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Recently I started watching both the Highlander modies and series. From a conceptual level it’s a great idea but the execution really leaves a lot to be desired.

The idea of ancient men running around in our modern world lopping off heads and taking power is pretty sweet. But since there’s a lot of nonsensical stuff going around it sort of gets muddled.

So let’s start with the basics:

  • They don’t age and they can’t have children.
  • Nothing kills them except decapitation.
  • They can’t fight on hallowed ground.
  • Decapitating another gives the Quickening a transfer of experience and power.
  • There is some sort of gathering when there are few left.
  • In the end there can be only one.
  • The One gets a prize.

Where both the series and movies kinda get vague is how it’s decided who becomes an immortal. Both Connor and Duncan and others just randomly die and get back up again an immortal. If they’re lucky a friendlier Immortal will show up and train them. Otherwise they just lose their head again.

The problem with this is if random new immortals keep popping up how can there be a one. How can there even be a gathering of the last few remaining.

Then there’s the vow of not fighting on hallowed ground. Doesn’t matter what religion though. In the series they sort of go with the idea that no Immortal would break the vow of not fighting on hallowed ground. In the third movie Connor’s sword breaks when struck. Now the idea of having places were one can be safe without fear of having to fight is not a bad one. Just hard to justify. Mysticism isn’t bad, but it’s also rather vague.

Watching this I sort of had an idea for how to re-imagine this into something a bit more ‘sensible’.

The re-imagining

Keeping in mind the above rules I had an idea of how to rework the whole lore to make a sort of sense.

Let’s start with the catchphrase “There can be only one.”. In order for that to work you need a finite pool of immortals. Having new ones popping up at random doesn’t really work. For that we need to go to the origin of the immortals.

In my idea somewhere in the distant past, possibly stoneage, or perhaps some forgotten age (think Hyborean age in Conan) an event occurs that creates 1000 immortals.These immortals can only die from decapitation but they don’t have Wolverine style super healing. They can get wounded and need recoverytime.

This sets up a limited number of possible immortals, the number is fairly arbitrary and could change. This immortality could be some kind of power housed inside the immortal and is released when killed. When released it will inhabit the closest mortal it can find, unless the head it decapitated by a special type of material that channels the power into the wielder. Thus the swords remain, because that’s just such a huge part of the property.

When an immortal kills another immortal this way he/she gains his memories, experiences, etc. Thus he will become far stronger, it’s even possible physical traits increases are added. Such as better reflexes or getting stronger. (it’s entirely possible to go overboard and give each immortal an ability, but I’d rather not).

However if an immortal dies without such a quickening the power will find a new host transferring the knowledge as well.

This in turn allows for the Hallowed Ground Safety to remain. Such a vow could be so ingrained that even if a new Immortal is born, he or she will have this vow ingrained into them. Including sword fighting abilities. This also motivates immortals to remain secret because otherwise mortals would hunt them down for the immortality.

As a result the number 1000 remains in play, but will start to diminish as Immortals start killing each other. But the total power and experience is not lost. Thus eventually there will be only one, and he or she will have the knowledge and experience of ages.

The gathering is a bit of a toss up. It could be that if the number reduces they’ll start seeking each other out. But nothing should force them to go around killing people.

That concludes my basic re-imagining of the Highlander concept. It’s one of those fun thought experiments.

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