Welcome to the long-overdue intro thread for Crystal Falls.
We’ve had a recent spike in interest and new people jumping on board with the project, so it seemed prudent to compile all the pertinent worldbuilding factoids you need in order to get started into one convenient post, instead of making you scroll through all 15+ pages of the original thread.
So here’s what you need to know to jump into the CF universe:
P.S. - Watch out for this is a note
’s, because they contain important side notes for things like names and such that I mention throughout the post. Hover your mouse over the note to read it.Main Premise
Throughout history there have been rare people born with extraordinary abilities. People who were faster, stronger, larger, more coordinated than any other human could hope to be. In the 1980’s a genetically engineered virus sweeps across the US (and also hops to other places in the world) that activates and enhances these abilities in people with recessive genes for them, resulting with the largest number of super-powered people on record with abilities that had only ever been dreamed of.
Our main focus is on the city of Crystal Falls, Virginia. Originally, Crystal Falls began as a sort of treatment center for those suffering from the virus, and eventually grew into a penal colony for super-powered criminals and people who couldn’t control their powers due to the power-suppressing field surrounding the city. Over time though, the “Safe Zone” as it was called began to fade and shrink. In 2013 the Zone collapses completely, turning the haven from super-powers to the city with the largest population of super-powered people in the world. Eventually the city becomes a Mecca of sorts for super-powered people, where they go to learn to control their powers, train as super heroes, etc.Important TermsExceptionals, Exceps, Exos, or X’s
- Common names for individuals who naturally attain abilities that exceed those of the average human. The terms “exceptional abilities” and “exceptionals” were originally used by early researchers who later replaced them with the terms “dynamic abilities” and “dynamically gifted”. The term was resurrected along with its slang forms during the 1990’s by people wishing to identify and distinguish themselves from the Dynamic Pride movement.Dynamic Abilities
- The scientific/political term for super powers.Dynamic Potential
- The recessive genes for dynamic abilities which, under certain circumstances, can be activated in order to manifest into dynamic abilities.Dynamology
- The scientific study of super powers, their causes, functions, and effects.Dynamically Gifted Individuals
- The scientific/politically-correct term used to describe super-powered people, sometimes shortened to dynamically gifted
- A common slang, semi-pejorative name for super-powered people.Freak Flu, Super Flu, or Dyno Flu
- Common names for the genetically engineered Booster Virus that swept across the country in the mid to late 1980’s manifesting and amplifying dynamic abilities in hundreds of people and killing many people.Gladstone Incident
- A historic fight in the mid 1970’s between a rogue dynamically gifted government agent suffering from PTSD and the two dynamically gifted agents sent to retrieve him, the fall-out of which leveled the town of Gladstone, Virginia and created the waterfall that would come to be called Crystal Falls.Manifesting
- general name for developing dynamic abilities, be it from dynamic potential or some other cause.Pheno
- a slang/pride term for individuals whose genetic makeup by the Freak Flu resulting in abnormal physiological traits, but no dynamic abilities per se. Derived from the PC/scientific phrase “Phenotypically altered”.Safe Zone (SZ)
- The name given to the area affected by the Sentinel Stone’s power-suppressing field. Also used to describe the power-suppressing energy field in general.Warp Smiths
- Individuals with the dynamic ability to warp reality around objects and imbue them with impossible attributes.Warp Relics
- Objects created by warp smiths that have supernatural properties.Sentinel Stone
- A large warp relic created during the Gladstone Incident that generates a reality-warping energy field that suppresses/negates dynamic abilities.Common Sources of Super Powers
- Dynamic Abilities - These are super-powers that people are born with. After the freak flu Outbreak of the late 1980’s, there was a dramatic increase in the number and power of people born with dynamic abilities. They often show hints during childhood, but manifest most fully during adolescence.
- Accidents - Latent dynamic abilities (dynamic potential) have been known to awaken into full abilities after exposure to radiation, certain diseases, or other such accidents. But beyond that, the freak flu introduced a general genetic instability into the affected gene pool that can cause people’s DNA to shift and adapt new abilities under extreme circumstances.
- Scientific Experiments - Some types of experiments have been known to accidentally or intentionally give their subjects new abilities, most specifically genetic experimentation. These often come with unexpected (sometimes disabling or fatal) side-effects.
- Warp Relics - The majority of warp relics throughout history have been ones that focus on giving their wielders incredible abilities. Some of these manage this by amplifying existing dynamic powers or awakening dynamic potential into abilities, but others give super powers to their wielder regardless of whether they have any dynamic gifting/potential or not. However, there are no warp-relics that can permanently endow a non-dynamic individual with powers.
- Technology - Man has always tried to invent technologies to enhance, augment, or even compensate for his natural abilities. So, there are those who have created technologies that produce super power-level effects.
This next part is still under construction and in need of some extreme ironing out. But this post has been sitting on my computer for about 8 months now, so I’m gonna give yall the uber-simplified overview of the basic the timeline so that you’re not waiting for another year while I wrestle with the monster that is creating an alternate history. I’ve decided the easiest way to break this down for yall is to give you the basic “eras” aka sections of the timeline so that you can see how they interact and decide which ones your characters will fall into.Discovery Era
We start things off in the mid-1930’s when an antiquities professor at the University of Virginia and an army medical researcher develop a theory that the ancient legends of mythical heroes were inspired by real-life individuals who were exceptionally stronger, faster, durable, and smarter than average humans. They send a letter to the President (FDR at that point) explaining their theory and expressing their desire to find these “exceptional individuals” and train them as an elite team of super-soldiers. FDR agrees and in October of 1941 creates a secret military projectThe “Exceptional Soldier Project” aka the ESP
to do just that. Throughout the Second World War this group finds 4 young men with surprising abilities that they were able to enhance with drug therapy and training into almost impossible degrees.Development Era
After the end of WWII, the ESP continues to search for “exceptionals”, eventually transferring ownership to the CIA which wants to look for super operatives instead of super soldiers. During the next couple of decades they make several important breakthroughs in the study of superpowers, including the existence of dynamic potential and methods of activating it, the discovery of the first documented warp-smith, and a young man who can amplify dynamic abilities and cause dynamic potential to manifest. Eventually they implant segments of his dna into a genetically engineered virusThe Dynamic Enhancement Virus or Booster Virus
in order to quickly enhance new recruits. They also up recruitment and bring everyone they can find with dynamic potential into the US.
One of the biggest highlights for the Crystal Falls history in this era is the notorious Gladstone Incident of 1974. A recently returned dynamically gifted operative suffers from PTSD from Vietnam and has a breakdown during a training exercise that accidentally kills a teammate. He panics and escapes into the Virginia countryside. His other teammates find him in the small town of Gladstone, VA and when they try to bring him in, a fight breaks out that winds up destroying the town, killing 12 people, and creating the falls that would become Crystal Falls. The fight finally ends when a reality-warper turns a giant boulder from the debris into a warp-relicthe Sentinel Stone
that suppresses dynamic abilities. The CIA and government bury the incident and hide the truth from the people. The ESP is ended, and a handful of personnel are re-tasked to explore ways to identify and neutralize dynamically gifted threats to national securityThis new task-force is codenamed Project Vigilance
After the Gladstone Incident and dissolution of the ESP, things stay quiet for a few years. A secret research/detention center is set up in the ruins of Gladstone to study the Sentinel Stone and hold dynamically gifted threats. A few conspiracy theorists start investigating the Gladstone Incident, but the public doesn’t really care that much.
Then in 1985 a sample of the Booster Virus makes its way into the American population. Nobody’s really sure how it happened, though there are a bunch of theories on that. Over the next 2 years the virus swept across the country, infecting tens of thousands of people. I won’t go into all the details here, but what you need to know is that the virus essentially rewrites its victims DNA, turning recessive genes into dominant genes. It’s design is to specifically target recessive genes for dynamic abilities, but that isn’t all it winds up affecting. This results in a dramatic increase in the number of people with dynamic abilities and dynamic potentialwhich means increased likelihood of dynamically gifted kids in future generations
, and some other unexpected side-effects, including many deaths.
It’s at this time that the city of Crystal Falls gets its origin story. The CIA authorizes Project Vigilance to open their secret research center in what used to be Gladstone as a triage center for patients of the virus, thinking that bringing them in the Safe Zone will cure them. However, while the Sentinel Stone does suppress powers from manifesting, it does not keep the virus from rewriting the patients’ DNA. As the virus spreads, more and more people flock to the Crystal Falls Research Institute looking for a cure for either the virus, the new powers it endowed them with, or both. And as patients come, they bring families, and pretty quickly, a community begins to arise.
The doctors and researchers were unable to find any way to counter the virus until the fall of 1986, when a young patient manifests the dynamic ability to genetically adapt to threats to his survival. Using his blood samples, they quickly formulate a vaccine of sorts and by May of 1987, it is distributed to almost every medical office in America. By November of 1987, the CDC issues a statement saying the virus is gone. But the virus, and the vaccine both take their toll, effectively rewriting the entire genetic landscape of the US.Aftermath Era
My worldbuilding for this era is still under construction at the moment, comprised more of a general idea of the direction things to go in than of actual events. But it’s the most important era, because it’s the one where most of our characters will probably wind up being born, discovering their powers, or both. So, I’ll do the best I can to break it down for yall.
Essentially, this is the era where the American people start grappling with the existence of dynamic abilities and how to handle that. Initially, there’s the usual fear and mistrust, due both to human nature and to the virus that brought the abilities. Naturally, the first response is to look for a cure, followed by looking for ways to pretend that the powers don’t exist. This carries on for a few years into the early 90’s. During the late 90’s, however, as children with dynamic abilities become teens and adults, they begin to borrow momentum from the other “pride” movements of the time and foster a “Dynamic Pride” movement which continues to grow and gain momentum of its own throughout the following decades.
This is also an important era for Crystal Falls itself, as it is now that it blossoms from a community into a full-fledged city. More and more families continue to move to Crystal Falls as rumors of its “Safe Zone” spread. Many are families with dynamically gifted children, seeking a place where there kids can have a normal childhood without the weird abilities. Others are just normal people seeking refuge from the brave new world where super powers exist. Boarding schools pop up by the scores that promise frightened parents that they can train their children to “control” their new abilities (which is really just code for teach them how to keep from using them). Also, what was once a top-secret prison now becomes the primary destination for dynamically gifted criminals too powerful to be contained in other facilities.
So yeah… more and more kids, teens, and some adults start manifesting powers, and the city grows as people seek to escape them. That’s all I have for this era so far… It needs more work…Fallout Era
This era is even more nebulous than the last, but just as important. Sometime in the early 2000’s, the Sentinel Stone’s power-suppressing “Safe Zone” begins to decline. It’s a very slow and subtle process, so at first people don’t really notice. It starts by just weakening at the edges, but gradually it begins to shrink, and slowly dynamically gifted people who were once well within its bounds start noticing their powers starting to manifest again. As it becomes increasingly noticeable, we start to see a second urban migration as wealthier families seek to buy up homes downtown closer to the center of the SZ. The officials try to keep things hush-hush, and thousands of people don’t even notice, but the SZ keeps shrinking and weakening.
Eventually, in 2010, the SZ collapses completely. It’s not immediately noticed by anyone other than researchers studying it, because the longer you’ve been in the SZ, the longer it takes for your powers to come back. Over the next few years the city that was famed for being dynamic-free, slowly becomes the city with the largest population of dynamically gifted individuals on the planet.
What’s more, the prison that once prided itself as the one place dynamically gifted inmates could not escape is now rendered as effective as an Old West jail house. Starting in 2013, it experiences a series of major breakouts, and by November of 2014, only 30% of its inmates are still detained there. While some return to the outside world, many are content to stay in Crystal Falls, particularly because the police force doesn't have the counter-measures for dynamically gifted criminals that other police forces have had to adapt. Add these escapees to the number of criminals already in the city that start manifesting new abilities, and you have Crystal Falls quickly become the center of a massive dynamic crime wave.
Ideally, this era is set up as the origins era for most of our characters. Whether you use it that way or not, is totally up to you.Dynamic Spring Era
With the collapse of the Safe Zone, the US is once again faced with yet another boom of dynamically gifted people and the question of what to do with them now that you can’t just make their powers go away. The “Dynamic Pride” movement that got it’s starts in the Aftermath Era of the 90’s gets a whole lot bigger and louder as more and more people begin to embrace their abilities and demand the right to use them.
Dynamically gifted “superheroes” inspired by this movement and by the comic books of their childhood, begin emerging across the country. Many of them pop up in Crystal Falls, while others decide to journey there to help fight the flux of dynamically gifted criminals.
This is the era where the normal social/legal questions start being asked about topics like vigilantism, registration, the use of dynamically gifted law enforcement, etc. And… I have no idea how the federal gov’t or the Crystal Falls authorities handle those questions, so we’ll have to explore that together.Future Era
This is the era we’re building up to with our stories. The “Golden Age” of Crystal Falls where it stands as the capital of superhero culture, where they come for training and the like. No idea how far in the future we want this to be (but I’d say probably not before 2025), or what we want it to look like. But I figure we got time to figure that out.Conclusion
So there you have it. Most everything you need to know to get started on your Crystal Falls characters and stories. Yes, I know, there’s not much in there about the city itself, the local gov’t, the crime landscape, the different communities. Clearly there’s lots to be done, and I can only do so much. This timeline in and of itself has taken over a year to hammer out, and this is just the overview. There’s still a ton of polishing and fleshing out I have to do on that. I hope to have the map finished by the end of the year (but we’ve heard that before), and once that’s done, we can start mapping out the neighborhoods, and the like. Somebody else might have to tackle city gov’t and how it handles things through the different eras. But hopefully this intro will keep everyone on the same page for the time being.