Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Addix

A tremendous, yellow-white pillar juts from the ground, reaching hundreds of feet above your head and arcing to meet a horizontal beam that stretches into the distance, supported by other, similar pillars. Slowly, it occurs to you that this strange structure is, in fact, a skeleton -- the last remains of a creature the size of a city. You gasp in awe and horror -- and are taken by surprise by the band of ravaging, raging zombies coming up from behind you...

Welcome to The Addix, home of the rage-filled undead raiders known as the Dead Tribes. The important features of the Addix are its inhabitants -- angry, vicious undead with no purpose but to cause pain to the living. The undead are known as the Blightbound (a constructed combination of the necromantic magic Blightshifting and the fact that the dead spirits are bound to their old bodies), and many are organized into said Dead Tribes.

The Dead Tribes originated in the first paragraph of the unfinished short story that started this whole City of Lives universe. I needed an origin for the "Dead-Blooded" who had undead heritage in their past -- and, sparkly vampires notwithstanding, I couldn't see people willingly mating with a corpse, so I invented "an army of ghouls, specters, and the run-of-the-mill dead" who had swept through the City and raped a significant portion of its populace. Later on, I gave these raiders the name "the Dead Tribes" -- and later still, I needed an origin for these tribes for my playtesters, as well as a generic term for the undead... hence Blightbound. Finally, they needed a place to live, so I stole a name and concept from an old, abandoned (and poorly-thought-out) fantasy campaign of mine based around lost technology mistaken for magic. This was the Addix -- a city-sized skeleton that provides infrastructure for a settlement beneath its arching spine. So... with the (extra-universal) origins of the Addix revealed, let's settle in for an ARTT treatment:

Archetype: If anyone in the shades-of-gray world of The City of Lives can be said to be pure, unadulterated evil, it is the Dead Tribes, and their home reflects that. Like Mordor, the Shadowlands, or All-World, the Addix is a blasted wasteland, showing the evil of its inhabitants in its very environment. In this case, it has a perfectly reasonable in-universe explanation: Being undead, the populace of the Addix have no need for food and have serious rage issues, resulting in their killing almost every plant and animal they can reach.

Real-Life Inspiration: The physical environs of the Addix have no particular inspiration in real life, but the Dead Tribes themselves definitely take their inspiration from terror groups such as Al-Qaeda or the IRA. They are based on exactly one thing: anger, and taking it out on others, and like terrorists, they hold this obsession over and above anything else. As every terror group, the Dead Tribes have a target they want to destroy -- in this case, the City of Lives -- but they take it a step further than most terrorists, in that the Dead Tribes' eventual goal is global extinction. As you will see in the Theme section below, the Dead Tribes envy the living, and want to take away what separates them (that being life, of course) -- and also want revenge on the necromancers who originally made them, but have expanded that desire for vengeance to apply to anyone alive. As such, they are organized like a terrorist army or cult, with the "compound" of the Addix as their whole world except when they venture out to cause mayhem.

Theme: One of the strongest and clearest themes The City of Lives, the Dead Tribes and the Addix are about people who have been hurt and who, instead of moving past the pain or turning it into altruism, choose to hurt others. It is about uncontrolled rage, obsession, and envy. You see, in creating the Blightbound's origin, I decided to make CoL's undead not mindless walking skeletons or ravening zombies, but the spirits of the dead, torn from their eternal rest and forced back into their rotting meat-suits, which causes them eternal physical and psychic pain. [My reason for this decision escapes me, except perhaps to justify their raiding nature I had already established, and to avoid stereotype (though, of course, this is not an entirely original idea: see Fire Sea and Buffy the Vampire Slayer's angst upon being resurrected for takes on this theme)]. Now, there are three ways to deal with pain and a loss of control: angst, acceptance, or anger. Unfortunately for the rest of the Realm of Lives, the Dead Tribes chose the latter.

Twist: The biggest twist for such a place of evil is that... well, it's not. Not pure evil, anyway. Like everything in The City of Lives, there are shades of gray, with no such thing as "pure" good or evil. The Addix is filled with Blightbound who want nothing more than to extend their suffering, try to ameliorate their pain by inflicting it on others... but there are also a few undead and Dead-Blooded who have learned to deal with their tragedy, committing themselves to "living" good lives. Unencumbered by the need for food, sleep, or aging, these few enlightened souls can achieve remarkable things in the realms of art, science, magic, and philosophy -- or simply enjoy the company of others and the world around them. Though a rarity, these individuals are gems almost unparalleled.

Next time, we head back to the City... and straight past it, to take a look at the swampy Vulgar Morass that blocks travel to the southwest of the City. See you there!