"The world now fallen. All torn and undone until it is remade whole again but different. Where I was is no longer where I am yet I have not moved a step. Fate has swallowed the world and spat it out, gnawed, ruined, changed. We are lost in our own land." - All That Remains, Britannian News Network: An Introduction to Ilshenar - Part 1. I recently had an interesting discussion with a fellow roleplayer on Baja. It was just after midnight and we were stuck watching the house of an old friend shift from 'Greatly Worn' to 'In Danger of Collapsing.' It came as a shock to both us (neither having seen this individual in months) and it wasn't how we planned to spend the evening. But we were determined to be there to rescue any items of sentimental or historical value before the carrion eaters picked it apart; even if it meant loosing sleep in the exchange. We couldn't find an excuse to remain IC; the two characters are itching to kill one another. And we had a more important task at hand than gutting each other in the middle of the woods. So we hid ourselves and began discussing the Lore of Ultima Online. Questions such as where the denizens of Montor fled when the volcano erupted (drawing allusions to a UO Atlantis) and what would be the perfect new villain to replace the Shadowlords (we agreed that the developers need to be allowed the freedom to branch out and create new stories and villains rather than recycle Ultima canon). And then she said something that struck me. "You know... I've always interpreted UO as a post-apocalyptic setting." Wait... what? But that was the grease these gears needed. I began to consider things I hadn't before; elements of our storyline that have been largely forgotten or ignored. You wouldn't know - with how bright and peaceful the world is so often portrayed - that just a generation ago the land was gripped in a conflict that eclipsed anything our characters have ever had thrown at them. You wouldn't realize with how clean and tidy the cities are presented that they've been invaded and destroyed time and time again; with cities such as Trinsic and Vesper housing scores of refugees from Magincia. You wouldn't know that the human race is a fraction of what it once was - surviving genocide - and in the span of one generation has fallen far from the power of a people that built the Stygian Abyss and who bent the Ninth Circle to their collective will. Think about it. Before Britannia there was Akalabeth. Was it a Kingdom? Was it an Empire? We don't really know. Some people choose to interpret it as being akin to the Roman Empire. Others see it as Carolingian France (Charlemange and the Holy Roman Empire); noting that the mainland continent was described as being divided amongst several feudal lords before British united it under his rule. But that is our interpretation, based on little more than a small Kingdom rising from its ashes with elements of medieval Britain; complete with an Arthurian monarch, his sorcerous advisor, a traitorous friend, and a Messianic figure who would one day be sent on a Holy Quest. We have precious little lore to tell us what Sosaria was like before our characters parents walked it. Our parents and grandparents were Akalabethan. Our characters are (for the most part) Britannian. That is a major break. One our characters should be cognascent of. But we do know a little about the world that came before Britannia. Akalabeth was ruled by Wolfgang. He had two sons; the youngest of whom was named Mondain. Cantabrigian British was no more than a Knight mentored by Shamino Salle Dacil and Blackthorne was his closest (albeit jealous) friend. We know the land was fertile and that the civilization that came before us was much more advanced than we are. And then Mondain murdered his father and thrust the world (comprised of eight known kingdoms) into a war that would end in in the Akalabethan Kingdom (renamed Britannia) being the only visible survivor. Mondain didn't conquer the world overnight. Several years passed between the assassination of Wolfgang and his first excursion against Akalabeth. He created a number of new creatures to aid him in his conquest. Orcs. Ratmen. Exodus. He conquered and destroyed with (I am speculating here) the intent to remake the world in his perverse image. He was defeated by Cantabrigian (who was then made King of Akalabeth); and was forced to regroup and practice destroying seven other empires before he would return to bring the Akalabethans to their knees. "Mondain the wizard hath wrought his malice well. Our nobles bicker amongst themselves, and each hath retired to the confines of his keep in hopes of watching the downfall of his rivals. Velily, the Evil One hath heaped indignity upon curse by releasing upon the Realm a host of creatures and beasts so bloodthirsty and wicked that our defenseless people fall as grain before the reaper's scythe. These denizens of the underworld hold sway over all that can be surveyed, save for the strongholds of the nobles besotted with their own ambition. Nowhere in our once peaceful country may a traveler find safe passage or lodging, save in the keeps of the self-proclaimed kings - - and they demand hard labors for their indulgences." - Unknown It might be cliche but being an orphan whose parents were murdered by Orcs is exactly what happened to most living Britannians. The Stranger then shatters the Gem; inadvertantly causing destruction on a much larger scale than Mondain had ever intended. He is known as the Destroyer to the people of Ilshenar and the False Prophet to the Gargoyles. Continents rose and sank. Volcanos erupted. We know that Britannia looked nothing like the one we know now; and it is plausible that more than half of Akalabeth lies beneath the bottom of the Great Ocean. (Magincia and Nujel'm may have once been connected to the mainland. It would explain the lack of beaches or land that slopes gently into the sea. We know with relative certainty that the entrance to the Underworld sank beneath the waves along with the rest of the pre-Britannic continent and rose again when the super-volcano beneath it ruptured and lifted the shelf back to the surface.) Then British had to reunite and rebuild a people that had fallen back into the Dark Ages. There was the Britannic Civil War between British and his brother Lord Robert. We had Minax and Blackthorne. Exodus. Minax, again. The Ophidians. The Shadowlords. And it looks like we'll be fighting Minax, again. War after war that tore what was already a fragmented and weakened race into shreds. The Royal Council has barely managed to maintain their hold on the continent in the absense of British and Queen Dawn doesn't appear to be faring much better. The Council of Mages and the Secessionist Magincian Parliment no longer has a people to rule. One facet is stuck in a state of endless winter. Two others are being consumed by the Void. I am almost thinking that destruction on such a massive scale warrants a more visible place in our stories and fiction; especially when it happened only a couple decades ago in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps Britannia isn't so cheerful or idyllic? How do our characters react knowing the world just barely survived complete annihilation? What stories could your characters parents or grandparents have told them of the previous kingdoms? What treasures and heirlooms remain of our not-too-distant past? And what lies at the bottom of the Great Ocean? I think perhaps it is time we begin to reimagine the world our characters live in. A world that is darker and closer to the brink of annihilation than we ever imagined. Discuss.