View Full Version : [Setting Riff] Genetic Memory

2012-01-09, 07:21 PM
This is half an idea by way of Assassin's Creed and Dune, mostly. The core of it is that via some means, people are able to unlock the memories of their ancestors. There's several permutations of this, and the utility varies depending on which of those it is, and indeed the setting too.

Scenario 1: The full mystical

Here someone is able, through some mystical or magical means, to access a sort of ancestor collective memory, where they have full access to everything their ancestors ever experienced. As in from birth right through to death on both sides going all the way back to the original humans. They have some means of being able to usefully codify, organise and access all that information.

Scenario 2: The psuedo-scientific

This is a lot more restricted than the above, because they can only access memories up to the point the two gametes (ie egg and sperm) that made them were fused. The notion being that memories are somehow imprinted onto them up to the point they are joined. So you've got the birth to procreation memories of all your ancestors, but obviously that might only be twenty to forty years or so, rather than potentially sixty to a hundred.

Scenario 3: The full "scientific"

Obviously this is all bull**** anyway, but this is more restrictive still. Given eggs are made in the womb (and fetus-memory is probably useless), it basically gives only access to the male side of the ancestry up to the procreative act, since they're made daily and thus have more recent imprinting. So you have access to your male ancestor's memories primarily of their youth.

Now the setting might vary how useful those things are. In a fantasy setting, for example, where magical knowledge is learn-able (rather than some sort of innate quality alone), it might give you either magical superpowers, or at the least a solid grounding in the basics without training. In a historical setting, it might give you a window on the past that even oral histories couldn't compete with. In a contemporary or futuristic setting it might mean access to archaic skills and languages that no longer have a living instructor.

Those are just a few ideas off the top of my head, what else could you do with it?

You could probably play with the various methods of triggering it. It could be some kind of magic, or a meditative technique, or drugs, or some sort of mind-altering surgery, or advanced technology. Or some combination thereof.

What could you use all this for in a setting? Would a collection of PCs with access to their ancestral memory be an interesting group with some instant hooks for play?


2012-01-09, 07:56 PM
I'd go for scenario 1 as you present it.
I've even played in similar games of Exalted, where everything is told in flashback about former incarnations and I know there are actual plays out there that describe one way that might go.

Of course, with just devices I am of the "timey-wimey ball" school of thought; never lock yourself down enough that you might lose a potentially good plot hook just to maintain consistency.

Ulysses WkAmil
2012-01-09, 07:58 PM
This seems really cool. You could reveal parts of history as you go along, maybe in a nice cepia tone....

2012-01-10, 04:13 AM
If you're going with 3 then you should probably go with the memories being there because of gene therapy, the memories should not be of events but rather of knowledges and skills, it could be "stored" in dormant genes (which there are plenty of), that when triggered (from some chemical reaction perhaps) will cause neurological synapses and nerves to form.
It would probably take a while for this to occur, all the while the subject starts to seemingly spontaneously learn new skills and gain knowledge.
With enough willing disbelief it sounds like science :smallwink: