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Alibear

Is your Fantasy gaming stuck in time?

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If ancient knowledge wasn't always getting lost and forgotten why do we have so many experimental archaeology projects around? There are literally hundreds in Europe where people try to work out just how we used to do things. We're learning new old stuff all the time.

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It's worth pointing out there's also a certain amount of antiquity bias going on in some of these, ie people believe Old X is better than New Y simply because X is older, or because they've always been told that Old X is better. These was a study a couple years ago where they had master violinists play several different violins while effectively blindfolded. Some violins were centuries-old Stradivariuses (Stradivariusi?) worth millions, others were modern makes, and one had literally been completed (IIRC) the week before the study was conducted. Without "knowing" which violins were supposed to be better, the experts overwhelmingly rated the new violins as superior in sound quality. The most expensive Stradivarius was consistently rated the worst.

 

Then there's survivorship bias, ie - people think old houses were better built simply because the crappy ones all fell down and only the best survived for comparison.

 

That's not to say there's no such thing as ancient secrets and so forth. But as L. Sprague de Camp put it in an old essay of his (I'm paraphrasing greatly), for every one example of "ancient wisdom" we have dozens to hundreds of examples of ancient stupidity, such as the ancient belief that digging a canal in the Suez would drain the Mediterranean because everyone "knew" the Red Sea was at a lower level than the Med.

 

A bit OT, sorry.

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BDH on the other hand, we shouldn’t have a bias because it’s old, it’s worthless. Can’t seem to remeber the C.S. Lewis quote (if it’s him) on how we assume that because we’re modern all that came before us was inferior.

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BDH on the other hand, we shouldn’t have a bias because it’s old, it’s worthless. Can’t seem to remeber the C.S. Lewis quote (if it’s him) on how we assume that because we’re modern all that came before us was inferior.

Fair point.

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If you are running a multi-generational campaign that spans a significant period of time, then advancing the technological timeline makes sense. If you are running a game that covers a specific set of characters careers, then it probably doesn't make a lot of sense to have many technological advances. You could showcase one or two important things during that period - the novel invention, as it were - and make it a plot related thing, of course. I guess you could have magic progress like high-tech and move at a breakneck pace the way our generation has seen it move. But, for most of human history, that was not the case. Our perspective of fast-paced technological change is actually highly unusual. But, overall, I prefer my fantasy games have a more discrete time scale - and approach them the way REH did the Conan. The chronicler was telling tales about the life and times of a legendary king, conan, so it didn't matter how there were - they all fall within one man's lifetime. I like to tell stories about characters and their careers, not about worlds. This may just be because I'm not a Tolkein fan. He was a far better world builder than storyteller. For me, unless the technological change is relevant to the plot I'm not going to be much inspired by it because its change for its own sake and not even about the characters.

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Haven't read the whole thread yet, so I apologize if this point has been raised; but the waxing and waning of magic could be a good rationale for why society in a world like this doesn't progress technologically over the long term. When magic is around it does many things better than any pre-industrial technology could, so there's no incentive to pursue that kind of development. With the waning of magic there are technological advances, but when magic returns they're supplanted by it and largely forgotten. Rinse and repeat.

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I don't really need to justify why fantasy games don't turn into the modern world eventually.  They're fantasy games.  Progress towards a 21st century-style civilization isn't inevitable.  In the real world, there were all sorts of boring, mundane reasons why civilization advanced the way it did.  In a world with dragons and magic and stuff, I have no problem believing that the scientific method never gets properly developed.

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