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The problem with Evil races is not what you think

Hussar

Legend
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.
But, can't the same be said for pretty much any English language word? If you want to use primitive without the connotative ickyness, you could use something like "The huts are roughly decorated with giant crab shells".

Or, better yet, "The huts are decorated with giant crab shells" and leave the descriptor off entirely. As was mentioned, in the module, describing the refugee huts as primitive isn't terribly problematic since it's obviously not a comment on a culture - it's simply that the makeshift homes are not very sturdy. However, when you're looking at their regular homes and use the term "Primitive", you start getting problems. I mean, good grief, a house in a fishing community being decorated with shells? How is that primitive at all? You see that NOW in homes that are very much anything but "primitive".
 

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Hussar

Legend
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.

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.
If you think the 21st century western legal system is a "tentacled horror" you haven't looked into historical legal systems too much. Vikings were far, far more likely to sue you than beat you over the head with an axe. The body of law and what was legal and illegal back in the day is both horrifying and hillarious at the same time.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
If you think the 21st century western legal system is a "tentacled horror" you haven't looked into historical legal systems too much. Vikings were far, far more likely to sue you than beat you over the head with an axe. The body of law and what was legal and illegal back in the day is both horrifying and hillarious at the same time.
“From the fury of the Norsemen’s legal team, oh Lord, deliver us!”
 

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.
Well, and any argument for why such a society was structured in any given way by its author is our old friend the Thermian Argument.

I doubt most people can even imagine medieval laws, let alone play by them. I'm no legal scholar, but I bet I could tell you 10 things about law in the 11th Century that pretty much everyone in this thread would be astounded by. Here's one, authorities in this time period divided up the peasantry (which is 97% of society, literally) into 'tens'. If one misbehaved, all of them were guilty. There was no notion that this was unfair or unjust in any sense whatsoever. The general conception was that everyone was assigned (presumably by God, though I'm sure 'fate' or whatever would do equally well) to their specific 'place', and if one stepped out, then the others must be lacking too. So if someone ran off, their friends would simply be beaten until they returned, or everyone they knew was gone.
 

pemerton

Legend
I doubt most people can even imagine medieval laws, let alone play by them. I'm no legal scholar, but I bet I could tell you 10 things about law in the 11th Century that pretty much everyone in this thread would be astounded by. Here's one, authorities in this time period divided up the peasantry (which is 97% of society, literally) into 'tens'. If one misbehaved, all of them were guilty.
A further thing, which I think is underappreciated in a lot of FRPG world-building, is what is encompassed by authorities. I think it can be hard, for those who haven't experienced it or really intellectually engaged with it, to imagine the radical difference between the reach and the capacity of (say) the contemporary American state and the reach of (say) an 11th century central European noble.

One reason for structuring liability in group terms is simply that anything more fine-grained was not technically feasible.
 

Aldarc

Legend
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.
This is utter nonsense! It proposes and connects the idea that adult opinions somehow don't or can't change or be affected. And it is so easily disproven by adults of all ages getting roped into conspiracy theory nonsense and more.
 

Hussar

Legend
I wonder how many players would accept an npc noble walking up and demanding they hand over their holy avenger simply because they aren’t nobles and don’t deserve to carry such a fine weapon.

And then being told that they are breaking the law if they refuse.

Hell I had players that totally lost their poop when told there is no self defence laws in Waterdeep. You kill someone, you are guilty of murder no matter what. Their argument was that no society would ever have such a law.
 

pemerton

Legend
I had players that totally lost their poop when told there is no self defence laws in Waterdeep. You kill someone, you are guilty of murder no matter what. Their argument was that no society would ever have such a law.
In fairness, that's a strange situation. Is there a historical precdent?
 

Ixal

Adventurer
In many places there wouldn't be many, if any, codified laws, instead it depending entirely on what the ruling noble decides.
In the case of self defence it would depend on status (and money). If a noble killed a peasant it was obviously self defence. If it was the other way around it was murder. If it was between peasants it was whatever the noble decides it was.
 

Hussar

Legend
According to the Code Legal for Waterdeep, Murder comes in two forms: Murdering a citizen without justification: penalty death or hard labor (plus some other stuff and; Murdering a citizen with justification: Exile up to 5 years or hard labor up to 3 years or damages up to 1000 gp paid to victims next of kin.

Note, it does specify citizens there.

As far as historical precendent? Well, in Edo Japan, simply being of Samurai status was enough to remove any charges of murder against someone of lower status. You simply couldn't be accused of murdering someone. And, obviously, anyone killing someone of higher status would automatically be guilty of murder and put to death, regardless of circumstance. So, while not a direct analogue, it does kinda fit.

One could also look at situations where you have slavery, for example too. An owner who kills a slave isn't guilty of anything. A slave who kills an owner is guilty of murder, regardless of situation.

Note, self defense laws vary a lot between countries even in modern times. What counts as self-defense in some parts of America would be second degree murder in Canada, for example. ((Sorry, this is treading REALLY close to politics, so, I don't want to elaborate more))

I will admit, however, to not being any sort of legal historian, so, I really don't know. I'm just spitballing.
 

pemerton

Legend
According to the Code Legal for Waterdeep, Murder comes in two forms: Murdering a citizen without justification: penalty death or hard labor (plus some other stuff and; Murdering a citizen with justification: Exile up to 5 years or hard labor up to 3 years or damages up to 1000 gp paid to victims next of kin.

Note, it does specify citizens there.

As far as historical precendent? Well, in Edo Japan, simply being of Samurai status was enough to remove any charges of murder against someone of lower status. You simply couldn't be accused of murdering someone. And, obviously, anyone killing someone of higher status would automatically be guilty of murder and put to death, regardless of circumstance. So, while not a direct analogue, it does kinda fit.

One could also look at situations where you have slavery, for example too. An owner who kills a slave isn't guilty of anything. A slave who kills an owner is guilty of murder, regardless of situation.
I think status rules (Edo Japan, slavery) are a bit different - they remove what might otherwise have been justifications for killing.

But the Waterdeep code as you present it does seem to have a self-defence rule. I think the most natural reading of that is that justified killing (of which self-defence would be an example) nevertheless triggers a strict liability weregild, with exile or hard labour as consequences for an inability to pay the debt.

To me it does seem a little improbable as a rule, and to be mostly an invention intended to serve a metagame purpose of dissuading players from the use of violence in the course of play.
 


Dragonsbane

Proud Grognard
The problem comes in all other situations. I simply cannot trust when a player I do not know well wants to act out rape, racism, misogyny, or the like as anything but wish fulfillment. They may really be just role playing, but that requires trust, and trust takes time. To be frank, I do not think RPGs are the appropriate arena to act out wish fulfillment.
I have a strange table I guess, but the people I play with I have known for years. Here are our two rules regarding all this.

OOC Comments: Show everyone respect - no rudeness, racial / gender / sexual orientation comments, political or religious discussions. To keep the game fun and flowing for everyone, out-of-character political correctness is a must. This applies to everything OOC. Players must be able to “play well with others”.

IC Comments: IC comments are a different story from OOC, of course. IC just about anything goes. This might include touching upon IC topics such as racism, violence, torture, rape, child kidnapping, genocide, homophobia, incest, or anything else one might find in an episode of Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Dexter, or similar program or novel. This is not a “safe space” game and therefore it might not be the game for you.

Curse of Strhad was a great example. I really played up the face a commoner had his child in a sack and was trading this child for dreampies from the hag. No one was offended, we all knew it was just IC stuff like a horror movie.

Interestingly, although one or two of those topics might come up once in an entire mutli-month campaign, no one ever "fulfilled" any of these abhorrent, but real topics.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
Which places do you have in mind?
Mainly Central Europe.
In general the local lord ruled on issues brought to him (or had a servant do so in his name) and was not bound by any codified laws except maybe the bible.
And there was a sharp divide between nobility and the common folk basically everywhere (Japan has already been mentioned) which affected how law was spoken (and I specifically did use the word trial as most people didn't get one). Nobles were right, free men when they were respected or useful (=rich or influential) and serfs were at the bottom. And in any legal case between people of different classes the their statues determined guilt, not evidence.
Or the lord wouldn't bother and let god decide with a trial by ordeal. If the accused survived he obviously was innocent.
 
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pemerton

Legend
Well, early Rome would be a prime example. It was centuries after the founding of Rome before they actually codified laws and wrote them down.
But I don't think that, before the Twelve Tables, it was "anything goes". I mean, the Twelve Tables were meant to be a recording of what was already established law, not a new act of law-making.

Based on my own reading - eg about the issuing of town charters in the areas in the east of Central Europe that were being conquered by German rulers in the High Middle Ages - I'm not really persuaded by @Ixal's example in that respsect either.

It's one thing to say that a noble had the power to dispense justice on his/her territory. It's a further thing to say that s/he did so without regard to what the customary law of the territory might require. And it's yet a further thing to say that there was no law other than "ruler's will".
 

Hussar

Legend
Yeah, I'd say, from my very, very limited understanding, that most of Europe was pretty codified when it came to laws by the time of the Fall of Rome and afterwards. I mean, you have a thousand (ish) years of Roman rule, it's going to leave a bit of a habit of codified law. :D As I said, you were far, far more likely to be sued by a viking than pillaged.

Now, the actual codified laws? Yeah, some of them were right out to lunch by modern standards. Like totally bat poop crazy. :D But, they did have laws.

Note, I totally agree that the laws of Waterdeep are player facing with a very thin veneer of in game justification. I just thought it was very funny that my players went right around the twist about it. "Hey guys, we're playing an urban campaign where there are guards all over the place and the city is (largely) a pretty lawful (as in law abiding, not the alignment) place. How about we don't play murder hobos this time?"

"WHAT??!?!?! Are you freaking kidding me? This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard!! How dare you limit my actions like this!?!?!?!"

Why yes, I am rather happy with my new group. Why do you ask? :p
 

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.

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.
Yeah, you have a point about what people think they 'know' about past societies. Its all a jumble! They hear about something that might perhaps have been true in 16th Century England and they extrapolate it to all of Europe over a time period of 1200 years. Well, mostly we don't know different, lol. I mean the range of social systems, traditions, laws, attitudes, etc. is obviously huge when you start covering something as broad as 'Medieval Europe' senso lato. I seem to remember the SCA defines it as "everything from 476 AD to 1588 AD" (the 'fall of Rome' to the Spanish Armada). Well, and then D&D, though mostly drawing from Europe, does draw from many other sources, too.

It is worth noting that prejudices have also evolved a lot over time. While Romans were certainly stuck on the superiority of their own civilization, they had nothing like the kinds of racial prejudices we find today. Not to say they were 'better', but very different. Likewise any other time period you care to name, and these things would vary widely over periods of a few centuries or less (as witness modern Europe/North America).
 

But, can't the same be said for pretty much any English language word? If you want to use primitive without the connotative ickyness, you could use something like "The huts are roughly decorated with giant crab shells".

Or, better yet, "The huts are decorated with giant crab shells" and leave the descriptor off entirely. As was mentioned, in the module, describing the refugee huts as primitive isn't terribly problematic since it's obviously not a comment on a culture - it's simply that the makeshift homes are not very sturdy. However, when you're looking at their regular homes and use the term "Primitive", you start getting problems. I mean, good grief, a house in a fishing community being decorated with shells? How is that primitive at all? You see that NOW in homes that are very much anything but "primitive".
I still say it is better to show and not to tell. Describe the huts of the refugees as 'built from unstable piles of sticks and stones', 'look hurriedly constructed', etc. or better yet describe some people trying to repair one that has collapsed. The decorations could be 'left over crab shells' or something. By describing what is objectively physically present you draw the picture but leave out the judgment, and you can use a more subtle brush to paint a more nuanced picture. Not only are the people struggling to repair their hut living in 'primitive' conditions, they are suffering for it too! Their plight is apparent, they are humanized.

And I don't buy the statement made up thread that its too much word count. Quality wins. In the end it is usually less wordy to describe things as they are, since you would need to do that anyway in some other way (IE you want to know if the huts are structurally unsound, now you can use that). It also helps to focus attention on what matters.
 

A further thing, which I think is underappreciated in a lot of FRPG world-building, is what is encompassed by authorities. I think it can be hard, for those who haven't experienced it or really intellectually engaged with it, to imagine the radical difference between the reach and the capacity of (say) the contemporary American state and the reach of (say) an 11th century central European noble.

One reason for structuring liability in group terms is simply that anything more fine-grained was not technically feasible.
A very good point! The REACH of the authorities was exceedingly limited as well. Outside of areas directly controlled it was quite tenuous. Even in the 15th and 16th Century in England the roads were frequented by many notorious bandits, for example. This was Elizabethan England, imagine England in the 9th Century! And 'Local Authority' was just a code word for 'the guy with a sword that nobody else wants to argue with'. Throughout most of the Medieval period large percentages of land in Europe were also 'wasteland', just forests, wetlands, etc. that was very lightly inhabited, if at all, and often completely outside the remit of any authority. In earlier periods these areas were the RULE, not the exception.

And there was a bit of an almost 'Points of Light' going on in those earlier periods. People stuck with that 'guy with the sword' and gave him their land, called him 'sir', etc. because the other option was to stand around and watch all your stuff burn in the next Viking raid.
 

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