Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Triumph of Intellect and Romance Over Brute Force and Cynicism

I’m a casual Whovian, I’ve adored the series since I first stumbled on it turning the dial on my parent’s old black and white t.v. as a school boy in a crappy city just outside of Boston.  There’s been a lot of Whovian exposure online the past few weeks with the 50 year anniversary and all. I stumbled upon this delightfully goofy and dead-on spot from the Craig Ferguson Show from a couple years back: Yeah, it is comical and campy but it also summarizes Dr. Who perfectly “The Triumph of Intellect and Romance Over Brute Force and Cynicism”. I can’t imagine a more accurate description in so few words, it isn’t mired in unnecessary elaboration of chuff and ephemera. This description also defines what I care about and likely why I play RPGs.

When I discovered Dr. Who and RPGs I could have been out on the field playing sports (I like playing sports just don’t care for watching them), bouncing about to music (it was an amazing time where punk rock and new wave were pushing against over produced crap), wasting my time with pot , or worse (I had friends who were petty criminals and in gangs at such a young age).  I chose RPGs.

It wouldn’t have been hard to immerse myself even more in comics, television, and science fiction; video games were on the scene and becoming something more all the time. I enjoyed wargames and they were a passion before RPGS thanks to Diplomacy being a fad that caused my game loving family to explore other Avalon Hill boardgames, I wanted more than what was found in those cardboard conflicts. I liked toy soldiers and wargaming miniatures were an easy sell that just added to my love of toy soldiers. So, once again, I found myself enthralled by RPGs.

As a youth I rejected brutality and cynicism and I still do. It’s a surprising statement really I’m a terribly sarcastic bastard but in retrospect that’s because reality has failed to live up to my intellectual and romantic ideals (I suppose I’m more of a classical cynic). I enjoy combat, martial arts, and fighting but I realize that’s because I have a very classical and romantic attitude towards them that is tempered by   intellectualism (and perhaps a wee bit of cynicism).

I find it curious that the vast majority of rules for RPGs are mired in brutality (in it’s relevance, expression, and exercise). It’s a balancing act really an RPG that manages to express Intellect, Romance, Brutality, and Cynicism seems to stick around and become embraced. Sure rules for cynicism aren’t needed but you can see it in place in how classical and modern cynicism are both expressed in the imagined game world and it’s adventures. With detailed and precise rules on combat one can find a challenging game but it is ultimately a failure if it lacks romance that drives and embraces the achievements of individuals over logistics and cruel physics. RPGs allow for a romantic exercise of the intellect for those willing to put aside cynicism and physical brutality.

Failure of a rule set (or it’s players) to embrace the romance of a game's subject matter is what can drive people away. Intellectually practicality that recognizes the fragility and limits of the human body to the extreme folks just don’t bother being heroes is tragic; the reason so many folks don’t do crazy heroic actions in reality is because our intellects luckily keep us in check. Focusing on the numbers over what the numbers enable is a failure of intellectualism.

I could go one much more (and will in future posts) but I'm stopping here for now. I really do admire how not only Dr. Who but role-playing games are so well expressed by “The Triumph of Intellect and Romance Over Brute Force and Cynicism”.

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