Prehistory of the game

My first draft of the history leading up to Dinosaur Cowboys. As I mentioned before I tried to keep it relatively believable, but hey, in the end we all just want to ride our Utahraptor into the sunset.

History

Prehistoric Chamber

In the savage time when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, roiling volcanoes rapidly changed the landscape with stunning ferocity. The thick forests and grasslands of what would eventually become Wyoming were home to such a volcano. Steaming magma thundered through underground chasms of solid rock, venting boiling steam to the surface through numerous geysers.
The intensity of the volcano had increased and increased until finally the lava broke through the crust in an unmatched eruption. An expansive magma chamber below the surface was emptied as the fiery liquid engulfed trees and dinosaurs with equal hunger.
Normally the roof of such hollows would collapse inwards, forming a caldera, as magma was no longer available to hold up the thick layer of dirt. By chance, the hearty rock failed to crack and tumble inwards, resulting in a vast, scorched chamber.
Hundres of miles wide, the room unexpectedly provided sanctuary and shelter for weaker dinosaurs. Soon cunning, larger predators innately tracked and followed their prey into the chamber. The desperate battle for survival continued unabated beneath the surface.
Smaller beasts ferried seeds and plant life into the cave, using the nooks and crannies of the rock as their own personal cellar. Sunlight pierced the darkness through porous roof, providing nourishing energy to the growing vegetation below.
In time, the shifting Earth brought a new flow of unyielding lava, but the burning sea passed over the chamber, warming and cooling with the passing of seasons. Unharmed, but trapped by hardened rock, life tenaciously continued in the enclosed ecosystem for millions of years.
Dirt and silt blew across the solidifying magma, eventually forming a new layer of soil above the chamber. In time sweeping forests would regrow and the venting volcano would be called Yellowstone National Park. But the millions of tourists eagerly watching the erupting Old Faithful geyser had no idea of the prehistoric time capsule buried beneath the surface.

Eruption Day

On a quiet, spring day in the year 2037, the aggravated supervolcano erupted again. Scientists had mere seconds to futilely throw their hands up in surprise and scoff before lava poured over the surrounding buildings. As before, magma was agitated to the surface, flooding the entire park in unrelenting heat.
The supervolcano tore asunder the chamber roof, melting stone that had long held the lava at bay. Great clouds of dusts were thrown into the air, and titanic amounts of stored gas eagerly escaped from the chamber.
Long caged in the hollow, the gases gleefully mingled with the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, corroding and damaging the ozone layer. The result was exponential amplification of the greenhouse effect, heating the entire Earth with increased solar rays.
As the expended lava again cooled and hardened, new pathways were opened for the freed dinosaurs. Swarming across the land in great herds, the hungry creatures eagerly searched for new pasture and new hiding places from carnivores.
Calm after years of war, the United States of America had no strategy and no escape plan for stemming Nature’s wrath. Increasing temperatures caused polar ice caps to melt and raise the water level of the Earth’s oceans, resulting in coastal swathes of land being drowned.
The eastern coast was hit the hardest as every city and carefully paved road were washed away. Bustling Time Square in New York became a floundering pool of rusted buildings and darting schools of fish.
On the western coast San Francisco and Los Angeles dissolved into distant memories. Millions of people were killed as the great cities were flooded and lowered to the floor of the widened ocean.
Eventually the chaos slowed and broke across the Mississippi river, leaving numerous prairie towns with a new ocean view.
As expected the populace panicked. A massive migration began away from the volcano, and away from the coasts. The southern deserts became unbearable wastelands with temperatures soaring to water’s boiling point.
The darkest years in humanity’s existence followed. Scavengers and savages ruled the cities as communications and technology broke down. Electricity was scarce and food even scarcer. Horrible acts of violence and torture filled every street and town in an all-consuming apocalyptic whirlwind.
Mankind was on the brink of extinction.

First Contact

Fifty two years after the eruption, a caravan of explorers driving crude electric vehicles from Reno, Nevada to Fargo, North Dakota made a startling discovery. The previously desolate, blackened rocks around the volcano had become a lush jungle.
Baffled by the find, the group continued to explore the strange, unrecognizable plant life. Unlike the sandy deserts that consumed the rest of the continent, the temperatures inside the jungle were comfortably warm; almost tropical. Veins of rich metal had been exposed by the turmoil, and the endless tangle provided rich lumber resources.
Their excitement became terror as a hulking Tyrannosaurus Rex chased and devoured three of the crew. The rest fled, wild with fear and confusion. They stopped at the first safe town they came across, called Alliance, Nebraska. Dismissed as men gone mad from the sun, the retelling of their story did little to rouse the attention they had hoped.
However, eventually the rumors travelled. Soon numerous hunters, adventurers, and entrepreneurs flocked to the jungle.

Reconstruction Begins

Two years later a brave young scientist, Doctor Emilee Viator, gathered a crew of experienced trackers, industrious peasants, and brave warriors. Calling themselves the Neotechnoists, the historic party of thirty created the first permanent settlement in the jungle.
Built high in the trees and protected by organized sentries, the town was designated Haven. Nestled in the home territory of the dinosaurs meant Dr. Viator could attain stunning progress of the study and understanding of the ancient creatures.
Soon settlers converged on Haven, eagerly leaving the unforgiving deserts for a chance at a new life in the jungle. With renewed help and a resolute vision of the future, Emilee began expanding her town and molding the jungle to suit the needs of mankind.

The Wall

By 2129 Haven was the capital of a fledgling empire. Half the remaining population of the United States called the jungle their home, while the stubborn other half refused to leave their dusty shelters in the wide open plains surrounding the location.
Incentive programs were created, and soon even the staunchest of desert dwellers immigrated to the expanding cities and steel homes of the jungle. The populace of the growing empire took the name of their founding group, and so the Neotechnoist civilization was born.
Harnessing the power of dinosaurs in the place of crude oil, the gleaming spires and reinforced bunkers soon stretched across the entire jungle. The tropical climate had also expanded, overrunning all of Wyoming, plus the neighbor states of Idaho, Montana, and pieces of their outside borders.
It seemed mankind had restored itself to the glories of modern living. Some dinosaurs fled the intrusive encroachment, their primordial instincts no match for the relentless march of humans.
United under a single banner, the seventeen million Neotechnoists began constructing their largest project to date. Harvesting chunks of lava rock from thousands of quarries, an imposing wall was erected to circle the jungle. This succeeded in protecting the populace from roaming feral beasts.
The Wall was fifteen feet high and three feet thick, with heavy metal gates blocking all the roads leading out from the jungle. But a barricade works both for and against those it surrounds, and soon the people forgot their desert upbringing; forgot everything but the Neotechnoist way.

Discontent Rumblings

The upper class nobles of Haven soon grew bored by the tedious routine of peace. Having being raised to treat dinosaurs like simple cattle, a new generation of youth were enamored and mystified by the untamed wild lands outside The Wall.
In 2203, the first of the rebellious young fired their grappling hooks over the top of The Wall, and snuck away into the desert. Much like the first explorers of the jungles, the group brought back tall tales of untold riches and exciting dangers that enticed some of the tired, apathetic Neotechnoist population.
Soon it was not just rich nobles going Over The Wall, but the downtrodden peons and oppressed working class. Exploited and helpless, the lower class were eager for a chance at a new life. Whispers of free, unclaimed land as far as the eye could see drew pioneers to depart into the forgotten deserts.
Angry at the loss of their servants, the ruling lords of Haven outlawed leaving the jungle. But the strict penalties and harsh sentences just increased the forbidden lure of the desert. By 2218, close to one-third of the population had abandoned the Neotechnoist way to live free and unhindered in the dangerous desert.

A Movement is Born

Those that grappled and trained wild dinosaurs, built rickety towns of wood and sweat, and enjoyed the riches of their labors became unrecognizable as Neotechnoists. The unorganized bands and roaming gangs began calling themselves Dusters. Soon the nomenclature had even slipped into the speech of the jungle people.
To the Neotechnoists these scraps of humanity were called Primitives or Savages. In return the Dusters called the jungle people Volkies (for their proximity to the volcano), or Veggies (for the strict vegetarian diet Neotechnoists indulged in).
The lonely, dusty towns outside The Wall resembled something from an old wild west movie. Embracing the idea, the Dusters began dressing like cowboys and bandits of nearly 400 years earlier. Wrangling dinosaurs for transportation, food, and protection, the new cowboys began to slowly rebuild a different world than the Neotechnoists.

Present Day

The year is 2285, and the infirm first generation of Dusters are beginning to succumb to old age. Never experiencing a time before they lived in the desert, the next generation continue their simple, dangerous lives. Safely inside The Wall the civilized Neotechnoists also maintain their advanced, controlled lifestyles.
Humanity and dinosaurs have assimilated and recovered their strength and dominion. However the Dusters and Neotechnoists look towards an uncertain future, split by class, distance, customs and traditions.

Some inspiration

So I found two great images (well, one was a post with a bunch of images) that exhibit the feel I want for Dinosaur Cowboys. As awesome as the idea is, for some reason there isn’t a whooooole ton written on it before. Honestly these are basically the best set of images I’ve found so far, on the entire internet. Crazy.

Anyways the first is a “Dinogang” and gives the feel I want for my eventual figures: http://hexxenhammer.blogspot.com/2008/02/dinogang.html

Next up is a heroically epic image called “Go West”. Full credit goes to ~VampireHungerStrike from DeviantArt. I figured I’d post the image here since clicking links gets boring:
Dinosaur and a cowboy

How the year 2285 looks

Finally I started brainstorming on the history of the DC world (more below), and came up with a rough map of the USA. Um, in short, it looks awesome. So hooray let me post that! (Thanks to Google Maps for the basic image of the USA)

Possible USA Map

Now, how exactly am I going to make Dinosaur Cowboys relatively believable? Sure I could just say “A volcano erupted long ago, somehow we ended up with dinosaurs!”, ala the Mad Max approach of “Two great ‘tribes’ nuked the hell out of each other…begin movie!”. But I find a semi-realistic scenario, or just a slightly tweaked real world danger, makes for more believable play. It’s like how most fantasy games are still based in reality, so you don’t have to relearn what gravity is, ya know? Ah the joys of designing games.

The most plausible idea involves the active volcano that vents out via Old Faithful geyser in north-eastern Wyoming. When a supervolcano erupts the most likely outcome is a ton of dust being thrown into the air, giving you a “volcanic winter” (similar to the hypothesized “nuclear winter” from a big enough bomb). But! The other option is a stew of gases spills out and creates a “runaway greenhouse effect”. Ding ding ding we have a winner!

Okay, so the supervolcano erupts (called Eruption Day) in the year 2037. But there is only a thin layer of lava that ACTUALLY causes the eruption. Dust is thrown into the air, but not a ton, and mostly gasses are released. The temperature of the Earth heats up as a result, which causes the ice caps to melt and water to spill into the US. As you can see from the map, everything east of the Mississippi River is basically underwater. The west coast gets hit, but not as hard. The rising temperature makes everything a desert, more or less. South of the brown line is basically unlivable, with Mexico and beyond too hot to stand. Right near the line (ie: southern Arizona, etc.) is hot, but not lethally so.

Now, for the dinosaur part. The big caldera (basically dent in the ground…PS Man do I ever link to Wikipedia a lot!) that makes up Yellowstone Park hints at a previous eruption. Calderas are formed when the volcanic chambers empty out, leaving a big open air room, which then collapses from the weight of the crust and turf above it.

But what if it didn’t collapse, and what if some dinosaurs and seeds found their way into the chamber? Then a thin layer of lava flowed over top of the room, cooling and reforming slowly to make the current surface of the Earth. The next time the volcano erupts it only spits out this thin layer of lava, but also cracks and explodes the top of the empty chamber outwards.

The result is stored seeds and plant life are thrown around along with the dirt, which lands in a big radius relatively equivalent to the greenish circle on the map. The dinosaurs emerge from the chamber and by the time mankind goes to explore the wreckage they find the beasts. Naturally everyone was gravitating towards the vegetation and milder, tropical temperatures. So with the resources of dinosaurs and vegetation, the center around the empty volcano becomes the Neotechnoist civilization, while the rough desert outskirts becomes Duster territory.

Neat!

Flaws with this idea? How did the plants survive underground without sunlight is the main one. I can visualize the chamber as sort of a mini-ecosystem that is self contained and fully supportive of dinosaur life. Then humanity is trying to recover for so long that they don’t have a chance to go back to the volcano for a while, and by the time they do dinosaur life has been established. The dinosaurs eventually roam away from the volcano to try to escape the encroachment of humanity, so then the whole US ends up populated by them.

Seems all believable(ish), considering the starting year is sometime around 2285, so there would be time for vegetation to grow and generations of humans to pass.

The game isn’t meant to be post apocalyptic, so the cities around the volcano will still be advanced and as modern as now. Electricity will be common (from an effort of the Neotechnoists to bring the light of modern living to the “savage” outskirts), etc. Life will be tough, as it was in the bread bowl of the US during the “Wild West” years, but not as apocalyptic as people desperately searching stores for canned food while fighting off roving gangs. It’s a fine line to walk, but I think it will be possible based on the quests and enemies I throw the characters against.

There are plenty of options for exploration and variety. The burning hot southern desert, said to contain untouched riches of the Old World. The submerged cities to the east, ripe for the picking by also naturally dangerous. The main story will still be in the area surrounding the volcano / jungle.

Psyched though! I’ll just have to refine, or blur (from the passage of time) the history of DC a bit, but the whole focus on Yellowstone and the ecosystem chamber seem cool enough to work. Yep yep!