Setting Creation and the use of existing cultures

Lukas Sjöström

Society of Unity scholar
Validated User
I guess this is a political question. For example, there's a game coming out called Orun based on Yoruba (iirc) mythology. I'm british cis and white, I love the idea of that kind of myth, but it isn't my culture - and there's a history there. I'd be a white guy using African culture. Now maybe I shouldn't, but that does make me question whether that's a good idea.
Shouldn't play it, you mean? I don't know, I'd be pretty miffed if I wrote a game and I realised that people who would normally be interested in it avoided it because they're not comfortable portraying the culture therein.
 

soltakss

Simon Phipp - RQ Fogey
Validated User
I guess this is a political question. For example, there's a game coming out called Orun based on Yoruba (iirc) mythology. I'm british cis and white, I love the idea of that kind of myth, but it isn't my culture - and there's a history there. I'd be a white guy using African culture. Now maybe I shouldn't, but that does make me question whether that's a good idea.
I've written about Mongols and Steppe Nomads, Medieval Knights and Outlaws and Stone Age Hunters-Gatherers, none of which are part of my ethnic background, except perhaps the Medieval Knights/Outlaws. For me, it doesn't matter who writes something, as long as it is done in a sensitive and researched way.

Now, playing the games is a different matter entirely, as playing RPGs in a different culture is always going to have a great big dollop of cultural appropriation. If I play a game based on Yoruba mythology, then I am going to do it based on the background in the game, or based on online research, with a large amount of my own interpretation. For me, that is fine, but if someone from that culture saw me playing it, they'd probably hate how I played it and what I did.

But, that is what happens in Roleplaying Games, you take a role from another culture and play that role. If I had to worry about cultural misappropriation then I would only play White English Computer Programmers, which would be my idea of hell.
 

Ghosthead

Registered User
Validated User
I guess this is a political question. For example, there's a game coming out called Orun based on Yoruba (iirc) mythology. I'm british cis and white, I love the idea of that kind of myth, but it isn't my culture - and there's a history there. I'd be a white guy using African culture. Now maybe I shouldn't, but that does make me question whether that's a good idea.
Makes sense to avoid if we're trying to totally swerve cultural appropriation in all senses, including as some currently conceived. TTrpgs are an inherently creative medium and you'd be inevitably creating and assuming an acting role within another, historical culture, so that could fall into it. Even by only reading it and talking about, you'd possibly be generating ideas and discourse that fall into some people's ideas that could be considered cultural appropriation.

If you're working to another definition where cultural appropriation is about taking artforms and inspirations and then not acknowledging their origin or treating that origin respectfully, then from your general posting and generally being concerned about this in the first place, I suspect you're mostly going to be alright. (This is the older, more 2000s sort of form of the term where claiming rock music has no African-American origin or downplaying it, certainly is cultural appropriation, while an all-white Temptations tribute band isn't really).
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
As an alternative to mashing two cultures together, introduce some other external stimulus that will change the culture in question anyway - this way, any inaccuracies can be explained away as a result of this external change.

For example, for my "Returned Maztica" project the native not-Aztec and not-Mayan cultures have had to deal with the introduction of arcane magic, steel weapons and armor, horses, cattle, and the arrival of several additional cultures from another world (that is, dragonborn and genasi). While unlike in our world the native culture largely survives and is not supplanted by that of the colonists (since there is no apocalyptic smallpox plague), the native culture still goes through a number of significant changes that cause it to deviate further from their real world counterparts. Thus, they are a homage, but they do not pretend to accurately represent real world Aztec and Mayan civilizations.
 

Professor Polyhedral

Registered User
Banned
Validated User
I want to create a Wakanda style setting, based around ancient Egypt (the usual mythological elements: gods, mummies, serpents, etc). But I can't help thinking that naming it Khemet (as opposed to...? I don't know) or something like that at the very least invites associations of politics I'm not equipped to deal with or probably don't even understand. I'm not of colour, I'm not a 'hotep' for instance. Can I even do a project like this? What are the issues?
 

soltakss

Simon Phipp - RQ Fogey
Validated User
I want to create a Wakanda style setting, based around ancient Egypt (the usual mythological elements: gods, mummies, serpents, etc). But I can't help thinking that naming it Khemet (as opposed to...? I don't know) or something like that at the very least invites associations of politics I'm not equipped to deal with or probably don't even understand. I'm not of colour, I'm not a 'hotep' for instance.
I don't know how many Ancient Egyptians there are nowadays, so you should be OK.

Seriously, though, modern Egyptians might be descended from Ancient Egyptians, but culturally they are very far removed. Even Copts are very different from Ancient Egyptians and they seem to be the oldest surviving Egyptian people, so why worry?


Can I even do a project like this?
Yes, of course you can. What is stopping you, other than your own fears and insecurities?

What are the issues?
Be sensitive, be culturally aware, do some research and you should be OK.

Work on a theme. If you want to concentrate on the pyramid builders, or the river folk, of farmers then do so. If you want to focus on the Exodus then do so. If you want a magical campaign based on the Book of the Dead and Egyptian deities, then do so. Work out what you want to base it on, write that up, then look at outsiders and other people, write them up, then look at religion and write that up, then look at scenarios and write them up and so on.
 
Top Bottom