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

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
You are dooming humans to justified death by hundreds of other in-game species if these are your metrics.#
Yep - and this nicely dovetails with my philosophy that says the game world really is out to kill you; and your first job is to survive. :)
Edit: Also, for a fun exercise, replace the word "human" with "European" and "orc" with many of the peoples that the Europeans colonized, enslaved, and imposed their imperial rule upon. The rhetorical parallels are striking.
I'm sure they are. Doesn't bother me, though, in that I count myself capable of keeping my real-life thoughts/morals/etc. separate from those I use in the game world.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
'Seen as' is differnt than 'are'.


As already noted, humans have been hunter-gatherers for majority of their existence. In my current setting most of them still are. In this setting that is something orcs arguably are better at though. They're physically more powerful and more resilient. They're the sort of people who would wrestle down wild beasts for fun. And then eat them, so it would be useful too! They're very suited for hunter-gatherer lifestyle and thus predominantly prefer to live that way.
I have it that Humans are generally at least somewhat agrarian (having learned it from Hobbits!); as are Elves and Dwarves in their own ways. One of the distinguishing features of my Barbarian sub-species of Human is that they're generally not agrarian.
Which is not to say that all of them do. Both of the PC orcs in my current campaign are originally 'city orcs', and have lived among humans, though one of them became disillusioned with that way of live and decided to return to the desert whence their ancestors came from and embrace the traditional orcish way of life.
I just don't allow PC Orcs (or other creatures who should be monsters) except in the most unusual of circumstances; and even then playing one is a severe challenge when it comes to dealing with pretty much anyone else other than your own party.
 

TheSword

Legend
That would be a sensible, albeit modest, proposal from a mindflayer emissary. "We understand your concern about us feeding over your most intelligent and productive society members. As a gesture of good-will, we propose that you send us 10 mentally deficient members of your race, that would be a burden on your primitive societies, in order for us to feed. It's bland and frankly, but we are willing to seek compromise as we're, obviously, extremely enlightened, especially compared to you. Or maybe you'd be OK if we went and ate the elves in the nearby wood?" Instant horror, credible motivation and a way for your heroes to understand that their opponents are not evil because of their diet. The onus to find an acceptable counter-proposal would be on them, or accept that, despite having a reasonable opponent not necessarily evil -- he was seeking to compromise after all -- his vital goals are incompatible with ours and therefore they must die as a species, without having to decide if any particular one is good or evil.


That.



The squid and cephalopod community shakes with horror as they're forced in the kitchen to watch their lobster friend being boiled... ALIVE ! :ROFLMAO: Bonus points if the whole human family at the restaurant gathered around the fish tank to select which lobster they'll have cooked for them.




My test is quicker. If you ascribe generic qualities to all representatives of a gender, it's sexist, if you ascribe qualities to all representatives of a country, it's xenophobic, if you ascribe qualities to all members of a race, it's racist. They don't necessarily have to be "bad" qualities. "Women are good with children" is positive, yet sexist. "Indians are good with computers" or "Asians are hard-working and respectful of elder people" is xenophobic or racist, respectively. The concept of judging an individual based not on him, but on qualities ascribed to a group he's a member of is deeply problematic and the underlying mode of thought of racism/xenophobia. If you do that with orcs or mind flayers or whatever, you're emulating the racist mindset. You should first make sure that the creature in front of you is either not sentient and unable to make other choices (so you wouldn't need to discuss or redeem a xenomorph or a covid-19 strain) or actually guilty of the evil you're accusing them of. Or accept that you're killing them because it's fun and convenient (we generally do things in entertainment that we wouldn't endorse in real life and that doesn't have a weight on our morality).
This works when you’re describing humans. Not so useful when describing fictional creatures that are defined by genetic qualities..

Describing bugbears as hairy, kenku as good mimics, red dragons as avaricious, elves as perceptive, or dwarves as short isn’t racist or xenophobic. These are characteristics that their creators have imbued them with. You may choose to create something different but it doesn’t make their creators racist.

To say that players assuming mindflayers or beholder are dangerous monsters is using a racist mindset Is a pretty outrageous thing to suggest and dare I say it, conflating a very serious issue, with a very trivial issue which is in itself poor taste. This kind of thing winds people up no end, and causes a backlash which muddies the real issues. As stated in my earlier post - sentience is not a good measure for working out what a monster (in the adventures get to kill them sense). Some creatures are just inherently inimicable to human life or the freedoms we expect as basic human rights (automony, right to life, right to a family etc). Creatures that by their behaviours or existence threaten this would be dealt with if they existed in the real world, as in a fictional one.

Incidentally and unrelated to the previous point, I don’t believe xenophobia can be related to good qualities. It might be racist to say ‘Asians are good at maths’ but I don’t believe it fits to call that xenophobic. There is an inherent fear or distrust with xenophobia that I don’t think marries up with positive assertions.

I also think you’re being a but too sweeping in your assertion that racism simply applies to good qualities. An expectation of being good at maths also carries implications of being mechanical, unemotional, and calculating. We also don’t rate mathematicians as highly as we should, they’re seen as bookish or boring… think about all the accountant jokes. That can be perceived as racist because it comes with a slew of other negatives. A similar but more extreme example is the fetishization and dehumanization of black men.

I’m not convinced that saying that ‘Asians respect their elders’ is racist. It might be factually incorrect but I don’t believe it’s racist. I’m struggling to identify any negative, even implied, with the statement. I’m also struggling to think of any reason why a person would want to not be perceived as being respectful of the elderly. It’s similar to saying the French love good food, or the Swedish have a good outlook on life, or that Italian mother’s love their sons.


As always, I don’t think this is a simple issue, or indeed just one issue at all.
 
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Aldarc

Legend
Yep - and this nicely dovetails with my philosophy that says the game world really is out to kill you; and your first job is to survive. :)
It's personally deeply disturbing to me that you don't seem to see the difference between the idea that the game world is dangerous and out to kill you and you presenting the idea that humans are justified in killing orcs or other "superior" races in killing humans out of some outdated hierarchical pyramid scheme of civilizations that's straight up from 19th century European colonialist mindset.

I'm sure they are. Doesn't bother me, though, in that I count myself capable of keeping my real-life thoughts/morals/etc. separate from those I use in the game world.
I'm suspicious of your claims.
 

Hussar

Legend
‘Asians respect their elders’ is racist.
Well, for one, you're lumping everyone that lives in Asia into a single culture. It's not like there aren't all sorts of different cultures that have different levels of respect. Not every Asian culture is based on Confucian concepts. It might be true to say that, for example, "In Japan, because of the influence of Chinese Confucianism, respect for elders is seen as highly important in their culture". Which is a fairly reasonable thing to say. But to say, "Japanese people respect their elders" is stereotyping and generalizing. Some do and some don't. And, let's not forget, that there are additional elements here too - respect for elders runs pretty hard into the wall of patriarchy when cultures sacrifice their eldest women first in times of famine, for example. Or, in Korean for example, I would expect to use the higher form of Korean when speaking to my father, but use the lowest form when speaking to my mother, regardless of their ages.

Like you said, it's complicated.
 

TheSword

Legend
Well, for one, you're lumping everyone that lives in Asia into a single culture. It's not like there aren't all sorts of different cultures that have different levels of respect. Not every Asian culture is based on Confucian concepts. It might be true to say that, for example, "In Japan, because of the influence of Chinese Confucianism, respect for elders is seen as highly important in their culture". Which is a fairly reasonable thing to say. But to say, "Japanese people respect their elders" is stereotyping and generalizing. Some do and some don't. And, let's not forget, that there are additional elements here too - respect for elders runs pretty hard into the wall of patriarchy when cultures sacrifice their eldest women first in times of famine, for example. Or, in Korean for example, I would expect to use the higher form of Korean when speaking to my father, but use the lowest form when speaking to my mother, regardless of their ages.

Like you said, it's complicated.
Yes, you’re right. It’s not my belief, I’m not saying it’s correct. And I certainly didn’t coin the phrase. But I don’t think I would describe it as racist. It may be stereotypical but not all stereotypes are racist. As I said the stereotype of French loving good food and wine or Swedish sense of balance in life.

Its also worth remembering that the way Asians have been treated in America in history, with restricted work and jobs and social stigma has a greater impact and changes the way things are perceived.
 
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Hussar

Legend
Oh, yes, I agree. There are degrees of issue here. This is why I've been pushing pretty hard to focus on really clear cut issues where we can point to very specific examples. It avoids all the cruft of wasting a bunch of time debating the morality of vegetarianism, for example, when the subject up for discussion, mind flayers in this case, isn't anything that anyone is concerned about. No one is making complaints, as far as I know, about mind flayers and it's not like mind flayers include language that is particularly problematic. So, the whole "vegetarian debate" is largely pointless and should be treated as such.
 

Humans are smarter than Orcs. Humans are more civilized than Orcs, largely due to their long-term greater intelligence giving them a "tech" and comfort advantage (e.g. Orcs are still hunter-gatherers while Humans progressed to agriculture ages ago, giving more time and resources to devote to other things such as inventions, the arts, and so on). Humans, to other Humans (always the baseline for comparison) are also on average considerably more attractive and charismatic than Orcs.

Given these parameters, describe the Orcs as seen from a Human perspective.

Comparing orcs to real world hunter gather societies and then saying that they are less intelligent and charismatic than ‘humans’ is saying the quiet part out loud.
 

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
Yes, I’m not saying it’s correct. And I certainly didn’t coin the phrase. But I don’t think I would describe it as racist. It may be stereotypical but not all stereotypes are racist. As I said the stereotype of French loving good food and wine or Swedish sense of balance in life.

It creates expectations and any behaviour from the "assumed normal", despite being totally acceptable, makes it a struggle for the people. Of course, it's better to say "French love good food" that "French are surrender-monkeys", but it's xenophobic to reduce human identity to a stereotype based on country of origin. There are Frenchmen that eat fast foods -- actually it's the most common form of having lunch -- and by propagating this stereotype, you'll do very little harm, but the accumulation of it causes stress. Let's take the "good at maths", even when it's stripped of the potential problem of being a negative disguised as a positive, it creates expectations and is harmful to Asian-American children learning maths in the US. In France, being of Northern-African descent means you'll be "expected" to conform to the stereotype (what, you're north african and you don't like couscous?" , and be reduced to your country of (supposed) origin, to the point people are conforming to the stereotype in order to avoid having to explain for the umpteenth time that "not all X are Y", which should be self-evident. Racist might not be the right term, but I was using it as a shorthand for "harmful stereotyping based on race".

But I feel we're veering quite far from the point at hand which is "what litmus test do we use to differentiate monsters, which can be killed on sight, and not-monsters, who are to be treated like individuals." In the original aesthetics, it was easy: everything you encountered in the dungeon was "monster". Nowadays, with stories we create, we need something more refined. Obviously, creature type (humanoid or aberration) is too gamey to be OK, alignment is dodgy as well as we can't really agree on it but would need to be species-wide to work, which only kicks the can a little. "Incompatible with human life as we know it" as you propose (so illithid can be KoS) is better, but risk being used against anyone. "hey, this herding tribe is incompatible with us because we're farmer and claim owernship to the land, let's kill them..." : it's open to conflating of "enemy" and "monster" so I think the test still needs to be refined. "Not having been described using questionable language" means that humans or elves are KoS, which is certainly not a reasonable conclusion. I feel the "questionable language about orcs" is another, distinct problem than the one at hand. I proposed "sentient vs non-sentient (as in able to make individual moral choices)" but it doesn't seem to fly as well.
 

Will anyone that uses all these different elements and facets of all intelligent races can be everything; free will and self-expression trump stereotype please video their game and let us watch? Please? I do not ask this sarcastically nor to present a gotchya. I ask this because I can't imagine it. I literally can't picture it.

I played for years with the most inclusive and multi-universe style DM I have ever met. And he added some individualism to creatures. But at best, he basically turned dwarves evil, the paladins did things that weren't great in the name of holy, orcs were misunderstood, and dryad sisters parted ways via alignment. That's in three different campaigns. Campaigns where we were shooting through the Astral Sea and seeing portals into the future and entering to the Feywild.

So when I say I literally cannot imagine it in gameplay, I mean it. How, in a four hour session, where combat takes an hour or two, and snacks and bathrooms take ten to twenty, and exploration takes thirty or an hour; how do you manage to make all these individualistic characters in a setting without using tropes? If you do use tropes, but insert the super smart orc or atheistic female drow or lawful good troglodyte, how does that not tear down cohesiveness from a time stand point? I mean, how many troglodytes have they run into that were the trope?

It literally seems, in my humble opinion, it's all waxing and waning philosophically, with no real substance during play.

I am open to be wrong. But individualism in a character takes time to build. And in D&D, there is very little time to build characterization.
 

pemerton

Legend
By providing a stable, reliable, and (over-)abundant source of food and resources, the move from hunter-gatherer to agriculture paved the way for civilization as we know it by providing time and resources for people to do things beyond the bare necessities to survive.
The last time I read the literature, hunter-gatherers have a relatively high proportion of leisure time.

which hunter-gatherer society invented the aqueduct? Or paved roads? Or metalsmithing beyond the absolute most basic? None of these existed before agriculture allowed them to exist, and all allowed those societies to prosper where others didn't.
And who invented hunting? Gathering? Child-rearing? Art? Religion?

It seems rather banal to point out that different technologies are feature of different forms of social organisation. I don't see what it is supposed to tell us, eg, about the "inferiority" of Orcs, or of (some) humans.

agrarian societies are, over time, going to develop beyond what hunter-gatherer societies can manage; and unless the h-g's have a counter (in the case of Orcs, this counter would be sheer numbers and aggression) the h-g's are eventually doomed.
This is nonsense. The idea that hunger-gatherers are "doomed" is nothing but genocidal fantasy.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
This is nonsense. The idea that hunger-gatherers are "doomed" is nothing but genocidal fantasy.

if it works anything like the real world, arr they either "doomed" to not end up developing massive pollution spilling, disease concentrating, environment destroying massive farm needing cities, or doomed to eventually be done in by the whims of the city makers?
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Mod Note:

Reading through the thread it really seems like the lines are drawn up in the same basic ways at they are in any other thread here that touches on racism. Same people, same arguments, sometimes dressed up a little differently. But no fundamentally new information or logic is being applied.

So, we know where this is going. And it isn't constructive. So, let us call it done.
 

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