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Mirumoto Kuroniten

Dark-skinned people in Rokugan and fantasy worlds

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There are many ways to isolate a country without resorting to xenophobic political isolationism. Geographic isolation works, for one. Even if you do use xenophobia, you can give a nod to the consequences, or just show your point of view characters at least aware it's not a perfect system. Not whole stories of it; just passing mentions here and there. It's not hard, and only focus-damaging to the fringe minority who cling to the empty fantasy of fiction being entirely divorced from the world of its reader.

Quite frankly, if you can't imagine anything better than creating a system that needs to legitimize (both in the sense of justifying, and in the sense of presenting it as without negative consequence) extreme xenophobia to keep its focus...you don't have enough imagination in the first place,to be a good witer.

Good witers don't need that kind of crutches to keep their focus where it needs to be.

Edited by Himoto

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Just now, Himoto said:

 

Quite frankly, if you can't imagine anything better than creating a system that needs to legitimize (both in the sense of justifying, and in the sense of presenting it as without negative consequence) extreme xenophobia to work...you don't have enough imagination in the first place,to be a good witer.

This is a PROFOUNDLY arrogant statement.  Maybe manage some writing success of your own before you throw claims like that around.

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1 hour ago, McDermott said:

This is a PROFOUNDLY arrogant statement.  Maybe manage some writing success of your own before you throw claims like that around.

It's a true statement. You can google me if you like.

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There's no question that Rokugan is technologically behind ( Battle of White Stag ) but that is upset/ balanced by the existence of magic of the setting.

There's no need to improve for example harvesting when Inari can just on a whim bless or curse the harvest season.

And with the Kami clearly tied up with land ( Shugenja magic behaves differently/unpredictably on foreign land ), its another good reason to isolate Rokugan and further feed it xenophobia.

and just because, I agree with Rokugan xenophobia as a setting does not mean I justify it IRL..its like if i like post-apoc zombie setting, I'm also pro-zombie for the future of mankind.

believe me when i said, I'm waiting for the time Rokugan get his comeuppance in the story because of its arrogance and isolation. The Destroyer War could have been interesting if they (AEG) had the balls to make Rokugan lose.

Edited by Bayushi Bajie

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4 minutes ago, Bayushi Bajie said:

and just because, I agree with Rokugan xenophobia as a setting does not mean I justify it IRL..its like if i like post-apoc zombie setting, I'm also pro-zombie for the future of mankind.

This isn't the same thing. Stories say things about the world -- the real world -- based on who and what they're about, and how they're about it.

Post-apocalyptic zombie settings, as a rule, don't set up the zombies as the right and proper solution to humanity's or the world's problems. And when they do, that's the *horror* of it.

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Looking at Rokugan through the privileged 20/20 hindsight that only the real world can give will of course make you reach the conclusion that Rokugan is not sustainable as a modern civilization.

And I for one would agree, Rokugan cannot function as it is long term without great reform.

That said, there's a certain level of Buy-In one must make when you play in Rokugan.

Much like how raiding a dwelling and killing its inhabitants for their valuables is a perfectly acceptable profession in Dungeons and Dragons, you have to be okay with the idea that you represent the armed hand of a Feudal Lord in a society where amongst other things: education is reserved for the nobility, only 10% of the population is allowed to own land, it is perfectly legal to behead a peasant if he didn't bow quick enough, and a sword fight to the death is considered proper litigation. Adding institutionalized xenophobia on top of that doesn't feel out of character.Thing is, even with all those flaws, there are still opportunities for characters that are "part of the system" to be compelling if not heroic.

For example, Matsu Tsuko, in the OG timeline, killed herself instead of openly opposing a Tyrant. An action like that would not fly in a progressive/modern/enlighten civilization. But within the context of Rokugan, it wasn't only okay, in some ways it was expected.

The "joke" is that all those heroes are "part of the problem".

But who knows, under FFG maybe Rokugan is now a place with immigration reform, universal healthcare for all it's inhabitants, and Hantei will ratify the Paris Accords. What do I know, I'm not a writer.

Edited by El_Ganso

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9 minutes ago, El_Ganso said:

Thing is, even with all those flaws, there are still opportunities for characters that are "part of the system" to be compelling if not heroic.

The key term here is "flaws."

A setting and story that acknowledges those flaws, and that they are flaws is one thing. And it's absolutely true that some of the most compelling stories and characters can be born of those flaws. Recognizing them as such, and weighing duty to a flawed system against conscience and justice and other heroic qualities is the stuff of which drama is made.

"The Gods say to keep dirty foreign influence out." "That's cool, we don't like them anyway," is a crap world view, sure, but more importantly, it's bad writing, because there's no internal conflict.

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1 minute ago, BD Flory said:

The key term here is "flaws."

A setting and story that acknowledges those flaws, and that they are flaws is one thing. And it's absolutely true that some of the most compelling stories and characters can be born of those flaws. Recognizing them as such, and weighing duty to a flawed system against conscience and justice and other heroic qualities is the stuff of which drama is made.

"The Gods say to keep dirty foreign influence out." "That's cool, we don't like them anyway," is a crap world view, sure, but more importantly, it's bad writing, because there's no internal conflict.

You really come across as not very familiar with the body of work regarding this setting.

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9 minutes ago, BD Flory said:

The key term here is "flaws."

A setting and story that acknowledges those flaws, and that they are flaws is one thing. And it's absolutely true that some of the most compelling stories and characters can be born of those flaws. Recognizing them as such, and weighing duty to a flawed system against conscience and justice and other heroic qualities is the stuff of which drama is made.

"The Gods say to keep dirty foreign influence out." "That's cool, we don't like them anyway," is a crap world view, sure, but more importantly, it's bad writing, because there's no internal conflict.

I agree that it's bad writing, but I don't agree that acknowledging the flaws and working to subvert the status quo is strictly better.

It is perfectly valid for a protagonist to accept the status quo and roll with it, it is the premise of every story where players decide to fly for the Empire instead of the Rebellion, or lead an army for The Horde instead of the Alliance

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6 minutes ago, El_Ganso said:

I agree that it's bad writing, but I don't agree that acknowledging the flaws and working to subvert the status quo is strictly better.

As a story? I never said it was. A character going forth with a modern viewpoint and upending the status quo and suffering no consequences is just as bad.

A character falling in love with an outsider in a lethally xenophobic culture is a conflict.

A character being disgusted by an outsider in a xenophobic culture is boring.

A character being disgusted by an outsider in a welcoming, multicultural society is conflict.

A character eager to learn about other cultures in a welcoming, multicultural society is boring.

How the narrative voice presents the conflicts and their consequences is what defines the values of the story and setting.

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34 minutes ago, McDermott said:

You really come across as not very familiar with the body of work regarding this setting.

The body of work is mixed. Some of it's great, a lot of it's crap. As with most things.

Did you have something particular you wanted to discuss?

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10 hours ago, BayushiCroy said:

Man. This is still going. 

I have found this thread fascinating to read, with all 'sides' presenting valid points, so to speak.

Thus, thusly, I am miffed that there continues to be posters either complaining about the course/content of this thread, or simply spewing disguised hate and/or anger at other posters who are responding on this thread.... to me, it seeems as if the 'slings and arrows' keep coming from mainly one side, while the remaining posters are, imo, merely presenting further thoughts and opinions on this matter.... anyways, I for one have found this discussion rather wholesome to some degree, as it did/does add more 'life' to this game setting. I certainly can do without much of what I perceive to be negativity (I can't think of a better word right now) from some. 

A sincere thanks to all who posted and please keep up the good work. ?

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12 hours ago, El_Ganso said:

I agree that it's bad writing, but I don't agree that acknowledging the flaws and working to subvert the status quo is strictly better.

It is perfectly valid for a protagonist to accept the status quo and roll with it, it is the premise of every story where players decide to fly for the Empire instead of the Rebellion, or lead an army for The Horde instead of the Alliance


Depends how you write them. 

A lot of those "fly for the empire" stories end up in one of two camps : first, the camp of tragic irony, where we, the audience, are privy to how utterly wrong the character is, and how likely their devotion to the empire is to end badly for them and/or not work out in the long run. Second, the camp of (basically) Imperial propaganda, which present strongman politics, police state systems and the ilk, from the perspective of a reader, as good (or at worse necessary evils) because they bring order and unity against chaos, disorder and outside thread (often, while portraying democracy as feeble, deadlocked and unable to accomplish anything).  (It's not just presenting character who believe those things: it's presenting characters who believe those things and never questioning or undermining those beliefs). 

The first camp make for great writing, and great stories. The second camp present as essentially correct the argument of every dictator in the past century to justify their dictatorship. 

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3 hours ago, Himoto said:



The first camp make for great writing, and great stories. The second camp present as essentially correct the argument of every dictator in the past century to justify their dictatorship. 

As someone that reprimanded a poster for lack of imagination, I must say you are showing a great lack of it yourself.

Take Warhamer 40k for example. Another setting with institutionalized xenophobia, sexual discrimination, government sanctioned genocide and human sacrifices. It is unapologetically a society in decay with its citizens grasping at straws to maintain some semblance of sanity.

And there are still opportunities to write compelling stories with compelling characters.

The setting, be it Rokugan or the Imperium, doesn't have to be some sanitized progressive society. And its characters don't have to be some sort of voices for change raging against the establishment.

And writing about characters feeling virtuous for fighting the barbarians at the gates because it is just, does not automatically make you a MAGA cap wearing wall lover.

Edited by El_Ganso

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40k is pretty much satire, as a setting. I mean, the various space marines chapters are set up to be able to fight each other (and Imperial Guard) to justify game battles, but it's sort of the ultimate expression of dogma making enemies of people who should be allies.

Though I'll grant I haven't bothered with the Black Library stuff, so I can't speak to how straight it plays the setting or how good it is. I'm sure both vary, as do the abilities of individual authors. I'm sure 40k's degree of satire has varied across its existence, as well. As has L5R's narrative embrace of the Celestial Order versus the degree to which it's portrayed as tragic and flawed.

Going back to the 40k thing, it's probably also worth noting that whatever else is going on in the setting, it's a game first, so creative choices get made through that lens.

That ups the degree of difficulty for a compelling story considerably, because certain options are off the table for gameplay to have verisimilitude. Going back to the 40k example, if you take away the argument that a dogmatic approach is a just and necessary response to an existential threat, it becomes a lot more difficult to justify marine/marine, guard/guard, or guard/marine battles. Or whatever other Imperium faction.

That's not to say those things can't happen, but I think when I played 40k, there were more imperium v imperium battles than anything else. Which seems...uh...counterproductive. ;)

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20 minutes ago, El_Ganso said:

And writing about characters feeling virtuous for fighting the barbarians at the gates because it is just, does not automatically make you a MAGA cap wearing wall lover.

I don't think anyone said it did, necessarily. The meaning of a text isn't always what the author intends.

As an obvious example, if you're shooting for satire and you don't have the skill to pull it off, or your audience simply reads it as support for whatever it is you're satirizing, you could be the biggest hippie in the world and turn out an apologia for dictators.

I think a lot of tension over this kind of thing can be eased if everyone remembers author does not equal text does not equal interpretation.

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I didn't say those were compelling stories.

Quote

 It is unapologetically a society in decay with its citizens grasping at straws to maintain some semblance of sanity.

Then I'd say the setting question or undermine the idea that strongman politics are good, if they're represented as part of a setting where everything is falling apart. In which case, we're closer to the first camp: characters may believe the system is good ; but readers can see it's rotten. 

I was thinking more of the Imperial fetishism in Star Wars where far too many authors and fans insist on clean pretty empires because they have cooler ships (and where the "Empire stands for order and law against chaos and anarchy" mentality is always brought up). 

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2 hours ago, El_Ganso said:

As someone that reprimanded a poster for lack of imagination, I must say you are showing a great lack of it yourself.

Take Warhamer 40k for example. Another setting with institutionalized xenophobia, sexual discrimination, government sanctioned genocide and human sacrifices. It is unapologetically a society in decay with its citizens grasping at straws to maintain some semblance of sanity.

And there are still opportunities to write compelling stories with compelling characters.

The setting, be it Rokugan or the Imperium, doesn't have to be some sanitized progressive society. And its characters don't have to be some sort of voices for change raging against the establishment.

Although what you say is true, 40k has also had notorious difficulty in attracting non-white and female players. So it might not be the best model for FFG to follow.

My own 2 zeni on the topic in general - It's all about two things: authenticity and inclusion.

I'll start with authenticity. When you buy into a game about samurai, you generally expect to get certain things. If you don't, you lose that feeling of authenticity. Of course, where that "authenticity line" is drawn varies between people. Some could handle boomerang-wielding Aboriginal Australian samurai without losing the feeling of authenticity. Others can't handle any deviation from historical Japanese culture/ethnicity at all. Most people fall somewhere between the two.

Inclusion is the counterbalance to that - you want as many different demographics as possible to be interested in the game. And racist/xenophobic settings are alienating to people who have to deal with real-life racism/xenophobia. When people invest in a fictional world, they don't want to have to deal with the same BS they have to deal with in daily life. That's why there aren't any games about filing taxes.

So you have to decide on a balance between authenticity and inclusion. FFG already made a similar decision regarding gender balance, clearly in favor of inclusion. And, in my opinion, it was definitely the right choice.

Would that also be the right choice here? I really don't know. Right now I'm leaning toward yes, but to a lesser degree.

Easing up on the xenophobia a little could let them add new cultural elements to some of the less interesting families, helping to flesh them out. Say, add some Persian influence to the Utaku, and some Korean influence to the Asako (picked up in their dealings with the Yobanjin). This would add to the characterization of the great clans, rather than detract from them. Then with Rokugan a more multicultural place, it would make sense for a few gaijin characters to be able to move around without too much hassle.

I feel that would help with the inclusion, without damaging authenticity too much. I'm sure others will disagree though, depending on where they draw that authenticity line.

 

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1 hour ago, Himoto said:

I didn't say those were compelling stories.

Then I'd say the setting question or undermine the idea that strongman politics are good, if they're represented as part of a setting where everything is falling apart. In which case, we're closer to the first camp: characters may believe the system is good ; but readers can see it's rotten. 

I was thinking more of the Imperial fetishism in Star Wars where far too many authors and fans insist on clean pretty empires because they have cooler ships (and where the "Empire stands for order and law against chaos and anarchy" mentality is always brought up). 

 

Yea, I guess I understand that.

In which case I would argue that Rokugan falls within the First Camp also. Intellectually I know that a society based on Feudalism is a society with shaky foundations, but like I said before, there is a certain level of Buy-In one must make in order to enjoy the stories being told about Rokugan.

The whole "Appeal to Tradition" when resolving conflicts, the outright denial of Facts in the face of an Honorable Samurai's Word, the systemic denial of land and property of the masses, and yes, even xenophobia, are all things one must accept as "par for the course" when dealing with characters and stories in Rokugan.

I guess the only thing that worries me are those people that can't see the flaws of Rokugan and actually believe it's some sort of utopia of Honor and Virtue. On the other hand, I have a bridge I would like to sell to those people.

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34 minutes ago, Fumi said:

Although what you say is true, 40k has also had notorious difficulty in attracting non-white and female players. So it might not be the best model for FFG to follow.

 

40K has its target audience, and it's an IP that could probably outsell any single IP FFG has, plus its an IP that has been continuously active longer than L5R (about a decade longer). Not to mention that up until recently, FFG had several licences to publish 40k and GW products, so even FFG knows the value of that IP.

It is completely valid that FFG would not to target that same audience for L5R though. But when someone says "Hey, 40k doesn't have enough representation!", people just shrug and say "It's not supposed to".

This reminds of the non-troversy The Witcher 3's developers faced a few years ago: Polish devs wanted to make a game about Polish myths and Polish culture based on books by a Polish author, all the while the geniuses in Polygon could only ask "yo, where the blacks?" ignoring the fact that Poles and Slavic people have been at the receiving end of xenophobia as well (but this is just an example of the kind of well meaning ignorance that only someone with privilege can get away with :P )

linky 1: http://www.pcgamer.com/fifty-shades-of-white-witcher-3-devs-talk-race-and-adapting-literature/  

linky 2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Slavic_sentiment

Edited by El_Ganso

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10 minutes ago, El_Ganso said:

40K has its target audience, and it's an IP that could probably outsell any single IP FFG has, plus its an IP that has been continuously active longer than L5R (about a decade longer). Not to mention that up until recently, FFG had several licences to publish 40k and GW products, so even FFG knows the value of that IP.

It is completely valid that FFG would not to target that same audience for L5R though. But when someone says "Hey, 40k doesn't have enough representation!", people just shrug and say "It's not supposed to".

I suppose that's true. Whenever GW is faced with this decision, they always side with authenticity. It's certainly the safer choice, though in the long run it may be self-limiting, because minority demographics in the gaming market have been growing more quickly than the overall market has.

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1 hour ago, El_Ganso said:

40K has its target audience, and it's an IP that could probably outsell any single IP FFG has, plus its an IP that has been continuously active longer than L5R (about a decade longer). Not to mention that up until recently, FFG had several licences to publish 40k and GW products, so even FFG knows the value of that IP.

It is completely valid that FFG would not to target that same audience for L5R though. But when someone says "Hey, 40k doesn't have enough representation!", people just shrug and say "It's not supposed to".

This reminds of the non-troversy The Witcher 3's developers faced a few years ago: Polish devs wanted to make a game about Polish myths and Polish culture based on books by a Polish author, all the while the geniuses in Polygon could only ask "yo, where the blacks?" ignoring the fact that Poles and Slavic people have been at the receiving end of xenophobia as well (but this is just an example of the kind of well meaning ignorance that only someone with privilege can get away with :P )

linky 1: http://www.pcgamer.com/fifty-shades-of-white-witcher-3-devs-talk-race-and-adapting-literature/  

linky 2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Slavic_sentiment

There was also the whole "where are the women in battled 1?" Hoopla. Some people have such a hard time imagining a world that isn't socially like modern times. Even it was 50 years ago.

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