Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Castles & Crusades: What's in a Name

Normally I don't do this, (hell who am I kidding I do this alot) but I'm wandering around the web looking at Castles & Crusades stuff last night and run across some hate dialogue. It was old (2007), granted, but it still irked me a bit. Some uber nut was going on about how he wouldn't play C&C because of the name. According to him Crusades were about "killing brown people for Jesus" and the name offended his sensibilities. ... Ooookaaaay ....

Sorry but this idgit is more than a little misinformed. First of all the word crusade comes from the Old or Middle French and the Medieval Spanish for a word meaning "marked with the cross". The word was not created for the military campaigns to regain Christian control of the Holy Land, but it was applied to much of the endeavors there. And the fact was, the Muslim Empire militarily spread out first; conquering Syria and later expanding throughout the Mediterranean World and eventually the European Continent. Europe's involvement actually started in the Spanish Peninsula. There the Moors gained a substantial foothold in the Europe. One cannot even truly understand The Crusades without understanding the campaign to regain Iberia from the Moors. Such an attack on Europe at all constituted an attack on Christendom. However the battles to remove the Moors from Iberia were largely political in nature. A response to invasion, though sanctioned by the Church. The campaigns against the Moors eventually led to the reclamation of the Holy Land. It was true, the Pope had reservations about such a Holy War, shedding blood in the name of the Lord, but political expediencies were as forceful as were religious ones.

If we are going to be holier than thou about our fantasy gaming we might want to question the ethos of the knighthood altogether. Knights were notorious for looting, raping and pillaging across the countryside. Regardless of how mightily we might praise the concept of chivalry today, it was not the norm. So great was this problem that the religious leaders of the day enlisted knights in these wars as ways to pay penance for their wickedness and redeem themselves. Questionable? Yes, but politically expedient; and in its own way justified. You have to recall that the entire western world was largely Christian at this point and the Church was intimately tied to the political landscape. As was the case in Moorish held regions where the whole Empire was Muslim. Wars throughout time have all been questionable in one regard or another; and have been noble in other respects. To single out one and condemn it as unethical on the grounds that one side was Christian is a pathetic argument at best. The Crusades were in no way that simple.

And most importantly we must recall that in the 1700's the word crusade was changed to reflect any effort, usually waged by underdogs, against a public evil. It is in this sense that the word crusade is most often used by people today. Crusades are waged by various groups and people to defeat what is seen as a common evil against mankind. In this sense the words crusade is very appropriate for a fantasy rpg. For we have noble and heroic warriors venturing forth into the world to defeat the evils that plague man and demikind. "The Crusades" refers to a specific medieval military campaign waged to push the Moors back from Europe and reclaim Christian control of Europe and the Holy Land.

It is not Castles and The Crusades it is Castles and Crusades as "In a land of castles, magic and danger will you wage your crusade against the evils of the world?" To say we can't use the word crusade without being politically incorrect or hinting at some past perceived evil is ridiculously ill informed. And it's one of the supidest criticisms levelled against an RPG I think I have ever read. Actually no, "D&D is a tool for inducting kids into satanic cults" is about the stupidest, right before "D&D causes suicide". But the whole "I can't play C&C because it has the word crusade in it" is right up there at the top.

And if we are going to pick nits about whether the games we play are politically correct you can't ignore the obvious elephant in the room. Any game that is about running around killing things and taking their stuff could be said to be morally questionable. Let's not split hairs here. All RPGs are rooted in violence as well and there are decriers a plenty that condemn them for exactly that reason. I think in the big picture there are lots of other ethical reasons we could choose to be bent out of shape over.

Sorry but this kind of stuff just pisses me off.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Oh yeah! Not to mention that the reason they even picked the name was that it was a tribute to Gary Gygax's wargaming group The Castles & Crusades Society a chapter of the International Federation of Wargaming. So if you really have an issue take it up with the man.