Xavier L. writes in:
I think you got everything wrong. “A Conquest of two worlds” is literally an anti-colonial story. It’s pretty much Avatar before Avatar.
I wouldn’t describe D&D feudalism as window-dressing though, it’s pretty much essential. The people who work for you are called peasants, not natives, and the tax, if you are a cleric, was the tithe, right?
He’s absolutely right here.
The “colonialism” depicted in “A Conquest of Two Worlds” is an over the top caricature. The earthmen are only in it for the resources. The aliens totally didn’t do anything.
And yes! It is absolutely an “Avatar” type story. One character despises the obvious injustice, “goes native”, and then fights both with and for them against the earthman exploiters.
But here’s the difference: unlike in Avatar, the colonialists here cannot be stopped. They are awesomely unbeatable, an exaggerated variant of Sauron’s armies or the Persians from 300. And the aliens have less fight and prowess than even a bunch of ridiculous hobbits could summon.
And the ending that you end up with in consequence of that particular premise…? If Avatar had been written that way, the aliens would have fought to their last remaining outpost only to nuke themselves and their Spirit Tree into oblivion.
It really is a weird story.
He’s also correct about the AD&D clerics. Here’s the relevant rule:
Upon reaching 9th level (High Priest or High Priestess), the cleric has the option of constructing a religious stronghold. This fortified place must contain a large temple, cathedral, or church of not less than 2500 square feet on the ground floor. It can be a castle, a monastery, an abbey, or the like. It must be dedicated to the cleric’s deity (or deities). The cost of construction will be only one-half the usual for such a place because of religious help. If the cleric then clears the surrounding territory and humans dwell in the area, there will be a monthly revenue of 9 silver pieces per inhabitant from trade, taxation, and tithes.
Note that there is an analogue to renegade characters like Edmond Hamilton’s Halkett and James Cameron’s Jake Sully in The Keep on the Borderlands. It’s the Evil Priest, maintainer of the Temple of Evil Chaos in the Caves of Chaos. He has agents and sympathizers in the Keep on the Borderlands, so beware!