Zaun: A critical moment for community engagement

http://img1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20100917001519/leagueoflegends/images/d/db/Zaun.jpg **EDIT: Before I get all serious, let me just point out that Summoner cHAncEman1292 has proposed the idea of a Zaunite Champion who takes the form of a talking owl with a flamethrower. Can we make this happen? Can we please make this happen? Alright, on to the serious stuff.** --- **You know, the owl might have big goggles, and—okay, okay, right. Community engagement.** Do you care about Zaun and its Champions? Are you invested in these aspects of the League storyverse? If so, I get the feeling that it's time for you to come forward and speak your piece. If I'm right, and Zaun is next in line for a major rewrite, then what we say in the next few weeks might make a difference, but what we say a few months from now will surely make no difference at all. So let's get to work before this window of opportunity closes. # A note on tone This post is inherently something of a "worst-case scenario" analysis. I'm talking about risks and dangers, which might give it a negative tone. To be clear: I really like a lot of Riot's creative team, and I do believe they've heard us on two key points: first, that we would like them to dial down the mega-retcon blank-slate rewrites, building upon the old lore rather than demolishing and replacing it; and second, that when they *do* set out to fundamentally rewrite something, we're at least given **[a meaningful opportunity to engage with them,](http://boards.na.leagueoflegends.com/en/c/story-art/1Bi3Xi6w-link-this-thread-next-time-narrative-makes-a-massive-change-with-no-prior-community-input)** rather than having retcons slapped down as shock reveals that come out of nowhere and radically alter the League universe. I get the impression that they are trying to improve in these areas, and do care about engaging with us. However, I feel compelled to prepare for the worst, even as I hope for the best. # Shock reveals and community engagement I believe it's important that the lore community be involved in the sometimes quite drastic rewrites of League canon that have been taking place. The principle obstacle is a veil of secrecy that prevents us from knowing what's lined up for the next big retcon. Without knowing what Riot's taking aim at next, we're left taking shots in the dark. A hypothetical example may serve to illustrate what I mean, and why I find it discouraging. Suppose that the community spent weeks and weeks talking about (say) Demacia, discussing what we consider its core elements and themes, which aspects we wouldn't mind Riot altering and which aspects we feel need to remain consistent with prior lore. We collectively spend thousands upon thousands of hours of our time working on this, putting our thoughts forward for Riot to consider. Then…silence. Not a word from Riot. We hope that they're quiet because they're busily working on Demacia, and that someone has seen our discussions and forwarded them along. Time goes by. Then we log in one day and see some flashy video that announces a complete from-scratch rewrite of…Ionia. We were going to try to talk Ionia next. But we find that it's too late. Our Demacia discussions drop off the radar, and unless Riot does some really hardcore forum-searching, they won't notice it when they go to give Demacia the steamroller treatment. In essence, we would have at that point wasted a tremendous amount of energy accomplishing absolutely nothing. # A critical moment for Zaun I get the feeling that Riot has tipped its hand, and that Zaun is going to be its next target. I propose that we seize this opportunity to talk Zaun among ourselves, and try to develop some kind of consensus that might hopefully inform what Riot does next. A few months from now, the changes (if they are coming) will be locked in, and our only recourse will be ineffectual griping about what's already decided. Let's seize the moment. # Hold on: who says they're rewriting Zaun? In the comments below, some have questioned the assumption that Riot is going to be redoing factions one by one. That could well be the case. I would certainly be happy if so, but remember, it wasn't long ago that they addressed Summoners around the world to tell them that Summoners were being eradicated, and the League of Legends removed from League of Legends. I'd bet good money that they're not going to be using a light touch when they introduce Ekko. If we luck out and Riot does stick to building upon Zaun's established lore, rather than tearing it up and starting over, then I would say this is still a critical moment for community engagement, as this is an important window of opportunity to discuss what you'd like to see them add to Zaun's theme. # So let's talk Zaun I really dig Zaun as a setting, and did a lot of thinking and discussion about it while working on **[Hextech Revolution](http://leaguefactions.net/hextech-revolution/)**. At some point, I'd like to compile my thoughts into a larger post. For now, I'm just hoping to spark some discussion, and encourage the community to strike while the iron is hot. That said, here are some of my initial thoughts about Zaun. Let's start with allusions and inspirations. (This is *League of Legends,* after all.) In Zaun, I see a combination of X-Men and Shadowrun. That means mutants, technology, grime, megacorporations, consumerism, slums, danger, and sprawling neon skyscrapers glowing through the smog. In terms of RL countries, it's very American: aggressively free-market, exciting but also volatile. Inequality and excess are major themes. I think it's important that Zaun has no King or Grand General. There's some figurehead leader, sure, and some kind of council, but beneath this window dressing it's a deeply fragmented state, mostly run by competing megacorporations. It's hard to imagine a diehard Zaunite patriot, at least in the Demacian or even Noxian style, i.e., not in the sense of devotion to a state or supreme leader. You might have fanatic followers of Viktor, or rebellious mutants fighting alongside Zac, or idealistic social revolutionaries joining forces with Janna to push back against the moral and environmental corruption that has infected Zaunite society, but you don't have people charging into battle shouting, "FOR THE GLORY OF ZAUN! MAY CHAIRMAN MAGNUS DUNDERSON REIGN FOR A THOUSAND YEARS!" Zaun doesn't even really have a common philosophy. (The closest it comes is the "screw it, TURN IT ON AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS!" attitude of its researchers and inventors.) Noxus has its obsession with strength and conflict, Ionia is all about balance, Demacians dedicate themselves to order and justice, yordles snuggle and praise the Mothership, and so on. Within Zaun you have bloodthirsty lunatics like Warwick and Mundo, diabolical masterminds like Singed, heroic revolutionaries like Janna and Zac, and *differently* heroic revolutionaries like Viktor. This schizophrenic diversity is, in my opinion, an important element of Zaun's personality. Zaun is a technological civilization. In this sense, it is perhaps similar to Piltover. And you probably could get Zaunites and Piltovians to agree on certain principles, if you kept the wording vague enough. But they diverge considerably in their methods. Piltover is more about the gradual refinement of known technologies, and the strategic deployment of those technologies to accomplish great works. Zaun is more interested in revolution than revision, and tends to flit from one half-baked breakthrough to the next. Neither is objectively "superior", of course; they strive for different ends, and develop different strengths. Zaun's certainly a lot more dangerous, but it's also a lot more exciting. Politically, as much as any nation interacts with any other nation after the Great Retcon seemingly consigned the states of Valoran to their own pocket dimensions, Zaun's principal affiliation is with Noxus. Zaun's labs and factories churn out biochemical weapons for the Noxian war machine, and Zaun relies largely on Noxus for military protection, Zaunites not really being natural soldiers or warriors. The mutual animosity between Zaun and Ionia may have some deeper ideological roots, but it's also perfectly understandable as an outgrowth of this alliance with Noxus. If Zaun is in with Noxus, it stands to reason it's also got some Bilgewater connections. (Though it's not clear if Narrative is making Bilgewater out to be an irrelevant nowheresville or a big player in maritime trade.) For similar reasons, I severely doubt that Zaun gets on well with Demacia or Piltover. That said, I do suspect that Zaun's commercial empire is fairly extensive: Zaunites seem like the kind of people who would be really good at marketing fun consumer products that only sometimes melt your face off. I could see Zaunite pop culture sweeping through many Valoranian nations. To condense that all down, here's what I consider crucial to Zaun's identity: * **Dark but fun.** Zaun's a pretty nasty place, especially if you're not in the 1%, but not in a grim sort of Noxian way. It's chaotic, modern, and exciting. * **Tech: revolution over revision.** Zaun is the capital of reckless experimentation and revolutionary breakthroughs. Zaunite scientists aren't necessarily smarter than Pilts, but they're more aggressive in their pursuit of The Next Big Thing, and less concerned about the consequences. Jayce makes a neat suit of armor that he can use to fight in ~~the League of Legends~~ *some place where people might fight for some reason,* while Viktor turns himself into a cyborg and starts a machine-cult dedicated to transcending mortal flesh. Zaun doesn't really do half-measures, and Zaunites do not like being boxed in. * **Schizophrenic.** It's important to me that Zaun is disorganized and fragmented. The League setting already has some utterly totalitarian states, like Demacia and Noxus. I think it's important that Zaun break from this pattern. If you're a Demacian, you're *probably* a stern law-and-order type. If you're a Noxian, you're probably a ruthless and determined sort. If you're a Zaunite…you might be a saint or a sadistic monster, or anything in between. About all that can be said about a given Zaunite is that they're probably kind of a freak in one way or another, assuming they're not part of the grayed-out corporate wage-slave masses (who are themselves pretty weird in their own way, in a fantasy setting). * **Modern.** In many ways, I think Zaun should feel the most "at home" to the people of 21st century Earth. I feel like if one of us were teleported to Runeterra, we'd be identified as Zaunites, with our beepy gadgets, short attention spans, strong individualism, cynicism about Great Causes, and addiction to stimulation. Those are just my thoughts, though. I look forward to changing my mind as I read what other people have to say. And I hope that Riot does the same.
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