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It seems that nowadays we have creatures of folklore, that some people really believe exist... monsters... like bigfoot and aliens and chupacabras...

and we also have creatures that no one actually believes in and are pure symbol/entertainment... stuff like Speedy Alka Seltzer and Big Bird.

Were ancient cultures the same? Was a sphinx something the average Egyptian would expect to find cavorting along a river somewhere? ... or was it recognized as merely a meaningful symbol?

Would the powers of the day... the church, royalty, whoever might be inclined... dream up some beast that symbolized their status and would common people see the image of the thing and understand it was not meant to be 'real'?

Perhaps ancient peoples did not have our sharp border between what is real and what isn't... maybe symbols could take on a life of their own.

Still, it's always seemed a bit presumptuous to me to assume that just because some ancient man drew a picture of a creature that meant he really believed it existed...

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It seems that nowadays we have creatures of folklore, that some people really believe exist... monsters... like bigfoot and aliens and chupacabras...

and we also have creatures that no one actually believes in and are pure symbol/entertainment... stuff like Speedy Alka Seltzer and Big Bird.

Were ancient cultures the same? Was a sphinx something the average Egyptian would expect to find cavorting along a river somewhere? ... or was it recognized as merely a meaningful symbol?

Would the powers of the day... the church, royalty, whoever might be inclined... dream up some beast that symbolized their status and would common people see the image of the thing and understand it was not meant to be 'real'?

Perhaps ancient peoples did not have our sharp border between what is real and what isn't... maybe symbols could take on a life of their own.

Still, it's always seemed a bit presumptuous to me to assume that just because some ancient man drew a picture of a creature that meant he really believed it existed...

I'm sure ancient cultures WERE the same - absolutely. Some creatures were just symbols (as a friend of mine likes to say facetiously - "how do we know that wasn't the sign for the men's room?") - some were things that some people actually believed in and some didn't (like the chupacabra today). Just as I'm sure there were total atheists walking around saying "Aah Odin (or Ra, or whomever) is just buncha bunk!"

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...

Who else but a gamer can hold discussions on mythology, ballistics, use Einstein's theory of relativity to work out the energy output of a photon torpedo, and know the difference between Lorica Segementata and CHOBHAM? :shocked:

Hey Atgxtg, some of us also went to school!!! :P

But globally, I think you're right.

Runequestement votre,

Kloster

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I think if you traced the origins of a hundred mythical creatures you would find each has a unique origin. Some as I mention befor was the ancients trying to explain what animals ancient fossils where. other where the result of some one describing an animal to some one else who then described it to another person and so on, each changing the story a little. Centaurs for example are said to be the result of some traveller describing the Central Asian Horse nomads to another person, who then passed on the tale to another and so on. A description of people who live on their horses ends up as a people who are half horse and half man.

Others could be the result of some old storytellers just trying to entertain his audience for the night. When the Mountain Men first told other people about the petrified forest here in the U.S they described how petrified squirrel and birds where still on the limbs of the trees. They of course knew better but loved pulling one on people back east.

Even when you have facts that state otherwise people like the story that is more dramatic ,entertaining or politically acceptable. Take the story of Goliath. Most pictures and description of him say he was around 9 foot tall, but the early Hebrew system of measurement was not very exact and could vary considerable. The 9 foot is using the high end of his height. If you use the low end Goliath height comes out to about 6 foot 10 inches .

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TRose,

Yeah. This sort of thing does get brought up alot when talking about creatures like dragons and vampires, that have legends in nearly all cultures.

Dragons are generally believed to have orginated from the bones of dinosaurs that men came across (dinosaur theory didn't come about to the 19th century!).

Vampires were the ansers to two problems. Why some people who were "dead" came back to life (okay, so they wern"t really dead) and why people died when you let too much red fluid (we call it blood) leak out.

Lengends of the Amazaons seem to have derived from "pygmies" encounted in Africa.

Just looking at ancient maps will reveal just how ofter (and how willing) people "filled in the blanks". A quick net search on almost any fantasy creature will reveal the supposed history/origin.

Sometimes, eve, the creature is real-as with the giant squid. Not that giant squids attack sailing ships.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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Could you give some examples of this, so I can get a better grasp of you line of reasoning? I'm wondering if we are talking about the same thing.

I'll give it a try, but I'm on flu meds, so I don't promise anything about my coherence.

Anthropological functions of mythical animals, like many mythological figures are often (though not always; some may just be something fanciful that someone injected at some point because it made for a cool story, since storytelling tended to interweve with religion and mythology, or the aforementioned explanation of fossils and the like) symbolic, representing something in society or religion that they are an equivelent of on a mythic level. The pheonix is a good example, as a symbol of rebirth and renewal.

But that works on a sociological/religious/psychological level. And it works in part because these myths are simply, unreal. They're essentially a high-order fiction. When looking at a world where these myths are real (and as I caveated earlier, where gods and myths are not simply supernatural projections of their people, but exist seperate from them, these creatures have an existance of their own; they don't have to have any symbolic loading, other than the fact the people involved will _ascribe_ significance to them. But then, people will ascribe significance to anything, including perfectly natural, non-mythical entities. On that level the symbolic origin is irrelevant, because it extends to everything in the world, mythic or not.

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Since you seem to do that pretty much to everything I say, and similarly tersely, I shan't let it concern me much.

hehe...that's cool. I am sorry my short answers are interpreted as being terse; they're just short and sweet.

Just because I disagree doesn't necessary mean that I am terse or hostile. It's merely a difference of viewpoint on these subjects.

I am simply not going to engage you on matters of opinion because nothing good can come of it. I state my opinion plainly, and elborate when asked or feel it necessary.

I have no antipathy for you.

Peace :)

BRP Ze 32/420

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hehe...that's cool. I am sorry my short answers are interpreted as being terse; they're just short and sweet.

Just because I disagree doesn't necessary mean that I am terse or hostile. It's merely a difference of viewpoint on these subjects.

I am simply not going to engage you on matters of opinion because nothing good can come of it. I state my opinion plainly, and elborate when asked or feel it necessary.

I have no antipathy for you.

Peace :)

And I'm sorry if that seemed grumpy; as I said, I'm on flu meds, and I tend to find "I disagree" with no follow-through as, well, kind of pointless; if I'm going to disagree with someone and bother to say so, I usually try to tell them why, and honestly tend to expect the same of others. That doesn't require others to feel the same way, but it does color my view of such responses.

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It's not a lot to do with Chaos in Glorantha, but .....

The Real World origins of various mythological creatures is irrelevant from a fantasy gaming point of view.

So what if people found dinosaur fossils and thought they were dragons?

In a factasy game, what is important is the mythological origins or the pseudo-historical origins of creatures.

In Greek Myth, Pegasus arose from Medusa's blood after she was beheaded by Perseus (I think). In Bashkort mythology, flying horses were gifts from the Sun to mighty heroes. Both are flying horses, but both have different origins. If I were playing an ancient Greek game then I'd use the Medusa-origin myth, if I played a steppe nomad game I'd use the Bashkort-origin myth.

The most important things are:

1. What they are

2. What they do

3. Where they came from

So, Griffins are hybrid lion/eagles, Pegasi are winged horses and dragons exist.

Griffins prey on livestock, Pegasi can be tamed by heroes and dragons hoard treasure and eat livestock and people.

Where they came from depends on the game setting and the myths used.

That's all I really need to know about them. Any "Real World" explanation is completely irrelevant to me.

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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It's not a lot to do with Chaos in Glorantha, but .....

The Real World origins of various mythological creatures is irrelevant from a fantasy gaming point of view.

So what if people found dinosaur fossils and thought they were dragons?

In a factasy game, what is important is the mythological origins or the pseudo-historical origins of creatures.

In Greek Myth, Pegasus arose from Medusa's blood after she was beheaded by Perseus (I think). In Bashkort mythology, flying horses were gifts from the Sun to mighty heroes. Both are flying horses, but both have different origins. If I were playing an ancient Greek game then I'd use the Medusa-origin myth, if I played a steppe nomad game I'd use the Bashkort-origin myth.

The most important things are:

1. What they are

2. What they do

3. Where they came from

So, Griffins are hybrid lion/eagles, Pegasi are winged horses and dragons exist.

Griffins prey on livestock, Pegasi can be tamed by heroes and dragons hoard treasure and eat livestock and people.

Where they came from depends on the game setting and the myths used.

That's all I really need to know about them. Any "Real World" explanation is completely irrelevant to me.

Well I think its practical to know more than just "can be tamed by heroes" about those creatures in your fantasy game. For example some game stats just in case the PC meet the unfriendly manticore. :)

There are some other points where reality and myth meet each other. Its not always clear what a mythological creature is and what not. Eg. in former times, many "mundane" animals have been given magical attributes by the people and so became a hybrid between mythological creature and real animal. So what do you do in your fantasy game? Do have rhinos magical horns or not?

In most fantasy settings, rhinos are normal animals. They dont have any magic attributes. This is because those games are viewing mundane animals of the fantasy world from a modern zoological point of view. But a few, like "ars magica" does indeed give rhinos or even geese magical abilities.

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It always bugged me a bit that most all fantasy games I've seen carry the assumption that every folkloric/mythological creature in the character's culture has a 'real' objective existence in-game... and that most all the characters believed in them too.

I can't recall reading/playing an adventure where the characters go on a 'snark hunt'...

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Well I think its practical to know more than just "can be tamed by heroes" about those creatures in your fantasy game. For example some game stats just in case the PC meet the unfriendly manticore. :)

Of course, you need stats.

I was talking about the supposed origin of the creatures and people's insistence on arguing about real world origins rather than game/setting-based origins.

If you have a creature in a game it will have a game-origin and game-stats.

There are some other points where reality and myth meet each other. Its not always clear what a mythological creature is and what not. Eg. in former times, many "mundane" animals have been given magical attributes by the people and so became a hybrid between mythological creature and real animal. So what do you do in your fantasy game? Do have rhinos magical horns or not?

In most fantasy settings, rhinos are normal animals. They dont have any magic attributes. This is because those games are viewing mundane animals of the fantasy world from a modern zoological point of view. But a few, like "ars magica" does indeed give rhinos or even geese magical abilities.

Once again, it would depend on the setting and how you want to play it.

In Chinese medicine, rhino horn is an aphrodisiac (actually in many folk medicine traditions, anything that is long and hard is an aphrodisiac, although I can't for the life of me work out why ......) so if you used a similar medicinal tradition in your game then rhino horn might have some magical effects.

Are rhinos as magical as unicorns? Probably not. Do many creatures have magical properties? Maybe, it depends on your game.

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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It always bugged me a bit that most all fantasy games I've seen carry the assumption that every folkloric/mythological creature in the character's culture has a 'real' objective existence in-game... and that most all the characters believed in them too.

Well, yes and no.

Many people like meeting strange and exotic creatures in games. You can make them up or use the game setting as a base for the creatures.

If you are adventuring in Ancient Greece then why shouldn't you meet centaurs, satyrs and fauns? If you are adventuring in Scandinavia, you could meet trolls, dwarves and elves. In settings based on novels, films or TV shows, you'd expect to meet things from the base setting.

What you wouldn't necessarily expect to meet are creatures from other settings/mythologies. So, I wouldn't expect to meet a conchon in Ancient Greece or a centaur in the Aztec Empire or a shurale in Roman Britain.

Not everything needs to exist, but if you base your setting on folktales and legends, then everything that was met in those tales could conceiveably me met in your game.

I can't recall reading/playing an adventure where the characters go on a 'snark hunt'...

But, it would be a good scenario, though, wouldn't it?

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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Nightshade,

Okay, I can see what your saying now. But I don't quite agree. I don't think that the cultures that created such myths actually disntinguished between "real monster" and high order fiction (or low brow fiction). It was all a bit of a mix. For instance, the Grek gods were often viewd as more fictional characters or writers tools for parables, then as real beings, but were still offered worship.

Basically, the problem was that the mysteries of life and the world needed to be answered, and people will usually accept any answer until they are given a better one. We still do it today.

Snark Hunts,

I've done stuff like that in campaigns. I once had the group vampire hunting only to find out in the end that the "vampire" was really just a demeneted townsperson.

I've also "reverse snark hunted". My favorite CoC character was a guy who didn't believe in in the Mythos, or any of the Mythos beasts. Oddly enough, I was always lucky to be elsewhere when the monsters did show up. The one or two times he did get a glimpse of something strange, he was able to explain it off as something more natural (WoW, did you see that big bat, that just flew past the window?). The character really started to annoy the GM, since he was far more successful than the other CoC characters. His SAN wasn't dropping, his skills were improving, and he was doing just fine without any magic spells.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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Well, yes and no.

Many people like meeting strange and exotic creatures in games.

Well I can think of some exotic creatures I would like to meet. There Sophia Loren, Salma Hayak, Zhang Ziyi and Michelle Yeoh to start .

Good thing my wife does not read these boards.

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Nightshade,

Okay, I can see what your saying now. But I don't quite agree. I don't think that the cultures that created such myths actually disntinguished between "real monster" and high order fiction (or low brow fiction). It was all a bit of a mix. For instance, the Grek gods were often viewd as more fictional characters or writers tools for parables, then as real beings, but were still offered worship.

However, I suspect strongly if you examined the people involved that the people providing genuine worship (as distinguished from the people who were just going through a social ritual) were _not_ the people who thought the gods were simply symbolic. In fact, a religion that has begun to be seen by the majority of its people as entirely symbolic is usually on its last legs (as shown by the way the Roman polytheism was so vulnerable to replacement by mystery cults and Christianity at its end).

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That would be interesting in a game setting... having the one or more 'official' religions that no one really believed anymore but everyone gave lipservice too... offset against another one that had a growing cult of true-believers.

For most of the fantasy games I've played in the religions were pretty much equally powerful and equally correct... meaning all the gods could grant spells/powers... or even show up in person from time to time...

I think the thing about creatures being real/not real... is part of the mystery that's enchanting about playing in lower tech settings... not naming the creature that is seen but merely describing it and letting the players/characters come to all the wrong assumptions... either mistaking a vagrant for bigfoot or believing the sphinx at the gate is only a statue... oops!

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That would be interesting in a game setting... having the one or more 'official' religions that no one really believed anymore but everyone gave lipservice too... offset against another one that had a growing cult of true-believers.

For most of the fantasy games I've played in the religions were pretty much equally powerful and equally correct... meaning all the gods could grant spells/powers... or even show up in person from time to time...

Well, that's the problem; as long as you have activist, concrete gods, you aren't going to get anything that looks really historical; you'll get the myth of religion rather than its reality, if you get my meaning.

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Depdns on just how active said gods are. But generally, yeah, most people will believe in Zeus when he shows up, tosses some lightning bolts, grants a DI or two, and provides cult magic.

But you can get something fairly historical in such context. Most ancient cultures were polytheistic. So it wasn't that they didn't believe other gods existed. It the monotheistic religions that have the difficulty, and even that can be worked around by claims that other gods are in fact, lesser entities or demons, masquerading as the divine.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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I'm picturing some meta-game campaign system that charts the gains/losses in support for the various gods... and distributes power accordingly...

"Zeus used to show up all blood and thunder... and throw lightning bolts... but now that everyone has switched to Zoroastrianism you only see him once in a while... his toga is dirty and all he does is try to grope the farmer's geese."

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I'm picturing some meta-game campaign system that charts the gains/losses in support for the various gods... and distributes power accordingly...

"Zeus used to show up all blood and thunder... and throw lightning bolts... but now that everyone has switched to Zoroastrianism you only see him once in a while... his toga is dirty and all he does is try to grope the farmer's geese."

:lol: That's funny!

BRP Ze 32/420

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I'm picturing some meta-game campaign system that charts the gains/losses in support for the various gods... and distributes power accordingly...

"Zeus used to show up all blood and thunder... and throw lightning bolts... but now that everyone has switched to Zoroastrianism you only see him once in a while... his toga is dirty and all he does is try to grope the farmer's geese."

There was an RPG that did that a few years back. PCs played gods and vied for worshipers/power.

as a side note, Warpworld is set in just such a world, a future Earth, but where the costs for doing miracles is high, so the gods try to impress on a budget.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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Well I can think of some exotic creatures I would like to meet. There Sophia Loren, Salma Hayak, Zhang Ziyi and Michelle Yeoh to start .

Good thing my wife does not read these boards.

I want to volunteer to join that "party" of adventurers! 3.gif

I woudln't want you to handle the danger alone! :D

Plus, I don't have a wife, so if she sees you facing down a creature you can just say that its my girlfriend. 1.gif :thumb:

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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