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Third Edition Raksi: Less Monstrous But Far More Villainous: An Opinion Piece

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  • Third Edition Raksi: Less Monstrous But Far More Villainous: An Opinion Piece

    Part 1: How it started.
    In a time that was long before the First Age, in the First Edition, Raksi was described as living as a blood-goddess. We are told that her apemen and "Wyld vassals" roam the area looking for tribute. The locals attempt suicide rather than face the horrors of Mahalanka, because Raksi has an insatiable thirst for the heart's blood of youths. She also views the people of the Ten Tribes who are descendants of Sperimin as her property.
    This was a time when Lunars were closer to their cousins in the Old World of Darkness. They could be any sort of animal, sure, but territory was of unparalleled importance. Therefore you never encroached on Mahalanka, "the City of a Thousand Golden Delights" as it's translated, without permission. We do see that she is willing to mentor other Lunars, through the example of Dark Eyes, but her monstrous behavior is mostly just tolerated because she is shahan-ya.
    Shahan-ya meant something different back then, however. In Third Edition, the Shahan-ya are the faction leaders and policy setters for the Silver Pact. In First Edition, being shahan-ya is being the most respected, but that's it. This is evident in Ma-Ha-Suchi merely being murr-ya, still revered but a step down.
    And that's all we really know about First Editition Raksi. She probably was a sorcerer given she was an elder No-Moon. She probably had a hand in the creation of the Lunar Tattoos, but she wasn't yet the architect behind them. All we are told is a vague, the No Moons did it.
    Part 2: Dawn of the Second Ed
    As one edition changed to another so did Raksi's role within the story. She became more important to the Silver Pact even as her interest in it waned. She was one of the greatest sorcerers in the fallen age, if not the greatest. She invented the caste-fixing tattoos, but she also became more explicitly monstrous. The Chimera, a mere concept in the previous edition, was for better or worse added to an refined. Raksi was not a Chimera, but she hovered at the edge. The Wyld had twisted her. Her human true form was locked into a body forever 16 years old, and her fingers bent backwards. Her most troubling mutations were mental, however. Her favorite food became human flesh and hated beautiful things, and her enjoyment of torturing became well known. There is also the first mention of one of the things Raksi has become infamous for, eating babies.
    Part 3: Now and the Future
    The manuscript previews tell us, for now at least, that "her depraved self-indulgence and unflinching cruelty" are an act. Sure she still eats children, commits torture, and many other atrocities, but she does so because "she believes that soft-hearted or idealistic Lunars must be made ready to confront the atrocities committed in the course of the Pact’s vendetta against the Realm." We are given some conflicting information, however. She didn't teach the soft-hearted Weyna Who-Sees-Much anything of the sort when Weyna objects to eating a child. Raksi gives her respect and the child for this instead, and she now considers the baby her grandchild. I can only guess that Raksi's monstrosity being an act steams from the writers wanting her to be available as a mentor. This show in the change from a scant reference of Dark Eyes to lording her magical acumen over prospective students to "[drawing] many students. At any given time, she’s likely to have a small coterie of adherents studying under her."
    Part 4: Bringing it Together
    I argue that the effort to make Raksi less of an unapproachable monster, which was done successfully, has made her the most morally reprehensible and Villainous she has ever been.
    First, it's worth noting that Lunar Chimeras aren't a thing in Third Edition because the Lunars losing their old castes isn't a Wyld affliction like it had been for the previous two editions. Now it was an act of self-determination, a prominent theme in the new Lunars book. So we can assume that she acts for no other reason than her will.
    Raksi's monstrosity is an act to teach other Lunars, sure, but she still commits these acts. Her story isn't one of decreeing the baby will be cut in half to find its true mother. Her story is one of cutting the baby apart and determining who gets to eat which portion. " Raksi revels in being Raksi." That means that "she enjoys living up to the rumors new adherents have heard of her, "sure but doesn't that also mean she enjoys engaging in the activities that spark those rumors? She may serve babies on a platter to guests to shock them and not because they are her favorite food, but she still revels in it, no matter how exaggerated her "facade of monstrosity" supposedly is. No matter how much it's an "act" she still does these things for real, really vivisecting prisoners of war, really forcing her champions to engage in blood sport, and all the while " Raksi revels in being Raksi." The stated reason for her "act" is to teach, but as I had mentioned above she is willing to ignore that reason on a whim.
    We didn't really know enough about Raksi in First Ed. to call her much of a monster. Sure, she had a heart's blood addiction and was a bit of a tyrant, but she wasn't mentioned more than a few brief sections. In Second Ed. she was broken, and being broken turned her into a monster. In Third Ed. she is set to be choosing the path of a monster and therefore is a villain. Can you honestly tell that she is any better than The Mask of Winters or any other villain?

    Edit: I stand corrected. There is one mention of baby eating in the First Edition book.
    Last edited by Mmooney; 02-25-2019, 11:53 AM.

  • #2
    They're gonna need the Mask of Winters to be a viable mentor for abyssals. So no, they're probably about the same.

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    • #3
      The baby-eating thing is at least as old as the First Edition Lunar's book, where it factors into a pre-chapter fiction and artwork depicting the "feast".


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      • #4
        Reminds me a lot of Mottom from Kill Six Billion Demons in that she tells herself that her monstrous acts are necessary but she primarily does them but because she's too self-obsessed, too lazy to change, and too afraid of what will happen if she stops. Still a terrible character flaw, but less "For the Evulz" and more dysfunctional failed hero. She's a teacher alright, but she's also a cautionary tale.

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        • #5
          To be frank, I agree with this, except for one thing: that this is a bad thing. Raksi is very much the evil part of the Silver Pact, the rakhasha queen. Mighty, intelligent, and completely unapologetic. She knows she's the bad guy, and loves it.

          Quite simply, Raksi-the-Monster was wasted potential, a video game boss riven by dementia and little more than a fight waiting in the wings. Raksi-the-Villain is raw, primal power attached to a nuclear dynamo of a mind and a living nightmare that nonetheless offers benefits for working with her.

          I hate the monster. I love to hate the villain.


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          • #6
            A villain doesn't need to be doing it "For the Evulz" to still be a villain

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            • #7
              Leliel I don't recall saying that it's a bad thing, merely that it is

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Mmooney View Post
                Leliel I don't recall saying that it's a bad thing, merely that it is
                Ah, sorry. I misread.

                And I agree. Thankfully, I don't think Raksi does; she put on the mask of being a monster and found she liked it. She always has an agenda, but revels in the means she takes to get there.


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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Mmooney View Post
                  A villain doesn't need to be doing it "For the Evulz" to still be a villain

                  And I never implied so, but powerful "for the Evulz" villains tend to be really boring or frustrating to deal with because their power far outstrips the level of dramatic narrative you can wring from them, particularly when their M.O. is to sit around being passively awful without any greater agenda (this isn't always the case, but they need to be custom made to fit the narrative). More complex, humanly flawed villains, even if they're not directly sympathetic, are more interesting. Narrative-wise there's not much you can do with a sociopath, because they're a sociopath, they can't change and never had the potential be anything else other than a pathological glitch in the human condition(again, they can be done well, but it needs to be specific to the story's themes, which, in a roleplaying game, is a bit difficult because players inject their own themes). They'd be an obstacle to overcome, but not a full on person.

                  Humanized villains offer more avenues for the plot to progress along and more satisfying conclusions than "this person is an inherently horrible shit, lets kill them and get back to more important things."
                  Last edited by HamSandLich; 02-25-2019, 01:21 PM.

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                  • #10
                    I'm sorry, but the idea of the writers thinking the majority of players would consider Raksi as a mentor only has me pondering whether they'd give Lilith the same treatment. Yikes...

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                    • #11
                      What's wrong with Lilith?

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Elfive View Post
                        What's wrong with Lilith?
                        If they can retool her like they did Raksi? Not much. I had about an hour-long conversation with a friend Saturday about how badly Dreams wrecked her, though.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Guitar Longcat View Post
                          I'm sorry, but the idea of the writers thinking the majority of players would consider Raksi as a mentor only has me pondering whether they'd give Lilith the same treatment. Yikes...
                          Restoring Lilith to her First Edition coolness was an important personal goal. You'll see her in Chapter Nine.


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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by HamSandLich View Post


                            And I never implied so, but powerful "for the Evulz" villains tend to be really boring or frustrating to deal with because their power far outstrips the level of dramatic narrative you can wring from them, particularly when their M.O. is to sit around being passively awful without any greater agenda (this isn't always the case, but they need to be custom made to fit the narrative). More complex, humanly flawed villains, even if they're not directly sympathetic, are more interesting. Narrative-wise there's not much you can do with a sociopath, because they're a sociopath, they can't change and never had the potential be anything else other than a pathological glitch in the human condition(again, they can be done well, but it needs to be specific to the story's themes, which, in a roleplaying game, is a bit difficult because players inject their own themes). They'd be an obstacle to overcome, but not a full on person.

                            Humanized villains offer more avenues for the plot to progress along and more satisfying conclusions than "this person is an inherently horrible shit, lets kill them and get back to more important things."
                            Honestly, given the times we live in, my taste for and capacity to believe in the villain with some deep, compelling ideological motivation or formative tragic backstory has waned significantly.

                            As for Raksi, I think one thing that's useful about how she's written up is that the conditions in which the worst things that she does happen can have their frequency adjusted to taste. Either in terms of "there's no much call to do them because she's effectively gotten the message across that her opponents she keep out of the TCZ" or "serving up a baby is something she did, like, twice, amongst all the other crap she could pull, but it's a reputation that sticks".


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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post

                              Honestly, given the times we live in, my taste for and capacity to believe in the villain with some deep, compelling ideological motivation or formative tragic backstory has waned significantly.

                              As for Raksi, I think one thing that's useful about how she's written up is that the conditions in which the worst things that she does happen can have their frequency adjusted to taste. Either in terms of "there's no much call to do them because she's effectively gotten the message across that her opponents she keep out of the TCZ" or "serving up a baby is something she did, like, twice, amongst all the other crap she could pull, but it's a reputation that sticks".

                              Not saying that villains should be justified, but they should be more interesting than "powerful crazy f*cker who lives in ruins and eats human veal." There's no person to fight, no flawed thesis to refute, just a rabid animal that walks on two legs and can channel essence. Compelling ideological motivations and formative tragic backstories can still be insufficient justification for monstrous actions and no defense against retribution, but that should be the conclusion we get from Raksi, not "the wyld fucks people up, better put them down quick before they start doing what Raksi does." A simple human sociopath villain isn't going to have the level of raw power and experience that Raksi has because they've been concerned with small minded immediate self-gratification since the day were born.

                              Now, if Raksi in 2e was an active villain, maybe they could have had a message about needing to be vigilant against people like her, but for all her power, she wasn't anything more than a very localized "Conan The Barbarian" villain who spent all of her time bullying local tribes and engaging in navel gazing depravity. She didn't do anything, even cringe inducing 2e Ma-Ha-Suchi led regular raids as far from his lair as Greyfalls. There was no pressing need to fight her unless you wanted the Book of Three Circles. If you didn't need it, you could build up your strength at a leisurely pace and eventually send a magic WMD her way if you wanted her gone.

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