5 comments on “Celebrating Subjugation: The Maztican Tragedy

  1. I’d given Maztica a pass, largely because it looked (covers and backcovers) too much like a generic South America history setting with the numbers filed off. Same thing for the Mystara norse settings, and the like.

    But this is terrifying; tempted to pick up PDF copies to take a look at this.

  2. I agree with you in basically all areas except that the Forgotten Realms and Dungeons and Dragons is a Medieval Europe fantasy setting, so of course Asian-themed and other culture-themed settings are going to get the sideline. Other than that, not saying that what the attackers of Maztica is wrong is pretty bad. But, heroes in fantasy settings don’t always have to be good in our modern sense, just because the heroes in a fantasy world believe in evil principles, doesn’t mean the creator believes in those principles. For example, my world is a little sexist, and human sacrifice is considered good in my world. Do I believe that being sexist and doing human sacrifice is good? No. But the people in my world do. Also, Aztecs weren’t actually very nice with their human sacrifice and all, not that I don’t think the spanish conquest was good, just that it wasn’t all black and white. So, as I have said before though, other than what I just said, I agree with you totally and wholly.

    • I disagree that the Forgotten Realms is fundamentally a “medieval European” setting for two reasons. First and foremost, as seen in the development notes by Ed Greenwood, explicitly non-European cultures were included from the very beginning; however they would not see the significant investment of effort that the European derived areas would. The other reason can be read over at Public Medievalist’s site, in their long, well researched series on race, racism, and the middle ages; where they explode the myths about medieval Europe. If the setting something like Birthright, I’d concede you had a solid point, but not in this case.

      As to hero’s… Well, that really opens up can of worms as to what can be considered heroic. Again, I disagree; because fantasy gaming like D&D is not relative to IRL history morality wise; it is very much locked into our modern senses of right and wrong/good and evil. This was particularly true of 2e AD&D, where making the game “Mom Friendly” and heroic in the wake of the Satanic Panic and anti-D&D movements of the 80’s was a key point in the edition’s development. Which makes the “heroes” who feed slaves to dogs acceptable only in the light that the writers felt the enslaved Mazticans weren’t human enough to warrant their colonial masters having evil alignments.

      Maztica was short-shifted on every front, and is a great example of how trying to get something “right” (by referencing real world history) can go horribly wrong in a fantasy setting. There’s nothing heroic about the Maztican conquest. It’s literally an enslaved region where the writers decided, against the then growing heroic mode of the game, that it was fine. There’s no resistance, no nothing. It’s actually such a bland setting that there’s not even a significant monster update or theme; even the fact that it has an actual monster nation (populated by Mazticans who were transformed into orcs, trolls, ogres and so on) was downplayed to a great extent. All that said, it in no way makes up for a repainted conquest as a good thing, or the boring historical, non-fantastical re-creations of Aztecs and Mayans that were plunked down into it.

  3. You make very good points! You’ve convinced me with your first point… and your second point… and your third paragraph. Though it is true, that even if the Forgotten Realms is just European, most of people who were playing the game were, and so therefore they connected to the European places more, and since there was interest there, those places grew. Also, though the Forgotten Realms might not be just a Medieval setting, Dungeons and Dragons is fundamentally a Medieval roleplaying game, so in settings that aren’t just European-inspired, the European element of the world will be developed more. Fantasy in general is fundamentally European, which of course, one could say that that in itself is a little bit racist, but really most fantasy grew out of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Robert E. Howard, etc. and those authors’ fantasy worlds are Medieval. For your two second points, it is also true that a lot of people find low fantasy gaming fun, especially with historical elements (I like low fantasy a lot!), if the Maztica world didn’t have a lot of magic, they could’ve just been trying to appeal to the low fantasy gamers. Really, I don’t know much about Maztica itself, and I haven’t read much about it, so I can’t really say anything. I also don’t know much about the Spanish conquest, but weren’t the Aztecs themselves not very nice either? Conquering different places and then using the people from those places to sacrifice to their gods with tearing out their hearts and such… that’s pretty evil! I’m not trying to justify the Spanish conquest at all (which I know little about, as I have said before), but I just think that the Aztecs did some evil things as well.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love non-European settings very much – I’m trying to learn Arabic, I want to learn Farsi from my friend’s mother, and I want to learn some Indian languages as well – Hindi, Sanskrit, and Urdu. I also very much want to read Al Quran, and read the Bahai religion book (I forgot what it was called! I just remember that the first word was “kitab” which is book in Arabic) since one of my friends is Bahai. My world is very much based on Islam, Arabian history, Mesopotamia, The Thousand and One Nights, and it’s also influenced a lot by the Aztec, Maya, Inca, and Toltec. And there’s some North American influences in my world. Though my world is influenced by all those cultures though, I’m also putting in some European influences (one of the main gods is named Nwadach, which comes from Nuada in Celtic mythology, also, they use European castles with kabala of the Round Table!) But it’s essentially, at its core, an Middle Eastern setting.

    Anyway, you’ve basically convinced me with your last post.

    !أنا بخير
    (“I am great” in Arabic, I could write the first word: أنا with ease, but the second word there I couldn’t really write by myself; I used Google Translate for that so I hope it’s right!). I wish I could write my script for my conlang on the computer, because then it’d be cool to type the script into the computer. But, alas, I don’t know enough about a computer to do that sort of stuff, especially since I made it harder since I made my script a cursive script with several forms for each letter like the Arabic script!

    Also, if you yourself like non-European settings, if you don’t already know the setting, you should try the world called Tékumel, it might have confusing words, but there was so much effort behind the setting that it’s a shame that so many people dislike it or avoid it just because it’s different and strange and has confusing words and has so much detail it’s hard to GM. All those points just make it more interesting to play, not less interesting! I mean, confusing words wouldn’t make it less interesting to play in the world, but rather more interesting, right?

    Anyway, keep on going with your blog when you can – I like it (I found it through the Dragon Talk podcast).

    • Just as a small point: The whole sacrifice deal concerning the Aztecs (to be more correct, the Mexica) is way more of a nuanced situation than people are typically taught. To call it “evil” is to reduce it…

      What you have to understand is that “sacrifice” as a concept was considered wholly sacred, and that people “sacrificed” all manner of things to the deities and spirits. Food, property, precious items, animals, plants, nonfatal self-bloodletting, vices, you name it.

      And it was seen as virtuous and necessary. The Aztecs had a particularly bloody reputation, but every society in the region had spiritual beliefs that demanded some amount of human lives to be sacrificed at least occasionally.

      Hell—many aristocratic people openly volunteered to be killed in the name of a given god. To be sacrificed to an important god on an auspicious day was a sign of high class. Famous top athletes of the day actively competed for the right and honor to be sacrificed.

      What the Aztecs did differently from their neighbors was use sacred sacrifice as a brutal tool of control. They had a god unique to them (Huitzilopochtli) who their most high-ranking priests communicated was literally fueled by blood, and that if he was not offered copious sacrifice…

      (far, FAR less than the egregiously overexaggerated European accounts, but still more than considered reasonable by other societies of the region)

      …then the world would literally end. Lacking blood, or rather the sacred essence found in blood, Huitzilopochtli and his legions would not have enough strength to fend off the monsters beyond the world, of the heavens, who would consume everything and plunge the world into its 5th apocalypse or so.

      …Paraphrased, but this is a story that people were sold. The lower class Aztec people were only really able to go along with what information people in power fed to them. Other prehispanic societies hated the Aztecs’ guts because they took human sacrifice, a solemn and sacred act, to an extreme for the sake of controlling their neighbors.

      For instance: they would stage “flower wars” where the goal was not to kill, but maim enemy soldiers, to be captured and sacrificed on the altar later. (That the Aztec idea of war was at least in part based around wounding and capture rather than efficient killing was one reason their weapons were not as deadly as those of European make, despite their keen knowledge of metalworking.)

      But the act of sacrifice itself was simply considered a fact of life, not any sort of “bad” thing in and of itself. “Sacrifice in moderation”, so to speak, was generally considered necessary for the good and health of society and the world if you asked any society in the area. Whether that be human lives or otherwise. Mexican attitudes toward death and loss still have shades of this worldview even today.

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