This essay details the history of various cultural groups in the Wyrd West, and how and why they developed the way that they did.
With the fluctuating, and often regional, changes in physics after the Cataclysm, a lot of modern technology that we take for granted in today’s world were rendered useless; or, worse, dangerously unreliable. Telegraphs, for example, work in some areas and not others. Societies have replaced mass transportation with steam trains once again, because they are the most effective, reliable technology for the purpose over the fluctuating regional challenges.
These changes also created significant shifts in climate. In general, the North American continent warmed up. This was disastrous in the Southern United States, who were beleaguered with droughts, hurricanes, and shifting ecosystems. Canada, overall, came out ahead, with more arable land as much of the Arctic melted. It didn’t escape unscathed; for instance, much of the BC Interior reverted to grasslands and tangled wilderness.
Canadian and American society were, for the most part, woefully unprepared for the conditions of immediate survival following the technological, and subsequent societal, collapse. Traditional ways of life had to be re-discovered. In general, the groups with the greatest survivability were the ones who were already somewhat prepared, or whose structures allowed them to get prepared quickly.
Canada’s indigenous peoples, as a whole, suffered less than many other groups. The reasons are threefold. The first is that there are significant groups of indigenous peoples who still maintain the skills needed for a traditional way of life. The second is that since much of the greatest damage of the Cataclysm was in large cities, traditional sovereign indigenous territory, especially in isolated areas such as the Treaty 8 territory, was comparatively less affected, and often benefited from the changes to the climate, becoming more hospitable. The third was that indigenous spirituality was more suited to the new conditions of the changed world, and this gave them a leg up in dealing with the spirits running freely in the land.
Survivalist sects also did comparatively well. Often this category includes fundamentalist and “heretical” Christian groups that emphasize practical and traditional skills, such as the Mormons, the Seventh Day Adventists, the Mennonites, the Quakers, and so forth. Unsurprised by the apparent fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, they simply went on as they always had, trading cars for horses. Their beliefs were strongly challenged by the changed spiritual conditions of their world, but for the most part, they adapted. Some came to view them all the spirits as demons, while others simply accepted that God had created many creatures, but humanity still had dominion over the Earth.
Another group that did well were the Neo-Pagans, for the same reason; for many Pagans, there was a powerful emphasis on rediscovering traditional skills, so they were better prepared than the average person when the Cataclysm came. Their spirituality was affirmed rather than challenged by the changed spiritual conditions of the world.
A third group that did well in the initial days of the Cataclysm were aggressive Neo-Nazi terrorist groups. They, too, were equipped with traditional skills, and they were also equipped with large arsenals. In the early days, since horses had degenerated in 21st century society into hobby creatures mostly maintained by the wealthy and a handful of farms, wars were fought for possession of them.
Indigenous peoples, rightfully distrusting Caucasians, refused to deal with them except in the greatest necessity. So the Christians and the Pagans banded together for mutual protection against the Neo-Nazi groups. They were aided by Asian families with traditional magic and traditional fighting skills; and by Sikh warriors who had maintained their traditional fighting skills. Eventually the Sikhs became known entirely by the name of that warrior caste, the Khalsa.
At about this time, humanity began encountering the first elves, dwarves, gnomes, and so forth. Their reaction was mixed. Neo-Pagan groups embraced them, while Christian groups were confronted with either expanding their definition of “humanity” or declaring them creatures of the devil. Neo-Nazis also, surprisingly, had a mixed reaction; many who followed Old Norse beliefs in the manner of Neo-Pagans regarded them as an affirmation of Ragnarok, and had no quarrel with them; while others expanded the targets of their race war. This caused a deep schism in their ranks, significantly reducing their threat to the other surviving groups.
For their own part, the other peoples, who were interlopers from other dimensions, had mixed reactions to humanity. Some found themselves at odds, others found reasons to work together for mutual survival. Some disdained humanity, others loved them, and still others viewed them as an existential threat, leading to anti-human racism.
No one knows where the Gunslingers began for sure, but legend has it that a group of Neo-Pagan witches and Heathens from the BC Interior, who happened to include a large number of historical recreationists and retired military personnel in their numbers, formed the Order to protect the disparate peoples of their valley. They quested for the legendary weapons of the Gunslingers and Desperados of history, in some cases stealing them from abandoned museums, in other cases letting spiritual guidance direct them to the sites where they lay buried and forgotten. Forced to migrate inland due to radioactive fallout and climate change, they eventually found themselves in the heart of Canada’s bread basket, Saskatchewan, and settled down to form a new life. Bandits and murderers also arose, but under the protection of the Gunslingers, they held off most of the depredations and began to rebuild society.
Sometime during this time, elves discovered that their faerie steeds were not thriving in this new dimension, so some of the faerie steeds of the elven tribes made an agreement with the Gunslingers to breed to the common horses of this world and thus, preserve some of their intelligence. The resulting equines became the first Gunslinger horses.