Roma Aeterna

By Craig Neumeier.

This is the second in a series of three articles on using the timelines from GURPS Alternate Earths in a Feng Shui game. Some of the details will not be comprehensible without G:AE, but in this article I think the set-up should be understandable without it.

This is one of two adaptations that fits the junctures as given. It would replace the 1850 juncture. This one is rather harder to reverse, and is more likely to have serious fallout even if it is changed back.

Has it occurred to anyone else that a potential winning strategy for the Time War is to travel to the 69 juncture and physically move overland from China? The Lotus dominates China, but they hardly think about the rest of the world. Over in the Roman Empire, there aren't any Netherworld gates and there probably isn't anyone else who knows about feng shui.

This suggests a somewhat atypical Jammer plot; maybe the Battlechimp has just managed to recruit a team of Netherworlders who can actually stick to a plan. Whoever it is gets sent west from 69 China; starting in Rome, they should be able to take over most of the sites beyond the Lotus' limited horizons without too much trouble. Then they can adjust the sorcery modifier down as far is it will go, timed to coincide with a Jammer assault on Lotus feng shui sites.

Results: the Jammers come as close as they ever are likely to in achieving their goal -- the Lotus gets smashed, and most of the feng shui sites throughout the world are destroyed over the next few decades. This helps to explain why so little seems to change, relatively speaking, from 69 to 1850; the chi flows are too weak to support much dynamism.

The 1850 juncture is Roma Aeterna, more or less as written. In a Feng Shui universe, it is obvious that the rapid expansion of the Third Empire has to be due to their control of Feng Shui sites. Probably a Roman secret society picked up the art from Chinese in Fu-sang (say, the Cult of Mercury-Cuculcan); optionally, a marginal group of Chinese dissidents may have fled Fu-sang and be using the Romans to take over. Whoever it is, their position in 1850 is very strong, but they don't have much in the way of weird powers or (by the standards of the old timeline) high technology; their only significant advantage is being in place. Ripe for an alliance with one of the dis-timed factions -- note that they don't even have many Netherworld portals. The chi-flows are finally being restored, and magic is beginning to reappear but is still quite weak.

The 1996 juncture in this setting becomes the major secret war battleground. Rome has reached a level of technology only slightly below our own; their opponent is now a united Chinese Empire -- across the whole Pacific basin -- which has lower technology but is more familiar with the ways of chi powers and magic. United China is backed by the remnants of the Guiding Hand and at least some of the Four Monarchs. The Cult of Mercury-Cuculcan in Rome is supported by the remnant Architects, who have numbers but can't replace their arcanowave gear any more, and probably by the few Lodge and Pledged who are still around. The Lotus and Jammers scarcely exist any more.

By 2056, magic has become fully resurgent and the magicians have taken over -- a loose alliance of sorcerers and supernatural creatures (heavily recruiting from the former abominations) dominates the world. The two great empires of the 20th century have been broken up into a myriad of more or less independent city-states and feudal principalities. This juncture would be quite vulnerable were the magicians not aware of the dangers posed by Innerwalkers; they actively try to recruit them as allies and minions, and cooperate against outtimers. (Note, incidentally, that if you attune to a feng shui site with somebody else, disattunement provides a warning of betrayal.) The alliance will occasionally cooperate in operations in other junctures, but know that all they really need to do is prevent anyone from winning complete control in 199x -- the resurgence of magic is a natural phenomenon that would require pretty much unchallenged control of feng shui to stop.

This set-up is harder to reverse than the scenario I sketched out for Dixie. The PCs may end up trying to help the Lotus in the still-ongoing war for 69 AD.

One way to do this is to screw up communications between Jammer branches, so that some of them blow up their feng shui sites before they really should, shifting the balance of power back. This also has the merit of closing the additional front to the secret war; if there aren't very many sites left in Rome, there's less reason for anyone to go there and try to duplicate the same trick.

Last modified: January 8, 1997; please send comments to