D&D 5E Justin Alexander's review of Shattered Obelisk is pretty scathing

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Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Here's a list of things that offend people...

Warlords
Healing Surges
Encounter Powers
DragonBorn
Balance between classes
Keywords

Who wants to bring those back???
I am neutral or negative about all those things. My issue is with how they characterized their own previous work and the people who enjoy it, not what they said or did with 4e.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
The issue with slavery is that, particularly in the USA, there are significant numbers of people descended from enslaved people, and who find the topic deeply uncomfortable – particularly if it is made light of, or portrayed as a neutral thing.

This goes back to the two kinds of oppressed power fantasies I think I see, exemplified by Luke Cage and by the Black Panther. Luke Cage exists in a semi-realistic context, where racism and oppression are strong influences – but Luke Cage is strong and tough enough to rise above that and make things right (at least in his little corner of the world). Black Panther, on the other hand, lives in a non-colonized Utopia where black folks were never subjected to oppression by foreigners, but have always acted from a position of strength. I (as a white dude in a country that didn't have all that much to do with slavery or the slave trade – not because we were more ethical or anything, we were just never in a position to do it on the scale of some other countries) see both of these as valid fantasies, but I can definitely not fault someone whose everyday life is still influenced by the effects of slavery for preferring the utopian version for their escapist games.
There's a difference between having a preference, and actively disrespecting a playstyle, in a public way intended to get people to agree with you and put pressure on its adherents, that you don't like.
 

pemerton

Legend
I think the problem is that what's offensive changes over time. The Overton Window is the term for what's acceptable and not to discuss in public or government terms. That changes over time, and it has gotten smaller over the years. Back when 5E launched, the idea of fantasy character "races" was somewhat controversial but still present in a lot of games. Since then? It's just gone.

Back in the DarkSun days, a game could have slavery in it as something villains did and you fought against. Now? It's something that villains don't even do.

I find it interesting that there are so many things we find acceptable to have in an rpg rather than what we keep out. I suspect over time the Window of what's acceptable will get smaller in terms of mainstream gaming. I am working on an RPG in sort of the same way that some people tinker with cars, so I've seen over time how what's okay in a game changes. I've also had some people ask me how to deal with some issues as a writer and that has changed as well too. Frankly, I think in ten years or so many things that we include in games will be problematic, much as things have changed since the last ten.
I think it's more complicated than simply the window getting smaller.

I mean, first, there are contemporary FRPGs which include slavery in their rules. Two I know of are Burning Wheel and Torchbearer 2e. The former has a series of Servitude and Captive lifepaths, that include Born Slave. They are there in my 2005 Revised Edition, and still there in my 2019 Gold Edition Revised. In tone/theme these lifepaths combine ideas of pre-modern European slavery with pulp/S&S. Torchbearer 2E includes the following sub-section in its discussion of establishing a PC base (Lore Master's Manual p 178):

Say What Now?
*Did we say that these rules afford you the opportunity to take captives and work them to death? Yes, and we would like to acknowledge that taking captives and working them to death for your own selfish aims is the penultimate of evil, second only to torturing and murdering living beings.

*Keeping living beings captive against their will is also evil, and exploiting their free labor is as well. The only element in favor of this act is that they are alive and may one day rise up, throw off their chains and destroy their enslavers.

*So why allow these awful acts in our fantasy roleplaying game centered around robbing and murdering? Because there can be no light without darkness. In this game, whether you live in darkness or light is your choice.​

There are probably examples, too, from other contemporary RPGs.

A second complication is the one mentioned by @Irlo. Characters and situations that one didn't see in FRPGing 40 years ago, now do appear. So in that sense the window has opened wider.

Burning Wheel is an interesting example in this respect: from 2005 to 2019 it has included a lifepath that represents an openly gay man in a default conservative (pseudo-)mediaeval society. But between 2011 Gold Edition and 2019 Gold Edition Revised, a key feature of the lifepath was changed, so that it no longer includes a mandatory trait to represent the social controversy of being openly gay. One might say that this changes the shape of the window, but I don't think it is obviously a reduction in its size.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I think it's more complicated than simply the window getting smaller.

I mean, first, there are contemporary FRPGs which include slavery in their rules. Two I know of are Burning Wheel and Torchbearer 2e. The former has a series of Servitude and Captive lifepaths, that include Born Slave. They are there in my 2005 Revised Edition, and still there in my 2019 Gold Edition Revised. In tone/theme these lifepaths combine ideas of pre-modern European slavery with pulp/S&S. Torchbearer 2E includes the following sub-section in its discussion of establishing a PC base (Lore Master's Manual p 178):

Say What Now?
*Did we say that these rules afford you the opportunity to take captives and work them to death? Yes, and we would like to acknowledge that taking captives and working them to death for your own selfish aims is the penultimate of evil, second only to torturing and murdering living beings.​
*Keeping living beings captive against their will is also evil, and exploiting their free labor is as well. The only element in favor of this act is that they are alive and may one day rise up, throw off their chains and destroy their enslavers.​
*So why allow these awful acts in our fantasy roleplaying game centered around robbing and murdering? Because there can be no light without darkness. In this game, whether you live in darkness or light is your choice.​

There are probably examples, too, from other contemporary RPGs.

A second complication is the one mentioned by @Irlo. Characters and situations that one didn't see in FRPGing 40 years ago, now do appear. So in that sense the window has opened wider.

Burning Wheel is an interesting example in this respect: from 2005 to 2019 it has included a lifepath that represents an openly gay man in a default conservative (pseudo-)mediaeval society. But between 2011 Gold Edition and 2019 Gold Edition Revised, a key feature of the lifepath was changed, so that it no longer includes a mandatory trait to represent the social controversy of being openly gay. One might say that this changes the shape of the window, but I don't think it is obviously a reduction in its size.
Torchbearer has exactly the right attitude about this, IMO. More people should follow their example here.
 


Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
When it comes to the marketing, the marketing for 4e is hardly alone in stepping on the throat on the previous edition to sell the new one. 3e did it. 4e did it. 5e did it in spades by clearly communicating that 4e was not regarded as part of the tradition of D&D. This is what Wizards of the Coast does. Outside of Exalted Third Edition's runup I'm hard-pressed to think of another gaming company taking that approach.

It's like night and day to the approach Paizo took to marketing Pathfinder Second Edition. Although to be fair Wizards is pretty much alone in that its largest competitor is actually itself. Paizo's primary target audience is disaffected 5e players, not existing PF1 players, so it's much easier to make a pitch that does not step on PF1.
 

I think the problem is that what's offensive changes over time. The Overton Window is the term for what's acceptable and not to discuss in public or government terms. That changes over time, and it has gotten smaller over the years. Back when 5E launched, the idea of fantasy character "races" was somewhat controversial but still present in a lot of games. Since then? It's just gone.

Back in the DarkSun days, a game could have slavery in it as something villains did and you fought against. Now? It's something that villains don't even do.
But is it a problem overall, though? I remember those days as well. Most female characters were dressed in stripperiffic outfits with maximum cleavage, while most male characters were more reasonably dressed. Non-white people were rarely represented as PCs.
 


Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Yes.

What changed isn't that it suddenly became objection on X date at X time. What changed is the number of people calling it objectionable, and the number of people willing to listen to and believe them.
That is subjective. Villains should be allowed to do villainous things. Heck, PCs should be able to choose darkness or light too, just like @pemerton 's Torchbearer example.
 

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