Friday, April 8, 2011

Factions: Enders

You walk along the street, window-shopping at the various carts and shops that litter Merchant Street. A massive explosion rocks the air, and you look down the road to see a small group of black-clad bombers running out of the smoke and flames. Oh, no, you think, the Enders are at it again. Today we will examine the Enders, the faction that believes in entropy -- that chaos and death will eventually overcome the universe, and the ways they interact with the world.

Archetype: I'm not really sure where the Enders fit in classical fantasy archetypes. Perhaps the thieves' guild, stealing in the name of chaos: or the barbarian horde, killing and destroying. Both of those are extremely negative, and it's hard to imagine PCs in most campaigns filling either role. What archetype fits the Enders that is "good," for lack of a better word? I can't think of one that doesn't dilute the Enders' fundamental concept. Hrm.

The biggest Real-Life Inspiration for the Enders are anarchists and nihilists. I'll be honest, I don't know terribly much about either group/movement. The thew things I do know (or think I know):

Anarchists:
-Believe that government stifles and oppresses citizens, and people are better off running their own lives
-At least in popular thought, they tend to be terrorists and revolutionaries, trying to overthrow the government

Nihilists:
-Believe there is no god
-Believe the universe has no purpose
-hence, either a) everything is hopeless and you should give up and die, or b) you need to find your own purpose and meaning in life.

My brief research on Wikipedia tells me that my basic ideas are basically right, but that there are far more complexities than I have time to worry about at the moment -- but it gives me a couple basic revisions on nihilism. Specifically, I learned that nihilists can go to even greater extremes in their beliefs, espousing the idea that there is no definable reality -- and that they often believe in moral relativism, saying there is no absolute moral law, and thus it is not morally wrong to, for example, kill someone. Of course, I would argue that whether or not there is an absolute moral compass, there is one provided by society, and if you wish to live in that society, you must respect that culture's moral code. Cue the flame wars.

Theme: The theme of the Enders is hopelessness, and how to deal with it. The Enders believe they have discovered the dark secret of the universe: that everything eventually collapses and comes to naught. What is more hopeless than that? So, how do you deal with that information? Some might try to hurry it along: killing, committing crimes, and doing their best to tear down the world. Others might try to work against entropy, at least on the short scale: building new structures, creating art, and bringing people together. But are these people really Enders? And then there is the middle path -- people who just muddle along like most of us do, trying not to spend time hopelessly counteracting entropy, but also not actively working towards destruction. This latter person is probably the most common kind of Ender -- but is this very interesting and worthy of keeping around? I'm not sure. I know I'm having trouble with the Enders, finding their place, but I think this is due more to me finding their philosophy alien than it being unnecessary or ill-fitting the setting.

Twist: One might argue that it is strange for people whose entire belief system is based on chaos would choose to organize themselves into a group. Perhaps -- which implies to me that perhaps Enderism(?) is a cult of personality, all of its believers clustered around a single nihilist prophet. So what might this person be like? Obviously, they do not feel the despair that is stereotypically associated with nihilism, but they might feel the rage associated with anarchism. A revolutionary who wants not only to tear down the government, but the entire world. A prophet espousing chaos and destruction because only those acts mean anything in a world doomed to death, and advocating reveling in the dark and pleasant emotions associated with violence.

Well, we've been having a difficult time figuring out the Enders, specifically in how they can be positive forces appropriate for a heroic campaign. Then again, is that even a meaningful question for the morally vague City of Lives? Perhaps the Enders should just be an option for players wishing to play violent and nihilistic characters. Or perhaps they should be presented as an NPC group, available to players only if they beg the GM sufficiently.

All right. The Enders are confusing, but beginning to come along. Next time, we look at the artistic obsessives that make up The Epicureans.