Thursday, November 21, 2019

Wiki Showcase: The Path of the Other

The Path of the Other was the last path written for Broken Communion, and the last Path written of the original nine.

Like Death, it changed a great deal over time, as it is the "path of the space monster."  It has several new miracles focused on summoning or controlling space monsters, or interacting with them.  I've also needed to clarify a few things, such as what counts as "the Other."  Previously, this was up to the GM, but if you're using my setting, then obviously we can have some worked examples.  I've also broadened a discussion of the Greater Avatar of the Other: it allows you to shapeshift very rapidly to gain new traits or characteristics, so now I've written a sidebar full of ideas to allow you to rapidly come up with ideas and/or capabilities on the fly if necessary.  If you need more suggestions, check out Mutants in GURPS: After the End 1.

I wrote the Shape of Corruption article to facilitate all forms of Corruption, but especially the Path of the Other.  Obviously characters who become so twisted by Broken Communion so as not to be human would have some connection to the Path of the Other.  Check it out for ideas, but especially for the Gnarlspawn.

You can see the revised path here.

The Incomprehensible Thoughts of an Alien Mind

I get the impression that the Path of the Other is the least appreciated/explored of the Paths, which I find a shame because I find it an interesting perspective on Broken Communion (though I hope as the setting expands, particularly into the Sylvan Spiral, that more people will take advantage of it).  A lot of what I've written has been an effort to make it more accessible to the player, especially in what his power affects, and what he can do with his power.  It can, after all, be rather vague as to what counts as a Space Monster, and what sort of space monsters you could spawn.

The name is also a little strange. The intend behind "the Other" is to note what psychological effect is taking place: the "othering" of something.  We tend to view the world through the lens of "us" and "them" and the more "them" we make something, the more likely we are to ascribe it with monstrousness. "Civilized" people are reasonable, but "barbarians" are monsters.

As a result, the Path of the Other can most easily be seen as either Super-Evil or Weird, but a Tragic perspective is harder (though if one accepts the "weird" perspective of the Path of the Other, the fact that the path exists at all is a tragic statement on the human condition; it becomes a path of loneliness and alienation). 

In regards to the Path of the Other as fundamentally evil, note that we tend to ascribe monstrousness to that which we other, and thus those that follow this path inherit that projected monstrousness.  We tend to ascribe cannibalism and malevolent machinations to the Other, thus those who walk the path devour their own kind (or just humans) and quietly plot to control and infect others.  This makes them a dangerous "outside force" working actively to undermine the sanctity and safety "of the home," of the familiar, of "Us."  It becomes the basis for the Horror of Broken Communion.

On the other hand, the "Other" represents a sinister delusion that we project upon the unfamiliar.  I had someone comment once that the Path of the Other had to be evil because it engaged (required, he thought, which required some clarification from me) cannibalism and cannibalism was universally reviled as evil.  But is it?  Some cultures engage in ritual cannibalism, to gain the strength of their enemies, or to keep a part of a loved one "with them," and certainly people in desperate need may resort to cannibalism.  If we looks closely, a lot of the "evilness" of the Other might dissipate: wherever two cultures meet, they often plot against one another, or seek to engage one another in ways that might frighten the other. The Other may seek to undermine your defenses or your civilization, but you may seek to purge it, so it might be acting in self-defense. The Other may have access to forbidden, unspeakable knowledge that might infect you, turn you from your culture if you know it, but if a tradition can be destroyed by the truth, then perhaps it deserves to be destroyed by the truth?

In this context, the Other becomes a bridge from the familiar to the weird and previously incomprehensible.  It allows us to communicate with alien minds deemed unreachable by the GM, or to live and operate on worlds that humans cannot normally handle.  It allows us to appreciate the multi-dimensional beauty and impossibly ancient history of non-euclidean architecture of some forbidden, alien city.  From this perspective, Broken Communion becomes a world not of death or madness, but of strange, alien wonders that invite you to explore them and to become changed by them.

This last is probably why I think most people struggle with the Path of the Other.  It turns Broken Communion from "unnatural" ghosts or delusions into something concrete and real but incomprehensible and alienating.  A world covered in, black, organic chitin, with acid rains and organic architecture and great faces rising out of the mountain sides, staring blindly at the stars, is a world as saturated in "Broken Communion" as a dead world like Styx or an insane asylum.  The heart of Broken Communion from his perspective is not death or madness, but our inability to accept what Broken Communion will show us.  Broken Communion itself is a consequence of our tendency to "other" things.  It becomes stigmatized as pathological because we cannot understand it.  And this makes Broken Communion itself a rather more advanced concept, one that becomes harder to grasp and forces us to confront our own preconceptions.

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