Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for Beastman

The term "beastman" refers to any intelligent, humanoid creature that owes its origin to Eldritch sorcery. The two most commonly encountered types of beastmen are orcs, created from boars, and gnolls, created from hyenas, although other types have been reported in remote regions of the world. As the products of demonic sorcery, all beastmen are touched with Chaos and, as such, are implacable foes of both Men and civilization.

Owing to their unnatural origins, beastmen are spawned in alchemical vats located in underground Eldritch strongholds. The discovery and destruction of these strongholds has, since Thulian times, been of paramount importance for beastmen spread like an infection across the world, their numbers continually replenished through arcane science. The recent breaking of the seals on Dwimmermount seems to have contributed to a rise in the number of beastmen, suggesting that the mountain-fortress contains or controls -- or both -- additional spawning vats.

32 comments:

  1. I like it. I've always found references to female orcs or goblins to be a little weird. The movie FoTR's orcs being spawned from slime seems more appropriate. It also makes them less sympathetic, which I like in villains. Having the possibiliy of "widowed orc mommies" adds a human element to it that isn't right. These creatures were originally conceived of as demons, the epitome of unredeemable evil.

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Thomas I think those were rather the Uruk-Hai human/orc hybrids.
    Harn had orc queens with a large amount of male subjects.

    I read something interesting in the manual for Hordes of the Things a few days ago: Orcs in LOTR are described similar as Mongols were described in the middle ages, and nowadys we see the Mongols as quirky but nice. Why should it be different? And even in LOTR there are a few moments when orcs show more character depth.
    I always thought they make much more sense as threedimensional characters with a completely different outlook on life than as purely evil.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Making all evil humanoids unnaturally created as inherently evil, fully grown combatants is either good or bad depending on what you more enjoy doing in a game -- killing them or thinking about them.

    If you more enjoy the simple pleasure of killing all evil humanoids remorselessly, then it's good.

    But if you more enjoy exploring the complex moral and ethical issues concerning them, then it's bad.

    ReplyDelete
  4. If you really want complex moral and ethical issues, what is better then a whole race of people who are forced by their very creation to be evil? What could be worse then a slavery of spirit so strong you had no choice but to be evil? Brainwashing someone to do evil is a horrid thing and Beastmen are basically brainwashed from the very start.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I don't see what's at all morally or ethically complex about that. Making them is simply evil. And if they're inherently evil and incapable of change, then the situation is simple too -- they must be destroyed.

    There would be complex moral and ethics issues concerning them only if they weren't inherently evil and were capable of change.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Orcs in LOTR are described similar as Mongols were described in the middle ages, and nowadys we see the Mongols as quirky but nice. Why should it be different?

    This is how the Orocuen are depicted in 'The Last Ringbearer' which I definitely recommend if you like this topic. I like the inhuman genesis for 'monsters' that we're implying it's acceptable to massacre in a game. If Orcs are simply foreign people it starts feeling a bit off.

    However I did notice Orcs in OD&D can be Chaotic or Neutral, while Goblins and Hobgoblins are only Chaotic. They also have villages and caravans and such...

    ReplyDelete
  7. As old-school RPG pastiche, of course this description works great...

    "They also have villages and caravans and such..."

    ...But yeah, this is the troubling aspect of the old-school monster descriptions for me in the first place. If we've got quasi-sentient automatons o' evil - basically vicious pigman golems - fine. Behead away.

    Once you've *peoples* - societies that have language, names, and like to draw wicked-looking shit on their shields - I don't see how one can, even in a fantasy game, indulge the 'they're ALL evil, they ALL eed to diiiee!!' schtick without at least briefly thinking about the ugly real-world parallels.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I like the Mystara concept that Beastmen were a sort of ancestory race for modern Orcs, Goblins etc.

    Tolkien's Orcs were elves, tricked and tortured beyond recognition by Morgoth/Sauron. The reason why you dont feel sorry for them is not because they are inherently evil, but because there are thousands of them outside your door waiting to kill you. Moral dilemmas only come into question when you are in a situation where you are in control. The DM should make sure the players are in no way in control of the situation. As long as its kill or be killed, the sollution is always easy.

    -Havard

    ReplyDelete
  9. And if they're inherently evil and incapable of change, then the situation is simple too -- they must be destroyed.
    I'm not so sure. D&D alignment discussions never go anywhere, but what the heck.

    The definition of Good is also salient here, as someone who is Crusading Good -- not a real alignment, I just made it up -- might want to wipe out evil as you suggest, but a Hippie Good -- ditto -- character would perhaps consider genocide, any genocide, to be an Evil act in itself and thus unacceptable.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I like it. But I think it's more disturbing and horrific if goblins and orcs and such are actually distinct races with overly-protected females and offspring. The players in my current campaign actually faced a moral quandary when finding a nursery of goblin children, the bard and the paladin left the room while one of the wizards went through slicing the throats of all of them. It was a disturbing moment where the players got to discuss how and why ancient cultures were pathologically racist, but then I reminded them "Yeah, but these are leathery-skinned glowing-red-eyed terrors that grow up and become violent maniacs. There's no allegory here about the culture that is alien because these are creatures of evil." And it works. It keeps the enemy a distinctly recognizable 'thing' while maintaining that violence is horrific and takes a toll on the human psyche.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I play games to get away from serious moral dilemmas and other complexities. I like my adventuring simple and un-sullied by moral complexity...

    ReplyDelete
  12. Orcs have evolved and transcended. They are a lot deeper than when they first appeared in books and early rpg games.I first thought it extremely strange for a player to want a half-orc character. But they made great NPC villans.

    ReplyDelete
  13. "The reason why you don't feel sorry for them is not because they are inherently evil, but because there are thousands of them outside your door waiting to kill you. Moral dilemmas only come into question when you are in a situation where you are in control. The DM should make sure the players are in no way in control of the situation. As long as it's kill or be killed, the solution is always easy."--Havard

    I agree completely and couldn't have stated it better myself.

    But, of course, even though there's no good reason to feel any moral qualms during a fight, you still might feel some afterward.

    ReplyDelete
  14. "[A] Hippie Good...character would perhaps consider genocide, any genocide, to be an Evil act in itself and thus unacceptable."--kelvingreen

    Quite true. But, like most everything else about hippies, such sentiment is actually only a superficial, short-sighted and self-serving rationale for either doing whatever they want to do just because it makes them feel good or not doing whatever they don't want to do just because it makes them feel bad. It's a mere emotional reaction, not a rational position. Still "Good", but misguided good.

    ReplyDelete
  15. "...when finding a nursery of goblin children, the bard and the paladin left the room while one of the wizards went through slicing the throats of all of them."--Doc

    That's no paladin. Averting ones eyes and allowing somebody else to do evil is something a Neutral character might do, but not a Lawful Good one, and certainly not a paladin. Paladins are supposed to be driven by understanding that "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

    ReplyDelete
  16. "I play games to get away from serious moral dilemmas and other complexities. I like my adventuring simple and un-sullied by moral complexity."--Don

    That's a perfectly reasonable attitude that I sometimes share myself -- depending on my mood.

    Sometimes I like to play in games with morally and ethically complex situations that force me to think about them. And sometimes I like to play in games with morally and ethically simple situations that allow me to enjoy acting and concentrating on the intellectual challenges rather than any moral or ethical considerations.

    Both are perfectly valid ways of playing.

    ReplyDelete
  17. These two scenarios:
    * murder the orc orphans
    * omg your character has been raped
    feel equal parts awkward and tired at this point. :-P

    ReplyDelete
  18. I don't really think of killing orc babies as a moral or ethical dilemma. Would you have a problem killing rabid baby rats if you knew they were capable of growing larger and eating people?

    "These two scenarios:
    * murder the orc orphans
    * omg your character has been raped
    feel equal parts awkward and tired at this point. :-P "

    I never use rape or sexual violence of any kind in any of my games.
    http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2009/10/rape-culture-101.html

    ReplyDelete
  19. @Doc: They're pretty much RPG cliches at this point and not a comment on your specific game. I'm sure we've all heard of those two situations *many* times over the years. Here's a recent discussion of adult themes in RPGs featuring "your character was raped".

    ReplyDelete
  20. @Stuart: I've actually never played in a game where baby goblins or orcs showed up. I know in 1st and 2nd edition AD&D some of the modules described "families" of these goblinoid races, but previous to the game I'm running now I've always thought of goblinoids as 'created' monsters that don't breed in the conventional way.

    As for rape showing up in games, I just think that's incredibly poor taste. If I did that in my gaming group I would have players walk out. If a GM did that in my presence, I would walk out.
    And again, because I think it deserves to be read by anyone who mentions rape cavalierly, I'll refer you to the link I posted above
    http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2009/10/rape-culture-101.html

    ReplyDelete
  21. @Doc: I think we're on the same page.

    ReplyDelete
  22. "These two scenarios:
    * murder the orc orphans
    * omg your character has been raped
    feel equal parts awkward and tired at this point."
    --Stuart

    Awkward, yes. They should be. Always.

    But "tired"? Only if you've already done them more than once before. And I, myself, have never done either. So neither seems tired to me.


    "Would you have a problem killing rabid baby rats if you knew they were capable of growing larger and eating people?"--Doc

    Yes.

    Rabies can be cured now. So killing a rabid animal is excusable only if either the rabies has progressed beyond the curable stage or it's necessary to protect someone or something from immediate attack by the rabid animal.

    And capability is not destiny. Just because someone or something could eat people, that doesn't mean it will. If we killed everyone and everything that could cause harm, we'd end up killing everyone and everything.


    "I never use rape or sexual violence of any kind in any of my games."--Doc

    To quote the article you posted a link to...

    "Rape culture is television shows and movies leaving rape out of situations where it would be a present and significant threat in real life."--Melissa McEwan, "Rape Culture 101"

    I think that principle extends beyond merely television shows and movies to all storytelling that's intended for adults, including writing and RPGs.

    Thanks for the link to that article. I agree with almost everything it says.

    ReplyDelete
  23. "I think that principle extends beyond merely television shows and movies to all storytelling that's intended for adults, including writing and RPGs."

    I disagree. Sitting at a table amongst friends I don't think 'pretend rape' is very appropriate.

    "Rabies can be cured now."
    I was using an example that I feel is appropriate for fantasy settings, and rabies couldn't be cured in the middle ages. There is no 'Cure Rabies' spell as far as I know, and I doubt most priests would waste a 'Cure Disease' spell on some lowly rats. And besides, these are rats we're talking about. If I found a litter of rabid rats in my basement I would most likely react with a baseball bat, and not be overcome with a streak of PETA-induced lunacy. It would be a lot cheaper to just kill them anyway, as I'm not going to pay some vet bill for curing rabies in a bunch of vermin that I didn't want living in my basement anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Doc's quote: "I disagree. Sitting at a table amongst friends I don't think 'pretend rape' is very appropriate."

    If those friends all are on board with exploring those themes I don't see how this is any less appropriate than sitting with friends discussing a film, play, or book with 'pretend rape' (or other real world attrocities) in it.

    Some people see gaming as escapist entertainment and some people approach it as an interactive artform which should be allowed the same latitude of any other art form... or anywhere in between.

    Some of the Kult games I've played in (one of the harshest of horror games ever published) had many uncomfortable themes in them and spawned much lively discussion and further exploration of those themes in a safe way. It was a nexus to see preconceptions and ill-formed conceptions in a new and hopefully more enlightened way.

    That interest is also what drove me away from much 'dungeon crawling' games: it was hard to play in a game where rationalizing the killing of sentient and non-sentient monsters for prestige and riches without facing the more mature approach to those elements.

    ReplyDelete
  25. "Sitting at a table amongst friends I don't think 'pretend rape' is very appropriate."--Doc

    That just begs the question:

    When is "pretend rape" appropriate?

    And, remember, if your answer is "Never", then you must either disagree with the assertion that "Rape culture is television shows and movies leaving rape out of situations where it would be a present and significant threat in real life" or be willing to tacitly support rape culture by pretending that rape wouldn't ever occur in situations where it actually would.


    "I was using an example that I feel is appropriate for fantasy settings, and rabies couldn't be cured in the middle ages."--Doc

    Okay. It would've been helpful if, when you posed your question, you'd specified that the answer had to be in the context of medieval fantasy, not modern reality. So I'll answer again, taking that limitation into consideration.

    "Would you have a problem killing rabid baby rats if you knew they were capable of growing larger and eating people?"--Doc

    Yes.

    The rabies could be cured instantaneously by magic because any Druid would gladly cure any animal of disease if doing so wouldn't upset the balance of nature. And many Good Clerics would be compassionate enough to cure animals of disease too. And, in the case of this particular example, many Chaotic Neutral and Evil Clerics might actually like rats, and so be actually eager to cure them of disease. So the mere fact that an animal suffers from rabies isn't reason enough to kill it in a medieval fantasy setting. Not if you can get a Cleric to cure it before it poses an immediate threat to anybody or anything.

    So that leaves just the second issue (the one you ignored my answer to before) -- "capable of growing larger and eating people". And that's still not a good reason to kill anything because capability still isn't destiny. Just because someone or something could eat people, that doesn't mean it will. If we killed everyone and everything that could cause harm, we'd end up killing everyone and everything.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Some people see gaming as escapist entertainment and some people approach it as an interactive artform which should be allowed the same latitude of any other art form... or anywhere in between.

    I Spit On Your Dungeon?

    ReplyDelete
  27. Heh. As a fan of professor Carol Clover's "Men, Women, and Chainsaws" (see references in above link) I think that movie brings up an excellent point: the creation of such pieces and the in-depth discussion of their perceived merits or lack therof is better than blanket knee-jerk condemnation.

    Comparing Ebert's response to Clover's just shows that there aren't any easy or black-and-white answers to what is 'appropriate' or not.

    ReplyDelete
  28. "When is "pretend rape" appropriate?"
    Try googling 'pretend rape' and maybe you'll answer that question on your own.

    "It would've been helpful if, when you posed your question, you'd specified that the answer had to be in the context of medieval fantasy, not modern reality."
    You seem like a smart guy but this statement just seems like it's deliberately obtuse. This is a blog that deals mainly about old school role-playing games and 'Dungeons & Dragons' in particular. How could my comments be taken in any other context when discussing a medieval fantasy role-playing game?
    That's a rhetorical question, obviously.

    "The rabies could be cured instantaneously by magic because..."
    "Some people see gaming as escapist entertainment..."
    Look, this debate started because I said I think 'pretend rape' is inappropriate at the gaming table, and I'm fairly confident most gamers aren't as comfortable with it as you guys are. I'm not going to get bogged down in discussing the minutia of my viewpoint because at it's heart it's simply a theme that I think is in poor taste for a game.
    I'm not saying you can't do it in your gaming group, I'm just saying that I obviously wouldn't be down with it if I were in your group, you'd either have to respect my feelings or lose a player.
    But you guys must really like rape to be championing it so much and if 'Dungeons & Pretend Raping Your Friends' is the game you want to play then more power to you. Call me crazy, but I don't want to pretend to rape my gaming buddies, or vice versa.

    ReplyDelete
  29. "But you guys must really like rape to be championing it so much and if 'Dungeons & Pretend Raping Your Friends' is the game you want to play then more power to you. Call me crazy, but I don't want to pretend to rape my gaming buddies, or vice versa."

    That's a complete straw-man argument and has no bearing on what Ed Dove, myself, or the original blog in question, has argued.

    No one should do anything they're uncomfortable with, especially when getting together for fun.

    What is being argued against is the blanket moral condemnation of consenting adults who wish to explore mature themes and their consequences in a roleplaying medium - instead of just using it for escapist entertainment.

    I personally wouldn't introduce rape into a game I was running, but I wouldn't feel morally outraged if done conscientiously.

    The fact that you're trying to label those of us defending the writer of the blog in question with statements like "But you guys must really like rape to be championing it so much..." indicates that you *do* morally condemn the fictional exploration of such themes. Which as Ed points out is a slippery-slope to tacitly supporting rape culture and the violence culture it is a subset of.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Apparently, sarcasm really IS lost over the internet.

    What is being argued against is the blanket moral condemnation of consenting adults who wish to explore mature themes and their consequences in a roleplaying medium...
    Like I said, you must really be predisposed tp "exploring" rape to want to keep debating the point. When I hear a woman voice your opinion, then I'll take it seriously but for the most part I'm just rolling my eyes at your justifications.

    ReplyDelete
  31. "Apparently, sarcasm really IS lost over the internet."--Doc

    Nope. Your sarcasm comes through clear and strong with all your intended condescension. And the self-righteous, morally superior attitude indicated by your condescending sarcasm is exactly what Osskorrei's comments refer to.

    What you apparently mistake for your sarcasm getting lost is Osskorrei and me refusing to accept that your position is either righteous or morally superior. And, unlike you, we explain in detail exactly why we think what we do. Which leads to...

    "I'm not going to get bogged down in discussing the minutia of my viewpoint because..."--Doc

    Because you now realize, but don't want to accept and face the fact, that your position is really just an emotional reaction, and that your rationalizations for it don't hold up under logical scrutiny?

    If not, stop rolling your eyes long enough to actually answer the questions asked of you (repeatedly) and address the issues with logic instead of just hiding behind sarcasm.

    ReplyDelete

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