D&D 5E How Things Get Lost IRL

DnD core assumption is a place in a perpetual simili Renaissance world (1400).
Just add Dinosaurs, Viking from era 1000, Demons, Dragons, Magic, and a patchwork of many others timeline such as pharaoh and pyramids.
That is pretty much the core assumption of many DM. Not very logic, but very interesting to play.
 

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mrpopstar

Sparkly Dude
Writing

Losing writing is a lot rarer than losing a language. Even when another culture invades over time what usually happens is one language or writing replaces another. Very few cultures have lost the art of writing once they discover it or aquire it from another culture. For example the Roman empire is gone but we are using its legacy to communicate on these forums using this alphabet. Generally you need a total collapse of society in ancient times or in an isolated part of the world. The Greeks underwent a dark ages which lasted around 300 years.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_Dark_Ages

What probably happened was that a reasonably small amount of people were literate perhaps less than 100 people. War probably disrupted that time period and several cities were destroyed. The literate people were either killed or with the destruction of the city states there was a collapse of organised bureaucracy so any literate survivors probably had to become farmers or whatever to survive. The Mayans might be another example and their collapse is probably a combination of environmental problems and war- any literate survivors would have lost their state sponsored position.
Biblioclasm and libricide are (and always have been) the single most effective means of erasing culture, interrupting progress, purging history, wiping memory, and rendering things "lost" (says your friendly local librarian, dispassionately and without bias).

:)
 
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Zardnaar

Legend
Biblioclasm and libricide are (and always have been) the single most effective means of erasing culture, interrupting progress, purging history, wiping memory, and rendering things "lost" (says your friendly local librarian, dispassionately and without bias).

:)

The church hates science thing is a bit of a myth- at least that is what my University professor argued lol. In the Renaissance for example the church was one of the biggest patrons of the arts and most of the early universities were also tied to churches as well. IIRC it was the Anglican church that more or less ran most of the Universities in the UK a few centuries ago.

Its not quite as simplistic as claiming that the church is anti science. It has been on some issues/individuals and it varies by time as well. The net balance overall I would argue is still on the positive side. Technology and sciences has often gone hand in hand with the church, they were the ones who preserved a lot of the knowledge we do have (especially in the east AKA Byzantine Empire), the worlds oldest Koran was preserved in a church, they helped sponsor the Renaissance building techniques on Notre Dame for example were utilised on other buildings.

The bible for example is not a perfect account of the ancient world but until recently it was the only one in terms of things like Assyria etc. Early archaeologists at least had a rough idea where to look and what to look for in terms of Iraq/Egypt etc. Even this text we are using is arguably because of the church as they were the ones who preserved literacy in the west, and they spread literacy in the east as well- in Russia for example.
 
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mrpopstar

Sparkly Dude
The church hates science thing is a bit of a myth- at least that is what my University professor argued lol. In the Renaissance for example the church was one of the biggest patrons of the arts and most of the early universities were also tied to churches as well. IIRC it was the Anglican church that more or less ran most of the Universities in the UK a few centuries ago.

Its not quite as simplistic as claiming that the church is anti science. It has been on some issues/individuals and it varies by time as well. The net balance overall I would argue is still on the positive side. Technology and sciences has often gone hand in hand with the church, they were the ones who preserved a lot of the knowledge we do have (especially in the east AKA Byzantine Empire), the worlds oldest Koran was preserved in a church, they helped sponsor the Renaissance building techniques on Notre Dame for example were utilised on other buildings.

The bible for example is not a perfect account of the ancient world but until recently it was the only one in terms of things like Assyria etc. Early archaeologists at least had a rough idea where to look and what to look for in terms of Iraq/Egypt etc. Even this text we are using is arguably because of the church as they were the ones who preserved literacy in the west, and they spread literacy in the east as well- in Russia for example.
As a college professor, myself, who teaches Information Science 101 and Book History, and I can surely attest that the Wikipedia entry you've been informed by is wholly inadequate and not a worthy reference for this assignment.

;)

The destruction of written records and libraries is not merely a function of religion vs. science. Warring peoples have burned cultural institutions to the ground through untold centuries, mostly for the purposes of erasing the very fact that their victims ever existed (see also Palmyra). -- This is why The New York Public Library, Boston Athenaeum, etc., are "soft targets" for terrorism in the United States.
 

Saeviomagy

Adventurer
I would hasten to point out that I wasn't levelling a finger at gods in general for stagnation of technology. I was specifically levelling it at the FR gods and Gond in particular, who makes it his business to involve his followers and church in any technology, and in prior editions granted "make technology work even though it shouldn't" magic to his priests, which is just going to foul up the progress of science.

One could also point at Mystra, who's apparently decided that Gond is a bad guy because he likes technology more than magic. Or something.

Like I said - FR gods are whiny petulant :):):):):):):)s.

Also, in general: even if your fantasy world doesn't conform to real world science, I've not seen a DM capable of running a game where applying the scientific method would be impossible and anybody at all would have fun.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
As a college professor, myself, who teaches Information Science 101 and Book History, and I can surely attest that the Wikipedia entry you've been informed by is wholly inadequate and not a worthy reference for this assignment.

;)

The destruction of written records and libraries is not merely a function of religion vs. science. Warring peoples have burned cultural institutions to the ground through untold centuries, mostly for the purposes of erasing the very fact that their victims ever existed (see also Palmyra). -- This is why The New York Public Library, Boston Athenaeum, etc., are "soft targets" for terrorism in the United States.

If you are referring to the Great Library of Alexandria its not even 100% sure the Christians burnt it, and it had previously caught fire during Caesars time IIRC.

I also did not use wikipedia nor am I trying to whitewash things the various churches did but I think the Christians and Muslims preserved and created more than they destroyed or suppressed.

And burning things down you do not like (Aztec Codices, Library of Alexandria maybe) is not exclusive to Christians, Alexander the Great did it (Persepolis) and manuscripts were destroyed in the Allied bombing raids in WW2.

Did the churches destroy stuff, sure absolutely (I'm not religious BTW), I just do not like my dislike of organised religion or the modern proponents of some of the stupid stuff these days blind me to the fact of what the churches did to advance the sciences.
 
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mrpopstar

Sparkly Dude
If you are referring to the Great Library of Alexandria its not even 100% sure the Christians burnt it, and it had previously caught fire during Caesars time IIRC.

I also did not use wikipedia nor am I trying to whitewash things the various churches did but I think the Christians and Muslims preserved and created more than they destroyed or suppressed.

And burning things down you do not like (Aztec Codices, Library of Alexandria maybe) is not exclusive to Christians, Alexander the Great did it (Persepolis) and manuscripts were destroyed in the Allied bombing raids in WW2.

Did the churches destroy stuff, sure absolutely (I'm not religious BTW), I just do not like my dislike of organised religion or the modern proponents of some of the stupid stuff these days blind me to the fact of what the churches did to advance the sciences.
I did not mention churches, or name a religion, and I am not mentioning Alexandria, nor am I claiming that any particular group exclusively claims the destruction of cultural memory.

:confused:

The Chinese, in their imperial efforts, are probably the most guilty of erasure through records destruction as they conquered and forcibly assimilated, but that's an aside.

Things get "lost" IRL because documented memory get destroyed (which directly speaks to the issue of lost language as well).
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
Its not quite as simplistic as claiming that the church is anti science.
That particular statement is not merely myth, it is slander. I refer to anti-religious attitudes as "the Shadow of the Enlightenment". Sometimes people understand what I mean.

{begin: 'professor drifts off on a tangent during class lecture' voice}
You have to dig into the religion and discover its philosophy of existence.
Are its god(s) consistent? Can they be known, in whole or in large part? Then the church will support inquiry and learning and science - to "figure out God better so we can be more like him and help work his will".
OTOH, are the god(s) inconsistent, impulsive, random? Can they never be known very much at all? Then the church will consider inquiry and learning and science to be a waste of time, running down a rabbit hole.
{end: voice}
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
If you are referring to the Great Library of Alexandria its not even 100% sure the Christians burnt it, and it had previously caught fire during Caesars time IIRC.
Unfortunately, buildings full of flammable materials have accidents from time to time. Some of them suffer losses whose value exceeds what can be measured with money.

There are records of early Christian and early Muslim leaders starting riots around the Library because of the "ungodly" knowledge therein (which they were unfamiliar with, but knew that its source was some old dead guys). The person who uttered the infamous I-don't-care quote was Muslim.

The antidote quote: "If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants." - Isaac Newton, during his knighting ceremony.
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
Things get "lost" IRL because documented memory get destroyed (which directly speaks to the issue of lost language as well).

Back when Zard first started this thread, I was going to ask if all of his points could not simply be summed up with "loss of knowledge". I mean, I doubt very many, if any of us know how to build a microchip. Or make plastic. Or even glass for that matter. Were modern civilization stripped of that knowledge, we'd see a massive backward slide in our ability to develop things.

Apply this to a pesudo-medieval society where there are knowledge-hoarding dragons, knowledge-stealing demons, anti-knowledge gods, and the occasional inter-dimensional creature of pure chaos that drives a civilization to madness (and thus, strips it of it's knowledge) combined with a relatively high illiteracy rate and much of documented knowledge being stored away in great libraries, vaults and mage towers inaccessible to the average peon and yeah, it becomes pretty clear how a society could get "stuck" in a certain age.

@OP though I still think the biggest problem with technological development in D&D is magic. Most average settings possess enough magic to go beyond the aid of normal scientific development, to replacing it. I mean, who needs to develop a diving-bell when you can cast water-breathing? And if you don't invent a diving-bell, do you ever develop the diving suit? The submersible? Who needs the aeroplane when you can cast Fly? Or shapechange into a creature with wings? And these are the resources at the hands of some of the most intelligent people in society. Who needs to create the telephone or the television when you have Sending/Seeing Stones?

And then when The Great Catastrophe strikes, you have developed so little that isn't tied to magic, that you just end up with nothing.
 

Hussar

Legend
D&D has all sorts of tropes and this one is a major one. Technological stagnation.

Basically this means hundreds or thousands of years ago in the D&D world people were wandering around in full plate armor and using things like longswords. Hundreds if not thousands of years after they are still using the same equipment. The Forgotten Realms are a good example of this as you can find ancient weapons basically identical to the modern Faerunian equivalents. The other trope is that civilisations get destroyed and everything collapses where IRL the victors usually inherited the spoils and most people will survive something like a war or conquest.

At a most basic level this is fine, its fantasy. When it comes to world building however I sometimes like using example from real life either refluffed or at least using the concept. Fantasy worlds often have a few "dark ages" which IRL mostly did not happen even with things like the fall of Rome happened. For example IRL Roman engineering was already in decline before the dark ages landed and even then there was technological innovation (stirrups, crossbows) so it was not all doom and gloom. The collapse of one political entity usually means it is just replaced with another.

Some D&D books over the years have looked at this and written about it such as 2E Combat and Tactics book. Things like lost lands and ruins are a major D&D trope and I find if you can tie it together that much better it helps the players out in terms of caring about your world or the backstory.

Lost Lands

How do you lose a land? In most cases land does not disappear as such short of things such as volcanoes or coastal areas. Most of the time a lost land is due to spotty record keeping obscured by the passage of time or the land was not well known about or publicised to begin with. Historical example would be Viking settlements in Newfoundland and cities and lands mentioned in the bible for example. Language also changes and in some cases the records that have survived did not give very precise locations. For example The Egyptian Queen Hatsheput traded with the land of Punt, but we do not 100% know where that land was. Sheba is another lost land. Those lands are probably in what is now Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia but they could also have been in Yemen or on both sides of the Red Sea.

Well, to be fair, they just found an entire Mayan city in Guatamala, thousands of structures and a population possibly measuring in the millions that we didn't know about. So, it's not like cities don't get lost. Machu Pichu, Angkor Wat (another city of some million people that was lost).

Given that travel by foot or horse is EXTREMELY restricted and add to the fact that a D&D world is a thousand times more dangerous to travel in than any point anywhere in the real life medieval world, losing entire countries could be quite easy actually.

Language
How do you lose a language? This is one of the easier things to explain. Language changes over the years or another culture can displace another (by conquest, immigration etc). Not to many people speak latin these days.

Languages are lost all the time.

Writing

Losing writing is a lot rarer than losing a language. Even when another culture invades over time what usually happens is one language or writing replaces another. Very few cultures have lost the art of writing once they discover it or aquire it from another culture. For example the Roman empire is gone but we are using its legacy to communicate on these forums using this alphabet. Generally you need a total collapse of society in ancient times or in an isolated part of the world. The Greeks underwent a dark ages which lasted around 300 years.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_Dark_Ages

What probably happened was that a reasonably small amount of people were literate perhaps less than 100 people. War probably disrupted that time period and several cities were destroyed. The literate people were either killed or with the destruction of the city states there was a collapse of organised bureaucracy so any literate survivors probably had to become farmers or whatever to survive. The Mayans might be another example and their collapse is probably a combination of environmental problems and war- any literate survivors would have lost their state sponsored position.

I'd point out that the only reason we can read hieroglyphics is because of a lucky find a short while ago of the Rosetta stone. Written languages, like spoken ones, get lost all the time.

Technology.
Technology is another example where it is quite difficult to lose it. Even in a war most people usually survive and the victorious nation/culture/state inherits. There are several ways to lose technology however.

1. It becomes obsolete. Sometimes people get a romantic idea about something but sometimes this explanation is a good one. For example Damascus steel has a certain belief and aura around it and it died out towards the end of the 18th century or early 19th century at the latest. The mines are still there, you can go and get some ore still if you want. Damascus steel was good for its time, notice that it died out when the industrial revolution kicked off? Damascus steel is not magical its not going to cut through concrete so why spend a week or more of your life forging it when mass produced industrial steel will do the same thing? That and the British for example could mass produce this

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pattern_1796_light_cavalry_sabre

A more modern example would be WW2 equipment. Enthusiasts might love to get their hands on a Tiger tank but they are not made any more for a reason.

2. Loss of resources.
In the modern world we do not really have this problem (yet). In ancient times the Byzantines for example were famous for using Greek Fire. There were actually 4 overlapping technologies here- the Greek fire, the weapon that fired it, the dromon that equipped it and the pump system. Greek fire dies out however and there may have been numerous reasons the loss of access to oil in the middle east was probably a key factor. Another example was Roman concrete. The Byzantines kept a lot of roman technology and could build things like roads and aqueducts after the fall of Rome. Roman concrete however used volcanic materials found in Italy and the Byzantines lost control of Italy and the technology perhaps was lost before they actually lost control of the areas they could get materials from. Concrete was rediscovered later- in Italy.

3. Economic Reasons
This means basically that someone stops paying for the technologies application. This could be due to political or cultural considerations. I have used the example of Roman concrete before and writing and a similar argument applies here. In Roman times the state and rich individuals paid for things like roads, buildings and monuments. With the economic disruptions in the west starting in the 3rd century the Roman economy essentially collapsed and the old families lost their power. Things like aqueducts failing predated the fall of the Roman empire. What probably happened was that the work dried up in the late empire as other problems and less money to deal with those problems took priority. Fixing a public building took a back seat to the proverbial horde of barbarians literally kicking in the door. The western empire lacked the money, the eastern empire lacked the resources. Pozzolana would have been difficult to ship assuming the Italians were still mining it and the Byzantines had problems with Arabic pirates once they lost Egypt and Africa. The Byzantines also did not build monuments on the scale of Rome with a few exceptions such as the Hagia Sophia. Once again money may have been a problem as the Byzantines were smaller than imperial Rome and the loss of the Levant, Egypt and North Africa perhaps represented 2/3rds of their income.

I'd add politics to this mix as well. China is a perfect example where, by the 15th century, China was a technological power in the world, but, by the 19th century, had basically remained frozen for centuries. The closing of China's borders meant that China stagnated for centuries. In a D&D world where the elves and other races are often portrayed as xenophobic and not terribly interested in trade, many races could seriously stagnate.

4. We don't know.
D&D often takes this approach. Sometimes we do not know what some things were even used for or how widespread it was- for example the Antikythera mechanism. Here we had a tool from the 19th century found that the museum could not figure out what it was used for. After it was put in a newspaper it turned out it was used to manually put the barbs on a wire fence (to make barbed wire). The academics could not identify it because they are academics not farmers, and most modern farmers would not have known what it was either and I assume the transition between a wire fence and bared wire fence would have been fairly quick. That tool became obsolete fast and was not in widespread use anyway.

Fair enough.
 

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