Extract from The Wheel and Other Stories: “…war came, no longer from the elemental nor from the star’s rain of fire. The world was again remade, and the glow was as the coming of the sun upon the Earth. The children of the gods were again too few, scattered and divided. Among them walked the ancients and those whose thoughts were not as to the towers and the marvels, but to the End and the destruction of the Earth and to the fires from which nothing could escape. And it would be that from those fires and the glowing of the sun that the misshapen and burnt would emerge.
“…the men and women joined the gods in their war with each other and were as allies with their gods who had sought their aid, for the gods knew and saw that their children were powerful in their towers and their cities, and that the Dark Ones and the Remade and the Machines were powerful as well and that they may also join with the gods in their war. And the war of the gods would be upon the earth for many years” (2).
Named for the Great Lakes area, The Great Wastes is a vast, irradiated, and poisoned dead zone. It reaches up from the former state of Virginia to encompass the capital of former Canada, Ottawa, and west to the ruins of Chicago.
Exploration of the area has revealed numerous bizarre creatures. Furthermore, tribes of mutated humans, known as Remnants, have been known to emerge from the Waste’s borders, having survived several generations in the harsh region (4.1.1).
Remnants are the most physically diverse intelligent Terran species in 2280. Although they were once human, Remnants have been altered and mutated by centuries of exposure to nuclear fallout and direct contact with horrific weaponry as the world erupted in war. Their appearance can also be quite diverse; some Remnants are completely indistinguishable from humans while others appear to be frightening monsters of vaguely human descent.
"Outsiders" is a common term for Remnants, and though they are indeed outsiders, this term is still considered derogatory by the Remnants themselves. They are the descendants of those lucky enough to have survived the terrors of the wars and meteor showers. Safe in their small, out-of-the-way cities and towns, ignored during war, and missed by meteors and other natural disasters, these people found themselves in a world tearing itself apart. Although their communities were not destroyed, they were subject to nuclear fallout, the ravages of drifting biological, chemical, and mutagenic weapon debris without access to advanced medical facilities. Of course, most of the countless millions outside the cities died. Those that survived begat the Remnants.
The survivors were forced to deal with poisoned water, food, and even toxic air. Sickness was rampant even among the strong. Many of the Remnants began to develop in extraordinary ways, validating the axiom of that which does not kill us, makes us stronger. Some gained superhuman strength and physical abilities while others developed bizarre mutations such as the ability to breathe underwater. Still others developed powers previously only described as magical. Interestingly, the only Terran Innate Wielders are Remnants, whose powers were seemingly unlocked by their severe mutations.
Today, Remnants are primarily divided into two groups: those that hold onto their heritage as outsiders, members of small, tightly knit communities for whom their abilities are a blessing and a reminder of their past, and those who have left the Wilds and Freezone Communities to find a better life in the cities.
Rural bands make the best living they can for themselves, living in bombed-out cities or makeshift shantytowns. They have a strong sense of community and family, and work together to live off the land as much as possible.
For those that migrated to the cities, the terms "Remnant" and "Outsider" sometimes arouse anger, especially when used in a derogatory manner, as they invoke the memory of cruel humans who did not provide any aid to the rural settlements of their forefathers during their time of need.
Most Remnants have had a comparably difficult time integrating into most cities and settlements as the residents are afraid of the disease and dangers of the outside world with which they ignorantly associate the Remnants. On occasion, their skills and value to a community outweigh their physical deformities; however, bigotry and fear have led to many violent beatings and unjust deaths. In most large urban areas, civilisation has evolved enough to look past stereotypes and prejudices based on appearance. Unfortunately, in some of the larger city-states, shadowy purist organisations want nothing more than the systematic eradication of all non-humans (6.2.3).