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Honest Question - What do you think about Disquiet?

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  • Honest Question - What do you think about Disquiet?

    So, here's the thing. Its been a while since I played Promethean its been years since the first edition came out and I played it. Now, after reading through the 2nd edition, I found myself becoming highly uncomfortable with Disquiet. Not because it isolated the Promethean, or drove them to do something, but because it felt too much like some variation on victim blaming.

    Prometheans are disfigured. They're a bit unbalanced mentally (unbalanced humors and all that). Fair enough. And everyone hates them because of all this - flaring disfigurements leads to more prejudice. It is literally is the Promethean's fault that everyone hates them. To me, I'm left feeling like we're just making an excuse for what amounts to prejudice and discrimination against the disabled. And I am not okay with that.

    I'm not the only one who feels that way, but, by the same token, there's a lot of people who feel radically different on the issue. So, here's my question. How do you feel about the issue? What do you take away from Disquiet? What do you think it means beyond a method of socially isolating the Prometheans?

  • #2
    It's not the Promethean's "fault" that they engender Disquiet. It's something that they can't help. There's no moral judgement implied by it, it's just the unfortunate reaction between the Divine Fire and...basically everything else, but human perceptions in this specific case.

    It is, however, profoundly unfair, that much is true.


    Matthew McFarland
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    • #3
      Matt, I respect you, so don't take this wrong way, but that is nothing more than quibbling over semantics and doesn't actually answer the question. No, its not the Promethean's "fault" anymore than someone who's born with stunted arms are at fault for being born that way, or suffering an injury in combat, or anything like that. However, unlike someone who has these actual problems in real life, the problem entirely lies within the person with the actual prejudice. Or perhaps society itself teaching the person that prejudice. But in the case of Promethean, its specifically an attribute of the Created that fucks with people's minds and forces them to feel that way. All these games are metaphors, and the metaphor here is that the disfigurements are at fault for making people hate you. No, its not the prejudiced person's fault, its entirely you and your body's. And I'm not okay with that.

      This is my interpretation of the work, and people trying to just refute how I feel about it isn't going to be constructive; rather, that has the effect of actually entrenching people, myself included. I'm looking to hear other interpretations and ideas, specifically because that's how I learn and grow and get new perspectives. New ideas.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by MCN View Post
        and the metaphor here is that the disfigurements are at fault for making people hate you.
        Here's where your metaphor breaks down for me. Because Disfigurements are only a part of what causes the Disquiet. Normal interactions also causes it, Failing a power also does. Being in your wasteland can cause such a thing too. Having a very disquieted friend can cause you to suffer disquiet.

        Promethean is about handicapped people, yes. But it's also about trans people, about autism, about sexuality, about homelessness, Promethean is about accepting yourself, and until then, others won't accept you.

        Have you ever had a friend always saying that no one loves them? That no matter what they do, they'll end up alone and sad? At first, you feel empathy, you want to help them, you give them support. Then you start to answer mechanically, without real thought. Then you start to tell them to stop complaining all the time, even if that's not really what you meant. And after some time, you need a breather, away from that person.

        While presiding over my game club, we've had a few people on the autism spectrum. One of them was higher on it than others. At first we tried to be inclusive, but at some point we had to have an intervention, because his presence demanded a lot from us, which we couldn't always provide.

        I've once met someone who has OCD about the *shhhh* sound. It caused him to get very aggressive. Like... very aggressive. He was expelled from college for assaulting his teacher. At first we tried our best, but once he decided to stay at the club and watch an RPG session we were playing (wihch is fine). He was on the couch, listening, basically being invisible, and at some point I roleplayed the sound of Acid melting metal, which, you guessed it, triggered him. Small events like these add up to people's tolerance of others and eventually we told him that he could either accept the noises we made in our private games or leave.

        What I'm trying to say is... Disquiet is not the Promethean's fault. It's not the mortal's fault either. It's wrong alchemy between the two of them, causing the disquieted people to act out-of-character.


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        • #5
          It's an aspect of the Divine Fire, not the Created. It wears on the Promethean, producing Torment. It wears on the bystander, producing Disquiet. It wears on the world in general, producing the Wasteland. (It's the "society" in your comparison, perhaps).

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          • #6
            Originally posted by MCN View Post
            [...]
            This is my interpretation of the work, and people trying to just refute how I feel about it isn't going to be constructive; rather, that has the effect of actually entrenching people, myself included. I'm looking to hear other interpretations and ideas, specifically because that's how I learn and grow and get new perspectives. New ideas.
            If that's actually your interpretation, there's little we can do for you. That's pretty much set on a bias.

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            • #7
              Jeez, what do you want? This is a game about being the Other, which cannot happen if Prometheans are not othered. It's about microaggression escalating into actual aggression and violence. Hell, it's even about "entrenchment", because a Promethean's attempts to confront Disquiet directly just make it worse.

              Is Disquiet a metaphor? Yes. God yes. Does it excuse real world discrimination? No, not even. The Disquieted have as much choice in the matter as the Promethean inflicting it. IRL, people DO have a choice to overcome their conditioning, as there's no mystical obsession forced upon them. And, yeah, a lot of people would behave almost as badly without Disquiet, but that just tells you how bullshit an excuse Disquiet provides.


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              • #8
                When I think Disquiet, I specifically think of the scene in Frankenstein where the creature is talking to the old man in his house until his kids come home and everyone loses their shit and drives him off. Or the entire arc of Victor reacting with revulsion to his creation beyond the point of reason, and the drama that comes from that. I don't map it too closely to actual real-world prejudice, it's a clearly supernatural effect that has more to do with general fear and distrust of strangers than, for example, ableism specifically.

                For comparison: I've been running and playing Changeling for a long time, and endless digital ink has been spilled about the idea that C:tL is really specifically an allegory about abuse and trauma and recovery- and indeed, 2nd edition has been leaning hard into that angle. Personally, I don't really share that view and don't highlight it in my games. I see Changeling as primarily a modern urban fantasy/horror setting with its own specific vocabulary and ideas and building blocks that exist within the game world as just things in themselves. True Fae are in some ways evocative of abusers, but primarily they're alien dream monsters with magical powers that the players are fighting against.

                Bringing this back to Promethean, this game is a setting with its own rules and vocabulary as well. Disquiet is primarily a supernatural effect caused by Azoth, which is not a phenomenon that exists in reality and is necessarily going to be made up for drama and the group's enjoyment. The setting concept and game mechanic of Disquiet exists to create situations in play where the PCs have to either avoid/be cautious around human NPCs or deal with suspicion and angry mobs, which will ideally be fun and interesting to play out. It's on the ST to represent that suspicion in a more stylized or comic book-y way and not recreate actual real world prejudice.

                ---

                I will now make the opposite of my previous point.

                Junot Diaz has said some really interesting things about sci-fi and fantasy drawing on real world experiences, one of which amounted to "the X-Men setting idea and character beat that people 'hate and fear mutants' is derived from the actual history of racism, xenophobia, etc. X-Men would not make sense or even have been written in a world without racism, because that setting idea is a fictionalized and abstracted version of the actual reality and manifestations of racism." And so for example, people of color are inherently part of and suggested by X-Men stories, even when all the characters in a story are depicted as white and seemingly wouldn't be affected by real world racism.

                I don't think it was by Diaz, but I've also read analysis of how American popular sci-fi of the 50s-60s written by white male authors especially liked to present fantastic prejudice applying to white male characters who would be relatable to their primary intended audience. Like there's the character of the "freak", the main character with some horrible disfigurement or physical trait that tragically isolates them from society, who is usually depicted as a white man. Twilight Zone, a great source for Promethean inspiration, has many examples of this. The original Doom Patrol comic is very explicitly about outcast "freaks" in a more nebulous and vague way than the setting-specific "mutants" of X-Men.

                Here's what I'm driving at with all this. I would argue that the authors of that brand of sci-fi were writing for an intended audience of people who did not themselves experience real-world racism, ableism, etc. The idea of a Twilight Zone story with a "freak" character isn't to evoke sympathy with "I have felt that way and been mistreated by majority society too," but "imagine if unfair and irrational prejudice happened to a normal person like you!" Or maybe to imagine real-world prejudice in a safe, dramatized way that makes an interesting story, rather than a persistent mundanely dangerous reality.

                This applies to how Promethean as a fictional setting presents Disquiet. I don't know (seriously, I don't know the life stories of the writers) whether the Disquiet concept is particularly written by or for people who actually experience ableism themselves, to refer back to MCN's specific point. The fictional idea of Disquiet draws on the imagery of ableism, among other things, but I don't know whether it's written for players who actually experience such prejudice themselves in reality and might not be interested in a fantastic and stylized version of an actual mundane concern for them when they want to relax and have fun in a fantasy setting for a few hours.

                ---

                So where does that leave us?

                I would suggest that players and Storytellers could invert and modify the assumptions of Disquiet and write characters who relate to it in unexpected ways. Perhaps (a character believes/it's objectively true that) Disquiet is caused by simple human ignorance, its effects are less severe, and it doesn't actually originate from the Azoth. Perhaps your character sees Disquiet as an unfortunate fault of the human spirit, and their Pilgrimage will involve some sort of scientific/sociological/alchemical Great Work on humanity as a whole that reduces or dampens Disquiet in mystical sympathy with their own New Dawn. Maybe the onus is on humans to refine lead into gold themselves, escape their own Disquiet, and embrace Prometheans as they are. Or on a smaller scale, maybe a character's Pilgrimage isn't about somehow making themselves "worthy" of humanity, but constructing a life that liberates them from Disquiet by embracing their own goals, surrounding themselves with people (Created, humans, etc) who are worthy of their trust, and minimizing contact with people who will harm them.

                Or you could just excise Disquiet from the game entirely and see where that takes you, if your group finds that more fun! That's always on the table.


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                • #9
                  I gotta say, there are times that I wish that all of the mind-warping aura effects (e.g., Lunacy, Sleeping Curse, Disquiet, Sybaris) would collectively die in a fire, to be replaced with the good old-fashioned fear and prejudice that they resemble.


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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by MCN View Post
                    So, here's the thing. Its been a while since I played Promethean its been years since the first edition came out and I played it. Now, after reading through the 2nd edition, I found myself becoming highly uncomfortable with Disquiet. Not because it isolated the Promethean, or drove them to do something, but because it felt too much like some variation on victim blaming.

                    Prometheans are disfigured. They're a bit unbalanced mentally (unbalanced humors and all that). Fair enough. And everyone hates them because of all this - flaring disfigurements leads to more prejudice. It is literally is the Promethean's fault that everyone hates them. To me, I'm left feeling like we're just making an excuse for what amounts to prejudice and discrimination against the disabled. And I am not okay with that.

                    I'm not the only one who feels that way, but, by the same token, there's a lot of people who feel radically different on the issue. So, here's my question. How do you feel about the issue? What do you take away from Disquiet? What do you think it means beyond a method of socially isolating the Prometheans?
                    I would have thought victim blaming fits in perfectly. It's a game about personal horror.


                    Offense is rarely given, but often taken.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by MCN View Post
                      So, here's the thing. Its been a while since I played Promethean its been years since the first edition came out and I played it. Now, after reading through the 2nd edition, I found myself becoming highly uncomfortable with Disquiet. Not because it isolated the Promethean, or drove them to do something, but because it felt too much like some variation on victim blaming.

                      Prometheans are disfigured. They're a bit unbalanced mentally (unbalanced humors and all that). Fair enough. And everyone hates them because of all this - flaring disfigurements leads to more prejudice. It is literally is the Promethean's fault that everyone hates them. To me, I'm left feeling like we're just making an excuse for what amounts to prejudice and discrimination against the disabled. And I am not okay with that.

                      I'm not the only one who feels that way, but, by the same token, there's a lot of people who feel radically different on the issue. So, here's my question. How do you feel about the issue? What do you take away from Disquiet? What do you think it means beyond a method of socially isolating the Prometheans?
                      i've got two ways to intrepret disquiet. a Literal explanation and a metaphorical explanation.

                      The Literal explanation without any metaphors and without drawing paralles between the divine fire and anything else is that the Disquiet happens divine fire is simply too bright. and alien,it shines through the promethean dead flesh and it affects human being negavtively. Humans despites their many qualities are still fallible,and the divine fire force them to become more and more flawed. disquiet is the natural way a person feels when Pyros is close at hand,the fire fuck with their heads,even the noblest,kindest and nicest human can be cruel when affected by pyros,the same way they all burn if they touch a hot stove,they just don't have any defense agains pyros

                      Now the metaphorical interpretation, Disquiet is a metaphor for one of humanity's greatest flaws. the fact people have a hard time relating to anyone who's different. prometheans can be allegories for autism,for other's ethnies, genders and sexualities and for disfigured people. And many humans,thought not all,react badly when face people that are like prometheans,that's what Disquiet is a a metaphor for,the human flaw of rejecting the Other until we get to know the Other. I feel like that metaphor is present mostly to showcase that despite humanity it's a desirable state,humans a whole are pretty flawed. but i don't think the text implies it's the prometean fault the disquiet is happening,i think the text is saying "Disquiet happens because that just how humans are it's a intrisic flaw of the human condition,and if you want to be human you gotta understand that"
                      Last edited by Nicolas Milioni; 08-20-2016, 01:47 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by MCN View Post
                        Matt, I respect you, so don't take this wrong way, but that is nothing more than quibbling over semantics and doesn't actually answer the question. No, its not the Promethean's "fault" anymore than someone who's born with stunted arms are at fault for being born that way, or suffering an injury in combat, or anything like that. However, unlike someone who has these actual problems in real life, the problem entirely lies within the person with the actual prejudice. Or perhaps society itself teaching the person that prejudice. But in the case of Promethean, its specifically an attribute of the Created that fucks with people's minds and forces them to feel that way. All these games are metaphors, and the metaphor here is that the disfigurements are at fault for making people hate you. No, its not the prejudiced person's fault, its entirely you and your body's. And I'm not okay with that.

                        This is my interpretation of the work, and people trying to just refute how I feel about it isn't going to be constructive; rather, that has the effect of actually entrenching people, myself included. I'm looking to hear other interpretations and ideas, specifically because that's how I learn and grow and get new perspectives. New ideas.

                        So, you came up with an interpretation of part of the game, you're not interested in opinions that differ or in discussing the matter...but you want new ideas? And you're not listening to the people who made the game? (Which, like, death of the author, I get it.) OK. You're just gonna have to cope with semantic arguments, though. Words are important to me. Words mean things. The specific word choices we use mean things. So I'm gonna try this again.

                        It is not the Promethean's fault that he engender Disquiet. It is not the human's fault that she experiences Disquiet. The human does not choose to feel it, the Promethean does not choose to engender it. If we want to look at this on a metaphorical level...actually, put a pin in that a sec, and let's talk concrete, ground-level shit for a minute.

                        Disquiet exists within the game in order to isolate Prometheans from people and to propel a sense of, well, disquiet and, yes, othering that they go through. If they felt at ease with humanity, the Pilgrimage wouldn't make sense. If they felt superior to humanity (as, you could argue, vampires, werewolves, mages, even demons often do), the Pilgrimage wouldn't make sense. In order for the central conceit of the game (Prometheans can become human via the Pilgrimage and are driven to do so) to stand up, there has to be something driving a wedge between the Created and humanity. (Disquiet is actually fairly different than Lunacy or Disbelief in that it doesn't hide Prometheans from view; it actually does kinda the opposite.)

                        In addition, it puts into a game-mechanic format a lot of the source material that we draw on for Promethean. When we think of stories about creatures like Frankenstein's monster or other artificially created beings, the revulsion and disgust that people feel (though it's expressed very different depending on what movie you're watching, as it were) is a pretty important story element.

                        Now, to get metaphorical - I kinda see it as a play on the influence of entrenched dogma and prejudice. We are none of free of the bias of our upbringing. I had a teacher in high school who told a story about being out in traffic and having a car driven by a black man cut her off, and her first thought a "damn n*****." She was horrified at herself for thinking it - she didn't consider herself racist and she certainly didn't actually feel that the man's race had anything in particular to do with his driving, but there it was. I would submit that we all have these biases, and that we take them out on people knowing very little about them, except for how they fit into our worldview. This is true until we learn who they really are (until they enter our Monkeysphere) and we can judge them as people.

                        Of course, within the game, Prometheans don't even get that. Disquiet affects everybody, sooner or later. But one of the things I wanted to do with this edition is make Disquiet a little more forgiving; it's still inevitable, long-term, probably, but a Promethean can form a relationship with a person and enter his Monkeysphere, become a "real person" to that particular human, and in the process get a sense of what completing the Pilgrimage is likely to be like. (That is, at least, until Disquiet comes crashing down and ruins everything, because Promethean is pretty tragic, at least during the actual process of the Pilgrimage.)

                        So, again, you're right: Disquiet is profoundly unfair, to both the Promethean and to the person being affected by it. You could make that argument of systemic bias and prejudice, too. Now, by learning about it, being aware of it, can you avoid or at least mitigate Disquiet, much as someone who's paying attention to their responses learn to recognize systemic bias? Sure, but how that would look in play opens up questions of who the PCs are and who's actually rolling the dice.


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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Magnum Opus View Post

                          Here's where your metaphor breaks down for me. Because Disfigurements are only a part of what causes the Disquiet. Normal interactions also causes it, Failing a power also does. Being in your wasteland can cause such a thing too. Having a very disquieted friend can cause you to suffer disquiet.

                          Promethean is about handicapped people, yes. But it's also about trans people, about autism, about sexuality, about homelessness, Promethean is about accepting yourself, and until then, others won't accept you.

                          Have you ever had a friend always saying that no one loves them? That no matter what they do, they'll end up alone and sad? At first, you feel empathy, you want to help them, you give them support. Then you start to answer mechanically, without real thought. Then you start to tell them to stop complaining all the time, even if that's not really what you meant. And after some time, you need a breather, away from that person.

                          While presiding over my game club, we've had a few people on the autism spectrum. One of them was higher on it than others. At first we tried to be inclusive, but at some point we had to have an intervention, because his presence demanded a lot from us, which we couldn't always provide.

                          I've once met someone who has OCD about the *shhhh* sound. It caused him to get very aggressive. Like... very aggressive. He was expelled from college for assaulting his teacher. At first we tried our best, but once he decided to stay at the club and watch an RPG session we were playing (wihch is fine). He was on the couch, listening, basically being invisible, and at some point I roleplayed the sound of Acid melting metal, which, you guessed it, triggered him. Small events like these add up to people's tolerance of others and eventually we told him that he could either accept the noises we made in our private games or leave.

                          What I'm trying to say is... Disquiet is not the Promethean's fault. It's not the mortal's fault either. It's wrong alchemy between the two of them, causing the disquieted people to act out-of-character.
                          Basically this. What he says is true, but underlying all of this is that the world isn't fair, especially the world of darkness. It's not the Prometheans fault that he is what he is, but its still his burden to bear.


                          Offense is rarely given, but often taken.

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                          • #14
                            One way to make it more tolerable for you could be to make a setting change. For example: An occultist or scientist knows that his time is short. They are about to be executed, assassinated, or die of a terminal illness. Maybe they are wracked with guilt and terrified of divine judgment, so they create a Promethean to be their new body after the old one dies. When this person dies, the Promethean wakes up, but lacks the memories of his former life. As the chronicle goes one, this Promethean realizes that his condition (the disquiet) is entirely his own fault. If you want to make this about a group simply make it a suicide pact cult, they can each get their own Promethean, or bits and pieces of their creators personality's can be mixed together among them.
                            Last edited by K9ine; 08-20-2016, 04:14 PM.


                            Offense is rarely given, but often taken.

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                            • #15
                              Promethean is a game about being on the outside looking in, and trying to grasp what makes humanity so beautiful even as it shows you its worst aspects. Disquiet is a useful narrative tool to provide opposition to the player characters and reinforce that whole uncanny valley effect you get from being a corpse full of Divine Fire rather than a real person with a soul, and pairs nicely with Torment to enforce how uncomfortable things are and how much you should strive to surpass the Created condition in order to escape them.


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