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Haleron

Is it cannibalism if it’s a different species?

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We have an Ewok Force user that likes to eat fallen Stormtroopers? Some of our group feel it’s not inherently dark side, others disagree. What are your thoughts on this interspecies diet?

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Posted (edited)

Since the biological definition is the consumption of the same species as oneself, it technically isn't cannibalism. However, I'd reckon eating members of any sentient species would be considered uncivilized in the Republic/the Empire, and if you've got humans in your party, they'd surely strongly object to it.



Side note: Eating stormtroopers? What the heck? Does that PC want to fight the cute Ewok stereotype that badly?

Edited by EpicTed

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Yeah it's technically  not cannibalism, but nobody likes watching members of their species being eaten, so it would likely be frowned upon by anyone that witnessed it. 

Of course, if the species actually is a carrion eater species, then they might get a bit of leeway, assuming they weren't hunting people to make them carrion.

There was a species in the tv show Babylon 5, who were carrion eaters, and they weren't really popular on the station, but they also didn't really bother anyone.  They weren't hostile, or evil, they just....ate dead things, and they weren't picky what it was.   They never really went into the details of where they got their food supply, but considering they were a regular part of the station population, I assume they had some kind of arrangement with food providers or something.  

But there was one episode where there was a missing person, presumed dead, and the security team had to pump the stomachs of the Poc-morah (the carrion eaters), on the offchance the body got dumped in a waste unit, and they decided to munch on it.   So there is I guess the possibility of them finding bodies of sentient beings and eating those.  

33 minutes ago, EpicTed said:


Side note: Eating stormtroopers? What the heck? Does that PC want to fight the cute Ewok stereotype that badly?

Yes, the cute stereotype that he's going against :P   A species that we are introduced to, when they capture the heroes and try to cook them alive to eat for a feast .  I wouldn't say the player is going against type, but staying true to it honestly.   They were 100% on board with eating the humans and the wookie, and only stopped because someone with a bigger stick scared them into submission.   

So yeah, Ewoks eating people is totally thematically appropriate for the little murderous teddy bears.  :P

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10 minutes ago, KungFuFerret said:

Yes, the cute stereotype that he's going against :P   A species that we are introduced to, when they capture the heroes and try to cook them alive to eat for a feast .  I wouldn't say the player is going against type, but staying true to it honestly.   They were 100% on board with eating the humans and the wookie, and only stopped because someone with a bigger stick scared them into submission.   

So yeah, Ewoks eating people is totally thematically appropriate for the little murderous teddy bears.  :P

One of the recent Forces of Destiny episodes actually had Leia attempting to stop the Ewoks from cooking and eating Stormtroopers... and that is a show that is specifcially about inspiring young girls. Ewoks are very much "murderbears" despite their cute and fluffy outer shell.

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9 minutes ago, GroggyGolem said:

One of the recent Forces of Destiny episodes actually had Leia attempting to stop the Ewoks from cooking and eating Stormtroopers... and that is a show that is specifcially about inspiring young girls. Ewoks are very much "murderbears" despite their cute and fluffy outer shell.

What's even darker, is that even after learning that the beings were intelligent enough to hold a conversation with (3PO speaking on their behalf), they still didn't care, and were willing to continue with the barbecue.  :D   

While most humans, when asked if some animal they were planning on eating, suddenly was able to carry on a conversation with them, would they still eat them, most people generally say "no."   Apparently, for Ewoks, the answer is a resounding "YES! And pass the hotsauce!"  :D 

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1 hour ago, KungFuFerret said:

There was a species in the tv show Babylon 5, who were carrion eaters, and they weren't really popular on the station, but they also didn't really bother anyone.  They weren't hostile, or evil, they just....ate dead things, and they weren't picky what it was.   They never really went into the details of where they got their food supply, but considering they were a regular part of the station population, I assume they had some kind of arrangement with food providers or something.  

But there was one episode where there was a missing person, presumed dead, and the security team had to pump the stomachs of the Poc-morah (the carrion eaters), on the offchance the body got dumped in a waste unit, and they decided to munch on it.   So there is I guess the possibility of them finding bodies of sentient beings and eating those. 

Props for mentioning Babylon 5!!!  One of the greatest Sci-Fi TV shows EVER!

But it's "pak'ma'ra."  Not capitalized.  Because that's how they spell it.

And yes, the Ewoks haters really do forget that, for their first onscreen action as a species, they were going to cook and eat Han Solo!  It doesn't get much more hardcore than that.

This is the kind of things that really depends on the individual gaming group, and their overall interpretation of the Big Questions.  According to Ewok culture (at least, according to Treek of The Old Republic), the Ewok ethos is totally okay with eating anything you can catch and kill, sapience notwithstanding.  Most other cultures consider eating a sapient being to be an extremely heinous and disgusting crime of gross immorality.  So it really depends on if your group thinks there's an overriding, "Proper" morality that judges actions independent of what individuals and individual societies think, or if Morality is chiefly based on the individual outlook and what morals and values a person or society was raised with.  Basically, what the stance is on Cultural Relativism.  And this opens up a big can of worms, which can easily lead to what old-school World of Darkness players will understand as "The Path Of What I Was Going To Do Anyway," where a player can basically argue that, according to their character's Morality, whatever it was they just did was perfectly justifiable and therefore should generate no Conflict.

Personally, I'd rule that, as all life is connected to the Force and makes it grow, an Ewok Force-Sensitive would, on some level, understand the deeper connections at work.  Even if they consider it a respectful gesture to a worthy prey, they'd feel that something was wrong with reducing another thinking, feeling, luminous being within the Force to mere food, and I'd hand out some Conflict.  Maybe knock off a point or two compared to someone engaging in true cannibalism, or even eating another sapient, but enough that Morality would be at notable risk of slipping every session it happens.

But that's just me.

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I’ve actually been playing a grey Jedi who believes in a balanced approach to the Force, so if my young Ewok Protege is feeling a bit too moral, he gets a “troopy snack”. If he’s been a bad Ewok, he gets nothing (until his morality goes back up). We like to rest easy on the 40-60 range

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They way the SW Galaxy society seems to run, I think eating any intelligent species should be deemed cannibalism. Depending on the era and society your game is in (a.i. the Empire may think differently) all of the various intelligence species seem to be part of one large galactic society.

As for Ewoks? They aren't exactly part of the larger Galactic society. So, they may not have any problem with eating other intelligence beings, but most of the Galaxy is going to call them cannibals.

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I'd say the topic should be split into what the galactic community thinks and what the force "thinks".

For the galactic community at large (as if you could reduce even just one densely-populated planet to a single set of ethics, much less a galaxy full of them), what we presently view as cannibalism would likely include eating any creatures considered sapient.

For the force, I think the problematic part would be the killing of sapients. If they're already dead for unrelated reasons (say, because they were stormtroopers who attacked the ewok), I could see eating them as a non-conflictworthy act.

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4 hours ago, Cifer said:

For the force, I think the problematic part would be the killing of sapients. If they're already dead for unrelated reasons (say, because they were stormtroopers who attacked the ewok), I could see eating them as a non-conflictworthy act.

:huh:

I can't begin to describe how absurd I find this sentiment. Nothing personal, @Cifer.

But going back to this...

11 hours ago, Haleron said:

...if my young Ewok Protege is feeling a bit too moral, he gets a “troopy snack”. If he’s been a bad Ewok, he gets nothing (until his morality goes back up). We like to rest easy on the 40-60 range

It sounds like it's already considered a dark side act by the characters themselves, and (more importantly) by the GM who gives out conflict for it.  

 

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1 minute ago, awayputurwpn said:

:huh:

I can't begin to describe how absurd I find this sentiment. Nothing personal, @Cifer.

But going back to this...

It sounds like it's already considered a dark side act by the characters themselves, and (more importantly) by the GM who gives out conflict for it.  

 

This is where I think the use of the term "Morality System" starts to become a problem, as it gets muddied with real world morality debates, when what it's meant to describe, in the context of Star Wars, is how your actions impact your connection to a galaxy spanning, semi-sentient, energy field that influences the actions of those it touches.  :D  

 

17 hours ago, ErikModi said:

Props for mentioning Babylon 5!!!  One of the greatest Sci-Fi TV shows EVER!

But it's "pak'ma'ra."  Not capitalized.  Because that's how they spell it.

Yes it was, my favorite of all time really.   As to the spelling, yeah I figured I got it wrong, didn't have a reference here at work, but since on average, only one in a few hundred people I chat with in present day scifi forums actually watched the show, I didn't worry about it too much.  :D  

 

 

17 hours ago, ErikModi said:

And this opens up a big can of worms, which can easily lead to what old-school World of Darkness players will understand as "The Path Of What I Was Going To Do Anyway," where a player can basically argue that, according to their character's Morality, whatever it was they just did was perfectly justifiable and therefore should generate no Conflict.

*begins to shudder and froth at the mouth, having a flashback to oWoD Morality debates to justify everything someone does*   "Oh, sorry, had a bit of a fit there, bad memories. "   

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19 minutes ago, awayputurwpn said:

I can't begin to describe how absurd I find this sentiment. Nothing personal,

Please begin. What do conflict and the Dark Side mean to you and how does desecration of a corpse play into it?

For me, the main word to remember with conflict is suffering (and, to a lesser extent, egotism and aggression). For large amounts of conflict to be handed out, someone has to suffer, emotionally or physically. There are no victimless crimes when it comes to conflict. If everyone on a world regards the holy pond as sacrosanct, but you can't help yourself and take a leak in it, with noone ever finding out... there's no conflict, since noone suffers from your action, even though everyone around you would agree it is absolutely heinous if they knew about it. (Assuming, of course, the pond has nothing in particular to do with the force itself.)

Back to the cannibalism issue: There is little indication in Star Wars that a person's afterlife depends on the state of their body - Jedi, the ones who are most demonstrably prone to have an afterlife, even traditionally prefer being incinerated. So the dead guy most likely doesn't suffer from the action. That leaves the people around them. If the ewok chows down on a trooper while the rest of his squad is watching in horror, that's absolutely conflict-worthy - emotional cruelty, minimum of 2 points, probably with a large helping of additional points for extra severity. But if noone ever finds out, who suffers from the ewok's actions?

Edited by Cifer

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7 minutes ago, Cifer said:

Back to the cannibalism issue: There is little indication in Star Wars that a person's afterlife depends on the state of their body - Jedi, the ones who are most demonstrably prone to have an afterlife, even traditionally prefer being incinerated. So the dead guy most likely doesn't suffer from the action. That leaves the people around them. If the ewok chows down on a trooper while the rest of his squad is watching in horror, that's absolutely conflict-worthy - emotional cruelty, minimum of 2 points, probably with a large helping of additional points for extra severity. But if noone ever finds out, who suffers from the ewok's actions?

So if someone murders someone, but there are no witnesses, they don't get conflict?  I mean, you're basically implying that only if something is witnessed, is it bad.   There are plenty of ways someone could kill someone without causing pain, or inflicting emotional distress.  I could poison someone using a chemical in their drink, that makes them go to sleep, and then stops their heart, I still just committed murder.   

The problem with this is The Force is Always Watching.   

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37 minutes ago, KungFuFerret said:

So if someone murders someone, but there are no witnesses, they don't get conflict?  I mean, you're basically implying that only if something is witnessed, is it bad.   There are plenty of ways someone could kill someone without causing pain, or inflicting emotional distress.  I could poison someone using a chemical in their drink, that makes them go to sleep, and then stops their heart, I still just committed murder.   

The problem with this is The Force is Always Watching.   

I'd say your victim being dead most definitely counts as physical suffering. And, to forestall the next question, yes, even if you switch out someone's Lifeday presents with cheap knockoffs without them finding out, your victim is stil objectively worse off.

Of course the Force is always watching, but what does it watch for? Is it a traffic cop with a rulebook, mindlessly working through a checklist of laws made by sapients? If so, do huttish laws count too? If not, by which standards does it judge your actions? I find "Is someone else objectively worse off without there being mitigating factors?" to be a reasonably good start.

Edited by Cifer

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It's not like the Force's sense of morality is inscrutable or arcane. It's a very simple, even simplistic, take on our own basic societal values (it's called "space opera" for a reason). For example, letting your emotions control you is wrong. Killing innocent people is wrong. Stealing is bad, but generosity is good. Power should be used to serve others rather than yourself. It's wrong to hurt other people. 

Treating a corpse of a sentient being as food is wrong. 

Now granted, the only strong character elements we see in the universe who actively espouse a high morality are the Jedi, who are revealed to be quite dogmatic and narrow-minded in their approach to morality. But on the flip side, anyone who embraces the stuff that the Jedi reject as "bad" ends up turning bad themselves :) And while the ewoks trying to murder and eat the rebels in RotJ is treated as a funny sort of meet-cute/misunderstanding, can you imagine what it would have been like had they actually shown the Ewoks eating a human?? It's a horrific concept. My take is that, if it offends my senses and sensibilities, it's gonna at least generate some Conflict in my game. That is my two credits and really all I have time for ;) 

And no, the Force isn't a traffic cop; it's just a force. It doesn't really punish you, per se; it's more that you suffer the natural consequences of your own misdeeds (game terms: Conflict, and also potential societal consequences). For every action, a reaction. When you throw yourself out of balance, there's a rebalancing that needs to take place lest you fall.

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Cifer's point gets near the heart of a major problem I have with a lot of moralism: it appoints high value to sapience seemingly arbitrarily.  What is it about sapience that makes sapient creatures inherently more valuable than non-sapient ones?  From what I can see, we only think intelligence has inherent value because we ourselves are intelligent, our intelligence is the main factor that distinguishes us from other creatures, and we have an instinctual desire to feel superior in our surroundings.  So, we take the one thing that's special about us, and decide that it has an innate value above anything else special about other creatures.  But that's hubris.

Let's look at a few examples.  Let's say you're exploring Felucia, and you stumble into a giant pitcher plant, and get digested and die.  Is the pitcher plant acting evilly or immorally for killing you?  No.  It needs food to survive, it evolved a hunting strategy that works for it, and you just happened to wander by and unknowingly put yourself on the menu.  Now, you obviously suffer, but the pitcher plant would suffer if it doesn't kill you to eat.  We may be scared of such things, giant man-eating plants, but they and their hunting actions are not inherently evil.  So a non-sentient, non-sapient creature eating a sentient, sapient creature for food to survive is not evil.

Next, let's up the ante.  You're on a different planet, and you're bushwhacking through the jungle and get pounced on by a nexu, and eaten.  Now our aggressor is sentient, but not sapient.  But we still wouldn't call the nexu evil.  It's eating to survive, and once again, we were stupid enough to put ourselves on the menu.  You suffer in this exchange, but you spare the nexu the suffering of starvation.  Balanced.

Okay now, we have an ewok.  Our hunter is now both sentient and sapient.  You find a carcass in the woods, come to inspect it and get caught in a net trap.  The ewok hunter comes to check its trap, find the funny hairless animal making odd noises in it.  But he's hungry, he has a family to feed, so he bring you home and cooks and eats you.  Is this evil?  If so, we need to explain why.  We have three examples.  The victim is the same each time, both sentient and sapient.  These qualities are assumed to have innate value that makes them superior to other living things.  Why then is killing this victim for sustenance NOT evil when the hunter does not possess those qualities (and the only suffering you're averting is non-sapient, and variably sentient), but when you're sparing suffering of another sentient, sapient being it's suddenly bad?

 

My opinion on the matter is that it's the intention behind the killing that matters most.  Kill only to sustain yourself, and to defend yourself and others.  All creatures: sapients, animals, plants, even micro-organisms, have the same right to life and the same intrinsic value.  There is no greater or lesser, no innate superiority of any one trait, even sapience or Force-sensitivity.  Do you kill only when necessary?  Moderate the suffering you cause to the least value possible?  And most importantly, when you must kill, such as when you eat, do you show respect for the sacrifice of the ones who died to sustain you?

If so, you're in balance with the Force.  If you don't, well then, that's when you're risking conflict, giving into the hubris of thinking yourself superior, and that leads to the Dark side.

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2 hours ago, awayputurwpn said:

Treating a corpse of a sentient being as food is wrong. 

Then you run into the problem of "well what if you are stranded and have to eat a fellow sentient to survive?"   Which has happened IRL many times, and in general nobody really fault the survivors for what they had to do to survive.   The issue then becomes one of intent, which further muddies the water of the debate.

Which is why I like keeping the game for this setting very simplistic in it's moralities if possible.  It just gets too cloudy, and prone to argument when you start debating the moral and ethical grounds of Ewok dietary habits  :P 

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There's a difference between "I ate other people because my choices were that or die" and "I ate other people because I wanted to."

Motivation does play a role.  Same distinction as killing someone.  As a wise man once said, "Someone tries to kill you, you try and kill 'em right back."  Or, to lift an example straight from Star Wars Legends, near the climax of The Truce At Bakura, Luke has been grappling with where the lines of defense and attack are when using the Force.  An innocent young woman has been incapacitated by the aliens, who are trying to use her as leverage to get Luke to go with them.  If he doesn't act, they'll have her helpless and can do whatever they like.  As the narration said, "It was time to use the Force for defense.  Hers."  It's a fairly cut and dried line:  If someone is endangering your life or the life of another, killing them is the way to do the least amount of harm.  Of course, a true Jedi should always try and resolve the conflict nonviolently before it comes to that, but sometimes it's the only viable option.

(Now, there can be an exception to the above, if you really want to grapple with Big Questions. . . if you are the Bad Guy of the story, if you inflict suffering on a routine basis, then someone coming to kill you is justified as your existence is a continued threat to others.  So killing them isn't really self-defense anymore, is it?)

I want to elucidate a point here.  I don't believe in "I had no choice."  There are ALWAYS choices.  They may be horrible choices, but there are choices.  So in horrible situations, the question becomes "which choice is the LEAST horrible?"

3 hours ago, Cifer said:

Please begin. What do conflict and the Dark Side mean to you and how does desecration of a corpse play into it?

For me, the main word to remember with conflict is suffering (and, to a lesser extent, egotism and aggression). For large amounts of conflict to be handed out, someone has to suffer, emotionally or physically. There are no victimless crimes when it comes to conflict. If everyone on a world regards the holy pond as sacrosanct, but you can't help yourself and take a leak in it, with noone ever finding out... there's no conflict, since noone suffers from your action, even though everyone around you would agree it is absolutely heinous if they knew about it. (Assuming, of course, the pond has nothing in particular to do with the force itself.)

Egotism:  Screw your highest laws and sacred sites, I need to take a whizz right now!  My wants and desires are more important than yours, even if no one ever finds out, you've treated everyone else who respects those rules as irrelevant.

Suffering:  Why is the pond holy?  Is there some special formulation in its water that makes it a natural remedy?  Congratulations, you've just screwed up that balance for the next person who might need it.  Are its unusually clean, clear waters ritually consumed as part of a religious observance?  Congratulations, you've just spread pathogens to the priesthood.  I could go on.

As this relates to eating a stormtrooper:  If in the Original Trilogy era, the Empire had stopped using clones and started using regular recruits for their stormtroopers.  Recruits have families, who I'm sure would like their fallen relative's body returned in as close to one piece as possible.  The stormtroopers' comrades might want the body to give it proper honors and burial, providing a sense of closure and chance make peace with passing of a comrade who may have saved their lives countless times.  Again, I could go on.  That's suffering, but egotism also plays a role:  this creature is nothing to me but food, food I (probably) don't actually need, I just want to eat this person because, well, I do.  My desires are more important.

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17 hours ago, ErikModi said:

There's a difference between "I ate other people because my choices were that or die" and "I ate other people because I wanted to."

Yeah I don't think I would give any conflict to the members of the Kothal Roughnecks Grav-Ballers that crashed on Hoth and were forced to eat fellow fallen teammates.

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On 1/10/2018 at 4:45 PM, ErikModi said:

Suffering:  Why is the pond holy?  Is there some special formulation in its water that makes it a natural remedy?  Congratulations, you've just screwed up that balance for the next person who might need it.  Are its unusually clean, clear waters ritually consumed as part of a religious observance?  Congratulations, you've just spread pathogens to the priesthood.  I could go on.

You know your pee is sterile when it comes out of you, right? Unless you have a bladder infection, you shouldn't be spreading pathogens by taking a leak in a pond.

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Not exactly.  Anything you might be carrying, but has no effect on you because you're just carrying it and your body is used to it, can still be spread through urine and feces.  It's why human waste isn't an ideal fertilizer, it has pathogens that can infect humans.  And since were talking Star Wars, there are likely pathogens that can infect other species and to which they have no immune defense.

https://www.popsci.com/urine-sterile-drinking-pee

https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/gory-details/urine-not-sterile-and-neither-rest-you

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/turns-out-urine-isnt-actually-sterile-180954809/

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