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

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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
And the comeliness argument is still tripe. I don't have an issue at all with some of the criticisms leveled at OA, but there are enough components of the overall narrative that are either just wrong (comeliness) or lack any nuance (chopsticks) that I'm conflicted about the overall discussion. Well, at least the core stuff has been addressed and it seems like most people are in agreement about what it means and the need for it to be identified as problematic.
 

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Voadam

Legend
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?
People choosing not to read something is generally not considered censorship.

Someone choosing to not allow others to read something because of its content is generally considered censorship.

It can be quibbled about the situation of someone who wants to read it but still chooses not to.

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.
You keep making this argument about it not being a ban but it seems an odd quibble. Banning the sale of new digital copies is just a smaller scope ban than banning all sales or possession of the book.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I believe I'm being mocked. :)

I should probably mention that even at the time I thought Comeliness was a stupid bloody idea. I was too young at the time to really see the sexism potential in it, but it seemed goofy. Except for its use as a great dump stat.
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
I believe I'm being mocked. :)

I should probably mention that even at the time I thought Comeliness was a stupid bloody idea. I was too young at the time to really see the sexism potential in it, but it seemed goofy. Except for its use as a great dump stat.
what nuance do you need for chopsticks? chopsticks are for eating. they shouldn't be on a weapons chart. if they want people to recreate a very specific trope from wuxia films they can make a separate rule specifically for monks.
 

Voadam

Legend
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?

I do not know if it was the genre movie trope or if AD&D at that time was just on a kick to provide stats for the most weaponizable eating utensils. The AD&D Unearthed Arcana hardcover earlier that year provided stats for a common knife as a weapon separate from (and worse than) a dagger. So if attacked at dinner you know your steak knife does a d3 damage and does not use the same weapon proficiency as the designed for combat d4 dagger.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
But let's say that somehow I was a major publisher of an internationally-sold game system.

Am I bad if I include hockey stick on the weapons list?

Or am I bad if I have some rules around improvised weapons and use hockey stick, beer mug, chopsticks and pool cue as examples?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
what nuance do you need for chopsticks? chopsticks are for eating. they shouldn't be on a weapons chart. if they want people to recreate a very specific trope from wuxia films they can make a separate rule specifically for monks.
And ballpoint pens are for writing, but if you're in a bind it's also possible to use one to stab someone pretty good.

Pool cues are for playing pool with...unless you're the guy I went to school with who got turned into a human vegetable for the rest of his life when hit over the head with one.

Chopsticks are for eating - or, in the case of two women I game with, for holding one's tied-up hair in place; or - as with the pen - for use if you're despreate for something to violently stick into someone.
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
Honestly, I'm not sure it's fair to criticize a game thoroughly based on larger than life fantasy/pulp stories for doing so.

I don't disagree with the rest of what you wrote, but I have a problem here. Pulp stories have a huge problem with racism, which any modern adaptation has to worry about not copying. Darkest Africa and Yellow Peril are both big pulp themes that are basically racist, and the first has bad history in modern pulp and even in recent D&D publications. It's behind the changes just made in the 5E Chult book, for example.
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
And ballpoint pens are for writing, but if you're in a bind it's also possible to use one to stab someone pretty good.

Pool cues are for playing pool with...unless you're the guy I went to school with who got turned into a human vegetable for the rest of his life when hit over the head with one.

Chopsticks are for eating - or, in the case of two women I game with, for holding one's tied-up hair in place; or - as with the pen - for use if you're despreate for something to violently stick into someone.
and a bottle is for storing liquid, unless you break it open in a tavern fight, but the PHB seems awfully quiet on the matter.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
what nuance do you need for chopsticks? chopsticks are for eating. they shouldn't be on a weapons chart. if they want people to recreate a very specific trope from wuxia films they can make a separate rule specifically for monks.
Past tense, they wanted in 1985 to... I'm not being pedantic here. When you say 'they want' and 'they can' your talking about the present. In the present I agree completely. For this though we need to step into our Delorean...

First, and more problematically, it is common trope in Asian martial arts cinema generally. I don't think it had much to do with any real-world comps. Chopsticks got used in fight scenes all the time in the movies and so the authors wanted to make sure that was possible mechanically. Putting them on the weapon list, in the context of 1st edition, was necessary to make them even remotely usable as weapons. That's the problematic reading but accounting for 1E mechanics. It still looks poor.

Second, it's the OA equivalent of the knife. The knife is on the 1st Ed weapon list separate from and inferior to the dagger. Its not there as a legit weapon choice, it's there so if a fight breaks out at the tavern you know how much damage your utensil does. They do identical damage to chopsticks btw. This is a far less problematic reading, IMO anyway.

The second bit above is a entirely legitimate reading of 1st edition rules. I'm not suggesting that it's the whole story mind, but I do think that its an example of how the 'chopsticks issue' suffers from a overly superficial treatment. So when I say nuance, I mean that completely seriously (and not as a dodge, or distractor). The issue about comeliness suffers from a similar lack of understanding of the 1st edition rules.

I wouldn't put chopsticks on a weapons chart now at all. One, they're covered just fine by the 5E improvised weapons rules, and two, navigating the issues with representation and trope use just make it a poor idea all around to single them out.
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
Second, it's the OA equivalent of the knife. The knife is on the 1st Ed weapon list separate from and inferior to the dagger. Its not there as a legit weapon choice, it's there so if a fight breaks out at the tavern you know how much damage your utensil does. They do identical damage to chopsticks btw. This is a far less problematic reading, IMO anyway.
dude. a knife is a knife. I can stab someone with a knife, whether or not it was intended as a weapon. if we're gonna get into medieval history a personal knife was used for eating as well as utility, and I'm sure if someone had to they would use it for self defense. having that on a weapons table makes sense outside the context of being an eating utensil, and since UA says jack-all about knives it is an enormous stretch to say it's only there in case a tavern fight broke out.

you can't say any of that for chopsticks.

....hell if spoon were on the weapons table, then maybe I'd agree with you. but it's not.
 

People choosing not to read something is generally not considered censorship.

Someone choosing to not allow others to read something because of its content is generally considered censorship.

It can be quibbled about the situation of someone who wants to read it but still chooses not to.


You keep making this argument about it not being a ban but it seems an odd quibble. Banning the sale of new digital copies is just a smaller scope ban than banning all sales or possession of the book.
In this case, we are not talking about "stopping others from reading something", we are talking about the right of someone not to sell or distribute something that conflicts with their values.

Whether or not you call that censorship is irrelevant. Should someone be forced to continue to sell or distribute a product that no longer chimes with their values?
 

pemerton

Legend
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?
You'd have to ask the authors.

For what it's worth, I think fighting with bar stools is more of a trope in adventure fiction set in the late 19th and 20th centuries than historically-oriented adventure fiction. But I've not done any sort of comprehensive survey. As someone upthread posted (I think @FireLance), DL materials introduced combat stats for the frying pan because one of the characters used it as an improvised weapon.

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

<snip>

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.
OA's honour system cares about difference of character class, and in some cases this is a proxy for difference of social class (eg samurai vs bushi vs yakuza).

The system is an unstable combination of a measure of self-esteem, a measure of social esteem, a measure of reputation, and a measure of organisational loyalty. There are some classes which expressly note its lack of applicability (monks and, slightly differently, shukenja) and others which emphasise it relatively strongly (samurai, kensai, ninja, yakuza). My feeling is that it owes a debt to Bushido (the FGU RPG) but I could be wrong about that.

I don't think it's contentious that the honour system is one of the features of OA that exhibits a type of essentialism/Orientalism. I posted as much in my first or second post in this thread.

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.
There is a discussion of women favouring the naginata but there is no provision for samurai to specialise in it. The whole book uses masculine pronouns pretty resolutely and seems to treat women PCs as an afterhoght.

I'm not sure why you're surprised by the bowl. It's a big deal - in mechanical terms - that the samurai must be proficient with the bow by 3rd level and that only the samurai may specialise in two weapons (katana and daikyu).

In UA cavaliers are forbidden from using missile weapons. AD&D does not take a very consistent or measured approach to its weapon rules. I think putting the samurai weapon rules into the same sort of category as the honour rules would be a mistake.

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.
I don't think it undermines Orientalism to publish works that assume all your readers are white and are ignorant of traditions beyond the tropes that were taken up by JRRT.
 
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Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
And the comeliness argument is still tripe.

No, it's not.

Kwan actually addresses this in a later podcast episode, that the Comeliness stat was introduced in Unearthed Arcana before being included in Oriental Adventures (he wasn't aware of this when first making the criticism). He sticks to his critique, as he doesn't see why a Comeliness stat needed to be included in OA at all . . . and that regardless of author intent, it comes across as racist to Asian Americans. He specifically points out multiple times in his podcast series that he isn't critiquing Oriental Adventures from the point-of-view of the author, or with any knowledge of authorial intent, but rather as an Asian American reacting to the tropes and stereotypes in the book. He also points out that, while he IS a D&D gamer and part of our hobby, he isn't an encyclopedic expert on the game's history . . . . and that you shouldn't have to be to have a problem with Oriental Adventures or any other book.

His argument isn't "tripe" or wrong or unsupported by the facts . . . it's an honest reaction of an Asian American (actually, several) upon reading through a book problematically titled Oriental Adventures.

Part of the racist stereotype of Asians is the feminization of their culture, particularly the men. Kwan's fully willing to believe that the inclusion of the Comeliness state in OA wasn't an intentionally racist move by the authors (Gygax and Cook), perhaps not even unintentionally, and may have simply been an unfortunate coincidence. But it comes across as racist nonetheless by Asian Americans.

Others have noted that while Unearthed Arcana was published before Oriental Adventures, both were in development at the same time. Introducing a new stat . . . as stupid as Comeliness is . . . makes sense in Unearthed Arcana, a book of options to expand the base game. It makes less sense in a book intended to expand the game in a different way, with Asian-inspired fantasy.

Likewise, the defense of the Honor system is weak also. Sure, the honor system was later expanded to cover non-Asian, Western cultures . . . but specifically introducing it in the Asian fantasy sourcebook is textbook orientalism. There really is no defense. Hell, we haven't yet escaped the honor system linked to Asian culture in 5th Edition . . . why wasn't the honor system also included in Unearthed Arcana? I think we know why.

And this bears repeating . . . . NO ONE is accusing any D&D authors, Gygax, Cook, and later game designers, of being racist, horrible people. Simply authors who were not fully aware of the systemic racism in our culture (and pop culture) towards various minorities, in this case Asian Americans, and carrying that forward into D&D. Most gamers who are unhappy with Oriental Adventures (seemingly at least) prefer the disclaimer option (which is what we got), but some would rather the title be removed from the catalog altogether. You can disagree with that position, removal of the book from sale, but to dismiss the concerns and offense of Asian Americans in reaction to Oriental Adventures . . . smacks of selfishness and white fragility.
 

pemerton

Legend
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 was living in a village (c 150 people) inland Australia, going to a high school in a country town of c 20,000 people. I found a book on East Asian history in my school library which (I later learned) was at least at one time a fairly standard introductory text: East Asia - The Great Tradition (the lead author has a Wikipedia page).

Being an English language text dealing with persons and places and periods with names in languages not all cognate with English, it had a discussion of language either as an appendix or introduction (I can't remember which now).

I don't think it's that hard to come at material respectfully if one wishes to. If you don't know what cultural tradition a particular story element comes from, and you think it's important to know, I don't think it's that hard to find out.
 

pemerton

Legend
Do Asian cultures have a greater emphasis on "honor" than European cultures? Not really
This is a complicated question in history, sociology, anthropology and like disciplines.

Of course it can be raised in relation to various "European" cultures as well - eg I think it is widely recognised that Australian culture, to the extent such a thing exists, puts less emphasis on formality and status in the context of social dealings than does (say) French or German culture (again, to the extent that such things exist).

D&D in its Gygaxian form, to the extent that it has a default culture at all, defaults to a certain sort of individualist US norm. This is reinforced by its reliance upon modernist/nihilistic fantasy like REH. When FRPG designers wanted to build games that would help drive more historically resonant play they looked for mechanics that would do this: Pendragon is a famous example here.

This is not a defence of OA. It is an invitation to consider what systems a RPG might want to use if it is going to encourage players to play their PCs in ways that might be recognisable in historical terms but are foreign to

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.
OA is not a historical document. It's a RPG sourcebook.

Its great strength, as I've already posted in this thread, is to show - in a D&D context - how PCs can be generated who are embedded within the world in which their adventures take place. This permeates the class design, the rules for generating PC backgrounds ("family" rules) and the presentation of the monsters and the ideas for scenario design.

It also has two mechanical innovations (from the D&D point of view - of course OA didn't invent these things): mechanical resolution for a wide range of non-combat actions; and mechanics that allow players to have their character try harder. The latter largely disappeared as a ubiquitous feature of D&D classes until 4e brought it back.

The setting material is secondary to all this. OA does not even have a map of Kara-Tur, just a written description of its geography. That part of the book is neither here nor there when one asks does it have any enduring value?

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.

<snip>

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.
I agree with your last sentence. But the author, in the paragraph you quote, is referring to the back cover blurb of OA. That is (in my view) the most objectionable part of the book. It is laden with "mysterious East"/"exotic Asian" bullsh*t.

But as you say, that is not the general tone of the material inside the book.
 

pemerton

Legend
NO ONE is accusing any D&D authors, Gygax, Cook, and later game designers, of being racist, horrible people.
In this thread a poster compared OA - deliberately, and doubling down when queried - to minstrel shows.

But for that I wouldn't have bothered posting in this thread. But the making of that comparison (i) belies your claim that I have quoted, and (ii) significantly undercuts the rhetorical force of the arguments about Orientalism.
 

pemerton

Legend
If RPGing is essentially Gygaxian dungeon-crawling, and so the difference between a paladin and a samurai is nothing but tropes and flavour text, then many issues go away.

If RPGing is an artform in some ways comparable to literature or cinema, then the question of what stories are told, how, by whom, resting on what expectations and norms, will arise. It happens in cinema and literature and will happen in RPGs too.

Pendragon's traits and passions, and Bushido or OA's Honour score, and Luke Cranes emotional attributes in BW (which include Honour and Shame in The Blossoms are Falling supplement) don't cover the field. But all of them, and other alternatives too, raise similar questions.

Putting a disclaimer on OA doesn't deal with any of this. Look at the disagreements over the Black Panther (some people think it's a work of Black empowerment; others like Teju Cole take a different view). What is going to happen to Glorantha when someone takes a serious critical look at it? Let alone shallower and hence more vulnerable RPG settings like FR, Eberron and the like.

Also, It seems odd both to call for the use of cultural consultants, and to deny that cultures exist in at least some sense.
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
He sticks to his critique, as he doesn't see why a Comeliness stat needed to be included in OA at all . . . and that regardless of author intent, it comes across as racist to Asian Americans.

So, if he had said he didn't see why a Wisdom stat needed to be included in OA at all, would you agree with him? I can certainly see arguments for including Wisdom in OA being Orientalist; it's the old stereotype of the wise old monks of the east. I see more of an argument for Wisdom being Orientalist than Comeliness being Orientalist.

He also points out that, while he IS a D&D gamer and part of our hobby, he isn't an encyclopedic expert on the game's history . . . . and that you shouldn't have to be to have a problem with Oriental Adventures or any other book.

If you don't know the context of something, then your problems may not reflect an actual problem with the work itself.

Others have noted that while Unearthed Arcana was published before Oriental Adventures, both were in development at the same time. Introducing a new stat . . . as stupid as Comeliness is . . . makes sense in Unearthed Arcana, a book of options to expand the base game. It makes less sense in a book intended to expand the game in a different way, with Asian-inspired fantasy.

Since when is Unearthed Arcana, first edition, a book of options to expand the base game? The Introduction to the book says "In the time since the publication of the Dungeon Masters Guide in 1979, the AD&D game has not stood still. In DRAGON Magazine, Gary Gygax has continued to expand the frontiers of the game, offering new ideas, experiments, and rules. In this book those ideas are made concrete. The experiments are completed. The suggested rules are now official and final." It seems clear to me that the changes introduced in Unearthed Arcana were intended as permanent changes to the game and thus were included in OA as such.
 

what nuance do you need for chopsticks? chopsticks are for eating. they shouldn't be on a weapons chart. if they want people to recreate a very specific trope from wuxia films they can make a separate rule specifically for monks.

I think it is a bit clumsy mechanically for improvised weapons, but I am pretty sure the reason they did it was because of the movie Fearless Hyena. I think given that the book was trying to emulate the tropes of a lot of martial arts genres, this particular criticism doesn't really work for me (like I said there are critiques they made that I felt were sound). But this is just an attempt at genre emulation. Could it have been better handled by a class ability or some other mechanics? Possibly, but this is still answers the question for the gm and players if that kind of scene comes up.
 

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