Color Philosophy Exercise: Green-White Villainy

Lore forum

Posted on March 7, 2024, 4:02 p.m. by legendofa

This is another thought that's been rattling around my head for a long time, and it's time to formally put it out into the digital world.

Part of the concept of the color pie is that there's no "good guy" or "bad guy" color. Every color and color combination can be heroic, villainous, or neutral. I think villainy gets ridiculously underused, though. I've tried several times to design an obviously villainous deck, and it never feels like a coherent whole, more like 2/3 Elesh Norn, 1/3 Vorinclex, and a scattering of other vaguely threatening cards. The MKM story added an interesting angle, but "misguided zealot" isn't quite what I'm looking for, either. Polukranos, Engine of Ruin  Flip is the most unambiguously evil card, and that guy's not even sentient, as far as I can tell.

A lot of evil groups come down to the idea of brainwash-y cult-y stuff, and that's completely accurate and appropriate. But I want to try something else. Here's my take on a villainous society, and I'd like to get some feedback.

The Free City of Sheraul has a strict and rigid hierarchy. There's virtually no social mobility, even sideways; your status at birth will be your status when you die. The Council is at the top, with the administrators directly below them. This is the only division that is semi-regularly crossed, as Council members die or are demoted and administrators promoted. Continuing down the social scale of rights and responsibilities are priests, soldiers and trial champions, laborers, and "recruits". Each of these has different internal stratifications; the Council is officially the highest level of administrators.

  • : social rigidity

  • : predestination

There are no merchants or shopkeepers, or really any monetary system. All produced goods are pooled together and distributed. Food production, storage, and manufacturing duties are held by laborers and "recruits", and the lowest caste of priest is in charge of collection. They bring it to the administrators, who then give it out as needed. Hoarding is a crime.

  • : duty to society as a whole

  • : interdependence

The legal code is restrictive and defines your duties and obligations, listing what is allowed, rather than what isn't. All crimes are equal, and the sentence is always the same: trial by combat with a skilled champion. If you lose, you die. If you win, you replace the champion. This is the only other way to change social positions, barring extreme and unusual circumstances.

  • : restrictive laws applied equally

  • : dominance through strength

"Recruiting" is a euphemism. Sheraul City periodically conducts wars of ideological and political expansion against its neighbors. The military takes war captives and occasionally kidnap people. These victims are pressed into service for the most degrading or dangerous work. This includes town guards and military fodder, but not trial champions, who are specialized soldiers. Other "recruit" duties are mining, waste management, and construction work.

  • : military strength and ideological enforcement

  • : preying on the weak and vulnerable

Every citizen of Sheraul City, from "recruits" to Council, swears an oath of lifelong loyalty and obedience to the city, willingly or otherwise. When a non-"recruited" citizen dies through combat or accident while working for the city, they are enshrined with a statue in the Hall of Martyrs, one of the most honored buildings in the city.

  • : enforced conformity and respect for sacrifice
  • : creating community ties

A citizen who can't work is a liability and a drain on resources. Injured and sick people are isolated and treated as quickly as possible, ensuring they're able to start providing for the city again without any delays. Physical conditioning is required at all levels, and mass workouts occur regularly. Dangerous work areas are highly regulated, with regular inspections. A safe and healthy city is a productive city.

  • : protection and healing

  • : physical ability

Visitors to Sheraul City will be treated with hospitality, but are expected and required to follow all of the laws--ignorance is no excuse, and lawbreakers will be charged accordingly. There is a time limit on this hospitality: a person who stays for longer than four days will be declared to be a voluntary "recruit" and will be ordered into service and loyalty.

  • : duty of hospitality and equal enforcement

  • : respect for the outside world

I pulled from several historical and fictional sources, but I tried to make it not map one-to-one on anything preexisting. This is an exercise in M:tG color philosophy and is not intended to make any political or cultural statement.

So that's my thought on a bad guy society. Harsh, restrictive, pitiless, predatory, all the negative traits of these colors. There's a good chunk of brainwash-y cult-y stuff, but I tried to develop in other directions as well. What do you think?

legendofa says... #2

Don't know if anyone's paying attention this, but I'll keep it for my own notes. Not even the "villains from across the multiverse" set has anything approaching a bad guy, unless there's something we don't know about Miriam, Herd Whisperer. On to Duskmourn with a vague, desperate hope.

April 12, 2024 4:38 a.m.

Please login to comment