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D&D General All Dead Generations: "Classic Vs. The Aesthetic"

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Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Well, last I checked, my dog wasn't writing letters. Just how far down the rabbit hole you want to dive? It's a bit disingenuous to pretend that these two things are equivalent. Sorry, but I can't see this as anything but a bad faith attempt to pretend that farmers are now equivalent to mind flayers. :erm:

If Mindflayers are right in their belief that they're as mentally far above us as we are above the various sentient (After 2,500 Studies, It's Time to Declare Animal Sentience Proven (Op-Ed)) animals we raise for food, who are we to judge them?
 

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Hussar

Legend
I feel these types of threads will continue until either the conversation is discussed or D&D bites the bullet and creates an official setting for each "generation/era" of D&D.
To be honest, I can't see that happening. They will never create a setting which leans on the tropes of past fantasy.

Thing is, this is happening genre wide. This conversation that we're having now has been ongoing for a long, long time in genre circles. I remember listening to podcasts like Starship Sofa and Escape Pod talking about this sort of thing twenty years ago and I'm sure it's been going on longer than that.

Thing is, it's finally caught up to D&D. D&D, particularly in light of D&D becoming far more mainstream, finally has to deal with the incredibly racist underpinnings of Appendix N authors that we generally just accepted as "the way things are" for far too long.

Let's be honest here, most of the works on Appendix N are really, really offensive. They're misogynistic, racist and bigotted. That's what fantasy WAS for a very, very long time. Now, we have to try to untangle all that garbage from our hobby, bundle it up and shove it out the airlock so we can move forward with a game that isn't telling about 2/3rds of the planet that they are less valuable than a bunch of white dudes.
 

Scribe

Hero
Well, last I checked, my dog wasn't writing letters. Just how far down the rabbit hole you want to dive? It's a bit disingenuous to pretend that these two things are equivalent. Sorry, but I can't see this as anything but a bad faith attempt to pretend that farmers are now equivalent to mind flayers. :erm:
Its not farmers. Thats not the comparison.
 

Hussar

Legend
If Mindflayers are right in their belief that they're as mentally far above us as we are above the various sentient (After 2,500 Studies, It's Time to Declare Animal Sentience Proven (Op-Ed)) animals we raise for food, who are we to judge them?
And so it goes...

Let's be 100% clear here. Are you suggesting that mind flayers, as portrayed in D&D are, in any way, shape or form, using imagery or language that is directly tied to bigotry or racism? If so, then let's see your evidence. If not, then you are simply drawing red herrings in a rather obvious attempt to derail the actual conversation.

So, again, which is it? Is the language or imagery surrounding mind flayers in any way directly copying racist texts or images? Yes or no?
 

Well, last I checked, my dog wasn't writing letters. Just how far down the rabbit hole you want to dive? It's a bit disingenuous to pretend that these two things are equivalent. Sorry, but I can't see this as anything but a bad faith attempt to pretend that farmers are now equivalent to mind flayers. :erm:

Sorry dude, but there are plenty of vegan and vegetarian people who wouldn't see a huge difference between farming people and farming cows. Me? I like dairy, eggs, and meat. But I do see the validity in the ethical arguments put forward by (some) vegans and vegetarians.

BTW: I say "some" vegans/vegetarians as I have met at least a couple of vegetarians who say they hate animals and would be happy for them all to be dead. People be weird.
 


Minigiant

Legend
To be honest, I can't see that happening. They will never create a setting which leans on the tropes of past fantasy.

Thing is, this is happening genre wide. This conversation that we're having now has been ongoing for a long, long time in genre circles. I remember listening to podcasts like Starship Sofa and Escape Pod talking about this sort of thing twenty years ago and I'm sure it's been going on longer than that.

Thing is, it's finally caught up to D&D. D&D, particularly in light of D&D becoming far more mainstream, finally has to deal with the incredibly racist underpinnings of Appendix N authors that we generally just accepted as "the way things are" for far too long.

Let's be honest here, most of the works on Appendix N are really, really offensive. They're misogynistic, racist and bigotted. That's what fantasy WAS for a very, very long time. Now, we have to try to untangle all that garbage from our hobby, bundle it up and shove it out the airlock so we can move forward with a game that isn't telling about 2/3rds of the planet that they are less valuable than a bunch of white dudes.
For the most part, settings based on the past fantasy already exist so they would have to create them.

However they could create new settings which enforce old tropes with new nonoffensive reasoning.

But the popularity of 5e has made D&D catch up to other genres. And you have different generations/era fighting over representation in it.
 

pming

Legend
Hiya!
Remove default alignment for entire races. Stop describing entire races as “savage” or “uncivilized” or “backward” or any of a dozen other blatantly racist tropes. Treat all intelligent humanoid creatures (the body shape, not the creature category) as having unique, multifaceted cultures all their own. Give multiple examples of any given race and show them having multifaceted and/or distinct cultures. Make a more explicitly cosmopolitan setting that embraces these ideas from the jump. Despite all its Orientalism, Al-Qadim managed to have a multicultural society where literally anyone who accepted the Loregiver’s laws was a full member of society...ogre, kobold, orc, or goblin.
Yup. That'd do it. Mind you, I, and I suspect many others, would want nothing to do with such a game of "swords, sorcery, magic and dragons". What such a drastic change would do for me, is make everything bland and the same. YMMV, but it'd be a hard pass for me and my group.

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

So the "Reverse Spiderman"?

Great Power, No Responsibility, No fear the bad guys you ignore kill Uncle Ben but confidence that if you do stop the bad guys, they were 100% bad guys.
Yes and no, I don't think that a lack of consequences overall is an important component-- if you ignore the orcs and they burn your hometown down, that could be a thing that happens. I think its a matter of whether you stand at the center of a moral conflict, or if you're making your way through a larger world.

E.g. you don't have Spiderman's great power, so the bad guys you ignore are the same as the bad guys everyone else in New York are ignoring, the story doesn't hinge on your action until you prove to the story that it should. So in other words, you aren't the first adventurers to enter the Barrowmaze, or the last if you leave permanently or die, so whether the situation with the maze ever actually worsens isn't a commentary on you.

The spiderman world revolves around spiderman, but I think one element of the OSR mercenary-adventurer-treasurehunter thing is that the story doesn't revolve around them until they force it to. Anyone could be the hero, and there are a lot of dead heroes from people trying, so the world isn't waiting for you.
 

Isn't the more compelling ethical argument about eating meat that it's incredibly wasteful, bad for the environment and unnecessary?

Maybe? I'm not in a position to evaluate the ethical weight of various arguments for veganism/vegetarianism. (My training in ethics is waaaayyyyy too long ago and was pretty basic. Couldn't put together a decent argument if my life depended on it.) How's about we settle on "They are both ethics based arguments for veganism/vegetarianism."

As for mind flayers as villains - I think they make great villains.
Firstly - tentacles. Never trust anything with tentacles.

Secondly they are intelligent and cultured. Who doesn't love a clever, articulate villain? Hans Gruber anyone?

Thirdly they make a great dark mirror. They can present the ethical arguments for why what they do is no worse than what humans do. How much fun is that?

Fourth they are trying to eat you so you're free to fight them.

Fifth, to my knowledge, they have not been presented in ways that (strongly) echo real world racism. I put "strongly" in there because there's always an argument for "the alien" to be seen as an expression of real world xenophobia.
 

pemerton

Legend
What I've said is that there's already very little to define orcs as being something different than hobgoblins and a variety of other creatures.
In my 4e campaign I used Goblins, Hobgoblins and Nugbears - which in 4e are grouped together as (in some sense) a common group of peoples - as well as Elves, Dwarves, Tieflings, Gnolls and Dragonborn. Also a brief appearance by a Halfling, a couple of Gnomes and (I think) Xvart. I basically ignored Orcs, Kobolds and other human-type peoples.

I don't think the fact that all these options are on the list means that they all have to be used in actual play.

Choosing a small handful of things to define more is, as I perceive it, why some races appear as choices in the PHB and why some remain in the Monster Manual.

<snip>

A challenge, in regards to writing fantasy, is that a lot of it is intended to be a caricature of humanity: the uber-virtuous paladin; the elderly wizard; the gruff dwarf, and so-on. So, I think there's some amount of tension between figuring out the boundaries within which exaggeration and caricature are useful for portraying a story but don't become shorthand for including hateful and hurtful ideas (whether intentional or not).

I feel that questions need to be asked concerning what's included when finite space is available.
The recent multi-thousand-post Halfling thread kind-of tried to engage with some of these issues. Maybe not with unalloyed success.
 

I'm just curious how many different threads we're going to have rehashing this topic over and over again? We're having the same conversation in several ongoing threads at the moment.
Apologies!

I posted the article because I thought it could possibly help reframe some of these issues. I thought, we had been discussing these elements of the game in terms of naturalistic worldbuilding (species vs magical creation vs archeytpe) or in terms of the purpose of the mechanics (simulationist vs evocative, built in limitations vs freedom), we could instead or additionally think of it in terms of aesthetic assumptions and preferences and difference in playstyle. That discussion would have to go back to the early editions of the game to see what was actually there (in terms of aesthetics, playstyle, and mechanics) and think about how all of that makes the 5e experience often discordant (the "don't think about it too much" edition, as I like to call it). For me these are more interesting and potentially productive, if complicated, discussions.

that being said, we should always leave open the following possibility:
To be honest, I can't see that happening. They will never create a setting which leans on the tropes of past fantasy.

Thing is, this is happening genre wide. This conversation that we're having now has been ongoing for a long, long time in genre circles. I remember listening to podcasts like Starship Sofa and Escape Pod talking about this sort of thing twenty years ago and I'm sure it's been going on longer than that.

Thing is, it's finally caught up to D&D. D&D, particularly in light of D&D becoming far more mainstream, finally has to deal with the incredibly racist underpinnings of Appendix N authors that we generally just accepted as "the way things are" for far too long.

Let's be honest here, most of the works on Appendix N are really, really offensive. They're misogynistic, racist and bigotted. That's what fantasy WAS for a very, very long time. Now, we have to try to untangle all that garbage from our hobby, bundle it up and shove it out the airlock so we can move forward with a game that isn't telling about 2/3rds of the planet that they are less valuable than a bunch of white dudes.

But, I'm maybe optimistic in thinking that that doesn't tell the whole story, that fantasy and in particular fantasy roleplaying offers the chance to tell different and better stories.
 

Argyle King

Legend
In my 4e campaign I used Goblins, Hobgoblins and Nugbears - which in 4e are grouped together as (in some sense) a common group of peoples - as well as Elves, Dwarves, Tieflings, Gnolls and Dragonborn. Also a brief appearance by a Halfling, a couple of Gnomes and (I think) Xvart. I basically ignored Orcs, Kobolds and other human-type peoples.

I don't think the fact that all these options are on the list means that they all have to be used in actual play.

The recent multi-thousand-post Halfling thread kind-of tried to engage with some of these issues. Maybe not with unalloyed success.

I would agree that having options doesn't mean they must be included. I think that's a possible strength of having different settings with different identities.

I like how 4E attempted to find places for things to fit in. The Eladrin/Elf split in 4E was a good way to take a very broad idea (elf... is that snooty high elves? Wood elves? Cookie elves in a tree?) and figure out how to make the various archetypes inside of the idea unique while still being related.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
And so it goes...

Let's be 100% clear here. Are you suggesting that mind flayers, as portrayed in D&D are, in any way, shape or form, using imagery or language that is directly tied to bigotry or racism? If so, then let's see your evidence. If not, then you are simply drawing red herrings in a rather obvious attempt to derail the actual conversation.

So, again, which is it? Is the language or imagery surrounding mind flayers in any way directly copying racist texts or images? Yes or no?

I was responding to the argument that Illithid were evil because they ate creatures lesser to them in gruesome ways. Just like humanity does.

In any case, my own take is that othering entire species that are "people" (that is, are non-outsider non-aberration non-undead creatures with above animal intelligence and free will, especially when they have at least a few of: humanoid shape, affected by charm and/or hold person, make fertile offspring by breeding with people or something that breeds with people, are encouraged to be played as PCs, occur among the free peoples in an official setting, engage in commerce or intellectual exchanges with demi-humans, and/or would be in the same family as humans if trying to do faux taxonomy) by making them always morally ok to kill (say by universally aligning them as evil) seems likely to eventually result in them being described using language that copies racists and eugenecists as with orcs or whatnot at some point, and to take the places in story that orcs have historically. Or similarly that they could very well have taken the place of orcs for those descriptors if the orcs didn't exist. Gygax's use of the quote about nits didn't specify a particular humanoid race, and it feels to me like needing a human-ish species to fill the role of (insert historical ethnic group of humans that can be portrayed as entirely unredeemable) that could then "justifiably" have that quote made about them is a bad set up.

Mindflayers are evil abberations (so, not "people") who suck out people's brains - I'm fine will having them be auto-kill. Similar for ghouls (evil undead), demons (evil outsiders), and redcaps (basically evil outsiders -feywild or whatnot).
 
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Faolyn

Hero
So, like humans with all species of animals except for a few they choose to keep as pets?
Of course, humans don't literally parasitize other animals in order to reproduce, and humans at least try to make laws requiring more humane methods of keeping and killing animals. With not-great success, no, but they at least try.

Sure, you can introduce a colony of mind flayers who try to raise their food-brains humanely (illithidaely?) but it's still going to be really creepy considering their food is other sentient beings.
 

pming

Legend
Apologies!
None needed.
I posted the article because I thought it could possibly help reframe some of these issues. I thought, we had been discussing these elements of the game in terms of naturalistic worldbuilding (species vs magical creation vs archeytpe) or in terms of the purpose of the mechanics (simulationist vs evocative, built in limitations vs freedom), we could instead or additionally think of it in terms of aesthetic assumptions and preferences and difference in playstyle. That discussion would have to go back to the early editions of the game to see what was actually there (in terms of aesthetics, playstyle, and mechanics) and think about how all of that makes the 5e experience often discordant (the "don't think about it too much" edition, as I like to call it). For me these are more interesting and potentially productive, if complicated, discussions.
that being said, we should always leave open the following possibility:
The thing is... "older editions" did not have the same goal as we see more modern games having. Back in ye olden days of yore, orcs were EVIL AND SAVAGE! (Evil: "Morally bad/wrong; causing harm, pain, suffering" // Savage: "Wild; not civilized; barbaric"). They were specifically 'designed' so that it was an automatic "Kill them" response for the Players because from the PC's perspectives...any orc would ALWAYS seek to raid, pillage, kill and eat anyone or anything (including other orcs). The "goal" of the orcs being described as "evil and savage" had nothing to do with anything other than setting it up in-game for the human players at the table to not feel bad about killing them and taking their stuff.

Same with any other "evil race" described similarly. They were there to be KILLED not, talked to or reasoned with...because, in the context of the game, they were monsters. And the definition of a "monster" in early editions was basically "inherently evil, cruel and vindictive, with a desire to cause pain, suffering and death" (basically, look at the Evil alignment).

So, while more modern games like to try and take the stance of "Well, they just look different than us. In the real word, people from other countries look different too...but they aren't 'evil', so we need to reflect that in our Fantasy Stories"... older games didn't. In older games, labeling a monster as evil, savage, barbaric, etc wasn't being anything other than saying "you kill these guys for XP and treasure". Because in older games, if you were captured by orcs, you got sacrificed and eaten...unless you managed to get away or somehow trick them into letting you go.

But, I'm maybe optimistic in thinking that that doesn't tell the whole story, that fantasy and in particular fantasy roleplaying offers the chance to tell different and better stories.
And we have different games for that. For example, Talislanta, Halambreya, or other genres like Star Frontiers, Call of Cthulhu, SUPERS!, etc. But when you belly up to a game of 1e AD&D or Hackmaster 4th... orcs, kobolds, drow...they are all evil monsters and you kill them. Because they are evil. They are not "just misunderstood creatures from a different culture". Stop thinking like that and you'll be fine...but if you can't, as I said, there are other games more inclined towards "greyness of morals and cultural norms". (Personally, I highly recommend Talislanta! WONDERFUL cultures all around with very different races...with pretty intricate balances of powers, prejudices, fondness, fear, the whole gamut of human emotions :) ).

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

Hussar

Legend
I think the Mind Flayer example makes a really good test bed for examining the process through which I tend to go through whenever I try to think of whether or not something is problematic.

1. Is this element using language or imagery that mirrors real world racism? Are there words like savage, lazy, stupid, primitive etc? If yes, then there may be a problem. If no, then move on to number 2.

2. Is the element using language or imagery that fetishizes the concept. IOW, is this element being used to promote a specific way of looking at something for the benefit of the viewer's personal wishes. If yes, then there may be a problem. If no, move on to number 3.

3. Is the element objectifying anyone or grounded in a specific group's fantasy? This is where the chainmail bikini and pin-up art runs into problems. If yes, then there may be a problem. If no, move on to number 4.

4. Is the element portrayed as being weak, subservient, and/or in need of guidance from another group? If yes, then there may be a problem. If no, move on.

Generally, that's the four steps that I walk through. Which is why I don't really have a problem with mind flayers. Relying on the in universe element of "Oh, well, it's an outsider/aberration/whatever" doesn't really fly since these are game terms and not really a good justification IMO. However, if you can get through all four of those criteria above without triggering any sort of bad smell on the sniff test, then it's probably fine. Mind flayers are not save or primitive, they are actually quite advanced, possibly even more advanced than the settings we use. They certainly aren't fetishized. Nor are they objectifying anyone in the art or presentation. They certainly aren't weak or subservient. So, they avoid all the big tropes that are at the heart of the issue.

The same can be said for a lot of the things that people try to raise up as issues. Dragons aren't a problem. Strong, super intelligent, powerful, they aren't, in any way, a racist trope that I can think of. There's a broad swath of the game that is perfectly fine. In fact, I'd go out on a limb and say that most of the game is fine. The game survived lots of changes and we still call it D&D. Shifting away from the bigotry and racist underpinnings of the genre will not somehow make D&D not D&D.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Isn't the more compelling ethical argument about eating meat that it's incredibly wasteful, bad for the environment and unnecessary?
Depends on your values. To people who care a great deal about the treatment of the animals, knowing what actually goes on in meat processing facilities can be an incredibly compelling argument. For others, the environmental impact is more compelling.
 

Scribe

Hero
Depends on your values. To people who care a great deal about the treatment of the animals, knowing what actually goes on in meat processing facilities can be an incredibly compelling argument. For others, the environmental impact is more compelling.
The environment is massive.
The 'processing' is horrible.

For me, you simply just need to spend time around animals enough, notice their behaviors over time, and yes even cattle, sheep, whatever, and think on 'we grow these to be slaughtered'.

To me, there is something very messed up about that.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
The environment is massive.
The 'processing' is horrible.

For me, you simply just need to spend time around animals enough, notice their behaviors over time, and yes even cattle, sheep, whatever, and think on 'we grow these to be slaughtered'.

To me, there is something very messed up about that.
Spoilers for the movie Babe...

 

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