“What do you mean: help with the game?” Irwin eyed him doubtfully. But the other guy, introduced as Sled, was smiling. At least they were listening, Chess observed, as he exhaled slowly.
“I was once a professor of historical literature. There are many elements of history that could add interest to your stories,” Noah plunged on. “For example, in ancient times, there was a country that was peacefully ruled as a matriarchy -- by women. But, one terrible night, in a stunning coup of might over custom, men seized power. The nation has been at war ever since, with women and families feeling most of the pain of the violence,” he explained, with a brief glance at Chess. “Now, each successive generation of women, raised on legends from their grandmothers, has sought to change or at least mitigate this situation, to no avail. However, an especially intelligent cadre might wish to employ a band of adventurers to help bring their ambitions to reality.”
Irwin crossed his arms. “How?” he demanded.
Noah shrugged and turned to Chess. And, amazingly, Chess felt able to jump in.
“Consider the interests of your players,” Chess suggested. “Will they help the women journey safely to the capital city, protecting them from the dangers along the way? Or would they prefer to do battle in the world of political intrigue: ferreting out the people who benefit most from the instability?” He grew more excited about the idea as he talked. “Or would their forte be to go out among the people, themselves, and stir up a rebellion by telling the old legends?”
“We could use some new ideas,” Sled admitted. “It’s just been the three of us here...”
Irwin, however, still looked skeptical. He also, to Chess’s eyes, looked very young, kind of like the kid, Pete, from the old game. Irwin’s game, Chess realized with a start. This seemed unreal.
Noah regarded Irwin thoughtfully, and then he brightened. “There is more to the old legends: the women rulers, it was said, knew of a store of ancient treasures.” He smiled. “They also, you see, wore monkeys on their shoulders as symbols of importance: the more monkeys, the more power.”
“Huh.” Irwin now looked interested. “Maybe you could help us, after all…”
Noah beamed, and Chess could envision him, in the past, leading his students toward the comprehension of some complex literary theme. Then Noah asked, “Do you have any goggles for me?”
Over the next several days, the two groups got to know each other, somewhat. The Artificers of Lodestar, as Chess obligingly referred to them - albeit with a grin - were ensconced in an old biotech manufacturing complex. And they had been using its emergency back-up generators and stored fuel, as Noah had surmised, to power all of their equipment, including the samiz transmission.
There was also, Chess discovered on his first long walk, a lot of equipment, tools, and other potentially useful supplies just hanging around the facility. And, winding his way through the corridors, Chess felt almost as if he was back at Razor’s compound, except that the place was deserted.
Sled later informed him that they had been using the equipment to barter for food with the nearby villages. Every once in a while, Sled explained, when they felt the need, he would grab some of the detritus from the old labs and venture out. “I like to talk to people,” he said, with an easy grin.
They also kept an eye out for traders, who came by frequently because, Chess learned, the highway at the bottom of the hill was apparently the largest and most intact throughway in the area.
But how do you know when people are traveling by?” Chess asked.
“We can hack into satellite images of the area,” Fogg answered, eager to show off his set-up.
“I knew it,” Gryff muttered, as Fogg settled into a chair in front of a large computer screen.
“See?” Fogg tapped his gloved fingers on a few quadrants of the monitor. “There’s the highway you guys came down.” He tapped again, and the scene jumped to an area farther away, revealing a group of perhaps half a dozen people, slowly making their way down a much narrower road.
“We’ve been watching this group for a while,” he explained. “They might pass by in a few days, if they take the exit toward us. I don’t think they’re traders, though,” he added, sounding disappointed.
Continued next page...
Many styles of play exist... The PCs kick in the dungeon door, fight the monsters and get the treasure... deep immersion storytelling: The focus isn’t on combat but on talking, developing in-depth personas, and character interaction... Some groups prefer adventures with mind flayers and psionics... You’re the best judge.
- Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide, Core Rulebook II v. 3.5
Noah’s story on this page reminds me of a real-life story of some very brave and fed-up women in the West African country of Liberia. Liberia has an odd history: in the early 1800s, the U.S. attempted to colonize it by moving freed slaves there. It experienced slow progress toward becoming a modern society but, unfortunately, between 1980 and 2003, the country was nearly destroyed by many years of civil war.
As the authors of Half the Sky observed, women and children are usually the ones hardest hit by war, even though it is usually conducted by men. In 2003, a Liberian citizen, Leymah Gbowee, took action, becoming an organizer and leader of the Liberian Mass Action for Peace. This large group of women held mass public protests: sit-ins out in the broiling sun to protest the actions of those involved in the fighting. With international support, the group was influential in causing the president to resign and the fighting to stop. However, the part of Gbowee’s story that everyone seems to focus on is one particularly unusual means of protest that the women of LMAP undertook. Like Lysistrata of the Greek comedy by Aristophanes, who enlists the help of her female friends in a scheme to end fighting in the Peloponnesian War, members of LMAP refused to have sex with their husbands or male lovers until the fighting stopped. Apparently this was an effective strategy because the timeline of the history of Liberia shows that LMAP formed in 2003 and the fighting stopped in 2003. Done and done.
Leymah Gbowee’s story is told in the book Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War. No matter what means she used, the strength and determination of the peaceful protests that she led are inspiring. Perhaps it’s naive to wonder if women leaders could make a more peaceful, just, and stable world, but I’d be willing to give them a chance.
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