Who is Arewys?
Who is Arewys?
Arewys Nawor Jomassenon, Sawyer Rowan Masonjones. Same person, different names. I’ve used this moniker with some variation since I first started playing tabletop. Wanting something fantasy sounding and vaguely Elven, the anagram of my own name became my name online, in video games, and in several self-insert characters over the years. So, when it came time to choose my persona in Gessa, Arewys was right there and ready made to be the chronicler and the lens of which Gessa lore and campaigns are written. A wandering chronicler and wizard, flitting on the edge of Gessan events as the narrative of the world unfolds, you might spy him as an NPC in a bar, a mysterious traveler that giverfs hints to adventurers, or a multitude of personas and disguises. The narrative of the world is written from their perspective, the campaign and world books will have side passages of his notes and thoughts about the world, ever helpful about tips and views of the world, told from the perspective of one chronicling the unique history of your instance of the world.
Sawyer Rowan Masonjones, on the other hand, is a far less interesting character. A power nerd to his core, I’ve been an avid reader of fantasy since I was small, starting with the likes of Tolkein, Brooks, Anthony, McCaffery, Pratchett, and many, many others. I was infamous for having a new book every day from elementary to highschool. I was on a first name basis with our librarians, a mathlete and star science student. I ended up going to the University of Florida where I had 6 different majors over 4 years, graduating with a Biology major and a lot of half minors. After that, I went to get my PhD at the University of California Riverside in the Genetics, Genomics, and Bioinformatics program. I’ve been in grad school for way too long now, but I’ll be graduating in a few months. Table top though has been a near and dear thing to my heart since high school though, introduced to me by my partner Dana Phillips at the tender age of 17. In college, it was a way I made friends and most of my best friendships were developed through DnD.
DnD is far from a perfect game, and it always bothered me deeply not only the demographics of these groups were often white and male and gatekept from people that were interested, but ‘weren’t real nerds’, but the source material itself had some troubling over and undertones when it came to race and culture, so when I started DMing, I wanted to make a world that was far more ‘real’. Cultures couldn’t be one dimensional, sentient races would not be fodder for murderhobo players to kill, and moreover, everything was more complex than simply ‘There’s evil, go bash it’s head in’. I used it to tell stories of revolution, of big change, of fighting not just the external evils of a Big Bad raising an undead army, but about fighting the societal evils of the setting. This has evolved in 4 campaigns so far, never the same world twice, but the themes remained. I make no claims of being the right person to create such a world, but this is my attempt at making a far more interesting and nuanced campaign setting and stories than what currently exists. A DnD for the era where we are becoming, thankfully, far more inclusive and socially conscious.
Gessa is my own, unique take on fantasy worlds, trying to right the past wrongs of previous settings when it comes to talking about a diverse set of races and creatures. The game design is based on the idea that there are no monster races, no rabble that is just fodder for players to kill without a second thought, nor based in stereotypes about certain cultures.
Our goal with writing Gessa is that each race has a defined, unique, and diverse culture. Taking themes from our own cultures rather than stealing from specific ones. The Astaran Empire, for example, takes from themes and Aesthetics from the Roman, Persian, Greek, and other European empires, using them to talk about imperialism. And our take on the Orcs are not the violent and chaotic evil fodder DMs have sent after players for decades, but have a complex and unique culture, an anarchic meritocracy based on contests of battle, wits, magic, or strength to settle disputes. There will be standard races, like Elves and Dwarves and Halflings, but also a myriad of our own races, like the Ar-woan, the speaking trees who travel the world in their juvenile form seeking experiences before they settle somewhere and root permanently. Or the Ataraxi, a recently developed race; an insectoid hive mind achieving sentience and starting to produce capable individuals to send out to interact with the world. Each of these cultures of course thinks they are right in their beliefs and practices, but in Gessa, there is no specific, absolutely known cosmology. No objective planes or afterlife that is known to exist, much like our own world. Our intent is to produce a world that has conflicts that reflect ours without bringing our own cultural baggage, one that has cultures that feel as real as our own, and one where any player can find their niche within this world.
Our first campaign is very much inspired by the events of 2020. Early in the pandemic, when we started up a play by post, I decided to make a game where the big bad was not a person or an invading dark army, but of a disease sweeping the world, and a cult trying to spread it.
The Last Gasp is a campaign centered around a disease called the Burning. It starts as a cough and a rash, but over the course of weeks it burns and hollows out the chest cavity. Most get off at the cough and rash stage, never progressing further. But those that get to the stage where it burns you, most die. Those that survive, however, become the Ashen. Lungs and heart, and eyes are burnt out and replaced by light, giving them the strange power to wield silver and gold flame, or to spread the disease by breathing out ash. Their eyes are burnt out, but their vision is replaced by a limited sight of magic. They can only see out 10 feet to start with, but can see magic rather than the light we see. Characters can take one of the Ashen subclasses if they are afflicted with this disease, focusing on developing their new powers as one of the Ashcursed.
Over the course of the campaign, the characters are exposed to the politics of the Astaran Empire, a decaying imperium that 30 years ago, fractured into the Empire of the Sun and the more diffuse Kingdoms of the Moon, each with alternate views of the astrology based religion. 12 star signs correspond with 12 unique countries and kingdoms divided astrologically between the Sun and the Moon gods of Belacron and Munaia respectively, and the mysterious darkened satellite moon, the broken Wanderer, equal to the other two, but considered a dark and tricky force and influencer within the religion.
Each country was under the rule of the Astaran Empire under the Sun god Belacron until the northern, more moon worshipping countries rebelled 30 years ago. The two sides of the Empire exhibit two forms of the religion, the very traditionally minded and hierarchical Sun worshippers, that form a religion more akin to Catholicism, Islam, or other more theocratically minded religions, and the more pagan feeling version found more commonly in the North, that puts more emphasis into following the Moon Goddess Munaia and the more naturalistic rhythms of Gessa and the spirits that dwell there. (more on the religion and the Astaran Empire in an upcoming blog post)
The campaign takes you through a few of these kingdoms as the story has you follow the trail of the disease and the Cult of the Dark Sun, those claiming that this disease is the sign of the last days leading up to the destruction of Gessa. The campaign will be set up to promote player agency, giving options for DMs for diverging stories based on how the players interact with the world rather than a straight railroad, giving DMs and players the ability to explore the world and develop the story as they see fit.
We will be working on this over the next year, getting all of the content ready. But we will need funds for publishing. And to get the other half of our business model, an app where you can connect to groups as well as several other features that are game changers for the Role Playing Industry, but we need investors or revenue to realize these projects. If you are feeling generous, you can donate to us directly on our Donate Page, or tip us from your checkout as you buy from our online store. We thank you for your patronage and generosity, and look forward to bringing you these exciting products.
Thanks for listening.
Until next time, Arewys...