Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Apocalithic: Introduction

So I've hinted a bit around a FATE game I'm working on involving hunter gatherers. This is my little pet project, and pretty much every hack I come up with in one way or another is meant for use with this game. I figure I should probably share the concept early, then, so that my rules ideas can be understood in the context of the game they're meant to support.

Apocalithic is a game about tribal cultures developing in the ruins of a collapsed post-singularity society. It takes the two most extreme visions of our future: that of a runaway technological singularity and that of a collapse back to the stone age, and fuses them into a single setting. It's our world's future, where the projections of both hopeful post-humanists and fearful collapse survivalists were born out at the same time. Apocalithic is about the lasting consequences our society will leave on the world after it's gone, and about the new societies that will grow into the space we vacate.

The setting of Apocalithic rests on a foundation of 3 “posts”: Post-Human, Post-Industrial, and Post-Apocalypse. Lets take them one at a time.


People in the future can be a lot different than humans today. During the fall, a great deal of genetic tinkering went on with the Human Genome. Many of these traits were heritable, and the selection pressure from the collapse also increased the population's general fitness. As a baseline, humans are notably faster, stronger, smarter and tougher than their civilized ancestors. Even more exotic traits, such as oddly colored hair, night vision, claws, gills, even tails are not unheard of. Most don't even remember that these traits were engineered.

Humanity made up for centuries of extinctions with decades of genetic tampering, creating thousands of new species almost by accident. These almost immediately went feral and became key to the regrowth of the natural world. These range from the fantastic, such as the color changing cheshire cats, to simple yet profoundly important like the plastic eating bacteria. Many animals were “uplifted” to human-like intelligence. Most notable in North America are the Tannunaki, raccoons with opposable thumbs, and the Corven, ravenlike birds who can speak.

Finally, not all of this new life is what we might traditionally call life. Nanites, for example, are just another part of the ecosystem, albeit one with a strange habit of building consumer electronics out of sand and sunlight. Sometimes you'll also find larger robots, built during the last phases of industrialism, that are still operational. Every year more and more succumb to lack of maintenance, but enough survive that the sight of one is a notable but not unknown event. They tend to maintain large solar-powered computer systems that supposedly store the uploaded minds of the ancestors.


This word has two meanings, both of which apply to Apocalithic. The first meaning is a world without factories and assembly lines. Nearly every item in the future is hand crafted, usually by it's user or a member of their Tribe. They're mostly made from local materials, gathered by hand by the the same person making it. The village economy is the engine of production.

The second meaning of Post-Industrial is a synonym for Post-scarcity economics. While things your community cannot produce themselves are hard to come by, those things your community can produce locally are essentially free. Within the communities that have persevered, sharing with member in good standing is a survival skill honed through generations of hard times. So while futurists envisioned post-scarcity as the result of cornucopia machines, the inhabitants of the Rust Age achieve it by having a sharply limited definition of the word “Need.” All a person really needs are a sharp knife, the clothes on their back, and a Tribe.

The consequence of this is that if you can't produce it locally, it probably can't be had. And in general, knowhow has been reduced to the lowest common denominator, the near stone age level of technology that gives the game it's name. Some, perhaps most communities have preserved some sort of higher technology, but which ones are idiosyncratic. Some communities might know how to work metal, while others build computers from carefully tended nanite cultures, but no community preserved all knowledge. Stone age technologies serve as the robust foundation that communities must build apon.

That doesn't mean the things industrialism produced are just gone, however. The landscape still has overgrown ruins, and scavenging is a thriving trade. People take shelter under ancient overpasses, faithfully care for salvaged metal knives, and knap their arrowheads from the shard broken toilets. But these Black technologies are mostly seen as curiosities, because if you can't make it yourself you can't rely on it.


Apocalithic is a game that comes after the fall of civilization. But unlike other Post-apocalypse scenarios, there was no catastrophic event to pin the blame on. Civilization didn't so much crash as it petered out in fits and starts, coming to a rest by the side of the road and being abandoned to rust because their was no where to get gas for the tank. It ended in some places before others, depending on local resources and infrastructure. Depending on your location and how you figure things, it may have ended for you up to as far back as 500 years or as recently as 50 years ago.

And when it ended people didn't turn into crazed cannibals or roving biker gangs willing to die for a tank of gas. Because it was slow, people had time to adjust. Sure, life got tougher, but smart people were more likely to share food with you than kill you over it because friends and family are the real key to survival. When global society went away, people responded by forming local societies, and to many this was actually an improvement in the quality of their life.

This Utopian vision is what differentiates Apocalithic from, say, Burn Shift. Apocalithic is inherently hopeful. Civilization as we know it may be gone, but the worst fallout from that is over with. And the new societies forming have the opportunity to be Better. They have the freedom to explore the way things could be, free from the burden of the way things are. They aren't there yet. But that's where heroes come in.

In Apocalithic the players don't just create a character, they create a shared community for those characters to be part of. Advancing your community takes on the importance that advancing your character does in most RPGS. Your characters will become community leaders, organizing and influencing the development of a new civilization. Along the way you'll explore what communities are for, what they are, and what they should be.

I'm sure I've left some very important ideas about the setting out, but I think these are the basic ideas. The setting details are least important parts of this; they're hooks but if they were the point I'd just drop them into Burn Shift and be done with it. The point is the mood and the heady philosophical stuff. I'm trying for a sort of stone age Star Trek, a vehicle for morality plays about the pros and cons of civilization. I really hope I'm up to it.

1 comment:

  1. This looks like a great basis for a Fate game. I am subscribed! Also, you use the same background that I do for my gaming blog, which I ALSO created initially as a design journal for my Fate Core game. Great minds think alike!