In my last post I told the story so far, the history of the world of Cazia. You met the main characters of the story, the planeswalkers Maers and Belthak (I will tell their story in full in a future post). I introduced the last two cities of Keb, Acania and Kabah. It is these two cities I’m going to focus on in this post.
The basic story of Cazia and the name Acania were two of the first flavour elements to come out of early exploratory design. I knew that the Ancient Egypt analogue, later named Keb, would be the dominant force in the world. But I also knew from my analysis of the desert/flood themes that Cazia block was going to start out ruined and desert-ridden (see Part 3). I couldn’t show Keb at its height, I had to show it as a collection of ruins and lost monuments. This fits the pop culture image of Ancient Egypt well, as seen in movies like Indiana Jones or The Mummy. At the same time this also provided fuel for the conflict between the various cultures (see Part 4).
I initially imagined Acania as halfway between Memphis and Petra, struggling on despite the collapse of Keb due to its important role as economic and cultural centre. But what would give Acania the military and economic edge needed to actually survive? I’d already established the idea that deserts sap mana (see Part 1), it was a simple matter to go from there to oases and rivers providing mana. In real life Petra was an important stopping point because of its hidden oases, enabling trade through the region. Acania sits on one of the last great mana oases in Cazia. Control of this mana oases would need to be tightly regulated, both to prevent its depletion and for strategic advantage. But who would regulate (rule) the city of Acania? And what colours would they and their city be?
The answer to both these questions was remarkably straightforward. For colours, Acania would have to be white. I’d already established by this point that nomadic traders were white (see Part 5) and the idea of regulated preservation is very white. However Acania was also heir to the kingdom of Keb, which practiced slavery and whose last ruler was a patron of dark magics. These two concepts are very black, as does the idea of a ruling class which controls the flow of water to the masses. Acania was going to be white-black and needed some kind of ancient ruling class with extremely long term interests. What fit the bill? Vampires.
Vampires have been done as a major race a few times in Magic, but never in white-black. White-black fits the philosophy of vampires very well, the white ideas of preservation and order meshing well with the black concepts of power and control. The Acanite vampires were less brutal butchers and more careful shepherds of an enslaved city, a particularly sinister idea I enjoyed. Now how do I represent the vampric Acanites mechanically?
The answer was already there, sitting in my early design notes. The vampires of Acania use sac-for-value magic, sacrificing their own citizens for gain (see Part 2). This is already a branch Magic’s vampires are known for, with the uniqueness coming from the different colour combination. The contemporary Acania was done, but how did such a city come to exist? Where did the vampires of Cazia come from?
I’d already answered this question when writing the story of Cazia (See Part 6), making this next step much easier. The last pharaoh of Keb had transformed the ruling class of Acanites into vampires as part of his experiments with dark preservation magic. Considering how important Keb was in the history of Cazia, and my desire to increase the overall Egyptness of the world, I knew I wanted at least one more major remnant of Keb. Why not use the former capital, the sinking city of Kabah? I really liked the idea of the last pharaoh turning to dark transformative magics and in desperation using them on his own people. Acania was a white-black city transformed into vampires, but what was Kabah?
Kabah was going to be black and have some kind of transformed populace. The question then became how was the populace transformed and what was Kabah’s second colour? The answer to this next question came from a rudimentary analysis of Ancient Egypt and Kabah’s place as the former capital of Keb. The key to Ancient Egypt’s success as a state was control of the Nile river delta. The Nile’s annual flooding would provide the nutrients for large summer harvests, and the labour force for large winter building projects. At the same time flooding limited the location of cities, they had to be close enough to the river to benefit (and be out of the sandy dunelands) but far enough away that the floods didn’t destroy the city. The biggest cities of Ancient Egypt weren’t in the delta itself, but adjacent (notable examples being Alexandra, Giza, or Memphis). But if you have magic everything changes. You gain the ability to build in the delta itself, as you can build fast enough and strong enough to resist the flood. Kabah would be such a city.
Kabah was now a black city of transformed people built in a swampy river delta. You know what else you get in swampy river deltas? Forests and crocodiles. Egyptian mythology is full of gods and magical creatures which combine animal and human traits (there are theories that a lot of the Greek mythological creatures like Centaurs and Satyrs were Egyptian in origin, adapted to fit the Greek landscape). In an attempt to reconnect with their gods and strengthen themselves against the coming droughts the people of Kabah transformed themselves into a race of crocodilian humanoids. The second colour at this point was obviously going to be green.
Acania was roughly finished and Kabah was well on its way, but I was having a lot of problems with the mechanics. It’s all well and good to say that being crocodilians is what made Kabah unique, but I wanted something more to differentiate them from black-green groups which had come before (such as the Golgari). Join me next time when I go through the mechanics of Kabah and the larger problem I was having with green in a world of deserts.