good thing i live in 20th century

Proposed: Thedas is not a ‘medieval’ setting

I don’t know about you, but when I was first considering the overall state of Thedas, mostly for worldbuilding purposes, I was semi-consciously thinking of it as a fairly typical pseudo-medieval-Europe.  And that’s natural enough, because in Origins, Ferelden really did look like that.  Thatching, half-timbering, nobles in fortified castles, a fairly monolithic church around which much of society was built.

The further you go into the franchise, though, the more problems you encounter with this.  Kirkwall as a city doesn’t give off a particularly medieval vibe, nor does its government.  You have sailing ships that are more advanced than Europe saw in the middle ages, you have the Qunari with their mind-altering drugs and poison gases and explosives, you have a popular novelist.  A popular novelist requires printing presses, paper manufacture, relatively widespread literacy, and fairly complex shipping systems to exist.  The first European novels were published after the medieval period.  Come Inquisition, we have the almost Baroque Orlesians, broadsheet newspapers, and a lot of things most people probably didn’t notice, like cast iron cookstoves and Bianca Davri’s steam-powered thresher.

Here’s the thing.  Okay here’s a lot of things.  I once had pages of notes trying to work this out, and I’ve tried a dozen times to make a post about it, but it’s too much.  I give up being organized.  So here’s some of the things:

  • Ferelden is a poor backwater.  I know, I’m a rabid Fereldan too, but to the rest of Thedas, it is canonically the arse end of nowhere.  It is no more a good example of the overall technological state of Thedas than the hills of my Appalachian home (where people lived without power or indoor plumbing well into the 20th century) in the 19th century were a good indication of the state of things in 19th century Boston, even though they were only a few days’ ride apart.
  • Thedas’ history and development is in no way like the real world.  It’s a place where the world faces a potentially fatal apocalypse ever few hundred years.  Again, the first game is pretty misleading in this regard, because we neatly wrapped up that Blight in, supposedly, a year, without it ever escaping the borders of one country.  The First Blight lasted over a hundred years and ranged across all of Thedas.  Far and away the shortest Blight besides the fifth still lasted 12 years and destroyed entire kingdoms.  That’s five huge periods of world war and cultural destruction.
  • Magic.  I mean, obviously.  Now, the tangible existence of magic and demons in the Dragon Age arguably has a lot to do with the strength of the Chantry, which has set itself up as a protector from these evils, thus providing an excellent excuse to accumulate military power and suppress dissent.  It doesn’t really effect everyday life much for anyone but mages in the Dragon Age–most people have never seen a mage, and only the wealthy can afford enchanted items.  But of the five empires Thedas has seen, only two (dwarves and Qunari) put any emphasis on technology, and the earliest two (Elvhenan and Tevinter) relied very heavily on magic, and thus presumably had very little incentive to develop technology.
  • The Qunari deliberately suppress at least some technological innovations in the south.  Remember your friendly neighborhood dwarf who liked to blow shit up from Awakening?  His name is Dworkin Glavonak.  You meet his cousin Temmerin in DA2 during the Finding Nathaniel questline, and he tells you that Dworkin’s been driven into hiding by the Qunari. (video)  Certainly sheds new light on why no one outside of dwarves seems to have explosives or gunpowder in the south.  Orzammar dwarves may be the exception here because a) they use lyrium in their explosives, thus making them self-limiting due to the restricted access to lyrium, and b) since Orzammar is a closed society and you cannot come in from the outside, the Qun could not easily place spies in Orzammar society anyway.

So let’s look again, not starting from Origins but look back from Inquisition.  And this time when we look, we find a world that

  • has steam technology, albeit very new–steam-powered threshers were invented around the 1850′s
  • has cast iron stoves such as were not invented in our world until the 1850′s
  • has a canonical reason for lacking gunpowder–which, in turn, completely changes the nature of warfare (or more accurately, doesn’t change it, since it’s guns and cannons that put an end to armor and swords and siege weapons)
  • clearly has printing presses, even if we don’t see them, because there are popular, cheaply printed novels and broadsheet publications and banned book lists

And it’s not quite all from later games, either.  Branka was made a paragon for the invention of ‘smokeless coal’–which isn’t actually a thing in itself but rather a process which removes the impurities from the coal so that it then burns cleaner.  Which, as far as I can ascertain, is a process that was developed during, you guessed it, the 1800′s.

Now, I’m not trying to excuse all the inconsistencies in technology or claim that the devs did a good job of following through on all the implications of things they stuck into Thedas.  Frankly, I think it’s a weak point in their worldbuilding.  BUT it’s really going to keep not making any sense if you try to insist that the setting is more-or-less-medieval-Europe.  In fact, I think it’s futile to try to match Thedas up to any period of real-world development, partly because Thedas’ history is just too wildly different, and partly because a lot of the worldbuilding is done by sticking a bunch of cultures into a blender and picking out what they like.  But if you start thinking about it as a place where technology has continued to develop in places to something roughly congruent to the western world in the 1850′s, but with none of the socioeconomic conditions that created the Industrial Revolution, you might be a bit closer.

Study Partner: Part 3

Pairing: Reader x Bucky
Word Count: 1.3K
Warnings: Swearing, 

A/N:

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Y/L/N: Your Last Name

Part 1, Part 2

“Hello?” you answer your phone to an unlisted number while dumping your University bag on the floor, causing a loud thump from the text books you had to haul around all day.

“Y/N! It’s Wanda, Wanda Maximoff!” her accented feminine voice sounded through your phone,

“Hey!” you excitedly reply. You had met Wanda with most of The Avengers, a few days ago, and they were already treating you as part of their family. Wanda and you were the closest, the two of you were close in age, and naturally bonded. She loved to hear about your mundane life, but you didn’t know why, she had super powers for Christ sake!

“I’m calling to invite you over, Peter said you finished class by now?”

“Hey cuz!” you heard Peter’s voice in the distance, making you laugh,

“Yeah, I just got home, I’ll be right over!” you couldn’t help grinning as you yanked your heavy textbooks out of your bag and slung it over your shoulder,

“Great! See you soon!”


Awkwardly standing in the lobby of Stark tower, you were trying to reach your cousin, who wasn’t answering his phone. Wanda had called on a private number, so you weren’t able to reach her either.

“Fucking hell, Peter,” you mumble to yourself.

You jump as someone behind you taps you on the shoulder. Turning around you’re faced with a large, stocky security guard, “Excuse me, Ma’am,” his voice was low and intimating,

“I know Tony Stark,” you blurt out, before realising that was the most suspicious thing you could’ve said, “I mean-”

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We start out the 20th century with this clean slate – we are now the gods.  And the greatest thing that we could do, as God, during that century, was create the Bomb.  That was what we were good at doing.  And I think that, in itself, in the 50s and 60s, the repercussions of what we had done by standing in for this idea of morality ourselves, creating it all ourselves, so destroyed our fix on what we should be doing in life that we’re still living through that chaos right now.  We have no spiritual lives to speak of, there is quasi-new religions, but there is no direct sense of what our purpose is anymore …
—  David Bowie

I saw Wonder Woman!  I was sort of dreading the inevitable romance, but it was actually not terrible and was even relevant to the story?  I have to rethink my rarrgh grarrgh always hate the romance plotline approach to movies now.  I think the only other superhero movie I’ve actually seen was some Spiderman movie a long time ago and it’s not really my thing, but I actually feel why people like superheros with this one.  I like that it boils down to a fight about humanity’s goodness versus, like, eternal cynicism rather than something simplistic like war versus not war.

Anyway, something that bothered me throughout the whole movie: languages.  So, the Amazons speak all the languages.  Modern languages, old languages, living languages, dead languages, because magic.  Ok, it was sort of inevitable, although I think it makes things less interesting.  But, so, they must know German, right?  Early 20th century German?  So how do they know nothing about the people who speak this language, who the Germans are, by extension that WWI happened?  How can you know a language but know nothing about the context in which it was spoken?  Impossible.  Diana translates whatsherface the chemist’s notes out of ??? and Sumerian, which talk about mustard gas.  As far as I can tell “mustard gas” is also mustard + gas in German, so presumably they just wrote mustard + gas in Sumerian or whatever the other language was (I didn’t catch it).  But, like, I’m pretty sure the Amazons don’t have mustard gas, so how does Diana read that the terrible chemical weapon is mustard gas and not go “Mustard?  Mustard doesn’t kill people”?  You have to already know what mustard gas is in order for that to make sense to you.  And how would she know about mustard gas but not about WWI?  There’s weird kind of laser-guided culture clash here.

Also, what kind of English would Diana speak if she’s never interacted with men before?  When I was in middle school I was at a Jewish parochial school, and they taught us Modern Hebrew.  The teacher who taught it to me for two out of three years was a very conservative Orthodox guy who had spent a not-insignificant amount of time in an all-male yeshiva in Israel, where they naturally spoke Hebrew.  Hebrew has m/f grammatical gender, gendered pronouns, gendered verb forms, not just in third person but also in second person. A story he told us was that after spending years in this yeshiva and never interacting with women at all, the first thing he did after leaving was accidentally address a woman using male pronouns because he’d gotten so out of the habit of using the female ones.  So what I’m saying is I missed Diana accidentally calling men “she”.  Like, presumably the Amazons don’t speak English and presumably their language doesn’t have m/f grammatical gender because that would be sort of senseless, but she’d have to get used to the gendered pronouns, maybe?  Since she knows English because of magic and not because she practices it, or anything sensible like that maybe this doesn’t apply?  I don’t know, this is kind of what I mean by it making everything less interesting.

I’m also amused that they had Diana actually speak non-English languages with subtitles to prove that she could, but then the Germans all spoke English-with-an-accent to each other instead of actual German, and there was even that scene where Steve spoke English-with-an-accent to signify that he was actually speaking German while doing his spy thing, which was hilarious to me.

@ehonauta​  

The Exterminating Angel (Adès), which I am super-excited for (actually, it’s the only thing I’m really interested in this year); Figaro, which I (and my aunt) have never seen live and this year seemed as good a time as any; Semiramide, which we’re seeing because I fucked up (I think I wanted Cendrillon, but I got confused somewhere in the planning process, please don’t tell my aunt); and Luisa Miller, because my aunt loves Domingo and I am a completist. 

So another Italian-heavy year, because heaven forfend Gelb program 20th-century opera. There are, of course, other interesting things, but I’ve seen them all (almost).