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MarthWMaster

The Seals of Armageddon

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There is plenty of Judeo-Christian apocalypse material in popular culture that one can draw from when running an EOTW campaign. One thing I find a distinct lack of, however, at least in cinema and comics, is a scenario that remains more or less faithful to what is prophesied to come in the end times according to the Bible itself. From this believer's perspective, while the imagery of angels and demons and horsemen fighting each other, etc. is highly compelling and resounds in popular culture - and do not mistake me: there is plenty of room for that kind of EOTW scenario to take place - there is also room for a biblically-accurate, but more down-to-earth telling of events. So here are the relevant pieces of Scripture and how I see them applying in such a scenario. I have long been fascinated by the idea of running a campaign that plays the biblical apocalypse as straight as possible. Here is my attempt at breaking it down, with the intent of leaving as much room for GM interpretation as possible.

 

First, a brief summary of the biblical apocalypse for those who are unfamiliar:

• The Rapture: The souls of the redeemed are brought up into Heaven, so that the followers of Christ need not endure the suffering that is to come, a time in which many will be led astray. The book Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins does a good job of illustrating this: millions of people suddenly disappear, while In His Image by James BeauSeigneur presents a darker version in which millions seemingly drop dead all at once. I prefer the latter as it adds a macabre element to the opening of this EOTW scenario. I highly recommend In His Image for those interested in a mixed supernatural/sci-fi take on the biblical end times.

• A man, whom scholars refer to as the Antichrist in reference to verses found in the book of 1 John, rises to geopolitical leadership and commands global worship. He forces people to take the Mark of the Beast (666), so that only those who have done so are able to buy and sell in his new world society. People who take the mark are eternally damned.

• Two witnesses (Rev. 11) begin to prophesy against the Antichrist and in favor of the one true Christ, and are given power to conjure plagues and to breathe fire upon those who try to kill them, for a period of 1,260 days, at the end of which the Antichrist destroys them, to I imagine much fanfare worldwide.

• The Antichrist declares war on Israel (Armageddon), and he and his followers are defeated by Christ's Second Coming. The souls of martyrs return, and all believers in Christ who remain are welcomed into God's eternal kingdom in a renewed paradise on Earth.
 

1st Seal: Horseman of Conquest (Rev 6:2). Most scholars agree that this is the Antichrist, who rises to power through either a literal conquest, or a peaceful subduing of his enemies (the latter of which is symbolized by the fact that he carries a bow, but no quiver). He rises up against some kind of terror in the Middle East, which I'm going to keep as vague as possible to avoid offending anyone. Regardless, he comes to the aid of Jerusalem, who at this time is being attacked from all sides and has seemingly no hope of defending itself. 

2nd Seal: Horseman of War (Rev. 6:4). He will "take peace from the earth and...make men slay each other." It sounds like this will be World War III, the largest and most deadly war ever fought. It won't be difficult to make this feel like a classic EOTW scenario. Angels and demons aren't necessary at this point. It's when we get to the 6th seal that things really start to get apocalyptic in the "fire and brimstone" sense. This is the point, however, where I see the Antichrist presenting himself to the Jews as the Messiah, and to all other religions as the future hero which all of them promise will come in the hour of greatest need. He saves Jerusalem and vanquishes its foes. He presents the long-lost Ark of the Covenant to the Jewish leaders, and orders that a new temple be built.

3rd & 4th Seals: Horsemen of Famine and Death (Rev. 6:5-8). It's easy enough to imagine that a war of this magnitude, perhaps fought with nuclear and biological armaments, would trigger catastrophic famine and death. In my biblical scenario, I plan to borrow a page from LaHaye and Jenkins' book and have the Antichrist in control of the world's food supply, and to force those who wish to continue living normally to take what we know as the Mark of the Beast, but will be presented in the context of the campaign as a more innocuous identifier, either the Antichrist's name or a symbol that represents his name, emblazoned either on the back of a person's right hand or, if they prefer, on their forehead, the latter of which will be common among the Antichrist's most devoted subjects (Rev. 13:16-17). If the players choose to resist him, they will have to either acquire nourishment through less-than-legal means, or starve. If they accept his mark (which is perfectly fine for the purposes of EOTW's theme of hopelessness), the GM will need to begin painting the believers in Christ as the antagonists, who are smuggling food, causing mass panic, and supporting the Two Witnesses who are causing plagues and disturbances to afflict those who have taken the mark.

5th Seal: Martyrdom (Rev. 6:9-11). "[T]he souls of those who had been slain because of the the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, 'How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?'" This is when the Antichrist begins his campaign against those who refuse to take his mark. 
6th Seal: Earthquakes, Celestial and Global Upheaval (Rev. 6:12-17). This is where the world really begins to tremble under God's wrath. "Dogs and cats living together: mass hysteria!"
The 7th and final seal is the beginning of a second series of plagues that fall upon the earth (Rev. 8).

 

I recommend starting the campaign at the moment of the Rapture, with the players experiencing firsthand the worldwide catastrophe that will result from the simultaneous disappearance or "death" of millions. Air pilots and tower communiques suddenly go dead. People become widows, widowers and orphans in the blink of an eye. The internet is flooded by news relating to the disasters happening all over the world. Ultimately, the players will be facing the Tribulation. Whether or not they accept the Mark of the Beast, they will be suffering trials either as the oppressed followers of Christ, or the plague-afflicted servants of the Antichrist, who should be presented in as positive a light as possible, the better for him to deceive the world into following him, especially against a God who would subject his creations to such catastrophes. Like any EOTW campaign, the point is to simulate what it will be like when the world is torn asunder, and to see how long you could realistically expect to survive.

Hopefully this helps. I'm sure I'm not the only one intrigued by the prospect of a biblical apocalypse EOTW campaign.

(Also, one last tidbit that isn't related but has always amused me: Once in middle school I happened to notice a copy of Left Behind sitting in the school office's Lost & Found. :P)

Edited by MarthWMaster

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