Masters of the World
History is full of what-ifs, almosts, and might-have-beens, and these possibilities and near-misses have fueled Humanity’s imagination for centuries. La Mer is one of the products of such imaginings, an alternate history that sits at the intersection of two major events.
In La Mer, the year is 1812, and the rapid and unexplained melting of the ice caps at both poles has led to massive flooding across the globe. In the wake of these rising water levels, the armies of Napoleon I have taken a back seat to his navies and, following on the heels of his success at Trafalgar, the French Emperor has launched a full-scale invasion of the British Isles. So far, he has conquered much of southern England, but the country is proving hard to pacify, and between heavy fighting in the North Country and rebellions that periodically flare up in the south, the French forces and their mercenaries are finding themselves stretched thin and sorely taxed.
A Tale of Two Cities
La Mer is large for a Developed recursion, having been fed by countless retellings of Napoleonic-era glory, and occupies a roughly 1100-mile (885-kilometer) diameter centered approximately over the English Channel. In the north and west, the fog-shrouded edge of the ocean leads directly into the Strange, while in the east and south, the similarly foggy land borders gently return those who attempt to venture past them to the lands encompassed by the recursion.
The one force that is still able to easily outmatch L’empereur is the implacable sea. Sea levels in La Mer are over 200 feet higher than they are on Earth Prime, and numerous large cities, including both London and Paris, have been flooded past recovery, and now stand as ghostly reminders of their former glory. London, in particular, has become something of a rallying point for partisan fighters who dream of better days, and while Napoleon’s provisional capitol is now housed at Oxford, the French navy currently patrols the drowned streets of the city in pilot cutters fitted with swivel guns, grapeshot poised to drive away all but the most determined rebels or desperate looters. The French, for their part, have taken up the bad habits they displayed at Giza on Earth Prime, only instead of using the Sphinx for target practice, their target of choice is the communion bell that hangs at the top of Saint Paul’s cathedral.
Powder and Shot
The apex of man-portable weapons technology in Napoleonic Europe is black powder. Heavy, slow to load, and more than a little dangerous to the user, pistols (medium weapon; 4 damage; short range) and muskets (heavy weapon; 6 damage; long range) are carried into battle by countless troops the world over.
Reloading: Reloading a black-powder weapon is almost an art form in and of itself; too little powder means that the ball will drop in the air before it reaches the target, while too much powder risks an explosion that will destroy the weapon (and possibly the user). Paper cartridges making powder measures somewhat safer and more uniform, but the need to prime the flash pan, pour the powder and ball into the muzzle, and tamp the whole thing down with a ramrod is a laborious process, and one not generally practical in the heat of battle. Reloading a black-powder weapon, pistol or musket, is an action that takes five full rounds. A character who likes to live dangerously can shave off a round (making it a four-round action), but firing a weapon so loaded produces a GM Intrusion on a roll of 1 or 2. Reloading a black-powder weapon can never take less than four rounds.
GM Intrusions: The touchy nature of black powder means that the GM has plenty of options available to him in a combat. The deadliest would be the explosion of an overcharged weapon; the weapon is destroyed, and everyone within immediate range takes 8 points of damage from burning powder, metal fragments, and wooden splinters. Other possibilities range from the inconvenient (a flash in the pan; the weapon fails to fire, and the user must spend a round repriming the flash pan) to the vaguely humorous (in his haste to reload, the user accidentally left the ramrod in the barrel; now that its halfway across the battlefield, or lodged in his target, he has no way to reload the weapon).