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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

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Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
If the setting's not horrible can you really call it "historical"?
Yes. It is a quick brush-off, not a considered conclusion, to think "Everything before me was all bad."

You (as DM or as player or as group) can choose to emphasize the awful, or choose to emphasize the hopeful, or a mixture of both.

Indeed, based on historical examples, if you want to change the sociological norms, it is better to pick one cause to devote effort into, rather than dabble in many but accomplish little in any.
 

MGibster

Legend
If the setting's not horrible can you really call it "historical"?
While it's a good idea to avoid putting on rose colored glasses when looking towards the past, it's also a mistake to become mired in misery as well. People in the past, even those who lived through terrible conditions, managed to live full lives and accomplish great things despite the obstacles in front of them.
 


Ace

Adventurer
I think it's valid for players to talk about modern values.

How much the characters apply those values in game? Your groups' mileage will vary depending on what you all agree to.
This is the sound and uncomplicated way to deal with the issues. Talk to each other like adults, make sure everyone is on the same page. If one player isn't dis-invite them from THIS game but bring them in on one they'd like.

This is basic GM leadership stuff I honestly thought everyone knew.

And note not inviting a person to a game is not exclusionary or bad. Gaming is meant to be fun and if the person is a bad fit with your group don't game with them . If they are a good fit but not with this game bring them in. We've all been that guy at times and its fine.

As a personnel example I had two guys married into the same family who could not and would not game together. Both of them made it clear that it wasn't going to happen so we said "cool." got to know preferences and invited the guy that had time or fit best
 

UngainlyTitan

Hero
Supporter
I think the last few posts about the past as horrible, etc, show the difficulty of stepping out of an enlightenment outlook!
I do not think it has much to do with enlightenment values. If any one of us were transported to the past, the social injustices would slide rapidly down our list of priorities to be replaced by the lack of air conditioning/central heating.

Running water, safe water, bland food because: a lot of what we are used to is not available in the local markets for love nor money. As it cannot be transported in a consumable state.

What could be prepared to our liking required too much time and effort in pre-mechanical kitchens and so is only feast/party food. A lot of what we can get is of very variable quality due to quality of ingredients and lack of precise control of hob and oven temperatures.

All this before one gets in to infectious diseases and the dangers of horses, not to mention the locals.
 

Haiku Elvis

Explorer
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.
A couple of things. The vast majority of muslims in the west denounced the 911 attacks when you got to the middle east maybe not as much although as has been mentioned in other posts my knowlege is dependent on the amount and accuracy of reporting. (what they were saying in their own communities I suspect neither of us will know).
this does not necessarily disagree with what you said as you didn't specify but I thought it worth clarifying
In terms of reason I don't think you got it exactly right. Although fear is a part of it. it was more complicated than that, you do touch on this in your witchcraft example so again this isnt a disagreement as much as a clarification.
There was of course a famous declaration of "you're either with us or against us" from the POTUS at the time and of course radical terrorist groups are hardly interested in moderate debates critcal of both sides.
It meant those who were genuinely appalled by the terrorists but who also genuinely upset by the death meeted out to their compatriots often by western backed regimes with western supplied weapons get stuck with no recourse. Try to bring up the muslims who are suffering and you're labelled a sympathiser with terrorists. Support the western military response uncritically and you're saying the lives of people like you don't matter.
Better to hunker down and say nothing publically because you can't win.

This isn't a anti western diatribe the terrorists deliberately used real issues to try to legitimise their murder it wasn't all one way. There were people dying on both sides who didn't deserve to but each side was only interested in their own people to fit into their own narrative and didn't want any muddying of the waters.

If you look at the history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland you see exactly the same pattern. If you're not 100% supporting us you're with the enemy. And there, there was a much more real threat of some friendly neighbours in balaclavas coming to have a word with your kneecaps about "loyalty".

On witchcraft the funny thing is it came almost entirely from the people. Where there was strong authority the reaction to "she's a witch!" was "No she isn't now get back to the fields before we stab you." it was usually where there was weak or insecure government, often where there were rival authorities or overlapping boundaries where you got a populist race to the bottom to indulge the masses. "we are tougher on witches than that other lot!" kind of thing. No all badness comes from evil authorities ordinary people can be sh*ts too.
 
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I just can't imagine prioritizing detailed historical accuracy in a game enough that it would be enjoyable to roleplay reprehensible "values".

Could I pretend to enjoy eating the fattiest cuts of meat, or believing that Queen Anne furniture is actually attractive? Sure. But normalizing genocide/slavery/rape? Uh....no, thanks. I game for fun.

I'm totally ok with other people running their games however they want, and prioritizing what they want, but I would quietly bow out of such a game.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
I just can't imagine prioritizing detailed historical accuracy in a game enough that it would be enjoyable to roleplay reprehensible "values".

Could I pretend to enjoy eating the fattiest cuts of meat, or believing that Queen Anne furniture is actually attractive? Sure. But normalizing genocide/slavery/rape? Uh....no, thanks. I game for fun.

I'm totally ok with other people running their games however they want, and prioritizing what they want, but I would quietly bow out of such a game.
But that is the thing, it was normal back then.
You can't have a campaign set in ancient Rome without slavery as they were everywhere. And if the player are always playing the special exceptions who fight against slavery then there is exactly one type of campaign that you can run as their fight against slavery will overshadow everything else.

When you want to run a historical setting with more authenticity than a couple of college students wearing togas and drinking themself senseless then you have to deal and accept the mindset of that point in history.
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
But that is the thing, it was normal back then.
You can't have a campaign set in ancient Rome without slavery as they were everywhere. And if the player are always playing the special exceptions who fight against slavery then there is exactly one type of campaign that you can run as their fight against slavery will overshadow everything else.

When you want to run a historical setting with more authenticity than a couple of college students wearing togas and drinking themself senseless then you have to deal and accept the mindset of that point in history.
But how does a group really do this? How do you really drop modern sensibilities, and know you're doing it "authentically"? How does that play out at a table?
It's easy enough to say "Yeah, slavery exists" or "Yeah, people are racist", but then just sort of gloss over it except in special circumstances like when the barkeep says "We don't serve their kind here" or whatever. How does that get truly integrated into PCs' worldviews so it's a part of the game? I mean, beyond the handwavy stuff we already tend to do in a fantasy game?

And if a table is not really doing it "authentically", then what exactly are they doing, and why?

edit for grammar.
 
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But that is the thing, it was normal back then.
You can't have a campaign set in ancient Rome without slavery as they were everywhere. And if the player are always playing the special exceptions who fight against slavery then there is exactly one type of campaign that you can run as their fight against slavery will overshadow everything else.

When you want to run a historical setting with more authenticity than a couple of college students wearing togas and drinking themself senseless then you have to deal and accept the mindset of that point in history.

Surely there’s at least one gradation between 100% fidelity and “college students in togas”?

And if perfect fidelity is the goal, then I probably wouldn’t find it very interesting anyway, so I don’t really have any good ideas to contribute.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
Surely there’s at least one gradation between 100% fidelity and “college students in togas”?

And if perfect fidelity is the goal, then I probably wouldn’t find it very interesting anyway, so I don’t really have any good ideas to contribute.
And how much fidelity would you be able to achieve without slaves in Rome?
 
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MGibster

Legend
I just can't imagine prioritizing detailed historical accuracy in a game enough that it would be enjoyable to roleplay reprehensible "values".
I'm in the same boat. I tend to prioritize fun rather than adhering to strict historical accuracy. I mean, you know, insofar as I can adhere to historical accuracy at all. Not even counting the bad aspects of the past, I think it can be very, very difficult for people to get into a similar mindset prevalent in the past. Years ago when watching the movie adaptation of Uberto Ecco's In the Name of the Rose, there's a scene where some monks were debating over whether or not Jesus Christ owned his own robes. To modern ears, even among religious people, this sounds ridiculous. But it as tied into 14th century thoughts on the role of clergy, the examples set by Christ, and how much wealth the Roman Catholic Church possessed at the time. Most of us just lack the frame of reference to think from that point of view.

And to be fair (♪to be fair♪), I find many players have trouble getting into a decidedly non-modern mindset even in games with fictional settings. In D&D, we're pretty much encouraged to keep our modern notions of right and wrong when playing our characters. That's probably one of the reasons why D&D is so successful.
 

MGibster

Legend
But how does a group really do this? How do you really drop modern sensibilities, and know you're doing it "authentically"? How does that play out at a table?
You just do your best and to the degree at which everyone is okay with. It's not like I ever expect a game set in the past to be 100% accurate. Come to think of it, it's not like my games set in contemporary times are 100% realistic. As I've said in other threads, I'm not looking for realism so much as I'm looking for verisimilitude.
 

Yes. It is a quick brush-off, not a considered conclusion, to think "Everything before me was all bad."

Who said anything about "before"?

When I was born there were still [redacted due to Dannyalcatraz' warning to stop discussing politics]

And that's not even getting in to how primitive the technology was.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
But that is the thing, it was normal back then.

So what? I mean, there's probably going to be all sorts of things in the game they didn't have in the actual history - magic, monsters, and stuff, right? Few are playing games with no fantastical elements. So, the game's going to seriously deviate from history regardless.

And there's plenty of stuff in ancient worlds we don't bother putting in our games, but that shaped the histories in question - like disease! Smallpox caused such devastation in Imperial Rome that they had to change the laws to adjust for population loss.

You can't have a campaign set in ancient Rome without slavery as they were everywhere.

You totally can. All those slaves are now... low-wage menial workers. Barely earning enough to get by, they cannot put together a stake large enough to change their lot in life. Poof, you're done.

There's an illogic to saying "you can't have this game without X" while at the same time ignoring formative elements Y and Z, and adding A, B, and C, which are thoroughly ahistorical, but somehow have no impact on the setting. It is fine to cherry-pick the elements you do and don't want in a game. Embrace doing so, but admit that's what you are doing. You can't cogently use, "But history!" as a justification if the rest of your game has major ahistorical characteristics.
 

So what? I mean, there's probably going to be all sorts of things in the game they didn't have in the actual history - magic, monsters, and stuff, right? Few are playing games with no fantastical elements. So, the game's going to seriously deviate from history regardless.

I interpreted the thread title to refer primarily to non-fantasy settings.
 

I interpreted the thread title to refer primarily to non-fantasy settings.

But that's what Umbran is saying: if you ARE going to add in fantasy elements it undermines the argument that "It wouldn't be historically accurate to exclude X". As soon as you add any fantasy (magic, monsters, gods) elements, it's no longer historically accurate.

So the argument, "It would ruin verisimilitude to leave out X" just means "I really want X".

I suppose the exception would be a game in which you don't introduce anything historically inaccurate, and you're playing a kind of simulation to see how history might have turned out differently if people had made different decisions. Or even just to roleplay being in the world at that time, without actually altering the larger history.

If that's the kind of "roleplaying game" being discussed then, yeah, I suppose you want as much historical accuracy as possible, especially the kind that impacts society/economics/etc.
 

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