log in or register to remove this ad

 

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

Status
Not open for further replies.

log in or register to remove this ad

pemerton

Legend
For example, while it is a trope to use improvised weapons in a fight. Such as, say, a barstool. they have never been listed on the weapon table (to my knowledge) which the chopsticks were. It is equivalent of opening a book on Fantasy Irish DnD and seeing "Beer Mug" on the listed weapons or an American Biker DnD and seeing Pool Cues. Sure, it is a trope that you pick up and fight with whatever you have on hand. But, that is what the improvised weapons rules are for. Improvising weapons.
AD&D has not improvised weapon rules. The closest it gets is the rules for pummelling in an Appendix to UA.

The issue with honor is actually a lot deeper and systemic beyond OA and even DnD. Yes, Paladins had oaths and restrictions on their morality. However, Paladins were not knights, they were very specifically Holy Knights of the Religion, based off a very specific set of people. Actual European knights would include things like, the cavalier or the fighter. In fact, the Cavalier is a much closer analogue to the Knight, and their only restrictions were on which weapons were deemed dishonorable (from what I can tell).
Cavaliers (in UA) have restrictions about weapon use, armour use and who and how they fight in battle. But there is no numericaltracking system like the honour score in OA.

However, in the Fantasy settings for Japan and China and other countries where these systems are always introduced (even in 5e, it was called out for Kara-Tur and has an Asian inspired art next to it) there are massive social restrictions placed on all members of society. A peasant thief can lose honor for the same reasons a noble samurai of the court could.
Ths isn't an accurate description of the OA honour system.

Samurai were quite famous for a variety of weapons, but are only depicted or sometimes by the rules explicitly expected, to wield Katanas. Which would be the equivalent of saying European knights only ever used the longsword and nothing else.
In UA barbarians, rangers and cavaliers all have similar weapon requirements.

In OA for a samurai it is katana, wakizashi and daikyu. For a cavalier in UA it is lance, one-handed sword (broad, long or scimitar), and one-handed hafted (horseman's flail, mace or pick). I can go and look up rangers and barbarians if you like.

And, as to the mish-mash, while yes, DnD often paints with a broad stroke, much of that is connected to other aspects. For example, while the hydra is clearly a greek monster, the Greek works were spread liberally around the world, and such stories circulated around the entirety of western audiences. and, we can easily identify that Hydras are from greek myth, because we know Greek Myths intimately. But, I doubt many posters would be able to accurately place the origins of the Kumiho or the Kaichi.

And this is the problem. If you are specifically pulling from every source over there, and combining them and mixing them with no thought or mention to the public, the public's own ignorance in the cultures being presented will wash that entire section of the globe in a beige hue. Everything would be "oriental" and nothing would be from the specific people whom it came from.
"The public" is a reasonably broad notion. I'm not sure it's precise enough to support this sort of analysis.

When I was a teenager I could make a pretty good guess at which set of folk beliefs varioius OA creatures came from based on whether the name seemed Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese or Malay. Given my lack of linguistic skills not a perfect guide, but it's not the case that everything was "oriental" and washed in a beige hue.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Demands that things must be said are also censorship.

A. You must remove Beyond Magenta, because we can't have books about trans people in the library.

B. You should keep Beyond Magenta, since free speech is good and we shouldn't keep people from information. Even if that information offends some people.

Umbran: Keeping books in the library, and demanding that those books be removed are BOTH CENSORSHIP.

Okay. Pretty sure we've been over this a few times, and I don't think you're suddenly going to get me to agree with your pithy formulations.

Are we good, or should I expect more of this?
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
A. You must remove Beyond Magenta, because we can't have books about trans people in the library.

B. You should keep Beyond Magenta, since free speech is good and we shouldn't keep people from information. Even if that information offends some people.

I don't think those are both censorship, but should all the libraries have to keep out of date science and history books?

e-copies (which there probably aren't of random old books) obviously wouldn't take up space. For libraries, is there a fee to keep e-copies, or are those licenses eternal with the first payment? If the later, should the libraries have to keep the copies in the main catalog, or can they make you click a check box to access the out of date materials, and check another disclaimer box saying that you recognize you could be getting out-dated information?
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I don't think those are both censorship, but should all the libraries have to keep out of date science and history books?

e-copies (which there probably aren't of random old books) obviously wouldn't take up space. For libraries, is there a fee to keep e-copies, or are those licenses eternal with the first payment? If the later, should the libraries have to keep the copies in the main catalog, or can they make you click a check box to access the out of date materials, and check another disclaimer box saying that you recognize you could be getting out-dated information?

No, of course an entity shouldn't be required to keep material it would otherwise dispose of due to space restrictions; a fancy term for this is that they are using "content-neutral" criteria to decide what to keep and what to discard.

What I find somewhat annoying is when people torture the language in an Orwellian fashion in order to make "censorship" and "not censorship" mean the exact same thing.

It would be like someone saying, "I got fired!" And then a person saying...

"No. You weren't fired. You agreed to leave the company after the company determined that you were a surplus redundancy. So, really, you quit. You get that, right?"

....It's bizarro world when someone keeps asserting, "Yes, we want it removed because it offends. But do you know what real censorship is? The people that don't want the books removed! That's the real censorship!"

I mean, it's kind of brilliant, if obnoxious. It's a good thing the American Family Association didn't think of it.

As for the question, I am hopeful that this current moment will pass, and we will eventually remember that the past will contain material that is not the same as the present. And it's good, too, because that should remind us to keep making the present better .
 


MGibster

Legend
I don't think those are both censorship, but should all the libraries have to keep out of date science and history books?

There are different types of libraries and I've worked for two kinds. A public library will routinely rid themselves of books that nobody checks out, become outdated, or are damaged beyond reasonable repair. However, most public libraries are loathed to restrict access to books on the basis that some people disapprove of its contents.

In fact, the American Library Association celebrates Banned Books Week every year which "focuses on efforts across the country to ban or restrict access to books" and "draw attention to the harms of censorship." No reasonable person believes getting rid of outdated chemistry books is a form of censorship. Restricting access to Of Mice and Men, Beloved, and How to Eat Fried Worms because you find the contents objectionable is a form of censorship.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
For example, while it is a trope to use improvised weapons in a fight. Such as, say, a barstool. they have never been listed on the weapon table (to my knowledge) which the chopsticks were. It is equivalent of opening a book on Fantasy Irish DnD and seeing "Beer Mug" on the listed weapons or an American Biker DnD and seeing Pool Cues.
So does that mean I'm a bad Canadian for having Hockey Stick on my list of weapons?

If yes, then tough, as it's been there for 35+ years and ain't coming off anytime soon. :)

(never mind that the hockey Stick is a holy symbol to one of our game's deities...)
 

DC and Marvel have both been selling access to their back catalog for years now. As for whatever Mercurius may have written, I can't really address that. Do you think it would be appropriate to ask that DC stop selling Wonder Woman because of the unfortunate depictions of African Americans and Asians in the 40s and 50s? Should we petition Penguin Press to stop selling the works of H.P. Lovecraft because of his harmful depictions of African Americans and others throughout many of his works?

Should they stop selling modern Wonder Woman? No. Should they stop selling those issues? I don't know.

Frankly, I really don't know. I'd never buy and read a work of Lovecraft directly by this stage, I've seen and heard far too much about what some of his works are like, and I can get my existential horror somewhere else. If they stop selling his works, because no one buys them, because the consensus is that the racism is too much to stomach... isn't that still censorship like has been claimed here? Silent and slow, but it is still a product no longer being sold because people find the subject material objectionable. Does doing it that way somehow make it more morally justified than pointing it out to people and removing it quickly?

I don't know. But I can't say that calling for something to no longer be sold is the same as banning books.

I don't think these have much to do with OA, though. First of all, it is a PDF and requires no up-keep to remain available. Removing it would be entirely due to pressure from offended parties.

That would be false, there is some upkeep and cost to keeping it for sale on the Guild. It is a minor cost, but it is there. And sure, it would be removed now do to that, but what about in 2040 or some other arbitrary date where the site has gotten enough content on it that they have to start deleting old content to fit new, or buy new servers. What if it was removed then?

Secondly, the reason OA is available now is because in 2014, WotC decided to be as inclusive as possible in terms of the D&D community, and made old products available. I remember many people--players of older editions--being quite pleased by this, feeling that they were being invited back into the fold.


Okay... so what?

There seems to be this weird corollary being drawn between the people and the product. Like if this book got removed the the store suddenly every player over the age of 50 would have "racist" stamped on their license.

There are schools near where I live that probably have some troubling names, definetly some stereotypes that could one day be called out and changed. If they are, does that suddenly make every student who ever graduated from that school a racist? No. It means the school's name was probably a little racial insensitive and it was time that got changed to something better. It has zero reflection on the students.

So, yes, players from 1e liked having this book available again, especially if their old copy was destroyed in a flood or fire or whatever, but removing it would not have reflected badly on those players. So, I don't understand why telling me that old players liked having old stuff available is supposed to change anything.


AD&D has not improvised weapon rules. The closest it gets is the rules for pummelling in an Appendix to UA.

Okay, so why did OA need to introduce a weapon like that then? Fighting with bar stools was still a trope, but not one worth exploring, but fighting with chopsticks was?

Cavaliers (in UA) have restrictions about weapon use, armour use and who and how they fight in battle. But there is no numericaltracking system like the honour score in OA.

I skimmed the breakdown so I might have missed the armor use and who they could fight. The how seemed to just be "no ranged weapons" and "no big weapons until high levels"

But, not having the numerical tracking system was the point that I was making.

This isn't an accurate description of the OA honour system.

Well, every honor system I've ever seen as applied it broadly and statically to all levels of society. Did OA's honor system give different types of systems and rewards for different classes or social groups? And, did everyone have to deal with it or just the highest echelons?

Because, again, honor was a thing in Europe too. There were many tropes of honorable individuals, but there was never an "honor system" made for them. That only ever seems to come up, with point tracking for your honor score, when we go to the Fantasy Far East.


In OA for a samurai it is katana, wakizashi and daikyu. For a cavalier in UA it is lance, one-handed sword (broad, long or scimitar), and one-handed hafted (horseman's flail, mace or pick). I can go and look up rangers and barbarians if you like.

Not needed, you really are proving my point here. Though, if that Daikyu is a bow like I think it is, I'm pleasantly surprised.

But, while the cavalier got lances, swords, flails, maces or picks (all of which they might have actually used) the samurai were limited to two swords and a their bow (which again, I'm surprised they actually put in there) but the samurai also used polearms (the Yari or Naginata if you were a noblewoman) and great clubs.

And I'm sure the barbarian and ranger lists are also extensive.


"The public" is a reasonably broad notion. I'm not sure it's precise enough to support this sort of analysis.

When I was a teenager I could make a pretty good guess at which set of folk beliefs varioius OA creatures came from based on whether the name seemed Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese or Malay. Given my lack of linguistic skills not a perfect guide, but it's not the case that everything was "oriental" and washed in a beige hue.

Well, I'm glad you tried guessing which name was which, but I don't see why it is so hard to ask that they actually pay attention to the differences between them going forward.

So does that mean I'm a bad Canadian for having Hockey Stick on my list of weapons?

If yes, then tough, as it's been there for 35+ years and ain't coming off anytime soon. :)

(never mind that the hockey Stick is a holy symbol to one of our game's deities...)

1) I laughed at the holy symbol bit, especially since it is probably true

2) You are not a major publisher of a game system being sold across the country. So, I don't care what your weapon list says.
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
Well, I'm glad you tried guessing which name was which, but I don't see why it is so hard to ask that they actually pay attention to the differences between them going forward.
Note: My use of you in this post refers to the reader not @Chaosmancer. I quoted them to establish the conversation starter.

If you had to put a number on it....what percentage of 5e players do you think know that the Rakshasa from the Monster Manual is a reference to ancient Hindu mythology and not some made up thing without a real world historical basis?

Do you think that there is a Rakshasa problem in D&D on par with the issues some have with OA?

Is there a similar issue with portrayals of the Sphinx , or Baba Yaga, or Coatl, or Wendigo, or any other non-European source material?

Do you think it's D&D's job to explain the real world historical basis of each thing included in the game and how the game presentation differs from other historical sources?
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
What do you find so problematic about the books so they need to be removed?

I don't think they should be removed, so I don't know why you're asking me this.

Problematic, like beauty, is very much in the eye of the beholder. They might look at a book and agree with you that this one section is problematic and disagree that another part is problematic. It would be a colossal waste of time and money for WotC to comb through every product to produce unique disclaimers that includes every tidbit someone might find problematic. If the reader is that concerned, they should probably avoid the product altogether.

Okay, but that means the disclaimer doesn't mean anything. Oh, look, you've found something you think is offensive; WotC has a universal disclaimer. It doesn't mean that WotC actually cares about the problem or is going to avoid it in their new books. It doesn't warn new readers that, e.g., the word "oriental" is considered offensive.

I think we all accept the truth that products will not be available for purchase in perpetuity.

I've pretty much spent my life at this point ensuring that scanning and transcribing PD books to make them available in perpetuity. Hopefully all of D&D will continue to exist for the now (over-extended IMO) life+70 or 95 years that it needs to be PD (in the US). There's not a whole lot of reason why electronic media should not be available in perpetuity.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
@Chaosmancer Good work on fighting the good fight with posters more interested in D&D's "legacy" than harmful stereotypes! Not sure if there's much point in the back-and-forth anymore in all of these BLM inspired threads, but I usually enjoy your point-of-view when I check in at this late stage.

Should they stop selling modern Wonder Woman? No. Should they stop selling those issues? I don't know.

While I think it could be worded better, I am happy with the disclaimer WotC has added to OA, and everything else prior to 5th Edition. Comparing OA and other problematic works in the D&D catalog to problematic comics, literature, and other pieces of art I think is valid, as we are facing similar issues.

Should publishing companies and artists remove from sale all problematic pieces of art and literature? That would remove a LOT of stuff from circulation, stuff that has merit as well as problems. But just leaving it out there without any commentary doesn't sit well with me either, so the disclaimer seems to be the best option, if imperfect, IMO.

Frankly, I really don't know. I'd never buy and read a work of Lovecraft directly by this stage, I've seen and heard far too much about what some of his works are like, and I can get my existential horror somewhere else. If they stop selling his works, because no one buys them, because the consensus is that the racism is too much to stomach... isn't that still censorship like has been claimed here? Silent and slow, but it is still a product no longer being sold because people find the subject material objectionable. Does doing it that way somehow make it more morally justified than pointing it out to people and removing it quickly?

I think a key difference is the age of the product and if the artist/author(s) are still profiting off of it. And also the importance of the work to the genre it hails from. I have no problem purchasing and reading Lovecraft stories, because Howard is dead and is no longer profiting off of his work. A publishing company would certainly be making a profit, but I would encourage the next publisher to put out a Lovecraft omnibus to open it with a preface discussing the problematic aspects of his work.

And what of artistic products that build off of problematic art? Should we avoid the Call of Chtulhu RPG games and any other art that builds off of Lovecraft's work? What about D&D products that build off of the concepts, ideas, and world-building of Oriental Adventures?

Gygax isn't making a profit off of OA anymore, for a couple of (obvious) reasons. I doubt Zeb Cook is either, as his contribution was likely work-for-hire. WotC isn't even the original publisher, and while they do make a profit from sales of the book, it isn't much at this point. I'm happy with the disclaimer, and the continued sale of the product. It's problematic, but to long-time fans, it is an important part of the D&D catalog.

But should they tackle this sort of product again . . . . they need to work harder at adapting Asian myth, culture, and history respectfully. Harder than they've worked so far in various 5th Edition products.

I don't know. But I can't say that calling for something to no longer be sold is the same as banning books.

It's not. I respect Kwan's position and request, and by no means is it a call for censorship, at least not the kind our society protects in the constitution. The hyperbolic arguments claiming that book banning/burning is essentially happening . . . . sheesh, no respect for that.

There seems to be this weird corollary being drawn between the people and the product. Like if this book got removed the the store suddenly every player over the age of 50 would have "racist" stamped on their license.

This is what's called white fragility, which is closely linked to white privilege. All white people in Western societies enjoy some degree of unfair privilege, which is beginning to erode as minority voices are finally beginning to be heard (and minority populations begin to outpace white populations). The fear of our dominant position in society changing, that we might be losing some degree of power and resources, and a fear of being labeled as racist . . . that is white fragility. That fear is often behind the backlashes we see when effort to make art traditionally made for a white audience more diverse, like the discussion over what to do with Oriental Adventures. It can be mild, but it can also get pretty ugly.

Well, every honor system I've ever seen as applied it broadly and statically to all levels of society. Did OA's honor system give different types of systems and rewards for different classes or social groups? And, did everyone have to deal with it or just the highest echelons?

Because, again, honor was a thing in Europe too. There were many tropes of honorable individuals, but there was never an "honor system" made for them. That only ever seems to come up, with point tracking for your honor score, when we go to the Fantasy Far East.

This is the problem with how honor systems have been used sometimes in RPGs. Do Asian cultures have a greater emphasis on "honor" than European cultures? Not really. Introducing an honor system in a book called Oriental Adventures is not good. 5th Edition does better with the honor system in the core rules, the DM's Guide. But even there it is linked with Eastern culture by the artwork on the page. Oops.

Well, I'm glad you tried guessing which name was which, but I don't see why it is so hard to ask that they actually pay attention to the differences between them going forward.

To someone familiar with Asian mythology and language, whether they are of Asian descent or not, the source of various elements in Oriental Adventures might be obvious. But most of us have no idea what comes from Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian, or another cultures mythology.

I would LOVE it if WotC (and other publishers) would, well, cite their sources. Regardless of what culture inspires a particular element of D&D, I would love a short sidebar with the provenance, where it comes from. Are hengeyokai Japanese or from some other culture? How closely does the D&D version mirror myth? Do this with Asian inspired fantasy, as well as European, African, and fantasy inspired from literature.
 

Mercurius

Legend
That would be false, there is some upkeep and cost to keeping it for sale on the Guild. It is a minor cost, but it is there. And sure, it would be removed now do to that, but what about in 2040 or some other arbitrary date where the site has gotten enough content on it that they have to start deleting old content to fit new, or buy new servers. What if it was removed then?

My hope is that by 2040--if our civilization survives--we'll have a more balanced view about historical documents, so there won't be an issue about OA remaining available. I personally love the fact that through the internet we have tons of things available that would otherwise be out of print. I'm also going to assume that data storage is vastly improved in 2040. Oh yeah, the cost isn't a lot. It isn't really all that relevant, though.

Okay... so what?

There seems to be this weird corollary being drawn between the people and the product. Like if this book got removed the the store suddenly every player over the age of 50 would have "racist" stamped on their license.

There are schools near where I live that probably have some troubling names, definetly some stereotypes that could one day be called out and changed. If they are, does that suddenly make every student who ever graduated from that school a racist? No. It means the school's name was probably a little racial insensitive and it was time that got changed to something better. It has zero reflection on the students.

So, yes, players from 1e liked having this book available again, especially if their old copy was destroyed in a flood or fire or whatever, but removing it would not have reflected badly on those players. So, I don't understand why telling me that old players liked having old stuff available is supposed to change anything.

I'm not talking about labeling people as racist (though some have suggested that prefering 1E OA is unacceptable, but thankfully not WotC). I'm talking about inclusivity. WotC was very clear about wanting everyone to feel welcome--not just ethnic, gendered and sexual demographics, but fans of older editions.

So do we want to be inclusive or not? Who do we want to include and who gets shown the door? Removing OA from availability--while probably effecting only a small number of folks--has symbolic weight to it. It says, "Sorry fans of AD&D, but this product is no longer available because some people don't want you to use it."
 

Greg Benage

Adventurer
I'll be really shocked if they don't remove the book from their list. I can't imagine anyone at the company doing a cost-benefit analysis and deciding, "I don't care how bad the PR gets, no way we can let go of this cash cow!" Given the amount of content that some very vocal critics deem problematic (up to and including the whole IP), they'll have much more difficult decisions to make. I suppose they are fortunate that problematic content is so starkly and clearly defined, so that slippery slopes needn't be a concern.

Can Dungeons & Dragons even exist without Orientalism? For all of the excellent work that Mike Mearls and Jeremy Crawford have done in designing a world that fosters a more critical dialogue around gender though 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons (2014),7 overtones of orientalism pervade the text, adorning the Player’s Handbook like sequins.8 First, there are illustrations: an East Asian warlock,9 a female samurai,10 an Arabian princess,11 an Arab warrior,12 and a Moor in battle,13 to name a few. Then, there are mechanics: the Monk persists as a class14 replete with a spiritual connection to another world via the “ki” mechanic. Scimitars and blowguns are commonly available as weapons,15 and elephants are available for purchase as mounts for only 200 gold.16 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.


ETA: Article from 2016, complete with the Comeliness critique.
 
Last edited:

Alzrius

The EN World kitten

ETA: Article from 2016, complete with the Comeliness critique.

Definitely make sure to check out the comments section at the end, where none other than D&D historian Jon Peterson, of Playing at the World fame, makes some salient observations about this article.
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
Definitely make sure to check out the comments section at the end, where none other than D&D historian Jon Peterson, of Playing at the World fame, makes some salient observations about this article.
The author of the article has this to say in his opening paragraph.

"Finally, the reader is assumed to perceive the Orient as somewhat feminized, possessing a subordinate relationship to western nations, culture, industry, and governance. A skeptical reading of this blurb suggests that the success of Oriental Adventures was predicated upon a racist and sexist culture of American, Canadian, and British gamers who were interested in barnstorming though the gates of the “Orient” to confront barbaric hordes in order to plunder the land’s riches."

When your opening take is just ...wrong....in how that supplement was commonly used I can't lend credence to the rest of it.

If a table in the 80s/90s used the 1e OA book, they most likely did so by either basing an entire adventure (including all the PCs) within the setting such that all the elements were pastiche Asian OR a player in a traditional fantasy setting used an OA character class to represent a "traveller from afar".

That book was not written or designed as a book primarily detailing a far off land for existing western themed PCs to loot and pillage as the author suggests.
 

Greg Benage

Adventurer
Definitely make sure to check out the comments section at the end, where none other than D&D historian Jon Peterson, of Playing at the World fame, makes some salient observations about this article.

My position on the critique probably isn't important, but to be clear, I don't find it particularly persuasive. I posted it because 1) it was striking the way even the factual inaccuracies have been repeated by Mr. Kwan four years later*, and 2) as one piece of evidence that the critique will be (well, or will continue to be) extended to the whole IP. It's happening now in online discussion, but this article just shows that it's gaining volume, not that it's new.

And hell, despite my earlier sarcasm, I don't claim to have really any sense for how "problematic content" is delineated or defined. I believe I know it when I see it, but many, many others don't see it where I do or see it where I don't. So I could be wrong. Maybe the entire D&D IP is fundamentally orientalist and colonialist and a reckoning is due. But it sure makes me queasy.

* I'm not accusing Mr. Kwan of plagiarism, BTW. I haven't watched all his videos and have no reason to think he didn't cite Mr. Trammell's article, nor even any evidence that these particular arguments originated with Mr. Trammell himself. They could be well entrenched in an ongoing discussion in which I have not participated.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Regardless of what culture inspires a particular element of D&D, I would love a short sidebar with the provenance, where it comes from. Are hengeyokai Japanese or from some other culture? How closely does the D&D version mirror myth? Do this with Asian inspired fantasy, as well as European, African, and fantasy inspired from literature.

This especially struck me with some of the PF Bestiary's. I googled a few names just to make sure they were made up ... and was astounded that almost none of them are. For that series, Paizo didn't do the heavy lifting I (and I guess you) wish they had. The forums to the rescue:


and the google sheet with what they came up with

 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Okay, so why did OA need to introduce a weapon like that then? Fighting with bar stools was still a trope, but not one worth exploring, but fighting with chopsticks was?

But is fighting with barstools as much of a trope as fighting with chopsticks is in the media that inspire RPGs? Jackie Chan may fight with barstools (I have no idea) or step ladders (which I've definitely seen him do), but I'm willing to bet chopsticks show up in more Chinese kung fu action movies that are produced by and acted by Asian companies and actors. Is it excessively stereotypical to include them as an option when they are relatively common, maybe even iconic, in movies produced by Chinese companies? Would excluding them be doing the material a service or a disservice?

Well, every honor system I've ever seen as applied it broadly and statically to all levels of society. Did OA's honor system give different types of systems and rewards for different classes or social groups? And, did everyone have to deal with it or just the highest echelons?

Because, again, honor was a thing in Europe too. There were many tropes of honorable individuals, but there was never an "honor system" made for them. That only ever seems to come up, with point tracking for your honor score, when we go to the Fantasy Far East.

<snip>
Not needed, you really are proving my point here. Though, if that Daikyu is a bow like I think it is, I'm pleasantly surprised.

But, while the cavalier got lances, swords, flails, maces or picks (all of which they might have actually used) the samurai were limited to two swords and a their bow (which again, I'm surprised they actually put in there) but the samurai also used polearms (the Yari or Naginata if you were a noblewoman) and great clubs.

Both of these topics - honor systems and the required weapons of a samurai - and the criticism leveled at them hinge on what I think is a lack of understanding of the development of D&D. And I think it undermines the criticism.

There was no honor system prior to OA. This was developed because elements of Japanese culture suggested an interesting new game mechanic that a player could use to incorporate elements of an ethical system quite different from the ethical system of paladins in D&D or chivalry in medieval romances like Morte d'Arthur. Sure, it may have been a bit of a stretch to extend it to all of the cultures encompassed by OA and I think that gets to OA's limitations being over-influenced by Japanese stories and tropes, but equating a European knight's honor system with a bushido system would be at least as problematic. They aren't the same.

With respect to the samurai class's weapon restrictions, the fact that you didn't realize the samurai class needed to learn the bow suggests you really don't know what the game actually had it in it or implied aside from what you're hearing second hand. It's also worth noting that weapon proficiencies worked differently in AD&D than they do in any edition in 3e and beyond. Characters learned to use weapons individually rather than learning all martial weapons as part of a martial class perk. Samurai weren't limited away from learning weapons beyond the daisho and daikyu eventually as they gained more slots - but those particular weapons were a significant part of a samurai's historical image from real historical sources. This kind of stuff is rife through Japanese sources, not just filtered through western adaptations. Would it make sense from a game mechanic perspective for a samurai to be under competent with the historically iconic tools he was portrayed as using? Is that really an unfair stereotype when the sources of the stereotype are native to the culture?

What I'm getting at with this post is that not all of the criticisms leveled at OA are going to be agreed upon by everyone. Some are based on historical portrayals native to the culture or widely enjoyed media portrayals native to the culture. Is it really a strong criticism if OA draws on those? Should OA have drawn on just the history and not mythologized history, fantasy literature, or even exaggerated hagiography (which is probably an apt description of Miyamoto Musashi's writings) that might have come from those cultures? Honestly, I'm not sure it's fair to criticize a game thoroughly based on larger than life fantasy/pulp stories for doing so.

Edit: Fun side note - someone actually did come up with an honor system for European-inspired chivalric orders in Dragon #125 just a couple of years after OA debuted.
 
Last edited:

prosfilaes

Adventurer

ETA: Article from 2016, complete with the Comeliness critique.

They quote

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

and then says

Finally, the reader is assumed to perceive the Orient as somewhat feminized, possessing a subordinate relationship to western nations, culture, industry, and governance.

That's pretty classic sexism right there, equating being feminized with a subordinate relationship. Western countries and places are often personified as female, like Lady Liberty and Europa.

Comeliness becomes a game mechanic in Oriental Adventures because the feminized Asian man is part of the Oriental imaginary. Where the assumed male player in Dungeons & Dragons enjoyed a Charisma score which determined the extent to which his masculine charm would win the loyalty of his men on the battlefield, the Oriental man’s beauty can be apprehended through the Comeliness statistic—a dubious honor previously reserved only for women in Len Lakofka’s unfortunate article “Notes on Women and Magic.”

Again, we've established where comeliness comes from. But the assumption here is that PCs are always male and that physical looks are only important for women. I see a lot more sexism from the author of the article than the book.

By this I mean that Dungeons & Dragons’ alignment system is a uniquely American (Law vs. Chaos) and Christian (Good vs. Evil) way of understanding the world.

Above he mentions Judeo-Christian alignment table; which is it? (I've been exposed to quite a few gripes by Jewish people who feel Judeo-Christian really means "Christian, but I'll tack on Judaism without knowing much about it to seem more diverse.") I don't buy that it's uniquely American or Christian; Law vs. Chaos is generally attributed to Moorcock, a British author. Good vs. Evil most directly is Abrahamic (though Wikipedia also mentions Manichaeism), and the country with the most Abrahamic worshippers in the world is Indonesia, with 230 million Muslims.

For example the mechanics that govern agriculture or farming in Fallout 4 (2015) have no relation to the histories of knowledge that have been lost in this process of abstraction. We forget that all of the rich ways that cooking has been developed as a mechanic in role-playing games hold an inextricable historical relationship to the ways that cooking was fundamental to the everyday life of common folk in the Orient.

That last line seems false, to the point of almost self-parody; cooking has quite a history in the Occident as well. And picking on Fallout 4 seems questionable here; cf. From combat to kitchens: cooking in JRPGs | Michibiku . Given that Japan has created a huge percentage of video games, many with export as an afterthought, picking on Fallout 4 seems unfair; games by their nature are reductive.

I'm not really impressed by this article.
 

Status
Not open for further replies.

Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top