The question of race in A Song of Ice and Fire came up during the initial airing of Game of Thrones and, more recently, with the casting of actors of completely incorrect ethnicities for various roles for season two. My stance is that of a pretty hardcore purist: you don’t change a character that radically. Yes, you can’t get actors that look exactly right, but colour-blind (or for that matter, gender-blind) casting is not something that should be practised when adapting a book. As I have said more than once more, I find it particularly aggravating that it seems very likely that it was done because a few PC critics whined that the show was too white during the first season. Which, of course, lead to complaints about the books being too white. I don’t personally think this is a relevant complaint (it makes perfect sense that Westeros, which is the focus of the story, is a very white society—with the exception of Dorne, of course) and regardless of that the show shouldn’t be trying to correct a perceived error.
But what does all of this have to do with MUSHing in general and Blood of Dragons in particular?
Well, some months ago, we had a Guest on the game who asked if they could play a black character…
Now, the game is set in King’s Landing and in Sunspear and everyone plays a member of a noble house or at the very least a noble household. We actively discourage any foreign characters because we know too little about the various cultures in Essos and because outsider characters have a very hard time fitting in. There are no merchants or craftsmen or sailors or any other commoners. It is all about the social and political interactions at court. We do have some room for allowing foreign characters, but we prefer to know the player well before approving something like that, so that we know they can handle the OOC aspects of playing with a limited background and without IC connections.
Obviously, there is no thematic room whatsoever for a black character within a noble house. Yes, its theoretically possible, but…no. We’re setting purists. Of course, we do have Sunspear open, so playing a character of Mediterranean or Middle-Eastern appearance is certainly doable. But not black.
We debated the matter somewhat, since the player was persistent, and finally agreed that they could send in a detailed concept for a foreign character so that we could judge if they seemed to know enough. But we warned them that we would only look at the proposal and made no promises that it would be approved; it would have to be pretty stellar to convince us. It didn’t surprise us that we never heard from the player again and it was something of a relief: the game is setup the way it is for a reason and we’ve yet to have a single original character (meaning one that isn’t in our pre-made family trees) last more than a month.
I am certainly hoping that the casting for the second season won’t lead to more players with the same expectations. Not because this player was unpleasant or rude in any way, but to me there’s no difference between someone coming to our game and expecting to be allowed to play a female fighter and someone coming there and expecting to be able to play a black character. While both are possible and there are examples of them in the books, they are huge exceptions to the norm and do not fit within the aspects of the game we’ve chosen to portray. That doesn’t make us either misogynistic or racist. It just makes us dedicated to the integrity of the books and the game.
Of course, certain groups of Game of Thrones “fangirls” on LJ and Tumblr get their collective panties in a twist and screech like banshees at the idea that sticking to the setting and story actually matters so they would no doubt fling all sorts of accusations around, like monkeys flinging poo. After all, we don’t allow either feisty little psychopath girls with swords or black Lannisters.