Sunday, December 07, 2003

Man is the measure

One interesting thing I've noticed over the years is how RPGs tend to work from the author as norm, and what is actually human doesn't always fit. At under 150cm in height, Lee Gold (Alarums and Excursions, Land of the Rising Sun, GURPS: Japan, Lands of Adventure) never finds herself on other peoples' height/weight charts. Neil Taylor, a gamer friend of mine from college days, was surprised to find that he only fitted as a Melnibonean on the original Stormbringer height/weight charts. Ron Wheelhouse, another college friend, had such poor night vision that as well as at times having to help him through dimly lit parts of various Cambridge colleges, I found that I rated somewhere between elf and dwarf in his nightsight tables. And the 100kg normal human from Hero System is more an upper bound than a mean.

And it's not only what makes a human. It's the ecology too. A lot of USAn material assumes USAn ecology, with funny stuff like poison ivy or critters like racoons (but it's not only games - see also the live action 101 Dalmatians for a racoons near London episode), rather than old world bestiaries. Glorantha has shedloads of New World material - pumas, maize, potatoes.

And the climate. OK, the UK does have a fairly anomalous climate, in terms of mild winters at high latitudes (until the North Atlantic Convergence chokes). But I just discovered one that had passed me by. It's about the Wastes, east of Prax in Genertela in Glorantha. Historically, my reading of these has been rather like the Red Center of Australia (or perhaps the Tekla Makan desert of Central Asia), with Prax being like the West Australian acacia scrub.

But the other day I read The Book of Drastic Resolutions : Prax for the first time since burn-out, and looked at the climate descriptions there. The wastes are supposed to have 20" rainfall a year, almost all in the winter half.


I live in East Anglia. It's the grain and sugarbeet arable heart of UK farming. It has an annual rainfall of 18" a year (semi-desert - real desert starts at 12" or below); again mainly in the winter, with summer thunderstorms. That's a whole different take on the Wastes as being mainly just steppeland, south of the snowline.

That's before we consider that the Heortlings (standard skills including snowshoe use) live to the south of the inveterate toga wearers of Dara Happa. IMG, at least, Sartar is more like the Yorkshire Dales in terms of climate - but the cool is due to altitude and being south of the Solar equator, which passes through Dara Happa.

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