Many fantasy settings are explicitly or implicitly post-apocalyptic.  (There used to be an empire of high magic, and…

Many fantasy settings are explicitly or implicitly post-apocalyptic.  (There used to be an empire of high magic, and…

Many fantasy settings are explicitly or implicitly post-apocalyptic.  (There used to be an empire of high magic, and everything was awesome, and then it broke, and now everything sucks.)

Have you played in any games (Dungeon World or otherwise) that really played up the apocalyptic angle?

17 thoughts on “Many fantasy settings are explicitly or implicitly post-apocalyptic.  (There used to be an empire of high magic, and…”

  1. When you say “apocalyptic angle”, do you mean a game that is set during the collapse, or a game that focuses on investigating the old world?

  2. If we want to split hairs I have always loved pre-apocalyptic settings. Where everything is just starting to circle the drain in noticeable ways.

    Old world of darkness being a good example.

  3. My longest-running 4e game really played up the apocalyptic angle. All the PCs hailed from a small town built on ancient ruins, very much a point of light in the darkness.  People shunned and feared large bodies of water.  Trade existed with nearby towns, but relations were tense. 

    As play progressed, they learned more and more about the old civilization and what brought it down, how their town (and others) came to be, how to use some of the old magic, why lakes & rivers where awful, etc.  It really added a lot of depth to the game and the world.  

  4. I’m not sure if it’s what you’re looking for, but Ehdrigohr is explicitly set a couple hundred years after an era of recurring apocalypses and the world is in the rebuilding phase. It’s an optimistic, but the threat of the apocalypses recurring looms as a potential threat in one hand while the downsides of the urbanization and progress happening in some areas is a theme called it in the book.

  5. I concluded a FR campaign many years ago with a serie of linked adventures based on the st. John apocalipse sigils (no redentor of course ^__^).

    Ending with the total destruction of world and rebirth of a new one.

  6. Jeremy Strandberg hits it right on the head.  The Apocalypse is still fresh, with ruins everywhere, and bad things that people don’t really understand going on.

  7. I can think of three important hallmarks of an Apocalyptic Setting:  Ruin, Scarcity, and the Dichotomy of Hope.

    Ruin is the easiest:  there’s ruined stuff everywhere.  The old civilization is destroyed, and we’re all living in its remnants.  It’s not hard to go out an find a dungeon or ruin to explore.  Since the PCs are extraordinary people, they’re the ones doing the exploring.

    Scarcity: There’s just not enough stuff to go around.  Everyone is concerned with where their next meal is coming from- and if not that one, then the one after it.  And it’s the same for other stuff too- gear, even things like information, or trust.

    Since the PCs are extraordinary people, they have access to more, but still not necessarily access to enough, or to excess.  Going into ruined places is an opportunity to gain resources and address scarcity.

    The Dichotomy of Hope: There is a general prevailing attitude of hopelessness, that things are on a downward spiral, and that it’s not going to get any better… but despite all that, there is hope, perhaps carried by only a few people, but still there, that the future can be better.  The PCs may be these people carrying hope, perhaps that by going into ruins and finding cool stuff they can improve the lives of themselves, if not their communities.

    Any other strong themes I’m overlooking?

  8. As far as settings, Dark Sun for D&D is more explicitly apocalyptic, taking place in a desert covered dying world where scarcity is far more prevalent than the D&D standard.

  9. I’ve run a “presently apocalyptic” D&D game or two, alas never to the point of conclusion where the forces I’d arrayed actually collided to end the world. Still considering resurrecting my most recent one.

  10. My best setting was a world AFTER the apocalypse where Evil won. The God of Undead “killed” the God of Death and was the last ruling god left. In that world ALL deceased became undeads (zombies / wraiths  /spectres usually) and after about 200 years the society has adapted to the new state of things.

  11. Simone’s evocative comment reminds me of two things:

    Firstly, I am reminded of the fantasy setting of Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, a world that was “saved” by the omnipotent Lord Ruler, but volcanic ash falls in the land, the common folk are basically slaves and the nobles are more subtly oppressed as well.

    Eberron features a “post-world war I” setting, in which an entire country (Cyre?) was vaporized into a radioactive magic wasteland and all of the countries begrudgingly come to an exhausted truce. One of my favorite countries is styled similarly — the undead Karrnath nation, where zombies and ghouls co-exist with the living in an uneasy alliance, while vampires/liches rule behind the scenes.

  12. Most of the Dungeon World games I run play up the post-apocalyptic angle. I often include advanced technology mashed up against patchwork and dieselpunk/magic stuff.

    Almost inevitably the PCs will have some stake in the apocalypse. One PC in an earlier campaign made it worse by activating sleeping zombies. In my current campaign two of the PCs, the Witch and the Druid, are part of a coven of witches who, during the apocalypse, discovered a device that had something to do with the flooding of the world. Over the generations it gave them magic powers.

  13. Its always somebody’s apocalypse when it comes to high fantasy. Even in Middle Earth, for the elves, its all over.

    In our current setting, the giants built massive structures, but they’re steadily regressing to barbarism due to some war long ago. Its a running joke that I act out the giants as Apocalypse World characters.

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