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March 29, 2012 / Wythe

Loss and setting in post-apocalyptic and postfuture milieux

Great quotation from Sickly Purple Death Ray, my emphasis:

Hidden somewhere on the referee’s map are the treasures, the gold, the magic ring, the laser cannon… Perhaps an ancient magic race created a city or a temple which subsequent ages have buried. The original inhabitants have all died or migrated off, although their magic spells remain in full force. Bands of wandering orcs move into the upper chambers. Giant rats infest the corridors, feeding on the bodies of unlucky adventurers. An evil wizard finds new magic powers in the ancient city, and he sets up his own guards and traps… Dragons and giants loot the surrounding countryside, and over the ages they accumulate fabulous wealth.

—Dr. J. Eric Holmes, Fantasy Role Playing Games (41)

I ordered Holmes’s FRPG after reading this. I was struck by the truth (echoed in the writings on the arche-fossil of Quentin Meillassoux) that at the heart of most RPG stories (Conan and LOTR jump to mind) is a mourning for a period that the protagonists never even experienced, a nostalgia for a Golden Age so physically and temporally remote so as to be mythic.

The religion of RPGs is loss, and the loss is unrecoverable. This unrecoverability fuels investigation and curiosity about objects (artifacts, arche-traces) and spurs innovation: The new people don’t know what the old people did, and they will worship a toaster or use it to mind-control dinosaurs, as possible.

The Metal Earth has a well-thought post on keeping the game mysterious. In addition to these tactics, I commend the strategy of unrecoverability as engine of weirdness+novelty. Loss engenders moving on (even after millennia of trying to hold on, to recover) and reinvention.

Carcosan ingenuity.

What do, for example, with this? —>

Source: Willi Heidelbach >>

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