Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Promethean Archetypal Image and the end of the Ma'ar

Phaedra -- a Promethean Explosives Artificer

Phaedra is tall and statuesque, with the high breasts and aquiline nose of a classical Greek statue. She is in her early 20s. Her skin is burnished a dull red, and her veins glow with a dim orange light. Her hair is cut in a “Cleopatra” hairdo, ash-gray, and her eyes look like glowing coals. She wears a flattering Greek tunic with bare legs. She holds a small black-powder grenade (like from Pirates of the Caribbean or old Looney Tunes cartoons), and is lighting the wick with a small breath of fire. She has a pyromaniac’s glee in her eyes. Image after the jump:

For this one, I really wish I could have sprung for color. Those veins? They would glow. Those eyes? Like coals. That breath of flame? Anyway, this piece is amazing. Amy Clark got everything just right, both about the Promethean bloodline as a whole and for this character specifically, who was a PC in the first playtest campaign. It was my fiancee who came up with the bomb-maker filled with demented glee at the sight of fire and the muted sound of explosions through her half-deaf ears -- and when it came time to ask for an illustration of a Promethean, it had to be this beautifully bizarre individual -- who nonetheless typifies the creative, fiery Prometheans.

On the other hand, I'm using the "removing the Sons of Light from the game" as an excuse to fiddle with a few other bloodlines, and I have used this opportunity to change some of these Bloodlines around. The Prometheans, for example, are now no longer associated with technology. I decided that their creativity should be there predominant aspect, and the the Sky-Carvers will no longer be associated with creativity as well, and now only Grate-Scratchers will be associated with technology. This lead to an interesting question: How limited and focused should the Bloodlines' core concepts be? If one is focused on war, does that mean that no one else is allowed to be a soldier?

Right now, I am trying to make these Bloodlines as distinct as possible, to provide a strong base to build characters off of, but I could see it becoming strangling for players, if they think that if, for example, they want to play a soldier they must be an Iversdotter, or if they want to be an artist, they must be a Promethean. If it is, of course, not my intent. Let's look at it in terms of the real world (or, at least stereotypes of the real world). If we think of a nation that is associated with technology, we generally think of Japan. Does this mean that Japan is the only nation developing high-technology? Or, even more ridiculous, that Americans, Germans, Russians, etc. cannot be scientists or engineers? Of course not. But, America is more closely associated with the entertainment industry, Germany with beer, and Russia with communism and bloody revolution (just to be stereotypical about it). Any thoughts? Is this new Promethean more tightly focused or needlessly restrictive? Sound off in the comments!

Now, let's continue our examination of the feline Ma'ar. Previously, we examined their Archetype and Real-Life Inspiration in terms of animals. Now, we continue with...

...the Real-Life Inspiration in terms of human civilizations. Let's look at the historical opposite number to Rome (which, as we will cover in a later post, the Shertasi, the Ma'ar's ancient enemies, are based on) -- Carthage -- and see what inspiration we can glean. Hm. The Wikipedia article gives us little to go on: it was an oligarchic republic (that is to say, supposedly ruled by the many but in practice ruled by the few); it had similar religion to Rome; there's a big section on economy that's not terribly helpful for our purposes... hm. That's interesting. Apparently, the Carthaginians were known for child sacrifices (though whether they actually practiced it is in doubt). That sounds like just the kind of disturbing detail we want to put into an "Always Chaotic Evil" species like the Ma'ar. Since they are designed to provoke anger in the PCs, child sacrifice is a  good detail to include, as it's quite likely to piss off the actual players.

So let's figure that out. Let's say the Ma'ar have a "Wild Pack" of deities, who must be fed Ma'ar pups to be sated, or they will curse the Ma'ar (or eat them). Whether this is true or merely a custom, I don't know, but it's an interesting question.

Theme: The Ma'ar theme is "reluctant union." Like many PC parties, the Ma'ar work together because they have to, not because they like or trust each other. We must always keep in mind that the Ma'ar do not trust each other -- which provides plenty of opportunities for an enterprising PC party to mess with the. Another important thematic statement here is that Ma'ar animal natures are hidden, not lost or even repressed. They are savage, brutal creatures, but their savagery is hidden in layers of ritual. Scratch the surface, though...

Twist: I don't like Always Chaotic Evil races, really. The Ma'ar may be antagonistic, and very different from ourselves, but they don't do things "For The Evulz." Their motivation for massive expansion is going to be simpler and less evil -- maybe they have a resource shortage, or a population boom. The latter makes sense -- what if the Ma'ar have litters -- and with a civilized society, their a civilized society, their infant mortality is going to be much lower than in the wild. This gives them a massive population surplus -- which logically leads to invading their neighbors -- and child sacrifice! Perfect!

Okay, that finished up our examination of the Ma'ar, and we will begin our examination of the Ma'ar's eternal enemies, the reptilian imperialists The Shertasi.