This meta is about: How do you roleplay a suddenly-free slave?

It was asked yesterday, then answered (with a good answer), then closed, and just now (after asking this meta) has been reopened. The content of the question has not been edited beyond a change in tags.

There seems to be some disagreement on whether or not it's close-worthy, so I'd like to ask for opinions. I have seem some other questions in the theme of "How do I roleplay X?", including for example:

How do I handle roleplaying these giant sorta-smart ants?

How do I roleplay a character more intelligent than I am?

Roleplaying a multiple personality character?

All of these seem to have been received well. Is it something to do with the subject matter of my question? The close reason was unanimously "opinion based", but I'm not sure why "suddenly free slave" is more opinion based than "highly intelligent".


3 Answers 3


The question lacks cultural context

The question provides no setting information that would enable answers to address the question directly. There is nothing in the question that explains, for example, the setting's history of slavery, how the setting's slavers treat slaves, the setting's attitudes toward slavery and freed slaves, or even the cultures of the creatures that were previously enslaved.

That means any answer is forced to transfer possibly wildly different experiences with slavery to this here-ill-defined fantasy world's experiences with slavery. That does neither set of experiences justice.

The Dark Wanderer's otherwise excellent answer perfectly illustrates this: It provides a list of examples from different media that have slaves suddenly freed, but—despite it being a good answer—it can't actually answer the question because the question provides no context.

Answers must be guesses about a trigger topic, and that's a bad combo.

Note: In Review I voted that the question remain closed, and the Comment that I'd intended to leave was running long so I didn't leave it. In other words, thank you for asking.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a good reason. I can probably add this context later today, if it helps. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Commented Aug 22, 2017 at 12:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Erik I assumed that the typical asker would find another user's demand to know so much about a setting overwhelming and skip it, so that's great if you do add it, but keep in mind that unless context makes it remarkably similar to history or an existing fictional setting, the question can't really be answered objectively. (Also, keep in mind that, as the GM who knows everything about his setting—whether you know it or not—, the slaves' reactions to their sudden freedom will always be the correct reactions because you gave them those reactions. Thereafter, it's all just consistency.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 22, 2017 at 12:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ The setting is pretty straightforward, it's really just "Hobgoblins as per the MM" and "frontier village farmers". \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Commented Aug 22, 2017 at 13:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik The Monster Manual for 3.5e (the edition with which I'm most familiar) doesn't mention anything about hobgoblins keeping slaves. Is that a 5e thing? And frontier town needs a where, when, and like whose—there's a big difference between the U. S. frontier during the 1700s and the eastern Russian frontier in the 1800s and so on. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 22, 2017 at 13:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ The answers don't have to be guesses-- I don't think I do any guessing in mine, for example. I think the real problem with questions like this are that they encourage guessing, and that's really bad. Consider Worldbuilding.SE. Lots of questions are like "How would X thing happen?" and that's a fine super-introductory-level worldbuilding question, the answer to which is universally "However you say it happens, and how you say it happens matters and is really the important/communicative part of the thing in the first place", but to which the upvoted answers are always "Y thing!" "Z thing!" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 22, 2017 at 23:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer I really don't understand how presenting a range of possibilities like your answer does is not also guessing. Saying the slaves could react in a variety of different ways instead they will react in one way are both guesses. However, were the question to provide enough context, a definitive parallels could be drawn between the setting's experience and similar circumstances—then the best lone parallels could float to the top… instead of, as now, the widest variety of possible parallels floating to the top. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 3:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan But... my answer doesn't draw any parallels, does it? D: Certainly anything relying on parallels would be guessing, but I wasn't trying to provide a range of possibilities, I was trying to show how different works' differing responses contribute to and are a result of their overall construction of the human experience, to support the idea that the querent needs to identify what place slavery holds in their work and draw the response from both the work's discourse on that topic and the work's discourse on the slaves in question (and by extension the human condition). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 3:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer …And your answer doesn't draw parallels because it can't draw parallels, and that's a problem with the question. Without cultural context—therefore allowing parallels to be drawn—, answers can only provide possibilities. With context, you could expand on how one of your great examples is actually the right answer instead of listing many possibilities as answers. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 10:59

Because I'm not sure how answers aren't just an undifferentiated stream of brainstormed ideas. What makes "they are happy and worship the PCs" better than "they are super depressed" as an answer? If there could be more basis for an answer (historical?) then maybe - as it is, it's purely opinion based (as are some of the other Qs you link IMO).


It's not.

See Does "Ask the DM / GM" equate to "Primarily opinion based?" for an analogous question class. The question sort-of seems to think there's a single right way to run this experience, which is false. Nonetheless, the fact that it is false is useful in answering the question, by talking about both the existence of multiple options and how one would in fact go about deciding which of the options to use. The answer is "the one that best communicates what it ought to be communicating" (aka "Make it up"), and similar to questions where the answer is "consult with the person or set of people in whom you and your group have vested the authority to utilize this decision for communicative purposes" (aka "Ask your DM"), these sorts of questions aren't actually opinion based (though a question about the actual right thing to make up would be), but nevertheless are closed as opinion based due to a documented common false equivalence in the minds of our site base, and also sometimes draw bad answer floods providing without good support what should be made up, rather than that making up should occur, in which case closure is appropriate.

This particular question has not drawn any such flood. While I personally think that Sardathion's answer is bad, because it equates slavery in general with the chattel slavery of the USA in specific rather than with e.g. forced labor from prisoners of war and because history is rarely as objective as people would like to think which returns the issue to a question of picking between multiple accounts while thinking there's only one right one, nonetheless it's still fundamentally about answering the actual question-- Q:What do I do to do this thing? / A:Base it off history-- rather than a specific thing to be made up. Additionally, I, of course, think my answer avoids this problem. Since our answers are the only two answers, there appears to not even be a single bad post just giving a random opinion on what to make up.

So, in conclusion, I don't actually think it should be closed at all. If we're worried about troll answers, we can preemptively protect the question, but the question itself I don't think is primarily opinion-based.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think I agree, especially with the (paraphrasing) “it might attract a lot of opinion and justify the close then, but it hadn't yet”, but I'm still near enough to sitting on the fence to not feel right casting a super-vote to unhold. I think this one's in the community voters' hands. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 6:21

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