Friday, August 29, 2014

There Were Giants in the Earth in Those Days

something like this.  
There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. -- Genesis 6:4

I've been kicking around the idea of a Kirby-esque bronze age science fantasy setting for some time now; as much as I'm (as a historian with a strong interest in archaeology) disgusted by Erich von Danniken, Giorgio Tsoukalos, Zechariah Stitchin and everyone and everything involved with "Ancient Aliens" and all that Chariots of the Gods bullshit, I do find that it makes good grist for the mill of gaming and storytelling, and it's a well I've gone back to a couple times with various campaigns.  This setting, rather then having ancient alien "gods" as a background element or the source of horror in a Cthulhu game, takes the conceit of aliens on Earth in ancient times and gives it a Hercules: The Legendary Journeys spin, resulting in an action/adventure game set during the alien occupation of Earth.

The setting, in short, as it would be understood by a player-character:

the Sons of God look like a palette-
swapped version of this guy.
Three generations ago, the "Sons of God" came to the Land Between the Rivers in their flying chariots; towering, gold-skinned figures, they were seen as Angels by Men, an illusion they did not choose to dispel.  The Sons of God told Men that God needed a substance called VRIL, found deep within the Earth, and that it would be Man's duty to mine VRIL for the Lord.  To ensure Man's obedience, the Sons of God brought an army of serpents with them, the Anunnaki.

Taking the Daughters of Man as they pleased, the Sons of God produced new breeds of Men, known collectively as the Nephilim: the giant Anakim, born to erect the giant cities of the Sons of God; the brilliant Rephaim, with their psionic powers; the stunted and gray-skinned Ophanim, created to pilot the Chariots of the Sons and handle their technology; and the Gibborim, cunning man-apes bred to hunt down escaping slaves.

Men soon came to the realization that the Sons of God were not, in fact, the true Sons of God, but impostors from a distant star.  Then the rebellion began.  Men, allied with Anakim, Rephaim, Ophanim and Gibborim that resented the rule of the Sons of God, struck back, culminating in a daring commando raid into the fortified city of Idann, overloading the VRIL capacitators under the city and blowing Idann to atoms in a column of fire that reached high into the sky.  Many of the Sons of God died during the destruction of Idann, and much of their mining operations were crippled by the attack.  Humankind had won a great victory that day, but the war was only beginning.

you goddamn better believe these are the Anunnaki

There's no cohesive narrative to Ancient Astronaut Theory; everyone just kind of does their own thing while riffing off each other's work because there's no actual fact underlying any of it, which provides an interesting challenge in trying to synthesize some of it into a game setting that makes sense.  To that end, I threw out 99% of Ancient Astronaut Theory.  Instead I borrowed heavily from an old pulp sci-fi story, S.P. Meeks' Giants In the Earth, which predated Erich von Danniken's tepid writing by more then thirty years, and mixed in a little bit of AAT, some of my own blah-blah-blahing (the destruction of Idann is meant as the "truth" behind the story of Man's expulsion from Eden, for example), the fictional uber-substance Vril from Bulwer-Lytton's tepid sci-fi novel The Coming Race, and then pulling up the names of various races of giants and types of angels in Jewish lore to name my demihumans after.

Rules-wise, I think at this point I would use the Lamentations of the Flame Princess, because it's quick and easy and I know more or less how to modify it to suit my needs and wants.

The human classes I don't think I'd modify other then to rename the Magic-User as the Mentalist, and refluff arcane spellcasting as psionic powers.  I haven't looked too much into this since I've been doing most of my thinking about this at work, but the big thing that came to my mind was reflavoring the demons summoned by the Summoning spell into literal "Monsters from the Id" -- nightmare entities born out of the Mentalist's subconscious, manifesting as tulpas/egregors/thoughtforms yada yada yada.  I need to do some more reading before I finalize anything.

For the various types of Nephilim, I'm more or less making it easy on myself and making them refluffed/minorly modified versions of the standard demihuman races.

One of the Anakim.  They are the Brute Squad.

The Anakim are the easiest; they're incredibly strong, tireless creatures bred to move the giant stones composing the cities of the Sons of God.  This would give them a better working knowledge of architecture and make them more capable of carrying heavy loads.  Despite resembling a testosterone-poisoned Andre the Giant in size, shape and hirsuteness, the Anakim map very easily onto LotFP's Dwarves.

One of the Rephaim, about to fuck you up with his brain.

The Rephaim are engineered as overseers, architects, planners and designers.  Their human bodies are smallish and frail, rarely standing taller then 5' even with their bulging craniums, pulsating with thick veins keeping their powerful brains nourished.  They have inherent psychic powers (i.e., arcane casting) and are quick-witted -- while they lack the brute force of the Anakim, through guile and skill they can hold their own in physical combat if given no other choice.  They map very easily on to LotFP's Elves.

yeah, yeah, anal probe, sure, whatever.  I've heard it all before, pal.  

Ophanim in theology refers to angels that appear as gigantic wheels; the "wheels within wheels" that Ancient Astronaut Theorists are so fond of identifying as flying saucers in Ezekial's vision are Ophanim, and other modern religious movements have identified them with flying saucers as well.  To that end, I decided to connect my demihuman Ophanim with alien spaceships, making them pilots and mechanics.  This works well because instead of magic items in this setting there's alien technology, so a mechanic versed in such wonders would be a useful addition to any party.  I decided that physically the Ophanim should resemble the traditional "Grey" aliens, and chose to map them to LotFP's Halflings, replacing their bonus to the Bushcraft skill with the players' choice of either Tinker (for Mechanic-types) or a new skill, Piloting (for Pilot-types).

a Gibborim hunter stops and sniffs the air for his prey's scent.

With the halfling's scouting abilities removed in favor of technical skills, I decided I needed a scout/wilderness sort of demihuman as well, and inspired by the wildman Enkidu in the Epic of Gilgamesh, opted to create a fourth demihuman as a hairy humanoid creature, designed to live and work in the wilderness, tracking down escaped slaves and recapturing them.  The name "Gibborim" means "Mighty," and was usually used in the Bible as a descriptor attached to strong characters, so these wildmen had to be strong and tough.  While my first instinct was to make the Gibborim a Sasquatch-like creature, over the course of the day I've been moving more towards something resembling the stereotypical depiction of a Neanderthal or the Sagoths from Burroughs' Pellucidar books - creatures that, while definitely human, nevertheless have an abundance of ape-like traits.  Gibborim advance as a Dwarf, but instead of Architecture their skill increases in Bushcraft.  Instead of a bonus to Encumbrance, a Gibborim's chances of being surprised are reduced by 1 due to their keen sense of smell.

I don't know when or if I'll ever run something with this but it's been a fun way to occupy my brain during down time at work.  I think this would be a very "low-tech" world despite the presence of alien technology; instead of blasters and ray guns, pretty much everyone's going to be running around with swords, axes and maces; those with the means to do so will have techno-swords, techno-axes and techno-maces that uses charged batteries in the hilt to deal extra damage -- or else they'll have "psychokinetically-charged" weapons that have similar effects, or disrupt Summoned egregors, or block "spells," or something like that.  There will be ray guns, I think, they'll just be uncommon compared to techno-axes.  Likewise, the majority of armor is going to be leather or bronze-scaled cuirasses; as they adventure the PCs could find high-tech scalemail that produces a minor force-field to improve the armor class, etc.  Kirby-style headgear a la Galactus, Big Barda, etc. will grant all sorts of cool effects.