Do We Still Need "Oriental Adventures"?

Status
Not open for further replies.
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.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

Celebrim

Legend
Goes to note that my Asian friends weren't offended by the book when we used it back in the 80s. Don't know how they'd feel about it now.

I always get the impression that the people who are finding the most stuff to be offended about, only know of people different than themselves in a theoretical manner through textbooks, history books, other media, and statistics. It's a magazine level relationship. And the problem I have with it, is I've never met any of the people described in those magazine articles. The real people I've met were complicated, unexpected, unique and didn't have these average consensus opinions or feelings or preferences that they were supposed to have based on someone's survey data and image 'Arab' or 'African' or 'Asian' or whatever label they are supposed to have conjures up. Offended by Oriental Adventures? Maybe. I've never heard that opinion, but it's probably out there somewhere. But probably for some less than they were offended when A New Hope was changed so that Han wasn't the only one doing the shooting, or when the content in World of Warcraft was 'dumbed down' to be more accessible.

For me, I see questions like, "Do we still need Oriental Adventures?", and I think to myself - twenty years ago, that was a racist question. Twenty years ago, the idea that we wouldn't publish content reflecting all sorts of diverse settings and cultures and not just Western Fantasy, would have been seen as a really crappy opinion to have. Back then, the sacred progressive opinion people would have been proud to have was that D&D was not just for Western Fantasy, and people saying that they didn't want Monks or other Eastern things in their D&D because D&D was some sort of Western cultural artifact and therefore should be uniquely Western would have been the marginal shunned opinions. And to be honest, I would have thought that's a fairly natural ordering. No one had to have monks in their game, but bravo for having Oriental Adventures if you wanted them.

Now, all the sudden the "woke" thing is to question whether we should even have Oriental Adventures?

Is this some sort of trick played by the groups 20 years back? Is it like one of those cartoons where the two characters are saying back and forth, "No, it isn't" and "Yes, it is." so long that when one of them switches sides, the other side switches too and now the trickster gets his opponent to agree with him?

Respect doesn't change. But the codification in some ivory tower of what respect looks like seems to change with every breeze. Some day this article will be problematic again, I suspect. I wonder what people will be saying then.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Respect doesn't change. But the codification in some ivory tower of what respect looks like seems to change with every breeze. Some day this article will be problematic again, I suspect. I wonder what people will be saying then.

Nice, poetic, comment.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
One of the things I find most problematic, is a normal D&Dism: the misuse of reallife names.

Especially when dealing with unfamiliar cultures, misusing slides into misrepresenting, and disrespecting.

If an author is going to use a reallife name − whether ninja or oni − research the reallife meaning of the word, to be familiar with its historical accuracy or mythological accuracy. If there is no interest in reallife, maybe avoid using the reallife name.

For a fictive creation that romps thru a culture for loose inspiration, consider a synonym, or neologism, or even a compound noun, to signal that the creation is distinct from reallife.

The simple rule of using real names in real ways avoids faux pas.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Yaarel

Mind Mage
For me, even the name ‘Mazteca’ ( = Mexico + Aztec) seems a bit too reallife. As a recognizably reallife name, its authors would need to be highly knowledgeable about Mexico today and Aztec civilization.
 



Could someone give actual examples of things from the previous editions of OA that are offensive? Beyond vague summaries or the fact that its existence may be offensive to some. Are there any specific game mechanics that show an overt racial bias, offensive stereotypes in example characters, or perhaps racist caricatures in the art? Unless I've missed part of this thread (quite possible), the only thing that seems to fit the bill is the use of the word "oriental".

This is a serious question; I'm not trying to pose a hypothetical. Over the course of this thread, one common recurring concept is that a new version of OA must be done respectfully. And when I think back to me 3e OA book, I think it was. However, I will admit that my glasses may be rose colored; it's been over a decade since that book got out of it's box in the basement. And I never owned the earlier version. So, I would really like to hear if there are specific things people found offensive beyond the initial concept.

When we want a new version of OA to be respectful, do we mean that WotC needs to keep doing it the way that it is, that they need to modernize it to brush off traces that were considered acceptable before but aren't now, or that they need to re-examine the product from the ground up?
 

Igwilly

First Post
One of the things I find most problematic, is a normal D&Dism: the misuse of reallife names.

Especially when dealing with unfamiliar cultures, misusing slides into misrepresenting, and disrespecting.

If an author is going to use a reallife name − whether ninja or oni − research the reallife meaning of the word, to be familiar with its historical accuracy or mythological accuracy. If there is no interest in reallife, maybe avoid using the reallife name.

For a fictive creation that romps thru a culture for loose inspiration, consider a synonym, or neologism, or even a compound noun, to signal that the creation is distinct from reallife.

The simple rule of using real names in real ways avoids faux pas.
Thing is, we do that, all the time. With everyone. Most classes and monsters with names from real-world mythos and folklore are *heavily* changed and adapted. No one complains about how devils and demons (or titans, or fairies.. ) in a setting are different from their real-world roots, even if the concept usually is completely different.
He, there are some cases where we don't even Know if it's accurate or not.
This doesn't mean lack of respect. If the fictional Orient was seen as inherently evil compared to the good West, for example, then you may have a point.
I tell you this because people use my culture and my religion in the exact same way and I have the same standards I'm telling you here.
 

unknowable

Explorer
The euro cultures are all kinda chopped up and mashed together in D&D, I think it is fine and should be setting dependent.

Arguably not leaning too heavily on any one culture from the real world or making "all asians are one people and look the same" is a bigger issue.
If it is divided up amongst different fictional cultures in the same way D&D handles the traditional western / european ones I am fine.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Avatar: the Last Air Bender, is the ideal I want D&D to strive for.

It is simply a cool setting. Those who know, know and appreciate the thoughtful reallife inspirations from diverse Asian cultures. But for everyone else, it is simply awesome.

Personally I like the fact that it mostly uses English names for place names (Northern Air Temple, Earth Kingdom City, Serpent Pass), as well as a few select flavorful names (Kyoshi Island, Si Wong Desert). When it uses reallife names like ‘avatar’, it does so with reasonable accuracy (a powerful spirit that incarnates as a human).

That is what I want D&D exploration of Asia to look like. Simply a cool setting.
 

For me, even the name ‘Mazteca’ ( = Mexico + Aztec) seems a bit too reallife. As a recognizably reallife name, its authors would need to be highly knowledgeable about Mexico today and Aztec civilization.

We are talking about playing fantasy versions of places and cultures as they were 700-1000 years ago, not the modern versions of them. A lot of modern countries did not even exist then as they do now. And many countries and cultures and religions have lived and died in the hundreds of years that have passed since the general time period that people want to play the fantasy version of. Now if you were talking about fantasy/steampunk versions of the real world where you were only looking back 100-150 years, that would be different.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Thing is, we do that, all the time. With everyone. Most classes and monsters with names from real-world mythos and folklore are *heavily* changed and adapted. No one complains about how devils and demons (or titans, or fairies.. ) in a setting are different from their real-world roots, even if the concept usually is completely different.
He, there are some cases where we don't even Know if it's accurate or not.
This doesn't mean lack of respect. If the fictional Orient was seen as inherently evil compared to the good West, for example, then you may have a point.
I tell you this because people use my culture and my religion in the exact same way and I have the same standards I'm telling you here.

Yes, it is a D&Dism to abuse reallife names, pioneered by Gygax himself. (Heh, but so was sexist chainmail bikinies a D&Dism to some degree.)

Yet from longswords that are exceptionally long, to what the name ‘warlord’ actually means, to elves that are charismatic, to religions that lack polytheism, to what a ‘witch’ class might look like, players refer to reallife traditions to various degrees.

The 5e bard is a nod toward a mythologically accurate bard, according Welsh and wider Celtic traditions. Various players voiced concern about the bard. Now the bard is one of my favorite classes. I appreciate WotC revisited the reallife contexts. It created a compelling product.



There is no need to limit imagination to the ancient world or to other cultures. But using reallife terms in thoughtful ways, helps.
 


Doctor Futurity

Adventurer
I think several people above nailed the fact that standard vanilla-esque fantasy settings are already amalgams of European cultures to various degrees, so an amalgamated "Oriental" setting isn't inherently a bad thing.

Furthermore, the reason the Orient is still the "exotic Other" is that the vast majority of game designers are Westerners. Again, not inherently a bad or racist thing.

Now how we treat the "Other" is another matter. If an Oriental book peddled in FuManchuism, that would be problematic and disrespectful. But ninjas and mixing up Japanese, Korean and Chinese culture (etc) isn't inherently disrespectful - no more than mixing up English, Irish, French, etc.

In other words, let's all be friends ;)

Wise post.
 

Doctor Futurity

Adventurer
[MENTION=10738]Doctor Futurity[/MENTION]: We're talking about OA, a WotC product. Then we're talking about replacing OA with a very specific setting that will have a very small interested audience, so low sales numbers. So that's not something WotC is interested in. And possibly a lot of Indies either, because they also need to pay the bills. Now, you could produce a small book, with high quality illustration, layout, editing and writing. But it would either price itself out of the market OR it wouldn't pay for itself, and especially indies can't operate that way. You could source cheap illustration, layout, editing and writing, but that often shows low quality and low appeal... I'm curious how well this 11 page GR product sold on East Asia ($3.95): https://greenroninstore.com/collect...e/products/atlas-of-earth-prime-east-asia-pdf

Now people have done better and will certainly will do better again, but to date those haven't been that successful. Those are passion projects. Often not benefiting from good art, layout and editing...

Your point?

Speaking as someone who's been active in indie publishing (in gaming) since 1984, and active in the OSR publishing front since it's mid 00's inception I must politely disagree. You might not be aware of just how many current projects out there are all labors of love (often and including the pretty games, not just the ones that slap OSR on the cover as an art apology) and any financial gain is just a happy coincidence. I'd argue it's 90% of the hobby's publishing right now that fits this criteria.

And like I said, this is not a project for WotC for all sorts of reasons, not least of which is they need to keep their focus lightning rod on the three products a year that they actually release. Hell, see DMsGuild as we write and debate for examples of 5E Oriental Adventures books that are well received and pretty useful.
 

Doctor Futurity

Adventurer
If WotC wants to see Muslims playing D&D, then it must be easy to opt out of polytheism.

Also, Mormons! In the late 80's my group was 80% Mormon (4 Mormon guys and me). I thought it was fascinating that their clerics would choose to be "polytheistic atheists."
 

mangamuscle

Explorer
If WotC wants to see Muslims playing D&D, then it must be easy to opt out of polytheism.

I do not think that is how it works. Polytheism is part of D&D. Same as devils/demons. TSR tried to remove/rename devils/demons and there was not a huge increase in players to warrant such an action. This is just like violent video games, if you do not like the violence, there are *other* video games that do not have it, I do not like or play Medal of Honor but I would never ask the publisher to tone down the violence, to each their own.
 

Mike Myler

Have you been to LevelUp5E.com yet?
Whew! Long thread! Before I kick into it proper I'm going to talk about a few things.

The original Oriental Adventures book.
Obviously I was a fan. I read through it I don't know how many times, I played plenty of samurai, and I routinely begged for a game set there instead of FR (no luck). Now that I'm older I kind of understand the GM's recalcitrance a bit better because while I still enjoy it, it's not terribly nuanced. What to my teen eyes was awesome doesn't get read the same way now and the idea of a bunch of animal-based samurai traditions--practically all of those presented in the book--is hokey. As a community I think we can and should do better (and we can #DoBetterThanDrow too but that's a whole different conversation).

There's a lot of mentioning colonization in the previous posts.
We included colonization in my eastern fantasy setting right off in the first chapter, and the world itself is colored by a recently-upended 150 year occupation by said colonists (brilliantly called "Ceramians"). I'm not sure how I could've felt morally proper making an eastern fantasy setting on its own without that element because it's an acknowledgement of the fact that I'm looking at this entire thing through a cultural lens that doesn't prohibit a more authentic approach, but definitely makes it harder to achieve. So we embraced it, put it where it can't get ignored, and then encourage adventurer's to whomp the remaining rogue colonial generals while going about their business. :)

Utilizing existing mythology and folklore.
This is something we should be doing. Myths carry a metric ton of cultural information and they persist because they have great value on a number of levels. My main thrust here is more about suspension of disbelief though--one of the best ways to bridge the gap between the believable and the impossible (which a fantasy tabletop RPG does all the time) is to have some basis in the real world. I don't honestly think that most people believe in Sun Wukong, but incorporating that character into a setting still creates this connection between what you're doing and reality which in turns makes the game feel more real. I'm all for being original and you should be original, but that doesn't prohibit also building on existing real world folklore.

In my opinion, Cergorach is right that we don't really want/need accurate cultural representation. What I think people are usually far more interested in but mislabel as "accuracy" is respectful cultural representation. For one thing, when you are obviously inspired by real life cultures like in the OA books (or Tomb of Annihilation), but throw those cultures into a blender with a bunch of other junk and pour that slurry into a book - that's certainly not the best way to do it.

Related to that is something that is often more subtle (although sometimes it's outright blatant like again with ToA and that line from Gary), is that these books are often written specifically from the outside about this other exotic place. So, with the Forgotten Realms for example, there’s this feeling of the “real” FR being over here, and then these other cultures are over there – Maztica, Kara Tur, Chult, Zakhara, etc. Your core D&D characters can go over there to visit these exotic, different people. Why do these cultures have to be over there, and not just integrated with the world as a whole? (Especially since all of these fantasy D&D worlds are equally foreign to most of us 21st century folk. Ninjas are no more exotic than wizards to our current lives.)

So as much as I loved the earlier OA, I think going forward we really, really do not need a new OA. However, as WotC has already been doing a bit, we really, really need that content mixed in with everything else. There’s no reason core D&D needs to be focused on pseudo-European fantasy realms and then make all of the pseudo-other-people fantasy realms into add-ons. It’s all fantasy and unrealistic and fun! So, for example, preferably no Al-Qadim and no Oriental Adventures, but instead these areas should be treated like core Forgotten Realms.

I love Musui's Story but it's a very narrow avenue for roleplay so on the point of respectful cultural representation I'm with you, although I caution throwing out multiculturalism. Anything thrown into a blender is going to be a mess but I've only gotten compliments about including monsters from all over eastern culture (albeit in a world predominantly modeled on Japan).
Also I'll add there's totally a class you can take to become ninja (proper wizard classes are harder to come by). ;)

Feel free to change the name if you must, but the OA setting is fine. It's a representation of a style of fantasy, not a representation of reality. I don't get upset when the Caribbean pirate cosplayers shout "huzzah" to the unicorns at the renaissance faire, either.

I would be more concerned if someone could show serious, systematic examples of the OA books being used to promote racist behavior. If the biggest controversy you can find is that someone was offended by white people shouting "banzai", I'm going to have to consider that the people complaining might be more prejudiced.

Pointing to Pirates of the Carribean in relation to this is a great allusion and isolates what I mention above. It's a little bit "saturday morning cartoon" but that's not exactly a bad thing? I just think that if it's meant to be the prominent representation of eastern fantasy in the world's most popular fantasy tabletop game that maybe it's not the ideal choice.

I’m going to second what kenmarable said. It’s not about accuracy, it’s about being respectful. It’s about not treating non-European cultures as “exotic wonders” to gape at and repeating the same old offensive tropes.

So the real problem with an “Oriental Adventures” book isn’t that it’s inaccurate. The problem is that it from the start, it mashes together several distinct cultures together as one and very much only focuses on the broad strokes details. The problem is that the term oriental is rooted in a racist and imperialist way of seeing the world.

So what we need isn’t an Oriental Adventures book. If you want samurai and ninja that’s fine, but put them in a product with other material from Japan and only Japan. Or you mix everything together. Just like how the monk is a core class and the samurai is in Xanathar’s, you treat the non-European material as a normal part of the setting blended in with the European stuff. You don’t present your setting as “Here’s the normal European inspired fantasy and over there is the exotic and special other cultures.”

Again I warn against throwing out the bath with the bathwater. Part of what makes Forgotten Realms or Golarion rich and vibrant settings is the existence of many cultures simultaneously and while there's absolutely a predication therein for Western Fantasy, including other elements (albeit maybe in amounts that should be larger) gives contrast, meaning, and depth to the rest of the setting. Monocultural books and settings can definitely be cool but I maintain that a healthy dose of multiculturalism can be a good thing.


If you're just find with plundering Irish, Scandinavian, Greek, and other European cultures history and myth for fodder for your role-playing games, then why should Asian cultures and history be treated any differently? This right here is why this entire line of argument just pisses me right off. It's handwringing nonsense motivated by white guilt.

I'm not Scandinavian, therefore I should not use Vikings in my game, right? No? Well, then, why is orientalism an issue, but scandinavianism isn't an issue? It's dumb.

Part of the issue is that (I reckon) Scandinavian hasn't been used in modern times as a pejorative term or in more extreme cases a legal classification (in obviously discriminatory laws, which is a sign of normalization, and ultimately a culture wholesale abandoning a swathe of people based on their ethnicity). We should embrace discussions like these to bring to light that aye--it is absolutely silly, ridiculous, and hypocritical not to engage eastern fantasy with the same fervor that we do western fantasy (and all the sources contained in both) and it should get as much attention by all parties. It's a pity it doesn't get more!

These conversations remain unrelenting in their inability to recognize that the cultural climate of the late 80's and early 90's brought forth so much effort at creating interesting new settings in nonwestern environments, and that without that effort it might not have paved the way to a more general and worldly assertion of interest in today's culture.

Now that today's cultural values and respect is broader and more worldly, effort should indeed be made to revisit the rest of the world, both through a culturally respectful lens and also through the equally important mythology, folklore and fantasy that is what we're all really looking for in that adaptation (in D&D, at least).

I know there's a tendency these days to assume that only people of cultural origins can write about those origins, but we really do need to continue to provide a lens on other cultures, even if it is filtrered through (and acknowledged as such) by outsiders with a keen interest and effort at accuracy, because ultimately it's this continued exposure that makes people more culturally aware. Al Qadim, Kara Tur and other settings did that for me as a kid, and there should be a tradition that continues and expands on it today, to insure that we don't accidentally isolate today's kids from other cultures, history (fantatsical or real), non western fantasy and so forth simply because we think that it's appropriation to have an interest and to express it through games and writing. We all benefit from embracing the broader swathe of cultural fantasticism in gaming, and it makes us better for doing so. But we lose if we decide that it's impossible for us to somehow seek out and learn about other cultures, or to express that interest in writing and gaming.

Requoting the Doc here to make sure other people see it. Well said.

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'!

Professors are woefully busy until they hit tenure but if you find any that play D&D and have an interest in something like that, please point them at me.

Yeah, everyone, but the publisher who makes it... Imagine how many copies of Oriental Adventures WotC would sell and how many of a specific Korean based setting of the same size... Yeah, that's why generic books sell much better, a larger audience. Remember that WotC worked on a Wuxia book? They had to give it away and it still didn't reach as large an audience as OA... How many high volume Asian based RPGs and or settings are there, not many. One is L5R and that is a well loved target of the people that wield the 'orientalism' katana.... Most are either a single book or a very small range of low volume items.
Welcome to RPG publishing in the modern era. I'm not sure if you're arguing a point (which we all agree on) or think it's relevant, but yeah, I happen to thing that the cottage industry of indie, OSR and small press would handle this quite well, and even relish it. So I agree, except I think that's a good thing and your post reads like you might not think so. But if such a sourcebook came up from a 3PP on rpgnow or dmsguild.com, I think it would be well received by those interested in it.

Nothing in my prior post was arguing anything about profitability for WotC. We're way past that right now; WotC provides the core experience, and the rest of us provide the nuanced expression of personal tastes we all want to divulge in or share. That is literally our hobby these days, and that's totally fine.

Yo over here.

The term "Oriental Adventures" sounds dumb to me, I've always disliked the title. Honestly I refuse to play in any "asian-styled campaigns" simply for the fact that it breeds stereotypes and limits roleplaying potential. Every time there's an opening for an asian-style campaign at my local store, the (usually white, sometimes black) DM throws in houserules or variant rules based on the Honor System and really pigeonholes what we can do as characters as if honor is some special asian cultural cornerstone. It's really not that important. Our cultures are typically more polite but honorable? Not anymore than other cultures. European cultures have the concept of honor built into their society but it isn't shoehorned into every european-styled campaign. Honor systems should be for campaigns which feature royalty or knights or something in which honor actually matters. Just being an asian-styled setting shouldn't necessitate honor rules.

My setting uses Dignity and ties it off against a word we don't have a complete English translation for that essentially means "fall from virtue" (Haitoku) and the major threat of the setting (mists raise your Haitoku, gets too high = transformed into a monster). We did realize that not everybody is going to want to engage in that though, so several race options are immune to the transformation (and thus don't really have to care about their Dignity). Want to be honorable? Great go for it. Don't care? Also great. Want to be the not-caring race and still be honorable, because of course? Also viable (and something I've GM'd over at least three times now).
The reason this concept is in my setting and why you see Honor systems in eastern fantasy is that eastern cultures (most notably Japan) have a stronger tendency towards shame rather than guilt. There's a solid wiki about the concept here. It notes that this is a widely criticized concept so keep that in mind, but it identifies some of the chief differences between traditionally western and eastern cultures in how psyches are shaped and communities treat one another.

Also going to take a quick second here to once again plug Musui's Story because while I <3 samurai, the romanticizing of them is insaaaaaaaaaaaane.

To me, the katana is a versatile one-or-two-handed finesse weapon, and brings something new to the table.
We have it so you lose the finesse bit while wielding it two-handed. ;)

I'd love a 5e Oriental Adventures book but I'm not really sure what would go in it now. I guess a few subclasses, not sure many would be needed. Classic races and monsters from earlier editions would be a good fit, setting information for Karatur would probably be good so that we have an example setting location and cosmology. Also spells.

Call it oriental adventures or Karatur adventures, either way it would be pretty rad.

There's a lot of very cool stuff you can do. Plenty of fun design space. *beats inner-salesman to death*

Missed this thread until today and when I've got more time tonight I'll parse through the many replies, but as the creator of a 5e eastern fantasy campaign setting I wanted to chime in. When making the book we made sure that 1) we included traditional myth and folklore in a respectful fashion and 2) we had some people living in Japan (an American teacher and his class of students) review the material before it went to print in the event we'd gone astray somewhere (we didn't). Projects like that can and should be done with that kind of oversight in mind. It's really not that hard.
You fool! What have you gotten yourself into?!

This must have been terribly burdensome for you to be respectful and get in-culture advice on your material.

If only you could have made up whatever you wanted and told your potential buyers to suck eggs.

/sarcasm

Seriously to good on you.

Potential backers! (It was originally a Kickstarter.) Thank you. :)

One of the things I find most problematic, is a normal D&Dism: the misuse of reallife names.

Especially when dealing with unfamiliar cultures, misusing slides into misrepresenting, and disrespecting.

If an author is going to use a reallife name − whether ninja or oni − research the reallife meaning of the word, to be familiar with its historical accuracy or mythological accuracy. If there is no interest in reallife, maybe avoid using the reallife name.

For a fictive creation that romps thru a culture for loose inspiration, consider a synonym, or neologism, or even a compound noun, to signal that the creation is distinct from reallife.

The simple rule of using real names in real ways avoids faux pas.

I'm only halfway in the boat with you on this one. We almost named a major city (with a map and everything) "Chikan" until somebody pointed out the more popular definition of the term than what I thought it meant--this is what prompted the review by folks in Japan because we have a lot of things named using the Japanese language. That was twofold: on one hand it doesn't sound weird in practice (making up names on the fly may work okay for two dozen things, but when you're looking at naming hundreds of things it's going to fall apart) and there's a mnemonic element to language that's difficult to replicate with improvised naming. For example, in the Tip of the Tongue EN Publishing adventure everything is named on or on something like "memory" or "recollection" or "idea" translated into another language (albeit clumsily). The end effect--and I've checked on this with other books and several people--is a weird undertone of togetherness. I'm still working out if that's based on root words or what (I generally don't use roman language for this purpose so not sure on that), but I'm sure it's definitely a thing.
The takeaway: Use real life names responsibly or you might name a major city "old men that grab girls on the subway".

Could someone give actual examples of things from the previous editions of OA that are offensive? Beyond vague summaries or the fact that its existence may be offensive to some. Are there any specific game mechanics that show an overt racial bias, offensive stereotypes in example characters, or perhaps racist caricatures in the art? Unless I've missed part of this thread (quite possible), the only thing that seems to fit the bill is the use of the word "oriental".

This is a serious question; I'm not trying to pose a hypothetical. Over the course of this thread, one common recurring concept is that a new version of OA must be done respectfully. And when I think back to me 3e OA book, I think it was. However, I will admit that my glasses may be rose colored; it's been over a decade since that book got out of it's box in the basement. And I never owned the earlier version. So, I would really like to hear if there are specific things people found offensive beyond the initial concept.

When we want a new version of OA to be respectful, do we mean that WotC needs to keep doing it the way that it is, that they need to modernize it to brush off traces that were considered acceptable before but aren't now, or that they need to re-examine the product from the ground up?

I touch on it in the start of this voluminous post but essentially the fetishization of clans around the animals didn't have a lot of nuance and felt hokey. I liked it as a teenager and it's not essentially terrible but it has a hokey feel to it. I'm not saying that having animals prominently related to noble clans and so on shouldn't be done (that'd be hypocritical in my case), but the way it was done in Oriental Adventures is kind of a little bit offensive. Not blaring out of the stereo offensive mind you, but I'm trying to think of how I'd defend against it being a little offensive and coming up short.


Whew. Back to work. :D
 

Afrodyte

Explorer
Could someone give actual examples of things from the previous editions of OA that are offensive? Beyond vague summaries or the fact that its existence may be offensive to some. Are there any specific game mechanics that show an overt racial bias, offensive stereotypes in example characters, or perhaps racist caricatures in the art? Unless I've missed part of this thread (quite possible), the only thing that seems to fit the bill is the use of the word "oriental".

This is a serious question; I'm not trying to pose a hypothetical. Over the course of this thread, one common recurring concept is that a new version of OA must be done respectfully. And when I think back to me 3e OA book, I think it was. However, I will admit that my glasses may be rose colored; it's been over a decade since that book got out of it's box in the basement. And I never owned the earlier version. So, I would really like to hear if there are specific things people found offensive beyond the initial concept.

When we want a new version of OA to be respectful, do we mean that WotC needs to keep doing it the way that it is, that they need to modernize it to brush off traces that were considered acceptable before but aren't now, or that they need to re-examine the product from the ground up?

It's been a while since I cracked open the book, but it just felt...off in a way that standard D&D doesn't. I'm not Asian, so I can't really point to a list of items that are badwrongawful, but when I compare it to Oriental Adventures to, say, Avatar: The Last Airbender, it's very noticeable how different it feels when I interact with it.
 

neobolts

Explorer
New name needed, but yes please. Would love a 5e book drawn from various Asian mythologies and cultural heroic archetypes.
 

Status
Not open for further replies.

Related Articles

Visit Our Sponsor

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top