Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Primeval: Or Dinosaur and Giant Bug Fighting

Quite a while ago, some of my friends were telling me about a BBC America show called Primeval. Being one of those without cable and too lazy to surf the net to find out more, it wasn't until I got good old Netflix that I learned of how interesting the series is.

For those who haven't watched the show and may be wanting the old spoiler warning, consider yourself so warned.

Primeval is a show set in modern Britain where wormholes in time called annomalies open up. Through these holes in the fabric of space and time, come various visitors. The cast and crew of the series job is to prevent general panic from breaking out, try to find out as much as they can about the annomalies, and to be good heroes in that their there to save people.

The implications for a role playing game should be fairly obvious. In many ways, game companies have been doing this for decades. Dungeons and Dragons of course has the whole Isle of Dread to start with or at least to make the whole dinosaur island concept popular. The core Dungeons and Dragons experience though, has often used giant versions of normal creatures and in a setting using the ideas of Primeval, it's easy to make these entities into the prehistoric version of themselves instead of just giant varieties. Giant spiders, scorpions, ants, and other critters abound in slime infested past portals as do mighty raptors and T-Rex.

But Primeval takes it a step further than that for you see, these portals in time also lead things from the future back into the past. Have some Gamma World monsters you've been wanting to throw into the campaign? Want to give the players tantalizing glimpses of a potential future shaped by the events of what they're currently doing? Have them go through a time portal to the future.

While the random arcs are good and entertaining in and of themselves in terms of the monster of the week bit, there are other agencies at work. Some of these agencies are in fact, actual agencies with their own goals and agendas that don't match the heroes. Others are merely lone players driven mad by their knowledge of how the world ends. By making the random elements of dinosaur weekly tied into personal connections with the players, the Game Master can make the players curious enough to continue going down the rabbit hole.

In a fantasy game with long lived individuals, the Game Master can even play with the players meeting different versions of themselves. What happens with that wise old elf with one hand and bandages over his eyes reveals herself to be the sultry wizard? What happens when the players learn that they've been betrayed by one of their own?

The series has a lot of twists and turns but ends kinda in the middle. Ironically, this is like many campaigns where just when things start getting good, outside forces force people to call it a day.

If you're looking for some ideas on monster design and futuristic horrors, Primeval is a good show to view.