Sunday, February 18, 2024

Blue Mud

"It’s worth noting that in medieval-Renaissance times animals were viewed as resources to be utilised for human needs, including food, clothing and labour. The practicalities of survival, as fur clothing was in many parts of the world essential for warmth and protection, superseded modern ethical ideals. Further, religion heavily influenced medieval attitudes towards animals and their treatment, stressing man’s dominion over animals while denying their moral significance. In no way is the use of fur in the present encouraged by the following material; it is here for the sake of interest, comprehension and the adding of material substance to the game world."

 — The Streetvendor's Guide

The things we must write so as to reflect the sentiments of present day attitudes.  There's really no way to keep some persons from feeling that the subject material is morally problematic.  Someone is going to be offended.  This is even dearer with the matter of slavery, and to a certain extent with indentured or prison labour, debtor prisoners and deportees, all of which were daily facts between the 12th and 18th centuries.  A large part of me wants to be honest to history, while another part asks, "Are you out of your bleeding mind?  Leave it alone!"  Chances are, I will.  But I don't like it — in part because its putting our heads in the sand to pretend that if we deny a problem, or refuse to acknowledge it, as if that solves everything.  Yet it's realistic to ask, seriously, if such belongs in a game.  Arguably, no.

I've tried to walk the line as much as possible in the manner of the above, when such things have arisen.  I consider myself an empathic, considerate person, one whose fully able to understand the desire to remake and rework society so that it becomes a more just, freer place to live for every kind of person, regardless of the labels we might attach.  On the other hand, I'm resistant in many cases to the temper and approach that's being taken in the present day to FORCE this behaviour from those who don't want to adhere.  Force isn't going to work; it never does.  In fact, it makes the problem worse; which is why it's so aggravating to have to couch ideas in language that avoids any sentiment of condoning a cruel, abusive thing, because of a tendency towards cruel, abusive language being directed against someone doing that.  It's all hypocrisy and it's not getting us anywhere.

Which leads me back to the finished module of Ternketh.  Much of the description is, um, unpleasant.  Part of the reason why I think my ideas for adventures and modules fails to produce any positive effect is that I insist on being an adult, and dealing with adult themes, according to the source material.  Harpies are not cute little beings who fly and sing a song.  The Greek origin of the creature is clearly awful, and of course ethically problematic because some Greeks were very definitely denegrating what they saw as women's nature and poisonousness in the mythology.  Essentially, "women ruin everything," as no doubt seen through the eyes of males who were themselves just awful.

In general, harpies are viewed with the same lens as, say, furs, because D&D is a fantasy setting where creatures like harpies exist as part of the game's lore and narrative.  They're adversaries for the characters; they behave as they do according to their alignment; therefore the considerations that apply to real-world beings do not necessarily apply to fictional beings.  Which is to say, most people are utterly ignorant with regards to the mythological symbolism invoked by the imaginary existence of harpies, therefore it's fine.  But as people are not ignorant as to the existence of fur-bearing animals, however fictional they might be in this context, they must be assuaged in their lack of ignorance.

It's all kind of stupid.  Inevitably, some group of people will cease to be ignorant about harpies, and what they stand for, and will suddenly and apparently without cause launch an attack against anyone who dares present the fictional creature, because obviously it's insulting and hurtful to ... well, to whomever launches the moral assault.  There's fertile ground here for some group to make a name for themselves, to paint signs and stand outside the WOTC's headquarters, or Paizo, or some video game company, with the result that harpies will be quietly removed from websites and whatever else for the sake of "the good of all."  War won, we can move onto sirens.

I'm not cynical.  I firmly believe that with a generation or two, there's going to be this terrific blossoming that embraces all the hunted down "immoral" ideas of the present, gleefully crushing the aging, helpless proponents of modern day rule-making, so that they raise their hands in the air and shout about the immorality of "children today."  Because force doesn't work.  It just invents a fetish.  And fetishes are extremely powerful, because it's wonderfully fun to SHOCK adults by refusing to acknowledge their ideals.

I always feel like I'm standing outside, looking in at this jazz.  Somewhat humorously.  I don't include the paragraph above because I believe it, but because like all the others rubbing blue mud into their belly buttons, I must do the same — soberly, religiously, because that's how it's done.  But I'd be just as happy to stop having to rub blue mud, as I suspect the majority feels.

Ah, but, c'est la vie.

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you wish to leave a comment on this blog, contact with a direct message. Comments, agreed upon by reader and author, are published every Saturday.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.