The W*ndigo Problem


Advice

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The Gleeful Grognard wrote:

I am far happier with diverse foes than sticking to anglo centric mythos only.

More to the point, why should anglo centric mythos be exempted from protection? Or conversely, wouldn't a system designed entirely around anglo-centric mythos, at the exclusion of all others, be equally racist?

"Sorry Bob, you can't play an assassin, people might take that the wrong way."

"No, you can't play a spirit shaman type either, sounds too much like someone else's culture."

"No, please don't flavor your cleric to be akin to a buddhist/native american shaman/imam/etc. Please, still to caucasian priest."

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that people shouldn't be respectful, especially when gaming with people of different backgrounds, but as pointed out, it can very easily and quickly get out of hand. Rather, I would say that if you do intend to use something inspired by a particular culture, do some research and truly learn about it. Learn about it so that you can portray it as accurately as possible. Who knows, you just might learn something and enjoy the process.


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Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Temperans wrote:
Grankless wrote:
Just because it's not illegal to do so doesn't mean you should disrespect other cultures by going against their desires for how their culture should be treated.

As far as this thread is concerned, only 1 Native American (not counting any in the Paizo team) has said anything. With that being, "its fine as long as the themes and lessons remains". Which they do in the Paizo lore and abilities of the wendigo.

Unless I missed something, the links were by white people wanting to stop its use?

That's kind of the rub, really. The people who are loudest about cultural appropriation often aren't members of the cultural group in question. It's a bizarre phenomenon to be sure!

If something offends a particular cultural group, they tend to let people know about it. If they don't ever bring it up, than it's probably not that big a deal, and people outside the group probably shouldn't make it into one. If I can't represent a given culture because I'm not a member, how is it right that you can do so as a non-member of said culture by claiming cultural appropriation in the first place?

Unless brought forward by a member of the culture in question, it's just hypocrisy. Even then, the lack of clearly defined limitations and expectations often only leads to problems.


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I don't see how it's hypocritical to care about other people.

Again, just because you have convinced yourself it isn't a big deal, that doesn't mean it isn't. Please, open a book. Read a Wikipedia article. Make literally any effort to broaden your horizons.


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Grankless wrote:

I don't see how it's hypocritical to care about other people.

Again, just because you have convinced yourself it isn't a big deal, that doesn't mean it isn't. Please, open a book. Read a Wikipedia article. Make literally any effort to broaden your horizons.

We care about other people. We read the articles presented, looked at the quote from a nearly first hand account. I've read the wikipedia articles and other literature (I was researching it before the thread but ended up stopping because it wasn't appropriate to the content I was designing.) The constant theme throughout everything I've read is, "if you are respectful and use it to teach similar lessons we do, go ahead."

If you have some counter evidence, present it. Don't just tell people to educate themselves. Its haughty, elitist and doesn't actually prove anything.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

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This touches on a subject that I'm very invested in, personally. As someone of Tlingit descent born and raised in Alaska, I've always found the lack of representation for indigenous culture in games and books really upsetting. The toggle seems to be "stereotypes through the lens of white writers with no connections to the culture" or "no representation at all". I don't claim to have any insight into the right or wrong answer to using a creature like the Wendigo, as that's not part of any culture I have a personal connection to (the Ojibwe, Saulteaux, Cree, Naskapi, and Innu are all further east than any of my roots). I do, personally, feel like there was an over-correction that happened in fantasy around the 80s or 90s, when many white creators began realizing that they shouldn't be appropriating indigenous lore without indigenous input, but I've also felt like the ramification of that relatively positive cultural move was to hasten the erasure of indigenous peoples from this platform and create new issues by reformatting those tropes and applying them to orcs, lizardfolk, etc.

As a person of Tlingit descent who grew up surrounded by Tlingit culture, I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to consult on the Lost Omens World Guide and recommend that we look at PNW indigenous art as an inspiration for the Sarkorian flag. My perspective on that was "How has a progressive company on Seattle's doorstep not had more representation and inspiration from our neighbors in our work?" Similarly when Lost Omens Character Guide came out and I got to share images and artwork with Eleanor showing Tlingit, Haida, Athabascan, Tsimshian, Aleut, and Inuit art, clothing, and people that could serve as inspiration for our artists working on the depictions of the in-world Erutaki and Varki peoples, adding elements to our setting that would allow the people I grew up with to see respectful representations of themselves in our work.

I don't know what the right and wrong answers to appropriate representation are. I do know that I and the other developers bust our asses trying to make sure that we pull qualified representatives of the communities mirrored in our world in as freelancers to help shape the elements that mirror them. Sometimes that works out, sometimes it doesn't, but I'm a member of an indigenous creators Discord along with James Case and we've done a few calls to pull in and train freelancers from that community and others. I also work with several of the Alaska Native corporations to source new authors as they're available. I hope that we're pointed in the right direction and that we continue to improve. I know we're committed to it, from the publisher to the editors.

I, personally, love seeing the art and faces that I grew up around appearing in this game. I like seeing indigenous lore spread to other people who might learn about it from the taste they get in our game and go on to discover even more. I've pushed on a couple occasions to add kushtaka, a Tlingit monster who holds a unique place that intersects with Tlingit spiritual beliefs, into one of our products, because I think about how cool it would have been for me as a 16-year-old kid reading Forgotten Realms novels to see something that reflected my corner of the world in the media I loved.


Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Very cool, Michael!


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Grankless wrote:

I don't see how it's hypocritical to care about other people.

Again, just because you have convinced yourself it isn't a big deal, that doesn't mean it isn't. Please, open a book. Read a Wikipedia article. Make literally any effort to broaden your horizons.

Hi there

Bachelors in English Literature (My Specialty is the intersection of Identity and Mythology/Literature, my Mentor's is the intersection of Sexual Identity and Religion)

Minor in Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies (Read: Social Justice, the Minor)

Masters in Library and Information Science

Currently working in a Public Library serving a diverse community, after writing my special project (Read: Master's Thesis) on the incorporation of Tabletop Games in the library space.

Horizons Broad Enough?

____________________________________________________________________

I also think that 'cultural appropriation' is a misguided concept, its important to 'respect' cultures, but I believe that comes primarily from sincerity and earnestness, rather than obedience. Quite truthfully, I can (as can anyone else who has faced abuse) tell you respect is a fraught and problematic concept, as it often means whatever the person demanding it wants it to, it means gas lighting someone into compliance by making resistance an intrinsic moral wrong, and telling them their feelings and intentions don't matter. Its because of my education (including my classes on domestic violence and such) that I feel as I do about it. Its because of my education that I understand cultures aren't monolithic, the very idea of 'permission' is grounded in appealing to authorities that don't exist and don't speak for everyone in their ethnic group.

It's not especially inter-sectional either, we're used to thinking of something as being written by a member of X culture, but we don't consider that it was written by a poor person, or a queer person, or a rural person, or a person living through a revolution. Each of these are groups people belong to that cross ethnic lines, but we shy away from making those every bit as an important simply because nationalism is a form of propaganda that advertises itself as greater.

The notion that culture is owned ethnically is just a fundamental building block of colonialism that has never been truly criticized as it ought to have been. For those of us who are immigrants, nationalist ideas of culture can leave us adrift and alienated, our feet in multiple worlds not acknowledged by anyone. It also binds, hand and foot, those who meant their message for the whole world-- the people who told the story and meant it not as a 'cultural element' but as truth, or a story to spread as far as it can go, this happens a lot with religion and mythology, where the truth of 'how the world works' is rendered impotent by cultural specificity, a victim of colonial attitudes concerning other cultures. We never take them seriously as a possible truth, when its just whatever X group believes.

Human Culture is a shared heritage, one that we should all celebrate without border walls. We should oppose Nationalism, even when it appears, promising to break the chains of oppression, because it only leads us to create more, as it's always done.


Didn't read the while thread, so I apologize if this point had already been made.
To me the deference given to Christianity in gaming is more telling than the appropriation of other religious beliefs.
That these are religious beliefs to some one is key.
We generally shrug off the concerns of Christians who decry the demon worship and magic use in games, because they are considered a fringe minority, who's beliefs on the subject can be dismissed by our own lived experience.
We have never actually summoned demons by playing theses games, but likewise we haven't called up W*ndigo either.
Neither belief holds true, so we are left with a choice of respecting another persons faith.
How is this choice made?

What we do not generally do is depict the Christian god, the saints, apostles,orJesus.
Taken as "folklore" the Bible is a compelling mix of horrific violence and awe inspiring magic.
It's good stuff, either as the written word of god or well crafted fantasy.
But it is almost never used as source material, unless it is severely obscured.
The Catholic Church,Holy Roman Empire,and Inquisition are often depicted poorly(with the serial numbers rubbed off)but most modern day King James beliefs are pointedly left out,and names are never used.
Not in official Pathfinder or Dn'D stuff, at least not that I am aware of.

I could be wrong, but it seems to me we can tell who is being disrespected by who is being treated with kid gloves.
This deference extends to the other "people's of the book", the Need and the Muslims, and perhaps even further.

We don't see clerics of Jesus, paladins of G*D,and Oracles of Muhammad in the game, why not?

We do see the W*ndigo in the game,why?

The only real difference is I see is the power of the religions involved.

Let me note, I am not advocating anything by making these observations, because I really don't have any answers, just annoying questions.


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As far as I know in Pathfinder very few of the deity depectied are real world if any. Some may be the same with, as you put it, the serial numbers filed off. So yeah we don't have clerics of Jesus and we don't have clerics of Thor, Zeus, Buddha, Mohammad, Tialoc, Legba, or Shiva. Then couple that with how the Christian God represents a one true god and thus would be unlikely to exist in this type of pantheon and it furthers the issue even with a store brand version. It doesn't mesh well with the story to have that type of all powerful being.

But we do have several things in game that have ties to European cultures and Abrahamic faiths if if simply due to being mentioned regarded against in them.


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The whole one True God thing is certainly good justification for not using Christianity (or any of the Abrahamic religions) in D&D fantasy. He would have to be either the only God in the setting or one very different from Christian understanding.

It's certainly been done in fantasy - all the way back to Tolkien, but very hard to mix with Pathfinder's general approach to deities. (Or D&D's before it.)

Liberty's Edge

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Talonhawke wrote:
As far as I know in Pathfinder very few of the deity depectied are real world if any.

This is not true. The entire Ancient Osirion pantheon, while seldom worshiped on Golarion, are just straight-up the real world pantheon worshiped by the Ancient Egyptians (Horus, Isis, Osiris, etc.).

Other deities that show up in both Pathfinder and real-world mytholgies include Lamashtu, Pazuzu, Asmodeus (and several other Archdevils...I don;t think it's all of them, but it's a lot), and Sun Wukong.

Now, it is true that the Christian God is far from the only deity worshiped on Earth who doesn't show up in Pathfinder materials, and I think the overlap being relatively small is fine, personally, but it is not at all true to say that said overlap is nonexistent or even 'very few'.


Deadmanwalking wrote:
Talonhawke wrote:
As far as I know in Pathfinder very few of the deity depectied are real world if any.

This is not true. The entire Ancient Osirion pantheon, while seldom worshiped on Golarion, are just straight-up the real world pantheon worshiped by the Ancient Egyptians (Horus, Isis, Osiris, etc.).

Other deities that show up in both Pathfinder and real-world mytholgies include Lamashtu, Pazuzu, Asmodeus (and several other Archdevils...I don;t think it's all of them, but it's a lot), and Sun Wukong.

Now, it is true that the Christian God is far from the only deity worshiped on Earth who doesn't show up in Pathfinder materials, and I think the overlap being relatively small is fine, personally, but it is not at all true to say that said overlap is nonexistent or even 'very few'.

There are a bunch of them there in setting, but other than some of the Devils (and demons?), they're relatively obscure. As you say the Osirian pantheon is now seldom worshipped and Sun Wukong is also minor - at least in the core part of the setting.


Deadmanwalking wrote:
Talonhawke wrote:
As far as I know in Pathfinder very few of the deity depectied are real world if any.

This is not true. The entire Ancient Osirion pantheon, while seldom worshiped on Golarion, are just straight-up the real world pantheon worshiped by the Ancient Egyptians (Horus, Isis, Osiris, etc.).

Other deities that show up in both Pathfinder and real-world mytholgies include Lamashtu, Pazuzu, Asmodeus (and several other Archdevils...I don;t think it's all of them, but it's a lot), and Sun Wukong.

Now, it is true that the Christian God is far from the only deity worshiped on Earth who doesn't show up in Pathfinder materials, and I think the overlap being relatively small is fine, personally, but it is not at all true to say that said overlap is nonexistent or even 'very few'.

I don't know how I missed Osirion one thanks man.


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Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

There are Christian role-playing games out there specifically designed for Christians by Christians, such as DragonRaid and Holy Lands.

I played one as a kid with the church in which the players roleplayed heros fighting against dragons, who were manifestations of the Devil, and their minions, corrupted mortals who served them. All the powers came from God, though some came from different aspects of God.

I even attempted to convert the game to D&D 3.0 rules for the church, citing it as a more robust rule set. It didn't take though.

That was a long time ago, so apologies if I misremembered some of the game details.


I will admit, one of the reasons the Abrahamic god is never talked about besides indirect reference in media is the power of the church. Those faiths for better or worse are, have been, and probably will continue to be a very aggresive with their demands.

The Zealots of those religions will attack what they see as "blasphemy" with all the tools they have. Whether its violence or a massive social media campaign. And those are things that cannot be ignored.

We all know how they were with D&D "worshiping the devil". We know a lot of them will do crazy things. We all know that some Muslims have actively considered bombing places. And we all know that the Abrahamic religion is most of the world (maybe not including China), thats a huge potential market loss.


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I think the reason D&D and it's descendents don't really engage with the Christian deity is that D&D is conservative down to its bones, and being the "market leader" doesn't encourage you to take chances.

It's not like RPGs like Nephilim and In Nomine that were explicitly about this sort of thing didn't exist back in the day. It's just not the sort of thing you're going to get in your popular elfgames because of the cultural context they exist in.


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Well the thing is that any religion that only has one true power is rather bland for roleplaying purposes. That is unless that power *is* the relevant factor in the respective universe.

What makes the Norse, Egyptian and Greek pantheons great RPG pantheons is that those gods are explicitly not the overbearing, flawless one entity but different gods with different portfolios in additions to having individual strengths and flaws like any mortal, and their distinctive relationship to each other.


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Ubertron_X wrote:

Well the thing is that any religion that only has one true power is rather bland for roleplaying purposes. That is unless that power *is* the relevant factor in the respective universe.

What makes the Norse, Egyptian and Greek pantheons great RPG pantheos is that those gods are not the overbearing, flawless one entity but different gods with different portfolios in additions to having individual strengths and flaws like any mortal, and their distinctive relationship to each other.

I think that's a lot of it. Not that the use of deities in D&D/PF bears any real resemblance to how historical pantheons were worshipped of course.

The D&D usage draws heavily on fantasy literature, back at least as far as Conan. Genre fantasy using real world religions tends to be set in something recognizable as the real world + magic. Or to have it present by analogy or implication. The Abrahamic religions are very tied to history - hard to have Judaism without Jews and Israel and Moses and Egypt or Christianity without Jews and a crucified Jesus.


Ubertron_X wrote:

Well the thing is that any religion that only has one true power is rather bland for roleplaying purposes. That is unless that power *is* the relevant factor in the respective universe.

What makes the Norse, Egyptian and Greek pantheons great RPG pantheons is that those gods are explicitly not the overbearing, flawless one entity but different gods with different portfolios in additions to having individual strengths and flaws like any mortal, and their distinctive relationship to each other.

Exactly. Its about giving the players choice. A single deity setting might be great for your home campaign, but when trying to mass market it, you run into the problems of "Why pretend to be a follower of Jesus when I already am?" Its the same reason that a number of the players I know never play humans. They play the game to do something "different" and to be something "different". They already are humans so they see playing one to be boring in contrast.

With a single deity setting, you would really pigeon hole, in many respects, your clerics and champions (plus any other classes that are divine based) AND you also take away potential story ideas for campaigns. (Hard to have a campaign centered around God A trying to grab extra power when there only is God A).


The whole "one true god" thing is overblown.
In real life, many religions claim to be the one true faith, and most sects of Christianity claim to have the one true version.
Most religions have their own creation story that fails to mention other gods.
They acknowledge their own pantheon only.
Yet multiple religions exist in real life.

In the bible, worshiping other gods is forbidden, but their existence isn't denied.
Witchcraft and such are also forbidden, but not because they don't work.
Historically Christianity has delt with other religions by absorbing them.
Other deities are cast as angels, or demons,more than their existence is denied.
Denying the very existence of other gods was/is hard.
You can't really demand proof of their existence lest you be asked to produce the same.
Miracles, by their vary nature are notoriously hard to apply objective testing to.
What you can do is co-opt the claims of miracles into your own faith.
Healing or good fortune or accidents can all be spun to fit a Christian narrative.

In Pathfinder or "the other game", Christians could just do the same.
It might make it hard for them to get along with others, but that's true IRL as well.

DND is conservative.
Deference to the dominate religion shows this.
If the game had been born in India, it might be deferential to Hindu beliefs instead.
Insert reference to sacred cows.


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There is a difference between multiple religions in the real world with intangible unprovable entities claiming they are the one true god and a game setting in which the deities are very much active and provable. One True God works where that is ambiguous and uncertain, not when I can literally travel to Heaven and check.


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... and in the last 5 hours when the topic turns to the dominant culture, everyone suddenly understands cultural appropriation.

Nobody wants to "turn off" the Christian market by representing serious Christian things in a way that Christians are uncomfortable with.

Nobody wants to represent Jesus as he's represented in minority opinions - the Gnostic Gospels, for instance - because it doesn't "match" with what's "expected."

Nobody wants to try to sell a commercial product that depicts a monotheistic religion with heaven and hell and a Messiah that isn't based on Christianity, nor a god who was crucified, died, and rose again after 3 days that isn't Jesus.

There's no universal right answer. Sometimes it's nice to see things from your culture getting some attention, sometimes it's infuriating seeing them used inappropriately, and sometimes both at the same time.

There are several universal wrong answers, though:

- "You shouldn't be offended."

- "You can do the same to me and I wouldn't be offended."

- "Let's do whatever we want and if people still buy the product, then we're right."

I don't know what Paizo should do about the W*ndigo. I, personally, would not have created Golarion with such close real-world parallels, because of minefields exactly like these. Try to include someone, and you immediately flirt with appropriation. Exclude them, and it's whitewashing (come on, nobody thinks anything of importance has happened south of the Mwangi Expanse?). This is just a lot easier if there's no 1:1 correlation with the real world.


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I would be totally fine with a company producing such a product soup. I just think it wouldn't fit in Golarion. There is nothing wrong with it, I'm not offended and if someone goes for it, great good for them. I think its dull bit that would be as far as my complaint goes.

In fact the grand daddy of the rogue like revival (one of the most heavily enjoyed genres today) The Binding of a Isaac is very much a full on appropriation of Christian culture and is beloved. So beloved many people essentially bought it twice.


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Watery Soup wrote:


I don't know what Paizo should do about the W*ndigo. I, personally, would not have created Golarion with such close real-world parallels, because of minefields exactly like these. Try to include someone, and you immediately flirt with appropriation. Exclude them, and it's whitewashing (come on, nobody thinks anything of importance has happened south of the Mwangi Expanse?). This is just a lot easier if there's no 1:1 correlation with the real world.

The problem also hits of how many unique things can you really make without borrowing from somewhere? And once you do your again in hot water because you only took part of this cultures monster, god, magic, or peoples and left the rest behind.

Shadow Lodge

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Malk_Content wrote:
There is a difference between multiple religions in the real world with intangible unprovable entities claiming they are the one true god and a game setting in which the deities are very much active and provable. One True God works where that is ambiguous and uncertain, not when I can literally travel to Heaven and check.

Is this really true though? Magic is provable to everyone in the Golorion setting, but I would disagree that religion necessarily is. The high priest of Iomede might claim they can commune directly with their God, or go visit them in person, but there's no way for them to substantiate said claims to the masses. In effect, making it no different then any real world religion. A priest can cast spells, but so can a wizard, and they are functionally the same so claims they one person gets their magic from God would be easy to be skeptical about. A priest could summon an Angel... but so can a wizard, making it again easy to doubt the summoned being is really a servant of the gods.

The game makes the assumption that God are real in the setting, but you could easily flip that to say the gods aren't real, and not have to change anything mechanically.


gnoams wrote:
Malk_Content wrote:
There is a difference between multiple religions in the real world with intangible unprovable entities claiming they are the one true god and a game setting in which the deities are very much active and provable. One True God works where that is ambiguous and uncertain, not when I can literally travel to Heaven and check.

Is this really true though? Magic is provable to everyone in the Golorion setting, but I would disagree that religion necessarily is. The high priest of Iomede might claim they can commune directly with their God, or go visit them in person, but there's no way for them to substantiate said claims to the masses. In effect, making it no different then any real world religion. A priest can cast spells, but so can a wizard, and they are functionally the same so claims they one person gets their magic from God would be easy to be skeptical about. A priest could summon an Angel... but so can a wizard, making it again easy to doubt the summoned being is really a servant of the gods.

The game makes the assumption that God are real in the setting, but you could easily flip that to say the gods aren't real, and not have to change anything mechanically.

Not for the average person in the street, but there are definitely mechanical differences - high level characters can in fact go talk to them directly.


How many RL religious groups have insisted the world was going to end on a given day, only to have that day come and go without incident?
Yet many of these groups persist past that point.
The key to religion is faith.
Proof for or against the doctrines of the faith is besides the point.

How many entities claim to have created the universe Golorion exists in?
If Y@hweh existed on Golorion and made that claim,and further, claimed that everything that has happened is according to an unknowable plan, who could gainsay him?
A lack of evidence would make little difference.
We are talking about a world where people trade away a very real soul for very real power, knowing up front that damnation is real and their demon or devil patron is intent on their ruin.
Believing that Y@hweh is omnipotent, all knowing and good, despite evidence to the contrary, is a relatively small price to pay by comparison.

Telling worshipers of other gods that their gods is subservient to and crested by,your own god, seems pretty divisive but hardly unworkable.

Some games include Christianity as one religion among many.
Pentagon is an example of such.
There is another historically inspired game that had everything from Gnostics to Samaritans as well as other religions, but I can't remember the name...


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
The Ronyon wrote:

The whole "one true god" thing is overblown.

[snip]
Insert reference to sacred cows.

The Ronyon wrote:

How many RL religious groups have insisted the world was going to end on a given day, only to have that day come and go without incident?

Yet many of these groups persist past that point.
The key to religion is faith.
Proof for or against the doctrines of the faith is besides the point.
[snip]

Some games include Christianity as one religion among many.
Pentagon is an example of such.
There is another historically inspired game that had everything from Gnostics to Samaritans as well as other religions, but I can't remember the name...

I think it would be easier not to get this thread locked again, if we stick to the topic of what Paizo can do to be respectful when cultural elements from real-world group's belief systems are used in their games.

Long side trips into comparing and contrasting current religious beliefs isn't very much on point for this thread.


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Talonhawke wrote:
The problem also hits of how many unique things can you really make without borrowing from somewhere?

Borrowing is fine; just don't transplant.

Egypt is a desert country located at the northeast corner of a southern continent that buried their kings in pyramids and had a sun god. Osirion doesn't need to be ALL of those things.

I gave it 15 seconds of thought and came up with this: Osirion is a jungle-based country (borrowing from Brazil), located in the same region (borrowing Egypt's location), that buried their kings and queens in massive towers (extrapolating from Louisiana) and has a god of thunder as the main god (borrowing from Nordic cultures).

More or less the same feel, but without the exact parallels.

Even using the same world layout (temperate northern continent / tropical southen continent / large continent to the east) is totally unnecessary - games like Civilization include Earth-like continent generators, so you can generate 100 worlds and pick the ones with the most interesting geographical features.

It's harder for people to take things personally if you can't sum it up in two words, e.g., "Golarion Egypt" or "Paizo Jesus."


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Watery Soup wrote:
It's harder for people to take things personally if you can't sum it up in two words, e.g., "Golarion Egypt" or "Paizo Jesus."

But harder to introduce to gm's and players. Having real world analogues works well ease of accessability and takes some of the mental lifting out.

It also gives an innate "plausibility" to the region as our brains know something very similar sprung up historically and can directly reference it.


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I would note that the major Hindu deities are not present, either. We don't see Iblis and Satan, either.

More minor aspects of the major world religions are certainly represented as we have Angels, Djinn, Garuda, etc. I just think there are certain lines to be drawn. Even as an atheist, Jesus showing up in Pathfinder would be a bit gauche.

When it comes to respecting cultures and drawing inspiration from, this seems more like an art than a science. It's a difficult subject, but I would rather have more inclusion rather than less.


Watery Soup wrote:

... and in the last 5 hours when the topic turns to the dominant culture, everyone suddenly understands cultural appropriation.

Nobody wants to "turn off" the Christian market by representing serious Christian things in a way that Christians are uncomfortable with.

Nobody wants to represent Jesus as he's represented in minority opinions - the Gnostic Gospels, for instance - because it doesn't "match" with what's "expected."

Nobody wants to try to sell a commercial product that depicts a monotheistic religion with heaven and hell and a Messiah that isn't based on Christianity, nor a god who was crucified, died, and rose again after 3 days that isn't Jesus.

There's no universal right answer. Sometimes it's nice to see things from your culture getting some attention, sometimes it's infuriating seeing them used inappropriately, and sometimes both at the same time.

There are several universal wrong answers, though:

- "You shouldn't be offended."

- "You can do the same to me and I wouldn't be offended."

- "Let's do whatever we want and if people still buy the product, then we're right."

I don't know what Paizo should do about the W*ndigo. I, personally, would not have created Golarion with such close real-world parallels, because of minefields exactly like these. Try to include someone, and you immediately flirt with appropriation. Exclude them, and it's whitewashing (come on, nobody thinks anything of importance has happened south of the Mwangi Expanse?). This is just a lot easier if there's no 1:1 correlation with the real world.

Personally I loved the Jerrey Springer musical, Persona and Shin Megami Tensei all of which depict Christian Mythology, but I imagine the reason that we don't see more stuff like that is because in America Chirstanity as well as being a religion is a powerful interest group and actively uses its influence.


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Watery Soup wrote:


There are several universal wrong answers, though:

- "You shouldn't be offended."
...

No. We can't even agree on that. There are a lot of people with some quite extreme philosphical positions and that is one that they will argue quite strongly. I myself prefer a more moderate approach. Often there is a good compromise.

But universally wrong - not even close. In your opinion, universally wrong - OK then.

The world is very diverse. It is a tough balance to tap into broad themes of shared mythos, which is required to be a commerical success, without unnecessarily antagonising community groups.

I wish Paizo well in striking a balance. Maybe something simple as as deliberately renaming or misnaming the creature in question would be enough?

However ulitmately there are many issues on which the oppossing sides are fundamentally irreconcilable. The only peaceful solution is to live in different domains.


Ravingdork wrote:


That's kind of the rub, really. The people who are loudest about cultural appropriation often aren't members of the cultural group in question. It's a bizarre phenomenon to be sure!

If something offends a particular cultural group, they tend to let people know about it. If they don't ever bring it up, than it's probably not that big a deal, and people outside the group probably shouldn't make it into one. If I can't represent a given culture because I'm not a member, how is it right that you can do so as a non-member of said culture by claiming cultural appropriation in the first place?

Unless brought forward by a member of the culture in question, it's just hypocrisy. Even then, the lack of clearly defined limitations and expectations often only leads to problems.

While I probably mostly agree with your sentiments, I am not sure this is a good argument. As we have seen recently, even if an affected group complains, if they have little power those complaints have chance of getting media exposure. There are a lot of things going on currently that severely impact Native American cultures, but how often do they make the news?


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PossibleCabbage wrote:

I think the reason D&D and it's descendents don't really engage with the Christian deity is that D&D is conservative down to its bones, and being the "market leader" doesn't encourage you to take chances.

It's not like RPGs like Nephilim and In Nomine that were explicitly about this sort of thing didn't exist back in the day. It's just not the sort of thing you're going to get in your popular elfgames because of the cultural context they exist in.

I was about to mention those.

Its not uncommon to get some elements of Christianity and other People of the Book referenced in one fashion or another (and vastly different levels of respect) in a number of Urban Fantasy games.

Besides the practical reasons for not seeing them in various D&D derivatives per se, there's the problem of deciding what you want to do with the monotheist primacy idea; its very hard to resolve it with polytheism (where both religions are from a certain view, magiopotent) without one degree of disrespect (at least as it'd be seen by real world worshipers) of one, the other, or both.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I want to point out that Tracy Hickman viewed the Dragonlance cosmology as having the gods as entities that simply allowed one to interface with a true 'one god.'

Meanwhile the Forgotten Realms has Ao.

So quite frankly, its absolutely used in DND, often by creating a layer above the polytheistic pantheon that doesn't get talked about.


The-Magic-Sword wrote:

I want to point out that Tracy Hickman viewed the Dragonlance cosmology as having the gods as entities that simply allowed one to interface with a true 'one god.'

Meanwhile the Forgotten Realms has Ao.

So quite frankly, its absolutely used in DND, often by creating a layer above the polytheistic pantheon that doesn't get talked about.

Like the Monad and the Maelstrom?


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The-Magic-Sword wrote:
I want to point out that Tracy Hickman viewed the Dragonlance cosmology as having the gods as entities that simply allowed one to interface with a true 'one god.'

High God.

The One God was an alias used by Takhisis during the latter Age of Mortals.

Dark Archive

I mean if I want to nitpick, the correct term would actually be Supreme Being real life wise ;p


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Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Even Christian elements can be used in the Pathfinder setting, if one puts some thought into it. I once wrote allegories for The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost into one of my campaigns as three wise giant seers--kind of like the Lion from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis represented God. And yes, Satan and his damned were represented in the campaign as well (after all, every good story has to have a villain).

It went something like this:

Long ago a great hero defeated an ancient foe, saving the world. A giant statue was erected of him. Thousands of years later, after the village around the statue had declined and vanished, to be replaced anew by another village, then another, and another, and finally, a kingdom. After a time, none remembered the hero's name, or what he was known for. Nevertheless, due to the statue's apparent indestructibility and unnatural immobility, it became a symbol of protection and strength for the kingdom, which would later become an empire.

In the "modern age" of our heroes, the empire had gone to war with its neighbor. By this time, the heroes had already completed several harrowing adventures and had begun to make a name for themselves. So when the neighboring kingdom invaded, the heroes were called upon (some would say conscripted) to assist in repelling the enemy force from the empire. Though the empire was strong, their enemies had powerful magic that, up that point, had never been seen by the Empire of Man, and so they were able to push through to the imperial capital.

Over the statue, a team of enemy war wizards and the imperial heroes clashed with such power that the statue, for the first time in its long existence, was damaged.

Though the war wizards were defeated and the invaders forced back, dread, terror, and unrest soon began to blossom among the people of the empire. Their symbol of hope had been forever tarnished. And with every passing day, the small crack in its once unblemished stone would grow slightly larger, and with it, the people's superstitious fears of ill omen too grew greater.

Great masons and mages alike were unable to repair the growing damage. Since they had indirectly caused the damage to the statue, the heroes were once again called upon to find a solution, to repair the statue before it crumbled, and to heal the hearts of the people.

The party paladin knew of an ancient artifact of light and life that he thought might help mend the problem: a glowing orb, held in the bows of a great tree that grew at the heart of a mystical land of giants.

The paladin had perished years before, sacrificing himself to stop a powerful demon from destroying the heroes' home town. He was brought back to life in the land of the giants by the giants' three seers (one ancient, one old, and one young), using the healing powers of the ancient artifact.

The seers foresaw that the paladin would one day bring their isolated nation to ruin. Though the paladin swore he would never do such a thing, the kindly seers claimed that it was inevitable. They believed that preventing it was not only impossible, but morally wrong. One does not mess with the fates or with the will of the gods. So they used the orb's magic to return him to life, per their prophecy.

Not all the giants agreed with their beliefs however, and though the paladin was hailed as a guest and friend by most, assassins were sent by an evil warlord to dispatch him. The warlord loved his people, and their place in the world, and wished to prevent the end of his culture. The paladin slew the giant assassins, then trekked across miles and miles of plains, swamps, and mountains (facing many monsters and hazards) to reach the warlord's mountainous keep. Hoping to put an end to the unrest and prevent a civil war among the giants, he infiltrated the warlord's throne room and bested the warlord's personal bodyguards.

Upon seeing his immortal myrmidons destroyed by one so small, the warlord surrendered. He then tricked the paladin. The warlord offered to give up his mad quest to save his people, ending the violence, if the paladin would allow the warlord to use his magic to send him home, never again to return. After all, if the paladin was gone from their lands, he could not bring ruin to the giants, and there would be no more need for such turmoil. And so the paladin rejoined his companions in his homeland.

For a time, the giants once again knew peace as the warlord resumed his role as rightful ruler of his people and reconciled with his council of seers. However, the seers continued to believe that the fate of their lands was inevitable, just as their ruler believed it had been averted.

Then the heroes came to the land of the giants, using knowledge of its location bestowed upon them by their paladin who--holding to his word to never return--did not join them on their quest. When the heroes of man arrived, the seers were already expecting them, and had prepared for their arrival. They showed their visitors the way to the artifact and gifted it to them. As the heroes thanked them, and were in the process of promising to return it to its rightful place one day, they were attacked by the new ruler of the giants, the son of the former warlord.

In the years since the paladin's resurrection, popular opinion had swayed against the seers, and so a great force fell upon them. The seers were murdered, giving their lives to allow the heroes to to complete a traveling ritual and escape with the artifact.

Though the heroes and paladin never knew it, the healing orb was the heart and strength of the giants, and without its presence in their lands, their mountains crumbled and shrank, their great lakes dried up growing shallow, their massive crop lands and forests diminished, and their once great people became in every way small again.

Upon their triumphant return to their homeland, the heroes found that their beloved emperor had prepared a great celebration and parade, hoping that it--along with the repair of the statue--would uplift his peoples' spirits.

Amidst the massive celebration, the heroes ceremoniously placed the artifact into the great statue's hands. It fit there as it did in the great life tree of the giants, just as if it had always belonged there.

The artifact's healing magic immediately and dramatically went to work. The crack mended itself, slowly at first, but then ever so quickly as the people cheered all around.

But the magic worked too well. Once the crack had disappeared, the statue began to shrink as its stone turned to the flesh of a living man. In front of thousands of witnesses, the ancient hero dropped the orb, collapsed to his knees and cried out in a great booming voice rife with anguish:

"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!?"

Before collapsing into incomprehensible despair.

Then the stars fell upon the world.

Within minutes, great flashes of light enveloped much of the empire, and indeed, much of the rest of the world as well. The explosions of light--the impact sites of the falling stars--laid waste to all it touched. For many, it was the last light they would ever see.

The celebration immediately turned to one of chaos and terror. At the edge of the imperial capital, where a star had fallen, came great and terrible creatures unlike anything anyone living had seen before (think flying, air-breathing aboleth). They rushed the capital, killing and enslaving all in their wake as they attempted to steal the orb. However, upon touching it with their foul tendrils, it burned them, and so they called upon terrible machines of war (think retrievers) to recover it for them. These "star gods" and their monstrous servants skirmished with the heroes briefly, before their retrievers were able to escape with the artifact.

In the coming days darkness ruled all the world. Before the ancient hero succumbed to despair and death, he was able to impart to the imperial heroes (through largely lunatic ramblings) that the stars had never been stars at all, but an invasion force of ancient immortal beings from beyond the black, come to destroy the world. The beings' efforts were stymied when the ancient hero used a powerful artifact to trap them in their ships in the black.

In so doing, the power of the artifact left the ancient hero forever petrified. In time, the orb's magic became linked with the stone that grasped it, growing it in size and durability. At some point in the distant past, the statue and the orb became separated, and it came to rest in lands far across the sea, creating the paradise nation of giants.

In the unending darkness, the monsters came. First it was the immortal star gods, then their machines of war. Their efforts were aided by slaves and human allies who had turned against their own in their despair. Among the traitors of humanity was the Church of Stars, a once benevolent organization that was corrupted by misleading prophecy and the belief that their infallible gods now walked among them.

Then, less than a year after "The Fall," mutant abominations of animals and man began to appear. The corruption of the black had begun to grow the invaders' numbers (in some cases "rewarding" loyal servants thought to have been defeated by the heroes with terrible new forms) to topple all the remaining empires of the world.

Everything after that has been about saving people where possible, fighting the alien menace and their servants and monsters, finding and recovering the orb, and using its power to again vanquish humanity's ancient foe.

To succeed the heroes needed to recover the artifact, find and fight their way to the heart of the immortal invaders, confront the shapeless abomination that was the immortals' progenitor being, and repeat the ancient hero's actions, sacrificing themselves to forever break the power of darkness over their world.

In truth, the sun remained in place, as did the rest of the stars. It was the ash fallout created from the "falling stars" that blackened all of the skies and made day into night. It was the Church of the Stars and their aberrant masters, as well as the lunatic ramblings of an addle-brained mad-man, who lead much of humanity to believe that the actual stars had fallen. It created much strife for the surface life of the planet.

This terrible event would in the far future come to be known as Earthfall; the terrible period of time after, the Age of Darkness. The great artifact orb of light and life would eventually evolve into the Starstone. The once great cyclops empire of Ghol-Gan would never recover from the loss of their holy artifact. The alghollthu empire as we know it today are the degenerate remnants of the original invasion force that nearly ended it all eons past. In the deepest sea of Golarion, they still guard the petrified remains of the band of heroes who so long ago foiled them, where they yet plot their revenge against humanity.


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Gygax's metaverse hinted at having a god above gods on the highest plane of Heaven from which nobody could return nor speak of in the rare (unique?) case an angel was sent forth from there. So Gygax had included an omnigod, yet with a safety net for not having to describe it.

On the lower end, there was Asmodeus who wasn't simply an adoption of fallen Satan/Asmodeus, but also the Serpent. Asmodeus's serpentine real body was rumored to be buried deep below, healing from its fall which caused the multidimensional layered pit around which Hell centered its activities. Asmodeus was at only a sliver of his true power until his body recovered.

And the Modron Primus, sometimes along with the highest LG (undescribed?) and LE (Asmodeus) entities, was sometimes painted as the creator of the universe from chaos. Oddly, multiple gods "created the universe" in earliest DnD lore, and developers counted that as the views of rival religions. Later the developers settled on the Halfling goddess Yondalla and the Dwarven god whose name escapes me, a disappointing choice IMO.

Also Gygax had Tharizdun as another singular omnigod for Greyhawk+ (because who needs consistency?). In the RPG, he's so strong he could only be subdued by all the other gods using his power against himself (including the 7th Heaven god?). In Gygax's novels, the narrator bluntly states that the metaverse could have had any flavor of omnigod, yet in that one it ended up being Tharizdun, a god of pure evil (as in Elemental Evil before that morphed into evil themed around the four elements). Tharizdun was Lovecraftian in many ways.
(Philosopher Stephen Law has a nettling argument for an evil omnigod to counter religious claims. Intriguing for those into such debates.)
Since the heroes escape that reality (where Tharizdun was left to battle Entropy personified) to be reborn into another reality, that means ultimately there had been no single god above all all. Just all "what your players can currently access until further revisions alter that".


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You can stack higher levels of metaphysics on top of higher levels of metaphysics as high as you want. But anything that's completely inaccessible is probably irrelevant to the actual game.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:
You can stack higher levels of metaphysics on top of higher levels of metaphysics as high as you want. But anything that's completely inaccessible is probably irrelevant to the actual game.

Turtles all the way up, as it were.


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Hi. As a devil, I'm deeply offended by the interpretation of devils within the Golarion setting. But we can make this right!

Just sign this short, straightforward legal document that promises you'll be more respectful to devilkind in the future, and we're good to go!

Dark Archive

Actual products have definitely offered explicitly Christian elements.
https://www.amazon.com/Charlemagnes-Paladins-Campaign-Sourcebook-Roleplayin g/dp/1560763930

Even the original cleric being a generic class of holy person in a polytheistic world was a nod.

Glad to see some critique of the vagueness of the cultural appropriation concept. For example the Scots. Complete downtrodden European backwater, that through appropriating largely British ideas as described in How the Scots Invented the modern world leave an outsized impact. Yet the early British oppression was severe enough for a group of Scots to leave very early for the New World. That group seeded much of Appalachia and the frequent generational poverty and hillbilly stereotype's [including a certain popular Paizo adventure] whereas the group that appropriated included Adam Smith among other rather famous and influential folks.


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if we go that route we will end up burning books like the old church in the time of the crusades


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Ooh getting more of this with The Ghost of Tsushima. A bunch of white people complaining that it doesn't depict Japanese culture and history well and shouldn't have been made by westerners. But many Japanese critics are giving it 10/10 and raise only relatively minor flaws (the voice acting is a bit to modern for example.)

Silver Crusade

An American company making a game set in historical Japan, being praised for being respectful (a few minor hiccups but still), is very different than the situation involving Wxndigos and Skxnwalkers.


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Rysky wrote:
An American company making a game set in historical Japan, being praised for being respectful (a few minor hiccups but still), is very different than the situation involving Wxndigos and Skxnwalkers.

The point is it received criticism from people not of the core group while being praised by the core group. That is the same situation as this post where the closest to first hand info we've got said "sure so long as it holds close to the lessons it is used for." That is to say, people not of affected groups probably should stop jumping the gun and declaring something problematic UNLESS members of the affected group are also doing so (and even then should just signal boost with direct links.)

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