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Into the Mother Lands: A Sci-fi RPG by PoC Designers

When Eugenio Vargas spoke to us on our podcast back in November about this Afrofuturist RPG, it was still months away. Now the game has hit Kickstarter, and has made over $100K in the first couple of days!


Imagine if African explorers had set sail for the New World long before Europeans did... but got transported to a new planet instead! This planet is developed by a civilisation of African descent.

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Choose from five cultures and several professions such as the Bio Priest or the Spine Ripper.

The team behind Into the Mother Lands is a group RPG designers, all people of colour, led by Tanya DePass, the founder of the non-profit group I Need Diverse Games.

You can pick up the PDF for $25 or the hardcover for $50, plus an array of dice, screens, maps, sheets and more.

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Bagpuss

Adventurer
Perhaps part of the the funding goal involves paying for an official license for Cortex Prime. That might be expensive.

Then they should have mentioned that if it is part of the funding goal.

If it is a stretch goal it also should have been mentioned there.

All they have said is the final amount will decide if they license a system or write their own, with no indication of which systems they are after. If they are after a particular system surely they could have investigated how much that costs prior to the kickstarter and added it to the goal. If they are writing their own system I think they should have it a bit more developed before they go to a kickstarter.

I’m excited about the setting first and the system second.

I'd be excited if we knew a bit more about it. At the moment there is no indication of who the antagonists might be, is it tied to one planet or are they spacefaring? What threats exist, how much of an influence is Islam on the culture considering the expedition was sponsored by Mansa Musa?

What does "decolonizing" mean when they literally go and colonize another planet (heck they even rename it Musalia after their ruler)? Of course the expedition wouldn't be a colony in the traditional sense as it wouldn't be in contact with it's home empire, and since the setting seems to be set now or near future a thousand years after they arrived I guess they have integrated. Still for a "decolonized, none imperialist" setting, it seems to have a lot of the old tropes of traditional RPGs. Culture and Race seem tied together so Hyneanole are all scholars and lore masters, Musalian are all outsiders, Misajai are Healers and Law Keepers, though RPGs were getting away from that?

So many unanswered questions that are sort of key to the setting.
 
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imagineGod

Legend
I think we have a winner. That sounds very much like a real-life reason to not yet declare the system. I wonder how much a Cortex Prime license costs...
Honestly, it cannot be that expensive. Else new settings will all end up using the D&D OGL like The Wagadu Chronicles of African fantasy did last year.

Though if this project is truly ace, like Connor Alexander's Coyote and Crow Native American Futurism, the game engine should have been developed early on this journey to Kickstarter. Connor explained brilliantly why he chose a d12 dice system.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
I'd be excited if we knew a bit more about it. At the moment there is no indication of who the antagonists might be, is it tied to one planet or are they spacefaring? What threats exist, how much of an influence is Islam on the culture considering the expedition was sponsored by Mansa Musa?

What does "decolonizing" mean when they literally go and colonize another planet? Of course the expedition wouldn't be a colony in the traditional sense as it wouldn't be in contact with it's home empire, and since the setting seems to be set now or near future a thousand years after they arrived I guess they have integrated. Still for a "decolonized, none imperialist" setting, it seems to have a lot of the old tropes of traditional RPGs. Culture and Race seem tied together so Hyneanole are all scholars and lore masters, Musalian are all outsiders, Misajai are Healers and Law Keepers, though RPGs were getting away from that?

So many unanswered questions that are sort of key to the setting.
I find that conflict to be actually rather interesting. There is often the danger of falling into a "noble savage" trap (there is probably a better word for it but I can't think of any) when you tell "decolonizing" stories (is this game even intended to be about decolonizing?) and have the people all act good just because of who they are to contrast the "evil colonizers". And yes, in such games, at least from the outside, its often very hard to see who the actual antagonists are as, by design, everyone is always describes as harmonious and peace loveing, again just as a contrast to the colonizers.
But imo if the balance of power in history had been different I have little doubt that Africans or also Native Americans would have acted not all that differently from Europeans.

I, too want to know how much influence Islam plays in the setting, after all you do not see islamic influences often in RPGs so it would be a nice change. And because of the futuristic setting and the longs split from earth there is enough opportunity to have the religion in this game to have morphed enough over time to avoid any real world issues about religion.
But seeing terms like "android priest" in the class description they put up I think they intended to do completely fictional religions. Although I do get a bit of a Ka'ba from their Malisuuna picture. Although if I am honest, thats just because the Theater in the picture is black and has a geometric shape.

But you are right about the stereotyping and tying culture/race to class now that you mention it. But its hard to say for sure with the little information we have.
 
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Bagpuss

Adventurer
Trying to find out a bit more about it, so started watching their streamed gaming seasons.

But here it is all linked to Cortex, if that isn't the system they are going with seems they have a mountain of work to do.
 
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imagineGod

Legend
I find that conflict to be actually rather interesting. There is often the danger of falling into a "noble savage" trap (there is probably a better word for it but I can't think of any) when you tell "decolonizing" stories (is this game even intended to be about decolonizing?) and have the people all act good just because of who they are to contrast the "evil colonizers". And yes, in such games, at least from the outside, its often very hard to see who the actual antagonists are as, by design, everyone is always describes as harmonious and peace loveing, again just as a contrast to the colonizers.
But imo if the balance of power in history had been different I have little doubt that Africans or also Native Americans would have acted not all that differently from Europeans.

I, too want to know how much influence Islam plays in the setting, after all you do not see islamic influences often in RPGs so it would be a nice change. And because of the futuristic setting and the longs split from earth there is enough opportunity to have the religion in this game to have morphed enough over time to avoid any real world issues about religion.
But seeing terms like "android priest" in the class description they put up I think they intended to do completely fictional religions. Although I do get a bit of a Ka'ba from their Malisuuna picture. Although if I am honest, thats just because the Theater in the picture is black and has a geometric shape.

But you are right about the stereotyping and tying culture/race to class now that you mention it. But its hard to say for sure with the little information we have.
A classic example is how The Emperor of China united all. Orv the Mongolian Expansion. Or even The Golden Age of Islam and the inroads into Europe. Or even Mesoanerican empires pre-European conquest.

The driving philosophy is key. Any doctrine of expansionism inevitably encourages Colonies on new worlds. When the Europeans set off for the Americas, the tag line The New World was in play once it was discovered it was not the East Asian route.
 


Bagpuss

Adventurer
For those not wanting to trawl through the mechanics (because as we can see from the kickstarter they don't know what they are yet), but are more interested in the setting.


This starts where he describes how they got to the planet over a thousand years ago.

Rewind to the beginning if you want to get a bit of an idea about the modified Cortex system they used, although having watched it, it wasn't particularly helpful as they didn't show any examples of actual characters or even how rolls really work.

I noticed on the subtitle text to speech system they are using the Musalians is translated as "Moose Aliens"... :ROFLMAO:
 
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Bagpuss

Adventurer
Weird, reading what I can find online about the history of the Mali Empire, it seems Mansa Munsa wasn't the one sending an expedition across the Atlantic, but his predecessor (Abubakari Keita II) sent two and departed with the second one himself (which consisted of more than 2000 ships) never to be seen again. Maybe he did but wasn't as famous for it or maybe this expedition is completely fictional?

Watching the AP they do keep going on about the setting not having the "baggage of western colonisation and slavery" seeming to ignore the fact that when Mansa Munsa went on his pilgrimage to Mecca he took with him 12,000 slaves. So you can bet any ships that went on an Atlantic expedition took with them a culture of slavery and probably a lot of slaves.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
For those not wanting to trawl through the mechanics (because as we can see from the kickstarter they don't know what they are yet), but are more interested in the setting.


This starts where he describes how they got to the planet over a thousand years ago.

Rewind to the beginning if you want to get a bit of an idea about the modified Cortex system they used, although having watched it, it wasn't particularly helpful as they didn't show any examples of actual characters or even how rolls really work.

I noticed on the subtitle text to speech system they are using the Musalians is translated as "Moose Aliens"... :ROFLMAO:
Origin Story: Its ok, the main feature is of course the ties to real world. Still nothing too unusual. Ships find strange, gigantic cave, seek shelter from a storm, emerge somewhere else (a place with two moons). Yes, Musa was rich, we get it. I played Civilization and watched documentaries, etc. Its not that much of a news.
To get to play "without having to deal with any of that earth baggage", meaning western slavery is technically correct, but the Arabic and African Muslims were big slavers themselves and have practiced slavery in Africa for centuries. So "that baggage" would actually be there. Not that there was much chance to enslave anyone when you are a tiny group of survivors landing on a huge, populated continent with vastly more technologically advanced cultures. So its easy to explain why that practice dies out very fast.
Considering that the Musalian and all the related cultures come from these tiny group of survivors I wonder if the setting will account for them being a very tiny minority on the planet. In most games humans are always the majority (even when they are not, I am looking at you Starfinder) which gets tiresome.

The Planet is said to be peaceful which makes me wonder what there is to do considering nearly all the classes shown are either combat classes or healers.

Character: So Bio Priests are basically Neo from Matrix (toned down of course), seeing reality and life as code. And despite the kickstarter saying its an android class it is open to others than Mansagene.

The skill list is fairly generic which, combined with the class descriptions leads me to believe that it will be a fairly combat heavy setting.
The values you can choose for your character: Balance, Duty, Exploration, Glory, Knowledge and Power, also sound very adventury in a D&D sense.

The Solanci sound like there will be variants within a race as there are Solanci living in a Oasis in a desert which have "adapted in a unique way". Obviously they are the druid/one with nature guys.
Mansagene: That they are not biological is played up in the stream and their culture also is against repairing their bodies (scars are also a form of beauty). That makes me wonder how combat and healing will work for them. Otherwise its the artistic/beauty culture.
That they have different faces to plug in and out depending on their mood etc. sounds like a interesting concept.

Hyenale: Basic loremaster from the sound of it who collect and share lore. Not sure how anthropomorphic they really are. The pictures show them as full bipedal animals while in the stream it is said that they have hyena looking parts (And it can be interpreted that those parts vary by individual, apart from some which are always hyena like like their face. But I might also just over interpret things).
Hathare(?): Another native culture which looks like anthropomorphic animals (that seems to be the theme for aliens they are going for. A bit outdated but not uncommon for SciFi). They are said to be rather large and as one of the stretch goals is a elephant plush, so its elephant people with a engineer culture apparently.

@Bagpuss You beat me to it with the "Baggage" comment.
It never occured to me that the exploration fleet was also a historic event.

In the comments of the video they also said that religion is not a factor in the game or the development (at least at the point the video was made).
 
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Grendel_Khan

Explorer
The Planet is said to be peaceful which makes me wonder what there is to do considering nearly all the classes shown are either combat classes or healers.
Your last post is a very helpful breakdown of the setting--they should ask you to write a campaign update! But that bit that I quoted from you up there is what still mystifies me about the KS campaign. If this place is so unspoiled by colonialism and generally wonderful...what do you do in the game? Not saying that all settings should be apocalyptic, but the good ones usually feature some clear inflection point or general period of instability. Descriptions of various utopian environments are neat and all, but those are typically places the PCs just pass through on the way to somewhere more dangerous. I don't care about Naboo or Wakanda during peacetime. I care about Tatooine, or Wakanda once it has to deal with the rest of the world, or faces a civil war (or similar).
 

Ixal

Adventurer
Your last post is a very helpful breakdown of the setting--they should ask you to write a campaign update! But that bit that I quoted from you up there is what still mystifies me about the KS campaign. If this place is so unspoiled by colonialism and generally wonderful...what do you do in the game? Not saying that all settings should be apocalyptic, but the good ones usually feature some clear inflection point or general period of instability. Descriptions of various utopian environments are neat and all, but those are typically places the PCs just pass through on the way to somewhere more dangerous. I don't care about Naboo or Wakanda during peacetime. I care about Tatooine, or Wakanda once it has to deal with the rest of the world, or faces a civil war (or similar).
I just listened to the session 0 stream and typed up what I noticed (skipping most of the individual character creation after the first one).
They do get a starship, so thats probably where the adventure is, including space combat as the ship will have a weapon station.
I do wonder what type of adventures you can have (or rather which they aim to support). The types of skills they have remind me of those condensed skill lists in games like Pathfinder or D&D which are mainly combat with a bit of skill on the side and also the classes are nearly all combat related.
Listening to more of their streamed gameplay sessions would probably be enlightening about this issue, but honestly I do not have the time to do that.
 

Bagpuss

Adventurer
Your last post is a very helpful breakdown of the setting--they should ask you to write a campaign update! But that bit that I quoted from you up there is what still mystifies me about the KS campaign. If this place is so unspoiled by colonialism and generally wonderful...what do you do in the game?
It is a planet hopping setting, spaceships and the like, so perhaps the Musalia (sorry shouldn't use the colonial name) I mean Vutoa is peaceful but the rest of the universe (or is it just solar system? Not got that far in the AP yet) are troublesome.
 

Bagpuss

Adventurer
The Solanci sound like there will be variants within a race.
Mansagene: That they are not biological is played up in the stream and their culture also is against repairing their bodies. That makes me wonder how combat and healing will work for them.
That they have different faces to plug in and out depending on their mood etc. sounds like a interesting concept.

Hyenale: Basic loremaster from the sound of it who collect and share lore.
Hathare(?): Another native culture which looks like anthropomorphic animals (that seems to be the theme for aliens they are going for. A bit outdated but not uncommon for SciFi). They are said to be rather large and as one of the stretch goals is a elephant plush, so its elephant people with a engineer culture apparently.
I'm still trying to understand how they can say "we wanted to get away from the biological determinism like calling it race or species or any variation there of, so we went with culture" and yet all these cultures only have members of a singular race or species as anyone else would understand them.

If they wanted to get away from biological determinism, perhaps they should have kept species, and added culture, so that people from one species could have joined other cultures? Here if you are human you follow Musalian culture, if you are an android you are the Mansegene culture, a planet/person then your Solani "culture", etc.

You can't just go replacing the word race with culture to fix biological determinism.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
I'm still trying to understand how they can say "we wanted to get away from the biological determinism like calling it race or species or any variation there of, so we went with culture" and yet all these cultures only have members of a singular race or species as anyone else would understand them.

If they wanted to get away from biological determinism, perhaps they should have kept species, and added culture, so that people from one species could have joined other cultures? Here if you are human you follow Musalian culture, if you are an android you are the Mansegene culture, a planet/person then your Solani "culture", etc.

You can't just go replacing the word race with culture to fix biological determinism.
Did they actually say that? Or that decolonialism is a feature of the setting?
It looks to me that the goal is mainly to represent cultures often overlooked in RPGs, here northern/central Africans, but the mission statement does not mention anything about any cultural goals.

Granted the stream made it sound like exploring your culture and your relation with it is part of the design goal. Still, this doesn't imply to me that you can't have more fantasy "monocultures" (warrior culture, scholar culture, etc.) and they did mention during character creation that most Bio Priest are Mansagene and that a Musalian Bio Priest would be unusal, but not unheard of and that this choice would be part of the things you can explore.
 



Stacie GmrGrl

Adventurer
When you're posting on EN World and using terms like "virtual signaling" and "anti-white" you need to stop posting.
It's a quote by the GM from the first AP video. As is my earlier comment about being free from the "baggage of western colonisation and slavery".
This is their selling point to score points and get immediate pledges to the KS from some people who are of the like mind-set who will back no matter what just to support this.

The other selling point of this KS seems to be that every person part of the writing and design team is a person of color, which is fine but making it a specific statement about the project is them scoring points with another segment of the population who will auto-back to support for this reason without looking into the project.

The third is the artwork, which is really good. Good artwork will always get me to look at a project, if only to check it out.

The success of this KS will not be based on the game itself, though. It Will be for the first two reasons here. It's another anti-colonialism (which is often treated as synonymous to also being anti-white when the tag line also includes the fact that no non-person of color is on the design team in any way) fantasy rpg based on hypothetical what-if white people were never part of the world culture.

I'm just imagining how people would react if this game was designed by an entire group of non-people of color and Advertised (virtue signaled) it like that and decided that every single facet of art and culture in the game completely ignored any reference to any of our world's (planet earth) many, MANY other people of color or indigenous cultures. I'm betting that KS would get slammed on Twitter for being bigoted and the designers pushed out of the industry.

As a person of earth and an anthropologist, I'm kinda getting tired of all the racism and hypocrisy.

It will be very interesting to see how they will write up a setting that has exploration in it without any colonialistic tropes at all. You can't expand any culture without establishing colonies somewhere to have a base of operation to further explore and settle. And no game, story or entertainment (tv show, movie, etc) can work without some kind of conflict in it. Conflict is the driving force of all dramatic situations and action in every good story told. Without conflict there is no reason for anybody to act.

If this game was a Cortex game I'd still be pretty tempted to back it. Cortex System is one of my favorites. The art is quite phenomenal IMO and the class (profession) names are evocative enough to definitely make them distinctive from other games. That's very cool.
 


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