How to address racism in a fantasy setting without it dragging down the game?


Scruffy and Determined
Of course its about whether you can communicate. Thats all language is, communication. If they want food and they found a way to make a noise or sign something to express that then its language.

Thats all we're doing with each other. Grunting rhythmically, and using body language, both subtle and overt to communicate our thoughts and desires. Thats language.
look maybe it'll be impossible to convince you, but not every method of communication is language. sometimes we codify language (such as writing like we are now), sometimes we find a way to digitize sounds and turn them back into audio. we sometimes call things languages because they come close to what we use as language, like computer and machine languages. but human languages, the ones we speak or sign, are their own distinct method of communication.
And yes it is about interpretation. Your saying that because the chimps teacher is interpreting then it doesnt count because any random signer should be able sit down and understand just as well as the teacher, if I understand you correctly. But thats nonsense.

I have a friend whose husband is learning english, its really broken and he still mixes a lot of japanese in with his sentences. In order for us to understand anything complicated from him she still has to help interpret a lot of what he's saying. Because she knows what he knows of english and what he doesnt and knows him well enough to fill in the blanks. I'm a native english speaker. I cannot sit down and have a conversation with him with full understanding without her to interpret japanese and bridge the gap. Just like the chimps need someone who can sit down and understand chimp, and bridge that gap. It doesnt mean my friends husband doesnt understand the english he can say anymore then it means the chimp isnt understanding sign language it is using.

And in the same way both also need a go between to express a full understanding in the non native language. But doesnt mean they arent using language. Their understanding is incomplete, and their mastery is small, but its still deliberately used and understood language.
your friend's husband also knows Japanese. he might struggle with his English, and you might need someone to help you talk to him, but it's not at all hard to presume that eventually he can be fluent in English and you won't need an interpreter to talk to him. this isn't the case with these chimps, and their caretakers seem pretty cagey about letting other researchers try and communicate with them.
Travel a bit more. Theres plenty of native english speakers, whether they be fluent in Australian english or the latest version of ebonics where its actually a hell of a struggle to understand just what they are trying to communicate. Facebook comments are another excellent source of the unintelligible gibberish that passes for english among an unfortunate percentage of our population now. Yet they arguably still have language, no matter how primitive it may be.
OKAY now you're toeing the line. I have never said any human isn't capable of using language (with the exception of extreme cases). do not compare the inability of animals using language to actual human beings using language that you personally do not approve of. Australian English speakers and AAVE speakers have no trouble talking to each other. you also can't call facebook comments "unintelligible gibberish" just because you don't like what people say.
Yes theres a big difference. You can definitely tell why he wants to go out. And I talk to my dog about politics all the time, usually during the nightly news. He doesnt usually do much but stare at me quietly and try to distract me into doing something else, but I assume thats because he's smarter then me and knows to just avoid the whole thing as a bad use of his time and energy.
I didn't ask if he can communicate he needs to go out, I asked if he can specifically communicate why he needs to go out. but I guess it's clear you're not interested in having a serious discussion either.
There are several approaches.

Tolkien's Orcs are born of evil and incapable of intentional good. Thus, slaughtering them is justifiable.

Meanwhile, the D&D Orcs merely have a propensity for evil; it is wired in but able to be overcome.

It's variable by setting whether or not the "evil races" were made irredeemable, made bad but redeemable, prone to bad but overcomable, or entirely free will based but with a violent culture...

If you really want to teach lessons via play, have the setting say one thing but the reality be the other...
This reminds me of the tale of fraz'urblu.

Once a mighty duke of a layer of hell (currently dispaters layer) he attempted to usurp azmodeus.

Dispater beat him in the mist embarassing fashion and fraz fled to the abyss to avoid az's punishment (to date, being the only rebelling duke to avoid horrible punishment for any openly attempted usurpation with the exception of glasya. But thats because glasya is az's precious girl and the princess of hell obviously got off easy.)

When in the abyss fraz teemed up with grazz't, orcus, and demogorgon to defeat the queen of chaos (the og queen of chaos. The obyrith not tiamat.). When the battle was over they each took an equal portion of her essence.

When they did this, everyone but fraz got much stronger (hed been pretending to be a demond prince). Fraz though, got weaker because he was taking on chaotic essence on a cosmically fundemental level. Seeing that fraz got weaker via this dilution outed his true nature (as a being encapsulating fundemental ideas of lawful evil) to his allies and he had to flee again.

As you can see he was able to change but due to being such a purely LE being to the point of being a being of conceptual forms (see platonic philosophy) it actually harmed his very being to change. Because he became less like his true self.

For races (or other groupings of beings) whos connection to fundemental concepts are deep enough an interesting way to show this innate difficulty of going against their wiring while also showing ita possible (and thus never giving a chance to change with most groups of beings is perhaps not necessarily rational) can be that if an example being tries to change in signifficant fashion you could show that while difficult its possible while maintaining the idea of just how difficult it is by showing that its hard on their very body and soul.

Perhaps a nymph who turns evil starts being unable to heal people to the point that even if she wants to she cant help but accidentally give terminal illnesses to those she tries to heal.

Maybe a red dragon who turns goof starts to lose a little muscle mass (because he no longer is able to indulge his appetites fir flesh beyond what he needs to live) and hus scales start to be slightly shiny and translucent around the edges (resembling raspberry glass) because his body is still chromatic but none the less is taking on slightly metalic dragon qualities superficially because hes turning good.

Maybe a vampire after centuries of practice looks a littke sickly but has managed to reduce how frequently he needs blood to once every 3 months by slowly supplementing his fedings with more and more raw meat along with the blood. As a result he doesnt have fast heeling unless hes fed in the last week and its night time but he none the less doesnt require as much feeding.
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I don't think you can do it.
Either such an organization is obviously wrong in their beliefs and serves only as a comic relief, or they can possibly be right (it doesn't matter if they fully are, just that it's something worth considering). Because if it is possible that monsters are not irredeemably evil, no moral character can ignore it and keep "killing them and taking their stuff".
The whole premise of D&D and similar games, built around looting and killing, is that one does not really think about the moral side of it. As soon as you put it in the spotlight, it becomes extremely important. Either you focus the whole game on exploring it or you are better not to touch the topic at all.
there is a third option. They are partially right. Perhaps they are right about some races (or groupings of beings defined another similar way) but wrong about some others. Perhaps they foolishly think this applies to something like a baernaloth (which it clearly would not) and although they are right on many counts their belief that it is universally applicable threatens doom.
1. A common threat binds unlikely allies or at least forces them to a meet. Racism could spell doom for all.

2. Elementals have been routinely used as slaves by elementalist wizards - a pushback by diviners seek to have this practice end due to prophecies now long forgotten which speak of a great war in the future between the inner planes....
* However civilisation has become accustomed to the services elemental slaves provide... Racism provides for a comfortable living.

3. The church of the damned who attempt to save the souls of demons or devils, believe that these souls are not beyond recemption and that by doing this good, they weaken the power of the demon and devil lords.
* Unsatisfied with their slow approach, the church now attempts to open a controlled portal to the abyss or the 9-hells to begin a mass redemption exercise.

4. An infamous prisoner of the evil race (that might have already been executed) shatters a long forgotten myth or popular belief about the race/monsters. From his teachings/revelations an organisation sprouts to "correct" the thinking of others. Not everyone believes this teaching, others do not care, while others oppose it, as the existence of this enemy brings much profit.
* The prisoner's secret writings are stolen by those who would see this belief die or an assassination attempt on the organisation's leader/s is orchestrated. PCs could stumble onto the texts or one of the survivors by accident, perhaps forcing them to pick a side. In this instance racism fuels commerce.

5. Dragons are dying out. Already diminished from hunters, egg poachers and wizards seeking rare components a small group of dracologists discover that the world's magic is limited - and the increase use of magic by the smallfolk is starving the magical races that require magic to breed and grow. Dragons being the most impressive are the first to suffer the effects, others will soon follow.
* A cult springs up, in an effort to curb the use of magic, however within this cult exists a militant sect which a different agenda... Racism could be used to fuel the extinction of the older races.
See my most recent post. It also applies to your suggestion (the one you enumerated "3")
how can I tell him if he doesn't exist?
i've told a 14 year old (who i knew in school. i have no idea what drugs his parents took before conceiving him to make him dim enough to still believe in santa at that age) that santa claus didn't exist without needing him to exist in order for me to say that. i don't see why gruumsh not existing would be a road block to saying he doesn't exist.


i've told a 14 year old (who i knew in school. i have no idea what drugs his parents took before conceiving him to make him dim enough to still believe in santa at that age) that santa claus didn't exist without needing him to exist in order for me to say that. i don't see why gruumsh not existing would be a road block to saying he doesn't exist.
I bet you wouldnt say that to Santa's face!!!!


i've told a 14 year old (who i knew in school. i have no idea what drugs his parents took before conceiving him to make him dim enough to still believe in santa at that age) that santa claus didn't exist without needing him to exist in order for me to say that. i don't see why gruumsh not existing would be a road block to saying he doesn't exist.
You ruined Christmas for a 14 year old. That is almost as bad as killing an orc :)


ps. death to all orcs who aren't aspiring to become a demon or some other sort of elevated being. they are filth. elves are a most effective soap aparently. :giggle:
To be serious though, I prefer having both options for orcs available to me as a GM (and to game designers). I think there is a lot of fun with the classic, Orcs are evil monsters, approach, that can work. But it can be just as much fun to have more varied orcs (and to treat all humanoids as having a wide range of cultures). I want access to both. I think it gets dull if people are doing it all one way or the other, because sometimes I want something that feels like Three Hearts, Three Lions, and sometimes I want Orcs that are more like humans. It can also be fun to have Orcs who are generally menacing because of cultural tendencies or because they are simply in conflict with humans in the area, but have just as much free will as humans. I have to say though, I only rarely encounter the whole orcs are evil so it is okay to kill them and take their stuff in games. So many settings and modules get mileage out of making them more interesting in order to open up things like diplomacy in the dungeon. Some of the best adventures I played in allowed for this, and that wouldn't have really been possible using the cosmically evil orc approach.

For me the issue is when one style starts to dominate, it gets dull quickly. I like variety in this respect.