View Full Version : POLL: Is slavery allowed here?
Fri, 23rd Aug '02, 2:19pm
Is slavery allowed here?, your shocked character asks a prostitute he/she is about to spend a night with in BG2.
(Not sure of the exact phrasing but that's not important)
What is the deal with this anti-slavery attitude?
Sure, today slavery is considered wrong, but everyone knows this has not always been so. Right?
Maybe it's based in an american need to rehash their slavery/civil war complex over and over again? Or is there some other reason behind the "slavery is bad" theme occuring so often in rpg's?
Can someone inform us if there are any well known "slavery is natural" rpg worlds?
Do you think fantasy rpg's shall have the modern day attitude to slavery?
This poll contains 1 question(s). 36 user(s) have voted.
You may not view the results of this poll without voting.
Poll Results: Is slavery allowed here? (36 votes.)
Should fantasy crpg's follow modern ethics about slavery or not? (Choose 1)
* Slavery is wrong and should be evil in all fantasy crpg's. - 22% (8)
* It depends on the fantasy setting if slavery is evil or not. - 78% (28)
Fri, 23rd Aug '02, 2:22pm
I believe that drow would not agree with you Earl ;) .
Fri, 23rd Aug '02, 2:26pm
Ah, but then drow are evil, are they not? :)
The drow know (don't they?) they are an evil race and consider that just fine. The drow think slavery is evil and ok. Humans think slavery is evil and wrong.
Why does everyone in BG2 think slavery is evil? Because their ethics are the same as our current ethics. Does it have to be that way?
[ August 23, 2002, 14:38: Message edited by: Earl Grey ]
Fri, 23rd Aug '02, 2:34pm
Well... After reading Dalamar the Dark, which is a Dragonlance novel, I got the feeling that those born to the House Servitor are, in essence, slaves rather than servants. Sure, they're provided food and clothing and the like, but they basically belong to their masters... I found it higly disturbing. And this is Lawful Good elves we are t6alking about...
Yep, I see that as slavery, no doubt of that.
(Having an annoying song stuck to her head)
Fri, 23rd Aug '02, 3:48pm
In the context of BG2 I got the impression that it wasn't just slavery they were talking about. I assumed they were including illegal kidnapping followed by selling into slavery, rather than a legal servitude (what that might be I have no idea...) or indentured servant (signing yourserlf or your kids, or your spouse, over to someone as a servant in exchange for food and a roof).
The impression I had was that the slavers were just targetting anyone on the street, kidnapping and selling them off.
Fri, 23rd Aug '02, 5:23pm
Interesting point Earl Grey. Keep in mind, however, that historically slavery has been viewed in many different and complex ways.
While virtually every culture has, at some point in history, relied on some form of slavery, most western cultures (North American and European, post dark ages) made some important, if subtle (and, in hindsight, incorrect) distinctions. The slavery that most people think of *did* have explicit limitations on it, that being that 'people, or persons' were generally not allowed to be slaves.
It was the definition of 'people or person' that determined whether someone could be bought/sold as a slave. Hence, Europeans (and the early North Americans of European descent) were not enslaved. Africans and Asians, however, were, because they were not considered 'people'. This argument, the definition of a 'person', came to the fore when the Portugese and Spanish were vitually eradicating the South American continent (and the Caribean Islands) of its native inhabitants. It was argued that the natives were not 'people' and were nothing more than clever animals that could be trained to do various tasks.
Enslaving other people, however, has a different and older history. The Greeks, Romans, Celts, and any culture of the pre-Dark Ages, had legalised slavery - ownership of another person. A person could become a slave by being a captured enemy (or inhabitant of occupied territory), or by becoming so indebted that they had to sell themselves (or their family) into slavery. A slave then worked (and earned money) and could, if they worked hard enough and lived long enough, buy themselves out of slavery. After the fall of the roman empire this became one of the foundations of the feudal system, and such slaves became what we know as 'serfs' - property of the land owner. This is what's called indentured slavery, and it still occurs throughout the world today. It was also very common (if not often spoken about) during the great European expansions: the poor being 'sold' into a form of 'legal' slavery in order to pay for their debts or, in some cases, their crimes.
The slavery most people think of (black slaves in the US), while arguably more brutal than indentured slavery, was also not as brutal as the slavery practised by Europeans during the colonisation of South America. Black slaves in the US (pre-civil war) were considered property, but they were also a valuable piece of property, and formed the back-bone of the agricultural industry. The native South American slaves had no value whatsoever, and they were treated as such. As a result, there are no longer native populations in the Caribean islands (people living there are descendants of African slaves brought over after the native population was annihilated), nor throughout most of South America.
So, the 'slavery is bad' idea in RPGs may not be so far off. It too refers to enslaving other people and not enslaving 'animals'.
On a related note, if anyone thinks that the 'slavery is bad' idea reflected in most fantasy RPGs (and books), is unrealistic, you might want to consider a couple of other things.
First, the treatment of women. Historically, women in western cultures (and most other cultures, to be honest) have had fewer rights than slaves. Women were considered the legal property of their 'owner', be it husband, father or brother. They were also not considered 'people'. This was legally true in most Western cultures until between 100 years and 50 years ago, depending on the country. Hence, how realistic is it to have female characters? Women had no rights, and would certainly not have been able to wander freely of their own will, let alone talk face to face with a man, or wield a weapon or any other form of power. That statement when choosing the gender of your character ("Females of the realm are equal in all ways to males.." or something like that) is even more out of context for a true representation of medieval/rennaisance or similar times - even of the 1950s. That's most definitely a modern view.
Couple other things as well: ever notice that just about everyone you meet can read? To be realistic, the literacy rate should be more like 5% to 0.05%. In fact, even today, most of the world is still illiterate (the figures are a little unbalanced, since devloped nations have high literacy rates, while undeveloped nations have extremely high illiteracy rates).
There's also the thing about bearing weapons (mainly swords) - historically, not allowed unless you were a land-titled male. No one else was ever legally allowed to carry a weapon (that's how polearms came about - farm tools used as weapons because 80-90% of the population wasn't allowed to bear a weapon). And usually, if you were caught with one, you were imprisoned (and forgotten about) or killed outright. That's also why the USA has that statement in the constitution. No other country has it - another modern 'idea' brought over to RPGs.
Basically my point is that there are hundreds of these 'modern ideas' occuring in RPGs. So what? It's fantasy, not a recreation of an exact time period. They're what make it fun, as opposed to the horrific conditions that much more accurately reflect those times. And the use of modern ideas about slavery is probably the least inaccurate of them.
Fri, 23rd Aug '02, 6:36pm
I believe that slavery has always been considered wrong. At least by the slaves.
While your question is clearly provoking thought (witness above), you couldn't resist a little bit of anti-American rhetoric, could you? Was that statement necessary to further your point? Was it based on opinion, fact, or fiction? Clearly opinion. Definately fiction.
Bioware is a Canadian company. I very much doubt that they have a "slavery/civil war complex".
Sat, 24th Aug '02, 12:21am
/me thinks, before the original post, Grey had not played all the way through BG2...
History is totally cool. Can anyone think of any cultures that have *not* had slaves?
I think there was that one group, out on that island in the ocean, back before steel was invented, that got wiped out by people who had invented steel, that had a free culture where everyone supported everyone else and there was love and understanding between everyone.
Sat, 24th Aug '02, 12:27am
BG2 is not set in the historical past. The statement 'slavery is bad' is not an anachronism in a fantastical context. To what would they have to conform for that statement to be true?
There is also a marketing issue: how many games do you think you'd sell if you sent the message "slavery is good"?
SimPlantation: Cotton Pickin' Fun for the whole family! Manage your plantation to maximize your slaves' productivity. But beware, the answer is never as easy as it seems. Throughout your tenure as "Massah," you'll have to draw a fine line between the carrot and the stick, between teaching literacy, frequency of whippings, and the number of illegitimate children you sire before the missus stops drinking long enough to notice. Disasters include hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and Harriet Tubman.
SimPyramid: You take on the role of architect to pharaoh. How many men, women, and children of the twelve tribes of Israel will you have to exterminate in order to create your monument? Disasters include sandstorms, lion attacks, plagues of locusts, death of all firstborn sons, and Moses.
People might construe these as offensive.
Sat, 24th Aug '02, 12:46am
I would *totally* play those two games.
And Triangle Trade Tycoon. Gotta have the Triangle Trade in there. With some pirates.
And the Treasure Fleet.
/me runs off to play Pirates! Gold...
Sat, 24th Aug '02, 2:51am
In Morrowind slavery is a natural part of the culture. The island is a part of the Empire, and in the Empire slavery is traditionally illegal.. but Morrowind somehow managed to cut a deal where they were excepted. There are 3 great houses in morrowing that you an join: Hlaalu, Redoran and Telvanni. House Hlaalu is geared towards thief-type characters and is the great house that has adjusted most to the imperials.. so, in their cities you won't find any slaves. House Redoran is a bit more neutral in the issue, while the haughty mages of House Telvanni fight violently for their right to keep slaves. So, as a member of House Telvanni you'll find yourself slaughtering the leader of a slave rebellion, while a subquest in house Hlaalu sees you helping some slaves escape... even though house Hlaalu officially doesn't try to take anyone else's slaves, they are much too diplomatic to try that.
Anyway, that's a long story, but it just goes to show how the game world in Morrowind works, and how it basically allows you character to essentially make his/her own stand in the issue.
Sat, 24th Aug '02, 7:07pm
A great post! The point about women is right on the money! :thumb:
@Idoru and Arabwel.
Interesting posts, I didn't know that.
I know they're Canadian. :) Can you say that US history doesn't have a profound impact on canadian society?
You might be right that I didn't have to insert the part about the american civil war complex. I didn't intend for it to be anti-american.
I think the civil war/slavery legacy is still bothering many americans and that because the overwhelmingly largest market for films - and games - is american, we europeans are as a result getting more than we really deserve of that.
So I'd say my statement was based on part fact and part my opinion, not fiction. :)
I do not consider, nor did I intend, what I wrote to be anti-American!
I believe that slavery has always been considered wrong. At least by the slaves.:grin: Yeah, right!
Not sure if you're joking or not, but ok, I'll give it a reply: slavery has not always been considered wrong. What you believe will not change the facts. Read Gnolyn Lochbreaker's post. :)
[ August 24, 2002, 19:13: Message edited by: Earl Grey ]
Sat, 24th Aug '02, 10:59pm
Well, everything I have to say has pretty much been covered by now, so think of these as supplemental points if you will. The game cannot emulate medieval society for two reasons. Firstly, if players had to understand the economic and social workings of a medieval society, Black Isle would not sell many games (I know I'd make a right mess if I tried to play an accurate medieval RPG). Secondly, Faerun is not medieval Europe. Trade and industrialization have allowed many of our social advances to become possible, and Faerun may be expected to be similarly advanced. Faerun, after all has magic, which could have an even more powerful economic effect than industialization (Discussion of fantasy worlds) (http://members.aol.com/essuncius/cover4.htm) and parts of Faerun (Amn in particular) have trade similar to that in Rennaissance Europe. Amn even has colonies in Maztica ( and a brutal colonial attitude too. A civil servant in the council building tries to sell you an estate in Maztica with "full rights to kill the natives" thrown in. I suppose it supports Gnolyn's point that the slavery in BGII is considered abbhorent because it's people from Faerun as opposed to "animals" like the Mazticans)
Psycho. the fanged rabbit
Mon, 26th Aug '02, 7:44am
I think for some games it fits in but just not black and white slavery more like a certain creature that does not exist. I don't remember the game it's on but it has slavery like I explained.
Mon, 26th Aug '02, 10:48am
I dont thank a lawful good paladin would like slavery
a chaotic evil fighter though.....
Mon, 26th Aug '02, 11:01am
Its fantasy, who cares if it has slaves. It makes the world more realistic anyhow.
[ August 26, 2002, 11:08: Message edited by: zaknafein ]
Mon, 26th Aug '02, 4:01pm
Hmmm...I think there might be a bit of a misunderstanding happening.
Earl Grey's original question wasn't about the *existance* of slavery, but of the negative *perception* of slavery by people (and cultures) in an RPG game world. Two very different things.
In the game world I use for D&D, slavery does indeed exist in many different forms. In some places, it is legal. In others it is not legal. However, the general attitude towards slavery (still in the game world) is that it's wrong - even in areas where slavery is legal, many people will still consider it wrong.
The existence of slavery allows me to introduce certain themes of 'greyness' in the games, rather than clear cut black and white. For example, the players have strong negative feelings towards slavery, and have encountered slavers, freeing the imprionsed slaves (the players choice, mind you, I did not direct them). They were in an area where slavery is not legal, and people were in danger of being taken as slaves to areas where slavery is legal.
By making a distinction on the legality of slavery in the gameworld, a certain amount of conflict is introduced. Say jesper898's LG paladin encounters slaves in an area where slavery is a legal institution? His character still thinks slavery is evil. However, many people in that area (not including the slaves) might think that slavery is all right. There are laws about how slaves are handled, bought, sold, etc. The rest of that society could be considered a 'good' aligned culture (imagine the ancient Greeks, for example). Jesper898's paladin obviously has a problem: here is a society whose laws allow slavery, which he believes is evil, but the society itself is not evil. How does he deal with it? Does he go on a crusade against the society, releasing all the slaves? If he does, he breaks all the rules of that otherwise good-aligned society, which also goes against being a paladin. Basically, this forces such a character to decide between the Lawfulness (ie, slavery being perfectly legal, hence he shouldn't do anything) and the Goodness (ie, slavery is wrong regardless of the law) of his actions and his obligations.
Basically my point, after this great big ramble, is that the *existence* of slavery in an RPG game world can introduce some excellent opportunities for gameplay and conflict. However, just because it exists, does not mean that it has to be perceived as a *good* thing. And that is probably the most realistic way to incorporate it into a gaming world. Take a look through history (just some of the posts above) and you should realise that while slavery has rarely been considered a *good* thing, it has often existed legally within most societies.
[ August 26, 2002, 16:09: Message edited by: Gnolyn Lochbreaker ]
Thu, 29th Aug '02, 12:45am
I've just realised that no-one's mentioned the attitude that appears in Planescape:Torment. In that game you find a bunch of people being sold as slaves for non-payment of debts. I think if the character expresses disgust the slaver explains that it's a perfectly reasonable way of expecting criminals to work off their debt to society.
Thu, 29th Aug '02, 8:12am
ILL TELL you why they think slavery is bad in games, its because all of the game creators are actully of african decent. They all have pent up anger towards the white man for what they did to them in what we may call the "black ages." The pissed off negros fume their anger by putting atislavery into the games they create! THIS IS outrageous and it must be stopped. If i play and rpg i expect there to be some godamn slavery, in fact wouldent every game be better if you could actully buy a slave??? Well, all i know is that this is whack, and the antislavery must be stopped!