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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Medieval and ancient views on nature versus modern environmentalism in Fantasy

    So most fantasy I'm familiar with, including what I am working with, is loosely based on real world medieval history. Modern values often override medieval values in these settings. Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes this is a bad thing and many times it's in between and subjective to the eye of the beholder (which may or may not have an anti-magic ray).

    Rather than go over all modern values. I realized my nature god and the clerics and druids that serve him kind of looks like a modern environmentalist more than a nature god.

    I heard it stated that modern environmentalism was born in the 1960s and took off in the 1970s. Before then the idea of humans having a large potentially negative impact on the Earth as a whole was not something political leaders thought about.

    Perhaps I'm wrong, but I believe the core of modern environmentalism is that "We need to be good custodians of the natural world so he natural world will be there for future generations to enjoy."

    I don't think pre-industrial people were generally upset if a species went extinct. If the species was a dangerous predator, they probably celebrated their extinction.

    I noticed there were aspects of being a good steward of nature in my ancient religious texts, but it's not something the leaders of antiquity seemed to care about or maybe it was the result of a poor modern translation of ancient words.

    I notice that the followers of my nature god in my setting and the local rulers that have to negotiate with tend to fall back on two paradigms.

    1) We should be a good steward of nature so future generations can enjoy nature's bounty.

    2) We should respect nature because while Korus, god of nature is not likely to engage in divine smiting, when he does smite, he smites HARD via either massive crop failure of horrific monsters emerging from the wilds.


    I'm not sure if these views have historical verisimilitude. Maybe it doesn't need to. Maybe a modern view makes a better setting.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    WhiteWizardGirl

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    Default Re: Medieval and ancient views on nature versus modern environmentalism in Fantasy

    {Scrubbed}

    Based on a brief look at your worldforge page, your setting does not seem to take that same approach. Korus didn't create all life, he gained custodianship over it after overthrowing the God who did, then spent tens of thousands of years tweaking things and getting the ecosystem running exactly how he likes it. So he's probably very much willing to answer a Divination asking why he let the glarax go extinct, but kept the wolves around. In fact, there's probably entire books written by the clergy with answers to that sort of inquiry, where a cleric spends a few years investigating the subject and asking Korus for instructions and explanations and then publishes a hadith explaining exactly why this particular river has the fish that it has and why a dam here, here or here is okay, but not anywhere else, exactly who benefits from this arrangement and why everything would go wrong if you ignored the Divine Plan and built your dams in the wrong spots regardless.

    Likewise with any agricultural practices that Korus have commanded people to avoid. Is slash and burn agriculture unsustainable and threatening to drive a particularly delicious sort of berry extinct? Then Korus probably has a sub-section in one of his Big Tomes of How to be a Good Steward of Nature explaining that exact problem. And the clergy, who realistically are probably tired of people having to go yell at people who broke something without knowing that it was even there, have probably gone ahead and set up something very much like modern planning permits, where whenever you want to do something new agriculturally - be it cut down a forest to make a farm, introduce a new species to an area or increase fishing quotas to match demand - you have to first check in with the Temple of Korus to make sure that this isn't against some sort of divine prohibition intended to protect a genus of sea turtles that Zarthus loves and will become very angry over should anything happen to them.
    Last edited by truemane; 2021-04-27 at 09:54 AM. Reason: Scrubbed

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: Medieval and ancient views on nature versus modern environmentalism in Fantasy

    From what I've read and heard (and not sure of the accuracy of it), most medieval or early colonial times attitudes towards nature was somewhat adversial. It was the "out there" and dangerous. So clearing nature to make land for homesteads or farming was a good thing. It, in a sense, was stewardship of nature in that you are shifting it to more productive and usable and safer modes of existence. Just a very anthropcentric sense of 'stewardship'.

    Part of the reason this "worked" is because our ability to destroy nature was limited to some degree. We didn't have the tech to wipe out acres of rain forest or ancient woodland as quickly as we do now. If something went extinct, we probably didn't realize the cause-and-effect (unless it was killing off a predator, which, yeah, considered good work.)

    I'm sure there were exceptions, and as I said no idea if that is a real view or just a parody/simplification, but I reckon that'd be a worldview that would work for a common peasant to craftsman in a lot of fantasy. (Even more than real life if wild nature is also where monsters live!) And most nobles, as long as it doesn't interfere with them getting income from their preasants and craftsmen.

    ---

    As for your setting, I really like Grek's responses. If the clerics can commune with their deity, no doubt it has been explained, and they'd be able to justify it.

    How strongly they are believed can depend on a few factors.
    I'm having a hard time typing them out systematically, but here's a couple questions to give the ideas:
    Would Korus smite a city that is using bad practices, or would the God of Commerce protect them in that case? In other words, what divine contracts and limitations are on the gods?
    If a smiting occurred, would it be obvious the cause, or could it be attributed to random plague or monster attack? In other words, how direct-interference are the gods, and how easy it is to tell what caused what?

    Another idea, to add some credibility to Korus' clergy, is if you want to keep enough nature to give the monsters space, lest they move into your territory. (well, technically it was theirs before you took it, but, 'yknow?).
    Don't wipe out the woods where the goblins or dark spirits live, or else they'll stop living there and might start living where you are! Why are there goblins or dark spirits? Er, some evil god made 'em and Korus isn't able/willing to wipe them out?
    This belief could add a sense/superstition of "We might want to wipe out wolves, but it's bad luck. Maybe some monster likes wolves, and it'll come eat us if we kill them off."

    ---

    As for versimilitude: with most gods of nature that I see in fantasy, they generally don't care about humans or don't like them. Not saying if this is good or not. But, because of this, their clergy are generally outside the normal society, kinda like classical druids in D&D. If your clergy are more in line with society and things are enforced/taught, then Grek's take on it makes a lot of sense. It also makes sense for environmental attitudes to be prevalent throughout society (still in conflict with 'money now', I'm sure, but... well, getting smote is bad for your cash flow.)
    Last edited by JeenLeen; 2021-04-26 at 10:36 AM.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: Medieval and ancient views on nature versus modern environmentalism in Fantasy

    In ancient times there was no differentiation between the natural world and the world of man. The majority of people lived an agricultural lifestyle that was purely focused on growing plants that would be ready to eat EVERY day. So they were very in tune with nature. As to whether they respected nature...well...

    I find that often time in fantasy nature gets a very short/surface treatment usually as the creator wants to paint the "Man bad / Nature good" scenario. Strangely there is almost always only one diety in charge of nature. Really? A god of both grass and cows? Shouldn't plants hate herbivores?

    {Scrubbed}

    If I might make a recommendation, try watching the movie Princess Mononoke. It deals with a fantastical clash between man and nature but each side has many competing ideas.
    Last edited by truemane; 2021-04-27 at 09:56 AM. Reason: Scrubbed

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Medieval and ancient views on nature versus modern environmentalism in Fantasy

    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    So most fantasy I'm familiar with, including what I am working with, is loosely based on real world medieval history. Modern values often override medieval values in these settings. Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes this is a bad thing and many times it's in between and subjective to the eye of the beholder (which may or may not have an anti-magic ray).

    Rather than go over all modern values. I realized my nature god and the clerics and druids that serve him kind of looks like a modern environmentalist more than a nature god.

    I heard it stated that modern environmentalism was born in the 1960s and took off in the 1970s. Before then the idea of humans having a large potentially negative impact on the Earth as a whole was not something political leaders thought about.

    Perhaps I'm wrong, but I believe the core of modern environmentalism is that "We need to be good custodians of the natural world so he natural world will be there for future generations to enjoy."

    I don't think pre-industrial people were generally upset if a species went extinct. If the species was a dangerous predator, they probably celebrated their extinction.

    I noticed there were aspects of being a good steward of nature in my ancient religious texts, but it's not something the leaders of antiquity seemed to care about or maybe it was the result of a poor modern translation of ancient words.

    I notice that the followers of my nature god in my setting and the local rulers that have to negotiate with tend to fall back on two paradigms.

    1) We should be a good steward of nature so future generations can enjoy nature's bounty.

    2) We should respect nature because while Korus, god of nature is not likely to engage in divine smiting, when he does smite, he smites HARD via either massive crop failure of horrific monsters emerging from the wilds.


    I'm not sure if these views have historical verisimilitude. Maybe it doesn't need to. Maybe a modern view makes a better setting.
    Verisimilitude to where and when?

    Apathy and fear of wild environments is a feature of urbanized, sedentary populations that become acclimated to controlled spaces and the weather patterns of their single location, and environmental destruction is rooted in assumptions that come from specific base assumptions--the most important across history being that the supreme being created everything to be used by humans, and that all things should be turned into capital or have their value extracted within a market framework.

    Throughout history there are many versions of "this places or these things do not belong to us" or "there is a kind of sacred transaction to using this land, or hunting this animal" that aren't simply twee philosophizing, they're cultural understanding of the limits of what people should do to survive long-term. People who live partly in cultivated land but also gather wild resources understand seasonality of what can be gathered and hunted, but also have specific knowledge of what local areas are genuinely dangerous and just shouldn't be pressed into. Lots of foraging people had and have an idea of "if I take too much, this plant or animal will go away or lessen in number and that's bad for my survival"--and engage(d) in biomanipulation to increase the natural features they wanted (prescribed burns being the most ubiquitous example).

    (This applies even to predators. Foragers tend to view something that can kill a guy or easily take prey as something to be respected and avoided, because humans are just squishy things embedded in their settings that achieve with great effort what predators do with little effort. Furthermore, a predator is an index of the health of the hunting environment; if the former is suddenly gone, it's a warning sign that's something changing or awry. To people who assume that they're the apex of divine creation, predators are monsters to be defeated)

    These perspectives were viewed as unintelligent by people whose base assumption was that their food and survival needs could be met by enormous logistical chains that they simply did not question the viability of, but whose even deeper base assumption was that nature simply did not matter because all places and all things could be transformed into something useful to their existing way of life. The unitary and simplistic notion of "civilization" as a one-size-fits-all chain of progress and applied-science positivism have a big hand in environmental degradation, too: the assumption the Superior Knowledge and The Right Equipment could convert everything into a narrow band of physical environments that could produce market-valuable resources is big part of why first conservation and environmentalism had to be developed as ethical concerns.

    In a fictional setting, is any of this automatically present? No.

    The priests and god you're describing isn't articulating an anachronistic position at all.
    Last edited by Yanagi; 2021-04-26 at 04:45 PM.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Lizardfolk

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    Default Re: Medieval and ancient views on nature versus modern environmentalism in Fantasy

    Quote Originally Posted by OldCouch View Post
    In ancient times there was no differentiation between the natural world and the world of man. The majority of people lived an agricultural lifestyle that was purely focused on growing plants that would be ready to eat EVERY day. So they were very in tune with nature. As to whether they respected nature...well...

    I find that often time in fantasy nature gets a very short/surface treatment usually as the creator wants to paint the "Man bad / Nature good" scenario. Strangely there is almost always only one diety in charge of nature. Really? A god of both grass and cows? Shouldn't plants hate herbivores?

    {Scrub the post, scrub the quote}

    If I might make a recommendation, try watching the movie Princess Mononoke. It deals with a fantastical clash between man and nature but each side has many competing ideas.
    In some cultures maybe, not in all. {Scrubbed} The Greeks likewise made a major distinction between nature and civilization, with Greek authors arguing about whether they should embrace civilization or attempt to reclaim a wilder lifestyle.
    Last edited by truemane; 2021-04-27 at 10:02 AM. Reason: Scrubbed
    Quote Originally Posted by The Glyphstone View Post
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  7. - Top - End - #7
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Goblin

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    Default Re: Medieval and ancient views on nature versus modern environmentalism in Fantasy

    Tough subject. The core of modern environmentalism (from your 1960's date) is more about making sure the world can still be inhabited by humans in the future rather than simple enjoyment of it as was the goal of earlier environmentalists (e.g. Teddy Roosevelt) who were protecting areas of the environment from the prevailing view that it was a free resource to be exploited by those who could purchase the rights to it and prevent others from using it. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance laws were enacted to protect the common lands from destructive exploitation. Forest laws prevented people from cutting down trees for firewood, limiting them to collecting fallen and dead wood (which also protected the forests from fires). Trees were managed with prime specimens being protected for use in ships and large architectural projects (cathedrals, castles, and etc...). Other tree species were protected because they could harbor bees. Game laws were put in place to conserve animals deemed valuable, sometimes to the benefit of all and sometimes to the benefit of a few (the famous King's Deer of Robinhood tales). While people were allowed to run pigs in the forests goats (which destroyed forests) were forbidden as were cattle in some places. But this still didn't prevent abuse of the environment. Stands of yew in Austria were largely wiped out by the demand for longbows. The forests of central Germany were largely decimated by the 16th century demands for maritime trade-ships and from the 16th-18th centuries historians speak of holznot - a severe shortage of wood caused by large scale industrial exploitation coupled with the removal of traditional protections and forest rights. See also the tragedy of the commons.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Medieval and ancient views on nature versus modern environmentalism in Fantasy

    It should be noted that while modern views of environmentalism are, well, modern, throughout history cultures tended to have some vague understanding of "preservation", and when they didn't or didn't care it usually went poorly for them. Think of the Dust Bowl, or how in the Middle Ages Europe adopted three-field crop rotation, and crop rotation in general was something understood since Antiquity.

    We also usually don't want to drive animal populations into extinction. It happened before, but when it comes to animals that are hunted by humans for food (or are generally perceived to be beneficial), depleting the local population is a bad thing. People are still able to do it, but if it happens a priest of a nature god would be obviously able to use this as an example of "I told you so" when preaching to other communities.

    Forests and woods also often held religious significance in the past, so there definitely were places that were ok to urbanise or turn into farmable land, and places that were divinely preserved and off-limits. Same goes for certain animals, sometimes there being a blanket ban on harming any animal of a given species, or the ban having some geographical limitation.

    One thing I like to do when working on this aspect is for there to be a separation between gods of Wild and gods of Nature. Gods who represent and protect nature unspoiled and free, mighty and dangerous, more concerned with preservation of forests and animals than with how Man should handle them, and gods who teach good stewardship of the land, to respect the natural world and how to stay in balance between civilisation and nature.

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Medieval and ancient views on nature versus modern environmentalism in Fantasy

    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    1) We should be a good steward of nature so future generations can enjoy nature's bounty.

    2) We should respect nature because while Korus, god of nature is not likely to engage in divine smiting, when he does smite, he smites HARD via either massive crop failure of horrific monsters emerging from the wilds.

    I'm not sure if these views have historical verisimilitude. Maybe it doesn't need to. Maybe a modern view makes a better setting.
    Ok, lots of scrubbing so I better tread lightly.

    Enviromentalism as a movement or philosophy doesn't really exist per se in pre-modern times. There are musings on nature by all sorts of scholars, secular and religious alike, but they tend to be in the abstract, philosophical sense. Going into them will get us scrubbed, and they are only tangentially relevant.

    Where you do have some of what we would consider enviromental considerations is crafts. Ordinary carpenters, miners, vintners and so on, and especially farmers, need to know their land well, and need to not destroy it. Overlogging, overfishing, overhunting, regulating predator populations, making sure there are new trees planted so that your mining and smelting industry doesn't collapse and so on.

    These are all tasks that look pretty enviromental in nature, but are done piecemeal by those that need them. There is no organized oversight, or some grander philosophy, but people know from experience that you need to take care of the local forest, lest it withers away and you don't have wood for ships. Or for staying warm during winter.

    These do go to all levels, decrees by royalty and nobility often aim to protect a certain species to not drive it extinct (profitable fish, animals with furs and so on) - you don't ban hunting just because you can, you ban it because there is a limited amount of game in the woods. In areas that have larger forests and lower populations (e.g. Hungary vs France), hunting regulations are seen less.

    If your clerics and druids are involved in these sorts of crafts in your world, they will likely be in charge of adjudicating legal issues that often tread into who hunted what and where, and if they were allowed to. Or they may even be the ones advising on passing decrees that protect certain game. Either way, they will need to have at least some knowledge of these issues.
    That which does not kill you made a tactical error.

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Medieval and ancient views on nature versus modern environmentalism in Fantasy

    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    Perhaps I'm wrong, but I believe the core of modern environmentalism is that "We need to be good custodians of the natural world so he natural world will be there for future generations to enjoy."
    Really? I thought it was more "We need to be good custodians of the natural world so the future generations will be there to enjoy it." I guess it depends on whose projections you believe.

    Anyways, I'm no expert I think the major difference would be the local/global divide. Medieval/ancient people just didn't have the ability to do damage on a global scale the way the human race can today. Back then, you might not be able to meaningfully effect the entire forest nearby. Well overtime you could, they did have wood shortages.

    The other big thing is of course nature might not be quite the same as it is in real life. Most "monsters" are far more dangerous than any normal animal. And there are other forces that could be very unhappy with humans doing things to nature. Even if it would be environmentally sound in our world if there is something in the forest that might take offence, maybe its better not to tread there? Well for your setting that would be Korus, would could of also handed down enough visions and teachings that people figured this out earlier than people on this Earth did. In short it sounds reasonable.

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: Medieval and ancient views on nature versus modern environmentalism in Fantasy

    Deforestation and overpredation were known even as far back as the time of Robin Hood, which is why it was illegal to hunt or cut wood in Sherwood Forest. Not so the future peasant children of England could see a tree, but so that the Sheriff of Nottingham could bag a buck.

    The wild spaces of Europe which exist today are there because they were inaccessible or because some lord preserved them. Their motives may not have been altruistic, but they protected lands.

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Lizardfolk

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    Default Re: Medieval and ancient views on nature versus modern environmentalism in Fantasy

    Ancient people lived in closer proximity to nature's harshness than we moderns do, and so their attitudes were often more practical. Kings preserved woodlands and banned hunting so they could enjoy plentiful game themselves without pesky peasants killing all the deer, not because they care about deer populations. There were periods in England's history where wolves were such a national problem that you could get paid for bring in wolf pelts as proof you slayed them. I bet no-one was crying for the poor wolves, because they themselves feared their predations upon their own livestock. We have the luxury of not needing to worry about stuff like that, so we can more easily feel bad for wolves.

    There are some shades of environmental clash between "civilized" and "barbaric" peoples in history though. The romans were awfully efficient at cutting down trees and clearing land for cities and farms, not something the Gauls or Germans were terribly interested in at the time. Cutting all their forests down and plonking down towns and roads in their territories means trouble to a barbarian. There are accounts that the roman mob would boo the slaying of elephants in the arena because they felt pity for the animals, so its not like ancient people were all heartless. They just lived in rougher times, closer to the wilderness.

    A good place for inspiration here might be the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien had strong environmentalist feelings and those come through in the story, particularly with Treebeard and Saruman. The trees are alive is a great reason for environmentalist themes to exist in a fantasy world. Druids and elves revere treants and other magical forest beings and don't want them to die.

    You can also do a cool reversal of the typical D&D tropes of orcs and other humanoids being wilderness savages. Instead these creatures are ruthless, almost industrial conquerors with no respect for life of any kind except their own, they clear-cut forests and burn down sacred groves to establish their dominance. (which, ironically, is closer to how Tolkien portrayed them).

    The only thing I would stay away from personally is a sort of "tree-hugger" hippie gloss for my fantasy environmentalists. It almost always comes across as cheesy and out of place to me whenever I encounter it (the emerald enclave in FR, the Cenarion Circle in WoW).
    Last edited by Trask; 2021-05-10 at 12:00 PM.
    What I'm Playing: D&D 5e
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  13. - Top - End - #13
    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: Medieval and ancient views on nature versus modern environmentalism in Fantasy

    Quote Originally Posted by Grek View Post
    {Scrubbed}

    Based on a brief look at your worldforge page, your setting does not seem to take that same approach. Korus didn't create all life, he gained custodianship over it after overthrowing the God who did, then spent tens of thousands of years tweaking things and getting the ecosystem running exactly how he likes it.

    You are correct, Korus did not create all life, he is the new custodian of it. But he has created a bunch of new life forms (such as horses, zebra, pegasi and everything vaguely horse based) based on the basic models. I just want to figure out what

    Quote Originally Posted by Grek View Post
    So he's probably very much willing to answer a Divination asking why he let the glarax go extinct, but kept the wolves around. In fact, there's probably entire books written by the clergy with answers to that sort of inquiry, where a cleric spends a few years investigating the subject and asking Korus for instructions and explanations and then publishes a hadith explaining exactly why this particular river has the fish that it has and why a dam here, here or here is okay, but not anywhere else, exactly who benefits from this arrangement and why everything would go wrong if you ignored the Divine Plan and built your dams in the wrong spots regardless.
    This actually brought up a salient point that I am now pondering, but it is one that is best explored in another thread.

    My world has oracles that can petition my gods with a direct question and sometimes get an answer (though it's probably one of the god or goddesses spirit minions, not the deity itself) and my deities can send spirit messengers to talk to mortals of their own volition. I need to flesh out.

    1) How often does this happen?
    2) Are the messages long and detailed or short and brief?
    3) Are the messages clear or vague?

    This also spins off into holy texts.

    Are the holy texts the verbatim word of the gods or are they interpretations and guesswork by holy men and women?

    Are the holy texts world wide standards or regionally based?

    Are the holy texts concise or really sprawling?

    I don't know.


    Quote Originally Posted by Grek View Post
    Likewise with any agricultural practices that Korus have commanded people to avoid. Is slash and burn agriculture unsustainable and threatening to drive a particularly delicious sort of berry extinct? Then Korus probably has a sub-section in one of his Big Tomes of How to be a Good Steward of Nature explaining that exact problem.
    Indeed you went right into holy texts.

    Quote Originally Posted by Grek View Post
    And the clergy, who realistically are probably tired of people having to go yell at people who broke something without knowing that it was even there, have probably gone ahead and set up something very much like modern planning permits, where whenever you want to do something new agriculturally - be it cut down a forest to make a farm, introduce a new species to an area or increase fishing quotas to match demand - you have to first check in with the Temple of Korus to make sure that this isn't against some sort of divine prohibition intended to protect a genus of sea turtles that Zarthus loves and will become very angry over should anything happen to them.
    Planning permits is a very good idea. This goes into me trying to figure out the relationship between church and state in my world. It is a viable solution for a local ruler to hypothetically put all his/her chips in the Zarthus basket and never worry about the wrath of Zarthus rivals but it's a rare strategy.

    Maybe about one-in-five of my nations bet all their chips on one deity. About two in five try to appease all Nine of my deities, and about two in five lean heavily towards a few favorite deities but try not to overly aggravate any one deity.

    Again that's a topic for another thread. In fact I did create a thread a while back sort of covering it.


    Quote Originally Posted by JeenLeen View Post
    From what I've read and heard (and not sure of the accuracy of it), most medieval or early colonial times attitudes towards nature was somewhat adversarial. It was the "out there" and dangerous. So clearing nature to make land for homesteads or farming was a good thing. It, in a sense, was stewardship of nature in that you are shifting it to more productive and usable and safer modes of existence. Just a very anthropcentric sense of 'stewardship'.
    I agree with the basics of your intrepration but I think things would be different if there were nature loving priests that could cast spells and magical creatures like unicorns and ents defending the wilderness.

    In Korus' case, unicorns are his every day protectors, and the terrasaconi are the embodiment of his wrath. I based my Terrasconi on some research inspired by another thread here in fact. Much much weaker than the D&D terrasque but still something no one wants to see in their neighborhood.

    It's sort of like a Clash of the Titans style "Release the Kraken!"

    Quote Originally Posted by JeenLeen View Post
    Part of the reason this "worked" is because our ability to destroy nature was limited to some degree. We didn't have the tech to wipe out acres of rain forest or ancient woodland as quickly as we do now. If something went extinct, we probably didn't realize the cause-and-effect (unless it was killing off a predator, which, yeah, considered good work.)
    I've only seen this touched on lightly by anthropologists but I wonder if part of the reason prehistoric humans transitioned to agriculture is because they drove a lot of their tastiest hunting quarries extinct (wooly mammoths, etc).

    Quote Originally Posted by JeenLeen View Post
    I'm sure there were exceptions, and as I said no idea if that is a real view or just a parody/simplification, but I reckon that'd be a worldview that would work for a common peasant to craftsman in a lot of fantasy. (Even more than real life if wild nature is also where monsters live!) And most nobles, as long as it doesn't interfere with them getting income from their peasants and craftsmen.

    Quote Originally Posted by JeenLeen View Post
    As for your setting, I really like Grek's responses. If the clerics can commune with their deity, no doubt it has been explained, and they'd be able to justify it.

    How strongly they are believed can depend on a few factors.
    I'm having a hard time typing them out systematically, but here's a couple questions to give the ideas:
    Would Korus smite a city that is using bad practices, or would the God of Commerce protect them in that case? In other words, what divine contracts and limitations are on the gods?
    I left it vague. When my nine deities joined forces to overthrow their tyrrannical creator, they created an agreement called the Divine Compact setting what parts they would play in the battle and how they would manage the world that came afterward.

    No mortal is sure what the Divine Compact has in it. Every god or goddess got control of one aspect of nature (the sun, the moon, the sea etc) and that seems to have held although there is a lot of rules bending. Origianally fire was considered an aspect of the sun, but now Khemra sun goddess has to reluctantly accept that she has no real ability to stop Mera from being the hearth goddess, Hallisan from being the god of metal working, Nami being the patroness of arson, or Korus managing wildfires.


    Quote Originally Posted by JeenLeen View Post
    If a smiting occurred, would it be obvious the cause, or could it be attributed to random plague or monster attack? In other words, how direct-interference are the gods, and how easy it is to tell what caused what?
    When Korus smites it's pretty obvious. Either unleashes the Terrasconi or causes a famine.

    Other deities are more subtle or they are so unsubtle it doesn't matter. Maylar and Greymoria are pretty much always smiting mortals and there is little to do to stop them.

    Quote Originally Posted by JeenLeen View Post
    Another idea, to add some credibility to Korus' clergy, is if you want to keep enough nature to give the monsters space, lest they move into your territory. (well, technically it was theirs before you took it, but, 'yknow?).
    Don't wipe out the woods where the goblins or dark spirits live, or else they'll stop living there and might start living where you are! Why are there goblins or dark spirits? Er, some evil god made 'em and Korus isn't able/willing to wipe them out?
    That's actually pretty accurate. Greymoria is not called the Mother of Monsters for no reason and she creates a lot of creatures. Korus is more likely to try to rein them in and smooth out their rough edges rather than eradicate them.

    Quote Originally Posted by JeenLeen View Post
    This belief could add a sense/superstition of "We might want to wipe out wolves, but it's bad luck. Maybe some monster likes wolves, and it'll come eat us if we kill them off."
    That is a good idea. I will have to steal it.-

    Quote Originally Posted by JeenLeen View Post
    As for versimilitude: with most gods of nature that I see in fantasy, they generally don't care about humans or don't like them. Not saying if this is good or not. But, because of this, their clergy are generally outside the normal society, kinda like classical druids in D&D. If your clergy are more in line with society and things are enforced/taught, then Grek's take on it makes a lot of sense. It also makes sense for environmental attitudes to be prevalent throughout society (still in conflict with 'money now', I'm sure, but... well, getting smote is bad for your cash flow.)
    I am trying to have a mix of priests and priestesses that are very much apart of society and priests and priestesses that exist on the fringes of society.

    Not to be confused with theurgists, which is basically my equivalent of D&D capital "C" Clerics who have divine magic powers stemming from their piety. Many theurgists are priests and priestesses and many are lay people. Many priests and priestesses have no special powers at all. You don't have to be able to cast spells to preside over a wedding or bless a baby.

    Quote Originally Posted by OldCouch View Post
    In ancient times there was no differentiation between the natural world and the world of man. The majority of people lived an agricultural lifestyle that was purely focused on growing plants that would be ready to eat EVERY day. So they were very in tune with nature. As to whether they respected nature...well...

    I find that often time in fantasy nature gets a very short/surface treatment usually as the creator wants to paint the "Man bad / Nature good" scenario. Strangely there is almost always only one diety in charge of nature. Really? A god of both grass and cows? Shouldn't plants hate herbivores?

    {Scrubbed}

    If I might make a recommendation, try watching the movie Princess Mononoke. It deals with a fantastical clash between man and nature but each side has many competing ideas.
    Princess Monoke is an amazing movie. The thing that blows my mind is that after multiple re-views of the movie, I cannot figure out who the good guys and bad guys are because everyone has a mix of good intentions and evil acts.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    Verisimilitude to where and when?

    Apathy and fear of wild environments is a feature of urbanized, sedentary populations that become acclimated to controlled spaces and the weather patterns of their single location, and environmental destruction is rooted in assumptions that come from specific base assumptions--the most important across history being that the supreme being created everything to be used by humans, and that all things should be turned into capital or have their value extracted within a market framework.

    Throughout history there are many versions of "this places or these things do not belong to us" or "there is a kind of sacred transaction to using this land, or hunting this animal" that aren't simply twee philosophizing, they're cultural understanding of the limits of what people should do to survive long-term. People who live partly in cultivated land but also gather wild resources understand seasonality of what can be gathered and hunted, but also have specific knowledge of what local areas are genuinely dangerous and just shouldn't be pressed into. Lots of foraging people had and have an idea of "if I take too much, this plant or animal will go away or lessen in number and that's bad for my survival"--and engage(d) in biomanipulation to increase the natural features they wanted (prescribed burns being the most ubiquitous example).

    (This applies even to predators. Foragers tend to view something that can kill a guy or easily take prey as something to be respected and avoided, because humans are just squishy things embedded in their settings that achieve with great effort what predators do with little effort. Furthermore, a predator is an index of the health of the hunting environment; if the former is suddenly gone, it's a warning sign that's something changing or awry. To people who assume that they're the apex of divine creation, predators are monsters to be defeated)

    These perspectives were viewed as unintelligent by people whose base assumption was that their food and survival needs could be met by enormous logistical chains that they simply did not question the viability of, but whose even deeper base assumption was that nature simply did not matter because all places and all things could be transformed into something useful to their existing way of life. The unitary and simplistic notion of "civilization" as a one-size-fits-all chain of progress and applied-science positivism have a big hand in environmental degradation, too: the assumption the Superior Knowledge and The Right Equipment could convert everything into a narrow band of physical environments that could produce market-valuable resources is big part of why first conservation and environmentalism had to be developed as ethical concerns.

    In a fictional setting, is any of this automatically present? No.

    The priests and god you're describing isn't articulating an anachronistic position at all.
    Hmmm, I'll have to digest your post for a while.


    Quote Originally Posted by jjordan View Post
    Tough subject. The core of modern environmentalism (from your 1960's date) is more about making sure the world can still be inhabited by humans in the future rather than simple enjoyment of it as was the goal of earlier environmentalists (e.g. Teddy Roosevelt) who were protecting areas of the environment from the prevailing view that it was a free resource to be exploited by those who could purchase the rights to it and prevent others from using it. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance laws were enacted to protect the common lands from destructive exploitation. Forest laws prevented people from cutting down trees for firewood, limiting them to collecting fallen and dead wood (which also protected the forests from fires). Trees were managed with prime specimens being protected for use in ships and large architectural projects (cathedrals, castles, and etc...). Other tree species were protected because they could harbor bees. Game laws were put in place to conserve animals deemed valuable, sometimes to the benefit of all and sometimes to the benefit of a few (the famous King's Deer of Robinhood tales). While people were allowed to run pigs in the forests goats (which destroyed forests) were forbidden as were cattle in some places. But this still didn't prevent abuse of the environment. Stands of yew in Austria were largely wiped out by the demand for longbows. The forests of central Germany were largely decimated by the 16th century demands for maritime trade-ships and from the 16th-18th centuries historians speak of holznot - a severe shortage of wood caused by large scale industrial exploitation coupled with the removal of traditional protections and forest rights. See also the tragedy of the commons.
    This is more about economics, but that's fine because I really like getting into economics. I suppose a economics based view on not overusing renewable resources is one paradigm of environmental views.

    The tragedy of the commons is always big. In theory, monarchies can avoid this because they want to maintain things for future generations, if only for their dynasty, but it only takes one short sighted "King Joffrey" to wreck things.

    In real history, Marcus Aurelious the philosopher king was succeeded by his son Commadus. I don't think the real Comadus was as bad as he came across in the movie Gladiator but he was a jerk.


    Quote Originally Posted by Silly Name View Post
    It should be noted that while modern views of environmentalism are, well, modern, throughout history cultures tended to have some vague understanding of "preservation", and when they didn't or didn't care it usually went poorly for them. Think of the Dust Bowl, or how in the Middle Ages Europe adopted three-field crop rotation, and crop rotation in general was something understood since Antiquity.

    We also usually don't want to drive animal populations into extinction. It happened before, but when it comes to animals that are hunted by humans for food (or are generally perceived to be beneficial), depleting the local population is a bad thing. People are still able to do it, but if it happens a priest of a nature god would be obviously able to use this as an example of "I told you so" when preaching to other communities.

    Forests and woods also often held religious significance in the past, so there definitely were places that were ok to urbanise or turn into farmable land, and places that were divinely preserved and off-limits. Same goes for certain animals, sometimes there being a blanket ban on harming any animal of a given species, or the ban having some geographical limitation.

    One thing I like to do when working on this aspect is for there to be a separation between gods of Wild and gods of Nature. Gods who represent and protect nature unspoiled and free, mighty and dangerous, more concerned with preservation of forests and animals than with how Man should handle them, and gods who teach good stewardship of the land, to respect the natural world and how to stay in balance between civilisation and nature.
    My nature god Korus is always pulled in two directions. He has devout followers who are tree huggers who want to preserve unspoiled wilderness and he has devout followers that want to keep a balance of nature.

    Being pulled in two directions is a big theme for him. Korus has few enemies among the other deities but his own followers squabble a lot. Korus is torn between good and evil, nature and civilization, masculine and feminine, law and chaos, the spiritual and material.

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Greywolf View Post
    Ok, lots of scrubbing so I better tread lightly.
    My understanding is that we cannot make comparisons to real world religions, even rare religious or ancient religions but it is okay to make comparisons to fictional works based on real world religions such as the works of Rick Riordian.

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Greywolf View Post
    Enviromentalism as a movement or philosophy doesn't really exist per se in pre-modern times. There are musings on nature by all sorts of scholars, secular and religious alike, but they tend to be in the abstract, philosophical sense. Going into them will get us scrubbed, and they are only tangentially relevant.

    Where you do have some of what we would consider enviromental considerations is crafts. Ordinary carpenters, miners, vintners and so on, and especially farmers, need to know their land well, and need to not destroy it. Overlogging, overfishing, overhunting, regulating predator populations, making sure there are new trees planted so that your mining and smelting industry doesn't collapse and so on.

    These are all tasks that look pretty enviromental in nature, but are done piecemeal by those that need them. There is no organized oversight, or some grander philosophy, but people know from experience that you need to take care of the local forest, lest it withers away and you don't have wood for ships. Or for staying warm during winter.

    These do go to all levels, decrees by royalty and nobility often aim to protect a certain species to not drive it extinct (profitable fish, animals with furs and so on) - you don't ban hunting just because you can, you ban it because there is a limited amount of game in the woods. In areas that have larger forests and lower populations (e.g. Hungary vs France), hunting regulations are seen less.
    Nod.

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Greywolf View Post
    If your clerics and druids are involved in these sorts of crafts in your world, they will likely be in charge of adjudicating legal issues that often tread into who hunted what and where, and if they were allowed to. Or they may even be the ones advising on passing decrees that protect certain game. Either way, they will need to have at least some knowledge of these issues.
    More fictional church and state interactions. Good inspiration here.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trask View Post
    Ancient people lived in closer proximity to nature's harshness than we moderns do, and so their attitudes were often more practical. Kings preserved woodlands and banned hunting so they could enjoy plentiful game themselves without pesky peasants killing all the deer, not because they care about deer populations. There were periods in England's history where wolves were such a national problem that you could get paid for bring in wolf pelts as proof you slayed them. I bet no-one was crying for the poor wolves, because they themselves feared their predations upon their own livestock. We have the luxury of not needing to worry about stuff like that, so we can more easily feel bad for wolves.

    There are some shades of environmental clash between "civilized" and "barbaric" peoples in history though. The romans were awfully efficient at cutting down trees and clearing land for cities and farms, not something the Gauls or Germans were terribly interested in at the time. Cutting all their forests down and plonking down towns and roads in their territories means trouble to a barbarian. There are accounts that the roman mob would boo the slaying of elephants in the arena because they felt pity for the animals, so its not like ancient people were all heartless. They just lived in rougher times, closer to the wilderness.

    A good place for inspiration here might be the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien had strong environmentalist feelings and those come through in the story, particularly with Treebeard and Saruman. The trees are alive is a great reason for environmentalist themes to exist in a fantasy world. Druids and elves revere treants and other magical forest beings and don't want them to die.

    You can also do a cool reversal of the typical D&D tropes of orcs and other humanoids being wilderness savages. Instead these creatures are ruthless, almost industrial conquerors with no respect for life of any kind except their own, they clear-cut forests and burn down sacred groves to establish their dominance. (which, ironically, is closer to how Tolkien portrayed them).

    The only thing I would stay away from personally is a sort of "tree-hugger" hippie gloss for my fantasy environmentalists. It almost always comes across as cheesy and out of place to me whenever I encounter it (the emerald enclave in FR, the Cenarion Circle in WoW).
    I'm not likely to make orcs industrial clear cutters, but I can always create another race like that.

    The thing is, I tend to paint my world in broad strokes by the century. I don't think industrial clear cutters would last long. Either they would destroy everything or something would destroy them first.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    My understanding is that we cannot make comparisons to real world religions, even rare religious or ancient religions but it is okay to make comparisons to fictional works based on real world religions such as the works of Rick Riordian.
    As someone who has been reading along this topic and actually written a few posts before deleting them for fear of the mods. The issue is I dont know how to answer your question using fictional religions, because I have not come across a fictional religion developed by a modern human that accurately reflects the religion of the medieval of ancient people. Even when the fictional religion is clearly drawing ties to one specifically. They always get some things fundamentally wrong. And I have too many infractions as is to risk getting another.
    Last edited by Dienekes; 2021-05-16 at 08:17 AM.

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    Default Re: Medieval and ancient views on nature versus modern environmentalism in Fantasy

    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    ...I'm not likely to make orcs industrial clear cutters, but I can always create another race like that...
    In the world I am presently playing, we live on the edge of the wilderness, and gold was discovered in a dwarf mine so into the region dwarves and humans are flooding the area to strike it rich.

    There are many good points made in this thread; I am playing a Hippy druid (Emerald Enclave) and have thought of how 60's views could be incorporated into a fantasy world.

    My DM has slapped me a few times for being too modern but I see this as a very real fantasy problem. I try to imagine how Tolkien would present strip mining and the ent scene of how the trees had voices works so well.

    It is true that in ancient times, protecting people from the wilderness was more important than the reverse, but I am sure they understood some environmental principles. For example, people may need wood for homes or bows but the woods are the homes for elves, dryads, the fae, and other creatures. Ignoring that is a political and a safety problem in addition to an environmental one.

    Therefore I have tried to roleplay it that I personally love Nature and see it as my holy duty to protect it, but use political arguments of safety for the people along with my environmental ones. " Of course Townmaster, you may grant leave to clear that grove; I just wonder how the Fae will react? I heard they gave the last Townmaster horns and a tail..."
    A long surcote of pers upon he hade, / And by his syde he baar a rusty blade. - Chaucer

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    Default Re: Medieval and ancient views on nature versus modern environmentalism in Fantasy

    If you're looking at ancient and medieval views on nature then you see that "respecting nature" the way modern people mean it didn't really exist. The Enlightenment and the invention of science really revolutionized the way we look at nature and environmentalism didn't exist until the late 1800's. Post-Enlightenment, we realized that the universe is very well ordered and self-sustaining system. Read old myths and religious texts and you see a very different idea.

    The old way of viewing the universe was that nature is chaos. The world itself is hostile and unstable. The gods themselves (or god itself) actively maintains it. Plato talks about a Prime Mover who causes all other things to move. Everything from the planets to the dust of the earth has to be moved directly; the system cannot be left to itself or it all falls apart.

    You can see this kind of thought clearly in Thomas Hobbes' works and John Locke's rebuttals advocating the opposite. This line of thinking is what justified the Divine Right of Kings. Just as the universe needs a divine benefactor to impose order, so too does society need a powerful benefactor to impose order. And it's intuitive to primitive life. If you don't get up and fix your house and tend your field then your shelter will fall and you won't have food. The implication is that work and hierarchy are not only useful but virtuous, an attempt to emulate that highest being which orders nature itself.

    The plus side for gaming is that this mode of thinking is so foreign the modern mind that it gives a lot of space to explore. Your Druid preaching harmony with nature might be a revolutionary thinker! The Paladin Crusader and Priestly Cleric might be at odds over whether the current social structures are truly representative of the Prime Mover! The Rogue and Bard could argue in court that they are not destabilizing society with their shenanigans but playing a part in the natural movements of the universe! The Wizard could be studying the metaphysical aspects of nature alongside the church rather than in spite of them! It's a fascinating thing to explore and almost forces roleplay just to understand the setting.

    Sadly, I can't recommend many books to read to get the feel of it. Epic poetry is a bit of a slog to get through and medieval church documents put history majors to sleep. If you have the stomach for it, Paradise Lost, The Divine Comedy, Canterbury Tales and Beowulf can get you in there. But nobody wants to repeat that semester from literature class.

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    Default Re: Medieval and ancient views on nature versus modern environmentalism in Fantasy

    Quote Originally Posted by Scarlet Knight View Post
    It is true that in ancient times, protecting people from the wilderness was more important than the reverse, but I am sure they understood some environmental principles. For example, people may need wood for homes or bows but the woods are the homes for elves, dryads, the fae, and other creatures. Ignoring that is a political and a safety problem in addition to an environmental one.
    In days past, people had a concept of stewardship as opposed to environmentalism. They didn't preserve the forest; they had "managed forests" where the trees were grown in a specific way to facilitate their own prosperity. Lindybeige on Youtube has a video specifically about that. The wilderness (unmanaged woods) were not really seen as something to be preserved and protected as much as a dangerous region to be avoided if you possibly could. It wasn't until relatively recently that we could actually do any real damage to the environment and very recently that we realized that might be a problem. You're right that some concepts around environmental responsibility existed but it was about attempting to subdue nature and make it bend to your will, not preserving nature as it stands. Which might be why a Druid or Wizard commands major respect, even at low levels. After all, the guy that can make trees sprout from the earth and call lightning from the sky probably knows something we don't!

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    Default Re: Medieval and ancient views on nature versus modern environmentalism in Fantasy

    has anyone yet mentioned that in the context of a fantasy setting you can probably conjure up more deer or wolves or whatever if you run out. Some creatures might even be able to arise by spontaneous generation and not even require a proper per se spell. You could probably wrangle an adventure or two out of this idea; like your druid or ranger needs to go to such and such forest and pick up this that and the other spell component along the way in order to conjure up replacements for an extirpated plant or animal population
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    Default Re: Medieval and ancient views on nature versus modern environmentalism in Fantasy

    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    has anyone yet mentioned that in the context of a fantasy setting you can probably conjure up more deer or wolves or whatever if you run out. Some creatures might even be able to arise by spontaneous generation and not even require a proper per se spell. You could probably wrangle an adventure or two out of this idea; like your druid or ranger needs to go to such and such forest and pick up this that and the other spell component along the way in order to conjure up replacements for an extirpated plant or animal population
    You can do this in a very high magic setting (like 3.X D&D), in most other fantasy contexts not so much. Yes, if you have enough magic you can probably stop worrying about environmental collapse. However, extremely high magic settings are generally unmanageable messes, so it's little more than a theoretical point.

    That said, it is possible that low-level but widely applied magic could have a distinct impact on environmental concerns, especially those that are relevant in a Medieval or Antiquarian context such as deforestation, salinization, or siltation.

    Siltation, for example, was a major environmental issue in the ancient world due to both poor soil management and natural flooding, but dredging of key harbors was difficult and labor intensive. Relatively modest magic or the existence of magical creatures might solve this problem. Merfolk, for instance, can dredge a channel to basically any depth by hand, while a druid with a charmed whale or giant turtle can utilize animal power for the same process.

    Likewise magic could have a drastic aspect on deforestation through something like fuel refinement. Charcoal production for metals industries drives deforestation, a magical process to bypass this by making wood burn hotter or lower the melting point of iron or something similar would significantly reduce demands on fuel timber.

    A magical process could also potentially combat soil salinization, ranging from simply purifying water for use in leeching or something more complex like magically engineering beetles that consume salt as larvae and sequester it in the ocean when they die.

    It really doesn't take much magic at all, assuming it's applied with the same frequency of other civilization wide processes, to drastically alter major parameters in the life of the Medieval or Ancient worlds. In many cases magic used this way functions as if introducing some Early Modern Period technology into a world otherwise unable to produce it.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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    Default Re: Medieval and ancient views on nature versus modern environmentalism in Fantasy

    Bohandas has a point with regards to spontaneous generation. If it was a fact in universe that flies are spontaneously created by rotten meat as used to be thought in the real world, then you could wipe out every fly and maggot in existence and as soon as something dies where it won't be found flies will pop back into existence. Ecological management ceases to be a concern in such a situation.

    I don't think spontaneous generation was historically applied to animals that weren't invertebrates or aquatic, it's a bit hard to say cows are spawned ex nihilo when you helped your neighbour pull one out of it's mother last week, but any animal or plant that's sufficiently removed from human observation could be generated from natural phenomena in a fantasy setting running on pseudo-medieval logic, especially when you get to more fantastical creatures like pegasi or manticores.

    Obiously the more magic humans have the less such a thing works, because it opens the door to humans breaking the world's metaphysics over their knees and rifling through it's pockets for spare change, but if magic is rare, weird and/or scary then having some animals literally spring out of the turning of the seasons and the natural course of things could add a whimsical touch to things.
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    Default Re: Medieval and ancient views on nature versus modern environmentalism in Fantasy

    Another thing I don't think anyone has mentioned is that magical creatures, plants and other natural magical events could actually give people more things to preserve as well. Knowing humans they would mess it up a lot but maybe it would swing in favour of nature once or twice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    Another thing I don't think anyone has mentioned is that magical creatures, plants and other natural magical events could actually give people more things to preserve as well. Knowing humans they would mess it up a lot but maybe it would swing in favour of nature once or twice.
    Agreed. This is particularly likely in the case of magical creatures that provide some sort of unique valuable commodity, like anti-aging serum or love potion musk. There is likely to be class stratification along these lines as well, with rules like 'only the Emperor can harvest phoenix feathers' and so on.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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    Default Re: Medieval and ancient views on nature versus modern environmentalism in Fantasy

    Most of the games I've played with druids over the last 40 years were more fantasy and less history.

    Thus the druids were varied with the excuse they came from distant lands with different cultures.

    The first I played against acted like a Park Ranger (which the player was). Others were a Mohegan medicine man, one with a Scottish accent that was a self described witch because she used herbs and nature as the source of her power (long before the warlock/witch class), one was a sea elf pirate who specialized in water/wind spells, an elf who seems to be based off of Puck, and a hippie stoner (more Rasta than Radagast).

    Has anyone had trouble with a particular type of druid being out of place in your game? Any DM conflicts?
    A long surcote of pers upon he hade, / And by his syde he baar a rusty blade. - Chaucer

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