Bloodless Xristos

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Bloodless Xristos
« on: March 05, 2014, 06:08:01 AM »
I think the treatment of Bloodless Xristos is really interesting, and I'm wrestling with it. Various distinct differences between the game's treatment and historical Christianity jump out, and seem worth mentioning.

Most strikingly, there is no Papal Rome. There is no Bishop of Xristos who is a claimant to the throne of the Empire of Eagles, transmuted from a worldly to a celestial reign. It's not clear that the Empire of Eagles ever converted en masse to the religion of Xristos, and persecuted followers of the Gods of the Empire of Eagles with its imperial might. It's not clear that there was ever (and it's sort of implied that there wasn't ever) a fusion of the imperial values of hierarchy, control, and expansion with the monastic and utopian values of the followers of Xristos. One would not expect, from the short description here, monasteries of Bloodless Xristos functioning as an intact network of trade and information, directed from an imperial center, in a hierarchy of control. One would not expect priests reporting to bishops reporting to monsignors reporting to cardinals. There seems to be disagreement among followers of Xristos, but no ecumenical councils banning heretics.

Secondly, Xristos seems to have sprung from nowhere -- neither from the Old Gods, nor from the Gods of the Empire of Eagles, but also not from any rebellious province with its own pre-existing monotheism. Xristos begins life by creating the world -- as opposed to being initially a man, claimed as a king of a specific people, elevated to Godhood, and then awkwardly merged with a pre-existing world-creator God who already had a name. There is therefore not the embarrassment of a competing, older group, using the same books, offering the same narrative of world-creation, but scorning Xristos as a fanciful addition to the canon. The followers of Xristos are spared the misfortune of having to condemn these folks -- who would, if they existed, be found in all walks of life, but among other things as wealthy owners of villas, claiming the right to legal proceedings under the Law of the Empire of Eagles and owning slaves who are followers of Xristos -- as quasi-demonic outcasts eternally cursed for having spurned their Redeemer. The followers of Xristos need not petition kings and lords, demanding that these embarrassing predecessors be deprived of their slaves and holdings, forbidden from preaching, dispersed and banished.

There were also, as far as we know, no massively popular Mystery Religions competing with the familial and human gods of the Empire of Eagles; the legionnaires of the Eagles, unlike those of Rome, were not swayed en masse by the cults of Isis or Mithra.

So Xristos gets to be the only holistic, ineffable, mystical god, without having to appropriate anything from anyone, or claim to fulfill any particularistic prophecies of rebellious provinces. He is Logos, world-creator, without any awkward familial relationship to a pre-existing father-god who might be Himself, somehow. His followers never merged with empire, have no single Holy Father commanding them, no hierarchy, and no elder-sibling competitors to persecute

So if the followers of Xristos gain dominion over the land -- if, over the course of the next few hundred years, they come to almost fully displace the Old Gods and the Gods of the Empire of Eagles -- there doesn't seem to be that much to worry about, does there?. They are unlikely to wage war on heretics (since they are so benignly multifarous) or elder siblings(since they don't have any), or engage in pogroms and crusades. They really do hold peace, healing, mercy, penitence, and humility to be the greatest virtues... in deeds as well as words.  I guess we should be rooting for them, then.

Lucky Xristos!

As a first approximation of the English or Danish Dark Ages, erasing the Pope and the Jews does not cause tremendous historical problems. (It's much more of a distortion if dealing with, say, Merovignian France, or southern Germany.)

Still, it's an interesting choice. Xristos and his followers are sort of what Christianity -- especially a low-church Protestant Christianity -- would like to imagine that it was in the Dark Ages. As opposed to what it actually was. It's an idealized version.

Which is a political choice. One which, as a Jew, I'm a little uncomfortable with. That may be my baggage, of course.


*

lumpley

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Re: Bloodless Xristos
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2014, 10:27:19 AM »
This is really great. Thank you!

As I develop and flesh out text about religion, I might ask you to read it before I make it public. Look out.

-Vincent

Re: Bloodless Xristos
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2014, 10:45:46 AM »
Sounds good to me!

Re: Bloodless Xristos
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2014, 11:12:17 AM »
As a follow up to this, I read an article a little while ago about what genetic testing had revealed about the history of Ashkenazi (northern/central/eastern european) Jews. Much to everyone's surprise, it turns out Ashkenazi Jews are 95% Middle Eastern on Y-chromosomal DNA, and 50% Middle Eastern on mitochondrial DNA. That is (at least by inference), most of, say, my Dad's male ancestors go back to Roman Judea, while only about half of his female ancestors do.

And apparently this is because some time around 600 AD, all the little barons and potentates and lords along the Rhine river were, in confidential moments, telling each other "hey listen -- you gotta get yourself a Jew!"

This is because practically no one around was literate, and competent in administration, except for a) monks and priests who reported to Rome, and b) nobles who were potentially competing sources of power. Whereas if you imported a Jew from the large Jewish community across the alps in Rome, you'd have someone who was numerate and literate and could not possibly become a political rival, indeed, who depended on you for protection.

Which led to, apparently, a large group of sort of Jewish accountant-adventurers, if you will, capable of running the estates and administrations of various minor lords, and willing to hang out with a bunch of guys wearing furs, carrying round shields and drinking mead out of horns... spreading northwards up the Rhine and marrying local (pagan or Christian) girls, only later followed by their brothers and sisters and parents and cousins and rabbis, who would build synagogues and mikvehs and whatnot (and hastily convert the wives, I guess).

"I'm not from around here. I know things you don't, and I will put them at your disposal. I serve neither the Old Gods, nor those of the Eagles. And Bloodless Xristos? Ha! Don't get me started about Bloodless Xristos..."

I think it sounds like an interesting playbook.

*

lumpley

  • 1293
Re: Bloodless Xristos
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2014, 11:21:22 AM »
Huh! You're right, it does.

-Vincent

Re: Bloodless Xristos
« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2014, 11:34:02 AM »
possible names for that playbook:

The Follower of the Ineffable Name
The Fringe-Robed
The Xristos-Killer
The Wandering Scribe
The Talisman-Bearer  ( => this would be your Dark Ages' neighbors fascination with tefillin)
The Keeper of Records
The Book-Bearer

Re: Bloodless Xristos
« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2014, 12:57:35 PM »
That Class sounds like the coolest Class, so yes.

Re: Bloodless Xristos
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2014, 09:03:52 AM »
I for one did not read Bloodless Xristos as an idealised version. Sure the problems are missing, but so are a lot of other things. I came away seeing his followers as newcomers and troublemakers, upsetting an already strained situation, adding a third, even less woman-friendly system of inheritance and probably as often aggressive as they are accepting of others. It says "it's a matter of opinion" but it never says the worshippers always see it that way.

I would say the description invites you to take this extremely simplified vision of Christianity and fill in the history and flaws of it in various contradicting ways, even within the same campaign.

That out the way I really like these ideas. In a world defined by its limitations, somebody who breaks them in various mundane ways sounds fun. Sure, he's not as visually impressive as a dragon summoner, but in a sense he's doing the same thing, albeit in a radically different way. The same playbook could make an excellent all-purpose sceptic or natural philosopher too.

If this hypothetical guy doesn't follow any of the known and described religions, I wonder who he prays to? The father of Xristos is the obvious answer, but maybe he's Mr. Rational and gets some kind of Sharp or Cool equivalent, believing he's supposed to study and puzzle it out for himself? It seems to me that would fit the theme if his god just didn't work that way.

Re: Bloodless Xristos
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2014, 03:23:18 PM »
about the Bloodless Xristos religion being free of this, that and that of traditional real-world christianity - I do not think so. Sure, you can play it that way... or not.
Omission in *W traditionally was "use it. or not. fill in the blanks". The same as we have no idea, what was the Empire of Eagles - besides having specific laws of passing birthright, we do not know anything about the Empire
Most notably, is it finished, or just retreated for a while

Same with Xristos. Maybe he is closer to our version of christianity. or buddhism. or something else.

Re: Bloodless Xristos
« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2014, 05:17:05 AM »
Guns_n_Droids: I certainly agree that you can fill in the blanks as you like. But AW:DA has a different relationship to history -- especially since it's actually supplying a setting.

There are no institutions, persons, places, or events -- except the psychic maelstrom and the apocalypse itself, both of which are explicitly stripped of details -- in AW. AW explicitly avoids detailing the way the apocalypse went down -- a far cry from, say, explaining the exact genealogical rules of the Empire of Eagles. (The only human social institution the AW rules arguably mandate is barter, which functions among other things as a kind of exchange rate between the different playbooks' skills; but other than where it arbitrates balance between the playbooks and touches on basic sustenance, it's kept as generic as possible).

AW takes place, nominally, in the future (it might be the future of some other past). When we imagine AW's world we generally start with the now, strip away every institution and norm we can point to, and imagine what arises then.

AW:DA supplies a set of human social institutions, events, and norms which are altered dream-images of real history.

This opens up a very different set of esthetic possibilities and choices. Omissions in AW:DA are choices, in a way omissions in AW are not. AW doesn't mention mention any religion, except whatever the hell the Hocus makes up. AW:DA explictily offers us (parallel world-) Christianity, polytheistic Roman civic religion, and Celtic/Teutonic paganism. It describes how each functions. It leaves out (any parallel-world versions of) Mithra, Isis, the Jews, the Pope...

Those are choices. I'm not saying they're bad choices; including all of the above would probably make the text messy and unwieldy. Choices are awesome. Still: omissions aren't just blanks. They are elisions.

AW:DA has taken on the project of offering a portrayal of real-world Christianity. That's an awesome project and I am excited to see Vincent tackle it. But it means omission functions differently. You can obviously hack AW:DA any way you want. But in fact you begin with something, a portrait of Dark Ages Christianity. I'm commenting on what that portrait includes, and what it excludes.

In this sense AW:DA is much closer to DitV, which has things to say about Mormons, Native Americans, non-Mormon settlers, and the American West, than it is to AW, which is, in some ways, in a space beyond/after/outside of history. (Which isn't to say AW doesn't comment on our history -- it does, wonderfully so; it comments on it by asserting one thing about it: that it ends. It positions "how did we lose all we have today" in the middle of the game's fruitful void, by steadfastly refusing to comment on how the apocalypse happened...)



Re: Bloodless Xristos
« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2014, 07:20:29 AM »
The rationalist/skeptic is an interesting take on The Book-Bearer, and I like the idea of extending it to encompass that.

One would have to think carefully about the backstory of the rationalist/skeptic if it's not to be an anachronistic projection of current attitudes... certainly there was plenty of scope for skepticism about the reality of the gods in classical antiquity, and it was quite in vogue in various periods of Roman life, so the skeptic version of the Book-Bearer might simply be an inheritor of classical learning, sticking out like a sore thumb in the Dark Age.

On the other hand, the "you can't possibly become a political rival, nor a pawn of the Church, so let me entrust you with the books" thing may not work out quite as well for the skeptic. A Roman skeptic can easily sacrifice to Jupiter with tongue firmly in cheek or even with a high-minded sense that honoring the old ways is virtuous even if the backstory is poppycock, and doing that wouldn't pose any social obstacle to political advancement under the Law of Eagles. It's not quite like having an entire community that simply refuses to honor the mainstream rituals and is therefore suspect in the eyes of almost everyone. This could work for a rationalist-skeptic, but it'd have to be a rationalist-skeptic of a particular sort.

I feel like both Oaths and the Pray move might end up modified, for either kinds of Book-Bearer. One of the problems with both Jews (including Christians) and atheists in classical antiquity was that it was difficult to make formal deals with them -- in a society that runs on oaths, where the oaths are backed up by divine vengeance, someone who refuses to even acknowledge the existence of the powers you're swearing on poses a legal, as well as moral, problem. Maybe the Book-Bearer has no Oaths - they are forbidden to, or unwilling to, swear by any gods -- so they have Promises or Contracts instead? Pray is also interesting -- for the rationalist as for the Jew, "the gates of heaven are closed" and we have only the writings of the ancients and our own faculties of interpretation and observation to rely on. It's not like Dark Age Jews don't pray -- they pray all the time, fulfilling ritual obligations -- but prayer as "let's see what the gods say I should do next" is problematized by the Talmudic proscription on looking to Heaven for answers ("lo bashamayim hi")....


Re: Bloodless Xristos
« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2014, 04:41:47 PM »
AW:DA has taken on the project of offering a portrayal of real-world Christianity.

Hmm. I actually don't like that if that is the case. I mean it is neat and all and an aspect that I'd explore. But at the same time why can't Xristos be like R'hllor in a Song of Ice and Fire? Why does it have to be Christian God by another name?

For that matter why does the Empire of Eagles have to be Rome? Why can't it be the Ming Dynasty. Or something else completely fictional, like say the Andals from A Song of Ice and Fire?

I like the more defined setting. Don't get me wrong, I'm totally cool with that. But defining it so that it has to be the Christian God. Or Rome by another name. Meh. No thanks.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2014, 04:46:34 PM by Irminsul »

Re: Bloodless Xristos
« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2014, 07:08:32 PM »
When I said a rational sceptic I didn't exactly mean as an alternative to a Jew, since as you point out the two ideas are quite compatible. He's a rational and scholarly guy, he doesn't buy in to the religions of the lands in which the game is set, he probably doesn't get guidance directly from gods in the way other characters do and his race, culture, lifestyle or origin somehow prevent him from holding titles.

I think he should definitely be able to pray (as the move) in extremis, but that would constitute a crisis of faith and possibly carry mechanical consequences. I'd think he should get a move beginning "when you turn to your books for facts or wisdom..." or words to that effect. I don't know what other stuff he'd get.

Re: Bloodless Xristos
« Reply #13 on: March 08, 2014, 01:43:04 AM »
AW:DA has taken on the project of offering a portrayal of real-world Christianity.

Hmm. I actually don't like that if that is the case. I mean it is neat and all and an aspect that I'd explore. But at the same time why can't Xristos be like R'hllor in a Song of Ice and Fire? Why does it have to be Christian God by another name?

For that matter why does the Empire of Eagles have to be Rome? Why can't it be the Ming Dynasty. Or something else completely fictional, like say the Andals from A Song of Ice and Fire?

I like the more defined setting. Don't get me wrong, I'm totally cool with that. But defining it so that it has to be the Christian God. Or Rome by another name. Meh. No thanks.

I don't really mean "it has to be [Rome, Christ, etc] by another name in your game". I mean, it's a riff on Rome and Christ and Dark Ages Northern Europe. It'll need some serious hacking -- to the ranks, the geneaologies, trolls & monsters, religions, playbooks, "our amber, silver, timber, and furs go south and east, by sea, by river, or overland; spices, cotton, high-quality iron, and finished luxury goods come north and west to us", etc -- to become a riff on the Ming Dynasty. Don't get me wrong, plenty would work great for the Ming Dynasty -- basic moves, fates, much about the playbooks -- and I want to see that hack! It sounds terrific. Dragon Herald awakens a dragon: "make its hunger for knowledge and its divine wisdom vast and patient. Mere isolated acts of kindness and sharing the wealth of a single village's harvest won't distract or satisfy it. It craves bringing everything into harmony with the Celestial Kingdom..." go for it!

But it's always worth inquiring what the text of the game that we are given is saying, as it is. A storygame like this is a double artifact. It's a generative ruleset for creating umpteen fictions. It's also an artifact which offers a fiction, in its own right. An esthetic and ethical critique of that fiction is interesting. To say "but you don't have to play it that way if you don't like it" is changing the topic.

You don't need to have Mormons and Indians and the West in your game of Dogs in the Vineyard. But Dogs in the Vineyard is still a game about (a riff on) Mormons and Indians and the West.


Re: Bloodless Xristos
« Reply #14 on: March 08, 2014, 10:58:08 AM »
Quote
But it's always worth inquiring what the text of the game that we are given is saying, as it is. A storygame like this is a double artifact. It's a generative ruleset for creating umpteen fictions. It's also an artifact which offers a fiction, in its own right. An esthetic and ethical critique of that fiction is interesting. To say "but you don't have to play it that way if you don't like it" is changing the topic.
OK. They I'd wait for mr.Lumpley to confirm or deny what I think. I agree, it's totally worth inquiring