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  1. - Top - End - #121
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    That's usually the result of looser editorial control on less important parts of the game line, and/or freelancers who don't always toe the company line.

    I would say that the portrayal of nonhumans peaked in late 2e with Planescape, a setting almost entirely devoted to the idea that beliefs and actions were more important than where you came from. 3e mostly wiped that out, but didn't specifically tack against earlier moral complexity, and Eberron was sort of ingenious in the way it threw out all assumptions (though again, those ideas came from outside the company). 4e seemed determined to put monsters back in the place of video game bad guys to be killed for XP, with no thought given to how they may live or what role they might have in the universe beyond serving as specific tactical obstacles. It's sort of appalling, actually. And I don't have high hopes for 5e on that front, but I will wait and see before saying anything.
    Technically, Planescape came out in mid-2E (1994), and followed Spelljammer and The Complete Book of Humanoids, which allowed a wide range of non-humans as playable races. The Complete Book of Humanoids is a bit of a step back from Spelljammer, since they presented "humanoids" as barely civilized creatures, even in cases where they were explicitly as civilized (or more so) than Humans, Elves or Dwarves (eg. Swanmay, Saurials, Ogre Magi).

    3.X tried to eat it's cake and have it too, with Savage Species, Monster classes, ECLs, etc., which allowed some monster PCs, but at the cost of having a sub-sub-optimal PC.

    As for 4E, methinks you bear it a lot of unearned malice. Beginning with Monster Manual 2 (a Core Rulebook, not a splatbook) the monster descriptions changed direction from "how to fight this", to "what this creature is like". In Monster Manual 3 (also a Core Rulebook) each monster gets a paragraph or more, introducing what it's like, sometimes giving an example of what an encounter with such a creature is like for its victims. In 4E Humans got tossed back into the Monster Manuals, and the Monster Manual Humans are some of the most vicious monsters in 4E.

    Furthermore, in 4E Players always have the option of not killing an opponent. Fighting an Orc with a sword move? You hit him with your hilt knocking him out. Firing an arrow at a Goblin? The arrow hits in a non-vital location, but the Goblin passes out from shock. Cast Thunderwave at a bunch of Minions? You just knock them out, like a Jedi using Force Slam against Stormtroopers. Wildshaped into a panther and cast a daily power that describes ripping out throats? Their throats are fine. Cast Fireball at a room full of 8th Level Minions? Um, they're fine, they're just resting their eyes...

    By contrast, how many 3.X players have their PCs use non-lethal damage, or bind the wounds of their enemies?
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Sir_Leorik View Post
    ...

    By contrast, how many 3.X players have their PCs use non-lethal damage, or bind the wounds of their enemies?
    I do, actually. I think our DM thought I was nuts.

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Grey Watcher View Post
    I do, actually. I think our DM thought I was nuts.
    Because you took a -4 penalty to hit, or because of the cost of bandages?
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Sir_Leorik View Post
    Because you took a -4 penalty to hit, or because of the cost of bandages?
    Oh, the bandages. This is a fun little all-specialist-Wizard game we're running so it's not like any of us can AFFORD a to-hit penalty. Plus, our DM is pretty lax about non-magical gear.

    Still, 3.5 does make it actively difficult to avoid killing. Which might not be so bad, if the system weren't so heavily focused on combat to begin with.

  5. - Top - End - #125
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Grey Watcher View Post
    I do, actually. I think our DM thought I was nuts.
    While our party wasn't exactly merciful toward enemies- we did tend to assume "Not an enemy unless clearly hostile". Sometimes this involved chatting with monsters found in prison cells in dungeons and freeing them- flameskulls, sorrowsworn, ogres, etc.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Reading this thread reminds me of the story of Rikki-Tikki-Tavvi. Rikki fights a war against cobras who infest an Indian bungalow. During the battle, he comes across the female cobra's clutch of eggs. He smashes them all.

    Why not? Should he wait until they grow up and are capable of fighting back or of taking humans with them when they're put down? The best time to deal with that kind of threat is when it's in the egg.

    Does it make a difference that they can speak? Well, no. This is an animal tale. And the fundamental nature of a cobra doesn't change because it has higher intelligence than in real life -- it's still a threat, and it's still going to be a danger to humans at any stage of life.

    Does that mean that it's okay to hunt humans and kill them in the egg the same way it is cobras? The answer is no. Humans are not cobras. Humans can be good or evil and they can change. Cobra's don't.

    Nor does it make sense to say "I will judge a cobra not by the lack of its legs but by the content of its character" . When you're dealing with animals like rats or cobras or mice or cockroaches, the individual differences are so minor , as far as humans are concerned, that such a comparison is pointless. Creatures of this sort can be judged by type.

    So ... how will I treat goblins and orcs? It depends on the kind of world I'm in. If I'm in Rich Burlew's world, where goblins are essentially another brand of human with a different shade of skin, then I would treat them as I would any other human -- not to be engaged unless in immediate self-defense or if they are in an enemy army.

    If I'm in Tolkien's world , or a similar world, where orcs are essentially a living zombie created because the author needs a stand in for human enemies, I will slaughter them.

    And if there is any doubt AT ALL of which kind of world it is, I will err on the side of treat them as human until categorically proven otherwise. In fact, it might be worth doublechecking that it really is a type 2 world and not just taking the fluff as gospel. It may turn out that goblins really ARE "human" -- or perhaps the DM can be persuaded it is so.

    I will, say, however, I prefer a world where goblins are beings with whom one can dialog and reason rather than worlds where they are simply organic zombies. But there I suspect Rich and I are both swimming against the tide -- it seems to me D&D is catering to the preteen and teen war game market, and the point is to give them enemies to kill without guilt. I'll betcha the current zombie craze would never have happened if it were still permissible in polite society to treat living beings as zombies. And who knows what we'll target when zombies are humanized? Maybe some kind of sentient bacteria?

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Sir_Leorik View Post
    As for 4E, methinks you bear it a lot of unearned malice. Beginning with Monster Manual 2 (a Core Rulebook, not a splatbook) the monster descriptions changed direction from "how to fight this", to "what this creature is like". In Monster Manual 3 (also a Core Rulebook) each monster gets a paragraph or more, introducing what it's like, sometimes giving an example of what an encounter with such a creature is like for its victims. In 4E Humans got tossed back into the Monster Manuals, and the Monster Manual Humans are some of the most vicious monsters in 4E.
    Wizards labeling something a Core Rulebook does not make it so. It's just a marketing technique to try to get you to think their latest product is essential.

    And really, that just confirms what I'm saying: The further you get from the initial experience, the more leniency they give to nonhumans—either because they're looking to cater to the players who were turned off by the earlier approach, or because they open it up to freelance writers. But I don't think any of us would be surprised if the sales of the 4e Monster Manual 1 outweighed the sales of MM2 and MM3 combined, and then some. Suffice to say there's not a single person who purchased MM3 who hadn't been exposed to MM1 first.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sir_Leorik View Post
    Furthermore, in 4E Players always have the option of not killing an opponent.
    Let's not turn this into an edition war. I'm not speaking about the way the game plays, I'm talking about the text of the books. Of course you can do those things, but that doesn't mean the actual words on the page don't go out of their way to make you feel like the monsters probably don't deserve it.
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  8. - Top - End - #128
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Actually, my last post brings up a question: What kind of people, on average, sit down to play D&D?

    Are they people who want to roleplay encounters with nonhuman sentients? People who thrive on adventure and on exploration? People who enjoy setting up diplomatic solutions and resolving problems with nonviolence?

    Or is the game primarily a wargame? A game for young teens who don't care about any of that and are bored and antsy unless they're actually killing something?

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    Reading this thread reminds me of the story of Rikki-Tikki-Tavvi. Rikki fights a war against cobras who infest an Indian bungalow. During the battle, he comes across the female cobra's clutch of eggs. He smashes them all.

    Why not? Should he wait until they grow up and are capable of fighting back or of taking humans with them when they're put down? The best time to deal with that kind of threat is when it's in the egg.

    Does it make a difference that they can speak? Well, no. This is an animal tale. And the fundamental nature of a cobra doesn't change because it has higher intelligence than in real life -- it's still a threat, and it's still going to be a danger to humans at any stage of life.

    Does that mean that it's okay to hunt humans and kill them in the egg the same way it is cobras? The answer is no. Humans are not cobras. Humans can be good or evil and they can change. Cobra's don't.

    Nor does it make sense to say "I will judge a cobra not by the lack of its legs but by the content of its character" . When you're dealing with animals like rats or cobras or mice or cockroaches, the individual differences are so minor , as far as humans are concerned, that such a comparison is pointless. Creatures of this sort can be judged by type.
    Even within the Jungle Book-verse, individual animals can vary. Some wolves are villains, some heroes.

    Rikki is there to keep cobras away from humans- but he doesn't go out and try and hunt down every cobra that exists- since he's a defender, not an aggressor.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    Or is the game primarily a wargame? A game for young teens who don't care about any of that and are bored and antsy unless they're actually killing something?
    For the record, there are plenty of people not young teens that just game to sit back and play the game, which in the case of D&D, primarily involves killing things.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    I've never seen DnD as a world of alien intelligences. OOTS seems exactly the kind of world DnD would turn out to be to me, aside from the narrative causality, genre savviness and no fourth wall.

    now, lovecraftian stuff or Eclipse Phase, thats alien intelligence. alien intelligences generally have to be completely different in both body and mind for them to be truly alien, just the mind and all you have is an insane human, just the body and you have a human in an alien body.

    me? I don't see how a human mind in a body deviating from baseline human like an orc, is a bad thing. an orc is just a human with green skin, more muscles some tusks and probably a warrior culture. not much different from humans in real life, so I don't see why people are so insistent upon keeping them as evil savages.

    as for "turning your brain off" oh gag me. there is already something called turning your brain off, its sleep. you may not realize it, but your brain is working and learning even if you play beer and pretzels style. its not learning the way you used to, your not using your brain the usual way, but your still using it. you use it every single second of every single waking moment in your life. social interaction, emotions and so on take energy and brainpower to expend as well. your not turning off anything.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    Actually, my last post brings up a question: What kind of people, on average, sit down to play D&D?

    Are they people who want to roleplay encounters with nonhuman sentients? People who thrive on adventure and on exploration? People who enjoy setting up diplomatic solutions and resolving problems with nonviolence?

    Or is the game primarily a wargame? A game for young teens who don't care about any of that and are bored and antsy unless they're actually killing something?
    For Wizards, I'm pretty sure the answer is, "Whichever one is willing to give us more money today." Hence the incoherence between different products and editions.

    Right now, I think the company skews to the latter, perhaps because they think the former doesn't need every splatbook to play the game. And as Mencken said, "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    Actually, my last post brings up a question: What kind of people, on average, sit down to play D&D?

    Are they people who want to roleplay encounters with nonhuman sentients? People who thrive on adventure and on exploration? People who enjoy setting up diplomatic solutions and resolving problems with nonviolence?

    Or is the game primarily a wargame? A game for young teens who don't care about any of that and are bored and antsy unless they're actually killing something?

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
    It depends. every group is different. I doubt statistics are avaialble on how many plays he kick the door style
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    Let's not turn this into an edition war.
    It's a bit late for that.

    I'm not speaking about the way the game plays, I'm talking about the text of the books. Of course you can do those things, but that doesn't mean the actual words on the page don't go out of their way to make you feel like the monsters probably don't deserve it.
    I really don't get that impression from Monster Manual 1. Monster Manual 1 provides a bare-bones framework for DMs to use. That's it. Unlike the AD&D Monster Manual, the 2E Monstrous Compendium/Manual, or the 3.X Monster Manual, there is very little text devoted to the habits, habitat, diet, culture, or whatever, of the monsters. You were correct when you wrote that they are treated like tools, because that's all they are: tools for the DM to use. If the DM wants to flesh the Goblins out, give them a culture, a society and motivations, he can do that. If the DM just wants some Goblins to use in a stray combat encounter, she can do that too. DMG 1 gives the DM a few hints about the former and goes into detail about the latter. (Personally I think that both approaches are fine, but I prefer the former.)
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    It depends. every group is different. I doubt statistics are avaialble on how many plays he kick the door style
    SOMEBODY must keep those records, for marketing purposes if for no other. Why else would wizards be pushing so hard for the combat mechanics, as Rich chronicles, at the expense of moral complexity and ambiguity? If I were a stakeholder charged with paying for a new edition, I'd want to see charts and graphs and studies showing there would be a measurable increase in sales from making this change before plunking down the money for a new edition.

    Respectfully,

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    Why not? Should he wait until they grow up and are capable of fighting back or of taking humans with them when they're put down? The best time to deal with that kind of threat is when it's in the egg.

    Does it make a difference that they can speak? Well, no. This is an animal tale.

    [snip]

    I'll betcha the current zombie craze would never have happened if it were still permissible in polite society to treat living beings as zombies. And who knows what we'll target when zombies are humanized? Maybe some kind of sentient bacteria?
    I think this is somewhat contradictory. I don't think you can say that the Cobras being able to speak changes nothing, and then later speculate about what would happen if zombies (by definition mindless killing machines without humanity) were humanized that might make them different.

    I am not that your overall position is contradictory, but I think the contradiction there raises a point at the core of this discussion. The issue is that the Cobra in RTT (a great story) aren't really alien intelligences, because in order to understand them, to make them interesting as enemies, the story has to anthropomorphize them, and in doing so it invariably raises the question of whether, rather than stealing those eggs, RTT might have been better off raising the Cobras.

    I think that the most useful analogy here is the one that the Giant hinted at earlier in the thread: vegetarianism. We think it's alright to devour animals not because of anything a particular animal did, but because of what animals are and our decision that, because of what they are, they lack moral agency.

    By contrast, in a story, a villain that lacks moral agency isn't a villain, it's a mudslide. (or a zombie, or a golem). To play it any other way, as a civilization that can speak, make art, live on its own, etc . . . but is also invariably nothing but killers is trying to have your bacon and befriend it, too.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    SOMEBODY must keep those records, for marketing purposes if for no other. Why else would wizards be pushing so hard for the combat mechanics, as Rich chronicles, at the expense of moral complexity and ambiguity? If I were a stakeholder charged with paying for a new edition, I'd want to see charts and graphs and studies showing there would be a measurable increase in sales from making this change before plunking down the money for a new edition.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
    That's probably done via checking sales numbers. If crunch-heavy books sell better than fluff-heavy books, that means more mechanics and numbers for everyone!
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    I generally agree with the Giant on this one but I did want to chime in on one point regarding alien intelligences with incomprehensible, or at least very difficult to broach, thought processes and motivations. Intellectual otherness, as opposed to physical otherness, can also be a good storytelling tool to combat or condemn racism and bellicosity. I'm reminded of Joe Halderman's Forever War

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    wherein a war lasting generations starts because of an inability to communicate and continues for generations because of the time lag of space travel and the assumptions made by later generations.


    In other words, aliens with an alien intelligence can be a good tool to demonstrate that simply because you cannot understand another entity does not mean that they aren't a sentient creature entitled to rights and fair treatment. We shouldn't forget that many of the historical justifications for racism found fertile ground in the allegedly different intellectual capabilities of repressed peoples.

    For the record, I do not consider not taking this angle a weakness of the comic. OotS has its own, very effective approach to this real world issue. Because the Giant is right that the issue rears its head often in gaming and literature (also fantasy computer based RPGs), this approach and choice of medium is extremely effective.

    Quote Originally Posted by Grey Watcher View Post
    Still, 3.5 does make it actively difficult to avoid killing. Which might not be so bad, if the system weren't so heavily focused on combat to begin with.
    I think the mechanics there actually influence play also. Taking prisoners once the mook bad guys are at zero or negative health almost never happens in the games I've played and, consequently, means that the DM can't or doesn't (because it's pointless and we all have limited time) plan on having those bad guys be more than bags of xp rather than people after a while. That creates a "no real value of life" circle for all of the npc/monsters that aren't obviously plot-critical.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    I've never seen DnD as a world of alien intelligences. OOTS seems exactly the kind of world DnD would turn out to be to me, aside from the narrative causality, genre savviness and no fourth wall.
    Not a fan of Aboleths and Mindflayers then eh?

    Quote Originally Posted by Reverent-One View Post
    That's probably done via checking sales numbers. If crunch-heavy books sell better than fluff-heavy books, that means more mechanics and numbers for everyone!
    That strikes me as a very inaccurate measure though. I've bought splatbooks for crunch, for fluff, and just because I was bored, DMing at the time, and thought I might see something that I could use.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Personally I feel that if you want a game or section of a game where you want to knock some heads without feeling bad about what you're killing, you should use monsters. And when I say monsters, I mean actual nonsentinent ravenous rabid beasts that have no social or moral structure, nothing but instincts, but still a massive danger to society. And I feel that if you're going to make the cannon fodder a group of sentiment creatures, you should make it clear that this group does not represent the norm for that race.

    My brother plays a lot of Call of Duty and other Fpses (I prefer rpgs). One of the online modes he plays with his friends is a game where you do nothing but shoot nazi zombies. Nazi zombies are the perfect "Mindless killing" cannon fodder because nobody feels bad about killing nazis, and nobody feels bad about killing zombies because they're specifically mindless. At the same time, they're not representative of humanity. If they were and you were encouraged to now them down without thinking about it, then you'd have a huge controversy on your hands.

    Yet many dms and players view the evil orcs and goblins and whatever as representative of their entire race instead of clearly outside the norm.

    I have to thank you, Rich. I don't think I would have sat right with the always chaotic evil notion present and encouraged in many dnd games (which you and this forum have introduced me to, so thanks!). But you encouraged me to protest more loudly, to press the Dm as to whether or not he considers the orcs we fight to be representative of all orcs. And you and your comic helped to encourage and solidify my decision to completely toss racial alignment in my game. And one of the major themes in my game is the prejudice between races, compounded by the cultural pressures of immigrating to a new land.

    So thank you.

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Sir_Leorik View Post
    It's a bit late for that.
    No, it's not. This isn't about a ruleset, and I honestly could not care less about the rules attached to these concepts. I only mentioned editions to highlight the fact that these ideas have not always been what was put forward. I'm not going to engage you over the rules because I do not care about them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sir_Leorik View Post
    I really don't get that impression from Monster Manual 1. Monster Manual 1 provides a bare-bones framework for DMs to use. That's it. Unlike the AD&D Monster Manual, the 2E Monstrous Compendium/Manual, or the 3.X Monster Manual, there is very little text devoted to the habits, habitat, diet, culture, or whatever, of the monsters. You were correct when you wrote that they are treated like tools, because that's all they are: tools for the DM to use. If the DM wants to flesh the Goblins out, give them a culture, a society and motivations, he can do that. If the DM just wants some Goblins to use in a stray combat encounter, she can do that too. DMG 1 gives the DM a few hints about the former and goes into detail about the latter. (Personally I think that both approaches are fine, but I prefer the former.)
    OK, let's pull out the first sentence of some monster descriptions. No demons or anything, just regular natural humanoids:

    • "Gnolls are feral, demon-worshipping marauders that kill, pillage and destroy. They attack communities along their borders without warning and slaughter without mercy, all in the name of their demon lord Yeenoghu."
    • "Goblins are wicked, treacherous creatures that love plunder and cruelty."
    • "Hobgoblins live for war and bloodshed, killing or enslaving creatures weaker than themselves. More aggressive and organized than their goblin and bugbear cousins, they see all other creatures as lesser beings to be subjugated..."
    • "Creatures of stone and rock, earth giants are mean, uncouth, territorial monsters that often enslave smaller, weaker creatures."
    • "Minotaurs are fierce, bull-headed monsters that worship demons and enslave and plunder weaker creatures."


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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by CoffeeIncluded View Post
    Yet many dms and players view the evil orcs and goblins and whatever as representative of their entire race instead of clearly outside the norm.
    It's slightly more than that too, though. The core rulebooks identify these races as "usually" or "always" evil. i.e., the bad ones are the norm in the fluff of the "default setting."
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  22. - Top - End - #142
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    And when I say monsters, I mean actual nonsentinent ravenous rabid beasts that have no social or moral structure, nothing but instincts, but still a massive danger to society. And I feel that if you're going to make the cannon fodder a group of sentiment creatures, you should make it clear that this group does not represent the norm for that race.
    And the problem I have with this is that nonsentient ravenous rabid beasts aren't interesting enemies. They do not pose the kind of threat an intelligent, organized enemy poses. The Most Dangerous Game .

    The enemy who attacked Azure City is MUCH more interesting when it is led by an intelligent, skilled commander with plausible motivations such as Redcloak, as well as by soldiers who do more than simply shuffle mindlessly forming drooling "braiiinnnnsss".

    Of course, when you start making an enemy of that class of intelligence, I think you also have to start bringing in moral ambiguity. Why SHOULD an intelligent, rational creature such as Redcloak be attacked on sight rather than reasoned with? Is it really necessary that greenskins and palefaces kill each other for no better reason than they've always done it?

    I think the Giant is right about this -- I don't think you can introduce an enemy with human complexity and intelligence without also introducing the possibility of dialog, of some level of interaction beyond mere brute force. After all, a big difference between Redcloak and the mice I mentioned earlier is that Redcloak can reason. And doesn't the fact that you're fighting a reasonable enemy imply that you should at least TRY reason before killing them all? If it's at all feasible?

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  23. - Top - End - #143
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    Reading this thread reminds me of the story of Rikki-Tikki-Tavvi.
    I don't think I can really talk about Kipling here without falling foul of the no-politics ban, so I'll just say that while I could perceive Kipling grabbing for all my heartstrings by making Rikki-Tikki-Tavi's side also the side of not only the humans but all non-snake animals in the story...

    ...it didn't really make me feel anything, even as a child. That is, I accepted the premises of the story while reading the story, just as I would have had the story been told from one of the snakes' point of view and been about their heroic struggle against the invading humans and their vicious mongoose. And I reached the end, and I was glad that the hero had triumphed, don't get me wrong. And then I put it away. I took no moral lessons from it; it's not the kind of work I would try to generalize to anything else.
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    "The really unforgivable acts are committed by calm men in beautiful green silk rooms, who deal death wholesale, by the shipload, without lust, or anger, or desire, or any redeeming emotion to excuse them but cold fear of some pretended future. But the crimes they hope to prevent in the future are imaginary. The ones they commit in the present--they are real." --Aral Vorkosigan

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    This, in a nutshell.
    Yes, exactly.

  24. - Top - End - #144
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by AKA_Bait View Post
    That strikes me as a very inaccurate measure though. I've bought splatbooks for crunch, for fluff, and just because I was bored, DMing at the time, and thought I might see something that I could use.
    If the differences are close, you'd be right. On the other hand, if there are large differences in book sales, it would be much more obvious.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by AKA_Bait View Post
    It's slightly more than that too, though. The core rulebooks identify these races as "usually" or "always" evil. i.e., the bad ones are the norm in the fluff of the "default setting."
    Exactly. And if the people who play didn't encourage it, then the rulebooks would stop posting it.

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    And the problem I have with this is that nonsentient ravenous rabid beasts aren't interesting enemies. They do not pose the kind of threat an intelligent, organized enemy poses. The Most Dangerous Game .

    The enemy who attacked Azure City is MUCH more interesting when it is led by an intelligent, skilled commander with plausible motivations such as Redcloak, as well as by soldiers who do more than simply shuffle mindlessly forming drooling "braiiinnnnsss".

    Of course, when you start making an enemy of that class of intelligence, I think you also have to start bringing in moral ambiguity. Why SHOULD an intelligent, rational creature such as Redcloak be attacked on sight rather than reasoned with? Is it really necessary that greenskins and palefaces kill each other for no better reason than they've always done it?

    I think the Giant is right about this -- I don't think you can introduce an enemy with human complexity and intelligence without also introducing the possibility of dialog, of some level of interaction beyond mere brute force. After all, a big difference between Redcloak and the mice I mentioned earlier is that Redcloak can reason. And doesn't the fact that you're fighting a reasonable enemy imply that you should at least TRY reason before killing them all? If it's at all feasible?

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
    And if you can't, don't make it an entire race. For instance, have the players face down a group of slavers of mixed race.

    I suppose I was being a bit extreme when I said no social structure. Wolves have social structure, and being chased by a pack of monsters that hunt like wolves would be an interesting encounter. I should have said culture and civilization.

  26. - Top - End - #146
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    Actually, my last post brings up a question: What kind of people, on average, sit down to play D&D?

    Are they people who want to roleplay encounters with nonhuman sentients? People who thrive on adventure and on exploration? People who enjoy setting up diplomatic solutions and resolving problems with nonviolence?

    Or is the game primarily a wargame? A game for young teens who don't care about any of that and are bored and antsy unless they're actually killing something?

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
    I would add another group in there to which I belong which is not represented in the list:

    People that enjoy the sort of collaborative storytelling that RP in a setting with a campaign plot but few restrictions on where that plot can go involves. That's what good RP is, essentially a collaborative story in which every character, PC and NPC alike brings something to the table. The D&D system provides an arbitration framework for that collaborative effort, to put the various characters' strengths and weaknesses down in numerical form so that conflicts can be resolved in a system that everyone at the table has accepted.

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    cool Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Reverent-One View Post
    If the differences are close, you'd be right. On the other hand, if there are large differences in book sales, it would be much more obvious.
    I guess I just don't agree with that. I would actually think that the marketing and packaging would account for the overwhelming majority of the difference in book sales. More, I expect that some types of splatbook will always sell better than others because they are usable mid-campaign. Additional Monster Manuals are immediately useful for a DM. A book creating a new campaign setting or adding a bunch of additional classes may not be able to be used right away. I know that I had a pension, back when I bought WotC books, to pick up things like monster manuals and items/spell compendiums first for that reason.

    Quote Originally Posted by CoffeeIncluded View Post
    Exactly. And if the people who play didn't encourage it, then the rulebooks would stop posting it.
    I'm not so sure about that. I think that new players especially fall into the "must follow the fluff" mindset and it never even occurs to them that something is off. You know, unless they read OotS.
    Last edited by AKA_Bait; 2013-09-16 at 03:01 PM.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    "Gnolls are feral, demon-worshipping marauders that kill, pillage and destroy. They attack communities along their borders without warning and slaughter without mercy, all in the name of their demon lord Yeenoghu."
    "Goblins are wicked, treacherous creatures that love plunder and cruelty."
    "Hobgoblins live for war and bloodshed, killing or enslaving creatures weaker than themselves. More aggressive and organized than their goblin and bugbear cousins, they see all other creatures as lesser beings to be subjugated..."
    "Creatures of stone and rock, earth giants are mean, uncouth, territorial monsters that often enslave smaller, weaker creatures."
    "Minotaurs are fierce, bull-headed monsters that worship demons and enslave and plunder weaker creatures."
    With all due respect to the authors, this reads like something out of a propaganda sheet, the kind they give to soldiers when they're trying to pump them up and kill people. As opposed to the kind of writeup that you might give, to , say, diplomats who were being assigned to serve in another country.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    • "Also known as sea devils, sahuagin are vicious sea dwellers that share many traits with sharks. They slaughter and devour anything they catch, raiding costal settlements in the dead of night."
    • "Salamanders reside in the fiery regions of the Elemental Chaos. They are greedy and cruel creatures, quick to rob or enslave weaker folks."
    • "Quicklings are swift, wicked fey that kill other creatures for food, treasure, or sport."
    • "Orcs worship Gruumsh, the one-eyed god of slaughter, and are savage bloodthirsty marauders. They plague the civilized races of the world..."
    • Not the first sentence, but: "Ogres are cruel, bloodthirsty, greedy, and gluttonous..."


    In fact, it seems like the worst, most reprehensible descriptions are reserved for the humanoids that aren't pretty. Demons start out with, "In their many and varied forms, demons are living engines of annihilation. They embody the destructive forces of chaos. All things tend to decay into entropy, but demons exist to hurry that process along."

    So demons get a more objective even-handed portrayal in their first sentence of their place in the world than orcs.
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  30. - Top - End - #150
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by AKA_Bait View Post
    I guess I just don't agree with that. I would actually think that the marketing and packaging would account for the overwhelming majority of the difference in book sales.
    More, I expect that some types of splatbook will always sell better than others because they are usable mid-campaign. Additional Monster Manuals are immediately useful for a DM. A book creating a new campaign setting or adding a bunch of additional classes may not be able to be used right away. I know that I had a pension, back when I bought WotC books, to pick up things like monster manuals and items/spell compendiums first for that reason.
    Aren't these two thoughts contradictory? If it's nearly all marketing and packaging, then the type shouldn't matter. I agree with the second thought myself, which is what I was getting at. If certain types sell better, the company is going to make more of those types and less of the others.
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