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Author Topic: [Alternate Setting] Thunder in the Vineyard  (Read 13558 times)
Ignotus
Member

Posts: 17


« on: September 22, 2005, 12:01:50 PM »

DitV – Thunder in the Vineyard

“They who give straight judgements to strangers and to the men of the land, and go not aside from what is just, their city flourishes, and the people prosper in it: Peace, the nurse of children, is abroad in their land, and all-seeing Zeus never decrees cruel war against them.  Neither famine nor disaster ever haunt men who do true justice; but light-heartedly they tend the fields which are their all their care.[…]

But for those who practice violence and cruel deeds far-seeing Zeus, the son of Cronos, ordains a punishment.  Often even a whole city suffers for a bad man who sins and devises presumptuous deeds, and the son of Cronos lays great trouble upon the people, famine and plague together, so that the men perish away, and their women do not bear children, and their houses become few, through the contriving of Olympian Zeus.”

- Hesiod, Works and Days, ll. 225-247

In the city of Olympia there once stood a statue of Zeus, the king of the Gods.  The statue was wrought of gold and ivory, and such was its splendor that Antipater the Sidonian called it a wonder of the world.  There were many just and pious men in the city, and many temples to the gods, and the city was blessed, and prospered.  From the great temple of Zeus ventured out His priests, who were warriors and scholars.  They wandered the rolling hills and the crags of Greece, its olive groves and its vineyards, it’s tiny villages and grand city-states.  And where they found that which offended the gods, they struck it down, so that the pious would be protected from the wrath of the heavens.

Each man, woman and child has an end to which they must put themselves.  This is their telos.  When every person follows their telos and honors the Gods, the world is in order and free from strife.  Even the Gods have their telos, and they must all answer to Zeus, their king.  The Greeks were almost unique amongst ancient peoples in that they did not claim that their laws were of divine or natural origin, supported or mandated by the Gods.  Greek laws were created for the good of the community; the Gods had a different interest in the affairs of mankind, a fundamentally selfish one.  The Gods can be offended, by breaking oaths or defiling sacred things, and many other ways besides.  It is not their way to intervene in matters of mortal justice unless they themselves have become angered, but thus roused to action, they curse entire towns to bring the people to action, and cleanse their polis of sin.

Still, all too often, the people are unable to mete out justice for the divine, and their city comes to ruin.  The traveling priests of Zeus work to prevent this destruction, by rooting out those who anger the Gods and passing judgment upon them.  As the default DitV setting draws on classic westerns, Thunder in the Vineyard draws upon Greek myths and tragedies, but in this case there’s a twist: moral agents from outside, like the Dogs, are there to try and put things right.

TOWN CREATION

HUBRIS.  To feel hubris is to ignore telos: either to think yourself above or below your station in life, or to think the same of someone else.  Hubris manifests as a violation of telos.  Either the hubristic person seeks to escape their telos in life, or they refuse to treat another as mandated by that person’s telos.  Note that if you travel far enough, you will reach places in which the telos of men and women may be different from those you are used to.  As long as the Gods are not offended, such things are not unnatural. 

-   Hubris enters into gender roles when a woman thinks she deserves to be a citizen or to have a say in politics or other man-things that she’s excluded from; or if she refuses to have children, run the household (or do the housework, if the family is too poor to have slaves), and raise the children; or if a woman (or a man) refuses to marry once they reach the appropriate age.  Women are considered by philosophers to be as smart as men, but often unable to use that intelligence for useful purposes. 
-   Hubris enters into the family when a son or daughter doesn’t think they have to respect/obey their father and mother, or when the mother thinks that she should have control over the father, or when the father thinks that his family is simply a tool for his needs, or that he doesn’t need to care for, protect, and instruct them.  Hubris can also appear if one brother thinks himself superior to another.
-   Hubris enters into the slave-master relationship when a slave thinks that he deserves to be free, or that he knows his own well-being better than his master; or when the master forgets that he is responsible for the slave’s well-being.
-   Hubris enters into rulership when a basileus, or prince, comes to believe that he rules to enrich himself and his kin.
-   Hubris enters into religion when someone decided that they don’t need to respect, honor, obey or thank the gods in some area or for some reason (this offends the Gods real quick).
-   Hubris enters into money when someone tries to acquire more than they deserve, when someone feels that they don’t need to pay their debts, when someone feels they are owed something for nothing, or when someone feels that force or guile entitles them to take what isn’t theirs.
-   I’m sure people better versed in ancient Greek culture can think of many more.

…Leads to…

OFFENSE AGAINST THE GODS.  The Gods take action against the hubristic when they, indirectly or directly, anger the Gods. 

The Gods are angered when:

-   When they do not receive their share of sacrifices and praise.  Zeus is angered by such neglect, whether it is of a single god (a wife whose husband dies at sea refuses to sacrifice to Poseidon) or of the whole pantheon.
-   Their commands are disobeyed.
-   Their sacred objects or places are hurt or desecrated.
-   Their favorite mortals are injured or killed.
-   The code of xenia, hospitality to strangers, is broken.
-   A mortal proclaims him or herself the equal or better of a god.
-   A mortal learns of his fate and tries to escape it.
-   An oath is broken (the gods are invoked when an oath is sworn, breaking such an oath is an affront to their authority).
-   Etc. etc.

…Leads to…

DIVINE VENGEANCE.  The Gods strike out at the entire city.  Perhaps they wish to rouse the people to action; perhaps they wish to show the townsfolk that they are all responsible for each other; perhaps they are merely callous.  Whatever the true reason, bad luck and ill omens strike the polis.  Divine vengeance can take many forms: a plague, a crop failure, still births or barren women, bandit raids, skirmishes with a neighboring city, etc.

…Leads to…

MADNESS.  It soon becomes clear to the people of the town that something is very wrong.  Eventually the psychic strain causes someone (or several someones) to go mad.  Typically this is someone involved in the original offense against the gods.  This madness may be obvious (typical when the afflicted is not the guilty party), or sinister and subtle (typical when the guilty party is the one stricken mad).  Madness manifests itself as IMPIETY.

IMPIETY is used here in the broad sense.  Often it means a lack of respect for the Gods, but it can also mean a lack of respect for the natural order of things or the laws and institutions of the polis.  Impiety does not always appear in the mad.  Sometimes it appears in those close to the mad, whose lives are affected by the divine anger and the derangement.  Where madness and the often seemingly-unjust divine wrath are manifest, it is easy for the impious to find more like themselves.  As they damage the things which have long held the polis together, the impious are able to use the absence of divine favor to their advantage.

…Leads to…

STRIFE.  Strife is the breakdown of the natural order, of the institutions of the polis¸ or of the Greek religion.  The cults of foreign gods, armed insurrection, civil war, slave rebellion, the destruction of the city by enemy armies, etc. are all forms of strife of varying seriousness.  As strife mounts, things begin to look grim for the polis.

Note that the priests’ explicit mission is to find and root out offenses against the Gods.  In a town with serious problems (and there’s a lot of those), there’ll likely be human crimes and injustice as well as the divine offenses.  The Gods don’t really care about these human problems, but the priests very well might.  What should they do about such things?  That’s up to the individual priests.

Divine Anger is 1d10 if the worst the priests have seen is hubris or the violation of Telos.  2d10 if it’s offenses against the Gods, 3d10 for divine vengeance, 4d10 for madness, 5d10 for strife.

Roll 4d6 + Divine Anger if there’s no clear opposition for the priests, or if the priests somehow wind up directly opposing the Gods.  Madmen and the impious can roll Divine Anger as if it were a trait.  Why?  A couple of reasons.  First, the Divine Anger also represents the extent to which the Gods have abandoned a city, and this empowers the enemies of the heavens.  Second, in DitV, one can use apparently negative traits (e.g. broken ankle 2d8) as positive weapons in relevant conflicts.

Fallout:
Just Talking 1d4
Philosophizing (acuity + will) 1d6
Physical 1d6
Fighting 1d8
Weapons 1d10

Ceremonial Fallout:
Invoking the Gods 1d4
Libations 1d4
Sacred Object to the offended God 1d6
Burnt offering 1d6
Live animal sacrifice 1d8

Here are some examples from Greek literature:

Example town #1: THEBES

HUBRIS: Oedipus goes to the Oracle at Delphi and learns that he will kill his father and marry his mother.  Oedipus flees Corinth to avoid his fate.

OFFENSE AGAINST THE GODS: Oedipus meets a man during his travels who he kills.  This, unknown to him, is his father.  Oedipus also outwits the Sphinx.  Because of this, when he arrives in Thebes, he is hailed as a hero.  He marries the queen, Jocasta, who he does not know is his mother.  Though his fate is sealed, Oedipus claims to have triumphed over fate and the Gods.

DIVINE VENGEANCE: Angered, the Gods curse the city of Thebes with a Plague

MADNESS: Jocasta, Oedipus’s wife, learns the truth, and becomes suicidal.

At this point, because this is a play, not a session, and because the guilty party, Oedipus is the protagonist, Oedipus takes on the role of the priests of Zeus and tries to discern what is wrong.  When Oedipus finds out the truth, he passes judgment on himself: he puts out his own eyes, leaves Creon in charge of the city, and sets off to spend his life as a penitent vagabond.

Example town #2: ASKRA

HUBRIS: Perses, a local farmer, decides that he is worthy of the lion’s share of his dead father’s land, and that his brother, Hesiod, should only have the scraps.

OFFENSE AGAINST THE GODS: Hesiod, angered, brings a legal case before the lords of Askra.  The lords are not particularly good men.  Perses, a wealthy man, offers them a massive bribe, and the lords rule in favor of Perses instead of judging the case fairly.  The lords have broken the sacred oath that they swore (as all Greek judges must swear), to see that justice is done as best as they are able.

DIVINE VENGEANCE: Angered by this disrespect for the sacred oath, Zeus punishes the town.  Because the poem, Works and Days, is written before divine vengeance is carried out, we don’t really know what happened.  It would probably have been pretty ugly, though.

When the priests get to town, they’ll obviously have to deal with the lords of Askra.  Perses and his brother, however, are not necessarily under their jurisdiction.  What they do depends on how they decide to interpret their mandate from Zeus and their responsibilities to the people.

A note on accuracy:

This setting is something I’ve been kicking around for a while; however, the specifics have crystallized out of the reading I’ve done for my class on Greek law and legal practice.  Some parts of this are quite historically accurate; others are not.  The sin chain, or rather Hubris - > Offense against the Gods - > Divine Vengeance, was derived pretty carefully from actual texts and beliefs.  The remainder of the chain I had to invent by looking at Greek stories.  The gap between what the Gods care about and what humans care about, or between divine and mortal law/justice is also historically accurate (according to my professor, at least), the first line of the second paragraph of the Hesiod quote being an exception rather than the norm.  Many classic Greek stories have to be fudged a little to fit this framework (e.g. in Antigone, the Gods don’t even bother with divine vengeance, as after Creon compounds his offense against the Gods by condemning Antigone to death, madness sets in on its own, followed by Strife in the form of war with the Epigoni); still, I think these rules are a good framework for creating ancient Greek towns with classical crises.  Oh, and the wandering priests of Zeus never existed, nor, to my knowledge, did anything like them.  But what’cha gonna do?
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Brand_Robins
Member

Posts: 650


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« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2005, 01:06:41 PM »

Kick. Ass.

The one thing I would nit-pick upon is this part:

Quote
When the priests get to town, they’ll obviously have to deal with the lords of Askra.  Perses and his brother, however, are not necessarily under their jurisdiction.  What they do depends on how they decide to interpret their mandate from Zeus and their responsibilities to the people.

I would say that, if the game is to run like Dogs does, the brothers must specifically be under their jurisdiction. If they aren't, then the Thunderers cannot actually heal the polis -- and they will also thus be able to ignore the potentially stickier situation in order to focus on the easier one. Corrupt judges are easy to hate and curb-stomp -- but brothers who both have good claim for what they do and reasons that the brother, and not they, is the one showing hubris -- that's where the nitty gritty moral dillemas get involved.
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- Brand Robins
Ignotus
Member

Posts: 17


« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2005, 08:42:46 AM »

Kick. Ass.

The one thing I would nit-pick upon is this part:

Quote
When the priests get to town, they’ll obviously have to deal with the lords of Askra.  Perses and his brother, however, are not necessarily under their jurisdiction.  What they do depends on how they decide to interpret their mandate from Zeus and their responsibilities to the people.

I would say that, if the game is to run like Dogs does, the brothers must specifically be under their jurisdiction. If they aren't, then the Thunderers cannot actually heal the polis -- and they will also thus be able to ignore the potentially stickier situation in order to focus on the easier one. Corrupt judges are easy to hate and curb-stomp -- but brothers who both have good claim for what they do and reasons that the brother, and not they, is the one showing hubris -- that's where the nitty gritty moral dillemas get involved.

You have a good point.  I've been thinking about trying to better articulate the relationship of the thunderers to the townsfolk.  How does this sound:

The priests of Zeus act as mediators between mortals and the Gods.  On behalf of the Gods they pass judgment on those things that offend the divine, but the townsfolk also look upon them as mortal agents of the Gods sent to restore mortal justice.  In effect, the priests serve two masters whose goals, while often similar, are not identical.
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Brand_Robins
Member

Posts: 650


WWW
« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2005, 09:13:32 AM »

The priests of Zeus act as mediators between mortals and the Gods.  On behalf of the Gods they pass judgment on those things that offend the divine, but the townsfolk also look upon them as mortal agents of the Gods sent to restore mortal justice.  In effect, the priests serve two masters whose goals, while often similar, are not identical.

I like. It puts them right in the middle of a rock and a hard place.
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- Brand Robins
John Harper
Member

Posts: 1054

flip you for real


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« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2005, 12:48:41 PM »

Very cool. I would definitely play this.
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