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Old 12-24-2015, 09:20 AM   #1
Pragmatic
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Default [Spoilers?] Blue and Orange Morality: Adapting the Faerie Courts

I've read some of the Feywild material from D&D 4E, and I just finished Dresden Files' Cold Days.

I think it'd be kind of cool to adapt the Faerie Courts to elves, as a way of giving them a different "axis" (instead of the good/evil and law/chaos axes).

I know that the Winter Court are all about predation and survival, which can lead to cruelty, but it's rather a harsh pragmatism. As Titania says, Winter is about rationality.

I'm trying to wrap my mind around how to twist the Summer Court from the good/evil axis to the Blue/Orange axis. I know that, in the books, Summer tends to be more nurturing, wanting things to grow (and not caring whether that's a puppy or the newest super-plague that might wipe out all of humanity). As Titania says, Summer is about emotions.

How can I twist Summer more?
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Old 12-24-2015, 09:35 AM   #2
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Default Re: [Spoilers?] Blue and Orange Morality: Adapting the Faerie Courts

Lots of sources like to start by saying Seelie / Unseelie is not Good / Evil, and then generally fail to deliver. We have a natural bias toward law and summer. Dresden does this, along with lots of other fantasy.

Winter can be rational, cold, and calculating. That also includes "enlightened self-interest". They don't have to be selfish and exploitative. They understand Prisoner's Dilemmas and positive-sum games (a "win-win", where others can benefit as well as their own interests). They can also play the long game, giving up local advantages in the short term for longer-term or larger-scale benefits. Star Trek Vulcans are supposed to be cold and logical, right? But they're not portrayed as evil because of that.

If Winter is so rational, then Summer gets to oppose them by being more chaotic. Rampant and careless growth, not well-tended gardens of beneficial plants, weeds more happily than crops. Half-elves and changelings are most likely offspring of Summer, as they're the ones that will value sex and procreation over the well-being of their partners. That can extend to rape and "Mars Needs Women". Summer is into unleashing, exploring, and enjoying their emotions -- all of them, including greed, jealousy, hatred, and lust. Satisfy your urges now, consequences be damned. They're the ones that will provoke humans just to see what happens. They're the "men that want to watch the world burn".

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Old 12-24-2015, 07:49 PM   #3
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Default Re: [Spoilers?] Blue and Orange Morality: Adapting the Faerie Courts

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Originally Posted by Anaraxes View Post
Lots of sources like to start by saying Seelie / Unseelie is not Good / Evil, and then generally fail to deliver. We have a natural bias toward law and summer. Dresden does this, along with lots of other fantasy.
Butcher is undercutting his own past work with his latest Faerie stuff, IMHO, making precisely this error. As we get closer looks at the Fae, they start to look and act too human.

The problem is that blue/orange morality is almost impossible to interact with for humans without serious conflict, precisely because it is alien, and often leads to the entity following it doing things that the human's morality forces him to see as 'dark/evil' or at least 'intolerable' rather than 'orange/other'.

For ex, from a human POV, using the Dresden Fae, does it matter that Mother Winter likes the taste of the meat from human infants not because she's evil but because she's 'orange/other'? You might say that she's no more evil for doing it than a bear is for eating a baby...but you shoot a bear that does that, too, and a human who failed to shoot a bear to keep it from eating a human baby would be reviled as an evil monster by most, even by those who agreed that the bear was not evil.

If Winter's orange morality requires that they freeze a major city to death...what differences does it make to the White Council whether they are doing so out of malevolence or alien morality? The Wardens still have a city facing destruction and a major emergency on their hands.

For that matter, from the POV of the Wardens trying to save Chicago's people from being frozen to death, what difference is there between the Winter Court doing this out of alien morality or a nutcase human wizard doing so because he's bat**** insane? Either way, they've got a city to save...somehow.

Quote:

Winter can be rational, cold, and calculating. That also includes "enlightened self-interest". They don't have to be selfish and exploitative. They understand Prisoner's Dilemmas and positive-sum games (a "win-win", where others can benefit as well as their own interests). They can also play the long game, giving up local advantages in the short term for longer-term or larger-scale benefits. Star Trek Vulcans are supposed to be cold and logical, right? But they're not portrayed as evil because of that.
But note that the Vulcans don't follow blue/grey morality, but rather a very austere and ascetic version of traditional black/white morals recognizable to humans. That's a critical difference.

This was sort of how Butcher tended to portray Winter in the earlier novels, for that matter. When Harry had to interact with the Fae, he often ended up doing best dealing with Mab precisely because it's possible to do rational business with her. If Maeve was Winter as cold caprice, and Mab's monsters are Winter as Appetite, Mab is Winter as Necessary Season and part of the natural cycle.

But up close and personal, that's hard to portray because of the conflict I mentioned above. For the protagonist to interact with the Fae much, the author has to humanize them. Otherwise, it's hard to even have coherent communications with them.

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If Winter is so rational, then Summer gets to oppose them by being more chaotic. Rampant and careless growth, not well-tended gardens of beneficial plants, weeds more happily than crops. Half-elves and changelings are most likely offspring of Summer, as they're the ones that will value sex and procreation over the well-being of their partners. That can extend to rape and "Mars Needs Women". Summer is into unleashing, exploring, and enjoying their emotions -- all of them, including greed, jealousy, hatred, and lust. Satisfy your urges now, consequences be damned. They're the ones that will provoke humans just to see what happens. They're the "men that want to watch the world burn".
But again, to interact with them very much in any readable or gameable way, it's hard to avoid having to humanize them. Otherwise, from a human POV, it's not a lot different than interacting with a bat**** crazy human, only with superpowers.
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Old 12-24-2015, 08:23 PM   #4
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Default Re: [Spoilers?] Blue and Orange Morality: Adapting the Faerie Courts

The difference begins to show when you consider more than one event that humans are judging good or evil. Certainly, humans will see all these events through the filter of their own morality. But that doesn't mean that the fae actually have that morality. Nor does it mean that they're acting randomly or in insane fashion. Humans might think that -- and simply be wrong if they see it as random -- as long as the fae have some consistent code of their own.

To get a blue/orange axis, the GM is going to have mix and match things that humans consider good and evil on each side. A human observer that sees Winter Event A (eating babies, say), then decides "okay, Winter is evil", then becomes confused when Winter Event B doesn't fit with that assumption. If the human can't figure out what actually motivates the fae, he might well throw up his hands and declare that it's all random. But as long as the GM knows what the code it, that's okay. The idea is to make them seem alien, after all.

I agree they'll have to be somewhat relatable to humans if for no other reason than the GM is human* and has to understand why they act the way they do; and the other players are also human -- though they can remain a good bit more befuddled and still enjoy a coherent narrative. A truly alien psyche wouldn't be comprehensible at all, more or less by definition.

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Old 02-24-2016, 04:42 PM   #5
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Default Re: [Spoilers?] Blue and Orange Morality: Adapting the Faerie Courts

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Originally Posted by Anaraxes View Post
The difference begins to show when you consider more than one event that humans are judging good or evil. Certainly, humans will see all these events through the filter of their own morality. But that doesn't mean that the fae actually have that morality. Nor does it mean that they're acting randomly or in insane fashion. Humans might think that -- and simply be wrong if they see it as random -- as long as the fae have some consistent code of their own.

To get a blue/orange axis, the GM is going to have mix and match things that humans consider good and evil on each side. A human observer that sees Winter Event A (eating babies, say), then decides "okay, Winter is evil", then becomes confused when Winter Event B doesn't fit with that assumption. If the human can't figure out what actually motivates the fae, he might well throw up his hands and declare that it's all random.
Which reaction actually fits with the original mythology of the Fae from Medieval times and before. The general thrust of the stories was that the Fae were, at best, dangerously unpredictable. The one who's been working with you all along, keeping his promises, and so on, might suddenly do something so horrific you can't even imagine it. The enemy Fae monster you've been struggling to overcome or escape might suddenly implode or run away because of some trivial little thing you never imagined. Even their idea of a benefit might be a negative to a human.

Maybe they thought Rip van Winkle looked like he needed some rest...

The upshot of those stories was that the Fae were other, unpredictable at best, and best avoided. Contact between humans and Fae was seen as more likely to end badly than not for the human. (The Fae might even look at it the same way from the blue/orange perspective, but that's their issue.)
That was seen as true even aside from the possibility that one put one's soul in danger by trafficking with them.

(If Mother Winter is about to eat an infant, and that's just fine according to blue/orange morality, does that relieve a human with the power to stop her from his moral duty to stop her? Even if he grasps the principle of blue/orange morality? Is blue/orange morality not immoral, if it permits Mother Winter to eat children?)

The Fae are alien.

Butcher's earlier work touches on this when he has Bob tell Harry that the best way to approach the Sidhe is to not get mixed up with them at all. It was already too late by then, though.

Quote:

But as long as the GM knows what the code it, that's okay. The idea is to make them seem alien, after all.

I agree they'll have to be somewhat relatable to humans if for no other reason than the GM is human* and has to understand why they act the way they do; and the other players are also human --
There's also the problem that the players are human, and if are playing humans in character, have to look at things through the human lens. (Really, they can't do anything else no matter what they're playing.)

I've never really seen a convincing portrayal of close-up, personal interaction between humans and genuinely alien aliens, in either SF or fantasy, that didn't end up humanizing the aliens to make it work. Doc Smith's space operas actually came closer than most, but he couldn't avoid the problem either.

Butcher tries to avoid it, but I note that in recent work with a lot of up close Fae interaction, they're getting more and more humanized. For ex, after a narrow encounter with Mother Winter, Harry hears from Mother Summer that this is partly an act, that Mother Winter does care about others, down deep.

Sorry, but that's precisely the sort of thing that turns the Sidhe into humans with superpowers. Ditto Mab's apparent grief over Maeve, and maternal affection for Sarissa. After having been Winter Queen for so long, she simply shouldn't think that way, especially not given the way we're told those magic power mantles work.

But...if Mother Winter really is an alien who eats babies, without regard for human feelings or needs...if Mab is icily indifferent to the fates of her offspring...it becomes hard for them to fill any role but villains or natural obstacles to be overcome in a story about a human protagonist. If Harry is willing to work with them, to accept them as OK, under those conditions, then he starts to seem cold and inhuman and alien.

I don't know that this problem has a solution in fiction/gaming.

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Old 02-25-2016, 09:16 AM   #6
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Default Re: [Spoilers?] Blue and Orange Morality: Adapting the Faerie Courts

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Originally Posted by Pragmatic View Post
I'm trying to wrap my mind around how to twist the Summer Court from the good/evil axis to the Blue/Orange axis. I know that, in the books, Summer tends to be more nurturing, wanting things to grow (and not caring whether that's a puppy or the newest super-plague that might wipe out all of humanity). As Titania says, Summer is about emotions.

How can I twist Summer more?
Summer is irrational - recall when Harry requests Titania's help against Nemesis and, despite it being the right thing to do by every measure she refuses because Harry killed her daughter and she hates him.
Winter is cruel but rational - not for nothing was it Mab who was called upon to write the unseelie accords - Summer's appetites are unconstrained and that is why it is dangerous.

The queens of the courts seem to be unusual amongst the fae in having once been human - and that leftover humanity would appear to be a handicap to them. Whether the kings are the same or not is open to question - the knights definitely are still human (?is there a third, balancing male archetype in each court as well?).
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Old 02-25-2016, 09:39 AM   #7
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Default Re: [Spoilers?] Blue and Orange Morality: Adapting the Faerie Courts

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Originally Posted by Johnny1A.2 View Post
Butcher is undercutting his own past work with his latest Faerie stuff, IMHO, making precisely this error. As we get closer looks at the Fae, they start to look and act too human.
[...]
If Winter's orange morality requires that they freeze a major city to death...what differences does it make to the White Council whether they are doing so out of malevolence or alien morality? The Wardens still have a city facing destruction and a major emergency on their hands.

For that matter, from the POV of the Wardens trying to save Chicago's people from being frozen to death, what difference is there between the Winter Court doing this out of alien morality or a nutcase human wizard doing so because he's bat**** insane? Either way, they've got a city to save...somehow.
The difference lies in that the Winter Court has rules of conduct, alien and intolerable as humans might find them, and can usefully be negotiated with.

Insane humans who attack others with lethal weapons cannot reasonably be opposed by maneuevering them to agree to a treaty not to do so. The Winter Court, however, will abide by treaties and their motivations, while strange, are internally consistent.

The Wardens cannot realistically kill all faeries that do morally repugnant things by human standards. They can't treat them as wild animals, because the Wardens ultimately do not have the power to destroy Mother Winter or any other similar being. No matter what they might morally believe, their only rational course of action is to learn the rules of the faerie Blue and Orange morality and use those rules to negotiate.

That is what makes Blue and Orange morality on the part of vastly powerful aliens a useful fictional device. It forces the hero(es) to compromise and/or into actions that they regard as evil, if only as lesser evils.
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Old 02-25-2016, 09:51 AM   #8
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Default Re: [Spoilers?] Blue and Orange Morality: Adapting the Faerie Courts

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Originally Posted by Johnny1A.2 View Post
Butcher is undercutting his own past work with his latest Faerie stuff, IMHO, making precisely this error. As we get closer looks at the Fae, they start to look and act too human.

The problem is that blue/orange morality is almost impossible to interact with for humans without serious conflict, precisely because it is alien, and often leads to the entity following it doing things that the human's morality forces him to see as 'dark/evil' or at least 'intolerable' rather than 'orange/other'.

For ex, from a human POV, using the Dresden Fae, does it matter that Mother Winter likes the taste of the meat from human infants not because she's evil but because she's 'orange/other'? You might say that she's no more evil for doing it than a bear is for eating a baby...but you shoot a bear that does that, too, and a human who failed to shoot a bear to keep it from eating a human baby would be reviled as an evil monster by most, even by those who agreed that the bear was not evil.

If Winter's orange morality requires that they freeze a major city to death...what differences does it make to the White Council whether they are doing so out of malevolence or alien morality? The Wardens still have a city facing destruction and a major emergency on their hands.

For that matter, from the POV of the Wardens trying to save Chicago's people from being frozen to death, what difference is there between the Winter Court doing this out of alien morality or a nutcase human wizard doing so because he's bat**** insane? Either way, they've got a city to save...somehow.



But note that the Vulcans don't follow blue/grey morality, but rather a very austere and ascetic version of traditional black/white morals recognizable to humans. That's a critical difference.

This was sort of how Butcher tended to portray Winter in the earlier novels, for that matter. When Harry had to interact with the Fae, he often ended up doing best dealing with Mab precisely because it's possible to do rational business with her. If Maeve was Winter as cold caprice, and Mab's monsters are Winter as Appetite, Mab is Winter as Necessary Season and part of the natural cycle.

But up close and personal, that's hard to portray because of the conflict I mentioned above. For the protagonist to interact with the Fae much, the author has to humanize them. Otherwise, it's hard to even have coherent communications with them.



But again, to interact with them very much in any readable or gameable way, it's hard to avoid having to humanize them. Otherwise, from a human POV, it's not a lot different than interacting with a bat**** crazy human, only with superpowers.
Some of the things that fay do sound not much different from what humans do for that matter. Putting curses on people for going in their forests? Well people go a long way to keep enemies out of their patrimony, including mass slaughter. Kidnapping babies to increase their population-the Iroquois did exactly that. For the matter the excuse for baby-napping the fairies give in Stolen Child sounds suspiciously like the one always given by slavers(for the world's more full of weeping then you can understand). When fae take a human lover they are torn between their new family and their own, just like humans.
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Old 02-25-2016, 03:38 PM   #9
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Default Re: [Spoilers?] Blue and Orange Morality: Adapting the Faerie Courts

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How can I twist Summer more?
As people have said, focus on the capricious nature of Summer and the lack of long term planning or empathy. Make Summer behave much like a toddler granted unlimited power to indulge her whims: she gets what she wants whether or not anyone else wants it.

I keep thinking of the Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair from "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell": he wants Stephen Black to become King of England, and he works toward this goal, despite the fact that Stephen doesn't want to be King and cannot possibly be crowned King (not being the line of succession and being the wrong ethnicity and all that). And it's clear that if the Gentleman gets distracted, he could go from loving and support Stephen to casually murdering him in the pursuit of some other goal.

That's a bad "growth" faerie for you: wants what it wants right now, will do whatever is necessary to get what it wants, and will change its goals at the drop of a hat.
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Old 02-26-2016, 10:16 PM   #10
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Default Re: [Spoilers?] Blue and Orange Morality: Adapting the Faerie Courts

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The difference lies in that the Winter Court has rules of conduct, alien and intolerable as humans might find them, and can usefully be negotiated with.

Insane humans who attack others with lethal weapons cannot reasonably be opposed by maneuevering them to agree to a treaty not to do so. The Winter Court, however, will abide by treaties and their motivations, while strange, are internally consistent.

The Wardens cannot realistically kill all faeries that do morally repugnant things by human standards. They can't treat them as wild animals, because the Wardens ultimately do not have the power to destroy Mother Winter or any other similar being. No matter what they might morally believe, their only rational course of action is to learn the rules of the faerie Blue and Orange morality and use those rules to negotiate.

That is what makes Blue and Orange morality on the part of vastly powerful aliens a useful fictional device. It forces the hero(es) to compromise and/or into actions that they regard as evil, if only as lesser evils.
Agreed. It works quite well from the POV of a story about the Wardens trying to save Kansas City (or wherever) from whatever nastiness Winter or Summer has in store. It works fine with the Fae as aliens, sapient natural forces, like living storms or the like. I could easily imagine a good story set in Butcher's universe (to continue using it as an example) about a Warden striving desperately to figure out some angle that would let him turn the Fae Law to his advantage to save the city.

It works when the human POV character is 'outside' the Fae, or the Fae are outside his reference frame, more or less.

Where is breaks down is when the story is 'up close and personal', when Fae and human characters are closely interacting as people over the course of a game or a story. Then it starts to break down in the way we've seen in Butcher's latest works. Here is where the inherent moral conflicts become unworkable and either have to be dodged or somehow evaded.

For ex, since we're using the Dresden Files as our example text, Harry is now the Winter Knight. He has a variety of duties, which he's still learning, but one of them is that he's Mab's hatchet man. Harry did extract a promise from her that she would never command him to slay a loved one. That's worth something. Further, as she herself says, she doesn't kill indiscriminately.

(Titania might actually be more likely to order her Knight to kill someone because she didn't like the color of her pantyhose, moreso than Mab. Caprice vs. rationality.)

But at the same time, it would be totally in-character for Mab to order Harry to kill someone because that someone was inconvenient, knew too much, whatever. As long as it was a stranger, Mab's promise doesn't kick in.

That someone might be a woman or a small child, or group of such, it wouldn't faze Mab (or at least it wouldn't as she's been written up until lately).

But Harry? That's another matter. So far, Butcher has avoided the issue by not having it come up. He had to kill the former Winter Knight, yes...but that was not an innocent and further could arguably be called a mercy.

I'm sure Butcher probably has some plan for just such a moment, but it's still an example of the issue. When a human is among the Fae, when he's on their team, so to speak...the blue/orange/black/white dichotomy suddenly has to be addressed, and it has no good solution that I've seen.

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Summer is irrational - recall when Harry requests Titania's help against Nemesis and, despite it being the right thing to do by every measure she refuses because Harry killed her daughter and she hates him.
Winter is cruel but rational - not for nothing was it Mab who was called upon to write the unseelie accords - Summer's appetites are unconstrained and that is why it is dangerous.
Yes. Bob even mentions that point in the early Fae story, Summer Knight, trying to get Harry to grasp that what serves the interests of humans is that the Courts stay in balance. He notes that Summer would encourage the growth of ebola as readily as kittens and daisies. Winter can restrain disease, conversely. Human interests are harmed if either Court gets the upper hand.

It's equally plausible that Rumpelstiltskin was Winter or Summer. He could have fit into either Court.

In the same story where he meets Titania, Harry dares to summon Mother Winter (and that's a pretty daring thing for a mortal to do in that world), and the subsequent encounter is a wonderful bit of Fae-human interaction. It could be right out of Medieval legend, from Mother Winter nearly killing him with a thrown cleaver to the reference to the taste of baby's marrow and the threat to make a meal of Harry.

But then...Mother Summer shows up, and the subsequent sequence is weak. She acts too human. She reveals that Mother Winter talks a good game, but cares underneath. Etc. The alien coldness of Mother Winter and the wild caprice of Titania are undercut by this sequence. The Mother Winter of the encounter in the cottage is Winter Fae. The Mother Winter described by Mother Summer is more like a human in a costume, or so ISTM.

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The queens of the courts seem to be unusual amongst the fae in having once been human - and that leftover humanity would appear to be a handicap to them.
But there shouldn't be any leftover humanity in them, not after the passage of thousands of years as Faerie Queens. The magic should have devoured that long since. (We don't know just how old Mab and Titania are, but IIRC Titania mentioned that they were alive in 1066.)

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