Of Magic and the Machine
No one is quite sure how the world began.
There are many different theories, and as the weight of belief pulls and pushes against each of them, they become successively more real and material as time progresses.
The Ancient Days
What is known is that in the ancient days, the humanoid races lived in a sort of archaic primalism. They were governed by various strong forces, both of nature – like the sun, the moon, the oceans, the seasons – and of society – such as great kings, vicious monsters, enslaving races, and brutal warlords. As time progressed, the humanoids began to revere these things, worshiping them, giving them allegiance and fealty as to the divine, and eventually allowing these things to apotheosize or coalesce as deities in their own right, twisting and shaping reality as they emerged, and granting power to their constituents in return – in the form of magic.
The Goblin Empire and the “Age of Filth”
And thus did the formation of society begin, and groups came together into clans, chiefdoms, kingdoms. These were the lands of the ancient peoples, whose reality was simpler and more bounded, ruled by spiritualism and shamanism, and rarely having the ambition to much beyond their borders. Then, as the centuries passed, into the stage of history emerged a savage race, the Goblins. Their greed and avarice spread across the land like a plague. Around a millennia ago, they held most of the world under their sway, enslaved, subject to unimaginable horrors. This time was known as the “Age of Filth.” For decades, the Goblins ruled the world.
The Fall of the Goblins and the Middle Ages
Yet the power of the Goblins was fleeting. Their states shattered, unable to endure, and eventually, over the centuries, the world was able to break free from their dominance. All peoples who survived were changed by their touch; some took on the hues of their former masters, while many others realized that only through cooperation could strength be assured. And so the world entered into a sort of extended Middle Ages, defined by a system of feudal hierarchy, religious structure, and vassalage to various strong kingdoms and empires, capable of resisting the fractured Goblin warlords. During this time, Great Human, Dwarven, and Elven empires arose, providing a semblance of safety and stability for most people of the world.
The Khanate of Mehket
This situation persisted until roughly 200 years ago, when the great Orcish warlord Mehket united the Uruk tribes and set out upon a conquest of the world. He nearly succeeded; very few were able to stand in his way, and the years of his rule were called the Orcish Yoke. Yet as soon as the Great Khan died, his empire fractured into numerous smaller Uruk Hordes that refused to work with one another, and one-by-one their Khanates began to fall. Beginning with the Dwarven Kingdoms and Ogre Tribes of the northern mountains – neither of which were fully conquered by the Uruks – a world-wide reconquista was initiated to drive the Uruks from the lands inhabited by the other races, and throw the Orcish Yoke off once and for all.
The Renaissance and the Rise of Enlightened Thought
It was during the Reconquista, and the ensuing years of reconsolidation and progress, that a veritable Renaissance had begun across the world. The cooperation of the races against the universal foe – the Uruks – bred interaction, and interaction bred innovation. This was particularly pronounced in the Dwarven, Human, and Ogre societies, where increasing technology gave them a distinct competitive advantage over their backwards, xenophobic and spiritualistic Orcish foes. Once the Hordes had been largely defeated, this mentality blossomed into a sort of Enlightenment, where the pursuit of technology, science, and rational thought engendered a spirit of optimism amongst the peoples of the world, leading them forwards into a new future.
The Great War
It was this very same thought, however, that came into conflict with all the established principles of the past, of the ancien regime. Personal empowerment through technology, societies based on reason and logic, and trust in the self contrasted sharply with the hierarchies and proprieties of existing religions, the aristocracy, and the professional regimens of magic-wielding. These conflicts continued to boil under the surface until about twenty years ago. A massive alliance of religious and magical organizations, called the Elysian Alliance, assailed several of the technocratic city-states of the Humans and Dwarves. The conflagration burst forth into full-fledged war. It consumed most of the countries of the world, and thought there were victories and losses on all sides, and heroes and villains throughout, gradually the forces of magic began to fall before the weight and strength of technology. The final chapter of the war was concluded about 5 years ago when the forces allied to technology destroyed Elysium, capital of the Alliance.
The aftermath of this conflict is still on-going. Many mystical organizations were forced to flee from lands that ally themselves with reason and technology, and many engineers and inventors fled from the luddites seeking to destroy them in places of magic. Most countries of the world now enforce some sort of stance, be it for the forces of magic or the forces of the machine. Even the hearts and minds of people themselves are not immune, for the very ideologies that a person holds has an effect on the way that reality exists around them, pulling or pushing that existence towards one of the ideals. And in the aftermath of the destruction of the Alliance, many religions have been censured, some of them outlawed outright, organizations have been destroyed, and magic itself is regulated or even disallowed in many places. And rising up from the ashes of the war has been a new organization called the Rational Union, an organization dedicated to the advancement of technology, science, and reason in the world, at the expense of, and the detriment to, magic and faith.
The War of Reality
What is happening now is an ideological war, a “cold war”, for the very shaping of reality. What truly “exists” is as malleable now as it was in the first days of creation. There are fonts of reality all across the world, some of technology and some of magic; there are places where guns do not work and clocks stop ticking, and places where even the simplest spell cannot be cast. You all, as characters, have lived through these days. You have all experienced the war in some way or another, and the actions of it are very fresh in your minds. The changes in reality are self-evident all around you. The society you live in has a strongly technological current, a veritable Steampunk world, and magic and faith decrease in importance every day. Yet there is an ever-present ominousness, as if everyone around you knows, and accepts, that the conflicts of the previous war are still unresolved, and a new global conflagration is waiting on the horizon.