The Bazaar #7: Perspectives – Playing the Coalition States (Part 3)
Updated: Jun 30, 2020
Presentation of the information herein is to give a very broad strokes background on the skeleton of what makes up a worldview, and more importantly, how this concept plays into developing Coalition States PCs and NPCs into more than a cookie-cutter enemy encounter. This series also seeks to provide GMs and players a more in-depth analysis of the Coalition States’ perspective, providing perhaps reticent players from choosing a CS OCC or someone from the CS, because of fears they may have to play the character based on dogmatic stereotypes. I don’t purport to have a philosophy or social sciences degree; those that may have one (or think they do/could), please refrain from outrunning Alice down the Rabbit Hole into the depths of the theory. The intent of this post is to provide a précis to the concepts of worldview, applied to gameplay by either players looking to tap into a play experience they haven't considered, or GMs looking to get more out of their NPCs.
A Note of Warning: Something that must be addressed and firmly put to bed. In no way shape or form is this series of blog posts an endorsement of fascism in the historical or in-game context. Any interpretation that considers this to be the case, put simply, is reading these posts and their intent in the wrong light. Any effort to present otherwise will be met with a resoundingly “no.”
General. Frequently used to describe a person’s defining principles that determine how information is interpreted and how that then leads to direction and intensity of motivation to a course of action. It is composed of beliefs, values and assumptions derived from socialization in a specific cultural context; shapes how a person thinks, feels and experiences the world. Cultures have universal and specific dimensions that are similar and differentiate them from others, variances differentiating the between-group and within-group cohorts. As they interact with other cultures, these elements can either influence, transform or be rejected.
Elements Broken Down. First off, this is a significant field of study. This is a very rudimentary overview, and granted, one that would likely face scrutiny by a philosophy/social sciences major, or a mental health practitioner. I found an article by Prof Kenneth H. Funk II, PhD at Oregon State University, whose summary provided a great format to work from. Along with some additional reading, I’ve broken down his seven elements as follows:
Nature & Basis of Knowledge (Epistemology): In particular its methods, validity, and scope; what distinguishes justified belief from opinion. Is knowledge based on empirical evidence or a supreme authority? Is the source of knowledge weighted towards trusted authorities (books or people), intuition (perception independent of sense or reason), or revelation (truths from an outside of Nature source)? Most of us likely ascribe relative weights to authority, empirical evidence, reason, intuition, and revelation.
Ultimate Nature of Reality (Metaphysics): Does nothing outside the material universe exists, or did Something outside and above nature create and guide it? Does truth directly correspond to what you can observe, must it be internally consistent (e.g. math logic, scientific theory) for validity, or what you believe is what counts? Tests for truth will be sought from figures of authority (what they say is true), by empirical inquiry, valid inductive/deductive reasoning, or perhaps truth through intuition or revelation (faith).
Origins & Nature of the Universe (Cosmology): Under Natural Selection, the universe is the response to random events and physics over a long period of time and life in general has no universal significance. Otherwise, it is the result of a supernatural Creator that formed the universe ex nihilo (out of nothing) and life falls into a grander plan.
Meaning & Purpose of the Universe (Teleology): If there is no purpose, accountability stops at cultural norms and laws. Otherwise, we look to fit within the best definition of a God’s purpose and ultimate plan.
Existence & Nature of God (Theology): Contemplates the existence and nature of God. Without God, you need to look elsewhere for a source and purpose for behavior; there is no One to be accountable to. Alternatively you believe in an obligation to think and act to please a God and be in proper relationship with Him.
Nature & Purpose of Man (Anthropology): We are either a cosmic accident, a process of evolution, or made by God. Do we have free will, our choices and actions of no special significance, or stewards to the intentions of a higher Something? Humans can be basically good or inherently sinful. By extension, is our primary responsibility to the well-being of Man, or to communion with a higher power?
Foundation of Decisions (Axiology): Specifically examines moral values and non-moral values (e.g. economic, aestethic) and assigning relative value to some hierarchy of desire (applied by the individual, society or religion) or objective (e.g. financial). Crosses all the worldview elements and drives subconscious “gut checks” derived from beliefs about the nature of value, what is good/right versus bad/wrong.
CONTEXT OF THE DISCUSSION
Proximate Cause. To help in the analysis of the mosaic of narrative elements for the Coalition States, we can first establish an incident that appears to directly trigger an event/series of events that has a direct and obvious influence on the outcome (CS anti-magic/D-Bee policy), otherwise referred to as a proximate cause. Historically, the election of Abraham Lincoln and the shelling of Fort Sumter could be argued as a leading trigger for the American Civil War, the election of Adolf Hitler in the setting of post-Great Depression Europe for World War II. In the case of the Coalition States at or shortly after the year 102 P.A., I posit that the election of Karl Prosek in the context of the assassination of his father, Joseph Prosek the First was the proximate cause; likely supported and pushed further to the extreme with the “assassination” of Lady Jo-Anna Prosek and their youngest son by agents of the Federation of Magic.
Narrative Elements. The Coalition States presents a juxtaposition of its political/military leadership from the majority of the population. Emperor Prosek and “crew” leverage the Mechanisms of Influence presented in Perspectives (Part 1): Mechanisms of Influence to deliver and reinforce their worldview, reinforced by their dogma. This ensures they keep control of the accounts supporting their ends, justifying the means as a method of remaining in power. The following are several narratives elements presented for GMs and players to reinforce the Coalition States’ humanity worldview.
Siege Mentality. The Coalition States have largely been under constant siege since the beginning: first the battle to survive the Apocalypse and get to the point they could contemplate a Post-Apocalyptic calendar, the Federation of Magic and Tolkeen (once allied), vampires and the Pecos Empire and Atlantis roaming unchecked across the Atlantic seaboard. More recently the menace of the Xiticix, a spat with Free Quebec, and now hordes of demons threaten on all fronts. In pretty much all these cases, these are “non-human” foes or those that harbour non-humans in which humans could or often become enslaved to the powerful and the wicked. Providing an “enemy at the gates” scenario gives an easy motivation to rally around.
Technology versus Magic. This really came to a head in the battles that raged across the fields around Chi-town and into the ruins of Chicago during The Bloody Campaign, and to a greater degree the Siege of Tolkeen. The former undoubtedly solidified the Coalition’s official position on the use of magic (and to some extent psionics) and definitely the apparent negative influence of D-Bees. When the fledgling Coalition States (Chi-Town) failed to invite Dunscon’s Federation into the CS, this slight led to a dichotomy in politics, presenting itself in a human/technology versus D-Bee/magic dynamic. The battles that raged in 12 P.A. set the tone and opportunity on both sides for extremist opposition. The Coalition military leveraged their technological might to “win the day” in Chicago, laying the groundwork for human/technology superiority over D-Bee/magic propaganda and policy that would lead to the Siege of Tolkeen.
Militaristic Society. A militaristic society idolizes the might of their military as a marker for success, as well as its ability to influence others to accept their culture and goals through the threat of war or engaging in combat operations. One of the hallmarks of CS culture is the primacy of their military. Prosek has thus far not picked a fight his military could not win, reinforcing the vision of CS soldiers fighting the righteous battle for humanity’s survival. Short of a major military catastrophe, the populace will continue to believe that living under a military dictatorship has merit over other forms of government. Everyone loves a winner until they aren’t winning anymore.
Demons and the D-Bee. As the Megaverse’s hub for interdimensional travel, the staggering number of D-Bees, demons and monsters should be no surprise. This certainly places humanity in a subordinate position on their own world. As such, it would be a much easier feat to find in other humans a worldview closer to one’s own. Given the siege mentality and multitude of risks to the human species, these worldviews are much more likely to coalesce along needs of survival. Certainly diversions occur, but most of the base worldview tenets and cultural norms are similar, certainly much more so than say dragons, Brodkil, Fennodi, Simvan or elves (take your pick). One could reasonably assume this was a key factor in the CS victory of the battles of The Bloody Campaign in 12. P.A.; the CS was likely better capable of calling its (human) allies into the conflict for support, as opposed to the Federation’s multitude of voices that never quite spoke as one.
Failure to Match Expansion. An element that has likely emboldened the CS messaging has been the expansion of their sphere of influence. Map makers in the CS have been recording the ever increasing the range of CS control across North America. Despite being surrounded by numerous enemy forces, the CS expansion has been steady, reinforcing the justification for their policies with results. Despite early land grabs of mostly vacant stretches of wilderness (e.g. Iowa, Lone Star), one could imagine this message sells well with those not involved with any of the dirty work required in recent expansion. The apparent appeasement by others (Federation of Magic, Lazlo, et al) only reinforces the CS messaging, notably validated by the Siege of Tolkeen. One could only imagine if some sort of détente could have developed between the Coalition States and the Federation/Tolkeen had the latter come to a mutual agreement to keep the CS in check.
Family Feud. Not something anyone other than the elites from either side would really know much about, let alone in detail. The rise and influence of both the Coalition States and Federation of Magic are built on the names of two families (Prosek and Dunscon respectively). When the Coalition decided not to invite Federation participation into the CS, Dunscon, the nominal leader of the Federation, took this as a personal slight; his exit from the meeting hall only supported CS fears in magic’s potential. That both of the current leaders are direct descendants only continues the narrative of hate of one for the other.
Leveraging Mechanisms of Influence. In some cases, the narrative elements above would be unknown or background information. We can start seeing how the messaging could drive acceptance of CS policy regarding magic-users and D-Bees as negative influences on humanity as a whole and the Earth writ-large (e.g. mages (many of which are D-Bees) use unexplained “dimensional manipulation” for their power, Atlantis is an oppressive human enslavement hell ruled by D-Bees and here as a result of dimensional manipulation; ergo: mages are a key element to the enslavement of humans and are going to enslave you. What are you going to do about that?). There is no guilt in fighting enemies of the CS because these are the only standards you have known. Any moral obligation likely rests with how well you have accepted the official policy line; there may be disunity in the actual execution of this policy dependent on where you fall within the Perspectives (Part 2): Spectrum of Fanaticism. They are convinced that Humanity’s ultimate survival is what they strive for, directly or indirectly encouraged or exhorted by others. The only way to expand on the limitations of this particular worldview is exposure to the “other,” be it the D-Bee or magic in application, in a setting that does not match the twisted narrative of the Coalition States.
The nascence of the Coalition States and their genocidal politics can be directly tied to the personalities, egos and mistrust of the two major players of the early P.A. calendar, Lord Dunscon and Joseph Prosek the First. Dunscon was brazen and outspoken about his intent to dominate North America; Prosek was driven to save humanity from anything that might threaten it. In a bitter twist of irony, The Bloody Campaign of 12 P.A. and subsequent engagements developed a legacy whereby each side became diametrically opposed to the other, each providing the other the exact motives required to reinforce their own policies; each has become an echo chamber for their own worldview, their nemesis the justification for continuing as they have for decades because they refuse to accept any premise from the other as worth consideration.
When the Coalition States first formed, they included a small element of mages in their military (The Vanguard). This element was quickly struck from the records as it flies in the face of the doctrine they are preaching. Concealment of information by government is nothing new and certainly not restricted to the Coalition States. The Emperor uses his position of authority to continue imposing his father’s and his own worldview, coercing his citizens into adopting them through the Perspectives (Part 1): Mechanism of Influence; Coalition States’ policies have denied their citizens the opportunity to seek answers to important questions that would have expanded their own worldview and likely lead to a debate on the merits of their policies, if not outright dissension. In the end, if the truth of it all were to come out, chances are a portion of the populace would have come to reject, even abhor the beliefs imposed upon them. For the time being though, Prosek’s worldview reigns supreme and he has the power base and mechanisms to use for his own nefarious influence, and the support of his populace to continue.
Continue to The Bazaar #7: Perspectives - Playing the Coalition States (Part 4) (forthcoming)
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