Wednesday, January 28, 2015

National Memorials in Traveller

The last time my family went on a vacation to Washington, DC we visited a number of national memorials, including Arlington National Cemetery. This was a very moving experience, seeing the rows upon rows of grave markers,demonstrating how many men and women had sacrificially served our country. I was particularly interested in the Tomb of the Unknowns, and as I reflected later upon the dignity and solemnity of the site, particularly the Army honor guard, I began to ponder how such things might show up in RPGs. All societies create memorials, so there should be some in my Traveller Universe.

Standing Guard

     Several thoughts came to me. All players of characters with a military background, including Scouts, should have memorial sites and a memorial tradition for their branch of service. Statues, holograms, arches, or whatever can have a significance for the PC because of personal or family or unit association. Memorial traditions add some color to a PC's personality. 

Soviet WWII Memorial at Treptow (Berlin, Germany)

Canada's National War Memorial, Ottowa

Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, Westminster Abbey, London

Some personality or adventure possibilities include:
  • A medal, badge or other object that is always worn or carried that could be an adventure hook if it were lost or stolen
  • The PC may be a regular contributor to the upkeep fund for a particular memorial, or be the primary funder of a private memorial, and much of the take from 'jobs' goes towards upkeep. 
  • A PC could lobby NPCs (veterans and government) to have a memorial constructed or a certain hero commemorated at a memorial site.
  • PCs could be hired (or take on the job themselves) of recovering the remains of fallen comrades
  • Rumors of Prisoners of War still alive after many years could come to the PC's attention, and prompt a rescue
  • The PC may make regular visits to the memorial site, even if it interferes with other goals
  • The PC may belong to a veteran's organization which can be a source of contacts or patrons
  • A PC viewing another world's memorial of a battle or war may interpret the event differently - arguments or fights may ensue
  • A PC may be a living memorial, required by tradition to some action to keep the departed in mind
  • If a Bk4/5/6 character has received medals, they belong to an association of medal winners, like the veteran's group
  • A PC may observe one day of total silence or pacifism a year, in the hope that wars may cease
  • The names of fallen comrades may be inscribed on the outer wall of the captain's cabin, or on an always-carried object
  • A PC may refuse to enter any military cemetery but his own, or to perform some action (like fighting) while in the presence of a memorial
  • A PC who has dishonored a memorial or broken a tradition should have some repercussion from other veterans  - or the PCs may set out to exact retribution on a violator
     In any case, a memorial or tradition should be something that can influence the PC's actions in some way - it's something they take with them, not something they leave at home.

   Even animals (uplifted or normal) can be honored. In San Francisco there is the US Working Dog Teams National Monument. In Great Britain there is the Dickin Medal, awarded to heroic animals, and the Animals in War Memorial.

Here's an example that I've introduced in My Traveller Universe, and used as the 'hook' for a new player to have a simple starting adventure:

     In the Royal Talaveran Navy, by tradition, ships that crash are not recovered, they rest where they fall, along with any crew members killed in the crash. Surviving crewmen, after they retire, return to the crash site and 'bury' their uniforms there, in a memorial to their fallen comrades. Crew who die before they are able to make the trip will ask a friend or family member to make the trip for them. 

      When possible, the Navy purchases the crash site and makes it a memorial site, even when the crash was on a non-Imperial planet. If the planetary government is hostile to the Empire, it will make visiting the site more challenging. Traveling to such a site could be quite an adventure, with much risk and the only reward being fulfillment of the vow to honor one's comrades.  

Orthodox Christianity does not accept the practice of cremation of deceased persons. The reasons are more than I can go into here, but it does not fit with Orthodoxy theology of personhood. So, even in the Far Future, there will be graves and cemeteries, and those graves will be marked with crosses

Whatever country you live in, I encourage you to visit national or local war memorials, and contribute to their upkeep. This does not glorify war, it remembers and honors those who, however willingly, made the greatest sacrifice for the good of your nation. Honor their service and sacrifice. Find out if there are veterans in your family, or in your church, or among your acquaintances. Thank them, ask to hear their stories. Have your kids interview a veteran for the school newspaper. Fly your flag, attend public events on national days of remembrance. Learn your nation's history, the good and the bad.

A veteran's story might just make for an awesome adventure, or be the inspiration for that awesome NPC who comes along just in time to save the PCs from disaster.

Photo credits:
"Standing Guard" courtesy of the US Library of Congress.
By Drrcs15 (Own work) [<a href="">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>], <a href="">via Wikimedia Commons</a>,_England_-_9_Nov._2010.jpg 

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