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Author Topic: “Mother Lands is a tabletop role-playing game free of slavery and colonialism”  (Read 2042 times)

BoxCrayonTales

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https://www.polygon.com/platform/amp/2021/6/10/22528001/mother-lands-afrofuturist-tabletop-rpg-tanya-depass-b-dave-walters-interview

Long story short: West African muslims are transported from the 14th century to an alien planet. They never engage in slavery or colonialism because cultural posturing I guess. Never mind the fact that they did historically engage in these things.

Ghostmaker

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While I don't have a bone to pick with Afro-futurism, deliberately ignoring less-palatable aspects of a culture is pretty pathetic.

It would've been more interesting to depict those transported Africans as initially attempting to continue their patterns, only to change their ways on contact with other races or influences.

But nah, we can't admit pee-oh-sees might not be anything less than noble and perfect.


Pat

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While I don't have a bone to pick with Afro-futurism, deliberately ignoring less-palatable aspects of a culture is pretty pathetic.
That's just wish-fulfillment. Most people don't want their fantasy games to focus a lot on hygiene, and prefer approximations of many modern social values instead of medieval authenticity. Which is fine. It's why people play games, after all. What you probably find distasteful is the politics and signaling, which includes mix of ignorance and implicit and often explicit attacks on other cultures.

What I find odd is they raised a quarter million without having chosen a system. System is important to real gamers, and only a handful are willing to invest the effort to adapt a setting to their preferred system. Which suggests most of their audience is buying in for reasons that don't involve gaming.

Edit: Could just be minor internet celebrity -- though the intro video doesn't even have 7K views on YouTube, and their streaming channel on Twitch only has 18K followers. Their Kickstarter is funded by 3.9K backers contributing an average of more than $70/each. I don't know how Twitch normally works, but based on what I know about other aspects of internet advertising, that seems to be a very high conversion rate. Which suggests an extraordinarily dedicated fanbase, or they're getting support from a much wider pool.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2021, 01:57:00 PM by Pat »

Mishihari

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A lot of the setting looks intriguing, but the article includes various indicators of suckage.  If someone is mainly telling me all about what isn't there, e.g. slavery, colonialism, expansionism, inter-group conflict rather than what is there, it's an indication that there actually isn't much there.  Also, their premise that everything is a near utopia if you just get rid of European people is racist and offensive.

SHARK

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While I don't have a bone to pick with Afro-futurism, deliberately ignoring less-palatable aspects of a culture is pretty pathetic.
That's just wish-fulfillment. Most people don't want their fantasy games to focus a lot on hygiene, and prefer approximations of many modern social values instead of medieval authenticity. Which is fine. It's why people play games, after all. What you probably find distasteful is the politics and signaling, which includes mix of ignorance and implicit and often explicit attacks on other cultures.

What I find odd is they raised a quarter million without having chosen a system. System is important to real gamers, and only a handful are willing to invest the effort to adapt a setting to their preferred system. Which suggests most of their audience is buying in for reasons that don't involve gaming.

Edit: Could just be minor internet celebrity -- though the intro video doesn't even have 7K views on YouTube, and their streaming channel on Twitch only has 18K followers. Their Kickstarter is funded by 3.9K backers contributing an average of more than $70/each. I don't know how Twitch normally works, but based on what I know about other aspects of internet advertising, that seems to be a very high conversion rate. Which suggests an extraordinarily dedicated fanbase, or they're getting support from a much wider pool.

Greetings!

Great acidic analysis, Pat, as well as insightful. I agree. I looked at this thing, and I'm definitely not impressed. I find it racist and offensive, and in eye-rolling poor taste.

Ultimately, what makes any of this garbage pretending to be a "game" any different from Howa or Myfrog or whatever, you know? Copy and paste the same wording, blurbs, and so on--but talk about preferring, exalting, and celebrating white people, without "POC" being center-stage to fuck up all the happy fun time--and just imagine the kind of response such a game product would receive.

But, geesus, lets worship the black kings, and damn the fucking white people, and just look at all the sweet praise and jello that pours in! So brilliant! So brave and innovative! The designers must be genius designers and writers! Look at how diverse and such brilliant POC's they all are!

Aggghh. It's all so pathetic, shallow, and disgusting to me. Their marketing, the whole creation, their whole attitudes and motivations at the root of it all.

Semper Fidelis,

SHARK
"It is the Marine Corps that will strip away the façade so easily confused with self. It is the Corps that will offer the pain needed to buy the truth. And at last, each will own the privilege of looking inside himself  to discover what truly resides there. Comfort is an illusion. A false security bred from familiar things and familiar ways. It narrows the mind. Weakens the body. And robs the soul of spirit and determination. Comfort is neither welcome nor tolerated here."

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but is doing what you have to, in spite of the fear."
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Pat

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Great acidic analysis, Pat, as well as insightful. I agree. I looked at this thing, and I'm definitely not impressed. I find it racist and offensive, and in eye-rolling poor taste.

Ultimately, what makes any of this garbage pretending to be a "game" any different from Howa or Myfrog or whatever, you know? Copy and paste the same wording, blurbs, and so on--but talk about preferring, exalting, and celebrating white people, without "POC" being center-stage to fuck up all the happy fun time--and just imagine the kind of response such a game product would receive.

But, geesus, lets worship the black kings, and damn the fucking white people, and just look at all the sweet praise and jello that pours in! So brilliant! So brave and innovative! The designers must be genius designers and writers! Look at how diverse and such brilliant POC's they all are!

Aggghh. It's all so pathetic, shallow, and disgusting to me. Their marketing, the whole creation, their whole attitudes and motivations at the root of it all.
I don't know much about Myfarog, but I did read Rahowa once, and I think Mother Land is very different because the racism isn't inherent in the premise. This isn't about going out and killing whitey, after all. It's an attempt to create an world emphasizing certain influences, and excluding others. Which, again, is perfectly fine.

The problems seem to be in the politically charged verbiage promoting the game, rather than inherent to the setting. Though there isn't a lot about the setting in the Kickstarter. It's SF, but it appears to be a very soft sf. There are furries. And not much else. I don't see much to engage with, aside from the political posturing. Though Twitch followers probably know more. The art is decent.

Plotinus

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There are so many things that are incredible about this, and by "incredible" I mean completely expected and depressing.

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“We went back to the African Emperor Mansa Musa,” Walters said, referring to the leader of the Mali Empire, an Islamic West African state which Musa I ruled during the 14th century. “He was arguably the wealthiest man in history, who really existed and who sent a fleet to the New World. [...] For our story, this fleet departed and, through a mechanism that is yet to be revealed within the narrative, were transported to another planet.”

Honestly, this is a great premise for an RPG setting. It could be spectacular, if the designers actually committed. Imagine an isolated civilization of premodern Muslims, transported to another world, their worldview developing in complete isolation from modern Western notions, utterly convinced that they have been unique chosen to spread the ultimate revelation of God into the Dar al-harb of a whole new planet. Awesome.

The problem, of course, is that the creators aren't going to commit. The worldview of the Musalians isn't going to meaningfully resemble the culture of the Mali Empire except maybe in a few trivialities. No, the Musalians are just going to be a mouthpiece for an extremely 21st century worldview, because that is the whole point of the project. You know the Musalians are going to have modern Western notions of democracy, sexual libertinism, feminism, anti-colonialism, etc., despite the fact that those ideas developed uniquely out of Christianity in the West and these guys left the planet before all but the most rudimentary such notions came about. The designers don't actually give a shit about the beliefs and culture of 14th century imperial African Muslims. The Musalians don't exist to resemble a lost-but-fascinating historical civilization, but to serve as meat puppets for 21st century ideologues. Despite the claims that this setting is free of bad Western influence, it is essentially a reactionary work whose whole reason for existing is an obsession with the sins of Europe.

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“It’s an original Afrofuturist TTRPG,” Walters said. “It is a science fiction universe where there is no colonialism. There is no expansionist rhetoric. That is not the root cause of the action.”

Instead, the Musalians and Vutoa’s existing populations coexist all around the planet, in high-tech urban centers as well as strange alien landscapes. When conflict does arise, it’s often about two or more groups competing for scarce resources.

What on earth? Setting aside the ludicrous lie we're supposed to swallow that "colonialism" and "expansionist rhetoric" were uniquely European sins that the Mali Empire would have had no truck with (lol), what do these two paragraphs even mean? Everyone "coexists" but they have conflicts over scarce resources? What do you call it when one group says "this is our land" and another says "actually we've decided it's our land, we need it, and we're going to take it by force." That's not expansionism?

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we came up with a premise that would allow lots of different kinds of people of color to have a place where they flourish

Lots of different kinds of people of color? I thought every single human in the setting was West African? Isn't that... only one kind of people of color? Who are all the other PoCs supposed to identify with? The hyena people?

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One quirk of the current crowdfunding campaign is that DePass and her team have not settled on a game system for Mother Lands. [...] “That is a small part of it as far as I’m concerned,” DePass said. “You get the overarching story, you get the setting book, and then when you sit down to play, the mechanics literally tell you you succeed or fail on a thing. And it’s the degree of success or failure. The mechanics drive how you play the game, but to me — at least as a player and a [game master] of other systems — that’s a small component.”

OH MY GOD this game doesn't even have a game yet. What the hell? Even in the world of woke video games, can you imagine someone saying "We're Kickstarting this game right now. We don't know if it's a first person shooter or a turn-based strategy game yet, but give us your money because hey, it has no white people and it has the correct ideology, what else do you need to know? Get out your wallet!" The "game" exists as a series of live-play web-shows first, a game a very distant second.

Honestly, I feel sad. DePass sounds genuinely excited for the setting she's created, and it doesn't sound like a terrible idea from the outset. I'm sure they've come up with some cool stuff. But the need for things like this to function as partisan propaganda first and foremost, to make ridiculous self-contradictory claims about how there is no "colonialism" despite having wars and empires, to pass a hundred intersectional purity tests and ensure that every single sympathetic culture in the game agrees with modern progressives about absolutely everything and that anyone who doesn't is portrayed as Evil. These things are just poison. They poison any genuine exploratory impulse, any ability to portray a historical culture, or a fantastical sci-fi culture, that is truly different from our own, rather than superficially and aesthetically different, but otherwise is just a mouthpiece for our grievances.

Pat

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Quote
“We went back to the African Emperor Mansa Musa,” Walters said, referring to the leader of the Mali Empire, an Islamic West African state which Musa I ruled during the 14th century. “He was arguably the wealthiest man in history, who really existed and who sent a fleet to the New World. [...] For our story, this fleet departed and, through a mechanism that is yet to be revealed within the narrative, were transported to another planet.”

Honestly, this is a great premise for an RPG setting. It could be spectacular, if the designers actually committed. Imagine an isolated civilization of premodern Muslims, transported to another world, their worldview developing in complete isolation from modern Western notions, utterly convinced that they have been unique chosen to spread the ultimate revelation of God into the Dar al-harb of a whole new planet. Awesome.

The problem, of course, is that the creators aren't going to commit. The worldview of the Musalians isn't going to meaningfully resemble the culture of the Mali Empire except maybe in a few trivialities. No, the Musalians are just going to be a mouthpiece for an extremely 21st century worldview, because that is the whole point of the project. You know the Musalians are going to have modern Western notions of democracy, sexual libertinism, feminism, anti-colonialism, etc., despite the fact that those ideas developed uniquely out of Christianity in the West and these guys left the planet before all but the most rudimentary such notions came about. The designers don't actually give a shit about the beliefs and culture of 14th century imperial African Muslims. The Musalians don't exist to resemble a lost-but-fascinating historical civilization, but to serve as meat puppets for 21st century ideologues. Despite the claims that this setting is free of bad Western influence, it is essentially a reactionary work whose whole reason for existing is an obsession with the sins of Europe.
I had a similar impression. Another red flag is the time scales involved -- 1,500 years since the fleet ended up on another world. That's a staggering amount of time, enough to practically guarantee massive cultural changes that would make the current Musalians almost unrecognizable, compared to their displaced ancestors. Worse, this doesn't appear to be a static period. While it's hard to tell because they say so little about the setting, it sounds like they advanced technologically to become a space-faring race.

Now if the point was this futuristic loosely-African inspired culture, that would be fine. But they spend more time telling us about the displacement (without telling us anything about the displacement), and how it's inspired by African ideals (or rather, inspired by not-Western ideals, because the text talks more about what it's rejecting than what it's doing). There's so little there it's hard to judge, but the bits and drabs sound like a mess, and it doesn't really cohere into anything at all.

This could be just a lack of information, and those who follow the Twitch streams see what we're missing. But I doubt it.

rocksfalleverybodydies

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Having the first question in the FAQ inquiring if it is ok to play if not a person of colour is just plain bizarre.
Who has warped their thinking so much to ask a question like this about a hobby game?
I guess the same people who don't care about what game mechanics are used as that isn't even been defined yet, according to the FAQ.  Fate or PbtA would be my guess in the end but that must be a grumpy grognard requirement no gamer cares about.

More power to those who feel this is worth their investment (and it looks like a lot) but for something so vague in form and execution, I would not touch it with a 10 foot pole.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2021, 07:20:16 PM by rocksfalleverybodydies »

Rob Necronomicon

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I'm really looking forward to never reading this....
"Attack minded and dangerously so." - W.E. Fairbairn.

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TJS

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Wasn't already a thread about this?

Mishihari

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Having the first question in the FAQ inquiring if it is ok to play if not a person of colour is just plain bizarre.
Who has warped their thinking so much to ask a question like this about a hobby game?

That was actually my very first thought about this project.  I don't subscribe to this point of view, but according to the nutjob brigade you're not allowed to use cultural elements of another race for cinema, music, dance, fashion, etc because that's cultural appropriation.  Apparently there's an exception for roleplaying those of another race when they can make money off it.  Way to stick to your principles, guys!

Naburimannu

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Edit: Could just be minor internet celebrity -- though the intro video doesn't even have 7K views on YouTube, and their streaming channel on Twitch only has 18K followers. Their Kickstarter is funded by 3.9K backers contributing an average of more than $70/each. I don't know how Twitch normally works, but based on what I know about other aspects of internet advertising, that seems to be a very high conversion rate. Which suggests an extraordinarily dedicated fanbase, or they're getting support from a much wider pool.

Is video the best source of statistics for reach & conversion? Having spent thousands through Kickstarter over the last decade, I've never watched a related intro video or a Twitch stream.
My Facebook feed was full of Mother Lands for several days (I get a lot of 5e / boardgame kickstarter ads there), but they didn't grab my interest; most of the 5e projects advertised to me don't really fit my tastes.

oggsmash

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  I think if you want to create what is obviously a very ethnocentric game, go right ahead.  Want to remove the things that were in their real history to make them "pure" from the outset?  Go right ahead.  I do wonder what sort of antagonists the PCs in a gaming group will contend with though.  It seems they have a culture completely removed from conflict...isnt the whole point of most RPGs to find and resolve conflicts, whether they be challenges to overcome, an enemy to thwart or a problem to solve?

Torque2100

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The Mali Empire was a slave owning society.

The trope of slaves being sent to the salt mines and that being a virtual death sentence comes from them.