I’m working on this for quite a while now, yet it seems to get harder the further I get …
Mosaic - The Flowers of Montezuma
It’s a gritty swashbuckling pbtA-game, it’s main theme being different cultures getting into contact with each other. The game is taking place on a fictional, lawless, slightly mythical island, which seems to draw to its shores adventurers from the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe. Here, they have to find ways to work together to take on a supernatural threat, creating a truly ‘New World’ together.
The setting is derived from 16th century Mexico (New Spain), yet I’m aiming for a post-colonialist take.
The rules encourage players to create characters of mixed heritage and to define how their characters perceive their own cultural backgrounds.
I’ve been wanting to make this game work since I first read Charles Mann’s “1493”, and his notion of Tenochtitlan/Mexico City being the first truly globalized place on earth, merging cultural influence from all over the world. In fantasy games, I always liked the moments best, in which the characters were reflecting about their different heritages and backgrounds, yet coming to understand and value each other and value and maybe even change their own ways of seeing the world. My juvenile self wanted to have that, but with Aztec priests, Spanish Conquistadors, African freedmen, Filipino sailors and Japanese Samurai …
That was horribly stereotypical of course, yet the idea of making a game about an alternative course of events, in which heroes and heroines of these different cultures would cooperate to build something new, still excites me very much.
My hopes for Mosaic are what you probably have guess by now: to make this game work in a tasteful, positive and inclusive way, or to put it different, to not create a horrible piece of racist and colonialist garbage. As I am no member of any of the cultures, languages, faiths or landscapes that are depicted in the game, I am well aware that I could not have picked a more daunting task. And as I do more and more research and reflection - also with the great articles written by people from the Gauntlet community (e.g. James Mendez Hodes, lately)- I become more and more horrified that it might be impossible for me to pull off.
To end on a more hopeful note: I think there are some great and worthwile story for people to tell with this game, thus I stand by my initial decision not hide these difficult topics behind some faux-fantasy-stand-in-cultures. So the next step after getting everything playtest-ready would be to find some helpful, critical consultants, and continue working from there.