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Why are we okay with violence in RPGs?

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
@Maxperson, you realize you have it backwards right? The tournaments came first THEN AD&D. AD&D was an attempt to codify what was happening at tournaments. That's why tournament play is actually mentioned more than a few times in the AD&D DMG.

Look, we get it. You played AD&D with 3 people. Great. Can you not understand that that wasn't typical of the time? Tournament tables were MUCH larger than that. Heck, my home game was anywhere from 6-13 players for many, many years. You'd think that if most of the games were only 3 players, then they'd market the modules for 3 players. Seems kind of strange to baseline the game at 3 players and then produce absolutely nothing for that baseline.
Hey. If you wanted to house rule the game based on modules(not rules) and ignore the actual rules(3 plus players = ideal), that was your call. The rules were there to serve you, not the other way around.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
Look, we get it. You played AD&D with 3 people. Great. Can you not understand that that wasn't typical of the time? Tournament tables were MUCH larger than that. Heck, my home game was anywhere from 6-13 players for many, many years. You'd think that if most of the games were only 3 players, then they'd market the modules for 3 players. Seems kind of strange to baseline the game at 3 players and then produce absolutely nothing for that baseline.
Counter-counterpoint.

Typical play for AD&D was whatever I was playing.

Atypical play for AD&D was whatever you were playing.


-From personal experience, I would say that the game was marketed for 3 or more; the modules would often say anywhere from 4 to 10 players, as they were often, or usually, designed for, or out of, competition or conventions early on. My experience was that many games were 3-5 players, and that many more than that would get unwieldy and lead to a split (due to scheduling, personalities, etc.), but that could just be my experience. At bigger events and one-shots, tables of 8-10 players could occur.
 

Ilya Bossov

Villager
Classic D&D presumes a lot about the party and the game master, but colonialist themes observation is spot on. The party is supposed to be good, the monsters are supposed to be evil, and following tradition of Tolkien's presumptions of all members of this species (it's really wrong to call them a race) being evil is a little awkward, isn't it? How many kobolds does it take for a lawful good paladin to get to the next level and also lose their alignment?

Modern D&D is a lot better about this. Take Curse of Strahd for example. It's not just some faceless orcs you're killing. The main villain is a creep and the land is suffering because of him, so players are truly heroic figures standing up to a monster with powers of a demigod.

But yeah, XP should be a measure of risks taken and dangers survived, not scalps and ears count.
 
Classic D&D presumes a lot about the party and the game master, but colonialist themes observation is spot on.
Why?

The party is supposed to be good, the monsters are supposed to be evil, and following tradition of Tolkien's presumptions of all members of this species (it's really wrong to call them a race) being evil is a little awkward, isn't it?
No. For example, there is a connection between the word 'orc' and the world 'orcus'. Is it presumptuous to assume demons are evil? Are we not allowed to incarnate good and evil in a fantasy? I mean it would be one thing if humans and elves were the incarnation of good, but they are not either in Tolkien (where many of the villains are human or elves) or in D&D. The PC races are the people, the ones capable of both good or evil, and they are in contests with evil as represented by things like demons, dragons, giants, and orcs and advised and aided by powers of good.

Modern D&D is a lot better about this. Take Curse of Strahd for example. It's not just some faceless orcs you're killing. The main villain is a creep and the land is suffering because of him, so players are truly heroic figures standing up to a monster with powers of a demigod.
OK, you do realize that 'Curse of Strahd' is just an elaboration on I6: Ravenloft, a module written in 1982 and published in 1983, right? That was 35 years ago, and at the time published RPG were less than a decade old. So what you are bragging about as "modern" as a way of slandering the writers and creators of the past, is actually much closer to the beginning of RPGs as it is to the present day.

There is a certain level of narcissism in this whole "colonialist" meme, in that what really seems to be going on is patting ones own back about how much better we are now than what we were like then, when as a community we seem to forget that we were out giving awards to abusive content creators whose work in my opinion clearly hinted at his unhealthy attitudes toward women (and people in general). Yet we are going to praise ourselves as being so much more enlightened than the Gygax, Tolkien, Arneson, Weiss, Hickman, Niles, Moldvay, Morris etc. because of some fantastically constructed idea that they were advancing 'Colonialist' ideas.

I'm sorry, but this claim that is being tossed around requires a much higher standard of proof than it's being tossed around with. If 'Curse of Strahd' isn't colonialist, then 'Ravenloft' isn't either. So where are all these colonialist modules? Aerie of the Slave Lords? Is opposing slavers "colonialist"? Saber River? Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh? Dragons of Despair? Steading of the Hill Giant Chief? Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth? Expedition to the Barrier Peaks? Beyond the Crystal Cave? When I played 'Desert of Desolation' I never thought, "Yeah, I'm colonizing the desert.", nor do I think there was any such intention. The factions are interesting, and you are quite possibly a native of the region. Certainly your ethnic background is not prescribed to you, nor are you facing off against orcs or whatever. In "Dwellers in the Forbidden City", spoiler, the bad guys turn out to be colonizers of a sort, manipulating native peoples. Just how contorted do you intend to make this argument that early D&D was colonialist? I'm struggling to think of anything I encountered that had "colonialist" ideas as a central theme during the early days of D&D, but if for the sake of argument the early modules of TSR were rife with colonialist thinking, then given the fact that WotC seems unable to generate original adventure ideas but simply reprints the old content, everyone who is convinced by this whole 'colonialist' argument ought to for the sake of the consistency of their thinking, boycott WotC.

Fundamentally, even the best attempts to advance this tripe seem to be taking a few small passages out of context and elevating their importance to greater than the rest of the text. I haven't seen any take on D&D this ridiculous since reading a Jack Chick track.

But yeah, XP should be a measure of risks taken and dangers survived, not scalps and ears count.
Errr... when was it not? I mean, heck, the whole XP primarily equals killing thing wasn't even a feature until 3e, so if that's your problem, then it's not old school games you have a problem with but modern ones.
 

Xaelvaen

Explorer
I'm just ... curious ... as to what other people think. I mean, I understand WHY (IMO) violence is part of the scene (legacy of wargaming, advancement through XP, fantasy tropes, etc.), but I'm curious as to what people think of it now?
First, love the topic - kudos. I can understand how certain groups or audiences need to pay attention to, and alter these aspects. I'm all for the freedom to express yourself in RPGs, for all people, provided you know your audience - that's always the key.

Secondly, a personal anecdote - My players (21 years together this year) have come to bloody love kobolds. Perhaps it is the influence of Deekin from Neverwinter Nights, or the 3.5 supplements that gave Kobolds several pages of in depth information, or our love of ugly things and calling them cute (like certain dogs). Regardless, they love kobolds and hate killing them. Any time there's a kobold den, a wizard either pretends to be a dragon and makes a thunderous voice convincing the kobolds to back down, or someone else finds a way to try and not kill the little pests until they can be reasoned with. So in your particular adventure path (don't believe I've ever played it ), it just reminded me of my players not worrying about killing the women and children, they want to befriend them all! In fact, in our current campaign, they found a small kobold den that had recently suffered the loss of all their females to disease, so they were aggressive. Here comes the saviors - "aww, don't worry little kobolds, we'll find you some females. Just give us all the useless gold and silver you mine - you keep the gems. Everybody's happy." Then here comes the natural 20 on persuasion.

Anecdote aside - here's thirdly. I've never, not once since 1989, been in a group where anyone would murder innocents for any reason. I've even had evil alignment in the party (typically lawful evil, mind you) that knew better. Not because of morals, but for their own personal justifications. I've just never experienced that mentality, so I can only answer the question of 'violence in RPGs' with a moral compass. I've never seen anyone killed, monsters included, that didn't deserve justice to be wrought swiftly - and even then, there's those occasional paladins who'll arrest anything of sentience instead of wanting it dead. Had a Priest of Tyr one time have a team of horses and a jail wagon travel around with our group. He spent so much damn money on prisoner food. I never had the heart to tell him that the courts just sentenced them all to death anyway...
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
3-5 depending on the PC mix and dragon, yes. You don't encounter half a dragon, and a dragon is an encounter for PCs of X level, depending on the age of the dragon. Given that 3 or more is the ideal number of players, you won't see encounters that are going to be auto death for 3 players. That's just not ideal.
You're not? You could roll up a red dragon encounter with 4 of them, the mated pair being on the larger size and ancient. That might not be survivable for 3 players depending on their levels. And the encounter tables... not really keyed to character level.

Or, given your disdain for house rules in determining how a game should work, how exactly are you determining the game is designed around a dragon being an encounter for PCs of X level?
 

Ilya Bossov

Villager
No. For example, there is a connection between the word 'orc' and the world 'orcus'.
This is a false connection. Just because two words are similar-sounding in one language, it often means very little regarding their origins or roots. Orcs have more in common with orcas, I believe. In Tolkien's writing, they were creations of a fallen god/angel equivalent who tried to emulate elves but ended up creating ugly and pitiful creatures.

Is it presumptuous to assume demons are evil?
Yes. Tieflings would like to have a word.


The PC races are the people, the ones capable of both good or evil, and they are in contests with evil as represented by things like demons, dragons, giants, and orcs and advised and aided by powers of good.
Since we're talking about Tolkien's works, there's an interesting book that offers a unique, alternative perspective. If you're struggling to find colonialism in D&D or in Lord of the Rings, you should probably read The Last Ringbearer. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Ringbearer

Cheers.
 

Bedrockgames

Villager
Modern D&D is a lot better about this. Take Curse of Strahd for example. It's not just some faceless orcs you're killing. The main villain is a creep and the land is suffering because of him, so players are truly heroic figures standing up to a monster with powers of a demigod.

.
Celebrim made this point but neither was the original Ravenloft module about killing faceless orcs. That sort of became Ravenloft's whole thing with dark lords (which Strahd was the model for).

I don't know I think people are often under the mistaken assumption if they can make their violent entertainment more wholesome or more morally appropriate, that will somehow fix the world. I think people in my age group, who lived through years of 'very special episodes' and who saw things like the Satanic Panic, are pretty wary and cynical about these kinds of efforts.
 

Bedrockgames

Villager
Since we're talking about Tolkien's works, there's an interesting book that offers a unique, alternative perspective. If you're struggling to find colonialism in D&D or in Lord of the Rings, you should probably read The Last Ringbearer. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Ringbearer

Cheers.
I don't want to rehash this argument, because there is a closed thread dedicated to it (and I am still finding that discussion very unpleasant to think about). But I think this is a very strange way to make an argument. Number one, this book isn't even translated into English (at least not commercially). But more importantly anyone can write a book like that to make something look bad. But he is creating new material in order to build an argument. That doesn't reveal anything about Tolkien as much as it is a creative exercise. It is fine. I think that can be a cool thing to do (let's tell the Harry Potter Story from the perspective of Voldemort). But it is like shooting fish in a barrel because the author is in total control of the material.
 
Secondly, a personal anecdote - My players (21 years together this year) have come to bloody love kobolds.
One of my homebrew adventures involves the PC's investigating a series of attacks perpetrated by kobolds following a village festival. The PC's are meant to treat this as stereotypical murderous banditry from an aggressive group of non-persons. Certainly everyone in town is ready to pay the PC's to murder kobolds, and as inhabitants of the town they are certainly meant to sympathize with their neighbors.

But, as the dig a bit further, the twist is that there is more going on than the obvious, and that there is more than one side to the story. Turns out that the kobolds moved into the area like 40 years before resulting in violence between the two communities, and the young burgomaster of the town decided that rather than witnessing the death of more young people in the town, he'd secretly form a peace pact with the kobolds. He created a treaty where by, on the night before the festival, he'd leave several barrels of the famous beer manufactured in the town in an unlocked and unguarded warehouse. The kobolds would then take the beer away. In return, the kobolds would stop raiding chicken coups, stealing sheep, and invading peoples homes in the middle of the night. Since the kobolds were terrified of the humans, this suited the kobolds just fine. Two years prior, the now elderly burgomaster died, leaving instructions to his successor to put the beer in a particular unlocked and unguarded warehouse on the night before the festival. The first year the new burgomaster did just as he was asked, and things went fine. But the second year, the burgomaster decided that the whole thing was stupid, as he was now out the cost of several barrels of expensive beer. Instead, the burgomaster sold the beer at a fine profit, and the kobolds showed up, decided that the lack of beer meant the humans were about to declare war on them, and some of the more impetuous warriors of the tribe decided that cunning was the best part of valor and they'd engage in a preemptive strike. The kobold leadership for their part is anxious to renegotiate a treaty.

The point is, even if kobolds are sneaky evil git, injustices can still be perpetrated against them. This is big part of my campaigns, if only because I find that subverting stories in this way makes for interesting twists. The obvious sneaky evil git may not in fact be the one that has perpetrated a crime worthy of death, or the one that is actually threatening you and your community. Regardless of predilections or appearances, even non-persons (and kobolds are explicitly non-people in my game, for reasons of cosmology and mythic backstory) deserve to be judged by their actions, if only for the sake of your honor if not theirs.

Kobolds tend to be more or less neutral in my games. They are basically intelligent vermin, and there is no more particular reason to kill one than there is to kill a rat that isn't in your barn eating your winter stores. I mean, the same could basically be said for sprites in my game as well, and they are (sorta) persons or at least cosmologically have more claim to the title than kobolds. On the other hand, goblins are explicitly persons, people, and a PC racial option in my game and have been since the late 1980s. In fact, I've run games where everyone was required to start out as a goblin or a kobold, and I've had two hobgoblin PC's in my most recent campaign.

None of that was done out of any conscious impulse to be racially conscious or sensitive or any such crap. In fact, the only change I've ever made in that regard was making Drow pale skinned, and that was done not because I think dark skinned elves were some sort of racial commentary, but because in the first I thought troglodyte peoples would tend to loose color and not gain it, and in the second because I wanted to be free to tell stories with Drow without some self-entitled idiot coming along and doing pop racial analysis on my stories and missing the point.

Anyone that thinks hobgoblins are some sort of stand in for a real world ethnic group in my game is in my considered opinion, an idiot. For one thing, I'm not very fond of direct analogies. I don't do the 'Orcs are minorities' thing that you see in a movie like 'Bright'. Unless something has a one to and onto relationship between the thing and the thing it's referring to, chances are it isn't referring to that. And for another thing, you haven't experienced my game and thus are in no position to judge. And finally, I refuse to concede that you have some sort of privileged standing as a "reader" to tell me the living author what what I create actually really means. If you want to read something into my work personal to your experience, I cannot stop you from doing so, but not only is doing so in my opinion a failure of empathy and understanding on your part, but it inherently only says something about you and nothing about me or my work.

Anecdote aside - here's thirdly. I've never, not once since 1989, been in a group where anyone would murder innocents for any reason.
I can't think of an incident where any player consciously did this either. There have been murders by PCs in my game, but the persons in question were not innocent, or else the player didn't mean to kill them, or else the player had freaked out and acted impulsively.

In my current campaign, the PC's have murdered the following individuals:

a) A mortally wounded cultist who had moments ago been trying to murder them, and who had earlier in the even killed a number of innocent people. The cultist lost consciousness from bloodloss while trying to open a door out of the dungeon, and the PC's began debating whether they should let her die or render medical aid. After a round or two of this, one of the players, acting on their own, had their character stab the wounded woman in the back with a dagger. The other players/PCs were too shocked by this turn of events to react. Afterwards, a few of the PC's privately expressed to each other how shocked they were by this act and debated what to do about it, but decided that since this was a literal murderess that still had the blood of townsfolk on her person at the time she was killed, that no one in town was going to disapprove of the action and most of the town would have in fact been so angry at that point that they'd probably hail the PC as a hero. So they decided to let the matter drop.

b) While investigating a dungeon seeking one group, the party uncovered the lair of a completely different group of villains. After a pitched combat, they managed to capture one of the cultists. A debate then proceeded as to what they should do with the captive, who as best as they could tell was part of some nihilistic Cthulan end of the world cult. The captive however was right there listening, and I always reserve the right to treat table chatter as in character/in game. When it became clear to the captive they were contemplating killing him, he tried to run away, and sprinted off down a tunnel with his hands tied behind his back. Afraid that he'd get away, one of the PC's shot him in the back with an arrow, killing him. I should note, on several occasions these debates over captives have resulted in the PC's releasing the captive on parole, so it's not inevitable that they have bloodthirsty ends.

c) After tracking down a necromancer to his lair, one of the players - acting on his own - decided that the best solution was to simply burn down the lair. The necromancer escaped through a secret tunnel in his laboratory, but a (relatively) innocent and pregnant domestic servant in the household died in the fire.

d) While trekking through a deadly jungle filled with undead, dinosaurs, and evil fey, the party came across a pair of strange lemur creatures sitting on a boulder. When the archer perceived that the creatures were intelligent and armed, he decided the best thing to do was preemptively shoot one before it could attack. As it turns out, these creatures were friendly and good. The murder of one of their own by the PC's spread through the jungle, and thereafter the party found itself bitter foes of the lemur people. It was only much later that the party worked out that they had indeed murdered an innocent and the lemur people had legitimate cause to fear and hate the party, but that was only after they'd slaughtered scores of them in a series of pitched battles. Most of the party felt deeply grieved at that point, and made every effort afterwards to avoid contact with the lemur people and handle them with nonlethal force when possible.

e) The party was exploring a catacomb, and had been told by the local temple of the God of Death that the objects in the catacomb were cursed, and that anything that they brought out of the catacombs had to be cleansed (for a fee) by the temple before it was taken anywhere else. The first foray went well and the party dutifully turned over the coins that they had liberated and paid the fee, but the second foray was a disaster and in the confusion the party forgot to turn things over to the temple's representatives and instead turned the coins over to the parties factor for investment. Unbeknownst to the PC's, this has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of persons and will continue to kill people for years until the cursed coins slowly leave circulation.

I don't think anyone in the group is necessarily "okay with violence" and I've only had a couple players prone to murder-hobo-ism. All the above cases are bad, and ultimately evil acts. But they are also I think very human acts and instructive of how you don't need to be a snarling villain with expressly evil intent to commit evil. At one level, I'm sympathetic to the question by the OP. Incidents like the above show just how badly things can go wrong when violence is in your tool box and you're used to using it to solve problems. War coarsens peoples morals, even if they have high honor and morals to begin with.

But on the other hand, I'm not sure we are "ok with violence" in the way that is meant or that the particular reasons advanced why we ought not be "ok with violence" are as thoughtful as say the average Amish minister or 60's civil rights advocate advocating peaceful resistance would advance. Or really, thoughtful at all.

I feel that since at least 1988 or so and I had the maturity to consider the question, my game has always had a nuanced take on conflict and violence, and that D&D has always allowed and sometimes even promoted these nuanced takes. I don't agree that the stereotype is as pervasive as implied by some of the judgments here, and I bristle at the moral panic that seems to have developed or be developing around RPing. Didn't we do this back in the 1980's? It seems some of the people the least sympathetic to the feelings behind the moral panic in the 1980's are committing the same mistakes with this one.
 
Since we're talking about Tolkien's works, there's an interesting book that offers a unique, alternative perspective. If you're struggling to find colonialism in D&D or in Lord of the Rings, you should probably read The Last Ringbearer. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Ringbearer
I have read 'The Last Ringbearer'. I consider it a distasteful, derivative, mockery of good which a person deluded by Morgoth might create. It is no more nuanced or reasonable criticism of Tolkien and his works than 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion' is of Judiasm. And quite frankly, I believe it exists to serve the same purpose.

If you can't create something interesting that stands on its own merit, don't purloin the work of someone else and distort it to draw attention to you that you'd otherwise not recieve.

UPDATE: And as others have noted, it's bizarre to claim you are trying to understand one person's works, by reading a work by someone else entirely. If you can find "colonialism" in "The Last Ringbearer" it proves nothing about "The Lord of the Rings".
 
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Tony Vargas

Adventurer
Is it presumptuous to assume demons are evil?
Yes. Tieflings would like to have a word.
Yeah, they have diabolic ancestry, not Demonic. Totally different.


I mean, heck, the whole XP primarily equals killing thing wasn't even a feature until 3e, so if that's your problem, then it's not old school games you have a problem with but modern ones.
Counter-counterpoint.

Typical play for AD&D was whatever I was playing.

Atypical play for AD&D was whatever you were playing.
Typical play wasn't.

All we can go on, for sure, is the written rules at the time (& commentary, there was a lot of Gygaxian commentary woven into said rules), albeit, with the caveat that virtually no one used all of them, exactly as written, nor was there any given crazy rule that absolutely everyone ignored.

At very beginning, you got big chunks of XP for killing monsters. Very quickly (Greyhawk!) that was reined in, and XP given for treasure, as well. That was roundly criticized, and eventually became optional, then went away (as above, with 3e it was gone, replaced by Quest XP). But, even when it was the law of the land, FWIW, along with huge gobs of gp being paid out for training to level up, the explicit rules-codified-in-B&W way of getting treasure, from the 1e MM in 1977 on, was to kill a monster with a nice Treasure Type.

Sure, many of us thought XP for gp was silly and dumped it, many of us thought treasure types were dumb and overruled them placing treasure in other ways, many of us added more elaborate rules for classes getting XP specifically for doing things related to their class abilities - but, as the rules themselves stood, FWIW: XP for Gold, Treasure for killing the right monsters.
 

Xaelvaen

Explorer
One of my homebrew adventures involves the PC's investigating a series of attacks perpetrated by kobolds following a village festival.
I love adventures of this vein, and use them quite readily myself, though this one in particular is an interesting take on money being valued more than safety - cleverly done.

Anyone that thinks hobgoblins are some sort of stand in for a real world ethnic group in my game is in my considered opinion, an idiot. For one thing, I'm not very fond of direct analogies. I don't do the 'Orcs are minorities' thing that you see in a movie like 'Bright'. Unless something has a one to and onto relationship between the thing and the thing it's referring to, chances are it isn't referring to that. And for another thing, you haven't experienced my game and thus are in no position to judge. And finally, I refuse to concede that you have some sort of privileged standing as a "reader" to tell me the living author what what I create actually really means. If you want to read something into my work personal to your experience, I cannot stop you from doing so, but not only is doing so in my opinion a failure of empathy and understanding on your part, but it inherently only says something about you and nothing about me or my work.
I had to read this one a few times, then check my previous post, to ensure I hadn't somehow offended you or even implied any judgement haha. I'm not the sort to judge; creative freedom for everyone. In truth, I agree with you whole-heartedly with regards to the living author and their creative direction. Obviously, your players enjoy heartily that which you create, and who else is worthy of judgement of a GM's work? None. Also, your notation about the Drow rings true as well - we've done the very same thing purely based on the setting in which we all wanted to play.

I can't think of an incident where any player consciously did this either. There have been murders by PCs in my game, but the persons in question were not innocent, or else the player didn't mean to kill them, or else the player had freaked out and acted impulsively.
I've never actually had that happen either - how did they handle the news of their activities, in example the woman in the necromancer's lair? Did the players cope well, or was it purely an in-character demoralization (if even that)?

But on the other hand, I'm not sure we are "ok with violence" in the way that is meant or that the particular reasons advanced why we ought not be "ok with violence" are as thoughtful as say the average Amish minister or 60's civil rights advocate advocating peaceful resistance would advance. Or really, thoughtful at all.
That, was in fact, quite thoughtful and analytical of the current atmosphere.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
I have read 'The Last Ringbearer'. I consider it a distasteful, derivative, mockery of good which a person deluded by Morgoth might create. It is no more nuanced or reasonable criticism of Tolkien and his works than 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion' is of Judiasm. And quite frankly, I believe it exists to serve the same purpose.
Shocked! Shocked I am that someone from somewhere east of Western Europe might have a different perspective of a work that treats nations that come from further east than the Men of the West as dupes of evil at best.
Shocked some more(!) I am that someone might make a derivative work to rebut ideas in it.
 
I had to read this one a few times, then check my previous post, to ensure I hadn't somehow offended you or even implied any judgement haha.
Sorry about that. Strictly speaking, most of the time I employ the word 'you', I'm doing so improperly when I mean the English pronoun 'one'. But the pronoun 'one' is so uncommon in modern English, that if I employ it correctly I end up sounding like an even more stilted stuck-up person than I actually am: "And finally, I refuse to concede that one has some..." And dropping in 'y'all' creates the opposite problem. So by 'you', please understand I don't mean 'you' specifically, but am referring non-specifically to other parties who may have the idea being discussed.

I've never actually had that happen either - how did they handle the news of their activities, in example the woman in the necromancer's lair? Did the players cope well, or was it purely an in-character demoralization (if even that)?
Depends on the player. Some take moral issues more seriously than others. For some it's all just a game, so they just shrug or laugh about it and move on. In the case of the woman in the necromancer's lair, in campaign one of the reasons that necromancy is evil is that anyone that dies on necromanticly tainted ground tends to become undead, so I decided it was appropriate to have the woman haunt the PC that killed her as a ghost. She's become a reoccurring character continually reminding the PC/player of the problem. (As an aside, attempts to weaponize Barb the ghost have resulted in some of the most spectacularly evil things that the party has ever done. To the extent that one of the characters now has evil on their character sheet as a result of interaction with Barb.)

The BBEG in the campaign is a necromancer named Keeropus. One long running element of the campaign is that when they trade words with Keeropus, he always taunts them by saying that they have it all wrong - he is the hero of the story and they are the villains. Keeropus came to the party's attention after a tsunami destroyed half of the city they were staying in. Keeropus excused the 10's of thousands of deaths he caused by claiming it was an accident and it was all for the greater good. The longer the campaign goes and the more things that they've done that they regret, and the more things that they do that kill innocents 'for the greater good', the more seriously they are taking this idea. So, while the players don't all take this seriously, and don't all see things the same way I do, on the whole I think the campaign is succeeding in its original philosophical goals.

One thing I've learned over the years is the sort of focus of play you can have depends on the number of players you have. I have six players, so I don't really have the luxury of keeping the focus of play on deep internal exploration of character, simply because we can't focus the spotlight on one player for that long. Likewise, not every player even is interested in that aesthetic of play. If we had half as many players, the moral aspects of the campaign would probably be more highlighted.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
Shocked! Shocked I am that someone from somewhere east of Western Europe might have a different perspective of a work that treats nations that come from further east than the Men of the West as dupes of evil at best.
Shocked some more(!) I am that someone might make a derivative work to rebut ideas in it.
We still are considered subhumans, they hate us for just existing. The book is in fact a brilliant take on the tale.
 
Shocked some more(!) I am that someone might make a derivative work to rebut ideas in it.
If it actually treated with the ideas in LotR, I might be sympathetic. But it doesn't actually. It attributes ideas to the LotR that are not found in it, and which are often as not contrary to the text itself. It's an ugly fabrication.

And if a writer of some foreign nation created an original epic based on the mythos of that nation, I'd probably be very sympathetic to it. It wouldn't disturb me in the slightest that a Russian equated Westerners with dangerous invaders. Heck, as blatant of a propaganda piece as the Stalinist work 'Alexander Nevsky' is, it's still a great work of art, and Tolkien's work is far more nuanced than 'Alexander Nevsky'. And among other things, Tolkien's work - to the limited extent it addresses colonialist themes at all, and for the most part it doesn't because it's grounded in medieval mythos and not colonialist or post-colonialist - it's explicitly anti-colonialist.

As a test, here is how you know you've hit the mark when bringing a different perspective to an idea. If the person with a different perspective is required to defend as reasonable your take on things then it's truly a different perspective. If for example Tolkien upon reading 'The Last Ringbearer' would have been inclined to argue that even with the different perspective the elves are still the good guys, then you know you've done well. But neither I nor Tolkien need to defend the 'people of the West' as imagined in 'The Last Ringbearer'.

Besides which, I'm wondering if you've actually read it. On the whole, 'The Last Ringbearer' does not really take umbrage at the whole east/west colonialist thing. In fact, this shouldn't even be particularly surprising considering the guy is Russian, and if we wanted to have a talk about colonialism and the eradication of native peoples and cultures folks from Russia would not have a moral leg to stand on with respect to lecturing anyone. I strongly suggest anyone investigate Russia's history of treatment of the aboriginal peoples of Asia if you want to have a discussion about colonialism. Eskov certainly isn't interested in that discussion.

No, the real thing that burns the britches of Eskov is Tolkien's Catholicism, theism, and as he would have it anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism, and Luddite tendency to reject technological progress. The fight in 'The Last Ringbearer' is between Reason (as symbolized by the Orcs) and Magic (as symbolized by the Elves). This is not a simplistic East versus West conflict in Eskov's version of the history either, at least if you mean by East and West the real world's east and west. According to Eskov, 'The Lord of the Rings' is about the rejection of reason, and not especially about "Colonialism" or even "Racism" except to the extent that the forces of Superstition use that to advance their cause. The book ends with magic/superstition defeated, and the survivors of the war entering into an new age of Enlightened Industrialism.
 
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