Another Timeline for GURPS 4e. Will be expanded, eventually.
The name for this timeline came from the first survey team, who were exceedingly startled to see a witch-burning at the conclusion of an American Supreme Court case. It took some little time to determine that the woman burned was in fact a witch; and slightly longer to work out that by the time of her execution she was actually not a woman at all. In Mather, the phrase 'inner demon' is not a metaphor - and 'Hellfire' is not an empty curse. Infinity has its hands full trying to both research the unique conditions here and trying to keep the smugglers out.
Hells on Earth
As far as anyone can determine, the world nearly ended in 1857 AD. A nameless magician of some sort, caught up in the madness of the Indian Sepoy Rebellion, concocted some sort of dark ritual to fight the British. It worked extremely well, but could not be controlled. Within three years every continent was infested. Humanity survived mostly because no monster in Mather is immune to a bullet, and because starting in 1859 AD clerics from a score of faiths suddenly developed certain powers. This included the ability to recognize monsters (including possessed humans) and truly black magicians on sight, as well as a limited form of healing (including purification of 'tainted' people or items). No particular religion was singled out; animism to Zoroasterism, monotheistic or polytheistic, the new abilities of their clergy were the same. Secular magic is also known, but its association with death and destruction is both common and legitimate. Some countries ban mages outright; others merely tolerate them. None love them.
Thirty years later, the Great Powers have divided the world between them. Great Britain retains its Indian and South African possessions, as well as pieces of Canada and Australia. The latter is steadily being pacified, but the former is subject to conflicts with the United States of America, which has acquired all of the old Oregon territory, parts of Mexico and holds increasing sway over the rest of Latin America. On the European continent, the Holy Roman Empire is carefully taking a commanding position. The Republic of Spain (a constitutional monarchy, with a Comrade Queen) has ignored Europe in favor of a worldwide island colonial system; the Ottomans are likewise uninterested in Europe outside of Greece, and any parts of Africa not bordering the Mediterranean. Farther east, the Russians struggle to cleanse their own Empire, with the added wrinkle of a resurgent Chinese Empire that is ruled by Tibetans and increasingly dominated by Japanese. And in South America, the Brazilian Empire experiments with magic, and tries to ignore the worried gaze of other nations.
Most of the rest of the planet (including Antarctica, a continent barely recalled by Matherians) is technically called "Withered": this ranges from collapsed nation-states to territory actively controlled by monsters. Much of the Great Powers' activities involve reclaiming such areas; but it is becoming increasingly clear that evil still lurks even within their own city walls...
Infinity's research is headed up by Sheldrake Section of Paralabs. The research presence is larger than average, as it's reasonably easy to maintain proper security in a world where electricity is a toy, any sort of magic is deeply suspect and the local holy men are too busy checking for actual demons to look for non-Evil extra-planar visitors. Infinity's major research project is in determining Mather's mana level prior to 1857. There is some indication that the timeline was no mana, which gives some impetus to finding out why the event occurred and whether it can happen on Homeline. The other major field of interest - and the one that occupies the time of the rest of Mather's Infinity presence - is in reality shards. Mather has more reality shards of varying levels of power than any other alternate yet found. Many of them are also not already well-known on Homeline, making them effectively anonymous. The Cabal is the default suspect for most looting expeditions, although the Duncorne Foundation has been suspected as involved in one or two operations. This keeps Infinity busy, possibly to its long term benefit.
Infinity has successfully resisted attempts to declare Mather open for tourism. While it may seem odd that there would even be interest in tourism, the combination of supernatural abilities and a reasonable level of technology appeals to a certain sort. The rumors that Mather is really a myth parallel of various 20th century roleplaying games does not aid matters any. Infinity is convinced that there is at least one tour group that is offering clients the opportunity to explore abandoned buildings in actively dangerous territory, with the goal of encountering monsters, killing them, and searching for suitable souvenirs. What makes this of pressing concern is that the souvenirs can include reality shards.
The world picks up the pieces after a three decade long war against the forces of Hell itself.
1857: the Sepoy Revolt sparks a demonological summoning that works entirely too well, resulting in monsters nearly overrunning the earth.
Major Civilizations: Western (diffuse), Chinese (Empire), Orthodox (Empire)
British Empire (representative democracy, CR4), United States of America (representative democracy, CR3), Chinese Empire (feudal dictatorship, CR 4), Republic of Spain (representative democracy, CR4), Holy Roman Empire (dictatorship, CR4), Brazilian Empire (dictatorship, CR5), Ottoman Empire (feudal dictatorship, CR5). Note that all Great Powers have at least slight feudal overtones.
Mana Level: normal, with variants; also, varying levels of Sanctity
Infinity Class: Z4
Centrum Zone: inaccessible