Yeah - both of those are just byproducts of my old-man eyes not seeing well from the toolset and thinking there was a path down from those ledges that there turned out to not be. There's also a bug with a pitfall in one part of the dungeon Blue told me about that is a similar "Stuck" point. I got one fixed last night, but never heard of or saw the second one until now. I'll get it fixed when I get home tonight!
Forgiver, my dude. Falling into the gap on the way TO the dungeon is AWFUL. One good change today, not requiring a jump or a portal to even enter the zone, A+. But now if you fall (even if roped, because it doesn't actually work), you get stuck in an area you can't leave without a jump or portal.
Working telescopes (atm): old Celestron C8 SCT I purchased back in 1979, new Celestron OmniXLT 150 6" f/5 Newtonian, cheapo Meade 90mm f/8.8 refractor sniped off of eBay for $30 (these three I use on a Celestron AVX mount). Also a homebuilt 10" Dobsonian put together in 2010 and a homebuilt 6" Newtonian I made in H.S. c. 1966. Main imaging camera (atm) is a Canon 60D DSLR. The new camera is the SVBony SV305 Pro - plan to use it as a guide camera and for moon/planetary imaging.
They receive the DC benefit from items, but not from spell foci, since alchemist gas clouds are not spells. They also don't receive the bonus from the wild magic robe specifically since gas clouds can't wild magic.
Ahhh, I see we've once again entered the magical train-junction where fantasy and morality meet! So I had been meaning to write this up into a forums post at some point regarding why I play the Bloodguard and like to imagine Thain's setting in a specific way when I approach it, but despite how much I will talk specific people's ears off about it (Sorry Chaotic Drow!) I never really opened the floor up for discussion to it.... and then this WotC article dropped on fantasy, monsters, and racism, and I kind of had to get off my old butt and write something.
Fantasy morality is a deep interest of mine. I love D&D, and have played it since I was 12, and I love morality, philosophy, and ethics - enough that I bothered to get an MA in the field at one point. Deep moral questions always fascinate me, and questions surrounding media, entertainment, and fiction often cross over with ethics in weird or interesting ways! I have an absolutely bottomless amount of chatter about this topic, so without further pre-rambling, let me get to the rambling, and then you can come at me with your thoughts and we can do some post-rambling rambling.
Registered Member #25529
Joined: 3:52:11 pm GMT 10/09/20
First and foremost: Is having unequivocally monstrous fantasy "monster races" racist? I actually think this is kind of the result of a category error!
Firstly just to get it out of the way: Yes, I do think there are real problems with D&D's setting and approaches to race. If we really reduce a ton of Fantasy RPG history to a small line, that line goes Modern Fantasy -> Tolkein -> Old Anglo-saxon epics like Beowulf. There's a lot of real and appreciable problems with that line! It means that the land you built your castle on was predominantly a white European legendarium, and plagued with early attempts by TSR and others who were adapting elements of the Tolkein genre of fantasy into an RPG to diversify that were... uhh... questionable and rarely talked about today (cough, Oriental Adventures, cough). So I do think there's something to the idea that fantasy needs a broader and more well-meaning approach to diversity in its source material, because there are legitimately cool legends out there in every corner of the world and they don't all have to be told from the point of view of a European viking's first impressions of them, or by a white guy sitting in an office who primarily read white-guy semi-Arthurian-right-to-rule mythics growing up.
Where I think Wizards gets into the modern category error problem is in conflating race and species in fantasy monsters. The idea that entire races of people are one thing or another by factor of biology is appalling to a morally conscious person in the modern world... but the idea that there are species of monsters that might be totally evil by the perceptions of people is trickier! Can one "race" of elves be it, while another race isn't? Of course! There are deities and forces in Fantasy who can utterly corrupt an entire group of people or things. Can an Orc always be a monster, but their children of Half-orcs not always be evil? Perhaps it is the humanity they recieve from a human parent that bestows upon them moral autonomy! D&D kind of sets us up for those questions without really ever addressing them... It instead deflects by saying there are "Monstrous races" which sounds worse than it is. So I do think a lot of Wizard's attempts to course correct are fair enough. What I don't abide is the idea that all monsters must now become complex autonomous moral actors who make real choices.
As time has gone on, we've written post-modern expectations into our gaming and fantasy culture at an alarming rate. In Post-modern storytelling, monsters have the capacity to be moral, autonomous actors with real choices. This means they are innocent until proven guilty, and that they are capable of making personal moral decisions rather than acting on instinct. In short, they don't do evil by nature, they are nurtured into it as a product of bad circumstances, or are outright misunderstood and not evil at all. As a result, post-modern heroes who fight them could never be perfect paragons the way we used to imagine them. That has evolved in recent years in post-post-modern storytelling to really be an inversion of the original trope: Heroes are almost always plagued by ulterior motives, the Paladin has a date circled on his calendar when he's going to fail to live up to his own standards and fall, and the monster is one storyline from redemption and universal understanding at any given time. There are a bunch of great standout examples of this, but I prefer to take it straight back to the fantasy source material if we're going to dig into the modern reality.
In the original Anglo-Saxon epic, "Beowulf" arrives at High Hrothgar, finds out the king's men are being eaten by a monster, camps out until it arrives, rips its arm off in a bloody fight that breaks his sword, beats it to death with its own arm since that's the only weapon in the place that can hurt it, and then camps out the next night for its now hungry mother, starved of her diet of manflesh, to come along so he can finish her off too. He also gets crowned king and uses his magic sword to kill a dragon in the battle that takes his life years later as a greybeard and sinks into the sea. Beowulf is, by all accounts, Bloodguard Jesus.
In John Gardner's 1971 novel "Grendel", Beowulf is actually the antagonist, Grendel the innocent, and Grendel's mother the victim. Beowulf springs upon Grendel, ignores its attempts to communicate with it, rips its arm off, and beats it to death as it weeps and begs for mercy, then shows up at mom's house that night to finish the job. It's part of a post-modern focus on a Wicked-esque "villain" who turns out to be a misunderstood moral actor, while the "hero" is a misguided zealot who kills or ruins what they don't understand as a force of habit. Overall in our post-modern culture, we like this story more now! It feels like it treats Grendel as a person, someone with before unconsidered moral autonomy, who hasn't done evil yet and is still punished unjustly by a cruel human who judges by appearances. It does our heart good and rests well on our modern moral conscience, as we have had a pretty massive cultural awakening to this moral reality of autonomy in the last... one hundred years.
So why do I love the Bloodguard? I don't like post-post-modernism in my fantasy! I feel like it gums up the works. I think it becomes increasingly hard to swallow the bitter pill of "Was that goblin one of the good ones? I mean, I *was* in his cave" and still feel like you are playing a fantasy world that is fun to be in. It's fine to have moral autonomy on all people and races in our real world, but it breaks down a system of storytelling that is supposed to be hero-centric when you can turn the hero into the villain on a single storytelling whim of perspective. Yes, Post-modernism is a great exploration of the general truth that in real life, there are no heroes. Part of what Post-modernism does in stories like Grendel is to help us break down our system of belief that heroes are uncorruptable paragons and that humans who act from an anthropocentric viewpoint are always right to do so. That's an important thing to do in literature and storytelling!
But it's also exhausting. I live in a real world full of those kinds of questions and conflicts and I resolve them to the best of my ability day to day. When I enter into fantasy, I want my Paladin to be good. I hate when every person who gives me a story for her shoe-horns her into a Kobiyashi-maru story where she must choose between two evils and be morally tortured for the rest of her life no matter what choice she makes. Moral complexity is great, and it's fun, but it's also exhausting and the more you write it in, the less heroic your heroes are allowed to be without coming off as superficial, cheesy, and phony. Morality often ceases to be interesting and just gets annoying when it's weaponized by the setting into making you feel guilty for doing the job that heroes do. This is one of the reasons I love playing the game from the insight of the Bloodguard.
The Bloodguard recognize the conflict of the island as a Beowulf-esque battle for survival, and they jump in feet first, rip the arm off, and beat the monster over the head with it. That isn't to say that from an MPC's perspective they can't have a personal motivator that the Bloodguard fail to understand! But I think monsters work best when they are unconflictedly monstrous, rather than trying to trip and trap the heroes every two feet with the next impossible moral choice. That the Bloodguard fail to understand a monster's personal motivator doesn't suddenly or magically make them the villains to me the way that it would in a real-life situation. They really are knights and warriors in a battle for survival, every day a new war, and just because they don't stop and think about the implications of Grendel having a mother doesn't make them the villain and him the hero - it paradoxically means that neither they nor their targets are wholely good, and that both teams are locked in a personal battle for survival that only ends when one side or the other ceases to exist.
So I'd like to open it up to other Thainites, if you made it through all that ranting and raving, and tell me how you like your fantasy? Do you like it post-modern, with all the comforts of modern morality? Do you like it short and simple and old school? What do you think about fantasy monsters: Is it wrong by modern standards to have them just be evil creatures with no moral worth? Should they have complex layers, like a certain Ogre? Drop me your thoughts!
Registered Member #24916
Joined: 2:58:00 pm GMT 01/23/19
I didn't read that, and skipped all the way to the last paragraph, simply because I am sick of the PC movement. I am sick of it infecting everything even if the PC crowd has nothing to do with it, they just see something and decide to make a huge deal out of it on twitter.
The whole thing is hardcore american far leftism, and it does not translate well to the rest of the world, and for a movement that will often also scream out ACAB, they are certainly eager to play the world's moral police.
Registered Member #23821
Joined: 6:18:34 am GMT 03/19/14
Opening Statement: You cannot be racist to races that do not exist. In a fantasy world, they simply do not follow the same rules we do in our own. In said fantasy world there is definitely good and evil things, and definitively lawful and chaotic things due to the planar axis. And the creatures in the world follow the rules of the world. For example, Orcs are evil because they simply are. The world made them specifically to be evil. That is all. There is nothing wrong with that inherently. It is just how they were made, "Biologically evil", boring or complicated as it may or may not be. It would be like saying it's racist to think bears are dangerous. They are just bears. They are dangerous. It's how the world made them.
With that aside, I am always of the opinion that every rule has the exception and to rule that exception out, OOCly mind you, not IC (Though IC in some cases as well) is also a vast mistake. Yes. I agree that Goblins, by the default, are evil creatures. However, does that mean there can never ever be a nonevil goblin? I disagree. That goblin might always be evilly/chaotically inclined in nature, but there can always be that one that breaks the mold and actively strives to do better, to maintain law or do 'good'. There can be that tribe of orcs that always keep their word when given, even to their own detriment, rather than being chaotic bloodthirsty monsters. The possibility of diversity makes them seem alive rather than faceless mobs, but that doesn't mean the majority of them /have/ that diversity, simply the possibility of it existing is what makes it interesting, and allows for things to continue working.
Like just about nearly everything, I think the reality is somewhere in the middle. It's silly to try to act like all goblins have this chance at redemption, that even more than .01% of them have ever considered doing something that wasn't generally what we'd call a "Dick move". But to utterly rule that out, OOCly again, I think does you a great disservice in making the world far more interesting. Further still, presenting actual moral quandary regarding those things /should/ be an interesting and potentially harrowing choice. With respect to the Bloodguard, just using them as an example as they are not the only people, and it totally makes sense for them to do this as they are committed to their morality, I think it is, almost dissatisfying from a storytelling perspective to present them with say, a room full of 'child' or 'infant' monsters, and be expecting them to have to decide in some tough decision of whether they should leave them because they haven't had the chance to 'do evil' yet, or kill them so they do not get the chance, only to just have them go "Kill monster lol" and roflstomp over them and move on without batting an eye. Granted, like I said, it's totally fine that they would do this, it makes sense given their code, but it is generally why I /personally/ dislike paladin-type characters in general. I feel like often they lose a lot of the... Potential fun and chance to open the world up deliberately. It's actually why I love in the SoU campaign in the beginning it talks about how Misha, the Paladin, failed her last test because she killed the goblin child. It allows you to present an interesting question, even if killing it is by most logics the right choice, to be able to make it without batting an eye I think does the character and the world a disservice, or at least to not have the character think on it later and not be challenged by it.
In Conclusion: Monsters are monsters, yes. But Monsters can be intelligent, they can have goals beyond 'eat good', they can be unique, individual in their misdeeds or heroic ones. 'Can' be. But not usually. Whether or not a character(Or faction) is a hero or a villain is dependent upon the worlds outlook on their actions. Equally, you make your bed when you make the actions you take, you have to accept that certain characters will view the acts as wrong even if it was wholly the right choice. To some characters, and players potentially, the Bloodguards no exemption policy is enough to dub them villains, and for others to dub them heros getting the job done, because unlike most of those monsters, people are complex. Furthermore, the problem with 'dumbing down' the world is that it only works if A-Everyone is onboard, and B, the important one-There is no opposing /player/. By having 'evil players', who are in fact players, be opposing factions or not, it becomes impossible to do this properly because we /are/ human, and generally we will treat another human being better than a brainless AI or set of mobs the DM set up for us to kill. While I do agree though that it is silly and absurd to inject very modern moral quandaries into a fantastical world, I don't think it is a modern quandary to wonder if the crimes of the father should impart judgement on the son.
💅 Registered Member #463
Joined: 1:37:12 am GMT 03/10/05
I had some points about my creative process in helping Squidget transition the Bloodguard to an established IG faction and was thinking of ways of talking about how you can have your evil monsters and still tell compelling stories of monsters that break from their society norm, but seeing the direction this thread is going I'm not looking forward to this becoming some gripe about real world politics. Locking for now.
! Registered Member #20
Joined: 8:30:40 am GMT 02/25/04
After a discussion with Miggen, going to unlock this for the moment. I do think it's a good thing to talk about in regards to Thain. But since this is a sensitive subject, let's all make sure to keep this on topic and not bring in outside real-world politics where possible. ie: no "And this is why leftism is a plague" or "And this is why the right are all evil racists!"
The actual discussion here comes down to monsters in D&D being inherently evil, and how people like to see those concepts played around. I think for Thain, these are important questions to talk about! I'll have some more thoughts up on this soon.
Registered Member #24916
Joined: 2:58:00 pm GMT 01/23/19
Squidget wrote ... The actual discussion here comes down to monsters in D&D being inherently evil, and how people like to see those concepts played around. I think for Thain, these are important questions to talk about!
Didn't we have a heated argument about this on Discord a few months back? I don't think it ended well.
Anyway, what I really like about Thain is that people can be just as monsterous, if not more of a monster than most MPC's around. Case in point, the Thayans behind the Davenshire massacre, the Banites, Poisonwood..
I like when the lines blur. It is just more interesting to me when things aren't black and white, and things come more down to personal morals rather than alignment set in stone. That's my personal taste.
I will also just play things out as my characters would react. After all, we aren't playing ourselves here. (are you..?) Tedya would react in one way, Lily would in another.. Meruppi would run away screaming, Elarion would blast the problem.. Is something a monster? It is evil? I honestly don't care... because it doesn't matter what I think it is.
Registered Member #24041
Joined: 4:19:01 am GMT 01/24/17
When I made Soterya, one of the primary things I was interested in exploring with her is was the question of whether a true monster hunter character would actually work on Thain. A character who didn't care about the monster's complex moral journey or sob story or desire to be included, that just saw the monster as a monster and was going to do everything in her power to destroy it.
Now, I want us to consider that for a moment, because on the face of it, that probably seems pretty intense. But when was the last time any of your characters voluntarily chose not to kill an NPC enemy with a red name (outside a DM event)? Do you stop and question whether every goblin in the cave north of Crossroads has a unique story and point of view? No, you kill it and hope it drops a tablet, and you move on with your life in a morally uncomplicated way.
But I'll be honest, when applying that same logic to a character concept and making it an explicitly stated character trait, the results have been mixed. Which is fine! Soterya is, by definition, a divisive character, and I don't begrudge folks who don't like her or what she stands for.
But if you're going to have a fantasy world in which you want to have heroes who have a chance to do capital-G Good things, you have to have monsters and villains doing capital E, Evil things, and, for my money at least, there's only so much moral complexity you can add to that before everyone just sits in a grey neutral bleh zone. I'll admit I have little patience for misunderstood monsters on Thain, and it's not usually a story I'm particularly inspired to participate in. I can recognize the desire to do something against the grain of the normal way a monster is played, but to me, that loses the point of playing a monster entirely. I can play a troubled human torn between their violent nature and their desire to be better- but that is a very human story, not a very monster story, and adding wings or a different skin color to it doesn't make that a better story. I guess what I'm saying is that if you want to have capital G good guys, you have to accept that they are going to view enemies as capital E evil guys. You can't do capital G good in a world where all the enemies are morally grey- it just doesn't work, and where it does, it's because the "Good" guy ignores logic and reason in the name of compromise.
Recently there was an event some of you may have heard about where some members of the Bloodguard chose to kill some drow "teenagers" (they were both old enough to hold weapons with some degree of skill), rather than, say, letting them go or taking them prisoner. It's these kinds of choices that are often thrown in the Bloodguard's face as examples of why they're "really actually evil" or "only pretending to be good". I take a bit of umbrage with that characterization, if I'm honest, though I understand where it comes from. The BG are good in a world in which monsters and monstrous races are uncomplicatedly evil. To them, Drow, Goblins, Bugbears and Devils are all in the same category, and are all equally uncomplicatedly evil. And, historically, as Forgiver points out, this is how monstrous races have largely been treated, not just in D&D, but in fantasy, period. No one is out here arguing that Aragorn is secretly evil because he kills a bunch of orcs. No one is arguing that John Snow's army should have held counseling sessions with the Night King. And just as you don't feel bad for smashing a spider egg before it hatches, I refuse to feel bad for my character killing a member of a race that she knows well from experience will grow up to try to kill her. I also genuinely do not think it makes her evil, within the context of the more traditional hero/monster balance.
As for the argument about the .01% of monsters who truly -are- different, my honest answer is, sucks to be them, and that this is why it's a fantasy world not a real one. If you're a goblin who figured out a way to get out of the cave and your dream is to open up a bake shop or something, great! That can be a cool story, and in the real world we'd applaud that initiative. But on Thain, and in fantasy settings in general, I think it muddles the water, and the expectation should not be that you're given a chance to explain your life story to everyone you come across. To my mind, the struggle is the whole point, and why you would do that to begin with, and I think that if you're going to try to tell that story, you need to be OOC ready for reactions other than peaceful ones. We don't expect every person to stop and check every nameless goblin for their hopes and dreams, why should one played by a player or DM be treated any differently? Are we supposed to suspend our disbelief or act out of character because the name is blue instead of red?
If I sound harsh or mean here please understand it's certainly not my intent to be so- I think by and large we're better on the monster question than we were a few years ago. And I do understand that in the moment, it's often better to err on the side of being respectful to other players, even if it's in the form of pretending you didn't see them (I know I do that on Soterya a fair amount, just to avoid potentially interrupting a scene or giving someone a bad experience). I just strongly disagree with the idea that every monster needs to be morally complicated- some things just need a good killin'.
Registered Member #24916
Joined: 2:58:00 pm GMT 01/23/19
Cuchuwyn wrote ... A lot.
So basically, screw you and the story you are trying to tell?
Cuchuwyn wrote ... But if you're going to have a fantasy world in which you want to have heroes who have a chance to do capital-G Good things, you have to have monsters and villains doing capital E, Evil things, and, for my money at least, there's only so much moral complexity you can add to that before everyone just sits in a grey neutral bleh zone.
You are forgetting a huge factor here, one I think is far too often forgotten on Thain and instead made way too often into good vs evil. Politics. I would LOVE to see things become more about politics, and less about alignment. It just seems like such a convenient thing to make things about rather than a possible complex series of events that lead up to it.
Let's take the Sorceress with apple storyline as an example, and how things are handled inside Hamley. The Empyrean is pretty clearly classic good vs evil (Sollis certainly is), and the Keepers are not a fan of this. They think more about ways to minimize casualties and other ways to solve the problem. I would love for more like this. Politics. Negotiations. Trying to solve things trough diplomacy. Will it work? Probably not.. Especially not when sides are set on the others destruction (Poisonwar) but I think it is a course too often overlooked in favor of good vs evil.