The whole thing seemed like a good idea at the time. The gist of it was that the people of the Magnolia Confederation needed a new technology to power their civilization. Maia energy, the prevailing fuel of the age, was running dry because there were just too many people. The continents shook and the desert crept into the heartland. Science had always solved the problems of the people. But this was a complete systemic failure. One side wanted to abolish Maia Energy Collection while another wanted to continue to use it until something better came along. Holy texts said that war and rumors of war would be a sign of the end times. The leaders of the age promised that they would find a source of power. They would make the conflict moot.
So when the leaders of both factions said that they were gathering the three greatest minds of the era to tackle the problem, no one had a lot of reasons to suspect that the conclusion the scientists would reach would be to destroy the world. There are vital bits of important information they would have needed to reach such a conclusion. Namely, that the scientists involved were prone to monologing about how their theories had been rejected without merit by mainstream Science. Perhaps their unhealthy obsessions and penchant for sloppy workspaces would have been nice to have known first. Some mention of the fact that their greatest ambitions were to destroy one another might have averted a great deal of woe. So now, one killer bee invasion, giant tidal wave, and mutant virus later, most everyone is dead. Also, the Confederation is gone; its works have been scattered to the waves. You can count the number of islands left in the world on one hand and all three of them have a mad scientist on them.
Island X is overseen by Doctor Y, determined to prove, once and for all, that metal really is stronger than flesh. His Model Y-2’s are the mechanically-enhanced(?) survivors he has managed to bully into service. Like the fabled alchemists of legend, Doctor Y has unlocked the secrets of transmuting one substance instantaneously into another. By installing subcutaneous transmutation nodes (or STN’s), a person undergoes partial transmutation into mechanical systems. His society attempts total self-sufficiency, such that it begins to appear much like a perpetual motion machine. This is Doctor Y’s ideal. He would call it “Ytopia” (Pronounced: Why-Toe-Pia). There are two political factions on Island X, one believing their model to be Y-2 and the other declaring it to be model 2Y. Schematic readouts refer to this “species” of Homo Superior Mechanical as both Y-2 and 2Y.
Lord Xyphoid, sovereign of Epiphyte Island, believes that he is the king of all living things, and using his part-animal survivors (Chimera) as test subjects, he is determined to prove this once and for all. Using technology synthesized from forbidden biology textbooks, Lord Xyphoid perfected a technique of tissue grafts that would allow transplantation of animal (or event plant) tissue to be grafted into an individual. Later, using a serum simply called “ZaAt (Z-sub-A, A-sub-T),” Lord Xyphoid gave his Homo Superior Chimerical some measure of body control with rigid practice and experimentation. With training, Chimera could call on a host of forms or surpass the limitation of their mortal nature. Lord Xyphoid sees such adaptation as the ultimate evolution; human intellect guiding the progress of the human form. Therefore, Lord Xyphoid makes few laws, but rather, allows natural selection to take place unhindered. In this way, it is the “Law of the Jungle,” with Xyphoid the Lord of All Living Things.
Professor Fatheur, over on the Dead Reef, is probably the most deranged of all, for he reanimates the corpses he finds as his “Children” in an effort to prove the existence of… well, we aren’t sure what, exactly. By all appearances it involves reanimating the corpses of dodos to act as playthings for his reanimated people. His techniques require huge amounts of electricity, hideously dangerous levels of radiation, and, what the hell, a little Maia Energy, too. The creations truly do have the minds of children, both curious and confused. They are created to be perpetually innocent and when they die, 13 years from their construction, they are remade and sent to experience the world anew. The Children, Homo Superior Necrotic, are not forced to life by some dark spirit nor is their existence a metaphysical abomination. They are Re-Living, not Un-Dead; reborn as a new, material being. If Professor Fatheur is correct, they even have a new soul.
There is another island, the Cniderian Promontory, pitifully small, though, filled with the cast-offs of the survivor islands. They posture themselves as punks and rebels, but really they are the broken toys of madmen. Still, the island is rich with the spoils and detritus of the Confederation. There are comic books, hub-caps, and razors. Sometimes, you can find a crate of supplies or booze and this tendency has created “cargo cults”. Gangs with various Old World themes make up the various factions. The Promontory is frequently the target of raids when the Scientists need expendable subjects. Sometimes the riff-raff even put up a successful defense. An underground railroad exists to ferry Victims of Science (the Promontory’s preferred term) to safety. Rumors (unverifiable, of course) periodically surface about the Cniderian Promontory being home to a new breed of evolved human; Homo Superior Psionic. They also say the island is haunted, so consider the source. The culture of the Promontory is largely based upon Confederacy teenager culture.
Each of the Scientists are currently making discoveries regarding “Negative Ether Space,” a purely theoretical alternate dimension. The Scientists send their expendables (or valuable workers who merely annoy their Masters) into this Negative Ether Space to see what happens. Success in these experiments is… intermittent. Subjects have been known to cook from the inside, turn into protoplasmic gel or bleed centipedes from their eyes.
Yet, the Scientists do anything to have knowledge their rivals do not. Their epiphanies come with eerily synchronized regularity, so it is unlikely any one of the three will pull ahead anytime soon. Thus, a steady stream of test subjects flows into the Wild Beyond. This is only their current obsession; they have fiddled with genetic engineering, psychic phenomena, quantum mechanics, phrenology, retroviruses, tai chi, warp fields, and numismatism. When it becomes too costly to abduct subjects from the Cnidarian Promontory, the Scientists turn to their own people as viable volunteers. Let nothing stand in the way of Science! To the Negative Ether Space!
Make-Up Requirement and Advantage
The Scientists might be mad, but they have genuinely stumbled onto a means of perfecting the human form, horrifying though the transformation may be. Victims of Science purchase the second level of their Traits for 10 Character Points instead of 15 like other characters. Characters from the Magnolia Archipelago also reduce the cost of buying their Fourth Trait to 15 character points instead of 20 like most characters. The horrors that Victims are exposed to dictate their makeup requirements. Model Y-2’s must have at least part of their body colored a metallic hue and are encouraged to include a prosthetic with a mechanical motif. Chimera have at least one distorted animal feature. Masks and make-up are not appropriate and the prosthetic should be used to distort the human form, not to appear cute or representative of an animal. Fatheur’s Children have pale makeup as a requirement with stitching (makeup or prosthetic), screws, or other signs of Frankensteinian animation.
An Out of Play Discussion of the Magnolia Archipelago
The Magnolia Archipelago represents a materialist kind of fantasy that most people would be tempted to call “Science Fiction,” but follows the same dream-logic as any fantasy world. Characters from this setting are jettisoned “Victims of Science,” survivors of a genteel world that has been ground into the dust. Unlike other characters, every Victim of Science is superhuman in their talents and can focus their character in order to unlock hidden capabilities built into them by the Scientists who made them. Although Chimera are likely to be the most populous of the three kinds of Victims, it is keenly important to keep in mind that Victims of Science should appear, with make-up and prosthetics, as horrifying aberrations of the human form.