D&D General Al-Qadim, Campaign Guide: Zakhara, and Cultural Sensitivity



Somebody could say fantasy fiction inspired in 1001 nights and near east may be too stereotyped, but if we start to watch spots to promote tourism in those countries, then that exotic touch is one of the main keys to attrack vistors. Of course when we are creating our own fantasy kingdom, then we use our own sytle, for example in Disney's Aladin when the main couple married, Jasmine wears the classic white dress. Nobody is going to wonder how is a Muslim wedding. "Orientalism" hasn't to be alway any thing wrong.

If there are raids in Zakara to catch slaves, I guess we can blame the khaasta, an extraplanar reptilian race. (If my words may offended any reptilian, please accept my most hipocrite apologies).

Other potential controversy is about the national invasions. Using the RPG for allegories of colonialism or international conflicts may be "getting into a chemise of thirty feet" ( = meddling in controversial issues, a chemise in a castle is the wall between two towers, and challening zone for attackers in a siege). If somebody complains about being a victim of historical injustices then other can answer about the time when those were the attackers against others.

The History may be very complicated some times. In the book "the crusades throught Arabian eyes" by Amin Alouf this told once there was a Christian-Muslim alliance against a second Christian-Muslim alliance. (The fitna or civil war among Muslims weren't rare in those time, and the relation between a first and a second wave of crusaders weren't too good). In the action-live movie of "Assasin's Creed" the flashback is about the conquest of Granada, the last remain of al-Andalus, by the Catholic kings. They aren't going to tell the Muslim king, Muley Hacen, was the guilty who started the war, and once Boadbil the little, the last Granadian king, was catched by the Christians, and after paying a rescue and some concessions he was returned to Granada, because the Catholic kings knew like this the civil war between Boadbil the little and his father Muley Hacen would continue. Boadbil wasn't happy because Isabel de Solis/Zoraya the new favorite of his father was going to be the mother of the heir. (If this sounds as a soap opera you can't guess what happened in the last years of al-Andalus kingdom and Omeya dinasty).

If you use a character for comedy tone, based in a historical character, al-Hakim, you can offend the Druzes who really believe he was a saint man. Technically al-Hakim was the responsible of the crusaders because he destroyed the temple of the holy sepulchre, the tomb of Christ.

The famous pirate Barbarrosa was a true historical character, but he wasn't an English corsair, but Otoman (with Greek blood), and they were slave traffickers.

There was an episode of "Hercules: the legendary journeys" about the slavery, with Lucy Liu.


 
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Ixal

Hero
It's not a question of who "owns. what" It's a question of accuracy. Middle Eastern harems are not filled with nubile women dressed in gauze, and that is an image created by western writers who wanted to sexy up a non-western idea and then continued by Hollywood and similar places, who also wanted to show something sexy and different. So having a game show a western image of a harem is, in fact, not a good idea.

Why is it so important that official books have harems?
Would you please stop shifting goalposts for a moment and not constantly jump around from who owns culture and thus can give permission to use aspects of it like it is apparently required to be respectful to how harems look like and adding strawmens about me wanting "hollywood nubile woman harems" first in board games and now books despite me specifically saying that this is not the case?
 

I literally don't know if the Japanese (or Asians and people from other countries of Asian decent) would view L5R as a misappropriation, but I would guess not. I mean, there are pokemon with samurai imagery, or using imagery of various yokai and other Japanese cultural elements.

Now, it's been a long time since I looked at any L5R stuff, and then it was in 3e's "Oriental Adventures" that used L5R as a base. As I recall, it was fairly straightforward and didn't really exocitize much of anything. At least not in the same way that the Western idea of a harem was a deliberate sexed-up misinterpretation of the real thing.

It's often a difference between people in the original country and immigrants from that country to the country in question (who often feel more insecure due to local histories of discrimination, etc.). There was a famous case where a high school student wanted to wear a qipao/cheongsam dress to prom, got flak from local Chinese-American activists who thought it was cultural appropriation, and support from Chinese people in China who were tickled people liked their local crafts.


There was a similar situation with an exhibit where you could put on a kimono at the MFA in Boston below a late 19th-century painting of a (Caucasian) woman trying on a kimono a few years back--Americans thought it was appropriation, the Japanese in Japan were disappointed in the ruckus and hoping to get attention for their declining traditional kimono industry. (The original painting was Monet making fun of the love of Europeans of his era for 'exotic' Japanese items, amusingly enough.)


There's also the question of 'your game' (which only really has to satisfy the players) versus 'publicly released product' (which can reach, and therefore offend, many more people).
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
It's often a difference between people in the original country and immigrants from that country to the country in question (who often feel more insecure due to local histories of discrimination, etc.). There was a famous case where a high school student wanted to wear a qipao/cheongsam dress to prom, got flak from local Chinese-American activists who thought it was cultural appropriation, and support from Chinese people in China who were tickled people liked their local crafts.


There was a similar situation with an exhibit where you could put on a kimono at the MFA in Boston below a late 19th-century painting of a (Caucasian) woman trying on a kimono a few years back--Americans thought it was appropriation, the Japanese in Japan were disappointed in the ruckus and hoping to get attention for their declining traditional kimono industry. (The original painting was Monet making fun of the love of Europeans of his era for 'exotic' Japanese items, amusingly enough.)
This is one of the reasons it's such a complicated topic. Who arbitrates whether it's cultural appropriation or not? The source culture? The immigrant culture in the locale where the issue comes up? Is the latter itself a form of appropriation with respect to the source culture, particularly if in conflict? Can both authorities be satisfied? Which one should be prioritized?
 

Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
When its historical and accurate then the way to do it right is to use them as they existed.
But you for some reason don't feel the same way about the Sword Coast, only harems. And you suggested that there should be "male harems", which are not historically accurate and are completely antithetical to the reason harems existed in the first place.

I don't think you actually care about historical accuracy. You just feel really strongly about harems for some reason.
 

Ixal

Hero
But you for some reason don't feel the same way about the Sword Coast, only harems. And you suggested that there should be "male harems", which are not historically accurate and are completely antithetical to the reason harems existed in the first place.

I don't think you actually care about historical accuracy. You just feel really strongly about harems for some reason.
As I said in the post, that was a suggestion of a compromise from me. I also quite specifically said how I am not happy with the FR in general.
Quite some selective reading you have there. Do you really think that will foster an actual discussion?
And why always harems? Because you and others keep bringing them up, often by falsely saying that I want nubile womans despite me saying I want accurate harems like Faolyn just did or otherwise twisting or flat out ignoring my words.
 
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Faolyn

(she/her)
Would you please stop shifting goalposts for a moment and not constantly jump around from who owns culture and thus can give permission to use aspects of it like it is apparently required to be respectful to how harems look like and adding strawmens about me wanting "hollywood nubile woman harems" first in board games and now books despite me specifically saying that this is not the case?
I haven't shifted any goalposts or created any strawmen.

So let's start over: why is it upsetting you that a board game didn't have harems and one or a couple of people noted that it this was good?
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
Would you please stop shifting goalposts for a moment and not constantly jump around from who owns culture and thus can give permission to use aspects of it like it is apparently required to be respectful to how harems look like and adding strawmens about me wanting "hollywood nubile woman harems" first in board games and now books despite me specifically saying that this is not the case?
It still seems like the answer for many folks is, "if anybody might be offended, don't do it. That's all that matters".
 

MGibster

Legend
It's often a difference between people in the original country and immigrants from that country to the country in question (who often feel more insecure due to local histories of discrimination, etc.). There was a famous case where a high school student wanted to wear a qipao/cheongsam dress to prom, got flak from local Chinese-American activists who thought it was cultural appropriation, and support from Chinese people in China who were tickled people liked their local crafts.
The irony here is that the qipao in its modern form exists because Chinese seamsters were influenced by western fashions and trends.
 

beancounter

(I/Me/Mine)
It still seems like the answer for many folks is, "if anybody might be offended, don't do it. That's all that matters".

Yep, walking on egg shells for fear of offending someone somewhere is no way to live.

What's really bad, is that what is offensive just keeps on growing and growing endlessly.

It's become nothing more than a subtle means of manipulation and control.
 



beancounter

(I/Me/Mine)
1950Sometimes it seems like more people are offended by other people being offended by stuff, than there are people actually offended by stuff.

What's really ridiculous, is people being offended on the behalf of other people.

As if the people in question don't have the ability to speak up for themselves...

We're not in 1950 anymore...
 


MGibster

Legend
I do want to be careful, there are plenty of gaming books from the past which I think are insensitive at best and outright offensive at their worst. White Wolf's big book of Roma where they gave superpowers to an ethnic minority based on the purity of their blood was, well, let's just say the kids today might view it as a little sus. (Do kids still say sus?) If I had a daughter, I wouldn't allow her to walk out of the house with a bindi because it has a meaning to the culture where it originated beyond being just a fashion choice. While I don't think all appropriation, or borrowing, is bad, it really depends on how it's done.
 


beancounter

(I/Me/Mine)
So people who don't want, say, exoticized sexual slavery in their games are trying to manipulate and control you?

Well, if you don't like the content of a game don't buy it, and if you don't like the subject matter in a game someone is running, don't play in it...

There is no need to police other peoples games.
 

Well, if you don't like the content of a game don't buy it, and if you don't like the subject matter in a game someone is running, don't play in it...

There is no need to police other peoples games.
I promise, no one is going to come to your house and take away your games.

Meanwhile, why begrudge Campaign Guide: Zakhara or the Istanbul board game for what they don't include (e.g. Harems)? Just don't buy it.
 

beancounter

(I/Me/Mine)
I promise, no one is going to come to your house and take away your games.

Meanwhile, why begrudge Campaign Guide: Zakhara or the Istanbul board game for what they don't include (e.g. Harems)? Just don't buy it.

Where did I say or imply that I begrudged anyone's game? I'm all for anyone creating whatever game or content they want.

Whether or not there is sufficient demand for the game(s) in question is up to market forces to decide.
 

In my opinion, "ish."

Let's say you have a church, and there are two branches to it. One is the branch that goes forth and feeds and heals people, defends the weak, and other good things. The other branch contains the bureaucratic side that includes an inquisition that tortures people until they confess to their crimes, then likely kills them messily. (There are likely more branches than this; we're dealing with these two). The first branch is almost certainly Good. The second branch is almost certainly Evil.

The reason I'm saying "almost certainly" here is depends entirely on what the crime is and who knows about the torture. If the crime is not going to church every week, or associating with haflings because the church has declared Small races to be unholy, or stuff like that, then this branch is pretty Evil. They're hurting people for things that are only crimes because the church has said so, not because the actions are actually harmful.

If the crime is "consorting with demons of disease and misfortune in order to gain powers to hurt people you don't like," then the branch is evil (for using torture) but not necessarily Evil, in the grand alignment sense. However, they probably also wouldn't be good, either. They'd be more Neutral--they're doing some awful things for the greater good. It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it. It would also depend on how much non-torture investigation they did before hand, of course. Grabbing people because their neighbors turned them in would be more Evil, while doing careful research in order to make sure that they only get the actual guilty parties would be more Good.

But, if the crimes (of viewing Small races as anathema, etc.) were edicts handed down from on high--by the literal gods--then I would view the entire religion as being Not Good. The church might be Neutral or Evil, but with a Good branch that heals and feeds the needy. Especially if that Good branch also helps out Small races on the qt. (This is where schisms appear)

If the prohibition about Small races was due to some high priest's personal dislikes that just got codified into not-actually-canon law, or because there once was a war with some Small races and anti-Small sentiment got brought into the church, or the halfling-hating ruler of the land demanded their dislike be made into law, under pain of having the church dismantled and the priests gruesomely murdered, then the church isn't necessarily Evil, because it was outside interference that corrupted them. They could well be on their way to becoming Evil, though, if the corruption isn't stopped before it becomes endemic.
You might find the Safiqi complicated then.

In setting, the vast majority of Safiqi sects (which usually revere specific facets of the One, an idea inspired by the various names of God in Islam) are extremely "serve the people" oriented. E.g. some devotees of the Unknown Knower contribute to public education and aiding the poor (people who "go unseen" as it were), those of the Soothing Flame often provide healing and shelter to others in need especially in crisis situations, the Temple Knights are generally dedicated to the Stalwart Soldier and defense of all ordinary folk across the realm, the somewhat rarer devotees of the Resolute Seeker hunt down legit nasty monsters (like the aforementioned nasnas or basilisks) that live out in the desert and plague the world, etc.

And then there are the Asiad al-Khafyun. A group that can best be described as the secretive "internal police" of the Safiqi. They have three main purposes: (1) hunt down and either capture or, if necessary, kill any heretic priests who have abused their powers, especially if that abuse comes in the form of controlling or dominating others, (2) eliminating extremely dangerous interplanar threats to the world (more on this in a bit), and (3) keeping an extremely high security vault of heretical or dangerous knowledge/artifacts/entities, so long as they can be safely contained and examined.

They have done some things in the past that might qualify as "evil" in your eyes. For example, those extraplanar threats I mentioned? Yeah until very recently (because the player characters happened to it) one of those threats was a literal infectious mind-virus spirit of decay and savagery that can literally warp reality in areas where it has grown strong. It was called the Song of Thorns, and exposure to it in written, sung, or physical form, even only small parts of said written or sung form, could infect a person and cause the Song to spread. Prior to the party getting involved, the only progress in opposing it that the Safiqi had made was a magical form of suppression that would allow them to examine the infected without risk of becoming infected themselves....and that magic was very old. As far as they knew the only way to deal with infection was to kill the infected (which, with the tools available to them, was true), and to purge all references to it and instances of it. They had literally erased a city from all records (Al-Taraf, which they now call the Lost City; legitimately most people have no idea it ever existed) in order to keep the Song secret, because a massive outbreak occurred there and they weren't able to save it. They have killed people solely to keep this secret safe, because it is extremely easy to get to the realm where the Song of Thorns once ruled (though it can be hard to get back out again), and even one infected person getting out could cause an uncontrollable infection of the whole world.

Other than their stuff dealing with the Song though, they're almost entirely focused on policing the Safiqi themselves, and because of the seriousness of this charge they undergo some pretty painful initiation rites which bind them to a certain code of conduct. It's complicated and I haven't nailed down all the details but basically they have ways of magically enforcing adherence to the rules they enforce which the highest echelons of the priesthood could use against them should they go rogue (which is a big concern, because a portion of the very very early Asiad al-Khafyun DID go rogue!) It's a very select group and membership is for life; once you join, you never leave, and you become part of more or less a divine "assassin/ninja" group dedicated to eliminating threats that are difficult or impossible for ordinary folk to deal with. So the vast majority of their effort is spent on hunting down wicked priests who abuse their cleric magic to hurt people, create undead, or otherwise do blasphemous and overtly dangerous/harmful things. They also cooperate with the Temple Knights in dealing with more ordinary "evil cult" type stuff, but that's not really a core focus.

Their current leader is Fahd el-Sattar. He is an extremely serious man (very few non-serious people would ever consider joining the Asiad al-Khafyun), but the party has earned his complete respect with their tireless efforts to aid them against various threats and, in particular, their total defeat of the Song of Thorns. (Though some of that was because he could tell instantly that a party member had had some kind of interaction with the One personally, which...yeah for a man of deep faith that's pretty obviously going to earn some immediate and pervasive respect.) The party considers him a formidable man and an ally to call on sparingly, but an ally nonetheless.
 

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