Thursday, March 26, 2015

Back Issues #24 - Revisionist History - Setting the Stage

A shorty this week folks ... Way back in Issue 5 - ok not that far back, but still - I discussed the idea of looking at your character's major life events through a revisionist lens. The same procedure can be, and often is, done for settings for all manner of fiction from literature to RPGs and comics ...

Issue #24: Revisionist History - Setting the Stage

Alternate history is certainly nothing new. Harry Turtledove has made a career of it, and a good one at that. Other authors have dabbled or jumped in as well. Depending on how you choose to approach the material many of the RPGs that we play can count in this genre. Anybody who has played in a DC or Marvel Comics inspired RPG probably has touched on this. Both Marvel and DC have done good business in the comics trade with these stories as well. From DC's Elseworlds line (and stuff that wasn't branded as such but still applies), to Marvel's nearly infamous Age of Apocalypse, the general idea of "What if this happened instead of this?" has been used heavily in fiction.

The central tenant to these stories is usually the change of a single event, or the presence (or absence) of a certain something that wasn't there prior (or is missing now). The Guns of the South posits the result of the Confederates being given AK-47s from the future during the Civil War, and the outcome of that change. Age of Apocalypse posits the Marvel Universe without Professor X. Red Son explores as Soviet raised Superman. There's no hard and fast rules here. Changes can be huge and still have small effects, while smaller ones can wreak gross changes. People that never were, or who survived when they should have died (or vice versa). Wars won by the other combatant, or which were not fought at all. Technology discovered before its time, or later than it ought have been.

The basic questions you need to ask as you work up an alternate history world are much the same as any other. What were things like before. What changed? What is new? What is the status quo and how does that impact society?

Setting Seed #1: Camelot Ascendant
The story of Camelot represented the best of humanity laid low by humanity's inherant weakness and flaws, but what if Lancelot had been able to keep it in his pants? What if Guinevere had been a little more chaste? If Camelot had been strong internally when Morgan le Fey and Mordred attacked it from without would it have stood strong? Over a thousand years later the kingdom of Camelot rules over all of Europe in a golden age.

Setting Seed #2: The United Colonies of America
King George the Third decided to give the American Colonies what they wanted, representation with seats in the parliament. The American Revolution never occurred and the British Empire Expanded west all the way to the Pacific, controlling better than a third of the Western hemisphere. Two hundred and more years later the United Kingdom of the British Isles and America controls or has strong ties with much of the world (retaining India and Australia both as official members of the commonwealth).

Setting Seed #3: Aeon Triumphant
This one is based on White Wolf's old Aeon Trinity RPG line ... Max Mercer man's up and takes care of the Michael Donighal/Dr. Primoris/Divis Mal problem back in the 30's before things can go from bad to worse. The clash between two of the most powerful post-humans in the world saturates the Earth in Telluric energy ensuring that the inspired age will continue for decades or longer. In the late 20th Century there is no N-day and instead Aeon focuses on slowly pulling the world's people together into a united front. The Doyen see this as a problem because while still weak, human stalwarts/proto-novas are both numerous and influential. In the mid twenty-second century Earth is attacked without provocation by the Chromatics under the influence of the Doyen. Humankind has yet to achieve interstellar travel and must now defend their home system from a threat comprised of a primitive race with advanced technology.

Three possible seeds to grow into a new custom setting. Do any of them appeal? Does this kind of exercise make for interesting settings in your mind?