As I talked about in my previous post, I’m working on revising Iron Edda: War of Metal and Bone. I’ve also talked about how I’m working on a cyberpunk take on Iron Edda, called Reforged. In the War of Metal and Bone post, I mentioned that I’m going to be using a new set of runes, with no connection to the Elder Futhark I used in the first version of the game.
I wanted to elaborate on why. To do that, I’m going to envision a video game that doesn’t, and may never exist. Ready? Let’s get into it.
Animal Crossing: Valhalla
You have passed from the world you once knew. Your glorious deeds have secured you a place in the hallowed halls of the gods: Valhalla. There’s just one problem: after centuries of neglect, the place in shambles. Begin in your own tent, at your own camp, and slowly restore the feasthalls of Valhalla. Welcome in newly arrived warriors of legend, get to know them, and build a world together. You pleased the gods in life, now help them where they are at their weakest: interior decorating!
This game doesn’t and will never exist. (However, if you want to riff on this idea, hit me up. We can talk rates, and me working on it with you.) In a game like this, you could easily stick with all of the known things about Norse myth, but twist them. Like Hades, a great video game that launched recently, you can re-imagine things however you want them to be.
Loki as a twee, non-binary flirt? Freya as the festhall mom that makes magical mince pies? Thor as the muscle-bound gym rat that really wishes he knew how to write poetry like Baldur? All in play? Similarly, you can write the definitions of the runes in whatever way you’d like. You can reclaim them from white supremacist assholes, and explicitly say that those folks aren’t welcome to play. That works in a medium like a video game because the content is static.
Tabletop is a Different Thing Altogether
Tabletop RPGs, by their nature, are collaborative. Every person taking part has an opportunity to feed into the narrative. Even if the game you’re playing only supports that through character actions, it’s still true.
The mistake I made in using the Elder Futhark runes in my original Iron Edda games is I forgot about that. There’s a lot of work I put in to make the games open and safe for everyone. However, the presence of those co-opted symbols means that if a racist, anti-Semitic, bigoted pile of cat shit decides to roll up to an Iron Edda session at a convention, they have the opportunity to inject their beliefs about the runes into the game.
The harm that could do is more than I can handle. And I should have taken that into account when I first wrote the games. I didn’t, and I’m sorry about that. The best apology is to not do the harmful thing again, so I’m not going to.
What’s the Solution?
Using symbols of power is an idea a lot of people can connect to. We see it in a lot of different media, and I don’t want to take that touchstone from Iron Edda. What I want to do is make sure that those symbols are safe for people while still providing the narrative service they provide.
So I’m making new ones. A full alphabet of them, each with their own meanings and powers. I’ve sketched out roughs of what the symbols look like. I’m going to refine them and then hire someone to turn them into vectors and fonts. From there, I’ll also make the runes themselves free for any other designer to use, with the proviso that any media they’re used in must be explicitly anti-white supremacy.
This route allows me to make my game safe, and to make a new thing that others can use to convey the Norse tone they want while also fighting back against a virulent group of hateful people.
That seems like a pretty good route to me.
This post was supported by my Patreon. If you want to help me make awesome games (including anti-racist runes!), please show your support at https://patreon.com/theothertracy