D&D 5E Yes to factionalism. No to racism.


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Yaarel

Mind Mage
Community isn't well-defined either, and might be too small for a world-spanning game. Nation is probably better as a baseline.
A "nation" is too large and vague, mechanically. To try assign specific mechanics to every member of an entire nation is the same thing as an ethnic stereotype. It would be begging for Visanti-like problematics.

Dividing a nation up into diverse kinds of "communities" allows more fluidity and openness to adaptation and evolution. Plus it is more realistic and has better verisimilitude for game play.



The only mechanic I would be comfortable assigning to an entire "nation" is a language, or perhaps a dialect of a language. But D&D purposefully simplifies (and racializes) languages into a small number. So language as a culture-defining tool is less available in 5e.




A "community" is purposefully flexible. It can cover anything from a religious institution, to a governing body, to a military order, to an ethnic neighborhood, to an educational academy, to a nightclub scene, to any kind of human(oid) "culture".
 

A "nation" is too large and vague, mechanically. To try assign specific mechanics to every member of an entire nation is the same thing as an ethnic stereotype. It would be begging for Visanti-like problematics.

Dividing a nation up into diverse kinds of "communities" allows more fluidity and openness to adaptation and evolution. Plus it is more realistic and has better verisimilitude for game play.



The only mechanic I would be comfortable assigning to an entire "nation" is a language, or perhaps a dialect of a language. But D&D purposefully simplifies (and racializes) languages into a small number. So language as a culture-defining tool is less available in 5e.




A "community" is purposefully flexible. It can cover anything from a religious institution, to a governing body, to a military order, to an ethnic neighborhood, to an educational academy, to a nightclub scene, to any kind of human(oid) "culture".
Fair enough. How many of these cultures do you need then? How many pages are dedicated to them?
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Fair enough. How many of these cultures do you need then? How many pages are dedicated to them?

As a rule of thumb.

The DM might have three communities in mind, in detail, including internal factions and respective prominent backgrounds. Plus ten more communities with a superficial impression. A DM can handwaive (even ignore) other communities beyond the thirteen.

If it is a world setting, the thirteen communities might be the prominent species. If it is a regional setting, the communities might be the prominent nations. If a local setting, the communities might be the prominent institutions. It depends on the setting.

Start small, and work outward from there, as the players explore and engage the diversity.

Note, Strixhaven is a local setting with five main communities. But as DM I would still only focus on three of them in detail. The other two I would engage less. Later on, I might swap which three I am paying close attention to.



With regard to the Players Handbook, I prefer the core rules to be as setting-agnostic as possible.

In the core rules, setting-specific backgrounds seem less helpful. I am comfortable with a list of (thirteen?) flexible medieval backgrounds in the Players Handbook. I might update it to add Farmer, Oracle, and a magical background. Also showcase the very different kinds of "asset" that each background can offer, including spell knowledge. Then add a note that the DM may have other backgrounds available and also grant benefits for a background depending on the adventure setting.

I am glad the designers now emphasize the cultures of each species depends on the setting. The drow cultures in one region of Forgotten Realms might be different from the drow cultures in an other region of Forgotten Realms, nevermind in Eberron and in Dark Sun.

I like cultural details in a setting guide or an adventure book, and culture-building tools in the DMs Guide.
 
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Hussar

Legend
Isn't the whole point that things are never going to be as cut and dried as you want?

You're always going to have a situation where every decision/event is unique, because this isn't a video game, you don't have X morality points for Y action. Indeed, RPGs have tried that, like Vampire: The Masquerade, and I can assure you, it works extremely badly unless you have a Storyteller who is willing to ignore the system and use their brain instead. I mean, some (most?) versions of Humanity literally made it worse to take a golf club to some dude's BMW than to take the same golf club to owner of said BMW's face.

Demanding fixed morality stuff like that just really doesn't end well.
I dunno. I'm pretty sure executing lawful good priests without any sort of trial is evil. The amount of mental jujitsu required to try to work around that is pretty impressive.

See, it's never "oh, well, he only killed one priest, so, he's not evil." The fact that he killed a priest like that makes the character evil because a good character wouldn't do that.

Then again, I've seen people try to justify good alignments on Belkar from Order of the Stick. :erm: And all sorts of clearly evil characters. "I like this character, so, it can't possibly be evil" seems very much at the heart of most alignment debates.
 

I dunno. I'm pretty sure executing lawful good priests without any sort of trial is evil. The amount of mental jujitsu required to try to work around that is pretty impressive.
I don't think them being "Lawful Good" has much to do with anything. Are they innocent or guilty or what? It would be very easy to be LN and execute the hell out of LG people who ended up on the wrong side of the law.

Executing Chaotic Evil people "without any sort of trial" is potentially just as Evil and it's takes mental ninjitsu to pretend it isn't, frankly.
 

Can you be more specific?

Do you mean that in a given campaign, the DM is only using Drow a small number of times and they all come from the same group? Fair enough. No problems.

Or, do you mean you are world building, where you have Drow states comprising of thousands, if not tens of thousands of individuals spread across multiple communities? In which case, the single faction idea gets a whole lot less interesting.
Not being confrontational with my question. I am just really curious what people think. I will be more specific:

In a fantasy world, where there is no internet Facetime or mass airline travel; where gods exert their influence with tactics much stronger than a political rally where everyone votes the same; can a nation of 50,000 drow living underground, cut off from the outside world except when they raid - can they almost all be evil?

Thank you for helping me clarify. Context is king.
 

Hussar

Legend
I don't think them being "Lawful Good" has much to do with anything. Are they innocent or guilty or what? It would be very easy to be LN and execute the hell out of LG people who ended up on the wrong side of the law.

Executing Chaotic Evil people "without any sort of trial" is potentially just as Evil and it's takes mental ninjitsu to pretend it isn't, frankly.
Well, true. Fair enough. Executing anyone without a trial is evil, full stop. A Lawful Neutral character would be acting very out of character to execute someone without due process. However, the point here is executing someone without due process is neither lawful nor good.

Which means that alignment gets really difficult to justify. If it's just "well, sometimes someone might act this way" then it's pointless because you can simply claim that this or that is an "exception" and that the character is still whatever alignment you want to claim.

Alignment is an idea whose time has very much passed and I, for one, am very glad to see it getting gently nudged out of the game.
 

Scribe

Hero
I don't think them being "Lawful Good" has much to do with anything. Are they innocent or guilty or what? It would be very easy to be LN and execute the hell out of LG people who ended up on the wrong side of the law.

Executing Chaotic Evil people "without any sort of trial" is potentially just as Evil and it's takes mental ninjitsu to pretend it isn't, frankly.
The incident in question I believe, and I've quick clicked through this multiple times so it may be flawed.

Desna Priests/Faithful received warning of issue with the Wardstone.
Desna Priests take it to the authorities.
Desna Priests are rebuffed.
Desna Priests break the law.

Now, if thats the way it went, and I think it is but I've got a blinding headache and dont want to play through it again right now, then as far as a LN Inquisitor is concerned, its 'Guilty'.

Then fast forward, the city is in flames, hes been 'proven' right in his eyes, and everywhere he looks there are Cultists and Demons, and hes been attacked by one at least.

Thats the scenario where you find him talking to the Desna Priest, ready to drop some judgment.
 

Hussar

Legend
/snip can a nation of 50,000 drow living underground, cut off from the outside world except when they raid - can they almost all be evil?
See, there's the problem I'm having. "Cut off except when they raid"? How can a society exist like this? That's not how it works. Neighbours trade and mix because that's what happens. Expecially when we're talking about societies of highly intelligent, virtually immortal individuals who spend considerable time rubbing shoulders with other intelligent races. Even if it's just slaves, that interaction affects things.

Communication might be slower, of course, but, it still happens. And it happens a lot.

The whole mono-culture approach is just really hard to swallow.
 

See, there's the problem I'm having. "Cut off except when they raid"? How can a society exist like this? That's not how it works. Neighbours trade and mix because that's what happens. Expecially when we're talking about societies of highly intelligent, virtually immortal individuals who spend considerable time rubbing shoulders with other intelligent races. Even if it's just slaves, that interaction affects things.

Communication might be slower, of course, but, it still happens. And it happens a lot.

The whole mono-culture approach is just really hard to swallow.
Yes, and they can trade with the duergar and mind flayers and maybe even the goblins that live down below as well. All of whom feel like backstabbing, slavery, and other moral monstrosities are completely acceptable. And they have been told by their god that the above worlders are evil; they stole the above world. So much so it makes drow sick when they stay up there in the sun. Could they ever need more evidence that their god is right than always feeling sick in daylight?
 

Reynard

Legend
So my problem with "factionalism versus racism" in D&D as a way to avoid negative stereotyping is that it is a distinction without a difference.

At the risk of talking too much about real world issues, let me explain what I mean this way:

It is bad to say that all orcs are dangerous, evil threats, but it is okay to say that all members of the Orc Supremacist Society are because they raid human villages and such are. That's fine, at a very surface level. But if the goal is to stop dangerous real world stereotyping bleeding into D&D, it's really no better. There are a lot of complex reasons why young orc men join the OSS, and branding all of them as evil terrorists is simplistic and problematic.

My point is this: generally speaking, in action adventure storytelling where victory is measured by conflict, we want troops to mow down: nazis, terrorists, bandits, cultists, etc... But if your goal is to eliminate the kind of gross generalizations that take races out of the categories for those things, then it is a little hypocritical to just shrug and accept "faction" members as acceptable for summary execution. Why are we drawing the line here versus there, is my question.

And listen, I get why people think "all orcs are evil" is bad in context. My point is that if we really want to confront this idea in D&D that violence is the solution, then we can't simply kick the can down from "race" to "faction."
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
So my problem with "factionalism versus racism" in D&D as a way to avoid negative stereotyping is that it is a distinction without a difference.

At the risk of talking too much about real world issues, let me explain what I mean this way:

It is bad to say that all orcs are dangerous, evil threats, but it is okay to say that all members of the Orc Supremacist Society are because they raid human villages and such are. That's fine, at a very surface level. But if the goal is to stop dangerous real world stereotyping bleeding into D&D, it's really no better. There are a lot of complex reasons why young orc men join the OSS, and branding all of them as evil terrorists is simplistic and problematic.

My point is this: generally speaking, in action adventure storytelling where victory is measured by conflict, we want troops to mow down: nazis, terrorists, bandits, cultists, etc... But if your goal is to eliminate the kind of gross generalizations that take races out of the categories for those things, then it is a little hypocritical to just shrug and accept "faction" members as acceptable for summary execution. Why are we drawing the line here versus there, is my question.

And listen, I get why people think "all orcs are evil" is bad in context. My point is that if we really want to confront this idea in D&D that violence is the solution, then we can't simply kick the can down from "race" to "faction."
Except that factions are joined by choice, but one doesn't choose one's race.
 


Vaalingrade

Legend
It is bad to say that all orcs are dangerous, evil threats, but it is okay to say that all members of the Orc Supremacist Society are because they raid human villages and such are. That's fine, at a very surface level. But if the goal is to stop dangerous real world stereotyping bleeding into D&D, it's really no better. There are a lot of complex reasons why young orc men join the OSS, and branding all of them as evil terrorists is simplistic and problematic.
What.

Branding race supremacists who actively choose to attack civilian populations (ie - committing terrorism) as terrorists is a function of language, not 'simplistic' or 'problematic'.

If they were just obnoxious whiny orc frat boys who get together and oink angrily about how humans keep them from getting girls and making oil paintings of themselves as the Joker, you'd have a point.
 

The incident in question I believe, and I've quick clicked through this multiple times so it may be flawed.

Desna Priests/Faithful received warning of issue with the Wardstone.
Desna Priests take it to the authorities.
Desna Priests are rebuffed.
Desna Priests break the law.

Now, if thats the way it went, and I think it is but I've got a blinding headache and dont want to play through it again right now, then as far as a LN Inquisitor is concerned, its 'Guilty'.

Then fast forward, the city is in flames, hes been 'proven' right in his eyes, and everywhere he looks there are Cultists and Demons, and hes been attacked by one at least.

Thats the scenario where you find him talking to the Desna Priest, ready to drop some judgment.
LN Inquisitor together with allies murders CG priest who does not fight back. LN Inquisitor of the god of Justice does not attempt to arrest priest or hold any sort of trial. Or even cast Zone of Truth.

LN Inquisitor was also burning witches at the stake before the most recent invasion. As far as I can tell, there is no indication that witches in Golarion have any effect on the Worldwound. LN Inquisitor feels uncomfortable when confronted by one of his victims, a NG stigmatized witch.

LG God of Justice does not deny spells to LN Inquisitor for any of the above.
 

Oofta

Legend
I think real world politics are incredibly complex. While I do think there are evil people, people join or are conscripted into groups that do evil things for all sorts of reasons. By the end of WW II, children as young as 12 we're being used to man artillery for the Germans.

It's a lot more complex than I want most of the time. If I want that kind of complexity there are plenty of options.
 

I think real world politics are incredibly complex. While I do think there are evil people, people join or are conscripted into groups that do evil things for all sorts of reasons. By the end of WW II, children as young as 12 we're being used to man artillery for the Germans.

It's a lot more complex than I want most of the time. If I want that kind of complexity there are plenty of options.
I concur.

This is why I strongly disfavour humanoids who reproduce in a "normal" way, have free(ish) will, a child stage, non-combatants, and so on as block "Evil" factions. Because otherwise it's very hard to work around situations where the PCs are likely to come into contact with the non-combatants, question whether the humanoids really went to be there, and so on.

For block "Evil" factions I prefer beings who lack free will, or at the very least don't have non-combatants, kids and so on. Or factions where literally everyone has actively chosen to sign up to Evil (certain kinds of cult, for example).
 

I disagree, I think the issue is expecting to operate it by absolutes, when that's simply not how it functions.

Alignment, is not a straight jacket.
This is very far from expecting alignment to operate by absolutes. At this point, alignment is completely divorced from any real world morality.

If unjustly burning people at the stake is not enough to qualify for the Evil alignment, what is?

If a person only kills one extremely wealthy relative for his fortune, but otherwise takes few moral or immoral actions otherwise, would you consider them Neutral?

Yes, I believe it does.

He's not some bloodthirsty reaver. He's not a closet cultist. He's an appointed official who's duty is to protect the city, by law.
That is operating on a cartoon-level on evil. Halruun is not LE because he may feel slightly bad about burning people at the stake. Not enough to stop mind you, and only when confronted by a person he attempted to burn.

And why would he stop, after all, his LG goddess doesn’t consider this a sufficiently serious transgression to deny him his divine spells.

My impression, is he regrets having burned Ember (I also killed him for it on my first play through...) while Regill for example? Wouldn't care at all.
Or, like most people, he doesn’t like being confronted by his mistakes.

For all that you are accusing the people who criticize the game of lacking nuance, this view of alignment that requires Evil to be unapologetically unrepentantly evil (to the point, as described elsewhere in this thread, where you are randomly attacking passerby) is the one that lacks nuance.
 
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