Friday, June 7, 2013

Turning Reskinned

Let me start by saying that this post will fly in the face of today’s perceived dichotomy between Christianity and science; however, as I have stated many times, this is a false dichotomy. Not only have Church Fathers throughout the ages supported scientific study and a cultivation of the mind, but modern science and the scientific method are children of the Christian world view — one needs the orderly universe created by the Trinitarian God that is not full of divine beings in order to believe that it can be predictable and reliable enough to observe and test.

It is only when one tries to answer such questions as Who is God? and What is the meaning of life? with science that one runs into a conflict. Such questions are rightly left to theology because science cannot answer them without abandoning the scientific method and becoming a faith unto itself.

With that preamble, let me call your attention to this video, which is rare footage of an oarfish in the wild (fast forward to about the 3:30 mark to get a good look):

Although this deep water fish looks tiny in the video, the reality is that these fish can be anywhere from 15-56 feet long. Therefore, it has been hypothesized that the oarfish is the source of various sea serpent stories from times of yore. As can be seen from the video, the reality is much less frightening than humanity’s ability to imagine the monstrous.

This got me thinking about a way to re-skin the concept of Turning. While the origin of the mechanic is the image of Van Helsing keeping Dracula at bay with a cross, another way of understanding the mechanic is akin to the video above — stripping away the monstrous imagining of humanity to reveal the mundane reality.

I come to this from the perspective of both the classic D&D trope of the (Chaotic) Wilderness vs. (Lawful) Civilization as well as the idea that monsters are sin personified. In a world where sin becomes manifest as all the dark imaginings of humanity from myth and story, the Christian (as the champion of Lawful Civilization) becomes the mechanism by which the Chaotic Wilderness is tamed by revealing the mundane by stripping away the demonic.

Thus, when a party encounters a group of zombies which are successfully Turned by the party’s cleric, the supposed undead (rather than running away) are revealed to merely be dead bodies, carvings on a wall or an unusual shadow cast by torch light; however, lower level clerics are unable to completely convince or control the dark and fallen imagination of either themselves or their party members. Thus, the zombies will eventually return until such time that the cleric can “destroy” them by having faith in the God who declared His creation very good.

The cleric, in other words, becomes the video camera that reveals that ancient seas serpents are actually oarfish.

One interesting consequence of this re-skinning is the possibility with such a set-up that the Mythic Underground and the Dungeon-as-semi-intelligent-NPC are actually creations of our own making — manifestations of our own sins and fears.


Unknown said...

This is a great idea.

Rachel Ghoul said...

I don't know if I'd call it great. It's... interesting, but it seems like it raises more questions than it answers.

FrDave said...

Well, since this was intended to ask questons rather than answer any, I'll take your "interesting" as a compliment. ;)

Roger G-S said...

That is interesting. But it must come as a complete surprise. One of those "once per DM lifetime" reveals.

Freddy said...

It is a rather fascinating take you have, but it all returns to cosmology, I think.

The biggest problem with this game is that its inspirations are drawn from conflicting cosmologies. They create a game which is internally inconsistent in many ways. For me, that was the biggest challenge of the game, and it was overcome only when I finally realized that it was within my right to remake the game as I would. I altered all other details to fit. Once that happened, internal coherence resulted and the gaming enjoyment for me as the DM exceeded anything reported by a score or so regular players in two or three groups. They don't even have to agree with the cosmology to recognize its internal coherence and then play accordingly.

FrDave said...

Why? To my mind, the idea that my own fears and failings can seed a world with monsters is a terrifying prospect and places the undead back into a status of things to be feared.

FrDave said...

I would argue that it is actually its greatest strength. Yes, it is a pastiche of many ideas, worlds, beliefs and even cosmologies. This pastiche, however, makes it possible for you or I or anyone to put their own individual stamp on the game because we can take that one little part of the pastiche that we find compelling and use it as the basis of the internal logic for the whole the game. As such, it can easily be whatever we want it to be. As an aside, this is why I believe the older rules are more useful, because this process is much easier due to the fact that the number of rules that need to be re-skinned are minimal.

Gordon Cooper said...

Once again, fascinating food for thought. I could see this working well in a number of settings, including modern horror and science fiction horror.