In the world of PAX BRITANNICA, there are organizations that wield temporal power on a scale beyond that which an individual can attain. Some of these organizations are likely to have an impact on the adventuring stories of player characters. Player characters may even seek membership in one or more organization(s).
Blue Sky is a network of well-trained, heavily-armed private contractors specializing in defense. They began as a shipping protection company, but have since expanded their operations from airships and boats to include ground transport and zone defense. Blue Sky currently holds a wealth of both private and governmental contracts, and have more than once been the center of scandal for their no-holds-barred approach to security. Qualified members have been granted firearm license by the British Government, allowing some of the mercenaries to carry otherwise-illegal weapons whilst performing their duties. There has been public outcry against the band on occasion, but their many wealthy and influential benefactors have prevented any reprimand from sticking.
Goals: To acquire wealth by providing security to interested parties.
Rules: Code of conduct requires that British law be followed by contractors. Additionally, there are internal rules that dismiss members for behavior that does not befit a representative of the company. Contractors are required to interact politely with clients, and to never leave a man behind in battle.
Ranks: Trainee, Contractor, Commander, President.
Trainees are not permitted to accompany contractors on operations. There is a mandatory two-month training period, at half pay.
Contractors form the bulk of the company, carrying out operations individually or under a commander.
Commanders are expected not only to lead groups of contractors, but also to handle client relations and make sales.
The President is the head of the company, currently one Maxwell Shaw, who rose through the ranks to replace the founder. All personnel answer to Shaw, who functions as chief commander and head of client relations, sales, and accounts.
Relationships: Blue Sky has a comfortable working relationship with the British government and an excellent reputation with its military. The majority of its contractors were once enlisted men. Blue Sky is sometimes in competition with the Finders and the Specialists for a contract, but just as often they work alongside one another. Blue Sky is hostile to separatists. Most operations place them in direct opposition to anarchists, separatists, neobolsheviks and the like.
British Armed Forces
The British Armed Forces are composed of four branches: the British Army, the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force, and the British Rite of Arcanum. The Army is currently engaged in peacekeeping operations against separatists around the globe, and is attempting to push the Cathayan border deeper into Qin. The Royal Navy finds itself primarily engaged against pirates, with some blockade activity against separatist regions as well. The Royal Air Force finds itself supporting the Army and Navy as well as policing the air lanes against the all-too-common threat of organized piracy. The British Rite of Arcanum provides IMEM support, acting alongside the other branches as specialists.
Goals: Carry out Her Majesty’s will around the globe, protect British citizens, and combat separatist forces.
Rules: A code of conduct based upon honor and command. All men and women in Her Majesty’s service must obey the commands of their superiors and protect their brothers and sisters in uniform.
Ranks: In the British Army, ranks from Private to Field Marshall. In the Royal Navy, ranks from New Entry to Admiral of the Fleet. In the Royal Air Force, ranks from Aircraft Man/Aircraft Woman to Marshal of the Royal Air Force. In the British Rite of Arcanum, ranks from Apprentice Mage to Master Wizard of the British Rite of Arcanum.
Relationships: Staunch opponents of all separatists, the Imperial military finds itself primarily deployed to bring rebellious regions back under control. Lately, that has been primarily manifested as the push against the Qin Empire and prolonged conflict with Russian neobolsheviks. The Imperial Military finds external support from mercenary organizations, particularly Blue Sky and the Specialists. The RSoSS and the Jesuits often lend support on spiritual matters. The RSoSS in particular has close ties to the British Rite of Arcanum, with the latter drawing the majority of its members from the Society’s younger ranks.
The fervent adherents of many cults zealously carry out the edicts of their religions heedless of the danger posed by the Crown’s resistance. Their motives often mysterious by design, the cultists are an implacable enemy of the Jesuits and a frequent source of spiritual crises. Seen by most as disturbers of the peace, they see themselves as a last vestige of spiritual truth, locked in a very real life and death struggle with the forces of British cultural hegemony. Though there are vast differences in behavior and creed between the local cults of the world, all share an antagonist in the Jesuits, who seek to stamp out all unlicensed practice of IMEM.
Goals: To preserve their ways against Jesuit and Imperial influence, others vary by group.
Rules: Vary by group.
Ranks: Vary by group, generally lead by a priest or prophet.
Relationships: Scorned by the Imperials, hunted by the Jesuits, and studied by the RSoSS. Often friendly with separatists, who are more permissive of unlicensed spiritualism than their British counterparts.
The Finders are a loose collection of mercenaries specializing in the retrieval of items and persons. At their best seen as dashing rescuers and treasure hunters; at their worst as kidnappers and grave robbers. The Finders allow their members to pick their own jobs, which makes the group highly varied in temperament and character. Bound together by convenience more than loyalty, Finders are highly internally competitive, often sending multiple agents after the same prize.
Goals: To profit by adventure: a goal one part romantic and one pragmatic.
Rules: The Finders expressly forbid murder except in cases of defense, but otherwise have little in the way of bylaws or regulations. Clients often stipulate additional demands, and, at least publicly, the Finders obey Imperial and local law.
Ranks: Initiate, Finder, Board Member, Chairman of the Board.
Initiates are new agents that have not yet paid off their dues. Half of all income belongs to the company until one hundred thousand pounds have been paid in this way, at which point the title of Finder is conferred.
Finders pay one-quarter of their payouts and are allowed to take on any contract, rather than the limited list afforded Initiates.
The Board is a council of senior finders that oversee business operations and create contracts; the Chairman is their voice and representative to the outside world.
The current Chairman of the Board is Dr. Henry Morris, an elderly but charismatic academic who became a Finder on a leave of absence from a professorship at Oxford. He never returned to Oxford, instead rising through the Finder ranks due to his encyclopedic knowledge of ancient civilizations.
Relationships: The Finders are well loved by the upper classes, who use them to acquire art objects and lost or kidnapped relatives on a regular basis. In this way they have a good relationship with the British government through the House of Lords. The Finders often find themselves at odds with local authorities, who would prefer that objects and persons not be removed. The Finders have no friends among the Jesuits, who see acquiring ancient, potentially spiritually active objects for profit as vulgar and foolhardy. Likewise, the RSoSS see the Finders’ archaeological expeditions as selling privately what should be placed in a museum.
The Freemasons are an ancient society of philanthropists born of an architect’s guild. Masonic tradition and ritual are shrouded in mystery, but it is well known that their contributions to engineering made the modern world. Membership is still highly exclusive, and the group remains a subject of much speculation.
Goals: Improvement of the self and the world; a quasi-religious utopian message heavily adorned with ritual.
Rules: The Freemasons have a system of regulation that is complex and, to some extent, varies regionally. However, all of their precepts are founded on the principles of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. Common jurisdiction includes promising to behave as a gentleman, to never cheat the Lodge, to contribute to charity, and to aid other Freemasons.
Ranks: A complex system of ranks by degree, varying by region. All share the first three degrees, Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason.
Relationships: Masonry is well loved by most for its charitable works and its influential contributions to modern mechanics, but some suspect the Masons of a covert alternate agenda. This agenda is suspected variously to include everything from supplanting the Queen to destroying the Qin Empire, but no proof has come forth of any such intentions. Masons are often found working in cooperation with the Illuminati, and, indeed, the organizations share many, though not all, of the same ideals. Most Masonic Lodges operate with respect for British Law, but the notion of Liberty has led some Masons to question the Imperial government, particularly in America, where Masonry is strongly associated with the leadership of the colonial rebellion.
The Illuminati are a secret society founded to enlighten the world. Its charismatic founder, Adam Weishaupt, shaped the order into a force of spiritual and mechanical advancement before his disappearance in Antarctica. The modern order remains furtive and productive, allegedly working on the next great advancement in spiritual science in utter secrecy. Some have alleged that the Illuminati also work secretly behind the scenes to shape the fate of the world. Some have even postulated that the Illuminati had a hand in the success of Operation Nighthawk, and secretly control the Imperial Vault. These allegations have been neither confirmed nor denied, but the relatively small number of revealed members implies that such machinations may be beyond their scope.
Goals: To bring the world into an era of global peace and enlightened thinking.
Rules: The Illuminati have a system of rules as complex as it is secretive. It appears that one of the primary rules concerns refusal to reveal the rules to outsiders, which makes any assessment of the group’s bylaws pure speculation.
Ranks: A complex system similar to Masonry, beginning with Apprentice. The specifics of the modern order’s internal structure are a well-guarded secret; even the number of total membership has remained unknown since 1900.
Relationships: The Illuminati won much good will with their mechanical, alchemical, and spiritual exhibitions, but are watched more warily than their brothers the Masons. Especially since Weishaupt’s disappearance, the order is seen as being more secretive than the public finds comfortable. They have made enemies of the Jesuits in particular, who see the binding of spirits as sinful whether the government licenses it or not.
The Society of Jesus are an order of monks dedicated to charity, education, evangelism, and the eradication of heresy and witchcraft. Founded by the Spanish knight Ignatius of Loyola to evangelize on behalf of the Catholic Church, the Jesuits have since become synonymous with the license of spiritualism. Though their charitable and academic works continue, their translation of the works of Confucius and the innumerable good works they have performed are overshadowed in the public mind by the image of the exorcist and the witch hunter. This connection is not without reason; the Jesuits do indeed undertake the licensing and policing of spiritualists on behalf of the Imperial government. Those without special license are not permitted to use any IMEM in a manner that may lead to public harm or panic, and those without a license at all are not permitted to produce IMEM of any kind. Those breaking these rules are likely to find themselves swiftly apprehended by witch hunters.
Goals: To spread and defend the Catholic faith; to combat Satan and teach the word of Jesus.
Rules: The Jesuits live by the Bible and by Ignatius of Loyola’s Formula of the Institute. The all-male order take vows of chastity and poverty, and see all modern Jesuit rules, including those regarding ghosts and witches, as tied directly to the Formula. Thus, the modern functions of the order are not a divergence from their pledge to glorify God and serve the common good, but rather are logical progressions of their holy mission that serve only to strengthen the Church. They answer to the Pope in all spiritual matters, and to the Imperial government when called upon for exorcisms or police activities.
Ranks: Servant, Minister, Provincial Superior, Assistant, Admonitor, Praepositus Generalis.
All monks of the order begin as servants. The head of a local chapter is referred to as minister.
Regional leaders are Provincial Superiors, and above them lies the Superior General, properly called by his Latin title Praepositus Generalis.
The Superior General is advised by an admonitor who serves as his closest advisor, as well as a council of assistants.
Witch hunts and exorcisms are generally conducted by accomplished servants, with the higher ranks serving administrative, organizational, and ecclesiastical functions.
Relationships: The Jesuits have strong ties with the Catholic Church and the Imperial government. They are fervent hunters of witch covens and cultists, and perpetually suspicious of the Illuminati and, to a lesser extent, of the Freemasons by association. Royal Shepherds are sometimes recruited from the Jesuit order, leading to close cooperation between the servants of God and the shepherds of the Empire. The Jesuits have the begrudging acceptance of the Church of England for their good works, despite their Catholic evangelism.
The Qin Empire rose in defiance of the British annexation of Cathay, using primarily spiritual means to defend the portion of China that was once the home of the Qin Dynasty. Placing his capital in Beijing’s Forbidden City, the Emperor sent out his powerful spiritualists and massive army against the British, establishing the current contested borders. While the British Imperial government refuses to acknowledge the Qin Empire as a sovereign nation, the distinction between Cathay and Qin is as stark as the difference between Hong Kong and the Forbidden City. Within Qin, modern industry rubs shoulders with ancient spiritualism, and all outsiders, even those of Chinese descent, are distrusted intensely. Only the most respectful and proven spiritualists can hope for an invitation to study alongside the Cathayan Sorcerers, and even those are not permitted to visit Qin territory. The Sorcerers are active throughout Cathay, contesting the British occupation with hit-and-run tactics and superior spiritualism then disappearing into Qin when British Army forces attempt to retaliate.
Goals: To defend Qin and reconquer Cathay, to rule a sovereign nation free of British interference, and to preserve Chinese tradition against British cultural imperialism.
Rules: To enter the Forbidden City without express invitation is death, to disobey a direct command of the Emperor is death, and to teach an outsider the secrets of the Sorcerers is death. Other than those three inexcusable transgressions, the codified system of law resembles Chinese dynastic policies and would be relatively easy to follow for a British citizen.
Ranks: Qin has its own military, with ranks similar to those of any such body.
Additionally, it has a national secret service of Sorcerers, who are called Students while training under an existing Sorcerer in the hope of one day being promoted by the Emperor.
The Emperor is the absolute ruler of Qin, and beneath him are provincial Governors.
Relationships: The Qin Empire is immediately distrustful of outsiders both individually and institutionally, and, as such, has few friends outside of its borders. The students of Mesmer gained access to training over a series of secret meetings in Cathay, but were not permitted within the borders of Qin territory. The rise of Dr. Henry Dreyfus to the position of Royal Shepherd was seen as a deep betrayal, and has not been forgiven. Thus, Western spiritualists have a long path to walk before they find sympathy from the Eastern Empire. Those that do succeed are taught only fragments, but are permitted to fight alongside the Sorcerers in Cathay. The Qin Empire may be short of friends, but it has enemies aplenty in the form of the British Empire in all its manifestations. The British government refuses to call Qin by the name of its choosing, instead insisting that Cathay covers the majority of what was once China.
The Royal Shepherds are the elite peacekeepers of the British Empire, given “right above the law” to perform their duties as they see fit with absolute impunity. Only another Royal Shepherd may interfere with a Royal Shepherd’s work, and that has happened only once since the foundation of the service. Arguably more powerful even than the Governors, they answer directly to the Queen. Their primary purpose at present is to handle high-value separatist targets. Undergoing such operations with high frequency, the expertise of the Royal Shepherds is unquestionable and their life expectancy rather short.
Goals: To protect the empire, to carry out any and all orders of the Queen.
Rules: The first and last regulation of the Royal Shepherds is the direct word of the Queen. They are expected to behave civilly when possible, but may otherwise carry out their operations in any manner they see fit.
Ranks: The position of Royal Shepherd is an unparalleled privilege. Within the service there is no hierarchy.
Relationships: Often in conflict with witches, always in conflict with separatists, and staunch enemies of the agents of Qin. Often work alongside the British military and the Jesuits, sometimes alongside mercenaries when the need arises.
Royal Society of Spiritual Sciences (RSoSS)
The Royal Society of Spiritual Sciences is primarily a research body concerned with IMEM. They seek to describe the indescribable, to test the limits of metaphysics, and to record all of their work for storage in one of their many libraries or, when deemed dangerous or vital to international security by the Crown, in the Imperial Vault. Vaulted works are both a mark of infamy and a badge of honor among the RSoSS, representing work either vital or imprudent. The RSoSS has chapters at universities around the globe, with its head chapter at Oxford. The RSoSS is self-funding, and RSoSS expeditions are a frequent source of fantastic stories for the weekly news as well as fantastic rumors for the weekly tabloids.
Goals: To further knowledge of IMEMs and to continue to financially support themselves.
Rules: Members of the RSoSS must be licensed, and expedition members must seek special license. Breaches of academic integrity are grounds for dismissal.
Ranks: Provisional Member, Member, Senior Member, Dean of the Chapter, Regulatory Council.
Those seeking admittance may become Provisional Members of the RSoSS upon completing an undergraduate degree in Spiritual Science at a qualifying university.
Full membership is granted upon defense of a doctoral thesis or production of a work of “sufficient merit to warrant membership.”
Senior Member is granted when the Regulatory Council deems that a member has made “a lasting contribution to the Spiritual Sciences.”
Deans are chosen by the Senior Members in their department, and a meeting of the Deans votes upon candidates for the Regulatory Council, which serves as a judiciary and supervisory body to the Society.
Relationships: They have the approval of the Jesuits, though the relationship is strained. Vaulted works are viewed by most Jesuits as a sign of sinful meddling with the fabric of God’s creation. The RSoSS provides research and advisers to the British government, who, for their part, provide grant funding to supplement the Society’s membership dues and private investments. They are singularly curious of the works of the Sorcerers in Cathay, but the interest is not mutual. They view witch covens and cultists with an academic’s detached superiority, holding disdain for what they see as misuse or misunderstanding of IMEMs.
There are a variety of separatist movements operating around the globe. Some are large and well organized, others barely can be said to exist at all. Some seek to change local laws by protest, others to violently overthrow the government. The one unifying characteristic of the separatists is their desire to have the British lose their global hegemony.
Goals: Remove the British Empire from power, local or global. Other tenets, and what the Empire ought to be replaced with, vary widely by group.
Ranks: Vary by group.
Relationships: By their very definition, the separatists are at odds with the British government. They are often dealt with by force, at the hands of the British Armed Forces or, in extreme circumstances, a Royal Shepherd. These organizations tend to attract the cooperation of witch covens, either with or without the separatists’ knowledge, when they oppose the licensing of spiritualism.
The Specialists are an exclusive group of mercenaries who take the jobs too dangerous for other mercenaries or even, on occasion, the British Armed Forces. They recruit primarily from decorated retired British Armed Forces personnel, but also on occasion from other mercenary organizations when an individual distinguishes himself. The Specialists are used primarily for black operations, be they rescue, reconnaissance, or assassination. Few are called to even participate in training, hence, the Specialists are true to their moniker.
Ranks: Applicant, Specialist.
Applicants are subjected to an intense one-month test period in which they are deprived of sleep and forced into an array of training exercises until they either break or are prepared to become Specialists.
Thereafter, the Specialists operate as a democratic brotherhood. Their administrative tasks are handled in monthly shifts by rotation while the remaining Specialists carry out the jobs that make them exceptional.
Relationships: The Specialists work closely with the British Armed Forces and the Royal Shepherds. They are paid to countermand separatists on a regular basis and have been used to hunt Sorcerers in Cathay with mixed success.
The Grand Safari
The Grand Safari is a coalition of like-minded big game hunters whose expertise at bringing down large and unusual creatures has led them to worldwide fame. Though their genesis was in Africa hunting the lions that plagued railroad construction, they now receive pay to prevent marauding carnotauri, lurking drowners, and even the rarer and more unusual of beasts from harming local citizenry and the interests of the crown. Recent controversy was engendered by their acceptance of a contract to hunt down an ogre on behalf of the Emperor of Qin, but they are still on good working terms with the Crown and her agents.
Goals: To hunt the rarest and wildest of beasts, no matter how inaccessible their lairs or dangerous their natures. The Grand Safari will establish its own hunts when no one will pay and a specimen of sufficient interest is discovered.
Ranks: Squire, Huntsman, Expedition Leader, Supervisor.
Members who pass initial muster are accepted as squires to a huntsman until they complete their year of apprenticeship.
Thereafter, they are full huntsmen permitted to participate in any hunt for which there is an opening. When more huntsmen desire to seek a particular quarry than there are available opening in an expedition, the expedition leader selects who will go.
Expedition leaders also oversee provisioning and make executive decisions pertaining directly or indirectly to a given safari.
The supervisors, of whom there are currently five, arrange finances and handle administration for the organization.
Relationships: Often hired by any and all entities, and, as such, on generally good terms with everyone. Major exceptions are those witch covens or cultists who hold the life of one or more cryptozooids dear, which can lead to a conflict of interests vis a vis the Safari wanting the beast stuffed and the covens or cultists reciprocating the sentiment but directing it at the huntsmen involved. The Grand Safari is rumored to have a significant portion of its high-ranking members involved in Freemasonry, but this rumor can not be confirmed.
Unlicensed spiritualists live a life of paranoia and danger. To use an IMEM without sanction, or even to be suspected of doing so, leads to Jesuit scrutiny of the most unpleasant sort. Aside from this constant danger, spiritualists run an increased risk of attracting the attention of a ghost or cryptozooid. For many, the solution is safety in numbers; thus, covens are born. The concentration of spiritual energy and the inherent distrust of the government and fear of the Jesuits often lead these covens to a dark place. Aside from these dangers, dangerous individuals are drawn to covens as a means of expanding their power. The likelihood that a coven ultimately becomes a group to be feared is relatively high, and the public has taken notice, often persecuting unlicensed spiritualists with small, malicious acts and spurts of mob violence.
Goals: Survival, continued practice of witchcraft, occasionally nefarious schemes for power.
Ranks: Vary. Often unstructured.
Relationships: Witch covens find themselves in conflict with the Jesuits and the Imperial government by default. They are often friendly with separatist movements due to their common foes.