[Let's Read] AC9: Creature Catalogue

Dagor

Registered User
Validated User
This is drawing from what I've read by, and what I've read about Robert Howard specifically (it may very well apply beyond that, but I can name characters from Howard's work more readily), but my thoughts there...

It's not all that hard to find an example of an "exceptional" read not completely shallow and horrible nonwhite character in his stories. But the depiction of black people in general - this is drawing on having a copy of Solomon Kane stories, so not just "thinly veiled" but "actually in Africa" - can charitably be called hit or miss. And for gaming history reasons unrelated to racism as such, s lot of the stuff drawing from his work as far as RPGs go has a tendency to focus on "There are the protagonists, the Major Enemies, and the nameless spear carriers.".

It's not hard to note the characters that get left out or downplayed.

I'm sure there's more to it than that, but it does strike me as one element that's less than lovely in "modern" gaming.
Oh, I'm certainly not trying to sell anyone on Howard & Co. as unsung paragons of diversity or anything like that. The problems with their writing are quite real and entirely theirs to own (at least inasmuch as the original writing was itself theirs, in cases of pastiches, "completed"/"improved" stories, and such any other authors involved naturally get to shoulder their share of responsibility as well).

What I think I can feel reasonably justified in saying, though, is that anyone who can't even seem to clear the relatively low bar set by the occasional better parts of their work is probably not even trying.
 

Elfwine

Registered User
Validated User
Lizard men from Spelljammer are perfectly “civilized”, building their own class of spaceship (complete with onboard pool to soak in) and having no adjustments to their ability scores as PCs compared to humans (meaning they’re neither less Intelligent nor less Wise).
Spelljammer is not something I'm all that familiar with, are they treated as "civilized" because of the "spaceship building" - as in, all spaceship builders are treated similarly?

Oh, I'm certainly not trying to sell anyone on Howard & Co. as unsung paragons of diversity or anything like that. The problems with their writing are quite real and entirely theirs to own (at least inasmuch as the original writing was itself theirs, in cases of pastiches, "completed"/"improved" stories, and such any other authors involved naturally get to shoulder their share of responsibility as well).

]What I think I can feel reasonably justified in saying, though, is that anyone who can't even seem to clear the relatively low bar set by the occasional better parts of their work is probably not even trying.
Yeah. Just kind of not-so-quietly stunned at the degree.

"even more one dimensional than the village Solomon Kane rescues from the harpies or something, which is so forgettable that I don't remember which story it was" is almost like negative trying.
 

Trireme

Registered User
Validated User
Spelljammer is not something I'm all that familiar with, are they treated as "civilized" because of the "spaceship building" - as in, all spaceship builders are treated similarly?
I’m not really sure what that would mean, since some of the spaceships in that setting were grown rather than built in ways that resembled real-world shipbuilding, or were giant enchanted stone pyramids filled with undead, etc., but as far as this particular race goes, they were essentially treated as an alternative to humans from a world without them, albeit with seemingly edition-mandated class restrictions. As I mentioned, they are, down to the rules themselves, no less intelligent or wise than humans. They also built their ships the normal way, or as close to it as you got in Spelljammer.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
This viewpoint is baffling to me. There are lots of reasons to use orcs and elves and dragon-people instead of humans even if the orcs and elves and dragon-people are relatable and have individual personalities and act largely like people do. There's an Internet full of fanart that literally illustrates people's attraction to the concept.

Sometimes people are just "I would like to be an adventurous archaeologist from a fantasy equivalent of the Library of Alexandria, seeking out ancient lore and new wonders to catalog, and I would also like to be a six-foot-six tower of muscle with green skin and big canines."
That baffles me. If you consider appearance to be cosmetic, then why not just play a game where anyone can just choose to be towering green? Because once you go with race, that brings in all kinds of baggage.

(And wow, did this thread move fast last night.)
 

Trireme

Registered User
Validated User
Is being gigantic or having a scaly hide or whatever “cosmetic” in most games with rules for size, armor rating, etc.?
 

ESkemp

Registered User
Validated User
That baffles me. If you consider appearance to be cosmetic, then why not just play a game where anyone can just choose to be towering green? Because once you go with race, that brings in all kinds of baggage.
Because I have no actual reason to. There's no incentive to say "Here's an idea, instead of playing your orc archaeologist concept, why don't you just be a human who's big and green and has a Strength bonus?" I gain nothing from requiring orcs to be Sufficiently Distinct from humans. My players aren't happier, I don't feel like my campaign is more intellectually pure, and the approval of gamers I'll never play with who do require orcs to be distinctly inhuman doesn't benefit my game.

In either of my groups, people have one or more of the following personality traits:

- Dislikes stereotypes/monocultures
- Likes the mechanical possibilities of a specific race
- Likes new twists on old cliches
- Enjoys the familiarity of D&D
- Likes cosmopolitan settings like Al-Qadim where species does not determine culture
- Likes to participate in world-building
- Starts character design with visuals

I'm confused by the "there's no reason to play an orc if it's going to act like a human" viewpoint because the above is a list of reasons that I interact with weekly. Sure, maybe a given gamer prefers the distinctly inhuman orc, but there are objectively reasons to have orcs that "act like humans." I hang with players who range along the spectrum from "Hey, I have an idea for a specific dragonborn culture" to "Yeah, I'm playing an urbane sorcerer with a friend in every tavern... oh yeah, also he's a gnoll." Letting species "distinctiveness" run a spectrum is very gameable, and also feeds my own personality traits (which include a few of the above). For my gaming purposes, redefining "human" so that "orc" can boast a specific level of ideological distinctiveness is all trouble, no value.
 
Last edited:

Talisman

The Man of Talis
RPGnet Member
Validated User
🔴 Warning
Posting from work, so bear with me.

I'd like to think I've been very consistently saying "it's really easy to be racist when you do this" and/or "it's really easy to sound racist when you say that". Authorial intent and how something reads to a reader are two different things, and your innocent intention can easily look really damn racist.

This is kinda a problem with the discourse around racism: Many of us have so integrated "racism is evil!!!!" into ourselves that nobody is willing to go "oh, that thing I said was a bit racist. I am so sorry, I didn't mean it like that". Even though slips of the tongue are common (surely we've all said things that 'sounded wrong', right?).
Maybe I have been a little defensive here, and if so, I apologize.

It's not racist in the sense that it marks you as a card-carrying member of the KKK. It IS racist in the sense that it could make someone feel like you were racist if they discovered that setting detail, because the Author Is Dead.

By itself, it's probably fine - but if gnolls (the demon-worshipping bloodthirsty monster humanoids) are the *only* humanoids in your setting who do anything like that, it starts looking worse, because now you've decided that revering birds and wearing feathers is *not* something the "good" "civilized" races do.
Okay, that makes sense. I will add the caveat that darn near any ethnic or cultural detail can look racist if taken out of context and/or the reader is specifically trying to find something to be offended by.

The archetypal "chainmail bikini hero" is literally called the Barbarian. Going "they might be primitive, but they're also hot!" is worse, not better.
And "barbarian" is generally, at least in gaming circles, not portrayed as a bad thing. Example A: Conan the, um, what was his title? Accountant? Sous-chef? Tons of D&D parties have a barbarian right between the cleric and the wizard.

Heck, "barbarian" cultures are often portrayed as wiser and more honest than their soft, city-dwelling neighbor.

Just... don't make them the closest thing your setting has to [ethnicity/culture/religion X] unless you *want* to imply group X are evil. It's not exactly rocket science.

Repetition: Don't make [the evil hellspawn] the closest thing your setting has to [ethnicity/culture/religion X] unless you *want* to imply group X are evil.
Makes sense.

I still thing it's possible to have tribal nonhumans without automatically having inferior nonhumans.

I apologize for my part in this tangent. :cry:
No worries. It's relevant - we are discussing the Humanoids chapter , and there are plenty of "savage" examples. Just wait until we get to the "Men" section! :eek:

Playing Devil’s advocate here: “it’s not their fault they’re born violent, evil and/or easily dominated” was and is the ideology of a great deal of real-world pseudo-scientific racism.
I would argue that in RL, that's an excuse to assert that Our Culture Is Superior. In Middle-earth, orcish culture is demonstrably violent and cruel and vicious, largely because they have an actual evil demigod forcibly compelling them to evil behavior.

I’m not sure that means that inherently evil monsters should never be used in context of fantasy, but I’m pretty sure this particular approach to it won’t be at all convincing to those who are troubled by them. In fact, it’s kind of the ultimate example of what bothers certain people about the idea.
I prefer my inherently evil monsters (as in, monsters that were born evil and do evil things because it's hard-coded into their DNA) to be fiends, some undead, and the occasional individual monster (and aberrations, though I consider them more "so alien they're inescapably harmful" rather than "malicious for the sake of malice"). For intelligent, thinking creatures (that aren't fiends), evil should be a choice. An orc raised in a non-evil environment will be no more evil than an elf or a dwarf, even if they do have personality traits different from either.
 

JoeNotCharles

Registered User
Validated User
Crone of Chaos
Bssic's version of a hag (aside from, you know, the actual hags), a crone of chaos is "an intelligent, evil-natured creature who uses deception to cause pain and suffering" (insert "sounds like my ex!" joke here). They look like ugly old women with sharp claws on their giant man-hands, and normally live "alone in evil forests or desolate wilderness, often in a cave." They're not the most friendly and sociable of people, if you haven't already picked up on that.

Crones of chaos have 6* HD, AC 7, and attack with their weirdly large hands for 1-6/1-6 damage. They have several magical powers which the text assures us are "natural powers, not spells," but they can be detected by detect magic and dispelled with dispel magic. They have an "illusion power" that lets them change their appearance, usually to that of a beautiful young female thing, in the tradition of at least 50% of D&D's female monsters (the other 50% already are beautiful young female things). A crone can maintain her illusion power while using her other totally-not-spells, and will only fight in her true form if surprised or forced to.

A crone of chaos possesses two other magical powers, both with a range of 240'. The first, animal control, allows her to seize control of 1-6 normal or giant animals automatically, with no save. No duration is listed, so I guess she can maintain this control indefinitely. The second, daggers of sorcery, creates 1-6 ghostly white flying daggers, which each attack a different enemy and which fight until destroyed. The daggers are AC 2, 1 HD, 1 hp, and do 1-4 damage. When a dagger is destroyed, all those who fought it must make a Saving Throw vs Spells or be dizzy (-2 to Hit Rolls and Saving Throws) for six rounds.

Crones of chaos are your classic hag: evil old women with magical powers who live in desolate places and do evil things. They probably eat small children and talk loudly in the movies, too. Aside from that, they don't really have a theme or a gimmick; they're just generically evil because evil. I'm not sure they really qualify for the Humanoids section; they feel more like Monsters. Sure, they're humanoid in physical form, but they don't seem to be Fantasy People, with their own culture and beliefs and lands and children and so on. Their role is that of a monster, not a person.
OK, this one's from B8. Maybe?

I wonder why they called it "crone" and not "hag". I assumed it was lower level than traditional AD&D hags, but it's not that out of line.
 

Crinos

Next to me you're all number two!
Validated User
OK, this one's from B8. Maybe?

I wonder why they called it "crone" and not "hag". I assumed it was lower level than traditional AD&D hags, but it's not that out of line.
I presume because Crone has better alliteration with chaos. I mean Hag of Chaos doesn't quite roll off the tongue as well does it?

Although it does give me a thought. In the Scarred lands setting Hags are not born, they are made. They are recruited from exiled, abused and otherwise disaffected woman, who are fed a vile potion and have their humanity stripped away by their adopted Hag Mothers until they assume the form and power of Hags (They can even do the process to children to create little minions called Haglings).

So, what if the name Crone was used to differentiate between the two. Like Hags are naturally born Hags, and Crones are mortal women who transformed into Hags. Does that scan?
 
Top Bottom