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  1. - Top - End - #181
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    Reverent-One's Avatar

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    So after starting to reply to specific posts, I realized we've moved off a bit from the point I was trying to reply to, and will try to be more clear.

    I'm not denying that said bits from the MM aren't used to describe "Always Evil"* creatures. Nor am I saying that "Always Evil" creatures are the best types of creatures. What I am disagreed with was saying that the purpose of those descriptions were to make players go "Look a <insert creature here>, let's kill it despite it not doing anything deserving of it", but to describe what some basic concepts of the race that DMs can use within their world (or not). Whether one sort of concept is or another is better is going to be a matter of opinion that will go nowhere and not my point.

    *"Always" Evil historically being more of a general rule than absolute statement in D&D
    Last edited by Reverent-One; 2013-09-16 at 04:21 PM.
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  2. - Top - End - #182
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Solara View Post
    Yeah, but a creative DM can still get around this.
    Not to knock you specifically, but this is an idea that gets brought up a lot and it really has very little merit to the argument of whether or not the official rulebooks should read the way they do.

    Yes, a creative DM can get around it. A creative DM can get around anything. A sufficiently creative DM can invent their own game system and never give Wizards another dollar. Which is why they almost certainly don't figure very heavily in the company's decisions.

    I'm not worried about the effect on people with high levels of creativity and strong personal morality that they have developed through introspection. I'm worried about the effect on people who don't think about it at all, who never question what they're reading, and just go along with what's in the book because they only have so much time before Saturday night's session.

    Quote Originally Posted by Spoomeister View Post
    ...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".
    I don't have the luxury of only considering my own personal hobbies; I'm in the business of content creation. My words influence other people, as do those of the Wizards authors. What I put out there and what they put out there affect the world, and it's negligent for us not to acknowledge that.

    And from where I'm standing, the real world is already way too full of people who say, "They're all evil and do evil things," about other people for me to ever be OK with that. We always need more empathy and sympathy and seeing all sides of the conflict. Always.
    Rich Burlew


    Also available: Good Deeds Gone Unpunished, a collection of five new stories about your favorite Azure City characters, from Ookoodook (paper copies) or Gumroad (digital PDFs).

  3. - Top - End - #183
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    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.
    Actually, historically this kind of low-intensity conflict is the norm rather than the exception. The Arabs called it Razzia . I also recommend Blood and Thunder , which describes the same kind of war fought between Mexicans and the Dine, back before that part of the world became part of the United States. Also a study of the pirates of the Caribbean, or the Barbary pirates.

    Essentially, you had two nomadic peoples (in the case of the Arabs raiding each other), or you had two small sedentary peoples who lived next to each other, neither of whom was strong enough to wipe the other out. In fact, wiping each other out would defeat the purpose of this kind of war -- however else are young men to gain wealth and prestige quickly, if you drive away all the enemies and force them to do work?

    This kind of low-intensity conflict can continue indecisively for generations. Indeed, a permanent victory in such a war is no more to be thought of than if the NFL champion were to wipe out all the other football teams. Instead, every now and then a small band of high-spirited young men will go out and steal the enemy's cattle or kill some lone farmer out by himself. In the name of "avenging the wrong", a band of vigilantes from the other side will get together and do the same back. And so it continues, century after century, generation after generation.

    Ending such low-intensity conflicts and bringing about peace is something only highly organized societies can accomplish, by fielding enough military force not simply to harass enemies but to annihilate them. That's what the Romans did to Carthage.

    So Goblins harassing elves in low-level conflict, and the elves responding by either killing the intruders or launching counter-raids in return, is not implausible. It is exactly what neighboring tribes and families in the real world do by default. The Robber's Cave experiment was conducted to determine what it would take to start intergroup conflict. And the answer was: It doesn't take anything. The mere fact that different groups exist is enough to provoke rivalry. War is very easy, Peace is hard.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
    "Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid."

    -Valery Legasov in Chernobyl

  4. - Top - End - #184
    Giant in the Playground Administrator
     
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Also, G'kar is a perfect example of my point. The Monster Manual entry for Narn would have started, "Narns are a vicious bloodthirsty race that plot to conquer new worlds and bring them under their reptilian dominion."

    Thankfully, JMS has a better grasp on my point than do the writers of 4e.
    Rich Burlew


    Also available: Good Deeds Gone Unpunished, a collection of five new stories about your favorite Azure City characters, from Ookoodook (paper copies) or Gumroad (digital PDFs).

  5. - Top - End - #185
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    I don't have the luxury of only considering my own personal hobbies; I'm in the business of content creation. My words influence other people, as do those of the Wizards authors. What I put out there and what they put out there affect the world, and it's negligent for us not to acknowledge that.

    And from where I'm standing, the real world is already way too full of people who say, "They're all evil and do evil things," about other people for me to ever be OK with that. We always need more empathy and sympathy and seeing all sides of the conflict. Always.
    Well, it's very different when it's about the games you're running, and the story you're telling with OOTS, because you are telling a specific story and the story you want to tell has these values in it. It's absolutely your prerogative and I'd expect you'd want to reflect that in there. The very nuance and shadings and variety of perspectives you put into your story is what makes it interesting in the first place.

  6. - Top - End - #186
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Spoomeister View Post
    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 quote is a little counter to the point you're trying to make insofar as the bad guys in question there had demonstrated that they, personally, were bad (stealing from old ladies and such). So beating up a gang of orcs that steal from old ladies is fine. Where thigns start to go off the rails is in going from there to assuming that any given orc steals from old ladies unless the DM goes out of his way to inform you otherwise.

    Also, there's something either very hilarious or very depressing in reading this argument at the same time as I learn of some of the reactions to the most recent Miss America's crowing.
    Last edited by Grey Watcher; 2013-09-16 at 04:41 PM.

  7. - Top - End - #187
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    It seems to me like the D&D product line is created for people that are looking for a hack & slash style game. People grow out of it and want more depth in story and characters, including the antagonists.
    Team Forum Nitpickers, IFCC pawn

  8. - Top - End - #188
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    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    Also, G'kar is a perfect example of my point. The Monster Manual entry for Narn would have started, "Narns are a vicious bloodthirsty race that plot to conquer new worlds and bring them under their reptilian dominion."

    Thankfully, JMS has a better grasp on my point than do the writers of 4e.
    Therein lies the difference in content, audience and purpose.

    The Monster Manual entry for Narn could have gone as you described.
    JMS' campaign based on that Monster Manual entry would be entertaining because he's using it as a starting point to then play with the player's conventions.
    And a different GM might run with the MM entry as written, if that's what they and their gaming group wanted to play.

  9. - Top - End - #189
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Spoomeister View Post
    Therein lies the difference in content, audience and purpose.

    The Monster Manual entry for Narn could have gone as you described.
    JMS' campaign based on that Monster Manual entry would be entertaining because he's using it as a starting point to then play with the player's conventions.
    And a different GM might run with the MM entry as written, if that's what they and their gaming group wanted to play.
    But... JMS is the author of the monster manual. They were written, from the ground up, to have the nuance they have. Granted, for dramatic reasons, he chose to show us the bloodthirsty side first, but it wasn't like, in his notes, he just stopped there. He knew what he was doing with that particular bait-and-switch.

  10. - Top - End - #190
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by luc258 View Post
    It seems to me like the D&D product line is created for people that are looking for a hack & slash style game. People grow out of it and want more depth in story and characters, including the antagonists.
    It's patronizing as hell to characterize that preference as "they grow out of it". That would be akin to saying people should, oh I don't know, "grow out of" comic strips.

    Hack & slash style gaming is perfectly acceptable entertainment, and not some stage of moral development or maturation.

  11. - Top - End - #191
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Grey Watcher View Post
    But... JMS is the author of the monster manual. They were written, from the ground up, to have the nuance they have. Granted, for dramatic reasons, he chose to show us the bloodthirsty side first, but it wasn't like, in his notes, he just stopped there. He knew what he was doing with that particular bait-and-switch.
    You can't really cut that both ways though, then and say that a theoretical MM entry for the Narn would get it wrong. Either the theoretical MM entry example works in all the ways that a MM can be used (for telling a variety of stories) or it doesn't (in which case the Narn are only JMS' creation for that specific story and not created as all-purpose monsters the way critters in a sourcebook are).

  12. - Top - End - #192
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowere View Post
    It is quite old in this discussion, but I want to say I appreciated that a lot. So yes, an intelligent creature cannot be "always evil". they may be at war with us for any kind of reason, they may have an evil culture that makes them our enemies (but be wary of what you define as "evil culture"), but labeling an intelligent race "always evil" is in my opinion a clear contradiction in terms.
    And this is why I think I've given up on games that make a big deal, or any kind of deal at all for that matter, about "alignment".

    Imagine: I'm a mid-level fighter, retired and living in a peaceful village. News starts coming in of a dragon terrorising the area. It's burned three other villages so far. Then a dragon flies over and lands, slap bang in the middle of my village.

    Now, my most prized possession is one (1) Arrow of Dragon Slaying. 100% guaranteed to kill, stone dead, any dragon it hits.

    Is this the same dragon that's been terrorising others? Or is it a completely different dragon, here on an embassy of peace? There's no way to tell. What I do know is that right at this moment, my family, everyone I love and care about, is one sneeze away from death.

    So, is this specific dragon "evil"? I don't know, and right at this moment I don't care. I'm going to take the shot.

    Is that good, is it morally defensible? Again, I don't care. Whatever the consequences are, I'll deal with them as best I can. Right here and now, there is an immediate and obvious threat, and I have to make a choice: do I finish it, or do I wait to see what it does next? Sorry, dragon, I can't take that chance.

    You want to call me a monster for that? Fine, say it with me now: I don't care. I'll even come to your families' funerals, when it's their turn.
    "None of us likes to be hated, none of us likes to be shunned. A natural result of these conditions is, that we consciously or unconsciously pay more attention to tuning our opinions to our neighbor’s pitch and preserving his approval than we do to examining the opinions searchingly and seeing to it that they are right and sound." - Mark Twain

  13. - Top - End - #193
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    To me... the argument that Fantastic Racism leads to real racist thoughts/actions needs a lot more evidence than mere internet discussions. Personally - I think that argument holds just as much water as the Jack Thompson-style argument that People who play Hack+Slash "But we're heroes!" murderhobo campaigns are more likely to commit the headline-grabbing, "But I was wronged!" or "My Cause is Just!" mass murders.

    To me... Goblins and monsters aren't Evil because they're Monsters: They're Monsters because they're Evil. However, D&D has moved away from portraying Goblinoids as "Things that go bump in the night" or "Twisted versions of humanoids" (Primarily, "bad children" that have given into monstrous urges) to a race in their own right that propogates through non-evil means... unlike, say, a Hieracosphinx (Which has significant "unfortunate implications" if we ignore the fantastic context).

    I think the crusade against Racism/Speciesism in fantasy is misguided. And, if the argument that "People are hard-coded to be racist" is true, then no amount of preaching or prosthetilizing can change that - but we can redirect it by creating fictional non-humans that are fantastically different from humans, so to mitigate the differences between real, living people.

    It's also useful to try exploring genuine, incompatible-with-human intelligence in case we end up meeting it in the future - either through (unlikely) extraterrestrial contact, or attempts to 'uplift' animals that go horribly wrong (Which just requires time, better knowledge of neurology, and ethically-dubious experiments here on Earth - and there are plenty of people motivated to try and do so.)

  14. - Top - End - #194
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by veti View Post
    Imagine: I'm a mid-level fighter, retired and living in a peaceful village. News starts coming in of a dragon terrorising the area. It's burned three other villages so far. Then a dragon flies over and lands, slap bang in the middle of my village.

    Now, my most prized possession is one (1) Arrow of Dragon Slaying. 100% guaranteed to kill, stone dead, any dragon it hits.

    Is this the same dragon that's been terrorising others? Or is it a completely different dragon, here on an embassy of peace? There's no way to tell. What I do know is that right at this moment, my family, everyone I love and care about, is one sneeze away from death.

    So, is this specific dragon "evil"? I don't know, and right at this moment I don't care. I'm going to take the shot.

    Is that good, is it morally defensible? Again, I don't care. Whatever the consequences are, I'll deal with them as best I can. Right here and now, there is an immediate and obvious threat, and I have to make a choice: do I finish it, or do I wait to see what it does next? Sorry, dragon, I can't take that chance.
    If one knows that there's the possibility of there being multiple dragons in the area, some hostile, some not,

    then "shoot on sight" with an irreplaceable weapon, seems rather short-sighted at the minimum- leaving aside any moral issues.
    Last edited by hamishspence; 2013-09-16 at 04:53 PM.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Spoomeister View Post
    You can't really cut that both ways though, then and say that a theoretical MM entry for the Narn would get it wrong. Either the theoretical MM entry example works in all the ways that a MM can be used (for telling a variety of stories) or it doesn't (in which case the Narn are only JMS' creation for that specific story and not created as all-purpose monsters the way critters in a sourcebook are).
    OK, let me clarify my point. JMS isn't someone who found an entry for the Narn as a race of aggressive saber-rattlers and opportunistic raiders and decided it would make for a great story arc to unexpectedly turn them into victims and, in the process, reveal their spiritual side. He created Narns from his own imagination, with both sides of their culture, with the intent of telling exactly the story that he did with them. So, in the analogy of a Narn entry in the monster manual, if it just talked about the militarism and aggression (as say, the Hobgoblin entry does), it would fall short of representing what they are. And a lot of people wouldn't think to look past that initial impression and attempt to flesh out the culture more.

    Did that make any more sense?

  16. - Top - End - #196
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Does anyone reading think that in the comic, the fate of Azure City will be that the goblins will get to keep their city and the azurites build a new one in the island they found and both sides shake hands and call truce, ending the cycle of violence? Because based on what The Giant said, I fully expect this ending (also because large portions of the happy ending phantasm won't be happening and this is one of them).

    In other news, 4E is touted here as the big roleplaying game currently. It's not. Not only has 4E not made a book in just over 2 years but Pathfinder has been outselling D&D in 2012 and 2013. I checked their srd and will be copy pasting some descriptions below. I think they are better than the ones in the 4E books by far (except for the Orc and Ogre). I picked them based on "savage" humanoids that have shown up in the comic (and minotaurs). Anyone wants another monsters copied from the sight (and is to lazy to look) I'll do so.

    Goblin
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    Goblins prefer to dwell in caves, amid large and dense thickets of thistles and brambles, or in structures built and then abandoned by others. Very few goblins have the drive to build structures of their own. Coastlines are favored, as goblins are quite fond of sifting through junk and flotsam in an unending quest to find treasures among the refuse of more civilized races.

    Goblin hatred runs deep, and few things inspire their wrath more than gnomes (who have long fought against goblins), horses (who frighten goblins tremendously), and regular dogs (whom goblins regard as pale imitations of goblin dogs).

    Goblins are also quite superstitious, and treat magic with a fawning mixture of awe and fear. They have the habit of ascribing magic to the mundane as well, with fire and writing both taking on mystical power in goblin society. Fire is much loved by goblins for its capacity to wreak great destruction and because it doesn't require size or strength to wield, but written words are hated. Goblins believe that writing steals words out of your head, and as a result of this belief, goblins are universally illiterate.

    Goblins are voracious and can eat their body weight in food daily without growing fat. Goblin lairs always have numerous storerooms and larders. While they prefer human and gnome flesh, a goblin won't turn down any food—except, perhaps, vegetables.


    Hobgoblin
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    Hobgoblins are militaristic and fecund, a combination that makes them quite dangerous in some regions. They breed quickly, replacing fallen members with new soldiers and keeping up their numbers despite the fortunes of war. They generally need little reason to declare war, but more often than not that reason is to capture new slaves—life as a slave in a hobgoblin lair is brutal and short, and new slaves are always needed to replace those who fall or are eaten.

    Of all the goblinoid races, the hobgoblin is by far the most civilized. They see the larger and more solitary bugbears as tools to be hired and used where appropriate, usually for specific missions involving assassination and stealth, and look upon their smaller goblin kin with a mix of shame and frustration. Hobgoblins admire goblin tenacity, yet their miniscule kindred's unpredictable nature and fondness for fire make them unwelcome additions to hobgoblin tribes or settlements. Nonetheless, most hobgoblin tribes include a small group of goblins, typically squatting in the most undesirable corners of the settlement.

    Many hobgoblin tribes combine their love of warfare with keen intellects. The science of siege engines, alchemy, and complex feats of engineering fascinate most hobgoblins, and those who are particularly skilled are treated as heroes and invariably secure high-ranking positions in the tribe. Slaves with analytical minds are quite valued, and as such raids on dwarven cities are commonplace.

    It is well known that hobgoblins mistrust and even despise magic, particularly arcane magic. Their shamans are treated with a mix of fear and respect, and are usually forced to live alone on the fringes of the tribe's lair. It is all but unheard of to find a hobgoblin practicing arcane magic, or as hobgoblins call it, “elf magic.” This is the root of their hatred of magic—the hobgoblins' hatred of elves.

    A hobgoblin stands 5 feet tall and weighs 160 pounds.


    Drow
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    Although related to the elves, the drow are a vile and evil cousin at best. Sometimes called dark elves, these cunning creatures prowl the caves and tunnels of the world below, ruling vast subterranean cities through fear and might. Worshiping demons and enslaving most races they encounter, the drow are among the underworld's most feared and hated denizens.

    Drow are shorter and a bit more slender than their surface-dwelling kin, but they are otherwise physically similar. Drow have dark skin, ranging from black to a hazy purple hue. Most drow have white or silver hair and white or red eyes, but other colors are not unheard of.

    Drow society is ruled over by powerful nobility, themselves governed by sadistic and dangerous matriarchs who constantly plot and scheme against rival houses and lesser kin within their own families. The majority of drow are the common soldiers and decadent citizenry, with base stats as presented here—drow nobles are more powerful and dangerous, and are detailed below.

    In combat, drow are thoroughly ruthless, with little regard for fairness or mercy. They prefer to attack from ambush or to lure enemies into situations where they clearly have the upper hand. If things turn against them, drow are quick to flee, leaving slaves and minions to cover their escape.


    Ogre (open at your peril)
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    Stories are told of ogres—horrendous stories of brutality and savagery, cannibalism and torture. Of rape and dismemberment, necrophilia, incest, mutilation, and all manners of hideous murder. Those who have not encountered ogres know the stories as warnings. Those who have survived such encounters know these tales to be tame compared to the truth.

    An ogre revels in the misery of others. When smaller races aren't available to crush between meaty fists or defile in blood-red lusts of violence, they turn to each other for entertainment. Nothing is taboo in ogre society. One would think that, left to themselves, an ogre tribe would quickly tear itself apart, with only the strongest surviving in the end—yet if there is one thing ogres respect, it is family.

    Ogre tribes are known as families, and many of their deformities and hideous features arise from the common practice of incest. The leader of a tribe is most often the father of the tribe, although in some cases a particularly violent or domineering ogress claims the title of mother. Ogre tribes bicker among themselves, a trait that thankfully keeps them busy and turned against each other rather than neighboring races. Yet time and again, a particularly violent and feared patriarch rises among the ogres, one capable of gathering multiple families under his command.

    Regions inhabited by ogres are dreary, ugly places, for these giants dwell in squalor and see little need to live in harmony with their environment. The borderland between civilization and ogre territory is a desperate realm of outcasts and despair, for here dwell the ogrekin, the deformed offspring and results of frequent ogre raids against the lands of the smaller folk.

    Ogre games are violent and cruel, and victims they use for entertainment are lucky if they die the first day. Ogres' cruel senses of humor are the only way their crude minds show any spark of creativity, and the tools and methods of torture ogres devise are always nightmarish.

    An ogre's great strength and lack of imagination makes it particularly suited for heavy labor, such as mining, forging, and clearing land, and more powerful giants (particularly hill giants and stone giants) often subjugate ogre families to serve them in such regards.

    A typical adult ogre stands 10 feet tall and weighs roughly 650 pounds.


    Kobold
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    Kobolds are creatures of the dark, found most commonly in enormous underground warrens or the dark corners of the forest where the sun is unable to reach. Due to their physical similarities, kobolds loudly proclaim themselves the scions of dragonkind, destined to rule the earth beneath the wings of their great god-cousins, but most dragons have little use for the obnoxious pests.

    While they may speak loudly of divine right and manifest destiny, kobolds are keenly aware of their own weakness. Cowards and schemers, they never fight fair if they can help it, instead setting up ambushes and double-crosses, holing up in their warrens behind countless crude but ingenious traps, or rolling over the enemy in vast, yipping hordes.

    Kobold coloration varies even among siblings from the same egg clutch, ranging through the colors of the chromatic dragons, with red being the most common but white, green, blue, and black kobolds not unheard of.


    Orc (this description is awful)
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    Along with their brute strength and comparatively low intellect, the primary difference between orcs and the civilized humanoids is their attitude. As a culture, orcs are violent and aggressive, with the strongest ruling the rest through fear and brutality. They take what they want by force, and think nothing of slaughtering or enslaving entire villages when they can get away with it. They have little time for niceties or details, and their camps and villages tend to be filthy, ramshackle affairs filled with drunken brawls, pit fights, and other sadistic entertainment. Lacking the patience for farming and only able to shepherd the most robust and self-sufficient animals, orcs almost always find it easier to take what someone else has built than to create things themselves. They are arrogant and quick to anger when challenged, but only worry about honor so far as it directly benefits them to do so.

    An adult male orc is roughly 6 feet tall and 210 pounds. Orcs and humans interbreed frequently, though this is almost always the result of raids and slave-taking rather than consensual unions. Many orc tribes purposefully breed for half-orcs and raise them as their own, as the smarter progeny make excellent strategists and leaders for their tribes.


    Troll
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    Trolls possess incredibly sharp claws and amazing regenerative powers, allowing them to recover from nearly any wound. They are stooped, fantastically ugly, and astonishingly strong—combined with their claws, their strength allows them to literally tear apart flesh to feed their voracious appetites. Trolls stand about 14 feet tall, but their hunched postures often make them appear shorter. An adult troll weighs around 1,000 pounds.

    A troll's appetite and its regenerative powers make it a fearless combatant, ever prepared to charge headlong at the nearest living creature and attack with all of its fury. Only fire seems to cause a troll to hesitate, but even this mortal threat is not enough to stop a troll's advance. Those who commonly battle with trolls know to locate and burn any pieces after a fight, for even the smallest scrap of flesh can regrow a full-size troll given enough time. Fortunately, only the largest part of a troll regrows in this way.

    Despite their cruelty in combat, trolls are surprisingly tender and kind to their own young. Female trolls work as a group, spending a great deal of time teaching young trolls to hunt and fend for themselves before sending them off to find their own territories. A male troll tends to live a solitary existence, partnering with a female for only a brief time to mate. All trolls spend most of their time hunting for food, as they must consume vast amounts each day or face starvation. Due to this need, most trolls stake out large territories as their own, and fights between rivals are quite common. While these are usually nonlethal, trolls are aware of each others' weaknesses and will use such knowledge to kill their own kind if food is scarce.


    Minotaur
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    Nothing holds a grudge like a minotaur. Scorned by the civilized races centuries ago and born from a deific curse, minotaurs have hunted, slain, and devoured lesser humanoids in retribution for real or imagined slights for as long as anyone can remember. Many cultures have legends of how the first minotaurs were created by vengeful or slighted gods who punished humans by twisting their forms, robbing them of their intellects and beauty, and giving them the heads of bulls. Yet most modern minotaurs hold these legends in contempt and believe that they are not divine mockeries but divine paragons created by a potent and cruel demon lord named Baphomet.

    The traditional minotaur's lair is a maze, be it a legitimate labyrinth constructed to baffle and confuse, an accidental one such as a city sewer system, or a naturally occurring one such as a tangle of caverns and other underground passageways. Employing their innate cunning, minotaurs use their maze lairs to vex unwary foes who seek them out or who simply stumble into the lairs and become lost, slowly hunting the intruders as they try in vain to find a way out. Only when despair has truly set in does the minotaur move in to strike at its lost victims. When dealing with a group, minotaurs often let one creature escape, to spread the tale of horror and lure others to their mazes in hope of slaying the beasts. Of course, to minotaurs, these would-be heroes make for delicious meals.

    Minotaurs might also be found in the employ of a more powerful monster or evil creature, serving it so long as they can still hunt and dine as they please. Usually this means guarding some powerful object or valuable location, but it can also be a sort of mercenary work, hunting down the foes of its master.

    Minotaurs are relatively straightforward combatants, using their horns to horribly gore the nearest living creature when combat begins.

  17. - Top - End - #197
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grey Watcher View Post
    OK, let me clarify my point. JMS isn't someone who found an entry for the Narn as a race of aggressive saber-rattlers and opportunistic raiders and decided it would make for a great story arc to unexpectedly turn them into victims and, in the process, reveal their spiritual side. He created Narns from his own imagination, with both sides of their culture, with the intent of telling exactly the story that he did with them. So, in the analogy of a Narn entry in the monster manual, if it just talked about the militarism and aggression (as say, the Hobgoblin entry does), it would fall short of representing what they are. And a lot of people wouldn't think to look past that initial impression and attempt to flesh out the culture more.

    Did that make any more sense?
    But any GM can use a monster manual entry as their starting point for any story they want to tell. Taking it straight from the entry to create a stark good-v-evil is one story. Building on their entry to create one's own vision or variant of that entry is another. They're both fine.

    It's not that it falls short of representing what they are, just that it doesn't represent everything it could possibly be, because representing that is the author's / GM's job.

    I think the key bit here is

    Quote Originally Posted by Grey Watcher View Post
    And a lot of people wouldn't think to look past that initial impression and attempt to flesh out the culture more.
    Some may not, out of ignorance. Some may not, out of wanting to tell a specific story. Some may, out of wanting to tell a specific story.

    I think Scow2 has a point, though 'misguided' might be overstating it IMHO:

    Quote Originally Posted by Scow2 View Post
    I think the crusade against Racism/Speciesism in fantasy is misguided. And, if the argument that "People are hard-coded to be racist" is true, then no amount of preaching or prosthetilizing can change that - but we can redirect it by creating fictional non-humans that are fantastically different from humans, so to mitigate the differences between real, living people.)

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    So Goblins harassing elves in low-level conflict, and the elves responding by either killing the intruders or launching counter-raids in return, is not implausible. It is exactly what neighboring tribes and families in the real world do by default. The Robber's Cave experiment was conducted to determine what it would take to start intergroup conflict. And the answer was: It doesn't take anything. The mere fact that different groups exist is enough to provoke rivalry. War is very easy, Peace is hard.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
    Robber's Cave, as well as Zimbardo's Stanford Prison experiment have in common that an authority figure was actively overseeing the environment and was actively encouraging the conflict. The only thing we can learn from them is that when in an environment that was designed to encourage conflict, and with an authority figure that encourages conflict, we get conflict! That's not very shocking.
    Quote Originally Posted by Morty View Post
    It would have been awesome if the writers had put as much thought into it as you guys do.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by AKA_Bait 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.
    Yes, and I houseruled/homebrewed plenty of stuff in my dming days. however, homebrewing/houseruling is likely to give unbalanced stuff with all sorts of balancing issues. inventing societies and politics do not present such problems. so I prefer to have the gaming mechanics in the manual, and invent the campaign world. Also, I like to imagine societies and cultures and how they would interact and how would magic and deities play in all of that, while I don't like much to figure out how to make modifiers that would make the game mechanically sound. So, again, I prefer to have rules in the manual, and make up my own world.
    I suppose for some people it will be different. maybe they like to invent new mechanics but don't like to have to figure out how a world works. But I think most people will tend towards my side on this issue.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Scow
    I think the crusade against Racism/Speciesism in fantasy is misguided...
    (Sorry, actually quoting is hard right now)
    I knew of no "Anti Racism/Speciesism in Fantasy" crusade ever existed. The first exposure I even had to this was when someone pointed out that every orc being evil had some poor implications, and that eventually led to two 8 year olds debate on whether Brian Jacques' 3 good rats in the entire history of Redwall meant if rats were actually inclined towards giant pillaging hordes or not. All I've ever seen of this "crusade" before Mr. Burlew's work was "These magically corrupted always evil orcs are a bit racist", and thats phrasing the argument I heard eloquently.

    But aside from personal history of contact with this crusade, I think "redirecting our natural racism towards fictional beings" is a weird idea, because *Mr. Burlew quote goes here* And Rich isn't saying playing a hack and slash makes you a horrible murdering psychopath. He would like it if you admit your murder hobo might not qualify for paladinhood, though.

    I look forward to the day when Rich actually posts something I disagree with, because I keep finding myself agreeing with every post of his I find. If that day ever comes, I hope I'll be a decent enough writer to actually contribute to the conversation, rather than whatever I just did with this post.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    I'm worried about the effect on people who don't think about it at all, who never question what they're reading, and just go along with what's in the book because they only have so much time before Saturday night's session.
    Admirable effort, but in the end, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him think.

    ...or, er, something like that. Young people get spoonfed terrible, destructive ideas everywhere they turn. Substituting a few of those with actual good and meaningful things is wonderful, but in the long run, learning to think for yourself enough to figure out the difference between bulls*** and chocolate pudding before you happily gulp it down is something everyone has to do on their own.

    I hadn't realized that all the race descriptions were that bad, though. I guess in a way I was lucky I had no money in highschool, I never played real D&D, just flipped longingly through fluff books in stores and then made up my own setting that was basically just a pastiche of Tolkien, Star Wars, and M:tG on a giant jungle world. We indiscriminately slaughtered nagas, not goblins, so it was all okay. (Also the nagas were basically Aztecs and all those guys were super evil you know?)
    Google query for the Giant's posts, for those of us who think they're way more interesting than yet another speculation thread but don't have time to read every thread on the forum to find one he's posting in.

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    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?

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
    Very silly indeed: Pokemon isn't about enslaving sentient creatures and forcing them to fight for the amusement of humans; it is about enslaving sentient creatures, and forcing them to fight others of their kind who have been enslaved by other ("Evil") humans, with the Good motivation of preventing the Evil humans from enslaving even more sentient creatures

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scurvy Cur View Post
    We are right to criticize Merchant of Venice for its portrayal of Shylock, for example, because it helped to reinforce a deeply harmful and dehumanizing social prejudice that was common in western ciilization for the longest time (and is still viewed as acceptable by some people in current times). It does not matter that Shylock was a fictional character who never actually existed. A message reinforcing a stereotype was still communicated to audiences of the play which served to confirm their harmful prejudices as justified.
    On the other hand, Shylock was a much more humanised and sympathetic portrayal than other contemporary characters. He's much more sympathetic, for instance, than Barabas in The Jew of Malta, who in turn was controversial because pretty much everyone in that play is a villain, and he wasn't all that much worse than the rest.

    Context is important. Shakespeare wasn't so much "reinforcing" the stereotype as "undermining it from within". Within 50 years of The Merchant of Venice being written, Jews were welcomed back into England - openly, and allowed to practise their own religion - for the first time in more than 300 years.

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    Since elves have been brought up now, does anyone know any good recent fiction that treats them as...well, alien?
    Terry Pratchett, Lords & Ladies. The elves are
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    literally from another dimension, and "here" chiefly for the fun and sport of hunting and torturing humans.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    But aside from personal history of contact with this crusade, I think "redirecting our natural racism towards fictional beings" is a weird idea. And Rich isn't saying playing a hack and slash makes you a horrible murdering psychopath. He would like it if you admit your murder hobo might not qualify for paladinhood, though.
    It's pretty much what Tolkien tried to do in LOTR. From his own discussion in his nonfiction *HIS* real-world war experience was that his own army had halflings, orcs, and all sorts of people good and bad. And he wanted a "clean" fight, one where all the good guys are on THIS side, all the bad guys are on THAT side, and there is no ambiguity whatsoever which side is which.

    There IS a place in fantasy for that.

    Although from what is chronicled here, perhaps D&D rulebook are tilted too much that way.

    In this scene from a game I play -- Return of the king stage 9: Courtyard -- The enemy has broken into the city and is busy killing as many helpless civilians as they can right in front of me. It's my job to save as many as I can before falling back to the next defended position.

    It's not that I have anything against orcs or trolls in particular -- if I passed 'em in a field having tea I wouldn't particularly care. But orcs and trolls murdering innocents right in front of me -- that I take *strong* exception to. Not because I have anything against orcs and trolls as such. Because I don't like armed bullies murdering people. And if there were human enemies -- or elvish enemies, for that matter -- on the field doing the same, I'd slot them the same way.


    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
    Last edited by pendell; 2013-09-16 at 05:14 PM.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    And from where I'm standing, the real world is already way too full of people who say, "They're all evil and do evil things," about other people for me to ever be OK with that. We always need more empathy and sympathy and seeing all sides of the conflict. Always.
    The term "evil" is a judgment, not an objective description. You are telling me that something is "immoral" which means, what exactly? Tell me someone is greedy, violent, oppressive, mean, selfish, or lacks regard for others. However, just telling me someone is evil doesn't tell me anything.

    That's a problem with "always" evil alignment, it doesn't really tell you at all what traits are innate to that creature-type, its merely an invitation to join in and judge them. And when it comes to ethnic groups of humans who do not have extra-planar origins, of course, we know "always" in regards to alignment or character traits is never an appropriate appellation.
    Quote Originally Posted by Morty View Post
    It would have been awesome if the writers had put as much thought into it as you guys do.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Spoomeister View Post
    You can't really cut that both ways though, then and say that a theoretical MM entry for the Narn would get it wrong. Either the theoretical MM entry example works in all the ways that a MM can be used (for telling a variety of stories) or it doesn't (in which case the Narn are only JMS' creation for that specific story and not created as all-purpose monsters the way critters in a sourcebook are).
    I think that one of the ways an MM is used in conjunction with play style, to influence the user toward compassion and understanding, is overlooked by your equivalency. A JMS Narn implies one thing about the nature of people, a 4e MM Narn implies another.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scow2 View Post
    I think the crusade against Racism/Speciesism in fantasy is misguided. And, if the argument that "People are hard-coded to be racist" is true, then no amount of preaching or prosthetilizing can change that - but we can redirect it by creating fictional non-humans that are fantastically different from humans, so to mitigate the differences between real, living people.
    If so, shouldn't we have the monsters designed to sensitize us to other humans be the ones closest in physical appearance to us and the ones we are redirecting to be the most physically different? The WotC materials do just the opposite, as the Giant demonstrated with the quotes above.

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowere View Post
    So, again, I prefer to have rules in the manual, and make up my own world.
    I suppose for some people it will be different. maybe they like to invent new mechanics but don't like to have to figure out how a world works. But I think most people will tend towards my side on this issue.
    Probably, but I also think that most players also don't significantly tweak the fluff in the MM either or at least use it as a starting point. I think this is especially true of the new, younger, impressionable players that the Giant is most concerned about. Building a consistent world can be just as daunting as home-brewing the stat block for a new monster. I have read a lot of new DM seeks help type threads over the years and the number of requests for help regarding tweaking fluff or world-building easily equal the number of those asking a mechanical question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Reddish Mage View Post
    That's a problem with "always" evil alignment, it doesn't really tell you at all what traits are innate to that creature-type, its merely an invitation to join in and judge them. And when it comes to ethnic groups of humans who do not have extra-planar origins, of course, we know "always" in regards to alignment or character traits is never an appropriate appellation.
    We may know it, but not everyone does and historically there most certainly have been groups that considered other groups "always" lots of things (e.g., always thieves, always drunks, always stupid).
    Last edited by AKA_Bait; 2013-09-16 at 05:29 PM.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Reddish Mage View Post
    The term "evil" is a judgment, not an objective description. You are telling me that something is "immoral" which means, what exactly? Tell me someone is greedy, violent, oppressive, mean, selfish, or lacks regard for others. However, just telling me someone is evil doesn't tell me anything.

    That's a problem with "always" evil alignment, it doesn't really tell you at all what traits are innate to that creature-type, its merely an invitation to join in and judge them. And when it comes to ethnic groups of humans who do not have extra-planar origins, of course, we know "always" in regards to alignment or character traits is never an appropriate appellation.
    Yet, "Usually Evil" humanoids (And I'd go so far as to say "Usually Good" humanoids as well) aren't Humans. I also don't believe that any humanoid, except with a single exception, are not made from an inherent imbalance of Primal Good/Evil and/or Law/Chaos. Nonhuman (As in, any race except by-the-book Humans) Sentient creatures in D&D aren't merely seperate cultures that developed over time to adapt to their environment/surroundings. They are tools and creations made by their Deities, each who has a personality that can fit into an alignment category, that is reflected within each of their creations. The experience of life of being created by one deity is something D&D's humans all lack, which leads to them going all over the alignment spectrum and finding the idea that a sapiant race doesn't have entirely free will in its moral outlook and judgement to be alien to the point of incomprehensibility. For the most part, "Usually Evil" creature's minds are inherently corrupted by Evil, and is something they have to deal with their entire life, though enough willpower can overcome it.

    The only problem I have with the descriptions of Pathfinder's "Evil" humanoids is the judgement on how they fight (as compared to elves)... however, the big difference I think that accomodates that discrepency is that the Evil Humanoids usually make such attacks unprovoked, while Elves resort to underhanded, 'cowardly' tactics in response to incursion. (PC incursions into Evil Humanoid areas are generally the exception, not rule, of Evil Humanoid vs. Nonevil humanoid aggression).

    I particularly like Pathfinder's explanation of Goblins - these things may be bipedal, but they are not human in their thought process. They are the "Things that go bump in the night." Tragic? Yes/Maybe/Definitely... but then again, Dwarves didn't choose their lot in life to be slaves to Law and Good even/especially when it makes them miserable, either.

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by Scow2 View Post
    Yet, "Usually Evil" humanoids (And I'd go so far as to say "Usually Good" humanoids as well) aren't Humans. I also don't believe that any humanoid, except with a single exception, are not made from an inherent imbalance of Primal Good/Evil and/or Law/Chaos. Nonhuman (As in, any race except by-the-book Humans) Sentient creatures in D&D aren't merely seperate cultures that developed over time to adapt to their environment/surroundings. They are tools and creations made by their Deities, each who has a personality that can fit into an alignment category, that is reflected within each of their creations.
    There's more than a few humanoid races that tend toward True Neutral rather than any of the four points. Lizardfolk and Halflings are the first that spring to mind.
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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    Quote Originally Posted by hamishspence View Post
    There's more than a few humanoid races that tend toward True Neutral rather than any of the four points. Lizardfolk and Halflings are the first that spring to mind.
    They tend toward Neutral, having a strong equallibrial balance of "Primal" alignment forces - they tend toward Neutrality. Humans, on the other hand, lack that equillibrium, and can end up scattered all over the place. Humans aren't "Alignment: Usually (or even merely Often) Neutral". They're "Humans aren't inclined to any particular alignment, not even neutral."

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    Default Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence

    And despite being "Usually neutral" the halfling patron deity- Yondalla- is Lawful Good.

    So, it isn't always the case that a race's patron deity in D&D determines the most common alignment of that race.
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