Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Inspiration: Rusta

Two Great Ladies will catch your fall
for they are the ones who catch us all.
Their children kept them far apart;
the Lady Light, the Lady Dark.
Dark broken, light storm
dead spoken, dreams torn...
and we will bring you home.
Long ago, in a faraway time called 1995, there was a made-for-TV movie called White Dwarf.  It was written by Bruce Wagner and starred the late, lamented Paul Winfield.  The ninety minutes of airtime provided a host of interesting concepts ready to be exploited for a role-playing game setting.  The story takes place in the year 3040; humanity has been colonizing star systems for hundreds of years.  Rusta is a world in a remote white dwarf system, hence the title of the film.  Although a VHS version was available, White Dwarf has not been released on DVD.

Rusta continually presents the same face towards its sun so that one hemisphere endures constant daylight and the other hemisphere remains in perpetual darkness.  Normally, this would result in extreme temperatures not conducive to supporting Earth-type lifeforms.  However, floating in Rusta's atmosphere are numerous metallic globes called 'regulators' that maintain environmental conditions suitable for humans and other terrestrial organisms.

The regulators were put in place by a pre-human civilization ten thousand years ago.  (Throughout this article, I assume 'years' means 'Earth years' and when I write 'ago,' I mean prior to 3040.)  Inhabitants of Rusta believe that the regulators are “breaking down,” which lends an air of fatalism to the setting.  Vegetation manages to grow on the sunless half of Rusta and the people there do not seem to be concerned about vitamin D deficiency.  Perhaps the regulators are responsible or maybe it's genetic engineering (or suspension of disbelief).

The Wall
Five hundred years ago, the (human) inhabitants built a wall separating 'the light side' from 'the dark side.'  Only an orange-robed sect of eunuchs called “the Davids” are allowed to travel freely from one side to the other.  (A group of Davids can be seen in the lower right-hand corner of the 'Dark Side Castle' picture below.)  At the onset of the story, the two sides are at war but efforts toward peace are progressing.  Thus, Rusta is a divided world in more than one respect.  'The Two Ladies' are abstract religious figures representing Rustan duality; two parts of a whole.  There are indications that Rusta is a genius loci – one of the characters refers to it as “a sentient place.”

The technology in use on Rusta is not as advanced as one might suppose – horses are used for transportation.  Light side civilization resembles that of the American Old West, complete with badge-wearing marshalls sporting antique firearms.  There are, however, some noteworthy exceptions – electrical devices are in use to some degree.  The reigning light side authority holds the title of “governor,” but the method of appointment to that office is not described.  In contrast, the dark side has a hereditary monarchy; the culture and technology are both medieval.  For denizens of the dark side, the crossbow is the weapon of preference.

The Dark Side Castle
'The Keep' is a prison on Rusta where Lady X is incarcerated.  Although she maintains her innocence (Don't they all?), Lady X was convicted of “being responsible for the plague on Earth.”  As of 3040, she has served 500 years of her 5,000 year sentence.  So that she may serve the entirety of her sentence, she has been granted an undying existence.  This is possible by virtue of Osh, the alien warden of the Keep, who secretes an unusual enzyme that somehow “gives immunity to the aging process.”

The Keep
For executions, warden Osh uses 'Keep Hounds,' nearly feral humanoids with canine characteristics.  However, Keep Hounds are not always thus; early in their life-cycle they are quite intelligent and have a mastery of many talents and languages.

A couple of miscellaneous tidbits:  Among the exotic locales of Rusta, there are “the grottoes underneath the dreaming sands” and the red-colored Sea of Tears.  An example of Rustan fauna is the pumyx, a panther-like animal indigenous to the dark side.  It is mesmerised by the human voice.  When ill or injured, it travels to the light side in order to die.

1 comment:

  1. I remember when this aired! I had it on tape somewhere. Definitely a unique blend of genres, with a feel all its own.