A funny thought occured to me as I was constructing a new character in preparation for an upcoming D&D game – the first such game in a very long time.

Role-playing (specifically the first such – D&D) was designed in the States and has had a distinct American character stamped on it. Many different interpretations of the RPG have come out over the decades to present more English or European sensibilities. But at heart it is an American passtime. It is, essentially, an egalitarian art: the notion that YOU can be a hero. Even if you won the meta-lottery of fantasy life and your character was the prince-in-waiting, at a real-life level it was just plain old ordinary you who was vicariously experiencing the adventure. This is an insidious political notion: that the driving spirit behind greatness and adventure could come from anywhere and not from inherited destiny.

That’s heady stuff, but this post is not about that. Instead my thoughts ran something like this:

American ‘fantasy’ or mythology has only a few topics or themes. One of them is the ‘West’. And the notion of the West was shaped to a greater or lesser degree by Spaghetti Western movies. And these in turn were shaped by Samurai movies. Gross oversimplifications I know – but hey, this is my blog, not an academic article.

Now the thing about Samurai movies, and the way we consider Japanese swordplay, was that it was fast and brutal. It was a one-cut affair and whoever did not die first was the winner. The greatest swordsmen were those that could fast draw their katanas and slaughter before their opponents had cleared their sayas. Sound familier with the quick-draw gun play? Is it real? Probably not, but that’s not the point – it is a mythology.

This is in stark contrast with the Chinese style Wu-Shu movies (which admittedly are only very modern in comparison) where the heroes bash away at each other incrementally damaging each other over long periods of time. Even then they often jump up and run away at unfeasible speed after receiving a pummelling that would have crippled any normal ox.

And that’s strange: that American fantasy idolises the Samurai/gunfighter quick kill, yet the American fantasy realisation vehicle for the common man (RPGs, specifically D&D) actually models Chinese attrition fantasy.

Sounds like faults in both the busines requirements gathering phase and in allowing the developers to build to a technical specification constructed in isolation.