Tales of Lost Omens: The World Expands

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Hadizah stood stiffly between two other students—one a degenerate lizardfolk and the other a savage Ekujae elf—as their frail teacher Mawunyo gestured with a staff at the vine-covered towers, graceful arches, and broad towers of the Magaambya, greatest magical academy in all of the Mwangi Expanse, if not the world.

"You embark now on a life of study and service." Mawunyo's voice was rich and resonant despite his slender frame and reminded Hadizah uncomfortably of the ringing tones of the priests of the Deathless Child back home. "You have been chosen because we see great promise within you, passion and will, spirit and intellect, strength and judgment... and perhaps a few seeds of wisdom that might sprout and blossom if tended." The teacher's assistant Kweku chuckled, and Hadizah risked a glance at her. She'd been with Mawunyo for years, apparently, traveling with him to the far ends of the world (and even, some rumors said, beyond). Her robe's hem was spattered with mud and her hair was a thousand messy braids and an hour after meeting her Hadizah was more than halfway in love. Inconvenient.

Several terraced buildings in the late afternoon sun, the light filtering down from the upper left. The buildings are surrounded by leafy trees and plants grow on the sides of the buildings and terraces. On the right, the terrace in front of a building is neatly manicured and has a small group of people in robes gathered. One holds a staff with a glowing red end up to the sky as the others look on. A cloaked, hooded person watches from the stairs leading up to the terrace.

Illustration by Tomasz Chistowski

Mawunyo went on. "You come from different places, but you are all children of the Expanse, as am I. We are the successors and inheritors of Old-Mage Jatembe, who taught that those who use great magic bear great responsibility, and that we must use our knowledge to better the world. I do this by teaching such as you."

"And by beating demons to death with sticks," Kweku said.

Mawunyo shrugged his bony shoulders. "When I am abroad. As needed. With sticks made especially for the purpose." He thumped his staff, which hadn't previously struck Hadizah as particularly threatening, but now did. "We need no such weapons here. Nantambu the Song-Wind City is the safest place I have ever lived."

"So safe we leave sometimes just to feel the thrill of danger," Kweku said.

Mawuonyo took no notice. "Those who mean this city harm soon discover the folly of attacking a place hundreds of mages call home. No invader has needed to learn that lesson recently. This safety gives us the freedom to learn in peace. I am here to help discover how your talents might best serve the world." He leaned on his staff and gazed at each student in turn. The instructor's eyes seemed to penetrate Hadizah's soul. Hadizah hoped they couldn't.

The old man spoke. "Tell me: once you have attained the power of which you dream, what goals do you wish to achieve?"

The lizardfolk spoke slowly, with many words in a tongue Hadizah didn't know, but the gist seemed to be something about improving prospects for the females of its species. Perhaps it was female? Hadizah had no idea how to tell. Such creatures were not common back in Mzali. Then the elf spoke, something abstract about combining arcane and druidic arts to make an alloyed magic stronger and more flexible than either alone. Mawunyo and Kweku nodded along thoughtfully during these speeches, then turned their gazes to Hadizah.

He straightened his spine and said, "I come from Mzali, home of the Deathless Child, who rules my people with fire and fear. Do you know the place?"

"I have been there," Mawunyo said. "When it was a place of fading glory, before the child mummy Walkena woke and seized control. Not since."

"Citizens are... not encouraged to leave," Hadizah said. "Walkena demands obedience and sacrifice, and his rule is cruel if you do not have his favor. There is a group, the Bright Lions, who seek to overthrow Walkena's rule and return control of the city to the living. The Lions discovered my interest in the arcane arts and offered to help me come here. They did this purely out of kindness... but I wish to return that kindness, and to turn whatever power I gain toward their cause. If left unchecked, Walkena will achieve his goal of uniting the whole of the Expanse under his burning banner. He would put even this place to the flame. I wish to prevent that."

Mawunyo and Kweku nodded at that, just as they had at the ambitious proclamations of the other students, and deep in his hidden heart Hadizah relaxed.

"Take the afternoon to familiarize yourself with your living quarters," Mawunyo said, "and at least the immediate areas of the academy nearby. I will ponder what I know of your goals and resources, and tomorrow we will meet again to discuss the first steps of your studies." He turned and walked away, using the staff more as a prop than an aid to walking, it seemed to Hadizah. Perhaps he was less frail than he seemed.

The group broke up, and Hazidah headed for his dormitory, wondering where he might find a place of privacy to record the day's events. Kweku fell into step beside him. "Mzali," she said. "You still have people there?"

"I... not really, not anymore." He thought, briefly, of fire, and ashes, and stains on stones, but pushed those images away. Actions had consequences. He would make wiser choices than his parents and siblings had. "In a way, all the people in Mzali are my people, and deserve liberation." That sounded like something a friend of the Lions would say.

"I'm sorry to hear that." She spun and started walking backwards so she could face him while she talked, effortlessly going up a set of stairs in reverse. "This place must be quite a change. Not just the change in architectural style, but all the different sorts of people, the music in the air, the absence of a pervasive atmosphere of terror...."

"It is a... most refreshing change."

Kweku nodded and preceded him through a wide and empty plaza. "I wanted to mention, there's a small but dedicated group here studying the problem of your Deathless Child Walkena. I know some people on it—there's even a Tempest-Sun Mage among them. Maybe you'd like to be introduced?"

Hazidah hesitated. He didn't know if he'd been sent to this place on orders directly from the child-god Walkena himself, as the priest who'd recruited him claimed, or if he was part of that priest's own pet project, but either way, his mission was both simple and dauntingly complex: find out the weaknesses of the academy, and discover how the mages here would deal with an invasion from Mzali, so the Deathless Child might better counter their plans. Being part of a group specifically addressing the threat of Walkena would be perfect for gathering such information, but it might also expose him to greater scrutiny, and his mission was meant to be slow, cautious, and years-long. "I am not sure I have much to offer to such a group."

"Oh, I don't know." Kweku grinned. "Having a double agent who's trusted by the Deathless Child's priests could be very advantageous for us."

Hazidah froze. His hand crept toward the interior of his robe, but Kweku snorted. "You'd lose a fight with me anyway but look up before you even try."

He quickly flicked his gaze upward, and saw something in the air above him, like a flash of sunlight on bright metal. The stories said the Tempest-Sun Mages flew high above the academy, watching for approaching threats... and they were capable of dealing with more dangerous foes than Hazidah. He lowered his hand and gazed levelly at Kweku. "I suppose I should have feigned confusion."

"Many spies would have, but this saves time. We've known about you since you first applied. The spellcraft hiding your lies is good, but we did a deeper delve into your story and found some loose threads that unraveled when we pulled on them." She stepped close to him, and he tensed, expecting an attack, but instead she looped her arm through his. "Walk with me."

"Are you taking me to be executed? Or to break my mind and make me your servant?"

"Life under the Deathless Child has not been good for you, Hazidah. You see enemies everywhere. I'm not your enemy. I'm your teacher. And what I'm going to teach you is that you're on the wrong side."

Hazidah shook his head. Loyalty was all—the foundation of every temple, the ground beneath every step, and to transgress against Walkena was to face the Punishment of Seven Angry Suns. The priest who'd recruited him had made provisions to ensure Hazidah's loyalty even if his faith faltered, though. "Even if I were swayed by your lies, my obedience is compelled by powers far beyond my will."

"Oh, yes, I know," Kweku said. "Your bindings have bindings. Those will have to be removed if we hope to make any progress." She patted him on the arm. He tried to remember the last time he'd been touched in such a friendly way. "It's a good thing we're in the greatest magical academy the world has ever known, surrounded by experts in magic, isn't it?"

His heart stirred at her touch. He'd never met anyone like her at home—she was intelligent and powerful, but she was messy, and impulsive, and outspoken. Everything he should hate: a native of the Expanse who'd been corrupted and weakened by the outside world, and who sought to bring that poison back home. And it was poison. He could pretend to play along, let them think they'd won him over to their cause while he gathered intelligence to use against them... surely there were such things as triple agents—

She stumbled on a loose stone and put her hand on his arm to steady herself... then left her hand there as they walked.

"Will you be... working with me closely?" He stared down at her fingers, curled over his forearm.

"That's the idea. I'll be your handler, Haz. We'll do great things."

Haz. His heart stirred again, and he thought: what if she corrupts me? Would it be better to fight back now, and die, still pure? Or had he pledged his allegiance to the wrong flame—the flame of his master's power, rather than the flame inside himself?

She stepped away to lead him through an archway at the base of a dark tower, and when her back was turned, he reached out to her.

Even he didn't know, in that moment, if he was reaching out to strangle or embrace.

Tim Pratt
Contributing Author

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Tags: Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Tales of Lost Omens Web Fiction

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I was going to say something about two of the characters being referred to as a "degenerate" and a "savage" until I reached the end of the story and realized we were looking into the mind of a villainous narrator.

Paizo really needs to start an adventure path in the Magaambya.


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Oh, I like this, Mzali has been a place I've wanted to take the fight too for some time, though Usaro was further up my list. Since the latter seems to have been taken care of however...well this should get interesting.

I'm curious to see what Adventure Paths follow Age of Ashes and Extinction Curse.

Contributor

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It is so good to read Tim Pratt working in Golarion again. Loved this one and the last.


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David knott 242 wrote:


I was going to say something about two of the characters being referred to as a "degenerate" and a "savage" until I reached the end of the story and realized we were looking into the mind of a villainous narrator.

Paizo really needs to start an adventure path in the Magaambya.

I would 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th (etc etc) that statement. I’d enjoy the HECK out of such an adventure path.

Please paizo, please STRONGLY consider this.

Dean


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I enjoyed this story very much. Now I too want to see some adventures in the oldest academy of arcane learning.


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The Deathless Child Walkena is the one from Undeads Unleashed, right? That's a minor divinity that walks among mortals. I hope to see even more about it and Magaambya as well. Old Mage is among one of my favorite npcs and I hope he is alive so we can venture with him in an adventure.


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Adding my voice to the Magaambya choir. I'd love an AP set in the Expanse that actually starts out there and stays there. The beauty of the Magaambya is that it has room for both local PC's and those from anywhere in the Inner Sea.

Contributor

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This is great, I love the street-level look at the academy and its practices!


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I immediately want to read the novel that would sprout from this, just like I felt the other day when I read Tim's story about Ishaani and the efreeti.


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Yeah, if we could do an AP where the PCs help the Magaambya, that would seriously ring my bell... and it could help flesh out parts of the Expanse the way Rise of the Runelords fleshed out Varisia...

And needless to say, this little snippet was a delight.


Great story. Would love to read what happenes next.

Silver Crusade

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Now this was a great one, also love the art. The Magaambya has been something I've been interested in for the longest time, and it's living up to its glory.

Alos Kweku is awesome.

Silver Crusade

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I'd like to add my voice to wishing for adventures featuring the Magaambya, and the rest of Garund as well!

If we could get a map of the southern half of the continent that would be lovely too :)

Silver Crusade

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CrusaderWolf wrote:

I'd like to add my voice to wishing for adventures featuring the Magaambya, and the rest of Garund as well!

If we could get a map of the southern half of the continent that would be lovely too :)

I believe we are getting a world map in the Lost Omens HC, no idea exactly how specific it's gonna be but we are at least gonna finally see the southern half :3


So, are Tempest-Sun Mages a special archetype (I mean, I imagine they'll eventually get one anyway) or particular discipline, or is it just the group name for a bunch of high-level combat casters?

Silver Crusade

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Most likely 2 and 3, followed soon by 1.


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There is one issue I came across that the creative folks at Paizo may want to address at some point. In the course of doing research on medieval African educational institutions, I discovered that the most renowned ones (such as the University of Timbuktu) tended to be located in desert rather than jungle terrain -- and a little bit of thought made it obvious why there would be a basic problem with building major cities in uncleared jungle. Maybe there should be some sort of description of magic roadways that permit easy travel through the jungle without requiring too many trees to be cut down?

Silver Crusade

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David knott 242 wrote:


There is one issue I came across that the creative folks at Paizo may want to address at some point. In the course of doing research on medieval African educational institutions, I discovered that the most renowned ones (such as the University of Timbuktu) tended to be located in desert rather than jungle terrain -- and a little bit of thought made it obvious why there would be a basic problem with building major cities in uncleared jungle. Maybe there should be some sort of description of magic roadways that permit easy travel through the jungle without requiring too many trees to be cut down?

I have a feeling that Marvel fans would be more familiar with a magical city buried in the jungle than the desert.

But breaking expectations, even if it’s only the terrain, is a great way to move beyond stereotypes.


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Agreed about a Magaambya adventure path. I think considering their mastery of magic they should be able to build a jungle city without too much trouble. That said, a fantasy counterpart Timbuktu would be awesome as well!

Shadow Lodge

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D'aww, being tempted by goodness is the best alignment shift ever.


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Druids are part of the Magaambya tradition, so I don't think that the acadamy has any problems with life in the jungle. It's also an advantage when it comes to defence (again, particularly if druids are helping you).

Somehow I don't think that Walkena's crowd will have many druids helping them.

+1 for wanting to hear more about these characters!

The art is gorgeous, as always. Although I did worry about those ground-level rooms being very hot and humid (as there did not appear to be adequate ventilation) - until I remembered again: druids. And magic in general. :)


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Having regular access to Remove Disease would be a HUMONGOUS help for having a city in a jungle. Having regular access to the Fly spell and magic items that approximate it wouldn't hurt either.


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For his sake, I hope he choose to embrace her rather than strangle her.

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Whether he follows his dark path or comes into the light, dying now would be stupid.
Awesome story


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So yet another post on this region that includes Lizardfolk. I'm happy to see that there is a concerted effort to incorporate this species into the mainstream. It'll be nice not to have to play the "only inquisitive, non-xenophobic member of my species" type of character.

Contributor

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Seduced by the not-so-dark side... I like this a lot. Loved her walking backward up stairs and touching him so familiarly. I wondered what spells she might be casting on him.

Nicely done, Tim!


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Oh, pssh, she's not casting spells on him, she's just making Diplomacy checks. I do love the reverse-corruption angle, though, and the lizardfolk is fun. Gotta love lizardfolk getting more to do. The writing is fun and the worldbuilding is valuable and I love the dynamics of these characters. I would watch a Cartoon Network animated series about these kids.

What I'm curious about is this throwaway line, which is giving me problems:

Quote:
Everything he should hate: a native of the Expanse who'd been corrupted and weakened by the outside world, and who sought to bring that poison back home.

See, this seems like a kind of clumsy line, as it could easily be taken to imply Mzali is basically just another "oh no extremist anti-imperialists" villain plot like what we had in Serpent's Skull. Mzali is clearly supposed to be a fascist empire, so obviously they're going to hate all outsiders—but why should a fascist care if one outsider is "corrupted" by another outsider? Kweku is no more a True Mzalian than the lizardfolk is, or, indeed, than your average Chelaxian/Osiriani is. It only makes sense if Mzali is simultaneously a fascist conqueror targeting the continent and has some sort of inclusive Pan-Garundian ideology, and those ideas don't even slightly mesh.

Paizo had this thing in Serpent's Skull where we kept running into Reverse Racist villains, like the "extremist abolitionist" at the start who holds a friend hostage and is impossible to persuade to back down. It's frustrating to encounter stories like that, because it highlights facets of racism that a lot of people don't care to understand the nuances of. It's how we get the, "You say black people can't be racist but someone called me a cracker at the grocery store just yesterday" arguments. Of all the ways to interpret Mzali, it's one of the most frustrating and least compelling, so I do hope that it's just a throwaway line and not indicative of Paizo's overall intentions for Mzali.

(I also think that as cool as the ambiguity of the ending is, "I'm gonna hug this woman I met five minutes ago" sort of feels unearned. It doesn't bug me as much as it could, though. It just doesn't feel like it was set up well enough to generate real ambiguity. If it was something like "take her hand" it'd be corny but it'd match the vibe of the scene better.)

EDIT: An alternative reading of this line, and the one I think was probably intended, is that the Mzalian character sees other human natives of the Mwangi Expanse as being "basically Mzalian", like an alt-right German might value an Austrian or a Swede. In that reading, she's been "poisoned" as much by the Ekujae elves and lizardfolk as by anyone else, and other continents or the whole Eleder situation don't even have to enter into it.

I think this was the intention, and I'm curious how others read that line. I didn't set out to read this story and look for problems—I'm just a lot more sensitive to them when Paizo writes about the Mwangi Expanse, and that's owing to my experiences in Serpent Skull. :P

Silver Crusade

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It could also be a callback to the beginning where he makes note of her being both Mawunyo's teaching and traveling companion, and thus spent a large amount of time in the "outside world".


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From the Pathfinder wiki entry on Mzali, though I don't know the actual source: "Today, Mzali is the centre of Mwangi nationalism. Walkena seeks to unite the entire Mwangi Expanse under his rule, and aims to drive out all non-Mwangi from the region. Those who trade with outsiders are considered to be traitors, who plunder the Expanse's precious and irreplaceable resources for personal gain."
So yeah, I think it's specifically the Mwangi ethnicity he's appealing to, not just citizens of Mzali itself. Racism more than nationalism.

Conquest and pan-continent/regional ideology have often matched quite well. They just need to be divorced from a strictly nationalist ideology. "Unite under my banner to protect our people from the threat of attack from without and corruption from the aliens within."


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Rysky wrote:
It could also be a callback to the beginning where he makes note of her being both Mawunyo's teaching and traveling companion, and thus spent a large amount of time in the "outside world".

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's what it is referencing.

And yes, I know that ultranationalism (which, yeah, tends to involve racism and, in fantasy, "specism") and pan-continental movements can mesh well—if you've decided to write an extremist anti-colonialism villain, which is a really tired trope. That's my point. I'd just as soon leave Avistan out of it. I don't think this is pan-continental so much as pan-Mwangi, however (which is still about nationalism if you think Mzali is the true heritor of that Mwangi nation), and that's a beast of a different color. I don't think the Reverse Racism angle was intended.

I will note that the Wiki isn't very reliable for these sorts of sensitive topics, since Paizo has written problematic stuff and then quietly retconned/de-canon'd it before. The wiki could have a mix of new and old information.

Wiki (via thejeff) wrote:
Those who trade with outsiders are considered to be traitors, who plunder the Expanse's precious and irreplaceable resources for personal gain.

Like, this, here? This is the kinda dumb thing I'm talking about. Because in Serpent's Skull, it's made explicitly clear that outsiders are plundering the Expanse's precious and irreplaceable resources for personal gain. You're literally playing in a classic Indiana Jones-style "let's venture into savage lands and loot their ancient dead" adventure. The adventure starts in a city where natives are enslaved and ex-Chelaxian invaders have started colonizing the region. And then you're immediately expected to fight an Evil Abolitionist. You're not even allowed to align with a native faction—you choose between the Pathfinders, the Evil Pathfinders, Pirates, the slavers, etc, because the Freeman's Brotherhood is only mentioned as a "these are the anti-slavers and they're too extreme to trust".

If being angry at those who cooperate with outsiders to plunder the Expanse was Mzali's actual motivation, we would be inclined to say, "Well, yeah, that's actually a pretty fair point." That's why I'm hoping Paizo has adjusted since that summary was written.


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Certainly possible, though it fits quite nicely into what we see in this story. Though I get there are potential issues with it, I don't think anti-colonialism maps very well onto Garund - the Mwangi Expanse wasn't nearly so colonized as sub-Saharan Africa was. Most of the continent has remained independent and out of Avistani control - Sargava being the only real exception.

And reverse racism is also kind of tricky to talk about in another world with other patterns of discrimination - that we're reading in our culture with our patterns.


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On writing "reverse racist" villains: We're reading it in our culture. It's written by people from our culture. I think we both know that it's silly to pretend it exists in any other context but our culture. That's why we don't give Save The Pearls the benefit of the doubt when it creates a "white people are the ones getting racismed now" dystopia.

Yes, it's a fantasy world, but it's a fantasy world that features not only overt national and continental allusions (Galt is Revolutionary France, Osirion is Egypt), it features, well, people, and we're going to recognize those people through our cultural understandings of race and gender. Someone from the Mwangi Expanse looks "black" to us, so if you write them a certain way, we're going to associate that with our cultural ideas of black people, even though race is basically a construct that may exist totally differently even elsewhere in the real world, to say nothing of imaginary worlds. Especially when the Mwangi guy is angry at the Avistani people stealing his land and enslaving his neighbors. Y'know, that's what coding is for, and I know you know that, so I hope I'm not being patronizing and you can help me understand you better.

Also, the point of pre-2nd Edition Garund seems to be that the colonialism hasn't really "hit its stride" yet—at least where the Expanse is concerned. Eleder represents basically the potential beginnings of conquest—comparable to an American or Australian colony, or even just any British colony ever in Africa if you imagine that the colony got free of Britain and started acting independently. Of course, Sargava might get destroyed by Mzali, or defeated in an AP (because we'll probably never get a Mwangi-centered AP where the PCs are actually expected to be Mwangi natives, so it's always gotta center on Eleder), or otherwise might have no chance of expansion, but that doesn't change the fact that it's literally a colony of white people enslaving black people? And I don't understand why we would even remotely consider not being willing to apply an anti-colonialism framework to the Mwangi Expanse when Sargava has provided our only introduction to it so far.

Golarion is obviously not parallel to our present-day, and in fact doesn't sync up easily at all in our timeline (consider the uneasy coexistence of vikings and Victorian vampires), but the impression I get is that Garund is currently facing threats of greater colonization but has so far remained fairly independent, similar to many parts of Africa up until the 19th-20th centuries. The implication is that things could get worse, and the coding of "Mwangi natives being taken as slaves by Chelaxians" is pretty explicit.

In conclusion (god I talk a lot, don't I?), it feels needlessly obtuse to reject the colonialism interpretation when a) it doesn't matter, because Garund is clearly coded as Africa even if there are clear differences and this media is being consumed primarily by Americans and "Global North" (ugh, terms) countries who will see that coding intuitively, and b) there are active and deliberate aspects of colonialism, at least in pre-2nd Edition Pathfinder, that Paizo clearly wanted us to recognize. Slavery. "Explorers" being mistrusted as invaders and trespassers. Literally everything about Eleder.

So, yeah, First Edition Pathfinder had a big emphasis on colonialism, and they ran a whole AP where it was this uncomfortable backdrop we were supposed to ignore so we didn't have to feel weird about looting the Expanse, and it was really awkward when we ran into natives and they were all "stop stealing our s@*+ and get the f$*# out" and we were expected to see them as the villains.

I think Second Edition Pathfinder is trying to move away from a lot of that and towards something closer to, yeah, certain Marvel-inspired visions. I certainly hope so.


I guess. My impression was that, despite Sargava, the Mwangi was much better prepared to resist colonization, largely due to magic offsetting any technological advantage Avistan might have, thus we're not on any path to "hit its stride".

And I'm not even sure which AP you're talking about. This is the first I remember hearing about any such "it was really awkward when we ran into natives and they were all "stop stealing our s%@& and get the f+*# out" and we were expected to see them as the villains". Of course, I may simply not have played or read it. There are a lot I haven't. Serpent's Skull maybe? Which I really don't know anything about beyond the initial shipwreck and something about a lost city & serpent god?

But yeah in general doing parallels gets awkward. You don't want to actually duplicate the colonialism and racism, but if the in-world situation is too different there's trouble making our reactions and what would be appropriate for the setting match.


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Not to be prickly, but I've mentioned Serpent's Skull five times so far here, and in every post I made except for the latest. I guess I was assuming we were all on the same page by that point about the AP I was alluding to. :P

I also did say that Sargava might not be on the path to conquest, and that wouldn't negate the fact that it's clearly coded as a, well, colony, that is able to take slaves and generally wreak enough havoc on the Mwangi Expanse for natives to get pissed about it.

Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Of course, Sargava might get destroyed by Mzali, or defeated in an AP (because we'll probably never get a Mwangi-centered AP where the PCs are actually expected to be Mwangi natives, so it's always gotta center on Eleder), or otherwise might have no chance of expansion, but that doesn't change the fact that it's literally a colony of white people enslaving black people? And I don't understand why we would even remotely consider not being willing to apply an anti-colonialism framework to the Mwangi Expanse when Sargava has provided our only introduction to it so far.

And again, even if Paizo didn't intend any colonialist coding at all (and, I'm sorry, they did), this game exists in a culture where "the evil nation in Fantasy Africa is angry at people from Fantasy Europe coming in and stealing their resources and taking slaves" is going to be read as a "Reverse Racist Villain" story, and I don't get why we had to stop and argue about it like it wasn't virtually self-evident.

Brief Black Panther Aside Before Someone Else Brings Him Up:
It works with Killmonger because they had a whole movie to dedicate to clarifying his motivations and the roots of his anger. He's really mad at Wakanda, and that's the core of his character—being abandoned and denied by people who should have helped him. The movie doesn't really go into how he's supposed to be a bad person for being pissed at white people because the so-called "reverse racism" (god, I'm tired of using that tired term) isn't the main point of his character.

Plus, the people fighting him were guaranteed to be, well, nonwhite. You don't have that time or that thematic control in a D&D setting, so the Reverse Racist Villain is not really worth the trouble.

Liberty's Edge

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Kobold Cleaver wrote:

Not to be prickly, but I've mentioned Serpent's Skull five times so far here, and in every post I made except for the latest. I guess I was assuming we were all on the same page by that point about the AP I was alluding to. :P

I also did say that Sargava might not be on the path to conquest, and that wouldn't negate the fact that it's clearly coded as a, well, colony, that is able to take slaves and generally wreak enough havoc on the Mwangi Expanse for natives to get pissed about it.

Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Of course, Sargava might get destroyed by Mzali, or defeated in an AP (because we'll probably never get a Mwangi-centered AP where the PCs are actually expected to be Mwangi natives, so it's always gotta center on Eleder), or otherwise might have no chance of expansion, but that doesn't change the fact that it's literally a colony of white people enslaving black people? And I don't understand why we would even remotely consider not being willing to apply an anti-colonialism framework to the Mwangi Expanse when Sargava has provided our only introduction to it so far.

And again, even if Paizo didn't intend any colonialist coding at all (and, I'm sorry, they did), this game exists in a culture where "the evil nation in Fantasy Africa is angry at people from Fantasy Europe coming in and stealing their resources and taking slaves" is going to be read as a "Reverse Racist Villain" story, and I don't get why we had to stop and argue about it like it wasn't virtually self-evident.

** spoiler omitted **...

I guess because it wasn't for many posters.

Not everyone is as versed in Mwangi/Mzali/Sargava lore as you are.

To note, alignment in PFRPG does not really care about ideology, but more about actions.

So, whatever his motivations, if Walkena does evil things, he is an evil person.

In fact I see Walkena as the Mwangi equivalent to Razmir : totalitarian god-kings with mythic cults of personality.

Shadow Lodge

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Kobold Cleaver wrote:
It only makes sense if Mzali is simultaneously a fascist conqueror targeting the continent and has some sort of inclusive Pan-Garundian ideology, and those ideas don't even slightly mesh.

Not only do they mesh, pan-nationalism was the direct ideological ancestor of fascism in Europe. See, e.g., pan-Germanism, pan-Slavism. Pan-Arabism and pan-Africanism have had their share of authoritarian and expansionist adherents as well, though the fascist label is debatable (most aligned with the Eastern Bloc in the Cold War). Gadaffi's regime in Libya was pan-Africanist and more than once attempted to conquer territory in Chad; Nasser's and Hussein's regimes in Egypt and Iraq were pan-Arabist, and Assad's regime in Syria is still theoretically committed to pan-Arabism even if it's kindof behind the times. Hussein's expansionism (vis a vis Iran and Kuwait) is infamous, and both Nasser and Assad had territorial ambitions in. . . let's say The Levant.


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Mzali has been mentioned several times here. If adventurers are going to run into (or be) Mzali warriors; what would a Mzali warrior look like (as far as weapons & kit)
A traditional Zulu kit, for example, might include; the Iklwa (a short thrusting spear), Knobkerrie (a form of light club), Assegai (a long throwing spear) and a large cowhide shield. How should these be stated? What kind (if any) armor would they wear in the hot desert environment? So far, almost all weapons & armor are either European or Asian (or their myths) based.
If we're going to do adventures in southern Mwangi, how about we provide some stuff that is uniquely from there (not just weapons and armor). Even if, for example, an iklwa is stated as a short spear or a short sword, being able to use it as a iklwa ads a lot of flavor.

Morag


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Most of the people of Mzali are of the Zenj ethnicity, which is known to use the iwisa/knobkerrie, which in the real world is a Zulu weapon.

Seems a little strange to me since the people of Mzali are hardly Zulu-like (or anything in particular to be fair), but the name Zenj is based on an Arabic name for the Swahili Coast, applied to a group of people in a Congo-like rainforest with names that seem to be inspired by South African languages, so the writers hardly seem to care about being consistent with cultural analogues. Which is kind of a shame since people in the "western world" tend to lump African cultures together all too often despite it being the world's most ethnically diverse continent, but I'd rather not have a detailed conversation about that as it's not very relevant to the story.

Liberty's Edge

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That bit of the story makes perfect sense to me. Walkena and Mzali are responding to a real and legitimate problem that the Mwangi Expanse has been having. They are doing so in an extreme and unrepentantly Evil fashion, with fascist leanings.

Many of the best villains are not purely Evil for the sake of it, they have a point. An argument and a cause that, taken on its own and ignoring their actions, even the most reasonable people can look at and say 'Hmmm, yes, that makes sense.' It's the things they do in pursuit of that cause (or that they claim are in pursuit of that cause, but actually reveal their hypocrisy) that make them villains.


Deadmanwalking wrote:

That bit of the story makes perfect sense to me. Walkena and Mzali are responding to a real and legitimate problem that the Mwangi Expanse has been having. They are doing so in an extreme and unrepentantly Evil fashion, with fascist leanings.

Many of the best villains are not purely Evil for the sake of it, they have a point. An argument and a cause that, taken on its own and ignoring their actions, even the most reasonable people can look at and say 'Hmmm, yes, that makes sense.' It's the things they do in pursuit of that cause (or that they claim are in pursuit of that cause, but actually reveal their hypocrisy) that make them villains.

This is a very good point.

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