Humanity, Dead and Alive
Mankind has come a long way. Swords and lances have given way to bolt-action rifles and machine guns, to poison gas and thunderous artillery. Factories manned by the dead work tirelessly with coal plants burning day and night to power the relentless drive forward. Science and magic are the same, pushing humanity to ever greater heights of industry and discovery.Even as the Great War spreads to ever more of the world, humanity basks in the glow of their achievement. They have tamed electricity, built factories, crossed the ocean on great ironclads; and conquered death. Out of all mankind's inventions and innovations, none has been as important as that of magic.
There has always been magic in the world but it was not until humanity mastered electricity and learned to fuel their spells that it could change the world. No longer were wizards figures of myth or skulking in secret societies. Magic became a science like any other and humanity put all of its ingenuity to work in this brave new world. Mankind has always feared death. Chief among the early pursuits of magic were ways to cheat it and from that, the art of Necromancy emerged. More mundane concerns of day-to-day survival were likely the first catalyst for the early stages of the necro-industrial revolution, as even arch-mages have to eat. It is not known when the first merchant made the deal or what necromancer first put the risen dead to work, but the idea caught on and spread like wildfire.
Dawn of the Dead
Eternal Life The cause of magic was helped by the fact that it did deliver on their promise of immortality... In part. To those who can afford it, Necromancy offers an unreliable avenue of life-extension. Failing organs and withering flesh can be made to function when they should not. Even mortal injury or disease can be staved off, though at great expense. The immortal spend their days in sarcophagi of science and magic, subject to constant electric discharge to renew the spells anchored to their flesh.At first, some resisted. They called it blasphemy, an act of desecration - but others saw not abomination, but opportunity. The lure of wealth became difficult to ignore, with workers who could labor day and night without rest, without food and without care for comfort. Those who resisted found their fortunes falter. Once the first nation overwhelmed their neighbor in a wave of undead, the rest knew they had to adapt to compete- or be devoured. This necro-industrial revolution saw mankind transform. Farms and mines, later factories and assembly lines, were increasingly crewed by the dead and lead by the living. There were riots- entire wars- fought by those displaced but they were inevitably ground down beneath the inexorable treads of progress at any cost. Their corpses joined the hordes they had railed against. Nations knew they had to change but there was enough of bounty to buy peace with bread and entertainment, both provided by the very undead who had made them necessary.
Death-Mask It is common for undead workers to be fitted with simple masks that cover their face. This shields any relatives or friends of a squeamish disposition recognizing their dead kin. The Obryad Federation in particular makes use of elaborate masks, while the Shinomas Magocracy tends not to bother at all. In war, time constraint and the volume of dead makes such adornment impractical and rare.Now, much of humanity has a culture of corpses. There are no cemeteries, no funerals. The dead walk among the living; they work the fields, fight their wars and entertain the masses. What was once feared and abhorred has been commercialized.
Death has become a business transaction.
The Great War
It'll be over before winter's end. Those fools don't stand a chance against us!The world is at war. The mightiest nations in the world have plunged into a conflict that has now spanned decades and cost millions of lives. Every slain soldier are raised to fight again, every corpse blasted to pieces have had their limbs collected and used to reassemble new undead. War and death have reached an industrial scale. Most of the fighting now rages in Cascera, a once prosperous nation that was the fifth Great Power. It is now a gas-choked wasteland of muddy fields, barbed wire and bombed-out craters. While the mortal soldier number in the hundreds of thousands, the undead in the war now number millions.
Scraping, scratching, itching. It's like my dreams are trying to come out of my skull as I sleep, clawing at the insides of my s̢͘ķ͠ư̵̧ll̛.When mankind first ignited the spark of magic, they drew the attention of the Occultarum, ancient and cosmic parasites from the void. For an eternity, they have fed upon the ashen debris of the universe. Now, their hunger has turned towards the mortal world where magic has weakened the shroud that separates the two realities. For almost two centuries, they have clustered around the world and haunted the nightmares of mankind. The weight of their presence warps the world and the land itself has begun to change where the Occultarum gather. The shroud weakens with every corpse forced to rise again and with every new nightmare.
Just as they have changed the land, the Occultarum have changed mankind. Through visions in nightmares and drug-induced stupors, some catch glimpses of the Void beyond the shroud and the parasites who live there. Others are trapped in places where they linger to feed and feel the pressure on their mind, until they snap. These, and many others, are the ways the cults begin. Those who worship the Occultarum without fully realizing the nature of the gods they chant and call for.As mankind descends ever deeper into savagery in the fields of Cascera, the shroud grows thin. Arcane horrors are glimpsed in the flashes of lightning in thunderstorms, their braying call heard together with the shrill cry of artillery shells. It is only a matter of time before someone sees them clearly - or before one of the parasites claw their way through the shroud and into the mortal plane.