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Erts
2010-04-28, 06:25 PM
This a question I have been struggling with for some time.

What is the appeal of classic DND settings? Why do people seek escape from the modern world by doing Medieval Reenactments? Say what you will about the middle ages, but it was a worse time to live than today almost universally.
Now, I love DND. I love the settings, the sense of adventure, and so many other things.

Second: Steampunk. A time when women's rights were suppressed, imperialism was rampant, and war just around the horizon. I love steampunk literature as well, but I'm trying to understand the appeal.

So, why do we seek our fun in pseudo-European Medieval settings? And pseudo-Victorian Era was as well?

Dienekes
2010-04-28, 06:50 PM
Swords, other sharp pointy things to stick into people, cool looking armor, and the last remnant of the mythic mindset for Europeans when people think that people thought that dragons maybe were over that next hill.

Part of it falls into players want to feel like heroes. They don't want to go to real Medieval Europe, they want to go into Legendary Medieval Europe. All those plagues, class and gender inequalities, often vicious and self destructive politics that caused numerous problems. Those are gone and replaced with the fanciful knight in shining armor and Merlin.

I assume Steampunk is the same, though as I've never been interested in it I can't say for certain. Except instead of it being the last European mythic mindset it's a replacement of the perceived as introduction of the technical mindset. Science was new and cool, and wouldn't it be awesome if some of those crazy ideas were actually possible then.

Now it can probably be argued (very well) whether medieval society really was the last of the mythic mindset or if victorian era was really the first major technical push but it's just in the back of our minds.

Brewdude
2010-04-28, 06:50 PM
Adventure. The closest thing you can get to it these days otherwise is X-games, War, and Space exploration. Perhaps camping.

Evrine
2010-04-28, 06:50 PM
Because the universe is absurd that way?

Different things appeal to different people for a lot of different reasons. To me, it has to do with the aesthetics and the adventure that such settings can have. For the most part, real life is too futile and repetitive to have those things in sufficient quantity and quality to sustain us. I mean, could you imagine a world without fiction?

As for why these genres in particular, I've got no idea.

warty goblin
2010-04-28, 06:54 PM
This a question I have been struggling with for some time.

What is the appeal of classic DND settings? Why do people seek escape from the modern world by doing Medieval Reenactments? Say what you will about the middle ages, but it was a worse time to live than today almost universally.
Now, I love DND. I love the settings, the sense of adventure, and so many other things.

I don't think D&D settings, whether classic or not, have much do to with the Middle Ages in any really meaningful way. Pretty much any time you start handing out the ability to bring back the dead, your connection with reality is getting mighty tenuous.

That said, I suspect a lot of the appeal of Ye Olde D&D sort of setting is that its nice and simple. The good looking guy is the hero; he'll do what is right. The good looking chick, she'll help the hero to do the right thing at some point and provide general eyecandy related services. Everyone else is out to stop the hero, and thus a villain. Usually the world falls out in nice black and white terms, and it takes about ten seconds to figure out which side of the fence most people are on. Not only is the right thing to do generally obvious, but it's more or less guaranteed to work. Plus, you get to fantasize about being able to blow stuff up with your brain!

As to the Medievalists, I suspect a lot of them just like to get dressed up in odd clothes, kick back, and seriously relax for the occasional weekend. Others are genuinely curious about what life was like at that time, and consider reading books about it a poor substitute for getting as close as they can physically manage to actually doing it.


Second: Steampunk. A time when women's rights were suppressed, imperialism was rampant, and war just around the horizon. I love steampunk literature as well, but I'm trying to understand the appeal.

So, why do we seek our fun in pseudo-European Medieval settings? And pseudo-Victorian Era was as well?
Even beyond the large steampowered robots, I seriously doubt most steampunk has much to actually do with the social mores or political realities of the Victorian era. I could easily be wrong since I don't know the genre very well, but that would be my suspicion. If that is the case, its really probably an aesthetic thing.

Soras Teva Gee
2010-04-28, 10:30 PM
The appeal of all fiction is extremely simple: reality is boring

warty goblin
2010-04-28, 10:33 PM
The appeal of all fiction is extremely simple: reality is boring

I think it's more the case that reality is hard. There's a vast number of interesting things to consider IRL, but most of them require serious investment of time and energy, lack simple answers, and you'll exceedingly unlikely to manage anything approaching universal success if indeed you succeed at all.

Compared to reality, Star Wars is boring as hell. But damn if it isn't easy to figure out.

Haruki-kun
2010-04-28, 10:39 PM
Middle Ages: It's not a real setting. We picture it with Knights, and Wizards and Dragons and Magic and Kings, and rescuing and marrying princesses. We don't think about it as oppression, dark ages, Bubonic Plagues or anything of the sort.

Steampunk: Same case. We're thinking of a "cool" steampunk. We get to wear hats and stuff. We have weapons, we save the day.

And when these apply to settings in fiction instead of role-playing the same thing happens. We identify with the story, in a way.

Mr. Scaly
2010-04-28, 10:42 PM
I myself am in it because these kinds of genres are just plain fascinating. Whether it's steam punk or sci fi, Harry Dresden or Raistlin Majere, they let me play in another world for a while, places that aren't so...routine as my own, and are just that much more fun. It's a chance to let my imagination wander and explore.

thubby
2010-04-28, 11:20 PM
swords are more fun than guns. ultimately the power of a gun depends on the wielder's ability to point it at you properly. wielding a sword is an art unto itself, and it looks cool.

steampunk is putting magic in a way where you feel like you could have it too.

Archpaladin Zousha
2010-04-28, 11:27 PM
Plus, there are many more magic swords in fiction than magic guns. I can only think of three magic guns off the top of my head:

The Gonne in Discworld
The Colt in Supernatural
Linkara's magic gun

Tavar
2010-04-28, 11:35 PM
The guns in the Dark Tower series probably qualify.

Archpaladin Zousha
2010-04-28, 11:37 PM
Oh. I've never read those.

Avilan the Grey
2010-04-29, 12:45 AM
Well to be fair, the middle ages, and even the dark ages, was not even half as bad as a lot of people think. In fact (although I am sure this can vary from country to country) the genera health of the masses was lower during the early and middle industrial age than then. Unless there was a plague, but the last cholera epidemic was not that long ago, historically speaking.

That said:

The appeal of the "D&D" settings for me is the chance of partake in Mythology. You are, quite literary, in a big mixing bowl with ingredients such as LOTR, Robin Hood, Clash Of The Titans, Conan and a number of others. And since I, as a kid, ate books and stories about these for breakfast...

As for Steam Punk, I have yet to actually play a tabletop game in a Steampunk / Clockpunk setting, but I have always liked the idea. I think it is a setting that lives on the Rule Of Cool (plus steam powered AT-ATs are always amazing).

One setting I would love to play in is from one of my absolute favorite Disney movies: Treasure Planet.
A setting that is 1/3 Steam Punk, 1/3 Cyber Punk and 1/3 Iron Men and Wooden Ships... Gimme!!!

Avilan the Grey
2010-04-29, 12:47 AM
swords are more fun than guns. ultimately the power of a gun depends on the wielder's ability to point it at you properly. wielding a sword is an art unto itself, and it looks cool.


Oh I agree with this. And women with swords are sexier than women without. Just like women with fangs, and women with pointy ears...

factotum
2010-04-29, 01:21 AM
I don't think D&D settings, whether classic or not, have much do to with the Middle Ages in any really meaningful way. Pretty much any time you start handing out the ability to bring back the dead, your connection with reality is getting mighty tenuous.


Not to mention that all the stuff that made the Middle Ages really nasty--lack of sanitation, rampant disease, most children dying before they reached 12 months old, etc--are either irrelevant or glossed over in D&D settings. I don't ever recall reading about the rivers of open sewage that ought to be flowing down every street in Waterdeep, for example! :smallsmile:

Zenos
2010-04-29, 01:46 AM
Oh I agree with this. And women with swords are sexier than women without. Just like women with fangs, and women with pointy ears...

So you're saying there should be more swordswomen with fangs and pointy ears.

Avilan the Grey
2010-04-29, 01:49 AM
Not to mention that all the stuff that made the Middle Ages really nasty--lack of sanitation, rampant disease, most children dying before they reached 12 months old, etc--are either irrelevant or glossed over in D&D settings. I don't ever recall reading about the rivers of open sewage that ought to be flowing down every street in Waterdeep, for example! :smallsmile:

You didn't, or that that Beholder would not have any spacious sewers to live in...

But then most fantasy settings seems to be based on the lack of the Fall Of Rome, or at least "Rome Fell, but people did not forget how to make concrete, sewers, public baths and hamburgers".

Avilan the Grey
2010-04-29, 01:51 AM
So you're saying there should be more swordswomen with fangs and pointy ears.

To use a wonderful American expression: "Duh". :smallbiggrin:
Especially if they are pirates. Or rogues. Bards will do nicely.

Yulian
2010-04-29, 12:19 PM
swords are more fun than guns. ultimately the power of a gun depends on the wielder's ability to point it at you properly. wielding a sword is an art unto itself, and it looks cool.


Heh...spoken like someone who's never seen a trick shooter in action.

Take it from a longtime firearms hobbyist. It is far from just "pointing it properly".

It is magic. Shooting is just as much an "art" as fighting with a blade. You may as well use the quote from that Zorro movie about using a sword, "the pointed end goes in the other person". Using a firearm is being able to reach out, across sometimes ridiculous-seeming distances, and strike a target from afar faster than the target could even see you do it.

Steampunk "gets" this aspect of it, what with steam rifles, Tesla cannons, and good old black powder.

As for scarcity of magical guns. Well, yes. Because a sword sort of has to be magical to be anywhere near as dangerous as even a basic firearm.

I also doubt it is just the "medieval" aspect of it that gets people into D&D. It is the fantastic aspect. Magic, otherworldly beings, monsters to fight, monsters to befriend, the ability to play as a different person, or something not even a person.

There's also the appeal of being able to affect the world on a larger scale. In a game, your character could, through their actions, change the course of a war or a nation. Not a lot of people get to do that in the real world, and they don't have as free a hand of it as a PC might anyway.

Mind you, I prefer running (I usually run for my group) settings that are complex, both politically and socially. Some people seem to prefer the simplicity of "kill them and take their stuff". We tend to like "Who do you throw your support behind since the Treaty of the Four Towers is being threatened by a military buildup in a neighboring kingdom that may be allied with your traditional enemy who hasn't declared overt war but may actually just be a cover for a racial pogrom?".

Different strokes and all.

- Yulian

GolemsVoice
2010-04-29, 01:32 PM
Second: Steampunk. A time when women's rights were suppressed, imperialism was rampant, and war just around the horizon. I love steampunk literature as well, but I'm trying to understand the appeal.

I think the appeal of all these settings is that they are fictional, even when based on a historic time. So you can gleefully describe the horrific wounds your character suffers, but never suffer them themselves. You can play an aristocrating noble that lives in his toer, surrounded by clockwork servants, that has utter disregard for all the lower classes, and thinks of women as nothing more than wandering wombs, while at the same time being an outspoken protester of gender equailty in real life.

That's it with settings: You can pick anything you like, and leave out anything you dislike. The world is literally tailor-made for adventuring in it, whatever forms your adventure might take. So I think that most people are aware that the Vicorian times where nasty in many ways, but they either ignore this, or relish it from the safe distance of a few hundred years, and through the protective screen of storytelling.

In a nutshell:

I also doubt it is just the "medieval" aspect of it that gets people into D&D. It is the fantastic aspect. Magic, otherworldly beings, monsters to fight, monsters to befriend, the ability to play as a different person, or something not even a person.

There's also the appeal of being able to affect the world on a larger scale. In a game, your character could, through their actions, change the course of a war or a nation. Not a lot of people get to do that in the real world, and they don't have as free a hand of it as a PC might anyway.
That.

warty goblin
2010-04-29, 01:45 PM
Heh...spoken like someone who's never seen a trick shooter in action.

Take it from a longtime firearms hobbyist. It is far from just "pointing it properly".

It is magic. Shooting is just as much an "art" as fighting with a blade. You may as well use the quote from that Zorro movie about using a sword, "the pointed end goes in the other person". Using a firearm is being able to reach out, across sometimes ridiculous-seeming distances, and strike a target from afar faster than the target could even see you do it.

Steampunk "gets" this aspect of it, what with steam rifles, Tesla cannons, and good old black powder.

While I agree there's more to skill with a firearm than pointing, I suspect that on the balance, there's still more outright skill involved in becoming even a basically proficient swordsman. It's a bit like chess really.


As for scarcity of magical guns. Well, yes. Because a sword sort of has to be magical to be anywhere near as dangerous as even a basic firearm.
Outside of six feet, a sword is really very unlethal. Inside, it's three feet of pure tempered carnage. Absolutely no magic is needed to enable a sword to split a skull down to the jaw, sever a limb, or impale an enemy, just the strength and skill to wield it. The advantage of human operable guns lies in ease of use and ability to project violence over distance, not particularly in the amount of damage you can cause.

Yulian
2010-04-29, 02:25 PM
The advantage of human operable guns lies in ease of use and ability to project violence over distance, not particularly in the amount of damage you can cause.

Depends on the firearm in question.

Shotgun wounds using 00 buck or slugs are horrific in the extreme when used on humans. Calibers from .45 ACP on up also do a lot of tissue damage pretty much regardless of where they hit. I have actually seen the aftermath of firearms-related deaths as a mortician in San Jose a number of years back.

I won't even get into rifles, awful stuff. A small entry wound has little bearing on the terrible damage often done internally. It may not look dramatic, but it's pretty bad.

I will, however, qualify your statement about skill.

It is absolutely easier to develop a basic proficiency with firearms than with a sword. In that you are completely, 100% correct.

That is, in many ways, part of the point. Firearms are "equalizers" or "force multipliers". A tiny woman or even a child can stop an attacker of any size with a sufficiently well-placed round. Armies were fielded, historically, with many soldiers receiving relatively little training in the earliest firearms, just because any ability to use them was a great force multiplier.

They were also inaccurate over any real distance, but against massed forces it was good enough.

But to develop excessive skill...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYUn2jMQfuA

Yes, that is a man throwing clays and shooting them over his shoulder, then one-handed, then between his legs (5 of them), then 10 in a row. Of course the 12 at the end is just showboating. ;)

Of course, in a RPG context, depending on the genre, man-portable firearms are allowed to wreak considerable havoc on foes as well as the environment. Steampunk, in particular, seems to enjoy a great variety of fictionalized and extraordinarily powerful ranged weapons. If a sword is cool, a rifle that shoots lightning has to count.

- Yulian

warty goblin
2010-04-29, 04:49 PM
Depends on the firearm in question.

Shotgun wounds using 00 buck or slugs are horrific in the extreme when used on humans. Calibers from .45 ACP on up also do a lot of tissue damage pretty much regardless of where they hit. I have actually seen the aftermath of firearms-related deaths as a mortician in San Jose a number of years back.

I won't even get into rifles, awful stuff. A small entry wound has little bearing on the terrible damage often done internally. It may not look dramatic, but it's pretty bad.

I never denied that bullets will mess up a person very, very badly, because they clearly can.

So (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJWmyIOEHOs) can (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFAKTjOQJwQ) swords (http://www.thearma.org/spotlight/TestCutting/TestCuttingEvent2.htm).

I will, however, qualify your statement about skill.

It is absolutely easier to develop a basic proficiency with firearms than with a sword. In that you are completely, 100% correct.

That is, in many ways, part of the point. Firearms are "equalizers" or "force multipliers". A tiny woman or even a child can stop an attacker of any size with a sufficiently well-placed round. Armies were fielded, historically, with many soldiers receiving relatively little training in the earliest firearms, just because any ability to use them was a great force multiplier.

They were also inaccurate over any real distance, but against massed forces it was good enough.

We are in concurrence.

But to develop excessive skill...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYUn2jMQfuA

Yes, that is a man throwing clays and shooting them over his shoulder, then one-handed, then between his legs (5 of them), then 10 in a row. Of course the 12 at the end is just showboating. ;)
- Yulian

Indeed, people can do remarkable things with guns, I don't believe I ever denied that. They can with swords (http://www.swordarts.com/tameshigiri.html)as well.

Soras Teva Gee
2010-04-29, 08:59 PM
I think it's more the case that reality is hard. There's a vast number of interesting things to consider IRL, but most of them require serious investment of time and energy, lack simple answers, and you'll exceedingly unlikely to manage anything approaching universal success if indeed you succeed at all.

Compared to reality, Star Wars is boring as hell. But damn if it isn't easy to figure out.

I'd say this rest on the premise that the choices or situations presented in fiction are always less complex then those of reality. A premise I don't really support.

And the really difficult parts of reality (say politics or economics) aren't something that's going to concern everybody. And not everybody necessarily has difficult decisions to make, or is unhappy with their life. Yet just about everybody consumes some from of fictional media, which itself is older then dirt. And everybody gets bored, therefore they make up stories to alleviate that boredom.

Its the simplest explanation for the underlying basic appeal of all entertainment. (Not there can't be multiple elements in play here)

Poison_Fish
2010-04-29, 10:18 PM
Even beyond the large steampowered robots, I seriously doubt most steampunk has much to actually do with the social mores or political realities of the Victorian era. I could easily be wrong since I don't know the genre very well, but that would be my suspicion. If that is the case, its really probably an aesthetic thing.

Pretty much this. There is actually an extremely large movement that feels that steam punk (and other 'modest' styles of clothing that are victorian based; see Lolita style) are actually reclamations of cultural and gender identity rather then something that is "continued" repression. Note, I'd actually challenge the whole repression hypothesis anyway, but that's been done to death in academics and I'd be riding on a Foucault wave. Regardless, check out History of Human Sexuality by Michel Foucault if you want to get into higher detail.

Mostly though, I would not identify the modern movements, such as steam punk, as completely replicating or reproducing the mores of a previous era. They are, instead, several aesthetic concepts, along with a few other ideas, taken from it's source and placed in the modern era. A degree of reclamation is at play here more then an entire reproduction of a previous era.

Serpentine
2010-04-29, 10:55 PM
Friggin' Foucault! He's everywhere! :furious:
:smalltongue:

Terraoblivion
2010-04-29, 11:13 PM
Well, he was the most quoted writer in humanities and social sciences in 2007, so that makes sense.

Also the appeal of steampunk specifically seems to have many aspects to me. One of the most important is that it is a major period in the cultural heritage of the west. You look at European literature the 19th century has more famous and iconic works than just about the rest of history combined. Not only that, the famous works of this century are generally very widely read and has been filmed a lot. While people might know about Dante's inferno, the images from it are far from as iconic as Sherlock Holmes is or just about anything by Jules Verne. Indeed i would give Jules Verne a lot of the credit for the popularity of steampunk, since the genre is so suffused by the aesthetics of his books with all the baroque gears and excessive luxury in things like submarines.

Another aspect is that it is a period of such massive historical significance. Why would people not want to make fantastic versions of the period that saw the balance of population switch from the country to the city and where so many of the basic aspects of our society came into being. It was the beginning of the society we grew up in and created most of the basic social structures we have come to know. It brought us trade unions and political parties, corporations and the mob. We saw warfare transformed by the power of industry, yet not the destructive pinnacle of that transformation as was seen in the world wars.

Finally there were the gorgeous period dresses. The clothing of the time was just really distinctive and has been brought to us through more media than any period before. We have photos of the clothing from this time, from all layers of society, as well as numerous films made later about this period. The visual style of it is living for us in a way that, say, the baroque isn't. Basically the old-fashioned suits and dresses, as painful and damaging as they got, are impressive and distinctive, yet not foreign and exotic and without us having a connection to them.

So really what surprises me the most about steampunk is that it didn't get popular earlier. We are looking at the birth of our society shown through the aesthetics of one of the most successful writers ever. You'd have thought that would easily strike a nerve.

Avilan the Grey
2010-04-30, 12:27 AM
I find myself nodding when reading Terraoblivion's post above.


One Swedish RPG I would like to play (speaking of historical periods) is Götterdämmerung, an alternaitive world fantasy set in the 18th century. It is a time period that I feel is much underused.

Poison_Fish
2010-04-30, 03:36 AM
Friggin' Foucault! He's everywhere! :furious:
:smalltongue:

Why yes, he is much like the concept of Discourse that he talks about. He is everywhere, and is the creation of power and knowledge.

SlyGuyMcFly
2010-04-30, 05:55 AM
Even beyond the large steampowered robots, I seriously doubt most steampunk has much to actually do with the social mores or political realities of the Victorian era. I could easily be wrong since I don't know the genre very well, but that would be my suspicion. If that is the case, its really probably an aesthetic thing.

It's the aesthetics of the era, the fact that at the time rich people could and did spend all their time travelling to exotic locales (GENTLEMAN ADVENTURERS!) or being inventors (MAD SCIENTISTS!). Add that science was at the time immature, and no one had much of any idea what it could and couldn't really do. It was all in the process of being discovered. So if, as far as anyone knew, Science might let you build giant steam-powered robots, they are rendered plausible.

Steampunk is effectively soft SciFi that operates not off what we know today of science but what was know or thought to be known in the elegant and classy Victorian era.

At least that's the appeal for me.