Has anyone tried to explain the ahistorical features of the standard fantasy setting in-universe?

aramis erak

Legend
I was looking through GURPS' Dungeon Fantasy (which is basically 'play D&D with GURPS rules'), and this bit struck me:

"Consequently, it has some unusual conventions, including a quasi-medieval setting full of modern social developments such as sexual equality, sprawling metropolises, and a cash economy; a technological mix whose only rules seem to be “preindustrial” and “no gunpowder”; casual acceptance of magic and holy miracles; trade guilds for thieves, wizards, and even assassins; and a culture that recognizes “adventurer” as a career choice."
Sprawling metropolis - Byzantium herself. To a lesser extent, Rome, At her peak, Constantinople/Byzantium was 500,000 to 600,000 people (newer sources usually have pushed the numbers up). 14 town sized districts. One of the largest buildings in the world (Hagia Sophia)... the building is 82×73 m on the ground, and soars to 53 m in the center...

gender equity: The Norse seemed to be fairly tolerant of crossdressers. The Samoans have a four gender system, two of which are (in western terms) trans. Tonga has a third gender. All of which are pre-contact through present; Captain James Cook noted the presence of them in his logs.

Cash economies (vs barter economies) were starting to come about in the renaissance, Tho' fixed prices in coin were not uncommon as far back as the Domesday Survey of England. (late 11th C).

Witch burnings continued right on up to the dawn of the age of Steam....20th century in some places. Tho' in the middle east, they don't burn them, they decapitate them or stone them. Last I recall hearing of was about 20 years ago. So, I just googled...
2021, 326 Congolese women accused, 8 known killed. You don't burn witches if you don't believe they have power.

Adventurer: read as "Private Military Contractor" or "Mercenary"... or "Art Thief," "Bank Robber," "Drug Smuggler," etc. Or "Gangsta Rapper."
 

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TheSword

Legend
I think the gender equality can easily be one thing - female gods and a different creation myth. When your chief method of education, healing, and preservation of knowledge doesn’t think women are immoral then it’s amazing what women can do in society.

The technological anachronisms are harder to explain but also less impactful.
 

aramis erak

Legend
I never use thieves guilds; while it was entertaining for F & Mouser, its a stupid concept.
There are plenty of well documented guild-like 18th and 19th century criminal organizations... the Yakuza of Japan can be traced back to the early 17th C.

There are stories of criminal gangs from the 17th and 18th centuries in the middle east.
Robin Hood goes back to 1377 in literature; there's little evidence he lived when claimed, but the idea of an organized band of brigands is clearly within belief in the 14th C.

Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves strongly implies the 40 as some form of guild/gang... and it dates to the 1400's or earlier, as part of 1001 Arabian Nights, (which is estimated to be pre-1400 based upon the Arabic in use). Again, not proof they existed, but proof they didn't break verisimilitude...

So, while we can't prove they existed, they were literarily accepted in at least two important cultural regions and part of the literary tradition.

Even the bible (Hosea 6-7) discusses gangs of robbers. Note that gang in context is more like band, team, or crew than the modern use, but groups of robbers are pretty much close to the centuries later literary traditions.

Again, a guild of thieves, if operating openly, wouldn't be operating under such a name, but a medieval cityman would not be surprised to find such a guild concealing their thefts and smuggling.
 


Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves strongly implies the 40 as some form of guild/gang... and it dates to the 1400's or earlier, as part of 1001 Arabian Nights, (which is estimated to be pre-1400 based upon the Arabic in use). Again, not proof they existed, but proof they didn't break verisimilitude...
the story of the 40 theives was similar to or maybe even based on that of the Banu Sasan (Sons of Sasan) who are first mentioned in the 8th century. Legend states that Shaikh Sāsān was the son of a persian ruler who, after his father was deposed by the arab conquest, became a beggar and vagabond, gathering around him other disposed people who became notorious as brigands, thieves and charlatans.
The term outlived the Shaik Sāsān and became a general term for tribes of beggar/theifs. The term was often applied to Kurdish raiders and was known from across the whole middleeast from Syria to India

The Banu Sasan are to be contrasted with the ayyar/fotūwa who were bands of young men (fetyān) who in Sasanian tradition were knights-errant expected to show the virtues of courage, generosity, and chivalry. They were known to harrass unscrupulous merchants and cruel governors. However after the fall of the Sasanian dynasty these groups often became viewed as trouble-makers and protection rackets. In Baghdad they managed to gain control of policing but this was lost when Turkey gained power and policing became an army role.
 

There are plenty of well documented guild-like 18th and 19th century criminal organizations... the Yakuza of Japan can be traced back to the early 17th C.

There are stories of criminal gangs from the 17th and 18th centuries in the middle east.
Robin Hood goes back to 1377 in literature; there's little evidence he lived when claimed, but the idea of an organized band of brigands is clearly within belief in the 14th C.

Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves strongly implies the 40 as some form of guild/gang... and it dates to the 1400's or earlier, as part of 1001 Arabian Nights, (which is estimated to be pre-1400 based upon the Arabic in use). Again, not proof they existed, but proof they didn't break verisimilitude...

So, while we can't prove they existed, they were literarily accepted in at least two important cultural regions and part of the literary tradition.

Even the bible (Hosea 6-7) discusses gangs of robbers. Note that gang in context is more like band, team, or crew than the modern use, but groups of robbers are pretty much close to the centuries later literary traditions.

Again, a guild of thieves, if operating openly, wouldn't be operating under such a name, but a medieval cityman would not be surprised to find such a guild concealing their thefts and smuggling.
Trouble is, the 1400s is still later than the feudal period.

Gangs, yes. Out in the wilds, preying on travelers, certainly, true of virtually ever period.

But urban organizations dedicated to crime in the feudal periods? There simply isn't the economy to support that number. Smugglers, yes, but that is simply tax evasion by part-time criminals.

Unless you're using D&D with its gold-based economy, there's no basis for thieves guilds in a feudal culture.
 

aco175

Legend
When we are talking about being ahistorical...

Thera didn't "sink". It suffered a massive volcanic explosion, which didn't completely destroy the island - people still live on it today. But we can perhaps allow that as mythological poetic license.

But if they are going to nail it down to the year, that's not about mythology, but history. The Minoan Eruption happened about 3600 years before today, so around 1600 BCE, not 3113 BCE.

Remember the Georgia congressman who thought Guam would topple over and capsize if the USA put too many more troops on the island. People likely thought Thera did sink since rocks do not float away on air and the only way for the mountain to get smaller is to sink.
 


aramis erak

Legend
Trouble is, the 1400s is still later than the feudal period.

Gangs, yes. Out in the wilds, preying on travelers, certainly, true of virtually ever period.

But urban organizations dedicated to crime in the feudal periods? There simply isn't the economy to support that number. Smugglers, yes, but that is simply tax evasion by part-time criminals.

Unless you're using D&D with its gold-based economy, there's no basis for thieves guilds in a feudal culture.
Rome had to have police, as it had a thriving crime rate before the Empire; more so after. They combined the duties with the fire brigades until the Senate decided that they needed dedicated soldiery to enforce the laws, so the fire brigades could focus on just the fires.
Babylon and Assyria had soldiers on patrol to enforce the laws, too...

Anywhere you have the money to support a lord and his retinue, you have an economy strong enough for professional criminals. And not so professional raiding neighbors.

But the only time we get solid evidence about organized criminal organizations in documentary modes is when they get careless.

And remember, absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence.

Im running into this now with players requesting the ability to have toilets in the small house they have just acquired.
Given that major Roman cities had public toilets - a series of holes over a bit of running water, and feeding out into the rivers....
and the Garderobe was common from the start of British stone forts... but it was literally a hole in a seat, usually hanging out over the moat, but other times into an oubliette/cesspit.
Flush toilets were conceived of in 1596, But HRM Victoria found it too noisy to use.
Patents get issued starting in the 1770's...

Hell, have a few picture-filed sites:
 

Remember the Georgia congressman who thought Guam would topple over and capsize if the USA put too many more troops on the island. People likely thought Thera did sink since rocks do not float away on air and the only way for the mountain to get smaller is to sink.
Nope. I have never heard of this story before. ;) I can, however, imagine that some time had elapsed between the time of the eruption, and the time people from mainland Greece or the neighboring islands returned to Thera. What do you suppose these outsiders found when they arrived at where Thera was supposed to be? What did they tell everyone else about what they saw when they got there? What probably did happen afterwards was a game of telephone where each retelling of the story was different than the one before it.

This particular game of telephone lasted for centuries until the first archeologists showed up and began to reveal what really happened on Thera thousands of years ago. They used science to tell everyone a new story, and what we now know became a part of human history. ;)

Mind you, just because science says this is how and when an event happened, fantasy novels and RPGs don't have to follow the science in order to further their plotline or to describe a facet of the overall setting. ;)
 

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