The Regency, formally known as the Domain of the Steam Queen, is one of the more technologically advanced and self-sufficient nations in Gamma Terra. It was founded about thirty years ago by a single visionary inventor who crowned herself the Queen of Steam and it grew rapidly through a combination of personal charisma, technological innovation, and a defensive strategy which emphasized commerce and upward mobility for those with guts, savvy, and style. But a few years ago the Queen mysteriously vanished and the Domain is now in turmoil. Competing factions are threatening to usurp the realm, tear it apart, or betray it to its enemies.
The Regency’s economic and military strength is based on steam power and those engines require coal. For this reason, the Regency is located on massive coal reserves located in what was the Illinois Basin, occupying central-eastern Illinois and spilling over into what was Kentucky and Indiana. No major Ancient cities exist within the Regency’s borders. Instead, the Domain lies between three of these monuments, with the ruins of Chicago to the north, St. Louis to the west, and Indianapolis to the east. These Ancient sites, along with the extent of the Domain’s coal reserves, form a natural border to the expansion of the realm, and it is unlikely that it will ever expand far beyond its current limits, even were it to resolve its current political crisis.
The capital of the Regency is Steam City, located halfway between St. Louis and Indianapolis in what was once the town of Effingham, Illinois. This was the juncture of what used to be Interstate Highways 70 and 54, marked by a 198-foot Ancient monument in the shape of a cross. When Queen Ada chose Effingham as her capital, she ordered the monument to be rebuilt, and it has stood on its current location for more than twenty years. Effingham used to be a historic rail junction, and the Queen had this modest facility rebuilt and expanded so that now Steam City is the central hub for the Domain’s entire railroad network. It has a population of about 15,000 mutated humans, animals, and “pure strain” humans, and is considered cosmopolitan by Gamma Terra standards. It boasts electric streetlights, running water, and powerful defensive armaments including batteries of cannons and a full-time militia of about 150 knights armed with heavy armor, rifles, and swords. They have at their disposal a small number of gas-burning vehicles for emergency use, but generally conduct their patrols on horseback. The Steam Palace, the Domain’s government building and the permanent residence of Archduke Cambridge, is located here along with homes for most of the other nobility and the Royal Academy, the Domain’s university.
The rest of the Domain is relatively safe and tranquil plains dotted with villages ruled by barons and the occasional small town governed by dukes. The Domain is divided into about sixteen of these territories, each connected to Steam City by a rail line. Rail lines connect the various territories to each other, though not always efficiently or regularly; some of the territories within the Domain have taken to fighting over borders and their rail lines have suffered as a result. The poorer barons cannot always afford to maintain their rail lines, resulting in an inability to travel, conduct commerce, or defend their own territory. Coal mines dot the land, and mining camps are quite common, inhabited by workers who travel home to their villages and families for brief vacations every few months.
Most people in the Regency live simple lives with little or no exposure to what we would call “advanced” technology. They farm the land for wheat or corn, raise pigs, chicken, or other livestock, barter for what they need and try to raise a family. However, the Steam Queen’s innovations have reached throughout the Domain in a few very specific ways, so that almost everyone in the Regency has at least some familiarity with certain machines and processes.
The steam engine is ubiquitous in the Regency. Steam engines are used for mining, in grain mills, to generate electric power for lighting, and for locomotives which link each village and town with Steam City. Transportation is safe, reliable, and cheap. Passenger trains run for free; the coal to keep them running is in turn provided by miners whose food, lodging and health care (or what passes for it) is provided by the local Steam Lord. Coal mines rely mostly on well-known technology like the pick, the brace, and the wheelbarrow, but steam-operated drills and belts help dig and remove the coal once it is gathered.
Although barter is still the primary economic system, the Domain does print some money. Anyone working for the Regency – including military personnel, coal miners, and administrators or bureaucrats – are paid with “Crowns,” a paper money referred to as “Steam Bucks” by tourists and travelers. Crowns are usable at special supply stores operated in Steam City or a few small towns; one crown is worth about one survival day.
The Domain has a robust defense industry which has developed small arms and cannons. Knights and other veteran soldiers will be familiar with these weapons and will usually carry pistols or rifles. Engineers are trained in the use of artillery and have sophisticated targeting tables which allow them to call down artillery strikes with pinpoint accuracy. Common militiamen in the Domain probably don’t have guns but will have enough familiarity with them to predict their capabilities.
Finally, the Domain is linked by telegraph lines maintained by the local Steam Lord. Telegrams are not free, although regular mail service (carried by train) is; those who wish to purchase a telegram can do so with Steambucks.
Education in engineering, telegraphy, mill operation and mechanics is conducted at the Royal Academy. Tuition is free, but the Academy accepts only as many students as it knows the Domain can employ. Many young men and women travel to the Academy each semester, hoping to gain admittance, but most are turned away.
The Domain is currently ruled by His Lordship the Regent, Archduke Cambridge, a massive mutant bear who helped to raise Queen Ada as a child and who remains absolutely loyal to the Queen and her memory. Unfortunately, Ada disappeared three years ago leaving absolutely no trace. Cambridge, Cam to his close friends and family, is aging and weary but keenly intelligent and merciless to his enemies. He suspects several barons of disloyalty and has had to execute one as an object lesson, but most of his attention is taken up searching for the Queen. He has agents and spies everywhere, combing the land looking for any sign or clue. So far, he has come up with nothing. He is beginning to fear the worst.
Queen Ada began as a starry-eyed youth, an engineered human with a brilliant mind and relentless energy. She grew up in an Ancient museum and, at the age of 16, managed to get an Ancient steam engine there running. With the help of her village and a gang of mutant elephants she got it onto the closest rail line and soon she was traveling across the land creating her reputation as a genius and adventurer. She began to attract followers, whom she housed on her train, and within a few years her experiences with the misery, chaos, and warfare that was rampant in Gamma Terra prompted her to establish the Domain. By now she had matured into a beautiful woman and she had many courtiers; rather than attach herself to any of them, she skillfully played them off one another so they competed for her favor. As a result, the Domain grew quickly, with each baron and duke trying to impress the Queen the most through development of their land, the laying of track, and an emphasis on education. Ada ruled in Steam City for thirty years, and was still beautiful when she vanished three years ago.
The Regent is assisted by a High Council which consists of all the barons and dukes of the Domain. A baron rules a village of less than 1,000 people; there are more than a dozen such villages in the Regency’s borders. Towns with a population larger than this are made dukedoms; there are currently three dukes and the Archduke, who is also Regent. Each member of the High Council has more or less complete authority over his territory, with some general principles of decency and law extending across the entire realm. No lord can restrict travel in or our of his territory, and he must always grant free travel to any citizen who wishes it. In this way, if any lord becomes too cruel or exploits his people, they can always move to a more friendly town or village. Some Steam Lords are benevolent and wise, others are petty despots, but they have all sworn oaths of loyalty to the crown and they are responsible for maintaining their rail network as well as providing knights and soldiers in the event of war. Each Steam Lord has his own private train which functions as a personal palace and command center. At a minimum, a Steam Lord’s armored train would consist of an engine, a coal car, a luxury car, a freight car, two cars for the transport of soldiers, and a gun car armed with artillery pieces.
Below the Lords are the Knights of Steam, or simply knights. There are a few hundred knights in the Domain, with about half of them living in Steam City and the rest serving Steam Lords throughout the land. Knights might be chosen by Steam Lords for any reason, but most are experienced warriors who have been defending the Domain for a few years now and have seen their share of battle. Knights do not have land of their own, and they are supported by their lord. Those who serve in Steam City are personally loyal to the Queen or, in her absence, the Regent. In battle, knights serve as commanders and shock-troops. They are trained riders, marksmen, and swordsmen but also have access to swift automobiles, motorcycles, or armored cars for the rare offensive action. Indeed, because most of the Domain’s firepower is tied down to rail lines (where artillery trains can be brought to bear), the Knights of Steam are the Domain’s only real offensive force. If the Regent ever has to attack someone beyond the Domain’s borders, that task falls squarely on the shoulders of the knights.
Social status below the rank of knight is based on merit, personal wealth, and what you provide the domain. Those with training in technical trades, such as mill operators, engine operators, telegraphers, and gunsmiths wield more influence. Before the Queen vanished, there was an increasing effort to cultivate the arts, literature, and music, but Cambridge has had no time to continue that work and now, although some barons and dukes patronize the arts, science and mechanics reign supreme in Steam City.
The Regency is threatened by dangers within and without. It serves as a good home for player characters but, if it is too organized for your tastes and you wish to emphasize the wild and wooly nature of Gamma Terra, it makes a good sacrificial lamb. Destroy it and your players will know you mean business. Because the Regency lacks a permanent leader, it also makes a good stage for “Empire Building” campaigns in which the players rise to political power and forge a new world on the ashes of the Ancients.
- Baron Jack Turney has been a Steam Lord for more than a decade. At first, he though he had a chance to seduce the Queen and become King, but at heart Turney is a cad and a scoundrel, a petty, selfish, cheat whose true nature was all too apparent to Queen Ada. And she let him know this in no uncertain terms one evening when he dared to visit her chamber. Turney has no idea what happened to the Queen, but he’ll be damned if he’s going to let this opportunity go to waste. Jack has made contact with Emperor Bonaparte and has offered to give the Emperor safe passage through Turney’s land so that Bonaparte’s armies can attack Steam City. Turney will use his own engines to blockade rail routes leading to the capital, buying the Emperor some time. Bonaparte will be able to destroy a powerful rival and loot Steam City’s cache of guns and equipment, and Turney can come in later, claim the throne, and rebuild. The Regent knows Turney is up to something, but he has yet to intercept any written communication, and he figures Turney is just trying to build an alliance of his fellow barons to oust Cambridge. Can the heroes discover the truth, turn back Bonaparte’s army, and capture Turney in his well-defended lair?
- One of the PCs is Queen Ada’s child, the product of a reckless affair two decades ago. When she found this out a few years ago, Ada stole away on what she thought would be a brief journey to find her heir and reveal herself. But she ran afoul of a Gray medical experimentation lab where she was captured and imprisoned. The PC has a small token, a steel cross necklace, given at birth by Ada and Cambridge will recognize it as something that once belonged to the Queen. The players must unravel this mystery, retrace Ada’s path, and penetrate the alien facility. If you want the players to ascend to the throne of Steam City, Ada is found in time for her to see her child and die peacefully; if not, Gray cloning experiments have created a youthful Ada with all her adult memories. Once freed, she can return to the Domain, retake the throne, and re-establish order among the Steam Lords.
- With the Queen gone and the Regent distracted searching for her, the Steam Lords are free to conspire and war against one another for power and influence. The players are caught up in this when they are hired by one of the Steam Lords to acquire Ancient weapons or technology which will allow him to defeat a rival baron. Of course, the players’ patron cannot allow any witnesses to his dirty deed, so he will try to assassinate the players as soon as the job is done. When their involvement in the betrayal is discovered by the Regent, he issues arrest warrants. Now it is up to the players to get revenge, clear their name, and reclaim the weapons they were sent for in the first place.