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  1. - Top - End - #61
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    Default Re: Wild Mass Guessing on Saving The World

    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    Technically, confusing as it would be to term his attitude as such, he is a "classist" given that Mammalia and Reptilia are both classes.
    Your taxonomic note is consumed with approval, and a wry grin. In D&D-speak 'races' of various 'humanoids' that include kobolds, lizardfolk, humans, half elves, etc, we do not see adherence to the orthodox taxonomy which you refer to.
    Um, we know that he serves Tiamat; his visions explicitly come from her and he gives preferential treatment to her favoured. Further, I think it is safer to assume that while the two lizards likely work for her church as well, the boss he has greeted through them is just a scaly, mortal someone higher up within the organization rather than Tiamat herself.
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  2. - Top - End - #62
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    Quote Originally Posted by KorvinStarmast View Post
    Iwe do not see adherence to the orthodox taxonomy
    [Gasp.] HERESY!

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    If we don't follow an orthodox taxonomy, are we at least following a catholic taxonomy?
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    The Mod on the Silver Mountain: let's move away from religious jokes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    Different realities experienced come with different concepts formed, I don't disagree with that. But the idea that it is arrogant to assume that it's not only humans that are capable of making moral choices and therefore assuming that with a few exceptions all others will be locked into a single, much less flexible outlook shows a greater humility? Yeah, no.
    It is egotistical (Let's stick to the original term) to assume that all other's must view things the same way we do. Obviously, other species *can* view things through the same moral lens we do (and probably should, if we're going to play members of those species in a RPG). But it's also possible that some other species may *not* do so. Right? I'm merely pointing out that it is possible and therefore should not be automaticaly rejected as a possiblity out of hand.

    And it is absolutely silly to declare any depiction of such a species in such a way as somehow "racist" or "speciest". "Different than", is not the same as "less than". And yeah, some authors pull this off welll. Others... not so much. And again, where I agree with Rich completely is that, historically, how various D&D editions/sources have handled this with various races in the game in terms of "racial alignment" has been awful.

    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    Of course. A human activist, a little flower creature and an obligate carnivore will probably never quite see eye to eye regarding the morality of veganism, and that's alright. The problem is, Roberta posited (or so I understood) that morality derives from instinctual drives and humans as a species somehow have an instinctual drive to practice their moral agency while all other species somehow don't share this capacity and therefore it is perfectly normal to assume that their morals are far more simplistic and hardly ever vary at all regardless of the size of a population.
    The bolded statement is wrong. Those other species absolutely have the same capacity. But it's the same capacity to "practice their moral agency". The key concept is that "their" moral agency may be different than human moral agency.

    I'm not saying that their moral agency is "more simplistic", nor that they are capable of variation. That's an assumption you are making, not me. I'm merely saying that the "center of their axis" on some things may be in a different location than it is for humans. Unfortunately, many D&D writers have made this assumption (that it must be "more simplistic") as well, and that's presumably what Rich is talking about. But that does not need to be the case.


    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    "They are capable of recognizing that what they do is wanton and stupid but they will kill sapients for the evulz anyway unless genocided"? That makes them Always Stupid Evil by any sane metric and I can't quite see how that's a good thing.
    Those are your words. They don't think what they are doing is "wanton and stupid" at all. That's the point you aren't getting. You are imposing your own moral judgement on another species and how they think. Can you consider the possibility that some other species might view our morality just as "wanton and stupid" as we may view theirs?

    I think you're also mixing up "what works for humans" and assuming that's the only method that can work. But evolution only cares about success, not moral philosophy. Niven's Kzin were quite successful as a species. They had managed to advance technologically, and had conquered a number of other species prior to Humans encountering them (and were arguably more advanced than humans at the point of first contact). Humans actually had re-learn how to be violent in order to fight them successfully (it's a long story).

    The point is that it's incredibly self-centered to just assume that our way is "the right way" and that no species can possibly be successful without adopting our way of doing things. Yes, it's probably a good thing to view other species in a RPG as "humans with different skin", but in the broader fiction world? Absolutely not necessary or realistic.


    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    As for Blue and Orange Morality, it's an interesting concept in theory, but in my experience, it tends to go one of two ways:
    1. it's either a cop-out; we never get anything remotely resembling an insight into its workings because it's SO eldritch;
    2. or it's a lame excuse; if we do get said insight, the explanation generally ends up unsatisfactory, silly or outright stupid. No, "but it kills and eats babies cackling like a maniac because it has a TOTALLY different moral system where it is the best thing ever" is not deep, nor does it make a lick of sense.
    Eh. Or we're taking it to a bit of an extreme and losing sight of things along the way. "eating babies while cackling maniacally" is a bit extreme. How about something more simple like "doesn't view killing others to advance" to be wrong? Or, "burns people alive to ensure success on a venture". We could consider some of these things cultural though, which can be problematic. But what about physical, or genetic differences which could lead to different moral outcomes? We might consider a species in which children are born in litters, and each of them tries to devour the others, with the last one standing being the only to survive? How might this species evolve? Might members of this species consider killing (and eating) others to be the "morally correct" way to gain position and power (and perhaps the only way to survive themselves)? Perhaps they breed prodgiously, and there's just a constant stream of new "people" coming along, and you either eat or be eaten.

    Why not? Why not consider a race (Niven was pretty good at this actually) like the Thrintun who had natural telepathic abilities to control other creatures (any who didn't have the power). They would naturally evolve to assume others are just there to be used to do things for them. They might command others to pick things up in the same way you would command your own arm and hand. And think nothing of any sort of moral implication for using others in this way. Were they "evil"? By our standards (and a D&D type alignment system), absolutely. Did they consider themselves to be so? Nope. They were just using their abilities naturally. And no, they knew the other species were sentient and intelligent (in fact, they counted on it), but that didn't matter to them because they had the power and these other species did not. So they used it to empower themselves and take over the whole galaxy (well, until things went horribly badly for them, but that's a whole story). Were there also variations within that species? Absolutely. Some of them actually cared about their slaves. But that's what passed for "good" in their society, which I suspect would not fit so welll into "good" on a human based alignment scale.

    Once you step outside of the "aliens are just humans with prostetic foreheads" thinking, it honestly becomes a bit sillly to think that all (or even most) real "different" species would think the same way humans do. It's actually lazy writing (to me anyway) that so many authors do write other species this way.

    So yeay. Potayto, potahto.

  6. - Top - End - #66
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    Quote Originally Posted by gbaji View Post
    It is egotistical (Let's stick to the original term)
    THe original term was "the height of ego"; I think arrogance captures 'an exagerrated sense of self-importance quite well' (as per the Merriam-Webster), but given that you follow with

    to assume that all other's must view things the same way we do.
    I think we understand the phrase preety much in the same vein.

    Obviously, other species *can* view things through the same moral lens we do (and probably should, if we're going to play members of those species in a RPG). But it's also possible that some other species may *not* do so. Right? I'm merely pointing out that it is possible and therefore should not be automaticaly rejected as a possiblity out of hand.
    And I don't! V. my previous example with the difference between the perspective of an obligate carnivore, a little flower person and a herbivore(-by-choice) with regard to the morality of eating or not eating meat. I'm also extremely chill with the D&D (!) notion of lizardfolks eating their own dead and the bodies of their fallen enemies, regardless of sapience. I could likewise see how the philosophical tenet that procreation is abhorrent might appeal more to specimens of an effectively immortal species thatn to those of another who only live for five odd years on average. And so on, and so forth.

    And it is absolutely silly to declare any depiction of such a species in such a way as somehow "racist" or "speciest". "Different than", is not the same as "less than". And yeah, some authors pull this off welll. Others... not so much. And again, where I agree with Rich completely is that, historically, how various D&D editions/sources have handled this with various races in the game in terms of "racial alignment" has been awful.

    The bolded statement is wrong. Those other species absolutely have the same capacity. But it's the same capacity to "practice their moral agency". The key concept is that "their" moral agency may be different than human moral agency.

    I'm not saying that their moral agency is "more simplistic", nor that they are capable of variation. That's an assumption you are making, not me. I'm merely saying that the "center of their axis" on some things may be in a different location than it is for humans. Unfortunately, many D&D writers have made this assumption (that it must be "more simplistic") as well, and that's presumably what Rich is talking about. But that does not need to be the case.
    What I take issue with is Roberta's defense of D&D alignment (rather than your views on alien morals) through positing that humans' "alignment: Any" reflects an instinctual core inherent and largely exclusive to humans, whereas it is reasonable to assume that much every other creature would somehow have an innate instinct that limits their moral agency in such ways that they are restrictied to tending towards positions on a much narrower spectrum. Worse yet, it seemed to me that Roberta thinks this postulate is valid even outside a D&D-like system.

    I think you're also mixing up "what works for humans" and assuming that's the only method that can work.
    I'm a FLOWER.

    Those are your words. They don't think what they are doing is "wanton and stupid" at all. That's the point you aren't getting. You are imposing your own moral judgement on another species and how they think. Can you consider the possibility that some other species might view our morality just as "wanton and stupid" as we may view theirs?

    (Â…)

    But evolution only cares about success, not moral philosophy. Niven's Kzin were quite successful as a species. They had managed to advance technologically, and had conquered a number of other species prior to Humans encountering them (and were arguably more advanced than humans at the point of first contact). Humans actually had re-learn how to be violent in order to fight them successfully (it's a long story).

    The point is that it's incredibly self-centered to just assume that our way is "the right way" and that no species can possibly be successful without adopting our way of doing things. Yes, it's probably a good thing to view other species in a RPG as "humans with different skin", but in the broader fiction world? Absolutely not necessary or realistic.
    That's beside the point, mostly. The bit with evolution and success, I mean. Unless, of course, you want to imply that morality derives from biology or is otherwise a cynical tool used and abused to become more efficient. As for these Kzin things, specifically, you said they hunt sapients for sport (which I read as wanton: it has an end in itself) and they doggedly cling to that habit even in the face of genocide (which is not particularly bright, if you ask me).

    Eh. Or we're taking it to a bit of an extreme and losing sight of things along the way. "eating babies while cackling maniacally" is a bit extreme. How about something more simple like "doesn't view killing others to advance" to be wrong? Or, "burns people alive to ensure success on a venture". We could consider some of these things cultural though, which can be problematic. But what about physical, or genetic differences which could lead to different moral outcomes? We might consider a species in which children are born in litters, and each of them tries to devour the others, with the last one standing being the only to survive? How might this species evolve? Might members of this species consider killing (and eating) others to be the "morally correct" way to gain position and power (and perhaps the only way to survive themselves)? Perhaps they breed prodgiously, and there's just a constant stream of new "people" coming along, and you either eat or be eaten.

    Why not? Why not consider a race (Niven was pretty good at this actually) like the Thrintun who had natural telepathic abilities to control other creatures (any who didn't have the power). They would naturally evolve to assume others are just there to be used to do things for them. They might command others to pick things up in the same way you would command your own arm and hand. And think nothing of any sort of moral implication for using others in this way. Were they "evil"? By our standards (and a D&D type alignment system), absolutely. Did they consider themselves to be so? Nope. They were just using their abilities naturally. And no, they knew the other species were sentient and intelligent (in fact, they counted on it), but that didn't matter to them because they had the power and these other species did not. So they used it to empower themselves and take over the whole galaxy (well, until things went horribly badly for them, but that's a whole story). Were there also variations within that species? Absolutely. Some of them actually cared about their slaves. But that's what passed for "good" in their society, which I suspect would not fit so welll into "good" on a human based alignment scale.
    I was being hyperbolic with that example, but this is basically the same. "Yes, they mind rape sapients to enslaver them, but it's not Evil because they don't think it's Evil" – yeah, not buying that. You see, slavery is not commonly the basis of economies these days among humans, but that's not because humans somehow evolved with an instinct that makes them abhorr slavery. Quite on the contrary, it was widely popular and considered perfectly fine for millenia, and it's yet to go away. Humans are likewise more than capable of bashing each other's head in, it just happens to be frowned upon in polite company, see what I mean?

    Again, the thing boils down to this: I see no reason to accept that the basis of axiology is some kind of biological determinism. I mean, you're a human, right? Let me bring up an example you might find gross. I'm sure there are humans you could beat in a fight to eat their brain. So, why aren't you doing it? Brains are nutritious and even with your less than optimal teeth, you could easily eat it raw. What's stopping you, then? The menace of prion disease (so a biological issue) or something else?

    Once you step outside of the "aliens are just humans with prostetic foreheads" thinking, it honestly becomes a bit sillly to think that all (or even most) real "different" species would think the same way humans do. It's actually lazy writing (to me anyway) that so many authors do write other species this way.
    Yes and no, ultimately. Like I said, the more different the two species, the more differences in perspective will pop up. But assuming they don't have a choice in matters moral because of what they are biologically capable of? That, indeed, they can't form wildly different cultures within the same species? That these cultures can't have counter-intuitive beliefs from a purely biologizing point of view? That's just making Planets of Hats, the single biome planet of creature design.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    What I take issue with is Roberta's defense of D&D alignment (rather than your views on alien morals) through positing that humans' "alignment: Any" reflects an instinctual core inherent and largely exclusive to humans, whereas it is reasonable to assume that much every other creature would somehow have an innate instinct that limits their moral agency in such ways that they are restrictied to tending towards positions on a much narrower spectrum. Worse yet, it seemed to me that Roberta thinks this postulate is valid even outside a D&D-like system.
    Yeah. I think we have a similar position on D&D alignment in this regard. I was merely responding to other statements which seemed to suggest that this would or should exist in other media or formats as well. I strongly disagree with the concept of "racial/species alignment" as it's been presented in D&D. I don't disagree at all, however, with the concept that "other species" can have radically different views of good and evil as humans have. And it's that second point I'm talking about.


    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    That's beside the point, mostly. The bit with evolution and success, I mean. Unless, of course, you want to imply that morality derives from biology or is otherwise a cynical tool used and abused to become more efficient. As for these Kzin things, specifically, you said they hunt sapients for sport (which I read as wanton: it has an end in itself) and they doggedly cling to that habit even in the face of genocide (which is not particularly bright, if you ask me).
    Not exactly. They are biologically driven to hunt their prey and consider it weakness to achieve success in any other way. They behave this way towards eachother, and within their own species, this has resulted in the strongest of them achieving the greatest power, which in turn led to them becoming quite powerful and successful as a race. This manifests itself in their dealing with other races as they do explore out into the galaxy and encounter them.

    And no, at no point do they face actual genocide (because humans aren't going to do that because they are, in their opinion, "soft monkey people"). But their wars with humanity does have an effect on them. It doesn't remove the biological drive, but makes them smarter about it. It's presumably an ebb and flow in their culture. When they are more powerful than those they are fighting against, the strongest and most agressive among them achieve the greatest power, have the most mates, and their traits (both nurture and nature) are passed along the most. When they run into something more dangerous and problematic, those traits tend to lead to failure, which reverses the trend. But they never lose their basic nature. It's just variations from a starting point. And that starting point is not at all what humans would call "neutral" on any alignment scale we would come up with.

    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    I was being hyperbolic with that example, but this is basically the same. "Yes, they mind rape sapients to enslaver them, but it's not Evil because they don't think it's Evil" – yeah, not buying that.
    Why not? Their perception of what is "good" and "evil" is not the same as humans. To a race for whom, their only evolutionary advantage wasn't smarts, or brawn, or even particularly great tool building, but that they could control other beings around them, their view on slavery (at least their form) would be very different than ours. It would not just be a moral question, but a literal matter of survival for them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    You see, slavery is not commonly the basis of economies these days among humans, but that's not because humans somehow evolved with an instinct that makes them abhorr slavery. Quite on the contrary, it was widely popular and considered perfectly fine for millenia, and it's yet to go away. Humans are likewise more than capable of bashing each other's head in, it just happens to be frowned upon in polite company, see what I mean?
    Discussing the particular whys and what's of human slavery practices isn't allowed here, but can we agree that a race like this, for whom controlling the actions of others is literally necessary for them to survive, would have very very different "particulars" involved?

    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    Again, the thing boils down to this: I see no reason to accept that the basis of axiology is some kind of biological determinism. I mean, you're a human, right? Let me bring up an example you might find gross. I'm sure there are humans you could beat in a fight to eat their brain. So, why aren't you doing it? Brains are nutritious and even with your less than optimal teeth, you could easily eat it raw. What's stopping you, then? The menace of prion disease (so a biological issue) or something else?
    Because I'm a human and have no need to eat brains. Now, if I were a zombie and did need to, would I or my fellow Zombie friends, consider eating brains to be "evil"? Now imagine an entire species evolving with the absolute need to eat brains to survive or procreate. How would they view brain eating? Probably not the same as us humans do.



    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    Yes and no, ultimately. Like I said, the more different the two species, the more differences in perspective will pop up. But assuming they don't have a choice in matters moral because of what they are biologically capable of? That, indeed, they can't form wildly different cultures within the same species? That these cultures can't have counter-intuitive beliefs from a purely biologizing point of view? That's just making Planets of Hats, the single biome planet of creature design.
    I didn't say they don't have a choice (although in some examples, they may not). The larger point is that different species, due to biological differences may view those choices differently than we do. Their "center" may be different than ours is all.

    Would a truely alien race, if asked to write up an alignment system for a game they play like D&D, actually come up with the same one D&D has? And even if they did, would they ascribe the exact same behaviors for "good" and "evil" as we do (let's just set aside the law/chaos axis for now)? We ascribe to different things "good" and "evil" because that's what we ascribe to them. That's our human way of looking at things. But even within humanity, we can speculate different cultures having different rules and thus ascribing differently than our culture does.

    I'm just suggesting that it's well within the realm of possiblity that a completely different species might universally have a different "tilt" or "center" to their alignment, which would not place the same behaviors or sets of behaviors in the same places we would. An alien species may think nothing of killing someone to get ahead, but insulting their mother is a capital offense or something. The very system we ascribe to is itself based on collective human history and knowledge. This would, presumably, not be the same for an alien species.

  8. - Top - End - #68
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    Quote Originally Posted by gbaji View Post
    Yeah. I think we have a similar position on D&D alignment in this regard. I was merely responding to other statements which seemed to suggest that this would or should exist in other media or formats as well. I strongly disagree with the concept of "racial/species alignment" as it's been presented in D&D. I don't disagree at all, however, with the concept that "other species" can have radically different views of good and evil as humans have. And it's that second point I'm talking about.
    Okay. Thank you for clarifying; talking past each other is the worst, especially if we agree in so many regards. Still, I think your examples push the whole moral relativism argument well past the point it is worth entertaining. E.g.:

    They are biologically driven to hunt their prey
    How's this different from Roberta's instinct argument? Humans have been endurance hunters for a stupidly long time. Why would any sapient omnivore/carnivore be biologically driven to hunt their (sapient) prey once they have a million other ways to feed themselves?

    and consider it weakness to achieve success in any other way. They behave this way towards eachother, and within their own species, this has resulted in the strongest of them achieving the greatest power, which in turn led to them becoming quite powerful and successful as a race. This manifests itself in their dealing with other races as they do explore out into the galaxy and encounter them.
    That sounds very much like a biologizing bend on "Social Darwinism works" – dangerously so, even. And a specieswide moral imperative to hunt one's conspecifics as prey sounds like a better recipe for extinction than one for becoming powerful as a species.

    And no, at no point do they face actual genocide (because humans aren't going to do that because they are, in their opinion, "soft monkey people"). But their wars with humanity does have an effect on them. It doesn't remove the biological drive, but makes them smarter about it. It's presumably an ebb and flow in their culture.
    So this is a Planet of Hat things, after all? A specieswide culture strictly deriving from some biological drive from before sapience that only large scale threats from outside the species can suppress temporarily?

    When they are more powerful than those they are fighting against, the strongest and most agressive among them achieve the greatest power, have the most mates, and their traits (both nurture and nature) are passed along the most. When they run into something more dangerous and problematic, those traits tend to lead to failure, which reverses the trend. But they never lose their basic nature. It's just variations from a starting point.
    That sounds like that simplistic misrepresentation of biological evolution social darwinists will usually draw upon, only with an unhealthy dose of biological determinism mixed in, sorry. Imagine, if you will, a lion. It is a commonly observed pattern of behaviour among lions that when a male defeats another, it takes over the "wives" of its fallen opponent and has these, if they are mothers, kill their cubs. This is understood to be done for an instinctual desire to achieve what you described above. But here's the thing: this could be, in theory, true for quite the number of animals, including humans. Isn't a stronger human stronger than a weaker human, after all? And yet, this is not the norm. Such things had been done, historically, and they weren't always frowned upon, but the perceived evolutionary benefits never made it some kind of a specieswide basis for morals. I find this a rather tasteless oversimplification, in other words.

    Why not? Their perception of what is "good" and "evil" is not the same as humans. To a race for whom, their only evolutionary advantage wasn't smarts, or brawn, or even particularly great tool building,
    Meh. Humans are weak, they spend a very long time early in their lives practically defenseless, especially compared to other animals, and for quite some time, their tools (often quite primitive) mostly just served to compensate for their various shortcomings somewhat.

    but that they could control other beings around them, their view on slavery (at least their form) would be very different than ours. It would not just be a moral question, but a literal matter of survival for them.
    Are they made of glass and plasticine, too dumb to put together a stone axe or not dexterous enough to wield one? It seems to me that this is as much a matter of convenience, ultimately, as it was (or is) for humans. (At any rate, if a paraplegic human developed psychic powers, would that give this human a free pass on enslaving others? Is the Senator in Shoot 'Em Up morally justified because he needs to do what he does?)

    Because I'm a human and have no need to eat brains.
    But it's plentiful and its mass/worth ratio is very good!

    Now, if I were a zombie and did need to, would I or my fellow Zombie friends, consider eating brains to be "evil"?
    Zombies usually don't need to eat, are often mindless and always derive from other creatures. If anything, a zombie with its mind and memories intact is something I'd hold to the standards of its parent species.

    Now imagine an entire species evolving with the absolute need to eat brains to survive or procreate. How would they view brain eating? Probably not the same as us humans do.
    #JusticeForTheIllithids?

    (although in some examples, they may not)
    Why? And how is that (i.e. a lack of moral agency) a good thing?

    The larger point is that different species, due to biological differences may view those choices differently than we do. Their "center" may be different than ours is all.
    Of course. But biology is not all. Far from it, in fact. If human axiologies aren't based around biological needs, why would alien axiologies be? Like I said, I like D&D (!) lizardfolk being chill with ritual cannibalism and eating fallen foes. It might be strange and gross for a modern human, but it doesn't have to not be.

    That's our human way of looking at things.
    I'm a FLOWER.

    But even within humanity, we can speculate different cultures having different rules and thus ascribing differently than our culture does.
    But that's half my point! Why can't any species develop any number of cultures with any number of individuals1 with any sort of morals, like humans, instead of reverting to something biologically determined en masse?

    1After allowing for eusocial/hive mind people and the like, for whom, I'll give you that, We Have Reserves and What Measure Is a Mook would make a lot more sense as the normal way of things.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    Is the Senator in Shoot 'Em Up morally justified because he needs to do what he does?)
    I just wanted to say Shoot 'Em Up rules and and everybody should see it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ruck View Post
    I just wanted to say Shoot 'Em Up rules and and everybody should see it.
    Eat your vegetables.
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  11. - Top - End - #71
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    Default Re: Wild Mass Guessing on Saving The World

    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    How's this different from Roberta's instinct argument? Humans have been endurance hunters for a stupidly long time. Why would any sapient omnivore/carnivore be biologically driven to hunt their (sapient) prey once they have a million other ways to feed themselves?
    You assume that they only hunt for food. Humans hunt for sport still. And we're not really "hunting" animals. We're more pack animals who developed tool use over time. We're omnivores and eat our veggies pretty much to the degree that we can grow/find enough of them. Imagine a carnivorous species developing intelligence instead (basically large cat people in this case).

    Why do people buy things they don't need to survive? We humans do this all the time. We accumulate "stuff" (or wear stuff, or make our selves up with stuff). None of it's needed to survive as an individual. We do it to attract mates. Now imagine a species where owning the biggest house, or the nicest car, or the coolest screen, or the fanciest clothes, wasn't what determined attractiveness for breeding, but being able to land the biggest prey animal with your bare hands was. My point is that we humans still do a lot of "unecessary" things out of some biological need that we're stlll really not totally aware of or sure about. Assuming this magically disappears in other species when it hasn't in our own is questionable IMO.


    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    That sounds very much like a biologizing bend on "Social Darwinism works" – dangerously so, even. And a specieswide moral imperative to hunt one's conspecifics as prey sounds like a better recipe for extinction than one for becoming powerful as a species.
    And yet we humans also have the concept of "pecking order" *and* competition, and still manage to survive as a species. Why assume that every other possible sentient life that could possibly exist must evolve to have the exact same things that determine that pecking order? And why assume that if a species does use something else, that it must fail to work?


    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    So this is a Planet of Hat things, after all? A specieswide culture strictly deriving from some biological drive from before sapience that only large scale threats from outside the species can suppress temporarily?
    Again. You could be descrbing humanity too. We have a boat load of biological drives that make us far less efficient as a species than we could be (and arguably a lot of cultural ones as well). There's a reason why a common theme in sci fi is humans discovering life outside our own planet and this maybe requiring us to figure out how to stop wasting so many resources/time/energy on dumb stuff. I've lost count of the number of "If only we'd spent less time fighting amongs ourselves we might have been able to prevent being conquered/defeated/whatever by the aliens" stories I've read.

    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    Imagine, if you will, a lion. It is a commonly observed pattern of behaviour among lions that when a male defeats another, it takes over the "wives" of its fallen opponent and has these, if they are mothers, kill their cubs. This is understood to be done for an instinctual desire to achieve what you described above. But here's the thing: this could be, in theory, true for quite the number of animals, including humans. Isn't a stronger human stronger than a weaker human, after all? And yet, this is not the norm. Such things had been done, historically, and they weren't always frowned upon, but the perceived evolutionary benefits never made it some kind of a specieswide basis for morals. I find this a rather tasteless oversimplification, in other words.
    Eh. Only because we developed a set of moral rules and decided as a species to live by them. There's no reason to assume a parallel identical human species would undergo this exact same cultural change, much less a completely alien species. There is zero causative relationship between the development of those cultural changes/moral rules and the development of technology in our own human history. And frankly, there's nothhing that automatically ensures that we will even retain those rules and ideas in the future.

    I think your argument assumes that "human nature" has actually changed, and that this change is some sort of necessary step for (well, clearly not just sentience, so...) advanced technology like space travel. I don't think it has. I think that, given the opportunity, there are a large number of people who would gladly return to the sorts of behaviors you seem to think we've outgrown right here on Earth, and absolutely no requirement that this would prohibit the continued development of technology including space travel. I think it's very naive to assume that "humanity has outgrown" <some behavior>. And it's certainly a mistake to blanketly assume that all other theoretical species would have to as well.

    And honestly, this was the thrust of Niven's story as well. Taken to a bit of an extreme. In this phase of his Known Space universe (almost called it "future history", but Heinlein probably spins in his grave enough already), he had humanity "weed out" violence and crime by extensive psychological techniques, breeding restrictions, and pharmaceuticals for those "aberrant" humans who still had thoughts of violence. But no matter how hard they tried, they still couldn't get rid of it all. Which turned out to be a good thing when Humans encounter the Kzin and have to relearn how to fight things. Now maybe that was Niven pontificating his own ideas, but that's beside the point I'm trying to make. I'm just saying that we shouldn't assume some sort of universal moral/ethical standard based on what is really just a relvatively short window of time in human cultural evolution.


    Don't get me wrong. I'd love for it to be the way you say, and the universe is chock full of enlightened beings just waiting for us to "grow up" or something. I'm just not willing to assume that is the case when we only have a sample size of one, and the votes still out on that one.


    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    Are they made of glass and plasticine, too dumb to put together a stone axe or not dexterous enough to wield one? It seems to me that this is as much a matter of convenience, ultimately, as it was (or is) for humans. (At any rate, if a paraplegic human developed psychic powers, would that give this human a free pass on enslaving others? Is the Senator in Shoot 'Em Up morally justified because he needs to do what he does?)
    You keep looping back to using human examples. What if the entire species was parapalegic and the only way to walk was to force some other species to carry them? What if they have been this way for their entire existence? There are a number of parasitic species right here on earth. Some of them are super creepy too. What moral rules do you think they would develop if they became sentient?

    And to answer your question, I think that everything is a matter of convenience. We use tools specifically because they make our own lives easier. In this particular example, the species evolved on a planet where everything was strongly telepathic. Anything that didn't develop strong telepathy themselves, got told to stand still and be eaten by something else stronger. That's how they evolved. Now imagine they've advanced as far as hunter-gatherers and an alien spaceship lands. Aliens with no defence against them. They just take control. They force the aliens to do stuff for them. Then they force them to take them back to their home world and take control. It's how they do things. They don't know how the technology is made (but are smart enough to use it). They consider other species "intelligent" but not really "sentient" in this case because anything that isn't strongly telepathic isn't really sentient to them. Their entire evolution taught them that anything that couldn't resist/use "the power" was fodder for those who could. They catapulted from simple tool use, to controlling a galaxy spanning empire in short order. There was no possiblity for them to take the time and consider concepts of "human rights" or such silliness (from their perspective).

    It's one thing to have one person who has power like that and abuses it. But when it's the entire species? Anyone who doesn't join in just gets left behind. The point is that this is an entire species we would clearly label as "evil" by our standards (and by default, since anyone who even tried to be "good" would be pushed down to the dregs of society and power by everyone else). That doesn't mean that they didn't have families, young, care about things, maybe even write poetry or something. And yeah, I suppose we could argue that this is societal, but that's pretty much just an academic distinction here. It's an entire species that doesn't consider others to be any more sentient than the computer I'm typing this up on right now. Should I be considered "evil" because I'm forcing my computer to do my bidding? From the computer's perspective, sure. From mine? No.

    And that's my point. We can't assume our own frame of reference for alien species. Yeah. In D&D, the different races are basically humans with different skin and teeth, so we can (and should, since we humans are the ones playing them). But at a general concept? No. Alignment is not universal by any means IMO.


    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    But that's half my point! Why can't any species develop any number of cultures with any number of individuals with any sort of morals, like humans, instead of reverting to something biologically determined en masse?
    Never said they wouldn't. Just that their "center" would not necessarily have to be where us humans put it. To assume otherwise is projecting our human viewpoint on others. Again. You could be right. But you could also be wrong. I guess we wont know until we actually communicate with another intelligent species.

  12. - Top - End - #72
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    Default Re: Wild Mass Guessing on Saving The World

    Back in OD&D and AD&D days, there were a variety of monsters that most of us classified along the lines of
    Alignment: hungry.

    This was a bit of a joke directed at the alignment system, but it was also an attempt to disassociate the simple drive of hunger (Great White Shark being but one example, or a pack of wolves) from any moral root, or the instinct to clean and consume among beings with, roughly, the sentience of an amoeba (gelatinous cube.

    You may now return to your disagreement.
    Last edited by KorvinStarmast; 2023-01-04 at 11:58 AM.
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  13. - Top - End - #73
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    Default Re: Wild Mass Guessing on Saving The World

    My shot at wild guessing.

    Belkar is going to die, by performing a heroic sacrifice.

    We see how he is affected by Durkon in the vampire arc and how much he is rethinking his morality.

    It's also consistent with the Giant's general messages. Even someone like Belkar has a shot at redemption.

    Quote Originally Posted by WanderingMist View Post
    For what it's worth, while I enjoy the comic, I heavily disagree with the Giant about reasons for fantasy literature. It can be valuable in its own right without needing to apply to anything in the real world. So often people look down on escapism as something cowardly.

    "Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter."

    -J.R.R. Tolkien
    When you consider what Tolkien said and why, he's not really disagreeing with Rich here, even though they load the respective terms with opposite meanings. One of the central messages of the Hobbit was about how you can go on a life changing journey without ever leaving your home. Another central message is how Bilbo goes and has an adventure with the dragons, completely divorced from the standard hobbit life, and how, having returned from his adventure (much like the reader returns to his life after reading the book) he uses that experience to subtly change his life.

    The Hobbit is a much better book that LOTR, fite me.

    (Tolkien was also a devout Catholic and reported seeing angels at mass once or twice. The fantastical world to people like him are quite literally more real than reality, because he assumes we lack the senses to see it fully)

    Quote Originally Posted by WanderingMist View Post
    I subscribe pretty firmly to "death of the author".
    Storytelling is art. Art is among other things, a form of self expression. A way to say something which is difficult to express in other words. A way to be heard and understood, or at least an expression of desire for it.

    "Death of the author" commits the sin of turning art into things, and artists into producers of things. It's not a product. It's communication. When you read a book, a good book with soul in it, you're being allowed into the inner world, the private and intimate part of the mind and soul of another human being. Wipe your feet before you enter.


    Quote Originally Posted by Snails View Post
    My understanding is Tolkien himself was not entirely comfortable with own treatment of orcs. Not that he necessarily regretted how he employed them in LotR, but that these corrupted once-elves being (apparently) far beyond the reach of redemption fit inelegantly within the larger moral framework Tolkien imagined for his world.
    I think it's an important and integral part of the story that the elves more or less flat out refuse to execute orcs and goblins (and Gollum) even though they are evil creatures through and through. Damn it, they will do their best to try and rehabilitate them.

    It's an important point with Gollum and Frodo too. Gollum in the end, is not redeemed. But what allows the forces of good to triumph in the end was the small act of mercy from Bilbo and Frodo towards a hateful, irredeemable creature. What destroys the ring isn't the steel of men and their ability and willingness to lay down orcs by the thousand (because ultimately, it corrupts them to do so). What destroys the ring is good cheer, good food, merriment, joy, compassion.

    The parable of the monk and the scorpion comes to mind

    Quote Originally Posted by RobertaME View Post
    Humans in D&D have no "preassigned alignment propensity"... but in effect that just makes their default Alignment Neutral since the assumed average of all humans would be right about in the middle. So by assigning no alignment to humans, the game designers effectively did so anyway. In effect this gives a baseline against which to compare all other creatures in the system.
    Imo humans are "usually lawful evil". When you take a look at humanity as a whole over our history, we have strong loyalty to our sides and absolute disregard for those not of it, and we always gravitate towards that. The designers just took a very americentric approach, and an easy cop out at that.

    Yes, he can feel free to craft his world however he sees fit... and in Stickworld goblins are just "green people with tusks"... and that's perfectly fine.
    I honestly don't think it's fine. It's pretty boring, and very safe. But beyond that, people aren't just superficially different. There are people out there who are superficially similar to me but we couldn't be more different and we can't ever get along. There are people out there who are superficially nothing like me, and yet we speak for five minutes and we understand each other perfectly. (Actually, some of the worst genocides in history were between people who are superficially similar) "We're all the same" message is dumb and dangerous, because no, we're actually very different, and we have reasonable freedom of mobility and association to group together with people like us, always had it but now its up to 11. Our differences cut to our very cores, our basic assumptions of the world, how we see things. There are sometimes profound differences between people that make us almost alien to one another, and pretending that's not the case sets diplomacy up for failure. We can find ways to cooperate and prosper together, but only if we acknowledge our differences instead of erasing them. And proper true synergy can only be a result of us appreciating our differences.
    Last edited by Dasick; 2023-02-01 at 03:01 AM.

  14. - Top - End - #74
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    Default Re: Wild Mass Guessing on Saving The World

    Quote Originally Posted by Dasick View Post
    "Death of the author" commits the sin of turning art into things, and artists into producers of things. It's not a product. It's communication. When you read a book, a good book with soul in it, you're being allowed into the inner world, the private and intimate part of the mind and soul of another human being. Wipe your feet before you enter.
    On this we certainly agree.
    I think it's an important and integral part of the story that the elves more or less flat out refuse to execute orcs and goblins (and Gollum) even though they are evil creatures through and through. Damn it, they will do their best to try and rehabilitate them.
    It also helps move the plot forward.
    Gollum in the end, is not redeemed. But what allows the forces of good to triumph in the end was the small act of mercy from Bilbo and Frodo towards a hateful, irredeemable creature. What destroys the ring isn't the steel of men and their ability and willingness to lay down orcs by the thousand (because ultimately, it corrupts them to do so). What destroys the ring is good cheer, good food, merriment, joy, compassion.
    Tolkien also seemed to work "evil is self defeating" into his magnum opus, but I am not sure if Gollum is a part of that weave.

    We can find ways to cooperate and prosper together, but only if we acknowledge our differences instead of erasing them. And proper true synergy can only be a result of us appreciating our differences.
    I think that the second piece of this is "if we acknowledge our differences and in so doing, also find our common ground" ...
    Last edited by KorvinStarmast; 2023-02-01 at 08:28 AM.
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    Rulings are not 'House Rules.' Rulings are a DM doing what DMs are supposed to do.
    b. greenstone (paraphrased):
    Agency means that they {players} control their character's actions; you control the world's reactions to the character's actions.
    Gosh, 2D8HP, you are so very correct!
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