Thursday, May 30, 2013

Petty Gods In Xeno-Meso

Pottery from Esteli, Nicaragua
Photo © 2013 John Everett Till
Good poets borrow, great poets steal. The best sourcebook for gaming is often reality. The primary reference for the major (and many minor, petit, or petty) gods in the Xeno-Meso setting is this work right here:

Many of the deities of the peoples of Xochiquetzatlan (quasi-decadent Aztecs), Olmeca (Mesoamericans of African descent), and the Maya in the Xeno-Meso setting are taken right from this book. However, like any GM I also like to create/extrapolate my own creations. And Gorgonmilk's Expanded Petty Gods project seemed a perfect opportunity to do just that.

The Original Petty Gods book came out this summer, and can be downloaded here. The Expanded Petty Gods project where my deities will be featured is forthcoming this summer. I have submitted three deities, three minions, and twelve magical items for this community project.

Two of my deities will be illustrated by the incomparable +Juan Ochoa, whose website is here. Juan is also illustrating the Titzimine, or Star-Demons, which are one of the minion races  created.

Another of my deities is being illustrated by +j garrison of Hereticwerks; regular readers of The Everwayan know I am a huge fan of Jim's writing and art and it was a great to be able to work with him on the art for one of my gods.

All of the deities, minions, and items that I created will fit-in extraordinarily well with the Xeno-Meso setting, as well as with other Mesoamerican settings. I imagine they can be adapted for a variety of other settings, particularly those that use a broader cultural palette than Western and Northern Europe.

Our creations will be of particular interest to people who enjoy combining planetary romance and pulp SF influences with their fantasy settings. Sorcerers using the spells of Space-Age Sorcery will find worthy allies, adversaries, and artifacts among our submissions.

So who are the deities? I'll wait until XPG comes out to provide all the details, but here are a couple of them:
  • Chicxulub, the Petty Goddess of Decaying Orbits
  • Wicked Skein, the Petty Goddess of Unwelcome Messages

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Strangerside Scholar: The Seven Unlucky Spherewalkers

Although the Sphere of Xeno-Meso is very far away from Everway, The Paddlers are not the only Everwayans to have visited the Sixth World. According to the scroll-book Things Seen In the Obsidian Mirror by Lightning Diviner Crookstaff  (and from the title we assume you can guess the name of the book's author), seven other Everwayans have visited that Sphere.

Apparently, none of them returned.

Instead, the scroll-book tells us they became Petty Gods among the peoples of the Sixth World.

Mr. Lightining Diviner Crookstaff's cursive is quite crabbed, and consequently his scroll-book rather difficult to read. But we are slowly making progress with the text.

In time, the Strangerside Scholar will have more to say about these unfortunates.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Paddlers Have Plans

"The Paddler Gods" by David Nathan Allen

The Paddlers arrived in the Sixth World through a sea gate known as the Blue Hole. They arrived with three of their pyramidal battle barges - The Black Ziggurat, The Lucre Ark, and The Sea Lion - and a hundred great canoes. They soon made friends and formed a firm alliance for trade and protection with the lords of realm of city-states known as The Forest of Kings. This was very much a game-changer for the Olmeca, who have experienced a loss of tribute and influence in the more southern extents of the Mayan lands.

With the consent of the Mayan lords, the Paddlers have built a harbor and shipyards on the Mayan holy island of Cozumel. The Lucre Ark guards the harbor, which is the Paddlers' new home. Sacred to the Moon Goddess Ix Chel, and ruled by its priestesses, the island felt like the just right place for the elders of matriarchal Paddlers to make their new home. Here on Cozumel, they could build new fleets, plan new expeditions of trade and exploration, be fertile and multiply.

The Sea Lion stands watch at the very tip of the Yucatan. Now the Olmeca dare not approach Cozumel by sea. The Sea Lion has an escort of 15 great canoes. Another 20 use The Sea Lion as a trade base for expeditions to establish trade relations with the islanders of the Near Sea to the east.

Meanwhile, The Black Ziggurat is nowhere to be found. She left Cozumel a month after the Paddlers arrived there, setting out on a secret mission with an escort of 15 canoes. Some say she has headed to the East across the great ocean; others say she goes far South.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Django-Tlaloc In Xeno-Meso

The man Django rides becomes a conqueror

An ancient Olmeca king deified in the times before they crossed the ocean, Django was the ancient god of fire, lightning, and thunder. As the violent king, he constantly expanded his empire through endless military campaigns and battles. Because of his bloody-minded focus and discipline, many today pray to Django for a strong will and self-control. Those whom Django rides become conquerors; they conquer themselves, and they conquer others.

A double headed stone ax is his symbol. Django chooses a champion by striking them with his lightning; look for the tell-tale scars on the flesh of the mighty. He casts lightning by hurling down stones from the sky. The tell-tale signs of his lightning strikes are often found on the earth after rains clear. These thunder stones are sacred to Django, and are often found in his temples and shrines.

Photo of Tlaloc by El Comandante
(*Full Attribution Below)
The Olmeca recognize the local deity Tlaloc as an aspect of Django. Tlaloc is the Xeno-Meso god of thunder and lightning, rain, water, fertility, and agriculture. His form is part lizard and part jaguar. He has the goggle eyes of a lizard and the teeth of a jaguar. Mountains are sacred to Lord Tlaloc, as this is where the thunder comes from.

Olmeca warriors, nobles, and aspiring kings worship the human, black-skinned, kingly aspect of Django-Tlaloc. In contrast, Olmeca peasants revere the deity's scaly aspect as the lightning-bringer whose storms renew the soil's fertility through fire and rain. Of course, the Olmeca's rulers and priests ignore another aspect of Lord Tlaloc at their peril. Lord Tlaloc also extinguishes fire - the fire of life - by drowning. This is something the other peoples of Xeno-Meso never forget.

*Mask of Tlaloc, nahua god of the rain (National Museum of Anthropology and History in Mexico City - Teotihuacán hall).

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ogun In Xeno-Meso

Among the spirit-beings or deities that the Olmeca brought with them from the old world, the deity Ogun stands out fearless and unchanged among his peers. His iconography is the same as the day the Olmeca arrived in the Sixth World. He cannot be mistaken for or combined with any native deity of Xeno-Meso. This purity of blood is one of his aspects.

Ogun is a smith-god, and iron is his supreme metal. Only the Olmeca have mastered the art of ironwork in the Sixth World. That's why Ogun's innermost secrets and truest magics are kept by the Olmeca smiths.

As a god of war, here too Ogun stands without peer. Other war gods get out of his way, lest they be bested by him and become Petty Gods.

While all war-gods should be feared, some are more fierce than others. While deities like Huitzilopochtli can deliver the deft, quick slashes that make blood flow, Ogun delivers blows that shatter bone or cleave a person in two. While Huitzilopochtli is the graceful, gallant - perhaps even flashy - opponent, Ogun is the boisterous, boastful war god who never backs down, and delights in making even the bravest warrior turn and run like a coward.

He also drinks, smokes, and womanizes.

He can pull miracles out of his pockets.

He can slay the dragon-gods of Xeno-Meso.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Ballgame in Xeno-Meso

A T-shaped court. Two teams. A bruisingly hard rubber ball. An impossibly small vertical hoop. The game is played in towns and cities across the world of Xeno-Meso. While other sports exist in the Sixth World, including wrestling, boxing, and ritual combat, the ball game is the most popular sport among all classes and peoples.

In the olden times, the losing team in a game could be sacrificed. The Olmeca brought about an end to that practice, considering it ignoble and unsporting. Today, communities form teams to represent themselves in competitions that cross cities and span nations. The most successful teams go on to compete with those of other states.

Each year, a series of finals is held in one of the Mayan cities; this series of contests chooses the best team among all the contending states and communities. A great deal of wealth is expended in the competition to host these games, and the Olmeca arbiters grow ever wealthier from the many offerings and bribes taken from the contending Mayan lords for the right to host the games.

Today, the many ball teams and their athletes are the celebrities of the Sixth World. Teams play against each other for the prestige of their communities, for wealth, and their choice of mates. While among the Olmeca and the Maya teams are composed exclusively of men, among the more egalitarian folk of the great city of Xochiquetzatlan, the women's teams are even more popular than the men's.

Typically, when Xochiquetzatlani teams play in Olmeca and Maya lands, gender mixed teams are sent. While this always causes some scandal among the Olmeca and Maya, they have grown to respect the Xochiquetzatlani teams; they are quite competitive, even with the all-male teams of the other states.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Olmeca In Xeno-Meso

The black-skinned Olmeca rule the lands southeast of great city of Xochiquetzatlan, and collect tribute from many towns and villages from Xochiquetzatlan in the northwest well down into the small tribal villages of the Ithmus between the two great oceans. The Olmeca arrived from over the eastern ocean in great ships carrying hundreds of warriors. Armed with iron-tipped spears and swords, their warriors were unstoppable. The native defenders had little chance against these weapons, let alone against the fearsome new spells of Olmeca's terrible masked magicians, priests, and griots.

The Olmeca established their own great state, took native women as their wives, made slaves of their weak and newly conquered foes, and built new towns, cities, palaces, and temples on top of the old. These days, the Olmeca empire is not so much expansionist as extortionist. The Olmeca demand that the lords of Xochiquetzatlan and the surrounding lands hand over tribute in order to avoid wholesale death, enslavement, or even worse - ensorcellment - at their hands. No one wants to be come a spell-slave in one of the Olmeca's masked sorcerer-societies.

All the great Maya folk of the peninsula used to pay tribute to the Olmeca, until their new allies, The Paddlers, arrived through the sea gate. The Maya communities closest to the Olmeca homeland continue to pay their full tribute, while the Mayan towns and city-states further south and east now make only symbolic tributes. This has heightened resource conflicts among the Olmeca elites, and many fear that war - either civil war or war with the more independent Maya states is inevitable.

The Olmeca have been in the Sixth World for several generations. The blood of their leaders has not grown too diluted, because their priests carefully arrange and approve all marriages in order to concentrate the ancestors' blood in each successive new generation. Increasingly, the sons of the great chieftains of the Olmeca are wed to conjure wives, witch-women who arrive in their palaces unnoticed and unheard during the deepest, darkest hours on moonless nights. Many a young prince awakens and finds himself in the embrace of these fearsome and beautiful brides.

Olmeca religion is a complex matter. The temple of Ogun remains their supreme warrior cult, but the Olmeca also worship other gods they brought with them across the ocean, as well as their ancestors, and many of the gods of the native peoples of the Sixth World. Temples and cultic spaces of all kinds proliferate in Olmeca cities, their cults and mythologies combining and recombining in bewildering ways.

Cults, warrior societies, and priests engage in deadly contests for power and prestige in Olmeca cities and towns. Religious riots often erupt, fueled by sorcerers and cultists. Many in their villages and palaces alike mutter rumors about impending religious and civil war. Whether the Olmeca king can hold all these factions together for much longer is uncertain.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Strangerside Scholar: A Stranger In Olondria

Cover art by Kathleen Jennings

Sofia Samatar's A Stranger in Olondria is finally out from Small Beer Press. Those of us who live in the Twin Cities hear a name like Samatar, and of course wonder if she might be Somali. The author is indeed Somali American, and I believe I have her father's book on anti-colonial resistance movements in Northern and Eastern Africa. You can read a piece by the author over on John Scalzi's blog.

It's about books and about reading - a book for fantasy readers who love books and reading. Just look at the big red tome under the arm of the protagonist on the cover. Makes you wonder what it is?

A Stranger in Olondria is also a book about someone from the "periphery", who moves to and becomes absorbed in the life and world of the metropole. I imagine there are many Spherewalkers who make it to Everway and have a very similar experience. It must be easy to become lost among the many peoples of Strangerside, let alone in Everway's great places such as the Library of All Worlds.

Twin Cities readers and friends: I also have an advanced reader's copy that I'd be happy to pass on to the first person who let's me know they'd like to read the book. Leave me a note in the comments. As long as I know who you are, I'll be happy to set it aside until we meet.