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  • 'Living' pantheons

    So I am just throwing this out there because I am curious if I am an outlier. At let me preface by saying I'm not making any judgments with my statements below, think and read what you want I am just trying to get a sense of how others feel about and I have with the new edition of Scion.

    There are certain dangers in having a 'living' religion in an RPG. Personally, I am defining 'living' as being still largely practiced, as with Hinduism (which really should be Hinduisms because the way we view it in the West, as one great unified religion is just plain incorrect) or as a religion still practiced within the last two centuries. Now let me say, I'm not a religious person but I respect people's right to believe in the Easter Bunny for all I care so long as they don't try and wrap me up in it. Anyway, I was a bit sketchy with the inclusion of the Hindu pantheon the first time around the inclusion of the Native American and Yoruba pantheons really kind of bugs me. I mean if you want to pick the top people who have had their culture co-opted or outright destroyed by outsiders in the last 200 years the natives of West Africa and America, if not at the top of the list, are surely near the top (and yes these groups are far from alone in this). While such sentiment is not universal I know quite a few Native Americans who would be pissed off by this because Native peoples have had so much of their culture stolen and misinterpreted that they view any frivolous use of their traditions, especially for a game, with suspicion. Especially when they are deeply held beliefs that are being tossed into alongside long 'dead' religions.

    Now sure maybe there are not any who still follow the Algonquian "pantheon," but the scars of cultural theft and misuse are still rather recent. I'm sure some of you have heard about the recent controversy over JK Rowling's handling of Native beliefs (if not Google it, there are tons of great articles from back around June about why this sort of thing sucks.). I'm sure the only reason there is not such outcry here is that this book will probably sell less in its entire run than a Harry Potter related book will sell in a single week. Of course, I don't expect that to stop people nor do I believe in censorship (other than people censoring themselves as their conscience dictates) but I guess I am just wondering if I am alone in being a bit bothered by this?

  • #2
    The alternative is not representing them at all, which gives you a Eurocentric game that doesn't touch on any other cultures. Neall and his team seem to be working on good representation, which I think is incredibly noble.

    We'll see how it all shakes it, but I have hooe.


    Just call me Lex.

    Female pronouns for me, please.

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    • #3
      Let's also remember that this is a game. It isn't intended to be the real world, with our current history; it's a fictional one where all the ancient religions survived to the present day. By definition of this, the cultures of the First Nations, Africans, and many others, will play a different role in the game world than the one they play in our own. It isn't intended to be disrespectful - far from it, it is saying that the religions and customs of these people's have thrived to the present day because their Gods and scions championed their cause. I don't want a game without the Hindu, Inue, Shinto, and other pantheon in it, because that would be lacking so much flavor and potential. But this isn't a history book, or cultural treatise, it's an RPG. And hopefully a damn good one.
      Last edited by Purple Snit; 09-27-2016, 09:28 AM.

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      • #4
        As a pagan follower of the Norse and Irish gods, can I add that I hate people's tendency to call my faith a dead religion?

        Don't get me wrong. I understand that modern Norse and Celtic pagans are practicing a reconstructed religion cobbled together from fragmented records. Using our myths in pop culture is a whole different matter than a lot of non-European religions.

        But it's important to remember that all of the religions portrayed in Scion are still being practiced by someone somewhere.

        If it's any consolation, I believe Neall did mention that with any of the still living religions, he went out of his way to find writers and consultants that are part of those cultures. I remember him specifically saying that the Alqonquin pantheon was being written by a Native American writer, and that he tried his best to match all the pantheons with individuals who actually are part of their culture.

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        • #5
          *sigh*
          Look. The Gods of Hellas, Kemet, ancient Scandinavia, what have you...
          People. Still. Do. Believe. In. Them.
          They might not be as numerous as those who honor Vishnu/Shiva/Devi, but they do exist.
          I suspect it is possible to even find followers of the Hittite Gods, and movements such as Hellenismos or Asatru are as living as it gets. Not every faith has to have millions of adherents.
          So, either one accepts the fact that religious figures can be used in RPGs/novels/modern entertainment in good fun, or denies such a possibility for all of them. Personally, I prefer the first option.
          Shiva is unlikely to be offended whenever somebody draws a silly comic about Him. Why should human believers be?
          Now, arbitrarily dividing approaches to faith into ones that are valid and ones that are not? That does not sound fair at all.

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          • #6
            It would definitely be a very bad thing if we were to disrespect peoples' faith and gods with our writing. Hurting other people and other cultures with my writing would be a really shitty thing to do, and I'd feel really shitty if I did it. It's something we think about a lot so that we can avoid that.


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            • #7
              Originally posted by Robert Vance View Post
              It would definitely be a very bad thing if we were to disrespect peoples' faith and gods with our writing. Hurting other people and other cultures with my writing would be a really shitty thing to do, and I'd feel really shitty if I did it. It's something we think about a lot so that we can avoid that.
              ​I imagine this is one of the reasons for avoiding the Abrahamic faiths? Especially Islam.


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              • #8
                hellrazoromega, I'm writing four still-worshipped pantheons (Devá, Shén, Loa, Òrìṣà) and I'm nervous about all the same things you're nervous about. My primary motivation for joining this project was to leverage my academic and personal experience with those religious traditions to ensure they were depicted in a respectful and evocative manner. I will not do a perfect job, but I will damn well try.

                When we create fiction, we have to walk the line between representation and appropriation. If we err too far in one direction, we end up depicting only safe, dead things which don't mean anything important to the people out there who never get to see themselves depicted in speculative fiction. If we err too far in the other direction, we take things that are important to real cultures and accidentally or purposefully reinforce the structures that make life hard for them. Scion errs on the side of representation, but to avoid going over the deep end into appropriation, we have to draw as directly as possible (within a lot of frustrating but inevitable creative constraints) on real experience from those pantheons' adherents, their sacred texts, etc. If we screw it up, we will hurt real people. If we succeed, then some kid whose family practices a religion no one has heard of, who's spent their life being misunderstood and made fun of because of something central to their life, will get to pick up this game and open it up and say, "When they made this game, they were thinking of and talking to people like me."

                Do you have particular worries or pitfalls in mind for any of the pantheons you mentioned?


                Currently Writing Scion and Geist for Onyx Path, and many other things for other publishers
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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Zeldafan42 View Post
                  As a pagan follower of the Norse and Irish gods, can I add that I hate people's tendency to call my faith a dead religion?

                  Don't get me wrong. I understand that modern Norse and Celtic pagans are practicing a reconstructed religion cobbled together from fragmented records. Using our myths in pop culture is a whole different matter than a lot of non-European religions.

                  But it's important to remember that all of the religions portrayed in Scion are still being practiced by someone somewhere.

                  If it's any consolation, I believe Neall did mention that with any of the still living religions, he went out of his way to find writers and consultants that are part of those cultures. I remember him specifically saying that the Alqonquin pantheon was being written by a Native American writer, and that he tried his best to match all the pantheons with individuals who actually are part of their culture.
                  Not for nothing, but I've toyed with jumping into Kemetic Paganism only to be pretty much repulsed by every community I've ever seen there.

                  I'm glad you've found a niche for yourself, but my god are there some unsavory elements among European neopagans that I can't look past for myself. I have to wonder if Scion might touch on skinheads appropriating Norse symbology in The World, and how the Aesir feel about it?


                  Just call me Lex.

                  Female pronouns for me, please.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Mangle77 View Post

                    ​I imagine this is one of the reasons for avoiding the Abrahamic faiths? Especially Islam.
                    They're not avoiding them, it's just difficult fitting monotheism into a polytheistic setting. The issue will inevitably be addressed when they get to the Elohim (Canaanite/Phoenician Pantheon).

                    In a market that's included two Demon games under the White Wolf imprint, In Nomine, etc etc,absolutely no one is worried about a U.S. published game with a Christian developer offending anyone's Christian sensibilities. This isn't the 80s. Lucifer and Preacher have both become tv shows. If a "moral guardian" group made Onyx Path a target it would be a huge PR coup!

                    Islam is admittedly more complicated for a multitude of geopolitical reasons.
                    Last edited by glamourweaver; 09-27-2016, 10:28 PM.


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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Xanthias View Post
                      *sigh*
                      Look. The Gods of Hellas, Kemet, ancient Scandinavia, what have you...
                      People. Still. Do. Believe. In. Them.
                      They might not be as numerous as those who honor Vishnu/Shiva/Devi, but they do exist.
                      I suspect it is possible to even find followers of the Hittite Gods, and movements such as Hellenismos or Asatru are as living as it gets. Not every faith has to have millions of adherents.
                      So, either one accepts the fact that religious figures can be used in RPGs/novels/modern entertainment in good fun, or denies such a possibility for all of them. Personally, I prefer the first option.
                      Shiva is unlikely to be offended whenever somebody draws a silly comic about Him. Why should human believers be?
                      Now, arbitrarily dividing approaches to faith into ones that are valid and ones that are not? That does not sound fair at all.
                      As an Asatruar myself I really enjoy seeing other peoples takes on the Germanic Gods. Unlike, monotheism, there was never a set of holy texts used so some of the stories and ways of worship varied.


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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Zeldafan42 View Post
                        As a pagan follower of the Norse and Irish gods, can I add that I hate people's tendency to call my faith a dead religion?

                        Don't get me wrong. I understand that modern Norse and Celtic pagans are practicing a reconstructed religion cobbled together from fragmented records. Using our myths in pop culture is a whole different matter than a lot of non-European religions.

                        But it's important to remember that all of the religions portrayed in Scion are still being practiced by someone somewhere.

                        If it's any consolation, I believe Neall did mention that with any of the still living religions, he went out of his way to find writers and consultants that are part of those cultures. I remember him specifically saying that the Alqonquin pantheon was being written by a Native American writer, and that he tried his best to match all the pantheons with individuals who actually are part of their culture.
                        I hope you don't think I meant that the other religions are 'dead,' hence the quotes around 'living.’ That was not my intent, and when I referred to the Algonquian pantheon I said “maybe” because I honestly didn’t know if anyone still practiced it (after speaking to a colleague in Native American Studies is seems that it is). Full disclosure I'm agnostic and in my own opinion gods have about as much bearing on my day to day life as an individual atom on the other side of the universe, which is to say not much. That said I try my level best not to offend anyone simply because of who or what they do or don’t worship (I’m human and fail at it all the time, I just try to learn and do netter next time).

                        I was just trying to see how others felt. I love Scion and the stories it is based on. Honestly, I did not think much about this issue until a friend who is Hindu was mildly offended by the previous edition because she did not acre for the idea of an ‘outsider’ mucking about with her religion no matter how much consulting they had done. She did not fly of the handle or really say much more about it, she was just a bit miffed but she got over it. So while having Hinduism in the game made me a bit sketchy at first what it did do was make me more interested in making sure that any representations in my game were not based on stereotypes (unless that is made amply clear out of character). It made me ask more questions and open discourse.

                        Also, I agree it is worse to make the whole thing Eurocentric. Trust me I get it, there is no definitive edition of most religions, my grandmother was steeped in voodoo tradition and I chuckle and enjoy some of the differences between her stories and the Scion books.

                        Lastly, I do have to say fact that it is a fiction setting does not let it off the hook IMO, I think “it’s only <insert fictional medium here>,” is one of the worst cop-outs ever (no offense to anyone). In fact, because fiction is often more accessible I hold it to a higher standard (and I am a historian for Pete’s sake). I’ve seen some compelling evidence that fiction can shape minds and the way people view the world more than any textbook. In overly simplistic terms, I can name numerous examples of things people believe work a certain way only because that is how it is portrayed in fiction and those fictional examples are completely wrong, but that is another discussion.

                        Anyway, thanks for the input from everyone. I just love collecting other perspectives on things, it often helps me shape and refine my own viewpoint, which is an ever evolving thing.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Lula View Post
                          hellrazoromega, I'm writing four still-worshipped pantheons (Devá, Shén, Loa, Òrìṣà) and I'm nervous about all the same things you're nervous about. My primary motivation for joining this project was to leverage my academic and personal experience with those religious traditions to ensure they were depicted in a respectful and evocative manner. I will not do a perfect job, but I will damn well try.

                          When we create fiction, we have to walk the line between representation and appropriation. If we err too far in one direction, we end up depicting only safe, dead things which don't mean anything important to the people out there who never get to see themselves depicted in speculative fiction. If we err too far in the other direction, we take things that are important to real cultures and accidentally or purposefully reinforce the structures that make life hard for them. Scion errs on the side of representation, but to avoid going over the deep end into appropriation, we have to draw as directly as possible (within a lot of frustrating but inevitable creative constraints) on real experience from those pantheons' adherents, their sacred texts, etc. If we screw it up, we will hurt real people. If we succeed, then some kid whose family practices a religion no one has heard of, who's spent their life being misunderstood and made fun of because of something central to their life, will get to pick up this game and open it up and say, "When they made this game, they were thinking of and talking to people like me."

                          Do you have particular worries or pitfalls in mind for any of the pantheons you mentioned?
                          @Lula Sorry, I sort of missed your post, forgive me but it has been crazy with mid-terms starting up. I had no exact concerns per se other that what you just mentioned abut appropriation. I have seen far too many works of fiction, mostly in film or TV that do that very thing. The fact that you are aware of the fine line make me feel a whole lot better about things. Even though it is not ‘real’ fiction is also a powerful part of the human experience. Some of the best fiction of the sci-fi and fantasy genres reimagine real-world issues in ways that make them more accessible. In the best cases, we get stories like the X-Men comics of the 60s paralleling the civil rights struggle or the amazing Star Trek Episode, “Let This Be Our Last Battle Field,” telling a story of prejudice that would have had a hard time passing the censors of the time if the characters were African-American and Caucasian. The flip side being that at the worst we get a flippant, insensitive mockery of another culture.

                          So like I said I can’t call out anything in particular without seeing the books once they hit. For me as someone who occasionally teaches the subject, to be fair and as I am sure you are well aware, I will say there is no 'definitive' version of any of these tales. With the Norse gods, for instance, we largely only have sources that were translated by a Christian, so we can’t be sure as to their veracity. (Not that I am saying he was intentionally biased, or biased at all. For example, he may have missed cultural cues out of ignorance). Even in the case of the Greek tales we where we have a good deal of information we can never know if we have it all. We can’t know if the people this or that village told totally different tales of Hera or Hermes. As I like to point out anyone saying this or that is the 'definitive' tale of anything is akin someone saying they know a culture simply because they read three books written by that culture.

                          In the end, I am glad to hear the writers understand the fine line they walk. More importantly, it sounds like you understand that fiction should not be given a “get out of jail free card” simply because it is not ‘real.’ Fiction can be a powerful force in our lives, for good or ill, knowing that this is in your mind as you write makes me more excited about Scion 2nd ed.

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