"I'm fine with being a devil... I'll just use my hellish tools to get you to listen!"
In the universe of Dream Chasers, the term "ARM" holds two meanings. For the purposes of coded combat, it is a catch-all term used to describe weapons based on advanced technology -- everything from simple revolvers to wave motion guns. It is important to stress ranged weapons and ARMs are not one and the same -- it is the level of technology that matters. Revolvers, stun batons and photon sabers are ARMs. Bows and arrows, telescoping rods and swords are not. In this sense, ARMs is distinct from both Sorcery (which channels natural forces to achieve unnatural effects) and Technique (which can do impressive things with low-technology weaponry).
The second meaning of ARM is an acronym for "Ancient Relic Machine," a term used to describe devices built by ancient civilizations. The misuse of ARMs is believed to have triggered at least one apocalypse in Filgaia's past, and weapon ARMs are heavily associated with the scourge of the Metal Demons. ARMs have a poor reputation across the planet; in frontier settlements, they are often seen as necessary evils, but in civilized areas, their use is often relegated to the military. Some settlements are particularly critical, and may persecute those wielding ARMs with a near-religious fervor. Openly carrying an ARM can be dangerous in many regions.
Most ARM users on Filgaia are Drifters or other wanderers, many of whom raid ancient ruins for parts and upgrades. For OC ARM users, an explanation of how their characters obtained their ARMs is required in the application. It should also be noted that public displays of ARMs and their abilities can attract the attention of those who seek to obtain their power...
A brief summary of ARMs prevalent on Filgaia -- and their origins -- is included below.
Most Filgaians distrust any firearm, but this prejudice has relaxed in the Badlands. While they retain an instinctive fear of advanced technology, the inhabitants of Seed territories, and adherents of the Ethos in particular, view gunpowder-based firearms as a necessary protection against the (occasionally literal) demons wandering the wastes. These firearms -- widely known as “gunsmoke” weapons due to the cloud they produce after firing -- are common among outlaws, sheriffs, military personnel, and Drifters. Your average Drifter can expect to see many of these weapons, though they are still rare from the common man's point of view.
Attitudes in the more civilized regions vary towards these types of firearms. In parts of Adlehyde and Meria Boule, they are seen as uncouth and dangerous, but tolerated so long as they are not openly carried. Conversely, civilians owning even these basic ARMs in Kislev and Aveh will draw suspicion, as their governments regard all ARMs as property of the state. Only Guild Galad shows no inherent distrust of these devices, but the merchant republic still seeks to regulate their use.
As a result of increasing demand for gunsmoke weapons, Ethos outposts and professional gunsmiths can be found in these regions, offering maintenance and repair services... for a price. ARM Meisters, who build and repair these (and other, more advanced) weapons can be found in nearly every settlement as independent operators. But even in the borderlands, primitive repeating rifles, single-action revolvers and archaic (crank) machine guns represent the apex of technological development.
Any type of simple gunpowder weapon invented on Earth prior to 1900 AD can be assumed to be available (albeit expensive) in Filgaia's frontier regions. Any ARM more advanced than that must come from another source.
The main occupation of Drifters is the exploration and scavenging of the many ruins of ancient civilizations that dot the blasted landscape of Filgaia. Whether from the battlefields of Metal Demon War, the ancient cities of Zeboim, or a handful of locations even older than that, the illicit trade of technological relics is a worldwide occupation.
Occasionally, however, even more interesting artifacts can be found -- devices from those who came before, somehow still functional after hundreds or thousands of years buried under the dust and sand. If these weapons can be restored to full working condition (and if the Drifter who found them does not kill himself trying to figure out how they work), they are a valuable asset.
Excavated ARMs, or things that look like them, attract a great deal of attention from organizations interested in claiming advanced technology for their own. No government, not even Guild Galad, will tolerate private citizens owning or openly carrying obviously excavated ARMs.
A short overview of ARMs from the major eras is below; in general, the more ancient the find, the more powerful it tends to be.
- Day of Collapse (~500 years ago): Weapons dating from the Day of Collapse closely resemble those prevalent on Filgaia today, but have something beyond the ordinary about them. They may fire faster, or more accurately, or reload more smoothly, or be composed of lighter, more durable material. Because they resemble modern Filgaian weapons, ARMs from this time period are comparatively easy to hide in plain sight. This form of disguise will not fool people familiar with gunsmoke weapons for very long -- Collapse-era ARMs are better, but not quite right.
- Metal Demon Wars (~1000 years ago): To anyone even passingly familiar with gunsmoke weapons, ARMs from the Metal Demon Wars are clearly not of modern make. Their materials and design are unusual, and many have odd properties about them. A revolver may switch to a rifle at the press of a button, for example, or have rotating barrels that fire unique, customizable ammunition. Some include beam weaponry, advanced ballistics, and even stranger devices, but these are rare indeed. ARMs from this time are notably more powerful than modern weaponry, as they were constructed to combat the scourge of the Metal Demons... or were wielded by them.
- Zeboim (~5000 years ago): Even those seeing Zeboim-era technology for the first time recognize it for what it is: the work of a truly ancient civilization, impossible to replicate. These ARMs have properties that are all but supernatural in nature -- some fire spears of light, or fly through the air, or harness flame and lightning as though they were the user's personal playthings. Only a handful of scholars can begin to speculate on how these weapons function, and even they recognize their theories for what they are: pure speculation. Zeboim-era technology is extremely powerful, and highly sought-after; the Ethos, Solaris, and the Veruni (in their Control Zones) are both rumoured to pay hefty finder's fees for news of Zeboim ruins... and for the descriptions of any Drifters seen walking out of them.
- ????? (???? years ago): Rumours abound across the wastes of wanderers seen wielding ARMs of untold power, forged by races that were old while even the Zeboim were young. These are generally the stuff of legend; the Ark of Destiny talks of ancient metal birds soaring through the heavens, and stories of the Guardian Blade Argetlahm are told to every child on Filgaia. They are just stories... but some say every story has a grain of truth at its centre, and who knows what lies buried beneath the shifting sands.
Modern Yet Alien ARMs
A handful of groups on Filgaia retain advanced technology. They are always secretive and hide their weaponry well. The groups discussed below have access to truly powerful weaponry, comparable to eras long gone, and may outclass what Drifters have in their possession. They also are a source of weapons and technology that enterprising -- or, perhaps, foolhardy -- Drifters could seek to steal. There are also special cases: ARMs beyond Filgaia, some of which found their way to this world, and the small handful that went to Lunar.
Solaris and Shevat
Until recently, the floating cities in the skies over Filgaia have primarily deployed their advanced technologies against each other, not bothering to expend effort or energy upon the surface-dwelling Lambs below. While clandestine agents from both cities have been active on Filgaia's surface for decades, they mostly concealed their technology from prying eyes.
Recently, however, Solaris has stopped bothering with subtlety. Their military is now active on the surface, both talking loudly and carrying big sticks (or energy cannons, missiles, and the occasional Ether-powered weapon). To most surface dwellers, Solaris technology is all but indistinguishable from excavated ARMs, and is treated with the same level of fear and hate. Shevat has not responded in kind -- their forces are still working in the shadows, trying to figure out what their old enemy has planned.
Solaris and Shevat FCs and OCs have access to futuristic technology, on par with Day of Collapse and Metal Demon War-era ARMs, but not Zeboim. They are also encouraged by their leadership to seek out and claim ancient, excavated ARMs for study (and to keep them from the other city's hands, of course).
The Veruni have constructed incredibly powerful ARMs in the region of Elru that they control. These ARMs rarely leave the Veruni controlled area, except when wielded by Veruni, who go afield in numbers so rarely that many in Filgaia believe them to be a myth. Nonetheless, the rumors claim that they wield ARMs that exceed Solaris and Shevat, and a few foolish Drifters on Elru have tried to steal their technology. This has often ended in disappearance or death.
Veruni ARMs are on par with the Metal Demon Wars-era technology, with some rarer specimens equivalent to the Zeboim-era ARMs. The Veruni are very protective of their weapons; it is unlikely that someone would have a stolen Veruni ARM. Most Veruni OCs should not begin with the equivalent to Zeboim-era weapons, but nonetheless have access to very powerful ARMs (in addition to formidable sorceries and techniques).
On Filgaia, virtually everyone has at least heard of ARMs. On Lunar, this is not the case; ARMs are extremely rare there. Many people are simply unaware of the existence of such fantastic technology. Even Lunar's adventurers typically mistake it for a peculiar form of magic, if they have any explanation at all.
The little advanced technology that does exist can be found in Neo-Vane and Pentagulia. Both cities have technology roughly on par with the Metal Demon Wars-era ARMs, but with very limited purposes; it allows them to make Neo-Vane and parts of Pentagulia to fly, projects barriers, and fire beams of magical energy from the Dragonship Destiny. This technology is actually a fusion of magic and advanced metallurgy, which is ultimately an imitation of ancient technology from Althena's era, and requires mages with Althena's blessing to recharge. Lunar's residents tend to view these not as ARMs, but sorcerous proof of the Goddess Althena's great power.
This isn't to say that traditional ARMs do not exist on Lunar. Ancient ruins can be found, containing materials brought by the original refugees that Althena took to Lunar. A very small number of these ruins have not been plundered, and contain powerful artifacts. Given their age, they are equivalent to Zeboim-era artifacts in power and style. Sometimes, superstitious humans feel the Seraphim created these ARMs.
Additionally, the Armata used by the Shepherds are considered ARMs: powerful pieces of technology, though often fashioned like traditional lower technology weapons, that allow a human to channel a Seraphim's power. However, these items are only myth and legend to the average denizen of Lunar.
ARMs in Spira are known as "Machina." The range of development in Spiran Machina vary, though are all are things that were recovered from ruins. Even the Al Bhed do not create new Machina. Typically, most Machina are akin to gunsmoke or Metal Demon Wars-era ARMs. A few exceptions do exist, which may be as advanced as Zeboim-era ARMs.
Machina are heavily frowned upon and regulated by Yevon. The Church of Yevon restricts Machina use to its Warrior Monks.
Technology in the Pangalactic Federation (and among its enemies) is at a level scarcely dreamed of by even Solaris or Shevat. Very little of that technology has made its way to Filgaia, however, for two main reasons.
First, the Filgaian system is restricted space, due to the large number of ships that have simply vanished without a trace after entering. The Federation treats Filgaia and its environs the same way it treats The Time Gate: it actively discourages (with armed force) anyone planning to visit.
Second, as a system without spaceflight, Filgaia is subject to the Underdeveloped Planet Preservation Pact, or UP3. Federation citizens (a definition including anyone in the Milky Way Galaxy) present on an underdeveloped world are forbidden from displaying technology that would unduly influence the destiny of the planet, unless in defence of their life. The penalties for UP3 violations are extremely severe -- and in egregious cases, it is one of the few crimes for which the Federation will still consider employing a death sentence. As a result, even those who are hostile to the Federation or its ideas about justice tend to step lightly around the UP3.
From a practical point of view, most native Filgaians would see little distinction between Federation and Zeboim-era technology, and so they are treated with the same levels of fear, disdain, and envy. True experts on the Zeboim civilization, however, will know that something is not quite right.
One of the largest sources of the prejudice surrounding ARMs-users is the problem of synchronization. ARMs from the Metal Demon War and Zeboim eras possess this security measure-slash-amplification method, whereby the ARM responds to its user by becoming more powerful. The most common outcome of this is that an excavated ARM simply doesn't respond to most individuals; others work in a more mundane capacity but will not employ more devastating alternative fire modes.
It is a common belief among townsfolk that synchronization was originally a technology in the ARMs of the Metal Demons, leading to a folk belief that people who can synchronize heavily with an ARM are somehow tainted by Demonic power or blood. Experts aren't so sure, but a dubious expert is never that effective a deterrent to the formation of an unruly mob. Unfortunately, the synchronization criteria of ARMs are so many and varied, from working only for members of a certain bloodline to working only for people with green eyes, that defining confidently what synchronization was even for in the first place is essentially impossible.
As they are essentially advanced normal firearms, ARMs from the Day of Collapse era do not employ synchronization checking.