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


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Voadam

Legend
Perhaps I was misunderstanding what you meant. I thought you were saying that this meant the churches, as complete hegemonic entities, could not actually be "good" even if they wished to be, because of the possibility (or, more likely, past fact) of doing evil in the name of good things/beings/ideas. Would it be more accurate to say that you're saying any religion in D&D fiction is simply too big to be hegemonically good or evil? That is, a good church can have evil branches, and that while it's unlikely, it's at least theoretically possible for an evil church to have good branches? That is, the evil is objectively evil, but that doesn't make the whole church evil, nor does the overall church being good absolve the deeds of specific branches or of past members thereof.
A couple of different things.

D&D alignment is generally objective so it matters whether a thing is evil or not under the alignment terms, not whether a good god considers something good or evil or if it is done with good intentions. Using torture in an inquisition is going to be evil even if done to root out evil and drive people to good. So Bahamut followers going overboard in fighting evil for a good cause while following a good god and following his good precepts is generally going to be classified as evil villainy if the going too far is seriously evil. Dragonlance with the Kingpriest and his crusades and inquistion against evil that went too far turning into genocide and magical coercion to turn people away from evil and neutrality and towards a desired good is an example.

In D&D alignment for an individual or a collective is an overall judgment of the balance of the alignment factors. Someone with a mix of good and evil can reasonably be classified as good, neutral, or evil depending on the mix and judgments can reasonably vary on the human player/DM side even though it is conceptually objective in the game. Same thing for a D&D country labelled LG or neutral.

An individual, a god, or an organization can do an evil thing or be consistently evil in some aspect and have it be outweighed by other goods and still be considered good overall, but the evil they did was still evil in D&D alignment terms.

For a D&D church that does an inquisition with torture and executions that is generally a pretty big evil on the objective alignment scale. It can reasonably be considered enough evil to outweigh it being done for good intentions (stopping objectively evil cultists, say) and other good things the church does (fight evil, help people in need, providing generally beneficial benefits). Even if the torture is outweighed by the good and they get a neutral or good alignment overall, the objectively evil torture is a decent reason to consider the torturers as villains.

In general though in practice most D&D things labelled good, even though they can have a mix of good and evil, do not do big evil. It stands out when they do. So I generally do not expect the church of Lathander to do an inquisition with torture when hunting evil, or one to persecute heretics and schismatics using executions as a deterrent so that most followers do not fall into heresy and more can make it into Lathander's good afterlife.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Speaking of cartoons, I remember the 80 days around the world animation, a spanish-japanese made children animation about the french novel which, like the original, included the episode where they encounter the practice of Sati (widow burning). (And yes, rescue a princess from it, cliche).
I doubt this animation would be able to be made today. But was it really harmful?
In the cartoon? Probably not. It likely gave a couple of kids some nightmares, but that's not the type of harm we're talking about.

In a game? Quite possibly, if it's written as a cultural norm rather than the actions of a few bad guys to be stopped. Because then what it does is turn women into property to be destroyed when the man died. This means that people playing female characters going to be unnecessarily marginalized, because sati is very likely not the only thing in the game that is cruel to women (nobody is going to make a game world where women are treated as complete equals to men and they get burned when hubby dies.) Even if it doesn't actually affect any player characters, it's the lore equivalent of limiting a female character's Strength score. And for no good reason, since you can't have "historical accuracy" if you also have elves, dragons, and magic.
 

Speaking of cartoons, I remember the 80 days around the world animation, a spanish-japanese made children animation about the french novel which, like the original, included the episode where they encounter the practice of Sati (widow burning). (And yes, rescue a princess from it, cliche).
I doubt this animation would be able to be made today. But was it really harmful?
There was a recent live action Around the World Eighty Days series (starring David Tennant as Phileas Fogg) and they had omitted this part of the story. And fair enough. Except that in the book this is the event that causes Aouda to become Phileas Fogg's travelling companion and eventual love interest, so none of that happens. The show was in certain ways updated to be more progressive, but in doing so they also removed an Indian woman who was a main character in the original... 🤷
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Its a game review, not a discussion of Orientalism. At least, it shouldn't be. The absence of harems that mean nothing to the game itself has no place in a review. They could simply say the setting was handled respectfully in their opinion.
I would like to see a serious review of a game using Middle Eastern or Asiatic culture that is totally agnostic on the subject of orientalism.

Mostly because I don't believe such a thing exists. Recognizing the EXTREMELY frequent shortcomings of how an outside cultural group has been depicted in your own culture, and commenting on whether (and if so, to what degree) those shortcomings have been avoided, sounds like an extremely important part of a review. Silence could mean anything, because it (by definition) tells us nothing. Actually engaging with the work and the history of the genre/theme is always going to be a more useful review than trying to write as though s#!tty, racist caricatures never existed.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
So when can give accurate information about the Ottomans
Generally, historians who have done relevant work on the subject.

and also greenlight the use of cultural aspects?
There is no safe investment. There is no absolute perfect "you cannot possibly do wrong" hurdle to clear where if you do X then you will never ever have even the possibility of trouble. It's simply not possible.

The best you, or anyone, can do is put in good-faith effort, accept good-faith criticism when and where it happens (with an open mind about what qualifies as good-faith criticism), and show a willingness to improve or adapt in response to said good-faith criticism.

You know...exactly like all other forms of creative effort.

Sure the capital and center of power was in Anatolia. But most of the influential Janissary were "drafted" from Greece and the balkans.
Which is (yet another) why your "stick to objective history" standard is useless. Who gets to define what is "objective history" and what is a twisted narrative promulgated by people with an agenda? Who gets to define the terms? History is always incomplete and pretty much always biased even when we do our absolute best. What happens when we literally cannot, even in principle, give an unbiased, "objective" account, because the information simply doesn't exist? When our only sources are biased as hell and almost certainly at least a bit unreliable? For example, with Norse mythology, which we literally DO NOT HAVE pre-Christian sources for. How can we give "objective" stories that involve Ragnarok when we literally have no idea if this was actually that important, or if it was Christian missionaries turning Loki into an unjustified Satan analogue when he may have been really rather closer to a scapegoat in the original meaning of that term (and, as a result, rather closer to a  Christ figure)? We can't. We do not know the truth, and it may literally be impossible to find out what that truth was without a time machine.

Does that make every Norse-inspired story unacceptable? Not to me. Because my standard doesn't involve pursuing an often impossible standard of "objectivity." It involves recognizing that historical accuracy is one tool among several which we use to craft interesting, enjoyable, effective settings. Some of those settings not only can be but WILL be inaccurate to their source culture(s). That does not mean that they will be disrespectful. Instead, it means that the burden is on us, as creators, to use accuracy (and our other tools) as wisely as possible, to admit error when it is called out, and to work toward products that are respectful and enjoyable in equal measure.

So should a sensitivity reader have vetoed the Sherlock Holmes stories which start in a opium den or that casual cocaine use was accepted? Does an english citizen really have more authority about drug use and if works based on Britan are allowed to reference it?
There are no universal answers to these questions. They are necessarily contextual. Like all things in art, it is a matter of showing due diligence (always a tricky thing!) and doing what produces effective, respectful work. There is no objective, universal, unequivocal finish line. There is no bar to clear, such that you are objectively and eternally free of all responsibility as a creator, absolved of all possible risk or concern. To create is to risk, just as to live is to risk. We do not ask creators to never risk. We ask them to use their best judgment, to seek out reasonable and available means to correct errors  before they become thrown to the wind for all to see, to remain humble and willing to address errors that do get through despite such efforts (or to apologize for a failure to show due diligence if one has committed a clearly preventable error.) None of this is weird or alien. It's literally the process of being respectful in ANY context. If you ask a foolish question which could reasonably give offense (such as asking a woman when she is due, only to find out that she is not pregnant, simply overweight), do you assert that you were merely sticking to objective likelihood of pregnancy based on her appearance, age, and clothing? Or do you apologize and try to make amends?
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Generally, historians who have done relevant work on the subject.


There is no safe investment. There is no absolute perfect "you cannot possibly do wrong" hurdle to clear where if you do X then you will never ever have even the possibility of trouble. It's simply not possible.

The best you, or anyone, can do is put in good-faith effort, accept good-faith criticism when and where it happens (with an open mind about what qualifies as good-faith criticism), and show a willingness to improve or adapt in response to said good-faith criticism.

You know...exactly like all other forms of creative effort.


Which is (yet another) why your "stick to objective history" standard is useless. Who gets to define what is "objective history" and what is a twisted narrative promulgated by people with an agenda? Who gets to define the terms? History is always incomplete and pretty much always biased even when we do our absolute best. What happens when we literally cannot, even in principle, give an unbiased, "objective" account, because the information simply doesn't exist? When our only sources are biased as hell and almost certainly at least a bit unreliable? For example, with Norse mythology, which we literally DO NOT HAVE pre-Christian sources for. How can we give "objective" stories that involve Ragnarok when we literally have no idea if this was actually that important, or if it was Christian missionaries turning Loki into an unjustified Satan analogue when he may have been really rather closer to a scapegoat in the original meaning of that term (and, as a result, rather closer to a  Christ figure)? We can't. We do not know the truth, and it may literally be impossible to find out what that truth was without a time machine.

Does that make every Norse-inspired story unacceptable? Not to me. Because my standard doesn't involve pursuing an often impossible standard of "objectivity." It involves recognizing that historical accuracy is one tool among several which we use to craft interesting, enjoyable, effective settings. Some of those settings not only can be but WILL be inaccurate to their source culture(s). That does not mean that they will be disrespectful. Instead, it means that the burden is on us, as creators, to use accuracy (and our other tools) as wisely as possible, to admit error when it is called out, and to work toward products that are respectful and enjoyable in equal measure.


There are no universal answers to these questions. They are necessarily contextual. Like all things in art, it is a matter of showing due diligence (always a tricky thing!) and doing what produces effective, respectful work. There is no objective, universal, unequivocal finish line. There is no bar to clear, such that you are objectively and eternally free of all responsibility as a creator, absolved of all possible risk or concern. To create is to risk, just as to live is to risk. We do not ask creators to never risk. We ask them to use their best judgment, to seek out reasonable and available means to correct errors  before they become thrown to the wind for all to see, to remain humble and willing to address errors that do get through despite such efforts (or to apologize for a failure to show due diligence if one has committed a clearly preventable error.) None of this is weird or alien. It's literally the process of being respectful in ANY context. If you ask a foolish question which could reasonably give offense (such as asking a woman when she is due, only to find out that she is not pregnant, simply overweight), do you assert that you were merely sticking to objective likelihood of pregnancy based on her appearance, age, and clothing? Or do you apologize and try to make amends?
Given the possible consequences in the current environment if you do make a mistake, I'd say our world kinda is asking our artists not to risk.
 


bedir than

Full Moon Storyteller
Given the possible consequences in the current environment if you do make a mistake, I'd say our world kinda is asking our artists not to risk.

And I would say our world is finally having artists face the fact that art has consequences.
I would also say there is no better time to be a professional artist. More people work full time in entertainment than ever before, with a higher percentage of wealth spent on art and entertainment than ever.
We are never at a loss for stories, with new angles on old tropes regularly entering the zeitgeist.
The people cowering in fear of wrong doing are absolutely completely dwarfed by the artists celebrating themselves, their people and the tales that haven't been shared to broad audiences before.
 


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