The cosm of Maya was a world virtually identical to Earth. Maya was a world where religious beliefs and conflicts were stronger than Earth; the wars between differing religions and sects were a serious issue, resulting in a limited nuclear exchange in the Middle East between Isreal and her enemies, and in Asia between India and Pakistan.
The cosm’s story begins with a woman named Arani Desai in the late 20th century. Born to a wealthy family in India, Ms. Desai suffered from severe birth defects due to radiation. She possesses a brilliant scientific mind, however, and earned several advanced degrees, particularly in the area of computer science, despite her disabilities.
Desai developed a technique for interfacing computer systems with the human brain, leading to the development of the virtual experience (VX) computer web. The breakthrough earned her a Nobel prize and a position with the world’s largest computer technology corporation. Desai’s technology lead to many other breakthroughs. One of her discoveries provided a method for “beaming” information directly into the human brain without a direct physical connection. The virtual world of the Web left cyberspace and merged with the physical world. Virtual sensory information can overlay and mix with real sensory data, expanding the bounds of human reality.
Powerful virtual and cyber-technology created a peaceful, wealthy, world society. Advanced communications led to increased understanding among the world’s people. Over time, the people of Maya learned that primitive religious and spiritual beliefs were destructive. Religion was cast aside and abdoned in favor of a new humanism and belief in human achievement. With the power of the Web and cybertechnology, humanity began transforming Maya into a paradise. Biotechnology allowed Arani Desai to have a daughter, Mahakali Desai, who inheirited her mother’s genius.
Research into space travel by the powerful Nirvana Corporation discovered a means of reaching parallel worlds. The first world the Mayans discovered was primitive and warlike, torn by the same conflicts that once plagued Maya. Led by Nirvana CEO Desai, the Mayans took it upon themselves to bring the benefits of their experience to the new world.
With their superior technology, it was a simple matter for them to show other worlds the light, expanding the influence of the Web. So was Nirvana-2 established. As they discovered other worlds, the Mayans continued to expand their philosophy and help the native inhabitants. Nirvana-8 was established only a few years ago. Dimensional bridges connecting the worlds allow for unprecedented levels or trade and commerce, along with the exchange of ideas.
It was only a few years ago that people began to discover the truth. Inter-cosm travel led to the creation of stormers on Maya and the worlds they invaded, and some of these stormers saw through the illusion. The Web was more than just a means of communication, it created the illusion of a perfect world, complete with sublimination control of the population. It covered the existence of robots and cyborgs working behind the scenes, and the fact that the worlds “helped” by the Mayans were actually being conquered and drained of their possibilities, reducing them to the same carefully controlled environment. The spiritual traditions of the cosm still existed, but people were cut off from the power of faith, living in a sterile, “perfect” world of illusion.
Those few who saw through Maya’s mask were considered delusional, arrested and committed when they were caught. Some escaped, forming an underground to fight against Arani Desai, who still lived, her mind transfered into the perfect clone body of her “daughter.” The rebels discovered that the power of the Web could be used to their advantage. Some of those who saw through the illusion can manipulate the Web in spectacular ways, shaping the illusion to serve their needs and not those of the Mahakali. The rebels also learned how to get back in touch with the spiritual power of their cosm, using it to aid their cause. Now plans are underway for Maya to “aid” a new cosm, Nirvana-9, and the rebels intend to see that this world, called “Earth,” does not fall as the others have before it.
Maya is a magic-dead cosm. All forms of spellcasting are impossible there. Rebels believe the Magic axiom was once higher, but that Kalkin lowered it to further the Mahakali’s plans. Additionally, the cosm’s extremely low Magic axiom tends to make the natives of the cosm somewhat more credulous and likely to believe what their senses tell them. “Gut feelings” and “hunches” are less common among the people of the cosm. (See the Law of Deception for more information.)
Maya’s social axiom is slightly higher than that of Earth. Their cosm has a peaceful, worldwide government (albeit artificially enhanced through mind control). The tremendously enhanced communications provided by the Web permit Mayan society to function smoothly and efficiently, like the well-oiled machine that it is.
Despite its highly advanced technology, Maya is still a place of spiritual power. Ancient traditions of faith and spiritual practice can grant enlightenment to the faithful. However, the vast majority of people in the cosm are completely unaware of the spiritual power available to them. Their faith lies in illusion, not reality.
Maya is a cosm with powerful technology. Neural interface technology is particularly advanced, the basis for the Web and its related technologies. Cybertechnology is also fairly common and advanced. Energy weapons are the standard for both lethal and non-lethal weaponry and armor is based on advanced ceramic-laminate composites. Various types of chemical slugthrowers are also common. Many “weapons” exist solely in the Web, using neural technology to affect the minds of people.
The Law of Deception
This world law states that it is easier to decieve people in Maya, provided you work within the rules of the illusion. All skill use related to deception gains a bonus of +3, and the success level of any attempt to penetrate deception is reduced by one. Minimal success becomes a failure. This applies only so long as the character provides some plausible lie or deception that fits within the world-view of the inhabitants.
The Law of Normality
On the other hand, the Law of Normality punishes those that violate Maya’s facade. Those who do not “fit in” tend to stand out. Those attempting to track or otherwise detect “outsiders” in Maya gain a +3 bonus to do so, unless the outsiders take grain pains to conceal themselves. The authorities are very efficient at dealing with any “threats” to the safety and security of their realm, and ordinary citizens are happy to report strange happenings to the authorities immediately via the Web.
The High Lord: The Mahakali
Arani Desai was a woman cheated by fate. She was born with a brilliant mind, but a weak and twisted body, caused by pointless war and religious conflict. Through sheer force of will and determination she made herself a success, but it wasn’t enough. She placed her hope in miracles and prayer to heal her body, but nothing did.
Eventually Arani found her way to a secret cult, the Cult of the goddess Kali. She prayed for deliverance and her prayers were finally answered. The members of the cult told Arani that her appearance was fortold to them, that she was destined to become an avatar of the goddess of destruction, the Mahakali, to herald the ending of the world, the Kali Yuga. They also gave her a gift, the avatar of destruction, an obsidian statue called Kalkin.
Arani arranged for the creation of the body she should have possessed, cloned from her cells and engineered to be perfect. She then transfered her own mind into her “daughter’s” body. Currently, Mahakali Desai is the CEO of Nirvana Corporation, the largest and most powerful company on Maya, custodian of the Web and secret ruler of the world. She is served by the fanatical members of the Cult of Kali the Destroyer.
The Darkness Device: Kalkin
Mahakali’s darkness device takes the form of an obsidian idol of Kalkin, the final avatar of Vishnu, who in Hindu mythology is the herald of the end of the world. Kalkin worked with Arani Desai and taught her all she needed to become High Lord of Maya, and it told her that she could eventually become the true avatar of the Nameless One, the great destroyer, known as the Torg.
The Web is the key to Mahakali’s power. It is a broadcast computer network maintained by a system of signal boosters and processors. These are buried in the ground approximately 300 miles apart. In truth, the “processor nodes” of the Web are also the High Lord’s stelae. Because of this, no one else has been able to crack the secret of Nirvana’s technology.
Within the area bounded by the stelae exists a virtual experience projected into the minds of all people. Publicly, this VX “overlay” only enhances life; people can program images to appear, read virtual books and newspapers that use no paper or ink, create virtual toys and entertainments, experience multi-sensory “movies,” and so forth. In truth, the VX illusion also serves to cover up some of the true nature of the cosm and the realm. Robots and cyborgs operate behind the scenes, invisible or concealed by illusions of normalcy. The VX broadcast also contains subliminals that make the population compliant and willing to agree with the High Lord’s demands. For example, no one thinks it odd that all of their world’s religions were dismantled in a matter of less than a decade. It seemed like the reasonable thing to do, and religious leaders saw the light (with some help from the Web) or else become criminals and outcasts.
Some people can learn to influence the Web with their thoughts and the power of spirit. This allows them to manipulate the illusion in various ways. Rebels and agents of the High Lord use the Web to disguise themselves, become invisible, and even create virtual weapons that can do harm simply through the power of their victim’s belief in their reality. People can also create “avatars” in the Web, mobile programs that have no physical existence but can still interact with the virtual and computer elements of the Web, a kind of “virtual astral projection.”
Cyberware exists in Nirvana-9 and Maya, although it is not in common use. Military and security personnel often have cybernetic enhancements, and there is a cyberware black market among rebels and outcasts, but most citizens of the cosm have cyberware only to repair injuries or defects (many of which are already dealt with using advanced biotech).
However, the High Lord’s agents make extensive use of cyberware. The Mahakali’s dreaded Assassins are cyber-enhanced members of the Cult of Kali, fanatics that worship the High Lord as the avatar of their dread goddess. They are shadows in the Web, unseen by normal people, and responsible for many mysterious disappearances and similar happenings.
The High Lord also uses robots and cyborgs, from tiny spy drones to massive combat cyborgs. Captured rebels and criminals are often brainwiped and made into cyborgs to turn against their former associates. Nirvana’s gospog are near-mindless cyborg killing machines.
Nirvana-9 is still a place of spiritual power. Many rebels call it Prana (a Sanskrit word meaning “breath”), but it is known by many names. The vast majority of people in the cosm are unaware of this power, the Web blinds them to its existence, which is just as the High Lord wants it. Those who have seen through the illusion can reconnect with the power of spirit and use it.
In game terms, this means that miracles are possible in Nirvana-9, but community-based miracles are difficult (since spiritual communities are so small). The high Social and Spirit axioms also allow mystic martial arts disciplines to exist in the cosm: the assassin art of the Thugee is one, rebels practice many others. These essentially follow the martial arts rules from the Nippon Tech sourcebook.