The Ancients


My my my, we just loooove to hear ourselves don't we?
What the hell are they?
What ridiculous name are we going to call them?
What do they look like? Were they homogeneous or did they take a variety of forms depending upon societal roles?
What did they do day-to-day?
What did they do that sent them into hibernation/exile?
What was their alignment? (a prickly question for some, I'm sure...) Did they cover the spectrum? Were there factions among them?
Were they all godlike in their power or were there weaker individuals?
How were they organized?
I'm sure I should be asking other questions. Let's hash this out!


Should be playing D&D instead
1) What the hell are they?
2) What ridiculous name are we going to call them?
3) What do they look like? Were they homogeneous or did they take a variety of forms depending upon societal roles?
4) What did they do day-to-day?
5) What did they do that sent them into hibernation/exile?
6) What was their alignment? (a prickly question for some, I'm sure...) Did they cover the spectrum? Were there factions among them?
7) Were they all godlike in their power or were there weaker individuals?
8) How were they organized?
1) Something unique, and now, extinct.

2) Lost Ones suits me fine, but maybe each group has a different name for them, since nobody really knows their name.

3) For a baseline, they should have humanoid hands, be able to see (not be blind) and be bipedal - this will make designing their dungeons easier for our players to explore, giving reasons for there being things like levers, buttons, lighting, writing, stairs, etc.

4) I think that near the end, they saw their Armageddon coming (maybe they had amazing oracles or something), so their last acts as a society was to pack everything up and try to tough it out - they failed, of course, but a lot of their stuff survived because they built a bunch of survival bunkers and vaults. I also like the idea of some big effort to build something that might stop the apocalypse (spoiler: didn't work). Or maybe only a faction of "doomsday-prepper crazies" were doing that stuff, and the rest of society didn't take them seriously. Otherwise, they were farmers and smiths and teachers and all that normal stuff.

5) Again, I think they foresaw their own doom and worked to either fight it, or wait it out.

6) Id' say varied, but they had a concerted effort and put aside their differences in the final years for the sake of the species.

7) A few options here, but maybe they had a caste system, ruled by the most intellectual among them (the smart guys were given the reigns to save the species). They had a lot of domesticated animals, ones that also perished and are now totally alien to us.

8) Came together in their last years, as mentioned before. I'd imagine they weren't an especially large group - low birthrate, long lifespan.

Just getting the ball rolling. All subject to change.


My my my, we just loooove to hear ourselves don't we?
What if they escaped their unleashed apocalypse en masse by fleeing their dormant forms to distant planes. The summoned horror was left to inhabit their static mortal shells, trapped for eternity while they sought a solution in strange dimensions.

I'm picturing gaunt yet disproportionately bulky, 8-10' tall humanoids with an Andean holy man fashion sense. But then their heads and limbs end up being in many cases vestigial appendages like bumps or antennae as they unfold like the hideous giant cockroaches in Mimic or other tentacled/insectile/fungal ur-horrors. Imagine humanoid arms flopping obscenely like rabbit ears on the back of some crustacean abomination!

Not all of the bodies have been claimed by the summoned blight, and the ancient travelers are trickling back now, ready with a desperate plan to rid the world of these things. Unfortunately, the Ancients are alien and inimical. We are but buzzing insects to them, and their plans for salvation do not include us.


Regardless of the direction we go, here’s some inspiration from ruins and lost cultures around the world:

People seem to like theAndean/Tibetian mountain culture thing, so let's start there. Disclaimer: I don't know shit about Tibet.

The Andean cultures were very diverse and numerous. The Incans were the last ones to show up on the scene in South American before the arrival of the spanish. They conquered everything around them and carved out a huge empire, what would have been the biggest empire in the world at that time. Their heyday was around 50 yeas before the Spaniards showed up, so they are not truely a lost culture. Disease and a massive succession crisis threw their well organized empire into chaos. Them and their numerous sister and parent cultures left behind some impressive ruins

Agricultural terraces that are also fortresses:1200px-Ollantaytambo,_Peru.jpg

Here's a view of that with the town below:ollantaytambo with town.png

Here's some salt pools (that I believe are still harvested today.) Pretty cool looking!Salt Pools.jpg

Here’s a super nutty fortress built on a the highest mountain ridge in the :

More info hereélap

Note that the particular Andean (non-incan) culture that built this fortress buried their mummified ancestors in their homes.

I’m no expert on Andean cultures, but my understanding is that many of the Andean/coastal-desert cultures would also bring their mummified ancestors out during festivals and poor them Chicha (Cornbeer.) Very non-afro-eurasian.

There were also cultures in this area and some had crazy burial practices like this:

^These contain mummies and are extremely hard to reach without climbing equipment.

Moving on from the Andes,

old-timey people did similar things somewhere in China:
cool sky burials.jpg

In the Eurasian step, there are also these Scythian burial mounds:

Super inspiring. When I read an article like this I always picture myself in this particularly uncomfortable situation: I am a gross, depraved grave robber and I spent a bunch of time digging out and melting the ice in an ancient burial mound so I could rob all of the shit out of it, only to have some mean-looking, tattooed, straw-stuffed ice-mummy on a skeletal steppe-horse come out and then completely fuck me up with his ax. Maybe he’d also just have a conversation with me, I am sure we could find a topic we’d both found interesting.

Heading over to the classics now, in the writing of Xenophon’s Anabasis, it briefly describes an army taking refuge in an ancient, fallen fortress. If I understand correctly, would have been uninhabited for about 200 years at the time the army showed up.

“From this place they marched one stage, six parasangs, to a great stronghold, deserted and lying in ruins. The name of this city was Mespila and it was once inhabited by the Medes. The foundation of its wall was made of polished stone full of shells, and was fifty feet in breadth and fifty in height. Upon this foundation was built a wall of brick, fifty feet in breadth and a hundred in height; and the circuit of the wall was six parasangs. Here, as the story goes, Medea, the king's wife, took refuge at the time when the Medes were deprived of their empire by the Persians. To this city also the king of the Persians laid siege, but he was unable to capture it either by length of siege or by storm; Zeus, however, terrified the inhabitants with thunder, and thus the city was taken. “

It’s brief but it lights up the imagination. How amazing it would be to come upon runes that have been there for 200 or more years when you’re entire purpose in life is pillage, plunder and then write a book about it.

As I said before, I know very little about Tibet, but I google imaged searched the Sky Burial thing that @Commodore was talking about in another thread and it was pretty crazy! Looking at Tibet on google maps is pretty inspiring. It's so arid.

Onto other shit now, in the goofy old video game Chrono Trigger, there was a lost culture of magic users who left behind this weird thing:
Glass pyramid.jpg

Being a game about time traveling, you can actually go visit them.

This ancient culture called themselves the kingdom of Zeal. In their cities, there were lots of magic books, machines that didn’t make any sense and weird blue guys that would interpret your dreams or something, I can't remember. They also had lots of teleportation devices.


To answer some of the questions:

What the hell are they? Unusual, magical humans would be most interesting to me.
What ridiculous name are we going to call them? The lost ones is great, I don't think they need a specific name
What did they do day-to-day? Building on the seed-vault idea, Maybe they have some kind of crazy agricultural mastery.
What was their alignment? (a prickly question for some, I'm sure...) Did they cover the spectrum? I think it would be most interesting if they covered a spectrum. It would certainly make finding their shit more mysterious.

I don't have much of an opinion on the other questions.

I hope you had as much fun reading this post as I had making it.
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Should be playing D&D instead
Cool stuff getting thrown around here ;)

As far as I can tell we want our Ancients to be on a pretty standard technological level except in one or two domains where they are extremely advanced. Nothing too gonzo but a bit of superscience/magic in an otherwise "normal" fantasy culture.
There was some kind of apocalypse (or at least they tought there would be) and they prepped for that with vaults and stuff.

Let me throw some ideas around:
I always loved the Great Race of Yith from the Cthulhu mythos.
They are an alien race capable of projecting their minds through time into the minds of other beings. They basically take over your life for a specific amount of time to explore the universe. Your original consciousness is displaced into the original body of the Yith in another time ... where you are treated as a guest of honor for your stay. At the end you are mindwiped and send back while the Yith returns into his own body with new knowledge. While the Yith controls you he/she/it does stange stuff of course (crazy science, founding a cult, ...) ... which leads to most "guests" coming back to a life in shambles.
What if something similar happened to the ancients on a cultural level?
They were a pretty standard fantasy race until some unknown force basically overtook their bodies.
Maybe parasites from outer space/another plane controlled them, maybe energy beings simply switched minds with them or some form of alien signal mutated them into something new.
From that moment onwards they dedicated their entire culture to one or two domains of magic/science while keeping the rest of their culture stagnant at their original level.
Would nicely explain why they are so highly advanced in some areas while pretty normal in others.
After a specific time the "invaders" took of again or the mutation wore off ... maybe their goals where reached, maybe they lost interest ... all that was left was a culture so broken, that it was unable to sustain itself and began to immediately collapse.
The vaults could be the original ancients last attempt at saving something of their culture while everything went to hell.
Could also nicely explain why their apocalypse didn't affect anyone else ... because it was a cultural apocalypse ... not a physical one.

Motives for the Ancients
No idea ... but I think we should really show how alien and inscrutable they were. Even if we don't use the alien bodysnatchers idea our I think our ancient ones should remain largely mysterious in their motives.
In some of the Science Fiction Novels by Jack McDevitt there's a phenomenon called an "omega cloud" ... basically a cloud of destructive energy ejected from the galactic core that travels towards the rim and destorys anything that has right angles in its path until it ends in a colorful explosion somewhere. It is never made clear who or what creates them ... but the protagnists eventually find out , that if you look at the galaxy from a few hundred thousand light years aways over a timespan of millions of years these "omega clouds" form a strange pattern of exploding lights and forms. An art piece if you will.
Maybe the bodysnatchers really just did an art project and when it was finished they left. Or they built something specific ... maybe it was just a nice holiday for some interdimensional beings ...
Doesn'T really matter that much ... what I aim for here is a sense ofdread for the players as they slowly grasp that they simply don't understand whatthe fuck these beings where doing ... even if we allow groups to find out the truth it should be really strange with a hint of darkness.

"So these interdimensional beings took control of an entire culture and slowly destroyed it over a generation because they wanted to make an art piece?"

Forms of the Ancients
I'm fine with them being humanoids of even bog standard humans. Then again mixing things up a bit could be fun too.
In the german SciFi Pulp Series Perry Rhodan there's a race called the Cynos which are shapeshifting master manipulators with psychic powers that have forgotten their original form. Pretty standard here but when they die they leave no corpse behind but rather a perfectly black obelisk that doesn't cast a shadow. It's later revealed that the obelisks themselves are but shadows of the Cynos real body in another plane.
Maybe our Ancients were normal humans but when they died they left behind some strange artefacts ... that are really their corpses or remnants of their souls.

Connection to the Frog people

Maybe the Frog people are the remnants of the Ancients? Some part of their culture survived and mutated?
Or they were slaves to the ancients back then and were freed by their demise?
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Should be playing D&D instead
Maybe parasites from outer space/another plane controlled them, maybe energy beings simply switched minds with them or some form of alien signal mutated them into something new.
I like it, I can jive with it, but my question is: how can we show it to the players?

The speculations and idea free-for-all and mountains of backstory are nifty and all, but in the end it comes down to what the players are seeing - and what the players see has to be directly put into the adventures by us. So how do we go about demonstrating these things? Is it the looming doom? Are there present-day people getting bodysnatched? Are the dead Ancients sitting around as black obelisks, and whenever the party approaches one they get mindswapped?
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Should be playing D&D instead
DangerousPuhson said:
I like it, I can jive with it, but my question is: how can we show it to the players?
For claritys sake let's presume the following situation:
There was a near human civilization of Ancients, that got mindcontrolled by some outer horror (parasites, great old ones, energy beings,...).
They were a normal culture until they were overtaken by the Aliens, after that they focused everything they got on two distinct areas of development.
Everything else stagnated, only in those two areas was any progress made.
After some time the control ended (project finished? or abandoned? lost interest?) and the original culture reaffirmed control. The damage done to them (changed bodies, destroyed economy, ...) was too much and their culture began dying out. Their leaders got together in a desperate attempt ro save some semblance of their culture by building vaults that store parts of their culture ... but the effort was in vain.

So how do we get this in-game and show it to players?

1. Looming doom

The aliens are coming back ... simple as that. Their old vessels are all gone by now which irritates them a bit. So they're looking for new, suitable vessels to finish whatever their project was. Maybe they are only coming back because some dumb idiots (the conglomerate? the players?) activated something that schould've been left alone. This could be a good twist to put in the seed vault ...

2. Break in the history
We could show easily that there is a distinct "break" in the history of the Ancients ... pre-control and post-control.
They were a vibrant and ingenious culture before the event, which is shown in their art, their writings, their buildings. After the event only dull reports are to be found, the buildings are all very boring and and everything is focused on the project.
Commodore put some archeologist in one of the Task F sites ... so it's not far fetched to speculate that there are more history nerds abound in the zone. The conglomerate would hire them for better informations, maybe there are private dig sites, there could even a treasure hunter guild in one of the starting locations ... more than enough chances for groups to get into that mess.
I mean if we make the history of the ancints an important point the players will get behind that very quickly.

3. Artefacts/Corpses/Psychic echoes
The Ancients not only tried to save their own asses with their vaults, they also tried to warn all that came after them of the doom from elsewhere.
Besides their vaults they left dedicated warning beacons in the zone ... everyone activating such a beacon would get visions or informations regarding the doom and what happened.
Some of the ancients used strange magic to turn themselves into shadowless obelisks or they deliberately left behind artefacts that "tell" people what happened ... if you know how to activate them.

4. Legends of the Frog people
I mean they are there, they know their stuff so let's use that too.
A group that got in their good graces could be privy to some ancient lore the Frogs passed down ... written into the bones of their most revered leaders and shamans.

I mean we control everything that goes into the setting ... so I honestly think it wouldn't be that big of a deal to put the informations in there and give enough hints and plotshooks for groups to go and get them :)