For this post, I'm going to discuss more of the setting for Hand of Fate: Steam and Sorcery. Specifically, I'd like to talk about a possibly contentious version of alternate history regarding the Civil War. The game is set in 1870, and in this alternate history, the Civil War ended with the nation still divided, but the slaves were freed. Here's how that happened.
Non-human races had been living in the world for over 50 years prior to the start of the Civil War. While some folks didn't like them, they knew that many of them had magical abilities, or razor-sharp teeth and claws, or could command the elements, so most people (the smart ones anyway) held their tongue around them. However, their existence added fuel to the abolition movement, as many people felt in a world with Dragons, Fey, and Dwarves, was there any point to enslaving fellow humans just for the color of their skin? This sentiment even began to have some effect on some southern plantation owners, and was one of the reasons why the Confederacy wanted to separate from the North.
That said, the war began mostly as it did in our past, and proceeded more or less the same. The north was home to much higher technology, and fielded a few steam tanks, lightning guns, and automatons alongside their armies. The South had a tradition of magical learning, and had war mages and magically-created golems and elementals. However, those special units were not common enough on either side to make a huge difference one way or another, and eventually the war began turning against the Confederacy.
The leaders of the Confederacy, desperate for some way to win the war, decided to gather all the mages they could and cast a massive necromantic ritual. However, they knew they needed help, and they turned to an extremely powerful cabal of voodoo priests in New Orleans. They possessed a powerful artifact and the knowledge of how to use it that would be needed if the ritual were to succeed. The Voodoo priests hated the Confederacy, but they knew this was a chance to win freedom for all the slaves, no matter the outcome of the war. So they agreed to help on 2 conditions: All the slaves in the south would be freed immediately, and New Orleans would be a Free City, not part of the Confederacy, under their control.
The Confederates agreed, and so the ritual was cast. All across the south, over half a million undead rose from their graves and the battlefields. Even though many were still dressed in the tattered remains of Union blue, they were all under the control of the South now. General Lee used this massive undead reinforcement to push the Northern armies out of the South, but found that the voodoo priests had secretly put several limitations on them during the ritual. Any undead that crosses the border out of the southern states drops over dead. And the one Captain that tried to order some undead into the Free City of New Orleans suddenly had his zombie troops turn on him and tear him to pieces. There are rumored to be several other commands they won't follow, though that may just be rumors.
The Union was horrified by the actions of the Confederates, so much so that many began protesting that they no longer wanted the Confederates back in the Union. Union soldiers that survived the retreat north were not eager to face the vast undead army again. When the South then made good upon it's agreement to free all the slaves, both causes for the war from the North's point of view were resolved. The abolitionists were happy that the slaves were freed, and many of those who cared more about preserving the United States no longer wanted to share a country with those who would desecrate the graves of so many through necromancy, even if the North were somehow able to find a way to defeat the undead hordes. Many Southerners were even shocked by these events, as it was not disclosed to the public until after the ritual was completed.
The war ended by mutual agreement, and those plantation owners whose slaves were freed had them replaced by the Confederate government with undead laborers. while many were unhappy about this at first, they had few other choices and eventually the sight of skeletons and zombies working the fields became less bothersome. The South has it's independence and while it had to free the slaves, it gained a new tireless labor source, while the North achieved an end to slavery. The peace has so far held, though tensions still can run a bit high in some border states. Trade has begun again between the Union of American States (UAS) and the Confederate States of America (CSA). Travel from one nation to the other is permitted and quite common, since many families are split with some living on each side of the border.
So, that's where the alternate history stands. Please understand that I'm not trying to be insensitive or insulting to anyone, that there are good and bad people on both sides of the border, and that the Puritan roots and reliance upon steamtech in the north contributed to their strong negative reaction, just as the proud history of magical learning in the south helped lead to its acceptance of such a strategy. Given that there is a thread on RPG.net right now about "offensive settings" and Deadlands is the most often mentioned setting due to the South remaining separate from the north (which they see as them "winning the Civil War"), I was hoping to hear your reactions to this alternate history. I tried to create logical motivations and outcomes for all sides.