Reign of Fire
A GURPS Cabal/Reign of Steel Crossover
by Werner H. Hartmann
"I never thought I would say this: but I would die and kill for just a few billions more humans on the planet!"
-- Julius Vandenberg, Vampire and Adept, 2047, somewhere in California.
In this scenario, the 18 demi-gods who drove the human race to near-extinction and divided the planet among them into 18 zones were no AIs -- they are dragons. And their minions are not robots; they're zombies, werewolves, and elementals. Due to experiments of certain cabalists, magic and dragons returned in full force unto the face of the Earth -- and neither mankind nor the Cabal could handle it. This is a world of post-apocalyptic horror, where dragons roam the skies, zombies stalk the ruined cities, witches are burned at the stake, and where a secret brotherhood of monsters may be mankind's last best hope for survival.
Welcome to the Reign of Fire.
History Up To 2047
The last dragon to roam the material plane died in 1531. This fact is common knowledge to any decent cabalist at the beginning of the third millennium. The same fact made genuine dragon's blood a rare, expensive, and limited resource for practitioners of magic -- and while there always had been some eccentric cabalists advocating a common effort to return dragons to Assiah, they were usually ignored.
Things changed when the researchers of Aeon Laboratories told Grand Master Albert Garner Kavanagh III that they had discovered a formula which would actually allow him to grow himself a new body from his head. Kavanagh was sceptical at first, but after carefully checking the results of his scientists he became a fanatic believer. All that was needed now was the condensed essence of a few thousand gallons of dragon's blood of the finest quality. So, knowing that the majority of the Cabal would be less than ecstatic about this endeavor, Kavanagh started a secret campaign of re-naturalization of the great dragons on Earth by any means necessary -- be it genetic engineering, alchemical transmutation, or transdimensional egg-napping. He even found some allies in his cause, mostly members of the fae and certain shapeshifters. It is unknown, if any other Grand Masters joined the effort, but Athene du Sarrazin, Koschei, Garravin, and Erszbet Bathory are among the usual suspects.
The year 2026 saw the hatching of the first real dragon in a secret alchemical research facility of Aeon Labs somewhere in Alaska. Those first dragons were small and not very intelligent (use stats for dragons in GURPS Technomancer), but their genetic material was transported to laboratories all over the globe, where all kinds of magical experiments were undertaken to enhance growth, intelligence, and inherent magical ability of the next generations of dragons, so that their blood would meet all of Kavanagh's requirements. They succeeded.
In 2031 in a large alchemical research center on the Philippines, exactly 500 years after the death of the last dragon on Earth, something happened during the "birth" of the first "Tiamat" model: the enormous beast, which stepped fully-grown (or so the researchers thought) from a revolutionary alchemically modified fusion reactor, and which could channel energies directly to and from Briah, was obviously the real thing. The dragon proved to be extremely loyal and powerful, able to enhance the productivity of the center in unforeseen ways. Thus, and because one or two dragons would never be able to "donate" the amount of blood required, the resurrectionists, as the group around Albert Kavangh had begun to call itself, decided to build more of these reactors -- especially since the first Tiamat dragon was willing and able to help in the modification of the reactors. It even had ideas on how to improve them. Since it proved impossible to build an alchemical fusion reactor which would survive the birth of a Tiamat, and because the reactors were so big that no facility at Aeon Labs disposal could hold more than one, it became necessary to modify several of the reactors all around the world. Kavanagh pumped billions of dollars into new reactors, which were actually quick and easy to modify . . . just large and expensive. To the pride and joy of the resurrectionists all the newborn Tiamats were at least as loyal and obedient as the firstborn. One researcher said: "They are like little ducklings. They think we are their parents!" He was wrong.
Manila, the firstborn Tiamat, somehow succeeded in building a back door into all following dragon-reactor designs; all Dragon Lords had the ability to telepathically communicate by means of magic, but contrary to ordinary magical telepathy this communication seemed unaffected by distance, and could not be detected by normal magical means. One theory on this says that there exists a kind of communication channel through Yetzirah or Briah -- realms where distance has no meaning -- accessible only to the Dragon Lords. However that may be, Manila and its brethren instantly began to "assist" the cabalists in ways they never expected. Manila had come to the conclusion that mankind was the greatest single danger ever to the existence of dragons and other magical beings. Humans extinguished dragons before -- now they had guns and nukes: they would do it again. Only by wiping mankind from the face of the Earth could dragons once and forever take the place they deserved -- on top.
At the end of 2031 -- new reactors were still being modified, many even carefully camouflaged as real state-of-the-art fusion reactors -- the Tiamats unleashed necromantic rituals of truly unearthly effectiveness: the researchers and employees of every Aeon Lab with a Tiamat became vectors for terrifying plagues and diseases, while making them and their families were immune. At first. Thousands died, then millions. The first wave of plagues were just the equivalent of modern bioweapons. Then came diseases with magical reinforcements built in; only magic could cure them . . . powerful magic. As the world began to sink into chaos, many cabalists rejoiced; while they knew nothing about the true origin of the plagues, many thought that a new dark age would benefit those who knew magic -- and, of course, they wouldn't make the stupid mistakes they did during the last dark age! The Tiamats used these years to quietly gather allied forces around them, and in 2034 the Final War began. Hordes of werecreatures, zombies, vampires, wraiths, elementals, liches, spirits, trolls, and uncounted lesser dragons from Aeon Labs' early experiments poured like rain upon a devastated planet. The Dragon Lords assumed their true forms and attacked capitals and military bases, mind-controlling or killing the inhabitants as they saw fit. The lodges reacted almost instantly, even if most knew nothing of the cabalistic origins of the creatures they were fighting. Adamant about its secrecy, the Cabal fought titanic battles out of sight of normal humans -- but the Tiamats had allies in dozens of lodges. Several Grand Masters died or vanished in those days, one of them being Koschei, who battled the Moscow Tiamat. The human military fared no better and was often just as panicked and disoriented as the civilian population it was supposed to protect; whole companies fell victim to hordes of zombies -- only to become zombies themselves. Several nuclear weapons were launched by all sides, some Dragon Lords vanished, but in the end the Dragons prevailed.
In 2037 the Final War officially ended with the Cabal in almost as bad a shape as the rest of the world. The remaining 18 Dragon Lords carved up the Earth and the Moon into 18 different zones, each to be the sole domain of one of them. The Dragon Lords instantly began to force their personal vision of the ideal world unto their zones. Some embraced mankind's technology, some demolished it. Some tried to extinguish even the last few millions of humans within their reach, others began to use them. Almost all of the Dragon Lords, however, began massive building and construction programs to transform the remains of human cities in their zones into strange embodiments of sacred architecture, the complexity and sheer weirdness of which had never been seen by human eyes -- at least in Assiah, that is. Humans had no place in those frightening expanses of stone and steel, where eldritch energies danced down streets and avenues once filled to the brim with human life and laughter.
The next couple of years were a time of construction and re-shaping in the zones. Every Dragon Lord tried to further the common cause of a magical world ruled by dragons to the best of its abilities and according to its own vision. Even the remains of the Cabal began to pull together. From the rubble of a civilization those humans with magic in their veins crawled like all the other survivors, and they found that not all undead and shapeshifters were eager to serve the great lizards. They also found that humans once again believed in magic. And the humans believed it was evil.
So the remains of the Cabal pulled together again. For survival. For revenge. The Dragon Lords, however, began to discover that they were very different indeed. Each Lord and its zone seemed to be dominated by one specific Decan -- even if it sometimes was unclear which Decan. The tensions between those Decans as well as the simple selfishness of the Dragon Lords could overshadow the "common cause" to such a degree that even wars between the zones seemed feasible. Then in 2042 the cleanup of the New Zealand Manacrisis brought about the Brisbane accords (p. RS12) to regulate the relations between the Dragon Lords. But it is a shaky peace in a world where human and cabalistic resistance groups fight the dragons and their servants, where witch hunters working for dragons and humans alike threaten members of the Cabal, and where the Cabal still has to think about the qlippoth and Those Who Wait Beyond.
The World: America
This zone is ruled by a Dragon Lord with a strangely medieval Chimera-like appearance; several body parts of the master of Caracas look like they belong to different animals, like lions, goats, snakes, and eagles. Caracas' Decan expresses itself in its ultra-green politics, and its interest in creating new species. However, while it believes that humans as a species are an utter failure, it prefers to keep humanity's genetic potential alive -- and at its disposal for further tests and designs. Magic has given Caracas geneering abilities equivalent to TL10-11 technology!
The master of Zone Denver is certainly the most terrifying for humans to look at: The mere sight of this draconic mountain of stitched-together human body parts, some of them still with seemingly active eyes, mouths, and hands, can shock even vampires into paralysis (fright check penalty of -12). Denver's master almost died in a nuclear explosion during the Final War, leading to massive tissue damage and rampant cancers in its body. Apparently the solution were human transplants, including brain grafts which heightened Denver's mental capacities. But, alas, the cure is not permanent: to keep the biomagical cancers at bay, not to mention its need for more intellectual prowess, Denver has to keep adding more and more human tissue to his already gargantuan body.
Mexico City (Eneuth)
This zone has been transformed by its master into a true hell-hole: The three-headed Dragon Lord is host and leader to thousands of fire elementals, djinn, pneumae, and -- as some believe -- demons. Mexico City thinks that not only humans but all biological life should be exterminated. However, fire needs fuel, and as such humans are still kept alive in certain areas -- only to become victims of the eventual demon-raid or FAE testing. Mexico City is very fond of modern technology, especially if it produces such wonderful things as napalm, FAEs, nuclear warheads, lasers, and microwave ovens. It is also co-funding certain research projects of Brisbane, and is rumored to have recently acquired several mil-spec maser prototypes . . .
The zone of this metallic black Dragon Lord, who has uncut gems growing on his hide, is characterized by abundance and wealth. Vancouver controls vast amounts of raw materials -- and it considers humans to be one of them. Humans are kept like cattle and slaves, nothing more. While Vancouver uses a lot of technology in its vast industrial areas and mining sites, and even buys exterminator robots from Tokyo, it seems very conservative and is not really interested in any kind of scientific or technological research.
Maybe the most cunning of all Dragon Lords rules this zone, whose citizens were duped to believe that they are free and that their government is using the best of technology and magic to defend their freedom. The benevolent government even succeeded in breeding certain kinds of dragons to serve in its military forces -- and this dragon corps follows a great green dragon with fiery red eyes, who openly swore allegiance to humankind in the turmoils of the Final War! Life in Zone Washington is a lot like the life in an impoverished but technologically advanced version of the 1950s -- or better, Technomancer in the 1950s: The government is preaching a "Cold War" doctrine, which is used as the reason for certain "Civil Inconveniences" like the Birthrate Regulations. Conspiracy theorists have several candidates for the Dragon Lord of this Zone, among them the President, the chief of the FBI, and the leader of the dragon corps.
A garden. A jungle. That's probably the vision of the ideal world in the mind of Zone Berlin's master. This Dragon Lord is an enormous feathered serpent, with shimmering blue, red, and yellow feathers. But this beautiful entity sadly sees humans as a kind of plague, as vermin -- so it decided to become an exterminator. In Zone Berlin all living creatures are welcome, but plant life rules supreme, and there's always hunting season for humans and undead. Nature spirits and werecreatures, especially werewolves, serve Berlin faithfully and will destroy any human settlement, killing all humans they can find.
The master of this Zone is an enigma: rarely seen, this Dragon Lord (who looks a bit like a giant plesiosaur and is believed by some to be the legendary Loch Ness monster) rules over the islands of this zone, but doesn't seem to care much about the humans, who live on them. Instead it seems that London is searching something in the ocean. London's servants are predominantly water elementals and certain werecreatures and spirits. Those creatures and the vision of a clean Northern Sea also form an area of overlapping interests between Berlin and London, which may explain London's policy of "limited tolerance" vs. humans. The fact that human settlements are ignored as long as they don't pollute any body of water or create emissions which may lead to acid rain, causes humans on the islands to live at low TLs or use solar or wind energy.
Listening. Searching. Hoping. Paris' master, whose blue-gray eyes are actually human, is convinced that somewhere out there must exist another civilization on another world. Ancient -- like dragons. Wise -- like dragons. Only immortal and magical beings like dragons and their ilk could be the rulers of such an ultra-terrestial world. Paris uses every means at its disposal, be it magical or technological, to comb through the vastness of astral and extra-terrestial space. Humans are only a nuisance in this undertaking, since they are so blind to magic and since they and their settlements only use up valuable space and raw materials, much better used in the building of more VLA antennae.
A silent and wise great dragon, covered in strange hexagonal scales and with a long snake-like tail, rules over the expanses of Zone Moscow. Not necessarily friendly to humans, Moscow's dragon is intrigued by their culture, their science, and their long complicated history -- so it collects. Moscow's hoard consists of data and knowledge, so it is employing even humans to collect all the books and artworks they can get their hands on. Uneducated humans, however, are at best a source of cheap labor -- but still the labor camps of Zone Moscow are kept in decent conditions and have high survival rates.
Deep light-swallowing black is the color of this zone's Dragon Lord. Zaire is a zone where humans have only four things waiting for them: undeath, death as a ritual sacrifice, death as food for the undead, or just plain death. The roaming undead of Zone Zaire are the result of a simple logic of its master: use undead humans to kill other humans, who also are turned into undead, thus killing more humans, etc. The fact that Zaire's undead often violate the borders to Paris and Tel Aviv -- sometimes in hot pursuit of humans, sometimes because zombies have lousy orientating skills -- has led to tense relationships with its northern neighbors.
Tel Aviv (Methiax)
Always shrouded in fog and never clearly seen is the great gray form of this Dragon Lord. It rules over its zone with a masquerade rivaling that of Washington: an army of spirits, loyal magicians, fae, duped followers, and illusionary creations spreads angelic tales of apocalypse and redemption across the deserts and mountains of the zone. While there are a few brave souls, who resist the lies, it is exceedingly hard to counter the "wonders" of the false prophets without fighting fire with fire -- yet there have recently been more and more rumors of "true" holy men wandering the land . . .
New Delhi (Anatreth)
A Dragon Lord like a super-sonic fighter plane, the master of Zone Delhi is a beautiful sleek dragon of deep violet . . . and fast. New Delhi is fascinated by space travel and technological progress, which has caused it to create an ambitious program for space travel and colonization. Since humans have managed to achieve an astounding speed of technological progress, they are -- for New Delhi -- far too valuable to eradicate. Instead, they should be tamed and become servants of the cause. Magic, technology, humans, parahumans, or spirits -- all are just a part of New Delhi's race for the stars.
The Beyond. This is the main interest of the two-headed honey-colored Dragon Lord, who rules Zone Beijing. Humans are just unimportant -- as long as they can be kept low in numbers so that they cannot endanger the cause. This cause is to reach across the voids, which separate the stars and the astral from the material realms. Beijing's ultimate goal is to establish permanent gateways and "roads" between planets and realms, a goal which has lead it to sponsor certain projects of Brisbane. Since Beijing lacks New Delhi's obsession with speed it has recently begun to worry that it may lose the space race . . . but it is certain to be the leader as far as the astral realms are concerned. However, Beijing is painfully aware of Paris' attempts to contact extra- or ultraterrestial draconic civilizations, fearing that Paris may actually find something out there, which would better be left undiscovered . . .
Asia and Australia
Nobody seems to know what this zone's Dragon Lord actually looks like, but this much is clear: it is not only one of the most mysterious, but also one of the most ambitious of all Dragon Lords. The secrets of magic are just one part of its many interests -- Brisbane is equally fascinated by the myriads of oddities cooked up by humans over the millennia -- be it psionics, cryptozoology, conspiracy theories, "secret" histories, UFOs, or the rubber science from certain works of human fiction. Where Moscow collects history books and works of art, Brisbane collects and analyzes conspiracy history books and ancient occultaria. It is always on the lookout for information about human "Top Secret" projects, including old Russian GKMR documents and tales of "Nazi Superscience". In fact, it may be the only Dragon Lord truly interested in the whole field of psionics. "Hard" science is much too confining for Brisbane's taste: it is constantly trying to push the boundaries of physical and paraphysical science into the realm of Anoster, the impossible and un-doable. Humans are important to Brisbane mainly because it needs them as guinea-pigs in its many experiments, some of which are rumored to have resulted in catastrophic mana-explosions or in the release of staggering amounts of psychic energy, thus destroying large research facilities.
As far as anyone can tell, this large reddish-purple Dragon Lord with its impressive ram's horns was the first of its kind. Manila is still convinced that humans will have to be totally eradicated to ensure the eternal existence of dragons and other magical sentients. It is appalled by all ideas of symbiosis, and almost frightened by Brisbane's psionic experiments. Manila is the absolute master of death and destruction, rivaled only by Mexico City and Zaire. Technology and science are well-respected by this Dragon Lord, who runs hundreds of technomantic research and production facilities in Zone Manila -- many of them dedicated to developing better weapons and means of mass destruction. Mature nanotechnology is somewhat of a holy grail for Manila, which is the cause of its generous funding of nano-tech research by Tokyo and Brisbane.
The mere appearance of this Dragon Lord has caused some, including other dragons, to utter some whispered doubts about its draconic nature: should size truly matter, then Tokyo's Lord is surely the greatest of all Dragon Lords, its wingspan alone measuring over 200' -- but this Dragon Lord looks like a gargantuan steampunk robot, completely made out of brass and bronze! True to its outward appearance, Tokyo is fascinated by and devoted to technology in every form, from automatic weapons to computers, from fusion power to robots. Rivaled only by Manila, Zone Tokyo has the most industrialized landscape on the planet -- a fact which has made its Lord enemies in Berlin, Caracas, and even London. Tokyo, however, has a problem: human junkrats who live hidden in the bleak wastelands of this zone. And it has a secret: Although the Dragon Lords did agree that they would be the only "Great" dragons on the planet, at least for the time being, Tokyo performed an experiment with bleeding-edge cyberware which was then used to augment four "ordinary" ancient dragons. The four showed highly increased intelligence and magical ability, so they were used as local governors . . . until they went rogue, that is. Now the four cyberdragons, who somehow gained the ability to morph their bodies into dozens of technical forms -- thus gaining effective disguises and extreme physical adaptability -- have gone into hiding and are thinking about contacting the human resistance, to use them for their own enigmatic cause.
The master of this zone was born from a newly installed fusion reactor at the Chinese moonbase Shuang Ti. The Dragon Lord quickly killed all humans in the base, but it found itself stranded on a barren rock in space. While the sharp distinctions between areas of light and utter darkness on the Moon were appreciated by the Dragon Lord, its (almost) unique physical situation forced it to rely on technology more than many of its brethren. The only "native" servants and allies of Luna are certain members of the fae, commonly depicted as "dark." Luna would like to build a mass driver or a permanent gate to Earth on the Moon, but both ideas have few friends among the other zones, the only exception being Orbital, which always likes to be paid in raw materials and sees no danger to itself in those endeavors. As it stands Luna is somewhat of a poor cousin to the other Dragon Lords when it comes to resources, servants, and geopolitical position -- all of which could play a deciding role once Tranquility makes its move.
Like Luna, the master of Orbital was born from a seemingly normal fusion reactor, this one installed on the US space station Liberty. The great dragon covered in thick bronze armor plates, after neutralizing all humans on board, quickly realized its unique strategic position. Using space junk and magic, it transformed Liberty into a flying fortress, from which it took control over an army of reconnaissance, survey, weather, and communication satellites. Orbital is a technophile, if paranoid, Dragon Lord and manages the satellites around Earth for all zones. It is, however, very low on resources and hopes to move one or more small asteroids into Earth orbit in the near future -- especially since Orbital rarely leaves its "shell" and is loathe to move the whole station into the asteroid belt, even if that would be a wonderful place to built an even bigger and more secure fortress.
Facts & Rumors
The New Zealand Manacrisis
Started in 2040 on the northern island of New Zealand, Brisbane's Project Bandersnatch somehow went terribly wrong in 2042. It is unclear what exactly Project Bandersnatch was, but it is widely believed to have been a brute-force attempt to create the Philosopher's Stone. Whatever happened then and there, it frightened the Dragon Lords, and after several nuclear strikes to sterilize the alchemical laboratories and destroy the sacred architecture around them, both islands were permanently put under quarantine. Human groups who came close to the islands reported a strange pink haze lying over the coast. No news of the 400,000 humans inhabiting the islands in 2040 have since reached the rest of the world. Among the theories about the crisis there is the idea of an enormous Wild-mana area (p. CM93), as well as the vision of a rift in reality and a whole land controlled by the qlippoth . . .
The Grand Masters
The Final War took a heavy toll on the ranks of the Cabal, not even sparing the greatest of them. Koschei and Kavanagh are confirmed dead. Athene du Sarrazin, however, simply disappeared and is reported to be allied with Berlin and Caracas nowadays. She was declared traitor and outcast but so far no cabalist was able to bring in her hide. The relation between the reptoids and the Dragon Lords seems to be exceedingly bad, thus assuring Lord Kaas'sth'raa's loyalty to the Cabal. But one new Grand Master has risen from the ashes of the Final War: The Russian, his real identity is still a mystery, apparently defected from the GKMR to join the Cabal. His enormous psionic powers, rivaled only by Dr. Fang, allowed him to claim Grand Master status during the turmoil following the Final War. The true appearance of the Russian, who is rumored to operate mainly in the area around the Black Sea, is somewhat of a mystery: pictures of him don't exist, and those who have met him can only remember meeting an extremely average nondescript man of middle age . . .
This dragon may be the best evidence of Garravin's involvement with the resurrectionists. Rumor has it that two Dragon Lords were planned to emerge on the Moon, the one from Shuang Ti and one from the US base. But somehow the alchemical modifications of the fusion reactor of the American moon base were altered. So when the Final War began, there indeed was a dragon born from the reactor -- but it was isolated from the secret communication channel of the Dragon Lords, and, much worse than that, it seemed confused and unwilling to kill off the humans on its base. Orbital immediately reacted with a magically-reinforced nuclear strike to wipe out the renegade dragon and its base -- and it succeeded. Or so it seemed. Tranquility, weak as it was in the days of the Final War, is closely tied to Phthenoth, the Decan of healing. Alone among all Dragon Lords even magic could not prevent its return from death. Hiding in spirit form it waited for its body to regenerate. Tranquility had sensed the oncoming attack and had placed several dozen humans in magical hibernation in the bunkers of the station. Those and others, who had died in the attack but had left behind a mostly intact corpse, then were slowly restored to life by Tranquility but kept in hibernation. The slim lavender-colored Dragon Lord found that many of the Fae were sympathetic to its cause and so it began rebuilding the base with their help. Today it is 2047 and Tranquility's work is almost done. Tranquility Station has become a magical maze of living steel and stone, able to regenerate itself. The Dragon Lord has used its magical affinity to the Moon to grow in power and body and will soon start to re-awaken the sleepers; it has detected magical and psionic potential in some of them and it needs allies . . .
The Great Library of the Cabal
The Great Library still exists -- in Zone Moscow. While there is still an "official" Great Library in Zone London, its contents are slowly being transferred or, more often, copied to Zone Moscows own great collection. The Cabal has succeeded in subverting a part of Moscow's effort for its own cause, thus creating a new "library within the library" in Zone Moscow. The old collection in Zone London, however, is still being kept as a backup. This is easy to accomplish since Moscow's master is usually content to receive copies. Moscow's Info Commandos also make a great cover for traveling cabalists and as postmen for the cabal.
The Few, the Proud, the Undead
Zone Washington has a retirement plan unlike any other for the best members of WASP (p. RS26). Those killed or crippled in the line of duty are turned into powerful undead, usually wraiths or vampires, and made members of the secret 13th division of WASP. Members of this division are accompanied in their missions by powerful elementals and black "stealth" dragons (p. T58).
This continent is neutral territory and off-limits to any exploitation or exploration by the Dragon Lords -- or so they agreed. Orbital, however, responsible for the control and enforcement of this accord, was recently bribed heavily by an unknown party that is now busy building some strange structures deep within the frozen wastes -- or maybe those activities are just excavations . . .
Some of the more paranoid members of the Cabal are convinced that the qlippoth have gained major footholds in Assiah since the Final War. And while few cabalists believe that all Dragon Lords are in league with the qlippoth (or worse), almost any cabalist has his pet theory about those zones and Dragon Lords which suffer from a qlippothic contamination. The favorites in this contest are Denver, Manila, and Zaire, closely followed by Washington, Tel Aviv, Berlin, and Paris.
The Cabal is still not the only supernatural conspiracy on the market. In 2047 the Societas Sancti di Leonis has become one of the most influential orders of the catholic church. A secret monastery of the order in Scotland harbors a college for the education of white magicians and exorcists -- and there are even rumors in the New Irish Vatican that the next pope might be a Leonide. Exodus 22, however, managed to gain a firm foothold within Zone Washington. It controls at least parts of the FBI, and while it does see the Dragon Lords as infernal monsters, it also seems convinced of Washington's independence and is more concerned with the threat of "witches" within the borders of mankind's "last best hope" than with some distant lizards. No one seems to know anything of the fate of the Chevaliers de la Crane, except for the usual paranoid theories which see them as pawns of Caracas or Zaire or both. No such difficulties arise when it comes to the Sirri: their Brazilian branch now serves Caracas openly, while the Sirri on the African continent are apparently busy fighting the Dragon Lord of Zaire. The GKMR, on the other hand, may have been changed the most by the Reign of Fire: this "psionic Russian Mafia" has turned into a vicious force of the resistance within the past 15 years. Some even see it -- and not the Cabal, Luzifer, or some Dragon Lord -- as the driving force behind the resistance organization known as SWORD (the equivalent of VIRUS from Reign of Steel). Sadly, this does not mean peace and harmony between the Cabal and the GKMR -- old grudges die hard and there is a bitter rivalry between the two groups. The defection of the Russian (see the entry on Grand Masters) has not helped in this.
There exist persistent rumors about a "renegade Dragon Lord", hunted by its brethren and allied with humanity's cause. This entity, often called Luzifer, is said to roam the land shapeshifted into the form of an incredibly handsome and charismatic young man -- seven foot tall and with long black hair. He never stays in one place for long, but he is willing and able to help humans against the dragons -- for a price. Some, especially witch hunters, say that "Luzifer's price" is always the soul, that he is the Lord of Hell, the fallen angel called the Morning Star, and the "Great Dragon" from the Book of Revelation. Others say that he (other than the other Dragon Lords no one refers to Luzifer as "it") is the Dragon of Rebellion, that he is served by "The Devil's Angels" a pack of good wizards and undead, and that he was once human. Nobody knows the truth but the tales of Luzifer are comforting to humans and are being told in the Americas, Europe, Russia, and the Middle East.
Dragon Lord Template
There is no such thing as a Dragon Lord template; or, to be exact, nobody is sure how this template should look like. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of theories about the true nature of the Dragon Lords: powerful eikones, aliens from beyond the stars, ancient dragons returned to Assiah, pawns of the qlippoth, magical "Jurassic Park" dinosaurs, products of powerful alchemy like homunculi, or something a lot worse . . . However, some things are almost certain: all Dragon Lords possess some version of the Vampiric Resurrection advantage (probably limited by magical damage), they also all have the Secret Communication advantage, all of them are Mana Generators (personal only, one level), they have enormous physical power (ST320+, HT16/200+), and at least some of them can exist in vacuum. Everything else is guesswork (and up to the GM).
Roleplaying During the Reign of Fire
All the character types from "standard" Reign of Steel have a place in a Reign of Fire campaign -- but all of them can be had in a magical or psionic variant. It is also possible to play witch hunters, vampires (who really feel the low population density in zones other than Washington and London), shapeshifters, and the whole range of strange creatures who may have found a home in the Cabal.
It exists. That much is common knowledge. But the vast majority has no idea how it works or where it comes from -- and most Dragon Lords would like to keep it that way. Many nomad packs have priests, shamans, or wizards who know one or two tricks -- but that is it. In Washington licensed magic is legal, but even those mages know next to nothing about their trade. In game terms this means that non-cabalists only have access to spells from the Basic Set -- unless they serve the dragons, of course.
Dragons don't get it. Not a single one of the great lizards understands or has any psionic powers. This seems to have lead to a certain paranoia of the Dragon Lords when it comes to psionics. The only exceptions to this are Brisbane and Washington, even if Washington's interests concentrate solely on Telepathy and Psychic Vampirism. Being a known psi with powers other than those two equals a death penalty in Zone Washington. In other zones where humans are otherwise tolerated, especially Tel Aviv, Moscow, London, and New Delhi, all psis are being hunted -- even if rumor has it that Tel Aviv and Moscow have a very few psis in their service. Generally those with unwanted or unlicensed psionic powers in Zone London and Zone Washington, as well as those who live in camps in the zones of Tel Aviv, Moscow, and New Delhi should have a Secret [-30] or take appropriate enemies.
The TL of this setting is slightly lower than that of GURPS Reign of Steel. The reason for this is the lack of enthusiasm many Dargon Lords have when it comes to technology. While many Lords are willing to use existing technology, only Brisbane, Tokyo, New Delhi, and Manila invest any serious amount of resources into research. Others, especially Berlin and London, seem to hate and distrust any modern technology. This means that no TL9 items exist, at least not outside of Brisbane's laboratories. Washington, however, is a mid-TL8 society, even if most of its citizens live without luxuries of any kind. Most of the available tech outside of Zone Washington and Zone Tokyo will be late-TL7 to early-TL8 stuff -- and outside of Zone Tokyo there are no robots from which to rip spare parts for your bleeding edge TL8 equipment.
The God Machine
A highly believable rumor reaches the PC's ears: somewhere in their area there lives a crazy old man who once worked in the inner circle of Kavanagh's research team -- and he is supposed to know the secret of the Tiamat reactors! With his help it might even be possible to modify a fusion reactor into the birthplace of a truly loyal Dragon Lord. Some even believe that the principle could be used to create (or call?) a more benevolent or powerful entity, like an incarnated archangel . . . Is the rumor true? Will it matter, when everybody, from religious fanatics to draconic agents, tries to get his hands on the old man? What if the old man knows nothing, but dies in the arms of the PCs, so everybody thinks they know the secret?
A Plague of Demons?
Some experiment of Brisbane or Caracas seems to have resulted in the creation of a couple of new supernatural species: all over the planet strange plants and animals are turning up -- and they are fertile, hungry, and tough! Are they maybe demons? Nobody knows, and no one seems to know what to do about them: in some zones they are hunted, in some ignored, and some try to domesticate them (with little success). This could be a really deadly setting, especially if you just use the creatures from War against the Chtorr! The PCs could be anything, from professional Enterprisefish hunters in Zone Washington to resistance fighters in Zone Berlin for whom life just got a lot more interesting . . .
The rumors of true holy men in and around Zone Tel Aviv have just become a lot more intense: It is reported that a prophet has appeared in the Holy Land, and that he and his circle of disciples are wandering across the Middle East performing miracles and wonders. Even spies of the Cabal tell of evidence of strange magic, done without the necessary rituals, yet powerful and reliable. What is going on down there? The heroes could be agents of the Cabal or the Vatican send to investigate this "clerical magic" -- even the Dragon Lords of Moscow or Brisbane might be interested in this. Or they could come from Zone Tel Aviv and search out this prophet in hope of salvation . . .
A Whole Different Ballgame
A GM could also decide to use this kind of setting as the backdrop of a heroic fantasy campaign. And with all these dragons, undead, mages, and shapeshifters around -- why not just use Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition? Use the rules for (ultra) modern weapons from any number of d20 books -- be they for Weird War, Spycraft, Dragonstar, or Traveller d20 -- and of you go: Clerics and paladins could be "true" holy men, either independent or working for the Vatican, psions and psychic warriors form the ranks of the GKMR, and monks roam the rubble of Zone Tokyo. Just have fun!
Article publication date: July 26, 2002
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