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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

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    Default How do you respectfully adapt tragedies in an alternate history rpg?

    I want to set a homebrew Pathfinder setting in the Westward expansion time period of the United States history, ranging between the 1830s and 1850s. The motivation for this decision is thematic; exploring a wild frontier while also combatting the threat of overreaching big business. This chapter in America is troublesome, however. I have a specific adventure path in mind for this setting that isn't focused on conflict between ethnic groups. With that in mind, I want to avoid the following:

    1) Erasing or minimizing the suffering of marginalized people.

    2) Erasing or minimizing the cruelty of privileged people.

    3) Portraying any population with more or less respect than any other.

    4) Bloating the plot of the adventure path by cramming tangential narratives in.

    What would you do in my shoes?
    Last edited by Guunshtaff; 2020-09-04 at 09:24 PM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you respectfully adapt tragedies in an alternate history rpg?

    I wouldn't.

    ....

    This sort of thing is notoriously hard to do and keep everyone happy, or anyone happy really. If I absolutely HAD to I'd create a similar setting with similar events, names, and technological levels and play through that. Historically you can make it almost identical but you will have much less trouble offending anyone.

    Otherwise you can mythologize the whole thing ala Dragons Conquer America.
    Knowledge brings the sting of disillusionment, but the pain teaches perspective.
    "You know it's all fake right?"
    "...yeah, but it makes me feel better."

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: How do you respectfully adapt tragedies in an alternate history rpg?

    Hmm, that has potential certainly. Ironically, I had already adapted a couple names here and there, but only for flavor. I just might do that to some degree, but I'm also interested in solutions which don't shy away from ugly realities. I suppose there's a spectrum. The more similar to actual historical names, events, and conventions the brighter the spotlight on any portrayal/absence of controversy.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Colossus in the Playground
     
    JNAProductions's Avatar

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    Default Re: How do you respectfully adapt tragedies in an alternate history rpg?

    First off, forum rules. Just a general reminder for this thread to review them carefully!

    Second off, to give a not very helpful answer, Very carefully.

    I would NOT do such a thing if I intended to make a module for sale or something. But, among friends who I know, the first thing I'd do is ask them if there's anything I should know before doing this kind of thing. Basically, know your audience-without going into any details, if you have a friend who's part of a historically marginalized group, then make very sure they're okay with modifying any tragedies involving that group.

    And, just in general, be polite. Be respectful. And be understanding. If someone you're playing with seems to be having an issue, talk to them about it.
    I have a LOT of Homebrew!

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  5. - Top - End - #5
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you respectfully adapt tragedies in an alternate history rpg?

    If you want to publish a product, make a point to hire a diverse staff and have sensitivity readers just to be safe. It won't be perfect, but your only real options are trying your best or giving up entirely.

    If it's a home game, you probably know your table better than we do. Some things are still best approached with extreme caution unless everybody gives them a thumbs up ahead of time, but others are less likely to spook your actual table. A romanticized view of cowboy folklore may get you in trouble with Twitter, but that's irrelevant unless one of the players at your table happens to be Twitter. Again realize that there's only so much you can do as one person, and prioritize a game that appeals to your players over the mythical unproblematic one.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you respectfully adapt tragedies in an alternate history rpg?

    I feel like agency helps. For example, people often run games about villains that do awful things but have redeeming traits as well. If you're forced to swallow that redemption then it can feel really awkward depending on what the GM had that villain do. But if you get to decide if the villain is redeemable (even through the filter of a character who has a different morality than the player) then that seems to change things quite a bit.

    Similarly in games where you're forced to oppose a particular thing, versus being able to decide on your enemies. There are settings where for example 'anyone who seeks or attains immortality is necessarily a villain, because that's what people in the setting believe', and those tend to immediately put me off. But a setting where the easiest means to attain immortality may be squicky or awful to various degrees but there's space given to decide where you fall on the matter doesn't have the same negative association for me even if the setting makes perfectly ethical immortality impractical.

    For things that hit closer to home, that agency could be a source of tension between players. If someone at the table says they want to support the 'juicing the souls of puppies to live forever' faction then its easy to keep separate from any real-life views that might not be compatible. But if it gets too close to something real, then it can start to feel like e.g. 'that player secretly supports something awful in real life, and they're just using this game as an excuse to force us to accept that about them'. So caution and maturity are important for this.

    I think its also one of those cases where, if someone plays a character that someone else can't tolerate, there has to be a disengagement mechanism. Normally there's a metagame assumption that the party sticks together and works out differences. But for a game touching on sensitive topics, either you need OOC ability to negotiate the boundaries of taste, or you need for PvP to be allowed to some degree so players can get catharsis by being able to decide 'to me, this other PC is a villain and I will thwart them' (though PvP between two players who each think they're being reasonable will leave someone feeling sour, so prioritize OOC negotiation as a solution and use PvP only as a safety valve)

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: How do you respectfully adapt tragedies in an alternate history rpg?

    Quote Originally Posted by JNAProductions View Post
    First off, forum rules. Just a general reminder for this thread to review them carefully!
    Thank you very much for your tactful and practical reminder, I appreciate it!

    Quote Originally Posted by Anymage
    unless one of the players at your table happens to be Twitter.
    XD

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: How do you respectfully adapt tragedies in an alternate history rpg?

    You've all given me some great advice! I appreciate your willingness to brainstorm on a sensitive issue with no easy solutions. I guess I've really got my work cut out for me, but with all your input I have faith that maybe, just maybe I can handle this with a lot of hard work. Who knows? I might even get super lucky and not feel like pounding my head against my desk as I wade through countless revisions!

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you respectfully adapt tragedies in an alternate history rpg?

    Perhaps take some cues from Shadowrun and make morality a central theme of the setting that players are encouraged to contemplate and engage with? Iím seeing a lot of parallels what with Megacorps and SINless.
    By the metric of being wholly dependent on the GM for noncombat interaction Fighter is an NPC class.

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    Orc in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: How do you respectfully adapt tragedies in an alternate history rpg?

    First, I agree with Guunshtaff, lots of really good advice.

    Given the topics you want don't involve the morality of displacing another people, maybe go a fictional setting which conveniently doesn't have a sentient native population?
    1830 America realizes there's a big unpopulated island/continent in a much expanded Pacific ocean where Hawaii is the same distance from Asia but even further from North America. Or they open a Rift to an unpeopled world (or one which has been unpeopled by an Event)

    Do you want to brave the waters of a world running historically? Be careful of your players' comfort with themes (because history has ALL of them). You then have a triangle of ignore themes, be casual about them or have them be the main subject of the the game On that triangle, the circle you need to be in is small and different for different people
    I love playing in a party with a couple of power-gamers, it frees me up to be Elan!


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