Alternate Campaign Backgrounds
The ‘default’ campaign background for Tempora Mutantur is set a century after the Fall, with the Ancient vault of Tau housing several hundred pure-strain humans. Its systems far beyond their initial design lives, constant maintenance is required to ensure Tau’s survival. Surface Expedition Teams (aka ‘Scavengers’) must scour the wastes and ruins for spare parts, but time will eventually run out for the subterranean inhabitants of Tau.
But that is only one potential campaign…
As I view it, the key elements of a ‘canon’ Tempora Mutantur game include:
- ‘The Fall’ has made the surface world nigh-uninhabitable. The Creep viciously mutates creatures exposed to it, and those who survive are fundamentally changed from their pre-Fall forbears.
- PCs are representatives of a small enclave of high-tech, untainted ‘humans’. (Or at least creatures who appear as humans.)
- The enclave requires spare parts (mechanical and electronic) to survive, and thus sends the PCs to the surface to scavenge required goods. [INITIAL GOAL – OBTAIN SPARE PARTS.]
- The enclave is also seeks to recolonize the surface, as their continued existence cannot be maintained indefinitely underground. [OVERALL GOAL – RETURN TO SURFACE.]
Although in the default campaign the cause of the Fall is deliberately left open, it is likely to have involved heavy nuclear bombardment and biological warfare. The pervasiveness of the Creep and its mutagenic effects suggest some sort of genetically engineered ‘Proteus’ plague that got out of control. This will probably be true of any other campaign model.
The default campaign is set one hundred years after the Fall. A century or two is about the longest plausible period of time since the Fall, otherwise no relics will remain to be scavenged. This also gives enough time for new post-apocalyptic communities to develop. A campaign could be set much earlier; however, It is suggested that the referee choose a time at least one generation after the Fall.
Given the key elements listed above, there are three alternate campaign models which appeal to me:
- Generation 0: As above, except that the PCs are among the first generation born after the Fall. The abundance of Ancient relics is more easily explained. Any pure-strains encountered outside the vault are likely geriatric survivors from before the Fall.
- Sleepers: It’s a century or two after the Fall, but instead of the descendants of survivors, PCs are cryogenically-preserved Ancients. A bit of freezer burn from the extended hibernation has damaged the characters’ brains to the point where specific memories from before the Fall are foggy at best (hence no pre-existing knowledge of surrounding lands).
- Bait-‘n-Switch: As with ‘Sleepers’, but the PCs discover that they are clones with rudimentary memories uploaded prior to awakening. Or, alternately, they are androids or synthetic ‘replicants’ – not true humans at all. For added angst, have them be the only remnants of humanity in existence.
Depending on how upbeat the campaign is intended to be, the PCs could represent the last surviving vestige of humanity in a bizarre alien landscape (see ‘Grim New World‘, below); or one of many branches of humanity now in existence (the Gamma World model). The referee will need to decide just how grim the situation is.
I’ve already got another set of RPG rules (called Mutants & Magic) that covers a post-apocalyptic fantasy setting, with multiple races, feudal kingdoms, city-states, etc., so I tend to lean towards the ‘grim’ end of the spectrum when it comes to the minimalist game.