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Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is for-

Xavier who was a rakish 1/2 elf sea dog that I ran in my wife's short lived, but much lamented pirate campaign back in the late 1990's. He was actually more fond of gambling and women and drinking than piracy, but he was a pretty dead shot with his pistol and a fair hand with his pimped out cutlass too. He was a clothes horse and a spendthrift with, presumed merely, affectations of aristocracy. He once shot a Giant Octopus in the eye during a raging storm from the deck of his ship, that was pretty cool.

X is for X which marks the spot on virtually every treasure map ever made.

X is for Xenophobia, which is technically the fear of alien or foreign things, but is usually expressed as a hatred for them; which, when you think about it is kind of encouraged by D&D. I am not going to go all crazy white supremacist and say that D&D is a coded game of race war, but it is a game where you go to places where the sentient species are different from you in significant ways; both with regards to their actual species (which is likely to be humanoid, but unlikely to be similar enough to interbreed,with a few exceptions), but also very significantly from a moral and philosophical basis (in that most of them are evil); then you kill them off and take their stuff to improve your own standing back home in your own culture, kind of like Cortez with the Aztecs or Pizarro with the Inca. Seriously, tell me that your favorite D&D character wouldn't be lauded as a great hero if he discovered an empire of say, Orcs, and then conquered it at his own expense, adding it's lands to his native nation and brought back enough gold to finance his native kingdom for centuries to come. Modern anthropologists have to be trained to recognize when they are being ethnocentric, most modern people aren't all that concerned about it at all; certainly no premodern person ever gave it too much thought.

And X is also for it's opposite Xenophilia, which in common usage is an attraction to foreign peoples, cultures or customs. In fantasy and science fiction settings it also extends to a sexual attraction to alien races, so I guess D&D (and Star Trek) encourages this with the clear number of hybrid races available. Various editions of D&D have given us 1/2 Elves, 1/2 Orcs and 1/2 Ogre Human Hybrids. HackMaster gave us Gnomlings, a Halfling/Gnome hybrid as a PC race. There are a myriad of hybrid races of monsters, the poster-boys for which are Mongrelmen. Orcs are probably the most prolificly xenophiliac species of humanoid since they are known to interbreed with Humans, Ogres and Baboons(!) and probably other things I missed over the years or forgot about.

X is for Xenocentrism which is also encouraged by D&D. Xenocentrism is defined as preference for the products, styles, or ideas of someone else's culture rather than of one's own. The 18th century primitivism movement in European art and philosophy, and its concept of the noble savage is an example of xenocentrism. I nicked that from Wikipedia, but I think that it is safe to say, if we are being honest with ourselves, that most of us playing D&D have a preference for these primitive, medieval cultures (with greater or lesser amounts of fantasy thrown in); I don't think we would like living in a feudal culture with a medieval technology level if we had to, but we have rose colored glasses view of the past here.

We also see this all the time in other nerdy subcultures that reject mainstream American culture as much as they can- like Japan worshiping anime fans, the ones that superficially attempt to "become" Japanese. They decorate their apartments with nothing but Japanese stuff (other Asian stuff will do in a pinch if an actual Japanese item can't be found at a reasonable price), not even just anime related stuff, although that will be preferred in every case. They affect a preference for Japanese, then other Asian foods. Even though their names are Machele, Paul and Kevin*, they start using Japanese names, mostly on the net (because we refuse to start calling them Akira or Chozen or Kimiko or whatever) where they actually try to hide their actual Caucasian race. I guess I'd be more impressed if they studied martial arts or traditional Japanese arts or the Japanese language. Instead they dress in cheap kimonos when they are at home, decorate their apartments with expensive Japanese toys, cheap knock-offs of Japanese swords and dollar store (or Chinese buffet) Asian stuff. They watch cartoons and eat ramen noodles or order Chinese take-out. They dye their hair black, or straighten it if it was already black, but curly; then get ridiculous anime inspired haircuts. They all have spent time as theater majors too, what's up with that? They have some Emo-Goth crossover too.

X is for Xanadu, not the Olivia Newton-John movie, but the city built as the capital of China by Kubilai Khan. Xanadu is more acurately known as Shangdu, but there aren't a lot of X words to work with and Bard already beat me to Xerxes.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

-Samuel Taylor Coleridge

X is for XP and if there is a way to determine a winner in D&D, tallying these up is about as close as it gets.

X is for Xorn, which is the only X monster in the 1st edition AD&D Monster Manual. The Xorn is another of EGG's random weird monsters and I assume that it's name only begins with an X because he noticed a gap in the alphabetical listings for the Monster Manual. As to it's random weirdness and total D&D nonsensicalness, it eats treasure, it has a wide range of strange spell immunities (or altered effectivenesses) and it has a hidden weakness that kills it outright. Plus it has a really strange appearance with three arms, three legs and a giant mouth at the top of it's body and no discernible head, just a torso with eyes.

X is also a letter that people use when they want to make a word look exotic and foreign or alien, they'll also throw in apostrophes for maximum weirdness effect. I assume this dates back to the pulp writer's day when they needed an easy go to for exotic-alien-weirdness, so they create names like X'klalc'tn- note the use of only one vowel too, that must score extra points. Come to think of it EGG might have had this in mind with the Xorn too.

*Names of actual anime nerds have not been changed to protect the innocent. Not all of them are guilty of every charge laid here, but they share an amazing amount in common. Surprisingly, the fact that they all have anime inspired views of how Japan is, they all kind of suck at playing in OA games, despite begging for them ad nauseum. Commonly, we actually refer to these people as Japtards, which comes from their own derogatory term for Naruto fans- Narutards.