Doomsdays. Dystopias. Apocalypses. The grim, dark end of civilization as the purity and ideals are siphoned from it. This is the topic for this month’s Blog Carnival, hosted by Daemons & Deathrays! Click on that link to head over to their original post for the month. You will find more entries commented at the bottom and they have also written a few posts on the subject themselves (both for the carnival and outside of it). I spent most of the month forgetting about the topic and, when I looked it up again, thinking about dystopias and what I should write about. I thought about the dark worlds like Shadow Run and Warhammer 40K, but I couldn’t come up with something I felt good writing about. Instead I am gonna go the selfish route and throw out some ideas I have been working out for one of my campaign worlds. Not that many people care, but maybe you can be inspired for yours! Welcome to Praetor…
Realm On The Brink
The brink of what you may ask, but that is better left for my technomancers and space sages over in Farsight. It might be war or it might be obliteration, and really what is the difference sometimes? Regardless that is my nickname for the third realm of my cosmos whose home world is Praetor. This realm is your classic high fantasy setting. Lots of magic, monsters, and races. The difference here is that some of the magic might look like technology to some eyes, but that isn’t important here. What is important is that the world is balancing on a knife’s edge. Warlords rule kingdoms new and old, warring with one another, and scouring the land for resources. The key word for Praetor is survival, no matter who or what you are.
Praetor’s history begins like so many: the fight between good and evil. Angels vs devils. Light vs dark. At some point, so it is said, the two sides were forced to work together to push back a greater enemy. In their cooperation and peace-time, mortals were allowed to thrive. Some say humans were born of the union of good and evil. Others say humans simply multiplied as rats and angels and devils took advantage of their natural predication to worship. The truth hardly matters, for eventually the mortals were used to fight a proxy war. The immortal beings ran to the sidelines, biding time and energy for the real war to begin again. As energy and power were gained through worship, mortal beliefs became currency, a resource. The two sides and those within the power structure had to barter, trade, and balance worship and war. Letting your followers die for you was a strong gain but risky, for the dead are a burden and no longer a resource. Well, depending on your willingness to use your resources.
Eventually, the fabled ancient enemy returned and mortals were killed in untold numbers. The sides of good and evil were forced to descend to the mortal world. This would inspire remaining mortals into greater worship, but the cost was high. Whatever these creatures were, they were pure chaos and the state of the universe was at risk. Even immortals can die, and most did. It was with the power of mortal worship that even those dead immortals lived on in a way. transcending reality. Eventually the beings of chaos were pushed back again and imprisoned. A happy, positive tale ending only in warring factions of mortals. Right?
For a time. Until something occurred and the prison of eons ago was uncovered. Deities could not interact directly, if they even had individual sentience beyond the faith that maintained them. Survivors of the war remained long unseen and descended into myth. Mortals no longer knew what to look for, what not to do. So it was that mortals let out chaos once again and the world was plunged into despair and darkness. Blood flowed freely across the land as rivers after the spring snow melt. Those ancient myths, the surviving angels and demons of long ago, were ready however. They strode across the land to organize the people and instruct them in possible solutions. Still, there was no winning. Now Praetor reeks of chaos. People survive as best they can, where they can. Chaos is unorganized and order is rare. Good and evil are questionably obscure. Only two things are important now: order and survival.
Angels & Demons
While I don’t see this as a dystopia yet, the themes and way of the world may qualify as I build it. What is important to my vision of Praetor is the entrenchment in the world history of good versus evil. Angels vs devils. Here I use demons and devils interchangeably, unlike D&D. Chaos and those forces are something beyond and different. They are Lovecraftian in the sense that they are alien, but they are more primal than that. Creatures like Azathoth are more akin. Without concern or focus or desire. They just are: raw and unfiltered atrocities loosed upon the world. I want the current state of things to be about that fight order vs chaos. Chaos, for all intent and purpose cosmically, is natural. Order is sentient imposition. The two are not good or evil, they simply are. One is the harmony of maths and the other the breakdown of what should be. I want these, instead of good and evil to be clear and defined in the Third Realm.
Let us get back to angels and devils, though. See, I want this to be a world that explores right vs wrong, good vs evil, because in a world where survival is paramount on both small and large scales does it matter how you reach that goal? That should be a pressing question. Warlords, exploitation, slavery, and other darker themes would be of import in this world. Not because you would be heroes seeking to end such things and looking down upon the world, but because how do you change what is and still survive. Not just you but those we would consider oppressed. Can we still strive towards ultimate goodness and ideals?
OK, to be fair that’s more a concern of what angels and demons represent. They themselves are few in number now, at least living. Those that still walk the land are nomadic, secretive creatures undermining chaos and encouraging law. Some of the angels encourage harsh laws and tyranny, order in the face of chaos. Certain demons encourage cooperation and community, strength in the face of rampant insanity. These are not classic ideals of angels and demons, within the game or without. These are surprises and if the goodly beings allow tyranny are they still good? That is something to allow to simmer in the background for the most part.
The other part concerning angels and demons are the dead. Their corpses, skeletons, and forts litter the wastes of Praetor. Those brave enough, foolish enough, or with the resources can go out to loot them. Angelic armor, fiendish weapons, stores of blessed items and foodstuffs. It is all out there for the taking, but so are the angels and demons. Through secrets and rituals, magic users have found ways to use the remains in a variety of ways forging dark weapons of order to fight chaos. These become ever more complicated and powerful, profane but necessary creations.
For the most part this article is ramblings. There are no strong movements or direction to the text or my ideas. In fact, this writing has helped me formulate a bit more. Races of this world will be different from normal fantasy. Creatures of legend born towards good and evil. Rakshasas, oni, devas. These beings descended from a coupling of human and celestial or fiend. No elves or dwarfs. Worship is not for gods but remaining avatars of order and the long dead memories of similar beings. Even arcane magic is a manipulation of power that would, in other settings, be considered divine. Nevertheless, this is a grim world and I think this month’s Blog Carnival was the perfect excuse for me to share and explore it a little more.