Monday, 14 March 2011

the carnival of life

This month's RPG Blog Carnival hosted by Campaign Mastery is about Life and Death.  This is such a fundamental topic it cannot be contained in one post without a lot of compression.  In RPGs, typically not much is made of the first, while the latter gets more attention. Both can provide hours of ideas for gaming and have inspired numerous stories.  The arrival of new life is usually greeted with hard work and celebration.  Though this blog is fond of taverns, attending a birth makes a different 'getting the party started' scene.  In addition, the impact of a change in birth rates on a population is not to be understated.  This need not be human population either, the devastation of animal populations has forced human migration and caused calamity to communities.
  • Population boom - The presence of a expanding economy, technological advances or even something in the water may lead to a population boom.  This may cause aggressive expansion into territories held by others, urbanisation and pollution.  With larger families comes  greater probability of your lineage surviving, more mouths to feed and issues around succession. Having used this to drive a horde of Neolithic kobolds against parties before, this works if you want to see a party think rather than fight.
  • Population decline is an increasing concern in some industrialised countries.  An extreme case would be the cessation of birth, such as portrayed in Children of Men. The consequences for a community are severe as the balance between longevity and attrition shifts and survivors age without reinforcements barring immigration.  Being the last of your kind is a classic trope, ranging from Elric to Robert Neville.
  • Gender imbalance by the proliferation of one gender transforms a society.  This may traditionally be caused by immigration, infanticide or war. This isn't always healthy for the society; an excess of men leads to unrest and militarisation among those of low status.  Environmental pollution has led to a shift towards female births by drastically reducing viable male population in some parts of the world.
  • The appearance of unearthly children like The Midwich Cuckoos among the population is an indicator that something is changing.  Marvel has done this for years with the X-Men. For Apocalypse World or Mutant Future, Freakangels offers inspiration.  Characters may seek to prevent their ascendancy or to protect them from the authorities threatened by them.
Changing the base assumptions of a society by changing the ratio of young and old, male and female, normal and unusual makes for diverse, divergent cultures.  This difference makes settings come to life.


    1. Great thoughts! I'm currently thinking about how races interact in my new campaign, and different birth rates could have a profound impact on race relations. Xenophobia can easily set in when one race feels threatened by another.

    2. Glad you like them. Sometimes the enemy may not be a magical doohickey, it just might be the way things are...

    3. This post got me thinking.

      What about something in their diet (magical or non magical) which produces more males than females resulting in civil war. Or more females than males resulting in a matriarchy? (not a harem for every man) was this deliberately planted by an external enemy or perhaps a corrupt merchant.

      A population boom could also result in mass starvation due to lack of food.

      A new religious order could encourage a certain "medicine" while pregnant. Which results in mutated babies (super clever or super strong or just mutated in a bad way.)

      This post will be in my mind all evening now

      : )

    4. @Luke - sounds like a good basis for a campaign!

    5. Great thinking on this topic at the 10,000 foot level.

      Another idea - extreme changes in the young and old. Take the Age Effects chart from the 1st Edition DMG and amp them up a bit. That would make for some interesting societies, I bet.

    6. @Johnn - if you remember the old TSR UK scenario Ravager of Time, there was something similar going on there. :)

      That does give me an idea though...


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