Aug 7, 2017
The Nexus setting was one that I never actually got to play in. I had some pretty ambitious ideas for this world. What I wanted to have happen was to essentially make it a multi-versal West Marches campaign with the freedom of rotating GMs. The plan was for anyone who had an idea for an adventure to post in an online group summarizing what the PCs would know going into the assignment. Interested players would then sign up with their character and play as RED agents working for Homeline.
Definitely too ambitious.
While making the setting I had gotten some advice about it from a forum and two names for organizations got suggested. I liked the names and used them, but at the time I didn't realize that they were actually from a GURPS setting. Homeline and Centrum may be familiar names to some.
This piece definitely shows its age. There's a fair bit of non-binary exclusionary language that I would clean up if I returned to this setting document. The piece also has a bit of ham handed anti-colonialism in it. However as a retrospective I thought it important to leave such details in.
This setting is also one that I wrote the most short stories for. Something about the myriad possibilities sparked my mind at the time. I'll be posting those at a later date.
-Nexus: Nexus is a landlocked population centre approx. 500km in length and is defined by its wealth of naturally occurring gates. Gates allow anyone to move from one reality to a connecting reality.
Nexus's regularly occurring gates connect the city across nearly all the multiverse, and has drawn the attention of several multiversal organizations hoping to claim it for themselves.
The original inhabitants and civilization of it have long been forgotten, and has since been populated by countless refugees and pilgrims from innumerable realities. With such a mix of people, a unique language developed. Like its birthplace it has no universal name, but the most common is Nexian.
The city itself has a number of different neighbourhoods with all kinds of people and cultures. A number of them centre around regularly appearing gates, naming themselves and often taking on the culture of the gate, or the reality on the other side. Such regular gates are generally located in an open area because anyone who has land that a regular gate occupies will find they have gained a lot of unexpected troubles.
There is no unifying government in Nexus, though there are a number of power groups within the city. Though some have tried, notably Homeline and Centrum, to form central governments within the city it has worked yet. Even if a major demographic is unified, the next gate might bring in several new ones. This bizarre and uncontrolled mix of people has created a place rife with prejudice and violence.
While neighbourhoods under the control of Centrum and Homeline are stable, others regularly engage in warfare with their neighbours. Two groups of people with ideologies that are antithetical to each other will eventually try to remove each other. It is not a question of if two neighbourhoods will go to war, but how many are currently at war.
-Orbiton: This neighbourhood is unusually shaped as it is a near perfect circle. This happened because the gate within the neighbourhood moves continuously in a circular pattern. This causes anything that happens to be in the way to be pulled through to the reality on the other side. This isn't a huge problem as the other reality is rated C-C-D-C but the orbit of the gate is larger outside of Nexus. The orbit in Nexus has a diameter of 500m, while in the other reality it is roughly 10 times as large. Anyone who falls through often doesn't end up returning until the gate reappears a week later. Traders who regularly travel there, have to know the area around the gate's orbit fairly well so that they can find their way to civilization once on the other side.
-Soviet Empire: The gate that is connected to this neighbourhood is in turn connected to a reality where the Soviet Union eventually conquered the world, and reached an A-rated Civilization Level. Shortly after an attempted invasion by a Neo-Grecian army, the gate to the Soviet Empire appeared in the same neighbourhood. After being met with some armed apprehension, the Soviets made a peace offering of alloys that allowed for the construction of gate shields. This began almost a decade of prosperous and balanced trade with the Soviets. However, several months before the ten year mark, one of the Soviet ministers in charge of dealing with Nexus burst through the gate warning them to shield it off before something else came through. His earned respect convinced Homeline to listen and they erected a shield around the gate. Before they could question him, however, he died of nerve damage caused by an unknown source. While his body was quarantined and under observation, a number of forecasters were put to the task of monitoring the gate. Three days later, everyone within an approximately 200m radius of the gate began to hear a ringing in their ears that stopped as soon as they went outside of the area. Two days after that the first forecaster turned in a result: Both the realities danger levels had gone up by one rating, while the resource and civilization levels had gone down. In another week the reality had gone from C-C-B-A to A-A-C-D. The gate shield was now monitored constantly, in the hopes that the gate would eventually go away permanently, however it has been constant for the last 4 years, and there are rumours that something on the other side is weakening the shield.
-Dustree: The lack of a reliable infrastructure outside of Homeline and Centrum territories severely limits the amount of industrial growth possible. Most manufactured items are made by hand by tradespeople and sold in the same neighbourhood where the tradespeople live. However, a group of enterprising merchants worked together to create an industrialized area.
The merchants called themselves Industry Incorporated, but many just know them as The Corp. Using their combined resources they leveled and then rebuilt a vast swath of land in Nexus. The new area had paved roads, sewers, electricity, and telephone lines much like the older neighbourhoods under Homeline and Centrum control. The main difference was that the new neighbourhood (which eventually gained the name Dustree) had no planned living spaces aside from those of The Corp's executives, which were luxurious fortresses built into the factories that replaced homes. Many trek from nearby neighbourhoods to toil in Dustree's smoke for the pay they can use to purchase The Corp's products. As not everyone trusts the idea of credit, there was a great deal of theft of Corp products from Dustree. This resulted in Dustree becoming a miniature police state, complete with walls around it. Any who enter Dustree can be subject to searches by The Corp's security, and the subsequent abuses of power. Despite this many still enter the area for the cheap goods.
-The Lake: In the middle of Nexus is a large freshwater lake that is the source for drinking water for much of the population. It is fed from a number of rivers coming out of the mountains in the North East, and drains into two rivers in the south.
Like all of Nexus, it is inhabited by a wide variety sentient and non-sentient aquatic life. Many of the residents of The Lake are less than happy with land dwellers as fisherman rarely make a distinction between species when pulling in their hauls. The aquatics are particularly unhappy with Dustree for its dumping of chemicals into the lake. Luckily the factories are located at the exit points for the water, and thus most of it goes downstream instead of into the lake.
-Moundsover: To the North East of Nexus is a large area of rolling hills which eventually turn into a mountain range. Those who live in Nexus refer to the areas as Moundsover and Moundsover Mountains respectively. Most people from the city do not go into Moundsover because of the inhabitants. Mountain dwellers from various realities have taken home in Nexus' equivalent of their natural habitat.
They generally break down into two groups, Hill people and Mountain people. The former live in the fertile hills between the city and the mountains. Although they are proud, hard people (which they need to be to survive), they are willing to sell crops to anyone who can afford them, and willing to stab anyone who wants to steal them. The Mountain people, however, cannot grow many crops in the weak mountain soil. Their main sources of food are animals for meat and dairy. The groups that border the hills often supplement their diets (and economy) with raids on the Hill people.
-Homeline: One of the two major power groups in Nexus. The reality that Homeline comes from is a world that has created and maintained a successful world government for the last 100 years. It now tries to bring that same stability to less civilized realities who remain at war with themselves, or aren't ready for unguided access to the multiverse. However, some see them as simply trying to create a fascist government controlling gate access.
Homeline has some of the best gate forecasters in its pay and regularly predicts gates others don't see coming. Each forecaster uses a method that is most familiar to them. For some this means reading dice, communing with spirits, or analyzing computer readings. The method of forecasting is irrelevant and it is the skill of the forecaster that is important. Some forecasters can predict gates years before they happen, but the forecasts do not always come true. Thus each forecaster has a success rate that is tracked, but also has their predictions double checked by another forecaster. This allows Homeline to quarantine new gates that appear, as well as sell information about when and where stable gates will appear.
Profiting from gates is done by paying the current resident of a gate's location a sum of money for it's use by Homeline. They then charge the travelers who wish to use the gate a fee. Homeline also provides services and goods to citizens in Nexus for a fee. While some pay in barter, Homeline has its own credit system which can only be used to purchase things from Homeline (unless someone has a black market Homeline Credit Reader) but at a discount compared to other methods of payment. Neighbourhoods closest to the Homeline gate often have economies based entirely upon Homeline Credit.
Homeline associated neighbourhoods have much stronger infrastructures than non-Homeline controlled areas. On the edges of Homeline's area of influence the neighbourhoods start to get more dangerous, at least from a Homeliner's perspective. The Homeline patrols in such contested areas tend to be less like law enforcement officers, and more like soldiers, both in gear and in tactics. Despite this Homeline's influence slowly but continuously expands. However, Homeline's operations are not limited to Nexus.
Homeline regularly makes excursions into other realities purportedly to "establish a stabilizing influence" in various realities. It is well known that such stabilizing influences are often import/export businesses where Homeline sells the reality's resources to people in Nexus and in other realities. How fair such trades are vary depending on how effectively an operation is overseen. At worst the trade is grossly unfair with swathes of land being taken for a few beads. Despite the reputation of taking advantage of the natives, there are many Homeline outposts that honestly strive to improve the lives of the natives.
The relationship between Homeline and the Centrum Group is a rocky one. Both organizations hold great influence in Nexus, and each have the resources of their allied realities behind them. This results in a cold war between the two where they rarely deal with each other and often fight proxy battles because a direct war would result in a mutually assured destruction scenario. Such proxy wars take the form of supplying equipment and occasionally training to neighbourhoods that will undermine the enemy's power base in some way. Sometimes this takes the form of raiding convoys, while other times it may be attacking another neighbourhood that is supported by the enemy.
-Retrieval, Exploration, Diplomacy (RED) Team: When Homeline
isn't sure about what is happening on the other side of a gate they
send in a RED Team. This might be because the gate is unexplored,
or because they have no remote contact on the other side. Because
information about what is on the other side of a gate is so limited
RED Teams are made up of individuals with diverse skills.
Generally speaking RED teams are made up of people who aren't from Homeline's reality. They say it's because the diverse teams bring unique skills to the table. Some say it's Homeline sending others on suicide missions, while others believe it's affirmative action and propaganda. Whatever the case may be, Homeline invests resources into RED teams and would not waste them fruitlessly.
RED team agents who remain on a team for a number of years often end up being classified as RED Specialists. Specialists are only called into deal with particular tasks in which they excel. This allows senior RED agents a form of semi-retirement.
Though RED teams are supposed to be for missions outside of Nexus, occasionally their specialized skills are needed for missions within the sprawling city. Such missions are generally assigned because the chosen RED agents have a connection to a mission critical location, person, or thing. One of the most common uses of RED teams inside Nexus is for search and neutralize (not necessarily destroy) missions when something comes into Nexus that could be extremely dangerous, such as a virus carrier.
-Centrum Group: One of the two major power groups in Nexus. The reality that Centrum originates from is actually very similar to Homeline's own, even having the dominant species of human sharing physiologies. However, where the United Nations of Homeline found peace, Centrum's reality fell into nuclear war.
In the aftermath the only technology and expertise to survive was a group of scientists and engineers from the Centrum Group. They rebuilt the Earth under their leadership as a technocracy ruled by a council of thirteen scientists. The council members are supposedly chosen due to their intellect, however it is likely that political dealings have influenced chosen council members. This is also questioned as reproduction is handled through a combination of controlled breeding, cloning, and gene-engineering.
The ruling council wants to unite all realities under the logic and efficiency of Centrum. The organization makes no attempts to hide this goal. The reason that Homeline and Centrum are at odds with each other is because the former wants to spread democracy across the multiverse, while the latter believes that democracy leads to the uninformed and unintelligent masses directing the path of civilization towards destruction. Some also suspect that Centrum holds a grudge, because Homeline was in Nexus before them (though hardly the first in Nexus).
Despite their differing views on how to run society, Centrum and Homeline provide much the same services to those in their sphere of influence.
-The Sentinels: The Sentinels match the function of the Homeline
RED Teams, however that is where the similarity ends. When faced
with the dangers of new realities Centrum used their technology to
genetically engineer a strain of humanity to be able to survive
almost any conditions. These men and women are grown bodies that
can resist extremes of a wide variety, even being known to survive
in space for up to 5 minutes. Although Sentinels are known for
their extreme toughness, many forget that they often survive not
because of their bodies but because of their minds. They quickly
grasp the best course of action and carry it out with a dedication
that many would call suicidal. The Centrum group controls these
people by raising them from the moment they leave their artificial
wombs to be loyal to the cause of Centrum. It has been known for
Sentinels who have made families with non-Sentinels to place their
children in the care of the handlers who raised them, often to the
horror of their partners.
-Industry Incorporated (aka The Corp): This organization provides Nexus with a wide range of products from home appliances to combat scrolls at a low price. Unlike Homeline it makes no attempt to accept barter as a form of payment. Any products purchased must be purchased with Homeline, or Centrum credit using black market credit readers. While this technically illegal practice is known to Homeline and Centrum (as it isn't particular secret), neither acts on it because of the projected collateral damage that would occur if any arrests were attempted within Dustree.
-Senators: The Senators are a small community of refugees, having traveled across numerous realities in search of a final home. They claim to be fleeing from The Legion who allegedly conquered their homeworld and now chase the Senators because of their belief in democracy. They are Post-Terrestrials who are described by many as "giant bipedal blue ants."
-The Legion: A police force in Nexus that will lend its support to both Homeline and Centrum when it sees fit. The members of the force are made up entirely of Post-Terrestrials. Although small in influence compared to Homeline and Centrum, it has been growing, both in numbers and influence. Senators in Nexus claim that The Legion has committed war crimes across multiple realities and are likely planning on doing the same in Nexus.
-Order of the Engineered Saviour: A transhumanist religious group. The members of the group receive special cybernetic implants upon joining. The members are broken into groups of 11. 10 of the members will be new converts who have taken a vow of silence. The 11th is a pastor who speaks for the group and espouses the beliefs of the Engineered Saviour. The Engineered Saviour is some kind of logic based entity that may be spiritual and/or digital in nature. It controls and maintains the stability of its reality.
-Nerve Weapons: These primarily non-lethal energy weapons originated in Centrum, but quickly found their way to Homeline armories. The weapon releases a beam of energy that directly attacks the pain receptors and nervous system on any creature. These come in three forms: batons, pistols, and rifles. The baton requires only contact with the target to be effective though many swing it with crushing force at the same time. The difference between the pistol and rifle versions is limited to the rate of recharge. While the miniature fusion power cells that nerve weapons use last for approximately 25 years the devices that direct the energy can only transmit so much energy before they begin to overheat. This means that more powerful bursts of energy bring the weapon to automatic shut off quicker than low power bursts. Pistols are less efficient at dispersing the energy runoff and thus shut down faster. While not normally intended for such purposes, nerve rifles (but not pistols) have a lethal setting, though this heats the weapon at an unreasonable rate, allowing for only a few shots before the weapon needs to shut down temporarily. For all forms of the weapon, additional layers of clothing, whether it be a sweater or ceramic armour, will lessen the effect to varying degrees. A sweater will barely make a difference, while ceramics might dampen the pain to just an itch.
-Gate Instigators: Instigators are used to cause a gate that is just under the surface of reality to open and become accessible. While the earliest models simply caused gates to open, these unstable gates often collapsed because they did not have the energy to self sustain. Later versions of the device added two additional functions. The first was giving the device the ability to provide the newly formed gate with energy. This allows both instigated and naturally forming gates to remain open longer, though not indefinitely. The second function was the ability to manipulate the size and shape of the gate. This is useful because not all gates are originally large enough to allow the average sentient to pass through it, not to mention the transportation devices that many traders and travelers use. The devices were designed by an independent scientist in Nexus, who was quickly recruited by Homeline upon proving that his designs were feasible. However, shortly after that, the designs some how fell into Centrum hands, and they were the ones to add the ability to keep gates open longer. Gate Instigators are not common outside of Homeline or Centrum interworld personnel. This is in part because of manufacturing costs, but also because an instigator is useless without a forecast of where a gate will appear, or where one is under the surface. The most advanced instigators are the size of a backpack and run on more powerful versions of the power cells used in nerve weapons. They are not particularly delicate, but cannot take a serious beating.
-Gate Shields: Once it was understood how to open gates, Homeline quickly turned their research towards closing them and keeping them closed. However, this line of technology was not successful until a few years ago when an A-rated Civilization reality traded Homeline some alloys which were previously unavailable. The technology is still fairly new, and somewhat cumbersome, which limits its use to keeping closed the most dangerous gates that could open, closing gates as an emergency, and keeping dangerous realities "locked up." Unfortunately this technically is not the most reliable, and even in ideal conditions it has been shown that gate shields will slowly weaken if the gate's opening was not a one time occurrence.
Traveling in the Multiverse
-Physics and Realities: Objects (including living things) keep a weakened field of their reality's physics around them. This allows for forces that do not exist in a reality to be enacted by a denizen from outside of it. An example of this is magic. The weakened reality field allows spells to work outside of realities where magic is native to it, but also greatly amplifies them where magic is stronger than the object's/person's original reality. Same thing applies to other elements of physics, such as friction, potential energy capacity, and electromagnetism.
-Multiverse Travel Professions: When traveling through the multiverse it is safest to travel in a group because no one can know everything, nor have every skill. There are a number of roles that most groups like to try to fill as best as possible. While there can be one person per role, it is just as effective (and sometimes better) if everyone has one main focus, and then part of a secondary role so that the group's eggs are not all in one basket. Some of the most common roles are: Brain, Combatant, Diplomat, Driver, Forecaster, Hunter, Medic, and Techie.
-Brain: The Brain has a wide variety of skills that may not always come in handy, but when they do they are often invaluable. Some of these skills include social customs, theoretical physics, and knowledge of locations. If a group comes from a wide enough background it is almost certain that collectively they will have enough "Brain" to not require a mercenary to fill the role.
-Combatant: The multiverse offers a wide range of dangers to those who aren't careful. The Combatant provides protection to the rest of the group by putting themselves between threats and the rest of the group. It is usually the Brain who handles environmental threats while the Combatant handles active threats, whether that's with a sword, a rifle, or a spell.
-Diplomat: Occasionally a traveling group will encounter the sentient residents of a reality. It is generally much safer to deal with such encounters peacefully, than with violence as the natives are likely to outnumber the travelers by a wide margin. This is where the Diplomat comes in. The Diplomat negotiates, lies, and pleads with those who can understand him or her to accomplish the goals of the group.
-Driver: When danger presents itself to a traveling group, sometimes the danger is overwhelming and a hasty departure is in order. Drivers know how to use a variety of transportation methods that could be found across the multiverse. While some specialize in certain forms of transportation, having a wide variety of skills is often more useful because an automobile will not always be physically possible in a reality. Like the Brain, the Driver can be left out if the group has a broad enough skill set.
-Forecaster: The most important thing to know when traveling the multiverse is how to get home, and the most important part of that is knowing when and where to find gates. Forecasters take many forms as different realities produce different methods of reaching into the "never was" and the "might happen." Some use drugs to provide them with visions, while others plot gate appearances using complex mathematical calculations based on the flapping of a butterfly's wings. Ultimately the method of forecasting doesn't matter, only the accuracy of the results. Forecasters are often left out of traveling groups from Nexus if they can find a reliable source to purchase forecasts from.
-Hunter: Everyone travels the multiverse seeking something. Hunters excel at finding what others or they are looking for. This often makes them detectives, but occasionally also makes them criminals when they need to gather information that is restricted. Because of this, many Hunters also have skills in stealth, and to deal with security barriers.
-Medic: Despite the best laid plans, sometimes everything falls apart. When people are bleeding, poisoned, or full of disease someone with medical knowledge and the skills to tend to the wounded is what's needed. Both knowledge and skills are necessary because a poorly diagnosed ailment can get worse if treated with the wrong "cure all." Any group worth their salt will not have skimped on a good Medic.
-Techie: The Techie is the applied version of the knowledge that the Brain carries. While the Brain may be able to identify the problem that a traveling group faces, it is often the Techie that uses the Brain's knowledge to come up with a solution. Despite the name of the role, not all Techies use technological solutions, many apply their knowledge of how the world works through magic or natural abilities.
Gate Rating System
The one thing that Centrum and Homeline have agreed upon is a universal rating system for cataloging realities (though they do not share their catalogs). This was done to allow the public to better use their forecasts in conjunction. Each reality has 4 categories upon which it is rated from A (Highest) to D (Lowest): Environmental Danger, Active Danger, Resources, and Civilization Level. Sometimes forecasters can make more accurate predictions giving the rating a + or – modifier.
-Environmental Danger Level represents how habitable a reality is compared to the shared biologies of Homeline and Centrum citizens. A-rated means that the reality is uninhabitable without some kind of protection such as an exosuit. Common causes for such ratings are omnipresent radiation, incompatible (or absent) atmosphere, or far too high gravity. B-rated means that the environment is survivable without an exosuit, but any who go there will require a combination quarantine and recovery period due to possibilities of disease, spiritual corruption, or a number of things that could pose a danger if not addressed. C-rated means that the environment is almost completely safe, and that while minor dangers such as sun burn are not irregular, major threats such as solar incineration are unlikely. D-rated environments have so few minor dangers as to be almost completely safe, however such realities are almost exclusively created by quirky physics combinations that are incredibly rare.
-Active Danger Level represents how dangerous the native lifeforms of a reality are. A-rated means that the life forms on the world are incredibly dangerous not only to people unfamiliar with the reality but also to those who have lived their whole lives there. A-rated realities also have the nasty tendency where their lifeforms are aggressively hostile and will travel through open gates and cause destruction on the other side. For that reason predicted A-rated realities are quarantined as soon as detected. B-rated realities have life forms that are often dangerous but can be avoided or easily neutralized. C-rated realities have occasional threats, but they are not common. Most realities with a stable civilization fall into this category as the wilderness is largely tamed (or easily avoided) and the major thread comes from the civilization itself. D-rated realities have no active threats or the ones that are present are minor. While this may seem ideal, many realities with D-rated Active Danger Levels have little active danger because the A-rated Environmental Danger has wiped them out.
-Resource Level represents the presence of materials that are deemed valuable by Nexus' economy. This makes it the least stable rating as the economy's demands change, and also the most commonly improperly rated category because many forecasters are not economically minded. Materials deemed valuable can be raw matter such as iron ore, harvestable materials such as vegetables, or items manufactured by the realities denizens. A-rated realities have the most available resources, while D-rated are almost devoid of useable materials. A-rated and D-rated Resource Levels are the most stable, as either is unlikely to change with the whims of the economy. B-rated and C-rated realities generally have roughly the same amount of useable resources and the rating fluctuates based on economic demands.
-Civilization Level represents the level of active civilization present in the reality. A-rated realities are either incredibly close to or past the technological singularity. This makes these civilizations unstable as the residents within them can no longer accurately predict what their world will be like in the near future. Another problem is that they offer incredibly advanced technology that could be both directly dangerous (such as a bomb) and indirectly dangerous (by collapsing the economy of Nexus). A-rated realities should be avoided. B-rated realities are any realities that have moved past their equivalent of the Industrial Revolution. This includes realities with technology paths that differ in method but serve essentially the same function (such as a world with captured light elementals instead of electric lighting). C-rated civilizations are any that have developed metallurgy, but have not yet reached the Industrial Revolution. D-rated civilizations are pre-metallurgy, and thus agrarian or hunter-gatherer in nature. A note about the Civilization Level rating: A civilization that has collapsed due to various factors is not rated based on the point it was at during its peak. Thus a post-singularity reality that collapsed back into a civilization where the population survives by scavenging from the past, and cannot manufacture its own metallurgy products would be a D-rated civilization.