Master Mines

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balancing social commentary with urban fantasy

So I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been on a pretty hot writing streak and up until now I haven’t had many issues with anything I’ve been writing. Tonight I was stuck with a philosophical issue and I thought I’d put it to the group to get some opinions. I think I know where I stand, but I’d like to get some other perspectives on it.

As the title of the post implies, Kingdom of Nothing has always been a balancing act between social commentary and urban fantasy. I’ve been much more aware of this fact after Mike pointed out that what I was writing could conceivably be interpreted as exoticizing the plight of the homeless by adding monsters and magic (this is a paraphrase…read the post for his exact words). I still stand by my feeling that fantasy is often used to deal with relevant social issues in metaphor, but I’m walking a fine line here. One wrong step and the game gets across a very different message than I’m intending. For some people it already does come across as belittleing to the people who have to live on the street, but I’m okay with that as long as I feel I’ve handled the issue the way I wanted to.

I’ve written two chapters to this effect. The first, Slipped Through the Cracks, deals with surviving on the street. It goes into what shelters are like, the effects that sleep deprivation have on the body and mind and health issues that arise from sleeping on the street. It also goes into street drugs in some detail; things like how crack is formed, how it’s taken, some of the ingredients used in meth, the effects of long-term drug use (I go into some pretty intense detail on this one. It’s scary stuff), etc. There’s a pretty long section of the chapter devoted to drug use, but I think it’s really important. Drugs are responsible for quite a few people being on the streets. Even if the characters themselves aren’t using, more than likely they’ll end up dealing with a few addicts living on the streets. It’s also not something a lot of gamers are going to know many details about (I’m guessing), and it’s necessary at least for the judge to know about that world in order to portray it (as I’m writing this I’m realizing I should write up some information on mental illnesses, as they’re just as prevalent if not more so than drugs)This chapter is all based in reality.

The second chapter is called Strange Loathesome Monsters, a title which I really like but will probobly have to change because it started out being about cobwebs and dimmerstiffs, but I’ve also written about Gatherings. Some of the Gatherings are pretty strange and loathesome, but I’m a bit uncomfortable with calling them monsters.This is the chapter inspired by DRYH’s really awesome NPC’s, and the more I wrote it the more I realized how necessary it was to bring the game together, at least for me. Each character is designed as a plot hook. There’s the Eater of Sins, who acts as a kind of Minotaur for the Gatherings of the city. When someone is found guilty of some crime, they’re tossed into the sewers where it lives and they have to survive and try to escape. Maybe a character is wrongly accused, gets thrown into the labyrinth and has to escape, or a character’s Gathering has to go around collecting evidence to exonerate them during the trial. All of the NPC’s have something like that going on…I won’t write them unless I can think of a game or two surrounding them that’s not just “Kill the monster, get the treasure.” This is all sub-plot stuff for the most part, but it could feed into the metaplot as well. I have a minor issue in that the Dimmer-stiffs are too similar to the Named Ones (big nasty cobwebs). That won’t be too hard to fix…I have to focus on making them shells of real people instead of straight-up monsters like the Named Ones.

My real issue is the the Gatherings I invented. I really like them, but if anything exoticizes homelessness in this game, it’s these guys. I’ve got a kind of Bacchean cult, a group of wandering storytellers and crazy religious zealots.

Having sample gatherings is necessary for a bunch of reasons but one main one: I want to have Lost antagonists. Creating homeless bad guys (especially ones that are so fantastical) gets into some dicey waters for me and my vision of where the game is going, but I’m hoping I’ve laid enough realism in there with the rest of the book to counterbalance it. The zealots are the ones bothering me the most I think…partly because they play into the apocalyptic street preacher stereotype.

Anyway if you’ve got some time, I’d love for you guys to take a look at the chapters and hit me with some criticism, positive or negative. Here they are as of now. I have to clean up the writing and stuff, but the idea’s there: two chapters

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January 7, 2008 - Posted by | Kingdom of Nothing

2 Comments »

  1. Jeff, what about this? Rather than making a list of Gatherings, provide guidelines to make your own, and then provide a few as samples? And I have not yet read the text but the way to avoid exoticizing the homeless experience would be to hit that these are Lost and not just homeless people.

    Comment by robertbohl | January 7, 2008 | Reply

  2. I like both of those ideas. I’ll work them in

    Comment by jhimmelman | January 8, 2008 | Reply


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