Day 12 of #RPGaDAY 2020. Today’s prompt is ‘Message’.
There are many plots in movies from the 80’s that could have been short-circuited by the existence of the mobile phone. Back then, we simply did not understand how our lives and social mores would change by having ubiquitous communication (first synchronous, by phone, and now increasingly asynchronous through all kinds of messaging apps). You see this also in Star Trek episodes where a planet’s ionosphere (or whatever) impedes the usage of the communicator: the writers didn’t know how to deal with instant communications without breaking their intended plot, and thus they removed the capability. I’m pretty sure they just didn’t understand what it would be like, and thus could not adapt their plots accordingly. In the seminal cyberpunk novel Neuromancer, there are no cellphones, even though man-machine interfaces exist. This is just because the mobile phone (as such) did not exist back then, and so the technology portrayed was never extrapolated from that data point.
So in a lot of media, communication is very important. One of the easiest ways to get a party of characters in a fantasy game moving is to have them carry a (vital) message to someone who is somewhere else. This might be considered a lazy trope — on the other hand, who else but a group of capable adventurers could you trust to deliver your message across dangerous wilderness?
But how do the rulers communicate? If there are no reliable communication networks, how can a centrally administered government project their policies and power across the land? And if there are ways to reliably send a message across (relatively vast) distances, why would the party be tasked with such?
The implications of having communication networks or the lack thereof is something to think about when designing an adventure, just like how the Star Trek writers should have thought about the implications of the existance of the communicator in their plots.Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.