On Stark Madness

I talked with a man today, who scoffed at the fact that science adapts its theories to fit new facts.

You see, once they said a certain thing about evolution, and they were wrong then, ergo evolution must be wrong.

I pointed out that he was correct, that science changes and updates the theory as new facts come to light, and he said "Sure, change the story, that makes a lot of sense!" Then he waved his hand at me and ran away.

Everything you know is an anomaly. The people who live in the affluent countries of the west (i.e. if you are typing on a computer, you are one of that minority) live in a style so statistically marginal that it is buried under the biomass of history.

Have you ever lived in a place where you had a room to yourself? How rare is that in the history of man.

The truth is, our modern mindset is so foreign to the whole of human history, that we cannot even pretend to think like the proto-men of the past, because our knowledge of rational thought changes the very fundamental way our brain functions.

Even those like the man I describe above are so trapped in being a result of their cultural miasma that they cannot be representative of what man must have once thought.

So maybe you agree other races aren't just humans in funny hats, and that human society has to be somewhat different. Is there a way to play that at the table? Or are we all doomed to play in session after session expecting everyone to be ridiculous modern morally relative humanist rational humans?


  1. Well, I think games like D&D can be interesting or thought provoking or 'fun' on many levels, but I've never successfully been the 'method actor' type of player so my perceptions are limited. I don't mind if players who have an elf or dwarf character play them as a shorter human with a beard or a pointy-eared human version of themselves... I don't even mind if they say things like, "Presto the Elf will open the door," instead of "I will open the door."

    What I do want is for them to engage with the other players at the table and with whatever scenario has been described. If the DM says, "You see an old shack by the side of a stream," I like to hear people wondering who lives in the shack, asking if it looks inhabited, is there smoke coming from the chimney, etc., as if they are there and observing the scene. I guess I want the players themselves to insert themselves into the game and think and react not as some stranger, but as themselves... if that makes any sense.
    I don't mean players will say, "My PC is going to make gunpowder because I looked up the formula on Wikipedia last night," but I also don't want fellow players to say, "My character has a wisdom of 6 so I am going to act like a tool."

  2. I don't know that we can truly get into the mindset of a nonhuman hominid--and there's difficulty, probably, getting into the mindset of a fairly different human culture. That being said, I think the attempt and the considerations that go into it are interesting and worthwhile, if that's what the people at the table are into.

  3. lol creationism.

    Often on this blog, you've derided game elements which serve as an extra step between the players and the fun, and I agree with you. If the game system is a boat, and the mechanics are people, then the trick is to optimize your passengers-to-weight ratio, otherwise you might sink.

    I would view this as one such element. You place a lot of importance on emphasizing that the various races (including humans) have vastly different cultures than our own. But that emphasis, I think, gets between the players and the fun. Perhaps the players will enjoy the fun more if they're made to understand how different humans were in medieval times. But, on the other hand, maybe that will drag down the experience for them. Medieval life was pretty horrible, after all.

  4. Umm. I may have missed what the target of your post is, but I get stuck on a statement like:

    "The truth is, our modern mindset is so foreign to the whole of human history, that we cannot even pretend to think like the proto-men of the past, because our knowledge of rational thought changes the very fundamental way our brain functions."

    Who is the 'Us' of 'our modern mindset', how far back does 'human history' go (specifically), who are the 'proto-men', and whose brain is 'our brain'? Are you talking about 20th C humans vs 15th C humans, Homo Sapiens vs Neandertals or vs Australopithecus, or what?

  5. I always try to be as simulationist in my possible and avoid anachronisms. Even so, it's very hard to get players into a period mindset for past history. For future settings (whether post-apocalypse or space opera) they have no problem pooh-pooh ancient old computer systems with only a billion terabytes of memory or raising the roof with cheers when they find half a dozen shotgun shells for the party's (only) firearm.
    It's a lot harder to get the same reaction in a medieval or dark ages setting. I'm always keen to emphasise that the lords great hall has a seat (for him), a stool (for his missus) and everyone else has to make do with a bench, or half a barrel or even sit in straw. The fact that EVERYONE who can read (only a time minority) does so standing up (out of respect for the author and the simple fact that chairs are damned expensive) and has to read out loud.
    Hell, even in reasonably sophisticated era's history (such as the late Roman Republic) the literate could only read out loud -and often stumbled over words. Iulius Ceaser was famous in his time for not only being able to read silently, but also for being able to read without puzzling out the words on the paper first.
    But then, the Romans didn't have silly little things like word breaks, punctuation or anything like that. Not until Iulius invented them anyway.

    It's random little historical details like these than seem to help players immerse themselves in a new mindset. Big events such as wars and plagues just go over their heads in this regard. But if you occasionally drop in a comment about how plague doctors lance a boil or how people stand up to read out-loud, that sort of thing seems to get players thinking from a different perspective.

  6. @Spawn, humanist rational thinking has infiltrated out minds, and cannot be rooted out.

    Players cannot put themselves of the mindset of someone who would kill themselves for failing a task, or load a slaveship by stocking living men on shelves, or know as fact that spontaneous generation occurs, or know what it is to be unable to read.


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