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WotC Dungeons & Dragons Fans Seek Removal of Oriental Adventures From Online Marketplace

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I can see that response, just not as the only reasonable one, and not as a default one someone should feel entitled to expect.

Out of curiosity, as an objective third party to the hypothetical would you consider the request self-centered and/or entitled?

Cutting most of this, because this is just getting endlessly circular.

No, I would not judge them as entitled for asking to switch to a different song. Or self-centered.

I would in fact just simply come to a radical conclusion. They don't like the song, and asked for it to be changed. That's it. And it isn't an unreasonable request. They haven't whined or cried or thrown things or acting in any manner I would find objectionable. They asked that we skip a song they don't like.

What am I supposed to get outraged over? That they expressed an opinion? That they felt I valued their tastes enough to assume I wouldn't pitch a fit over them making a small request? They didn't even ask to change the genre or to put on a specific song. They just didn't want to listen to this one song. And man, I have songs like that. I have songs I really dislike. I just think they are bad songs, boring repetitive, sometimes childish. I'd ask to not be forced to listen to them, because they annoy me.

As I’ve written before, I’m all for disclaimers etc.

But when people actually argue for cultural isolation and segregation, with cultural consultant ”diplomats” being the judges of what cultural material - and in what form - are allowed to cross cultural borders, that makes me really scared.

It is the same rethorics that the alt-right parties here in Europe use, and I can’t understand how one at the same time can argue for anti-racism and cultural insulation with tight gatekeeping. In my opinion, a multicultural society, with free and open cultural cross-fertilization, is necessary to crush opressing structures, including structural racism, and create understanding between groups of people.

As for the four points to identify cultural appropriation from many pages ago, they would essentialy put a stop to all artistical endevours. The core of artistic work is the creative expression out of the artists total sensorial input over time. Today with streaming and social media, and (during non-Corona times) global travelling, it’s impossible to not get inspiration from many cultural expressions, and even more impossible to make a meticulous examination of every possible trace of cultural appropriation as from the four-point guide.

Under global capitalism, I can’t really ser how it even would be possible - or wanted - to regulate that.

Now, there are flagrant culturally expressed problems that reproduce and reinforce the bad situation for oppressed people. But in my opinion thats a material and political problem to solve, by both legislation, education and adequate funding for emancipatory purposes. The solution can never be to gag writers, musicians, painters, sculptors or poets. Or rpg makers.

See, I can agree with you to a degree, except that I don't think we are gagging anyone. Hiring consultants is literally just for doing proper research.

Speaking of artists got me thinking, are you aware of the "Brokeback pose"? It is a style of drawing women in particular so that you can see both their breasts and the butt at the same time. It is named for the fact that if someone actually stood in that position, they would shatter their own spine.

How much are we "gagging" artists by recognizing that drawing a woman in that pose is sexualizing her, usually unnecessarily. For example, in the google images I pulled up to make sure I had the correct term, there was a woman drawing a sword. The intent was likely that she was drawing the sword and spinning to attack someone off panel, but the angle is so egregious all I can wonder is if they artist understands how spines work. And if we changed the art to be, more anatomically correct what are we losing? The chance to stare at her butt and breasts at the same time? A mean, sexy lady drawing a sword and fighting doesn't require that I am able to see her front and back simultaneously.

And, I think that is the same level of thing we are talking about with the Oriental Adventures. You can still make Fantasy China. You can make Fantasy China and be a western game developer. But, if you are a western game developer making fantasy china, do your homework, making collaborate with some chinese game writers just to make sure you aren't doing something obnoxious.


And, while I am American and thus not sure about the Euro-Alt-right. One thing I've noticed about the Alt-right is that they are typically more concerned with protecting their own culture. I don't think I have ever heard an American Alt-right position of keeping immigrants out of the country to perserve the immigrants culture. It is always to perserve American Culture. And to me, that is an important difference. Even if we have to be cautious about going too far.
 

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At 40+ pages, I'm sure this thread has become a dumpster fire, but I'll throw my hat in the ring anyway.

While the first OA wasn't very culturally sensitive, really none of the early products were (any doubts should be directed at the cheesecake art that filled the early periodicals). Like everything else being pointed at, they are relics of a time we've pretty much moved past, but ones that we should look at for experience. We know better now, but they do provide us a look into the perspectives of the past, preferably to avoid making the same mistakes they did.

As it relates to gaming (OA or otherwise), no culture should be off limits as inspiration for gaming; to do otherwise is to insult those cultures. Should more sensitivity be used? For the most part, yes. However, just as with the old European stereotypes, they do have a place in gaming. If someone raised on the Tales of Genji, Akira Kurosawa films, and anime were to start roleplaying, you can bet their earliest games would use all those stereotypical tropes (just as mine were very much based on a combination of the Arthurian legends and Batman :blush: ). The key is making everything available without deliberately causing offense (I clarify deliberately, because there are people who go out of their way to be offended, and they should just be ignored). The best solution to that is by creating a setting that uses cultural aspects without actually being that culture itself.

An existing example of a viable Oriental Adventures book is the setting Rokugan. It was originally published as an CCG then RPG by AEG, then bought by WotC and used as half of the OA for 3E D&D, and now currently published by Fantasy Flight (although I think now discontinued). The original motto was "Rokugan is not Japan... except when it is." It stole a LOT of medieval Japanese culture, mostly to build the core around, but then added in aspects of other cultures, plus quite a bit made up whole cloth. Admittidly, some of it was a horrible misunderstanding of actual Japanese culture, but they decided to keep afterwards because it fit into the setting as they saw it. In the end, Rokugan is a setting that incorporates aspects of Japanese, Chinese, and Mongolian cultures (possibly more I'm unfamiliar with) to create one of its own.
 


JEB

Explorer
Conan isn't an example of the noble savage stereotype. Take a gander at the definition of the stereotype and the reasoning is pretty plain.

That does seem to be the author's stated intent:
Robert E. Howard said:
I have no idyllic view of barbarism — as near as I can learn it's a grim, bloody, ferocious and loveless condition. I have no patience with the depiction of the barbarian of any race as a stately, god-like child of Nature, endowed with strange wisdom and speaking in measured and sonorous phrases.

However, folks on Wikipedia, TV Tropes, and elsewhere don't all agree on the matter, apparently since Howard's original stories were inconsistent on how noble Conan was to be perceived, at least in relation to "civilized" folk. (Incidentally, that last thread - from 10 years ago! - seems to debate this question pretty thoroughly... but perhaps thinking on the matter has changed since then?)
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
That does seem to be the author's stated intent:


However, folks on Wikipedia, TV Tropes, and elsewhere don't all agree on the matter, apparently since Howard's original stories were inconsistent on how noble Conan was to be perceived, at least in relation to "civilized" folk. (Incidentally, that last thread - from 10 years ago! - seems to debate this question pretty thoroughly... but perhaps thinking on the matter has changed since then?)
Here's a general definition of 'Noble Savage', I'll let you decide for yourself: The noble savage is portrayed as ignorant and simple-minded but simultaneously uncorrupted by any of the moral failings of modern civilization and possessing an innate wisdom and connection to nature. Does that sound like Conan to you?
 

Bertil

Villager
See, I can agree with you to a degree, except that I don't think we are gagging anyone. Hiring consultants is literally just for doing proper research.

Speaking of artists got me thinking, are you aware of the "Brokeback pose"? It is a style of drawing women in particular so that you can see both their breasts and the butt at the same time. It is named for the fact that if someone actually stood in that position, they would shatter their own spine.

How much are we "gagging" artists by recognizing that drawing a woman in that pose is sexualizing her, usually unnecessarily. For example, in the google images I pulled up to make sure I had the correct term, there was a woman drawing a sword. The intent was likely that she was drawing the sword and spinning to attack someone off panel, but the angle is so egregious all I can wonder is if they artist understands how spines work. And if we changed the art to be, more anatomically correct what are we losing? The chance to stare at her butt and breasts at the same time? A mean, sexy lady drawing a sword and fighting doesn't require that I am able to see her front and back simultaneously.

And, I think that is the same level of thing we are talking about with the Oriental Adventures. You can still make Fantasy China. You can make Fantasy China and be a western game developer. But, if you are a western game developer making fantasy china, do your homework, making collaborate with some chinese game writers just to make sure you aren't doing something obnoxious.


And, while I am American and thus not sure about the Euro-Alt-right. One thing I've noticed about the Alt-right is that they are typically more concerned with protecting their own culture. I don't think I have ever heard an American Alt-right position of keeping immigrants out of the country to perserve the immigrants culture. It is always to perserve American Culture. And to me, that is an important difference. Even if we have to be cautious about going too far.

”Proper” research. What is that? Who defines power, that tends to be the hegemonic power, right? Which in this question, in this thread, seems to be the cultural insulatory propagators?

As to specific specific problems in art, I got myself a master in art sociology for funsies and further middle age education, and I’m quite aware of all the gender and ethnical problematic art throughout the ages. Not to speak of the religious/secular conundrums from a current sensibility.

But as I said: In my opinion art - and RPG:s - must be free to express whatever. Forcing art to be an instrument for the power that happens to have hegemony - no matter how good a cause - is de facto censure and mind control.

Recognizing that cerain images sexualizes women, or stereotypes cultures in RPG:s, is all good and well. But the solution can never be to censure the artist.

As to the Euro-Alt-right: From skimming the links in this thread, I can’t understand anything else than that there is a massive ethno-cultural insular movement to protect specific Asian national-cultural heritages. And that is exactly what the alt-right movement is all about in Europe. And if you have read your European history from 1935-38, that aught to scare you. Not that Asian people want equality after centuries of oppression - that emancipatory movement is great and I support it whole-heartedly. But that people want to put up cultural borders and gatekeep cultural expressions, for me as an Europee just evokes kristallnacht and nazi bookburning. I can only hope that we can find better solutions to live in harmony. And roll lots of d20ies for common fun!
 

JEB

Explorer
Here's a general definition of 'Noble Savage', I'll let you decide for yourself: The noble savage is portrayed as ignorant and simple-minded but simultaneously uncorrupted by any of the moral failings of modern civilization and possessing an innate wisdom and connection to nature. Does that sound like Conan to you?

That specific definition of "noble savage" doesn't completely match (though it doesn't completely miss either), but other definitions fit better: see here and here. And again, Howard may have claimed not to buy into the trope, but the decadence of civilization compared to Conan's way of life is definitely a recurring theme...

That some are very sure Conan does not fit the trope, while others disagree, suggests to me the possibility of a variation of "noble savage" that sheds much of the obviously problematic aspects, likely by removing any comparisons to historic cultures. If, however, any variation on the theme is still unacceptably offensive, no matter how far it strays from the original concept... then does that extend to making Conan and the barbarian characters he inspired (right through D&D) inherently offensive as well?
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
That specific definition of "noble savage" doesn't completely match (though it doesn't completely miss either), but other definitions fit better: see here and here. And again, Howard may have claimed not to buy into the trope, but the decadence of civilization compared to Conan's way of life is definitely a recurring theme...

That some are very sure Conan does not fit the trope, while others disagree, suggests to me the possibility of a variation of "noble savage" that sheds much of the obviously problematic aspects, likely by removing any comparisons to historic cultures. If, however, any variation on the theme is still unacceptably offensive, no matter how far it strays from the original concept... then does that extend to making Conan and the barbarian characters he inspired (right through D&D) inherently offensive as well?
The fact that it doesn't match the one you looked up doesn't make it incorrect. Some of the more basic definitions don't unpack the racist undertones enough to make it obvious to someone who's unfamiliar with Rousseau's writings. Even the definitions you linked to are pretty obviously not Conan either. Barbarians are not by definition anything to do with the 'noble savage'. I think the part you're missing about the definition there is the part about innate goodness and simple-mindedness. So not Conan.
 

Bertil

Villager
Di
The fact that it doesn't match the one you looked up doesn't make it incorrect. Some of the more basic definitions don't unpack the racist undertones enough to make it obvious to someone who's unfamiliar with Rousseau's writings. Even the definitions you linked to are pretty obviously not Conan either. Barbarians are not by definition anything to do with the 'noble savage'. I think the part you're missing about the definition there is the part about innate goodness and simple-mindedness. So not Conan.


Disecting the consept of the Noble Savage belongs to a 102 postcolonial studies class. The thing we ought to discuss here is weather ethno-cultural borders and gatekeeping is a constructive way to create an inclusive and epistemologicaly sound RPG community. I don’t think so.
 

Serious question: Does not the barbarian class in D&D basically evoke the "noble savage" trope? They are pretty heavily based on Conan.

I have never liked the Barbarian as a Class. It should be a culture instead and each Class should have a Barbarian-based sub-class. And while I read a lot of the short stories decades ago when I was young, and have seen the films, I don't remember Conan having that mindless Rage that is a Class feature.
 

JEB

Explorer
The fact that it doesn't match the one you looked up doesn't make it incorrect. Some of the more basic definitions don't unpack the racist undertones enough to make it obvious to someone who's unfamiliar with Rousseau's writings. Even the definitions you linked to are pretty obviously not Conan either. Barbarians are not by definition anything to do with the 'noble savage'. I think the part you're missing about the definition there is the part about innate goodness and simple-mindedness. So not Conan.

Guess we'll have to agree to disagree on how "obviously not Conan" those definitions I found are, but OK. So if a character with other traits of the "noble savage" trope isn't innately good or simple-minded, they're not evoking the "noble savage" trope anymore? That seems a lot narrower than the definition applied upthread, which included the Native American characters from The Last of the Mohicans, or the definition that seems to be accepted elsewhere online. But let's go with that.

This sounds to me that if you have a society of Conan types, avoiding any intimation that there's something simple-minded or innately good about that society, that's enough to distinguish it from a society of "noble savages" and no longer evokes the harmful trope. Is that a fair statement? Or is it still too close for comfort?
 
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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Disecting the consept of the Noble Savage belongs to a 102 postcolonial studies class. The thing we ought to discuss here is weather ethno-cultural borders and gatekeeping is a constructive way to create an inclusive and epistemologicaly sound RPG community. I don’t think so.
By 'dissecting' do you mean correctly using a basic definition? Because that's where we're at here. It only came up because someone upstream used the phrase unaware of its baggage. Subsequent to that some other people proved conclusively that they didn't grok the concept by positing Conan as an example. Anyway, if you want to indulge in some interpretive lens ballet by all means, I'm your Huckleberry, but let's not raise the hue and cry of over-analysis unless it's actually the case.

We can also discuss whether objecting to stereotyping is indeed ethno-cultural gatekeeping, if that's your party, since it's not obvious or given that it is. I'm not sure what you're envisioning when you talk about an epistemologically sound RPG community though. Are you talking about a Kantian attempt to understand the conditions of the possibility of human understanding? Or perhaps about whether we can justify our conclusions by an appeal to sensory experience? Or even a reasonable attempt explain the ways in which interests affect our evidence, and affect our rational constraints more generally? Epistemology covers a lot of ground. Pick you weapon and I'll happily meet you in the street at high noon. :p
 
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Zardnaar

Legend
Yeah, I have to laugh (and cry internally) whenever some person on the internet complains that "x" new Star Trek show is pushing a liberal agenda. It's like, have you even watched any of the previous Star Trek series?

Old trek makes you think, new trek tells you what to think.

It's more preachy which just outright annoys people.

Would you rather read Bible stories or have the Jehovah Witnesses preach to you? It's not what you say but how you say it.

Bigger problem is when the story suffers so the show can preach.

You can have a progressive type show that still tells a good story (Sense8 for example). Shawshank Redemption gets it's point across while also being a good movie.

Noble Savage was applied to numerous cultures the 2E kit is just Savage and isn't tied to anything in particular (and was 30 years ago).

In 1997 I spent some time with Maori in an army barracks. I had done D&D books in me and they liked the representation more than than the purity test. As long as they made a reasonable effort without being insulting.

Context they statted out Taniwha in Dragon along with Taiha, mere, patu and various other Maori weapons.

It's like the Moana movie. Fails some purity tests but the Polynesians here love it (probably not all of them).

So yeah you could run a Polynesian themed game in 2E with material from various books.
 
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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Guess we'll have to agree to disagree on how "obviously not Conan" those definitions I found are, but OK. So if a character with other traits of the "noble savage" trope isn't innately good or simple-minded, they're not evoking the "noble savage" trope anymore? That seems a lot narrower than the definition applied upthread, which included the Native American characters from The Last of the Mohicans, or the definition that seems to be accepted elsewhere online. But let's go with that.

This sounds to me that if you have a society of Conan types, avoiding any intimation that there's something simple-minded or innately good about that society, that's enough to distinguish it from a society of "noble savages" and no longer evokes the harmful trope. Is that a fair statement? Or is it still too close for comfort?
Barbarians aren't noble savages. You also completely elided the part about inherent goodness and everything else other than simple-mindedness. The idea of 'people untouched by civilization' for someone like Rousseau meant ignorant an uneducated. Once you smear on some casual racism you get simple-minded. Conan misses the boat in more than just that one way though, pretty obviously. He's not inherently good, nor is he free of the corrupting influences of civilization, rather the opposite in fact. Anyway, we can move on.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
Serious question: Does not the barbarian class in D&D basically evoke the "noble savage" trope? They are pretty heavily based on Conan.
Yup.

EDIT: To add . . .

Looks like I responded after a bit of back-and-forth on the good ol' noble savage.

There is no single true definition or description of any stereotype, like most things boundaries and meanings shift over time and in context.

The D&D barbarian is largely modeled after Conan, but is not solely modeled after him. And in the decades of D&D evolution, the barbarian has gobbled up other stereotypes and tropes. The D&D 5E barbarian does include the DNA of the noble savage, but a lot more also.

Is the class archetype problematic? I think so, others do as well. How best to deal with it? I don't know . . .
 
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Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
They really aren't though. There's some overlap in the Venn there, but the missing bits are key. No inherent goodness, or ignorance. Plus the the whole berserker rage thing is completely out.
Disagree. (sorry, I went back and edited my "yup" post, probably should have just made a new post) To continue, the D&D barbarian isn't 100% noble savage and nothing else, but the DNA of the troubling stereotype is in there.

To bring it back to race, ethnicity, and culture . . . . I don't have a problem with the D&D barbarian being used to model Conan types, or pseudo-Celtic warriors or pseudo-Norse warriors . . . not that it accurately does so by any means. Maybe this should make me uncomfortable . . .

But the noble savage stereotype is most often applied to indigenous peoples encountered by European colonialists. I always cringe when the D&D barbarian is used to model pseudo-Native American warriors, pseudo-Polynesian warriors, pseudo-Mongolian horde warriors, etc, etc . . . .
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Disagree. (sorry, I went back and edited my "yup" post, probably should have just made a new post) To continue, the D&D barbarian isn't 100% noble savage and nothing else, but the DNA of the troubling stereotype is in there.

To bring it back to race, ethnicity, and culture . . . . I don't have a problem with the D&D barbarian being used to model Conan types, or pseudo-Celtic warriors or pseudo-Norse warriors . . . not that it accurately does so by any means. Maybe this should make me uncomfortable . . .

But the noble savage stereotype is most often applied to indigenous peoples encountered by European colonialists. I always cringe when the D&D barbarian is used to model pseudo-Native American warriors, pseudo-Polynesian warriors, pseudo-Mongolian horde warriors, etc, etc . . . .

2E had the most representative barbarian. The Polynesian inspired one could shapeshift into turtles.

They weren't ragers except for one kit.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Not enough of it to say 'the Barbarian class is a representation of the Noble Savage', because it isn't. The NS is a pretty particular thing, despite the fact that the phrase gets bandied around a lot by people who use it to mean all manner of things. There are some potentially troubling stereotypes lurking in the Barbarian class, but I suspect if you wanted to use a historical comparison in the same vein as the NS you'd be better off looking at the subsequent 19th century stereotype of the brutal savage.

The NS as an idea is that the savage, because of separation from culture (specifically 18th century European culture), represents the inherent goodness of humans, hearkening back to Adam and Eve before they stole the fruit salad. It really doesn't bear that much resemblance to the Barbarian class.

Part of the problem here is that there are many overlapping and mutually informative stereotypes that rely on the othering power of the charge of being without, or outside, culture. Even the word barbarian itself is an othering term that comes from the unintelligibility of some foreign speech to the ancient Greeks. You need to employ some nuance here and not try to fit too much into a small box.
 

MGibster

Legend
Is the class archetype problematic? I think so, others do as well. How best to deal with it? I don't know . . .

I think the above represents a radical departure from the attitudes of the D&D player base at large in regards to the barbarian class. If a player came to me saying they found the class to be problematic all I could do is shrug my shoulders.
 

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