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(+) Gaming in historical settings and dealing with values of the era

In historical setting, when values are different from our own

  • I expect the players to adhere to it and actively engage in the behavior of the period

    Votes: 11 15.1%
  • I expect the players to adhere to it "superficially" and try to keep it in the background

    Votes: 30 41.1%
  • I expect the players to ignore it and kill things and take their stuff anyway

    Votes: 11 15.1%
  • I make possible for the players to fight it and stand up for their values

    Votes: 44 60.3%
  • I will integrate these values in the campaign as part of the narrative

    Votes: 28 38.4%
  • I will have PCs face social consequences when they deviate from era behaviour in public

    Votes: 32 43.8%
  • I will try to keep it in the background even when NPCs are concerned

    Votes: 13 17.8%
  • I will ignore it totally

    Votes: 16 21.9%

  • Total voters
    73

pemerton

Legend
And I think selling a fantasy version of a historical period that erases its context while also wanting to claim its more heroic values is dangerous.
Possibly. I think this is very contextual - in all sorts of ways (content, audience, place, etc).

I found Death of Stalin an amazing film, and also very funny. A Finnish friend who has spent a lot of time living in Britain and Australia could understand why it was funny, but also found it uncomfortable. I'm told by those who have Russian friends that it's a century or two too soon for them.

I have similar feelings about how they swapped out Nazis for Hydra ("They are so bad even Nazis hate them!")
My own issue with this is that Hydra and the Nazis living in completely different worlds.

Hyrda are like Dr Doom or (to a significant extent) Sauron - they stand for a completely "empty" evil that has no reason or logic behind it, other than to provide a legitimate focus of opposition for good protagonists. They are stipulated to be evil, and hence the appropriate antagonists, and then we impute various deeds or dispositions to them more-or-less arbitrarily as needed to support the stipulation and the plot.

Whereas National Socialism was a real social movement, a real government, a real phenomenon that we can talk about in meaningful ways, including why - of all human political ideals - it is probably, at present at least, the most discredited. There is nothing going on here that resembles stipulation.

A story about fighting Hydra might let us enjoy adventure and vicariously imagining ourselves to be good and heroic.

A story about encountering, and perhaps fighting, National Socialists is something completely different. That could be a story about me or you actually having to make a political decision. It might be very challenging.
 

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Haiku Elvis

Explorer
D&D has always struck me as having very modern liberal values including free speech, freedom of religion, and a high degree of individuality. i.e. The values many Americans say they have directly translates into playing good characters in most D&D settings.


The closest example I can think of is one scene where someone questions the Japanese-American's presence. I think they ask him where he's from (as if he didn't belong with them) and he answers that he's from somewhere in California. But, yeah, I was a bit disappointed that we didn't stick with the Nazis as the bad guys and it appeared as though the US Army was not segregated in this time line.


Oh, yeah. Even in the 19th century here in the United States, we had some "crazy" religious people who were not only against slavery but actually believed all men were equal before God. And in my experience, most players have no desire to actually play characters who are strongly bigoted. They're not going to play characters who complain about black children going to the same school as their children or moving into the neighborhood.


That's probably because none of us identify as Helots. Let's face it, there are some fairly monstrous groups/people who get off lightly because so much time has passed that a lot of us just don't care. Look at how much pirates are romanticized these days despite largely being made up of murderers, rapist, and thieves.
I think you may be onto something there.

Popular themes for children's parties/fancy dress:

Pirates - semi-licenced theives/murderers = killers
Ninjas - trained assasins =killers
Knights - trained fighters who traded military service for land = killers.
Cowboys - actually intinerant farm hands but popular as they are portrayed fictionally as deadly gunfighters = killers
Wizards - erm... um... just wizards really.
 

S'mon

Legend
My own issue with this is that Hydra and the Nazis living in completely different worlds.

Hyrda are like Dr Doom or (to a significant extent) Sauron - they stand for a completely "empty" evil that has no reason or logic behind it, other than to provide a legitimate focus of opposition for good protagonists. They are stipulated to be evil, and hence the appropriate antagonists, and then we impute various deeds or dispositions to them more-or-less arbitrarily as needed to support the stipulation and the plot.

Whereas National Socialism was a real social movement, a real government, a real phenomenon that we can talk about in meaningful ways, including why - of all human political ideals - it is probably, at present at least, the most discredited. There is nothing going on here that resembles stipulation.

I noticed this too. Hydra seem to have no motivation, other than whatever the viewer will hopefully regard as evil. You have the same reaction I did, and explain it very well. They're not even cartoon Nazis - they don't actually seem to be Nazis at all. There is no 'there' there at all.

Contrast the opposition in The Suicide Squad. OK it was a bit odd that a Latin non-Communist/right-wing junta would be anti-American (right wing clients can turn against the USA when there is some kind of serious split, like Saddam invading Kuwait, but it's unusual), but at least they had motivations capable of explanation.
 

pemerton

Legend
Contrast the opposition in The Suicide Squad. OK it was a bit odd that a Latin non-Communist/right-wing junta would be anti-American (right wing clients can turn against the USA when there is some kind of serious split, like Saddam invading Kuwait, but it's unusual), but at least they had motivations capable of explanation.
I've not seen that film. But your description is clear.
 

the Jester

Legend
Were I to run such a game, I would expect engagement and use social consequences, while offering the opportunity to be better than those around you and subvert the era's expectations.

I have played in such games- Deadlands, set in the Wild West (with differences!) shortly after the Civil War. Race was a major issue in the campaign, with our party including at various points a Black ex-slave, a Mexican immigrant, and a... Cheyenne? Some kind of Native American. We dealt with racism, we dealt with areas where one ethnic group had charge, etc.

And we were the exceptions to the rule- the people who tried to treat women, Blacks, Native Americans, etc all the same.
 



S'mon

Legend
Back when there was somebody in almost every family who was an eyewitness to what the Nazis caused and did?
The kind of awareness/attitude we have now only really starts in the 1970s. Reading WW2 war memoirs, I'd say there was very little awareness in US/UK/CA/AUS of how awful the Nazis were. The Western Allied governments didn't promote stories of Nazi atrocities the way they had with WW1 Germany - ironically, they got it wrong both times. Imperial Germany mostly was not committing atrocities, while of course WW2 Germany certainly was.

Conversely, people in the olden days generally didn't have any problem with 'we fight them because they're the enemy'.
 

pemerton

Legend
I kind of miss the old days when fighting Nazis wasn't seen as a challenging political position.
I think you misunderstood me. What is challenging is fighting them.

I live in a country that had a policy of race-based "child removal" (ie kidnapping undertaken by the state), and that was one of the original case-studies in the work of the scholar who coined the notion of genocide. When some survivors of that policy commenced litigation against the national government in the 1990s, the government's defence was that it was acting in the best interests of the kidnapped children.

I would love to say that my country was full of righteous persons who opposed the original policy, and who opposed the government's defence. But neither is true. The government which defended the policy in the way I described went on to win two more elections, and when it eventually lost it had little or nothing to do with the policies I've just described.
 

MGibster

Legend
Back when there was somebody in almost every family who was an eyewitness to what the Nazis caused and did?
Hell. I was thinking 2008.
I would love to say that my country was full of righteous persons who opposed the original policy, and who opposed the government's defence. But neither is true. The government which defended the policy in the way I described went on to win two more elections, and when it eventually lost it had little or nothing to do with the policies I've just described.
I've come to the conclusion that a nation doesn't expel all the Jews from their country (Spain 1492), allow extra-judicial killings to enforce labor and social conditions (United States 1877-1939), or execute approximately 55,000 women for witchcraft (Europe from 1450-1750) without the tacit approval or at the very least the indifference of the population at large. So while there are always people who opposed such thing, you're right, we shouldn't pretend as though our country (whatever that might be) was full of righteous people who opposed such policies. Most often those people were in the minority.

And that can be uncomfortable and yet another reason people might want to avoid gaming in historical settings. And there's nothing wrong with them for electing another game that's more fun for them.
 

This question was inspired by @Enevhar Aldarion's post in another thread, which was much more general in scope.



The OP was about importing tropes into fantasy settings, but sometimes it's not a choice, like in historical settings.

I'd like to know how do you deal with the difference in values between the group's social consensus and the real values of the setting or, at least, the perceived values of the setting (as seen through the lens of the group's knowledge of the era) when it comes to gaming gaming in historical settings or quasi historical settings (generally "historical X, plus a slight dose of magic"). [note that if the inclusion of a slight modification to an historical settting changes the way you deal with it, I'd be glad to hear about it as well.
I run historicals only when the historical is going to be part of play.
I expect players to discuss in setup the level of enforcement of historicity, from a minimum of "some" to a max of "as historical as we can".

My default mode is letting players buck the social trends via competence, not unlike Catherine the Great, Elizabeth Tudor, Joan of Arc, Amelia Earhart...

T2K, I ignored for this campaign the still technically in force in 1997 gender restrictions, and that is relevant since it takes 3+ years to make captain.... because it's not worth the hassle to make it part of the storyline. OTOH, a dead sniper with a bag of feminine hygiene supplys was a seemingly appreciated GM move...
 

Let's face it, there are some fairly monstrous groups/people who get off lightly because so much time has passed that a lot of us just don't care. Look at how much pirates are romanticized these days despite largely being made up of murderers, rapist, and thieves.
the "largely" doesn't go well with "thieves." All pirates are thieves, since the defining act for piracy is theft on the high seas.
I noticed this too. Hydra seem to have no motivation, other than whatever the viewer will hopefully regard as evil. You have the same reaction I did, and explain it very well. They're not even cartoon Nazis - they don't actually seem to be Nazis at all. There is no 'there' there at all.
which is what lead me to abandon watching Agents of Shield. Between Hydra and extraplanar actions, it just got too out there.
 


Argyle King

Legend
Hell. I was thinking 2008.

I've come to the conclusion that a nation doesn't expel all the Jews from their country (Spain 1492), allow extra-judicial killings to enforce labor and social conditions (United States 1877-1939), or execute approximately 55,000 women for witchcraft (Europe from 1450-1750) without the tacit approval or at the very least the indifference of the population at large. So while there are always people who opposed such thing, you're right, we shouldn't pretend as though our country (whatever that might be) was full of righteous people who opposed such policies. Most often those people were in the minority.

And that can be uncomfortable and yet another reason people might want to avoid gaming in historical settings. And there's nothing wrong with them for electing another game that's more fun for them.


I agree.

This touches upon what I said earlier.

A lot of people look back at history and assume they'd act differently in a situation.

It's an uncomfortable truth for a lot of people to confront the idea that they might actually be the villain instead of the hero in a lot of situations.

"It's a frightening thing that man also has a shadow side to him..."
 

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
A lot of people look back at history and assume they'd act differently in a situation.

It's an uncomfortable truth for a lot of people to confront the idea that they might actually be the villain instead of the hero in a lot of situations.

"It's a frightening thing that man also has a shadow side to him..."

I think one of the difficulty is trying to assess the effect of upbringing and education on decision-making. We're the products of our times. What would have "we" done when facing racial discrimination? "we" as in "our present us" would oppose it, because we've integrated equality in our worldview. What would have "we" done "if the we had been raised in a typical environment that promoted racial inequality, lived off slave owning and so on"? Certainly something different, but it's incredibly difficult to assess: what is the part of our decision making that is "us" and what part is "the product of external informations fed to us through education"?
 

Argyle King

Legend
I think one of the difficulty is trying to assess the effect of upbringing and education on decision-making. We're the products of our times. What would have "we" done when facing racial discrimination? "we" as in "our present us" would oppose it, because we've integrated equality in our worldview. What would have "we" done "if the we had been raised in a typical environment that promoted racial inequality, lived off slave owning and so on"? Certainly something different, but it's incredibly difficult to assess: what is the part of our decision making that is "us" and what part is "the product of external informations fed to us through education"?

For me, I look at how many people on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram speak out against things.

Then I look at how many people take actual tangible steps to do something about those things.

Additionally, I believe there to be a bit of delusional folly in not acknowledging that we have the capacity for evil, given the right circumstances. I believe that being aware of that does more to prevent doing wrong than putting myself on a moral pedestal of my own making does.
 

MGibster

Legend
What would have "we" done "if the we had been raised in a typical environment that promoted racial inequality, lived off slave owning and so on"? Certainly something different, but it's incredibly difficult to assess: what is the part of our decision making that is "us" and what part is "the product of external informations fed to us through education"?
Then I look at how many people take actual tangible steps to do something about those things.
And Argyle King brings up a good point here. Even if, with our current upbringing, we were transported back to the 1920s and we manage to make a life for ourselves there, what would we do? Making our opinion known that it's perfectly acceptable for anyone to marry the person who loves them back regardless of race or sexual orientation (what's sexual orientation?), that segregation is wrong, or that maybe women shouldn't be barred from certain careers may lead to us being fired, ostracized, or even face violent reprisals. It's quite easy for most of us to stand up in 1994 and say what we believe because there's very little risk associated with doing so. But in 1927 in the American South, that's a different story.
 

I think one of the difficulty is trying to assess the effect of upbringing and education on decision-making. We're the products of our times. What would have "we" done when facing racial discrimination? "we" as in "our present us" would oppose it, because we've integrated equality in our worldview. What would have "we" done "if the we had been raised in a typical environment that promoted racial inequality, lived off slave owning and so on"? Certainly something different, but it's incredibly difficult to assess: what is the part of our decision making that is "us" and what part is "the product of external informations fed to us through education"?
Lack of knowledge was as big an issue.
A lot of those who would have been opposed were unaware.

News required the local reporter to know - not a guarantee - and be willing to risk his life reporting it, and his editor to decide it was wire-worthy (and likewise willing to risk his life running it), and the wire to not edit it out, and the reader's editor to find it both worthy of print and not shoved out of the Nation section for more important material.

Any one of those being biased Could prevent knowledge at distance. Extrajudicial killings really started getting press in the 1980's... and the democratization of the news with the rise of the Internet in the 1990's has drastically changed the way news is covered.
 

I've come to the conclusion that a nation doesn't expel all the Jews from their country (Spain 1492), allow extra-judicial killings to enforce labor and social conditions (United States 1877-1939), or execute approximately 55,000 women for witchcraft (Europe from 1450-1750) without the tacit approval or at the very least the indifference of the population at large. So while there are always people who opposed such thing, you're right, we shouldn't pretend as though our country (whatever that might be) was full of righteous people who opposed such policies. Most often those people were in the minority.

It could also be because of fear, and not just apathy and indifference. Look at things right after 9/11 happened and how few moderate Muslims stood up and denounced the terrorist actions. Many of them did not speak out because they were, and still are, legitimately afraid of the very violent minority in their religion. Or with your witchcraft example, fanaticism says that if you are sympathetic towards an oppressed group, then you must be one of them too. I don't think we will ever know the breakdown of those murdered in that purge who were directly accused vs those who just spoke out against it.
 

I run such campaigns with a strict adherence to the mores of the period.

My most recent example was a occult-hunting campaign set during the Mexican Revolution, a conflict with considerable racial issues.

It created very interesting barriers and challenges for the PCs. For one example, they discovered that a bunch of American gunmen had great difficulty getting members of the (badly oppressed) peon class to talk to them. Few RPGs institute the social or ethnic barriers to communication that existed back then, or even those which exist today.

The PCs did stand up for their values on numerous occasions (when they weren't killing people and taking their stuff, admittedly), risking their PCs in a 'death is permanent and all replacement PCs start at level 1' campaign, but the biggest take-away was that it turned an investigative-themed campaign into a far more complex, interesting, and demanding campaign.

Social barriers, however misguided or even completely wrong by today's standards, make very useful plot devices and complications.
 

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