"Sublime" is not only an adjective denoting something high and noble; it is also a chemical term denoting the immediate transition from a solid to a gaseous state, evoking images of transcendence. The pun, which is humorous to those in the know (for some arcane interpretation of "humor") as well as symbolic of divine reward, may be taken as a general indication of the good mood with which the members of the Society approach their mission. They are mostly alchemist-Soldiers, a corps of humanity tasked generally with advancing the science of alchemy, aiding the War with requested tools, and directly attacking the efforts of Hellsworn Sorcerors. The work is often grim and demanding, and a Society member can be serious when the task calls for it, but the cameraderie is real, the sense of noble mission is palpable, and the organization in general simply has a culture of lightheartedness.
The Society downright infuriates cabals of Sorcerors. Alchemists are so... so... so *last millenium*. Alchemy is weak and clumsy compared to Sorcery. Why do they care about such obvious garbage? Why do they mock Sorcerors so much? Why do they *win* so often? Any cabal that learns much about the Society will be baffled further: if they have such easy access to safe versions of Corporeal Entropy, why aren't they all immortal? If they spend so much time together, who's keeping the group from falling apart over internal tensions? Why do angels figure alchemy is so much less Fated than Sorcery?
In general, there's pretty much the same answer to all of those questions. Alchemy is conducive to traits that predispose one to quiet intellectual investigation, which tends to bring investigators together in something rather like a university setting, complete with scheduled lectures and Far Side cartoons on the doors, which in turn is conducive to the free flow of information, lubricated by large quantities of coffee, bagels, and excited chattering over blackboard sketches, as well as a certain respectful teacher-student relationship, genteel academic competition based on skill and creativity, and a willingness to let somebody else handle the niggling details of paying for the new centrifuge and the computing equipment and the next shipment of cadmium sulfate while one focuses on the really important things, like the question of whether the Quinson matrix problem for Eli's Abracadabra attunement is solvable within the constraints of a crystal-lattice approximation. And when a chapter of the Black Order moves into the neighborhood, one tends to be annoyed at the interruption to proper ethical research and quite willing to drop everything for a few weeks, gather one's fellows in the Materials Science Department, and work up some batches of Universal Glue grenades to help clear out the infestation.
With an attitude like this, it might surprise an investigator very little to find that the patron of the Society is in fact Eli(genially known as the Dean), governing a project he began several hundred years ago to counter the growing sophistication of black sorcery. He continues to play an unpredictable role in the Society's development today, though Jean, concerned about its stability, is making sure to keep an eye on its work and growth.
Campuses of the Society are groups of alchemists who usually share equipment and often have a central lab, though many members may have their own small working spaces at home. They often center around university chemistry departments, chemical companies, and government laboratories. This can give them access to significant raw materials and equipment, but such entities almost always dole out access sparingly and demand results, so campuses often find it convenient to set up their own labs. There is usually a senior Fellow who administrates a particular campus, with the position rotating.
Each campus is responsible for its own work; some financial support is provided by Heaven as long as the campus agrees to provide requested alchemical recipes from time to time and reports of research are forwarded to Jean's angels. Members who want more than the most minimal production costs will have to support the work privately, or write a grant proposal capable of convincing Seraphim or Malakim. Sale of items to Soldiers of God or angels is frowned upon... that is, as opposed to giving items to those who need them. However, Heaven can understand the need to replenish materials stocks at cost and labor. Prices are, therefore, usually quite reasonable.
Day-to-day operations of the Society as a whole are overseen by the Chair, a position reserved for a human of some seniority in the Society judged capable of handling the financial and administrative decisions (and a bit slow to duck out of the room when his name was suggested for the position). The only other permanent post in the Society is that of the campus Secretary (university secretaries know *everything*), who is exactly what the title implies and is thus in an excellent position to know the details of everything and everyone in a particular campus (the usual organizational unit; some really are college campuses) of the Society. This post is held by an angel, who is on the job 24/7. Beyond this loose administrative structure are generally recognized experts in given Songs and skills, the skillful teachers, the warily acknowledged skilled fighters, and the elders of the department, who as has been implied above are usually not in any particular lather to avoid a permanent retirement in Heaven despite the occasional offer. Angels and Saints are given a certain respect but generally must prove their skills like anyone else under peer review.
Members of the Society are found the way most Soldiers are; the Society's activities cause occasional Disturbance, and natural Soldiers wil be curious about the effect. Humans found by angels with a talent for alchemy may be directed to the Society if it appears they will be productive or happy there. Prospective members should have some basic skills, though highly recommended talent can be waived in. A particular member chooses to advise an incomer, who is given the rank of Student. Most members of the Society graduate from Student to Fellow when their teachers judge them ready.
The most coveted title the Society ever gives out is Doctor, which requires an addition to prior art, very difficult to find these days since all of the easy Songs and Attunements have all been made into recipes, but much lauded when achieved. A new recipe is not necessarily required for the title (though it's a near-guarantee of one), since there is always investigative work to do into the fundamentals, but these decades it is rare to find more than one or two percent of the Society with the title at a time.
The Society is a primarily human organization. Though each Superior typically has some small number of alchemical researchers, possibly teachers, and occasionally production lines for useful items, alchemy is not much practiced in the celestial realms proportional to their populations. In Heaven, it is tainted by Sorcery, while in Hell is seen as clumsy (and tainted by Sorcery's associaion with weak humans). The exception is Tartarus, where alchemy is bound up with Vapula's history and thus revered by many Technologists, who may know curious and dark recipes.
Since the Society has no interest in exchanging information with demons of Technology, few celestials besides the campus Secretaries and a few business arrangements interact with the Society. At least, this is the case to the Society's knowledge; as a practical matter, they are aware that their counterintelligence procedures are at best the quality of a small Tether's, and undercover celestials from both sides probably are members in good standing.
Ethereals pose a curious point of relation. Alchemy interests several of these, and exchange of information is a possibility. The Society officially permits contact with Ethereals solely in the Marches, which largely limits their human contacts to lucid dreamers and Dream Soldiers, and conversations are usually monitored by an angel of Dreams or Lightning.
Saints are welcomed if they can prove their in a Fellow examination, while Undead are out of the question. Sorcerors often practice alchemy as a subset of their art, and some join the Society, though Sorcerors known to have obtained their powers infernally are considered enemies of the Society. No one knows how many Children of the Grigori are in the Society, but suspicions run to the high precentages.
The Society knows of no other large organizations solely devoted to alchemy, but some groups do have useful amounts of information. The Ignes (see Superiors 3 for more information) are a society of White Sorcerors that perform much alchemy, and the Society has had friendly contacts with them in the past. The Ignes are loosely organized and hesitant about becomign involved in the War, so firm bonds do not really exist. The Black Order is a deadly enemy of the Society, and when either group finds out about a local unit of the other, an attack is often prepared. The Society is perfectly happy to request angelic assistance in such an attack, and Heaven is usually happy to provide. The Black Order is known to perform some alchemy, but members of the Society are abjured to ignore any materials they find in the process of dealing with a chapter. Sadly, this rule is more often broken than not, but fortunately, the damage is usually limited. Few other human societies perform much alchemy; the occasional loner is investigated for any potential and possibly offered a membership.
What can the Society of Sublime Chemistry bring to the War? Some of these answers depend on the size of the Society. GMs should adjust the size of the Society to desired flavor in a campaign; it is intended to be a world-spanning organization with several campuses capable, given a few weeks' preparation time, of responding with force to a chapter of Sorcerors with a fair expectation of success.
The Society can be a patron for PCs, providing them with their base of operations: a day-to-day purpose in the background of their adventures (investigate the possible existence of the Society, guard the Society, be members of the Society, oversee local operations of the Society), a source of equipment and information, and of course allies and friends.
If the Society is purely an NPC group, their most likely role if not a core component of a particular adventure will be as suppliers of alchemical items. A local campus will probably have a limited selection of items stored, most likely whatever has recently been requested by Archangels' organizations or whatever has been undergoing research. Though shared interests are to be expected, alchemists in a campus will each doubtless have at least one or two specialties. A larger campus will thus have a greater variety of items available.
If an alchemist spends one day in six or seven in his lab actually making items after study and resarch and sometimes fails the necessary rolls, a campus addressed at a random, otherwise peaceful time will have about 1 item available per two alchemists on the campus(of whatever type they have recently been interested in). If items can be preserved, quantities available will probably be several times larger. Each campus can also communicate with other campuses, which can ship items, so with patience and funds, just about anything the Society knows about can be obtained eventually.
If items need to be made to order, the buyer will need to wait for the item to be made: a day to a week for various recipes, or possibly longer depending on the GURPS rules used. Should there be many alchemists in the group, they might be able to create several items at once if they have enough lab equipment, or pool equipment and Essence to make powerful or long-lasting items.
If the Society is working with a lab containing about $20,000 of reasonably modern equipment, concentrating it all on the work of a single alchemist could be good for a +2 to his Alchemy skill, or it could support the work of three alchemists simultaneously. In such a case something like three to six devices can be made in a week's time, or even (again, allowing Essence pooling on a hasty creation) three in a single day. Successful planning and division of resources in this fashion may reasonably call for a roll against a pertinent skill or characteristic of the Chair. even if alchemical items cannot be preserved, with a few weeks' preparation time, and sufficient money (another $20,000 is not unreasonable), the campus might be able to pull off 1d6+4 Attunement items or 6d6 Song/skill items ready for action, enough to arm a small squad quite well for many types of missions.