Out Of Place Artifact
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Basic Information

Out Of Place Artifact, or OOPA, or OOPart, is an Artifact found in a context that defies conventional notions or expectations in regards to human history. [1] The topic is somewhat controversial, since some OOParts have been hoaxes, and others may be wishful misinterpretations, religious dogma, or honest mistakes.

This page seeks to list artifacts that seem to be anachronistic, or which modern science has had difficulty explaining. Items which have been proven as hoaxes, as well as items which lead to revisions in accepted history, or which were once baffling but now have mundane answers, can all generate numerous interesting ideas for use in RPGs. At least some of these aren't really OOPAs, but this is the closest category to which they belong.

If one envisions human technological advancement as being roughly parallel to the expansion and decline of human civilizations — that is, progressing in a "three steps forward, two steps back" sort of manner — then at least some (perhaps even many) apparent "anachronisms" are to be expected. A good example of this would be concrete, being used in the past by various ancient cultures only to be forgotten about and then re-invented at a later time by another culture, until the present, at which point the technology is employed globally and unlikely to slip into obscurity again without major upheaval. [2]

See also


On a related note, the World Without Us website and book document how fast various artifacts of our culture would degrade and disappear once we're gone. It may prove useful to GMs seeking to create an alternate history or secret history setting that could serve as where one or more of the above OOPAs came from.

Game and Story Use

  • Any of the above could serve as a MacGuffin in a pulp game with archaeologists.
  • Could be evidence of sloppy work by lazy Time Travelers. They didn't clean up after themselves.
    • Maybe one of these items bears a striking resemblance to some prop currently in the PC's possession? I see a Portal To The Past in your future.
  • History could be radically different from what we imagine. Any of the above OOPAs could suggest a jumping off point for an Alternate History game.
  • An NPC Con Man might try to sell an OOPA to the PCs. The players, assuming it's a genuine clue to a lost civilization, or possibly even a magic item, go to great lengths to acquire the object for their characters. Further study reveals it for a hoax, and the players discover they're on a different type of adventure than they'd previously imagined.
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