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Old 09-24-2002, 10:41 AM   #1
Sapphar
 
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I am writing this after reading two reviews posted on Top Mud Sites regarding a roleplay intensive game. One reviewer was complaining about the racism in a game. Another reviewing was defending it. The reviewer complaining thought that it was frustrating that they were expected to
- not have interracial romances
- view some races as inferior
- abide by well documented, well written descriptions of typical behavior for each race

I am not racist IRL. I do not believe most who play this particular game are racist. But most of us play characters with racist tendencies. A number of races, according to a detailed manual provided to help guide players, believe themselves superior to most other races. One race is considered by all races to be disgustingly inferior. Interracial romances receive very harsh responses. The reasons for these things are justified in the history written in the manual, the racial characteristics outlined, etc.

Why would I want to play a racist, if this is not something I personally believe in? It is a hell of a challenge. The further a character is from who you are, the harder it becomes to play. The more challenging it is to be consistent.

Is it wrong to play a character who goes against IRL societal values? We play killers, we play assassins, we play “evil” characters often enough. But when it comes to specific, defined values like racism or sexism, folks don’t feel comfortable.

Is there a point, a line, that shouldn’t be crossed in terms of social values created in RP worlds? Do we want to limit ourselves in our fantasy worlds to comfortable elements? Do we want to stick to political intrigue and avoid social intrigue? What are other games that are rp intensive doing with regards to those sticky moral questions that exist IRL?

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Old 09-24-2002, 10:58 AM   #2
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Well, enforcing character traits upon character is a bad thing anyways IMHO to roleplaying muds. Every individual character has it's own traits and characteristics. Enforcing racism among your players would be like forcing all your players to be close to nature or explorers... In a non-themed RP envireoment, this simply can't be a good thing as some races tend to be more open and socially accepting then others, while other races border on xenophobia.

Then again, if this mud in question is a themed mud, say something post-apocalypse or post-war, then it might make sense. It still would be a bit bit of a leash on RP, but in such a case it might be acceptable. Sadly, no links to reviews/muds are given so I can't check out what kind of mud it is...
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Old 09-24-2002, 11:07 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by (Ingham @ Sep. 24 2002,08:58 am)
Well, enforcing character traits upon character is a bad thing anyways IMHO to roleplaying muds. Every individual character has it's own traits and characteristics. Enforcing racism among your players would be like forcing all your players to be close to nature or explorers...
Enforcing character traits is not forcing players to be a certain character, as there are a wide range of races. If you don't feel comfortable playing the fiercly loyal, very reserved in public race, you can play a different one.

I think it enhances rp to have clearly defined races, as not only does it add to the conflict/tension in the game, but helps in letting players become completely immersed in the world. IRL, we have many different cultures. Why would we not in game?

My question was more about the morals of the worlds and are there some IRL morals/values that we shouldn't break in game worlds?

The link, if you wish to check it out and judge based on more information, is www.Ke9.com and the game is Inferno: Classic.

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Old 09-24-2002, 11:12 AM   #4
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Hmmm,

Not sure if you're referring to Armageddon or not, but it definitely has these built-in racial biases.

Elves, specifically, have a genetic and cultural admiration for thievery and swindling. As such, other races react accordingly. I, personally, enjoy these kinds of cultural definitions in my gameworld. In my opinion, it is often these restrictions and boundaries that make for quality roleplaying.

Look at it similar to poetry. Sure, freeverse is fine and dandy. However, by limiting oneself to a traditional structure (sonnet, villanelle, ballad), one may achieve something transcendent. It is by restricting oneself and verbally playing within a form that beauty is achieved.

So, that goes off the subject. To return: I have no problems with this sort of racism in a roleplaying environment. I think it's an educational release to be able to put myself into the shoes of someone who really despises another just for their upbringing or culture. I also find that it's enjoyable to really play up the idiocy of such a person. To get totally hyperbolic with it, bringing it to the point of the absurb. To, in fact, parody racism.
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Old 09-24-2002, 12:15 PM   #5
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I have no problem at all with racism / sexism appearing IC'ly. I play on Armageddon as well and the elves there are, as Riga mentioned, generally distrusted due to their inherent thieving / swindling nature. People won't talk to them sometimes, many Houses won't hire them, the templarate takes a biased view against them, etc. Similarly, magickers are feared and hated by the general populace and the vast majority of people will want nothing at all to do with them. There are well-documented help files for all of this and if you don't want to be the subject of racism / social ostracising then playing an elf or magicker might not for you. If you want to play whatever type of character you can dream up then make a human, dwarf or whatever and RP it out. However, if you want to play a race generally disliked by most people and RP within the guidelines set out in the docs then that opens up a whole new RPing challenge imo. I like Riga's analogy to art - many artists practice various forms, many of which are very strict in what is acceptable in a particular form. I'd agree with Sapphar too that such detail adds to the richness of the world, creates conflict and breathes realism into the game.

Racism / sexism are real issues IRL. Various cultures despise each other - just look at the Israelis and the Palestinians for one of many examples. To exclude them from an RPI mud them just because they are uncomfortable for some players would be wrong imo. It would detract from the realism and feels like political correctedness to me.
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Old 09-24-2002, 12:19 PM   #6
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Since I don't know what mud you're talking about, I'm assuming that the racism that is concerning you is based on things like elf vs. goblin or dwarves vs. trolls or whatever...

Racism like that is so far from what real racism is, that I really don't get why people have issues with it.  Since I don't know any goblins, elves, or trolls, I have a hard time feeling sorry for them.  I mean, watching a dark sun elf have a relationship with a dwarf (I mean it would be a physical impossibility for them to physically intimate. *ugh what a thought*) is.... mind boggling and -should- be seen as f*cked up.  *chuckle*

People getting upset about sexism is another situation entirely, I think.  We're still talking about male/female relationships, and not something that is a complete fantasy.  You'll have to pardon me, but this is my personal pet peeve. Why did your fantasy world develop the stereotype that women are weaker than men?  If you have that laid out somewhere in documentation, fine (I still wouldn't play there, but fine ).
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Old 09-24-2002, 12:47 PM   #7
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Racism is fine and dandy, as is sexism. It happens.

Sexism doesn't always mean men big, women weak. Women are just as sexist as men, and in some cases more so. I often hear, IRL, women saying things like 'men are such dogs.' Men, generally, will take said statement and ignore it. If a man says something similar, and I've witnessed this as well, the woman or women will get quite angry, and defensive. It's a lot like racism, now.

It's to the point now where people will accept the reverse form of racism/sexism, simply because society defends one part wholeheartedly, and seems to ignore the other party's problems.

Does this mean the first part shouldn't be defended? No. Does this mean the second party should be defended equally? Yes.

But, I digress. In a fantasy world, it is fantasy. You play a drow, you hate elves. Problem? No. It is, if memory serves, expected of you to do so, but I also disagree with limiting people to a specific role. For example, vampires are supposed to tend towards evil. Does this mean all vampires have to be evil? NO! This is not an absolute, it is a tendency. If someone has a genetic or societal predisposition to psychological abnormalities... does this mean they will exhibit those abnormalities? No. It just means that the possibility is there, so I look at it that way. To have a truly evolving world, the help files should be based on the characters, not the reverse. This way, your world can truly evolve, and show a life of its own, rather than being a story.

Stories are nice, and if you want to be an actor, great... but when I decide to RP, I want to play a role I've defined, around this world. I don't want to be an actor in someone else's fantasies. I guess that's why I run my own MUD, instead of playing anymore.
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Old 09-24-2002, 01:14 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Orion Elder @ Sep. 24 2002,12:47 pm)
But, I digress. In a fantasy world, it is fantasy. You play a drow, you hate elves. Problem? No. It is, if memory serves, expected of you to do so, but I also disagree with limiting people to a specific role. For example, vampires are supposed to tend towards evil. Does this mean all vampires have to be evil? NO! This is not an absolute, it is a tendency. If someone has a genetic or societal predisposition to psychological abnormalities... does this mean they will exhibit those abnormalities? No. It just means that the possibility is there, so I look at it that way. To have a truly evolving world, the help files should be based on the characters, not the reverse. This way, your world can truly evolve, and show a life of its own, rather than being a story.
This is straying off the original subject, but this one is also near and dear to my heart.

I agree that you should be allowed to play as you wish.  I, also, have no problem with exceptions to a given rule. However, it is when these exceptions become the norm that I take issue.

Some specific examples that I can think of from the mud I play:
1) The kank-riding elf:  Riding mounts is culturally repulsive to elves. However, there is a very real coded advantage to riding mounts. So, suddenly, every elf becomes the mount riding elf whose parents taught to look beyond such petty worldviews.

2) The liberal noble: In a harsh, aristocratic society, it is up to the nobility to keep the downtrodden down. They've been raised all their lives to believe that they're superior.  Unfortunately, roleplaying this can get old and it also limits who you can interact with.  So, suddenly every player becomes the exceptional noble. You know, the one that believes all people are created equal and loves to dilly dally with the commoners.

3) The enlightened magick lover: Magick is hated and feared by nearly everyone. However, being best friends with a magicker can have some obvious coded benefits. Suddenly, every player comes from a family who taught them not to "judge a book by its cover." and that, "Magick is just a weapon, like a sword.  It depends on the one wielding it." So, you have everyone being friendly to the mages.

Now, there are three very specific cultural rules that are well documented from the mud I play on.  These three cultural rules are some of the things that give the game world its unique flavor. If people constantly play outside of the culture and play the exception to the rule, then the unique flavor of the game is lost.

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Old 09-24-2002, 02:02 PM   #9
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That's exactly what I mean, though. The game evolves around the players, it should not be the other way. If being friends with a magic user is good for you, then why not do it. A world's outlook on a subject can change, at any given time... it may go back, eventually, or it may not. But some real life examples are slavery, prohibition, suffrage, the salem witch trials (yes, all my examples are US-centric... live with it ). At one point, being a 'witch' was bad. Now, Wiccanism is seen as a very valid religion (not quite the same, but close enough to get my point across).

So, why should a fantasy world be limited? If everyone likes magic users, the whole 'magic users are bad' prospect is gone, yes... but it opens up a whole new area of exploration. Now magic can be explored in an open fashion. No need to hide that you use magic anymore. Magic schools appear everywhere, normals start to use magic for every day tasks... a gigantic magical catastrophe leads to a law against magic, making magic not only hated, but ILLEGAL... then as time passes, it could be made legal if you were registered and went through an official school, so that you were known to be a safe magic user.

Every change leads to new possibilities, so why enforce rules such as the above? It leads to stagnation, eventually. But, if you make the world change with the views of the people, you open new possibilities on a regular basis. Even racism. It could lead to slavery, which could eventually lead to a rights movement, which could turn out in one of three ways. Equal rights for all. No rights for the slaves, or the slaves could take over, turning the masters into slaves. All would lead to some interesting stories to play in, and DEFINITELY something interesting to be a part of.

But, that's just my thoughts.
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Old 09-24-2002, 02:39 PM   #10
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Re: Cultural Status Quo

One major difference here is likely in game design.  It sounds like in your world, the PCs are either the sole inhabitants or they're the "important" ones.  

The world I'm discussing, and with most RPIs, the PCs are just a small percentage of the population. The rest of the population consists of NPCs and virtual NPCs. Therefore, this oft-silent majority maintains the cultural status quo.

Of course, one problem with these games, and one that I often worry about, is that PCs can feel like such minor players in the large, global scene that they feel helpless. That is, they feel they are unable to make changes in the game world, since they represent only a small portion of it. This feeling can be compounded by the fact that many of the powerful leaders are NPCs played by the staff and many of the decisions about government, laws, military camaigns and the like take place behind the scenes.

However, I think this feeling of helplessness can be countered by getting the PCs involved as much as possible and encouraging the idea that historical epochs rise and fall on the actions and decisions of common people. I think that maintaining this balance between cultural consistency and player apathy is difficult, but that the game I play on does a good job with it...something that can be backed up as many of the important events have been player driven and inspired.
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Old 09-24-2002, 03:05 PM   #11
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I'm also from Armageddon (we're everywhere, you can't escape us) and I don't mind playing a racist, because it's nothing like IRL racism.

However, I couldn't play a rapist. Why? Because of RL issues. I could play the victim but not the person who does it. Some people might have similar issues, but with racism, and they SHOULDN'T be forced to be an active racist, just be a passive one. A passive racist is someone who doesn't need to spit on elves constantly.

Racism in Muds, I think is perfectly acceptable. If a mud was based on Earth and it forced everyone to be racist, I'd have a problem cause it's too close to home.

Just my 2 'sid.
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Old 09-24-2002, 03:09 PM   #12
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That's exactly what I mean, though. The game evolves around the players, it should not be the other way.
My concern with changing the world and cultural views, Orion, is that it doesn't usually happen for good, quality, in depth rp reasons. It happens when new players come to a game and through one of two reasons, decide to go against the basic premises of the game. Reason one: They don't want to take the time to learn what the game is based on. Reason two: They like their idea better. Under those circumstances, I think changing the world is cheap, selfish, and poor rp, to be quite blunt.

That does not mean I feel characters who break from the norm are unacceptable. There are two main circumstances when I think it is a good rp choice to break from the norm. First one, if something happens IN GAME, not in your background, that begins to change your character's beliefs. If that change is slow, confusing for the character, and a struggle that results in a final difference of a fundemental nature, well, then kudos to the player for what was likely very impressive personal rp. The other way I think deviant choices are good is when a player who knows the game inside out, backward and forward, who knows the world, has played the world as it was meant to be, choses to play a deviant character. And chooses to play that character knowing and understanding that their character will suffer IC consequences for being deviant.

I'm using the word deviant to mean anything from an elf who rides mounts to a noble who believes in equality, using the previous examples in this thread. Also deviant in NOT participating in racial norms, racial hatreds, or societal norms.

Change is not good rp unless it is truly rped. I think too much change is really laziness. The best rpers don't show up at a game and say, "I'll change it to fit what I like." They carefully choose a game that they think sounds challenging, interesting, and engaging. Then they figure out how to create a character in the context of that world.

Yikes. That was a bit of a rant you inspired in me, Orion. Sorry.

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Old 09-24-2002, 03:13 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by (John @ Sep. 24 2002,1:05 pm)
Racism in Muds, I think is perfectly acceptable. If a mud was based on Earth and it forced everyone to be racist, I'd have a problem cause it's too close to home.
Okay, another blunt moment, since it sounds like most of you are not inherently troubled that some rpgs have racism as part of their world...

Just like you wouldn't play a world based in todays world that had a lot of racism, I don't think players who have problems with racism in an rpg setting should choose to play on games with histories and storylines that include racism. There are plenty of games that don't have such things. And it dilutes the world for others when you choose to ignore one of the premises the world was built on.

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Old 09-24-2002, 03:36 PM   #14
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Exactly, so the person wouldn't play at a mud they find troubling.

Sorry, I thought that was assumed from the first post, it seems like common sense to me. If someone has a MAJOR problem, then they don't play, otherwise they work around it.
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Old 09-24-2002, 04:03 PM   #15
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I find no problem playing in a game where there is Racism. It's a game after all. It does not reflect my feelings IRL. Besides, who could imagine a Dwarf and an Elf together in a party, being buddies? (Other then; Margret Weis, Tracy Hickman, and Tolkien?) Elves consider themselves better then dwarves and Dwarves feel the same way. One of my best (read: Favorite) Pen'n'Paper characters was seeking refuge from the elements and came to a keep, and when he found that a half-breed was running the joint, he refused her help. And made snide remarks. She of course then set him up for a trial, and made him hang for his sins, but alas....

Back on topic:

In reference to forcing players to accept the RP'ing of Superiority and whatevers... code it. If nobles shun the populace, and you allow players to play nobles, make the NPC villagers get out of their way, have them refuse to talk to them. If dwarves and Elves hate each other, have an NPC talk trash to the other race. This is the problem that I have with most RP muds... They focus on player interaction, when you should increase character interaction.
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Old 09-24-2002, 05:49 PM   #16
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Well I'll go on my rant, and yeah it's a rant so be forwarned.

I think it's absolutely positively preposterous, ridiuclous, and STOOPIT that people would equate bigotry against an ELF with bigotry against another human being with different color skin.

I can't even begin to express how inane that is. Hello, there exist NO SUCH THINGS AS ELVES in the real world. It's OKAY for your character to hate them. You'reallowed, you have my express permission.

Jeez. Now if the game was based on real life, and white humans were required to accept hatred of black humans, then yeah I'd have a serious problem with it, and I wouldn't play.

But honestly. People who have a problem with bigotry against a fantasy SPECIES that is only humanoid, and not human, need to re-evaluate their personal priorities in life. Folks like that have issues.

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Old 09-24-2002, 07:06 PM   #17
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It seems most of us agree, but here's my two cents anyway, which hopefully brings at least a new angle.

Firstly, I'm sure we all agree: racism in the real world is a bad thing and bigots are naughty, naughty people.

What we all seem to recognize, that the anti-mud-racism people do not, is that the major point of a roleplaying mud is to ROLEPLAY- not to play a character who is exactly like you but with pointy ears or blue teeth or whatever, but to play a character who is a different person, with a different worldview and way of thinking. Racism in a game should not offend you. If it is, I would say not that you are playing the wrong game, but that you need to take a long step back and take a look at why you are so offended.

Racism in the real world is a bad thing, but racism in the mudding world is a positive thing, because it creates conflict and motivates roleplay. Sure, sometimes it's fun to live in a carefree world, where you wear pretty clothes and plan social events and go over to Aunt Emma's house every afternoon to drink tea and talk about the new moose head Uncle Bill just hung up in his den. But this kind of roleplay gets old REALLY quickly. Without some kind of conflict, roleplaying dries up. And having interracial, intergovernment, or interguild disputes breeds conflict, which breeds roleplay, which means everyone can get into their character more and have more fun.

Why do pkers have clans? It's not just so they can drink beer and brag to each other about their kills, although that's part of it. It's because killing people gets boring if there's no reason to do it- having clans gives you a motive. "Hey, Bloodclan sucks, let's kill them!" conflict doesn't always have to be this extreme, or even at all violent. But deepseated conflicts, such as racial ones, will affect everything from politics to interpersonal relationships. And while in the real world, we don't want to be the kind of people who would cause conflict or trouble, or mock, oust, or kill someone of another race, in the mud world it's ok, because we're just playing make-believe.

I believe it's not fair to force someone to be a racist character. But I agree with what someone (I think Sapphar) said: that's why there's more than one option! I think races (or cities, or guilds, or whatever main conflict-driven thing you have) should be varied so that they have different cultures, not just different attributes. I also believe that in a mud where racism is encouraged, you should not overbias certain races towards certain classes without cause. Good roleplaying muds generally don't have this problem, probably because the coders had enough sense to see that if you just say elves only have stats that are good for mages and goblins only have stats that are good for warriors, just because, racial roleplay will suck.

I have played muds where you have to pick your race essentially based on what class you want to be, and it's annoying. Sure, some races are better at some kinds of things than others, and some races are culturally predisposed towards some kinds of things. But let's be realistic- how could elvish society survive alone if it had no warriors? Do you really think there are no pickpockets in elvish culture? You could make an argument for a society being too primitive or stupid for magic or technology, but don't try to base a mud on some kind of fanatical D&D notion that only one race can be good at any one thing.

That was sidetracking a bit, but it ties into my point, because if you have a world where elves and goblins are ancient enemies, and the stats are so prearranged that only elves can be effective magic users, if the player wants to play a magic user they are virtually forced to be an elf. Then you have a player who you have to force to have this character that he didn't really want. Providing options is the key...There should be at least one fairly even option for people who *don't* want to be highly polarized, or your entire mud will fall victim to the "liberal noble" syndrome.

In case you wonder, I am not a mud admin...I am a player. But I've played quite a few muds, and I've played characters that range from complete pacifist desegregationalists to quietly scornful bigots to jackbooted thugs, so I like to think I have some idea what I'm talking about. To sum up once more- I think that racism (or at least some kind of divisive element) is *crucial* to a mud in order to foster roleplay, and that the key to keeping players happy about it is to allow the players the flexibility to do what they want to do (to an extent, you can't please everyone of course) so that you don't end up with a minimum of norm-defying individuals. You'll always have them, of course, but if you give the people who actually do want to roleplay a non-racist niche, then the twinking ought to be minimized.

Rhaky
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Old 09-24-2002, 07:50 PM   #18
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In Inferno (which Sapphar referenced when Orion asked), there exist a race of humanoids called half-elves. In the world of inferno, they are almost exclusively the product of rape of a female elf by a male human. Their very existence is a reminder to elves of the torture humans have bestowed on elves during wars past, and shame for humans who run into them on the street. Other races are *designed* to consider half-breeds as aberrations of nature, freaks, distrusted, suspected, and barely part of the food chain.

And yet..

There are people who roll up elves who go out of their way to be nice to half-elves, and scorn their brethren for their bigotry against them.

There are people who roll up humans who actually consider mating with half-elves, and people of various other races who make an issue of befriending them.

Now, I can understand bending over backwards to welcome a new player get acquainted with the world. But the world, from an IC perspective, is NOT pretty. These aren't races we're talking about. They're species and subspecies. They're called races only because that's the common vernacular in this type of game. But an elf is no more a "race of humans" than a dog is a "race of cats." Elves are biped humanoids. Dogs are quadrupeds. Elves have ears on the sides of their heads, dogs and cats have fur instead of hair. But no dog in their right mind would try to mate with a cat, and cats have an instinctual disdain for their drooling mammalian cousins.

If an elf befriends a breed, then the elf MUST ACCEPT that society will scorn him for it. And it's the players' responsibility to scorn him, otherwise they spit in the face of game integrity as written by the creators.

In the game I used to play, it was no big deal to see halflings and giants snuggling and smooching like nobody's business all over town, No one gave a second thought to seeing a dwarf and a sylvankind going up into the Silvergate Inn to a private room.

In Inferno, however, roleplay isn't optional. It's required. Just as in Armageddon - you might see humans and elves on friendly terms with each other, but the humans acknowledge that "all elves are thieves," and the elves acknowledge that "all humans are marks." Diplomacy and scheming are the course of the day, and not just so Susie can cyber with John, or because Susie feels that it's unethical to treat elves badly in a fantasy game just because she has an oriental boyfriend in real life.
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Old 09-24-2002, 08:33 PM   #19
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The ONLY problem I would have with racism on a MUD, is if it went through OOC. Racism is one of the worst things in the world in my opinion. To have it poison our fun, which we do to escape real life sometimes, is just a bad influence and disgrace to MUDers.

But, if it is only IC'ly where the racism occurs, I have no problem with it. RP is a person's choice, and if the whole MUD agrees, that's them.

Racism is BAD. DO NOT DO IT IN REAL LIFE!

A word from your local Mudder
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