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Author Topic: Species/Race/Culture (split)  (Read 3912 times)
Jason Aaron
Member

Posts: 5


« on: June 20, 2003, 02:32:41 PM »

This is my first post at the Forge, so my apologies if it is somewhat off topic (and heavily biased).

I think that something that may help designers, authors, or even players of role-playing games in their pursuit of differentiation between species, race, and culture is reading material outside the game perspective.

To illustrate this, I have chosen two Sci-Fi novels with strong alien themes, but two very different approaches. Those that have read these can feel free to comment on my ignorance, as I know I am probably missing some key points from them.

The first is Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s masterpiece (IMO), The Mote in God’s Eye. In this novel, mankind first meets extraterrestrial life. These aliens, although extremely different from us physically, are even more so culturally, which makes them seem more “alien.” In fact, there are tragic consequences that are the direct result of the humans and the Moties (as they are called in the book) being incapable of comprehending each other. However, the Moties, although they start out very “alien,” become more “human” as they associate and adapt their behavior to fit in with the “human” culture. This book I think will help anyone trying to create alien species (not races, species) understand that although physical differences are necessary, even more so is the idea that the aliens' way of thinking must also be dramatically different.

Another key point from this is that no matter how much time and thought you put into making a new species, from their mono- or multicellular bodies to their thought processes, you will end up humanizing them. It is, IMO, unavoidable. As humans, we can only express thought, even radically different thought, in human terms. So save yourself the agony from the outset.

Second, is Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. In this fascinating (although at times confusing) novel, Heinlein approaches the alien concept even more so as a racial and cultural difference. The main character, Valentine Michael Smith, is human genetically, and in physical appearance, but is so different from every other human being on the planet that he is essentially an alien. This is the result of a tragic set of circumstances that end with him being raised by Martians. Because he was surrounded by Martians, his cultural background is completely contrary to that of Earthly humans. In addition, he has slight physical differences and abilities that set him apart from other humans that he can actually be considered a separate race in his own right.

Valentine does become more “human” as time goes on in the story, but still retains enough of those differences that he is, and would always be, considered an alien.

So, my point is essentially this: That the same idea can be portrayed in a multitude of ways, and it helps to try as many of them as you can. However, from a game perspective, trying to bring all aspects of any “alien” character into play would indeed take some notable acting. And helping to provide the basis for (as authors), and acting on (as players) these aspects can be helped by understanding each separately and how they work with each other.

I don’t know if it has been said in this thread or not, but it seems to me that you cannot have species without race, or vice versa, and that regardless of either you are developing, culture will always overlay and bind them.

So, maybe the issue isn’t so much a lack of races for species, or cultures for races, but simply a lack of vocabulary on the part of the author, or the player, or whoever. Reading any material that is well written about the distinction and interconnectivity of said differences, be it racial, cultural, or biological, will help aid in the building of this vocabulary.
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Jason
M. J. Young
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« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2003, 06:43:29 PM »

Quote from: Jason Aaron
This is my first post at the Forge....


Welcome to the Forge, Jason. You've got some good ideas here. Forgive me if what I say sounds at all critical, as I'm going to hit two negatives.

The first is that I'm surprised this wasn't split by a moderator. Generally, once a thread falls off the "first page" it's considered dated, and if you want to comment on it you're supposed to start a new thread and link to the old one, and this looks like it was old enough that it did. But if they think so, they'll split it.

The second is a reaction I have to
Quote from: when you
This book I think will help anyone trying to create alien species (not races, species)....
I know that a good part of this thread is about the idea that the term "race" is being misused; but I think that in saying that aliens are a different "species" you're misusing that word even more so than those who so use "race". After all, if you're using it in a sense of taxonomy, an alien is not merely a different race, not merely a different species, genus, family, order, class, phylum, and even kingdom. It is something inherently more alien than that--what Multiverser dubs a different "base", a creature not in any way related to life on earth. So it is not more wrong to refer to a different "race" in a taxonomical sense than to refer to a different "species". Of course it's a different race, like a Siamese cat is a different race from a Japanese fighting fish. They are also different species, genus, family, order, class, and phylum, being connected on the level of kingdom--they're both animalia, but one is chordata and the other isn't. So it's not taxonomically better to say "species" instead of "race".

Further, in usage, "race" has a meaning that is not taxonomical. We speak of the "human race". Purists will argue that we should be speaking of the "human species" and then within it distinguishing the "caucasoid, negroid, and mongoloid" races (and some would argue that there are subraces of these which are also properly "races"). However, this use of "race" is not intended to be taxonomical. It means the "human creature". In that sense, an "alien race" means an alien creature of a particular type.

So I would contend that race is the better term for that application.

I may have mentioned something like this already on this thread; if so, I apologize for repeating myself.

--M. J. Young
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contracycle
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Posts: 2807


« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2003, 12:21:54 AM »

Quote

After all, if you're using it in a sense of taxonomy, an alien is not merely a different race, not merely a different species, genus, family, order, class, phylum, and even kingdom. It is something inherently more alien than that


Why?  Albeit the categories are artifacts, it seems reasonable to me that we would be able to locate such life in our schema, barring weird physics.

Quote

Further, in usage, "race" has a meaning that is not taxonomical.
We speak of the "human race". Purists will argue that we should be speaking of the "human species" and then within it distinguishing the "caucasoid, negroid, and mongoloid" races (and some would argue that there are subraces of these which are also properly "races").


Yes.  Although even then, I wonder how often we would need to make the dubcategory distinctions.  They are, as you say, not taxonomical and the content alluded to in each varies according to the speaker.

Quote

However, this use of "race" is not intended to be taxonomical. It means the "human creature". In that sense, an "alien race" means an alien creature of a particular type.


I see nothing there that cannot be conveyed by "alien species" and a number of issues which are so avoided.
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Matt Wilson
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« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2003, 07:31:10 AM »

Quote
Purists will argue that we should be speaking of the "human species" and then within it distinguishing the "caucasoid, negroid, and mongoloid" races (and some would argue that there are subraces of these which are also properly "races").


Purists? What does that mean?

Race is a relatively modern idea and has no genetic basis. It's purely a socio-political construction. Not one characteristic, trait or gene distinguishes all members of one so-called race from all members of another so-called race.
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Bankuei
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« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2003, 08:05:08 AM »

Hi Jason,

This subject has been approached a couple of times here, usually with a little more exposed each time we do so.  Let's try to seperated some concepts:

-Race/species/whatever in the "what effect does this have mechanically in the rules as written" sense

-Race/species/whatever in the "how we define it as Color/background/etc" sense

-Race/species/whatever as a metaphor or replacement for different cultures

The first case, we're talking about it as another splat.  "Of course we have elves and dwarves and orcs because we need to hand out different 'bonuses' and abilities to make the game interesting".   While this is fun in a crunchy, yaay more splats, sense, it really is a poor way to add something to a game, and you usually see it on the back of books when there's the usual blurb about "103 races to choose from!".

The second case is more of what you're addressing, and of course, is also highly linked into the difficult subject of conveying culture, mindsets, and outlook to folks who are completely unfamiliar with it.  Entire movies and books, as you've pointed out, have been written about this concept.  So, in games, its pretty hard to get this kind of stuff across, and still have room for everything else in the book.  Fulminata and Legend of the 5 Rings both do a solid job(at least as much as I've seen) in trying to convey an unfamiliar culture to players, although overall success may still be limited.

Finally, the third case has been brought up by Ron and some other folks, in that often the splat species serves as a metaphor when done right, or as a cheap dodge to avoid the real issues of human culture clashes based on ethnicity.  

Any thoughts?

Chris
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Jason Aaron
Member

Posts: 5


« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2003, 01:49:15 PM »

First, my apologies for not starting a new thread in my previous post. I hope to avoid such ill manners in the future.

M.J., thanks for your post. I hadn't really considered my phraseology as an argument point, but was really just trying to convey that differentiating between these (even for myself), is a very tough issue, and that I applaud anyone who does it well.

For instance, can a culture become so prevalent and pervasive that it inherently has a physical effect on a race and thus changes it to another race entirely? I contend that yes, it is possible, although I think that such a culture would need to have a relative degree of isolation to effect such a change. Likewise, it could become very difficult to describe such a culture without speaking about the race and vice/versa. Although this is an extreme example of what I mean, I think it gives the general idea.

Chris, also a thank you for your reply on this. I think that the issue of using the “splats” as you call them as a cheap dodge may stem from, as Mike ranted about earlier, using them as an easy way out. And not just from a political or philosophical standpoint, but merely because of the amount of work involved.

Using “splats” is much quicker when putting a game together, or book, or movie, or whatever, than taking the time (key word here) to do it right. I know that if I ever were to seriously consider creating a new species or race or culture, I would be hitting the library, internet, local experts, etc. on the subject long before ever actually sitting down and trying to hammer it out. And working everything out and then finally putting it out would take even more time. I think this is the case in other subjects also, but I digress.

So, my question is, other than “raising the bar” ourselves, as has been spoken of in numerous threads throughout the Forge and other places, how can we expect to see a realistic change in the misuse of species/race/culture? We can’t very well come down on anyone making a game just because it doesn’t meet our expectations, and we also can’t do it for them.
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Jason
M. J. Young
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« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2003, 07:26:17 PM »

Forgive me for taking comments out of sequence; I think those which will be my major focus need to be in the context of these which precede them.
Quote from: Gareth a.k.a. contracycle
I see nothing there that cannot be conveyed by "alien species" and a number of issues which are so avoided.

I may have come across too strongly in my post; it was not my intent to mean that "alien species" was incorrect or inappropriate. Rather, I was responding to
Quote from: what Jason Aaron
to create alien species (not races, species)
from which I inferred (perhaps incorrectly) that he meant "alien race" was incorrect or inappropriate. My argument is that race is at least as correct or appropriate as species, and has some aspects of usage supporting it. I have no problem with someone who wants to say "species"; I also don't see that we should avoid saying "race" in the same context.

With that said, let me continue.
Quote from: Gareth first
Quote from: first quoting what I
After all, if you're using it in a sense of taxonomy, an alien is not merely a different race, not merely a different species, genus, family, order, class, phylum, and even kingdom. It is something inherently more alien than that

Why?  Albeit the categories are artifacts, it seems reasonable to me that we would be able to locate such life in our schema, barring weird physics.

This is probably a valid point; but I'm not certain on that.

I'm quite aware that the taxonomical structure devised by Linnaeus predates Darwin by perhaps half a century or so (not real clear on the dates), and was not intended at the time it was developed to indicate "relationship" between lifeforms in the way we use it today. It only indicated "relationships" between creatures in a manner of observable similarity. However, I do not think it unreasonable to suggest that evolutionary theory has entirely coopted taxonomy. Our current view of the class "bird" (or I suspect it's "avianus" or something similar) has expanded through Darwin and modern studies beyond Linnaeus. It means all of:
    [*]Shares observable definable common characteristics[*]Shares specific common genetic structures[*]Descends from a common ancestor.[/list:u]
    Now, clearly it is possible for "alien" creatures--those from a different planet--to be "birds" in the first taxonomical sense. It is improbable in the extreme that they would do so in the second, and impossible that they would do so in the third. As currently applied, taxonomy assumes all life on earth is related, descended from a single organism.

    If you toss evolution, then of course you eliminate the second and third aspects of the taxonomical relationships, and aliens could be "birds" or "mammals" or even "humans" in the sense of sharing the characteristics which are definitive of the category. You can also get some degree of linkage if you assume interplanetary/interstellar transmission of organisms (comet life theory, but comets don't currently make interstellar journeys--although if their origin is in explosions in other star systems, they could carry life in many directions). You still would end up with different kingdoms and phylums (bird-like creatures wouldn't be "birds" taxonomicallly, because they wouldn't be related to birds even as closely as dung beetles).

    Star Trek always had that interbreeding of creatures from different planets. Their eventual explanation (in Next Generation) is weak at best.

    I seem to have offended
    Quote from: Matt Wilson, who
    Purists? What does that mean?

    Race is a relatively modern idea and has no genetic basis. It's purely a socio-political construction. Not one characteristic, trait or gene distinguishes all members of one so-called race from all members of another so-called race.

    I did not mean "racial purists", if that's what you're thinking. It didn't even occur to me until I wondered why the word seemed to bother you. I meant those who argue for pure use of language.

    Subcategories of species do exist. Among dogs and horses we call them breeds. A race or breed is an isolated group of a species which through interbreeding develops similar characteristics distinct from the species at large, but remains fully compatible genetically with othe rmembers of the species. I don't know whether chihuahuas can be said to have "one characteristic, trait or gene [which] distinguishes all members" from St. Bernards, but I know that they are both dogs, can be crossbred (with difficulty), and produce survivable reproducing offspring. I'm happy to admit that mongoloid, negroid, and caucasoid lines have so thoroughly interbred over the centuries that there are not distinct lines between them on any point. Anthropologists have sufficient reason to believe them independent that they have suggested distinct dates and isolated points of origin for each--they may not have been, strictly speaking, the same species initially, but merely extremely similar species who through interbreeding became one. That's more than I know. I do know that the three branches exist, however blurred the lines between them might be. There are differences in bone structure which, for example, connect aboriginal Japanese to Europeans rather than to modern Japanese (who are connected to Chinese and Koreans by similar skeletal characteristics).

    Race may be a modern idea. In the nineteenth century it was generally thought by those of European descent that those who were not light-skinned causasoids were a different species from themselves. (This was the reason otherwise moral individuals could support wholesale enslavement of a category of people: they were not viewed as people, but as animals more intelligent and trainable than apes or horses. There are numerous texts from the period, including from Civil War Confederate officers, noting that if the negro were demonstrated to be human, slavery would have to end.) The idea of race is an improvement over what preceded. Now, you can take away the word, but the idea will still exist--people who are different enough from those with whom you have matured will land in a category of "other". The distinguishing feature of the "other" is that the things that make them look the same, in the eyes of "us", overwhelm those which make them different. Otherness will remain inescapable until humanity is homogenized. Caucasions tend to use hair color, eye color, and skin tone as important identifiers of individual persons. When they are confronted by negroids and mongoloids, these cues are severely attenuated, causing these people to all "look the same". Negroids and mongoloids in their turn use different cues, and often have trouble (if they have not learned the other cue set) distinguishing one caucasion from another.  It is as in the exchange between Humpty Dumpty and Alice. He maintained that humans all look so much alike. She said one usually goes by the face. He countered that was exactly where they were so similar--eyes on top, nose in the middle, mouth at the bottom, never any variation at all.

    Race is not a socio-political construction. It's a recognized biological distinction, blurred around the edges. I'm all for blurring it, and I don't think it should have anything to do with anything that matters today apart from a few medical diagnoses (there are still diseases which are isolated to those of particular races and subraces, most notably sickle-cell anemia).

    Is that the problem?

    --M. J. Young
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    contracycle
    Member

    Posts: 2807


    « Reply #7 on: June 24, 2003, 12:24:15 AM »

    Race is not much better than specieis, given that it takes an act of creative imagination to understand someone who looks so much like you as being radically different.  And even then, I'm not sure that the position of C19th Europeans has much bearing on the issue, as a tiny minority of the global population.

    Quote

    Now, you can take away the word, but the idea will still exist--people who are different enough from those with whom you have matured will land in a category of "other". The distinguishing feature of the "other" is that the things that make them look the same, in the eyes of "us", overwhelm those which make them different. Otherness will remain inescapable until humanity is homogenized.


    Well I'm inclined to disagree.  In fact I think that mutual humanity has been recognised often and frequently between groups; even declaring someone to be a "barbarian" or a "savage" recognises their humanity and qualifies it.  Humans learn each others languages easily despite the alleged  attenuation of cues - most of which I would venture are cultural rather than biological anyway.  I'm quite sure that language stands as a much greater barrier to mutual comprehension than does an epicanthic fold.

    Indeed, humans have reliably and frequently superceded physical appearance - even among the allegedly variant Caucasoids - with clothing and sumptuary devices because individual distinctiveness was not distinctive enough.  Thus it seems to me that the appeal to an alleged inherent human horror of the Other is weak at best; at worst it IS the socio-political construction, an assertion of otherness despite the commonalities.

    I recognise that there are biologically distinct groups of humans, but frankly the variation is not very large.  My problem then arises precisely because they are being in a lazy manner as splats - but the implicit assertion here is not that they might be prone to a specific disorder like sickle cell, but that they are Different in some other way - usually in ways that are essentially cultural ones.  Hence it would seem to me that we can still have splats without drawing a false attribution of physicality causing the distinctiveness of the splat - we can do it by culture instead.  In fact I woiuld suggest we already do, we just erroneously call it race.
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    John Kim
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    « Reply #8 on: June 24, 2003, 02:33:00 PM »

    Quote from: M. J. Young
      Now, you can take away the word, but the idea will still exist--people who are different enough from those with whom you have matured will land in a category of "other". The distinguishing feature of the "other" is that the things that make them look the same, in the eyes of "us", overwhelm those which make them different. Otherness will remain inescapable until humanity is homogenized. Caucasions tend to use hair color, eye color, and skin tone as important identifiers of individual persons.
    ...
    Race is not a socio-political construction.  

    I'm not sure I'm understanding.  By saying it is not socio-political, you seem to be saying that Caucasians are genetically programmed to use skin color for identifying individuals.  I don't dismiss that out of hand, but I also haven't heard any evidence for that.  Presumably this could be tested for by studies of Caucasians raised in non-Caucasian communities.  They would have measurable perceptual difficulty distinguishing individuals compared to others in their community.  

    I'm not an expert, but my impression was that there was not evidence to support this.  This suggests that race is a socio-political construct.  This is not to say that variations in human appearance don't exist, but that how we sort them into groups depends on social factors.  Thus, for example, Jews have in the past distinguished as a race despite their including multiple skin colors.  In regions with varying skin tone (like the Middle East and India), people will often not group themselves racially by skin tone -- but instead by other factors such as facial shapes, hair features, and so forth.  That is, a black person might view himself as a different race than another black person but the same race as a white person.  

    Certainly it has been suggested many times in the past few centuries that skin tone is a good indicator of other genetic qualities, but nearly all of these have proven to be false.  That is, the old idea was that if you had two Caucasians and two Negroids, you could reasonably guess that the two Caucasians had more genetically in common with each other and less with the Negroids.  However, my impression has been that this has been found to be untrue: i.e. skin tone is not a good indicator of genetic grouping, compared to other features.  

    Quote from: Bankuei
    Let's try to seperated some concepts:
    -Race/species/whatever in the "what effect does this have mechanically in the rules as written" sense
    -Race/species/whatever in the "how we define it as Color/background/etc" sense
    -Race/species/whatever as a metaphor or replacement for different cultures

    I'd like to suggest another question: what have been different approaches to race/species in RPGs?  That is, most games use all three of the above: a race has mechanical features, culture and background, and metaphorical meaning.  Note that the game groups culture by race: i.e. each race has its own distinctive culture.  

    An alternate approach would be to have cross-racial cultures.  So you might have elves, dwarves, and humans -- but they are split into mountain culture and plains culture, say.  Mountain elves and mountain humans identify with each other and are opposed to the plains peoples of all types.  Are there any RPGs which do something like this?
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    Jason Aaron
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    « Reply #9 on: June 26, 2003, 07:04:23 AM »

    It seems to me that this discussion is heading into more of a societal discussion than that posed by the initial question (or rant). The topic at hand is a discussion of how to include and distinguish a variety of species/races/cultures in an RPG without having them all homogenized, and thus causing a level of frustration for those who wish to see at least a minimal difference between them.

    As for whether it is applicable to this current discussion, yes. But I don’t think it should dominate the underlying topic.

    Quote from: John Kim

    I'd like to suggest another question: what have been different approaches to race/species in RPGs?  That is, most games use all three of the above: a race has mechanical features, culture and background, and metaphorical meaning.  Note that the game groups culture by race: i.e. each race has its own distinctive culture.  

    An alternate approach would be to have cross-racial cultures.  So you might have elves, dwarves, and humans -- but they are split into mountain culture and plains culture, say.  Mountain elves and mountain humans identify with each other and are opposed to the plains peoples of all types.  Are there any RPGs which do something like this?


    Quote from: in addition to the question I

    So, my question is, other than “raising the bar” ourselves, as has been spoken of in numerous threads throughout the Forge and other places, how can we expect to see a realistic change in the misuse of species/race/culture? We can’t very well come down on anyone making a game just because it doesn’t meet our expectations, and we also can’t do it for them.


    Is more of what I was hoping to see in this thread. Perhaps some examples, as John suggested, would be the best starting point, where we can see how one designer approached it, how it could have been done differently, and what are its pros and cons with relevance to portrayal of differing species/race/culture, insomuch that it makes them distinct enough (pretty hard to do well IMO) to the reader.

    I think that this will lead (hopefully) to a more productive discussion on specific ways that we can improve our craft.
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    Jason
    Matt Wilson
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    student, second edition


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    « Reply #10 on: June 26, 2003, 08:37:36 AM »

    M.J.:

    No offense taken, but I think you're very wrong about the whole "negroid" and "caucasoid" thing. Those terms were conjured up by Johann Blumenbach in 1776, placing "Caucasians" at the top of a hierarchical pyramid, because he believes a skull found in the Caucasus Mountains is the "most beautiful form...from which...the others diverge."

    Consider this statement by the AAPA, more of which can be found here:

    http://www.physanth.org/positions/race.html

    Quote
    There is great genetic diversity within all human populations. Pure races, in the sense of genetically homogenous populations, do not exist in the human species today, nor is there any evidence that they have ever existed in the past.
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    Bankuei
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    « Reply #11 on: June 26, 2003, 09:09:44 AM »

    Hi Jason,

    I agree that the social issues are a little off target here.  What is interesting to note, is that these real world attitudes have a big effect on their treatment in game.  Consider the oft used real world phrase, "...but you don't act black!" and replace black with any other ethnicity, culture, religion, ork, vampire, elf, whatever.  

    I haven't seen too many games delve deep into the complexities of the social structure based on culture.  Consider games which exist in very sexist or racist societies and that such issues usually get a paragraph or two in very neutered terminology that basically say, "These folks have it bad off" in a not very exact fashion.

    So far, the games that I've seen best handle this sort of issue explicitly are Fulminata and Hero Wars, although both expect you to come to the table with an understanding that life is complicated, and people are individuals, a mixture of many things.

    Chris
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    Matt Wilson
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    « Reply #12 on: June 26, 2003, 09:56:23 AM »

    Quote from: Jason
    It seems to me that this discussion is heading into more of a societal discussion than that posed by the initial question (or rant). The topic at hand is a discussion of how to include and distinguish a variety of species/races/cultures in an RPG without having them all homogenized, and thus causing a level of frustration for those who wish to see at least a minimal difference between them.


    Jason. I was just thinking that I didn't tie either of my posts in, so here's an attempt to make up for it.

    I think understanding conceptions of race where modern humans are concerned can be useful in creation of fantasy or scifi races. Are humans the norm against which other species are measured? If the main characters in teh game are humans, that might be a good choice, but it depends on what you want to get out of your mix of species and cultures.

    With aliens and elves, you can consider whether to present them as very essentialized (all elves/klingons are quick and have ADD), and then decide whether that's the truth or whether it's a human perception of elves/klingons. How much actual diversity is there within the elf culture? Do they tolerate the diversity? What about the elf who wants to be a dentist?

    In the Mote books, the reader never really sees through the eyes of a Motie. The viewpoint is always decidedly human. So there may be much more to the moties as a culture than we are aware of. But IIRC they're significantly essentialized. Browns are like this, and so on. Maybe the significant differences are things that culturally humans arent' really attuned to.
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    Jason Aaron
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    « Reply #13 on: June 26, 2003, 02:10:05 PM »

    Hi Matt,

    I wasn't suggesting that societal concerns don't factor in to this topic, simply that I didn't want this to turn into a discussion about human behavior, or "what is wrong/right about society." That should be reserved for a forum other than this one.

    In fact that is somewhat what I was touching on in my initial post, that as humans ourselves, everything we do, say, and most importantly, think, will be in essence, human. Even the wildest, morally questionable, horrific, etc., thoughts that we think are still human, because they are the only terms we can think in. Should we ever have the opportunity to experience life as a true alien, or even as another species, we would become "childlike" in our thinking. I use the term childlike because we couldn't just jump into the experience with our current knowledge, because then we would simply be humans with a different skin. This was iterated in Mike's initial post on this subject and this is something of a more philosophical nature than I was hoping to get into.

    Again, I'm hoping to get specific examples of RPG material that either shows this distinction well (as sort of a how-to list similar to the one found in Mike's "Know Your Craft" rant), or shows how it was done poorly. Now I know that these are objective statements, because what seems "poor" to one person might seem "rich" in detail to another. Now I am not saying I want a listing of every game that has multiple races, cultures, etc. I am specifically looking for games that hit two main points:

    1) Different mechanics for different Species/Races/Cultures. Specific examples that show how choosing one of these affects actual gameplay. For example, if I choose to be an Elf, I get infravision, but as a human, I do not. I would love to see an example of a game, or a theory for one that the mechanics would be almost entirely different if you choose to be a different species/race/culture.

    2) Detailed Setting that makes clear the differences between these, and their interrelation between each other. Not so much as a "you must play your character this way" as a "this is what they are like, try to shoot for this." An example of this would be a game that set out very distinct cultures for the same race, so that the suspension of disbelief is not so easily torn apart.
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    "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." - Groucho Marx

    Jason
    Garbanzo
    Member

    Posts: 108


    « Reply #14 on: June 26, 2003, 03:42:25 PM »

    Jason-

    Quote
    I would love to see an example of a game, or a theory for one that the mechanics would be almost entirely different if you choose to be a different species/race/culture.


    I think it's rather lame when people do this, but I'm going to, anyway:
    So my game, Ashen, is about this.  

    Given different races/cultures, my thought was that to get people to play in different styles, different things needed to be incentivized.  Basically, each culture has it's own set of metagame perks.  (I'll go ahead and post it in some form this weekend.)

    The end result is essentially Cosmic Encounter: The RPG.  Given the same situation, different cultures will have optimal strategies and therefore will behave differently.


    Example:
    (pre-renaissance Italy colonizing types)
    The resolution mechanic uses a custom deck of cards.  
    1) For these guys, the Ethos suit (always a placeholder) acts as the Flow suit.
    2) They can once per session demand a card from their fellow players ("Highest Focus card!")
    3) They get a bonus when taking a round to impair their opponent (vs pushing for resolution)


    Your other point is about writing a good setting, but I'm throwing this out as what you're looking for, mechanics-wise.
    Thoughts?

    I'm quite interested to see what other games people bring up.

    -Matt
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