Presenting the Charu-ka in Hellknight Hill


Age of Ashes


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So I've read a lot of the conversation on these forums about racial sensitivity and inclusiveness and these things from important to me. I know Paizo is committed to doing better in these areas, and I have read some really good responses from James Jacob in particular about it.

All that being said: Having the player's first exposure to Golarion's Africa analogoue be literal baboon people and/or speaking in broken common feels off putting. I'm into the Analdi, and what little I've heard of book 2 definitely sounds like it prevents the people of the Mwangi Expanse in a better light. But that initial impression feels worrying, especially from the perspective of a player who isn't as well versed in Paizo's efforts towards representation as I am, and doesn't know they will be meeting less problematic African analogues if they keep playing.

I don't think this is an unworkable situation, but I'm at a bit of a loss as to how to handle introducing the Charu-ka in a way that doesn't risk making people uncomfortable, and I thought I'd ask if other folks had thoughts on the manner.


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They're evil baboon folk who worship a dragon god of destruction, I'd be more concerned if my players saw them and thought that was a racial caricature or representative of Mwangi/Not!Africa more than anything.


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Seems like a non-issue to me, they're small crazy monkey people, not an analogue for anything.


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One way could be to make sure the meeting with Renali shows another side. She is from there too. And she is a good person. I would (will) make sure to make them understand that if the Boggards and Charu-ka are bad exemple, she is a good one. Make sure she mention where she come from, and make her explain the cult's place in Mwangi society.

Another way is to first introduce one or two Mwangi merchants in town, before the council. Maybe they are in the tavern to see that "Call to Heroes" they heard about, by curiosity.


Elfteiroh wrote:

One way could be to make sure the meeting with Renali shows another side. She is from there too. And she is a good person. I would (will) make sure to make them understand that if the Boggards and Charu-ka are bad exemple, she is a good one. Make sure she mention where she come from, and make her explain the cult's place in Mwangi society.

Another way is to first introduce one or two Mwangi merchants in town, before the council. Maybe they are in the tavern to see that "Call to Heroes" they heard about, by curiosity.

Yeah, I'm super into Renali and think she makes a great counter point. But she pops up later and I'd like to avoid having people wait for the good one to show up.

But I do really like the idea of the Mwangi merchant. Maybe a second generation Breachhill citizen whose parents left because of how dangerous things were back in the day with the Gorilla King and Charu-ka cultists running around. It foreshadows those guys showing up later and makes it clear that those are the monsters preying on the people of the area, not the people themselves. And it provides an outside perspective on Breachhill itself, which can highlight how weird the town's obsession with Lamont Breachton is.


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I guess if you feel like you're players are going to handle their introduction poorly then you should adjust things accordingly. I'm not sure who would be the person to go in that direction from the word "go." Someone familiar with Golarion would know about the charu-ka and not equate them with the whole of Mwangi.

My players hadn't traipsed about in Pathfinder before and when they encountered the charu-ka, their first response was, "Evil monkey people, rad." I think if you have players looking to draw obtuse real world parallels they'll do it regardless of any actual basis*

*source: I played a game with a neo-Nazi for a few months before things started to add up in my head.


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Unfortunately, racists have really gone to town on calling black people monkeys. It is an idiotic connection but one that still crops up today. People said it on social medial about Michelle Obama when she left the white house. It is unfortunate that racist scumbags have made stuff like this problematic, but is a thing and it becomes hard to salvage once you are aware of it.

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For this adventure, I think you could replace the charau-ka with another ancestry, such as more boggards. Then, by the time charau-ka make an appearance in the next book, the PCs have already met both Renali and the Ekujae.


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I'm considering just going all Boggard for the Cinderclaws, yeah.

Man, racism suck guys. Because Ruzza is right. Evil monkey people are rad. But racists ruin everything.


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Are your players racist, or do you suspect them to be so? If not then I don't really see how this is a problem. If so then you might want to find new players anyway.


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Fumarole wrote:
Are your players racist, or do you suspect them to be so? If not then I don't really see how this is a problem. If so then you might want to find new players anyway.

No, but some of my players are black. I don't really follow the logic that you have to be racist to be made uncomfortable when racist stereotypes are invoked.


For fear of this thread turning into the other on general, the reason why people are asking about your players is intent. Depending on who the viewer is, "Monkey people" in a fantasy game that already has various animalistic races isn't an inherently racist idea. That's certainly not the intent.

However, like people have mentioned, if you feel like your players will have negative interactions with them, then yeah absolutely make the changes. I think the boggard change is a fine one, and one that works out decently with Belmazog in book 2.


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My players are not new to Golarion; they are all experience 1e players and have encountered charau-ka before. I imagine they will be excited to see the bastards again. So this isn't an issue for me.

But I can definitely see how it could be for groups that are new to the setting.


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Fumarole wrote:
Are your players racist, or do you suspect them to be so? If not then I don't really see how this is a problem. If so then you might want to find new players anyway.

If you wait until you've already made your players uncomfortable with the content or presentation of your campaign, then you waited too long. It's not that Captain Morgan is intentionally including racist caricatures in his game (because it seems very clear to me from what he's said that he would never do that, and his players doubtlessly know him better than I do), but rather that the presentation of the charau-ka veers close enough to an existing caricature that real-world racists use. Even though it's not the intended interpretation, that connection could make the experience very uncomfortable for one or more players, which is the kind of intrusion we don't want to seep into our escapism.

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It's important for a GM to know and understand their players, so that they can present a game that's safe and fun for them. The charau-ka are NOT meant to be racist coded in our setting. Neither are orcs or any other race. But the unfortunate truth is that racist traditions (eww) have made some fantasy tropes fraught with hate.

If the charau-ka are inappropriate for your setting, it's easy enough to change the animal side of them to something else jungled themed, or to simply replace them with boggards or kobolds. The point of the game is to have fun, not to make players and GMs feel awkward or excluded or, worst of all, hated.


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Dasrak wrote:
Fumarole wrote:
Are your players racist, or do you suspect them to be so? If not then I don't really see how this is a problem. If so then you might want to find new players anyway.
If you wait until you've already made your players uncomfortable with the content or presentation of your campaign, then you waited too long. It's not that Captain Morgan is intentionally including racist caricatures in his game (because it seems very clear to me from what he's said that he would never do that, and his players doubtlessly know him better than I do), but rather that the presentation of the charau-ka veers close enough to an existing caricature that real-world racists use. Even though it's not the intended interpretation, that connection could make the experience very uncomfortable for one or more players, which is the kind of intrusion we don't want to seep into our escapism.

Sure, which is why when I held my session 0 for Age of Ashes I told my players of some things that might come up and asked them if they had any issues with any of them. I also told them that they could tell me later if they didn't want to do so right then in front of everyone. They were also encouraged to tell me of things that they don't want in the game other than what I mentioned, and of course that could be done privately if they preferred.

Making changes to the game is fine if that's what a GM finds suitable, but it may not be necessary if the GM and players communicate to set expectations with each other. I guess I may be guilty of assuming that all GMS do this because it's something I've done for a long while.


Fumarole wrote:
Dasrak wrote:
Fumarole wrote:
Are your players racist, or do you suspect them to be so? If not then I don't really see how this is a problem. If so then you might want to find new players anyway.
If you wait until you've already made your players uncomfortable with the content or presentation of your campaign, then you waited too long. It's not that Captain Morgan is intentionally including racist caricatures in his game (because it seems very clear to me from what he's said that he would never do that, and his players doubtlessly know him better than I do), but rather that the presentation of the charau-ka veers close enough to an existing caricature that real-world racists use. Even though it's not the intended interpretation, that connection could make the experience very uncomfortable for one or more players, which is the kind of intrusion we don't want to seep into our escapism.

Sure, which is why when I held my session 0 for Age of Ashes I told my players of some things that might come up and asked them if they had any issues with any of them. I also told them that they could tell me later if they didn't want to do so right then in front of everyone. They were also encouraged to tell me of things that they don't want in the game other than what I mentioned, and of course that could be done privately if they preferred.

Making changes to the game is fine if that's what a GM finds suitable, but it may not be necessary if the GM and players communicate to set expectations with each other. I guess I may be guilty of assuming that all GMS do this because it's something I've done for a long while.

I do session zeros as well and use a similar approach, but it can be hard to hit on really specific points like this without spoiling things. It might be that in this particular case spoiling things might be the best solution. I'm pretty sure the player's guide mentions the Mwangi Expanse or at least globe trotting, so it might not even be that much of a spoiler.


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Captain Morgan wrote:
Fumarole wrote:


- snipped to the part I want to respond to -

Making changes to the game is fine if that's what a GM finds suitable, but it may not be necessary if the GM and players communicate to set expectations with each other. I guess I may be guilty of assuming that all GMS do this because it's something I've done for a long while.

I do session zeros as well and use a similar approach, but it can be hard to hit on really specific points like this without spoiling things. It might be that in this particular case spoiling things might be the best solution. I'm pretty sure the player's guide mentions the Mwangi Expanse or at least globe trotting, so it might not even be that much of a...

That won't solve the actual problem. We could debate in the abstract all day about whether it is a racist caricature or how your black players might feel about it, but it really doesn't matter - because YOU, the GM, have a problem using it. So the solution is not use them.

You have a sensitivity to this and really, even if it wouldn't phase your players, it will bother you. You are a part of the group of people at the table, which means that there is one person you KNOW is not going to be OK with it. And since you're the GM, you can take it out without having to spoil anything.

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