A Grim New World

I’ve been thinking about the tone of my recent Tempora Mutantur session, and have taken the opportunity to re-read some old forum posts which I have mentioned in some of my other post-apocalyptic gameblogs. Since they fit what I am trying to convey in this minimalist game, I am repeating them here.

I ran across some posts by a guy named ‘geoffrey’ on an Original D&D forum discussing his vision of the 1st edition Gamma World game. The posts really piqued my imagination, and once I read them I knew that I had to include them somehow.

So here are some rough notes on the world of Tempora Mutantur, using much of the text from geoffrey’s original posts. Take a look at the posts ‘My Vision of Gamma World‘ and ‘My Thoughts on GW’s Cryptic Alliances‘ if you have the time.

(Yes; these were by Geoffrey McKinney of Carcosa fame/infamy. I was inspired by his posts a couple years ago, and in the meantime he has released an OD&D supplement fleshing out his gaming concepts. You can check it out at Geoffrey McKinney’s CARCOSA.)

(Note that ‘GW’ and ‘Gamma World’ references have been switched to ‘Tempora Mutantur’ in the notes below, and GW-specific terms have been switched to the Tempora Mutantur equivalents.)

Mankind’s Extinction

…Mankind is eventually going to go extinct, but in [Tempora Mutantur] the extinction has already started and is nearly complete. Instead of living on a planet with billions of humans on it, the humans of [Tempora Mutantur] number probably only in the hundreds of thousands. You run the numbers, consider that high-tech artifacts are becoming scarcer by the day, and look at how the various mutants with human-level intelligence are all more powerful than the [pure-strains]

…and you’re looking at human extinction. The Big Show is over. The Apocalypse has already struck, and it wasn’t a mere WWIII. The very continents buckled. The very oceans boiled. All the nukes on earth couldn’t do that. Mysterious forces and energies changed the very fabric of life on earth. Probably vertebrates as a whole (not just humans) didn’t do too well. Now comes the age of the insect, the worm, the plant, the fungus, and all the hideousness of the microscopic world. The entire … world is dominated by gloppy, tentacled, multi-legged, insectile, oozy, writhing, hideous abortions of life. At the most humans will be around for another 1,000 years (if they’re lucky), and in that time their numbers will continually dwindle until the number reaches 0. And they are already well over 99% of the way there. [Tempora Mutantur] simply allows you to adventure in the last choking gasp of humanity before the ultimate end.

The Future of Civilization

…Also, I do not think it would be possible for humans to rebuild their civilization in [Tempora Mutantur]. They’ve been shunted back into the Stone Age. They’d have to start all over again by learning to farm… er, maybe not, since the flora bites back. And they’d have to learn to domesticate animals… um, ah, the animals are now trying to domesticate humans. It’s a non-starter. With no farming, none of the rest of technical civilization follows.

Small groups for short amounts of time could carve out little enclaves of high-technology. But who do they call when their computer crashes? Now their robot-control network doesn’t work (resulting in wild and/or uncontrolled and/or defunct robots), and all they have are a few hand-held weapons with, oh, 47 charges total. What happens after firing that 47th charge? Meanwhile, the mutants can fire those eyebeams from now until the cows come home. Plus those mutants are making little mutants. Nobody’s making new high-tech items. Inhuman mutated insects and mutated microbes inherit the earth.

The New Gods

…In a [Tempora Mutantur] campaign I like to have a lot of ‘god-mutants’ (as well as ‘god-computers’ and ‘robot gods’). These ‘gods’ are definitely not gods in the sense of A/D&D gods. They are simply powerful monsters that delusional beings worship. Of course, the primary form of worship would be sacrificing humans to them by giving them to their monster gods to eat…

…Why would humans worship such monsters? Survival. [Pure-strain humans] (unless armed to the teeth with the rare tech) are generally too weak to survive without protection from the mutated flora and fauna of [Tempora Mutantur]. In exchange for a steady stream of sacrifices, a mutant god would allow the pitiful humans to live in its vicinity. Humans would also tend to worship powerful computers and robots. The only humans not so benighted would be the vanishingly rare enclaves … of humans whose ancestors maintained pre-holocaust civilization and passed it down to them. They would still recognize high-tech as simply tools and not as gods. In fact, if other humans were to run into such pocket remnants of pre-holocaust civilization, they would probably treat those humans themselves as gods.

In Summary…

It’s a bleak and dark … world in my imagination. Most humans (whether [pure-strain] or humanoid) are worshippers/slaves of ‘gods’: extra-powerful mutant[s] (or robots or computers). They are deathly suspicious of all not in their cult, and they have no dreams or aspirations of a better world. The best they can hope for is continued survival by faithful worship of their all-too-real gods.

This reminds me of a quote from a letter H. P. Lovecraft wrote in July 1927:

“Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large…”

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