Project: Era Novum
After the loss of Cragscar and the breaking of the siege of Fort Fair Maiden, a seed of doubt had grown in Emperor Darrien Maddox Verk. While some minor skirmishes had occurred at the border, it was surely nothing to worry about. However these recent losses somewhat disturbed Verk. His foolish fathers had been content to let the Empire live on as some meager hamlet of a nation, and bow to the whims of peasants and weaklings. He would not let his glorious Empire fall, and so he went about forming a solution.
In time, Verk had come upon an answer. His Empire was already in the business of mass producing wondrous items, but innovation had been slow. His soldiers had little trouble with what they had, but the Deadeyes’ unconventional tactics and heavy use of firearms told him he would need to make a few changes. His first idea was a sort of Imperial think tank, comprised of the brightest and most sadistic minds the Empire had to offer. They would have limitless access to whatever resources they needed to create new and innovative ways of winning the war, let it be gold, alchemical ingredients, magical artifacts or even test subjects culled from his own cities.
Upon the advice of his council, Verk assembled a command staff of four individuals, prodigies in their fields. Their expertise would collectively encompass the fields of magic, technology, alchemy, and the emerging field of magitek. With their combined genius and a blank check from the Emperor, the newly minted Project: Era Novum would be tasked with creating something, anything, that could once and for all quash all threats to Verk’s power. After the Imperial war, Era Novum is destroyed as an organ of the Verk Empire, but lives on as the New Era.
The sorcerer Veneficus Saeva is the head of the Mage Department of Era Novum, overseeing all things magical. Officially, it is believed he is of an Aberrant bloodline, explaining his unique approach to problems and odd viewpoints, but to those with deeper magical knowledge suspect something far more Impossible. His behavior is notably unusual, standing out even among the questionably sane heads of the departments. Once, in the middle of a discussion with one of the lower ranking mages, he was reported to suddenly throttle the poor man and drag him screaming down to his personal laboratory; inhuman noises and roars were heard coming through the door for hours.
The Mage Department has made several advances under his leadership, despite the high casualty rates among staff in his experiments. One of their crowning achievements is the Capture Orb. Only a single prototype of the experimental design exists, but it has proven to have much potential. If one were to ask Veneficus the function of the artifact, and if he were not in a fell mood, he would probably answer in a strange mixture of magical theory, limericks and lavender dumpling recipes. The perceptive would extrapolate that the Orb is capable of selectively sealing and unsealing the essence of any creature inside of itself, acting as a sort of storage device for living (and unliving) beings. If not stopped, the insane sorcerer might eventually be able to mass produce this creation, allowing Verk’s army to easily and safely capture any person, or carry an entire zoo of dangerous beasts to command. The current location of Veneficus is under wraps, with rumors persisting that he lives as a completely insane of Era Novum's descendants, New Era.
The mechanical genius known as Professor Genio Destruttivo leads the efforts of the Technology Department to develop revolutionary tools of destruction, such as firearms and siege weapons. Holed up in his workshop, Genio has been quite the hermit ever since his assignment. Only the irregular meetings of all the department heads or visits from the council are enough to drag him away from his work. Out of all the heads, Genio is probably the most likable, at least at first. He often greets visitors as cherished guests, and even his test subjects are treated as selfless volunteers to be honored for their sacrifice.
His affable personality however, does nothing to protect those that are selected as ‘volunteers’ as he treats them as living targets. The corpses that are carted from his workshop are rarely in good condition, often shot full of holes, roasted, or blown to pieces from his weapons tests. The Technology Department also invests time and resources into a vehicle program, building and testing both light scouts and and armored hulks. Their most recent and promising design is the Maddox Heavy Gun Carriage. A strange crank operated vehicle, with wood and metal sheets arranged into an odd conical shape to deflect projectiles, such as the firearms used by the Deadeyes. Equipped with cannons to attack enemies and resistant to return fire, a Maddox stationed at Empire outposts and fortresses would severely increase the difficulty of raids and could be used to pacify unruly city populations. With the rise of New Era, the mad inventor's whereabouts are unknown.
The enigmatic Almus Mam hails from a faraway and exotic land. Like most of the department heads, Almus holds no specific loyalty to the Empire, and merely wishes to practice his ‘art’ in a goal-oriented environment free from the constraints of ethics and resource management. However, his foreign nature combined with this lack of brainwashed fealty to the Emperor means he his held in high suspicion by the Imperial officials assigned to supervise Era Novum. This suits him just fine, as Almus always had a taste for the theatrical and appreciates having an audience as he works with his staff in the Alchemical Department. Dedicated to the research and use of chemical weapons, subtle poisons, and even the likes of truth serums and other esoteric poultices, Alchemical Department is likely the most promising laboratory in the field. Too bad they work for the wrong side.
Almus runs his department somewhat differently than his fellows, mixing his laboratory work with educational demonstrations and even tutoring his underlings in the ways of alchemy. Compared to the staff of the Technology or Mage Departments, Almus’ alchemists spend much less time trying to avoid an untimely demise at the hands of their latest creations and more time improving their craft; Alchemical Department is likely the most productive of Era Novum. Their newest and most dangerous invention is the defoliant chemical code-named Weed Killer. Created from a mix of different venom and even treated with a few magical charms thanks to their Mage colleagues, Weed Killer’s devastating potential may not seem clear initially, until one thinks of the hit and run tactics of the Deadeyes. Without the cover of forests or a dependable supply of lumber, the insurgency would have nowhere to run and quickly find themselves short of a valuable resource. Almus Mam now lives as all but a captive of New Era, continuing his alchemical experiments under humane conditions and the threat of being the only bearer of a lethal Chip.
The manipulative Kiseki Norodosha is, as an individual, likely the most dangerous of the department heads. The Magitek Department not only represents the most advanced technology available to the Empire, it also is the linchpin of Era Nova as a whole. The staff of Magitek work to bring together the advances of the other three departments and turn experimental prototypes into workable and mass produced designs. Thankfully, Era Nova as a whole was only recently initiated, or else the genius and charisma of Kiseki might have already produced a heavily armored tank, spewing noxious gasses when it isn’t deploying companies of troops from racks of Capture Orbs.
The progress of Magitek is slow, as not only do they have to combine the results of relatively isolated laboratories, Kiseki himself often has to play peacemaker with the other department heads. The Magitek head has to balance the volatile insanity of Veneficus, the excitable psychopathy of Genio, and the arrogant detachment of Almus on a regular basis; likely this kind of work by itself would lead to many men tearing their hair out in frustration. The difficulty of the job for Kiseki however is more than outweighed by his complete and utter devotion to the Empire. Unlike the rest of the department heads, Kiseki loves the Empire and is loyal to both Darrien Verk and the Verk Empire as a whole. In addition to keeping them from killing each other, Kiseki’s job also demands that he keep the other heads on task instead of abusing the generosity of the Empire to pursue their own private projects. As of the rise of New Era, Kiseki has been executed by the inheritors of the Empire for his insistence on malevolent activity.
New Era: Building The Future, In The Present
After the destruction of the Verk Empire, many bits and pieces of the various mad science projects remained, along with their staff and resources. With the lash of Verk and his hardline supporters gone, many sought to turn the remnants of the Empire into a force for good; whether out of a genuine wish to help others, to atone for their crimes, or simply to continue their work. Although at first arising from the ashes of Era Novum, the New Era have become more of an assimilation of many other 'research' stations. With their presence all across Etera, they have truly become the inheritors of the Empire, salvaging much of their remaining scientific, financial and military resources.
Origins of New Era
New Era got its start from the survivors of the Era Novum think tank, almost destroyed after their catastrophic defeat just before the final battle for Kazorith. Lead by Kiseki Norodosha, Era Novum was dragged from their bunkers when Emperor Verk became desperate and sounded out a call-to-arms to all of their remaining labs, with them being one of the last. Under Norodosha's command, a column of troops descended from the mountains to attack the rebels fighting in the city. Thankfully, a squad of powerful adventurers, together with a contingent of rebels, ambushed and destroyed the column; numerous special units and an advanced armored war machine were counted among their losses.The adventurers however captured and spared Professor Norodosha. This proved to be a grave mistake, as the rebel camp that were entrusted with his custody were later found wiped out to a man, with Kiseki nowhere to be found. As it turned out, Kiseki was rescued and the rebels massacred by the last of Era Novum who had united with the survivors of the column. With their leader, the force retreated to their mountain bunkers and waited out the last battles of the war. When the dust had settled however, Norodosha and much of the science team wanted to resume their research and take revenge against the rebels. This was opposed by the last of their military officers, Captain Copernicus Pike, and his security team. They had fought enough wars, and recognized a lost cause when they saw one. Pike in fact, had privately been waiting for the chance to buck the yoke of Verk and put an end to the atrocities he and his men had been forced to ensure; he had his chance now, and would be damned if he would be robbed of it by bitter sociopaths. Thus began a quiet war, raged in underground stone and metal nests and with an arms race to match. By the end, Pike's faction had won with the execution of Kiseki Norodosha and his supporters. However, it seemed a hollow victory. The survivors, already savaged in the war, had lost half their remaining number, with less than one hundred members remaining. The silver lining of this dark cloud was bright indeed however, as their private war had uncovered numerous caches of gold and technology as the two factions scoured the continent for resources. Pike, now a general, called for the dissolution of Era Novum and the establishment of New Era. Their name reminded them of the horrors they were both victim and perpetrators of, but the translation was symbolic of the atonement they sought. Now with advanced magitek the likes of which Etera has never seen and growing numbers, New Era seeks to secure the continent and make sure another tyrant like Verk never arises again.
Although starting out in the North of Etera, New Era has uncovered and taken control of numerous Ex-Imperial outposts and bases, either enlisting or exterminating their occupants, depending on their loyalties. Their most significant footholds are represented by four bases, along with their primary home base.
Neophyte Base in the North is the New Era recruitment outpost, where they send many of their initiates to be tested and sharpened, with particular emphasis on ranged combat with magitek firearms and squad tactics. Neophyte Base is complete with a firing range, a small martial weapons arena, as well as a customized training room used for various specialty training purposes. Neophyte Base is infamous for two reasons: the first being the inhumanly grumpy Staff Sgt. Cotton, and the place every new recruit remembers as the place they were implanted with their Chip.
To the East is Anointed Base, where the militant discipline and sophisticated magitek of New Era is married with the traditions of religion and worship. The staff of Anointed Base are rarely present, busy tending to the spiritual needs of soldiers as well as keeping busy hewing the undead swarms of the Ghostlands. Anointed Base is fully stocked with various incenses and mundane instruments of worship, and hosts many different religious events and temples, almost all dedicated to the different flavors of the Good alignment.
Analysis Base lies in the West, and is New Era's foremost research outpost on the Material Plane. Various labs occupy it, dedicated to magic, technology, and the techniques to combine them, much like their predecessors. It also functions as an espionage post, what with its proximity to Fair Maiden and its gang-ruled streets. Out of all the bases, Analysis hosts the largest population of constructs as well, employed both in research and security.
The farthest base from their origins, in the South, is Fortress Base. Fortress Base (or 'The Fort' as it is informally known) is New Era's primary military base in Etera. Where Neophyte focuses on the training of its soldiers, The Fort is the send-off point of most if its forces, and for good reason. Grey Haven, Arbordale, and Moonbright, the South is where the Deadeyes first began their rebellion and thus where they hold the most influence and security. Here New Era can safely move their troops under the guise of the New Era Mercenary Company, enjoying their manufactured reputation as supporters of the Deadeyes and a wonderful source of careers for hopeful sellswords.
Olympus Base is not only the newfound home of New Era, but a curiosity in and of itself. The result of Project Safehouse, where Verk planned to evacuate if the worst came the worst before is insane megalomania set in, Olympus Base is a demiplane consisting entirely of a reinforced building the size of a city. All the various Material Plane bases technically exist as specialized offshoots of Olympus Base, as much of their research and drills are conducted here, along with housing most of their personnel. The base is also New Era's most secure location, both because of its separation from the Material Plane and their onsite SAIF-Zone. The Selective Anti-Intruder Field functions as a combination anti-magic/anti-tech field, where all sources of magic and technology not marked by Chips is completely neutralized. Spells fail, guns misfire, the SAIF-Zone is Olympus Base's primary defense. It is also the only place in Etera where one can find Titans, enormous constructs bristling with firepower capable of devastating cities; one is capable of this feat, Olympus Base houses a dozen. For the time being, New Era has not found a way to transport them safely to the Material Plane, so the Titans exist only as defensive measure should the SAIF-Zone somehow fail.
The most infamous aspect of New Era, at least within their organization, is how they keep their men loyal, and prevent their secrets from falling into the wrong hands. The Chips began as a tool of subjugation, first developed as a way to keep Imperial citizens on a tight leash. The Chips are incredibly small magitek devices that when implanted into the nervous system of an organic being or the behavior core of a construct form a sort of bond with the implanted being in body and soul; almost literally attaching to their spiritual presence. Not only are the Chips capable of being tracked, but when activated induce a sort of stasis in the implanted. Referred to as 'freezing' the stasis prevents any sort of mental or physical activity, with those having gone through the process describing a feeling in line with those coming out of comas. How the Chips were created and the specifics of their function has been lost to time, with only the manufacturing process having been salvaged. When New Era creates a Chip, the process is akin to putting together a magitek engine with no idea of the relationship between the components, and simply following provided instructions. Many scientists of New Era have reported a sense of relief in knowing that without the plans for the Chip, nobody can modify or create new variations of the devices, such as creating a lethal version. The Chips are primarily used for security purposes and to coordinate troop movements, but it is well known that their most essential purpose is to freeze soldiers who are at risk of being captured or changing loyalties and prevent them from relating any secrets to outsiders, such as their Imperial origins.
The might of New Era is difficult to gauge. While they have access to incredible magitek such as secure long distance communications, to semi-automatic firearms, to agile and well armored constructs, their small numbers and the existence of adventurers means they could not overtake the continent as their malevolent forebears attempted, they could certainly devastate the country, especially if they found a way to transport their Titans to the Material Plane. New Era is organized, and consists primarily of veterans of the Imperial war, as well as those trained by them. They are more than capable of routing bandits and roving monsters, and have even been reported beating back inexperienced adventurers, making them an effective 'police force' of Etera. If all seemed lost, New Era could simply retreat to Olympus Base and destroy the teleporters on their way out, with the Titans and SAIF-Zone all but ensuring their security.
New Era, far from desiring to remain in the shadows, has been reported as making multiple attempts to recruit the people of Etera as well as adventurers, although under the name of the New Era Mercenary Company, with their spies and propaganda artists successfully convincing the populace of their benevolence and ties with the Deadeyes. The former rebels, for their part, have not issued any declarations to the 'mercenaries' either of alliance or denouncement; apparently suspicious of their sudden existence combined with their sophisticated magitek and seeming good nature. As far as the Empire is concerned, New Era has shown nothing but absolute hostility, summarily executing any newfound survivors that even hesitate to join them. The paramilitary force even has soldiers (such as the deceased Ghost Squad) that specialize in anti-Empire tactics. Another faction that has reared its ugly head is known only as KARMA, who have sworn themselves as enemies of all things Empire, even those who have turned to the side of the angels such as New Era. They possess magitek comparable to New Era, with even some superiority in certain fields such as constructs and devices that imitate magical skill in individuals such as the TK Unit. What their origins and reasons for holding even the benevolent New Era as enemies remains to be seen.