D&D 5E Further Future D&D Product Speculation


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Mercurius

Legend
Nice response - and just to be clear, I am aware of--and largely agree with the gist of this perspective, though I think it veers a bit away from what I was talking about. To address your points...
1. If someone was making a game that was very deeply inspired by the folk lore, culture, and natural environment of, say, Scandinavia, then I do think the project would benefit from people who were more closely connected to the culture. Many Free League games, for example, have a sensibility that would be hard for a company like wotc to capture
Yes, agreed - and this relates to what I was saying. Further, "Scandinavia" pinpoints a specific enough culture, or set of closely related cultures, that consultation by representative people makes a lot of sense. But "European" is far more diverse, and includes hundreds of ethnic and cultural groups, especially if you extend back to ancient times.
2. There are other geographies other than strictly national ones. The United States was obviously an English settler colony and dominant American culture is inundated with European cultural references. We read english literature in school, learn about European history, learn European languages (often poorly, but still). Politically, America is part of the "global north," and culturally associates itself with the geography of "the West."
Yes, understood. Still, "European cultural references" is quite different--not to mention generalized and Americanized--from understanding of a specific European culture, especially a pre-modern one. Or to put it bluntly, being American doesn't qualify one to write knowledgeably about Celtic history or ancient Greece.
3. Historically, "the West," including both Europe and the United States, has viewed the economies, cultures, and peoples of the rest of the world through an extractive lens--taking land, enslaving populations, but also taking the stories and culture of people from around the world. Sometimes these cultures (including languages, mythologies, histories) have been outright destroyed, sometimes they have been put in museums in the west to be viewed as artifacts, and sometimes these cultures have been turned into very reductive stereotypes. That last bit is known as exoticisation and orientalism.
Again, understood. But I'm still not sure how this makes a 21st century American inherently qualified to write about any and all European cultures, even if they share an overall similar geo-political landscape and context. Meaning, regardless of what your ethnicity is, or what you're writing about, it is still a good idea to know what you're writing about.

I would also argue that the lack of orientalism or exoticism with regards to, say, depictions of fantasy European cultures, doesn't mean they aren't generalized or even outright butchered by American (or other) authors.
4. So when people in "the West" create something, they should be aware of the above history and the way that it allows for and impacts what they do, both for the sake of producing a better product and for having an ethical relation to their creators and audiences. Game companies should consider whether they have minorities on their staff, not just as writers but in all areas. They should consider hiring writers from the global south who both have more knowledge of their cultures (and access to knowledge through their knowledge of language) and who face structural obstacles to making a living as a game designer. And they should consider how audiences--all audiences--might receive their product.
All of which I basically agree with - although I think it veers away from the view I was presenting, which is not at all antithetical to what you're talking about, or the basics of colonial history that you describe.

Or to put it another way, I think we're talking about two (or three) separate things:

One, whether or not an individual (Western) designer understands colonial history; and

Two, whether or not a company has diverse hiring practices (and I would add, ideological diversity), and...

Three, who is the right person for the job, when writing a specific book.

I don't think the three are the same, that they need to be addressed separately. And furthermore, that the first two don't necessarily "solve" the third.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
But is anything outside of the Tablelands actually alive, or in signifnumbers?
Looking into it a bit, it seems that the Tablelands are about 100,000 square miles (a fraction of the Sword Coast), and not much is derailed beyond. Though three may be q Thrikreen civilization?
Dunno for sure, but I find these clues.

"Athas has a druid to protect it, but there is no worldwide organization of druids" and "Lower-level druids may travel widely in the world. During their time of wandering, a young druid learns about the world, its ecology, the balance of nature and the ways of its creatures;"

"Aside from a handful of streams that trickle less than fifty miles before drying up, there is not a single river on the planet-though I have crossed plenty of ancient bridges and know that rivers were once common."

"Nevertheless, certain broad outlines do emerge. Athas, or at least the explored portion, consists of about one million square miles of desert."

"In every direction, beyond the mountains lie the Hinterlands. We have- little knowledge of what abides there. Many men have set out to explore the depths of this unknown region, but I have never met one who returned."
 

Rikka66

Adventurer
But is anything outside of the Tablelands actually alive, or in signifnicant numbers?

Looking into it a bit, it seems that the Tablelands are about 100,000 square miles (a fraction of the Sword Coast), and not much is derailed beyond. Though three may be a Thrikreen civilization?
I think the size is another case of writers not having a good sense of scale.
 


Faolyn

(she/her)
Defilers drew power from life around them, turning plant life in a radius dependent on the level of the spell being cast to ash. I think higher order creatures in the area felt pain as well. Preserver magic was just normal magic. Defilers also had an experience chart where they gained levels faster, which is why so many wizards defiled. It took less effort and you gained power faster.
I knew that much. I meant just mechanically, which I guess was represented by the faster leveling. 5e would have to do something different, of course. Maybe the ability to upcast X times/rest without spending the higher spell slot, thus even allowing you to cast spells at levels you haven't reached yet.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I think the size is another case of writers not having a good sense of scale.
Well, no, I don't think so. If the Tablelands is an isolated oasis of culture (possibly the only one left), then about the size of Ohio is enough to Adventure in while feeling sparse and small. Whereas the Sword Coast being about the size of Europe or the American Pacific Coast is a conscious design on Greenwood's part.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Well, no, I don't think so. If the Tablelands is an isolated oasis of culture (possibly the only one left), then about the size of Ohio is enough to Adventure in while feeling sparse and small. Whereas the Sword Coast being about the size of Europe or the American Pacific Coast is a conscious design on Greenwood's part.
Wouldn’t it be wild if the Tablelands were a thri-kreen terrarium for the other species. Just to see what they’d do.
 



Rikka66

Adventurer
Well, no, I don't think so. If the Tablelands is an isolated oasis of culture (possibly the only one left), then about the size of Ohio is enough to Adventure in while feeling sparse and small. Whereas the Sword Coast being about the size of Europe or the American Pacific Coast is a conscious design on Greenwood's part.
I dunno. Anytime the size is something like 1000 or 100000 whatever, I feel like it's a sign they just picked a number that sounded good.
 


So IMO, make a new setting, don't bother updating this stuff. If you make the necessary changes to fix it, it'll make FR fans made. So don't bother, make something new.

I'll add, I'm super confident that the D&D team, who now work with great creators like Ajit George, probably agree with the "don't bother, full do-over" on this.
There is very little interaction between Zakhara and Faerûn. Both know each other are there, and a few travellers and merchants travel between the two, so it's really easy to change Zakhara without upsetting things further north. Also, there have been two world-shattering cataclysms since the region was last detailed, so they could make as many changes as they want and say "the Spellplague/Sundering did it!" No FR fan would shed tears if things were updated, and very likely the same for those who are fans of Al-Qadim solely. In fact, the DM's Guild Zakhara book, which makes the very same changes that you claim would be too hard to do, has received nothing but praise.
 
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Wouldn’t it be wild if the Tablelands were a thri-kreen terrarium for the other species. Just to see what they’d do.
I mean, there were several large thri-kreen nations north of the Jagged Cliffs, and rumors of a true empire beyond even those...
Screen Shot 2022-04-28 at 11.09.56 PM.png
 




teitan

Legend
1. If someone was making a game that was very deeply inspired by the folk lore, culture, and natural environment of, say, Scandinavia, then I do think the project would benefit from people who were more closely connected to the culture. Many Free League games, for example, have a sensibility that would be hard for a company like wotc to capture

2. There are other geographies other than strictly national ones. The United States was obviously an English settler colony and dominant American culture is inundated with European cultural references. We read english literature in school, learn about European history, learn European languages (often poorly, but still). Politically, America is part of the "global north," and culturally associates itself with the geography of "the West."

3. Historically, "the West," including both Europe and the United States, has viewed the economies, cultures, and peoples of the rest of the world through an extractive lens--taking land, enslaving populations, but also taking the stories and culture of people from around the world. Sometimes these cultures (including languages, mythologies, histories) have been outright destroyed, sometimes they have been put in museums in the west to be viewed as artifacts, and sometimes these cultures have been turned into very reductive stereotypes. That last bit is known as exoticisation and orientalism.

4. So when people in "the West" create something, they should be aware of the above history and the way that it allows for and impacts what they do, both for the sake of producing a better product and for having an ethical relation to their creators and audiences. Game companies should consider whether they have minorities on their staff, not just as writers but in all areas. They should consider hiring writers from the global south who both have more knowledge of their cultures (and access to knowledge through their knowledge of language) and who face structural obstacles to making a living as a game designer. And they should consider how audiences--all audiences--might receive their product.
So how is this different from a general “Asia” setting then that covers various Asian cultures or a general Middle East setting covering various Semitic and Arabian cultures? It’s the same. White Americans have very little connections to their European roots beyond a very broad understanding unless they are first or second generation Americans. This is even apparent in analyzing takes on Spanish names and assumptions by Americans that it indicated the person is from Latin America or South America instead of Spain being a possibility for the person’s origins. There is very little connection to Europe or understanding of European folklore. I know a handful who are very proud of their Irish Heritage but it amounts to celebrating St Patrick’s Day and wearing green and vague stories about snakes and druids and a possible historic figure. Stretching beyond that more recent Italian Or Mediterranean history outside of WWI-WWII era is virtually nil and understanding of Classical Greek culture is barely even superficial. There is more Fey folklore, authentic Fey folklore, in a chapter of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell than any D&D American product since 2e.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
(Strictly speaking, aren't Spelljammer, Ravenloft, and Dragonlance also now candidates? Granted, they're all very recent, but that doesn't mean they couldn't be revisited very soon. That said, I wouldn't think any was likely.)
Spelljammer and Ravenloft could both explore other areas--new worlds or new domains, as well as new monsters and even archetypes and races for both. Both of those settings are built to allow for expansion in that way.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
(Strictly speaking, aren't Spelljammer, Ravenloft, and Dragonlance also now candidates? Granted, they're all very recent, but that doesn't mean they couldn't be revisited very soon. That said, I wouldn't think any was likely.)
That particular tease was given right after Van Richten's was announced, so contextually Ravenloft seems unlikely, but I suppose possible. Spelljammer and Dragonlance, not so much I think, since they were already part of the hint. Eberron and Ravenloft probably count, but they seem much less likely for a 50th Anniversary celebration product compared with Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms.
 

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