Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Myths of Washington

Just some ideas on handling myths, or if you prefer tall tales, since the objects of the stories are not deities: I am a VERY patriotic person. I believe the USA is the greatest country on Earth, at least currently. However, I hate the propaganda that we call grade school history. Clearly, those writing the history books believe that either the students or the teachers are too stupid to understand what really happened, so we need to tell exaggerated stories. Chief among these are the Washington myths. Washington could not tell a lie. Washington slept nearly everywhere. Washington was a hero at Trenton and not a terrorist. Washington had wooden teeth. Actually the myth that he had wooden teeth stands out, because it admits that he wasn’t a perfect, angelic being. The point of this is not to attack the cult of Washington, because they are out there, but instead to point out that not all myths are about the divine. You can also make up myths about the founders of your cities, famous generals, famous mages, the founders of schools and other important civic institutions. Why does it matter? By making up some of the stories told about the important historic folks, you begin to craft the culture. Washington was (for the most part) an honorable man who attempted to live an honorable life, but he was also a child of his era. Those parts of his era that we now dislike, we tend to ignore and replace with stories. The same would be true for your fantasy world. We see Washington as unable to lie even when it was going to get him in trouble. Is that the culture of your city? Or would the founder of the city be a little more Br'er Rabbit and be famous for his clever lies? Perhaps he showed incredible piety or faith. Maybe he had magical powers nearly equal to a god and gave them up, showing that humility is the true value. But how do you get these cool stories in front of the player characters? With statues and monuments. Every time they go to the city hall or baron’s castle, they will see the major statue of the founder, in a pose reminding the people of the greatest accomplishments. That huge block of marble with his best quote(s) carved into it, sits right in front of the courthouse. What about inns and taverns that bear his name or some reference to him, even the “demigod slept here” signs? You don’t want to sit them down and read the city’s history to them, but you can easily sneak it in. and it does matter, because it teaches them about what the people (all those NPCs) think is important.

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