Friday, November 22, 2013

Thriae Queen

Get ready for three days of thriae!  The Bestiary 3 serves up this race of bee-like Amazons and oracles.  I was always a fan of 3.0’s abeils from the Monster Manual II, so the soothsaying thriae are a nice replacement, even if they lack some of the abeils’ elvishness. 

On the other hand, what thriae gain is an insectile practicality that could lead to some interesting conflicts.  Yes, they are oracles, but ones who are particularly protective of their secrets—which may not sit well with adventurers desperate for information.  True, they encourage humanoid male company, but prolonged companionship comes with a price: drug-fueled slavery (and in some cases, consumption of the male by his thriae mate).   

Also, there are plenty of New Weird fantasy opportunities with thriae as well.  Fans of Perdido Street Station’s great set piece inside the Cactacae’s Glasshouse could easily replace the cactusfolk with thriae in their own campaigns for a similarly pulse-pounding caper.

Of course, buzzing at the heart of the entire thriae race are their powerful queens, who, while by no means malevolent, still place the value of their hives far above any other concerns.  At CR 18, a thriae queen might even be the pivotal mastermind of a campaign, particular in a setting where law vs. chaos is the more important conflict than good vs. evil…

Sage Prester Sartan knew he was giving up the outside world when a thriae queen recruited him as a consort.  What he did not know was that the safety of the Grand Duchy now hangs in the balance, with his knowledge of capital’s Undercity crucial to its survival.  But the thriae queen he adores will not surrender him for such mundane concerns.  Worse yet, since Sartan’s vigor is flagging she is already (unbeknownst to the sage) making preparations to consume him.

Stare too long into the void, and the void stares back.  A thriae queen’s hunt to understand the Those That Walk Behind the Stars has perverted her into worship of the Great Old Ones.  Now a bloated monster, she directs her tribe to abandon the order of hexagonal cells for the mystery of strange spiraling glyphs, and she drives them forth to collect humanoids for sacrificial rites.

A thriae queen regrets the overambitious expansion of her colony—especially having to share power with two of her offspring.  Thus she hands a party of humanoid adventurers a surprising mission: “I will reward you beyond your wildest dreams.  You only have to kill my daughters.”

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 264–265

Lots of reader feedback to talk about (and that’s not even getting to my mail backlog from while I was on vacation!).  Response to the Thin Man entry has nearly eclipsed my earlier “Best Of” post about pit fiends.  Meanwhile, my joking reference to the thrasfyr as “Bondage Bear” actually spurred a pretty lively discussion among some readers—including discussion about the lack of good-aligned bondage/masochism themed creatures in Pathfinder.

I don’t want to get into a big digression about this—this is a relatively all-ages space, after all—but because of my Tumblr audience I’m definitely sensitive to the fact that a lot of BDSM tropes are invoked in negative ways in fantasy.  So I endeavor to avoid adventure seeds that are simply, “This monster is evil because…it’s a sadist!”—I try to go deeper and be subtler than that (especially in my kyton entries), and I hope I succeed.

(I'm going to put the rest of this under a break.  Because adult stuff.) 

That said, heroic fantasy is often about freedom, rebellion, defeating tyrants, throwing off shackles, release from suffering, etc.…which necessarily sets it in opposition to notions of power, dominance, pain, and so forth.  The heroes in fantasy tend to want to escape from bondage, not embrace it, and in 99 times out of 100, the guy with the whips and chains in fantasy is quite rightly the bad guy.  There are exceptions—see Jacqueline Carey’s amazing Phèdre Trilogy—but they are rare and very hard to do well. 

Also, it’s not that fantasy role-playing puts BDSM in a bad light, but rather that BDSM itself takes highly problematic power dynamics and tropes—in both fantasy and real life—and rehabilitates them and harnesses them for their erotic power.  (Example: You doctor instigating doctor/patient would mean a call to the hospital ethics board, but your significant other instigating doctor/patient might be hawt.)  It’s not fantasy casting BDSM in a bad light, rather BDSM upending fantasy’s norms.  In fantasy role-playing you want the brave knight to win…but in kink you’re (metaphorically speaking) rooting for the dragon.  And half the reason rooting for the dragon is sexy is because of the reversal of expectations/the embrace of the forbidden/the surrender to power.  Take away at least the suggestion of darkness, you also take away the thrill.  That’s why kinksters hang out in “dungeons,” not “day spas.”

So I’m not troubled by kytons or Zon-Kuthon portraying D/s in a negative light, and I don’t yearn for Paizo to give equal time to BDSM in the same way it has LGBTQ issues.  (And honestly Chronicle of the Righteous and other books actually do give some surprisingly positive nods to such things, the self-mortifying entity Vildeis (which agelfeygelach mentioned) among them.)  If you want good-aligned BDSM in your game, there is a book for that, but it’s not going to work for most gaming groups. 

And it doesn’t need to!  Because you all are inventive folk.  All you have to do to put positive portrayals of BDSM in your game is to put positive portrayals of BDSM in your game.  Start with a loyal thrasfyr protecting its master, add some clerics of Vildeis expiating the sins of the world through flagellation, and then invent on your own from there. 

In fact, cheskamouse has done just that.  Check out the lawful neutral covert social club she(?) designed over on her blog.

Happy exploring!

1 comment:

  1. "All you have to do to put positive portrayals of BDSM in your game is to put positive portrayals of BDSM in your game."

    Yes. This. The entire point of a Dungeons and Dragons style game is that you are supposed to make your own campaigns and put the stuff you want in them. While the things that Paizo/Wizards/whoever chooses to put in their official sourcebooks means something, it doesn't mean more than it does and it absolutely should not be seen as an ultimate restriction on players and GMs.