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Miscellaneous / Gaming Inspiration from Material Culture
« Last post by tanis on April 13, 2018, 09:40:11 PM »
I just finished watching a video from one of the many YouTube channels that I subscribe to regarding medieval history and material culture, and I thought some of you guys might like it.

As a corollary, I was curious as to what your thoughts are regarding historicity and taking direct inspiration from history, especially as regards the actual tools and material culture of a particular society. Obviously, most RPGs are fundamentally, and historically, drawn from the Western fantasy tradition going back to the Victorian era, with notable influence from science fiction and horror, but I've noticed that there are, in a sense, two fundamental paradigms towards D&D and similar games: the first I'll call "pure fantasy", and the second I'll call "verisimilitude".

As I see it, in the "pure fantasy" paradigm, the goal is to revel in the exotic/fantastic aspects of the world, more or less totally unmoored from concerns about realism, and players' enjoyment seems to stem mostly from power fantasy and exploration of an alien world. These are the superhero-type campaigns where crazy things happen that couldn't possibly exist; one that comes to mind is a campaign I read about where one player rolled a terrible cavalier, but an incredibly high-stat steed, and eventually the steed actually became the central character of the campaign, even getting character classes, while the rider died shortly into the campaign (I might try to find the link to the story at some point, it's worth a few laughs).

On the other hand, you have what I'd call the "verisimilitude" paradigm: these people don't necessarily care that what they're doing perfectly corresponds to reality, but their ability to buy into and enjoy the world is heavily affected by a degree of plausibility, and the more sophisticated and granular the worldbuilding is, the more they enjoy the game. For these people, a human having more HP than a monster, mechanical abstractions notwithstanding, is a serious issue, and their primary enjoyment is in exploring and inhabiting a believable world, and playing a role that fits in that world in an interesting way. These are the people playing a gritty military campaign with a heavy tactical focus, or a sword and sorcery campaign where the evil wizard will absolutely crush the party with magic if they try to fight head on.

Now, obviously these aren't mutually exclusive, and you can play a really high fantasy game where the bits and pieces are believable, or a Conan-esque old school dungeon delve where no one worries about encumbrance or a support corps of hirelings, and the same person can enjoy both playstyles, but from what I've seen, there is a very real difference between players' expectations and concerns between these two ways of playing, and I'd be interested to hear y'all's thoughts on this.

Especially because it seems to me that so many systems, even those like 3.5 or Pathfinder which are ostensibly so heavily focused on tactical play and mechanical support for everything imaginable (sometimes at the expense of playability, even), really fail to capture that sense of verisimilitude, especially in regards to material culture, and that more recent editions have begun to swing more in the direction of the "pure fantasy" paradigm, whether to grow the player base or because of a shift in what players are looking for from RPGs, which seems to be leaving a gap between what experiences tabletop gaming can support and what people might want from tabletop RPGs.

Like I said, I don't think either is better, or anything, so much as it seems to me like heretofore RPGs have left something to be desired with certain types of play, and I'm curious to hear what you guys think. Can RPGs provide the sort of verisimilitude I'm talking about in a way that things like D&D sometimes fail to do? Is that even a worthwhile pursuit given the type of game in question? Is it simply an issue of player/game developer focus, and if someone wanted to make that game, they'd just need to design a system to support that sort of play? What do you guys think?

Here's the video, it's just over 15 minutes, so give it a watch:
The Art of the Game Master / Re: The omniscient holodeck
« Last post by Drul Morbok on April 06, 2018, 03:04:24 PM »
Well, somehow I think Star Trek has often been somewhat..vague on a high level.
They have an enormous knowledge on why some things don't work (yet?) in our universe so they just declare it's suddenly working in the future.

But actually I don't know that much about explanation within the series. My claim was more about logical restrictions:
In your example, I would assume that whoever created the holodock had to know that it was possible to convert energy pulses into Kreiger radiation...and what exactly happened if you did so.

I mean, if the holodeck "creates" energy pulses, it has to "know" what energy pulses are. Even if the creator of the holodeck did not explicitly know about Kreiger radiation, the holodeck created energy pulses in such a way that they had the inherent property of being convertible into Kreiger radiation.

So either the holodeck has access to some "lexicon of the Universe" where it can "look up" what it is expected to reproduce (and here I think the term omniscient applies) or what you described only worked because the holodeck creator knew it worked that way.

And yes, in any case, my idea is not about "right or wrong" within Star Trek canon, but about the idea of a holodeck that "knows" more than the society using it.
If the holodeck does have a divine component or if it is an artefact of an immensely advanced civilization from the past...well, no need to decide which one is true, as long as people in the game world believe either.
The Art of the Game Master / Re: The omniscient holodeck
« Last post by David Roomes on April 04, 2018, 07:46:53 PM »
Regarding the Star Trek holodeck, the trek universe has always been a bit vague when it comes to the holodeck. I've seen every Next Generation episode and they refer to "holo-matter" and such. They imply that the creations on the holodeck are not just holograms (i.e. not just photons), but are, in fact, a mix of photons and energy and matter (utilizing a little bit of transporter technology).

This explains why the holodeck is able to do some weird things. For instance, in the episode "A Matter of Perspective", they create a holographic recreation of a converter device which actually ends up converting energy pulses into Kreiger radiation. In other words, the holodeck recreation functioned just as the real thing would in the real universe. Essentially the converter was just a complex series of mirrors and reflective coils, but they were "real" enough for the physics to work. So, clearly, the holodeck actually does create matter, in some fashion. But you're right, you can't take this "holomatter" off of the holodeck. Almost like it's energy and matter held in a certain shape by the holodeck emitters. It acts just like real matter as long as its in the holodeck.

But they've never been absolutely clear on what holomatter is... at least not in Next Gen. Maybe they clarified it in a later series or book.

Interesting if a low tech society had a magical version of a holodeck... I could see all kinds of story ideas with that.
The Art of the Game Master / Re: Metaphysical sidenote: space and time
« Last post by David Roomes on April 04, 2018, 07:36:47 PM »
Agreed. Our concept of time is mainly our own artificial construction. We do that with a lot of things. I recently saw something similar on TV the other night... the idea that we "made up" numbers, but then "discovered" the realm of mathematics (i.e. relations between numbers).

Heinlein's book "The Number of the Beast" had a similar idea about time... that moving sideways in time is really just going to a parallel dimension at the same point of time.

The Art of the Game Master / The omniscient holodeck
« Last post by Drul Morbok on April 02, 2018, 01:22:09 PM »
For my game world I also integrated an idea based on Star Trek's holodeck - which I assume to be known enough not to explain.

I came up with the conclusion that the holodeck could not be used to find out something unknown to its creator/programmer
 I could enter the holodeck and say "build a particle accelerator", or I might go to some console and specify. Then I might conduct experiments and measure results.
But I might as well look into source code of holodeck software.
The result of an experiment within the holodeck should have a deterministic outcome based on its algorithm and the data I enter.

So a society that builds a holodeck can not gain knowledge from it.
At least that's the way I see it, but I might be any case, I wanted to build a story around a holodeck without this limitation.

In some other thread I wrote about a religion claiming science as its faith, and they revere a God that provides the holodeck (of course its not really a holodeck in my game world) with all the knowledge he has about the world...well, only scientific knowledge, its not an oracle, its more like a simulator to create laboratory conditions. A perfect science lab, not limited by issues like energy consumption, able to provide 100% pure elements and shutting of all external influence like gravitation and background radiation.
But as with the original holodeck, you can not take anything out of it, so the society would feature a huge gsp between knowledge and synthesis. They might know the theory of mass defect and about the speed of light, but not use electricity or the steam engine in their daily live.

So for me the whole thing has two purposes:
Thinking about how such a society might develop...and which roleplaying stories might arise
And creating alternative physics...I mentioned the mass defect as an example, but that does not mean my gamecworld mechanics will use the atom model.
Gaming Tales / Re: Players at wordbuilding
« Last post by Drul Morbok on April 02, 2018, 08:07:01 AM »
For what I mean, I just came up with the term "Schroedinger campaign" where the state of the game world is undefined until the players look at it.
But I do not mean improvising a campaign, making up things as we go. More like retroactive wordbuilding.
Let's call it applying Ockham's Razor to Khoras until a minimal game world remains, putting all other great Khoras ideas on a Schroedinger stack to get back at them as needed, but making no assumption about it until you need it.

If the players do not seem to like the idea of searching the artefact for too long, I might decide that is was build by a crazed loner who had the geniality to build it, but lacked any ambition or creativity to see its potential, so it spent its whole time in a chest in an unknown laboratory only a few days travel away from War Vale.
In this case, there would be no need that there ever was the Great War, so "suddenly" there never was one. At least not until it might come in handy at a different long as there is no need to know whether the Great War ever happened, the question of whether it happened is in Schroedinger state. Same about Aggradar and Qeshir.

Since I'm a big fan of the Sarthak, I might take away Duthelm and replace it by the Trosolli Dominion. But this would be a surprise for my players. All they knew was that there was a huge area full of Goblyns whose raids used to be a constant borderland nuisance until they stopped a year ago. Nobody knows why. And as might have been guessed, the "why" is in Schroedinger state ;-)
The campaign might get really interested by an organized large-scale invasion by abominations from the Trosolli Dominion. Will the players take the chance for separation, knowing that Rukemenia would not want to fight a two-front-war - at the risk of dooming first Rukemenia and than War Vale to be invaded by an overwhelmingly powerful enemy, which would have been defeated by joint forces?
But maybe the players will come up with the idea of making Rukemenia invade the Goblyn wildland in the first place - in this case I might decide that there never were any Sarthak.

And so on...
The Art of the Game Master / Re: Metaphysical sidenote: space and time
« Last post by Drul Morbok on April 02, 2018, 06:38:45 AM »
You know, the more I think about it, one axis of temporal dimension also is pretty heady ;-)

And also kind of a cultural issue:
Of course a stick in the ground can make for a primitive sundial, by mapping measure of time to measure of length (I.e. quantify time by the distance the shadow "moves").
But the idea of time as a linear dimension is a lot more sophisticated...a bit like the difference between counting apples, and postulating the Peano Axioms, even though both is about natural numbers.

I think that thea idea of a time scale is not " natural", but became a necessity with the concept of interest and compound interest.
If lending is about "I give you ten gold pieces if you give me eleven gold pieces next spring", a rudimentary circular time concept would be enough, only defined by the change of sessions.
Only if it starts with "I lend money at 10% interest per what if I lend money for 9 months?"  there comes the need for linear time measure.

So in some way, the saying "time is money" might have a deeper truth than what is commonly meant by saying it ;-)

In any case, my main motivation is playing with the idea that if culture was different, the concept of time also would be different, and that the idea of one time axis is a model among many, but it does not mean that time IS like this.
The Art of the Game Master / Re: Metaphysical sidenote: space and time
« Last post by David Roomes on April 01, 2018, 09:32:20 PM »
Two axis temporal dimensions. Sounds like pretty heady stuff. Or maybe a little bit like string theory. Doesn't string theory predict 10 dimensions? Or 13 or something like that? Also, string theory has some interesting things to say about space-time. Might be worth a look.

Anyway, are you planning on using this multi-dimensional time line to create some kind of interesting story? Like maybe the characters get a hold of a magic item that lets them move around in time, but they accidentally end up in a parallel dimension? Ok, now you're just giving me ideas... :)
Gaming Tales / Re: Players at wordbuilding
« Last post by David Roomes on April 01, 2018, 09:28:26 PM »
Sounds like you've got a good start on the story. Lots of political intrigue and power struggle between kingdoms. That's ripe for adventure.

Also, regarding players knowing the nature of the campaign before they roll up characters... it works both ways. I've had campaigns where the players knew something about the storyline and had the opportunity to make characters that would be particularly useful in that kind of adventure (rangers in wilderness hunts, thieves in all city campaigns, etc). But it's usually minor and subtle. Didn't seem to make a whole lot of difference. Then again, that might just be my players.

Gaming Tales / Players at wordbuilding
« Last post by Drul Morbok on March 31, 2018, 07:17:52 AM »
Unfortunately I plan a lot more than I actually play, so most of what I write here about ideas and settings still waits to be met by actual players. But here's a new idea I already found interested potential players for:

It seems to me that in many settings, players are expected to react rather than act: If the players do not step in, someone else will reach his goal (or sometimes not reach it), and this would be bad for the game world.
I want the players to be the initiators: If they do not step in, things will go on as they are, but they do have an ambition to change it.

Maybe an example would do best:
I might ask my friends "Hey, what about a campaign where the protagonists get access to an artefakt that gives total control over a race of shapeshifters created by said artefact?" (I guess the source of inspiration is obvious  ;))
One of them might say "Why, yeah. This sounds like a perfect tool for someone who wants to take over rulership in his kingdom, realm, whatever"
Another one might say "Yes, but maybe not take over rulership, just control the current rulership because we think ist is weak. We are loyal to our nation, including whatever current authority, but we dream of restoring former glory. Less petty struggles"
Than I might say "Well, in this case, I already thought of something called the War Vale. Wanna hear?"
The might say "yes, this would be a cool campaign: Using this artefact to somehow unite the War Vale. Not becoming rulers of it, more like a paramilitary secret service...never seen, but able to install a nation-wide legal system and military, getting people to get their identification from being citizens of War Vale and not of their duchies."
I might say "Wait, wait, the Rukemian Empire might get nervous about a unified military. Come to think of, it, they might prefer the current state and already be actively working on keeping it that way."
They might say "OK, in this case out goal is independence from Rukemenia"
I might say "Well, I can't promise success, but you DO have a powerful artefact, and it sounds like something that someone in the game world might try, and if we stretch the campaign over decades of ingame time, inserting time lapse periods,...and you know, even failure could make for an interesting story. Let's do it.
Oh, by the way, did I say that you DO have a powerful artefact? Well, that's not quite true. You DO have pretty certain indications of where to find it, but doing so would be the first part of the campaign.
So now let's talk about what group of characters might secretely come together to plan and conduct all of it."

And so on. In any case, much of was planned before could be changed sooner or later thereby deviating from Khoras canon. The fact that I used some Khoras names above is to (somehow) properly credit my source of inspiration, and because it comes with a lot of information I'd otherwise would have to first invent and than write in my post.
Ocean travel might seem too much, so I (or rather *we*) might do away with all geography, history and so on that comes from Khoras. A whole race of shapeshifters might be too much, so we might change it to an artefact that can create and keep alive a small number of shapeshifters at a time.

And of course the players might make different decisions in the first place. Maybe they want to use the artefact to incite a "savage" race to an uprising, centering the campaign around the Mandalar.

In any case, I'm looking forward to trying such a (at least for me) new approach, since my former approaches were more like first creating the world and the strory hook, an than presenting it to players who made their characters without knowing much about what awaited them.
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