'Fantastic America' is a setting-in-progress by Squash Monster.
Fantastic America is set, intuitively enough, in a fantasy version of America in time period that resembles a confused mishmash of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. It is a setting where humans, elves and dwarves coexist with races created from evil Nazi experiments, and discomancers and mysterious government agents cooperate to thwart the evil plots of aliens, soviets, and dragons.
Squash Monster says there might be a system/book in the future for this setting, but I wouldn't trust him.
I'm going to do this page a little differently. The rest of this page is broken up into four parts. Material under "The Setting" has been written up by Squash Monster, approved by /tg/, and integrated into the setting - if you don't want to fiddle with anything just read this part. Material under "Treatments" is stuff someone wanted to add, which Squash Monster wrote up to fit the setting's tone and integrate nicely: if anything is there, you should go put comments on it (discussion pages are for chumps) about what you like and whether it should be a part of the official setting. Material under "Proposed Additions" is a list of things people want in the setting which have not been given a treatment yet: add all you want to this, go nuts. And treatments that don't go over that well go under "Failed Treatments" so people who did like that material don't lose it entirely.
That is to say, new material will be added to the setting this way:
- Someone (you!) adds something to "Proposed Additions"
- Someone (probably Squash Monster) take that, fluffs it up, and puts it in Treatments
- Someone (YOU!) discusses that treatment.
- Squash Monster puts the new treatment into the setting or the failed treatment pile, depending on response.
Also, just to save you some time: we don't need new parallel structure (nothing needs to be opposing each other aside from the magics), there's no way new types of magic are getting added to the setting, and reworking anything for historical accuracy is missing the point entirely. On the other hand, things like races, creatures, potential things that all the evil plotters might want people to do, stunts for the various skills, and spells? We need piles of those, go wild.
- Humans - you, unless society has changed dramatically since this was written.
- Gremlins - small mechanically-oriented creatures. They sleep in engines: you could have one renting your car during the nights. Like mischief, but it's strictly harmless nowadays
- Elves - traditional fantasy elves, they live in houses in large trees, which the typical suburb has a few of (elves are not strange, you grew up around elves, the first lady is an elf). The Drow were only recently integrated into society as a part of the civil rights movement, so racial tension with them is still high
- Dwarves - traditional fantasy dwarves, they live underground, in settlements that are usually half as large as whatever settlement is above. Dwarves are a little more secluded than elves, but you still have dwarven coworkers and friends. The Duergar were integrated into society as a part of the civil rights movement, racial tension with them is even higher
- Robots - hokey old-fashioned sci-fi robots that look like humans, act like emotionally-repressed humans, and move like they have severe joint stiffness. Generally defined by their job and taking learning a recreational activity very seriously. Manufactured by a few sources, but all models are in long term consumer/government/military/etc testing and they're still rather rare
- Ubermensch - very rare since this is a German thing and not that common even in Germany, but we're not at war with them anymore so they do exist. Strong stoic men with fairly well-concealed Frankenstein-style stitches, originally created as a part of a Nazi plot. Most people have forgotten they were suspicious of them because they're such hard workers that it's hard to dislike them.
- Greys - gray, big-headed, big-eyed, no-mouthed, no-nosed, aliens. From Mars, of course. They're suspicious, generally seen talking to agents and disappearing (not that you should know about this, citizen!), and almost certainly up to no good. As a race they're running multiple (possibly conflicting) plots that are generally quite strange in goals. They probably don't mean harm. They probably won't mind killing anyone who gets in their way either.
- Nordics - hippie aliens that look like idealized Nordic humans, thus the name. They never get anything done. Agents generally try to cover them up anyway. Incredibly strong, if it ever comes up.
- Deep Ones - fish/frog/tentacleface people in cloaks. Trying to do something inscrutable, nonstop. A lot like the greys, really, but usually near bodies of water instead of the middle of nowhere in a desert, and encounters end in insane visions instead of a bunch of agents telling you never to talk about what you saw. Their plans tend to be more overtly sinister, but also overly complicated
- New Soviet Man - Soviet extension of Ubermensch technology. No Frankenstein stitching visible at all, minor facechanging powers. Great people, way too easy to like - in part because of Mormon levels of thoughtfulness and wholesomeness, in part because of projecting a fey glamour. Talking to them can have the same effects as being exposed to communist material (learning about communism makes you communist) without anything obviously happening.
Blackbelt - you've mastered at least one martial art, which is unlikely to bear any resemblance to the real-world art of the same name. You are the best at melee combat, and have several abilities to help make that work in a world where everyone else has guns. You also can pull information out of your ass from detective training, street smarts, or ancient Chinese secrets.
Supersoldier - you have the uncanny ability to shoot people and hit them in ways more serious than a nasty graze. And you have lots of guns, and will often find spare guns when you should have to reload. And you're stronger and tougher than the blackbelt (who will still kick you ass in a fistfight, don't get cocky, Rambo). You have crazy survivalist, MacGyver, or requisitioning skills.
Discomancer - you look damned sharp and can dance like Pan himself. Also, you got someone to teach you disco magic (which requires great style and rhythm, congrats). Disco magic starts with anything a good light show or fireworks show can do (dazzle, misdirect, and fascinate) and so long as you can get someone to look at the wrong place, you can do anything a stage magician can do, except for real. If you don't understand how powerful this is, watch an Old Spice commercial. Disco has basically no direct attack spells, although Disco Inferno is one of the best.
Metalhead - it starts with an electric guitar, leather clothes with spikes, and a crazy hairdo. It ends with everything around you looking like a metal album cover. Metal effects include summoning oversized weapons (metalheads are the second best at melee), elemental blasts, and necromancy. All metal spells slowly make things around them look more metal, that's just how metal works. Like disco, you need inherent gifts and a teacher to learn metal magic.
Hippie - unlike disco and metal, hippie magic requires no innate gift: you just have to visit a guru with a open mind. Hippies get their powers from sharing, communing with nature, and lots and lots of drugs. Be careful because the better drugs can let supernatural forces into your head. A hippie might coat all your weapons in flowers so thick you can't use them, ask a passing squirrel to run an errand for him, or send a foe on trips to horrifying alternate planes of existence.
Agent - The Man is the personification of the establishment, and its powers can only be accessed through contract. The obvious agent powers are telekinesis and ESP. The more dangerous agent powers are subtle: agents are always where they need to be, when they need to be there, with the equipment they need, and often with backup ready at a moment's notice. That is, supernatural preparedness, punctuality, and training.
Metal - it's called a jam session, and it's pretty easy to do. You just get a bunch of metalheads together and they go all out, and God knows what'll happen but it'll be awesome.
Disco - it's called a dance off, and it has a formal structure. Each participant must outmagic (and outdance) the last, and they get to use their normal effects, boosted by how many turns went before them. When someone fails to outperform the last person, the ritual fizzles, and you'll need a new dance off
Hippie - they've got a dozen of these, it involves circles and drums and singing. You know what hippie magic looks like. It's very powerful in a very straightforward way, but getting a bunch of hippies to try to do the same thing is like herding cats
The Man - their entire system of magic is a shared ritual in the first place
Thwarting a secret plot is the basic adventure type in Fantastic America. It's not the only thing you can do, but it's what you do when a D&D character would be going on a dungeon crawl. To that end, there are lots of different groups that use secret plots as their primary mode of operation.
Soviets - they have plots to overthrow America, of course. These include traditional secret plots and James Bond style secret agents (speaking of which, Bond and Indy are probably viable character classes in their own right) in straightforward attempts to take over, steal secrets, or do damage. But they also include communist propaganda, which turns you communist if you learn too much.
Greys - various completely inscrutable plots. Always straightforward, though: they might try to remove all mercury from a 3 mile radius, for example. They like to delegate away the obvious stuff using bribes or mind control. The Man is especially sensitive about not letting people know these guys are around, for some reason
Deep Ones - inscrutable plots again, but these guys seem to want plots as complex as possible. The term "Xanatos gambit" comes to mind. They're clearly just doing old-school cultist stuff about waking up evil gods, hardly original. Encountering them can result in damage to your sanity, though.
Dragons - yes, there are ancient firebreathing lizards pulling the strings behind some of the stuff going on. All the dumb dragons died out back in the Renaissance so expect their plans to be highly competent ones. Generally they're just amassing wealth and influence, and to that end they've all got major corporations and state governments to run, so any crazy schemes one dips into must be very lucrative indeed. A draconic plot looks benign, runs smoothly, and is finished as quickly as possible without cutting corners (which paradoxically can be very slow: human plots cut corners). Even if you thwart a draconic plot you're unlikely to know there was a dragon behind it.
The Man - just because some of the party are agents doesn't mean they sometimes don't go up against The Man. The establishment is huge and sometimes there are things going on that one branch or another doesn't like. It's not really infighting exactly, it's that The Man is an anthropomorphic personification of all big government and big corporations (both of which exist independently of The Man), and those sometimes fight. Agents are generally seen covering stuff up, keeping the peace, and testing evil government brainwashy stuff. They're rough to try to stop, since they have magical organizational/logistical powers where other groups have plans.
- Zombies - zombie outbreaks tend to peter out a few miles from whatever city it happens in. Otherwise zombies are very bad news.
- Cryptids - there are piles of them and some of them are mean. Until there's actual material on them, just assume they're basically all out there and The Man is covering them up
In general, historic periods take vastly longer than they did in the real world, because that's how things work in fantasy settings. The medieval fantasy period took several thousand years, for example. World War 2 took a hundred years. Even though Fantastic America takes place in a wildly inaccurate interpretation of a 30 year period of real-world history, this setting will last at least a few hundred years.
Humans have been around forever. Elves and Dwarves have been around since at least the dark ages, which were several thousand years ago and would have been your typical Tolkien-ripoff setting had you been there. Gremlins showed up in the Victorian/steampunk era, and robots showed near the end of that era, but are much more common now.
The civil rights movement was about 40 years ago, but racial tensions are as high as the early 70s because things are slow. In addition to integrating African-Americans, it also integrated the Drow and Duergar, who are just black elves and dwarves despite all the magic stereotypes. Yes, discriminating against people because they were black despite having wildly bigger differences all over the place is meant to lampoon how silly racism is in the first place.
Elvis, the Archwizard of Rock, died about 80 years ago. With Elvis's death, the power of Rock and Roll is sealed and cannot be used anymore. Disco and Metal have brought music magic back to near its former glory, but only the true master of the one true style can inherit the mantle of Elvis and unseal the greater powers of music. It's all very serious if you're a musician, that's why the discomancers and metalheads are always so uneasy around each other (and why both groups will try to kill you if they find out you've been practicing both).
The Hippies and Agents don't trust each other either, and won't allow each other to learn their magics, but unlike the music magicians their conflict is just a vague ideological thing and not something critically important like a struggle to fill a huge power vacuum.
You have 4 skill points and 2 stunts per level. (Think of stunts as being like feats, spells, or class features.) Stunts are associated with skills: you can't have more than [half your skill, round up] stunts for a given skill. Stunts have levels: you can't have better than 2 stunts of each level. There's no limit for stunt power vs level - a level 10 character with one point of Guns can have the best Guns stunt, but he's still a one-trick pony with regards to firearms. There are four special skills related to the magics. These cost two skill points per, and you can't take opposing magics. They each cover an eclectic mix of stuff other skills do, but their main draw is that magic stunts are better. Finally, level 0, "meddling kid" gives you 2 skill points and 1 stunt.
In addition to whatever your stunts let you do, skills let you do anything that's vaguely within their portfolio. Tentatively, the dice mechanic is (2+skill)d6, keep highest 3, vs target difficulty. I'm using something like this in my other system and it's fast to calculate and the probability curves are beautiful.
An example (high level) Disco stunt would be Disco Inferno, the massively powerful fire spell. A level one Disco stunt might just make a flash of light in one hand and summon a dove or pair of bitchin' sunglasses in the other. A medium level Guns stunt would be finding stationary gun turrets in improbable places.
And this is the first draft skill list. Does it seem adequate?
- Athletics (Track and Field, Gymnastics, and general strengthiness)
- Awareness (perception, social awareness, noticing the supernatural)
- Crime (Burglary, Sleight of Hand, stealth in any urban setting)
- Guns (every kind of gun and carrying lots of guns on you)
- Investigation (and Paranormal Lore)
- Kung Fu (skill in hurting people with fists, weapons, and chairs)
- Pluck (endurance and resolve)
- Rapport (leadership, intimidation, con games: the only stat Ferris Bueller needs)
- Science! (Science, engineering, academics)
- Survival (wilderness survival, outdoor stealth, and Macguyvering)
- Disco (sleight of hand, distractions, acrobatics, noticing supernatural things)
- Hippietude (communing with nature, paranormal lore, empathy, resisting mental assault)
- Metal (strongness, intimidation, melee weapons, toughness)
- Working For The Man (investigation, handguns, coverups, perception)
Beatles were Elvis's most powerful followers and the last group that can still use Rock and Roll magic after Elvis's death sealed its power. But they've been missing for a while (they're on tour in Cydonia)
They're a Hippie, Agent, Blackbelt, and Supersoldier (Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, Ringo, respectively) - none have a music class. Yet somehow, when together (and only when together) they can harness the old Rock and Roll powers that were supposed to have died off with Elvis. Rumors of McCartney's death are greatly exaggerated, but for some reason he's having The Man cover that up.
- This is an example comment, you can copy the formatting for other places.
- Also, maybe all three Beatles treatments should happen at once, they're not really mutually exclusive, though the third one is weird.
The Beatles are actually beetles disguised as humans for their own nefarious ends.
The single most powerful discomancer, Michael Jackson's supersonic rise to power should've made him the leader of the disco tradition. Instead, when he nearly hit the top, he was devastated by being central to the most dire prophecy known to disco. Disco will die, and in its place a bizarre new music called "pop" will take hold. Jackson will die too, but keep dancing and performing under this new tradition as the evil Lich King of Pop. Although all powerful discomancers can feel the truth of the prophecy deep in the groove that binds them to their magic, the disco world would be glad to forgive present Michael for his future sins - they're pretty chill, man. However, since the prophecy, Jackson's been working nonstop, like he has something to prove. That's not cool at all, so he's been barred from further advancement.
- "Grifter" style class for Farris Bueller and other moxie-based heroes.
- Something for super spies like James Bond
- Something invoking Science!
- Something concerning Hobos
- Whatever Macguyver does
- Someone should be able to play a street version of Indiana Jones
- Cryptids: Ahool, Loveland Frog, Wikipedia "List_of_cryptids", mothman
- Conspiracy theories: MKULTRA, monarch mind control, project blue beam, sleeper agents
- A D&D-style inaccurate list of guns would be nice
- Garage Band class, raw and untrained musical magic. Battles of the bands.
- Small Scale local plots with "Meddling Kids" Classes
- The Beatles: The world's most famous cabal of archmages. Disco, metal, Heirs of Rock, or something else? Given the decades on which we're modeling this setting, they should be big for most of it.
- Orcs and/or Goblins
Reptilian aliens secretly control the world's religions, governments, and authority figures.
Elvis knew about this and was starting to organize the resistance before he died. He hid the knowledge in song, where the aliens can't reach it, and whoever picks up his mantle as Archwizard of Rock will inherit this responsibility along with his powers. The discomancers and metalheads know the master of the one true style will inherit his title and powers - that's what they're always at each other's throats for - but have no idea about the secrets. Their entire struggle is protected from reptilian intervention by one of Elvis's spells, at least.
The Man knows about the reptilians but has to keep up the pretense that he's their pawn so they let him keep up what he's doing. In addition to hiding a lot of stuff the aliens don't want you to know about, The Man is hiding things he doesn't want the aliens to know about. The frequent cooperation between the Greys and The Man is due to the Greys being the only sane source of trade and partnership that is very definitely not under reptilian control. Agents on the ground have never actually met The Man and certainly don't know about any of this, they just have assignments.
Half the Hippies think they're fighting the reptilians but they're not accomplishing anything, and most people don't take them seriously, so they're allowed to continue. The upper levels of the Soviets know but are fine with reptilian rule so long as it works out for them. The upper levels of the American government know but can't do anything about it. The dragons know but don't care so long as the reptilians stay out of their way. The Deep Ones would actually defeat the reptilians if they ever succeeded in summoning their dark masters (this would be worse than reptilian rule) but reptilian intervention is part of why their plans are so convoluted.
(Generally rejected for being too dark and overarching.)