Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Religion -- Kivian Taoism

Today is a day unlike any other before: you shall see me create a concept from whole cloth. As covered previously, I created a religion called Kivian Taoism, by throwing together an established religion with a nonsense word. But I never developed it: in my notes, I have this: "A religion common in many other Realms but uncommon in the City, that emphasizes a relaxed view of the world." So we're going to ARTT this baby out, starting from nothing, and in real-time. And because we've got a Real-Life Inspiration but nothing else, it'll actually be RATT today. A coincidence..? Probably.

Real-Life Inspiration: Well, obviously, the main inspiration here is going to be Taoism. Unfortunately, most of my knowledge of Taoism comes from a half-remembered section of history class, supplemented by Taoism as represented in Hollywood and some skimming of Wikipedia articles. On the plus side, the influence of the Kivians means that the religion doesn't have to share much with Taoism beyond a few basic tenets, which I believe I understand. That said, the core concept of Taoism is understanding and following the "tao" -- or "path/way/doctrine/etc." -- that is the "flow of the universe." True adherents try to practice "wu wei" ("without action"), trying to "go with the flow" and keeping their ego out of the way of their lives. I suspect Taoism was a major influence on Star Wars' "Force." With these fundamental tenets in mind, this leads to a common...

Archetype: The wise man who lets life pass by without influencing it or being influenced by it -- often a hermit and/or from a vaguely Asian culture -- is an old fantasy standard. Obi-Wan Kenobi, Lu-Tze of Discworld, Master Oogway of Kung Fu Panda -- these are just a small handful of examples. And then we've also got the characters of the Dude in The Big Lebowski and Dex of The Tao of Steve, modern-day reinterpretations of the "laid-back" nature a true Taoist should have. A Kivian Taoist will certainly fit these molds: unflappable, unconcerned with politics and strife, either incapable of handling the stresses of City life or simply not wanting to. 

In our Theme, perhaps we will find exactly what makes Kivian Taoism distinct. The City's primary religion, The Church of the Blinding Light, makes ambition a virtue and focuses on combining secular and religion power. The Rurals out on the Julian Plains have a simple and straightforward religion focused on the metaphor of farming and the importance of roles. The Iversdotter Revelation focuses around the gang and supporting each other. A commonality in all of these religions is a focus on a community -- even the ambitious Sons of Light are supposed to elevate their entire bloodline instead of merely oneself. So we see a gap, do we not? A religion focused on the individual, on the self, ignoring what others might do, want, or need. So let us say that the Kivians are a species who live in nearly complete isolation, coming together only to breed -- and so they developed a philosophy of self above all. This is, after all, still Taoism, so it will not be ego above all -- the believers still believe that the universe has a flow and following it without effort is the "way" -- but the way has no room for other people in it.

Twist: Well, I see a logical consequence of our theme that twists the basic Taoism conceits a bit: a Kivian Taoist would not hesitate to use force or violence, should something get in the way of their own personal "tao." Some might take up the religion as a way to justify a heartless life, crushing everything in the way of their goals -- but I think that would be a perversion of the proper concept, because it is based on ego, which should be removed from action in proper Kivian Taoism. How exactly a believer decides what is part of their "way" and should be allowed, and what is attempting to pull them from their "way" and should be eliminated, is a question I don't have an answer to, that I'm sure has been a point of contention in Kivian doctrine for centuries...

Next time, we will step away from religion -- and from worldbuilding -- for a bit, and take a look at the Universal Conflict system I'm trying to cobble together, to allow players in The City of Lives to run anything from a dialogue to surgery using the same rules as combat.