Dragons Over Normandy Update: Orcs (or, Why I’m Not A Racist)

A while ago I talked about an idea I had for a game based in a modern version of a D&D world which is going through a global conflict similar to the first and second world wars, and was also seeing the same kinds of political and social changes the real world was seeing during the early to mid 20th century. I haven’t talked about it in a while, but I have been kicking some ideas around. As one might expect, a lot of these ideas are centered around which D&D races would serve as analogues for which real world countries and cultures. Though I didn’t get this here on the blog, some of my friends who I told about this face to face had a knee jerk reaction to one of these in that they found it kind of racist, and that was my idea that Orcs would be this world’s answer to Native Americans. It didn’t occur to me until someone had this reaction, but I know realize that it kind of looks like I’m saying Native Americans are evil barbarians. That’s not the case at all.

On the social/political changes side of the whole project idea, I wanted to reflect the way that the major industrial powers of the early 20th century were undergoing changes in the way they treated certain ethnic minorities. Being an American, the racial tensions that first come to mind is African-Americans (specifically the long terms effects of slavery) and Native Americans (specifically the long-term effects of the U.S.’s genocidal treatment of them). So to find analogues for them in D&D, we need races who are typically seen as evil, worthless, and totally OK to kill and victimize, and who are also very familiar. The two races I think of first who fit that bill are Orcs and Goblins, and I decided to make the Goblins the race who were under the yoke of slavery and the Orcs the ones who were fighting to preserve their own land from foreign invaders. The idea here is not that Native Americans are the way people think of Orcs being, but that Orcs should be seen the way Native Americans actually were: dehumanized victims of racist, military expansion.

Here’s a rough idea of the story of Orcs in this world:

At some point in the pre-industrial eras of this world, the various races were by and large consolidated and separated into their own lands; The Dwarf Kingdom gathered into the world’s largest mountain range, the various Elf sub races unified under a single empire in the eastern woodlands (except the Drow who remained in the Underdark), the Humans came together in the large wintry northern territories and became very isolated, secure in the knowledge that no one can mess with them unless you are the Wild Elves, and so on and so forth. At first the were still a lot of unclaimed, and thus more or less neutral, areas, and it was here that the nomadic Halflings thrived. The one race who had already existed like this, however, were the Orcs, who originated on a very large island (or perhaps a very small continent) west of the great mountains (now home to the Dwarves) and accessible through various island chains. In earlier parts of history the Orcs maintained a presence on the mainland, and much of the world’s history is marked by wars with the Orcs. But as all this nationalizing and solidifying of kingdoms happened, the Orcs withdrew to their own lands.

As time went by, these various kingdoms began to expand, leaving less and less unclaimed space for the Halflings. They began to realize that they need to abandon their nomadic ways and found a kingdom of their own, but by this point that was almost impossible to do as the few unclaimed territories left were all hotly contested by kingdoms that they didn’t have a chance against in a conflict. Then their leaders had a neat idea; the Orcs have this giant island, and everybody hates Orcs and are worried that they may come back, so we could probably get support from at least some of these kingdoms to invade Orc Country and turn it into Halfling Country.

And so it came to pass. The Halflings biggest backer by far were the Dwarves, who initially used their military might and superior technology (the Dwarves led this world’s industrial revolution) to establish a set of colonies for the Halflings in Orc Country, originally under Dwarven rule, but they eventually gained independence and spread across the island/continent thing in a kind of “manifest destiny”.

What this meant for the Orcs was centuries of warfare trying to repel these invaders that cost millions of Orcish lives and led to their near extinction. By the time of the Great War most of the Orcs are living in reservations and resisting societal efforts to make them more like the mainland races. One Halfling famously said “kill the Orc, save the man.

And this sets the stage for Orcs in the modern era, as the world is entering the largest and most brutal war it has ever faced. Orcs are being asked to fight and die on behalf of the very government that has been killing them, literally and figuratively, for centuries. They are burdened by the common notion that they are evil, savage, and barbaric. Their ancient societies are deemed chaotic and uncivilized, and the Orcs themselves are thought to be servants of an evil and brutal god (although the word “slave” would be more accurate). Dwindling numbers, fierce racism, second class citizens in their own homeland.

So you see, it’s not that I have a low opinion of Native Americans, it’s that I have a high opinion of Orcs.

 

On a completely unrelated note, I want to apologize for last week. Usually when I have nothing for you I tell you, but I was silent last time. I have no excuses, so I’m not going to pretend to. I’m just very sincerely sorry that you nice folks you decided that this little blog of mine is worth following were forgotten and ignored last week. Please forgive me, and I hope this post makes up for it.

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Dragons in WWII? Still pretty fucking epic!

Hey folks. So look, here’s the deal…

I know this is a new blog and it’s kind of early to have half assed posts, but you’re getting one because non rpg related stuff in my life has kind of taken front and center recently. I have not thought of a topic to blog about this week.

I’ve had some folks express interest in last weeks D&D campaign idea, which was suprising because that post too was kind of half assed. To be perfectly honest, that wasn’t originally a campaign idea, but an idea I had awhile ago for a TV show. I thought it would be cool to see a nature show on mythological creatures as if they were real, and the one image that stuck with me was dragons in WWII, so I basically stole that from myself.

I don’t want that one campaign idea to dominate this blog, because this blog is meant to be about RPGs in general, but as I have nothing else, I’m going to talk about that again.

As you may have seen in my very first post, I actually don’t have a ton of experience with D&D, so I need to do a fair amount of research into it, also into real history, before I blend the two together. Also, I need to decide which edition of D&D to make this for. I most familiar with 3.5, but that’s now basically to editions behind. I may go pathfinder, we’ll see.

Anyway, here are some nebulous thoughts about the whole thing:

  • Since we’re going modern fantasy in terms of races and monsters and magic and such, I’m thinking go big or go home. To that end, I’m contemplating making this world geocentric. Like, scientists have proven that this world is the center of it’s universe, and the sun is an orbiting object.
  • Most of the countries in this world will belong to a single large continent, similar to real world Eurasia.
  • The history of this world will probably be divided into three or for ages, kind of like Tolkien’s stuff. History is still very up for grabs, but the basic idea is that the various races held their own territories for most of the world’s history until the end of the previous age/beginning of the current age, when trade and conquest began intermingling people. In other words, there’s still a “dwarf country” and a “human country”, but in the present those countries have members other races that have been born or assimilated into those cultures.
  • This world will have many different kinds of Elves with countries/cultures more or less corresponding to real life asian countries, except the Drow, who will be this world’s answer to Nazi Germany.
  • The Dwarves’ country will have been the leaders of this world’s industrial revolution, and will be a big player in the global war, and will have a history of large scale imperial expansion (a la England).
  • Goblins will hail from an equatorial area. Most other races have historically looked down on goblins, so they were commonly enslaved. So yeah, goblin land is this world’s Africa.
  • Orcs come from a land separate from the “Eurasia”, in some way; possibly a mountain range or they could be from another continent (I’m leaning towards the former). They’ve never been truly isolated (much of the world’s history has concerned itself with conflicts with orcs) but until comparatively recently they’ve had their own land to themselves. Then the Halflings came…
  • Unlike everyone else, the Halflings have been mainly nomadic, not possesing their own territory for most of history. But as the world became more industrialized and connected, and as the other powers began to expand, the Halflings began running out of places to go. Eventually, most of the Halfling clans decided to unite and find themselves a country. Since nobody likes Orcs, they decided to take over the Orc country which, with help from the Dwarves, they successfully did a few centuries ago. Orc country is now Halfling country, and the Orcs themselves have faced near extinction from war and disease, and have become second class citiziens of what most of them still feel to be their land. That’s right, Orcs are this world’s Native Americans, Halflings are the U.S., and as you can expect the Halflings have been a big player in the Goblin slave trade. Or they were. Slavery was abolished a while ago, and Goblins in Halfling country have legal rights, but they still aren’t being treated very well.
  • The Humans have been very isolationist for a long time, but have sided with the Dwarves and Halflings to fight the Drow, Elves, and Gnomes (Gnomes are Italy ’cause a friend suggested it and I liked the sound of a Gnomish Pope). Until recently, most other nations haven’t paid attention to the Humans, but those who have usually learn, as the Drow are now, that it’s almost impossible to invade Human country… unless you are the Wild Elves.
  • And somewhere in all of this will be Dragons I promise.

So there, weekly posting goal met. This post is no doubt riddled with typos. I don’t care. Fun fact, creating that link above to a joke most of you probably won’t get took almost as much time as the rest of this post.

Anyway, I’d like to hear anybody’s ideas for this campaign, but keep in mind that I have a very full plate right now so don’t expect progress to be regular, let alone weekly. Also, please leave ideas in comments here, not in Facebook or Google+.

WWII + Dragons = Fucking Epic

So I had an idea for a setting for a D&D game. Basically it would be a world with all of the standard high fantasy D&D elements, elves and magic and such, but with a level of technological and social progress fitting the mid 20th century in the real world. I’m thinking of an amalgam of the 40s, 50s, and 60s. This would be a different world, with it’s own history and geography, so things wouldn’t be identical and wouldn’t have to match real world chronology, but it would be exploring real life social and political issues from these decades through the lens of D&D style fantasy.

So first of all this world would be engulfed in a global armed conflict similar to World Wars I and II, with tanks, aircraft carriers and  blietzkreig-like air operations, but with magic and stuff. Imagine Normandy with dragons flying overhead! Yes, the dragons are involved in the war, and both sides have dragons fighting for them! Also, among the soldiers would be wizards, clerics, and other spell casters launching magic missiles and cones of fire while machine guns are going off and bombs are dropping. I think it’d be pretty epic.

One of the more powerful nations in this war is developing a bomb that releases large amount of very powerful and unpredictable magic. This bomb can be really devastating, but the technology behind it could also be used to power cities efficiently. This gives us an arms race and a debate similar to what we have regarding nuclear power.

Meanwhile, away from the front lines, matters of inequality are being addressed in at least one of the world’s super powers, perhaps the same one with the magic bomb. Certain races that have long been considered evil, orcs and goblins for instance, are beginning to demand better treatment under the law and to be more accepted in society. A civil rights movement. All of this against a backdrop of new technology drastically altering the way people work and live, leading to people re-evaluating their place in the world and the nature of government and things like that.

So I don’t have all the details, but I think there’s potential here. An orc civil rights leader telling people about his dream of equality, and perhaps a goblin leader refuting the orcs tactics of civil disobedience in favor of more drastic action. Halflings abandoning their nomadic lifestyles to live in suburbs. Tanks driven by gnomes. And did I mention dragons over Normandy? Tell me that wouldn’t be awesome!