Ritual Cannibalism-Evil Or Not


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion

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Zombieneighbours wrote:
These things are considered bad because the subject can be shown to suffer and that we make a judgement that unneccissary suffering is bad.

Ah, but here is the point: That judgement need not be shared by the practitioners. Especially in a fantasy world, where there may be very different biological imperatives behind the cultures (their gods, very real and present, might feed on pain, for example).

In addition, D&D is, by definition, always equipped with an absolute morality system - see spell descriptors, alignments and so forth. The cannibalism clause would strike me as an unnecessary deviation from the otherwise "copy modern euro/american sensibilities" template.

Dark Archive

DeadDMWalking wrote:
David Fryer wrote:
Okay, so here is the situation. In my campaign kobolds engage in ritual cannibalism. They don't kill other kobolds just to eat them nut if a kobold warrior dies in a particularly heroic way, the other warriors eat a small part of his body to transfer the heroism to themsleves. It is a trait they inherited from dragons, who also engage in ritual cannibalism when the ruler of the united dragon tribes dies, the new leader eats the body of the old as a sign that power has switched hands. Some of my players have complained that this is an evil act and that I should not have good dragons and kobolds as a result. So I ask you, is this evil or not?

Does it matter whether it is an evil act or not? The point is that you have a game element that is making your players uncomfortable. That's a problem.

Actually, the cannibalism itself does not make them particularly uncomfortable. One of my players attempted to interrogate some goblins in Burnt Offerings by munching on the remains of one of the goblins that had been killed. The only thing the object to is the idea that someone could be good or neutral aligned and still engage in such behavior. They themselves would all play evil characters if I would let them. One of them is actually playing a Lawful Neutral cleric of Zon-Kuthon.

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Heathansson wrote:

I think a useful question to ask is why these kobolds, who apparently practice mortuary/ritual/opportunistic cannibalism, seem to draw the line at homicidal cannibalism. Is there a kobold culture hero from the past with tablets of wisdom from the powers that be strictly outlining this? Or do kobolds universally follow some inner moral compass that says "eating a brave fallen comrade as a sign of respect is good and proper, but hunting and killing other intelligent beings.....bad bad bad."

As I mentioned in the OP they got the idea from dragons, which kobolds worship in my game, who see it as a way of transfering the mantle of power from one ruler to another.

Liberty's Edge

However, that in and of itsself does not enforce exclusivity. What does?
I can agree that their mortuarial ritual would not automatically mean that they would practice institutionalized homicide. But what keeps them from it? Why is it not, as I assume the characters in character believe....why is it NOT a rational next step?
And, unlike human cultures who at different times and places displayed and continue to display a vastly differing range of cultural norms, do these kobolds universally stick to one ideal?

Dark Archive

Heathansson wrote:

However, that in and of itsself does not enforce exclusivity. What does?

I can agree that their mortuarial ritual would not automatically mean that they would practice institutionalized homicide. But what keeps them from it? Why is it not, as I assume the characters in character believe....why is it NOT a rational next step?
And, unlike human cultures who at different times and places displayed and continue to display a vastly differing range of cultural norms, do these kobolds universally stick to one ideal?

In essence, kobolds believe that doing harm to another living tribe member is a sin. It is similar to the ancient Egyptians, who had to hire a non-Egyptian to cut the body of a dead person open so the organs could be removed, because they believed that harming the body of a fellow Egyptian, even after death, would condemn them to their version of hell. They also don't eat the bodies of other races, because they believe it to be beneath them.

As far as what keeps them sticking to one ideal, no one says they do. Kobolds are very rare in my campaign world, at least on the continent where the adventurers are located. Therefore, it is very possible that other tribes of kobolds practice different mortuary rites. However, as these are the only kobolds that the pcs have met, they have no reason to believe that other kobolds have any other practices.

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FatR wrote:
lastknightleft wrote:


Does that mean writing wills is evil? or life insurance?
Strawman much? Supposed heirs always had the reason to gank their old men, and will always have, no matter the method of designating heirs, unless you abolish the very concept of inheritance, which is quite important for working of society. Cannibalism is not important. It just weakens social taboos agaisnst killing people, with no added benefits. Therefore, evil. In DnDland eating sentient beings should inspire even stronger horror and revulson, than in the real world, because there is a metric ton of monsters that love to do just that and the threat of being eaten is the constant fact of your life, not something that you discuss purely theoretically.

No not much at all You raised the point that anything that incentivices killing is evil, by that standard tons of things are evil, in fact by communist idealism personal possessions are evil for the same reason. the fact is there are millions of things that incentivise killing whether they are fundamental to our society or not. And in DnD land you can't say that inheritance is "fundamental to workings of society" in fact, cannibalism in DnD could be developed as a means of keeping society moving along. after all, if you eat the dead you have a lot less corporeal undead to deal with. You are imparting real world to DnD just as much as any of the rest of us are.


David Fryer wrote:
Okay, so here is the situation. In my campaign kobolds engage in ritual cannibalism. They don't kill other kobolds just to eat them nut if a kobold warrior dies in a particularly heroic way, the other warriors eat a small part of his body to transfer the heroism to themsleves. It is a trait they inherited from dragons, who also engage in ritual cannibalism when the ruler of the united dragon tribes dies, the new leader eats the body of the old as a sign that power has switched hands. Some of my players have complained that this is an evil act and that I should not have good dragons and kobolds as a result. So I ask you, is this evil or not?

Yes, cannibalism is evil. As a consensus of the players and myself as a GM. Your players object (unanimously? seems so) but you are holding out. That makes you an antagonistic GM. And bringing it to the boards seeking more voices to back up your argument seems all the more so for it.

Dark Archive

Well I can say by my group that they think Cannibalism is in of itself not evil. Killing someone to eat yes that's evil. Eating someone who is already dead admittedly rather disgusting but really no more evil than burning the body on a funeral pyre or digging a hole throwing it in and leaving it to rot.


Most "morals" are based on pragmatism, when you look into them far enough. There's a good reason that incest is almost universally considered "immoral": the offspring are less viable, on the whole. Eating shellfish is banned in Leviticus; shellfish are hyper-accumulators of toxic metals, and in areas with high ambient natural lead or arsenic concentrations, would be VERY unhealthy to eat too many of. Etc. "Kuru" was mentioned above, and also the general fact that, the closer your food is to you, biologically-speaking, the more likely you are to get sick from it (AIDS is believed to have spread from apes to humans through eating bush meat).

So the question is, in a fantasy world in which moral prohibitions are ordained by divine beings (rather than being learned from unfortunate experience over generations) -- which ones do you keep? All of them? None?

Dark Archive

Also have to consider that in a fantasy setting you have to worry about the local necromancer coming around and simply raising the body as a zombie making burial at times a less than ideal option.


Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy was not caused by feeding beef products to cattle. It was caused by feeding cattle feed that contained Sheep offal. This resulted in Zoonotic transpher of the prionic scrapie into some cattle. In turn eating contaminated offal from cows, was likely the cause of some cases of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in some human. I am sorry, this doesn't back up the idea that canibalism is wrong.

A few years ago they believed that it was caused by feeding beef products to cows. This was from a program on the Discovery channel, now that opinion may have changed. However, I was reading on a site that stated that it was from sheep and beef protein (pretty sure here that sheep offal is not protein).

I'll provide link if asked.

Personally you can eat what ever you like, it might do you some good.


Salintar wrote:

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy was not caused by feeding beef products to cattle. It was caused by feeding cattle feed that contained Sheep offal. This resulted in Zoonotic transpher of the prionic scrapie into some cattle. In turn eating contaminated offal from cows, was likely the cause of some cases of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in some human. I am sorry, this doesn't back up the idea that canibalism is wrong.

A few years ago they believed that it was caused by feeding beef products to cows. This was from a program on the Discovery channel, now that opinion may have changed. However, I was reading on a site that stated that it was from sheep and beef protein (pretty sure here that sheep offal is not protein).

I'll provide link if asked.

Personally you can eat what ever you like, it might do you some good.

[sarcasms]Offal is the entrails and internal organs, [double sarcasms] uprisingly enough[/double sarcasm], it turns out that a large chunk of what makes up the cells of such organs, other than Phospholipids, and chains of nucleic acids turns out to be polymerized chains of amino acids which form combinations of alpha helixs and Beta sheets. these amino acid polymers are what we in common parlance call proteins. It so happens that Offal is considered for the most part, with the exception of liver, kidneys and heart, to be unpalitable*, making it an excilent source of protein and animal fat for cat and dog food and protein pellet feed for animals like cattle.

I prion is in turn an infectious agent, which is a self replicating protein. Prions are responcible for a variaty of desease, but are one of the less common infectious agents in nature. However they are very fascinating.

I am glad to see that your viewing of that wonder of broadcast channels, the discovery channel, has equiped you with even a GCSE level understanding of biology.*Wanders of grumbling about the general standard of science education in the world today.* [/sarcasm]

p.s.: first wise guy who make a comment about my spelling gets....hugged..i can think of no more fitting punishment than slobbery hug from the dead guy ;) I know my spelling sucks, but it is a testiment to the quality of the teachers i had that i can type at all, let alone spell or string a sentence together in such away that most people can understand what i have written, most of the time.

*i consider these unpaliable as well, but to many years of biology unfairly bias me against them

Contributor

You know what's evil? Pumping a dead body full of chemicals, then arranging it in a box for viewing before burying it in the dirt. Is that any way to treat the honored dead?

Dark Archive

CharlieRock wrote:
David Fryer wrote:
Okay, so here is the situation. In my campaign kobolds engage in ritual cannibalism. They don't kill other kobolds just to eat them nut if a kobold warrior dies in a particularly heroic way, the other warriors eat a small part of his body to transfer the heroism to themsleves. It is a trait they inherited from dragons, who also engage in ritual cannibalism when the ruler of the united dragon tribes dies, the new leader eats the body of the old as a sign that power has switched hands. Some of my players have complained that this is an evil act and that I should not have good dragons and kobolds as a result. So I ask you, is this evil or not?
Yes, cannibalism is evil. As a consensus of the players and myself as a GM. Your players object (unanimously? seems so) but you are holding out. That makes you an antagonistic GM. And bringing it to the boards seeking more voices to back up your argument seems all the more so for it.

Of course if you had read the whole discussion you would have known that the cannibalism itself was not the issue, it was the fact that an otherwise good individual could engage in it as part of their society. I even stated that fact in the OP. So, who exactly is being antagonistic here?

Liberty's Edge

ZOMBIENEIGHBORS wrote:

p.s.: first wise guy who make a comment about my spelling gets....hugged..i can think of no more fitting punishment than slobbery hug from the dead guy ;) I know my spelling sucks, but it is a testiment to the quality of the teachers i had that i can type at all, let alone spell or string a sentence together in such away that most people can understand what i have written, most of the time.

*i consider these unpaliable as well, but to many years of biology unfairly bias me against them

Go around spelling however the hell you want, I don't care. It's just kinda corny to dog a guy out for lack of scientific knowledge and in the process use "to" where you should use "too."

Sczarni

David Schwartz wrote:
You know what's evil? Pumping a dead body full of chemicals, then arranging it in a box for viewing before burying it in the dirt. Is that any way to treat the honored dead?

I agree - we wouldn't put those chemicals in our bodies during life, why do it during death?

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David Fryer wrote:
In my campaign kobolds engage in ritual cannibalism. They don't kill other kobolds just to eat them but if a kobold warrior dies in a particularly heroic way, the other warriors eat a small part of his body to transfer the heroism to themselves.

To not eat such a hero and let his essence just fade into nothingness would be a grave insult indeed.

Ever read Stranger in a Strange Land? Lots of joyous ritual cannibalism there.

BTW - Does anyone know how many cans a cannibal can nibble or even if a cannibal can nibble cans?


Heathansson wrote:
ZOMBIENEIGHBORS wrote:

p.s.: first wise guy who make a comment about my spelling gets....hugged..i can think of no more fitting punishment than slobbery hug from the dead guy ;) I know my spelling sucks, but it is a testiment to the quality of the teachers i had that i can type at all, let alone spell or string a sentence together in such away that most people can understand what i have written, most of the time.

*i consider these unpaliable as well, but to many years of biology unfairly bias me against them

Go around spelling however the hell you want, I don't care. It's just kinda corny to dog a guy out for lack of scientific knowledge and in the process use "to" where you should use "too."

Heathansson: If i didn't get that, would i have added the PS? The point is I know my spelling and grammar sucks, i live with it. But it has nothing to do with ignorance and everything to do with a neurological condition that mean I they their when I mean there.

But there is a substantial difference between being dyslexic and there by making mistake through no fault of ones own, and making a claim with regards to the spread of a prionic disease when you don't even understand what a protein is. It doesn't make his statement any less open to a light ridicule.

Dark Archive

Zombieneighbours wrote:
But there is a substantial difference between being dyslexic and there by making mistake through no fault of ones own, and making a claim with regards to the spread of a prionic disease when you don't even understand what a protein is. It doesn't make his statement any less open to a light ridicule.

As a dyslexic who spent years learning not to transpose letters and pooh-poohs the assertion that you 'can't help it,' I would recommend instead that you just try not being a jerk. If he was wrong about prions, then say something remotely constructive like, 'actually, more recent research indicates X, although what you said was once commonly believed.'

'Cause, in my experience, no amount of dyslexia is an excuse for being a jerk to someone.

(Also, even at my most dyslexic, I would have never blamed it on not being able to figure out whether I should use 'their' or 'there' in a sentence.)


Set wrote:
Zombieneighbours wrote:
But there is a substantial difference between being dyslexic and there by making mistake through no fault of ones own, and making a claim with regards to the spread of a prionic disease when you don't even understand what a protein is. It doesn't make his statement any less open to a light ridicule.

As a dyslexic who spent years learning not to transpose letters and pooh-poohs the assertion that you 'can't help it,' I would recommend instead that you just try not being a jerk. If he was wrong about prions, then say something remotely constructive like, 'actually, more recent research indicates X, although what you said was once commonly believed.'

'Cause, in my experience, no amount of dyslexia is an excuse for being a jerk to someone.

(Also, even at my most dyslexic, I would have never blamed it on not being able to figure out whether I should use 'their' or 'there' in a sentence.)

Set, its a homophonic error which makes it a prime candidate as a common error amongst dyslexics your lucky if it is an error you do not make. In this case it has nothing to do with not knowning the difference between their and there, it has everything to do with meaning to type their, but some how typing there. I don't know how bad your dyslexia is, but i am very survierly so. While i work increadibly hard to not make mistakes, they slip though, they always will, I get better and better at catching them, but they'll always keep happening, that is what i ment by 'can't help i.' The only way I can help making those mistakes is by never writing at all.

I will freely admit i as a bit of an arse in my responce to Salintar and that has nothing to do with my dyslexia, it has everything to do with having been tired(never a good time to post) and perceived snarkyness in the post itself, such as the 'Personally you can eat what ever you like, it might do you some good' comment. Stupid of me to post while tired and semi-irrationally angry? Yes, ofcause it was. So i will offer my appology entirely, but you have to see the sublimely rediculous in not understanding that offal contained protein. But the fact is, that this convosation continues to take this convosationfurther off course.

Dark Archive

Zombieneighbours wrote:
but you have to see the sublimely rediculous in not understanding that offal contained protein.

I've seen offal used as far back as in the Bible to refer to 'filth' and human excrement, so I'd consider that a pretty harmless mistake.

But yeah, way off-topic. Shutting up now, and sorry if I also came across too harsh.


Just to clarify, there is indeed reason to think that cannibalism can be linked to disease (also to get back on topic).

Also, as mentioned before this is not a western-only taboo, but a fairly universal one in the majority of cultures throughout history.


David Jackson 60 wrote:

I would consider cannibalism evil at least from a human standpoint for two reasons.

One is that cannibalism is indeed a worldwide taboo, this isn't simply a western culture thing. Every culture sees cannibalism as morally abhorrent. There may be a few tribes in remote areas that have stories based on something weird like eating the heart of a dead enemy, but this taboo is actually fairly consistant taboo, just like incest to direct relatives is a worldwide taboo.

The second reason might be tied to the first, and that might be the fact there could be some kind of genetic reason you shouldn't. It seems that this behavior can lead to protean diseases like mad cow disease at least in mammals, so there might be a solid reason to find this an evil act.

Obviously you could justify it in another species by saying they simply do not function the same way, but there would certainly be a reason to consider cannibalism a universal taboo in your campaign setting.

I must completely disagree with this. You simply cannot make claims of a universal taboo for cannibalism. I'm no cannibalism scholar, but I know it was practiced on every continent at some point (barring Antarctica I suppose). Even a basic wikipedia search lists africa, north america, prehistoric europe, australia, new zealand, south america, india and sumatra. It was still practiced within the last two centuries by various cultural groups (not just individuals), and was only halted by european colonialism and the absorption and sometimes outright extermination of those groups.

You have to face the fact that a large proportion of cultural groups practiced cannibalism at some point in their history. A lack of cannibalism today can be directly linked with european colonialism, and a universal 'moral abhorrence' is simply not the case. To suggest so is highly ethnocentric.

The second reason is also questionable. Taboos of cannibalism may be related to genetic diseases, but we lack direct evidence of this. The one case of TSE's in humans I am aware of is kuru, though others may enlighten me, and this is a very recent case (1950s) and wasn't stopped by cultural changes within the group affected, but by outside influence from the Australian government.


In response to the original question, I think I would have handled the game situation this way:

"I understand you don't believe that there can be good dragons because of their practice of ritualistic cannibalism. I would suggest you take it up with a dragon at the next opportunity."

Dragon morality isn't human morality, nor is kobold morality or goblin morality. And besides that: It's a game!

For the record, I prefer to keep my carnivorous habits between me and animals that aren't likely to kill me. Witness: Chicken is high on my list, as is salmon. Polar bear, not so much.


Tristan Wadsworth wrote:
David Jackson 60 wrote:

I would consider cannibalism evil at least from a human standpoint for two reasons.

One is that cannibalism is indeed a worldwide taboo, this isn't simply a western culture thing. Every culture sees cannibalism as morally abhorrent. There may be a few tribes in remote areas that have stories based on something weird like eating the heart of a dead enemy, but this taboo is actually fairly consistant taboo, just like incest to direct relatives is a worldwide taboo.

The second reason might be tied to the first, and that might be the fact there could be some kind of genetic reason you shouldn't. It seems that this behavior can lead to protean diseases like mad cow disease at least in mammals, so there might be a solid reason to find this an evil act.

Obviously you could justify it in another species by saying they simply do not function the same way, but there would certainly be a reason to consider cannibalism a universal taboo in your campaign setting.

I must completely disagree with this. You simply cannot make claims of a universal taboo for cannibalism. I'm no cannibalism scholar, but I know it was practiced on every continent at some point (barring Antarctica I suppose). Even a basic wikipedia search lists africa, north america, prehistoric europe, australia, new zealand, south america, india and sumatra. It was still practiced within the last two centuries by various cultural groups (not just individuals), and was only halted by european colonialism and the absorption and sometimes outright extermination of those groups.

You have to face the fact that a large proportion of cultural groups practiced cannibalism at some point in their history. A lack of cannibalism today can be directly linked with european colonialism, and a universal 'moral abhorrence' is simply not the case. To suggest so is highly ethnocentric.

The second reason is also questionable. Taboos of cannibalism may be related to genetic diseases, but we lack direct evidence of this. The...

I would be willing to say that this isn't the case even remotely.

There is a difference between it occurring in small pockets without absolute horror from a small group, and having it lack general taboo status almost universally. There is a big difference there. You can look back thru history and most likely find documented incidences of incest, that doesn't mean incest isn't a fairly universal taboo regardless of where you go.

Go ask somebody you meet from India, Africa, Pacific Islands, South America, etc. about their views on cannibalism...go tell them their society openly engages and accepts cannibalism. Then get ready for either a very angry or very confused response.

Go travel around the world and find a place where a significant mass of people readily eat other people, and everybody is just dandy with that...then get back to me.


The western cultural paradigm has spread far and wide. You need understand how much other cultures have been changed by european expansionism. The prohibitions is very widely spread, but it is not universal. And that is without even getting into the cannibalistic symbolism one of western cultures great religions.

We have historicial records showing that even 'non-cannibalistic' polynesian tribes engaged in cannabilism on occations. It was a relitively widespread cultural norm.

You must understand that basically until the Wolfenden report, homosexuality also had a very great proportion of people who considered it to be immoral and unnatural. I suspect the number of people in the real world who consider cannibalism evil and unnatural is slightly larger still, but just because a group beleives something doesn't make it true.

Simple question; if a groups behaviour is in every other way the perfect example of your sense of morality, but their funeral rites involve cannibalism as a mark of respect and a way of granting access to the afterlife for those who have fallen. Are they evil? Personally, i feel they are probable less evil than your average 'lawful good' party of goblin killers. You want real moral ambiguity, just look at what most adventures do when faced with 'evil' humanoids.


Doug's Workshop wrote:
Witness: Chicken is high on my list, as is salmon. Polar bear, not so much.

Hmm, tastes like chicken nomnomnom ;)

Liberty's Edge

Zombieneighbours wrote:


if a groups behaviour is in every other way the perfect example of your sense of morality, but their funeral rites involve cannibalism as a mark of respect and a way of granting access to the afterlife for those who have fallen. Are they evil? Personally, i feel they are probable less evil than your average 'lawful good' party of goblin killers. You want real moral ambiguity, just look at what most adventures do when faced with 'evil' humanoids.

There are two things here. One is real world morality. The other is D&D alignment.

Cannibalism could be good in the real world, but not be good in D&D land. Killing people without provocation (especially if they're from a different culture) is bad in the real world (a hate crime, no less), but in D&D land you can be Lawful Good and do just that.

Now, D&D alignment is simplistic at best and stupid at worst, but that's the way the game is played. If you want to deal with moral amibiguities and challenging player assumptions, that's your perogative. But if I were the DM, I'd be real careful about that. The most important responsibility of the DM is to ensure that the game is fun for everyone. If my personal agenda is not something my players enjoy, I need to check it before I get to the table or find a different group.

The OP states that players were uncomfortable (though I'm just a bit confused as to the reason at this point), but unless there is a real good reason for that involving making the game more fun, that's not a good thing.

Scarab Sages

DeadDMWalking wrote:
The OP states that players were uncomfortable (though I'm just a bit confused as to the reason at this point), but unless there is a real good reason for that involving making the game more fun, that's not a good thing.

At no point did the OP state that the players were uncomfortable.

In fact, he has responded twice to say that is NOT the case.

The 'problem' he has mentioned is that they disagree with him regarding whether or not Good creatures can practice cannibalism. They think that cannibalism, of any kind, is Evil.

Liberty's Edge

The OP stated:

David Fryer wrote:


Some of my players have complained that this is an evil act and that I should not have good dragons and kobolds as a result. So I ask you, is this evil or not?
...
Actually, the cannibalism itself does not make them particularly uncomfortable. One of my players attempted to interrogate some goblins in Burnt Offerings by munching on the remains of one of the goblins that had been killed. The only thing the object to is the idea that someone could be good or neutral aligned and still engage in such behavior.
...
Of course if you had read the whole discussion you would have known that the cannibalism itself was not the issue, it was the fact that an otherwise good individual could engage in it as part of their society. I even stated that fact in the OP. So, who exactly is being antagonistic here?

So, the players 'object' to the idea that someone can be good or neutral and eat people of the same race. Got it. And why do they 'object'? I guess while the OP didn't state his players were 'uncomfortable', I don't understand why they would object unless they were bothered in some way.

It sounds to me like the players think that cannibalism should be an evil act. They aren't comfortable with good characters eating members of their own race. Am I wrong?

If the players are uncomfortable, or 'object' or whatever, and the thing they have an 'objection' to isn't important to the story or the game, change it. It doesn't matter whether it should be good, or should be evil.

My players might 'object' to every princess they meet having warts and bad teeth. Is it important to me as the DM to portray princesses with any kind of historical accuracy? Not really. If it makes the game more fun for a PC to rescue beautiful princesses, I should accomodate him.

If there is no reason that I need good aligned kobolds, I should make them evil (even if they're otherwise alright people) if that makes for a more fun game. That's my job as DM.

Now, if I have a really good reason not to, or I think that when I offer a big reveal they'll enjoy it more - that's a different story.


DeadDMWalking wrote:

The OP stated:

David Fryer wrote:


Some of my players have complained that this is an evil act and that I should not have good dragons and kobolds as a result. So I ask you, is this evil or not?
...
Actually, the cannibalism itself does not make them particularly uncomfortable. One of my players attempted to interrogate some goblins in Burnt Offerings by munching on the remains of one of the goblins that had been killed. The only thing the object to is the idea that someone could be good or neutral aligned and still engage in such behavior.
...
Of course if you had read the whole discussion you would have known that the cannibalism itself was not the issue, it was the fact that an otherwise good individual could engage in it as part of their society. I even stated that fact in the OP. So, who exactly is being antagonistic here?

So, the players 'object' to the idea that someone can be good or neutral and eat people of the same race. Got it. And why do they 'object'? I guess while the OP didn't state his players were 'uncomfortable', I don't understand why they would object unless they were bothered in some way.

It sounds to me like the players think that cannibalism should be an evil act. They aren't comfortable with good characters eating members of their own race. Am I wrong?

If the players are uncomfortable, or 'object' or whatever, and the thing they have an 'objection' to isn't important to the story or the game, change it. It doesn't matter whether it should be good, or should be evil.

My players might 'object' to every princess they meet having warts and bad teeth. Is it important to me as the DM to portray princesses with any kind of historical accuracy? Not really. If it makes the game more fun for a PC to rescue beautiful princesses, I should accomodate him.

If there is no reason that I need good aligned kobolds, I should make them evil (even if they're otherwise alright people) if that makes for a more fun game. That's my job as DM.

Now, if I have a...

One can disagree, without having either side be uncomfortable.

It is the role of the DM to challenge, as well as entertain. Roleplaying is atleast in part a game about morality play. Ideas and stories should challange a player to examine why they feel about things the way they do. I personally think the original poster has by the sound of it dealt with a very interesting question and forced his players to confront an issue they probably haven't faced.

Liberty's Edge

Some definitions I use:
object
express or raise an objection or protest or criticism or express dissent; be averse to or express disapproval of;

Now, maybe the OP meant what he said, maybe he didn't. And you're free to disagree with me. But the game is about having fun. What constitutes fun is up for debate. It sounds to me like the OP wouldn't have come on the boards if there wasn't an issue here. Either his group thinks he's wrong and he wants approval, or he thinks he might have been wrong and wants confirmation. I mean, I suppose the whole point could have been:

See this interesting thing that happened in my game.

But I don't think that a critical analysis of his posts indicates that is what he (or she) is saying. So, he can ignore my advice, but in all sincerity, I offer it to everyone. If you're having a 'problem' with players who 'object' to something, ask yourself if you lose anything by giving them something they won't 'object' to. If you don't lose anything, why are you refusing? It would be better for everyone to accede to your player's wishes. That's not always possible, but if it is, be a good DM and give them what they want.


It doesn't make his statement any less open to a light ridicule.

Ridicule away, I really don't care. However, I will defer to your expertise on such matters of protiens, prions, whatever.

I do find it amazing that you slam my education when your grammar is so poor, but whatever.


Totally off topic a bit: did anyone else catch the reference to cannibalism in Pirates 2 in the part on the beach where whatshisname is trying to find Jack and the guy mending his net makes a comment about "long pork"?

I even vaguely recall reading of some mention by Marco Polo about seeing human flesh (long pork) being openly sold in Chinese markets of that era.

If I'm mistaken I'm sorry. Just thinking that I maybe remember possibly reading that somewhere.


David Jackson 60 wrote:

I would be willing to say that this isn't the case even remotely.

There is a difference between it occurring in small pockets without absolute horror from a small group, and having it lack general taboo status almost universally. There is a big difference there. You can look back thru history and most likely find documented incidences of incest, that doesn't mean incest isn't a fairly universal taboo regardless of where you go.

Go ask somebody you meet from India, Africa, Pacific Islands, South America, etc. about their views on cannibalism...go tell them their society openly engages and accepts cannibalism. Then get ready for either a very angry or very confused response.

Go travel around the world and find a place where a significant mass of people readily eat other people, and everybody is just dandy with that...then get back to me.

I suspect you and I are arguing different things. You infer that I believe that cannibalism is an accepted practice today, which I do not. I have stated that it existed in the past, among a number of social groups (the small groups argument doesn't hold up either, as the one case I am quite familiar with, the Maori of New Zealand, reached an approximate population of 100, 000, which is a substantially large number for a prehistoric island population).

An abhorrence towards cannibalism is not an innate, human response. Its purely cultural, learned through society. Therefore, your original argument that cannibalism is evil based on a false universal abhorrence is incorrect, as I orgiginally argued.

Like I said before, I did not say any contemporary populations practise cannibalism, and another poster stated that European influence is a major factor of this. I do however, live in a country with a previous history of cannibalism, and I know it is a touchy subject, as this country has a history of bad cultural relations. Statements like yours though, that espouse the evil of the practices of their ancestors, and insinuate that those ancestors, whose culture is highly treasured today, are also evil, is patronising, insensitive, and to me at least, racist. Views like yours do not help awkward cultural relations.

However, I assume your cultural background has led you to the conclusion that cannibalism is evil, and your view is universally correct, so I doubt I can convince you. I only ask that you be more sensitive to other cultures.

Contributor

I would argue that many cultures that practiced cannibalism (such as the Maori and the Aztecs) did so not because it was culturally acceptable, but precisely because it was considered abhorrent. Institutionalized cannibalism, much like pathological cannibalism, is not about the eating, it's about the show of dominance. I've not just killed you, I've consumed you. This sort of cannibalism when practiced by an army, is a form of terrorism; the evil of the action is not in the consumption, but the fear and loathing it creates. Which is why I would also argue that cannibalism committed without the intent to terrify is not evil.

Sovereign Court

Dogbert wrote:
burying the dead was a custom that came up originally in order to prevent decomposing bodies from spreading disease, and then became ritual and once religions got a hold of it, it became a good/evil issue as with all things involving religious dogma.

Do you have a source for this? Is this supposition?

Dogbert wrote:
Same thing with monogamy that, as far as Christendom is concerned, was historically implemented by Moses during the great exodus in order to prevent dissemination of STDs.

Eh? In most of the cultures I have studied monogamy has had a complex interplay of causes and justifications, the strongest of which s probably clarity of inheritance.

Dark Archive

An example of modern-day cannibalism, that the proponents would argue isn't really cannibalism, since they don't consider their victims to be 'human.'

From Wikipedia's entry on 'Pygmies;'

Wikipedia wrote:
In 2003, Sinafasi Makelo, a representative of Mbuti pygmies, told the UN's Indigenous People's Forum that during the Congo Civil War, his people were hunted down and eaten as though they were game animals. In neighbouring North Kivu province there has been cannibalism by a group known as Les Effaceurs ("the erasers") who wanted to clear the land of people to open it up for mineral exploitation.[16] Both sides of the war regarded them as "subhuman" and some say their flesh can confer magical powers.[17] Makelo asked the UN Security Council to recognise cannibalism as a crime against humanity and an act of genocide.[18] According to Minority Rights Group International there is extensive evidence of mass killings, cannibalism and rape of Pygmies and have urged the International Criminal Court to investigate a campaign of extermination against pygmies. Although they have been targeted by virtually all the armed groups, much of the violence against Pygmies is attributed to the rebel group, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, which is part of the transitional government and still controls much of the north, and their allies.[19]

Dark Archive

GeraintElberion wrote:
Dogbert wrote:
Same thing with monogamy that, as far as Christendom is concerned, was historically implemented by Moses during the great exodus in order to prevent dissemination of STDs.
Eh? In most of the cultures I have studied monogamy has had a complex interplay of causes and justifications, the strongest of which s probably clarity of inheritance.

I think, in most cases, it's a mistake to assume that any one explanation covers all cases. In Biblical times, it was expected that a successful man would have several wives, and also at least one mistress, but the man was admonished not to bear sons by his mistress(es) as such 'bastard' sons would mess up inheritance / lines of succession. Indeed, there's even commandments from God Himself on how to aquire multiple wives, by seeking out rival tribes of Israel, killing all of their menfolk, male children and married women, and taking their unmarried daughters and girl-children as second and third wives!

And yet, most polygamous cultures did not swap wives, and so had no more or less susceptibility to the spread of STDs than monogamous cultures. Exceptions do exist, of course. If the wife of an Israelite man did not bear him a son, she could be declared barren and cast out (the concept that a *man* might not be sexually fertile was, of course, unthinkable, it was *always* the woman's fault!), or if he died before she bore him a son, his brother was supposed to knock her up, since, as a wife married into the family, bearing more sons into the family was her sole role of importance and the family 'owned' her. (Hence the story of the 'sin of Onan' who chose to 'spill his seed upon the ground' rather than knock up his brothers widow, and so was damned. Today it's used as an anti-masturbation screed, but Onan's sin was defying the will of God and failing to knock up his sister-in-law.) That's a rare enough case, 'though, that it wouldn't really be a viable vector for STD spread.

Some traditions have common-sense reasons (bury your waste outside of town, don't eat pork, eat all of your fish the same day you get it, etc.). Others were developed to keep the common folk controlled (some people are born noble and have 'divine right of kings' according to the 'great chain of being' and you filthy stinking peasants are defying the will of God if you question why you live in a hovel and eat potatoes and I live in a palace and am eating pheasant!). Still others are just whacky things that people associated with success but were actually really bad ideas (bathing spreads germs and causes sickeness! we must relieve the pressure in his skull by knocking holes in it! drinking mercury leads to immortality!).


Go to Disease transmission by cannibalism: rare event or common occurrence?.


Heathansson wrote:


If I was a player, I don't think I would frankly trust in their good judgment. I'd expect them to show up at the nearest human village with Red Lobster bibs on. So, yes.....overly simplistic as it is, let's label them as evil. Shoot first, ask questions later. From a player character survival standpoint, it works. Is it even bad roleplaying? I think not!

That's one plausible cultural reason for the ban on cannibalism: other cultures tend to gang up on you. If you don't have a technological or environmental or numerical advantage, you're toast. Yes, I think that applies to kobolds. Not so much to dragons, who will pretty much get to do what they please.


Zombieneighbours wrote:
FatR wrote:
There are reasons, why cannibalism, no matter the justifications is considered despicable by just about every culture on Earth that managed to drag itself from savagery. From strictly utilitarian and morally relativistic standpoint, the reason is such: customs or beliefs that endorse ritual cannibalism or, moreover, attribute some benefits to it (such as "transerring eaten's heroism") create additional incentives to, you know, kill people around you. Therefore, while I cannot speak for other people's settings, in my own eating sentient beings is evil, period. Religions that aren't outright evil condemn such practices (evil religions quite often specifically encourage eating enemies, and promote beliefs about absorbing their strengths by eating them, because hey, making your dupes damn themselves by committing atrocities, and chaining themselves to you by adopting universally feared and reviled customs is like killing two birds with one stone) as do major cultures.

This is frankly over simplification.

A foundational element of one of the largest religions in the world is a form of symbolic ritual cannibalism. It is catholic dogma that the waffer and wine of the Eucharist literally transubstantiate, becoming the flesh and blood of jesus. While other christian sects may not beleive in the literal transubstantiation, they mostly do still perform the symbolic canibalism of jesus when undertaking the Eucharist.

I have to agree with FatR, cannibalism is evil. Sometimes the truth is that simple. Nuff' said.


DoctorRomulus wrote:
Zombieneighbours wrote:
FatR wrote:
There are reasons, why cannibalism, no matter the justifications is considered despicable by just about every culture on Earth that managed to drag itself from savagery. From strictly utilitarian and morally relativistic standpoint, the reason is such: customs or beliefs that endorse ritual cannibalism or, moreover, attribute some benefits to it (such as "transerring eaten's heroism") create additional incentives to, you know, kill people around you. Therefore, while I cannot speak for other people's settings, in my own eating sentient beings is evil, period. Religions that aren't outright evil condemn such practices (evil religions quite often specifically encourage eating enemies, and promote beliefs about absorbing their strengths by eating them, because hey, making your dupes damn themselves by committing atrocities, and chaining themselves to you by adopting universally feared and reviled customs is like killing two birds with one stone) as do major cultures.

This is frankly over simplification.

A foundational element of one of the largest religions in the world is a form of symbolic ritual cannibalism. It is catholic dogma that the waffer and wine of the Eucharist literally transubstantiate, becoming the flesh and blood of jesus. While other christian sects may not beleive in the literal transubstantiation, they mostly do still perform the symbolic canibalism of jesus when undertaking the Eucharist.

I have to agree with FatR, cannibalism is evil. Sometimes the truth is that simple. Nuff' said.

So is the Eucharist evil? Are those who truly believe in the truth of god, who take the wafer and wine are, regardless of the actual nature of the material, willingly eating what they believe to be human flesh and blood.

Are people who consume human blood because they believe it counter the symptoms of porphyria, regardless of its actual effectiveness, evil?

What is the logical basis for your argument? Just saying something doesn't make it true.

You may personally feel that it is evil, but that is only your feelings on the subject, not a reasoned argument based upon logic or evidence.


Taking this into a game direction...what if Race X was immune to diseases, and had a cultural belief that consuming the flesh of the fallen was an act of the highest honor? Are they still evil then?

(Yes, I like moral quandaries like this in my games. :P )

Dark Archive

Random weirdness. Female rabbits (particularly in captivity) in a situation where they don't feel there is enough food for their young will 're-absorb' them. (That's the politically correct way of saying they *eat* their little naked pink hairless babies.)

Evil? Icky? Both? Would it be less evil to let the helpless baby rabbits starve to death?


Tristan Wadsworth wrote:
David Jackson 60 wrote:

I would be willing to say that this isn't the case even remotely.

There is a difference between it occurring in small pockets without absolute horror from a small group, and having it lack general taboo status almost universally. There is a big difference there. You can look back thru history and most likely find documented incidences of incest, that doesn't mean incest isn't a fairly universal taboo regardless of where you go.

Go ask somebody you meet from India, Africa, Pacific Islands, South America, etc. about their views on cannibalism...go tell them their society openly engages and accepts cannibalism. Then get ready for either a very angry or very confused response.

Go travel around the world and find a place where a significant mass of people readily eat other people, and everybody is just dandy with that...then get back to me.

I suspect you and I are arguing different things. You infer that I believe that cannibalism is an accepted practice today, which I do not. I have stated that it existed in the past, among a number of social groups (the small groups argument doesn't hold up either, as the one case I am quite familiar with, the Maori of New Zealand, reached an approximate population of 100, 000, which is a substantially large number for a prehistoric island population).

An abhorrence towards cannibalism is not an innate, human response. Its purely cultural, learned through society. Therefore, your original argument that cannibalism is evil based on a false universal abhorrence is incorrect, as I orgiginally argued.

Like I said before, I did not say any contemporary populations practise cannibalism, and another poster stated that European influence is a major factor of this. I do however, live in a country with a previous history of cannibalism, and I know it is a touchy subject, as this country has a history of bad cultural relations. Statements like yours though, that espouse the evil of the practices of their ancestors, and insinuate that those...

Even if large singular tribes in remote locations in the world during specific time periods practiced cannibalism, it still doesn't break cannibalism from near-universal taboo status in human history.

As far as the Maori go, this first of all seems to be a ritual of battle, which means even if this was regular amongst a tribe of 100,000 it's still rare and probably had more to do with inciting fear in an enemy than food. I would argue that the purpose of this is exactly that it does violate a natural taboo, which is why it was most likely done...to let people know they should fear the eaters of the dead. The author of the controversial study of the Maori said himself, this was not an issue of food but fear and humiliation of the enemy.

It's also important to note that their is some dispute about the Maori and the level of cannibalism enacted up until the 1800's.

Even if you argue this was much more common than a battle tactic occasionally used to humiliate the enemy do to the violation of what I still say is a natural taboo, it's still an isolated group that practiced this over the period of a few hundred years and still wouldn't much scratch the fact that the vast majority of the world has and always will find this practice abhorrent.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber
David Jackson 60 wrote:
Tristan Wadsworth wrote:
David Jackson 60 wrote:

I would be willing to say that this isn't the case even remotely.

There is a difference between it occurring in small pockets without absolute horror from a small group, and having it lack general taboo status almost universally. There is a big difference there. You can look back thru history and most likely find documented incidences of incest, that doesn't mean incest isn't a fairly universal taboo regardless of where you go.

Go ask somebody you meet from India, Africa, Pacific Islands, South America, etc. about their views on cannibalism...go tell them their society openly engages and accepts cannibalism. Then get ready for either a very angry or very confused response.

Go travel around the world and find a place where a significant mass of people readily eat other people, and everybody is just dandy with that...then get back to me.

I suspect you and I are arguing different things. You infer that I believe that cannibalism is an accepted practice today, which I do not. I have stated that it existed in the past, among a number of social groups (the small groups argument doesn't hold up either, as the one case I am quite familiar with, the Maori of New Zealand, reached an approximate population of 100, 000, which is a substantially large number for a prehistoric island population).

An abhorrence towards cannibalism is not an innate, human response. Its purely cultural, learned through society. Therefore, your original argument that cannibalism is evil based on a false universal abhorrence is incorrect, as I orgiginally argued.

Like I said before, I did not say any contemporary populations practise cannibalism, and another poster stated that European influence is a major factor of this. I do however, live in a country with a previous history of cannibalism, and I know it is a touchy subject, as this country has a history of bad cultural relations. Statements like yours though, that espouse the evil of the practices of their...

The vast majority of the world for the vast majority of history thought slavery was a good thing, too. Does that mean that keeping slaves is now a Good act?

The Exchange

I have a simple answer, Yes it is evil. I wont quibble about all the fine points others have brought up. I will state that this is MY opinion take it or leave it like it or not.

EDIT: though I love the moral quandary and the fact that the PC's get to see a different view then what they may expect.


Oh, I'm pretty sure it's like most things...it's just misunderstood.

The Exchange

Mairkurion {tm} wrote:
Oh, I'm pretty sure it's like most things...it's just misunderstood.

yes well, Even good people ( or Dragons) can do an evil act and think they are still doing good, from a cultural or even historical or religious points of view, Doesn't make it right. Just like thousands of years of slavery wasn't right.

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