(today’s post: 478 words)
(When I posted my first three comments on RPGs, I thought that was it. I’ve written quite a few in all, and now I have another. What can I say? It’s been fun.)
One setting people flock to with RPGs is the medieval setting. It’s high-fantasy, swords and sorcery, princesses and dragons, kings and peasants, and a huge, forested-world filled with mystery.
Here’s what I’m thinking, though. In these games technology may mirror that which was used in the medieval era, but the people are typically more on par with our most enlightened. My question, then, is would you play a game where society was depicted more accurately?
- You arrive in a village and slavery is widespread. And not only is it widespread, but there is no quest to “fix” things. Sure, you can free the slaves and kill the slavers – but it won’t resolve the problem or advance society. Every other town you visit will still utilize slavery – and see you as problematic.
- You are “volunteered” into a local faction of witch-hunters and become aware that members of your group are raping, pillaging, and plundering (I’m going to say it all happens off-screen, of course). And now they’re wondering why you’re not taking part. Or you’re given a holy quest to slay the elderly or immigrants – because, you are told, they are the cause of the recent plague.
- A man has a seizure but those around think he has become possessed and want you to starve him for 30 days to starve the demon. Or one of your companions takes some serious damage in a fight – a broken arm – and the local lord, in order to thank you for your bravery, offers to perform a blood-letting or skull-drilling in order to speed up the healing process. Or maybe sacrifice a virgin. He says he knows you will not sully this great gift with a disrespectful refusal.
If I could remember my medieval civ course material, I could probably come up with some better examples.
The point is that a lot of this is not politically correct by modern standards. The point is that people play fantasy games to escape such mundane concerns. The point is that people love the romanticism of an idealized, albeit inaccurate, setting. The point is that this is backward and against our better sensibilities.
The point is also that people, in those times, believed they were acting with best interests in mind; they just didn’t know better.
So what if the game followed this standard – and even the “good” route through the game required you to grapple with ignorance? Or embrace it? Would you still play? Would you go against the flow and allow our real world to influence your in-game decisions? Would you try your best to fit in with what’s expected of you? Would you balance the two – performing little acts of progression when it’s “safe”? What if “good” actions resulted in tougher challenges, but earned you a karmic-like reward (i.e. society progressed more rapidly for a short while)? Etc.