I was recently reading an article Ed Ortiz wrote about contemporary fantasy settings that really interested me. His article focused primarily on the concept of a fantasy setting that has advanced to a modern era: as opposed to it just injecting fantasy into our world.
This article on top of the recent discussions in the M20 community about possibly a Shadow Run inspired mini setting, has me thinking that I might want to have the next Microlite20 Rules Cyclopedia include some M20 Modern material. I’m going to be doing a few posts as I explore this idea, but first I’d like to talk about some of the thoughts I’m rolling with to start.
The basic idea here is to imagine a fantasy world (think like Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings) but then advance things to a modern-ish age setting.
Technology vs Magic?
Technology is often seen as a tremendously antagonistic to the advancement of magic. Often one wanes in the others growth. I’d like to see a society where magic and technology work hand in hand.
The idea I am running with is that magic users themselves were a primary driver for the rise in technology. I’m basing this theory on the fact that people who are highly technical at a skill (FIREBALL!) will often try to find ways to automate processes (CANNONBALL!) in order to focus on more important things.
This means that you still have mages performing highly complex and fancy spells that technology can’t replicate (yet) or even just simple quick things off highhandedly. Wizards are like the makers and programmers of society, and knowing some arcana is handy for when you need to do something around the house and can’t run out to the store.
The idea here is that society is near-ish future. Importantly though, this is also a fantasy setting, and so there will be some big departures from society as we are familiar.
I do plan to have multiple fantasy races naturally occurring within the world, but I have this idea in my head of an early industrial magical boom. As part of this I’m thinking of having a natural disaster that caused massive disfigurement in large portions of the population. This wide spread disfigurement will have actually caused a proliferation of sub-races.
Another aspect that would obviously need to be addressed would be social economics.
I also imagine that while many kingdoms and empires existed across the planet the boarder-less guilds, and merchant societies have risen to prominent places of power. While I want powerful corporations far beyond the likes of what we have today, I don’t know that I want the a Shadow Run level of autonomy from governments.
A big question when it comes to something like this is what level of (if at all) other planes of existence and deities play in things. What makes these areas tricky, is the inherent determinations they make about the setting.
Omnipotent style active gods could totally work, but isn’t exactly the feel I’m going for. As far as gods I am thinking of going with a more they walk among us vibe. These will be powerful ageless entities that have moved into the background of society over time.
Another aspect to consider is the overall cosmology of the setting in general. I’m thinking of doing a planets and stars style “material” plane similar to our reality, but also co-mingle that slightly with other planes of existence.
I know that an Under Dark style environment will exist within the setting, but I plan for the plane itself to be malevolent and it’s own thing. This other realm will be pushing and breaching its way into existence, much to the detriment of the material realm. Beyond that, I am thinking of sticking to purely energy based elemental planes (maybe even tie them into computers) and then some random pocket dimensions.
Another major concern is what exactly the overall story possibilities are within the setting.
I’m still going to need to add some overall big picture stuff over time, but I do have some thoughts already.
- Under Dark: there is definitely something going on behind the scenes. What is known now is that the Under Dark is some form of other plane that breaches the material plane. In some cases it lets things out, but in others this lets things in.
- Gods: the gods have faded in power, and in the largest remaining empire are even hunted. Though their power dwindles and the ichor of their decedents thins, they play at their own machinations.
- Elementals: I’m playing with the idea that elementals on their own planes are simply flowing primal energy. I was playing with the interesting idea that software is the weaving of this energy channeled through physical conduits. If I’m going with this theory I kind of like the idea of being on the verge of nearly AI levels of elementals.
- Political unrest: in this setting one empire predominately rules
Unlike their traditional counterparts, common adventurer can’t just run around kicking down doors and robbing people: well technically they could. Adventuring groups could have a variety of motivations for drawing them together.
- Government agents or independent investigators investigating under dark anomalies.
- Agents working for clandestine organizations.
- Mercenaries performing military operations.
- Criminals staking out their empires.
There are so many more options you can riff off that I’m sure will crop up as the setting idea solidifies.
I plan to continue this series and wrap it up in some mini setting guide. I’d love to hear what the community would either like to see in a setting like this, or what you’d like elaborated on that was already mentioned.
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Shadow Run (affiliate link)
Game of Thrones (affiliate link)
Lord of the Rings (affiliate link)