“No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space. No one could have dreamed that we were being scrutinized as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. Few men even considered the possibility of life on other planets. And yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely, they drew their plans against us.” – Narration by Bichard Burton at the beginning of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds.
You may be a fan of the book by H.G. Wells or have seen the recent film with Tom Cruise. You might remember the 1953 The War of the Worlds or have even listened to the Orson Welles radio broadcast which caused mass hysteria in 1938. All of them end the same with a bit of a damp squib. I’m sure it was entirely deliberate of Wells to depict science and the military as being utterly ineffective against the Martian war machines. In this way he reminds me of Lovecraft’s Mythos stories where the actions of humankind are ultimately ineffective.
From a RPG plot point of view, it’s not very interesting. The players can’t really get into the mix at the start as, frankly, they’d get pasted. They would have to dodge the evil Black Smoke, the insidious Red Weed, the deadly Heat Rays and the throngs of panicked humans. And after all of this, the blinking aliens are defeated by some innoculous bacterium? How deus ex machina can you get! If this were a scenario, it would indeed be one of the world’s worst.
So, we can’t play in that sort of game world. We have to think of something else. The logical thing to do is extrapolate. Here’s the things we have to consider.
The Living Martians – not all of them will be dead.
The Dead Martians – what happens to a dying Martian. Does it decompose?
The Humans – society is still in a shambles.
The Red Weed – although affected by Earth’s bacteria as well, it obviously was able to survive better than the Martians themselves.
The Black Smoke – a binary nerve agent? Very topical in todays terrorist-fearing news.
The War Machines – there’s all this alien technology just lying about….
More Martians – they wouldn’t have committed this much without ensuring a second wave for resupply. By now they would have realised the attack was a failure….
George PÃ¡l, who produced the 1953 film, conceived of a War of the Worlds TV series which was finally shot and which ran from 1988 to 1990. Their premise was the aliens had not died but had slipped into a state of “suspended animation”. There’s some vague explanations as to why the aliens now look human (ahem, budget!) but the entire series seems a little tired (and frankly too hard to obtain to give a good review).
So, we’ll begin this by writing a little prose….and covering the areas we have mentioned above…