Escalation of stakes is part of the appeal of doomsday end-game modules, but I have a hunch there’s more to it than the natural progression from local to regional to national to global threats. I suspect that apocalyptic stories draw from some dark universal well abiding in the human heart. Or maybe it’s that engine from Event Horizon. Maybe that engine from Event Horizon is the darkness that dwells within the human heart.
Something interesting happens in most high fantasy and science fiction settings. Capital-F Faith in an absentee God who may or may not exist is absent. In Dungeons and Dragons, the gods exist. If you want proof, watch a paladin lay on hands. Science fiction settings can be a little looser with divine intervention tropes, but a sufficiently advanced AI is a reasonable substitute for a supernatural entity, and for ordinary NPC plebes, even modest mutant, cybernetic, or technological abilities are sufficiently advanced to provide a reasonable stand-in.
What stops demigod-tier player characters from dominating your entire fictional world? How limiting are information and principal-agent problems in your universe?
Having trouble finding the soul of your fictional society? Have you considered their fundamental rule-making process? Why not take a little time to suss the foundations of your make-believe culture by drafting their constitution? You might find that specific laws, mores, and cultural habits are easier to develop when you have a framework for decision-making and conflict resolution.
Many Americans consider it boorish to bring up politics or religion outside of sanctioned times and places. One simply does not talk politics at the dinner table. It won’t do.
But the gaming table is not the dinner table. Ideally, you play games with friends. Or if your close friends don’t share your hobbies, then at least your regular group is acquainted well enough that political differences of opinion are unimportant enough to keep you from playing together. Or if that isn’t the case, then at the very least you all retain enough courtesy to stow your partisan inclinations while the game is underway.
Last time, I promised you I would write a bit about microfoundations. I will not be doing that today. I apologize for breaking my promise, but it is to my great sorrow that I must digress. Instead of the planned topic, I will revisit motivation. More specifically, I will revisit my own motivation for the campaign I am running right now.
You can create reasonably immersive, fairly convincing setting by remembering a simple five-letter acronym.
MERPS: Social, Political, Economic, Religious, and Military.
From tiny little subsistence bands to mighty intergalactic empires, from sword-and-sorcery barbarian epics to swashbuckling adventure on the high seas, these five dimensions allow you to cover every major aspect required to create conflict and a memorable story.