Testing the hypothesis, Day 3...
Mandy and I are reading "Plague Peoples" by William H. McNeill.
Now any fantasy setting worth its salt has a Plague Lord or Pestilent Armies or whatever, but--to me at least--these have always seemed like moody, creepy, fun, but basically one-note villains. What desireth the Plague Lord? For people to have a disease and then be dead. Sweep across the land, infect, etc. The PCs job is mostly just to stop them from doing that while trying not to catch whatever whimsical ailments the DM has rigged up to fill out the Random Failed Constitution Roll Chart.
McNeill's thesis, however, makes me reconsider. He points out that the long-term survival of a disease depends not on killing every motherfucker but rather reaching a sort of equilibrium with the population of host organisms.
In other words: to a disease, humanity is not prey, but cattle, and you don't eat all your cattle at once, lest it fail to breed.
Seen this way, a Plague Lord or an evil cleric of the Plague Powers or Father Nurgle or a sentient disease or whoever has a rather interesting combination of motivations. For example, a pro-disease villain would desire the formation and maintenance of cities. Diseases love cities, especially medieval ones. So your plaguey villain might be just as interested in protecting the heroes' home as laying waste to their countryside (at least for a season or two).
To see the other Machiavellian possibilities here, imagine the four classic Warhammer Chaos Powers: Nurgle--the plague god forms easy alliances with Khorne, the war god, because invasions spread infection--however when war threatens to annihilate a whole city, Nurgle betrays Khorne. Likewise, Nurgle would ordinarily be inclined to look very kindly on Slaanesh--lord of depravity--however, if this depravity starts resulting in a miscegenated gene pool with disease-resistant hybrid vigor, then doublecrosses await. And, ordinarily, Warhammer suggests Nurgle opposes Tzeetch, god of intrigue, magic, and change--but they might temporarily team up to encourage some mass migration or displacement of people whereby all those virgin unimmunized bloodlines are exposed to alien pathogens.
And the disease god loves civilizations--chains of communicating cities--but will balk when these civilizations start producing minds that conceive of sanitary and medical advances--Nurgle backstabbed after collaborating with Thoth.
Point is, your Lord of Illness, via his or her earthbound evil-cleric and cult-leader representatives, can be a schemer at the highest and subtlest level. And the role-playing and deal-cutting and what-would-this-NPC-do calculations are pretty easy to figure once you start thinking: Ok, which result here would result in the most stable conditions for the spread of disease. A mysterious hooded figure agrees to fund our artifact-hunting expedition to the Jungle of Blue Leopards? Excellent!
More ideas came earlier in the day when a pal called up about maybe playing Paranoia. Thinking about it, I figured: I can fit this into the TMNT game. I came up with...
Alpha Complexe Soixante-- it used to be Montreal. Now it's like the Godard movie Alphaville + Alpha Complex from Paranoia. Everyone is sentimental, speaks French, and is trying to kill everyone else for reasons no-one can quite understand. Mass executions look like pieces of weird performance art. People smoke in noiry stairwells and commit suicide.
I also figure, in a D&D context, the same mix of ennui and inexplicable, enigmatic internecine warfare could easily be a hallmark of goings-on in Vornheim's neurotic sister city, Bellet Osc.
Then I took a short Google Image Search holiday and found out about Guild Wars designer Daniel Dociu...
I figure the cathedral at Vornheim looks kinda like this.
Sweet jesus this is awesome. This is either what Japan looks like in my D&D or in my post-apoc TMNT setting--depending on which campaign goes east first.
Then I figured, what the hell, might as well collect a few more pictures...
Interzone-Marioworld 1,001-1. Pointed arches, addictive mushrooms, sentient turtles with typewriters embedded in their shells issuing obscure orders to agents of nameless sects. Hallucinations, moths, junkies, dream viruses. All attempts to pursue the elusive Princess Scheherezade Peach result in endless recursive adventures for she is always in another castle.
Red Meridian. I found The Road a disappointment so Red Meridian is what I was hoping a post-apocalypse imagined by the guy who wrote Blood Meridian would look like. I think it's in Eastern Europe.
Android has won the phone world war
3 days ago