Social Issues with California, Westerns, and the mid-1800s
As a general rule, we're big fans around here of modern California. It's a progressive state and we're constantly moving toward greater equality and social treatment of our residents. That doesn't mean that California didn't see its share of problems - especially around the time of its founding.
Early drafts of the California Constitution contain some wonderful references to rights and equality. Unfortunately, as drafts progressed toward final, many of these were stripped out. Some rights remained, such as the right for women in the state to own property, but many of these were watered down as well. The debates that took place during California's Constitutional Convention involved many discussions regarding the rights of diverse peoples, but in the end white men were the general winners of the convention. In truly disappointing wording, American Indians were denied the right to vote, with a provision that they may be granted the right at a later date. The language used to support this decision was very similar to the language which resulted in the 3/5 compromise in the United States constitution. In general up until the 1920s American Indians were treated extremely poorly, and even after then - to this day - American Indians have been treated poorly - especially in contrast to white Americans (See the Standing Rock protests in 2016-2017). We do our best to treat these issues respectfully and on occasion point out the issues with early California in a respectful manner.
Dark Prospects isn't technically a Western - Westerns take place in the 1880s-1890s and we're decades away from that. Western film and media often places native peoples as villains, white people as heroes, and especially references cowboys as being a big deal. The reality of the Western is pretty far from the media portrayal. Many "cowboys" would not have been white men to begin with, and more often than not, American Indians would have been protecting themselves and their families from whites and other intruders on territories that previously were maintained by them. Westerns as a genre are often extremely problematic for this reason, but you can find many other examples of problematic behavior in this type of media. While Dark Prospects takes advantage of theatrical tropes from Westerns (such as the use of "Western technology" and many of the Techniques in our system) we try to avoid using many of the negative tropes associated with peoples of the period. We have had players bring uncomfortable issues to the rest of the playerbase when those issues have directly affected a minority group they are attached to. We ask our players to consider the implications of Western tropes and treat any issues respectfully.
This time in history is a pretty horrible period in American history. Human rights were virtually non-existent for many groups during this time period, including American Indians, Blacks, and many other people of color. Slavery was at a critical point, and was a significant factor in the civil war in 1862. American Indians were being crushed by westward expansion. Women lacked suffrage and were often treated as property as well. Issues relating to this time period are acknowledged during gameplay and often referenced as being somewhat distant from California politics. We try to treat these issues with respect when the game does bring them up.
If you run across an issue with a disrespectful portrayal of social issues - present or historical - please let us know. We want to do better. We try to consider how our story and actions impact our players and ask that our players make similar considerations as they tell their own stories.