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

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.
for the record, that last comment was a joke. i play in and dm games where orcs are naturally evil but not without the capacity to change (or be a freak). they are nearly all evil though.

both versions of usage obviously should be considered viable.

but yeah...my orcs are, in a general sense, very much so, evil.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
I'm not sure I actually follow here. the point is humans are capable of using language to discuss things that aren't in their immediate presence, in detail. some animals can communicate similar ideas, but are still lacking in what they can communicate. a lot of people bring up bees and how they can tell other bees what direction to go for food, but afaik it's never been observed they can tell other bees what exactly it is they're telling others to go to.
You have to remember that most animal language studies aren't assuming that the non-human species is communicating using language at the same level of proficiency an adult human fluent in the language. They're at best understanding the language in the same way a fairly average two or three year human uses language. They tend to display understanding of basic syntax and grammar, that is to say a non-human can apparently understand the difference between object/subject and actions in order.

If we're going to have to meet the abstract requirement process, with future, past, and non-present objects and subjects my niece who is 2 years old isn't using language.
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
You have to remember that most animal language studies aren't assuming that the non-human species is communicating using language at the same level of proficiency an adult human fluent in the language. They're at best understanding the language in the same way a fairly average two or three year human uses language. They tend to display understanding of basic syntax and grammar, that is to say a non-human can apparently understand the difference between object/subject and actions in order.

If we're going to have to meet the abstract requirement process, with future, past, and non-present objects and subjects my niece who is 2 years old isn't using language.
hey man, I drove from Seattle all the way to Los Angeles once, I didn't notice the Earth was curving, the Earth must be flat right?

this is science. I shouldn't have to defend this, but here we are. people who actually study language and how human use language for a living say "hey, these animals actually aren't using language" but apparently that's not good enough for some people. I wanna say if you don't want to believe me there's a whole lot of information out there, but even after I posted some stuff here I'm still being told that I'm wrong. okay cool.

if you want your explanation 1) your niece isn't fluent in any language. 2) she is learning language. mostly on her own. assuming people keep talking to her and around her she will become fluent in 1-3 years.

(jesus christ there's an entire branch of linguistics dedicated to how children develop language, but I guess reading a book or website is outside the realm of possibility)
 

uzirath

Adventurer
Related to the original topic, one way that I try to address RPG racism in small ways is to build a complex world where the European-style cultures aren't centered in the fiction. I usually set my games in regions of game worlds that are cultural crossroads—think medieval Baghdad, Samarkand, Zanzibar, or Calicut. Knights in shining armor can certainly be there, but they're likely to be joined by characters from other cultures. Each of the big civilizations may have different ways of handling the various game-races (humanoids, etc.), so there isn't a unified policy, and difference in social class are often more significant than race (whether intra-racial phenotypes or separate humanoid species).

I wonderd how you could bring this up in a game, not as a central theme but more of a side story like a church or organization which fights for complete equality or similar goals, without it being disruptive, unfun or comical as being allowed to kill certain things and take their stuff without reprecussions is kinda the central theme in many RPGs.
Religion is an interesting option here. Fighting for complete equality might be too heavy handed. But what if some religious groups (specific gods, pantheons, whatever) accept adherents of multiple races? What happens if an orc becomes a mendicant monk of the Lightbringer? If the gods are real and have power, maybe even in a world where orc=evil, another god could change the equation. Of course "Gruumsh" will not like it, but that's another possible thread for interesting conflict in the game world. Could be fun to play around with some of those ideas.
 

Bohandas

Explorer
hey man, I drove from Seattle all the way to Los Angeles once, I didn't notice the Earth was curving, the Earth must be flat right?

this is science. I shouldn't have to defend this, but here we are. people who actually study language and how human use language for a living say "hey, these animals actually aren't using language" but apparently that's not good enough for some people. I wanna say if you don't want to believe me there's a whole lot of information out there, but even after I posted some stuff here I'm still being told that I'm wrong. okay cool.

if you want your explanation 1) your niece isn't fluent in any language. 2) she is learning language. mostly on her own. assuming people keep talking to her and around her she will become fluent in 1-3 years.

(jesus christ there's an entire branch of linguistics dedicated to how children develop language, but I guess reading a book or website is outside the realm of possibility)
You're moving the goalposts. The question was use of language, not fluency.
 

aramis erak

Adventurer
this is science. I shouldn't have to defend this, but here we are. people who actually study language and how human use language for a living say "hey, these animals actually aren't using language" but apparently that's not good enough for some people. I wanna say if you don't want to believe me there's a whole lot of information out there, but even after I posted some stuff here I'm still being told that I'm wrong. okay cool.
Would be fine if you were posting the actual current research, rather than the biased old guard who refused to accept the recent research that shows that the facility for language is in fact present in several species of bird, in chimps and bonobos, and even the 1970's and 1980's chimp and gorilla studies which showed that those other hominins have the facility for symbolic language. Koko's use of ASL is comparable to many first-year adult students of ASL.

Modern studies do test for the clever-hans phenomenon, and have ruled it out.

Do they have language in the wild? Not proven.
Do they learn and use language in the lab? too many studies in the last 20 years to list conveniently that show certain parrot species, plus chimps and banobos do learn and use language in the lab to communicate with keepers and researchers.

There is a huge extant bias against the possibility for language in animals for which you appear to have fallen.
 

Advertisement

Top