Soul of a Nation
The power of a nation is not only in its armies, its economy, its diplomats, and its territory. It is also in the mystic power the nation controls. The British did not colonize North America just for land and resources, but for the vast magical powers contained in the ancient forests and timeless mountains of that land to prop up their failing occult cold war with France. Ever since the death of John Dee, the immortal Saint Comte-Germaine had insured that France was the growing power in the occult world, a position it would maintain until the Society of Thule declared war on it in the 20th century, but we get ahead of ourselves.
Magic power is all around us in places, items, and people. It can be harness by those who know how and have the talent for it, but such knowledge is jealously guarded and the talent rare. While such magicians are few on the ground, raw magic power is instead common. Any great relic of history or natural wonder collects mystic energy over time, and while only a true magician can access the full power of such energy anyone can use the more basic aspects, assuming they know how. Such items can exhibit supernatural powers tied to the history of the item, the nature of the wonder, etc such as a gun that killed a President being especially effective at doing so again after absorbing centuries of macabre interest from historians, common people, etc.
These accidental magical artifacts, produced by nature or accidents of history, are not nearly as powerful as purposefully created artifacts. But such things are difficult, expensive, and time consuming. They are often the work of nations over generations, and so such nations expect some return on their investment. Thus has evolved the network of monuments, statues, and cities that create complex occult defense networks for nations. From Stonehenge and the Pyramids to modern day structures like the Washington Memorial and Mount Rushmore, these mighty constructions of power deflect hostile spells, redirect scrying, and make life generally difficult for any magical attacks on the nation and its people. From the deflection of the Tunguska Blast to the inability of the chupacabra to make long term territory gains in the southwest, the United States has been defended from occult attack for centuries by a combination of monuments, natural wonders, and the efforts of a scant few agents of government.
The emphasis on such structures and defenses have ebbed and flowed over time, always out of sight of the populace for fear of causing panic. The latter half of the 19th and early 20th century saw a vast increase in attention to occult defense in the United States in response to the previously unparalleled arcane power of the Native American tribes who resisted the settlement of the American West. It was carried out in haphazard fashion by the War Department, most of which did not believe in the value of such efforts except for the small handful of agents in the Occult Services division. This lasted until the creation of the National Park Service by President Theodore Roosevelt. While the creation of the National Parks was depicted as an attempt to protect the natural beauty and important historic relics of America, in fact it was meant as a body of caretakers to ensure the defense of the various occult defense sights of the nation. The hearted of their operation became the Smithsonian Institute, the largest collection of items of occult power in the world outside the Vatican, all protected by a city that had arcane energies laid into its very streets: Washington, D.C.
Attention to the occult defense network, the Park Service, and the Occult Services division lapsed in the Roaring Twenties as occult threats seemed a thing of the last century. And with their lapse came the largest occult assault on the United States in recorded history, an economic focused ritual of destruction powered by the deaths of Russian peasants and directed by communist ritualists at the command of Lenin. The United States would not recover until FDR realized the problems of the United States were not strictly economic and political, but also magical. The New Deal restored not just economic vitality to the United States, but arcane power as new monuments were built and new highways laid out in runic patterns just in time to the rising power of the largest occult threat in history: Nazi Germany.
While soldiers fought and died the world over, in the shadows of the Second World War occult agents of all the major powers fought a battle of spells, rituals, scrying, and deceit. The Spear of Destiny lead the Blitzkreig into France, and the invasion of Normandy was only approved once it had been stolen by a team of French and British wizards. This conflict would be height of wizardry for most of the world for decades to come and is considered by many to be the height of modern magic. Unfortunately though in the closing days of the war, as Hitler’s occult resources diminished, so did the attention of the United States military to occult threats. Thus in the closing days of the war the United States went after the remains of the German experimental weapons programs, the Soviets collected the remains of Germany’s occult storehouses.
Thus began the Cold War, with the United States always ahead in technology but always behind in occult power. Eisenhower, hardened by his encounters with German necromancers in World War Ii during the Battle of the Bulge, tried to turn the tables in the 1950s with the Eisenhower highway system, which was meant as one giant runic defense system for the United States, but that only set the Soviets back few years. From the 1950s until the fall of the Soviety Union during the Red Sky incident in 1991, in which the collective consciousness of the Soviet Union was linked due to a flawed experiment in a science city and led to the August Revolution, the Soviet Union slowly wore away at American arcane power, weakening defenses that took centuries to build. Placing its face in technology and economic might rather than mumbo jumbo, the United States chose to continually shift focus away from those branches that had some power to fight occult threats. By the time the Soviet threat ended the Park Service had only a handful of occult trained agents, the Occult Services division was shut down, and the Secret Service had a single occult trained agent that worked with the Park Service to handle Capital security. While the fall of the Soviet Union reduced the threat of outside occult attack for a decade, some of those former Soviet arcane operators have sold their skills to other factions including terrorists, dictators, and anyone looking to get an advantage. This is on top of all the various hedge wizards and arcane collectors in the world, any one of which could be sitting on a mystic atomic bomb like the Ark of the Covenant or the head of Rasputin.
And against all this stands a few park rangers, a handful of aging World War II wizards, and one secret service agent. Of course there are those rumors about the NSA occult information task force…
Magic in the world of Soul of a Nation is an energy of possibility that collects naturally in certain locations, item of historic or personal importance, and in specific people. This energy can be channeled to accomplish supernatural tasks, but they must be somehow related to the item the energy is coming from. For example, the presidential monuments of Washington D.C. allow the ghosts of those presidents to exist around the capital, the St. Louis arch can be used as a portal to anywhere west of it within the territory of the United States, and the suit JFK wore when he was killed can increase the charisma of the wearer (particularly when making speeches) but tends to curse its wearer with bad luck in regard to physical injuries. Items and locations usually have a certain number of specific things their energy can be used for, and anyone who knows the proper rituals or actions can do so. Some rituals are simple, like firing the gun used to kill President Garfield at a sitting President to increase your chance of killing him, while others, like activating the top level defensive wards built into Mount Rushmore or the Statue of Liberty, are very complex. Magic items can have both passive and active effects; the Statue of Liberty has permanent defensive spells and ones that must be activated, all built by the finest French Freemanson occultists as a gift to the fledgling arcane defenses of the United States.
The power in an item or place can be increased through special inscriptions, runes, rituals, etc. Thus the carving of Mount Rushmore was meant to redirect the already powerful arcane energies of the mountain into specific things more desired by the United States Government. Many of the great monuments across the world serve similar functions. Magical items can be similarly modified, but this is usually a far more difficult procedure since the margin for error is so much smaller. Going an inch too far carving a rune in a mountain is one thing, but doing so on a revolver is something completely different. While it is possible to make a magical item completely from scratch, doing so is the perview of wizards and no one has done so in decades…or at least no one has admitted to doing so.
Wizards are a rare lot, and go by different names in different cultures. Basically anyone who has the power to channel mystic energy to do use as they wish, instead of being forced to use it as an object or place requires, is a wizard. Wizards can also collect mystic power from places or items and store it in themselves, though only in small amounts, so most wizards carry a number of empowered items with them and when possible make their homes in historic locations they can draw power from. Technically anyone can learn to be a wizard, but it’s like the ability to draw: some people are naturally much better at it than others. Also the process of becoming a wizard is long, arduous, and lacking in teachers. Since World War II there has been no program of mystic training outside of the Soviet Union and books with actual arcane merit are very hard to cull from the vast chaff of fluff arcane bullshit. Currently the only trained wizards in the employ of the United States government are the handful of surviving members of the Occult Services division, and they’re all too old for active duty these days (though they do occasionally advise the Park Service on an informal basis). Sure the park service occasionally hears about a bunch of wizards running around Chicago, but they don’t have the manpower to investigate.