Post Apocalyptic, we all know that that phrase means in fiction. It is primarily a science fiction idea. It covers everything from a world after a Nuclear War, to other breakdowns in society (flooding, natural disasters, diseases.) And it is focused on people struggling to survive while their technology falls apart or is no longer as functional. Or society has broken down so the technology is moot. But few of the novels I have read cover what a Post-Apocalypse Fantasy world would be like. That’s where I’m going to go next with the boys game.
Here’s the scenario. A stable civilization, but under attack from outside forces. Magic thrives, along with a roughly medieval economy. There is a government, political structure, economic infrastructure involving both mundane and magical means. But in the face of this attack from outside forces a mad Wizard gathers a group of cultists and unleashes the magical equivalent of a nuclear strike against the attackers, unwittingly causing a chain reaction that results in millions of deaths more or less instantly. It does counter the magic of the outside invaders so they are no longer a threat.
But suddenly there are millions of fewer people. And in an economy that depends on manual labor, not machines (even with magic) that much of a loss is hard to cope with. In addition there are diseases that come from all those dead people, and an explosion of carrion eating monsters. Initially there is a surplus of food, but with all those people gone, who will do the farming, bring the food to market, etc.?
And then to compound things, completely unknown to everyone in the land, there once was a magical barrier in the Western mountains that kept several large groups of barbarians from migrating into the Empire. But that barrier is gone now, and much like the collapse of the Roman military there is no one to stop these massive invasions/migrations. These will not come as one massive invading horde that could be stopped with a single massive army. Instead it will be thousands of small migratory groups, building momentum as they rush to fill the vacuum left by all those dead people.
How will the party survive with that lack of resources? When all their wealth means nothing in the face of people struggling to eat and keep invaders out? Can and will they try to heroically stem the tide? When there are no enchanters or markets for their goods. Because the Cataclysm spell hit magic users harder than others, leaving far fewer people out there to create magic items. And those barbarians who come rushing it? They can and will arm themselves with any items that they find (or ‘liberate’.)
I am sure there will be some griping. Some ‘what do you mean we cannot just go into town and order a +5 hackmaster sword?’ And it might be a challenge to get them to help out the village from the invaders. Or even try to figure out which invading groups are just there to settle rather than plunder and sack?
And in the face of all this chaos there will be opportunists who try to seize power. And of course with a breakdown of order, many monsters might make their way back into the country side, no longer worried about massive organized hunts.
Instead of the classic Post-Apocalyptic scenes where people try to get technology to work again, or re-purpose it, there will be people just trying to figure out how to get their goods from point A to point B. And found cache’s of trade goods, fine weapons, magic items etc.
I think it will be fun. A nice change from the ordinary things, and as the characters reach a point where they should be leaders anyway it gives them a chance to assume that role.