Pantheon, Episode One

Show-Game Overview

Around a crackling fire, the children go to bed, having heard the history of the Five, of how they came to be. But then it was time to tell what happened to the Five…

ROLL CREDITS – PANTHEON, SERIES ONE EPISODE ONE: “PILOT”

On the endless plain, two of the Three, the Lord and Lady of Balance, the effective ruler of the Gods, Rokan and Ankar, announce that their time as rulers have begun to wane, and their time of power over the world below likewise. It is time to hand things over to the Five, and of course, Rokan adds, this means that Korak and Always will marry, as they pledged, and become the new king and queen. And yet, in the crowd, none of the Five are present to hear this.

Cut to Korak, resplendent in brass and seated on his brass throne, dreaming of glorious battle, and interrupted by news that his betrothed is at his very palace gates, handmaidens in tow. He hasn’t heard the news about the announcement and was kind of hoping he would never get married (so he could real alone). Greeting her himself, he is unnerved as hell to see that, after removing her mask, she has taken the form of his Perfect Woman. (Always causes Stress) This sets the tone of the relationship quickly.

Meanwhile, in the Forest Infinite, a bird flutters through the sun-dappled forest air. Suddenly a hand snatches it and Ix devours it messily. He’s interrupted by Ankar, Lady of Order. Ix wonders what Order and Wild have in common, she explains that she understands that Ix has done a lot to protect Always and appreciates that he has not always been rewarded for it. She goes on to say she doesn’t want Korak and Always to rule, she wants Always to rule alone. Ix agrees that Always certainly deserves better for a husband. Ankar says she will not be ungrateful for anything that makes Korak fall from favour as husband or king, and they shake on the deal. (no roll)

Meanwhile, in the Underworld, Zyz sits in banishment with the First Peoples (the malformed beings created by the Gods before the Balance was made) and makes stew for his guest – Smith. Smith tells Zyz about the announcement, and assures Zyz that he intends to bring down Korak and upset the natural order because we’ve had order for too long and “order is not the same as justice”. Zyz approves, happy that Smith becoming a God has not dampened the once-mortal’s love of the underdog, but demands that in his machinations to take the throne, Smith bring no harm or shame to Korak, for Zyz still loves his son. Smith tries to bluff Zyz that he agrees, but Zyz sees through it (Zyz wins the roll) and tells Smith he can’t build a new order on lies. Smith swears an oath that should he bring harm to Korak, he will surrender the testicle he stole from the war god (which was the main part of what made Smith immortal) over to Zyz. They make a pact.

Pan up and up to the heavens. Aristeia, God of the Sky, herds the clouds and talks to Teyamaq, who is the moon. Long ago, when Ankar first wanted to create warmth and spare people from the terror of the Rimeblood, the Kalakaq, Ankar made a terrible deal – she arranged for the Rimeblood to capture Aristeia in exchange for her plan succeeding. Aristeia was imprisoned and tortured by the giants for eons, before she was freed by the young Korak. In her torment, one of the Kalakaq took pity on her and became her protector and confidant, and escaped with her – and that was Teyamaq. He also fell in love with the brave Korak during the rescue, but that is a secret (as is Ankar’s betrayal).

Teyamaq tells Aristeia she should be happy for Korak and Always, and she should spend more time socialising with the Fifthlings. She gives the ancient smallville cry of “don’t tell me what to do!”. But they agree to go and see Korak and Always so Aristeia can talk to Ix, for whom she has a fondness.

Back at the Brass Palace, the table is set for dinner, Korak and Always at each of a small-ish but formal table. Korak is watching his young bachelor life of doing war stuff vanishing as Always explains how now that they are going to be married and king and queen it is time to turn away from the Second People and go and be On High. Korak wonders if instead of copying the old ways, they should form a new Balance. Always wonders what that would imply, how much might change, which is the cue for Ix to barge in through the doors.

Ix says that if anyone is going to be talking about the future of the Five, the Five should all be present.

Always says “Yes, but we weren’t talking about that”

Ix is dubious. Korak tells Ix to sit down and join them and Ix parks his butt and puts his muddy feet on the table.

Ix: So let’s talk about this marriage.

Always: It’s been coming for thousands of years, why talk about it now?

Ix: Because it’s imminent, which means we must question it before it is too late.

Korak: Question? What is there to question?

Ix: Well, if the Balance decreed this marriage, and they are departing, then why take their wisdom any more? Are there not, Lady Always, others in the heavens that would make a better match for you?  – No offence Korak (he adds quickly)

Always: Do you see a better path?

Ix: No, but the forest has many paths. We should not follow tradition solely for the sake of it.

Always: You must trust us that this is for the best.

Ix: AHAH! See? You decide for us. We are expected to trust you two, to make decisions for all the five? I don’t think so!

 

And on that cue, the doors push open, and in walks Aristeia and Teyamaq. More places are set at the table hurriedly. A few glassy pleasantries are exchanged.

Ix: (triumphantly) Don’t be too swift to congratulate them – they haven’t even considered the possibility that they might not be best possible match for each other!

Always: You are WRONG, Ix.

Korak: (dismissively, to the others) Ix here has wild ideas, as usual.

Teyamaq: I’d like to hear Lord Ix’s reasons on that matter… (and we know why)

Korak: (seeing an opportunity to embarrass his brother) Yes…I’m sure he has good REASON.

Ix: *mumble*

Before Ix can find his voice, Korak is called away by an attendant. In his absence, Ix tries to convince Always she can do better, mostly because he’s jealous of Korak. Not that Ix wants Always, he just thinks Korak has too much already, but he says “Consider the other options, there are a thousand paths in the forest” (rolls on Justice+Korak+Always, 10). Always believes it’s a done deal to do what Daddy says (rolls Duty+Rokan+Inevitable,12) but wants him to just let it drop.”Perhaps you are correct, so we would VALUE our time ALONE to consider this….”

Aristeia: Does that mean we should leave?

Now it’s about power – nobody tells Ix to shut up (Power+Always…and gets a 6). Ix is Stressed Out and is completely shut down by his sister. He bristles with anger but he can’t contradict her because he thinks she’s so awesome. He slowly, sadly, takes each foot off the table. Always claps her hands, happy to have a Proper Family Dinner. She thinks she should have all Five there, so calls one of her handmaidens over to send an invite – at which point the handmaiden removes her mask to reveal he IS Smith. Aristeia is quite happy.

Always is worried though, about Ix’s suggestion, and Smith says too, it is a new era, with a new Balance and a new law. Always agrees but she thinks the marriage should still take place. On that matter, we cut to Korak and his guest, mighty Lord Rokan. Rokan says he is proud of his protégé, but reminds him that he will not rule until he gains the approval of the others – unless Korak decides some are unworthy of joining his realm. Rokan points out that the Three became the Two when Zyz was exiled, in a new age, perhaps the Five may become lesser if it makes for a stronger rule. Although conquering the trickster might be hard, it might be easier to get him on side then to crush him.

Rokan’s parting warning is for Korak to protect Aristeia and watch Teyamaq, for a Kalakaq can never be trusted. Korak returns to dinner. Korak is surprised to see Smith, but when Always explains she wanted everyone there, he grudgingly raises a toast to the Five. Ix however, refuses the toast and storms out. Smith follows.

In the throne room, Ix and Smith stare at the empty Brass Throne. Smith says that though the two haven’t always agreed, they both shared a distaste for Korak and an unwillingness to see him rule. Ix suggests he more opposes the marriage than the rule, but the two are one – foil the marriage, foil the kingship, he says. But what can Smith do to stop fate, Ix asks? Smith says nothing is fated. It is choice, and they agree anybody but Korak should be chosen. They spit shake on it. And Smith’s assurance relieves Smith’s anger (Stress Relief roll succeeds).

Back at the table, the ladies talk amongst themselves. And Always wonders of Aristeia, who sees all things of the World Below, what she knows of a man called Skoh…of whom we will learn more next week.

Tag Scenes:

Aristeia stares at the departing Always, wondering about her sister’s intent.

Ix returns to his forest, greeting Ankar with a wide smile.

Above the forest, in the Palace, Korak stares down at the wood, sharpening his korix (curved bronze axe)

Always knocks on a door – of Lika’s house. She says “I need some knowledge”.

Slipping back into the shadows across the way is Smith, who was clearly heading for Lika’s door with an ornate box. (Lika being his ex-wife).

ROLL CREDITS.

Stinger: Like takes a bowl of soup from Zyz, who says “But why do you want to go BACK to him?”

Cut to black.

 

(MVP awarded to Steve (Ix) for smashing into the family dinner with such Drama)

 

Pantheon, My Current Smallville Game

Alright. We’re three session in already so I need to start writing up the sessions of my seriously awesome Smallville game before I start forgetting too much. As we’re three sessions in the first few episodes will be a bit scanty.

The concept we began with was to make our characters Gods, the central members of a mythological pantheon. Smallville works really well for this, because, as I discuss in my review, it’s a game about relationships and bickering. Gods are famous for bickering, and also can do anything, so it matters less than usual that the system puts all the emphasis on emotional wrangling and almost none on Physically Doing Things. You don’t need to roll to rain down lightning and thunder when that’s just what you do all day.

Smallville is also good for Gods because it lets you start with an entirely blank slate and define things as you go. This allowed us to be whatever kind of Gods we wanted to be, and thus really feel like world-shapers. Indeed, we decided from the get-go that it would be as above, so below, which means whenever we established something was true in our backstory, it became part of the history of the world and its peoples beneath us.

However, after moving through almost all the chargen steps we had an incredibly complicated backstory and mythology, and I’m not going to re-tell it all here. You can read it on the game website on Obsidian Portal here, but for now I’m just going to hit the briefest highlights and bring the rest out as and when it becomes important.

The world turned out to be a bronze-age kind of world, but in a land of great plains and rivers, not unlike the pre-colonial world of North America. Once upon a time, the people (aka the Second Peoples, aka the Volanyi, lived in the far north, but then they came south, conquered the people of the plains, and built a much greater civilisation, harnessing the agriculture of the new land with their new-found skills in iron and bronze-smithing.

Mythologically, there was once the Cold, and in it where the Kalakaq, or the Rimeblood, the giants/titans of before. There were also the Three, the parent gods if you will. Rokan was Lord of Chaos, Ankar the Lady of Order, and Zyz, God of The Change Between. Rokan and Ankar tried to make people and it didn’t work because there was no warmth. So Ankar made warmth and put it in the sky (which Rokan had made) so the people could be warm. At the same time, Ankar and Chaos became one and formed a unity called The Balance. They were separate Gods still but linked and forever changed. They had a daughter who represented their Love.

Meanwhile Zyz had three children: Korak and Ix, twin boys, and Lika, the younger girl. Korak was bigger and stronger and more warlike and was feted to one day be king of the Gods and marry Always, just as Rokan had wed Ankar. But that was far off. The Rimeblood grew angry about the warmth and kidnapped Korak. He returned, however, carrying his half sister Sky, who was Rokan’s first daughter, long-time prisoner of the Rimeblood. Her only friend in her captivity was a Rimeblood called Teyamaq who Rokan agreed could sit in the sky with her and keep her company up there (he’s basically the moon).

For his efforts, Korak was given the Brass Palace and the throne within it, brass being a new gift from Zyz below to the returned king. Jealous of his brother’s power, Ix felt the need to be MORE wild, so he stole some of Rokan’s Chaotic essence. Zyz saw his son steal the essence but told Rokan he had done it himself. Rokan banished his brother Zyz to the underworld, and stripped him of his power over Death; Death instead was given to Always. Ix’s wildness let loose the great beasts on the world and together, he and Korak rounded them up and drove them into the Pit. The two also stood together, equal in strength and fury, when Ulyuq, Lord of Frosts tried once again to conquer the world – and was defeated.

During this battle, a man appeared and warned Korak that in battle he could lose his ability to have children, and so convinced Korak to leave one testicle with him for safekeeping. That man was known as Smith (or The Smith) and had begun as mortal, but when he found himself in love with Lika, he had set out to become a God. He learnt the arts of metal from Zyz which he spread on the world making it in his image, and with the essence of Korak, he became like a God. As final proof of his divinity, he tricked Ulyuq into falling into the Pit, where he waits and plots his revenge.

And so the five were, and time passed, and the world knew them as the chief gods. The time of the Three passed and the Five were ascendant. They chose champions, they took servants, they crafted the world below and watched how it went. And then…

Our cast of Leads:

Aristeia, solitary and scarred Goddess of the Skies

Always, the inscrutable and inevitable Goddess of Love and Death

Korak, intemperate and mighty God of War

Ix, petulant and unpredictable God of Wild

Smith, the trickster God of Metal and Manipulation

The MESSAGE: Where’s the Fire?

I have been asked, by a wonderful friend of mine and reader of the blog, to provide more examples of the problem. Especially since I’d like the MESSAGE to go out to all gamers, and the example in my video are just a tiny few and all from video gaming. And no offence to the lovely man, but I’m not going to do that. For a few reasons.

Firstly, because I’m just too lazy. Secondly, and more importantly, because I don’t want the MESSAGE to be about that. Everyone is talking about the bad behaviour. Sometimes it seems we’re falling over ourselves to talk about it. We all love to be outraged, and the internet makes it so easy to partake in the theatre of scandal and the rush of mob justice. Which is not to say the outrage isn’t justified or the justice not deserved, just that I don’t want to tread over old ground, or simplify things. It’s too easy and too convenient, and I want to be more intelligent then that. I want to really talk about the issues, not just condemn and move on. I don’t want to condemn anyone, really. I want this to be a safe space for men as well as women, that’s about solving problems not sticking labels on people.

Don’t get me wrong, I know how activism works. I know that even the most concerned and thoughtful person needs to see a problem, be convinced of its real presence, its damaging effects and it’s looming threat before they’ll step up and sign a name or click a button. But here’s the thing: if you don’t already know there’s a problem in ALL gaming, you haven’t been paying attention. And maybe you haven’t. That’s fair. But I bet you know someone who has.

See, I could tell you a bunch of horrible stories, but there’s a much better way to see the problem, and that’s go and get the stories from the source. Go and find a female gamer you know and ask her. Ask her about breathy, handsy guys at conventions and LARPs. Ask her about GMs who have banned them from the table or pretended they didn’t exist. Ask them about the trials of finding decent artwork to represent their character. Ask them about the lewd, rude and crude comments. Ask them about having their character be raped. Ask them about the fawning and the hitting on. Just ask them. Anecdotes aren’t data, but they pack more punch than any data I could show you.

And you must know  a female gamer. Surveys done by Wizards suggest they make up about 25% of the roleplaying industry, and about 20% of the hobby gamer industry in general. They’re over 40% of video gamers and about 70% of cosplayers. Statistically, if you know five gamers, you know a woman who games. If you don’t know five gamers, including online, then get out of the basement and meet some. If you don’t know any women gamers, then maybe that’s because you haven’t asked any women you know to play. Maybe you should. Maybe you could specifically look for them, because a lot of them are being ignored, or trying to find good games amongst the dross and the gross.

And once you’ve met them, do them the courtesy of sitting down and talking to them. Ask them about their bad experiences, and listen to them. Because, off the internet especially, we’re not doing enough of that. If you don’t know what the problem is, you’ve DEFINITELY not done enough of that. And when they’ve finished, apologize to them and commiserate with them. Acknowledge that their experience matters and the stuff that happened to them isn’t acceptable. And then come back and tell me you know what the problem is.

If you really don’t know what the problem is, seriously go and do this. Heck, do it if you know what the problem is anyway, because it’s worth doing. If every female gamer you ask tells you she’s never had a problem or witnessed a problem with a creep or jerk,  I will eat my hat. Live, on webcam. When – as I expect they will – every female gamer you ask tells you a crappy story, come back and pledge to the MESSAGE, or sign up for an avatar, shirt or a badge when we go live next month.

But most importantly, actually talk to women. And listen to them. Gamers or otherwise. That’s really the first step. That can make all the difference in the world.

The MESSAGE: Why We’re Doing It

Since we put the idea out there, we’ve got some feedback, and since we started the crowdsourcing, even more. Everyone wants to know exactly what the point is, and what we hope to accomplish. And until today, I didn’t know myself. I had some ideas, but it wasn’t crystalizing for me. I had the theory, but not the deep-down emotional reason to do it. That changed today when I grabbed a random shirt from the shelf and put it on.

Upon unfolding, I realized I’d grabbed my shirt with “SUPPORT SAME SEX MARRIAGE” on it. I picked it up two years ago at a march. I don’t really think of it as a political shirt any more. I wear it because I like having things I enjoy on my belly. Dinosaurs. The Violent Femmes. Daleks. Equal rights.

And like my love for those things, my politics is a very personal thing for me. Private, even. Yes, I use my facebook to point out lies and slander, but I use it precisely because it is semi-anonymous. I’m a shy guy, and face to face, I don’t talk politics. It’s not something I want to bring into the social arena, because I don’t want to judge or pressure my friends. My politics are mine and I don’t expect them to be anyone else’s.

Activism is my job; I don’t usually meet people at marches or anything. And I don’t march for my friends either. Some people do both of those things, and that’s great, but I go for I guess perhaps more theoretical reasons. I don’t march for refugees because I know any refugees and have seen the damage done to them, because I don’t and I haven’t. I don’t march for gay marriage because I love my gay friends and want them to have what others do, because really, I know like one gay guy and I hardly ever see them (hey buddy!).

As a result, I typically forget that my politics HAS any kind of human dimension. Which is why I completely randomly put on, and then forgot I was wearing, my SAME SEX MARRIAGE shirt last year, when I was going out to hang out with Darrin and Stefan. They happen to be gay, but I’d also forgotten that. On the way into the restaurant, I was suddenly panicked and embarrassed. I didn’t want to look like a try-hard, desperately trying to show off how politically correct I was. I didn’t want Darrin and Stefan to feel like I was going to make them part of my political identity, my awesome gay friends to prove how liberal I was. I put on a coat and put it out of my mind.

But later on, I relaxed and forgetting my shirt, took off my coat. And a bit later Stefan saw my shirt, and he smiled. And Stefan, when he smiles, he smiles with his whole face, his whole body and his whole heart, because he’s that kind of guy, the kind of guy with nothing but a giant heart full of love beneath his chest. And with that warm smile still spread on his face, he said “I like your shirt”.

And that was that, but I remember it, because it brought home what that shirt could do. Not change the world or even change a vote, but just say to somebody else, be they friend or stranger, that they are welcome. That I welcome you. That, astoundingly, I don’t want to burn you, or imprison you, or discriminate against you.

We all get that same kind of buzz out of shirts and badges. We see someone wearing an Invader Zim shirt and we feel “hah, I have kinship, because I share that passion.” And it’s more important when it’s something small or weird that feels like nobody else knows but you. And it’s HUGELY important when there are great masses of people doing everything they can to exclude you, or silence you, or discriminate against you, or destroy you, or just let you know, casually, how much they despise you. In that kind of environment, wearing a little sign that says “I welcome you” can make all the difference in the world. It can put a smile on someone’s face.

We’ve already made $400 on the kickstarter, which is great. A huge amount of that is down to one woman in particular, who saw what we are doing and I think had the same kind of reaction as Stefan did that day. Saw a sign saying “you are welcome” in a world that wants her gone. So she put in a very large amount of money, because those signs are just that important.  And thanks to her passion and Stefan’s smile, I finally get it.

I know we need to do this. And I know why we’re doing it. To wave the flag that says “You are welcome here” in a world that wants you gone.

You can throw some funding at us to get us over the line here.

Men v Misogyny – the Crowdsourcing Begins

Well, we’re going to give the MESSAGE idea a go and see what happens. I got a wonderful person to help out, I’ve lined up a designer to make the logo, now we just need some cash to pay the designer and set up the initial website. So off to crowdsourcing we go. I use IndieGoGo because they are much more flexible and cheaper than Kickstarter. You can find the campaign here:

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/150672?c=home&a=154593

It went up on the weekend and we’re already more than halfway to out goal, which is awesome! Clearly some people care enough about this to put their money where their mouths are! But its not just about the money, its about getting the word out – if this is going to work, it will need a lot of people to buy in to the idea, in the figurative sense, so even if they don’t fund it, they need to hear about it and talk about it. So please make sure to spread the link everywhere you can! Your favourite RPG and computer game forums! Your fellow guild members! Your twitter followers! Your mom! Your dentist!

Maybe not your dentist. (I hear he’s a jerk.)