Mindflayers are not people too.

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GMWestermeyer
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Mindflayers are not people too.

Post by GMWestermeyer » Fri May 25, 2018 2:11 pm

I've made no secret of my disdain for newer editions of D&D. This article shows what lies at the foundation of my feelings. D&D promotes moral relativism in ways I cannot EVER support. Yes, it is a game, but how we play matters.

"Maybe the “good storytelling” of villains being the heroes of their own stories is, in fact, bad storytelling because it demands empathy for mind-controlling Nazis."

No maybe about it for me.

https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article ... =wpfbusads

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Re: Mindflayers are not people too.

Post by Havard » Fri May 25, 2018 5:21 pm

I think you are reading too much into this.

Or rather, the article author does.

I'm not a big fan of moral relativism in my games either, but I also don't mind a bit of complexity to my villains. They can still be evil without being two dimensional. I think the author makes a mistake my mixing in modern political analogies. I could see how slavery and mind control might be themes that some gamers feel uncomfortable with. There are other elements I prefer staying out of my games, so that is something each group must decide. But ultimately this is just a game. And games can be about anything as long as everyone involved is cool with it.

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Re: Mindflayers are not people too.

Post by night_druid » Fri May 25, 2018 6:34 pm

If you go back to the source material, that is Lovecraftian horror, mind flayers are neither good nor evil, they simply are. Their motives are beyond the kin of humans and their ilk to hope to understand. D&D has humanized them a great deal.

As a whole, I don't think I've ever used a mind flayer in my game, once. They're insanely powerful creatures you shouldn't encounter in groups more than a couple, least you want a TPK on your hands. Their cities should be utterly alien, nearly unassailable bastions of a handful of flayers and thousands of mind-controlled slaves. Aside from that, I don't use them much, so I don't give much thought to their backstory or their motivations, I just don't think its necessary.
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Re: Mindflayers are not people too.

Post by Havard » Fri May 25, 2018 6:51 pm

You could always use Shatrax the Mindlfayer (left) from the 3rd D&D movie? :lol: :facepalm:

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Re: Mindflayers are not people too.

Post by Thorf » Sat May 26, 2018 5:59 am

+1 on reading too much into this.

I'd also say that trying to elicit empathy for an evil nasty villain or villainous race is in no way endorsing their abhorrent behaviour. We don't forgive a serial killer for their crimes just because they had a tragic childhood, after all, but it's not a contradiction to feel sorry for their bad experiences while simultaneously condemning them for their actions.

What it does is add to the feeling of realism in a way that "evil is evil" just can't. Many gamers, old and new, like this.

Besides, sympathetic villains are a very common fantasy trope, and this is nothing new to modern D&D. I'm not seeing the argument here at all.

I'm also curious: if mind flayers are not to be considered to have their own culture, how would you imagine them? Are they just monsters that exist for PCs to kill? I'm not saying this is a bad idea — I'm honestly asking.

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Re: Mindflayers are not people too.

Post by Seethyr » Sat May 26, 2018 1:17 pm

I try not to think too much about it to be perfectly honest. The real world is incredibly nuanced and there are more than 50 shades of gray to almost any situation’s morality. I act like a simpleton in my fantasy - monster bad, kill monster.

This is one reason why I’ll never have “young” found in any dungeon or adventure. I’d just as soon rather avoid these types of thoughts because the stress and guilt of the real world is bad enough.
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Re: Mindflayers are not people too.

Post by willpell » Sat May 26, 2018 4:39 pm

I for one love moral relativism. D&D doesn't have nearly enough of it for me.

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Re: Mindflayers are not people too.

Post by timemrick » Sat May 26, 2018 7:57 pm

I concur on the author reading far too much into Mearls's statements.

I believe that this is the video quoted in the article. It's from a few months ago, so is probably meant to be a teaser for Mordenkainen's Book of Foes (which I believe includes info on the illithid/gith war, but I haven't read it yet).

In the video, Mearls refers to "an element of tragedy" in the mind flayers' fallen empire, and claims they are "interesting" because they're merely puppets to a greater evil (the elder brains), but that's a LONG way from saying they're anything like the heroes of the story.

When the heroes learn about how the elder brains control mind flayers, that doesn't make the illithids sympathetic--it just makes the elder brain that much scarier.
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Re: Mindflayers are not people too.

Post by redking » Wed May 30, 2018 5:24 pm

This is a hot mess. First you are conflating modern identity politics with the mind flyers, and then you get a basic fact of European history wrong because you are playing some identity politics of your own.

"White nationalists"? "Nazis"? Really?

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Re: Mindflayers are not people too.

Post by Digitalelf » Mon Jul 30, 2018 11:18 pm

IMO, feeling sympathetic towards a villain, no matter how alien or in-human the villain may be, is not the same as excusing the villain for the evil he, she, or it has done.

Within the classical horror genre for example, it is common to make the villain a sympathetic figure. And in most instances, because the villain is still very much evil, the villain is still killed in the end.

That's how I interpreted Mearls's statements in the video anyway.
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Re: Mindflayers are not people too.

Post by Coronoides » Mon Jul 30, 2018 11:53 pm

I think that our species killing off our real-world intellectual equals before we even recorded history has given humans a blind spot when it comes to other very intelligent life. We look around at what frankly from a biologist’s point of view is a world spanning monoculture and are beginning to see we are all the same. Naturally we extend this to imagined others. However, others would not be like us and our values need not apply to creatures who are biologically different.
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Re: Mindflayers are not people too.

Post by Havard » Tue Jul 31, 2018 8:21 am

Digitalelf wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 11:18 pm
IMO, feeling sympathetic towards a villain, no matter how alien or in-human the villain may be, is not the same as excusing the villain for the evil he, she, or it has done.

Within the classical horror genre for example, it is common to make the villain a sympathetic figure. And in most instances, because the villain is still very much evil, the villain is still killed in the end.

That's how I interpreted Mearls's statements in the video anyway.
Well summed up.Let's just get away from real world comparisons. That doesn't really help anyone. Let's instead look at fictional characters. We all agree that Darth Vader is evil. He tracked down and killed all the Jedi (or so we are told in Ep IV) and he oversees the destruction of Alderaan. Does learning that he was once a good man make him more interesting? Yep.

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Re: Mindflayers are not people too.

Post by Coronoides » Tue Jul 31, 2018 8:28 am

Havard wrote:
Tue Jul 31, 2018 8:21 am
Digitalelf wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 11:18 pm
IMO, feeling sympathetic towards a villain, no matter how alien or in-human the villain may be, is not the same as excusing the villain for the evil he, she, or it has done.

Within the classical horror genre for example, it is common to make the villain a sympathetic figure. And in most instances, because the villain is still very much evil, the villain is still killed in the end.

That's how I interpreted Mearls's statements in the video anyway.
Well summed up.Let's just get away from real world comparisons. That doesn't really help anyone. Let's instead look at fictional characters. We all agree that Darth Vader is evil. He tracked down and killed all the Jedi (or so we are told in Ep IV) and he oversees the destruction of Alderaan. Does learning that he was once a good man make him more interesting? Yep.

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My example would be Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
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Re: Mindflayers are not people too.

Post by Havard » Tue Jul 31, 2018 8:42 am

Coronoides wrote:
Tue Jul 31, 2018 8:28 am
Well summed up.Let's just get away from real world comparisons. That doesn't really help anyone. Let's instead look at fictional characters. We all agree that Darth Vader is evil. He tracked down and killed all the Jedi (or so we are told in Ep IV) and he oversees the destruction of Alderaan. Does learning that he was once a good man make him more interesting? Yep.
My example would be Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
[/quote]

That is an excellent example! :)

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Re: Mindflayers are not people too.

Post by zontoxira » Tue Jul 31, 2018 8:25 pm

Speaking of vampires, I thought of Lestat de Lioncourt. While audience may feel sympathetic towards him, he was still considered a monster by any standards.
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