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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 64 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: More historical play  (Read 4186 times)
SaintandSinner
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Posts: 114


« on: September 13, 2007, 11:11:49 AM »

I would like to run this game for some young teens in a more 'historical' mode.  Specifically I would like to elimate the 'root doctor' spells and definitive evidence of the supernatual.  I don't mind there being a 'root doctor' character and a belief in the supernatural but I would like the 'in game' effects to be non-magical.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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C.W.Richeson
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Posts: 31

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« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2007, 11:59:58 AM »

You could change the Root Doctor to instead be the "Old, Wise Slave" or something of that nature.  Spells become advice and using spells represents using that advice.  Sometimes the advice is good and really helps out, sometimes it doesn't.
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Parthenia
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« Reply #2 on: September 13, 2007, 04:33:59 PM »

Computer ate my original post!

Chris has a good point.

In a nutshell, you don't need the Root Doctor to do anything magic, but the Root Doctor would have been an herbalist who knew both the medicinal and "magical" properties of herbs and other curios. (This is why the Root Doctor can be a midwife.) The Root Doctor would be the person you go to when you or a family member is ill *and* if you need life advice. This could be an older person, and mechanically, if you have an elderly character who isn't worth much, letting that person be the Root Doctor (and a skill) boosts his worth.

If you are uncomfortable with the term Root Doctor, call this person Uncle, Brother, Auntie, Sister, or Granny. These are all terms of both endearment and respect. Please don't call him "Old Wise Slave", tho!

But you called this thread, "More Historical Play". So take out the magic. Nothing supernatural ever needs to happen in game. But the Root Doctor, or whatever you call her would be the person who still has knowledge of African customs, beliefs, and traditions. All the slaves can be practicing Christians, but might still hold on to their African religious culture. You might make a talisman to protect your children, or encourage a safe pregnancy. You might appeal to your ancestors to protect your children. Or on New Year's Day, everyone might eat 365 black eyed peas cooked with a hog's head for good luck. Is it specifically African? Maybe not, but it is certainly African American (although I've heard of lots of people from the South doing this) Is it magic? No. My devoutly Catholic mom calls me every New Year's Day to make sure I've cooked my black eyed peas. She does not subscribe to any "magical" traditions, but she knows a good many traditionally African American superstitions and tricks. They would never be called magic. Make the Root Doctor the person who has a connection with both the past and present. If you want to get historical, check out some African American folk fables. Even Uncle Remus tales byJoel Chandler Harris can be useful to adapt as stories to tell younger slaves about how to behave around white folks. Bear in mind that Harris was a white man, a defender of slavery, and wrote the Uncle Remus stories in an almost unbearable "black" dialect.

It's probably better not to call what the Root Doctor "magic" or "supernatural". That totally limits what would be expected of her.

Julia
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SaintandSinner
Member

Posts: 114


« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2007, 04:55:49 PM »

You could change the Root Doctor to instead be the "Old, Wise Slave" or something of that nature.  Spells become advice and using spells represents using that advice.  Sometimes the advice is good and really helps out, sometimes it doesn't.

I don't care what we call them I just wanted a feel for toning down this aspect of the game.  If mechanically the dice rules are not powerful enough to mandate 'magical' effects I'm fine with just narrating this differently.
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SaintandSinner
Member

Posts: 114


« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2007, 05:03:28 PM »

If you are uncomfortable with the term Root Doctor, call this person Uncle, Brother, Auntie, Sister, or Granny. These are all terms of both endearment and respect. Please don't call him "Old Wise Slave", tho!

It's probably better not to call what the Root Doctor "magic" or "supernatural". That totally limits what would be expected of her.

Julia

I'm just going off what's in the book which presents spells, ghosts (haints), etc.  I'm not uncomfortable with the term Root Doctor I just wanted to know if the system needed to be tweaked to give a more historical line of play.  I think it'd be cool to have pre-enslavement customs/beliefs jarring with their new environment.  I'm also considering story telling within the game to have them play with more magic (from times before capture or embellished/tall tales).
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SaintandSinner
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Posts: 114


« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2007, 05:11:47 PM »

But you called this thread, "More Historical Play". So take out the magic. Nothing supernatural ever needs to happen in game. But the Root Doctor, or whatever you call her would be the person who still has knowledge of African customs, beliefs, and traditions. All the slaves can be practicing Christians, but might still hold on to their African religious culture.

I'm also not interested in removing the real retained African cultural elements that existed at the time.  Just how much survived and for how long did it survive after they left Africa?  Did the forced conversions 'take' or did they just talk the talk to get by...?  Are many of these answers known? 

I have to say this is a very interesting game...disturbing on a level I didn't know I had.  Please help me explore these elements.

Thanks  Smiley
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Parthenia
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« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2007, 06:02:22 AM »

I'm also not interested in removing the real retained African cultural elements that existed at the time.  Just how much survived and for how long did it survive after they left Africa?  Did the forced conversions 'take' or did they just talk the talk to get by...?  Are many of these answers known? 

I have to say this is a very interesting game...disturbing on a level I didn't know I had.  Please help me explore these elements.
The cultural elements are still around. They're everywhere, and they have adapted to their new environment and to time.

There's:
Dance--look at popular dance moves now, and then at traditional West African dance. You'll see a striking similarity.
Music--Listen to African drumming and then listen to hip hop, the blues, gospel and spirituals, dance hall music from the 50's, Brazillian pop music, reggae...  All of these have deep roots in African music.
Superstitions and customs--Simple rituals of housekeeping and hygiene like bathing (to cleanse the spirit), cleaning (to keep bad elements out of the house, and encourage familial harmony), sweeping (to sweep away bad elements), lighting candles to boost a prayer (a Catholic influence but specific colors for different petitions is not Catholic).

Look at the strength of black churches and mosques in black communities. Clearly lots of people "bought" Christianity, especially at the end of the slave trade when most slaves were born in the US. Christianity was all they had. And it varies from region to region. New Orleans Voodoo is a more intermingled with Catholicism than Haitian Vodou. You don't see many people who practice Conjure or Hoodoo (where the Root Doctor comes from) but in the south, many people still know a trick or two (and may not even call them that.). And these tricks derive from African and Native American folk "magic". Sometimes it's hard to tell what's African, what was borrowed, or what was adapted as slaves adapted.

So people certainly practiced their old customs in secrecy or dressed them up to look un-African.

So start by looking around you! That said, historical accuracy should take a back seat to good character development and relationship building among the PC's. I intentionally didn't put tons of historical information in the book for that reason. When we played for historical accuracy, people got too worried about whether they were doing things that would have happened. Think more about what your reaction would be if you were faced with loss or reward.

If there's a specific aspect of slave life you want to explore, let me know and I can point you in the right direction.

And please please please post an AP report! I'd love to hear about it.
Thanks!
Julia
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