Wednesday, October 22, 2014


There is a natural resistance against things about which we cannot know for certain.   The effectiveness of certain weapons over others, particularly in terms of personal experience with the use of those weapons.

How interesting is it that we have so little context from the men who actually used swords and axes to kill other men.  How resistant those men were to writing down the details, or how resistant were editors to publish books containing such information.  How few soldiers today return from the fields of war to write detailed accounts of enemy's heads blowing open or the pleasant, comfortable way the rifle felt in their hands as it warmed steadily through a fire fight.  How is it that such accounts are not commonplace, given the number of soldiers in the world who have shot or fired such weapons, who have been educated enough to at least write an account of it?

Perhaps there is some knowledge that is better not to share.  It is better that the descriptions of war are not associations between cock and gun, but reconciliations between normal perception and the scattered, irrational experience of being under fire.

An officer came blundering down the trench:
"Stand-to and man the fire-step!"  On he went . . .
Gasping and bawling, "Fire-step . . . counter attack!" 
Then the haze lifted.  Bombing on the right
Down the old sap: machine-guns on the left;
And stumbling figures looming out in front.
"O Christ, they're coming at us!"  Bullets spat,
And he remembered his rive . . . rapid fire . . .
And started blazing wildly . . . then a bang . . .
Crumpled and spun him sideways, knocked him out
To grunt and wriggle: none heeded him; he choked
And fought the flapping veils of smothering gloom,
Lost in a blurred confusion of yells and groans . . .
Down, and down, and down, he sank and drowned,
Bleeding to death.  The counter-attack had failed.

From Counter-Attack by Siegfried Sassoon

Strange that the efforts to settle upon changes the the damages or use of weapons never takes into account the battle itself.  What DM proposes that players, set to enter combat, will forget that they even have a weapon?  Or that they may, stunned and confused, wander throughout the melee, axe dropped heedlessly upon the ground, until they are cut down or they find themselves hours later, lost, having forgotten where they are?  Where is the madness of fighting?  Where is the unreason?  Where are the clumsy, untrained dupes who have been conned into coming who are now unable to bring themselves to kill anyone?

Where is the humanity?

Let's not pretend any of this game is real.  It is as far from real as anything gets.

1 comment:

Jhandar said...

I concur. This is one of the reason I prefer Basic Roleplaying / Call of Cthulhu based on the sanity rules. My preferences have always run to more of the horror / grittier aspects of role playing rather than the high fantasy elements. It is my anecdotal experience that his requires more buy in from the characters to be willing to acknowledge and play out horror and shock rather than processing it as players and acting cool as a cucumber as a character. Tragically the failings of these systems is that they edge towards DM fiat by stating with failed sanity rolls that ‘Your character does/feels/thinks ’, which as a rule I am opposed to. But it does prevent players from engaging their ‘been there, done that’ defenses.