Sunday, June 12, 2016

ADDITIONAL NOTES: Psychopocalypse

What follows is the campaign intro/setting pitch for a post-apocalyptic tabletop RPG that I never got around to running. I wanted to play around with the post-apocalypse setting and trappings without just being a ripoff of Mad Max, which had just recently come out at the time I wrote this. The result reminds me more of Deadlands than Mad Max, and I'm pretty okay with that.

Some said the world would end in fire. But the fires that killed the world were not the flames of torches or the rains of nuclear destruction. Even the people of the Enlightened Age could not foresee their own demise. In a way,they were as far from enlightenment as they could have been. None of them could have predicted the end, for the fires that killed the world were born of the same sparks that created it: the human mind.

There once were people who knew, who understood what humanity was capable of. But man fears what it does not understand, and so we came to suppress our true nature. We abandoned the old ways to seek comfort and stability in a world of cold logic and scientific fact. Even so, the human ego is irrepressible. We never quite shook the feeling that there was something special about us. Something that set us apart from the beasts of the fields. We didn't know, at the time, that what we called sentience, intelligence, was so much more. We cast out and put to the sword the only people who could have prevented all this thousands of years before it happened.

Time marched on, and after ages of strife, countless wars and struggles, a pressure grew. Like a weight on a garden hose. All the emotions of life and war and death grew and grew, suppressed without outlet. Eventually, it became too much. In one violent burst, all the trauma of the human race was unleashed upon the world. On that day, the psychosphere erupted from our collective minds and shattered the world.

The maelstrom of psychic energy ravaged the planet for over a week, blasting the ground with crackling lightning and shaking the earth with thunderclaps. Tornadoes of impossible speeds cut through mountains like drills and reshaped anything it their paths. When at last the skies cleared, we emerged from the rubble and gazed upon the wreckage. We could all feel the psychosphere--a shifting field of energy surrounding the planet. Some could see it, shimmering and swirling in the skies. Others simply felt a new uneasiness, a taste of aluminum and ash in the back of their mouth.

With the pressure relieved, mankind has rediscovered its potential. Some welcome the advent of psychic powers, marveling at the accomplishments made possible by a single esper, while others shun and persecute those who they label as corrupted or infected by the psychosphere. People cluster together in compounds and camps, eking out their existence under the thumb of whoever's the biggest dog. Civilization has been relegated to a scattering of bright spots on a canvas of darkness. Out in the wilderness, a man can be his own man and answer to nothing but his thirst and his gun, and a well-trained esper  or two can make even a gang of bandits think twice before accosting them. But there are more dangerous things than bandits in the weird wastes, things that watch from the shadows and have no names...

I never settled on a system for this game, and group interest eventually waned. Today, if pressed, I'd probably run it in Monte Cook's Cypher System. Foci allow for diversity of expression when it comes to powers and abilities, and I like the idea of psychic powers in this setting being kind of like martial arts. Anyone can punch a dude, but only a trained martial artist can accomplish certain advanced tasks, and every interpretation of any given technique would yield vastly different results.

I did re-purpose this setting in a project that I started last November for NaNoWriMo, but that never really got off the ground. I may do a writeup of the characters and notes I still have for this game in the future.

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