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07-19-1999, 02:03 AM #1
Really long response to "a small wh
I apologize for the length of this one, guys. You know how it is when your fingers just
get to flyin' and you don't have much of a *real* life to attend to....
Solmyr of the Azure Star wrote:
> GeeMan wrote:
> > Well, this is going to rapidly degenerate into an off-topic debate about styles of
> > play but.... So what? Who cares if people play AD&D in an unmedieval manner?
> Tsk, tsk, you are wandering away from the main topic. I don't care about
> playing AD&D in an unmedieval manner, but I do care about playing in
> Cerilia (and in Anuire specifically) in a medieval manner, since that's
> what Anuire is very strongly based on.
Well, instead of arguing that it isn't really THAT strongly based on the medieval period
(which is my POV, but I'll let it slide for the time being) I'm going to argue that
alliances, anti-war protests and racial/religious tolerance really aren't unmedieval.
1. Alliances: I think both Kenneth Gauck and I [the BR Message Board resident version of
bickering historians if there is such a thing ;-)] have argued that there really was
quite a lot of alliances formed back in the medieval period. From well before Von
Clauswitz said "War is politics by other means" people have employed diplomacy as the
primary means of settling their disputes. Diplomacy has always preceded warfare since
the formation of large nations. Diplomacy goes on before, after and during warfare. In
fact, diplomacy is sometimes considered the never-ending form of warfare. Sometimes
diplomacy averts warfare, sometimes it doesn't, but diplomacy happens MORE than war by
its very nature.
2. Religious intolerance. All right, IF Cerilia is largely based upon the medieval
period of Europe (which I still contest, but am still letting slide) then it is a model
that is missing one huge, massive, overpowering, history shaking, event forming factor:
The Christian Church. It is impossible to underemphasize the influence of the Church on
the medieval mind. In the centuries following the fall of the Roman Empire, the main
unifying force in Europe was the Church. Now, the Church certainly didn't invent
religious intolerance, but they were pretty good at popularizing it. Why? Well, mostly
because that is how they rose to power. They used religious intolerance to drive out the
pagan faiths in Europe, and because they used it so successfully, they couldn't really
just put a stop to it. It was part of the doctrine.
The BR religions aren't the same. They ARE the pagan faiths that were driven out by the
Church, or are, at least, analogous to them. They are also all part of the same
pantheon. The religious situation in Cerilia is more like the religious situation in
Greece, where the gods were rivals to one another, but interacting rivals. Certainly
there can be religious intolerance within the same pantheon, but comparing the level of
that intolerance to that of the medieval period when there was a single, unified church
that dominated Europe, just doesn't hold up. Christianity denies the existence of other
gods, or relegates those gods to tools of the Devil. That's not the case in AD&D, and
especially not in Cerilia where the divinity of the gods is based upon Deismaar--an
activity that brought the gods together as a pantheon and created the "new" gods from
faithful human servants.
And here's the kicker: What was the event that created the Christian Church? It was the
martyrdom of Jesus, right? Well, what is the BR equivalent of that act of martyrdom?
The gods sacrificing themselves at Deismaar, and the ascension of their human servants.
(Very similar to Jesus' ascension from a thematic/symbolic standpoint.) In Cerilia the
pantheon as a whole has taken the place of the Church in Europe because of Deismaar, and
their results of that event are tangible in the bloodlines of those who rule the people.
Even if a servant of one of the gods wanted to dominate the continent, he couldn't adopt
the same "there are no other gods" doctrine very effectively because the power of other
gods is probably flowing through the veins of other regents in the realm.
That's not to say there couldn't be religious intolerance. Of course, you could throw
some in as part of a plot point or two, and the published materials have plenty of
examples of it (Talinie, Ghamoura) but making it a continent spanning factor as it was in
medieval Europe just doesn't ring true.
3. War: OK, there were a lot of wars in the medieval period, but describing the period
as being one of constant warfare is not very accurate, and is based on the popularized
version of history rather than the truth. A more accurate description would be something
more like a period of recurrent and intermittent warfare. Example: The Vikings. What
is the common perception of the Vikings? Horny-helmed blonde guys in longships raping
and pillaging their way along the coasts of Europe, stealing all the booty and beauties
like medieval bikers riding dragonships instead of Harleys. A lot of recent historical
research, however, has recognized the fact that most Vikings were really artisans,
farmers, fishermen and craftsmen rather than freebooters. Marauding actually represents
a pretty small portion of the Viking lifestyle according to modern research. This
background is (probably) what led to the domination of the northern European nations in
mercantilism and trade in later centuries.
> > Sure racism, religious intolerance, imperialistic warfare, etc. were all part of
> > the medieval world. So was open plumbing (where plumbing existed at all) an infant
> > mortality rate well into the double digits, no bathing for commoners (and only rare
> > bathing for the aristocracy) amazingly bad medical technology, poor dietary intake,
> > massive illiteracy and a life expectancy in the early 30's. If you are going to
> > try to recreate the medieval period in an RPG then you really need to include all
> > that other stuff which, frankly, just isn't a lot of fun.
> How are they "not fun"? Well, granted, things like infant mortality
> aren't really needed or wanted in a game, but religious crusades and
> imperialistic wars are IMO a lot of fun to have and open up a whole new
> area of adventure possibilities. Specifically in Cerilia/BR, which we
> are/were talking about and where such things are especially appropriate.
> > Regarding alliances: I think people are misplacing a lot of world history when
> > they say alliances were not common in the medieval period. They certainly were.
> > The error is that people are applying the relative lack of alliances between the
> > larger political organizations like (modern names) Spain, France, Germany, etc. and
> > applying that to the much smaller county and duchy size political organizations
> > that BR characters play. When the an empire breaks up there will be a desperate
> > and rapid struggle for power. Diplomacy and alliances will form and fall. That
> > makes perfect sense.
> > Anuire as a whole is rather a small nation by medieval European standards. It's 500
> > miles across total. The "nations" within that country are really just duchies,
> > counties, sometimes a whole province. Alliances within medieval nations were
> > absolutely common, especially during a time of civil war, which is what is
> > happening in Anuire since the death of Michael Roele. [I was about to list a bunch
> > of examples, but in the past that has been a big problem because people glom onto
> > those examples and things turn into an historical debate almost immediately rather
> > than a discussion of BR. If anyone wants historical examples for background
> > purposes please email me off the list and I'll send you some sources.]
> > If there is an unmedieval aspect of BR PBeMs its that players mistake their small
> > counties for independent nations and try to deal with each other as sovereigns
> > rather than regional nobles.
> True. My complaint though was more about the huge alliance blocs that
> tend to form in PBEMs, and are normally quite unified, unbreakable, and
> long-lived. This is not very realistic. Sticking to an alliance after it
> is no longer useful to you (and may, in fact, even be contrary to your
> current plans) is not a mark of a successful ruler. Of course, some
> honorable LG types may feel the need to "keep their word", but in
> general huge alliances that last for years of game time seem rather
> unrealistic to me.
Alliance blocs sound very similar to what went on in Europe in the medieval period to me.
> > Do you actually want to play in a game where religious intolerance and racism are
> > the standard? Why would you want to do that? Oh, it may be more "realistic" but,
> > again, I don't think you can endorse that one aspect of realism without dealing
> > with all the others, and even if you did who would want to play anymore?
> Well, maybe the faint-hearted who only want to see flowers and bunnies
> in a game may not want to play, but the things mentioned above, as I
> said, create a lot of potential adventure and roleplaying opportunities.
> Let's run a poll. Many here no doubt have played temple regents in a BR
> PBEM. How many, at one time or another, have felt the urge to "crush the
> heretics", yet did not do that, knowing that you'd be accused of
> "religious intolerance" or "racism"?
If I might respond with another question... Do you really need to play BR to do this?
Aren't there plenty of other games that emphasize empire building?
> > B. They are confusing the thematic basis of a fantasy RPG. That is, that it ISN'T
> > realistic.
> Some people seem to think that fantasy and realism are mutually
> exclusive. They are not. A fantasy world can still have realistically
> thinking and operating people who may have their own versions of what is
> right and wrong, and act accordingly.
Well, I wouldn't exactly say that they are mutually exclusive, but I do view them as
opposing forces. They aren't even diametrically opposing forces, for that matter....
The point, however, is that I think over-emphasizing realism comes at the cost of
fantasy. I like realism in sci-fi games, for instance, much more than in fantasy games,
so when it comes to AD&D I prefer to leave such things alone.
> > C. They try to enforce their own gaming style (which is completely subjective) to
> > people who are just trying to do their own thing.
> I'm not trying to enforce my gaming style on anyone. I'm just speaking
> my opinion.
Okay. It's just that it feels like that's where such comments lead, and emphasizing war
in the game does dominate a game for everyone... more on this in a minute.
> > Here's my deal with constant warfare in an PBeMs: It's boring. I have yet to play
> > in a PBeM in which someone didn't declare war in the first couple of rounds. There
> > are a whole bunch of other domain actions that I had wanted to use, you know? When
> > someone declares war suddenly everyone else has to stop what they were doing and
> > deal with that one guy. It turns the game into the kind of mindless, hack 'n
> > slash, no-role-playing bore that (I thought) was the antithesis of role-playing.
> I'm sorry that you feel warfare is the antithesis of roleplaying. I have
> to disagree. I think warfare, just as any other situation in a game, can
> have the potential for a lot of roleplaying. That is, assuming people
> don't attack just for the heck of it, but have clear goals that they
> want to achieve, and set about achieving them.
Well, I'd say that this is what differentiates a role-playing game from a strategy game.
Role-playing encompasses all activities of human interaction, including warfare, but if
you emphasize warfare why bother with AD&D rules? I've played naval combat games that
are strictly tactical and had the opposing "admiral" begin "role-playing" his position as
Adm Nimitz. That didn't make the game we were playing a "role-playing game" at all. It
just meant he was getting into playing the game. It didn't make any difference whatever
to the outcome of the game. Alliances, diplomacy, and politics do influence the outcome
of the game, and those activities are based upon the interaction of players who are
(hopefully) behaving in character. If you are going to play a role in a role-playing
game, it just seems like you would want to participate in the activities that emphasize
the actual "role" aspect of the hobby.
When you Declare War in Birthright you basically drop all the other rules of the game and
revert to the warcard stuff. Oh, you can throw some "role-playing" in there.... The
Archduke shouts, "On to the Iron Throne!" and then dives into the fray." But is that
"role-playing" going to effect the game in any way, shape or form? Probably not. It's
mostly superfluous. Sure, it might add some spice to things, so I say go to it, but I
wouldn't overemphasize it's significance.
To me, the real role-playing goes on in the diplomatic efforts of the game; on the
message boards, email messages and chat rooms of a PBeM. That's when people are really
in character, and people put down the dice.
> > If you were in any other gaming session and one of the players started attacking
> > other players, that would be a clear-cut DMing decision, wouldn't it? You'd smack
> > that player down like a naughty child, because that's basically how he's acting.
> No, I wouldn't (assuming he has a reason for attacking). And I would
> consider any DM who would as trying to impose his own views on how the
> game should proceed.
> > His decision to start attacking other players will interfere with their
> > role-playing and dominate the session. Suddenly, the adventure you as the DM had
> > in mind would be out the window, and you spend all your time dealing with the
> So, in the name of "running the adventure you as the DM had in mind",
> you would punish a player who had his own goals for his domain? Why do
> you need the players at all?
Well, I guess this is where you and I differ on the role of the DM. I personally think
the DM should provide the adventure hook, outline and motivation and then guide the
players through it. It's his responsibility not only to referee, but to direct from the
background. He should be able to think on his feet to accommodate the unpredictability
of the players, but if they decide to step outside the framework of the adventure then
what is the point in having a DM at all?
Well, I think this is the problem. Most of the PBeMs out there suffer from what I'd call
an extreme lack of DMing. Now, what I mean by that is that the DMs act much more like
referees and rules interpreters than DMs. They don't provide opponents for the PCs, so
the PCs turn naturally to fighting one another.
Of course, there might be a reason for a PC to attack another (charmed, extreme duress,
critical misunderstanding, etc.) but I don't think that's what we're talking about here,
are we? I thought we were talking about making such a thing the basis of the game, which
is really a horse of another colour.
> > trouble maker. I feel the same way about a BR PBeM. Players who go attacking
> > other players without provocation should be dealt with in the same way. Otherwise,
> > the game is going to spin out of control (which I've seen happen time and again in
> > PBeMs) and the game winds up fizzling out because everyone loses interest.
> Ahh, but there it is: attacking without provocation. Of course, what
> constitutes provocation is subject to interpretation. I think the game
> will fizzle even faster if the DM slaps down any player who attacks
> another (regardless of whether the attacker had a goal to accomplish by
> that), just because the DM feels that players shouldn't attack each
Now, don't get me wrong here. If I was DMing a PBeM and someone was playing Diemed
decided to invade Medoere I wouldn't kill the guy off or anything. I wouldn't make it
easy for him, of course, but I wouldn't have his troops turn to dust or give the Medoere
guy any breaks. Unless....
I had in mind as a thematic part of the game something that the player was completely
ignoring. Say, I was the DM and I told my players that recently the Spider had begun
getting more active. There were rumors of mysterious lights, screams in the night coming
from the Spiderfell, and dozens of villagers had gone missing. If the guy playing Diemed
decided to ignore that bit of DMing information and attack Medoere (weakening both
armies) he certainly would have to face that when the Spider crosses the border with
hordes of gibbering, vile, once-human creatures along with his already formidable units
of spiders and goblins.
> Well, I don't exactly see a lot of people arranging marriages in PBEMs.
> I wouldn't have any problem with an alliance based on marriage (and thus
> limited to TWO domains, not half the map).
I've actually done it a couple of times.... :-) Unfortunately, most of the PBeMs I got
into crumbled pretty quickly, so now I stay out of them for the most part.
James Ruhland wrote (and Adam Theo forwarded):
> > I'm not trying to enforce my gaming style on anyone. I'm just speaking
> > my opinion.
> Oh, you've forgotten though: to some folks, if you express a view at
> varience with their own (and the one they want everyone else to follow),
> then it is *you* (but never then) who is "forcing your views on others"
> (even though, by trying to browbeat you into silence with such tactics, it
> is they who are trying to enforce one perspective, theirs. . .)
Hello, Pot? This is Kettle. You're black.
Uh, guys, I don't think that is even remotely what happened here. My message was a
response to one entitled "A small whine" in which the use of warfare, religious
intolerance, racism were described as the "realistic" interpretation of the medieval
period, while alliances and the political events that create them were described as
unmedieval. I argued that this is essentially both bad interpretation of history and an
attempt to force one's method of play on others. Frankly, that's just what it is. If
you start playing the racist warmonger that screams "heretic!" to justify his actions in
a PBeM you force every other player in the game to respond in a similar fashion, no
matter what their intentions were before they were attacked.
Now, if my arguments about history (which is the context in which the statements were
made--how am I supposed to just ignore that?) are "browbeating" then please take this as
my apology. I did not intend to push my viewpoint on anyone. I could have sworn,
however, that several times I used phrases like "Now, if you enjoy recreating the bleak
'reality' of the medieval period in your games then, hey, go to it" and that people are
trying to "do their own thing" in my response....
Well, that was a rather sour note to end all this on... Oh, well.
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