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Benevolent Precursors

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"I'd always heard folks were nicer in your day. Never expected I'd see it firsthand."
Piper Wright, Fallout 4

The exact opposite of Abusive Precursors: the Sealed Evil in a Can is clearly locked and labeled in every language they could think of, complete with handy pictures showing stupid mortals getting killed by said Sealed Evil, just to make sure the message gets through. And even if you do manage to get through the five thousand doors locked with The Power of Love and release the demon king of doom, don't worry — they had a fail-safe in place where the seals on the one weapon capable of destroying it would be unlocked at the same time. Sure, these guys died out millennia ago, but at least they did their best to keep us from following them to the grave.

Obviously, these precursors probably fail in the end; if your Sealed Evil in a Can stays sealed, you don't have much of a plot. If they come back with their super-tech to help the heroes later, it is Awakening the Sleeping Giant. If there's competition for their technology, it's an Archaeological Arms Race.

A subtrope of Precursors. If they're neither helpful to the present civilization nor outright evil, they may just be Neglectful Precursors.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The backstory of Neon Genesis Evangelion involves a "first ancestral race" that left humanity an instruction manual and a weapon for dealing with Angels. Humans Being Bastards, a cabal got its hands on these and reserved them for its own catastrophic ends.
  • The people of the Silver Millennium in Sailor Moon were ruled by Queen Serenity, a wise and benevolent monarch who ruled over an age of peace and prosperity. Their stronghold was the Moon Kingdom, situated in the Mare Serenitatis. In addition, they were responsible for the Ginzuishou (a crystal of enormous power) and took on the duty of watching over Earth and its people, making sure that life evolved naturally and was kept safe from harm. Unfortunately, that all ended when the Dark Kingdom attacked.

    Comic Books 
  • The DCU: All of Earth's pre-Crisis superheroes to the current universe, especially the Monitor. They fought and defeated the Anti-Monitor and sealed a single universe inside the essence of the Monitor. Then the universe was restarted twice with big bangs. None of the Post-Crisis stories would have happened without the pre-Crisis heroes.
  • Green Lantern: The Guardians of Universe have been protecting the universe during millions of years. Initially they were depicted as a powerful, venerable and wise race who sometimes made mistakes but were always well-meaning. From the 70's onwards, though, a number of writers turned them into supremely arrogant assholes who are unable to not screw it up.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes: In the story "The Unknown Legionnaire", it's established that many ages ago, an advanced civilization known as the Llorn established a colony in a homeworld inhabited by a primitive but friendly intelligent alien species called Proteans. The Llorns were forced to abandon the planet when a chain of environmental disasters destroyed their city, but before leaving they made sure that their Protean friends survived the devastating climatic changes which were beginning to ravage their world by using their science to turn the Proteans into shapeshifters.
  • Paperinik New Adventures: Urk's alternate universe has the local counterpart of the Evrons teach medicine and science to the inhabitants of the Americas, leading to a confederation of hi-tech Indian tribes living in accord with nature while still capable of kicking the ass of the Viking invaders (whose technology is similar to the one of our 21st century Earth).

    Fan Works 
  • Asgard took this role in Child of the Storm, and they do their best to help, and keep things like Surtur locked away. However, they now take a much more hands-off approach, after a horrible disaster better known as Atlantis...
  • Humanity takes on this role in Diaries of a Madman, after having created the species that populate Equestria and the rest of the world.
  • The race who made the tomb in The Writing on the Wall took every effort to discourage explorers from entering it, from intimidating design to... well, the writing on the wall. Sadly, Daring Do and company disregard the warnings as mere superstition, and disaster ensues. The entire story is based on the real-world quandary of how to warn future civilizations away from nuclear waste disposal sites.
  • The Pony POV Series has several examples:
    • The Moochick from G1 is revealed to be as old as Lord Tirek and was the Big Good for the G1 characters.
    • The Paradise Ponies were from the Age of Myths but continued to act as protectors during the Age of Wonders that followed them, due to being immortal thanks to the Rainbow of Light.
    • The Age of Wonders created the G3 world as a utopia and had every intent of doing so. After the Apocalypse, many tried their best to preserve what was left of their civilization's technology, medicine, and such for the civilizations to come after. Several of them are still known as Saints to this day.
  • The Bridge also has several:
    • The ancient civilizations on Terra were fully aware the Bagan would break free of his imprisonment 100,000 years into their future. So rather than squander the last magic left on Terra in preserving themselves or trying to flee the planet, they used it all up creating the "Guardian Beasts" and sealed them away on a timer so the moment Bagan returned, there would be an army of supercharged Kaiju ready to go up against him.
    • Each successive Mothra passes on her memories to her daughter so each generation of the line basically has an instruction manual on how their powers and magic work, and how to confront evil.
    • For Equestria, Harmony knowingly separated chunks of her power to create the Elements of Harmony and the Rainbow Power, and Celestia and Luna so the mortals would have tools to fight against evil without having to rely on her should she ever abuse her power.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic story This Message is a Warning the builders of the underground nuclear waste disposal facility made their best to discourage anyone from coming near to it, surrounding it with spikes and monoliths placed in such a way they just make one feel ill, and if someone still manages to arrive and get inside the structure they decorated it with faces showing fear and horror to convey to not go inside, up to the location of the final seal where they wrote down exactly what the structure was built to contain, where to find the instructions to cure the contaminant, and a back-up for the instructions in case the original was lost (as it had been). It had worked well enough that the Buffalos just knew to stay away as it was "bad medicine", and many civilizations that had been stubborn enough to dig in the site and get all the way to the writings just translated them in their own language and left... And once she becomes involved and discovers what was happening after the Ponies opened one of the waste storage chambers by being able to read the original builders' writings Twilight Sparkle not only has the place resealed but, knowing it's now her turn to warn future generations, has the warning and the cure translated and written outside the area in multiple places.

  • The Mondoshawans ("Monduchivans" in the language originally spoken by Leeloo) from The Fifth Element. They set up a secret order on Earth to safeguard the elements needed to fight the Ultimate Evil. They came back to remove the elements to a safer place when World War I threatened them, and they were in the process of returning them when they were shot down by Mangalore warriors flying illegal starfighters supplied by Mr. Zorg. But even then, they had been clever enough to anticipate it and hid four out of five of the Elements somewhere else instead.
  • Zi Yuan from The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. She is a sorceress who seals the Emperor Han and his Bad Ass Army, then gains Immortality, creates a weapon to kill the Big Bad if he is ever unsealed, makes friends with Yeti to protect the one place immortality can be gained, and is still around to summon her own army conveniently sealed near Han's own. If this doesn't sound impressive, then compare it to the ancient Egyptians in the first two movies whose sealing of Imhotep gives him powers and immortality despite being perfectly capable of killing him normally.

  • In the novelization of the film Alien, Science Officer Ash explicitly states that the Space Jockey aliens (in whose ship the alien eggs are first found) set up the transmission the Nostromo received as a warning to other ships to stay away (a fact that Ripley discovered only too late to avoid disaster).
  • In L.E. Modesitt Jr.'s Forever Hero series, the last survivors of civilization sealed away their nuclear and biological weapons as the Earth was dying, with a warning to not try to open the vault.
  • Inheritance Cycle has the Grey Folk, a vanished race of magicians that lived in Alagaesia before the Elves arrived. They were powerful magicians but couldn't fully control sorcery because it was entirely nonspoken — a stray thought could cause a disaster. After a magical cataclysm that they had caused devastated Alagaesia, they sacrificed nearly all of their power to create the Ancient Language. According to Paolini, there are no pure Grey Folk left, but it would seem likely that Angela and Tenga are Half-Human Hybrids descended from them due to their longevity and propensity for unspoken magic.
  • Lensman has the Arisians, who effectively countered the Eddorian meddling with pre-spaceflight Earth, provided the predecessor of the Galactic Patrol with a better FTL drive, created the Lens, which provided the Patrol with the means to effectively fight the Boskone drug-dealers, instituted a secret breeding program which eventually culminated with the Children of the Lens. And they did all this in the full knowledge that the Children would surpass them in mental power.
  • The Space Odyssey Series: The Firstborn are both benevolent and abusive precursors. In Space Odyssey they are super-advanced aliens that made it their purpose to promote the development of intelligent life throughout the Galaxy. After they moved on, they left their Monoliths to continue their work in their stead.
  • The Elder Gods in the Titus Crow series by Brian Lumley are the Good Counterpart to the Cthulhu Mythos' Great Old Ones. They influence lesser species to become better while also arming them with weapons against their evil kin. Their leader Kthanid is actually Cthulhu's brother (!!).
  • In David Brin's Uplift series Galactic dogmas rarely agree, but all oxygen-breathers concur that the Progenitors were awesome, they invented Uplift and true civilization, they obviously had a supernatural origin of some kind, and everyone should revere them. For millions of years, the Great Library has taught this version of history. Humanity, horrified by the standard Galactic treatment of client races, has a desire to be this for its own clients. They give chimps and dolphins an almost unheard-of level of autonomy and involve them in the world government, refuse to impose any kind of indentured servitude on them, and begin seeking alien clients with an eye to protecting them from more hostile species.
  • Xeelee Sequence: The Xeelee, despite being the ostensible bad guys are actually quite nice, leaving humanity and other lower races alone while busy fighting a universe-spanning war against their rivals the Photino Birds. When humanity has conquered every other race in the galaxy, they finally get it in their heads to attack the Xeelee themselves, who do fight back, but only half-heartedly, and eventually decide to let mankind have the Milky Way. This isn't good enough for them, however, and they decide to spread out and attack the Xeelee in other galaxies, including launching a few assaults on their Ring megastructure. Eventually, a million years later, the Xeelee finally decide to deal with humanity, not by wiping them out, but by constructing a nice little environment for them and sealing them inside it, allowing them to continue their lives, at least until the universe starts to become uninhabitable due to the actions of the Photino Birds. At which point, the Xeelee provide the remaining humans with one of their own ships to escape the universe through the Ring and even create a new planet with an environment tailored specifically for them to thrive in the new universe.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the two-parter "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit", the Monster of the Week — heavily implied to be Satan — is chained far, far underground on a planet orbiting a black hole. Should he ever be released, the planet will go spiraling into the black hole, killing The Beast. All we know about the people who defeated him is that they were called "Disciples of the Light".
    • The Time Lords themselves swing between this and Neglectful Precursors. They generally do not interfere with other races due to things going badly in the past and the moral complexities of time travel. However, they generally prevented abuses of time travel, fixed messes caused by abuses, and would sometimes intervene to stop a dire threat or right a particularly terrible wrong. This is a more enlightened state compared to their ancient history where they were Abusive Precursors who abused their time travel capabilities.
  • Farscape: As seen in the Peacekeeper Wars post-series finale, the Sealed Good in a Can Eidolons. They can lull any other species into a receptive state, and read their minds, to construct good arguments, and help factions co-exist. Besides being basically super-diplomats, they are the ones that transplanted and genetically engineered early hominids, thus creating The Peacekeepers. They came back to the galaxy thanks to a reversal of their Critical Existence Failure.
  • In Power Rangers Dino Fury, we learn more about the Morphin' Masters, a group of beings mentioned by Zordon once. They are a group of beings who helped The Knights of Rafkon battle the Sporix, transforming the survivors into the first Dino Fury team. As well, they were behind the Dino Gems, Energems, and the Ninja Nexus Prism. They also watch over the various teams during their fight against evil. It's suggested that they might be behind Steel reviving and turning flesh and blood. Eventually, the latter half of the season sheds some light on this: They were benevolent, during the Cretaceous, but then their enemies started hunting them down, and they went into hiding, except the Green Master, who kept interfering. This nearly gets her sealed away by the other Morphin' Masters, until they come to the conclusion she was right.
  • Stargate-verse:
    • The Ancients are the poster boys for Neglectful Precursors, but season nine of Stargate SG-1 reveals they've been active on their own plane of existence hiding the humans of the Milky Way and Pegasus galaxies from their evil counterparts the Ori. At least until the SGC goes and screws that up. The Ancients also allow the younger races to use their gate network as much as they want, despite that technically being a kind of interference.
    • The Asgard, while unable to wipe out the Goa'uld due to their Forever War with the Replicators, place a couple dozen planets in the Milky Way under military protection, and soon ally with the Tau'ri and gradually introduce their technology to them. Also, unlike the Ancients, they always cleaned up their own mess or made sure not to cause a mess in the first place. The Ancients are responsible for creating two races (well, one of them are machines) that pose a galactic threat, and left their technology lying around just about everywhere waiting to be used (or abused) by anyone who could. The Asgard were very cautious in giving out their technology, but not because of arrogance about not sharing with primitive people, like the Tollans were, but out of genuine caution for the safety of both parties involved. Despite this they provided Earth with their extremely powerful shielding technology and eventually shared all their knowledge with them... before committing mass suicide to make sure their left-over technology would not fall into the wrong hands.
  • Star Trek:
    • The unnamed ancient humanoids from "The Chase" seeded planets with their DNA, thus being responsible for all humanoid life. They also encoded a map in this DNA that led not to a superweapon or a species of Omnicidal Maniacs, but to a recorded message expressing the hope that their "descendants" would cooperate with each other to discover the message. Leads to a rather epic guilt trip for Picard and (apparently) the Romulan commander.
    • The Preservers, who transported endangered cultures to pristine worlds. In Star Trek Online, the Preservers are the same, and after the Breen/Deferi story arc, back out and mingling with their descendants.

    Video Games 
  • Those Who Came Before in the Assassin's Creed series started out pretty abusive what with creating and enslaving humanity with their Pieces of Eden. The combination of a slave revolt and a solar flare that nearly destroyed all life on Earth changed that. Before dying off, Those Who Came Before worked together with humanity to rebuild the world, and they left behind tools and knowledge (in the form of the Pieces of Eden) to give humanity a fighting chance when the next solar flare hits Earth.
  • Before becoming the Metal Gods, the Titans in BrĂ¼tal Legend's backstory left behind instructions so that all others that come after them would be able to learn their ways and use the power of Metal themselves.
  • The Tau Volantis aliens from Dead Space 3 built a machine that froze their whole planet in a species-wide Heroic Sacrifice to stop a Necromorph outbreak. They also designed the instruction manual to be really easy to figure out, so Phase 2 of their plan (killing the Brother Moon) could be enacted by any spacefarer that happened by.
  • Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth: During the Playable Epilogue, it's revealed that Arken hails from a race of tree-like humanoid aliens who travel the universe to revive life on dying planets by planting a Yggdrasil on each of them, Arcania included.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, when some cosmic force gave the Cetra the Black Materia, a magical stone capable of destroying the entire Planet, they transmuted it into a form in which it could not be used: a giant pyramid-shaped temple. (Just go with it.) The temple cannot be entered without a Keystone, which was supposedly hidden after the temple was finished. The temple itself is populated with bloodthirsty monsters and avatars of the Cetra to deal with trespassers. The room containing the device for un-transforming the temple has a sequential mural depicting the shit that's gonna go down if it gets used. As a last resort, if the Temple is changed back into the Black Materia, it crushes anybody inside, including the person that activates the device.
  • Final Fantasy XIV reveals in the "Shadowbringers" and "Endwalker" expansions the Ancients, the denizens of the previously unsundered world of Etheirys, whose numbers include the shadowy and malevolent Ascians. The Ascians, however, represent the minority of the Ancients, who were a race of scholars and intellectuals who always pursued to understand the nature of the universe in which they live, most of whom were overall pleasant people. Of particular note is Venat, an Ancient who previously held the title of Azem in the Convocation and grew to love the world in which she lived all the more when, as part of her duties, she ventured out and explored it. She loved the world so much that, when faced with a potential reality-ending apocalypse fueled in part by her countrymen's aversion to misery and desire for the Good Old Days at the cost of sacrificing their brethren, she used her immense power to sunder the world, creating the world of Hydaelyn as we know it (plus its thirteen Reflections) and leaving it populated by races that were considerably weaker than herself and her people at their prime, with such finite lifespans that they would have no choice but to strive to overcome adversity with what little time they have to live.
  • The Ancients in Freespace were pretty darn abusive in their day (their reaction to meeting other advanced life was to crush it or subdue it), but being exterminated seems to have done wonders for their morality, considering the log they left behind was easily translated and included scientific and tactical information vital to fighting the Shivans. It apparently wasn't very hard to find the log once someone took a closer look at the planet it was on, either.
  • Halo.
    • The Forerunners. Yes, they did use the titular superweapons to destroy all life in the galaxy in order to stop the Flood, but they really did try everything else first (getting to the point where obliterating Flood-infested worlds from orbit was a first resort, and their tactics got progressively more destructive from there); the Flood was just too much for them. After they fired the Halo Array, they even repopulated the galaxy with all the lifeforms they had indexed so that the galaxy wouldn't be devoid of sentient life. They also left AI custodians, technological relics, and warnings (particularly about the Halos and the Flood) for their successors — it's just that said AIs tended to go nuts, while the Covenant gladly gathered the relics but ignored the warnings.
    • The Halo 3 terminals deconstruct aspects of this trope by noting that Forerunner rule made their client species far too weak and dependent on their masters, which left them easy prey for the Flood.
    • The Forerunner Saga makes it clear that while the Lifeworkers (the Forerunner caste specifically tasked with caring for living things) were mostly genuinely benevolent, the Forerunner Ecumene as a whole could be downright abusive; relocating entire client species from their homeworlds to gain new territory and resources, completely destroying ancient humanity's own empire and forcibly devolving the survivors while stripping them of all their technology, quarantining the San'Shyuum to two planets and nearly driving them to extinction, etc.
  • Dr. Elisabet Sobeck of Horizon Zero Dawn is the whole reason there is multi-cellular life still on Earth after the Hopeless Robot War one thousand years before the events of the game. Project Zero Dawn was her attempt to reseed the entire planet with cloned lifeforms, one that also had to be hidden from the Faro Swarm and completed in less than 500 days. And it worked. Part of the reason Aloy is just as intelligent as she is strong is that she is a clone of Dr. Sobeck.
  • The Sosiqui created the Legacy of Time in The Journeyman Project 3 did their best to educate their chosen successors, humanity, in how to care for their gift. Even with the interference of other aliens, humanity managed to keep their legacy to the universe intact until a time would come when all races could utilize it in harmony.
  • In Mass Effect:
    • The Protheans attempt to leave behind warnings about the Reapers to future organic races. The Reapers destroy most of them, but a few survive. Those survivors also subverted the Reapers' primary way to activate the Citadel relay, forcing Sovereign to use a plan the current races have a chance to stop. It is also implied their actions spared several fledgling species from being wiped out with them (humanity being among them), when they destroyed records of certain locations. When you meet one in 3, it turns out that they were considerably less nice to their contemporaries than their successors.
    • If you choose the Refusal option, then the Citadel races end up passing on knowledge that lets the next cycle defeat the Reapers outright. Sadly, it requires the only person who could make the decision to doom their own cycle.
    • In Mass Effect: Andromeda, the Jardaan (the ones who created the Remnant) were working to terraform the Heleus cluster and fill it with life. They even created the angara and taught them how to use their technology, but before they could finish, their enemies detonated the Scourge and wiped them out—at least in Heleus.
  • The Orions in Master of Orion. They sealed away the Antarans in a pocket dimension and left their own homeworld protected by the Guardian, in order to keep away races that weren't ready to handle their super-powerful technology.
  • Most of the upgrades in Metroid that Samus Aran finds during her adventures have been left there by the Chozo, who foresaw that she would be needing them in the future. With Samus's relationship with the Chozo taken into account, this could almost count as an overlap with Good Parents.
  • The Nomai of Outer Wilds have littered the star system with evidence of their conscientiousness, up to and including abandoning a mining site because the planet it was on had started developing amphibious life and they wanted to leave enough metal behind for the newcomers to one day make it into space too.
  • The Jjaro of Pathways into Darkness and Marathon. After the Jjaro's disappearance, they either returned from hiding to help or left an automated system to help the player defeat an Eldritch Abomination and save the universe.
  • The ancient Lucier in 7th Dragon sacrificed their entire species to save the Earth from being consumed by the first dragons to return to harvest the life they seeded on it. The resurrected Lucier of 7th Dragon 2020-II and 7th Dragon also prove instrumental to defeating the Dragon invasions of their times, but in the original, they're no longer Precursors, as Eden doesn't retain any knowledge or remnant of the past as far back as Atlantis' peak.
  • The Precursors in Star Control II, with some things. That bomb of theirs is labeled clearly enough for both the Utwig and the human scientists to figure out what it is. Their starship factory is user-friendly, and a certain other artifact is well-shielded. The Taalo leave behind a device that prevents evil alien mind control. This is instrumental in saving the galaxy.
  • Stellaris:
    • Enigmatic Observers/Benevolent Interventionists are Fallen Empires with the Xenophile ethic. Effectively their entire foreign policy statement is Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Engage in too much slavery or genocide, and they will come knocking.
    • Players themselves can also roleplay as examples through the "Precursor" playthrough. Turn off all starting empires except Marauders and Fallen Empires, max out the number of primitives, and max out the time until the Endgame Crisis (while also maximizing out its power when it does arrive). Take Defender of the Galaxy, form a Federation, uplift primitives, and take them under your wing. And then when the apocalypse comes, the peoples of the galaxy will meet the darkness head-on, ready to beat it back... because of you.
    • One of the precursor civilizations that can be learned about in a given game is the Cybrex, who start out as very Abusive Precursors that sought to wipe out all organic life some 600,000 years prior to the game's timeline, although exploring their story further via archeological sites reveals at some point they had a My God, What Have I Done? epiphany and stopped fighting, retreating to their own system and letting the understandably-vengeful organic races wipe them out once they're found. This trope comes into full force if The Contingency crisis gets out of hand by taking over about a third of the galaxy, in which case the Cybrex will come back, revealing that some of them had stayed out of the way for the past 600,000 years and are now coming back in to defend the organic races, determined not to let their past mistake repeat.
  • Thousands of years before you crashed on 4546B, an alien race attempted to cure the planet of the bacterial infection that serves as the Big Bad in Subnautica. They did so entirely to save the planet (and the rest of the galaxy) from the dangers of the Kharaa bacteria, and though their methods were slightly unsavory, their work made it possible for you the player to finally finish their work and cure the planet of the malignant plague.
  • The Masari count towards this in Universe at War, guiding humanity's development and watching over them. When Earth is attacked by the game's Big Bad several alarms are tripped and the Masari begin coming out of hibernation The results were predictable.
  • The Eldan of WildStar were responsible for the creation, rise, and maintenance of The Dominion, through the aid of the Mechari and their half-Eldan emperors, the Luminai. Their exact motivations for it remain a mystery.
  • Played with in the X-Universe. The Ancients theoretically do have good goals, such as preventing the heat death of the universe, and they consider the Portal Network they built a gift to the younger races. Unfortunately they have a tendency to think of the younger races as a single group (not true), making them frighteningly willing to toy with other species (see Abusive Precursors).

    Western Animation 
  • The Encyclopod from the Futurama movie Into the Wild Green Yonder. It has preserved the DNA of countless endangered and extinct species, whose descendants live in a colossal dome on its back.
  • Implied in Shadow Raiders. Halfway through the series, the protagonists discover that all four planets in the Cluster have World Engines hidden within their cores, allowing these worlds to travel through space. The AIs governing these engines react to the presence of the Null Matter associated with the world-devouring Beast Planet, and will accept the commands of anyone who discovers the World Engine without any need for authentication. Every planet that the heroes come across after leaving the Cluster also has a World Engine. Someone clearly recognized that the Beast Planet was a threat to all life in the galaxy and wanted to make sure that inhabited worlds could escape it.