Posted: Thu Aug 08, 2019 6:14 pm Post subject: Tropes And Conventions From Other Genres?
The debate on "acceptable anomalies" at Canonfire had a contribution by Tarelton that clearly explained for me why I'm so against the idea of things like robots, spaceships and laser guns in my version of Greyhawk. Tarelton mentioned that they can change the story the DM (or author, in my case) wants to tell.
I can't help but think that too many of those hard, tangible sci-fi elements would lead to industrialization and end Oerth's medieval stasis, and in turn I can't help but think that would lead to the decline of sorcery and sorcery-heavy races like elves and fairy-folk. I really don't want that-while I'm fine with a lot of fantasy cliches, the idea of dwarves and elves declining and dying out isn't one of them.
And yet I don't have an issue with other tropes and conventions that could be associate with sci-fi, such as genetic engineering of the sort that created the derro, or unknowable alien creatures like the Elder Elemental God.
That made me wonder-what kinds of storytelling tropes and conventions from other genres fit into your versions of Greyhawk? The Lovecraftian cosmic horror creatures such as illithids and aboleths are probably the most iconic example. For me, the intrigues and manipulation in A Game Of Crowns are heavily influenced by what I read in Dumas's The Count Of Monte Cristo.
First, thank you for the compliment... every now and then a stopped clock like myself is right.
The progressive concept of history is relatively new, and historically localized to western Europe since the Renaissance. This is the concept we now live under, and it is based on the idea that people and societies will continue to improve. This is not to say everything is perfect, but the last 500 years have seen a remarkable increase in human material wealth and flourishing, first localized to western Europe, than the Atlantic World, and finally globally. Deirdre McCloskey calls this period the Great Enrichment, while Steven Pinker considers (most of) it the Enlightenment.
Before this period, history was seen as cyclical... states and civilizations rose and fell, and the best people could do was to bring their society and themselves into harmony with circumstances. This is still a prevalent view in Asia and Africa, and may yet be right.
I think that the most important tropes are those that are timeless, and emphasize a cyclical nature to history, such as the world suggested by Robert Howard for Conan... while major events occur, they do not fundamentally alter people's relations with each other, their environment, and political power. Another approach to this is Tom Bombadil's character in Lord of the Rings. When the protagonists tell him about their quest, he basically says "rulers come and go" hinting that the current quest, no matter how Tolkien builds it up, is not the first or last such.
A corollary to this is the idea that the past was once much more advanced in some ways, usually magically. Howard's lost empires and cities hint at this, though tinged with corruption. Similarly, Tolkien's Elves and Numenoreans have lost much knowledge by the time of the main story in Lord of the Rings.
On Oerth, this role is played by the Suel Empire or the early Aerdi which have now fallen into decline and decadence. The Ur-Flan and unnamed civilizations also back this concept of a cyclical or timeless approach to history... what the characters do today will matter very much today, but in a thousand years the world will be similar, even if the lines on the map are changed and renamed. I.e. changes like popular participation in politics, widespread literacy, and the scientific method will not occur.
IMHO, AD&D as envisioned by EGG, peace be upon his name, and its derivates are about heroic fantasy. If I want to engage in social engineering and technological progress, I'll play Civilization, current version by Sid Meier, praise be heaped on his name.
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