Saturday, June 30, 2012

Blame the Elves.

(D&D thoughts about this Charlie Stross article I just read. You should go read it when you have time and your thinking cap/bottle of brain-helper. You probably don't need so much of those for this post, though.)

Three questions (ok 5 or 6), two notes:
1. Does the need for dungeons & treasure necessitate settings with a "mythology of a distant golden age in the past" a la pre-18th C Enlightenment? Is it 'cause D&D settings are mostly emulating pre-18th C times? What if there wasn't an ancient civilization with their buried shit everywhere?

2. Are PCs "actually discovering how the [campaign's] universe works, and improving [their] lives" as functionally post-Enlightenment agents in a pre-enlightenment campaign world? 
Do the answers to those questions trend differently in old school D&D play vs new school?
This question may be wanky overacademic bullshit, I haven't decided.

3. Do we blame the Elves? In a lot of settings (based on a lot of mythology) they have an old, decayed kingdom that humans/etc built on top of. Dwarves may be implicit here too. Also, for some of you G+ perverts*, aliens and reptile men. 

The above questions are related to concepts in paragraph 1. They have probably already been asked. Feel free to school me.

Note 1: This sentence from paragraph 5 states this idea the most clearly that I've read: "What we call "hard SF" today mostly isn't hard, and isn't SF: it's fantasy with nanotech replicators instead of pixie dust and spaceships instead of dragons."
(one reason why they have such a big audience crossover?)

Note 2: A big reason (for me) that Zak S**'s drawings and such are awesome are that a lot of them give me the "Sense of Wonder" or "eyeball kick" as mentioned in paragraph 8ish.

*I love perverts.

**for some reason I called him Zak S, which is how I see him mentioned on other gaming blogs.


  1. 1. I don't think they have to; for example, instead of pilfering the riches of a past golden age, the characters could be unearthing the terrible powers of the unthinkably grotesque dark age that was the past.

    But generally, this is true but not specifically linked to the 18th century. A "return to the golden age" is a yearning that always coincides (and contends with) the human notion of progress.

    2. I'd say yes, but with the caveat that is goes for the players as well to some extent. No idea about new school vs. old school though.

    3. There's always somebody to blame for the degeneration of the past...sometimes its the Romans, sometimes its the Germanic barbarian tribes, somestimes its in the influx of immigrants, etc. Always an Other, no matter how inaccurately represented!

  2. Interesting points. A lot of the pulp fiction D&D was inspired by seems to follow similar trends: ancient civilisations, lost treasure; although I don't think it is just the Age of Enlightenment, you can trace it back to the Greeks I think (although, weren't Victorians influenced by ancient Greeks? Not sure, probably getting mixed up). Anyway, good notes :)