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OSSR: Dragonlance Campaign Setting
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Thaluikhain
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Joined: 29 Sep 2016
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 28, 2018 3:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Voss wrote:
Eh. For a value of 'nice' that includes 'treat people as test subjects' and 'targets of insults/theft,' respectively.

...

Neither do the 'good guys.' They just can't get rid of the one that showed up.


There is truth in those, yes.

Voss wrote:
Which is actually interesting, or could have been, since the setting is basically a post-apocalyptic wasteland with a fucked economy and no real trade or interaction. It's definitely an evil conquest with targets for genocide, however. There are a few rants about wiping out the elves, and the Plainsmen do get annihilated (Blondemoon and Riverangst talk about repopulating their people with their children, which is why they bow out of the story)


True, though most of the evils tend to want to conquer, rather than exterminate.

In any case, yeah, I'm not going to say that the evil side isn't the evil side, just that the writers have made them more diverse and accepting of different types of people than the good side. It is somewhat acknowledged that the good side needs to get its act together, though, but never mentioned how the evil side seems to have completely solved those social issues. Which annoys me.

Having said that, the thread has inspired me to re-read the books again (currently on Winter Night), and they still hold up compared to the urban fantasy/paranormal romance or 40k tie ins I usually read.
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souran
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 28, 2018 4:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Sometimes the weird hypocrisy of this forum gets to me. In the vampire forum everybody is arguing that your vampire subtype should convey more useful information about your character. In this thread everybody is bashing DL for it doing that very thing.


The reason to play dragonlance is not becuase it is a superior setting, but because the setting themes were, at least in the 1e/2e version brought to the centerpoint of the game much better. The 3e version being reviewed here has issues with "whats the fucking point?" but at least a lot of the things that the earlier setting did ok are still there.

DL is not a kitchen sink setting. Remember that basically humanoids not described as playable characters do not exist The only exception I can recall is goblinoids (2E included rules for playing ogres and minotaurs but not goblins or hobgoblins)

The setting has no kenku, orcs, or kobolds. The setting has no werewolves or beholders. The things it does have are each given a personality that is uniquely describable.

Now, those personalities tended to be things like the tinker gnomes (ugh), kinder (worse) and gully dwaves (straight up offensive). However, the races that the game has are a lot more like warhammer in that you can say what you are and it communicates things about you to others in the setting. Being a dwarf in DL conveys more information than that you are going to do a bad scottish accent and hit things with an axe.


Additionally, while the war of the lance adventures are somewhat on rails, they were smart enough to actually use the fucking setting (This is one of the problems I have with the purple 3e DL campaign).

1e/2e DL would talk about how the Silvanesti had a big fucking forcefield around their homeland and then write an adventure where that was important AND things about it fucking changed.

Compare to most campaign settings for anything which will list a bunch of supposedly "interesting" locations and then print adventures that don't use the interesting locations and instead make up new, less interesting locations in out of the way places where nobody gives a shit. FR has been especially bad about this over the years (5E at least has tried to focus on the sword coast to the point where people might actually care but I think that is an accident due mostly to how successful baldurs gate was).

Now this purple 3rd edition DL book was really a companion to an age of mortals adventure path that, unlike the war of the lance adventures of old, made up a bunch of new places that nobody had ever heard of that were now super important. So this particular DL iteration fails to understand what made DL interesting compared to other settings.

All that said, DL is not a "good" setting by any means. It has a bunch of hidden Mormon propaganda in it. It is not a good setting for a "murder hobos acquire power" sandbox campaign. It really only works if you want to get on its rails and run a plot driven game. However, it undercuts that with the most juvenile attempts at humor (kender, gnomes) and tends to be offensive when it means to be insightful.

I have run one good game set in DL and played in many more that tended to be just horrible. There are some things about it that are better than FR and the other more generic settings and a lot of stuff that is not. This particular iteration of DL never seemed to figure out what it was trying to be. It would almost have been better to just sell the setting as eternally stuck right at the begging of the war of the lance.
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Chamomile
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 28, 2018 4:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

souran wrote:
Sometimes the weird hypocrisy of this forum gets to me. In the vampire forum everybody is arguing that your vampire subtype should convey more useful information about your character. In this thread everybody is bashing DL for it doing that very thing.




1) There is almost no overlap between people active in those two conversations. Why would you expect us to hold the same opinions as other people? Do you consider yourself a hypocrite for having observed two conversations on the same forum that each reached a different consensus?

2) Forgotten Realms also has mono-racial kingdoms. They are just as politically significant as Dragonlance mono-racial kingdoms are. To the extent that "I'm a dwarf" means anything in Dragonlance, it means pretty much exactly as much as it does in Forgotten Realms: Mostly just racial modifiers, although if you attach a specific homeland that will be relevant in that homeland and its immediate surroundings. This is true of playing a dwarf or an elf in nearly any setting. The fact that your Forgotten Realms dwarf could be from Baldur's Gate or Phlan in addition to Mithral Hall or Adbar doesn't change the fact that just knowing that you're a dwarf only narrows down your potential origins without actually telling other players anything significant about you at all until you add "from [place]."

3) No one in the Vampire thread is arguing that different vampire sub-types should live in separate ethno-states from one another with very little mixing between them. Indeed, the Vampire thread is arguing exactly the opposite of that, that different vampire varieties should exist closely enough to one another that it's easy to find out why a Gangrel, a Ventrue, and a Tzimisce are teaming up to fight crime.
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Voss
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 28, 2018 5:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

souran wrote:
Sometimes the weird hypocrisy of this forum gets to me. In the vampire forum everybody is arguing that your vampire subtype should convey more useful information about your character. In this thread everybody is bashing DL for it doing that very thing.

I'm not sure where you're getting the idea that DL ever provides useful information about your character.

If your character is from Solace, you lived in a tree fort. Fine. Your ethnicity is a big question mark (the twins are generically 'white' with no cultural inclinations whatsoever, or any signs that the region produces any kind of culture. I vaguely remember some prequel book implying their mother was vaguely gypsy-ish, but she died while they were young and big sis the morally ambiguous mercenary sorta-kinda raised them). Your beliefs are... well, there are some dudes the next town over that believe in new gods, and no one has run them out of town yet, so... probably confused tolerance? And you probably dislike/hate Solamnics because they abandoned the region like the old gods.

Ta-da, that amounts to jack shit. And this is the most well known area that produced two of the central iconic characters for the entire setting. And it amounts to a blank slate.


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Starmaker
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 2:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Chamomile wrote:
So are you arguing that elves don't feature in Dragonlance or that elves don't feature in Tolkien?

No, I'm arguing elves in Dragonlance are not somehow a more objectionable borrowing from Tolkien than elves in other D&D settings, so calling out specifically DL for daring to have elves from the Player's Handbook is unfair.

(I'd expected a mention of draconians made from good dragon eggs being a parallel to orcs being corrupted elves; but while Tolkien is very probably the source [unless a closer blatant ripoff exists], all the purposefully different details of the implementation separate the settings even further.)

Chamomile wrote:
That there is Gandalf saying "if literally anything in all of Middle-Earth outlives Sauron without being corrupted by him, I'll call that a win." Gandalf might call it that, but the rules of narrative call that Sauron winning super hard.

Gandalf might have had his panties in a bunch, but Sauron winning was never a possibility. *His* higher-up got fucked arbitrarily super hard without a save. You know how when you watch a Bruce Willis movie and there's no chance he's going to die (unless it's Sixth Sense and he's already dead)? At least a Bruce Willis movie presents an objective power imbalance in favor of the bad guys. No matter which side of the conflict you're on in LotR, your victory can be negated or made meaningless by two extra tiers of built-in MC fiat.

Now, while the backstory of DL a "high god" (because Mormonism), he does not have a preference and does not get involved in the affairs of the pantheon at all. The gods of neutrality are (duh) neutral; Reorx can help you in your mortal business if you're a dwarf and a worshiper, and Gilean can help you in your mortal business if you're determined to fuck up your life in interesting ways so he can write something lulzy down. Neither is going to tell worshipers to fight the dragonarmies. If Takhisis wins, she just fucking wins.

Chamomile wrote:
Who even is Samwise Gamgee?

Samwise Gamgee is a peasant with a major artifact which is useful in extremely limited scripted circumstances. He's not a playable character.

Chamomile wrote:
...yes? Obviously and completely? Like, you're complaining that a novel has a linear plot. What exactly is your objection, that Lord of the Rings isn't a choose your own adventure book?

My objection is to people calling the DL modules railroaded. They aren't, and you can go have adventures as custom characters. Even in the books, there's like one adventure-relevant plot development that relies on the heroes having specific backgrounds (Tanis having fucked Kitiara), and that development isn't exactly good for the book protagonists. Progress through further DL adventures doesn't require the players having taken the same steps as the book characters, it doesn't even require that the setting facts from the books hold true. The forcefield over Silvanesti mentioned upthread by souran, there's a bunch of tables in the module for how it was raised and what to do with it, and none of them require one of your party to be the Silvanesti princess for the plot to work. Your white or red wizard magic user doesn't need to have golden skin or a twin sibling for an evil undead wizard to offer him/her some power, and (s)he doesn't have to accept.

On the other hand, while in the story of LotR some characters are easily replaceable (Legolas and Gimli), one of you has to be "the lost heir of the main kingdom" and one has to be "one of like half a dozen named angels". The hobbits are unplayable before their upgrades, and their stories amount to getting said upgrades. What then? Oh, one of them kills half a death knight because the latter is allergic to hobbits. Fucking seriously.

Chamomile wrote:
How many non-human Solamnics can you name?

Solamnic Knights are human feudal lords. Solamnia is the mainland area they collectively rule and it's like 10% hill dwarf and 3% kender, and there's a huge-ass allied gnomish city on an island the current grandmaster considers his ancestral holdings.


Chamomile wrote:
Only if you mean "super-national" in the sense that they intend to conquer all nations.

Yes. I'm not saying they're good virtuous*, I'm saying they're different.

(* Alignment in D&D has always been shit, and I don't see the reason to single out DL for it. All this "genocide is actually good" is really the authors trying to call out D&D because in the end it's a fucking children's book that had to fight for the word "mien". The message is, "okay, look here, kids, these guys in black spiky armor who call themselves Evil with a capital E and wear babies' entrails for necklaces are bad, don't be like them, but those other guys in polished silvery armor and flowing white robes who'd quietly disappear you in the middle of the night in the name of peace and justice without bothering anyone? they're bad too, don't be like them either." Hell, the lead writers wrote another fucking series hammering in this Very Important Lesson for seven books; they also cover some advanced stuff like gaslighting and lovebombing. If you claim DL says "genocide is actually good, you guys" rather than "D&D alignments are actually bullshit", you're not arguing in good faith.

Still, to prevent confusion, I'm going to use the word "virtuous" as a replacement for the English word "good".)

(I'm also not going to discuss monsters there - "monsters" in fantasy is a bigger discussion than any setting -- or the inherent racism of appropriating a real-world marginalized ethnicity to spice up a fantasy world. So for the purpose of this post, in-universe racism only counts if it's directed at beings the author designates as people.)

Quote:
and don't racially discriminate.

Chamomile wrote:
What even are Black Numenoreans?

I have no idea what you're trying to say here. The notion of different races of humans and some races being superior to others is a fact in Tolkien. Black Numenoreans are a typical racist narrative: white people leaving their homeland for the lands of the dirty brown untermenschen (the Haradrim in this case) and immediately establishing themselves as the rulers there due to their inherent racial superiority. Black Numenoreans aren't "enlightened" because they chose to figuratively rule in (Arab) hell rather than serve (elves) in heaven.

And then, when the War of the Ring happens, "the Haradrim support Sauron because they're Arabs and Arabs are evil" is basically plaintext.

In DL, there's no "the Nerakans support Takhisis because they're Mexicans" -- they don't and they aren't, Neraka is just where the ruins of the temple stood, not an evil nation itching to plunder noble Solamnia and raep their wimminz. The guy who lived there, stumbled onto the ruins and accidentally restored the temple definitely wasn't a worshiper of Takhisis.

The elves and the Solamnics aren't virtuous either. The elves and the Solamnic lords are culturally worshipers of Paladine, so if the dragonarmies have their way their power structures are going to be toppled. So if the players need an army by yesterday to fight the emergent militarist theocratic dictatorship, those are the places to look. But that doesn't make them virtuous -- they're lazy, cowardly and corrupt, books 1 (elves) and 2 (Solamnics, the other elves) make it very clear. They aren't virtuous because they worship Paladine, and they aren't virtuous because they are ethnic Anglo-Saxons and Anglo-Saxons are good. Sturm is Tracy Hickman's favorite character; they drag him through hell and he commits suicide by dragon highlord. THOSE GUYS AREN'T NICE.

Quote:
DL doesn't have Designated Good, it has designated evil -- the militant cult of a demon dragon god who intends to personally rule the world -- and the corporate entities that it considers enemies up for destruction for arbitrary doctrinal reasons need more slapping around from you the heroes than kicking out one enemy spy to become a resistance capable of resisting.

Chamomile wrote:
Who even is Denethor?

Denethor is one crazy guy who prevents the virtuous, genetically superior people of Gondor from mounting an effective resistance. Grima is one evil spy who prevents the virtuous, genetically superior people of Rohan from mounting (hur) an effective resistance.

Meanwhile, in DL, the elves are cowardly, the Solamnic Knights are classist, and they'd much rather fight each other even in the face of what might be an existential threat; the dwarven kingdom is neutral and has a sizeable evil minority. None of them inherently deserve to win, but it's a post-apocalyptic world and if you want to project force ASAP because the enemy has dragons and is blitzkrieging though the continent, these are your options.

In book 2, an elf becomes slightly less of a tapeworm and Sturm gets accepted into the knighthood at the lowest rank, but reforming the knighthood or reuniting the elves is not as simple as throwing Derek Crownguard off the High Clerist Tower and making the royal offspring marry each other. (In the books, both of these things happen but it takes two human generations and two more world wars. I think the first lady knight in the books is a granddaughter of the original heroes. The game only has a gendered cap on STR.)
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Chamomile
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 4:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Starmaker wrote:
No, I'm arguing elves in Dragonlance are not somehow a more objectionable borrowing from Tolkien than elves in other D&D settings, so calling out specifically DL for daring to have elves from the Player's Handbook is unfair.


Golly, you probably should have actually said that, then, instead of claiming that being epic fantasy was the only similarity.

Quote:
Gandalf might have had his panties in a bunch, but Sauron winning was never a possibility.


I'm going to go ahead and trust the explicit statements of informed individuals in the actual text over your speculation drawn from EU content that Tolkien may or may not have even considered canon by the time of the writing of LotR.

Quote:

Samwise Gamgee is a peasant with a major artifact which is useful in extremely limited scripted circumstances. He's not a playable character.


This is blatantly disingenuous. Sam has Sting for exactly one encounter (two if you count Cirith Ungol) and he had to inflict multiple different wounds on Shelob to drive her off. His ability to win the fight clearly hinged on being able to inflict those wounds without getting murdered first.

Quote:
My objection is to people calling the DL modules railroaded.


And you brought this up as comparison to Lord of the Rings because...?

Quote:
The hobbits are unplayable before their upgrades


Oh, because you think that Lord of the Rings was written as advertising copy for D&D, apparently, and that its characters' value to the plot should be measured purely in effectiveness in combat. You may wish to doublecheck the release dates on those two products.

Quote:
Oh, one of them kills half a death knight because the latter is allergic to hobbits.


That is not how prophecies work. Glorfindel didn't inflict a supernatural weakness to hobbits on the Witch King. He made the supernaturally accurate prediction that the Witch King's death would not involve human males. Merry and Eowen killed the Witch King because hobbits are sneaky, it's pretty hard to parry when you've just been stabbed in the hollow of your knee, and the Witch King does in fact die if you stab him in the face. Anyone, including human males, was physically capable of doing that, but apparently Lord of the Rings is a deterministic universe so Glorfindel was able to tell in advance that no human males would actually be responsible for doing so.

Quote:
Solamnic Knights are human feudal lords. Solamnia is the mainland area they collectively rule and it's like 10% hill dwarf and 3% kender, and there's a huge-ass allied gnomish city on an island the current grandmaster considers his ancestral holdings.


So your answer is zero, but they have borders with other races, which totally counts for Solamnia/Sancrist but not Erebor/Dale because of reasons, and also that there are obscure references to dwarves living in human lands, which totally counts when it's unnamed and unknown hill dwarves in Solamnia but not when Gimli sets up a dwarf colony in Rohan.

Quote:
Yes. I'm not saying they're good virtuous*, I'm saying they're different.


So you are 1) conceding that the dragonarmies qualify as "super-national" only in the sense that they intend to conquer all nations, but 2) think that this means they are meaningfully different from a nation. Do you know what a nation is?

Quote:
And then, when the War of the Ring happens, "the Haradrim support Sauron because they're Arabs and Arabs are evil" is basically plaintext.


Meanwhile, in the actual books:

Quote:
It was Sam's first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. He was glad that he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man's name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would rather have stayed there in peace.


And the Dunlendings who fought for Saruman:

Quote:
'Help now to repair the evil in which you have joined,' said Erkenbrand, 'and afterwards you shall take an oath never again to pass the Fords of Isen in arms, nor to march with the enemies of Men; and then you shall go free back to your land. For you have been deluded by Saruman. Many of you have got death as the reward of your trust in him; but had you conquered, little better would your wages have been.'

The men of Dunland were amazed, for Saruman had told them that the men of Rohan were cruel and burned their captives alive.


Also explicitly deceived into fighting for the enemy, and are neither killed nor conquered in retaliation for their unprovoked aggression against Rohan. The possibility that the Haradrim are perfectly decent people deceived or coerced into fighting for Sauron is raised and never rejected. The existence of Black Numenoreans and pretty much the entire contents of the Silmarillion make it clear that neither elves nor any race of humans are immune to doing evil deeds. The notion that any race besides those created directly by Sauron is inherently evil is completely baseless (and even the orcs Tolkien went back and forth on). Meanwhile, in Dragonlance, both ogres and goblins are a thing.

Oh, and Aragorn's pretty chill with the Easterlings and Haradrim post-Sauron, too:

Quote:
And the King pardoned the Easterlings that had given themselves up, and sent them away free, and he made peace with the peoples of Harad; and the slaves of Mordor he released and gave to them all the lands about Lake Núrnen to be their own.


Have you read Lord of the Rings, or do you just talk to Nazis about it and take their word for it?

Quote:
Denethor is one crazy guy who prevents the virtuous, genetically superior people of Gondor from mounting an effective resistance.


Two out of three of major Gondorian characters end up sabotaging the fight against Mordor despite the fact that Mordor has posed a direct existential threat to them for well past all living memory. Exactly how much self-sabotage in the face of genocidal evil do Gondorians have to engage in before you will consider that maybe Tolkien wasn't trying to portray them as genetically superior? For that matter, where exactly is your justification for being willing to mount resistance against blatantly belligerent existential threats must necessarily be an argument for racial superiority?

Also, the one remaining Gondorian is one of the most virtuous characters in the books and directly related to both of the other two, so the idea that bloodline inherently leads to virtue just isn't present in Lord of the Rings. Of the two Numenoreans relevant to Lord of the Rings, one is a virtuous and rightful king who heals the land upon being crowned, and the other allowed greed and ambition to overcome and refused to destroy the One Ring, thus serving as the impetus for the entire plot. Whether or not someone ends up as good or evil is totally detached from both bloodline and ethnicity except sort of the orcs.

Any criticism of Lord of the Rings' approach to race begins and ends with the orcs (and trolls), who actually are depicted as ubiquitously and inherently evil, and oh, shit, ogres, so there's bugger all that Dragonlance has in that regard that Lord of the Rings does not. The alleged "differences" you keep citing - the reluctance of rulers to mount effective resistance against clearly evil invaders in particular - are in fact similarities.
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tussock
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 5:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Starmaker wrote:
Chamomile wrote:
Who even is Samwise Gamgee?

Samwise Gamgee is a peasant with a major artifact which is useful in extremely limited scripted circumstances. He's not a playable character.


What? Have you read the book?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samwise_Gamgee

He's the protagonist, supremely strong-willed while also selfless in his self-imposed duties, the only creature to ever willingly relinquish the One Ring. Dude's totally a Paladin, even smote Shelob, saw the Evil in Gollum. You might notice he's volunteered rather a lot more service, repeatedly so, than to stay home and mind the gardens, instead chosen a series of likely suicide missions toward furthering the main plot line.

JRRT considered him the primary hero of the stories. Maybe you missed that because his background occupation was to work for one of the other PCs, but, like, try again!

--

You seem to have picked up on the casual racism present in Middle Earth, and missed the ways that Tolkien subverts it by having the heroes of the story be a few diplomats and some varying social classes of country folk, and then it's the lower class ones who actually achieve everything while the higher class people all squabble, threaten each other, and finally act as a grand distraction to keep the Eye away from the real heroes, including the former gardener.
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Thaluikhain
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 1:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Chamomile wrote:
Any criticism of Lord of the Rings' approach to race begins and ends with the orcs (and trolls), who actually are depicted as ubiquitously and inherently evil, and oh, shit, ogres, so there's bugger all that Dragonlance has in that regard that Lord of the Rings does not.


All the heroes are white, and all the people who aren't white are either villains or working for/with them. For more complicated reasons than just being evil, and there are white villains, certainly, but there is a race issue there. Tolkien's idea of orcs was a racist Asian caricatures as well.

He also did have genetically superior people, Aragorn is definitely (physically) superior to ordinary humans, with expanded lifespan if nothing else. That didn't make them morally superior, Isildur was corrupted by the ring.

That is to say that LotR, like every work of fiction, has issue worth noticing, not that we should stop reading it. Well, except for the endless pointless singing.

tussock wrote:
the only creature to ever willingly relinquish the One Ring


I hate to remind people of the existence of Tom Bombadil...actually, no I don't. ROFL Excuse me for some long and boring singing for a bit.

tussock wrote:
You seem to have picked up on the casual racism present in Middle Earth,


You mean classism, not racism, I think.

tussock wrote:
having the heroes of the story be a few diplomats and some varying social classes of country folk, and then it's the lower class ones who actually achieve everything while the higher class people all squabble, threaten each other, and finally act as a grand distraction to keep the Eye away from the real heroes, including the former gardener.


Hey? The fellowship is one working class hobbit, 3 idle rich hobbits who don't have jobs, 1 lost king, 1 regent's son, 1 elf prince, 1 dwarflord and 1 magic thingy. They meet other heroes in the form of assorted elf and human lords and kings and the other son of the regent.

Now, yes, now that you point it out, one of the two heroes at Mt Doom was working class, but he's literally the only working class character of any real note. And he leaves the working class at the end.


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mlangsdorf
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 4:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
Quote:
Oh, one of them kills half a death knight because the latter is allergic to hobbits.


That is not how prophecies work. Glorfindel didn't inflict a supernatural weakness to hobbits on the Witch King. He made the supernaturally accurate prediction that the Witch King's death would not involve human males. Merry and Eowen killed the Witch King because hobbits are sneaky, it's pretty hard to parry when you've just been stabbed in the hollow of your knee, and the Witch King does in fact die if you stab him in the face. Anyone, including human males, was physically capable of doing that,


Do we know for sure that human males could stab him in the face? The Witch King certainly didn't think so ("no living man may hinder me"). While it's clear the Glorfindel made a supernaturally accurate prediction, I don't think you can say for sure that it was possible for Aragorn to beat him in a duel at Weathertop.
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hyzmarca
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 7:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

mlangsdorf wrote:
Quote:
Quote:
Oh, one of them kills half a death knight because the latter is allergic to hobbits.


That is not how prophecies work. Glorfindel didn't inflict a supernatural weakness to hobbits on the Witch King. He made the supernaturally accurate prediction that the Witch King's death would not involve human males. Merry and Eowen killed the Witch King because hobbits are sneaky, it's pretty hard to parry when you've just been stabbed in the hollow of your knee, and the Witch King does in fact die if you stab him in the face. Anyone, including human males, was physically capable of doing that,


Do we know for sure that human males could stab him in the face? The Witch King certainly didn't think so ("no living man may hinder me"). While it's clear the Glorfindel made a supernaturally accurate prediction, I don't think you can say for sure that it was possible for Aragorn to beat him in a duel at Weathertop.


The Witch King misunderstood Glorfindel's prediction. He thought it granted him blanket immunity to penises, instead of just being Glorfindel's report of the fight he saw on Futurevision Pay-per-View. The Witch-King also had some extremely hefty supernatural protections on top of this, because he wasn't an idiot. The Barrow Blade that Merry stabbled in in the leg with was crafted by the Westernesse for the specific purpose of killing him. Because the Witch King pissed off this one guy in Arthedain so much that the dude dedicated the rest of his life to forging weapons to kill him, specifically. It had like a +100 bonus against Witch Kings with a special ability of Fuck the Witch King.

The leg hit from the Barrow Blade knocked down all of the Witch-King's defenses, and left him vulnerable to being stabbed in the face. Without the barrow blade he'd have multiple layers of shields, weapon immunities, regeneration, DR Infinity/-, and his Ring would have probably functioned as a phylactery.


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Chamomile
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 12:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Thaluikhain wrote:
All the heroes are white, and all the people who aren't white are either villains or working for/with them.


Are there non-white villains in Lord of the Rings (besides orcs)? Like, it's not nothing that the only presence of non-whites is the participation of armies of vaguely Arabic people in the bad guy coalition, but given that the good guy response to the invasion is to give the benefit of the doubt that they may be deceived or coerced into participation and to release all their captives to return home in exchange only for the promise of peace, it's unfair to say that this is racism. The actions of the good guys are too compassionate and nuanced to plausibly call them an effective symbol of hatred and ignorance. The heroes of the story are a coalition of multiple races and nations uniting against a single enemy and repairing the ancient friendship between elves and dwarves is a significant (though poorly executed) sub-plot of the story. Those races are distinguished by height and ear-pointiness rather than color, so it's not like Tolkien would be a paragon of racial inclusion or anything (even without the problem with the orcs), but you can't claim that failing to be maximally anti-racist makes a work racist.

Now, I absolutely agree that the portrayal of the orcs isn't super great. To the extent that Nazis latch onto Lord of the Rings, the orcs are why (and they were even specifically based on racist caricatures). Tolkien himself had serious reservations about them, which doesn't excuse their portrayal in Lord of the Rings because all that matters is what ends up in the book that people actually read, but it goes to show that he was, in fact, dimly aware of how this sort of thing was wrong and didn't like how it polluted the themes of his books, and while that awareness didn't save his portrayal of the orcs, it absolutely does show up in other parts of the setting. Tolkien wasn't particularly anti-racist, but he had consistent and genuine commitment to the principles of compassion and forgiveness, and those simply cannot coexist with a racist worldview. To racists, alienation and subjugation of the Other is the heart of virtue. For Tolkien and Middle-Earth, subjugation is the very essence of evil and the bond of friendship between people from different cultures is one of the most reliable ways of combating it.

An illuminating contrast to this is CS Lewis. Just like Tolkien, CS Lewis does not seem to have had any commitment to the issue of racism one way or another, but unlike Tolkien, CS Lewis' books lean heavily on "it's okay when we do it" morality, in which the only real virtue is declaring allegiance to Aslan and the actions of heroes and villains are otherwise more or less interchangeable (especially when compared between books, as Lewis seems to fairly regularly cast villains whose main sins are exactly what the heroes were praised for two books ago, but in the name of some non-Aslan power), and thus the Chronicles of Narnia are in fact super racist every time the Arab-coded Calormenes come up.

Quote:
He also did have genetically superior people, Aragorn is definitely (physically) superior to ordinary humans, with expanded lifespan if nothing else. That didn't make them morally superior, Isildur was corrupted by the ring.


Sure, but in context of the conversation I am extremely confident that Starmaker was not referring to "genetically superior" as meaning a purely physical advantage. It's obvious that we're talking about superior in a "right to oppress the lesser races" kind of way.
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Longes
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 6:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Blicero wrote:
Does this book support trying to play in the different eras of the setting? Or is all the fluff post-War of Souls?

If you haven't seen them, this dude did some decent analyses of the first two Dragonlance modules from back in the day:
https://dungeonofsigns.blogspot.com/2014/04/dl-1-dragons-of-despair-review.html
https://dungeonofsigns.blogspot.com/2014/05/dl-2-dragons-of-flame-review.html


He talks about LOTFP's "Death Frost Doom" adventure as if it was a good adventure. This is a mindset so warped that I would not be surprised to discover that DL-1 is actually made out of pure ambrosia and that my penis would grow to twice its size after reading. Or that a broken clock has shown the right time.
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Thaluikhain
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 12:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Chamomile wrote:
Are there non-white villains in Lord of the Rings (besides orcs)? Like, it's not nothing that the only presence of non-whites is the participation of armies of vaguely Arabic people in the bad guy coalition, but given that the good guy response to the invasion is to give the benefit of the doubt that they may be deceived or coerced into participation and to release all their captives to return home in exchange only for the promise of peace, it's unfair to say that this is racism. The actions of the good guys are too compassionate and nuanced to plausibly call them an effective symbol of hatred and ignorance.


I'd disagree there. Now, it's only very mild racism, sure, but I'd still say it was racist, to an extent.

Chamomile wrote:
Tolkien wasn't particularly anti-racist, but he had consistent and genuine commitment to the principles of compassion and forgiveness, and those simply cannot coexist with a racist worldview.


I strongly disagree there. In practice, principles and worldviews are held by imperfect people, it's perfectly possible for someone to hold to conflicting ideas. The example I like is the US Declaration of Independence, which states, in part "All men are created equal" and had amongst its writers people who owned slaves. I'm sure at least some of the people of the time were dedicated to equality, but believed it right to own slaves, and weren't bothered too much by the contradiction. Tolkien being far less extreme than that, of course, but nobody's perfect.

Chamomile wrote:
Sure, but in context of the conversation I am extremely confident that Starmaker was not referring to "genetically superior" as meaning a purely physical advantage. It's obvious that we're talking about superior in a "right to oppress the lesser races" kind of way.


I was thinking that being genetically superior came with an inherent right to rule, but now that I think of it, I was completely wrong.

In any case, I'm not condemning Tolkien, merely criticising him somewhat. IMHO by far the worst problem with Tolkien is that he became massively popular with people mindlessly aping him uncritically, which became the basis of fantasy. Or insufferable anti-Tolkien types who think making everyone a rapist is wonderfully inventive and subversive.
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mlangsdorf
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 5:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

hyzmarca wrote:
mlangsdorf wrote:

Do we know for sure that human males could stab the Witch King in the face? The Witch King certainly didn't think so ("no living man may hinder me"). While it's clear the Glorfindel made a supernaturally accurate prediction, I don't think you can say for sure that it was possible for Aragorn to beat him in a duel at Weathertop.


The Witch King misunderstood Glorfindel's prediction.


Why would the Witch King have even known about Glorfindel's prediction? At the point that Glorfindel made that prediction, the Witch King has fled the battle field, and Earnur is getting back on his horse with intent to pursue. Glorfindel says "don't waste your energy, that isn't going to work" but there's no reason to believe that the Witch King heard him say that and suddenly got cocky.

It seems probable that he had heard a similar version of the prophecy, and was at least somewhat aware of the possibility of loophole abuse. He didn't have an issue fighting human males, but tended to fall back from powerful elves and wizards. Though again, it's uncertain if the prophecies are statements of conditions that he can't be harmed by human males, or just visions that he isn't going to get killed by a human male.
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Chamomile
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 8:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Thaluikhain wrote:

I'd disagree there. Now, it's only very mild racism, sure, but I'd still say it was racist, to an extent.


I'd agree in a vacuum, but Lord of the Rings specifically goes out of its way to invalidate the idea that the brown people are inherently evil and should be fought/destroyed, but rather exalts its heroes specifically for not doing that. Having an all-white cast of heroes can imply that brown people are naturally evil, but that implication is trumped by the far stronger implications to the contrary present in the story.

Quote:
I strongly disagree there. In practice, principles and worldviews are held by imperfect people, it's perfectly possible for someone to hold to conflicting ideas.


Only nominally. Genuine commitment to ideas requires consistency. Someone can claim they favor equality while still supporting slavery, but their claim is false. Going back to CS Lewis as compared to Tolkien, compassion and especially forgiveness are Christian buzzwords, so if you asked CS Lewis if he believed in those virtues, I'm pretty confident he'd say yes. The Chronicles of Narnia belie a lack of genuine commitment to those principles, though. Forgiveness is only extended to named characters playing the designated role of penitent sinner in Lewis' morality play. Lewis may claim to embrace the ideal of forgiveness, but his lack of consistency in that belies a lack of genuine commitment to the principle. Tolkien, at least so far as is revealed in Lord of the Rings, has the consistency of genuine commitment to a principle. That doesn't make him incapable of mistakes (i.e. there's still the orcs and everything wrong with them), but having a genuine commitment to one principle applies strong pressure against any thematic support for ideologies dependent on opposed principles, and while I guess it's theoretically possible to be a compassionate racist, in practice there's not any racist movement or ideology in the actual world we live in remotely compatible with it.

Quote:
In any case, I'm not condemning Tolkien, merely criticising him somewhat. IMHO by far the worst problem with Tolkien is that he became massively popular with people mindlessly aping him uncritically, which became the basis of fantasy. Or insufferable anti-Tolkien types who think making everyone a rapist is wonderfully inventive and subversive.


I'd agree with all of this. I disagree a little bit with some of the specifics of your criticism, but I don't think our positions are all that different (not that differences in opinion being minute has ever stopped this forum from having thirty-page arguments filled with invective). Blind Tolkien copying is a consistent problem in fantasy, not just because Tolkien's style has gotten horribly played out because of it, but also because no one ever copies the substance of his work (which is hardly unsurprising: If they had the craft to recognize the substance that made the style work, they'd have the craft to make something original). I attribute the "isn't all my rape so edgy?" trend more as blind Game of Thrones aping by the same hack-level writers who used to engage in blind Lord of the Rings aping, but wherever it came from it's usually even worse than the people who try to copy Tolkien.
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Heaven's Thunder Hammer
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 9:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Eh. Arguing aside, I didn't like the book. I came out of it as a ST thinking, "There are no stories to tell here" It was all about the books... Which was great if you wanted to retell the stories of the DL series.
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2018 3:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Well...that's the point. Dragonlance in AD&D was about a series of railroady adventures where you were strongly encouraged or required to play pre-generated characters (at least for the first few). Settings like Forgotten Realms are sprawling with lots of room for everyone to have adventures - and in fact, FR and Greyhawk specifically cater to a uniquely D&D sense of "adventuring" which is pretty alien to most novels. Gandalf & co. did not go to Dungeon Outfitters to kit up before setting off. Dragonlance...is a lot more like the LOTR in that regard. It's not that there is no player space, but the player space is subordinate to the novels, and the novels are not designed with any actual conception of adventuring as a cultural phenomenon in mind. It's right back to the medieval thought-process where somebody in authority gives you a quest, and that about sums it up.

Which is part of the reason why the Dragonlance Campaign Setting is so weird and flat and boring next to contemporary settings like Forgotten Realms or Kingdoms of Kalamar...the setting is not actually geared to cater toward the default D&D adventure. It's geared toward a narrative structure like the books, where the protagonists can make and break the rules (they're more like guidelines, anyway). A straight translation makes DL feel a bit dull and boring because outside of the novels DL is dull and boring. Playing in the aftermath of the events of the books is a bit like campaigning in Middle Earth after the War of the Ring - all the big shit has happened, and...now what? It's not that there aren't adventures that could be set in DL, but DL itself does a very bad job of selling why you should become an adventurer and what adventures there are to do. This is exacerbated by the player options - because most people like to go through third-party supplements looking for power creep - and there really isn't a lot. You didn't need mechanical creep in AD&D DL, because the novels just pulled things out of their ass when narratively appropriate. But in 3e, that's almost all there is...and the DLCS does not have a lot of it.
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Longes
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2018 6:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ancient History wrote:
campaigning in Middle Earth after the War of the Ring - all the big shit has happened, and...now what?


There is a lot you can do, but you'll have to invent on your own. Nick Perumov, one of modern Russia's most prolific fantasy writers, started out by writing a duology "Ring of Darkness" set long after the War (the protagonist is a descendant of Meriadock) and aimed at being a counterpoint to "Mordor is an absolute evil and anyone with Mordor is evil or deluded"

There are still many things to do. The Hobbit, for the most part, could easily happen after the War. Moria is still a dungeon full of evil and treasure. There are still evil forests and old Sauron castles.


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Thaluikhain
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Chamomile wrote:
I disagree a little bit with some of the specifics of your criticism, but I don't think our positions are all that different


It looks like, yeah. Might have to agree to disagree on a few things, but mostly we seem to be in agreement.

Ancient History wrote:
A straight translation makes DL feel a bit dull and boring because outside of the novels DL is dull and boring. Playing in the aftermath of the events of the books is a bit like campaigning in Middle Earth after the War of the Ring - all the big shit has happened, and...now what?


Dunno, there's something like 200 spin off DL books, lots of other material to draw on. Not read anything like that many myself, of course, but there's some good stuff in there. Also, some complete rubbish, of course, but plenty of stuff happening before, during and after the events of the main books, and a lot of low level types off on adventurey type things.


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Longes
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2018 9:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Chamomile wrote:
Are there non-white villains in Lord of the Rings (besides orcs)? Like, it's not nothing that the only presence of non-whites is the participation of armies of vaguely Arabic people in the bad guy coalition, but given that the good guy response to the invasion is to give the benefit of the doubt that they may be deceived or coerced into participation and to release all their captives to return home in exchange only for the promise of peace, it's unfair to say that this is racism.


TIL that there've been actual non-white good guys in Lord of the Rings.
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Voss
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2018 1:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Chamomile wrote:
Thaluikhain wrote:

I'd disagree there. Now, it's only very mild racism, sure, but I'd still say it was racist, to an extent.


I'd agree in a vacuum, but Lord of the Rings specifically goes out of its way to invalidate the idea that the brown people are inherently evil and should be fought/destroyed, but rather exalts its heroes specifically for not doing that. Having an all-white cast of heroes can imply that brown people are naturally evil, but that implication is trumped by the far stronger implications to the contrary present in the story.

No, but it does indulge rather heavily in the Christian historiographical trope that non-whites are the 'people without history,' and without agency- to be used by God as punishment for sinners and/or a test of faith. That the Big White Dude sits in judgement to decide their fate is absolutely a hallmark of racism. Not 'as bad' as killing or enslaving them, but clearly present and very consistent with the belief set Tolkien is tied to as an early 20th century Brit and Christian.

'exalts' is also a hard sell. Its mentioned in a big list of deeds in the wrap up, along with giving their pygmy-ish native guides their own forest for realsies. It's a very paternalist racism, but very prevalent for the time. Same with the inherent sexism ('yeah, yeah, you've done your bit that prophecy mandated, now pop off to wait for a suitable husband')
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Longes
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2018 8:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Voss wrote:
Chamomile wrote:
Thaluikhain wrote:

I'd disagree there. Now, it's only very mild racism, sure, but I'd still say it was racist, to an extent.


I'd agree in a vacuum, but Lord of the Rings specifically goes out of its way to invalidate the idea that the brown people are inherently evil and should be fought/destroyed, but rather exalts its heroes specifically for not doing that. Having an all-white cast of heroes can imply that brown people are naturally evil, but that implication is trumped by the far stronger implications to the contrary present in the story.

No, but it does indulge rather heavily in the Christian historiographical trope that non-whites are the 'people without history,' and without agency- to be used by God as punishment for sinners and/or a test of faith. That the Big White Dude sits in judgement to decide their fate is absolutely a hallmark of racism. Not 'as bad' as killing or enslaving them, but clearly present and very consistent with the belief set Tolkien is tied to as an early 20th century Brit and Christian.

Um. You do realize that the quote Chamomile provided, this one:
Quote:
'Help now to repair the evil in which you have joined,' said Erkenbrand, 'and afterwards you shall take an oath never again to pass the Fords of Isen in arms, nor to march with the enemies of Men; and then you shall go free back to your land. For you have been deluded by Saruman. Many of you have got death as the reward of your trust in him; but had you conquered, little better would your wages have been.'

The men of Dunland were amazed, for Saruman had told them that the men of Rohan were cruel and burned their captives alive.

is about Dunlendings? The very white looking celts who lived next to Rohan? Easterlings and Haradrim did not surrender after the war and weren't judged by either Arnor or Rohan. Specifically Haradrim split into two factions one of which joined Arnor and one of which stayed independent.
Not to mention that non-whites in LotR very clearly have history and their own reasons for joining up with Sauron.

Voss wrote:
'exalts' is also a hard sell. Its mentioned in a big list of deeds in the wrap up, along with giving their pygmy-ish native guides their own forest for realsies. It's a very paternalist racism, but very prevalent for the time. Same with the inherent sexism ('yeah, yeah, you've done your bit that prophecy mandated, now pop off to wait for a suitable husband')


How is it paternalist racism? The Druedain already lived in that forest. And that forest was considered territory of Gondor by Gondor. Aragorn didn't just give them a dope forest to live, he solved a territorial dispute over the forest in which they were already living.
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Thaluikhain
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2018 1:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Longes wrote:
Chamomile wrote:
Are there non-white villains in Lord of the Rings (besides orcs)? Like, it's not nothing that the only presence of non-whites is the participation of armies of vaguely Arabic people in the bad guy coalition, but given that the good guy response to the invasion is to give the benefit of the doubt that they may be deceived or coerced into participation and to release all their captives to return home in exchange only for the promise of peace, it's unfair to say that this is racism.


TIL that there've been actual non-white good guys in Lord of the Rings.


Out of interest, does it say what their skin color was anywhere? I think I have some GW minis of those somewhere I should paint sometime.
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Chamomile
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2018 9:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Thaluikhain wrote:


Out of interest, does it say what their skin color was anywhere? I think I have some GW minis of those somewhere I should paint sometime.


They get one mention in the Silmarillion and then a few more in the Unfinished Tales, i.e. random post-LotR notes Tolkien left behind when he died and which his estate later published to capitalize on the impressively long tail of his work. Tolkien revised his setting a lot and died before he produced any completed work in the setting of Middle-Earth besides Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit (even the Silmarillion was only mostly finished and had to be edited together from fragments post-mortem), so it's really unclear which of his notes were things that would've been worked into a Lord of the Rings sequel had he ever gotten around to writing one and which were ideas he intentionally wrote out of the setting because he decided he didn't like them.

All of this to say that pretty much 100% of the canonicity of the Druedain comes down to fan depiction and interpretation, and fans have pretty consistently depicted the Druedain as being coded African (specifically, various pygmy tribes), with varying degrees of offensiveness in that depiction. So if you paint your minis with African skin tones and someone complains, that guy is exactly as racist on close inspection as on first appearance.
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Voss
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Longes wrote:
Voss wrote:

No, but it does indulge rather heavily in the Christian historiographical trope that non-whites are the 'people without history,' and without agency- to be used by God as punishment for sinners and/or a test of faith. That the Big White Dude sits in judgement to decide their fate is absolutely a hallmark of racism. Not 'as bad' as killing or enslaving them, but clearly present and very consistent with the belief set Tolkien is tied to as an early 20th century Brit and Christian.

Um. You do realize that the quote Chamomile provided

Good for that one specific example out of several. Pretend for a moment that you're actually following the conversation. The Easterlings and Southrons were also under discussion.

Though as the Celt expy, the Dunlendings also feed into the paternalist English racism. Early 20th century (and prior centuries) English treatment of Ireland and Scotland was often justified on 'racial' lines. It isn't something you'd hear much of today, but Tolkien would have growing up at the tail end of the 19th century and start of the 20th. Though this is most likely pretty unconscious and more to do with the Dunlendings distance from the 'light of civilization'

Quote:
Voss wrote:
'exalts' is also a hard sell. Its mentioned in a big list of deeds in the wrap up, along with giving their pygmy-ish native guides their own forest for realsies. It's a very paternalist racism, but very prevalent for the time. Same with the inherent sexism ('yeah, yeah, you've done your bit that prophecy mandated, now pop off to wait for a suitable husband')


How is it paternalist racism? The Druedain already lived in that forest. And that forest was considered territory of Gondor by Gondor. Aragorn didn't just give them a dope forest to live, he solved a territorial dispute over the forest in which they were already living.

Yes....?
I don't even know where to start with this.
The text is pretty clear- prior to the war, the gondorians/rohirrim shot at the Druedain 'as if they were animals' whenever they saw them, and treated their claim to their fucking home as if it were a joke. After their service as guides, they were given their own home as 'gift' for services rendered.
Despite the fact that they lived their for time out of mind, the Gondorians didn't even think they were human enough that they could have territorial claims, so it was just marked inside the Gondorian border on their maps.

I'm not sure you could get a more clearly textbook case of paternalist racism outside of loading up a couple of boxes of beads to buy land with. You could argue that its necessary (because the Gondorians as a people are assholes, presumably because of the lack of their rightful king for so long), but it's seriously the white king gifting a race of people their current homeland.


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