Steve Jackson Games - Site Navigation
Home General Info Follow Us Search Illuminator Store Forums What's New Other Games Ogre GURPS Munchkin Our Games: Home

Go Back   Steve Jackson Games Forums > Roleplaying > GURPS

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 11-10-2014, 11:00 AM   #1
Sindri
 
Join Date: Nov 2011
Default Obscuring a Setting's Descent from Earth

What are some plausible tricks you can use to disguise that a setting is descended from our own world? This can be something that you want to achieve in, for example, a lost and fallen space colony, a post apocalyptic setting or a post banestorm setting. Above all I think it's proper nouns that need to be obscured to avoid an obvious signal that this isn't, say, an unassociated fantasy world.
Sindri is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-10-2014, 12:03 PM   #2
LokRobster
 
LokRobster's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Republic of Texas; FOS
Default Re: Obscuring a Setting's Descent from Earth

The key, as you pointed out, is to file off all the serial numbers. All proper names for places, people, cultures, religions, and languages need to be changed.

People speak 'Basic' or 'Common', worship gods with unfamiliar names, go to the city NOT called London2..


The fact that the people act like modern or historic humans is unremarkable in most settings; Authors and settlngs-makers usually draw on what the know and switch it up a bit. Players are used to seeing familiar-if-out-of-place elements from actual Earth in their sci-fi and fantasy, even when the settings are supposed to be completely original.

If you plan to have a 'reveal' later in the campaign, be sure to have an explanation of why everything was lost... "It's been a really long time" or "all the adults died leaving only children to carry on" or "the Dictator and His Evil Police State burned all the books and killed everyone speaking the old names" might work in this trope. Just come up with an idea you like to explain it, Players often enjoy finding the "why"...
__________________
Building 3x scale, our CarWars blog: North Texas Autoduel Association
LokRobster is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-10-2014, 12:06 PM   #3
johndallman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default Re: Obscuring a Setting's Descent from Earth

It depends how much science the PCs can apply. For example, if the people in the setting were interfertile with Earth humans, I'd require a great deal of evidence before changing my opinion that we had common ancestry.
johndallman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-10-2014, 12:14 PM   #4
Sindri
 
Join Date: Nov 2011
Default Re: Obscuring a Setting's Descent from Earth

Quote:
Originally Posted by LokRobster View Post
The key, as you pointed out, is to file off all the serial numbers. All proper names for places, people, cultures, religions, and languages need to be changed.

People speak 'Basic' or 'Common', worship gods with unfamiliar names, go to the city NOT called London2.
Indeed. An interesting challenge to my mind is that there are some things, for example religion, that are very resistant to having names associated with them change. I'm not sure how plausible it is for the name of the god a group worships to change at some point. It might be necessary to have new religions descended from the old to get that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LokRobster View Post
The fact that the people act like modern or historic humans is unremarkable in most settings; Authors and settlngs-makers usually draw on what the know and switch it up a bit. Players are used to seeing familiar-if-out-of-place elements from actual Earth in their sci-fi and fantasy, even when the settings are supposed to be completely original.
Yeah this depressingly common situation makes my job easier.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LokRobster View Post
If you plan to have a 'reveal' later in the campaign, be sure to have an explanation of why everything was lost... "It's been a really long time" or "all the adults died leaving only children to carry on" or "the Dictator and His Evil Police State burned all the books and killed everyone speaking the old names" might work in this trope. Just come up with an idea you like to explain it, Players often enjoy finding the "why"...
I do plan for a reveal to be at least a distinct possibility.

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
It depends how much science the PCs can apply. For example, if the people in the setting were interfertile with Earth humans, I'd require a great deal of evidence before changing my opinion that we had common ancestry.
There's an implicit assumption here that is incorrect. The characters will be natives and will be staying within their own context. It's disguising it from the players that is necessary. Players won't immediately jump to a connection with us instead of a subcreation if there aren't proper nouns littering the place that are obvious descendants of modern things.

Last edited by Sindri; 11-10-2014 at 12:18 PM.
Sindri is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-10-2014, 12:53 PM   #5
Varyon
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Default Re: Obscuring a Setting's Descent from Earth

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sindri View Post
Indeed. An interesting challenge to my mind is that there are some things, for example religion, that are very resistant to having names associated with them change. I'm not sure how plausible it is for the name of the god a group worships to change at some point. It might be necessary to have new religions descended from the old to get that.
That depends on exactly what you need to conceal. Is part of the goal to conceal that the humans in the setting are at all associated with an Earth like our own? That is, is this meant to look like, say, a fantasy setting where humans came to exist (or were outright created) on the current planet? If not, maintaining Earth religions is easy - leave the existing religions as-is, then add in some ambiguous legends/heresies/whatevers that imply humans Aren't From Around Here - they got kicked out of paradise, for example. Players will assume "Our characters are descended from humans from Earth, who brought their culture and some Earth species with them, but have now deviated." They'll assume they're on a colonized world of some sort, their ancestors having come here by spaceship or banestorm or whatever, which will allow the Reveal to still be a surprise.
Varyon is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 11-10-2014, 12:59 PM   #6
Sindri
 
Join Date: Nov 2011
Default Re: Obscuring a Setting's Descent from Earth

Quote:
Originally Posted by Varyon View Post
That depends on exactly what you need to conceal. Is part of the goal to conceal that the humans in the setting are at all associated with an Earth like our own? That is, is this meant to look like, say, a fantasy setting where humans came to exist (or were outright created) on the current planet?
Precisely this. Legends of, for example, being kicked out of paradise will certainly exist but should be viewed by players in the same manner as such legends in a subcreated fantasy world.
Sindri is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-10-2014, 01:31 PM   #7
Nymdok
 
Nymdok's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Houston
Default Re: Obscuring a Setting's Descent from Earth

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sindri View Post
What are some plausible tricks you can use to disguise that a setting is descended from our own world? This can be something that you want to achieve in, for example, a lost and fallen space colony, a post apocalyptic setting or a post banestorm setting. Above all I think it's proper nouns that need to be obscured to avoid an obvious signal that this isn't, say, an unassociated fantasy world.
Disguising the earth:

Mess with the Geography. There have been enough Apocalypses done in movies and TV to make this trivially easy depending on your particular flavor of apocalypse. In a short lived Thundar campaign, I flooded the great plains and let California fall in the ocean all the way to Sierra Nevada which made the US look very different.

Disguising the History:

One of my favorite tricks comes from By The Waters of Babylon where they simply fracture the names. Praying to the God Ashing (a bust of George Washington) for example. Also, those that remember suffer from the sensationalism and myth of being passed down. It's all about how you sell it....
The Suns Arrows, GodFinger, Hell from Beneath could all describe a nuclear assault.

The Ghost that Withered Them - Weaponized HIV/AIDS
The Ghost that Boiled Up their Soul - Mouth Frothing weaponized Rabies or Epilepsy
The Ghost that wringged the blood from their breath - Typhus/Consumption

Disguising the Humans:
This one is a bit trickier, Disguising THAT they are humans is tough. Disguising that they are Humans from earth isnt really that difficult at all once you sever them from Earth Culture and History.

That said, a few mutations arent forbidden for a sufficiently fantastic world. Restructure their DNA along different evolutionary lines (See Genesis : Star Trek TNG S07E19). As everything (in theory) comes from the same primordial ooze, feel free to go nuts and swap stuff around. Tails. Fangs. Fur. Wings. Venom. Leafs. Scales. Bark. Pollen. Carapaces.

Finally, just evolving or Devolving humans can make them look quite different. (The Sixth Finger - Outer Limits S01E05) and can endow them with all sorts of kewl powerz and limitations.

You're the GM. You know your group so you probably have a good idea of where their Belief suspenders get tight, but remember the further out and more bizzare you get, the easier it is to hide that human ancestry.

Nymdok
My father is a priest; I am the son of a priest. I have been in the Dead Places near us...
Nymdok is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-10-2014, 01:33 PM   #8
Varyon
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Default Re: Obscuring a Setting's Descent from Earth

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sindri View Post
Precisely this. Legends of, for example, being kicked out of paradise will certainly exist but should be viewed by players in the same manner as such legends in a subcreated fantasy world.
Very well. Assuming you want to retain real-world religions without alerting your players (note just getting rid of real-world religions and replacing them with Fantasy pantheons would be much easier), you'll need to come up with plausible reasons for the changing of names. This is going to depend heavily on your setting, of course, but for descendents of today's humans to not know they are on Earth is probably going to require some sort of large-scale cataclysm. We'll assume a great deal of knowledge was lost during this, and sufficient time passed before old documents were rediscovered that language had changed, such that something written in English would be unreadable, so when a King James Version of the Bible (for example) is discovered, the scholars have to go through and retranslate it. Alternatively, the only versions of the religious texts that survived the cataclysm are written in languages that mostly didn't survive. Enough other documents survived that the texts can be translated, but it's imprecise work and sometimes the translators had to insert educated guesses. This was particularly the case with names, as nobody is certain how the words of the dead language were actually pronounced, so you end up with similar-but-divergent versions of present-day religions, with the saints/gods/prophets having names more befitting the setting.

Naturally, you don't have to explain any of this to your players. You just make the modified religions and say "Hey, here's the religions of the setting." Throw in some standard - and not-so-standard - fantasy religions while you're at it and the players will probably just think "Oh, the GM must have based the Knights of Trinity on Christianity, and the Holy Struggle on Islam," not "ZOMG we must be on Earth 'cause those are obviously Christians and Muslims!"
Varyon is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 11-10-2014, 01:56 PM   #9
Sindri
 
Join Date: Nov 2011
Default Re: Obscuring a Setting's Descent from Earth

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nymdok View Post
Disguising the earth:

Mess with the Geography. There have been enough Apocalypses done in movies and TV to make this trivially easy depending on your particular flavor of apocalypse. In a short lived Thundar campaign, I flooded the great plains and let California fall in the ocean all the way to Sierra Nevada which made the US look very different.
Another important trick if you are dealing with a post apocalyptic Earth (or a martian colony for that matter) is to just give the players few and bad maps which is a pretty realistic situation for many tech levels.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Varyon View Post
Very well. Assuming you want to retain real-world religions without alerting your players (note just getting rid of real-world religions and replacing them with Fantasy pantheons would be much easier), you'll need to come up with plausible reasons for the changing of names. This is going to depend heavily on your setting, of course, but for descendents of today's humans to not know they are on Earth is probably going to require some sort of large-scale cataclysm. We'll assume a great deal of knowledge was lost during this, and sufficient time passed before old documents were rediscovered that language had changed, such that something written in English would be unreadable, so when a King James Version of the Bible (for example) is discovered, the scholars have to go through and retranslate it. Alternatively, the only versions of the religious texts that survived the cataclysm are written in languages that mostly didn't survive. Enough other documents survived that the texts can be translated, but it's imprecise work and sometimes the translators had to insert educated guesses. This was particularly the case with names, as nobody is certain how the words of the dead language were actually pronounced, so you end up with similar-but-divergent versions of present-day religions, with the saints/gods/prophets having names more befitting the setting.
This is a useful tool but it's somewhat challenged by the presence of significant devotion to maintaining religious information through oral history if nothing else.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Varyon View Post
Naturally, you don't have to explain any of this to your players. You just make the modified religions and say "Hey, here's the religions of the setting." Throw in some standard - and not-so-standard - fantasy religions while you're at it and the players will probably just think "Oh, the GM must have based the Knights of Trinity on Christianity, and the Holy Struggle on Islam," not "ZOMG we must be on Earth 'cause those are obviously Christians and Muslims!"
Oh definitely. Between a few new developments and some theological differences in old religions as long as the names are disguised it shouldn't arouse suspicion.
Sindri is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-10-2014, 03:42 PM   #10
Varyon
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Default Re: Obscuring a Setting's Descent from Earth

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sindri View Post
This is a useful tool but it's somewhat challenged by the presence of significant devotion to maintaining religious information through oral history if nothing else.
So you get rid of the oral tradition. As it turns out, various bioengineered plagues wiped out the bulk of humanity, and the various bioweapons (dragons and the like, naturally) remaining from the wars killed all the others. Well, except for the ones in cold sleep, but most of those units suffered serious glitches - the vast majority woke up with some brand of amnesia, and the only ones who didn't either died without passing on what they remembered or were atheists who were rather happy to see religion having died out.
Varyon is online now   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
brainstorm, cartography, gods, player knowledge, religions

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Fnords are Off
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 08:10 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.