Saturday, July 26, 2014

Digging up the Future's Past

NOTE: I started this post more than a week ago and forgot about it so please forgive any thematic shift that may occur partway through. 

I'm writing this post as I wait for the Destiny beta to install on my PS4. At the rate it's going I could probably get 10,000 words down before I get to repeatedly experience the joy of having my ass handed to me by some 14 year old kid in a midwestern basement.

The install screen shows a robust gallery of concept art for the game, and I'm digging it. The world is somewhere between Gamma World and Numenera. There are still enough near-future bits to be recognizable, but there are also vast, alien constructs and arcologies in the mix. It's pretty cool.

I've run D&D in post-apocalyptic settings before. It's actually my preferred world building style, likely due to my love of Vance's Dying Earth (especially the first book) and Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun. Usually the nods to the world's past are well hidden —easter eggs at best— but I think it would be pretty awesome to be more opaque about this stuff.

Numenera's world is so far flung that it becomes completely fantasy. Any nods to scifi are tenuous. The Sufficiently Advanced Technology isn't so much indistinguishable from magic as it is plain old magic. And that's fine, because I don't necessarily want to be describing a toaster to players as if it's some ancient artifact of the Old Ones. I think a world maybe a century on from what you see in the Fallout series is a good model as far as technology levels go.

EDIT: I just went out for a burrito and install screen is only at 20%. God damn it man.

After my previous post I started looking at other stuff on my shelf for things to screw up 5e with. I really like the Icons of 13th Age, though not necessarily their implementation as written. So I wondered what they might look like in a more thematic setting. I'm only doing 9 of them, since that maps to alignment and anyway 9 is more than enough for any single campaign to use. Taken as a whole I think they have the makings of a weird science fantasy campaign.

The Parliament of Paraquantum Logic (LG): At some point, humanity builds and launches a colony ship bound for Sirius.  However, a timespace anomaly causes the ship to return to Earth before it is even built in the first place, causing all sorts of warp havoc and creating the setting. The humans that now inhabit the ship have evolved well beyond their ancestors-turned-contemporaries. These are basically the Elves of the setting and the Parliament are their Jedi Council.
Opposed to: The Forces of Evil, generally speaking.

The Subatomic Congress (NG): A Mycanoid hive mind obsessed with magic of the highest order. Their spores turn people into secret sleeper agents/wizards.
Opposed to: S.C.O.T.T.

Solomon Dark (CG): More rumor than fact, and information is sketchy at best. Described as a freedom fighting Golem, a dangerous wizard, or a common terrorist. It depends on who you ask.
Opposed to: His evil creator, Doctor Collapsar. Doesn't seem to think too highly of the Warlock Syndicate either.

The Imperatrix (LN): Empress of the West, Bride of the Black Blade, clone.
Opposed to: S.C.O.T.T.

The Center for Disease Control (N): A group of vampires dedicated to studying and eradicating disease (which includes finding a cure for their own affliction). Possible group for Cleric PCs to get missions from. 
Opposed to: mostly just the Mindless Undead.

The Nova Academy (CN): This is more or less an adventurer's guild. The Pathfinder Society meets Miskatonic University.  A place to trade loot and information for Murderhobo PCs who don't want to commit to remembering who's who in the game world.
Opposed to: anyone who gets between them and their unquenchable lust for gold and experience.

Doctor Collapsar (LE): Slave lord of the Insectroids and Paraduke of the Spider Syndicate.
Opposed to: His rebellious creation Solomon Dark, The Imperatrix

S.C.O.T.T. (NE): A young psychic boy infected with a nanotech virus which allows total possession by an orbital AI. He is considered a messiah to a fringe android religious movement called the Iron Jihad. Akira with a congregation of IG-88s.
Opposed to: The Subatomic Congress

The Warlock Syndicate (CE): Semi-organized gangs of Witches, Demons, and Night Creeps who take orders from voices emanating from the black hole in the sky left by the Parliament's return.
Opposed to: The Parliament of Paraquantum Logic, all life on Earth.


That game took almost 7 hours to install, so I went to a show and forgot about this post. Now that I've had a few days to play it, Destiny is okay but FPS games just don't interest me like they used to. Not even really well designed ones, which it seems to be.

I've also had the above factions in mind for the past week and they haven't mutated terribly beyond their original concepts, so I think I like them enough to get started on building the rest of the setting. When I say "Setting", I'm talking about random tables and hex descriptions, not Silmarillion levels of backstory. I really like the idea of a classic adventuring party wandering through the melted ruins of the West Coast, fighting alien dragons and automated security golems.


  1. Your elevator pitch line for S.C.O.T.T. is unadulterated, pure science-fantasy genius on acid. I love it!

    Though I've been away from roleplaying for awhile, I've been getting back into it recently. I'm prepping a Savage Worlds hexcrawl (heavily influenced by themes and ideas on the OSR blogosphere) and your blog has been and continues to be a source of major inspiration. Keep on keepin' on, dude.

    1. Thank you so much Alejandro! That's great to hear. Savage Worlds is a game I have a lot of love for, yet never seem to be able to sell my players on. This reminds me I need to give it another shot.

  2. Curious if you have fleshed this out any further. I've been thinking about how I'm going to tinker with 5e as well and I've always enjoyed your style.

    1. Thanks Barry.
      I really never did much more with this. I started a 5e game recently, but several of the players are playing D&D for the first time. Therefore I figured it was best to start them with something a bit more "classic D&D".

    2. Makes sense, I'll be running for some beginning players as well. I'm planning on spending my weekend mulling over where to take the upcoming campaign and haven't been able to decide between something really weird or more anchored to traditional d&d. Everyone who will be playing will be coming in from adventure time as there gateway drug so I don't think I need to worry much.