Thursday, April 25, 2019
I've been exploring a rework of my character background generation system, and that has led me to the above picture. This is based off this image ... but while a make-up company can be comfortable telling women that they have "espresso" and "walnut" colored skin, I'm not for my game world, so I've done the best I can to produce my own names. This has meant having to use "cocoa," "mocha" and "chocolate," but I dare anyone to come up with better options.
The only reputable way to talk about skin color on the internet is in the realm of make-up, which is why the only consistent database that's available is one that features women's skin. Skin color is one of those things that I'm beginning to think of as the "dark hole" of the internet. We have all the information available that is available to humans, unless that information is politically charged. As another example, just try to find a definition about "being healthy" that isn't fully based on telling you how to achieve it. What actual health is, what it looks like, the firm, fixed definition of this thing, simply doesn't exist.
For my purposes, when I tell a player that the character they've just met is from, oh, Senegal ~ or if the player is from such place ~ as a writer I'd like clear, unambiguous language that helps define what that character looks like. I don't give a shit about racism or the way that racists/anti-racists have decided to co-opt the language to fight their war. All colors look "good" to me ... but I don't really care about attaching a moral evaluation to the issue. When I say, that fellow's from Lebanon, I'd like the players ~ who have never been to Lebanon, and who may not be able to accurately separate a Lebanese from a Saudi or a Persian in their minds ~ to have something to go on. In this quest, the internet is not much of a help.
Which brings me to the bigger thing. My background generator presumes that as a player character, you don't get a choice about your skin color. I have the color I have because I happened to have been born to Russian-German stock in Western Canada. I didn't get a choice about it. I recognize that for many D&D players, "choice" is the wet dream to which they desperately cling to give their game any value, but frankly I think this self-aggrandizing game valuation strategy is repulsively masturbatory. And let me be clear about that. My feelings about ANY person who makes the argument that role-playing is about "living your fantasy" fall into the category of unrestrained contempt. If fantasy is your object, please explore it in the bedroom or with your hand. I'm not interested in enabling your fantasy.
The company is, however. In those dark days when it looked like the company was going to choke and go under, they were grasping for whatever straws they could grab, and the enabling fantasy shift stick was one that came pretty easily to hand. In my opinion, it has soiled ... well, everything that sort of fanplay usually soils.
I haven't yet had the player who shit a brick because I told him his character was dark in color when he was hoping for KKK white. I imagine that I have had a player or two online who simply ignored me and believed what they wanted. This is the real racism that we don't talk about with role-playing. Not the elves, the dwarves and the half-orcs, but when was the last time your player described a human player character as cinnamon-skinned or molasses?
How much easier is it if your game world is Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms, where everyone can be more easily white? After all, there's no stigma attached to that bottom third of the map, is there?
Here I was just saying I don't care about racism.
One of the benefits of growing up a social leper is that it's easy to identify with the social leprosy that is attached to so many others. Fundamentally, however, I'm interested in providing depth and distinction to my game world, to give it as tactile and as gritty a feel as I can provide. There isn't a colour on the above chart that I wouldn't play proudly.
But then, saying that, someone is bound to boil out of their den to scream at me about cultural appropriation or some other such shit, which is a whole different post about a whole different kind of inventing social leprosy. Whereas I think I've already made my point on this subject.