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Messages - plausiblefabulist

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I got around to working on this game again and have a new version. If anyone wants to playtest, let me know!

Apocalypse World / Re: Swapping out the sex moves with Secrets
« on: July 21, 2016, 05:55:41 PM »
Hasimir, do you have kids? The point here is not to suppress 12-year-old's sexualities: who cares if they have a secret stash of porn? Certainly there's no problem with them playing standard AW with *each other*. But would you really want to play a game incorporating sex moves *with your Dad* at 12? I didn't think so.

Leaving the sex moves in the game would produce exactly the result you predicted -- nobody would use them. So the driver would never have to prove their independence from anyone, the Hardholder would never have extra gifts to give someone they'd been intimate with, the Brainer would not have intimacy triggered a deep brain scan, and so on: that's all just out of the game.

The point of the Secrets is to KEEP that large part of Apocalypse World -- that intimacy between the characters matters, that it has mechanical teeth. So rather than insisting on keeping that intimacy as being literally sex, in a situation where the social contract at the table doesn't support it, the idea here is to replace that intimacy with something else.

Obviously, if people pick trivial secrets, it's not that interesting. The MC should coach players to make the secrets matter by asking leading questions -- "why is this a big deal? why haven't you dared to tell anyone?" Last night, people picked pretty interesting Secrets, each of which was an opportunity for the MC to bring things into play. No one actually got around to telling their secrets in the first session, but I think that's okay: they were on the horizon. Even in a game where sex moves never trigger, AW's sex moves are there on the horizon, signalling something about the game -- that sex is part of this game and taken seriously, that intimacy has teeth. Similarly, here, the secrets, though untold, were still on the horizon, signalling something to the players -- that they were the kind of people who had secrets, and might share them.

Apocalypse World / Swapping out the sex moves with Secrets
« on: July 20, 2016, 11:31:45 PM »
I'm about to play Apocalypse World with some 12-year-olds! I've been holding off on introducing it to my son & his friends -- Mad Max fans all -- due to the sex moves, but I think I've figured out how to swap them out. Here's the hack:

During character creation, after the Hx round, everyone comes up with two Secrets. Add this section to each playbook:
No one else knows that:
Only one other person (it's ___________) knows that:

And in all the "[Playbook] Special" moves, replace "If you and another character have sex," with "If you tell one of your Secrets to another character,"

If we were playing more than a one-off, I'd probably have to figure out some way to replenish the mechanical Secrets with fictional Secrets that emerge from play.

We'll see how it goes.

Apocalypse World / Re: Evening Redness in the West (Western Hack)
« on: June 23, 2016, 07:17:33 PM »
I vote for updating the Savage rather than ditching it. I was pleased that there was a way to play a Native American character. You could also include a little more possibilities for diversity in the other character's backstories (eg in the HX round), like giving them a little "how did you end up here?" choice list -- immigrant from Europe? fought in the Civil War (which side)? former slave? Chinese brought to build the railroads? Native convert, grown up in white society? Native from a recently defeated/still hostile/tenuously allied tribe?

Apocalypse World / Re: Evening Redness in the West (Western Hack)
« on: June 22, 2016, 04:14:51 PM »
This looks terrific!

I love Vice for Weird, and the Preacher being a high-Vice Hocus; that's a great, resonant setup.

I have a few qualms about representation: AW cultivates a great sense of gender ambiguity, for instance, while the phrasing here makes it feel awkward to play a male Madam or female Preacher -- even it's easy in principle to imagine a pretty-boy gigolo/con man getting by on Suave, or a female religious visionary in the mold of Mary Baker Eddy. There's a lot of incidental language (the Proprietor providing "pussy", or "the more gold you spend, the finer your accommodations, foodstuffs, drinks, women, etc. will be") which implies that the PCs are rootless straight men, which is an understandable default for a standard cowboys & indians narrative... but the possibilities are broader.

The Savage playbook feels tonally more over-the-top dime-store-novel absurd and less historical than the other playbooks; the fact that the Savage is lacking firearms and definitively talks to spirits (i.e., isn't at all Christianized) makes them seem like a mythical pre-contact Native, rather than someone living on the fringes of a late-19th c. town with a post office and pharmacy. That latter guy definitely has a gun. Also, the names list needs some German and Southern and Eastern European names (the West was a major locus of migration) and (particularly) Latino names; also, it would be great to have the Chinese who are there to build the railroads -- maybe even a specific playbook. (Laborer in general seems to be a missing playbook, as does Cowboy in the sense of the guy literally engaged in moving cattle over long distances -- vaguely the Driver).

There is of course a decision to be made about how much you're simulating the actual Old West, and how much you're simulating dime-store novels of the Old West. The dime store novels have no Italians or Germans or Chinese or Latinos, and all the Indians have bows and arrows, because racism. Personally I vote for some of the romantic dime-store flavor, but informed and broadened by history, which means more inclusion.

"Gold" as the name of your currency feels awkward; feels more like D&D than the Old West. Sure, right around the gold rush, in California, people might have used ounces of gold dust as currency, but if this is a cattle town in Idaho, then that seems off. I'd prefer "dollars".

The Proprietor's atmosphere list feels like it's lifted straight from AW without being adapted to the Old West. Kink? Restraint? Canned fruit? Meat? A piano? I'm not saying there wasn't what we would now call kink in the West, but the language feels off, and surely canned fruit, meat and a piano aren't distinctively exotic things for a saloon to have. A virtuoso concert pianist, sure, or a French chef?


The doc is still a mess, but it's more or less ready for the next playtest. The player parts are in somewhat adequate shape; the MK parts are not. (MK = mesader kiddushin, which is Yiddish for the Master of Ceremonies at a wedding, so that's what the GM of Shtetl World is called).

If you'd like to review the doc now, send me an email at ben at benjaminrosenbaum dot com, or post your email here, and I'll share the doc with you!

I'm still actually working on Shtetl World, the long-form, dreidels-instead-of-dice AW hack version of this game. We had a couple of really fun playtests at Camp Nerdly and I am trying to drum one up for Wiscon. After that I will probably post a link here to the Google Doc of the current rules...

I wrote some code to test out the dreidel mechanic's probability characteristics -- both a web page where you can try out the dreidels to get a feel for the results (which could also be used to play the game, if you lack dreidels) and a more analytic program which lists the outcomes of all the possible dreidel tosses at different levels of stats.

Dreidel simulator:
Code (including the python analysis scripts) here:

brainstorming & development / Re: KULT: Divinity Lost kickstarter!
« on: March 01, 2016, 03:06:43 AM »
I am definitely intrigued by this offering, but -- as you note -- there's not that much available on the Kickstarter page to judge the game on. It would be great to see a playbook or two, to get some taste of the setting and mechanics. The video definitely conveys that the tone, voice, art, and mood are fantastic... but I have no idea what it plays like, except for the very brief mention that it's an AW-style mechanic ported from D6s to D10s, and that there are Sleeper/Awake/Enlightened character levels (which I like). Please do post here when the translations are ready!

Freebooting Venus / Re: Two-player Freebooting Venus
« on: January 10, 2016, 04:08:11 AM »
Well, we played essentially one full session (in two pieces due to interruption) of two-player Hand to Mouth in the City of Nephthys. Tried to start a second session and ran out of steam, for reasons I'll try to get at.

Lasez, down on his luck, was once a scholar -- and, perhaps later or perhaps earlier, someone who lived by sneaking around. Could he just get enough concentration, patience, and tools, he'd be adept again at ideology, philosophy, and science, and at stealth. -1 Bold, +2 Patient, +2 Quick and +1 Violent. He lives in the labor gang barracks of the Princess of Nephthys, bunking below a hardworking, sober, desperately unlucky fellow named Tam. The barracks are distinctly less safe since soulless slaves of a sorcerous cult started showing up, but Lasez has avoided them mostly so far.

In the labor gang barracks you can break and haul rocks every day, but there's no actual pay in that, just thin soup and a cot, so it's generally better to linger at the fringes in the hope someone will drive by and scoop you up as spare unskilled labor. A pudgy, officious character in black shows up in a chariot this morning and orders Lasez in; he takes him to a quarry on the outskirts of town. It's not explained to Lasez that this quarry is claimed by a person of tertiary descent from one of the city's princely families, nor that there might be a bonus of 1 pay for diligence, nor that a different prince claims the same quarry and has sent his meddlesome warrior-slave to interfere; it's only explained that if he can climb down into the treacherous crevasse with a rucksack and bring up three times his own weight in rosy pink stone by sundown, he'll be paid.

We found ourselves fighting the rules quite a bit, trying to decide what to roll at times when it felt that something ought to be rolled; we end up resorting to saves a lot of the time, but it felt a bit arbitrary deciding which stat to save on -- the same thing that always bothered me about DW's Defy Danger. We decided the treacherous climb required a save on Patience (we could have regarded the descent as "intruding somewhere", but the emphasis was on avoiding a fall, not detection). At one point Lasez did fall, and it wasn't clear what to do about that; I decided just do deal him 1 Harm and let him pick his own bad experience ("I was thrown sprawling"), but this felt a bit thin compared to the combat moves -- 1 Harm felt arbitrary (why 1 and not 3?) and the ability to pick your bad experience and then Recover to erase it made falling off the quarry wall mechanically underwhelming (but it hardly made sense to treat it as combat between Lasez and gravity and roll on Violent, either). It occurs to me that I could have required a second save to see who got to choose the bad experience...

Once Lasez began to mine the stone, he heard the meddlesome warrior-slave approaching, splashing through the echoing, twisty narrows between the canyon walls, and looked for a place to hide (Size Someone Up, with the canyon wall as the "someone", felt like a bit of a stretch but ok). He squeezed into a crack in the wall, pulling his bag of stones behind him. (Hiding from someone and sneaking away from someone undetected didn't feel like perfect matches for "intrude somewhere" -- in particular, they feel the opposite of Bold; if you're willingly going somewhere you shouldn't, sure, that's Bold of you, but if through no fault of your own you're pursued and want only to make yourself as small and unnoticed as possible and evade detection, Bold seems an odd thing to roll. I guess it could have been a save on... Quick?). The bag got stuck, and he realized that the crack went deep into the rock, and that he wasn't alone in there -- pretty soon he felt the strange-smelling breath, in the pitch blackness, of a Milk Salamander.

We really wanted there to be some way to engage the dice to see if he recognized the Milk Salamander -- for there to be a way to make his knowledge of the world something at stake in a roll. I guess he could have sized it up, but the question was more "do I recognize that smell?" I just ended up telling him he did, but it's notable that there are no "intel" basic moves for finding out information in general -- no Spout Lore, no open your brain, no Gaze into the Abyss. (I love "open your brain" in AW so much because "wanting to know" is such a great temptation, and the move is always win-win: it barfs forth apocalyptica on a hit and creates eerie awful story-advancing problems on a miss). Freebooting Venus trades in exotica and there's plenty of offers of mystery in the flavor -- sorcerous cult? traitorious overseer? friend possibly worthy of trust? wizards in their seclusia? -- but there's no mechanical way to bring that mystery up against the dice, pitting knowledge against danger.

Eventually Lasez started fighting the salamander. Monster stats for fighting were a little hard to understand -- I didn't realize I should add Bonus to Spend to the spend produced by the +Violent roll -- with the result that, spending all his hold on armor, Lasez was able to avoid taking any Harm at all. He did 1 Harm to the salamander, annoying it.

Lasez then bust out of the crack in the wall and met the meddlesome warrior-slave. He sized him up and figured out how to get the warrior-slave fighting the salamander so that Lasez could sneak away (another Intrude Somewhere). Then he climbed up the wall to dump a load of stone and went to mine elsewhere. When the warrior-slave eventually came looking for him, he managed to hide.

Mining the pink stone at times required a save on Quick (when Lasez was trying to do it in a hurry and beat the setting sun) and at times on Patient (when he was trying to avoid detection from the warrior-slave).

Lasez ended up the day with two pay and spent it buying an ideological tome from a junk-seller's cart near the barracks -- jammed in between a cage of edible lizards, some farm tools and a stained and ripped embroidered silk pillow, it reminded him keenly of his past life as a student, and made him willing to take on 1 Debt. He was able to mark quite a few experiences: he faced a monster (the salamander), attacked someone more powerful (the salamander), went into danger knowing the risk, and trusted someone (his employer) who lived up to his trust.

The rentpunk aspect of City of Nephthys feels fun, but it also feels that it will take forever to transition to FV proper at this rate. It sort of feels like the metagame of cashing in pay and figuring out how to level up is fun but will happen at too infrequent intervals -- the absolute minimum time that would be required for Lasez to move to better lodgings, carrying 3 Debt, would be three more sessions (rolling 3,3,5) and there's only roughly a 1% chance of that. It seems more likely to take 7-10 sessions to transition out of HtMitCoN.

Upon sitting down to the second session and rolling up a new job (because wandering around in the quarry a second time didn't seem that promising), I found my enthusiasm flagging & decided I was approaching this game the wrong way. I'd been playing it no-prep, like Apocalypse World's first session, just follow the character and the prompts and see what happens. But the game actually does point to more prep -- it doesn't say to pull the Dirty Trick all the time, only when your prep runs out. So I'm thinking I should try and see if it works better if I come up with a richer environment, with more story hooks, in advance. I also think that the rentpunk aspect of City of Nephthys may be wearing thin and fast-forwarding to FV proper might give the character richer options. Finally, I think I'm struggling with the (apparently more abstract?) "the players make moves when they want" approach as opposed to AW's "the fiction triggers moves". I don't really get the difference, and I'm missing the very clear AW approach of "narrate up until a player roll is triggered, then use its result as a springboard for the next chunk of story".

Freebooting Venus / Two-player Freebooting Venus
« on: January 03, 2016, 02:58:08 PM »
Much of my available roleplaying time is one-on-one with my 12 year old son. Murderous Ghosts is a little too dark for me to try with him, and most of the great storygames, like Fiasco and all the AW hacks I've seen, are so driven by PC relationships and multiple-person collaboration that they don't work so well one-on-one.

Freebooting Venus looks like an excellent candidate! Reading through the rules, the only thing that seems to absolutely demand a multi-player party is the list of questions in the opening situation, and I guess those could be adapted ("why are you taking this personally?")

Anyone have any tips, experiences, or recommendations for FV with a single player and GM?

blood & guts / Re: Mechanics for wealth
« on: January 15, 2015, 02:14:08 AM »
You might take a look at The Hood, which iirc has something like a log scale for wealth. Wealth is important, anyhow, and it's in a contemporary setting:

Apocalypse World / Re: Scarcity of room
« on: October 23, 2014, 02:48:39 PM »
The world-creation process in the AW game we're playing now happened upon a great way to address this issue - it takes place on a single space station. Granted, the place is big, but it is finite. And outside lies little but the cold, dark void.

See, that's exactly what I'm talking about.

And AW places no intrinsic restrictions on timeline, so even if two characters are pursuing goals in completely different locations there's nothing stopping the MC from setting up the scene and asking one of the players, "So why has Ghislaine come back to Binghamton after all this time away?"

Sure, but that might well bring Ghislane's player up short, feeling cheated of the awesome things she was planning on doing -- and which you're supposed to be a fan of -- during that "time away"

Apocalypse World / Re: Scarcity of room
« on: October 23, 2014, 02:46:46 PM »
Aren't your players interested in playing with each other's characters?

The players are. The PC's aren't necessarily. Players consciously doing heavy lifting to corral their characters into doing what will be fun for the players is the kind of work against the game system that we used to do a lot of, that AW games have been otherwise sparing me.

Aren't they interested in the same parts of the world, and therefore bound to interact around those things anyways?

Nope, different parts.

I am purposefully ignoring all the things the game already says to do to encourage these things, I am just wondering on like a basic level, what is the deal with a playgroup that starts out with characters in a mutually-intertangled, self-generated situation (Hx, starting in the same geographic place), and then reliably disentangles themselves to pursue disconnected ventures elsewhere in the fiction?

The deal is just that: they are entangled, and disentangle themselves. The Touchstone hies off on a separate mission and gets captured, and the others don't go get him because they're dealing with other Threats which are unfolding based on what honesty demands and what the prep demands. The Maitre D's restaurant gets burned down and she ends up in the hardhold, co-opted with her crew at risk, spending her time focussed on wooing the NPC hardholder and figuring out the NPC social landscape. The Brainer's body is there, but occupied by the Hoarder, who figured out how to use the psychic maelstrom to unseat people from their bodies; the Brainer has gone off into the landscape of the psychic maelstrom itself, to the extent that we decided just to drop that character and give the player a new PC out of one of the NPCs who were physically present. While the Hoarder and the Maire D' are physically in the same hardhold, they're no longer aligned, they're pursuing different agendas, and they're simply interested in different aspects of the setting, and not even really interacting with the same NPCs.

I throw threats at them, but that doesn't necessarily unite them, if one decides to rally and face the threat, the other to get the hell out of dodge...

It just sounds like crazy talk to me. I mean, this isn't Sorcerer, where the game sets up situations in isolation... your players (and you!) have to be working pretty hard to not follow up on any of their Hx, or need each others' skills or assistance, or exist in the same location interacting with the same NPCs...

Following up on Hx is fine, but what does that mean? You saw into my brain when I was sleeping, I fucking hate you for it, it means you can interfere with me better, and so I have all the more reason to stay the hell out of your way. In-game, if the characters need skills and assistance, they're going to get it from whoever they can get it from -- they don't care if it's NPCs or PCs. With no scarcity of room, what's to keep them in the same location?

But leaving that aside, the game also explicitly tells you to make PCs who are allies, if not friends.

Who says they stay allies? AW has no status quos.

In a harsh, post-apocalyptic world, there are plenty of problems that are going to make PCs need each others' help.

Or just as much reason to run in different directions, or avoid each other, or sell each other out and leave each other stranded, or just not have the safety or resources available to offer help ("hell if I'm going after HIM")

It explicitly tells you to create NPC triangles, which bind the interests of the PCs together in complicated ways. It suggests a world of scarcity in which one cannot actually exist in isolation, regardless of how much empty space one can find.

That last bit is what I'm saying: scarcity of room. "One cannot exist in isolation, regardless of empty space." Right: so the space around the PCs should be empty, so that their choices are indeed "each other" or "isolation". Whereas if those spaces aren't empty, but thickly populated with threats and resources, then "isolation" does not equal "isolation from the other PCs". 

So I mean, it seems like what you mean by 'scarcity of space' is more like 'scarcity of fiction' -- or more accurately, density of fiction. And the game already does a lot to push in that direction. Even inertia is on your side: you have to do so much more work as an MC to create separable fictional worlds for every PC to explore, in isolation. It's so much easier to reuse connections, NPCs, places, groups, and doing so is going to encourage interaction.

On the contrary, in AW it is WAY less work to make more fiction than it used to be. Maybe when I was a GM-as-storyteller, having to draw up the maps and stats and relationships of the next hardhold over, all in advance, would have been a disincentive (except for the part that I loved the activity of making them). AW allows any PC to hie off over the mountains to a new hardhold and all I have to do is barf forth some apocalyptica -- eeriely silent broken roads, animal corpses in postures of pain, lights on in the ruin of the Wal-Mart, and then say "you see someone you know in the window. Who is it?" and we're off and running. There is nothing to stop you from spinning the world as big as the characters make it, so that whenever the PCs wander away from each other, unless you have a mandate to turn them back towards each other, if you're just playing to find out what happens and saying what honesty demands and being the PCs' fan, you can just follow them in different directions across a rich, thick world.

There are lots of reasons you might not have encountered this problem. You might be irritated by the activity of coming up with new settings and antagonists and stuff, rather than excited by it, and so just naturally and instinctively have, as you say, "reused". Your players may be naturally team-oriented, and their PCs may fit Vincent's original conception of a Firefly-like community of allies who fight amongst themselves but unite in the face of threats. The social contract of your gaming table may be such that when one PC refuses to go rescue another people frown and go "hey, come on", rather than chuckle in delight and nod in appreciation of the fictional rightness of that choice.

Anyways, it's cool that you've identified a thing that is not happening in your game, naming a new principle to guide your play is a good way to try and keep it in mind. But I think the tools to enact that principle are already present, and it makes sense to focus on bringing them to the forefront.

I think the tools are indeed there: making it a principle is about permission. Otherwise, when the character hies off over the mountain and I'm like "...uh... it's a big desert, nothing there, you should go back", or whatever, I feel like I'm acting against the stated principles of "being a fan", "telling what honesty demands", "playing to find out what happens", etc.

Another way to say it would be to alter the agenda to be, instead of "make the characters' [individual] lives not boring", rather "make the characters' lives together not boring".

I'm also curious if your players notice this, or feel it is a problem; do they want to have scenes with each other, but feel like they've become trapped by 'what their character would do', or what? Are they just literally so geographically isolated that it no longer makes sense for them to ever interact? Also, do you use Fronts, and if so what is your Front creation like in these games?

The fact that you say "trapped" there suggests that perhaps we have some slight difference in creative agendas? How about "seduced" by character realism, or "committed" to it, or "feel annoyed that they have to choose between honoring the fiction of what their character would do, and fulfilling the social agenda of playing together"?

The players and I find each individual scene fun, but notice to our dismay in the aggregate that they're playing with each other less. We're spending more time as spectators to each others' stories -- eager spectators, but still, increasingly spectators. Or else doing what feels like violence to the fiction in order to correct this problem.

I have always had this problem as a GM. long before I became an MC. "Keeping the party together" has always been my bete noire. AW feels like it actually made this worse, by discouraging the usual railroady methods of pushing the characters at each other. It's true, it does offer other tools which could be adapted to this purpose; but I think the principle is required to activate them, because, in  the game as published, "keeping the party together" is not demanded by the rules, by honesty, by the prep, or by the principles.

Apocalypse World / Scarcity of room
« on: October 21, 2014, 10:02:24 PM »
I've realized that there's a new Principle I need to add to my Apocalypse World games, one that is quite counterintuitive but which I think is implicit in the game design, and that's that one of the scarcities is a scarcity of room.

Let me come at this from an odd angle -- from out on a limb -- and say that it seems to me that if AW had to look back at all the games that came before it and pick one cardinal sin that it wanted to stand against and uproot, that sin would be railroading. And in doing so, AW explicitly disallowed railroading, built a game against railroading, and tried to find other solutions for one of the primary causes of railroading; and failed to address the other most common cause.

I have not done a statistically valid survey, but I would bet that the most common causes of railroading are a) that the GM has overprepared a bunch of content, and needs to force players who wander away from it, back into it, and that b) "to keep the party together". Or, more broadly: that the plot and narrative needs of the game are misaligned with the social needs, to wit, we came together to play a game together, and we want to play up against one another's characters -- but the characters themselves don't have all that much in-game fictional need to treat the other characters as the most important and crucial people in the world.

AW handily solves a) by making plot emergent, and when I'm MC'ing, I never find myself tempted to apply force to get the PCs back onto "my plot". because there is no "my plot", just what the PCs do and what comes of it.

AW has some tools to attempt to solve b). It throws the PCs at each other, it allows the MC to arbitrarily stick them together by simply declaring a scene, it tries to entangle them with Hx, it provides threats for them to unite against.

In my games, this doesn't help for all that long. The PCs are thrown together at the beginning, but pretty soon, left as they are to follow their own drives and visions, they disperse, and the game is a series of unlinked one-on-one PC-and-MC exchanges happening roughly in parallel.

When I say "keep the party together" I don't mean in the same room or even facing the same threat. I just mean affecting each other, inhabiting the same set of concerns, the same landscape, thematically connected.

I think the solution is to make room scarce -- put impassible deserts and emptinesses in the characters' way, force them to fall back on the same limited set of resources, to struggle over the same small world. There are bits of the rules that imply this, but it's never stated. and so I didn't do it. In my games, food and water and physical safety and love and understanding and peace have been safe, but room hasn't -- PCs have all hied off to other hardholds, over mountains, into the psychic maelstrom itself, off into separate stories.

I'm betting the reason it's not in the rules is that for Vincent and the people he plays with, it's intuitive: he's interested in small communities, in people flung together, and that impassible deserts seem not even worth mentioning, because he's just not that interested in what lies beyond them. Whereas me and my gang are naturally expansive, and ready to drop doors to other planes and being swept off to other lands into any game at the drop of a hat. Our PCs have no in-game reason to stick together, and until now I haven't had the Principle of throwing them together.

AW:Dark Age / Re: Slavery
« on: September 29, 2014, 02:31:35 PM »
"Innovation" is the wrong word for a practice that was already thousands of years old on the European continent and had huge bodies of jurisprudence and precedent attached to it, in Latin, Greek, Persian, etc. law, as well as in oral traditions elsewhere. But it's true that it's important not to look at slavery anachronistically, as if the alternative to slavery was the egalitarian status of a modern citizen of a state declaring the value of universal human rights (that very contrast was what gave U.S. slavery its distinctively horrible brutality, in historical terms). In Roman law the most sanctioned and canonical reason for someone to be a slave was that they were a captive in war, and thus that they were a slave instead of being dead, not instead of being free. In a sense they were "dead", having been reduced to a thing, a piece of property, and only emancipation would restore them to life. (In some ways this was an aspirational fiction, since most slaves during Roman times were actually defaulted debtors, not captives in war).

Roman slavery was (like US slavery) distinctively extreme in its reduction of persons to objects; in many societies (Vikings included) slaves did have some rights. In many implementations of slavery, slaves could marry, own property (even own their own slaves), and protest cruel treatment; the Roman (and US) hell in which a master could separate families, sell children, or even put slaves to death essentially on a whim, was unusual (though Romans, whose slavery was purely economic and unrelated to racism, did a good deal less of selling their own children). In Dark Ages societies not under the remains of Roman law, slaves were often much closer to vassals, bound to serve, but seen as persons, not things.

All this brings me to the question of what a playbook for The Slave would look like, particularly if the slavery was closer to Roman-style slavery. Perhaps all the initial options could begin "You have no rights, and yet you..."

(David Graeber's Debt: The First 5000 Years has a bunch of interesting things to say on this topic)

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