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D&D General Dragonlance's Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman Are Suing WotC for Breach of Contract

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For fans of the Dragonlance D&D setting, there's some mixed news which has just hit a court in Washington State: it seems that there's a new Dragonlance trilogy of books which was (until recently) being written; but we may never see them. On 16th October 2020, a lawsuit was filed in the US District Court by Dragonlance authors Weis and Hickman asserting an unlawful breach of contract by WotC regarding the licensing of a new series of Dragonlance novels. Indeed, it appears that the first of three novels, Dragons of Deceit, has already been written, as has Book 2, Dragons of Fate.

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The Lawsuit
From the documents it appears that in March 2019 a new Dragonlance trilogy was licensed by WotC; Weis and Hickman wrote a book called Dragons of Deceit, and the draft of a second called Dragons of Fate, and then WotC terminated the contract in August 2020.

The suit asserts that the termination was unlawful, and "violated multiple aspects of the License Agreement". It goes on to assert that the reasons for the termination were due to WotC being "embroiled in a series of embarrassing public disputes whereby its non-Dragonlance publications were excoriated for racism and sexism. Moreover, the company itself was vilified by well-publicized allegations of misogyny and racist hiring and employment practices by and with respect to artists and employees unrelated to Dragonlance."

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NATURE OF THE ACTION

1. Margaret Weis (“Weis”) and Tracy Hickman (“Hickman”) (collectively with Margaret Weis, LLC, “Plaintiff-Creators”) are among the most widely-read and successful living authors and world-creators in the fantasy fiction arena. Over thirty-five years ago, Plaintiff- Creators conceived of and created the Dragonlance universe—a campaign setting for the “Dungeons & Dragons” roleplaying game, the rights to which are owned by Defendant. (In Dungeons & Dragons, gamers assume roles within a storyline and embark on a series of adventures—a “campaign”—in the context of a particular campaign setting.)

2. Plaintiff-Creators’ conception and development of the Dragonlance universe has given rise to, among other things, gaming modules, video games, merchandise, comic books, films, and a series of books set in the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy world. While other authors have been invited to participate in creating over 190 separate fictional works within the Dragonlance universe, often with Plaintiff-Creators as editors, Weis’s and Hickman’s own works remain by far the most familiar and salable. Their work has inspired generations of gamers, readers and enthusiasts, beginning in 1984 when they published their groundbreaking novel Dragons of Autumn Twilight, which launched the Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy. Their books have sold more than thirty million copies, and their Dragonlance World of Krynn is arguably the most successful and popular world in shared fiction, rivaled in the fantasy realm only by the renowned works created by J.R.R. Tolkien (which do not involve a shared fictional world). Within the Dragonlance universe, Plaintiff-Creators have authored or edited 31 separate books, short story anthologies, game materials, and art and reference books in a related series of works all dedicated to furthering the Dungeons & Dragons/Dragonlance brand.

3. In or around 2017, Plaintiff-Creators learned that Defendant was receptive to licensing its properties with established authors to revitalize the Dungeons & Dragons brand. After a ten-year hiatus, Plaintiff-Creators approached Defendant and began negotiating for a license to author a new Dragonlance trilogy. Plaintiff-Creators viewed the new trilogy as the capstone to their life’s work and as an offering to their multitude of fans who had clamored for a continuation of the series. Given that the Dragonlance series intellectual property is owned by Defendant, there could be no publication without a license. In March, 2019, the negotiations between the parties hereto culminated in new written licensing agreement whereby Weis and Hickman were to personally author and publish a new Dragonlance trilogy in conjunction with Penguin Random House, a highly prestigious book publisher (the “License Agreement”).

4. By the time the License Agreement was signed, Defendant had a full overview of the story and story arc, with considerable detail, of the planned trilogy. Defendant knew exactly the nature of the work it was going to receive and had pre-approved Penguin Random House as the publisher. Indeed, Defendant was at all times aware of the contract between Penguin Random House and Plaintiff-Creators (the “Publishing Agreement”) and its terms. In fact, the License Agreement expressly refers to the Publishing Agreement.

5. By June 2019, Defendant received and approved a full outline of the first contracted book in the trilogy (“Book 1”) and by November 2019 the publisher accepted a manuscript for Book 1. Plaintiff-Creators in turn sent the Book 1 manuscript to Defendant, who approved it in January 2020. In the meantime, Defendant was already approving foreign translation rights and encouraging Plaintiff-Creators to work on the subsequent novels.

6. During the development and writing process, Plaintiff-Creators met all contractual milestones and received all requisite approvals from Defendant. Defendant at all times knew that Hickman and Weis had devoted their full attention and time commitment to completing Book 1 and the trilogy as a whole in conformity with their contractual obligations. During the writing process, Defendant proposed certain changes in keeping with the modern-day zeitgeist of a more inclusive and diverse story-world. At each step, Plaintiff-Creators timely accommodated such requests, and all others, within the framework of their novels. This collaborative process tracks with Section 2(a)(iii) of the License Agreement, which requires Defendant to approve Plaintiff- Creators’ drafts or, alternatively, provide written direction as to the changes that will result in Defendant’s approval of a draft.

7. On or about August 13, 2020, Defendant participated in a telephone conference with Plaintiff-Creators’ agents, which was attended by Defendant’s highest-level executives and attorneys as well as PRH executives and counsel. At that meeting, Defendant declared that it would not approve any further Drafts of Book 1 or any subsequent works in the trilogy, effectively repudiating and terminating the License Agreement. No reason was provided for the termination. (In any event, no material breaches or defaults were indicated or existed upon which to predicate a termination.) The termination was wholly arbitrary and without contractual basis. The termination was unlawful and in violation of multiple aspects of the License Agreement (arguably almost every part of it, in fact). The termination also had the knowing and premeditated effect of precluding publication and destroying the value of Plaintiff-Creators’ work—not to mention their publishing deal with Penguin Random House.

8. Defendant’s acts and failures to act breached the License Agreement and were made in stunning and brazen bad faith. Defendant acted with full knowledge that its unilateral decision would not only interfere with, but also would lay waste to, the years of work that Plaintiff-Creators had, to that point, put into the project. Given that the obligation to obtain a publisher was part and parcel of the License Agreement, Defendant was fully cognizant that its backdoor termination of the License Agreement would nullify the millions of dollars in remuneration to which Plaintiff-Creators were entitled from their publishing contract.

9. As Plaintiff-Creators subsequently learned, Defendant’s arbitrary decision to terminate the License Agreement—and thereby the book publishing contract—was based on events that had nothing to do with either the Work or Plaintiff-Creators. In fact, at nearly the exact point in time of the termination, Defendant was embroiled in a series of embarrassing public disputes whereby its non-Dragonlance publications were excoriated for racism and sexism. Moreover, the company itself was vilified by well-publicized allegations of misogyny and racist hiring and employment practices by and with respect to artists and employees unrelated to Dragonlance. Plaintiff-Creators are informed and believe, and based thereon allege, that a decision was made jointly by Defendant and its parent company, Hasbro, Inc., to deflect any possible criticism or further public outcry regarding Defendant’s other properties by effectively killing the Dragonlance deal with Plaintiff-Creators. The upshot of that was to inflict knowing, malicious and oppressive harm to Plaintiff-Creators and to interfere with their third- party contractual obligations, all to Plaintiff-Creator’s severe detriment and distress.


Delving into the attached document, all seemed to be going to plan until June 2020, at which the team overseeing the novels was replaced by WotC. The document cites public controversies involving one of the new team, issues with Magic: The Gathering, Orion Black's public complaints about the company's hiring practices, and more. Eventually, in August 2020, the suit alleges that during a telephone call, WotC terminated the agreement with the statement "We are not moving toward breach, but we will not approve any further drafts.”

Ending the Agreement
The suit notes that "None of the termination provisions were triggered, nor was there a claim of material breach much less written notice thereof, nor was a 30-day cure period initiated." The situation appears to be that while the agreement could not in itself be unilaterally 'terminated' in this way, WotC was able to simply not approve any further drafts (including the existing draft). The text of that allegation reads:

Not only was Defendant’s statement that “we will not approve any future drafts” a clumsy effort to circumvent the termination provisions (because, of course, there was no ground for termination), it undermined the fundamental structure of the contractual relationship whereby the Defendant-Licensor would provide Plaintiff-Creators the opportunity and roadmap to “fix”/rewrite/cure any valid concerns related to the protection of the Dungeons & Dragons brand with respect to approvals. In any event, Defendant had already approved the essential storylines, plots, characters, creatures, and lore for the new Dragonlance trilogy when it approved Plaintiff-Creators’ previous drafts and story arc, which were complete unto themselves, were delivered prior to execution of the License Agreement, and are acknowledged in the text of the License Agreement. In other words, Defendant’s breach had nothing to do with Plaintiff-Creators’ work; it was driven by Defendant’s response to its own, unrelated corporate public relations problems—possibly encouraged or enacted by its corporate parent, Hasbro, Inc.

Basically, while the contract itself could not be terminated, refusing to approve work amounts to an 'effective' termination. Weis and Hickman note that the license itself does not allow for arbitrary termination. The following section of the document is relevant:

Nothing in the above provision allows Defendant to terminate the License Agreement based on Defendant’s failure to provide approval. To the contrary, should Defendant find any aspect of the Draft to be unacceptable, Defendant has an affirmative duty under contract to provide “reasonable detail” of any changes Plaintiff-Creators must make, which changes will result in Defendant’s approval of the manuscript. Accordingly, for Defendant to make the blanket statement that it will never approve any Drafts going forward is, by itself, a breach of the license agreement.

So, the agreement apparently requires WotC to allow W&H to fix any approval-based concerns. Notwithstanding that WotC might be unsatisfied with W&H's previous rewrites, the decision in advance to simply not approve drafts without giving them this chance to rewrite appears to be the crux of the issue, and this is what the writers are alleging is the breach of contract.

Weis & Hickman are demanding a jury trial and are suing for breach of contract, damages, and a court order to require WotC to fulfill its end of the agreement. They cite years of work, and millions of dollars.

Licensing Agreements

Defendant acted with full knowledge that its unilateral decision would not only interfere with, but also would lay waste to, the years of work that Plaintiff-Creators had, to that point, put into the project. Given that the obligation to obtain a publisher was part and parcel of the License Agreement, Defendant was fully cognizant that its backdoor termination of the License Agreement would nullify the millions of dollars in remuneration to which Plaintiff-Creators were entitled from their publishing contract.

So how does all this work? Obviously we don't have access to the original contract, so we don't know the exact terms of the licensing agreement; similarly, we are hearing one side of the story here.

The arrangement appears to have been a licensing arrangement -- that is, Weis & Hickman will have licensed the Dragonlance IP from WotC, and have arranged with Penguin Random House to publish the trilogy. It's not work-for-hire, or work commissioned by and paid for by WotC; on the contrary, in most licensing deals, the licensee pays the licensor. Indeed in this case, the document indicates that Penguin Random House paid Weis & Hickman an advance in April 2019, and W&H subsequently paid WotC (presumably a percentage of this).

Licensing agreements vary, but they often share similar features. These usually involve the licensee paying the IP owner a licensing fee or an advance on royalties at the start of the license, and sometimes annually or at certain milestones. Thereafter, the licensee also often pays the IP holder royalties on the actual book profits. We don't know the exact details of this licensing agreement, but it seems to share some of those features.

On March 29, 2019, Plaintiff-Creators and PRH entered into the Publishing Agreement. PRH remitted the signing payment due under the Publishing Agreement to Plaintiff- Creators in April 2019. Per the terms of the License Agreement, Plaintiff-Creators in turn remitted a portion of the signing payment to Defendant—an amount Defendant continues to retain despite having effectively terminated the License Agreement.


Tortious Interference

On information and belief, Defendant also engaged in back-channel activities to disrupt the Publishing Agreement by convincing PRH that Defendant would prevent Plaintiff- Creators from performing under the Publishing Agreement

There's another wrinkle, a little later. The document says that a second payment was due on November 2019 -- similarly it would be paid to W&H by Penguin Random House, who would then pay WotC. It appears that PRH did not make that second payment to W&H. W&H later say they discovered that WotC was talking directly to Penguin Random House about editorial topics, which is what the term 'tortious interference with contract' is referring to.

By June 2019, Defendant/Hasbro expressly approved a detailed outline of Book 1. In November 2019, PRH indicated that the complete manuscript of Book 1 was accepted and it would push through the second payment due on the Publishing Agreement. At that time, Plaintiff-Creators submitted the complete manuscript of Book 1 to Defendant/Hasbro who expressly approved the Book 1 manuscript in January 2020. Inexplicably, and despite Plaintiff- Creators’ repeated request, PRH never actually delivered the second payment due on approval of the Book 1 manuscript.


What Happened?
Throughout the process, WotC asked for 'sensitivity rewrites'. These appear to include four points, including the use of a love potion, and other "concerns of sexism, inclusivity and potential negative connotations of certain character names." W&H content that they provided the requested rewrites.

One section which might provide some insight into the process is this:

During the writing process, Defendant proposed certain changes in keeping with the modern-day zeitgeist of a more inclusive and diverse story-world. At each step, Plaintiff-Creators timely accommodated such requests, and all others, within the framework of their novels.

It's hard to interpret that without the context of the full conversations that took place, but it sounds like WotC, in response to the previously-mentioned publicity storm it has been enduring regarding inclusivity, wanted to ensure that this new trilogy of books would not exacerbate the problems. We know they asked for some rewrites, and W&H say they complied, but the phrase "within the framework of their novels" sounds like a conditional description. It could be that WotC was not satisfied with the rewrites, and that W&H were either unable or unwilling to alter the story or other details to the extent that they were asked to. There's a lot to unpack in that little "within the framework of their novels" phrase, and we can only speculate.

It sounds like this then resulted in WotC essentially backing out of the whole deal by simply declaring that they would refuse to approve any further drafts, in the absence of an actual contractual clause that would accommodate this situation.

What we do know is that there are two completed drafts of new Dragonlance novels out there. Whether we'll ever get to read them is another question! Dragons of Deceit is complete, Dragons of Fate has a draft, and the third book has been outlined.
 

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

You have to understand other people can see the same thing but with different eyes. For example the vampires from Ixalan (the plane of Magic: the Gathering). You only see fantasy humanoids who drink blood, but I may see them the vampires of Torrezon as an allegory about the Spanish conquerors, and then I feel uncomfortable because it makes me to remember the anti-Spanish black legend.

I would advise to exhaust the diplomatic channel and to try a friendly reconciliation between the two parties, because if there is a trial, and this may delayed by the epidemic, the cultural war what is happening now would be a great influence among the jury. Hasbro could be indirectly affected if in the next months, or years, scandals linked with the culture and entertainment industry would erupt, and this would affect seriously the public opinion (and potential members of a jury in the trial). Even it may be worse than the satanic panic from the 80's. It wouldn't be the end of D&D, nor Warcraft or other franchises of medieval fantasy, but some threats would become taboo again. Somebody says there is a blacklist for people who like patriot G.I.Joe characters more than Garth Ennis' the boys, but in a near future this list can be reversed. TTRPGs are perfect for the inclusivity but this shouldn't be too forced or it will cause a counterproductive effect.

Sometimes I would like some retcons in Dragonlance, but not certain changes. I remember the origin of the gully was the miscegenation among dwarfs and gnomes, and after this the mixed marriages among both communities was forbidden. Today in 2020 would be racism. Here my own retcon would be there was an epidemic in that region, and only gullys survived thanks its mixed blood, but this epidemic caused secondary effects. Other change not all the kenders would be as Tas. This character is popular, loved and fun, but if we abuse the tropes about kenders these may become too annoying and too easy to be parodied.

I am afraid the fight is because Hasbro wanted a character as Trinity Kwan, the yellow power ranger, Batwoman, White Canary, Ms America (America Chavez) or Soldier 76 (Blizzard's Overwatch) and Margaret Weist+Tracy Hickman refused to add that type of elements because they think if Bobby Drake "Iceman" has been straight for decades, he has to keep being straight. D&D fandom is ready for a pansexual bard who try date all can move but yaoi or yuri isn't welcome but if these are enough ambiguous and subtles subtext. (Elves had got a bad reputation of queer among the fandom from past decades, telling homophobic jokes about elves).
 
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Lefi2017

Explorer
This argument reminds me of the fact that Ta-Nehisi Coates played D&D and once referred to Trump (insultingly) as "orcish". By which I mean, whether orcs have racist echoes of PoC in some contexts, clearly that wasn't how Coates thought of them and probably wasn't how orcs were used in his games.

Likewise, tho I'm white, I've played in a multiple-year campaign DMed by a person of color (in the 2000s), and they used "evil humanoids" pretty much as they are used in baseline D&D: as badguys for the player characters fight and usually kill.

I'm not in touch with that DM anymore (or with Ta-Nehisi Coates ever), so I don't know if their opinion on "evil humanoids" has changed -- maybe it has? -- but my point is: these things are metaphors, they can mean different things to different people.

There's definitely colonialist & racist elements and "punching down" in some of the D&D fantasy-race depictions... the way that there's so many spear-wielding "savage" "stupid" creatures out there in D&D threatening Civilization... or the way that the one major dark-skinned race is evil. This is undeniably bad.

But these are specific problematic elements which can be reskinned. Orcs could be (they're obviously not this way in current D&D lore but they could be) symbolic of fascists. They could be some pale-skinned monstrous Lawful Evil people who just colonize and destroy and kill. Or, orcs could be renamed "'Mericans" and be just crude slobbering jerks who consume and consume and kill people and run around with guns. I mean, why should right-wingers have all the fun making up obvious metaphors? XD

Or orcs could be just the generic Inherently Evil Space Aliens, or Inherently Evil Demons, like we always see in movies in which the point is (of course) that humanity bands together to defeat the monsters. Orcs, evil tentacle aliens, whatever... these kind of things can be clearly problematic when the only humans depicted are white people.... but when there's actual PoC in the cast of the movie, or in the D&D rulebook, fighting them, surely these creatures represent something different? One of the things we can do in fiction is to create imaginary crises, imaginary problems, and imaginary enemies that everyone can fight, whether it's "demon invaders" or "orcs" or "body snatchers" or "zombies" or "the Knights Templar secretly doing evil stuff" or whatever. We can depict the common good aspects of humanity by making up enemies that are Evil and Not-Human.

Beyond orcs, the truth is that every 'fantasy race' is a symbol (or stereotype) and problematically mixes "race" and "culture" in a way that would be unacceptable if we were talking about real people. Vulcans being inherently logical, Klingons (or recent orc depictions) being inherently honor-obsessed and 'noble savage warrior', dwarves being hypermasculine drunks, Kender being thieves... all of these would count as GROSS stereotypes if we were talking about anyone 'real'. But paradoxically they're also what draws (many) people to these things, because they get to play with these ridiculous exaggerated stereotypes. Or to consciously play against them by having an emotional Vulcan or whatever. Yes, these fantasy race cultures are overused and yes they're boring (I don't like using standard D&D fantasy races in my own games) but they clearly scratch an inch. And when you get past the obvious boring ones like elves and orcs, you get into some interesting territory where writers can make up imaginary cultures as a "what if".

Of course it's easy to imagine removing any cultures from the phenotypes associated with elves and orcs (and tieflings and...). But then what's left? "I want to play an elf so I can be graceful and have long ears?" Basically we're left with a sorta fantasy bodytype fetish... which is fine in fantasy but, I think undeniably, also isn't a way that you can acceptably talk about any real-world "race".

Basically my point is: there are specific f'ed-up things about specific fantasy races (the colonialist residue) but essentially the whole point of fantasy races existing is for them to be 'living metaphors'. There's no way to responsibly equate them to discussions of real-world race. Ultimately if you have elves and dwarves and orcs at all -- which you don't have to -- you have to give up and think of elf/dwarf/orc stereotypes as being like cat/dog stereotypes or something.

Or at the very least, consider that these metaphors have been used in different ways by different DMs and writers and can be used either responsibly or irresponsibly. Fantasy is about symbolism, not realism.
humanoids plae skind like gray? Like orcs that fashisticly kill everything not like them like orcs?
 

Lefi2017

Explorer
You have to understand other people can see the same thing but with different eyes. For example the vampires from Ixalan (the plane of Magic: the Gathering). You only see fantasy humanoids who drink blood, but I may see them the vampires of Torrezon as an allegory about the Spanish conquerors, and then I feel uncomfortable because it makes me to remember the anti-Spanish black legend.

I would advise a friendly reconciliation between the two parties, because if there is a trial, and this may delayed by the epidemic, the cultural war what is happening now would be a great influence among the jury. Hasbro could be indirectly affected if in the next months, or years, scandals linked with the culture and entertainment industry would erupt, and this would affect seriously the public opinion (and potential members of a jury in the trial). Even it may be worse than the satanic panic from the 80's. It wouldn't be the end of D&D, nor Warcraft or other franchises of medieval fantasy, but some threats would become taboo again. Somebody says there is a blacklist for people who like patriot G.I.Joe characters more than Garth Ennis' the boys, but in a near future this list can be reversed. TTRPGs are perfect for the inclusivity but this shouldn't be too forced or it will cause a counterproductive effect.

Sometimes I would like some retcons in Dragonlance, but not certain changes. I remember the origin of the gully was the miscegenation among dwarfs and gnomes, and after this the mixed marriages among both communities was forbidden. Today in 2020 would be racism. Here my own retcon would be there was an epidemic in that region, and only gullys survived thanks its mixed blood, but this epidemic caused secondary effects. Other change not all the kenders would be as Tas. This character is popular, loved and fun, but if we abuse the tropes about kenders these may become too annoying and too easy to be parodied.

I am afraid the fight is because Hasbro wanted a character as Trinity Kwan, the yellow power ranger, Batwoman, White Canary, Ms America (America Chavez) or Soldier 76 (Blizzard's Overwatch) and Margaret Weist+Tracy Hickman refused to add that type of elements because they think if Bobby Drake "Iceman" has been straight for decades, he has to keep being straight. D&D fandom is ready for a pansexual bard who try date all can move but yaoi or yuri isn't welcome but if these are enough ambiguous and subtles subtext. (Elves had got a bad reputation of queer among the fandom from past decades, telling homophobic jokes about elves).
Sure we are ready But that is stuff that should come natural on the table net forced on us from high on like a holly text

As a gay man I had this forced face coprate LGBT pandering being pushed it feels hollow and vapid I hate this virtue signalling it doesn't improve anything and often seams out of place or pointless

let us Dms add that when we feel like it

and when haven't bards been pansexual ? by the way what happened to the term bi arn't they the same?
 


billd91

Hobbit on Quest
I am afraid the fight is because Hasbro wanted a character as Trinity Kwan, the yellow power ranger, Batwoman, White Canary, Ms America (America Chavez) or Soldier 76 (Blizzard's Overwatch) and Margaret Weist+Tracy Hickman refused to add that type of elements because they think if Bobby Drake "Iceman" has been straight for decades, he has to keep being straight.

I doubt that’s likely to be the case.
 




But the 'not making the villains into obvious standins for tribal cultures' thing is low-hanging fruit. That's easy to fix. It's the "innate evil is bad" or "negative traits, on principle, are bad" that is a chain of logic I can't get behind.

Because innate evil is exciting. It's a thing. I like my fantasy gaming to have that horror edge. I like zombie movies, I like "body snatchers gonna turn us all into monsters" movies, I love the idea of human beings sometimes fighting against innately hostile evil forces rather than the alternate plot of "they're misunderstood" "we can find a compromise" "it's just one particularly bad red dragon who is the cause of the whole problem, not all red dragons" type of story, and.... well, I think you either like this kind of story or you don't.
I think we can separate traditionally evil D&D creatures into two piles -- "people," who probably should be treated as individuals, capable of good or evil depending on all the things that make people good or evil in our own world -- and "monsters," which are intrinsically evil.

You're right that it's easy to imagine many monsters as not inherently evil -- if Borg can be sympathetic, why not mind flayers?

Luckily, by default D&D is a universe where Evil and Good exist as metaphysical concepts and there are beings created from the literal stuff of evil. While one could have sympathetic fiends -- Milton did, after all -- that's probably a safe place to have evil-by-default creatures your party's paladin can feel comfortable sticking a sword into without worrying about next of kin or economic pressures or what have you.
 


Zardnaar

Legend
The terms are interchangeable. Speaking in very broad strokes, pan tends to be preferred by younger queer folk and bi by older, but they mean the same thing.

I thought pansexual was anything goes, bi is man/women.

Fantasy and sci fi have more options. Robots, Warforged etc.

I could be wrong. Shrugs.
 



Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Probably not in a fantasy setting, though. A pansexual person would be open to lots of options that just don't exist in our world.
Such people exist in real life too, my dude, thhey just gotta get their jollies through fiction and art. That’s not a sexual orientation though, it’s generally considered a kink (or, like, several kinks with a lot of overlap.)
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I thought pansexual was anything goes, bi is man/women.
The names would suggest so, which is part of why younger people tend to prefer the term pan. But there are plenty of people who identify as bisexual and are attracted to people of nonbinary gender(s).
Fantasy and sci fi have more options. Robots, Warforged etc.
Sure, but that’s not a matter of sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is generally about what gender or genders of person you are attracted to. Preferences for robots, monsters, etc. are kinks. I imagine in a world where such peoples exist and can consent, it might be considered a form of sexual orientation? But in that case it would definitely be on a separate axis of attraction from gender. You’d have straight men attracted to robot women, lesbian elves attracted to female dragonborn, and bi/pan dwarves who are attracted to dwarf men and women (and nonbinary dwarves) but not to humans of any gender, etc.
 

Nymrod

Explorer
(changed my original post because it was dashed off)

I mean, I don't agree. The same idea that 'orcs are people, not monsters, so they shouldn't be depicted as innately evil' could just as easily apply to mindflayers, or demons and devils, or neogi, or any intelligent monster. The definition of 'people' vs 'creatures which aren't people' in a fantasy game is totally arbitrary. So then we end up with this 'Star Trek' effect where every creature that is brought in as "the most eeeeeeevil creature ever!" (Klingons, Cardassians, Borg) ends up being presented as misunderstood, or becoming good guys, etc.

Basically this would work better in a setting/game without alignment. Which is an interesting idea actually. But as a horror fan I like the idea of innate evil existing, and (separate but related) as a gamer I like RPGs with a lot of violent murdering. (And I find that most players I've played with do too. I've rarely been able to convince my last group of players to spare defeated bad guys.)

It's a shame because I agree that some things being addressed now, like the depiction of evil humanoids as 'savages', or dark-skinned, or innately low-INT, are obviously troublesome and deserve revision. I remember when I told a visiting anthropologist friend that her (newly made, never-played-D&D-before) lizardfolk PC was going to have to take an INT penalty, and she said "I'm offended" and it was mind-opening!! (She did play the character for the whole session.)

But the 'not making the villains into obvious standins for tribal cultures' thing is low-hanging fruit. That's easy to fix. It's the "innate evil is bad" or "negative traits, on principle, are bad" that is a chain of logic I can't get behind.

Because innate evil is exciting. It's a thing. I like my fantasy gaming to have that horror edge. I like zombie movies, I like "body snatchers gonna turn us all into monsters" movies, I love the idea of human beings sometimes fighting against innately hostile evil forces rather than the alternate plot of "they're misunderstood" "we can find a compromise" "it's just one particularly bad red dragon who is the cause of the whole problem, not all red dragons" type of story, and.... well, I think you either like this kind of story or you don't.
There is also an innate anthropocentricism in declaring that morally negative inherent traits of a non-human species is innately a form of racism. Subraces are racist as hell (oh your elf likes the woods instead of our glorious urban crystal castles? then that must mean you are stupid compared to us), but there is nothing racist with the idea that a completely different species might actually be predisposed to certain behaviours because of nature, not nurture because it's just not a human and trying to interpret all playable creatures in D&D or any fantasy setting as reskinned humans is discriminatory in its own way. Different intelligent species could develop intelligence, handle memory and experience emotions in wildly different ways than humans and that would logically end up with specific attributes when it comes to combat ability and social interaction.

There needs to be intent, whether obvious or subconscious and illustrated by a pattern of behaviour, to call something racist.
 

Nymrod

Explorer
Probably not in a fantasy setting, though. A pansexual person would be open to lots of options that just don't exist in our world.
Yup. Pansexual effectively means that you can be attracted to anyone so that when it comes to consenting partners that would include a variety of monstrous creatures, awakened animals, talking trees . . .
 

Mercurius

Legend
So, the problem with this line of thinking is that in speculative fiction, everything is a metaphor for the real world. Everything in speculative fiction has an analog that is mirrored in the real world. Otherwise, there's no reason to put it in the story. That's what sci-fi and fantasy are for: To present human stories in different dressing. The reason this is the case is because while we can imagine that other races exist, they don't. Every character in every story is anthropomorphized to make them meaningful and relatable to the very human audience. A Vulcan isn't really a logical alien from another planet with a different culture. It's an imagined culture which takes everything in it from humanity. It's a human that imagined the setting, a human who wrote the script, a human who portrayed the character, and a human who watches the show. That's why aliens and fantasy races usually seem kind of two-dimensional: they are. They are all facets of humanity, and they exist to reflect us and emphasize certain aspects of our culture. Even if this isn't how you personally analyze media, this is how media is interpreted in general and especially by people outside the game.

This is why when we read Animal Farm we don't dismiss it as a story about what the world might look like if animals were as smart as we are. We know that it's a story about us even though there aren't exactly any human characters in it. This is why when we watch Star Wars, we see it as a hero's quest to defeat oppression and tyranny, not just some human siding with aliens in a war against other humans.

Yes, while you could imagine a race of creatures who are all complete idiots like Gully Dwarves or who are hyper violent like Orcs or essentially so totally totally incapable of understanding properly laws that it's unethical like Kender, you need to consider why you might do so. Much of the language used about Orcs mirrors the language that historically was used to dehumanize Blacks, Native Americans, etc. Much of the treatment of Gully Dwarves and Kender mirror how immigrants are described. In that way, the game tells us to dehumanize whole races of peoples. That violence against a whole races of peoples just for being members of those races is the proper order of the universe. That it's not only Lawful to kill an Orc just for being an Orc, but it's objectively Good. This is a disgusting theme that reeks of colonialism and xenophobia, and it should bother us to include that theme in our storytelling as a positive thing. The language used to pejoratively describe these fantasy races is identical to how actual live humans are dehumanized in the real world right now.

Simply put: Do we want to play in a world where systematic dehumanization and genocidal wars are what the good guys do? Like, who in the real world does things that way? Do we want to be on their side? It doesn't have to be that way. We can just not do that and still have the same gameplay. We can have a horde of bandits that have chosen to be evil marauders and chosen to slaughter others for personal gain. It need not be rooted in their race. It can just be about fighting those who choose to be evil. Because evil absolutely exists! It's just not a function of what you are; it's a function of what you choose and what you do. The game shouldn't be about demonizing a foreign culture, because that's not something heroes should do.

Saying that Gully Dwarves, Kender, and Orcs are "fine" because they're fantasy is the very essence of lipstick on a pig. Yes, you don't have to assume that Orcs are a commentary about native cultures. But there are so many presentations for races, why not pick one that isn't pejorative? Like, come on, is the "no more than two" joke really the hill you want to die on here? The toxic behavior that Kender invariable cause isn't exactly high art, either.

This is exactly why we don't tell stories that glorify "winning the west" anymore. We know that it was a war of conquest fought against other cultures of people. We know that the good guys weren't always the cowboys and the bad guys weren't always the Native Americans. Now when we tell stories of the old west, they're personal tales. It's the same reason we don't accept Uncle Tom representation of Blacks in media anymore.

This is also the same reason that Lawful isn't the only alignment for good guys and Chaotic the only alignment for bad guys. We've recognized that the good guys will often fight against the status quo and against a feudal ruler as often as in favor of it. Yes, the game is founded in myths, legends, and romantic fantasies, but that's not what we value in our culture anymore. We see the deep, systemic flaws now. It reminds us of the tragedy, and we know it's wrong to ignore it. We know the harm it causes. We want to tell better stories.
Who is this "we" you speak of? Is human civilization comprised of one monolithic ideological group? Certainly there are collective agreements that we come to that seem to serve the majority within a specific group, but there can also be a lot of disagreement and nuance, and more to my point: differences in perspective.

Mind you, the above is well-written, impassioned, and a very good presentation of a particular view, and one that I have a certain degree of resonance with. But that's just it: it is a particular view. Human beings are not monolithic; the "we" you speak of seems to recognize this about gender, sexuality, race and culture, but what of ideology, worldview, and perspective?

To return to your first paragraph, when you tell us what "science fiction and fantasy are for," do you think that your view holds true for every sff author and artist? Might some view it differently and still create valid sff offerings? And must we, then, critique their art through our own critical lens, even if it ignores their own intention and understanding of their creative process?

What if, for instance, an author says, "My creation is not meant to be analogous to specific real world cultures and ideas. The source of my creative process is complex and ultimately mysterious; what comes forth out of the wellspring of imagination has an autonomous wholeness that cannot be reduced to anything within the real world, and is only diminished by such connection."

Tolkien stated this emphatically: he was not writing allegory, and any metaphors or real-world connections were up to the reader--that was their right, but he was rather resistant to people to applying their own reading to his intention. He said, in various ways, that he was just trying to write a good story.

Now we can read into his work critically and connect various things within his world to various things without, in our world. But to do so is, well, an act of colonization--especially if and when we ask him (which thankfully we cannot) to change it to suit our own ideological perspective and preferences (e.g. someone suggested up-thread that Dragonlance should be re-written to better align with certain contemporary values, presumably whether or not they aligned with those of the authors).

Le Guin said something similar: that fantasy was, at its heart, symbolic, not metaphorical. A symbol, as she put it, has multi-faceted meaning, while a metaphor is more binary (A = B). She emphatically stated that fantasy is better viewed as symbolic language rather than allegorical. Multi-interpretational (if interpreted at all), rather than as one true hidden meaning.

So my concern is that you are not only presenting a monolithic "we" that holds to the same canon of acceptable opinion, but are in a way colonizing fictional works and enforcing a singular interpretation, and one that is allegorical, not symbolic. Or if you are not doing that explicitly or intentionally, this common line of reasoning--which is growing in volume--runs the risk of doing so. Is doing so, in various ways.

This is not to say that such metaphoric interpretations don't have validity or meaning, that seeing "coding" and/or sub-conscious biases and implications in works such as Dragonlance are without merit. But that we cannot--should not--reduce the works of artists to our own preferred hermeneutic model, no matter how widely accepted or in vogue. If we don't protect the rights of artists to create what they/we want, according to their/our own vision and inspiration, we run the risk of stripping ourselves of one of the most important human capacities to arise within our long and ever-changing story, and one that I know everyone playing RPGs at least should honor: that of free imagination.

p.s. Of course, WotC has the right to publish (or, this case, with-hold the rights to publish) what they want, and I am not interested--or qualified--in commenting on the legal dimension. But I am very interested and concerned with various trends that ultimately limit our capacity to create, and express what we create: to envision worlds, mythical and mundane, as living creations in and of themselves, without having to lock them into any particular interpretation or express any particular ideology.
 
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Lefi2017

Explorer
Yup. Pansexual effectively means that you can be attracted to anyone so that when it comes to consenting partners that would include a variety of monstrous creatures, awakened animals, talking trees . . .
kind of worriesome
is pansexual then even consensual if there are no limits? And also if it is that broad to be pan doesn't that make it super super finge if you have to actually be fully open no limits to be it?
is it then even the same thing in a fantasy world where up to modern they human elf relations never were seen as inters pieces and non-straight or any form of queer (by the way wasn't queer a slur at some not to distant point)?
 


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