Depictions of Slavery in Golarion


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion

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This is a discussion on this blog post. Erik Mona responds in the comments below the article.

We are forking this discussion from this thread, which, as keftiu, noted, kind of drifted off-topic.

Also of note:

Cori Marie wrote:
Gonna leave this here for absolutely no reason at all.
Sara Marie from nearly three years ago wrote:

Paizo.com is not going to be hosting discussions with people trying to justify or be an advocate (devil's or otherwise) for slavery. Unfortunately this has been how many discussion threads about slavery, including this one, have ended up going.

Slavery is something that has caused multigenerational damage to real, human, people. It has inflicted trauma on countless lives, directly and indirectly, and the repercussions and the racism it has fueled still reverberate across our society and people’s lives today. Human trafficking continues to perpetuate the injustices and cruelty of slavery to this day.

It’s part of our mission to encourage and support gaming environments where people feel welcome, included and safe. When a topic like slavery comes up and people try to justify it, it reads as trying to justify hundreds of years of pain, suffering, countless indignities, rape, and murder inflicted upon the lives of other humans. While one person might feel that they are discussing theory or abstract subjects, for too many people the subject of slavery is not some abstract concept, it is an active painful reminder that there are other humans who would try to excuse or justify this awful practice. Coming across this type of thread on our forums when simply trying to read about a roleplaying game causes harm to people in our gaming community and it is unacceptable.

Erik Mona wrote:

The mistake I made with the Absalom book is in dwelling too much on a very sensitive topic. Yes, the PFS plotline helped by removing legal slavery from the city, but I should have just let well enough alone, mentioning that it had happened in the timeline and then moving on to any of a countless number of other evils.

Instead I wanted to flesh out the context more, and make the change a more holistic part of the setting while still giving a few illegal baddies for people to kill.

The thing is, with this topic, that's too much. People just hate it in the setting period. We really should not have put it in there in the first place. Trying to deal with "phasing it out" within the context of the story adds fuel to the fire and makes people even more uncomfortable.

It's not worth it.

So while I suspect the word may come up a time or two in the future, we're just not going to be covering it going forward. A few in-production items might reference it still, but it's no longer going to be a notable part of the Golarion campaign setting.

If you want to write a big adventure where people burn Okeno to the ground to have it all make sense within the fiction of the campaign world, you are free to do so.

But we are not going to.


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Kevin Mack wrote:

Fair enough but I'll say again a big help IMO would have been not to give someone who's backstory of terrible things that includes slavery a redemption ark. (Especially since I see people who are full on condeming slavery as they should here going on elsewhere about how good said characters redemption has been handled.)

I don't know the character and I don't know the context, but I think this comes across as sort of unrelated and needlessly oversimplified (I can't think of the word I want right now). Like, redemption arcs are complicated, and so is how you code an issue, and so is how you interpret the handling of that arc and that issue. What do people praise that redemption for? Can you provide quotes? It would be helpful ifREDUCTIVE

*ahem*

It would be helpful if we could know what exactly the issues are, as opposed to a reductive summary of the arc and character.


Kobold Catgirl wrote:
Kevin Mack wrote:

Fair enough but I'll say again a big help IMO would have been not to give someone who's backstory of terrible things that includes slavery a redemption ark. (Especially since I see people who are full on condeming slavery as they should here going on elsewhere about how good said characters redemption has been handled.)

I don't know the character and I don't know the context, but I think this comes across as sort of unrelated and needlessly oversimplified (I can't think of the word I want right now). Like, redemption arcs are complicated, and so is how you code an issue, and so is how you interpret the handling of that arc and that issue. What do people praise that redemption for? Can you provide quotes? It would be helpful ifREDUCTIVE

*ahem*

It would be helpful if we could know what exactly the issues are, as opposed to a reductive summary of the arc and character.

I know he was talking about the Runelord Sorshen, but I don't know much about how the redemption was handled.

Also, redemption arcs require something to redeem. They require evil. On the scale of fantasy Pathfinder plays on, they kind of require massive evil. (I mean, you could certainly do low level petty evil, but if you want it to be a big part of a high level campaign, it's got to be someone with the power to do massive evil.)


While I think either case would be misguided at best, there's a big difference between a character coded as a practitioner of actual chattel slavery getting a redemption arc and, like, an evil queen who had indentured servants or a hobgoblin warlord who used prisoners of war for cheap labor getting a redemption arc. Painting them with the same broad brush is really not a good idea.

Dark Archive

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Sorshen isn't really "redeemed" in the sense people usually misunderstand it.

Like she turned CN because 1) she got bored and cynical of being evil after 10,000 years of introspection 2) out of self preservation instinct because she observed her fellow evil runelords getting killed by heroes constantly 3) Nocticula working as inspiration as well

Dark Archive

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Kobold Catgirl wrote:
While I think either case would be misguided at best, there's a big difference between a character coded as a practitioner of actual chattel slavery getting a redemption arc and, like, an evil queen who had indentured servants or a hobgoblin warlord who used prisoners of war for cheap labor getting a redemption arc. Painting them with the same broad brush is really not a good idea.

To be fair thats only one part of the problem I have with her getting the entire redemption thing (I mean theres the mountain of bodies including the pool that required blood sacrifice to give her the immortality so she could have the 10'000 years of Introspection for one thing) but there not part of the slavery discusion so I'll leave it there.

Dark Archive

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As for the whole slavery in golarion itself (and I admit my interprentation of events could be wrong)The problem seems to be less Golarion having slavery in it (Since evil characters do evil things) and more they

1, Had None evil countries have it
2, put in an actual option for pc's in there organised play campaign to buy a slave
3,instead of just retconing those two points out of existance like they have done with other things (Ie Paladins of Asmodeus) decided to make it the focus of a Society special to 'fix' the problem (and therefore still keeping the fact that a none evil country had slavery)
4 Then have the big Absalom book go into at least some detail over the 'fix' and use it as a way to try and generate story hooks (Admitadly I havent read any of the Absalom book yet.)


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CW: sexual assault mention

A big part of the focus of the blog post is on the problematic nature of slavery being so centered in the Pathfinder setting that it is very difficult to avoid, even though it's a very delicate and traumatic topic for a lot of people that can be handled very badly.

It's sort of like if every single evil monster had a note in the Bestiary about how it sexually assaults its defeated enemies. Sure, it's not problematic to have an evil character do a bad thing, but it is traumatic to clumsily appropriate a broadly deeply traumatic topic for cheap shock value or lazy "here's how you know they're evil" shorthand. And the ubiquity makes it even more unfortunate.

Especially if, and I'm sorry to have to say this so bluntly, both the creators and the majority of the audience that get to enjoy the media are going to be white. It has the racist effect of disproportionately making Black gamers and freelancers less comfortable in the hobby--or in the room, if you're encouraging a bunch of white GMs to run a PFS event about slavery abolition--while white people get to enjoy a very-often-fetishized source of deep collective trauma for People Who Aren't White.

I think a lot of people would benefit from reading the blog post twice. Once to skim it, and get their internal "wait-but-what-ifs" out of their system, and a second time to actually appreciate the nuances of the criticisms.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

A while back the topic of the Cult of the Dawnflower came up. The militant, murder-hobo strain of Sarenrae worship. It had received written entries in several books, feat, archetype, and prestige class support and other things.

It was removed, quietly and without much fanfare in a paragraph or less. I thought this was a waste of a good opportunity to have an interesting adventure about religious schisms, after all, its not uncommon for actual religions to have serious disagreements about the word from on high.

Mr. Jacobs had to patiently explain to me that when errors about lore get made in the Pazio books, there is not an easy way to fix them. There is no system for errata on lore topics. And that seeing those errors in print perpetuate causes harm and distress. I kind of understood it, having it explained that way.

I didn't expect to see a clear cut example of it. Trying to write out Slavery in the setting organically took decades (with backstepping too) and all the while it was distressing people hurt by it.

So, yeah. Sometimes, the only solution is to just stop mentioning it and never referencing it again. It works.


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There’s also something to be said of how much slavery in the setting centers on Golarion’s equivalents to Africa and the Middle East. Why does a fantasy setting need to establish that most slaves and slavers are folks with black and brown skin? Why retread both lurid racial stereotypes of swarthy slave-taking monsters /and/ replicate the suffering of those who still endure slavery’s legacy today?


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It's worth remembering that this is a game, and moreover, slavery is a fairly unimportant part of what makes the game fun or interesting--if not a detractor, as it clearly is for a lot of Black people. Rejecting a retcon simply because it feels "clunky" amounts to saying that keeping a minor element of a fantasy game's fictional setting consistent for your enjoyment is more important than making the hobby inclusive to a marginalized group.

A minor point of made-up-fantasy-setting consistency really isn't that important, so I don't get why a bunch of white people are leaping up to defend it at the expense of real-world Black people saying it makes them feel less welcome in the hobby.

Liberty's Edge

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At one point, setting based on modern western ethics and setting based on RL historical periods were going to clash.

The way it goes is for the best : reimagine parts of the setting to free them from their RL historical (or pop stereotype TBT) roots and explore what they can be in Golarion. Example : the Mwangi Expanse.

Dark Archive

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The Raven Black wrote:

At one point, setting based on modern western ethics and setting based on RL historical periods were going to clash.

The way it goes is for the best : reimagine parts of the setting to free them from their RL historical (or pop stereotype TBT) roots and explore what they can be in Golarion. Example : the Mwangi Expanse.

Yes this I like


I wonder how Erik's comments about their future handling of slavery will be reflected in Pathfinder Infinite. I could see someone whose family had suffered from being enslaved being interested in deconstructing that via homebrew content.

And, even if the setting doesn't officially engage with the topic or allow people to publish like content, you can still tell those stories in home games with a trusted group of people. Safe spaces and all, ya know?


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Replying to no one in particular: A society can be evil and not see itself as evil. In fact, most evil societies do. A fascist wouldn't call himself evil, whether he's past or present. Appealing to "they didn't know it was wrong!" is really misguided and kind of implies that nobody at the time was criticizing the practice, which is not remotely true.

Dark Archive

Okay I expect I am not doing a very good job of explaining my position so I'll attempt to lay it all out here

If there going to remove slavery from the setting I would prefer they just completly rewrote those parts of the setting it was linked to rather than just go for the whole we just dont talk about it angle.

Shadow Lodge

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Answering from the other thread.

Xathos of Varisia wrote:
We can say that about so many other things that are in the game. There's alcohol and drugs in it which is offensive to some. There is violence in it which is offensive to some. There are guns in it which are offensive to some. The list goes on and on. What is offensive to one is not offensive to another, but where do we draw the line? Who determines the line?

Paizo does. And they drew the line at slavery.

Maybe they'll draw the line at other things too. Maybe not.


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I've seen a convincing redemption arc for a mass-murdering war criminal and the greatest Civil War general (Ulysses S. Grant, one of the greatest Americans in history) was given a slave who he owned for about 6 months before he couldn't stand owning a person anymore and went out and bought emancipation papers he probably couldn't afford. So I am not COMPLETELY against the concept of Sorshen or any slave-owner getting a redemption arc.

But you REALLY gotta work at that, it's full of pitfalls, and it's not plausible IMO to pull that off within the scope of an RPG adventure or sourcebook. You NEED a novel at a minimum.

I do think that having Absalom be a neutral-aligned city while tolerating slaves was something that only works if the rest of Golarion is going to amp up the darkness of its dark fantasy and slavery is going to be practiced by many more cultures. As it is, that definitely was a WTF bit of older lore, and while I didn't see whatever they did to change that bit of lore, I welcome that change.

I'm not against portraying slavery in the setting at all. There's a lot of good fun in putting slavers and slave-owners to the sword, especially if you're playing a slave rebellion. (I've said it before but an anti-slavery AP where you start as Bellflower agents and work your way up to nuking entire slave-owning countries would be super cool) "de-emphasizing" it the way Mona words it sounds an awful lot like sweeping stuff under the rug rather than confronting it to my ears.

keftiu wrote:
There’s also something to be said of how much slavery in the setting centers on Golarion’s equivalents to Africa and the Middle East. Why does a fantasy setting need to establish that most slaves and slavers are folks with black and brown skin? Why retread both lurid racial stereotypes of swarthy slave-taking monsters /and/ replicate the suffering of those who still endure slavery’s legacy today?

...huh? When I think slavery and Golarion, I think majority-white Cheliax selling halflings by the crateload. That gets the most focus and a big part of the adventure path where you play the Gestapo is explicitly about killing the halfling Underground Railroad.


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That’s one country in Avistan. Now go ahead and rattle off everywhere else that has slaves and slavery as a prominent theme; it’s almost all Garund.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

To anyone that says slavers can't be redeemed I submit this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3G-suuZgK4
Per Wikipedia
"John Newton (/ˈnjuːtən/; 4 August [O.S. 24 July] 1725 – 21 December 1807) was an English Anglican cleric, a captain of slave ships who later became an investor in the slave trade but subsequently became an abolitionist. He served as a sailor in the Royal Navy for a period after forced recruitment.

Newton went to sea at a young age and worked on slave ships in the slave trade for several years. In 1745, he himself became a slave of Princess Peye, a woman of the Sherbro people. He was rescued, returned to sea and the trade, becoming Captain of several slave ships. After retiring from active sea-faring, he continued to invest in the slave trade. Some years after experiencing a conversion to Christianity, Newton later renounced his trade and became a prominent supporter of abolitionism. Now an evangelical, he was ordained as a Church of England cleric and served as parish priest at Olney, Buckinghamshire, for two decades. He also wrote hymns, including "Amazing Grace" and "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken".

Newton lived to see the British Empire’s abolition of the African slave trade in 1807, just months before his death."

Evil people don't always have to stay evil. They may never be able to fix the harm they have cause, but they don't have remain a bad person. That is a trap that often keeps people from becoming a better person.

Dark Archive

keftiu wrote:
That’s one country in Avistan. Now go ahead and rattle off everywhere else that has slaves and slavery as a prominent theme; it’s almost all Garund.

Ah okay then now I get it yeah now I can see why even making it a only evil countries have slaves would still look really bad (I was focusing my thoughts mostly on Cheliax as well)


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Of course bad people can be redeemed. Anyone can hypothetically redeem themselves if they care enough to try.

That doesn't mean we should be centering the stories of "redeemed slavers" and "redeemed Nazis". They aren't amazing or heroic people. They did awful things and then realized they should stop doing awful things. Why center their perspective, and not the perspectives of the people they tormented (or the people they may have later tried to help)? It's a lot of extra work to make sure the abuser remains our main point of sympathy.

I don't think Sorshen's story sounds that offensive, personally, from what I've heard. But I can understand why "maybe let's not glorify redeemed slaveowners" is a take with some weight to it. Not saying it's never okay, but it can definitely be a plot point to criticize.

I'd be very curious if Newton gave up all the riches he earned by investing in slavery. It's easy to regret what you've done after you've made bank doing it.


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And I keep forgetting Geb because its main theme is undead.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

In PFS, my character acted as a slave once in-character, for a mission, and it was a ruse to get us past some rather nasty defenses that the slaver consortium possessed.

And it was some of the most disturbing role-play I had to engage in at a PFS table -- thankfully our GM allowed us to do VERY broad-brush strokes of it and let it go to dice rolls and minimal role-play.

The set-up for that situation involved acquiring a very specific log from a very specific person without tipping off either the authorities or the security that the specific person had.

One of the missions for Siege of Absalom was essentially 'freeing' the gladiatorial slaves and arming them -- if they were armed, they could then contribute to the defense of the city -- and they did.

The war-leader of the city defenses made the announcement at the end of the event -- and like I'd said in the other thread, it felt like we'd accomplished something good beyond 'saving the city of dubious morality (LN but slavery 'ok' prior)'.

What I believe, and I could be entirely mistaken, is that the line is "Slavery is bad: Full Stop".

If GMs want to run with it as a theme for their campaigns, that's their choice. Not recognizing things as problematic has been an issue for Paizo for years and their attempts to correct for that should be appreciated and helped along in a positive and constructive fashion.

I've heard a couple of distasteful groups that I immediately isolated myself from use the whole slavery thing as a 'neat character setting idea' and 'my character owns three!' For example.

It's not just Golarion, it's not just Paizo.

I left a long-running organized campaign for a space fantasy setting, because ALL of the conflict for a while was "Oh, hey, look, more slaves to free and 'own' to keep the bad guys not suspecting."

That's not the kind of table I want to play at, associate with, or even contemplate.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

You know, generically, it feels really odd to have cities with an assigned alignment.

A lot of the sticking point for people seems to be the idea of having alignment tags that inform us that the city was LN, while slavery was legal in it presumably because neutral was being perceived as a balance of the good and evil practices in the city, or to reflect the cities position as neutral ground where followers of the good gods, neutral gods, and evil gods all coexist. A testament to the conception of good and evil as cosmic forces in constant conflict.

Its hard to perceive a valid neutral alignment, in the first place at this point, because the current zeitgeist interprets anything but active opposition to evil acts as enabling that evil. The requisite level of action to not be evil is inseparable from the minimum threshold of good, so a good third of the alignment breaks down. In my opinion, this is because of changing social mores in regards to the responsibility of the individual, neutral arguably exists in the space of "That's horrible but I'm not the one doing it and its not hurting me, so its not my problem unless I decide to go help of my own free will, not making that decision isn't evil."

There are a lot of cases, where its become really hard to see what a neutral character would do differently than a good character, and if anything it tends to relate to effort expended rather than viewpoint. Which to be clear, isn't a bad thing, a lot of bad things have happened because others only had to be convinced it wasn't their problem.

The idea of intrinsic, severe, trauma derived from mentions of slavery in the text (now squarely evil and to be opposed by the heroes) seems problematic in and of itself, as I imagine some people (including other freelancers) were deriving empowerment fantasy from Bellflower Tillers and the like. The existence of evil institutions and practices that the PCs triumph over is among the least fraught of the traditional RPG plot lines. I was shocked when I read the original letter, because this adjustment will likely make Golarion less in tune and is likely to invoke accusations of whitewashing.

I'd maybe lean away from it for now, but revisit later once the blood lust has cooled.


The-Magic-Sword wrote:
The idea of intrinsic, severe, trauma derived from mentions of slavery in the text (now squarely evil and to be opposed by the heroes) seems problematic in and of itself, as I imagine some people (including other freelancers) were deriving empowerment fantasy from Bellflower Tillers and the like. The existence of evil institutions and practices that the PCs triumph over is among the least fraught of the traditional RPG plot lines. I was shocked when I read the original letter, because this adjustment will likely make Golarion less in tune and is likely to invoke accusations of whitewashing.

Pathfinder Infinite writers are still welcome to write about those things if they so choose though, and like Erik himself pointed out, nothing is preventing someone from doing those adventures in their home games.

If needs must, Paizo can write a blog post detailing why they are making this decision to their wider audience, but I suspect they aren't going to unless there is outcry or confusion about the lack of slavery-centered plotlines in their material, and I am highly doubtful that is going to happen.


In Golarion, even demon lords can be redeemed to at least CN

Scarab Sages

keftiu wrote:
There’s also something to be said of how much slavery in the setting centers on Golarion’s equivalents to Africa and the Middle East. Why does a fantasy setting need to establish that most slaves and slavers are folks with black and brown skin? Why retread both lurid racial stereotypes of swarthy slave-taking monsters /and/ replicate the suffering of those who still endure slavery’s legacy today?
Ian G wrote:
...huh? When I think slavery and Golarion, I think majority-white Cheliax selling halflings by...
keftiu wrote:
That’s one country in Avistan. Now go ahead and rattle off everywhere else that has slaves and slavery as a prominent theme; it’s almost all Garund.

Nidal is in Avistan, as is Molthune. I believe Taldor also allowed slavery, although that was a relatively old sourcebook. Cheliax, as a slaveholding society, as received far more focus than Okeno or former Sargava (now Vidrian).

Your initial point that slavery in the Lost Omens centers on nonwhite societies isn't true.


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I don't know a lot of the lore. Aren't Nidal and Molthune both just ex-Chelaxian vassals?

Also, Garund has, like, 22 "nations", nine of which are in the south and not focused on much AFAIK. In Garund, off the top of my head (and lazily ctrl-f'ing the Wiki pages), Sargava had slavery, the Mwangi Expanse had slavery (not to mention neighboring Sargava and having to deal with slavecatchers), the Shackles had slavery, Geb had slavery, Katapesh had slavery, Osirion had slavery.

6/22, or a bit over a quarter. Again, that's including nine nations nobody cares about. If you only count the nations that have gotten at least one AP set in them, it's closer to a 50% cut. Now do the math on what percentage of Avistani countries have slavery as a major element.

Oh, also, a portion of "Chelaxian" slavery involves the Mwangi Expanse thanks to Sargava being a former Chelaxian vassal. So it's not like those two are separate.

EDIT: Oh, same for Nidal, apparently they buy their slaves from The Shackles. Yeah, um, I'm not even a huge lore nerd and it's pretty obvious that Ketfiu is right here.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Kobold Catgirl wrote:
I don't know a lot of the lore. Aren't Nidal and Molthune both just ex-Chelaxian vassals?

Nidal has done its own thing ever since Zon-Kuthon took it under his wing, but they did some kind of agreement with Cheliax so as to not have a conflict. They're a vassal state technically, but how close they are is a matter of some debate.


Kasoh wrote:
Kobold Catgirl wrote:
I don't know a lot of the lore. Aren't Nidal and Molthune both just ex-Chelaxian vassals?
Nidal has done its own thing ever since Zon-Kuthon took it under his wing, but they did some kind of agreement with Cheliax so as to not have a conflict. They're a vassal state technically, but how close they are is a matter of some debate.

And Molthune has also been doing its own thing for a while. It used to be a vassal of Cheliax, but broke off from them a while back.


Neat! So, yeah.


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Oh hey, it's a thread about the morality of slavery. Brings back memories, that does!

...ok, the truth is, I was following the other thread this split from and waiting for it to be split into a new thread before adding to it. But seriously, if anyone is feeling the need to turn this into a debate about how slavery isn't actually evil, feel free to not. I gather that Paizo is actively no longer interested in providing a platform on which to post that argument, which is all for the best since slavery is, pretty clearly, characteristically evil. I don't feel particularly nostalgic for those debates.

That said, I have fairly mixed feelings about the idea of just treating slavery as a forbidden topic in game. Part of that might be because I study slavery, like, a lot. I have a classics degree - yeah, the original great slaving societies - and though I did not go on to work in academia, I keep in touch with the field, especially in social-history topics such as slavery. So while I don't study Atlantic slavery much at all, I keep up with all sorts of stuff related to classical, medieval, and ANE slavery, and as is probably normal for something that someone spends a lot of time on, it bleeds over into my roleplaying. In recent years I've played a Viking raider who in his backstory had raided for slaves but had renounced it before campaign start, a very evil slave-and-slaver witch in Way of the Wicked, a LG bard who banned slavery in his fief and has recently been fighting a war against slave-taking giants... Right now in a pbp on these boards I'm playing an azata formed from the soul of a former slave.

I mean, I've also played characters who have nothing to do with slavery on either side of the slaver/enslaved line, I don't want to seem one-note, but like I said, something that comes up a lot in my reading naturally comes up a lot in my roleplaying. So I have a certain interest in not seeing it treated as an out-of-bounds topic.

In the other thread, everyone's favorite kobold wrote:
Discomfort is always valid, but it can't dictate behavior. Not on its own.

I'm also sympathetic to this view. And discomfort also sometimes provides fertile ground for roleplaying. Though not always and certainly not automatically. It demands good judgment; a track record and built-up trust will help people who game with you to trust you to navigate discomfort well; etc., etc.

The same is true of companies selling gaming material to customers. If you want me to buy uncomfortable material from your company, a track record of handling it well helps.

I'm not terribly familiar with the way that Paizo has portrayed slavery in Golarion, whether in older books or more recent ones. Just not too familiar with Golarion lore overall, since my weekly Pathfinder game (when I had one) wasn't set there.

But I get the impression from posts in the other thread that in the past Paizo has suggested in setting materials that slavery is not evil, or provided for people to show up to organized play games and inflict their "nonevil" slavers on a bunch of strangers just looking to roll some dice, and so on?

If so, the stuff above about good judgment, being more demanding, needing a good track record, etc. cuts both ways. A track record of them handling this particular uncomfortable topic poorly might mean that for Paizo specifically, steering clear of slavery is for the best, even if others need not feel obligated to do so.

Tangential:
Also, honestly, if that's the case, maybe it explains where some of those threads that would try to morally justify slavery would come from, back in the day. I mean, there's plenty of places in the world where people can pick up such beliefs, but I did used to wonder why it kept coming up here.

Scarab Sages

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Erik Mona wrote:

Going forward, we plan to remove slavery from our game and setting completely. We will not be writing adventures to tell the story of how this happened. We will not be introducing an in-world event to facilitate this change.

We’re just going to move on from it, period.

This is the single biggest retcon in the Lost Omens setting that I can remember. It's certainly more significant than the paladins of Asmodeus. It's also really bad storytelling.

Paizo has made changes to its lore before (orcs, goblins, elves, drow) but it was always by way of providing depth, exploring another region of the world, or allowing the setting to evolve. Compared to that, this is a slapdash overreaction to criticism. It would be like if, in response to criticism of The Hook Mountain Massacre Paizo removed giants from the setting.

I have a lot of questions. How will Paizo handle Cheliax, Andoran, or the Bellflower Network, to name just a few problems this causes? Are there more setting-altering retcons on the horizon? Torture and societal oppression were always featured heavily. The presence of colonialism in the setting arguably trivializes Black pain. Are Nidal, Taldor and Vidrian going to be erased?

It's one thing if there will no more adventures where heroes fight slavers or if slavery is de-emphasized as characteristic of evildoers and oppressive societies, that would probably be fine. But a clumsy retcon like this does nobody any favors and won't bury the issue.


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He's already clarified that it's less a retcon than a refocusing.

Erik Mona wrote:
So while I suspect the word may come up a time or two in the future, we're just not going to be covering it going forward.

The original quote was actually even more clear, but I unfortunately snipped off the part that was replying to me in a misguided attempt at not quoting myself in the OP. This one guy likes to follow me around and look for excuses to call me a narcissist lately.

Erik Mona wrote:
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
I think that's taking the posts to an extreme that neither of them really go to. I doubt Erik Mona is saying "we're going to rewrite and reprint Ironfang Invasion". More, "In the future, we're going to decenter slavery as a story device, and we're going to deemphasize it when explaining the lore of the world."
It's this.

So I honestly think it's exactly what you say you'd be fine with. They just don't want to center quite so many stories on slavery anymore.

Silver Crusade

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No one in particular: "We need slavers so we have someone to fight!"

Aaaaaaaand how many games have you been in that actually involve fighting slavers, none? One? Less than all of them?

That's what I thought.


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Rysky wrote:

No one in particular: "We need slavers so we have someone to fight!"

Aaaaaaaand how many games have you been in that actually involve fighting slavers, none? One? Less than all of them?

That's what I thought.

To their credit, I ran a campaign about busting up slavers /and/ fascists… in Beam Saber.

Dark Archive

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Rysky wrote:

No one in particular: "We need slavers so we have someone to fight!"

Aaaaaaaand how many games have you been in that actually involve fighting slavers, none? One? Less than all of them?

That's what I thought.

I mean, everyone who has played Rise of the Runelords, Strange Aeons, Jade Regent, Reign of Winter, Iron Gods, Ironfang Invasion and Ruins of Azlant at least ^_^;

I do get what you mean though, usual bad guys doing enslaving is more of secondary or tertiary aspect to them as part of "everything else evil they do" rather than "their main profession".

Silver Crusade

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If they got to those specific encounters you mean.

And you raise a good point and/but what I was getting at, how often do people campaigns about fighting slavers? They don't really, or they have one about. It's not the whole encompassing motivation in every Paizo or Homebrew adventure.


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It's also... not actually that important to most of the lore. Choosing to deemphasize it--not retcon it, just deemphasize it--doesn't actually change much of anything of import. I guess it means fewer APs about Chelaxian slavery? Which I guess were a scarce resource up until now?

Silver Crusade

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Nuuuuuuu, not poor Cheliax, they're a needy child, they need all the attention that can hoard.

Read with all the sarcasm you can muster.


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Hey, this does mean that we probably don't see slavery in Arcadia!


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Rysky wrote:

No one in particular: "We need slavers so we have someone to fight!"

Aaaaaaaand how many games have you been in that actually involve fighting slavers, none? One? Less than all of them?

That's what I thought.

Hell's Rebels has busting-up of slavers. Brief but it's there.

That Paizo hasn't had an "end the slave trade in the Inner Sea" AP yet is frankly quite frustrating to me.


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Ian G wrote:
Rysky wrote:

No one in particular: "We need slavers so we have someone to fight!"

Aaaaaaaand how many games have you been in that actually involve fighting slavers, none? One? Less than all of them?

That's what I thought.

Hell's Rebels has busting-up of slavers. Brief but it's there.

That Paizo hasn't had an "end the slave trade in the Inner Sea" AP yet is frankly quite frustrating to me.

I am bummed that we can't bust Okeno "on-screen." It would be a really satisfying win, I think, and mark a decisive turn against slavery in the setting to build on the 'Katapesh is realizing slavery is increasingly unpopular' bit in LOWG.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
keftiu wrote:
Ian G wrote:
Rysky wrote:

No one in particular: "We need slavers so we have someone to fight!"

Aaaaaaaand how many games have you been in that actually involve fighting slavers, none? One? Less than all of them?

That's what I thought.

Hell's Rebels has busting-up of slavers. Brief but it's there.

That Paizo hasn't had an "end the slave trade in the Inner Sea" AP yet is frankly quite frustrating to me.

I am bummed that we can't bust Okeno "on-screen." It would be a really satisfying win, I think, and mark a decisive turn against slavery in the setting to build on the 'Katapesh is realizing slavery is increasingly unpopular' bit in LOWG.

Agreed. There is Pathfinder Infinite, but that won't be quite the same.


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Evan Tarlton wrote:
keftiu wrote:
Ian G wrote:
Rysky wrote:

No one in particular: "We need slavers so we have someone to fight!"

Aaaaaaaand how many games have you been in that actually involve fighting slavers, none? One? Less than all of them?

That's what I thought.

Hell's Rebels has busting-up of slavers. Brief but it's there.

That Paizo hasn't had an "end the slave trade in the Inner Sea" AP yet is frankly quite frustrating to me.

I am bummed that we can't bust Okeno "on-screen." It would be a really satisfying win, I think, and mark a decisive turn against slavery in the setting to build on the 'Katapesh is realizing slavery is increasingly unpopular' bit in LOWG.
Agreed. There is Pathfinder Infinite, but that won't be quite the same.

If I could design adventures worth a good g+%+~%n, I would skip grad school work to go write a world-spanning campaign about ending chattel slavery in the Inner Sea region, starting as Bellflower agents fighting slave-catchers in Cheliax, blowing up the slave markets of Katapesh, and culminating in building an anti-Cheliax coalition, convincing the Molthunes to abandon slavery in exchange for a chunk of Cheliax, and destroying the Thrune regime for good, liberating every halfling in the land with the help of people like "Eulysis Grunt", a brilliant but alcoholic general, "Abram Longshanks", an Andoren lawyer and politician with long legs, long arms, a distinctive stovepipe hat and a magnificent beard, ethnic Zenji Andoren spy and slave-liberator "Haryet Tomane", and of course ex-slave turned privateer turned Andoran navy volunteer "Bobbin Small".

And I'd put it up for free for anyone to grab and play.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

[Long post warning]

Kobold Catgirl wrote:
It's also... not actually that important to most of the lore. Choosing to deemphasize it--not retcon it, just deemphasize it--doesn't actually change much of anything of import. I guess it means fewer APs about Chelaxian slavery? Which I guess were a scarce resource up until now?

I can definitely get behind deemphasizing slavery. That's been due for a while. "Not covering it" from here on out, however...that seems like an overreaction. I want slaver-fighting stories in roleplaying games like I want adult content — it needs to be genre-sequestered and given a clear warning about ahead of time. That said, slavers are...a pretty massive archetypal villain for most any genre out there. In our modern world it's still a pretty huge deal. Slavers aren't compelling villains because they are sensational, but because they give stories gravity in a way other villains don't, partially because the fear of being dominated, of losing control of your own agency, is a very pure, very sympathetic fear — one that LE villains in particular seem preoccupied in exploiting. These stories can be, and have been done tastefully numerous times: Bilal, Assassin's Creed: Freedom Cry, the story of Exodus from the Torah, and various Star Wars plotlines have all been narratives I've personally looked to when I involve slavery in stories at my table.

I think those stories are important to fantasy largely because they are also important to our own world. We use fantasy to dream of the world that could have been, that could be, and so transplant real life monsters into these fables to learn how to fight them, better preparing us to cope with or fight those struggles in our real world. Slavery, more than many other evils, has had a disproportionate effect on the psyche of many civilizations around the world, so it makes sense it should be treated differently in our stories. Sometimes, the best treatment is to set it aside and focus on better things. Other times, the best treatment is to let people confront it.

The Mwangi Expanse seemed, to me, to be a book that dealt with slavery very tastefully. It didn't shy away from introducing villainous slaver villains (such as certain factions among the Bekyar people, Gnolls, and exiled Sargavans), but more importantly, for every instance of such a villain, it gave player-facing hooks for confronting these people, be it from Vidrian revolutionaries, Ekujae raids, or Gold Beetle's visionary dream. Rather than making the narrative about these slaver villains and all the terrible crimes they're committing, Mwangi Expanse represents the narrative from the point of view of people fighting against these people, and that's, I think, what it does right. It represents it not from this complacent view of a "fact of life," but as an evil that must be confronted. Looking at the anonymous freelancer's letter Owen posted, I feel that Erik's response doesn't yet grasp this principle.

anonymous freelancer wrote:
There are 126 references to slaves and slavery in the 402 pages of Absalom. Some of them are just recounting history. Some of them are references to abolition and aiding free people. Several of them are graphic descriptions of “illegal” slavery, human trafficking, prison abuse, organized crime and all the various ways that Absalom tries to have it both ways. What a f*#%ing slap in the face.

It might be my reading, but I don't think the freelancer took umbrage with any of the content described up until the very last bit which I italicized. Mwangi Expanse had all of these things except "graphic descriptions of "illegal" slavery, human trafficking, prison abuse, organized crime, etc." Dealing with such an extremely sensitive issue, the last thing you want to do is, to borrow the phrase, bask in it. Sensationalize it. But ignoring that it's there, when it is there, is in my view also pretty irresponsible.

Slavery is an important part of the plot in significant regions around Golarion. There's not really any going back on this. You can't make an Old Cheliax or Bellflower Network book without talking about slavery. Regardless of whether or not this is a good situation to be in, ignoring this thing not only does a disservice to ten years of storytelling, it also does a disservice to people who are invested in Golarion in part because of the types of stories the world enables them to tell (I say this largely referring to 2nd edition's iteration of Golarion, rather than problematic elements of older versions). Mwangi Expanse was the right direction Golarion needed to go. This move is not.


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Quick note, the letter was by an anonymous freelancer, Owen was just posting it.

I think having slavery fade into the background for most of the setting is the right call, but I'd agree with Opsylum for stuff like Cheliax and Katapesh. I prefer to simply not include slavery in my own fantasy worlds, and I think that's often a better approach, but the ship has sailed for those particular regions. And handling it in a way that doesn't trivialize, justify or sensationalize it, or center its perpetrators over its victims, that is easily avoidable for people that aren't comfortable with those themes, does seem like a better way to address it than sweeping it under the rug.

They can still have it exist without making it something that's focused on in adventures, though. That way people who are okay with using it can do so in their own campaigns. And someone like me who'd rather just not deal with it, won't have to.

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