The folks over at Rising Phoenix Games have kicked off a fun topic for the May RPG Blog Carnival… “At World’s End.” They mean it more in the cataclysmic sense, dealing with the apocalypse, world shattering events, or even monsters or gods that rock a world to its foundations. Of course, I see those three words and look at it a little differently.
Years ago there was a movie called The Gods Must Be Crazy about an African tribesman who decides to return a Coke bottle to the gods after it causes them heartache. It’s a very cute movie with some fun scenes involving living in the wilds of Africa. But the tribesman takes a journey to the end of the world to throw it back – and it is in actuality a place called the God’s Window in South Africa, which is covered by clouds. He is above the clouds, says a few words, and tosses it back.
For the longest time, people thought the world was flat and that there truly was an edge of the world. If you look at mythology, there are many images featuring the world on the back of a large tortoise and held up by elephants. In Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (animated), Sinbad has to travel over the edge of the world to get to Tartarus by rigging their ship to fly.
I’ve even used the concept of a similar point in a world where a wormhole creates an area of perpetual storm that occasionally spits out flights of dragons from another plane or alternate reality. The whole area is covered in a thick miasma of storm clouds and fog, essentially turning it into an impassible stretch of ocean.
Why don’t we see more of these “edge of the world” scenarios play out in our game worlds? Here are a few ways I can come up with off the top of my head…
A huge river flows over the edge of a cliff, something similar in scope to Victoria Falls or Niagara Falls. Such a dividing line between land, air, and water might very well seem like the edge of the world to a primitive tribe. Whether it’s the brave individuals or the suicidal ones who leap to their deaths to see what lies beyond is beyond me, but they never come back. So what happens when something does? Is it from the land of the dead or the realm of the gods? Either way, it can’t be good. Imagine what happens if the PCs are exploring new territory and inadvertently arrive from the wrong side of the equation… would they be revered as gods? Or monsters?
Or you could view a giant sinkhole as puncturing the thin membrane between worlds. A whole other realm might exist below, filled with wonders or horrors. And what happens if more sinkholes are created over time? Entire villages or towns could vanish overnight. Will the PCs stand against the horrors from this lost world? Could these holes be the precursor to an invasion from whatever lies below?
But I really like the idea of a hard stop to a particular world. If such a world exists as a cube, each side could have its own issues, separate from the other five. Ships could simply drift off into space or brave souls might find ways to avoid such a fate and change direction to explore further…
If you go with a science fiction world, it could be an entire flying continent or city where leaving the safety of the world you know is forbidden. Imagine worlds floating high above a landscape devastated by war or resource depletion. Imagine when such worlds collide and those flying cities fall from the sky. It would almost be as though the edges of two worlds collided in a fiery embrace…
So many ideas, so little time. 🙂
Great topic to explore further this month! Be sure to check out the RPG Blog Carnival Archive over at Roleplaying Tips for more topics to dive into!