Steamspace, that which holds the greatest minds in the greatest crystal sphere. Should you seek glory, invention and the power of a new age; Steamspace is for you. Consult with the Steam Corps Recruitment Agency, found next to Lorenzo’s Museum of Wildspace Weaponry.
– From a flyer posted around The Rock of Bral
Steamspace is an odd land of many extremes. There are miniature worlds with diametrically opposed harsh weather. There are havens for artifice, but one of the most hostile refuges of nature found in the multiverse. Ideal landscapes for urban empire exist in some realms, such as the Moon of Victoriana or the world of Valiance. For the rest, it is a testament to ingenuity and innovation; powers of arcane engineering battling the deadliest that nature and the supernatural have to offer. Beyond deserts of sand, icy tundras, wastelands under darkness and strange seas of green; there are other perils too. Shadowy drow conspire while ancient elves channel forces of the light. Battles still wage for the powers of lightning to some day overthrow dependence on steam. Many mysteries line the sphere too. The most advanced of the people here are actually ancient tribes that once belonged to a unified world, long blown up by mysterious tragedies. Numerous societies hoard secrets on the creation of deadly weaponry that could risk annihilation of whole regions. Many hide the literal deeper layers and depths to even their cities. None the less, this does not dissuade brave souls looking to reinvent both themselves and reality around them. Should success come to all and peace ring true, then there is hope for these wondrous creations to spread to the multiverse.
Author’s Note: One more for Steamspace! Yes, I realize that Bashar and Destiny Expanse are getting a fair bit here. Beyond that, references to silent horror cinema, Stephen King and various dystopian fiction. Just because I’m not letting this get too dark doesn’t mean I won’t stuff plenty in there.
Part Spelljammer, Part Cloud, Part Moon World. Tied to Ahmed’s Rest in the Moon World of Bashar, this is something of an experimental vessel for Djinn that have come to visit and observe Steamspace. The Nimbus itself is a ship created out of air and moisture. It has been fastened into something of a cloud that proves safe to travel. The massive cloud flies like a comet around various worlds and moons with few chances to stop. And should it come to a pause, it’ll often drift itself near another body to orbit along with. It’s a major mystery to most mortals of Steamspace, but this is mostly because it is rare for the Nimbus genies to directly interact with such peoples and their problems. The sight of the massive cosmic cloud proves rather frightening for many a ship. But, much like a cloud, everything can temporarily break up into simple vapor to avoid damage. And a mere moment later, it reforms to normal as if nothing happened. But, surely there is more to this than just some cloud?
Certainly. Inside of the cloud-like casing is something between a ship and a city. While no City of Brass, it stands as a testament to genie magic. Moving buildings shift akin to clockwork, maneuvering and changing position is a celestial dance. There are no vehicles from within, as the entirety is its own shifting vehicle. Mechanisms that operate the flying fortress range from raw magic to physical operation at the hands of genies or gen touched giants. The powerful giants are also typical residents of this space. While not as powerful, they embody sheer physical force that makes them the defensive arm of the Nimbus. Many have lent their talents to repair and upkeep the city, where strength and structure are most needed. Like many giants associated with the sky or clouds, these giants prove intelligent in other matters too. However, many are narrow minded towards various trades and crafts related to the cloudy city. The Djinn themselves are far less surly and are more willing to deal with outsiders. As one of the purposes of Nimble Nimbus was studying, so too do they wish to learn all that Steamspace has to offer. Many scholars within Nimbus have taken to recovering information of the scattered Mechanist tribes before their home was shattered. So far, much has been erased, especially details of the cataclysm. Non-native creatures have been allocated more stable bubbles that are livable and breathable. They are descendants of djinn servants.
But, how could such a realm come to be? What of the Elemental Air? Within the Inner Plane, many Djinn desired to explore and capture the wonders of space beyond the planes. After much debate and rejection, crews were prepared to explore what could lie beyond the elements as they were known. The cold reaches of wildspace alone have a strange relationship with air. And thus, an experiment was put to the test. The majority of them failed, save for the one known as Nimble Nimbus. Thanks to the discovery of the Steam Titan gas giant, their purpose was even further renewed, as they sought to protect and observe all things around it This lead to the enlightenment that helped to forge Ahmed’s order within one of the moon worlds. Likewise, an overall mission has been to ensure that Steam Titan remains stable and satisfied. Should the world fall into peril, this new existence and purpose would also risks end. Their contact with the Elemental Plane of Air proper has been somewhat infrequent, but not rare enough to risk ties with their roots. Some have helped to establish portals to trade out Djinn either incapable of continuing the effort or simply losing interest. Likewise, those eager to learn this new experience will offer to trade with an existing crew member.
All of this probably paints this as a society of pacifists and pushovers. That is quite false. The djinns and their associates have mobilized their vessel for defense against intruders and attackers. Creatures that attempt to invade may find themselves falling through regular cloud moisture, likely falling into the void of space or pulled to a gravitational demise. Beyond that, currents of electricity can wrap around and surge to build a lightning cage. Arcing bolts can likewise shoot out and fire towards any enemies within range. In an essence, if Nimbus is readied for conflict, it becomes something of a roaming giant storm. While this is often sanctioned by powerful genies, it’s possible for this to activate if enough less powerful djinn and gen giants become angry or upset at a target. The sheer force of emotion can direct an electrical attack against them.
The Nimbus knows a secret that no others shall dare find out, lest they get eradicated as do the djinn. The Nimbus accidentally descended upon Steam Titan itself. Normally, this is of no issue, as most of the inhabitants can handle the general atmosphere and surroundings. However, the mobile territory uncovered that an ancient race of humans still live in this sphere, far older than the Mechanist tribesmen. These so-called “Originators” were all legions of the undead, mummified by the world’s environment. Within their “Vulcanized Stronghold”, they hover while keeping an active watch upon the greater sphere. Their subordinates already dot forgotten lands and ruined remains across the moons. The djinn and their followers were quickly caught by these living dead sorcerers. Acknowledging their own power and usefulness, the Nimbus and all within it made a secrecy pact in exchange for peaceful departure from the world. Now the Nimbus residents actively dissuade others from visiting the dangerous steam planet. As for the strange undead, who were they?
Dead Lands and Deader Kingdoms
Steamspace has had its share of olden empires and ancient lands. Many of their curses still linger to this day. This is apparent upon numerous moons of Steam Titan like Bashar, Metallum and Noire; as well as the eternal wasteland that is Phantasmagoria. Hints of attempts can be seen in Primigenial and others, but rate of success greatly varies. None the less, certain grounds just should not be transgressed or trespassed. It’s said the very land itself went sour. Those who dare to bury the dead there are likely to see them again, back with vengeful anger. Destiny Expanse harbors this dark truth especially, resulting in the dead quickly being prepared in consecrated ground or quickly cremated. This explains the vast amount of roaming dead beyond civilization or in particularly ravaged settlements.
Steam Titan was once home to a great civilization that orbited around the central world. On each of the moons was a different civilization that belonged to an ancient people known only as “The Originators”. What has been learned is that they prayed to a mighty power who resided in Steam Titan, one who ironically left the people to a lowly demise after another calling grabbed the deity. Had this been avoided somehow, the Originators would have expanded to the other worlds and perhaps outside of their Crystal Sphere. But, in their abandonment, they fractured and fell. The various Moon Worlds vied for sovereignty and attempted to survive as independent states. Meanwhile, numerous more technically inclined were sick of the abuse they suffered. In their eyes, they were being stifled by societies that failed to understand them. As such, they took to the stars to start anew, leaving the Originators to atrophy in stagnation. And do that they did, as each of their states fell one by one under hardship and strain. It is said that the Mechanist tribes broke off over hundreds of years before they flourished and eventually fell. Thus, the ruins dotting the moon worlds are far fresher than many suspect. The Originators’ knowledge of The Spelljammer brought them to the stars, after being a civilization so dependent on adapting their environments to their needs. Impressive stonework and later steel brought rise to powerful looking monoliths guarding equally commanding structures. Some of these wonders event towered well into a moon’s equivalent sky. Little is known as to why the majority of the Mechanist ancestors perished. However, ruins remain and plenty of ominous secrets as well.
What impacts have the Originators left? For starters, many of the moon worlds were ongoing projects. The deserts on both Destiny Expanse and Bashar were meant to be temporary. The former was more built up and terraformed, the latter was more sparsely touched with a greater focus on empire building above morphing land. One trait connects them, literally, in the form of the green watery streams. Imported water took a distinct tint upon touching the dirt and sands of the twin moons, with a leyline creating a cosmic river that could manifest between them. For all the efforts to make it livable, Victoriana was mostly used as a center for agriculture, as far as the ruins can spell out. Metallum was a world mined for its deep riches, with means of even replicated the resources. Old mine tunnels and digging sites exist to some capacity. Noire was a place of strange magic, where the forces of reality were toyed with. A specialty is messing with star light and the dark void beyond it. Strange plants quickly took to either source, as did glowing fungi. While Steam Titan was the seat of a spanning power, each world had its own culture. Bashar stood for sheer defense and might, Victoriana for growth and sustenance, Metallum for minerals and ore, Destiny Expanse for experimentation with the world and Noire to play with light and dark. What this revived husks of these people want can be guessed. Currently, their numbers lurk to plot for a revived empire. Others were left behind, shambling corpses and wayward souls.
Bashar is littered with sprawling remains of cities and countless more tombs. No one who lives upon the moon world now is sure of how they got there. However, what is known is that they are deeply cursed. These tombs hold the heraldry and treasury of many kings. However, ancient prayers and transcriptions have ensured that these sacred places remain protected. Animated guardians consisting of statues, sand, stone and more arise to attack those who trespass or transgress. Should this not be enough, foul plagues are awakened through vermin and deathly smog alike. The dead themselves return to the world in vengeance, should the interloper still not need a message. A whole necropolis can awaken and retaliate, should the matter be delicate enough. Bashar is far from the only moon to contend with these treasure hunting tomb robbers and overly curious explorers. Others have seen the wrath of dead kings upon the others as well. Each imperial state carries its own motifs. Burial grounds and spirit gates upon Destiny Expanse, underground cyclopean depths in Metallum, scattered wasteland ruins upon Noire and haunted village/castle remnants in Victoriana. First spotted in the town of Bell-Forge within the Victoriana Province of Dunstel, ghosts have begun to manifest in steam itself!
In the case of Victoriana, one creeping ghoulish creep has made their way from another Sphere to bring new torments. Some of the ghost towns are indeed old, while others fell more recently… And in the case of one monster, very recently. A vampire stowed away on a Spelljammer commanded by heroes questing to stop another foe, T’laan of Darkspace. While they succeeded in their quest and banished the villain, each of them fell gravely ill. Search parties gathered, only to find drained crews that risked returning as vampire spawn. The vessel was cleansed, but one smaller ship was missing. In truth, the vampire got away and joined onto another vessel bound for Steamspace. The Baron Orlok, that is what his casket said. Few batted the strange container any mind, before they too fell to strange plague. With the aid of a crazed contractor, the coffin was shipped to a warehouse just outside of the marshlands in Victoriana. Emboldened by the foul undeath that lingers deep in the swamps, the vampire returns to seek new prey deeper in the cities.
Dark magics and darker spirits have even inspired a corrupted physician to balance life and death in his own way. His solution is dreaming, particularly the magic of the Antediluvian Courts of the Sylvan Predecessors. Their eldritch dream power can stabilize and preserve the dead, allowing them to continue in a resting undeath. As long as the host is locked in a trance like state. However, all who awaken rapidly deteriorate into nothing but dust. One victim best serves his agenda, an undead sleepwalker named Cesare. The pallid wanderer carries out kidnappings, murders and more. He is a deeply tortured soul, a mere puppet for a mad doctor. Much of him yearns to move onto the realms of the dead. For the time being, he doesn’t know how to move onto an afterlife, he doesn’t know how to wake up. Other worlds have their own dark connections, but the grim energies mixed with existent leylines and the incredible power of the Steam Titan world make the perfect storm. Many seek to copy the Cabinet of Dreams that allows for Cesare. None have succeeded, nor have they established the same reality-bending dream reality that bends around the undead host. For now, the puppet and his master await their next showcase of horrors. A traveling carnival act is how they preserve a dark masquerade.
The Clockwork Corsairs
Outsiders, misfits and oddities gathered into a life of piracy. The corsairs add another chapter to the history of Bashar. While much of the world’s history owes itself to Realmspace, the Corsairs are rooted in the corrupt Hagiarchy of Hule from the nation of Mystara. The forces of The Master had learned more of the Spelljammer from both downing Alphatian airships and estranged derelicts detected by various Holy Men of Hule. The scavenged airships, alongside holy prayer, allowed crews to gather all they could from the unprepared ships. By 1000 AC, the Hagiarchy had its first functional “Space Jammers” ready to explore the worlds beyond, complete with Holy Men ensuring air and heat. However, within their ranks were secret defectors to rebellion efforts, one of many doomed to be suppressed and put down. But in one rare blunder, salvation for many refugees. A joint effort between a party of noble “brigands” united with a tribe of Rakasta, suppressed civilians and oppressed Sindhi and neighboring populations. The raid of the ship compound took the guards by shock, as well as the stationed clerics. A traitor was among them, but it was too late. The ships were overtaken and hijacked. As responsible parties were sought out, the ships themselves leapt out of Mystaraspace, not quite prepared for the anguish that space would grant.
Heretical priests and mages scrambled and squabbled to get past the airless and cold void. Many refugees perished before a backfiring spell shunted them into a star and into the flow. The caravans witnessed an incredible array of colors, well aware that new perils replaced Hule. Within a new Sphere, they discovered a desert world not unlike what they have previously known in Hule. This was Bashar. This so-called Bashar stood as an oddity to them. It was somewhat theocratic, with a pantheon that incorporated Gond into something otherwise Zakharan. However, there was no Supreme Holy Man nor fanatical zealot dictator. Instead coin and innovation reign supreme. Merchant families command power through trade alliances and high artifice. For the caravans, this closer resembled a hybrid of Ylaruam and Serraine, with bits of Rockhome. For some, it was a new opportunity to reinvent one’s self. They took to the emerging city or one of several smaller villages. While little has been said of these struggling towns in the desert, all have managed to cope in their own way thanks to some secrets of the Huleans as well as a few Known Worlders. One colony proclaims to be rebuilding a society matching what they imagine Hule to have been like before The Master rose to power. In many ways, it isn’t unlike current Ylaruam.
However, not all integrated into the efforts of the other peoples around them. Many enjoyed their newfound freedom and saw issues in the societies of Bashar, perhaps even Ahmed’s Rest. Many continued to the skies, sowing discord while raiding all who drop their guard. It was here that the Clockwork Corsairs got their start. Survivors of the original rebelling party became something of anarchistic icons and mad revelers. In time, more traditional crew structure took over as the pirates continued their influence along sands and skies, even the green waters to an extent. But, to avoid enacting total wrath of the merchant families, many have agreed to carry mercenary work and defense for hire. This ensures that these new pirate clans maintain some relations, while extorting various sources to avoid being a problem later. Due to airships and spelljammers being rare save for major trips through the desert or into wildspace, the pirate jammers need not worry about keeping their cannons pointed downward. In fact, Al Bashar City has readied for this, with numerous gun towers and ballistas readied to strike back against any overly ambitious pirates.
As for the corsair crews, many of them vary. Over the years, they have begun to integrate both Zakharans as well as outsiders who find themselves to the world moon. For the most part, Hulean Humans and Caracasta make up the majority of these crews. While the former have held no long grudges against the locals, the latter seem to have a growing distaste for the “Hutaakan” and Alza’um Ratlings. Likewise, Caracasta mercs and bounty hunters have become violently competitive with both native Gnolls and visiting Giff out for similar positions. Meanwhile, many Hulean pirates are lured by promises of Merchant Princes offering lives taken from them by their native home. But, for those who stay true to their free traveling ways, princes and hiring guilds are mere targets for gold and other riches. While attacks and schemes have been rarer recently, they have remained still calculated and clever for the most part. However, several operations of seemingly unconnected robberies have taken place as well. In the end, it’s all a means of advancing the crew. But, get caught? You’re dead to the crew, unless you break free on your own.
Their terror extends beyond Bashar, extending to Destiny Expanse as well. An energy well travels between both green seas on each moon. Only the Corsairs on the former and the Turtle Clan on the latter are fully aware. However, this leyline like formation requires a great attunement to water magic and divine power. Considering this is a rarity in such a region, view pirates are successful in the jump without just using a normal Spelljammer. But, for those who contain a water priest or mage, travel is a near instance… or mini-phlogiston of sorts. For the Turtle Clan, Bashar is much more viable for quick visitation. However, it’s the Enlightened that interest them the most. The few trips that the Corsair crews have made allowed them a quick escape when contending with irate princes or wrathful djinn. The result has sometimes brought back advanced firearms and other goodies with them. While more careful on the “foreign” realm, many can’t resist the joys of piracy. Beyond both moons, the Corsair spelljammers have helped to harass and toy with countless supply lines and caravans. With both desert moons in dire need of them, the capturing of horses and camels has thrown many travelers into jeopardy. Even with advanced in arcane technology, these beasts of burden remain essential. In many cases, the pirates will join black markets to sell extra pack animals to other territories. Victoriana has become a treasured target, due to its vast urban industrialization and many riches. Disgruntled workers and discarded orphans have found that the corsairs to provide a more welcoming home… though not exactly a better one. A favorite target has been an independent commerce guild run by rogue Neogi. However, their targets are starting to get wise to their antics.
Despite being legions of air and space pirates, they have helped push innovation in the short time they have been within Steamspace. While the somewhat new automatic carts are impressive, horse rider warriors recruited within the Corsairs have helped to conceptualize “mechanical horses”. Or rather, smaller versions of the carts that operate on two wheels, a sort of motorized cycling vehicle. However, non-mechanical velocopede crafts have proved far more economical to make in greater numbers. Hijacked factory towns and abandoned crafting studios have proved invaluable for both automated and foot-powered cycling crafts. However, the mechanized version strikes far more fear into anyone. However, while the machine whiney is impressive, the carts function poorly within thick sands. They operate much better on grassy fields and rocky plateaus. Proposals for looting the tank treads have been made, in effort to further prepare these land vehicles for desert travel. In the meantime, side-carts with mounted ballista and firearm docks and turrets have proved almost as useful.
Eight Leg Trader Company
This asteroid is a trade point for “reformed” Neogi merchants. It’s likely that this asteroid separated from the Mechanist Belt, now floating outside of the reach of Steam Titan and its Moons. By their own accord, they have severed ties with numerous clans in favor of a more isolated existence upon this Crystal Sphere. For 15 years, they have helped become a quirky staple in terms of bringing funds into Steamspace. While independent and not tethered to any larger merchant company or government, they have prided themselves on ensuring a monetary surplus and active trade flow through the sphere. The central Trading Post is just a single location, built on top of the semi-hollowed asteroid. They have likewise expanded to caravans, secured shop locales and more. In fact, Eight Leg has slowly emerged into something of a franchising guild. The Clan of Llikth’st has prided themselves of rigid self-sufficiency and separation from those around them. As such, they call their shots, run their shops and take little order from anyone around them.
But, what are their goods exactly? They excel in a wide variety, providing sources and home made creations worthy of acclaim. A primary show floor offers a traveler almost anything they could need. Beyond basic necessities of contending with wildspace, various luxury and imported goods have found there way to here as well. As this is no typical shop environment, the staff of the shop prefer that customers schedule appearances in advance. However, a smaller continuous shop is available for these non-private audiences. This contains most of the commodities of the show floor, but few of the exclusive items for more valuable patrons. And even then, extended floors for rare merchandise and artifacts are only available by invitation only. This privilege is mostly given out to the most treasured of supporters and established friends of those within the guild. Even active workers find themselves unworthy of such things. And such things are typically magical items and technical wonders of great prowess and strength. They’re mostly part of a private collection, but can be sold at the right place and time to the right valued audience. Those who befriend the head patron are sure to gain far more favor, but this doesn’t happen easily. Few can handle his personality or power alike.
In fact, a Clan Leader known to the masses as “Great T’iom” is hailed as something of a genius, as well as the company founder. The escaped Great Old neogi candidate has used all sorts of alchemy to sharpen his mind, while helping to improve his own mad creations. Fabric, meats, fuel, building material, homegrown plants, even basic equipment. If he can find a way to have it procured or created, it shall happen. It’s best not to challenge him, as his reactions range from a puffed chest of extreme confidence to great offense. This can result in him going out of his way to outdo competition, to the point of detriment, or enacting in spiteful Neogi fashion. Despite a mostly clean reputation, Great T’iom is not above retaliation. Many expect such a reaction due to racial stereotypes, regardless of whether or not this is deserved. Much like everyone else in the trading station though, a baseline assumption of respect is upheld. To those that the leader responds negatively to, he’ll often remind them of this. He’ll also excuse his behavior on the “crankiness of age”. But in truth, his age is locked in mystery. While the notion of reformed Neogi is a noble one worthy of a story, one can’t entirely buy it. Many of the spider-like creatures have flocked to this company as a chance of reformation and betterment. However, it’s run by a seedy underbelly.
Although more minor, the company has made a deal with the scam-loving clan of Ssylkix to peddle dubiously obtained silk garments as well as other questionably obtained goods. There are also sections of the carved asteroid well off-limits to majority of the hired hands and even trusted allies. In truth, these sequestered chambers have been magically sealed off to keep a dirty secret away; a compound of slave labor. Great T’iom has always been a fraud, secretly utilizing shuttled work forces and coveted technologies for manufacturing, agriculture and more. The compound has alchemical laboratories for the treating and altering of meat, even including from slave bodies. This butchered meat has been a viable part of another alchemical process, one that has greatly extended Great T’iom’s own life. While he has forgotten his age, he’s likely at least 100 years old. While most mentally degenerate at a certain point, his use of alchemy and imported dark magics must account for something. And on the subject of strange magic, many of the secretly shuttled goods are sought after magical artifacts. While Great T’iom is far from immortality or deification, he still desires to unlock secrets of power. Meddling with necromancy has potentially set him on a secret path to undeath though, potentially forsaking numerous taboos that other Neogi might have held. He has heard of the Undead Old Masters, those who subvert the challenges of becoming a Great Old Master. Many of these dark magics have also brainwashed slaves into a docile work force. While Neogi are no strangers to use techniques, his sorcerous skills could be sought after by jealous rivals if knowledge got out.
The mighty figurehead is not alone though. Joining him is a cadre of shadowy characters to ensure the stability of the trading company. The first and most important to him is Vrioraxa, a Neogi Cleric of Kiaransalee of all deities. This first-mate of the crew has been a vizier of sorts for all operations, as well as helping to goad him into the search for immortality. Much like Great T’iom and other neogi, Vrioraxa is sexless and finds the concept of gender to be alien, but both use respective terms to help other humanoids better relate to them. One ally is “Fritz Gunter”, an Arcane known to free enter in and out of secret doors around the facility. Their interest seems to be in keeping the area secure and away from prying eyes. Likewise, they enjoy promoting the trade group. Given often sour relations between Neogi and Arcane, this sticks out as extremely strange. Stations of private Human and Giff based security often patrol around the perimeter, especially during more tense periods of time. Their uniforms consist of blue breeches and sleeves, a golden tunic-like chest piece and boot covers, bronze gauntlets, boots and berets. Most are armed with pole-arms and muskets. All of them are expendable if Neogi find and spark a turf war. The staff hate other Neogi, but don’t care about supporters dying in defense if rivals are killed. As far as they are concerned, defenses can be used if it means they can continue. However, other Neogi must die at all cost.
IMAGE CREDIT: RhysGriffiths – Aftermath; Business Insider – Floating City; villemosol – Stone; Viacom – Nosferatu in Spongebob; Alexander Holyak – Ottoman Pirate; MrGaryStu – Caracal; The Hu – Wolf Totem; Oran Kanety – Neogi Priest