Real-world references


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Post Friday, 7th April 2017, 16:59

Real-world references

NOTE: If you don't care about Crawl's theme/flavour at all, or you unironically complain about "political correctness", you should probably go back to complaining about food or high elves instead of "participating" here.

Crawl is implied to take place in a universe different from ours, in which none of our real human civilizations ever existed, but there are some very similar ones. Technology is implied to be similar to that during the late Middle Ages (with plenty of anachronisms but let's not worry about that for now). A lot of monsters and items draw from real-world mythologies, from disparate sources. One of the keys to this theme is that Crawl's universe doesn't know about ours. Duvessa doesn't talk about how badly she wants to stab Tony Abbott. The Elven Halls are called "the Elven Halls", not "Iceland". Harold doesn't say "But I was about to leave for my vacation to the Bahamas..." when he dies. Any direct reference is done as a pop culture joke (Killer Klowns, Beogh and the good gods, Singing Sword songs, etc.) and never tries to sell itself as an important part of the Crawl universe.
This suggests that material in Crawl should be agnostic to its source. Just because something is foreign or exotic to the devs doesn't mean it should be painted as foreign or exotic in-game.
This rule is getting broken a little too often, and with an obvious pattern.
The first worrying element for me was katanas and lajatangs. Both described as rare "imported weapons". In the case of katanas, devs eventually recognized this for what it is (embarrassing Oriental mysticism) and got rid of them...but autumn katana came back and is literally described as "exotic", and lajatangs, while fictional, are clearly a stand-in for those exotic, mystical Oriental weapons, complete with a fake "foreign" name.
When katanas are explicitly exotic and Western weapons are commonplace, there is only one extremely obvious conclusion for the player to come to: Crawl takes place in The West, even though that concept shouldn't exist in the Crawl universe!
This case has a really easy fix: rename and re-describe lajatangs. You don't need to remove them or change the tile or the stats, just get rid of the stupid name. At least remove "exotic" from the autumn katana's description, though having only one katana in the game still carries the implication...
I think Wucad Mu is less of a problem since it's the name of a person, and while it's a fictional one it's at least theoretically correct pinyin, unlike "Ieoh" (which I'm sure the devteam has heard enough about from me already).

The next piece of needless exoticification is the selection of untranslated names. "Katana" has been used in English often enough that it's the best word for the object. There is no common English equivalent of "rakshasa". I cannot say the same of "fustibalus" or "lindwurm" (German spelling with English pluralization, just...what???). "Bultungin" is the newest offender.

I also find it jarring when Crawl takes a name from mythology and only the name. Artistic license is fine - Crawl's minotaurs and rakshasas diverge pretty heavily from their sources but they still have recognizable elements; minotaurs have bull heads and rakshasas have illusions and raiju are lightning dogs. I cannot say the same of Crawl's daevas, eidola, or Tzitzimeh, which are pretty much unrecognizable - it seems like the names were chosen specifically to tie the game further into real-world religions. Also yes I know Crawl's interpretations of Asmodeus, Ereshkigal, Tiamat, and Dispater were copied from Dungeons & Dragons (fixing that would be a lot of work I guess).

The worst offenders: direct references to real-world locations or gods without a hint of irony. Majin-Bo has the excuse of being a pun, but not Bow of Krishna "Sharnga" or Ring of Shaolin.

Oh and something I'll mention here because it doesn't fit anywhere else: "Imperial myrmidon" doesn't even make sense!

Gods
There are two god names that aren't meaningless gibberish: The Shining One, and Wu Jian Council.
Wu Jian sticks out more than TSO because it's conspicuously untranslated in a game where nearly everything is in English. I assume this is intentional. No matter how you look at this, it's better than "Ieoh Jian" since Wu Jian is at least correct pinyin, but it's still conspicuous among all the other god names.

TSO, Zin, and Beogh are filled with blatant references to Abrahamic religions. The rest of the gods aside from Wu Jian, are so far abstracted from any real-world religion or culture as to be unrecognizable (possibly Qazlal's name is a bad attempt at sounding like an Aztec deity but whatever). So you've got this weird division where Jesus gets a big ingame presence but Buddhism and Hinduism and everything else get a monster or unrandart name at "best". I realize TSO, Zin, and Beogh's themes are all intended as jokes but jokes that are too out of place or pervasive can do some real damage to the theme of the game. If you want to make the game more even-handed with where it draws its mythology from, dialing back the references here would be a great place to start.

Short version
Trying to diversify the game's source material is good but if you treat some sources as conspicuously exotic, you're making the game more Eurocentric, not less.

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Post Friday, 7th April 2017, 17:31

Re: Real-world references

I would vastly prefer it if titzi's were still called shadow fiends because then you would have a straightforward naming scheme related to the capabilities of the monsters. All fiends are dangerous demons which can cast torment, but unlike tormentors are not made of paper and can do some real damage(thus threatening your HP once they cut it with torment). But now one of the three fiends is not called a fiend, so you have brimstone fiend, ice fiend, and... tztimitzl or whatever. I did not misspell that name on purpose just now, which represents the other problem-I cannot spell that fucking name and neither can basically any other native english speaker who has not specifically gone out of their way memorizing this one obscure word. Even chrome doesn't know what I mean, it wants to correct me to "Nimitz". This has the very real ingame effect of meaning I cannot search for this monster on the knowledge bots or beem to check its stats... so the name change away from "shadow fiend", which was spellable, understandable and relatable to other monsters in the game, was a strict downgrade.

I don't know how much I want to repeat myself about god names so I'll just quote
Shard1697 wrote:I'm ambivalent about species names but I will say I am so, so over purposefully unpronounceable god names. I don't care that earlier gods already have annoying names, that doesn't mean the problem should get worse... it makes not only searching for the god you want on learndb and stuff like this a pain in the ass, it also makes actual casual conversation about the game annoying. Maybe RL players aren't used to talking out loud about things, but even via text it can be a pain.
PleasingFungus wrote:uskayaw is (a) perfectly pronounceable and (b) a reference to an actual relevant word in malaysian (?), iirc

hepliaklqana is 100% indulgence on my part, but i put quite a lot of work into getting the god running, so i will forgive myself. you are, of course, free to make your own judgement on the matter :)
Shard1697 wrote:I am actually totally fine with uskayaw because yes, it is pronounceable(and spellable without looking it up). my judgement on hepliaklqana(as a name) is it's maybe the only thing you have put in the game which I dislike, and when I was writing that post I actually was thinking of how annoyed I got when you said... on the forums, or irc? (somewhere) that it's a messy pain of a name on purpose like other god names that are already in crawl, or something to that effect. sorry but that sucks really bad!
Note that me saying I was "ambivalent about species names" was before bacharian and bultungin, the first of which makes me think of the word 'arachnid' long before frogs, the second of which I have a strong hatred for because I really wanted playable gnolls and this name doesn't even fit the species as well as "gnoll" does anyways.

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Post Friday, 7th April 2017, 19:04

Re: Real-world references

duvessa wrote:Short version
Trying to diversify the game's source material is good but if you treat some sources as conspicuously exotic, you're making the game more Eurocentric, not less.


I agree with this conclusion but not with all of your examples.

Re: the monster names, I think it's fair game to lift names and inspiration from religions and mythologies. Daeva were a D&D holdover I believe and not at all resembling Hindi daeva. I don't particularly see a problem with eidolon or Tzitzimimeh. The game putting its own spin on their interpretation has a long, long list of precedent. Crawl elves and dwarves are fairly divergent from the original Germanic concepts of elves and dwarves.

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Post Friday, 7th April 2017, 19:16

Re: Real-world references

Daevas also are a probable D&D reference (solars, devas, archons etc.). The spelling in d&d though is deva, which is normally used as transcription of a Sanskrit word and means (good) god/spirit, while daeva is used to transcribe an Avestan word meaning (evil) god/spirit. The two words are closely related, and are also related to Latin deus and divus (whose feminine is in use in English as diva). Funnily enough, Asmodeus' name also comes from here (Aesma Daeva = Wrath Spirit, an evil messenger in Zoroastrianism and a metal band); Asmodeus itself is the latinisation of the Greek name in the Book of Tobi.

Exotic for weapons also is a d&d concept: exotic weapon proficiency, which encompasses katanas (bastard swords) and lajatangs (in 3.0, I think?). Of course, here it's not needed, since the mechanic simply does not exist. However, I think that trying to remove the concept of "exotic" flies in the face of fantasy, whose point normally is to introduce the spectator to a gradually increasingly exotic world. After all, this probably isn't set in the West: the land of double and triple swords?

I agree on Krishna's bow. I generally am against the presence of too evident references to rl religions, if they are very much alive. Beogh should be changed: at least his current titles be removed. Ophanim, cherubs, seraphs also should have their names changed, since they are subjects of veneration. Cherubs in particular have a tile representing the faces of the 4 living beings that are the symbols of the Gospels. And I can't say much about other Abrahamitic religions, since I don't know them well. Trishulas?
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Post Friday, 7th April 2017, 19:36

Re: Real-world references

Shtopit wrote:After all, this probably isn't set in the West: the land of double and triple swords?
Right, but double and triple swords aren't specifically described by the game as "exotic" or "imported". Katanas and lajatangs, however are. That's where the inconsistency is.

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Post Friday, 7th April 2017, 20:03

Re: Real-world references

What was the verdict on Sword of Jihad anyway? I gave up on reading that thread.

In general, I agree with this. Mythology, even mythology somewhat tied in with religion ala Asmodeous doesn't bother me so much, but the katana example and especially the Bow of Krishna and Beogh in general are just jarring as heck.
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Post Friday, 7th April 2017, 22:44

Re: Real-world references

uskayaw isn't as bad as other god names but it still seems more difficult than it needs to be. hepliaklqana I'd love to see changed, and I think imho it's pretty easy to do: just chop off the unnecessary parts at the end: Hepliak. Hep-lee-ak; short and easy to say.

The autumn katana/bow should be fairly easy to change. Revising TSO/Beogh/Zin might be a bit more work, but sounds good to me.

Shadow fiends was a better name, and if they're reverted then I can reprise my old clan name: 'Shadow fiends are the tits' (for when they became titzimentalsdfkjdfjd) and now 'Shadow Fiends are not the tits' after they are reverted.

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Post Friday, 7th April 2017, 22:52

Re: Real-world references

tasonir wrote:Revising TSO/Beogh/Zin might be a bit more work, but sounds good to me.


Beogh at least should be easy. Just reflavor Beoghites as being favored up-and-coming leaders of the orcish hordes, a la Warhammer or Warcraft. Derivative, yes, but no longer carries any religious implications. Water walking can be changed to flying or just removed outright. Yes, there's a lot of flavor text to change, but the Abrahamic flavor isn't that intimately tied to the mechanics of the god, unlike TSO or Zin.

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Post Friday, 7th April 2017, 23:30

Re: Real-world references

This is a game that has elves and orcs in it. The fact that it is approximately as guilty of Orientalism as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles doesn't compare to the uncritical importation of 19th century race science via Tolkien/Dungeons and Dragons.

Western fantasy is romantic reaction against industrialism, urbanization, disintegration of pre-modern class structures, modern social thought, democracy, etc. It renders imperial concepts of race as differences of species, where the difference between elves and dwarves, for example, is comparable to the difference between modern humans and neanderthals or chimpanzees even. There is a reason for the common interest in concepts like race, magic, the supernatural, ancestry, and monarchy in both Western fantasy and fascism.

And yet it is the dominant setting of RPGs, largely via the influence of Dungeons and Dragons. Roguelikes, JRPGs, commercial titles of every description. The fact is that your game needs to be grounded in a setting the audience can understand and relate to culturally, and Western cultural hegemony being what it is, if you make a game based on wuxia, its audience is going to be Chinese, but if you make a game based on settings familiar from international blockbusters The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Final Fantasy, Warcraft, etc. etc. etc. you reach a global audience.

It is what it is. If you don't have millions of dollars to create and promote your own Star Wars but with actual swords setting, you're going to be stuck picking up existing settings and inheriting their faults. As to lajatangs and katanas, I think the precedent set by the Sword of Jihad of waiting until someone who claims to be from a culture with standing on the matter complains and then quickly reversing the crawl position will work.
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Post Saturday, 8th April 2017, 00:57

Re: Real-world references

Well Duvessa is definitely on to something...the fluff is more than a little incosistent.

As far as god names go, Hepliaklqana is crummy for two reasons: one, because it's not well thought out (sorry Grunt), and two, it's the third Aztec-esque name in the pantheon behind Nemelex and Qazlal. Uskayaw on the other hand is pretty cool sounding, however the flavour of the god is lacking -- the "reveler" just comes across kinda half-assed.

.
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Post Saturday, 8th April 2017, 04:04

Re: Real-world references

I agree with most of duvessa's critique, but disagree with removing the Abrahamic aspects of Zin, TSO, and Beogh.

Having a pantheon of gods which, unlike in our own world, are universally acknowledged to all exist, and then having a few of them resemble the Abrahamic God, whose authority traditionally derives from the denial of the existence of all other gods, and then furthermore forcing these quasi-Abrahamic gods to somehow coexist in a polytheistic world, is not only hilarious; it also undermines any claim to be a representation of an actual Abrahamic religion. If [TSO, Zin, Beogh] is one god among many, it's not the God of Abraham. In other words, for me at least there's enough displacement in this case for me not to be worried about the supposed specificity real-world reference. It's much different than the blatant orientalism of the lajatang or Sword of Jihad, or the colonialism of the Tzitzimitl (a little poking around seems to reveal that it was Catholic missionaries who regarded them as demons, whereas the locals didn't necessarily see them as evil or even always dangerous).

watertreatmentRL is right to point out that we are dealing with a basically European genre, which implies a certain necessary amount of Eurocentrism. The solution isn't to go hunting for, I don't know, the West African equivalent of a halfling with the goal of eventually having every culture equally represented at every level of the game. It's more about how we critically appropriate the tradition that we come from and also inherit. For example, when I first came to crawl, I really appreciated that the traditional-fantasy 'race' had been replaced with 'species', since race is kind of a gross word (of course, players all still use 'race' when talking about the game--we still have a ways to go).

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Post Saturday, 8th April 2017, 09:14

Re: Real-world references

May I point out that the fact that there're some things in Crawl universe that are considered "exotic" in-universe that can be seen as identical to exotic things in real world in the eyes of the majority of people (players and devs) involved with Crawl (so basically regarding the exotic stuff, there's a "one to one" relationship between the reality where the said majority live in and the fictional universe of Crawl) does NOT, in itself, make the Crawl universe any less coherent or solid?

Just because things that feel "Eurocentric" exist in Crawl universe does not immediately make Crawl Eurocentric. I mean, Europe does not even exist in the universe, does it? Maybe to the native people and creatures of the dungeon, lajatangs and katanas are indeed exotic stuff because they originated from a land far away from it (the dungeon), and the "narrator" in the game describes them as such (exotic) simply because his/her voice is of the native people. This is perfectly okay and perfectly coherent, I think.

EDIT:
Crawl takes place in The West, even though that concept shouldn't exist in the Crawl universe!

Why not, tho? "The West" in Crawl Universe does not need to have something to do with "The West" in our reality.
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Post Saturday, 8th April 2017, 10:48

Re: Real-world references

monkeytor wrote:disagree with removing the Abrahamic aspects of Zin, TSO, and Beogh.

Having a pantheon of gods which, unlike in our own world, are universally acknowledged to all exist, and then having a few of them resemble the Abrahamic God, whose authority traditionally derives from the denial of the existence of all other gods, and then furthermore forcing these quasi-Abrahamic gods to somehow coexist in a polytheistic world, is not only hilarious; it also undermines any claim to be a representation of an actual Abrahamic religion. If [TSO, Zin, Beogh] is one god among many, it's not the God of Abraham. In other words, for me at least there's enough displacement in this case for me not to be worried about the supposed specificity real-world reference. It's much different than the blatant orientalism of the lajatang or Sword of Jihad, or the colonialism of the Tzitzimitl (a little poking around seems to reveal that it was Catholic missionaries who regarded them as demons, whereas the locals didn't necessarily see them as evil or even always dangerous).


It seems to me that you are using two weights and two measures (aka double standard) here, or just missing something. The sword of jihad wad renamed because jihad is a Muslim concept, which has meant a variety of things and, whatever its meaning, is still central to Muslim faithfuls.
"Evangelist" is an exclusive Christian concept. The same goes for "Apostle", and both of these concepts are central to Christianity: Evangelists and Apostles are the most revered saints after Mary (and possibly Joseph), the works written by them are the foundation of Christian faith and the authority of today's bishops is founded on their being successors of the Apostles. The literal translation of "Messiah" is "Christ".
My problem with Beogh is this ridiculously explicit fluff. I don't really care about the mechanics (besides the "orcs only lololol" thing, but that's not a reference).

As for the good gods, besides the monsters I talked about earlier, I don't actually have a problem. Heironeous is always going to be a thing in an RPG.

As for the exclusive existence of the Abrahamitic god, you would be surprised by how many explanations were given about the polytheistic gods, whether they existed or not, what they were, and who, and how long this discussion lasted. You may also want to look into henotheism and monolatry. (the point was existence ≠ godhead)
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Post Saturday, 8th April 2017, 16:15

Re: Real-world references

Shtopit wrote:
monkeytor wrote:disagree with removing the Abrahamic aspects of Zin, TSO, and Beogh.

Having a pantheon of gods which, unlike in our own world, are universally acknowledged to all exist, and then having a few of them resemble the Abrahamic God, whose authority traditionally derives from the denial of the existence of all other gods, and then furthermore forcing these quasi-Abrahamic gods to somehow coexist in a polytheistic world, is not only hilarious; it also undermines any claim to be a representation of an actual Abrahamic religion. If [TSO, Zin, Beogh] is one god among many, it's not the God of Abraham. In other words, for me at least there's enough displacement in this case for me not to be worried about the supposed specificity real-world reference. It's much different than the blatant orientalism of the lajatang or Sword of Jihad, or the colonialism of the Tzitzimitl (a little poking around seems to reveal that it was Catholic missionaries who regarded them as demons, whereas the locals didn't necessarily see them as evil or even always dangerous).


It seems to me that you are using two weights and two measures (aka double standard) here, or just missing something. The sword of jihad wad renamed because jihad is a Muslim concept, which has meant a variety of things and, whatever its meaning, is still central to Muslim faithfuls.
"Evangelist" is an exclusive Christian concept. The same goes for "Apostle", and both of these concepts are central to Christianity: Evangelists and Apostles are the most revered saints after Mary (and possibly Joseph), the works written by them are the foundation of Christian faith and the authority of today's bishops is founded on their being successors of the Apostles. The literal translation of "Messiah" is "Christ".
My problem with Beogh is this ridiculously explicit fluff. I don't really care about the mechanics (besides the "orcs only lololol" thing, but that's not a reference).

As for the good gods, besides the monsters I talked about earlier, I don't actually have a problem. Heironeous is always going to be a thing in an RPG.

As for the exclusive existence of the Abrahamitic god, you would be surprised by how many explanations were given about the polytheistic gods, whether they existed or not, what they were, and who, and how long this discussion lasted. You may also want to look into henotheism and monolatry. (the point was existence ≠ godhead)


You're right that I overlooked the specifically Christian Beoghian terminology: evangelist and apostle. "Messiah", though, is certainly Jewish as well as Christian, and in Islam Jesus in known as Isa al-Masih, which I've always assumed to be etymologically related.

To me it's not a double-standard to say that in a Eurocentric fiction, Christianity and the Abrahamic tradition in general don't need to be treated with the same care as Islam. Historically and up to the present day, Muslims have been represented in Europe as the barbarous Oriental other: irrational, sensual, hypersexual, uncivilized, etc.. It's in this context that the game's Sword of Jihad, which inspires rage in the wielder's allies, is inappropriate. Christianity, on the other hand, with its hegemonic status [in 'the West'], can handle a little ribbing; we simply don't have centuries-ingrained caricatures of bloodthirsty Christians influencing our attitudes to this day in the way that we do with Muslims. That said, I wouldn't oppose changing evangelist or apostle, but I think messiah should stay.

On another note, if the Ring of Shaolin were to change it could become the Ring of the Wu Jian, Ring of the Council, something like that.

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Post Saturday, 8th April 2017, 19:18

Re: Real-world references

Call the ring of Shaolin "Ring of Phasing" and borrow the description from phase shift. Calling it the ring of wu jian doesn't solve anything.

Call Shnarga the "Bow of Eternity" or something.

+1 names should be easily spellable, but also you should be able to browse a list of all monsters in game so you don't need to remember an enemy's name in order to search for it (what was the name of that invisible monster in spider? etc)

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Post Saturday, 8th April 2017, 19:24

Re: Real-world references

I'm kind of ambivalent on whether or not the Abrahamic aspects of Zin, TSO and Beogh should stay, but I feel I should point out that Beogh is really easy to change. At least, Beogh is "easy" to change in that all you need to change is flavor text - mechanically (apart from water walking, which can be changed to flying or removed outright), the god is perfectly compatible with a "leader of a great orcish horde" theme, as found in games like Warhammer or Warcraft. Derivative and perhaps a bit boring, yes, but can easily avoid reference to any real-world religion.

As for the lingering objections to the renaming of Jihad ("It was renamed because it mentioned a Muslim concept!!!"), just no. It was renamed because Jihad is a concept that Islamophobes in the West routinely use as a cudgel to denigrate the religion. If we had a Ring of the Five Pillars or a Scimitar of the Whirling Dervish, there would not have been nearly the same impetus to rename them - those names still suffer from the exoticism issue mentioned in this thread, but they don't reference politically loaded terms.

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Post Saturday, 8th April 2017, 21:01

Re: Real-world references

@ monkeytor : unless I misunderstood, I don't agree with your reasoning, for many reasons, but most prominently because Crawl is played worldwide, and you hardly will ever find a group of any sort that is safe everywhere, and this is especially true for Christians (Egypt being an easy example of a place where Crawl can be played and persecution of Christians is a real and deadly problem, with e.g. a deadly bombing last December).

The jihad explanation by Lasty, in case it is of interest: "The logic goes like this:
* The old name was singling out one religious group consisting of ~1.6 billion people and associating it with zealotry.
* There was no reason to be a dick to those 1.6 billion people, so we might as well not.
Notice that there's absolutely no reference to actual extremism in that logic."

I totally am for simpler names. Maybe we could have one god with the very difficult name, and all the others easier to spell. I like Kiku's name because it sounds like a lot of bones falling on the floor (well, how I imagine it). Right now, hard names for me are Kiku, Yred, Hep, and likely more I can't think of right now.

"Ring of Nimbleness" for Shaolin?
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Post Saturday, 8th April 2017, 22:25

Re: Real-world references

In my opinion, you guys are taking it too seriously.

There is no question that for every little bit of Crawl flavour, someone out there will be offended. That cannot be the measure. Jihad was renamed because we felt annoyed by it. Well, until someone bothered enough to actually make the change. Although political charges using Islam are now much worse than they were when the item was invented; in this sense the Jihad rename got more urgent with time.

These are also nowhere the first renamings. I have asked two or three times to rename the unique Adolf (complete with "unfortunate facial hair" in the description) because I simply didn't enjoy playing a game featuring an Adolf. Another developer pointed out that one of the three similarly named uniques Joseph, Jozef, Josef, the middle one was probably named after Stalin. And fittingly, got purged.

monkeytor: your discourse on the pantheon and that we should accept the fact that this is a game made by "European minds" (for want of better terminology) was very enlightening to me. Many thanks! I had my hand in distributing some aspects of the biblical god to Crawl gods (which can be found in TSO, Zin, Elyvilon, Beogh). It's wonderful to have gods inspired by other origins (along the abstract deities, which are totally fine, of course) -- but that'd need someone else. I grew up in a Christian background, so that's a major inspiration for me.

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Post Saturday, 8th April 2017, 22:55

Re: Real-world references

monkeytor wrote:To me it's not a double-standard to say that in a Eurocentric fiction, Christianity and the Abrahamic tradition in general don't need to be treated with the same care as Islam. Historically and up to the present day, Muslims have been represented in Europe as the barbarous Oriental other: irrational, sensual, hypersexual, uncivilized, etc.. It's in this context that the game's Sword of Jihad, which inspires rage in the wielder's allies, is inappropriate. Christianity, on the other hand, with its hegemonic status [in 'the West'], can handle a little ribbing; we simply don't have centuries-ingrained caricatures of bloodthirsty Christians influencing our attitudes to this day in the way that we do with Muslims. That said, I wouldn't oppose changing evangelist or apostle, but I think messiah should stay.

If crawl is to take care when referencing real-world cultures and religions so as not to play turn people away from the game through the use of offensive stereotypes, it's not at all wise to declare some religions/cultures as being "fine for poking fun at" and not others. We're not taking this approach to make any kind of careful statement about "racism in the West" or to combat that notion in any specific way. This is a game that allows the player to engage in mass-murder, cannibalism, use of "purely evil" magic/gods etc; it's not trying to deliver some moral message. The removal of offensive stereotypes is about making the game enjoyable for people of different backgrounds, and it sends a bad message when we try to apply this inconsistently.

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Post Sunday, 9th April 2017, 01:36

Re: Real-world references

The Sword of Jihad guy was obviously a troll. Nobody gives a damn about the name. I didn't think it should have been changed, but it took two minutes to make a cosmetic change, so I didn't mind.

As for the OP, it mixes a lot of things together; improperly, in my opinion. About the only thing I agree with is: that only katanas and lajatangs are described as "imported". The other thing I agree with is that the references to non-Western names are still Eurocentric at their core. Unlike the OP, however, I don't see anything wrong with it.

The game is going to remain Eurocentric, as long as the player base and devs are Eurocentric. I see nothing wrong with a game being Eurocentric.

Most of the instances in the OP are simply "exotic" references taken from random places. References have to come from some place; and it is a long-standing fantasy trope to get references from unfamiliar places to put some distance between the fantasy world and the real world. The use of archaisms serves the same purpose (see Ursula Le Guin's essay, "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie"). Again, since the playerbase and devs are Eurocentric, the references to non-European names can put some distance. It can be done well, or it can be done badly. But there's nothing wrong with the general idea. Getting flavour right is hard, and I doubt it can be done well in a game with many "cooks" like Crawl does.

Approximately zero non-Western people will be put off the game because of the names. Certainly nobody has given any evidence on that point. So, I don't think there are any problems there.
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Post Sunday, 9th April 2017, 04:45

Re: Real-world references

I want to add another 5 cents here. The way I see it, a fictional universe can have these two problems:
1. Incoherence;
2. Lazy/uncreative writing.

No. 1 can be fatal, but no. 2 generally isn't (though still need to be addressed to increase the appeal of the universe). AFAIK, Crawl's fictional universe is coherent enough, though there are some (a lot of?) cases of lazy writing found here and there. But it's going to be helpful if we define first what constitutes as "lazy writing" itself.

We can say that, in relation to world building, "lazy writing" occurs when some parts of the fictional universe aren't "in harmony" with the rest of it. Take for example the fact that economy is hardly mentioned in LotR. A lot of people (including big names like M.A.R. Barker and G.R.R. Martin) regard it as a flaw (though not a severe one, hence in the context of this post it can be categorized as "lazy writing" and not "incoherence"), simply because the way that element is featured in the novels are not "in sync" with the other elements of the universe (kingdoms, cultures, races, etc). The races, cultures, etc are incredibly detailed, so why is the way economy is handled in the world hardly shown at all? It's jarring to some readers, and it feels like Tolkien was simply lazy about it.

With regards to Crawl, we might be able to find a lot of examples of "lazy" stuff. Maybe Bow of Khrisna "Sharnga"? Maybe it needs to lose the "of Khrisna" to make it less identical to a fantastical artefact from our reality. Also Beogh having similar powers to Jesus (as pointed out by other people here)? Now, being similar to a widely famous religious figure in our reality is not in itself "lazy". It's "lazy" because it's not "in sync" with the rest of Crawl universe (which the devs try to keep from being too attached to real religions and ideologies).

On the other hand, there are some things that, in my opinion, are NOT actually the products of "lazy writing":
1. Having lajatangs and katanas and describing them as "exotic" is not, in itself, "lazy". Lajatang and katana are just weapon types anyway, like scimitar and bardiche (which are, like lajatang and katana, related to specific cultures in our reality). Being "exotic" just means that the weapon types were imported from somewhere far away from the dungeon, which may exist in the "Western" region, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with having a "Far East" inside the universe.
2. Related to #1 above, the fact that the "Far East" in Crawl is identical (or almost identical) to the "Far East" in our reality does not, in itself, make it "lazy". It can only be "lazy" if the way the game describes the "Far East" (and other "non-West") is not in sync* with the way the "West" is described, to the extent that the "Far East" feels just "tacked on" and not an important part of the universe.

*One useful metric for this "in sync" problem is real-fictional ratio of contents in Crawl universe. The way I see it, the devs have always been aiming for 50% original/fictional contents and 50% real things from our world (I pulled these percentages out of my butt, but you get the idea), and this has been more or less consistent for the "Western" part of Crawl universe. If the ratio is also followed by the "non-Western" part, then we don't have a problem here, but is it really the case? I dunno. Maybe the devs need to consider adding more stuff with names that are both non-western sounding AND also completely fictional (inventing fictional Mandarin-sounding names would be cool, lol), just to push the real-fictional ratio of the "non-Western" part closer to that of the "Western" one.**

**Imagine a fictional universe populated with Western-sounding stuff that are 50% real and 50% fictional/original, and also with Eastern ones that are 100% real. It's easy to see such universe as "lazy" because the author didn't put out any effort to create fictional/original non-western stuff (to counterbalance the fictional/original western ones) and just lazily copy-pasted eastern stuff from real world.

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Post Sunday, 9th April 2017, 07:31

Re: Real-world references

A pretty trivial reflavor of Beogh would be to change "messiah" to "chosen one." "Chosen One" is basically the exact same concept as a messiah, it's just a generic term mostly associated with prophecies in fantasy settings, rather than Abrahamic religions. Cut out water walking, consider renaming "Evangelist" and "Apostle," and the basic concept is still the same but the references to Abrahamic religions are gone.

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Post Sunday, 9th April 2017, 15:42

Re: Real-world references

Change Ring of Shaolin to Ring of Dodge City.

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Post Monday, 10th April 2017, 14:59

Re: Real-world references

ion_frigate wrote:I'm kind of ambivalent on whether or not the Abrahamic aspects of Zin, TSO and Beogh should stay, but I feel I should point out that Beogh is really easy to change. At least, Beogh is "easy" to change in that all you need to change is flavor text - mechanically (apart from water walking, which can be changed to flying or removed outright), the god is perfectly compatible with a "leader of a great orcish horde" theme, as found in games like Warhammer or Warcraft. Derivative and perhaps a bit boring, yes, but can easily avoid reference to any real-world religion.

As for the lingering objections to the renaming of Jihad ("It was renamed because it mentioned a Muslim concept!!!"), just no. It was renamed because Jihad is a concept that Islamophobes in the West routinely use as a cudgel to denigrate the religion. If we had a Ring of the Five Pillars or a Scimitar of the Whirling Dervish, there would not have been nearly the same impetus to rename them - those names still suffer from the exoticism issue mentioned in this thread, but they don't reference politically loaded terms.


Seems like the way to go. I can't think of any other reason other than theme directed explicitly to Jesus that water walking is a part of the Beogh toolkit. In addition, it's an extremely minor advantage that would not be missed strategically.

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Post Monday, 10th April 2017, 15:06

Re: Real-world references

The ring of Shaolin is a great candidate for renaming if we are talking about actually moving forward on this. It's counterpart ring (Robustness) is not grounded in any real-world reference, so having the Shaolin reference is off-putting on it's own. Could easily be changed to the Ring of Shiftiness, which easily describes the ring AND shares a suffix with it's sister.

Before reading duvessa's post, I thought it would be concern trolling, but I agree with the main thrust of the argument (with the exception of lajatangs, because I don't think of "mystical Oriental weapons" in the slightest when I think of them, thought that's a sample size of one).

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Post Monday, 10th April 2017, 15:10

Re: Real-world references

duvessa wrote:Right, but double and triple swords aren't specifically described by the game as "exotic" or "imported". Katanas and lajatangs, however are. That's where the inconsistency is.

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I am not a very good player. My mouth is a foul pit of LIES. KNOW THIS.

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Post Tuesday, 11th April 2017, 17:27

Re: Real-world references

watertreatmentRL wrote:Western fantasy is romantic reaction against industrialism, urbanization, disintegration of pre-modern class structures, modern social thought, democracy, etc. It renders imperial concepts of race as differences of species, where the difference between elves and dwarves, for example, is comparable to the difference between modern humans and neanderthals or chimpanzees even. There is a reason for the common interest in concepts like race, magic, the supernatural, ancestry, and monarchy in both Western fantasy and fascism.

While this thesis might make for a great term paper, I don't think it holds much water when it comes to a more robust critical examination of fantasy literature. There certainly exists a fair amount of reactionary fantasy, The Sword of Truth probably being the most egregious modern example. And there's no denying that some fascists have been keen to use fantasy as a stand-in for actual history and myth when it suits their political ends. But to characterize all Western fantasy as reactionary ignores the degree to which fantasy, like science fiction, has been used as a vehicle for discussing current sociopolitical topics from many political points of view. Indeed, I think there's a pretty wide swath of the fantasy canon that examines the topics you bring up in the first sentence from progressive points of view; Ursula K. Le Guin, Terry Pratchett, and J.K. Rowling are pretty good examples of that, and I tend to think writers in that vein are more common than the Terry Goodkinds of the world.

That said, your points (that I didn't quote) re: Western cultural hegemony and its influence on what kinds of fantasy get produced are totally correct, of course.

dpeg wrote:In my opinion, you guys are taking it too seriously.

On the Tavern? Surely not!

bel wrote:Approximately zero non-Western people will be put off the game because of the names. Certainly nobody has given any evidence on that point. So, I don't think there are any problems there.

Assuming that there won't be problems because none have happened, especially when you know something is likely problematic and will be remarked upon when noticed, doesn't seem like a solid idea. It doesn't hurt the game to aim at inclusivity.

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Post Tuesday, 11th April 2017, 19:56

Re: Real-world references

"Western fantasy" is pretty broad. If I were better versed in sci-fi and fantasy subgenres, I would probably have said post-Tolkien high fantasy or something along those lines. I think if you look at the more commercially successful titles, from Tolkien's oeuvre to The Sword of Shannara to Harry Potter, you find a lot of this stuff about race, settings in which race is a very real, not socially constructed kind of thing, and fascination with the implications of that. Now you can say that in some cases they come at it saying, "Well, this fascist/racist Voldemort guy is really bad," and call that progressive. I wouldn't say the genre as a whole comes down saying fascism or race science are really good, just that's it's really cool and interesting to think and read about.

It's like back when the History Channel was actually about history, but it was actually actually about Hitler. Sure, some of it was about fighting Hitler, but when you talked to people who were into the History Channel back then, did it seem to you that they were experiencing a "progressive" catharsis witnessing the defeat of fascism? Or was it like... war is cool?
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Post Tuesday, 11th April 2017, 20:24

Re: Real-world references

For anyone like me who didn't know why imperial myrmidon doesn't make sense, myrmidon is "a member of a warlike Thessalian people led by Achilles at the siege of Troy." When used to not reference those specific people, the definition is "a hired ruffian or unscrupulous subordinate." I'm assuming the Thessalians were not a very formal or civilized army, but I'm no expert on that. So an imperial myrmidon is like saying a "royal bandit", it's just nonsensical.

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Post Tuesday, 11th April 2017, 21:22

Re: Real-world references

watertreatmentRL wrote:"Western fantasy" is pretty broad. If I were better versed in sci-fi and fantasy subgenres, I would probably have said post-Tolkien high fantasy or something along those lines. I think if you look at the more commercially successful titles, from Tolkien's oeuvre to The Sword of Shannara to Harry Potter, you find a lot of this stuff about race, settings in which race is a very real, not socially constructed kind of thing, and fascination with the implications of that. Now you can say that in some cases they come at it saying, "Well, this fascist/racist Voldemort guy is really bad," and call that progressive. I wouldn't say the genre as a whole comes down saying fascism or race science are really good, just that's it's really cool and interesting to think and read about.

It's like back when the History Channel was actually about history, but it was actually actually about Hitler. Sure, some of it was about fighting Hitler, but when you talked to people who were into the History Channel back then, did it seem to you that they were experiencing a "progressive" catharsis witnessing the defeat of fascism? Or was it like... war is cool?

I don't think the distinction between fantasy species maps neatly to the bogus idea of "race science," nor does the frequent appearance of monarchy suggest a cryptofascism lurking in Gondor or what have you. But it's an interesting analysis and I want to keep thinking about it.

That said, oops, I forgot we're in GDD. I'll shut up and stop pushing this off topic.
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Post Tuesday, 11th April 2017, 21:53

Re: Real-world references

Myrmidon would imo be a good name for armoured formicids, since myrmex meant ant.
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Post Tuesday, 11th April 2017, 22:22

Re: Real-world references

a lot of the 4th wall breaking jokes and references are tacky and dont add to the game but all this self-conscious guilty armchair sociology is not great imo

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Post Wednesday, 12th April 2017, 06:44

Re: Real-world references

archaeo wrote:
bel wrote:Approximately zero non-Western people will be put off the game because of the names. Certainly nobody has given any evidence on that point. So, I don't think there are any problems there.

Assuming that there won't be problems because none have happened, especially when you know something is likely problematic and will be remarked upon when noticed, doesn't seem like a solid idea. It doesn't hurt the game to aim at inclusivity.

(My emphasis) I see no evidence for this proposition; it seems to me to be begging the question. What does "problematic" mean anyway? There are thousands of things in Crawl. Hundreds of things are "remarked upon" every day. What makes this special?

As I said, I don't mind that the "Sword of Jihad" name was changed, because it was purely cosmetic and took two minutes to change. What I object to is the appeal to the incident as some sort of precedent or principle to apply to other cases. There is no precedent or principle here, except that some dev made a tiny cosmetic change because they felt like it.

As for inclusivity, that is in the eye of the beholder. Suppose one removes references to all daevas, because they are Hindu (or Zoroastrian, I don't know where the actual reference is from), and it clearly doesn't make sense (and is perhaps offensive) for them to be the servants of some god whose altar symbol is a cross. Is that "inclusive"? I don't know; maybe someone takes offence to daevas being in the game, or maybe someone thinks that it's cool that a Hindu myth reference was put in the game at all. Even if they take offence, or they think it's cool, is it even one of the big things they think about, or do they think that it's cool enough that Plutonium Swords exist, and don't care one way or another that some people who know little about Hinduism mangled a mythological reference?

The point is that nobody knows, and nobody has bothered to even find out. The comments on this point are just guesswork, and not very good guesswork either.

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Post Wednesday, 12th April 2017, 07:04

Re: Real-world references

I just want to say that I have nothing against the Autumn Katana being called exotic, since it is the only katana in the game. It must seem exotic to your general dungeon-crawler imo.
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Post Wednesday, 12th April 2017, 15:06

Re: Real-world references

bel wrote:(My emphasis) I see no evidence for this proposition; it seems to me to be begging the question. What does "problematic" mean anyway? There are thousands of things in Crawl. Hundreds of things are "remarked upon" every day. What makes this special?

As I said, I don't mind that the "Sword of Jihad" name was changed, because it was purely cosmetic and took two minutes to change. What I object to is the appeal to the incident as some sort of precedent or principle to apply to other cases. There is no precedent or principle here, except that some dev made a tiny cosmetic change because they felt like it.

Did you ignore the OP? I think duvessa makes a compelling argument w/r/t the precedents and principles guiding their critique. YMMV, clearly.

And "problematic" means "constituting or presenting a problem or difficulty," at least in the dictionary that Google uses. In this case, the problem (as I see it) is that the content in the OP does tend to base its assumptions about its audience in Eurocentrism, and in addition to being tonally and thematically dissonant with lots of other parts of Crawl's flavor, it reveals a pattern of (unconscious and not at all malicious) bias that we should correct.

Given that all of the changes requested above are just as "tiny" and "cosmetic" as the Sword of Jihad change, I assume you also won't have a problem with anyone making these changes should they, uh, feel like it?

The point is that nobody knows, and nobody has bothered to even find out. The comments on this point are just guesswork, and not very good guesswork either.

Whereas your assertions on these other people's behalf are rooted in cold, hard facts?

This topic has always managed to engender a fair amount of sturm und drang when it gets brought up on the Tavern, but I always find the pushback confusing. What are good reasons not to try to avoid Eurocentrism in our fantasy game, or to stop taking culturally important names and using them for popcorn monsters? Given that the changes are "tiny" and/or "cosmetic," what principles are being trampled upon that gets under folks' skin?

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Post Wednesday, 12th April 2017, 17:32

Re: Real-world references

archaeo wrote:This topic has always managed to engender a fair amount of sturm und drang when it gets brought up on the Tavern, but I always find the pushback confusing. What are good reasons not to try to avoid Eurocentrism in our fantasy game, or to stop taking culturally important names and using them for popcorn monsters? Given that the changes are "tiny" and/or "cosmetic," what principles are being trampled upon that gets under folks' skin?


[Let me preface this by saying I don't intend to make any allegation against or cast innuendo upon any party involved in this discussion, which I personally find to be totally reasonable and okay. I use "you" in the general sense, as you do.]

From the perspective of principle, the stakes seem quite low. Indeed, why would anyone care?

Perhaps the issue is not principle, but how claims about, say, Eurocentrism work socially. Crawl isn't just a game, it's also an institution comprised of a playerbase, a devteam, and various fora on which it's discussed, with some more peripheral fork projects in the mix. People can make changes to the game and doing so involves a certain amount of politics. There is always the perception that one's standing in this institution (or "community" if you like) has some impact on your influence within it.

What impact on your influence and credibility does it have when you make a claim that such and such is Eurocentric? Ideally, people will view what you say as a good and proper concern, one that shows care and sensitivity. Your cachet within the institution correspondingly increases, as people see you to be a more ethical and upstanding person than they had realized. This may or may not have been part of your intention. On the other hand, you could be viewed as a radical or loose cannon. When the former, ideal situation doesn't happen, you might comfort yourself by thinking that you're running into the latter problem. Everyone else is just is a reactionary.

The reality is that there are other possibilities. Perhaps the reason people don't find you radical is that you're not. Maybe the stance you've taken is trivial or would make no real difference. It is facile or unchallenging. Maybe it would actually allow you to head off compromise with a more radical position down the road or one that's already here.

When the stakes are sufficiently low, the grab for social cachet is more apparent. People instinctively dislike the grab. What if everyone were always grabbing? Why don't I make the grab? What kind of person grabs? Even if someone doesn't find your stance politically challenging or objectionable, they may still find it opportunistic, performative, you name it. Such perceptions are magnified when you suggest that people who see it that way are reactionaries, somehow less upstanding and sensitive than you, that all right thinking people are totally on-board with the particular stance you've taken and the degree of importance you are trying to assign to it, that rejecting this stance necessarily means rejecting other more important positions and associations that might go with that, and so on. That is why there is so much acrimony in these conversations. Minor differences of opinion are easily blown into huge shitstorms.
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Post Wednesday, 12th April 2017, 17:43

Re: Real-world references

I think it is a good goal to have respectful references to real-world religions and mythologies in crawl: deciding what counts as "respectful" is challenging because there aren't simple one-size-fits-all rules.

Let's stick with Daevas and Sharanga and Hinduism for a moment. Daeva is a term used in multiple cultural traditions to describe demons and/or gods -- in crawl, are we referring to one specific culture's understanding of daeva? Are we trying to create a monster that's like a synthesis of the Zoroastrian and Hindu ideas? I don't think the current design is intended to represent anything authentic. Note that if you google image search "daeva" you find mostly fantasy art and tattoo designs and so on. The term is separated from its historical context. Crawl's usage of daeva is just one more inaccurate usage. This isn't necessarily offensive to anyone, but it erodes meaning and serves no purpose. "Daeva" could just as well be used to describe pan lords, and it would be more representative of its source material -- though it would still fall short of being a meaningful reference.

Sharanga on the other hand is mostly fine. Magical weapons are lost and found and used by different people in Hindu tradition, and it isn't taboo to include references to Hinduism in popular culture. I think the item description should be more clear about what it refers to, and I think there should be a quotation from the Ramayana to give players something more to look up. Real-world references should be opportunities for players to learn something interesting, or at least for players to have positive ideation of the culture being referenced. This doesn't work in all situations -- we could have gone the other way with the Sword of Jihad and named it "Zulfiqar" to be a more clear reference to Islam, but this kind of reference is absolutely taboo.

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Post Wednesday, 12th April 2017, 21:07

Re: Real-world references

Have we had any instances yet of a real Crawl player being offended by a Crawl reference to their own race/ethnicity/religion/culture?

TruckSword of Jihad incident doesn't count because it was an obvious troll.

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Post Wednesday, 12th April 2017, 21:43

Re: Real-world references

I think most of these cases are less about offended and more about lazy writing. Just because katanas are exotic to crawl devs irl doesn't mean they should be exotic to the player character. The crawl universe would rather not take such shortcuts in the same way it doesn't want to use dnd or Tolkien references.

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Post Wednesday, 12th April 2017, 22:04

Re: Real-world references

Rast wrote:Have we had any instances yet of a real Crawl player being offended by a Crawl reference to their own race/ethnicity/religion/culture?

TruckSword of Jihad incident doesn't count because it was an obvious troll.

I'm not sure if the implication here is that the Sword of Jihad change is bad because it was a troll account that made the suggestion; if anything it's funny because it's basically "that villain who unintentionally does helpful things". If I were a developer I wouldn't mind taking so called "troll/gimmick accounts" into consideration if the suggestion itself is sound. What's the alternative, ignore the suggestion out of spite? That seems kind of pointless. I assume the Sword of Jihad change went through because the issue was brought up and crawldev can make their own decisions as to what would improve the game overall.

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Post Wednesday, 12th April 2017, 23:03

Re: Real-world references

It's also not where the burden of proof lies. An individual voicing their concern -- one way or the other -- isn't the standard by which to make decisions about inclusivity.

Real-world references in crawl are inclusive if they are authentic and meaningful: in this sense, authentic means the reference was made in good faith and accurately represents its source material; in this sense, meaningful means that the representation is relevant to crawl's context (adventuring, fighting, looting) and gives players an opportunity to learn more.

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Post Wednesday, 12th April 2017, 23:12

Re: Real-world references

roctavian wrote:we could have gone the other way with the Sword of Jihad and named it "Zulfiqar" to be a more clear reference to Islam, but this kind of reference is absolutely taboo.



Most importantly, the Sword of Jihad was an eudemon blade, while the Zulfiqar is a double sword.
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Post Thursday, 13th April 2017, 02:53

Re: Real-world references

Rast wrote:Have we had any instances yet of a real Crawl player being offended by a Crawl reference to their own race/ethnicity/religion/culture?

TruckSword of Jihad incident doesn't count because it was an obvious troll.


Yes. I was vaguely put off by Jihad as a reference to my own heritage. I put this in that stupid troll's deleted gloat thread (basically saying, even if it was a troll that brought this up, I'm still glad it was removed), and within half an hour, a longtime member of this forum replied making fun of me for it ("found the troll hurr hurr"). This is why the "wait until someone from the culture" speaks up is an absolutely atrocious standard for removing something. Because it's guaranteed to get this really nasty pushback, varying from really stupid sophistry (like the whole "grabbing social cachet" nonsense above) to flat out name-calling.

Yes, the stakes are low on a forum like this, but I've had several in-person interactions where they were a lot less low. I don't appreciate shades of them here.

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Post Thursday, 13th April 2017, 03:54

Re: Real-world references

chequers wrote:I think most of these cases are less about offended and more about lazy writing. Just because katanas are exotic to crawl devs irl doesn't mean they should be exotic to the player character. The crawl universe would rather not take such shortcuts in the same way it doesn't want to use dnd or Tolkien references.

It's good to see someone other than me brings up the "lazy writing" problem here. But let me remind everyone here that marking some stuff in Crawl universe as "exotic" (or whatever, really) is not in itself a problem. The problem is that the exotic-ness of stuff such as lajatang, katana, etc ultimately implies that whoever came up with the stuff was lazy, because he/she was just copy-pasting things from real world to Crawl universe. The stuff being "exotic" implies that there is a "Far East" region in Crawl universe, in contrast with the "Western" region where the Zot dungeon resides. This is not a bad thing, per se (it can actually add a ton of flavor if done right)... but whereas the "Western" stuff we can stumble upon in the dungeon can be either real (bardiche, chain mail, etc) or fictional/original (triple sword, etc), the "Far Eastern" ones are always real. There are zero fictional/original "Far Eastern" thing in this game. In other words, whereas we can see evidences that the devs have been getting somewhat creative in putting "Western" contents in the game (some of them are real, some others are not, and there's an interesting balance between the two), they have shown far less effort with regards to the "Far Eastern" ones (because it seems they just copy-pasted lajatang, etc from real world and called it a day). This "imbalance" between the amount of effort in creating the "Western" and the "Far Eastern" contents is, IMHO, the real problem.

tl,dr the real problem is not as simple as describing stuff in the game as "exotic"

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Post Thursday, 13th April 2017, 07:02

Re: Real-world references

archaeo wrote:Did you ignore the OP? I think duvessa makes a compelling argument w/r/t the precedents and principles guiding their critique. YMMV, clearly.
[...]
What are good reasons not to try to avoid Eurocentrism in our fantasy game, or to stop taking culturally important names and using them for popcorn monsters? Given that the changes are "tiny" and/or "cosmetic," what principles are being trampled upon that gets under folks' skin?


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bel wrote:(My emphasis) I see no evidence for this proposition; it seems to me to be begging the question. What does "problematic" mean anyway? There are thousands of things in Crawl. Hundreds of things are "remarked upon" every day. What makes this special?

As I said, I don't mind that the "Sword of Jihad" name was changed, because it was purely cosmetic and took two minutes to change. What I object to is the appeal to the incident as some sort of precedent or principle to apply to other cases. There is no precedent or principle here, except that some dev made a tiny cosmetic change because they felt like it.

Did you ignore the OP? I think duvessa makes a compelling argument w/r/t the precedents and principles guiding their critique. YMMV, clearly.

And "problematic" means "constituting or presenting a problem or difficulty," at least in the dictionary that Google uses. In this case, the problem (as I see it) is that the content in the OP does tend to base its assumptions about its audience in Eurocentrism, and in addition to being tonally and thematically dissonant with lots of other parts of Crawl's flavor, it reveals a pattern of (unconscious and not at all malicious) bias that we should correct.

Given that all of the changes requested above are just as "tiny" and "cosmetic" as the Sword of Jihad change, I assume you also won't have a problem with anyone making these changes should they, uh, feel like it?

The point is that nobody knows, and nobody has bothered to even find out. The comments on this point are just guesswork, and not very good guesswork either.

Whereas your assertions on these other people's behalf are rooted in cold, hard facts?

This topic has always managed to engender a fair amount of sturm und drang when it gets brought up on the Tavern, but I always find the pushback confusing. What are good reasons not to try to avoid Eurocentrism in our fantasy game, or to stop taking culturally important names and using them for popcorn monsters? Given that the changes are "tiny" and/or "cosmetic," what principles are being trampled upon that gets under folks' skin?

Well, I actually critiqued the OP in my original post, so I didn't ignore the OP. But if you like, I'll make the argument again, using a different approach. I'm rather skeptical that anyone wants to hear such a detailed critique, but whatever.

I don't like fisking, so let me first summarize the OP as I understand it. I am giving extended quotes because I want to make sure I summarize the argument as best as I can.

The OP says that: (A) "A lot of monsters and items draw from real-world mythologies, from disparate sources. One of the keys to this theme is that Crawl's universe doesn't know about ours." Therefore, (B) "This suggests that material in Crawl should be agnostic to its source." From this proposition, they make a series of arguments, about katanas being described as "exotic", to "Bultungin" and so on. (C) They then talk about elements who only share the name, but no major characteristics from the mythological reference. They say that: (D) "The worst offenders: direct references to real-world locations or gods without a hint of irony." They then say that there are lots of references to real-world Gods, and somewhere in there, they comment on the fact that most of the religious references are to Christianity and generally, Abrahamic religions, while other religions are given only a token reference. They then say: "If you want to make the game more even-handed with where it draws its mythology from, dialing back the references here would be a great place to start." They conclude with: "Trying to diversify the game's source material is good but if you treat some sources as conspicuously exotic, you're making the game more Eurocentric, not less."

Ok, now we evaluate the argument. The way I outlined it, it simply seems incoherent to me, but perhaps I was unfair; you can judge for yourself.

Proposition (B) does not follow from proposition (A). It simply doesn't. I don't know how else to put it. Most of the references in-game are from Western real-life and fantasy. The fact that the game doesn't "know" that they are from Western real-life and fantasy doesn't contradict the fact that they are actually from there. One should not expect the game to be agnostic about the source at all; one should expect most of the references to come from exactly where they actually come from. For the same reason, there is absolutely no mystery as to why Buddhism and Hinduism have only a token presence while references to Christianity are all over the place.

Let's leave aside religion for a minute and concentrate on non-religious matters. Look at all the weapon types in Crawl. Or armour. Or monsters (lich is, according to Wikipedia, some kind of European reference.) Or player species: apart from Nagas and a few other marginal exceptions, all of the player species are based on Western fantasy tropes (for instance, Felids are "witch's familiars"). The unique names (like Harold or Rupert or Donald or Sigmund), are mostly "European". One can go on indefinitely.

Now we come back to (D). Firstly, note that (D) has no relation to (C). Indeed, I don't see how (D) has any relation to anything in the OP. Why should we expect any references to real-world religions to be "iron[ic]" in the first place? Bardiches are (were) real-world weapons; are references to bardiches ironic? So why is reference to real-world religions illegitimate? The "worst offenders" don't seem to be "offenders" at all. I see absolutely no problems with the Sharnga reference: it is a respectful and accurate reference to Hindu myth. It is no more problematic than Minotaurs are (though Crawl Minotaurs diverge pretty heavily from actual Minotaurs).

In contrast to the argument of the OP, (which I found incoherent and dubious), I made a simple argument. The references in the game are Eurocentric, because the devs and the playerbase are Eurocentric. I didn't elaborate, but virtually the entire universe of Crawl is Eurocentric at its core. One should not expect references to be "agnostic" at all. There should be absolutely no reason to expect references to Buddhism or Hinduism to be anywhere near the references to Christianity or Judaism.

To end, let me summarize what I'm saying and what I'm not saying. I am saying that Crawl's universe is Eurocentric at its core. If this is problematic (I don't think it is), this can't be fixed with tiny or cosmetic changes. I am fine with references to real-world elements (from East or West or anywhere else), in any proportion at all; provided they are accurate, meaningful and respectful. My expectations are low, because Crawl has never pretended to care about flavour; and I doubt a game with this many "cooks" can have good flavour. I am fine with removing explicit adjectives calling something "exotic" if they aren't needed or are distracting.

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Post Thursday, 13th April 2017, 07:40

Re: Real-world references

I honestly don't really understand this whole concern about Crawl being "Eurocentric", but maybe you guys need to also gather opinions from non-western players on whether it is really such a problem at all. I myself, as an Indonesian, have never found anything culturally jarring in the game. Except maybe Sharnga, because it's such an important artefact in Indian mythology (and Khrisna is also a figure in Indonesian/Javanese mythology since we kind of imported a lot of stuff from India way back then) and there's no other references to Indian culture can be found in the game (though I might be wrong), so like... what's that famous bow doing in the dungeon, lol, it's kind of funny to see it just lying on the floor.

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Post Thursday, 13th April 2017, 08:29

Re: Real-world references

@ion_frigate: My memory of the Sword of Jihad debacle is fragmentary, but we seem to agree that while the underlying criticism was obviously correct and way overdue to be addressed, the person behind it was trolling, which is to say presenting the argument in a way that would maximize contention about it. As the person himself noted in his "gloat thread," if you're religious enough to buy the argument as he presented it, you wouldn't be playing a game with necromancy, idolatry, etc. The trolling angle is presumably taking this, on the face of it, somewhat implausible line of argument rather than the more compelling and obvious political one: Western political discourse uses the concept of Jihad to essentialize violence among Muslims, which avoids reckoning with Western actions, dehumanizes victims of such actions in MENA, stokes domestic racism, etc., yet Crawl presents this as some kind of funny joke.

So we agree that the originator of those GDD threads had manipulative intentions. Perhaps I should have included this in my sophistry above: People may suspect that they are being had by someone who understands the power topics like these have to create division and strife.

Anyway, I think you were treated unfairly. You had the right take on the matter and you weren't even the originator of the complaint. I regret any impression I may have given that I thought your experience was somehow your fault or that you had entered that discussion with intentions other than stating your support for what was a good and overdue change.
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Post Thursday, 13th April 2017, 10:33

Re: Real-world references

@watertreatmentRL: Thanks for that. I actually didn't comment in the original name change thread for Jihad, because by the time I had really read through it, the change had already been made. I commented in the gloat thread because I didn't want the conversation to overwhelmingly turn to "this was a troll therefore we should change it back" - so I pointed out that the term is insensitive from a political standpoint, and that I'm speaking not hypothetically but from my own experience.

On my reaction to your post about social cachet, I objected to that one because, to me, it reads an awful lot like a circuitous way to accuse people in this thread of white-knighting. That's a term that has many uses and definitions, of course, but one of them could easily be "embracing social justice causes for social cachet", and accusations of such are quite frequently used to shut down any discussion of social justice before it even starts. That's not to deny the existence of people who embrace social justice for the social cachet - believe me, I know some of them - but there are degrees, and your post really didn't seem to me to recognize that. Perhaps I judged too quickly, not taking that post in the context of your other posts (e.g. the fact that you recognize the notion that a term like Jihad can be politically offensive means you're probably not the type who throws around terms like "SJW" and "white knight" like they're magic bullets to end discussion), but that's difficult to do in an online forum, and I was frankly fairly pissed off by other posts mocking the Jihad rename in this thread.

FWIW, I definitely agree with you about minor differences of opinion being turned into huge shitstorms. I think a large part of that has to do with the fact that if you post a measured, moderate opinion, it's going to get jumped on. In that gloat thread, I emphasized that I wasn't hugely offended by the Sword of Jihad, just that I was glad to see it renamed. In this one, I was far terser and de-emphasized the fact that I was only ever vaguely bothered by the name, and frankly, the response is a lot more positive. It's a crappy dynamic, where a moderate opinion is perceived as weakness and attacked, while a more strident stance is likely to be respected. More aggressive moderation can help with the issue, but I fully understand that no volunteer mod has the time to sort through threads like this and figure out just who is being the provocateur.

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Post Thursday, 13th April 2017, 14:59

Re: Real-world references

bel: Many thanks for the elaboration, I was happy to read it.

Let me talk a bit about god flavour. I've had my hand in a few of the deities, including some of the seemingly contentiuous ones.

To start with, a Crawl god is basically a set of rule enhancements. Examples of this are the skills boosts (Ashenzari, Okawaru), the permanent allies and many more. In order to make gods accessible to players, they should have a coherent theme. As design goes, the order between mechanics and flavour is flexible. For example, Lugonu was invented with the Enter Abyss and Depart Abyss powers; everything else came later (mechanics first). Jiyva was born on the idea that piety is generated from allied slimes eating item (flavour first). Ashenzari was invented as the god who captures some parts of the recently removed Divinations branch (mechanics first). I believe that for Lugonu and Ashenzari we've got quite nice themes, that make sense and enhance the gods.

There are some goals I have for a Crawl god. One of them is breadth: ideally, a god would cater to various playing styles, not just one. (For historical reasons, a bunch of inherited gods such as Okawaru or Vehumet don't meet this criterion, and that's okay.) Another one is strong flavour: it's much better to think "Trog = rage god" rather than "the other melee god". Balance among gods never has been a very prominent goal, although there have been countless buffs and nerfs since ever. We should look more closely into god balance, I think.

On to god flavours. There's the abstract type: Ru's sacrifices, Cheibriados' slowness, Uskayaw's dance. I find these to be excellent. When talking about Crawl to non-players, this is stuff that I can get across. (I supported Cheibriados' design but had nothing to do with the other two.) Then there's an immediate type of gods where flavour is gameplay, for example in Sif Muna (all spells), Vehumet (some spells), Okawaru, Trog. These are reasonable, but not as easily to talk about. It's like your Greek godess of the hearth (Hestia) -- you expect this kind of flavour, but you may not get exciting stories out of it. We've tried to strengthen Trog's flavour: before DCSS, the god used to give Rage and Might and gifts; now you can burn spellbooks and you get extra piety for killing wizards and you can call enraged brothers.

Then there are the Christian gods. When I came to Crawl, the good gods were already Christianity-inspired, so naturally we picked up on that. One thing that I tried to do is putting different aspects of Christianity on the different gods. So Zin now feels very Old Testament, TSO reminds of the crusades, Elyvilon has a bit of compassion and forgiveness. (Disclaimer: for Zin, the Sanctuary and the Prison were my ideas; the excellent speech via the Axiom's is Eronarn's.)

Obviously, Beogh is another god drawing from the same sources. When we (jpeg and I) started designing Beogh, we had nothing but "BOG = Brian's Orc God". That led to the name but how to flavour an "orc god"? We went with the messiah theme because it felt quite fitting: the player is a Hill Orc coming from the overworld, the monster orcs are Cave Orcs living underground. The concept of a saviour appearing from distant lands is classical, so we could play on that. (By the way, many thanks to whoever came up with the idea of conversion through orc priests. This is excellent! If you're reading this, please tell me.) This flavour was strengthened with Saint Roka. We needed a final power and started with Nethack's crowning but then opted for water walking: sure, it's a little joke (we had people actually laugh about it, although these days it's probably rare a player will get this without knowing beforehand). The gameplay value is limited but the message is crystal clear: you're now the Chosen One (the players tend to say "Orc Jesus"). Players tend to really take it to their (named!) followers, and we've got excellent stories out of Beogh.
Flavour-wise, there's a little more to Beogh. Orcs are usually depicted as lowly variants of humans. Here, we could give them their own religion, showing crawl orcs as a proud and rich society. We thought that was an interesting twist.

Now, I would love to have some Crawl gods that are inspired by religions from other places. But I myself couldn't make some -- they'd feel like empty charades. With Christianity, I know pretty well what I am talking about. When someone is offended, I can react. There's no such depth when I talk about Eastern or American religions. The other thing I know a bit about is economy, and that's why there's a gold god.

About avoiding offense: I could see how devout Christians might be offended by Beogh, say. (I've talked to actual Christians about this, and they weren't offended at all, but (a) that's just a small sample from Germany and (b) perhaps they just weren't devout enough.) I felt offended by Adolf, fellow developer kilobyte was offended by Jozef, and Lasty was offended by Jihad. So these got changed.
My point is that if someone else (not within the devteam) is offended, then we should listen but it shouldn't force our hand: someone could be offended by anything in Crawl. (This guideline is exactly the same as with any other feedback, by the way, nothing special about flavour.)
The reason is the same as always: it is impossible to reach concensus with the general public. The decision should be made within the devteam which isn't always easy either. I believe that intentionally offending content has a place in art, although a group effort like Crawl is probably not the best place for that. In any case, I didn't make Gozag or Beogh (for example) to deride anyone; for me, these are two different ways to look at the world.

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Post Thursday, 13th April 2017, 16:27

Re: Real-world references

dpeg wrote:Now, I would love to have some Crawl gods that are inspired by religions from other places. But I myself couldn't make some -- they'd feel like empty charades. With Christianity, I know pretty well what I am talking about. When someone is offended, I can react. There's no such depth when I talk about Eastern or American religions. The other thing I know a bit about is economy, and that's why there's a gold god.

This just came to my mind: Have you guys ever considered a god based on a philosophy instead of a religion? One interesting philosophy school is stoicism; we can have a stoic god who demands its followers to "control their emotions" and in exchange they get strong defensive abilities like damage shaving.

Of eastern religions, ancestor worship sounds interesting. Gameplay-wise, the PC's "ancestors" grant good fortunes (gifting items like Oka, passive protections, etc) in exchange for carrying out a "ritual" to honor them from time to time. The ritual could consist of creating an "altar" on an empty tile with one of the god's ability; this could use up gold or select items (maybe artefacts) or nothing at all, and take some time to complete, make a lot of noise, and be available only once per dungeon level, so the player couldn't just spam it. Actually, we already have one ancestor-based god: Hep. We could reflavor her into one based on Taoism or other ancestor worship religion. The piety gain system could be changed too: gaining piety would be both through exploration and through the aforementioned "ritual".
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