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 Post subject: World seed: Rohan
PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2016 9:41 pm 
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Rohan is coolish and somewhat dry as inhabited worlds go — "low volatiles budget", the planetologists say. When the pioneers came to terraform the place the partial pressure of oxygen was too low for standard humans to work without oxygen supplementation, and the low humidity caused discomfort too. As a result it became de rigeur to wear masks that provided supplementary oxygen and humidity to the eyes and breathing tract. The pioneer's descendants have adapted a little, and the terraforming has worked a little, so that the supplements are no longer really needed (though visitors find them a relief); but the masks have become an ingrained part of the culture. Rohanese consider the human face to be and obscene sight, and have a taboo against being seen unmasked. Not exposed to the sight of faces during a critical period in their cognitive development they do not develop a normal ability to recognise faces or interpret facial expressions; on the other hand, normal Rohanese can recognise people by proportions, stance, and gait, and can interpret body language, about as well as trained experts from other cultures. The Rohanese obviously cannot eat and drink together on convivial occasions; instead, they inhale smokes and vapours at events analogous to cocktail parties and formal dinners. Most Rohanese have several masks suitable for different occasions and social roles. Smoking masks with a nipple for the hookah are the equivalent of dinner suits or a little black dress. Law enforcement officers wear lion-face masks; other social roles such as "teacher", "doctor", "sales assistant", "pupil", and "servant" also have distinctive categories of masks.


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 Post subject: Re: World seed: Rohan
PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2016 11:32 pm 
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This is actually the kind of thing that grates me about these Travelleresque cultures. Why on earth would any society evolve like this - especially when there's no reason to actually wear the masks any more? And really? Restaurants and habitats aren't pressurised so that people don't need masks indoors? These aren't primitive savages colonising the stars, they're intelligent people from a technologically advanced culture, they're not going to come up with silly superstitions and religious beliefs to come up with "taboos" like this.

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 Post subject: Re: World seed: Rohan
PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2016 12:43 am 
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This isn't a Traveller culture. It's from my setting Flat Black. In that setting in general I aim for something much more like Jack Vance's Gaean Reach and Alastor Cluster settings than the OTU, which is to say that encounters with the freakish planetary cultures are the point, rather than travel in interstellar space being the point. The setting design isn't intended to be prediction, or even especially likely. It is designed to be plausible enough to allow suspension of disbelief by players who want to play in Vancean encounters with bizarre but logical cultures, and consistent enough to empower the players to interpolate between and extrapolate from facts supplied, and to act on those deductions with agency.

In Flat Black the colonies suffered a severe developmental set-back when Earth was destroyed, most of them being quite undeveloped at the time. So Rohan went through a span of centuries without the installed industrial base that would have allowed the Rohanese to use remote controlled machines for all outdoor work, make all residences airtight and pressurise them, etc. etc. In fact when I used Rohan as a setting for a campaign the industrial development had only really caught up to about a 1940s level of development. That was four hundred years for the wearing of masks to become customary, and for the nudity taboo to translate to the face.

Anthropology and archaeology show us that customs and taboos can be, in fact have been and are, very different from what we are used to. Genital modification, scarification, the ritual knocking-out of teeth, lip plate, foot-binding, forehead-binding, ritual trepanning, and so forth are all, I submit, at least as strange as having a nudity taboo that requires the wearing of masks. They are all multiply attested in archaeology and anthropology.


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