Friday, July 27, 2007

Vrilwar: The history

Vrilwar is the name for an alternate history wargame/rpg, the basic premise of which is WWII with mechs instead of tanks. This isn't my original project, but remains a group effort involving the /tg/ section of 4chan (think of it as a cool, breezy section of hell with lots of decent people to talk to). A fairly complete (albeit poorly organized) collection of the work done so far can be found at the project's wiki; what I post here I will also upload there as appropriate. The key to this alternate history is a liquid known as Vril.

If the All-German Society for Metaphysics is to believed, then the formula for Vril's creation was uncovered by one of their archeological expeditions in 1924. The society's leaders, who named the liquid after a fictional fluid from the popular 1870 novel The Coming Race, believed it was the key to the return of the Aryan master race. They used the fluid to curry favor with the rich and famous, waxing eloquent on its potential as a cure-all that left you ten times healthier than before you got sick. After swelling in terms of stature and influence for the better part of a year, the society split apart and several high-ranking members sold the formula to the highest bidders-several suspicious accidents that occurred during this time have led many to suspect international espionage played a part in maintaining the formula's secrecy.

By the end of 1925, several governments were conducting scientific studies on the effects of the mysterious liquid. Only in the September of 1926 did a German researcher by the name of Ingo Burkhard consider whether Vril might have mechanical applications; sure enough, the extremely low compressibility of the liquid made it an ideal hydraulic fluid, and he also discovered that low-grade electrical currents could cause the liquid to expand while under heavy pressure.

Meanwhile, the roaring twenties drew to a close and Vril was becoming a hot topic among the upper classes. The secretive nature of its creation and its association with the subject of eugenics only lent to its mystique; Vril-based medicines were in high demand. A French entrepreneur by the name of Nicolas Beafort gave up his life savings to acquire a large reserve of the fluid and then made it back tenfold selling "Vin de Vril", cheap wine mixed with a small dose of the fluid. It was an overnight sensation, hailed as the rich man's coffee and a drink that gave you the strength to laugh off a hangover the next morning.

The intense curiosity over Vril's effects on humans never ceased to overshadow Ingo Burkhard's research. His theories for a vril-based vehicle with hydraulic legs might never have been realized were it not for the correspondence he struck up with American inventor Henry Ford. The two men shared a passion for mechanics and a disdain for the greed that drove most Vril-based research at the time. When Ingo died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1928, Ford felt moved to make his friend's vision into a reality and developed several functioning prototypes over the next few years together with his son Edsel. The great depression greatly reduced the walker's already-uncertain prospects as a profitable civilian vehicle; Edsel decided to market the vehicle as a urged his father to focus more on offroad capability and the ability to handle large loads.

On April 20, 1933, in leiu of his usual 50,000 Riechsmark gift, Henry Ford sent Der Fuhrer the first fully functional mechanized walker, which became known by the designation "M33" by the Germans, and "the toddler" by the Allies. The well-made machine would form the basis of Germany's advancements in the realm of mechs for years to come.

The Toddler would enter mass production the November of that year; by then Ford's rivals were already racing to develop models of their own. However, by that point Ishikawa-Harima Heavy Industries in Japan had already created a working mech that was not only the first two-legged model but the first humanoid one as well. The remarkable achievement was thanks to Saito Harima, grandchild of Mitsubishi founder Yataro Iwasaki. Though he was only nineteen at the time, the genius savant's designs would prove a great boon to Japan's military strength in the ongoing war with China and beyond.

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