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

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Some Americans seem to think freedom of speech was created by the First Amendment and seem genuinely unable to grasp my argument that it is a universal human right that is independent of what the US Constitution has to say on the subject.

There are two meanings of the term "right".

1) That thing we believe people ought to be allowed to do, and 2) That which we actually put legal controls around to preserve.

What you believe is yours to believe. However, freedom of speech is not a universal human right by the second definition*. It is, in fact, a fairly new invention. For most of the history of human civilization around the globe, people did not have a legally protected right to free speech, and if a government power wanted to shut them up, they could do so without anything we'd consider to be repercussions.



* It would be reasonable to argue that there are no universal human rights by the second definition - that all rights only come from what legal controls we put in place and maintain, and without those controls, the concept of "rights" has little meaning.
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Some Americans seem to think freedom of speech was created by the First Amendment and seem genuinely unable to grasp my argument that it is a universal human right that is independent of what the US Constitution has to say on the subject.

It's not just that they disagreed with me - I'm fine with people disagreeing with me, it happens all the time - but rather the words I use seem to make no sense to them.

Art. 19, Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Of course, this tends to be more aspiration than enforceable.
 

Anyway, here's one piece of unsolicited advice for any game designers who haven't been scared off and still want to use the "Have you eaten rice already?" greeting as a bit of flavour for an Asian-inspired fantasy culture or country. It's even based on a bit of Singapore history.

During the Second World War, rice was in short supply in Singapore, so most people had to rely on sweet potatoes as a staple. An Asian-inspired fantasy culture or country which went through a similar experience might thus be especially fond of using that greeting as a comforting affirmation that the hard times are over. I make no claim that this actually happened in Singapore, though. ;)
You can do the same thing for Korea. People that grew up during the Japanese occupation and then the Korean War tend to be shorter because there was not as much access to food, especially protein.

You could have one aggressive pseudo Asian power have been beaten back and then wrote about the consequences and that is the type of thing to note.

And for a throw away flavor paragraph, I don’t think I need a sensitivity reader.
 

He might not be wrong, but isn't this just another Westerner explaining things to you based upon an academic class, with no real exposure to your culture? After all, a westerner with Korean/Mexican ancestry does not have any special insight that any other westerner would have, and should not speak for all Asian cultures.

I kid, but only to make the point. You have had a lot of valuable input into the issues here, yet your input is diminished by some people because they claim you can't speak for the experience of Asian-Americans (as if that group is a monolithic whole). Nevertheless, others choose to speak to your experience based only on academic classes. Which is weird.

That said, I agree with you and think that true understanding of positions is best achieved by sharing opinions.

I have had vigorous debates with people on the internet where I am lectured on solar power and I personally enabled a lot of what is in many places in the world.

I have been lectured by Asian appearing people about Asian things even though they have never actually been to Asia. I cannot claim to understand how they feel as an Asian minority living elsewhere (even though I was a minority growing up and lived in Asia for 8 years and even was a very visible minority there).

I will make an outsider observation - if you want to see more traditional Chinese family values, the decedents of the Chinese that settled on the islands near China but were somewhat cut-off and a minority cling to the older values.

Just like the French I speak (Quebec) is not the same as the French in France. We can understand each other fine, but you need to pay attention and ask for explanation.

I have already said that different people can take offense to different things and be genuinely offended without a call to action to me other than being polite.

As an RPG sourcebook, OA fails because it directly refers to actual thoughts about actual people in the real world - they list actual countries - and then clumsily expresses it as game rules.

If that same paragraph without the reference to being broadly applicable to Oriental society had instead described a new, non-human race , even if it borrowed from that monolithic view, it would be fine. I mean, my sentence construction there is not fine, but the use would be.

So I have zero issue with slapping a disclaimer on it today and having an honest conversation about the offense and even hurt it could cause. Panda-s1 has been more than polite as have others here explaining how they feel. I don’t think more than a disclaimer is needed and that is only needed to leave no doubt that the owners understand. In the end, Hasbro owns it and they can decide what to do about it.
 

Voadam

Legend
and like, geez. I haven't played Curse of Strahd, but people talk about how it's a great adventure except for the part about Vistani. but you can just rewrite that small bit. OA is different, it's talking about culture at large and the setting it makes is like a huge caricature. I can't just cut out bits like honor or manners when everyone in the setting is supposed to be like this.

I did. I went with the martial arts and magic and monsters and ignored the honor system and culture stuff that I did not care for. I also get though that your situation is yours.

if people want to own copies, then w/e, just understand why someone like me believes there's no merit in WotC to keep selling it after saying they're going to be more culturally sensitive.

Sure, I disagree on the merit of it being available for sale but I see reasons for someone to take that position.

dude, if they're gonna describe the people of kara-tur like that what makes you think the rest of this stuff is gonna be treated any better?

Owning OA, and having used the martial arts and magic and monsters. Tastes and triggers will vary though.

once upon a time I wanted to buy Oriental Adventures, I have a 1e collection and I knew that's where non-weapon proficiencies started. I'd find it from time to time at used book stores so I knew the stuff inside was pretty dated, but it was still a historical curiosity. still $15-20 is a lot for a book I'll basically never use, so I didn't buy it. now? it's skunked. I don't wanna buy it. maybe one day in the future, but it'll be more expensive than it's worth because of people who can't stand the idea of change.
That is an unfortunate confluence of timing, wanting, and price/availability. It is $5 currently which is a more attractive price point for a historical curiosity, but it seems to be up in the air if it will be legally available one day in the future.
 

amethal

Adventurer
* It would be reasonable to argue that there are no universal human rights by the second definition - that all rights only come from what legal controls we put in place and maintain, and without those controls, the concept of "rights" has little meaning.
I disagree. By the second definition, human rights has NO meaning. (Or is a tautology - you only have the right to be protected from what you are actually protected from.)

So if we are even having a discussion about human rights, I assume we aren't using the second definition. Plenty of people have mentioned freedom of speech in this thread but what does OA have to do with Congress?
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I disagree. By the second definition, human rights has NO meaning. (Or is a tautology - you only have the right to be protected from what you are actually protected from.)

So if we are even having a discussion about human rights, I assume we aren't using the second definition. Plenty of people have mentioned freedom of speech in this thread but what does OA have to do with Congress?

Freedom of speech means two things in America, usually.

First is the technical meaning. You will often see this trotted out on the internet, always in a pedantic way, when someone is discussing what the legal contours are for freedom of speech. And despite what the text says, it isn't just Congress; it's any government action. So this can be anything from a libel suit (which is a court enforcement) to the public school saying you can't wear a particular message on your t-shirt.

On the other hand, most Americans (or at least, it used to be ...) also put a premium on the principles of free speech; that robust discourse is a value that we treasure, and that this allows better ideas in the marketplace of ideas to prosper. This is why, for example, when organizations like the AFA have targeted private companies in order to enforce their orthodoxy (including, but not limited to, suppression of the rights of LQBTQ Americans), an effective argument has traditionally been to appeal to the principles of free speech. Regardless of the lack of involvement of the government, we should want idea to flow forth and not be suppressed.

It's a tricky line; on the one hand, people can and should "vote with their wallets." If you find a company, or a company's products, offensive for any reason, you don't have to buy them; eventually, the lack of sales or collateral issues will cause the company to re-think their position. On the other hand, we need to make sure that we adhere to free speech principles, and don't allow companies (that are notoriously risk averse) to succumb to pressure and thus limit the very principles that we treasure.

As always, IMO etc.
 

Remathilis

Legend
and like, geez. I haven't played Curse of Strahd, but people talk about how it's a great adventure except for the part about Vistani. but you can just rewrite that small bit.

Actually...

There has been discussion about a lot of negative aspects of Curse of Strahd. wundergeek posted some blog pages a few years ago on the unfortunate aspects of CoS; including racism, sexism, ableist views of madness, edgy violence against children, and abuse. Read them here.



Yet despite the numerous examples they points out, what is the takeaway?

Am I saying no one should play Curse of Strahd? No.

One of the things that got me to look into this again was the fact that a friend asked me about how feasible it would be to adapt CoS so that it didn’t have all the horrifying anti-Roma bits. And for all that I think there’s a lot of replication of terrible stereotypes, a modicum of preparation by a reasonably skilled GM would be sufficient to overcome this book’s shortcomings.

Which is a far different takeaway than Kwan had made with OA.
 


Dire Bare

Legend
Great, but how do you do that? How do you translate a culture into a fantasy setting? And which culture? The dominant culture or a subculture? Which time period?

And how do you translate 15th century Rajasthani culture or 18th Century Hyderabad when you are a 15 year old kid in 21st Century Detroit or Belgrade? How do you translate a culture that is now extinct and be mindful (Incan or Aztec, for instance) when the only frame of references that remains are an invader’s voice.

Culture adapts and changes all the time. Our understanding of historic culture changes too. The only fixed culture is a dead culture.

It's not that hard. When adapting a culture to a game, do your research to the best of your ability. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. After creating your game design and sharing it with the community, be open to criticism and be willing to change and edit your work.

The equivalent to Oriental Adventures is the publisher making a statement that they are aware the earlier work is highly problematic, and should they revisit it again, they will strive to do better. Which is exactly what WotC did, if a bit late to the party. I'd bet good money that's how Zeb Cook would look at it, although I think he's better off keeping his head down for a while. It does make me wonder if anyone has ever interviewed him on the issues of orientalism within Oriental Adventures.

I can't help but feel you are throwing up a strawman here. If you are a 15 year old designing game elements for your friends to play D&D . . . no one's coming after you for cultural appropriation or systemic racism . . . and your game design likely sucks anyway, because you're 15. My stuff from that era of my life stays in my secret notebooks! As you grow in knowledge, experience, and empathy . . . strive to do better.

If a culture is truly extinct, which few actually are, then it's unlikely the descendants of that culture are going to be upset with you. The Inca and Aztecs don't exist in the same form they did pre-colonial days, but we aren't ignorant of their cultures and their descendants still live in the same regions today, still practicing elements of culture passed down from those supposedly extinct days.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I'd bet good money that's how Zeb Cook would look at it, although I think he's better off keeping his head down for a while. It does make me wonder if anyone has ever interviewed him on the issues of orientalism within Oriental Adventures.

Not as far as I know.

As I wrote in another thread, as recently as 2009 that I can tell, he was still using the word "Oriental" in other contexts in interviews (Oriental History, etc.), and describing it as a passion project.
 

Voadam

Legend
no, don't twist it, it'll legally always be available. I'm not interested in owning a pdf copy.

I was talking about the PDF, not people's private copies they own.

WotC used to have their own online shop for old edition D&D PDFs starting around 2000 or so, then they put some up on rpgnow which later merged with drivethru. Once Paizo got going WotC put them up there for sale as well. I bought WotC D&D pdfs from all three. One day in the 4e era after they had put a couple supplemental 4e sourcebooks like Martial Power and Arcane Power up as PDFs I got an email saying they would all be gone the next day so buy and download any last copies before they were gone. And within a day there was no option to buy any more.

WotC put out a statement about piracy but it seemed pretty clear it was to cut off access in an attempt to spur people to buy physical books of the current edition. That legal access for any old edition PDF was then gone for years until WotC decided to go a different direction.

Legal access is not guaranteed for always. WotC has pulled it away before.
 


Catolias

Explorer
It's not that hard. When adapting a culture to a game, do your research to the best of your ability. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. After creating your game design and sharing it with the community, be open to criticism and be willing to change and edit your work.

The equivalent to Oriental Adventures is the publisher making a statement that they are aware the earlier work is highly problematic, and should they revisit it again, they will strive to do better. Which is exactly what WotC did, if a bit late to the party. I'd bet good money that's how Zeb Cook would look at it, although I think he's better off keeping his head down for a while. It does make me wonder if anyone has ever interviewed him on the issues of orientalism within Oriental Adventures.

I can't help but feel you are throwing up a strawman here. If you are a 15 year old designing game elements for your friends to play D&D . . . no one's coming after you for cultural appropriation or systemic racism . . . and your game design likely sucks anyway, because you're 15. My stuff from that era of my life stays in my secret notebooks! As you grow in knowledge, experience, and empathy . . . strive to do better.

If a culture is truly extinct, which few actually are, then it's unlikely the descendants of that culture are going to be upset with you. The Inca and Aztecs don't exist in the same form they did pre-colonial days, but we aren't ignorant of their cultures and their descendants still live in the same regions today, still practicing elements of culture passed down from those supposedly extinct days.

If you think they are straw men, fine. My questions and statements were how do you be sensitive when access to credible information about another culture is not simple when there is nothing guiding what sensitive looks like. Yes, OA is inappropriate but in the absence of nothing how do you intend to ensure that the next generation access sensitive information? How do you ensure that in countries were racism, hate speech and populism are rising that the same old, tired racist tropes do not recur?

It is not enough to hope someone will do the right thing. You need to give guidance. You need to show the way. If the community does that, that’s good. But the world has changed in just the last few weeks from BLM. It is showing that corporations have to show more than a financial responsibility to their shareholders. They have to show an ethical and moral responsibility for their past decisions in much the same way that many governments are being asked to do. WotC has an ethical and moral responsibility to the gaming community to repair the damage beyond vanilla disclaimers
 

If you think they are straw men, fine. My questions and statements were how do you be sensitive when access to credible information about another culture is not simple when there is nothing guiding what sensitive looks like. Yes, OA is inappropriate but in the absence of nothing how do you intend to ensure that the next generation access sensitive information? How do you ensure that in countries were racism, hate speech and populism are rising that the same old, tired racist tropes do not recur?

It is not enough to hope someone will do the right thing. You need to give guidance. You need to show the way. If the community does that, that’s good. But the world has changed in just the last few weeks from BLM. It is showing that corporations have to show more than a financial responsibility to their shareholders. They have to show an ethical and moral responsibility for their past decisions in much the same way that many governments are being asked to do. WotC has an ethical and moral responsibility to the gaming community to repair the damage beyond vanilla disclaimers

With respect, because I fully support BLM and all that it stands for, but you have a far more optimistic viewing of what it has accomplished in the recent times. I live in Louisville, KY and I see no change what-so-ever, just the same responses from companies trying to latch on to topical issues in a false attempt to make us think they actually give a crap about more than the bottom line, while our so-called "leaders" continue to promote token useless gestures that have no actual meaningful change or effort towards improving things at all while they hope to hell the mobs of protesters will shift their focus towards other issues or begin to starve to death from lack of jobs or catching COVID.

What's more, in my particular city there are still ongoing protests, yet unlike other cities that have been heavily involved in the movement, there are no signs of anger actual change EVER occurring and to make matters worse the movement is largely abandoning us after the cities in more blue or swing states...yet again see change while the middle of the nation is effectively screwed. There's a reason why only one candidate in the Democratic primary was actually popular here and it ain't the guy we have left.
 

Catolias

Explorer
With respect, because I fully support BLM and all that it stands for, but you have a far more optimistic viewing of what it has accomplished in the recent times. I live in Louisville, KY and I see no change what-so-ever, just the same responses from companies trying to latch on to topical issues in a false attempt to make us think they actually give a crap about more than the bottom line, while our so-called "leaders" continue to promote token useless gestures that have no actual meaningful change or effort towards improving things at all while they hope to hell the mobs of protesters will shift their focus towards other issues or begin to starve to death from lack of jobs or catching COVID.

I’m not optimistic. That’s why I said I see WotC has to demonstrate ethical and moral responsibility rather than issue vanilla disclaimers. If we are not happy with that response then we should call them out on it. The issues Facebook has with financial sponsors shows what happens when companies handle it poorly.
 

There are two meanings of the term "right".

1) That thing we believe people ought to be allowed to do, and 2) That which we actually put legal controls around to preserve.

There are many more meanings of right. I think the type of right that most Americans refer to when they say free speech is a right is that certain rights were (according the American ethos) granted by God (or the universe, or some similarly powerful force) and cannot be legitimately limited by government because the being (or force) that created them is not subject to governmental restrictions.

In other words, rights are granted by government. Instead, they supersede government. Instead, it is the government's duty to protect those rights.
 
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GreyLord

Legend
There are many more meanings of right. I think the type of right that most Americans refer to when they say free speech is a right is that certain rights were (according the American ethos) granted by God (or the universe, or some similarly powerful force) and cannot be legitimately limited by government because the being (or force) that created them is not subject to governmental restrictions.

In other words, rights are granted by government. Instead, they supersede government.

My understanding is similar to this.

When creating these rights, they examined what rights could not be taken away naturally, or those that would need excessive force, perhaps even death, to actually take away. The only limitation then would be fear of punishment so that people would limit the right themselves, rather than the right to actually be able to enforce these to be taken away.

First Amendment. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

A government cannot stop the way someone believes or has faith. They can dictate, they can try to suppress, but ultimately it is something that is found within one's mind. In the same way, one can speak whatever they want. Even if they have their tongue cut out, there is still other ways to portray what they want to say. In the same way, unless one has someone literally bound and controlled so they have no control over their body, they can write whatever they want as long as they are literate. People can assemble, even if in small groups in a limited area, even in a prison or other area without being able to be stopped fully. You could have an army to try to outnumber the citizens, but without extreme force, stopping them from gathering is nigh impossible. Even in China where they have had rules against gathering at times, people still assembled together (thought the consequences were dire in some instances, such as tiananmen square).

However, government can try to install fear to stop people from doing these things. They can do all manner of punishments, force, and other things to try to stop them. In this way, if they have enough force, in theory, they could stop people from practicing these things.

Thus I see the First Amendment as protecting these rights so that people can practice them without fear of recrimination.

Some of these are framed in a different manner in the Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Most falling under the idea of Liberty, a man already is alive and has their life, though it can be deprived from them of Government, they also have the ability to be happy, regardless of what is dictated to them (though a government can try to make one unhappy). In regards to Liberty, there are things one can do (thoughts for example) that a government cannot stop directly, only through fear or control can they attempt to control what one actually thinks...etc.

In the same light, the US Constitution is attempting to protect these rights, to guarantee these rights so that people can openly show and practice them without fear.

Not ALL nations share these ideas or laws regarding the protection of these rights in the same manner.

That said, in relation to OA, it is still under the control of WotC. They, as a corporate entity, also have certain freedoms and rights pertaining to the control of various materials. In this, if we are free to voice our opinions to them while in the US (though it can be limited, for example, on ENworld, this is the property of those who own and control ENworld and thus, they have the right to control what is said or not said on their own property, there is no guarantee of free speech here. In addition, I do not think it falls under the US laws and is actually under UK or European law). Outside the US, it depends on the nation. We may still be able to voice what we want but there may be legal considerations to think about (such as laws that would get one jailed if they say the wrong things).

WotC on the otherhand is under no duress (legally) to actually listen to any of us or anyone beyond their own individuals who control the company in the US. IF it is a situation that occurs in Canada or elsewhere, there may actually be legal repercussions in regards to how much they do or do not listen (as corporations have a different status there in regards to rights, and various laws on freedom of expression differ).
 

IME, as an American living abroad in Europe, I get the feeling that Americans have a hard time of grasping that democratic national understandings of free speech apart from anything that does not involve free speech as filtered through the First Amendment.
The American view of rights is very different than the European view. Generally Europeans believe rights are granted by governments, while Americans have viewed rights as granted by God, who superseded government. Therefore, the only legitimate role of government is to protect and ensure its citizens' rights.
 

DammitVictor

Druid of the Invisible Hand
* It would be reasonable to argue that there are no universal human rights by the second definition - that all rights only come from what legal controls we put in place and maintain, and without those controls, the concept of "rights" has little meaning.

In a practical sense, this is true-- but arguing that there are no meaningfully objective moral rights without a legal basis provides no moral justification for ever changing the law to recognize new legal rights. Or for resisting the law when it fails to uphold existing legal rights on an equitable basis.

Every legal right that the upstanding citizen enjoys today was given to them by the violent criminal who took it from the government by force. Every basic freedom they enjoy was won by the sweat and the blood of the same kind of people they condemn for wanting to enjoy it for themselves.

Thank a Criminal Day is 22 August. For practical legal reasons, I'm not going to make any suggestions for how we should celebrate.
 

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