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All Good Things…
Jim Vassilakos (email@example.com)
After her talk with Zarith, after they have made further plans for the preliminary reconnaissance of the Isles of Oblivion, Jinx goes into the forest with Laertes, preferring to sleep under the stars rather than with a roof over her head, despite the wind and the threat of rain. 1 Fortunately, the rain never comes, though every now and then she can hear Laertes move about the area as though standing a makeshift patrol. In some shadowy recess of her mind, it gives her comfort, and she dreams of Klodsruber, her steed before Laertes, and wonders absently where his soul has wandered over the intervening years. When she finally awakens, it is to the sounds of birds chirping and insects buzzing. Laertes is there as well, his black hair swathed in a glistening layer of morning dew.2 ‘Sleep well, Princess?’ 3 ‘Very,’ Jinx rubs her eyes, feeling in need of a cup of coffee, ‘although I did hear you rutting about last night.’ ‘I wasn’t rutting. I was investigating. There was the scent of blood on the air. I wanted to see where it was coming from.’ ‘Indeed,’ Jinx sits upright. ‘It seems there was a little battle not too far from here… rather recent, I think. There’s a breastplate with a hole in it over yonder if you’d like to see it.’ ‘Nothing like a little mystery before breakfast,’ Jinx gets to her feet. When they arrive at the piece of armor in question, Jinx picks it up and uses her sensitivity to psychic impressions to see what she can make of it. As it happens, there’s a story to every pierced breastplate, and this one is certainly no exception. In her mind’s eye, she can see Vasago4 dealing the killing blow. In another scene, she can make out the cambion’s voice. “You can go that way if you like, but I wouldn’t suggest it. Those woods are haunted. You’d be much better off waiting here. We can call out to the next ship coming out of Yolin.” “I don’t trust Yolin. Don’t worry. I can make it on foot to Sunev and find a vessel there.” “As you wish. Just be careful.” Jinx drops the breastplate, smiling slightly. ‘Good news, I take it?’ the nightmare inquires. ‘Just Vasago doing rumor-control.’ 5 The rest of the day goes uneventfully, except that on the way to Sunev, Jinx comes across some human tracks which soon lead her to the coast and a small row boat buried in the thickets. Sensitivity to psychic impressions turns up only that there are some people, perhaps a small family, dwelling somewhere in the forest. Deciding to take the boat, she and Laertes, now polymorphed as a human,6 row the craft along the coast until they reach Sunev. By the time they arrive, the sun is already setting, and the town, bathed in dusky shades of red, seems wistful and sleepy. In need of solitude as well as nostalgia, Jinx indicates to Laertes that he should take a hike and perhaps patrol the area and report to her in the morning. Then she heads to the “C’mon Inn” which she had stayed at the first time she visited Sunev. True to form, the inn’s front door is still in need of repair, and in the lobby the painting of the Kraken still hangs from the wall, the scene of it taking a ship and crew to a watery grave still magnificent if somewhat historic.7 “Evening, ma’am,” says a stout balding man tending the hearth and a pot which hangs there. “A room for ya?”8 “How much?” After a brief negotiation as well as the promise of a bowl of fish porridge for breakfast, Jinx retires to her room, setting a magical ward before laying down to rest.9 On the bed, she can sense the emotions of previous guests, some of ecstasy, others having an argument. What passes for adventurers in these lands have been through here plenty of times, also merchants, sailors, more than one prostitute...Jinx absently wonders if the
This is mostly due to justified paranoia. By recruiting a following and making waves in the circles that she has, Jinx risks drawing the attention of greater powers. Knowing this, she is hesitant to sleep in what is essentially her home on his plane, knowing that it could conceivably be attacked at any moment. Hence, taking to the woods is a simply a precaution, and on this particularly evening, an unnecessary one. 2 Portraying Laertes, I think, is one of the things that I have done particularly badly. Unlike Klodsruber, I’ve played him as a rather taciturn personality, hanging in the background most of the time and doing little unless otherwise directed. Klodsruber, by contrast, was constantly getting into trouble, a source of amusement for Jinx, if sometimes irritating. However, aside from this “ghosting” of important NPCs, which is something that almost invariably occurs with respect to steeds, there is the question over how magical creatures should be limited in terms of their powers. For example, has http://strolen.com/viewing/The_Steeds_of_the_Dead nightmares only being able to operate at night or being tied to a particular piece of land where their spirit dwells. If I were to run this campaign from the beginning, I think I would try to impose various limitations on nightmares such that PCs don’t end up taking them for granted like some glorified taxi service.
5 Jinx tasked Vasago with heading off any assorted riffraff that might stumble across her home. Although it is now occupied by Zarith as his base of operations, it remains important to Jinx that its location not become generally known. Needless to say, this minor episode just serves to illustrate that Vasago is doing his job. 6 That Laertes is able to assume human-form is yet another irritant for me. Somehow, I think it was a mistake to ever allow nightmares this ability, as it seems to detract from their horsiness. It also forced me to consider such imponderables as how an intelligent horse might behave in the form of a human. 7 Jinx has long-since subdued this creature, although this, of course, is not generally known. 8 A sword-carrying woman traveling by herself would likely raise eyebrows in some towns, but apparently not in this one. Of course, the innkeeper might remember Jinx from her last visit. 9 Sadly, our write-up of this scene ends at this precise point with but a teasingly brief summary of that which follows. Hence, I am 3 As usual, single-quotes with italics denote telepathy. See forced to “reconstruct” the rest, as the end is something I wish for footnote #1 from my zine in A&E #404. whatever reason to include. Please forgive me, however, if in the 4 Yet another ally of Jinx’s, and they have quite a history, as I recall. process I should take some rather egregious editorial liberties.
innkeeper knows. Does he know and would he care if he did know? she briefly ponders, remembering Dis and the The Fourplay and Baron Esoto’s 10 little, social gathering She remembers the whores, the many spirits inhabiting the bodies of toys so that the nobility and their favorites could more thoroughly enjoy themselves. ‘The very notion of good and evil is unknown to us,’ one devil casually explained to her, though he would suppress her memory of this conversation save for within dream, where all thoughts become possible. ‘Call it post-modernism, if you will.’ ‘Postmodernism?’ ‘The mother of moral relativism,’ he tests her conceptual vocabulary, and in an instant, then as now, she recalls reading the definition in a forbidden book long ago. Postmodernism: A style and concept in the arts characterized by distrust of theories and ideologies and by the drawing of attention to conventions. ‘Because we must all evolve beyond our absolutisms, we tend then to distrust certainties… we tend to distrust authority. This is a stage much like the terrible twos, a stage through which we must all pass, until we realize that the only true authority is that which we have no choice but to accept.’ ‘And so nothing’s real?’ Jinx asks him, implicitly sensing something, though what this is she shall not recall. ‘All that is real is what we decide is real,’ he affirms, conjuring an apple into his hand. ‘It is this manipulation,’ he telepathically enunciates, ‘this allowance of anything we want whenever we want it that feeds upon itself until our reality becomes one big playground inhabited by infants.’ He extends his arm to the room, and Jinx watches the violent fornication, the sadistic satisfaction of whims, and the torment of the powerless. And laughter! He too is amused, but for reasons they do not conceive. ‘You despise them,’ Jinx posits. ‘To despise one’s self is a terrible thing, but therein lay the fate of those who question too much.’ ‘Who are you?’ she asks. ‘Who are any of us?’ he smiles. ‘WAKE UP!’ The dream evaporates as quickly as the ward’s magic, both dissipating in the gentle moonlight as Jinx snaps to full attention. ‘Laertes!’ she telepathically calls out to her steed, leaping away from the bed and taking a prepared stance at the far corner of the room. However, there is only a cat, its supple outline regarding her somewhat curiously from the sill. Jinx lets out a long breath as Laertes gallops toward her from down the street. ‘It’s just a cat,’ she telepathically confesses to keep him from literally flying into the room. ‘I hate cats. Allow me to torture and then eat it.’ ‘That would be unwise,’ the cat interjects, its yellow eyes glimmering with amusement.
Jinx blinks for a moment, having not expected an intelligent feline on her windowsill. “Are you someone’s familiar?” she asks. ‘I am a messenger sent by order of Adramalech., my purpose to watch over his property and inform her that her vacation is coming to an end.’ Jinx regards the hellcat and its glimmering yellow eyes for a silent heartbeat. “How long do I have?” ‘Three days,’ it tells her.11 ‘Until then…’ And then it crosses back into the ethereal plane, vanishing from view, albeit remaining ever so close.
Comments on A&E #405
Myles Corcoran: Cute kids! Michael Cule: RAE Refugees of the Seven Hills. I’m curious to learn how this turns out. I also enjoyed your description of Bjorn Brokenbow. Robert Dushay writes on the topic of a paladin’s reaction to slavery in AD&D, “That’s a toughie! (…) I’d say that you have to accept that there is such a thing as definable Good and Evil (…). I’m too post-modern to be able to do that effectively.” He also brings up the humanity of their treatment as being a possible wedge. Robert makes interesting points, as always. In terms of the game itself, perhaps the most obvious thing I could have done would have been to define this particular paladin’s god/church much more clearly before Jinx ever met him. Unfortunately, being the incorrigibly lazy GM that I am, I didn’t get that far, and so I found myself in the predicament of having to invent this stuff on the fly. Let my mistake be a lesson to other GMs that if you’re going to have paladins or priests cropping up in your world, you’d be wise to define their particular brand of morality before they enter play. Of course, this all but abandons the more central issue, that of absolute good and evil. If a paladin can detect evil yet fail to recognize certain absolute evils or perhaps recognize them only after having split some number of hairs, what does that say? As usual, we have found a discussion that could conceivably go on forever, and so it seems to me such a loss that every time we dip our toes into what may as well amount to a forbidden sea, we must then quickly pull out for fear of the dangers lurking within. Scott Jamison: Enjoyed the bit about Niall Garrideb and the script for the 9th issue. Joshua Kronengold asks what level Jinx was when the campaign started. She started at first level, but as I recall, her
11 Bizarrely, the amount of time does not appear in my notes (at least the ones I have in front of me). For all I know it was a week. (The lazy GM, as usual, wasn’t keeping particularly good track of time.) This scene as well as the one previous to it, the tail end of which appears in A&E #405, fall somewhere between the 1st and 2nd talks with Cedric in A&E #s 391 & 398. All the reader need take from this is that Jinx’s remaining time after the War Council in A&E #402 is exceedingly short.
Baron Esoto appears in A&E #s 335, 345, and 347.
stat rolls were quite exceptional. Her player is normally a lucky die roller, having proven capable of conjuring a critical hit when one is demanded, but even for him, the attribute rolls were phenomenal. Likewise, she had certain devil-related powers, so she wasn’t as weak as your standard 1st level character. Joshua asks if the reason Jinx spared Nybotha in #404 went “beyond her beauty and femaleness.” I’m not entirely sure. Jinx explained to Nybotha in #403 that she knew the “drow needed a female to respect as a negotiator.” However, at the point that Jinx spared Nybotha, she probably didn’t realize that she had the ruler of a city on her hands. Taking her captive in the first place may have boiled down to sheer curiosity. However, once Jinx discovered that Nybotha had authority and political connections, I’m sure she decided that the half-elf was much more valuable living than dead, even though, of course, their relationship got off to a somewhat rocky start. Oh, before I forget, I do appreciate the way that you continued to carry on conversations with me about other things while we were sharing our views regarding your earlier comments to Louis. (I imagine that some of my comments may have seemed overly harsh.) To your credit, many others would have focused solely on the disagreement and cut off other avenues of discussion. I think it is quite good that you didn’t do this (this time). I apologize if this sounds condescending, but what it tells me is that there’s hope for you, as you have not propelled yourself into the proverbial “dark side,” the point of enmity to where there can be no communication whatsoever. You didn’t permit anger to consume you, although you came close12, but it was for only a moment, and as for the rest of it, I think you said your peace, such as it was, as well as could be expected considering your point of view.13 Paul Holman (aka Pum): I’d be curious to learn your thoughts on Everway as you continue digesting it. Spike Jones writes “Re How the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution Applies to A&E: I don’t think it does or should.” Yes, we are in agreement. 14 However, just because we don’t have a legal duty doesn’t mean that we don’t have a moral one. Hence my point about establishing some rules in this regard. My point is that different people feel very differently about political discourse. I understand why it’s not necessarily a good idea to discuss politics in A&E, but you must certainly understand why many topics that are related to roleplaying games (and setting design, in particular) often cross through the world of politics. I mean, there could be a rule like, “no politics of more than page unless specifically related to some RPG.” 15 I’m not saying that this is necessarily the best possible rule or even a good
one, but even were it nothing more than a non-enforced guideline, at least it would give newcomers some heads-up on what is expected, and it would be fair across the board. But, again, I really don’t know if this is a good idea or not, and I’ll trust in Lee to decide what’s best. Paul Mason, in his comment to me, writes on “active intervention being the defining feature of rolegames” and this notion not always being as self-evident as one might wish: Point well-taken. We each do game a bit differently, just as I suppose we dream a bit differently, philosophize a bit differently, argue a bit differently, and, more generally, relate a bit differently, both interrelate as well as intrarelate. 16 Each of us is different from the others, and each gaming group is likewise unique; in short, what you say is very true. This is something that we perceive when we interact on a more general basis, but in roleplaying it seems somehow amplified, and I think it’s because there’s hopefully the notion among each of the participants that their contribution matters, or at least there is hopefully in each a hope that it matters, and so perhaps we try harder to be a part of what is going on, whereas with many other interpersonal exercises in which people partake as a matter of personal amusement, what often happens is that one or more of the participants may be engaging at a less than optimal level, whatever that might mean, but nobody really cares. Maybe it’s a party, and so-and-so is tagging along, so through no fault of their own they simply don’t know anyone but they’re muddling through it for the sake of accompanying their significant other. The same thing happens in tabletop RPGs, of course, but in such games, unfamiliarity with the rules, standards, and setting can be a bit intimidating, and the close, in depth and constant interaction doesn’t provide much opportunity to wander off and take a break. Hence, divergent personalities are made manifest and conflicts of some manner may easily ensue. Likewise, those who are not partaking become very obvious in their reticence, and this can even become an unwelcome distraction, as it was in Brian Rogers’ Earthdawn game with John/Voi.17 Aside from competitive sports and games, non-RPG events, whatever form they happen to take, are often not interactive in a manner that really matters. Like spectators of theatre, the outcome, if any, is beyond the individual reach of the participants. Where there is an outcome that the participants can individually influence, such as with competitive sports and games, there’s typically no story beyond a very narrow one, perhaps one dealing with some heroic effort that somebody made to score points or keep the other side from scoring. But in roleplaying games, as I’d imagine you’d agree, there is a broader story, and its outcome becomes a sort of contest in the sense that each participant should be allowed to redefine the plot in his or her own terms, given, of course, sufficient persistence, determination, and luck. This, I assume, is the external half of this “creative contribution” that you mention. On the internal half of this term, there is what you call at one point “imaginative interpretation,” at another “creative
http://jim-vassilakos.livejournal.com/4002.html (2009-05-21 09:25 pm). 13 I think “Oops. So it goes” at 2009-05-21 10:45 pm pretty much clarified it for me. I couldn’t help but imagine you shrugging while reaching for a handi wipe. 14 See my zine in #404, page 6, 2nd column, 1st sentence of the 1st 16 complete paragraph. This is a distinction that Jerry Stanton reminded me about in 15 See my marriage comments to Steven Warble in this issue to see #402. 17 See A&E #403 and my comments in #404. what I’m talking about by politics sometimes being RPG-related.
20 I’ve tended to use the term RPG, as opposed to CRPG (computer games that incorporate character choice at the personal, intimate level as opposed to those that incorporate choice only as a matter of strategy and tactics), tabletop RPG, LARP and so forth which are more specific to a particular form of play, and I’d be curious to learn if your use of the term rolegame is likewise being used in the same manner, or are you meaning something else? 21 See John Redden’s “Salts in the Insults” in #405. 22 This, of course, is overly critical, as to insinuate that this is A&E’s totality or even its primary attribute is simply unfair. I mean, after all, one can also babble at length about practically nothing and have a splendid time while doing so. There is nothing quite so narcissistic, I suppose, as the delusion that people actually care what one thinks. 23 Please reply to this if nothing else. 24 Perhaps, because of this, Jinx’s player as much as Jinx herself may have gone to Hell simply seeking structure and not merely due to the desire to have a permanent pad in the multiverse, one that is 18 Please see my comments to Joshua in #405 under “Other essentially invulnerable save for a invasion from within Hell itself. Comments.” The problem, of course, is that she didn’t bargain for what would 19 See Brian Rogers’ Earthdawn campaign write-up and GM Notes ultimately happen because of this fateful choice. Yes, she would in #403. get to go on vacation, but all good things must come to an end.
imagination,” and at another “unconscious creativity,” all of which you seem to describe as the peculiars of the narrative that form in the mind of each participant (players and GM). Let’s simply call this the “internal narrative” in the sense that is it internal to each individual player. On the external half of “creative contribution,” however, is what you term the “active intervention” or “active involvement” aspect, the “creation of fundamental plot elements” you write at one point. Let’s simply call this the “external narrative” as this is the narrative that each player and the GM externalizes or communicates to the others, and in this sense it is the external narrative that is really shared between all the various internal narratives that are necessarily individual to the players, private by design, the “unconscious creativity” that you speak of. And your point, as I understand it, is that the creation of these two narratives are in conflict in the sense that the flow of the story is what helps to build the internal narrative, but the act of being forced to make a choice jars the reader/participant out of the internal narrative so that he or she can consciously help build the external narrative, and so it’s back and forth between internal narrative and external narrative, between unconscious imagination and conscious imagination. In your words, “Ironically, the very thing which increases our active involvement in the story simultaneously draws our attention to its fictionality.” I tend to disagree with this, although I do believe I see your point. What you’re saying, essentially, is that the narrative is broken by the fact that the player must make a choice. However, from my point of view, that’s exactly what makes the narrative all the more meaningful to the player. The fact that he or see is directing it to some extent makes it more personal than, say, a novel or a movie. True, I’m trying to imagine what it would be like if I were watching a movie and I were getting into it, and then suddenly it stopped so that I could make a decision. This, in effect, was happening over and over in Wing Commander 3 & 4, and also in Star Control 2 if you want to consider the latter as being sort of like a movie with subtitles. It may have been a little bit disconcerting the first few times it happened, but after awhile, it just became part of the experience, something I grew to expect, and so it didn’t bother me. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it was part of the fun. To continue with the thought, however, while you draw attention to the internal narrative (and, I think you are right to do so, as this is certainly central to each player), you seem to regard the player’s ongoing contribution to the external narrative as a hindrance. However, I personally find it somewhat difficult to construct my internal narrative in an RPG unless I am free to explore, which means that my ability to contribute to and meaningfully advance the external narrative has to be there before I’ll allow my internal narrative to really begin to blossom.18 In short, my attention span, I suppose, is somehow limited in this regard. In a way, this conversation relates to Brian Rogers’ game19 where Voi/John wants things to go his way, however, seemingly (to him) by GM fiat, they don’t. John’s active intervention/external narrative was thus curtailed, and as a
result, the very nature of what it supposedly means to be a participant in a “rolegame” as you term it 20 suddenly dissipated, and he thus found himself bereft of any further reason to attempt meaningful participation. I’d imagine he felt robbed, gypped, fooled… betrayed, in essence, a certain level of trust having been broken… just as I’m sure fellow A&Ers have felt from time to time, their backs to us as they exit from this cocktail party21 that is written on paper, their ability to partake in the discussion in a manner most comfortable to them thwarted at some level by those who are keen to push them from our midst. Alarums & Excursions: Arguments & Exclusions.22 That is what happens in roleplaying games at some level some of the time, and I suppose it is really the GM’s duty to try to prevent this, but sometimes it’s too difficult. Sometimes we end up dealing with someone who wants to dictate large outcomes, as opposed to merely small ones, like simply being allowed to continue to interrogate some captive. After all, it reached a point that Voi’s fellow party members wouldn’t even translate for him, their supposed party leader. They all stood against him, and he couldn’t stand this, and so he withdrew, at least emotionally. In this sense, a rolegame, as you term it, is like a form of Survivor (as in the reality TV series), each participant vying to be number one. That’s the competition within the party, the internal conflict or the “fight among brothers” one might say… the vanity of being the story’s staring actor or the plot’s primary pusher. And, as we’ve probably all seen at one time or another, it can turn nasty. I’d be curious to read about any anecdotes you might have from your own past campaigns where there was some sort of intraparty conflict. What were the most noteworthy conflicts about and how were they resolved both in terms of in-game and out-of-game results?23 As for myself, in many of the games that I have run/GMed, the initial plot has been merely a send off into a world of possibilities, and after the introduction, it has largely been the characters who choose their own adventures. 24 When things are going to my satisfaction, I (as GM) am reacting to what they do as much as they are reacting (as the player(s)) to what I do. This cultivation of the co-evolution of story has,
for me, been particularly aided by single-player games where, by definition, the mind of the party is unified. The story then is about one person who pushes against the universe knowing implicitly that the story is his or her own (just as we all, presumably, are the staring characters of our own lives). That, to me, is where the sharing of power is most evenly balanced in the sense of party versus world (players versus GM), and the internal tension that one might otherwise view as either a metaplot or perhaps, in some stories, merely diversionary, is actually entirely internal to the point of being potentially Hemingwayesque in terms of its mystery. 25 And therein lay the potential for divergent interpretations, none of which need necessarily be the sole truth. I can’t help but wonder if this may be the reason that one of the trends in tabletop roleplay, as you perhaps term it, are “GMless” games, where the traditional powers of the DM/GM are effectively split up among the players, and I’m curious to see where all this goes. Incidentally, if you have any opinions on this or can point me to issues of A&E or imazine where this was discussed, I’d be curious to read your thoughts and those of others which you consider noteworthy. You also mentioned something about discovering the meaning of life in your Chinese campaign. More on this please, if you wouldn’t mind sharing. Regarding Ty, Louis & Joshua (among others) and whether “new people who decide to open up enough to speak their mind” actually constitute “another person’s rant”: First of all, splendidly put. Just as an aside, I really wish you would stay among us on a more or less continual basis, rather than just contributing irregularly; but, of course, if irregular is all you can manage, then it’s all you can manage. I took a sabbatical myself, at one point, and I don’t even have children. Just imagine if I did. It would be like I died and vanished. What I’m trying to say, I suppose, is just that I would very much prefer to be able to exchange views with you on a more regular basis. Now, as to what you said… what you said in summary, I think, is more or less, “What you are saying is very silly, you know.” At one point you write, “But let’s be grown up about this.” Notice that you are using the exact method that you say appears to you “to be abuse.” Can you not see the irony in your own words… this obvious and irreconcilable division? And all within the same paragraph…. (But don’t feel bad. That you entertain conflicting points of view is a good thing, in my opinion.26) In the paragraph above it, you write, “toned-down abuse, and patronizing to boot.” I ask you: What is patronizing if not asking one to be grown-up? And you’re doing it beautifully. The way that you express yourself is beautiful. That is what I was trying to say above.
I mean, you can have the most obvious dichotomy in your thinking, as can we all, and yet your style and the choice of words, their arrangement… what you say may be bullshit27, but even when it is, it’s beautiful bullshit! Ty is also this way. He’s the same…every bit the same as you if only in this one respect. 28 In a sense, you are like two halves of the same coin. Politically, you probably don’t inhabit close quarters, but in terms of your attention to detail, the care you take with your words, you are very similar. Why is that important? Because it shows that you both take an ounce of pride in your writing. You both probably prefer not to write when you know you’re too busy, because you intuitively realize that your writing would not be up to some minimal standard of quality that you keep somewhere in your mind. He and you both have this pride, and it’s the good half of pride. As to the bad half of pride (the problems of pride, one might say), I don’t know either of you well enough to comment, but I would venture to guess that you both conduct yourselves in your respective professions with a high degree of pride, enduring all that this necessarily entails. In these ways, be they meaningful to you or extraneous, I would presume that you are both more similar than different. All of us are, in certain ways, more similar than different… all of us. And yet you are tolerated 29, and Ty has clearly not been… and as for myself… oh… I can only imagine that I’m probably near the end of my rope. Which is bizarre, because of anyone, I probably should have been the first to go. After all… I blabber on and on… not something I do in real life, mind you, but here is not real life. What A&E does for me30, I suppose, is that if I am accepted as I am, then at least I was able to be honest about what I thought and felt, whereas if I wasn’t, then what good is it? Do you see my point? And yet, even as I make these arguments, I still agree with you on a certain level. It is much more fun to have a political conversation with people who at least pretend to respect you, rather than with those who hold you in open contempt and disdain. I agree with you 100%. But, recall, Ty and Louis were not holding me or anyone else, to my knowledge, in utter contempt. Well, there was some contempt, I suppose. I mean, there was some political argumentation. Somebody would say something remotely contemptuous, and Ty would artfully tear them a new one, so yes… he was probably a bit more forceful in his views than was absolutely necessary. Well, aren’t we all sometimes? After all, let us be grown up about this. It’s the same thing, more or less, as a bunch of monkeys hurling feces, I suppose. You noted in #405 how Marco talked about this in #402, his assertion that “too many with strong opinions love to read the validating words of those who agree with them and love, even more than that, to savor the cathartic eruption of hatred, contempt, and smug superiority which they feel when reading the words of those
Unless, of course, we are witness to the player’s entire internal dialogue, but that would be rather odd… though perhaps interesting and even amusing. Yes, it could be fun. Imagine a group of players each playing a different aspect of a single character. Has there ever been an RPG like that? This notion syncs in a manner with some other ideas I’ve been having. 26 Walt Whitman famously said, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”
Do not be offended. We all regard each others’ ideas as bullshit some of the time. Hence, please understand that I am using this word respectfully, not as a cheap shot. 28 And I imagine that he, like you, would both like to smack me for suggesting this, but it is, nonetheless, my view gleaned from what little I have so far observed. 29 …for the most part. Don’t get too cozy, mister. (grin) 30 See my zine in #401.
already made up her mind insofar that she is perhaps satisfied with the results as they are. After all, she decided to “edit” Louis.34 Her mind was perhaps decided right at the very beginning. As for your assertion that I “obviously missed” the start of your comments, where you talk about his “past form,” I didn’t miss that, but I didn’t assume that just because you remembered him necessarily meant that he’d remember you. And, so far, I still don’t know if he does. This was back on Usenet, you say? I doubt I could remember anyone from so long ago. What has it been? Fifteen years? I’m just guessing. It’s been awhile for me. I can’t remember very much from back then. 35 I should really look to see if I have anything saved. There was that discussion I replayed in #298. I’m sure I have some other stuff on some decaying floppies. Therefore, if not a first, first impression, I at least hoped that you’d be able to make a second, first impression, and, at any rate, what a person’s form may or may not have been so long ago is of little interest to me. People change and we should be able to critique their behavior as it is now rather than going back in time so far, to such an outdated version of the person, let alone to such an unverifiable footnote. After all, in speaking this “reason” as you call it, you seemingly endowed yourself with some authority on the topic, as though your opinion was the more right because of something you seemed to remember so very long ago. I don’t know what you remember. You never described it. All I had was your word that Ty was somehow bad, when what I see in him is certainly different and, ironically, similar to what I see in you. You even substantiate my view by describing an incident where you were a “naughty boy.” I love your word choice. I didn’t mention that, right? It would be, I think, actually painful for me if you did not stay here among us to talk about whatever springs to mind. In any case, as I was saying, you were apparently naughty in terms of telling an apparent racist that he was a fuckwit. If I was there, I’d perhaps have said to him, “Fuckwit is actually the polite term. Hurtfully ignorant is the more accurate. Take your pick.” There are times when you’ve got to hurl some shit. This was my point to Marco in #403, wherein I lamented that I wasn’t being entirely fair.36 There’s a time for everything… including shit-hurling. But the question, of course, is when. In terms of certain A&Ers reactions to Ty and Louis, I did not think it was yet the proper time; some disagreed, and therein lay the root of this discussion. When is it appropriate? Absent any sort of formal rules, I draw the line at when one A&Er attacks another, and not merely with phrases like, “what you’re saying is very silly, you know,” as I suggested, or “but let’s be grown up about this,” which you actually used. These may be condescending, but I’ll take condescension over anger or hate any day of the 31 We’re all unlike “most other people” in certain ways; we’re all week. unique, just as we are all, in certain ways, more similar than After all, condescension is something that we may do only different. semi-consciously and without really meaning offense or 32 I am reminded of your comment to Marco in #359 (for my take
on this, see my footnote #23 in A&E #359 and my footnote #9 in 34 http://jim-vassilakos.livejournal.com and see the comments A&E #360). 33 Incidentally, you revealed in #405 that the greatest challenge you beneath the entry of April 17, 2009. currently face “in life is dealing with the consequences of an 35 Sadly, that’s pretty much typical for me. uncontrollable temper,” which is not your own, you parenthetically 36 Judging from Marco’s comments to me in #364, where he qualify. If you don’t mind sharing, I’d be curious to learn more. Is laments “pejoratives directed against groups of people,” I am it your son? nearly certain that he’d agree.
who think differently from themselves.” Note that he didn’t say everyone. “I don’t feel any sort of cathartic eruption of the type you mention,” you wrote in response, as though this assertion might invalidate his observation. He wrote “too many,” a qualifier that you noticed but which, strangely, you seemed to put to the side. My perception of you is that you’re unlike most other people in certain ways.31 For instance, aside from the care that you obviously take with your writing, I see you as being more philosophical than most. You ruminate at length upon matters that others barely mention. And when attacked, you tend not to hurl invective but rather reply with a sort of wit that I find enviable. Not everyone is like you in these ways, either in terms of temperament or ability. And yet even though you have this facility, this still doesn’t prevent you from getting into minor squabbles.32 Of course, we all do this some of the time, in our youth if not our adulthood, but even as adults we are still subject to the same temptations and limitations. 33 Nonetheless, just because we are seemingly limited by design, this doesn’t mean that we need necessarily throw the bomb, so to speak, the point where one party effectively says to the other, “I propose that we sever this relationship. You should leave now. Off with you.” And although you might fault Ty for overly-aggressive politics, for ranting, in effect, he never threw the bomb. Guess who did. Now, were those who “threw the bomb” at Ty right to do so? Well, it all depends on the rules. As of now, aside from the two page limit, there’s nothing formal. Is that as it should be? Should we be just like the Internet? I don’t know… I don’t know. But what little I do know is that I raised the question… and silence has been the response. Perhaps that is for the best. Again, I don’t know. Both you and Ty have many thoughts about the world, and I find these thoughts entertaining and sometimes profound, if only because they might make me laugh and alternately because they make me think, hitting my pathos and then my logos all for the purpose of affecting my ethos. You and Ty both write artfully… at least to my way of reading. And true, what you both write can, at times, be looked upon as a rant in the sense that both your opinions are often presented in a way that is somewhat naked, propounded with certainly, defended vigorously, and when insulted, replying creatively, intelligently, artfully. That is what both of you do as a matter of policy, because your way of thinking matters to you. Your ideas of what is right and wrong matter to you both. Hence, the disagreement followed by the discussion/argument. No, the truer rant, in my mind, came from those who, in effect, said “get lost.” But, of course, that is merely my way of thinking, where, in fact, the only way of thinking that really matters here is Lee’s. But I think Lee has, perhaps,
disrespect. Phrases such as “let’s be grown up” are, of course, loaded with it. They pre-suppose that the recipient isn’t being grown up and, therefore, that the one wielding the phrase holds a position of moral superiority. In some ways, this reminds me of my “get people to think” comment to Myles in #356, which Lee took exception to in #357. Patrick, in #358, agreed with her proposition that my comment was insulting,37 and in #362, Lee elaborated as to why. Interestingly, however, #362 was also the issue of Lee’s “lying/hypocrisy” comment to me (in response to a gaming-related discussion I’d been having with Spike), and my response in #363 was to explain why I thought her word choice could have been a tad gentler. Lee’s response in #364 was diplomatic, as always. She didn’t want to fight, nor did I, which just goes to show that even when someone’s word choice betrays what, at first glance, appears to be the strongest and most uncompromising condescension, this still is not proof that they actually meant harm. Essentially, as funny as it might sound, she meant “lying/hypocrisy” in a good way. And that’s the thing about condescension… we can read into it as much antipathy or good will as we desire, and offense, even if seemingly intentional, was not necessarily inflicted with the intent to harm or to bully the recipient from the conversation. (What I mean is that perhaps Lee didn’t so much mean that I shouldn’t try to get people to think because of my so-called implicit assumption that they are not already thinking… but rather that I shouldn’t try to get them to think about real world politics and all associated topics because to get them to think about these things would cause controversy, and that would cause petty animosities, and that would cause anger and rage, and all the things that come from those who are illsuited to contemplate that they themselves might be wrong, at least in some small way, and that the ensuing conflict would detract from the subject-matter of the APA. “This has happened countless times, you fool,” she might rightly say to me.38) Granted, condescension can also be consciously employed as a tactic to purposely attempt to provoke the recipient into losing his or her temper. In this use, I too find it an unfair tactic, however, even in this worst-case scenario, all the recipient must do is point out the condescension and show how the same point could have been made less harshly/antagonistically. 39 Successfully used, this tactic should easily thwart the bad intentions of someone who actually meant to incite anger, but as for someone who didn’t mean any harm, at worst they might conclude that the recipient is overly prickly but would have little reason to themselves take offense. Either way, insult diffused. Hence, my personal rule of thumb is that anger is the true barrier, and that although condescension may be useful as a weapon in the hands of those who wield it skillfully, it can
also be easily snatched from the playground by this straitforward application of logic.40 Hence, I think we should at least make some effort to look past what we perceive as condescension to the extent that it’s unclear that disrespect was intended. Open hostility in the form of anger, on the other hand, seems to me to be a bit over the line. But that’s just my opinion. You may, if you wish, disagree. You would be perfectly within your rights to do so, but if so, then tell me your rule of thumb, if you have one. What rule would you propose? I took a stab at one that I thought Joshua and company might approve of in my comments to him in #404, but he hasn’t spoken of it in A&E, and I myself am somewhat conflicted to the point that I can’t really decide if, given the choice, I’d vote for my idea or against it. Regardless, judging from Lee’s comment to me in #405, I’m guessing that she’d prefer that I just shut my cakehole. But as long as you wish to discuss it, I’ll be happy to continue until we reach either some union or impasse (or one or both of us are bombarded by insult 41 ). I hold you in the highest regard and am therefore very curious as to what you think. The one point you did make about it being perhaps unwise to talk politics in A&E, I think, is fair. At one point I agreed with this wholeheartedly. But, as I thought more about it, I realized that it’s actually sort of hard to talk about fictional settings in detail without touching upon the real world. Also, this notion that politics in verboten presumes that the monkeys cannot be tamed, that adults cannot be taught. It presumes that they42 are incapable of advancing. One question that I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that I’ve asked myself is that: If they prove to be to a great enough degree essentially incurable in this regard, then should I remain? And this is particularly worth asking if my own words have caused irritation to a great enough degree. I mean, and this is, I suppose, a blessing as well as a danger, at some point in A&E, certain people either have to shut up or get out, because attack, pure and simple, is the apparent punishment for exposing what they care about, and, perhaps, most importantly of all… how it is they think… essentially… who they are.43 I mean, neither Ty’s nor Louis’ zines were purely about game X or convention Y. They also included a lot of personal information in the way of extra-gaming ideas and opinions. Now, like you attacking the racist, Josh, for example, may have had good reason for attacking Louis. I
Anytime anyone assumes that they are right, it is, in a way, condescending. Nonetheless, how are we to communicate effectively if we cannot assume we are right? Where, exactly, is that line, and if it is condescending even to believe something, then exactly what does that say? 41 Because we’re having an off-topic discussion… “No philosophy allowed… it wakes up gods. Philosophy is evil. Thou shall not think!” 42 And by they, of course, I do not mean everyone. 43 And, interestingly, this goes right back to the topic of homosexual marriage and is, perhaps, the fundamental reason that the term marriage shouldn’t be used to unnecessarily discriminate between one group and another, for this would besmirch the very word and, arguably, make it unsightly unto the Lord. (That is perhaps what my blog comments should have said had I been thinking in a less temporal frame of mind. See http://jimvassilakos.livejournal.com/3745.html if you have no idea what I’m talking about and are bored enough to care.)
My footnote #21 in my reply to Patrick in A&E #359 goes back to this recurring issue of rules (or rather the absence thereof). 38 And if Lee should find offense in my imagining these words coming from her, then I apologize, but if she did say this, I would understand. 39 See my essay “Constructive Criticism in Alarums & Excursions” in #363. Interestingly, Lee commented in #364 that this tactic appeared to her to be putting words in her mouth and requested that I refrain from adopting it in the future. Although I explained my reasons in #365, Joshua seconded her request in #366 (Ironic, no?).
don’t know. If he did, I’m not exactly sure what it was, although we did discuss it outside44 of A&E, but about all I could finally decipher is that Joshua didn’t like Louis right from the beginning, and his personal opinion coupled with what appeared to me to be a few seemingly extraneous facts colluded to just sort of propel him into attack mode. Well, I guess that’s always what happens, right? And as for Ty, who I assume is your primary focus in this discussion… well… he was rather critical of a guy running for President… during election season. Yeah, I guess that happens a lot too. An election rant… yes, it was an election rant. So what? One thing I will say, and this, likewise, is probably good or bad depending on the situation, Louis is the sort of person who takes great exception to being personally attacked, and it is a matter of pride with him to respond in kind if not worse. Ty, likewise, is no stranger to verbal throat-slitting. I remember the saying that if somebody hits you then you have to hit them back twice as hard; otherwise, you are encouraging them to hit you again. That, perhaps, is what has been taking place in some of the conversation here in A&E. Perhaps there’s an imagined slight, something said, some phrase to which someone assumed some level or personal discourtesy, and from there it just escalates and mushrooms to the point that the wiser among us are warning the others not to feed the troll. It is good advice, actually. It’s very good advice, because… you know… this sort of escalating back and forth… we should be doing it only if there is a chance that something productive might emerge as a result. Otherwise, it’s just too much paper and ink, not to mention time and energy, to be spent on something that is ultimately of no consequence. But in my case, my personal troll seems to like to hover around this issue over freedom of speech, and perhaps that’s something that I need to address. Perhaps when I see it being abridged, even when I feel with my every fiber that what I am seeing is wrong and that I should intervene, maybe at that precise moment I should just silence myself, tell myself to shut-up, and say nothing. I don’t know if I would ever quite be capable of that, and if I were, I don’t know that I should like myself any better for it. Hence, maybe I should take Lee’s suggestion. 45 Alas, if only I were not so criminally lazy. She’s right, though. That’s the next logical step. Unless I can finally accept the fact that this is what A&E is… a place where people can be effectively expelled for what I tend to view as the smallest of offenses insofar that opinions are like sins.46 I mean, that is what it is to speak freely: to speak in such a way that you’re seemingly unconcerned as to whom you may offend, irritate, or otherwise anger. But, perhaps, part of etiquette is having some sense of the time and the place, and this certainly isn’t the proper place for long, political discussions. Or should it be? I don’t really know. I sort of like the old rule someone mentioned some time back that you can tell us why some imaginary world is or should be a certain way, but don’t try telling us why the real world that we all share is or should be a certain way. If the conversation goes in that direction, I think, it’s best to just take it outside
of A&E, either to a blog or email. In this sense, perhaps this is a “rule” that would be worth adopting, Lee mentioning it under the “maximum monthly contribution” limits. I guess, though, I’d be happier if it were possible to actually engage people outside of A&E. Spike has said he will only comment politically inside of A&E. 47 Robert Dushay, meanwhile, is apparently happy to discuss things outside of A&E so long as it is kept reasonably brief. He apparently leads too busy a life to sit down and parse lengthy blog posts, which I suppose I can understand, although it is a bit disconcerting to think that you’re having a conversation with someone who you like and respect, and suddenly it turns out that they’re no longer there. 48 In short, maybe I should just look at the glass as being half-full insofar that A&E has a great deal to offer even though it apparently can’t be quite as much as I’d have hoped. Lee’s suggestion to me is so very good. Alas, were I not so pathetically slothful…49 John Redden: re Salts in the Insults & “Fling them at me,” I more or less decided some time back that if I did ever run an APA, as Lee suggested to me last issue, this would be the first rule. RAE the car registration story. Next time I visit Hawaii, I hope you won’t mind if I drop by. Patrick Riley discusses the difference between the D&D v3.5 Forgotten Realms setting as being “the epitome of a gonzo fantasy setting,” what with “all the gaps” being filled in, whereas the setting for his Savage Worlds Monster Hunters campaign is “white-label generic, bland, unfinished, and boring,” just the way he says he likes it. I’ve been wondering if part of the reason I enjoyed running the Judges Guild world in the Jinx campaign was for much the same reason… because it was unfinished to the extent that there was lots of infill that I could do to personalize the setting. Running a campaign in a world that is highly developed, however, gives the GM lots of resources. Oh well, there are pros and cons to each. Regarding in-character vs. out-of-character discussion, I’m curious as to what method you use to limit it in your own game. Is it just a matter of being more focused on the game as a GM? Regarding the two players who are “bugging the piss” out of you in the D&D campaign, I’d be curious to learn more. What’s going on, and why is it necessarily your problem? Regarding later versions of D&D focusing increasingly on combat and this being an “amusing” critique because D&D 1E does the same: I think I would tend to agree with the amusing critique. In later versions, it becomes increasingly difficult to back away from the battle-map to such a point that combat is only vaguely conceptualized. When you have rules regarding cleaving through two people with a single blow, attacks of opportunity and so forth, you really have to
See the last paragraph of Spike’s comment to me in #365. See Robert’s comments to me in #403 & #405 and, if you’ve got ridiculous amounts of spare time and energy, see http://jimvassilakos.livejournal.com/3238.html and then http://jimvassilakos.livejournal.com/3745.html, both of which stemmed from his response to my comments to him in #399. 49 Or am I slothfully pathetic? (The two, I suppose, go hand-inhand.)
See http://jim-vassilakos.livejournal.com/4002.html See Lee’s comment to me in #405. 46 See my essay in #401.
map everything out in a fair degree of detail. In the Jinx campaign (basically AD&Dv1 with lots of homebrew), I’ve tried to back away from mapping every single combat in precise detail except for purposes of area-effect spells, arrow ranges, and so forth, and even then, I’ve tended to shy away from the battle-map except in situations where it seemed absolutely unavoidable. Brian Rogers: First of all, Joshua tells me that my comments to you in #404 regarding your Earthdawn campaign may have been… er… he says, “are a bit rude.” But “a pretty well-thought out bit of analysis”50 he adds.51 In any case, if I was needlessly rude, I do apologize. I imagine that my statements can sometimes be a little bit abrasive, and if/where that’s the case, know that I mean no disrespect. Joshua is correct insofar that I wanted to convey to you what I guessed to be John’s point of view, but… you know… it’s only a guess. That’s why I wrote that you need to decide for yourself what to do. After all, my position is like that of some armchair general trying to re-fight Gettysburg on his coffee table. My opinion is just… well… it’s just a guess based on what I read in what you wrote. It’s always easy to criticize, but fixing… making things better… that’s the real challenge. Good luck to you, and I’m curious to read about what finally happened if you won’t mind sharing it. Secondly, congratulations on 100 issues, and I’d echo what you wrote. A&E is fun despite the petty grievances that do occur every so often. I suspect that if we could all sit around face-to-face and talk things out, most of these rough spots could be ironed out in relatively short order. Jerry Stratton: Thanks for the capsule reviews. I’m pleasantly surprised to see that there’s now a community actively promoting old-school gaming. It’ll be interesting to see what happens. Marco Subias: Yes, start up an original setting. More work, definitely, but no boundaries save for your own imagination. re Jenny, good luck; re the yearbook, congratulations; re your brother’s wedding, sounds like you had a good time. Steven Warble, on the topic of marriage and divorce, mentions that with people living longer, perhaps “‘til death do you part” is unworkable. “How do the Elves deal with it?” he wonders. It’s an excellent question. This whole discussion had reminded me of Dr. Phlox on Star Trek Enterprise. I dutifully watched the series during its first season and caught the occasional episode after that, and I seem to recall one point where it comes out that he’s married to three women and that on his home world, all Denobulan men may marry up to three women and all Denobulan women may marry up to three men. At the time I thought it was an interesting idea, but I have to wonder as to the possible social consequences. Would this be a fair topic for A&E? I’m worried that it would veer into such subject matter as human psychology, sociology, contemporary politics, and even, perhaps, religion.
Alas, why must so many discussions regarding imaginary worlds ultimately revert back to the most contentious facets of the real one? If so, how are we to discuss anything? Or, perhaps, this seemingly pre-ordained feature of imaginative literature is trying to tell us something; perhaps it is nudging us to be more curious and tolerant of seemingly alien ideas and less defensive with respect to those that we, for whatever reasons, hold dear. Whichever the case, I’ll present some tangential thoughts, and if they don’t belong here, Joshua or someone else can tell me so, and then we’ll move the conversation outside of A&E so that nobody need be offended. Some years ago, I ran a Star Trek play-by-email campaign 52, and in Turn #61, the one remaining PC 53 , an Andorian security officer, ended up proposing a sort of trial marriage54 to an NPC55, a Deltan executive officer. He called it “Zatrakah,” which I assume is something he made up on the spur of the moment. Needless to say, I began combing through the source material to see what I could glean on Andorian and Deltan mating customs, and this being back in the 1990s, there was precious little online and not even a whole lot in the published sources. I went online today, just to see if the situation has changed, and it has changed considerably. In any case, at the time, I recall being somewhat at a loss over how she should deal with the situation. On the one hand, Deltans as a race are more or less given over to emotionality. They use their telepathic ability to achieve a sort of spiritual blending, sharing of themselves on a deeper level than nontelepathic races are capable. I seem to recall that somewhere in the literature it mentioned that Deltans would also tend to express themselves telepathically while engaging in sexual relations, and that this could be disturbing for non-Deltan partners.56 I imagined that a non-Deltan being so affected by
The full text of which can be found at in http://www.esnips.com/web/RPG-Wares-for-MS-DOS Trek80.zip 53 By this point it had evolved into a single-player campaign. It is not terribly uncommon for players to come and go in particularly long-lived PBeMs, and in this one, I simply stopped recruiting, allowing those who had the most interest to duke it out in terms of deciding what they wanted to do. Ultimately, all that remained was myself and the guy who had initially founded the campaign. He had GMed the five prologues before deciding to turn the helm over to someone else (who ended up being me), and then he rejoined as a player at the beginning of the 2nd adventure. 54 www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/article2500361.ece makes a case for why redefining civil marriage as a seven-year contract might be socially beneficial. I’d be curious to learn what A&Ers think about this idea. 55 This NPC was actually initially my PC which I ended up NPCing as his love interest after he began making romantic overtures. I later wondered if I should have killed her off in the 1st adventure (specifically in Turn #9). But I let her live, and her character provided me with some amusement as GM, although I am somewhat skeptical about GMs who NPC characters who they formerly PCed, and so I wonder if I should have circumvented this when the opportunity presented itself. 56 Whether or not two (or more) alien species should be able to get it on, scientifically speaking, is a whole other topic, but let us simply take this bizarre imponderable for granted that in the Star Trek Universe, sexual relations between alien species are more or less routine. (Thank you, James T. Kirk, for your hedonistic legacy.) Likewise, I can’t help but be reminded of my critique of
Thank you, Joshua. Perhaps this is an example of what Whitman was partially alluding to: the fact that “good” and “bad” can be sliced and diced into a million nuances. See footnote #26.
a Deltan’s unrestrained telepathic prowess not to mention their sheer pheromone output might cause the non-Deltan to fall hopelessly in love, having never quite experienced anything like that before, and that this could be problematic in the sense that fraternization among crewmembers can always cause problems. However, I don’t recall reading at the time that Deltans can’t fall in love or that marriage doesn’t exist in their culture. Nonetheless, I must have sensed it somewhere in the writing, as I felt a certain hesitation on her part, and, likewise, there was the celibacy oath to consider, already a well established feature of the race since they were first introduced. Fast forward to today (2009), and Deltan behavior and society seem much more fleshed out. Deltans do not see love, sexuality and emotion in the regulated, compartmentalised and ritualistic manner that say humans do. To a Deltan there is no labelling and compartmentalising of the emotions. This is unnatural to them. Whereas with humans there is a label attached to friends as ‘friend’, or ‘best-friend’, ‘girlfriend’, ‘lover’, ‘fiance’ and ‘wife’, to a Deltan these are all artificial designations for a natural continuum. Deltans do not marry, nor do they have husbands/wives. Rather it is more that when a pair of Deltans are attracted to each other, they do not constrain their emotion. They pair together as long as the feeling lasts, which may be for minutes or a lifetime. Multiple partners and pairing between same sex Deltans occurs as naturally as the pairing between any other. Deltans look upon marriage as yet another artificial construct that forces two people to be together for the rest of their lives, not accounting for a change in feelings between the partners over time, nor a realisation that the feelings were not as strong as was first thought. Deltans see love and companionship as natural continua and divorce as an artificial result of the artificial nature of marriage in the first place. Hence Deltans do not have an equivalent process to marriage.57 Granted, this may well be unofficial as much on the Internet is, but it serves to illustrate one characterization of this race, one that I’m happy to live with if only because it makes sense, to an extent, filling in a justification for my initial hesitation and making the Deltans all the more interesting to me. However, of course, I didn’t have this resource back when I was running the campaign, and so my inclination was that perhaps the Deltan character might want even more than a trial marriage, which is what I imagined most human women would want. This particular Deltan, of course, having been among humans for so long (long enough to become an executive officer in Star Fleet) might have picked up and subconsciously taken onboard many human customs. They discussed it again in Turn #79, but I won’t give away the upshot. If you want to know what happened, you’ll just have to go read it for yourself. In any case, while looking up Andorian marriage, I stumbled across another “factoid” that wasn’t around (at least, not to my knowledge) fifteen years ago. Apparently
Andorian couples marry each other, forming what are known as quads. 58 I wonder if somebody thought this up after Enterprise’s Phlox revealed that he had three wives. Then, of course, we have the Ferengi, a truly evolved race in terms of their attitude toward women. I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say that they make hard line Muslims look progressive by comparison. You gotta love Star Trek at least insofar as it tries to make room for all points of view. To bring the conversation a little closer to home, however, I recently read Altered Carbon, the first of the Takeshi Kovacs novels, wherein Richard Morgan writes about a future where people can essentially live forever by downloading their minds, complete with memories, into replacement bodies (called sleeves). People who have been alive for a really long time are called Meths, short for Methuselahs. In the novel, the main character interacts with a rather ancient pair of Meths who have been married for some centuries and whose relationship is suitably complex. That they “cheat” on one another sexually is sort of an open secret, something that they both know and which more or less goes without saying. They have been together so long that they tend to accept each others’ dalliances and bizarre sexual foibles without getting incredibly worked up and are seemingly able to cohabitate without the overt displays of emotional pain that would normally accompany such a situation. (“How could you…? And to think that I’ve given you three centuries of my life!”) This presentation of their relationship raised the question in my mind as to whether or not this couple truly loved one another or whether they were sticking together simply for financial reasons or because they had grown so accustomed to being together that they couldn’t really imagine being apart. If this final proposition was the case, then could this then be called “love” or, at least, something analogous, and if not love but something similar, then what word might we use to describe it? I bring all this up because of the question about elves, who although inherently chaotic, we are somehow expected to assume mate for life. Personally, I find this a difficult set of propositions to reconcile, and it seems strange to me that in fantasy, different sorts of social arrangements seemingly aren’t being explored to the same extent as they are in what is passing for science-fiction. Why is that? Or am I just not reading enough fantasy to know where to look? Comments welcome.
This is in the species databank at http://anomaly.mushpark.com under racial info. Incidentially, I should add that I’m rather impressed by the social and psychological information that has been developed for various Star Trek races. It is no longer quite so fair to consider them merely people with lots of makeup and various facial prosthetics, “people in funny masks” I called them in A&E #298. Once you get past the basic, scientific foolishness, Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planetary Development and so forth, the details can be quite fascinating. Perhaps this is the reason that Star Trek remains an SF-staple, because despite the implausibility of the Shatterzone’s Kestarian women in #404, and it makes me wonder initial assumptions, which were no doubt made for good, economic why I could so easily accept such drivel in Star Trek but not in reasons (cinema technology being what it was during the 1960s), another, less well-established setting. the setting remains chock full of interesting ideas, and so it is a 57 http://www.btinternet.com/~ady1971/deltan.html setting that tends to naturally draw thoughtful discussion.
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