Sunday, July 29, 2012

Emberverse: The Story So Far

OK.  I'll admit it.  I'm a sucker from Post-Apocalyptic stories and adventures.  From my original reading of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend to seeing a young pre-Miami Vice Don Johnson traipsing around a weird post-apocalyptic future in A Boy and His Dog to more conventional fare like the Mad Max series, The Day After, Jericho, etc.  I've enjoyed a number of great post-apocalyptic stories and played or run a few post-apocalyptic games, including Gamma World, and most recently, my current favorite, Darwin's World for d20 Modern.

Still, in a day and age when there is no obvious threat of nuclear war (conservative paranoia about Iran aside), and there are far more pressing concerns on the environmental front, nuclear post-apocalyptic survival stories look about as dated today as Cold War spy thrillers. In a day and age where the Department of Agriculture reports that 88% of the US corn crop is basically being trashed by a drought...where whole Pacific islands in Micronesia are being abandoned because rising sea levels are causing ridiculous amounts of flooding, or in some cases have risen to the point that there simply is no fresh water available on the island, it seems more than likely that if mankind is going to engineer its own destruction, it will be through global warming by burning too many fossil fuels, not some cataclysmic nuclear exchange (although such a scenario as an endgame where the world's powers compete for ever shrinking pools of resources isn't completely out of the realm of possibility). Unfortunately, mass death by global warming isn't quite as sexy as a game with implausible man-sized insects, and mutated humans and other critters in a post-nuclear setting, so this particular scenario generally gets ignored by RPGs, except perhaps as a peripheral issue in some cyberpunk settings.

And then there's something like S M Stirling's Dies the Fire, which along with its companion Nantucket trilogy, takes the modern world and shakes it up like an 8 year old kid who got a hold of his older brother's ant farm.

The base premise of the Nantucket trilogy, and its spinoff Emberverse series (the first novel of which is Dies the Fire), is that on March 17, 1998 (St. Patrick's Day, as it were) the modern day Nantucket Island is transported back nearly 3000 years to the Bronze Age, and effectively swapped with the Bronze Age Nantucket Island, which is transported to 1998.

The Nantucket Trilogy sees a post-industrial island dropped back into the Bronze Age, and is a tale of the small island's survival in a world where it boasts advanced technology, but not much of an industrial base to sustain it...literally an island of the 20th Century regressing, but still 3000 years ahead in technical knowledge compared to the world around it.

Dies the Fire takes a look at our world, after the swap of Nantucket Island, and the resulting change of physical laws that alters the world.  Specifically, a handful of physical laws simply stop working.  Electrical systems no longer work, including electronics, power generation, batteries, and any devices dependent upon electricity.  Gunpowder, and other explosives don't work, effectively knocking weapon technology back to high medieval, pre-gunpowder days.  And finally, high gaseous pressure systems (compressed air, compressed fuel, etc.) cease to function.  Goodbye internal combustion, all but the earliest and least efficient of steam engines, etc.  The novel then follows  two groups of survivors trying to survive a treacherous first year, through the initial dieoffs, the emergence of warlords all in Central Oregon.

It's been my goal since reading the Emberverse series in particular to run it as a setting.  I struggled to find a setting to run it with until I got hooked on Chaosium's venerable Basic Roleplaying (BRP) system, which contained a combination of ease of use (unlike GURPS), and a grittiness that is missing from other generic systems like Savage Worlds or the various flavors of d20.  So over the past few months, I've been tweaking BRP to run Emberverse.

We finished our fourth session today.  I'll be posting a report of the first few sessions in the next few days, along with a writeup of today's session.  Until then, consider this a teaser.  Also, in future posts, I'll provide documents on what I changed or added to the system, and finally, some character designs and other goodies.

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