Shifting Sands

Player Guide


The French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War caused the overthrow of the French monarch, Napoleon III; after being released by Germany in 1871, the royal family settled in England, where some of its members still live. The unrest was furthered by substantial Socialist agitation that began in Paris and then spread to other major cities. In some cities, French nobles were killed by mobs in what became known as La Petite Terreur(the Little Terror), but the central government was able to stop it before it spun out of control (deaths are numbered in the dozens). This agitation emphasized economic issues, and the eventual result was the emergence of a Socialist government in France that soon passed laws legalizing labor unions, setting a minimum wage, capping maximum work hours, and setting workplace safety standards. The government has begun to contemplate establishing some form of national medical system to ensure that the poor can get basic medical care. Voting rights have been extended to all adult males regardless of property ownership or employment. As a result, France has established an unprecedented degree of social (but not gender) equality, though Socialists maintain that much work remains to be done. Large numbers of French royalists (particularly nobles) have fled France and some are rumored to be plotting to restore the monarchy.

Politically, France now is a network of semi-autonomous districts officially termed 'Communes'. These Communes function similar to state governments in the modern American system, controlling local legislation. Above this is the unicameral French Parliament, which controls national-level legislation and is led by the Prime Minister (there is a French President who serves as a ceremonial head of state, but has little true political power). The system still encounters some conflicts between the individual Communes and the Parliament; some Communes have periodically defied the Parliament, but thus far, political crises have generally been resolved by skillful political negotiation. The most aggressively Socialist portions of France have been the cities, while more rural areas have been reluctant to embrace Socialism and some areas are hotbeds of royalist agitation.

On the international level, France is perceived as something of a wild card. The government is Socialist, and periodically denounces Germany and Belgium, although it has been less noisy about Great Britain, with which it has a tentative anti-German alliance. Whether the government could hold the country together in the event of a major war is anybody’s guess, but in 1878 the French army was able to suppress a major revolt in Algeria, which it maintains is an integral part of France. Other portions of France’s African empire appear less secure; large numbers of royalists have emigrated to French colonies in Africa, strengthening local French control but raising the question of how loyal these areas are to the central government.

Politically, there is much debate about how far to take Socialism. The moderate wing, led by Alphonse Lambert, has been responsible for the regulation of the work place and working conditions, and has begun putting forward proposals for national health care and retirement benefits. The more radical wing, led by Gaston Prideux, has called for much more radical changes, including the nationalization of factories and banks and the creation of a national labor force under government control. Thus far, the Lambertistes have tended to control the government (thanks in part to his ability to win over the bourgeoisie with promises of political restraint), while their opponents, derisively nicknamed les Furibards (the Hopping Mad Ones), have had more success at the level of individual Communes. Some of les Furibards have been forced to flee the country because of charges of murder and treason. Legally France is classless, but economically there is still considerable variation in levels of wealth and comfort.

French Attending the Aether Salons

There are a number of groups of French people who might be invited by the Countess to attend her salons.

  1. Government officials, such as prominent politicians, diplomats, and the like. One of the purposes of the salon is to permit politicians to make discrete contact with politicians of other countries.
  2. Notable intellectuals, such as political thinkers. The Countess prides herself on her willingness to encourage discussion of political positions she herself does not hold, so long as those discussions remain civil and do not blatantly incite violence.
  3. Because France has begun allocating some financial resources to education and science, France is producing some noteworthy scientists and inventors, many of whom have gravitated toward Tesla’s Scientia Gratia Scientia movement. The Countess is eager to have such people attend her salon. 
  4. The new French industrialists are mostly men finding new ways to draw capital into manufacturing. Some of these men have pioneered socialist factories that run by pooling investments by workers and the splitting the profits; these industrialists don’t actually own the money and resources they work with, but are entrusted to make prudent financial decisions on behalf of the workers they represent.
  5. France continues to produce great authors, poets, musicians, and painters who represent a wide spectrum of political and artistic views; there has been a vogue in Realism, as artists seek to depict the realities of working class life, although the Impressionists also seek to do this in a different way.
  6. French Royalists still control a great deal of wealth and social clout. The Countess denies any affiliation with plans to stage a royalist coup, and insists that she invites them simply because she finds many of them interesting conversationalists.
  7. Some disaffected Frenchmen and women have become notable explorers and adventurers.

The only people the Countess will not invite are men and women known to have committed violence against the French aristocracy during la Petite Terreur, those who are currently advocating violence or political rebellion, and those who are known to engage in or advocate for similarly scandalous or criminal behavior. The Countess enjoys being a little daring in her choices to invite people, but not that daring. 


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