RPG MUSINGS Play The Game You Want To Play

The Recycle Bin: Aberrant Nature and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

These ponies have defeated half of the Monster Manual, which lives in a 'unnatural' forest very similar to ours...

Warning: This post will have spoilers about the larger My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic canon.

Part 2 of My Little Pony Week here at RPGMusings is about horror. Well, maybe not specific instances of horror, like the film Event Horizon or Thief’s Return to the Cathedral level, or specific fears of PCs to let them drive a scene like I discussed a few weeks ago with the Arkham Asylum Recycle Bin, but rather looking at cultural fears as a whole, and the ramifications of that phobia.

If you didn’t start watching the first episode of MLP:FIM like I suggested in my previous post then let me give you a quick run down. The show takes place in a land called Equestria, mostly in the town of Ponyville, and follows the adventures of Twilight Sparkle (The purple one in the the center of the image) and her friends.

The Unnatural Nature of Natural Nature

It’s a show aimed at kids that has enough in jokes, smart writing, and fourth wall comments that adults can enjoy. (Watch this clip and tell me you’ve never been in such a conversation). But the show has created an interesting lore and background based on one simple tweak to the rules of nature. In Equestria, ponies are wholly responsible for the mechanications of nature. Pegasus ponies are responsible for creating and moving clouds, producing snowflakes by hoof, and making the clouds spill the precipitation inside of them. Not can control, in that rain would happen without their intervention, but must control. In Equestria, if you want rain, a pegasus pony and not the natural convections of air masses, is responsible. There are entire episodes about Ponyville waking up hibernating creatures, leading migratory birds back home, melting the snow and ice. Spring doesn’t arrive based on the position of the planet in relation to the sun, rather, spring in the pony controlled areas of the MLP:FIM world cannot arrive until the ponies finish a series of set tasks.

All this is pointed out in detail later on in season 1.  However, as early as the second episode we see hints of this. Not in the actions of the characters of this world, but the main character’s response to a patch of land known as the Everfree Forest. The key bit of that clip is Applejack’s line. “It ain’t natural. Folks say it don’t work the same as Equestria”. The fauna of the Everfree Forest grows and dies in what we would think is a natural way. The animals of the forest take care of themselves, outside the assistance of knowledgable ponies building their nests and direction their flights south for the winter.

In other words, what we the viewer see as normal, natural, is something aberrant and unclean to these characters. Note that, we find out in later episodes the Everfree Forest is also home to, and I am not making any of this up, hydras, cosmic star bears, ancient red dragons, manticores, cockatrices, and sea serpents. Most of these are not cute and cuddly nerf versions either, the majority of these creatures are base, hostile creatures that must be defeated in one way or another.  But it’s not these beasts that are mentioned in hushed tones, but that the forest itself is simply unnatural; it maintains itself.

 

How Can This Make Cultures 20% More Cooler?

I missed this detail on first viewing, but once aware of this, I wondered how I could use cultural fears to better flesh out my campaign world. One way is to simply replace ponies with, oh, let’s say wilden, no one likes them, to copy/paste Equestria directly. Have an enclave of wilden deep with a forest (or the Feywild) that are responsible for all the natural needs of the area. One wilden’s job for their entire life is to make sure the ants and other carrion are decomposing the dead plant and animal matter that another wilden has decreed must be killed. Another is responsible for making sure the leaves bloom on every tree in the spring, and that they shed their leaves in the fall. This would easily lead them to be fearful of outsiders, those who don’t keep to the land, and provide a unique village and different choices for PCs.

Another example, shardminds. Golems made from crystal (It’s both My Little Pony week and Show PHB3 Races Some Love Week) might be sensitive to any sound, fearful of the one pitch, unique to each shardmind, that would cause it to shatter. So the shardmind section of a city might be similar to the Khepri hive section of New Crobuzon, rather then a ghetto of hives, the shardmind part of town might be under a magical silence effect. All natural sound is removed, and no words are spoken. Orders of monks from the noisy races and others looking for an escape (say the mage studying something that your party needs) would be drawn to such an oddity, and so a unique tourist trade would possibly appear. Communication through psionic means would be all but required, likewise, spells with spoken components would not work.  You get the idea.

Fear is a powerful emotion, strong enough that deciding what and why a group of beings fear something can help flesh them out in few words. Use of a society’s fear can easily flesh out the stereotypes of a race, or give a DM a quick and easy way to create something fantastical and memorable with little effort.  I’ve thrown a few ideas out there, what are some fears you guys think could help define a race or a sub-culture of a race?

(And yes, I’ll add both Ponies and fear to the list of things I’m no longer allowed to write about…)

About

Mike Hasko got the nickname Pez one summer during band camp because his friends discovered he was an avid collector of Pez dispensers. We cannot legally disclose how the Psycho part was appended, let's just say a large hill and the inside of a large bass drum were involved.

2 Responses to “The Recycle Bin: Aberrant Nature and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic”

  • I really like this post. I’ve been listening to the episodes and found them pretty entertaining. I find it really funny that they changed some of the phrases too. Everybody becomes everypony.

    One thing I’d like to say is that most episodes are like a one-shot D&D adventure. There is a quest, often a magical beast such as a dragon, manticore and the like, and the need to overcome some challenge. While these ponies sometimes run, as often as not, they are standing up to their fears. I wonder if they could be used to get young girls interested in gaming. Sure, the ways some of the girls might want to defeat them might be a bit different, and it might help if we provided some support for those avenues, but I really don’t see a huge difference.

    *Spoilers*
    As an example, Fluttershy is able to defeat the cockatrice through her stare, by intimidating the creature enough to get it to back down. Thus saving not only her self, but the 3 younger ponies and Twilight Sparkle. That is awesome stuff!

  • Something I should point out is that this idea that nature should be controlled by outside forces, and that uncontrolled nature is seen as a threat sounds very much like our modern society. I mean think about it: We have indoor lighting, indoor plumbing, and climate control. Heck, there are even restaurants now that use large heaters to heat the outdoors. Our society thinks of nature as aberrant, and controlling nature as the norm.

    Of course, now we’re starting to see the results of this ideology. Homes, built too close to the ocean are destroyed by waves; fishing grounds that were once plentiful are being destroyed by oil spills, and areas that have been cleared of all vegetation are being washed away by heavy rains.

    Personally, I wonder if there’s a way to introduce a theme that involves nature rebelling against this society’s attempt to control it. Perhaps treants that they thought they had under control have started turning against their masters. Perhaps grigs have been attacking the city in swarms.If you want to introduce an element of horror into your campaign, that could be it.