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The Problem With Hollow Ones

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  • The Problem With Hollow Ones

    I'm going to be honest: as they are written, I absolutely cannot stand the Hollowers. I hate how the metaplot treats them like the Traditions' secret weapon even though they are just short of useless. I hate how they are set up to take the 10th seat at Concordia instead of far more evocative and interesting Crafts like the Batini and the Bata'a. I hate that other Mages are supposed to give them the time of day despite the fact that they can't be bothered to care about the fate of reality. I really hate that someone decided to fold them in with the Disparates in M20, even though their aesthetic and outlook are the very epitome of whiny, privileged white kids with no real problems.

    And the tragic thing is, they were SO close to being something I could get behind.

    See, if you strip away the veneer of 90's gothic counterculture and pretentions of being preservers of some ancient legacy of macabre romance, the Hollowers are postmodernists. They take all paradigms and say "Sure. Maybe." and maybe even take a piece of it for themselves. They are the Mage's universe's answer to real world Chaos Magick and syncretism, the final form of the culture jamming of the Traditions. In theory, this should make them interesting. In theory, I could even see why the Trads have such high hopes for them.

    But then, in stead of being a beacon of hope, they're a stillborn ideology who realized that everything is true, so decided that nothing was true. They decided to sit around on their asses and mope about how the Technocracy and the Nephandi already won, willfully ignoring all evidence to the contrary. Their aesthetic is shallow and shockingly narrow. Why is it that, the second you realize that anything is possible, you automatically become a goth?

    My fix is to turn their sullen apathy into amusement. They realize that the world is absurd and revel in it. They embrace paradigms that are deliberately ridiculous and demonstrate their validity to get people to open their minds. They still haven't formally joined with the Traditions, but not out of apathy, but because presenting even the semblance of a unified ideological front is anathema to them.

    I feel that this makes them much more dynamic and actually gives them a reason to associate with the Trads. They might not be allied on an "organizational" basis, but their paradigms line up nicely.

    I think their aesthetics should be obvious. Some of them call Quintessence "Slack". They count Russel's Teapot as a celestial body for their astrology. They channel aspects of Dobbs or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Eris. They build hypertech around the Time Cube theory. They might even invoke cartoon physics or narrative causality as a basis for their effects.

    I feel like, at the end of the day, this is kinda' what the Hollow Ones wanted to be all along, but WW made them nihilistic and whiny because this is the World of Darkness and they feared that if anyone ever pointed out how silly it all was, everything would fall apart.

    (I still wouldn't put them with the Disparates though. There's no way to make that not a terrible idea.)

    tl;dr: fnord.
    Last edited by The Nilbog; 02-12-2018, 08:40 PM.

  • #2
    I like your refocus. Wicked laugher seems more like a path to "right and romance" than whining. Robin Hood and the Scarlett Pimpernel are far more heroic than Emma Bovery. Laugher is brave in a way that whimpering never can be. You're right, the Hollow Ones ought to be a celebration, Halloween all year long.

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    • #3
      I think your assesment is more about the stereotypes around the Hollow Ones, than the actual representation of the group. At least it's not what I've got from the Revised tradbook. At all.

      When I read the Orphan's Survival Guide I got a picture of shallow club kids with magic, too caught up with their little scene dramas. I also got the impression that Brucatto (or, based on your post, neither you...) doesn't like goths.

      After the revised Tradbook, they became my favorite group. They aren't whiny (honestly, I don't really get that accusation...), or nihilistic. They aren't just sitting on their asses and do nothing than sipping absinthe and listening to Bauhaus. And most importantly, they aren't shallow. They just have a different perspective than the average Traditions mage, knee deep in the Ascension War.

      And really, "privileged white kids"? A lot of them grown up on the street or came from very low stratas of society and had awful experiences behind them and struggled hard to earn practically anything at all.
      Last edited by PMárk; 02-12-2018, 10:36 PM.


      If nothing worked, then let's think!

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      • #4
        Originally posted by PMárk View Post
        I think your assesment is more about the stereotypes around the Hollow Ones, than the actual representation of the group. At least it's not what I've got from the Revised tradbook. At all.

        When I read the Orphan's Survival Guide I got a picture of shallow club kids with magic, too caught up with their little scene dramas. I also got the impression that Brucatto (or, based on your post, neither you...) doesn't like goths.

        After the revised Tradbook, they became my favorite group. They aren't whiny (honestly, I don't really get that accusation...), or nihilistic. They aren't just sitting on their asses and do nothing than sipping absinthe and listening to Bauhaus. And most importantly, they aren't shallow. They just have a different perspective than the average Traditions mage, knee deep in the Ascension War.

        Okay, you've piqued my interest. I still think that they're more dynamic and evocative as absurdist, postmodern Discordian types, but I'm willing to hear arguments otherwise.

        What do you find compelling about them in their current incarnation?

        Originally posted by PMárk View Post
        And really, "privileged white kids"? A lot of them grown up on the street or came from very low stratas of society and had awful experiences behind them and struggled hard to earn practically anything at all.
        Yes, really. People who grew up on the streets and had to face harsh realities from a young age don't wear corsets, they don't pine for the days of romance centuries past and and they have more pressing and tangible concerns than the "spiritual deadness of the modern world" . The Hollow Ones are part of a larger social paradigm created and perpetuated by the intellectual and artistic elite of the Victorian Era and the idea that the persecution and scorn they have experienced as avant garde artists is on par with that experienced by ethnic and religious minorities is at best naive and at worst outright offensive.
        Last edited by The Nilbog; 02-12-2018, 11:04 PM.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by The Nilbog View Post


          Okay, you've piqued my interest. I still think that they're more dynamic and evocative as absurdist, postmodern Discordian types, but I'm willing to hear arguments otherwise.

          What do you find compelling about them in their current incarnation?
          First and foremost, the romantic part. That part in the Tradbook heavily reminded me to what Pratchett wrote in Hogfather about why humans need stories. Hollowers are drawn to and enticed by legends, larger than life stories, symbolic things, ideals and all that. They know that those things have power, that they are essential to keep the "soul" of humanity and they see how the modern mindset (and the Technocracy) abandoned them. They might seem pretentious and whiny (and no doubt, some of them really are), but the real depth of them is that they are carrying the torch of storytellers, of heroes, of poets and tragic lovers, muses and artists, all the things that humanity fantasized about and got enthralled in for millenia. That is their personal war for reality. Not the large scale battles between the Technocracy and the Traditions, but for the soul of humanity. And they are doing it for a long time, long before Sinclair penned the name itself. Though, they are not crusaders, so they tend to do it locally and in ways they know. Also, that is why they are closely connected to goths, though that's not exclusitory, it's more like being close to subcultures and notably, musical and artistic subcultures and youths in general.

          So, that's the romanticist part.

          About their magic, yeah, some of them are "whatever goes, it works", but others are serious scholars of anything supernatural. They are, however, generally more focused on symbolism, than actual traditions/religions. On the surface, this might seem as scrabbling things together without concern, but it's more like a desire for learning and understanding how things actually work, a digging up of the underlying principles. It could seem shallow, because the majority doesn't really have access to vast magical libraries. Although some groups are dedicated to gather knowledge and make those.

          They also have a worldwide community, though a loose one. They aren't militaristic and tend to keep to themselves, if left alone, more like a "live and let live" mentality. However, they will absolutely stand up and fight if attacked and they have friends. A lot more than you'd expect.

          They also have a deep caring for the downtrodden, and the outcasts of society, since a lot of them came from there. From the street, from abusing homes, from drugs, from self-destruction, from subcultures and even minorities. They are also more down-to-earth than you average Tradition mage, meaning they still have those connections to "the streets", have their fingers in underground culture and actively trying to make things better, on the local scale.

          At least that's my take on them. Although, to be fair, sure, some of them really are just pretentious goth club kids, caught up in their petty dramas and rivalries. Every group has its ugly underbelly.


          If nothing worked, then let's think!

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          • #6
            Oh, I forgot about the name itself. I think the writeup in the various corebooks is misleading. It gives the impression that they are "Hollow", because they don1t care and don't think anything is meaningful and they lack substance. That, as you said, they're postmodern nihilists.

            However, If I recall correctly, it's not that. They are Hollow, because they've got hollowed out one way or another. Some of them died, or had a near-death experience. Some just lived awful lives. Then they Awakened. They've seen how awful the world is, how soulless society could be, they owned it and then stood up and dedicated themselves to make it out to something better, larger, something meaningful. To actually give some real meaning to life itself.
            Last edited by PMárk; 02-12-2018, 11:21 PM.


            If nothing worked, then let's think!

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            • #7
              Is their perspective seriously that the world doesn't appreciate the power of symbols and narrative anymore? Are we talking about the same world that erects statues of Robocop in the city square and has Jedi as a census recognized religion? What exactly about the modern world do they see as being anathema to art?

              And this really doesn't explain to me why they're so closely associated with goths. What about them attracted goths enough that it was even a stereotype that needed dispelling? Whenever they're portrayed in the RAW, it's never in association with, say, cosplayers, folk singers, fantasy writers, etc.
              Last edited by The Nilbog; 02-12-2018, 11:29 PM.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by The Nilbog View Post
                Yes, really. People who grew up on the streets and had to face harsh realities from a young age don't wear corsets, they don't pine for the days of romance centuries past and and they have more pressing and tangible concerns than the "spiritual deadness of the modern world" . The Hollow Ones are part of a larger social paradigm created and perpetuated by the intellectual and artistic elite of the Victorian Era and the idea that the persecution and scorn they have experienced as avant garde artists is on par with that experienced by ethnic and religious minorities is at best naive and at worst outright offensive.
                That's actually the difference between them and Orphans, in my mind. Orphans are trapped in their situation, simply surviving from day-to-day. Hollowers were, aside from every awful thing they've experienced, were lucky enough to find (or be found by) a support group, that gave them friends (and an environment that actively encourages and pursuits self-expression), tutelage and even jobs, thus money to spend on corsets. They've found goals beyond "where would I sleep this night?"

                And really, corsets and the goth subculture is not the point. They're just trappings some of them (okay, a very considerable some) like, because they've found kindred souls (not that kind...) and meaning in one subculture or another. Or because they just like the looks.

                All that doesn't mean that they didn't experienced awful things, or that they had a sheltered, middle-class life, when their biggest problem was to how to beg enough money out of their parents for a corset, or the next concert.

                And truly, assuming that only religious and ethnic minorities could experience the dark and shitty side of life is also naive and offensive.


                If nothing worked, then let's think!

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by PMárk View Post
                  And truly, assuming that only religious and ethnic minorities could experience the dark and shitty side of life is also naive and offensive.
                  This is not inaccurate. Perhaps I could have phrased my issue better...

                  The Hollowers have no reason to join the Disparates because no one is trying to destroy them on an organisational basis. The Technocracy doesn't care if they live or die, in large part because their paradigm and ideology doesn't really meaningfully conflict. The other Disparates have been negatively and directly effected by the Technocracy, but the Technocracy has never launched a full-scale cultural pogrom against artists.

                  At a more basic thematic level, the Disparates represent perspectives and cultures that have been abused and cast aside by the Eurocentric imperialism that the Technocracy represent. The Hollow Ones, thematically connected as they are to a school of thought born out of that very cultural paradigm, feel immensely out of place.

                  Like, I'm sure Lord Byron wasn't a Technocrat, but I don't think that he would have been as hurt by their methods as the defining figures of other Crafts.
                  Last edited by The Nilbog; 02-12-2018, 11:53 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by The Nilbog View Post
                    Is their perspective seriously that the world doesn't appreciate the power of symbols and narrative anymore? Are we talking about the same world that erects statues of Robocop in the city square and has Jedi as a census recognized religion? What exactly about the modern world do they see as being anathema to art?
                    Oh, they're recognizing those things, sure. They've never said "art is dead", or "stories are dead". It's more like modern sicety actively discourages taking the stories to be taken seriously. Or rather, the meaning behind the stories. The world and modern society is highly cynical, even mechanical and the stories are commercialized, stripped of real substance and beaten to death via soulless repetitions.

                    Although, keep in mind, that they were written during the '90s and early 2000's. The rising of geek culture in the past years and with that, the reinvigorated focus on storytelling is actually something I think they see as positive changes.

                    And this really doesn't explain to me why they're so closely associated with goths. What about them attracted goths enough that it was even a stereotype that needed dispelling?
                    Because it was the nineties and goth was the cool semi-outsider subculture, highly associated with romanticism. But even goth is more deep than the average mainstream stereotype.

                    Whenever they're portrayed in the RAW, it's never in association with, say, cosplayers, folk singers, fantasy writers, etc.
                    See above. I think they would have a lot of those in their midst nowadays. actually, I'd write them as such.

                    Though, they've had writers, painters, singers, poets, etc. Remeber, they were here a long time before goth. It's just, goth was the anticulture movement they've got wound up at the time.

                    That's the in-world perspective.

                    Speaking of real-world perspective, yeah, it ws the nineteens, it was WoD, vampire was big, the writers wanted a goth group in Mage. As I said, I didn't really iked them in their earlier writeups, but they actually added substance to them that I've found very close to my heart.



                    If nothing worked, then let's think!

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by PMárk View Post

                      Oh, they're recognizing those things, sure. They've never said "art is dead", or "stories are dead". It's more like modern sicety actively discourages taking the stories to be taken seriously. Or rather, the meaning behind the stories. The world and modern society is highly cynical, even mechanical and the stories are commercialized, stripped of real substance and beaten to death via soulless repetitions.
                      Is it? Is it really? Mage 1e was released the same year as Schindler's List. In the time the original WoD was being published, the world saw the release of Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings films, Metal Gear Solid and Hellboy, to name a few across different media. All wildly successful, thematically complex and very much the result of their creator's vision. The modern world, even before the current geek culture renaissance, has exponentially increased the ability of an artist to create and distribute their art. Sure, it's still hard, but can you imagine trying to pull yourself up from obscurity during the Victorian Era that the romanticist mindset seems to so desperately pine for?

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by The Nilbog View Post
                        At a more basic thematic level, the Disparates represent perspectives and cultures that have been abused and cast aside by the Eurocentric imperialism that the Technocracy represent. The Hollow Ones, thematically connected as they are to a school of thought born out of that very cultural paradigm, feel immensely out of place.

                        Like, I'm sure Lord Byron wasn't a Technocrat, but I don't think that he would have been as hurt by their methods as the defining figures of other Crafts.
                        So this whole idea here? It's wrong. The Technocracy is not in any way shape or form representative of Eurocentric Imperialism.

                        The Technocracy, if we're going to try to hamfist it into a modern political paradigm, is more along the lines of a particularly totalitarian strain of Progressive thinking. They are actively seeking to eradicate European, and all other, cultures to replace them with an artificial culture developed by them.

                        As opposed to the more or less blatantly conservative Traditions. Who simply want people to stop bothering them while they pursue their, at times fucked up, cultural agendas they've been pushing for centuries. Whether it's the human sacrifice of the Verbena, or the violent classism of the Order of Hermes.

                        Quite honestly, the Disparates as presented in the M20 guide are a slap in the face to what the independent crafts once were.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Enginseer-42 View Post
                          Quite honestly, the Disparates as presented in the M20 guide are a slap in the face to what the independent crafts once were.
                          On this at least, we can agree.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Enginseer-42 View Post
                            So this whole idea here? It's wrong. The Technocracy is not in any way shape or form representative of Eurocentric Imperialism.
                            Originally posted by Enginseer-42 View Post
                            They are actively seeking to eradicate European, and all other, cultures to replace them with an artificial culture developed by them.
                            Um.
                            You really don't realize the irony between those two parts?


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                            • #15
                              There's a difference between 'Imperialism' and 'Eurocentric Imperialism'

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