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Month Index: March, 1995


From:     Michael Bauser <MBAUSER@??????.????.edu>
Date:     Mon, 13 Mar 95 13:53:52 EST
Subject:  Re: Those flying ships (was Re: Ages)
On Sat, 11 Mar 1995 08:24:27 GMT you said:
>From: ereuben@???????.???.??.cr (Ernest 'N True)
>Subject: Re: Ages

> Well I've been thinking in medieval times people wouldn't be around
>accepting SJ anyway, I mean flying ships!  No way, witchcraft or something!
>I've set my SJ part in a medieval-rennaissance age place, I'd say it can't
>be purely medieval, and we all know that gunpowder came out till the
>rennaissance ages, and SJ has it so...

Oh great....Another "That's not what the Middle Ages were like!" thread.
I'm so thrilled, I could just die.  Preferably in a way that would take
this thread with me.

"witchcraft"  Ahem.  For most of the European Middle Ages, witchcraft was
considered distinctly different from `sorcery' in that witchs explicitly
served, summoned, and invoked diabolic entities.  Sorcery wasn't outlawed
until relatively late in the game.  AD&D magic runs much closer to `sorcery'
than `witchcraft', so it's probably not an issue here.  In fact, it's a
completely irrelevant flip generalization that never should have been made.
You are greatly over-simplified the Medieval mindset--they didn't lynch
everything that surprised them, you know.  Nobody ever said *flying* was
evil (there were flying Saints), just that using the Devil to do it was.

"flying ships"  (and space travel in general).  Well, Kepler went to the
moon around 1600 (in the _Somnium_), Plutarch wrote _The Face of the Moon_
in the first century A.D., and Lucian's _A True Story_ had a boat *fly*
to the Moon a few centuries before that (I can't find an exact date right
now, my place is a mess).  There are bunches of ancient myths about gods
with boats and chariots in the sky (some with the Sun riding a boat, even).
And I think it was Aristotle would decided there was no logical reason
for there to be only one inhabited planet in the universe.

So, plenty of mythological/philosophical thinking about space travel
and other worlds is scattered around human history.  Translations of
Plutarch and Lucian probably did exist in Europe in the Middle Ages,
for instance.  The thought of going to other planets would not have
been impossible for medieval thinkers.

And while I'm at it, can I remind everybody that we don't play games
about being illiterate peasant serfs?  We play games about ADVENTURERS.
Adventurers do lots of things that normal people didn't do.  Crawl into
ancient dungeons, fight big reptiles, joust, sail across oceans, etc.
Adventurers are probably the more free-thinking members of their
societies--they regularly go places normal people don't go, hang out
with monsters normal people don't want to see, and learn about weird
foreign things that normal people don't care about.

The best historical parallel I can think of (right now) would be
European Crusaders.  They were mostly dull white guys who invaded
the Holy Land, spent a couple years there, and came back carrying
all sorts of goodies (clothes, spices, books) they'd never seen
before, and a lot of that stuff ended up working its way into
mainstream European culture.

Whether the peasant in the field is scared of spelljammers is about
as relevant as if he was scared of cinnamon sticks.  The adventurer
tells the peasant to shut up, and makes a profit selling cinnamon
to rich folks, then flys off in his hammership.

After all, in an interplanetary campaign, you only need one or two
Renaissance-level systems to be exporting those firearms into space.
Just because a society has gotten a few industrialized gizmos lying
around doesn't mean it's going to convert to a copy of the more
technological society.  If you don't believe me, go visit the South
Pacific.  Or Brazil.  Or the Khalahari Desert in Africa.  People pick
and choose what tools they want from other societies.  Medieval adventurers
using Renaissance firearms (if they can get them) is perfectly rational.

"gunpowder...renaissance"  Not that it's particularly relevant to a
discussion of firearms, but the Chinese had it before then.

So, Ernest, make whatever you want in your campaign, but don't use bad
generalizations (and poor research) about medieval life to justify your
weirdness.  Just do what the rest of us do: Confess that you're weird,
and get on with it.

ObAnachronism:  Anyway you slice history, acronyms weren't invented
                until long after the Renaissance.  CLAVRUC?  Really now.
                It sound's like ENIAC's nerdy little brother.

--
    Michael Bauser <mbauser@??????.????.edu or mbauser@??????.bitnet>
"Provide me with ships or proper sails for the celestial atmosphere and
there will be men there, too, who do not fear the appalling distance"
                                                       --Johannes Kepler


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