Early playtesting for my game, The Fifth World, has gone pretty well. The main thing missing right now, I think, lies with cool character options. This means a lot for any game, of course, but it goes double for this game. Most of the time, when you hear, “feral tribes living after the collapse of civilization,” you think of a desperate, miserable place. But my entire goal with this project involves presenting a hopeful vision for the future, where life has gotten better. I want a game that makes people excited about the possibilities the future really holds, not just in terms of the expansion of technology, but in the expansion of community. I took a lot of inspiration from Michael Green’s Afterculture, and he includes on that page:
The truth is that for the first time we are bereft of a positive vision of where we are going. This is particularly evident among kids. Their future is either [i]Road Warrior[/i] post-apocalypse, or [i]Blade Runner[/i] mid-apocalypse. All the futuristic computer games are elaborations of these scenarios, heavy metal worlds where civilization has crumbling into something weird and violent (but more exciting than now).
The Afterculture is an attempt to transmute this folklore of the future into something deep and rich and convincingly real. If we are to pull a compelling future out of environmental theory and recycling paradigms, we are going to have to clothe the sacred in the romantic. The Afterculture is part of an ongoing work to shape a new mythology by sources as diverse as Thoreau and Conan and Dances with Wolves and Iron John. The Afterculture is not “against” the problems of our times, and its not about “band-aid solutions” to the grim jam we find ourselves in. It’s about opening up a whole new category of solutions, about finding another way of being: evolved, simpler, deeper, even more elegant. Even more cool. Even very cool.
So, the challenge of “being cool” stands as a pretty tall order for this project, and I think Michael Green set a pretty high standard that I’ll have to live up to. But I could use some help. Does anybody have some ideas for cool character concepts that could live in the Fifth World?
I’ll kick things off with some of the things I have in already that I think look pretty cool:
[ul]The Arcanists. Before civilization ended, we did create nanobots: powered by solar energy and run by artificial intelligence. Unfortunately, the AI didn’t always reproduce without errors, and they began to grow without limit. One of the original programmers has survived for 400 years, known in obscure legends only as “the Grand Arcanist,” he founded the Ordo Arcanum. Only they know about the nanobots. Only they know how they once proliferated to the point of nearly wiping out all life on earth, before the Grand Arcanist learned how to keep up with their mutations. The Arcanists keep an eternal vigil on the ever-mutating nanobots now. The little machines give them seemingly magical powers which they summon by spoken commands, but the constant mutation has made those commands an English-derived gibberish. They roam the world as the unsung heroes keeping back one of the last legacies of civilization.
The Cult of the Fleshmongers. Somewhere between transhumanists, plastic surgery, and self-mutilation, you’ll find one of the Fifth World’s worst groups of bad guys. They generally lament the passing of the old world, and hope to restore humanity to its proper place—as living gods separated from the filth of other life, fit to judge who should live and who should die. To do so, they seek to restore the perfection of the human form to its godlike state, which they pattern, as often as not, on mannequins. The Fleshmongers perform hideous rituals to mold their victims into their twisted vision of divine “beauty.”
[*] The Undertaker. In the first land I developed, the Land of the Three Rivers, the Undertaker follows a buzzard familiar. He doesn’t stay with a particular family, but instead roams the land. The buzzard leads him when death is close, where the people will need him. Wherever he goes, death soon follows. He performs last rites, comforts the bereaved, buries the dead, and from time to time, settles restless ghosts[/ul]