Gnolls of the West.

The American Indian analogue for this campaign setting are tribes of nomadic gnolls. They're not quite the savage, bloodthirsty beasts of mainline D&D-- they're sleeker and smarter, more likely to silently stalk their prey than just charge in screaming and butchering.

Much of what the player characters know about gnollish culture is filtered through a very Eastern prism, with the same sort of condescending racial attitudes and cultural prejudices that greeted the various American Indian civilizations in the American Old West. Whether they're regarded as subhuman or as Noble Savages, there's not a whole lot of real understanding going on.

I've also drawn a bit from Herbert's Dune, in that certain behaviours that seem alien and evil to "Eastern" eyes make sense within the context of the culture and its survival needs once you've gone inside it a little. From a pure storytelling angle, it's much more enriching to say, "Well, yes, they do do 'x', but here's why, and isn't that a neat bit of world-building" than to say, "no, that's just a hideous blood libel".

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