Most people that know me personally would describe me as being about as subtle as a shotgun blast. I have no problems saying my exact thoughts, with their exact meaning, if there is something that is on my mind. This occurs to such a degree that conflict occasionally comes up because people think I am inferring something that I am not. While I never aim to be rude, or mean, and definitely never malicious my presence of self is one that allows me to listen to other people and try to speak as straight forward as possible.
The interesting thing is that when I write world materials, and I want to make subtle world commentary, it seems that that somehow I turn into The Amazing Kreskin. What I see as very basic social commentary about the world we live in is totally missed by a large number of people. At first I thought it was due to a lack of writing skill, but as I talk to more and more people the fact is brought up that the greater picture isn't thought about by my readers.
So, while I feel it goes against the spirit of writing materials that have vaguely hidden social commentary, I am going to blatantly point out some details that I thought everyone saw in my best known work: Dystopia Rising. This is going to be a multiple, very long, series of posts… but I think I would be remiss in everything that I am doing if I didn't let the rest of the world see the implied depth behind Dystopia that I see. Sure, it is at its core a post zombie-apocalypse game, but there is thought and inspiration behind the creation of everything. All in all, I think (hope) that this adds more of an appreciation for all of it instead of less. So I am going to start with the strains, and then work my way around the entire creative thought process behind all of the strains, faiths, and even some of the uber-world mechanics. Don’t worry, I am not putting in timeline spoilers, but it will help you climb into the creators mind a bit more.
Pure Bloods – Pure Bloods as a strain do not come from any one specific real world genetic background or race. They aren't any one specific ethnicity. They were a people that were defined and created based on the circumstances of their pre-fall ancestry… they were rich. Pure Bloods (if you look at the source material and even the pictures) can come from ANY pre-fall ethnicity. However, all of the Pure Bloods in existence are people who have had the world provided for them before they were even born. As the modern terminology goes, they are the embodiment of the ancestors of the 1%ers. The thing that all Pure Bloods have in common with one another is that they all have the ability to be innately rich, and, Pure Bloods track their lineage to define themselves as being pure.
This is a vaguely hidden stab at the concept of old money, cultures that exist outside of the majority of day to day ‘us common folk’ life, and exist in a world that seems alien and secluded from the realities of the world. From my cultural standpoint, it almost seems if many of the very rich do not live in the same world as everyone else. I even went further to define servitor Pure Blood families as a definition of the ‘newly rich’ verses old money.
The Nation of Accensor – Have you ever met a zealot? Not a person who is religious, or someone who has faith, but someone who is willing to move the planet and the earth and rewrite reality so that it matches their view of faith? Someone who was completely incapable of considering a view outside of their own if it did not match with the written definitions of their faith? The sort of people that would slaughter and kill and enslave others in the name of a religion that very well could preach the exact opposite? The sort of person who, as they became more and more blindly devoted to their faith, became more and more alien to outside ideas?
This is the inspiration behind Accensorites becoming more alien and ‘holy’ in appearance and interaction as they continued along their way. This is the reason why Accensorites change as their experience points increase… it is the progression of what could have been a logical person of faith becoming blindly devoted to the point of no longer able to see the world the same way that the rest of society does. This is also part of the reason why the love/hate relationship between Accensorites of different faiths becomes so pronounced. They understand and almost respect the devotion that other Accensorites have to their faiths, however, they hate the fact that these other Accensorites are completely devoted to ‘wrong’ religions.
Iron Slaves – There is a reason their name is Iron Slave and not liberated Iron or any such other variant. Players SHOULD feel bad about calling Iron Slaves, slaves. Slavery is a shitty institution which has caused harm over a number of races all over the continent. Players are NOT SUPPOSED to like the fact they are called slaves.
But the ‘deeper’ meaning behind Iron Slaves seems to be the point that is totally missed. An industrial culture, unwilling to place value of life over the value of profit, has made a culture of people into a resources. These slaves are bred into an environment where the corporate machine has raised them to believe that their entire purpose in life is to serve the needs of the industrialized nation. Identity is stripped away from these people, culture is robbed from them, and every day they toil away just so that they can continue to survive. They are bred into a cultural identity, that even when they liberate themselves from the industrial machine, they are still considered branded as a ‘slave’.
The points that some people miss is that the glow of Iron Slaves is at the points commonly adorn with the cuffs and collar of a work uniform. With this in mind, it probably shouldn't be a surprise that the culture of the Iron Slaves was developed during a time where the job I was working expected me to work 80 hours a week and always be on call in the ‘off time’.
Solestros – I really wanted to say something potent with the Solestros that touched on culture, so in writing the Solestros, I actually went through a vetting process (a process I use whenever I write about foreign cultures that I don’t intimately know). I worked with Frank Castillo when I was writing the strain. I wanted to represent an appropriate representation of an evolution of the territories culture, and, wanted to make a commentary about how the rich 1% make the lives of people incredibly shitty. I learned about faiths that exist in the Mexican and Mexican-Southern Californian community that were stories his grandmother told him. I passed every word of it through people who lived the culture, because as a white male, sometimes I don’t get the nuances of how cultures outside my upbringing existed.
And the not so subtle secret? Players should think that the incredibly rich 1%ers financially enslaving an entire people is incredibly fucked up. It was a controversial enough subject that the entire strain was called racist and culturally biased.
So when this sort of push-back started coming around, I felt really self-conscious. I went back to Frank and asked him again if it was a racist. Being someone who is very proud of his heritage, I was told “It’s not racist. It’s actually very factual and from my point of view you captured it well. I wish I knew how to help get em off your case. You even took pains to not say anything about the race and very clearly to me that only people who understand what living as a Mexican american in southern California is like would say its accurate. If anything the fact that many non-Hispanic people are saying they want to play the strain...means you were on target. Maybe if people feel that the idea of the rich holding back an entire culture is wrong, they should work on addressing it in the real world instead of being pissed off about the mirror.”
So looks like the point was driven home, but a chunk of the message was lost. After talking it over again and seeing where the message was lost, I am going to have to add some materials down the line to make this point much easier to see.
Retrogrades – Ever notice that the strain that is the ugliest on the outside is the best adapted to deal with the real world? Retrogrades eat radiation like it’s an all you can eat Frozen Yogurt buffet. If you find an all you can eat Frozen Yogurt buffet, let me know, I will fly out and do my damnedest to eat that place out of business. But back to the Retrogrades, there is absolutely nothing that a Retrograde can do to achieve the public definition of being pretty. They are rotted, zombie like, and all in all very unpleasant to look at.
This was my not so subtle dig at a lot of the visual identity issues that are created by the marketing of unjust visual identities defined by much of media. While the Retrograde specific book hasn't come out yet, the definition of the culture of the Retrograde is defined by the acceptance that they will never achieve the accepted worlds definition of ‘pretty’ and being just OK with that.
Now since I have already written 7 books on the world of a projected 13-15 book set, and there are a ton of strains and driving ideas behind even the definition of the faiths, I am going to have to break this post into a few different blog entries. Next I will probably try to hit the majority of the rest of the strains, and after that hit on the inspirations behind the expanded information behind the faiths, and lastly into the entire infection and gravemind as a whole.