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The Bigotry Inherent in the System

Zaleramancer

Social Justice Warlock
Validated User
If you write it I'll try to do a zombie setting where the zombies are the good guys. "March of the Living Progressives" "Day of the Multiculturalism Advocates" "Liberal Nation"
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I think one of the issues with the differences between various player race/species in fantasy games is that they are very similar to humans, and form monocultures. This encourages people to, consciously or subconsciously, try to *fit* them to groups you know. It's also a lot easier to, say, create a group of elves and make them nomads, so you do research into the mongols and pattern their customs after those people.

You're basically just creating a single cultural group of humans, except they aren't humans. This is why, say, making them less intelligent can come across so unfortunately. If your fantasy race is a bunch of giant spiders, then it's harder to map them to a human stereotype. It's still possible (people mentioned the insect hive-mind as a stand in for communism), but it may not take on as many racial connotations.

I favor distinct physical differences that lead naturally to differences in how they are played and presented. It's easier to build culture around the idea of "giant semi-communal spiders," because you can look at spiders and go,"What has to happen for them to form social units like humans."*

"How would they feed themselves? Would they have a sustainable food-source revolution like humans and agriculture? What do their shelters look like? Do they form towns? If so what are those like? How do they communicate?"

These can be spun into deeper philosophical or cultural differences. It also helps to back fill some history and cause some seemingly pointless schisms. Create a basic set, then say at some point in history they had a sharp disagreement about dietary needs or proper teaching or something. Split them into groups. Think about how those social units evolved.

Also don't forget that cultures merge and learn from each other.

Worldbuilding like this is kind of complicated and probably a bit exhausting, though, so I don't blame people who don't do it. It also might verge a bit on the sci-fi side of fiction for some people's comfort.

The benefit of this is that if done correctly, it can make it seem more natural when players interact with these different species. You recognize the way that the giant spiders construct low sprawling structures with many wide, short entrances at different heights. You get to enjoy their string-music art form that considers the construction of the instrument as key as the manipulation of it.

It also means you can have multicultural groups by blending these factors. Think about what has to change to include people with human shaped body plans instead of just being giant spiders. Humans need more upright entrances, less areas where it's assumed you can climb walls. They can't make their own silk, so it has to be provided. Etc, etc.

*You can replace "giant spiders" with anything. Big animals, humans but with different body-plans (centaurs or winged), humans but they're carnivores instead of omnivores, etc, etc. This makes it easy for the player to grasp how to play them.
 

Alon

Registered User
Validated User
Actually if I said very slowly the Lord's Prayer in Latin, which I can do, I suspect a 5th-century Christian would understand it.
Yes, lots of things have changed since then. "Beyond recognition", no. We would recognize each other as Christians.
That's not 200 generations, but it's a long stretch.
Sure, and I can read the Canaanite inscription given by Wikipedia at even greater time depth, but exactly zero people assert cultural similarity between the Canaanites and modern-day Israel. A lot of religious Zionists assert similarity between Judaism at the time of the Great Rebellion and modern-day Israel, though, but they are still painfully wrong.

With modern Christianity vs. 5th-century Christianity, the religion has changed so unrecognizably in the intervening 1500 years (for one, Catholic dogma has developed) that nobody would assert it is recognizably the same as Islam or Yazidism, both of which have equal claim of descent from the Christianity of Late Antiquity.

That said, even assuming you're right, you're speaking about human civilizations. Who says a SF alien civilization or a fantasy civilization can't be slower in evolving than we are? Or what if their generations last just 5 years?
Sure, it can. And likewise, technically one could come up with a fantasy race that just so happens to confirm every racial stereotype - ugly, stupid, lazy, extremely violent, fecund ("goblins"). But I reserve the right to judge why such an invented race exists in the first place.
 

DannyK

One Shot Man
Validated User
If there's one thing this thread has done, it's embedded the phrase "Othello, the Orc of Venice" in my mind.
 

macd21

Registered User
Validated User
Hunting-gathering civilizations were the first to exist, before giving way to agriculture, and there are still puny pockets of them here and there today, some 11,000 years after the beginning of agriculture. Interestingly, many of these societies we can know anything about don't seem to bestow more importance to one of the very few relevant activities.

Feudalism, OTOH, did place recognition and status on military prowess and leadership, and from its beginning it lasted more or less 50 generations until the mid-1900s, when nobility finally lost its significance. The Romans were around for about 60 generations, and they gave recognition and status to those who had the ambition, drive, and wealth to pursue the cursus honorum, including during their later stage, the empire. Orthodox Jews are still around and thriving today, and they still place the utmost importance on the same values they already respected 28 centuries ago.
And I would argue that all of the above are good examples of why you’re wrong. Hunter gatherer societies change. Feudalist societies did not remain the same over 50 generations - they massively changed over that time, and the traits they valued changed massively as well. A warrior from the start of that period would be considered an uncouth savage to someone from the end of it. A Roman from the start of your 60 generations wouldn’t recognize the social constructs of his descendants. And no, I don’t think Orthodox Jews from today are the same as ones from 28 centuries ago, or place the utmost importance on the same values. All of these societies changed, adapted, evolved, or collapsed. Even those that claimed to hold the same values as their predecessors changed how they interpreted those values and/or how important they held them to be.
 

Michele

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Validated User
And I would argue that all of the above are good examples of why you’re wrong. Hunter gatherer societies change. Feudalist societies did not remain the same over 50 generations - they massively changed over that time, and the traits they valued changed massively as well. A warrior from the start of that period would be considered an uncouth savage to someone from the end of it. A Roman from the start of your 60 generations wouldn’t recognize the social constructs of his descendants. And no, I don’t think Orthodox Jews from today are the same as ones from 28 centuries ago, or place the utmost importance on the same values. All of these societies changed, adapted, evolved, or collapsed. Even those that claimed to hold the same values as their predecessors changed how they interpreted those values and/or how important they held them to be.
Maybe we should all keep track of what is being argued. I never claimed cultures remain exactly the same - that would obviously be preposterous. I objected to the notion of "change beyond recognition", which was postulated by another poster. Yes, a warrior from the early feudal period would be seen as an uncouth savage by a 18th-century nobleman who is his descendant. The nobleman however would likely have been schooled since his childhood as to riding, fencing, hunting; he would still value his family's position as loyal supporters of the king and managers of their lands; and he might pretty often be an officer in the king's army and therefore a leader of men. He would believe in keeping his word and defending his honor.
My own opinion is that he would still recognize those same virtues in the uncouth ancestor. YMMV.
 

macd21

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Validated User
Maybe we should all keep track of what is being argued. I never claimed cultures remain exactly the same - that would obviously be preposterous. I objected to the notion of "change beyond recognition", which was postulated by another poster. Yes, a warrior from the early feudal period would be seen as an uncouth savage by a 18th-century nobleman who is his descendant. The nobleman however would likely have been schooled since his childhood as to riding, fencing, hunting; he would still value his family's position as loyal supporters of the king and managers of their lands; and he might pretty often be an officer in the king's army and therefore a leader of men. He would believe in keeping his word and defending his honor.
My own opinion is that he would still recognize those same virtues in the uncouth ancestor. YMMV.
Whereas I think this is another good example of why you’re wrong, because I don’t think the two of them would recognize these values in each other. The aristocrat is schooled in horse riding, fencing and hunting because it’s expected of him, for the medieval lord it’s a matter of survival. The aristocrat sees value in his family’s role as loyal supporters of the king and managers of his lands, the warrior’s support for the king is dependent on it remaining a mutually beneficial arrangement, and he manages his own lands, and fuck the king if he thinks otherwise. Whadya mean, an officer in the king’s army? Why don’t you have your own retinue? And keeping your word and defending your honour have vastly different meanings in 900 vs 1900 AD.

The aristocrat might think he recognizes the values of his medieval ancestor, but he’d be wrong, because he’s been fed a load of nonsense about chivalric virtue and loyalty to the crown that in no way reflects the reality of medieval feudalism. Meanwhile the medieval lord would probably see the aristocrat as some weird caricature of a warrior (and will probably stab him as soon as his back is turned and steal his horse).
 

Michele

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🚫 Three Day Ban
With modern Christianity vs. 5th-century Christianity, the religion has changed so unrecognizably in the intervening 1500 years (for one, Catholic dogma has developed) that nobody would assert it is recognizably the same as Islam or Yazidism, both of which have equal claim of descent from the Christianity of Late Antiquity.
Evidently we have different definitions of "beyond recognition". To me, it means that the thing cannot be recognized at all. For instance, if I was magically transported to downtown Shangai, without knowing from other sources where I am, I would be unable to recognize the place. It would be beyond recognition, and I wouldn't be able to read the street signs, either. OTOH, if Pericles was magically brought to present-day Athens, he'd be scared to death by the traffic and the noise, but if he caught a glimpse of the Acropolis he'd probably understand where he was. And he'd be able to recognize the alphabet used in the street signs.
A Roman carpenter would not understand a nail gun (at first), but he'd recognize the nails, and a hammer. A Mongol warrior would not recognize a laser pointer and a car, but he'd recognize a bow (weird as it would look) and a horse (enormous as it would look). A Chinese player from the time when Go was a new game would know slightly different rules, but he'd recognize a Go set when he saw it.

Also note that the only real civilizations we know about have seen a pretty sudden acceleration in their evolution over the last three centuries or so. It is probably unfair to carry poor old Pericles to 2019. Imagine, instead, carrying a farmer from 3,000 BC to 1,000 BC. That's still a couple of millennia, yet I suspect he'd recognize lots of things, including the cutting-edge technology of the day, bronze working.

Sure, it can. (...)
But I reserve the right to judge why such an invented race exists in the first place.
Sure! Note I made no claims about being violent, overly fecund and whatnot. I only mentioned a slower evolution rate, or a faster generational turnover.
We do know for a fact that some real-life human civilizations changed more slowly than others.
We do know for a fact that today, in OECD countries, a generation interval isn't the traditional 25 years of the past, but 30. OTOH, women who are now between 25 and 30 years of age in Afghanistan and Malawi had on average their first child when they were younger than 20.
So we are all free to say "I don't want to play this", sure. It's not the same, however, as saying "This cannot exist".
 

wormmonda

#TwitterIsTransphobic
Banned
Validated User
Honestly, if we're going to do disgusting racial stereotypes, then black people and Africans should be the most ancient race in the world, because they are. And Chinese, Indians, and Middle-Eastern would be advanced civilizations, because they were. All of these happened before Greece or Rome or Vikings were a pipe dream. The idea that white people are equivalent to ancient, sophisticated races while people of color are stupid barbarians is just a load of Imperialist bullshit.
 

Michele

Registered User
Validated User
Whereas I think this is another good example of why you’re wrong, because I don’t think the two of them would recognize these values in each other. The aristocrat is schooled in horse riding, fencing and hunting because it’s expected of him, for the medieval lord it’s a matter of survival. The aristocrat sees value in his family’s role as loyal supporters of the king and managers of his lands, the warrior’s support for the king is dependent on it remaining a mutually beneficial arrangement, and he manages his own lands, and fuck the king if he thinks otherwise. Whadya mean, an officer in the king’s army? Why don’t you have your own retinue? And keeping your word and defending your honour have vastly different meanings in 900 vs 1900 AD.

The aristocrat might think he recognizes the values of his medieval ancestor, but he’d be wrong, because he’s been fed a load of nonsense about chivalric virtue and loyalty to the crown that in no way reflects the reality of medieval feudalism. Meanwhile the medieval lord would probably see the aristocrat as some weird caricature of a warrior (and will probably stab him as soon as his back is turned and steal his horse).
Sorry to disagree. I am under the impression you are looking at a small and shallow slice of the history and reality.

Fencing is necessary for survival for the 18th century nobleman, just like knowing how to handle a pistol and how to ride in battle. Because it's relatively likely he'll be in battle some day, and it's not beyond possible that he'll be in a duel.

As to managing the lands, I did not say the 18th-century nobleman is managing the king's lands. I said their lands - as in, the noblemen's families' lands.

If you think noblemen in the 18th century wouldn't be disloyal to the king if the arrangement wasn't mutually beneficial, you should look up the American Revolution. Or the Jacobite Uprisings. Or the Rákóczi War of Independence. And so on.

As to not having their own retinue, important 18th-century noblemen were colonels in the king's army and led a regiment in that army. However, that regiment might very well have been paid for by the nobleman's funds, and be primarily made up of men coming from his lands or at least the region where his lands were. The men would be officially sworn to the crown - and essentially owed the old feudal concept of fealty to the nobleman.
Note this went on until the Napoleonic Wars. The 79th Regiment of Foot, not by chance known as the Cameron Highlanders, was raised in 1793 entirely out of the pocket of Sir Alan Cameron. Unsurprisingly, he was appointed Colonel. If he had decided he had to rebel against the Crown, I have little doubt of whom the men of what was called "his clan's regiment" would choose to serve, the Cameron family or the King in London.

As to the meaning of honor, sure it had evolved. But not to the point of unrecognizability, which was what I was arguing against.
 
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