Friday, February 25, 2011

Son of Light Archetypal Image and The Ma'ar

Casus Aetunius Holvinus -- a Son of Light Commander

Casus is a thin man -- but wiry, not gaunt. He has a sharp nose and wears his dark blonde hair cropped short in a Roman fashion. He is perhaps 50. He wears an 18th-century nobleman’s outfit -- waistcoat, breeches, cravat -- in gold and silver hues. However, on his hip he wears not a watch, not a rapier, but a Roman gladius, and holds a Roman-style plumed helmet under one arm. He stares at the viewer with an intense, commanding look in his green eyes.

Image after the jump:

This picture is both completely right, and tells me that the Sons of Light have GOT TO GO. Look at him. He's just a dude. He's got an odd fashion sense, with the Roman helmet and gladius to go with the 18th-century dress, but really, he's just an ordinary guy. And compared to the rest of the bloodlines, ordinary guys are dull. Now, you argue, as I long did, that one needs a "regular guy" bloodline to offset the weirdness of the other characters... and you may be correct, but the Sons of Light are not that bloodline. Why? Because they are high class. The ordinary guy is either blue-collar or can attain any place in society -- which means that the "ordinary man" archetype in City of Lives is probably filled by the Rurals (blue-collar, no collar, what's the difference).

So the Sons of Light don't fit their intended mold. What are they, then? They're ambitious -- wait, so are the Sky-Carvers, and two deceitful, ambitious bloodlines step on each others' metaphorical toes in terms of archetype. They're religious -- well, not nearly as much as the Leovites, who actually run the religion. They've got light-based powers -- well, I've toned that down to make them more human, so now I wonder if it's worth it at all -- or it could be easily shifted over to the Leovites. They're the Chosen Ones -- like the Emperors of Japan are descended from the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, like the Jews were chosen by YHWH -- well, that "chosen one" status could easily be shifted over to the Leovites, like the priestly castes of numerous ancient civilizations.What does that leave the Sons of Light as their own? Hmm... NOTHING! They can so easily be lifted out of the campaign world that it makes me wonder why I didn't do it before. I'll discuss exactly how removing the Sons of Light affects the Leovites, Sky-Carvers, and Prometheans as their own images appear here.

And now let's make a quick jaunt over to Ma'ar Supply World 22 and discuss the Ma'ar. These feline, six-legged pack hunters and their mortal enemies the twelve-foot-tall reptilian Shertasi both came from a dream I had back when I was a teenager. In said dream, two alien species had landed near my high school and were fighting, me and my class caught in the middle. The dream was very action/horror movie, and the aliens stuck with me. One was the Shertasi -- tall, broad, flat-faced and with a million teeth, like a frightening Aahz (from the MythAdventures series). There was only one of them, and he was angry and imperious. Then there were the Ma'ar -- the size of a tiger, six-legged with the ability to become centauresque or run on all six legs, similar to a D&D Displacer Beast without the tentacles. There were three or four of them, much weaker than the Shertasi but challenging him through the use of pack- and hit-and-run tactics.

These creatures and their ritualized battle -- reminiscent of Alien vs. Predator (long before it came out -- I dreamed it first, damn it! They stole it from me!) -- appealed to me, and I kept the Shertasi and Ma'ar around, in various universes I created and never did much with (an uninspired Star Trek-ian future history, an even less inspired "fallen civilization" fantasy campaign, etc). Which brings me to their inclusion in The City of Lives. I wanted some big civilizations out in the Realms, ruling large sections and giving a sense of "bigness" to the campaign world. My old friends were perfect.

The Ma'ar are a strange mixture of feline and canine traits -- one of my difficulties in fleshing them out has been reconciling the idea of pack cats. So -- that's where we're at. How do you mix canine, feline, and alien traits to make a plausible creature -- and then what happens when you make that creature intelligent? What kind of culture would they create?

I'll do some brainstorming, and get back to you next time, as we take a look at the Leovite archetypal image and further our exploration of the Ma'ar.