|Art by J.K. Drummond|
I read Paolo Bacigalupi's "The Alchemist" this weekend, a novella set in a shared fantasy world that Bacigalupi co-created with Tobias Bucknell. The world is one in which every use of magic provokes the growth of an invasive, thorned and bushy weed called "bramble".
Imagine a world overtaken by hedges. Magic in this world doesn't go away, but arable land, clear urban space, and roads do disappear as bramble grows. Magic-using civilizations fall, choked by bramble. Refugees fill the cities that have not yet fallen to bramble. It's a world living on borrowed time, just like ours. Magic can't get rid of bramble - quite the opposite, in fact. When magic is used to clear bramble, the weed quickly comes back with a vengeance.
The novella begins when our protagonist, an alchemist, discovers a non-magical alchemical technique to eradicate bramble, seeds an all. All sorts of chaos ensues. The setting and story can easily be framed using Fate Core's Game Creation Rules:
- Current Issue: "Magic brings bramble" (p. 79 of the novella)
- Impending Issue: An alchemist's discovery turns everything on its head.