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Adventure! RPG: Heroes of Our Time - Setting Information

Alex Craft

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Maxwell Anderson Mercer, Dr. Primoris, and That Which Followed

Max Mercer was born to wealth and exploration. His parents were anthropologists at the University of Chicago, and Mercer accompanied them on their expeditions as soon as he learned to walk.

Later, as he reached adulthood, he sought to make himself as exceptional as his life up until that point, attending Harvard and earning two PhD's in as many years. It was at Harvard that Mercer met and befriended a young prodigy named Michael Donighal, who would later become the formidable Dr. Primoris.

After graduation, Mercer returned home to Chicago to manage his family's fortune, using profits from investments to finance municipal projects, scientific study, and research expeditions. His social circle gradually expanded to include extraordinary individuals of all stripes, including the slightly mad physicist Dr. Calvin Hammersmith.

In 1922, Mercer answered an invitation to a scientific demonstration held by Hammersmith, traveling to the doctor's home in London in the company of his long-time friend, Michael Donighal.

The experiment - intended to demonstrate Hammersmith's discovery of a strange new energy source - went horribly awry. The Telluric Engine, intended to harness this energy, exploded, killing many of the gathered observers, along with Hammersmith himself.

The survivors, including Mercer and Donighal, went home to find themselves changed by the experience ... these changes would later become known of as Inspiration, for the recipients were granted abilities and skills far beyond that of mundane men.

While the survivors of the Hammersmith experiment were the first to feel the effects, the wave of telluric energy propagated outward, changing a rare number of men and women, as well as wreaking bizarre changes on the world itself. Extraordinary people began to appear, heroes and villains alike, and strange myths and fictions began to emerge as truth.

It was during this time that Mercer gathered together many of the best, most inquisitive minds of his generation, creating the Aeon Society for Gentlemen. This was to be an effort to uncover the great truths of this strange new world, and a means to bring forth the best for (and in) humanity.

After his Inspiration, Mercer appeared to be much as he had been before - which, admittedly, was a master of many, many fields and an extraordinary, experienced adventurer. However, Donighal had become something more ... a prodigy from the beginning, his Inspiration led him to surpass human perfection in all ways, mind and body.

In the years to follow, Donighal gradually grew isolated from the rest of humanity, paying respect to very few individuals. The chief of these was Mercer, whom he idolized and (as some of their contemporaries believe) loved. He hoped that Mercer would make the most of the Hammersmith effect, using the changes wrought to craft mankind's salvation.

He hoped this, but he slowly found himself disillusioned. Even in the early years, they disagreed on the basic means of bringing about the best for humanity:

Mercer believed in staying hands off, leaving mankind to grow and learn as it would. Thanks to him, the Aeon Society was dedicated to two tasks ... negating the influence of other, less moral Inspired and making available the knowledge humanity might find useful in its future course.

Donighal disagreed. He felt that letting humanity forge its own path would lead to disaster, at worst, and needless pain, at best. His vision involved the Inspired taking an active role in the world, guiding and nurturing humanity in order to insure that the species would achieve its potential.

This disagreement first resulted in Donighal remaining separate from the Society, adopting the name Dr. Primoris mostly as an ironic commentary on his colleagues' tendency toward showmanship. However, in the thirties and forties, the rift between Donighal and Mercer's ways of seeing the world became far more serious and divisive.

This peaked shortly before WWII, when Dr. Primoris more-or-less allied himself with the Axis powers, thinking to use the war (which both Mercer and Dr. Primoris had foreseen, but Mercer thought necessary for humanity's growth) as a demonstration of the flaws inherent in Mercer's view.

His choice in this matter was mostly likely influenced by his ever-increasing isolation from humanity, but many others followed him simply out of allegiance to him, or to his ideas. Along with Hitler's own cadre of superscientists and supernaturalists, Dr. Primoris' faction forced the Aeon Society to gather its allies and attempt to put a stop to the collusion.

The resulting tensions, skirmishes, and - finally - climactic battle in the early forties essentially marked an end to the so-called Age of Inspiration. The Age had been dwindling for some time, as the fading of the Hammersmith Effect resulted in a rarity of new Inspirations, but that final battle ended it for good.

There was no clear resolution to the showdown. It ground on in an obvious stalemate (with Inspired on both sides falling in battle) before Mercer and Dr. Primoris both agreed to withdraw and strike a sort of détente between their opposing sides.

The Aeon Society continues to exist to this day, but it has adopted a strict policy of inaction, relegating itself to an organization of observers - nothing more. This has resulted in some discontent in the ranks, as well as a gradual loss of membership. Many view the Society's current attitude as stagnation, rather than the responsible noninterference it claims.

Dr. Primoris' faction has more-or-less dissolved. There are still many Inspired who consider themselves loyal to him and his formerly espoused ideas, but they form no coherent whole in the absence of Dr. Primoris' leadership.

Some think that in the end Dr. Primoris was fighting only out of principle, rather than actual concern for the future of humanity ... now, at least, he certainly seems disinterested in his youthful ideals, allowing his so-called followers to take their own lead.

Between the loss of life on both sides, in the forties, and the inactivity on both sides afterward, the Age of Inspiration effectively came to an end. There were still Inspired out there, and a rare few new Inspired continued to appear, but there were no more grand thinkers guiding these individuals to collect their efforts.

In the face of the end of WWII and the Cold War to follow, these few extraordinary individuals came to seem small indeed. Many found employ in various governments during the Cold War (the Soviets, in particular, managed to recover a large number of Hitler's pet superscientists from Berlin), but the Inspired essentially ceased to become a force for change ... they became subsumed in the larger structures of corporations and governments, growing to become tools of the status quo.

That is beginning to change, as Inspiration comes back into the world. The children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the original Inspired are better suited to the mysterious mechanic of Inspiration, and more and more of them are erupting despite the faintness of the long-past Hammersmith Effect ... some even being Inspired from birth.

This new generation is rediscovering some of the passion that their parents (and etc) once had, and they are beginning to form a new faction - taking from, yet being independent of the old. Right or not, they are taking the world into their hands, thinking to change and better it. It may just be the hubris of youth ... that remains to be seen.

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The Movement

Calling the gathering of (mostly) new Inspired a 'movement' might be overstating, considering the relatively small number of people involved, but it is rather easier to swallow once you get a look at the membership ... they may be few, but they wield quite a bit of knowledge and influence.

Truth be told, the new movement leans fairly closely (if unintentionally) toward Dr. Primoris' early views. Reacting to the perceived stagnation of their predecessors, they have largely chosen the path of action, though there is a touch of disagreement in the ranks on the degree to which this approach should be exercised.

Some of the organizers of the movement have begun to lay a philosophical groundwork, which is actually quite easy to sum up: they want to make the future something to look forward to.

In the twenties, when the age of Inspiration began, the future was full of promise. The ‘war to end all wars’ was a thing of the past, technology was advancing faster than ever before, fantastic discoveries were being made around the world, and everyone had every reason to believe that their children would grow up into a world they themselves could only dream of.

Since then, there has been a second World War, a Holocaust, a Cold War, and the beginning of the so-called ‘war on terrorism.’ Today, the future is no longer an exciting, hopeful thing - the Gernsbackian vision of a glorious, humanistic future has transformed into something more grim and Orwellian.

Their aim is to reverse this process - to give humanity a glimpse of the future they might yet be able to achieve. There is a degree of faith in humanity here, where many of the members deliberately set aside the past failures of mankind and set their minds on the thought that given the proper example humanity can, as one, create a better tomorrow.

Clay Ernhart-Zorbo and Rei Tomizawa

Dr. Manfred von Zorbo was a German engineer and sociologist present at the Hammersmith event in 1922. Before then, he had made substantial contributions in the field of population research, warning of escalating overpopulation issues and laying out innovative solutions for mass transit and tenement housing.

Unfortunately, his Inspiration at the Hammersmith event unhinged his mind, and he gradually grew more and more erratic, publishing bizarre papers which developed toward a single, obsessively focused conclusion ... humanity must abandon the earth altogether and take to the skies, living in floating cities of his own invention while the ecosphere repaired itself.

In March of 1925, he invaded New York City at the head of a supertech zeppelin armada, intending to commence a campaign of conquest, forcing humanity to submit to his wild schemes. That attack failed ... as did the next ... and the next.

This went on for many years, with his victory only narrowly being defeated (often by the likes of the Aeon Society) each time, until his final invasion attempt: Washington, DC in December of 1937. That time, he finally was taken out of commission, falling to his death from his massive flagship at the conclusion of a devastating airborne battle.

Back at his ancestral estate in the Black Forrest, Zorbo had left behind a son and an ailing wife. Pursued by Nazis interested in his father's secrets, the son fled to American upon the death of his mother, carrying his father's notes along and adopting a false name (Ernhart) to avoid the stigma his family had gained.

Two generations later, Clay Ernhart was born. He was a highly gifted child, excelling in all ways: academically, athletically, and socially. He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduating years early, then continuing through graduate school to gain a master’s degree and a doctorate in materials science - one of the youngest doctorates ever to graduate from MIT.

Shortly after this, Clay discovered his heritage, uncovering his grandfather's diaries and his great-grandfather's notes. In addition to discovering his true family line, Clay gradually became familiar with Manfred’s early, more humanistic theories, which applied concepts of sociology and engineering toward the improvement of human life.

This is where many of the movement's founding ideas came from, since Clay rapidly became one of its most energetic organizers. He has a great deal of charisma and leadership ability, and he provides a support structure for the less well set-up members of the movement ... Clay has readopted the Zorbo name and reconstituted the Sky Brigade - Manfred's private army and air force, now become a major source of technological innovation and humanitarian aid.

Like Manfred, Clay has a fascination with the air, putting a great deal of resource into aerospace engineering, and resurrecting Manfred's zeppelin armada as an array of mobile stations for research and humanitarian aid. He has also brought the pinnacle of Manfred's science back to life - the Eyrie, an honest-to-god flying city currently doing duty over the Atlantic Ocean as the Sky Brigade's headquarters and mass manufacturing plant.

Rei Tomizawa was once part of the Aeon Society ... a resentful illegitimate daughter of Max Mercer himself. Half-Japanese, she was discovered and brought into the fold, only to suffocate in the Society. She met Clay upon his (ill-fated) attempt to join the Society, and the two became fast friends.

A vastly capable financial and diplomatic talent, Rei handles much of the practical end of running the Sky Brigade, making sure that the account books (which Clay is woefully bad with) remain in the black. While Clay is the nominal leader of the Sky Brigade, it is really a shared position - the organization wouldn't be anywhere near where it is now without her involvement.

Nonetheless, she stays in the background, and she seems to like it that way. There are rumors in the Aeon Society about a less-than-pure past before her discovery, so it is quite possible that she simply prefers not to expose herself to much scrutiny.

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  • 2 weeks later...

In what sense? You won't have a single 'headquarters' for the group, since you are a loose bunch of people - individually, you might be living all over the globe.

The closest thing to a central HQ would probably be the Eyrie - Clay Zorbo's flying city, which is currently about ten minutes (by air) east of New York City. Another similarly key location might end up being Raphael's home base, wherever that is.

Where the first story will be set, I'm not sure. I think some of the characters will start in Kaliningrad, on the Baltic Sea, and the others will probably start at the Eyrie.

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Raphael's Home is in Newton MA and ATI's facility is located somwhere west of Boston, most likely Framingham or Marlborough area. Raphael, of course, also commutes into Cambridge to teach/lecture at MIT on occasion.

Misha would probably live either in the same house or in a "guest house" on the same property provided as part of his salary, unless he would prefer otherwise.

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Max Mercer isn't around, and hasn't been seen in many years. The top people in the Aeon Society don't seem to be worried, but they aren't telling anyone where Mercer is.

None of the PC's know it, but the truth is that he's used his temporal manipulation skills to skip this decade or so. He might show up as the game progresses, but he is not available at the moment.

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"Hi, this is Max. I'm out of touch at the present time but please feel free to leave a message. If this call concerns a a cult of darkness plotting to topple the lawful societies of the world please press 1 now. If their plan involves ritualistic murders in quantities greater than one thousand, or if their plot is less than three days away from completion, please press 2. If you feel their fiendish plot has already been completed with success please hang up now and dial directory assistance for a conveniently located sanitarioum to see you through these troubled time."
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