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January 25, 2012 / Wythe

Flatland

RPG design brainstorm: Has anyone ever made a game or scenario based on the classic math-novel Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (and its many sequels)? You could play Triangles, Squares, Circles… Women would be the best fighters (pointy). You could start with an Amazonian rebellion of the triangles… Spheres could be either angelic or Lovecraftian… The rules would be, well, simplified…

From Wikipedia:

Men are portrayed as polygons whose social status is determined by their regularity and the number of their sides; a Circle is considered to be the “perfect” shape. On the other hand, females consist only of lines and are required by law to sound a “peace-cry” as they walk, because when a line is coming towards an observer in a 2-D world, her body appears merely as a point. The Square talks of accounts where men have been stabbed to death (both accidentally and on purpose) by women. This explains the need for separate doors for women and men in buildings.

In the world of Flatland, classes are distinguished using the “Art of Hearing,” the “Art of Feeling” and the “Art of Sight Recognition.” Classes can be distinguished by the sound of one’s voice, but the lower classes have more developed vocal organs, enabling them to feign the voice of a polygon or even a circle. Feeling, practised by the lower classes and women, determines the configuration of a person by feeling one of their angles. The “Art of Sight Recognition,” practiced by the upper classes, is aided by “Fog,” which allows an observer to determine the depth of an object. With this, polygons with sharp angles relative to the observer will fade out more rapidly than polygons with more gradual angles. Colour of any kind was banned in Flatland after Isosceles workers painted themselves to impersonate noble Polygons. The Square describes these events and the ensuing war of reaction at length.

The population of Flatland can “evolve” through the “Law of Nature,” which states: “a male child shall have one more side than his father, so that each generation shall rise (as a rule) one step in the scale of development and nobility. Thus the son of a Square is a Pentagon; the son of a Pentagon, a Hexagon; and so on.”

This rule is not the case when dealing with isosceles triangles (Soldiers and Workmen). The smallest angle of an isosceles triangle gains thirty arcminutes (half a degree) each generation. Additionally, the rule does not seem to apply to many-sided polygons; the sons of several hundred-sided polygons will often develop fifty or more sides more than their parents.

An equilateral Triangle is a member of the craftsman class. Squares and Pentagons are the “gentlemen” class, as doctors, lawyers, and other professions. Hexagons are the lowest rank of nobility, all the way up to (near) circles, who make up the priest class. The higher-order polygons have much less of a chance of producing sons, preventing Flatland from being overcrowded with noblemen.

Regular polygons were considered in isolation until chapter 7 of the book when the issue of irregularity, or physical deformity, became considered. In a two dimensional world a regular polygon can be identified by a single angle and/or vertex. In order to maintain social cohesion, irregularity is to be abhorred, with moral irregularity and criminality cited, “by some” (in the book), as inevitable additional deformities, a sentiment concurred by the author, a Square. If the error of deviation is above a stated amount, the irregular polygon faces euthanasia; if below, he becomes the lowest rank of civil servant. An irregular polygon is not destroyed at birth, but allowed to develop to see if the irregularity could be “cured” or reduced. If the deformity could not be corrected then the irregular should be “painlessly and mercifully consumed.”

A house in Flatland:

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