During the “Playing with the pool” curriculum, we had a discussion about what “setting” is and is not. What it is: the effect of playing in-game situations. What it’s not: the body of lore written by various people outside of play. We discussed about the quality of having a rich and prodigious amount of content as inspiration for designing situation of play. But Ron pointed out that there is cultural tipping point where this amount of available elements becomes crystallized to the point that it socially stops to be that.
Here is something I saw a few weeks on the Chaosium discord server, in the Glorantha chan. Someone explains his prep to the chan, just for the sake of sharing it. He explains that the crimson bat (a famous and gigantic glorantha unique monster) has been wounded near Runegate (a city), and how he uses the blood pool for the bat as a lake and an ecosystem (who really was his situation in play). My own reaction was, “oh man, a village around a pool of blood from the bat, that is cool”. But the answer by some regular chatters there was: “the bat was not wounded in Runegate”, and the discussion followed up on that point. “The bat was wounded in Boldhome, Because [references to some material and other material].
It was only one instance of punctual discussions that arise in the chan. Those discussions are often discussed with a punctual statement “your glorantha will vary” (YGWV), but the content of most discussion is like that. “Of course, Your glorantha will vary, but the bat was not wounded in runegate”. So “YGWV” seems to be some mantra that you have to repeat. Kind of becoming both dogma and cultural identity (you have to say this if you want to be a member of the group, even if it’s never applied). Which reminds me an observation I made in a field I know, the nonprofit sector in health & social work: when an organization has a tagline or specific value, it considers to be its DNA, you may be sure that it’s the thing they embody the less. Because it became the institutional identity and a marker of value, and with generations of workers, it’s so embedded as an identity that the rigor of making it real in practice doesn’t seem necessary – thus the embodiment of the value in practice is absent.
This is generally “felt” by the employees and often leads to institutional crisis followed by collective reflections on that (or not). It’s not a fatality, but one needs a conscious methodology for this reflection (and often a re-appropriation of the values by a new guard – or just dissolution of the organization). In Brussels, there is an obvious trend for that as the 1968-1974 generation of charismatic leaders who created innovative institutions are going to retirement. And if the organization relied on charismatic personalities to embody the values that founded it, without any kind of institutionalization in its governance structure or methodological practice, you have that situation of “showing off values that are not embodied in practices anymore”.
The difference with RPG culture is that with RPG, you don’t have to be a practitioner to sustain the discourse, as the social group varies from institutionalized (the publishers) who have incentives for canon, to informal with both practitioners and no practitioners being able to control the discourse by the degree of relationship they maintain with the publishers. The good thing is that it doesn’t stop me to do what I feel I want to do and use the published material as “any kind of source of information”, such as Gianluca said. So, I expect that I’m not the only one. But the practice of trying to control is obvious and visible on the internet