M.A.R. Barker, author of Tekumel, also author of Neo-Nazi book?


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Ah. I see my mistake. I misused the term feudal. My bad.

How about this instead?

DnD often lampshades the fact that your character lives in a totalitarian regime with horrific laws and no personal rights. Because of this, we treat the setting like it’s modern day USA and never actually bring up this fact.
"Totalitarian regime with horrific laws and no personal rights" is not an accurate description of the polities that have existed historically (most medieval societies were pretty clear on certain rights, and the nature of medieval societies made it virtually impossible for anyone to be totalitarian) nor D&D's nations. Personal rights are not something invented by John Q. American in 1776. You seem to be fixated on certain misunderstandings very redolent of "whig history".
 


MGibster

Legend
Ah. I see my mistake. I misused the term feudal. My bad.
I don't think you did. I've certainly heard people describe ancient China as having a feudal system.

DnD often lampshades the fact that your character lives in a totalitarian regime with horrific laws and no personal rights. Because of this, we treat the setting like it’s modern day USA and never actually bring up this fact.
A totalitarian government is characterized by its attempts to control all aspects of its citizens lives and features a very strong central government. Not all "feudalistic" societies had a strong central government and most of them didn't try to control all aspects of their subjects' lives. I do think you have a valid point. While I wouldn't describe most kingdoms as totalitarian regimes, D&D does treat many of their settings like modern day USA. But I suspect that's one of the things that makes D&D so popular.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
While I wouldn't describe most kingdoms as totalitarian regimes, D&D does treat many of their settings like modern day USA. But I suspect that's one of the things that makes D&D so popular.

Moreover, how many GMs actually have the deep understanding of history and geopolitics to reasonably model other systems? Most of us have what, high-school social studies level of understanding?

And, beyond that - D&D is still basically an action-adventure game, not a socio-politics game. There's not much call to specify a ton of socio-politics that the characters aren't going to interact with. So government, much like economy, by and large is simplified with a sketch, and left mostly in the background in a way that allows the heroes to gallivant around facing off with monsters.

That last is terribly important. Game government that gets in the way of the players having fun in adventures is pretty much a non-starter. Which probably means realistic governance is pretty much a non-starter.
 
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Riley

Legend
Returning to the original subject, here's a pretty sensible blog post from Jeff Grub.
That’s a good post. Jeff Grubb (and Jeff Dee) have some good thoughts there:

So, what to do?

Nine years ago in this space, in the midst of another tempest involving another author, I wrote about Lovecraft, who was definitely problematic. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that while we cannot fully separate creation from creator, we can TAKE the creation away from the creator. We recognize Lovecraft's racism, and will not excuse or bury it. But moving forward, we take the good parts and evolve them fully, and leave the worst behind. In RPGs, in the modern interactive tradition, that can be done more easily than in other media. RPGs are ultimately a group activity, and the bad actors can be overwhelmed by the common good.

I wrote that in 2013. How has it worked out in Lovecraft's case? Well. in 2017 the award winning RPG product Harlem Unbound showed up, which deals with marginalized populations in Lovecraft's universe. Originally from Darker Hue studios, the book has been expanded upon and republished with Chaosium, publisher of Call of Cthulhu putting an official mark on it. The novel Lovecraft Country deals with this in fiction, and has not only been a best-seller but turned into a TV series in 2020. And Alan Moore produced a decidedly creepy comic called Providence dealing with sexual issues within the straight-laced original stories. None of this would have met the approval of the original dead racist.

So yeah, take the ball and run with it. Jeff Dee, who wrote an excellent set of recent rules set in Tekumel, Bethorm, has posted the suggestion to OCCUPY TEKUMEL[.] Challenge or remove the violent, authoritarian, and unchanging nature of the empires. Give it a cleansing scrub. I think this would work. I get the feeling that, much like our own histories, the illusion of a continuous civilization is misleading, as looking at it hard reveals civil wars, uprisings, revolutions both quiet and violent. Yan Kor not only wins its war but inspires other breakaway chunks of Tsolyanu to find their own paths. Let the PCs lead a revolution for a city state within one of the Empires, and forge their own destinies.

The interesting thing is, Tekumel has a couple things already hard-wired into it that encourages this approach. There is the custom of ditlana, a renewal process where cities are literally razed, buried, and new structures place atop them…

There is, however, the challenge that while much of Lovecraft has entered the public domain, Tekumel has not.
 
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dragoner

solisrpg.com
Returning to the original subject, here's a pretty sensible blog post from Jeff Grub.
Lovecraft and Barker are different, it seems that people bringing up HPL are going out of their way to try to defend Barker. While HPL was wrong in a lot of what he thought, it is also important to remember that he could have been mentally ill, and psychology papers have been written on such. HPL suffered under delusions, as well as in homelessness, indigence, and after being bedridden, death. Some think he actually believed Cthulhu to be real. His delusional racism, was also punishing, to be forced to live in paranoid fear of other people. Mental health officials will say that some issues of persecution of a religious, or racial issues are not uncommon. Ultimately as far as we can despise his feelings, we also simply don't know their origin, and it is wrong to demonize the mentally ill.

Barker is completely different, he chose to be a nazi, in the full grasp of his faculties.
 

Staffan

Legend
Lovecraft and Barker are different, it seems that people bringing up HPL are going out of their way to try to defend Barker. While HPL was wrong in a lot of what he thought, it is also important to remember that he could have been mentally ill, and psychology papers have been written on such. HPL suffered under delusions, as well as in homelessness, indigence, and after being bedridden, death. Some think he actually believed Cthulhu to be real. His delusional racism, was also punishing, to be forced to live in paranoid fear of other people. Mental health officials will say that some issues of persecution of a religious, or racial issues are not uncommon. Ultimately as far as we can despise his feelings, we also simply don't know their origin, and it is wrong to demonize the mentally ill.

Barker is completely different, he chose to be a nazi, in the full grasp of his faculties.
Another important point is that for better or worse, Lovecraft casts a long shadow over popular culture in general and gaming in particular. Some of the earliest D&D supplements had stats for Lovecraft stuff, and there's been numerous RPGs either based on the Cthulhu Mythos or incorporating aspects of it. Given how deeply embedded the Mythos is in gaming, there's a pretty good case for figuring out a way to use the good parts while leaving out the bad.

But Tekumel? While Empire of the Petal Throne is certainly of historic interest as one of the first RPG settings, the particulars of it have hardly been a big influence. There are almost certainly more people exposed to it by way of Midkemia/Kelewan novels than the actual Petal Throne material. There's basically nothing lost by leaving the Empire of the Petal Throne as a footnote in gaming history. Plus, unlike the Mythos, the Empire of the Petal Throne is still under copyright so even if one wanted to do something with it, one would need permission from whomever holds the rights and that's not something I'd be comfortable with.
 

dragoner

solisrpg.com
Another important point is that for better or worse, Lovecraft casts a long shadow over popular culture in general and gaming in particular. Some of the earliest D&D supplements had stats for Lovecraft stuff, and there's been numerous RPGs either based on the Cthulhu Mythos or incorporating aspects of it. Given how deeply embedded the Mythos is in gaming, there's a pretty good case for figuring out a way to use the good parts while leaving out the bad.

But Tekumel? While Empire of the Petal Throne is certainly of historic interest as one of the first RPG settings, the particulars of it have hardly been a big influence. There are almost certainly more people exposed to it by way of Midkemia/Kelewan novels than the actual Petal Throne material. There's basically nothing lost by leaving the Empire of the Petal Throne as a footnote in gaming history. Plus, unlike the Mythos, the Empire of the Petal Throne is still under copyright so even if one wanted to do something with it, one would need permission from whomever holds the rights and that's not something I'd be comfortable with.
Personally I am not as big of a fan of cthulhu after all these years precisely because it casts such a long shadow, cthulhu everything becomes tiring. EPT I did like, until one points out the nastier elements, that become more self evident after knowing the creator's leanings. Sadly enough, what has been seen, now can't be unseen. I do think it will become a footnote, not undeservedly, though it was already headed in that direction anyways, and this just seals its fate.
 


MGibster

Legend
Moreover, how many GMs actually have the deep understanding of history and geopolitics to reasonably model other systems? Most of us have what, high-school social studies level of understanding?

I don't believe a GM needs a deep understanding of history or geopolitics to reasonably model other systems for a game. i.e. You don't have to be an expert on life in Stalin's Soviet Union to use it as inspiration to create a setting where the PCs live under a totalitarian regime. In my experience, the more a setting is built with the expectations that player characters view the world in a radically different manner from what they're used to it's a lot more difficult to get player buy in. (And just to be clear, that's fine. People are free to put in as much or as little effort into doing something they enjoy.) I happen to think one of the things that makes D&D so popular is that people don't have to put in a lot of effort to live out their adolescent power fantasies.

And, beyond that - D&D is still basically an action-adventure game, not a socio-politics game. There's not much call to specify a ton of socio-politics that the characters aren't going to interact with. So government, much like economy, by and large is simplified with a sketch, and left mostly in the background in a way that allows the heroes to gallivant around facing off with monsters.

Bingo. Which is why I don't really mind that most D&D settings resemble theme parks.
 






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