Campaign: Mother Asha
Game: Apocalypse World 2nd Ed
Theme Song: Forty One Ways by Azam Ali
Keywords: Protective, Peaceful, Clever
"My treasures do not chink or glitter. They gleam in the sun and neigh in the night."
"Truth may walk through the world unarmed."
So we began a new AW campaign, using the new version, and we choose a desert setting. We were in a toss up between unending snow and ice, and the unending sands and dust of the desert. I was fine with either, but as soon as I heard we were doing desert, I imagined a nomadic people who wandered from location to location, and were farmers or herders. I wanted a people who weren't guns and motorcycles. I wanted a simple people who were deadly and fierce, if you dared cross them.
I created Mother Asha, a hardholder. Her hold? The Tent:
"The Tent arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. The Tent expands the horizon with colourful tents, the sound of camels and goats, and the laughter of children. It smells like incense, family, blood, shit, and milk. Its people make clothing, milk goats, sheer camels, spin wool, and butcher meat. They value self first, family next, and the stranger last."
In play, Asha is a contemplative and calm woman who focuses on keeping her people safe, fed, and wealthy. Wealth, to them, is how many camels, horses, sheep, and goats they have, and nothing more. They don't trade in money, they trade in goods. They are a colourful people who train birds to be their eyes, children to herd goats, and everyone has a job. There isn't a person who doesn't work. Desert life is tough, and everyone knows that to not work is to die.
Strangers remain a problem to the Tent. They see little value in helping the outside world. One of the characters asked Asha who was important to be nice to in the Tent. Her response: "Everyone. Because everyone has family here, and to hurt one, is to hurt the family, and thus, the Tent. No one is more valuable than anyone else." And that has maintained a truth in the Tent. Asha challenges those around her, a Quarantine, a Brainer, and a Skinner, to be useful or be abandoned.
Her patience is easily tried when people seem incapable of taking care of themselves, let alone doing something useful. She will go out of her way to find work for anyone who asks for it, but she will abandon them if they value things she cannot understand. Her daughter Kader, is of utmost importance to her, and although the child is the also the daughter of the Brainer, Asha doesn't value him other than how useful he is to the Tent. Children are belonging to the Tent, and their mothers. Fathers, while important, are not the static part of the child's life.
While I didn't set up the Tent to be matriarchal, it does show that women hold position within the Tent. Asha's sister is in charge of minding the children and teaching the skills of herding and spinning and weaving. Family is everything, so naturally Asha's family are the ones in charge of many things. So far, she's seen any movement against her family as an act of betrayal, and is willing to go to war for her family without question.
And yet, she does more than her share of trying to avoid war whenever she can. She always seeks peace, a way to make the desert more survivable. This could be because the Tent isn't well protected. It's a delicate balance to strike. But she won't help strangers out of the goodness of her heart. She will only help if there's something in it for the Tent. This shrewd business manner and keen sense of protection is what lead her to be the leader of the Tent. It's an unspoken law that Asha rules the Tent. They go to her for advice even though she doesn't technically hold more power than anyone else.
She's just the one who knows what to do. And I like playing that dynamic with her, where she tries not to be disappointed in her family for asking for her leadership, while also acknowledging that she is the one who makes decisions because it has been a good road to go down. She is fully aware that one bad decision will lead her to her death, and her people will kill her if she is too dangerous to them. It must always be about what is best for the Tent, and never what is best for Asha personally.
My challenge with Asha is to play the peace keeper who's also not generous with her resources. I rarely play a good business person and it's interesting to put myself into the role of someone who's focus is making life better for her people economically. Generosity is valued, but not before pragmatism. She is generous with her people, not with the strangers of the world. I do want to see Asha in tender, quiet moments. And I want to see what her vulnerability looks like. So far, she's been fierce, passionate, and shrewd. I'm loving playing her and I like her mind set.