Friday, January 8, 2010

Numbers tell a Story

Having a better a appreciation with Demographics and Numbers have given much inspiration for drama and the human condition. I've been reading up Poverty playing with Gapminder. Numbers clarify so much of the drama humans face. When you look at a poor country like the Philippines, seeing a shanty town may be a strong visual input but when you learn to understand the numbers it adds layers and layers of information that give another thousand words to that picture.

A family that suffers from the classic case of hardship, lost opportunities, and tragedy can be observed and counted. Numbers repeat that same similar but different story over and over again. Imagination takes over when the numbers begin to teach you that the tragedy is not isolated and it affects everyone and everything around it in different ways.

Instances and actions have subtle consequences that escape us from seeing the bigger picture. Killing 10 castle guards means 10 families will suffer in the winter. Oppression, Ignorance, and Abuse are reflected in the numbers.

As a GM I'm a story teller. Learning demographics and the science has changed my taste for games and stories. I have the experience to know what conditions create these dark and tragic stories we tell in our tales, thanks to science.

In the Basic Reproductive Health battle going on in Philippine Politics, the amount of scientific data of the observed and proven need for this legislation vs the Influence and Power of the Catholic Church is another story told by numbers.

Numbers are not some arcane language only mages can understand, anyone can understand them. The amount of lies people tell and the actions they do in the name of their belief, ambition and fear is another thing numbers bring to light. Numbers allow us to count the cost.

I know as a GM and when I make my own material I don't really need to go into the detail of what is poor, suffering, abuses, and causalities; but if I want my players to understand the scale and scope of what they are perceiving numbers is another tool that helps my narrative.

Warlords that have triumphed cripple their enemies to make sure they never rise up again. You walk the streets filled with pox rotting men mutilated and begging for food. You realize the human cost of a tragedy that is infused in the background and it reaches out to color the character's psyche.

A soldier that dies, could mean the survival of a family. Enough people die, could mean the survival of a village or a community. Enough casualties can mean a man made famine. The consequences are as certain as the numbers that allow us to observe the phenomenon.

Its nice to know one of my new nerdy hobbies is helping enrich my GMing.
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