Today it’s an update on the various NPC’s of the Manifold. In this case, they’re arranged by their realms of origin where possible, since that’s the likeliest spot to find clues about them.
Singular was an almost purely-technological world, founded on 21’st century physics. While that led to great (and mostly core-compatible) technological strides, it left them with few options for handling spiritual and magical problems. Despite extensive research and valiant efforts to deal with a shortage of souls, dimensional and magical intrusions, possessed artificial intelligences, the “Firestorm” contagious violence meme, and the reality-shift as desperate citizens turned to apocalyptic mysticism – and accidentally admitted the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The last survivors have been relocated to Ealor, a planet in the New Imperium.
The Wingates and Matthington Families both had long and prestigious careers in the Singular version of the United States. Recently, Generals Martha and Martin Wingates were in charge of some of the most advanced military R&D projects as part of DARPA and Procurement. Their daughters, Catherine and Ariana, both elected to be converted into Praetorians to help with the war effort. Catherine and Ariana paired up with Peter and Alexander Matthington, also Praetorians. Together, the families played central roles in directing the war effort and maintaining some semblance of control of things after the Firestorm Meme swept through Singular Earth. Catherine and Peter are believed to have died in the war and their daughter Michellewas also believed deceased, although she has since been seen wandering the Manifold. Martin and Martha have taken up residence on Ealor, and are at work rebuilding their society and culture (as well as attempting to figure out the structure of the multiverse and its relationship with Openers), while Ariana and Alexander are now off in search of their lost niece.
Minor figures from Singular include The Legionary Cohorts (the surviving robotic manufacturing and war robots from Singular), the Russian AI which wiped out most of Eurasia (believed destroyed), the Mirage(an AI originally installed in a battlecruiser, currently hosted by Jarvian’s Mech), and Jose Engara(an AI and nanite systems programmer who did a little work on the Mirage).
In 2352 Nial, a producer of full-sensory adventure-epics, rummaged the tales of King Arthur out for yet another spin. Of course, it needed some updating. To “modern” sensibilities, Arthur was only halfway decent, and most of the other characters were blatantly crazy. The references were obscure, and the setting was difficult to relate to.
Nial chose to play up the dark side of Camelot, and turned the “return of the king” into a metaphor for the drawbacks of a return to barbarian warlordism. Brutal, ruthless, and murderous, his epic was immensely popular for many years – and still plays a role today, leaving many with a vague childhood impression that even the best of their pre-“civilization”ancestors were thoroughgoing bastards – and a corresponding reluctance to risk their necks in the Manifold.
Out in the Manifold, of course, that massed impression took root and grew, absorbing or destroying many of the alternative versions of Arthur and his Knights.
King Arthur I is brutal, elitist, and paranoid, sees massed violence as a solution to many problems, and is both ridiculously tough and incredibly skilled in hand-to-hand combat. Arthur now has a sizable number of realms under his command – “The Commonwealth” – and is convinced that he is the One True King and destined to rule all of humanity. Almost as importantly, he’s convinced that half of his court is plotting against him. Given that most of the more benign Arthurian figures have been eliminated for casting their lots in with nicer versions of himself, he’s probably right.
Merlin, son of Belial (in Nial’s canon an elder alien with vast psychic powers, most of which Merlin has inherited – but can only tap through ritual and manifests according to his own magical beliefs), is arguably one of the most powerful mages in the known multiverse. Having successfully eliminated Belial during a confrontation with him, during which the rational (if cold and ruthless) Belial was unable to deal with his son’s rage-powered psychic abilities and wild psychic constructs, Merlin increased his power by subsuming much of Belial’s energies. As both magical and political advisor to King Arthur, he has little tolerance for the ideals of democracy, equality, and freedom. Many consider him to be the real brains behind the throne and a critical factor to the continuing success of the Commonwealth.
Perceval, one of the few knights in Nial’s saga with a lighter side, eventually achieved both an approximation of modern “sanity” and considerable psychic power himself after finding the “Grail” – in Nial’s version a psychic augmentor and teaching device aboard the crashed alien ship which had brought Belial to Earth. He is one of the few opponents who both presents a serious challenge to Arthur and Merlin and who has so far escaped their search. Perceval uses psychically-enhanced combat talents and is extremely resistant to other forces, employing his own talents unconsciously to counteract them.
The Federated Worlds and the United Americas NPC’s:
The Core’s loose association of worlds is mostly united by their computer systems; it’s not like most of the worlds in it have classical-style “governments” any longer – although there are a few local traditionalist exceptions: the old United States still maintains a “government” of sorts, Egypt has had a hereditary Pharaoh (with considerable authority over some rather obscure things – and, since the Opening, some notable arcane abilities) since the national restoration referendum in 2163, and there are a variety of other councils, groups, and individuals with odd privileges still on file with the computers.
Given the looseness of that structure, the Federated Worlds have had no trouble at all accepting extra-dimensional worlds into the fold.
Ryan O’Malley – one of the first major adult Openers, and one of the few to methodically exploit his abilities – is a technomancer from Crusader who has expanded his original Crusader-based company, ATE (Advanced Technology Exchange) from a supply-shop for super-beings into one of the largest cross-manifold trading realms currently operating. His current specialities include exotic materials, advanced technology, Manifold transport, and magical services. Ryan generally means well, but tends to be over-focused on his current projects, often becoming fascinated with new ideas to the point of neglecting to consider whether or not working on them – or even discussing some of them – is a good idea. Fortunately, since a number of disasters and near-disasters early in his career, this tendency has become much less pronounced.
Elizabeth III is the current head of the House of Roses, and one of the few individuals with a significant amount of “political” power left in Core, since – while being “Royal” no longer has much real meaning – the computer systems still recognize her family as being entitled to a wide variety of special privileges. She may not be in charge officially, but she takes an active interest in the future of mankind and uses her considerable resources to turn events to her advantage.
“M”, the special agents director of the House of Roses, is methodical, practical, rather demanding, and is either excessively dull or is putting up an excellent facade of being a boring functionary. His exact abilities are unknown, but he has shown himself to be keenly perceptive, extremely good at evaluating the abilities of potential agents at a glance, and has a penchant for putting new agents through elaborate tests – even if he does give mission briefings with the dryness of a librarian reading out of a phone book.
Hadrian Kaswell is the House of Roses London Branch Accountant, Supply Supervisor, and Logistics Specialist. Hadrian greatly prefers to keep everything neatly filed, organized, and – as much as possible – run by the computer systems. After all, otherwise there’d have to be an entire human staff instead of just him. Unfortunately, this leaves him as the only one available to deal with the eccentric demands of the M-Class Special Agents – so if someone insists that it’s vital for their next mission to have a wand of rowan wood, cut with a pure silver blade under a full moon by a virgin child from a tree recently struck by lightning, he’s the one who has to either arrange it or persuade them otherwise.
Gerian and Irina Rohan, British Tourists. Gerian and Irina have relatively little tolerance for the antics of M-Class adventurers, but also like to see strange and unusual places – which also leads them to encounter them constantly. Fortunately, they’re extremely practical people – even if they are inclined to complain a bit about all the absurdities they encounter.
Classic Star Wars and the New Imperium NPC’s:
The Classic Star Wars realms are derived from centuries worth of books, movies, novels, full-sensory productions, and games. The New Imperium is much more recent: when a group of Openers accidently took Darth Vader along to Crusader, he watched the rest of the movies – and left behind the world laws which prevented him from coming to terms with both sides of the Force.
Emperor Anakin Skywalker: The former Lord Vader revised his tactics and destiny in Crusader, returned, reunited with his family, threw off the Dark Side, killed the Emperor, and has pretty much consolidated his control – splitting off his version of Star Wars from the Canon to form the New Imperium. There, Emperor Skywalker endeavors to make the Empire a major trading hub while maintaining the local identity of the realm.
Doctor Vu– an Imperial Engineer, Special Agent, and Insane Supervillain. Originally an engineer for Corellian Engineering Corporation who was sent on an undercover mission into the Advanced Technology Exchange (ATE) labs to ascertain what project they were working on in conjunction with Kuat Drive Systems. Thanks to the inevitable laboratory accident, he was infused with massive amounts of positive energy, resulting in him becoming a powerful supervillain in Crusader. He has since been dragged out of Crusader and is now recuperating with the House of Roses.
Inquisitor Treylane is a man who likes everything in the New Imperium being in it’s place and minding it’s own business. Either because of, or in spite of, this trait, the Emperor Skywalker has put him in charge of dealing with random adventurers and Manifold events. This he dutifully does, all the while making his annoyance at the unpredictable (for him) situations adventurers produce well known to everyone in his presence.
The Hellstorm is an ancient Sith Battlecruiser equipped with massive defenses, enough firepower to destroy entire battlefleets – and infused with archdemon level infernal powers. In retrospect, while every decision and unpredicted circumstance along the line of events leading up to this disaster seemed sane enough at the time, surely someone should have known better. The Hellstorm is pursuing a personal vendetta against it’s creators, Ryan O’Malley and John Calzin. With Calzin missing, this leaves Ryan as the primary target.
Darth Plageous has – thanks to the efforts of some agents of the House of Roses – traded in his existence as an Undead Sith Lord for a new body, a new role in another universe beyond the reach of the Dark Side, and the freedom to do as he pleases. Plageous is an exceptionally reasonable person, at least when confronted with potentially-dangerous opposition. Still, he seems to have left most of his anger, irrationality, and other emotions behind with his first life.
The Forgotten Realms:
One of the classic fantasy-gaming settings, the Forgotten Realms has been re-issued periodically for several centuries – and has built up a fair degree of reality out in the Manifold.
Ithulsin, Dark Psychic Adept, Renegade, Exile, and Mercenary. While currently in the form of a Drow Elf, Ithulsin is actually a “Mind Flayer” – or a full-transformation Krell Psychic Adept. Recently expelled from his hometown thanks to his opposition to their great projects, he yearns to regain a position of power and comfort. While not nearly as cunning or as his brethren, he has displayed a great deal more common sense than they have – possibly due to actually having a soul. Currently, Ithulsin is finding that Drow have a lot more fun than Mind Flayers do.
T’Gren is a High Priestess of Eilistraee and the current ruler of Nrun Dag, a drow city of the Underdark under Thay. T’Gren is the goddess Eilistraee’s priestess of assassins; integrating the assassins of Vhaeraun into the good goddess’ flock is her persona trial in the faith. She strives to find good uses for the talents of the newly integrated “faithful” to further the wishes of her goddess.
Minor characters from the Forgotten Realms include Hondur Nightaxe, a leader among the deep dwarves who was captured by the group and ransomed himself and his companions with some young slaves, an Unnamed Drow Priestess who likes booby traps and negative energies, and an annoying (and none too bright) Minotaur Slave.
Baelaria is a victorian-styled steampunk world with powerful, symbol-based, magic and a fairly generic religion of the light. Thanks to its powerful mage’s guild, proximity to Hogwarts, the presence of a gate to Singular, and the insanities of the Minister of Magic, the realm seems to have become a battleground / pawn in the conflict between Merlin, the Outsider, and various other forces.
Adrian Mercati, a.ka. Spellweaver is a powerful mage who was once in line to take the position of Minister of Magic, he has since lost favor with the government and is now a wanted criminal. He is known to have had a residence in Londinium amongst others. He has recently been seen in Core with the missing child Michelle Matthington during an attack on the colony world of Grenwald by Manifolders – where he was killed, although this does not seem to have hindered him much. Why he was there and whose side he is on is unknown.
Arxus is one of the youngsters who had their souls torn out by the Baelarian Mage’s Guild. While most of the (few) survivors of this process who escaped simply became more or less normal phantasms, Arxus developed the ability to absorb additional psychic energies from his friends, companions, and anyone who paid attention to him – as well as to absorb the psychic energies of other phantasms weaker than him and strengthen himself. He is currently trying to get his soul back from the mages and may be on his way to becoming a major psychic energy nexi. In the meantime, his largely abrasive and attention-seeking personality tends to rub people the wrong way. Despite these flaws, he has a good heart and strives to protect people from fates similar to his or worse.
Vekxin is another youngster turned power-absorbing phantasm like Arxus, but has adapted by learning to set up transdimensional links with other youngsters – funneling some forms of power through to them to enhance them and draining off their psychic energies to sustain and enhance himself while also using them to search for the Rosary of Memory – a device he apparently believes will vastly expand his power and make him virtually impossible to destroy. Unlike Arxus, he seems to have elected to prey on other youngsters – and unlike Kevin, he fails to reveal all the consequences of the pacts he makes with them. In fact, he seems to lie quite a lot about such consequences.
Minor characters from Baelaria include the Sunwell Golems (constructs designed to work for the mages guild and defend their strongholds, but easily confused), Tirath, a Holy Guide (the title used by the local priests) and curator of a large temple suitable for special rituals, Maxwell Stenson, the local Alchemists Guildmaster in Edinburgh and now one of the local council leaders, and Taraq, a midlevel manager type in the londinium criminal underworld or “Family”.
The Potterverse NPCs:
Oddly enough, the “Harry Potter” novels – and sequels – remained popular for more than long enough to create strong manifold realm. At the moment though only a few characters have made much of an impression – all of them minor, at least so far. Such individuals include Paul Malfoy the primary hero of the second series, Officer Dulandel, a semi-mundane London policeman with a knack for resisting magic, and – inevitably – Dumbledore, who made it back from the dead in the third book of the second series (whether or not that was necessary is another question: the timelines of novel series often get throughly mixed up anyway).
Travellers from Other Realms:
Shyan or Dimentio is an enigmatic figure who appears at the strangest of times and places. He often provides adventurers with critical clues and transport in exchange for odd services and trinkets (many of which he later passes on to other groups of adventurers). He says his goal is to ensure things “play out as they should”. Whether that means for good or ill – or whether its true, false, or he’s simply crazy – remains unknown.
Arthorious Rex, the Resurgent Once and Future King Arthur is a benign, charismatic, cooperative, and inspiring version of King Arthur who – since his rescue from the Negative Energy Plane – seeks to lead by example in his struggles against the overwhelming influence of his Commonwealth counterpart. Consigned to the Negative Energy Plane after being largely forgotten by much of humanity, he strove to make the best of it. He organized the locals and created shelters from the all-consuming entropy of the void. He and his knights of Arrancar are now traveling the Manifold in search of a suitable base of operations.
The Archangel Vena is an incredibly powerful starship with an alternate form as a large, bouncy, talking ferret and massive “holy” supernatural powers. She was a result of the same series of events which led to the creation of the Hellstorm and – in her own curious fashion – was sometimes almost as irritating. She has not been seen in some time, but tends to take a liking to particular heroes and help them out – which means that she may reappear at any time.