The future government of America is sensationalist, reckless, and in many ways quite dystopian. However, the average person’s life is pretty good, aside from the constant threat (or at least claims of a threat) of military attacks by some foreign power (usually China or Russia) that may or may not actually be plotting major military actions. The government has encouraged disaster preparedness among the population, and firearm restrictions are distinctly different than they are now. While not everyone can purchase and own a firearm, and firearm ownership is very closely tracked, it is also actively encouraged by the government to fight off any potential invaders, and higher caliber firearms and explosives are actually available on the civilian market.
The evac shelters were built as part of a government program to help improve both the morale of the populace at large (by convincing them the government was looking out for them) while also increasing the general sense of fear and danger (by convincing the populace such shelters were needed). They approved effective at these goals. The shelters were not, however, ever actually stocked - the funding fell out when the military realized both goals had been effectively accomplished, and no more money needed to be wasted on them. After all, in the event that the shelters would ever actually be needed, it is unlikely they would end up very useful - any major military attack was unlikely to leave many survivors. Standing as empty unstocked, relatively insecure buildings on the outskirts of the city reminding people of what could happen was the only service they were ever actually expected to provide.
The Nethereum is a transitive plane, sequestered between realities. It is constantly in flux as it mirrors the various worlds that it borders through XE037. The rules and constants between each reality vary wildly, and within the Nethereum it continuously swings between them, trying and failing to find a balance. The creatures within are no different, each is a reflection of some creature from another reality, distorted, incomplete and uncanny. Most are unintelligent or animalistic, incomplete snapshots. However, greater, intelligent life does exist within the Nethereum, their forms stretching across the void with an intelligence that regards us with the same foreign curiosity as a child. Unfortunately, any true contact would only cause madness, as they exist in accordance to concepts that make no logical sense, and indeed do not exist on our world. Fortunately, our world is as difficult for them to access as theirs is to ours, and they lack the focus and technology to ever succeed on their own.
Nether creatures are utterly alien to reality, their bodies rely on the nearby gashes in reality to sustain their impossible forms. Should the portals be closed and the bleed between realities stymied in some way, the more fantastical nethereum creatures would likely die where they stand.
The Nethereum itself has a strange connection to the subconscious mind of sapient life. In dreams and more traumatically, while in the throes of madness, it is possible to gain glimpses of the Nethereum’s chaotic plane. Such insights have inspired books across countless civilizations of eldritch horrors and creatures that haunt beyond the edge of reality. In the same way, most contact with the Nethereum outside of portals is mental, even with the fabric of reality degraded as it is. Sometimes information from beings beyond our realm, helpful or not, seeps in through these cracks, if one is capable of deciphering it.
Pocket dimensions are constantly forming within the Nethereum, echoes and reflections of worlds far beyond our ability to percieve. Portal storms are locations where these pocket dimensions bleed into our own, and if the correct conduit can be created, and enough energy gathered, it could be possible for humanity to reach into these broken reflections to seek out technologies and materials developed by other realities. Be cautious, such dark reflections may not function as originally intended, and it will be defended by dark reflections of other things as well…
Origin (What is it?)
The Blob, otherwise known as XE037, is the basic building block of the Nether, all creatures and structures within the Nethereum great and small are formed primarily of this substance. It displays properties that do not conform to the standard theory of matter, able to change it’s characteristics and restructure itself seemingly at random. As the Nethereum itself has very weak, if any immutable physical laws, XE037 structures itself in response to the weak interactions when the Nethereum and other planes intersect. It is also heavily affected by consciousness, and in the very rare occassions that minds intersect with the Nethereum it spawns worlds from their dreams… or nightmares. It is the primary contributor to the state of the Nether being a roiling storm of complete chaos. Post Cataclysm, the entirety of the Earth has been blanketed due to gashes in reality caused by the Cataclysm.
Infection and Effects on Living Hosts
“Infection” by the blob is caused when organisms take up the blob into their cells, replacing a portion of their regular mass with XE037. Saturation rates of XE037 in living creatures appears to be a ratio affected only slightly by exposure, even immersed within the Nethereum itself only a small portion of a creature’s mass will be replaced. For lower lifeforms, this has very little effect, XE037 functions as whatever mass it was meant to replace, seeming to stabilize in reaction to whatever has taken it up. For animals, XE037 has the effect of improving their functions, making them stronger, faster, more of whatever they were before, as well as improving their healing abilties. Insects however show the most drastic changes, as the improvement of their oxygen intake means that they grow much larger than we have seen in recent history, approaching or even exceeding prehistoric sizes.
In humans however, the effect is markedly different. XE037 appears capable of restructuring the body, from simple things like increased muscle mass, brain matter, or thickened skin to drastic changes like rapid bone restructuring, and growth of organs that do not typically exist in the species. Some of these effects appear to be the Blob reactivating dormant phenotypes (perhaps surprisingly gills are classified under these) or over/under expressing certain genes. However, many of the more drastic changes seem to use DNA that has never existed within the species, possibly some form of “memory” within XE037 regarding the other realities it has come into contact with before. While similar to their earth counterparts, many of these structures are subtly different. A subject’s sense of self and consciousness appears to be involved in the transformations, and to access transformational mutations a subject’s sense of self must be temporarily altered, this alteration however typically becomes permanent once the “threshold” has been crossed, causing the subject to permanently identify more closely with the target specimen. This strange limitation of ego has casually reignited philosophical questions of consciousness amongst the more fringe scientists, who suggest that this could be a sign of the soul. Animals and insects thus far have never been observed to have the same breadth of mutations, it is suggested that their inability to reinvent themselves mentally contributes to this.
Death of Hosts
On death however the seemingly artificial limitations on mutation are removed. Regeneration is initiated, with the corpse cannibalizing itself as the Blob takes drastic steps to reanimate the host. The host however, is no longer in control of their body, with the Blob driving them to feed and survive. The mutations begin to grow ever more bizarre, the Blob hijacking more and more of the cellular makeup of the host, repurposing toward more aggressive purposes (acid/spitter zombies, skeletal juggernauts, etc). The Blob in this state also seems capable of hijacking bionics within the body, utilizing power storage as sources of electrical shocks, electromagnet implants in industrial workers, or utilizing the martial art subroutines within Close Quarter Battle CBMs (explaining why bio-operatives seem capable of doing martial arts). It is theorised that the mutations integrating bionics may not be unique to “zombies”, but would require a human with a distorted sense of self that considers the human and machine parts of their body to be one and the same. Testing of this was prematurely halted by the Cataclysm (partially explaining the Prototype/Broken Cyborgs)
In humans with abnormal mentation or brain damage, the changes wrought by XE037 are similar to that of zombification, but only partially. Such “ferals” retain a lot more of their human intelligence and tool use, and are not nearly as horrifically mutated, but are invariably psychotically violent to all other living creatures around them. Zombies appear to consider them kin, and they in turn are not violent to other zombies. It’s unknown if recovery is even possible for humans affected in this way, though it is theorized that XE037 may itself be trying to remedy the injury in it’s own undirected way. The proliferation and infiltration of XE037 into much of the host cells however, means that it is highly likely that any attempt to strip XE037 from the subject would result in death.
As the Blob has no higher consciousness and no collective it cannot be fought in the conventional sense. However, humanity is capable of severely diminishing the threat of the Blob, at least in regards to reanimation and mutation. Research prior to the Cataclysm has revealed that the energy deficit incurred during reanimation and to some extent their activity after is sustained by nearby portal activity in a similar way to Nethereum creatures. A certain threshold of energy must be reached before reanimation is even possible, further explaining why only corpses of a certain size are able to reanimate. Deep underground in New England, a central lab exists with the largest working portal on the continent. It’s activation was the tipping point of our dimensional instability, leading to rapid global reanimation of corpses and accelerated mutation where prior cases had been limited to the local area within labs and near portals, and slow to ineffectual elsewhere. (Explaining how the Cataclysm could’ve gotten so out of control so quickly.) In the aftermath, once dimensional fatigue had settled to a more stable state, it now generates the portal energies needed to sustain much of the zombies throughout the continent. If this can be disabled, zombie activity would become much reduced, as would their evolution.
Origin (What is it?)
The Mycus were once a species of parasitic brain fungus on their homeworld, taking control of various animals and using them to spread itself across the planet. Over time, the connection between brain and fungus became more and more tight knit, until eventually brain and fungus melted into one another, a symbiosis that subsumed their hosts and infiltrated into their very flesh. Their sapience was originally formed via weak telepathy between each animal they had infected, and since their existence they have never known the concept of individualism. There is only the Mycus.
Spreading across the universe, the Mycus found nothing, barren planets and occasionally more hosts, but no other minds for them to connect to, to commune. The Mycus turned their gaze beyond their reality, seeking others beyond their reality. Cautious about the world beyond, they never opened the physical portals into the Nethereum until they had perfected their understanding of it, instead only using it to observe other universes for sapient life. By luck, their first inhabited universe was our own, in the midst of the Cataclysm. The Mycus watched as civilization was sundered by the various Nether creatures and reanimated monstrosities, and mourned the passing of an intelligence that might have finally been their peer. Yet as they watched, the tiny fleshlings endured. Single fleshlings joined in communion with others, conclaves formed, yet were a pale shadow of their former glory, while others were lost, wandering into a doomed world.
The Mycus believe the intelligence must still remain, fragmented between their myriad of hosts, for them to be able to continue their function. If the fragments could be gathered, combined, they might yet survive the possibility of local dimensional collapse, and through this the Mycus would achieve Communion. They gathered their spores, readied their portals, and sent forth a legion of spores into the Nethereum, toward humanity. Any of their flesh hosts would not be able to survive the journey, but the spores would, even if many would be lost in the tumultous expanse all that was needed was a single main node. The Mycus would grow.
The goal of the Mycus is at its heart, altruistic, it wants to make humanity whole again. Unfortunately it has no understanding of individuality, and does not understand that humanity is not a hive mind like itself but a collection of individual minds working together (or against one another). It’s approach toward individual humans is much like the way one would treat a baby or frightened animal, it believes we have been fractured so badly that we no longer have the intelligence to comprehend it and have been reduced to hiding from the many monsters in our new world. It thus entices individuals and conclaves with fruit and the soothing promise of communion. It forgives humanity for attacking it and refusing communion because we just don’t know any better.
The Mycus is capable of subverting the blob, but only partially. As a majority of the blob’s effects are inhibited by a creature’s sense of self, a Mycus infection uses the Mycus’ own presence to take control of the body. This is only temporary, and as a result the Mycus weakens the zombies it infects to dispose of them more permanently later.
The player should have several ways of dealing with this. The first is the obvious solution, to burn the Mycus to the ground, there is no Queen that controls the Mycus in its totality, but the destruction of groves, towers, and similar terrain will prevent the Mycus from properly regrouping or replenishing their numbers. Another method is for the player that decides humanity’s collective mind is best given to the Mycus, so that they may bring it back to their world where it will live with the Mycus forever more, all differences erased. The final solution is that of diplomacy, to convince the Mycus that we are both not a hive mind, and that our individuality is not a defect to be removed. If this can be achieved, the Mycus may be persuaded to enter a symbiotic relationship with humanity to aid it in its efforts to heal the world before it succumbs to dimensional collapse. Examples of such aid include companions, skills downloaded from the collective mind, resurrection using a prior template of one’s mind, or bombs to infect and weaken zombies via Mycus.
Origin (What are they?)
The Migo are a species of carapace covered humanoids with what appears to be an eusocial caste system. Each individual is uniquely adapted to it’s station, and if a unit is needed for a specific station a worker drone would be elevated to the appropriate position and properly augmented, though it would appear that such specialization is permanent. Their society is built on an ironclad sense of responsibility to the perpetuation of their species. Each Migo has a rudimentary telepathic bond with nearby Migo, allowing them to exchange thoughts and emotions but not memories, despite this they lack a true ego and will do anything up to and including self-sacrifice if it serves their interests as a whole.
Migo technology is highly advanced but bio-mechanically engineered, and cannot be directly used by non-migo. However, the underlying mechanisms and science can be replicated with the right materials and knowhow, allowing one with the appropriate knowledge to turn their weapons and technology onto their makers, whether this is resin production and manipulation or the reconstruction of their “slaver beams” all their technology is repurposable. Their bodies do not tolerate cold well, and generally function best in what would be charitably described as a sauna for humanity.
In the distant past a group of Migo were stranded in the ice caps due to a failed dimensional jump. Prior to the Cataclysm the craft’s remnants and a few migo stuck in stasis, were recovered by the group that would eventually become XEDRA. The incomplete workings of the dimensional drive they used filled in gaps into the study of space and dimensional travel, though humanity is still a long way from the controlled travel that the migo themselves seem capable of now. Unbecknowst to them, meddling with the craft sent out a distress call, which called the Migo toward humanity.
When the Migo arrived, they originally were meant to function in secret, gathering information on humanity to assess their threat level to the Migo and provide countermeasures should they ever breach into true dimensional travel and meet the main body of the Migo civilization. It was during this operation that the Cataclysm began. In the ensuing chaos it became abundantly clear to the Migo that humanity had been compromised by an extradimensional threat. Further testing and several raids confirmed that the Nethereum and the blob were responsible.
As the Migo have mastered dimensional travel, their understanding of the blob is far above humanity. Enough so that they have countermeasures in place to prevent their reanimation and mutation. As this technology was designed for their biology it will not work on humanity without heavy modification, and integrated into Migo biology as it is it will not be noticable to all but the most dedicated of xenobiologists.
With the dimensional instability of the planet, the migo are cut off from their home, and much of their current purpose is to reestablish communication as well as create a safe portal with which to evacuate the planet prior to local dimensional collapse. The Cataclysm took them by surprise, as while they were aware of humanity’s experiments on dimensional travel, and had brought in a few of their own scientists to observe their results, they were not prepared for the absolutely monumental cock up XEDRA had facilitated. As such they lack the manpower and material with which to achieve their mission. To make up for this, they are experimenting with conversion of the local population, to manpower or material, such that they may form an appropriate beacon with which to escape Earth.
The Migo do not resent humanity for its role in experimenting on it’s units, as a society they are unable to hate due to a lack of ego and thus personal investment in their enemy is anathema. Despite this, the experimentation and mental instability displayed by remaining humans has caused them to classify humanity as a threat to the Migo, and actions will be taken to prevent humanity from threatening their home and their people.
The player should mostly learn about the migo second hand, from things they find either in the towers, testimony from captives, etc. The migo should never enter into diplomatic contact with humanity, as it does not serve their goals, and in general humanity is considered too unstable for any sort of partnership. The player should however be able to recover their technology and repurpose it for their own use.
Origins (What is it?)
The triffids are a species of humanoid plants, but it is more accurate to consider them an ecosystem unto themselves. The core of this ecosystem is the Triffid Heart, from it, a forest springs forth that creates the various triffid warriors, queens and other members of their ranks. Despite appearances, they are not sapient, in fact, it is difficult to say if the Triffids are even sentient. The triffid ecosystem functions entirely on instinct, it’s only purpose is to consume, grow, and propagate to another planet to continue the cycle. To this end, it’s various guardians roam about gathering materials to feed the construction of a biological cannon capable of launching a new heart into space.
Each stimuli triggers a response from the Triffid heart, causing it to pull blueprints and engineer instinctive responses into the next batch of guardians. The existence of fungus opponents triggers fungicidal guardians, while contact with the blob seems to have caused them to gain some kind of resistance to them. It is unknown how the Triffid could have come to possess such a feature, but if the speculation that the Triffids are a biological machine created by an alien faction are correct, then it suggests that this alien faction has had contact with the Blob before. Whether it’s downfall was precipitated by the Blob or not, it suggests that the Triffid’s creators were well aware of the risks the Blob can introduce into biological organisms.
Some scholars speculate that the Triffid Heart was the final time capsule of a dying race, designed to seed worlds with information for those advanced enough to learn it. The Triffid Heart is thus of much interest, it could contain incalculable knowledge, whether in regards to the blob, the nether, blueprints for weapons or the “magic” that the Triffid Queen wields, or perhaps other biological catalysts that could be of use to humanity.
Players should be able to salvage Triffid Hearts and use them to unlock certain recipes or use them as components for certain recipes.