perished. They had since come to the conclusion that they were no longer on Earth, but some alien world. “Code Grover Mills” was declared, since the incident transpired 10 years after the infamous Radio Broadcast of “The War of the Worlds”.
But, a curious salvation arrived to Fort Camden, the Wing Ship of Sharn. The people of the fort couldn’t believe their eyes, a space ship! “ALIENS!”, they thought. And by all means, they were correct. After initial friction, the “Corvarians” and “Elves”, as the Cannith crew and gnomes were called, made peace with the Terran team. Thanks to the efforts of those stationed in Fort Camdem and the “aliens”, a viable city has been built around them. The Cloaking Technology from the Philadelphia Experiment became fully realized, allowing warmth to be contained within a city dome. The culture of Ice Block predominantly reflects the Post-World War II United States, with aspects of the “alien cultures” from Krynn and Eberron. However, given how most of the spelljammers sent to Metallum were majority civilian, few balked to assimilating to what they considered an alien culture. However, accepting a foreign deity was a bit much to contend with. For 3 years, the quirky blend of Terra with bits of Krynn and Eberron has built up. Despite being a frigid plain, Metallum was indeed rich in resources. The mix of arcana and 20th century engineering allowed for a stable settlement to go up in little time. Not only is this reflected in the incredible defenses, but also the amalgam architecture. Even with the cooperation, many of the “aliens” are not fully comfortable with their shared partners, many wishing to express their own beliefs more openly without criticism. Gnomes reverent to Reorx are especially irritated. Likewise, many are baffled by Terran insistence on referring to their abilities as “Psionics” and magic-users as “Psykers”, as many believe that only evil displays of power are magic. In fairness, the Earthly Aliens likewise confound the spelljammer crews through their strange technological wonders.
Star seals aren’t just enjoyed by gnomes. Polar ursin appear to be the natives of this world. While their technical creations are far more limited, they have found that gnome also tastes good. The connected territories of Urso remain their grounds, where few dare to tread. Much like their cousins in Destiny Expanse, they are quite xenophobic. However, they lack the charming and distant qualities of said cousins. Many are openly hostile towards the Khorvaire humans and Minoi, likewise Terrans. However, their lands are well away from Whimsy Forge, the Outposts or the Terran Ice Block. The water below the ice seems impossible to penetrate in all except dangerous thin regions. In these thin regions, aquatic horrors lurk for prey. But beyond that, only the most powerful of machinery is needed by the “outsiders”. For the Ursin, they simply need a shaman present, as they can magically slip through the ice and even breath in the water. This allows them to fish with a distinct finesse. Some enchanted help create holes for others to gain fish “the old fashioned way”. Curious power doesn’t cease there, as funerary rites are cast upon a body. As the soul departs, the energies of a priest cause the body to break down into fracturing ice and drifting snow to be one with the world. Despite inherent hostilities, some have taken up a role of trader to the chagrin of others. However, some clans have become stagnant for their rigid adherence to tradition. Others have sparsely incorporated more than food goods into their daily plans. Rogues and exiles have found themselves being begrudgingly welcoming, lest they suffer alone in a cruel wasteland of cold.
All of these dominions hold their own fantastic secrets. For the Outposts, they have a hidden goal that has little to do with this moon. In fact, it has a lot to do with Noire. The House Outpost researchers and residents despise the corruptions of Eberron culture on Noire, seeking to build a super weapon capable of large-scale damage. An ensuing war could even destroy Noire as a whole. Meanwhile, the Minoi want to outdo their company in all means of creation. Should they discover the super weapon, they’ll no doubt try to copy it. Doing so could viably blow up Metallum by accident. Ice Block wants, more than anything, to return home. The people within the fort tolerate their alien neighbors, but have no desire to build a nation with them in the long term. Should a gate be discovered, they’ll do what they can to wrangle help with it. And should a gate open to Terra, they’ll be quick to leave. The Polar Ursin, while distant, are plotting a way to remove the other “belligerents” who occupy the land. Drawing from elemental forces, they’re learning ways to rob other creatures of their bodily heat. However, this risks creating more frozen undead that lumber about.
While most of these settlers (or the locals) aren’t intentionally antagonistic or evil, one menace has made itself at home. A crashed vessel several Km away from Outpost 02 has unearthed something of a metallic virus all its own. But this is no literal plague, but something evil in its own right. The Clockwork Horrors were not a part of Steamspace until recently and completely by accident. The vessel they ultimately overtook was destined for another sphere, but the mage within the still active helm looked for a desperate escape to throw off their pursuers. Through the fiery jumping gates the ship leapt, as their infested chaser ultimately caught up and crashed. Somehow, both vessels fell through the wrong star doorway into Steamspace, where they were left adrift for months. The mortal crew of the victim ship died out in due time, as the Horrors cannibalized both ships into a suitable one all their own. However, it proved insufficient as they crashed into Metallum. But, the metal vein rich world proved to be in their benefit, even with the destructive cold against them. A current project of the corrupt worshipers of Primus is a Planar Gate being constructed to Mechanus. However, a few rogue Ursin mystics have tried to tamper with it from afar. This has done untold damage that few are aware yet. When the portal gate is complete, it will instead open a rift to the level of Stygia in Baator, unleashing an infernal incursion instead. For the time being, only low rank Clockwork Horrors work feverishly to establish a beacon as well as create their portal. Their presence is known by more than just terrified Steamspace denizens. The Sheens are also aware of this menace, seeing if they can’t utilize the Baator portal alteration to their own benefit due to their neutrality pact. Should all three forces descend upon Metallum, it is doomed.
On the other moons and The Steam Titan
Victoriana is full of oddities all its own. The fair folk of Faeriespace have found strange reality rifts that grant them access to wildspace reaches just outside of the world. How does this work? The fey aren’t remotely sure, perhaps the result of some tear through space and time. Said wound has healed over the millennia, but the fey have slowly changed it into a stable instant jump-way between worlds. Consider it like the Phlogiston, if travel was instantaneous. Those attempting to research the phenomenon suggest that the mysterious visitors are not from Faeriespace, but some other plane of existence and have set a “coterminous door” with Victoriana somehow. Upon hearing of the disappearance of the “space boggle”, their reception to this piece of the sphere became less than pleased. Some are more than willing to interact with the New Albion colonists, while others just wish to explore the Crystal Sphere on their own terms. The fey have contended with the Gangly better than the colonists, even though conflict has still bubbled due to perception of the fair folk as outsiders. More radical Gangly people lump them in with the New Albions as adversaries to one day contend with. As for New Albion, it has progressed leaps and bounds thanks to the bountiful offerings of the mother world that the moon orbits. While crude pseudo jammers were used to get here, more technological “space ships” have been forged thanks to the glories of steam based innovations. As of right now, an Inventor’s Exposition shall be held at a magnificent building resembling a grand hall on Terra. The ship shall be showcased there, to the wonder of many and the grim saboteur opportunity of a few.
Noire, a world cloaked in darkness and hampered by endless misery. The light has always been a source of hope for an otherwise dark world. Within the three of the primary societies, that those who want safety pledge fealty to, there is growing resistance. The corruption and rampant misuse of authority has not been unnoticed. However, reactions against it must be subtle. Small cells of the disaffected have formed to subvert and toy with the plans of their oppressive leadership. This rarely involves violence, but typically involves foiling plans that have been decades in the making. In time, they might build enough strength in shadow, if they aren’t found out first. Powerful magitech has the capability of falling into their hands, which should help turn the tides to some extent. But even then, such a battle against Fort Umbralspike, The Abbey and Absolute Unity would prove to be fought up a figurative hill. Part of their slow hill is weeding out those who would seek to create a new horrible society from their actions. While fighting for their rights, their side also vies for morality and reason. None the less, they fear having to rebuild an already broken world, one rife with things beyond their control.
Destiny Expanse is a complicated place, mostly filled with cultures familiar with each other already. Save for settlers from Maztica, the other outside cultures hail from Mystaraspace and from within Steamspace. Both old and new issues arise. Destiny Expanse has had visitors time and again, as well as bloody tales from its local history. The Lupines alone are guilty of pushing out other tribes native to the moon, with a history of extreme violence. While repentant over such past sins, few will admit to their carnage. But, the souls of the lost linger on throughout the moon. Hauntings in sand and dirt swept burial grounds and old village ruins are commonplace. As such, they’re often avoided at night. Each culture speaks of dark spirits and foul demons to some degree, with many finding ways of emerging upon the new world, while old terrors continue to frighten as well. Gradual threats of curses and dark powers have caused conflicts between the territories to simmer down, as the land has begun to react poorly to all the violence that has tainted it. Even Plains Spats or Plains conflicts, often between ranchers, have ignited turmoil and violence all their own. The especially guilty Lupines live in fear of their sins, well aware that they may have blighted the spirits of the world itself. Perhaps its their doing that lead to a strange circumstance upon Destiny Expanse; the dead don’t tend to stay that way. Many return in search of revenge, while others seek to indulge what they failed to in life. Entities thought to be “mythology” by others have found their way to the world, either brought in through force of belief or traveling as well. These could range from spirit guardians to horrors that dwell in nightmares to the indescribably surreal. Some look like dragons, while others look like massive heads with feet and wings.
Alza’um has its own dark secret. Many of the ratfolk were once humans, gnomes and dwarves that were afflicted by a terrible curse. Their origins lie in explorers and innovators building downward, meeting rat creatures soon after. Conflicts brewed and reprehensible actions took place, causing the darkest of their shamanic orders to step forth. A curse was placed upon the settlers, using magic that originates from the skinwalkers and “were witches” of Antorek, the very same magic used in Destiny Expanse. And given how rat, bear and wolf strains are the most common; it should be no shock that Antorek’s curse began with lycanthropy on some other world. The following day, many awoke to see themselves changed or changing, as panic broke out. Several other things in the city broke too, as many even degenerated into large sized rats. These beasts of burden are the current pack animals where mechanical wonders won’t cut it. However, this is a secret they like to keep. Should one learn the truth and they weren’t meant to? Expect to be tracked down and given “the gift”. As it is, most Darklands drow near the warrens were converted by exiled dark priests, creating the “drow bred”. Some actively infiltrate for their shadow cult, while others just want to live a new life. Newer generations mix aspects of the warrens with their descendants; braiding fur, shaving it all off, Bashar fashions, drow shadow ways, etc.
The Enlightened have slowly become aware of disconcerting drama within their small world. Many have begun to argue how directly involved they should become in not just fighting crimes and the wicked, but everyday life. Many within the citadel fear that they’d become a security state, always providing a fearful and constant watch. Others argue that without a proper push forward, their numbers will constantly be spent and pushed to their limits. For the more authoritative, they’ve grown tired of issues constantly emerging, due to a lack of preventative measures to ensure that they would end. Many begin to suspect something strange after learning of a nest of bickering rats beneath a quirky village. Likewise stories of twisted technocratic cults and corrupted warrens latch onto said tales as well. Likewise, growing presence of shadows within Al’Bashar City has caused many to investigate, only to be “lost” while in the Darklands below. As it is, a darkness has begun to hover over the city and desires to fully consume it in due time. The Enlightened of the Citadel fear that their final tests will be nigh, ones that shall challenge their very future.
Image Credit: Historic Archive – Roswell photo; florent lebrun – snow landscape, Spelljammer Blog/TSR – Dirigible; Matthias Schmidt – Gas Giant Substance