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#55: Beating a Dark Horse

SaintTzu

New member
Banned
I take the author's points here, and appreciate the follow-up to the last column.

What bothered me most about the previous column, and a bit about this one as well, is the assumption of perspective. What I mean is that the points made are largely about the columnist's inferences about what D&D was, and what parts of the game 'mapped to'.

Perhaps to some Orcs were an analog of 'sub-human' aboriginal racial groups, and that as our understanding of race and culture develop so must our view of the Orc. But I don't see that this is a universal inference nor do I see it enshrined in the rules or early settings.

Its wonderful that the columnist was able to use the game material to create a complex and subtle commentary about, at least in part, an increasing understanding of 'the other'. It sounds like a fine and personally fulfilling piece of work. However I brought a different set of cultural perspectives to the rules when I started playing, and I don't recognize the columnist's assumptions in my early games.

What the columnist has transformed seems to be his own cultural biases. This may well turn the way he plays D&D around completely. This is no doubt all to the good, but it doesn't seem to rise to hyperbolic level of 'turning D&D on its head'.
 

Old Geezer

Active member
Banned
Perhaps to some Orcs were an analog of 'sub-human' aboriginal racial groups,
Perhaps so.

To me, Orcs are a Jungian externalization of first, my fear of the dark, and second, of my fears in general.

Killing Orcs is a Jungian metaphor of my internal struggle to reconcile with my Shadow.

Yes, I'm at least partially serious.
 

Zeea

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Great article. :)

I think the previous article suffered a little from a lack of context. (In other words, there wasn't a lot of explanation as to _why_ the author was talking about the subject, so we're left to make assumptions.) This article does a lot to clarify things, and explains why the previous article was related to increasing the fun of the game rather than just an analytical exercise. Also, it really helps that the author clarifies that it's not an attempt to label everyone but the author a certain way, which is the impression most people get from many similar essays. Mainly, this article helps clear up the "Everyone that ever played D&D played it the exact same way at first" impression that the previous article gave.
 

fmitchell

Frank Mitchell
Agreed, this article put the other in perspective, although the author should have introduced the first article with material from this one ...

And yes, I do think "orcs" or other disposable monsters are more acceptable stand-ins for hordes of attacking Zulus, Indians, "Huns", or other swarthy foreigners The Hero slaughters en masse to prove his Heroism. (More psychological analyses conveniently sidestep flesh hewed, blood shed, and lives extinguished.)

I also agree with the author, and someone on the forums, that D&D is *not* a good tool for exploring themes of understanding the Other or exploring other cultures. Fundamentally, D&D's experience system rewards killing things and taking their stuff. You can add in "roleplaying rewards" or "mission completion" rewards, but the rules explicitly reward a body count (the tougher the opponent, the better) and at least in earlier editions quantities of loot gained. After 3rd edition's rules experiments, 4th edition pretty much trimmed characters and rules down to the "adventuring" basics: killing things and "skill challenges" for foiling traps and other non-killing-things conflicts.
 

GrahamWills

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And yes, I do think "orcs" or other disposable monsters are more acceptable stand-ins for hordes of attacking Zulus, Indians, "Huns", or other swarthy foreigners

...

[D&D] 4th edition pretty much trimmed characters and rules down to the "adventuring" basics: killing things and "skill challenges" for foiling traps and other non-killing-things conflicts.
On the first point, a better statement might be that it "can be a stand in" rather than making it an absolute. If I were feeling adventurous, I might even suggest that that might be more likely for somewhat older players. Looking at my kids and how they have grown up, they don't really have that baggage or historical experience. Honestly, for the younger video game generation, I think that orcs / call-of-duty enemy soldiers / Valkyria-Chronicles imperials / whatever are purely and simply things to kill to gain stuff.

I should also point out that 4th edition actually EXPANDS 3.5 experience rules, which were, as published in D&D materials, pretty exclusively killing things. 4th edition now also has experience in rules AND in published adventures for skill challenges (as pointed out) and also quest awards for achieving goals. When I run the game, I ignore the experience for killing things and just use bigger quest goals. I use the experience levels of monsters (as suggested in the rules) only to scale encounters.

- Graham Wills
 

fmitchell

Frank Mitchell
On the first point, a better statement might be that it "can be a stand in" rather than making it an absolute. If I were feeling adventurous, I might even suggest that that might be more likely for somewhat older players. Looking at my kids and how they have grown up, they don't really have that baggage or historical experience. Honestly, for the younger video game generation, I think that orcs / call-of-duty enemy soldiers / Valkyria-Chronicles imperials / whatever are purely and simply things to kill to gain stuff.
Not to sound like an alarmist news reporter, but I don't think that attitude is any better. Taking the racial/national/cultural stereotypes out still leaves an implicit attitude that some people are expendable. No doubt context is important -- holding a videogame controller is wholly different from holding a real gun -- and the vast majority of video gamers won't turn into Kliebold and Harris. Still, I wonder what subtler life lessons might emerge, or fail to sink in, after blowing away virtual people day after day.

4th edition now also has experience in rules AND in published adventures for skill challenges (as pointed out) and also quest awards for achieving goals.
Point taken; I haven't actually read the 4e DMG. As a player, even with an excellent DM, I still got the impression that the rules covered mainly combat, and the DM drew any other plot developments or conflict from his own substantial experience. It's nice to know he wasn't entirely winging the not-killing-things parts.
 

Omenowl

Retired User
The funny thing is I thought D&D actually broke down the whole aspect of racial inequality. Everything was an archetypal stereotype the powers, the classes, the races were all based upon mythology not fact. Your party was usually all different races and each had their own value to the group. Racial issues were more for fun and when your back was to the wall your elf/dwarf/halfling/human friend was there to pull you out of the fire. The world had a clear delineation between good and evil. Monsters were there as an obstacle and in many cases it was your life or theirs. It removed the moral issues for killing if 2 owlbears decided to attack you or the rampaging orc army was going to destroy your village. No one questions the motives of the seven samurai. The samurai were good and marauders were bad and this was D&D's appeal at the core. Alignment mattered.

Admittedly, it was for a simpler time in my life where things seemed much more black and white. The goal was simple and usually straight forward. Dungeons were linear and the rewards were tangible (levels, gold, magic, etc). It worked well for a 8 year old to a 15 year old.

As I grew older I got tired of the level systems and severe unbalance in players. I wanted players to use their brain and to defeat much more powerful creatures not with magic, but with planning. I wanted players to fear a group of townfolk with pitchforks regardless of how skillful they were. I also wanted players to feel people were useful based on their skills not that they were a level 1 character so he couldn't play with the level 10s, or players with normal stats of 8-12 could play with those of 16-18. I wanted your actions to say whether you were good or evil not some spell.

Now I have nearly come full circle. The game is less important than the people playing. The goal is to have fun and socialize with like people. Not so much about race, but rather people who have similar values for free thought and those who question everything. Those who believe we can change a world more to our liking and are hopeful. I can honestly say if it wasn't for D&D I would have never learned as much about history, economics, science, mythology, poetry, etc. It was the desire to build my own worlds with depth, consistency and reasonable logic for what was going on that made me constantly learn.

Still growing up on myths of courage, heroism, intellect and hopeless odds had to infect me somehow. I would rather fight a good fight and lose rather than sit back complaining how the world is becoming worse every day. I still question motives and consequences. I still believe compromising your values for easy personal gain diminishes one's soul. It is childish, naive and frustrating, but if I lose these things I will be empty and dead inside.
 
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