The problem with Evil races is not what you think

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
My personal view is that Tolkein's inspirations are not nearly as important as overall subtext of orcs as the uncivilized barbarians at the gate. Even outside any particular racial animus the trope is itself racist or at the very least ethnocentric in a pretty appalling way as far as I am concerned. That does not mean we should avoid it entirely in fiction, but to treat it entirely uncritically is not a good look for us or the professor.

Then again I do not view the point of literature of any kind as a means of escape, but rather a means to look at ourselves more critically than we otherwise might. Like Moorcock I view the use of fantasy as a means to retreat to a 'simpler time' as promoting aristocratic values. I find Tolkein's work has merit despite that romanticism of the gentry and ethnocentrism, but I have difficulty how you could look at the work and not see it.
 

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My personal view is that Tolkein's inspirations are not nearly as important as overall subtext of orcs as the uncivilized barbarians at the gate. Even outside any particular racial animus the trope is itself racist or at the very least ethnocentric in a pretty appalling way as far as I am concerned. That does not mean we should avoid it entirely in fiction, but to treat it entirely uncritically is not a good look for us or the professor.

Then again I do not view the point of literature of any kind as a means of escape, but rather a means to look at ourselves more critically than we otherwise might. Like Moorcock I view the use of fantasy as a means to retreat to a 'simpler time' as promoting aristocratic values. I find Tolkein's work has merit despite that romanticism of the gentry and ethnocentrism, but I have difficulty how you could look at the work and not see it.
Well, let’s not forget, it’s appalling to us in a modern context. I suspect it was viewed as a more accurate description to the citizens of caffa as the mongol horde launched diseased cadavers into their city, or to the citizens of Rome as it was sacked.

The description from accounts would certainly leave a memetic legacy, a well of inspiration for authors to draw from.

I’ve never said those elements aren’t there. Indeed they are. As all fiction will draw from sources that inform the author. That’s inescapable. Alas, humanity has the infinite capacity to be less than excellent to each other , and has done since the dawn of time. All works of beauty, inspiration and creativity derive on some level from these aspects as well. The different critical lenses we can use when examining the works will emphasise and magnify different parts, based on what level and approach to we want to examine a piece.

To some extent, it means that each table has to ask, “how relevant is it?” Each piece. Because even if we remove the current topic du jour, and look at a different aspect, D&D, at its heart, embraces violence. Humans historically, have been very good at it. Using it to subjugate one another, taking what they want or need. D&D Essentially glorifies it. Declares that there is a right time to take a life, that it is an appropriate solution to a conflict.

Do I believe that is a problem in the game? Not at all. Do I embrace violence in real life? No. Are there works of fiction that have a positive view of violence, or also present violence as an acceptable approach? Yes.

We can all be critical of every aspect of work. We also can assess the relevance of different aspects of work to the wider tale trying to be told of the game we try to play.

Warfare and the desire to inflict harm is the problematic origin of combat in the game. We don’t use it in the game to seek to literally harm others at the table. We divorce it from its original context if we find it uncomfortable or not relevant to how it’s used.

Others may feel differently, about the extent of “relevance” to them. They are welcome to :)
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Part of the tension is that dnd uses combat as the default for conflict resolution, and that can close down possibilities for what the PCs do in any given situation, or make the game not fun for some people, since you're aren't engaging as much with the mechanics as much if you aren't fighting. So, what the PCs do should be contextual: are they being attacked? How do they feel about killing things--is that the only response to evil? What is the system of law and definitions of crime like in this world? But I've been in dnd sessions where all these questions get reduced to, well the paladin did a detect evil and this creature is evil so roll initiative.
One of the reasons combat is so pervasive in D&D is that combat is fun. Many players are at the table with kicking ass as a primary motivator, and many DMs enjoy throwing combat encounters at their players. Are those people just playing wrong now? Are we adding this to the list of activities and content we're not allowed to enjoy anymore?
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
One of the reasons combat is so pervasive in D&D is that combat is fun. Many players are at the table with kicking ass as a primary motivator, and many DMs enjoy throwing combat encounters at their players. Are those people just playing wrong now? Are we adding this to the list of activities and content we're not allowed to enjoy anymore?
This feels like it's a theme that's dealt with all the time in better westerns (Six Shooter, Gunsmoke, Fort Laramie, Tales of Wells Fargo, etc...). Wild west justice is something you just have to do sometimes and there are plenty of gun fights against bad guys that deserve it -- but lynching folks when there was a marshal or sheriff nearby, or immediately assuming it was the native Americans doing bad based on scant evidence and going all out against an entire tribe in any case, were both portrayed as awful. And trying to identify the bad guys by ethnicity failed a lot.
 

shawnhcorey

wizard
Well, let’s not forget, it’s appalling to us in a modern context. I suspect it was viewed as a more accurate description to the citizens of caffa as the mongol horde launched diseased cadavers into their city, or to the citizens of Rome as it was sacked.

Or when US soldiers fire on civilians from a helicopter. Repeatedly. Modern context? Bah. There are still barbarians and most of them are now in power.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
Or when US soldiers fire on civilians from a helicopter. Repeatedly. Modern context? Bah. There are still barbarians and most of them are now in power.

Mod Note:
This seems to be going toward real-world politics. Please step back from that precipice.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter

One of the reasons combat is so pervasive in D&D is that combat is fun. Many players are at the table with kicking ass as a primary motivator, and many DMs enjoy throwing combat encounters at their players. Are those people just playing wrong now? Are we adding this to the list of activities and content we're not allowed to enjoy anymore?
No, of course not. Combat is fun! That's my whole point. And dnd is a combat-centric game. I'm saying that this fact (that combat is fun and the preferred activity of a lot of players) skews the fiction in dnd, including the fiction of good and evil. The range of options that players might think of in other games are somewhat closed down. In 5e, this includes even running away in many cases. I'm not saying these options are eliminated; you can still anything you want, but then you are ignoring the fun part of the game.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
of course combat is fun, people still engage in martial arts and combat sports precisely because its fun, the problem discussed in this thread comes to the justification of combat based on a definition of other races as evil.

At the battle of Camlann Arthur fights his kinsman Modred, both sides are Britons, Modred and Morgana are still described as evil but it is not linked to race. Conan was Cimmerian (Celt) and conquered Aquilonia (France), admittedly the depictions of the darked skinned Stygians and Afghuli wasnt good but in conans case the characters were human and the enemy defined more by their civilised hypocracy than by their skin tone.

Its Tolkien that gives us Orcs and Hardrim as swarthy foreign degenerates
 
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