This week in the Spotlight we looked at the afrofantasy world of Swordsfall by Tikal and their article The Divine Order of the Phoenix. The Spotlight takes place on the WorldAnvil Discord server, with the community invited to discuss an article with the spotlight host. This week it was hosted by Community Spark Qurilion.

Swordsfall is heavily entrenched in African lore, tales, environment and spirit, and provides an afrocentric spin on fantasy, designed for a book, and tabletop game in the works. This week, the spotlight audience examined Swordsfall through the lens of the Divine Order of the Phoenix.

The Spotlight

You describe Swordsfall as Afrocentric. What does that mean to you? And what sources of inspiration do you use?

Afrocentric in general just really means Africa or African-American culture as a base. It’s something that doesn’t get said out loud, but works like Tolkien are very Eurocentric. So honestly I just pull from my general life and culture (I am a black man). The way we view family, life, and such. I pulled from the way the African Disapora viewed religion and life.

I pull from Africa as a continent. The climate of Swordsfall mimics the various biomes. Each of the cultures in Swordsfall are a mix of a few specific real life culture.

The Karu are based heavily on the Luba/Ludan kingdoms. The See’er are based on the Serer people and so forth.

There’s not always a whole lot of representation for minorities in fiction and Swordsfall is an attempt to help remedy that. Can you talk a little about your experience with finding representation in fiction as a black guy?

So for one, I want to say that I love being a nerd. I’m a consumer of just about every level of Nerdom. From anime to comics to books to graphic novels to tabletop games to video games. Man I love it all. However, it’s always frustrating to see a viewpoint. Or more so, the lack of anyone who looks like me. When it comes time for Halloween or Cosplay, I’m always reminded of the limited scope I have to choose from.

Dungeons and Dragons as well makes this one hard. Its very Eurocentric, which don’t get wrong, is fun as hell, it’s basically the only thing that you get exposed to.

Then the movie Black Panther came out. I’ll be honest. I cried. About halfway through the movie it was all in my feels. Then that end scene? Tears. Straight sobs.

I myself hadn’t even realized how much I longed to see people like me doing cool ass nerd shit. So when I started Swordsfall as just another tabletop campaign, I had that movie in mind. I knew that I needed to be the change I wanted to see. If I was going to do an original story, I might as well rip from my roots.

And in a way, get back to my own roots. Africa Disapora has a wealth of information. New ideas and different ways of doing life. Things that I realize my own ancestors brought with them and is still in my own culture.

Its something I want to invite EVERYONE too. I don’t want anyone to feel like just because it has a ton of brown faces, that it excludes them.

I want them to feel the same way in Swordsfall as I do after a fun D&D campaign. Accidentally learn a few new things.

Read along and check out the article Divine Order of the Phoenix

What can you tell us about the Divine Order?

The Divine Order of the Phoenix is an organization that exists to unite the people that live in land of Garuda. Their deities, The Divinity, traveled the land for a number of years, handpicking people they thought were capable of leading. They invited them all to be a part of the Divine Order, an effort to quell fights and bring, well…order.

So it’s one part government, one part religion, one part oligarchy as they do have a king.

In Africa, King just meant ruler. Pre-colonial it wasn’t a gendered term. I love that and embrace it. In Garuda its actually a Matriarchal line, so it passes through the King’s daughters. And did until recently when the original line was finally broken.

 

What was the genesis for the order, for you? What inspired it or what niche did you need to fill in the world with them?

Well originally the story was called Ethereal and I was toying with the idea of two great nations, one polytheistic and the other monotheistic. Each though, were right and had the living gods to go with it.

 

Do Gods still walk among the people and the Order? What kind of gods are they?

Absolutely. It’s the biggest thing people have to remember about Swordsfall. There are many gods and many spirits. All of which are interact-able. The gods don’t sit on another plain, they live on Tikor just like humans. Its a more grandparent and grandkid relationship. Up until the 30th of Ank, 2000 D.A all the humans thought the gods were immortal.

Then The Divinity of Fertility, Mime, was assassinated and everything changed. Which is what my NaNoWriMo book is about. The day humans found out the gods could die and the fallout.

What’s the tech level like for the Phoenix Order?

Mmm so tech level is a kind of weird to talk about in Swordsfall as it’s mixed. Tech that required transcontinental collaboration is not a thing. So no internet or global power grid.

But there are forms of “electricity” and vehicles. The world as a whole is in the industrial age.

The world is alive. So they don’t have the ability to ransack resources to grow at a rate we did on Earth. The forest has gods too and they don’t like rampant clearing.

 

Do you have any advice how I as a white person could go about trying to include a culture I don’t know from my own experience?

I think the biggest thing people have to remember is that Africa is a continent not a single culture.

I couldn’t fit all of it into one single group or even one area. And authors often forget that but making one single group of “Nubians”.

The answer is hard. For one, it involves an absolute fuckton of research. As, despite its size, Africa is one of the most understudied places I’ve seen in my damn life. Secondly, you have to go with an idea how what part of African life your trying to show.

Much in the same way you would the west. North Africa is vastly different from Central. You go from Sahara deserts to jungles. You go from Muslim majority to Christian majority. Then it depends on what time period, because Pre-colonial and post-colonial is VASTLY different.

And 90% of the things you’ve heard about it are all post-colonial. Research is difficult in part because a lot of folk lore were entirely verbal. And those people are dead. Or it’s loosely translated into Cameroonian french.

Do you have any advice or any resources for those of us who want to incorporate more African culture in our worlds or be inspired by it?

Well for one I want to support my homie, HomeTeamHistory. He’s been tirelessly putting together deeeeep African info for years. Go to his youtube and watch him grow out his dreads. You can also check out the Black History Month Library by Charles Preston.

Honestly. This is my black guy perspective. Either do the research to make it a real black character……..or don’t add it at all. Half done, is not done.

We hoped you enjoyed this interesting spotlight roundup. Check out Swordsfall by Tikal on WorldAnvil for more reading. You can also support Swordsfall on Patreon. We’ll bring you a new spotlight next week- but if you want to join in on our next spotlight and offer your own questions, join us the WorldAnvil Discord!