Tag Archives: Eugenics

Plot-a-Day: Genetic Engineering

Lugh’s comment on The Evil of Eugenics plot-a-day inspired me to write up a plot-a-day for Genetic Engineering. Lugh basically suggested that wizards created monsters in genetic experiments as a weapon against an undead horde, which is a nice and modern take on the origin of those creatures.

Genetic Engineering is really a staple of fiction by now. It usually goes horribly wrong, unleashing monsters or designer plagues on mankind. The sort of story you would associate with Genetic Engineering roots in Frankenstein and encompasses a lot of Post-Apocalyptic fiction; at the high end an unstoppable virus has become a popular alternative to global thermonuclear war for the purpose of destroying Earth to allow for such a setting or story.

Ignoring the total destruction of human society – which is usually a setting choice rather than a plot device – Genetic Engineering can be used in many ways in your adventures or stories.

  • The evil villain is breeding an army of unstoppable mutants – usable in (almost) any campaign and setting. The player characters need to stop him from unleashing that army. Perhaps the villain is already using some of his creations to terrorize the nation or to assassinate politicians that stand in his way. Even the Aliens movie franchise could be seen as a variation of this idea (and indeed, Alien Resurrection picks up on that theme).
  • Genetically engineered plants and creatures often feature in the colonization of other planets; realistically, Mars could be terraformed with their help. And you know what may happen next, of course – the plants used begin to mutate, the animals go crazy, and some may even develop intelligence. Depending on your setting this could result in anything from man-eating insects to a full exotic and alien ecosystem. Jungles on Mars! But that is setting. The players may have to investigate why colonists in an outlaying mining town disappear, and then find a way to exterminate the smart bugs, or they may even have to protect the new Martian ecosystems from an evil Colonial Authority that attempts to eradicate the “mistake”.
  • A lone mutant runs rampant in a city, and the PCs have to stop him.
  • Genetically-modified humans are patented and used as a slave labor force by an evil corporation.
  • According to urban legend, Stalin wanted to breed  human-ape crossbreeds to be used as soldiers. While there seems to have been little to this, at least one Russian scientist was conducting experiments to that end. No matter what the purpose, such experiments pass as unethical by today’s standards, and the PCs might have to look into a scientist who is doing follow-up experiments of the same nature. Or it could lead to a Planet of the Apes scenario.
  • In general, genetically-modified pets may go on a rampage.
  • A corporation on a distant colony world / in a dystopian future controls the world’s grain because it genetically engineered it in such a way that it is not viable after the first generation. Each year, the farmers have to buy new grain from said corporation which is abusing this monopoly more and more. The antagonists need to step in and end this injustice once and for all.
  • Genetic engineering is usually portrayed as “evil”, but it doesn’t need to be. A good, easy twist would be to offer a genetically engineered vaccine that is the only thing that can save mankind from a mutated plague; or a certain type of genetically modified grain that could solve a famine. If the producer of these is then less than clean – say, they also use their products for “evil” things – that sort of plot could offer a good amount of conflict of interests.
  • To cover another cliche: It’s not people who are behind the genetic experiments, it’s aliens. This can easily become zany, too, if you combine it with any sort of whacky conspiracy theory. Then twist it around and set it in a High Fantasy world.

There are surely countless other ideas, but that’s what I can come up with for now.

Plot-a-Day: The Evil of Eugenics

In June, the BBC reported that North Carolina is dealing with the late fallout from a Eugenics program. Eugenics is, in essence, the attempt to improve the genetic “quality” of a given population. When you hear that you automatically think of the Third Reich, but few people realize that the Nazis actually took cues from the United States – they just pushed it into the extreme.  What I did not know – and I am sure most other people also do not realize – is that such programs were still going on until 1979 – twenty four years after the end of World War II!

The possibilities for plots are endless.

  • The players are hired to look into a Eugenics program that ended in the 1970s, and uncover that the program only served as the cover for something more sinister: Human experiments, where the early geneticists attempted to “play god”. It could be a simple political conspiracy – maybe a Presidential candidate was involved as a young administrator – or these experiments could have created monsters (Call of Cthulhu campaign) or been done in cooperation with the Greys (X-Files style campaign).
  • In a supernatural campaign, a ghost may be restless because he was subject of such a program, and the players’ motivation is to bring the evildoers to justice so the ghost can rest in peace.
  • Human experimentation or Eungenics in the USA, Argetine or other countries could be based on Nazi medical research. In a “secret history” campaign, the traces could eventually lead to the Nazi base under the ice of Antarctica, or to the secret Nazi moon base.
  • Whatever the case, an option is to have the experiments continue until today, which the perpetrators naturally would not wish to come to light.
  • If you are playing a Cyberpunk game, a corporation might start a Eugenics project – for medical research reason, most likely. Or Eugenics could become acceptable again; in a society that does not value individual human life highly, it’s entirely conceivable that criminals or the very poor might get sterilized.
  • In a Science Fiction setting, Eugenics could be conducted on a remote Terran colony world, or the corrupt Galactic Empire could be conducting large-scale experimentation on the Slave Caste.
  • In a fantasy setting, any demi-human race could be the subject of Eugenics at the hands of the dominant races – usually humans. For example, Goblins, Orcs, Kobolds, or similar species could be bred for more intelligence or could be sterilized to limit their breeding rates. This might be especially true if they are capable of interbreeding with humans: Half-Orcs are a likely target for experiments or worse. In some societies, even Half-Elves could be considered an abomination that should not be allowed to produce offspring.
  • No matter what the setting, the players could portray members of a race or class that is subject to Eugenics. This might add a sinister twist and more urgency to the old “You are slaves/prisoners and need to escape” plot.
  • For a good twist on Eugenics, see the computer game Mass Effects: There, the Kroogan (reptilian aliens) were hit by a genetically engineered plague that reduced fertility of their females radically, saving not only the Milky Way galaxy from being overrun, but also stopped the Krogan from constantly warring amongs each other due to population pressure.

At any rate, Eugenics – and human experimentation – provide a good motivation for players, or a complication to any other adventure.