The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Gaming through René Girard

So now I'm actually reading a René Girard book instead of blogging about it. This one is Des choses cachées depuis la fondation du monde - of course I'm reading it in translation. It is a Conversations book like Mourad, Adonis, and Nawaz.

We've already touched on its thesis - that any tribe, to escape the mimetic crisis, must find an innocent and slaughter him upon an altar. Girard believes this thesis explains pretty much everything human, including hunting (beyond rabbits and fish) and animal-domestication. These innovations were, you'll note, already complete by the time the first Siberian shamans went where the Denisovans could not go, beyond Beringia. So some of Des choses reads like an expansion of The Great Divide's first chapters.

I'd be interested in exploring these themes in fantasy. We've already handled abstract Right and Wrong as they would be expressed through the multiverse. With respect to a universe - a plane of existence, or a fantasy world in it - the gods are smaller. But - a Girardian would insist - gods of sacrifice and scapegoating would be the most important gods in it.

With this in mind, in D&D / Pathfinder I won't count dying-and-resurrected gods of the harvest. Pagan gods like that are often minor, never extending their reach far past Egypt and Syria. I suspect (I haven't got this far) that Girard will hold these narrow-portfolio godlets as dependents of the central myth.

I can recall three game-settings which involve a cosmic dying god, or at least a god that promised a golden age. These are Praemal ("Ptolus") and Terrakal ("Diamond Throne"), both from Monte Cook; and Golarion, from the Pathfinder crew. I'll deal with Praemal here; Golarion and Terrakal later.

Praemal plays this theme safe. Praemal's thing is that the world is young, although Cook doesn't develop this nearly as thoroughly as the Dawnforge setting (Fantasy Flight) develops it. It is, here, possible for a single human to die and to ascend on behalf of all God's Creation, and for this to drive the normative faith of the player-characters. Here, Lothian has fulfilled that Aslanian mission. Praemal is as close to Narnia as a Girardian-minded DM can get, so Ptolus is an excellent springboard for such explorations.

posted by Zimri on 17:24 | link | 0 comments

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