So, I’m shooting for plausibility in setting design (behind variety and fascination). How do you build a plausible world? Last time I talked about sensibility: the world has to feel like it makes sense.
But there are two other concepts to making a setting and a history that works. These are “History Never Stops” and “Mankind Adapts”.
The world in which we live is ever changing, and we live in one moment of it. The past is different, the future is different, and things always change. History Never Stops.
The setting of 2039 is supposed to feel like one moment in an ever-changing world. Cracking via shadow walking is new, having materialized in the last decade. Many other technomagical devisements are also brand new, as in less than a couple of years old. And old things — AK-47’s and Land Rovers — are experiencing a resurgence, thanks to the new circumstances of the Outlaw.
The politics of America are fluid — there are tensions between the polities, and at any time the balance of power could change. Will change, I should say, at some point.
The Dakotas are the least invested in the Fed union, they may withdraw at any time. Or, unexpected events might push them closer to the Fed. Mexico’s dictatorship might expand north, in an effort to eliminate the Mexicali Narco-kingdoms, or it may fall apart into warring states. The Fed might liberalize its policies, or might move even closer to a police state. History never stops, and 2039 is just one moment in the long history of the world.
Humans thrived when we had sticks and stones, but no fire. We thrived when we had fire and metals, but no printing press, compasses, or electricity. We thrived when we had the internal combustion engine and assembly lines, but no computers. And we can thrive when we have technomagic and spells and vortexes.
We adapt to our changing circumstances.
The world economy broke down during the Collapse, and the Emergence has made continent-wide supply networks problematic at best. People adapted by turning to old, rugged designs.
The most popular individual weapon in the Outlaw is based on the AK-47, and the most popular vehicle is a clone of the 1948 Land Rover. Both are simple to make, rugged, and easy to maintain. You can make AKs in any machine shop; the same machine shop can mill replacement parts for the Land Rover. Given difficult circumstances, people adapted.
Technomagic is the quintessential example of “Mankind Adapts”. Technomagic is the application of the principles of Enchanting to the technology of our world. And, using that same technology, we can do things with enchanting Beyonders never imagined.
We can surgically inscribe runes on people’s bones, allowing them to become Augments, artificial shadow warriors. Normal people can shadow walk, using technomagical bracelets. We can enchant our cars, our computers, even our bullets, allowing them to do incredible things.
So, in addition to variety and fascination, and in service of plausibility (or verisimilitude), the setting of the Outlaw is intended to reflect History Never Stops and Mankind Adapts. These are two truths evinced by all human history, and incorporating them in setting design makes the fictional world of the game feel more real.