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

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prosfilaes

Adventurer
Why are you quoting from a 30 odd year old version of the MM?
I think the color of monster skin is an overblown issue. More variety would help, and certainly can't hurt, but I don't actually think that greens and blues and dark oranges of some of those skin tones actually index real-world racial groups quite as much or as directly as some people would like to argue.
Because once you've set something up where humanoids are brown, changing them to greens and dark oranges doesn't do as much as you'd like. They still index the same racial groups the original game did. Oh, look they've changed the white people to the variety their diversity advisors told them to, and they've changed the black people humanoids to be greens and dark oranges, just doesn't free the game from its origins.

You haven't exactly made any kind of actual argument here that leads to your conclusion that WotC and Paizo have done the 'bare minimum'.
I didn't write a dissertation, but I did touch on the drow. White (pale) good surface elves and dark evil underground elves is biologically silly and racially problematic. Grey and purple dark elves don't solve that. Realistically pale drow and darker surface elves is biologically realistic, and a lot less racially problematic. But they won't do that because walking away from the racially problematic split is going to cost them more than they will make monetarily.
 

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Mercurius

Legend
It seems like the choices are:

A) 1E Oriental Adventures
1. Remove it from publication.
2. Keep it in publication but add disclaimer of some kind, whether on the product page or an article ("the Disney treatment").
3. As with 2, but donate all proceeds to a relevant charity.
4. Status quo (do nothing).

B) Hypothetical 5E "OA"
1. Don't touch it.
2. Create an OA in-house, try to be as sensitive as possible, but not worry about it too much.
3. As with two, but hire cultural consultant of some kind.
4. Hire Asian freelancers to write it.

Any other options that don't fit into those?
 

JEB

Explorer
It seems like the choices are:

A) 1E Oriental Adventures
1. Remove it from publication.
2. Keep it in publication but add disclaimer of some kind, whether on the product page or an article ("the Disney treatment").
3. As with 2, but donate all proceeds to a relevant charity.
4. Status quo (do nothing).

B) Hypothetical 5E "OA"
1. Don't touch it.
2. Create an OA in-house, try to be as sensitive as possible, but not worry about it too much.
3. As with two, but hire cultural consultant of some kind.
4. Hire Asian freelancers to write it.

Any other options that don't fit into those?
I would think it would be wise for a hypothetical "Kara-Tur Adventurers' Guide" or the like to have both cultural consultants and freelancers involved. I gather that's what they did for Mythic Odysseys of Theros.

Worth noting: the project organizer for the Unbreakable Volume 1 anthology, Jacky Leung, notes in the introduction that he once considered reclaiming and modernizing Kara-Tur. Maybe he'd still be interested in such an update...
 


Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
@prosfilaes - Let me make sure I understand you. So WotC changed the skin colors quite a bit to try and manage the unfortunate racial undertones across the art in their books, but you're arguing that that doesn't matter because they used to be worse? In short, they made a bunch of changes that don't matter because it used to be a bigger problem, so it's still a bigger problem? Forgive me if I find that a bit of a muddle.

I also don't really get what your argument is about the Drow. Sure, black underground elves is silly, biologically speaking. The racial index there is ugly and needs to be addressed somewhow. I'm with you so far. Then you say they won't do that because of X. Is that just your opinion perhaps, despite being phrased declaratively? Is it possible that there might be another solution that you haven't thought of? Or shall we just continue to condemn WotC for something they haven't actually failed to do yet?

They have made some positive changes, and more positive changes are needed would have done the trick here. Unless you're one of those wacky people who think the whole project is unredeemable, or are relentlessly negative about forward progress because it makes you less righteous. I don't don't know you at all, so I have no idea if either of those shoes fit.
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
@prosfilaes - Let me make sure I understand you. So WotC changed the skin colors quite a bit to try and manage the unfortunate racial undertones across the art in their books, but you're arguing that that doesn't matter because they used to be worse? In short, they made a bunch of changes that don't matter because it used to be a bigger problem, so it's still a bigger problem? Forgive me if I find that a bit of a muddle.
It's a bit of a muddle because most of it is your reading into what I wrote. For the second time, I'm going to repeat the context of what I wrote.

I think the color of monster skin is an overblown issue. More variety would help, and certainly can't hurt, but I don't actually think that greens and blues and dark oranges of some of those skin tones actually index real-world racial groups quite as much or as directly as some people would like to argue.
Identifying monsters by skin color is problematic, and changing dark skinned monsters to having weird skin colors doesn't actually do as much as some people would like to argue.

I also don't really get what your argument is about the Drow. ... Or shall we just continue to condemn WotC for something they haven't actually failed to do yet?
This is an issue that's been known for decades. How is it something they haven't actually failed to do yet?
 

pemerton

Legend
B) Hypothetical 5E "OA"
1. Don't touch it.
2. Create an OA in-house, try to be as sensitive as possible, but not worry about it too much.
3. As with two, but hire cultural consultant of some kind.
4. Hire Asian freelancers to write it.

Any other options that don't fit into those?
Presumably there are people who work for WotC who can play the 3 and/or 4 roles.

The difference between that and 2 is whether authenticity is judged primarily by reference to content or pimarily by reference to authorship/process. This is a very vexed issue in contemporary cultural production.
 

Twiggly the Gnome

Adventurer
I didn't write a dissertation, but I did touch on the drow. White (pale) good surface elves and dark evil underground elves is biologically silly and racially problematic. Grey and purple dark elves don't solve that. Realistically pale drow and darker surface elves is biologically realistic, and a lot less racially problematic. But they won't do that because walking away from the racially problematic split is going to cost them more than they will make monetarily.
I've seen this "solution" proposed before, but I really don't see how switching from a "Curse of Ham" allegory to a "Children of Yakub" allegory "fixes" the Drow.
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
I've seen this "solution" proposed before, but I really don't see how switching from a "Curse of Ham" allegory to a "Children of Yakub" allegory "fixes" the Drow.
It's biologically realistic, which makes it weaker as an allegory. It's not a simple reversal; surface elves have all the colors that they would normally have, from the pale arctic elves to the dark-skinned tropical elves.

Moreover, there's a big cultural difference. Children of Yakub is a countercultural belief held by a few people; it's just not comparable. Look at the list from the original Monster Manual; the tallfellow are clearly superior to other halflings and described as paler. Basically all the good races were paler than the evil races. Having one pale, evil race is hardly setting forth a major overall theme or allegory.
 

It seems like the choices are:

A) 1E Oriental Adventures
1. Remove it from publication.
2. Keep it in publication but add disclaimer of some kind, whether on the product page or an article ("the Disney treatment").
3. As with 2, but donate all proceeds to a relevant charity.
4. Status quo (do nothing).

B) Hypothetical 5E "OA"
1. Don't touch it.
2. Create an OA in-house, try to be as sensitive as possible, but not worry about it too much.
3. As with two, but hire cultural consultant of some kind.
4. Hire Asian freelancers to write it.

Any other options that don't fit into those?
In so far as B is concerned, I strongly suspect they're going to go with 1. It's the best option to avoid further controversy and complaints, and it doesn't cost them any actual money, as a failed book would. WotC has made a habit for years now of pushing for the broadest appeal possible in their products. I don't think they're going to get that here, so the safest option is not to produce said book at all.
 

Bluenose

Adventurer
Identifying monsters by skin color is problematic, and changing dark skinned monsters to having weird skin colors doesn't actually do as much as some people would like to argue.
Skin colour is one thing, but also identifying humanoids by describing them the way 18-20th century racists described ethnic groups other than "Caucasians" is hardly any better, and that's what is still going on. When you then declare those humanoids generally evil, that's where it really starts to be problematic. It's actually got worse with 5e in that respect.
 

Doug McCrae

Legend
5e deserves credit for its greater representation of BIPOC people in the PHB, but I agree with @Bluenose that in a number of respects it made things worse.

Bio-essentialism has been made more explicit. This was probably the intent in 1e too, but it wasn’t as clear-cut. 5e PHB:

The evil deities who created other races, though, made those races to serve them. Those races have strong inborn tendencies that match the nature of their gods. Most orcs share the violent, savage nature of the orc god, Gruumsh. and are thus inclined toward evil. Even if an orc chooses a good alignment, it struggles against its innate tendencies for its entire life. (Even half-orcs feel the lingering pull of the orc god's influence.)​

The division of the world into "civilized" and "savage" humanoid races mirrors the world-view and language of a 19th century imperialist. 5E MM (emphasis mine):

Humanoids are the main peoples of the D&D world, both civilized and savage… The most common humanoid races are the ones most suitable as player characters: humans, dwarves, elves, and halflings. Almost as numerous but far more savage and brutal, and almost uniformly evil, are the races of goblinoids (goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears), orcs, gnolls, lizardfolk, and kobolds.​

The artwork used for goblins and hobgoblins is a caricature of East Asian people. This was not the case from 2e to 4e and is probably a reference to the Japanese warrior armour in the art for the 1e MM hobgoblin.

The lizardfolk entry in the 5e MM is a straight "Darkest Africa" story about "primitive" cannibal tribes except with lizard people inserted in the place of black people. The 1e lizard man is more like an animal, living in caves and fighting with teeth and claws, apart from 10% that have "evolved to a higher state", live in "crude huts" and use weapons.

5e made orcish sexual violence explicit, though it had always been implicit in the concept of the half-orc. 5E MM: "Luthic, the orc goddess of fertility and wife of Gruumsh, demands that orcs procreate often and indiscriminately so that orc hordes swell generation after generation. The orcs' drive to reproduce runs stronger than any other humanoid race, and they readily crossbreed with other races."

Fear of miscegenation is apparent in the 1e/2e use of the word "mongrel" to describe half-orcs, and in Tolkien. The Two Towers: "Are they Men he has ruined, or has he blended the races of Orcs and Men? That would be a black evil!" This is Treebeard referring to the work of Saruman.

In addition to sexual violence the related idea of orcs outbreeding other races can be seen in the 5e MM "Luthic" quotation above. Very similar notions can be found in the writings of early 20th century race "scientists" and in the recent (2011) far right idea of the Great Replacement.
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
5e made orcish sexual violence explicit, though it had always been implicit in the concept of the half-orc.
This is an excellent post, and very well-thought out and researched. As such, I am posting some general thoughts not in argument with your post, but more as nebulous thoughts in conjunction with your post.

A. The half-orc was always ... well, problematic is the best way to put it. In a manner very different than the half-elf or even the half-ogre (which was in Dragon Magazine). There was an presumed backstory for a half-orc in 1e that was best not to examine.

2. Which makes me think about the concept of "sexual violence" and that I am glad it is getting more scrutiny today. On the one hand, it is a topic that I have never had in my games, nor could I imagine it (although, again, the presumed backstory for a half-orc). On the other hand, any given episode of a CSI/Criminal Minds/Law & Order episode on broadcast TV has a lot more creepy sexual violence than I would ever allow in my games.

3. It is, therefore, weird to me from a game perspective that 5e chose to re-emphasize this aspect for Orcs.

4. That said, I am not always convinced that a deep reading ("reader reacts," "New Criticism" etc.) of RPG material is always warranted; perhaps there is a line between "Yes, Top Gun was campy and homoerotic" and "Sometimes a Lizardfolk is just a Lizardfolk."

Definitely food for thought.
 
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If you get blocked from a thread for argument, the proper response is not to continue that argument in another thread.
@Sacrosanct
As mixed race living aboard in an Asian minority country. Grinning and bearing is not a stereotype. it is factual. I have seen it. Racist attacks have been made against Asians here. And they did nothing about it. News have reported quiet complaints. But the issue is that Asians do not want to voice their experiences. Not a stereotype. Based in complete reality.
Living in an Asian country is different. Asians are the majority. And do not feel discriminated. We are talking about the experiences of Asian diaspora.
To not understand the differences there is blaffing.
Again. I am not dismissing any opinions.
 
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Sacrosanct

Legend
@Sacrosanct
As mixed race living aboard in an Asian minority country. Grinning and bearing is not a stereotype. it is factual. I have seen it. Racist attacks have been made against Asians here. And they did nothing about it. News have reported quiet complaints. But the issue is that Asians do not want to voice their experiences. Not a stereotype. Based in complete reality.
Living in an Asian country is different. Asians are the majority. And do not feel discriminated. We are talking about the experiences of Asian diaspora.
Again. I am not dismissing any opinions.
Tagging me in response to a post I made in a thread you've been banned from seems to me to be bad form. For reasons including but not limited to an appearance of circumventing the thread ban to bring the discussion into another thread. @Umbran can make that call, but either way, I'm not going to get into it here with you and derail this thread further.
 

Tagging me in response to a post I made in a thread you've been banned from seems to me to be bad form. For reasons including but not limited to an appearance of circumventing the thread ban to bring the discussion into another thread. @Umbran can make that call, but either way, I'm not going to get into it here with you and derail this thread further.
You are misrepresenting the issue. And trivializing the issue for Asian diaspora outside of Asian countries. That is not good. It is hurtful for these communities.
But sure.
 


Doug McCrae

Legend
It is, therefore, weird to me from a game perspective that 5e chose to re-emphasize this aspect for Orcs.
It is but it's worse than that because it’s also bound up with race.

All these, connected, ideas are explicit in 5e’s orcs:
  1. Sexual violence (previously implicit)
  2. Dominant traits (also explicit in 1e/2e)
  3. Inferior racial heritage as an indelible stain (made a bit more explicit in 5e)
  4. Inferior races outbreeding superior ones (new to 5e, though had always been hinted at by 1 and 2)
Dominant traits:
1e MM: "Half-orcs tend to favor the orcish strain heavily, so such sorts are basically orcs although they can sometimes (10%) pass themselves off as true creatures of their other stock (goblins, hobgoblins, humans, etc.)."
5e MM: "When an orc procreates with a non-orc humanoid of similar size and stature (such as a human or a dwarf), the resulting child is either an orc or a half-orc."

Another problem is that in 5e the goddess, Luthic, takes all the blame for (presumably male) orcish sexual violence. This is a departure* from the original source material where Luthic is only the goddess of female orcish fertility. Gruumsh is the god of male orcish fertility.

Roger Moore, The Gods of the Orcs, Dragon #62 (1982):
"Luthic governs several spheres. She is the goddess of female orcs, orcish fertility (more so for females; Gruumsh is the male fertility god), caves and caverns (which she digs herself), servitude (as she serves Gruumsh), and primitive medicine, and she helps restore orcish morale."

EDIT: *This change, which I had at first assumed happened in 5e, seems to have first occurred in the 2e Planescape book On Hallowed Ground (1996), and continued into 3e Faiths & Pantheons. In both of these Luthic alone has responsibility for fertility and children. In 2e Monster Mythology (1992), the division was the same as Moore's article.
 
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JEB

Explorer
"Luthic, the orc goddess of fertility and wife of Gruumsh, demands that orcs procreate often and indiscriminately so that orc hordes swell generation after generation. The orcs' drive to reproduce runs stronger than any other humanoid race, and they readily crossbreed with other races."
I originally read this as an attempt to obscure the sexual violence implicit in the older half-orc lore, rather than to emphasize it more strongly. Mainly due to "crossbreed," which doesn't necessarily imply force. Not discounting your take; just an alternate perspective.

That said, I'm of the opinion that half-orcs should just be retired as a character option, in favor of featuring orcs as a core option, as I'm not sure that older-edition baggage can ever fully be shed otherwise. (Or at least, have both orcs and half-orcs, and treat them akin to elves and half-elves.)
 
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