Wednesday, 23 March 2011

the carnival of death

The RPG Blog Carnival hosted by Campaign Mastery is about Life and Death  this month .  Having already looked at how life can affect a setting, let's look at the impact of death.  One species of jellyfish is effectively immortal by becoming a colony of sexually immature versions of itself.  Everyone else though has to follow the rules or cheat death in some way. Death is omnipresent, to adventurers a constant companion.

Funerary rites and grief.  From the matter of disposing of the body and worldly goods to the emotional impact of knowing someone will never be physically there any more, there's plenty of ideas to follow here.  The business of bodily interment is big business, with the construction of tombs and mausoleums.  How a culture handles it's dead gives insight into that culture's values.  Those who create massive pyramids around their mummified kings have a different perspective to those who bind up their dead and leave them in the branches of a tall tree or on a platform for the birds.  How a culture handles grief informs how tightly bonds of family or honour may hold.  In some cases, the death of a powerful individual would see the death of their spouse or at the least their servants.  Grief can drive sufferers insane for a time.  From Celtic keening and wakes to professional mourners in the Middle East, death has influence.  Add the drama of managing the estate of a deceased comrade and the resulting situation can pretty much hook anyone in.

Death festivals and veneration of the dead.  Veneration of the dead by the living may take many forms from primitive ancestral worship to commemorative festivals.  In worlds where death isn't necessarily the end, this is even more true.  Commemorative festivals may celebrate (Dia De Los Muertos), honour the fallen (Feralia) or mocking horrors (Hallowe'en).  Where not observed or disdained, in a fantasy world horrific consequences may arise.  Tales of unquiet graves if the Feralia were ignored were taken seriously.  The munera of the Etruscans and later, the Romans spawned gladiatorial games.  The association of these festivals and seasonal boundaries were a reminder people were part of something greater than themselves, something that priests and politicians alike would take advantage of.

Extinction and natural selection.
What happens when the last one dies?  The extinction of species has repercussions on a world, whether by a shift in nature or unnatural greed.  Loss of the aurochs, dodo, Japanese wolf and somewhat ironically-named Indefatigable Galapagos Mouse each have stories associated with them.  Many other species die out due to competition with other species.  The principles of natural selection can inspire strategies to deal with predation and surprise player characters with twists on a familiar monster.  There are those who live to kill the last thing and those who resist the destruction of entire species.  Both extremes make interesting characters.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Greatest Hits