Black Lives Matter: Our Stance

Black Lives Matter: Our Stance

I’m speaking as Becca here, so excuse me as occasionally I break the plural “we” I try to use to reference Ginny and I in prior posts. We have had discussions about not only where we stand, but also what we should do with this blog. And of course, how we can help.

Both of us believe in the Black Lives Matter movement and protests. Both of us want to support it.

Of course, we are two writers who are running a gaming blog to try and get sponsorship–there isn’t any money to speak of right now, and neither of us are comfortable going to the protests for health reasons. So we had to look at what we could do. The first thing, obviously, is this blog post showing that we stand with them and support the protests.

Next, we looked at what we could control, that being the characters in the game and representation. We knew we had covered our bases with the playable character creation, we have twenty different skin tones. You will be able to play with all options of skin tones available right at the get go. While right now how many features are set and how many can be customized are in flux because we don’t have an engine, we hope that we are going to continue to be able to provide a wide range there too. Whenever we create “sample” or filler player characters, we always go middle of the road–i.e. olive skin, brown hair, brown eyes–not white.

The next step beyond the player character is the characters you interact with the most. For our game, that’s the mentor-characters. There are seven Light Riders, five Shadow Riders, and because the Diamond District is “neutral” and not claimed by any set mentor, I count the younger prince and princess twins as the district representatives since they will be your source of info in terms of what’s going on and how to do things. So that puts us at fourteen characters to check our ratios on.

Keep in mind, this is our starting area. In an ideal world, there’s three other countries to unlock. For sake of sanity, each has their own, global influence. Astranar’s influence is Europe. But because it’s our starting area, I felt like we needed to push the ratio farther than what most racial statistics tell me the ratio is for Europe, not only to be fair for representation, but also to be realistic to the fact this is one continent, some crossover is going to happen more.

Upon review and some mapping of the characters by Ginny, we decided that yep, we needed to do some adjusting, which had a minor ripple on to another character who wasn’t adjusted. But thankfully we are now happy with it. Since I don’t remember who all has been mentioned where in what context, and editing past history can be viewed very badly in these turbulent times, I am instead going to list out our district representative characters and their current, possibly new backgrounds as well as the thinking behind it all.

Light Riders:
Vesper “Ves” Leilament–American and white, no change.
Shizuka “Kitty” Sweetsong–Japanese and Asian, no change.
Vivienne “Viva” Streetbeats–Tahitian and mixed (Polynesian and black-French), no change.
Elena “Len” Treeharmony–Brazilian and olive complexion, no change
Minna “Minnie” Opuswright–German and black, she is the one who changed the most and the least at the same time. Minnie’s original character for a different project was German and black, we switched her to Middle Eastern when we changed projects before the Shadow Riders existed…and now we’ve changed her back.
Charlotte “Lottie” Mistwaltz–French and white, no change.
Isidora “Izzy” Silvertreble–Russian and white, no change.

Shadow Riders:
Vanessa “Nessie” Ribbonmelody–changed from German to Swiss since Minnie is now (back) to being German, and white, no other change.
Victoria “Vickie” Blackpiano–English and changed from white to being of Indian descent. She grew up in London still, but her family would have immigrated. I wanted us to have more representation from Asia, and it fit the character really well to make this transition. I’m sure we’ll find further edits down the road that will need to happen. (Like my scripts for demo weeks. I literally just realized that. Next on my to do list!)
Veronica “Roni” Highflute–Greek and olive complexion, no change.
Vivian “Viv” Streetbeats (no, not a typo, I swear)–Tahitian and mixed (Polynesian and black-French), no change.
Varteni “Var” Heatforte: Armenian and olive complexion, no change.

Royals:
Princess Rowan–Astranaran and mixed (black and white, presents black), no change.
Prince Elowen–Astranaran and mixed (black and white, presents black), no change.

Hopefully this ratio makes sense, covers everything well for the start and then we can build it up as we go to other countries to keep things equal. I obviously will have to review our current characters and our new characters as we build them, and make sure each group fits this ratio. Most of the groups aren’t finished yet, which makes it harder to see where we are at, but obviously as the game continues to develop, we will keep a sharp eye on our ratio.

Ginny and I haven’t talked much about the police, but we have talked about having small mounted police, and they will be spread out. We are definitely not going to have any kind of military present in the game, aside from guards in the palace (which is like the Secret Service) and you may run into one cop in an area. Interaction will be limited with them.

Hopefully these steps will show that we are committed to equality and we want to help. If you have any thoughts for how we can further make adjustments, please let me know in the comments or to our e-mail, and we will see what we can do. Change is needed, and we will do our best to speed it along.

Everyone is Talking About Astranar!

Everyone is Talking About Astranar!

Late to the Global Stage. Hanging onto a Victorian Edge. This new Horse and Equestrian Capital of the World feels enough like Europe to make most tourists from that area feel right at home but at the same time defies expectations. And nowhere is this more exemplified than the Astranar royal family.

Ruling from the Diamond District, a massive city that feels like several sprawling interconnected towns, King Edward and Queen Katherine set the tone. He is a bit reserved and proud, a statesman from birth with a charming smile if quiet in words; she is passionate and stubborn, the backbone of the family that wants what’s best for her children, even if they don’t know it yet. The eldest prince, Sebastian, is in self-exile in Sapphire District, removed from the line of the throne and glad for it. He is content to raise horses at the family estate. His younger brother, William, is the Crown Prince by default. He still manages to sneak off into the city, despite an upcoming visit by his betrothed from Zablana (or perhaps because of). The trick for the younger Prince Elowen and Princess Rowan is telling them apart! (This family sounds like a whole lot of trouble…)

While the nobility answers to a Parliament, most of the remaining maintain enforcement of the government in their eight districts and serve the populace as needed for the areas around their estates. Knighthood in Astranar indicates battle prowess and honor in these modern times, and it is gender-blind. You are as likely to meet a female knight as you are a male.

While you’ll never mistake Amethyst’s sharp mountains for Ruby’s steep tree covered hills and lake country or Morganite’s marshes or Citrine’s mossy groves and heather covered moors, every district has its quirks and their people are proud of them. Each of the districts does have things in common. Mild weather during the spring and summer months, and a tendency for gentle frosts and snow dustings in the autumn and winter, Astranar is abundant with wildlife outside of horses. Several species of deer and owls call the woods home, and swans and ducks grace lakes and ponds. Wild turkeys make menaces of themselves, and river otters steal melons from gardens to munch on. Farmers keep more than cows and chickens, even if Citrine’s cows are rather shaggy looking, but also stately buffalo and bison, cute and fuzzy alpacas, and there seems to be an over fondness for goats in pajamas or hats.

From small hamlets to the massive capital city in the Diamond District, there are many sizes of towns and many types of people to meet. From farmers and horse breeders, to smiths and other craftsmen, the people of Astranar come from many walks of life and have several different types of lessons to teach, if you seek them out. They all love pets! Besides the usual dogs, cats, rabbits, and ferrets, riders will sometimes travel with chickens, piglets, badgers, and otters, with special education programs occasionally having wolf cubs and wild cat kittens for fostering. If carrying a real animal with you isn’t your (or your horse’s!) cup of tea, there are several types of stuffed toys and flower bouquets to brighten up saddle bags.

When not traveling by horse or cart, the best way to get around Astranar has to be by train. The cars are carefully set up to insure not only your comfort but that of your horse, with most of the horses in Astranar being used to such travel by now. How to identify whether a platform is next to a cargo track or a passenger one? Keep your eye out for the conductor cat! These little rascals are dressed to impress, matching the district they are in but each with a bit of a difference, so you can recognize the station. They will see to your comfort—after all, a conductor is both friendly and particular, which sounds like most cats we know.

Scattered across seven of Astranar’s eight districts are Royal Summer Equestrian Camps for Girls, which sends out invitations every year to lucky girls between the ages of twelve to thirteen. How they are selected, no one knows. Some are sent to complete novices, others are sent to well-known rising stars in equestrian riding. Once invited, they can then attend each year in hopes of improving their riding ability enough to win one of the district’s championships for a full scholarship to the Royal Riding Academy.

At the camps, there is more than just riding and basic crafts to attend to, there are fun basic camp things like swimming, hiking, fishing, boating, and even archery. Every week, each camp holds a dance in their dining hall and campers are asked to help with the open house where they can meet the different clubs of Astranar. There are twenty-four original mother clubs in Astranar, and every year new campers are invited to create new sister clubs to these original clubs. And not all of these clubs get along.

But would they band together if all of Astranar and the world was threatened?

One word of advice if you ever visit Astranar, keep your eyes open. You never know what secrets and wonders may be hiding behind the next tree or through the arch of branches and flowers. What will you discover?