My next struggle for the bard is creating a metric for performance, namely the effects of performance and the overall definition for how we see a performance from an amateur bard as opposed to an authority or an expert. How, exactly, does a performance from a pleasant singer at the open mic night down the street compare with the professional who comes to sing for the local fair? What is the difference between going to a concert to see the latest band climbing the charts and a chance at seeing Bruce Springsteen?
Again and again I find myself coming face to face with happiness and the need to create some sort of defining measure for it. On the whole, there isn't need of one for the players. The players are happy or they are not, depending on their feeling for the game, their sense of achievement, the anticipation of success or the concern about the death of their characters . . . but we don't need to create a number on their character sheets that defines whether or not they're happy.
Non-player characters, however, that's a different thing. For the most part, no one has bothered because, well, who cares? If the non-players get in the way, we kill them, and if they don't get in the way, good. Why in the name of the game would we give a damn if any of them were happy?
I grant that. The only reason I have at the moment is that the bard is going to want to get up in front of these non-entities and read poetry or sing a song, and it would be nice to know if the audience claps or not. It would be nice to know if there was any reason to do it, beyond the bard saying, "Yes, I sang for them last night." That's not much. I mean, once or twice, we might be able to fool ourselves with our imaginations into thinking, "Cool, it was great being a bard last night," but that's not going to sustain itself through a whole campaign. It will get sour fast. Soon enough, the bard is going to not bother.
It would be pleasant if the bard had a reason to bother, which is what brings me around to happiness. Let's just say, for the sake of argument, that a particular sort of bard was able to make a particular crowd happy to a particular degree. And let's say that a better bard made everyone feel happier, and that a terrific bard made everyone positively joyful. We might even be able to think of a collection of adjectives for seeing Springsteen. I have it on good authority that people pay hundreds of dollars to see these things in order to have an experience that will last them the rest of their lives ~ that's got to count for something.
More to the point, seeing someone perform live can be a life-changing event. People walk out of such events on the edge of making a decision about who they are and who they want to be. We want to include that, yes? We want the bard to feel the experience of creating that . . . and on some level, we want the bard to be able to see other, more fabulous bards, and experience that change for themselves.
Just now, no idea. Working on it. On the whole, happiness is a state of mind. It has confounded philosophers for three millennia, not to mention a host of people tackling the subject from a biological, psychological, economic and artistic point-of-view. We don't think old Alexis is going to solve it in a fortnight, do we?
Here is what I have. Happiness makes us flourish. That is, it causes us to do more than simply wallow in our happiness, it has a side effect of causing us to either continue doing the thing that makes us happy in exclusion to all else (hedonism) or it causes us to seek a means of keeping ourselves in a state of health and welfare that ensures we will never be unhappy again. The latter interests me, since it is the most positive, practical aspect of what the bard might be able to cause: people work harder, they sing while they work, they fight less, they invest their money, they set up families, they strive for a better life, they explore, they invest in progress, they imagine a world that will be in existence after they've left it. If the reader wants more, it is all there in Aristotle.
He has all this flourishing bound up with "virtue," which for most people in this culture is a sort of dirty word. The politics of Virtue has come to stand for every miserly, uptight, sanctimonious, pompous, anti-sexual voice that's ever been raised for the "good of the country" and "decency." This is not what it meant to Aristotle. Mostly, to get to the meat of it, Aristotle meant virtue as not being stupid. Temper your habits because untempered habits will fuck you over big time. Be prudent in your decisions because too many stupid, rash decisions will ruin you. Be courageous because cowards are hated by everyone and that will certainly make you miserable. And be just, because if you treat others badly, they will most certainly make you pay for it.
Don't be stupid. Which, if memory serves, will lead you into a life of efficiency, friendship, a sense of self-worth and, on the whole, someone respected in the community. These four things will help ensure your happiness, as it is easy to be happy when you're prosperous, appreciated and respected.
Applying this to the bard. We need to imagine our ordinary little bard, a poet say, getting up in front of a crowd at the local roadhouse, calling out for attention. I've already established in a previous post that our bard is somewhat talented ~ so it doesn't take long to get the attention of the room, given that the room is in a late medieval world where poetry is something not seen regularly and would be received like Beyonce randomly turning up at your local pub and being willing to belt out a song or two.
What happens? Well, presumably, the bar fills up with people who have a good time. And then they go away, back to their lives, and make decisions based on what they just experienced.
We know that for sure. We know it, because we do it ourselves, all the time.
The question is, how to measure it?