Cinders of the Cataclysm: Primer
NOTICE: This article will be deprecated and incorporated into Comprehensive Guide to Cinders of the Cataclysm. For now, there is useful information here, but keep an eye on the guide for the future.
Drax pulled the cloth wrap tighter to his mouth, the air rough and tasting of sand. He took a moment to glance at Clara, who was trudging beside him in her wastelander gear. The shawl that covered her head was a gritty maroon, and her bright eyes were barely visible behind her smudged goggles, just like his. But instead of the cloth he had tied across his mouth, she was wearing a breathing mask. Lucky her.
“Come zis vey!” said their guide, a young and gangly Vindralboy. “Vater!” he said and pointed to a well in the middle of the settlement.
Drax dropped his heavy bag and trotted up to the well. He was parched. The Shadowmark was worse than he had ever imagined. But if he were to escape the wrath of the corporate hunters after him, this was as good a place as any. Carla came up beside him, ripping the mask from her mouth as she dunked her pocket flask in the well.
“This place fucking sucks.” she said.
“You don’t say?” he quipped as he wiped his face from the water he'd just spat on himself, trying to hide a chuckle.
“I do fucking say.” she scowled in response. She put the flask to her lips and gulped the sand-infested liquid. A sudden commotion further down the road caught their attention. They heard raised voices and their guide looked up with a startled expression on his face. He took off, running towards the commotion. Drax exchanged a glance with Carla and nodded towards the source of the sound.
“Let’s have a look.” he said. Carla said nothing. She nodded, took another deep gulp of her flask and pulled her mask back on, gripping her sidearm as they walked.
A gruesome sight met them as they arrived. On the street lay a female Illim, around 35 years old. She had large, open sores on her face, neck and arms. Open wounds that spread outwards from a central wound like the shape of a starfish. She was convulsing and frothing. Drax motioned to Carla to back off. He had no interest in getting close to whatever that shit was. As they watched they noticed that other people around them also had these lesions, albeit not to the extent or aggravation the woman had.
“Is Malignance.” said a voice from behind them.
An older man, a Kuna, came up towards them. He too had lesions, not as visible because of his fur, but the unmistakable star-patterns were there.
“Malignance?” Carla asked without being able to tear her eyes from the scene in front of her.
“Mm.” He nodded. “Is Blight. When time comes, Malignance takes place. Death.” the man said and gestured to the woman on the ground. “Soon, perhaps my turn. Malignance comes for all, in end.”
He looked at Carla's horrified expression with a touch of amusement.
"Oh, don't worry, domedweller! Is not contagious. You are born with the Blight, and you will die from Malignance. Is way of life out here in the wastes."
With these words the old man walked up to the convulsing woman, and she turned her head to him, her eyes having trouble focusing on him.
“Please, help me! You must help me, father!” she pleaded and grabbed onto the man’s arm as he crouched down next to her. The old man hushed and put his hand on the woman's forehead.
“Be still, child.” he said, and took out a small glass flask with a reddish, muddy liquid in it. He poured some of it into her mouth and she willing drank the concoction, almost eagerly.
“Peace on your journey, my child.” the man said as the woman gasped, eyes bulging, and stiffened up with her back arched for a second before she fell still on the ground, apparently dead.
"Drax," Carla swallowed, "if we ever get back to Fusion City, remind me to shove a shotgun up Jefe’s ass.”
Cinders of the Cataclysm [CotC] is a cyberpunk, science fantasy, post-apocalyptic world designed for great adventures, intrigue and exploration. It is one of two settings that use the Celenia D10 RPG System [CD10] and provides an exciting retro-wave cyberpunk setting for your intrigues and adventures, and a terrifying wasteland scarred by the Cataclysm, a world ending event.
The setting in shortThe first thing you should know is that about a hundred years ago the world, as we knew it, ended. It is a long story why, and you can read more about it here, but for now, just know that everything outside of Fusion City is a barren, desert wasteland dotted with ruined cities and occasional survivor settlements. There are two parts of the world: Fusion City and the Shadowmark. The city is most familiar to us, even though it hardly is anything like our modern cities.
Fusion CityThe only surviving megacity is a colossal, domed monstrosity of concrete and glass. Fusion City was the first of the megacities that did not run on Shadow Power, but on fusion power, hence the name. The only reason it survived the Cataclysm was that it did not rely on shadow power so there was no channel for the energy to enter the dome and destroy the city. The dome held against the destruction and although there was devastation in the form of collapsed buildings: the city survived.
Fusion City is a self-sustained unit full of life and activity. It’s an absolute monster of a city, built in three levels. The Vault of Life, or level 0, is the subterranean level and house all the city’s life support and maintenance systems. Most people live in Central, which is the ground level. It’s a sprawling, neon-ridden metropolis with high rises everywhere. Few buildings are less than 50 floors high and the streets are packed with cars and motorbikes. Standing at ground level, the buildings can feel more like glass walls in a giant room more so than buildings.
Covering the centre of the city is the Vault of Heaven, also known as level 2. It is a city within the city, built on top of the core of Central. Vault of Heaven is a luxurious space patrolled all around the clock by corporate security. There is little overt crime in Vault of Heaven and most people who live here are filthy rich.
PopulationFusion City houses around a 100 million inhabitants, from five different sapient species. These species have lived in a single civilisation for so long that there is no separation of species in the city, and since all the species are biologically compatible, mixed families are common. Peculiarly, there are no half-breeds. The child of parents of different species becomes either the species of the mother or the father, never a mix, even if they take on traits and visual markers from both parents. The five species are:
- Dru’un, a species of brutish boar- and goatmen. Strong, dumb and brutish, the Dru'un are excellent security forces and manual labors. They are resilient, incredibly strong and often loyal. Their lack of intelligence hampers them from many tech-heavy jobs and their poor people skills bar them from working too closely with customers. The Dru'un suffered hundreds of years of enslavement at the hands of the Kykr and were emancipated only about 250 years ago.
- Hessak, a species of short and nimble lizardfolk. Stemming from a hive species in the then tropical islands in the far south, the Kykr enslaved the Hessak and selectively bred them into a labor force. The Hessak are small, nimble and surprisingly strong for their size. They function well in most professions, but thanks to the lingering stigma of their enslavement that, like the Dru'un, ended only 250 years ago, they are still not a common sight in the upper echelons of society.
- Illim, a species of strong, durable and candid people. The closest analogue of "human" you get in this world. The Illim is one of the older species in the world and was one of the two original species to start the Kykr civilisation several millennia ago. The Illim are carefree, beautiful and curious. Their curiousness and almost single-minded determination makes them great innovators and many Illim are behind some of the greatest discoveries of the world. They don't slack in the physical department either. While not as durable as the Dru'un or even as strong as the Hessak, they can still hold their own in a tussle.
- Kuna, a species of jackal-like people with great intellect and often a great sense of humour. The Kuna are clever, creative and charismatic. Their charisma, charm and social skills make them excellent "fronts" for corporations and they are often found as PR personnel, politicians and sales people. A surprising amount of Kuna also end up in the journalism profession. They however carry a dark past and every Kuna born carries the seed of a genetic disease that can spell horrible calamity if it triggers.
- Vindral, a species of minute Fay-like people who are most known for their deadpan logic and peculiar oestrous cycle. The Vindral are the only remaining descendant of the exctinct Fay. They were the original progenitors of the Kykr civilisation, banding together with the Illim to fight off the extinction they faced at the hands of the Fay, who banished them from their lands. Their Fay anscestry makes them different from the others in more ways than their appearance. These silph-like, angelic creatures are slaves to their origins and go into heat a couple of times a year, but stay cold and detached the rest of the time. They also do not age visibly in the same way as the others. They are cold, logical and astute. What they lack in social skills and physical prowess, they however more than make up for in intellect.
The corporations are an unavoidable presence in Fusion City. They own everything and everyone. They have the money, the resources and the organisation required to run everything. A corporation is a large part of a citizen’s life. The corporation provides his health care, his education and his living space and even sometimes what they do in their spare time. There are no “public schools”. If you don’t have a job, your children most likely will not have an education.
Mega-corpsThe major corporations are huge conglomerates of hundreds of subsidiaries and sister companies. There are no multinational corporations in a world where nations no longer exist and the only known civilisation is in one city. The corporations therefore exist solely within the city. There are around 50 megacorporations in the city and they all control up to 5 000 smaller corporations each.
The corporate structure is a huge, convoluted mess that is difficult to understand. A citizen is not likely to know what mega-corp that employ him, as the mega-corps are huge, nebulous entities that “run everything” behind the scene, but have no detectable influence over people’s day-to-day life. But don’t be fooled: If you work for a corporation, it’s owned by a mega-corp.
Corporate SecurityThe security firms were initially just providing security for corporate installations, but with the government's lacking police forces these security firms now function as actual police forces for corporations and their employees. They have the mandate to carry lethal weapons, perform arrests and investigations. In all accounts they are as much the police as the actual police, with one significant difference: these firms only work for the corporation’s interests.
The corporate security forces combat industrial espionage, sabotage, theft or embezzling. If you as an employee require protection against street gangs in your resiblock, corporate security is there for you. If you believe that your shipments are being hijacked on the way, corporate security is there for you.
GovernmentThere is little government to speak of in Fusion City. The Fusion City Communal Authority(FCA) is the official government of the city and, by extension, the rest of the world. It has little real power and is in crippling debt to multiple corporations. Over the years, more and more services that the government ran have shifted to corporate control. Schools, medical care and even police forces are largely corporation run.
Thanks to the many deals struck with mega-corps and the corruption in the government, most, if not all, politics are run by corporate interests. The only real power the government still has is the city police forces: FCP. The city police is tasked with keeping order in the streets. They are well trained and well equipped but they lack the funding to field significant numbers to be effective in combating street gangs in what usually ends up a street shoot-out. The lack of funding and long hours make FCP officers short-tempered, brutal and prone to bribes. Goon arrests end with a gang member shot dead with alarming regularity. The FCP's brutality is well known.
The GangsStreet gangs are a common occurrence in Fusion City. They fight for control over certain neighbourhoods or even entire districts and the police rarely interfere. With the limited resources of the city police, they leave the gangs largely to their own devices as long as they don’t become too much of a problem. The government sees the goons as a self-regulating problem. When one gang rises and gets too powerful, the smaller gangs band together and take down the larger gang. The gangs break apart and divide the defeated gang‘s territory among themselves and the turf war begins anew. This way, the gangs rarely cause too many problems for the ordinary citizen, and when they do, corporate security wipe them out faster than FCP ever could.
The ones that suffer most from the gangs are the unemployed and self-employed: those that do not enjoy the protection of corporate security. They are also the ones most likely to end up in a gang.
When a gang grows too powerful for the smaller gangs to successfully combat, corporate or city police step in and wipe them out. No matter how many members or weapons a gang has, they can never combat the resources of a mega-corp, with few exceptions.
PsychosPsychos, or “psions” as they prefer to call themselves, are people with certain mutations to their brains, giving them access to mental powers. Psionic mutants aren’t a gang or even an organisation like the other gangs. They are more like a loose collection of individuals, held together by a common trait and the persecution of society. The population at large fear of the Psions and their powers. They fear them for their ability to affect the minds of others and the government and mega-corps have a vested interest in researching and studying psions to develop adequate countermeasures to psionic powers, or even inducing psionic abilities in soldiers and police officers. “Black Ops kidnappings” is a well-known risk for psions in the city, so many avoid using their abilities in the open, unless they have to, for the fear of being noticed by the authorities.
MutantsWhile psychos only have their brains mutated, there are those who are far less fortunate. Physical mutations are more frequent than mental mutations by a factor of 10. Mutts, or mutants, are third-class citizens with little rights and little support from the purebloods. Scientists believe these mutations to result from exposure to the toxic environment of the Shadowmark and those living near the Perimeter Wall suffer pollution from the wastelands outside, sparking mutations.
Mutations may be only cosmetic or even body-altering but regardless of mutations, these people are not considered trustworthy or reliable and can often only sustain their lives by turning to the criminal gangs, or work low-wage jobs in dangerous locales.
ShadowmarkThe Shadowmark, more commonly called the wastelands, is the world as left by The Cataclysm. The Shadowmark is a barren wasteland, mostly made up of endless, rocky plains. Ramshackle settlements cluster near sources of water and forests struggling to grow in the harsh landscape.
Despite popular belief, not all, or even most, of the wastelands are a toxic hellhole that will kill you within minutes. Most of it is just a desert wasteland with little natural resources. Scorching days, freezing nights, sandstorms and horrible mutated wildlife may be enough to discourage tourism, however.
Ruined CitiesAll over the wastelands are ruins of settlements from the old world, partially or entirely buried in the drifting sands. These relics of a bygone era are rich with technology from the old world and are popular looting places for the wastelanders. It’s from these cities most of their technology and resources come that they use to make tools, vehicles and settlements. It is not without danger, however, as the cities are blanketed in radiation and shadow toxins, left behind from the destruction of their Shadow Powerplants.
SettlementsThe Shadowmark is not as dead and deserted as the Fusion City citizens would have you believe. There are millions of people living in the Shadowmark, descendants of Cataclysm survivors, in thousands of settlements. While each settlement is small and house only up to 200-500 people, there are settlements all over the wastelands, wherever there were survivors. Most of the settlements are far from any ruined city, since no one from the larger cities survived the Cataclysm, and commonly near some source of drinkable water.
In difference from Fusion City, wasteland settlements often have many mutants living in them. Cockroaches still have more societal status than the mutants, but they are more respected here than in the city, and some settlements even have mutant mayors.
Other InstallationsThere are thousands of installations in the Shadowmark, both active and deserted. The vast majority of them are mining installations near the mountains. The rest are old, abandoned military installations and hidden science labs. Plenty of weapons development and testing was performed in the wilderness of the world, and with the Cataclysm, the militaries and companies that performed them were largely wiped out, leaving the installations dead and abandoned, their technology ripe for the picking for those that can find it.
Shadow ScarsThe Shadow Scars are dark splotches of land in the wastelands, perpetually veiled in dark, thick clouds and a dense mist. They are areas where the Veil between the Shadow Realm and the world was weak even before the Cataclysm, leading to shadow energy bleeding through to these areas when the Veil collapsed entirely. These areas are lethal, dark and completely inhospitable for any life. Visiting a Shadow Scar requires protective clothing and breathing apparatus to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the toxic atmosphere. In addition, there are horrifying, mutated and corrupted monstrosities living inside these scars, making them even more dangerous. That hasn't stopped people from trying to explore them, in search of exotic materials and lost technology.
Player CharactersWhat kind of character can you expect to play in this world? Something all player characters should have in common is that they no longer work for a stable employer. They're freelancers who seek greater rewards by taking on freelance jobs from anyone who is willing to pay. Most of these jobs are not exactly legal, which is why the agent is looking for freelancers. Freelancers cannot be traced and they are expendable. So what will you be? Here are a few examples!