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General Two underlying truths: D&D heritage and inclusivity

Scott Christian

Adventurer
The conclusion itself isn't the problem. It is the framing around the conclusion.

Yes, good people can act terribly. That happens. Yes, bad things can happen to good, innocent people. That happens.

But, how we frame those events adds another layer, and the framing in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes is not just that the Dwarves blamed the Duergar for their plight, but that the Dwarves were not wrong to do so.

We both agree that this course of action was ugly and wrong, but the book presents the story as though the dwarves did the right thing. That what they did was not ugly and wrong, after all, the Duergar are the bad guys and the Dwarves are the good guys. The Duergar are greedy now, they do hate Moradin now, so they must have been greedy and hateful back then, and that is why they were enslaved and tortured.

We are not meant to see the Dwarves choice to cast them out as morally wrong, but morally right.

And that is the problem. You have an event that was ugly, cruel and needless, and it is being framed as the correct course of action for the good dwarves to have taken.

And remember, this is not presented to us as "the dwarven side of the story" this is presented to us from an impartial third party point of view.
I get where you are coming from on the Dwarven story inside MToF. I just don't agree. Could the Dwarven leaders have stepped away, and the rest of the society followed due to their lawful leanings? I mean, maybe it was a question of lawful vs good?

Overall, maybe I just don't have the same smarts or experience or depth of knowledge that you do. I concede that you are probably right, even though I see other variables, including the "impartial point of view." But, you are probably right. If it ever comes up at my table, I will try to listen and maybe then I'll see it. But for now, thank you for explaining it to me. It is appreciated.
 

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Hussar

Legend
Some past material is up for a change. Also, Oriental Adventures is being asked to be pulled from the shelves. Everything you mentioned in your post before that is just a repetition of things you've said about my posts and have completely missed the mark.


I never said this. I never said you have a problem or that I don't see the problem. Try reading it without thinking I'm disagreeing with you and then maybe you'll understand. Otherwise, it's pretty pointless.
Oriental Adventures is a pretty good example. Have you ever actually READ the original 1e Oriental Adventures book? It's incredibly racist. It's eye bleedlingly racist. It's not even shy about it's racism. It's very, VERY much a product of its time. There are bigoted, racist references to REAL WORLD PEOPLE all through the book. It's not like this is the first time OA has been held up as a particularly egregious example of racism in the game.

The only difference is this time around, it's actually getting taken seriously.
 

So should you no longer have stories about child abduction or child abuse or are these stories only acceptable if the villain is doing it? What if someone is the victim of child abuse, should the book be changed or taken down?

Is it wrong or even in bad taste to have a book that glorifies torture and killing? Are there no discussions to be had? Is a book to be changed or shelved because it is morally depraved? To me, That conversation, in itself, is worth having.

I'm not sure Mercurius is saying we should divorce our own experience and morality or that of society from the book. I think he's saying that something isn't inherently immoral just because it depicts immoral/amoral behavior.

Just because literature depicts something that people find offensive, must it be changed?
Missing the point.

Maybe Mercurius will defend his view himself, but he is not putting any kind of nuance in his statement. If it is a fictional story, you cannot judge anything in it by real world morality. That is the end of his sentence usually. We cannot judge it.

I'd also like to point out the bolded section, can you point me to a good version of child abuse? Honestly curious because in my mind, you aren't a good person if you abuse a child, by default that is an evil action.

And that gets right back into the problem Mercurius's point has. Let us say that you write a hero, a paladin just for giggles. Great guy, pillar of his community, helps old ladies cross the street. Then, after we've followed him around seeing how great he is, a dirty streetkid comes up to beg for some coin. And the guy beats the kid, viciously, teeth go flying. In public. An no one bats an eye.

Doesn't that disconnect say something about the world being presented? Isn't that dissonance meaningful to the story being told?

But, if I can't bring real-world morality in to judge those actions, then I can saying nothing bad about this paladin. My real world ethics do not apply. I can't say that the story is about child abuse, I can't say that it is about mistreatment of the poor, or how those in power threaten and use that power to make others view them as good. I can say nothing about any of that.

To talk about the italicized part, that is never what I have been saying. No one is saying that the depiction of an immoral act makes the material itself immmoral.

The depiction of an immoral act, framed and presented to us as a moral action, makes the material immoral. If the author of that paladin story wanted us to come away thinking that the poor should be beaten into submission as is the right of the world, then he would have written a material that is immoral.

So, again, it isn't that there is evil in the world, or that evil is simplistic that I have been having a problem with. It is that good has been shown as doing evil, but we are being told the evil they did was actually perfectly fine and good. That is a the problem.



It's been stated several times that 'only orcs and drow' are going to be changed so people should just stop arguing and that discussing things like Necromancers isn't an issue so stop playing gotcha.

The issue is that sensibilities change. Today it's Orcs and Drow but what about in five years? It really is an issue if the answer to #1 is, change it, take it off the shelves and censor it. That limits discussion. It sets a precedent as well. Today, Necromancers(or goblins, or Giants) aren't a big deal but it doesn't mean they won't be in the future. It just might be the thing you didn't think was offensive. Will there be no room for your opinions or sensibilities when they change it?

What kind of effect will it have on published materials if writers must worry about their stories being changed or censored because it no longer fits the sensibilities of the day, or a specific group? Does it limit the material we will have access to? That is a personal concern for me. Who should be the judge of what material I'm allowed to read? Whoever shouts the loudest?
So it is alright to offend and kick people, because in the future if you stop people from offending each other, then they will decide you are offensive and stop that?

Well, in the future you might be the one being discriminated against, so maybe you should advocate for less discrimination instead of saying that you can't argue for inclusion and compassion. Because, you know, it might be you who is facing that in the future. Times change.

Honestly, this fear mongering about the future gets so silly.

You know what used to be a cure for toothaches? Cocaine. They gave it to children.

Imagine that person using this argument "The government wants us to stop giving our children cocaine for their teeth? You can't argue for that, letting the government control you will just lead to them doing more in the future. Next they will remove peanut butter because kids are allergic to that. Then apples because they are too hard. And eventually everyone will be eating mush."




I am sorry Chaosmancer, I really don't get it. I know you are against the bolded. That real world ethics do apply. But my take is some real world ethics apply to some fantasy cultures. Other fantasy cultures, not so much. That's why fantasy is unique. It is why exploring other cultures in real life is interesting. Sometimes their ethics bring unique points of view.
In your example you cannot say it is right or wrong. I know in real life we can. But, depending on the point of view in this fantasy story, it may be right. It may be wrong. Again, in fantasy, good people can do bad things for good reasons; bad people can do good things for bad reasons. Ethical parameters all depends on who is telling the tale...
Have you read Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James? (Excellent fantasy book!) It is a great example of this.
Yes, exactly. That I do not have a problem with at all.

I have not read that book, but it doesn't matter, because you hit the nail on the head. The bolded part is fine.

The issue is that Mercurius seems to be of the opinion that a reader cannot decide what is good or bad. That you must rely solely on the narrator or the framing, and then accept that whatever happened was good or bad.

Good, upstanding soldiers burning a town to the ground and cooking people alive? That isn't a story about war crimes, or good people doing bad things, that is a story of good people doing the right thing, because you were presented with it being the right thing, and this is a fantasy story so we can't bring real world ethics in and say they are wrong.

But, the entire point of a story of that is to emphasize the horror of it, to emphasize how terrible and wrong it is. You expect unspeakable acts from bad people, seeing them from good people is jarring and makes you question things.

This is also why the theif with a heart of gold is such a recurringly powerful trope. Because they are a bad person who does bad things.... but they are also a kind and compassionate person, so we need to balance that perception, to dig deeper, to ask why.
 


Bagpuss

Adventurer
I think that it means that we shouldn’t talk about most creatures in a way reminiscent of how white supremacists talk about fellow humans. I’m not sure why people have such difficulty with stepping over a bar as low as that.
So we can't use words like... what?

aggressive, violent, savage, primitive

These words seem to cause offense when used to describe Orcs, but exactly the same words can and are used for Ogres and Trolls without causing an issue.

Or is it just because these words combined with orcs description of low forehead, prominent teeth both of which illustrations of ogres often show, but actually don't appear in the description but do for orcs (looking back through several editions). They are both terms that have been used in racist descriptions in the past.

In which case it seems to me at least from what we have been hearing from WotC they are tackling the wrong end of the problem. Eberron book has actually no mention of how orcs appear, so one has to assume they look the same and have the same racists signifiers. They are still "aggressive", still "primal" still basically chaotic.

Seems to me it doesn't solve the issue if you still have a description of orcs that have those racist racial signifiers, and the description of orcs isn't what they seem to be changing.
 
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TaranTheWanderer

Adventurer
Missing the point.

Maybe Mercurius will defend his view himself, but he is not putting any kind of nuance in his statement. If it is a fictional story, you cannot judge anything in it by real world morality. That is the end of his sentence usually. We cannot judge it.

I'd also like to point out the bolded section, can you point me to a good version of child abuse? Honestly curious because in my mind, you aren't a good person if you abuse a child, by default that is an evil action.
I'm assuming the 'you' in this statement isn't referring to 'me' personally, so I'll move on.

Your view seems simplistic to me - let me explain.

So, again, it isn't that there is evil in the world, or that evil is simplistic that I have been having a problem with. It is that good has been shown as doing evil, but we are being told the evil they did was actually perfectly fine and good. That is a the problem.
I could describe Of Mice and Men as a book about people abusing a people with disabilities and they feel it's perfectly fine to do so. In that context, you could also say those people are evil and the book is inappropriate.

In Of Mice and Men, Lenny is constantly abused and humiliated by everyone around him. Are the people in the story evil? Or is it that people's perceptions of mental disabilities, in the story, are different than what we know today? Is that a discussion worth having or is that is that a straight no-go? George murders Lenny (sorry, spoiler). Is George a villain? You could argue he was being compassionate. Is it wrong to argue so? Does it mean I'm prejudice against people with disabilities? Does it mean we should never have any new stories that show people abusing people with disabilities?

I'm not implying that the books or Orcs or whatever shouldn't change. I'm challenging the view that there is only one method to be inclusive. I want to hear people's ideas of how to be inclusive in relation to all D&D tropes and explore how it might change the game. I want to explore other parts of the game that can be construed as insensitive and explore solutions. I'm not just talking race. I'm talking disabilities, ageism, sexism etc.. I find it interesting. It seems taboo to even talk about where people see the future of the game. From your post, it seems that you feel the game will change with people's attitudes. That's great. Why not say that instead of insisting that I'm an anti-change racist?

In the end, WotC is a gaming company so why should they have to tackle hard topics? It should be light and fun. They don't owe anyone challenging stories. If there is 'an established right' and 'wrong' in the real world, it is much safer and comfortable for people if their fiction or fantasy mirrors their own world view.
 
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Mercurius

Legend
You seem to want to erect this massive wall between "fantasy" and "reality" and no judgement can pass through that wall. But this misses the point so utterly, that I can't even find the words to explain it to you.

If I accept your premise as true, that you (As in any reader of any fantasy) cannot apply real world perspectives, ethics, or ideology to a fantasy story, then fantasy stories are worthless, meaningless, and boring.

Analogies are always a terrible idea, but let me go ahead and just start throwing them around.

I have on my shelf a "superhero" story. It falls under fantasy in that it is not real. Superheroes do not exist, superpowers do not exist. Within this story the main organization for superheroes abducts children with powers and trains them to be child soldiers, sent on kill missions against any hero that leaves the organization, because that person is a villain (by the way, this is the Velveteen Vs. series if people are interested)

Is this organization right to do so? Wrong to do so? By your premise, I cannot say. I literally cannot say that training children to kill traitors is wrong, or evil, or good, or anything. It is a fantasy story. Real World Ethics do not apply.

I have another story, (Starlight by Brandon Sanderson) in this story, an alien who is under judgement for whether or not it should be born, risks its future existence by defying orders to fight against a space monster and save trillions of lives on a space station.

Is this person brave? Cowardly? Good? Evil? Again, by your premise, I cannot say. I cannot say that choosing to risk your own life to protect the lives of others is good or brave or despicable. It is a fantasy story. Real World Ethics do not apply.


Now, perhaps you will say that I am meant to judge these actions within the context of the story, is the story presented in such a way, to tell me how to view that action. That tells me whether or not these actions were good or evil.


That means that I am meant to judge actions, based on the narrators judgement. Which leads me to a third book.

In this book, which I do not remember the name of, nor will I give the author any business if I could, a man recieves a message in his brain that he will gain power if he kills three people in the next minute. He hates people, so he does so. And he is reborn with the ability to control insects. He is a tiny gemstone, buried underground. He gains more power by killing more living things. At the climax of the story, he is controlling a swarm of wasps to torture and kill a family of five. He takes great pleasure in doing so, and finds the act very rewarding. Funny too since he has the insects stalk them for about a day, and the people are completely unaware that he exists, or that these are anything other than normal wasps.

Judging this story based solely on the morality it presents, in this world of the book, murder and torture are fulfilling and amusing actions that have great rewards attached to them. This is truth, because it is presented to us in this story, and this is a fantasy story, so only the morality within the story applies.



This is why your continued assertions fall apart Mercurius. We have to be able to apply real world ethics and reasoning to our stories. Otherwise every author would have to explain why kindness is good and torture is bad.

And yes, we also have to judge the story by the story, by the assumptions it makes. The Addams family is a comedy, their actions which would be horrific and deadly in the real world are nothing more than silly antics within their own world. But, that is the power of comedic stories. They can break the rules, and set new ones. But, if you want me to take your fantasy story seriously, instead of as a poorly written comedy, then you need to apply enough reality to make it grounded.
You're not understanding me, Chaosmancer. I'm not saying that reality and fantasy have no relationship, but that a fantasy world is its own microcosm that has its own internal coherency that differs from our own world to varying degrees.

Of course we can look at it through the lens of our morality or, if we must, that of critical theory. We can look for signs of racism, cultural appropriation, colonialist thinking, and sensititivity faux pas of all kinds. But in so doing, not only are we being rather myopic and narrow in our perception, we're missing the primary purpose of the fantasy experience: to experience it as itself, to immerse ourselves within it and see the world from within. Mind you, I don't think applying such analytic lenses is completely without value, but we should be able to "take off the lens," to both look through other lenses, but also--and most importantly--experience the world without a lens. That is, as itself.

Or let me ask you this: When you go to another country, do you judge others by your own ethical and cultural standards, or do you try to understand how others feel and think? What their cultural ethos is and, most importantly, how each person sees the world as an individual?

Or what about animals. Do you have a cat? Do you judge your cat by your own morality? If so, your cat is likely a psychopath. Or do you recognize that a cat has a completely different experience of life?

Or reading an author from a different era. Do you judge that author according to contemporary ethics? Or do you try to understand the "soil" from which they grew out of?

This is not to say that we cannot relate our own morality or worldview to any of these "other worlds"--be they other cultures, animals, historical eras, or fantasy worlds--or come up with, say, a conception of universal human rights. But that to overly do so is a mis-application. It is a fusion of our own reality with an "other world" and, ironically, somewhat of a colonialist act.

EDIT: I just read your bit about the paladin. I think we are talking past each other, because you and I both agree...somewhat. I think the problem is that the paladin breaks his own code--such an act doesn't fit within that of his LG code of ethics (assuming he is LG), unless, of course, his order says "you can beat street kids if you want, because they're unclean and thus unholy." Of course then he probably wouldn't be LG but LN or even LE. WotC has expanded paladins so they don't have to be LG, but they do have to follow their own code--whatever that is. So the key is coherency, internal consistency.
 
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Mercurius

Legend
I'm not sure Mercurius is saying we should divorce our own experience and morality or that of society from the book. I think he's saying that something isn't inherently immoral just because it depicts immoral/amoral behavior.
Yes, this. I should probably have included this in my reply, but this is part of what I'm trying to get at.
 

Mercurius

Legend
These were all conversations that past writers and publishers for D&D have faced in their own time as well about various related issues (e.g. misogyny, homophobia, racism, etc.) and the hobby has survived with little difficulty. We should not spend our time worrying where to draw the arbitrary line in the sand about “what’s next?” and let the game evolve with the sentiments of the changing body of people who play it. The game is for the people, not the people for the game.
Yes, in a general sense. But which people? You've got a range of perspectives and people. It isn't just "the people want it." There's a spectrum from "no change whatsoever; in fact, let's go back to pre-Dragonlance when everything was purely Gygaxian" to "Let's remake the game to fit our own current ideology, and remove anything that we choose to interpret as offensive."

Thankfully most people are somewhere in-between, and ultimately WotC has to find a middle-ground somewhere.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I'm not sure how these two positions are meant to represent diametrically opposing views with a middle ground.
 


I'm assuming the 'you' in this statement isn't referring to 'me' personally, so I'll move on.

Your view seems simplistic to me - let me explain.

I could describe Of Mice and Men as a book about people abusing a people with disabilities and they feel it's perfectly fine to do so. In that context, you could also say those people are evil and the book is inappropriate.

In Of Mice and Men, Lenny is constantly abused and humiliated by everyone around him. Are the people in the story evil? Or is it that people's perceptions of mental disabilities, in the story, are different than what we know today? Is that a discussion worth having or is that is that a straight no-go? George murders Lenny (sorry, spoiler). Is George a villain? You could argue he was being compassionate. Is it wrong to argue so? Does it mean I'm prejudice against people with disabilities? Does it mean we should never have any new stories that show people abusing people with disabilities?
Do you know why George kills Lenny? I remember the scene fairly well. George killed Lenny because if he took Lenny to the mob he was going to get killed in a brutal and violent fashion. Or, if that didn't happen, he would be taken to jail, where he would be locked in with violent criminals and a soft-soul like Lenny would have been destroyed by that experience.

You are right that Lenny is abused and humiliated constantly in the story. And never once does the author want us to celebrate that fact, indeed, the entire point is that the society is not set up for a person like Lenny. People don't understand him.


You seem to keep getting attached to this idea that I'm saying "showing bad things is bad". You are right, that would be simplistic.

It would be much more accurate to say "Celebrating bad things is bad"

Here, let me craft really extremely offensive book title to really drive this point home. This is bad, not something that I would ever condone being sold in any context.

A Book titled "Why the Holocaust was Good and should be Celebrated"

Do you think a book with that title deserves any protection? Do you think we should listen to the author as they try and explain that we should be allowed to show horrible things happening to people? The intent was not to show evil, but to celebrate it. To say it was in fact good.

That is the problem. That is what I am saying we cannot allow in our stories. We cannot celebrate evil and just and good and expect that we won't get criticized for it.


I'm not implying that the books or Orcs or whatever shouldn't change. I'm challenging the view that there is only one method to be inclusive. I want to hear people's ideas of how to be inclusive in relation to all D&D tropes and explore how it might change the game. I want to explore other parts of the game that can be construed as insensitive and explore solutions. I'm not just talking race. I'm talking disabilities, ageism, sexism etc.. I find it interesting. It seems taboo to even talk about where people see the future of the game. From your post, it seems that you feel the game will change with people's attitudes. That's great. Why not say that instead of insisting that I'm an anti-change racist? It's tiresome.

In the end, WotC is a gaming company so why should they have to tackle hard topics? It should be light and fun. They don't owe anyone challenging stories. If there is 'an established right' and 'wrong' in the real world, it is much safer and comfortable for people if our fiction or fantasy mirrors our world view.
I'm not against exploring topics, I'm not against using gaming as a lens to explore hard ideas.

I'm against the depiction of evil being shown as good.


You're not understanding me, Chaosmancer. I'm not saying that reality and fantasy have no relationship, but that a fantasy world is its own microcosm that has its own internal coherency that differs from our own world to varying degrees.

Of course we can look at it through the lens of our morality or, if we must, that of critical theory. We can look for signs of racism, cultural appropriation, colonialist thinking, and sensititivity faux pas of all kinds. But in so doing, not only are we being rather myopic and narrow in our perception, we're missing the primary purpose of the fantasy experience: to experience it as itself, to immerse ourselves within it and see the world from within. Mind you, I don't think applying such analytic lenses is completely without value, but we should be able to "take off the lens," to both look through other lenses, but also--and most importantly--experience the world without a lens. That is, as itself.

SNIP

This is not to say that we cannot relate our own morality or worldview to any of these "other worlds"--be they other cultures, animals, historical eras, or fantasy worlds--or come up with, say, a conception of universal human rights. But that to overly do so is a mis-application. It is a fusion of our own reality with an "other world" and, ironically, somewhat of a colonialist act.

You are right, I don't understand you, but I think that is in part because you seem to refuse to understand me.

So, let's take the Duergar step by step, and I'll show you where the problem is. Maybe that will help you get it.


The Duergar are evil, greedy and heartless dwarves: This is actually fine. Simplistic and "us vs them" but fine. If the book had stuck with this. No problem.

The Duergar are evil, greedy and heartless dwarves. They were enslaved and warped by the Mindflayers: Okay, we are getting more interesting here. Now we have a reason for them being evil. This could make for an interesting story.

The Duergar are evil, greedy and heartless dwarves. They were enslaved and warped by the Mindflayers. They were led free from slavery by the man who would become their new God. He took a journey through Hell to gain the power needed to free his people. He accept treasure, but tricked the devils by using magic so the treasure would not weigh him down. They attacked him, but he had too much to fight for and defeated them. They acted mirthful and silly, offering him hundreds of temptations, but he was stoic and refused anything except for his due: Okay... this is, odd right? I mean tricking Hell, being resolute in his goals. These are all things we can get behind. It adds a little to the story I guess, fleshes out the guy who freed them. But, I don't really need any of it.


The Duergar are evil, greedy and heartless dwarves. They were enslaved and warped by the Mindflayers. They were led free from slavery by the man who would become their new God. He took a journey through Hell to gain the power needed to free his people. He accept treasure, but tricked the devils by using magic so the treasure would not weigh him down. They attacked him, but he had too much to fight for and defeated them. They acted mirthful and silly, offering him hundreds of temptations, but he was stoic and refused anything except for his due. Then they broke free of the Mind Flayers and returned to the surface to rejoin their kin. But the good and noble dwarves turned them away, saying their enslavement was their own fault for being greedy and lazy and ignoring Moradin's warnings. Wait, what? Here is the problem. Why are the dwarves good and noble for turning them away? Why are they being called lazy and when did Moradin even warn them? And, sure they didn't turn down treasure, but tricking Hell out of a ton of gold isn't exactly a bad thing. Why is any of this even needed, what are we adding here? Why not go back up to the second section, that didn't have all this.


The Duergar are evil, greedy and heartless dwarves. They were enslaved and warped by the Mindflayers. They were led free from slavery by the man who would become their new God. He took a journey through Hell to gain the power needed to free his people. He accept treasure, but tricked the devils by using magic so the treasure would not weigh him down. They attacked him, but he had too much to fight for and defeated them. They acted mirthful and silly, offering him hundreds of temptations, but he was stoic and refused anything except for his due. Then they broke free of the Mind Flayers and returned to the surface to rejoin their kin. But the good and noble dwarves turned them away, saying their enslavement was their own fault for being greedy and lazy and ignoring Moradin's warnings. So, the Evil and Cruel Duergar swore bloody vengeance against the good Dwarves and their Divine Father Moradin, and the two sides have been at war ever since. The Dwarves joyful acts of creation against the mindless drudgery and hate of the Duergar.
Again, what? Of course the Duergar swore vengeance, they are being mistreated, and why are we calling the dwarves good and noble and applying all this positive imagery to them? They are the ones in the wrong. Why are we supposed to root for the dwarves, I'm with Laduguer, at least that guy never abandoned his people. He refused worlds worth of tempation so he could have the power to free his people from slavery. That guy is worth following.



Does this make more sense now? Duergar are evil by itself isn't bad. Duergar are evil because they were enslaved by the mindflayers, not bad, could be interesting. Duergar are evil because they were enslaved and the dwarves were right to call them lazy and greedy and cast them out after they freed themselves from slavery.... what? Why is any of that even needed?

Heck, you could have the same Duergar blaming the dwarves with a simple change and it would still be better. The Duergar never went back to the dwarves. Instead they sent a message declaring a war of vengeance against the dwarves for not saving them. To which the dwarven reaction was "wait, you guys were alive?! We thought you were all killed. What happened? You needed saving?".

That would be better. Instead, we got the dwarves rightfully banishing the Duergar for the sin of being enslaved. Which is sickening.
 

TaranTheWanderer

Adventurer
Do you know why George kills Lenny? I remember the scene fairly well. George killed Lenny because if he took Lenny to the mob he was going to get killed in a brutal and violent fashion. Or, if that didn't happen, he would be taken to jail, where he would be locked in with violent criminals and a soft-soul like Lenny would have been destroyed by that experience.

You are right that Lenny is abused and humiliated constantly in the story. And never once does the author want us to celebrate that fact, indeed, the entire point is that the society is not set up for a person like Lenny. People don't understand him.


You seem to keep getting attached to this idea that I'm saying "showing bad things is bad". You are right, that would be simplistic.

It would be much more accurate to say "Celebrating bad things is bad"

Here, let me craft really extremely offensive book title to really drive this point home. This is bad, not something that I would ever condone being sold in any context.
I didn't bother reading the spoiler content. No need to drive anything home. I agree with you'. I know why George kills Lenny and that was my point. The story is deeper. Done properly, you can put a lens on topics that are bad without it being bad. That's the point pulling it apart and analyzing it.

I think the Druegar story is interesting. On the surface, I can see why people would be upset by that story and think it's drivel. For game content, I think that's a bit of bad writing. If you take away the opening sentence and the ending sentence, there is no judgement on either race. The whole passage is nothing more than History - description. I do think it makes for an interesting story, though, if you start adding personalities to the history. Just think of how you lead your players by the nose only to find out the righteous dwarves are actually the bad guy.

Edit: I think the writers have to stop making judgement calls and keep things closer to 'historical facts'.

I'm not against exploring topics, I'm not against using gaming as a lens to explore hard ideas.
Neither am I. But it it an appropriate? As I said previously, WotC is a gaming/media company so I'm not sure they should touch on tough subjects. Should they leave it up to the gamer or should they provide guidelines of how to delve deeper and explore those topics?

I find this part hard to articulate, so forgive me,

I, literally, never thought of Orcs as a racist thing until this thread pointed it out. In my own games, goblins keep coming up as the issue (maybe because we play lots of low level games). Years ago, never a problem - kill the goblins. These days, harder to justify. Is it my age or the fact that society is changing? Or is it that I'm more interested in more complex stories?

There is nothing in Mines of Phandelver that touches on the what-ifs of murdering a cave full of goblins. In Mines, you can ally yourself with the goblins against the Bugbear. But it's hard. Goblins are described as cruel and they're often murdering people and robbing caravans. Can you, in good conscious let them live? What if you find out they murdered someone in Phandelver and you could have prevented that? A note to the DM of how do deal with them differently or how different tables can approach the challenge would be useful. Sure, one day they might change the flavor of goblins but I don't think that it's the (only) answer.

In the end, is it their responsibility or the gamers responsibility to venture into those complicated issues? IDK, honestly.

I think WotC is just trying to navigate the current affairs and, as people in a company, want to put out a product that isn't in conflict with their own values. On the other side of the coin, it's hard to use gaming as a lens to explore hard ideas without also touching on sensitive topics that might make people feel uncomfortable.
 
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TaranTheWanderer

Adventurer
Side note: Now I'm curious what did Moradin warn them about? Did he actually warn them against something or was it just an excuse the Dwarves made? There's part of the story missing there.
 

Side note: Now I'm curious what did Moradin warn them about? Did he actually warn them against something or was it just an excuse the Dwarves made? There's part of the story missing there.
We are never told. We are told that the dwarves said "you ignored Moradin's warnings". We are never told what those were or if they even happened.

I didn't bother reading the spoiler content. No need to drive anything home. I agree with you'. I know why George kills Lenny and that was my point. The story is deeper. Done properly, you can put a lens on topics that are bad without it being bad. That's the point pulling it apart and analyzing it.

I think the Druegar story is interesting. On the surface, I can see why people would be upset by that story and think it's drivel. For game content, I think that's a bit of bad writing. If you take away the opening sentence and the ending sentence, there is no judgement on either race. The whole passage is nothing more than History - description. I do think it makes for an interesting story, though, if you start adding personalities to the history. Just think of how you lead your players by the nose only to find out the righteous dwarves are actually the bad guy.

Edit: I think the writers have to stop making judgement calls and keep things closer to 'historical facts'.
See, I think you are on the right path with the second paragraph, but it ends up requiring you to add or subtract from the story.

If we take the events, they can be made interesting by altering the exact details. But, the fact that you almost have to do that is part of the problem I have. You can make it work, but you can't really make it work without altering it in someway.



Neither am I. But it it an appropriate? As I said previously, WotC is a gaming/media company so I'm not sure they should touch on tough subjects. Should they leave it up to the gamer or should they provide guidelines of how to delve deeper and explore those topics?

I find this part hard to articulate, so forgive me,

I, literally, never thought of Orcs as a racist thing until this thread pointed it out. In my own games, goblins keep coming up as the issue (maybe because we play lots of low level games). Years ago, never a problem - kill the goblins. These days, harder to justify. Is it my age or the fact that society is changing? Or is it that I'm more interested in more complex stories?

There is nothing in Mines of Phandelver that touches on the what-ifs of murdering a cave full of goblins. In Mines, you can ally yourself with the goblins against the Bugbear. But it's hard. Goblins are described as cruel and they're often murdering people and robbing caravans. Can you, in good conscious let them live? What if you find out they murdered someone in Phandelver and you could have prevented that? A note to the DM of how do deal with them differently or how different tables can approach the challenge would be useful. Sure, one day they might change the flavor of goblins but I don't think that it's the (only) answer.

In the end, is it their responsibility or the gamers responsibility to venture into those complicated issues? IDK, honestly.

I think WotC is just trying to navigate the current affairs and, as people in a company, want to put out a product that isn't in conflict with their own values. On the other side of the coin, it's hard to use gaming as a lens to explore hard ideas without also touching on sensitive topics that might make people feel uncomfortable.
I can't answer whether or not it is appropriate, that depends table to table.

One thing I've always done when dealing with orcs or goblins at the table, is that they are encountered as groups of enemy soldiers. "These orcs are attacking the caravan of women and children" doesn't pose any moral quandaries for my players. I never say all orcs are evil, just that these orcs in front of you are.

But, that can also be really hard sometimes. We had a game once where the DM had a maze full of undead, and we encountered a husband and wife vampire pair. The thing was though, they didn't know they were vampires. They'd been wondering in this maze for so long it had altered them, but since they had never left they had no idea what had happened to them. One player was playing the Oathbreaker paladin and dominated the wife, and treated her monstrously. Because they were vampires, and therefore evil soulless monsters.

The DM never said that, in fact, they were hoping to inject a little moral quandry by having us figure out a way to help them. But, it devolved into a mess because one player assumed all vampires were evil and stopped thinking after that.

And so, it can be rough. And I think it will never be an easy question to answer. But putting forth the effort to just make sure we have nuance and understanding is a great start
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Yes but that’s a bit of a cop out isn’t it? Yes, we know this is bad but because we put up a disclaimer, you lose the right to complain about it.

Why not just excise the objectionable stuff?
Unlike you, who seems laser-beam focused on the language surrounding orcs (and maybe drow) and nothing else, some of us are looking at bigger-picture issues and questions raised by these discussions.

One of those bigger-picture questions is whether WotC (or any other major RPG designer) is bound to adhere to real-world ethics when presenting aspects of their game(s); and that's what I was respondng to in the post you quoted.

For example: are they bound to present a game-world society where slavery is an accepted fact of life and world domination is the overall goal as always being Evil? If yes, this bans them from presenting any sort of sympathetic portrayal of the Roman Empire, for which both the above statements are true; and yet a game based in Roman times with the PCs as Romans has loads of potential. Hence, the disclaimer idea I suggested.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Maybe Mercurius will defend his view himself, but he is not putting any kind of nuance in his statement. If it is a fictional story, you cannot judge anything in it by real world morality. That is the end of his sentence usually. We cannot judge it.

I'd also like to point out the bolded section, can you point me to a good version of child abuse? Honestly curious because in my mind, you aren't a good person if you abuse a child, by default that is an evil action.

And that gets right back into the problem Mercurius's point has. Let us say that you write a hero, a paladin just for giggles. Great guy, pillar of his community, helps old ladies cross the street. Then, after we've followed him around seeing how great he is, a dirty streetkid comes up to beg for some coin. And the guy beats the kid, viciously, teeth go flying. In public. An no one bats an eye.

Doesn't that disconnect say something about the world being presented? Isn't that dissonance meaningful to the story being told?

But, if I can't bring real-world morality in to judge those actions, then I can saying nothing bad about this paladin. My real world ethics do not apply. I can't say that the story is about child abuse, I can't say that it is about mistreatment of the poor, or how those in power threaten and use that power to make others view them as good. I can say nothing about any of that.

To talk about the italicized part, that is never what I have been saying. No one is saying that the depiction of an immoral act makes the material itself immmoral.
You might not have said it but others have, many times and not just here.

Much of the Satanic panic revolved around portrayal of immoral acts (e.g. demon summoning) in the D&D books made D&D itself immoral.

Also, even though your real-world self might think or say something about a world in which a Paladin kicks kids in the teeth just for fun, that doesn't and shouldn't stop an author from designing and presenting a setting where street children are considered chattel and have the same standing as stray dogs, and where the Paladin is in fact a hero to the people.

The depiction of an immoral act, framed and presented to us as a moral action, makes the material immoral. If the author of that paladin story wanted us to come away thinking that the poor should be beaten into submission as is the right of the world, then he would have written a material that is immoral.
This gets messy.

What this means is that two authors could write the exact same story word for word, and the only thing that would determine which one was moral and which wasn't is the writers' intent, which may never be known.

So, again, it isn't that there is evil in the world, or that evil is simplistic that I have been having a problem with. It is that good has been shown as doing evil, but we are being told the evil they did was actually perfectly fine and good. That is a the problem.
The problem is more of failing to divorce, partly or fully, real-world considerations and setting considerations. In the setting an author is presenting, perhaps something we real people would consider evil is an accepted part of life, and those who do it (or do it best) are hailed as heroes and the goal of the commoners is to one day be just like those heroes.

It also comes down to how one reads one's fiction (or approaches one's RPGs), and how seriously one takes any of it. I rarely if ever read anything as if it was a morality play; instead I read it to immerse myself in the author's setting for the time I spend reading the book, ignoring real-world considerations due to being fully aware that real-world considerations may or may not have any overlap with the considerations of the book's setting. Same goes for playing RPGs.

The issue is that Mercurius seems to be of the opinion that a reader cannot decide what is good or bad. That you must rely solely on the narrator or the framing, and then accept that whatever happened was good or bad.
Within the fiction, yes; as the relative goodness or badness is set by the conceits already presented in said fiction.

A reader can of course decide - and debate or discuss with others - whether that setting's conceits would be good or bad in reality, if said reader wants to bother.

Good, upstanding soldiers burning a town to the ground and cooking people alive? That isn't a story about war crimes, or good people doing bad things, that is a story of good people doing the right thing, because you were presented with it being the right thing, and this is a fantasy story so we can't bring real world ethics in and say they are wrong.
You can bring real-world ethics in if you want, but why? Enjoy the fiction for what it is - fiction - and leave real-world ethics for the real world.

This is how I generally approach playing and-or DMing RPGs - that the fiction I'm presenting or playing within has little if any relation to reality, and so I can dial stuff up to eleven and do things I'd never be able (or allowed!) to do in reality. The only place reality intervenes is if something would be offensive to someone else at the table.

But, the entire point of a story of that is to emphasize the horror of it, to emphasize how terrible and wrong it is. You expect unspeakable acts from bad people, seeing them from good people is jarring and makes you question things.
On reflection, maybe, and perhaps that was the author's intent. Perhaps it wasn't; and unless the author has otherwise stated his-her intent in writing that work we've no way of knowing which it is.
 
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Hussar

Legend
Unlike you, who seems laser-beam focused on the language surrounding orcs (and maybe drow) and nothing else, some of us are looking at bigger-picture issues and questions raised by these discussions.

One of those bigger-picture questions is whether WotC (or any other major RPG designer) is bound to adhere to real-world ethics when presenting aspects of their game(s); and that's what I was respondng to in the post you quoted.

For example: are they bound to present a game-world society where slavery is an accepted fact of life and world domination is the overall goal as always being Evil? If yes, this bans them from presenting any sort of sympathetic portrayal of the Roman Empire, for which both the above statements are true; and yet a game based in Roman times with the PCs as Romans has loads of potential. Hence, the disclaimer idea I suggested.
Yeah, if you’re presenting slavery as good and justified, I’m thinking you’ve got a tough row to hoe.

You can have slave owning pc’s. Sure. Just don’t pretend that they are morally justified. They are evil.

Would you actually classify Roman society as good?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I don't disagree, but that's not really what I was trying to get at. A lot of these discussions are based around applying real world perspectives to fantasy contexts, which I see as, at the very least, an unnecessary transposition from one context to another; in this case, reality to fantasy. I think it also has to do with a limited conception of what fantasy is, both historically and in terms of the creative act itself.
With respect... go find us a fantasy novel that leaves the morals and ethics of the time it was written completely behind. Find an example already written that we are apt to know to display what you expect should happen, so we can discuss it in more than theoretical terms.
 


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