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ZEITGEIST Zeitvice: one GM's guide to the best AP

Lylandra

Adventurer
I wasn't trying to call anybody a sexist either, I just wanted to point out that we as presumed westerners are always doing stuff with certain conscious or unconscious biases in mind. Take for example the fact that we almost always assume fantasy societies being based on a western-style nuclear family as the default, with the occasional clan to add variety. Which is something that I learned when I studied the few real-world matriarchies or matrilineal societies for Zeitgeist.

We can see this in Kasvarina's family with her husband and two daughters and the fact that she didn't remarry after Pillai's death. So can we assume that Eladrin society was kinda like our modern society, but maybe more egalitarian? Should we try to generalize from this sole example of an elfaivaran family? Or is it just a coincidence, written without too much of an afterthought? (note: Even if it is the latter, don't see it as critique on the source material! I'm only interested in the author's intention)

I had this very same "problem" when I asked myself whether Crisillyir was based on a patriarchal structure or not. There are hints that it could be (historically more men in positions of power and this sentence that called Eladrin the "green temptresses", plus its very italian/catholic church vibe), but are these enough to warrant a definitive answer?

On a wholly different topic, what really put me off regarding the Akhela Sathi is that the way it is written could imply that any man could just go in and have sex once a year. Add this to the fact that the place is supposed to be your party's inn and keep in mind that other adventures are much more written from a male perspective with a male audience in mind and very lenient when it comes to brothels and arm-candy and you can see why this is potentially problematic. I had a quick exchange with RW about that, and he assured me that it wasn't intended and that the Akhela Sathi were for their enclave's population only.
 

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arkwright

Explorer
Actually you're wrong there, Lylandra. Book 8 repeats several times that Kasvarina had many husbands. In the book, the party meets two of them- Asrabey and Bhalu. There may very well have been more.

Crisillyir/the Clergy definitely does give off the vibe of being the not-Catholic Church, and at times the adventure treats them like they are. But for this issue in particular, I would disagree that the Clergy is patriarchal, given the many women in positions of power; Ottavia Sacredotte, Natalia Degaspare the secular leader and Savina Tullius the religious leader (in the absence of the Prime Cardinal.) The Family might be a more patriarchal Crisillyiri faction.

The book does state that 'any resident or visitor in good standing can request a night at the Akela Sathi', which does come a little close to 'any man can just go in.' And the book straight-up says 'if the party needs to rest and take a load off, the best place in Sentosa is also the most awkward', directing them to it. The Akela is volunteer-only, but consent can easily get iffy given the Elfaivaran condition.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
I was referring to the time before the Fall, to try establish how eladrin society may have looked like. If I remember correctly, Kas married Asrabey, Bhalu and several others as a commodity to further her plans, and that was after the Fall.

Same for the Clergy, and I agree that the theocracy is fairly egalitarian in the present day. I'm just interested in the state of the nations of Lanjyr from 500 years ago. But maybe the paragraphs from the Player's Guide were written before the concrete idea of how Crisillyir works was set in stone?
 

Arkwright, I always appreciate a critique and analysis. Likewise, for everyone involved in the conversation, it heartens me that people were engaged enough with the story that they'd want to debate what they perceive as its warts. And in the places where I let you down, yes, I often wish I'd spent more time and gotten more insight from others in the writing process.

I need to push back on what I feel is some targeted criticisms at Thurston Hillman. He and I collaborated a lot in the planning of this adventure, and while he wrote the initial version, I did all the editing, so I am ultimately responsible for anything you feel to be sexist, tone deaf, or just icky.

I will say, my intention with the Akela Sathi was never to have it come across as women being forced to sexually service men, where the men could just waltz in and ask for sex. I did expect it to be a bit of a fraught concept, and Kasvarina certainly did not approve of it. But in my conception of it, the eladrin society of Sentosa in the year 501 saw the Akela Sathi as a ritualized, almost sacred place, where the women who ran it were of high status, and were the ones determining what was the proper way for people in their culture to relate to sex and companionship.

(I think I probably should have used a clearer phrase than 'in good standing.' I meant it more like, "If they adhere to the standards that the matriarchy sets for how a man should behave, and have distinguished themselves by serving the community with respect and honor.")

It also certainly wasn't intended to be a focal point of the whole culture, but I do look back and realize that Elfaivar didn't get as much time to breath in the narrative. Then again, that's how a lot of the setting ended up. Risur got the most attention, and after it Ber was the only place to get an entire adventure devoted to it. I think at the time I was more thinking about delivering an ongoing mystery and less about being culturally sensitive and avoiding played-out tropes.

I'm now of course a bit anxious to see what folks think of the Elfaivar section when the full setting book is released. Arkwright wrote the first version, and then I edited. It's already in the process of layout, but, well, if two or three people wanted to read the final text and offer feedback, let me know. It might help me avoid another generation of unintentional misogyny.
 

arkwright

Explorer
-Lylandra
Oh yeah, we have much less information on Elfaivaran and Clergy society pre-Malice. Something that interests me is the possible-Triegenes empire that likely stretched from Danor, across Drakr to Crisillyir, the greatest the world has ever known.

-Ryan
An subtlety of book I like is that amnesiac-Kasvarina condemns the Akela as 'institutionalised prostitution.' However the Book's portrayal of it as a quasi-sacred place, and the gender imbalance, does a good job of indicating that Kasvarina is judging it by the standards of pre-Malice eladrin. At the same time, she voices feelings some players may have about the institution.

Elfaivar does get some other lore beats, like the gods and the subtlety that perhaps post-Malice Srasama has ironically become far more important than she was pre-Malice. But many plot points throughout the AP do tie in to eladrin as trophies; Gale's backstory, Isobel Travers, the Akela to some degree.

I think Book 8 offers great opportunities and material for a GM to flesh out Elfaivar and tie it in to Kasvarina's character arc.

I have confidence in what I wrote, partly thanks to my work benefiting from the kind help of a friend of mine who is a skilled writer and worldbuilder, as well as very good at creating compelling and sensitive female characters. Of course I would still be happy for Ryan's final edited version to be read over and checked by anyone interested.
 

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