Zaknafriend wrote: ↑Fri Oct 30, 2020 5:25 pm
I disagree. Human are able to work together and thrive in hostile environments once we've exhausted every other choice. Real world histories are littered with the remains of nation states that couldn't get cooperation down. And we have cultures that got to staggering levels of power through the monstrous use of state enforced philosophy/religion and xenophopia.
It doesn't seem you're really disagreeing with me, though. You said it yourself: once they turn against each other, they fall. Once they can't get cooperation down, they fall. Once they get fragmented, they fall. Ultimately, cooperation is what allowed humanity to rise from primitive status into civilization. You don't have to like each other to cooperate, but the start of civilization as we know it coincides with the treatment of a broken femur. In the end, the fact that infighting and fragmentation are a recipe for failure is a recurring principle in all history; it really isn't a matter of opinion. However, this is utterly lacking in the worldbuilding of the drow. They don't face the consequences for their mistakes, which makes them a Mary Sue race. In this sense, Vhaeraun is a good villain; Lolth is a caricature (and a Mary Sue as well, since she too never pays the consequences of her failures and shortcomings).
Now, onto the other point, in order to avoid misunderstandings, when I say "cooperation", I don't mean all humanity working together. I mean groups of people bond by sharing a condition working together. You talk about Xenophobia and state-enforced philosophies as if they disprove that cooperation is the only way for humanity to survive, but the thing is that Xenophobia and strong group-rules are two of the best catalysts for unity. As I said, the reason why humans are social creatures with such a strong tendency to form groups (generally speaking) and condemning the out-groupers (Xenophobia), is exactly this--it's helped them survive. Establishing more and more rules for the group defines the group more strongly, and makes the condemnation of the other more and more savage. Why are racism and other shit like that o hard to eradicate? I won't go as far as saying that this tendency is the only reason, but it surely is one.
That said, eventually--and this is another matter--going overboard with that enforcement fails, and those dictatorships fall. The reason is that enforcing too much makes people miserable and it clashes with their desire for freedom, and... well, people don't like being miserable. They seek change, like I dicussed in my second post. Change is also the heart of any narrative. If you don't have it, either in the form of growth (heroic arc), or in the form of consquences for your refusal to change (tragic arc), then you're not making narrative.
Magic is fundamentally different from technology to use because it's hinges on personal power and experience. Newton wrote down his laws of motion and the whole world world gained. Fleming discovered antibiotics and the whole world was in a better place. These ideas are repeatable by anyone. Magic on the other hand, is developed and controlled by just the caster. It's functionality is dependent on a individual's personal talent and experience. When that caster is gone everything resets. The caster can leave behind notes on how they got to where ever they got to, but someone new still has to start from scratch and.work their way up to where the first caster was.
Magic has rules and methods, especially in FR. You can develop techniques, share them, streamline them to maximize the efficiency and speed at which something is obtained. And I mean, spells being passed on over the ages, methods for creating magic items (which shouldn't be all battle-oriented; in fact, a lot of them should be utility-oriented) being widespread, it all points to magic having a method to it. Magic is indeed the technology of magic worlds. If magic remained with the caster, then it wouldn't even be able to be taught, which we know isn't the case. Interestingly, though, the equivalent of what you're saying (magic breakthrough disappearing with the caster) would be Flaming keeping penicillin to himself, which is exactly what Lolth encourages in the drow (which is another recipe for disaster).
On a side note, unrelatedly to D&D/drow/FR, if you make a power system that has no universal rules and is entirely subjective, that's not even a soft magic system. That's the absence of a magic system. It's poor narrative design, because whenever you're in front of a problem, you can just say "and the problem is solved, because magic did it", since you established no rule re: what magic can and can't do, and how it does that. Even if you want to create conflict, what basis do you have to say what magic can and can do to make it internally consistent (and even more importantly, consistent to the reader, rather than feeling like an asspull?)
Now mix in religion. It's lead to some of humanity's worst acts in the real world. The spider queen offers the only real system to gain magic in codified ways and straight up murders anyone who disagrees. Other gods that have worked their way in are the god of slimes, the spider queen's idiot male servant/son, Lovitar the maiden of pain and everyone's favorite, Shar, the lady of loss. These gods do offer some power for acts of depravity/devotion sacrifices and the like, but even then the grants are usually fleeting in their duration, requiring another act for more power.
I've already addressed (in-depth) the point of religious totalitarianisms and even the threat of death not being nearly enough to justify the worldbuilding of the drow, and the absolute lack of changes, or of consequence to the lack of those changes. Especially in a world where people's mere disillusion can end a deity's life or drain their power anyway. Or for a race that all sources describe as highly intelligent
(lol). This is one of the problems with the worldbuilding of the drow; everything continues to exist "because the author says so". And seriously, we're talking about joke-like levels of stupid and misery here--both emotional and material. Humans have turned whole nations upside down for far less, and multiple times.
But bear with me: when I say this, people often think I'm referring to the fact that the drow being evil is the problem. Nope, I'm referring to conditions of the drow being so miserable and laughable that anyone--evil or not--would want to change them. Evil people, or ambition-driven people, especially when highly intelligent (all things the drow are commonly stated to be) would be even more motivated to change a system that intentionally keeps them down, and makes them miserable, because they're personally affected by it in ways they don't like. But as I said, I've alredy discussed this, in-depth.
Shar and Loviatar don't affect a whole culture or people. They have their own cults, but they are very niche. Those deities can reach the levels of power they do (for Shar), because Faerun is polytheistic, and everyone worships nearly all the gods of their pantheons. It wouldn't be crazy for a grieving mother to pray to Selune for comfort, but also to utter a prayer to Shar to help her turn that loss into strength to enact revenge for her slain child, for example. In fact, Shar approaches people as offering confort to people's pain for losses, in the feeling of emptyness/abandon, or in turning that pain into energy to fight off the world that took whatever they lost away from them. When designing his deities, Ed made sure to make it so that each provided something to the people who turned to them. Lolth, OTOH, offers *nothing* and takes all. She offers "power" to those who can harness it, but *literally* every other deity does, and at least 2 other deities actively reach to the drow in ways that Lolth can't stop. And Lolth's isn't even the only way to gain power--arcane magic is a thing, warlock pacts are a thing, sorcerers are a thing (though this is innate), druidic magic is a thing, etc...
The church of Eilistraee flourishes on the surface, Silverymoon, Dambrath (where it absolutely shouldn't but somehow does), the Moonsea and Waterdeep (the Skullsport area, it thrives because of it's proximity to Waterdeep, though technically underdark)I believe there is one underdark city mentioned in the undmerdark book (3rd Ed) where our bright lady has made some inroads. And that took thousands of years.
This is somewhat unrelated to the point I was making, because it examines something external to the Lolthite society. Anyway, Eilistraee had a whole flourishing nation before Lolth's cult was even a thing on Toril. Which, as I said, should make the rejection of Lolth even easier (not necessairly in favor of Eilistraee, since Vhaeraun had a mighty culture too, and the drow should have remembered of it, especially shortly after the Descent. In fact, the trend was that as soon as Lolth's cult started spreading among Ilythiir's rulers, Ilythiir fell). In the current times, however, Eilistraee's culture is NOT flourishing. Every source still has Eilistraee at like <1% of the drow, which is frankly utter nonsense. Not only because the drow wouldn't just eat Lolth's crap all day long if it wasn't for author bias, but because of a purely logical reason (like I've already explained in my second post).
On one side, you have a "civilization" with mortality rates that are outright stupid (even in times of Lolth-enforced peace, even in a friggin' war, they keep killing each other), and a deity that actively encourages stagnation. On the other side, you have two cultures that, even though they started small (after the Descent) are united, and have all the tools to lower mortality rates to near 0, and care after each other. Guess what would happen over the millennia? Right, the "civilization" would decline, while the other cultures would gain numbers. And that's with *0* converts. Guess what happens in D&D? Nothing. Lolth's numbers constantly stay at >90% of the drow, Eilistraee's constantly stay at <1%. Sorry, but did they stop to think about this from more than a handful of seconds? It's one of the reasons why Ed Greenwood's approach, with Lolth slightly below 50%, is *far* better than this (and I bet that Lolthites aren't as stupid as canon portrays them in Ed's Realms).
Ultimately a game world is set to be just that. A place where a handful of PCs can somehow outwit undead magic lords of unimaginable power who want for nothing and have all to figure out how to defeat those pesky kids and their dog. And the story has to serve that idea. So we get red shirt clad guardsmen from Waterdeep fighting to help us against Orc hordes and drow invasions, all plotted by demon lords and Mindflayers, all of which will just get us back to roughly the status quo.
That isn't true, though. A game world just has to give your campaign a prompt; it shouldn't be designed to pigeonhole you into one type of storyline. It can have a focus on facilitating certain types of storylines, but it should be an aid, not a constriction. That said, declaring "eh, it's simply how this is designed" isn't an excuse for poor narrative. If that's simply how things are designed, then they're designed badly. Which was my point.
Having good worldbuilding instead of something that falls apart as soon as you start asking the most basic of the questions ("why?") doesn't help design a game, it puts an obstacle in front of you. Moreover, having decent worldbuilding wouldn't prevent you from having your "drow are invading" storyline. If the drow weren't monolithical, and had only one faction following Lolth rather than nearly all of them, if that faction wasn't as comical as it is in canon, then you could still have your "the drow are invading" storyline, and maybe it wouldn't even be an "oh look, the drow are invading. Is this that time of the week again?" kind of storyline.