This is a mantra in the sense of being something to meditate on.
In this modern and enlightened age, many of us in roleplaying games attempt to be deliberate to do right, or at least do less harm, in how we play. To many of us, that means doing things like changing what we call races, not giving certain
races species less intelligence, and being sort of cagey about the idea of expanding into unclaimed wilderness as though no one had been there before you. This is not necessarily because to do otherwise is necessarily monstrous, but because anyone who plays a roleplaying game will be doing so in a certain cultural context that might bring up unfortunate or uncomfortable associations.
All of this makes sense. As a rule, people want to avoid topics in games that make them uncomfortable in real life, even if they don't preclude other topics that might be worse in-universe. All of that (and all of the other background I won't get into here) makes sense to me.
What I would like to do is briefly outline a setting that goes against the letter of what is starting to become a standard for games that are kind and comfortable for the players, but that might not provoke discomfort in and of itself. My intent is not to run a game in this setting or to secure permission from my peers to do so, but to meditate on how to run kind games, and to understand how other people think about it.
It is a place like Earth, 50,000 years ago. Humans are slowly applying their creativity and society to mastering their lives. People called neanderthal have had contact with the people we know as normal humans, sometimes friendly and sometimes otherwise. Advanced technology, salvaged and replicated from a crashed spaceship/spelljammer/whatever, has allowed the world to become more connected, with trade caravans and sea routes. The players take on the role of standard humans and/or neanderthals travelling to a new and uninhabited continent, seeking to make a new life in a place no person has gone before.
Points of potential discomfort:
- Neanderthals would have some kind of penalty to intelligence (not confusing this with making them less person-like)
- literally, separate
races species of humans
- settling an (actually, for real) uninhabited continent
My guess is that these might not provoke discomfort in as many people, simply because it exists in a natural premise tweaked towards fantasy. There really was a time when multiple intelligent kinds of people roamed the Earth, and it's pretty possible that one was "smarter" (in whatever way we mean that) than the other. Of course, there was a time when much of the Earth was untouched by human hands. To those who proscribe (or are at least skeptical of) these often-awkward points in games, do you think that this hypothetical setting sets off warning bells? What goes into such considerations for you?