Bleak Horizons: More Thoughts on a 2020 Setting

Jan 15, 2010
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I still do not have a working title so the post titles will be ad hoc until I come up with something. For the confused, it is part of a futuristic/modern setting I’m developing for our semi-annual gaming event, dubbed Convergence.

Apparently, I am not alone in thinking about alternative futures but most are focused on variations of Cyberpunk. DataFortress 2020 was relaunched late last year focusing on R. Talsorian’s Cyberpunk Additionally, there is a new contest focused on the general genre. Additional discussion is available at 1km1kt.

My setting isn’t focused on cybernetics but will feature the Internet as a significant element of the modern world. I’ve been focusing on defining society within a pretty narrow geographic region within Colorado. Most of the state has been covered and I sent the notes off to Kevin, who has generously undertaken to depict my setting in his words for the state of Wyoming. I’ve not yet focused on Denver, which will be a likely focal point for my campaign. I’m holding off letting the rest of the setting take hold in my mind before transcribing my thoughts.

Several trends within the setting are becoming apparent. I didn’t specifically focus or dictate them but they keep rising up. If you consider the overall breakdown of societal expectations, the trends should be obvious but make for a completely playable setting.

The trends are microcosms, communities and regional. The previous influence of the national government is present but not universal. The ability to remain a stable portion of society is largely defined by the culture of communities and the natural resources available. Mixed economies that are inherently stable prior the break suffer less than those requiring complete importation for survival. They respond and adapt far better than insular communities supported only by a broad, national economy. Localized ability takes the forefront.

Regions with disparate cultural views fracture. Ones with a shared culture, viewpoint, and outlook remain more intact. Communal survival overshadows greed in many areas and dominates patriotism for a fallen nation. Localized focus is exactly what I was trying to achieve.

This experiment is also useful to pretty much any other setting. Why does this community exist where it is? Under stress, who are they and how will they respond? How do they respond to outsiders who might have the power to destabilize the local society? What natural resources are they leveraging, if any, to maximize the chances of the community surviving?

Kevin’s pointed out numerous things I need to consider but there are many more.

  • Is local law enforcement present? Is the military an influence? How and what impact do they have?
  • Crime is going to be present. Who responds and what are the penalties?
  • On that same bent, organized crime is going to re-emerge. What influence do they have and now far can they bend the laws?
  • Refugees from other areas are constantly arriving. How are they treated? If accepted, how they are accommodated?
  • Bartering is back with a vengeance. What is necessary for import? What goods are now desirable for that community in particular?
  • Are corporations taking indentured servants? Are the gangs who control most of the supplies? Is slavery back in fashion?
  • Disease outbreaks will occur. Medical treatment will not be universal and masses will die. How do communities and corporations respond? How about the gangs?
  • Technology is also going to be closely controlled. How do modern standards of watching what you do play out? Are corps able to retain control of their own infrastructure? Are they exposed? What is the new “hacker” community focused on?
  • Medicine and medical capabilities will also be highly sought after assets. The ability to immunize everyone to prevent long forgotten diseases will degrade. Lack of general hygiene and clean water will shift hordes of refugees back into 3rd world situations.

Having more questions than answers makes the setting very appealing. Having it localized rather than global makes it playable and transferable. So many elements are open to interpretation. Players will have the ability to define many elements but not all.

Feel free to poke at any element you like or dislike. What would your local community become after a series of global disasters? How would you respond as the blows keep coming in?


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