Historical periods, Problematic Elements, Gameplay, and Fun

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
Anyway, it makes me want to run a historical campaign set in the tumultuous "dark ages" after the fall of the Roman Empire but before the Middle Ages really got settled. But, in so doing there is no way to be both historically accurate and eliminate problematic elements. As an example, Vikings were both noble warriors that cared about their homes and families, and raiders, pillagers and slavers that descended on settlements like so many orcs.

So what do we do with that?

We? Who is this "we"?

For a game at your table, with your friends, the only "we" that matters are those people. The folks out here on EN World, or the gaming community at large, aren't an issue. You don't need our approval.

Have a talk with your players, find out what themes they are comfortable with, and how they would like potentially problematic issues dealt with, and go with that.
 

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Reynard

Legend
We? Who is this "we"?

For a game at your table, with your friends, the only "we" that matters are those people. The folks out here on EN World, or the gaming community at large, aren't an issue. You don't need our approval.

Have a talk with your players, find out what themes they are comfortable with, and how they would like potentially problematic issues dealt with, and go with that.
I'm not sure what contextually suggested I was asking for advice rather than opening a discussion.
 


MGibster

Legend
My take is that if I want historical accuracy, I'm going to read a history book. If I want to have fun playing a game, I don't need to have problematic elements to experience immersion in the setting. Just like I didn't need the 1e Parasitic Infection Table to feel like I was in a quasi-medieval setting.
I'm going to start by saying that I agree with @Umbran in that you talk to your players about what they're comfortable with in their games. I happen to be a person who is comfortable with a very wide range of "problematic" aspects, but there are things even I don't want to deal with. As a Keeper in Call of Cthulhu, I would not have a good time accurately depicting how many whites typically treated African Americans during the 1920s and neither would the Investigators. But I'm not quite comfortable ignoring (white washing) the unpleasant aspects either. So I try to strike a balance with a mind towards playability being the ultimate goal. Accuracy isn't really my goal so much as versimilitude is. Does this seem like 1930s New York? Then mission accomplished.
 


Ultimately, yeah, it's about what does and doesn't work for the group. Respect for each other and the subject matter is important.

It's totally possible to evoke a time and place without relying on the horribleness. One of the things I like about the Americana RPG (Essentially Stand By Me with fantasy elements) is that early on it says that though the game is set in the 50s, it acknowledges that that time period was not great for a lot of people, and that this is an alternate universe, inclusive vision of it (because you're already adding elves, dwarves, and skeleton-people!).

I'm going to start by saying that I agree with @Umbran in that you talk to your players about what they're comfortable with in their games. I happen to be a person who is comfortable with a very wide range of "problematic" aspects, but there are things even I don't want to deal with. As a Keeper in Call of Cthulhu, I would not have a good time accurately depicting how many whites typically treated African Americans during the 1920s and neither would the Investigators. But I'm not quite comfortable ignoring (white washing) the unpleasant aspects either. So I try to strike a balance with a mind towards playability being the ultimate goal. Accuracy isn't really my goal so much as versimilitude is. Does this seem like 1930s New York? Then mission accomplished.
 

beancounter

(I/Me/Mine)
Build the world and run the game you want. Tell the players at session zero what it's about, and let them know of any potential issues.

Those who don't show up for session 1 had a problem with it. Those who do show up don't.

Then sit back and enjoy running the game without worrying about offending anyone.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Harlem Unbound addresses this issue better than I would have thought it could be answered. Horror games may actually use quotidian evils to their advantage.
I will literally never in a million years play a game focusing on racism. I bought the book. I've read it. It's an amazing resource, but I'm not RPing racists. And pointing to an RPG book that says it's okay and I have permission, yeah...that doesn't matter. I'm happy to support the project by purchasing the book, but I'm not intentionally stepping on that landmine.
If you play regularly with the kinds of people who have pedantic issues with the shortcuts taken to emulate history, make them write a sourcebook.
No, that's the point. I don't play with those people. They show up and reveal themselves and I boot them. I don't have time for that nonsense.
 

I'd say "Do what you want" because that's what I do. If your campaign includes certain elements, because you feel they are conveying the imagery of the world you want your compaign to be in, include them. Be sure to mention them to the players beforehand to make sure they won't be miserable because you want to play a very realistic game set in 1950's America and they want to shoot lasers with their eyes (and, as with the Black Samurai, there will always be one player to find an example of a guy who actually shot lasers with his eyes in 1950's America just to prove it's totally OK). But in that case "wanting to shoot lasers with their eyes" is the same as "wanting to play a hardcore communist". So, unless they are ready to attract McCarthy's attention, they must understand that every character concept isn't fitting and the background events could include, well, McCarthyism. There is nothing wrong with wanting some elements as theme in your campaign, even controversial ones, and if your vision of the 1950's American YOU want to GM doesn't include 100% of the population openly denouncing McCarthy and putting political freedom first, you should do that. If it is really a terrible idea, the worst that can happen is that you'll find no player. But it's not "worse" than fiding no player to play Fate when everyone around you prefers D&D. If some are really wanting to play in a historic setting WITHOUT a specific elements, assess if you can have it glossed over in the background. If your players have really a hard time enjoying a game where the common folk isn't allowed to own a dove house, you MIGHT be able to run a whole campaign without ever encountering a dove house. If they can't stand social inequalities enforced by discriminatory laws, removing nobles and clergy from your campaign set at Louis XIV's court will be more difficult than removing dove houses. Sure, social inequalities are problematic, yet many people accept them within the context of the game and don't try to make any campaign about removing nobles from power and turning churches' riches into national assets. As long as your players are informed about the content and theme you'll have in your game, there is no problem.

My players know that my Eberron is bleaker than another DM's from my group's Eberron. They are called sinister Eberron and rosy Eberron. They love both. Sure, there is a much bigger chance to encounter dirt-poor, Dickensish orphans in my game than in rosy Eberron where apparently, 100% of the population is adult and well-fed. I am pretty sure noone around the table actually supports continent-decimating wars, yet they all feel at ease playing with both worlds, having different focusses. Historical games are certainly more prone to include elements that will bother SOME people but they are not necessarily the one that will play in the game, and the players are the only one that actually matter.

Since you asked how I'd do it, if I wanted to run an historical-based campaign, it would include the historical elements. If the player visit Germany in 1938, there will be Nazis. Even if Nazis are problematic, replacing the German government with a wise entity concerned with human rights wouldn't be something I'd like to play in as part of a "historical campaign". So I'd keep the Nazis. If all players objected to encountering Nazis in Germany, I'd drop the campaign idea.
 
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