Ran’s Escape pt. 3

“We tried this.” the older wizard told Ran as the group of them walked down an alley and through a small carved opening in the rock wall on the edge of the large subterranean cavern most of the drow city sat in. The wizards were all disguised as drow males, specifics guided by Ran’s suggestions. The disguise consisted of a simple spell, laid over a physical makeup job.

“Right, a group of unknown drow, with no tie to a woman of the town, looking like a surface elf’s caricature of drow men. Now, you are accompanied by the boy-whore of a well respected drow mistress, and actually look like drow men.”

“Yes, which apparently means barely dressed.” piped up one wizard, in the center, who would have been rather a similar shade as the kind of elephants you see while heavily drunk were he not magically disguised.

“It’s as if you haven’t actually seen any of the thousands of men you’ve passed just between the tavern and here…” Ran replied.

“There are men wearing full leather armour. I mean, actual armour, not, er…”

“Leather body suits which cover everything but a strategic hole? There is no way that you would pass for soldiers. You do not have the personality, acting skills, or registered names and carefully kept secret tattoos” Ran said. The group approached a pair of such soldiers, the ones in actual leather armour, half way down the passage, a slight shimmer in the air behind them. The soldiers stopped the group.

“Ran. Weekly trip for Mistress Calathar?”

“Yes. She sent some more hands with me, as she has a lot of errands.”

The soldier raised an eyebrow. “Well, if they’re with your mistress, they should all-”

Ran interrupted him, “Come on, boys, show the guard the mistress’ mark.” His face turned away from the guard, he contrived an expression which very succinctly and quietly expressed a great many things about screwing up and painful torture. The wizards shuffled up to the guard and tugged their pants down, showing the tattoo which Ran had told them to include in their disguises–one which would have been quite painful had it been real. Ran turned to the guard after the wizards had all shuffled by “New. They spent a lot of time above ground.” Ran said to the guard, who nodded in sudden understanding. “Need to see mine, soldier?” he smirked.

“We both know it’s there. I’ve seen it often enough.” he smiled, letting the lot pass through the post.

Once through the shimmer, the wizards each nodded, following Ran further down the tunnel, waiting a moment before the oldest piped up “Portal. Not surprised, are we still on the material realm?”

“Yes and no. It’s something of a transitory plane to the transitory planes. An area where they all overlap more than usual. We are essentially in the material, ethereal, shadow and astral planes all at once.”

“innnteresting…?” the old wizard said somewhat quizzically.

“That can be done?” the young wizard who’d carried cards said hesitantly.

The oldest looked at him, with the careful expression of a wizened instructor carefully not letting on that he himself does not know something about his own area of study. “Well, obviously.”

Ran laughed. “Yes, it can be done. It is reportedly quite difficult,” he said before the group stepped out into a large cave, save that there was no ceiling past a visible mile, but rather a black starless sky. Arches and ships studded a hewn stone dock-like arrangement, as a bustle usual to trade ports went all around them. Drow mingled with all manner of other beings from across the multiverse as the wizards’ careful dispassionate expressions fell away into delight and awe.

Ran’s Escape pt 2

The door clicked quietly behind the last wizard and Ran padded over to the corner farthest from the table in the room, “just let me know what you gentlemen decide.” He puffed on his pipe.

The wizards leaned their staves against the wall, and sat at the table, leaning on it, all refilling and lighting their own pipes and beginning to confer. Smoke hung in the air, as Ran’s soft humming lilted through. A drow male of his age was well versed in raising the ambient noise in his immediate space to block out what could be heard quite clearly by an elf in a quiet room.

The wizards had no need to question why a dark elf man would turn traitor to his race. The society was matriarchal, which wouldn’t be so bad, but it was also steeped in evil. Rather than simply not being given positions of power, male drow were servants of the women at best, and their slaves at worst. They had no power, save that which they fought for amongst themselves. If a peasant drow woman objected to even the mere presence of a noble-born male, that male could be sure his immediate future would hold painful torments that seemed unending. Every single drow is a murderer and a sadist. By the time they’re born, they’ve killed at least one sibling, murdering their twin in the womb.

The highest honor a male drow could receive was to be allowed to practice wizardry. Ran had the interest, but his mistress had more need of a pair of holes to rent out to clients than she did for a pair of deft hands to weave the threads of the multiverse. The highest honor a drow woman could obtain was high priestess, and Ran’s mistress was far from that position, though her slaves and the shows she performed torturing them and whatever males could be captured in the caves, afforded her wealth and prestige, and the favour of many women who were priestesses.

Drow reproduction comes in two varieties- grim necessary things, where the transfer of genetic material is an after thought, the woman using the man to slake her more visceral lusts; or ribald, debauched ceremonies in which a priestess summons a fell demon from the deepest pits of the abyss to sire a half-demon child in her. Ran’s lot in either was not good.

There was precisely one legitimate path to something resembling freedom for a male in Drow society- service in a military troop sent away from the drow cities for long periods of time. Even then though, a man’s mistress had to let him be trained, and Ran’s was far happier to keep him skilled in other arts. He had no choice for escape but desertion.

The lead wizard beckoned Ran over, and the elf sat on a nearby bed. “Well?” he said, puffing on his pipe again.

“If you can get us the information we seek, we’ll take you out with us. After you’re on the surface, your life is your own. You get into the Order on your own merit, not as further thanks for this.”

“Agreed.” Ran said. “It hasn’t been long enough. If I leave the room now, mistress will be suspicious. Anyone have any cards?”

One of the younger wizards, still old as humans count years, but likely less than half Ran’s age, smirked and pulled out a pouch. Opening it, he took out a deck of cards and poured out an assortment of tokens and dice.

Ran’s Escape pt 1

The men sat at a table in the dark tavern, hewn from one massive stalagmite, lit by phosphorescent gems held to the walls by nets. They carried few weapons to speak of, but each had a staff more than a match for ten armed men, and the weapons they did carry bore runes and glowing auras. each held a wand in one hand, absent mindedly, as they talked and drank and ate.

Most towns would object to such a show of force, but the drow city would have laughed if the men hadn’t so obviously been prepared for a fight. It was well known that visitors to the city would sometimes, even often, just disappear, only ever again seen in the torture-galleries, or as part of some priestess’ harem.

The men, however, had no real reason to fear. Only a particularly foolish dark elf would risk trying to take them. They could be sitting in the street, without their robes, weapons, staves or wands, and would still be a target only a fool would dare aim for. Their bracelets marked them as mages of Hallius. The wizard nation-guild would respond poorly if high standing members were to disappear on a trip to the Underdark. Perhaps the drow could win such a conflict, but one is naturally cautious in dealing with a force that can turn the roof of your underground civilization into millions of tons of mud–or worse, lava–and drop it on you to smother your entire civilization. Even just a few discrete, disguised mage-sabotuers could wreak havoc by moving the very earth from beneath major temples and civic buildings and barracks, dropping them into pits or magma pools that could have been prepared far in advance.

All the same, just because no sane dark elf would target them for slavery does not mean any need help them. The men had traveled to the Underdark searching for information on planar trade rumoured to be conducted by the drow, but had hit a wall.

A slim male, clad in only loose breeches and a thin, open robe, slid into a seat at the table, lighting a long bone and metal pipe and drawing from long and smooth, before slowly exhaling it. The wizards sat patiently, waiting for the young elf-man to finish his little performance, waiting to reject services or defend themselves. He propped his pipe on the ash dish with theirs and leaned in close to their own heads, previously bowed in discussion.

“We all know what you’re looking for. Obviously.” he said. His words wafted like the sweet smoke of his pipe from dark lips. His eyes glowed in the dim light, and he brushed his hair behind one long pointed ear. A couple of the men shifted uncomfortably. “Pretend we’re talking normal business. My mistress would torment me all the more harshly if she had any idea what kind I’m actually about to speak.” he eyed their bracelets.

“What are offering?” one of the men said suddenly. Even a wizard’s patience has it’s limits, and theirs were all frayed by their fruitless search.

“You want to know about drow inter-planar trading. My mistress has some dealings in that arena, and some of the clients she has provided with my services like to talk when they’re exhausted.” Again the men shifted uncomfortably, “Oh, relax. Elves have only the hair on their heads, with our builds, you’d forget what sex we were in the right position.” he smiled. His night-black hands picked up his pipe again. “What I’m proposing-” he took a shorter drag, “is that I show you what you want to find, and help you with whatever information I can, and in exchange…” the dark skinned elf shuddered and–uncharacteristically for a drow, so learned in the ways of awareness and stealth–looked towards the bar where his mistress sat. He shifted closer to the wizard next to him, the one who’d spoke, who was clearly in charge. He put a hand in the man’s lap, and wrapped a look which up close said “I apologize, go with it” in one which at a distance spoke of carnal promises. “You take me with you.” He looked the man hard in the eye, and his pipe tapped the man’s bracelet to make clear just how far he wanted to be taken.

The men looked at one another, before the one next to the drow looked back “We’ll have to confer…”

“So take me to your room. Mistress, strange as it may sound, actually doesn’t observe the rooms. She’s found that when clients do find out, as some always do, it’s terrible for business.” he laid his head on the man’s shoulder, “just make it look convincing. You all can… take your time, and I’ll not mind at all. I’ll be as quiet or vocal as you wish.” he purred.

The wizard then shocked the elf, smiling before breaking into a raucous laugh, one hand grasping the elf’s rump, the laugh being picked up by his fellows. The laugh was an uneven, overly loud thing. A laugh one might expect from a table full of men who couldn’t hold their spider wine.

“My name is Ran, my price is 100 gold. I can make sure you’re recompensed, but it has to look right. Put the gold in the bowl in the center of the table.”

The man nodded and dropped a pouch of gold into the bowl. “Wizards. Don’t worry about recompensing us.” The group all stood, stowing wands and picking up staves. The lead wizard looked to the woman drow that Ran had looked to earlier, and tilted his head in acknowledgement. She smiled to him, a wicked curve on her lips, and tilted her head in response, and Ran led the group through the curtains near the bar.

The brood-matriarchs of Baal

A Brood Matriarch of Baal (as conceptualized, she would probably be nude save for adornment, but this isn't an NSFW site, so she is covered in leather throws)
A Brood Matriarch of Baal (as conceptualized, she would probably be nude save for adornment, but this isn’t an NSFW site, so she is covered in leather throws)

In the center of the continent, lies the fens of Baal, home to a group of goblins which would be called a culture, were those inclined to use the word not loathe to apply it to goblins.

Goblins are, generally speaking, small, fecund and highly variable, and often lacking in much in the way of a social structure more complex than “horde” (or so the general opinion goes). The goblins of Baal, on the other hand, squatting in their murky dens dug into the muck, have established a matri-oligarchy, similar in some ways to a hive of social insects.

The culture of the Baal goblins is ruled over by a group of fertile females, called Brood-matriarchs, whose primary function is to become pregnant and give birth to litter after litter of goblins. Because goblin life tends to be short, often artificially so, due to lack of caution or extermination with extreme prejudice enacted by neighbouring cultures, the typical goblin hyper-fertility has started to be seen as a blessing by the Baali goblins.

Holding the blessing of their god, and controlling, literally, the means of production of new goblin warriors, the fertile females of Baal rose to power. They receive counsel from other goblins more able to travel, but make all decisions for the clan. They are always pregnant, or nursing and receiving males to become pregnant. The opportunity to become the father of part of the next generation has become a highly sought after form of prestige amongst the males, and copulation with a brood-matriarch has become a reward for those who perform valuable services for the clan, and those who perform their duties above and beyond all expectation. The opposite fate, awaiting those who too-frequently fail their clan, is castration, the utter revoking of the opportunity to ever serve the clan as anything more than fodder or labor. Those who fail again after already being castrated are often given the duty of guarding the brood matriarchs. Far from the honor this might be seen as, it is a constant reminder, in the form of the wanton and lascivious brood-matriarchs and their open rutting with more honored clan members, of the guard’s failure and the fact that he cannot perform for his clan the highest service a male goblin can-fathering the next generation.

As they are the direct power behind the greatest strength of the goblins–numbers–the brood matriarchs receive the greatest respect, honor and treasures of the clan. They have no responsibilities, only privileges. The privilege of giving orders, the privilege of not working, the privilege of food at their mere request, the privilege of their pick of mates, and the privilege of the spoils of raids.

Not all females of the clan are brood-matriarchs, however. When a power behind being fertile began to condense, those females of the time who were pregnant sealed that power away. They, essentially, created an eldritch poison which made females barren when ingested, and had shamans enchant their bodies to produce this poison in their milk. They then created an antidote, and jealously guarded that formula. When a female goblin has proven worthy of great honor, she may be selected for possible fertility, and given the choice. Should the female accept, she will be given the antidote, and shortly become fertile and take her place. If she declines, she is given another position of high honor–high priestess. All females of the Baali goblins serve the shrines in some function, usually as acolytes, but only those who have proven their worth to the clan, and decided that brooding is not a life for them, may lead the clan’s holiest rites.

The goblins of Baal are otherwise normal goblins for the most part. However, the brood-matriarchs keep a constant watch for strong males who could potentially pass their strength on to children. Due to the highly adaptable nature of goblins, they are able to be impregnated with almost any male’s material. The mother’s system will pick out the most useful traits and add them to the genetic concoction assembled from her many paramours, and, after a certain period of time, begin to grow the fetuses of the new litter, saving copies of the best genetics to potentially impart on the next, much like a cat’s reproductive system save with a complex and sophisticated intelligence all its own.

Divisions of creatures– race, species, breed and fantasy

Fantasy works often deal with a number of sentient creatures, ranging from subtly to overtly distinct from humans. The classics are elves, dwarves, orcs, and usually at least one flavour of small humanoid, typically at least goblin, and occasionally something more like a typical human, just in miniature, variously called hobbits, halflings, gnomes, boggles, fae, changelings, or the like.

Thanks to the influence of Tolkien which touches all western fantasy works–even when a concerted effort to avoid its influence is made–these are typically called races. It was the 30s, Tolkien was a product of his time, and race wasn’t such a problematic term.

The problem with the term race is that it is now recognized to mean virtually nothing. It is a social construct made to categorize groups of humans with similar pigmentation, hair texture and bone structure. If you take a person who has dark skin, and a person with light skin, they are still genetically identical save for a handful of alleles. If you were to take the ruddiest skinned “white” man, and the lightest skinned “black” man, the white man would actually be darker than the black man, but their respective “races” would still consider them to be “white” and “black” (social prejudices aside).

The clear alternative term is species. This has other problems. The first is that, to the lay person, things are different species if they cannot produce fertile offspring together. A horse and a donkey can produce a mule, but mules are sterile. This makes the term less than ideal in fantasy because humans can often produce fertile offspring with, at least, elves and orcs. Sometimes they can produce fertile offspring with giants or ogres or trolls even. It depends on the setting.

So if humans can produce children with elves and orcs, then maybe race, or better– due to lack of social baggage–breed, works, right?

Well, no.

The problem is that a human can have a child with an elf, and that same human can have a child with an orc, but the orc and elf cannot, typically, breed with one another. I think this would be false in Tolkien, actually, because, if I recall correctly, the orcs were corrupted elves, I’m not sure (I never actually read the Lord of the Rings books in their entirety).

The other issue is that, ok, sure, elves and orcs can be easily said to be breeds of humans, and if you want, you can say that they can interbreed with one another as well so as to fix that problem. But what about elementals or dragons? In at least Dungeons and Dragons, it’s possible for creatures which are sentient collections of pure elemental energy to impregnate a human, or an elf, or dwarf, or whatever else and produce a viable offspring. In a lot of fiction where dragons are themselves sentient, they can do likewise.

It’s really hard (though admittedly not impossible) to say with a straight face that humans, elves, dwarves and orcs are genetically related to dragons. It is fully within the author’s power to say that the sentient races are descended from dragons, and sometimes this tack is taken.

The best solution, at least for the direct problem of elves, orcs and humans, is found in calling Humanoid a ring species, and then terming the individual types breeds, or even races. A ring species is basically a group of closely related populations of a single species. Each population can interbreed with one or more others, but there are some which it cannot. In the given circumstance basically you’d have the populations Orcs, Humans, Elves. Humans are closely related to both Orcs and Elves, and thus can interbreed with both, but Elves and Orcs are too distantly related to interbreed. This could become more of a web-species if additional populations were added which could interbreed with humans, but not others.

There is one final problem with the use of the term species in fantasy.

Eventually you will want characters to talk about these classification in story/world. While it’s fine for erudite wizards or technomages or fantasy anthropologists to use the term species, it’s just weird to here tribal, berserker-focused cultures use the term. Even more so for, say, goblins. But that’s easily dealt with. A berserker can say race or clan, and people should be capable of understanding that that is just the way his culture expresses the idea. A goblin probably says clan, and probably uses the term for both actual family-related groups of people and in place of species.

The other problem is certain magical creatures demonstrably and drastically unrelated to the humanoid species being able to produce half-dragons and fire elemental humanoids and such. That’s, well, magic. Lame cop out I know, but it’s the easiest solution.

Dominia20: the alignment of colour pt 2

I left off with two colours to describe, Red and Green. I’ll cover those here.

Dominia20CharacterSheets

Red

Chaos, Impulse, Freedom, Action, Short-sightedness

Red is the colour of freedom, proactiveness, fire and earth, and emotion.

Obviously individuals of all colours are capable of feeling emotion, but it is Red’s focus. The pain felt from the death of a loved one, or the anger felt towards the one who killed them is felt strongest by Red. Black may be known for hatred, but Red allows that hate to flow through it and come out in the form of lightning bolts or flames.

Whereas White is the colour of healing and prolonging life, and Green is the colour of nature and the life within it, and Black is the colour of creating cruel mockeries of life, Red is the colour of Living. Red wants to go and do things and have experiences and meet people, and yes, probably burn them. Red is defined by constant Action. It’s main elements, Fire and Earth are key symbols of this. While Earth is seen as being very still and very static, beneath the crust there is a constantly moving, roiling, liquid mantle and core, and on the crust, the plates constantly move.

As it is so active, Red acts on Impulse. It decides it wants to do something, and goes and does it. It doesn’t worry about planning. It doesn’t deliberate. These are things for Blue. Red and Blue see a pretty girl, and while Blue tries to figure out what it’s going to say, Red runs over to talk to her, because if you wait too long, she’ll leave. Red’s Impulsiveness stems from the sea of emotion in which it stays. It’s emotions tell it to do something, and it does it.

In order to do as it pleases, Red must be free. It cannot abide rules and restrictions. It has parallels to what Chaos wanted to be in D&D, but it’s more fully realized and not bogged down in structure.

While this may seem very similar to Black’s self-servingness, and is, indeed, why they are allied colours, Red is different in that it may be driven by love to care more for another, or even a small group, such as a family, than it does itself. But contrary to White’s nation-focus, Red chooses who is as or more important than itself.

The best of Red is passion and decisiveness. The worst of Red is ignorance of consequences and wanton destruction.

Red magic deals with fire and destruction. The Red-aligned individual is a passionate adventurer. The iconic Red-aligned races are Dragons and Goblins. The iconic Red-aligned class is Barbarian.

Green

Instinct, Interdependence, Growth, Nature, Naivete

Green is the magic of growth, nature, adaptation, life.

Everyone has a certain amount of instinct, but it is the driving force of Green. In the forests and jungles from which Green mana flows, there is little time for thought, one must obey their instincts, or they will likely die.

Green’s big theme is nature, in all it’s forms. It is the magic behind the smallest squirrel, and the great thundering wurms. It is the magic behind beautiful gardens, and the serpents slithering beneath the flowers. It is fruit and refreshing streams, but it is also survival of the fittest. It is life, but it’s also death.

Green is very straight forward. Even though many creatures in nature use cunning and stealth, Green isn’t all that good at subterfuge. It may be hidden, but you’ll generally see it when it leaps out to claw your face off. At the same time, nature holds no grudge. It is more than willing to let bygones be bygones, and allow the lion to lay down with the lamb. When the lion gets hungry, well, the lamb will probably die, but it’s body will feed the lion, and what isn’t eaten will feed the soil from which the plants grow.

Green’s highest goal is growth. It doesn’t care how it grows, and it doesn’t care why. Plants will grow fertilized by night soil just as readily as they will the bodies of a thousand soldiers. Green doesn’t care. It merely consumes the resources available to it, and uses them to grow bigger. It’s other goal is “the natural order.” However, anyone who has looked hard enough knows that a great many things are natural. From jellyfish which are each the result of long chains of dying and reanimating “zombies” to mothers eating their own offspring to survive lean times.

All of life is interconnected, most obviously in the pattern of predator and prey, and so too, often, are Green-aligned creatures. The elves, for example, are a race which grows healthier and better as more elves are born.

Green, at it’s best, is nurturing. It fosters life and growth, and acts quickly. While Red acts quickly because it doesn’t care about consequences, Green acts quickly because it instinctively knows what to do. At it’s worst, Green doesn’t care to think, and acts viciously.

Green magic brings mana, and most readily summons creatures. The Green-aligned individual is often either a nature-protecting druid, or a machine-choking, flesh rending berserker. They care very much about nature, and mistrust the tools of industry. The iconic Green-aligned races are Elves and Centaurs. The iconic Green-aligned class is Druid.

MaRo Design Challenge

I recently started following Mark Rosewater, head designer of Magic the Gathering for Wizards of the Coast, on Tumblr, and yesterday I started listening to his podcast, Drive to Work.

I have played Magic, as I mentioned in my last blog, since the early 90s. Magic the Gathering came out in 1993, and I started then or in 1994, can’t quite recall. I have Revised and 4th edition cards even now, so I was in pretty close to the start.

I have wanted to work on Magic the Gathering for years, pretty much since I seriously considered a career. I’m at a loss as to how to actually get that job (though I just googled and found an article that should give me an idea).

But someone recently asked if he could give his followers design challenges, and today he put one up:

I need an uncommon artifact creature that costs more than 4. We’re stuck with the name Mercury Golem so make this top down. Go.

Sadly, he cannot look at the designs (legal issues. If they were to design a card too similar to a person’s design, said person could sue), but I can post it here:

Mercury Golem

As the temperature goes, so does he.

Now, I just noticed a big problem with this. Your opponent can kill for just two blue, and you can’t necessarily protect it. So… less than stellar design. But first shot at a design challenge.

Card was designed in Magic Set Editor. The picture comes from Terminator Judgement Day.

The Daily Count: 252

D[ominia]20: the alignment of colours

Ever since I started playing Magic the Gathering in the early 90s as a child, and even more since I started playing Dungeons and Dragons in 2000, I have wanted a more full experience playing in the world of Magic the Gathering, also known as Dominia, the old name of the multiverse of the game. Yes, I know it’s outdated, and no longer in actual use by WotC. It’s the term I’m used to and has more meaning than just saying “Multiverse.”

As I have grown older and become more experienced in both playing and designing content for Dungeons and Dragons (3.X), I have continued to turnover the concept of making Dominia a campaign setting. This is something of an evergreen topic on gaming boards for a number of reasons. First, Dominia is a very well crafted, intriguing setting (though there have been hiccups). Second, both Dungeons and Dragons and Magic the Gathering are properties owned by Wizards of the Coast, so crossover is natural. Third, as time has gone on, MtG has taken some ideas from D&D. Many creature cards now have both Race and Class creature types now, for example.

This is all a long-winded way of preambling “occasionally I’ll write rules for an MtG campaign setting for D&D.”

The case for an altered alignment system

The Alignment rules in D&D, well, suck. Good and Evil are more frequently treated by the books as being political hats than actual world views. While a player may play a compassionate, merciful paladin who opposes evil in all it’s forms and loathes to kill, only doing so when it is absolutely necessary, the upper echelons of good are alien-minded, self-righteous, wholly intolerant winged, well, dicks. Celestials go around slaying evil, and are often written as being completely unbending, even if they’re chaotic. If you look at the 3.X book specifically about Good, you really get this sense. It introduced Vow feats that are treated as being good, because they draw on Christian virtues and the writer forgot that in D&D Godly is not Goodly. It also introduced magical substances which cause indescribable pain and mental torment, but because they only do it to evil characters, these substances are Good. Or there’s the fact that paladins are not allowed to use poisons, even though there are creatures with the Good subtype that have natural poisons, and perfectly mundane vipers are not automatically evil.

Chaos and Law were never described in mutually exclusive ways. The Monk is lawful because it follows a specific philosophy and code of living, even if it’s purely their own. The Bard cannot be lawful because… they follow their own path without regard for the social mores or codes of others. The Monk is lawful because it’s practitioners study and practice long and hard to achieve mastery of the formless, flavourless fantasy martial art. The Bard cannot be lawful because… they study music long and hard and to the exclusion of virtually all else.

I’m all for the themes of Good vrs Evil and loyalty vrs disloyalty in a game. I look forward to a game actually presenting these themes in a high quality way that does not carry a ton of baggage from the various flawed religions of real life. Perhaps we can get Richard Dawkins to write a game.

Alignment in Dominia

A character in Dominia does not have alignment in the way a standard D&D character does. A paladin may adhere to laws and fight for “Good,” but he is not Lawful Good, he is (probably) White-aligned. But not all paladins will be. Unlike D&D and its derivatives, in Dominia, the term Paladin just refers to a type of knight, likely one which fights for an ideal (the direction paladins) or a lord (Lim-Dul’s Paladin). And overall, because Paladin is not a creature type, merely an element of some creatures’ names, it’s likely an in-game designation, rather than a class, and so it means whatever the character wants, or whatever the granting entity says it does.

Characters in Dominia20 are Colour-Aligned, rather than aligned to the descriptors good, evil, lawful or chaotic. It is entirely possible to be aligned to all five colours, just one, strongly aligned to one and weakly aligned to another, or any other variation.

White

Morality, Order, Law, Peace, Creative Sterility

White is the colour of organization, peace, healing and light.

Though every colour is capable of Organization, no one cares about it as much as White-aligned creatures. With Organization comes order and law, and with Order and Law comes Organization.

The best of White is justice and protection. These stem from it’s focus on not just organization, but also community. White’s ideal can be seen as an immense piece of clockwork, where every cog and gear is perfectly fitted with those around it. However, much like intricate clockwork, there is no room for variance. Gears of different shape and size may be seen, but they are there because they have a purpose, and if they do not fulfill that purpose they need to be replaced.

White’s ideology is very Law centered. Unlike D&D’s Lawful alignment, White is not a place for personal codes. Instead it imposes a universal law. The White Philosophy is that there is an absolute moral code, and that there are things which are Right and things which are Wrong. There are Godly Laws, and then there are the mortal laws, which White would base off of Godly laws. Notably, White typically only recognizes gods which agree with their own sensibilities. There are gods for every colour and philosophy, but White only recognizes those which espouse a morale code, and generally gods which actually follow the moral code they espouse. Black deities, or things which call themselves deities, may say “Everyone must do this,” but their reasoning is usually “Because I say so” and they’ll do whatever they want, where as White deities say “Everyone must do this because it is Right, and must not do this because it is Wrong” and follow what they themselves say.

White’s ultimate drive is peace. White creatures may use compassion and community to acquire that goal, but other White creatures might decide that peace can only be acquired by making everyone the same. All it wants is for everyone to live in harmony, without conflict, and it will bring everyone under its heel, or even kill them, if that’s what it takes.

The worst of White is conformity. It can be oppressive, and even intolerant. It has very strong ideals, and is very resistant to changing them. What starts as a defensive measure, protecting pilgrims from a hostile rival, can become a concerted effort of conversion, attempting to bring that hostile rival under their control and make them conform. There is a lack of creativity in White because to be creative is to stand out. Most change in White societies comes from allied Blue creatures which are tolerated for the benefits which come from them, or from the spoils of conquest, even if the conquest was regretted.

Much of White’s magic is healing and light focused. White-aligned creatures are very defense-focused, preferring to react to danger rather than preemptively strike, and long for order. A White-creature will either be giving orders, or taking them, and they have difficulty working without direction. Many White-Aligned people who do not have a direct superior will be fervently religious, seeking a framework to put themselves under. The iconic White-aligned races are Angels and Humans (though there are humans in every colour, they have a strong tendency towards aligning White). The iconic White-aligned Class is Soldier.

Blue

Logic, Technology, Intellect, Omniscience, Inaction

Blue is the colour of the mind, knowledge, the sea and air, and quintessential magic.

Though intelligence is found in every colour, Blue cares about it the most, its highest value. Intelligence comes from knowledge. Blue creatures want to know everything so that they can form better plans, better logic, better technology, etc.

Blue also looks at knowledge and sees two things, the theory, or Logic, and the application, or Technology. Yes, even with magic itself, there is theory and application and they are called, generally, Logic and Technology. Blue also tends to use magic to improve it’s logic and technology, and logic and technology to improve it’s magic.

The ideology of Blue is that knowledge is good, and more knowledge is better, and all knowledge is best. Thus the goal of Blue is Omniscience. To Blue, knowledge is a toy, and, as the old proverb goes, the person with the most toys wins. Blue may be interested in knowledge, but it’s not necessarily interested in sharing knowledge. If a Blue-aligned creature can know something no one else does, it’s very happy. They love to be sneaky and trick others.

The best of Blue is intelligence and progress. It sees what isn’t there, and what could be. That’s how it looks at things, as something of a blank canvas to turn into something more. This is the other drive behind their desire for knowledge, if you know things, you can better make things happen. Blue is the colour of dreams.

The worst of Blue is coldness, inaction and treachery. While Black is the self-serving colour, Blue can be very self-serving itself, and for this reason, Blue and Black are often allied. If you are in the way of something a Blue-aligned person wants, don’t count on the Blue person’s loyalty. Blue can also become too introspective, and too focused on intellect, closed off from others and emotion.

Blue magic is concerned primarily with magic itself and knowledge. Blue-aligned individuals tend to be a bit bookish, preferring to sit and further their research rather than go out and physically do things. This is not to say they are weak, however. Many Blue-aligned individuals will tinker with technology and magic and create wondrous, terrifyingly powerful artifacts. The iconic Blue-aligned races are Merfolk and Vedalkin. The iconic Blue-aligned class is Wizard.

Black

Parasitism, Amorality, Selfishness, Omnipotence, Paranoia

Black is the colour of death, darkness, self-interest and hunger for power.

While all (save the truest of White) have a certain interest in their own self, Black focuses on Self-Interest. In contrast to White, the Black-aligned believe there is no universal truth. If you asked a Black-aligned person what the universal truth is, they would probably answer with any of a number of variously dark or depressing things–everything dies, the quest for power, disloyalty, etc. The other colours see certain things and say “I will not do that. It is wrong.” Black, on the other hand, doesn’t do this. To the Black-aligned, all is fair so long as it advances their goals.

While a number of actual parasites are Black-aligned, the sense in which Black uses Parasitism is more total. Anything it sees and wants, it can take. It can take your money, your life, your allies, the only thing it has trouble taking is artifacts and magic itself.

The goal of the Black-aligned is pure and utter power. They don’t want just power over others, or just magical power, or any such thing. The Black-aligned want all the power. Over everything. It will use whatever it needs to obtain that power. It will betray its allies, it will despoil the land, it will unleash plague and pestilence, and even tear at its own self.

Black often comes off as evil. While a great number of Black-aligned individuals do become evil, it is not because black is inherently evil. There is as much neutrality, and even goodness, to be found in Black as any other colour. White likes to paint Black as evil, because it distrusts the amoral philosophy of Black. Black however, because it doesn’t limit itself, is the colour of “doing what has to be done.” Whatever needs to be done, Black will do it, whether that is killing an infant, or saving a village. At its worst, Black is ruthless, consuming and enslaving, but at its best, Black is determined, ambitious and unabashed.

Black’s willingness to grab power at any cost comes, in part, from paranoia. The Black-aligned often worry that others will come and take what they have unless they have the power to stop them.

Black magic is primarily concerned with corruption and death. Black-aligned individuals are very self-focused. If they need something, they will go and get it, and to hell with those in their way. If something ceases to work for a Black-aligned individual, they will discard it. The iconic Black-aligned races are Demons and Vampires.  The iconic Black-aligned class is Mercenary.

There are still two colours to go over, but this has been a lot to write. I am going to go for a walk and finish when I get back, but by the time I get back, it will be the next day.

The Day’s Count: 2142

We are the media

When Amanda Palmer started her Kickstarter campaign to distribute her new album, Theatre is Evil, her first piece of promotion for it was a video of her in a kimono, with a key-tar across her back, holding up signs written in sharpie, likely intentionally referencing Bob Dylan in Subterranean Homesick Blues. Towards the end of this message to her fans, she held up a sign saying “We are the media.”

This is more true than people may realize. We are the media, all of us. All of us.

People think the media is just those people they see on the news. That’s not true. The media is also called “The Fourth Estate,” referring to the medieval concept of The Estates of the Realm and the structure of Parliament. The Estates of the Realm described the division of social classes in Medieval France. The First Estate was the clergy, men of the cloth of course holding the greatest power, for they could excommunicate anyone, and grant or deny Divine Right. The Second Estate was nobility, and the Third the commoners. Parliament had a similar division, with the Lords Spiritual, the Lords Temporal, and the Commons. The Fourth Estate has generally referred to an informal segment of society which was either quasi-independent, or answered directly to the king. This has variously been lawyers and journalists, depending on time period, the person using the term, etc.

Whatever the fourth estate’s composition, it’s job is the same. It is the unwritten fourth check on the government.

Its job is to watch the people in power, and make sure they don’t abuse that power.

We’ve done a horrible, terrible job of it in the last fifty years or so. But maybe we can do better. We can if we decide to. Hell, we have to. The spirits of America’s Founding Fathers must be disgusted with the country they created, and are now roaming abroad, being there for those who want to be free. Americans don’t want to be free. We want our world views supported by the laws of the land, but that’s not freedom. We want to be secure, which is even less free. Benjamin Franklin said “Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power.” This has often been paraphrased to “People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.” Those who do want to be free are now in other countries. It started with Tunisia, then Egypt, Libya and Yemen. Other Middle East countries, such as Bahrain, Syria, Iraq and Morocco have revolted with civil uprisings and “major protests.” Most recently, the subjects of Turkey have fought their government with civil disobedience, to which their government responded with violence.

Our Founding Fathers have seen that we do not want freedom, merely happiness. To quote George Carlin, “Everyone’s too fat and happy. Everyone’s got a cellphone that will make pancakes and rub their balls for them.” Our biggest struggle for freedom right now is the fight for guns or marriage equality. I say or, because it’s split by party line, and thus it is extremely unlikely that the country will get both. And sadly, America loves its guns far more than it cares about giving people equal rites. Guns are a cult in America, like they’re the fourth estate of the holy trinity. If you go down south, you will see phrases with “guns” and “god” as almost equal partners everywhere. You would think that the biggest proponents for gun freedom coming from the region that gave us the Civil War, Slavery and the Ku Klux Klan would be something of a red flag for the rest of the country, but it’s apparently not. You would also think that people would be all for allowing adults to marry other consenting adults and not care about the specific genders, but, again, apparently not so much.

The politicians have used these issues to secure their own power and divide us. I’d honestly be somewhat ok with no increased restrictions on gun control if we achieved marriage equality. The vast majority of gun owners are just playing with an adult, male-focused version of Barbie, and there are admittedly other ways to prevent shootings.

We, the people, the media, the Fourth Estate, must tell the politicians that their days of being masters are over, and that they will once again be the servants of the people they should be.

The Day’s Count: 734
(168 words were pre-written from a tangent in yesterday’s post that I decided should be it’s own piece, bringing today’s actual writing count to 566)

The meaning of the blog

The name of the blog comes from three quotes, from three inspirational public figures whom I’ve been following over the last couple of years.

Make Good Art comes from Neil Gaiman, a very successful British writer of fantasy fiction. Specifically it is taken from the commencement speech he gave at the University of the Arts in Philidelphia in 2012. In it, he–rather famously, by this point–said “…when things get tough, this is what you should do: Make. Good. Art.” The speech exploded online. The video circled the net. A webcomic which takes quotes and illustrates them, or uses them to drive otherwise wordless stories used the quote, showing–primarily–a child in a hospital bed with a leg cast being given a set of markers.

And now the speech is an 80-page, hardcover book. Personally, though I very much like the speech and the sentiment it delivers, even I think that’s a tad ridiculous. I really hope that Mr. Gaiman is getting a good percentage on its sales, because otherwise it’s just some shark-publisher capitalizing on his thoughts. I’m all for Mr. Gaiman making money and a living. I hope to be so successful. I’m not for some third party using his creativity and inspirational words to make themselves richer. But, of course, it’s none of my business where the money goes from this book.

Art’s Not Hard: This sentiment was the driving message of the latest album put out by the little-known, but becoming increasingly more known, singer Amanda Palmer–coincidentally, Neil Gaiman’s wife.

Amanda Palmer (also known as Amanda Fucking Palmer, or AFP) was one half of the Punk Cabaret band The Dresden Dolls. Then she started her own solo career on the label Roadrunner Records (now 8ft. Records). She felt the loss of control over her own art,  feeling that she was being, in a way, censored by the label in her videos because she didn’t fit the size 0 pop singer mold. After a long campaign to have the label tear up her contract, she finally became her own artist. She spent some time writing songs, and forming her new band. She started a Kickstarter campaign to create her new album, which became wildly successful, becoming over 1000% funded.

The driving inspiration of this blog from her is the song Ukelele Anthem, in which the actual line is “and stop pretending art is hard.” The phrase “Art’s not hard” quickly became a rallying cry for her fans, right along with “we are the media”– which is also true. I was going to expand on this here, but it’s better as its own post, so keep an eye out for that.

Write: It’s… a bit of a cheat to attribute a single word to a specific person. I mean, I’m pretty sure everyone on the planet who spoke a language with a written form has said the word at least once. But specifically, it’s referencing a lengthy quote from another British fantasy author–Terry Pratchett. After having been aware of the books for quite some time (I remember seeing Soul Music on a shelf back when Tower Books was a thing and I followed the Xenomorph bursting out of the ceiling to the Fantasy and Sci Fi section of the local one as a child) I first read one of his Discworld books a couple years back. I grabbed Monstrous Regiment, though I no longer remember why I started with that one. I think it was the one which most appealed to me when I looked at the back.

Terry Pratchett is perhaps even better known as the co-author, with the above mentioned Neil Gaiman, of Good Omens. I… actually have not read Good Omens yet. I really need to.

But as to his contribution to the blog title, Mr. Pratchett said

Write. For more than three years I wrote more than 400 words every day. I mean, every calendar day. If for some reason, in those pre-portable days, I couldn’t get to a keyboard, I wrote hard the previous night and caught up the following day, and if it ever seemed that it was easy to do the average I upped the average. I also did a hell of a lot of editing afterwards but the point was there was something there to edit. I had a more than full-time job as well. I hate to say this, but most of the successful (well, okay… rich) authors I know seem to put ‘application’ around the top of the list of How-to-do-its. Tough but true.

And so that’s what this blog is. It is my place to write at least 400 words a day. I started this blog as a place to put whatever I feel like writing on a given day. I’ve made blogs in the past, but generally as repositories of specific stories (Aesoterica, an urban fantasy story, and The Chronicles of Baragos, a traditional fantasy story following an elven barbarian) which went nowhere, but may go somewhere eventually.

This blog is much more generalized. I just need to be writing and drawing, and here’s a place to put it. With a place to put it, there will be more pressure to get something done each day. With something done each day, I build a presence online, and can get feedback.

The Day’s Count: 881