AGE OF SPIRITS (Alt-world urban fantasy) With the end of imperialism and science becoming increasingly mired in mathematical impossibility, the people of the Union of Nations begin to lose confidence in cold science, instead turning to spiritual pursuits in the quest for self-fulfilment. Old practices see a revival, and some individuals find connections back to the spirits from the Age of Dreams. While some of these connections are probably beneficial, far more aren’t; some old spirits were best forgotten, and others are angry at being ignored for so long. The Age officially ends when alien contact is made; given a new frontier to work towards and a grander scheme, humanity unites in the face of distant planets.
1) Shemeld City: A post-industrial city, Shemeld City isn’t as important to the world as it once was, but it does boast a unique quality; it’s connection to the spiritual world. As the Age of Spirits began, Shemeld’s history and location was closer to the spirit world than other, more developed cities. Although still financially and geo-politically small, Shemeld greets disparate cultures as equals, and as the Age of Spirits grows from a fringe movement, Shemeld becomes the focal point for new spiritualism.
2) Old Spirit Movement: The beginning seed of the Age, the Old Spirit Movement were the first collection of misfits, occultists and cryptologists to contact the spirits from a forgotten time. Although the Movement destroyed itself with infighting, each group sees it as their origin myth, even if their particular form of magic came about much later. The original Movement had five members, bought together by a shared disillusion with the world. Details were mythologised, conflated and exaggerated with each retelling, but the members came to symbolise a piece of the movement; The Escapist, Rebel, Hedonist, Scholar, and Attainer.
3) Enlightened: Originally the Attainers of the Movement, the Enlightened who seek spiritual fulfilment. By far the lightest, nicest, least-likely-to-kill-you branch of the Movement, the Enlightened are equally the most disparate; there’s no one path to Enlightenment, after all, and Enlightened learn as many options as possible. Paths might converge, split, or loop back, but should never lead to a dead end. The magic of the Enlightened comes from those who achieve it; depending on who you ask, these spirits are Angelic, Demonic, beings of pure faith, or mystic charlatans. Enlightened would prefer it if you didn’t use such terms, however.
4) Vampires: Originally the Hedonists of the Movement, Vampires have given themselves over to obtaining earthly pleasures at any cost, even above life. The spirits involved in becoming a vampire are always dangerous, and respond only to blood. Once invoked and bound to their host’s body, the vampire gains immortality at a heavy price. Sunlight burns, and it must drink blood to retain its youth. Despite the obvious danger involved, vampires work hard to maintain a romantic charm about what they are; if the harsh reality became known, it’d quickly lead to their extermination.
5) Tyrants: Originally the Rebels of the Movement, Tyrants desire only power; once it had been power to cause change, but the change has happened. Without a common banner, Tyrants selfishly accumulate power in any form; magic, wealth and prestige are all equal. Some joke that Tyrants make up the world governments; in fact, there’s equal numbers of other rulers keeping the Tyrants out. No-one’s clear which spirits the Rebels first invoked; spirits of anger, pride and nobility have all been posited. One thing is clear; each Tyrant now acts independently, because otherwise a new Age of Tyranny would begin.
6) Wizards: Originally the Scholars of the Movement, wizards pursue knowledge in all its forms; unlike the other Movement members, wizards haven’t allied with any particular group of spirits, instead studying and bartering with spirits as a collective. Although ‘wizard’ suggests some magical talent, many wizards don’t have any power, studying magic for its own sake. Those that do have bartered it from spirits; the bloodlines of humanity have been without magic for a long age, and now none are born with innate power. There are several subsections of wizard; Elementalists, Conjurers, Illusionists, and Necromancers are a few such groups.
7) Shifters: Originally the Escapists of the Movement, Shifters wanted nothing more than to leave the real world behind. Changing form to an animal was the most popular and easiest method of escapism; to run free with a wolf pack, or soar over the lands as an eagle, was all the Shifters desired. As time went on, Shifters’ magic became entrenched in a single type of spirit; families of werewolves, werebears and werehawks are so closely tied to their totemic animal, they forgot they could take different shapes.
8) Ten minutes after meeting their leader, I met his pet cat. Within thirty seconds, it was obvious who was the brains in that organisation.
9) When a young boy first told his mentor ‘I wish to be a wizard’, the mentor gave him a task; translate a leather-bound manuscript, old beyond counting. After thirty days, the boy returned; ‘I haven’t learnt magic!’ he said, ‘The tome told me nothing!’. The mentor smiled, and said ‘I know. Do you mind that you pursued power only to find none at the end?’ ‘Yes!’ said the boy, ‘You deliberately wasted my time!’. The mentor frowned, ‘Then you do not wish to be a wizard.’ said he, ‘Seek out the Tyrants. Their philosophy is closer to yours.’
10) When a young man told his patron ‘I wish to be a vampire’, he was given a ritual; to dance within a stone circle, adorn his body with symbols of excess, and to anoint himself with saffron oils before a crowd of spectators. After thirty days, the man asked ‘Will you make me a vampire?’ The patron asked ‘Did you enjoy the ritual?’; the man replied ‘Very much so!’. The patron asked ‘Did others wish to join you?’; the man replied ‘Yes; I gathered quite a crowd!’. ‘Then you have the desire and the skill to join us.’