Spooky action at a distance

Industry Marches, a Setting Introduction

This is a multimedia blog post, turn on the song below.

I’ve mentioned my industrial revolution setting before on this blog, but I’ve only talked briefly about its key philosophies. In this post I want to uncover more of the elements that make up the world itself! (Beware: ideas are organised like soup in a big cauldron)

To explain the setting in one sentence:

industry encroaching on and melding with folkloric horror*

Industrial revolution has come upon a world of fairytale beasts and legends. Technology and magic are at odds, Capital is a new god. Are you along for the ride?

Night, full moon. The train screeches to a halt as the driver curses and rushes outside. She holds her lamp close to the gears to see the jammed piece. The air is calm and cool, behind her is a field of tall grass. Curious passengers huddle near the windows to see it swaying and rustling. It is too late to warn them.

The players start as either citizens of the Pale Provinces (gaining access to its commodities and technologies) or as sorcerers (being able to perform rituals, shapeshift and cast other spells). In the world of progress, magic users are outcasts. They usually take on the form of forest beasts and resort to travelling the farmlands. This does not mean however that magic is safe from exploitation by capitalist forces.

/* Thanks to nova for her help with phrasing this.

Three Eyed Raven by Audrey Benjaminsen

Some sorcerers use their powers to sabotage railroads in hopes of turning the Empire to anarchy, some create terrifying magitech contraptions to compete for their place in the industrial chain.

So far I am resisting writing a magic systems or spell lists. I want magic to be weird, chaotic, unknowable. However as a referee I want some guidance on how to produce spells in this world. I really like the magic system for zealots in Errant (success bands for spellcasting) and Mausritter (replenishing spells as a quest), so I will be taking some inspiration from those.

In the Pale Provinces, magic is performed through complex rituals that require knowledge (reading about a ritual in a book or learning it through another sorcerer), ingredients (rare items that must be gathered beforehand) and time (usually one long night). I am planning to write a random table of unique ingredients to roll on when prompted. And of course the more powerful a ritual, the more ingredients it will require. Magic items such as staffs, masks, or cauldrons can improve your odds of a successful ritual.

Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.
Clarke’s third anti law

Technology is roughly equivalent to turn of the century in European powers such as France or the UK. In the Pale Provinces there is a weird phenomenon, the farther away you are from other technology, the more likely your device is to malfunction. So in big cities and towns, there is no issue with firing weapons or riding trains. However out in the country, everything jams, clogs and falls apart.

Players are entrepreneurs, helping industrialise cursed and haunted spaces. Expelling coal demons from mines, clearing out a railway overgrown with fae vines, retrieving a piece of machinery stolen by mischievous goblins.

This is the world of Industry Marches. Hope you enjoyed and stay tuned to continue exploring this world with me.

My goal in 2023 is to do more worldbuilding posts. Now that I’ve set up both a sci-fi and a fantasy setting I hope this task will be a bit easier.

What posts did you enjoy in the past year? Anything you would want to see more of?

Published on January 12, 2023.

Tagged: industry   osr   setting   sandbox   folklore  


Spooky action at a distance is a blog run by emmy verte, to muse on sci-fi, fantasy location exploration and short fiction. You can donate to support Ukraine here.