Design Diary: The Culture of a Parallel World

Welcome to Infringement

On this blog and on many of our promotional materials, we like to throw around the terms “Magical Realism” and “Urban Fantasy.”  To us they more or less represent a spectrum with cerebral arthouse stories on one end and unforgettable action-adventure romps on the other.  How do you balance your setting between such things?  You do what any good sovereign should do: invest heavily in infrastructure.

This means building out all the moving parts as much as possible.  To do this we write endless notes covering every corner of the world of Asylum and how each part connects to and moves the parts around it.  The fact that it takes place in the here and now allows us to take shortcuts by introducing real world elements -- and boy howdy does the real world give us such wonderful shortcuts. . .

““The [US Copyright] Office will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants,” the office said in a draft of its compendium of U.S. copyright office practices. “Likewise, the Office cannot register a work purportedly created by divine or supernatural beings, although the Office may register a work where the application or the deposit copy(ies) state that the work was inspired by a divine spirit.”

So let’s talk infrastructure.  In Asylum there are four playable races: Human (Attuned, Scion, and Cursed), Fae or Fairest (humanoids), Chimera (beasts and animals), and Ephemera (ghosts, spirits, etc.).  You also can come from one of three places: Inside (the Earth), Sideways (magic sidepockets linked to Earth), or Outside (everywhere else).  This entire naming system is human-centric.  This is intentional.  Why?  Because Asylum takes places on Earth and is marketed for human players.  Why really?  Because this shows you that the powers that be on Earth still consider anything that isn’t Human to be some kind of icky Alien.

Add to this the fact that immigration is a complicated, ugly mess and it gets easy to see just how much crap that magical talking raven has to put up with once it finally makes it to Black Iron.  Unless they swear fealty to some weird organization they don’t understand or to the gods they’re trying to escape from in the first place, an Outsider will have to take their chances with the governments and societies of Earth.  And from the quote above, many governments aren’t aware Outsiders exist or should even have the same rights as people.

This gives us a deep well to draw from.  Based on this one bit of odd real world legalese from the US Copyright Office, we can do a great many things. . .

  • Red Market art mills that are little better than Outsider trafficking rings.  Do you go after the traffickers or the mysterious rich “arts patrons” supporting the illicit trade?
  • Courtroom drama in the Bureau of Outsider Affairs as a class action lawsuit of tauric creatures (mermaids, centaurs, minotaurs, etc.) attempts to overturn their classification as “animals.”
  • A group of con-artists and forgers steal art by “proving” that it was created by outsiders, animals or spirits.  They purchase the treasure from the panicked owner for a tiny price then resell it for millions.

What this also tells us about the world of Asylum:

The powers that be put a lot of effort into sweeping Outsider problems under the rug.  It’s easy to do (for now) as there aren’t nearly as many of them as there are humans.  
The first response to Outsiders wasn’t that great.  Historically, humans sooner killed off Outsiders than let them live peacefully.  Asylum and its message of equal rights and cooperation is still new and somewhat revolutionary.
There isn’t much room left under that rug.  Asylum takes place during the very last gasp of humanity’s strategy of Outsider subtle oppression and containment.  Already, normal people seem to accept the existence of the “paranormal” and business and industry are starting to vie for a piece of the magical pie.  Which side of history will your characters be on?  How will they weather that dam finally breaking?

There’s much more we could talk about, but we’ll stop here for now.  We’ll be illustrating even more of this through our current new storyline, upcoming downloadable demo and, of course, future blog posts.  Stay tuned!

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