Saturday, July 3, 2010

I didn't know this was a post-apocalyptic game...

One of my players recently commented that she didn't realize that the game I've been running was post-apocalyptic in nature. And to be fair, it's not readily apparent from the setup - the "apocalypse" and the disappearance of the mysterious and cruel Bieth happened a long, long time ago, and various societies have had a chance to bounce back from the rubble.

The post-apocalypse setting makes sense for several underlying D&D assumptions - where the heck are all these gold pieces and snazzy magic items coming from? who would be stupid enough to make something called an owlbear? why are all these dungeons lying around for exploration? - and so forth.

What does terming my game "post-apocalypse" mean in a practical context here? Well, its main function, now that I think about it, is as two reminders to me.
  • Old-school gaming should evoke a sense of danger, of living on the edge, where one mistake can result in catastrophe when you're Out There. (More on this in a later post.) The post-apocalypse note reminds me that things are always dangerous, whether the PCs are investigating a Bieth dungeon or merely travelling from point A to point B. The towns are communities where the surrounding chaos has been pushed back, but it's always encroaching.
  • It's a reminder to put in the weird stuff. For most gamers, "post-apocalypse" triggers a series of images, from Mad Max and Fallout to Gamma World. This is a reminder to me to put in stuff from the Gamma World side of the equation. Twisted, warped creatures which don't make any sense because they've been living for centuries in an area blasted by the magical equivalent of a nuke. (It's a lot easier to go with wacky mutations from magic than from a nuclear exchange, I think.) Legacy of the Bieth has too often felt like a standard fantasy setting, and the weird needs to kick in more often.

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