Tuesday, 20 July 2021



There have been a few excellent ScandiNoir TV productions over recent years, specifically The Bridge, Caliphate and Boarder Town to mention but a few although recently I have been sucked into Katla, a peculiar and literally atmospheric Icelandic drama. Its premise is something that really wouldn't capture my interest under normal circumstance and its taken me a few days to realize why I like it so much. Akin to the German sci-fi production Dark, its primarily a play on character despite skirting the metaphysical. I'm aware that a play on character is almost by definition but bear with me as it uses scifi in what is to me the epitome of its spirit and I miss the quality of the reflections here rather than the usual dull and predictable plodding of the usual cgi space drama productions.

For reasons, a large section of Iceland has become a controlled zone due to the continuous eruption of one of its volcanoes rendering nearby communities barely habitable. Of course there are the usual stoic local farmers and villagers that are determined to stick it out to the end as well as some visiting scientists that get drawn into circumstances. Whilst the dark and smoldering hellscape portrays a bleak otherworldly backdrop, its a stark metaphor to the individual characters that endure there and each seem to carry their own dark burdens from decisions and circumstances that haunt them.  Without giving too much away, ash covered people start to be appear out of the landscape and whilst initially seem to be lost, presumed dead, people returning to the community, the plot begins to complicate rapidly.

Its not a hugely original idea but the interplay between people living in the present whose life experiences have worn them down and suddenly confronted with the past made manifest illustrates not only how hardened and resigned people can become over time without realising it but also how fundamentally people change. Its not quite the innocence of youth but reminding ourselves of who we used to be and the effect we used to have on people can open us up to other possibilities. However its not all an endearing tale of self realisation, indeed given a chance to make different choices, there are those who not only repeat the mistakes of the past as if in some pre determined temporal self-imprisonment but there are those who go for decidedly worse outcomes. It seems that wisdom can also abandon one with age and experience is no guarantee of happiness.

The point is could a character development system work in the same way ? Rather than start with someone and build their life experiences as an adventure progresses, would you get a richer effect by running an entire game in retrospect - roll up a high level character first but then go back and roleplay it at a younger time ? It could work in any system - perhaps in the Star Trek one would roll up an old, disgraced or renegade admiral with a history of loss and betrayal but play the game starting as a fresh faced ensign. Rather then with a backdrop of skills and interests you would roleplay with a view to outcomes which may provide just as rich an adventure.

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