Damnit PFS: Fantastical Slavery

Damnit PFS: Fantastical Slavery


Welcome to ‘Damnit PFS’, the blog series where I look at things that amuse, intrigue, or upset me about the Pathfinder Society Organized Play.

[Caveat: I’m pretty active in terms of writing and attending major events for PFS. This is by no means me saying PFS is a terrible thing. I love it and many of its player base. Instead, this is me picking out some of the select bits that I think could use some discussion, or I just want to rant about.]

Still here? Ok, let’s start the discussion with this thread:  http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2sw2m?Theres-no-way-I-can-actually-buy-a-slave

TLDR—Seriously, it’s basically summed up in the first post with this lovely gem:  “In other words, there’s nothing that says I can’t buy a slave for my PFS character.”

Why? WHY!? Yes, this is a fantasy game and there do exist nations where slaves are a thing. I’ve run games where players have owned slaves as part of their background, but only after total buy-in from the party. In that case, the character honestly forgot about it after a handful of sessions and it was never really spoken of again. The differences here, is that you’re playing in an environment where your groups can change from week to week. While one group of players may not have a problem with your character owning a slave, other players (not characters) could easily be offended at the idea of someone owning a living being.

One of the biggest perks for PFS is that it’s an open organized play, meaning you get the opportunity to play with people from across the world. You can bring your character from one table to another and everyone plays with the same rules. You can move from a game in the U.S. to a game in Europe with no hassle (assuming your paperwork is all proper). One thing PFS is not, is an excuse to be a dick across the world. Owning a slave is a pretty dicey move at the best of times, and just flat out ‘not cool’ when done in the company of people you don’t know. I don’t care about your precious ‘character background’, this is an environment where you’re playing with people you don’t always have the luxury of getting approval from, so the safest solution is to avoid hot topic items altogether.


But this whole discussion goes into another vein of thinking that grinds my gears: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. As evidenced in that quoted line above, when someone brings out the “…there’s nothing that says I can’t…” I want to throttle that person. Rules lawyering to get away with acts like this is just tasteless. Again, I don’t care if you have some amazing 32 page background that describes why your precious slave is so very important to your background.

Read that again: I. Don’t. Care.

Maybe next time, you can pick up a porter to carry your equipment and help you out. Oh wait… you’ll probably just try to re-skin that poor porter into a slave that obeys your every command anyways. Maybe you’ll just have their name written as ‘Boy’ too. *sigh*


-Damnit PFS!

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  • Amen brother!

  • Well then. That escalated quickly.

  • I have always used the simple saying of “its a game of exclusion”. If you have to use the phrase “it doesnt say I cant” then you have already broken the rule.

    There are times where it should be discussed with your GM, but never happen at a PFS table. As I explained to one of the board posters a longtime ago (paraphrased) “You may get the joke. Your friends you play PFS may get the joke. Hell, I get the joke, but we have to remember this game is meant for people of all walks and ages; if you have to even ask ‘do you think this kind of thing would be ok?’ for PFS, then you might not want to roll with the idea. You already know there is a doubt of it being acceptable by pretty much the majority you will run with.”

  • This game is designed to be played by adults. You can candy coat it by selectively glossing over the frequent mention of drug use/addiction, prostitution, gambling, and slavery in scenarios when you’re playing with kids, but like the real world there’s a lot of stuff in it that will offend a lot of people. Part of being an adult is learning to not be offended by someone else’s beliefs if they contravene your own. As long as their not shoving them in your face and trying to convert you, it doesn’t violate the “don’t be a jerk” clause.

  • I’ve gotta say, if you’re looking for authentic historic situations, eliminating slavery from a game is like eliminating wounds. Slavery has been part of human history for virtually ALL of human history. As far as game play is concerned, when I play or GM, issues like slavery are things for the players to fight or conquer, not something for them to participate in. Same for torture. GMing, I throw alignment changes on PC’s who participate in “evil” acts and are not of evil alignment. Don’t give me that chaotic neutral crap…

    I’ve also used slavery extensively in the fiction I write as an opposition for the heroes. I like the way Pathfinder has made it basically “legal” but immoral to participate in slavery… Works well for me.

  • But doesn’t it also matter what way the term slavery is used? Old Bible times, it had a different meaning….

  • I personally feel that slavery should only be a thing in evil (and maybe some neutral) civilizations. There is definitely a rich ground for conflict, backstory, and adventures when slavery is part of the world; however, it’s something I generally shake my head at.

    In my opinion the historical accuracy argument flies out the window when people start hurling spells around. That same argument has also been used to validate games and other fictional works that depict women with little to no rights. I would prefer to play in a setting in which characters are inherently regarded as equal regardless of gender, race, or orientation. Now, there may be some elves who hate orcs with a vicious racism, or some barbarian tribes that feel women are weaker and their place is rearing children and not hunting with the tribe, but I’d prefer the fantasy world at large to reflect an idealized version of life in which everything is possible. There are of course evil powers at work in such a world, but I don’t think evil practices (slavery, torture, rape, etc.) should be the norm. This is fantasy, after all.

    Thursty, now it’s “let me tell you about my character” time. I had a (non-PFS) Chelaxian cleric of Asmodeus whose cohort was billed as her slave. In reality, that character was her tiefling half-sister, and the two had a very complicated relationship. The literal bastard cohort had served the family since birth, her true origins kept secret from the public, and the two women grew closer over the years. When my character exited the campaign, she inherited her father’s title and freed her sister from slavery. That character definitely drifted further away from evil the longer I played her.

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