The world of Aether Torrent would be perfectly ordinary if not for all the magic and monsters.
Find here everything that newcomers need to know.Elementalism -- The Elements -- Elementism -- Zoology -- Technolology
Before the Conflict -- the four centuries of colonization by the ketzalral -- humanity was pre-industrial. Raiza, masters of using every part of any form of sea life, had barely begun using metal. Lurutts were content in their Stone Age. Only monsters and ketzalral harnessed aether.
During the Conflict, ketzalral elementalism was not unanswerable, but it proved unendurable. The ketzalrals' advance was a tide of the sky, surging one decade and ebbing the next only to surge again with deadlier force. Humans coped in the usual ways: fighting, fleeing, deal-making, and/or dying. Raiza, who could flee underwater where ketzalral could not follow, suffered to a much lesser extent.
Eventually, with the motivation of the desperate, small human nations on the fringes of ketzalral influence developed firearms and industrialism. At about the same time, raiza stole the secrets of Water magic from ketzalral. Between them, the feathered hegemony disintegrated in a single generation. The ketzalral were soon evicted and quarantined on their ancestral home continent, though they cast a long shadow over surviving cultures.
After the Conflict, humans improved their quality of life with steam and steel. Many opportunistic raiza joined them, but many more stayed at sea to exploit the cultural bombshell that was elementalism. Lurutts, for whom human continents were lands of vast opportunity, followed trends at their own measured pace.
When the tide of the Conflict turned, the ketzalral destroyed their vessels to keep them from heathen bipeds. Post-Conflict, raiza hoarded carapite -- the Water vessel -- for private use. So, for all its obvious power and utility, elementalism eluded human industry.
And then humans harnessed electricity.
Petroleum, rare and difficult to obtain, was too useful in chemistry to burn as fuel. Coal, though cheap, was filthy and hazardous to mine. But wind, water, and sunlight (mirror-focused to heat water) were free, safe, and abundant. Despite initial costs, global industry favored renewable energy, as any reasonable person would.
In East Ragloa, wealthiest of nations, abundant electricity powered heavily-guarded refineries that produced the Air vessel aluminum. Air magic could operate battery-charging windmills anywhere at any time, which fueled the airships of mighty East Ragloan Air Force.
Today, electricity lights much of the world. Many cities lacking reliable wind, sun, or rivers owe their lighting to one enterprising raiza. Decades ago, she was the first raiza to sell carapite, her people's treasure, on the open market. She also sold her own invention: the "manual hydroelectric turbine," a generator operable by any Water elementalist anywhere at any time. Between the two, she grew very wealthy very fast.
Airships, invented post-Conflict, fly via hydrogen gas and battery-powered propellers. Helium is so rare, only East Ragloa can afford it, and even then it is used in only the largest and most important ships of state. Airships are not unique to East Ragloa, but the very best are made there.
Gliders exist (flown by Air magic), but airplanes do not, simply because batteries don't provide sufficient power. Besides, the infrastructure of global air travel is built around airships, and the cost of updating it all would be astronomical.
Guns range from revolvers to anti-ship cannons, but they are heavily regulated worldwide. Chemistry produces new medicinal wonders every year, such as hormonal birth control. All automobiles are electric. Modern ships are steam-powered, though sailing vessels still exist. Trains also run on steam, but the wealthiest urban areas run them on electrified tracks.
Television does not (yet) exist. Books, radio, and black-and-white movies suffice for most popular entertainment. Longwave radio, capable of reaching the horizon, has been in place for many years; shortwave radio, capable of reaching over the horizon, is the newest and most exciting form of technology in the world.
Bleeding-edge science has only begun to turn electricity toward mechanical computation. The term "vacuum tube tech" is colloquial for the most advanced devices.