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A Look At ... Worlds United


Alex Greene

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Worlds United is The Design Mechanism's venture into the world of the pulp adventure genre.

Imagine that the Solar System had turned out exactly the way Twentieth Century science fiction authors had imagined it. Venus as a humid jungle planet, Mars as the home of a dying civilisation, and rocket ships routinely travelling between these worlds and the Earth.

Even a Moonbase or two, if you like.

Now imagine a world where a cataclysmic event had caused humanity to take to the stars - something which convulsed the entire Solar System, but which forced the acceleration of every species in our system.

War.

Specifically, the invasion of Earth by the Martians, as chronicled by H G Wells in The War of The Worlds.

Now bring the timeline forwards half a century ... or more, if you like.

Welcome to Worlds United.

A Sequel, Of Sorts

Worlds United imagines a Solar System where humans and Martians have clashed, not once, but twice - a war which first took place on Earth, and later on Mars as well.

Another sourcebook written by John Snead, Worlds United is a love letter to the pulp genre of science fiction from the turn of the century. In this era, writers such as Olaf Stapledon and Edgar Rice Burroughs imagined life on other worlds, Chesney Bonestell imagined extraterrestrial landscapes in glorious detail, and scientists imagined what life would be like on these different worlds, sometimes with scary results.

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Planetary romance is a genre that was most popular between the 1910s and the 1970s, and its heyday was the 1930s to the 1950s. It is a sub-genre of science fiction where heroic protagonists have adventures on alien worlds ...

While some planetary romance stories are tales of gritty survival by grim-faced anti-heroes, most are part of the heroic pulp tradition of science fiction, where highly skilled and competent heroes can overcome seemingly overwhelming odds, and in some cases can effectively conquer or liberate the planet they are visiting.

 

History

Humans and Martians have clashed twice in cataclysmic Worlds Wars - the first being during Victoria's reign on Earth, where Martians landed cylinders and deployed War Machines to annihilate human society, and to consume and enslave humans; where cannon fire was met with Heat Rays and Black Smoke.

We know the outcome of that First Worlds War - the Martians fell to diseases for which they had had no immunity, which had begun attacking them the moment they landed on Earth.

And so humans rebuilt their world ... and learned to use the Martians' technology, and developed flight and rocketry practically simultaneously.

Gods, yes, Johnny, you can have Zeppelins in this world, if you want. So many different parallels have airships, and this world would not be complete without them either.

Then in 1938, the octopoid Martians invaded again, and this time they'd had their shots, so they stuck around - but humans had had time to prepare, so they took the fight back to Mars, and this time they had nukes.

Flash forward to the 1950s, now. Prop planes, jets, airships with helium rather than hydrogen, helicopters. A world where they designed big flying wings, maybe with a ballroom in one wing and a swimming pool in the other ... and skipped straight past that, to flying cars and interplanetary travel in the form of the silver locust ships of Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles.

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Worlds United is a setting based on these ideas that also draws inspiration from the very first tale of interplanetary conflict, H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, and its associated short story, The Crystal Egg. However, Worlds United also draws inspiration from modern science fiction, using current ideas about science, where appropriate, while also imagining a setting where Earth has mostly moved beyond older prejudices based on race and gender.

Earth and Mars

Mars is important to the setting. In this world, the Martians somehow had human slaves with them, some of which had come to Earth. With the death of the first wave of Martians, these free slaves now turned to the Terrans, offering their knowledge of how to use Martian technology - and also, to the Terrans' surprise, working psychic powers.

So then, humans took to space, and found that Venus supported life ... don't laugh, this is a parallel, not our universe. Just ask those nice VALHALLA chaps in Zero-Zero next door. They'll give you a briefing.

And Venus has snake people. And jungles. And dinosaurs. And I'm sounding like an eight-year-old.

So there are friendly Martian-born humans, and friendly Venusian humans, and both species reveal that people from Earth had been transplanted to these worlds aeons ago by some unknown third party (Odd Soot's Luminarians? Traveller's Yaskoydray?) and everybody could interbreed, so fun.

Plus Ophidians. Riding on dinosaurs. So you can make them look like Doctor Who's Silurians and Sea Devils (love those frilly collars) or imagine them however you like.

The Setting

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This is the setting of Worlds United. The year is 1959, atomic rockets regularly ply the spaceways between Earth, Mars, Venus, and occasionally the asteroid belt; psychic powers and psychic technology are in the process of transforming the three worlds, and individuals with various special abilities, known collectively as the Gifted, continue to change these worlds in a variety of ways. Your character is one of these Gifted, and these worlds are yours for adventure.

Adventures

What do the Adventurers do in this world?

Exploration

Your characters can be explorers. You can delve into the past of Earth, Mars, and Venus, trying to find what brought humans from Earth to the other two worlds, and to what purpose, and where they went.

Discovery

The Adventurers' job is to seek out new life, and perhaps they find it. And perhaps they find that they need Octopoids and Ophidians at their side to face this new life, these new civilisations.

Diplomacy

Your characters know that the Octopoid Martians still live in their submartian bunkers, regrouping, awaiting their opportunity to reach out and conquer again. Perhaps it is time for humans to adopt a different approach, and to reach out to the Octopoids with the hand of peace, to extend their psychic thoughts past the Octopoids' xenophobia and supremacism to touch the deep-seated fear beneath, and to show them a universe where humans and Octopoids can work together to build a new and better Mars where nobody gets left behind.

War Stories

It is 1960, and the Martians are at it again. The war is scattered across three worlds, and the Adventurers and their ship become the key to the salvation of humanity, or its doom.

Alternate Setting: Ultra-Modern

The 1950s and 1960s are far back in the past. The year is 2022.

Some of the old Adventurers from those days are still around, impossibly young thanks to Venusian anti-aging treatments; and they are joined by modern day humans from Earth, Mars and Venus (as well as people who can claim ancestry back to all three worlds), as well as Octopoid and Ophidian Adventurers born on Earth.

This would be a world shaped by the internet, mobile phones, and a communications network which is truly interplanetary in scope. The ships and vehicles have evolved out of gleaming steel cigars into wondrous, streamlined shapes. The Solar System is open for exploration, and every world can see what the Adventurers stumble across, streaming live across the cosmos.

Alternate Setting: Children Of The Lens

The Gifted have become a patrol force, policing the spaces between the worlds. Organised crime has risen to become a dangerous threat to human, Venusian, and Martian societies alike. Even the Octopoids have fallen victim to criminals from among their own kind.

To fight these criminals, the Gifted receive special training, and access to the Lens: a psychic device worn on the wrist or around the neck; a device which enhances their psychic powers, and also acts as a badge of authority.

Alternate Setting: Quatermass World

Imagine The War of The Worlds, as imagined by author Nigel Kneale. Anyone familiar with British TV will recognise that name as the brains behind The Quatermass Experiment (a British space launch goes horribly wrong, and something is brought back from space), Quatermass And The Pit (construction workers discover a Martian vessel millions of years old, buried beneath London - "We're the Martians now.") and The Stone Tape (what we think of as "ghosts" are electrical recordings of intense emotions imprinted into the crystalline structures of stones and played out like recordings when they interact with the Kirlian auras of living beings).

Alternate Setting: DOOM

The year is 1995. UAC have set up a base on Mars. One day, all contact with Mars is lost. Worse: Phobos has disappared.

You're the only humans on the surface of Mars. You hear hideous sounds coming from within the hangar. Here's a chainsaw. Good hunting.

Themes

The themes of Worlds United are Heroism and Optimism. Your Adventurers can be thrust into the heart of the adventure, armed with little more than gumption and wits; often, that is enough.

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I am arming us with knowledge. - Spock

Elements within this setting include:-

Psychic Powers - Octopoids, Venusians, and some Terran humans have psychic abilities. These are important in this setting.

Advanced Tech- Well, advanced here is "pulp era". Everything is silver or silver lame. The music of the spheres is played on a Theremin. Dirigibles and flying cars.

Another Earth - Look at Africa in this setting. Your Adventurers can come from there. They are building a beanstalk space elevator on Mount Kenya. This is the plot of Arthur C Clarke's The Fountains of Paradise, set in the most beautiful parts of Africa.

Diplomacy - Half of exploration is discovery; the other half is learning. Your Adventurers must be more smart than strong. They can do more with words and intelligent action than with fists or guns. Talking with alien beings is often more effective than shooting at them.

Strangeness - Of course there have to be threats. Those threats can come from, say, Octopoids - which can be run as presented in the book: irredeemable, cold, vicious, xenophobic, regarding the worlds of Earth and Venus with envious eyes, slowly and surely still drawing their plans against us ... Or you could bring in an outside threat which wipes the floor with the Martians, if you like.

Disruptors, maybe ...?

Intelligence - Your Adventurers can lead the way as scientists. To quote The Doctor:-

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We're in a library. Books are the best weapon in the world. This room's the greatest arsenal we could have. Arm yourself!

Crossover Potential

I recommend enjoying Worlds United as a base setting. This is Science Fiction at its zenith in the Twentieth Century. Get to love the setting.

But Worlds United can also work with other settings, even if only as a cameo. Luther Arkwright: Roleplaying Across The Parallels is the most obvious answer to this, but you can have your characters stumble into Worlds United by other means - Destined heroes accidentally wandering in through a Portal power activated during a period of intense solar activity, or maybe Doctor Distorto hit them with a dimension beam; or your Seers from After The Vampire Wars could astrally project into this 'verse by accident, finding themselves occupying real bodies, using real powers, and having to chase down real enemies from their world who have taken refuge physically somehow.

You can even create crossover potential with the more ephemeral world of FIoracitta, as the Avventurieri make a shocking discovery that the lifesaving herb ticho not only grows in abundance in Worlds United's Venus, but that the gods of the Ophidians and Longane all dwell in the hidden depths of that fertile world.

Last, and this is a major selling point for diehard Mythras fans ... Venus, in Worlds United, is a planet-sized Monster Island. You can bring in everything from Monster Island and have them set up home here.

Even the Kaiju, if you like.

A New World Awaits You In The Off-World Colonies

Worlds United presents you with a very optimistic science fiction setting. The "Golden Land of Opportunity and Adventure" is a glittering solarpunk universe which can offer temptations and terrors alike.

Worlds United is a world where the following words from another optimistic science fiction TV series ring true.

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It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross, but it's not for the timid. - Q

Come and play in the universe of Worlds United. You won't need any weapons more powerful than a teaspoon and an open mind.

Edited by Alex Greene

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