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

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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
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.

...because of course he does!

See, here's the issue that I keep seeing. As part of the process of attempting to understand, you need to actually .... understand. Instead of just constantly doubling down.

"Wait, I'm wrong about this? Well, instead of acknowledging that I'm wrong and adjusting my overall thesis, I am going to explain how being wrong can in no way impact what I am saying."

This is incredibly disheartening, because it just keeps showing that absolutely no understanding can be had about these types of issues, because all that matters is the nature of the offense taken (which will always be personal) and even if there is a misunderstanding of the nature of the offense, according to this theory of offense, even when you're wrong, you are right.

In the late '90s, I was out for cocktails with a groups of friends (yes, there was cocktail culture before now ... we even had this thing called 'the internet' and a website on 'hotwired' with cocktails); at a bar, one of my friends ordered a Negroni. The bartender, who was white (because of course), tried to lecture my friend about the inappropriateness of the drink because of the offense caused, having no idea what the drink was ... or, to use your terms, the bartender wasn't an encyclopedic expert on cocktail history.

The moral of the story, of course, is that the 90s were a wasteland outside of a few areas when bartenders still couldn't make a decent cocktail. No, wait, that's not it.....

Facts should matter. Context matters. Knowledge matters. For someone to say, "It doesn't matter that I was wrong and ignorant about something .... my lack of knowledge allows me to feel offense over this, and will not be corrected," shouldn't be acceptable. At that point, how can you even discuss anything?

This, to me, is worse than anything else. "Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim." There are many valid criticisms to be had about OA, but comeliness isn't one of them.
 

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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Yes, tripe.

UA and OA both reflect where the design of D&D was in 1985. UA introduced new options for the game, options which TSR obviously felt were positive additions. OA includes them for that reason. Those were the new toys, so those went in to OA. The argument that the addition of comeliness to OA plays on Asian effeminate stereotypes, rather than reflecting the current state of the rules, almost beggars belief. It has absolutely nothing to do with whether the stat should have been included in OA at all. The fact that Comeliness can, in retrospect, and without context, be read as supporting a harmful trope about Asian is, frankly, spurious. It's unfortunate, but what it boils down to is "I can read X like Y and am offended by it". If there were even the slightest notion that Comeliness was included in order to play on Asian stereotypes then I would be fully behind the outrage. But there isn't, and I'm not.

On a related note, I find Mr. Kwan's contention that " 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" a little bit problematic. He obviously expects the writers to have been informed and aware of harmful Asian stereotypes (at a 2020 level no less), and he obviously expects them to be well read, informed, and respectful of the thing their writing about, but curiously declines to expect the same of himself. If someone wants to dig 35 years into the past to lay a critique on something, I think it's perfectly reasonable to expect them to be at least moderately well informed about that subject, which is all that would have been necessary in this case. Mr. Kwan's reaction to Comeliness (which I did actually listen to) was very much informed by his ignorance of the context, he doesn't get to backpedal that after the fact.

To be crystal clear about the more general topic here, I am not suggesting that there is nothing objectionable about OA. Nor that Mr. Kwan shouldn't feel the way he feels. I am, however, suggesting that the status of his reading as 'honest reaction' does not, in any way, immunize him from critique.
 

Remathilis

Legend
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.




ETA: Article from 2016, complete with the Comeliness critique.
To address this, WotC now needs to slap a warning label on the 5e PHB (including it's digital sales) and/ or pull the book from sale.

Damn, that slope was slick...
 

Warren Ellis

Explorer
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.
So is this Kwan guy known for either not presenting all the facts or attempting to twist things to suit a personal narrative? Because that comment from Peterson mentions Kwan apparently tried to bury evidence against his accusations.
 

MGibster

Legend
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.

If WotC didn't care about the problem they wouldn't have bothered adding a disclaimer. What exactly do you want out of WotC? As I said earlier, it would be a colossal waste of time and money to comb through products in their back catalog in order to write a unique disclaimer for each one.
 

If WotC didn't care about the problem they wouldn't have bothered adding a disclaimer. What exactly do you want out of WotC? As I said earlier, it would be a colossal waste of time and money to comb through products in their back catalog in order to write a unique disclaimer for each one.
No need to - "the entire back catalogue" hasn't been called out, just the one specific product.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
No need to - "the entire back catalogue" hasn't been called out, just the one specific product.

HA! You're kidding, right?

Luckily for right now, neither Mr. Kwan nor most of the people commenting in support of his position have a grasp of the history of products in the D&D back catalog that extends very far.

Because if they did, they would know that while OA is an easy mark because of the title, there are worse things.

After all, if 5e is having to rewrite sections and APs now .... which were written in the last 5 years, do you really think that books written in the 70s and 80s are going to pass muster?
 


MGibster

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

Well I know the answer. No, they should not stop selling those issues just because it contains offensive imagery.

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.

Whether you'll ever read Lovecraft or not isn't germane. Odds are good I'm never going to read Precious or Beyond Megenta but that has no bearing on whether or not it's okay to have them removed from libraries.

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?

No.

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're deliberately making an effort to limit other's access to a book based on what you deem to be objectionable content. You're essentially taking the same position as people who want Beyond Magenta removed from the library because the contents are offensive to them.
 

Because if they did, they would know that while OA is an easy mark because of the title, there are worse things.
You can't be offended by something you don't know exists. Titles matter - they are what show up on searches.

If someone happens to stumble across something else offensive they can bring it to WotC's attention and they can deal with it then. There is no need for WotC to "comb through the entire back catalogue" - that is just yet another strawman.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
You can't be offended by something you don't know exists. Titles matter - they are what show up on searches.

If someone happens to stumble across something else offensive they can bring it to WotC's attention and they can deal with it then. There is no need for WotC to "comb through the entire back catalogue" - that is just yet another strawman.

Really. This is such an amazing position for you to take!

So the company is supposed to wait until ... what, the next twitter outbreak? Is that it?

And then they will get pilloried for not doing something, right? Just like this one, when Mr. Kwan kept saying that he didn't understand how they could be selling this?

I'm not going to list the examples because I don't want to be responsible for the next twitter nonsense (which is a tautology), but it will lead with people saying, "How dare they have had this up! They should KNOW BETTER. I can't believe that this company is FORCING ME to deal with this."

Remember this tweet-

"You show consumers that these legacy products are to be consumed. They aren't. What if someone looks to the optional "Honour" rules found in the 5e DMG or inquires about the "cultures" of Kara-Tur mentioned in the PHB? Kara-Tur is still being sold and this is a PROBLEM. "

Notice- not OA. All of Kara Tur, all the products. Which includes a lot of FR products that mention it. And we are just getting started!

So take your "strawman" nonsense somewhere else, thank you.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
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.

Sure, I can accept that not everything out of pulp fiction is fine. But I'm mainly focused on the protagonist archetypes and their larger than life abilities, which is what the D&D tradition draws from in developing character classes and their equipment.
 


So the company is supposed to wait until ... what, the next twitter outbreak? Is that it?
Why not? Although it would be more sensible to contact the company directly.

ust like this one, when Mr. Kwan kept saying that he didn't understand how they could be selling this?

Well yes, because the offensive word is IN THE TITLE. If I where to publish an adventure entitled "Crystal Palace are W*nkers" I wouldn't expect it to take decades for someone to notice it was offensive.

"You show consumers that these legacy products are to be consumed. They aren't. What if someone looks to the optional "Honour" rules found in the 5e DMG or inquires about the "cultures" of Kara-Tur mentioned in the PHB? Kara-Tur is still being sold and this is a PROBLEM. "

Notice- not OA. All of Kara Tur, all the products. Which includes a lot of FR products that mention it. And we are just getting started!
Strawman strawman strawman. I could claim that "Snarf" is an offensive word in my language. That wouldn't make it true. It is generally accepted that keeping slaves is wrong and the words "W*nkers" and "Oriental" are offensive. It doesn't matter that "Oriental" was not offensive in 1985, or that slavery was not offensive in 185. No one is suggesting that WotC should invent a time machine and change the past. They are suggesting they should put things right NOW.
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
If WotC didn't care about the problem they wouldn't have bothered adding a disclaimer. What exactly do you want out of WotC? As I said earlier, it would be a colossal waste of time and money to comb through products in their back catalog in order to write a unique disclaimer for each one.

They added a generic disclaimer to all their back catalog. You're specifically saying they don't know about the problems in their products and it would take too much work to figure out the problems. I don't know what I want, exactly, but tossing this disclaimer on all pre-5E works negates a lot of the effect it has on any particular one. I don't think such a generic disclaimer on so many works is going to dissuade people annoyed by particular works.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Why not? Although it would be more sensible to contact the company directly.

Because ... EVERY .... SINGLE ... THING .... will be offensive by current standards.

Have you been completely and willfully oblivious to all the conversations that are being had? I have to assume so.


Well yes, because the offensive word is IN THE TITLE. If I where to publish an adventure entitled "Crystal Palace are W*nkers" I wouldn't expect it to take decades for someone to notice it was offensive.

Thank you for forum-splaining this to me. Given that I had posted the links to this explaining why it was offensive, with the explanations, that was so valuable. Really. Your contributions are invaluable. I even provided the timeline.

You are a peach.


Strawman strawman strawman.

Goodbye.
 

MGibster

Legend
They added a generic disclaimer to all their back catalog. You're specifically saying they don't know about the problems in their products and it would take too much work to figure out the problems. I don't know what I want, exactly, but tossing this disclaimer on all pre-5E works negates a lot of the effect it has on any particular one. I don't think such a generic disclaimer on so many works is going to dissuade people annoyed by particular works.

What is the effect being negated you are referring to? I do agree with you, this generic disclaimer is not going to dissuade people annoyed by particular works. But you can't please everyone.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
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.

Incorrect. Horrible strrawman.

We are talking about discussions with the creators/publishers. Not libraries. This aspect of it is a completely irrelevant fabrication on your part.

WotC (and any publisher) have a right to publish... or not. Their call. Attempts to force* them to publish a thing, or not, are of the same ethical form - application of force to someone else's voice.

I am reasonably sure you will reject this, because accepting it is probably uncomfortable. It is only fair, though, that you feel the same discomfort as you have been laying on others with the emotionally loaded approach to the discussion inherent in the word "censorship" in our shared culture.



*The force in involved is social pressure and voting with your wallet, it is apparently "force" and censorship to tell WotC you don't like a thing and not buy their products.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Incorrect. Horrible strrawman.

Oh, goodie. I literally wrote the following:

"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?"


And you responded with this? You know I can't ignore a moderator, and you seem unable to take the hint. So, one more time:

Patricia Pulling: TSR needs to stop publishing those horrible D&D books.
Gamer: No, TSR shouldn't.

Umbran: Both Pulling, and Gamer, are attempting to CENSOR books.


Look, you're entiteled to speak your opinion. But I do not accept your Orwellian re-writing of language, nor will I accede to your bizarre argument.

I mean, I could believe you, or my lying eyes I guess.

But I'd rather you stop trying to pedantically explain a position to me that I have repeatedly rejected.

EDIT: And I would add that I am so glad that bigoted organizations like the American Family Association at least had the courage of their convictions when they were use economic coercion to go after gay and trans rights and representation, instead of this type of weasel-y "Trying to erase gay representation is EXACTLY THE SAME as trying to ensure accurate representation."
 
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