Fantasy and related genres have a lot of tropes to offer. When we write new stuff, we have a number of options to deal with that.
- We can use them straight. Elves live in natural settings, are bit high-headed, live longer than most people, are generally better at everything, and have long ears.
- We can allude to them. That is we don’t say the name, but use some of the aesthetics. That’s the standard in Space Opera, where you have a “elves”, but they are called Vulcans or Minbari.
- We can subvert them. We use the name, we use most of the salient bits, but change the context. Like the eusocial hive elves in Gemini RPG.
- We can use them as a red herring. We use the name, but pretty much nothing else. See the Dragon in Wheel of Time. Do this sparingly.
- We can also just ignore it. No elves.
- Finally, the text might make an effort to explain why a certain trope is not present. Somtimes called averting a trope.
Today I want to subvert the Witch. What do we know about witches:
- They live in forests.
- They eat children.
- They ride broom sticks.
Magic group right? This is Rebellion, so let’s start with a god.
It is said the Forest Boy was the son of earth and the sky, thus he grew the trees with roots in the ground and the leaves up high. He was a joyful child, always soaring the skies. He was nice child too, never soaring above where the people had their houses and fields.
When it became clear that the gods walking about would rip the world, the boy grew sad. Because he loved both the people and divines. So as the rebels and the gods clashed, he withdrew and soared no more.
When finally a representative from the rebels came, the center of the forest was so dense, they had to brandish the Allschnitt to break a path, some people say. They found the boy sitting on a lake. Its water was salty, because it came from the boys tears.
What happened next, depends on who you ask. The rebels would say the boy consented to give them information and end his live. The loyalists say he was forced. In any case, the local guides who had come with the rebels cut the boy apart with knives of bronze and sowed his flesh bones all over the forests. And thus the trees of the forest became magic and the witches of the land wield power over root and sky.
Not the full story actually. The Boy (or sometimes a Girl) regularly arises anew in the forests and the Witches cut him to pieces over and over, partake of his flesh and sow the earth with it. The partaking is very important, because witches eat children. Except this child is not actually a child and wants to be eaten. And that’s how one becomes a witch.
- Witch Wood that is magic wood from the Witchlands floats in the air. The altitude varies somewhat with the weather, air pressure to be specific, as with the kind of wood. The average is between 30cm and 1.5m.
- Witch Wood has very interesting applications in construction. You can add material and make your construction lighter!
- Witch Wood is the major export of the Witchlands.
- Witches can, with concentration and singsang, affect plant growth, especially woody plants. This is not immediate, but the plants will grow two to three times faster than usual and in the shape the witch desires.
- The Witchlands have the best orchards.
- Witches can create gusts of wind. This is the most straining of their abilities, but a trained witch can keep up a stiff breeze for most of the day, or major gust from time to time.
So, broom rinding. Modern witches have figured out that just grabbing a bunch of Witch Wood and propelling oneself with wind, is not very efficient. Get bit of canvas though and put it into a contraption of witch wood, and you have an effective glider.
Society: The Witchlands lie in the south west of the Great Peninsula, on a the seaward side of a mountain range parallel to the coast. The climate is tropical. The central area of the Devastation is more than a subcontinent away, so the region came along mostly unscathed, although they lost their protector. The lands are are ruled by several independent lords and have been mostly peaceful. The Witches act as an independent class within society and tightly regulate who to induct into their ranks. Spying on their rituals, they punish harshly.
In the recent years there has been an uptick in foreign trade, as more and more ships land on the coast. Many owned by the big hairy people, who call themselves “of the forests”, as well. But more regular folk as well. While many locals welcomed the influx of goods the traders brought, the forests can only produce so much Witchwood. And the foreign coin exacerbated the rivalries between the lordships.