Hello, friends! The Wheel has turned all the way around to Thursday again, which means two things: the weekend is not too far away, and it's time for our Rotating Features blog!It's fair to say that many of us with an interest in fantasy fiction will have some level of awareness of role-playing games--be they table top ones, probably most famous in the Dungeons and Dragons format--or even here on Dragonmount--we have our own Portal Stone Worlds, forums where people are encouraged to play "in character" set within an alternate Wheel of Time universe.
Today, however, we are going to look at a slightly different take on the role playing game, and better still, a slightly different take on the Wheel of Time universe.To be short and sweet, our editor of the Front Page Blogs, Mashiara, has interviewed Ascendency, who runs a little project called the First Age. I can't explain better than Ascendency myself what it is, so here is the interview in full.
Can you explain what the First Age is?
The First Age is a play by post, forum-based role-playing game set in the world of the Wheel of Time universe during the age before the Age of Legends, the so-called, First Age. The setting primarily takes place in a futuristic, slightly-dystopian world of 2045 Moscow. Players create original characters to interact with one another in the wider world, navigate the chilling transition that is the return of Channeling to humanity, and attempt to survive the tumultuous events that will inevitably lead to world war. On a player’s journeys, they may encounter a variety of monsters, villains, heroes and channelers. Characters can be of one of four classes: Civilian, Military, Government or Atharim, and have one of 7 abilities: Channeler, Atharim, Prophet, Dreamwalker, Wolfkin, Furia or Sentient. As souls are born throughout the Wheel of Time, a PC also has the option of playing a reborn god from known mythologies. With special permission, you can also play a humanoid.
How did you come up with the idea of mixing historic legends and myths into our modern world?
As soon as I understood the concept of cyclical time in The Wheel of Time, I immediately saw the connections between our world as a precursor to the world set in the books. For some reason, I fixated on the idea that the Third Age is in our future rather than in our past, although both are equally relevant concepts when time is a wheel. Therefore, I began to wonder about the sort of events would need to take place in our future that would lead to the utopian idealism renown in the Age of Legends. While those questions percolated, I daydreamed about our past. The idea of there being truth in historic legends and myths came from this iconic quote:
“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.”
With this in mind, it is easy to extrapolate what grains of truth could be in the myths and legends of different cultures. These tales are filled with monsters, immortals, deities, magic, villains and heroes. If the memories of their truth fade first from history into legend and exist now only as myth, there are remarkable correlations to the realities of the Wheel of Time universe. Immortal gods were long-lived channelers. Monsters were creations of the One Power. Magic was the One Power. While the heroes and villains change depending on the point of view of the one who tells the tale.
Yet we know from the books that knowledge of the Wheel, the One Power, and the Pattern survives the turnings of these Ages. If the “gods” of myth knew these truths, but the tellings of their stories faded with time and knowledge of the Wheel, Pattern, and Power survived through to the Age of Legends, then there must have been a mechanism by which this knowledge was passed down. That means somewhere, somebody out there, today, in our modern world, is in possession of this knowledge. A situation like that is begging for a secret society, and indeed, we do have such a group. They are known as the Atharim.
Besides channeling, can mythical figures use any other forms of magic?
The answer to this question depends on one’s definition of magic. Broadly, the WoT is full of many types of powers besides channeling. We have evidence of Wolfkin, Sniffers, Readers, Seers, Dreamers, and interpreters of omens. We also see glimpses of other Old Things come again, the Wolfkin for instance. So it stands to reason that there are many “magical” abilities woven into humanity, some likely “old” or “lost” and we just have to look for them.
As far as traditional spellcasting goes, Channeling is the only such manifestation of magic. I will add, though, that if you, in today’s world, suddenly manifested the ability to channel, you might look to many types of magic to explain this sudden superhuman ability. Some of the rationalizations our characters have used to explain what the One Power is to them - remember the PC’s do not know what the One Power is - include superhero gifts, wizardry, the Force, Witchcraft, curses, blessings, or any number of religious interpretations.
For the monsters and creatures that inhabit the First Age, are these also based on myths, or did you create them yourself?
Of those currently in existence, they are all based on real myths or legends. The idea is that humanity is on the fringe of the truth. There are monsters and gods walking this world, but to the average person, their truths exist only in stories, but within every legend is a grain of truth. Some of the creatures and monsters are obviously linked to their popular-culture counterpart (vampire, werewolf, ghosts, chupacabra, etc). Others are distinct to specific cultures, eg, the Russian bannik, the Mapuche wefuke, the Hindu naga, the Arabic Jann and Ghul.
To explain them, we have a mythos blog that is solely dedicated to explaining the secret history backstories associated with these creatures. In the end, a monster that exists in the First Age must also make sense in the broader WoT universe, and we go to great lengths to maintain this continuity. In this regard, players are encouraged to expand about the worldbuilding and many have done so. For instance, players tend to “adopt” one of the monsters and as the first person to RP about them, they often craft elaborate cultures, powers, weaknesses, attributes, and details about the monster in question. Once fully elucidated, the information is collected and made available for others to read either on the mythos blog itself or on our user-generated wiki.
You created this website almost a year ago. Has the past year gone as you hoped it would in regard for the First Age?
Indeed, the website debuted in July 2013; however, it took 7 months of development to get to that point. I specifically wanted to design a unique concept that to my knowledge had not been explored before in forum roleplay. The genre is modern and futuristic, but the mythological elements give the players that fantasy-element that WoT fans appreciate. Another unique feature is the incorporation of an overall Gamemaster that is usually absent from forum RPG’s. Finally, I hoped to create the surface of a world that entices players’ imaginations in such a way that they can expand on the worldbuilding at their own pace, if they so desire.
The past year has exceeded everything I hoped for. Players continually surprise me by how much they want to explore the world, both building up our future (the site is set in 2045) and exploring the world’s secret histories. It was a player’s idea to build a wiki, and since its construction, is now home to more than 65 pages! Players have designed their own character classes and powers. What astounds me the most, however, is the depth of knowledge players bring to the world. It far exceeds my own, and we have an incredible amount of fun brainstorming on our site’s shared chat room about how to incorporate elements from the old mythologies into the current RP.
Have there been any member storylines that have surprised you? Or have things evolved as you predicted?
After the baseline setting and story were done, I was open to almost anything so long as it fit within the WoT-verse. Therefore, I didn’t have particular expectations as to where the story would go. In fact, players have come up with creative ways of doing things that I could not have predicted or imagined on my own.
What do you anticipate happening over the next year on the First Age?
A lot of the PC channelers have found one another now, so I imagine that with the ever-building tensions between nations that these groups of channelers will soon choose one side or another. PC’s have also been discovering the presence of a secret society that they should not know about, therefore I anticipate tensions will quickly escalate over the next year as the society attempts to maintain their secrecy while yet fulfilling their mission.
Very recently some players have become interested in exploring the humanoid creatures of the world, and have taken on the idea of playing a PC humanoid, in this case, of the Naga race. Over the next year, I think we are going to see an explosion of world building and tension between characters as these, and other, creatures are expanded upon.
Finally, we are nearing the time when governments are going to have to acknowledge channelers. Many questions will come into play regarding the WoT-equivalent of the “Mutant Phenomenon.” What is the legal status of channelers? Will militaries incorporate channelers into special forces? How do you police channelers or face them in combat (a current topic of discussion on the ooc boards)? These questions are coming, and given that the Ascendancy, who leads an empire, is himself a channeler, interesting times are ahead for all of us!
How do players contribute to worldbuilding?
Players contribute to worldbuilding all over the place, not just during In Character threads and scenes. When that happens, if it’s significant enough, the player often consolidates the information and posts it for other writers to expand upon.
A lot of brainstorming happens on the OOC (out of character) discussion boards. For instance, in the thread “Of gods and men,” players hypothesized on what they thought happened in their previous lives and how the mythologies associated with a given god of antiquity is merely a translation of ‘what really happened.’ There are also OOC threads that discuss The Godwars (the wars that saw the eradication of channeling in Ages-past), prophecies associated with the End Times, and speculation on 2045-era pop culture.
A lot of this information gets translated into individual pages on the user-generated wiki. For instance, from “Of gods and men,” a number of players worked out the “real story” behind the god they were in their past life, wrote those backstories, and added sections to their pages on the wiki. When large-scale additions to the world are made, I add entries to one of our two blogs: Mythos or the Plot Blog. Mythos is dedicated to worldbuilding, whereas the Plot Blog is dedicated to summaries of on-going, large scale plots.
When did you first start reading The Wheel of Time?
1997; My brother gave me The Eye of the World when I spent a week in the hospital during what would become the beginning of an eight year stretch of hospital-stays due to a rare disease (and a growing obsession with WoT). Ironically, he began reading the series in 1993 when he was in the hospital for gallbladder surgery and our mom picked up the book randomly in the gift shop as a present for him.
Who is your favorite character?
Which scene (in all the books) is your favorite?
Dumai’s Wells, without a shadow of a doubt.
So there you have it! I hoped that sparked your interest and you take a look at what they have to offer! It certainly does sound like an unusual and interesting experience. Here is a link to their main website: The First Age. That's all for now! Have fun!Until next time, friends!