Yesterday, I took a look at the first setting for the Cypher System Kickstarter, Gods of the Fall; today, I’ll be looking at the next one, Predation, which will be written by Shanna Germain and which is apparently about genetically engineered dinosaurs and a lot of existential concerns about meteors. So let’s look at what we know, what we can extrapolate, and what I hope, shall we?
What we know about Predation
At some point before the setting book is set, a portion of humanity went back in time – deep into time, at about a 65 million year mark. We don’t know why, and we don’t know what happened to result in them not going back, but they didn’t. It is, apparently, a couple generations later; the flavor we’ve been given indicates that the grandparents of the characters brought back books with them to describe the time period of the Cretaceous, which is when the game is set.
We know that they didn’t come back to be anomalous cave-dwellers; they brought back some fairly advanced technology with them. They have, apparently, actual technology, including weapons and vehicles, as well as the scientific knowledge to use it and perhaps make more. For whatever reason, building a new method of traveling in time apparently isn’t among what they have – but they can genetically engineer dinosaurs, so they’re already a step ahead of the game.
There’s a distinct awareness that at some point in their future, a meteor is due to come plunging down into the area of the Yucatan, setting into motion the events that result in the dinosaurs going extinct. They’re trying to figure out a way to their ‘home’ time to avoid joining their engineered beasts in this fate, possibly ending up as baffling and anomalous fossils.
Things we can try extrapolating
First off, I’m pretty sure this is Shanna’s love letter to things like Land of the Lost and Jurassic Park. I’m okay with this, because you get the best products from people who love what they’re working on, and hey, dinosaurs.
I’m expecting this to have something of a Numenera-ish vibe, in that there’ll be advanced technology and deeply weird situations. If nothing else, I’m expecting that we’ll get to ride velociraptor-like engineered mounts into battle with laser rifles and rocket launchers, while glancing skyward to see if there’s a burning speck of a meteor yet.
Going by the artwork, it’s a safe bet that not only is there opposition to the human presence by the Cretaceous-era fauna and the environment itself, but from other groups of humans. Whether the hostility came before or after the time-travel event isn’t something we know, but I could easily see it being both – one group followed the PC’s ancestors into the deep past, possibly trying to stop whatever they were going into the past for, while the original group fractured along ideological lines after arriving – one group wanting to avoid tampering if possible to protect the future, another figuring that the future was already lost, so why not settle in nice and strong and look for ways to survive the Yucatan impactor, and others breaking off along other lines.
Another safe bet is that everyone knows about the coming impact, but perhaps not everyone believes it’ll actually happen. After all, we have people today who deny things we have direct evidence for because they didn’t see it for themselves. So we may also see a faction that’s operating on the idea that the past can’t be changed, so if they’re here, they were here when they were in the future, and hey, what makes more sense, a random space rock happening to drive everything extinct, or humans blowing something huge up to make it look like a giant random space rock hit? Humans break everything, right? Make sure to pack iridium dust in the bomb, Greg, so we get a proper K-T boundary!
Personally, I’m hoping for genetic engineering to allow for biotech on this. Letting players incorporate chunks of Cretaceous megafauna right into their characters as gear would get the Wild Sci-Fi vibe going strong, as would allowing for ‘artifacts’ that amount to directly genetic therapy and biomods to make the players literally part dinosaur.
I really hope there’s ample info on the different factions among humanity, possibly enough to let the players be part of any of them. Imagine the wacky fun you could have with all the genetic engineering, high-tech gadgets, and a group determined to make sure the K-T event happens On Schedule because obviously they have to make it happen since there’s no impactor on the way. (And then they happen to spot something suspiciously like the impactor on the way and they have to decide if they want to let it happen and slink off, prevent it and set off their fake impact, or compound things to get The Proper Effect.)
I’m not expecting it, but what I’d really like is for the players to have a chance to play a sapient dinosaur – whether this is a primitive lifeform forgotten by history or something engineered by humanity doesn’t matter. I know at least one person who would love to get to be a feathery raptor racing through the Cretaceous landscape, augmented with some bionic weapon systems, looking for (hostile) humans to hunt down. If the chance to play something like that exists, they’d buy the book in a heartbeat and probably start trying to organize a group to play a pack of raptors the next day.
And, with the author being Shanna, I’m hoping for some candid discussion of the non-heteronormative relationships and family models that exist in this setting. She certainly didn’t disappoint by making it clear that she recognizes everything from pansexuals to asexuals when she wrote the Love and Sex in the Ninth World glimmer for Numenera, and I’m hoping to see more candid acknowledgement of the ways we all interact and form bonds.
So while this isn’t the setting book I’m most looking forward to, I’m certainly still enthused to see it in the lineup.