Let’s try a little experiment in plot and setting, shall we? Bear with me here, this is going to be fun.
Imagine your favorite form of entertainment. It can be books, movies, video games – hell, it can even be a pen-and-paper tabletop RPG if you want. Actually, let’s go with that: your old buddies from high school or college – you know, the ones that you used to hang out with on the weekends instead of going out and getting laid – decide to start up a new tabletop campaign.
It’s a homebrew fantasy setting, different from your typical sword-and-sorcery stuff in that it’s a world where it’d set in the remnants of a once-powerful empire ruled by those who could bend magic to their will to accomplish nearly anything they could conceive. We’re talking the whole shebang: instant communication between far-flung city states thousands of leagues apart, the ability to cheat death through advanced alchemy, magically-powered land, sea, and air transportation, advanced weapons and engines of war.
Then, suddenly and without warning, the magic all goes away. The empire, once mighty and world-spanning, is thrust into a literal Dark Age. Society breaks down into brutal, post-apocalyptic Social Darwinism writ large, and in just 15 short years – less than a generation – the once great empire is in shambles, carved up into a patchwork of petty warlords keeping a ravaged populace under their control in the kind of feudal squalor that makes North Korea look like Six Flags.
You and the rest of the players are all from one such small feudal village trying to eke out a life of farming and sheep herding while trying to hold on to what little memories of the past you may have, until one day the captain of a local warlord shows up, threatening the village elder, a kind, compassionate man that has always done right by you and everyone else in town. He has something the warlord wants, and is about to be taken away in chains when the village revolts, picking a fight that ends horribly – the elder is killed, along with several of the townsfolk, and the elder’s only son is taken as tribute by the warband.
The elder’s dying words, as told to the adventuring party, are, “go to the closest city and find my brother there, he can help rescue my son. The warlord will come for him too – warn him, and tell him it’s true – that the magic can return.”
It’s an exciting premise, isn’t it? It’s also the plot of Revolution, the new NBC show that kicked off this season – just replace “magic” with “electricity” and you’ve got the set-up for the entire series.
I’ve only seen the pilot so far – life’s been busy, what with running around like a chicken with its head cut off – but what I’ve seen so far I like. I’m figuring I’ll give it a shot, considering how much of a fan I am of speculative fiction and especially alternative history.
Hell, if I ever get back into tabletop, maybe I’ll steal a couple of ideas for a new setting.