Looking Backwards into the Future

March 10th, 2019
Looking Backwards into the Future
Author: The Nathan Category: Uncategorized

Or, 'Why I am Super Jazzed About This Con's Sci-Fi Theme'

Whenever we look forward to where we are going, we are scrutinizing where we are now and how we got here. This is why I love Science Fiction as a setting for roleplaying games and why I am totally pumped about the theme for the upcoming Spring IntrigueCon convention The May the Earth Stood Still. I mean, giving a nod to the Sci-Fi set is long overdue. The retro call-back also leaves a nice bit of pulp inspiration for crafting a fun roleplaying experience to bring out in May. But the opportunity to sit down at a table with familiar faces and welcome newcomers to explore a GM’s vision for the future, anxieties, hard realities, unknown perils and all, and somehow figure out how to hold onto a hopeful course of action when the chips are down is what I’m really gearing up for. Oh yeah, that’s my jam.

Now, to be clear, obviously you can achieve these goals with a roleplaying set in other genres. But Sci-Fi offers two unique advantages for creating worlds and situations that prompt players to go-deep and self-reflective during play: the liberating constraints of what is scientifically plausible, and the giant sandbox of shared knowledge and experiences that is the world around us. The liberating constraints of science free you up to zero in on the one or handful of concepts or issues that are most interesting to explore in your story. Worried about the public health risks that come with the decline of antibiotic effectiveness?  Then set your game in a world where penicillin was never developed. What sort of alternative treatment for bacterial infections succeeds as the new treatment that the world has come to rely upon to combat bacterial infections? Has no such technology ever emerged, and is there a social response in your world instead? Explore and build your world by reflecting on history. The leading causes of death in 1900 were all infectious diseases that are easily and inexpensively treatable or preventable by today’s medical technology. How will your world have an alternate history because of the small change you made by removing penicillin? Who would have survived and who would have perished? Who would have never been born? Did you know that the fall of feudalism in England was largely related to the sheer number of deaths during the plagues of the medieval period? What new social groups and hierarchies will come into being because Polysporin® was never invented?

Science Fiction is a mirror that lets us reflect upon ourselves. People are dying of measles outbreaks in Venezuela because of a government that is actively blocking free medical aid from entering the country. A shady and corrupt government manipulates access to medical technology as a means to control a populous. Others make the choice to forgo vaccinations for their children. A deep fear of the Industrial Medical Services Complex prompts some to gamble with the lives of their loved ones rather than allow their children to be implanted.

Science Fiction’s mirror is also magic, showing us our hopes along with our fears as it helps us chart as-yet impossible journeys we desperately seek to make. Classic pulp Sci-Fi wears the promises of a better life through technology on its sleeve, along with some hoops and a Dick-Tracy style radio watch for summoning the flying car. Star Trek lets us imagine a future where humans not only achieve greatness, but spread it to the far reaches of the universe, overcoming disease, scarcity, and the pettiness of human nature. Didj'a ever hear about the quote of Gene Roddenberry where he was asked why there would be somene who is bald in the future if the technology exists to address it? He explained that "by the 24th century, no one will care." Even deeply grave and dystopic works such as Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four presents hope. Not in the story, but in the warning of what could be if we do not take action for change. The act of imaging a fearful future can be an act of defiance against it.

So on May 3rd and 4th roll-up your robot-cop character with his subservient human-looking alien, recite klaatu barada nikto ten times fast (or some approximation there-of…), and join us for a weekend of fantastic roleplaying. See you there!

  • The Nathan