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The Cat Comes Back

Started by Jonathan Walton, September 19, 2004, 04:18:31 PM

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Jonathan Walton

So, the initial toughts on my mod-in-progress, Lions on the Precipice, were shared and bounced around in this thread.  Now that I've gotten more settled here in China, I'm ready to get crackin' on this again.  

I just re-read parts of Gregory Dowd's "A Spirited Resistance" today, which talks about prophetic religious movements among eastern woodlands peoples (specifically: Deleware, Shawnee, Cherokee, and Creek), and spurred me on to start thinking about Lions again.  I still don't know exactly how much I want to base Lions on actual Mormon-Indian relations in early Utah, because, honesly, I know very little about them and don't have great resources here for educating myself.  And the eastern woodlands conflicts are SO interesting!  You have nativist and accomodationist groups fighting over the best way to deal with white colonialism, you have these prophetic revelations threatening those who draw their authority from existing traditions, you have the early formation of tribal identies and, for the first time, a kind of pan-Indian ideology that seeks to unite all native peoples against the US.  However, I don't know if it works to just export these conflicts to the American West, assuming that they'll be more or less the same.  I guess we'll see.

Following from what Emily said in the last thread, I'm now beginning to suspect that most conflicts in Lions will be somewhat different from those in most Dogs games.  Dogs conflicts (at least the ones you roll for) are like this: do you manage to do x/y/z and avoid outcome a/b/c?  Lions conflicts could be structured the same way, but they happen internally.  Do you master your soul and keep your enraged Lion Spirit from killing the local prophet?  You sleep with another Lion during a chance encounter in the wilderness and travel together for a few days.  Do you resist the Memory of Life and continue on your journey alone?

This means that traits would have to be contructed a bit differently too, I imagine.  What kinds of things would you use to resist the Memory of Life and how would the MoL up the ante in a conflict with you?

One possible option might be to have the GM or other players take the role of people who provoke you to act in ways you don't want to.  For instance, they'd play the prophet who was provoking your Lion Spirit and could raise the stakes by moving to physical violence or denouncing the Traditions right in your face.  Likewise, they might play your road companion and draw on physical attractiveness or emotional bonds or sweet words and promises.

How then to deal with temptations and conflict motivations that can't really be described as a person?  For instance, if the weather is turning horrible, but you're supposed to leave your current village (safe and warm) and travel to a far away place, someone could play a snowstorm, drawing on nasty, cold, dehabilitating traits in an effort to make the Lion turn back.  The question then is how to prepare these kinds of NPCs, especially if they're going to be played by other players in addition to the GM.  How do you decide what traits the snowstorm should have?

Jonathan Walton

Oooo, validation feels good:

Quote from: In 'The Land Looks After Us,' Joel W. MartinIn contrast to the Paiute followers of Wovoka [Paiute prophet], Lakota Ghost Dancers sang fewer songs related to nature and more songs related to the dead and the old way of life.  They danced to bring back a lost land of full of buffalo and devoid of white people.  In another departure from the Paiute Round Dance, Lakota participants wore the "Ghost Dance" shirts, muslin cloth garments painted with symbols such as eagles, the sun and stars, rainbows, and red streaks of lightning.  Lakotas thought that these shirts provided remarkable protective powers.  It is possible that "Ghost Shirts" were based on a Mormon ritual garment said to make its wearer invincible...

But now I'm tempted to make the Lions more like the Ghost Dancers, with their syncretic religion and nativist call to return to the old ways.  Maybe it would be good, though, if there was some abiguity about whether the prophets or the traditional leadership is right.  That would make things more interesting...

Jonathan Walton

One more quick thought (I'm such a loser, replying to myself):

To answer my own question, it's easy for the GM or other players to play the snowstorm if the Lions live in an animistic world!  So here's the big revelation: you can have Relationships with features of the natural environment and, because it's Lions, the natural forces in the world are antagonistic and probably hate you (you're an unnatural creation that should be dead).  So when someone plays the snowstorm, it's a somewhat anthropomorphic force that actively wishes you harm, much like the demons in Dogs.



In Dogs, every opponent a Dog faces is a piece of the local social breakdown in progress. Dogs aren't ever in conflict with a snowstorm, for instance, unless the snowstorm is contributing to the breakdown of the congregation.

I suspect that when you nail the relationship between the Lions and the social breakdown, the rest'll fall into place.


Ben Lehman

I'd like to suggest that you look into the role of the Man/Woman in Southwest Indian tribes.  Other than that they don't move around (well, and they they transcend gender roles), they function very much like Dogs.


Jonathan Walton

Vincent, what if the social breakdown in Lions leads to natural disasters, in a very classical Chinese Mandate-of-Heaven sense?  So when the People begin to go astray and give up the Traditions, the spirits of the natural world become angry and torment them.  And, if the People truly lose their way, then the Twins come down from the Mountains and wreck havoc among the people.  So the Lions are supposed to both fix the social breakdown and appease the spirit world.

Ben, I did read Guitierrez's When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away, which was criticized by native peoples as an oversexualization of pre-contact societies, but it did talk a bit about transgendered people among the Navaho (usually male-to-female or male-to-androgyne if I remember correctly).  You're right that their special authority is a good model to follow, and I did intentionally make the Lions (and Weaver Women, and Huntmasters) "dead" as a way of removing them from traditional gender roles and forms of sexual interaction.  I don't know if I really want to take that further and intentionally make the Lions have an ambiguous sexual identity, but that's certainly something that individual groups could choose to deal with, much like including "Hamite" African-Americans in Dogs.

Along those lines, there's nothing that says that the Lion Spirit that inhabits a Ghost Lion's body will necessarily be the same biological gender as the body.  Maybe Rock Lions, being demonic creatures, are thought to be non-gendered, or maybe Ghost Lions might think of themselves differently depending on if their soul is a She-Lion or He-Lion.  I guess I could include a list of possible complications to the basic game, but I think these are mostly group specific issues that don't necessarily need to be included in the core game.

Albert the Absentminded

Quote from: lumpleyIn Dogs, every opponent a Dog faces is a piece of the local social breakdown in progress. Dogs aren't ever in conflict with a snowstorm, for instance, unless the snowstorm is contributing to the breakdown of the congregation.

I suspect that when you nail the relationship between the Lions and the social breakdown, the rest'll fall into place.


The best way to do this in a baseline Dogs game might be to bring in the Mountain Folk. They worship local nature spirits and ancestors.

The ancestors could be considered "unclean spirits" because, instead of travelling to the court of the King of Life as is proper, they stick around to help their descendants. But they aren't demons, because they aren't eternally raging against the Will of the King of Life.

Likewise nature spirits - it's probably not their fault that the locals have been talking to them, providing worship energies, and otherwise waking them up and influencing them. They're still "unclean spirits" because they aren't obeying the proper hierarchy set forth by the King of Life - favoring the locals who provide worship rather than the Faithful - but, again, they aren't demons.

So either one might arrange for a supernatural snowstorm to slow troublesome Dogs down.

If Vincent is inclined that way, a future suppliment appropriate to an occult-heavy game might focus on ghosts, spirits, and demons. Ghosts need to be sent on, and spirits need go back to 'sleep', as it were, but demons need to be exorcised. Figuring out the proper response to a given supernatural menace could be tricky, especially since demons will surely masquerade as ghosts and spirits.


Emily Care

Hey there,

Just stumbled across a passage that made me think of kitties (italics mine):

QuoteAdditionally, an important part of Indigenous American traditional spirituality is paying respect to our ancestors, to those who died tens of thousands of years ago as well as those who have just recently entered the spirit world. The land that we live on today is made up of our ancestors; the food that we eat (for the most part) is grown from the soil that our ancestors went back to when they died; and the animals and plants in our world have also grown out of and been nourished by this soil. We thank the spirits of animals, minerals, and plants, and turn to them for strength and continuity.

This gratitude helps to maintain or regain the balance that is necessary to be a healthy and complete person. We understand that the spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual parts of ourselves are equally important and interrelated. When one aspect of a person is unhealthy, the entire person is affected. This too is true for the entire community; when one aspect of the community is missing, the entire community will suffer in some way.

(From How we find ourselves: Identity development and two-spirit people
Wilson, Alex. Harvard Educational Review. Cambridge: Summer 1996.Vol.66, Iss. 2;  pg. 303, 15 pgs)

Fits as an analog to the hierarchy of sin etc. in Dogs. Don't know if this is the social breakdown that would work for your world, but it's one that makes sense in RW native communities.

Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games