Editor’s note: The following is a brief history of the last 40 years or so in Eramia, the country where our D&D campaign takes place. For more information, click here.
THE WAR OF CALAMITY
For generations, Eramia has been ruled by a central monarchy, extending to small circles of power for dukes, margraves, counts, lords and vassals. The monarchy consists entirely of those who are attuned to magic — anyone in the royal bloodline without those abilities is simply passed over.
Forty years ago, technological developments started to level the playing field, first in practical ways. Settlements thrived, particularly when the main railway connected the royal city to Lysidion, Eramia’s largest civilization. Suddenly goods were easier to produce and deliver, and business flourished even in the more remote, rural parts of the continent.
Those economic advancements eventually led to a paradigm shift. The people who worked to produce those goods — and the inventions and devices that improved their efficiency — weren’t seeing a commensurate increase in their profits. That honor went to the royals, and while some were generous and shared their prosperity with their people, others…not so much.
The question started bubbling under the surface: Why were magic users the only ones fit to occupy ruling positions? What difference was there between a noble conjuring fire with his hand and a commoner using a lighter? Who decided that a bolt of arcane energy was more powerful than a bullet from a rifle?
The monarchy’s leaders in Waychester were content with the status quo, believing that centuries of success was evidence enough that the system was working. But in other areas, an underground movement took shape: They wanted power to be an equal opportunity, one that would not be determined by bloodlines that could become corrupt over time.
Over the course of several months, Broderick Wynhorn took the Gears of Gravitas from an abstract concept to a full-fledged rebellion as members joined in small factions across the country. They boosted their ranks into the tens of thousands, finding easy traction among serfs who were unhappy with their lord’s rulership. Most of their work was peaceful, trying to raise awareness with demonstrations and members who spread the word about the country’s unfair policies.
But like any group, a few people had their own ideas on the fastest route toward change. Vaeril Rovaris, an elf who helped found the Gears in Lysidion, grew frustrated with the group’s lack of tangible progress. Despite Broderick’s protests, she arranged to have one of the trains heading to Waychester loaded with gunpowder and intended to make a scene with other rebels on board once they pulled into the station.
That train never arrived.
It’s unknown what caused the locomotive to detonate about 20 miles outside the royal city. Some accounts say that soldiers on the train discovered the gunpowder and did what they had to do to neutralize a threat to the kingdom. Others say that Vaeril never intended to make it to Waychester and blew up the train herself, making it look like the nobles destroyed a train full of civilians without provocation. Both sides blamed the other.
Emperor Sterling Whitehall IV ordered additional troops from Fort Cross to be stationed in almost every city, town and village to prevent any further insurgency. Meanwhile, Broderick tried to prevent the Gears from retaliating, but the fire had been stoked — the rebellion had become bigger than one man could control.
Tapping into the vast resources that Lysidion had at its disposal, the Gears started to form a small army. What they lacked in magical abilities they made up for with innovation: advanced guns that could shoot specialized bullets; mechanized gauntlets that could procure fire and lightning; bombs and grenades that could help breach structures and walls.
A few weeks later, the Gears abruptly set their plan into motion. They had anyone who was willing meet northwest of the Phthalomont, and marched straight toward the castle from there. They were counting on the empire’s forces being stretched too thin to counter an unexpected strike. They were right.
The remaining soldiers in Fort Cross were dispatched to the battlefield along with hundreds of mages from Waychester, but over multiple days of fighting, it was clear which side had the upper hand. Some troops were able to return from the larger cities via teleportation circles, but it was not enough to turn the tide, and reinforcements would arrive too late to make a difference. By the sixth night, a palpable energy surged through the Gears’ makeshift camp on the eastern side of the warzone. They were winning, and one final push the next day could be enough to break the shackles of oppression forced on them because of their birth.
Backed into a corner, with his closest advisors panicking and his military adviser all but admitting defeat, Sterling made a brazen decision: to utilize the developmental weapon known as the Mana Cannon. The cannon was untested but functional, able to channel the essence of dozens of powerful mages into a concentrated blast of ethereal might. Desperate to maintain the authority passed down to him through the Whitehall lineage, Sterling ordered the Alabaster Cabal, his royal guardsmen, to combine their energy and fire the Mana Cannon at the rebellion’s side of the battlefield.
As the massive weapon began to churn with activity, Cabal mages keeled over with exhaustion. The cannon wasn’t just borrowing some of their power; it was absorbing their very life force, and spiraling out of control in the process. Desperate attempts to turn off the weapon or reverse the procedure failed as the cannon’s shaking nearly detached it from its base. A helpless Sterling, standing among the dying bodies of his personal guard, could only watch as the Mana Cannon opened fire with a terrifying burst of energy that surged out toward the nearby plains.
The ensuing shockwave pulsed across an enormous radius, engulfing everything it touched with a devastating concussive impact. Virtually no one on either side survived, leaving the flatlands covered in corpses as an eerie calm replaced what had been nearly a week of harrowing conflict.
While history has a pretty clear picture of the War of Calamity, what happened next is open to debate. Certain parts are known for sure:
- The empire quickly moved to control the story as much as possible, using their considerable reach and communication channels to paint the Mana Cannon’s devastation as a planned event, one that the rebels left them no choice but to employ. They were mostly successful in that endeavor, although the larger cities with more Gears support had some skepticism.
- Sterling Whitehall IV quietly abdicated the throne, knowing the truth about what happened and unable to come to terms with his decisions. The empire painted this as a chance for new leadership in a new era, and his older brother Carrington took over as the next person in the line of succession.
- Carrington Whitehall, feeling that his brother had been weak in the face of adversity, decided to use the threat of the Mana Cannon as leverage to tip the scales back in the kingdom’s favor. The empire immediately started to round up the individualized technology that the Gears had developed — or at least what hadn’t already been destroyed in the sudden conclusion of the war. Weapons were their primary focus, but they also took an interest in quality of life improvements. Most of this technology was destroyed, although the empire kept some for itself, and Carrington issued a decree that any further development would only be permitted with royal approval and supervision.
- Carrington ruled for almost 24 years, and Eramia maintained a tenuous peace throughout his reign, although some complained about his strong-arm tactics. He was into his 60s before he decided he was ready for his daughter to assume the throne.
- Empress Emelia Whitehall II was a beloved leader and a staunch supporter of working with the commoners to make life better for everyone. While she refused to deviate from the idea of magical lineage, her first act as empress was to disassemble the Mana Cannon — she vehemently disagreed with her father’s vision of ruling through force. Less than a decade into her reign, she abruptly fell ill and passed away, leaving the current empress, her daughter Camille Whitehall, running the show at the age of 22.
- The Gears were disbanded as an official group, but thousands of people continued to represent their ideals and try to push the boundaries of technological development. Between their work and the activity sanctioned by the empire, new tech has advanced back to about where it was when the War of Calamity began.