A couple of quick questions, based on some recent feedback.
Q1: Are the plague and the vortexes are somehow related?
A1: Induced Systemic Necrosis was an extremely odd disease. Researchers never identified a causal agent, and it spread in ways that are hard to explain in conventional epidemiological terms.
Could it have been a magical event, perhaps a curse? Maybe, but there is no proof of that, and the first known vortexes didn’t open up until a decade later. There is no known evidence of magic during that time.
Q2: Can’t you give me a straight answer? Why dance around the subject?
A2: Because you have been lied to, are being lied to, and will be lied to.
The campaign material presented thus far is a mix of truths, half-truths, omissions, and outright lies. It’s a technique I developed years ago. I call it “baked-in secrets”.
There are a lot of secrets in the campaign world, and I will not state them outright. I’ll present consequences of those secrets (so you can infer or deduce their existence), include qualifiers that suggest the material might not be perfectly accurate (“most people think”), make straight-faced claims that seem illogical or extremely unlikely (to suggest that other explanations might exist), but never state them outright.
I’ll lie, and tell you I’m lying, but never tell you the truth outright. (Except like once, in another venue.) Believe it or not, this is actually a good idea.
It has two benefits: players can discover what’s going on behind the scenes (a cool “solve the mystery” moment), and it’s easier for players and GM’s to roleplay the setting.
I found, a long time ago, that when the campaign material straight out tells you deep cosmological truths that no one in the entire setting knows, players and GM’s assume everyone knows it. Even if it’s impossible to know those truths, they assume everyone knows them, and judge the behavior of NPC’s by that knowledge.
“That’s so stupid! On pg. 76, the rules specifically say that’s impossible, so why is he even trying it?”
More, they tend to make plans in accordance with that secret knowledge.
If you never explicitly state those secrets, then this is never an issue. If you only give people what their characters (and NPC’s) could know, then the mysteries of the universe remain just that — mysteries. (Until the GM is ready to reveal them.) Some of these secrets I would reveal in time (during play of the campaign), others I would always keep secret.
And, even though “solve the mystery” has the smallest amount of space in this little essay, it’s the best reason to keep things secret. Players love it when mysteries suddenly make sense, even more so when they figured it out. And if that new knowledge allows them to accomplish great things, well heck, that’s just gravy.
Accordingly, nearly all of the material presented has been limited to what people in the campaign know, or could know. That’s why I use the phrase “so far as is known” or “it’s generally believed”. If a person in the setting doesn’t have the real truth, I haven’t told you the real truth. (That I can think of. Things may have slipped through.)
But those truths are there, and they have an effect on the material. You could, using hints and suggestions herein, make reasonable guesses as to what’s going on behind the scenes. (In many cases.)
I’ve tried to make a setting that makes sense. If it seems illogical or improbable, there’s a good chance that’s actually a clue about something deeper.
So, is the rotting plague connected with Emergence? Maybe, or maybe it was a very strange disease that we would have understood medically, had we enough time. If there is a deeply buried truth there, I’m not going to reveal it now.