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General (Anecdotal) conversations with Asian gamers on some problems they currently face in the D&D world of RPG gaming

GreyLord

Adventurer
Some thoughts on discussions I have gathered over the weekend (not that anyone will actually read this much or even consider what I am writing as I have no real influence on the ongoing discussion, at least I do not think I do).

A Social influencer (Kwan) recently had people take up some of his comments to say that Oriental Adventures should have it's name changed or be taken off from sale.

On that note I started talking to some of the actual RPG gamers I know that play D&D (not just say they are game designers or other things, actual individuals of Asian descent who play D&D). When talking about this idea of Oriental Adventures and it's title, some were actually pretty angry. Others took it in stride. It was interesting.

Some pointed out that Masataka Ohta, Akira Saito, Hiroyasu Kurose, Takafumi Sakurai, and Yuka Tate-ishi were those who were involved with critiquing and even writing part of the original Oriental Adventures, and in fact, are some of the ONLY credited Asian individuals to EVER be credited on ANY OFFICIAL D&D release for direct contributions (apologies if I didn't get the names exactly right, I tried spelling them correctly, I apologize if I made any mistakes on it). That said, it was done with short notice and there may have been many other changes made had they been given the time to fully change them or taken more seriously in that endeavor. Those who pointed it out do NOT WANT the few Asian contributors to be erased from D&D history, which seems to be one of the driving points of why they are so angry about people suggesting the removal of OA.

Some stated there may be problems with the original Oriental Adventures, but there are more serious problems that they would rather tackle first. They were surprised to hear that this move to remove Oriental Adventures was from someone who also was of Asian descent (and as per their profile also had degrees in various Asian studies as well as travel in those areas). Compared to the "REAL" problems, they state that Oriental Adventures is rather mild in comparison. So, here is a list of 5 (but not all, and not sure I have them in the right order) of REAL problems they currently have with D&D.

That is NOT to say there are not problems with OA or there are NOT things that they would not change (there are things they would change with OA if given the opportunity), just that if they were to want to make changes in the RPG community and what goes on, there are BIGGER things they feel are FAR MORE IMPORTANT.

I will admit that this is anecdotal (the group is those that I know does not constitute a LOT of gamers from Asia or Asian American gamers or Gamers of Asian descent in Europe) and thus is limited. However, these are things they seemed to desire far more than other changes.

#1. Do not ask where they are from if they are born in the US or Europe. This is annoying. They go to cons, they go to game stores and people ask them where they are from. They say they are American or born in the UK, and then they are asked..yes...but where are you really from...or...but where is your family from. This implies they are still foreign and NOT really American or European. This happens all the time among gamers. This is not polite. They are just as (insert whatever nation you are in) as anyone else born in that nation.

Gamers that ARE from Asia don't mind being asked this question, as long as it is respectful. However, they do not like being confused or called as being from a place they are not (eg. a Korean individual being called Japanese or vice versa...etc, or Japanese being called Chinese...etc).

#2. Stop with the slang. People at the game tables or at shops may call them slang terms or words in reference to their Asian background. The gamers with Asian backgrounds may remain silent or even laugh it off in front of everyone there, but it is hurtful and is something that seems MANY of them have endured. It seems to go along with many of the game groups out there. Don't use slang, to use derogatory terms or jokes, etc.

#3. Not really from the US or Europe (UK at least), but in regards to other nations...more support in their native language for D&D. Not sure how far this would be plausible or possible though. They have some who have taken on themselves to translate some items, and apparently when 1e was around there WERE D&D and AD&D copies in various languages for the time.

#4. More recognition for Asian influence on RPGs. Asia is one of the BIGGEST groups behind CRPGs these days, and are a major force in the influence on RPGs in general. You would never guess that from looking at D&D. Many of the ideas that influenced modern TTRPGs came from CRPGs, and a LOT of that are from the influences of RPGS made in Asia.

#5. No more white washing. I pointed this out before, but I don't think anyone took notice, and most Americans may not anyways. Many companies create a class called the Ninja, or the Samurai, or another class based upon an Asian notation (such as a nobility, a group, an occupation, or otherwise). However, in many instances it is something that will normally be used by a Non-Asian background or group. It is accepted that they'll have Elf Ninja's or Western style samurai. No cultural notation is made regarding what these classes originally were in a historical and cultural reference. It is taking names out of context and putting them into a game term.

Some felt it was respectable that people would give such adherence to things such as the ideas of Ninjas. Some also felt that while it was notable the fascination in the West with such terms, stealing the term and using it to be completely out of context and ignoring the larger culture behind it was normally seen as less desirable. If one is going to take cultural aspects, define it in regards to the culture one is taking it from.

As I said, some thoughts on the REAL problems that I discussed with various friend of mine (well, some more acquaintances than friends, as we may have gamed together in the past, or met at gaming events in the past, and talk regularly, we may not be quite at the friendship level with all of them). Some were pretty serious discussions though, as these were things they actually thought were bigger problems and some of these problems were things (notably #1 and #2) they felt very strongly about sometimes.

======= I've sat on this thread for an hour now...wondering if I should hit the submit button. I actually am sort of afraid to. Those I talked to are NOT afraid at all, but they did have a sense that they are such a small minority that saying stuff like this wouldn't do any good anyways. Sometimes it's better to just be silent...sometimes other actions are better. However, I definitely feel some fear about posting this. I keep backing off. I know people will say there are already threads about this, but none of them seem to actually address many of these issues (especially, for example, the credit of Asians to D&D, including those in OA, or the more serious ones #1 and #2). Still, I feel fear that I'll be ostracized for posting this here as the actual concerns I am writing above do not match the general consensus I've read on the forums about the real problems. I admit it is anecdotal from a small group that I know, but there were some common concerns that I noted. I shouldn't be as worried, but I havent' been able to hit the post thread button yet. I just have this fear that there are going to bad unforeseen ramifications from me posting this. I don't know what they would be, but I am nervous...I can't pin exactly why though.

I think I'm going to hit the button finally. I think I've been respectful in my comments, and most likely it will not be noticed much and shrink to the bottom of the forums. I think it is important to get the real concerns out there (if we are going to discuss problems facing these gamers) rather than lighter thoughts that actually do not address the problems many of them face (even if it is anecdotal on my part).
 

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Derren

Hero
So basically you are not allowed to use fantasy in a fantasy RPG (number 5).
And when only Asian humans are allowed to use Asian themed classes in game the next step will be that only real life ethnic Asians are allowed to play those Asian humans as someone else playing them would also be white washing/cultural approbation
 

So basically you are not allowed to use fantasy in a fantasy RPG (number 5).
And when only Asian humans are allowed to use Asian themed classes in game the next step will be that only real life ethnic Asians are allowed to play those Asian humans as someone else playing them would also be white washing/cultural approbation
From all that. That is your takeaway. Are you for real.
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
I mean, I do appreciate you actually went and asked people who might be affected by the stuff presented in OA what their opinions were. this is certainly better than using weirdly broad statements like most Asians don't care to dismiss anything Kwan has said.

though if it's true that those people are some of the few Asian people credited in an official D&D publication then I find that very sad. it's sad that a book called "Oriental Adventures" with some dated and bad stereotypes of Asian culture is the only time D&D had any noticeable input by the actual people the book is supposed to be about. there should be more Asian creators (well creators all colors really) involved in D&D, and not just when they need to make an Asian fantasy product.

also speaking of Kwan, I think it needs to be reiterated: no matter what you make of his opinion on OA, I still feel his argument about removal is true: it's hypocritical for WotC to say they're going to be more culturally sensitive but still sell a book like that for profit.

EDIT: I forgot to mention, those people listed all have Japanese names. it feels like TSR kinda just half-assed their attempt at getting advice from actual Asian experts and only got consultation on the Japanese portion of the book, and I hope to god none of those are aliases of "experts" on Japanese culture. I'm certain they could have at least done the same for getting advice on Chinese culture. I know they list a bibliography of sources in the book, but... idk older Western books about East Asia also tend to have weird and dated ideas about cultures as well. I also have to think about the more obscure cultures they bring up in this book probably don't have a good foundation, like Vietnam? considering it's history with the west and the fact it was virtually cut off with the rest of the world at the time I can only imagine the books available to them were 1) scant and 2) not great.
 
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Derren

Hero
though if it's true that those people are some of the few Asian people credited in an official D&D publication then I find that very sad. it's sad that a book called "Oriental Adventures" with some dated and bad stereotypes of Asian culture is the only time D&D had any noticeable input by the actual people the book is supposed to be about. there should be more Asian creators (well creators all colors really) involved in D&D, and not just when they need to make an Asian fantasy product.
Ever got the idea that those writers might not have had a problem with Oriental Adventures?
 

Aldarc

Legend
So basically you are not allowed to use fantasy in a fantasy RPG (number 5).
And when only Asian humans are allowed to use Asian themed classes in game the next step will be that only real life ethnic Asians are allowed to play those Asian humans as someone else playing them would also be white washing/cultural approbation
If this was "basically" what Point #5 said, there would arguably be some validity to this post, but I'm not sure if the complaint accurately matches the content of Point #5. Would you like to re-read and try reformulating the main idea of Point #5 again?
 

  1. While I haven't been to a con in a while, I'm a bit surprised by this. The only time I've ever asked this question is if they had an accent, and this isn't limited to foreigners, but the various accents across the US.
  2. Did they give any examples? I'm unfamiliar with any such slang, and wonder if there are things that might seem inoffensive but actually are.
  3. The big issue is the cost/benefit ratio for translation. This is true for all non-English languages, but I don't know if the costs vary due to the difficulty of the language (kanji is VERY difficult for westerners to learn).
  4. I think part of the reasoning for this is that TTRPG's try very hard to ignore that CRPGs exist.
  5. There's two aspects of this.
    1. Just like the Barbarian, almost all of these should be backgrounds, not classes. The samurai was a part of the Japanese caste system, and the ninja were outcast from the same system.
    2. There is nothing wrong with fantasy aspects of using these tropes. The important factor is that the Elf Samurai is from a samurai culture, not just a generic elf that took a class.
 

Immeril

Explorer
also speaking of Kwan, I think it needs to be reiterated: no matter what you make of his opinion on OA, I still feel his argument about removal is true: it's hypocritical for WotC to say they're going to be more culturally sensitive but still sell a book like that for profit.
I don't see why OA should be removed.
There are many books that are problematic to our current way of thinking: To Kill a Mockingbird, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Little House on the Prairie, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Heart of Darkness, Peter Pan, the Allan Quatermain novels, ...
Most of these are in the public domain, but if a customer buys a printed copy, then a publisher makes profit of this purchase.

Then there's also confirmation bias. If I'm actually searching for racist or insensitive content, I will find it. Tolkien, for instance, told his publisher in 1938 that a German translation of The Hobbit could go hang because the German publisher asked if he could confirm that he was of arisch origin (i.e. not jewish). He could confirm this, but he refused to subscribe to the race-doctrine. On the other hand, he wrote in 1958 that Orcs were 'degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types'. So perhaps I should add The Lord of the Rings to the previous paragraph.

Removing a book means that you make any future discussion or analysis impossible, or at the very least biased.

Even Mein Kampf is still purchasable for academic purposes. Doesn't disregard the general opinion that it is a vile, antisemitic book.
 

humble minion

Adventurer
Equally anecdotally, my long-running group has two members out of five who are of Asian extraction. One is of Malaysian Chinese ethnicity, the other is also of Chinese ancestry (not sure exactly whether his family is originally from mainland/Hong Kong/Taiwan/Singapore/wherever, the subject has never come up, to be honest). Both have lived in Australia for a very long time. With a long-running group, your points 1 and 2 are less relevant (what I know of their family origins, I know cos I've been to their weddings and met their families!), and point 3 has't really come up because we live in an English-dominant country, both are completely fluent, and two of the five members of the group only speak English.

We've normally gamed in FR or similar conventional Fantasy worlds, though many years ago, when running the Savage Tide Adventure Path, I allowed all the 3e OA classes and class options as well as the PHB ones. The Malaysian Chinese player chose to play a samurai, and got quite into it before an in-character spiral towards the Dark Side (don't make deals with the cultists of the Demon Lord of Meaningless Battles, kids...) and an eventual ignominious death at the hands of a seaweed monster.

I'd be interested in hearing more about your point 4 though. What does 'more recognition' look like?
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
  1. Did they give any examples? I'm unfamiliar with any such slang, and wonder if there are things that might seem inoffensive but actually are.
speaking from personal experience I'd imagine this would be epithets like "ninja" or "k-pop star" when referring to your Asian friends.
The big issue is the cost/benefit ratio for translation. This is true for all non-English languages, but I don't know if the costs vary due to the difficulty of the language (kanji is VERY difficult for westerners to learn).
I don't see why kanji is an issue. I'm a westerner, kanji's not easy but I don't find it a huge challenge. more importantly I'd imagine a native speaker of a language that uses Chinese characters would be the one translating into that language lol.
There's two aspects of this.
  1. Just like the Barbarian, almost all of these should be backgrounds, not classes. The samurai was a part of the Japanese caste system, and the ninja were outcast from the same system.
  2. There is nothing wrong with fantasy aspects of using these tropes. The important factor is that the Elf Samurai is from a samurai culture, not just a generic elf that took a class.
I think the issue at hand is separating things like samurai and ninja from Japanese culture. 5e mentions ninjas in passing in the monk entry, but otherwise just groups them in with the other shadowy assassins (I'm also a little sad that ninja according to modern Japanese pop culture isn't an option if I'm honest). monks themselves exist in this weird gray area, but at the very least most people recognize them as being from Chinese culture and based entirely fantasy versions of monks.

as an example Final Fantasy 14 has both samurai and ninja as classes, but canonically your character is not from the world's Japan-analogue. still, both classes are explicitly from that culture, and the NPCs who teach you are from that part of the world (p.s. that part of the world is an actual fleshed out place you can visit and explore, not just a vague notion in the game's lore).
 

Immeril

Explorer
I think the issue at hand is separating things like samurai and ninja from Japanese culture. 5e mentions ninjas in passing in the monk entry, but otherwise just groups them in with the other shadowy assassins (I'm also a little sad that ninja according to modern Japanese pop culture isn't an option if I'm honest). monks themselves exist in this weird gray area, but at the very least most people recognize them as being from Chinese culture and based entirely fantasy versions of monks.

as an example Final Fantasy 14 has both samurai and ninja as classes, but canonically your character is not from the world's Japan-analogue. still, both classes are explicitly from that culture, and the NPCs who teach you are from that part of the world (p.s. that part of the world is an actual fleshed out place you can visit and explore, not just a vague notion in the game's lore).
True. Samurai is a very specific archetype tied to only one culture, as opposed to (for instance) a knight. However, I should think that using mythological figures shouldn't pose that much of a problem? A lot of games have taken a step back from Tolkienesque dwarves in order to distinguish themselves. The same should be allowed with oni or kappa?
 

Doug McCrae

Legend
Thanks for posting, I think it's a worthy contribution to the debate.

The gamers with Asian backgrounds may remain silent or even laugh it off in front of everyone there, but it is hurtful and is something that seems MANY of them have endured.
This is something to bear in mind when people say things like "I've never had any complaints". I think often members of groups that face discrimination choose not to complain about discriminatory behaviour for a wide number of reasons. That doesn't mean the behaviour is not a problem.
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
I'd be interested in hearing more about your point 4 though. What does 'more recognition' look like?
I'd imagine for starters more open acknowledgement that video games have an influence on D&D. some games are fairly explicit in their inspiration from JRPGs, but historically the D&D player base gets SUPER UPSET when anything vaguely resembling video games weasels its way into the game (I do remember the time when 4e came out, and the umbrage I received for actually enjoying it).
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
I don't see why OA should be removed.
There are many books that are problematic to our current way of thinking: To Kill a Mockingbird, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Little House on the Prairie, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Heart of Darkness, Peter Pan, the Allan Quatermain novels, ...
Most of these are in the public domain, but if a customer buys a printed copy, then a publisher makes profit of this purchase.

Then there's also confirmation bias. If I'm actually searching for racist or insensitive content, I will find it. Tolkien, for instance, told his publisher in 1938 that a German translation of The Hobbit could go hang because the German publisher asked if he could confirm that he was of arisch origin (i.e. not jewish). He could confirm this, but he refused to subscribe to the race-doctrine. On the other hand, he wrote in 1958 that Orcs were 'degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types'. So perhaps I should add The Lord of the Rings to the previous paragraph.

Removing a book means that you make any future discussion or analysis impossible, or at the very least biased.

Even Mein Kampf is still purchasable for academic purposes. Doesn't disregard the general opinion that it is a vile, antisemitic book.
...you're missing the point. WotC explicitly said they will try to be more culturally sensitive with their products, and therefore it's hypocritical of them to continue to make money off a book like OA. whether or not they remove it what matters is they, the company who owns the rights to it, no longer make money from it.
 


Seramus

Adventurer
I always assume a ninja is not a ninja. It's a word in another language that describes a group or set of skills in the fantasy world that is easiest to compare to ninjas.

Like a translation for it, since common is not [your language].
 


Horwath

Adventurer
1&2; completely agree, make an effort to not be a jerk. unless you play alot with those people and know them very good so you Know if and when you can make those kind of jabs.

3; don't know how that goes with copyrigth and translation in WotC.
but English is one of the easiest languages to learn.

4&5. It's fantasy, so I do not care about where that inspiration comes, they can make continent that has "asian" samurais, "European" knights and "african" rangers all in 500 miles radius that come into daily contact and interaction.

As Bruce Lee said when he was making Jeet kune do, take from any style that you find useful and discard the rest.
 


Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
I always assume a ninja is not a ninja. It's a word in another language that describes a group or set of skills in the fantasy world that is easiest to compare to ninjas.

Like a translation for it, since common is not [your language].
I mean, even that's a little fraught. ninjas as they're typically depicted in Western media are sneaky assassins who sometimes use special tools and rely mostly on acrobatics to fight.

people make fun of Naruto, but that's actually a fairly typical (if not very stylized) example of how ninjas are depicted in Japanese media. the ninja you see in anime and manga are sneaky, but also have a heavy emphasis on magical abilities to fight and hide, and there's also a lot of specialized equipment that I'm not entirely sure gets shown in Western versions of ninjas.

it also doesn't help that ninja society was incredibly secretive and therefore we have little to no primary sources on their history.
 

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