One of the things that I have been doing to entertain myself this past month is watching the BBC series Primeval. Though there are several moments over the course of the series that make it very difficult to suspend my disbelief, I very much enjoy the show because it has such a fascinating set-up.
Particularly interesting is its implicit admission that Darwinism cannot explain why the world was what it was and became what it is. Despite an overwhelming attempt by the popular culture (and scientists dependent upon secular and government money), Darwin’s mechanism for explaining evolution doesn’t work. As the show points out, there are things in the world and in the fossil record that just cannot be explained by our standard, assumed understanding of evolution.
However, the show does not take any kind of religious tack (it is the BBC, after all). Rather, they come up with an ingenious way of explaining how evolution does funny things. In essence, there are several holes in time and space that flash in and out of existence. Called (in a very Star Trek-esque manner) anomalies, they allow for creatures from very different epochs to cross over into different time periods — thus having drastic affects upon the evolutionary order.
One of the things that challenges the suspension of disbelief is that all of these anomalies seem to be centered around Britain, and that the government is perfectly capable of keeping it quiet that there are incursions by prehistoric monsters into our time on a fairly regular basis.
This got me thinking: why Britain? Why not the U.S. or South Africa or India? Given that Britain is the location of Stone Henge (and all of the weirdness associated with it), what if the anomalies were a long-term consequence of using arcane magic? Obviously, I am now fully going into FRPG inspiration mode, (because this blog is primarily about RPGs). Here is also where I get to sneak in some Christian dogma.
God created the world from nothing. When humanity knew evil (the absence of God), we knew a world of disease, decay and death — these are all symptoms of creation returning to the nothing from which it came. In context of a fantasy world where arcane magic exists and is practiced, this decay could take on a very interesting form. The use of arcane magic (which is, in essence an embrace of Adam’s Fall because most magic users attempt to be God sans God) could tear tiny holes in space and time. Over the long term, this results in anomalies — a symptom of space and time collapsing in on themselves as they return to nothing.
One of the more interesting ideas from the series is that most, if not all, mythological beasts have their origin as creatures from a distant past or future making an incursion into a different time. Thus, dragons might be dinosaurs. A dire boar might be an entelodont. A Lycanthrope or a vampire might be a wolf or a bat from some far distant future where these creatures have evolved some kind of intelligence (in fact, one of the recurring creatures in Primeval is a super-evolved bat).
There are three fundamental reasons why I am so intrigued by this concept:
Firstly, having portals opening up intermittently to other times can justify just about any weird creature you can think of — just call it a creature from the distant past or future. It also explains why dinosaurs of all different epochs could be roaming around a fantasy world.
Secondly, it allows just enough weirdness into a campaign world without going gonzo — how cool would it be to have a party of PCs jump through a portal into the distant past or future? The possibilities are endless.
Finally, and to my mind most importantly, it plays into the post-apocalyptic reality that is D&D — especially in a Homlesian kind of way. The ancient civilization hinted at in the Holmes edition of Basic D&D and how it came crashing down now come into sharp focus — all that powerful arcane magic tore enough holes in time and space that some serious nastiness crawled through to bring the civilization crashing to a halt. In addition, it suggests the very interesting possibility that divine magic (which develops later in the suggested D&D landscape of Holmes) heals these tears in time and space.
For my own purposes, it also helps explain why the concept of time is so non-linear within the confines of the Chateau des Faussesflammes...
3 hours ago