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The problem with Evil races is not what you think

Your incorrect assumption here is that all of that is because of the Native populations, and not because of the colonizers' and their descendants' centuries of racial oppression in attempt to get rid of the native populations. I mean, have you not heard about all of this?!?! The Boarding Schools were an attempt to commit cultural genocide against the Native peoples, kids were often taken off reservations and forced into adoption for the same reason, and the rest of their struggles (financially, occupationally, etc) are largely because of that.
I made no such claim.
Nice strawman.
 

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Sorry, @aramis erak I most certainly wasn't trying to imply differently. But, the reasons for the poor housing and deplorable living conditions aren't because First Nations people in Canada are primitive. It's because of many, many reasons that because of board rules I won't talk about, they are forced into poverty and those living conditions.

There's a difference between primitive and poor and victims of horrendous practices for the past several hundred years.

((Sorry, but, if you've been watching the Canadian news, this is a REALLY touchy subject right now.))
No argument. But it was presented in a manner that was, fundamentally, deeply flawed, since at no point since contact have they been technological equals except by integration and assimilation. I'm also aware of the situation in Canada; locally in Oregon it's also an issue, and at least as of 6-7 years ago, even more so in Alaska. The Dineh are pulling together documentaries to show the plight of their people.

Did they benefit from improvement in tech? To a large percentage, yes. But never to equality. Never enough to be considered equal. Never enough to be a real threat, either.

And did it harm their culture? yes.
 

Hussar

Legend
No argument. But it was presented in a manner that was, fundamentally, deeply flawed, since at no point since contact have they been technological equals except by integration and assimilation. I'm also aware of the situation in Canada; locally in Oregon it's also an issue, and at least as of 6-7 years ago, even more so in Alaska. The Dineh are pulling together documentaries to show the plight of their people.

Did they benefit from improvement in tech? To a large percentage, yes. But never to equality. Never enough to be considered equal. Never enough to be a real threat, either.

And did it harm their culture? yes.
Again, this is a REALLY sensitive subject, so, I'm very much on tenterhooks right now and if I misspeak, please take it in the sense that I'm an idiot, not that I'm trying to pick a fight.

In the context of this thread though, we're talking about a division between "primitive" and "modern". Two groups need not be equal for both to be considered "modern". By primitive, aren't we describing a situation where a group is so far back that they cannot even understand modern ideas and technology? We might call the people who painted the Lescaux Caves primitive, because, well, they couldn't even conceptualize oil based paints, let alone make them or use them. However, someone who paints NOW in ochre, for example, isn't primitive. They are simply choosing a different tool.

The Amish were brought up. The Amish aren't primitive by any measure. The technology they are using might not be modern, but, it's still light years ahead of any paleo or neolithic peoples. They use iron and steel. Heck, Amish people are considerably more technologically advanced than any Renaissance European and we would never describe them as primitive.

One has to be careful to not combine economic and social issues with a lack of development.

A shark is not a primitive life form. A modern shark is every bit as evolved as you or I. Just because a shark hasn't changed in thousands of years does not make it primitive.
 

Again, this is a REALLY sensitive subject, so, I'm very much on tenterhooks right now and if I misspeak, please take it in the sense that I'm an idiot, not that I'm trying to pick a fight.
I'd not even suggest Idiocy, that it's against the rules notwithstanding.

Just a comparison that set off a hotbutton issue for me, because it does rub those sociocultural and historical "raw nerve" areas.

But it reminds me...
At what level of separation is it OK to define biological lack of abilities? Different species within the same genus? Different genii within the same subfamily? Different subfamilies within the same family? Different families within the same suborder? Different families within the same order? (etc.)

We do, at present, know that within the same subfamily (Homininae) are 3 tribes and 4 ot 5 living species... 1 or 2 species of tribe gorillini (Gorilla gorilla and Gorilla beringei), 2 of Paninini (Pan pan, Pan bonobo), 1 of tribe Hominini (Homo Sapiens), 3 known species in the Family Hominidae not within the subfamily Homininae (Tribe Ponginae, Pongo pygmaeus, Pongo abelii , and Pongo tapanuliensis; the old Pongo pongo is deprecated since sequencing the DNA) with a slim chance of one or two more species in the family, possibly a new Pongidae (Yeti as described) or Homo (an insular form diminutive, similar to the Indonesian (Homo floresiensis) and Philippine (Homo luzonensis) hobbitiforms. Both such cryptids have 18th C or later reports.

So, at what point do we make the distinction between "acceptable" to have instinctual behaviors H. sapiens would find inherently evil and not?
 

Oddly, he said the purpose of not only keeping alignment but applying it to an entire race in the game was for roleplay, which I don't understand at all.
I think it's not an uncommon attitude among old-school creators because back when they were playing/running RPGs in the 1980s or w/e, they saw alignment as a tool to cause players to roleplay PCs, whereas without alignment, PCs always just did what was the most optimal thing for the PC to do (as the player saw it).

You can see examples of this in Kevin Siembieda's writing about running Rifts, for example. There's a giant Rifts DM book (I forget the name) which includes a lengthy description of him running a game. It's amusing that he thought this was a good thing to include, because it doesn't paint him in a terribly flattering light, as he's basically bossing players around and telling them that their PCs have to act in certain ways because of their alignment.

But anyway, that's why - because in Ye Olde Dayes, a lot of groups didn't have much of a conception of the "role-playing" part of role-playing games, and some DMs saw alignment and similar structures as the only way to get them to do it.

Re: entire races it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
 

I've never had a problem with evil races. They're evil, and that's that. Why are they evil? Who knows? I can't explain why people in RL do terrible things.

I think the 'why' of it is completely over-rated. Were the Mongols evil when they swept across Asia? How about Saxon troops serving Bonaparte? Norsemen raiding the British Isles?

I find it sufficient to say 'these people view you as prey, and will kill and eat you given the opportunity'. Or enslave, or perhaps just rob and kill for the more enlightened ones. If a player wants more, well, there's a handy hook upon which to hang a plot.

Oddly enough, I've never have a player inquire to the 'why' of it too deeply.
 

Monadology

Explorer
I've never had a problem with evil races. They're evil, and that's that. Why are they evil? Who knows? I can't explain why people in RL do terrible things.

I think the 'why' of it is completely over-rated. Were the Mongols evil when they swept across Asia? How about Saxon troops serving Bonaparte? Norsemen raiding the British Isles?

Those are cultures, not races. A culture is by its nature temporary and the evils of various cultures are not plausibly biologically determined. You are comparing apples to oranges. The existence of cultural evil is not the same thing as the existence of innately evil races.
 

Those are cultures, not races. A culture is by its nature temporary and the evils of various cultures are not plausibly biologically determined. You are comparing apples to oranges. The existence of cultural evil is not the same thing as the existence of innately evil races.

Fair point.

But as I said, I've found it sufficient to say 'these particular people* view you as prey, and will kill and eat you given the opportunity'. Or enslave, or perhaps just rob and kill for the more enlightened ones. If a player wants more, well, there's a handy hook upon which to hang a plot.

Oddly enough, I've never have a player inquire to the 'why' of it too deeply.

My point was, if a given group is inclined to kill trespassers or travelers on sight, do their core motivations really need definition?


* = Orcs, Drow, bandits, races and/or cultures in the setting etc.
 

Monadology

Explorer
My point was, if a given group is inclined to kill trespassers or travelers on sight, do their core motivations really need definition?

Yes. See the entire extended discussion in this thread about the risks of reproducing harmful conceptions of 'race,' stereotypes, etc...

Besides, the question is moot: their motivations are already defined. Orcs are literally characterized as innately evil in core books, as documented in this thread. That sort of characterization is what is under discussion.
 

Yes. See the entire extended discussion in this thread about the risks of reproducing harmful conceptions of 'race,' stereotypes, etc...

Besides, the question is moot: their motivations are already defined. Orcs are literally characterized as innately evil in core books, as documented in this thread. That sort of characterization is what is under discussion.
My point is that I don't see a risk of reproducing harmful concepts. I only game with adults, and their opinions are already formed.

Its a group of friends around a table. How perilous can it be?

EDIT: I should probably note, before drama ensues, that I'm not white. My players (at the moment) are. This probably has a great deal to do with my estimate of how perilous this sort of gaming would be.
 
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Hussar

Legend
I've often wondered why the whole "Well, my table doesn't have this problem, so this problem must not exist" thing plays such a strong role in people's arguments. It really doesn't matter what your or my table thinks or does. That's not the point. We're talking about the larger presentation, not narrowly focusing on those five or six people who, because they are longtime friends, never talk about these issues. The whole issue in the first place is because people didn't ask questions back in the day. They just accepted these things as "the way things are".

Which is the entire problem in a nutshell. If this garbage was sorted out forty years ago, when it was first presented, then we wouldn't be having these conversations. That a given group isn't having these conversations and isn't asking these questions, really doesn't prove anything. Some people ARE asking these questions. And the answers are revealed to be pretty damning.

Has anyone's answer to, "Why are orcs being described using language pulled straight from incredibly racist sources?" ever been one that in any way justifies this use? I've seen, "Oh, well, that's just your interpretation, I don't see it" style answers. I've seen, "Well, it's not a problem at my table" style answers, and I've seen tons of Thermian Argument style answers which try to justify these decisions through in-game fiction.

But never once have I seen anyone try to even suggest that using 19th century pseudo-scientific race language is a good thing that adds anything positive to the game. Since it adds nothing positive to the game, and it actively harms people who want to enjoy the game, why on earth would we keep it?
 

Monadology

Explorer
My point is that I don't see a risk of reproducing harmful concepts. I only game with adults, and their opinions are already formed.

Its a group of friends around a table. How perilous can it be?

EDIT: I should probably note, before drama ensues, that I'm not white. My players (at the moment) are. This probably has a great deal to do with my estimate of how perilous this sort of gaming would be.

Hussar has already touched on this, but I want to emphasize that the concerns about impact are not constrained to the level of individual tables. Though there can be table-level impacts, it's also very much a question of the larger scale social impact of these tropes continuing to be embedded in the hobby.

Also, this is a hobby that is not just enjoyed by adults. Even on the assumption that adults' biases and outlook (conscious and unconscious) are more or less set in stone and won't be impacted either way by the presence of these tropes, there are certainly plenty of teenagers and even pre-teens that play D&D.
 

Hussar

Legend
I remember years ago, back in my uni age days (so, FAR too many years ago, :() playing with a DM who depicted his orcs as First Nations (well back then, that wasn't the term we would use) people defending themselves from the colonial forces. It was a real eye opener and not something I'd ever even considered before. Just wasn't part of anything I'd read in fantasy or any of the D&D books or anything. I was playing a paladin in the game and it became are fascinating game of how I could reconcile this character who was created using the more or less bog standard tropes of the game with this very on target depiction. It's a game that ended far too early and it's something that I've always remembered.

It really did open my eyes, all the way back then, and this would have been in the early ish 90's, to just how ingrained the racism of the game really is. Once you've seen it, it's practically impossible not to see it throughout so much of the game.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
My feeling on things like 'primitive' and 'decadent' is they are simply lazy writing anyway. The golden rule in writing that I was always taught (and I admit I've little hard practical experience outside tech writing, so just my opinion) is that you SHOW don't TELL.

So if you want to depict a society in a way that might fit with usual understandings of the trope 'primitive', you should instead describe the actual condition of things. Describe the architecture as small single-room homes of mud and sticks grouped into hamlets of 4 or 5 houses each, or something like that. Likewise with other aspects.
Which is fine if page space and-or word count allow room for such expansion, and you're intended readership can be counted on to read through it; but brevity is a virtue and sometimes you need to boil all that description down to just one word so you can get on with whatever else you're trying to say.

And eventually, those single cover-it-all words inevitably end up becoming tropes. So be it.
 

pemerton

Legend
Which is fine if page space and-or word count allow room for such expansion, and you're intended readership can be counted on to read through it; but brevity is a virtue and sometimes you need to boil all that description down to just one word so you can get on with whatever else you're trying to say.

And eventually, those single cover-it-all words inevitably end up becoming tropes. So be it.
Would anyone use this argument to defend the use of the single-word, trope-ish "slut" as a descriptor in a contemporary RPG text?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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."
And the question then becomes, as expected by which society? The 21st-century real-world society that includes the players at the table, or the society in the game world in which the characters are operating and-or living?

Personally, I lean heavily toward the in-game society being the determinant and - for the most part - try to avoid overlaying too much modern-day thinking on to it. This leads to arguments whenever a player tries, for example, to insert the modern legal system into the game - unless it's being done as a joke in which case full steam ahead! :)
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.
Indeed, which is why for game purposes I'd rather use the contemporary standards - or a vague facsimile, anyway - where I can.
 

Hussar

Legend
The problem with trying to use "in game society" being the determinant is that the "in game society" is likely very much a modern society anyway. Unless you have no problems with that player's paladin killing an inn keeper for failing to be properly deferential. Most games are not based on anything even approximating medieval laws.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Would anyone use this argument to defend the use of the single-word, trope-ish "slut" as a descriptor in a contemporary RPG text?
Highly unlikely, in that - in the sad event one needs such - in this case there's far too many other single words that say-imply-mean exactly the same thing.
 

Hussar has already touched on this, but I want to emphasize that the concerns about impact are not constrained to the level of individual tables. Though there can be table-level impacts, it's also very much a question of the larger scale social impact of these tropes continuing to be embedded in the hobby.
You mean the tropes that have been present in the hobby since the 1970s? :unsure:

Anyway, I put in my two cents. I'm done.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The problem with trying to use "in game society" being the determinant is that the "in game society" is likely very much a modern society anyway. Unless you have no problems with that player's paladin killing an inn keeper for failing to be properly deferential.
If that's how that society rolls then so be it - off with 'is 'ead. That said, it's more likely a noble than a Paladin would do this, as a Pally still has to answer to her code of honour which is likely to include words to the effect of the weak are to be protected rather than slain.
Most games are not based on anything even approximating medieval laws.
True; in that many settings are trying to incorporate and-or quasi-replicate elements of many real-world eras, ranging from ancient Egypt through to the Renaissance, and so the laws and-or morals are likely to vary quite widely from place to place.

That said, it's very highly likely that the one type of law that won't be encountered is the tentacled horror known as the 21st-century western legal system.
 

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