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The problem with Evil races is not what you think

Panfilo

Existential Risk
Publisher
Circling back to the OP's theme, I think the other side of the coin from [viewing non-European-coded cultures as inferior and/or evil] is [viewing western/colonial points of view as superior/good]. The 5E alignment system, aside from being pretty juvenile from an ethical philosophy standpoint generally, states that "Lawful good (LG) creatures can be counted on to do the right thing as expected by society."

Underline mine. Needless to say, what a society expects of its constituents can be reframed as horrendously evil with some change in perspective. Knights didn't follow chivalry and conquistadors were not at all Christ-like, but even if they did follow the explicit morays of their cultures, they still would have been rather evil by modern standards.
 

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Hussar

Legend
Yeah, it looks like you are now(?) just arguing for arguments sake. Do you really expect adventures to provide a detailed historic justification for the current state found in said adventure? A treatise about the socio-economical circumstances which made a specific tribe of goblins live in the same cave structure as a beholder?

No you don't, because it is not relevant for the adventure which describes the current snapshot in time the adventurers are confronted with. Only now you suddenly want this requirement because you failed to argue that "primitive" is an inherently racist word used to degrade entire societies instead of just describing the state of technological development (or artistic style).
Sorry, I'm still trying to catch up on this thread, and I've been reading the Grippli example for a while and you are really, really missing the point.

It's not that this group of Grippli are described as primitive. After all, that might very well be true, as you say. It's just a snapshot of a particular place and time. That's not the issue.

The issue is that Grippli are ALWAYS described as primitive. And, the Northern European stand ins - in this case Cormyr, are NEVER primitive. Heck, all one has to do is look up and down the Sword Coast description. Every single PHB race is never described as primitive. They build fantastic cities like Waterdeep and Neverwinter. They are ALWAYS the top of the heap. And the swamp dwelling frog men? The humanoids? ALWAYS primitive. Never primitive because of where they live or because of history, but always primitive because of what they are.

I mean, good grief - this is a community that has traded with CANDLEKEEP, the largest repository of knowledge in Faerun, for a long time. The Grippli village is TWO DAYS from Baldur's Gate. It's in the Cloakwood. It's not some isolated area where these people would never come into contact with outsiders. They regularly trade with other people.

This would be like expecting people from Cardiff to be "Primitive". Or, to put it in a North American perspective. People in London, Ontario should be primitive because they're a couple of hundred kilometers from Toronto. Heck, it's not even that far. We're talking about 60, 70 miles from Baldur's Gate.

Reference for distances: Forgotten Realms (Faerun, Sword Coast) Interactive Map

So, again, explain to me why on earth these people would be even slightly less advanced than anyone else?
 
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AcererakTriple6

Autistic Dungeon Master
/snip
It's not that this group of Grippli are described as primitive.
/snip
Correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding was that the main issue was describing their culture as primitive (i.e. "they primitively decorated their walls with giant crab arms"), as it's a judgmental statement on their artform as inferior or "more primitive" than other means of decorating.

And that's where I see the main issue. The argument over whether or not technology of certain cultures is "more primitive/advanced than others" is neither here nor there and is a red herring, as that's not what the word "primitive" was being used to describe in the relevant context. Primitive was being used to judge their culture, and that's what makes it especially problematic. Who gave anyone the right to judge any other culture's artform, especially on whether or not it was "primitive"?!?!

That's the real issue with what was printed, IMO. Cultural judgement of another culture (and no, it doesn't matter if the race isn't real, because there are other cultures in the real world that do/have decorated in similar manners, and it is not right of anyone to judge that art form).
 

Hussar

Legend
Circling back to the OP's theme, I think the other side of the coin from [viewing non-European-coded cultures as inferior and/or evil] is [viewing western/colonial points of view as superior/good]. The 5E alignment system, aside from being pretty juvenile from an ethical philosophy standpoint generally, states that "Lawful good (LG) creatures can be counted on to do the right thing as expected by society."

Underline mine. Needless to say, what a society expects of its constituents can be reframed as horrendously evil with some change in perspective. Knights didn't follow chivalry and conquistadors were not at all Christ-like, but even if they did follow the explicit morays of their cultures, they still would have been rather evil by modern standards.
To be fair, alignment has always been based on modern conceptions of morality. And a fairly absolutist approach as well. Once you start goign down that road of, "Well, it's good by the standards of that community" it is practically impossible for alignment to be used as any sort of measurement. As you say, there are all sorts of real world examples where the community would have judged particular actions as "good" that, by our perspective, are pretty horrifying.
 

Hussar

Legend
Correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding was that the main issue was describing their culture as primitive (i.e. "they primitively decorated their walls with giant crab arms"), as it's a judgmental statement on their artform as inferior or "more primitive" than other means of decorating.

And that's where I see the main issue. The argument over whether or not technology of certain cultures is "more primitive/advanced than others" is neither here nor there and is a red herring, as that's not what the word "primitive" was being used to describe in the relevant context. Primitive was being used to judge their culture, and that's what makes it especially problematic. Who gave anyone the right to judge any other culture's artform, especially on whether or not it was "primitive"?!?!

That's the real issue with what was printed, IMO. Cultural judgement of another culture (and no, it doesn't matter if the race isn't real, because there are other cultures in the real world that do/have decorated in similar manners, and it is not right of anyone to judge that art form).
Fair enough. I wasn't really commenting on this specific use of the word. I was more pointing to the fact that primitive will only be used in a D&D context to describe certain groups, irregardless of any other considerations. Wood elves, despite not really mining or using metals, not really building anything, and living a hunter/gatherer existence as per the description in the PHB, are never, ever described as "primitive" for example. Not to bring up the whole Halfling issue here, but, why are halflings never described as primitive? Small, tribal groups of agrarian farmers that don't mine for metals, don't build roads or large works, are actually quite famous for never living in cities, and never building nation states, are also 100% modern, never described as being technologically or culturally backward.

It's not really that hard to see why.
 

Book 1 (1977 edition) includes the following on page 8:

A NOTE ON GENDER AND RACE
Nowhere in these rules is a specific requirement established that any character (player or non-player) be of a specific gender or race. Any character is potentially of any race or of either sex.​

Looking back at this, it reads like a deliberate if implicit repudiation of the AD&D obsession with both - though it predates the 1978 PHB. I believe there were pre-PHB treatments of sex in the D&D corpus - with stuff about STR limits and CHA minimums and the like - so maybe that is what was being implicitly referenced?
Maybe. I don't recall anything OFFICIAL about gender-based limits, but it may well have been common practice. I honestly cannot recall it ever came up in any of our games, though after the release of 1e we all just rolled our eyes and ignored that rule. Honestly, most players were boys anyway, and so were most PCs.

So, Marc may simply be a little more conscious of these factors than most of us were back then. Good for him! Honestly, I know nothing of the guy.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
Correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding was that the main issue was describing their culture as primitive (i.e. "they primitively decorated their walls with giant crab arms"), as it's a judgmental statement on their artform as inferior or "more primitive" than other means of decorating.

And that's where I see the main issue. The argument over whether or not technology of certain cultures is "more primitive/advanced than others" is neither here nor there and is a red herring, as that's not what the word "primitive" was being used to describe in the relevant context. Primitive was being used to judge their culture, and that's what makes it especially problematic. Who gave anyone the right to judge any other culture's artform, especially on whether or not it was "primitive"?!?!

That's the real issue with what was printed, IMO. Cultural judgement of another culture (and no, it doesn't matter if the race isn't real, because there are other cultures in the real world that do/have decorated in similar manners, and it is not right of anyone to judge that art form).
Art is not only culture but also technique and dependent on tools and those two can be primitive. Or do you think that cavemen choose to do mono coloured paintings on the wall of caves because of their culture and not because they did not have access to more paint, canvases and brushes?
 

Hussar

Legend
Art is not only culture but also technique and dependent on tools and those two can be primitive. Or do you think that cavemen choose to do mono coloured paintings on the wall of caves because of their culture and not because they did not have access to more paint, canvases and brushes?
Fair enough. But, paleothic or neolithic humans had limited access to newer technologies. After all, those cave paintings were the cutting edge of art of the time.

But, you've still failed to explain how a group of people, who trade with the greatest repository of knowledge in the land, and who live less than a day from a major city (by boat), lack tools or technologies. Sure, I can understand some remote island culture who have never made contact with other people might lack technologies, or a group of people surrounded by a honking big impassable desert might not have access. But, can you explain why a group of people who have regular contact, to the point where when they stop delivering fish, it's actually something of a problem for Candlekeep, and have traded for years, lack advancements.

Bonus points if you can explain why it is ONLY tribal peoples in the game that are "primitive".
 

Hussar

Legend
Art is not only culture but also technique and dependent on tools and those two can be primitive. Or do you think that cavemen choose to do mono coloured paintings on the wall of caves because of their culture and not because they did not have access to more paint, canvases and brushes?
I would also point you to the Lascaux caves if you think that "cavemen" painted in mono colors. I've seen the recreations, not the originals unfortunately, and I'm going to tell you that even color blind me could tell there were more than two colors.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I would also point you to the Lascaux caves if you think that "cavemen" painted in mono colors. I've seen the recreations, not the originals unfortunately, and I'm going to tell you that even color blind me could tell there were more than two colors.
It's about like all the people nowadays who think that these ancient statues, monuments, and architecture in the ancient world (e.g., Greece, Rome, Egypt, Mesopotamia, etc.) were as colorless and undecorated as the way we found them.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
Fair enough. But, paleothic or neolithic humans had limited access to newer technologies. After all, those cave paintings were the cutting edge of art of the time.

But, you've still failed to explain how a group of people, who trade with the greatest repository of knowledge in the land, and who live less than a day from a major city (by boat), lack tools or technologies. Sure, I can understand some remote island culture who have never made contact with other people might lack technologies, or a group of people surrounded by a honking big impassable desert might not have access. But, can you explain why a group of people who have regular contact, to the point where when they stop delivering fish, it's actually something of a problem for Candlekeep, and have traded for years, lack advancements.

Bonus points if you can explain why it is ONLY tribal peoples in the game that are "primitive".
For the same reasons all the real world cultures (mostly tribals, go figue. Might have something to do with other government forms requires a higher level or organisation and infrastructure...) did not adapt the technologies of their neighbours...
Pick one you like.

But we are talking in circles now.
 

Hussar

Legend
For the same reasons all the real world cultures (mostly tribals, go figue. Might have something to do with other government forms requires a higher level or organisation and infrastructure...) did not adapt the technologies of their neighbours...
Pick one you like.

But we are talking in circles now.
That's a non-answer. Cultures that were less technologically advanced than other cultures quickly catch up after contact is made between the cultures. So, again, can you please explain why a group of people living less than a day from a major metropolitan city like Baldur's Gate are "primitive"? Can you give me an example from the real world where a group of people living within 50 miles of a major urban city remained primitive?
 

Hussar

Legend
It's about like all the people nowadays who think that these ancient statues, monuments, and architecture in the ancient world (e.g., Greece, Rome, Egypt, Mesopotamia, etc.) were as colorless and undecorated as the way we found them.
Heh, I've seen the pictures of Roman art with the color restored. I know I'm not supposed to say this, but, man, they are ugly. :D It's just weird looking to see those beautiful alibaster busts and whatnot with really, really strong colors all over them.

1626777481948.png
 

Ixal

Adventurer
That's a non-answer. Cultures that were less technologically advanced than other cultures quickly catch up after contact is made between the cultures. So, again, can you please explain why a group of people living less than a day from a major metropolitan city like Baldur's Gate are "primitive"? Can you give me an example from the real world where a group of people living within 50 miles of a major urban city remained primitive?
No, they often did not.
North American tribes did not pick up much both from Central American kingdoms and from European settlers. As did central African societies from the Islam and Christian influenced coastal regions. Chinese technology also did not spread all that far into SE Asia.
China and Japan also had uprisings when adopting European ideas.

And then there are also people like the Amish.
 

Hussar

Legend
No, they often did not.
North American tribes did not pick up much both from Central American kingdoms and from European settlers. As did central African societies from the Islam and Christian influenced coastal regions. Chinese technology also did not spread all that far into SE Asia.
China and Japan also had uprisings when adopting European ideas.

And then there are also people like the Amish.
What are you talking about?

North American First Nations peoples adopted horses, metal tools, housing, and within a century, the vast majority of native peoples in North America (at least the ones that weren't wiped out) lived in relatively equal footing with European settlers. Central America kingdoms? Holy crap, how far do you think pre-horse peoples traveled? I mean, I know they found Meso-American trade goods in Canada.

Now, Chinese technology? Are you kidding me? That spread everywhere. The Japanese and Koreans both had all sorts of technologies from the Chinese. Art, entire writing system, tea, medicine, never minding entire philosophies like Confucianism. I've BEEN to the temples in Thailand and Japan and Viet Nam. How much more technology would you like them to borrow? Good grief, there were Chinese trade missions in Viet Nam in the 5th century onwards. Malasia has had Chinese influences since about the 5th century. Sri Lanka as well. Where in South East Asia are you referring to?

No one said that adopting new technologies is simple. It's not. But, this is a really, really narrow interpretation of history.

Oh, and tell me again how the Amish are "primitive"? You mean, they don't know about electricity? They have no concept of higher technology? I mean, good grief, I grew up in Mennonite country. Walk into a Mennonite dairy barn sometime and tell me how "primitive" they are. The Amish CHOOSE not to use technology. They are in no way primitive.

And, STILL you are avoiding answering the question. How do a people who live within a day's boat ride of a major technological center that they trade with on a regular basis and have done so for generations, remain "primitive"?
 

Ixal

Adventurer
What are you talking about?

North American First Nations peoples adopted horses, metal tools, housing, and within a century, the vast majority of native peoples in North America (at least the ones that weren't wiped out) lived in relatively equal footing with European settlers. Central America kingdoms? Holy crap, how far do you think pre-horse peoples traveled? I mean, I know they found Meso-American trade goods in Canada.

Now, Chinese technology? Are you kidding me? That spread everywhere. The Japanese and Koreans both had all sorts of technologies from the Chinese. Art, entire writing system, tea, medicine, never minding entire philosophies like Confucianism. I've BEEN to the temples in Thailand and Japan and Viet Nam. How much more technology would you like them to borrow? Good grief, there were Chinese trade missions in Viet Nam in the 5th century onwards. Malasia has had Chinese influences since about the 5th century. Sri Lanka as well. Where in South East Asia are you referring to?

No one said that adopting new technologies is simple. It's not. But, this is a really, really narrow interpretation of history.

Oh, and tell me again how the Amish are "primitive"? You mean, they don't know about electricity? They have no concept of higher technology? I mean, good grief, I grew up in Mennonite country. Walk into a Mennonite dairy barn sometime and tell me how "primitive" they are. The Amish CHOOSE not to use technology. They are in no way primitive.

And, STILL you are avoiding answering the question. How do a people who live within a day's boat ride of a major technological center that they trade with on a regular basis and have done so for generations, remain "primitive"?
Sigh Do I really have to explain everything?

North American tribes used iron tools and weapon when given to them, but they did not adopt smithing/smelting for centuries (even though they had this knowledge in the past and lost it).
And yes, Central America (Inca, Mayan). Some North American tribes traded with them, so there is no reason why technology would not spread, similar to the silk road (which includes things like writing).
And how much Chinese technology spread to, for example, the Philippines? Or much of the spice islands?

The Amish know about modern technology, but they choose not to use them which can also be a reason why technology is not adopted. And for a non Amish their farming and transportation technology is indeed primitive.

So here are several examples of technology not spreading from history. From not realizing how useful it is (Zulu with guns), to cultural aversion against foreign influence (China after the Opiuim wars), to their way of life not allowing to utilize some technology (nomadic societies can't mine for metals effectively, making smelting hard to impossible) or a concious choice not to use technology for religious or other reasons (Amish) or not adopting technology because trading for the few things they need is easier (North America and Africa).
Pick any one reason for the Grippli you like.
 

pemerton

Legend
you've still failed to explain how a group of people, who trade with the greatest repository of knowledge in the land, and who live less than a day from a major city (by boat), lack tools or technologies.
Thanks for pressing this point. I'd asked about it upthread but didn't know enough about the FR material to follow through on my suspicions about what the imagined set-up is.
 

Hussar

Legend
Sigh Do I really have to explain everything?
Yes, you do.
North American tribes used iron tools and weapon when given to them, but they did not adopt smithing/smelting for centuries (even though they had this knowledge in the past and lost it).
And yes, Central America (Inca, Mayan). Some North American tribes traded with them, so there is no reason why technology would not spread, similar to the silk road (which includes things like writing).
Unfortunately, your example doesn't really work here. North American tribes didn't live fifty miles from the Inca empire. Those people that DID live 50 miles from the Inca empire were not particularly technolgically different.

And how much Chinese technology spread to, for example, the Philippines? Or much of the spice islands?

TONS. Good grief. And, note, the Phillipines are hardly FIFTY MILES from China.
The Amish know about modern technology, but they choose not to use them which can also be a reason why technology is not adopted. And for a non Amish their farming and transportation technology is indeed primitive.

So, now our Grippli are primitive because of religious reasons? That's certainly a novel interpretation.

So here are several examples of technology not spreading from history. From not realizing how useful it is (Zulu with guns), to cultural aversion against foreign influence (China after the Opiuim wars), to their way of life not allowing to utilize some technology (nomadic societies can't mine for metals effectively, making smelting hard to impossible) or a concious choice not to use technology for religious or other reasons (Amish) or not adopting technology because trading for the few things they need is easier (North America and Africa).
Pick any one reason for the Grippli you like.
Absolutely NONE of the reasons you list apply to the Grippli who live FIFTY MILES from a major technological center.

Want to actually answer the question?
 


Hussar

Legend
I have, you just keep childishly screaming "THAT DOESN'T COUNT, WHAAAA!!!!" while also conveniently not mentioning my "way of life does not allow for this technology" answer.
Well, it's rather hard to take you seriously when you point the the Phillipines and claim there is no influence from China. China traded heavily with the Phillipines for centuries. Even a cursory knowledge of history would know this.

What "way of life" does not allow the Grippli a given technology? Or, rather, what about Grippli, living within easy travel distance and trading for many, many years with Candlekeep, would you say would prevent them from having technology equivalent to any other fishing village? Ok, sure, I wouldn't expect this particular group to be expert miners, for example. But, again, I wouldn't expect any fishing community to be expert miners.

But, now, lacking a given technology does not make you "primitive". To be primitive means you don't have the ability to even understand that technology. A neolithic hunter gatherer could not even begin to understand what a computer is or how it works. It's just too far removed. An Amish person knows exactly what a computer is, and even roughly how it works, even if he or she couldn't operate it. Which, frankly, isn't too far off a lot of non-Amish people. :D

But, we're specifically talking about Grippli here as presented in the module. They have steel. The docks are described as being build with lumber planks. They have a HINGED breakwater. Their trading post is freaking dressed stone! The Pond Mother's home is made of mud-brick. That's NOT primitive at all. Note, there are metal and glassware listed as traded items in the house descriptions. So, your entire argument about "not allowing technology" doesn't actually hold much water.

Finally, I'd point out that disagreeing with you is hardly "childish screaming". It does not help your point if you're going to start making this personal. I would ask, politely, if you would refrain from doing so in the future.
 

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