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Old 06-06-2006, 04:40 AM   #1
prof1515
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I'm a historian (M.A. in European History and if my health ever improves I'll be looking at that PhD next) so I've long been looking for a historical MUD (and if not historical, at least one which is patterned after the historical model). Unfortunately, I've been met with nothing but frustration in this search. The MUDs with historical settings are usually not very accurate to the history they're portraying. There are a few fantasy MUDs (like Harshlands) which while not being historical tend toward a closer representation of medieval life than most.

Historical MUDs do have their problems which is why they're probably next-to-impossible to find. When designing my own MUD, I had originally intended to be strictly historical. But there were problems with that idea which led me to opt with an original world closely patterned after the historical model.

First, there's the issue of size. To recreate even a small portion of the real world is an immense project because if you want to show any detail at all, you need a scale capable of doing so. When you do that, if you want to create historical geography, you're left with a lot of building.

Furthermore, even though I'm a historian, finding others with the same or greater understanding of the period involved is not easy. And admittedly, I don't know everything there is to know about even my own specific field, much less one centuries later.

Adding to these problems is history itself. If one follows the historical timeline, you're faced with several issues. First, there's the issue of researching and recreating. That takes a lot of work and you might even miss details (like I said, not everyone's a historian). Additionally, this can lead to a stale setting if not handled properly. Secondly, if you do use the historical model, you're faced with players possessing and possibly acting on information they shouldn't yet have. This can be resolved by avoiding the historical precedent, but if you do that, are you truly a historical MUD anymore? Changing the progression of history can lead to further changes which eventually results in a significant deviation from the historical model anyway.

Thus, when I started working seriously on my own project, I opted to maintain the socio-cultural setting, but put it in an original world carefully patterned after the real-world historical model. It's taking a lot more effort, but I'm hoping the result will be worth it. Additionally, a lot of work will have to be done to maintain the setting and keep it following a similar trail to that of the historical period it's duplicating. So, while the world in my game is not historical, the feel of it will be.

My question is, does it count as a historical MUD? As far as recreating the socio-cultural conditions of the historical period, it'll be very, very close (only minor cosmetic changes) and I doubt there's ever been a MUD which has come as close to recreating the socio-cultural setting of a period. But the setting itself, while very familiar to the real-world, is entirely original. Of course, listing it as fantasy is misleading since there will be none of the staples of that genre.

I've found that most of the MUDs listed as "historical" bear little or no resemblance to the historical periods they're emulating and some don't even appear to be historical at all! By comparison, my project will be vastly more faithful to historical detail yet the historian in me is hesitant to refer to it as "historical". In the end, I'll probably list it as such since it wouldn't fit into any other genre and is far more historical than the rest of that category. But it does beg the question of what constitutes admission into that category.

Thoughts and comments?

Take care,

Jason
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Old 06-06-2006, 07:35 AM   #2
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I haven't looked for any myself, but have you tried exploring the cyberpunk genre? It's a small niche of games, that much I know. But if any mud was to create a "reasonably realistic" semblence of a real-world historical background, a cyberpunk is probably it.
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Old 06-06-2006, 11:42 AM   #3
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Do you mean Steampunk?
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Old 06-06-2006, 01:29 PM   #4
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Cyberpunk and Steampunk are fantasy or science fiction. Neither is an accurate representation of a socio-cultural setting since they features aspects non-existant in the cultures they're emulating. Steampunk features technologies utilized in applications they never were. Historically, this isn't accurate. Cyberpunk utilizes technologies not even existant! Cyberpunk isn't historical. Period.

I'm talking about a historical socio-cultural setting, even if is an original world. Think Chicago in the 1920s only it's not Chicago and the date isn't 1920 (the name and number are ultimately irrelevant after all) but with the same technological level and the same socio-cultural aspects to the society.

Does it have to be Chicago in the year 1920 even if the setting is simliar to 1920 Chicago for it to be considered historical? Or is it historical because it's emulating the various aspects of society in Chicago in 1920? That's what I'm asking.

Take care,

Jason
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Old 06-06-2006, 02:19 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (prof1515 @ June 06 2006,13:29)
Cyberpunk and Steampunk are fantasy or science fiction. Neither is an accurate representation of a socio-cultural setting since they features aspects non-existant in the cultures they're emulating. Steampunk features technologies utilized in applications they never were. Historically, this isn't accurate. Cyberpunk utilizes technologies not even existant! Cyberpunk isn't historical. Period.
I agree completely with this, but it's impossible, first of all, to actually make a completely accurate historical MUD. Beyond the fact that it'd be an immense amount of work, the accuracy would be stained by the fact that history is far from an exact 'science'.

You might also consider that while adding in Steampunk technology makes a MUD unfaithful to any sort of real history, so does using modern English in it....and nobody can really be expected to put up with the English from the period. It's practically unintelligible to anyone but a linguist.

Trade-offs have to be made for the sake of the end user. The Rennaissance fairs do a good job of it. They munge together all sorts of things (particularly grammatical structures) that didn't exist in the time period they are replicating, and they recognize they aren't really trying to simulate history but simulate an idealized, user-accessible version of it.

--matt
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Old 06-06-2006, 03:48 PM   #6
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I agree that it's impossible to do a completely historical game of any size. A small vignette of a time and place is doable, but not what MUD designers are trying to accomplish.

I'd like to see a scale applied to fantasy games that ranges from 'gritty' to 'high fantasy'. That would make things a lot clearer for people, since obviously historical accuracy is really not something that can be completely obtained, but you can indicate just how unreal the game is designed to be.

In the meantime, I'd just refer to the game as historical fantasy. It has two buzzwords that might lure people looking for certain elements to at least check out your webpage, and you'd be able to keep the ones that are looking for what you are offering. The rest will move down the list and keep looking for what does suit them.

Is it accurate? It would be if the terms weren't so heavily misused elsewhere, but it's probably the best you can do under the circumstances.

Good luck on the PhD and the game. Both are hard work and worthy endeavors.

---Brett
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Old 06-06-2006, 05:56 PM   #7
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With very hard work and dedicated, knowledgeable staff, you could create a close-to-historically accurate MUD.

The offset of this would be the same as any other niche-stylistic MUD(like a pure-PvP MUD or RPI); the playerbase would likely be small.

The problem with having a small playerbase in a historical MUD is that it will kill a lot of the "en mass" potential of the MUD. Hard to have a playerbase of serfs being loarded over by warring factions, if you don't have more than 15-20 people logged on at a time.

I will also say that I think niche games are very important, and sometimes the best MUDs around - for their purpose. As long as you can overcome the mechanical and roleplay problems of having a small playerbase, then I'm sure dedication will eventually help you achieve your goal.
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Old 06-07-2006, 01:01 AM   #8
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Does historical have to mean that it's completely in line with history, that all the food in a MUD is grown by real players who chose to play as farmers, or that massive-scale battles last a number of hours with most of the players losing days of playing time as their perma-death characters are cut down in mere seconds?

I personally don't think so.  I think it's possible to make a historical game that is fun to play, and while not accurate to the T with real history, it could be pretty close.  

I think that would still deserve the label historical.  Because you can have a "historical game" as much as you can have a "historical fiction".  Both would be oxymorons if the word "historical" meant that it was completely accurate.
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Old 06-07-2006, 01:07 AM   #9
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Actually, Matt, it depends on the period, and the fact that while the words are perhaps different, the meaning is the same. But I do understand your point about linguistics. The difference is less in how they say something but what they say. The meaning is still the same even if the wording is different. Keeping to a historical setting, the key is for one not to make references to ideologies and philosophies out of context in that setting. Technologies however influence not just how something is done but what is done. If it's a medieval MUD, the introduction of technologies not existing in that period would alter the socio-cultural setting considerably. Changing the technologies would result in changes in the daily lives of individuals, impacting far more aspects of life and essentially altering the setting itself.

A good example would be the telegraph. To the British, it was a telegraphic message. To the Americans, it was a telegram. At first, the British refused to recognize the American word for that form of communication. With the eventual acceptance of the term "telegram" by the British, there was only a very slight impact on British culture. However, the technology itself had a drastic impact on communication, politics, war, and many other facets of society (and not just British society).

Language can be translated and meaning may be lost. But if language is substituted, so long as the context of its meaning is maintained, the language itself is mostly irrelevant (there are exceptions of course). Yes, "veni, vedi, vici" loses the wit of using three nearly-identical words to convey a message when spoken in another language. But a simply greeting in another language doesn't alter the intent of the expression. Change a technology, and you've got different requirements for operating it, differences in its operation, and differences in the results and impact upon other technologies.

Take care,

Jason
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Old 06-07-2006, 01:21 AM   #10
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Talking

BrettH, the intent is not to build an entire world, but if we do set our game in a fictional world similar to a historical model, we need to design all the elements of that world, which is what we're doing.

I know the project is possible. I've spent the last year working on elements of it daily. Code-wise, it's a bit daunting since there are so many different things that need changing and creating in the codebase we're using (a variant of the RPI Engine).

I agree in most respects, Ilkidarios, that the term "historical" would probably fit. We're patterning both the history and the culture of the game world after the real model (if all goes as planned to a detail that will be more than sufficient for functionality).

I suppose "Historical" and "historical fantasy" will work. The thing that really bothers me is that if you do a search for "historical" you turn up results ranging from high-fantasy to Star Wars. My intent is to produce a MUD with a particular historical-like socio-cultural setting, not mislead.

Take care,

Jason
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Old 06-07-2006, 01:52 AM   #11
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BrettH, the intent is not to build an entire world, but if we do set our game in a fictional world similar to a historical model, we need to design all the elements of that world, which is what we're doing.
I did not mean to sound as if the project wasn't possible. I was simply agreeing that an an 'absolutely accurate historical representation' isn't possible.

However, I do feel that the building blocks of historical eras can be used effectively and a functional representation can be managed. I feel that many game designers shy away from it for two reasons; one, lack of understanding of what the fundamental aspects are and why they existed (and therefore, how they can be adapted) and two, fear that modern players won't like anything that is too foreign to American ideals.

I disagree with the latter, and if you can manage the former (and it sounds like you can), then your project stands a good chance of success.


---Brett
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Old 06-07-2006, 08:11 AM   #12
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Yes I meant steampunk, not cyberpunk. Steampunk adds fantasy-based technology to a relatively accurate historical background. Like in Back to the Future III when what's his name goes back to the Wild West. The era was portrayed "relatively accurately" and his modern technology (ski jacket) and the fantasy technology spin (the delaurean) was introduced to it as a plot device. The whole point of steampunk though, is to introduce fantasy technology that *could* have been invented during that era, IF the inventor had access to modern-day information. You'd still have the log cabins, horses, organic farming, drawing water from wells, waterbarrels, outhouses. But you might also have a "secret society" of people tucking indoor plumbing into hidden rooms under their houses, horseshoes with little rollerblades attached to them to prevent their horses from tiring out so fast. And filtration systems; charcoal existed in the Wild West, it's just that it never occurred to anyone to use it for filter material.

The notion of "magic" in a historical setting would be more accurate for the era than in a typical fantasy game; the herbswoman, the midwife, the tribal shaman, the guy who discovers that a mysterious piece of rock he found causes some metal doohickie he owns to magnetically attach itself to the rock; all those things/people would be considered "magic." Of course in a historically accurate setting you'll have to include historically accurate prejudices: players creating black-skinned characters would have to accept slavery as their character's lot in life. Most characters would be required to embrace Christianity as their chosen religion, anything else would be outcast, suspect, or even considered blasphemy and destroyed.

It is certainly not something I would be interested in; I prefer my prejudice served up neatly in a pure non-historical fantasy setting. Y'know, like how all dwarves hate elves, and how everyone knows that orcs smell bad and eat children, that kind of thing.
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Old 06-07-2006, 11:12 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Jazuela @ June 07 2006,08:11)
Yes I meant steampunk, not cyberpunk. Steampunk adds fantasy-based technology to a relatively accurate historical background. Like in Back to the Future III when what's his name goes back to the Wild West. The era was portrayed "relatively accurately" and his modern technology (ski jacket) and the fantasy technology spin (the delaurean) was introduced to it as a plot device. The whole point of steampunk though, is to introduce fantasy technology that *could* have been invented during that era, IF the inventor had access to modern-day information. You'd still have the log cabins, horses, organic farming, drawing water from wells, waterbarrels, outhouses. But you might also have a "secret society" of people tucking indoor plumbing into hidden rooms under their houses, horseshoes with little rollerblades attached to them to prevent their horses from tiring out so fast. And filtration systems; charcoal existed in the Wild West, it's just that it never occurred to anyone to use it for filter material.
Back to the Future III was "relatively accurate" if one's idea of late 19th century America is that it resembled every cliche of a bad Western.

Technology plays an integral role in the socio-cultural development of civilization. Change the technology and you change the culture. The printing press played an important and timely role in the spread of Protestantism as well as the diffusion of knowledge which led to the Enlightenment and Age of Reason. When a culture has no use for a technology, either the culture changes to adapt itself to that technology (a great example is the internet) or the technology fails to be utilized (the best example may very well be the Chinese invention of the clock).

As I was explaining to someone the other day, the use of the pocketwatch was directly related to the steam engine. With the use of steam-powered locomotives, trains became a rising means of transporting people and resources. However, in order to maximize their use, you don't create a set of tracks for every train. Instead, multiple trains run on the same set of tracks. Coordinating them to prevent collisions requires running them on a schedule. To maintain and monitor that schedule from every aspect requires a portable time-keeping device. Hence clocks became smaller, conveniently able to be stored in a pocket. However, you also needed standardized time so that one clock didn't differ by 10 minutes from another while yet another was off from them both by 12 more minutes! Technology changes society, which spurs changes in technology which further change society.

Throw in different technologies that weren't present in a historical context (or used in the same manner), and you change the nature of society in that setting.

Rollerblades on horseshoes to prevent the mount from tiring? Maybe this is why Barbaro broke down in the Preakness.

Moving on....

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The notion of "magic" in a historical setting would be more accurate for the era than in a typical fantasy game; the herbswoman, the midwife, the tribal shaman, the guy who discovers that a mysterious piece of rock he found causes some metal doohickie he owns to magnetically attach itself to the rock; all those things/people would be considered "magic."
Not at all. Plenty of non-technologically-advanced cultures understood/understand that medicinal herbs are not magic. And even those cultures which believe in "magic" of a sort do so out of the same belief of some people in today's society: religion. In many different historical periods, you'll find people of the same society who believe in the fantastical and those who don't. "Magic" in the context used today is primarily the result of ignorance and the drivel of pulp novels rather than a serious understanding of its role in historical and present-day cultures.

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Of course in a historically accurate setting you'll have to include historically accurate prejudices: players creating black-skinned characters would have to accept slavery as their character's lot in life. Most characters would be required to embrace Christianity as their chosen religion, anything else would be outcast, suspect, or even considered blasphemy and destroyed.
Yes, one has to incorporate historically-accurate prejudices into a setting. What has to be remembered is that these prejudices affect the characters, not the players. So yes, a female character wouldn't be treated as an equal to a male character. A noble character would receive better treatment than a peasant character. That kind of conflict is a great way of driving role-play.

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Originally Posted by
It is certainly not something I would be interested in; I prefer my prejudice served up neatly in a pure non-historical fantasy setting. Y'know, like how all dwarves hate elves, and how everyone knows that orcs smell bad and eat children, that kind of thing.
I fully recognize that not everyone will be interested in a MUD with a historically-accurate representation of the socio-cultural setting. I realize not everyone has the knowledge or desire to learn such a setting. But some do, and for those tired of fantasy settings which don't hold up under scrutiny, I hope to provide them an alternative.

The question I asked however was not "do you understand history, science, or technology" or "do you want to play a historically-accurate MUD". The question I asked, which the others responded to (and I appreciate their feedback), was how should a historically-accurate socio-cultural MUD set in an original world be labeled? Is it historical or is it fantasy, or both?

Take care,

Jason
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Old 06-07-2006, 12:56 PM   #14
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players creating black-skinned characters would have to accept slavery as their character's lot in life
Just a quick mention - blacks as slaves was not a medieval notion at all. That came much, much later.

On the subject of the comment, yes, there need to be societal differences between classes or you do not have a historical game. Heck, you wouldn't have a remotely realistic game in any setting, even if the game setting were modern day America. Oh yes, birth always matters, doesn't it? Luckily in most games, you can choose the character and birth circumstances you wish to play.

Pleasant or not, those things create storyline and character motivation. I am always saddened when people think a game has to be based in a completely unreal society of equals in order to be fun. There are many people who don't find it fun to lack social friction from which to launch stories.

Jane Austen couldn't have even written Pride and Prejudice without a society based on class. Storybuilding, and good RP stories, NEED fodder like this to get it past the 'save the world, then pick up a chick in the tavern' routine.

Anyway, ranting, I guess. Agreeing with the Prof, is the bottom line.

---Brett
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Old 06-07-2006, 01:42 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by (BrettH @ June 07 2006,12:56)
Just a quick mention - blacks as slaves was not a medieval notion at all. That came much, much later.
Actually, Black slavery predates medieval times by many centuries. Slavery in Africa goes to back beyond the point at which we even have semi-reliable histories.

--matt
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Old 06-07-2006, 02:11 PM   #16
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Actually, Black slavery predates medieval times by many centuries. Slavery in Africa goes to back beyond the point at which we even have semi-reliable histories.
That is not the same thing.

Slavery has been around since before written history. The IDEA that BLACK PEOPLE are INHERENTLY SLAVES is not a European Medieval concept. It's a product of colonization.

I'd though that the context (the comment that dark skinned people in a european medieval game should expect to be slaves) was clearer than that, but apparently not.

Now, they might end up as slaves in countries that habitually enslave others, along with various other skin-toned folks, or if they travel to the game equivalent of Britain, they might be seen as 'outsiders' or 'infidels' but they wouldn't be seen as slaves unless they actually were in that condition already, just like anyone else.

It has been eloquently explained by various medieval historians with far more credibility than I will ever attain, than the medieval european mindset was concerned with "Locals versus Visitors" and differences in religion as the separation between peoples, rather than race. All that stuff about inherent inferiority of the african people had a lot more to do with the scientific revolution and the need for cheap labor in colonized countries than feudalism.

---Brett
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Old 06-07-2006, 03:11 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by (prof1515 @ June 06 2006,03:40)
... I've long been looking for a historical MUD (and if not historical, at least one which is patterned after the historical model). Unfortunately, I've been met with nothing but frustration in this search. The MUDs with historical settings are usually not very accurate to the history they're portraying. ....

My question is, does it count as a historical MUD? As far as recreating the socio-cultural conditions of the historical period, it'll be very, very close (only minor cosmetic changes) and I doubt there's ever been a MUD which has come as close to recreating the socio-cultural setting of a period. But the setting itself, while very familiar to the real-world, is entirely original. Of course, listing it as fantasy is misleading since there will be none of the staples of that genre.

I've found that most of the MUDs listed as "historical" bear little or no resemblance to the historical periods they're emulating and some don't even appear to be historical at all! By comparison, my project will be vastly more faithful to historical detail yet the historian in me is hesitant to refer to it as "historical". In the end, I'll probably list it as such since it wouldn't fit into any other genre and is far more historical than the rest of that category. But it does beg the question of what constitutes admission into that category.
I think you answered your own question. When implementing the game you can set up a very accurate world and laws, you can set up a trade system that resembles the time you wish to portrait, you can avoid all the fantasy themes and make your game as realistic as you can have it.

The problem with this becoming a "historical" MUD is that this game genre requires players playing the game, and as such, they will inevitably develop their own social interaction that is bound to be different from the historical accurate description. In the real world you have a handful of people dominating thousands or millions, cases where the faith of nations is ruled by the decisions of two or three. You cannot implement that in a MUD realistically, mainly because you do not have access to the same number of people. Then you are left with two options, model the crowd with NPCs and news-comming-in-from-the-kingdom or you can try to isolate your setting so that external and broader aspects of life will not have impact in your game. Once again, this will make your game steer away from historical accuracy.

I doubt there is any actual way to implement this, since you have to have a good number of RPI players, savvy in the tricks and twists of the trade (ie. knowledge of the different social status, trade customs, religious beliefs, etc); you need a way to balance for the fact that you will never be able to reproduce a realistic social structure out of players alone, and so you need a team that activelly works to steer events to keep them in line with the timeline you wish your game to take (via PCs controled by admins for example, or via strategically placed NPCs who can interact with the PCs). There is a third option, I guess, which would be re-enact some specific historical event. You could set up the environment very acuratelly if you know where things should take place and how things developed; you then set somewhat strict guidelines on how the main events must unfold; you split the roles among your playerbase and let the people (who knows the whole broad story) play out the gaps.

I think the last option is the only way to keep it historically accurate and reasonably easy to control.

Your dutty as admin would be to set up the world, and maybe some global events through NPCs. Then you would have to monitor the storyline so that you know the benchmarks are reached. I did this some half a dozen of times with friends, we would meet and pick up a story we wanted to enact (in our case D&D setup), someone would be in charge of sketching the general setup and split the characters, then we would RP the time between events. We usually steered away a bit from the original intent, since our characters were sometimes affected by their alter-ego's way of thinking (ie. ours) , but a few times we managed to have it done the way it was "meant" to be, and we all had a good time.
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Old 06-07-2006, 11:15 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by (Jazuela @ June 07 2006,08:11)
Of course in a historically accurate setting you'll have to include historically accurate prejudices: players creating black-skinned characters would have to accept slavery as their character's lot in life.
I disagree, I think at one point in history we were probably using white people as slaves.  Of course, then they all sort of turned the tables on us.

Man, I'd love to see that in a MUD.  I'd play the first MUD set in a fantasy setting in which we conquered Europe and set up our own triangular trade.  Are you hearing me MUD developers?  We need this MUD!
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Old 06-08-2006, 07:32 AM   #19
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I disagree, I think at one point in history we were probably using white people as slaves.  Of course, then they all sort of turned the tables on us.

Man, I'd love to see that in a MUD.  I'd play the first MUD set in a fantasy setting in which we conquered Europe and set up our own triangular trade.  Are you hearing me MUD developers?  We need this MUD!
The vast majority of slaves in history were not black.  Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and most civilizations of antiquity had slavery.  The term slave is in fact derived from the word Slav (someone of central European descent).

The tie-in of race and slavery goes back to attitudes of Eurocentrism, the belief that European societies represented the pinnacle of civilization.  Given that the closest any black civilization (such as Great Zimbabwe) had achieved was probably 5000 years behind the level of advancement of Western civilizatoins, this was seen as proof of "inferiority".  Of course, the reason they turned to black slaves was also a result of indigenous population depletions in other areas of the world colonized by Europeans.

Disease had destroyed aboriginal populations in the New World since those populations had no immunity to European diseases.  It's estimated that the population of the Caribbean basin was depleted by as much as 98% within a century after the Columbian conquest.  Needing populations to replace these losses, Europeans turned to sub-Saharan Africa.

It should also be noted that black slaves were quite often sold to white slavers by black slavers.  These slavers captured opposing tribesman and sold them off to white slavers who operated in the area.  While some of these slavers didn't realize the nature of servitude they were sending their enemies into, it can not be expected that they were totally ignorant.  Nor can it be ignored that even if they were unaware of these conditions, they demonstrated a complete lack of concern for the fate of slaves they sold to be shipped out of Africa.

In all, blame for the evils of slavery is sufficient to extend to all parties, crossing racial borders.  It's a sad testiment to the potential for callous and uncaring behavior out of humanity.

Take care,

Jason
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Old 06-08-2006, 04:50 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (prof1515 @ June 08 2006,07:32)
It should also be noted that black slaves were quite often sold to white slavers by black slavers.
Yeah man, but we'd started off doing this with the Muslims from the Middle-East, and they treated their slaves different than the Europeans.  The American slave trade can't be pinned as looking like "our fault", if my ancestors hadn't of been sold from a black slaver, white slavers probably would've raided my village anyways.

I'm not saying I can justify what the other tribesmen did back in Africa, I'm just saying it wasn't any of my ancestors's fault, I'm over here.

But lets not get too far off-topic here, unless you feel like your original question was answered?
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