D&D 5E The Esoteric Warrior (Monk sans Orientalism)+

Mercurius

Legend
“Understood differently by their respective traditions” = different concepts.

We aren’t Ancient Rome, there’s no need to tell other people that their thing is actually just a different facet of this other thing from outside their culture.

They’re similar, not the same. And that similarity is most likely largely a result of breath being the starting point of nearly all esoteric traditions that focus on physical movement and forms, because breath is physically central to all exertion of the human body.
It isn't just physical breath, though, but the life force itself. The concepts arise from within different cultural traditions, but refer to the same energetic aspect of the human being.

So while the concepts might be somewhat different because they arose in different cultures, what they refer to--the actual aspect of the human being called "prana" in yoga and ayurveda and "chi" (or qi) in traditional chinese medicine and martial arts--is the same phenomena.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
It isn't just physical breath, though, but the life force itself. The concepts arise from within different cultural traditions, but refer to the same energetic aspect of the human being.

So while the concepts might be somewhat different because they arose in different cultures, what they refer to--the actual aspect of the human being called "prana" in yoga and ayurveda and "chi" (or qi) in traditional chinese medicine and martial arts--is the same phenomena.
It’s not. You are simplifying to the point of reduction two concepts which are quite complex and deserving of more respect than this.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
It’s not. You are simplifying to the point of reduction two concepts which are quite complex and deserving of more respect than this.
And this ends up being the hard part of trying to create fantasy narratives using real-world concepts. You are absolutely right, but as a result it also ends up being a roadblock a designer has to find their way around.

D&D uses real-world terms to define fantasy concepts that are unique to D&D and its derivatives. D&D paladins aren't like real-world paladins, D&D druids hold none of the traditions of real-world druidicism, and despite using real-world terms like 'ki', the D&D monk isn't like any real-world monk or martial artist with the traditions therein. They are all using real-world terms (for sake of ease and understanding to the gaming populace) to define fantasy D&D tropes and ideas. And we all accept it to a certain extent.

And this is where you and others are hitting up against that same wall when you try and design new stuff (especially things that haven't already been grandfathered in from less culturally-sensitive times). Different cultural traditions from southern Asia and southeast Asia might have similarities when you just glaze over them, but they are actually exceedingly different as you say. But when we attempt to incorporate something like those traditions into a D&D fantasy setting... the question becomes how detailed do you actually get? Do you try and represent both traditions as close as possible? Do you do one over the other and the people who want that other one either get annoyed or they just wash over the former with personal houserule takes to give them what they want? Or if all of that is too in the weeds for players who will actually have to use these things, do you instead jump up a few levels to a broader idea like "breath is life" and turn the board-strokes into a relatively invented fantasy concept? A concept that has the barest hints of many different real-world concepts, but isn't any one of them and instead is a D&D trope for itself?

Truth be told, I don't think there's any good answer. It's either be respectful of the actual concepts and try to honestly represent them (but which run the risks of making mistakes and/or getting so detailed it overwhelms the D&D itself)... or do you just pull your ideas far enough away from real-world ideas (and maybe only using terms that you attempt to genericize, like 'druid') just so you can have more freedom to actual design workable game rules and ideas? Best of luck!
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
And this ends up being the hard part of trying to create fantasy narratives using real-world concepts. You are absolutely right, but as a result it also ends up being a roadblock a designer has to find their way around.

D&D uses real-world terms to define fantasy concepts that are unique to D&D and its derivatives. D&D paladins aren't like real-world paladins, D&D druids hold none of the traditions of real-world druidicism, and despite using real-world terms like 'ki', the D&D monk isn't like any real-world monk or martial artist with the traditions therein. They are all using real-world terms (for sake of ease and understanding to the gaming populace) to define fantasy D&D tropes and ideas. And we all accept it to a certain extent.

And this is where you and others are hitting up against that same wall when you try and design new stuff (especially things that haven't already been grandfathered in from less culturally-sensitive times). Different cultural traditions from southern Asia and southeast Asia might have similarities when you just glaze over them, but they are actually exceedingly different as you say. But when we attempt to incorporate something like those traditions into a D&D fantasy setting... the question becomes how detailed do you actually get? Do you try and represent both traditions as close as possible? Do you do one over the other and the people who want that other one either get annoyed or they just wash over the former with personal houserule takes to give them what they want? Or if all of that is too in the weeds for players who will actually have to use these things, do you instead jump up a few levels to a broader idea like "breath is life" and turn the board-strokes into a relatively invented fantasy concept? A concept that has the barest hints of many different real-world concepts, but isn't any one of them and instead is a D&D trope for itself?

Truth be told, I don't think there's any good answer. It's either be respectful of the actual concepts and try to honestly represent them (but which run the risks of making mistakes and/or getting so detailed it overwhelms the D&D itself)... or do you just pull your ideas far enough away from real-world ideas (and maybe only using terms that you attempt to genericize, like 'druid') just so you can have more freedom to actual design workable game rules and ideas? Best of luck!
Absolutely. I think if you are going to use Chi or Qi, for instance, you need to ground that game element in a tradition or family of traditions that use that term, and do so respectfully.
 

Oofta

Legend
And this ends up being the hard part of trying to create fantasy narratives using real-world concepts. You are absolutely right, but as a result it also ends up being a roadblock a designer has to find their way around.

D&D uses real-world terms to define fantasy concepts that are unique to D&D and its derivatives. D&D paladins aren't like real-world paladins, D&D druids hold none of the traditions of real-world druidicism, and despite using real-world terms like 'ki', the D&D monk isn't like any real-world monk or martial artist with the traditions therein. They are all using real-world terms (for sake of ease and understanding to the gaming populace) to define fantasy D&D tropes and ideas. And we all accept it to a certain extent.

And this is where you and others are hitting up against that same wall when you try and design new stuff (especially things that haven't already been grandfathered in from less culturally-sensitive times). Different cultural traditions from southern Asia and southeast Asia might have similarities when you just glaze over them, but they are actually exceedingly different as you say. But when we attempt to incorporate something like those traditions into a D&D fantasy setting... the question becomes how detailed do you actually get? Do you try and represent both traditions as close as possible? Do you do one over the other and the people who want that other one either get annoyed or they just wash over the former with personal houserule takes to give them what they want? Or if all of that is too in the weeds for players who will actually have to use these things, do you instead jump up a few levels to a broader idea like "breath is life" and turn the board-strokes into a relatively invented fantasy concept? A concept that has the barest hints of many different real-world concepts, but isn't any one of them and instead is a D&D trope for itself?

Truth be told, I don't think there's any good answer. It's either be respectful of the actual concepts and try to honestly represent them (but which run the risks of making mistakes and/or getting so detailed it overwhelms the D&D itself)... or do you just pull your ideas far enough away from real-world ideas (and maybe only using terms that you attempt to genericize, like 'druid') just so you can have more freedom to actual design workable game rules and ideas? Best of luck!

I agree, and there's also a related issue. There is nothing new under the sun. Either you make up new words to describe a concept or someone will see a correlation to the real world. It's a difficult issue for attempting to create anything new, there are only so many options for things that will work. Is the D&D monk derivative but also it's own unique fictional thing? Yes.

The problem is that either we use a term that gives people a general idea - that a monk is a fantasy trope based on fictional depictions of the real world - or we rename them something unrecognizable that has no resonance. We could rename monks "flurgles" that use "vendigs" to power their abilities and if you keep the same descriptions people would just be "Why don't you just call them monks that use ki?" I don't think changing labels fixes anything.

I agree that D&D should do it's best to not be culturally insensitive, but there are limits to how much we can change. In other words why is this monster
636252786158646348.jpeg

With it's visual association to Norse culture and horned helms that were invented for an opera acceptable but this guy
636252781431932597.jpeg

With imagery associated to Samurai is not? Why is it okay to have druids (or clerics, paladins, wizards, warlocks) but not monks?
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
The problem is that either we use a term that gives people a general idea - that a monk is a fantasy trope based on fictional depictions of the real world - or we rename them something unrecognizable that has no resonance.
This is pretty much why Monte Cook's 3E book 'Arcana Evolved' didn't really hold much sway for me. He created a whole heap of character classes but used a bunch of names that didn't really grab me much at all...

Runethane
Unfettered
Warmain
Greenbond
Oathsworn

These are all... fine... I guess. But it's probably the traditionalist in me that sees these names and thinks "They just don't inspire the same feeling in me as names like Barbarian, Rogue, Fighter, Druid, and Paladin do". Not Monte's fault! He did the best he could. But for me, the fantasy that comes out of those names just doesn't inspire. And that ends up being true with anything new that could come into the game. So if we aren't going to use 'Monk' with all its D&D fantasy tropes... you'd be hard-pressed to make up some new and unrecognizable word (as you said) that will have the same impact.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Jfc can we not have a retread of every politically spicy thread from the last decade in this + thread about mystic warriors?

Why one is cool and the other isn’t has been explained literally dozens of times, by dozens of posters, in dozens of threads. If you didn’t get it any of those times, there is no point trying to go over it again here.
 

Mercurius

Legend
It’s not. You are simplifying to the point of reduction two concepts which are quite complex and deserving of more respect than this.
LOL. There is no disrespect involved. I think you are talking about the concepts only, rather than the existential reality that they refer to. We'll just have to agree to disagree.

The irony here, is that if there is any disrespect here, it is in reducing chi to "physical breath." You're right in that the word chi is part of a complex worldview, but one that is different from that of (Western) scientific materialism. To understand what chi refers to, you have to have some understanding of Traditional Chinese Medicine (and/or Qigong, Tai Chi, etc) -- and understand it on its own terms, rather than reduce such concepts to that of scientific materialism.

Similarly with prana - it arises out of Yoga/Ayurveda, which involves a different way of seeing the world than that of the contemporary scientific understanding.

Both concepts refer to an aspect of the human being that modern, Western science does not view as "real," so the only thing that adherents of modern, Western science can do is reduce it to something that it does acknowledge as real, namely "physical breath," which I'm saying is a misunderstanding.
 
Last edited:

LOL. There is no disrespect involved. I think you are talking about the concepts only, rather than the existential reality that they refer to. We'll just have to agree to disagree.

The irony here, is that if there is any disrespect here, it is in reducing chi to "physical breath." You're right in that the word chi is part of a complex worldview, but one that is different from that of (Western) scientific materialism. To understand what chi refers to, you have to have some understanding of Traditional Chinese Medicine (and/or Qigong, Tai Chi, etc) -- and understand it on its own terms, rather than reduce such concepts to that of scientific materialism.

Similarly with prana - it arises out of Yoga/Ayurveda, which involves a different way of seeing the world than that of the contemporary scientific understanding.

Both concepts refer to an aspect of the human being that modern, Western science does not view as "real," so the only thing that adherents of modern, Western science can do is reduce it to something that it does acknowledge as real, namely "physical breath," which I'm saying is a misunderstanding.
they are a subtler life component but more than simple breathing, could we go with mystic points?
 

Mercurius

Legend
they are a subtler life component but more than simple breathing, could we go with mystic points?
Well, if you wanted to be technical without any cultural connotation, something like that could work - although is also maybe not distinct enough, or accurate to what mystics actually strive for. But for an RPG? Sure. But I think a more accurate term is probably vital energy, because it specifies an aspect of "mystic reality" rather than glomming them all into one.

To illustrate, look at the Yogic Koshas - which are five sheaths or layers of the human being.

The first is the annamaya-kosha, which literally means "food sheath." It is our physical body - and the only kosha that is recognized by modern science (which is why I'm suggesting that equating chi or prana with physical breath is reductive).

The second is the pranamaya-kosha, which translates as "breath sheath." Prana is vital, subtle energy with flows through our body - it is essentially our life force.

The third is manomaya-kosha, or "mental sheath" - our thoughts and emotions.

The fourth is vijnanamaya-kosha or "wisdom sheath" - and harder to understand from a modern, Western perspective, but somewhat equates with deeper intuition and wisdom. To differentiate it, we could say that the manomaya-kosha is the thoughts that we have and are aware of, like thinking about your day or life plans, while vijananamaya-kosha is more like a deeper sense of knowingness or insight.

The fifth is anandamaya-kosha or "bliss sheath," which is the deep joy and bliss that is the true nature of our beingness.

Now all five of these are sheaths or layers around the true Self, or Atman--which in turn is the individualized version of Brahman; the common analogy is like a drop of the ocean. The "substance" is the same, but one is looked as an an individual self, the other as universal. One could imagine this as an aperture within all of us to the infinite, eternal, and ineffable "divine being." But the key is that we experience the five sheaths as aspects of our being, but who we are is that which is experiencing and aware of them.

So in one way, none of the sheaths are "essence," but the layers around our true essence, and a mystic is someone who seeks recognition of their true nature as Atman.

So again, I would suggest "vital energy" for prana (or chi), or perhaps "life force" or "vital force." Henri Bergson's term elan vital is somewhat similar, and probably his understanding of the same energetic element of the human being: the subtler layer of life force that permeates the physical, but is not the physical and cannot be reduced to the physical.

One mistake modern people (not just Westerners) make is equating these sheaths with subtler aspects of the physical world, which is essentially reducing the five koshas to one: the annamaya-kosha. Now whether or not that is objectively true is another matter, but it is a misunderstanding of these systems as they are intended to be understood. Four of the five sheaths are not material, not of matter - even subtle matter (or energy). Meaning, it is not technically accurate to consider prana to a subtler physical energy, like the various forces of the scientific paradigm. It is actually a different layer or "dimension" of existence. And each layer is even more subtle; they interact, but are distinct from each other.
 


Well, if you wanted to be technical without any cultural connotation, something like that could work - although is also maybe not distinct enough, or accurate to what mystics actually strive for. But for an RPG? Sure. But I think a more accurate term is probably vital energy, because it specifies an aspect of "mystic reality" rather than glomming them all into one.

To illustrate, look at the Yogic Koshas - which are five sheaths or layers of the human being.

The first is the annamaya-kosha, which literally means "food sheath." It is our physical body - and the only kosha that is recognized by modern science (which is why I'm suggesting that equating chi or prana with physical breath is reductive).

The second is the pranamaya-kosha, which translates as "breath sheath." Prana is vital, subtle energy with flows through our body - it is essentially our life force.

The third is manomaya-kosha, or "mental sheath" - our thoughts and emotions.

The fourth is vijnanamaya-kosha or "wisdom sheath" - and harder to understand from a modern, Western perspective, but somewhat equates with deeper intuition and wisdom. To differentiate it, we could say that the manomaya-kosha is the thoughts that we have and are aware of, like thinking about your day or life plans, while vijananamaya-kosha is more like a deeper sense of knowingness or insight.

The fifth is anandamaya-kosha or "bliss sheath," which is the deep joy and bliss that is the true nature of our beingness.

Now all five of these are sheaths or layers around the true Self, or Atman--which in turn is the individualized version of Brahman; the common analogy is like a drop of the ocean. The "substance" is the same, but one is looked as an an individual self, the other as universal. One could imagine this as an aperture within all of us to the infinite, eternal, and ineffable "divine being." But the key is that we experience the five sheaths as aspects of our being, but who we are is that which is experiencing and aware of them.

So in one way, none of the sheaths are "essence," but the layers around our true essence, and a mystic is someone who seeks recognition of their true nature as Atman.

So again, I would suggest "vital energy" for prana (or chi), or perhaps "life force" or "vital force." Henri Bergson's term elan vital is somewhat similar, and probably his understanding of the same energetic element of the human being: the subtler layer of life force that permeates the physical, but is not the physical and cannot be reduced to the physical.

One mistake modern people (not just Westerners) make is equating these sheaths with subtler aspects of the physical world, which is essentially reducing the five koshas to one: the annamaya-kosha. Now whether or not that is objectively true is another matter, but it is a misunderstanding of these systems as they are intended to be understood. Four of the five sheaths are not material, not of matter - even subtle matter (or energy). Meaning, it is not technically accurate to consider prana to a subtler physical energy, like the various forces of the scientific paradigm. It is actually a different layer or "dimension" of existence. And each layer is even more subtle; they interact, but are distinct from each other.
then use vital points then?
 




Dungeon Delver's Guide

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top