Friday, April 27, 2012

Some notes for Low Tech Eras; Underlying Economic Constraints

Articles I should have my own material about:
Patron Client System - This shows players how their relationships with their patrons work. Its not a political ideological statement, but social economic situation: given the current Innovations in social organization Patron-Client systems are effective in meeting the needs of the era: method of resolving conflicts, personal advancement, protocol for peers, superiors and dependents/underlings etc...

Basics of Medieval Economics - Economics cuts through a lot of the ideological crap that messes up the idea of how things work. A 1000 word article on economics as a science, explaining economic relationships and statistics of the Low-Tech world. Idealy using modern day references to bring down the understanding and empathizing barriers. Hopefully anyone who remembers their economics 101 would appreciate it.

Social Classes and Expectations of Society -  Start with the general theory that can apply to all cultures then work towards exceptions and specifics OR maybe just tackle one setting... but never under-estimate local customs.

If I want players to read it, I think i have to make it at least fit 1000 words. I say at least because such a topic is tackled by 100x as much even in a specific setting. 90% of which is giving examples and how the subtle complexities of culture and economic circumstance make it almost unpredictable.

Local Customs - I don't see enough of that local quirky customs; local customs can be surprisingly different even between communities an hour away.  Such things allow the GM to play fast and loose with setting dressing: making up a subtle interesting habit of the local (like in Parks and Recreation where people of the town mouth hug the drinking fountains). It can be as subtle as hugs, handshakes, bowing, nodding, looking etc...

Org Chart of the Power Structure of a Given Setting - I don't see anything more effective in explaining an important organization more effective than an org chart. Its easy to visually remember, and its not so wordy.

Packaging it all in 4,000 words with visual aids.
Down the line I guess it would be nice to package these all for culture: Roman, Western European, Eastern European, Levantine/Middle East, Han Chinese, and possible theorizing Sumerian and Early Ancient Civilizations.  I guess what would be helpful is a bibliography of sources... but how many gamers are that OCD?

Underlying Economic Constraints
I like intrigue as much as the next gamer, but there is one fatal flaw in some of them: economic motivation. One of the 3 directional conflicts are economic, ideological, and circumstance. Most often there is a sharp focus on the ideological and circumstance.
Ex. "You are a particular character with a certain Ideological disposition in a particular Circumstance" Economic is something long range and far reaching; its like the decision to settle down to start a family.

I'm saying this because last time I played an Intrigue I screwed the person trying to screw up the game by always tailoring my Ideological justification and making a successful counter move... that should be easy it just takes a little sophistry. Now economic is something more grounded and concrete; economic is about living and surviving. I made a character that was self-less and it was easy to always justify every action I did... but a self-less character has an underlying problem of sustainability. Self-interest allows one to think in long terms; the more practical and self-interested one is in theory, the more adaptable they should be to the circumstance to the point that anything to survive and prosper is justifiable but thats where Ideology comes as a counterbalance.

Ideology is (in GURPS terms) Codes of Honor, Vows, Disciplines of Faith, Obsessions, Sense of Duty, Intollerance, etc... A character cannot be made purely of Ideological goals, there should be a spark or % of his own mental energies devoted to his self preservation.

All our disadvantages/ideologies can get us killed in Real Life and in the Game... if we take them too seriously and ignore practical limitations. Even a self-proclaimed Saint in the real world has some practical considerations, and that is something can be ignored by characters and incentives and set up by gms.

Adventures cannot adventure indefinitely, the same is for every filipino overseas worker cannot work a more prosperous mariner job or over-seas job indefinitely. There are risks, home, family and a chance to live. There is that wish to retire and to live with a different set of burdens, relatively lighter burdens (mental or physical).

With economic situations and motivations we can Settle for Less. Marketing and Advertising makes people feel special, but there are limitations to what they can be or what they can afford. There is nothing wrong for settle for less, which is a no-no in some cultures and advertisers LOVE to proclaim such "Never Settle for Less".
In a Game Settling for less is adapting, there is nothing wrong with that, but if things are allowed to escalate indefinitely its not a lesson one can learn or even consider an option. Limiting escalation is the GM's burden which is bad tasting medicine for some players; or a complete turn-off to some.
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