Rough Magic 3e EN:Setting
In Bretagne, at the northwest tip of France in the Franco-Prussian Empire, lies the appropriately-named region of Finistère, or "Land's End". At its far west tip, on a rocky base of sandstone known as the Peninsula of Crozon, rests the city (commune in French) of Camaret-sur-Mer.
Camaret-sur-Mer is the setting of Rough Magic, a film noir role-playing game of magic, mystery, and guns. Fog enshrouded cobblestone streets wind between Camaret-sur-Mer's tall art deco and gothic skyscrapers, and mysterious figures skulk beneath gargoyles, ornate ledges, and other architectural flourishes. Disreputable characters on streetcorners sell cheap amulets and potions to those who want love, protection, or success. In the sky above, grand passenger zeppelins carry the well-to-do to far off ports like St. Petersburg, Istanbul, and New York. In the city below, the monorail connects Camaret-sur-Mer to the rest of the Empire, from Berlin to Rome, from Paris to London.
Throughout the Industrial Revolution, Camaret-sur-Mer grew as a commercial shipping port, handling imports and passengers from the Americas, and exporting Imperial goods, while the neighbouring town of Roscanvel became a strategic Imperial Naval shipbuilding and dockyard town. Camaret-sur-Mer is the second most populous city in France. It was not always so: since the mid 1800s, Camaret-sur-Mer has gradually expanded and annexed all of the other cities of the Crozon peninsula. Today, in 1964, they are districts of Camaret-sur-Mer. Officially, the districts of Camaret-sur-Mer are referred to by number, but many people still refer to them by their historical names.
Although Camaret-sur-Mer is urban and densely populated, it is not without its natural beauty. Parks large and small are scattered throughout the peninsula, usually within walking distance, no matter where one may be. The parks of Camaret-sur-Mer are widely varied, from sandy beaches on the Atlantic Ocean, to swamps and parklands set along fast rivers, to hilly inland countryside. In most of them, one can find strange rock formations and standing stones, reminders of the region's Celtic past.
1st District (La Préfecture)
The 1st district, commonly referred to as La Préfecture, is the heart of urban Camaret-sur-Mer. Grand passenger zeppelins glide above towers of glass, stone, and steel. Vast numbers of homes and businesses are located in the first district, and it has become one of the world's major financial centers. The monorail station here is the third largest in France; from here the monorail turns north, where it passes through Brest, then goes underground beneath La Manche (the English Channel), to arise again in Plymouth, England. The 1st district is the location of the primary municipal government; each district has its own mayor, city council, and police departments, but all are ultimately subject to the governance of the 1st district.
2nd District (Morgat)
The industrial Morgat district provides honest (if grueling) work to most of Camaret-sur-Mer's Chinese immigrants and semi-literate poor. The district is dominated by sweatshops where men, women, and children work long hours for a few francs a week -- not much, to be sure, but it's better than living in Shanghai, and much better than starving. Most of those who work in Morgat also live here, in cramped tenements clustered around the factories.
3th District (Roscanvel)
North of La Préfecture is Roscanvel, home to the countless families whose lives are devoted to fishing the Bay of Brest (Rade de Brest in French). Roscanvel is an insular working-class community with little interest in the wealthy and powerful of Sainte Barbe, and little tolerance for the hoodlums that call Crozon home.
Of particular importance in Roscanvel is Île Longue, a peninsula on the northern coastline of Camaret-sur-Mer, east of the main Roscanvel peninsula and west of Lanvéoc. This stone plateau surrounded by cliffs is the base of the Imperial submarine fleet, and as such is one of the most secretive and heavily defended places in the Empire. To the north of the peninsula are two small islands: Ile des Morts and Ile Trébéron.
5rd District (Crozon)
Camaret-sur-Mer is surrounded by docks, marinas, and piers, but the bulk of Camaret-sur-Mer's sea trade passes through the wharfs and warehouses of Crozon, on the southern coastline of Camaret-sur-Mer. Crozon is a rough district full of rough taverns frequented by rough people, and even the residents do not travel the streets alone at night if they can help it.
6rd District (Telgruc-sur-Mer)
Telgruc-sur-Mer is dominated by the peaks of Menez Luz and Menez Caon, which surround a wide green valley that stretches to the beach of Trez Bellec. Telgruc-sur-Mer is one of the oldest districts of Camaret-sur-Mer, with private one and two storey homes, many of which date to the 17th century or earlier.
Among the noteworthy landmarks are a 17th century triumphal arch with the twin statues of Saint Magloire and Saint Gwénolé, the fountain of Saint Divy (a fountain of devotion constructed in 1577, which flows into a Merovingian sarcophagus and which is reputed to have healing powers), the chapel of Lanjulitte (which dates from the late 15th century), and the church of Saint Magloire. The church of Saint Magloire was built in 1604, and was mistakenly destroyed in September 1944 by a Turkish curse. 108 people perished, and only the steeple remained of the church. The church was rebuilt after the end of the Second Great Turkish War. A stele was erected on the town hall square in recognition of Sidi Yaya Du Gharb, a city in Morocco that supported Telgruc-sur-Mer after the Turkish attack.
9th District (Lanvéoc)
East of La Préfecture and north of Crozon is the district of Lanvéoc, which is dominated by the neighbourhood of Sainte Barbe. The white cliffs of Sainte Barbe are home to Camaret-sur-Mer's wealthiest citizens. Not a few Parisians and favourites of the Imperial Court have summer homes here. About one-half of Lanvéoc's area is open space, including several cemeteries, numerous parks, the Lanvéoc Botanical Gardens, and the Lanvéoc Zoo. These open spaces are situated primarily on land reserved in the late 19th century as urban development progressed eastward. The École Navale, the French naval academy, is also located here.
10th District (Quartier Asiatique)
Wedged between Morgat and the warrens of Crozon lies the Quartier Asiatique (Asian Quarter), home to many of the city's Chinese immigrants. It is a poor but honest neighbourhood, for the most part, but anyone of European ancestry is unlikely to feel welcome here. Quartier Asiatique became its own district in 1935 when it was split off from Morgat due to that district's extraordinary growth. The buildings are a mixture of tenements and terraced houses, with many shops and eating establishments at ground level.
11th District (Le Fret)
Le Fret was once a neighbourhood of Roscanvel. It is the third most important port in Camaret-sur-Mer, but the most important port for passenger traffic. Le Fret became its own district in 1948 when it was split off from Roscanvel due to that district's extraordinary growth. Le Fret is well known for the fog which blankets its cobblestone streets. It's usually foggy in the morning with some sun in the afternoon. The fog then rolls in again as the evening approaches. Le Fret is home to many of Polish descent, whose ancestors settled here during the Wars Of Polish Unification in the early 19th century, when Emperor Napoleon I freed Poland from the Russian Federation and accepted it into the Empire.
12th District (Landévennec)
The Aulne River flows into the Rade de Brest beside the pretty village of Landévennec, home to the Landévennec Abbey (Abbaye Saint-Guénolé de Landévennec in French), the oldest Christian site in Bretagne. The abbey was founded in the late fifth century by Saint Gwénolé, and became a Benedictine house in the eighth century. The abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution, and the goods and premises were sold off, but these were later restored under Emperor Napoleon I by the Concordat of 1801. Landévennec Abbey is most well known for its extensive ornamental and medicinal gardens, which are open to the public. The village of Landévennec is politically progressive but remarkably serene, thanks to the influence of the monastery, and it has become a home to painters, writers, sculptors, and well-meaning idealists. Cimetiere des Navires, a graveyard for military and civilian ships, is also located here, on the Aulne River.
13th District (Argol)
The easternmost township on the Crozon peninsula is the largest. Many people who work in Camaret-sur-Mer and Crozon commute each day from Argol. The township has diverse housing, ranging from high-rise apartment buildings along the southern coastline to suburban neighbourhoods in the western part of the district.
French is the official language of the Franco-Prussian Empire, and it is assumed to be the native tongue for people living in Camaret-sur-Mer. German is a second language for most people, and Spanish and English are unusual but not unknown (even in England, most educated people speak French). To the south is the Ottoman Republic, where people speak Turkish: a few people in Camaret-sur-Mer speak Turkish, but it's rare. Far to the east is the Russian Federation, which is host to a wide variety of different languages, few of which are spoken in Camaret-sur-Mer (outside of small reclusive ethnic communities).
For Rough Magic, we will gloss over the language issue unless it makes for an interesting scene.
The official currency of the Empire is the Imperial franc. Coins in circulation are primarily silver, but are debased (mixed with common metals) so that their face amount is greater than the value of the actual metal. The face of Napoleon I is on both the gold 20 franc coin and the paper 20 franc note. Other denominations feature the portraits of famous and respected personages from the history of the Empire, such as René Descartes, Marie Curie, and Voltaire.
The minimum wage is 23 centimes per hour, and the average annual income is about 1200 francs. Gasoline is 2 centimes per liter, monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in a downtown neighbourhood is around 50 francs, and a new (but not luxury) automobile is around 500 francs.
The Franco-Prussian Empire was pitted against the Ottoman Republic in a bitter war that ended nearly 20 years ago. Camaret-sur-Mer, being far from the front, was spared most of the ravages of that war. Still, the consequences of the war were felt even here. Magic, which had been largely the domain of reclusive scholars and jazz musicians, played a large part in the defeat of the Ottoman Republic. As a result, the Empire wanted to make sure that it maintained a monopoly on magic after the war ended.
Practicing magic is illegal in the Empire unless one has a license from the Société Impériale de Thaumaturgie, and even then a licensed thaumaturge must be careful and submit reports of what magic she casts upon whom and why. Anyone who does not adhere strictly to the SIT's guidelines risks having their certification revoked, and possibly faces criminal charges. Those who are convicted are sent to The Keep, an ominous granite fortress built on and into an island just off the coast. Even so, the services of magicians are available to anyone willing to venture into unsavory neighbourhoods, or who have the money required for a high-class "hexmaster" to make a housecall.
Technology in the world where Camaret-sur-Mer resides is roughly equivalent to that of our world in the 1960s, with minor differences. There is no nuclear power or nuclear weapons, but there is a curse called the Ritual of Devastation that was used by the Empire to destroy two cities in the Ottoman Republic at the end of the Ottoman War. The Ritual of Devastation is an Imperial state secret, but it is common knowledge that spies have smuggled the formula out of the Empire and that now both the Russian Federation and the Ottoman Republic have it.
There are no jets, but there are large passenger zeppelins in the skies above Camaret-sur-Mer, docking at skyports at the top of artistically-sculptured skyscrapers. High-speed trains span the continent, even passing over the Alps to the Russian Federation and the Ottoman Republic. There are rockets, but these are used for entertainment rather than in warfare (in fireworks, and to power rocket-boats in races). Automobiles are expensive but fairly common, and may run on either petrol or electricity. Public transportation is provided by plentiful buses, which are owned by private individuals or companies that are licensed to operate by the municipality (much like taxis are in large cities in the USA). Buses come in all sizes, from station wagons to huge double-decker monstrosities.
Cameras, radios, and tape recorders are bulky devices, rarely smaller than a breadbox -- a large breadbox. Semiconductor technology has not been invented, meaning that what few electronic devices have been invented use vacuum tubes rather than transistors or integrated circuits. Computers exist, but they are huge, fragile, and horribly expensive machines. It is said that the Czarina of Russia is given an ornately jeweled computer each year on her birthday by the Faberge family, and that each of these computers is an expert on a single subject.
There is television (even wide-screen television, if you have the marks to pay for it), but it is in black and white. There is no rock and roll: jazz and big band rule the airwaves (other than the official Imperial radio stations, which broadcast Bach, Mozart, Liszt, etc.). Most of the new music and nearly all of the commercially successful films (which do come in "living color") come from overseas, from the Confederation of American States. The Empire has placed limits on what percentage of popular entertainment created outside of the Empire may be sold or broadcast (generally 60% for broadcast media, and 40% for bookstores and magazine stands). There are heavy tariffs on foreign-made films and recordings, and thus a thriving black market for them. The largest portion of the black market, of course, consists of "hex" -- talismans and potions smuggled in from Africa and the Americas, which are totally banned and demand an absurdly high price.
Civilian arms are generally revolvers or small swords, but these are worn more for ornament than for defense. Many younger gentlemen don't even load their pistols (to the disgust of old-timers who remember the "invasion drills" of years gone by), and some carry pistols so elaborately engraved and decorated that using them to fire bullets would reduce their value or even damage them. (Visitors from the Confederation of American States can usually be discerned by the ludicrously large pistols they carry.) The police carry submachine guns, most typically the Heckler & Koch MP5, along with a few talismans to protect them against ever-increasing hex-related violence. They are polite, but they do not tolerate interference in police business, and they will not hesitate to aim their weapons at anyone who refuses to do as they are told.
Places Of Interest
Pénitencier du Camaret-sur-Mer ("The Keep")
Camaret-sur-Mer, Finistère, France, Franco-Prussian Empire
Pénitencier du Camaret-sur-Mer is a forbidding granite fortress built on and into a rocky granite plateau thrusting as high as 60 meters above the ocean. Originally built to defend against Viking attacks in the ninth century, it has walls over two meters thick. The castle was restored 1894-1914, and the Empire began using it for criminals too dangerous to imprison elsewhere.
The stones of The Keep and the granite bedrock into which its dungeons are tunneled are saturated with wards to prevent anyone from using magic to get in, and to keep those magicians already inside powerless. Rumours are that these potent wards require the ritual sacrifice of a few prisoners each year, but of course the Empire denies such wild tales.
The Ottoman Republic is the greatest rival to the Franco-Prussian Empire. It stretches from the sands of Morocco and the rocky islands of Greece to the distant lands of Persia and Hindustan. The Turks divide their empire into semi-autonomous feudalmilitary divisions, each under the rule of a vassal prince who owes fealty to the Grand Turk, Sultan Selim IV. The Turks are even more barbaric than the Americans. They have fierce cannibalistic warriors (called "Janissaries"), depraved sexual practices (multiple wives kept in "hareems", decadent "Turkish baths", castrated slaves, and other practices too vulgar to mention here), and are notorious heathens as well (the Ottomans tolerate a variety of strange foreign cults, the practice of "Islam" chief among them).
The Ottoman Republic was dangerously expansionist until the mid-20th century, when the Empire demanded that the Turks remove their troops from Algeria, Serbia, and Bulgaria (all of which had been independent states until that time). The Ottomans refused, leading to the Second Great Turkish War -- a bloody sixteen-year conflict with casualties in the tens of millions. The Second Great Turkish War ended in 1945, when the Franco-Prussian Empire unleashed the terrible Ritual Of Devastation on the Ottoman-controlled city of Tunis. Every living thing and man-made object in Tunis was turned to dust. The Ottomans agreed to an armistice, and withdrew their troops from the contested regions, which were then claimed by the Franco-Prussian Empire (Algeria later regained its independence, but Serbia and Bulgaria remain part of the Franco-Prussian Empire to this day). The armistice was supposed to be followed by a formal treaty, but neither the Empire nor the Turks could agree on terms, leading to a decades-long "cold war" between the two great powers.
The Russian Federation is a vast territory stretching from Poland to Mongolia, from the the bitter Arctic to blistering Afghanistan. It is the largest contiguous empire on earth, and also the most stable. Blessed by a series of competent and just Czars, Russia and its vassals have avoided the military entanglements which have ensnarled their Ottoman and Franco-Prussian neighbors, and an uneasy peace has existed between the Russian Federation and the other two great powers for several generations.
As has been the case since the time of Catherine the Great, the subject nations of the Russian Federation have very limited autonomy. While local governments have authority to deal with local matters, in all cases they may be overruled by the will of the Russian Parliament and the Czarina. This usually takes the form of standardizing the laws across the Federation, eliminating corruption and unrest in the subject nation's political organs, and funding public works which are deemed to enhance the Russian Federation as a whole. Unlike the Empire and the Ottoman Republic, travel between the subject nations of the Russian Federation is actually encouraged.
Confederation Of American States
The wealthiest nation in the New World is the Confederation of American States. Barbaric by European standards, the CAS is neither an empire nor a single nation-state, but a loosely knit union of sovereign nations which are pledged to support one another in matters of foreign policy. Trade barriers among the Confederated States are forbidden by their Articles of Confederation, leading to increased specialization as the people of each country focus on those activities which at which they can compete most effectively. This economic flexibility and competitive motivation has catapulted the CAS from a backwater hellhole to the most affluent of the former Imperial Colonies.
Despite the apparent success of "The American Experiment", the CAS is a brutish, lawless land, where local police have little power to keep the peace and the Confederation central government has no troops of its own at all. Americans are reputed to be as unruly as Spaniards, as militant as the Swiss, and as lusty as Italians. In short, they have all the least-civilized qualities of the Imperial citizenry, with none of the Empire's culture and sophistication -- little better than the savages and pirates whose attacks they must constantly repel.
The Empire places strict limits on how much may be imported from the American States. The Imperial Foreign Office has urged the adoption of even stricter quotas, due to the growing popularity of uncouth American films, music, and hex in the Empire.
Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire
The Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST), commonly called "the Imperial Eye", is responsible for counterespionage, counterterrorism, and more generally the security of the Empire against foreign threats and interference. The main headquarters of the DST is located in Berlin. In Camaret-sur-Mer, the headquarters of the DST is the Tour Vauban, a 17th century fortress.
The Gallican Church
The state religion of the Franco-Prussian Empire is the Gallican Catholic Church, which places ultimate earthly authority in the person of the Emperor (whose authority is, by Divine will, inviolate), and reserves to the Pope in Avignon authority only over spiritual matters. Further, papal authority is limited by the authority of the general council and that of the bishops, who alone can give to his decrees that infallible authority which, of themselves, they lack.
In practice, the Gallican Church has been a tool and servant of the Empire, promoting policies the Emperor wants promoted and denouncing those the Emperor wants denounced. The submission of the Church to the Empire has caused some to question the validity of the Church. This is at the heart of the persistent unrest in Ireland, and is one of the many obstacles to friendly Imperial relations with the Russian Federation.
Unsanctioned religions are practiced in the Empire, of course. These include Russian Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism, a variety of Protestant Christian sects, and a larger number of small and secretive non-Christian sects and cults. These religions have no formal standing in the Empire, and as such they do not have the political and financial support that the Gallican Church has, but they are not illegal and are not subject to official censure or persecution as long as they refrain from criticizing the Empire and the Gallican Church.
Magic And The Church
The official stand of the Gallican Church is that magic is a sin unless it is done by the will of the Emperor (who rules with the sanction of God), or it is the result of an answered prayer (in which case it is not "magic", but a "miracle"). It goes without saying that the prayers of priests, who are closer to God and better trained in what He wants to hear, are more likely to be heard and answered than the prayers of the laity. In the eyes of the Church use of magic without the sanction of the Church or the Emperor is an abomination, because it seeks to overrule the will of God with the will of Man. Such attempts are doomed to fail, even though they may appear to be successful in the short run.
War and the Church
Religious militant orders exist at the sufferance of the Empire. The Imperial Army supplies their weapons and ostensibly supervises their training, and officially it can assume control of the militant orders any time it sees fit. In reality, some militant orders are little more than fraternal organizations within the military proper, while others segregate themselves and have their own fortresses and bases. These segregated types usually have an explicit mission delineated in the charter granted them by the Crown.
There is a strong sense of unit loyalty among the militant orders, and there is a long history of them defying orders to perform great deeds against overwhelming odds. Perhaps this is why the Empire allows their continued existence.
The Milieu is a category of French organized criminals operating in the Empire. However, the Milieu often works in cooperation with foreign organized crime. Criminal groups associated with the Milieu work in every major city in France, but are mostly concentrated in Marseille, Grenoble, Paris, Lyon, and of course Camaret-sur-Mer. The four most significant factions of the Milieu are the Parrains (also called "the Godfathers" or "the Corsicans"), the French Maghrebi, the Pieds-Noirs (also called "the Algerians"), and the Gitans (or "Travellers"). The relationship between these factions is sometimes cooperative, sometimes competitive, and sometimes bloody. However, open warfare is rare among the major factions of the Milieu, because bloodshed is bad for business.
Société Impériale de Thaumaturgie
The Société Impériale de Thaumaturgie (SIT) is the organization in charge of regulating the use of magic in the Empire and enforcing those regulations. The main headquarters of the SIT is located in Paris.
Worlds Above And Below
According to the Gallican Church and the Société Impériale de Thaumaturgie, the mortal world was created on a foundation laid down by God at the beginning of time. At the bottom of the stack is the Void, which is nothing, yet has limitless potential. Between the Void the mortal world are the worlds of "concept", which God used to slowly build up to the seventh realm -- the mortal world. On top of this mortal world, there are other realms, less flexible than ours, in which the form and structure established by God are increasingly rigid as one rises toward Heaven, which is the eternal and unchanging mind of God.
Some heretical magicians describe a different model of the mortal world and other realities. Rather than layers, they describe the worlds "above" and "below" ours as spheres. The Void, which is nothing yet potentially anything, is at the center, and each sphere outward is more structured, with more actuality and less potential. What makes this model heretical is the fact it postulates multiple worlds at each "level", implying that our world has no special status, being just one of any number of worlds with similar physical properties.
While neither the Church nor the SIT have published an official inventory of the worlds above and below ours, here are a few that have been documented by the SIT.
The closest world below ours is usually called the Shadowlands, but it has other names, depending on the frame of reference of the travelers who were visiting there at the time. Mediums and some parapsychologists call it the Spirit World, because they believe it to be populated by the spirits of deceased human beings. Some magicians call it the Netherworld. Some of the creatures who live there call it Faerie.
Most describe the Shadowlands as a ghostly mirror of the mortal world, because there is a close correspondence between locations and geography in the two worlds. However, this description implies that the Shadowlands are dark or gloomy, which is not always the case. The Shadowlands are simply vague. Where the mortal world is solid and tangible, the Shadowlands always seem to be on the edge of changing, as if all one sees there is an illusion. A magician traveling in the Shadowlands may pass close to her destination without noticing it, or a traveler may find a forest in the Shadowlands where she would swear none had existed before.
There is evidence to support the claim that some of the entities inhabiting the Shadowlands were mortal men and women until they shrugged off their mortal coil: ghosts. Yet other inhabitants of the Shadowlands are distinctly alien in thought and deed, and claim to be older than humankind.
Beyond the Shadowlands are the Dreamlands. All mortals have been to the Dreamlands at one time or another. Most visit nearly every night of their lives. Where the mortal world is ruled by the laws of physics, and the Spirit World is pure essence, the Dreamlands are a mixture of the two. The substance of the Dreamlands can be warped by a strong enough Presence, even by those who do not have the talent for magic. Geography in the Dreamlands is an ephemeral thing. What can one moment be as real and solid as a block of granite on a mountainside under a sapphire sky, can the next moment be a sour-smelling hospital room where someone's grandmother slowly waits to die. The Dreamlands tend to reflect what lies within the heart and mind of the traveler, either consciously or unconsciously.
In the center of the Dreamlands, wherever that center may be (because the Dreamlands have no beginning and no end, there can be no certainty just where the center may lie), is the Court of the Dream King. The Dream King, the ruler of the Dreamlands, goes by many names. One commonly used by magicians is Nocturne. Although called the Dream King, Nocturne is more than simply the ruler of the Dreamlands: in a real sense he or she is the Dreamlands. In ages past, it was thought that the health of a king was mirrored by the health of his country. As the king prospered, so did his domain. If the king was angry, or upset, or made poor decisions, the kingdom would suffer equally: droughts, plagues, and poor crops were laid at the feet of the king. The source for these beliefs is the Dream King. Within his realm, he is the only force that matters. He may inspire dreamers with visions of beauty that drive them to create great works of art, or he may plague them with nightmares that haunt them even into their waking hours. Roused to anger, he can prevent a dreamer from ever awakening, or erase them from the Dream forever. Fortunately, he stirs from his demesne infrequently, and he rarely interferes in the affairs of mortals.
Sleeping people who venture here in their dreams leave their bodies behind, yet they appear to have bodies in the Dreamlands, as well. The creatures native to the Dreamlands seem every bit as real as creatures of the mortal realm. A magician who travels to the Dreamlands in her physical body (rather than as a dreamer) seems no more or less real than any dreamer or dream creature. Dreamers have a great advantage over magicians, however: barring intervention from the Dream King (or certain other rare and powerful dream creatures), a dreamer will never die in a dream -- she may wake up in a panic of fright, but she won't die. A magician who is killed physically while in the Dreamlands is not so lucky: she is just as dead as she would be in the mortal world. Or perhaps not, if it was only a dream.