Tuesday, April 27, 2010

So Where'd All This Tech Come From?

Whenever I design an adventure or new device for Mutant Future, I keep returning to one thought in the back of my head: Where did all this high-tech come from? I try not to dwell on it too much, as the remote past of The Ancients has fallen into the stuff of mythology and legend. At what point in mankind's history the apocalypse occurred is left deliberately undefined in the rulebook to keep such questions from bogging down the game. What WAS is not as important as what IS.

But still, most settings for RPGs in the post-cataclysmic world take place just slightly in our future. There may have been hovercars, but there are still road and highway ruins to be found. Why? Futuristic lasers and pulse rifles are discovered alongside modern firearms. Why were both apparently in use during the Final Wars? Discovered medical technology can instantaneously heal the sick and wounded, but the Ancients apparently had the buildings, towns, clothing, and general everyday trappings of our modern society. So how to explain 24th century devices in a 21st century world?

Giving this some thought, I came up with some background ideas on how the Mutant Lord can reconcile these two seemingly conflicting facets:

* The time of the Final Wars is our near future - say 200-300 years in the future. The basic features of everyday society in 2200-2300 AD would still be very similar to our everyday society of 2000, although the tech level will have advanced considerably. Picture this: A time traveller from 1810 who visits us "today" would still recognize the cities and streets. He'd be able to speak our language. He'd probably be able to function normally with the exception of the items we use everyday. Computers, television, heart transplants, the Space Shuttle. These would be the things of science fiction to him, but to us they're commonplace. So 2300 (or thereabouts) would be similar. Everyday living would be the same, but the tech level would be that of The Ancients.

* Who's to say that the hubris of the Ancients destroyed the world? As creatures like the Brain Lashers (MF rulebook, pg. 63) show us, we may be one day invaded by aliens capable of plane shifting. Or perhaps it could be a good old fashioned otherworldly invasion. These highly advanced beings arrived to enslave mankind. They're the ones who initially brought these high tech devices and weapons, for use in their conquest. As mankind fought back, they secured and developed these items on their own. The apocalypse could have been mankind's last strike against these invaders, or perhaps the invaders just figured they may as well destroy the uppity humans. Either way, the weapons and devices remain; the world is cast in ruins; and the history of this invasion is lost to the ages.


  1. This question is the first thing I answered when I was setting up my campaign and the entire rest of the sandbox fell into place like magic.

  2. One could well assume that the general trend of income separation continues apace with the general trend of decentralization, resulting in a world where the axis of 1st through 4th worlds is not drawn geographically, but economically.

    All four(?) types overlap geographically, meaning that after the fall all of the tech is mixed, like debris at the foot of a glacier waiting to confuse an unwary archaeologist. Add in the overall higher level of durability of the highest tech devices, and I think you are set.

    (As a footnote, my Apocalypse involved the deployment of causality disrupting weapons that dragged time & space around like a child's fingerpainting project, obviating the need to justify mixed tech, societies, cults and so forth. I like Hell's Angels alongside my Death Machines.)

  3. Very cool--I like the idea of background setting options. It's just enough to use in a pinch if someone were to ask and not too much that it would weigh you down during planning. I think a lot of settings suffer from the so-much-stuff-to-read syndrome whether they need to use all of it or not. Of course I say this as I write post after post on my new X-plorers setting, so I'm also a huge hypocrite!

    Anyway, as always Snidey, these are great ideas you have for tech from the Ancients!

  4. One thing I added into the world of the future before the War was full immersion historical parks. Think of LARPs taken to the Nth degree. The players live full-time in a park dedicated to a single era. Bots, androids and such play all of the supporting players. Nothing that doesn't belong is the particular historical era is allowed. The one I have used most as a Celtic park set in New England. So once the War broke out, there were already people ready to live in a low tech world. As the androids failed, the Celts just added real human slaves to their economy. The warrior elite just kept on ruling.

    Similar historical parks of any era or even fantasy or sci-fi setting are possible. I have also used people genetically engineered to be Klingons and Vulcans. This explains disparate tech levels with a hand wave.