When one thought of the future years ago, people envisioned flying cars, intergalactic space travel complete with aliens, and robots everywhere doing the types of things that the average joe didn’t want to do. Since then, the ideas of the future have changed significantly, but these still may have a place in your setting. But when deciding on a futuristic campaign, you need to have an idea of where to do with it. Before starting, DMs need to figure out what type of a future it is. We will be using various fictional franchises to inspire to discuss the topic.
Who are the characters (continued)
Survivors from an apocalypse
- The events of Terry Brooks’ Shannara series takes place centuries after the “Great Wars:” a nuclear holocaust that has wiped out most of the planet. These wars rearranged the planet’s geography and wiped out most human life on Earth. Only traces of technological artifacts have been found; most advanced technology has been lost, but magic has been rediscovered. During this time, humanity divided into several distinct races: Men, Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes and Trolls, all named after creatures from “age-old” myths.
- Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign: With the appearance of a mysterious virus that kills everyone above the age of 13, humanity becomes enslaved by previously hidden, power-hungry vampires. The vampires emerge, subjugating society with the promise of protecting the survivors, in exchange for their blood.
- Helsing (the anime) is named after and centered around the Royal Order of Protestant Knights initially led by Abraham Van Helsing. Their mission is to search for and destroy the undead and other supernatural forces of evil that threaten the country. This organization is currently led by Sir Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing, who witnessed her father’s death, turning her from a once innocent and shy little girl to a deadly force. Protected by the faithful Hellsing family butler and Alucard, the original and most powerful vampire. These formidable guardians are joined early on in the storyline by former police officer Seras Victoria, turned vampire. As the scale and frequency of incidents involving the undead escalate in England and all around the world, the protagonists discover a Nazi group called Millennium wish to revive Nazi Germany by creating a battalion of vampires. Millennium, Hellsing, and the Vatican clash in a three-sided war in London, where Millennium reveals its real objective: to destroy the vampire lord Alucard, ending a feud begun during WWII
- Trinity Blood: About a millennia before the start of the story, due to overpopulation, Earth colonizes Mars. The colonists discover two alien technologies. The first is the Bacillus virus, which transforms those exposed to it into vampires. The second is Crusnik nanomachines, which enhanced bodies of the only four to survive the procedure: Abel, Cain, Seth, and Lilith. Wars on Earth eventually led to apocalyptic events. To help with rebuilding, the Mars colonists returned to Earth. As the colonists returned, war broke out between humans and vampires. Abel, Cain, and Seth sided with vampires—while Lilith supported the Vatican, which guarded humanity. During the war, Cain went insane and killed Lilith. In grief, Abel buried her body at the Vatican and is still with her to this day. At the start of the story, the vampires rose to political and military power & wage war on the Earth’s inhabitants. The Roman Catholic Church protects humans with its military seat of power based in the Vatican. The vampires have their capital in Byzantium, have a field that filters out UV radiation, protecting the Methuselah population. Both groups use “lost technologies,” such as airships, missiles, and computers, to engage in a cold war with one another. A third great power, the independent monarchy of Albion, also plays a role in the war with its superior arsenal of lost technology and weapons. It is a primarily human country; however, they have an underground city of enslaved vampires to operate and manufacture the lost technology. With the death of the Queen, the enslaved vampires begin an uprising.
- Zombie apocalypses are a dime a dozen with such titles as The Walking Dead, The Last of Us, and Resident Evil franchises. Much of these types of scenarios are centered around people not being able to keep up with the outbreak because individuals get infected and now they have a carrier in their midst. Survivors of such an outbreak typically don’t tend to use lethal enough force or isolation techniques in an attempt to slow the spread.
Mutants, Aliens, & Monsters (revisited)
- Kaiju monsters. Giant monsters are visiting the world, whether these are giant apes (King Kong), atomic breathing lizards (Godzilla), or moths (Mothra). Notable modern takes on this genre are Cloverfield, Pacific Rim, and Clash (and wrath) of the Titans.
- Monsters, Inc. (and the subsequent movies in the franchise). The first film centers on two monsters – James P. “Sulley” Sullivan and his one-eyed partner and best friend Mike Wazowski – employed at the titular energy-producing factory Monsters, Inc, which generates power by scaring human children. The monster world believes that children are toxic, and when a small child enters the factory, Sulley and Mike must return her home before it is too late.
Conflicts with aliens Franchises
- ‘Aliens’ is a franchise in a fictionalized parallel futuristic universe, taking place between the 21st to 24th centuries. The main plot depicts a series of deadly encounters between humanity and the Aliens, a hostile, endoparasitoid, extraterrestrial species. In this future, humanity will have become a space-faring race that has established an interstellar dominion following the gradual merger of the two megacorps. Cryosleep is the only way to survive the journey due to the lengthiness of travel. Through the series, characters are repeatedly manipulated by and put in harm’s way by the greedy, unscrupulous, megacorp, which seeks to capture the Aliens for bio-weaponization purposes.
- The Predator franchise depicts a series of deadly encounters between humanity and a hostile, trophy hunting, extraterrestrial species known as the Predators. Predominantly transpiring in the present day, it portrays human confrontations with Predators. Its single recurring plot detail has corporations and governmental agencies tracking the Predators whenever they appear. These groups pursue the Predators for various reasons, the former to eliminate them because they are terrible threats and the latter to capture them for scientific and military purposes.
- H.G. Wells 1897 classic novel ‘War of the Worlds’ has several adaptations: the original radio program, first airing in 1938, several movies, one of which is an animated feature coming out in 2012, and at least two TV series. The core idea of the story is aliens coming down to conquer Earth. Unfortunately for them, they are highly susceptible to Earth’s illnesses and quickly die. In the 80s TV series, the germs didn’t kill the aliens; the bacteria just sent the aliens into hibernation. When they awoke, the aliens determined to protect themselves from the microbes, they would need to take over human hosts.
- The Day the Earth stood Still: The film’s storyline involves a humanoid alien visitor named Klaatu that comes to Earth, accompanied by a powerful robot, Gort, to deliver an important message that will affect the entire human race. Each adaptation gave a different message.
Alternative Futures & Histories:
- Dr. Who is a British science-fiction television program produced by the BBC since 1963. It depicts the adventures of a Time Lord called “the Doctor,” an extraterrestrial being, to all appearances human, from the planet Gallifrey. The Doctor explores the universe in a time-traveling space ship called the TARDIS. Its exterior appears as a blue British police box. Accompanied by several companions, the Doctor combats a variety of foes while working to save civilizations and help people in need.
- Sliders: The series follows a group of travelers as they use a wormhole to “slide” between different parallel universes. The slide technology intended to return them to their home universe, but the protagonist’s premature use of the timer to escape a dangerous situation has caused the timer to lose track of the coordinates for their home universe. Now, they slide between worlds, waiting for the countdown until the vortex opens to a new universe, hoping it is their original one. Failing to use it slide at that point would mean they would be stuck in that world indefinitely. While waiting for the timer countdown, the Sliders frequently explore the nature of the alternate universe and often become caught up in events of that world. Some of these universes showcase alternate timelines where certain historical events happened differently from the history they know.
When looking at all these different TV shows and anime, it’s useful to ponder the character’s background, allies, equipment, and mindset. Consider also their abilities, flaws, skills, and powers. Finally, look at their environment/setting and the tech, magic, or metal powers that surround them. By taking all these factors into account, BOTH DMs and PCs can work together to make a fantastic futuristic setting.