Over February of 2021, I was able to indulge deeply into weird psychedelic/Moebius inspired post-apocalyptic/future type settings; namely Vaults of Vaarn, Acid Death Fantasy, Necronautilus, and Ultraviolet Grasslands. I have positive thoughts on all of them with regards to the creation of an interesting world; but I hold in reservation a specific judgment towards UVG; which is something unique in its issue.
|Really though, I'm digging the broader vibes of the genre.
The Ultraviolet Grasslands don’t feel like a world of adventure. They feel like the backdrop of a road trip. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a specific vibe that makes it feel hard to adventure through. Perfectly fine for some Planes, Trains, and Automobiles shenanigans; perfect for getting followed by a post-human vome serial killer hitchhiker, perfect for getting lost and ending up in a shootout at a wedding---but not exactly the sort of place where you go wandering, slaying strangers, and looting crypts for ancient goods. Not exactly a place where you can’t reason or discuss with the enemy why things don’t need to come to violence.
This is both a good and bad thing; it is a good thing in that it feels incredibly real and human and relatable. Most people want to go off and do their own things, the world has its dangers but they are overwhelmed by its many wonders---and most dangers aren’t necessarily going down the highway like the rival truck in Duel.
Which is what leans into the bad; namely, for as much as I love UVG I also realize how much is put on the players to make the trip, the game, the world; their own. An abundance of agency without a catalyst beyond the points provided in the start of the UVG Player’s Guide---which lean, ultimately, into it being about the journey or destination in equal shares in our modern context of enjoying life whilst we sojourn.
So, for sake of making something of utility I came up with a few potential backdrop catalysts which might add a greater sense of actions in the world beyond your characters. Things which might be a reason to adventure throughout the regions, from the Black City and back towards home. In addition to the catalyst pitches are notes on escalation, things that should show up every few sessions; like the Fire Nation in pursuit of the Avatar, or other travel-specific media threats.
The first of such is something I'm calling: The Plague of Perception
The Plague of Perception
Pitch: In the high spires of the Violet City, it was hailed first as an oracular blessing. It did not harm the Cat Lords, not directly; though it gave their servants wisdom and foresight beyond them---and this was cause for concern. When those afflicted with the Perception began to develop metallurgic lithoderms and argent-bleeding tumors it was already too late.
The Plague had spread, and few among the Cat Lord’s thralls were spared. Those afflicted see the realm not in colors but in the raw mathematics of existence; driving most to madness as their mortal minds cannot comprehend the infinite array of numbers. The whispered rumors are that this is a work of ancient vome nanosorcery; somehow brought to the surface and weaponized to sink the city into disarray.
It is spreading out into the lands beyond the Violet City, and the road has become unsafe. Caravans are all that will keep the Violet City from collapse; but other settlements fear the spread of Perception and arm themselves against former friends in mercantilism. Rainbowlanders, any true Human, are at risk of Perception. None are sure exactly how it is spread, contact, saliva, coitus, or through the air. Consumption of Black Lotus can allow one to trace its spread through strange inky veins of starlight in the back of one's mind; but this is hardly useful. Fear takes over quickly of course. As does the worst nature of mankind in its capitalistic pursuits.
Twist 1: The Caravan encounters a Porcelain Prince studying dead Perceivers in a plague ditch on the side of the road. The Prince claims the corpses still speak the tragedy of their being in the silent whisper of a coded language, and by the looks of it will sing the whole of what they are until the end of time. Perhaps the Perception is a plague of immortality that Humanity cannot reconcile without losing themselves?
Twist 2: Steppelanders are bowing to a new warlord who they call Silverhand; one of their own who has been afflicted by the Perception and found a means to use the plague to track down Violent Mechanisms and assimilate their beings into their person. Silverhand can turn their arms into liquid metal and must consume the flesh of the infected daily to keep the power. They are infected travelers and other, less loyal, Steppelanders. Some seek to usurp Silverhand, but they know this cannot be done easily. They fear being eaten. It is clear now that the Plague can mutate and do strange things to the body.
Twist 3: A pair of psions from the Spectrum Satraps are experimenting with a blessed herb that has begun developing silicon floral buds which can carry the Perception on the winds; allowing a tripper to imbibe and Perceive without being fully consumed by the plague. One is fascinated by the mutation upon plants, the other believes that weaponizing this will see them made emperors over the weakening Rainbowlanders.
Twist 4: A Rainbowlander afflicted with the Perception has claimed to be one of the mysterious, missing folk known as the Lings. They are offering up fortune tellings and oracular blessings in exchange for cold hard cash. They don’t care that they’re spreading the infection; they seem in control of their mind and body. “People are easier to read when they’re all just numbers.”
Twist 5: A cult in the depths of the wilderness know what it is going on, though only through esoteric pseudo-religious iconography. One of the Ultras is locked in an eternal struggle against the projected artifice animus of a Vome mechanism. The Ultra has spread the plague in the hopes of being perceived and assisted in putting the Vome to death for all eternity.
Finale: The party gets high on blessed herb or become infected Perceivers, approach the sacred site of the cult, wherein the Ultra is waging the war in an endless stasis. The party transcends into a realm beyond mortal perception and does battle to snuff out the Vome mechanism; but only by silencing or blinding the Ultra will the Plague of Perceptions end. No good deed goes unpunished, and no After-Human wishes to be snuffed from existence after an eternity of conflict. A bit traditional skewing in terms of development, but as a backdrop of conflict while on the road; something to keep people travelling on and wary of what new developments might mean.