faeries and stereotypes

An interesting thought occurred to me a bit ago-
firstly one of the issues with placing a roleplaying game in the real world (or real world adjacent) is that the game has a need for bad guys. which generally means using negative stereotypes of whomever the bad guy is- not so much an issue for orcs or trolls, but when you get into real world events like Reconquista or the crusades it means villainizing real people.
The next thought, as a counter point is that in the current version Ars Magica has faeries who can take up the negative roles (be the trolls and evil villains) as a way to harness vitality.
Which then led to a disturbing synthesis- that so long as there are stereotypes in mythic europe- (the Jew poisoning the well, the infernal moor, etc.) there will be faeries who will embody those stories.
And suddenly the game has the potential to go into some very very dark places...

Very true. But bear in mind two things:

  • You as a storyteller can choose not to bring it in your game if you think its a bad idea;
  • If faeries incarnate stereotypes stories, they ironically do so without discrimination. A story about the other may be disturbing, until you realize there is a story about you.

I'm also thinking about feedback effect. I mean consider how widespread stories of Jews poisoning wells were, then imagine what happens when a faerie "Jew" is caught poisoning the well.
and yes, it also applies in all directions- except that where the stories are told will still tend to be where some group is seen as evil- evil christians will be in the middle east and africa, evil muslims in europe, evil pagans in France and the Germanies, oh and Italy will have evil Cathars while Provence has evil catholics- the whole thing will just pour gas on the fires.

The funny thing about Mythic Europe is that the game design, by definition, assumes Mythic Europe ressembles Europe in history despite Mythic Europe's supernatural elements. This means whatever impact faeries and demons have on superstition doesn't fundamentally make history different from what it was, unless you decide otherwise. In other words, the feedback effect is already accounted for, which could mean faeries have a marginal impact, that their impact is mitigated by other realms, or that they were partly the cause of the era's ills. It doesn't make Mythic Europe a darker place than Europe was historically.

1 Like

How many "The game may offend" posts do we want to do, before we consider the topic talked out?

We've had the religion in Ars Majica thread and the transvestite flaw thread within the last month.

To save us a few hundred posts, I'll create a thread synopsis.

  1. A post "[insert issue here] can offend people" is created
  2. Some people saying yes, it offends.
  3. Some people saying there's a risk it's offensive, but RPGs need conflict, villains, etc. Sometimes we need to risk some degree of offense. It's up to the SG to work with the playing group to avoid offense, not the book.
  4. Back and forth arguments, starting generally cordially, and then going downhill with personal attacks, passive agressive digs, until the thread is closed.

Why? You need opposition, yes. But 'bad guys'? Hardly.
Try putting some nuance into your game, with opposition whose motives is perfectly valid. Perhaps even goals you yourself could espouse - but that happen to be counter to yours or your covenants.
When I can make my troupe ask themselves "Are we actually in the wrong here?", that's been a good day as an SG.

Orcs are people too, these days. Orc Lives Matter. :wink:

Yes? It kinda says so in the book?



While this was inspired by reading the "the game may offend" posts it was not intended to be one. Rather it is a reflection on some of these ideas.

Also why the standard game writing is that "nothing has changed" I know of nobody who actually runs the game that way- it is generally a really close match up to the beginning of the game, but with some obvious differences like the existence of the order, and then things start to go sideways. Obviously scenarios such as the moon crashing to earth are not part of the historical record, so topics such as a faerie feedback effect should be able to be considered just as valid a topic for consideration.

Som faeries will help create beautiful, albeit "hollow" stories and some will create horrid ones. Stereotypes and archetypes and clichées often (not always) have a root in something real - the more sinister and malicious the trope, the more often it can probably be said to be influenced by a group's need to control and ostrasize said other group.

Sure that can bring up a conversation about this - but it could also be read as and interpreted hopefully by a mature lens; that the players will actually be able to understand that IF a faerie is shown as being the "well-poisoning Jew", then that does not mean all jews poison wells, but probably that the people of that village have this particular (unfair) view.

Can it go down a dark place? sure, but I really don't see how a specific subset of the vast Ars Universe has a greater risk of doing that than any other of its facets or more than a lot of other popcultural/geeky subgenres of gaming. And... I hardly see it having been a problem, ever.

/edited for spelling error

How could it not be?

If a dark place is not one which could offend, why do we care? My point 3 in post 4 covers it's on the SG how dark or not they wont to go, based on the playing group.

Your two examples being moors and jews seems to reinforce the issues is about offensive stereotypes.

I never said it's not a valid topic, however, I personally can't see anything productive could come from it. Tellus in post 6 pretty much says yes, your interpretation is right. Where do we go from there?

It lets the game go to bad places? yes.
So is the meaningful question do we change how fairies work, do we remove them from the book?
That's the only way I see this going and it's been done.

I'm going to edit post 4 as I missed some subsets of the thread degeneration; and then I changed my mind and returned the post to how it was.

If you are tired of talking about the topic stop talking about it. So far eevryone else in this thread is discussing this in a different context than the one you are trying to hammer this into, probably in large part because "this can go to a dark place" is a very different thing than "the RAW are offensive and are being promoted by the mass marketing of the product". Where a story can go is the province of the storyteller and troupe, and presumably they are not going to be offended by their own decisions.

As to Ronni's point(s)- the issue, and presumably the point to a particular story, is that the majority of characters are not player characters, and are furthermore not aware of the nature of faerie, turning these faeries into a sort of built in echo chamber that could threaten to turn almost any minor conflict into something major.

I guess what I am getting to (in my own mind as well as the discussion) is that socially faeries mimic the internet in this way, adding fuel to fires of social conflict.

Now you know someone who has run his game that way up to now. I'm not saying there's no differences at all, but globally, I've taken a mostly historical route, added mythical elements to the story (e.g. the Mythical battle of Grobnik Field between the Croats and the mongols is not a fictive battle, it was waged in a regio between a mongol army allegedly assited by shamans, demons and infernalists and a House Tremere backed legion of roman ghosts), and maybe a minor noble dies here and there that would otherwise have lived on, but the final outcome in great brushstrokes has been mostly as history was recorded. How much changes hinges a lot on how much interference is allowed by the order - and thus how the code itself evolves, something the PCs could influence if they put their minds to it. I may make major changes down the road based on that - perhaps this crusade fails or succeeds, perhaps the Mongols decide to venture deeper into Europe, etc. and if the game lives long enough, and perhaps I decide to stop the arrival of technology to preserve the aristotelean mythical world (or not - the campaign hasn't been running long enough for me to seriously debate it), but even where the mundane sees a demon army where no historians recorded one, I usually don't go creating massive ripple effects that totally change history as we know it in terms of borders and cultures, unless the story goes horribly wrong (or depending on the point of view, horribly well). This has the upside of having hundreds of years of narrative background campaign material and story hooks I can use after glancing at wikipedia.

You seem to have taken many years to not notice that devils can do what you are saying, and deliberately.

The example you use, poisoning wells, is used in the chapter about an infernal flagellant cult, for example.

1 Like

That's actually sort of the point. Faeries do reinforce stereotypes. They feed off of stereotypes, because those are a form of stories. And being offensive isn't really a problem for the fey, for they are imaginary and can feed off of hatred as well as any other emotion.

Some years ago when Sub Rosa asked for "monsters" I wrote up an Earth Jinn who was black and was supposed to be part of the reason why people in the area thought it was acceptable to enslave black people. Because it was obsidian black and would labour with little complaint because it knew that such things were temporary compared to its eternal existence.
I never sent it to Sub Rosa because I realized people would probably read it as either being pro-slavery and apologistic thereof, neither which was the intent. But being aware of my own limitations, I knew I wouldn't be able to explain the point in writing. So I decided not to send it to Sub Rosa. In fact I deleted it. Communication is difficult, especially in writing.

1 Like

It isn't that demons can't do it, its that there is no feedback effect- demons are not controlled by stories and the increase in stories about these negative stereotypes hs no impact on how many of them are engaged in that behavior. demonic interferance to increase hostility between groups is a constant, not variable effect.

1 Like

Out of the little of 5th edition I've looked at, RoP:F impressed me the most, and this "role playing" aspect of the Fae was possibly my favorite part. It quite fired my imagination.

If you've read many of my posts you know our current saga is set in the early 21st century. That means we can have faeries taking on roles from movies and television.

I took that thought and ran with it. The last short story I ran for our Bonisagus had a child dabbling in summoning magic (with a mass market Necronomicon) inspire a passing Fae to take on the role of the demon from the '80s Twilight Zone segment "i of Newton".


Same here, it and Infernal are my two favorite RoP books. I can't really say why, but RoP:M just left me feeling like "meh"


The central question is if Faeries can embody the idea bigoted people have about others. Metaphysically, that's an easy question. Of course they can, because those are absolutely a form of story.

The question I'm interested in is why someone wants that.

I think the current edition of AM was created by people who really love history, who really love providing a look into the lives of medevial people, and who took a lot of pride in creating an authentic and cohesive world that blends anachronistic magic with medevial philosophy.

It's a beautiful game for that reason, and I love it very much.

Because of that, I think it's because of that Ars Magica has avoided uncritically recreating the bigotry of the past within it's setting and rules text.

I don't mean it has revised those things away, or that it has been hiding them- I mean that because of how it was made, the writers understood how to acknowledge, present and include historical bigotry without recreating it.

You can talk, for example, about stereotypes about Jewish people in the middle ages without including blood libel as an explicit theme and story seed in your games.

So my question is this: While this is possible, what would the intent behind doing this be?

Because I run a game for queer people with queer characters, and they face the challenges and travails one would expect because of it. We decided to do that because it would give us the catharsis of succeeding where, historically, we would have failed. When times were hard because of it, we had the pathos of seeing characters who had the same problems and issues as us.

In this case, you can absolutely include faerie spirits that embody Jewish caricatures who commit horrible crimes that lead, directly, to the horrible abuse and mass murder of Jewish communities.

I have read what happens to those communities when pogroms came. I have seen the accounts of entire communities standing strong in the face of certain and painful death, of communities accepting their own suicide rather than suffering the worse death Crusaders would place upon them.

It was terrible and sobering.

So I would only include something such as this with a precise and very certain intent.

To do do otherwise is to awaken the ghosts of past atrocities to no good end.


Are we the baddies? :slight_smile:


Basically, yes.