Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Grate-Scratcher Archetypal Image and the Kivians

Svetana Milevic -- a Grate-Scratcher Burglar

Svetana is short and slim near to the point of emaciation. She has pale, unhealthy-looking skin, and large (I mean inhumanly large) eyes with irises so light they almost blend into the whites. She is in her early 20s. Her hair is limp and straggly in a dirty gray under a pair of dark goggles she wears across her forehead. She wears plain, dark rags, mottled in grays and dark reds (a makeshift urban camouflage for a city filled with brick and stone) -- and they look like they used to be 18th-century peasant garb, reminiscent of Les Miserables. What skin shows is splattered in mud and grime, as though she’d been living in a sewer for years (as indeed she has). She carries a thick length of rope with a grapnel on it on one shoulder, a crowbar in her belt, and is removing a lockpick from a leather case. Her lips are thin, but pressed into a grin of smirking happiness.

Picture after the jump:

This one is interesting. The Grate-Scratchers were just about on the chopping block before this picture came in. None of my players had been interested in playing them, and a survey I conducted (okay, so my sample size was 5 -- I don't have a lot of people familiar with the world yet) kept Grate-Scratchers out of the "most likely to play" results entirely, and with 2 of 5 labeling them "least likely to play." Everyone saw them as just gross, without any appealing characteristics. Admittedly, the grossness was part of the concept from the beginning -- the Grate-Scratchers do live in the sewers, after all -- but I find it kind of neat, rather than massively off-putting as most of my players did. In any case, the Grate-Scratchers didn't have a strong niche that players could connect to.

Then came Amy Clark to the rescue.

Svetana Milevic is the darlingest disgusting sewer-dweller I've ever seen. The huge, nocturnal eyes work perfectly, she looks mildly inhuman without being disturbing or existing in the "uncanny valley." We also see that those protective goggles (primitive sunglasses) and burglary tools look completely natural in the hands of a Grate-Scratcher, implying and emphasizing a connection to both thievery and technology. In fact, the only (very minor) complaints I have are that a) I think the end of that crowbar should be visible poking out from behind her back, and b) I wish I'd been able to afford color, so that we could get some mud on that face and show how dirty Svetana is.

Both of these things were part of the Grate-Scratcher concept in my mind already, but had not been particularly emphasized -- and the Prometheans also had "technological" in their concept, and as my fiancee put it "who would want a Grate-Scratcher machine when they could get a Promethean one?"

These images have started me moving forward on some rejiggering of the bloodlines -- as we saw last post, I've removed the Dead-Blooded as a regular bloodline, and now the Grate-Scratchers need some more focus. We'll begin by removing technological aptitude from the Prometheans, who are already artists and have that as their main arena. Then we'll remove some of the emphasis on burglary from the Kipmen and place them on the Grate-Scratchers. Most importantly, we'll move some of the Dead-Blooded's emphasis on the undead and Blightshifting to the Grate-Scratchers, reflecting their soiled blood (they have every disease the City's ever seen in their bloodstream, but are immune to them all).

Finally, we'll remove some of the grossness from the Grate-Scratchers. This is not to say we'll clean them up much, but the focus will now be on them as underground-dwellers and machinists over disgusting sewage-drinkers.

Before we part, a few words on the Kivians. All we currently know about the Kivians -- one of the Outlander species that visit the City -- is that they are fiercely individualistic, as reflected by their religion, Kivian TaoismThere is a hard SF book series by Alan Dean Foster (most famous for his Pip and Flynx series) called The Damned. In it is an alien species, the name of which escapes me. They are completely solitary, and find the presence of other sophonts so oppressive that they plan to make the other species wipe each other out in order to be left alone. These aliens -- giant, sessile blobs -- are my biggest inspiration for the Kivians. No, how can we adapt that concept for a fantasy world? As we've discovered with the Shertasi and Ma'ar, some SF concepts don't translate well to fantasy. Proper aliens, designed to be evolutionarily sound, don't give off the right vibe. We want things that are more elemental or ethereal, related directly to their theme. So what is the theme here? Solitude. The glorification of self. Individuality abundant. So -- what physical form shows that theme most clearly? 

Consider that, and next time we will leave our Archetypal Images and take a breather from our journey across the Realms as we examine a brand-new concept: Factions.