Thursday, December 29, 2011
Hey, I just sent over what will be the first release of 2012 to Mark Cathro. Cityscapes will expand on the settlement construction rules in the Pathfinder Game Mastery Guide. Originally, I had started writing out settlement qualities for the towns and cities of my Endara campaign setting; the Game Mastery Guide settlement qualities just didn't cut it!
I knew I would need more options, more depth to make Endara work like Eternia worked in the classic Filmation cartoons. The GMG rules worked well, but they were too basic. So I set about trying to expand 'em, and about 500 words into the thing, realized this would make a better stand alone release than a part of Endara. Expect Cityscapes to be referenced LOTS in my 2012 Pathfinder Products- elements of this will show up in Black Tokyo Legends as well as World of Endara and whatever other fantasy stuff I put out this year.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
I have a feeling I’ll be doing more Pathfinder-compatible fantasy in early 2012 than I did in all of 2011. First, expect the release of Black Tokyo Legends: Races of the Tatakama, which Anthony Cournoyer has returned to do art for, sometime in January or February. That will probably be my first big release of the year. This massive sourcebook will include 13 new player races drawn from Japanese hentai and myth, with tons of alternate racial traits for each. It will also include alternate racial traits for core demi-human races, to better fit them to Tatakama campaigns, and conversions of most of the feats from the D20 Modern-powered Black Tokyo.
Around the same time Races of the Tatakama hits, I’ll be releasing Ghosts & Promises: Kodiak Island Citybook, for Otherverse America and D20 Modern. That will include a new basic and prestige class for use by Lifer characters, tons of world info, and a fairly complete ‘strike file’ detailing several new Lifer threats, from first level grunts to high level superheroes and villains.
Sometime in late Summer 2012, I’ll release the World of Endara Campaign Setting. This is going to be my big He-Man inspired fantasy. I’m usually fairly bored with fantasy, but He-Man has always been a favorite- it was my introduction to fantasy back in the day, and while other gamers think of Tolkien’s writings as their mental go-to for standard fantasy, Masters of the Universe is mine. Races of the Tatakama is perverse and satirical enough to hold my interest- basically this year I’ve created two fantasy settings that hold my interest as a writer. These two, which I’m hoping will both be good revenue streams, will get lots of support in the succeeding months.
My D20 Modern stuff will be cleaving closer and closer to Pathfinder, too. I’ll be putting out the revised Guide to the Known Galaxy sometime in 2012, as well as the Witch Hero basic class. In addition, I want to do some supplemental material for Otherverse America: I want to write up kick-ass city books for San Francisco and Boston and do a character creation guide exclusively for Choicer characters, in the way Ghosts & Promises is a char-builder for Lifer protagonists.
The Gods and Monsters of Endara
When I start building a fantasy world, I usually start with a map. After that, I just work in the way that seems most logical at the time. For Endara that means I started writing out the religions, and then started in on the setting’s monsters. It sorta gives me a grand sweep of the setting, of the gods and monsters that drive the action. I’m going to be starting in on detailing the factions and regions, alternate racial traits for the core races and new player races after Christmas.
With the gods, I wanted simple, easy to understand polytheism, a sort of G-rated take on classical Greek mythology. I wanted to retain the fairly black and white morality of the Filmation cartoon, but at the same make the world a bit more complex, give it more a sense of culture. I also wanted to include some homages to the major concepts and tropes of the old cartoon. Take a look at three of the major gods of the setting: the Royal Tiger, the biggest ‘good guy’ god, the Lich, a hybrid of Skeletor and the classic D&D villain Vecna, and the Jewel, which I created as a homage to some concepts from the classic She-Ra cartoon.
The Royal Tiger
LG Greater God
True Name: Skaron
The Royal Tiger, fabulous in his grand coat of azure fur and golden stripes, is wise and benevolent king of all gods, and forms the model of Endaran society. The Royal Tiger teaches mortal leaders that their true duty is to protect their servants, and to raise the best among their followers to leadership in their own turn. The Royal Tiger is said to have nourished and protected Andar I as a child, and taught the young king-to-be how to rule well and wisely. The Tiger’s grand ideal of leadership forms the model for Endaran feudalism.
As omnipresent as tame and semi-tame blackbirds are in Ravenna, Royal Tigers are equally common across the Endaran Empire. Heroic knights ride specially bred, champion Royal Tigers into battle, and Endaran heraldry celebrates these smart, noble felines. Children play with ‘Royal Prince Tigers’, a specially-bred miniature breed of cat, pretending to joust from the back of their cowardly little tigers.
Clerics of the Royal Tiger are active in Endaran politics, and most officiate the Endaran Senate, or advise the Royal Family. Most wear robes bearing the great, cosmic cat’s colors, and many wear golden feline masks during high ceremonies. Others tattoo or magically brand their bodies with colorful stripes to proudly proclaim both their faith and their heroism.
LE Greater God
True Name: Demoskal
The Lich is a terrible god risen from the ranks of mortal man. Some say he was the first necromancer-king to become undead. Each and every undead, from the lowliest ghoul prowling a forgotten battlefield and gnawing on bones, to the greatest and most terrible vampire queen, is a servant of the Lich. More so, all undead are the Lich’ children; the ritual this immortal tyrant enacted had two effects. First, it expunged virtually all life from Terra Mortis, turning a once fertile continent into the blasted wasteland it has been for the past ten millennia or more. Second, the Lich’s black magical rite created a rift in the cosmos, though which the anti-life energies of undeath first entered our Multiverse.
The Lich now schemes to conquer the cosmos, to sacrifice all living souls on Endara in an even more terrible ritual that would elevate the Lich even beyond the power level of the Ducharri’s One God, and make the Lich the true master of the cosmos.
The Lich’ clergy dress in purple and ebon robes, and hide their faces behind skeletal masks of hammered gold. They scheme tirelessly to create more and greater undead, to command the legions of monstrous horrors attracted to Terra Mortis, and to further the Lich’ schemes in the mortal realm. When the Lich expunges all life in the cosmos, these necromancer-priests will rule at his side, transformed into immortal, all powerful wraiths.
NG Greater Goddess
True Name: Cata
The Jewel is sister to the Stone, and like the Stone, she fell from the sky. All jewels and gems are a reflection of the Jewel. The Jewel is worshipped by Dwarves who practice crafts of beauty rather than practicality- gemcutters, gold and silversmiths, seamstresses and finish carpenters- as well as by the fanciful, endlessly colorful Gnomes. The Jewel is a popular goddess among the wealthy and often ostentatious nobility in Ghiles. Quite a few Halflings worship the Jewel, as well.
The Jewel’s clergy believe it is their duty to bring beauty to the world, and they often learn the bardic arts or become masters of glamorous illusion magic. Jewel worshippers are especially welcome in the city-state of Ducharr, where they meticulously grind and polish the lenses that power the city’s great observatories, and debate matters of faith with local science-priests.
Some Sample Gods of Endara
The Royal Tiger
Animal (fur), Glory (heroism), Law (archon), Nobility (leadership), War (blood)
Royalty, duty, nobility, protection of the weak. Patron of the Endaran Empire.
Death (undead), Destruction (rage), Evil (devil), Magic (either), Rune (wards)
Necromancy, evil, undeath, genocide, universal conquest.
Artifice (construct), Charm (love), Earth (caves), Glory (honor)
Jewels and gems, fine craftsmanship, romance, beauty.
Over the last two weeks or so, I’ve also put together a fairly comprehensive list of monsters, most of which are either directly inspired by a Filmation creature or something in one of Earl Norem’s amazing paintings. Here’s a list of monsters, as they stand a few days before Christmas 2012…. I’ll probably be adding to this list of threats as the project progresses.
- Brog (CR ½)
- Razor Tongue Brog (CR 1)
- Slime Spitter Brog (CR 3)
- Cloud Wing (CR 4)
- Skyscreamer (CR 5)
- Duplikatt (CR 7)
- Blue Duplikatt (CR 7)
- Endaran Pegasus (CR 5)
- Enforcer Droid (CR 1)
- Enforcer Elite (CR 3)
- Meteorite Creature: Ape (CR 5)
- Meteorite Creature: Elephant (CR 10)
- Meteorite Creature: Lion (CR 6)
- Meteorite Creature: Stegosaurus (CR 10)
- Monster-Mek: Ettin (CR 8)
- Monster-Mek: Horse (CR 3)
- Monster-Mek: Giant Spider (CR 3)
- Mosnter-Mek: Tyrannosaurus Rex (CR 11)
- Mosquitron (CR 2)
- Night Ape (CR 11)
- Royal Prince Tiger (CR 4)
- V’Lak Ice Tiger (CR 8) and others
- Sea Crusher (CR 9)
- Seeker-Peeker (CR ½)
- Skull Soldier (CR 3)
- Steelvore Relic (CR 23)
- Swamp Drainer (CR 5)
- Techno-Phantom (CR 15)
Now, I want to preview a couple of monsters. Take a look at the Cloudwing, a Horse with the Monster-Mek template attached, and the Royal Prince Tiger’s flavor text. I’m not including the stat block on the last one, because that creature is simply a more intelligent version of a standard CR 4 tiger from the Pathfinder Bestiary. The real interesting stuff is all in the flavor text anyway.
Cloud Wing (CR 4)
N Large Magical Beast
Cloud Wings are creature’s of Endara’s ancient, primordial past. They are all but extinct in the modern day, but still may be summoned into battle by priests of the Lich, or encountered in distant jungles. A few flights are said to still linger in the deep forests of the Serpite Kingdom.
These muscular fliers resemble an exceptionally large and ungainly pteranodon. Their powerful wing muscles are anchored to a barrel chest and their forearms are mighty and powerful. Cloud Wings have spade-shaped heads decorated with a wide, V-shaped crest. Their leathery hides are a dark violet, splotched with blue or aquamarine.
Cloud Wings prefer to swoop in for the kill only after softening up their prey with a blast from their foul smelling, acidic breath weapon. Cloud Wings favor cattle, bison and herbivorous dinosaurs. They don’t want a meal able to fight back effectively, but aren’t above swooping down to feast on a weak or unwary human.
Init +7; Senses Darkvision 60 ft
AC 16, touch 12, flat-footed 12(+3 DEX, +3 natural, -1 size)
hp 5d8+30(42 HP)
Resist Acid 10
Fort +8, Ref +7, Will +4
Speed 20 ft Fly 50 ft (clumsy)
Melee +8 melee (bite 2d4+5 slashing)
Melee Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Base Atk +3; CMB +12 CMD 25
Breath Weapon (30 ft line, 2d8 acid, REF DC 18 Half plus acid vapors linger for 1d4 rounds after firing. FORT DC 18 or be sickened for one round).
Abilities STR 20 DEX 17 CON 19 INT 1 WIS 16 CHA 4
Feats Ability Focus (breath weapon), Improved Initiative, Dodge.
Skills Fly +14, Perception +5
Racial Modifiers Fly +8
Environment warm forests
Organization pair or wing (1d4+2)
Breath Weapon (EX): Once per day, the Cloud Wing can breathe out caustic vapors that both burn and choke its prey. This breath weapon takes the form of a 30 ft line of acid (2d8 acid, REF DC 18 half). Vapors from the linger for 1d4 rounds, anyone entering the area during this time must succeed at a DC 18 FORT Save or be sickened for one round.
Skyscreamers (CR 5)
Skyscreamers are a distant cousin of the extinct Cloud Wings. A more slender flier with a pale blue hide and navy crest, Skyscreamers are known for their fierce hunting cry, which can be heard for miles and is capable of shattering stone.
- A Skyscreamer’s breath weapon may be used up to 3 times per day, and is a 40 ft line of sonic energy. (2d8 sonic, REF DC 18 half). Targets within the line must succeed at a DC 18 FORT Save or be deafened for one round.
- Skyscreamers lose acid resistance, but gain Sonic Resistance 5.
- Skyscreamers receive a +8 racial bonus on Stealth checks when flying in blue skies.
Monster-Mek: Horse (CR 3)
XP 800 XP
N Animal (augmented)
A Monster-Mek Horse is a massive destrider with bronze cybernetics sheathing its powerful legs. The horse’s mane has been replaced with a heavy bronze helmet protecting its steel-laced skull. A single laser blaster rifle grows from the beast’s left shoulder like a strange lance.
Init +1; Senses Darkvision 60 ft, scent, Perception +6
AC 14, touch 10, flat-footed 13 (+1 DEX, -1 size, +4 natural)
hp 2d8+6+20 (35 HP)
Immune Bleed, Disease, Stunning
Fort +6, Ref +5, Will +1
Speed 50 ft
Melee 2 hooves +1 melee (1d4+3 bludgeoning)
Melee Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Base Atk +1; CMB +7 CMD 18 (22 vs. trip)
2 hooves +melee (1d4+3 bludgeoning)
+2 ranged (laser blaster rifle 2d6 force, 19-20/x2, 180 ft range, maximum 25 shots per day)
Abilities STR 20 DEX 12 CON 17 INT 2 WIS 13 CHA 7
SQ docile, Mecha-Mount
Feats Endurance, Run (B)
Skills Perception +6
Environment temperate plains
Organization solitary, pair or herd (3-30)
Docile (EX): Unless specifically trained for combat (Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook, pg 97), a horse’s hooves are treated as secondary natural attacks.
Mecha-Mount (EX): Monster-Meks grow a natural item that functions identically to an exotic military saddle for a creature of its size and type. The Monster-Mek creature can carry a rider one size smaller than itself in this natural saddle. Monster-Meks make excellent mounts: riders receive a +2 template bonus on Ride checks made to control a Monster-Mek creature in combat.
Royal Prince Tiger (CR 4)
NG Large Animal
Royal Prince Tigers are a beloved breed of feline. They are the patron animal of the Endaran Empire, lesser versions of the great Royal Tiger who taught the first Endaran king to rule justly and well. Endaran knights ride to war on the back of Royal Prince Tiger steeds, merchants have a pair of grumpy, runty Royal Prince Tigers pulling their wagons in exchange for a cut of the profits (paid in rare steaks, of course), and children love their Royal Tiger pets with all their hearts.
Endaran Royal Prince Tigers stand about four foot tall at the shoulder, and weigh upwards of 400 lbs. Their velvety fur is a vibrant blue, like the sky as darkness falls, broken with golden stripes. The creatures are obviously intelligent, with a good grasp of the Endaran dialect, though most cannot speak. Intellectually, a Royal Prince Tiger is on par with a 5-6 year old human child; they can puzzle out complex concepts, follow detailed instructions, and even manipulate simple tools with their paws and muzzle.
Royal Prince Tigers are most common to the Wheatlands of Amn. They prowl the whispering wheat fields, disappearing between the wavering stalks. They typically feed on deer, wild hogs and other game, but they’re not above snatching an unguarded goat or pig, or even muscling their way into a human’s home to steal food hot from the stove. Royal Prince Tigers are gentle beasts, and will rarely attack a humanoid, even in self defense. Unless specifically trained for war, a Royal Prince Tiger will turn tail and run from two-legged opponents.
Aside from their enhanced intelligence and swapping Skill Focus (perception) for Diplomacy, Royal Prince Tigers use the same stats as a tiger animal companion.
Other Royal Tiger Breeds
Endaran blue tigers aren’t the only breed of Royal Tigers roaming Endara.
New Sulanni Dukes
Dukes prowl the deserts outside the Elven city of New Sulan. These creatures have mottled brown and amber coats, streaked with grey and gold. They have a great affinity for those of Elven blood and hybrid-folk, forming lasting partnership with New Sulanni Half-Elves and feline Anthros.
New Sulanni Dukes modify the Royal Tiger statblock in the following ways.
- Their racial bonus on Stealth checks applies in desert terrain.
- They are well adapted to hot climates, gaining Fire Resistance 1.
- New Sulanni Dukes are especially keen eyed, and receive a +8 racial modifier on Perception checks, giving them a total Perception modifier of +13.
- Characters with Elven blood (including Half Elves and Drow) and any creature with the Anthro subtype receives a +2 bonus on Handle Animal checks made against New Sulanni Dukes.
Royal Queen Tigers
Queens have lurid maroon coats striped with black and green. These great cats are even more intelligent than the norm. Both males and females of this breed are referred to as ‘queens’. Royal Queens are a favorite of the royal court, and are equally popular among the young nobility of Schendenwatt.
- Royal Queen Tigers have human-like vocal cords and can speak.
Scaled King Tiger
Deep in the Serpite jungles, even the great tigers have some serpent blood. Scaled King Tigers are majestic beasts whose lean bodies are decorated with dull bronze scales. A Scaled King’s abdomen, forelimbs and spine are sheathed in scales, while their pelt is dark green striped with gold.
- A Scaled King’s natural armor bonus increases to +5.
- Scaled Kings are immune to poison.
- Challenge Rating 5 (XP 1,600)
V’lak Ice Tiger
V’Lak Ice Tigers are massive beasts with long shaggy white coats and saber-like fangs more than two feet long. Use the statistics for a Dire Tiger (smilodon) with the following changes; the creature’s Challenge Rating is unchanged. .
- The V’lak Ice Tiger has Cold Resistance 5.
- The V’lak Ice Tiger has a Swim speed of 20 ft, and a +8 racial bonus on Swim checks.
- The V’lack Ice Tiger has an Intelligence score of 3, and understands V’laki but can’t speak.
The political and theological differences I have with atheists are minor compared to the fact that as non-Christians, we both have a boot on our necks. That said, it's good to hear from my brothers and sisters their opinions of this holiday. Their tweets are sad, proud, purposeful, intelligent, and kind in equal measure. Give them a read.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
I've got the religions, a good (if somewhat vague) understanding of the regions of the Endaran world, and I've started writing up weapons and gadgets. This campaign setting will draw a bit on two older PFRPG releases I've put out: Armors of the Ancients and The Thinking Races: Diverse Humanity. Lots of content from those two books will be re-mixed and respun into a cohesive, He-Man flavored campaign setting.
Over on the right, a basic map I hacked together for Endara. This will, of course, eventually get transformed into a decent piece of fantasy cartography, but it serves the purpose. It's a bit vague, there's only a few cities shown, and there's no rivers, lakes, ect, nor are most of the geographic features marked down.
Here's a copy of the first world info I set down for Endara. I put together a bulleted list of terrain features and setting details for each major region. It'll give you an idea of what this world will feel like as it comes together. Note that since this document is a couple of weeks old at this point, it's already a bit out of date. Especially the religions overview at the end: I've firmed up the demi-human faiths quite a bit, for example.
Continent One: Endara
- Old growth forests, center of the Raven’s Faith.
- Lightly populated, small feudal villages in miles high wilderness, raven towers rising high above the forest.
- Few ruins. Pre-Cataclysm society didn’t reach this far north.
- Conservative, believes the rising monotheism out of Ducharr is a heresy. Religiously zealous. Dirty tricks and espionage to destabilize Durcharr and limit the rising tide of monotheism. Matriarchal and theocratic.
- Lots of clerics, druids, inquisitors, bird-sorcerers.
- Pale skinned humans, black hair, More than half of births are albino, others powder their bodies.
Mallard’s Landing (Free city)
- Huge glacial cliffs miles high. Spectacular waterfalls feeding the Delta.
- Trade city built on the lake. Old, dating to a time when cities had to be built on water to protect from monsters. Sorta like the one town in the Hobbit. City is rundown, crumbling, jury-rigged.
- Originated the worship of the Mallard.
- A “Arab Market” type feel. Lots of outdoor stalls, you can buy anything here. Great place to pick up weird tech items and magic items.
- Green and gold sails on ships, onion domes on roofs.
- Ethnically diverse population, lots of non-humans.
The Vall Lowlands (Loose confederation of tribes)
- Far below sea level, whole region is an enormous valley/basin, bordered on all sides by cliffs and mesas. Chaotic, rocky, Earl Norem style terrain.
- Barbarian tribes. Vall-ling is equivalent to ‘Viking’. Primitive raider culture.
- Relatively low tech, only recently come into the Endaran Alliance and not fitting in too well yet.
- Lots of old ruins cities, fallen pre-Cataclysm monuments. A ‘Dragon-line’ rail system is being built but its slow going.
- Half Orcs (a separate, true breeding species called Tuskers) and Humans interbreed here. Also Gnomes (weird little oracles to the tribes).
- In ancient days, Tuskers immigrated from Terra Mortis by sea. That explains by there are Tuskers in Endara and Terra Mortis. Endaran Tuskers are green, brown, blue. Terra Mortis Tuskers are crimson, magenta, purple.
The Sunlands /Solar Kingdom (Kingdom)
- Equatorial savannah/veldt and desert. Lots of pre-Cataclysm ruins and archeological sites. Huge, broken, moss-covered statues rising out of the grass.
- Local population is mostly black. Worship the Sun Following Fox and other animal deities.
- Green, browns, blacks and golds, some pale blues are common in dress and architecture. Simple geometric designs, vaguely tribal/African motifs. Decorated, attractive armor.
- Very high tech, first by copying pre-Cat tech and then by bootstrapping their own tech. Bionics, blasters, magi-tech golems. Feels similar to Asgard or Wakanda- Kirbytech utopia.
- Strong allies to the Endarans. Mutual aid treaties, arranged marriages, military alliances, going back centuries.
- Capitol is a techno-magical floating city that drifts over the plains and can be deployed to defend threatened regions of the Solar Kingdom. .
The Wheatlands of Amn (Endaran Province)
- Breadbasket of the Endaran Empire. Lush farmland, cultivated fields as far as the eye can see, some forests and grassland.
- Feudal kingdoms. Mostly medieval society, lots of farms, keeps, castles, stone granaries, roadside inns, ect. However, there’s a sub-current of tech though; villages have comm-links to Endara to call for help from the legions if needed, there’s robot farm equipment, some blasters, other minor tech.
- People are big, reddish skinned / dark Caucasian behemoths, curly red or brown hair, beards & bushy eyebrows. Stereotyped the same as Red State America- hardworkers, farmers, but unimaginative, conservative, powerful but not too bright. Strong military traditions.
- Current king of Endaran Empire (Andar something or other) is an Amnite. Point of pride for the region, feels like its finally getting its due.
Amn’s Spear (Endaran Province)
- Named for a legendary mythic warrior, Amn, who supposedly settled this region.
- Peninsula is super densely populated. Multiple cities, harbors, factories, warehouses. Shipping and commercial hub. Waters are crowded, dirty.
- Even monsters from Terra Mortis are allowed to trade here if they come in peace!
- At the tip of the spear we’ve got Schendenwatt: the ultimate cosmopolitian city, like NYC or Sharn. Major trade center, every race found here. Near by is High Harbor, its rival city that isn’t quite as big or powerful.
- Schendenwatt has the best and most universities and military academies in the world. The wealthy and nobility from every nation send their kids to school here. Cutting edge art scene, theaters, huge influence on culture and fasion across Endara.
- Techno-magical shield wall and huge artillery pieces protect the Endaran mainland from Terra Mortis invasion. This is pre-Cat tech, kept maintained and improved into the present day.
Dragon’s Roost (Border City between Endaran Empire & Solar Kingdom)
- A relatively new innovation are bullet trains spanning the continent.
- The oldest and most famous line, the Orient Express of the setting, is the Silver Dragon. It runs from Alldura to Schendenwatt, built in partnership between the Endaran Empire and Solar Kingdom. It looks like a Tokyo bullet train with a dragon head prow.
- Maybe an NPC Silver Dragon secretly protects its namesake train.
- Other lines are named Gold Dragon, Copper Dragon, Brass Dragon, ect.
- Lines only service the Central Endaran region. No service down to Martyns or Serpis, lines still being built towards the Vall Lowlands. Ravenna rejected the trains.
- Metallic (good) Dragons are mythic, probably extinct.
- Dragon’s Roost is a very new city, a product of the monotheism/tech revolution. Less than a century old. No dragons here, named for the dragon trains that are switched and serviced here. Shared jurisdiction by the Endaran Empire and Solar Kingdom.
Alldura (Endaran city)
- Endaran capitol city.
- Name implies “All Enduring”.
- Old, like Mallard’s Landing, from a time when cities were built on water for defense. But unlike the crumbling, archaic Mallard’s Landing, Alldura is undergoing a renaissance.
- Durcharri ideas about monotheism have found fertile ground here. Lots of sciences, universities, tech centers.
- Mostly surreal Earl Norem style Art Deco architecture. Grand, sweeping structures, impossibly tall spires, clean lines and white marble.
Martyns (Endaran Province)
- Rugged coastline, lots of shipwrecks, cold fog. Weather like San Francisco basically, throughout the whole region. Cool to cold plains and heaths.
People are poorer, lower tech, hard-living, tough. Pessimistic, with a dark sense of humor, fatalistic.
- Some Dwarves and Halflings mixed in with humans.
- Has been invaded multiple times by Terra Mortis sea fleets, always expecting another invasion of monsters. Lots of humans here have Monster blood, some look Irish, but a majority have orange or brownish-gold skin, cat-like eyes, feral features, as a result of ‘impure bloodlines’.
Ghiles (Endaran Province)
- Hilly, warm, gentle farmland. Good soil.
People are arrogant, dueling tradition, corrupt nobility, decadent city states.
- In old days, they enslaved the Martyns population, and there’s still lots of prejudice. Mutual distrust and hate on both sides.
- Halflings live in the burrows under the hills, traditional Tolkien style halfings. They’re a client state of the Endaran Empire and the Solar Kingdom, no real military might to speak of.
- Luxury good exports: wines, cheeses, jewelry, precious metals, art, courtesans.
- Cold to cool, rainy mountains. Some good soil, but its hard to work. Tiny, scattered farms, individual micro-fields are the norm. Similar to the Andes
- Volcanic activity. Ancient volcano temples where old sacrifices and atrocities happened, stained with evil, haunted.
- People look Hispanic.
Step pyramids, obelisks, ziggurats. A very Meso-American feel, with a snake motif. The official state religion no longer sacrifices humans, but there are demon/snake cults in the wilderness that still cling to the old ways. Reluctant to embrace the new monotheism.
- They worship snake deities that are similar to some of the demons worshipped by the Terra Mortis creatures. Some prejudice by other Endarans- worry the Serpis nation are demon worshippers, In reality they’re more like barbaric, sorta creepy heroes.
- Lower tech. Very few blasters. Most heroes are clerics, druids, barbarians, summoners, rangers. Close to nature and warlike.
Ducharr (Free city)
- Wet, rainy land, decent farmland and rice paddies. Lots of rivers and some swamp land.
- Extremely high-tech location, lots of universities, stellar/astronomical observatories. Huge techno-domes rising out of the fields.
- Founded by iconoclasts who struck out from Alldura for religious freedom centuries ago.
- These guys have invented monotheism. Realizing all the gods are just manifestations of the One, the universal order, ways for mortal minds to comprehend the One.
- Monotheism is the cutting edge, sweeping across Endaran Empire. With it, there’s a science and magical rennisance.
- New buildings, new tech, new hope. New discoveries in physics, advanced mathematics, quantum physics, techno-magic, chemistry, medicine, lots more. It’s all coming out of Ducharr.
- Distrusted and despised by Ravenna. Political infighting, dirty tricks.
- Heroes are alchemists, bards, wizards, summoners, fighters, monks, all with a high-tech bent.
New Sulan (Free city)
- The desert/savannah region is wilderness, most of the area outside the city-state of Ducharr is wildland, unclaimed frontier.
- Immigrant push into the wilderness from the Central Endaran region. Lots of unexplored and un-searched ruins to explore. Place for the PCs to claim as their own.
- New Sulan is an Elven city, founded by immigrants from Continent 3: Althena. Half Elves are common here, probably the only place in Endara they are.
- Sorta Moorish/Muslim architecture and culture for the Elves.
V’Lak (Endaran Province)
- Freezing arctic tundra and glacial plains. Months of endless night due to orbital rotation, the Dark Sea gets its name from this.
Spectacular aurora, lots of moons visible. Some Durcharri observatories located up here for a clear view of the dark sky.
- Local tribes are basically Iniut style hunter gatherers. Smallest and weakest Endaran province, effectively a territorial afterthought.
- Mostly rangers, druids. Almost no human tech. Dwarves are much higher tech- vast forges and tech-centers in the mountain caves.
- Dwarves live in the mountains, as do ice creatures, Bear anthros, yeti, and other winter/cold themed creatures.
Polar worms, white dragons, other acrtic monsters.
Continent Two: Terra Mortis (Dead Earth)
The Sea Fires
- Huge volcanic island, visible from hundreds of miles away.
- The largest active volcano on Endara is here. Crazy levels of tectonic activity makes the seas choppy and ultra-dangerous between Endara and Terra Mortis.
- New islands and sandbars raise and sink randomly, hazards to navigation. Most people prefer to fly.
- The Sea Fires are never quiet. Sometimes belch so much smoke and ash into the sky they block out the sun: the CO2 pollution causes the spectacular sunsets visible in Endara. Sometimes its like a mini-ice age, lasting weeks, or even months or years.
- Terra Mortis’ monsters become more active when the ash hangs in the sky.
- Dragons, fire elementals, salamanders, and other fiery creatures.
- Wilderness, frontier city behind walls to protect it from monsters and crazy wildlife.
- Founded by exiled criminals from the Endaran Empire and/or the Solar Kingdom.
Like Austraila, the only recognizable humanoid settlements on Terra Mortis clings to the coast, because the interior is too harsh.
Continent Three: Althena
- Elven nation.
- Isolated from the struggle, a legendary location for heroes to journey to in search of greater power, magic items given to the worthy.
- Sorta a Moorish or Muslim feel to the culture.
- New Sulan in Endara is an outpost of this culture.
Old Endaran Colony
- During the Cataclysm, a few surviors from whatever the pre-Cat Endaran culture was settled here.
- Buried their tech and then vanished. Lots of ancient relics, major and minor artifacts, and unique spells found here.
- Adventuring site for mid/high level characters.
- Religion wasn’t a big point of the cartoon, almost never mentioned, but let’s make it dominant in the setting.
- Everybody on Endara worships gods who manifest as cosmic animals, each addressed by animal name commonly, their secret names used only in ritual. You don’t say their true names causally.
- Like humanoid heroes with their punning, MOTU style nom de gurres/codenames.
- Ravenna worships birds. The raven is the queen of all birds. The Mallard is a merchant god, the Parrot, the Rook, the Kestrel (sin eater).
- The Solar Kingdom worships the Sun Following Fox. Other gods there include the Coyote, the Dog, the Lion, mammals.
- Serpis worships Snake and Dragon gods. Lizards, Little White Snake.
- Coming out of the Ducharr city/state there’s monotheism. All Gods are representations of the One Universal Order. That’s spreading throughout the continent, sparking the renaissance.
- Not sure what the Vall Lowlands worship. Not sure about demi-human deities. Not sure about the Elves.
In Non-Endaran news, we may have a new artist working for otherverse games. Shinkei, who does amazing CGI stock art available from UKG Games,
Thursday, December 8, 2011
As I’m getting ready to work up a campaign world inspired by one of the most famous action figure lines of all time, I figured I’d share with you some of my recent toy purchases.
First off, the fact I’m buying toys again is a sign of the relative prosperity I’ve had the last year, since moving to Kerrville. Seriously, I didn’t realize how bad things had gotten for me in Corpus Christi until I was out of there. I’m not just talking about my writing, (though my PDF sales have picked up dramatically, which I attribute mostly to a more regular schedule of well illustrated product), but I’m speaking mostly about my day job at the restaurant. Up here, I’m getting full time hours, and more importantly, a bunch more respect from my co-workers and bosses, than I was in that piss-hole back in Corpus.
Anyway, in the last couple of months, I’ve picked up two new Iron Man figures, from the Iron Man 2 movie line.
First, I acquired Ultimate Iron Man, which is probably my favorite design for the suit. This thing is big, bulky, and ugly: it looks like realistic (albeit futuristic) military hardware. The sculpt accurately captures the MASS of the thing, which is tough to do at 3.75 inch scale. The armor feels like its heavy enough to actually have a guy inside. Too many Iron Man figures (and the armor designs that inspired them) look too slender: if you didn’t know the character you’d assume he’s a robot, not a man inside the armor. The newest, Salvador Larocca designed 3.75” fig has this problem. It looks great, but it’s just too skinny.
This fig came with a second, trapezoidal head with round eye-pieces. This is from the Ultimate Iron Man origin comic, written by Orson Scott Card and illustrated by Adam Kubert. I like the design of that helmet, but I’m displaying the figure with the Hitch designed helmet. That one has heavy black lines around the eye slits, which sets of the white optics from the yellow face place nicely; the Kubert helmet doesn’t have the extra black detailing (though I suppose I could take a Micron pen and fix that) and the white goggles get lost against the yellow face plate.
Next, I picked up the War Machine figure. This version of the armor is the one that appeared in Iron Man 2, not the bulkier version of the suit from 1990s Marvel Comics, unfortunately. I prefer the original comics suit, or else the heavy, aerodynamically rounded version of Jim Rhodes from Avengers: The Initiative. Again, it all comes down to my preference for bulkier powered armor. This fig also includes an alternate head, revealing a battle scarred Rhodes with a cybernetic eye and partially metal jaw. I’m actually keeping the second head in my ‘toy parts’ drawer: it’s just so dead eyed and creepy I’m not sure I want it staring at me from my shelves.
While getting groceries last week, I picked up a Steve Rodgers figure, wearing his post-Siege SHIELD commander suit. I love this guy, and I’m a big fan of this simple, pragmatic body stocking as opposed to the Captain America costume. Steve comes with an absolutely kick ass M-16 and pistol (probably a Colt automatic, though I can’t be sure), and right now I’ve got him standing side by side with my GI Joes.
Finally, while doing some Christmas shopping I picked up the revised version of Chetarra from the latest Thundercats toon. (Yes, I do buy gifts for Christmas. I don’t do this because I actually LIKE the holiday or give two fucks about the birth of a Messiah I don’t even believe ever lived, but I do enjoy the chance to give cool shit to my friends and family.)
Anyway, the design on the character is awesome, but the figure’s execution is somewhat lacking. Her limbs are a way too slender and fragile. I’ve got some concerns about her bicep-joints, and I wouldn’t be surprised if her forearm snaps off entirely at some point in the future. The slenderness of her legs is only exaggerated by the long black stripe that runs down the front of her legs, connecting her shorts to her shoes, like some really long, mutant version of a garter strap. It’s really an odd design choice, and I can’t imagine what function that strap serves in-story; I wish the character illustrator had either just given Chetarra pants, or left the strap off entirely.
Also, Chetarra is a bit anemic in the accessories department. She’s got a brown bo staff, made out of really, really soft plastic. This wouldn’t be so bad if I hadn’t gotten so used to the excellent selection of accessories the new GI Joe figures come with. Hell, my Beachhead came with like 30 different guns, and all Chetarra gets is a stick? WTF? Give the poor girl a sword at least.
On the plus side, the figure has some of the best paint apps I’ve seen recently. The detail on her face, particularly her eyes, is stunning, and her spots are well applied. Anyway, I’ve got her standing side by side with the 4 inch “Planet Hulk”. They make a pretty bad-ass couple, and great inspiration as I’m starting work on my He-Man homage world.
On a related note, why the hell hasn’t Mattel put out a 3.75 inch Masters of the Universe line? Seriously, their adult collector focus really pisses me off. First off, these figures should be purchased and enjoyed by kids, and within the price range of working class families, not 40 year old white guys with way too much disposable income. My making MOTU a pure-nostalgia brand, I’m worried that Mattel is pretty much going to kill off all interest in the world, and certainly prevents any growth into a new generation of kids.
The smaller figures are exponentially cheaper, can come with more accessories (as Beachhead or Planet Hulk prove), and it’s easier to produce vehicles and play-sets for.
Not only that, but the smaller figs take up less shelf space, and as an ‘adult collector’ living on a budget and in a small apartment, those factors really matter to me. Those four figures I mentioned above retailed for about $8 each; roughly $32 for the lot, which is about what I’d be paying for one MOTU Classic figure, including shipping and handling.
And that’s if I buy direct from the on-line store, as soon as an action figure hits the secondary market, the price doubles or triples. So my chances of scoring the awesome looking Optikk are pretty much nil at this point…. Unless I shell $70+ to some basement dwelling fuck with an online storefront.
Seriously Mattel, get your head out your corporate ass and put out GI Joe scaled He-Man figs. The collector in me will buy dozens, and the kid in me wants to see Ultimate Iron Man trading repulsor blasts with Man At Arms, or see Snake Eyes slitting Webstor’s throat, or my Cobra Viper firing off a LAW rocket at Trap Jaw and recoiling in horror as he realizes the blast does exactly jack shit, because Trap Jaw is an MDC creature…. Sorry, I geeked out there for a second.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Shown here are the cover illustration for Fursona III, by Amanda Webb. This book will focus on using Fursona-built characters, and including Furry heroes in modern and sci-fi settings. There's going to be a HEAVY, HEAVY emphasis on porting Furries to Otherverse America, as that wonderfully pro-choice tigress can attest.
Next, we've got a bunch of black and white images of some of the races described in Races of the Tatakama, by Anthony Cournoyer. This kick-ass sourcebook will convert some of the coolest races from the perverse, hentai-inspired Black Tokyo campaign world to the Pathfinder RPG.
I'm also waiting on some character and location artwork for Ghosts & Promises, an Otherverse America sourcebook focusing on the secret Lifer city out in the Alaskan wilderness.
Later on in the year or early 2013,
I want to release a full Pathfinder campaign setting inspired by the classic He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon. So far, every artist I've talked to about it has been excited, so it should be a fun project. More on that later, but expect a world book as big and comprehensive as Otherverse America was.
With that last project in mind, go here:
You can see for yourself why I want to do a MOTU-style world, and why my artists are so excited. Earl Norem's art (and the art of other freelancers working on MOTU) is simply beyond belief.
Also, I got a kick out of this story today.
Note that the Southern Baptist Church isn't talking about changing its behavior, or correcting some of the loathsome injustices that give people a (justifiably) unfavorable view of them. They just want to change their name and rebrand. Sorta makes me laugh, a sad, bitter little laugh.
Anyway, enjoy the art.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Why You Shouldn't Donate to the Salvation Army Bell Ringers
Filed in: Fundie Watch, Living
Tags: anti-gay charity, anti-gay policies, anti-gay prejudice, bad charities, bell ringers, Christmas, give to Salvation Army, holiday season, Salvation Army, Thanksgiving
As the holidays approach, the Salvation Army bell ringers are out in front of stores dunning shoppers for donations. If you care about gay rights, you'll skip their bucket in favor of a charity that doesn't actively discriminate against the LGBT community.
The Salvation Army has a history of active discrimination against gays and lesbians. While you might think you're helping the hungry and homeless by dropping a few dollars in the bright red buckets, not everyone can share in the donations. Many LGBT people are rejected by the evangelical church charity because they're "sexually impure."
The church claims it holds "a positive view of human sexuality," but then clarifies that "sexual intimacy is understood as a gift of God to be enjoyed within the context of heterosexual marriage." The Salvation Army doesn't believe that gays and lesbians should ever know the intimacy of any loving relationship, instead teaching that "Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life."
On its webpage, the group claims that "the services of The Salvation Army are available to all who qualify, without regard to sexual orientation." While the words are nice, their actions speak volumes. They blatantly ignore the position statement and deny LGBT people services unless they renounce their sexuality, end same-sex relationships, or, in some cases, attend services "open to all who confess Christ as Savior and who accept and abide by The Salvation Army's doctrine and discipline." In other words, if you're gay or lesbian, you don't qualify.
The organization also has a record of actively lobbying governments worldwide for anti-gay policies - including an attempt to make consensual gay sex illegal. (Yes, you're paying lobbyists with those donations.)
After the break are some highlights from the evangelical Christian charity's recent anti-gay political lobbying, a handy video with more information, and a list of charities who don't discriminate against their clients and employees.
Since 1986 the Salvation Army has engaged in five major assaults on the LGBT community's civil rights and attempted to carve out exemptions that would allow them to deny gays and lesbians needed services as well as employment.
- When New Zealand considered passage of the Homosexual Law Reform Act in 1986, the Salvation Army collected signatures in an attempt to get the legislation killed. The act decriminalized consensual sex between gay men. The measure passed over the charity's objections.
- In the United Kingdom, the Salvation Army actively pushed passage of an amendment to the Local Government Act. The amendment stated that local authorities "shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality" or "promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship." The law has since been repealed, but it led many schools and colleges to close LGBT student organizations out of fear they'd lose their government funding.
- In 2001, the organization tried to extract a resolution from the White House that they could ignore local non-discrimination laws that protected LGBT people. While the commitment would have applied to all employees, the group claimed that it needed the resolution so it "did not have to ordain sexually active gay ministers and did not have to provide medical benefits to the same-sex partners of employees." After lawmakers and civil rights activists revealed the Salvation Army's active resistance to non-discrimination laws, the White House admitted the charity was seeking the exemptions.
- Also in 2001, the evangelical charity actively lobbied to change how the Bush administration would distribute over $24 billion in grants and tax deductions by urging the White House deny funding to any cities or states that included LGBT non-discrimination laws. Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary, issued a statement saying the administration was denying a "regulation sought by the church to protect the right of taxpayer-funded religious organizations to discriminate against homosexuals."
- In 2004, the Salvation Army threatened to close all their soup kitchens in New York City to protest the city's decision to require all vendors and charities doing business with the city to adhere to all civil rights laws. The organization balked at having to treat gay employees equal to straight employees.
I've seen the discrimination the Salvation Army preaches first hand. When a former boyfriend and I were homeless, the Salvation Army insisted we break up before they'd offer assistance. We slept on the street instead and declined to break up as they demanded.
Instead of donating to the Salvation Army, choose a different charity that will help everyone without prejudice. Find a local secular charity - or here are some national organizations that provide help to anyone who needs it:
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
This cover will feature three characters: one representing the possibilities for Anthro characters in Otherverse America (the sketch of which we see at right), one representing Psi-Watch Anthros, and a third representing the general 'modern magic' type of anthros you'd see in something like True Blood. I told Amanda to give me a cover similar to the Dave Johnson D20 Modern covers: a trio of representative figures posed together, showing what you could build with the rule set.
I'm also finishing up the Kodiak Island sourcebook, and as I wait for the last art for that one to trickle in I've been going back and adding some more content.
Ghosts & Promises and Fursona III will probably close out the year, though I might put out some unplanned micro-PDFs between now and then. Yesterday I sent off a 5 page weapon book to Mark, and might do other short products.
As it stands, 2011 brought about 45-50 releases from me- most through Otherverse Games, but a few good sourcebooks I freelanced for Louis for. 2012 looks like it will be similarly productive.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Wow, thanks to everyone who's picked up Synth Heroes.
I figured I should tell all the fans of free-form D20 character generation out there, (and appearantly there's alot of you), that I'm doing some work on Fursona III RIGHT NOW! I'm putting together a 'mutant' character builder running off the Fursona engine. It'll include some conversions of Psi-Watch material, letting you build free-form versions of the Challengers and City Born, as well as converting the Mutant player race to a build-your-own version. In addition to the char-gen, you'll get some world info. This book will delve HEAVILY into Otherverse America's 'mutie-porn' underground- it should be kinky, transhumanist and body-horror intensive, everything a good sourcebook should be.
I should have a finished draft in a few more days, and I'll post a preview or two later. I was expecting to illo it mostly through stock art, but I'll probably get at least one or two comissioned pieces now. (The illo on the right is some TMNT fan-art I've found on line, unfortunately not a piece for the new book. I can dream, though).
Anyway, expect that soon. Also based on the content of my last post here, I'm wondering if I could pull together a Witchy Hero basic class, which not only allows you to play a badass witch girl type hero from level 1, but which explores the trope of the 'witch hero' genre the same way my Sentai Spectacular release a couple months back explored the tropes of sentai TV? Might be a fun way to end the year.....
Also, just as an aside, I'm looking forward to the revised Neo-Exodus Campaign Setting, from Louis Porter. That should also be up in a few days- I'll be picking it up, and hope most of you do the same.
One thing I picked up, as a result of www.RPGNow.com ’s ‘Teach Your Kids to Game’ week, and the associated discounts is the Witch Girls Adventures roleplaying game (Channel M Games, 2009). I’d been curious about the book for a long time, and now that I own it, I figured I’d talk about it a bit here.
First off, I am in total love with this game. Character generation is my favorite part of gaming, possibly because these days, cut off from a regular game group, I can still bust out a rulebook and experiment with different builds for various systems. Witch Girls has amazingly quick and fun char-gen, which is a huge plus.
Let’s run through char-gen.
Chargen is freeform, but guided a little bit by a simple template. Basically you pick a Clique (your social group, which determines your outlook towards magic and the size of your Magic Die, and decides what spread of dice you get for your attributes), you then assign dice to your other attributes as desired.
Then, pick 2 talents (equivalent to D20 feats in utility and power), 1 heritage (like a mini-template, in D20 terms, that offers a powerful advantage and corresponding disadvantage). Finally, you pick choose your skills (which really help define your character’s personality and interests), your known types of magic, a few specific spells and some very fun magical equipment. I made my first Witch Girls character in about 15 minutes; in my experience only Big Eyes, Small Mouth (2nd edition) has faster or easier char-gen.
Oh, since most gamers want to know the basic resolution method used in a system, Witch Girls Adventures uses attribute plus skill versus either a target number or an opponent’s roll. Say you’re trying to hack a computer, and you assigned a D8 to Mind, and have 3 ranks in Computers. You’d roll D8 + 3 and hope you beat the difficulty. Quick, workable and easily understood. I also like the fact that combat (both magical and mundane) slightly favors the defenders, which should keep character death to a minimum. A character’s basic, passive defenses are equal to a defensive attribute +3, which makes it a bit harder, statistically speaking, for an attacker to kill a heroine.
As Witch Girls is targeted at young gamers, keeping the PCs alive for a few sessions is a plus in my book; leave cheap deaths and highly lethal settings for older and more experienced gamers. Of course, as characters (and their opponents) get more powerful, and gain more ranks in Fight and Casting (the basic offensive skills), these training wheels come off a bit. It becomes more common to find more and more stuff with significantly more than just 3 ranks in Fight or Casting.
Enough about system.
Why do I love this game so much? First off, I like elegant rules, and these are. The traits and heritages, which are the real meat of char-gen cover most of the possibilities commonly found in the genre (magical/ modern fantasy tween literature) and leave lots of room for future supplements without excessive power-creep, making them well designed from both a gaming and a commercial standpoint. I also am digging the artwork: adorable describes the gamebook nicely.
Anyway, as I’m reading the rulebook, I start seeing thematic commonalties between Witch Girls and other tween/teen-focused magical fiction, and even mass media stuff aimed at a slightly older audience like Charmed. Call it the concept of “witch as superhero”…. to me, as a pagan and an author, it’s a fascinating concept.
What is the Witch as Superhero anyway? What kind of character fits that mold?
- Female, of course.
- Magical, intelligent, wise, attractive.
- Able to cast spells, and usually only supposed to cast beneficial or pleasant spells- healing magic, love spells, ect. Witch Girl adventures breaks this aspect of the trope- its characters can throw full on D&D combat magic. In other media, some Witch Girls might be pure ‘white mage’ types, completely unable to cast any kind of harmful (read: tactically useful) magic. This part of the trope varies a bit by writer.
So far, I’m describing Clea, right? Zatana, maybe? Nothing specifically pagan, right. Here’s where it gets a bit different.
- Witch superheroes are hereditary. Most of them are fundamentally different from ordinary people- the descendents of Lilith in WGA, homo magi in the case of Zatanah, the descendants of ancestral asskickers in the case of Charmed, ect. There’s an almost classist theme here, one which is explored explicitly in WGA. The trope says “WE are not YOU. We’re BETTER.”
- Correspondingly, these characters seem to be outside of the law, outside the social structure, above it or around it. These witches follow their own rules, screw mundane social mores. WGA is HEAVY into this.
- Fast. Witches are fucking FAST, both physically and emotionally. Decisive, quick, able to rapidly come to a conclusion, to act as they see fit. WGA has witches on broomsticks- that folkloric assumption carries over in comic books and TV as superspeed, and with superspeed comes DECISIVENESS. The sense of speed in Rob Zombie’s ‘American Witch’ is palpable- the speed of her passage sets the ground on fire beneath her. Though The American Witch is by no means a superhero, meets this criteria, as well as criteria 5 above and 7 below. Part of the Witchy decisiveness might be a result of freedom from outside moral constraints: these Witch Heroes do what they need to, with only their own conscience as guide.
- Vengeful. Witch Heroes are occasionally angry, and most times rightfully so. Lots of fictional witches have some unfinished scores to settle from the Burning Times. Usually in fiction, this a specific grudge against some semi-immortal witchhunter or a demon that manipulated medieval Christians to hunt innocent witches, not the Christian power structure as a whole, but the righteous anger is there. Zombie’s American Witch is a great example of this somewhat optional requirement for the trope, as is the film version of Silent Hill.
- The vengeful and ‘outside the law’ traits go hand in hand if you think about it for a minute. A few years back, I saw some crappy Hallmark Channel made for TV movie about a magical, “Bewitched” style Witch Hero who moves into a small town and gets screwed with by the bigoted local rednecks. Over time, and with good deeds and love, she won everybody over and improved everbody’s life. That’s sorta a fucked up morality tale if you stop to think about it. This fictional witch has to be the good one, has to prove her worth time and again, just to eventually enjoy the acceptance her Christian neighbors take for granted?
She has to kiss ass for 90 minutes just to be treated like a decent human being? Fuck that. My thought, if society’s majority-written laws do not respect the rights of the minority, they become morally worthless. Obeying these laws becomes not a moral duty- you don’t refrain from killing or stealing from your oppressors because it’s the right things to do in such a situation, you do it merely because you fear the reprisal of the powerful. Anyway, Witch Heroes are often powerful enough to be outside the law (#5), decisive enough to break any law they feel is unjust (#6), and have a legitimate root for their anger (#7). These traits are optional, but when they’re placed together, there’s something really powerful there, story-wise.
- Finally, Witch Heroes rarely follow any recognizable magical tradition. Sometimes their powers are a jumble of different styles- a little Goetic summoning, some half-assed kitchen witchery, a little Voodun, a whole lot of Dr. Strange. Other times, the author just makes something up: Charmed makes up its cosmology as it goes, taking the majority of its inspiration from lame-ass angel calendars as far as I can tell. Even if the character calls herself a Wiccan, like Willow, the fictional definition of Wiccan is closer to the definition of Jedi than what I believe. Belief tends to be blandly, inoffensively spiritual- faith devoid of context, but in a way even that’s daring, because it shows a world without Jesus, even if that world is created by omission more than intent.
Back to Witch Girl Adventures.
Here we’ve got ‘witches’ as heroines, as the reason the game-world exists, but they are divorced (mostly) from real world concepts of ‘witch’. These girls aren’t Wiccans or Pagans, not really, even though they are nothing recognizable as Christian, either; they aren’t ‘witches’ the way I am a Witch. They also are not baby sacrificing black magicians either, which negates the other definition of witch, one I struggle against often. They’re inoffensive witches, PG-rated witches. These girls didn’t hang at Salem, but they’re not reading Gardner or Crowley (or even, Goddess help us, Silver Ravenwolf ™ ) either.
More Effective Than a Gun
So what are the Witch Girls, then?
They’re witch archetypes, in the same way Superman is a messianic archetype.
Inoffensive, cute, loveable, the Witch Girls are weapons. So are the sisters on Charmed, so is Willow on Buffy, so are a dozen different pop culture heroines I could name. These Witch Girls, in all their many forms mutate real world Wicca and Paganism into something unrecognizable- a slightly feminist action movie world with no bearing on real practices or beliefs. In most cases, realism isn’t desired, nor is it necessary. In fact, realistic portrayals of my faith would turn off Christian publishers, advertisers, ect… who are anxious to avoid controversy and boycotts. So we get in under the radar, but more on that later…..
Problems (?) With the Portrayal of Witch Heroes
There’s problems with the Hollywood Wiccan Superhero stereotype, of course. First off, in fiction, you will NEVER find a male Wiccan, and other forms of Pagan are rare. (The most visible male neo-pagans, unfortunately, are Neo-Nazi Ásatrú- which is unfortunate. The Norse myths are pretty bad-ass and inspiring, and its tragic, unforgivable, that a bunch of bigoted, tattooed skinhead fucks have stolen that from all of us.) Anyway, back on topic- female Wiccans. The mass media making Wiccans exclusively female is annoying to me, as a male Wiccan, but not unforgivably so. It provides a nice feminist slant on faith, and justice, which I can’t argue with, and provides a nice contrast between feminist Wicca and patriarchal monotheism. I actually don’t mind defining my faith by that contrast, because it’s a struggle that needs to be undertaken.
This emphasis on feminist paganism also shortchanges gay pagans a bit, but that particular can o’ worms goes back to Gerald Gardner himself, so I can’t blame Hollywood for it too much. Most Witch Hero/Witch Girl media is pretty heteronormative, but I expect that the whole concept of hetro-noramlity will start fading a bit as the culture changes, the old bigots die off, and a new, freer, less reflexively homophobic generation comes of age.
The other problem with Witch Hero media is that as mentioned above, it tends to be classist- there’s usually some kind of race of hereditary witches, usually passing the power down the matriarchal line. In most fiction, Witch Girls are portrayed as inherently superior due to their powers, which makes story sense: if these girls can cast spells, and nobody else can, they ARE superior. End of story. Of course, teaching prejudice of any kind, even in the harmless context of an empowerment fantasy is a bit of a bad idea. It’s my understanding that WGA has taken some flak for making this classist power fantasy such a big part of the setting fiction. Of course, most of those doing the criticism are RPG nerds on message boards, 90% of whom are some form of Christian themselves, and don’t have anything similar to say about far more obvious and far more pervasive Christian-based power fantasies, ranging from Narnia to Left Behind. So take the criticism with a family-sized grain of salt.
I also wonder if spreading the meme that witches are special, superior, is necessarily a bad thing. The hereditary lineage of witch powers in fiction is actually pretty close to the historical concept of ‘hereditary witchcraft’ that’s been a working, if oft criticized theory of Wicca heritage since the beginning. But more to the point, I’ve noticed that every oppressed group in history needs some arrogance, some elitism, some swagger, even if its only false bravado in the face the bad guys. Sooner or later, that swagger settles down into true and quiet factional pride, and the oppressed get to work on true equality, now with the unity and sense of pride that swagger gives them. Before you had real gay rights, you had camp. Before Barack Obama got elected, before black pride, you had black power- raised fists and afros. Superficial, angry, maybe a little shrill, but both camp and black power were full of the bravado that told a people that had been stepped that they were worth fighting for. My opinion, modern pagans could use a little bit more of that swagger, and if elitist fiction gives it to ‘em, great.
Why do I like the ‘Witch as Superhero’ concept so much?
Witch Girl media are building the modern stereotype of what a Pagan is; these Witch Heroes reappropirate the noun ‘witch’, branding the term, the concept of a witch not as a demon-worshipper or mewling, ineffectual victim of Dark Ages Christian persecution but as a spell-casting superhero. Not too shabby. Of course, nobody really expects Witches like me to cast spells like witches like them, but look at what else comes with the sterotype. Witch Girls are smart, noble, able to see and do things mundane humans (read: Christians) can’t even imagine.
You get a kid at 12-13 reading Twitches, playing Witch Girls, watching Charmed re-runs, even if he abandons them when the kid puts away the things of childhood, he has been shown something. The lesson might go unremembered, consciously, but the lesson has still been taught. The lesson is this: witches are the good guys.
Even if that kid later goes to the most fundamentalist Evangelical church on the planet and gets the line from Leviticus “Thou shall not suffer a witch to live” tattooed on his ass, the counter-thought is rattling around in his brain. The meme ‘witches are the good guys’ is a part of that kid’s soul now, and maybe, just maybe, that meme will break through the relentless Christian conditioning the kid is exposed to every other minute of his life.
Maybe this theoretical kid someday meets a real Wiccan or Pagan, and when he picks his jaw up off the floor that there are real ‘witches’ out there, starts asking questions. Now, the first question this Witch meme-infected soul is going to ask is going to be dumb as fuck, probably even unwittingly offensive. So, Pagan readers, if you get asked a question born of genuine, if ignorant curiosity, answer it honestly. It’ll be the second lesson about witches this theoretical pre-teen Charmed watcher has learned: witches teach.
We enlighten. Our simple existence, outside of Christianity, uncaring about the Christian themes of salvation and judgment, not having Jesus, and not wanting him either, offers a different way to live.
WGA plays with this trope explicitly. At one point in the setting fiction, WGA states the great moral purpose of Witches, the reason they exist is to bring Wonder (they even capitalized it) into the world. There’s a similar motif in Changeling: The Dreaming (White Wolf), in that fey characters are simply more FUN then mundanes, and it’s the duty of every fey to bring joy and enlightening, childlike wonder to mundanes. WGA has some obvious White Wolf influence, especially in the contrast between the drab mundane world and the colorful, joyous world of witches and magic. In both these campaign settings, remember that the mundane world IS the Christian world, our Christian world- the world built by 2,000+ years of monotheistic domination.
I’ve spoken before about the difference in attitudes towards art and craftsmanship as perceived by Christian and pagan artists. I feel it is our duty as pagans, and I certainly consider it my duty as a pagan artist to create simply BETTER art than my Christian competitors. It proves my superiority as a person, a creator, and my faith’s superiority. Let Christians build a Starbucks on every corner, write one repetitive ass sitcom after another, I’ll do something a bit more kick-ass, thanks. So I can definitely get behind the concept of ‘Witch Hero as bringer of wonder and enlightenment.’
So maybe a kid’s adventure game, one that has characters called Witches who worship no god nor goddess, carry no atheme and have no politics beyond the politics of the cute, can show the next generation of real world Pagans something transdescent. I’m a big believer that secular entertainment can inspire, as much if not more than traditional religious works. So if a secular work like Witch Girls can inspire a few kids in the direction of my faith (or even better, in the direction of my politics), awesome. This game, possibly by accident, is showing ostensibly ‘Witch’ heroes in the same light I want to show modern neo-pagans. WGA is like the Disney Channel version of Otherverse America.
Somewhere along the way I read something about how media depiction of black people progressed. You started off with them exclusively as villains, subhuman- the blackface, spear-throwing tribals in King Kong. Then, black people in media became comic relief in minstrel shows and blackface comedy. Then they become the sidekicks, loyal and stupid but dependable- heroic, but in an extremely limited way, and existing only to make their white superior look good. Then, and only then do you get to complex, well rounded portrayals, and in a bit of irony, you got extraordinary black heroes (Black Panther, for example, the king of his own Utopian African nation) before you got realistic, interesting black villains.
So I’ve always kinda wondered where the media depiction of Wiccans and Pagans falls along that same continuum? Right now, we’re in the goofy sidekick phase, with a few genuine heroes here and there. Of course, you could also argue that since very few media portrays our culture than any more depth then the minstrel shows portrayed black folks of the 1920s maybe we’re still in the ‘comic relief’ phase. Who knows. Do you consider the Witch Heroes of Witch Girls Adventures to be close enough to pagan to count as genuine pagan characters, or to paraphrase Dr. Evil are they ‘the Diet Coke of paganism’? Again, who knows. It’s a good question though, and gives me a few ideas to write about myself.
Anyway, hope you were able to slog through my rather convoluted thoughts here.
As a Wiccan author, a military vet, and a longtime GI Joe fan, I wonder one thing: have there been any Wiccan or Pagan members of the Joe team? I only ask because the Joes are the most crazy-diverse team in comics, which is appropriate considering they are a reflection of the real US military.
I sorta remember a jungle warfare expert joe- Recondo, maybe- leaving a ‘sacrifice’ of some captured Cobra weapons at a jungle totem pole. I can’t quite remember if it was a joke on his part, him just being quirky in that Larry Hama-written way, or just trying to fit in with the locals, or a genuine expression of belief. And there is the IDW version of Breaker, who is a member of Serpentor’s cult, though that seems to be more “Scientology + Snake Motifs” rather than anything neo-pagan. I’m willing to count those two if you are, but I’d love to know if there’s anything closer to my definition of Pagan on the team.