Ancient, eldritch, chthonic — be it creatures, lost cities, ancient artifacts, or what have you, things old are often drivers for role playing games. There’s no mystery to what, I think. The ancient normally means pre-historic or a-historic. It’s archeological, anthropological. There’s no explanation for the ancient. It predates record. It’s mysterious, unknown. And the unknown is alluring to the curious, and terrifying to those who are not.

Because it is ahistorical, there is no backstory needed. Maybe there’s a prophecy, an artifact that leads to a lost city, there’s a legend (which is almost always inadequate to the task of explaining what’s about to happen to you), or there’s a thing — ancient but preserved in ice, trapped outside of space and time until you screwed it up mucking around in that lost temple in the jungle, stored away in the hold of an ossified crashed derelict on an unremarkable moon. It doesn’t matter, because it’s old and there’s no one around to really explain how wrong you are about to be concerning what you’ve just encountered.

It’s the time version of space — time is something we can’t just jump into a blue police box and travel through (unless you’re playing that game…) and things lost to the past are just as removed as things distant or lost in a jungle setting or on a remote island. You are isolated not so much from people, but knowledge.