I’m a big fan of post-apocalyptic RPG settings and as a result I must have ended the world in two dozen ways already.
There are some common ways of bringing about the apocalypse and some of them are a touch cliché. Let’s just say you wanted to try something different to challenge your group of players. What non-boring alternatives are there?
Here are the scenarios I think have been used plenty already.
Whether zombies, genetic plague or nanotech scourge I think the idea of mass contagion versus a few survivors is over-done. Why? This one option might map directly onto the main worry of the day.
Alien invasion, nuclear outbreak or another robot uprising, the world often ends in violence. This feels like the established way to bring about the apocalypse.
Yeah, we screwed the planet. Not enough water, too much water or common toxic goo everywhere.
You might include in the environmental section the end of fossil fuels without a suitable alternative being developed. Imagine a post-apocalyptic world where some lucky survivors live in colonies with solar or hydro power in contrast to the vast majority left outside.
Here’s my list of less clichéd apocalypse. What would you add?
The return of magic isn’t unprecedented in the post-apocalyptic genre but it’s not common (most often found as a deep background in the fantasy genre). This option would also include demon gates opening or perhaps the awakening of super powers.
The return or first appearance of super powers probably also fits into this section. It certainly would be civilisation changing if people did develop comic book style powers and easy to imagine the end of the world as we know it not being too far behind the first few manifestations.
As is the case with the magic scenario, the use of technology to end the world has been used but I’d suggest it’s been used far less often than the clichés. This might include device(s) that suck power from the world, satellites that zap anything which fits the bill or messing with important laws of physics like gravity. Petema Inverted floats to mind.
We could end the civilised world ourselves if enough of humankind was talked into it. A powerfully charismatic religion or figure head could do that. Such a post-apocalyptic scenario oozes with political potential too.
The catch with the religious scenario is not to let it become just a variant on the war scenario. You could achieve the end of the world by people willingly tearing down technology or banning the teaching of science.
I’d put active alien invasion under “war” but other cosmic options remain; solar flares, a dying sun or even alien intervention from afar (weather patterns or dangerous new lifeforms). The cosmic option is interesting as it rules in some pretty weird options.
A geological end to the world is different from an environmental one. The environmental scenarios tend to focus on something mankind’s done wrong – used up all the water, for example. The geological apocalypse is generally something rather more random such as a series of colossal earthquakes or the rise of a super volcano or two.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.