Is The Pathfinder Setting Ethically Problematic?


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion

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I was at a game store for a gameday/mini-con, when I chanced to get a good look at a poster advertising Pathfinder. (This the best pic I could find of it: http://paizo.com/image/product/catalog/PZO/PZO9226POSTER_500.jpeg)

I was seated pretty much facing this poster, so I pondered it a little bit. And if you squint at it, it looks like Europe and Africa. I've heard people say they think the setting is really creative, so I was surprised that it looked like a cliched Not-Europe.

So, during a break in the game, I went in closer to take a better look. There's different bubbles pointing at different areas, with a name and quick synopsis.

I had a good laugh looking at the top half of the map. Scandinavia is huge, because clearly Scandinavia is METAL, and there's a country of viking dwarf dragonslayers or something, which is pretty awesome, and a Transylvania/Ravenloft analogue, and something that looks like Grimdark France, and Romantic Spain in the middle of Europe, and Italy's been taken and put off of Scandinavia, and to the east there's some steampunk barbarian land, which is the only thing that seemed at all imaginative (but could possibly also be an analog for Czar Peter brings western technology to Russia).
Anyway, it looked a little interesting. Still obviously Not-Europe, but maybe if it was rotated like 90 degrees, the comparison wouldn't be so obvious.

Then I looked at Not-Africa, and it wasn't funny anymore.

There's seven civilizations in with text bubbles on the bottom half of the map. In the northeastern part of Not-Africa, we have “Osirion,” which is land of Pharoahs and Pyramids and clearly Not-Egypt. The Nile is clearly on the map. To the east, we have a Not-Arabia nation. These are direct historical analogues, much clearer and obvious than the ones in Europe which seemed to involve at least some imagination at first glance.

There's a nasty looking North-Not-African Nation, and an empire of (white) Liches on the East Coast. But mostly I am concerned about the three featured South Not-Saharan nations.

One is on the west coast, and is a haven for pirates.
One is in central Not-Africa, and is an empire of Talking Apes.
One is in central Not-Africa, and is a war torn land of Gnolls.

I don't care much for words like cultural appropriation or political correctness, but it seems to me that if you're doing stuff with other people's cultural heritage, you should try to honor them.

Thus, especially in the context of centuries of institutionalized abuse of Afrcian peoples by European ones, it seems particularly problematic that the people of central Africa (and therefore Black People in general) are depicted as either Pirates, Talking Apes, or Gnolls.

This is incredibly racist.

It's possible, I suppose that the setting isn't actually that racist. Maybe there's also really cool and empowering kingdoms peopled by Blacks. (I understand one of the iconic characters is a fully-clothed female black paladin, for which I thank Paizo.) But those nations either aren't on the map, or don't make enough of an impression compared to blatant stereotypes. Sure, Kingdom of the Apes is a classic Pulp Trope, but it features so prominently amongst an already cliched depiction of Africa.

Maybe I'm wrong and there's more to Pathfrinder's setting than this. But if I am, then Paizo is doing itself a disservice by presenting it in this way.


There are other threads about this subject floating about

Grand Lodge

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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Don't look at the other side of the world. It's Not-Asia.


Can you link to one? I am an outsider to this community and don't see such a topic.


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Dude I think this is one of those step away from the conversation now before you get hurt posts. I feel the huge group of designers and fans alike getting ready to verbally abuse you for this post.
That being said I think you either are reading to much in or just not reading enough.
There are pirates because playing a pirate campain is fun, that's why the skull and shackles AP exists.
There are talking apes because the designers read Tarzan and other books like it and thought "Hey I would like to play here" not because all black people are apes
The Gnoll area I can't help you with but probably stems from the same hey this would be a fun place to play not hey lets make fun of black people.
This kind of post hurts anti-racism movements because these people are obviously trying, i.e. black "female" paladin and you start calling them racist. People start not trying when you do that.


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You should see what they say about goblins.

Down with Paizo!

Vive le Galt!


. . . Not to mention effete plutocrats.

Taldor will rise again!


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While I can see where the OP is coming from, and I understand his POV and concern that this might hurt the image of Pathfinder somehow at some time, the only thing I can think of when I see the Mwangi Expanse is Gorilla City from DC Comics.

Grand Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
derrick mcmullin wrote:
Dude I think this is one of those step away from the conversation now before you get hurt posts. I feel the huge group of designers and fans alike getting ready to verbally abuse you for this post.

He's not going to be hurt and I certainly hope he doesn't get verbally abused. The Opening Post might be critical and fighty, but there's no reason this can't be a reasonable thread.

It's the way it is because people like things that are familiar and, it turns out, the real world and it's history is familiar. That's why we get things sorta like Africa, Europe, Asia, and other more fantastical settings that are familiar fantasy tropes.

-Skeld

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

No matter what I start to type I stop myself... thus I will just say, wow... and leave it at that.


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Oh really?

Golarion has probably the most interesting african settings I have seen in a fantasy world yet.

Have you seen Garund, Nex and Thuvia all predominantly black ethnic settings, and none of them are cliched,also Nex and Thuvia are among the more prominent and influential settings for flavour and lore.

Gnolls are not new and have always been from the desert so having them located in Garund/Mwangi is not racist.Assuming that Gnolls and sentient apes are somehow an analogy for black people on the other hand is racist.


Skeld wrote:


He's not going to be hurt and I certainly hope he doesn't get verbally abused. The Opening Post might be critical and fighty, but there's no reason this can't be a reasonable thread.
-Skeld

That's what I would hope and I bear the man no ill will. I really think that accusations of racism push peoples type without thinking buttons. I would love to see a post from one the designers about the thought process that went into designing those areas.


I didn't even know there was an empire of Talking Apes. I knew there are a bunch of fairly stereotyped black tribes and jungle kingdoms along with a Chelaxian(?) colonial presence. But I missed the Talking Apes.

And IIRC, the gnolls are a problem, but not actually the dominant force in their area (Katapesh?).

Maybe the map emphasizes things that are more problematic than the actual text of the setting?


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Regarding the southern continent, there appears to be a pretty enormous amount of setting detail of which the OP is completely ignorant. Shame.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
derrick mcmullin wrote:


That being said I think you either are reading to much in or just not reading enough.

It's a bit of both. Clearly the OP hasn't actually dug into the materials, just looked at a poster and made some big yet shallow assumptions based on geographical similarities with Europe/Africa. I would recommend that the OP actually delve into reading the materials rather than examining a poster and making assumptions.


thejeff wrote:

I didn't even know there was an empire of Talking Apes. I knew there are a bunch of fairly stereotyped black tribes and jungle kingdoms along with a Chelaxian(?) colonial presence. But I missed the Talking Apes.

And IIRC, the gnolls are a problem, but not actually the dominant force in their area (Katapesh?).

Maybe the map emphasizes things that are more problematic than the actual text of the setting?

The charau-ka (sp?) ruled over by giant fiendish girallons. [Shudders] Don't go there, man.


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Lord Dice wrote:

. . . Not to mention effete plutocrats.

Taldor will rise again!

Down with plutocrats, effete or otherwise!


Also , Golarions not-Merlin/Elminster Jatembe is black and there is plenty of hints about fallen high cultures that where located in the Mwangi expanse.Like the Shory empire with its flying cities.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

Maybe you live in a area where racial issues are manifest and are hyper sensitive to it. I don't live in such an area, so your argument is lost on me, cause I don't get it.

In my long life, I have noticed one truism - if you are looking for 'racism' you will find it. I had a disagreement with a person of color once (a fellow staff member). I was called a racist to my face by him for , get this, simply disagreeing with him. He was looking for 'racism' and he found it with my right to disagree with him.

I looked at the exact same poster as you. I don't see what you see and it is not because I am ignorant of racial issues and real world histories. It is because I am not reading anything into it, which IMO, you are.


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May I now conclude that Paizo is racist towards white people because Cheliax is inhabited by white people, and thus Paizo is more or less saying that white people are devil worshippers?

I completely agree with Sleet Storm that the assumption of Gnolls and Vanara (monkeys) being black people analogues is what's really racist here. (Also, where else would you place the hyena and monkey people if not in the place that is actually based on the areas where they live in the real world?)


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Sleet Storm wrote:

Oh really?

Golarion has probably the most interesting african settings I have seen in a fantasy world yet.

Have you seen Garund, Nex and Thuvia all predominantly black ethnic settings, and none of them are cliched,also Nex and Thuva are among the more prominent and influential settings for flavour and lore.

Gnolls are not new and have always been from the desert so having them located in Garund/Mwangi is not racist.Assuming that Gnolls and sentient apes are somehow an analogy for black people on the other hand is racist.

No. Don't do this.

Remember he's only going off the poster, which is limiting, but reasonable, since Paizo is using it to advertise the setting. It does make a first impression.
And it's pretty easy (and generally correct) to infer from the map that Garund is, as he put it, not-Africa. An Africa analogue.
Given that, and given the number of white faces in the other section of the poster, having only one not-Egyptian black human appear in your not-Africa is problematic. The other possibilities, as far as I can see from the small scale map are the pirate (might be black, might be not-human, can't tell from the picture) the gnoll and ape and a demonic thing. And whatever that's supposed to be in Geb - certainly not an African human.
Knowing more about the setting, I think it's just an unfortunate choice of emphasis, but it's certainly not racist to wonder why Apes and humanoid monsters are shown in the part of not-Africa where you'd expect black African analogues to be.


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Anyway, OP, now that I've looked at the picture you presented, the Mwangi Expanse isn't a country, it's a geographical area...much like "Sub-Saharan Africa." The talking apes don't rule over the whole thing, they've just got one city in the jungle.

I flipped through the Mwangi Expanse book a while back (The Heart of the Jungle which reminds me of Conrad--more racism!!!) and I don't really remember the details, but, rest assured, black folk are more than just talking apes in Golarion.

Well, actually, I think all of you pinkskins--pink, black, yellow or whatever--are little more than talking apes, but I digress.


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Thymus Vulgaris wrote:

May I now conclude that Paizo is racist towards white people because Cheliax is inhabited by white people, and thus Paizo is more or less saying that white people are devil worshippers?

I completely agree with Sleet Storm that the assumption of Gnolls and Vanara (monkeys) being black people analogues is what's really racist here. (Also, where else would you place the hyena and monkey people if not in the place that is actually based on the areas where they live in the real world?)

It's the lack of actual black people and their replacement by apes and gnolls in the area where you'd expect African analogues to be that seems problematic.

And it was Paizo's choice to emphasize those on its poster map.


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Bill Dunn wrote:
derrick mcmullin wrote:


That being said I think you either are reading to much in or just not reading enough.
It's a bit of both. Clearly the OP hasn't actually dug into the materials, just looked at a poster and made some big yet shallow assumptions based on geographical similarities with Europe/Africa. I would recommend that the OP actually delve into reading the materials rather than examining a poster and making assumptions.

Again, this is a poster Paizo put forth to advertise its material. It's likely to be first contact for some, like it was for the OP. If it gives off a racist impression, that's important. Even if it was unintentional, as I'm sure it was. And even if it's not supported by the more detailed source material, which I don't believe it is.


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Comrade Anklebiter wrote:

Anyway, OP, npw that I've looked at the picture you presented, the Mwangi Expanse isn't a country, it's a geographical area...much like "Sub-Saharan Africa." The talking apes don't rule over the whole thing, they've just got one city in the jungle.

I flipped through the Mwangi Expanse book a while back (The Heart of the Jungle which reminds me of Conrad--more racism!!!) and I don't really remember the details, but, rest assured, black folk are more than just talking apes in Golarion.

Absolutely true. But not well represented by this poster.

The Talking Apes were what Paizo chose to represent the Mwangi and essentially all of interior Garund for this poster.
Probably not because of any racist motivation, but just because Talking Apes are cool.


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thejeff wrote:

No. Don't do this.

Remember he's only going off the poster, which is limiting, but reasonable, since Paizo is using it to advertise the setting. It does make a first impression.

The question/title of the thread is about the SETTING (Is the Pathfinder Setting Ethically Problematic?). The question arose because of the poster.

So the answer given above was a good one. It addresses the OP question by talking about the setting.

One might argue that the poster has the possibility of offending some people. But the setting is deeper than that.


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Democratus wrote:
thejeff wrote:

No. Don't do this.

Remember he's only going off the poster, which is limiting, but reasonable, since Paizo is using it to advertise the setting. It does make a first impression.

The question/title of the thread is about the SETTING (Is the Pathfinder Setting Ethically Problematic?). The question arose because of the poster.

So the answer given above was a good one. It addresses the OP question by talking about the setting.

One might argue that the poster has the possibility of offending some people. But the setting is deeper than that.

That's reasonable. Responding to the question by talking about how the setting isn't racist is a good way to handle it.

Accusing the questioner of racism for asking about it is not.


"Regarding the southern continent, there appears to be a pretty enormous amount of setting detail of which the OP is completely ignorant. Shame."

"It's a bit of both. Clearly the OP hasn't actually dug into the materials, just looked at a poster and made some big yet shallow assumptions based on geographical similarities with Europe/Africa. I would recommend that the OP actually delve into reading the materials rather than examining a poster and making assumptions."

I don't play Pathfinder, nor have I read it. I signed up to post this and see if the Pathfinder community shares any of my concerns.

I'm willing to give Pathfinder the benefit of the doubt and assume that there's more stuff there. However, I think that we should be concerned that this poster, which is an advertisement for the game, is not putting its best face forward.


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Personally, I'm not willing to comment on the poster until I see a legible version (that is, one where I can read the text myself.) As for the broader question, I find Golarion to be ethnically diverse rather than ethnically problematic, but, as always, YMMV.


thejeff wrote:
Thymus Vulgaris wrote:

May I now conclude that Paizo is racist towards white people because Cheliax is inhabited by white people, and thus Paizo is more or less saying that white people are devil worshippers?

I completely agree with Sleet Storm that the assumption of Gnolls and Vanara (monkeys) being black people analogues is what's really racist here. (Also, where else would you place the hyena and monkey people if not in the place that is actually based on the areas where they live in the real world?)

It's the lack of actual black people and their replacement by apes and gnolls in the area where you'd expect African analogues to be that seems problematic.

And it was Paizo's choice to emphasize those on its poster map.

It's hard to tell much from the picture, but I suppose (black) humans are indeed underrepresented down there. It's just not something I would ever read anything into... Who knows, maybe they just threw in all the exotic non-human races into Garund, because honestly, that's where they placed the exiting ones in their setting (rather than in Avistan, where we've mostly got core races), and they wanted these to be represented on their poster? Thus, when they decided to include Gnolls, Vanarans and the undead of Geb, this stole the spotlight from the human ethnicities of the continent.

See, now I got myself into a train of thought where it could be argued that the reason there are so few black people on the map is because the Africa analogue is a much more exciting place than the Europe analogue, and that there is a lot more to explore than just boring old humans. Not-Africa is an exciting place as opposed to Not-Europe, and that would be something positive.

There's always a way to spin it. I'm not saying I'm right and anyone who doesn't agree with me is wrong, and I might be in a bad position to be saying this (being white myself), but I just don't understand the whole deal with being so easily offended...


thejeff wrote:


Absolutely true. But not well represented by this poster.
The Talking Apes were what Paizo chose to represent the Mwangi and essentially all of interior Garund for this poster.
Probably not because of any racist motivation, but just because Talking Apes are cool.

Yeah, I know. That's why I was filling him in.


Also, I think the poster is over two years old.

Which doesn't mean you can't comment on it, but the chances of something being done about it are pretty slim.

But next time you make a poster, Paizoplutocrats, more black folk...and more goblins!!!


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WillowX wrote:


I'm willing to give Pathfinder the benefit of the doubt and assume that there's more stuff there. However, I think that we should be concerned that this poster, which is an advertisement for the game, is not putting its best face forward.

See this, language like this is problematic. It assumes racism when non exists. I get your point I truly due, but if you look at the poster and your first thought is holy heck racism I must run to the boards and make sure everyone knows that they are playing a racist game with out reading anymore then that you are placing way too much emphasis on racism and maybe need to let things sit for a while before you post.


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thejeff wrote:

That's reasonable. Responding to the question by talking about how the setting isn't racist is a good way to handle it.

Accusing the questioner of racism for asking about it is not.

I am sure neither Sleet Storm nor myself wished to accuse the OP of being racist. But IMO, when someone says (and I'm paraphrasing) "Gnolls and talking monkeys are black people analogues, and thats racist," I think they need to think just once or twice about whom to point their finger at. (Unless there is any real evidence that these races are indeed meant to represent blacks, and I don't think we've been presented with any).


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
WillowX wrote:
I'm willing to give Pathfinder the benefit of the doubt and assume that there's more stuff there. However, I think that we should be concerned that this poster, which is an advertisement for the game, is not putting its best face forward.

That is a valid statement. Looking at the poster...

I have the limitation that I have followed Paizo's Golarion stuff since long before that poster was even published, so seeing it with new eyes is difficult.
That said, I can see the point you are making. Of course it is also interesting to me, looking at it, that the pictures shown in Avistan are for the most part non-antagonistic NPC's, while the pictures shown in Garund are for the most part antagonistic NPC's...
Which is it's own kettle of fish.


Now that I look at the poster all I can say is this whole post seems to be a knee jerk reaction towards assuming everything is racist. All the poster points out is areas and has a picture and a brief description. I would never assume that I could understand the real intent of the writers from that. I can only assume the OP was looking for a fight and he found one. That being said the issue of racism in game design is a fascinating one especially with such a progressive company like Paizo


WillowX wrote:
Can you link to one? I am an outsider to this community and don't see such a topic.

To the OP:

Here was the previous one . I have neither the time nor the inclination to do further searches for you . You can simply do a general search of the messageboards. I would suggest "ethnic" and "racist" keywords and search by date.


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Reading this post makes me contemplate my own world and try to see it as if someone else were looking at it through similar eyes as the OP here.

I suppose if one turns their head and squints enough, you might find some things in my world that you could argue resemble certain geographical features of the real-world earth. But I worked pretty hard to avoid that.

However, my world does have some similarities in climate to our earth, meaning primarily that the poles are cold and populated with cultures that are analogous to some earth cold-climate cultures (for what I think are defensible reasons), the equator is hot and is where you will find most of the dense jungles and baking deserts (and yes, again there are some cultural analogs for, again what I think are defensible reasons).

Perhaps the most potentially bothersome thing about my world is that the northern hemisphere tends to be populated with the more economically and technologically advanced nations, while the southern hemisphere is more wild and undeveloped. That might prod some people to believe that I have deliberately skewed my world towards a northern hemisphere "first world" view.

I've been wondering where to put my gunslinger/steampunk nation... I guess the answer is to put it on the southern continent and then I can address any final accusations that my world is racist by virtue of its geology...

Food for thought.


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@WillowX

I think one picture is a rather shallow approximation of the state of Golarion and the Inner Sea specifically. It is a vibrant and rich world that genuinely pays homage to our human roots - it doesn't exploit or belittle humanity's history and cultures, but draws genuine parallels while elaborating and weaving a complex setting. There is a tremendous amount of depth and material written on various parts of the setting - and a single poster map cannot do more than try to impress on the viewer the diversity of the world. One picture only draws a thousand words, where literally millions have been written.

To put your ethical concerns further to rest, consider that the Mwangi Expanse (Not-Africa) is indeed partially exploited by Not-European states - specifically Cheliax has significant colonial presence in the Mwangi. Now Cheliax, as you may not know, is a nation of devil-worshippers, the rulers have literally made a contract with the head devil himself - and their empire extends through various holdings and colonies throughout the Inner Sea; in a way you could argue that Cheliax embodies the negative traits that could be associated with the historic actions and philosophies of the West.

But, to turn the page, the Mwangi (Not-Africa) is not defined by its contact with the Not-European countries; it is deeper, has a far richer and more complex history - the colonial aspects just add a newest, not-even-most-significant layer. The Mwangi Expanse is considered the root of magic - almost unarguably the greatest magic-user to have walked the face of Golarion (Old Man Jatembe) taught how to control magic to humans in the Mwangi.

Various nations in the Mwangi Expanse portray many other facets of African history, while even others add wholly novel faces to the continent.


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derrick mcmullin wrote:
WillowX wrote:


I'm willing to give Pathfinder the benefit of the doubt and assume that there's more stuff there. However, I think that we should be concerned that this poster, which is an advertisement for the game, is not putting its best face forward.
See this, language like this is problematic. It assumes racism when non exists. I get your point I truly due, but if you look at the poster and your first thought is holy heck racism I must run to the boards and make sure everyone knows that they are playing a racist game with out reading anymore then that you are placing way too much emphasis on racism and maybe need to let things sit for a while before you post.

Well, in some ways it's a better response than: "Another racist game. Guess I won't be playing that one."

He came here and shared his reaction. Which allows us the chance to point out that the setting really isn't like that.
And possibly, since the staff do follow these boards, let them know that things like this are something to watch out for. Which I do think they do a good job of already, but things can always slip through.


WillowX wrote:

"Regarding the southern continent, there appears to be a pretty enormous amount of setting detail of which the OP is completely ignorant. Shame."

"It's a bit of both. Clearly the OP hasn't actually dug into the materials, just looked at a poster and made some big yet shallow assumptions based on geographical similarities with Europe/Africa. I would recommend that the OP actually delve into reading the materials rather than examining a poster and making assumptions."

I don't play Pathfinder, nor have I read it. I signed up to post this and see if the Pathfinder community shares any of my concerns.

I'm willing to give Pathfinder the benefit of the doubt and assume that there's more stuff there. However, I think that we should be concerned that this poster, which is an advertisement for the game, is not putting its best face forward.

I hardly think this is the game not putting its best face forward. The fact of the matter is that it will advertise the Shackles in the poster because it's Pirates, and that will sell, because people will want to run pirate campaigns. It will show Gnolls in the picture for the mana wastes, because what else would it show? You can't exactly represent a magic-dead nation with a picture of someone not doing magic, so they chose something eye catching that's common in the reason. The same thing with the Mwangi Expanse. They probably should have put Nex on the map, but I don't see anything there that shouts Racism.

Besides, this is a single poster that has dubious accusations of racism; contrast that with every single cover or advertising material that prominently features Seelah, the iconic Paladin. Hell, I'd say the Pathfinder setting is one of the more progressive settings out there, with a broad mix of ethnicities represented, a just about 50/50 gender split amongst the iconics (with a good number of the front-line iconics being female, and not just having the women relegated to support and/or ranged roles), and not to mention them handling the presence of LGBT npc (and even one of the iconics) better than any other fantasy RPG setting I've read, managing to neither ignore the issue, or turning their inclusion into tokenism. While I get the fact that you don't know the setting, I just can't see any reason to draw that conclusion.


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Don't worry, OP, I'm sure no actual Gnolls were offended by the poster.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
thejeff wrote:

No. Don't do this.

Remember he's only going off the poster, which is limiting, but reasonable, since Paizo is using it to advertise the setting. It does make a first impression.
And it's pretty easy (and generally correct) to infer from the map that Garund is, as he put it, not-Africa. An Africa analogue.
Given that, and given the number of white faces in the other section of the poster, having only one not-Egyptian black human appear in your not-Africa is problematic.

Well, okay: taking the OP purely at his/her word, and bearing in mind that her only exposure to the setting is a poster, then the answer to the original, question is, "No." The Pathfinder setting is not ethically problematic.

The poster may be problematic in that it does not accurately reflect the majority ethnicities of many of the spots it chooses to highlight. Geb, to take just one example, is certainly not full of white liches; the woman Paizo chose to show on the map may well be the only white person in that region, and she's not a native. It's also worth noting that most of the conclusions the OP drew about the northern continent are also either simplistic or dead wrong, and that may well be also the fault of the map. I gather, however, that the OP is not as concerned about that.

But I think if we take the OP at his/her word that her main criteria for "ethically problematic" is that the southern continent appears to consist solely of pirates, apes, and gnolls, then we can certainly all agree that the actual setting does not meet that criteria. Katapesh (which is at least partially inspired by Afghanistan) is not overrun by gnolls; Geb is not full of white liches; the "nasty-looking" nation in north Garund is populated primarily by perfectly civilized black people, not by fiendish divs; and the ape lord's kingdom comprises only a small part of the Mwangi expanse, and his subjects are primarily other evil apes, not people. There are at least 7 human dark-skinned ethnicities described in the setting as living on the southern continent, more than the number of light-skinned ethnicities on the northern continent (unless you want to count the Shoanti as "light-skinned", which I definitely think would be ethically problematic). A few of these ethnicities are heirs to one of the most advanced ancient civilizations in the setting (and I am not talking about the Osirians), and the sub-not-Saharan jungle region boasts the most prestigious magical academy in the setting's current day.

No, the setting is not ethically problematic. You got the wrong impression from a poorly designed map.


Thymus Vulgaris wrote:
thejeff wrote:

That's reasonable. Responding to the question by talking about how the setting isn't racist is a good way to handle it.

Accusing the questioner of racism for asking about it is not.
I am sure neither Sleet Storm nor myself wished to accuse the OP of being racist. But IMO, when someone says (and I'm paraphrasing) "Gnolls and talking monkeys are black people analogues, and thats racist," I think they need to think just once or twice about whom to point their finger at. (Unless there is any real evidence that these races are indeed meant to represent blacks, and I don't think we've been presented with any).

To quote the OP and elaborate a little:

Quote:
it seems particularly problematic that the people of central Africa (and therefore Black People in general) are depicted as either Pirates, Talking Apes, or Gnolls.

Garund is pretty obviously an analogue of Africa, but on this map, especially in Central Africa, that's all you get. I suppose you could assume that black people don't actually inhabit the Africa analogue, other than possibly as coastal Pirates and that the Apes and Gnolls aren't intended to represent them, but given the long history of blacks being represented as sub-human that's a bit of stretch.

At least it is using no more information than is on the map.

Now, in the actual setting it's clear that's not the case. There are actual African analogues living in those areas and they're human with interesting cultures of their own. No more stereotyped than their whiter counterparts in Avistan.

The poster gives the wrong impression.


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Thymus Vulgaris wrote:
thejeff wrote:

That's reasonable. Responding to the question by talking about how the setting isn't racist is a good way to handle it.

Accusing the questioner of racism for asking about it is not.
I am sure neither Sleet Storm nor myself wished to accuse the OP of being racist. But IMO, when someone says (and I'm paraphrasing) "Gnolls and talking monkeys are black people analogues, and thats racist," I think they need to think just once or twice about whom to point their finger at. (Unless there is any real evidence that these races are indeed meant to represent blacks, and I don't think we've been presented with any).

Though, I think it's safe to use this as a comparison:

The OP decided to take a look at a single piece of advertising that is arguably poorly representative of the setting, and assumed that the setting must be racist because of it.

So why are you chastising Thymus and Sleet for taking a look at a single post that is arguably poorly reasoned out, and assumed the OP might be racist because of it? Seems a mite hypocritical, especially with the foreknowledge of the setting, to know for sure that the OP was wrong in his assumptions.


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I will also say that fantasy analogues of Africa are a minefield. Especially when you want to play around with pulp tropes and settings as Paizo often does. So much of that is based on European colonialist and racist takes on the area. It's a rich field of fun and interesting ideas to use, but it's very firmly rooted in the racist ideas of the time. It's very hard to do anything with savage jungle tribes, lost kingdoms, or even talking apes without running smack into racist tropes.
I do think Paizo does a very good job of navigating that minefield. Of providing us with a pulpish not-Africa that fills that adventuring niche, without descending into racism. There are some missteps, but the intent is good and usually successful.


It's pretty silly to jump to "racism" based on a poster, VERY silly. Obviously, they wanted some eye catching fantasy images for each area. Talking apes arguably will do that, more than a typical local of the region in question. Silly OP. Read first before making sweeping accusations.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
thejeff wrote:

To quote the OP and elaborate a little:

Quote:
it seems particularly problematic that the people of central Africa (and therefore Black People in general) are depicted as either Pirates, Talking Apes, or Gnolls.
Garund is pretty obviously an analogue of Africa, but on this map, especially in Central Africa, that's all you get. I suppose you could assume that black people don't actually inhabit the Africa analogue, other than possibly as coastal Pirates and that the Apes and Gnolls aren't intended to represent them, but given the long history of blacks being represented as sub-human that's a bit of stretch. At least it is using no more information than is on the map.

No, I have to disagree with this. The map is problematic but it does not exist in a complete contextual vacuum. Even with the understanding that the southern continent is an Africa analogue, there is a big difference between inferring "This region contains demonic apes and gnolls" and "The demonic apes and gnolls in this setting are meant to represent black people." It is really difficult to see the latter as anything but an attempt to make the least charitable assumption possible.

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