Of Largest Lineage

I come from huge families. My mother was one of seven, and my father’s mother was one of nine. Between them, I have fourteen first cousins, at least five second cousins, eleven first cousins once removed that I know about, and more miscellaneous spouses and siblings than I care to track.

Mom never forgave her siblings for moving away from each other. Most of the brood ended up within driving distance of one another in the Great Northeastern Conurbation, albeit in three different states, but one stayed in Puerto Rico, one followed work to North Carolina, and Mom followed the needs of her husband’s family and moved to Miami. Most of the seven are involved in the US military in some way, and some of my cousins continued that legacy, and that meant being passed around bases and active duty for years at a time, far from their kin.

Dad’s family all ended up in Miami, sooner or later. My grandmother used to visit relatives in Cuba, but she is long gone, and it is likely they are as well. Most of Dad’s side of the family made Miami their first home outside of Cuba, but Dad’s path passed through New Jersey first. I grew up there, getting acquainted with Mom’s nearby relatives first and not really recognizing Dad’s side of the family until they became our frequent reality after the move. Even then, Dad was an only child, so all of the relatives were a generation apart from me, whereas my maternal cousins were close to my age, so Dad’s family and I are not well acquainted.

After picking through the family tree to survey my safety within it, I find this a tragedy.

Continue reading “Of Largest Lineage”

Of Largest Lineage

We Don’t Serve Your Kind Here

I’d like to share an anecdote from a Dungeons and Dragons game I ran a few years ago.

The group of player-character adventurers was attending an aristocrat’s ball.  Their goal was to ingratiate themselves with the rich dilettante hosting the ball, to gain passage on his flying whale-cum-airship to their next destination.

The six adventurers were well-placed to gain the aristocrat’s favor, having rescued one of his associates in a previous quest and having spent some of their loot on making sure they didn’t look out of place in the airship hangar full of old money.  The party was a motley bunch at best—a well-spoken robot psychic, a clumsy dragonborn warrior, a bloodthirsty wood elf archer, a pompous high elf mage,  a grim minotaur soldier, and a quietly regal shaman from a race of shapechangers with ties to rats and ravens—but they gave it the good D&D try.

And the moment the shapechanger tried to speak to that nobleman, he glared in the direction of the two elves and the robot and barked, “Control your livestock!”  The rest of the brief conversation transpired between the three “civilized”-looking characters and the nobleman, with the more “monstrous” dragonborn, shapechanger, and minotaur cowed and silent.

The players controlling those characters were, then, too taken aback by the force of the rebuke their characters received to contest it, either in-game or out-of-game.  They simply accepted that they would be excluded from this particular plot point, and dallied with their smartphones until they would again have a meaningful way to contribute to their party’s benefit.  But what if they hadn’t been?

The aristocrat’s racism was not something I’d thought about in advance.  It came unbidden in a moment’s improvisation, perhaps as a not-entirely-conscious effort to keep from having to juggle six conversations at once.  It wasn’t presaged with prior information about his behavior, it wasn’t an established feature of the region’s culture (which none of the PCs were from), and it wasn’t something the characters had encountered before.  Just spontaneous, unexpected bigotry cutting those players out of part of the adventure, to no discernible benefit to them or to the plot, with no obvious means of escape and the promise of ruining the negotiations and wrecking everyone else’s fun if their characters protested.

Did I mention that all three of those players were at least one letter of QUILTBAG?

Continue reading “We Don’t Serve Your Kind Here”

We Don’t Serve Your Kind Here