The Opal Empire
Questions and Answers
A home for questions about why I’m making certain choices.
How is the Opal Empire “influenced by” ancient Chinese history / Taoism / Buddhism?
Only very loosely.
I didn’t want to rip off Chinese culture and a living religion wholesale out of respect for Chinese people and adherents of those religions and philosophies. I’ve always been fascinated by Eastern philosophy and all my life I’ve been reading about Buddhism, Zen, Tao, and the like. I’m not a practitioner of any of these in any serious way, but I find some of their teachings to be useful to me in my daily life.
When I started creating the Opal Empire, my goal was to build a setting on Eastern concepts. All of the worlds I’d invented were based on Western culture, particularly Medieval and Renaissance Europe (and Western Europe at that).
I wanted to break out of that rut. That’s all been done before, over and over, and I didn’t feel that I had anything new to add. Some other folks are doing some amazing things with settings based closely or loosely on African history, Northern European history, Indian history, and the history of East Asia. I picked East Asia (particularly China) to inspire me, but I’ve also looked at ancient India for ideas.
I’m also feeding myself with inspiration from non-historical China and Japan: that is to say, I’m reading about wuxia and watching Chinese wuxia movies and Japanese samurai movies. Some of these are based in reality, but a lot of it is fantasy martial arts stuff, which makes a fun fantasy game.
Why four elements instead of the Chinese five?
The Chinese system of Wu Xing contains five “elements” (or phases): Wood, Earth, Water, Fire, and Metal. The classical system of elements dates from the Greeks (and Egyptians, and Buddhists,, and includes four elements: Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. Sometimes it includes a fifth, the Aether.
I wanted this system to be distinctly different than the Chinese system. I want to be inspired by Chinese stuff without directly ripping it off. I liked the idea of relationships between the elements being generating and overcoming, and that influenced my idea of Forces interacting with Forms.
Really, the Four Forms and Four Forces makes up a family of eight things, not four. I turned Mu (tree/wood) into “Life” (one of the Four Forces) and turned the relationships of Wu Xing into the Four Forces, sorta.
The Four Forms and Four Forces are really their own thing, influenced by Wu Xing and Hermetic alchemy and other stuff.
Plus my favorite number is 8.