by Wanderer Werewolf
©2006 Wanderer Werewolf

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   Welcome back, readers. As promised, albeit after considerable delay (sorry), it’s time to delve into the mysteries of Metamor Keep: What it is, how it works, how to write in it, and why so many people don’t.

   To begin with, Metamor Keep is a fantasy setting centered around the eponymous location. (‘Eponymous’, so you don’t have to dig out your dictionaries, means it’s mentioned in the title.) Like most fantasy settings, it’s more-or-less medieval in technology, with magic thrown in for added ‘spice’. If you look closely, you can find bits and pieces of several different fantasy settings; Castle Perilous, Elder Scrolls, and even Dungeons and Dragons. But what sets the Keep apart is the Curse.
   Before the Curse, Metamor Keep was as ordinary as you could reasonably expect it to be: It was, after all, a castle of unknown origins, with a variable geometry that tended to take you where you needed to be, rather than where you wanted to go, and was rumored (even then) to be inhabited by a spirit, Kyia. Located on the border between human lands and the Giantdowns (an area populated by many vicious creatures), it served as border security, with the three gates holding back all comers.
   Enter Nasoj. Nasoj is a powerful wizard, who organized the local lutins (similar to traditional goblins) and other creatures into an army. As his forces approached Metamor Keep, he co-ordinated with several weaker wizards to cast a powerful spell. The spell penetrated the Keep, and resulted in three types of transformation:

  1. Animal transformation. Completely non-anthro.
  2. Age regression, to the point of infancy.
  3. Gender reversal. (We occasionally ponder what that particular spell was intended for before deciding we’d rather not know.)

   In the end, the wizards of the Keep rallied, and with the help of the Keep’s own magic, forced Nasoj’s army out… but the Curse, as it’s come to be called, had inexplicably (and inextricably) become mixed with the Keep’s own magic. Now, whenever a person (a person of any sort, not just humans) is around the Keep for too long, a weaker version of one of the three types of Curse will activate upon them. For instance, someone who is afflicted with the animal-type Curse may end up looking like a rude beast, but will generally retain their human intellect, voice, and manipulatory capabilities. Regardless of which type of Curse hits you, you’re stuck with it—there’s no changing back. (Theoretically, the gods could do it, but they haven’t.)
   For some time, that was where it stood; the setting needed nothing more complicated. Then, of course, considerations of various conditions and effects started, and like Topsy, it ‘just grew’. In the end, it was decided that ‘too long’ was slightly different for everyone; no more than a week, no less than three days. That the effect extended for some distance around Metamor Keep, covering the valley of Glen Avery, a nearby village. And that the Curse does not take effect before the age of fourteen.
   Now, on the face of it, the Keep is a simple enough universe to write in. A little detailed, yes, but it’s fantasy. Any fantasy story you can imagine can occur in this setting, as long as you choose your location carefully.
   And that brings us neatly to Why more people don’t write in Metamor Keep. Because the setting has been crafted with such loving care, such exacting detail—we even have maps!—very few people are willing to put forth the effort. They look at the pile of stories already in existence (then the ones Charles Matthias didn’t write, ha ha) and decide they don’t want to go through all of that just to figure out what they’re doing; they consider it too much work.
   Of course, it doesn’t help that actual transformations, for the most part, will have to occur at the Keep itself. That almost guarantees running into one of the established characters, and that means knowing how those characters will react. By the time a would-be Keep author figures out that my character is in love with Raven’s character, a friend to KrisHare’s character, on nodding terms with Matthias’ character, and as the court bard, will be on formal speaking terms with Duke Thomas, as well as his entire court… well, they often decide not to bother. Once they realize that every MK story winds up being catalogued, from title to characters, they occasionally run screaming!
   Seriously, though, it doesn’t have to be that way. Not only can any ordinary fantasy story show up in the MK universe (as Oren the Otter proved some time back), but the story itself doesn’t have to be centered around the Keep. In a fantasy universe, after all, there are many, many ways to transform someone, no matter what the target form. Moreover, if the story isn’t going to be strictly about the transformation, there’s no pressing reason to set it at the Keep proper; Keepers (the common slang for people from Metamor Keep) have been mentioned as going other places, after all, despite the occasional reference to the always-expected ‘medieval panic attack’ when a transformed person comes into a new town. For furry fans, of course, the temptation is always there to stick your character in Metamor just long enough to work the Curse in, if nothing else. But who says he has to stay there?
   Likewise, don’t let the battle-to-save-the-world stories throw you; even in WWII, people still fell in love, had adventures at home, and lived their lives. Just because a lot of Keepers are battling Nasoj, fighting Lutins, and chasing off Daedric servants doesn’t mean your character has to. Your character can have a small adventure, at least at first. Then, as you get more comfortable with the setting, you can decide if they’ll get caught up in the ‘big picture’ story that’s going on around them. Your character’s story comes first: Remember that, and you’ll be just fine.
   Now, to the RPG elements. As you can see, the fantasy element of the MK setting is particularly strong. Good picks for representing it in game terms would be D&D, Ars Magica, and RoleMaster. If you wish to represent the Curse in game terms, it might best be done with a steadily-increasing save vs. Magic, which would certainly allow for the unpredictable nature of the Curse’s arrival. Deciding the nature of the Curse which affects the character could be DM fiat, or determined by a d6 roll: 1-2 AR, 3-4 Animal, 5-6 Gender.

   In the next Red King’s Dream, it’s time for a history lesson: We’ll be taking a look at the medieval era in fact and fiction, and how to use it in stories, RPGs, and other art.

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