Claws & Effect 12: Where is Humanity? [Realms of Pugmire]

Pugmire

One thing I’ve been clear on — or rather, one thing I’ve consistently REFUSED to be clear on — is the fate of humanity in the Realms of Pugmire setting. Both Pugmire and Monarchies of Mau mention several possibilities:

  • Died out from an outside threat
  • Obliterated by some hostile technology rampaging across the globe
  • Colonizing other worlds
  • Evolved into creatures of pure energy
  • Stepped into a new dimension
  • A plague ravaged the world
  • A natural or technological disaster made the planet uninhabitable for us
  • Fought a war that brought about the end of everything
  • Explored distant galaxies in generation ships
  • Uploaded our brains into a virtual world

But I have a secret, one of the True Secrets of the setting. I don’t talk about it much, but I’m going to talk about it here, right now, to you. And the secret is this:

Q: Where did humanity go?

A: I have no idea.

Seriously. No clue. There’s nothing lurking in a document somewhere hidden in my Dropbox. I’m not holding back some grand reveal as part of a future product. I simply don’t know. And even more importantly, I plan never to determine an “official” answer to that question.

And I think this, more than anything else, confuses a lot of people when they write for me or work on Canis Minor products. There’s an assumption that every detail of the setting is either worked out in my head, or that I have some plan. For most of the setting, that’s true, but not on this case. So why? Why would I not have an answer for such an important question?

Let me take you into the world of designing games for existing properties. When you work on something like, say, Futurama or Walking Dead or Firefly, you get a “bible” of things you can and cannot do in the property. There are often bits that are marked something like SUPER SECRET DO NOT TELL ANYONE ON PAIN OF OBLITERATION. It’s exciting, it’s juicy, and it’s fun to learn the secrets of a popular universe. But I’ve found two things to be true when you finally learn them:

  1. They’re never as interesting as you’d hope they would be.
  2. They always get out.

In the end, what happened to humanity doesn’t really matter. It’s more important that SOMETHING happened than WHAT happened. Because once you know absolutely, 100%, for certain what the mystery is, it stops being interesting.

And you can’t spoil an ending that doesn’t exist. *taps temple*

So, for Guides who want to play with this thread, feel free to come up with your own “true” answer for what happened to humanity. That might be the answer for your chronicle, and you can absolutely enjoy that. But I personally find it’s more fun to seed CONTRADICTORY answers, and let the characters argue about it. Because what happened thousands or millions of years ago isn’t nearly as much fun as what’s happening at your table, right now.

  9 comments for “Claws & Effect 12: Where is Humanity? [Realms of Pugmire]

  1. Daniel Lackey
    December 20, 2018 at 10:07 am

    The idea I’d been tinkering with is that humanity isn’t necessarily entirely gone, they’re just not in the places where the dogs and cats are. The maps provided with Pugmire and Monarchies seem to cover a comparatively small portion of the world, so it doesn’t seem to be inconceivable that there are small communities of technologically-regressed humans out there, just waiting for a visitation from their former gods/servants…

  2. Bluegrass Geek
    December 20, 2018 at 6:23 pm

    That’s really the best thing for big mysteries like this. If people want to make an answer for their story, they can! Or they can leave it in the background, a puzzle that will never be solved in their campaigns.

    Because what’s most fun is seeing the story of the player characters.

  3. MikeC
    December 20, 2018 at 11:54 pm

    I find that a mystery that has no real answer, not even in the mind of the author, is not really a mystery at all as there is nothing to solve. It is instead an irrelevancy, a useless distraction from the story that is happening now. I would prefer stopping at “nobody knows what happened to them” rather than causing curiosity that is doomed to never be satisfied. It actually causes me to be less interested in the setting to know there was no real reason for the effects we see, just as with Lost, or Numenera, or the demise of Aroden, or what have you. It lessens the world being portrayed. So Pugmire’s tantalizing clues leading nowhere doesn’t really do it for me.

    • December 21, 2018 at 8:57 am

      But that’s the point. They CAN go somewhere in your game. Just because I won’t provide an answer doesn’t mean you can’t.

    • Phaolan
      December 24, 2018 at 6:30 pm

      I’m with Eddie on this.

      Look at any of the Time of Judgment books that ended the (first) World of Darkness. They had – to varying degrees of precision, admittedly – real ANSWERS to questions. Sure, we needed to know about Lilith for one of those stories and about the origin of Enlightened Avatars for some of it, but… But ALL of those answers only served to reduce the mystery for me. That, in turn, reduced the legit MAGIC. Having anyone say that, “Okay, Mikaboshi will be the Demon Emperor,” or exactly HOW the Wyrm could win? Those broke my heart.

      I’m sure Eddie has IDEAS of what might have happened to Man (oh wait, he shared some of those already), but his not know THE TRUTH doesn’t but me at all.

      • Philipp Leito
        December 25, 2018 at 8:03 am

        Exactly!

  4. John Parker
    December 21, 2018 at 7:22 am

    I also like the fact that when humanity disappeared is part of the mystery. This allows for broader interpretation for each GM.

  5. Nicolas Flagey
    December 25, 2018 at 5:08 am

    I disagree at least a bit with the fact that “big secrets” are never as interesting as they could be. In one game I really loved for not so obvious reasons, a game called BloodLust, players were interpreting warriors strong enough or resourceful enough or lucky enough to have become the owner of a “God Weapon”: a sword or axe with a soul and magical powers. The true nature of these Weapons would only be revealed after seven or eight additional books and it was a mind blowing revelation which led to even more questions!

  6. BodhanaJack
    December 26, 2018 at 7:40 pm

    An adventure i ran in Pugmire had them quested for a portrait that proved Dog, Cat and Mouse had at one time been friends and comrades. All of course my elaborate set-up to produce the Relic – a piece of cel art from an old Tom and Jerry cartoon where they were all drinking lemonade. My intent was simply to produce one heck of a long Wah Waaaaah moment. Imagine my surprise when one of the players said – “wait, they’re all drinking something… is that how we became uplifted, through potions?” I merely smiled, shrugged my shoulders in a huge “Iunno.” No answers, just continued searching. The epic quest. Brilliant.

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