Organizations of the Really Wild West
It’s often useful for players and GMs in a new campaign to have some groups to bounce ideas and plots off of. These can help determine tone, theme, and easily establish roleplaying opportunities and drive new plots. We’ve mentioned some groups in the Really Wild West before, such as the Dread Templars and Science Agents, to present specific rules linked to them. But there should be other groups as well, that aren’t designed to work with specific themes or archetypes.
We can look at rules for general player interactions with such groups later, for now I just want to introduce the concepts of some different groups and their histories.
Symbol: A bald eagle, holding a slide rule and beaker, wreathed in olive branches
Motto: Laborare et studere (“To labor and study”)
The American Reserve of Engineers and Scientists began as an emergency measure during the War of the Worlds, seeking to provide civilian assistance to the militaries of the American continents on understanding and designing countermeasures to the vastly superior technology of the Martian invaders. It’s founder and current Dean is Josephine Silone Yates, a black woman and chemist who taught at and became head of the Natural Science department at Lincoln University before retiring from the position in 1889 because, having married, she was no longer allowed to teach. A strong believer in clubs and organizations, she used her combination of scientific knowledge and social management allowed her to bring together overlooked minds during the darkest days of the War.
Though Edison and Tesla were famously employed by the War Department and New York State respectively to serve as scientific consultants during the invasion, and both have made international headlines with discoveries and inventions by retro-engineering Martian technology since, Mrs. Yates and A.R.E.S. have actually had much more success understanding Martian technology and finding ways to deal with it. Since the end of the War, A.R.E.S. has turned to be a combination think-tank and investigative body. Whenever a strange phenomenon is thought to possibly be linked to Martian (or other potential extra-terrestrial) source, “fellows” of A.R.E.S. are often sent to explore, examine, report, and if needed assist.
While A.R.E.S. has no official authority, and doesn’t get the headlines the for-profit exploits of Edison and Tesla do, it has been instrumental in tracking down old Martian walkers, disarming unstable weapons, and tracking down and capturing rogue weeds and similar creatures affected by energies unleashed during the War. Most scientists and government officials think very highly of A.R.E.S.’s results, though the fact it is run by a black woman and does not discriminate based on gender, ethnicity, or sect causes many to publicly scoff, even when privately consulting with experts wearing an A.R.E.S. fellowship pin.
Symbol: A fist holding a bolt of lightning
The Faustus Society formed in 1604 with a singular focus on twin jointed goals – to find, and preserve the works of John Faustus (1466 – 1541), the famed German itinerant alchemist, astrologer and magician of the German Renaissance; and, by extension, to find and preserve all knowledge.
At any cost.
Certainly, the Society does not credit claims that Doctor Faustus sold his soul to the Devil in return for the secrets of all aspects of life, death, and change. The Society often states these unfortunate rumors are solidly the work of fearful, superstitious folks over the centuries. Sadly, however, it does mean the senior-most membership in the Society, the Determining Council, must be kept secret. For their own protection from those who would harm them, out of fear and misunderstanding.
All official and legal matters of the Society are handled by Solicitor Methuselah Drake, a tall, thin, gaunt man with a severe expression who is normally only seen when someone makes claims against the Society, or a new steel-doored Society Chapterhouse is bought or has extensive work done.
And, yes, some famous members of the Society have done spectacular things with questionable ethical implications. Certainly Doctor Frankenstein was a member, though there is no proof is was one of Faustus’s lost chapbooks that sent the doctor on his quest for resurrection. And if Mr. Poole’s claim that Mr. Hyde stole a book of Faustus from the lab of Dr. Jekyl before fleeing to America is to be credited, then of course evil has been done in the name of such books.
But that’s not the fault of the knowledge itself, now is it?
And members of the Faustus Society have helped build many of the greatest libraries in the world. And while certain sections of those libraries are restricted to senior members, that’s a reasonable limitation given the cost the Society underwent to gather such things. And the Babbage-Bell grid, which the Society was crucial in developing, makes lesser works of the Society available more widely than any paper book.
Yes, the demands of the Faustus Society on its members can be strict. But there is no greater quest, than the quest for knowledge.
Especially the knowledge unlocked centuries ago by Doctor Faustus.
Symbol: Lugh’s Knot
Formed in the 1400s, the Gesellschaft was originally a Swiss gild with membership among the multiple ranks of society, filled with councilors and syndics but also merchants, scholars, and craftsfolk. The organization was as much a specific contractual format as a society, and could only exist because Switzerland allowed mingling between royals, lords, and commonfolk without shame or loss of station, thought o be sure some level of importance was required to qualify for membership.
Members granted “status” within the Gesellshaft listed those things (goods, services, education, influence and so on) they were willing to provide with trusted, elected “grand-sautiers,” along with those things they would accept as payment.
Thus individuals of very different social statuses could bring their needs and possible forms of payment to the grand-sautiers of the Gesellschaft, who would see if an accommodation could be made. Because the society was revered, trusted, and discrete, this allowed complex trades to be made, and the weight of angering the multiple ranks of the Gesellschaft saw to it such bargains were honored.
By the late 1700s, few new contracts were signed, and the Gesellschaft larger existed to oversee generational agreements, and have an annual “Feast of Brother Klaus” every September.
Likely it would have died out entirely in time… were not one of its founding families the Frankensteins.
The story of the mad Victor Frankenstein and his Demon are well known in the 1891 of the Really Wild West. Doctor Frankenstein’s hubris lead to the death of nearly his entire family by 1818… save only for one of his younger brothers, Ernest Frankenstein.
A solider by training and temperament, the young Lord Frankenstein at first wished to deny the claims of his eldest brother’s deeds. Even in a world where dinosaurs roam the Earth, magic was increasingly accepted to be real, and elves, gnomes, and kasatha no less common than humans, the idea of using electricity and chemistry to build a life out of multiple dead bodies, and then to abandon it newborn, was more than the last Lord of Frankenstein Castle wished to credit.
But when Captain Robert J. Watson brings the last narrative of Victor Frankenstein back from a failed expedition to the North Pole in 1821, Ernest accepted that his brother was dead, and that his monstrous Demon had killed him. But, more importantly to Ernest, the Demon had also killed William Frankenstein, the youngest of the three brothers, and an innocent.
Lord Ernest Frankenstein put together an expedition to the North Pole to hunt and destroy The Demon of Ingolstadt. And in doing so, he called upon vast favors and levied hefty debts onto his family through the Gesellschaft.
Gone for a decade, Ernest Frankenstein was thought lost. His return in 1832, with proof of having found and destroyed the Demon, and having found the north pole, *and* having found a passage to the hollow world of Subterra, made him fantastically famous.
And one of the few people in the world who might loan an apparent madman money, guns, men, and mediums for problems considered too crazy to be real even in a world with dragons, Martians, and lost inhuman civilizations on a hollow Earth. If you need an expedition to hunt down an undead dinosaur, seal a breach to the Plateau of Leng, or build a canon to fire the Shard the Eros back to the planet Venus, the Gesellschaft is your best bet. All such arrangements are made with the Frankenstein holdings serving as “guarantor.” Should one of these Fantastic Expeditions be unable to pay its debts, but make every effort to do so, the vast Frankenstein fortune makes good on the expenses through the Gesellschaft.
And so it has gone, for more than 60 years. Now in his late 80s or early 90s, Lord Ernest Frankenstein is mostly retired, and rarely leaves his family castle anymore. His daughter, Margaret “Mad Maggy” Frankenstein, oversees day-to-day operations and signs off on the most crucial and expensive Gesellschaft expeditions. Her agents, often members of the Watson or Clerval families, carry news to her and orders from her around the globe (and inside of it). Nearly every major city on Earth, and a surprising number of frontier towns, has at least a small Gesellschaft office. Aid is, of course, not guaranteed.
But often, it can be bought if you are willing to promise the right price.
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