Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: THE END OF THE WORLD

The Woman and the Dragon by Martinus, 11c.
The Woman and the Dragon by Martinus, 11c.

Now that the whole misreading of the Mayan Calendar for the making of memes and annoying tweets is over and done with, yes, this is what you all get. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I came across The Book of Revelation. I was wondering what the last book in the Bible was and egads. I was not expecting that. I don’t really know what my young brain was expecting but it was not that. A tale of strife, famine, death, war, blood, deception, miraculous and terrifying beasts, political upheavals, abandonment, revenge and finally, victory, then a WTF moment, then more victory and then…the rest of eternity, apparently. WHOA. Imagine my young mind then being told that yes, this was going to happen. I had people I trusted and respected tell me that the barcodes on the things we bought were related to the ‘Mark of the Beast.’

When I was older I came across religious comic books that further expounded upon the Apocalypse my religion believed in. It even went so far as to identify some of the various ‘characters’ in the narrative, citing history and geography and illnesses that could cause some of the things mentioned, with the caveat that well, it’s a prophecy so who knows but STILL, IT COULD BE THIS. One of the church leaders showed us the old classic, ‘A Thief in the Night,’ a movie members of my family were also familiar with. People would talk about the ‘trumpet being at the angels’ lips,’ signifying that the time for the end was very near and therefore, everyone should be ready, always.

I was young. I was kind of freaked out. I would occasionally have nightmares. I worried about being ‘left behind.’ I woke up from one of these nightmares to find myself alone in my home. I ran around the house, turning on the tv and radio to hear if any crazy people-disappearing-related-disasters were occurring. Turns out people had just gone to run errands and didn’t wake me up.

Yay.

Here’s what I’m trying to get at. Everyone has their world. It includes various aspects. Social, economic, dietary, biological, spiritual, religious, astronomical, agricultural, military aspects and more. These are all in different proportions and play different roles in our lives. And well, things happen. People are well aware that things lurk outside of our worlds that could come crashing in and disrupt and destroy. Many cultures have their stories, speculations and prophecies as to how to world will end. Fire, flooding, storms, fighting, disease. The speculations of robots, zombies, nuclear war, pandemics. The end of the world apparently does not fare well for people in anyone’s imagination. Forces bigger than ourselves crash against each other, winding down, grinding us beneath their wheels, to…fertilize for the next world.

Stories about the end of the world, like most stories shared with people are meant to evoke emotion and action from people. Inspire people to live good lives. Be watchful. Share their beliefs to spare people. They can drive people to good deeds. They can terrify people into inaction or rash action. They can bring people together or isolate them, make them fear innovation, new ideas, new individuals, new societies. How will The Beast manifest? I focus mainly on the Christian end-of-the-world scenario but other prophecies in other cultures across time have sent people congregating and pointing fingers, wondering if this politician was foretold of, or this drought a sign of the end times. We have it in our media in movies like The Terminator, The Matrix and a plethora of zombie movies.

If there is a beginning of the world your PCs live in, the end looms in the distance. Something might lie beyond that end, but the book must be closed before the new one can be started, with all the force and energy it requires. The passing of a world evokes more dread than personal death for some and the death throes of existence as it is known it can be violent indeed. A backdrop of a world waiting to end can be fitful indeed.

For DMs

  • What is the end of the world supposed to look like? What is the story of the end of the world? How is it tied to the beginning of the world? What other beliefs are tied to this?
  • Do other beliefs exist about the end of the world? Different people groups with different ideas? Individuals who take stories/prophecies more literally?
  • What are supposed to be the signs the world is coming to an end? Who is watching for these signs? How involved is the public in knowing when these signs appear?
  • What starts the world down the path of destruction? Political turmoil? War? A ravaged economy? Illness? Cultural change? Technological advancement?
  • Can the end of the world be avoided or is everyone just pretty much on a one way trip to doomtown once the ball gets rolling?
  • How is the story of the end of the world told? How does it factor into the everyday lives of people?

Plot Hooks

  • A prophecy foretells the joining of various objects will herald the beginning of the end. The PCs must protect one of the objects from people set on bringing the prophecy to fruiting, individuals trying to gather the objects and set civilization on a chain of cataclysmic events. What are the PCs guarding? What is the prophecy exactly? Who has charged them with this task and why are they on board with it? Who is trying to thwart them and what are their real intentions?
  • The PCs return from wartime maneuvers to find the population in a state of ecstatic debauchery, believing the endtimes to be upon them. The PCs must get home safely and try to find their loved ones, not sure what to expect and what is happening. Why do the people believe the world is ending? What form does this debauchery take place? How are the PCs received by these end-time revelers? And what has happened to their families and loved ones?
  • When a new piece of technology is invented and being promoted by the government, individuals speak out and say it is a harbinger of the end times. The PCs must deliver the technology to various locations so it can be implemented, having to deal with those fearful of what the new equipment will mean for their people. What is the new technology and what does it do? Who in the government supported the project? How does it work? How does it tie into the end-time stories? Who is speaking out the most loudly against it and do they have any clout or bearing?

For PCs

  • How do you believe the world will end? Why?
  • Do you think the end of the world is something that will happen in your lifetime or something way out in the future?
  • Do you take prophecies literally or do you think they are more symbols, open to interpretation?
  • What event/thing would convince you that the end of the world was in fact upon you?
  • How do you fit into the end of the world? Do you see yourself as one of the chosen, to be spared? Or do you see yourself at the mercy of whatever is to go down?
  • Do you think you can stop the end of the world? Do you think it should be avoided? Can be avoided? Or do you think once certain events fall into place, all you can do is wait?

What say you? The end of the world would make a rather dramatic ending for a campaign, wouldn’t it?

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