Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2012 = End of the World Gaming

by Kevin Dooley
2012 = End of the World Gaming
by Tobie Abad
January 2012

With all the rumors and misinformation and fears about this being the very last year of the world, why not capitalize on this potential energy and use it to enhance your games?  Let's face it, when playing games like World of Darkness or In Nomine where the setting is very close to the real world (compared to say Dungeons and Dragons or Shadowrun where the world ultimately has to be this fantastic place of magic and danger), it is not uncommon for recent news items or historical events to be utilized into a game session.    Whether it be using something as far back as the Crusades or the Black Plague as a major event in the game's historical timeline, or something more recent such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks or the Millennium bug scare, having fictional representations of such events in one's game can allow a group to explore the many facets of the event beyond just seeing it as a tragic or frightening event in the past.  With the use of such events in one's games comes the need to consider the sensitivity required for events that may just be too traumatic or fresh for others. In my games, for instance, I always check with any new players if there are "unacceptable scenes" that I should be aware of.  If there was a player who experienced a real trauma, for example, such as having survived a rape or lost a child, I make it a point to avoid having similar themes or events in the game.   This same sensitivity, therefore, should apply when using any real-world events in one's game.  Every group has to set its own sensitivity limits.

But on the other hand, when it comes to supposed "coming" events like the end of the world, I feel one can capitalize on these events to push the excitement of the game to a new level and to draw inspiration from the events that may be occurring around the world.  White Wolf Gaming Studios wonderfully executed this back when they were releasing their Time of Judgment books with support from an online "News Tickler" of weird and strange events that were happening all over the world.  While most of the news items were just fictional (I saved a mirror of it here), the articles were written in a manner that made it easy to envision them as happening in the world.  I was inspired by it enough to come up with my own additional News items for my game.

But with all the craziness that's to come forward, who's to say you can't use all these "facts" to your advantage in giving a great thrilling game session?  Even better, why not draw inspiration from these end of the world scenarios and apply them to your game, regardless of where or when they are based!   While some may seem to be better inserted into similar genre games (such as the Mayan calendar misquoted prediction being applied to Pulp games, or the supposed Nibiru collision to be inserted into science fiction games) explore the possibilities of interweaving the concept/ideas to a setting that doesn't readily match up.  Maybe Nibiru is actually a Great Old One returning from a long journey?  Maybe the Mayan Calendar is actually the deadline of when a quantum locked prison finally opens to release the megalomaniac psychic terrorist?

So let's try tackling them now, one at a time, shall we?

by ground.zero
The Mayan Calendar
Lots of fear of 2012 relate to how the time runs out on the current era of the Long Count calendar.  Many mistakenly believe that this means come December 2012, the world will undergo a massive change, which many jump into interpreting as the end of the world as we know it.  Some even consider the translations to suggest a spiritual renewal is what is coming.

Why not make this a "truth" in your game?  Maybe 2012 does mark when things change worldwide.  In Aberrant, this could be the day when Aberrants worldwide discover that their powers have exponentially grown.  For Vampire the Masquerade, maybe this marks when mankind learns of their existence unquestionably, and the Masquerade falls.  Maybe in Dungeons and Dragons, when the year turns, they realize it is the year when the Gods pull away from the world and all Divine Magic is lost!    Save for that group that saw the calendar and believed.  And made arrangements to survive, one way or another.

Nibiru is Coming
In this story, a planet called Nibiru which was discovered by the Sumerians is headed towards Earth after its very long orbit around the Sun.  The Annunaki, supposed ancient astronauts, came to Earth and may be related to this coming planet.  Originally predicted to strike the Earth last May 2003, the date was moved forward to 2012 when nothing happened.  On a related thread, the Infrared Astronomy Satellite of NASA once released images they gathered back in 1983, with images that many claimed to be proof of Nibiru.

Now, throw in some ideas on what Nibiru could be.  Is it a space ark that actually contains an alien race that once seeded the Earth with homo sapiens?  Is it a continent-scale asteroid which was once the City of Atlantis before it was torn from the Earth by the uncontrolled release of super-science power?  Maybe it is deity of all Beholders coming to bring death upon all?  This is a chance to push your game to an epic level that was never expected.

Polar Shift leads to the Continents Breaking
Magneto tried to do it, but failed.  But lots of talk still go around about how the magnetic poles may be affected by anything ranging from Solar Storms to Galactic Alignments, and these in turn lead to the continents shifting rapidly in relation to one another.  Countries submerge, land forms move, tidal waves crush cities.

Cthulhu rises.   Or maybe the great sleeping Earth Dragon emerges and reshapes Creation to the world we know.   Or maybe we can even flip out and have it instead affect magic instead of science!  As the shift occurs, all Divine magic becomes Infernal and all Infernal magic becomes Divine!

by Man and his Cam
Armageddon.  Judgment Day.
Always fun to see how you can reinterpret this to the game you use.   Just keep in mind you can either "prove them right" and have it happen as the religion said it would, or prove them wrong, by having it unfold in a way that was not expected.  Maybe the second coming has less to do with winged angels, golden trumpets and dragons and more to do with a city-sized mother-ship questioning why we have evolved in the direction we have chosen.  Or perhaps the spiritual cleansing does happen, but happens so quietly, we simply awaken to discover most of the people are already gone.  Where they have gone, why and why not the rest of us can be material for a whole new chronicle to explore.

The Aftermath of The End
And that brings us to this.  Any game can be enriched with an exploration of surviving the end.  Whether it be surviving tremendously horrid environmental threats, monstrous and inhuman dangers that suddenly emerge, or the primal needs of a starving fearful man to survive, any game out there can be given an injection of more story potentials with a post-apocalyptic end-of-the-world closing.  How do the Covenants in Vampire the Requiem change their practices after a massive third world war cloaks the entire planet in Nuclear clouds?   Do the street shamans of Shadowrun gain greater power when the world practically loses the ability to use technology?  In what ways do your Superheroes try to remake the world a better place after the magnetic poles shift, the water levels rise, and solar flares burn the land?

It is 2012, the "current" big year when everything ends.   So why not explore that theme in your game?  What was that, you're afraid the world really WILL end this year?  Then what are you doing surfing the net and playing role-playing games.  Go find your shelter and stock up on supplies.  Me?  I'm gonna keep chucking the dice and crafting stories.  Cause I can tell an "End of the world module" when I see one.





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