Shadowrun Penumbra: Timeline

   The following timeline is slightly revised, both the fit the needs of the current game, to make it actually fit in with real-world restrictions, timelines, and principles, and to talk a bit more about causes and general developments, rather than throwing a lot of names at everyone.

2000 – 2009

  • Scientists are surprised to discover several distinct new species of mammals, reptiles, and other larger-than-insect fauna in well-explored areas. These are later concluded to be “Spike Babies” – specimens of premature awakened fauna.

2010 – 2019

  • Virally Induced Toxic Allergy Syndrome(VITAS) kills off a quarter of the world’s population.
  • Resource shortages result in intense competion, underhanded dealings, and a great deal of land-confiscation. None of that is really new, but – in view of widespread fears of global economic collapse – such policies are pursued extremely aggressively. Resisting groups are commonly arrested and interned.

2011: The Fifth Age Begins

  • Unexplained Genetic Expression(UGE) — Babies bearing a close resemblance to Elves and Dwarves are born across the world. Bizarre variants on normal animals become common as well. Minor “monsters” begin appearing (a trend that will increase steadily). Various apocalyptic cults take this as a sign of the end of the world.
  • A modest percentage of would-be magicians, psychics, witches, priests, and similar eccentrics find that their efforts are now bearing blatantly obvious fruit. While such semi-trained efforts are throughly unreliable for the most part, they are more than sufficient to spark research and efforts at exploitation.
  • Tibet regains independence, as a series of wards and barriers spring up around the country.
  • Several nuclear reactors around the world are destroyed, scattering radioactive material or even suffering total meltdowns, triggered by terrorist attacks, accidents, or bombings. It is later theorized that several theoretically-impossible malfunctions are traceable to unconscious magic and widespread fears of nuclear power.
  • Operation Discovery – a series of manned orbital experiments and unmanned probes – begins the organized exploration of the solar system and the search for suitable locations for lunar colonies.
  • A small group of Native Americans attempt nuclear blackmail to force the rollback of land confiscation and the resource rush. This fails, and a great many Native Americans are taken into custody on suspicion of backing the plot.
  • Ryumyo, a great eastern dragon, is sighted flying over Mt. Fuji, the first dragon seen by mankind in thousands of years. His appearance is shortly followed by the emergence of Celedyr, Dunkelzahn, Lofwyr, and other great dragons. Most of them find human technology, and the incredible population density of the world, a considerable shock.
  • Under the cover of a fierce storm, Daniel Howling Coyote leads a walk-out of a detainment camp. Although fired upon, he departs unharmed with his followers, leaving no trace.
  • Ley lines and henges re-emerge across the world. The oldest monuments of Egypt begin repairing themselves.
  • Dunkelzahn grants an exclusive 12-hour interview with Holly Brighton during which he explains the Awakening and the basics of the great Cycle of Magic.
  • The Shattering.Major governments across the world begin to fracture as the ability of minorities to wreak destruction exceeds the limits of the authorities ability to control them without popular cooperation. Hundreds of tiny new states appear, some of them remarkably eccentric. Mexico becomes Aztlan, backed by ORO corporation (Aztechnology), Hong Kong breaks free from mainland China, Ireland becomes the first Tir, and many similar incidents. The “Native American Nations” are formed. China fragments into Manchuria, Xinjiang, Guangxi, and the Canton Confederation. Sadly, if all too typically of the human race, the backstabbing starts almost as soon as the first microstates are formed.
  • The first effective professional magical associations are formed.
  • The Great Ghost Dance. Massive magical energies are unleashed through the willing sacrifice of magicians willing to die for their causes. Massive disturbances in the weather, volcanic eruptions, and similar disturbances follow. A sixth segment of military power enters the doctrine – personnel, supply, territorial bases, intelligence, electronics – and magic. The center of Madagascar drops off the map.
  • Early-model neural interfaces become as effective as manual control systems. Fully-functional cyberlimbs, paralysis-bypass operations, and similar applications follow almost immediately.

2020 – 2029

  • The Great Dragon Aden destroys Tehran in response to the Ayatollah’s declaration of jihad against the metahuman races.
  • Spaceplane programs are in full operation. Power satellites and microgravity manufacturing operations follow shortly.
  • Goblinization strikes 10% of the world population. There is worldwide panic and rioting and a variety of massive overreactions, mostly based on fears that it might be contagious.
  • Another wave of VITAS sweeps the world, once again decimating the population. As one of the few benefits of such a disaster, most of the racial violence dies down.
  • Cuba, Jamaica, Grenada, Bermuda and the Virgin Islands join together to form the Caribbean League – the first of the Distributed States, united by common circumstances and interests rather than territoriality or ideology.
  • With authority in collapse, gangs and gang wars dominating otherwise lawless zones in major cities, and the corporations upgrading their security forces into internal military forces, the world totters on the brink of anarchy. On the good side, what “civil rights” remain are generally extended to metahumans, and even to some awakened sapients from animal stock: they hit just as hard as anyone else. The Humanis Policlub, and similar organizations – such as the old KKK – expand in reaction.
  • The first commercial simsense systems hit the mass market. Similar firsts include formal recognition of the ability to summon spirits, the publication of various modern-style spell formula, formal programs for occult studies in major universities, and cyberware entering the high-end markets of special agents, professional sports stars, and research.
  • The trend of turning law enforcement over to contracted corporations begins to expand rapidly: in many cases, the local corporate guards are the only available non-military forces capable of handling magically or technologically enhanced threats.
  • The Roman Catholic Church issues the In Imago Dei encyclical, stating that metahumans have souls and are capable of salvation, that magical abilities are not inherently evil, and that spirits are manifestations of nature. The Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Mormon, and Scientologist faiths follow suit. The major Muslim factions continue to follow the decrees of Islamic Law, which decrees death for all magicians (this does not work out well when the magicians actually have power). Lacking central authorities to rule on such decrees, the Protestants and many other loosely-organized faiths split on these and other issues, becoming increasingly fragmented and increasingly less relevant. Minor religions, however, become increasingly popular.
  • Practical fusion power is developed. With cheap power comes relatively cheap desalination systems, forced-growth yeast-algae systems yielding plentiful supplies of extremely cheap food, cheap fiber, and cheap production. Over the ensuing decades much of the world population becomes redundant, supported by handouts and subsidized foodstuffs as a recruiting pool and a source of talented offspring.
  • With the development of prototype cyberterminals, intelligence organizations around the world begin a massive push to upgrade their electronic-warfare defenses and their offensive capabilities. Unfortunately, at least one major war-virus is released onto the internet, whether by hackers, accident, or design is never discovered.
  • Paranatural plants and creatures are now major factors in farming, mining, and resource exploitation.
  • Massive systems crashes – and casualties – occur worldwide as one or more war-viruses begin to spread through the worlds computer networks. Talented individuals are drafted and massive resources are thrown into combating the spread of the infections. Many die, since the viruses can induce lethal biofeedback in those contacting them directly. The combined system developments are more than a match for any existing form of computer security. The virus will not be entirely purged from the net until the early days of the next decade.

2030 – 2039

  • Metahumans – and even Ghouls – are increasingly founding their own nations. Awakened forces seize the more hostile areas of the globe, such as Siberia, to which they are better suited than normal humans.
  • Canada and the US merge into the UCAS. The Confederated American States secede shortly thereafter.
  • Brushfire Wars – small border conflicts, raids, provocations, and attempts to seize special resources – are now common across the world. Strategic strikes against command-and-control (as opposed to population, production, or simple military) targets tends to keep things under control. Many such strikes are apparently launched by annoyed third parties.
  • The first Nanosecond Buyout: Damien Knight takes control of Ares.
  • Matrix Systems releases first gray-market cyberterminal. It shortly thereafter suffers a computer crash and its two primary shareholders die in “unrelated accidents”. Richard Villiers, the remaining majority shareholder, buys into Fuchi with the Matrix Systems technology. It is, however, far too late: the basic technology is loose in the underworld.
  • The Elven Nations take form, under the leadership of a variety of dubious figures. Aithne Oakforest, Sean Laverty, Lugh Surehand, and Ehran the Scribe, all previously unknown, become major figures. Oakforest and Laverty become strong advocates of reoccupying and revitalizing cities while Surehand and Ehran become more social figures, bringing the elves together into a new society.
  • California – like so many other places – secedes. Unlike many other places, it’s rich and fragmented enough to become a target itself. Tir Tairngire invades south to Redding, Aztlan invades north to San Diego, and Japan takes control of San Francisco.
  • Alamos 20,000 – an anti-metahuman group – begins major terrorist operations. A call for some form of “universal identification” eventually results in many countries creating a citizenship and basic-record data pool; their filing codes rapidly become known as System Information Numbers – or SIN’s.
  • The first reasonably-satisfactory formulation of current magical theory is developed.
  • As mana levels rise, the transformation and regeneration of entire ecosystems begins.
  • Practical simsense recording, selective amplification, replay, and emotional-content technology arrives. BTL’s are developed.
  • Shadowhavens – dedicated data systems, safehouses, and organizations dedicated to supporting non-governmental mercenary, espionage, and corporate operations become common.
  • The Great Dragons – having observed that massed human weapons and technology is easily a match for their physical and magical power – begin to exploit their ancient wealth, superior magical lore, and superhuman intellects to amass economic and political power.
  • The Night of Rage: Anti-metahuman groups stage a coordinated uprising. Thousands of metahumans, as well as human friends, family, supporters, and wannabes die in global riots. Further attacks destroy numerous buildings and kill large numbers of innocent bystanders. The destruction in Chicago and New York City is especially massive.
  • Forensic use of magic becomes widely accepted. Direct magical evidence, spiritual evidence, and compulsion-spells are widely considered inadmissable since the bias of the practicioner is an issue, but physical evidence located by such means is accepted virtually everywhere.
  • A worldwide conference lays the groundwork for the modern Matrix as the successor to the old Internet, establishing standards, protocols, and addressing conventions designed to fulfill both current and projected needs for decades to come.
  • Massive experimentation on human subjects is revealed in several locations around the world, along with grossly exploitive – and even reprehensible – corporate behaviors and the first reported incidences of sacrificing humans and metahumans to power magic. The “Robin Hood and his Merry Reporters” shadowrunning tradation emerges as a clear rival to the Mercenaries, simple Criminals, and “Social Justice” divisions.

2040 – 2049

  • With practical fusion plants, ever-increasing security needs, little need for farmlands, and the predominance of corporate enclaves, arcologies have become a common form of architecture.
  • The development of early forms of Skill- and Knowledge- bestowing cyberware makes the last few old-style unions completely obsolete.
  • The existence of Vampires is exposed to the public. Several vampire-backed groups attempt power plays, none successful. Several vampire-hunting organizations are given official sanction and backing.
  • The Universal Brotherhood, based on psychological research into the mathematical underpinnings of human and metahuman consciousness – and, by extension, all conscious beings – is founded.
  • In the wake of the release of tolerably-effective home simsense magical training courses and a selection of magical formula into the public domain the first known wiz-kid gangs appear.
  • The Great Dragon Sirrug destroys EuroAir Flight 329 from London to Atlanta. Sirrug, shortly thereafter, also becomes the first known Great Dragon to be killed by modern human weaponry. He is not to be the last.
  • Dunkelzahn begins his semi-annual “Wyrm Talk” broadcasts, rapidly becoming an accepted and respected citizen of the world.
  • Formal procedures for Initiation, and the first metamagical theorems, are developed. More intuitive magicians have been developing both Initiation Rituals and their own metamagics for some time, but having a well-developed underlying theory makes the process for more reliable, cheaper in terms of karma, and more effective.
  • Localized VITAS outbreaks continue, although current countermeasures usually suffice for rapid containment.
  • Aztlan (Aztechnology) nationalizes all foreign businesses and properties. Foreign governments and companies return the favor, ceasing to honor contracts, disallowing import and export from Aztlan, and refusing to recognize Aztlan laws and funds. Without foreign recognition of offenses against Aztlan, the country becomes a magnet for raiders. Aztlan wind up paying market rates plus penalties for critical assets and returning control of non-critical assets as long as the nominal holders are Aztlan citizens.
  • Self-teaching expert systems with easily-programmable goals are developed and rapidly become publicly available. True AI’s are unlikely to be far behind.

2050 – 2054

  • Cyberdecks are now portable and, with modest effort, concealable.
  • Bioware hits the public market
  • Seattle-Tir Tairngire trade agreement, by which Seattle becomes the Tir’s major port.
  • The Great Dragon Hestaby takes possession of Shasta Dam and some surrounding territory in Northern California, repelling a Tir attack.
  • A site 150 miles off Crete is tentatively identified as the location of “Atlantis”.

   Given that some of the technologies introduced in Shadowrun IV violate major laws of physics without explaining how, or what the new principles are supposed to be – thus making it impossible to answer questions about what can and cannot be done with particular technologies – the game will not be switching to Shadowrun IV in the foreseeable future.

2 Responses

  1. Question – which technologies introduced in Shadowrun 4e violate major laws of physics without explaining how?

    • Well, I’ve had very little time for blogging recently, but – fortunately – there’s an existing article on the topic to direct you to. While it’s only concerned with the core book, the fact that the core book alone included technologies that broke the setting in several different ways (the long discussion of Nanopaste Trodes), ignored how electromagnetism works, and completely overturned basic data security (in a world that is supposed to be obsessed with it) in favor of keeping deckers directly involved with the party rendered the game pretty much impossible to take seriously.

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