Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Collectors of Gong

We're all nerds so this won't be a pleasant memory for some.

I don't know how many times as a kid, until I grew into my shoulders and size, that I would find myself one the last or second-last to be picked for football, basketball or whatever game we were going to play.  In those days, even without urging from parents, kids themselves would choose two captains and let them pick from among the contestants - and as this was as true for school, family gatherings or any joint get-together from camp to church events (yes, gawd, those too), the picking was set up and followed through.

Even with complete strangers it was evident who could play and who could not.  Oh, everyone likes to tell stories about the scrawny kid with the amazing jump shot, but those stories never seemed to happen in front of me.  Even as I got older, bigger and tougher, there were still kids I watched get picked last and second-last, every time.

We can tell in advance which they'll be.  As Malcolm Gladwell writes, in a Blink.  It's a good thing, too - for being able to assess situations in a moment of stress has kept human beings alive these millions of years.  The games played by Homo Erectus were for higher stakes . . . and when it came down to choosing who would beat the sticks together to frighten the animal and who would hold the spear for when the animal came through the gap between the cliffs, Erectus picked the winners over the losers.

An immense advantage over the other creatures of the earth that humans possessed, however, was in finding something useful and practical for the weaker members of the tribe to do.  Throwing the spear may be the job of the jock we all hated in high school (though some of us became that for a time), but making the spear was shepherded out to others who didn't need to be tough and strong, just patient and able.  We still divide things this way.  The kid who was picked last is the lawyer now, defending the kid who was a physical phenomenon now suffering from CTE.

The point here comes back to an argument I made more than a year ago about hit points.  My argument at that time was that, given a random hit point roll for a general population, the population that survives into maturity and past previous combats ought to have more hit points than the average die that's rolled.  From among creatures rolling a d8 for hit points, the 1s and 2s would die out in battle, I argued, leaving the 7s and 8s.

This did not go over well.  But, well, that's how it goes.

I don't plan to revisit the argument here.  Rather, I want to provide a counter argument that, in part, refutes it.

I don't think the 1s and 2s would see battle at all.  I think that these would be held back, kept in the caves and the service areas, judged unworthy for battle by the clan - at a blink, as I said.  Every goblin in the cave would know what a clumsy idiot Xyttat is; and Pysggak can't even lift a hammer properly, of course.  That's why these two collect the gong, shovel out the rothe pens, collect all the lickspittle from the Queen after she gives birth and generally present themselves for a good kicking during the high holidays.  Xyttat and Pysggak only have 1 hit point - it doesn't take a spratling to see that!  Xyt and Pys go to war?  Haha hah HAH ha . . . wait . . . whew! . . . just catching my breath.  Don't make me laugh.

The reader should just think for a moment about the way we assess people at a glance every day - and ask seriously if we wouldn't know which dexterous, strong, enduring clubmasters we'd send out into the daylight and who we're going to leave back home to cover the floors in rat-grease for the happy day they return victorious.  Because we do have a measure for who does what job.  Even if we do dream of pitching major league baseball, we know very well why we're not.

And it's cool.  There's always gong to collect.

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