SFX: Door knocking
JACQ: Geneva, are you awake? Are you ready for breakfast?
GENEVA: Uh. yeah. Hold on a minute.
Alright, you can come in.
JACQ: Wow! You read every book! Did you stay up all night?
GENEVA: Uh, no, not all night. Just most of it. Oh your computer stopped working. When does it recharge?
JACQ: Hah! Um, it’s electric, was that concept in one of the books you looked at? (SFX: books being shifted noise) It can charge any time but you have to plug it into one of those spots on the wall.
GENEVA: Oh I saw that! But all of those have wires and plugs. And your computer doesn’t.
JACQ: It’s right there (pointing) on my desk.
GENEVA: Oh! It disconnects! Like an iPhone!
JACQ: Basically yes.
GENEVA: Okay so, like… hmm no, ahh I see, the other way and there! And this end is already in the wall, so it should be charging. Is that why this light started flashing?
JACQ: Yes - and it’s orange because it has a low battery. When it’s doing better, it will turn green.
SFX: Patting noise
GENEVA: Have a sip babe, and I’ll get back to you later.
JACQ: (pause) “Have a sip, babe?” Did you just do memes all night?
GENEVA: Not all night, but they’re funny, sometimes. And it’s a valuable cultural study! Right?
JACQ: As a movement, I guess. They kind of have a short lifespan, individually. So what did you study?
SFX: bed sitting noise
JACQ: Do you have questions?
GENEVA: (Yawns) I think I read too many things and slept too little to have questions right now. Everything’s kind of muddled together.
I read a lot about your various technologies, and some of your history, and memes, and um… you sure do have a lot of sex stuff on there.
JACQ: Yep! I mean, it’s not MINE.
GENEVA: (laughs) Well I certainly didn’t see any of you.
Oh! And I looked at a lot of your D&D stuff and that's all very weird.
JACQ: This is a talk I’ve been waiting for. What’s in there that actually makes, uh, Chel sense. And what’s made up? And stuff!? Lay it all on me.
GENEVA: That’s a very good question! But, uh, do you think I could go to the bathroom first and--
JACQ: AND FOOD! Right. I’ll bring some stuff up? Unless you want to spread out at the kitchen table?
GENEVA: Yeah, I’ll meet you in the kitchen.
SFX: Jacq claps
JACQ: Great! See you in a bit, with eggs and stuff.
SFX: music or something to break the scenes. Kitchen noises?
GENEVA: Mmm, this is really good. What did you do to these eggs again?
JACQ: Uh, I scrambled em! There’s a little milk in there and salt and pepper and kind of a lot of butter because… that is my way. I would guess the bread is a letdown.
GENEVA: They’re so fluffy! The breads not great but the toaster is interesting, and this jam makes up for it.
Mmm So you didn’t tell me how Orcs were depicted in your books.
JACQ: I did not!
GENEVA: They treat us like we’re big lumbering savage beasts! Stupid and evil. It says evil right there!
JACQ: Well, okay, there’s a lot to unpack. You looked at more than just the Orc page, right?
GENEVA: Well I have to admit it was the first place I went after reading the table of contents, but yes I read more than that.
JACQ: That’s very fair. But that means you know that this book is about… categorizing and oversimplifying things as a game mechanic. So saying orcs are evil is basically shorthand for “use this as an adversary in your games.”
GENEVA: (protesting noise?)
JACQ: BUT - I’m not saying it isn’t problematic. I just think it says more about Earth culture, or rather, the American culture and the European influences in the literary tradition in which this game was written, than on real thoughts about Chel. Or about Orcs.
GENEVA: Okay thats, fine assuming that the book is a work of fiction.
JACQ: I mean, this one definitely is. This is the 5th edition. It’s an echo of an echo of an echo. For all I know Gary Gygax was the last surviving Dwarf or some nonsense and he was just a racist fuckwad. Which actually I sort of remember reading about.
GENEVA: You read something saying he was a dwarf?
JACQ: Hah! No, sorry. The racist part, not the dwarf part.
GENEVA: I can’t say I’m happy about it. If he was from Chel, depicting us that way It’s awful! Just because we’re bigger than a lot of the other races is no reason to treat us like slavering brutes! We have a long history of intellectual pursuits and a culture all of our own, and this depiction is just. UGH!
JACQ: I totally agree. But, are we at a point where we can agree that Earth Humans and Chel Orcs are both super racist and press on? Or do we wanna talk about it. I can show you way more games that do better, and I can get you books on civil rights movements and stuff, if we need to like. Figure this out first. Which I would understand.
GENEVA: (sighs) I’d like that sometime, but we can move on for now.
JACQ: OKAY. (taking a note). I will definitely get some stuff, because once you see how humans treat EACH OTHER, you’ll probably have a better context.
So I have some specific interests I could ask about, but I’m also just curious on your thoughts. Is there a lot of overlap? I’ve got the impression that magic is pretty far off base, but, creatures? stuff like that. Is there a place on Chel that looks like the Forgotten Realms? Anything so that we can like, establish a baseline.
GENEVA: So, yeah. A lot of the creatures I recognized, but not all of them, and some were way off base, like us orcs, but some of the details were surprisingly accurate. And I saw uh, what was it the sabre coast?
JACQ: The Sword Coast, yeah.
GENEVA: All those human dominated cities near the ocean. I’ve heard about something like that on Chel. It’s pretty far away from where I live, though. I’m not even really sure what ocean they’re on.
JACQ: It seems really weird that you don’t know about dominant human cities, but I guess I’m hooked into this global internet thing we have going on here. I have people I consider close friends who live thousands of miles away.
GENEVA: I have to admit, it’s probably my own fault. I’ve never really paid much attention to what's going on with relations between Aellark and other kingdoms.
JACQ: Do you have like, a political expert on your team?
GENEVA: Uh, expert? No, but they’re all probably more aware than I am. I bet Jenn knows quite a bit actually. Communications is kind of her thing.
JACQ: Okay. We can put that aside, for now. So, what was the most shockingly accurate thing that you found?
GENEVA: Mmm. Thats hard to say. Like, most of the sentient races are there, and their descriptions are kinda, well a bit stereotypical and racist, but in a way that is accurate to our world, and the illustrations for them are fairly accurate, as are the uh skills and feats and stuff.
JACQ: Example me. (page flipping noise, poking paper noise) Talk to me about elves, and what’s right and what’s wrong. Unless someone else would be easier?
GENEVA: Elves are fine. So they do tend to be tall and thin, and live basically forever, and have those pointy ears. Not that there aren’t any fat elves, they just don’t get as fat as, say, an orc or a human.
JACQ: Okay. What about all these subcategories and stuff?
GENEVA: I mean kind of?
JACQ: I mean, okay, so. The elephant in the room would be Drow. Is there an underground elven city?
GENEVA: Yeah, that's what I was going to say. So the drow, aren’t that dark in coloration. They’re not like pitch black. They do tend to be a bit darker than other Elves but they still have a fairly wide range of skin tones. I know an elf, I guess he’d be a... wood elf? They don’t really distinguish themselves like they are in the book, but he’s from a wooded area, and his skin tone is darker than the drow that I’ve seen. More like your mayor, a sort of… dark brown? This obsession with skin color is a little new to me.
Also, the living underground thing is exaggerated. Like, we have a few drow farmers just outside Aellark. They live in these low pyramidal structures that extend underground. So part of their homes are underground, which is mostly because they really like mushrooms I think. They farm other things, but they have vast mushroom farms underground, but like not too deep down.
So that's what I know of them from experience. I know that they have a big city in the mountains. I hear it’s beautiful, and some people think that they were the ones who grew that giant crystal tower I told you about before. But yeah I’ve definitely heard of cities and stuff, but I don’t think that they’re really underground. Not like they are in the book.
They do seem to really like spiders. Like, drow jewelry a lot of time has spiders on it. I’m not sure why, but I don’t think they worship some evil spider god.
JACQ: Oh! The gods. That’s something that I’ve been really curious about, actually. You’ve mentioned Aviana, who I’ve never heard of in my wanderings. Did you come upon the list of gods? Are any familiar? To keep going with the elves as an example - is there like, a God of Elves?
GENEVA: I mean, some of them are similar I guess, but the names are all wrong, and they don’t really match the gods I know precisely, so they’re not just name swapped or something. We don’t have a god for elves or a god for orcs.
We have an affinity for Aviana in Aellark, because of the wind rushing across the plains, but we worship all the gods. Well… the good ones anyway.
JACQ: So. Across the board, basically, the categories aren’t as strict. People are more variable, there isn’t any race you’d call “evil” and the gods… Do Things? That people worship them for? Rather than being like, patrons over a specific species.
JACQ: But there are certain things that work out. So, like, are elves versatile combatants that all do training as a part of their upbringing? How accurate are smaller things like that?
I’m mostly curious about that one because we have nations, here, that have mandatory military service. So it’s familiar, moreso than, like, uh… like the claim that orcs are more likely to experience bloodlust or whatever. Like, we can leave innate stuff alone, consider it hogwash, but cultural ideas.
GENEVA: So, they all do get training, but they’re not very regimented. It’s looser than that. It’s more like for fun, or for sport. I mean it’s training so that everyone is prepared for war, but it’s not done in like an organized militaristic fashion like we’d have here for military training. Uh I mean in my culture. Not like in my culture.
I don’t really know what you guys do here.
JACQ: Are nations or, city-states, or what have you - do they tend to be broken up by race like this? You’ve talked about Aellark being primarily controlled and inhabited by Orcs, and have mentioned Human cities and Drow cities. Or do things mix up like they do here? I mean, ignoring that we’re all human, we have cultural mixing.
GENEVA: I mean we’re mostly Orcs in Aellark, but we have a lot of other races. So it’s less about the makeup of the people there, and more about the dominant culture I think. So there are a lot of cities that were founded by orcs or humans, and those cities follow that cultures beliefs and guidelines and usually a member of that race is the main power of governance there.
There are definitely other cities that are more like a melting pot, like your New York in your early American history.
JACQ: Hah a ““”melting pot.””” I had a teacher once who said “I don’t want a melting pot, I want a salad!” You know, non-homogenous. Anyway, have you ever been to a city like that, or just read about them?
GENEVA: Not any cities, but a few towns. Until I started working with S-CAPS I never really left Aellark. And We mostly just stop at towns for stocking up on supplies, so I’ve never explored much.
JACQ: Hmm. I was hoping that you could do, like, descriptions of important cities of Chel for me. For the podcast.
GENEVA: Oh! I could do that! I’ve read a lot and I’ve seen a lot of illustrations of some of our greatest cities. I’d always hoped to travel more, but you know, school and work and all that. It wouldn’t be first hand knowledge, so I don’t know if you’d be interested.
JACQ: THIS IS GOING TO SOUND MEAN - would someone else on your team be a better resource? Like, better traveled? I am sure that your descriptions would be as accurate as they can but I was KINDA hoping for a first-hand account.
GENEVA: (sighs) I mean probably.
GENEVA: No, it’s okay. Jenn seems like she’s pretty well travelled. It’s not that unusual for us to never leave Aellark. It basically has everything that anyone could want, but some people travel and one of the crew probably has been to some other city.
JACQ: Well you could definitely do a piece on Aellark!! And unlike the last time we talked about it, you can take some time to write it out. I’d love to hear it.
GENEVA: Okay! I can do that, and I can ask the crew if they can write something as well, if they’ve been to any of the other cities.
JACQ: Do I get to meet this mystery crew of yours? You met Claire, after all.
GENEVA: Oh yes! Totally. I thought we’d probably head over there soon. So I can get some clothes, and you know... do my boss duties.
JACQ: Cool! Um.
GENEVA: Is something the matter?
JACQ: NO. I’m just gonna go get ready. And then we can go meet the crew.
GENEVA: Okay! Cool, and don’t worry. I’m sure they’ll love you.
SFX: White noise + closing music
THERIN: Thank you for listening. Interference is an Orc Zone production. Geneva and Jacq were played by Hazel and Therin Stapp.
For more information, to read transcripts, or to get in touch, head to orczone.com, or hit us up on Twitter @theorczone. As always, we thank Jahzzar for the use of their song “Please Listen Carefully” as our theme.