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Cultural Relativism in Medieval Fantasy Games
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TOPIC: Cultural Relativism in Medieval Fantasy Games
#19447
Cultural Relativism in Medieval Fantasy Games 8 Years ago  
In the game I play on Monday nights, our little band of adventurers has found a group of tropical islands that supports half a dozen or so stone-age tribes.

One of these tribes (the largest and best equipped) is in the habit of attacking the other tribes, killing anyone who opposes them, and dragging off whoever they can grab to be eaten. The local bad guys are cannibals.

We made friends with the tribe next to the cannibals, and by an accident of bad dice rolling we got the cannibals stirred up. As in "evacuate the women and children the cannibals are going to kill us all" stirred up. So we, being responsible heroes, have pretty much declared war on the cannibals.

Now one player (who has been absent for two weeks) is asking if we shouldn't try to negotiate a peace with the cannibals. He doesn't want to commit "genocide" by eliminating the tribe's warriors and relocating the women and children among the other tribes. (We have established that if the other tribes could get their act together, they would wipe the cannibals out, but they just aren't strong or well-organized enough to mount an effective offense.)

Is he being overly sensitive, or have I become overly bloodthirsty? Should I be asking orc raiding parties to please wait while I relocate entire villages, so the orcs can live in peace? Should we teach townsfolk to leave a couple of sheep out every night to appease the rampaging dragon? Should we try to convince the king to cede a small section of his territory for the evil death-cult to use as they see fit?

I'm... I'm just... stunned.
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#19448
Cultural Relativism in Medieval Fantasy Games 8 Years ago  
He hehehe, i have to admit i have at times liked putting a few of those moral questions to my PC's.

There are times it can be interesting, but i also try to make it be known that there are also times you just don't need to ask. I made it clear in my Homebrew world that certain races were just "evil" doesn't matter, they were made that way. So there is never any question of will the orcs live in peace, they can't it is in thier nature.

Dealings with humans do tend to compliacte things, becuase we as a species in most game systems are supposed to be able to change and we aren't by default evil.

I think i would also have a bit of a problem of committing genocide, if you go through and wipe them all out that is what they will be doing, the the deliberate and systematic extermination of a cultural group, that is pretty much the deffinition of genocide. But if you just knock them down a bit so that they aren't big enough to be a threat to the rest of the island populations, big enough to defend them selves, but not strong enough to go on the offensive, i don't think the player should have a reason to complain. He stoped the threat, and didn't wipe out a culture, and if you allow a way for the party to give the cannibals a chance to change that may be a good thing as well.

Or just make the player (are you the GM?, if not offer the idea up to him) "know" it is a good thing to do they are not actually human, they are touched by extraplanr forces, or lycanthropes or something that is making them do it, so if that is taken out they have a chance to be "good" or if they can't be saved they are a threat tha should be destroyed.

My guess is the player is a little creaped out by killing of people (and by people i mean a human culture) who just seem to have been raised bad and if given the chance can be better.
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#19449
Cultural Relativism in Medieval Fantasy Games 8 Years ago  
(I play, I don't GM.) If we don't have to kill everybody off, we won't. I did mention above that we plan to disperse the non-combatants (and surrenders, if any) among the other tribes -- they will conform to acceptable standards of behavior (or they will be dealt with as criminals), and their children will be raised to NOT eat people. (But the final fate of the relocated cannibals will be up to each village they are sent -- that is, the GM.) We are trying to STOP atrocities, not commit them.

You are probably right, it is probably the fact that they are human that is freaking him out (as opposed to wiping out fictional people like orcs, or martians). "Pseudo-kill" was a joke back in the eighties, but aliens and robots and fantasy demi-humans have always served as proxies for social commentary and violence in fiction and media. You can pull an R rating down to a PG-13 just by putting prosthetics on the actors and making the blood any color other than red. You can wipe out entire planets full of alien bugs, but people get squeamish if you start killing humans.

[There was a lot more stuff, but I really don't want to get that serious on the forums.]
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#19450
Cultural Relativism in Medieval Fantasy Games 8 Years ago  
jack -

Give them ONE CHANCE to surrender; those who DO, ship 'em out. Those who DON'T, nuke 'em thil they glow, then shoot 'em in the dark.
You Do NOT play silly games with racial suicide; allowing a race, a culture, or a political group with the stated goal of YOUR DEATH to survive is suicide, whether in a game universe, or your own Universe Prime (I can't say 'real universe' any longer; it may not be this one). Suicide is NOT a good habit to get into. Don't set any precedents.
However, the GM should have stated from jump street that the possibility of 'genocide' does exist in this game, and allowed any players who are uncomfortable with that to drop out of the game for this adventure. As a GM, I have no business forcing other players to accept MY philosophies in what is intended as a hobby activity.

I put genocide in quotes up there because, strictly speaking, genocide is the practice of destroying a particular genotype, be it racial, societal, or cultural. Or anyway, that's the connotative definition I'VE always attributed to it. If I'm wrong, I feel secure that SOMEONE here will correct me - probably with a Webster's Third New International Unabridged upside the head! (ever caught fifteen pounds of paper on the noggin? That'll rattle your thoughts!)

See ya!

Jim
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#19451
Cultural Relativism in Medieval Fantasy Games 8 Years ago  
One of the most dangerous topic to raise on the D&D forum is morality in the game (morality in the real world is a plenty hot topic, as we well know). The question often asked is, "Is it okay to kill evil sentients?"

D&D assumes an objective view of good and evil, rather than a subjective one. When you cast detect evil, the creatures either are or are not evil. As for taking preemptive action to attack the evil creature, I think the safest bet is to ask the Game Master. Since there is wide disagreement on what is and is not good behavior (especially for a paladin), and the GM will enforce such penalties as he determines are warranted, I'd ask him whether it's okay to smite the evil witch first.

In the case of the island cannibals, most "civilized" D&D characters would be horrified at cannibalism. Okay, half-orcs won't even bat an eye, probably, but the rest will be shocked and dismayed. So, I'd say wipe 'em out, but check with your GM first.
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#19452
Cultural Relativism in Medieval Fantasy Games 8 Years ago  
Jackattack,
I for one don't have a problem with wiping out the whole lot of them. One of the reasons I like playing D and D as well as reading fantasy or SF is that there is little or no moral quandary in destroying the Orc/alien or whatever village. Good is good and Evil is evil. As far as a PC being worried about committing genocide who is this guy kidding? A person in a quasi-medieval setting would not even know of the concept let alone be concerned about it... he (or she) would simply be concerned with raising his off spring and bringing in the next crop before winter.
The cannibals are EATING you for alls sake!
Who cares if you spread their ashes all over the island ... just means more land for your people.
People who live at that basic a level can not afford such modern ideals.
Are we going to start worrying about demons next?
"... well he was brought up in hell after all ... no wonder he eat that village ..."
"... yes they sure were out of line with all the 'get back unclean beast business..."
"... maybe with some counseling and some job training skills he could be a clerk or something..."
Sheeeesh you're killing me over here.
One of the benefits of D and D is that it will often spark and interest in history that may have not been previously there. A study of history will show that no culture, indeed no life form, has ever existed nor will ever exist that does not do so at the cost of some other culture or life form. I say give the lad a book or two and tell him to leave the 6:00 news out of the game.
Relax man have some fun, roll some dice, kill come cannibals, kill all the cannibals ... well maybe just the ugly ones.

Anyway that's what I say for what its worth,

Take care,

Maulhelm
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#19453
Cultural Relativism in Medieval Fantasy Games 8 Years ago  
It's me or them, and I ain't windin' up in no stinkin' pot! heh heh...

I think that for the purpose of fantasy gaming, you either buy into the fantasy or you get wrapped up in moral dilemmas and the game becomes a game of Political Correctness (which in all honestly, is Politically Incorrect depending on how you interpret the Constitution if you're here in the states...). You wind up peppering a fantasy world with modern social dictates when the goal (at least IMHO) is to break away from modern day reality and escape into fantasy for a little while where we control the world.

The party in question probably wouldn't have a problem killing a chaotic black dragon that was eating villagers because that's a beast, a non-humanoid creature. If a humanoid creature kills and eats villagers, is it any less of a threat to the safety and well being of said villagers? (playing Devil's advocate...).
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#19454
Cultural Relativism in Medieval Fantasy Games 8 Years ago  
Hey jack -

I got a better idea:

Let the worrywart go negotiate with the cannibals. Then, while they're picking HIM out of their teeth, the rest of you go kill the rotten scum and let the good guys live in more-or-less peace. Let Chamberlain negotiate with Hitler all he wants.

This is what's wrong with Western civilization; the ACLU has infected the world, and the peace-at-all-costs crowd is spreading the virus.
The meek shall inherit the Earth - in 3x6x6 plots. The rest of us are going to the stars.

If Mr. Chamberlain still wants to negotiate peaceful solutions with charging colossal Red Dragons, let him try; the rest of you can load up the Nukes, and after Neville has been quick-roasted, you can kill the dragon and then tumble a lusty wench.

Sheesh; negotiate!

See ya!

Jim
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