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Author Topic: Mathremaya, a Setting About Steampunk Incas  (Read 11557 times)
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« on: October 19, 2013, 11:11:00 AM »

So, Mathremaya technically developed as an offshoot of Pinnacle which is why I haven't done anything with Pinnacle recently, but tis the nature of my mind to dwell upon that which holds my interest the longest, and Mathremaya won. It's a pretty rough setting idea, but here's the basic gist:

Mathremaya takes the idea of Incas with more modern technology (namely, guns) and runs with it into what I think might be an Andean re-imagining of Victorian Steampunk on a South American mountain people, with some obvious fantasy bits like sacrificial and celestial magic. I've got a pretty decent understanding of how society functions on a basic level. Obviously what follows is extremely open to change and criticism, and just represents what I've come up with thus far.

Technology - Firearms ("rayoruqya"), though fancier guns are shaped to resemble a feathered snake or stylized jaguar with its mouth agape to give them a more distinct appeal AND to emphasize their ideology of guns being more than just instruments of war but also representations of divine power. Gunpowder was accidentally discovered by priests mixing "magic powders" together to overawe onlookers and has since kept that semi-sacred feel. Religious officials would probably all be avid gun owners who keep their arms immaculately clean and wield them as one might a holy symbol of the faith. Naturally, more normal looking arms would exist for lower class entrepreneurs, but I don't think firearm ownership would be nearly as widespread due to its symbolic nature. Maybe.

There would also be airships/dirigibles of some design, and possibly even some form of motorized ground transportation, like a motorcycle. I can't imagine anything as large as a car coming about just based on the restrictions of living in a heavily mountainous realm, but something narrow, agile, and more maneuverable like a bike could definitely exist in my eyes.

Also, things like a printing press, agriculture innovations, a large textile industry, factories in general, lots of mining, etc, would all be present.

Social Structure - Mathremayan society is sharply divided between aristocracy and commoners. There is little in the way of a middle class, or bourgeoisie, primarily due to the existence of an “Aristocracy by Examination” system, which is a means to absorb commoners who attain wealth and education into the Aristocracy rather than forming a new Middle Class. This system tends to reinforce the dominance of the ruling class... the Aristocracy absorbs the best and brightest of the commoners, and the dream of the average commoner is not to overthrow the Aristocracy, but to become a part of it.

Since the Mathremayan industrial revolution, which led to the creation of airships and printing presses and such, industry life has converted many agricultural commoners into the grueling life of the factory. This has created an industrial working class that is radically different from other commoners because they are cutoff from their ayllus (basically, a collective state of families that work together in agricultural communities outside of the cities). Feeling isolated and exploited by the aristocratic working class, they’ve formed small societies for mutual support which have become unions and small political parties, some advocating radical agendas (to stir the pot, since I do love my little socio-economic conflicts).

Government - Mathremaya has an Emperor that rules by divine right (absolute monarchy), with a strongly hierarchical system of nobility and commoners. Though the Emperor was once considered a god-king among his people, he is no longer in the modern era (because, you know, modernity, but old habits die hard and he is popularly misconstrued as one, especially by lower class individuals).

Religion - I have some pretty radical ideas on what I could do for religion, but they would definitely alter the overall setting. The safest option is to have the gods be undetermined to exist but have belief be strongly present amongst the people. The other, perhaps more exciting option is something I've been mulling over a lot, and would love some added opinions to. Here it is:


The idea here would be that the Huascara are definite, physical beings that walk the earth as monsters (Kaiju and Shadow of the Colossus come to mind). I like this a lot, because it adds a fantastical element that I think Mathremaya might need to avoid becoming just an alternate history of the Inca on some other world. So, I could leave it at that and just make them menaces to the people, buuut I'm an even bigger fan of adding other societal and technological repercussions, like this:

The corpses of the Huascara leak their divine, life-giving golden or teal blood, which (to keep with the loose theme of sacrifice) can be used to create "divine-technology" well beyond the scope of coal and steam. I really have no idea what these would be capable of, but they would have these fancy, glowing golden lines along unique, patterned stone carvings. Sort of like if you had the lines of this stone wall glowing:
or made this awesome headdress/outfit glowy and magical:

This would have tremendous technological and economic impacts on Mathremayan society, since an economy based around the hunting of the Huascara would certainly come to exist if the Huascara were prolific and supplied enough divine blood to make such an industry worthwhile, but it's always easy enough to limit that with a hand wave. 

Magic - Magic is something I've been torn about. I know I definitely want to have some sacrificial based magic, where practitioners would use some ceremonial dagger to slice their palms to have their blood become fire or call forth some other power, but that's a fairly dark magic system, especially if it's centralized in the setting as the form of magic. I'd like to keep it as a fringe, cultish activity, I think, where even greater sacrifices (like an animal or the life of a person) grant greater, more sinister boons. In keeping with some semblance of "realism," I've also asked myself why such a form of power wouldn't be centralized, and why they wouldn't then just breed a certain type of small animal en masse, like a guinea pig (which were popular sources of food for Andean folk) and just carry them around for occasional offerings as a trade for power. Obviously I find that incredibly cruel, so I'm looking to abolish that possibility (plus guinea pigs are adorbs).

There's also the possibility of celestial magic, ala astronomy and stars aligning and whatnot. I'm not sure what to do here, but sparkletwist and I chatted on it and considered the possibility of each person getting a different set of powers they could use each month or season based on the changing of the heavens. Like, you have a deck of cards that represent certain powers, and you randomly draw seven cards from them. Those would be your powers for that month. Ideally they would be pretty versatile so as not to be too restrictive, but I'd need a LOT to keep it from being too repetitive and superfluous, which is tough. Mechanically, it's also kind of cool. I'm just not sure I can feasibly come up with a system that would work for it.

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Anyways, this has gone on for too long. I apologize for the scatterbrained layout, but I hope it's at least interesting enough to warrant some responses and suggestions. Even just saying what you like or don't like goes a long way. Questions, comments, criticisms; every bit is appreciated!
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« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2013, 01:25:42 PM »

Well, personally, you had me at "Steampunk Incas," but you already knew that. grin
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« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2013, 01:41:35 PM »

A very cool setting idea. I like the Ara & Huascara background, but find the idea of large scale hunting of the latter to be problematic. I think what would likely happen is that soon after means of industrially exploiting the blood of the Huascara were discovered, the creatures would be quickly hunted to near extinction, causing a flood of enhanced artifacts followed by a shortage - with prices for these goods swinging from cheap to exorbitant, all over a relatively short span of time (maybe tens of years?)

As for technology, they'd surely benefit from inventing cable cars! Probably other kinds of mechanized lifting systems would also be common fare. Printing press seems kind of strange if you assume that they began with a knot-based recording system like the quipus. Wouldn't they rather continue to improve on this system and eventually come up with a technology for mass-copying such records rather than invent an alphabet and paper?
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« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2013, 03:30:10 PM »

Ghostman

A very cool setting idea. I like the Ara & Huascara background, but find the idea of large scale hunting of the latter to be problematic. I think what would likely happen is that soon after means of industrially exploiting the blood of the Huascara were discovered, the creatures would be quickly hunted to near extinction, causing a flood of enhanced artifacts followed by a shortage - with prices for these goods swinging from cheap to exorbitant, all over a relatively short span of time (maybe tens of years?)

As for technology, they'd surely benefit from inventing cable cars! Probably other kinds of mechanized lifting systems would also be common fare. Printing press seems kind of strange if you assume that they began with a knot-based recording system like the quipus. Wouldn't they rather continue to improve on this system and eventually come up with a technology for mass-copying such records rather than invent an alphabet and paper?
Unless the Huascara are just incredibly prolific/breed like rabbits, I agree with Ghostman about their being hunted to near extinction quickly.  If you wanted things to be kinda dark, you could have imprisoned Huascara who are kept malnourished, so that they can't fight back, but alive, so that mages, priests, or whoever makes magic items can have a constant source of their blood.  

Also, I love the idea of making an advanced version of the quipu.  Actually this gives me an idea....


I also want to echo that "Steampunk Incas" sounds really awesome.
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« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2013, 03:37:36 PM »

Are you familiar with the panaqa?  Basically, it was an extended kinship group descended from a dead king; when an Inca king died, his palace would be occupied by his descendants save for the new ruler, who would have to go build a palace elsewhere (which would in turn become the property of his panaqa when he died, and so on).  The "founding father" of that panaqa would be mummified and treated as semi-alive by his descendants - they would carry the mummy around and feed it, have it perform rites, and even have it "speak" through an intermediary.  The mummy seems to have been worshipped as a deity.  A panaqa revered its founding mummy, in part, to assert the power and authority of their bloodline; these mummies might even "speak" through their representative on such matters as succession of a new king, so they held considerable political influence, and constituted centers of power within the kingdom apart from the king and the rest of the aristocracy.  Apparently panaqa houses sometimes raided one another and took rival mummies "hostage," presumably to extract tribute or gain concessions from the rival panaqa.

I realize that you probably don't mean "Steampunk Incas" in a literal sense, and thus aren't interested in merely appropriating all things Inca into the setting, but I thought that Inca ancestor-worship was interesting enough to bring up.  It could potentially provide an alternative to your "divine blood" idea - maybe rather than from monstrous gods, it might be somehow derived from preserved ancestral gods like these - giving further incentive for a panaqa or equivalent group to jealously guard their dead ("he's not dead, he's resting") ancestor-king.

(Also I hope to see potatoes here.)
« Last Edit: October 19, 2013, 04:04:16 PM by Polycarp » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2013, 03:49:47 PM »

What if such mummies were actually able to act in some capacity, if not quite being lively enough to continue ruling as kings?
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« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2013, 03:53:27 PM »

This whole idea sounds bizarre, disturbing, and really fun.
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« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2013, 08:00:51 PM »

Ghostman

A very cool setting idea. I like the Ara & Huascara background, but find the idea of large scale hunting of the latter to be problematic. I think what would likely happen is that soon after means of industrially exploiting the blood of the Huascara were discovered, the creatures would be quickly hunted to near extinction, causing a flood of enhanced artifacts followed by a shortage - with prices for these goods swinging from cheap to exorbitant, all over a relatively short span of time (maybe tens of years?)

As for technology, they'd surely benefit from inventing cable cars! Probably other kinds of mechanized lifting systems would also be common fare. Printing press seems kind of strange if you assume that they began with a knot-based recording system like the quipus. Wouldn't they rather continue to improve on this system and eventually come up with a technology for mass-copying such records rather than invent an alphabet and paper?

Seraphine_Harmonium

Unless the Huascara are just incredibly prolific/breed like rabbits, I agree with Ghostman about their being hunted to near extinction quickly.  If you wanted things to be kinda dark, you could have imprisoned Huascara who are kept malnourished, so that they can't fight back, but alive, so that mages, priests, or whoever makes magic items can have a constant source of their blood.

Thanks. You're both right, it's one of the problems I've thought about with the hunting of the Huascara, though I was quite enamored with the idea of having some form of powerful monsters wandering around.

Also, you make an extremely good point about the quipus, which I had actually meant to incorporate in some way but completely forgot about them when I posted. The printing press wouldn't make much sense in hindsight. Cable cars are also a definite possibility, and I like the imagery that provides for an industrial mountain city. I wonder what sort of method they'd use to mass-copy quipus... I'll have to give it some thought.

Polycarp

Are you familiar with the panaqa?  Basically, it was an extended kinship group descended from a dead king; when an Inca king died, his palace would be occupied by his descendants save for the new ruler, who would have to go build a palace elsewhere (which would in turn become the property of his panaqa when he died, and so on).  The "founding father" of that panaqa would be mummified and treated as semi-alive by his descendants - they would carry the mummy around and feed it, have it perform rites, and even have it "speak" through an intermediary.  The mummy seems to have been worshipped as a deity.  A panaqa revered its founding mummy, in part, to assert the power and authority of their bloodline; these mummies might even "speak" through their representative on such matters as succession of a new king, so they held considerable political influence, and constituted centers of power within the kingdom apart from the king and the rest of the aristocracy.  Apparently panaqa houses sometimes raided one another and took rival mummies "hostage," presumably to extract tribute or gain concessions from the rival panaqa.

I am actually not familiar with panaqa. Very interesting. I definitely need to incorporate that in some way. Thanks for the idea!

Polycarp

I realize that you probably don't mean "Steampunk Incas" in a literal sense, and thus aren't interested in merely appropriating all things Inca into the setting, but I thought that Inca ancestor-worship was interesting enough to bring up.  It could potentially provide an alternative to your "divine blood" idea - maybe rather than from monstrous gods, it might be somehow derived from preserved ancestral gods like these - giving further incentive for a panaqa or equivalent group to jealously guard their dead ("he's not dead, he's resting") ancestor-king.

(Also I hope to see potatoes here.)


Well, you'd be right in that I don't want to incorporate every minute detail of Inca society, but I find the exploration of their culture to be pretty inspirational towards what I may or may not wish to incorporate or otherwise adapt for my own devices. I like this adaptive take on the panaqa ancestor worship as a magical source like you and, to some extent, Ghostman, suggest; I will definitely expand upon this.

There will be potatoes.

Seraphine_Harmonium

This whole idea sounds bizarre, disturbing, and really fun.

sparkletwist

Well, personally, you had me at "Steampunk Incas," but you already knew that. grin

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« Last Edit: October 19, 2013, 08:04:00 PM by Weave » Logged


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« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2013, 08:19:04 PM »

I don't like the huascara. The most fascinating thing about pre-Columbian cultures (not all of them) was their "willingness" to sacrifice their fittest, healthiest members for the sake of propitiating the divine. The huascara remove this coolest and most terrible of cultural horrors.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2013, 08:23:01 PM by Sally Ann » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2013, 08:28:08 PM »

Sally Ann

I don't like the huascara. The most fascinating thing about pre-Columbian cultures (not all of them) was their "willingness" to sacrifice their fittest, healthiest members for the sake of propitiation. The huascara remove this coolest and most terrible of cultural horrors.

Fair point, but how do the Huascara remove this, exactly?

In any case, I wouldn't think such sacrifices would translate into a more modernized Inca culture (though the idea of it doing so is interesting), but I would definitely like to incorporate it in other fringe societies in Mathremaya.
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« Reply #10 on: October 19, 2013, 08:55:37 PM »

Weave

how do the Huascara remove this, exactly?
Humans are sacrificed in order to please the gods, gain their blessings and deter their wrath. The huascara are killed for divine technology. The more technology humans possess, the less subject to nature's vicissitudes humanity becomes, permitting them to thrive without recourse to human sacrifice.

Weave

In any case, I wouldn't think such sacrifices would translate into a more modernized Inca culture
There is not only one road to "mordernisation". Human sacrifice cannot persist in our world because we see through the "ruse" of divinity: there are no gods, and they need not be propitiated. But in your setting the gods do exist. There, humans might sacrifice their brethren not out of benighted primitivism but calculated pragmatism. It might even be industrialised.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2013, 08:57:14 PM by Sally Ann » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: October 19, 2013, 09:00:44 PM »

To my knowledge, the majority of Inca human sacrifice was the sacrifice of servants upon the death of an Emperor (similar to the sort performed by the Egyptians and Vikings) and occasionally ritually-prepared children during famines and other extreme circumstances. Nothing like the ritualized warfare and mass killings of the Aztecs, which also had the purpose of strengthening their political hegemony.
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« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2013, 09:05:44 PM »

Sally Ann

Weave

how do the Huascara remove this, exactly?
Humans are sacrificed in order to please the gods, gain their blessings and deter their wrath. The huascara are killed for divine technology. The more technology humans possess, the less subject to nature's vicissitudes humanity becomes, permitting them to thrive without recourse to human sacrifice.

Weave

In any case, I wouldn't think such sacrifices would translate into a more modernized Inca culture
There is not only one road to "mordernisation". Human sacrifice cannot persist in our world because we see through the "ruse" of divinity: there are no gods, and they need not be propitiated. But in your setting the gods do exist. Here, humans might sacrifice their brethren not out of benighted primitivism but calculated pragmatism. It might even be industrialised.

That's a very good point, and one I had not considered. ...Actually the more I think about the cooler that kind of is. I will mull over this idea!

Anyways, the Huascara aren't very well-received, so I'll probably ax them, at least in the physical sense. They could certainly exist as a misconstrued form of belief, assuming the gods exist, or just as beliefs, if the gods don't.
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« Reply #13 on: October 19, 2013, 09:13:54 PM »

Superbright

To my knowledge, the majority of Inca human sacrifice was the sacrifice of servants upon the death of an Emperor (similar to the sort performed by the Egyptians and Vikings) and occasionally ritually-prepared children during famines and other extreme circumstances. Nothing like the ritualized warfare and mass killings of the Aztecs, which also had the purpose of strengthening their political hegemony.

You're correct. Though I've been predominantly taking from Inca (Tawantinsuya) themes, the idea of borrowing from other Mesoamerican cultures isn't beyond me, which is why I had toyed with the idea of sacrificial magic despite a reasonable lack thereof in Tawantinsuyan practice.
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« Reply #14 on: October 19, 2013, 09:17:09 PM »

I think the huascara are awesome, they just need an anti-nerf.

You've practically turned them into prey animals, when they could be so much more compelling as imperious, tempestuous free agents who must be bargained with like individuals or as city states unto themselves, or otherwise left alone.

When a huascara turns up at your city walls maybe you say "Please don't wreck any of our shit. Here, have a tiny child." If they do try to wreck your shit and you can't chase them away with cannonade you go to another huascara and say "This jerk won't quit bugging us. Please help us wreck his shit." Like siccing godzilla on King Gidorah.

Heck, these guys built the damn world. Maybe feeding one a thousand llamas will encourage it to mine your mountain for you.

Huascara could be very interesting.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2013, 09:19:44 PM by Sally Ann » Logged

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