Over the past 20+ years, I’ve developed several changes to my personal Tribe 8 games. My own personal “headcanon,” as it were. While much of it is minor changes or additions that make sense to me, some, like Agnites, are more extensive.
The portrayal of the Agnites as a whole in Tribe 8 is relatively dark. Most of it fits Tribe 8 thematically, but I’ve always found it too heavy-handed in practice. Cruelty, violent capriciousness, and even sexual assault are common threads. Then there’s the Barrens and the Breeders. Finally, there is the thorny subject of children as Fallen.
Change #1: Why Grow Up If You Don’t Have To?
Let’s face it, Agnes is basically a diety. Even as the youngest Fatima, she is immensely powerful in and out of the River of Dream. Agnes can alter the River of Dream’s flow to slow how fast Agnites age. Her Favorites, at least for the time they are Favorites, don’t age at all. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the energy to completely arrest the aging of all of the entire tribe, so in the two generations since Agnes' birth, the oldest are only now physically reaching puberty. As they get closer to adulthood, Agnes will be forced to decide what to do with them. Does she let them stay? Cast them out? Will she lose the power to keep her followers young as she ages?
Change #2: Agne’s Playground for Wayward Children
The vast majority of the children coming into the Agnite tribe are adopted. Children who are lost, orphaned, run away, forgotten, or otherwise make their way to Playground and choose to stay, becoming one of the tribe. While outright kidnapping isn’t tolerated, Agnes and her followers will do their best to entice children of other Tribes to come to Playground and, from there, convince them to stay. So long as there’s no flagrant coercion, the other Tribes usually don’t raise any issues. Dahlians, Magdalites, and Yagans are far more likely to let children who wander into Playground stay. Many Magdalites all but send their children to Agnes. Evans and Joanites will try to get their children back, often resulting in Eva or Joan directly intervening and the child’s return. Tera Shebans are mixed since it usually depends on the prominence of the family that the child is from. Finally, there are Outlander children who make their way into the Tribe - nobody asks questions about where they came from. The only groups that very rarely have children adopted into the Agnite tribe are Keepers and Serfs.
Change #2: No Breeders or Barrens
The first two changes serve the purpose of eliminating the need for Breeders and Barrens. Even though Agnes was not present in the Z’bri Camps, being comfortable with enslaving her own Tribe seems far-fetched. The other Fatimas would definitely not be on board with the practice either.
Agnites aging more slowly allows them to build up skills needed for survival, but there are some things they won’t be inclined to do or would find difficult. Good examples are having enough food, finding fresh water sources, or caring for the sick or injured. This is where the other Tribes come in. Evans, in particular, aren’t just going to let a bunch of children starve, freeze, be sick, or be injured. Even if Agnes isn’t welcoming of having a bunch of bossy Evans hanging around, she recognizes the need for her children to seek help from adults when it’s absolutely necessary. Of course, Evans try to take advantage of these opportunities to gain the children’s trust and possibly lure them away from the tribe. Often this is predicated on a need to take the Agnite back to an Evan hospice or home for treatment or recovery. When Dahlians perform in Bazaar, they will ensure word gets to Playground and shower the children with treats and gifts in addition to providing anything else they might need.
Natural Born Agnites
Not having Breeders or Barrens, combined with the children growing up much more slowly, would seem to eliminate Agnites being born into the tribe. I see this as a feature, honestly. They aren’t positioned to care for infants, and I’m not willing to entertain all the ways that could go wrong. However, it still raises the question of what will happen when one thing leads to another between two Agnites who are old enough. In my headcanon, I honestly haven’t tackled that yet.
Less Lord of the Flies, More Lost Boys
Not the vampires, the children from Peter Pan.
We know that traits like cooperation, sharing, compassion, and empathy are natural for children over bullying and cruelty. While there is understandably going to be some of the latter, I don’t see the Agnites acting like they were raised by wolves. They obviously won’t be nearly as well-behaved as Evan or Joanite children; cliques will still exist, and each will have its own rules. But the undercurrents of brutality, bullying, and feral behavior aren’t nearly as strong as portrayed in the sourcebooks. Some of it is absent entirely, particularly some of the more problematic portions of Word of the Dancers.
What About Fallen Agnites?
Agnes, in my games, is certainly no less fickle or capricious, meaning she’s still likely to Banish one of her children in a fit of petulance. It’s just that, as of yet, growing up isn’t a driver for her to Banish any of them. Even so, that still presents a sticky point in the possibility of outcasts who are physically children (even if they might have lived long enough to technically be adults).
Fortunately, the magic that keeps the Agnites young doesn’t have to follow logical rules. I assume that those who are Banished who are physically teens will simply start aging normally again after they are Banished. I never quite settled on what happens to those who might be Banished when they are still physically children. One thought I had was that those who start to stray from their childish natures in one way or another start aging faster. It’s one of the first signs, to other Agnites and Agnes herself, that there’s a problem. By the time they’re Banished, they may already be at least pre-teens physically. Some good examples of who this would be happening to would include Hespirrin and Carmitchel from the Vimary Sourcebook.
Of course, I have yet to find a player who actually wanted to play an Agnite child. Most of the time, they want to play a teenager or an adult who was not recently Banished. But, I suppose if it ever comes up, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.