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[Inclusivity/Setting Hacking/LGBT] Queering Talislanta

Topher

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Durne, a land of rolling hills and light forest inhabited by fierce predators, lies to the north-northwest of Cymril. While the surface is beautiful - if inhospitable - the real action is going on underground, which is where the Gnomekin live.

Gnomekin are about three feet tall, with brown skin and a mane of black hair. Their bright green eyes are rarely seen above-ground, where they wear thin amberglass cusps to protect their vision from the harsh light of the sun. Other races tend to project qualities like "innocent" and "childlike" onto them, but the Gnomekin themselves simply don't care about many things that are important to surface-dwellers - and they are willing and able to defend their homeland fiercely when it becomes necessary, as the Darklings discovered during the One-Day War.

Although important jobs like hunting, fishing, fungus-farming, crafting, and crystal-harvesting are open to anyone, two very important roles are firmly gendered: warriors are always male, and priests (known as the Daughters of Terra) are always female. The two most important public figures in Durne follow this rule as well: the Gnomeking is the commander-in-chief of the Gnomekin army, and the Gnomequeen is the head of Terra's priesthood. Although the Gnomeking and Gnomequeen are not required in any way to be married to each other, it is often seen as a good omen when they are. Both roles are hereditary, though, so married rulers only tend to happen once every several generations.

While all Gnomekin warriors are male, occasionally a female-bodied Gnomekin feels called to train in the ways of arms. This is allowable, but only if the Gnomekin "becomes a man" in all ways. The new male is forbidden from the priesthood and is expected to marry a woman, and is given the same sympathy and consideration one would give to any infertile man.

Unfortunately the reverse is not possible. Terra is a stickler for detail, apparently, and only accepts female-bodied Gnomekin as her Daughters. Male Gnomekin who wish to serve in a similar capacity often train as Crystalomancers and focus on learning the healing arts.

Same-sex attraction seems to be unknown among the Gnomekin, who prefer to marry early, mate for life, and raise up to a dozen children. Anything other than "monogamous heterosexual marriage" seems rather unnatural to them, although they tend to keep this opinion to themselves so as not to hurt the feelings of their culturally diverse allies in the Seven Kingdoms.

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Daughters of Terra being all-female is straight from the books, but I added the all-male warriors bit because I thought it would be interesting (the rulers of the country as the chief warrior and chief priestess are also my idea). The one-way transgenderism is, I have to admit, a cheesy nod to a Sandman plot point.

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Sabi Anobio is a Gnomekin Daughter of Terra who has only recently finished her training. As the daughter of Durnean diplomats living in Cymril, Sabi has never been to her homeland, but growing up in the grottoes and caverns of Durne Park, the Subterranean Market, and especially the Temple of Terra have given her an upbringing much like her cousins "back home." Feeling a calling from the earth goddess to the arts of healing, Sabi wants to go out into the world and alleviate suffering wherever she finds it - not just by healing physical wounds and illnesses, but also healing suffering spirits by fighting against slavery, warfare, and those who despoil the environment. She's all about peace, but boy howdy can she get angry when confronted with the evils of the world.

"No! You know as well as this one that the caravan is full of enslaved Batrean women. Don't care if it will anger the Sultan, we have to rescue them!"

Sabi is built with the Urban, Healer, and Daughter of Terra paths. Daughters, unlike most priests in Talislanta, don't use the Invocation magical Order (they believe that asking Terra for magic directly is ungrateful, given the earth goddess' many gifts to the world). Instead, they use the Crystalomancy Order. Sabi has access to spells in four Modes: Transmutation (limited strictly to healing), Ward (she is unable to invert this Mode for Hexes), Move, and Divination. Her spells and skills strongly center her as a support character, healing, protecting, and inspiring her allies. Her need to find magical crystals to focus her magic can be an interesting side-adventure generator.

If someone is interested in playing a magical, healing focused Gnomekin, but prefers a male PC, we can replace her with "Sabo Anobio," who has a similar personality and goals but with more secular motivations. Sabo would replace the Daughter of Terra path choice with Crystalomancer, which would alter his skill set a bit but keep access to the same four Modes of the Crystalomancy Order. Sabo is also much more likely to jump into fights using a crystalblade, saving his healing powers for after a battle.

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Topher
 

Topher

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Sindar is the arid kingdom to the northeast of Cymril. Barren and sun-beaten, it is dotted with impressive mesas - some as many as a thousand feet tall - which are home to the region's inhabitants, the Sindarans. These odd folk are unlike any other Talislantans, a fact explained by their legends: the Sindarans believe they are descended from a race from another world, whose ship crashed onto the ancient continent of Simbar (which vanished under the waves in the Great Disaster). Regardless of their origins, they are certainly unique - averaging seven feet tall, with wrinkled, sandy-colored skin, the tops of their heads are bisected by rows of spiny protuberances. This is an external sign of what's going on inside their skulls, as Sindarans are "dual-encephalons," with brains that are divided nearly in two, giving them a variety of advantages and disadvantages compared to single-brained races.

As seen by other races, the Sindarans are almost completely egalitarian in the matter of gender. Men and women are equally likely to be mesa scouts, alchemists, peacekeepers, miners, or Nadirs (champion players of Trivarian, a board game, who are also the political leaders of the nation). The Sindarans themselves are frustrated by this perception, since clearly men and women have completely different thought patterns and perceptions - you can tell by the way they play Trivarian! Unfortunately, since Trivarian rules and strategy are incomprehensible to mono-encephalons, the "stereotype" of a gender role-free society remains.

The one semi-exception to this rule is when it comes to child-rearing. While Sindarans enjoy romantic and sexual relationships, these tend to be short-term, and end amicably when one or both partners become bored and wish to move on. Long-term relationships or marriages are not a part of Sindaran culture (and typically looked at as "single-brained oddness"). Any children that result from these relationships are seen as the responsibility of the mother and her extended family, with the father often never even meeting his offspring. Within the mother's family, though, men are just as likely to be caretakers to the children as women are.

Homosexuality is about as common for Sindarans as it is for other Talislantan races (less than ten percent or so of the population) and same-sex relationships are treated exactly the same as opposite-sex ones. Bisexuality is unknown, and (again) is typically viewed as some silly thing people with only one brain get up to.

Very rarely, a Sindaran will be born with a male-identified brain and a female-identified brain. These individuals, known as Horizons, are revered and celebrated for their ability to examine the world through the conflicting (according to the Sindarans, anyway) perspectives of men and women simultaneously. Horizons are often champion Trivarian players or revolutionary alchemical thinkers. Sadly, the constant refrain of "you are special, you are unique" often convinces them that they are capable of overcoming the Sindaran inability to comprehend magic - but just like any other Sindaran who tries to cast a spell, doing so causes irrevocable brain damage, leaving behind a Sindra (a polite term meaning "Demented One") with the use of only one brain, and a defective one at that.

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"They have gay people" was an easy addition. I thought that having gendered traits that mono-encephalons couldn't detect would be right in theme with these folks, and I created the Horizons as an interesting take on what having two brains might mean (although I'm not sure if it's the Sindaran equivalent to being transgendered or to being intersexed). I deliberately made the Horizons super-awesome-cool in the eyes of their society as a nice break from the usual (bigotry at worst, "oh you poor thing" at best).

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Den Donar is a Sindaran effectuator (basically the Tal equivalent of a detective) and a member of the Cymril City peacekeeping force, as his mother was before him. Although he's only been on the force for a short while, Den is already developing a reputation for brilliant deductions and an incorruptible sense of honor. He's also developing quite a reputation for the amount of skoryx he drinks when he's not on duty, but nobody's perfect. Den is determined to live up to his mother's accomplishments, and firmly believes that any crime can be solved and any mystery can be unraveled with enough applied brainpower. Using magic to catch a culprit? That's just cheating.

"Isn't it obvious? Look, there on the windowsill. I'll need to do an alchemical analysis, but that glittery substance is undoubtedly residue from the wings of a Muse. And we know the victim made frequent use of courtesan services. Our next stop will be the Astar Gardens nymphorium."

Den took the Urban background path, then took the Effectuator career path twice, so he's very focused on what he does. Luckily the Effectuator path has a nice assortment of analytical, social, and combat skills (he's equally talented with a longsword and a Rod of Alchemy, a Sindaran weapon used to expel various alchemical powders at a target). As a Sindaran he's naturally ambidextrous and has all the advantages of being a dual-encephalon, but I also gave him the Alcohol Intolerance quirk to show how badly he gets smashed when he gets into the skoryx. He also has - like all his race - a mild obsessive-compulsion to add things to a personal collection. His is made up of various fangs, claws, stingers, spines, and other dangerous body parts from animals and monsters.

Den can easily become Deni, a female Sindaran, if the player prefers. While Sindarans would consider this a massive change in neural patterns and perceptions, the other players should not be able to tell a difference. ;)

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Topher
 

Topher

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Kasmir is the desert kingdom located east of Cymril. Its position makes it the prime point of entry and exit between the Seven Kingdoms and the Wilderlands of Zaran, and the eastern lands beyond. The resulting tariffs on travelers and caravans are just one source of the wealth that popularly characterizes the Kasmirans.

A very short, lean people, the Kasmirans appear shriveled and wizened even from a young age, with bulging eyes and gnarled-appearing but dextrous fingers. They protect their fair skin from the desert sun by wearing voluminous hooded robes, always colored with the most ostentatious and expensive purple dyes they can afford. A former slave race of the ancient Torquarans, the Kasmirans' cultural memory of hunger, homelessness, and impoverishment acts as a constant drive to make and hoard money "just in case," a drive that has made them the most powerful economic force in western Talislanta - a Kasmiran moneylender is almost always found behind the scenes of every new business, trade caravan, or adventuring expedition. In addition to their financial acumen, Kasmirans are also renowned for their paranoia: Kasmiran trapsmiths and magicians are among the best designers of locks, traps, vaults, wards, and security systems, and no Kasmiran travels anywhere without at least one concealed (and usually spring-loaded) weapon.

Kasmir prides itself on being "traditional" and "conservative," although image and practice are often at odds. For example, Kasmiran tradition would indicate that men should be considered the head of the family and the clan, and in charge of all business practices, while women should be supportive and focus on childrearing. While lip service is certainly paid to this idea, in fact a Kasmiran woman who demonstrates she can earn more money than her brothers will be given greater opportunities and leadership positions; a significant minority of the leaders of the Old Families - the ancient clans - are Matriarchs instead of Patriarchs.

Similarly, Kasmirans frequently espouse the virtues of marriage and love, but in fact most Kasmirans have arranged marriages that don't occur until middle age, and only after protracted negotiations between the two families involved (often over which family is gaining the most canny financier and thus must provide a dowry). Extramarital affairs are considered abhorrent - and are very common.

Homosexuality is usually spoken of as "the Moral Weakness" and publicly condemned. As might be expected, same-sex relationships do occur, but are kept secret. Oddly, this disapproval only seems to apply to the Kasmirans themselves - the Thralls of Taz are considered to be among the most reliable and honorable allies Kasmir has, and the Muses of Astar are perhaps the only race that the Kasmirans actually feel compassionate and charitable toward (and wealthy but lonely old Kasmiran Patriarchs with secret Muse lovers have been exposed frequently enough to become a cliche).

Surprisingly, transgenderism is acknowledged and seen as an easily correctable problem. It's uncommon but not newsworthy for a family to send off a son to "do some business" in Cymril, and several weeks later introduce their daughter, who takes over all the missing son's duties. Commenting on the change is considered rude, and the ever-paranoid Kasmirans are even less likely to have their rings or amulets of Transmutation become lost or stolen than others who use them.

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Pretty basic stuff here. Ideally anything done with the Kasmirans will try to avoid the "fantasy Jews" stereotypes that they tend to attract. :/ The "we frown on homosexuality but being transsexual is fine as long as you get it fixed and you're straight" social trend is of course taken from several real-life cultures.

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Nadika kal Nolaad is a Kasmiran Trapmage and freelance security consultant. The kal family of the House of Nolaad is a fixture in Cymril, famous for producing the most fiendishly complex puzzle-locks that money can buy. Nadika spent several years as the "black aht-ra" of the family due to her decision to leave her Locksmith's Guild training after completing only the basic courses and apprentice herself to a Callidian Cryptomancer, but she is now back in her family's good graces due to the amazing success she's having with her consultancy business. She has a very high opinion of herself: she's not yet found a lock she couldn't pick, a trap she couldn't disable, or a vault she couldn't break into, and her clients pay well for her suggestions on how to improve security and her ingenious trap designs. While she ultimately hopes to open up this new market to the rest of her family, the truth is that she simply loves the thrill of defeating someone else's security, and the feeling of power it gives her.

"Wait...look at the pattern of tiles on the floor, laid out like a pentadrille game board. Any of you good at pentadrille? No matter. I have some tools in my pouch that shall let us cheat."

Nadika is built with the Urban, Burglar, and Neophyte Magician paths. If I'd had one more path to play with I'd have gone with Apprentice Craftsman, but as is, she is good at designing locks and traps but not at actually building them. More importantly, she's aces at defeating them. Her magical training is in the Order of Cryptomancy, focused around carving, writing, or tracing magical runes and sigils. The downside of this Order is that spells take longer to cast, but the upside is that they can be stored and triggered - perfect for setting magical traps. Nadika can cast spells in the Modes of Ward (to defend an area or item), Attack (usually triggered traps), and Conjuration (oops, you stepped on the sigil - have fun fighting the Nocturnal Strangler that just got summoned).

If a player is more comfortable playing this character as male, it's easy to convert her into "Nadon" and keep everything mechanically the same. Nadon would likely have spent less time distrusted by his family and received more encouragement in his new business venture, and may feel less need to prove himself or "be the best."

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Topher
 

Kaiju Keiichi

New member
Banned
Being the materialist that I am, I'm very interested as to how property relationships and inheritance works in the Tal setting. I feel that much of gender relations has to do with the ability to produce offspring (labor) and who controls property (capital.) Much as in our culture, these economic factors I feel systemically inform gender roles and relationships, and magic would of course affect these relationships.
 

Arevashti

Aspiring World-Builder
Validated User
Being the materialist that I am, I'm very interested as to how property relationships and inheritance works in the Tal setting. I feel that much of gender relations has to do with the ability to produce offspring (labor) and who controls property (capital.) Much as in our culture, these economic factors I feel systemically inform gender roles and relationships, and magic would of course affect these relationships.
Considering Talislanta is about as eclectic as it gets, it would probably be more effective to inquire into the policies of a particular race or culture. I doubt there's any one particular way in which they'd all work.
 

Kaiju Keiichi

New member
Banned
Considering Talislanta is about as eclectic as it gets, it would probably be more effective to inquire into the policies of a particular race or culture. I doubt there's any one particular way in which they'd all work.
I would expect differing circumstances based on culture and the physical circumstances of each, just like here on Earth.
 

Silvercat Moonpaw

Quadruped Transhuman
Validated User
The one-way transgenderism is, I have to admit, a cheesy nod to a Sandman plot point.
I think I've read of some Real-World ethnic groups doing this: if a family doesn't have a male one of the daughters becomes one.

Although given the sort of detail you're putting into these chances are you already knew about that.
 

apparition13

Registered User
Validated User
MTMD; about the only thing I have that's relevant is tossing out the "ugly brute" Batrean males. Both the males and females are basically sex on legs to anything vaguely humanoid. With non-Batreans they are pretty much pansexual, with a slight preference for same sex relationships. In their own settlements they tend to segregate along same sex lines, though procreative relationships (ones resulting in offspring) are regarded as significant in a different way than romantic ones.

As I see it, young Batre would have strong relationships with their parents, and regard all other adults as Aunts and Uncles. They also tend to have half-siblings as procreative relationships are rarely exclusive, though full-sibs are not that rare.

Outside Batre, Batrean are most likely going to be slaves or ex-slaves, with excaped slaves less common than ex-slaves who have purchased their freedom. Given their intelligence, and thepower of their pheremones, purchasing their freedom it comparatively easy.

I see Batrean neighborhoods in Cymril and Zandir, and maybe Caranthum, but the one in Cymril is the best know, or perhaps most infamous, since the Batrean/Dhuna/Muse combination can set off some interesing resonances.

By the way, I really like Midnight Realm, so my Aamanians are actually Sepharans (they still worship Aa), and the Zandir are a less explosively reproductive variant on the Tarterans. Brood (replacing Imrians) and Zoab (whose leading family carries the surnam "Quan") are also around.
 

Topher

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Banned
Astar is the heavily forested region southeast of Cymril. In the center of the kingdom lies the beautiful Lake Zephyr, which is surrounded by a peaceful, idyllic area known as the Enchanted Grove. Further out from the lake, however, predatory beasts become more prominent, only held at bay by the various armed forces of the Seven Kingdoms who are stationed here to protect Astar's inhabitants, the Muses and Whisps.

Muses are a delicate, fairy-like race with skin, hair, and eyes in a variety of beautiful pastel colors. They also have a pair of antennae and vividly-hued butterfly-like wings. Opinions vary on the race's origins; many scholars believe that they are sorcerous hybrids of Archaen and Plant Elemental essences created by the ancient Archaens as pleasure-slaves, while others tell tales of refugees from a destroyed kingdom called Faerieland in the Green World (aka the Elemental Plane). The Muses themselves seem not to particularly care - what good is it to research the distant past when the weather is so beautiful today? Muses occupy their time singing, dancing, creating vivid telempathic illusions, crafting beautiful musical instruments, fabrics, and wines, and seducing one another.

Overly emotional, flighty, and irresponsible, the Muses would be hard-pressed to survive without aid from their tiny "cousins," the plant elementals known as Whisps. Palm-sized fairy-winged humanoids, the Whisps are every bit as pragmatic as the Muses are hedonistic, badgering their companions to perform necessary work like gathering food or building light shelters (and doing the work themselves when their badgering fails). There are a variety of types of Whisps: Woodwhisps are wise teachers and leaders, Sunwhisps are healers and nourishers, Waterwhisps are romantic and moody, Nightwhisps are cruel and mischievous, and Earthwhisps are alien and reclusive.

Muses are by nature bisexual, polyamorous, and promiscuous. Occasionally a Muse will experience "True Love," usually for someone he's just met. This obsessive devotion may last anywhere from a few hours to a few months, but eventually the Muse will lose interest and return to a preference for casual, playful relationships. Muses don't really understand the concept of jealousy and can often end up confused and hurt by lovers of other races who expect "faithfulness."

Lacking any real family structures, a Muse who gives birth will care for her newborn only until she becomes bored or frustrated, at which point she will abandon the baby near some form of plant life. Shortly thereafter the vegetation will "give birth" to a new Whisp, who will become the baby's Companion for life, assuming the role of primary caretaker. A Muse's personality is usually influenced by the type of Whisp her Companion is - a Muse with a Woodwhisp Companion may have leadership qualities and even take part in the lottery to determine the Faerie King or Faerie Queen when it is time to send a representative from Astar to the Council of Kings; a Muse with a Nightwhisp Companion may actually be downright villainous.

Whisps, who don't reproduce in the usual sense, are completely asexual, with no primary or secondary physical sexual characteristics. They do, however, have gender. Those Whisps who are born to be Companions are always the opposite of the gender of their Muse charge, while Whisps who are born for other reasons seem to develop a gender presentation randomly.

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Much of Muse sexuality, relationships, and reproduction here is my work, as they've had surprisingly little written about them (even in the Cyclopedia). I folded and spindled the Whisps a bit to have them make a bit more symbolic sense. In the actual text, Woodwhisps come from plants, Waterwhisps come from aquatic plants, and Nightwhisps come from fungi. Earthwhisps were added in a supplement and came from stone, which broke the whole thing. So I went with a bit of a pagany re-interpretation: Woodwhisps from trees, the new Sunwhisps from balms (healing/helpful plants), Nightwhisps from banes (poisonous/harmful plants), Waterwhisps still from aquatic plants, and Earthwhisps from fungi growing in caves and such.

Muses are very much social/crafting characters (sometimes magic too), so my thought is that playing a Muse also means you play their Whisp Companion as a secondary character. When a fight breaks out the Muse can scream and run and hide, and the Whisp can brandish his tiny spear or bow and be a pint-sized badass.

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Narcissine is a Muse Chanteuse, both artist and artisan. Unlike the other pregen PCs, she was born and raised in the Enchanted Grove in Astar; she came to Cymril following her True Love...whose name she can no longer quite remember. But that's okay! She has a New True Love...who happens to be one of her fellow PCs (Brandigan the Bombastic is an easy choice, but any of them would work - Muses don't really discriminate). Narcissine has creamy pale skin, long golden hair, and pastel orange eyes; her butterfly wings are patterned in vivid orange and gold. She is a skilled woodworker and glassblower, when she feels like it, and has a knack for making musical instruments like the triole, gossamer harp, and glass flute. She plays the instruments as well, and is a talented singer and dancer, which serves her well in her part-time job as an entertainer at Cymril's Astar Gardens.

Flyt, Narcissine's Woodwhisp Companion, has barklike brown skin and a shock of bright green leafy hair, with wings in a variety of shades of green. Practical and a bit long-suffering, Flyt works hard to keep his charge safe and prevent her from impulsively doing anything too very stupid. If he feels she's in danger, he won't hesitate to pull out his spear and make threats - or shoot the offender full of tiny arrows dipped in soporific plant toxins.

"Yes, Brandigan darling, I know this expedition will be dangerous. That's why I simply must come with you! How will you get any rest in camp if I'm not there to soothe you with a massage and a gentle lullaby? Besides, I'm not afraid. If any scary monsters show up, I know you'll protect me, my love. ...Flyt, what are you scowling at now?"

":mad:"

Narcissine has taken the Rural background path and followed it up with Apprentice Craftsman and Musician. She's totally not a combat character, but she has great social skills (especially seduction and haggling), enhanced by her racial ability to telempathically project vivid images or emotions into the minds of others. She's also got a variety of handicraft skills that are more useful than they might appear. Flyt, on the other hand, has the Rural, Scout, and Guide paths. His flight speed and tiny size make him ideal for recon missions or trailblazing for the rest of the party, and he is skilled at constructing wilderness traps to protect campsites. In combat, his spear and arrows don't do a ton of damage, but he is an excellent, hard-to-hit irritating distraction, and that's before the sleep toxins on his arrowheads kick in. The player who chooses this pair of characters should be able to do something in just about every situation, and has the potential for a lot of very fun roleplaying. ;)

Narcissine and Flyt can be swapped to male and feminine, respectively, without having to make any other changes.

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Topher
 
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