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  #31  
Old 08-22-2014, 11:22 AM
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II like how the CCG Warlord: Saga of the Storm treats orcs. That game (and the D&D campaign that inspired it, presumably) lumps orcs, goblins, and trolls together into one interbred faction call Nothrog. The 'throg are still evil guys (they're expansionist and willing to take slaves) whose low-level troops charge directly into battle, but two things add a little subtlety: the first is that five out of the game's seven factions are predominantly evil, generally with more eeeevil to it than the 'throg,* and the other is that higher-level Nothrog tend to focus on tactics and siege engines more than any other faction, with the Nothrog being the only faction that brings any kind of technological base to the table.

*The other factions:
Elves: evil necromancers, rogues and assassins trying to suck up to necromancers for undeadness, and zombie/skeleton/bone golem-type undead.
Deveranians: humans who worship the soul of a dead dragon, dragons being entirely evil in the setting.
Chosen: splinter group of Devs who worship demons, sacrificing their own guys to summon or power up higher-leveled cards.
Mercenaries: token group that can be used by any other faction. Mostly evil, occasionally straight-up monsters.
Dwarves: mostly good, but individual cards can be evil. Most assassin characters of any faction. Depend on gargoyles (divine stone golems, basically) rather than machinery, at least until the last couple sets introduce Trap cards.
Free Kingdoms: the good humans, from small kingdoms united to hold off the Devs and Nothrog. Freek armies tend to look like your standard D&D adventuring group.

About D&D5e, I was disappointed that the Paladin page shows an awesome orc/half-orc paladin, but then in the introductory paragraphs orcs only showed up to be killed. On the other hand, the Detect Good/Evil spells have been replaced by a single Detect Good And Evil spell, which actually just detects anything non-natural to the plane (fey, aberrations, undead, outsiders) without checking their alignment.
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  #32  
Old 08-22-2014, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by estragon View Post
More than anything, elves are prelapsarian. That's why they are simultaneously perfect alabaster Europeans and noble savages. They are an idealized, eternal past before the fall that miraculously continues into the present.
Exactly
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  #33  
Old 08-22-2014, 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Egarwaen View Post
A lot of coded racism in fantasy is inherent to the classic fantasy construction, which is authoritarian and obsessed with authenticity. It focuses on how awesome the good old days were, on the benefits of "legitimate" authority (the pure royal line), and falls entirely to pieces when you start asking questions like "Wait, but why should thousands of peasants die to put the King back on the throne?" Sooner or later, this construction comes to depend on biological determinism, and from there it's a short hop to sectioning off human stereotypes into "othered" non-human races.

It's very similar in a lot of ways to superhero stories, which, sooner or later, have to address the question of "Wait, so why isn't this hero with his miraculous power changing the world?" the answers to which inevitably wind up being reactionary and conservative.

Sadly, there's also a lot of pitfalls to be found in attempting to break free of the classic fantasy construction; many works that do so wind up being just as reactionary and, honestly, not very interesting. Once you break past the "Ah-hah! But it's not Tolkien, you see!" they tend to bottom out quickly.
Science fiction writer David Brin has a lot to say about this kind of thing how the bare bone story behind the Lord of the Rings and stories in that mould (Star Wars) are bad and bad for readers. But I can't find any of it right now for the life of me!
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  #34  
Old 08-22-2014, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Falselogic View Post
Science fiction writer David Brin has a lot to say about this kind of thing how the bare bone story behind the Lord of the Rings and stories in that mould (Star Wars) are bad and bad for readers. But I can't find any of it right now for the life of me!
David Brin's own stories are just as bad in every regard, if not worse, just in the other direction.
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  #35  
Old 08-22-2014, 12:29 PM
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David Brin's own stories are just as bad in every regard, if not worse, just in the other direction.
I've never read any of his books just his articles on the conservatism of fantasy literature.
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  #36  
Old 08-22-2014, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Googleshng View Post
I'm more bothered by the uncoded racism in fantasy. So many settings where every human on the planet is white, every culture is based on the same vague conception of feudal England. For as long as D&D has existed there has been SERIOUS tension on whether monks "belong" in the setting. Things like this exist.
If we want to talk about uncoded racism in fantasy, I think Robert E. Howard would be a place to start. Some of his early work is okay. The stories about Kull of Atlantis seem to be relatively free of much overt racism, though there's still some pretty obvious sexism going on. But when he got into his Conan stories, oh God... I understand that Social Darwinism was kind of a thing back in the 1920s and '30s when he was writing. And while it's never really the point of his writing, it's pretty much treated as fact that white people are morally, intellectually, and in all other ways superior to anyone else in the world.

It makes the stories pretty difficult to read, entertaining as they still manage to be. There's more than a little guilt involved with the pleasure, for me.

One of the things I liked about the Earthsea books (in comparison) is how being a person of color is the default. There's one group of white folks out there, and (with a few notable exceptions mentioned here and there) they're pretty universally regarded as savage and backward throughout the series.

Part of what was interesting about the experience of reading the Earthsea books (apart from being interesting stories in themselves, of course) is that it really served to illustrate certain consistent tendencies in the way I imagine things. I tend to create mental images of characters as being white purely by default, because so many are, because I am, and because so many of the people in my daily life are. I feel like that must be a little bit racist, but it's not a thing I do intentionally, and it isn't a qualitative difference in my mind, just a quantitative one. But I had to sort of teach myself to imagine Sparrowhawk (the protagonist of at least the first few books) as someone who wasn't white, and that bothered me.

I'm sorry if I wandered off-topic here. The thrust of what I wanted to say got away from me a bit.
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  #37  
Old 08-22-2014, 03:25 PM
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I went ahead and made a Storify of the discussion shivam, SilentSnake, and I had about this last night (with Austin Walker drifting in and out).
This thing dies out just when it gets to a really cool bit about Dragons: Which and Whys of the being of total dicks.
Tremendously disappointing!

On the one hand it seems pretty quick and easy to rationalize why Chromatic dragons are more hostile and dangerous than Metallics: They cant change their shape. So they'd have a much harder time relating to other smaller species, alien perspectives yadda yadda.

On the other hand is rationalizing it even a thing you want to do, if you're still going to go out on your dragon slaying adventures anyway how much of a psychological profile on Smaug or Fafnir do you really need?

Also regarding Metallics: Shapeshifting is basically just unlimited opportunity for anonymity in addition to making humanity "relate-able". So thats partly a question of the ring of Gyges vs the power of friendship. But a puppet-mastering manipulative gold dragon is also a possibility that may intrigue.

Of course I cant remember which dragons can and cannot (inherently) change shapes so possibly I am making a terrible blunder.
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  #38  
Old 08-22-2014, 04:57 PM
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i didn't take that from the discussion at all, at least on my end. I don't recall saying anything about kill on sight. My point was more that i didn't see any racial associations with black dragons being evil, because white dragons were also evil, and the rest of the chromatics as well. 4th edition tried to turn the dragons from color-alignment coded into just being dragons, and to be honest it didn't sit well with me at all. I think that Dragons, like Angels and Demons, are perfectly fine to leave as established alignments, as they're generally top end threats that you aren't going to run into a lot.

After all, even a lawful good gold dragon can destroy you with a thought, and a Chaotic Evil Green could help you if they felt like it.

I come from a dragonlance background, where dragons themselves are creations and agents of the gods, and act as their avatars in the world.

There's a big difference between assigning 'common' races like goblins or elves into one alignment silo and doing the same for 'rare' races. Your players will run into countless gobs, hobs, orcs, giants and what have you, but realistically speaking how many demons, dragons or angels are they gonna run into?

Obviously, your game's cosmology is different, and you're welcome to do what you like. In my games, running into a dragon is going to be a big freaking deal, and a very dangerous encounter, regardless of their candy coating.
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  #39  
Old 08-22-2014, 05:09 PM
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I thought Tolkien elves were explicitly prelapsarian. Not in-story of course, but I seem to remember reading somewhere that Tolkien said outright that the elves are supposed to represent what humanity could have been without original sin.

That's why they're awesome at everything and live forever and are perfect warrior/poets and level up half as fast as any human class.
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  #40  
Old 08-22-2014, 05:43 PM
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I like my dragons like I like my women: morally ambiguous, utterly alien, and covered in spikes.


wait...
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  #41  
Old 08-22-2014, 06:01 PM
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I like my dragons like I like my women: black, with two slumps of sugar. No creme.
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  #42  
Old 08-22-2014, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Gunther, an Otter View Post
On the one hand it seems pretty quick and easy to rationalize why Chromatic dragons are more hostile and dangerous than Metallics: They cant change their shape. So they'd have a much harder time relating to other smaller species, alien perspectives yadda yadda.
My mother decided last night (based on the skull on page ...120? of the 5E PHB and their picture in the 3.5 MM) that black dragons are "evil" because their horns stick out right in front of their mouths, making it difficult for them to eat and making the dragon understandably irritable and ready to consume anything that stands up tall enough for them to grab with their mouth.
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  #43  
Old 08-23-2014, 01:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Lucas View Post
My mother decided last night (based on the skull on page ...120? of the 5E PHB and their picture in the 3.5 MM) that black dragons are "evil" because their horns stick out right in front of their mouths, making it difficult for them to eat and making the dragon understandably irritable and ready to consume anything that stands up tall enough for them to grab with their mouth.
Your momma says that too?!

Momma also says that alligators are ornery because they got all dem teeth, but no toothbrush.
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  #44  
Old 08-23-2014, 01:42 PM
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I remember there was a Redwall book where a couple of rats sought succor there, and they weren't evil or anything so kid me hoped they would live there and it would be great.

Then it turned out they were both carrying a plague. eeehhhhh.
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  #45  
Old 08-23-2014, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by R^2 View Post
I've never heard of geothermal-powered gnomes living in volcanoes. Is this a Warcraft thing?
In Warcraft, the Gnomes live in the same area as the Dwarves. But they're definitely a steampunk/magical steam technology race.

Warcraft in particular annoys me with how barely coded their racism is with each race.
In Warcraft: Humans are white people, even when the handful of non-white skinned human characters are acting in the story. I don't mean this in the sense that their non-white characters should act like stereotypes, just that they ALL act like stereotypical white people in fantasy, and it took years to get people with different skin tones as human NPCs in the story, so they feel more like token minorities.

Orcs are essentially all kinds of negative stereotypes of Africans/African-Americans: Originally a peaceful shamanistic race that lived in tribal settlements, they were enslaved, turned into a violent war machine and unleashed on the world of the humans. For awhile they were treated as noble savages but recently have been viewed as just savages.

Trolls are another stereotype, this one more or less a Jamaican/Haitian/Creole thing: They're all about "voodoo" and primal animalistic religions.

Dwarves are the same stock archetype in other fantasy.

Night Elves look like Drow but are the typical Wood Elf types. They've even got that haughty arrogance going on that elves usually have.

Blood Elves are sort of interesting: They split off from the Night Elves thousands of years ago, were called High Elves (and looked like typical fantasy elves) and developed an addiction to magic over those long centuries. Then they were nearly exterminated by the undead scourge and the survivors decided to start calling themselves Blood Elves to remember their fallen people. So, I guess that's one OK race.

Gnomes have been discussed, they're the typical goofy technology/magic adept race that lives with Dwarves.

Goblins are a lot like Gnomes except with a lot of horrible Jewish stereotypical overtones: Big hook noses and obsessions with money/profits over all else. It's a shame because they're also fun in their representation in the story otherwise (lots of cartoony gadgets that typically blow up in somebody's face).

Tauren are Native American stereotypes, though at least they're almost entirely positive: Adept hunters/warriors that lived a mostly nomadic life, they have recently settled down. Most of their food production is handled via sustainable farming and hunting/fishing practices. Like I said, almost entirely positive representations with this race. I think their only real negative is that in WOW's story, they typically need help/saving by the other races in their faction.

Forsaken are undead humans who have been granted free will, but honestly this part of their existence is largely unexplored and instead they're just treated as people who have to serve their evil Banshee Queen or be subjected to all manner of horrors. There's like zero wiggle room to make them regretful of their new un-life, or good people, or, well, anything but cackling evil.

Worgen are werewolves, but as far as their story goes, they're just another kind of human. Pretty much all forced to be as white (in this case, stereotypically British) as possible.

Draenei are probably the least racist in their portrayal but are essentially Lawful Good: The Race and that means any chance of giving them a real identity of their own is lost behind that.

Pandaren are really horrible Chinese stereotypes, two steps removed from buck-toothed guys in robes and straw hats. They are presented as full of the mysticism, honor and wisdom of all the ancient Chinese legends, but as far as the story itself played out, they needed to be saved by white people (humans).

I think that covers all the playable races. Non-playable races that are friendly/neutral aren't so interesting and are pretty much just animal/insect people. I always found it frustrating that such an easy gateway to fantasy RPGs/the biggest MMO ever has such barely-hidden racism behind its choices of playable races.
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  #46  
Old 08-23-2014, 03:02 PM
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Uh... you may want to walk back some of that. I have no freaking idea where you're getting the goblin thing from, and there's what I assume is a nasty typo in the troll bit.
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  #47  
Old 08-23-2014, 03:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Googleshng View Post
Uh... you may want to walk back some of that. I have no freaking idea where you're getting the goblin thing from, and there's what I assume is a nasty typo in the troll bit.
. . . are you talking about Bunk's post, or was there some deleted post by someone else?

I don't see anything there that you would need to walk back in the Goblins section, and I don't see the typo in the Troll section.
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  #48  
Old 08-23-2014, 03:17 PM
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I'm missing the typo too and I thought the Goblin stuff was pretty spot on.
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  #49  
Old 08-23-2014, 05:01 PM
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Sorry if this derailed the thread. I know Warcraft pretty well, not so much other fantasy RPG settings, so I talked about what I know. It really is frustrating that such a good, fun game is otherwise marred by this stuff. It's kind of inconsequential in the story at large, unless you're talking humans and orcs, but still frustrating to see and easily recognizable if you learn about the basic backgrounds of each race.

What I do know is that I don't particularly care for "evil" races in other settings, whether that's magical/medieval fantasy or sci-fi/fantasy. It's a lot more interesting if the rules allow for some variation in how good/evil any member of any sentient race can be. Like it always bothers me when orcs are evil just because. Usually that means "because they were evil in LOTR," but even then, why should that matter?

It's probably why I prefer the more out there RPG settings like Planescape, even if I have never really played anything tabletop or pen and paper, not even online.

On another note, I find it kind of disappointing that D&D 4e pared down a lot of the alignment choices. I don't know if 5e brought back stuff like Lawful/Neutral Evil or Lawful/Chaotic Neutral, but those choices in particular were always interesting to me because they had definite real-world correspondence, even if they weren't used by that many players.*

*At least that was the reason I heard for why they were cut and 4e gave you Lawful Good, Good, Neutral, Evil and Chaotic Evil.
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  #50  
Old 08-23-2014, 05:10 PM
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Unless WoW's been doing screwy stuff since I stopped paying attention, I'm really not seeing how goblins come off like jewish stereotypes. They're pretty well based on Gremlins. Crazy little helium-voiced fiends prone to blowing themselves up, and more recently in the series, prone to mad science.

And while I have no idea what "primal animalistic religions" might be, but I do know that voodoo is not an animistic religion, and describing either as "primal" kinda has some nasty connotations.
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  #51  
Old 08-23-2014, 05:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Googleshng View Post
Unless WoW's been doing screwy stuff since I stopped paying attention, I'm really not seeing how goblins come off like jewish stereotypes. They're pretty well based on Gremlins. Crazy little helium-voiced fiends prone to blowing themselves up, and more recently in the series, prone to mad science.

And while I have no idea what "primal animalistic religions" might be, but I do know that voodoo is not an animistic religion, and describing either as "primal" kinda has some nasty connotations.
WoW's been doing crazy things, yes. Aside from some big names they can drop like The Dark Portal I don't think there's much pre-WoW lore left these days.
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  #52  
Old 08-23-2014, 05:22 PM
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I'm really not seeing how goblins come off like jewish stereotypes.
Well:

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The goblins are an unbending bunch, refusing any sort of barter and demanding to be paid only in gold. There is a saying around Ratchet: If a traveling goblin merchant were starving to death and someone offered to trade food for the goblin’s merchandise, he’d starve before he accepted anything but gold. A customer who enters a goblin shop intending to barter finds himself laughed out into the street. The goblins do not even allow their employees to receive discounts or work for merchandise. Goblins deal only in gold. The merchants accept gold in any form and have precise scales to aid their customers. Goblins accept recently mined nuggets, panned dust or defaced Alliance gold coins that would be refused in other areas.
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describing either as "primal" kinda has some nasty connotations.
I think this confuses problems in WoW with problems in the post. He's describing the nasty connotations in WoW. It will sound nasty, because Blizzare lore is horrible and carries exactly those nasty connotations.

I didn't know whether or not voodoo was animistic though. Thank you for pointing out that it's not.
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  #53  
Old 08-23-2014, 07:22 PM
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Yeah, my point is that Blizzard vaguely attributes "voodoo" as a thing for WOW's trolls' lifestyle without really explaining what it is. And then one of their religious concepts is these animal gods they call the Loa, which they believe they can either embody metaphorically, or physically transform into (this is why they can be druids as opposed to the more nature-aligned races like Night Elves and Tauren). So if they have any kind of official religion, it's basically worshiping animal gods/spirits. It isn't portrayed in a totally psychotic manner, but between that and their accents, it's really not hard to see what they're going for with the stereotype.

And yes, earlier Warcraft goblins were just goofy green men that blew themselves up, but from Warcraft 3 on, particularly WOW, they wrote their undying love of money/desire to control all the world's gold as their main reason for existing. It used to be their justification for why they had goblin-controlled neutral auction houses, and it's reflected down to their societal organizations. Other races group into clans, tribes, kingdoms, dynasties, etc. but goblins group themselves into cartels.
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  #54  
Old 08-23-2014, 08:35 PM
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the Loa are a real aspect of Haitian voodoo... It's just gross appropriation on Blizzard's part
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  #55  
Old 08-23-2014, 10:08 PM
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the Loa are a real aspect of Haitian voodoo... It's just gross appropriation on Blizzard's part
They are. That's not really an animist thing though. The Loa are basically a big ol' pantheon of lesser gods, serving under a central creator god in sort of a big confusing bureaucracy. Whereas animism is more of an "everything has a soul" sort of thing. But, this is neither the time or the place to get into that.
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  #56  
Old 08-23-2014, 10:13 PM
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Something Lokii brought up on IRC: he was curious (and now I am too) about where the stereotypes for given fantasy races may have taken root. Like yeah, for most of them, the easy answer is "because Tolkien did it", but even Tolkien needed some kind of impetus to make his elves the way he did.
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  #57  
Old 08-23-2014, 10:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Googleshng View Post
They are. That's not really an animist thing though. The Loa are basically a big ol' pantheon of lesser gods, serving under a central creator god in sort of a big confusing bureaucracy. Whereas animism is more of an "everything has a soul" sort of thing. But, this is neither the time or the place to get into that.
This was not in response to animism or animalism but the more detailed description of how the magic system for trolls works in WoW
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  #58  
Old 08-23-2014, 10:25 PM
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This was not in response to animism or animalism but the more detailed description of how the magic system for trolls works in WoW
Yes; in addition to being hideously stereotyped, Blizzard gets the details of voodoo wrong. The original post is an accurate description of how WoW's races work.

As for Tolkien, he was looking to develop an mythology for barely post-colonial Britain. Bringing in reverse colonization by Native American stereotypes was practically required.
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  #59  
Old 08-23-2014, 10:41 PM
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As for Tolkien, he was looking to develop an mythology for barely post-colonial Britain. Bringing in reverse colonization by Native American stereotypes was practically required.
To be fair, a lot of Tolkein has a strong basis in preexisting mythological sources. So, he's consciously taking things like Norse and Irish tradition to craft that mythology. If you want to know more specifics, Kalir or Loki, even the wikipedia pages for Middle-earth Elves and Dwarves have a pretty detailed explanation. Stuff like this:

Quote:
In his The Book of Lost Tales, Tolkien develops a theme that the diminutive fairy-like race of Elves had once been a great and mighty people, and that as Men took over the world, these Elves had "diminished"[8][11][12] themselves. This theme was influenced especially by the god-like and human-sized Ljósálfar of Norse mythology,[13] and medieval works such as Sir Orfeo, the Welsh Mabinogion, Arthurian romances and the legends of the Tuatha Dé Danann.[14] Some of the stories Tolkien wrote as elven history have been seen to be directly influenced by Celtic mythology.[12] For example, "Flight of The Noldoli" is based on the Tuatha Dé Danann and Lebor Gabála Érenn, and their migratory nature comes from early Irish/Celtic history.[12] John Garth also sees that with the underground enslavement of the Noldoli to Melkor, Tolkien was essentially rewriting Irish myth regarding the Tuatha Dé Danann into a Christian eschatology.[15]
This doesn't mean there are no issues with colonialism and race. There are a ton of them! But it's on a different level than WoW's 1:1 relationship between fictional species and real world racial/ethnic stereotypes.

But a lot of the problems here come from people without Tolkein's understanding of linguistics and mythology (e.g. Blizzard) taking a lowest common denominator approach to these as generic tropes.
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Old 08-23-2014, 10:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Egarwaen View Post
As for Tolkien, he was looking to develop an mythology for barely post-colonial Britain. Bringing in reverse colonization by Native American stereotypes was practically required.
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