This is not a review, but a recommendation of a blog that I love.
When I was a child, I was terrified of aboriginal masks. Something about them bothered me, but even more so when they were not being worn. Perhaps it was the dark, vacant eyes, I’m not sure.
I distinctly remember visiting the Museum of Man on a school trip (now a Natural History Museum; the “Man” stuff has gone elsewhere). When we got to the First Nations hall, there was this wall of masks that were dimly lit (probably out of respect and to avoid damaging the paint pigments with too much light, but to a small child, it was eerie and moody). It looked like this:
I got seriously freaked out. Henceforth, I couldn’t even look at photographs of Haida art without feeling fright.
In all fairness, most aboriginal masks are meant to represent spirits, animals, ancestors or even monsters. They’re presumably meant to appear a little weird or off-putting. You know, go generate awe and respect.
Eventually I developed a fascination with this art style, overcoming my wariness. My father got a job at the Canadian History Museum in Hull, Quebec. Back then it was known as the Canadian Museum of Civilization, which I feel was more memorable and unique. Anyway, one of the perks of his employment there was free admission for the family. Needless to say, I saw a lot of that place, both in the main halls, exhibits and even backstage. I got a lot of good looks at these artifacts and my childhood fears dissipated a lot.
Still, despite my love for this style of aboriginal art, I get the occasional chill up my spine. I don’t mean any disrespect at all to the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest, but seriously, some of these masks are CREEPY. I mean, look at these examples (mostly from modern artists, I think):
Anyway, lately I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and becoming familiar with OSR games that often deal with concepts that I find a bit troubling or challenging due to their subject matter or theme. Lamentations of the Flame Princess, for example, has a lot of horrific and weird art that shocked me upon initial viewing. Strange how I often become obsessed with stuff that used to scare me…
That was one of the reasons that I wanted to create a fantasy culture based on the Haida for my project: Koru (aka Island World). Specifically, I was looking for anything related to Pacific Islander and Pacific Northwest aboriginal cultures. This is when I came across Straits of Anián.
Wow is this site full of great stuff. There are only a half dozen articles, but they’re awesome. It goes to show that you CAN respectfully make an RPG about a different culture or part of the world than Western Europe or Asia (usually China and Japan). Spears of the Dawn (link to drivethruRPG) is another great example of how this can be done well.
Even though I am fascinated by the subject matter and imagery my childhood fears still linger, but I can’t stop reading this site.
The author writes about their culture, legends, weapons and monsters. It is very evocative and detailed. I really want to run a game in this setting some day.
I recommend checking out the Straits of Anián, even if it is just to see how to write a great RPG blog.
Please Visit the Straits of Anián and read everything: there are less than a dozen articles and they’re all worth it.
And check out Spears of the Dawn (link to drivethruRPG) by Sine Nomine Publishing.
Terminology: “Haida” Art: I must clarify that when I use the term “Haida” it is my ignorant and obviously culturally insensitive shorthand for Pacific Northwest Indigenous peoples.
Grammar: The accent in Anián was omitted in the post title to ensure that the special character wouldn’t break WordPress or any online blog readers (or RSS feeds).