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(+) Gaming in historical settings and dealing with values of the era

In historical setting, when values are different from our own

  • I expect the players to adhere to it and actively engage in the behavior of the period

    Votes: 11 15.1%
  • I expect the players to adhere to it "superficially" and try to keep it in the background

    Votes: 30 41.1%
  • I expect the players to ignore it and kill things and take their stuff anyway

    Votes: 11 15.1%
  • I make possible for the players to fight it and stand up for their values

    Votes: 44 60.3%
  • I will integrate these values in the campaign as part of the narrative

    Votes: 28 38.4%
  • I will have PCs face social consequences when they deviate from era behaviour in public

    Votes: 32 43.8%
  • I will try to keep it in the background even when NPCs are concerned

    Votes: 13 17.8%
  • I will ignore it totally

    Votes: 16 21.9%

  • Total voters
    73

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I run and play a lot of Call of Cthulhu. I stick the racism in the trash where it belongs. If players want to play racist characters they can find a new table. The worst they’ll deal with is side eye and a tsk-tsk now and then. Historical accuracy be damned. People that deal with this stuff in real life don’t want to RP that same crap “for fun”. It’s not fun. Just don’t. You don’t have to include racism and sexism and other phobias and hatreds in your games. It’s a choice to do so. And a really terrible choice at that.
 

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dragoner

Dying in Chargen
I run and play a lot of Call of Cthulhu. I stick the racism in the trash where it belongs. If players want to play racist characters they can find a new table. The worst they’ll deal with is side eye and a tsk-tsk now and then. Historical accuracy be damned. People that deal with this stuff in real life don’t want to RP that same crap “for fun”. It’s not fun. Just don’t. You don’t have to include racism and sexism and other phobias and hatreds in your games. It’s a choice to do so. And a really terrible choice at that.
Same here when I run CoC. As an Italian girl told me years ago: "If it can't be fun, then it can't be done." Racism, sexism, are big bring downs, and either they walk or I will. Life is too short.
 

S'mon

Legend
The values of the time is the sea in which the fish swim; it should seem natural to the PCs. Generally the best way to achieve this I think is just to keep them in the background, unless you are really trying to get into the mindset of eg medieval knights; not an easy prospect!

Generally most people including most GMs don't have a good grasp of the values of a particular historical era, certainly not one prior to living memory. They tend to default to either 'same as us' or some weird inversion of current values. I generally don't find gaming in a real historical setting to be fun/enjoyable, partly for this reason. I have the same problem with a lot of historical novels. Generally I'd rather establish up front that it is a fantasy setting, albeit with some tropes from a particular period.
 

S'mon

Legend
When I used to run Call of Cthulu back in the 1980s, I used the published adventures in the Games Workshop hardback (ie 2e CoC + Companion). There's no racism in those adventures, indeed there is no race in those adventures. I was a 13 year old in Belfast, Northern Ireland, at a boys boarding school (99% white, 1% east-Asian), and had absolutely no idea about race relations in the USA. To some extent ignorance is bliss, I'm not sure I'd want to GM CoC now.
 

cowpie

Explorer
Same here when I run CoC. As an Italian girl told me years ago: "If it can't be fun, then it can't be done." Racism, sexism, are big bring downs, and either they walk or I will. Life is too short.
In my historical games (often CoC) we have a session zero and discuss what we want in the game. For my players, who are all into history, and who are older, very mature, and experienced in managing difficult emotions (and have a lot of mutual trust built up over the years), we can deal with the racism and sexism, and they are not big bring downs for us. Some of us are mental health professionals, or veterans, who have experienced difficult stuff IRL, so having it in a RPG, believe it or not, is old hat, and not that hard to deal with. The more times you climb a mountain, the less scary it becomes.

Life has taught me a few lessons. As a result, I feel it's important to face difficult things to overcome them, and we don't mind including them in games. Since RPGs are make believe, by having tough or dark material, especially in a horror game, it serves as a practice run for dealing with them in real life, so that when the chips are down, one is better prepared to handle them with grace and strength.

If I were playing with strangers, or much younger people (esp. teenagers or some 20-somethings), I'd be careful about including sensitive materials, because of the lack of built up trust, and past (negative) experiences I've had with some younger players projecting blame onto the rest of the group, without forgiveness, even if someone does something accidental to "trigger" the person.
 

Haiku Elvis

Explorer
I didnt vote in the poll as I couldn't find an answer that would match my aporoach. I would expect the characters and game to follow the social standards of the time (and least on the surface) for a lot of the structural flavour. For example I've been idly thinking of having a capaign set in Edo era Japan and if the characters didn't defer to a samurai as being a higher social rank, there would be trouble. (whether the characters decide they want to stir up trouble or not would be up to them).
Where I wouldn't follow historic precedent would be anything relating to personal abuse, predudice or derogatory language or treatment.
Before we would start it would be made clear any real historical predudices from this time will be waived or reworked significantly and do not give any player including the GM the right to use derogatory terms or be abusive or indicate anyone is lesser or doesn't have equal rights.
Being a bully and a d*ck is being a bully and a d*ck. Playing "in character" is not an excuse.
If this creates unrealistic scenarios, well most of us play games where we fight dragons. Realistic is relative.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
I didnt vote in the poll as I couldn't find an answer that would match my aporoach. I would expect the characters and game to follow the social standards of the time (and least on the surface) for a lot of the structural flavour. For example I've been idly thinking of having a capaign set in Edo era Japan and if the characters didn't defer to a samurai as being a higher social rank, there would be trouble. (whether the characters decide they want to stir up trouble or not would be up to them).
Where I wouldn't follow historic precedent would be anything relating to personal abuse, predudice or derogatory language or treatment.
Before we would start it would be made clear any real historical predudices from this time will be waived or reworked significantly and do not give any player including the GM the right to use derogatory terms or be abusive or indicate anyone is lesser or doesn't have equal rights.
Being a bully and a d*ck is being a bully and a d*ck. Playing "in character" is not an excuse.
If this creates unrealistic scenarios, well most of us play games where we fight dragons. Realistic is relative.
Isn't defering to samurai not exactly that?
 

Haiku Elvis

Explorer
Isn't defering to samurai not exactly that?
I know what you mean technically yes, but its not going to be really personal to a player in the same way that race, sexuality, gender etc is.
I was going to say I doubt anyone would be triggered by a samurai walking into a tavern and saying "Peasant! Look after my horse" but I was forgetting some players may work in the service industry.
 

TheSword

Legend
Players are all equal but why on earth do player characters have to be equal? I’ve played landed nobles, I’ve played itinerant rogues. The fun is playing up your choices and creating a believable character

WFRP delves deep into the idea that not everyone is equal, and they do a very good job of it too. Status is a real thing in our world and has been throughout history. I don’t see why it’s wrong to have it in our RPGs.

Incidentally we see prejudice and animosity from all peoples to all peoples. It isn’t restricted to racism. Prejudices and then confounding and turning prejudices on there heads makes for very interesting roleplaying.

Gimli and Legolas’s friendship was all the more powerful because it overcome the prejudices of their respective people.

The same can apply to a noble and a farmer; a bounty hunter and a thief; a wizard and a witch hunter; a laborer and a scholar.
 
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pming

Legend
Hiya!

Couldn't find one that was what I do. The whole "expect players to..." is the problem. I don't "expect" them to...I don't care what their PC's do...because I'm the "world"; the world doesn't conform to a PC's particular picadillo's just because it would "hurt or be detrimental to their feelings/sense of morality/sense of right-wrong/sense of justice/etc".

The world is the world. If, as someone mentioned above, it was an Edo era Japanese campaign, then there is a very strict expectation for members in the society. That won't change. People defer to Samurai, period. They do nothing against them without knowing the consequences (often, death).

HOWEVER... the Players are free to play their PC's however they want. If they want to play a group of "treasonous barbarians", intent on dismantling the status-quo... go for it! But I'm not going to just have people "accept it" and not immediately inform the Daimyo's men.

The base ground expectations are in the title: "Historical Settings". If I was to join a "Historical Edo Japan Campaign" using the HERO/GURPS/Masterbook/whatever 'generic' system, I'd expect there wouldn't be any female samurai, male Gisha, or noble persons 'helping the farmers in the fields'. Because that goes against the 'historical' aspect of it all. Ergo, if a Player got "upset/offended" by their PC being treated as they should (based on religion, house, caste, sex, profession, etc), I'd ask why the heck they wanted to play in a historical based game in the first place.

But, as I said, if the Players want to roleplay a PC that goes distinctly "against the grain" for the challenge of it all... heck yes! :) I'm just not going to "change things" so it's easy for them. ;)

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

Haiku Elvis

Explorer
Players are all equal but why on earth do player characters have to be equal? I’ve played landed nobles, I’ve played itinerant rogues. The fun is playing up your choices and creating a believable character

WFRP delves deep into the idea that not everyone is equal, and they do a very good job of it too. Status is a real thing in our world and has been throughout history. I don’t see why it’s wrong to have it in our RPGs.

Incidentally we see prejudice and animosity from all peoples to all peoples. It isn’t restricted to racism. Prejudices and then confounding and turning prejudices on there heads makes for very interesting roleplaying.

Gimli and Legolas’s friendship was all the more powerful because it overcome the prejudices of their respective people.

The same can apply to a noble and a farmer; a bounty hunter and a thief; a wizard and a witch hunter; a laborer and a scholar.

I think I didn't explain the equal rights bit properly. I was more thinking about the right not to be made to feel lesser as an individual sort of thing which still doesn't really nail it as that could still be said to exclude social hierarchy etc. Which isn't what I meant.
As Ixal pointed out the example I gave was about social hierachy.
Its kind of, if a player wanted to play a female samurai I'd say sure instead of "it never happened in history so no" but I'd check with them that they were OK with the fact they would be unusual and the rest of the patriarchal society would be suprised and sceptical that they could do it. If they were happy with that and that's how they wanted to play the character, proving themselves in a man's world great.
But that wouldn't excuse someone calling the character a whore or b*tch for the sake of "authenticity".
If that makes sense. That's the kind of distinction I was trying to make.

PS if they said they get enough of that in their daily life and it would put them off playing a woman, it would be - hey guys there were female samurai in Edo Japan and it was normal! Anyone want to change up their character feel free.
 

AnotherGuy

Explorer
@Galandris To add to the original thoughts, In game systems that have an Alignment, I never play "Evil" characters and I do not play in groups that do Evil-themed campaigns, nor do I allow Evil-aligned PCs in games I run, so a lot of historic stuff would end up being just in the background and ignored or actively fought against by the PC party.
Not a historical setting, but within a Mystara setting your may have a set of neutral perhaps even good-aligned halflings or dwarves capture a non-evil Glantrian wizard and exact vengeance on him/her for his nations crimes against their people (magical experimentation). They may also let him/her go of course. As long as the justification makes in-game sense I'm fine with it as DM.
 

One of the things that sold me so on Sandy Pug's Americana game was this section in the introduction:

"The 1950s in the United States are often remembered as a golden age - for one very specific
group of people. In truth, if you were anything besides white, male and middle class, the 1950s
were a less than stellar time to be around. Racism, sexism, ableism and anti-LGBTQ hate and
violence was incredibly strong and supported by a variety of systems that enforced brutal
oppressions against all manner of marginalized peoples.

Americana, as a setting, does not have these issues. Historically in this world, these
oppressions were never able to gain a systemic place in society. While individuals may harbour
hate or oppressive ideals, there is no system in place to enforce these things on swaths of the
population at large. In this idyllic version of the 1950s, there are people who are racist, but no
racial profiling policies, there are people who are anti-LGBTQ, but no push to make those
identities a medical problem to be cured. You will find little to no justification for how society got
this way, it just is. Consider it a bubble universe where, somehow, the world just turned out this
way.

When designing this world, it seemed we had three choices. We could ignore the elephant in
the room - that the 1950s was a rough time for a great number of people, we could make an
overt gesture of rewriting the time period and history to create a world free of these oppressions
while still somehow leading to the 1950s aesthetic so central to the game, or the third approach,
the one we went with, was to simply declare that this world is what it is, and move on. The first
option was right out, the second opened up the risk that we would be merely paying lip service
to inclusivity, and the third appeared like the kind of reclamation we desired from the game.

This is a game for those who are unable to bask in the aesthetic of this time period, who have
been told it’s not “for” them. Americana is for you."
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
I'd be honestly curious to see some real-play examples of truly historically accurate play. Do gamers who hew closely to the attitudes of the time in a historical campaign really do so? Or do they (perhaps unconsciously) distance themselves from problematic issues and background most of it, anyway? Are players really having their PCs hunt down runaway slaves, or marry child-brides, or keep harems, or throw around slurs? Are DMs really putting players in position to do these things, and running the whole world that way?

I acknowledge it's a weird thing to be troubled by, given the murderhobo default of so many games, and I can't really reconcile it, except to say "Well, that's different." For some reason.

But in my experience, whenever we've gone into a game with serious intentions to explore certain stuff that's bedeviled human history, it's always ended up left by the wayside. I think that's because no one at the table could (or would) do the topic justice.

So I guess I just have a hard time even envisioning what any of this should look like -- "for real" -- at a gaming table, unless the point of the game is specifically to tear down those institutions... in which case, isn't that starting to stray from the premise of accepting the historical norms in play?

I suppose in the "serious" context of therapy or history course or something, I can see it. And I know there are settings out there designed with these sorts of issues in mind. I've never played one, so I'd be interested to hear how that plays out at real tables. Do modern gamers in historical settings really play "historically," or is this just people hypothesizing that they do? And if it's true, what does that look like at a real table?
 

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
I wouldn't necessarily consider that ushering a revolution is not buying into the premise of the historical setting. Confronted to a bankrupt political system, the PCs have the potential to be Solons or Robespierre and leave an impact. However, it is not necessarily made easy by the gm.
 

MGibster

Legend
I'd be honestly curious to see some real-play examples of truly historically accurate play. Do gamers who hew closely to the attitudes of the time in a historical campaign really do so? Or do they (perhaps unconsciously) distance themselves from problematic issues and background most of it, anyway?
I've got no problem admitting that I distance myself from those issues and background most of it. Though on occasion such things might be an important part of the game itself. I've had a 1930s Call of Cthlhu adventure brewing in my head centering around an offshoot of the Klan and events which are kicked off because of societies' fears of miscegenation and the treatment of black Americans. Of course these are the villains. I wouldn't want to play in a game where players were encouraged to use derogatory language or treat other PCs or NPCs like crap because of race.

I acknowledge it's a weird thing to be troubled by, given the murderhobo default of so many games, and I can't really reconcile it, except to say "Well, that's different." For some reason.
I hunt deer on occasion and I have no problem field dressing one after I kill it. One year, I took my deer to get it checked at the station and the guy handed me a pair of pliers asking if I'd pull the teeth. (Probably someone's graduate project involved measuring deer teeth for some reason.) I shook my head no, turned around, and just walked away without saying anything. I can field dress an animal and not be bothered by the blood, guts, and smell but I cannot bear the thought of pulling the teeth out. We all have our limits even if they don't necessarily make a lot of sense at times. It's okay.

So I guess I just have a hard time even envisioning what any of this should look like -- "for real" -- at a gaming table, unless the point of the game is specifically to tear down those institutions... in which case, isn't that starting to stray from the premise of accepting the historical norms in play?
I don't believe there is any one right answer. What's right at my table might not be right at your table. Hell, what's right at my table for this specific game might not even be right at my table for a different game.

I suppose in the "serious" context of therapy or history course or something, I can see it. And I know there are settings out there designed with these sorts of issues in mind. I've never played one, so I'd be interested to hear how that plays out at real tables. Do modern gamers in historical settings really play "historically," or is this just people hypothesizing that they do? And if it's true, what does that look like at a real table?
I feel the same way about historical reenactment. Or, as one of my professors called it, "historical theater."
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Well, it becomes pretty easy to play the hero, when the world around you is dark and brutish.

In the games I run, and in the one's I've been playing for the past couple of years now, the players want to be white hats. That makes all the nastiness of prior eras to be easy antagonists for the PCs to stand up against, which is fine by me.
 

MGibster

Legend
In the games I run, and in the one's I've been playing for the past couple of years now, the players want to be white hats. That makes all the nastiness of prior eras to be easy antagonists for the PCs to stand up against, which is fine by me.
It does make it a bit easier as players are typically quick to embrace those purveyors of nastiness as antagonist. Though one thing the Call of Cthlhu 7th edition reminds the Keeper to do, make sure the world is worth saving. Have the Investigators run into good people trying to help them out on occasion. Maybe that Rhode Island State Trooper shows up and instead of trying to arrest the Investigators he helps them out of a jam or something.
 

Teo Twawki

Coffee ruminator
People that deal with this stuff in real life don’t want to RP that same crap “for fun”. It’s not fun. Just don’t. You don’t have to include racism and sexism and other phobias and hatreds in your games. It’s a choice to do so. And a really terrible choice at that.
You are claiming to speak on behalf of others (myself included) and quite incorrect in your haughty assumptions. I survived genocide in my twenties--and learned rpgs in the midst of it. We play historically authentic games with racism and sexism and hatred in-game and have fun while doing so. Have done so since sitting at Sarajevo Airport in 1993. Thanks for telling my now that my gaming choices have all been terrible. :rolleyes:
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
You are claiming to speak on behalf of others (myself included) and quite incorrect in your haughty assumptions...We play historically authentic games with racism and sexism and hatred in-game and have fun while doing so. Thanks for telling my now that my gaming choices have all been terrible. :rolleyes:

:rolleyes:

You wouldn't happen to be a football / soccer player, would you?

external-content.duckduckgo.com.gif


I was referring to my experience with gamers of color in the USA. And of special note is the context of Call of Cthulhu, Lovecraft's staggering racism, and the historical racism of the USA. There's plenty of blogs, podcasts, and YouTube videos from communities of color expressing the exact same thing I did.

I survived genocide in my twenties--and learned rpgs in the midst of it...Have done so since sitting at Sarajevo Airport in 1993.

That sucks. I'm glad you survived.
 
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