The Past Thirty-two Years
Much has changed in Diablotin, and the rest of the Empire, since the last campaign. Emperor Marl and his government have pushed forward a huge amount of technological development and social change, but it comes at a price.
Marl Kizer remains Emperor; he is 63 years old and appears to be in good health. His wife Yanina passed away some eight years ago, to much mourning from their family and the Empire's citizens at large. The strongest efforts of his reign have been directed towards facilitating and funding the development of new technology, and trying to implement it as efficiently as possible. He has particularly been interested in methods of bringing the vast Aveyrone Empire closer together, via communication and transportation.
Marl's Inner Council has remained largely unchanged throughout his reign, with a few exceptions here and there, which has helped with the overall stability of the government. However, some would say that such long-term office-holders can also lead to stagnation, or an inability to see new ideas. This is not completely accurate - Lord Treasurer Aden Olivier and Lord Chancellor Guillame Rionet in particular have been active voices for governmental reform.
One of the major reforms that has been instituted is the increased amount of representation in the government for non-nobles. The Great Council now not only includes those who hold noble titles, but a number of elected representatives from the Empire at large: two from each duchy (or equivalent countryside area), two more from each large city (the ones marked on the map count as 'large'), and eight from Diablotin because it's special. These Councillor positions are elected by adult (over age 15) human male or female property-holding citizens of the respective districts, and serve for three-year terms. They hold equal voting rights to the nobles in the Great Council, and in fact outnumber them.
The Imperial Succession is a matter that has been debated at some considerable length. The current plan is to have the Councils approve nominations as usual, vote on them using a ranked list, and present the top candidate only to the Arch. If the top candidate proves unable to serve as emperor, then the second candidate will be passed through the Arch, and so on. However, until the end of Marl's reign, this is a theoretical plan at best, and what the results would be are uncertain.
Bringing the Empire closer together may be a laudable goal, but there are some parts of the Empire that don't necessarily wish to be more closely connected to the capital. After many years of tension, Psyra and its neighbouring duchies (the remains of the former Kingdom of Psyra) finally broke into open rebellion on the 18th of Sixth-month of 2277, marking the start of the Second Psyrene War, during which time most of the south-east of the Empire was the scene of numerous battles. Soldiers were brought in from across the Empire to fight, but the Psyrene rebels knew the territory better, and had a stronger will to fight despite being outnumbered. The war dragged on for two and a half years, until finally the Psyrene side was defeated and forced to surrender and rejoin the Empire. The official surrender was signed on the First of Second-month, 2280, and the war was over - on paper.
The Way of the Wheel has been forced to undergo various shifts and changes with the events of the past few decades. It had only recently begun to integrate the Rat into its cycle when it was also confronted with the existence of another deity, Serpent, and with its ranks having been infiltrated by demons and those who consorted with them. As a reaction, the church has instituted a new order of Inquisitors, whose purpose is to cleanse its ranks from those who would seek to corrupt and deceive.
The Inquisitors are a separate group, drawn from any of the Orders of the church. They answer to the Patriarch ultimately, but their direct head is the High Inquisitor. They do not typically wear robes or other obvious priestly accoutrements, and strive to blend in, the better to seek out Outsiders and other malicious forces and remove them. Their official policy is to detain and imprison for trial, unless violence is needed in self-defense.
There was a scandal in the church about five years ago, however. It was determined that several members of the Order of the Spoke, as well as others in other sectors of the church, had undertaken a secretive and unauthorized effort to eliminate Outsiders more directly. Known as the Evictors, the group were identified by their use of a common symbol, a circle divided by a line. A series of half a dozen murders of people with Outsider ancestry, whether they were passing as Shadar-kai or human, was linked to this group, and possibly other crimes were connected as well. After an internal investigation, the known perpetrators were tried, convicted, and executed; however, there is some suspicion that either the church may have hushed up the extent of the organization's reach, or overlooked some members who are still active, if more subtly.
The faith of Serpent, meanwhile, has also grown and changed over the years. The influx of Shadar-kai immigrants has included a larger-than usual proportion of Serpent worshippers, due to their persecution on the Shadow Plane, and a temple for their use has been established in The Shade, which is more or less tolerated by the other members of their community. It is mainly only used by Shadar-kai, although they have some ties with the mainstream branch of the human faith of Serpent too.
The largest branch of the church of Serpent is that run by Sirris, a priest who came to the city some eight years ago under slightly mysterious circumstances. The tale that he tells is difficult to believe, although his followers hold it to be true: that he is over two thousand years old, an inhabitant of a lost civilization from far to the north that preceded the foundation of the Empire, and that he was chosen by Serpent to survive this long in order to spread the faith now that his god is reborn. Regardless of the truth of this tale, he is charismatic and has attracted a fair number of followers. They have a temple of sorts in Rhenea, but so far are denied access to the Arch, which is now safely enclosed within a large and elaborate temple atop the Down, the Sacred Hall of the Reunified Arch.
The remnants of the cult previously run by Phedre Lozada-Boyne, now under the guidance of her daughter Viviane vak Andras also continue their practices in semi-secret. They worship, or whatever they do, out of her home in the Grand, having no public venue or ceremonies. Membership is tightly controlled and what precisely they do is known only through rumours, which include blood magic, sex rites, and whispers of ritual murder.
The faith of Rat is by now (mostly) integrated into the Way of the Wheel, and the current Patriarch, Velten du Champe, is in fact from the Order of the Rat. Although there were a few grumbles when he was chosen, most of the Reverends were in favour of his elevation to the rank. He has held the position without major issue for the past seventeen years.
There are still druids, although not a large number of them. Guillame Rionet worked at preserving the old traditions, but in a more academic way - I'm sure someone has written a book about it, maybe him! Silvia Rionet is the main source of druidic practice in the city now - she learned from people who actually practiced it in the undercity, so she's about as close as one might get anymore to the 'original' source, but there are still things she's developed and changed (so any new and different archetypes that might show up are probably her doing...) There are probably a few other druids her age (45) or older but most would be younger. It appeals to people who feel that the Rats are going down the wrong path by becoming too integrated, and/or to people who feel that the Rats are unduly oppressed.
The druids are a separate institution from the Way of the Wheel, not because they believe that they are truly different or that their power comes from ultimately a different source, but because their beliefs and way of worship are different. The Church, if asked, would say that their power also comes from Rat, and it's just a different way of venerating Rat, and Patriarch Velten has made some overtures towards trying to bring them 'into the fold' but it hasn't worked so far.
There have been considerable technological advances over the past three decades in the Empire. Railroads crisscross its lands, making long-distance transportation more accessible. Airships are available for more luxurious long-distance travel, but are more expensive as well. Even fairly small towns may expect to be near enough to a railroad that people there can make use of it. Automobiles are commercially available although expensive, and outside cities there isn't as much infrastructure to support their use over long distances (good roads, availability of fuel or repairs). Within Diablotin, there are trolleys that transport people around to various areas, and bicycles are also popular for inexpensive, rapid travel around the city. Horse-drawn vehicles are not entirely outmoded yet, however, especially for people in the countryside.
Communication is facilitated by the telegraph (inexpensive and rapid) and the telephone, which is newer and fewer people have them so far (perhaps about 30% in the cities, fewer in the countryside). Radio is also popular, as are cameras, and there are just beginning to be commercial motion pictures.
Interior and exterior lighting is a mix of magical and electrical - more wealthy houses will probably still have magical lighting (although if their houses have been refitted with electrical wiring, they may want to show that off), middle-class will likely have electrical, the poor make do with oil lamps and candles. Electricity is also used to power such devices as refrigerators, washing machines, sewing machines, etc. but many homes would not have these luxuries. Coal and oil are generally used for heating and cooking, as it is more expensive to transport large amounts of wood into the city. Firearms are commonly available, particularly revolvers, rifles, and shotguns.
Mass-produced goods are becoming more prevalent, as are shopping areas where one can purchase them, such as Torvalle's, a popular clothing store. Such items are particularly popular with the middle class - upper class folks can afford to have their clothing/furniture custom-made, while the lower classes don't usually have the money for such expenditures.
The factories that produce these goods are located all over the Empire, but in Diablotin, many are concentrated on the outskirts of the city, particularly near the Shambles and Pearl, so that their runoff flows downriver. Work in factories provides an income for those who are desperate enough to take it, but it can often be very difficult work, with long hours and low pay, with many positions not requiring much training or skill. Some workers are attempting to change this, forming unions in order to compel their employers to improve standards in their factories. There are also groups working specifically against issues such as child labour and unsafe working conditions.
Exploration and Discovery
The Metivian Archipelago was discovered to be only a small portion of a larger continent, consisting of many islands and a few larger landmasses. This land is still in the process of being explored and mapped by the Aveyronnais navy. So far, several other varieties of humanoids have been contacted or observed, and numerous new products have been brought back to the Empire for study and trade. Their level of technological advancement seems to be considerably less than that of the Empire, at least as far as is currently known.
Economics and Finances: A (Very) Rough Guide
Prices for items that aren't in the equipment list can be tricky to figure out. The cost of housing varies greatly depending on what neighbourhood you live in and how nice your home is. This section is intended as a rough guide to allow you to convert 1920s prices of real-world items into Diablotin prices, and to provide a small price list for items that we've already established prices for in game.
As a general rule of thumb, for items not listed elsewhere, the price in US dollars of an item c. 1920, divided in half, will give the approximate cost in gold pieces. All prices subject to GM approval ;)
These prices represent the average amount that a worker in these fields can expect to make per month. A starting or badly exploited worker may make less, while an experienced or highly skilled one could make more.
Running errands/delivering papers/shining shoes: 1-2 GP
Manual laborer (dock worker, railway porter, construction, etc.): 8 GP
Retail worker: 12 GP
Factory worker: 30 GP
Household servant (maid, valet, chauffeur, etc.): 10 GP plus room and board
Waiter: 10 GP plus tips
Tailor/dressmaker: 10 GP (alterations, mending, cutting fabric) - 50 GP (high-end tailoring)
Priest: 30 GP
City guard: 40 GP
War veteran's pension: 10 GP (20 GP if injuries impede ability to work)
Teacher in public schools: 25 GP
Journalist: 35 GP (junior reporter) - 200 GP (editor)
Electrician: 50 GP
Castalia assistant instructor: 100 GP
Castalia full professor: 400 GP
Musician/actor/performer: 50 GP (pit musician, background actor, etc.) - 500 GP or more (star performer)
Civil servant: 40-75 GP
Telephone operator: 25 GP
Lawyer: 50 GP (starting clerk) - 300 GP (senior law firm partner)
Liquor and Drugs
Pack of cigarettes: 1-2 SP
Beer (1 serving): 2 CP
Whiskey (1 serving): 2 SP
Gin (1 serving): 1 SP
Wine (1 serving): 1 SP - 1 GP (or higher)
Brandy (1 serving): 4 SP
Onyx (1 serving): 5 GP
Vodare (1 dose): 10 GP
Sheen (1 dose): 20 GP
Dreammist (1 dose): 5 SP
Cherry Nectar (1 dose): 5 GP
Exile (1 dose): 1 GP
(Note: 1 serving of alcohol is the amount an average person might normally consume in a single drink, which can vary from a pint of beer to a few ounces of liquor. For a full bottle of the liquor in question, adjust the price upwards as needed.)
Electric sewing machine: 20 GP
Bicycle: 5-10 GP
Camera: 5-60 GP
Typewriter: 10-50 GP
Piano: 250 GP
Radio: 30-200 GP
Record player: 10-100 GP
Record: 1 SP
Motorcycle: 150-300 GP
Automobile: 350-2000 GP
Fares and Services
Tram ticket: 1 CP
Taxi: 5 CP/mile
Airship ticket from Diablotin to Ariege: 60 GP
Train ticket from Diablotin to Ariege: 5 GP for a seat, 20 GP for a sleeper
Food from a street vendor: 5 CP or less
Meal in an inexpensive restaurant: 1 SP
Meal in a fancy restaurant: 2 GP or more
Bath at a public bathhouse: 5 CP
Room for a night in a cheap hotel or boarding house: 1-2 SP
Room for a night in a fancy hotel: 1-2 GP
Telegram: 2 CP/word
Castalia tuition (per year): 250 GP
Castalia library membership (per year): 100 GP
Public library membership (per year): 1 GP
Rents and Real Estate
These prices represent the rent and purchase price for a one-family dwelling of average quality in each of these neighbourhoods. In any district, of course, one could find places of lower quality that are cheaper, or higher quality that are more expensive, and larger homes will typically be more expensive than smaller ones in the same area.
The Shambles: 2 GP/month or 400 purchase
The Shade: 4 GP/month or 800 purchase
Pearl City: 8 GP/month or 1000 purchase
The Castalia: 6 GP/month or 600 purchase
Rhenea: 12 GP/month or 1500 GP purchase
Place D'Iena: 18 GP/month or 2000 purchase
The Pavillion: 25 GP/month or 5000 purchase
The Grand: 50 GP/month or 10,000+ purchase
Here's a list of grocery prices in 1920s America, if you need to know how much food will cost you, like Gen does...
One of the major changes that has occurred in the past decades is the growth of immigration from the Shadow Plane. The portal at Sarah's Knell is now government-controlled and operated, with visitors passing through in either direction required to pay a toll of 5 GP. Shadar-kai wishing to immigrate to the Aveyrone Empire for longer than two months must be appropriately documented and pay further fees. While some try to slip through this system using their ability to shift planes, the penalty for being caught without appropriate immigration papers is a steep fine, or a term of forced labour for those who can't pay, and then being returned to the Shadow Plane.
Although they are permitted to live anywhere in the city, Shadar-kai immigrants are primarily concentrated around the border of Rhenea and the Shambles, an area now known as The Shade. It is an insular community, filled with shops and restaurants catering to Shadar-kai tastes, where people generally speak their native language. Humans tend to stand out if they venture there.
Trade with the Shadow Plane is a growth industry, with a large demand there for items such as colourful fabrics and exotic foods and drinks, while the Empire imports items such as unusual chemicals and magical reagents. The Shadow Plane also has more abundant supplies of coal, silver, and diamonds than the Empire does, and so importing those materials can be quite profitable for merchants.
One trade item that is popular but illegal is the Shadar-kai beverage Onyx. In Shadar-kai, it produces an effect no more harmful than a drink of alcohol has on a human - an intoxicant which, incidentally, typically has little effect on most Shadar-kai. In humans, the drink has far more unusual effects:
Onyx: Addiction moderate, Fortitude DC 20, Price per bottle 25 GP, Effects last 1 hour/dose: +1d8 temporary hit points, 1d4 alchemical bonus to Strength, then fatigued for 4 hours during which time they are susceptible to hallucinations; Damage 1d4 Wis damage. Regular use can cause the drinker's lips to acquire a silvery sheen.
The influx of Shadar-kai, who now number a few thousand in Diablotin, has produced some degree of backlash from inhabitants of the city who feel that their jobs, religion, way of life, etc. are threatened by the immigrant population. This is more usually confined to bad-mouthing the Shadar-kai or to refusing to serve them in some establishments, but sometimes takes the form of more organized or violent racist activity. One side-effect of the discovery of the Evictor movement was that various secular racist groups felt empowered to speak out more publicly, believing that they had the support of at least some of the Church. The Humanist Defense League, commonly known as the Colour Guard, are easily recognized by their pink armbands, and are presumed to be responsible for various violent attacks on Shadar-kai, as well as for more subtle pressures placed on humans who deal with them, whether in business or personally.
Organized crime is still dominated by the Corriveaux crime family, although their hold is not complete, and in some ways may be less secure, as its most prominent and powerful members age. The Corriveaux and their affiliates primarily concentrate on prostitution and gambling. Another powerful group is the Mala Tajna, "little secret" in the old language of the Rats, who are independent of the Corriveaux and tend to deal in labour corruption, drugs, smuggling, and more violent crime. As an organization it is strongly focused on improving conditions for members of House Rat. The Nhau'kel is a Shadar-kai crime syndicate, primarily active in smuggling. There are also various minor gangs who are looking to unseat the Corriveaux, and the Hush are concerned about future instability in the criminal underworld.
Gender and sexuality are in flux in Diablotin. After a comparatively long period where women's fashions dictated long, encumbering skirts and tightly-laced corsets, styles have changed to allow greater freedom of movement and self-expression. Some women choose to wear trousers and cut their hair short, especially in work conditions where long hair and dresses would not be safe, such as factories, but also simply for reasons of fashion. The war also provided greater opportunities for women - although both men and women could and did serve in the military, the greater proportion of the soldiers were male, and thus women took on more of the duties of support work on the home front. With many soldiers returning from war looking for work, there are growing tensions in various industries attempting to provide jobs for them.
Same-sex relationships are not publicly authorized (there is no same-sex marriage for instance) but many are quietly accepted, and arrangements with understanding partners can sometimes be made by those who need to conform to conventions for family or societal reasons. Particularly in environments that are already perceived as somewhat scandalous, such as the entertainment industry, LGBT individuals are able to be more open and readily accepted.