Jun 082012
 

Hilarious Caption Here

If you are a person you have undoubtedly had someone from an older generation make some kind of reference to “The Good Ol’ Days.” These days are generally invoked when you, the “whippersnapper” talks about something from the present that is complicated, frustrating, or contentious. I’m from America, so  The Good Ol’ Days are the 1950’s, a magical era where Americans loved their country because it was good. Children could go play outside, food was cleaner, entertainment was fun, women were beautiful and kind, and men were stern but dapper. Life was less complicated; the times were more innocent. People wore socks and you could see them. There was only one sexual position, the “Baby Maker.” “I wish you could have seen America in the Good Ol’ Days.’

Right.

There is no way in Hades I would want to live in the “Good Ol’ Days,” and not just because of the lack of internet or sexual positions. This is because I’m brown and a woman and attracted to both men and women. In the 50’s my marriage would be illegal in quite a few states. The option to work outside of the home would be greatly reduced and I could be flat out denied a job just for saying my uterus was capable of succumbing to the “Baby Maker.” Being attracted to women could have meant being institutionalized and subjected to medication or terrible treatments, since homosexuality was seen as a disease to be cured. And one of my favourite Star Trek: Deep Space 9 episodes is “Far Beyond the Stars,” where an alternate Benjamin Sisko, Benny Russel, has to deal with how the prejudices of the time keep him from having the story he wrote about a black Space Captain being printed or even reveal he himself is black. His female co-worker has to take up a nom de plume so her gender isn’t revealed (which, by the way? Still done by women writers).

But life was so much simpler back then!

While (certain portions of) the population in America were learning that microwave dinners were totally great and gathering around the telemobox, the rest of the world and many people in America were not all necessarily partaking. The Korean War happened in the 50’s. Countries in Africa and Asia, tired of their European occupiers, rose up, Europe and France fighting and eventually pulling out of Algeria, Vietnam, Libya, Kenya, and other countries. Communism got a foothold in Cuba.

I’m not saying nothing awesome happened in the Good Ol’ Days of the American 50’s. NASA was founded. DNA was cracked. Rock and Roll evolved out of African-American musical traditions. The polio vaccine was invented. But I can’t help but wonder if some sockhopper wasn’t getting chastised by their elder saying, “If you had been alive in the 10’s, you’d see. Seeing calves? Balderdash!* Charlie Chaplin wasn’t a Commie! A man, a plan, a canal! You know the rest. And we helped King George. The King of England was a MAN.”

A span of time will always make something from the past look better than what it was, and some people’s present fixation with “The Good Ol’ Days” is not the first or last time this has happened. Many movements throughout history have drawn from the past, inspired by what was left behind dozens or hundreds of years ago. The Renaissance was meant to be the “rebirth” of the Classical Age in art, philosophy and science. Never mind that the life expectancy of your average Roman citizen was about 30. The Romantic Era idealized the pastoral era of old, even though shepherding when your life depends on it? Not all that fun, Byron.

Time affects people not only biologically but philosophically. Access to information or lack thereof both built relationships between fellow countrymen but made connections with people in other countries damn near impossible. Hell, other states. And as we crawl towards our final days, do we really want to spend our time remembering the bad? Or would we rather illuminate the good and go out with a smile, remembering when we were great? Right now I don’t mind reminding people that the old days were crap but when I’m older, I might be wagging my finger at my grandchildren, saying the days before Ultraporn were so much simpler.

Adventurers are susceptible to ideals and moralities, sometimes carrying out what is deemed the greater good that day for a certain group of people. Meanwhile, the days continue to pass and different people start to surround them. Whose ideals to the adventurers uphold? How does “the greater good” change? And what are the bad and good things about the days the PCs live in, picked through by their brains? What is exalted or forgotten when they are old and tired, sitting by the fire?

For GMs

  • What have been the major events and advances of the last few decades?
  • Have there been any Ages? Rebirths? Enlightenments? Reformations? Politically, spiritually, socially, etc.?
  • What is the average life expectancy of the population?
  • How many generations live in the country?
  • What were the accomplishments of the oldest living generation? Their wars? Their achievements? Their sorrows? Their great moments?
  • What movements did the ruling government go through? Is there another age they are seeking to emulate?
  • Is the older generation revered? Held in higher esteem? Or are the young allowed to bring in and foster new ideas?
  • How has the culture changed over the generations? Different morals/ideals? Different ideas as to how the world works? More access to certain items?
  • What have been the major ages/advancements/events in neighboring countries? Far away countries? How has this affected the country the PCs live in?
  • How fast does information travel? How has this changed over the years? Is information more readily available now than before? Less?
  • Have all the ages and advances been equally kind to all races? Genders? Sexes? Sexualities? Classes?
  • What is considered old-fashioned? What is cutting edge?
  • What is the greatest/proudest time period in the region’s existence? What was the worst? What made it so great? Does everyone agree?

Plot Hooks

  • New advancements in technology has their employers send the PCs to a neighboring country to set up a small on-location news station so they can report back on the doings of the country. Investigations for the daily newscast t(hat must be done by a certain time each day) reveals the history of the country and the people are very different from what their home country knows. What are the differences? Why is the PCs knowledge so different? How do the locals treat the PCs and how do they regard the country the PCs are from?
  • A religious leader wishes to invoke tradition and perform the sacrifices the old way, claiming the country’s failings politically and socially are linked to the incorrect sacrifices. The leader rallies the older generation behind them, the older people quickly falling in line in an effort to appease the deities. The PCs work for a less zealous faction within the Church and must investigate the leader. Why did the sacrifices work back in the old days? Why were the sacrifices changed? Do they work now? What would it mean if the country had to keep on perfomring the old sacrifices?
  • A second, third or fourth generation immigrant, now old and grey pays the PCs to go to the country of their ancestors and bring back an artifact from the Golden Age of the region. The item brought back proves to be truly stupendous, in stark contrast to the country’s present state. What happened to the country to cause such a downturn? What does the person who hires them plan to do with the artifact? What do the locals of the region think about the quest the PCs are on?
  • A law is passed regarding the required age and experience of anyone who wishes to be an official in a political party. In protest, the graduating class of one of the country’s leading universities rises up with other students quickly joining the cause. Along with the political issues, this causes a bit of disorderly conduct. The PCs are alums of the university of the leader of the protest, now all employed by the government; they are sent to speak with the leader of the group and if the individual  refuses, they have been charged with bringing them back to speak with the Council. Why is the initial law passed? Are all the students and recent graduates all upset about this? Does it mean that certain officials lose their positions?
  • The PCs are all part of a culture that has Lore Keepers, elder members of each tribe who are revered for possessing the history of their people, clans and tribes. The night before an important holiday when the History is passed on through a night of storytelling all the Lore Keepers vanish in the night. The PCs must travel the land, trying to find those who keep the stories of their people. Who has kidnapped the Lore Keepers? Why? Are the PCs all from the same tribe or different tribes? What are their relationships and feelings regarding the Lore Keepers? How are the Lore Keepers able to remember so much? How does the rest of the population regard the reverence of elders? What would it mean if the Lore Keepers are never found?
  • A piece of information that would ruin the reputation of a family/group is hinted at. The PCs are all younger members of the family/group and are sent to destroy evidence of the terrible misdoing in order to save the reputation of their fellows. What is the information? What must they destroy? Who else knows? How is the misdoing revealed? Is the ‘atrocity’ what the older family members say it is or is it something more?
  • When the grave of a leader of old splits open, the local politicians see it as a sign the country should return to the ways of the time period the leader is from. This includes forgetting about advancements made for different people groups. The PCs are part of a political party who think the whole thing has been staged so the opposing party can gain power. If the PCs don’t reveal the truth, it could mean enslavement, brutal punishments or death for members of the population. Why did the grave split open? How are the lives of the individual PCs affected? Are they hardliners or moderates in their political party? How does the rest of the population feel? Is there something else happening behind the scenes that necessitates or encourages these return to old ideals?
  • The PCs are all the children/relatives of adventurers who performed what were considered great acts in their day. However a recent law has been passed that deems these adventures of old to be offensive and requires they make amends with certain populations of people. Since the adventurers are all old, their children/relatives must make reparations. What tasks must they perform? How are they received by those they must aid? How do they feel about the law? What do they encounter as they try to make amends?

For PCs

  • How many generations of your family do you keep in regular contact with?
  • How do you regard your elders? Is this the same as the rest of the population?
  • How old are you? How do you feel about people older than you? Younger than you?
  • How do older people see you? How do younger people see you?
  • Do you share a common history with the population at large?
  • What do you consider to be the greatest achievements and disappointments of the age to be? Of the past?
  • Do you have children? Grandchildren? How are their views different from yours?

What say you? How do you feel about “The Good Ol’ Days?”

About Tristan J Tarwater

Tristan is the author of 'The Valley of Ten Crescents' series and someone who is obsessed with elves. She once gave her 3.5 elf druid 'Skill: Basketweaving' just so she could take the spell, 'Beget Bogun.' Check out more of her work at backthatelfup.com

  4 Responses to “Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: Eff the Good Ol’ Days”

  1. My father once tried to convince me that there were no drugs and no crime back when he was a kid. He was born in 1947. The Mafia was still around. My father grew up in the Boston area, and he has family in NY. But no, no crime, none.

    I think part of the reason we have been able to look back at the “Good Ol’ Days” up to this point with such rosy glasses is that the world has been closed. There was no internet. Papers written in Boston were not available in Idaho. They didn’t see the news that was happening unless it was HUGE. This is not so much the case anymore. You have poor service in a restaurant? You’ll vent it on the web, someone else will see it, and word of mouth will spread. If you’re particularly vitriolic about it, it might go viral. The entire world is open these days, and we will no longer be able to use the Good Ol’ Days as a reference when things are RIGHT THERE to see.

    Along those same lines, people say things like “bullying is increasing” or “there’s been in increase in this crime” or “this disease is becoming more rampant”. I’m not entirely certain that it is. We’re just seeing it more, because we can see the world. Crime isn’t going up – the numbers are, but we also have more people and more people = more crime. We see more reports, because we see the world and not just our own little area. Diseases may be on the rise, but we’re also just seeing more reports. People are more aware, there is more support, and when there is more support, more people are likely to get help and be open.

    To answer your questions: 1) I keep in touch with my dad and my siblings. My cousins and aunts/uncles are on Facebook, but I don’t talk to them much. My grandmother…well, we’re two alpha females, so we don’t talk much either. 2) I regard them as people who have managed to survive life. They have had their experiences, and I’m willing (usually) to hear their advice, but I also feel that I am free to disregard it because things HAVE changed. (no, nan, you did not “go to sleep” and wake up to them handing you your babies. You were knocked out!) 3) I am almost 35. I have trouble with teenagers, but then I remember that I was their age once and probably appeared to those my current age as they appear to me now. The world now is different from the world when I was a kid, and when they have children, it will be the same. As for those older…see #2. 4) It would appear that to those who are much older than I am (think my parents/grandparents ages), I will always be a child who does not know how to run her own life. It doesn’t matter what I do, I am wrong. Those younger? I don’t know! 5) I’m sure at it’s base, my history is common enough. My specific life? Some semblance thereof, I’m sure. 6) I don’t have an answer to this…except that I want my flying car, dammit! 7) I have a 14-month-old son. He has no views, but I look forward to seeing them develop!

  2. […] Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: Eff the Good Ol’ Days at Troll in the Corner: How to add grognards and crotchety old-timers to your RPG. Also great questions for exploring history, familial relations with elders, and technological advancement in your campaign. […]

  3. Another issue is that a lot of the media about the 50’s centered on white Christian nuclear families of the middle or upper class. Chances are that you lived a pretty good life if that applied to you. If you were trying to avoid the notice of groups of people with baseball bats and shotguns, they weren’t the good ol’ days.

    One of my co-workerswho was in high school during the fifties said that it wasn’t that bad things didn’t happen, they were just hushed up. People would go live with distant relatives to hide pregnancy or being caught kissing someone of the wrong gender or some such. Anybody looking into the “golden age” might find it wasn’t quite like that in reality.

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