Happy Earth Day. Today is a day when we take a look around at our own planet and determine if it’s better or worse than the year before. Personally, we do try to do what we can at our house… we turn off lights, recycle, and try to conserve water. If enough of us do that, maybe we’ll make a difference eventually.
But it got me wondering about some of the ways our fantasy worlds may also be affected by PC actions over time. The only setting I can think of that dealt with this in a significant way was Dark Sun, where Athas was slowly dying as wizards drew their power from the living things around them. Essentially, casting spells was draining the world of life and energy. That is an extreme case where the lasting effects of a group of greedy folks (the Sorcerer Kings) affected the ecosystem in a severe way. It created a Mad Max meets Lord of the Rings world that was quite unique as a result.
One way I might play with the idea of resource depletion in my own worlds might be the idea of conservation of energy coming into play with spiritual beings. I’ve been fascinated with the theory of parallel universes, which plays into the planar magic ideas of the D&D cosmology a bit.
What happens if we have two intertwined universes in a Fringe kind of way. One universe deals with the living. And one with the dead. This takes a page from the Norse myth of Yggdrasil (the World Tree) with two of the nine realms – Midgard and Helheim. Midgard is the realm of humans (us) and Helheim is the land of the dead presided over by Hel. Let’s use those names for the moment.
And let’s assume there’s a balance between the energy in Midgard and Helheim. When a new person is born, a portion of that energy is returned to Midgard. And when a person dies, that energy returns to Helheim. If the balance is upset, there will be a reckoning.
There’s a couple of ways I see this playing out.
The first way is that things are so good in Midgard that the birth rate drops to an all time low as life spans increase. Consider this an elven and dwarven way to go. Who has time for children when you live forever? Eventually Helheim will be overflowing with energy and the border between worlds will have to give. The lords of Helheim will lead an army into Midgard and the dead will rise. This could be like the Evil Dead where the Deadites are ready to come back. Or like the Walking Dead where it’s less about free will and more about body count. But when things equalize, the realms will once again be at peace. Probably wouldn’t be good for the living, but the dead would get a second chance in some form or another.
The second way is that Midgard gets too crowded and we run out of room. When this realm is overflowing, we discover a way into Helheim and the living wage a war to take over the realm of the dead. Imagine this as a planar terraforming… remaking Helheim in the image of Midgard. The challenges might be enormous and the lords of the dead would probably not be too pleased. It becomes almost a reverse DOOM scenario where we’re the ones invading the other side and they’re fighting us.
Both of these have some fantastic possibilities to explore. I think there are plenty of ways the first approach could be done today with what exists game-wise. But the second way would be intriguing to write about as far as a setting.
We’ll hope neither scenario plays out in our own world and we continue to do our thing for a few more generations at least. 🙂
Happy (Alternate) Earth Day!