Iâ€™m not sure if it fits within your positive future scenario, but I came up with a more villainous faction, inspired by one of your essays, as a matter of fact, and tempered the horror you describe seeing in those people, with the degeneracy found in H.P. Lovecraft tales. They exist more as an antagonist â€˜raceâ€™ than anything, really, but I canâ€™t think of any RPG written yet that doesnâ€™t have a set of antagonists. Take â€˜em or leave â€˜em; I certainly wonâ€™t be offended.
Note: I took a number of liberties with the setting, since Iâ€™m unfamiliar with the game in anything but a broad, conceptual way. I use a lot of 'terminology' that may or may not exist for you, but include it more as flavor-text than anything else.
The Nothing Men:
Tall, gangling horrors skulking in the shadows of those Places Long Forgotten, the Nothing Men bide their time like spiders within a rotting, once-decadent lair. Products of a long dead age, the Nothing Men cling to the shadows of their forefathersâ€™ former lives, and attempt to emulate their deeds and lifestyles, but the Age that had supported the Nothing Men has long ended, and certainâ€¦ peculiarities have begun to surface.
Nothing Men dwell within the places abandoned by the bulk of humanity when the last Age ended. When the food stopped showing up magically on the shelves. When the planes stopped painting the sky with their poisons. When the stars finally came out again. However not all of humanity left those places that needed the poisons and the suffering and the slaves to survive. While a vast majority of Those That Stayed perished from conflict, starvation, and disease, a few survived in sparse pockets forming bands of their own. Deep within concrete canyons once called by magical names, and Dead places where the very ground no longer lives; the Nothing Men haunt the abandoned buildings and underground places like hungry ghosts. Even the Fleshmongers avoid these places. During the day, these places lay utterly silent -- birds do not sing here. Occasionally, and especially towards dusk, a faint sound almost like music can be heard coming from darkened windows, or through open doors swinging in the breeze-- certainly enough to draw the foolishly curious too close. Few who venture into these lands of the dead escape without stories to tell of the Nothing Men, much less with their lives. Needless to say, a run-in with a Nothing Man is enough to fuel campfire ghost stories for generations. Existing stories tell of faceless, silent creatures leaping from deep shadows and overtaking tribe-mates; dragging them screaming into the night â€“ the screams never last long. Other stories tell of Nothing Men attacking each other, scuffling in an utterly silent, but mortal combat until one falls, and is summarily eaten. One or two heroic tales describe a band of hunters or scouts actually fighting off an attack from a Nothing Man, only to claim an empty, dusty suit for a trophy. Whatever the Nothing Men are, or have become, or once were, only one thing is certain â€“ they are no longer human beings.
Some notes on the Nothing Men:
â€¢ All Nothing Men are between 7â€™ and 7â€™2â€ â€“ there is very little height difference between them as a whole.
â€¢ The Nothing Men look very much like present-day depictions of Scarecrows; long, thin limbs, with bulbous heads and featureless faces (aside from the lack of a mouth, and no ears, each is entirely unremarkable and exactly alike). Their hands are very bird-like, and usually clenched into a clawed shape. Their skin is sallow and unhealthy-looking, though their actual skin tone can vary widely. None of the Nothing Men has even a single hair on their entire body.
â€¢ Each Nothing Man is dressed more or less the same, as well; each wears the remains of a gray business suit, scuffed designer shoes, and a tattered white dress shirt.
â€¢ Many times these creatures are encountered singly; rarely do the Nothing Men hunt in packs. In fact, rarely do the Nothing Men hunt at all â€“ most of the time when they are encountered, they are scavenging for god-knows-what, but if an opportunity for an easy meal presents itself, a Nothing Man will immediately look to ambush its target.
â€¢ All Nothing Men are male â€“ attempts to observe individual bands of Nothing Men that have not been met with cannibalistic failure, have otherwise failed to note any females at all.
â€¢ While not strictly nocturnal, the Nothing Men prefer to roam at night, although a darkened building, or underground area with no light suits their purposes as well. While daylight has no appreciable effect on them, they do avoid it whenever they can. They appear to have no difficulty seeing in even near-perfect darkness.
So, the Nothing Men can be left as purposefully ambiguous as they are described above, or they can be any number of finite creatures, including just crazed human beings. I had imagined them akin to tales of Wendigo spirits that haunt the boreal forests of the far north â€“ they attack with claws that are real enough, but their physiology simply defies what we know of living beings (combined with the fact that they leave physical evidence behind, but nothing that gives any real clues about them). On that same note, they can simply be some manner of vengeful ghost, similar to horror stories from Japan and China.
The real horror behind the Nothing Men, though, is that their origins, motivations, lifestyle, and general modus operandi are completely unknown to the players. I hope to post my own â€œartistsâ€™ renditionâ€ of one soon.