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Wednesday 24 August 2016

Limits on Aggression in Dark Albion

Someone had suggested to me, quite some time ago (but I never got around to writing on it until now), that this youtube video on the subject of aggression in the context of RPGs was of relevance to some of what I'd talked about how the culture in Dark Albion ought to be different than in regular D&D games and you can't just have people breaking out into open violence at every turn.

Now, I do appreciate getting the recommendation. But besides being too long, I really don't find this video very relevant to Albion.  Or indeed, to most medieval settings. There ARE consequences to violence in Albion, but its got nothing to do with "escalation".
It's got to do with propriety.

In Albion it's not about how violent you are, usually, it's about whether or not you're ALLOWED to be violent at someone.

In fact, if you have two knights and they have a dispute, it will NEVER be resolved in pushing and shoving. Fisticuffs and wrestling was completely beneath a knight or noble; it's what filthy peasants did. A dispute between two knights would go from "Arguing" right to either "Duel" or "Appeal to a Lord".

Peasants can punch the shit out of each other, but if one kills another it's bad, because it is not proper for them to kill another peasant.
A lord can kill a peasant, but not _someone else's peasant_ only his own. And even then, by the time of the Rose War, he already needs to be able to justify it a bit if questioned on it.

Peasants can NEVER appropriately punch a lord, and drawing a weapon on a lord is petit-treason.

So the issue isn't degree of violence, it's whether it's Socially Permitted or not.

The video link seems to be much more about modern sensibilities than medieval ones. I hope this blog entry points out just how different the medieval ones are, and that this is what you need be able to present IF you want to run Dark Albion in a way that is "medieval authentic".


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  1. It amazes me just how few people really get that "equality before the law," let alone any other kind of "equality," are extremely recent concepts and want to try to fit this modern (if dignifying) aberration into RPGs set in other times. If you try as a GM to introduce the characters to realistic peasantry--or worse yet, realistic pre-Colonial slavery--the campaign almost inevitably becomes about overthrowing the nobility and freeing all slaves everywhere unless you happen to have players who are well-grounded in history.

    1. The key to remember that while slavery and peasantry suck and evil in light of what we know today. The people back then were not evil fucks. To them it was how the order of life was.

      I roleplay that accordingly and suddenly it is not so clear cut what the players should be doing.

    2. Well, you have to be clever in how you DM a medieval authentic scenario. The whole "overthrow the masters" scenario has to be presented as insanity. In Dark Albion you have the case of Jack Make-Amends' rebellion just before the campaign began, and if you make it clear how awful it was, how fucked up the guy was, and how much of a disaster it would have been for everyone if he'd won, that can help.

      You also really have to be careful in how you present the nobility. If you present them all as utterly uncaring self-serving monsters (the standard Marxist view), of course there'll be revolt. But if you present the vast majority of them as actually fundamentally concerned about their lands and their peasants, even if they're assholes in other ways, then you will help them understand why for the most part the system held for so long.