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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 116 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Reading Suggestions for Humanity = Hope for the Future  (Read 1591 times)
James_Nostack
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« on: November 02, 2008, 09:19:46 AM »

After a many month hiatus, our gang is gearing up to run Sorcerer again, using Dictionary of Mu.  I'm keen to try some of the Humanity-focused stuff from Sorcerer's Soul, and wondered if any of the detective fiction cited in Chapter 4 is particularly well suited to Mu's definition of Humanity, namely, "Hope for the future" (this is more than just "I hope I get this job," more in the sense of, the hope and faith necessary to keep civilization going, c.f. Children of Men and The Road). 

Any suggestions?  My knowledge of detective fiction is largely limited to The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, and The Black Dahlia, but I'm happy to expand my horizons.

P.S. I'm aware I could just whip up my own R-Map, but when I've done that in the past they tend to be over-complicated, so I'm curious to see what happens when adapting published material.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2008, 01:14:45 PM »

H'mmm ...

Detective fiction of the kind used in The Sorcerer's Soul is often about small victories. Lives are lost or ruined, and children in particular suffer greatly. The detective himself is often scorched and diminished. The relatively innocent characters are often shorn of their illusions, and the only consolation is that the illusions were hurting them in the long run.

I guess the main hope for the future in MacDonald's fiction is expressed as "Lies to ourselves and others will destroy us, so the only alternative is truth, harsh as it may be, naked and vulnerable as it leaves us. Better to be naked and vulnerable than armored and rotting inside."

Best, Ron
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James_Nostack
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« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2008, 07:34:57 PM »

Hmm: it looks like Ross MacDonald is a major figure of the genre, I'll have to check him out.  Thanks!   It sounds like Archer's attitude is both tender and, ultimately, harshly judgmental--which seems very well suited to a post-apocalyptic kind of game.

A perusal of the sample relationship-map in Sorcerer's Soul, however, based on The Goodbye Look, appears giganto-mungously complex, with the warning that such complexity is fairly typical of his work.  Last time I did Dictionary of Mu I ended up juggling 30 NPC's and 10 demons, which was way too many, so I'm looking to trim it down this time. 
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James_Nostack
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« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2008, 08:16:31 PM »

By the way, I just wanted to talk for a second about Cormac McCarthy's The Road as it applies to Humanity issues in The Dictionary of MuSpoilers follow for those who haven't read the book!

In Mu, Humanity is "Hope for the future."  This is also the driving moral issue in The Road near as I can determine: the protagonists are basically struggling to find reasons not to commit suicide.  Their whole slogan about "carrying the fire" is an attempt to persuade themselves that there's a future in which their suffering means something.  Throughout the novel, they run into horrific survivors who have given up hoping for the future, and who have made the necessary... lifestyle accommodations... to the present circumstances.  The squad with the larder have definitely hit Humanity Zero.

In game terms, using some of the optional rules in Sorcerer's Soul, we can see Humanity mechanics at work here.  We witness several conflicts of the boy's Humanity vs. the man's Will, notably about recruiting the little boy (a foregone opportunity for Humanity gain) and sparing the thief (which seems to trigger Humanity loss for the man).  At certain instances, we see Humanity vs. impersonal dice, for the protagonists to get a lucky break when all hope seems lost; there are several such moments in the middle third of the novel.  Perhaps the most harrowing passages in the book are when the boy wishes he could commit suicide--the man then burns a point of Humanity to keep his son from hitting Zero. 

As an advanced example, what happens with the Kindly Man?  Doing things that carry the fire may earn you a Humanity gain check.  The Kindly Woman persuades the Kindly Man to make contact with the man and the boy.  If he had done so, the Kindly Man would have had a +2 bonus on his own the Hope gain roll (assuming, of course, that we cared enough about the character's Humanity score to roll for it).  But he decides that's too great a risk.  Instead, he waits a while, and then tries to help the boy.  This is a flat +0 Humanity gain check for the Kindly Man.  But in order to get the boy on board, he has to make a Humanity vs. Humanity check, to establish that he too is "carrying the fire". 

I don't think The Road is otherwise particularly suited to Sorcerer play, but for this particular definition of Humanity you can see all these things working with crystal clarity.  I'm still pondering how this shapes the Rituals of Marr'd, but it certainly gets me into a particular emotional space pretty quick.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2008, 08:10:14 AM »

Hi,

Your paraphrase of Archer as both tender and harshly judgmental is accurate. However, I should really stress that Archer as a person is not really the point or focus for the stories. Unlike modern detective fiction which is obsessed with the detective (who is also often preachy), the older material uses him as a device to expose and catalyze the crisis that simmers among the multitude of other characters. Also, I should stress that mystery fiction is all about solving a crime, whereas detective fiction is more about understanding people.

Regarding relationship maps and books-as-sources, I strongly suggest that you strip down pretty much any map you derive from a novel. Five or six characters is usually enough. If you don't want to eliminate them entirely, then one technique I like a lot is to render many of the characters dead already, not necessarily from foul play or for reasons directly related to the moral crime, just through age or other events.

I am confused about a couple of things ...

1. You've read The Sorcerer's Soul, right? Most of the material in the Relationship Map chapter is based on MacDonald, and I thought I'd made it clear that his work was central.

2. I'm not really seeing a problem. You are content with "Hope for the future." You are also content at an emotional level with how that relates to The Road. Soooo ... isn't that a happy situation? Ready to go?

Best, Ron
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James_Nostack
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« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2008, 11:29:00 AM »

No confusion on this end.  Reference to The Road was strictly as a literary illustration of Humanity = Hope for the Future.  It's inappropriate for a relationship map because there are only two characters. 

Regarding MacDonald, from the bibliography it was clear that he was very prolific, but it wasn't clear to me that, despite coming a generation or so after Hammett, he was such a seminal figure.

As for Archer himself, the point about excluding him from any R-Map couldn't be any clearer from The Sorcerer's Soul.  I only mentioned his attitude to suggest that the character's general demeanor seems well suited to a compassionately brutal story like the one we'll probably get into.

Question - so the standard M.O. in Sorcerer's Soul is to select a detective story, identify the moral crime involved, and from this construct a Humanity definition.  But if one's already got a Humanity definition--either one supplied by a mini-supplement, or from a prior storyline--how important is it to make sure the Humanity definition of the detective story, and established Humanity definition of the game, match up?  (I would assume the answer is "quite important.")

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