Last week we touched on the idea of living forever in the future of Aliens & Asteroids. This week, I’d like to touch on the costs of living in the past through a glimpse at the world of Tattered Magicks.
As you might imagine, most of human history is rife with pain. The victors may have written those histories, but those who survived those events are often left out. And some of those individuals have a special appreciation for going unnoticed and unwritten for as long as possible.
Though I don’t know who all might make an appearance in the Earth of TM, I have considered that a few immortals may be walking around. Vampires for sure; perhaps some mummies along the lines of Ramses the Damned from Anne Rice; maybe some individuals cursed in the past such as Longinus or Sir Galahad; or perhaps the occasional mage or alchemist who deciphered the spell for immortality such as Nicholas Flamel. And yes, werewolves are out there too, but though long lived they are likely not immortal.
We are just now starting a new chapter of our TM playtest, but I’ve had a good time designing a villainous vampire to cause havoc in the little town of Plunkett, Wyoming. She’s a real treat I look forward to exploring over the course of several sessions.
I don’t want to spoil too much here, but I will let it be known that she was born in 1623 and has lived many lives in her nearly 400 years roaming the planet. And I can only imagine the pain such a creature must have endured along the way.
Just looking at the history of treatment of those individuals exhibiting potentially supernatural abilities, you would be surprised that more monsters weren’t created. Witches were hunted in Europe all the way back to the late 1500s, let alone in the Americas during the Salem witch trials of the 1600s. Until relatively recently, witchcraft was viewed as evil or at least suspicious — but I think you now find a growing wiccan community in the real world living a bit more of a public life than any time in the last few centuries.
Alchemists, magicians, sorcerers, witches, or wizards would all fit into that same mold I would assume. Hunted down for believing something other than the status quo or promising results using simple combinations of naturally growing ingredients. Scary! Alternative beliefs! We must ostracize them at best or destroy them at worst!
Now let’s take a potentially immortal being and put them in that kind of environment. They would very quickly become angry and antisocial, finding ways to hide from the world that’s hunting them as the “outsider”. Though they might be described as “world weary,” and I would guess they would quickly lose sympathy for those who could naturally age and die rather than watching the world around them change and friends and family perish at time’s cruel hand.
My vampire from 1623 is beyond world weary and is now detached. Humanity fades quickly without connection to the living, thus the need to create a community of her own. The normal socially accepted norms for behavior would very quickly fall away in those communities, seeing the rest of the population as a food source more than any kind of potential for human connection. And when they were inevitably discovered, they would have to escape and start anew elsewhere.
The toll such turmoil would cause might be unbearable and enough to create the monsters we have come to know and love. Vampires (unless they’re in high school and sparkly, which you won’t find in TM) are not kind creatures and have inhuman motivations for survival that may make them unlikable or at the very least unsympathetic. They are leeches surviving off the lives of others. And yet they may be romanticized by some — until they see them at work systematically destroying life after life.
If we project it forward, back towards the future, what would a vampire do in a space-faring society? How would even a non-supernatural immortal suffer the continual turmoil of watching friends and loved-ones perish to the ravages of time?
I think there are plenty of stories to explore, whether in the urban fantasy or science fiction realms, around this topic. But what do you think?
What threads of immortality would you pull on in your own games and stories?