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  1. - Top - End - #31
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Chimera

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    Default Re: Worldbuilding, melanin and appropriation

    Quote Originally Posted by paladinofshojo View Post
    I’d also not limit yourself to modern interpretation on race/ethnicity…. A good way to do so would be to look at how ancient civilizations categorized people, look at Roman and Greek sources, since they had VERY outlandish ways to “prove” their superiority and would categorize the “barbarians” that lived beyond “civilization”.
    Well, there's another idea. One could simply say, "certainly phenotypical variation in character appearance (in the manner we might consider race) exists in this world, and you might not be able to pass yourself off as the _____-ian ambassador because everyone will know you don't have the right skin tone. However it's just not how the typical us-vs-them lines are drawn in this world full of dragons and doppelgangers and magic users and whatnot."

  2. - Top - End - #32
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    Default Re: Worldbuilding, melanin and appropriation

    Quote Originally Posted by False God View Post
    As blue as this text may be intended to be read, this is the D&D-verse we're talking about. "Cultures influenced by space aliens" is 100% on the table, and frankly, is a great explanation as to why the average D&D-world is the way it is far better than IMO what we would regard as "natural factors".

    Oh yeah aliens just plopped a bunch of different beings down to be their servitor races/part of a grant experiment/a reality TV show and nobody in the world (save a few "crazy" people) know about it for "reasons".
    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    Agreed. [...] "Aliens/gods/mages/etc did it" is a fairly decent explanation IMO in a fantasy world. Even more so than natural evolution in a lot of cases.
    The gods would be the most likely suspects, and take credit regardless. Yes, everybody knows that, in the beginning, the gods brought forth the five sapient species and taught them masonry, sewing, etc.
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  3. - Top - End - #33
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    Default Re: Worldbuilding, melanin and appropriation

    Originally Posted by Satinavian
    And you would be hard pressed to find any other real world species that gets paler in the north and darker in the south.
    On the contrary, many species show this pattern, especially in birds and mammals. It’s called Gloger’s Rule, in which darker pigmentation is correlated with greater humidity and lower latitude. The details and mechanisms can be complex, but it’s well-known to ecologists and vertebrate biologists.

  4. - Top - End - #34
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    Default Re: Worldbuilding, melanin and appropriation

    Quote Originally Posted by Quixotic1 View Post
    So I've got a new setting I'm working on.
    There will be five sentient species players can choose from at character creation. Each species will have some common physical characteristics and behaviors.
    There will be three primary geographical areas their characters can be from --the north (frigid), the south (tropical) and the temperate zone in the middle. Things like level of technology, clothing and cultural practices are largely dictated by the geographical area a person lives in.
    Members of all five species can be found in all three geographical areas.
    Okay, it's your setting, do whatever you're planning to do.

    I was thinking that, as a general rule, the further south and the warmer it gets, the darker the native people's skin tends to get, and the further north and the colder it gets, the paler they tend to be (although people from all over can be found in most areas, with the more centralized areas being more diverse than the more isolated ones with extreme climates).
    If your goal is a realistic approach to this kind of thing then more direct and long term exposure to the sun would cause that adaptation and thus the "south" would need to be closer to the equator, but as others have pointed out fantasy doesn't typically go for that kind of thing with some characters like the Drow being anywhere from a dark grey to purple-ish to pitch black in pigmentation depending on the setting despite all living underground. Realistically they'd be hilariously pale and probably sun burn in moments above ground during the day. Fantasy doesn't care the slightest bit about the reasons we biologically adapt to our environments so really if "it's from many generations of prolonged exposure or lack of exposure to the sun" even comes up or not is entirely a personal choice based off what you want to show.

    I've fielded this concept with a few different people, and the opinions are divided. Some people suggest that I avoid mentioning skin color all together and just let players dig into that on their own, if they want to.
    That is generally the "safe" answer yes. I'm not going to say anything stupid like "people will just get offended over anything" but the reasons people do read something offensive into this kind of thing are varied and personal and successfully avoiding one doesn't mean you're going to escape others. Some are reactions to unfair biases a person has experienced themselves, others are their own personal internalized biases, and yes some are a person being so hyper-vigilant about this kind of thing that they will find it even if you go out of your way to avoid it.

    Avoiding mentioning things like skin color entirely doesn't actually prevent people from reading into it and making their own conclusions about whether or not you're trying to do something offensive, what it does is give you a defense of "but I never said what they look like that's on you." Bringing things like skin color up with regularity does somewhat open the door to either personal biases we aren't even conscious of ourselves influencing things or people who are looking for this kind of thing fixating and assuming ill intent.

    All of that goes to why not mentioning skin color is "safe." You may not have some unfair or mean bias behind mentioning skin color, you may even be going out of your way to avoid upsetting anyone, but intentions don't survive the jump from your mind to others' minds. This is such a charged topic that even big companies like WotC and Paizo have moved away from using the nebulous and vague term of "Race" to describe things as distinctly different as Humans and Tabaxi or Lizardfolk and Dwarves because the term itself was deemed as having too much negative baggage despite being so vague it could be used to mean almost anything. That said they didn't stop using things associated with certain real life cultures, they didn't leave all the details of skin color vague and cut out all art portraying specific characters to avoid any offense from that, they picked what they would cut out and it was the use of a nebulous term with so many different possible meaning and uses it becomes self contradictory at points, and they then just moved to other vague nebulous terms; the reasoning is simple, they deemed the term itself to be a risk because enough people have used it with bigoted intentions that there are people who now associate it with those bigots and it's easier to just use a different term than it is to separate the term from those using it as a weapon.

    I really want to avoid saying anything like, "skin color doesn't matter" or "this species = this real-world culture" or anything insensitive like that.
    Anyone know of any resources I could access, like a sensitivity reader/editor or something of that nature, or any good articles on the subject?
    Nope. Every solution I've seen has still left room for people to be offended, heck people who have gone out of their way to avoid any implication of real life parallels still have enough that people can and have been offended. There's only so much variation we can make while writing from a Human perspective, little similarities slip in and even when they don't people have their own mental image and reading/interpretation of the words used that will inevitably find something distressing regardless of intent. That isn't even necessarily a problem of "reading too much into it", some of these responses are due to past trauma or mistreatment or other perfectly valid reasons to shy away from certain terms or parallels.

    You aren't going to successfully avoid any and all feelings of bias, the best that can be accomplished is avoiding as much of it as possible and determining personally what you are and aren't willing to risk. Understanding that you're writing a fantasy setting means you can take this farther and just say "oh well these are literal aliens, those are eldritch abominations from beyond our universe, this is literal magic and I don't have to explain why they're born in sets of exactly three and one of the three is always born with rainbow pigmentation and neon pink spots." No matter how fantastical and strange you make it you'll never truly avoid all bias, whether yours or others, causing potential for offense in your work, you're just picking how much you're willing to risk.

  5. - Top - End - #35
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    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: Worldbuilding, melanin and appropriation

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    Agreed. Or even just an earlier powerful race, not necessarily an alien one.

    I have a group of people who are technically two lineages (depending on how much elven heritage they show) who all have particular "snake-like" characteristics (eg. mottled patches on their skin that kinda look like scales), have a deep and inexplicable (until you know their heritage) reverence for snakes and the color blue. Blue is a "royal" or "noble" color across this area, and even children too young to talk treat blue (and snakes) with respect. Why?

    Well, they're the descendants of a group of people whose ancestors were servitors to a bunch of elven bio-mages. Who liked snakes and bred in "snake-like" physical traits to their servants (as well as interbreeding themselves, hence the frequent half-elven "sports" popping up after nearly a millenium of absence). They also needed a way to distinguish the "good" servants (ie the ones you could talk to without becoming ritually unclean, the overseers/priests/etc) from the "scum/peasant" class visually, since one of the elven children complained. So they bred in/mass hypnotized (and made it hereditary) an irrational reverence for the color blue, and assigned the overseers to wear blue clothes. That's fading over time, especially as they intermarry with other, non-altered peoples, but...

    "Aliens/gods/mages/etc did it" is a fairly decent explanation IMO in a fantasy world. Even more so than natural evolution in a lot of cases.
    Oh yeah elves and snakes! After reading the lore on Sthien from an old 3rd party Races of Renown book I've always loved the combo of elves and snakes.

    Anyway, especially if we're working with a IRL-like world that is potentially billions of years old, there's absolutely room for ancient civilizations, I mean, who else put all those dungeons and ancient ruins all over the place?

    Quote Originally Posted by Millstone85 View Post
    The gods would be the most likely suspects, and take credit regardless. Yes, everybody knows that, in the beginning, the gods brought forth the five sapient species and taught them masonry, sewing, etc.
    But then who brought forth the gods? /I'll take deep questions that don't need answers for 100 Alex.
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  6. - Top - End - #36
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    Default Re: Worldbuilding, melanin and appropriation

    Eh. My solution for players who go out of their way to find things to be offended by is to not play with them. Problem solved!

    But... I'll play my own devil's advocate here, and point out that people are a heck of a lot more sensitive (including folks who are ridiculously oversensiitive) to these sorts of things these days (some people can literally connect a "dotted line" between any two dots, no matter how distant from eachother). So it can be more difficult to find a gaming group without such people in them. And honestly? You just have to weigh your desire to play the game against the annoyance of sometimes having to deal with stuff like this.

    But yeah. Anything you can do to avoid it, or at least mitigate it, is probably going to be a good idea.
    Last edited by gbaji; 2023-08-11 at 04:20 PM.

  7. - Top - End - #37
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    Default Re: Worldbuilding, melanin and appropriation

    Quote Originally Posted by False God View Post
    Oh yeah elves and snakes! After reading the lore on Sthien from an old 3rd party Races of Renown book I've always loved the combo of elves and snakes.

    Anyway, especially if we're working with a IRL-like world that is potentially billions of years old, there's absolutely room for ancient civilizations, I mean, who else put all those dungeons and ancient ruins all over the place?
    Absolutely. D&D works best, IMO, with a backdrop of many ancient civilizations, some great, some small, that fell into ruin in many different cycles.

    But then who brought forth the gods? /I'll take deep questions that don't need answers for 100 Alex.
    Spoiler: Amusing (to me) setting detail
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    My setting answers that...but inverts it. The gods are young. Both these particular set of gods and the concept of "gods" as something you can get power from via faith and that actually care about being worshipped in any cosmological sense. The first "gods"[1] came about ~4k years ago, after humans (and some other races, including elves, orcs, etc.) were losing an existential war (which in the grand scheme of things only affected one continent, but...) against orcs (and some other races, including humans, elves, etc.) who had gotten hopped up on demon power (blood magic).

    So the "good guys" (very big scare quotes there) set off on an epic quest to find the Cosmic Forge, a pen that could (with substantial sacrifice) rewrite reality in the form of a Wish[2]. Effectively rewrite the universe's operating system and insert a new imperative. They found it, and one of their number used it (and ceased to have ever existed in the process, because that's the cost) to wish that "Faith brings power". Several of his comrades apotheosized as the first deities; the rest went and used this power of faith to banish the head orc-demon, killing his sister in the process, who also apotheosized as the "goddess of evil". After that, the link between worship and power was established. Ascendants[3] use worship to maintain themselves after death; they can also give that power to mortals who worship them. But worship also changes the Ascendant, making them more like what they're worshipped for.

    ~3.5k years later (~250 years ago), people did a bad thing and nearly broke the universe. The universe then basically called in the loaned power to the Ascendants of the time, depowering and (mostly) killing them. Later, it decided to make things more regular and forcibly ascended 16 dead people to the rank of Congregant (true god). They're basically the universe's PR/complaint department, handling prayers. They are independent of worship, but are limited in how they can interact with mortals (lest they be dethroned). There are still a crap-ton of Ascendants, because anyone who has a big enough, fanatic enough following can (in principle) transcend death and become a Power. But only the true gods can make clerics; the rest basically have to make warlock-style pacts.

    [1] as opposed to demon princes, angelic legion commanders, elemental princes, Lucian dons (basically mafia "devils"), etc. Those would make deals, but they were quid pro quo, warlock style, with no take-back provisions possible.

    [2] Hey, I never said I was very creative. You might notice shades of both Warcraft (the whole orc + demon thing) and the Wizardry series of games. I'm a magpie, stealing ideas and re-using them.

    [3] the general name for any post-mortal being who has transcended death and replaced their soul with a True Name, whether elemental or astral. Includes the true gods as well as a bunch of ancestor spirits, people worshiped as heroes, a fair number of con-men who found themselves with a cult following (literally), etc.

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  8. - Top - End - #38
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Worldbuilding, melanin and appropriation

    Quote Originally Posted by Anymage View Post
    ...sometimes the best way to avoid being a direct rip of one culture is to sprinkle in elements from other cultures as well...I strongly recommend doing some serious research and then asking for readers from that culture...After a bit more thought, trying to create new cultures whole cloth, if anything, makes it more likely for you to make a misstep...
    I tended to think the same thing about adding elements from other cultures, but the article I read gave some very solid evidence for why that is specifically a bad idea.
    Research, yes. Absolutely. The problem I've run into is that "researching a culture" is a pretty massive task, and it's just one part of GMing, or even world-building. I don't have the time to do it well enough to comfortably portray that culture in any real depth.

    And...eh. I don't know. I see Rowling's and Lucas' major missteps with cultural/racial stereotypes and its like...I mean, as you said: research. Looking into those tropes, even for just a few minutes on Google, turns up some...significant results. Especially with the really blatant, offensive ones like the goblins and gungans.

  9. - Top - End - #39
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    Default Re: Worldbuilding, melanin and appropriation

    Quote Originally Posted by Satinavian View Post
    ...But at least 4 of your species are not humans..
    And even if you have humans it doesn't have to be this way, especially if you have lots of migration history.
    Eh...yeah, sure. But one thing I'm pretty determined to keep in place is the idea that the different species have different races within each of them, so players who want to run a character that presents with a certain racial heritage can pick whatever species they want.

    And yeah, there will be plenty of diversity and integration. I was just talking about ancestry; people come from places, etc.
    But again, I'm confident that just skipping over the specifics will be best.

  10. - Top - End - #40
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    Default Re: Worldbuilding, melanin and appropriation

    Quote Originally Posted by Quixotic1 View Post
    I tended to think the same thing about adding elements from other cultures, but the article I read gave some very solid evidence for why that is specifically a bad idea.
    Research, yes. Absolutely. The problem I've run into is that "researching a culture" is a pretty massive task, and it's just one part of GMing, or even world-building. I don't have the time to do it well enough to comfortably portray that culture in any real depth.
    Mind linking the article? There are a lot of internet think pieces where a person claims to speak for a group, while actually talking to a wide enough swath of people in the group shows no such consensus.

    Also, most people will understand if you put in effort at all and are willing to accept and act on criticism if you misstep. You don't need to get it perfect, and anyone who tells you otherwise is saying more about their personal axe to grind than any reality.

  11. - Top - End - #41
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    Default Re: Worldbuilding, melanin and appropriation

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    Absolutely. D&D works best, IMO, with a backdrop of many ancient civilizations, some great, some small, that fell into ruin in many different cycles.



    Spoiler: Amusing (to me) setting detail
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    My setting answers that...but inverts it. The gods are young. Both these particular set of gods and the concept of "gods" as something you can get power from via faith and that actually care about being worshipped in any cosmological sense. The first "gods"[1] came about ~4k years ago, after humans (and some other races, including elves, orcs, etc.) were losing an existential war (which in the grand scheme of things only affected one continent, but...) against orcs (and some other races, including humans, elves, etc.) who had gotten hopped up on demon power (blood magic).

    So the "good guys" (very big scare quotes there) set off on an epic quest to find the Cosmic Forge, a pen that could (with substantial sacrifice) rewrite reality in the form of a Wish[2]. Effectively rewrite the universe's operating system and insert a new imperative. They found it, and one of their number used it (and ceased to have ever existed in the process, because that's the cost) to wish that "Faith brings power". Several of his comrades apotheosized as the first deities; the rest went and used this power of faith to banish the head orc-demon, killing his sister in the process, who also apotheosized as the "goddess of evil". After that, the link between worship and power was established. Ascendants[3] use worship to maintain themselves after death; they can also give that power to mortals who worship them. But worship also changes the Ascendant, making them more like what they're worshipped for.

    ~3.5k years later (~250 years ago), people did a bad thing and nearly broke the universe. The universe then basically called in the loaned power to the Ascendants of the time, depowering and (mostly) killing them. Later, it decided to make things more regular and forcibly ascended 16 dead people to the rank of Congregant (true god). They're basically the universe's PR/complaint department, handling prayers. They are independent of worship, but are limited in how they can interact with mortals (lest they be dethroned). There are still a crap-ton of Ascendants, because anyone who has a big enough, fanatic enough following can (in principle) transcend death and become a Power. But only the true gods can make clerics; the rest basically have to make warlock-style pacts.

    [1] as opposed to demon princes, angelic legion commanders, elemental princes, Lucian dons (basically mafia "devils"), etc. Those would make deals, but they were quid pro quo, warlock style, with no take-back provisions possible.

    [2] Hey, I never said I was very creative. You might notice shades of both Warcraft (the whole orc + demon thing) and the Wizardry series of games. I'm a magpie, stealing ideas and re-using them.

    [3] the general name for any post-mortal being who has transcended death and replaced their soul with a True Name, whether elemental or astral. Includes the true gods as well as a bunch of ancestor spirits, people worshiped as heroes, a fair number of con-men who found themselves with a cult following (literally), etc.

    I took the cycles approach.
    Spoiler: ancient, ancient, VERY ancient history
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    "Civilization" as most people regard it can only exist in interglacial periods, roughly every 250 thousand years, for about 50k years. The world is too dry, too cold, too barren to support all but the smallest or toughest life(enough to sustain this living world), civilizations rise and fall during the interglacial periods when the world experiences extreme warming and frees trapped moisture. The "gods" of today are the Ascended(it works just like how it does in Stargate) from the last period, and their gods the ones before that. These beings often assume the mantle of a previously-named "god" when they Ascend, which just makes the record confusing.

    The Ascended don't die, but their immortality makes them grow distant from mortal affairs over time, especially in the hundreds of thousands of years between civilizations, over time many simply disperse into the aether of the universe. Watching over mortal affairs, having worshippers, that's a "young god's fancy".

    And the cycle continues, gods drift away from mortals, new gods rise to take their place or fill their shoes. Civilizations continue to rise and fall with enough time and disruption between them to make the previous ones little more than legend, and the ones before that little more than fantasy. No civilization has made it to what we could consider "modern" for millions of years. Even the "gods" lack the ability to comprehend the concept, any that did have long since drifted off into the void, or become something incomprehensible themselves.

    Everything that is is some remnant of what was. At some point in the ancient past, there was a world of only one kind of humanoids, and then two, and then three, and now dozens, be it magic, technology, evolution, de-evolution, failed ascension, decension. Almost nothing and noone remembers, save things too terrifying to even comprehend(the Old Ones). What you and I would regard as "IRL cultures" continue to pop up over and over again, as fragments of the past and the Ascended guide mortals on the same well-trod paths.

    Note: Time travel magic is exceedingly difficult, highly variable and alternate timelines, as well as fixed points, are a thing.
    Note: Millions of years ago, some civilizations did travel to the stars, but they have forgotten (or hidden) their homeworld, and a million years of living in space or other worlds means they bear little resemblance to their original species.

    I heavily bury this information in game though, it can be depressing. But just because you and everything you know or do will be forgotten in a million years doesn't mean what you do now has no meaning.


    On the subject of this thread though, particularly running a game on an alt-earth, future-earth, past-earth, the players often lack a full picture, and what can sometimes appear as a "poor misrepresentation" of an IRL culture is in fact the result of thousands of years of lost history, people picking up the pieces and building along similar lines. Though it is helpful to make some element of this clear in the introduction "This is an alt-earth setting, so you'll likely see some similarities."
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  12. - Top - End - #42
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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Worldbuilding, melanin and appropriation

    Quote Originally Posted by Slipjig View Post

    You mentioned technology as varying by regions, I think that could actually be a touchy subject as well, ESPECIALLY if the darker skinned people from the tropics are less advanced than their northern counterparts.
    Technically if we are going with actual history, it should be the other way around… with advanced complex “civilized” cultures usually sprouting upon temperate regions instead with northern regions being seen as rural backwaters who can scarcely feed themselves…

    Though, if there is a hegemony in this world…. It could stand to reason that there might be a sort of de jure or de facto form of caste here based on some physical or non physical attributes…. It doesn’t have to be skin color, it can easily just be the clothes you wear and the language you speak.
    Last edited by paladinofshojo; 2023-08-11 at 07:15 PM.

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    Default Re: Worldbuilding, melanin and appropriation

    Quote Originally Posted by Quixotic1 View Post
    But...the problem I've found is that, if you have a small population of people who live in an arctic climate, wear lots of animal furs, live in houses made of ice, hunt with ivory-tipped harpoons and eat mostly animal protein...it doesn't matter that all of those things *make sense for a people who live in that climate*, people will take one look and go, "oh, Eskimos. Got it," and it can very easily be supposed that you're just ripping off a real-world culture, even if you go out of your way to avoid doing just that.
    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    So, to play the ignoramus / Devil’s advocate, why not build cold-climate houses out of wood, or rock, or animal parts, or mud?
    As someone living in that climate with that history I'd like to make a couple points.

    First, there are multiple cultures that get lumped under "Eskimo" that are georgaphically, linguistically, and culturally as dissimilar as Britan and Italy. There are in my zone no less than five distinct coastal & island culture/language groups that get the "Eskimo" treatment and there are activities that are expected in one which will get you ostracized (at best) in another.

    Second, there was never a 'mostly animal protein & ice houses' culture. The igloos were temporary hunting shelters and everyone preserves fruits & veg to get through the winter. During specific seasons after specific communal hunts there was more animal protein in the diets for a time, but not continually.

    Last, for Quertus, it was wood + earth. Most of the cultures in question at least partly bury homes, and wood is the common building material. You see hide used more where the winter wind isn't lethal, mostly temporary summer camps. The only reason to use packed snow (not ice, bad material, heavy, slippery, absorbs much more heat than alternatives) is if you literally don't have anything else that will stand up to the local conditions.

    Sorry. Minor rant. Carry on.

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    Default Re: Worldbuilding, melanin and appropriation

    Quote Originally Posted by False God View Post
    Oh yeah aliens just plopped a bunch of different beings down to be their servitor races/part of a grant experiment/a reality TV show and nobody in the world (save a few "crazy" people) know about it for "reasons".
    "aliens created this world as an elaborated simulation on a carbon-based processor for an entertainment purpose"
    that's actually true
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    Default Re: Worldbuilding, melanin and appropriation

    Quote Originally Posted by Quixotic1 View Post
    I tended to think the same thing about adding elements from other cultures, but the article I read gave some very solid evidence for why that is specifically a bad idea.
    You really want to recap in more detail what exactly was given as evidence. There's a pretty good chance the evidence given was proving the wrong thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quixotic1 View Post
    Research, yes. Absolutely. The problem I've run into is that "researching a culture" is a pretty massive task, and it's just one part of GMing, or even world-building. I don't have the time to do it well enough to comfortably portray that culture in any real depth.
    Ever heard "perfect is the enemy of good"? That's what you're falling afoul of. Fantasy traffics in cliches, stereotypes and popular misconceptions because researching other cultures is hard. They are shortcuts towards the stories people want to tell. Vast majority of attempts are both well-intentioned and harmless, with inaccuracies stemming from everyday limitations of finding correct knowledge. The moment you start thinking or saying that's not enough, you might as well give up on having anything resembling a foreign culture in fantasy. Give up on historical fiction too, because obviously you as a layman will never do it enough justice.

    The alternative is to hold that giving it your best shot is enough, because non-experts have right to make fiction too, and genre fantasy isn't representational in the manner some people think it is to begin with.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quixotic1 View Post
    And...eh. I don't know. I see Rowling's and Lucas' major missteps with cultural/racial stereotypes and its like...I mean, as you said: research. Looking into those tropes, even for just a few minutes on Google, turns up some...significant results. Especially with the really blatant, offensive ones like the goblins and gungans.
    And here we go back to proving the wrong thing. Shortly: proving genealogy isn't the same as proving harm. It's trivial to show that, say, goblins in Harry Potter movies resemble past negative stereotypes of jews. But in order for this to cause any stereotype threat, two other things must hold:

    1) the respective minority (in this case, jews) has to recognize the symbol (in this case, fictional goblins) as referring to them and must've internalized this to some degree.
    2) the majority audience (everyone else) has to recognize the symbol as referring to the respective minority and they have to actually hold the negative beliefs to some extent.

    When these don't hold, there is no causal mechanism for stereotype threat to occur. For this specific case, we know this, because a lot of people watched them as children who had no idea of past jewish stereotypes and thus had no clue goblins had anything to do with them. For all of those people, goblins were just goblins and the portrayal had zero impact on their relationships with real people. Some of those people are throwing a fit over it now, as adults, because they've become more aware of history and, ironically, because they took home the series' explicit anti-discrimination and anti-bullying message when they actually saw the movies or read the books as children.

    It isn't always this clear cut. In truth, it's somewhat hard to predict actual cultural impact of a work and the evaluation has to be done on case-by-case basis. Which gets to what I already said: if you want to know how your specific work will make people react, you will have to get your specific work out there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    ...That's what you're falling afoul of.
    I have to say, I really have a hard time with this tone. Maybe it's just me, but it comes across as very condescending.

    I would never suggest that perfection should be expected. I expect people to do their best and learn from their mistakes. And for others to accept that. Anything else will only lead to bitterness and frustration.

    I disagree with the premise of your argument. But I don't think it's necessary to get into the weeds over it. That whole conversation is tangential to the main topic.
    But since the main topic has already been dealt with and I've come to the conclusion that my original plan was not going to work, I feel like I can comfortably withdraw.

    Thank you all again.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    As someone living in that climate with that history I'd like to make a couple points...First, there are multiple cultures that get lumped under "Eskimo" that are georgaphically, linguistically, and culturally as dissimilar as Britan and Italy...Second, there was never a 'mostly animal protein & ice houses' culture.
    Just to clarify, I wasn't trying to claim that any of those traits were true or anything; just that people would perceive those things and draw that conclusion.
    I was familiar with the term "Eskimo" being inaccurate. For a while I thought "Inuit" was better, but then I learned that's still off the mark.
    I didn't draw those conclusions about diet from the research I did, but that really does make sense. But to be fair, my research only amounted to a few hours; enough to become familiar enough to misrepresent specifics, but that's probably about it. Thank you for the clarification. I've always had a fascination with the peoples who live in what seem to be such hostile places.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quixotic1 View Post
    I am a GM-for-hire, so actually, the people I will be playing with are indeed "strangers from the internet".
    Wrong.
    Your players will become people that you get to know, and you will all form a relationship through play.
    They won't be strangers like the forumites here.

    Engage with them, they will give you the feedback that you need to tweak it so that it's "just right".
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quixotic1 View Post
    Just to clarify, I wasn't trying to claim that any of those traits were true or anything; just that people would perceive those things and draw that conclusion.
    Oh for sure, I wasn't try to accuse anyone of anything and you're right about the perceptions. It was just my usual pendantry coming out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quixotic1 View Post
    So I've got a new setting I'm working on.
    There will be five sentient species players can choose from at character creation. Each species will have some common physical characteristics and behaviors.
    There will be three primary geographical areas their characters can be from --the north (frigid), the south (tropical) and the temperate zone in the middle. Things like level of technology, clothing and cultural practices are largely dictated by the geographical area a person lives in.
    Members of all five species can be found in all three geographical areas.

    I was thinking that, as a general rule, the further south and the warmer it gets, the darker the native people's skin tends to get, and the further north and the colder it gets, the paler they tend to be (although people from all over can be found in most areas, with the more centralized areas being more diverse than the more isolated ones with extreme climates).

    I've fielded this concept with a few different people, and the opinions are divided. Some people suggest that I avoid mentioning skin color all together and just let players dig into that on their own, if they want to.

    I really want to avoid saying anything like, "skin color doesn't matter" or "this species = this real-world culture" or anything insensitive like that.
    Anyone know of any resources I could access, like a sensitivity reader/editor or something of that nature, or any good articles on the subject?
    {Scrubbed} their melanin levels is all that we know of these peoples.

    If the kingdoms of the south are complex and interesting as the kingdoms of the north I would see no issue.

    If the kingdoms of the south are savage tribals with bones in their noses, now THAT would be an issue. Because those stereotypes are harmful and based on lies.

    So to you stays the questions, how are the nations of the North and south?
    Last edited by Pirate ninja; 2023-08-16 at 05:40 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Perch View Post
    If the kingdoms of the south are savage tribals with bones in their noses, now THAT would be an issue. Because those stereotypes are harmful and based on lies.
    What if it’s a very archaic setting? Something like Conan the barbarian… with the northern kingdoms being a bunch of loincloth wearing savages who paint their bodies blue and rush into battle naked… and the only real difference to an outside observer between the two culturally is the geography they live in?

    Perhaps the only “civilized” regions are the ones that are in temperate regions with a water source that can sustain reliable farming. Said civilizations are also primarily brown or at the very least swarthy complexion. Sure they don’t have to live in huts or wear loincloths but they do have problems of their own such as say…. Massive exploitation of slaves, physical/mental deformities due to inbreeding amongst the royals/nobles, worshipping outright evil gods who demand human sacrifices, etc.

    As you can see, context of the setting here is important, in this type of setting, savage tribals in the south don’t look so bad.
    Last edited by paladinofshojo; 2023-08-13 at 05:42 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by paladinofshojo View Post
    What if it’s a very archaic setting? Something like Conan the barbarian…
    Conan is infamous for it's very bad portrait of African coded civilizations and the use racial insensitive language and harmful false stereotypes, bad exemple.

    Quote Originally Posted by paladinofshojo View Post
    with the northern kingdoms being a bunch of loincloth wearing savages who paint their bodies blue and rush into battle naked… and the only real difference to an outside observer between the two culturally is the geography they live in?
    Issue is that even when all places of the setting are barbaric, not all barbaric peoples are portrayed equally, the point of Conan is how his civilization despite being "Barbaric" is more "civilized" than the "civilized" cultures. Meanwhile compared to the noble and heroic barbarian people of Conan, other civilizations are portrayed as more depraved savages, not cool.

    Quote Originally Posted by paladinofshojo View Post
    Perhaps the only “civilized” regions are the ones that are in temperate regions with a water source that can sustain reliable farming. Said civilizations are also primarily brown or at the very least swarthy complexion. Sure they don’t have to live in huts or wear loincloths but they do have problems of their own such as say…. Massive exploitation of slaves, physical/mental deformities due to inbreeding amongst the royals/nobles, worshipping outright evil gods who demand human sacrifices, etc.
    {Scrubbed}this are precisely that the type of horrible tropes that I would advise OP not to use. Besides why can't the south has a prosperous civilization? Countless of desert dwelling civilizations have existed irl.

    Quote Originally Posted by paladinofshojo View Post
    swarthy
    {Scrubbed}


    Quote Originally Posted by paladinofshojo View Post
    As you can see, context of the setting here is important, in this type of setting, savage tribals in the south don’t look so bad.
    Your post only reinforced my point that portrays of desert or African inspired civilizations as barbaric and tribalistic are terrible, ugly, disgusting and false, inform yourself on African culture first, this is so passé it's high time we moved away form this, if op wants his work to stand out, avoiding such lazy tropes would do him a great favor.
    Last edited by Pirate ninja; 2023-08-16 at 05:41 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Perch View Post
    {Scrub the post, scrub the quote}
    Huh, never knew that. My mental associations are with pirates(who come in all colors in my head), not a skin color. Some of the same connotations apply, rough-sexy, seductive, dangerous, but that's not a skin color. I've certainly never heard it used as a pejorative (though my Google fu certainly is bringing up lots of discussion that it was used for exactly that in the past). Of course, I've rarely heard anyone use it IRL at all either, not sure if I've used it at the table, don't run a lot of pirate games.
    Last edited by Pirate ninja; 2023-08-16 at 05:42 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by False God View Post
    Huh, never knew that. My mental associations are with pirates(who come in all colors in my head), not a skin color. Some of the same connotations apply, rough-sexy, seductive, dangerous, but that's not a skin color.
    Wiktionary lists "weathered, rough" as a nonstandard meaning, which may be what your pirate stories used.

    Otherwise, the site says it comes from Old English "sweart", meaning "black", and refers to dark colors, especially skin tones.

    I've certainly never heard it used as a pejorative
    I wasn't aware of this either. I am starting to wonder if all words meaning "black", like the Spanish word for the color, have been or will be pejorative at some point. The fault falls on those who used such words with disdain, but then it is like racism henceforth owns the words, which is more than a bit sad.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Millstone85 View Post
    Wiktionary lists "weathered, rough" as a nonstandard meaning, which may be what your pirate stories used.

    Otherwise, the site says it comes from Old English "sweart", meaning "black", and refers to dark colors, especially skin tones.

    I wasn't aware of this either. I am starting to wonder if all words meaning "black", like the Spanish word for the color, have been or will be pejorative at some point. The fault falls on those who used such words with disdain, but then it is like racism henceforth owns the words, which is more than a bit sad.
    Some writers have gotten into the habit of using it as a catch all term for referring to people from specific regions, usually while portraying those people in the most monolithic "designated bad guy" way they can. As a result there is a bit of negative baggage associated with the word in some communities.

    That said, yes, there is kind of a trend of "bad person used it, now it's bad forever" in language and art. While I can't fault the people who have had words and images weaponized against them in associating those things with their aggressors it is still a shame that the default approach is to just let the people abusing something dictate what it's for rather than contest it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Millstone85 View Post
    Wiktionary lists "weathered, rough" as a nonstandard meaning, which may be what your pirate stories used.

    Otherwise, the site says it comes from Old English "sweart", meaning "black", and refers to dark colors, especially skin tones.

    I wasn't aware of this either. I am starting to wonder if all words meaning "black", like the Spanish word for the color, have been or will be pejorative at some point. The fault falls on those who used such words with disdain, but then it is like racism henceforth owns the words, which is more than a bit sad.
    Huh. In my parlance, "swarthy" is not only not a pejorative, it's generally a compliment. Like calling someone "tough". It's not a word one would use to describe their enemy, or someone they want to belittle - especially for their appearance.

    Language is weird.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Perch View Post
    Conan is infamous for it's very bad portrait of African coded civilizations and the use racial insensitive language and harmful false stereotypes, bad exemple.
    I am confused.... what exactly are you referring to here? If you are referring to Stygia, then that would be more of an Egyptian code then anything, ironically their slave class is considered to be of lighter skin due to being a mixture of Cimmerians and the people of Shem (Palestine) .... Anything south of their would be the "Black Kingdoms" which are characteristic of sub-Saharan Africa are largely ignored in the main book series....

    Furthermore, Stygian decadence and corruption isn't even the MOST egregious example of an evil civilization with Acheron (the "ancient Rome founded by demons and blood magic") being easily worse than Stygia in regards to crimes against nature and outright sadism in my opinion



    Quote Originally Posted by Perch View Post
    Issue is that even when all places of the setting are barbaric, not all barbaric peoples are portrayed equally, the point of Conan is how his civilization despite being "Barbaric" is more "civilized" than the "civilized" cultures. Meanwhile compared to the noble and heroic barbarian people of Conan, other civilizations are portrayed as more depraved savages, not cool.
    Where exactly in the reading of any of Howard's books are the Cimmerians depicted as "civilized"? They have little to no art, science, or philosophy and are primarily hunter-gatherers living in primitive wooden villages with no central governments... The only advantage they have over their northern neighbors the Picts (who are portrayed very negatively to the point where they are basically Tolkien esque Orcs btw) is that they can work iron.

    The only way they are seen as "moral" is due to their society (and I don't use the word "civilization" because they have little to no sense of the word) having a strong sense of "justice", and I use that in air quotes seeing as even though they have a tribal concept of honor. They are not above raiding and sacking the "civilized" lands of Aquilonia, especially when they are driven out of their lands by the brutal Vanir from the north.

    A lot of them have no scruples serving as mercenaries, pirates, thieves, etc. Conan is an example of that as during the war between Ahgrapur and Makkalet and was only at the tower of the white elephant to steal the gem for himself.

    The whole point of Conan the Barbarian is to signify how the "civilizations" are usually much more "uncivilized" than the barbarians... Seeing as even though Conan's people are barely above cavemen, they don't have any concept of slaves or master, peasants or nobles, etc. This is why he rarely fights any tribals (other than the Picts and the Vanir)


    Quote Originally Posted by Perch View Post
    {Scrub the post, scrub the quote} this are precisely that the type of horrible tropes that I would advise OP not to use. Besides why can't the south has a prosperous civilization? Countless of desert dwelling civilizations have existed irl.
    Technically, that depends on what you consider a civilization. Historically, almost all desert dwelling civilizations are usually a network of nomadic clans or closely related kin groups whose primary mode of making a living is through trade.

    And before you ask, Ancient Egypt was not a desert dwelling civilization.


    Quote Originally Posted by Perch View Post
    {Scrub the post, scrub the quote}
    I am confused, is that term actually racist? Or did a small group {Scrubbed} in academia decided that the term is "offensive" and are telling the rest of society that it is?

    I am not trying to be facetious, but as a South African of Indian descent whose family emigrated to the United States in the mid 2000's.... I like to think I have a good understanding on what sort of slurs exist towards "brown people". I don't think I have ever considered the term "swarthy" to be anymore racist than a descriptor...like say "brown" or "dark skinned" or "light skinned", it has always been something that sounds neutral to me. Then again, you may be from a country where said term is considered racist.

    Quote Originally Posted by Perch View Post
    Your post only reinforced my point that portrays of desert or African inspired civilizations as barbaric and tribalistic are terrible, ugly, disgusting and false, inform yourself on African culture first, this is so passé it's high time we moved away form this, if op wants his work to stand out, avoiding such lazy tropes would do him a great favor.
    What if I portray societies like the war hungry and expansionist Zulu Empire.... or the use of Azande hexes and curses and other African folk magic.... I don't really understand this narrative of Africa being an idealized inherently peaceful place before Western forces had corrupted it. For thousands of years, hundreds of kingdoms, tribes, and warbands have been fighting over resources just like everywhere else in the world. Historical African civilizations shouldn't be portrayed as either idealized or demonic... they should be portrayed as realistic.
    Last edited by Pirate ninja; 2023-08-16 at 05:45 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by paladinofshojo View Post
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    I am confused.... what exactly are you referring to here? If you are referring to Stygia, then that would be more of an Egyptian code then anything, ironically their slave class is considered to be of lighter skin due to being a mixture of Cimmerians and the people of Shem (Palestine) .... Anything south of their would be the "Black Kingdoms" which are characteristic of sub-Saharan Africa are largely ignored in the main book series....

    Furthermore, Stygian decadence and corruption isn't even the MOST egregious example of an evil civilization with Acheron (the "ancient Rome founded by demons and blood magic") being easily worse than Stygia in regards to crimes against nature and outright sadism in my opinion

    Where exactly in the reading of any of Howard's books are the Cimmerians depicted as "civilized"? They have little to no art, science, or philosophy and are primarily hunter-gatherers living in primitive wooden villages with no central governments... The only advantage they have over their northern neighbors the Picts (who are portrayed very negatively to the point where they are basically Tolkien esque Orcs btw) is that they can work iron.

    The only way they are seen as "moral" is due to their society (and I don't use the word "civilization" because they have little to no sense of the word) having a strong sense of "justice", and I use that in air quotes seeing as even though they have a tribal concept of honor. They are not above raiding and sacking the "civilized" lands of Aquilonia, especially when they are driven out of their lands by the brutal Vanir from the north.

    A lot of them have no scruples serving as mercenaries, pirates, thieves, etc. Conan is an example of that as during the war between Ahgrapur and Makkalet and was only at the tower of the white elephant to steal the gem for himself.

    The whole point of Conan the Barbarian is to signify how the "civilizations" are usually much more "uncivilized" than the barbarians... Seeing as even though Conan's people are barely above cavemen, they don't have any concept of slaves or master, peasants or nobles, etc. This is why he rarely fights any tribals (other than the Picts and the Vanir)

    Technically, that depends on what you consider a civilization. Historically, almost all desert dwelling civilizations are usually a network of nomadic clans or closely related kin groups whose primary mode of making a living is through trade.

    And before you ask, Ancient Egypt was not a desert dwelling civilization.


    I am confused, is that term actually racist? Or did a small group of progressives in academia decided that the term is "offensive" and are telling the rest of society that it is?

    I am not trying to be facetious, but as a South African of Indian descent whose family emigrated to the United States in the mid 2000's.... I like to think I have a good understanding on what sort of slurs exist towards "brown people". I don't think I have ever considered the term "swarthy" to be anymore racist than a descriptor...like say "brown" or "dark skinned" or "light skinned", it has always been something that sounds neutral to me. Then again, you may be from a country where said term is considered racist.

    What if I portray societies like the war hungry and expansionist Zulu Empire.... or the use of Azande hexes and curses and other African folk magic.... I don't really understand this narrative of Africa being an idealized inherently peaceful place before Western forces had corrupted it. For thousands of years, hundreds of kingdoms, tribes, and warbands have been fighting over resources just like everywhere else in the world. Historical African civilizations shouldn't be portrayed as either idealized or demonic... they should be portrayed as realistic.
    And before you ask, Ancient Egypt was not a desert dwelling civilization.
    It was one of the great human civilizations... but as with any human civilization, the legend and the day to day reality doubtless had mismatches.

    I would like to follow up on Ancient Egypt: agricultural excellence, conquest, vainglory (considering the pyramids and various superb building sites up and down the Nile valley) and of course the "treasures" rumored to be in various tomb and fallen/old palaces. (Bronze Age collapse can be modeled as a magical calamity, something like the Rain of Colorless Fire from Greyhawk, a volcano like Krakatoa going off...). Being inspired by Ancient Egypt can provide a great backdrop for any D&D (or RPG) campaign where ancient learning and splendor are lost, lost secrets are to be sought out, ancient deities and mysteries may be encountered, the players characters are seeking a few secrets or famous treasures. All a great framework for a campaign if one doesn't want to rely on the fallen Roman civilization trope/archetype for a Dark Ages type of campaign. (Which is where the original came from).

    I just got finished reading Cornwell's Warlord trilogy - a unique take on the King Arthur legends - which is very much a post-Roman empire / Dark Ages setting in the British Isles.
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    Quote Originally Posted by KorvinStarmast View Post
    It was one of the great human civilizations... but as with any human civilization, the legend and the day to day reality doubtless had mismatches.

    I would like to follow up on Ancient Egypt: agricultural excellence, conquest, vainglory (considering the pyramids and various superb building sites up and down the Nile valley) and of course the "treasures" rumored to be in various tomb and fallen/old palaces. (Bronze Age collapse can be modeled as a magical calamity, something like the Rain of Colorless Fire from Greyhawk, a volcano like Krakatoa going off...). Being inspired by Ancient Egypt can provide a great backdrop for any D&D (or RPG) campaign where ancient learning and splendor are lost, lost secrets are to be sought out, ancient deities and mysteries may be encountered, the players characters are seeking a few secrets or famous treasures. All a great framework for a campaign if one doesn't want to rely on the fallen Roman civilization trope/archetype for a Dark Ages type of campaign. (Which is where the original came from).

    I just got finished reading Cornwell's Warlord trilogy - a unique take on the King Arthur legends - which is very much a post-Roman empire / Dark Ages setting in the British Isles.

    I don’t think we are arguing here… My point is that Ancient Egypt was not a desert civilization… The majority of the civilization was concentrated in the delta and the Nile valley… here’s a map of it https://historicaleve.com/wp-content...pire-Nubia.png

    Ancient Egypt was a river valley civilization, same with all the precursor civilizations such as the Mesopotamians and the Indus River civilizations….

    To call them a “desert” civilization implies that they had limited or no access to water or vegetation… which is untrue.
    Last edited by paladinofshojo; 2023-08-14 at 08:35 AM.

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    Default Re: Worldbuilding, melanin and appropriation

    Quote Originally Posted by paladinofshojo View Post
    I don’t think we are arguing here…
    correct. One is not required to argue in a discussion.
    My point is that Ancient Egypt was not a desert civilization…
    And I used that point as a follow up. The overarching point of this thread is how the DM is establishing the setting, so I made points about a setting ...
    Ancient Egypt was a river valley civilization
    I am in violent agreement. So too were Sumer, Ur, etc, in the land between two rivers.
    Last edited by KorvinStarmast; 2023-08-14 at 09:11 AM.
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