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D&D General No More "Humans in Funny Hats": Racial Mechanics Should Determine Racial Cultures


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Scars Unseen

Explorer
If you do it in your writing then you are saying "this is an okay thing to do".
If I put anything in writing, I'm saying what I write, and I'll be as clear as I was in the post you quoted when you mischaracterized me, something one would think you'd be more careful about given the subject.
 

If I put anything in writing, I'm saying what I write, and I'll be as clear as I was in the post you quoted when you mischaracterized me, something one would think you'd be more careful about given the subject.
How did I mischaracterise you? You said "Generalizations are a highly useful tool".

You also said "Big disagree." [to generalisations always being offensive]
 





Scars Unseen

Explorer
Lets make it really simple.

I said "making generalisations based on culture is always offensive".

Do you agree or disagree with that statement? No if's, buts or qualifications. Yes or no.
Let's make it really simple. Read my post. Respond to the content of my post in full, not just stopping where you think is convenient for you. Or don't. I'm cool either way.
 

Let's make it really simple. Read my post. Respond to the content of my post in full, not just stopping where you think is convenient for you. Or don't. I'm cool either way.
That's an evasion, not an answer.

I'm not asking you if you think generalisations are "useful" or "convenient" - they are. I'm not asking you if you think they are true. I'm asking you if you agree that they are offensive.

We all use generalisations in our writing, but, rather than using our energies trying to defend it, we could be discussing ways to do better. Doing the right thing often requires more work.
 

Lets make it really simple.

I said "making generalisations based on culture is always offensive".

Do you agree or disagree with that statement? No if's, buts or qualifications. Yes or no.
What is meant by 'generalisation' here? Certainly you can say things about general habits, values and outlook of certain cultures even if that doesn't apply to all members of that culture. Look at any travel guide, they will contain such.
 

What is meant by 'generalisation' here? Certainly you can say things about general habits, values and outlook of certain cultures even if that doesn't apply to all members of that culture. Look at any travel guide, they will contain such.
Try showing your travel guide to a local. If you are lucky, they will just laugh at it.
 

Try showing your travel guide to a local. If you are lucky, they will just laugh at it.
I dont think all cultural generalizations are offensive, especially if the culture in question is fictional. Also, what's the alternative? An endless series of individual descriptions? If you think the majority of setting writing is offensive (as you seem to imply), give us a practical alternative. How would you do it? Nature abhors a vacuum.
 


Remathilis

Legend
I dont think all cultural generalizations are offensive, especially if the culture in question is fictional. Also, what's the alternative? An endless series of individual descriptions? If you think the majority of setting writing is offensive (as you seem to imply), give us a practical alternative. How would you do it? Nature abhors a vacuum.
There isn't. You face the double edge issue of a) anything goes, and b) you can only play what you already know about (aka: are). I'm a middle-age white Midwesterner, so any character I make that doesn't act like that is a generalization or stereotype: be it my bad Scottish "dwarven" accent or playing a samurai from Kara Tur. Ergo, my PCs must act (and mostly look) like me or else that's offensive. However, as a DM I can't force that on my players since they must play characters they know, so my world must accommodate anything (from samurai to cowboys) that the players know how to play.

The paradox of "all generalizations are bad" is that you lose the primary tool of role-playing.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
There isn't. You face the double edge issue of a) anything goes, and b) you can only play what you already know about (aka: are). I'm a middle-age white Midwesterner, so any character I make that doesn't act like that is a generalization or stereotype: be it my bad Scottish "dwarven" accent or playing a samurai from Kara Tur. Ergo, my PCs must act (and mostly look) like me or else that's offensive. However, as a DM I can't force that on my players since they must play characters they know, so my world must accommodate anything (from samurai to cowboys) that the players know how to play.

The paradox of "all generalizations are bad" is that you lose the primary tool of role-playing.
This is a stretch. You can play a French inspired sailor without generalizing about French people. You’re playing a character, not everyone from their home town.


I said more than that. Reply to the content of my post, not the assumptions you decided to draw from part of it.
He is. The content of your post backs up the statement that generalizations are useful, and you disagree with the notion that they’re bad.

No one is obligated to go line by line in reply to you.
 

Remathilis

Legend
This is a stretch. You can play a French inspired sailor without generalizing about French people. You’re playing a character, not everyone from their home town.

Yeah, it's hyperbole used to counter a rather extreme argument.

Now, let me pose a serious question. You're running an RPG as the DM and the group travels to France. Assuming you yourself aren't French, how do you describe French culture to your players? What do you do to show they aren't American Midwesterners (or wherever you are from). How do you roleplay the townsfolk, shopkeepers and locals so that they identify as French without collapsing into generalizations and stereotypes? How DO you, as their DM, play everyone from their home town?

Because the thought of creating through personalities and backstories for every NPC the PCs meet is enough to get me to take up Magic the Gathering full time...
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Yeah, it's hyperbole used to counter a rather extreme argument.

Now, let me pose a serious question. You're running an RPG as the DM and the group travels to France. Assuming you yourself aren't French, how do you describe French culture to your players? What do you do to show they aren't American Midwesterners (or wherever you are from). How do you roleplay the townsfolk, shopkeepers and locals so that they identify as French without collapsing into generalizations and stereotypes? How DO you, as their DM, play everyone from their home town?

Because the thought of creating through personalities and backstories for every NPC the PCs meet is enough to get me to take up Magic the Gathering full time...
You keep suggesting a false dichotomy. I don’t need to “create thorough personalities and backstories for every NPC” to avoid cultural generalizations. I just play people. There will be some biases, like some French people hating tourists and especially American tourists, and food, dress, different turns of phrase, etc, but hardly anywhere near “People from this province have short tempers and love cheese”.
 

Remathilis

Legend
You keep suggesting a false dichotomy. I don’t need to “create thorough personalities and backstories for every NPC” to avoid cultural generalizations. I just play people. There will be some biases, like some French people hating tourists and especially American tourists, and food, dress, different turns of phrase, etc, but hardly anywhere near “People from this province have short tempers and love cheese”.

But isn't part of the issue that one person's generalization is another person's offensive stereotype?

I'm asking because I could easily say "hating tourists" could be seen as a negative stereotype, whereas the love of cheese stereotype is representative of the typical French diet and cuisine.

Taking it back to D&D for a moment: let's take my example but instead of France, your PCs go to an elven land. Does anything change? Are they still "just people" who have a hate tourists and especially Dwarven tourists, and food, dress, different turns of phrase, etc.? Does anything change considering their long lifespans, lack of sleep, or darkvision? I'm not talking radical alien mindsets, just "elves are ponderous because they think in centuries" could be viewed as either a generalization or a stereotype.

In essence, are elves, the French, and other fantastical creatures all "just people?'

(Yes, that last part was a joke).
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
But isn't part of the issue that one person's generalization is another person's offensive stereotype?

I'm asking because I could easily say "hating tourists" could be seen as a negative stereotype, whereas the love of cheese stereotype is representative of the typical French diet and cuisine.

Taking it back to D&D for a moment: let's take my example but instead of France, your PCs go to an elven land. Does anything change? Are they still "just people" who have a hate tourists and especially Dwarven tourists, and food, dress, different turns of phrase, etc.? Does anything change considering their long lifespans, lack of sleep, or darkvision? I'm not talking radical alien mindsets, just "elves are ponderous because they think in centuries" could be viewed as either a generalization or a stereotype.

In essence, are elves, the French, and other fantastical creatures all "just people?'

(Yes, that last part was a joke).
Yes. They’re all “just people”. No matter how fantastical, the gate guard in the city of brass is more defined by being a gate guard of a magical city than he is by being a djinn. He may be bored, eager to take a bribe, resentful of those above him, or he may be amiable, unhurried, and eager to give directions and talk about his favorite place to get coffee in the city. There are elements that will be different for him than an efreeti guard, or an earth genasi guard, or a tortle guard, but the broad strokes are mostly “guard”.
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
Big disagree. Generalizations are a highly useful tool when working with fictional cultures. You don't always have the time, inclination or page count (if publishing) to do a fully fleshed out writeup for every culture in your setting, and having a kind of behavioral short hand is a good way to give yourself and any potential readers an idea of what to expect without going into exhaustive detail. Naturally if you were going to focus on that area in gameplay you could then flesh the culture out, and naturally any individuals that you meet from that culture will be different on an individual basis. That doesn't make generalizations less useful as a starting point.

Where it can be offensive is where you start trying to shortcut your way through the creative process by using a real world culture as a baseline and then making generalizations about that. But that's entirely because you are then proxy generalizing real people. Fictional people only have the emotions you attribute to them.
How did I mischaracterise you? You said "Generalizations are a highly useful tool".

You also said "Big disagree." [to generalisations always being offensive]
To be fair, you did mischaracterize their position a bit. @Scars Unseen did say, "Generalizations are a highly useful tool when working with fictional cultures" (I personally would have said "Generalizations can be a highly useful tool when working with fictional cultures", to be a bit universal of a statement, but that's just minor semantics).

Generalizing a culture of pastoral farmers (probably humans or halflings) as not having very effective means of protecting their villages against outside threats is not offensive. It's just a tool. Yes, there will be exceptions (like a village that has a militia), but that doesn't mean that the generalization is offensive to that exception. It's called a "generalization" for a reason, because it's "generally" true/correct, not "always".
 
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