Posted on Sun Nov 27 2016 -- grand-adventure
This is another list of things I like about Talispire, the sample world for Grand Adventure. In the last post, I talked about playing with standard fantasy tropes. This time I want to talk more about social and identity issues that sit in the text, waiting to be explored — if you want.
The Free Kingdoms — the default "good guy" areas of the setting - are protected from invasion by "bloodline relics". These are ancient super-weapons created by the Cirran Stratocracy back when they were the Rome of the world. Bloodline relics are activated by genetic markers found in the royal families of their respective kingdoms, thus "bloodline".
Politics can be driven by technology. In this case, the wishes of the free kingdoms ("we want to remain free") require that they carefully shepherd their genetic inheritance. This leads to things like arranged dynastic marriages with your second cousin or whatever, in order to keep everybody happy.
But wait! What if the prince or princess of the kingdom falls for a pretty commoner girl? What if there's a merchant that wins his or her heart? What if they prefer to go out and have adventures? What about their wishes? Presumably they're out of luck, if they care about their kingdom's safety. Right?
It's easy to stand back and say "well this perpetuates patriarchy and is therefore bad". And you can level that same claim against most any traditional fairy tale, and many standard fantasy worlds. For Talispire, I did something different.
Does this system glorify or promote patriarchy? No, it does not. The notion that "men are superior" is absent from the text. If you see it in the setting, I suspect that you brought it with you. If you actually see it written somewhere — anywhere — let me know! I want to fix that.
"Men are superior" didn't give us royal dynastic marriages either. That was specifically the legacy of the Cirran Stratocracy. You know, the bad guys. The ones who created two slave races, including one that was explicitly designed to be their souls' attractive meat puppets. The ones who saw the monsters from the Id and decided to cage them, instead of understanding them and dealing with them. Those guys. If the world became safe enough that bloodline relics were no longer needed, the whole system could probably fall apart in a few generations.
Does this system mean there's no room for love or romance outside of the dynastic marriage system? Does the prince(ss) need to marry a suitable partner and live Happily Ever After exclusively with that person, just because that's how you conserve vital genes? Not unless you want it that way. Again, the text doesn't say one way or another. Maybe your kingdom works differently. Maybe there's a king or queen consort role that's responsible for producing heirs, and the actual royalty can go follow their heart. Maybe your kingdom works the traditional way after all, and that's tragic because there's this one good-looking peasant. Maybe things are entirely different. Whatever. It's your story. Tell it how you want!
Is this system perpetual? Not unless you want it that way. This time
there is something in the text — a mostly lost system for
There's one other group left: the ones who want to tell the story about the princes and princesses who meet one another, fall in love, have kids, and go off to their happy ending. You know what? There's room for those stories too. Tell them with my blessing and support.
Not everybody wants a game where thinking about these issues is important. If you do, you can play it your way. If you don't, you can play it your way. Why include it then? Because I wanted a corner of the world where you could tell stories about duty vs. independence, and I wanted to give the duty side some unmistakably high stakes so that independence isn't the default answer. And if you really don't care, then you'll have this fairy-tale kingdom pastiche where there's a king and queen and princes and princesses and everything feels familiar, so you don't have to worry about it.
I'm sure somebody somewhere is going to take issue with this. I'm happy to talk about it, leave a comment below.
The four starting characters I created — Tana, Basler, Emory, and Woody - represent four types of potential players for this game.
Tana is the
Basler is for the player who starts with a focus, but who broadens out. He's got this clear thief-ninja trajectory to begin with. It's not in the text, but in my head he becomes chief of security for Woody if she takes the Princess route, and probably has some kind of relationship (romantic or not) with her regardless.
Emory is the guy who knows what he wants to play. He's going to be the armored paladin type, he's gonna refine that concept until it sings, and he's going to be awesome at it.
Woody is the character at a crossroads. She can be played in a bunch of different ways - ranger, princess, whatever. She's not like Tana in that she won't be everything. But through play, we'll discover what she prefers to be, and then go with that.
The game is intended to be a march from generic to specific. You have room to discover what you want to be, who you are, whatever. There's no penalty and no downside to either multiclassing or staying focused. Your PC's identity can be something you find through play, or something you brought to the table on day one, but either style is fine.