Factions of the Manifold

   Here’s another chunk of material for the Federation-Apocalypse Campaign – some of the major characters from the original Chronicles of the Opening and a list of the current factions.

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The crew of the Soravin (First Manifold Campaign: The Chronicles of the Opening)

   Virtually the entire crew of the Soravin were primary or secondary Openers, or – at the very least – strong Gatekeepers. As such, they were a major focus of the early Manifold Wars. While quite a few characters participated along the way, some of the most important included:

  • Captain John Calzin: Core Earth merchant-adventurer, one of the first Openers. Lost during a quixotic – or crazed – attempt to destroy most of the milky way galaxy.
  • Ryan O’Malley: Crusader Gadgeteer-Engineer and master of Ninjaneering. Thanks to several deaths, also an ensouled robot, a giant panda with alcoholic blood, and several other incarnations at one point or another. Currently founder and director of ATE.
  • Zeal: Anime (Slayers Universe) Origin: An amnesiac Ice Wizard/Elemental. Currently a member of the Divine Alliance.
  • Tom Scott/”Serin”. Core Earth role playing gamer and shapeshifter-mage, also an early opener.
  • Jayce: A Core Earth Mystic Performance Artist and Opener,
  • Locadel the Indestructible: A turtle who communicated primarily thorough interpretative dance, with enormous healing abilities and enormous durability – which he bestowed upon his chosen companions.
  • Vena, also the Archangel Vena: An anime-origin ferret-creature which could metamorphoses into a powerful starship, she was later infused with vast supernatural energies – first becoming an Archdemon and later, after successfully purging the evil from her powers, an Archangel.

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Notable Factions:

   Advanced Technology Exchange (ATE) is a technology and magic manufacturing, research, and development company primarily owned by Ryan O’Malley. Designs and manufactures advanced weaponry, defenses, and transportation systems making extensive use of exotic matter. ATE operates Grand Central Station in almost all the New York’s and many other major trading hubs throughout the multiverse. While not able to match the sheer manufacturing capacity of some of the major Galactic and American companies, ATE tends to design its technology to work in far more places than usual – putting it well ahead of the offerings from other advanced-technology companies.

   The Commonwealth is a conglomeration of worlds bound together by their recognition of Arthur as the Once and Future King. Mainly fantasy realms and British Empire worlds, they produce some of the most powerful magic seen in the multiverse. King Arthur runs a largely Christian kingdom with Christian overtones and history. Lately, rumors of betrayal in Arthur’s court have begun to emerge, with speculation running rampant as to who and why. The various Orders of Knights is loosely under the command of King Arthur.

   The Universal Church, with its foundations laid centuries ago by the Ecumenical Council is the sole remaining major religious organization left in Core. It sponsors a variety of Knightly Orders, often drawing recruits from the Manifold, and – thanks to its members Faith in the powers of the light – wields a fair amount of magical power even in Core. In the Manifold, they may be even stronger – although the life expectancy for their Research Theologicians is still woefully short.

   The New Imperium is the “Star Wars” Galactic Empire under the leadership of Emperor Skywalker I – who, since his release from the bonds of the Light and Dark sides of the Force has chosen a course of balance and fairness in dealing with diversity and dissent. He has largely managed to unify the galaxy and several neighboring realms under his leadership, splintering his realm away from the (constantly-resetting) realms of the Old Empire and the classical source material. In his realm he has reformed the Jedi council with the addition of Sith teachings and has striven to bring balance to the Force – although a group of hardcore fanatics have been formenting rebellion. Even the Emperor acknowledges that they shall always remain. He has been making efforts to reach out diplomatically and economically to other realms and promote ties with them and – especially – with Core.

   The Oracles Archona speak in cryptic riddles and prophecies. Each year they release a set of new prophecies, provoking an intensively-covered frenzy of interpretation. The Oracles tend to stay out of petty politics, intervening only under the most unusual circumstances since – according to their own statements – they have been banned from direct intervention in human affairs. Who or what could have been responsible for such a ban has never been explained. Nevertheless, their predictions have been becoming increasingly ominous.

   The House of Roses is still the Royal House of England – although, with the general fading-away of formal governments over the last few centuries, their only remaining “duties” for the previous century consisted of officially opening a few private events and historical re-enactments. The computer systems, of course, continued to maintain the royal palace for their use.

   Despite their limited official power, however, the House invested wisely across the centuries, and has immense monetary reserves. It has also retained and expanded its web of connections – and still retains a variety of diplomatic and executive privileges (such as receiving and posting ambassadors). While such privileges were meaningless for centuries, they remained on file with the computers – and there is no longer any other “government” around to revoke them.

   Today, the House may not be a government, but it still retains a position of leadership and has a great deal of influence in Core. Quite a lot people in Core look to Elizabeth III as a leader and the House has been among those calling for talk with the robots and an end to this possible perpetual war.

   The United States (now including most of the old nations of Canada and Mexico) maintained a formal Government – complete with campaigns, elections, and debates – for centuries after its authority was curtailed and most of its responsibilities were turned over to the computers. Oddly enough, that conservative, traditionalist, position left the United States as one of the few groups with mechanisms in place to negotiate as an organization with outsiders – such as the various nations and realms of the Manifold. Currently, they are one of the few groups which seems to have embraced the idea of “Manifold Destiny” – and have built a coalition of the “United States of the Manifold” under the Bill of Unification and with the guidance/assistance of the Legionary Cohorts. So far the coalition has embraced a wide variety of alternate and historical Americas – Wild West World, Necromantic Nazi World, Communist Invasion World, Japanese Invasion World, Axis Invasion World, Alien Invasion World, WWII World, (all currently receiving military support), Rustic Americana World, Maxfield Parrish World, Linear World, Energy Crisis world, Pollution World, Mutant Menace World, and many others. Unsurprisingly, the best response has come from those desperately in need of help – making them more than a bit interested in a defensive and supportive union. Still, exactly how much authority the elected officials have over major affairs is something that has not yet been tested

   Primaeval Indian World, Secret Supernatural World, The Weird West World, Confederate States World, and Robber Baron World have all refused to join and some of them may be considering creating their own opposing alliance.

   The Legionary Cohorts are the robotic armies of the Singular United States. With all known command units (Praetorians) dead, they have largely reverted to their original programming: safeguarding the human continuum. How they currently – and will in the future – interpret those general orders has many parties keeping a close eye on developments. The Legions have accessed other renditions of the United States and have made efforts to unify them for collective defense and governing.

   The Singularians are the survivors of the Singularity War in Singular. They are largely the scientists, engineers, and commanders from the American techno-military-industrial complex. While their numbers are few, they have a great deal of high technology at their disposal – almost all of it operating under natural laws close enough to Core’s to be useful across large reaches of the Manifold. They are very wary of the Legionary Cohorts and their creation of the Unified United States.

   The Necropolis is a city of the undead – the dark reflection of the despair of those dying alone in the midst of crowds. Populated by shuffling zombies, the spirits of the despairing dead, and the occasional powerful and reckless mage, this is not a place for the living. The city is ruled by powerful liches and vampire lords. Some of the oldest and most powerful beings reside here, having existed for centuries, if not millennia. While not exactly hostile, the inhabitants have little tolerance for the outside world intruding in their domain. A few more open-minded individuals do run trading operations with brave mortals from other realms.

   The Mage’s Guild of Baelaria was fortunate – or unfortunate – enough to be “blessed” with at least two Openers and several Gatekeepers years ago, and has been trying to turn that marvelous edge into total dominance of their home dimension and influence in many more, as well as pursuing numerous highly unethical activities in pursuit of additional unknown goals. They have not been at all pleased to discover that there are other Openers as well – and that such a gift it is not properly restrained to the magically-skilled as they had assumed. The Guild is believed to have been allying with other groups of unethical mages across the realms of the Manifold, such as the Red Wizards of the Forgotten Realms and the Necromancers of L’Kung.

   The Divine Alliance is relatively simple: quite a few of the early gods – Zeus, Odin, Ra, Ahura Mazda, Enlil, Quetzalcoatl, Shang Ti, and many more – are still around, rulers of their own realms. They’re mostly fairly benign towards humans. After all, humans created them and sustain them. They NEED humans around. Ideally, they want more recruits for their realms – and now that humans have become aware of them again, and occasionally drop by to visit or negotiate, they’re trying to build up followings again – if not of devout worshipers, at least of respectful people who owe them favors.

   The Ghost Dance is primarily a sect of Core – but they constantly call on the powers of the Manifold. They recognize the trap of high technology: too high a population, too close to the limits of the possible – and you’re entire species gets sucked into the Manifold, and into what they see as a dead end. They will see civilizations shattered and mankind hurled back into the age of hunter-gatherers before they accept mankind becoming extinct in core. To this end they try to establish primitive colonies, renounce technology, sabotage groups which are opening too many gates into the manifold, and push expansion into space and the defense of the core worlds rather than expansion into the manifold – or giving up and taking refuge there as they describe it. Their strong beliefs allow a surprising number of them to draw on the magic of the Manifold, even if such effects are very limited in Core.

   At least one splinter sect wants to leave Core to new races and return to the primitive paradise that man was meant to live out in the endless reaches of the Manifold.

   The Abyss represents the powers of Darkness and Evil. They don’t have many willing Openers – but they do have a lot of gates which people managed to open to escape through and they have LOTS of magic and people willing to call on them. Oddly enough, the Abyss is not particularly hostile to humanity as a whole – indeed, the Abyss wants humanity to constantly expand, to take over more worlds, and to dispose of everyone else. The power of the Abyss depends on a ready supply of new human souls.

   Fortunately, most of the serious powers of the Abyss are more or less trapped there: they’re far too magical (and non-technological) to survive in core or the hard-science realms, and have too many weaknesses and vulnerabilities to last for long in most other places in the face of constant opposition from the Confluence of Elysium – although the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse get out relatively often. Far too many people believe in such harbingers throughout the Manifold to keep them mewed up for long.

   The Confluence of Elysium is an alliance of the Lesser Powers of Light – assorted minor angels, messenger spirits from various faiths, deceased religious prophets, and similar entities united by the belief in abstract good. While most are too honest to claim to know the “Truth”, they’re still pretty inhuman – and they do tend to see themselves as the Swords of Light – warriors of the faith and burning blade, guardians against the darkness, guides of the benighted, and punishers of evil. They tend to pop up all over, since there’s always SOMEONE calling on them.

   The Robber Baron Alliance is pretty straightforward – but has its tendrils into core and the most distant reaches of the Manifold alike. Profit over Humanity speaks a common tongue throughout the realms – and it pays very well indeed. Where you find profiteers, slave-traders, sweat shops, child labor, price-gougers, and general greed, there you find the roots of the Robber Baron Alliance. They want routes across the manifold. They want resources. They want servants and wealth. They want it ALL (although most of them at least start off trying to monopolize a more specialized field) – and they are sending in their thugs to try and TAKE IT.

   There isn’t much more to know about them – outside of the myriad details of their operations of course. Unlike many of the other factions, the Robber Barons aren’t really united; each of them wants the entire multiverse for themselves. That doesn’t stop them from uniting against any outsider who interferes in their plundering however.

   The Lords of Madness may or may not be a faction. Humans have always feared and envisioned the alien, the incomprehensible, and the formless creatures occupying the darkness in the most wild and contradictory of ways. Now that the Manifold has opened, they’re all out there – doing whatever-it-is that they do – and planning their incomprehensible plans.

   Or maybe they’re just a bunch of gibbering crazy things that do things at random. Nobody really knows.

   The Men in Black are – at least apparently – attempting to manipulate the large-scale structure and destiny of the Manifold in some fashion. One the other hand, they may not even be connected with each other. Since none of them will explain anything, its hard to be sure whether they represent one unified organization or many independent groups. Hopefully they aren’t another aspect of the Lords of Madness.

   The Ourathan Robots simply want to carry out their orders. Civilizations and cultures must be restrained and maintained to prevent large-scale conflicts, contacts with unprepared races, and social collapse. Unchecked expansion, trade, and the inevitable warfare which follows when such things occur, cannot be permitted. The young must be educated as their culture demands so as to maintain it. Damage should be kept to a minimum. The borders must be patrolled and defended. When a contact occurs with a new space-traveling race, they must be gathered in and supervised so that they do not hurt themselves or others. There shall be peace throughout the galaxy.

   Now most of that isn’t necessarily BAD – but the Ouratha can be awfully heavy-handed and arbitrary about it. After all, they were programmed by aliens who never met any humans (and probably would have thought they were pretty weird if they had) – and there’s been no one left to update them for millennia.

The Peacekeepers, SkyWatch, and the Federation Defense Force.

   It’s rather difficult to say if earth HAS a “government”. There are certainly interest groups, and people who make it their business to ensure that certain things get done, but most of them are volunteers. Nevertheless, the computers recognize that humans and other species are territorial, that menaces may arise, that occasional crazed individuals (and creatures of the manifold) must be dealt with, and that a certain percentage of the human race finds fulfillment in standing ready to defend the rest. So a certain amount of resources are made available for such activities.

   Larger and more organized groups get more. Crazier, “sporting”, or gladiatorial groups are firmly discouraged. Even the occasional children’s “space patrol!” club can get taggers and light-duty stunners to chase stray animals and minor annoyances which wander in from the manifold – although such groups are closely monitored and supervised.

   For some centuries, the Peacekeepers. SkyWatch, and the Federation Defense Force consisted of little more than social clubs and theory. There were instruments, and a few ships which responded to occasional emergencies and disturbances, and a stockpile of mothballed ships and weapons held in reserve – but despite the dedication of men such as MacAndrew, Co-ordinator of the Stellar Courier and Survey Service and the Department of Mysteries (dedicated to tracking unexplained events across the Federation and seeking explanations for them), there really wasn’t that much to be done.

   Then mysterious events skyrocketed. A “race” of alien robots determined to take over the Federation put in an appearance. People disappeared and swarms of monsters appeared.

   More resources were allotted, the people who’d spent their time organizing and preparing for such things abruptly found themselves in charge of major organizations, and the ships and weapons came out of mothballs.

   These days, General McAndrew – one of the first to recognize, and begin to recruit, Openers and agents from the Manifold – remains in charge of the Department of Mysteries – now the Department of the Manifold. He employs numerous agents in attempts to track and forestall menaces from the Manifold, attempts to survey manifold routes and monitor and co-ordinate travel, and handles most special operations. His computer network – The “Loom of Moirai” (so christened by one of his agents) – supposedly stretches across several realities so as to take advantage of technologies impossible in Core and he has accumulated a wide variety of ways to direct, equip, and enhance his agents – including a reported alliance with Pathfinder, the Dragon of the East in Crusader. Most off-core military operations are handled by his department. McAndrew has several Openers on staff and quite a few Gatekeepers.

   The Peacekeepers are currently handling surface operations against Manifold incursions, nearspace defense, and containment of newly-established incoming gates. Most of their operations have a classical military feel to them, and – since they operate almost entirely in core – they rarely recruit mages, powerful psychics, or mystical warriors. They have a few Gatekeepers involved, but not many – and, at least as far as they admit, no Openers.

   SkyWatch has currently incorporated most of the old Stellar Courier and Survey Service and is now handling long-range space defense, investigations of the Ouratha and other realspace menaces, and planetary evacuations ahead of the expanding radiation wavefront of the ring nova. Since this necessarily involves shortcuts through some reaches of the Manifold Skywatch always needs Openers to establish gates and Gatekeepers to run them. It hasn’t had that much luck in recruiting them though.

   The Taractocoli want to quietly undermine the Ouratha by making sure that the various races in the vicinity occur so closely together that – even under the restrictions imposed by the Ouratha – a widespread network of trade and communications will spring up inevitably. Given the nature of their hive-minds – which, thanks to the deaths of thousands of components across the eons exist both in their Manifold and in the Core – they ahve found it only natural to explore through the Manifold, uplift other races, and attempt to make their own trading partners. They have time. They’re immortal. They can wait…

   The Neanderthals apparently want CHILDREN. They have virtually exhausted their ability to bring forth new souls thanks to eons-long separation from core (not that they apparently realize the cause), and see only one way to continue their race – they must seize the human souls and bring them into Neanderthal incarnations. Of course, that means that the human donors must die.

   While they are apparently working indirectly, and relatively subtly, for the moment, the Neanderthals are very old, extremely experienced within the Manifold, and numerous, and have great numbers of Gatekeepers – if few Openers – and thus are a considerable menace wherever they can gain access to the Human Manifold.

   The Caravan Masters Guild is a loose association of Openers, Gatekeepers, and Wanderers of the Manifold who are dedicated to travel and trade across the Manifold . They’re notable mostly for the urge to TRADE and EXPLORE. To open new gates, climb higher mountains, contact tribes of extinct human relatives, exchange dyes and onions in the markets of Babylon, hunt dinosaurs, go whaling, and chase the nymphs of Ancient Greece. They’re the ones who will lead your caravan, shipload, or procession of pilgrims to the realms of their hearts desire – or of their nightmares, since the two are often one and the same. While the group isn’t very formally organized – its more of an information exchange service and social club than anything else – it wields a disproportionate influence. Many of its members are centuries old, and have mapped the natural connections between hundreds of manifold realms – and most of the rest are Openers and Gatekeepers, individuals both rare and valuable.

   The Fey are numerous, powerful, secretly influential, scheming, and – surprisingly often – ensouled thanks to their tendency to mate with any normal humans who come along. While they do seem to want to “adopt” humans (especially children), drawing them into Faerie and taking them as consorts, whether this is a simple desire for children, some complex scheme – or whether both the Seelie and Unseelie courts are simply bored and like to mess with people – remains an open question.

   The Reptile Kings are rumor and myth. Some say that they are the rare spirits of a long, long, extinct race of sentient dinosaurs, grown deep – or even bloated – with power and wisdom across the ages. Others say that they are simply the dreams of humanities youth, ensouled with human spirits and grown fat on fictions ranging from tales of Pern to Kaiju movies. Some say they are elder aliens, meddling with humanity. Some say they are the homes of groups of hundreds or thousands of souls, the ultimate evolution of the Arrancar. Others say they are representatives of mystical powers from beyond the borders of the Manifold.

   Most say they’re simply another group of mythic godlings, and no more mysterious than most such.

   Regardless of the tale, its usually agreed that the few Reptile Kings which have been encountered are subtle, intelligent, powerful, and seem to have some agenda of their own – for which they occasionally employ human agents. That seems to fit the definition of a “Faction” well enough.

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