This is pretentious and sucks. If you can think of a way to make it less pretentious while still conveying the same mood, please tell me!
(Also if any of the intersection with real-world politics evokes fucked-up and horrible implications, slap me with a big dildo. I'd rather not be evil and if I'm evil without realizing it please tell me so I can fix my shit, kthx)
|Life is and will ever remain an equation incapable of solution, but it contains certain known factors.|
|— Nikola Tesla, “A Machine to End War” (Liberty, February, 1935)|
It is impossible to know when you are living in a golden age, because a golden age is only golden in contrast to that which comes after it. In the world of Steel Tree, your time and mine passed into myth and fairy tales a very long time ago, and what came after it is a much darker and stranger universe than the one we recognize. Witches eat Red Flowers to commune with the Dream without ever realizing that they are connecting to a global bio-engineered fungal information network created by a shattered goddess. Sorcerors, most driven incurably mad by the unexpected effects of thousands of years of life upon the human psyche, reminisce about a time of airplanes and rock concerts and presidential elections while they engineer new forms of life behind closed doors in their ivory towers. A few brave humans help free enslaved Ryn and ferry them to hidden Acadie. Daemons spurn a world built on fear and create their own mad paradise, hidden from the prying eyes of the Blessed. Intrepid Artifact-hunters ply their risky blasphemous trade, selling lost wonders in alleyways. Grey priests burn books and guns with equal fervor, dedicated to maintaining their vision of a simple life. Ageless Abyssals live a muted life beneath the sea, offering passage to anyone willing to accept their eccentric demands. And, in the hidden places of the earth, a million strange things stir...
In plainer terms, Steel Tree is a setting in which technology advanced in the hands of a privileged few while the world around them crumbled. This decayed from the world we know today, to a more manic and deadly world of biopiracy and high-tech capitalism, to a somber world of new religions and mourning, to a world where nobody remembers the word "electricity." The result is a feudal order of subsistence farmers, their Lords, and, above the lords, the Kings, Fair Folk, and Blessed Sorcerors. There is also a hereditary undercaste of Ryn, who are either enslaved or treated like vermin in most places of the world.
This feudal world is shunned by a few genetically-engineered (and often electrically-augmented) unsettling rebels, who must recruit from the ranks of humankind (since the Daemons, themselves, are sterile). These rebels' intentions run the gamut but they're generally eccentric and unpredictable. The predecessors of the Daemons, the Splicers, waged a worker's war against the rich (who would later become the Fair Folk), but very few Daemons harbor any such noble intentions. There are also Forest Folk, Ryn and humans who try to scratch out an existence outside of the watchful eye of the crown and the church, and the free city of Acadie.
Guns exist but the act of making a gun is looked upon the way we might look upon the act of dealing heroin today. As a result, swords, halberds, bows, and crossbows take center stage. Of course, the Royalty is not subject to their own strictures, and there are some factors in the world who just don't give a damn about what the church has to say.
Luckily for everyone in it, in the "present day" of Steel Tree, most of the royalty is dead, feudalism has begun to fall apart, and people are starting to explore freer ways of being. This, combined with the abundance of strange ruins full of valuable and deadly things, (should) lead to lots of Adventure.
Some few thousand people still understand that the "ancient wonders" of the world were really just machines constructed with the help of human rational thought. Despite this, that truth remains a secret. Some of those with that knowledge are considered disreputable at best by most of society, and the rest have a very strong ideological reason to avoid it. After all, the last time technology was freely available to most of society, the world was scoured by nuclear fire. Additionally, scientific knowledge is the base of the Royalty's power, and they have every practical motivation to keep secrets.
When the devastating effects of global warming combined with nuclear war threw the world's ecosystem into a death-spiral, the powers that be managed to stabilize life on earth through the creation of numerous Artificial Flora and Fauna. Some of these things are very large, and some of these things are very deadly.
It's an important point of tone that all of the people who brought the world to this point did so because they thought it was some version of good for humanity (with one notable exception). Their actions can be interpreted as being very harmful (and they should be!) and even as evil (again, some of them most definitely should be), but they did have their warped justifications - and those justifications formed the basis of entire ages of thought.
Also, please remember, most ideologies that will appear in this setting are bizarre and horrible. I really do not like the Fair Folk/Royals, they basically exist to be an evil authority figure to fight -- and the Fair Folk run the entire world order. Please do not interpret this as an endorsement of a bent combination of anarcho-primitivism and weird medieval Catholic shit. The Church is Bad. Most Daemons are Bad. The Royals are Bad. The Abyssals are Weird. The Mad Sorcerors are definitely Bad.
The only forces I would consider "good" in this setting are: anybody who frees slaves, the free city of Acadie, and the shattered goddess Lilith (note also that it's very hard to do much good when your consciousness has been broken into a million half-dreaming shards). Some Daemons are quite good, but those are few and far between. Most Daemons are just very fickle and have their own hobbies to tend to, regardless of help or harm to the rest of the world.
Despite this lack of any single central "good" influence, the fundamental desire for mutual happiness is beginning to reassert itself in the people of Earth. The psychological trauma of an apocalypse or two is fading into distant memory, and people are remembering that it would be nice to be happy and to get to know one another. Let's hope this peace sticks around a while.
"The Steel Tree Codex is an absurd and blasphemous history of the world. Most baseline humans (or as close to such a thing as still exists) think of it as an obscure and slightly evil tome (think De Vermis Mysteriis). Most Daemons think it's hilarious, although a few of the oldest living Daemons act like they've seen proof of it, and that's enough to make the rest of them think once in a while. Regardless, any claim that the immortality of the Fair Folk and the wonders of the Golden Age were the works of human science rather than a divine gift from God is an idea so clownish and blasphemous that only a few backwards forest people should have any excuse to believe it. Recommendation: Burn on site. If they're crass enough to make it out of actual steel, melt it down and use it to make latrines. Just get rid of the thing, will you?" -- High Inquisitor Ramod