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Old 10-24-2018, 02:51 PM   #41
Andrew Hackard
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Default Re: Killing Slavers

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Originally Posted by Plane View Post
The treatment of people who are presently incarcerated (or a woman unable to divorce in societies where they are treated like property of husband) also begs the question of the difference between being "property in name" v "property in function". Whether or not you are technically considered property, when your freedoms/movements are restricted (as is done to prisoners) deservedly or not, the line between free/slave can become blurry.

That prisoners/wives have "rights" wouldn't really be a dividing line, because societies like Rome also passed laws protecting slaves from certain things, effectively giving them rights. Claudius gave freedom to abandoned slaves, Nero gave them the right to file complaints against masters in court, Antoninus Pious made it criminal for masters to kill slaves without just cause, Constantine freed slaves whose masters mutilated them, and Constantius II made genitally mutilating slaves a capital offense. So it's more like the lack of specific rights which would define them, such as right to choose where to live, which prisoners clearly also lack
Comparisons between prison and slavery are going to go off the rails VERY quickly, if experience is any guide, so I'm ruling this line of thinking off-topic.
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Old 10-24-2018, 03:14 PM   #42
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Default Re: Killing Slavers

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It is best if it looks like an unsolvable dilemma at first, so they can feel good about finding the morally satisfying 'third option,' but that is an illusion just as much as the combat being realistically dangerous is an illusion. It also works as a build up - working with someone who sticks you in morally ambiguous situations for a while is a great build up for a situation where the PCs turn on that person and win a victory for 'good.'

Not calling hurting wrong fun here or anything - play your games the way that works for you! Heck, that kind of game usually works for me (as a player, gm, or media consumer). But in my experience unresolvable moral ambiguity does not make my gaming group happy.

I love giving players moral dilemmas, but they shouldn't be unresolvable. Your players should feel empowered, not trapped. If you present them with choices that feel like they lost either way, they're going to get weary of constantly "loosing".



I find the best "Moral Dilemmas" are good role playing moments. They give the players a chance to examine their character's motives and choose a side. They shape a character's outlook rather than punishing them. Does that make them less of a dilemma? maybe. But I think the term is pretty close to these sort of decisions.
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Old 10-24-2018, 03:49 PM   #43
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Honestly I suspect most slave owners are no worse than most employers. Maybe better - it's not like slaves can't take the starve option in the choice between work or starve too, they're just "lucky" enough to have somebody who thinks their labor is valuable enough to try to stop them.
A principal difference here is that a free man has, at least in theory, the ability to leave a job he dislikes to get a different one. This may actually be an outright different job, or it may be essentially the same job, but with a different employer. A free man also has more control over what his wages are spent on - a slave must accept whatever clothing, food, and shelter his master provides, while a free man may be able to occasionally splurge on higher-quality goods (or at least vary things up within the current category). Additionally, the slave is typically "paid" less than a free man (otherwise, why not just hire somebody?), and also benefits from less of his payment, as some of it typically needs to go toward preventing him from escaping. Even in settings where slaves actually earn a wage, it combined with what their masters provide will essentially always be less than what a free man would earn working the same job. If this isn't the case, slavery will rapidly fall out of favor for being economically unfeasible.

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The fact is that in a lot of societies the list of rights "free" wives have that slave concubines don't is pretty slim, and the only real alternative to slavery for male criminals or defeated enemies is death.
Yes, in many settings (fictionally and historically), second-class citizens don't have things a lot better than slaves. There are alternatives to slavery for criminals and conquered foes, such as incarceration, exile, or vows not to take up arms again. You may also be able to convince them to work for the State instead, although I'll admit that can be dangerously close to slavery.
EDIT: Also, don't forget good old corporal punishment. A day in the stocks, some lashings, etc are traditional punishments for those who's crimes don't warrant death.

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Modern economies generate huge surpluses and allow amazing levels of labor mobility and yet poor women with no real skills or ex-convicts still often have to do things that are not a whole lot better than slavery.
There are plenty of minimum-wage (or just above) jobs that unskilled individuals of either sex, as well as ex-cons, can work, and they are not forced to work any particular one. And, of course, the issue with slavery isn't so much the work the slaves did - many did the same work as free men/women - it's that they are forced to do such work, without any real choice in the matter.

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I'm not sure slavery is objectively all that much worse a method of structuring social relationships than a lot of the systems we still use.
I can certainly envision slavery systems that, while not necessarily good, certainly aren't innately evil. The version used in my DF setting would be an example. The evil really comes into play when people twist and abuse the system.
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Old 10-24-2018, 04:20 PM   #44
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A principal difference here is that a free man has, at least in theory, the ability to leave a job he dislikes to get a different one. This may actually be an outright different job, or it may be essentially the same job, but with a different employer.
This is the point I was making about labor mobility. In many economies this is impossible because there simply are no wage jobs. In the very common case where most of the economy is subsistence agriculture, if nobody other than your owner has any open land, there are no jobs to change to even if you were free. It's a less valuable right that you might think it is because of that. Many serfs actually *did* have the "right of departure". It didn't make them particularly free.

And parenthetically, much as many people like to pretend otherwise for political reasons, isn't the case that there are plenty of minimum wage jobs open to anybody even now, certainly not where the people needing them live (and minimum wage employers certainly aren't going to pay for you to relocate!) and *particularly* not for those ex-convicts. There's a reason that question is on pretty much every job application you've ever put it in you know.
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Old 10-24-2018, 05:09 PM   #45
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This is the point I was making about labor mobility. In many economies this is impossible because there simply are no wage jobs. In the very common case where most of the economy is subsistence agriculture, if nobody other than your owner has any open land, there are no jobs to change to even if you were free.
It's not strictly necessary to have wage jobs, just an alternative that provides food and shelter. Of course, the alternatives were generally worse than staying.
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Old 10-24-2018, 05:51 PM   #46
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This is the point I was making about labor mobility. In many economies this is impossible because there simply are no wage jobs. In the very common case where most of the economy is subsistence agriculture, if nobody other than your owner has any open land, there are no jobs to change to even if you were free. It's a less valuable right that you might think it is because of that. Many serfs actually *did* have the "right of departure". It didn't make them particularly free.
Years ago I read an anthropological work that said, in effect, "free land, free labor, farm rent: choose two."
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Old 10-24-2018, 06:05 PM   #47
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Default Re: Killing Slavers

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Originally Posted by Plane View Post
The treatment of people who are presently incarcerated (or a woman unable to divorce in societies where they are treated like property of husband) also begs the question of the difference between being "property in name" v "property in function". Whether or not you are technically considered property, when your freedoms/movements are restricted (as is done to prisoners) deservedly or not, the line between free/slave can become blurry.

That prisoners/wives have "rights" wouldn't really be a dividing line, because societies like Rome also passed laws protecting slaves from certain things, effectively giving them rights. Claudius gave freedom to abandoned slaves, Nero gave them the right to file complaints against masters in court, Antoninus Pious made it criminal for masters to kill slaves without just cause, Constantine freed slaves whose masters mutilated them, and Constantius II made genitally mutilating slaves a capital offense. So it's more like the lack of specific rights which would define them, such as right to choose where to live, which prisoners clearly also lack
One could also say that a slave is defined by the lack of a right to HIT BACK. If someone assaults a freeman he is guilty of assault in a civil society and starts a feud, a duel, or a brawl in a less well organized one. Assaulting a slave requires compensation to the owner, because the slave cannot be wronged.

One notable point in English law is when Alfred declared the King the avenger of any travellers in his realm. Presumably before every patriarch avenged locals but travelers were either guys-with-swords or slaves who had not been captured yet.

I remember that brought home in Wouk's duology. In the beginning Slote was able to tell the SS officer effectively, "What the heck is it your business whether or not we have Jews in our diplomatic convoy under the flag of a nation that has a big bad navy and a bigger badder industrial complex? At Auschwitz at the end, Jews if they survived, were SLAVES. And worse off slaves then most. They had no strength to hit back on their own and no one had anyone to hit back for them.
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Old 10-24-2018, 06:16 PM   #48
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Default Re: Killing Slavers

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Originally Posted by Varyon View Post

Yes, in many settings (fictionally and historically), second-class citizens don't have things a lot better than slaves. There are alternatives to slavery for criminals and conquered foes, such as incarceration, exile, or vows not to take up arms again. You may also be able to convince them to work for the State instead, although I'll admit that can be dangerously close to slavery.
EDIT: Also, don't forget good old corporal punishment. A day in the stocks, some lashings, etc are traditional punishments for those who's crimes don't warrant death.
.
The thing about slavery is when it originated it was a choice between enslaving your captives and eating them. There wasn't enough spare resources to incarcerate large numbers of captives, exile would just send them back to your border to continue the fight against you and vows not to take up arms again simply couldn't be trusted. Unfortunately once you have a large number of enslaved battle captives you have an economic incentive to ensure that you will have replacements. Not only will it be standard for children to inherit the social status of their parents, but you may find yourself driven to fight wars for no other reason than to replenish and expand your slave population. But eating your captives...well that works out even worse.

I recall a discussion about Lawful Good and how it intersects with slavery. In D&D the simple answer was to make the Lawfuls who were encultured into a slave society as either LE or LN. But I argued even in such a society there would be some LGs doing their best to convince their fellows to be kind to their slaves but not rebelling and yeah I got some negative feedback but I still think it's a reasonable interpretation. The same applies to the Honest Charitable/CHI people in GURPS who are native to slaveholding civilizations...which is every real civilization prior to the fall of the Roman Empire. They try to help the slaves when they can, but they don't rebel against the system to do it. They pull a Paul the Apostle.

https://www.gty.org/library/bibleqna...ul-and-slavery

But yeah, you basically have to poll your players for any kneejerk reactions they may have to slavery before using it in a game if you don't want to make it about overthrowing the social system or fighting the evil slavers over there as opposed to our anachronistically virtuous lot.
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Old 10-24-2018, 07:21 PM   #49
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Default Re: Killing Slavers

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Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
I love giving players moral dilemmas, but they shouldn't be unresolvable. Your players should feel empowered, not trapped. If you present them with choices that feel like they lost either way, they're going to get weary of constantly "loosing".
I find they also get tired of all that winning. So I like to present challenges with no morally "easy out". Or (as is most often the case), with no pre-scripted methods of dealing with it.

If they 'win'* but with a cost, that's usually the 'best' outcome in terms of Player enjoyment. Rather than 'easy moral decision'.


* Whatever winning looks like in that context.

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I find the best "Moral Dilemmas" are good role playing moments. They give the players a chance to examine their character's motives and choose a side. They shape a character's outlook rather than punishing them.
I would like to point out that "cost for making the decision or choosing the side" is a different beast than "punishment" even if other people will see it that way.
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Old 10-24-2018, 07:32 PM   #50
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I love giving players moral dilemmas, but they shouldn't be unresolvable. Your players should feel empowered, not trapped. If you present them with choices that feel like they lost either way, they're going to get weary of constantly "loosing".
A moral dilemma doesn't require two bad choices, just two flawed choices. I agree that "the PCs can't win" is problematic, but having partial victories is fine.
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