This is the first post in a series I plan on working on. I will be focusing on what I’m calling “Unexplored Genres,” but what would much more accurately be called “Non-Typical Genres.” It’s not so much that these genres don’t exist in RPGs, it’s just that they’re so rare, and so … undefined that they could use a little bit of attention. Without further adieu, I present, the Progressive Apocalypse.
What is a Progressive Apocalypse? A progressive apocalypse follows one of two basic premises for the story, though variations are possible: Either the world is undergoing an apocalypse over a slow and drawn out period, or their was a cataclysmic event, followed by a prolonged period of decay. Either way, the defining aspect of the genre is a sense of near hopelessness – although it may not happen for a few hundred or even thousand years, the world is dying slowly but steadily. There is little to no chance of averting the apocalypse.
What makes Progressive Apocalypse different from post apocalypse? Because progressive apocalypse happens during the apocalypse, and creates a sense of decay, urgency, and despair, it works best with settings that have darker themes. The interesting aspect of Progressive Apocalypse settings is that everything will end, no matter what. This may or may not be known to the people who live in this world, but it still shadows the setting, creating a feeling that permeates the air.
How does one play in a Progressive Apocalypse campaign? The way I see it, there are two ways to play in a Prog’Poc campaign. The first, and more obvious way, is to play it much like one would play a Post Apocalyptic campaign – the heroes can change nothing, they can save no one and nothing, and all they can do is make people comfortable while awaiting the inevitable end. The second way is the one in which there is still hope that the apocalypse can be stopped in some way – either through powerful magicks and sciences, or through the fortune of misinterpreting the signs (“Oh, the asteroid was heading for Mars, not for Earth after all! Sorry for the panic!“). This seems to me the more logical choice, but of course, that all depends on the style of gameplay you like – hopeful and inspiring, or dark and dreadful. One can also certainly make the distinction between man-made apocalypses, and natural apocalypses. Generally, I prefer it when the slow decay is human-engineered, and they have only themselves to blame for the slow entropy of their world, but picture our own planet earth 5 billion years from now, as the Sun is expanding and burning out all life on earth – how would you roleplay in those situations?
Have you used Prog’Poc before? How did it work out? Does your setting (or any settings you know of) use this premise as part of the overall theme?