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

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Doug McCrae

Legend
incidentally, it is a bit of a paradox when it is the gygaxian naturalists who want inherently evil monsters, as it goes against the playstyle and aesthetics you identify
Well, I could be wrong! I didn't know I was going to come to that conclusion when I started writing -- I just looked back over my list of features and thought, "Hmm, good and evil are totally irrelevant here."

As @pemerton has pointed out, OD&D and AD&D 1e have several features that are at odds with amoral treasure-nabbing -- alignment, lawful clerics, druids, paladins, rangers, the gods, angels and demons/devils, Heaven and Hell.
 

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Faolyn

Hero
For some reason my brain wanted me to type something about how thinking a group of people are cool for looking different seems to tread close to fetishizing. Does fetishizing something imaginary avoid language issues and so would never bring to mind fetishizing the far east, for example? Or is it that fetishizing in general (as opposed to negative stereotypes) has nothing inherently bad with it? Or is it that it's completely different than fetishizing? Does it matter if only some groups look cool and not others? Does this have trickiness to avoid about, say, certain skin tones are never portrayed as the cool ones?
Does the racial write-up fetishize then? Because that's different from saying that a player thinks a race look cool.

Why would any particular race (elves, dwarves, whatnot) have the same outlooks, cultures, and histories when they come from different worlds? Should the MM just give sample ones from several different settings where they're completely different? If they have great similarities across entirely different worlds with different histories, does that lead to something biologically essential in their make-up that leads to the similarity?
Well, the vast majority of playable races have the same basic needs as humans, live in the same world with those humans, and clearly have had frequent contact with them. So why wouldn't they be at least somewhat similar?

Would Vulcans have different mental stats at all? (What stats would you use in a Star Trek system?) Are there some mental type saves they'd have advantage/disadvantage on? Are innate mental differences for an entire species problematic? Or only if they have negative connotations? (Aren't there some you'd think they were positive at first blush stereotypes about real world groups that are still harmful?)
If I were to run Star Trek using 5e, I'd actually go the Level Up route and give ASIs based on background.

I could see giving Vulcans (for instance) advantage or an expertise die on saves versus being charmed or frightened, but maybe some extra negative effect if they fail such a save or roll a 1 on the save because you know they become extremely vulnerable to such attacks if the plot demands. They would also get Powerful Build and tolerance to mundane hot weather. I'd do the heritage/culture divide and make Vulcan culture grant some psychic abilities, martial arts, and probably a bonus to History or Int checks to recall facts because of those weird bubble schools of theirs that emphasize rote memorization.

If I were to run Star Trek using 5e.
 


Well, I could be wrong! I didn't know I was going to come to that conclusion when I started writing -- I just looked back over my list of features and thought, "Hmm, good and evil are totally irrelevant here."

As @pemerton has pointed out, OD&D and AD&D 1e have several features that are at odds with amoral treasure-nabbing -- alignment, lawful clerics, druids, paladins, rangers, the gods, angels and demons/devils, Heaven and Hell.
Its probably less that "being the good guys" is essential and more that "playing people we relate to" is harder if you feel like what the characters are doing isn't justifiable, even if just incidentally so.

Thats probably why monster races are so appealing, and so problematic, theyre intentionally people you don't have to individually justify hurting. Because their nature means their misfortune is always better for the 'goodly' peoples.

Its a big part of why comic books and other action hero setups ADORED random Nazis as villains. The belief system, and the need to keep them from their goals itself is considered a sufficient justification without too much elaboration.

Note that this applies even when the heroes are just seeking wealth-- you dont enter Barrowmaze to cleanse the thing for instance, it just likely happens if you go far enough and don't lose.
 

Faolyn

Hero
Mind flayers. No they're not misunderstood. But no, they're not inherently evil either. They're exactly as evil as humans are for eating animals. We eat animals. Mind flayers eat intelligent life. Having a limited diet doesn't make you evil. That we think they're evil doesn't make them so. We're their food. Of course we think they're evil. Just as chickens, if they were sufficiently intelligent, would think humans were evil for eating them.
They also reproduce by inserting parasitic larva into a sentient being's skull, allowing that larva to take over the being's body and eat that still-living and possibly still-conscious person's bran over the course of several days or a week. Like a wasp laying its egg on a paralyzed foodsource.

According to Volo's (and some of the other stuff written about mind flayers over the years) they don't need to eat brains; they actually eat psionic energy. They prefer to eat the psionic energy released at death.

And then there's the grimlocks, duergar, gith, and all the other creatures they've mutated over the millennia for purposes of research or creating slaves.

So, they may not be inherently evil, but it's about as close as you can get.
 



overgeeked

B/X Known World
They also reproduce by inserting parasitic larva into a sentient being's skull, allowing that larva to take over the being's body and eat that still-living and possibly still-conscious person's bran over the course of several days or a week. Like a wasp laying its egg on a paralyzed foodsource.

According to Volo's (and some of the other stuff written about mind flayers over the years) they don't need to eat brains; they actually eat psionic energy. They prefer to eat the psionic energy released at death.

And then there's the grimlocks, duergar, gith, and all the other creatures they've mutated over the millennia for purposes of research or creating slaves.

So, they may not be inherently evil, but it's about as close as you can get.
So more akin to veal and foie gras. Got it.
 




Hussar

Legend
Ok, let's ignore the dietary issues for a moment.

Isn't promoting massive eugenics programs enough to be considered evil? Isn't enslaving multiple races enough to be considered evil? Isn't the fact that they see everything that isn't them as simply either food or tools, not, for a moment, recognizing anything of value to other individuals enough to be considered evil? How bad does something need to be to be considered evil?

Now, why can mind flayers be evil but we have issues with orcs or drow? Well, for several reasons.

1. Mind flayers aren't cannon fodder. They aren't "lesser" beings. They are powerful, threatening, and truly alien.
2. AFAIK, none of the mind flayer imagery or text borrows from racist texts of the past. Mind Flayers aren't just evil for being mind flayers, they are evil for what they do.
3. Mind Flayers are never depicted as a race/culture. They don't farm. They don't create anything. They aren't a "people" in any sense of the word.
4. Mind Flayers have a distinctly outer planar vibe going. They are Mythos baddies without the rather unfortunate Mythos racist connotations. There's no reasoning with them. There's no trade or possibility of coming to an understanding. They want to eat everyone that isn't them.

So, again, like so many of these "whaddabouts", this is only an issue if we take a very myopic view of something and ignore any larger context or nuance. No, Mind Flayers are not a problem. There's lots of things in the game that are evil and we don't have an issue with them. No one points at Rakshasa and talks about how we're promoting cruelty to animals.

--------------

And, as a final point, which I raised earlier, if the only reason we need "all evil" monsters that we can use, then why use humanoids? If these game elements are only there to be bags of HP that we whack for XP, then, well, there's a whole bestiary of monsters that we can beat on to our hearts content. However, if we want to use intelligent monsters with cultures and whatnot, well, the cost of that is you can't paint them using the same language that has been propagated in the genre for decades. That's the price. You want evil orcs? Great, you can have evil orcs. What you can't have is ALL evil orcs that are never presented as anything else, while at the same time using language that is full of ick.

Take your pick. You can have one or the other.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Ok, let's ignore the dietary issues for a moment.

Isn't promoting massive eugenics programs enough to be considered evil? Isn't enslaving multiple races enough to be considered evil? Isn't the fact that they see everything that isn't them as simply either food or tools, not, for a moment, recognizing anything of value to other individuals enough to be considered evil? How bad does something need to be to be considered evil?

So, like humans with all species of animals except for a few they choose to keep as pets?
 

Minigiant

Legend
Its probably less that "being the good guys" is essential and more that "playing people we relate to" is harder if you feel like what the characters are doing isn't justifiable, even if just incidentally so.

Thats probably why monster races are so appealing, and so problematic, theyre intentionally people you don't have to individually justify hurting. Because their nature means their misfortune is always better for the 'goodly' peoples.

Its a big part of why comic books and other action hero setups ADORED random Nazis as villains. The belief system, and the need to keep them from their goals itself is considered a sufficient justification without too much elaboration.

Note that this applies even when the heroes are just seeking wealth-- you dont enter Barrowmaze to cleanse the thing for instance, it just likely happens if you go far enough and don't lose.

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.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The word you're trying not to use is the Other. Yes, these creatures are historically the foe, villain, monster, outsider, and other. That's exactly the problem. They're incredibly thinly veiled racist stereotypes and have been for decades. Yes, even when Uncle Tolkien used them. Just because you're used to them, you like using them, or they're convenient shorthand for you does not make them less racist. That they're only ever used as the foe, villain, monster, outsider, and other is part of the problem. That they're the default evil is part of the problem.

Their function can be the same as any other character in fiction. Serving any one of an infinite possibilities. You don't have to use racist tropes to have a foe, a villain, or a monster. A well-dressed human will do. A cannibal dwarf is just as good as an orc. You don't have to use racist tropes to reinforce in groups and out groups. Breaking bread with people of shared interest will do as will defending against a common enemy. Now just imagine the common enemy is a human and you're standing next to an orc defending your village.

Look at Game of Thrones. Nearly 100% human characters and plenty of villains. Plenty of anti-heroes. Plenty of violence and intrigue. No need for racist tropes. But you don't need to go 100% human. You can still use orcs, trolls, goblins, gnolls, bugbears, etc. Modern gamers are simply pushing back against the obvious racism dripping from these creatures. You can have a chaotic tribe of humans as the villains. You can have an orc wizard as the villain. You can have a goblin artificer as the foe. A gnoll scholar as the quest giver. A bugbear detective. A troll gardener. You don't have to only use non-human creatures as villains.

Likewise you don't have to use humans, elves, dwarfs, and halflings as the good guys. At a guess you don't have trouble making any of those into foes, villains, monsters, outsiders, or other. It's simple. There is no default for those races, they can be anything. Good, bad, or in-between. So why is it so difficult to see orcs, goblins, ogres, or trolls as anything but the monster? Why is it so hard to let them be neutral or good? Not in a morally relativistic flip the meaning of good and evil on its head sense. But in a straightforward sense. Why not a LG troll paladin? Why not a goblin scribe who serves the good king of the human lands? Why not a gnoll shipwright building the best barges in the land.

Why do orcs, goblins, trolls, etc have to be evil? Tradition is about the worst excuse possible.
First, they have never all been any particular alignment. Not in any incarnation of the game. Second, they are treated as generally evil races, because we already have 20 varieties of human(elves, dwarves, tritons, aarocockra(sp), halflings, etc.), we don't want 40 more. The MM is a book of enemies for PCs, so the alignments listed there are the defaults for what kind of (insert race here) the PCs encounter. Those alignments are not generally for the entire race. Angels and Demons are among the exceptions to that, and even they are not 100% one alignment.
 




Minigiant

Legend
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.
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.
 

Hussar

Legend
So, like humans with all species of animals except for a few they choose to keep as pets?
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:
 

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