Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Factions: Sabercrats

Looking at today's Parliamentary agenda, you groan as you see the one item that always seems to find its way  on, despite always being struck down -- the Sabercrats' proposition to fund and create a standing army. When will those warhawks learn that nobody in the City feels the desire or need for a military, you wonder. The Sabercrats are those who believe in violence and military might, and in stretching the influence of the City of Lives to the end of the Realms...

Archetype: In a sense, the Sabercrats are all over classical fantasy, and in a way they are completely absent. In the medieval tradition, those with the swords and military might ruled the world and the fiction: King Arthur and Roland inspired epics; Aragorn and Eddard Stark are their modern descendants, all more comfortable with a blade than with their tongue. In this way, the Sabercrats are part of a long and storied tradition. On the other hand, the Sabercrats are not the heroes of this setting, nor the villains. In the City, war is not prized (outside the Iversdotters, that is), and the warriors are not in charge, let alone viewed as great heroes. So where does that leave the warlike Sabercrats? Read on...

Real-Life Inspiration: Logically enough, the Sabercrats are based on the hyper-patriots and warhawks of our own universe. Those people who believe military service should be mandatory (to teach them kids some discipline); those who believe America (or whatever their home country is) should rule the world -- perhaps "for its own good," perhaps just because their home country is "the only one that matters"; those who want every tax dollar to be spent on the armed forces. These kind of people have a hard time of it in the City, as it is a center of trade, not warfare, with no standing army (or even official militia). This difficulty only makes the Sabercrats more intense and fervent believers, convinced that theirs is the right way to run the City -- and, like in the real world, a lot of these warhawks are rich, powerful, and influential in City politics.

Theme: The Sabercrats are, oddly-enough, not actually defined by war. Their goals, the themes that define them, are power and imperialism. Like the Triocheans, the Sabercrats want to see the City expand and take its place as the most powerful state among the Realms -- and their chosen method is the application of military force. Every action of a true Sabercrat should improve the City and its power among the Realms, from attempting to raise a standing City army, to sabotaging or actually invading other Realms.

However, another theme is also important -- the Sabercrats' preferred method of solving problems, the application of force. Whether physical, political, or verbal, direct and decisive action is their modus operandi. No pussyfooting around with deceit and backroom dealings, the Sabercrats are direct, honest, and quite likely to break your nose if you disagree with them.

Twist: Man, I should never have included the Twist section -- I have more trouble with this section than any other, every post. Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound... Maybe the leaders are really peaceniks, trying to discredit the war movement by forming a society with bad press. Maybe there's a secret plan to overthrow the government and replace it with an imperialist. Maybe they are secretly building an army, recruiting from the more warlike species from other Realms, instead of trying the more difficult task of creating community support in the City. Yeah, I think that's the one. An interesting secret, but it doesn't change their goals or methodology at all.

Join us next time as we look at the lawful Thief-Binders.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Factions: Publicans

First, a quick apology: I'm very sorry that I've been sporadic for a while, and had to go on hiatus for a while before that. I hope I haven't lost any readers, and I apologize to those who may have lost interest. Now, I can't guarantee consistency for the rest of the summer -- I'm still selling my house and preparing for both a move and a wedding -- but things should hopefully quiet down at least a little bit as I'm now settling into my new job and the house is almost ready for sale. Anyone here happen to be looking for a house in Fairbanks, AK? Drop me a comment... right, didn't think so.

Okay, with no further ado, the Publicans!

Walking down the street, you notice a long line of people stretching out of a storefront. Curious, you investigate a little closer, and see that the front of the line is a small stand, with a cook ladling out cupfuls of a rich, steaming broth to every person in line. With no money exchanging hands, you realize that this must be one of the Publicans' charitable works... The philanthropic arm of the City, the Publicans spend their time feeding and clothing the poor, building public parks and shelters, and generally helping the lower classes however they can.

Archetype: Philanthropy and social work doesn't have a strong tradition in fantasy fiction: most charitable organizations are religious in nature, as was generally the case in Medieval Europe. The Publicans are not religious -- well, they may be, but they aren't associated with a religious organization. So really, the Publicans are more closely inspired by modern philanthropists, and not any proper fantasy archetype...

Real-Life Inspiration: The Publicans are inspired by two sources, which are fundamentally the same: those rich people who hold charity benefits, and the low-level social workers who deal directly with the poor. The social workers, filled with hope or cynicism, do what they do because they believe in making the world a better place, and that not everyone can help themselves. Some of the rich are the same, which others just try to build popularity and contribute to the "popular" charity this season. All of these inspirations, idealistic or cynical, come together to build the Publicans.

Historically, the term 'publican' has had several different meanings. In the Roman Republic and Empire, the publicans were public contractors, supplying the legionaries, managing the ports, and building public buildings. This definition is similar, though not identical to the role of my Publicans. Later in Roman history, publicans served as tax collectors. Less similar to the City's publicans -- though I suppose they might take on that responsibility, I haven't figured out who collects the taxes in the City. Lastly, in the Renaissance, tavern-keepers (and, apparently, pimps) were known as publicans. While my Publicans could run taverns (and probably give discounts to the poor), it doesn't particularly fit. So, which of these definitions inspired the Publicans' name? Actually, none of the above. I just picked up the word "public" and added a suffix, actually thinking I'd made up the word. It bothers me a little that it's an actual word -- and that my definition doesn't really match it -- but whatever, I'm in love with the name.

Theme: The Publicans are all about help. On the upside, they help those who can't help themselves. On the other hand, those they assist sometimes lose their agency, becoming dependent on the system. And then there are those who, for the sake of pride or honor or community respect, refuse to get help or resent that they get -- and the Publicans will, for the most part, still insist on helping those people. I think it's important that each faction provide both the good and bad of their goals and methods, even when it's something as "unambiguously" good as charity. Personally, I would love the Publicans to exist and hold power -- but I know many who want charities and government to stay out of their lives, and several who have lost their power to function in a normal life because they've grown accustomed to unemployment or disability payments or what have you. This dichotomy -- help and security vs. freedom and agency -- is the fundamental disagreement that puts the Publicans and the Egoists on the opposite sides of most debates (and occasional street fights).

Twist: Hmm. A twist. My first instinct is to say that some of the Publicans have a secret workforce of unpaid laborers "recruited" from the Publican soup kitchens and such, creating some dastardly machine in private. Then again, that is a bit cliche. So perhaps they're secretly building an army, out of the most grateful and loyal poor they help, to eventually start a war and end the Egoists once and for all. Yeah. That'll do for now.

Thanks for sticking with me, regular readers, and join me next time as we examine the war-like Sabercrats.

Friday, June 3, 2011


As you may have noticed, posts have been fairly sporadic recently. Unfortunately, this is likely to continue in the near future: I am preparing for a wedding and selling my house, on top of a new job, so my time and energy is limited. Please bear with me, though, and I will get back to our regular schedule before too long.