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[OOC] Britannia: A Post-Apocalyptic Setting?

Discussion in 'UO White Stag Inn' started by WarderDragon, Jul 10, 2010.

  1. WarderDragon

    WarderDragon Babbling Loonie
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    "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.
     
  2. canary

    canary Guest

    Great post, well thought out. :thumbup1:
     
  3. GalenKnighthawke

    GalenKnighthawke Grand Poobah
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    Good post; I'm glad I read it. I had originally stopped at

    But when I read further I realized that the phrase perhaps better reads as:

    The argument, basically, is that elements of the fiction imply that there should be more visible chaos, destruction, and uncertainty, mirroring that of Dark Ages Europe post-collapse of the Roman Empire.

    Why isn't it that way in UO?

    The simplest answer is that "that's just not Ultima." It's just not the setting. Ultima's universe isn't the grim universe of, say, Warhammer, or Vampire the Masquerade (or whatever it is the younger generation calls that game....The Forsaken Dark Age Vampire Warewolf or some such.).

    If you want a fictional, in-narrative explanation, then it's that the Ultima universe luckily has assets post-Roman Empire Europe didn't have.

    Firstly, it mas magic, and superior technology. The Romans were pretty well advanced technologically, and a multitude of factors prevented the Dark Ages Europeans from really reaping the benefits of that, but neither the Romans nor the Dark Ages Europeans had magic as a potential power source that rivaled electricity.

    Further, the Britannian spirit, inspired as it is by a ruler who brought with him from "Urth" or "Earth" the democratic spirit of his home country, is also different from that of the Dark Ages peasantry.

    The Ultima universe also has inspirational heroes. Sure, it has orcs and evil wizards and dragons and demons, but it also has warriors who are capable of slaying the great evils of the world, not just in legend, but in fact. I have little doubt that the real life Knights of Charlamagne would have simply crumbled fighting, say, a paragon balron.

    And, finally, it has some of the good aspects of capitalism (the harnessing of human innovation) without some of the bad aspects of it.

    All of these factors add up to this: Britannia was able to rebuild itself from a torn and broken world into a flawed paradise within a few generations.

    There is a dark side to this, of course, which we saw in aces during the Warriors of Destiny event cycle. For every Lord British and every Queen Dawn, an ambitious Lord Casca lurks in the shadows, ready to exploit the way Britannians have come to rely upon heroes to save them.

    -Galen's player
     
  4. WarderDragon

    WarderDragon Babbling Loonie
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    It's interesting that you bring up Warhammer.

    I had a previous discussion (with a different friend) on the lore and mythos of Warhammer. I also cannot help but draw parallels to Conan and Lovecraft. In all these stories there is this pervasive theme of doom. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. No hope for the hereafter. Humans are insignificant. Their gods are silent and often malevolent creatures. The characters know that their decaying civilization is doomed. It is only a matter of when.

    It was actually an interesting discussion that prompted some roleplay. The individual drew comparisons between Sigmar and Lord British. Both characters have messianic expectations assigned to them. Both have departed the world in (what we presume) was some heroic sacrifice meant to hold back the tides of darkness. The character took this and suggested that when he departed for the Void (Chaos), he ascended and became deified (Avatarhood).

    That is sort've a tangent but I thought it was an interesting take. (One that unfortunately was never completely explored.)

    But would you say that the Britannians are a much more optimistic race? (And would their perception of the world be different than the people of Malas, for instance?)
     
  5. GalenKnighthawke

    GalenKnighthawke Grand Poobah
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    First, let me clarify something in my last post.

    I almost stopped reading the post at the statement I did because at first it hit certain buttons for me. I then read the post and saw it was seemingly not intended how I'd taken it at first.

    Anyway.....

    I would say Britannians are an optimistic race, yes. I'd go a little further and say that their optimism is quite rational and grounded in the reality they experience.

    As to the other peoples in Britannia?

    Malas, from the fiction presented they appear to be a lot like Britannians.

    Ilshenar, the population consists of gypsies who don't appear significantly different from the gypsies of Britannia. I've added a little through RP, assuming for example that the desert gypsies south of the Ancient Citadel are Muslim-like. It's also never been clear to me if the Ilshenarian gypsies are Ilshenarians who were left behind, or Britannians who were earlier "settlers," finding the land convenient to wander in.

    But most RPers that I know or know of have assumed that they are Ilshenarians who stayed behind and are just really awesome at going with the flow and living within the situation they are given.

    The gargoyles of Ter Mur appear to be decidedly more pessimistic than Britannians. Not only is their world being swallowed by a demonic Void Plague, their Holy City swarmed with Undead, their land overrun with monsters even without the Void Demons, their Tomb of Kings haunted with brutal mockeries of their own race, but on top of all that their philosophical system is a tension between 3 forces locked in contradiction: Control, Passion, and Diligence. These 3 forces are infinitely less reconcilable than are the Britannian equivalent, Truth, Love, and Courage.

    The Lost Lands....Firstly they have probably adapted Britannian attitudes at this point. But their native people from the very little bit I dimly recall of the associated fiction they appeared to be more fearful and less curious about the world they inhabited. They knew little, for example, about the Ophidians and Terathans other than to avoid both.

    The elves of Heartwood....Well, they're elves.

    Did I miss any maps? Probably. *chuckles*

    -Galen's player
     
  6. Panzram

    Panzram Guest

    Nothing to add really, but what a great conversation to sit in on.

    Motivates me to re-read the Ultima lore, keeping in mind the social consequences. Great discussion.
     
  7. WarderDragon

    WarderDragon Babbling Loonie
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    I'm liable to depart on another tangent here (I blame it on your brief mention regarding Elves); but I almost wish the developers would retcon a few pieces of Ultima Online (and perhaps even Ultima Prime) Lore so that the two pieces fit together. (I suppose that departs from my earlier comment about taking Ultima in new directions rather than recycling events.)

    The Lost Lands remind me of the Lost Valley of Eodon from Worlds of Ultima: Savage Empire.

    http://ultima.wikia.com/wiki/Worlds_of_Ultima:_The_Savage_Empire

    Eodon is said to have existed somewhere on Earth. This is where I could see a minor retcon made to its location; transplanting it to the Sosarian World and implementing pieces of the lore from that title back into Ultima Online.

    As for the Elves? On one hand I was one of the few who supported their implementation. (If only because so many people turn their UORP into a pastiche of the Forgotten Realms.) But as I come to be more familiar with Ultima lore I have begun to loathe their implementation.

    But what if the Elves (and Heartwood) were retconned as being the Zealans of Pagan?

    http://ultima.wikia.com/wiki/Pagan

    It would make sense. (Sort've.) We know the Elves of Heartwood to be associated with Balance and Nature. Heartwood is a World Tree; a sort of Axis Mundi in the vein of Yggdrassil and the Sephirot. The Tree is also perpetually divided into Four Seasons; while there exists Four Titans of the Elements.

    This would correspond to my theory that Ilshenar is Serpents Isle (Ilshen and the Ilshenites corresponding to the Human Ophidians and the Balance Religion; the Ophidians in Ultima Online are Serpentine Lamia that more closely resemble the Sakkhra mentioned above) and that Malas is the Land of Dark Unknown (Olympus corresponding to Luna and the Labyrinith).