|Added On:||June 10, 2020 3:53 pm|
|Community Series:||MOTU Classic|
Epilogue (2020) to Presentation of Power - RPG 5 (1998)
Twenty-two years ago in 1998, I (Jacob Q.) DMed the fifth Masters of the Universe / Princess of Power RPG campaign - titled "Presentation of Power". Those twenty-two years have passed both in the real world AND in the world of the campaign. This is an all-new epilogue written in 2020.
First, here is a recap.
In the campaign, a high-ranking representative of the Horde - the Viceroy - offered two nuclear weapons to those who demonstrated they could use them effectively. Contemporary Eternian science had not developed nuclear weapons, and two devices would likely give either heroes or villains a decisive advantage over the other.
There were two major themes - humility for the heroic characters and cooperation for the evil characters.
Heroic characters were expected to demonstrate humility and pragmatism. To hold nuclear weapons responsibly, the holder must be prepared to do whatever is required to safeguard them. The final test was prostration before the Viceroy on Etheria - prostration that did not require swearing loyalty. Those who prostrated themselves were instantly transported to Castle Grayskull for the final battle. Only He-Man and Teela prostrated themselves, and they were not force enough to defeat the forces of evil and nuclear weapons already in Grayskull. Castaspella declared an action that would have disarmed one of the two devices, but she never prostrated herself and so remained in Etheria. The final battle activated one of the devices and damaged its timing mechanism.
Evil characters were expected to demonstrate cooperation. If enemies are unable to hold great power jointly, then the power may destroy them. The evil characters succeeded in entering Castle Grayskull and finding the nuclear weapons. Both heroic and evil characters performed various actions on one of the devices without taking into account the actions of each other. The conflicting actions activated the second device. Hordak declared an intent to shoot the device with his arm blaster, but it was too late. Skeletor had already cast a spell to teleport the device away. Skeletor did not state a destination of the teleport spell, and habit directed it to Snake Mountain.
One device detonated within Grayskull and the other within Snake Mountain. The Viceroy showed the damage to the remaining heroic characters on Etheria before revealing that they were imprisoned in a nine-square mile simulation chamber. Return to Eternia without the aid of the Viceroy would be fatal. This is because a portal was open at the time of the explosion within Grayskull. The explosion filled the route through "hole space" (the dimension containing the corridor between the entrance and exit of a portal) between Eternia and Etheria with radiation. It is possible for a powerful mage to open a portal, but entering it would be hazardous.
Excerpts from the Conclusion of the Game (typos as in original):
Conclusion for Heroic Characters
The waste crew of the royal city of Eternos may be able to clean up the radiation in as little as 30 years. The full effect range of the blast is desolate. With a billion tons of rock upon Grayskull, perhaps evil will finally be dissuaded from seeking its power. Not being able to hand a mere 2 devices properly, you realize that evil could never use ultimate power responsibly.
What you do not know is that Grayskull was not destroyed. Its walls withstood even the pressure of a billion tons. To prevent the castle from being permanently encased in stone, The Sorceress cast several horizontal, permanent prismatic walls. As suspended rocks fall, they will be teleported to hole space rather that compacted against Grayskull. To do this, The Sorceress had to stay behind. It is unknown how long it will take her to chart a non polluted path through holespace so she can leap out. It is also unknown what forces may diffuse the radiation. "
Conclusion for Evil Characters:
"Skeletor and Evil-Lyn: You did not care where you sent the nuclear weapon, and you are most accustomed to one place. Your random location turns out to be Snake Mountain. Unfortunately, what you try to do now is a moot point because a flash of light fills the sky from afar. You become instantly blind. Your flesh is burned of your bones in a hurricane force nuclear wind. You know that Snake Mountain was surely destroyed."
It was thought that hazardous waste disposal teams from the royal city of Eternos could remediate the radioactive debris in as little as 30 years. It only took 22. For a time, it appeared that 30 years was an underestimate. For the first fifteen years, Man-at-Arms and a team of top scientists studied radioactive waste. They developed robots capable of operating under high-intensity radioactive conditions. They developed medical treatments for people exposed to radiation. They developed underground facilities capable of storing radioactive waste without contaminating ground water. During that period of research and development, precious little could be done to dispel the radiation.
How did remediation take only seven years? Additional forces were at work. Castle Grayskull was buried and not destroyed because a nuclear blast is only a physical phenomenon. Absent a cosmic-level physical event, such as the destruction of planet Eternia, destruction of Grayskull requires a magical component. That is why Skeletor has never tried to breach Grayskull's walls by ramming them with an aircraft at high speed. The Sorceress, trapped in Grayskull beneath layers of rock and soil spent the last 22 years attracting radioactive waste and sending it into hole space. The process of disposing of radioactive waste in hole space overwhelmed the rate at which radiation within hole space diffuses. Only now is the radiation sufficiently diffused to permit creation of a safely traversable portal from Etheria to Eternia.
Snake Mountain was not destroyed, despite the beliefs of Hordak, Skeletor, and Evil-Lyn in their final moments of life. It is readily observable on Eternia that there is a limit to how far out of balance the forces of good and evil can get. As long as there is a Castle Grayskull, there will be a Snake Mountain. Is it because there has been a link between the two ever since the time of the serpent god Serpos and King Grayskull? Is it because the cosmic enforcer Zodak ensures that balance prevails? Is it a matter of coincidence, such that one day the balance may be severely disrupted? No one knows for sure. The vertical stone structures that support the serpent corpus of Snake Mountain were destroyed in a nuclear explosion, much as Grayskull's supports were destroyed.
What is radiation but poison? Surely the serpent god Serpos is the king of venom. Snake Mountain, modeled after Serpos, is uniquely capable of absorbing and containing poison. The serpent dispelled the radiation without the intervention of a living being.
The powers of Snake Mountain and the Sorceress of Grayskull, combined with hazardous waste teams from Eternos, were responsible for remediating radiation in only 22 years. Near the end of the 22 years, The Sorceress slowly regrew the part-stone, part-organic structures that suspend Grayskull over its abyss. At the same time, vertical stone structures grew under the serpent corpus of Snake Mountain. Again, why the restoration of Snake Mountain should mirror that of Grayskull is unclear.
What is clear is that Zodak preserved the lives of He-Man, Teela, Evil-Lyn, Hordak, and Skeletor. Zodak foresaw the restoration of Snake Mountain and of Grayskull. In the interest of balance, he concluded that fortresses require champions. These five, who accomplished more than any other are those champions. Zodak pulled these five champions out of time and out of space. They have been dormant, suspended all this time. With Grayskull and Snake Mountain restored, Zodak revived the champions. He-Man and Teela were revived in Grayskull, alongside the Sorceress just as she completed Grayskull's restoration. Skeletor, Hordak, and Evil-Lyn were revived in Snake Mountain. Not one of these suspended champions aged more than one second in 22 years. All heroes and villains who died before the final battle remained dead.
The Sorceress was not suspended; her labor lasted every one of the 694,267,200 seconds that compose 22 years. The Sorceress labored for more than duty; she loved Grayskull. To her, Grayskull is more than a vault, more than a vessel containing the power of the Eternian ancients. Grayskull is what protects the power that might do unlimited good for Eternia and myriad other worlds - if only the forces of good could utilize its full potential without threat from evil forces. Grayskull is what protects sophisticated knowledge of magic, of technology, of nature, and of the cultures of several star-faring civilizations. It is the legacy of a remarkable race and must not be lost.
The power to remove layers of rock and soil, the power to cleanse radioactive waste, and the power to regrow Grayskull's supports are not powers that a mage merely uses. No, the Sorceress surrendered herself to become a conduit for the raw power of Grayskull. That she survived is astonishing. That she avoided the corruption of spirit that holding great power often leads to will be told in song and story for countless generations.
Serving as a conduit for Grayskull's power damaged the Sorceress. Just as a surge of electrical current damages a circuit, the Sorceress suffered internal damage to her physical body. She collapsed into He-Man's arms moments after he appeared. Teela knelt by her side. There is hope - her outward appearance is still that of a 35-year-old woman, albeit one who is exhausted. As former sorceress Kuduk Ungol told young Teela'Na before her accession to the throne of Grayskull, "You will never be mortal again." Perhaps her organs, no longer supported by magic, will fail. Grayskull's power affected the Sorceress's magical essence as well. If she survives, her greatly increased capacity to harness magic could make her the greatest mage in Eternia's history. Death or unfathomable power - her future could contain either or perhaps a fate in between.
Time passed for the rest of the world. King Randor and Queen Marlena are advanced in age but still rule. They long had reason to suspect Adam's secret. After the disappearance of Adam, Duncan finally revealed all. King Randor mourned by throwing himself into leading the effort to clean radioactive fallout. He became a harsh taskmaster who did not heed Marlena's counsel. Randor cared only about results and imposed ever more rigorous deadlines. It was only the loss of 25 scientists and assistants during a hastily-conducted experiment in year three of research and development that caused Randor to examine himself. He had kept himself and his subordinates constantly busy, and he never mourned properly. Afterwards Queen Marlena took over rule of the kingdom. Randor isolated himself for six months before reinserting himself into research efforts. This time, he acted less as a commander and more as a facilitator. He worked to ensure that safety was the highest priority and the concerns of the scientists were heard.
Man-at-Arms was the lead researcher. During the fifth year of research, he ran a simple calculation. He concluded that he had to sacrifice considerable hands-on research time now to train a team who could multiply his efforts in coming years. By year eight, Man-at-Arms had six brilliant men and women he had taught everything he knew, and each showed the potential to surpass him. Man-at-Arms resigned from hands-on-research and handed the oversight role to the greatest of his pupils. Man-at-Arms spent the last fourteen years as Eternia's greatest professor. Mechanical engineering and nuclear theory took up almost all of his teaching time. Some years he managed to add a course in history or philosophy or anthropology during off-hours. By year twelve, every semester was graced by such a course from Man-at-Arms.
Castle Grayskull and Snake Mountain were scarcely missed. Planet-wide, the population was content to avoid the high-stakes conflict of would-be masters of the universe. Only the wisest of the good and the most ambitious of the evil understood what had been lost. To both, it was just as well that common Eternians did not.
Now in year 22, a face appeared on Randor's and Marlena's mobile devices. "Hello Mother; Hello Father". It was Adam, his face still that of a nineteen-year-old.
Skeletor and Hodak materialized at the throne of Snake Mountain. Fighting immediately ensued. The interesting part, though, is what was in Evil-Lyn's mind. During her latest adventure, she greatly increased her mastery of subterfuge. "In time, both of them will be MY servants".
On Etheria, a thought entered Light Hope's mind, "The restoration of Eternia is complete." Light Hope then received images of the resurgence of Grayskull and Snake Mountain and the revival of their champions. He found that radiation in hole space had dissipated to allow safe traversal of a portal. He communicated the news to the surviving heroes on Etheria. Which heroes survived and whether they resisted the persuasion of the Viceroy is not for this epilogue; it is left to the imagination of the players who portrayed them.
The Viceroy planned a long-term strategy with the goal of recruiting heroes to the cause of the Horde. He knew that no amount of force or treasure would make the likes of Queen Angella or Castaspella sign on as new officers. But would Queen Angella refuse to join the Viceroy in meetings to discuss plans to construct housing units for forced laborers? Would Castaspella refuse to enchant farmlands to ensure that forced laborers were properly fed? Would Glimmer refuse to discuss guidelines limiting the tasks to be performed by children among forced laborers? Would Mermista refuse to help curb pollution of the seas? If they refused, then forced laborers can live in dungeons and eat starvation rations. Children can continue to work in mines, and toxic sludge can be poured into the Polar Sea. If these results come to pass, then aren't the "heroes" culpable? The Viceroy was optimistic that the heroes would cooperate, however bitter the taste in their mouths.
If heroes could be recruited for quality-of-life tasks, perhaps they could occasionally be used for enforcement purposes. If the Viceroy established a new hospital and a few weeks later there is a labor disturbance in the mines, then maybe She-Ra could be asked to convince the workers to return to their duties. Unless She-Ra is tired of seeing new hospitals and would not mind the demolition of the latest one. Hoof (a one-ton, seven-foot-tall, member of the Pachyderm race, having the appearance of a rhinoceros) might make a better choice for enforcement operations. He is imposing and does not have guidance from the Sword of Protection. The Viceroy would publish printed propaganda praising Etherian heroes, including displaced Eternians, for their cooperation. If any heroes worked with the Horde, then it would be possible to frame the remaining heroes as terrorists whose Great Rebellion threatens to return the lives of laborers to a no-carrot-all-stick paradigm.
The Viceroy hoped, over time, to show the heroes of Etheria how the lives of the laborers improved. Some could even be recruited into the ranks of Horde soldiers. Some workers could be permitted to read approved literature. Naturally, the narrative would de-emphasize certain truths - attempt to escape, speaking against the task masters, refusal to work, damaging Horde property, attacking Horde officers, and reading are some of the many offenses punishable by physical discipline, physical discipline of loved ones, or death. If even a few heroes could be convinced that the carrot-and-stick management style is preferable to rebellion and the possible return to no-carrot-all-stick, then the Viceroy would have powerful partners, however uneasy. If even one partner could be persuaded to give up some of the secrets to Etherian magic, then the Viceroy would be one step closer to what he came to Etheria for - control of Etheria's magic.
How much of the Viceroy's plan might Etheria's heroes have imagined 22 years ago? If they hoped to resist the Viceroy, they needed to unite and be strong and be brave. How they resisted is left to the imagination.
This epilogue had two goals. I wanted to provide rewards for the players who nearly reached the game's objectives in Grayskull. For the players who failed to prostrate themselves to the Viceroy and are partially responsible for the losses on Eternia, I wanted to imagine a scenario where prostration, even as a gesture, risks sending Etheria down a path to permanent subjugation. The dead and those who left the game get nothing.