Discomforts with the caste system

      Discomforts with the caste system

      I'd long held reservations about the caste system in this game, and I need to highlight some issues I have, particularly on the 'outcaste', which seem roughly equal to the dalits or 'untouchables' of past Indian society.

      Outcastes do the jobs nobody else will do, mucking about in the sewers, handling corpses, or gutting animals. In India, these tasks were thought to be self-polluting, and thus the people who do these things are 'unclean'. So it would seem to apply to the outcastes, as it says in the book on pg 117 that members of the higher castes consdier mingling with outcastes as distasteful. Despite this, it also says on that page that charity toward outcastes by the higher-ups is considered good karma. How is this possible if a higher-castes is not even supposed to go near them? It also says most outcaste are born into that state. It says there is mobility between the castes, but I find it hard to believe that they would give the time of day to an outcaste even if he was a hero.

      The Devah seem to be the ones who set all this up, as it says on pg 143 of a holy caste chef that:

      "...a discerning lord of a house can be assured of the comfort(and favor) of any visiting mangai, and, of course, the lack of any offense to the devah."

      What kind of god gets angry when one of his priests eats food not prepared by someone of a specific social class?

      The suffering of the dalits in India was real and terrible, with discrimination continuing against them even today(although less then it was). This game seems like it's romanticizing a terrible social structure.

      And what about this cycle of reincarnation? Only after 'countless cycles' can the souls finally rest in heaven. How long do the souls have to wait to see their families again? And then, they accumulate more loved ones in each incarnation.

      I wish there was a different belief system, but the only one is Dar and he seems to be evil.

      I'm not trying to be argumentative or angry, it's just these things really bother me and I wanted to know if they were as bad as I read. As it is, it's pushed me away from this game.
      Here are my own interpretations:

      The Values Dissonance is deliberate.

      Aram wrote:

      I'd long held reservations about the caste system in this game, and I need to highlight some issues I have, particularly on the 'outcaste', which seem roughly equal to the dalits or 'untouchables' of past Indian society.

      <p>Outcastes do the jobs nobody else will do, mucking about in the sewers, handling corpses, or gutting animals. &nbsp;In India, these tasks were thought to be self-polluting, and thus the people who do these things are 'unclean'. &nbsp;So it would seem to apply to the outcastes, as it says in the book on pg 117 that members of the higher castes consdier mingling with outcastes as distasteful. &nbsp;Despite this, it also says on that page that charity toward outcastes by the higher-ups is considered good karma. &nbsp;How is this possible if a higher-castes is not even supposed to go near them? &nbsp;It also says most outcaste are born into that state. &nbsp;It says there is mobility between the castes, but I find it hard to believe that they would give the time of day to an outcaste even if he was a hero.
      An outcaste that's a hero will be noticed as such, and 'rescued' from the dredges of their status, and put in their proper caste. Or, if he earned his Outcaste status - try again next time. Reincarnation is a big deal - no matter how much your current life sucks, if you live by the proper ideals, you're getting a better one next life. And likewise, if you're an Upper Class Twit that's&nbsp;</p>

      Charity is given to Outcastes from a 'respectful distance' - you can still see and interact with them, just avoid touching them if you don't want disease. If you fail to treat Outcastes with basic dignity and respect, even if you are never 'called out on it' by your peers, the Devah are always judging. Actions and consequences extend beyond one's immediate lifetime.

      The Devah seem to be the ones who set all this up, as it says on pg 143 of a holy caste chef that:

      "...a discerning lord of a house can be assured of the comfort(and favor) of any visiting mangai, and, of course, the lack of any offense to the devah."


      What kind of god gets angry when one of his priests eats food not prepared by someone of a specific social class?
      The suffering of the dalits in India was real and terrible, with discrimination continuing against them even today(although less then it was). &nbsp;This game seems like it's romanticizing a terrible social structure.
      It sort of is,but it's only 'terrible' from a viewpoint that rejects the foundations of that social structure (Reincarnation and Karma). The pariah/dalits/outcastes wouldn't be there if they hadn't been terrible people either earlier in their life, or in a past life. And if they 'serve their sentences' as Dalit/Pariah/Outcaste for those crimes/sins, then the next life will be better.

      And what about this cycle of reincarnation? &nbsp;Only after 'countless cycles' can the souls finally rest in heaven. &nbsp;How long do the souls have to wait to see their families again? &nbsp;And then, they accumulate more loved ones in each incarnation.
      Probably forever/never. Loved ones come and loved ones go, and life goes on forever &nbsp;- make new friends, lose old ones, and if/when you do meet a loved one from a previous life, it is a very special and joyous occassion. Having it happen all the time, though, would take away from that transient joy. Besides - you don't need to meet someone again to know they're still out there, living new lives or ascended to a better place.
      I wish there was a different belief system, but the only one is Dar and he seems to be evil.

      I'm not trying to be argumentative or angry, it's just these things really bother me and I wanted to know if they were as bad as I read. &nbsp;As it is, it's pushed me away from this game.
      I also have my own interpretation of Dar that makes him more morally ambiguous, while keeping with what seems to be a theme of downplaying the value of individual lives. (The journeys the priests go on are essentially attempts to force a The Life of Pi-style life experience.)
      Hmmm, I agree that caste systems causes a lot of grief in real life as in the game world.

      And it may depend on a per-group basis, but I don't think many of us play games to just feel comfortable all the time. Role-playing is often about escaping the boundaries of your comfort zone to experience and do extraordinary things. To open your horizon to new perspectives.

      Becoming an outcaste in Shard might feel bad and force you to confront a lot of terrible situations... but if you portray it with enough realism and emotion, it will provide you with a very good perspective of what real outcasts live their life like, and feel in this world.

      You might try to stay within the law and do as you are told. Sweeping floors and cleaning gutters, hoping for a better life.

      Maybe you will learn of desperation, you will weigh staying lawful against necessity and simply staying alive.
      When the "good folk" berate you for the misdeeds of another life instead of helping you feed your starving family... watch the outlaws stand up for you. Perceive the varying shades of good and evil, the flexibility of moral compasses.
      Steal and murder to survive.
      And when the time comes that you have enough to survive and wish to retire... it may become very hard quit, because they won't let you go...

      Lots of great situations can arise from this.

      I think you can feel free to keep the caste system out of your games and replace it with a less strict system of peasants/merchants/nobility.

      But I think if done right and lit from many different perspectives, it can be a very interesting part of your game.

      Sherbie wrote:

      Hmmm, I agree that caste systems causes a lot of grief in real life as in the game world.

      And it may depend on a per-group basis, but I don't think many of us play games to just feel comfortable all the time. Role-playing is often about escaping the boundaries of your comfort zone to experience and do extraordinary things. To open your horizon to new perspectives.

      Becoming an outcaste in Shard might feel bad and force you to confront a lot of terrible situations... but if you portray it with enough realism and emotion, it will provide you with a very good perspective of what real outcasts live their life like, and feel in this world.

      You might try to stay within the law and do as you are told. Sweeping floors and cleaning gutters, hoping for a better life.

      Maybe you will learn of desperation, you will weigh staying lawful against necessity and simply staying alive.
      When the "good folk" berate you for the misdeeds of another life instead of helping you feed your starving family... watch the outlaws stand up for you. Perceive the varying shades of good and evil, the flexibility of moral compasses.
      Steal and murder to survive.
      And when the time comes that you have enough to survive and wish to retire... it may become very hard quit, because they won't let you go...

      Lots of great situations can arise from this.

      I think you can feel free to keep the caste system out of your games and replace it with a less strict system of peasants/merchants/nobility.

      But I think if done right and lit from many different perspectives, it can be a very interesting part of your game.
      The thing is... with a world with Reincarnation, staying alive isn't a necessity of life. If you die, you just come back to life later. And if your attempts to prolong a miserable existence cause you to be a terrible person, you get to do it all over again but worse next time around. Sure, you won't remember your past lives, but that's why you have divinely-inspired people telling you about them. You can't look back, but you can look forward, knowing that how you act now will affect how you live in the future. Also - there's a reason one of the virtues of the caste system emphasizes treating those of lower caste with dignity and respect - the lifetime of going through such a banal and desperate existence (But critical to the function of society) is punishment enough for one's misdeeds in a past life, and those who disrespect and make the life of the lower castes even harder will find themselves living such a life next time around. Actions have consequences that can't be escaped by simply stopping living.

      But, the views in that post do explain WHY there are so many people that continue to have and live terrible lives.

      When people die in the Caste/reincarnation system, they just reroll a new character.
      I think its possible to reject the notion of caste system as being a good or healthy thing and yet still run an RPG where such a social hierarchy exists. When I used to run the old Chaosium Call of Cthulhu RPG, I made it a point to use the racism and sexism of the historical era as a tool for highlighting how destructive and frustrating discrimination can be. AS a GM you can totally create stories that hammer home how bad a Caste system can be, especially for the under-privileged. Most works of fantasy are rampant with class structuring. Any time you have royalty, you have a class system.

      Western Culture is usually just fine with nobility. We're comfortable with that kind of class separation because for us it happened so long ago that few of us have family stories that relate the problems of Feudal Europe. On the other hand, racism is still something we struggle with and so its more personal. If the horrors of a Caste system are more personal to you, this game presents the opportunity to play with the injustice that can occur. You could even do a long term story line where, for instance, the players are caught up in a plot that shows the Caste system was not introduced because the Mahist Faith of the Devabhánu were instructed by the Devah, but as an overall plot to control and drive society. There is a lot of very awesome story potential when you begin to play with the underpinnings of society.
      I'm of two minds on this but one definitely prevails.

      On one hand (paw?) you can reject the caste system entirely. Ignore it. Excise it out of the setting, chances are it'll all still stand. The game will run fine without focusing on this or that rigid custom.

      Or...

      Embrace it. It's part of the setting. A lot of modern left leaning players chafe under any sort of implicit and/or enforced rules of behavior. We're raised to be narcissistic anarchists and tabletop and video games reinforce these trends.

      What I do is I gently introduce the game to players by highlighting the setting as elegant, exotic, and beautiful structure as opposed to a bunch of stifling restrictions. In my games the highborn can be snobbish, cruel, even sinister in their treatment of their underlings but those are the exceptions not the rule. Borrowing a page from Tekumel/Empire of the Petal Throne, nobles are expected to handle themselves nobly, to act in accordance with their stations: to be compassionate, even-handed, generous. Those who choose to do otherwise are viewed as ignoble by the right minded.

      Now it's very possible for people to reject the setting outright. I had a guy sit down at my table last year and after a very brief description of setting and system he stood up and nervously mumbled Shard didn't seem to be his kind of game. He was looking for D&D. Tolkienesque fantasy is familiar, predictable. Safe. No wonder he freaked out, he bit into a donut expecting jelly and found custard instead!

      Now something to consider is some Dardunah isvarates have very different views on slavery and the caste system. You might want to consider setting your games in those locales.

      My players love the caste system and their associations with their underlings are wonderful exchanges as the highborn function on one level, navigating the perilous halls of power and prestige while the lowborn bow, curtsy, and wallow in the mucky streets brushing elbows with the seedy underbelly. It makes for a wonderfully entertaining contrast.

      Happy gaming!

      >>ReaperWolf

      Shard Emissary