2. Game World – Setting & Contextual Info

Welcome to New Mercia, the most glorious nation on Earth.

The Combined Republics of Mercia, New Mercia & Better New Mercia, known by most simply as New Mercia, is an isolated single party state run by a cadre of unelected, authoritarian bureaucrats known as the Executive. Their current leader and your current Supreme Executor, Willis M. Crandle, is a petty, gaunt man who would permanently ban the concept of enjoyment if it weren’t scientifically impossible, a fact which he knows all too well because it was him that funded the research. 

In New Mercia, the wheels of progress are only ever turned by the petty jostling for position of those tasked with its governance and you can never really be sure in which direction. It is a nation of poverty, bitterness and infighting, a nation where silly rivalries between insecure men dictate public policy and, above all, a nation in which “love thy neighbour” is a concept only found in pornography. 

But none of that really matters to you…

You are in Verdant Springs, a grimey industrial and clearly ironically named city far from the corridors of power in which basically nothing ever fucking happens. Or so you thought… until you began to manifest strange new abilities and took your first steps into the glamorous world of violently assaulting petty criminals.

As in the rest of the nation, the use of superpowers in Verdant Springs is highly regulated. Only a handful of individuals are authorised to use their powers in each of New Mercia’s regions, these chosen few are known as Administrators. These people are viewed as chosen representatives of the Executive in their region and assist the local authorities in administering their city, as well as occasionally protecting the city from threats or quelling any foolish talk of democracy.

The fact that unauthorised power use carries a penalty of death in New Mercia has not seemed to deter those with a criminal inclination who famously don’t care if things are illegal or not. This delicate social issue has found a particularly pervasive root in Verdant Springs, a city with just enough wealth to be worth killing for and more than enough poverty to make it worthwhile.

With Verdant Spring’s Administrator generally away on “important party matters” and the local police force preoccupied with beating up innocent minorities, somebody has to stand up to these violent criminals and it might as well be you. You’ll need to be subtle, however, as flagrant use of your powers and wanton destruction will draw the attention of the authorities and, honestly, neither of us want you to have to deal with that shit.

Our story begins shortly after where it probably should have begun, for reasons unbeknownst even to me. You find yourself about to face a deadly foe with a bunch of arseholes that you just met. Good luck, I guess….

Some additional facts about New Mercia that might help when choosing a playbook

The game takes place in a relatively contemporary setting. Modern technology is available but not advanced. Honestly, the place is a bit of a backwards shithole so I’d avoid going too tech heavy for narrative reasons.

Verdant Springs is in a county called Rigid Valley in the east of New Mercia. The area is bordered by mountains to the north and south, hence the name, and sea to the east. Verdant Spring’s coastal neighbours have a heavy military presence, as if preparing for a beachhead against an enemy that has long since lost interest, though the city itself is relatively free of the country’s forces.

The Executive allows its citizens “the right to hold property, engage in meaningful labour of their own volition and contribute, as equals, to the betterment of their great country”. Aside from political dissidence, Freedom of Expression is tolerated, within reason, by the powers that be though the subject is permanently under review in the corridors of New Mercia’s imposing Halls of Management. Regular citizens of New Mercia ostensibly enjoy many of the same freedoms we do in their day to day lives, especially in the capital Davenport, named after the first ever Supreme Executor, Archibald Davenport.

Some freedoms they do not enjoy, however, are as follows:

  • Freedom of association – political dissidence is highly criminalised

  • Freedom from violence or avoidable harm – police state, yo.

  • Freedom from cruel and unusual punishment – police state 2: Torture is commonplace in law enforcement

  • Freedom of thought, ideas, education – you learn what they want you to learn

  • Freedom to use powers or abilities – superpowers are highly regulated in New Mercia

  • Freedom to leave – As far as the Executive is concerned, nobody has left New Mercia in over a hundred years

And a bunch of other shitty things that we’ll discover as we go. Basically all standard authoritarian state stuff, pretty much.

The political makeup of the nation, as our player characters will understand it, is relatively simple. The Executive, the group that functions as a government in New Mercia is run by the Supreme Executor and his cronies whilst each region is governed by a Regional Executor directly answerable to the national authority. Cities such as Verdant Springs are run by a Municipal Executor, basically a mayor, in tandem with an Administrator, the only person authorised to use their powers in that municipality.

New Mercia is an isolationist but internally capitalist state. It is not a very good one, probably because of all the isolationism. The country would be considered poor on a global scale. However, due to strict limitations on the information they receive, Mercians don’t really know much of the outside world so they don’t really have anything to compare it to. Instead, they occupy themselves with internal class conflict, intercity rivalries and a more than healthy fear of the unknown. 

New Mercia is a multi ethnic society and despite their foibles in many other areas, the Executive are not particularly interested in stoking religious or racial tensions and have a fairly liberal approach to other social issues (eg. LGBT+ rights) mostly because I don’t want every NPC I play to be a fucking nazi. There is still much racism amongst the regular folk in Verdant Springs but much of their focus in recent years has been on a burgeoning hatred for the powered.

Speaking of which, most regular citizens of New Mercia fucking hate people with superpowers. I mentioned that Mercians are a bitter people and it is most compounded here. Superpowers have ostensibly been around since before New Mercia, but many of their users died as pawns in internal conflicts in the generations before the Combined Republics were unified. This will impact all players interactions with unpowered NPCs when using their powers but will especially impact the experience of playstyles with visible powers eg. Transformed. 

Contemporary drugs and alcohol exist in abundance but are criminal and frowned upon, respectively.

Information, media and especially the internet are highly regulated in New Mercia. Social media does exist but it’s restricted to within the country and global platforms are blocked. Media personalities and celebrities in New Mercia are all approved by the government. However, there are rumours of an alternative encrypted social media platform for sharing banned ideas, with its own smorgasbord of influencers. This could pose issues or interesting developments when playing the Star that you will have the bear in mind when designing your character. It will also possibly impact other playbooks if they are filmed and identified unleashing their powers.

It is also important at this point to note that your characters will most likely be raised in this system and educated with its propogation firmly in mind. How close you play to the ideal Mercian citizen as an adolescent is at your discretion but you should probably bear in mind how your internal and external selves may be shaped by having grown up in this place.

If you pick the Legacy or Protege playbook, your parent/mentor will either be the local Administrator or an unpowered but senior figure in the Verdant Springs branch of the Executive. You can obviously decide which and we can discuss what your relationship with this NPC will be. This will slightly impact how those playbooks run as you will be acting in defiance of your favourite grown up every time you use your powers in this world but it’s the only way I could figure out how to fit it into this world that doesn’t really have an established superhero canon.

There are 3 playbooks that I’d need convincing to see how they would fit in this game:

  • Outsider

  • Innocent

  • Soldier

  • Nomad

I feel like shoehorning aliens or time travel into this world would be clunky and I don’t really see how the Soldier fits if powers use is banned and players are going to be acting in opposition to both criminals and the authorities.If you really want to play one of these playbooks, let me know how you could see it fitting and we can try to work something out. Sorry for being a dick.

Speaking of being a dick, playbooks with bonuses for breaking the rules will not get those bonuses every time they unleash their powers even though it’s technically against the rules because I have a feeling it would be gamebreaking. All other laws of New Mercia will be factored into these moves so a Delinquent could conceivably get a +2 on a team move using Troublemaker by chanting a dissident political slogan to distract a guard as long as they were prepared to deal with the consequences of attracting that attention.

These are the only issues I’ve identified so far with using this world idea and the Masks system but I’m sure we will encounter countless others.

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