PDA

View Full Version : Roleplaying Thought experiment: Primitive settings.



MonkeySage
2014-10-07, 07:52 PM
The times between certain significant events within my setting are massive, and one of those times is what I would like to probe your brains for:

30KYA

The world is covered in glaciers at this time, in save for the Great Kingdom of the Elves. This kingdom is nestled amongst the branches of the world tree, and is a temperate paradise, thanks in part to the magic that these elves have used.

Elves: Information age. Elven children play with magic. The effects of magic are felt all throughout the kingdom, and it is employed in every aspect of their lives. The elves have made use of magitek to construct androids who labor on their behalf, and the fruit of the world tree itself is magical, just one fruit capable of feeding a person for a week, as well as delaying old age. At this time there is only one race of elf, though a coming war with the demons will shatter the elven kingdom and throw them into a dark age that'll last thousands of years.
Halflings: Have not arrived yet.
Gnomes: Have not arrived yet.
Half elves: non existent, elves do not breed with laborers(they have "graciously" permitted some humans to work as servants, and somehow managed to teach these humans to speak proper archaic elven).
Humans: Stone age, though some humans have managed to earn a place among the branches of Alfheim as servants.
Dwarves: Bronze age, no contact with humans at all.
Orcs: Stone age.
Gnolls: Stone age, adapted to the cold thanks to a thicker coat of fur.


So, what might a game like this look like? Let's say that elves are off limits, as are races that have not arrived yet.

Oracle_of_Void
2014-10-07, 08:14 PM
Well, from the other race's perspectives, they wouldn't be very sympathetic to the elves. At worst, they would see elves as arrogant gods who do what they want and have it easy. At best, strange alien beings to stay away from. Though, it would be interesting to see if the elves would enlist the aid of the other races to fight the demons. Game play wise, I'd imagine it being a low magic game, as in, if the players play the stone age races they'd probably only have very crude, caveman magic if any. Perhaps they scavenge for magical scraps from the elves? Its an interesting idea, but I don't know what the players' goal would be. Help the elves against the demons? Take advantage of the fighting for fun and profit? Advance your own race to compete against the elves?

In any case, this sounds like a fun campaign idea.

Coidzor
2014-10-08, 01:48 AM
Seems like ir'd be perfect for a game where people actually enjoyed gathering resources in order to improve the setting/tribe/gaggle of NPCs they've accrued.

Teching up enough to gain an advantage over the savage and cruel bestial races or building strength enough to establish dominion over the weaker races if one were one of the savage and cruel bestial races... All while avoiding attracting too much attention from the capricious and indolent Elves.

Heck, I imagine that trying to steal the riddle of steel err-metallurgy from the dwarves might even kick off the traditional feud between orcs and dwarfs.

I definitely see players aligned with any Human factions wanting to find and ally with the dwarves as soon as any mention of them comes to them. Just the sort of start on the raw tech end they'd need to start ramping up their civilization.

Although "stone age" is kind of really, really broad and covers all the way from well, early, early, early man before we had history up into the Mesopotamia before Antiquity when history was just getting invented and even into the modern era with the native peoples of the Americas and the Aboriginal population of Australia.

Vitruviansquid
2014-10-08, 02:41 AM
For a stone age campaign, I would really focus on wilderness exploration and having the party take care of dangerous, weird things outside of the limited "tame" space a stone age people will have. There'll be slaying of dangerous animals, some dealings with strange nomadic peoples of other races, and some explorations of mystical places or strange magic phenomena.

Mark Hall
2014-10-08, 09:47 AM
I like the idea, though I might be tempted to rename things. Instead of "Elves", make them "Atlanteans". Instead of Dwarves or Orcs, make them other offshoots of humanity (not necessarily different species/subspecies, but simply different ethnic groups) that have different levels of technology.

hamishspence
2014-10-08, 01:57 PM
I like the idea, though I might be tempted to rename things. Instead of "Elves", make them "Atlanteans".

Or possibly Melniboneans?

Mark Hall
2014-10-08, 02:26 PM
Or possibly Melniboneans?

I'm more Howard than Moorcock. ;-)

TheThan
2014-10-08, 03:30 PM
Players will try to invent and push the boundaries of available technology. its really easy for us to think "i know how steel is created, therefore i can apply my knowledge to my character and he can immediately know how to make steel." you will need to stymie this train of though and try to explain to them that it doesn't work that way, and that they're being really meta about it. if they want to develop and push the boundaries, thats fine but it needs to be done organically. either they steal steel (har har) from the elves or whatever, or they discover and develop it on their own, and that takes time, effort and money.

Technology takes time to create, develop and spread. Even if youíre a genius and can think up a revolutionary idea, it could take years or even decades for that idea to spread around. Computers didnít happen overnight, and they didnít change the world over night, it took something like 75 years for computers to develop to where itís really changed the world, and even then, the concept goes back further. When people started using iron they didnít immediately abandon bronze, instead iron tools slowly took over as people realized that iron is a better metal for tools and weapons. This is a natural possess as the word spreads and people start to see its benefits.

hoverfrog
2014-10-09, 05:00 AM
The world is covered in glaciers at this time, in save for the Great Kingdom of the Elves. This kingdom is nestled amongst the branches of the world tree, and is a temperate paradise, thanks in part to the magic that these elves have used.An ice age presents plenty of challenges just for survival. Those who don't get to live in paradise (where the elves live) have harsh, short lives, eking out a subsistence hunting mammoths, seals and other dangerous and large prey. They must generally travel with the herds that they hunt, not having the resources or time to farm or to work with metals.

The PCs could be scouts and hunters for their tribe or the assistant to the tribal shaman. They might go through a few levels doing nothing more than scouting out land, hunting and fending off raids from other tribes and from monsters. They may also raid their enemies, perhaps to recover members of their own tribe captured as slaves. When they encounter dwarves with their advanced technology (Stone Age to Bronze Age makes a difference) how will they react? Will they try to steal bronze tools and weapons, learn the secret of forging them, trade for them, enslave the dwarves, beg for dwarven protection, or something else? Elves would be so far advanced as to seem like gods but encountering them might initially be only through intermediaries (the dwarves?).


Half elves: non existent, elves do not breed with laborers(they have "graciously" permitted some humans to work as servants, and somehow managed to teach these humans to speak proper archaic elven).Not all human\elven couplings are consensual and sometimes a servant will turn on his mistress in the most horrific way. There are also those in power who might abuse it even if society thinks it is disgusting. If interbreeding is possible between these two races then I think that allowing for the PCs to choose the race is a good idea but they would never be seen in a positive light. Half elves would be outcast from elven society and human society may think of them as monsters, half gods without godly power. Their long lives would make them a burden on their parent as it would take years more for them to reach maturity.

You haven't mentioned half orcs or half gnolls.

Vitruviansquid
2014-10-09, 05:09 AM
I think much more important than what materials these people are using to make tools is the question of which people are sedentary and which people are nomadic.

Mastikator
2014-10-09, 05:21 AM
As others have pointed out it would make more sense for players to play house than go on an adventure, going on an adventure in that setting is just suicide. Anything that isn't working full time to preserve (and improve, potentially) your tribe would be suicide for the tribe.

You'll have to pick a system that hasn't been tailored for adventure, like D&D. I don't know what system is tailored for building huts in a hunter/gatherer society.

@hoverfrog unless halfbreeds aren't just killed off, along with their heretical producers. It would be very easy for elves to decide that humans aren't people and keep humans in a zoo and as pets/beasts of burden. Like humans do to cows.

hoverfrog
2014-10-09, 07:36 AM
@hoverfrog unless halfbreeds aren't just killed off, along with their heretical producers.There is that option but I'm sure you could think of a great backstory for a half elf character involving her mother being pursued by elven death squads as she fled to the wintery wilderness in fear of her life and that of her unborn child only to be taken in by gnolls who raised her child as one of their own after her death in childbirth...or something.


It would be very easy for elves to decide that humans aren't people and keep humans in a zoo and as pets/beasts of burden. Like humans do to cows.Or that they just avoid all contact with the smelly, primitive creatures who wear the skins of other beasts for clothing and make war on their own kind. They are already geographically and culturally separate. There's no reason for them to encounter one another, particularly if some other race already has the privilege of serving the elves. I'm thinking that the dwarves fit this role better than humans anyway. They're skilled craftsmen and hard workers, resistant to disease (high Con), strong and resilient and eager to follow rules (Lawful). It would also explain the traditional dwarf\elf animosity if\when the campaign jumps ahead in time.

Mark Hall
2014-10-09, 10:55 AM
For the issue of half-elves, I'll direct you to the Mercedes Lackey/Andre Norton series "The Halfblood Chronicles." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Halfblood_Chronicles)

Briefly, elves took over humanity long ago. Elves have magic, but it is a strict inheritance... strong elf + strong elf = strong elf, every time; weak elf + strong elf = middling elf, every time. Humans HAD mind-magic, but the elves use slave-collars to restrain any such magic.

Halfbloods officially don't happen. Unofficially, they pop up occasionally; a concubine off her contraceptives for breeding, an elf taking advantage of a field hand, etc. Most are killed, some escape. Since they're half-human, their elf magic varies wildly (it's not really explored how elf magic is inherited in halfbloods), and their human magic tends to complement it.

Something to consider if you go that route.

Knaight
2014-10-09, 01:22 PM
Not all human\elven couplings are consensual and sometimes a servant will turn on his mistress in the most horrific way. There are also those in power who might abuse it even if society thinks it is disgusting. If interbreeding is possible between these two races then I think that allowing for the PCs to choose the race is a good idea but they would never be seen in a positive light. Half elves would be outcast from elven society and human society may think of them as monsters, half gods without godly power. Their long lives would make them a burden on their parent as it would take years more for them to reach maturity.

Given the power dynamics involved it would be far, far more likely for the ruling class to be violent to the servants than vice versa. Localized revolts in the other direction are one thing, but that's not even relevant to whether or not there are half elves.

Mark Hall
2014-10-09, 01:30 PM
For human/elven relations, you might also consider the Dragaera novels by Steven Brust, where humans and "elves" live in an empire, though humans have their separate lands in the East. Elves are the top dogs, though there's opportunities for humans, either in House Teckla (the servant class) or House Jhereg (the house that handles organized crime).

hoverfrog
2014-10-10, 04:14 AM
Given the power dynamics involved it would be far, far more likely for the ruling class to be violent to the servants than vice versa. Localized revolts in the other direction are one thing, but that's not even relevant to whether or not there are half elves.Absolutely but a real world parallel is black slavery in Europe and the Americas. It is certainly the case that slaves were abused and had children by their abusers but the reverse also occurred. Granted it was rare but it did happen.

That's enough real world stuff, back to D&D.

In Brave New World by Aldous Huxley there was no natural reproduction except in the Reservation. All children were produced on an assembly line for a purpose in society. Alphas hold the highest place and are analogous to the Primitive setting's elves. The humans and dwarves are similar to the "Gamma", "Delta" or "Epsilon" people, bred for manual labour and repetitive tasks and given fewer luxuries (why would they need them) and mental stimulation (what a waste). The society is so structured that the thought of rebelling is painful to people.

In this setting I could see elves reaching a pinnacle of magical ability to the point where they intentionally breed a servitor race or two to deal with the tasks that they don't want to have to deal with. Dwarves fit this best in my view but humans might also be useful. After all they reproduce very quickly and make excellent expendable resources. Send the humans into the dangerous cold to mine adamantine or dig up deposits of coal or iron ore. If they die just send some more in another twenty years. They would send dwarves but they take too long to grow and are more useful as artisans than the humans.

That keeps the humans and elves separate and deals with the possibility of half elves. If the elves literally have no contact with human production then there is no possibility of any abusing their position.

The tribes of humans could easily be survivors or runaways from these "missions". Over hundreds or thousands of years they've developed their own cultures and societies in the frigid wastes. They've grown and forgotten all about the elves or the dwarves. Orcs could be another such worker race or an experiment gone wrong that escaped the magical laboratories. In fact all the monsters that challenge the PCs in the glaciers could be elven experiments, failed or not.