Thursday, 28 January 2016

Safety vs. Adventure

I came across an article in the newspaper yesterday about an Australian man who runs an 'adventure company' in Hokkaido. In the article he explains his approach to marketing the 'adventure lifestyle' to Japanese consumers, who as a demographic have a very different set of values from Australians or most other Westerners. I've lost the link now, but when I checked out his web site I noticed that the company's 'about' section emphasised that 'your safety is our primary concern'.

This got me thinking about the nature of 'adventure' although not primarily because we play D&D in Japan and the prevailing psychology must necessarily have influenced the way we play the game, but because I think all of us as Westerners are well aware of the 'safety first' mindset of the culture into which we immigrated. This is in stark contrast to, say the 'bir ┼čey olmaz' attitude of the Turks which my wife and I found so striking.

On our last day in Cappadocia we hired horses for a tour of the local desert. The ranch's promotional materials explained that these were 'wild' horses, which gave them the advantage of being surer on their feet and tougher in the arid climate than those bred in captivity. I explained to our guide that my wife had never been on a horse before, and that it would be better if she had the most docile one available. They obliged my request, but made us sign a waiver stating that no matter what injuries or fatalities we suffer on the trek, we wouldn't sue them. It meant we were admitting the possibility that things certainly could go horribly wrong--and we're not even professional adventurers.

Crossing some of the roads was a moderate challenge. The natural tendency of the Turks to drive in a way many other places might consider psychotic is exacerbated by the absolute absence of anything resembling law enforcement. Cars tear out from behind the hills like Magyar horsemen, and you had best stay out of their way. Our guide cautioned us to pause at the edge of the asphalt and make sure there was no audible motor sound anywhere before kicking the horses into a quick trot to the other side. My wife's horse turned out to be more stubborn than docile, which made for at least one rather close call.

Eventually, we came to a narrow spit between two hills, with a sheer drop on either side. It certainly seemed to me that one misstep in the crossing would have plummeted horse and rider to certain death, and when my wife's horse saw what was ahead, it simply refused to go forward. Our guide dismounted and, sidestepping precariously over boulders at the edge of the precipice, basically dragged the horse by the reins across to the other side.

This, obviously, would be unimaginable in the country where we live. But it should absolutely be expected in the game we play.

I think we tend to forget that not everywhere is safe. I avoided hitting the party with criminal menaces and the like because I wanted to drive home the point that their home shire is relatively safe--certainly it's not the primeval wolds of the Dark Ages setting, where it could be assumed that everyone wants to kill you. This does not, however, mean that this world holds any less of the bloody, harrowing, or fantastical. It simply means that it's a bit less obvious, that it will not necessarily reveal itself if you stay in the place you know best.

If safety is guaranteed, it's not what I would call an adventure.

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