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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
By dismissing Kwan's commentary (or parts of it) because he isn't a historical expert on early D&D, we are trying to prevent his criticism from being heard or seen as relevant and legitimate. Yes, gatekeeping. Only D&D super-nerds immersed in the esoterica of the game have any right to level complaints.

Kwan is reacting to the perfect storm of NWPs, the honor system, the Comeliness stat, orientalist language, and bad stereotypes as an Asian American gamer encountering Oriental Adventures.

To go all "well, actually . . ." after specific points like NWPs, honor, and Comeliness being developed in the pages of Dragon Magazine and/or appearing in Unearthed Arcana before being included in Oriental Adventures misses the point and tries to diminish his experience and offense.

It's certainly a fact that these three mechanical elements of the game were developed before the publication of Oriental Adventures and can be (and have been) applied to cultures other than Asian. It also is irrelevant to Kwan's experience reading through the book, it also doesn't change the highly problematic nature of the work.
Blargh. Seriously? I, for one, specifically made space for his very legitimate criticism even though I have criticisms of parts of it. Specifically did so. The perfect storm argument is nonsense btw, you don't get to say its all or nothing. That's just cover for he didn't know what he was talking about in spots when he got really upset and now doesn't want to take back his hot take. I'm not preventing, silencing, obviating, diminishing or any other -ing his right to speak or critique. What I am doing is calling shenanigans on the part that is patently, obviously, and indisputably shenanigans. It doesn't matter to me a whit that you're invested enough to continue to ride to his defense here. You're just casting baseless aspersions and completely ignoring any and all attempts at nuance and discourse in an attempt to salvage the discourse without modification. Perhaps you should be as concerned with legitimate critique generally. Just a thought.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
As a Fantasy Canada exclusive rule? Yes, that would be stereotyping and uncool
Then I suppose I'm an uncool stereotyper...

Bob and Doug McKenzie (if you ain't seen these guys, a quick youtube search will find them) took Canadian "culture" and poked wonderful fun at it by taking the stereotypes and dialling them up beyond eleven.

Herclues-Xena take ancient Greek culture and mythos (and in passing they also hit a bunch of other historical cultures) and completely send them up.

Those are the sort of takes I'd rather have in the game every single time, if the choice is between that and bland historical accuracy.

What I don't understand is how asking for the book to be removed is censorship, but boycotting it by not buying it is not.

And, if both are censorship, why are posters okay with the second, but appalled by the first?
Simple, and really quite clear.

A boycott or even a simple choice not to purchase is a decision I make on my own, and doesn't impact anyone else in making that same decision. Not censorship.

Asking to remove the book, if successful in the request, means I don't get to make that choice any more, and nor does anybody else*. Censorship.

* - for these purposes I'm ignoring secondhand and pirate options.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
This is but one more instance where what Gygax intended to happen and what actually took place are nowhere near the same.

Most DMs with any long-term interest in developing their games through the early 1980s were examining the various proposed options* piecemeal as they were published in Dragon and either adopting them, amending them, or discarding them at that point. Thus, by the time UA came out a fair bit of it wasn't new any more; and though Gygax may have intended for all of it to become official canon most DMs had long since made their own decisions as to which bits would appear in their games and which would not; and saw the book as just a handy compilation of those options.

* - including those that didn't make it into UA, there were many.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Folks, it’s getting a mite testy in here. If we want the discussion to continue, people need to dial back the personal attacks and aspersions casting. This means everyone.

That includes NOT announcing you’re going to ignore another poster. Do it or don’t, that’s cool. But announcements like that just add kindling to people’s stack of resentment firewood.
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
By dismissing Kwan's commentary (or parts of it) because he isn't a historical expert on early D&D, we are trying to prevent his criticism from being heard or seen as relevant and legitimate. Yes, gatekeeping. Only D&D super-nerds immersed in the esoterica of the game have any right to level complaints.

There is a mountain in Nevada named after Jefferson Davis. I don't challenge anyone's right to get offended about that. But if someone starts to complain that it's part of a pattern of Confederate monuments in Union states, they're wrong; it was named after the Secretary of State in 1855, before the Civil War. Sometimes things don't mean what you think they do.

For another example, I've read complaints that the OED2 (1989) only had horribly outdated quotations for various Hong Kong English words, making them look like they were unused. Well, the OED2 only added new words and senses to the OED1 (1884-1928), meaning these entries hadn't been touched in between 60 and 100 years. The OED2 was problematic in that sense for a host of English words, not just any one culture's.

(* Well, was; it was apparently renamed in 2019.)

Kwan is reacting to the perfect storm of NWPs, the honor system, the Comeliness stat, orientalist language, and bad stereotypes as an Asian American gamer encountering Oriental Adventures.

Again, would you treat a complaint about Wisdom the same as the complaint about Comeliness? The only reason I can see for Comeliness being picked on and not Wisdom is the knowledge that Wisdom predates OA. Given that, it seems quite relevant the context of Comeliness being added.

If you're critiquing a historic work, especially if you're demanding it be removed from a site that makes available basically as a historical artifact, I expect you to know the context. If you don't care about the context, feel free to read stuff printed for D&D 5 or Pathfinder 2, and let the past bury itself.
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
Most DMs with any long-term interest in developing their games through the early 1980s were examining the various proposed options* piecemeal as they were published in Dragon and either adopting them, amending them, or discarding them at that point. Thus, by the time UA came out a fair bit of it wasn't new any more; and though Gygax may have intended for all of it to become official canon most DMs had long since made their own decisions as to which bits would appear in their games and which would not; and saw the book as just a handy compilation of those options.

I don't see DM practice as relevant here. Gygax and TSR saw UA as the new base system, so they used it as the basis for OA.
 


prosfilaes

Adventurer
Well, good thing that DMs Guild isn't a library and is instead a private marketplace.

Libraries are public spaces staffed for public information. Where books are free too. Libraries are not book stores that sell material. That seems to be a massive difference.

A classic library and bookstore are purely complementary; one you can borrow books from, and the other you can buy books from. The limitations on each were purely pragmatic, space and printing costs.

And it's not true that libraries are free public spaces; there are a lot of libraries available only by paying a membership fee or an entrance fee. The Harvard library, for example, is not open to the public.

In the Internet age, DMs Guild is claiming the exclusive right to distribute electronic copies of OA. Neither electronic libraries or DMs Guild are practically bound by limitations on the number of books they can carry, and I would happily donate my legal PDF copy of OA to the Internet Archive for them to check it out, if only I could. The only limit on the electronic library is the legal claims of WotC.

The lines between the library and the marketplace are blurred in the modern world, when complete historical archives of a publisher are online for a fairly nominal fee, and legally unavailable from electronic libraries. (As for nominal fee, I'm pretty sure you could get the entirety of AD&D 1 from DMs Guild for the $750 borrowing privileges would cost an unaffiliated academic from Harvard.)
 

JEB

Explorer
They were both on process at the same time, but is it correct that OA hit the shelves two months before UA?

Looks like UA was released in June 1985, and OA was released in October 1985. (I thought it was the opposite order as well.)

FWIW, Comeliness was first introduced as a D&D mechanic in a Gary Gygax article in Dragon #67, November 1982. So Gygax had probably been hoping to add it to the core rules for a while (hence dual appearances in both of the year's major rulebooks).
 



Mercurius

Legend
Ok. What if some of those people are AD&D fans? What is the symbolic weight of someone who loves 1e, asking for this product to be removed?

Which part of this is telling fans of older editions to leave and never come back? Are you that tied to your old content that even criticism of it will drive you away from the game?

I loved Disney's Peter Pan as a kid, but I don't feel personally attacked when people point out that the Indians in that move are horrifically racist stereotypes. I don't feel like if Disney put out a statement saying that was wrong of the company to do decades ago, that they are somehow pushing me away from watching any of their new movies that are worth watching.


You are trying to make this an either/or. "Either you want us old fans, or you don't make up your mind." But this isn't about the fans. This isn't about the mechanics. This is about stereotypes in the work. And, if they kept OA with no comment, isn't that telling the people who they are stereotyping and offending that they don't want them? Isn't that anti-inclusivity?

We weren't discussing the disclaimer, but removal of the product. I have no problem with the disclaimer and think it strikes the right balance. It doesn't cater to extremists on either "side."

And I don't take personal offense about any of this. I'm worried about the trend in "cancel culture" that we're seeing in the microcosm of RPGs.

BTW, I haven't played AD&D since the Reagan administration. But I have a set of all the hardcovers and like browsing them on occasion.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
FWIW, Comeliness was first introduced as a D&D mechanic in a Gary Gygax article in Dragon #67, November 1982. So Gygax had probably been hoping to add it to the core rules for a while (hence dual appearances in both of the year's major rulebooks).
I know the idea of a Comeliness stat had been booting around for some time before UA came out, largely to a general reaction of "shrug" given that it was taking the already-weakest stat in the game and cutting it in half.

That said, one short-lived game I played in actually used the 7-stat system, which I and my DM-observed dice very quickly proceeded to break the hell out of: we rolled for creature type (a.k.a. race) and after a series of outlandish rolls I ended up playing a full-blooded Dryad. I then rolled some mighty fine stats, on top of which came some crazy racial adjusts for both Cha and Com such that I ended up starting with 19s in both.

For a Dryad - who has innate charming ability - whose class (Bard, using some Dragon-Mag variant) gave her further at-will charming ability, starting with 19s in both Cha and Com was broken as squawk. I could charm the birds out of the trees, never mind charm absolutely anything that ever even thought about opposing us.

The DM wanted to run us into Village of Hommlet. Near that village is a community of about 500 Kobolds: I charmed the lot of 'em (and the party assassin quietly dealt with the very few that resisted) and sent them en masse into the dungeon ahead of us. Easiest adventure ever! :)

We never used Comeliness again!
 

I know the idea of a Comeliness stat had been booting around for some time before UA came out, largely to a general reaction of "shrug" given that it was taking the already-weakest stat in the game and cutting it in half.

That said, one short-lived game I played in actually used the 7-stat system, which I and my DM-observed dice very quickly proceeded to break the hell out of: we rolled for creature type (a.k.a. race) and after a series of outlandish rolls I ended up playing a full-blooded Dryad. I then rolled some mighty fine stats, on top of which came some crazy racial adjusts for both Cha and Com such that I ended up starting with 19s in both.

For a Dryad - who has innate charming ability - whose class (Bard, using some Dragon-Mag variant) gave her further at-will charming ability, starting with 19s in both Cha and Com was broken as squawk. I could charm the birds out of the trees, never mind charm absolutely anything that ever even thought about opposing us.

The DM wanted to run us into Village of Hommlet. Near that village is a community of about 500 Kobolds: I charmed the lot of 'em (and the party assassin quietly dealt with the very few that resisted) and sent them en masse into the dungeon ahead of us. Easiest adventure ever! :)

We never used Comeliness again!
Just after TSR published D&D in the mid-70’s, they published another RPG called Empire of the Petal Throne. So in 1975, a non-Asian based RPG published by Gygax’s company had comeliness as a stat instead of Charisma.

That system also had non-weapon proficiencies.

Now, EPT is a really obscure system that is not well known, but Comeliness and other systems complained about in Kwan’s series as being brand new to OA appeared in Dragon Magazine articles long before OA. All of this can be found with a few google searches.
 

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pemerton

Legend
Regarding OA, it was something that was acceptable then, and is no longer acceptable now.
I don't think this is right. Well, not entirely right.

Edward Said wrote "Orientalism" in 1978 and it didn't come from nowhere. I think I could tell the back cover blurb was racist when I bought the book as a teenager.

In this thread peope are still using the Eurocentric phrase "Far East" although the history text I mentioned upthread, which informd my egagement with OA - East Asia: The Great Tradition, published in 1969 - explained clearly and simly why the phrase was objectionable.

If certain tropes have become triggering between 1985 and now, that could be a type of change in acceptability. But it's not clear that that is what is being argued.
 

pemerton

Legend
Knowing they had knives on the weapon list for other places does make it read a lot better. That just makes it part of the general rules of the game that they had "weapons" that were really just things you grabbed.

And before I get more people commenting on how I don't know 1e. Yeah, I did not go out and buy and research the entirety of First Edition. I figured details like "utensils were always included on the weapon charts in case of fights in dining situations" would get mentioned early on. Not this late in the discussion.
I made the same point, about knives, quite a way upthread.

But depending what one thinks the complaint is against OA, it may not be relevant.

If the complaint is that only East Asian fantasy is taken to demand rules for using cutlery as weapons, then that point is answered.

If the complaint is that foregrounding chopsticks perpeutates a certain sort of objectionable conception of East Asian and East Asian-descended people, then the point is not answered.

I think the complaint is the second, although perhaps bits of the first are also coming through.
 

GreyLord

Hero
Something that has NOT been mentioned but could VERY WELL be part of the reason of differences of opinion between various Asian groups regarding this and other items.

This book has traditionally had a more Japanese view (and stereotypes) around it and behind it rather than something that incorporates all of Asia or even all of East Asia.

There IS a great deal of racism (even between various nations) in Asia, with Japanese having been extremely racist in the past against other cultures, and hence in return, other Asian cultures being EXTREMELY racist against anything that portrays Japanese or Japanese culture (even Americanized stereotypes).

Kwan's attacks are quite pointed and vehement, and he seems quite glad to ignore facts in favor of a dialogue which he currently seems to be controlling rather than letting other cultures of Asians speak. Taking his side automatically, whether those who are aware of it or not, could be actually fostering a type of racism between Asian cultures that people may not even be aware is occurring.

This does not mean that one should ignore his comments, but care should be taken in consideration of the larger picture. His insistence at this point on some points of view seem to be indicating he has some inherent bias himself which could be involving a racism most of those outside of Asian cultures do not even realize exists (and some of it could be thought for good reason...some of it dates back to WWII and there were some horrific things done at that time).

This means that I think Kwan has made some good points that need great care and consideration in going forward. It obviously is offensive to a great many and that is something that should not be taken lightly.

If the wording offends some (as it does Kwan) great care should be made to make the item less offensive. However, when there is a split, not just among Asian Americans vs. Asians (and to be honest, there is a LOT more Asians in the World than Asian Americans and Asian Canadians), but among those who reside in the US and Canada as well (we have had at least two or three Asian Americans in this thread, and at least one of them seems to be against the removal of OA, while another seems to be for the removal of OA) the picture is NOT as clear cut.

IT obviously offends some, but it obviously does not offend others of the same cultural group. In addition, they do NOT agree on what course should be taken. You could offend the SAME cultural groups simply by doing what one or the other wants. This is a no-win situation in that case because you will be condemned for racism if you do what one side wants, and possibly condemned for racism by that same cultural group if you do what the other side of it wants.
 

There is a Japanese anime, 'Sora no Woto' whose action is set is a fictional country what is a true plagiarism of a Spanish city, Cuenca.


Shouldn't we complain about "cultural apropiation"? All the opposite, the city is happy with that anime, because they notice this could be a good hook for Japanese tourists.

If Walt Disney tomorrow says the next project will be a movie based in Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving showing a oriental version of the Spanish culture and our links with al-Andalus (Spain under Muslim domination)....do you know what would be do? Asking Disney...... to show more places based in our historical monuments to be these hooks for tourism.

Who learns martial arts knows about how to use your opponent's movements to take adventage.

A disclaimer is enough and right. To ban an old title by fault of unentional offenses may be more dangerous you can imagine. The next one could be to ask censure against Kindred of East in DriveThruRPG, or titles where the villain is a priest, bishop or cardinal, or cyberpunk titles where USA is the evil empire to stop possible new cases of anti-american violence.

I am totally safe Hasbro really wishes the best relation with the different Asian markets. Maybe we will new D&D crossovers as with Stranger Things or Rick & Morty, but with Asian franchises, maybe because famous characters (from "real life") are playing D&D, or fantasy version visiting as "guest artists" the demiplane of the dreams, a place created by the pieces of the akasha or collective memory.
 

Voadam

Legend
I made the same point, about knives, quite a way upthread.

But depending what one thinks the complaint is against OA, it may not be relevant.

If the complaint is that only East Asian fantasy is taken to demand rules for using cutlery as weapons, then that point is answered.

If the complaint is that foregrounding chopsticks perpeutates a certain sort of objectionable conception of East Asian and East Asian-descended people, then the point is not answered.

I think the complaint is the second, although perhaps bits of the first are also coming through.

It is tough to say.

I cannot find Kwan's twitter response again where he says here are examples of OA's racism with screenshots from four excerpts of OA including the chopsticks entry on the weapons chart. He provided no explanation, just the picture as his proof. From his first podcast that I watched and what I have read of his twitter statements he seems to feel lots of things are self-evidently racist/problematic/harmful. He might explain somewhere in the rest of his 20+ hour podcast, or elsewhere but I have not seen it. Thinking on it a little more, since he raised it in the twitter comment response it seems a good chance it was in his head recently and it at least came up when they went over OA weapons whenever his podcast got to that chapter.

Some people here brought up the chopsticks as a weapon entry in OA being an example of exoticizing or othering because it was done in OA and not in other AD&D sourcebooks.

Someone could argue that foregrounding chopsticks perpetuates an objectionable conception of East-Asian people, but it is not a self-evident perspective for everyone. That argument may have been implied, but I have not seen it made explicitly or anyone talk explicitly about what objectionable conception chopsticks tie into.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
Kwan's attacks are quite pointed and vehement, and he seems quite glad to ignore facts in favor of a dialogue which he currently seems to be controlling rather than letting other cultures of Asians speak. Taking his side automatically, whether those who are aware of it or not, could be actually fostering a type of racism between Asian cultures that people may not even be aware is occurring.

Kwan is "controlling" the dialogue? That's a serious mischaracterization. He's certainly getting a degree of attention due to his podcast series and twitter comments . . . but "controlling"? Sigh.

I'd also argue that Kwan's critique is "pointed and vehement" and that he "ignores facts" as mischaractizing as well. But there's been a lot of that in these threads.

Not all Asians/Asian Americans are equally as offended by the problems found in Oriental Adventures? Again, covered in this thread already, multiple times. Sure, you are not wrong. Not all African Americans are as equally offended by the use of the n-word and other elements of African American stereotyping and racism. So what? How many people taking offense do we need before it becomes wrong to continue with the behavior, or to do nothing about it?

This is a "no-win" scenario? BS. Certainly, you can't satisfy everyone . . . but that's not quite the same thing as a "no-win" situation. WotC has already done an okay job of dealing with the issue with the disclaimer added to the product descriptions of older titles. Is everyone happy with that action? No, but is has calmed the storm and allowed WotC to move on . . . hopefully to greater efforts towards true diversity and inclusion.

The opinions of Asian gamers is not unimportant, but is secondary to the opinions of Asian American gamers over this issue . . . as D&D, despite it's international audience, is an American game aimed at an American audience. And I bet you would be hard-pressed to find very many Asian American gamers who would not find the content (and title) of Oriental Adventures problematic and racist. Our few Asian American friends in this thread have minor disagreements on how best to handle the problem, but I'm pretty sure NONE of them posted that the book was just fine, no problem here . . .
 

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