Monday, April 17, 2017

Three is a Magic Number

Today we're getting away from the really weird sets of words and back to the kind of set I was expecting. We have:

Contemplate, poison, triangle, outrage, perplexed, resilient, allegiance

For an RPG setting, there are a couple of easy words there. "Perplexed" gave me some trouble, as it doesn't lend itself well to the kind of macro level interaction you need in a setting. But it was "triangle" that really kicked off the core conceit.

The vishni are a people much like any people. They are born, live the best lives they can, and pass on to their reward. You might easily confuse them with humans, elves, or Vulcans but for one important difference: They have three genders.

Vishni gender identity is often depicted as a great triangle with the peak pointing down. In the upper left are the kaski, noted for their passions, their arts, and their violent tendencies. The kaski function as both creators and destroyers, artists and soldiers, inspired angels and irrational demons. They are balanced in the upper right by the masdi, the stable, predictable, intellectual, and practical gender. The masdi own nearly all the property in the vishni culture, and inheritance is through the masdi line. As the owners of the property, they are also the drivers of the economy, operating most of the businesses. They are also the scholars of the society, as the kaski are too unstable to master cool reason and deliberate thought.

The third gender, yapni, is depicted as the lower peak of the triangle. This is no accident, as they also occupy the lower stratum of society. Biologically, the yapni are little more than incubators. A sexual encounter typically involves one kaski and one masdi penetrating a yapni simultaneously. The genetic material of the kaski and masdi combine to form an embryo, which gestates within the yapni. The embryo splits into one yapni child and one child that is either kaski or masdi. The yapni mother is then responsible for continuing to care for the children, including breastfeeding. Because of this role, yapni are also generally responsible for keeping the house, cooking the meals, and generally providing for their kaski and masdi mates.

Very recently, though, there has been an upswelling. Some yapni have grown tired of their subservient roles. They note that the actual differences between the genders are not that great. The yapni have produced artists as good as the kaski, and scholars as good as the masdi. They also note that there are twice as many yapni as either of the other two genders. They are no longer satisfied with being passive, second-class citizens. They are demanding rights, respect, a place at the table. Naturally, such demands have generated significant outrage among the citizenry. Outrage can sometimes boil over into violent action.

The vishni are currently governed by a body known as the Allegiance. There are five kingdoms of the vishni, along with a number of lesser principalities, duchies, et cetera. A couple of generations ago, the five kings got together and realized that mutual peace among them was going to be far more advantageous than mutual war. They crafted a document of mutual support and conflict resolution called the Boyuk Qaydalari. All five kings swore Allegiance to the Boyuk Qaydalari, and forced the lesser nobles to swear Allegiance as well. The Allegiance is governed by a high council of the five kings, a low council of one hundred nobles, a system of nine courts that adjudicate disputes, and a bureaucracy that primarily ensures that trade and commerce within the Allegiance is smooth. Naturally, such a system is byzantine, riddled with corruption, and run more from the back room than the public forum. Being able to manipulate the system of the Allegiance is the surest route to wealth and power.

Someone, though, has recently been seeking out a different route to power. There have been numerous incidents of the food supply of the Allegiance being poisoned. Entire fields of grain, entire herds of cattle, entire orchards of fruit have been destroyed by poison. The evidence makes it clear that this is being done by a deliberate vishni hand, and is not some curse from the gods. But who is responsible and what their motive is a complete mystery. But this mystery could soon result in widespread famine and death.

Fortunately, the vishni are a resilient people. They live in a land that is frequently beset by natural disaster. The high mountains contain numerous volcanoes, and suffer frequent landslides. The wide forests have a natural cycle of fires and mudslides. The rich seashores are ravaged by earthquakes and tsunami. The triple moons in the sky create violent weather systems, scouring the land with wind, rain, and lightning. Whatever comes, though, the vishni survive. And they rebuild.

Perhaps one thing that helps them to be resilient is their faith. All of the vishni share a single pantheon, though local traditions may give them different names or different importance (Al-haree, the god of the sea, is given much more honor in the islands than on the mountain-tops). But among the gods of the sun, the storms, and the sea is Mutahiir the Perplexed. Depicted as a yapni, Mutahiir is the ultimate provider, having generously lavished gifts on the vishni like the secrets of fire and agriculture. Mutahiir is called "the Perplexed" though because the god is confused why a people who have received such generous gifts should continue to be cruel, selfish, and greedy. The church of Mutahiir preaches (and practices) a creed of gratitude, charity, and kindness. (Many who dislike following this creed feel like Mutahiir is throwing the ultimate in maternal guilt trips.)

Beside this common faith, there are a number of smaller cults and devotions. One of the most famous and widespread is Those Who Contemplate. The Contemplates do not see themselves as a religion, per se. They do not teach a particular dogma or revere a particular god. Rather, they seek to uncover the underlying nature of all reality through observation, discussion, and meditation. They also seek to conquer their fallible physical natures through rigorous training, including martial training. They mythical exploits and theoretical supernatural skills unlocked by Those Who Contemplate are the meat of numerous folk tales across the Allegiance.

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