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Playing through Tomb of Annihilation, the module features cannibals and I am trying to figure out what exactly constitutes cannibalism in this setting.

I don't think that we can answer the theoretical ethical question "What is cannibalism in a world with many forms of sentient life?" But, can we determine what the cannibals of Chult eat? How does this contrast with non-cannibal diet? For example, would eating one of the terror-folk be considered cannibalism?

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The only thing remotely "official" I could find in regards to this is from the Forgotten Realms wiki:

While the Batiri were often considered cannibals, they only ate the flesh of other races and never the members of the Batiri tribe. To eat another Batiri resulted in a punishment of death.

The Batiri seem to be the cannibals in question, as they are native to Chult, and they are goblins. They would eat other races (probably other goblins as well, but not other Batiri) which made them regarded as cannibals.

I think this means that the races viewed sapient creatures eating one another as cannibals, but perhaps higher learned people recognized the technicalities that cannibalism is same-species.

This has real-life parallels as well. People often referred to Giants, Ogres, Cyclops etc. As cannibals, despite not being human (they were human-like). Also we may refer to snake eating snakes as cannibalistic colloquially, but they are not regarded as such scientifically.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Also fun fact for anyone not familiar: Sentient means a creature that can feel/perceive, thus any living thing (save most plants/fungi etc.) are sentient. Sapient means the ability to act with wisdom, (humans). \$\endgroup\$ – Baergren Oct 20 '17 at 16:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think saying almost any living thing is a bit broad, even excluding plants/fungi. There are lots of animals that do not have a brain as we know it and they probably are not sentient. Anything with a functioning brain would be sentient though. \$\endgroup\$ – TimothyAWiseman Oct 20 '17 at 17:05
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At least one group of cannibals in the module

eats zombies (p. 196-197).

I would say that the answer is ambiguous, perhaps intentionally so. We're talking about a module that tells you that dinosaur races happen "weekly" in a world that uses a "tenday" instead of a week.

Or give you detailed instructions about travelling during tropical storms, gathering rainwater, and dealing with extreme heat; but no explicit guidance on how often extreme weather events occur.

So, I'd say that it is intentionally left to the DM to decide

  1. if I want to include cannibals
  2. how horrifying do I want them to be
  3. how many taboo things do they need to be willing to eat to get the effect I desire?

On a subjective note, I'd infer "willing to eat any of the party members" if you're playing it straight. If you are looking to inject more of the humor that gave you goblin stacks, "Nanny Poopoo," "Biff Longsword," and zombie-belching zombie dinosaurs, a tribe of ethical cannibals that only eats zombies could be a fun bit. (Now that I think of it, I might do that in my campaign!)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Great answer but I object to "Or give you detailed instructions about travelling during tropical storms, gathering rainwater, and dealing with extreme heat; but no explicit guidance on how often extreme weather events occur." The weather tables in the DMG and within the Tomb of Annihilation adventure book give rules for weather based on the climate. We can determine the frequency of extreme weather events occur based on the odds of rolling any given weather condition. \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Oct 30 '17 at 12:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the feedback. Serious question because I must have missed it despite looking: what page of ToA has weather tables? (I will edit my answer when I have time.) \$\endgroup\$ – beeporama Oct 31 '17 at 13:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not certain that it does (sorry, I was sort of guessing at the time). I don't have my copy handy but I would assume it's somewhere in the first chapter (if it's there at all). I do know that the DMG contains weather tables, however, and covers various climates. \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Nov 2 '17 at 13:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ To confirm, I'm now certain that the ToA module doesn't include weather tables. The DM's screen that Gale Force 9 made specifically for the module has one, but it rolls "no rain" for the majority of results, putting it in opposition with the module (which says it rains, at least lightly, almost every day) so there's definitely some license for interpretation there. You make a good point that the DMG is probably the best resource. But realizing that this subject is a digression from the original question, let's just leave the discussion here for reader interpretation. :) \$\endgroup\$ – beeporama Nov 3 '17 at 0:23
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According to Websters dictionary, cannabilism is a) eating of human flesh by other humans, b) eating of another animal or eggs of the same species as you.

Therefore human eating elves are not cannibals.

Same thing with troll eating humans, they are not cannibals by Websters dictionary.

However drawing on sci fi, and common fantasy tropes eating sentient creatures is considered cannabilism.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you elaborated on the "common fantasy tropes" and then applied that to the :and of Chult as described in the module, you would have a great answer \$\endgroup\$ – Destruktor Oct 20 '17 at 16:58

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