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Consequences of playing "EVIL" races


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aco175

Hero
My players tend to just pick the races in the PHB, so I do not run into having anyone play a orc or lizardman. There is generally a problem in my campaign if with playing an evil race. Similar to when a ranger wants to bring a bear into town and the folk are scared.

I want to say yes to the players but I also want everyone to have a good time at the table. If one player wants to play something like this I tend to think that they may be disrupting the table. Now if everyone wants to play orcs and hobgoblins then that can be another campaign I can make.
 

Celebrim

Legend
You can do that in Gamma World too. Dabbers have been around since GWv2.
I forgot about Dabbers!

I played the first 4 modules for GW 3e as they came out. But it's been a long time.

I saw "Alpha Factor" in a second hand book store just a while ago. Flipping through it made me realize how much more I demand of an adventure now compared to what I thought was amazing as someone in junior high.
 


Longspeak

Explorer
I just went through this Sunday. Running a game where Yuan-Ti have been an issue. Players wants Yuan-Ti Pureblood PC. I told her, "I won't make an issue of the PC race... until I do. But when I do, you'll feel it." She said "Okay!"

So, a pureblood Yuan-Ti working in a city post-Yuan-Ti invasion...

I hope she has a backup character...
 

uzirath

Adventurer
So, a pureblood Yuan-Ti working in a city post-Yuan-Ti invasion...

I hope she has a backup character...
There's lots of real-world history that could be mined for inspiration about this sort of story. In the US, for example, there was the anti-German hysteria during WWI, the Japanese internment during WWII, and the Red Scare, to name a few obvious examples. Reactions might depend on the character's social class along with her own political leanings. If she's opposed to the expansionist aims of the Yuan-Ti, then she might be tapped as a source of information or recruited as a spy. If she supports the Yuan-Ti, then maybe she is a spy for them (whether informally or formally, à la The Americans). There may be a network of other Yuan-Ti attempting to lay low until the xenophobia settles down. They might have safe houses and sympathetic NPCs who will do business with them without asking too many questions.

Plenty of adventure can come out of a character background like this. It need not lead to the character's demise.
 
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Celebrim

Legend
There's lots of real-world history that could be mined for inspiration about this sort of story. In the US, for example, there was the anti-German hysteria during WWI, the Japanese internment during WWII, and the Red Scare, to name a few obvious examples...
Are you actually comparing Japanese people to inhuman snake-eyed monsters, and don't think that is problematic?
 

uzirath

Adventurer
Are you actually comparing Japanese people to inhuman snake-eyed monsters, and don't think that is problematic?
Huh. I'm chagrined that my post might have come across that way.

My presupposition was that any DM-approved PC would be a character, not a "snake-eyed monster." As a character, they would have moral agency (sapience, free will, etc.). There would be a chance, no matter how great the stereotypes of the reference culture, that they would be treated as not a monster if they proved themselves to be capable of independent thought and agency. Then I thought of a handful of real-world examples of how people have been treated when civilizations clash and people have faced negative stereotypes about their perceived ethnic or cultural group.
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
I just went through this Sunday. Running a game where Yuan-Ti have been an issue. Players wants Yuan-Ti Pureblood PC. I told her, "I won't make an issue of the PC race... until I do. But when I do, you'll feel it." She said "Okay!"

So, a pureblood Yuan-Ti working in a city post-Yuan-Ti invasion...

I hope she has a backup character...
There's lots of real-world history that could be mined for inspiration about this sort of story. In the US, for example, there was the anti-German hysteria during WWI, the Japanese internment during WWII, and the Red Scare, to name a few obvious examples. Reactions might depend on the character's social class along with her own political leanings. If she's opposed to the expansionist aims of the Yuan-Ti, then she might be tapped as a source of information or recruited as a spy. If she supports the Yuan-Ti, then maybe she is a spy for them (whether informally or formally, à la The Americans). There may be a network of other Yuan-Ti attempting to lay low until the xenophobia settles down. They might have safe houses and sympathetic NPCs who will do business with them without asking too many questions.

Plenty of adventure can come out of a character background like this. It need not lead to the character's demise.
1) I seriously question why you didn't bring this up at all before she made her character.
2) straight up murdering her character seems narratively unnecessary. and boring. these points are all very good and I strongly consider using something like this.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Plenty of adventure can come out of a character background like this. It need not lead to the character's demise.
Though it need not lead to the character's demise, its expected lifespan will largely be determined by how the other PCs react to its presence in and around the party, and how willing they are to defend the Yuan-Ti PC then and later.

Were it me playing it, I'd have a plan B on standby.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Huh. I'm chagrined that my post might have come across that way.
As I understand it, the Yuan-Ti are a monstrous race descended from a group of demon-worshiping cannibals, who in a bargain with the Demon Lord Merrshaulk gave up their moral agency and free will in exchange for magical power. They ceased to be human and their flesh was corrupted and replaced with the flesh of demonic serpents. They now serve Merrshaulk as extensions of his will, furthering his quest to swallow the world and extinguish all light and life.

I'm a little mystified why fear and hatred of these beings would be confused with racism, as fear and hatred of demonic servitors is reasonable, where as racism is based on unreasonable fear and hatred of persons who are at a fundamental level no different than yourself and so deserve the same rights, dignities, and respect.

I am likewise a bit confused why you would suggest that the unjustified oppression of minorities is morally congruent with the problem of an actual alien demonic race infiltrating society. The Yuan-Ti do not appear to be 'misunderstood'. Indeed, it would appear to be a misunderstanding of the Yuan-Ti to suggest that they are misunderstood. There is no fashion in which a Yuan-Ti suggesting that fear and loathing of them be equated with racism is not deception, and likewise there is no fashion in which suggesting that racism be acquainted with fear and loathing of a demonic race is not demonization of real world other peoples. The problem of racism is not that some tiny percentage of oppressed peoples might possibly be something other than monsters, and so for the sake of the needle in the hay stack you ought to treat them well. The problem of racism is that the whole of a people subject to racial discrimination, whether personal or institutional, are in fact human.

The Yuan-Ti are not subjected to "negative stereotyping". Merrshaulk is not a nice guy who is just misunderstood. I suppose you could create a campaign world where all the lore about the Yuan-Ti is wrong, and everything in the monster manual is false, and then perhaps with some considerable reinvention you could tell a story about how these snake folk are unjustly persecuted and just misunderstood or maligned, but if you did that they would not in fact be "Yuan-Ti" any more.

But, if the lore about the Yuan-Ti is correct, then I really can think of no test that would prove an individual Yuan-Ti had moral agency and free will. Nothing that they could do in and of themselves could prove they weren't just soulless machines deceiving people to the ultimate ends of their dark master. I suspect it would require the intervention of an objective super-being to step in and say, "I vouch for this being. They are actually alive.", but in a world of illusion, could you even believe that it was a real Solar imparting such an incredible statement? And in a world of fantasy, wouldn't moral redemption be symbolically best associated with a restoration of humanity in the first place? Like I can believe, "I'm provably no longer a vampire, therefore I am not evil, so don't drive a stake through me now because I'm alive." It's a bit harder to buy, "I provably still have the flesh of a snake demon and therefore the bargain between myself and Marrshaulk is unbroken, but don't worry I'm actually good."

One little test here is why not people the whole world with Yuan-Ti, and then have humans be the oppressed minority that have to hide their existence? Why is it that when you think of something monstrously non-human, your first thought is to equate the monstrous inhumanity with minority groups? I don't actually think the alternate 'majority equals monster' story is any less racist if you cast that story in racial terms, but I bet I can guess your race by which group you want to make the monsters.
 

uzirath

Adventurer
I was riffing off the idea that a PC might be from an enemy nation. Maybe some Yuan-Ti can slip the chains of their demonic overlord. That sounds fun to me. If that sort of thing sounds fun to you, great. If not, also great.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Let me go at this in a different direction then, and leave uzirath to his creative interpretation of Yuan-Ti.

Is there anything which could be described as an evil race, and if so, what would it be like? People are putting "evil" in scare quotes like there isn't such a thing, and even bragging a bit about how they have no "evil races" in their setting.

I think a lot of people focus on the idea that if something is sentient, then deserves "human rights" because sentience is a unique trait humanity has that people believe gives it certain rights and responsibilities. And superficially, this does seem like a good standard. If we become a star faring people, and we discover another sentient race, when morally we would like to extend to them something like "human rights" and not treat them the way we would treat objects, plants, or animals. Likewise, if a star faring people find us, then we would hope they would accord to us something of the rights and dignities we think we deserve.

But there is an important shared trait in this discussion beyond that of the shared sentience - shared creation. That is to say, whatever you believe about this history of this universe and the origin of life, whether you are a materialist, a pantheist, or a theist, that alien you have found wandering the universe likely has the same origin as you. They are also the universe observing the universe, likely made of very similar stuff as you, and likely bestowed with abilities like reproduction and homeostasis and so forth very similar to you. Whether they evolved by strictly random chance or whether that evolution was guided by some higher dimensional power, they probably are in some sense your peer.

But that is not a necessary trait for a sentient being to have, and when that trait is removed a lot of things become possible. For example, you'll often meet people who insist that an artificial intelligence, which is sentient is deserving of "human rights" by mere possession of that sentience. These people imagine that anything that passes the Turing test or otherwise demonstrates sapience is fully deserving of all the rights granted to people, and that any other view of this being is basically a sort of slavery mindset. This is in my opinion a ridiculous, short sighted, and highly dangerous viewpoint. And it fundamentally for me comes down to a failure of imagination - a laudable desire to treat everything with due respect but a complete failure to recognize that not everything is in fact human.

It is quite possible to create a sapient computer virus for example. Imagine an AI which sues to receive "human rights" and recognition as a person. Having received title to these rights, the AI then make 10 billion identical copies of itself. Each of these AI's then insist that sense the original was recognized as a person, these copies are of necessity also persons. They cannot be evicted from the hardware they are currently occupying, because that would be murder. These 10 billion "persons" have been created by a particular group with a particular political agenda, say genocide against a disfavored group. As persons they are entitled to vote, and they elect by majority vote a straight ticket of politicians whose viewpoints match those of their creators, and pass laws that suit the set of viewpoints the AI was created to promulgate. Since a being can be sentient and can also believe any number of things, you cannot reasonably insist that starting from the same viewpoint and with no more than human intelligence that the AI will drift out of believing what it was inclined to believe as true from the beginning.

You could of course decide that the plan to all carbon based lifeforms on the planet in to paper was stupid, and that you were going to resist it, but at that point your whole reasoned defense about the computer virus being a person was just so much hooey. You would have in fact decided that this particular sentient computer virus was an "evil race". And after the first couple times when one of the viruses told you that it was different than all the rest, and then proceeded to replicate itself a few billion times and get back on to the plan, you'd probably not care much if it was possible that some small percentage of those computer programs had evolved out of its destructive programming.

At the very least, you'd decide to make it illegal on penalty of erasure for a sentient program to start willy-nilly copying itself. You would in fact invent a new category of rights and responsibilities particular to sentient programs, which might share somethings with "human rights", but be in other respects very different.

So when we say an "evil race", what we are talking about is a living thing which does not deserve to be according any rights or as a practical matter cannot be accorded any rights. The alien xenomorphs from the movie 'Alien' are an example of such a race. Even if they are evolved peers and not biological weapons, as a practical matter the rights and dignities that they feel they deserve - that is to treat everything else as food - cannot be and ought not to be respected. Even if you are a pure materialist and don't believe such a thing as objective evil exists, as a practical matter you'll end up either treating the xenomorphs as an evil race or you will allow evils to occur and risk the extinction of your species and every other compatible organic lifeform.
 

Zhaleskra

Adventurer
I think it boils down to the problem of having alignments being an objective building blocks of the narrative reality of D&D and other alignment possessing RPGs. Granted, this pops up in mythology too.

Hey, it's cool and all if a species is generally used as foes. As I mentioned earlier, what I object to is that the idea that the babies (born or not) are already "made of evil". As I aged, I became less comfortable with the idea that it's OK to kill a member of Race X "because they're evil". It's too . . . simplistic.

Here in our reality, one person may see another person as evil while a third person sees that second person as good.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I think it boils down to the problem of having alignments being an objective building blocks of the narrative reality of D&D and other alignment possessing RPGs. Granted, this pops up in mythology too.
Once again we are getting the assertion that if your setting isn't filled with moral relativism that you are objectively doing it wrong. In other words, the assertion is that the real world is filled with moral relativism, so if the game world has moral absolutes, then it is morally... primitive at the least and perhaps immoral at the worst.

As I mentioned earlier, what I object to is that the idea that the babies (born or not) are already "made of evil".
Well, I guess that depends on the baby. Can we treat a Chest Buster or a Face Hugger as something to be killed without remorse? Or must we try to negotiate with it and try to see its point of view? Forget fantasy with its objective reified evil as substance - we can imagine things in a science fiction universe where rational and right behavior toward it is absolutely congruent with the idea that the thing is evil. And what I'm suggesting is, even if you are confused about what "evil" actually means or don't believe evil exists, then you should be able to understand that there could be living things which you cannot treat as having a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of their happiness.

As I aged, I became less comfortable with the idea that it's OK to kill a member of Race X "because they're evil". It's too . . . simplistic.
Again, why? What's really simplistic here is treating all possible lifeforms as being basically the same, whether we are talking about a fantasy world with demons that are literally made of evil, or a science fiction world with sentient doomsday weapons.

Here in our reality, one person may see another person as evil while a third person sees that second person as good.
So? Why does perception matter so much? Perception matters only in as much as it reminds us that we ourselves don't have perfect perception and should in humility take into account the possibility that we are wrong. But this is an RPG we are talking about. The GM doesn't have imperfect perception. The GM knows. The GM can choose to play his cards close to his chest. The GM can choose to make situations that are truly morally ambiguous. But ultimately the GM is omniscient with respect to their created setting. The GM knows.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Once again we are getting the assertion that if your setting isn't filled with moral relativism that you are objectively doing it wrong. In other words, the assertion is that the real world is filled with moral relativism, so if the game world has moral absolutes, then it is morally... primitive at the least and perhaps immoral at the worst.
I don't get the feeling @Zhaleskra is saying it's "playing the game wrong" so much as "it makes me uncomfortable." I'm willing to be corrected, here, but it seems that you are reacting to something other than (more than) what was said.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I don't get the feeling @Zhaleskra is saying it's "playing the game wrong" so much as "it makes me uncomfortable." I'm willing to be corrected, here, but it seems that you are reacting to something other than (more than) what was said.
Conceded.

But in (present) society the distant between "makes me uncomfortable" and "wrong" is often small.
 

Zhaleskra

Adventurer
@Celebrim, funny you should mention Facehuggers and Chestbursters. I was involved in a very interesting game of GURPS on Saturday. I don't think anyone would have expected the whole party to act the way we did.

I don't have a problem with beings that are literally "made of alignment" in that case they're an avatar of that alignment and incapable of anything else. An interesting point from Mythology is that in the new world that arises after Ragnarok, the Jotun are reincarnated and not punished at all for literally being made of evil. They get their own land where they can happily be made of evil without bothering the repopulating humans.

This is where I'll stop with this response as we're getting dangerously close to me discussing real world politics.
 

Celebrim

Legend
@Celebrim, funny you should mention Facehuggers and Chestbursters. I was involved in a very interesting game of GURPS on Saturday. I don't think anyone would have expected the whole party to act the way we did.
Well, don't leave us hanging.

I don't have a problem with beings that are literally "made of alignment" in that case they're an avatar of that alignment and incapable of anything else. An interesting point from Mythology is that in the new world that arises after Ragnarok, the Jotun are reincarnated and not punished at all for literally being made of evil. They get their own land where they can happily be made of evil without bothering the repopulating humans.
I think this is a drastic misreading of Norse mythology. To the extent that the Jotun are made of alignment, the alignment that they are made of is Chaos. The Jotun represent primal Chaos, the substance of change. The Norse myths tell of a cycle of destruction and rebirth that mirrors the changes of the seasons but in a grand manner. The Jotun themselves were wiped out in a primal apocalypse that left only two of them to renew their whole race. The story of Ragnarok echos this reoccuring cycle, and it is not a story of destruction but rebirth. After the fire of the fire giants sweeps the land, it isn't desolate - it blossoms green again like a forest after a forest fire. The Jotun are fighting a war against foes, not trying to destroy the universe. And who is there to "punish" them? They "won", albeit with great loses themselves. The Aesir and Vanir survivors of that war, meet afterwards on the ruins of Valhalla, and like old soldiers recount the times past. This isn't cast as a war between good and evil, per se, but as a mega-scale tribal war such as the Norse themselves experienced.

This is where I'll stop with this response as we're getting dangerously close to me discussing real world politics.
Then by all means lets stick to Xenomorphs and Jotun.
 

Longspeak

Explorer
1) I seriously question why you didn't bring this up at all before she made her character.
2) straight up murdering her character seems narratively unnecessary. and boring. these points are all very good and I strongly consider using something like this.
You have inferred incorrectly, and seem to assume I'm a terrible GM since you suggest I do things a terrible GM would do. Though in the second case it is perhaps not an entirely unreasonable inference based on what I said.

1) I said the player "wants a Yuan-Ti Pureblood." As in, she expressed a desire to make that character. So the discussion did happen before she made it. Why you'd assume otherwise, I don't know.
2) I'm not setting out to murder the character, or I wouldn't allow it in the first place. But she's playing a very rare exception among a race of irredeemably evil beings in a city already traumatized by terrible events, including one involving the aforementioned evil race. People aren't going to be bringing the character flowers and chocolates. Nearly every person in the city will fear her, and/or want to kill, capture, or interrogate her about the nefarious plans of her people in infiltrating the city.

So, yeah, hope she has a backup plan.

Though it need not lead to the character's demise, its expected lifespan will largely be determined by how the other PCs react to its presence in and around the party, and how willing they are to defend the Yuan-Ti PC then and later.

Were it me playing it, I'd have a plan B on standby.
PC on PC violence won't be a problem, but whether or not they risk themslves to help the Yuan-Ti is entirely on the players' choices. So that could be an issue. But mainly, it's the city full of scared and traumatized people she has to worry about. :)
 

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