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Dice

Dungeons & Politics

Imagine that those who aspire to total control were in no hurry.

That their ambition, their ideology, presented an ultimate goal that most of the adherents understood would, most likely, not come to fruition in their own lifetimes.

I would agree that ideals, by their very nature, are rarely attainable in their pure form but the striving is the important thing and each increment is a victory, yes?

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Did you ever play Dungeons & Dragons or indulge in RPGs (Role-Playing Games)?

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When I observe significant* world events and see the usual Machiavellian hands prodding their ignorant and unknowing pawns around in these scenarios, I am often reminded of those evenings I spent as the ‘Ref’, running games such as ‘Runequest‘ or Skyrealms of Jorune‘ in my (misspent) past.

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For such games, players create and portray characters in a world ‘portrayed’ by the ‘Ref’ (referee or game master). The Ref has a narrative, a story or scenario which the characters play their way through using dice rolls to represent the chance element of their skills being successful in overcoming the puzzles, obstacles and conflicts presented to them.

Such games are potentially endless. Stories evolve, new adventures and challenges arrive and, over time, all game participants create a complex world with its own rules, traditions, laws, allegiances, societies and mores.

The Ref always has the ultimate power, though.

While players portray individuals, the Ref, essentially, plays The World and all its resources are at his beck and call.

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Want to scupper the characters’ travel plans? Throw a three-day blizzard at them.

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Think the characters are defeating that troll too easily? Have another one suddenly arrive behind them.

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Got a bunch of cocky characters/players celebrating at having defeated the ‘final’ big, bad boss?

Chuck in a plot twist and have them discover that they were set up to take out a rival of the actual (and more cunning and powerful) big, bad boss who was, in fact, really behind all the troubles, ( …bonus ‘Ref Points’ if he/she happened to be an erstwhile, friendly and likeable ally).

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So, you see where I am going here?

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I think it is fair to say that a relatively small number of individuals have acquired for themselves an inordinate amount of power, sufficient power, in essence, to ‘play’ the world.

Enough power and influence, for example, to steer millions of their ‘players’, through event manipulation and perception management, to play their game and move their own narrative forward in the process.

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Want to distract the players while you reach for your ever-loaded Ref dice? Another local or international conflict or scandal will do.

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Want your players to distrust/hate a certain group or faction? Simply portray them as inherently, irredeemably despicable and arrange events that reinforce the view.

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Want to bribe a character/player to play along with your narrative? Drop a powerful magic item in their lap or have them, alone, find a load of gold coins in a chest, (as Ref, you can conjure gold coins out of thin air anytime you want, remember?).

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Having trouble with a player in the group complaining that you are ‘fudging’ the dice rolls?

Step back and have one of your friends run the game for a while – but get them to mess it up so badly that no-one enjoys it any more and the players beg for you to take over and make it ‘right’ again.

The analogies are almost infinite.

*(I know. Everything is ‘significant’ – even insignificance, itself).

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