333, Chapter One: Modern Earth

The alternate history of the Earth presented technically has diverged from our timeline when humanity discovered real working magic – this event probably occurred very soon after the dawn of man (pre-historic times, in other words). But it should be noted that whatever the early days of magic looked like, real magi were not known to the global public until the midpoint of the Cold War, although they were heavily (and secretly) involved with the Industrial Revolution and the World Wars. Indeed, a common theory is that if magic did not work, there never would’ve ever been a World War One. Whether magic was an active force in great movements or events in earlier eras (the Renaissance, the Roman Empire, the discovery of America, the Crusades, the birth of Islam…) is not known for sure – common knowledge and public history of the periods before The Reveal are assumed to be fairly similar to our own (the GM may change a few events, if the campaign will using them as a plot point), but whether this is because of magicians’ meddling or because of magi failing to meddle is what the GM will decide. It may be that the history books are mistakes and lies, and magicians have been diverging the timeline away from ours all along by manipulating civilisations from behind the scenes (as best as scattered and flawed conspiracies of occult weirdos can, anyway). Either way, they’ve not been thought conclusively real by skeptics before The Reveal, magic certainly was real (albeit hidden) back then and their magics have seemingly only gotten stronger over time. If the campaign is set before the year 2016 C.E. (with a lower campaign TL as appropriate), the PCs may be the ones to change the course of history – and can ignore the following information.

Thaumatological History

Magic is believed to have come to the attention of a few imperialist governments sometime around the Victorian Era (perhaps related to the fads of Spiritualism and Egyptology?), the internal revelation coinciding with both the Industrial Revolution and empire-building colonialism. However, the existence of authentic Thaumaturgy was kept a state secret by every informed government, ruthlessly guarded from the public eye by high-level espionage for decades afterward. It is unknown just how much of an impact magic has made on history before this period, as no credible and complete historical accounts have been recovered. Archaeological studies of magic have only just begun to hit their stride. While it is believed that magic was discovered or created before the first recordings of history, no-one can say for sure if pre-modern tales of Thaumaturgy are not merely superstition, lies, hallucinations, folklore, or myth. We can safely assume that working Thaumatological knowledge was rare for most of human history, possibly much weaker than today’s magic, but still clandestinely practised.

Magic’s power and (covert) usage rose during World War One, rose further during World War Two and hit another upswing during the height of The Cold War. The Axis powers did not use magic at all during the Second World War, and unwittingly purged magicians in the same way as political dissents in the 1930’s. Hitler even intensified his anti-occultist purges after the 1941 defection of Rudolph Hess, which was believed to be the result of Hess receiving advice from an astrologer. Meanwhile, the Soviets and other Communist states lagged behind NATO in magical development from beginning to end.

The existence of magic was first made common knowledge, and the role it played in the World Wars declassified, right in the middle of the Cold War. This is the first obvious divergence point from our timeline. Unsurprisingly, entering the public eye is what started off the push for the magi community to “clean up its act” and embrace the modern values of the scientific method, peer review, accredited higher education, pro-social values and sharing information for the public good. Even during World War Two, where the entire Western European occult underground was allied against the Axis forces, the secret societies of sorcerers had problems with mistrust, backstabbing, bad information, unprofessional teaching and antisocial attitudes. The earlier occult undergrounds – 16th century Elizabethan England (“The School of Night”), the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and the mystery cults of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire – were even worse. This was a big reason why magical assets were not as important to the overall Allied war effort as the Manhattan Project and conventional armies.

The latest trend of magical developments have begun about twenty-five years ago, when gates to the outer planes were discovered, and are still yet to plateau. In particular, the worldwide magi population has been steadily increasing since the mid-80’s.

And what was the reasoning for The Big Reveal? Why did the superpowers and the governments of major countries decide to co-operate in breaking the silence and inform the world that magic is real? That is still very, very, very Classified Top Secret Information…

Your Age and the Events of the Past

The default year of the 333 campaign is 2016 C.E. The age of your character, however, decides what attitudes and events your character was exposed to, and that colors how you see the present. Once, magic was not just a skill set but a complete lifestyle – and before the Big Reveal, it was an effectively illegal lifestyle burdened by bloody secrets that ruined careers and marriages. Here is how magicians of a certain age might think and feel today.

If you are in your 20’s; you were born years after the fall of communism and probably received your magical education in an established university. Street wizards might have learned magic from a disgraced mentor or barebones public resources and a lot of painful trial-and-error. Magicians of your generation see their magic as a controversial but useful technical skill and nothing more. You probably view the older generation of magicians as traumatised, bigoted or stuck in their ways, the result of an unenlightened and violent age. You get along well with mundanes as peers, unless you live in areas where magicians are considered outcasts or second-class citizens. If so, the underhanded, two-faced way the mundanes interact with magicians will inure you to casual hypocrisy and dysfunctional social systems. You see nothing unusual about the outer planes – they are basically other countries to you.

If you are in your 30’s; you were born during the very last years of the Cold War or just months after. Your parents will noticeably carry some of the psychological baggage of that conflict. They may be edgy around “the other side” or fret about nuclear arsenals, for example. Conflicts in the Middle East are your go-to examples of war and geopolitics – which exposed you to some fierce opinions about Islam and oil in the news and at debates. For you, the magic issue is framed by its role in new global markets made possible by the Internet. You learned magic right at the start of a boom period and was taught by great thinkers, making you confident and proud of your arcane abilities. You probably remember the discovery of the outer planes, and certainly witnessed the settlements and developments of the outer planes rising to prominence. You may have been one of the first pioneers of the outer planes. You’ve seen the magic subculture grow from an ivory tower minority that common mundanes used to mostly ignore when possible to a noted special interest group dominating an industry of their own. You probably regard mundanes as sheep to be shorn or dim proles who need to be protected from their own ignorance.

If you are in your 40’s; you were born before the end of the Cold War and grew up in the immediate aftermath of seeing a Superpower fall apart into chaos. You are very certain no-one at the top has any idea of what they’re doing. You learned magic from mentors and education programs that were themselves still developing their teaching methods, and you probably viewed magic as a little dubious and dangerous as a result – something humans needed caution and focus to use without disaster. Prejudice against magicians was the norm when you were growing up and you find the comfortable chumminess of younger magicians to be annoyingly arrogant and short-sighted. To you, mundanes are opportunistic cowards who exploit them with one hand and denounce them as freaks with the other. The outer planes are a welcome change of pace to you; a needed breakaway from the overcrowded stupidity and bigotry of Earth nations.

If you are in your 50’s; you were born just after or during the Big Reveal and feel like a person out of time. You grew up in the direct aftermath of a global upheaval, where it was discovered that magic is real and humanity nearly tore itself limb-from-limb in response. You may have taught yourself magic or learned it from a mentor or family member – a gruelling and uncertain process that demanded total commitment. You heard tales of the occult underground that were chilling and depressing. You find modern university courses in magic to be slightly silly and patronising (and older magicians to be terrifying power-mongers in retirement) as a result. You probably consider mundanes of your era to be halfway between small-minded jerks and greedy idiots, treating magic as both their weapon and a threat to them. You probably spent a lot of time learning how to lie and hide your magic, just to avoid harassment. The outer planes probably caught you totally off-guard and you certainly wouldn’t have predicted their importance and impact.

If you are in your 60’s; you were born before the Big Reveal and it may have destroyed your childhood as a result. You may have a certain romantic attachment to the idea of an occult underground and paranoid contempt for mundanes as a result. You learned magic piecemeal and at the mercy of a chaotic system of abusive and fearful mentors intertwined with a secret network of lies and violence. The Cold War was something you probably saw as mundanes being manipulated by magicians and world leaders alike – you see the concepts of “loyalty” and “duty” as smarmy double-talk meant to make Joe Sixpack die for someone else’s interests. You probably learned magic from a family member and got drawn into feuds between other magicians. To you, the magic subculture grew out of a shared trauma and a genuine need for community in the face of bigotry and exploitation. Guilt or bitterness often plagues your mindset, and you might try to deal with it by keeping your distance from humanity. You may have decided to escape Earth and seek refuge in the outer planar wilderness as a wizard hermit or traveling scholar. Your mind is firmly attuned to consequence, and you may be reliant on your (well practised) magic to live your current lifestyle – the Path of Body may be keeping you healthy enough to avoid forced retirement.

The Continents Today

Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union

The fall of Communism turned out to be a bittersweet victory for the global magician community. Although the formerly suppressed and undiscovered secrets of Eastern Europe’s magical traditions were given new life in the aftermath of the U.S.S.R.’s defeat, the rich veins of Thaumatological lore and artefacts released onto the international market also empowered greedy and opportunistic elements of the magical underground, resulting in a wave of corruption sweeping the highest social strata of the New Russia and its former client states.

The magi population of the region enjoys less social backlash and legal restrictions than with other mundane Earth regions, but their reputation in the eyes of the world at large has suffered thanks to infamous scandals regarding abuse of magical power, corruption, politicised turf wars and other messes. Quite a few important magical figures in the New Russia were indicted for nasty crimes and bad behaviour during the 1990’s, leaving Eastern European magi in a leadership crisis they have yet to recover from and subsequently disadvantaged in the global market.

East Asia and the Pacific

The Republic of Korea is currently the most visibly pro-magic East Asian nation by the year 2016. Both Japan and China have adopted fairly hardline stances against the public use and acceptance of Thaumaturgy, with laws to match – Japan’s disapproval is linked to cultural holdovers from its past (both feudal and fascist), while China’s restrictions on magic are simply extensions of its other domestic policies (even with the Cold War behind it, the Communists still have difficulty accepting magical practice and research). This sociological suspicion and contempt has retarded the occultist’s ambitions for researching the historical Thaumatology of both countries. Quite a few magicians in the west bitterly mourn that entire archives of brilliant magical writings, collected hundreds of years ago, are denied to them by xenophobic governments, not to mention their potent places of power, magical styles and enchanted treasures. (The Japanese and Chinese see it as protecting their national heritage from selfish foreign looters and home-grown megalomaniacs.)

Korea, then, distinguishes itself as the go-to destination for the Thaumatological scholar in the region, freely trading in grimoires and artefacts. Although its embrace of Thaumaturgy has not yet catapulted ahead of its economic rivals Japan and China, it boasts significant diplomatic and cultural influence with the west and the wider magi communities, in addition to greater access to western occult lore.

The Chinese invasion of Tibet sent heavy shockwaves through the regional Magi population, as Tibetan occultists had contributed vast amounts of useful lore to travelling scholars. Predictably, the Chinese occupation crushed the previously thriving intellectual tradition, solidifying China’s political power and frustrating all others.

Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and other mainland Southeast Asian countries were devastated by conflicts during the Cold War, including numerous Thaumaturgic scourings by foreign armed forces that defiled natural places of power, destroyed magical artefacts and stamped out entire libraries of collected lore. The scourings caused severe setbacks for the magical development of these nations, their local magi often struggle with both Thaumatological innovation and instruction.

Western Europe

The European Union has found the local magi population to be more integrated into mainstream societies than their transatlantic cousins in North America since the end of World War Two. It should be noted that the governments of Germany and the United Kingdom, in particular, made special effort to research Thaumatology in the aftermath of Hitler’s defeat and several key defections from the U.S.S.R. at the start of the Cold War. Today, both countries boast accomplishments in the field – we owe the development of an international enchanted items market to both nations. The influx of magi immigrating from former Soviet states has been a constant concern for the Union, perhaps reflecting possible political conflicts with the New Russia in the near future.

Though Western Europe is not the continent with the most interplanar gates, it is considered the most magically secure region. It has most of their gates firmly controlled by responsible government forces, its magi population has the least resistance to working with mundane organisations and it has the most comprehensive Thaumatological educations (including training in magical safety and self-discipline) available on mundane Earth. Great Britain is one of the few Earth nations that has less strict laws regarding magic than gun control.

North America

The United States of America is perhaps the least magically-inclined first world nation on mundane Earth, taking into account its population spread, its economy and geography. On paper, it has plenty of Thaumatological firepower promoted by the government, but much of that magic has been sectioned off from the general public and requires special effort to access. The average middle class citizen will encounter magi only occasionally unless he or she seeks them out, filling in the proper paperwork and paying the proper tolls. By reputation, American magi prefer living with their own kind, keeping their magical practices out for the public eye, collecting paychecks from faceless corporations and boring federal agencies. The naturally occurring interplanar spatial gates within American borders are unfortunately rather too close to seats of federal government and major cities, which has caused some disputes with outer plane settlements as well as some tragic monster invasions. The American mundane mainstream harbours some sour feelings towards magi and their craft as a result. Osama Bin Laden was killed during the Clinton administration, thus preventing 9-11 and The War on Terror, but America suffered an economic downturn and public backlash against magic in the Noughts and New Tens.

Canada and Mexico, in comparison to the U.S., has a much more stable and positive attitude to Thaumaturgy as of the modern day. The New Tens have been a good decade for these nations so far, with their respective economies recovering steadily from the recession thanks to forging useful trade agreements with outer planes settlements. Canada and Mexico both boast a considerable number of interplanar spatial gates, and, unlike the U.S., their gates pose little threat to national security because of their relative isolation from vulnerable population centres.

South and Central America

There’s no denying it; of all the regions on mundane Earth, the nations of South America suffer from the most bitterly fractured, chaotic, politically unstable and potentially violent magi subcultures in the world, especially given the otherwise more prosperous mundane mainstream of Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Venezuela. Civil unrest amongst the South American magi has reached its zenith in the continent’s most populous cities, and spilled over into riots and a kind of gang wars. Across racial, national and ideological lines, the magi are divided and set at each other’s throats – brawling, harassing, sabotaging, and killing. No mundane government so far has managed to enact meaningful police action to quell this disruption, nor have any new laws put in place been found effective at restoring the peace.

Even the magi of the outer planes tend to steer clear of the South American thaumaturge communities. Though a ban on magic has been ruled out for now, most are not optimistic about the situation improving to the point where such drastic legal measures are definitely not necessary. In the opinion of analysts and watchdogs, it is only a matter of time before the conflicts escalate until the officials are forced to crack down and proclaim that the local thaumaturges are no longer free.

Central American nations, likewise, suffer difficulties. In the aftermath of the Cold War, regional magical efforts are now focused mostly on handling volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. A combination of poverty and mundane military struggles have otherwise discouraged Thaumatological study of mesoamerican folklore and history. Whatever occult innovations the Mayans and Aztecs wielded, for instance, have remained out of modern hands thanks to stonewalled archaeological expeditions. Unearthing such arcana, so it could be integrated into the unified global praxis of Thaumaturgy, would require navigating chronic social unrest and a perilous natural environment.

South and Central Asia

In stark contrast to its rival China, the Republic of India prides itself on its open promotion of Thaumaturgy and integrating it into mainstream society’s ordinary routines. Magic is quite visible in the daily life of the Indian person – he watches local television that features magi and is produced with help from spells, he goes to a doctor who can heal his wounds with spells, he eats food that has been magically conjured, and he at least knows someone who knows a Thaumaturge. The cities of India are a visibly chaotic mixture of ethnicities, religions, wealth classes and cultural traditions. Slums and skyscrapers have been built right next to each other.

The only political downside to their Thaumatological development is that the country’s rivalry with their hated neighbour Pakistan has escalated to a white hot fever pitch – the infamous Mumbai attack of 2008 provoked nothing less than a full scale counter-assault from Indian thaumaturges in the form of unauthorised targeted killings of despised Islamic extremists. Pakistan had already banned the practice of magic, the violent response to the Mumbai attack incited further anti-Thaumatology sentiment amongst both the informal civilian public and formal government forces.

Nepal is the second bright star of the South Asian magi community. Whatever could be salvaged from the Tibetan Thaumatological traditions in the wake of the last 25 years is mostly found amongst Nepalese thaumaturges. This has significantly worsened its relations with China since the invasion of Tibet, and Maoist elements within Nepal have become shunned and marginalised as a result. If China ever fully turns its hostility towards Nepal, the big question will be wherever India comes to the aid of Nepal and subsequently ruins its trade agreements with the Middle Kingdom, dramatically shaking up the stage of international politics.

Afghanistan has been wracked with grim violence over the state of local Thaumaturgy since the 1980’s. The Soviet invasion radicalised the already paranoid and aggrieved magi community, which still bore the scars from Afghanistan’s time as a buffer state between British and Russian empires in the 19th century. The toppling of the anti-magic Taliban simply ensured a resurgence in civil unrest between a deeply factionalised magical population. The wilder Afghan thaumaturges infamously swept through populated areas on a personal vendetta, the Taliban insurgents first amongst their victims and always meeting the worst fates.

Central Asia’s history as a crossroad between Europe and the East – the Silk Road – colours its current magical situation in the form of its Ley Lines and Places of Power, although it occasionally plays a more noticeable part in the movement of magical goods and ideas as well. The end of the Cold War has simply made the Central Asian magi even more of a political third rail, since it was the hated Soviet presence that unified the disparate population in opposition and smoothed over their ideological and religious disagreements. The nation of Kazakhstan sits in the centre of the region, selling off its vast mineral resources to both mundane industry and foreign magi eager for certain symbolic ritual materials. Ugly reports of Kazakhstani spellcasters aiding and abetting human rights abuses and political suppression have reached the ears of Amnesty International. This will make the flow of trade throughout several continents that much more heated.


The countries of Australia and New Zealand take after their Western European cousins when it comes to magic; the nations have fairly liberal laws regarding the practise and market. Naturally occurring interdimensional gates are very common in the Australian Outback, providing the most access to the outer planes available to mundane Earth, albeit relatively isolated from any urban population centres. New Zealand, meanwhile, is considered much safer territory, as its naturally occurring gates are located mainly in the country’s mountain peaks rather than anywhere remotely accessible to a non-dedicated explorer.

The neighbouring islands in the Pacific Ocean deal in unregulated trade routes for enchanted items and other magical goods – often delivered from out of parts of Asia to outer plane smugglers posing as tourists to Australia.


Both imperialism and the process of decolonisation have sent shockwaves through African thaumaturges, an segment of the regional population already in deeply turmoil. It is a constant factor within this very large and diverse continent that native magi have been oppressed, feared, scapegoated and exploited across all of Africa’s 30.2 million square kilometres, in the past and present. The Apartheid period in the south disrupted the magical trade further, the overbearing civil policies put local magi under ceaseless suspicion and exploitation by the white supremacist authorities.

It has been said that the most generous description that magi have of Africa is “high risk, high reward”. Less charitable thaumaturges grumble and dismiss the situation as hopeless. Even with the decline of armed conflicts in the region, local magi have found themselves at loggerheads with most national governments – especially since the most economically prosperous typically partner with anti-magic China. It seems the lot of the African magi for now is disenfranchisement and unpopularity, at best. The African Union has spearheaded initiatives to unite African magi organisations into a regional whole operating under its guidance, hoping that such political legitimacy would end the unrest. Right now, the main demand of the regional thaumaturges is for magical medical attention – both preventing and curing disease is always worthwhile.

Egypt is probably the most magically potent country in the continent, steeped in a rich history of Thaumaturgy that goes all the back to the time of the Roman Empire. Some say that the Romans would’ve never even touched a single crumb of magical wisdom if they hadn’t leeched off the Etruscans and Ancient Egyptians. A great many clues to the magical past still lie scattered through the Sahara Desert, sunk in the depths of the Nile River and within the great pyramids, some uncovered by Victorian archaeologists or poached by grave robbers. Magicians in Egypt are treated rather pleasantly by the standard of Africa, as long as they avoid encountering Islamic fundamentalists. The Muslim Brotherhood remains a constant political enemy, and tormenter, of Egyptian thaumaturges.

The Middle East

Magic and its practise presents perhaps the biggest challenge to the political powers of the region, particularly the issue of wherever it should be prohibited unilaterally. Certainly, the most noticeable Islamic fundamentalist governments (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen) have taken a hardline stance against Thaumaturgy in all its forms, but the rest of the region shifts back and forth between stricter and more lax laws over the years. The most consistently pro-magic nation is Turkey, thanks to its membership in the European Union. Israel is the second-most, although rising tensions with their neighbours play the biggest part in keeping Israeli sorcery free.


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