AH.com Eternals is a long-running blend of a roleplaying Play-by-Post Game and action-espionage dramatic webseries created over at the AlternateHistory.com discussion board. Though originally intended as a one-off idea, it soon grew and expanded and now carries the distinction of being one of the few roleplaying games on AH.com to be still running after nearly 5 years. Obviously inspired by the Highlander series during its starting phase, it has firmly grown into its own original mythos and canon over the years, only sharing a few basic ideas with its source of inspiration.
One of the main elements of the canon is the existence of The Trust, a secret global organization of Eternals that was founded in the 16th century. Its goals are to help Eternals cope with their unique fates, shelter them, record their life stories, allow them to contact and help each other and work to protect regular humans and world peace from various threats. Naturally, many Eternals never warmed up to the idea of the Trust or never liked other Eternals and regular humans all that much to begin with. These are Rogue Eternals, the primary antagonists of the series.
An important milestone in the game's Myth Arc was the Reveal. It occured in early 2011, and from then on, the game has stopped being a purely secret history populated by the Eternals, and has become a kind of Alternate History of our present. In addition to this narrative Retool, the pace of the main storyline has sped up a bit and is now set about five or so years into our own future. This was done as a move to chronicle the gradual influence of Eternals and their declassified knowledge on modern human society and science.
The series was nominated regularly for "Best Roleplaying Game" in AH.com's annual Turtledove Awards (the AH.com Oscars). It had already won once in this category, in 2009.
The discussion thread in which the series is played can be found here. The series page on the AH.com Wiki can be accessed here. A revival thread called AH.com Eternals Forever has recently been created, and can be found here
Unfortunately, since that forum is off limits to non-members, you'll have to join the board before you can read the discussion thread itself. However, the always-accessible wiki page of the series regularly summarizes the main developments in the story.
Eternals provides examples of:
- Alternate History: At first, the premise of the game was more of a standard secret history with a dash of historical fantasy. After the 2011 reveal of the Eternals to the world public, the game's universe became an explicit Alternate History version of ours. While the storyline has yet to leave the 2010s, the ramifications of the Reveal have already been felt. And even while the game was in its Masquerade phase, the meddling of many Eternals in the course of world history implies that the baseline history itself could have been quite different without their intrusion.
- Alternate Universe: Exactly the same as ours until 2011, with a single exception: A certain portion of humanity are immortal humans who live among us, keeping their superpowers in secrecy.
- Anachronic Order: Most of the storyline in general. Sometimes, a chapter will focus on the latest events in the storyline, sometimes it will be an examination of the known history of the Eternals, sometimes it will be a retrospective of an Eternal about one particular period or event in his life, etc.
- Ancient Conspiracy: Played with. Eternals trying to cover up their own existence definitely qualifies as ancient, but the Trust as an organization was only formed in the 16th century. And, for once, the conspiracy itself is actually benevolent and serves to protect both Eternals and Ephemerals. Rogue Eternals, on the other hand... They play the typical "malevolent" connotations of the trope fairly straight.
- Been There, Shaped History: While some Eternals tried to keep to themselves for their entire long existence, most Eternals helped shape history in one way or another, to various degrees and because of various motivations.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: While most Eternals have posed as common folk throughout the centuries and millennia, some of them did eventually become notable historical characters and personalities. One of the secret identities of the character Gregorios was the early American settler John Alden.
- Blood Knight: Literally! The Blood Knight is the most dangerous and sociopathic Eternal all around. Though only born relatively recently (during the Middle Ages), he has fought for centuries against the Trust, murdered many Eternals and worked on creating a network of allies and minions among likewise minded rogue Eternals. Thankfully, by the time the Eternals community reveals itself to the rest of the world, he is caught one last time, interrogated and imprisoned by the Trust for good.
- Cloudcuckoolander: The character of Valkert. Despite being on the side of the Trust and the good guy Eternals, he's a highly eccentric and sometimes downright nutty person.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: Several of the worst Rogue Eternals had to be punished by extreme confinement in order to protect both mortal humans and good guy Eternals from their endless rampaging. How extreme? Like being burried alive in a mine or being burried in the ocean crust extreme.
- Cursed with Awesome: All Eternals. Some revel in their unnatural gift (often going overboard), some utterly hate it (emphasis on the "cursed" part of the trope), most Take a Third Option and adopt a relatively neutral stance.
- Doing In the Wizard: Zig-zagged. While the trigger of immortality that some people receive at birth seems supernatural, it is eventually discovered to be a rare glitch in the human genome. (To the surprise of Eternal characters, the number of people with "Immortality Genes" has only grown throughout human history, not dimished as was once thought.) However, despite the discovered scientific evidence for natural immortality genes, the actual cause of their existence still isn't well understood.
- Drunk with Power: Why and how a lot of Eternals turned to evil, treachery and anti-social behaviour.
- Encyclopedia Exposita: Most of the wiki pages covering this roleplaying project (apart from the introductory one) are written in-universe in order to better immerse readers in the narrative and backstories.
- Expansion Pack Past: Some characters tell their autobiographies chronologically, some do it in a more Anachronic Order. It adds to the charm and unpredictability of the series.
- Exposition of Immortality: On a personal scale, when a new eternal reveals himself/herself to The Trust or when The Trust contacts a confirmed Eternal and explains to him/her his/her immortality. On a global scale, the 2011 Reveal that finished The Masquerade Myth Arc and remade the timeline into an outright Alternate History.
- Fun with Acronyms: One of the service branches of The Trust is TETRA - "The Eternals' Trust Repository and Archives".
- Genre Shift: While Highlander is primarily an action adventure story, this series has more of a spy thriller tone, with lots of Deconstructor Fleet elements. It's less about the fancy swordfighting with ancient adversaries, and more about Eternals reminescenting about their past adventures and experiences in the form of oral history interviews, or taking part in working for the Trust and for the Eternals' cause. Helping Muggles from behind the scenes or protecting them from villainous Eternals is one of the Trust members' main missions.
- Grey and Grey Morality: Eternals and regular humans in general, though most are (or aspire to be) A Lighter Shade of Grey. Turns to Black and Grey Morality when the saner Eternals are dealing with the most villainous ones, particularly The Blood Knight and his posse.
- Historical Fantasy: Though the only fantastical element are the Eternals themselves. It's still enough to create room for some really compelling stories.
- Homage: Immortal humans, born in various eras and places, walk among us. Some good, some evil, some of dubious alignment. They cannot die of natural causes. They can only be killed by decapitation or vaporization of the head. This is all that this series and Highlander have in common.
- I Have Many Names: Every Eternal has a whole list of pseudonyms and made-up personas, and the list only grows as they get older and older. The character of Gregorios alone (born around 300 AD) has an infamously large collection of pseudonyms. The trope is also inverted in some cases, like with The Blood Knight, the Bloodsinger, and other terrifying rogue Eternals who are deliberately only known by their nicknames.
- Immortal Procreation Clause: Averted. Eternals can have offspring just fine with regular humans and other Eternals alike (unless they're impotent).
- Immortality Begins at 20: Unless you actually become an Eternal during your 20s, this trope is averted.
- In-Joke: On the wiki pages of the roleplay, at least. In the database of biographical interviews with Eternals, each Eternal is assigned a seemingly random large number by the Trust Archives. This code is actually derived from the secondary code of a post made in the roleplay's thread on the AH.com discussion board.
- In the Past, Everyone Will Be Famous: Subverted. While many of the longer-lived and more globetrotting-oriented Eternals have certainly met a lot of famous historical figures, no character has bumped into every single famous figure of any given era and any given country.
- Intergenerational Friendship: Several examples, but Macarius (old medieval hermit) and Nicolet (young 19th century Franco-American woman) as two lonely explorers on Mars takes the cake.
- Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: Usualy averted and frowned upon by the Eternals. If a rogue Eternal tries to reveal the Trust or hurt regular people or Eternals, at the very worst, he's hunted down and gets imprisoned. If a regular person reveals Eternals, he is made a life-long confidant or employee of the Trust.
- Large Ham: The villainous Rogue Eternals, natch. Some of them are fond of a Breaking Speech from time to time.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: While the canon is self-admittedly Inspired by... the rules of the Highlander series, they weren't copied wholesale. This was due to a desire to create an original take on the "immortal humans among us" theme. The AH.commers that have taken part in the game have gradually fleshed out the backstory with a host of new and different ideas. The second reason was, of course, to avoid obvious copyright issues - one of its telltale signs is that the characters are properly referred to as "Eternals", not "Immortals" as in Highlander.
- Living Forever Is Awesome: Many of the good-natured Eternals enjoy being immortal, especially if they can use their powers for the benefit of mankind and for helping people in need.
- Long-Runners: As already mentioned, it's one of the longest-lived continuous roleplaying games on Alternatehistory.com. Late February 2013 will be its 5th anniversary.
- Masquerade: The Eternals try to uphold it as much as they can (until if finally fails in early 2011). To ease this process, they created the Trust in the 16th century. The trope is also namedropped and hilariously lampshaded in this in-character discussion:G'Len:"I have heard many terms for our kind, and for how we tend to keep to the shadows in the civilizations that rise and fall around us. However, I think the recent trend to have terms that are entertwined with those popular in 'Vampire' fiction may be some of the sillier innovations."
Bosch:"The Trust had nothing to do with this - what we do was to promote Heinlein's use of the word "Masquerade" in his story Methuselah's Children in 1958. One of our non-trustee employees might have been involved with White Wolf and somehow suggested Vampire: The Masquerade to them, or they may simply have gotten the idea from Heinlein."
- MayflyDecember Romance: Most of the immortal Eternals marry mortal humans. A couple might eventually learn that they are both Eternals, thus averting this trope. The characters of Timothy and Jesci are good examples of this.
- Muggles: Mortals, commonly referred to as Ephemerals. Most Eternals want to assist them, the rogue ones would like to see them enslaved in one way or another.
- Multinational Team: As one would expect, the Eternals come from all over the world and from many different eras of human history. Many (if not most) come from nations that have long since disappeared.
- Myth Arc: The storyline has slowly and organically moved through several over the years. The early history and fundamentals of Eternals, the quiet war between altruistic and avaricious Eternals, the establishment and history of the Trust, the bringing of malevolent Eternals to justice, the coping of Eternals with the modern and globalized world, with the failure of their long-held masquerade, the start of a new era of Eternal and Ephemeral human coexistence and relations, etc.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The top dogs of the Rogue Eternals all have Evil Gloating-style The Adjectival Man nicknames, while their real names remain unknown. The three most infamous of these - the leaders - have nicknames that openly refer to their bloodlust: "The Blood Knight", "The Bloodsinger" and "The Blood God" (aka "The Hashasheen").
- Non-Action Guy: While lots of Eternals have a past that includes military careers, various daring-do or just being Badass Normal by nature, many Eternals follow this trope instead, often being skilled artists, traders, con-men, or even Science Heroes or Ambadassadors. The trope also gets subverted numerous times: Many Eternals turn out to be Badass Bookworms and Genius Bruisers, or at least Cultured Warriors. Or were unremarkable Non Action Guys at first, but eventually Took a Level in Badass.
- Old Soldier: Many Eternals, especially male ones that were born in earlier eras and were forced to travel and fight a lot. At least one or two characters even mention the name of the trope verbatim when describing themselves and their tribulations.
- The Older Immortal: G'Len and Th'And in particular. They were alive and adventuring already before the end of the last ice age.
- Older Than They Look: An Eternal will look the same age they had when they died for the first time, before regenerating. Thus, you can have 20-something Eternals who are 2000 years old, and septuagenarians who became Eternals "only" some 50 or 100 years ago.
- Omniglot: Gregorios is specifically stated to be this, being able to fluently speak 37 languages at last count. Other elder Eternals would also fit this trope.
- Psycho for Hire: The commonest Secret Identity of The Blood God. The trope also applies to a number of other Rogue Eternals, mooks and leaders alike.
- "Rashomon"-Style: Given the amount of characters, their differing ages and motivations, this is to be expected from time to time. In the case of Rogue Eternals, you just have to roll with this trope full-time, since the Rogues are more often than not Unreliable Narrators - either deliberately or just because of their own insanity.
- Really 700 Years Old: And not only 700, but anywhere from 40 to 16 000 years old.
- Ripped from the Headlines: One of the early post-Reveal side storylines was about the Eternals helping the Japanese government in containing and cleaning up the reactor chamber of the ill-fated Fukushima Daichi nuclear powerplant. Some of the stories that followed this one were related to the Arab Spring of 2011, including the Libyan Civil War.
- Running Gag: Kind of an unintentional one. Despite the oft-repeated notion that the Trust has contacted virtually every Eternal on the planet by the 18th century, new Eternal characters keep popping up from time to time, shocked by the notion that they aren't the only immortal humans alive.
- Numerous references to actual historical events and facts, including many obscure ones.
- There are some Mythology Gags towards Highlander, of course :
- The whole Highlander franchise was actually created and produced with secret input from the Trust, in order to prepare the global public for a potential reveal of the Eternals, whether intentional or not. Yeah, even the crappier cinematic movies (it's all part of a clever ruse to keep the public from searching too hard for actual Eternals).
- In-universe, the film characters of Connor MacLeod, Ramirez, The Kurgan and Ramirez's Japanese mentor are revealed to be all broadly based on existing Eternals, though with most of their backstories changed. The Kurgan himself is supposed to be an adaptation of this series' memetic Big Bad, The Blood Knight (over-the-top Evil Gloating included). In one of the in-universe casual discussions between Eternals, one of them claimed to have written the lyrics to Queen's Who Wants To Live Forever during a depression in the 80s and later had it covered up when the film studio and band picked up the lyrics for use in the movie.
- Open or veiled references of Eternals to other films and TV shows dealing with the theme of immortal characters (The Man from Earth, New Amsterdam, etc.).
- One member of the main trio of bad guys, "The Hashasheen" (aka "The Blood God"), uses the phrase "Blood for the Blood God!" as his favourite Battlecry and Madness Mantra.
- Though this is more coincidental and unintentional than not, the flatly descriptive one-word pseudonyms of many Eternals (especially the villainous ones) are similar to the naming conventions of the Time Lord characters from Doctor Who.
- Show Within a Show: The autobiographies and personal memoirs of specific Eternals, gradually gleaned through many interviews.
- Tangled Family Tree: Eternals and their offspring that had inherited the immortality genes, often only after several generations (i.e. a lot of Eternals don't even know some of their ancestors were Eternals as well and only reveal this after extensive genealogical research or debates with other Eternals). Some longer-lived Eternals are unfortunate in this regard: Some of their offspring turned outright evil or sociopathic over time, and they as their ancestors now have to live with it. This kind of situation occurs with the fairly normal Eternal character known by the moniker "Edward", who turns out to be one of the direct ancestors of The Blood Knight.
- Team Dad: There've two or three characters like this so far. In the pre-Trust era, the role was filled by G'Len, the oldest known Eternal. He is now retired and rarely visits the Trust. The post-Trust bearer of this trope is Bosch, the founder and head of the Trust. While Bosch, born in medieval France in the late 15th century, is chronologically younger than many of his clients, he is still the undisputed leader, spokesperson and peacemaker of the Eternals. Also a Gentleman Snarker and The Stoic. A villainous version of Team Dad would be The Blood Knight, with his many allies and minions.
- Time Abyss: The oldest Eternals (including the much-revered "Forefather G'Len") are often so old and have gone through so many experiences in their lives, that they themselves aren't always sure how long they've been alive.
- Time Dissonance: Naturally, Eternals experience the flow of time and the course of history a bit differently than Ephemerals. Said experiencing also varies from Eternal to Eternal and often has a lot to do with how long they've been alive.
- Token Evil Teammate: Valkert is not explicitly evil, but he's morally ambiguous and crazy enough to pull off some weird stunts that are often embarassing to the Trust.
- Undead Tax Exemption: Averted. Eternals have to eventually move to another place and adopt a new identity in order to not become too suspicious to Ephemerals.
- Walking the Earth: The older and more adventurous the Eternal, the higher the possibility that he/she is an experienced globetrotter.
- Wasteland Elder: The character of Macarius, a silent and stoic old man, who was originally an early Christian hermit monk. After living through the entirety of the Byzantine Empire and harassment by Napoleon's troops in Egypt, he was contacted by the Trust and became an important protegé of it. Eventually, he got bored out of his skull and disillusioned by Earth, so he volunteered for the Eternal's first secret mission to Mars in the 1970s. He's been living there ever since and later Eternal missions have come to make him company.
- Technology Marches On: In-Universe. Despite a certain amount of traditionalism, the use of ever-developing technology by The Trust and Eternals is one of the main points of the series. One of the reasons why The Blood Knight is caught so fast after his 2011 escape is because he had no idea of modern satellite tracking technology. And while the Muggles Do It Better trope occurs, it also gets subverted a bit, in an ET Gave Us Wifi sort of way: The Eternals have financed the development of some groundbreaking or state-of-the-art technologies, particularly during the 19th and 20th centuries. However, some of these have been kept in secret storage until well after the Reveal (like The Runaway).
- Tragic Villain: Out of all the Rogue Eternals (especially the highest-ranking leaders), The Bloodsinger comes off as more of an Anti-Villain, rather than the usual power-hungry Omnicidal Maniac. This is because he became an Eternal after he was murdered in a particularly vicious and gruesome manner. He was lynched to death, then burned alive. The traumatic death experience and unexpected ressurrection messed up his sanity for the rest of his life. Unlike The Blood Knight and The Blood God, he doesn't particularly revel in his evil acts, considers unarmed civilians and Muggles not worth killing and follows a morally twisted vigilantist doctrine in which he indiscriminately "punishes" (i.e. slaughters) people he decides are "irredeemable" purely because they participated in armed conflicts or crime in one way or another. One of the clear signs that he's been off his rocker for centuries are his constant references to spilt blood "singing to him", calling him to murder more supposed adversaries or wrongdoers. Hence his odd nickname. To quote the character's creator and player:Cambyses the Mad: The Bloodsinger's crazy, but with the notable exception of the family of the guy that burned him, he doesn't bother with 'innocents', preferring to fight and kill soldiers on the battlefield. It is only in war and battle that he finds satisfaction, hacking up some defenceless chump wouldn't really appeal to him.
- The Unmasqued World: The world since early 2011, when the Eternals decided to finally reveal their existence to the rest of humanity. This has led to the post-Reveal world veering into an increasingly Alternate History version of our present day world.
- The World Is Not Ready: Why the Eternals tried to keep their existence secret until 2011, when the Masquerade became no longer feasible. Even after the 2011 Reveal, they only gradually release information about Eternals, their activities and The Trust to the rest of humanity, due to diplomatic and security reasons.