Forum > Pen and Paper Roleplaying Games (RPGs) Discussion

Good, evil, and fantasy cultures

<< < (20/23) > >>

Persimmon:

--- Quote from: dkabq on October 16, 2021, 12:57:22 PM ---
--- Quote from: Persimmon on October 16, 2021, 11:45:23 AM ---
--- Quote from: Greentongue on September 18, 2021, 08:44:44 AM ---As for slavery, it is a cost effective method of obtaining labor if the resources to retain the captives remains cheap as well.
Just make sure there are others that benefit enough to assist.
"Good"? "Evil"? We have a world to conquer!

--- End quote ---

Historically speaking, slavery generally had more to do with labor shortages rather than labor costs.  So places with huge labor pools, like China for example, did not practice slavery very much.  Yet it was common in neighboring Korea, where the population was much smaller.  And race was more often than not a non-factor.  But in the USA for example, people's perceptions are almost entirely viewed through the prism of American slavery, which was fairly exceptional in the grand scheme. 

So that can be a huge hurdle for some in having it in your game.  In my campaign setting, there are slavery rings, but none of the main states practice it in any widespread fashion.  But my players wouldn't object to me adding it because they're smart enough to realize it's a game and such a decision would be implemented for story related purposes.  You can't always find such mature players.  That's also why I seldom game with people I don;'t know well and try to avoid gaming online entirely.

--- End quote ---

Slaves were also plunder.

--- End quote ---

Of course.  I was speaking about societies that relied extensively upon slaves for labor for vital economic enterprises.  Serfdom also fits here in some circumstances, like imperial Russia, which bound serfs to the land to allow the nobles to meet service requirements imposed by the tsars.

GriswaldTerrastone:
As I mentioned before, in my games, be it a standard Dungeons and Dragons game or any if-it-ever-happens Ayundell game efforts, or even writing, the concepts of good and evil are absolutely included.

Now, there are limits since the game is meant to be viewed by both adults and youngsters. For example while there may be scantily-clad slave girls (humans, elves, vulpinish, etc.) sex and rape are never even mentioned, if seen they are simply going about mundane tasks- there is no need to go into detail about what else may be happening, and even evil societies may impose limits on what one can do with them (on Ayundell females are generally non-combatants). Torture may be mentioned of course but there aren't any detailed descriptions about what is happening.

This is simply because it once was not considered necessary for good storytelling. Smeagol/Gollum was clearly tortured in Mordor; during the First Age some of the elves may have been tormented Dr. Moreau-style into orcs by Morgoth (see "The Silmarillion"), but Tolkein never gave any details because it was obvious what must have happened. Even H.P. Lovecraft never gave any real details (e.g. the creature in the pit in "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward").

In other words, everyone knows about evil and gets it.

The obvious advantage to alignments with characters and races, be it a story or game, is set boundaries are established. If someone wants to play an evil character I discourage it, but if he insists then so be it- but I expect him to play like one and to accept the consequences: for example it is unlikely any good-aligned character will even want to associate with him except under certain specific circumstances. Likewise good ones (no you can't steal those gems just because they're pretty). Of course evil can pretend to be good or neutral for a time but sooner or later it must be detected. If good and stealing those gems would feed a starving village might that not create a moral problem, even if you would compensate the victim later on?

If a game is all relative than anything goes while at the same time nothing goes. The sadistic and corrupt shadow elves cannot be called "evil?" Slavers attacking a roofolk tribe, killing all the adults and leading the cubs away for a life of toil and misery are not evil? The Peaceful Realm and The Gloomlands are really no different? Sorry, but...no. As an artist and a writer myself that is absurd, had Tolkien tried that then "The Lord of the Rings" would have been complete and total garbage. Frodo and to a lesser extent Bilbo and Sam all went through The Hero's Journey just as Luke Skywalker did in a galaxy far, far away. The entire argument against alignment is just another facet of a corrupt philosophy meant to undermine society and turn us into hedonistic savages. Without the notion of good and evil civilization, be it fantasy, science fiction, or real must collapse because what is there to build it upon? Chaos?

Fables, fairy tales, sagas like "Star Wars," the "Atlanton Earth" series, and "The Lord of the Rings," they all dealt with this struggle. In Dungeons and Dragons it was the same, heroes battling evil. How could Darth Vader have redeemed himself in the end if he was not evil before? What if soldiers of an evil overlord's army are there by threat, their wives and young hostages? Do you destroy them before they can do evil even though they themselves are not evil? Do you try to find another way, like killing the overlord? What if there is no time, either kill those soldiers (bad thing) or allow a town to be butchered (bad thing)? Without alignments, without solid good and evil, what is left? Where is the deeper conflict?

Alignments applied to societies also allow logical subcreations. On Ayundell the shadow elves (drow equivalents) once lived within The Nine Caverns of Tyranny and Torment, but being chaotic evil rather than lawful evil they were always a problem- then, long ago, they tried to usurp the ruling Archduke of that time. The Archduke and his forces proved too well-organized and powerful, so the shadow elves were almost entirely destroyed except for some that escaped to the Endless Caves of Chaos and Savagery, there establishing their own civilization deep down.

See how alignments already provided a logical basis? The shadow elves are chaotic evil so in the regimented Caverns they were always misfits. Even if they were all total more powerful their chaotic behavior proved to be a weakness as they could not organize for any length of time. Evil may consume itself but with CHAOTIC evil it does so constantly, recklessly. This prevents shadow elf society from becoming even stronger and makes their desire for revenge against the current Archduke and the Caverns an impossibility. It is even rumored that the Archdukes send agents into the Caverns to further disrupt shadow elf society, which is not overly-difficult to do.

With chaotic evil anything goes, savagery; only powerful leaders can command and organize anything for any length of time and even then it is shaky. Lawful evil would approach life in a much more logical fashion: a lesser Duke may desire the Archduke's position but since the realm is well-run and he prospers and already has great power (a smart Archduke cuts nobility some slack) he will instead support him. Lawful evil is much more likely to take the long view and resist immediate gratification for something more in the future (the idea of high and low time preferences). A lawful evil ruler is less likely to kill a subordinate for failure if that subordinate still has uses in the future, especially if unexpected circumstances (e.g. the appearance of azuralupins) caused the failure or doing so would cause terrible unrest or disruption. How well would a partnership among lawful and chaotic evil characters work- and for how long?

Lawful and chaotic good is a different story yet the basics apply. Essentially both want the same things, they just don't agree on how to go about it. Chaotics believe the best way to achieve good is through individual freedom; lawfuls believe it comes from benevolent regulation. If executing a villain should be done lawfuls insist it be done through due process; chaotics would prefer to handle it then and there- but both want the villain stopped for the same reasons. Nuances, how would a copper dragon and a bronze dragon working together want to handle something? Keeping a promise to return stolen money is good, but what if that money will be used for evil purposes? 

The ironic part about relativism is that it deprives stories and games of any grey areas. Thanos could be considered evil based on what he was doing, but there was no doubt he did it because he wanted to avert greater misery and death. How would gamers react if they discovered the tyrant they had been hired to help overthrow was in fact keeping a kingdom that would quickly revert to savagery and brutal conquest under control? A stereotypical hero defeating lawful evil Lord Nastynaughty and freeing his hapless prisoners sounds good- until you realize that even a dark lord could have legitimate reasons to put someone in prison (rapists, murderers, bandits, etc.), so if that hero isn't careful his good deed may in fact make things worse, making him an unintentional villain and peasants nostalgic for Lord Nastynaughty!

It is only because of strongly defined good and evil that grey areas and questionable characters can exist at all. That now-infamous "good guy" drow was made all the more interesting and unusual precisely because the drow ARE an evil race- what made him turn to good? What was his backstory? Why was he so different? But by making the drow no longer evil he was robbed of the very thing that made him such an interesting character. A few good exceptions out of an entire race of evil beings become tragic outcasts: hated by their own kind but not welcomed or trusted by other races- but without good and evil? Eh, so what?

Small, weak, good creatures trying to escape a terrible evil destructive force that devastated their beautiful homeland and is now hunting the survivors has an emotional impact that cannot exist in a relativistic world. Imagine a hero among them dying as he held it off just long enough for the others to escape again (but now they are deprived of his protection). You can add dimension by making it so the force can only survive by consuming or absorbing those creatures, but while that may be understandable on the surface what if it is later revealed that by its own greed and arrogance that force became vampiric and so it became necessary to do that deed in the first place; but rather than accepting the fate it created for itself it chose to make innocents suffer.

The concept of good and evil, of alignments, add dimension and definite goals to gaming. It gives advantages and disadvantages to a character, it imposes limits, just like chess pieces- the queen can be removed by a knight she can't take but she can do things he can't. Even debating about what is good and evil must have a basis in what is considered good and evil for such a debate to exist in the first place!

The definitions can be blurred at the edges, but the basics should always apply. This is why alignments were included in Dungeons and Dragons, not just for heroic fantasy but so the game would be more multi-layered and require more thoughtful, intelligent choices.

Bren:

--- Quote from: GriswaldTerrastone on October 18, 2021, 08:10:17 PM ---Small, weak, good creatures trying to escape a terrible evil destructive force that devastated their beautiful homeland and is now hunting the survivors has an emotional impact that cannot exist in a relativistic world.
--- End quote ---
Really? How does...

Small, weak, creatures trying to escape a terrible destructive force that devastated their beautiful homeland and is now hunting the survivors has an emotional impact that cannot exist in a relativistic world.

...not have an equal impact?


--- Quote ---Imagine a hero among them dying as he held it off just long enough for the others to escape again (but now they are deprived of his protection).
--- End quote ---
That's the story of Horatius at the bridge. You can't honestly call the Romans "good," nor the Etruscans "evil," yet that story inspired generations of Romans and, via Thomas Macauley, of British schoolboys. The emotional impact of real people (or fictional people who are like real people) is at least as strong without adding on an artificial alignment grid.

jhkim:

--- Quote from: GriswaldTerrastone on October 18, 2021, 08:10:17 PM ---The obvious advantage to alignments with characters and races, be it a story or game, is set boundaries are established. If someone wants to play an evil character I discourage it, but if he insists then so be it- but I expect him to play like one and to accept the consequences: for example it is unlikely any good-aligned character will even want to associate with him except under certain specific circumstances. Likewise good ones (no you can't steal those gems just because they're pretty). Of course evil can pretend to be good or neutral for a time but sooner or later it must be detected. If good and stealing those gems would feed a starving village might that not create a moral problem, even if you would compensate the victim later on?

If a game is all relative than anything goes while at the same time nothing goes. The sadistic and corrupt shadow elves cannot be called "evil?" Slavers attacking a roofolk tribe, killing all the adults and leading the cubs away for a life of toil and misery are not evil? The Peaceful Realm and The Gloomlands are really no different? Sorry, but...no. As an artist and a writer myself that is absurd, had Tolkien tried that then "The Lord of the Rings" would have been complete and total garbage. Frodo and to a lesser extent Bilbo and Sam all went through The Hero's Journey just as Luke Skywalker did in a galaxy far, far away. The entire argument against alignment is just another facet of a corrupt philosophy meant to undermine society and turn us into hedonistic savages. Without the notion of good and evil civilization, be it fantasy, science fiction, or real must collapse because what is there to build it upon? Chaos?
--- End quote ---

These examples simply don't match up to my experience. When I play games without alignment like Call of Cthulhu, or Star Wars D6, or Lord of the Rings  -- I don't find that there is a lack of judgement or moral dilemmas. There is if anything, greater room for moral complexity and conflict in those games. Not having an alignment system doesn't mean that none of the characters or societies have concepts of good and evil. They still do, but just like in the real world, different people will have differing ideas about what exactly is good and evil.

The game system doesn't demand that the GM declare one of them is right.

I've played plenty of games set in Middle Earth as well as Star Wars. My Middle Earth games including MERP, Decipher's Lord of the Rings system, and one using the Action System. None of them had alignment. (I think there is an optional rule in MERP, but I don't recall it being used.) Not having alignment rules doesn't mean that there is no good or evil in the world, just that there aren't simple convenient labels of such that can be checked. Players had to decide for themselves what was right and wrong - and there could be different judgements of such.

I just played in a Star Wars game last Saturday, and one of the features was that that this was in a "Lost Sector" where there were rival Jedi sects who all had differing practices and beliefs. My character was a nature-loving Jedi who believed in balance in all things and an appreciation of worldly experience, while my friend Lee played a Jedi who was more traditionally ascetic and light-saber-wielding.

GriswaldTerrastone:

--- Quote from: Bren on October 19, 2021, 11:42:52 AM ---
--- Quote from: GriswaldTerrastone on October 18, 2021, 08:10:17 PM ---Small, weak, good creatures trying to escape a terrible evil destructive force that devastated their beautiful homeland and is now hunting the survivors has an emotional impact that cannot exist in a relativistic world.
--- End quote ---
Really? How does...

Small, weak, creatures trying to escape a terrible destructive force that devastated their beautiful homeland and is now hunting the survivors has an emotional impact that cannot exist in a relativistic world.

...not have an equal impact?


--- End quote ---


Because as I mentioned the force was was evil and actively hunting them. Why would your version be hunting them? If a natural phenomenon it would be no different than a tornado and is just a force. But my version has malevolence and was deliberately hunting them for evil reasons. My version also has intelligence and is hunting them because of its own self-destructive actions but is making others pay.

Navigation

[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

[*] Previous page

Go to full version