How many games put you in the role of playing Ordinary Joe?
A recent thread on TheRPGSite talks about:
Originally Posted by The RPG Cliche List
Nephilim Law. In modern-day occult games, mortal humans are considered to have the same intrinsic worth as cattle. (So named for Nephilim, a game that is particularly blatant about this.)
Now, Exalted isn’t a modern-day occult game, but you can definitely view it as an anti-humanistic game: in the setting, the various Exalted are the important people in society, and mundane human beings are nigh-irrelevant.
Apart from Nephilim (which Lesley refused to play because she valued the lives of the humans in the game), there are heaps of games which treat the rank and file of the world as nothing but cattle.
The thread at TheRPGSite derails nastily into accusations of racism and a lot of debate about whether the issue is with player characters given their powers or player characters who earn their powers. Those aren’t the issue at all.
The issue is more how the game empowers the players and how thy are encouraged to treat humanity in game.
Nephilim treats humans as disposable underwear. Their incarnations destroy the lives of those they inhabit. And they’ve been doing it for centuries. This provided an issue for many people. The alternative was to inhabit a Thermos and not interact meaningfully in the game (or become a Dr Theopolis-style advisor)
Vampire dehumanises the brutality and violation of feeding in allowing a player character to have a “Herd” score where they can treat humanity like a fast-food restaurant. The designers are at fault as they lost the “tragedy” of the Embrace and the Hunt and chased the gothic-punk “everyone wears leather trenchcoats and hide Katanas up their sweaters” market.
In Exalted, the players are encouraged to become a super-elite. This is based on my interpretation of the Exalted rulebook. You exalt and the game changes into something like Godzilla versus Mothra. Sometimes you catch a glimpse of humanity.
SLA Industries creates inhuman combat monsters who fight contract killers – serial killers with advertising – both of whom take very little notice of the rank and file of humanity. They’re bullet-catchers. They’re incidental damage in the firefight. They’re categorically tragically killed by passing Fire Engines. It’s crap being Joe Ordinary.
I must say, I’m not keen on the idea of humanity hate. I think there is a lot of it owing to the idea that gamers are mostly maladjusted teenagers who want to play out power trip fantasies. It’s sadly true.
Back in my teens I was really uncomfortable playing games set in Northern Ireland. It was just a little close to home. You’re a being of power – do you take a side in the Troubles? And the one game we did play had one player work out his revenge fantasies on people who bullied him in school. Healthy therapy? I doubt it. It felt unclean and voyeuristic. Brr.
Are there many games where you play normal humans? Zombi would be one. In The 23rd Letter it probably pays to be a normal human.