Thursday, December 6, 2018

Mother and Moloch (Bonus: Anachronism Ho!)

There's no cosmic-level conflict in Mother Stole Fire. The greater universe ticks away as it always has: numinous, fundamental, unwavering. The Folk don't run things, they just are things.

The conflict between gods is much closer to home



No one leaves this house hungry.

All of mankind shares a mother and a father. All peoples - manu, idaltu, neandr, florens, lilu - are brother and sister. You don't have to like them, (who gets along with everyone all the time?) but they're family. You never turn your back on family, no matter how much they might deserve it. No exceptions.

From that starting point, all things flow naturally. Many of our worst expressions have been curbed, as they have little room to sprout in cultures so rooted in shared humanity. It's a positive feedback loop: Compassion, truth, trustworthiness, resourcefulness, curiosity, she speaks to our better selves.

There are wars and crimes and monstrous things, there always are. Sometimes the best parenting can't dissuade the worst impulses. But, on the whole, it's a family worth keeping.

Luke Viljoen


Cast your sons unto into the furnace, and be rewarded.

Moloch is the lynching noose and jackboot. Moloch is lead pipes and slaves' shackles. Moloch is clear-cut forests and strip mines. Moloch is rapists and spree killers and bookburnings. Moloch is smog so thick it chokes out the stars. Moloch is the trap from which there is no escape. Moloch is the mechanization of war. Moloch is the gas chambers. Moloch is the strong sacrificing the weak.

Moloch is hell.

Moloch is the hell that man has made.

Moloch is a system. It is a god that lives within interactions, thrives in spaces between people. You could smash all its temples, kill all its worshipers, erase its name from every book, scroll and tablet - but so long as the system survives, there shall be Moloch.

So far, Moloch has only truly taken root in Dis, the city on the great savanna. First city in the world, it is said, founded just as the Snows melted.

It always seeks to spread, and in little ways it touch can be felt beyond its borders, but so far the expansion of Moloch and the spread of hell has been stalled. Most recently by the Sable Maid and the great war she led a century ago.

Bonus: Things That Your Character Knows About Plus Other Little Cultural Bits.

I've been asked "would my character recognize this" enough times that a list like this should be helpful. I'd be interested to see what the lists look like in other settings.

  • Birth control - Developed shortly after firemaking. Encompasses means material, medicinal, and magical. Menstruation has been wrangled into complete submission.
  • Electricity - Dangerous wizard shit / a curiosity for the arcane-inclined. The domain of Franklins and Frankensteins and Teslas. 
  • Postal service - Letters, newspapers, mail-order catalogs, speedy delivery, and so on. 
  • Trains - Connects major cities around the Mare Interregnum.
  • Bolt-action rifles and revolvers - The cutting edge of firearms.
  • Print culture - Books are everywhere and immensely valuable all the same. If you can't read, you've got killer oral history, so no one misses out.
  • Sanitation and Hygiene - If you can figure out how to throw a fireball with your mind, you can figure out that washing your hands is a good idea. See the Merde Grande.
  • Family lines are passed down patri- and matrilinear lines in equal numbers. Sometimes both, where daughters are of the mother's family line, sons are of the father's.
  • Communal housing - The local inn and tavern is often a shared hearth to this end. 
  • Quality of life - is generally quite high (diet, exercise, access to healthcare, lack of many major stressors, etc). It's not uncommon for people to hit 90 or 100 years old in good health.
  • Strong social nets for the old, ill, and otherwise vulnerable.
  • In general, there's a whole lot less of the whole imperialism / oppression / exploitation / extinction cycle going on.

Over on Joe Fatula's excellent Signs in the Wilderness, he made a post about how his setting aims for a sort of Tolkienic "home that never was". This might be one of my favorite posts on setting out there, and I subscribe to the same school for Mother Stole Fire - evoking a past that never was, where people aren't mastered by their worst impulses, a place to return to when the road of life has made one weary.

Good fantasy is when someone is able to translate the home that never was resting in their own head in such a way that it can be shared. That's a goal for this project, beyond just making fun stuff to game with.


  1. Ginsberg and that one article by Slate Star Codex have done a number on my personal mythos and I am thankful for it. Moloch is a myth that works.

  2. This makes me think: what if Mother and Moloch were flipped?
    Mother as an idealization of society: the silver hand that gives, the advancement in technology that makes people's lives better,
    Moloch as a demonization of nature, where the strong rule because they can.

    1. Yep, could still work that way. The dressing can change, but the core remains the same.