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D&D General Demihumans of Color and the Thermian Argument

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
Your claim was that it was less cruel is reductionist, impossible to prove and in poor taste. That is precisely the element I take issue with.
... I vehemently disagree.

Firstly that it is reductionist. I'm not trying to imply that forced servitude was somehow less cruel at any point of time. I'm referring specifically to the treatment of slaves as a group. Of which there were laws and protections, however meager, compared to more modern slavery which had no protections whatsoever.

Heck. Hammurabi's Code 119 involves a dude selling a female slave who bore him a child. If he tries, he has to give the money back to the person who bought the slave and then free her. Her child is also free because they're the child of a free person. That's a law in Babylonian times which -expressly- ends someone's slavery. There were -no- laws of that sort during the later slave trade. Meanwhile 117 expressly limits the amount of time someone can be sold into slavery to repay debts capping it at 4 years.

And while there's little information on how widespread physical and sexual abuse of slaves was in Rome we do know that it happened. We also know that Libertini (Freed Slaves) existed to a degree that they had explicit rights and restrictions applied to them by law. Hadrian, in fact, passed a series of laws to limit the positions of power a Freed Slave could attain because there were so many of them in public office.

We also know that at least some slaveowners at the time freed all Elderly or Sick slaves categorically. And that Antonius passed a law that made the unjustified killing of a slave into straight up Murder.

By -definition- that is less cruel than "You are a slave, you will always be a slave, and your children will be slaves, too, and we can kill you whenever we like." 'cause that lady and her kids? Free. The wife or son or daughter sold into slavery? Free after 4 years at the -most-. Chattel Slavery? No laws whatsoever, no contingencies, no property. Rome had laws relating to how slaves owned property while being property. Not toothbrushes but -land-. By the first century, AD a Slave of Rome anywhere within the Empire could petition the courts to free them from cruel masters. Not just Carthage's "Find a nicer owner" but outright freedom. With free children who would never know slavery unless they sold themselves into it as a Citizen could.

It's also not impossible to prove, because look: There's -laws- and stuff that protected Roman slaves, particularly toward the last 200 years of the empire.

As to Poor Taste... that's largely a matter of personal taste. But comparing the rightly ended historical practices (Well... sorta ended in America) of two separate empires and judging one to be even worse than the other should hardly be a question of taste.

You’re talking about something that actually happened as if it is theoretical and abstract. The fact that some slaves were able to walk away, firstly is based on Steampunkettes unreferenced examples, secondly we have no idea how widespread those examples were, or to what extent they represented slavery across the Mediterranean. Or if they were a narrow time period or covered several thousand years of ancient history. We also don’t know whether a right in principle is also a right in practice.

At best we are fumbling in the dark. Therefore it’s sensible not to make assumptive statements that slavery in ancient mediterranean states was less cruel because we have a theoretical idea of what one right in one city state was like on one issue in isolation.
Oh... that's easy.

Hammurabi's code comes from about 1750BCE. Rome was founded with laws of Slavery in 783BCE. Claudius reigned from 51 to 54AD and declared that abandoned slaves were Free Men. Nero was Emperor from 54-68AD and allowed slaves to petition the courts. Hadrian was 117-138AD when he curtailed the political positions of Freed Slaves because too many of them held office. Antonius was right after him and made it illegal to kill a slave without the same justifications for killing anyone else and ruled 'til 161.

Cato the Elder was the one who was widely known for freeing sick or old slaves, skilled and educated slaves could hold down jobs of their own separate from their owner and eventually purchase their own freedom, and, of course, there were laws regarding patronage with a freed slave. Specifically their former owner became their landlord, essentially, until such time as the Freed Man left of his own accord.

As to Carthage it was a Phoenician Colony. The Phoenicians were mainly active from about 2500BC (Founding of Byblos) 'til around 150BC when Carthage was conquered.

These are all laws, facts, names, and dates you can research yourself. I hope that helps clear up the information disparity!

Oh. They put me on ignore. Nice. Well. Everyone else can enjoy all this information, at least!
 
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The part that makes the premodern farm labor dark is that your children basically existed to be part of a Ponzi scheme. You had to have a lot of kods to help out in order to be able to keep the farm running, but eventually they grow up and start eating as much as an adult and they need to have a lot of their own kids to keep their own life and plot of land solvent and so on and so on and correct me if I'm wrong but that's either a ponzi scheme or a pyramid scheme
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
The part that makes the premodern farm labor dark is that your children basically existed to be part of a Ponzi scheme. You had to have a lot of kods to help out in order to be able to keep the farm running, but eventually they grow up and start eating as much as an adult and they need to have a lot of their own kids to keep their own life and plot of land solvent and so on and so on and correct me if I'm wrong but that's either a ponzi scheme or a pyramid scheme
I meeeean... kiiiiind of?

A farm could be solvent with just one or two people managing it after the fall of Feudalism. It was only later, when production rates increased substantially and the price of food fell commensurately that it became a real problem.

That said: People had boatloads of kids for 4 primary reasons.
1) Sex is generally fun and there wasn't a ton else to do, especially around midnight when most people woke up and spent a few hours hanging before going back to sleep.
2) Pregnancy Prevention was hit and miss.
3) Kids often died young, so you had a bunch in the hopes of some surviving.
4) Kids took care of elderly parents. More kids, more comfort and care.
 

Argyle King

Legend
A thought: being light-skinned isn't equivalent to looking European

I would agree that many settings use obviously European-inspired looks and cultures for most of their species. However, I'm also aware of settings which do not.

At the same time, I have noticed (both here and elsewhere) an idea that having lighter skin seems to automatically mean being European (or anti-minority). That's a view which I feel is dismissive to a lot of cultures.

D&D* high-elves often look somewhat Asian to me. (I say "somewhat" because my opinion is that many of the drawings look partially asian and partially like 1950s aliens.) I still think that's problematic for reasons that have an element of fetishization, but I think that's different than what the OP was talking about.

*In 4th, wood elves (especially males) had elongated noses and snouts which were either horselike or catlike -I'm not sure which. The females were still somewhat vaguely asian, but not nearly as much. My guess is that the idea behind making the dudes look like that was to play up the closer connection to nature and having touches of a bestial look. It might also be some influence from Elder Scrolls. 4th's Eladrin look more "European" at first glance, but something also doesn't seem quite right about their facial features; my best guess (with no evidence at all) is that they were meant to look somewhat otherworldly (because they are); something like Norse Aesir or fairies.
 

lingual

Adventurer
The part that makes the premodern farm labor dark is that your children basically existed to be part of a Ponzi scheme. You had to have a lot of kods to help out in order to be able to keep the farm running, but eventually they grow up and start eating as much as an adult and they need to have a lot of their own kids to keep their own life and plot of land solvent and so on and so on and correct me if I'm wrong but that's either a ponzi scheme or a pyramid scheme
No one is advocating that for that type of society. However, when you are food insecure and your life is pretty much at the whim of a "lord", you are forced to be a part of it and unfortunately, contribute to it.

Also, there religion and spirituality played a far different role. The religious rulers had a huge incentive to keep the status quo - to hinder education, etc.

With such a bleak life, the promise of salvation (which was largely dictated by the churches), is your only "way out". This, of course, only increased the influence of the church and lords often had divine right.
 

lingual

Adventurer
A thought: being light-skinned isn't equivalent to looking European

I would agree that many settings use obviously European-inspired looks and cultures for most of their species. However, I'm also aware of settings which do not.

At the same time, I have noticed (both here and elsewhere) an idea that having lighter skin seems to automatically mean being European (or anti-minority). That's a view which I feel is dismissive to a lot of cultures.

D&D* high-elves often look somewhat Asian to me. (I say "somewhat" because my opinion is that many of the drawings look partially asian and partially like 1950s aliens.) I still think that's problematic for reasons that have an element of fetishization, but I think that's different than what the OP was talking about.

*In 4th, wood elves (especially males) had elongated noses and snouts which were either horselike or catlike -I'm not sure which. The females were still somewhat vaguely asian, but not nearly as much. My guess is that the idea behind making the dudes look like that was to play up the closer connection to nature and having touches of a bestial look. It might also be some influence from Elder Scrolls. 4th's Eladrin look more "European" at first glance, but something also doesn't seem quite right about their facial features; my best guess (with no evidence at all) is that they were meant to look somewhat otherworldly (because they are); something like Norse Aesir or fairies.
This makes me think what DnD would "look like" if it were developed in another part of the world. What if Gygax, Arneson, or Kuntz or any of those early contributors were of African or Asian descent?
 

4th's Eladrin look more "European" at first glance, but something also doesn't seem quite right about their facial features; my best guess (with no evidence at all) is that they were meant to look somewhat otherworldly (because they are); something like Norse Aesir or fairies.
I always got the feeling that 4e Eladrin were inspired by certain versions of "little green men"/"grays." They have unusually large, almost-luminous eyes that lack discernible pupils, they're more or less incapable of growing facial hair (or any other hair besides scalp, eyebrow, and eyelash), and even an extremely strong eladrin simply looks "athletic" rather than muscular.

They're basically old-school fae (e.g. the way the denizens of Annwn, the Welsh otherworld/afterlife/thing, are often depicted) crossed with mostly, but not entirely, human-ized Roswell aliens.

When I first saw the art, I immediately made comparisons to the Arilou Lalee'lay from Star Control II, who are also based on the "gray aliens" concept, they just keep more of the "reduced stature/childlike shape" aspect, while Eladrin grow into (more or less) typical human bodily proportions.
 

Faolyn

Hero
This makes me think what DnD would "look like" if it were developed in another part of the world. What if Gygax, Arneson, or Kuntz or any of those early contributors were of African or Asian descent?
I don't know what sort of wargames they played, but since war is universal they could have been staging battles in Africa or Asia, and if they did they would have had that as a base. On the other hand, British and American fantasy did play a very large part in shaping D&D. I'm horribly ignorant on this: were there any famous or at least well-regarded fantasy/science-fantasy stories from non-European-descended writers out at the time?

Base D&D probably have been a lot more multicultural in its leanings but still rely heavily on Tolkien, Vance, Anderson, and Greek and Norse mythology.
 

I don't know what sort of wargames they played, but since war is universal they could have been staging battles in Africa or Asia, and if they did they would have had that as a base. On the other hand, British and American fantasy did play a very large part in shaping D&D. I'm horribly ignorant on this: were there any famous or at least well-regarded fantasy/science-fantasy stories from non-European-descended writers out at the time?

I can't think of any off hand that were out recently at the time (there almost certa8nly were some but I have no idea what they might be), but one of the greatest and most influential fantasy novels of all time was the 16th century chinese novel Journey to the West
 
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Libertad

Adventurer
I don't know what sort of wargames they played, but since war is universal they could have been staging battles in Africa or Asia, and if they did they would have had that as a base. On the other hand, British and American fantasy did play a very large part in shaping D&D. I'm horribly ignorant on this: were there any famous or at least well-regarded fantasy/science-fantasy stories from non-European-descended writers out at the time?

Base D&D probably have been a lot more multicultural in its leanings but still rely heavily on Tolkien, Vance, Anderson, and Greek and Norse mythology.

The various tales existed in China and the Middle East since the Early Middle Ages, but the English translations of 1,001 Arabian Nights got really big around the 1700s. It persisted in popularity among British culture as far as the 20th century and broadly speaking even today. Granted, al-Qadim became a big RPG in the 90s and genies existed in the original White Box, so there was a bit of influence, albeit minor.

The Three Musketeers was written by a biracial Afro-European man, although his heritage isn't well known among the broader public. At least not until Django Unchained made that reference. Not exactly sci-fi or fantasy, but the swashbuckler duelist was a big archetype in those genres.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
... I vehemently disagree.

Firstly that it is reductionist. I'm not trying to imply that forced servitude was somehow less cruel at any point of time. I'm referring specifically to the treatment of slaves as a group. Of which there were laws and protections, however meager, compared to more modern slavery which had no protections whatsoever.

Heck. Hammurabi's Code 119 involves a dude selling a female slave who bore him a child. If he tries, he has to give the money back to the person who bought the slave and then free her. Her child is also free because they're the child of a free person. That's a law in Babylonian times which -expressly- ends someone's slavery. There were -no- laws of that sort during the later slave trade. Meanwhile 117 expressly limits the amount of time someone can be sold into slavery to repay debts capping it at 4 years.

And while there's little information on how widespread physical and sexual abuse of slaves was in Rome we do know that it happened. We also know that Libertini (Freed Slaves) existed to a degree that they had explicit rights and restrictions applied to them by law. Hadrian, in fact, passed a series of laws to limit the positions of power a Freed Slave could attain because there were so many of them in public office.

We also know that at least some slaveowners at the time freed all Elderly or Sick slaves categorically. And that Antonius passed a law that made the unjustified killing of a slave into straight up Murder.

By -definition- that is less cruel than "You are a slave, you will always be a slave, and your children will be slaves, too, and we can kill you whenever we like." 'cause that lady and her kids? Free. The wife or son or daughter sold into slavery? Free after 4 years at the -most-. Chattel Slavery? No laws whatsoever, no contingencies, no property. Rome had laws relating to how slaves owned property while being property. Not toothbrushes but -land-. By the first century, AD a Slave of Rome anywhere within the Empire could petition the courts to free them from cruel masters. Not just Carthage's "Find a nicer owner" but outright freedom. With free children who would never know slavery unless they sold themselves into it as a Citizen could.

It's also not impossible to prove, because look: There's -laws- and stuff that protected Roman slaves, particularly toward the last 200 years of the empire.

As to Poor Taste... that's largely a matter of personal taste. But comparing the rightly ended historical practices (Well... sorta ended in America) of two separate empires and judging one to be even worse than the other should hardly be a question of taste.


Oh... that's easy.

Hammurabi's code comes from about 1750BCE. Rome was founded with laws of Slavery in 783BCE. Claudius reigned from 51 to 54AD and declared that abandoned slaves were Free Men. Nero was Emperor from 54-68AD and allowed slaves to petition the courts. Hadrian was 117-138AD when he curtailed the political positions of Freed Slaves because too many of them held office. Antonius was right after him and made it illegal to kill a slave without the same justifications for killing anyone else and ruled 'til 161.

Cato the Elder was the one who was widely known for freeing sick or old slaves, skilled and educated slaves could hold down jobs of their own separate from their owner and eventually purchase their own freedom, and, of course, there were laws regarding patronage with a freed slave. Specifically their former owner became their landlord, essentially, until such time as the Freed Man left of his own accord.

As to Carthage it was a Phoenician Colony. The Phoenicians were mainly active from about 2500BC (Founding of Byblos) 'til around 150BC when Carthage was conquered.

These are all laws, facts, names, and dates you can research yourself. I hope that helps clear up the information disparity!

Oh. They put me on ignore. Nice. Well. Everyone else can enjoy all this information, at least!

This slavery was almost universal before the IR.

How bad it was varied by time, place location. Prisons didn't exist so it could be used as punishment as well.

Not saying it's right but from a historical perspective it's correct.

I have read iirc that hunter/gatherers also had the 20 hour working week.
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
This slavery was almost universal before the IR.

How bad it was varied by time, place location. Prisons didn't exist so it could be used as punishment as well.

Not saying it's right but from a historical perspective it's correct.

I have read iirc that hunter/gatherers also had the 20 hour working week.
Hey, @Zardnaar, I'm not sure where you're going with this, but I'm just letting you know that you can't win a history debate with @Steampunkette. (I think you know this from experience by now, but just wanted to remind you in case.)
 


Hussar

Legend
I don't know what sort of wargames they played, but since war is universal they could have been staging battles in Africa or Asia, and if they did they would have had that as a base. On the other hand, British and American fantasy did play a very large part in shaping D&D. I'm horribly ignorant on this: were there any famous or at least well-regarded fantasy/science-fantasy stories from non-European-descended writers out at the time?

Base D&D probably have been a lot more multicultural in its leanings but still rely heavily on Tolkien, Vance, Anderson, and Greek and Norse mythology.
Well, no, because no non-white speculative fiction genre authors could get published in America until much, much later. And, I imagine that if someone had had an African background, they maybe, just maybe wouldn't be leaning on Greek and Norse mythology quite as hard and maybe leaning into more African folk stories.

Which, might have led to a lot more animal folk and a lot less Tolkien. I don't think it's possible to ignore the fact that fantasy as a genre was an All White Boys Club for most of the 20th century.

But, this is all speculative.
 

Faolyn

Hero
Well, no, because no non-white speculative fiction genre authors could get published in America until much, much later. And, I imagine that if someone had had an African background, they maybe, just maybe wouldn't be leaning on Greek and Norse mythology quite as hard and maybe leaning into more African folk stories.
That assumes access to books on African (or other non-European) lore, which I'm not sure were quite as commonly available, or at least as numerous, in the 60s and 70s (assuming that these hypothetical game designers began writing D&D at roughly the same time). Which... I have no idea how common they were. My (not in-depth, I admit) google search on "books of African mythology written in the 60s" just gives me lists of African (or African-American) literature--although one site did bring up characters like Brer Rabbit/Uncle Remus (and of course Anansi), which could very well have been an influence. And if so, an interesting one at that--maybe trickery or otherwise non-violent deals with creatures would have been a bigger source of XP in this AU game.
 

Argyle King

Legend
Well, no, because no non-white speculative fiction genre authors could get published in America until much, much later. And, I imagine that if someone had had an African background, they maybe, just maybe wouldn't be leaning on Greek and Norse mythology quite as hard and maybe leaning into more African folk stories.

Which, might have led to a lot more animal folk and a lot less Tolkien. I don't think it's possible to ignore the fact that fantasy as a genre was an All White Boys Club for most of the 20th century.

But, this is all speculative.

Speculatively, I could see more animal folk being common -something like Br'er Rabbit.

Non-white fantasy certainly does exist. But it's not something which is commonly known about because it's usually not taught or spoken about in a typical academic curriculum.

As odd as it may sound, I would speculate that a fantasy game which went that route may have more influences from the Old Testament and Judaism as well. Being forcibly displaced and taken out of what was their original culture influenced early African-American literature in a way which saw some writers identifying with the plight of the Jews in Egypt. Br'er Rabbit (and similar stories) came about because the bits and pieces of African folklore which made it across the ocean were retold using animals indigenous to North America.
 

Hussar

Legend
I was more thinking of Anansi stories to be honest. That and a host of anthropomorphic animals that are used in many African folk tales. I honestly wasn't really thinking about North American folktales. But, yeah, I could see that too.
 

Hussar

Legend
That assumes access to books on African (or other non-European) lore, which I'm not sure were quite as commonly available, or at least as numerous, in the 60s and 70s (assuming that these hypothetical game designers began writing D&D at roughly the same time). Which... I have no idea how common they were. My (not in-depth, I admit) google search on "books of African mythology written in the 60s" just gives me lists of African (or African-American) literature--although one site did bring up characters like Brer Rabbit/Uncle Remus (and of course Anansi), which could very well have been an influence. And if so, an interesting one at that--maybe trickery or otherwise non-violent deals with creatures would have been a bigger source of XP in this AU game.
Heh, yeah, fair enough. I could see that.
 

*In 4th, wood elves (especially males) had elongated noses and snouts which were either horselike or catlike -I'm not sure which. The females were still somewhat vaguely asian, but not nearly as much. My guess is that the idea behind making the dudes look like that was to play up the closer connection to nature and having touches of a bestial look. It might also be some influence from Elder Scrolls. 4th's Eladrin look more "European" at first glance, but something also doesn't seem quite right about their facial features; my best guess (with no evidence at all) is that they were meant to look somewhat otherworldly (because they are); something like Norse Aesir or fairies.
Not surprising as 4E was the Edition that was REALLY playing up the Feywild/Fae and bringing them into the wider whole of DND. Since Modern DND elves origins share a connection to the Feywild, such aspects of nature would be played up more in regards to the Wood Elves.
 

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