Setting Background

Supernaturals have existed since time began - they were the Truth behind many an ancient legend. But around the Renaissance, they took a decision to hide from more mundane men.

It began in the wake of the witch-hunts and pogroms which had already forced the vampires and lycanthropes, the Sidhe and others, to take upon themselves a “masquerade”, pretending to not be what they truly were or fading from human sight as far as possible. The aim of those metahuman powers who had fought with the non-humans for supremacy for so very long was that, now they had the ascendancy, they would never relinquish it. Yet the endless crusades and killings hurt their charges, humanity, almost as much as their enemies.

Accordingly, some of the human supernatural groups – the Illuminati of occult legend – began to push scientific achievements as a way to combat supernatural powers. As others in such groups decided that only humans should have access to magic at all, many were of the view that it was best to play down the powers of the supernatural in the public eye. The doctrine of scientific materialism, rather than the power of the soul and spirit, began to gain ascendancy in the scientific literature, whereas before great thinkers like Newton had welded their science and their magic into one seamless whole. At the same time, there was immense behind the scenes pressure exerted to report supernatural phenomena as more mundane, or to belatedly give them a more mundane explanation. By depriving the supernatural of its credibility and its publicity, it was hoped, various non-human powers would lose their hold of fear over mankind and could be more effectively combated.

It worked. As the common man grew less and less likely to believe in magic, so magic and magical creatures actually grew weaker. In some way, it had been theorized, the mana level of the world was determined by the very belief of the world’s inhabitants in the possibilities of magic. The grand experiment of The Enlightenment was the result. Humanity was unusually adept at using science instead of magic – and so it was that humanity became truly ascendant over those supernatural forces the supers of the Illuminati had set themselves to permanently defeating. The long period of Imperial colonialism and the “White Man’s Burden’ was in reality a massive and coordinated campaign by Illuminati front groups and factions to spread the doctrine of scientific materialism and a “scientific explanation’ for every phenomenon to every corner of the globe.

By the height of the Victorian era, “The Veil” had become not only commonplace but also traditional across Europe and North America, transforming into the rigid codes of today. Various secret groups like the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen were policing possibly high-profile “extraordinary” incidents while other people (at the direction of Illimunati) were pushing an aggressive narrative that said every paranormal phenomenon must have a mundane explanation, no matter how much more implausible it might be. Accordingly, in these lands the power of magic and supernatural entities reached a nadir. Eventually, they began to fight back.

It is thought that the Sidhe were the first to realize that, if they weren’t to be totally pushed out of their traditional British realms, they had to create believers again – and fast. They used their waning powers to influence the Romantic movement and to push themselves back into the public’s imaginations. Other groups and entities caught on fast and used their last vestiges of magic to inspire the likes of Bram Stoker, Jules Verne, the Theosophy movement and many others. Conan Doyle himself fell victim to the “fairy pictures” arranged by one Sidhe noble. Even human groups that wished to use magic, like the Cabals, found themselves clandestinely planting or inspiring fantastical fiction or a front group of pseudo-magical aficionados. The program of creating a non-supernatural doctrine of explanation for the world also continued as its aim of limiting the powers of magical creatures was still useful – after all, the exploding world population needed both to preserve any balance of power – and so gradually evolved the complex interplay of belief and counter-belief that is so integral to The Veil today.

With the rise of communism and fascism it was inevitable that government security organizations would be co-opted or created by various interested factions to enforce The Veil from both the “normal” and the “extraordinary” sides. So too, unscrupulous “extraordinary” actors were set upon using mass belief or mass control to affect paranormal ends. When it was discovered that the Nazis had been using their pseudo-Teutonic mythology of the Master Race and the mass genocide of the Holocaust to summon and control vast paranormal powers in aid of their war effort, the final strictures of the modern Veil were created to prevent a re-occurrence. Apart from some notable incidents during the late Sixties, the rules have not been seriously challenged these last five decades. Non-human groups of all kinds have, some more and some less reluctantly, been forced to accept The Veil as part of their own lives and actions too.

Now, governments have secret laws which specify the harshest penalties for “extraordinaries” who bring their world to the notice of “normals”, ranging from magical imprisonment and memory or power erasure to summary execution without trial. Government and non-government agencies, all under the direction of extraordinary groups, enforce these laws and work to prevent major breakthroughs. As of the late Eighties, the ironic term “Monsters” for non-normals has gained some currency but old hands will still speak of the term acceptable in polite conversation – “Extraordinaries”.

Likewise, mages and others working for governments use mass memory management techniques to ensure that such breakthroughs that do occur are forgotten or remembered as something much different. For instance, with the development of broadcast forgetfulness or suggestion spells imbedded in live TV programs, there has been an explosion in “reality shows” designed to make the viewing public believe that reality isn’t the way they saw it last Tuesday when that mage and that dragon were dueling on Main Street. Instead, they remember the warehouse fire caused by some out-of-town punks who stole a fuel tanker and drove it into the building. Others run “conspiracy theory” websites or newspapers like the National Enquirer – their aim being to create a predisposition in the populace to not believe reality “Beyond The Veil” even when it smacks them in the face. The mundane explanation, no matter how improbable, is the one now accepted most easily. Anything else is quickly written off as ‘crazy”.

This world is a normal mana world – it’s just that “normals” don’t know it and some disbelieve so hard that they make themselves into a low or null mana location! Certain really mundanely normal and dreary places – insurance company offices, military facilities and the like – might be low mana areas because of the presence of a “Null“ in the workforce. Sidhe lands and areas where it feels like “magic is in the air” such as ancient sites, ley lines and areas of great natural beauty will be high mana.

Even with the rules in place, understood by all Extraordinaries and strongly enforced, breakthroughs sometimes occur. If the Extraordinaries responsible do so by accident or without intent, then they can expect to be confined in a secure prison disguised as an asylum, in some secret experimental facility or even made to forget their own past and nature then left to wander as a pitiable “nutcase” who mutters about impossible things on some street corner. For deliberate or extreme infringement, an execution will be ordered and carried out by some quasi-governmental death squad such as The Black Chamber or even by a team of other Extraordinaries working for an Illuminati group.

As far as the “normals” are concerned, things will be explained in some mundane fashion and backed up by memory management of a magical or psionic nature where needed. If things get really extreme, there is always the option of completely re-writing memories. Even so, the human mind is a resilient thing and will often bounce back. Some “normals” who have their memories tampered with too often get partial “bleed through” of the real events and the saner ones will often start conspiracy theory websites, occult organizations or abductee-support groups of their own. Others will remember the whole thing and, having once fully pierced The Veil, become Extraordinaries themselves, albeit relatively underpowered ones. It is from this latter group that many new mundane servants and helpers are recruited.

The world Behind The Veil is a complicated balancing act of competing supernatural powers in which any too-powerful faction, race or being risks upsetting the whole order of things. Intrigue and political machinations are part and parcel of life for “extraordinaries” as factions do through subterfuge what used to be done by open warfare. In some areas a single powerful group or individual rules, in others competing groups make shifting alliances of convenience.

Setting Background

Beyond The Veil Cernig