Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The first rule anyone is taught is that you can't bring them back from the dead.

(cw death)

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago…

There lived a group. And they did not like how death came. They did not like death at all, truth be told, and each had sought, alone and with others, to bring an end to it.

But finally, they turned and looked and each other, and they saw that they were all old, and in the end, they could not find a way to make magic save people efficiently. They hoped other technologies might do that, given time, but theirs could not, not in their lifetime.

While the first laid on their true deathbed—“deathbed” had become something of a relative term in this group, as you might imagine—they gathered around and made one last circle. For there would be others, but this would be the last with all of them.

The Old One, now the Dead One, gave everything that was left in them. The others gave all they could. More than One died that night. We might call this a death curse, though at the time this group only knew each other, and would be much likelier to call it a death spell. They did not think much of death by battle; it did not occur to them that death spells might become  most commonly offensive, rather than sustaining.

And in one moment, each gave all the magic they knew how to give, and each spread it, letting it ring through every place and every life they could touch.

And that is why, when you are very young, we tell you that magic cannot bring people back from the dead. It can. It does. Miraculous recoveries are made every day, people “die” on the operating table every day—not every spontaneous remission is because of their sacrifice, but many and much of them are.

But if you wish to bring back someone who has died anyway…it is often better to use technology other than your magic. For whenever someone finds a way to keep someone alive, or to bring them back, we focus the new spell through the Dead One’s bones and let it touch every place and life in calling distance. If you want to use your magic to bring someone back anyway, you must first discover something that no one else ever has.

If you do, I hope you’ll tell us. I’d love to lay those old bones to rest.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

About 30 Years Ago...

Large groups of people were dying. No one really knew why--not for a while, at least. And no one really knew how it was spreading, which was a fact that scared a lot of people. There seemed to be a focus on gay men, which...didn't help to calm the superstitious.

But there were places the infection seemed to skip. Or it would flare and then suddenly stop spreading. Sometimes people got it, had all the same symptoms, then got better with no real explanation.

(Rulekeepers in a hundred different districts had the same conversation: "You know you're not supposed to--"

"And I suppose if you'd been in my place, you'd just have let them die?")

It was an opportunistic infection, and blood-borne, which made it easy enough to hide. You just had to not maul anyone, and not bleed on anyone with an autoimmune disease. As long as you didn't have some random autoimmune disease suddenly infecting a lot of people all at once, a little care and a little inertia kept the werewolves' masquerade together.

It broke rather swiftly after the AIDS epidemic hit.


Once people knew about werewolves, people gradually gave up on arguments like, "But that violates the laws of physics!" Really, after the initial shock, most decent scientists started saying, "So what are the rules of magic?"

There were general murmurs in the vampire community that the werewolves weren't really facing as many difficulties as they might--they'd been good at the publicity fairly early on, focusing on little kids who'd gotten AIDS off of blood transfusions, who'd been saved by werewolf immune systems. It threw gay werewolves under the bus, but the general consensus among the werewolves' P.R was., "...So?"

The vampires decided they could probably swing something similar, and that it would be easier to do so if they chose when they were found, rather than waiting for one of those, "But what if vampires and fairies and and and!" people actually found something. They decided to wait for the werewolf fuss to die down and then come forward.

They placed the emphasis on ingenues with deadly diseases, too, though they pulled the focus to people who had been turned a bit older--200-year-old vampires who looked six tended to be more frightening than someone who had been turned in their 20s.

It worked out pretty well. The garlic-flavored blood packs don't quite taste like real garlic yet, but you can get some really fancy stuff that does, and people have even stopped putting real garlic in now.


It didn't take as long for the fuss to die down the second time--or rather, everyone was waiting for something else to turn out to be real. Mages went next, with the fairies, because they were just similar enough that it made sense for them to come as a package.

The focus of their spin was mainly on the fact that magic only worked on one's own self. "Like, I can change my own hair color"--a pause as the hair goes through a brief kaleidoscope--"but if I tried to do the same thing to you, nothing would happen." The mage shrugged, and after enough people said the same thing convincingly enough, most people stopped fretting so much about mages. I mean, there are places you still don't want to go, if people know you're a mage, or a werewolf, or a vampire, or a fairy, but there are places where you can live mostly unhindered, at least.

No one brought up that "one's own self" was a rather subjective term. There's a reason why so many people are so protective of their tarot decks, for example. And once you realize that, sometimes you can bend your mind to the point where other people do register as part of you--or the land does. The latter is actually pretty common among fair folk. I am my tree; I am my land; of course I am; are you not?


And so everyone pretended that they had dropped their masquerades. To be reasonable, if you're a cute girl who became a werewolf against your will, or a vampire who only became one because you were dying of cancer at 20-40ish, or a mild mage who's willing to look 'normal' or 'cute', or a fairy who can pass for mage, you don't have to hide your magic anymore. If not, you can pretend to be one, or you can keep pretending to be mundane human.

Honestly, I'm still expecting some more mythical creatures to be real. Given how easy all these spins were, I'm guessing someone is still waiting for their moment. Either way, hey, maybe by the time I'm dead you'll be able to actually want to be a werewolf without losing your job.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

(Mostly) Sexism in Games

My brother asked me how I felt about sexism in semi-medieval and modern settings, and I proceeded to...write. I liked it enough to clean it up a bit and post.
There is something to be said for historical accuracy as complete as one can make it. However, people often don't shoot for historical accuracy--they put something like a hardcore version of our modern-day sexism. I see the same thing with racism, heterosexism, etc. Even in places/times where the definitions of race/gender/sexuality would have been very different, I rarely see recognition of that.

That is actively dangerous. It leads more people to think that various roles--gender/sex, race, etc.--have been stable through centuries and are only now being changed. This grants them power. "How could we change this, when it's been true for thousands of years?" "How dare you try to change this, when it's worked perfectly fine for hundreds of years?" Yes, both of those statements are irrational--but they are also powerful, and that's what concerns me.

I like tabletop settings which remove sexism; they're more flexible and often more fun--if only because most examples I've seen have better worldbuilding I prefer. But I also like tabletop games where different cultures have different sexism, or some cultures have none, and/or claim to. It's interesting, and it emphasizes the fact that, yes, these categories may be categories in their own right, but they largely have the power we grant them.

If someone is inserting sexism to be "gritty", ick. If someone is inserting sexism for "historical accuracy", then A) name the cultures, and B) I expect genuine historical accuracy; anything else is just using "a long time ago" as an excuse for lazy and prejudiced storytelling. If someone removes sexism as escapism or to see how that works, I actively approve. If someone is playing with sexism--including where it differs from our sexism, including where different cultures have different expectations of men/women/other genders, I sincerely approve; that's cool.
© 2009-2013 Taylor Hobart