November 12, 2013

TFT - Political Correctness

The Fantasy Trip was a role-playing game that came out in 1980 with the release of In The Labyrinth, the core rule set. It also included Melee (tactical combat) and Wizard (spellcasting), as well as the Advanced versions of them. The game was written by Steve Jackson who later used the system as a base for GURPS. This series of articles is a look at the rules of The Fantasy Trip as seen through modern eyes.

"Where a player's character is concerned, an IQ of 6 represents a moron."
This is a quote from In the Labyrinth, under the Intelligence section. When I first read it I was surprised. It was the first time I had seen such a term used in an rpg before. At first glance my thought was that they had deliberately put this in to sound "hip" or to elicit some sort of shock value from it.

RPGs are written for a mass audience, even if that audience is a small, niche market. Thus the general concept when choosing terminology is that it is better to offend none than to insult some. I can understand this point of view. And really, what advantage is there is using terms that some might find offensive? From a purely economic viewpoint, it is the sensible thing to do.

However, there are two things to remember when looking at TFT.
-First is the fact that it was written in 1980. This was in an age before political correctness became what it is today. In fact, it wasn't until around 1991 that the term became a part of the broad US vernacular. Back in those days you could get away with such terminology.
-Second is the fact that in 1980 "moron" could still be construed as a technical term. "Moron" was once a legitimate psychological term used to describe someone as "dull" (the meaning of the root word "moros") and with an IQ between 51-70. Of course, the term is no longer used in the field of psychology since it began to be used as an insult.

It's interesting to see the change in times and social mores. In it's own way, TFT is a time capsule of 1980 and what a writer could and could not get away with.

What do you think about political correctness in rpgs? Are there some things an rpg should not bring up, certain words or concepts that should not be used?

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