In an attempt to build off of The Universe’s last post, I submit to you a historical-ish example. Venture to the sands of Egypt to discover an ancient secret.
Let’s get this out in the open right now: Egypt is old. I mean REALLY old. Cleopatra (the last Pharaoh of Egypt thanks to that Marc Antony jerk) is closer in time to us in 2012 than she is to the Pharaohs that build the Great Pyramids at Giza. If that doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what does. While Egypt’s history is full of awesome historical-ish places for story seeds, I’d like to focus on one place in particular: Abydos.
This ancient Egyptian city holds many treasures of the past, including a royal necropolis of the early Egyptian Pharaohs.
Basically the Egyptians all thought they were descendent from Horus and Osiris—and they pretty much listed out each pharaoh in order starting with those guys. These so-called King-lists, are incredibly helpful for archaeologists. However, we know that lots of Pharaohs were left off or erased from these lists. And in Egyptian mythology, if you’re name was forgotten, you no longer got to enjoy the perks of the afterlife. you were doomed to a pretty crappy after-life. A cartouche (magical rope) often was used to surround the name and protect it. Conversely, the names of deceased enemies of the state, such as Akhenaten, were hacked out of monuments in a form of damnatio memoriae. Sometimes, however, they were removed in order to make room for the economical insertion of the name of a successor, without having to build another monument. Lazy bastards.
One of the most famous King-lists is in Abydos, inside the all-important Temple of Pharaoh Seti I. But it also holds one of the greatest archaeological mysteries of the ancient world. Reigning from 1290(ish) to 1279(ish) BC, he’s the dad of Ramses II (you know, Ramses the Great? He’s kind of a big deal). While that certainly ought to give him some historical street cred—he is also voiced by Patrick Stewart in the Prince of Egypt (meaning he was the Pharaoh during the Book of Exodus), AND he’s the guy Imhotep stabs in The Mummy to get with his super-hot wife. Talk about bad luck!
Beyond what Hollywood has done with this guy, look at his name. Clearly named after the Egyptian god Set—the god of deserts, storms, darkness, and chaos—if he was anything like his namesake, he was not to be trifled with. But why am I mentioning this guy and his temple? Because of this.
In 1848, an archaeological expedition discovered strange hieroglyphs at the height of about ten meters right above the entrance to the Seti Temple. These hieroglyphic carvings date back over 3300 years, and they look an awful lot like a helicopter, a tank (or Luke’s Speeder from Star Wars, I can’t be sure), and who knows what else! Unsurprisingly, lots of other people have pointed this out.
What if the Pharaoh had one of these things in his arsenal? Well that would certainly be interesting.
Let’s go back to his name though–what if Seti wasn’t actually Seti, but SETI?
That would certainly explain how the aliens built the Pyramids. But there is a flaw in this theory–if you think one of those carvings is a submarine. Why? Because we all know there is no WATER on Mars!!
But the ufologist failed to explain the origin of a submarine which was also engraved nearby the battle helicopter on the walls of the temple in Abydos. And the drawing was incredibly detailed. And researchers had to confess they were still too far from solving the mystery of the hieroglyphs and the frescos. It is perfectly clear that there are no seas on Mars, and the drawings of a submarine thus could not be made by “descendants of Martians” as Hogland called Egyptians as they had no notion what a submarine may be.
The real question, perhaps, is what happened to these amazing pieces of technology, and how does this fit into next week’s game? Are these long-forgotten Chariots of the Gods still buried under the sands, just waiting to be discovered? Or did the Martians take them when they left (perhaps with a breeding population to set up a technologically advanced global mercantile empire on a not-yet-ice-covered Antarctica)? Surely, your players are the best people to answer that particular question.
While an alternate history game is always a logical choice–Egypt’s Pharaohs were clearly able to extend their rule with this technology, not only temporally, but geographically. It certainly begs the question: could the Romans have brought the Egyptians to heel if the Pharaohs possessed such advanced equipment? Secondarily, what other weapons might the Pharaohs have had? Moveable pyramids? An animated Sphinx. I’ll allow your imagination to continue that line of possibilities.
While a “what if” scenario is always fun, an alternative scenario might be more rooted in reality. A modern-day underground cult of the god Set wishes to uncover these legendary gifts the gods gave their ancient ancestors. It’s hard to imagine a better enemy faction for a pulp adventure game than a long-forgotten cult of Set, determined to bring the glory of ancient Egypt to the modern world on the wings of a 3,000 year old aircraft. Details on the locations of such treasures are probably only found beneath the Spinx in The Hall of Records, or a long-forgotten repository of the Great Library at Alexandria.
Though the search for these aircraft is only the beginning of the adventure. Undoubtedly, the gods themselves wish them to remain beneath the sands, or their extra-terrestrial originators detect the homing-signal as soon as the helicopter is turned on. Again, I’ll leave it to you to create your own possibilities; the permutations are many and generally worthy of exploration.