Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"?

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Orientalism -- a wide-ranging term originally used to encompass depictions of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and East Asian cultures -- has gradually come to represent a more negative term. Should Dungeons & Dragons, known for two well-received books titled "Oriental Adventures," have another edition dedicated to "Eastern" cultures?

[h=3]A Brief History of Orientalism[/h]For a time, orientalism was a term used by art historians and literary scholars to group "Eastern" cultures together. That changed in 1978 with Edward Said's Orientalism, which argued that treatment of these cultures conflated peoples, times, and places into a narrative of incident and adventure in an exotic land.

It's easy to see why this approach might appeal to role-playing games. Orientalism is one lens to view a non-European culture within the game's context. We previously discussed how "othering" can create a mishmash of cultures, and it can apply to orientalism as well. The challenge is in how to portray a culture with nuance, and often one large region isn't enough to do the topic justice. The concept even applies to the idea of the "East" and the "Orient," which turns all of the Asian regions into one mono-culture. Wikipedia explains the term in that context:

The imperial conquest of "non–white" countries was intellectually justified with the fetishization of the Eastern world, which was effected with cultural generalizations that divided the peoples of the world into the artificial, binary-relationship of "The Eastern World and The Western World", the dichotomy which identified, designated, and subordinated the peoples of the Orient as the Other—as the non–European Self.


Game designers -- who were often admitted fans of Asian cultures -- sought to introduce a new kind of fantasy into traditional Western tropes. Viewed through a modern lens, their approach would likely be different today.
[h=3]The "Oriental" Books in D&D[/h]The original Oriental Adventures was published in 1985 by co-creator of D&D Gary Gygax, David "Zeb" Cook and François Marcela-Froideval. It introduced the ninja, kensai, wu-jen, and shukenja as well as new takes on the barbarian and monk. It was also the first supplement to introduce non-weapn proficiencies, the precursor to D&D's skill system. The book was well-received, and was envisioned by Gygax as an opportunity to reinvigorate the line -- ambitions which collapsed when he left the company. The book's hardcover had the following text printed on the back:

…The mysterious and exotic Orient, land of spices and warlords, has at last opened her gates to the West.


Aaron Trammell provides a detailed analysis of how problematic this one line of text is. The sum of his argument:

Although Gary Gygax envisioned a campaign setting that brought a multicultural dimension to Dungeons & Dragons, the reality is that by lumping together Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Philippine, and “Southeast Asian” lore he and co-authors David “Zeb” Cook and Francois Marcela-Froideval actually developed a campaign setting that reinforced western culture’s already racist understanding of the “Orient.”


The next edition would shift the setting from Kara-Tur (which was later sent in the Forgotten Realms) to Rokugan from the Legend of the Five Rings role-playing game.
[h=3]Controversy of the Five Rings[/h]James Wyatt wrote the revised Oriental Adventures for Third Edition D&D, published by Wizards of the Coast in 2001. It was updated to 3.5 in Dragon Magazine #318.

Legend of the Five Rings, a franchise that extends to card games, is itself not immune to controversy. Quintin Smith got enough comments on his review of the Legend of the Five Rings card game that he included an appendix that looked critically at chanting phrases "banzai!" at conventions and some of the game's art:

Now, I have no idea if this is right or wrong, but I do know that chanting in Japanese at an event exclusively attended by white men and women made me feel a tiny bit weird. My usual headcheck for this is “How would I feel if I brought a Japanese-English friend to the event?” and my answer is “Even more weird.” Personally, I found the game’s cover art to be a little more questionable. I think it’s fantastic to have a fantasy world that draws on Asian conventions instead of Western ones. But in a game that almost exclusively depicts Asian men and women, don’t then put white people on the cover! It’s such a lovely piece of art. I just wish she looked a little bit less like a cosplayer.


Perhaps in response to this criticism, Fantasy Flight Games removed the "banzai" chant as a bullet point from its web site. The page also features several pictures of past tournament winners, which provides some context as to who was shouting the chant.
[h=3]Fifth Edition and Diversity[/h]By the time the Fifth Edition of D&D was published, the game's approach to diverse peoples had changed. Indigo Boock on GeekGirlCon explains how:

Diversity is strength. The strongest adventuring party is the most diverse adventuring party. Try thinking about it in terms of classes—you have your healers, fighters, and magic users. Same goes for diversity. Different outlooks on life create more mobility and openness for different situations. Jeremy also explained that it was crucial that the art also reflected diversity, as did Art Director Kate Erwin. With this, they tried to make sure that there was a 50/50 split of people who identify as male and people who identify as female in the illustrations.


Trammell points out how these changes are reflected in the art of the core rule books:

First, there are illustrations: an East Asian warlock, a female samurai, an Arabian princess, an Arab warrior, and a Moor in battle, to name a few. Then, there are mechanics: the Monk persists as a class replete with a spiritual connection to another world via the “ki” mechanic. Scimitars and blowguns are commonly available as weapons, and elephants are available for purchase as mounts for only 200 gold. Although all of these mechanics are presented with an earnest multiculturalist ethic of appreciation, this ethic often surreptitiously produces a problematic and fictitious exotic, Oriental figure. At this point, given the embrace of multiculturalism by the franchise, it seems that the system is designed to embrace the construction of Orientalist fictional worlds where the Orient and Occident mix, mingle, and wage war.


A good first step is to understand the nuances of a region by exploring more than one culture there. Sean "S.M." Hill's "The Journey to..." series is a great place to start, particularly "Romance of the Three Kingdoms."

D&D has come a long way, but it still has some work to do if it plans to reflect the diversity of its modern player base and their cultures...which is why it seems unlikely we'll get another Oriental Adventures title.

Mike "Talien" Tresca is a freelance game columnist, author, communicator, and a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to http://amazon.com. You can follow him at Patreon.
 

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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

AriochQ

Adventurer
To what extent is it reasonable to expect game setting to accurately reflect the real world material upon which they are based?

In reading the above comments, I was struck by the thought that a European could make many of the same arguments about the original source material. Celts and Norse could be upset about the interpretation of the barbarian. French could be disgusted about the implementation of the cavalier. Religious orders are not accurately reflected. The feudal system is lacking many important aspects. etc.

Granted, Oriental Adventures took the blender approach to new levels, but the original settings were also a horrible mishmash of (generally) European cultures that became know as 'fantasy'. The use of the term 'oriental' is probably in poor taste by current standards, but at the time of publication it didn't have as much as a negative connotation. Not saying it was right to use it, just that it is far too easy to sit on our 2018 thrones and pass judgement on 1985.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I'm going to reorder your post a little here...



I generally agree that this is a problem. There are a couple of different solutions, but it definitely a problem.



I don't really think this is a problem. It pretty much describes all historical fantasy games I've ever played. Give someone a big sandbox with rough tools, let them fill in the detail work they like.

The missed point here, is that European cultures don’t get plugged in as obvious “here’s the Europe guys” with clear correlaries to RL cultures, but presented as one homogenous thing. No one complains about seeing Oni in Waterdeep for the same reason no one complains about Dwarves fighting Gorgons alongside Hobbits.

The other part of the problem, and another key difference, si that this mismash of “oriental” elements is still presented as the distant and exotic Other.
 

Skepticultist

Banned
Banned
A lot of responses appear to be "Yes but what about Y and Z?" as a way to stifle discussion about X. "Oriental? What about the Vikings?" (known as the "Vikings Are People Too" fallacy; I can't take credit for that) -- the simple answer to that is "Sure! Them too. But today we're writing about "Oriental Adventures"; last week it was Africa. We're not going to cover every culture on earth, but we're touching on a couple."

The Vikings Are People Too Fallacy? There is no such thing. No such fallacy exists. What there is however is the principle of moral universalism.

To quote Wikipedia: "Moral universalism (also called moral objectivism or universal morality) is the meta-ethical position that some system of ethics, or a universal ethic, applies universally, that is, for "all similarly situated individuals", regardless of culture, race, sex, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or any other distinguishing feature. Moral universalism is opposed to moral nihilism and moral relativism." (emphasis added)

And let's be clear: This is an argument about morality. talien, the OP, suggests -- in a very mealy-mouthed, passive way -- that orientalism is a moral hazard to be avoided. It's bad, it's wrong, it's something you shouldn't do -- these are all evidence we are dealing with a moral claim. Essentially talien and those who support his position are asserting a moral claim: "Orientalism is a moral hazard."

If picking a bunch of random elements from Asian cultures and using them to build a generic Asian setting is a moral hazard, then picking a bunch of random elements from European cultures and using them to build a generic European setting must also be a moral hazard -- unless you are willing to make the claim that Asians and Europeans are of differing moral value, and specifically that Europeans are of lesser moral worth than Asians. Hilariously, it's the people making this extremely racist claim who are running around accusing everyone else of racism.

If Oriental Adventures is problematically racist, then ALL of Dungeons & Dragons is problematically racist. The generic European setting presumed in the base rules of D&D is not different in any meaningful way than the generic Asian setting presumed in the Oriental Adventures rules.

You cannot argue that it is acceptable to raid one broad cultural group (Europeans) for RPG tropes and then turn around and claim it is unacceptable to raid a different broad cultural group (Asian) for RPG tropes without provoking the question: what makes the first group different from the latter group.

Now, the obvious answer would be "colonialism" or "imperialism" or some other trendy buzzword, but there's a HUGE problem there:

Norway has never colonized another country. Japan and China are both imperialist powers who have either colonized other countries or at least attempted to and failed.

So why is it acceptable for me, an American of Scottish and Italian ancestry, to raid noncolonial, nonimperialist Scandinavian culture, myth and legend for RPG tropes (for example, the Barbarian class with its berserker rage is clearly rooted in Scandinavian lore), but not acceptable to do the same thing to China and Japan, both of whom have long histories of colonialism and imperialism?

Clearly, it's not imperialism or colonialism that makes it acceptable or unacceptable. So what is it then?
 
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Warpiglet

Adventurer
The Vikings Are People Too Fallacy? There is no such thing. No such fallacy exists. What there is however is the principle of moral universalism.

To quote Wikipedia: "Moral universalism (also called moral objectivism or universal morality) is the meta-ethical position that some system of ethics, or a universal ethic, applies universally, that is, for "all similarly situated individuals", regardless of culture, race, sex, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or any other distinguishing feature. Moral universalism is opposed to moral nihilism and moral relativism."

And let's be clear: This is an argument about morality. talien, the OP, suggests -- in a very mealy-mouthed, passive way -- that orientalism is a moral hazard to be avoided. It's bad, it's wrong, it's something you shouldn't do -- these are all evidence we are dealing with a moral claim. Essentially talien and those who support his position are asserting a moral claim: "Orientalism is a moral hazard."

If picking a bunch of random elements from Asian cultures and using them to build a generic Asian setting is a moral hazard, then picking a bunch of random elements from European cultures and using them to build a generic European setting must also be a moral hazard -- unless you are willing to make the claim that Asians and Europeans are of differing moral value, and specifically that Europeans are of lesser moral worth than Asians. Hilariously, it's the people making this extremely racist claim who are running around accusing everyone else of racism.

If Oriental Adventures is problematically racist, then ALL of Dungeons & Dragons is problematically racist. The generic European setting presumed in the base rules of D&D is not different in any meaningful way than the generic Asian setting presumed in the Oriental Adventures rules.

You cannot argue that it is acceptable to raid one broad cultural group (Europeans) for RPG tropes and then turn around and claim it is unacceptable to raid a different broad cultural group (Asian) for RPG tropes without provoking the question: what makes the first group different from the latter group.

Now, the obvious answer would be "colonialism" or "imperialism" or some other trendy buzzword, but there's a HUGE problem there:

Norway has never colonized another country. Japan and China are both imperialist powers who have either colonized other countries or at least attempted to and failed.

So why is it acceptable for me, an American of Scottish and Italian ancestry, to raid noncolonial, nonimperialist Scandinavian culture, myth and legend for RPG tropes (for example, the Barbarian class with its berserker rage is clearly rooted in Scandinavian lore), but not acceptable to do the same thing to China and Japan, both of whom have long histories of colonialism and imperialism?

Clearly, it's not imperialism or colonialism that makes it acceptable or unacceptable. So what is it then?

Waiting for a response to these points. Should be entertaining!

I am all for respect. I am just a little weirded out by imperatives directed at only one or two continents/regions.

Indeed, we are talking about using greatly distilled and characterized/fictionalized material in the first place! What's next? Taking offense because some fair skinned northern European analogue worships Zeus instead of the God of the Bible?! And then we turn around and blush because we are not being accurate in representing pretend Asian analogues?

I never took any of these things to map too closely to reality at all. I assumed we were making our own Conan or our own Elrics or King Arthurs and running with it. You know, fantasy?
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
Finding some Japanese / Chinese / Korean / &c professor(s) who want to contribute and review a D&D Far East Sourcebook would be a cool idea - adds authenticity and avoids the really silly inaccurate stuff.
Plus you get to learn new things. (Always a good reason to buy the book even if you don't play the game.)

When Green Ronin released Testament (Biblical background D&D), the Christians did NOT lose their heads or automatically think we were being mocked / belittled.

Some of the argument above can be boiled down to this: You're not allowed to have any fun! Because I can't tell the difference between 'having fun' and 'making fun'!
 

Warpiglet

Adventurer
The missed point here, is that European cultures don’t get plugged in as obvious “here’s the Europe guys” with clear correlaries to RL cultures, but presented as one homogenous thing. No one complains about seeing Oni in Waterdeep for the same reason no one complains about Dwarves fighting Gorgons alongside Hobbits.

The other part of the problem, and another key difference, si that this mismash of “oriental” elements is still presented as the distant and exotic Other.

Respectfully, I think this is about point of origin. The game was made in the west and was based on a group of fantasies by primarily western authors. The designation points out that the content differs from the baseline assumption.

In this respect its like letting you know you are playing dark sun or planescape which also differs from the baseline assumption. They are not inferior per se, but rather different than the baseline assumption.

In the past, most people thought about D&D as relating to knights and dragons with some offshoots. If it is really an issue I suppose people can rename supplements or whatever. I just find it odd that a product should be vilified for having a natural origin.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
Norway has never colonized another country.
The Vikings would like to say Hello.
Various islands in the North Atlantic, Iceland, Greenland (colony failed), raids all over Scotland and Ireland with subsequent settlements. The Danelaw (half of England) was Norwegians and Danes taking over the Angles' and Saxons' territory.

But the important difference is: unlike modern anti-West social critics, the English and French and Sicilians and so on ... got over it. They went on with life. They didn't fixate on the tough times when Fate and those Others were regularly kicking them in the shins. Thomas Sowell discusses this at greater length in History and Culture, which I recommend to all.
 

Tranquilis

Explorer
Personally I’d like to thank the authors of Oriental Adventures. Before I got that book as a teen, I didn’t particularly know a thing about Asian culture other than the “ninja/martial arts craze” in the US in the 1980s. Eventually, I took the history of China and history of the Far East (actual names of the courses) in college.

Even before then, I realized while doing my own research spawned by my interest in OA that the book was a hodgepodge of different Asian cultures. However, without it I may have had no exposure at all.

Too bad these posts (?; they are almost always too biased in one direction to be articles) aren’t more objective. I mean, the quote above about diversity is about as shallow as it gets, but it’s used to bolster the obvious opinion of the author.
 

Gradine

Final Form (she/they)
We literally just got another thread shut down about the historical and continued impact on colonization, about how colonized people have had their voice and their stories and their narratives stripped and stolen from them, and how that is why there is a difference between a bunch of ignorant white dudes writing about a cultural pastiche of Africa/Asia they know only from media and stereotypes and a bunch of ignorant white dudes writing about a cultural pastiche of Vikings they know only from media and stereotypes. Vikings never had their ability to tell their own stories taken from them; they simply eventually traded their weapons and (non-horned) helmets in for skis and socialized medicine.

Yes, ideally we should just "treat everyone the same" but saying that ignores the very basic fact that our world has never and still does not operate that way, and shutting your ears & eyes and pretending that it does only perpetuates inequities and injustices, rather than reversing them.
 

AmerginLiath

Adventurer
The problem of using Said as the expert on “Oriental” is that his 1978 work was a Marxist-Postmodernist polemic that 99% of folks arguing against the use of the term in gaming materials has never read, and Said himself is a notorious pan-Arabist and terrorist-apologist anti-Semite and Holocaust-denialist. That doesn’t mean that the use of the word Oriental isn’t problematic, but that the academic defense of Said as the expert on why; his work on the West in that book has been deconstructed and lambasted for nearly forty years as being as poorly rendered as the image of the East that he argues against. I’d suggest writers such as John Dower as better sources on East-West counter-myths.

What we overlook, and what many here have alluded strongly too, is that D&D is itself an “Occidental Adventures” game that takes the Napoleonic and Old West gaming of Chainmail and Boot Hill and adds a veneer of European myth and English/Anglo-American fantasy stories: Tolkien, Howard, Lieber, Anderson, Dunsany, Hammer Horror, Bullfinch, etc. There’s no historical politics or social structure (the wilderness modeling the game is Old West in Armor, not actual feudalism) and the religion at play matches no period in historical Christendom. Yet we somehow accept an illusion of historicity and make arguments about armor weight and the like.

I actually think that the answer isn’t to have an “Oriental Adventures” any more than to call out the artifice of the current Appendix N Greyhawk skin of D&D. Rather, I like how the game throws Kung-fu-style monks in with Hammer Horror vampire-turning clerics and has a samurai fighter next to cavalier fighter (one named for a Japanese model, one named for a French model, both actually modeled on the movies that Americans make about noble warriors across oceans). If we already have elves running around with dwarves and Dragonborn, we can kitchen sink the rest of it.
 


stargazera5

Explorer
We literally just got another thread shut down about the historical and continued impact on colonization, about how colonized people have had their voice and their stories and their narratives stripped and stolen from them, and how that is why there is a difference between a bunch of ignorant white dudes writing about a cultural pastiche of Africa/Asia they know only from media and stereotypes and a bunch of ignorant white dudes writing about a cultural pastiche of Vikings they know only from media and stereotypes. Vikings never had their ability to tell their own stories taken from them; they simply eventually traded their weapons and (non-horned) helmets in for skis and socialized medicine.

Yes, ideally we should just "treat everyone the same" but saying that ignores the very basic fact that our world has never and still does not operate that way, and shutting your ears & eyes and pretending that it does only perpetuates inequities and injustices, rather than reversing them.

Anybody who has an issue with "...colonized people have had their voice and their stories and the narratives stripped and stolen from them..." should give up speaking English as laterally the vast majority of every syllable, construct, and concept in it was stolen from another culture. Or give up their hypocrisy about cultural assimilation in merging cultures as they mesh over time.

Personally I'm tired of hearing that borrowing and assimilating from other cultures is 'disrespecting' them when it's been the human norm and a major way to improve all cultures for 10s of thousands of years. If anything, we've improved on the template by doing so peacefully.
 

Skepticultist

Banned
Banned
Vikings never had their ability to tell their own stories taken from them; they simply eventually traded their weapons and (non-horned) helmets in for skis and socialized medicine.

Okay, see, now this is an utterly ridiculous statement. Because the clear implication of this statement is that Asians have had their ability to tell their own stories taken from them, but that's such a clearly asinine statement that one wonders if you put literally any thought into what you were saying before you hit Post. You might have a point if we were talking about African-Americans, but treating Asians in Asia as identical to African-Americans is completely ludicrous.

I mean, quite literally, the main impetus for Asian-themed adventures is Asian cinema. The reason people want to play as Samurai is because of the films of Akira Kurosawa and Japanese manga like Lone Wolf and Cub -- i.e. products of Japanese culture. Stories about Japan told by Japanese authors.

The notion that the Japanese have been stripped of their ability to tell their own stories is just so completely at odds with incredibly obvious facts that it staggers the imagination to wonder how you thought you'd get away with such a completely baseless, nonsensical and surreal argument.

Likewise, if the Chinese have been denied the ability to tell their own stories, then the only one doing that denying is the Communist Party of China and its various ministries of thought control. In Hong Kong (hilariously, the part of China that was colonized), where there aren't the same restrictions and limitations, Chinese filmmakers have been telling their own stories for several decades. I mean the Shaw Brothers, who are indeed Chinese, have more or less defined the entire genre of Wuxia. And that is what people are intrested in playing.

Yes, ideally we should just "treat everyone the same" but saying that ignores the very basic fact that our world has never and still does not operate that way, and shutting your ears & eyes and pretending that it does only perpetuates inequities and injustices, rather than reversing them.

Please, do elaborate. Precisely what "inequities and injustices" are being perpetuated by people engaging in role-playing games that play around with Asian tropes?
 

Gradine

Final Form (she/they)
Anybody who has an issue with "...colonized people have had their voice and their stories and the narratives stripped and stolen from them..." should give up speaking English as laterally the vast majority of every syllable, construct, and concept in it was stolen from another culture. Or give up their hypocrisy about cultural assimilation in merging cultures as they mesh over time.

Personally I'm tired of hearing that borrowing and assimilating from other cultures is 'disrespecting' them when it's been the human norm and a major way to improve all cultures for 10s of thousands of years. If anything, we've improved on the template by doing so peacefully.

There is a difference between "merging cultures as they mesh over time" and "deliberately destroying cultures in order to exploit their people and their resources".
 

jbear

First Post
Pretty sure I'm not allowed to reply to a moderator comment as one of the site rules but not entirely sure which rule I broke with my first comment. Nevertheless I'll try again with more restraint and without the sarcasm.

In direct response to the article not the mod comment:

I don't believe that the ideological preaching of the recent articles has any place on this site. I find them both misplaced and condescending. I think people should stay away from the high horses and just enjoy playing the fictional imaginary game we all enjoy so much.
 

If I use the Irish mythology to create my fantasy world, would that be "Hibernophobia"? Is racist the ABC/BBC (2000 year) miniserie "Arabian Nights"? Is Hispanophobia a movie adaptation of a Spanish picaresque novel? Has anybody complained about the background of "Legend of the five rings"?

Don't forget the manga "Dragon Ball" is (freely) inspired in the classic Chinese tale "Journey to the West", and the famous western movie "the magnificent seven" is a "remake" of "seven samurais" by Akira Kurosawa.

Creating fantasy fiction based in other civilitations isn't worng, but it may be a key to help to know other cultures. Using any stereotypes isn't worng, only abusing negative stereotypes.

* What do you think about the racial traits by the shen from 3.5 Oriental Adventures?
 

bmfrosty

Explorer
What needs to not happen is a book full of harmful stereotypes.

A medieval Asian or Middle-eastern themed adventure certainly could be done, but only with much care.

What would be a more interesting book to me would be an Australia themed adventure. Put it on a large continent already inhabited but being flooded with prisoners from a far land - most of whom are just trying to get along. Put villains on both side of the story.
 
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If I wanted historically accurate books for a role-playing game, I would never play any of the FANTASY role-playing games.

I want to play a fantasy rpg which uses a fantasy setting. And if that setting uses fantasy races and cultures and classes that resemble those of the real world, that is fine with me. The only thing I ask is for the truly negative stereotypes, from all real world cultures and races, to be left out of the fantasy material. This goes as far as applying them to non-human races as well. And keep the real world names to a minimum. The Realms version is Kara-Tur or Al-Qadim or Maztica, not Japan or China or Egypt or Saudi Arabia or Mexico.
 

kenmarable

Adventurer
The Vikings Are People Too Fallacy? There is no such thing. No such fallacy exists. What there is however is the principle of moral universalism.

To quote Wikipedia: "Moral universalism (also called moral objectivism or universal morality) is the meta-ethical position that some system of ethics, or a universal ethic, applies universally, that is, for "all similarly situated individuals", regardless of culture, race, sex, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or any other distinguishing feature. Moral universalism is opposed to moral nihilism and moral relativism." (emphasis added)

Leaving aside all the little rhetorical tricks (e.g. the article is "mealy-mouthed", colonialism is a "trendy buzzword", etc.) and dealing with your actual argument, you raise some very good points, but you leave out some extremely important factors.

For one thing, this is an overly simplistic view of moral universalism. The majority of ethical theories are based on universal equal consideration, NOT universally equal treatment. As a ridiculous example to illustrate the point, I have no right to a mammogram because I am male, nor to hurricane relief because my home state of Michigan doesn’t get hit with hurricanes, etc. Moral universalism would say that IF we were similarly situated, then we deserve equal consideration (the part of the Wikipedia quote you didn’t bold). However, we are not similarly situated, so we do not deserve equal treatment but we are still given equal consideration.

So, the issue here is whether these various cultures and groups of cultures are similarly situated. As Warpiglet pointed out (making a different point, but still accurate here) is that it is about point of origin. From an primarily English-speaking UK/American perspective that these products have been traditionally produced from, no, there are centuries of history as well as a lot of modern events that situated all of these cultures differently with each other.

Sure, centuries of ethics have tried to view humans as these interchangeable rational creatures springing fully formed from the Earth. Thankfully, late 20th century meta-ethics has been trying to rid us of that absurdity. We are embodied and situated with particular histories. If we grew up in China, we would have a vastly different view of Japan. But, at least in the US with our Mickey Rooney-esque treatment of the Japanese, we have a very different relationship to Japan. Our relationship with many African cultures is vastly different than our relationship with many European ones. To pretend otherwise is absurd.

So, yes, moral universalism makes a very good point that when similarly situated, we should treat cultures, etc. in similar ways. But it is not as simplistic as just looking at that other culture's history and completely ignoring the one who is looking. The “similarly situated” needs to take into account how they are situated to each other, as well.

Now, what I said above just pertains to Americans (and to varying degrees the British, for example), but you'd ask aren’t fans of D&D from more than the US?

You betcha! They will have different perspectives on much of this, as well as similar perspectives on other things. Beyond being a “trendy buzzword” colonialism has been extremely harmful in the history of the world, and some of my South American friends will probably have a very different perspective on it than I do in the ol’ US of A. Doesn’t make it less important to take into consideration.

Plus this leads directly to the point made in the article, as well as by myself and other commenters, which isn’t that Oriental Adventures is racist and we should avoid all mentions of East Asian fantasy. That is a straw person that many keep beating up on that no one else is actually defending. What many of us are saying is that going forward, we can do better. Like many others, I loved the OA books. But I also know times change, the demographics of the fans change, and even the original fans themselves mature and change. I would hope how we handle most things matures and changes from how it was handled decades ago.

For one thing rather than relegating “Oriental” adventures to its own separate book – recognize that D&D fans come from a wide variety of backgrounds and have a wide variety of interests, therefore incorporate that material in with everything else (as WotC has been doing to some degree). As the article mentions, having artwork that represents that variety of fans is a great step. Not separating out that content into its own separate book is another. (Don’t even get the AL people started on how that impacts PHB+1!) That is what the author was claiming when they said another OA is unlikely.

Maybe that’s a better way, or maybe it would lead to it getting “blandified” and losing its uniqueness and therefore a separate OA (or even Japanese Adventures, Chinese Adventures, etc.) would be preferred. I don’t know. That would be an interesting topic to consider. Instead we get arguments against the strawperson claims that OA is racist, no one can ever publish East Asian-inspired work, and we can never have any fun. No one is claiming all that, yet many keep trying to argue against it.
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
What needs to not happen is a book full of harmful stereotypes.

A medieval Asian or Middle-eastern themed adventure certainly could be done, but only with much care.

What would be a more interesting book to me would be an Australia themed adventure. Put it on a large continent already inhabited but being flooded with prisoners from a far land - most of whom are just trying to get along. Put villains on both side of the story.

THIS.

All this yowling that's going on in both directions is just obnoxious.

What people are asking for isn't difficult. It's asking the developers to take some time out of their day and actually read the myths of the cultures they're basing their fantasy-land on. To actually learn about how that culture is different than "Western" American culture and figure out how best to present those differences so an audience who is largely ignorant to them.

That's all we're asking people to do. Instead of just going in with "Well X culture has a violent history so they must be violent savages and it's all my imagination anyway so who cares!" or "Their traditions are different and weird so we'll make them completely incomprehensible and strange to the players!"

This stuff isn't hard guys, and the request is a fairly low bar. Probably lower than most of the papers I had to write for college, and those weren't being published to millions of readers around the world. I mean, if you can't do the research on par with a college essay to "get it right", you really oughta shut yer yap about it.
 

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