The word ancient carries a heavy weight. It puts us in our place. We are not ancient, we are brief flashes in cosmic time. When we encounter the truly ancient we are reminded of how small and insignificant we are. But the ancient also beckons us, promising to reveal its mysteries to those who dare to seek them out.
One of the biggest drawbacks to living in the modern age is that there simply aren’t that many mysteries left to solve. There aren’t very many ancient ruins to explore for the first time. There is virtually no hope of finding an ancient civilization surviving in the deepest jungle. Although we have more to learn, the vast majority of history has been revealed to us as much as it can.
In RPGs this unfortunate limitation is removed. We are free to encounter that derelict that has been floating in space for God knows how long. We can discover that hideous idol of awesome, vast, and incalculable age. We can seek out the mysteries of lost civilizations that walked the earth before man climbed down from the trees, or even before the fish that were his ancestors crawled out of the sea. We can explore ancient ruins long hidden from prying eyes. We can discover cults thought long dead to be existing in some remote corner of the world, practicing the same profane rituals that they have for thousands of years.
There is something about all of these ancient things which can fill us with wonder and dread. In the dimension of time, they are so much larger than us. And we can only touch and see a small portion of the much larger whole. This is part of the magic of RPGs. They can allow us to freedom to discover and explore and experience the ancient first hand. We don’t need to read about it in a book, we can be there ~ if we dare.