Racial stereotypes and Golarion.


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion

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Liberty's Edge

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As far as the Mwangi go, I would point out that the Magaambya, Golarion's oldest academy of wizardry still in operation (and perhaps the *only* major one dedicated to the study of magic for specifically "good" ends, rather than for its own sake) was founded by a Mwangi wizard and has a nearly 100% Zenj faculty and student body. Furthermore, the Bonuwat are noted for being accomplished sailors the equal of anyone in Avistan, while the Mauxi make up a significant portion of the population in the "civilized" nations of Rahadoum and Thuvia, both of which are noted centers of learning.

Another thing to remember, although the art rarely emphasizes it, is that the population of Absalom, home of the Pathfinder Society and the world's most respected magical school (among many, many other things) includes at least as many Garundi as it does Taldans (who themselves are described as having distinctly mediterranean features). Since Garundi people seem to run a gamut of skin tones from a relatively pale tan to several shades of what most americans would consider "black," the citizens of the City at the Center of the World would probably be much less likely to bat an eye at a person of color than at, say, a blonde or a redhead.

That being said, I think it's definitely true that the Pathfinder Chronicles setting thrives on *cultural* steriotypes. Fantasy worlds almost always do, since (for the sake of creating a relatable setting, as others have mentioned) they tend to be populated with societies analogous to those of the real world in a "broad strokes" sort of way. So you have a lot of charmingly larcenous roma steriotypes, cutthroat middle-eastern traders and, yes, fractious tribes of warlike African nomads. That being said, I don't think any of it is necessarily any more offensive than the decadent, Byzantine-inspired Taldans, the arrogent, genteel, Romanesque, and thoroughly evil Chelaxians, or the smelly, hard-drinking, hard-fighting viking Ulfen. Heck, thanks to Andoran there are even modern American steriotypes in there as well, blithe idealists proudly meddling in the affairs of other nations "for their own good".


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
spectrevk wrote:

and...? The term "black" isn't terribly specific, and Africa is Africa, to some extent. I've never understood the insistence that we treat Northern and Sub-Saharan Africa as completely different regions, as if the desert is impassable, or the people wholly unrelated for the entirety of history.

Besides, I don't see why the Garundi would resemble ancient Egyptians any more than ancient Nubians, who were active in the same area. Remember, the Egyptians of today (post-Arabization) are not the same as the Egyptians that were likely one of the influences for the Garundi.

And anyway, getting back to Mwangi, aren't they a pretty big part of the population in the Shackles and the Sodden Lands? So they aren't all tribal people; apparently a bunch of them are also pirates. :P

I can understand that. I don't know why they have Garundi and Mwangi as separate entities when Mwangi themselves are further separated. As a note, it actually does state that the Mwangi and Garundi are related, so that's something.

And pirates are always awesome. I'd actually suggest everyone read the Pathfinder Heart of the Jungle as they detail much of the Mwangi kingdoms in Garund. Nantambu is one more my favorites.

Grand Lodge

DM Jeff wrote:
I did, during its entire run. And I know they did that in the Realms

That's fair enough...

And after re-reading your post, I can see that when you said: "For the first time in my 30+ years of playing, folks are actually putting great thought into they type of human they are, not just 'human'." that you were talking about your players and not Paizo...

However...

Now I'm (honestly) curious...

If you knew that "they did that in the Realms", why did you then start your post with: "Golarion is the most racialy diverse campaign my players and I have ever known? (emphasis mine)

That is what had me confused by your post...

Like I said, I'm genuinely curious.

-That One Digitalelf Fellow-

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

Reading the Golarion World Guide, actually pale skinned folk with blond hair are actually rather exotic...which is exactly what they were in medevial Europe. They actually get singled out because they stand out so much from just about every other nationality, which have darker hair.

White hair, sure, it's a sign of age, but blond hair seems singularly uncommon among humans. And Paizo's art still can't seem to make up its mind if Seoni has blond hair or platinum. Too much white among the iconics as it is.

==Aelryinth


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I'll admit, I don't really know much about Forgotten Realms. The most I or anyone else really knows or sees much of is Baldur's Gate and the Underdark. Hell, given how much WoTC pushes it, I'd just assume it is nothing but the Underdark ;)

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

The original 1E FR Material is incredible. Ed Greenwood is a god...just ask the Paizo people. No idea how he puts out so much stuff.

And his home campaign is still 1E, btw.

If you can pick up the original 1E boxed set, and some of the expanding material, it's a great read. Tons of ideas in that stuff. and the 'events going on in the Realms' at the back of them were just incredible, too, like little adventure stories happening whether your PC's were involved or not.

==Aelryinth


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Fair enough. Hell I didn't even know it had an Aztec parallel until I looked at the wiki.


Digitalelf wrote:
And if I remember correctly (as I don't have my 3rd edition FR books handy), some of the human "races" or ethnicities of the Forgotten Realms even had different stat adjustments than the standard Player's Handbook "human" did.

I have the 3.0 version of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting (admittedly the ONLY version I have) right here. I'm looking in it now. The book says that human characters, regardless of region, have all the human racial traits given in the Player's Handbook, except for languages.

There are different traits for different sub-races of dwarves, elves, gnomes and halflings, but if any humans had different stat adjustments or abilities, those rules must have been in some source other than the campaign setting book.


InVinoVeritas wrote:
There was also Greyhawk before the Forgotten Realms, with the Baklunish, Suel, Oeridians, Flannae, and Olman.

...and Rhennee.


Gnoll Bard wrote:
As far as the Mwangi go, I would point out that the Magaambya, Golarion's oldest academy of wizardry still in operation (and perhaps the *only* major one dedicated to the study of magic for specifically "good" ends, rather than for its own sake) was founded by a Mwangi wizard and has a nearly 100% Zenj faculty and student body. Furthermore, the Bonuwat are noted for being accomplished sailors the equal of anyone in Avistan, while the Mauxi make up a significant portion of the population in the "civilized" nations of Rahadoum and Thuvia, both of which are noted centers of learning.

I didn't know about this. What books cover the Mwangi region in detail, and where is this wizard college?


Aelryinth wrote:

Reading the Golarion World Guide, actually pale skinned folk with blond hair are actually rather exotic...which is exactly what they were in medevial Europe. They actually get singled out because they stand out so much from just about every other nationality, which have darker hair.

White hair, sure, it's a sign of age, but blond hair seems singularly uncommon among humans. And Paizo's art still can't seem to make up its mind if Seoni has blond hair or platinum. Too much white among the iconics as it is.

==Aelryinth

I always thought Seoni had white hair (and tan/brownish skin). It's fairly consistent in the comic, though I must admit that I'm not a huge fan of the art style they went with.


spectrevk wrote:
What books cover the Mwangi region in detail, and where is this wizard college?

Heart of the Jungle is the go-to Mwangi sourcebook. The Magaambya is in Nantambu.


Aaron Bitman wrote:
InVinoVeritas wrote:
There was also Greyhawk before the Forgotten Realms, with the Baklunish, Suel, Oeridians, Flannae, and Olman.
...and Rhennee.

Oh, like they mattered. Let 'em drift on downstream and out of sight and memory!

<_<

Grand Lodge

Aaron Bitman wrote:
The book says that human characters, regardless of region, have all the human racial traits given in the Player's Handbook

I was thinking it was in one of the 3.5 updates or setting "splatbooks"; I will have to look for it later (if for no other reason than to satisfy my own curiosity). But I could very well be wrong about the stat adjustment to one of the human races...

Liberty's Edge

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Joana wrote:
spectrevk wrote:
What books cover the Mwangi region in detail, and where is this wizard college?
Heart of the Jungle is the go-to Mwangi sourcebook. The Magaambya is in Nantambu.

I believe that there's also a little bit of information about the Magaambya under the magical school rules in Inner Sea Magic, and there's even a related prestige class (accessable to Witches and Wizards), the Magaambyan Arcanist, in Paths of Prestige.

The class is actually pretty interesting, particularly in that it's a specifically good-aligned arcane caster, with a paladin-like aura and everything, though it does suffer a bit from "noble savage" type steriotyping. They get more use out of Spell Mastery (since they rely more on oral tradition than on written spellbooks) and they get access to some druid spells and the "Timeless Body" druid class feature (since their magic is more "primal" or in tune with nature or some such). I doubt anyone would find these features especially offensive, and the Spell Mastery related stuff is actually pretty cool, but giving the class special access to "nature magic" is both disappointingly predictable and a bit eye-roll worthy, in my opinion.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Gnoll Bard wrote:
Joana wrote:
spectrevk wrote:
What books cover the Mwangi region in detail, and where is this wizard college?
Heart of the Jungle is the go-to Mwangi sourcebook. The Magaambya is in Nantambu.

I believe that there's also a little bit of information about the Magaambya under the magical school rules in Inner Sea Magic, and there's even a related prestige class (accessable to Witches and Wizards), the Magaambyan Arcanist, in Paths of Prestige.

The class is actually pretty interesting, particularly in that it's a specifically good-aligned arcane caster, with a paladin-like aura and everything, though it does suffer a bit from "noble savage" type steriotyping. They get more use out of Spell Mastery (since they rely more on oral tradition than on written spellbooks) and they get access to some druid spells and the "Timeless Body" druid class feature (since their magic is more "primal" or in tune with nature or some such). I doubt anyone would find these features especially offensive, and the Spell Mastery related stuff is actually pretty cool, but giving the class special access to "nature magic" is both disappointingly predictable and a bit eye-roll worthy, in my opinion.

Admittedly, I wasn't really bothered by the ties to nature magic. I can understand that fantasy does keep with certain tropes. But it is good to also mix things up and I feel that Paizo does a good job with that balancing act.


Anybody notice that the OP has not responded at all to defend or admitt he was wrong....The usual sign of a troll.

Note on the FR: I don't think the different human groups had racial modifiers. Atleast in nothing I ever saw. Although the world of Birthright did that...I think they sorta recoiled from the idea as it seemed racist to some people...like how stat max determined by sex seemed sexist back in 1st ed.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
John Kretzer wrote:

Anybody notice that the OP has not responded at all to defend or admitt he was wrong....The usual sign of a troll.

In all honesty, if I were the OP, after Jessica's (and others') replies I would just hide the thread, go bury myself under the blanket and pretend none of this ever happened.

Luckily, I do have a very good memory for threads like this one :>

Dark Archive

spectrevk wrote:
I always thought Seoni had white hair (and tan/brownish skin).

I literally just found out with the NPC Codex that Seoni is supposed to be a Varisian. Valeros looks way more 'Varisian' to my eye...

Eh. As long as she doesn't turn out to be one of Magneto's white-haired gypsy kids. :)

I think WW's Scarred Lands setting had varying racial attribute modifiers for different nationalities of humans, but none of their human nationalities on Ghelspad really came anywhere near real world human ethnicities. (No faux Persians, Egyptians, Africans, Asians, etc. for instance.) Then again, the closet thing the Scarred Lands setting had to Asians was a CE race of human-hating snakefolk samurai, so it's not like they had phasers set on 'racially sensitive' anyway...

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Set wrote:
spectrevk wrote:
I always thought Seoni had white hair (and tan/brownish skin).

I literally just found out with the NPC Codex that Seoni is supposed to be a Varisian. Valeros looks way more 'Varisian' to my eye...

Eh. As long as she doesn't turn out to be one of Magneto's white-haired gypsy kids. :)

I think WW's Scarred Lands setting had varying racial attribute modifiers for different nationalities of humans, but none of their human nationalities on Ghelspad really came anywhere near real world human ethnicities. (No faux Persians, Egyptians, Africans, Asians, etc. for instance.) Then again, the closet thing the Scarred Lands setting had to Asians was a CE race of human-hating snakefolk samurai, so it's not like they had phasers set on 'racially sensitive' anyway...

There was a faux Asian 'dragon empire' in Strange Lands too.

(along with one of my favourite monsters, the Dragoneet.)


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Gorbacz wrote:
John Kretzer wrote:

Anybody notice that the OP has not responded at all to defend or admitt he was wrong....The usual sign of a troll.

In all honesty, if I were the OP, after Jessica's (and others') replies I would just hide the thread, go bury myself under the blanket and pretend none of this ever happened.

Luckily, I do have a very good memory for threads like this one :>

Pretty much this, but unlike the other troll threads, we are actually having a fairly civil conversation ;)

Set wrote:
spectrevk wrote:
I always thought Seoni had white hair (and tan/brownish skin).

I literally just found out with the NPC Codex that Seoni is supposed to be a Varisian. Valeros looks way more 'Varisian' to my eye...

Eh. As long as she doesn't turn out to be one of Magneto's white-haired gypsy kids. :)

Well, Varisian is a pretty broad term now, as many have intermixed with the Cheliaxans that have settled there. Remember, Shoanti are also considered Varisian.

Sovereign Court

I would like to quote the OP.

Paul was putting himself about in the political threads and he said.

Paul Pants wrote:


Your posts are devoid of any content or numbers and you keep trying to inject racial issues into the discussion, that means you are frustrated and out of ideas and are now resorting to wild accusation.

Hoisted by his own petard... failed alchemist troll!


Odraude wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
John Kretzer wrote:

Anybody notice that the OP has not responded at all to defend or admitt he was wrong....The usual sign of a troll.

In all honesty, if I were the OP, after Jessica's (and others') replies I would just hide the thread, go bury myself under the blanket and pretend none of this ever happened.

Luckily, I do have a very good memory for threads like this one :>

Pretty much this, but unlike the other troll threads, we are actually having a fairly civil conversation ;)

Set wrote:
spectrevk wrote:
I always thought Seoni had white hair (and tan/brownish skin).

I literally just found out with the NPC Codex that Seoni is supposed to be a Varisian. Valeros looks way more 'Varisian' to my eye...

Eh. As long as she doesn't turn out to be one of Magneto's white-haired gypsy kids. :)

Well, Varisian is a pretty broad term now, as many have intermixed with the Cheliaxans that have settled there. Remember, Shoanti are also considered Varisian.

Err, I believe he meant ethnically Varisian, not Varisian nationality. The region of Varisia has Shoanti and Chelaxians, but they aren't ethnically Varisian (as, for example, Seoni is). Regarding Seoni, her complexion seems appropriate for an ethnicity that's supposed to roughly correspond to the Romani travelers, and I assume the white hair is due to her Arcane bloodline.

A friend of mine also thought Valeros was supposed to be Varisian, but every stat writeup for him states that he's from Andoran (so ethnically, probably a Taldan).

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

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Sociologically.... I think human racial stereotypes are going to be *less* common in Golarion since there are lots of other sentient races than humans. Even 'traditional' stereotypes are going to be muted.

Warning! Offensive examples in the spoiler!

Spoiler:
Things like
"Sure Garundi can be lazy and shiftless, but nothing like those half orcs."
"Yeah those Ulfen drink a lot and beat their women, but no human drinks like a dwarf."
"Sure Varasins are all theives and grifters. Like taller less successful halflings."
"Yeah, the Taldans are the 'sell your soul to the devil' types, but at least their human. Those gnomes have one foot in another world."
"You think the Tian are haughty and arrogant? Ever talked to an elf? Then they sit there chattering in that 'elf speak' bet they're talking about you now."


IIRC the humans in the FR had different skill bonuses...

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

I actually asked why Seoni had white hair, and the Art Director replied to me and told me that Seoni is actually a blond.

In some of the art she is. In most of it, she's as white as her bosom buddy elf and fellow arcane caster are.

Meh.

==Aelryinth


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Well makes sense that the iconics are at the mercy of the artist's style. I know I've seen Valeros drawn in about three different ways.


nt really, the iconic art is at the mercy of that iconic's creator, in the High Queen of stab, its james jacobs.

as for seoni's hair, its an easy mistake some artists wont get it right if they see platnium hair, they think blonde to light blonde borderline white in hair tone...

not sure who is behind SEoni.....

Sovereign Court Contributor

Personally, I always took the cultures of Golarion as cultures, and hence one could be a blond Varisian, in as much as one can be a black Englishman, for instance.

Liberty's Edge

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Jeff Erwin wrote:
Personally, I always took the cultures of Golarion as cultures, and hence one could be a blond Varisian, in as much as one can be a black Englishman, for instance.

This is a good point. In the real world, there isn't really any such thing as racial or ethnic "purity". Populations have been mingling, merging, splitting, and otherwise interacting since the dawn of the human species, and variations in eye and hair color within groups have been reported since ancient times. The Greek hero Achilles is described as blond in most translations of the Illiad, the Biblical figues Esau and David were described as having red hair, as was the prophet Muhammad, according to some sources, and Lucrezia Borgia, a Spaniard by birth, was blond and hazel-eyed.

Considering how close Varisia is to the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, I don't find it surprising at all that there would be some blond Varisians.

Dark Archive

Many of the responders dont quite understand my original post. I'm not saying there is no diversity in Golarion, because there surely is, what Im trying to point out is that the human cultures mimic our own too much. Taldans are Spaniards/Portugese, Ulfen are Norse Vikings, Tians are Asians. Its not racist, but its a little predictable.

For example, if there was a Rome inspired culture it does not need to be populated by a race/culture that looks just like Italians. Why not throw in an interesting curve and make a culture that mirrors Rome, and have it populated by Asians, and then mix in some elements of asian lifestyle with Roman-inspired ideals or architecture? The synthesis of an existing culture with a mismatched race is a lot more interesting than the typical formula such as Osirans are Egyptians, blacks are from tribal jungle cultures, Norsemen are vikings, etc etc.

There's no reason eskimos have to always live in Igloos. They can just as easily live in massive floating ice cities with Roman columns and chariot races conducted on the backs of whales. All you need to do is take an existing ethnic culture and blend it with another. Kind of like how George Lucas mixes creatures to make new races (Fish + man = Mon Calamari or Pig + Bulldog = Gamorreans). Its fantasy' you dont have to use the cookie cutters so much. In fact, its more interesting if you dont.

I'm not saying Golarion is racist in its conception; I'm saying it lacks cultural creativity and relies too much on the audiences pre-conceived cultural stigmata.


Oops_I_Crit_My_Pants wrote:
I'm not saying Golarion is racist in its conception; I'm saying it lacks cultural creativity and relies too much on the audiences pre-conceived cultural stigmata.

Cultural stigmata!?

Oh what crosses we bear.

The idea was to keep it simple and give some 'easy to understand' similarities. From THAT broad framework, you can then develop all your interesting flavour to your hearts content.

Underneath all the famous and amazings paintings in the world exists a boring as dirt blank canvas. Golarion in the canvas.

There's also THREE books full of diverse and interesting monsters. Nothing stopping anyone building the 'cultural hub' of some of those races. The more 'normal' the basic society is, the more fantastic the new societies we create appear.

Dark Archive

Shifty wrote:


The idea was to keep it simple and give some 'easy to understand' similarities.

Yes, and why do they need to make it simple? Can the audience not handle it or identify if we dont use the old culture/race formulas? I just think its creatively lazy. Make something new, something that needs to be explored, rather than "Oh, these must be the Taldans/Spaniards, so I'm immediately familiar with their social norms".

Its like the difference between knowing what's inside of an x-mas present and not knowing what's inside. By breaking the norms, the audience will be more inclined to learn about the culture rather than glossing over it.


Oops_I_Crit_My_Pants wrote:
Yes, and why do they need to make it simple? Can the audience not handle it or identify if we dont use the old formulas? I just think its creatively lazy.

Actually it is quite sensible.

If 'everything' is fantastic and 'creative', then nothing stands out and it becomes quite bland - when everything is fantastic then nothing is fantastic. Personally I though Forgotten Realms was boring and overmanufactured for that reason.

The creativity should go in what they build AFTER the basics are laid down. Why make a new model just for the sake of building a new model when we already have a fairly easily understood one we can build from? With so much 'real' material to draw upon, things make sense.

Imagine trying to cover the planet Earth in a 128 page handbook? Thats not 'creative', thats a short paper full of holes.

Instead, build up a few new 'fantastic cultures' that can fit in, design Belkzen, create the Orcish culture. Build the city inder the sea where the Deep Ones dwell.

Dark Archive

Shifty wrote:


If 'everything' is fantastic and 'creative', then nothing stands out and it becomes quite bland - when everything is fantastic then nothing is fantastic.

That's like saying "We should just eat dog food, because if we had steak and lobster every day we wouldn't know how to enjoy it."

I'll never believe that less creativity ever trumps more creativity. That's a poor argument for accepting staus quo mediocrity.

And yes, we can always develop the gameworld on our own, but I would expect a little more creativity from the paid professionals.


Oops_I_Crit_My_Pants wrote:
That's like saying "We should just eat dog food, because if we had steak and lobster every day we wouldn't know how to enjoy it."

Actually that's not saying anything of the sort. Quite the contrary.

Oops_I_Crit_My_Pants wrote:
I'll never believe that less creativity ever trumps more creativity. That's a poor argument for accepting staus quo mediocrity.

And where, precisely, is anyone calling for less creativity? This isn't about 'more' or 'less', this is about creating contrast. By creating contrast we actually end up getting 'more' out of our 'more'.

When a jeweller creates an amazing piece of art, lets say a diamond necklace, what do they lay it on? Usually plain black velvet. Why do they do this? Think about this now in terms of Golarion.

Oops_I_Crit_My_Pants wrote:
And yes, we can always develop the gameworld on our own, but I would expect a little more creativity from the paid professionals.

Fair enough, but I think you are missing the forest for the trees.

Even the best chef in the world still serves basic vegetables alongside the mastercrafted meal. The worst thing you can do is overprocess and overmanufacture.

I would prefer not to have another Forgotten Realms.

DarkSun was about the best 'made up' world in Fantasy gaming (imo, others might feel different) but wven THAT alien land had a few obvious Earth links.


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Oops_I_Crit_My_Pants wrote:

Many of the responders dont quite understand my original post. I'm not saying there is no diversity in Golarion, because there surely is, what Im trying to point out is that the human cultures mimic our own too much. Taldans are Spaniards/Portugese, Ulfen are Norse Vikings, Tians are Asians. Its not racist, but its a little predictable.

For example, if there was a Rome inspired culture it does not need to be populated by a race/culture that looks just like Italians. Why not throw in an interesting curve and make a culture that mirrors Rome, and have it populated by Asians, and then mix in some elements of asian lifestyle with Roman-inspired ideals or architecture? The synthesis of an existing culture with a mismatched race is a lot more interesting than the typical formula such as Osirans are Egyptians, blacks are from tribal jungle cultures, Norsemen are vikings, etc etc.

There's no reason eskimos have to always live in Igloos. They can just as easily live in massive floating ice cities with Roman columns and chariot races conducted on the backs of whales. All you need to do is take an existing ethnic culture and blend it with another. Kind of like how George Lucas mixes creatures to make new races (Fish + man = Mon Calamari or Pig + Bulldog = Gamorreans). Its fantasy' you dont have to use the cookie cutters so much. In fact, its more interesting if you dont.

I'm not saying Golarion is racist in its conception; I'm saying it lacks cultural creativity and relies too much on the audiences pre-conceived cultural stigmata.

Actually, you did pretty much call out the Paizo writers as being just a bunch of "pasty white guys" and alluded that because they are white, they can't possibly create a diverse world. That hypocrisy is what set me off.

Furthermore, you made statements regarding the Mwangi setting that are erroneous, showing that you just made some assumptions instead of actually look at the setting. In this case, Heart of the Jungle showcases some amazing empires in the Mwangi area, from Elokolobha, the city of spire-dwelling spriggans, to Nantambu, a river city like Venice that houses one of the greatest arcane academies, to Osibu, the Golden City of druidic magic, gilded buildings, cures for all diseases, and a well that houses a powerful artifact filled with trapped demons. Those are some pretty fantastic cities that you simply 'glanced over'. One has to wonder if you've actually read anything at all about the setting...

And as for these 'curves' you keep mentioning, some would actually call that unoriginal and lazy. You are essentially taking one culture and simply replacing the people with another race. "Hey, let's take Vikings, but make them all Asian! Isn't that original?" No, it's not. It's really the sign of laziness and a lack of creativity. Instead of transposing cultures, you can simply take one and expand on it. How would magic have affected this culture? Different lands or the fact that monsters are real? Studying other cultures is a good way to make your own, expand on it, or combining aspects of other cultures into it.

And being more creative isn't just about making incredible, magnanimous cities and nations, where islands float in the sky and castles are built into icebergs. Sometimes the true creativity comes from making an cool and interesting culture and folklore with an imaginative history. You can have all the floating castles in the world, but without a cool, fleshed-out story, it's simply just for show.

And I agree with Shifty. I like having the so-called 'mundane' setting aspects along with the fantastical ones. Golarion is a kitchen sink setting so they have to appeal to everyone. For every Taldor and Cheliax, there's a Numeria and Minkai for people.

BTW, given how George Lucas also gave us the fairly racially offensive Gungans and the Trade Federation, you probably don't want to use him in your examples...

Dark Archive

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Shifty wrote:
Even the best chef in the world still serves basic vegetables alongside the mastercrafted meal.

And I'm saying there are way too many vegetables and not nearly enough mastercraft meals when it comes to Golarion culture design. Its way too predictable and doesnt break enough new ground. Its all milk and no crunchberries.

I agree Dark Sun was definitely one of the more creative campaign worlds. And if you recall, one of the reasons it was so good was that it abandoned the hobby's accepted norms for elves, halflings, and dwarves. It wasnt that they played against type, it was about developing interesting cultures for each race that you wanted to learn about. There were few sterotypical norms in that world. It breached new territory, which made it good.

Golarion's human cultures are developed, but they rarely breach any new territory because they are too closely based on their real world cultural equivalent. They dont lack detail, they just lack anything unexpected, with a very few exceptions.

For instance, Galt is based on the French Revolution, all the way down to the clothes and method of execution. It epitomizes the mistake the designers keep making; they stick too closely to the real world equivalent. If you want to base a culture off the french revolution, that's great, but lose the period hats and guillotines so there's at least a visual distinction between the two. Instead of a guilotine, use something that does the same thing story-wise but in a different manner so the inspirations are not so obvious. This is like story writing 101.

Same thing with Andoran, its obviously based on the American Revolution, all the way down to the waving flags, funny outfits, and cultural ideals. Does it work? Yeah, but its boring. Do something interesting with it, like make them all undead or something. A nation of good undead; now that's interesting! In that case, you're mixing the idealism of the American Revolution with the moral quandry that its being run by an undead population. Idealistic zombies that are hated because they exist, despite their amazing new form of government. Then you'd have Cheliax vs. Andoran; but who are the good guys? The undead legion or the army of hell? What do the player's characters feel about it?

Just stop doing the expected ALL of the time. I understand that not everything can be groundbreaking and there needs to be some mundanity to establish some kind of norm, but there's too much that is really dull.

There's not enough effort to develop the human cultures beyond the obvious initial inspiration.

On a positive note, I'd say Cheliax is Golarion's most interesting culture conceptually, but they dont do enough with it. A nation that is a proxy of hell is quite fascinating.

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Assuming consistency in genetic functions and a premodern level of travel technology, geography will be a major factor in human physical appearances, the location of cultural/population centers, cultural styles, architecture, language, etc.

Also, as one of my mentors used to say, "Establish the familiar so people can appreciate the exotic."

Dark Archive

Jessica Price wrote:

Assuming consistency in genetic functions and a premodern level of travel technology, geography will be a major factor in human physical appearances, the location of cultural/population centers, cultural styles, architecture, language, etc.

Also, as one of my mentors used to say, "Establish the familiar so people can appreciate the exotic."

I'm not saying they need to eat energon cubes or shoot laser beams from their toes to make them a memorable culture, I'm saying they need to develop a culture/race that isnt a direct import of something already established in reality.

I'm not arguing against the need for the mundane or the familiar, Im arguing against the predictable. I'm not saying you can't or shouldn't be inspired by existing culture (its all we have to inspire us), but it needs some new twists so it isnt so ho-hum and predictable. And the most ho-hum fantasy civilizations are when the writers take a real world race and match it straight to its traditional real world culture. There's no law saying that eskimos cant be super-advanced technology-wise or that jungle dwelling peoples cant create vibrant democracies with castle-like structures. Maybe eskimos build giant Ziggurats that more closely resemble early Egyptian culture with an arctic twist? They dont need stone, they have an endless supply of ice. Maybe the Osirrians build huge structures made of glass (plenty of sand) instead of building the very predictable pyramids?

Its a magical fantasy world so alot of the traditional rules regarding civilized development and technology automatically go out the window; so why culturally mimic reality so closely?

Dark Archive

Odraude wrote:
And as for these 'curves' you keep mentioning, some would actually call that unoriginal and lazy. You are essentially taking one culture and simply replacing the people with another race. "Hey, let's take Vikings, but make them all Asian! Isn't that original?" No, it's not.

Actually Im proposing merging two cultures to create a new hybrid. And even if I was just going to change the race and keep the exact same culture like you imply, it beats the pants off using the same race with its traditional real-world culture. For example: Tian Xa, Galt, Andoran, Ossirian, Jandelay.

I think those might be closer to the " unoriginal and lazy" you are referring to above.


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Oops_I_Crit_My_Pants wrote:
Odraude wrote:
And as for these 'curves' you keep mentioning, some would actually call that unoriginal and lazy. You are essentially taking one culture and simply replacing the people with another race. "Hey, let's take Vikings, but make them all Asian! Isn't that original?" No, it's not.

Actually Im proposing merging two cultures to create a new hybrid. And even if I was just going to change the race and keep the exact same culture like you imply, it beats the pants off using the same race with its traditional real-world culture. For example: Tian Xa, Galt, Andoran, Ossirian, Jandelay.

I think those might be closer to the " unoriginal and lazy" you are referring to above.

Does it though? It takes a good amount of research to learn about other cultures, but it takes so little thought to say "These guys are like the Ashanti but I'm going to make them Russians!" I'd rather an author actually put more work into a setting than just smashing two cultures together as a simple afterthought. It seems like change for the sake of change, not for the betterment of a setting. And some people actually love seeing cultures they identify with in RPGs or films or video games. Hell, I knew so little about the empires of Africa, let alone having an interest it them. Yet, reading about the Garundi and Mwangi people inspired me to read more about them and learn just how interesting they are.

And are these settings boring, or is it just boring to you? People have different tastes in what they want in a setting and Golarion exists to fit the different tastes of what people want. Some people don't like the 'crazy, fantastical stuff' and prefer more vanilla settings. Others like more magnanimous things in their setting, like firearms, other worlds, cities in ice bergs, and spaceships. People have their different tastes and Paizo has to take that into account when expanding on their setting. You see Galt as boring, while others see it as being full of ideas for political intrigue.

You keep cherrypicking nations in Golarion for their 'unoriginality', yet you keep ignoring some of the more exotic nations they have. Nex, an entire nation built upon transmutation magic. It's capital is borderline Eberron-ian and is surrounded by massive golems that constantly patrol. Hell, they even have a race of plant people that were originally created to be food, but now fights for their freedom. Geb, a nation populated by undead, where undead are the noble elite and the living are second-class citizens or worse, cattle. Alkenstar and the Mana Wastes, an area teaming with arcane mutants and post-apocalyptic wastelands. Numeria, the nation with a capital built next to a spaceship, robots, and alien technology all juxtaposed in a swords and sorcery background. And you label Jandelay as a boring, unoriginal, unfantastic city. Yet, it is an empire built and supported by enslaved geniekind and their powerful wizard masters, filled with incredible architecture, opulent decor, and massive monasteries. How is that unimaginative? Changing the people from their more Indian/Sri Lankan flavor to something else wouldn't change how incredible a genie-run empire is, nor would it add anything to the setting. I get the feeling you haven't read enough of the setting of Golarion and you are just making assumptions based on the more well-known nations.

And yes, Dark Sun is a great setting. It's amazing how creative and evocative the setting was, even if the writers were, as you see them, two 'pasty white men' and one 'pasty white woman'. Almost as if gender and race have nothing to do with the creative process... ;)

Liberty's Edge

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I agree with Odaraude, and I'd also like to point out that Golarion's paralels with real-world cultures are often overstated, in my opinion. Tian Xia *does* include fairly close paralels to Indonesia, Mongolia, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam, but it also has a nation of slave-driving hobgoblins, a formerly prosperous province now ruled by a Kraken, an underwater civilization, a kingdom of reptile-people with a ruling class of Naga, a damaged flying city (from the Africa analogue, no less) trying to hold onto its lost glory, a nation of aasimar built on a crack in the world that's slowly seeping unspeakable evil, and more.

Furthermore, even the nations with real-world paralels tend to be, for my money, creative and well-fleshed-out interpretations. Again in Tian Xia, people in the Indonesia analogue live alongside shadow-puppet creatures from another dimension, the Japan analogue is being secretly run by a conspiracy of oni, the Thailand analogue has an aristocracy based on sorcerer bloodlines, and the Vietnam analogue is openly run by a dragon. In the inner sea region, Osirion is probably one of the most obvious real-world paralels, but that country's ancient Egyptian flavor is mixed with a plethora of dark secrets from the past involving deals with Lovecraftian horrors from beyond, complex elemental politics governed by the orbit of a distant planet, hidden Rovagug cultists plotting the end of the world, unscrupulous merchants trading flesh with an underground civilization of ghouls... it's hardly a lazy copy of real-world concepts, is what I'm saying.


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It's also worth considering the purpose of these settings. The point isn't to show off originality and creativity. The point is, sometimes a group of players is going to go "Hey, it'd be really neat to play a game set in colonial America, but with owlbears and wizards and stuff" or "Just throwing this out there- Les Miserables with elves!" or "hey, let's do sort of a Castlevania sort of thing with our next campaign."

You want to have settings for stuff like this that are, at least in the broad strokes, exactly what everyone expects them to be. Give me a pitch like any of the above, and that's all I need to sit down and make a character. When you muddy the waters like Oops keeps suggesting, that doesn't really work anymore. Whatever you add to keep things from being straight up "Fantasy Stand-In for Setting X" potentially introduce stuff that's going to clash with someone's "Setting X" inspired character, so you have to stop and explain everything in detail up front.

Now, this doesn't mean that every setting needs to be that straight-forward. Weird creative settings are great too, and several exist. If you're trying to create a world that covers all the bases though, you really do need to represent a nice vanilla take on as many basic premises you can imagine a group wanting to run with. That doesn't stop with real-world inspired stuff either. Akiton is a blatant stand-in for Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sovereign Court

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Oops_I_Crit_My_Pants wrote:


I agree Dark Sun was definitely one of the more creative campaign worlds. And if you recall, one of the reasons it was so good was that it abandoned the hobby's accepted norms for elves, halflings, and dwarves. ....

Those are only meaningful in the context of a norm.

Basically, the thing which makes Dark Sun's races distinctive is the existence of FR and Greyhawk.

If Dark Sun was the big setting then their take on races would be standard/normal/regular/boring and people could make a big noise about how thrilling and exotic it would be to bring Tolkein-esque dwarves into the game.

For those of us who have replaced DND with PF, Golarion has replaced Greyhawk/FR.

It is the core setting.

The setting which establishes the norms.

Golarion is standard because Golarion is the standard.

There are already players out there who have no conception of the old tinker-gnome cliches. For those players Golarion's first-world-refugee gnomes are the standard, typical gnome. For those players a bulbous-nosed tinkering inventor gnome culture would be something strange and unexpected.

Oh, and if you're genuine in your second post in this thread then your OP is pretty terrible.


http://paizo.com/image/content/Blog/20121223-Group.jpg - Paizo field trip to the USS Nimitz. May I suggest that anyone unable to find any ladies in that line up may require an eye exam?

While it is entirely possible to make a purely original set of cultures in fantasy setting, Paizo chose to make many of the countries have a certain parallel with earth. Although anyone who thinks Galt accurately represents revolutionary France needs some more history lessons.

As pointed out, they also have more fantastic areas that don't correlate with any real world country. At least, I don't know any real world nations using a crashed star ship for the economies.

Paizo has tried to throw something in for everyone. Clearly you don't feel they have enough far out, fantastic elements (they have whole nations living on the sun...how is that not fantastic enough?) but then, you don't have to like everything in a setting to appreciate it being a well written, well thought out one. As a general rule, anyway.

Simply making a culture a different skin tone isn't exotic or clever - it is, however, unless very well done quite possibly offensive to the races involved.

Even merging two cultures is a dangerous path - I love Firefly enough to sell someone else's soul for it's return, but fact of the matter is that it's a bunch of pasty white people who occasionally swear in Chinese for the most part. The setting is supposed to be the great merger of Chinese and American culture, but bar Chinese cursing and some poor people in the background (they even had a real 'hot dog' stand...emphasis on the dog part) it's all American culture, with American looking people in charge. Look at all the people in the high-class party in the Episode 'Shindig' and it's pretty hard not to spot a problem.

Now imagine the issues if you go, 'And now Chlaliax, the devil worshipping slave trader nation are all black!' Or, nearly as bad, Cheliax becomes the only major white country...

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

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Gods....

I've a wisdom of 8, and even I know when to stop digging.

Liberty's Edge

Digitalelf wrote:
DM Jeff wrote:
I did, during its entire run. And I know they did that in the Realms

That's fair enough...

However...

Now I'm (honestly) curious...

If you knew that "they did that in the Realms", why did you then start your post with: "Golarion is the most racialy diverse campaign my players and I have ever known? (emphasis mine)

Wow take off a few days and look at the posts! I should have explained myself further, you are correct.

When I typed that, here was my thinking: "Never have I read a campaign setting before that offered such strong and interesting mechanical and story based reasons for players to want to branch out and really get into a human character of a certain ethnicity or nationality."

So to be fair, I should have used that sentence instead. :-)


JonGarrett wrote:
(they have whole nations living on the sun...how is that not fantastic enough?)

Wait what

Tell me more


Since the OP has now cleared up his position, I have to say that I agree somewhat.

I, too, don't like the blatant real world culture ripoffs in Golarion (as well as the terribly generic Golarion dwarves). Don't get me wrong: you can insert your "seafaring raiders from the north", "ancient civilization that built giant mausoleums", or "corrupted revolutionaries" all you want. Something for everyone, and all that.

But by the gods, don't make them Vikings, ancient Egyptians, or French. Don't use the same images and terminology (longships, pharaos, pyramids, guillotines, etc.). That is lazy. Yes, those and other cultures are not quite the same than those in our world. However, the similarities still are too obvious.

Why not twist them further? Gamers usually are a pretty smart bunch, and one or two at every table will get the references even without being clobbered over the head with them.

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