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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.
    On the other hand, culture, organization and stuff like that is something you can always make up as dm, while gameplay mechanics are not. so it's ok that they would just set stats and let you create the world.
    in fact, that's exactly how i used the monster manual. I always completely ignored everything they said in the monster description if it didn't suit me.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    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.
    Because that's exactly what it is. It's a blatant statement of, "You don't have to worry about the moral repercussions of killing these things. They're evil, now roll initiative." It's a clear indication that the writers of that book felt that the appropriate way to play their game was to dispense with such concerns in one sentence, and then get on with the fun.

    The fact that it gets more over-the-top the closer you get to something that could look or act human is very telling.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    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.
    I remember reading an analysis online that quoted the--I think Second Edition--monster writeup of goblins and the one of elves, and then pointed out that, in essence, the quoted descriptions said exactly the same thing, that the species in question was given to stealth and guerilla tactics. Only, for the elves, this was presented as about how "quick" and "clever" and "at home in the wilderness" they were, whereas for the goblins, it was presented as how "vile, treacherous and cowardly" they were.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    This, in a nutshell.
    Yes, exactly.

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    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.
    That's what I was thinking too. And reading that honestly made me feel queezy, because those propaganda sheets never lead anywhere good.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kish View Post
    I remember reading an analysis online that quoted the--I think Second Edition--monster writeup of goblins and the one of elves, and then pointed out that, in essence, the quoted descriptions said exactly the same thing, that the species in question was given to stealth and guerilla tactics. Only, for the elves, this was presented as about how "quick" and "clever" and "at home in the wilderness" they were, whereas for the goblins, it was presented as how "vile, treacherous and cowardly" they were.
    Exactly. And the only difference is that in most campaigns you're expected to stab the goblins and not the elves.
    Last edited by CoffeeIncluded; 2013-09-16 at 03:10 PM.

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    On the other hand, I think it's OK to judge a book from its cover from time to time.

    For instance, if I'm skulking around some ancient castle that once belonged to an evil necromancer and I encounter a hulking undead abomination stitched together from the body parts of dozens of corpses, carrying two meat cleavers and adorned with a black eyeless mask and a series of metal spikes protruding from its back, I think it's safe to assume said monstrosity is probably not a hapless security guard with a family of five who's only here because it was the only work he could find in this economy.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Kish View Post
    I remember reading an analysis online that quoted the--I think Second Edition--monster writeup of goblins and the one of elves, and then pointed out that, in essence, the quoted descriptions said exactly the same thing, that the species in question was given to stealth and guerilla tactics. Only, for the elves, this was presented as about how "quick" and "clever" and "at home in the wilderness" they were, whereas for the goblins, it was presented as how "vile, treacherous and cowardly" they were.
    Yes, exactly! I remember that.

    In no way am I implying that this is a problem that popped up with 4th Edition. It is merely the current edition, and thus merits special attention because it is the state of the game now, and presumably should reflect the lessons learned in older editions. That it doesn't speaks poorly of the current climate.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    Because that's exactly what it is. It's a blatant statement of, "You don't have to worry about the moral repercussions of killing these things. They're evil, now roll initiative." It's a clear indication that the writers of that book felt that the appropriate way to play their game was to dispense with such concerns in one sentence, and then get on with the fun.
    Or since the book's purpose is to "Give the DM things for the PCs to fight", that it's giving the understandably relevant details of why the PCs would be fighting them to the DM as well.
    Last edited by Reverent-One; 2013-09-16 at 03:11 PM.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Reverent-One View Post
    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.
    I don't view them as contradictory because I'm not dividing my types by fluff v. crunch as had been earlier in the discussion. I'm splitting them by the role within the game (monster fluff & crunch, class fluff & crunch, stuff fluff & crunch).

    I also think that the marketing has little to do with the content of the books. By most accounts, the ToB classes are wonderful. I remember seeing almost no publicity around those books on the WotC site when they came out, but lots of ads for other stuff. I think they sold less well than higher print-run (read: it's on the shelf in Barnes and Noble when you go in) books that were pretty much crap on all fronts.

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowere View Post
    On the other hand, culture, organization and stuff like that is something you can always make up as dm, while gameplay mechanics are not.
    Says who? We have a whole forum in the playground devoted to making up the mechanics of feats, classes, monsters, etc. Also, the alignment of the monster isn't really just fluff in D&D as it has mechanical impacts.

    Quote Originally Posted by Reverent-One View Post
    Or since the book's purpose is to "Give the DM things for the PCs to fight", that it's giving the understandably relevant details of why the PCs would be fighting them to the DM as well.
    I think that what the Giant is getting at here is that the "reasons" players have for killing a creature ought to be better than "most of them do bad things and they look scary." The reasons should be particular to those monsters, not just because they are that type of monster.
    Last edited by AKA_Bait; 2013-09-16 at 03:20 PM.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Reverent-One View Post
    Or since the book's purpose is to "Give the DM things for the PCs to fight", that it's giving the understandably relevant details of why the PCs would be fighting them to the DM as well.
    Sure, if you want to pretend that you couldn't start a description with, "Minotaurs are bull-headed warriors with a deep sense of territoriality that often leads them into conflict with those that would explore the ancient ruins they have claimed for their own." Or literally any other description that outlines a potential conflict without passing judgment on them.

    If you think those opening sentences weren't chosen for the exact effect they are giving, you don't understand how these books get written.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    Yes, exactly! I remember that.

    In no way am I implying that this is a problem that popped up with 4th Edition. It is merely the current edition, and thus merits special attention because it is the state of the game now, and presumably should reflect the lessons learned in older editions. That it doesn't speaks poorly of the current climate.
    Or it could reflect the internal politics of first TSR and then Wizards. The 1E Monster Manual was entirely Gary Gygax's baby. But by the time 2E launched, Gary was long gone, and the "suits" Lorraine Williams brought in to run the company insisted on changing things (hence the retitling of Devils and Demons into Ba'atezu and Tan'nari, for example). The corporate culture at TSR in it's dying days was so mismanaged, that WotC decided that they would go in a completely different direction. And then WotC got bought up by Hasbro, which has it's own corporate culture. Whatever the climate was when WotC acquired TSR, it changed enough that Monte Cook was dropped from the planning for D&D Next because his ideas clashed with what upper management wants, whereas Mike Mearls is more in tune with management.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    Probably. Strictly speaking, those specific goblins hadn't attacked him, and I guess it is theoretically possible that they wouldn't have. He didn't choose to make that distinction before killing them, since he had been attacked by every goblin thus far, so that's probably a black mark on his record. Or maybe they stood there at the door and heard the goblins talking about having killed a bunch of villagers or something.

    However, the more accurate assessment is that was strips #11, before there was even the semblance of a plot, and I was far more interested in describing how D&D is played than prescribing how D&D should be played. So it shouldn't be taken as some sort of statement on my part for what is proper behavior.
    Wasn't there a quote from you back in 2004 (so you would have had a real plot) where you said "killing evil creatures isn't evil"? May have to look but I'm sure you said it.

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Reverent-One View Post
    Or since the book's purpose is to "Give the DM things for the PCs to fight", that it's giving the understandably relevant details of why the PCs would be fighting them to the DM as well.
    Except that's sort of the job of the DM's world-building and plot, as well as the PCs themselves to determine. A well-designed campaign doesn't at all hinge on the monster manual painting a target on pretty much every entry it has. It sets up reasons beyond "Splatbook says" for conflict and plot to take place.

    Unless, you know, your campaign is essentially a series of rooms with a fight in each. In which case, yeah, I suppose the DM could use a canned excuse to toss whatever encounter looks interesting at his or her players.

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    Sure, if you want to pretend that you couldn't start a description with, "Minotaurs are bull-headed warriors with a deep sense of territoriality that often leads them into conflict with those that would explore the ancient ruins they have claimed for their own." Or literally any other description that outlines a potential conflict without passing judgment on them.
    They couldn't have rewritten it like that without changing the creature. In your version, the only reason we're given that one might fight with them is if one intrudes on their territory. That's not what what the Minotaurs described in in the MM do though, those Minotaurs actually go and enslave other creatures. Either version could be used in a given world (or in fact both if you have different types/groups/societies of Minotaurs), but they are two different things. And saying they enslave and plunder isn't passing judgement if that's actually what they do. In that case, it's merely reporting the facts.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scurvy Cur View Post
    Except that's sort of the job of the DM's world-building and plot, as well as the PCs themselves to determine. A well-designed campaign doesn't at all hinge on the monster manual painting a target on pretty much every entry it has. It sets up reasons beyond "Splatbook says" for conflict and plot to take place.
    So then why have any details on those creatures other than the stats/physical description? Is the DM required to do all of it?
    Last edited by Reverent-One; 2013-09-16 at 03:31 PM.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Kish View Post
    I remember reading an analysis online that quoted the--I think Second Edition--monster writeup of goblins and the one of elves, and then pointed out that, in essence, the quoted descriptions said exactly the same thing, that the species in question was given to stealth and guerilla tactics. Only, for the elves, this was presented as about how "quick" and "clever" and "at home in the wilderness" they were, whereas for the goblins, it was presented as how "vile, treacherous and cowardly" they were.
    I think it was third edition, actually. Is this what you're referring to?

    The whole site is silly and over the top, but it does highlight the issues with the presentation of goblins in D&D, which extend to all 'monster races'.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    well, to adress to origional issue:

    everyone playing DnD has the option of giving their monsters "human" motivations. nobody is forced to do so.

    However, the fact that a LOT of DM's CHOOSE to make their monsters more "human" means that they themselves either enjoy the game more that way, or simply see them that way.

    besides all the great points already made by the giant and others, id like to point out that DnD is a ROLEPLAYING game, and roleplay is (supposed to be) a great part of it. that means that your characters SHOULD think about what they do and why, and YOU should think about that too. the moment you decide that your character wants to kill everything with a green skin on the assumption that its a threat and nothing else, you as a player should think about what that implies. there are plenty of real life equivelant things that i could talk about, but lets not do that here

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Reverent-One View Post
    They couldn't have rewritten it like that without changing the creature. In your version, the only reason we're given that one might fight with them is if one intrudes on their territory. That's not what what the Minotaurs described in in the MM do though, those Minotaurs actually go and enslave other creatures. Either version could be used in a given world (or in fact both if you have different types/groups/societies of Minotaurs), but they are two different things. And saying they enslave and plunder isn't passing judgement if that's actually what they do. In that case, it's merely reporting the facts.
    Really? How about: Minotaurs are bull-headed warriors with a deep sense of territoriality that often leads them into conflict with those that would explore the ancient ruins they have claimed for their own. Some Minotaur cultures teach that the enslavement of weaker creatures is justified and encourage their members to plunder races without the same physical prowess.

    Have I missed any potentially conflict creating elements? Did I make all Minotaurs legitimate targets?
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant
    Because that's exactly what it is. It's a blatant statement of, "You don't have to worry about the moral repercussions of killing these things. They're evil, now roll initiative." It's a clear indication that the writers of that book felt that the appropriate way to play their game was to dispense with such concerns in one sentence, and then get on with the fun.

    The fact that it gets more over-the-top the closer you get to something that could look or act human is very telling.
    And I think this gives me a greater feel for the context in which OOTS is written.

    See, most of my fantasy reading isn't generic D&D -- it's Terry Pratchett. And in Terry Pratchett's Ankh-Morpork, humans, dwarves, trolls, and vampires all co-exist with a certain degree of harmony brought about by their mutual all-consuming love of profit and money. Every other book revolves around some new species -- Trolls and dwarves (Men-at-Arms), Golems (Feet of Clay), Orcs (Unseen Academicals) , Vampires(the Truth) arriving in the City. They have difficulties, but the villains are NEVER the nonhumans, but always the stupid, blinkered Lord Rusts or whomever on the human side who wants things The Way They've Always Been. There's always some deep plot which the heroes foil and by the end of the book the anvil is dropped that Just Because They Look Different Doesn't Mean They Aren't Good People Too.

    Pratchett's been telling these stories for more than ten years.

    So when I pick up OOTS, I don't find the story remarkable or revolutionary because it treats goblins as people rather than targets. In fact, it seems par for the course.

    But I guess that the audience I am a member of is not the generic D&D audience that Wizards is marketing towards -- the demographic that's never read Pratchett and just wants enemies to kill.

    To that D&D audience Rich is a voice in the wilderness. Compared to the core books, Rich's work is NOT par for the course. The idea that nonhumans are more than violent ravening monsters who can only be killed appears to be a novel idea, and given the tone of the books it is an idea that is getting increasingly short shrift.

    It is this trend that Rich sees and what OOTS, in essence, warns against: To draw a contrast, to show that mindless violence is NOT the right answer , to rebuke the increasing tendency to divide the world of D&D into only two kinds of creature: Humans, and targets.

    ...

    It makes me wonder: Just how influential ARE the splatbooks and so forth on how people view fantasy and the real world around them? For myself, my views on such things were not shaped by D&D -- instead, I brought my own fully formed views on such things to the D&D table. I was making up stories set in the Tolkienverse about renegade orcs escaping from the War of the Ring and trying to "pass" in human communities long before I'd ever had contact with D&D. D&D had minimal influence on my thinking about such things -- they simply gave me a framework within which to act out my fantasies with other like-minded people.

    And in any campaign *I* run, orcs will not have just one single religion and be mindless violent monsters, fluff be damned.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.

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    Last edited by pendell; 2013-09-16 at 03:47 PM.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Reverent-One View Post
    They couldn't have rewritten it like that without changing the creature... And saying they enslave and plunder isn't passing judgement if that's actually what they do. In that case, it's merely reporting the facts.
    You can't be serious. They're not reporting facts, they're writing fiction! Yes, a different description would create a different, more humanized minotaur. That's the whole point.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sir_Leorik View Post
    Or it could reflect the internal politics of first TSR and then Wizards. The 1E Monster Manual was entirely Gary Gygax's baby. But by the time 2E launched, Gary was long gone, and the "suits" Lorraine Williams brought in to run the company insisted on changing things (hence the retitling of Devils and Demons into Ba'atezu and Tan'nari, for example). The corporate culture at TSR in it's dying days was so mismanaged, that WotC decided that they would go in a completely different direction. And then WotC got bought up by Hasbro, which has it's own corporate culture. Whatever the climate was when WotC acquired TSR, it changed enough that Monte Cook was dropped from the planning for D&D Next because his ideas clashed with what upper management wants, whereas Mike Mearls is more in tune with management.
    Whether or not something is profitable does not weigh even a little on my determination of whether or not it is a good idea. I am sure that every day at Wizards HQ, the fact that TSR failed is used as justification for the idea that fluff-heavy nuanced views of moral questions don't sell. The alternative is still a set of terrible, potentially damaging ideas being spread to teenagers with the imprimatur of Official Content on the cover.

    Quote Originally Posted by Reverent-One View Post
    They couldn't have rewritten it like that without changing the creature.
    Then change the creature! It's a made-up human with a cow head, it can be however we want it to be, so why don't we all put our grown-up pants on and try reeeeeeeeally hard to imagine a person who is not immediately deserving of death?

    Quote Originally Posted by AKA_Bait View Post
    Really? How about: Minotaurs are bull-headed warriors with a deep sense of territoriality that often leads them into conflict with those that would explore the ancient ruins they have claimed for their own. Some Minotaur cultures teach that the enslavement of weaker creatures is justified and encourage their members to plunder races without the same physical prowess.
    See?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Morty View Post
    I think it was third edition, actually. Is this what you're referring to?
    ...Possibly? Not sure.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    This, in a nutshell.
    Yes, exactly.

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    But I guess that the audience I am a member of is not the generic D&D audience that Wizards is marketing towards -- the demographic that's never read Pratchett and just wants enemies to kill.
    I think that would be an interesting study of the sales data, but I'd bet that you are right. There's also the issue of, whatever that overlap might be, isn't it better to have one more piece of it? Even reading the Discworld books may not trigger an otherwise intelligent person to start thinking critically about D&D.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Reverent-One View Post
    They couldn't have rewritten it like that without changing the creature. In your version, the only reason we're given that one might fight with them is if one intrudes on their territory. That's not what what the Minotaurs described in in the MM do though, those Minotaurs actually go and enslave other creatures. Either version could be used in a given world (or in fact both if you have different types/groups/societies of Minotaurs), but they are two different things. And saying they enslave and plunder isn't passing judgement if that's actually what they do. In that case, it's merely reporting the facts.



    So then why have any details on those creatures other than the stats/physical description? Is the DM required to do all of it?
    You're missing the point though. The reason that all the creatures as described in the monster manual all universally do horrible, awful things is that it establishes them as perfectly legit targets for any PC. The point of the entire argument at hand is that this is, in essence, implicitly racist. It tags a judgmental and negative description on more or less every non-PC race in there and moreover implies some degree of universality to it.

    Remember, the descriptions of the monsters are that way becasuse someone chose to write them that way. There is no reason that the writers had to pick what they did. No real minotaurs exist that the sourcebooks are trying to faithfully recreate or anything.

    Likewise, with regards to "is it the DM's job, etc."

    Uhhh... Yeah? That's sort of the DM's job. The DM is the final arbiter on the details of the world. There is no rule in the game that says he needs to depict every creature entry exactly as printed in the MM. When a DM chooses to write a species of creature exactly as described in the MM, it is still the DM's choice. The sourcebooks can give ideas, present stat blocks, and save the DM a little work, but at the end of the day, the DM builds the world and the plot and fills it with details.

  23. - Top - End - #173
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Toper View Post
    You can't be serious. They're not reporting facts, they're writing fiction! Yes, a different description would create a different, more humanized minotaur. That's the whole point.
    *Sigh* Facts within the fictional world.

    Quote Originally Posted by AKA_Bait View Post
    Really? How about: Minotaurs are bull-headed warriors with a deep sense of territoriality that often leads them into conflict with those that would explore the ancient ruins they have claimed for their own. Some Minotaur cultures teach that the enslavement of weaker creatures is justified and encourage their members to plunder races without the same physical prowess.

    Have I missed any potentially conflict creating elements? Did I make all Minotaurs legitimate targets?
    They're not all legtimate targets based on the MM description either, if the PCs run into a Minatour with a lemonade stand, they don't have any more reason to attack it whichever description is printed in the book (unless said lemonade is made from slaves' tears of agony or something ). The only difference is that your rewrite implies to the DM a smaller number have that mindset than the MM version.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    Then change the creature! It's a made-up human with a cow head, it can be however we want it to be, so why don't we all put our grown-up pants on and try reeeeeeeeally hard to imagine a person who is not immediately deserving of death?
    Well, the point of the book is "Things for the PCs to fight", so not giving reasons to fight them is being somewhat incomplete. True, the DM could do that work themselves and the book could just include the stats and physical description, but if the DM feels like doing that, the notes for DMs that do like having some basics to use or build upon as they see fit aren't going to stop them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scurvy Cur View Post
    You're missing the point though. The reason that all the creatures as described in the monster manual all universally do horrible, awful things is that it establishes them as perfectly legit targets for any PC. The point of the entire argument at hand is that this is, in essence, implicitly racist. It tags a judgmental and negative description on more or less every non-PC race in there and moreover implies some degree of universality to it.
    Generally, not neccessarily universally.

    Likewise, with regards to "is it the DM's job, etc."

    Uhhh... Yeah? That's sort of the DM's job. The DM is the final arbiter on the details of the world. There is no rule in the game that says he needs to depict every creature entry exactly as printed in the MM. When a DM chooses to write a species of creature exactly as described in the MM, it is still the DM's choice. The sourcebooks can give ideas, present stat blocks, and save the DM a little work, but at the end of the day, the DM builds the world and the plot and fills it with details.
    Right, which is what those little bits you're complaining about are there for.
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  24. - Top - End - #174
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Reverent-One View Post
    The only difference is that your rewrite implies to the DM a smaller number have that mindset than the MM version.
    Not at all. My description implies that the unquestionably evil parts of the description are attributed to a culture as opposed to an entire race. The latter implies that you might be able to reason with a Minotaur and change its mind whereas the former implies that it is in their nature to behave a particular evil way.

    Well, the point of the book is "Things for the PCs to fight", so not giving reasons to fight them is being somewhat incomplete.
    I didn't want to get into it before, but the MM is not just for things to fight. There are also good creatures and neutral creatures in the MM. More, as I demonstrated above, you can include the "reasons to fight them" fluff without parsing it in a way that pegs an entire supposedly sentient race rather than a culture defined by beliefs.
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  25. - Top - End - #175
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    Whether or not something is profitable does not weigh even a little on my determination of whether or not it is a good idea. I am sure that every day at Wizards HQ, the fact that TSR failed is used as justification for the idea that fluff-heavy nuanced views of moral questions don't sell. The alternative is still a set of terrible, potentially damaging ideas being spread to teenagers with the imprimatur of Official Content on the cover.
    I agree with you that WotC's staff not only need to impress their grand Potato-Headed overlords, they also live with the knowledge of just how mismanaged TSR was. But publishing fluff-heavy, nuanced books wasn't what caused TSR to fail. Publishing fluff-heavy, nuanced books that were expensive to produce, and selling them for a fraction of the cost, caused TSR to fail. I remember Chris Pramas writing about this a little over ten years ago, about how WotC sent auditors to Lake Geneva and were astonished by the mess that Williams left the company in.

    The big difference between WotC under Hasbro, and TSR, is that if Hasbro were to decide to shut down the D&D tabletop RPG because of poor sales, they would still keep the rights, and produce card games, video games, apps for generating characters or magic items, and probably a line of action figures. If TSR had gone under and not been rescued by WotC, D&D would have died out, kept alive by a few thousand fans, but that would be it. Tabletop RPGs would continue to exist, with SJG and White Wolf picking up the slack.

    In terms of monster descriptions, you're right, these ones are intended to paint Humanoids in a disturbing light. I view it as part and parcel of the horrible world building that was part of the first wave of 4E products. I can not stand the fluff in the products that came out before PHB 2.
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  26. - Top - End - #176
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Sunken Valley View Post
    Wasn't there a quote from you back in 2004 (so you would have had a real plot) where you said "killing evil creatures isn't evil"? May have to look but I'm sure you said it.
    That's a separate argument.

    [Grishnįkh the Orc] is [Evil], killing [him] is [Not Evil].

    This is different from:

    [Any Orc anywhere] is [Evil], killing [Orcs] is [Not Evil].

    The point of the discussion that's happening here is centered on the implications of stating a character's alignment based solely on his/her race.
    Last edited by WalkingTarget; 2013-09-16 at 04:05 PM.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Reverent-One View Post
    *Sigh* Facts within the fictional world.
    There is no fictional world. It doesn't exist. There is only this world, where we are talking, and where we have made up a bunch of fictional cow-people.

    Quote Originally Posted by Reverent-One View Post
    They're not all legtimate targets based on the MM description either, if the PCs run into a Minatour with a lemonade stand, they don't have any more reason to attack it whichever description is printed in the book (unless said lemonade is made from slaves' tears of agony or something ).
    That minotaur with a lemonade stand has to be invented solely by the DM. The minotaur who enslaves others doesn't. Anything that requires the DM to go beyond the text of the book is something that the text is implicitly discouraging.

    Quote Originally Posted by Reverent-One View Post
    The only difference is that your rewrite implies to the DM a smaller number have that mindset than the MM version.
    Yes, and that is a worthwhile thing. That is worth changing two sentences for. Especially when by "smaller number" you mean "any number smaller than the entire population of the species."

    Quote Originally Posted by Reverent-One View Post
    Well, the point of the book is "Things for the PCs to fight", so not giving reasons to fight them is being somewhat incomplete.
    I did give them a reason to fight it: PCs are exploring ruins, stumble upon a minotaur lair, minotaur attacks because it is very territorial, PCs fight. Maybe the PCs try to talk it out with the minotaur, maybe they don't. Maybe one specific minotaur is a real jerk who likes oppressing people. But at least we know the whole species isn't necessarily like that.
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  28. - Top - End - #178
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Silly question.

    What about a game which involves hunting down sentient creatures, enslaving them, and forcing them to fight others of their kind for the amusement of humans? I think the game is called ... pokemon?

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  29. - Top - End - #179
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    [*]"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..."
    Yeah, but a creative DM can still get around this. After all, does the above really mean they're evil, or does a lot of what makes their society a successful one just happen to depend on warfare? Can't get a wife and kids unless you prove yourself in battle, can't feed them unless you have slaves to work the fields, etc. A 'peaceful' hobgoblin is a shiftless loser, an embarrassment to his family and a drain on society. A good one has a fat wife and ten kids and provides for them all with a farm taken from the vile humans. (Disclaimer: I know nothing about D&D hobgoblins beyond what I've seen in this strip.)

    I'm going to tiptoe around naming names here because I'm not really sure of the line between discussing history and discussing politics, but about 200 years ago there were some folks living in my area who were an extremely organized and aggressive force who did a whole lot of genociding, murdering, brutal gang rape, kidnapping and enslaving, with some really horrific torture thrown in for kicks. I've read detailed survivors' accounts that literally made me queasy, but obviously it wouldn't be accurate to call them evil. By the standards of their own culture what they were doing was perfectly normal, even right and good. (Well okay, slowly roasting a six year old girl alive is Evil with a capital E no matter how you look at it, I'm gonna have to draw the line there, sorry, but the rest of my point still stands.)

    If I was setting up a game or story involving hobgoblins or any of the other 'usually evil' races, I'd probably have the conflict occur much as it does in RL -- two clashing cultures meet, naturally both sides' initial contact is with the military or quick-to-get-violent 'adventurers' of the other because they're the ones out their exploring and paving the way for others, and things only go downhill from there. Neither side gets to see how much the others love their families or what they might have in common or be able to learn from each other or whatever...and they don't exactly have a lot of time to think it over.

    This whole simplistic idea of 'the goblins live on the mountain and launch raids on the elves in the forest' or whatever that you often see in fantasy settings would rarely fly in real life. If they were enemies from the start, the goblins would either successfully attack and slaughter or drive the elves away to occupy the forest, or they would fail and the elves would focus all their energy on counterattacking and removing the threat. And if they failed, the goblins would lash back with renewed effort until one side or the other got the upper hand. Neither side is ever going to sit there and wring their hands and go 'oh wow, those guys were jerks, I sure hope they don't attack again' in a stalemate for centuries while their families are in constant danger.


    Honestly, I think if I ever get around to writing a fantasy novel I'm going to either make humans the only species, or have their societies so intermingled with orcs and elves and whatnot that it's impossible to take sides in the major conflict that have anything to do with race. And yet I know people IRL who have literally stated that humans (the entire race) are 'boring' and in order for a fictional character to hold their interest they have to have teeth or claws or wings or fur or weird colored eyes and magic powers. As opposed to like, a relatable personality or goal. I keep telling them they need to learn something about the world they actually live in because humans are endlessly amazing and weird just how they are.

    ...I'm kind of wandering, I'm going to stop now I think. Humans are absolutely the best, most complex species in existence though, even when they have green skin and fangs.
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  30. - Top - End - #180
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    I have to say, I personally like a little black-and-white, absolute-evil, you-see-this-critter-you-kill-it, in some of my games from time to time.

    As G'Kar put it once on Babylon 5:

    "By G'Quan, I can't recall the last time I was in a fight like that. No moral ambiguity, no ... hopeless battle against ancient and overwhelming forces. They were the bad guys, as you say, we were the good guys. And they made a very satisfying thump when they hit the floor."

    The larger points in this thread about having some texture and nuance and characterization in storytelling are all fine and good... same for fretting over the effect of monster manual entries on impressionable youth, where one doesn't want to be a party to promoting the notion that All Things That Look Like This Are Bad, sure, ok, you're being consistent in your values and morals and that's commendable...

    ...but for me personally, when so much of real life is shades of grey and empathy and sympathy and seeing all sides of a conflict, it's good for me in my escapist hobbies to occasionally be just fighting capital-E Evil. That's why I'm ok with a monster description that is simply "they're all evil and do evil things".

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