The Prior Worlds

Paizo just came out with a book for the Pathfinder RPG called "Occult Mysteries". In it, they detail some of the setting's biggest questions like the origin of life, the mysterious death of the god of humanity, the designs of the alien interstellar empire called the Dominion of the Black, and others. However, they do not answer those questions---they explore them, and give the GM hooks to use in their campaigns. The origins of life, for example, are given various theories and possible "facts", none of which are canon, that the GM can freely use.

I know it's been said that the previous eight civilizations will never be fully detailed, but could Numenera get something like this? Exploring the previous eight worlds, rather than fully detailing them or giving concrete answers to things like "why has the sun not made life on Earth uninhabitable yet?". I love the setting and the system but it's a bit frustrating on my players' part when all this tech lying around basically has no basis other than "the unknowable paaaaaast!" They get that the prior civilizations were incomprehensible, don't dwell on the past, etc. etc. But when all of my answers to their inquiries are "it is a mystery" or "it is incomprehensible, don't even try bothering figuring it out" it begins to feel a bit cheap.

Humans are inquisitive creatures, even in a billion years I'm sure. While many in the Ninth World would catalog numenera or only care about its practical purposes, others ask why? Why does it feel like humans did not once own Earth? Why is it said that there are only eight civilizations, no more, no less? Some people won't just accept "because someone said so" or "unknowable past, don't even try to comprehend it".

Again, I'm not saying a book fully detailing the prior civilizations should happen, but knowing Monte Cook, I think something can be whipped up that can satisfy both those who want the prior worlds to be as vague as possible, like a blank canvas to draw your own stuff, while satisfying those who want something from the prior worlds that's not just answered with, "it is a mystery".


  • Well I get what you're saying, and I partially agree. I think a book (glimmer?) about the Aeon Priests would be useful. I mean, these guys are kind of the linchpin of civilization, it would be nice to have some thoughts about the kinds of stuff they would write down.

    But on the other hand, I feel like your not really answering correctly when you say "The unknowable past." It's not unknowable to YOU, it's just unknowable to the characters.

    Why isn't the sun burning us up? Someone cooled it down.

    Why would someone make an invisible lake? They didn't. The invisible liquid catastrophically spilled. There used to be a town there, before an invisible flood drowned everyone. Hence the ruins. Did I forget about the ruins? Well they're mostly buried now.

    Why eight civilizations? The Aeon Priests say so. They know, and they speak the Truth. Perhaps Calavel knew when he visited the sky castle through the Amber Monolith.

    Your answers should inspire more questions or just a good "Whaaaaat?" rather than attempt to cut off more inquiry. Here's another tip - ask THEM. Sometimes players get a little too one-sided - expecting you to create all stories. Turn to one of your players and ask, "Your family has a story about why it feels like humans are new here - what is it?"

    Not that I'm saying I'd turn down a book of more content. I loves me some content.

    Edit: Oh and apparently there's a Guidebook coming out. So there's that.
  • One thing to note (in this long quiet thread) is that the ever-increasing list of creatures includes quite a few that are remnants of prior Worlds. From the examples given, we know at least one of those prior worlds included extensive space-faring, and another visited "other dimensions". Something akin to magic played a part at some point.

    At some point, suggests the map in the Guidebook, someone made Earth itself bigger.

    And someone, possibly in the waning days of the Eighth World, apparently decided to "re-create" Humans.

    There are many hints in the detritus left behind.
  • edited July 2015
    For the humans, I prefer to see it as some weird time travel experiment gone awry. In my setting, humans built a space-faring civilization but were wiped out by AIs/machines (the 2nd world in my book). Some humans tried to escape in the unkown space, but some others attempted the first dimensional travel in the History of mankind aboard huge motherships. It failed. Most were destroyed or lost in hostile dimensions or traped in between them. But at least one traveled in the future and crashed back on Earth, leading to a cataclysmic event destroying many civilizations and species living at that time. Some humans survived the crash and could restart mankind (the clock of Kala is one of the "landing" site of the mothership), without knowing that they never left Earth.

    It could actually be a pretty cool seed for a campaign too: some kind of meteor about to crash on Earth and destroy the area where the players are (so, riots, looting, end of the world atmosphere yada yada)... Except that it isn't a meteor but a time traveling mothership full of original humans that the players are ready to blow up with some strange weapon they activated in a ruin (it gets even more interesting if the players manage to discover the true nature of the "meteor")!
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