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D&D 5E [Merged] Candlekeep Mysteries Author Speaks Out On WotC's Cuts To Adventure

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In an event which is being referred to as #PanzerCut, one of the Candlekeep Mysteries authors has gone public with complaints about how their adventure was edited.

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Book of Cylinders is one of the adventures in the book. It was written by Graeme Barber (who goes by the usernames PanzerLion and PoCGamer on social media).

Barber was caught by surprise when he found out what the final adventure looked like. The adventure was reduced by about a third, and his playable race -- the Grippli -- was cut. Additionally, WotC inserted some terminology that he considered to be colonialist, which is one of the things they were ostensibly trying to avoid by recruiting a diverse team of authors for the book.

His complaints also reference the lack of communication during the editing process, and how he did public interviews unknowingly talking about elements of an adventure which no longer existed.

"I wrote for [Candlekeep Mysteries], the recent [D&D] release. Things went sideways. The key issues were that the bulk of the lore and a lot of the cultural information that made my adventure "mine" were stripped out. And this was done without any interaction with me, leaving me holding the bag as I misled the public on the contents and aspects of my adventure. Yes, it was work-for-hire freelance writing, but the whole purpose was to bring in fresh voices and new perspectives.

So, when I read my adventure, this happened. This was effectively the shock phase of it all.

Then I moved onto processing what had happened. ~1300 words cut, and without the cut lore, the gravity of the adventure, and its connections to things are gravely watered down. Also "primitive" was inserted.

Then the aftermath of it all. The adventure that came out was a watered down version of what went in, that didn't reflect me anymore as a writer or creator. Which flew in the face of the spirit of the project as had been explained to me.

So then I wrote. Things don't change unless people know what's up and can engage with things in a prepared way. So I broke down the process of writing for Wizards I'd experienced, and developed some rules that can be used to avoid what happened to me."


He recounts his experiences in two blog posts:


The author later added "Wizards owns all the material sent in, and does not publish unedited adventures on the DM Guild, so there will be no "PanzerCut". I have respectfully requested that my name be removed from future printings. "
 

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
No, I'm fairly sure he was talking about the "Panzer cut" and the "final draft" where Panzer cut the player race content. I think he was referring to this Tweet later in the thread:


My read was that my friend thought that maybe Panzer was either asked to cut more and didn't, or they ran out of time coordinating getting all the adventures from freelance authors plus art into the desired page count so the editors just made changes as best they could.
Ahh, I see what you mean now. Panzer cut a bit under 200 words from their original draft to their final draft. I would guess that was a standard part of the draft process. I’m not sure what WotC’s process looks like, but in the freelance RPG work I’ve done, you turn in your first draft, your developer does “redlines,” giving you feedback on changes they want you to make, you turn in a revised draft based on that feedback, and then the published version might have a few small changes from that.

Now, we don’t really know what happened here. It’s entirely possible Panzer was asked to make significant changes to their first draft, but turned in a second draft that didn’t meaningfully address the requested changes, and WotC had to edit it down significantly themselves. Or maybe WotC was happy with the second draft, but ended up having to shorten the adventure a great deal when they started doing layout - such things happen. Either way though, the fact that they made major changes without so much as informing the writer... Just isn’t a good look.

I don't necessarily agree that it being less inclusive is the big take away.
I mean, ok? It’s certainly what a lot of people are taking away from it, myself included. You’re welcome to your opinion but it seems like you’re writing off legitimate concerns on the basis that you personally don’t think they’re the big takeaway.

Firstly, Panzer very clearly was trying to push Grippli as a new player race and new culture to expand FR itself when, presumably, the assignment was to create an adventure. Panzer is at least partially upset just because of that, but I don't think that is something that we should be reflexively upset by.
I think you’re reading a lot into the fact that they specifically mentioned player stats were part of what was cut. I don’t get the impression that Panzer was trying to “push the Grippli as a new player race,” merely that they included them, and they were among the stuff WotC cut. I’m not outraged the Grippli PC stats were cut, any more than I’m outraged at the size of the cut. But I do think there should have been communication between WotC and Panzer about what was being cut and why, and the fact that the cuts made the races that were central to the conflict far less nuanced seems to go against their nominal efforts to make the game more inclusive.

I can easily imagine WotC needing to replace that part of it rather than hold up the book and consider the long term lore consequences. If they want an adventure that fits in rather than expands... well, that's their choice. That sucks for Panzer's intended vision and I wish WotC would/could have worked with him on it, but I am not outraged by it.
Again, I think you’re making a lot of assumptions here. We don’t know what Panzer was asked to write, or how much what they wrote “expanded” on FR lore. But even if that’s what happened, I would expect them to have expressed that fact to Panzer after receiving the first draft. They seem to have been blindsided by what was changed between their revised draft and the final product.

I agree that it's a significant mistake to characterize the Grippli as primitive at this point in the game -- especially because prior editions didn't always do so, IIRC, though maybe that was Pathfinder. Either way, I don't think that particular element is defensible. However, I don't think the other changes as a whole are quite as blatantly outrageous as people seem to say they are.
Again, I don’t think the way you’re characterizing the outrage here really lines up with what people are upset about. A lot of material got cut, ok, that happens. What’s causing outrage is the fact that the nature of the cuts apparently changed the characterization of both the Grippli and the Yuan-Ti from something nuanced and along the lines WotC ostensibly wants to take the game, to something reductive and along the lines WotC is ostensibly trying to move away from, and the fact that there was apparently no communication with the writer regarding these changes.

"They cut 1,300 of 7,200 words!"
Really not the core issue.

Well, I'm not sure if what he turned in is what WotC asked for or wanted. If Panzer wants Grippli to change FR and WotC doesn't want to do that here, they're going to take a knife to that in that case to get what they want. They can do that because it's their work. That's the crappy part of work-for-hire. You have no creative control.
Of course. Once again, that changes were made isn’t the problem. The nature of the changes made, and the lack of communication regarding those changes, is.
 
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Scribe

Hero
What’s causing outrage is the fact that the nature of the cuts apparently changed the characterization of both the Grippli and the Yuan-Ti from something nuanced and along the lines WotC ostensibly wants to take the game, to something reductive and along the lines WotC is ostensibly trying to move away from, and the fact that there was apparently no communication with the writer regarding these changes.
I wonder what the lead time on this work was. When was it started, when was the editing process completed?

While I would say that what you describe is the goal now, today, I have no reason to believe it was the goal a year ago.

Still, massive fail on the communication side to not engage the writer.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I wonder what the lead time on this work was. When was it started, when was the editing process completed?

While I would say that what you describe is the goal now, today, I have no reason to believe it was the goal a year ago.

Still, massive fail on the communication side to not engage the writer.
Yeah, I could see that being the cause of the issue. Would line up with the inconsistent application of NPC alignment I’ve heard about. On the other hand, the next book coming out seems to be one of the products specifically mentioned in the blog post where they announced their intent to change the way they’re presenting character races. So I imagine Candlekeep would have at least been on the borderline of that shift.

It also seems like a major misstep to have done this to the adventure submitted by a writer who specifically writes about colonialism in gaming. WotC must recognize that publishing Panzer Lion’s work would have been a gesture that they are working towards inclusivity, but shutting them out of the revision process and adding colonialist language to their work completely undermines that gesture. It demonstrates that their supposed efforts towards inclusivity are hollow, trying to capitalize on signaling virtue, without actually doing the work of making meaningful internal change.
 

lkj

Adventurer
So I looked through the Book of Cylinders, which looks like a fun adventure. First, I think it is completely understandable that the author is disappointed that his vision was changed, that he feels the grippli he introduced haven't been done justice, and that he'd rather his name wasn't on the adventure. No dispute there. Totally get where the is coming from.

That said, I think it's possible the conversation here might be taking the implications of the changes too far. There are still good yuan-ti in the adventure (very much in line with WotC new thinking that races shouldn't be inherently evil). And there are two uses of the word 'primitive'-- One to describe the hastily rebuilt structures the grippli built after their village was largely destroyed. The adventure describes the scene as akin to a refugee camp-- indicating not that the grippli are primitive in their building but that they've been forced into primitive structures (otherwise the older structures are not described in those terms at all). The second use of the word is to mention some decorations on the houses as being primitive. It's probably fair to suggest that they could have chosen a different word there, but I read it simply as the quick decorations they had put up on their temporary shelters.

It's certainly understandable that the author-- presuming he provided a more in depth description of the race-- would feel that so much has been stripped out the description that the race is left being represented in a way that could very easily be interpreted as 'primitive frog people'. But that feels more like the unfortunate result of substantial cutting rather than a re-characterization of the grippli.

In other words, I don't think that there is any blatant or awful representations here. I freely admit that I might be missing something. And I can totally understand why the author said he thought the cuts could have been done in a way to leave more depth. But it is worth noting in his twitter feed that he says he bears WotC no ill will and doesn't want people to go after them.

I guess I'm just saying that it's worth looking over the adventure and note that, while there clearly could be improvement, it does actually contain some of the new inclusiveness goals WotC is trying to adopt and that the problems do not appear to be a result of overt insensitivity.

That's just my few cents.

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Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
I've been on both sides of the fence here over the past 20ish years. On one hand, as a creator, it would sure be nice if the client let me know what they were cutting out, because it's a punch to the ego when they do cut something. On the other, as a freelancer you're getting paid for your work you write, not the work they print. They could have cut everything out if they wanted. This is not unusual, and is very common. Just like filmmakers who have to leave cherished things on the cutting room floor, or musicians who have to cut out parts they had liked. That's the way the world works.

If you're a creator, and don't like having your stuff edited by the client, then you're in the wrong business I'm afraid. And to that point, by complaining about getting your work edited when it's industry standard is the fastest way to self-publishing as your only option...
 
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This is misunderstanding or misrepresentation of his comments, frankly, and disappointing.

I'm also pulling from Panzer's Twitter thread earlier the same day on the topic which is here. That was the thread that showed up on my TL, and I just assumed this one was a part of it. He says pretty clearly that his goal of adding to FR failed.

I was not trying to misrepresent anything. I genuinely thought they were a part of the same Twitter thread that everyone was reading. It was only when I went to look for these tweets to see if I misread something that I discovered they weren't the same thread.

If that's not what you're referring to, could you explain?




Ahh, I see what you mean now. Panzer cut a bit under 200 words from their original draft to their final draft. I would guess that was a standard part of the draft process. I’m not sure what WotC’s process looks like, but in the freelance RPG work I’ve done, you turn in your first draft, your developer does “redlines,” giving you feedback on changes they want you to make, you turn in a revised draft based on that feedback, and then the published version might have a few small changes from that.

Now, we don’t really know what happened here. It’s entirely possible Panzer was asked to make significant changes to their first draft, but turned in a second draft that didn’t meaningfully address the requested changes, and WotC had to edit it down significantly themselves. Or maybe WotC was happy with the second draft, but ended up having to shorten the adventure a great deal when they started doing layout - such things happen. Either way though, the fact that they made major changes without so much as informing the writer... Just isn’t a good look.

I agree, but like you said we don't know what happened. I was only saying what my friend with freelance experience said.

I think you’re reading a lot into the fact that they specifically mentioned player stats were part of what was cut. I don’t get the impression that Panzer was trying to “push the Grippli as a new player race,” merely that they included them, and they were among the stuff WotC cut. I’m not outraged the Grippli PC stats were cut, any more than I’m outraged at the size of the cut. But I do think there should have been communication between WotC and Panzer about what was being cut and why, and the fact that the cuts made the races that were central to the conflict far less nuanced seems to go against their nominal efforts to make the game more inclusive.

My first introduction to the debate wasn't this forum post or the linked Twitter thread. It was an earlier thread one here that popped up on my TL in which I feel Panzer is pretty clear that he was trying to introduce content to FR. That's where I started from, and I thought they were all a part of the same thread because it was all the same basic topic on the same day. I didn't realize they were two threads 12 hours apart. I apologize for any confusion I caused.

Again, I think you’re making a lot of assumptions here. We don’t know what Panzer was asked to write, or how much what they wrote “expanded” on FR lore. But even if that’s what happened, I would expect them to have expressed that fact to Panzer after receiving the first draft. They seem to have been blindsided by what was changed between their revised draft and the final product.

Yeah, and I agree that sucks. It's not a nice thing to do, but I don't find it to be inherently offensive or outrageous to me personally. I think it's strange that there was no communication about the version of the content that went to print. I don't know if WotC keeps that secret as a matter of policy, or if they wait for an author to ask, or if they dropped the ball. I just don't know.

Even so, it seems like a project management problem. I'm disappointed in WotC. I'm sad for Panzer. He got burned and deserves a lot better. But it's not personally upsetting to me. It doesn't make me angry. It's certainly going to be very upsetting for Panzer to be blindsided like that and I don't fault him for wanting to vent or end any future relationship with Wizards. I feel really bad that his published adventure isn't what he wanted. I think less of WotC for the situation, especially because this was an opportunity for them to demonstrate being inclusive of the work of people who aren't white American men and they messed it up. Even accidentally, that's really sad. I'm still not angry about it, though, while it feels like some people on Twitter are reaching for pitchforks.

Do I think this happened because Panzer is black? No. But, I also won't dismiss that this is another minority voice that has had a poor experience with Wizards. There's no evidence here that Wizards has really improved at all, which is really disappointing since they've been making a lot of talk recently.

Again, I don’t think the way you’re characterizing the outrage here really lines up with what people are upset about. A lot of material got cut, ok, that happens. What’s causing outrage is the fact that the nature of the cuts apparently changed the characterization of both the Grippli and the Yuan-Ti from something nuanced and along the lines WotC ostensibly wants to take the game, to something reductive and along the lines WotC is ostensibly trying to move away from, and the fact that there was apparently no communication with the writer regarding these changes.

Really not the core issue.

Of course. Once again, that changes were made isn’t the problem. The nature of the changes made, and the lack of communication regarding those changes, is.

At the same time, I don't think WotC was intentionally trying to be cruel or dismissive of what Panzer's content was. I think they just didn't want what he gave them and only thought about what they wanted out of his content. So, they kept what they wanted and let the rest go ad didn't think beyond that. They were callous the way that big business is often callous.

Yes, "yuan-ti are evil and grippli are primitives who need help" is a really terrible storyline. But I think stories that simple are what WotC aims for first. They just don't have anybody to point out the colonialism on the editing team. That is a problem, too, but it's just another problem for the pile.

I think WotC has always intentionally avoided deep stories in adventures. They're meant to be adapted to fit into any campaign. There's almost always black-and-white morality to them and very simple, straightforward stories. In a disconnected collection like Candlekeep, I think there's even less room for a cohesive, detailed storyline. Yes, that makes the adventures worse in terms of quality and depth of their narrative, but it also keeps them portable and accessible. Right or wrong, I think narrative depth is not what WotC is looking for when they put out an open call for adventures, and not what they're good at when publishing their own. Yeah, that's an opportunity for someone like Panzer to step in and improve things, but that's hard to do when WotC has full creative control. Even the best adventures in WotC's, Paizo's, or TSR's history usually fail at deep, meaningful storylines. Nearly all of them can be summarized in one or two short sentences.
 

Graeme Barber has posted some longform reflections on what happened on his personal website. Part 1 outlines the general process of freelance writing for Wizards, Part 2 discusses his personal experience and expands on his original vision of he Book of Cylinders.


 

JEB

Hero
Graeme Barber has posted some longform reflections on what happened on his personal website. Part 1 outlines the general process of freelance writing for Wizards, Part 2 discusses his personal experience and expands on his original vision of he Book of Cylinders.


Interesting. Too bad there's no way he can release his unedited version. Though since the grippli character race was absent from his final draft, wonder if he could still release that as a DM Guild product. (Assuming he wants to at this point.)
 

jeremypowell

Adventurer
My five cents on the Book of Cylinders kerfluffle, for what they're worth:

1. Neither side looks good here, at all.

2. POCGamer admits "I do not use premade adventures, and I am not familiar with building 'conventional' D&D adventures. I fully expected that my adventure would be edited and altered to patch its faults and issues." This sounds an awful lot like "I got hired to write in a genre I don't appreciate, and I didn't bother researching the conventions of that genre (precisely because I openly disdain those conventions as 'conventional'). Instead, I expected to rely on my editors to correct the resulting (likely major) deficiencies." And that's exactly what happened. This is chapter one, section one of the Unprofessional Freelancer Behavior malfeasance guide. (Chapter ten, section two is the one that covers badmouthing your client on Twitter before talking with them about what's bothering you, in case anyone was wondering. Publicly condemning their behavior after talking with them if they refuse to redress your legitimate grievances isn't in the book, you'll notice.)

3. On the other hand, it seems like he actually is not a professional. I can't tell much from his website—does he have publication credits of any kind? The "Professional Services" section of his site is quite vague and doesn't list any actual credits, stating only that "the first professional services offered by POCGamer came in the form of consultation for world building in 2018"—shortly after he began his blog/YouTube gig accusing D&D and WotC of racism. Does "consultation for world building" mean work as a sensitivity reader? If he's a YouTube RPG gadfly trying to break into game design (no disrespect intended; I spend at least several hours a week watching and enjoying YouTube RPG gadflies, and as an RPG message forum gadfly, I envy them their photogenicity), then this is definitely all mostly WotC's fault, because they needed to shepherd him through the entire process much more attentively than it sounds like they actually did. You can't hire talent with no experience and treat them in such a hands-off manner, nor can you expect them to understand the basics of how the business works. (POCG appears to really have thought WotC might sell him back the rights to his original draft so he could publish it elsewhere.)

4. The saddest part of this for me as a Forgotten Realms fan who loves the setting's deep lore is the loss of what sounds like some cool lore ideas in POCG's original story treatment. He's a legit lore buff—which almost certainly was part of the problem with his original draft, since WotC's 5e design philosophy is to never go above a 3 on a 1-to-10 scale of lore density in published adventures. I highly doubt those cool lore ideas were married to an interesting adventure in his original draft, since the published version is mediocre to poor, in my view, but I'm capable of admiring well-researched and creative lore wherever it appears.

5. Still, the saddest part in objective terms is obviously the insertion of the word "primitive." "Primitive societies" may have some utility as an anthropological shorthand for "societies without urban centers," and was commonplace until a few decades ago, but there are very good reasons why the term is avoided today. It's mind-boggling to me why you would hire someone like POCGamer and then insert that language. Though actually, now that I think about it, it makes perfect sense: why hire him at all despite his lack of experience? Because you're utterly clueless about issues of racial sensitivity, and you need help with that. Why insert racially insensitive language into his work? Because you're utterly clueless about issues of racial sensitivity, and you need help with that.

But then why, having hired POCGamer and substantially revised his work, don't you run the final draft by him—especially when (it seems, from other contributors' reports) you were doing just that for other contributors? I suspect the answer must be either
A) you hit a hard deadline and had no time to do so;
B) you had some (as yet, and probably indefinitely, publicly undisclosed) reason to believe that doing so might cause you more problems than not doing so;
and/or C) you fucked up.
 

Justice and Rule

Adventurer
2. POCGamer admits "I do not use premade adventures, and I am not familiar with building 'conventional' D&D adventures. I fully expected that my adventure would be edited and altered to patch its faults and issues." This sounds an awful lot like "I got hired to write in a genre I don't appreciate, and I didn't bother researching the conventions of that genre (precisely because I openly disdain those conventions as 'conventional'). Instead, I expected to rely on my editors to correct the resulting (likely major) deficiencies." And that's exactly what happened. This is chapter one, section one of the Unprofessional Freelancer Behavior malfeasance guide. (Chapter ten, section two is the one that covers badmouthing your client on Twitter before talking with them about what's bothering you, in case anyone was wondering. Publicly condemning their behavior after talking with them if they refuse to redress your legitimate grievances isn't in the book, you'll notice.)

I highlighted the bolded area because this absolutely doesn't seem to be the case: we know from his own telling on his website that his supervisor for the project helped him out from the pitch to the final draft, with assistance on what seems like a variety of areas. We can also see from his own telling of what he wanted to do (again, on his website) that his own version of the final cut comes somewhat close to what was printed, but with mostly the context of the plot missing. In fact, the editor seems to have taken away most of the "mystery" part given that they basically removed most of the research side of things, which seems to really cut against the whole point of the book.

So really, I don't think it's fair to act like this was a situation where a new freelancer delivered something that was majorly flawed and an editor had to fix it up in post. There's just no evidence of that, especially given what the editor did cut.

Also the whole "unprofessional freelancer" thing feels like the wrong look considering that WOTC had a huge problem last summer with another POC staffer being mistreated in the workplace.

3. On the other hand, it seems like he actually is not a professional. I can't tell much from his website—does he have publication credits of any kind? The "Professional Services" section of his site is quite vague and doesn't list any actual credits, stating only that "the first professional services offered by POCGamer came in the form of consultation for world building in 2018"—shortly after he began his blog/YouTube gig accusing D&D and WotC of racism. Does "consultation for world building" mean work as a sensitivity reader? If he's a YouTube RPG gadfly trying to break into game design (no disrespect intended; I spend at least several hours a week watching and enjoying YouTube RPG gadflies, and as an RPG message forum gadfly, I envy them their photogenicity), then this is definitely all mostly WotC's fault, because they needed to shepherd him through the entire process much more attentively than it sounds like they actually did. You can't hire talent with no experience and treat them in such a hands-off manner, nor can you expect them to understand the basics of how the business works. (POCG appears to really have thought WotC might sell him back the rights to his original draft so he could publish it elsewhere.)

Given that the process he describes in writing his draft wasn't really hands-off, this whole thing feels wrongheaded. Also don't understand why his previous work or lack thereof even warrants talking about here.

4. The saddest part of this for me as a Forgotten Realms fan who loves the setting's deep lore is the loss of what sounds like some cool lore ideas in POCG's original story treatment. He's a legit lore buff—which almost certainly was part of the problem with his original draft, since WotC's 5e design philosophy is to never go above a 3 on a 1-to-10 scale of lore density in published adventures. I highly doubt those cool lore ideas were married to an interesting adventure in his original draft, since the published version is mediocre to poor, in my view, but I'm capable of admiring well-researched and creative lore wherever it appears.

This is bad excuse for taking out the lore. This is a book about mysteries which starts in a library filled with knowledge from across the Realms. The whole point of these things is to learn stuff. It's one of the primary appeals of mysteries: to find answers.

5. Still, the saddest part in objective terms is obviously the insertion of the word "primitive." "Primitive societies" may have some utility as an anthropological shorthand for "societies without urban centers," and was commonplace until a few decades ago, but there are very good reasons why the term is avoided today. It's mind-boggling to me why you would hire someone like POCGamer and then insert that language. Though actually, now that I think about it, it makes perfect sense: why hire him at all despite his lack of experience? Because you're utterly clueless about issues of racial sensitivity, and you need help with that. Why insert racially insensitive language into his work? Because you're utterly clueless about issues of racial sensitivity, and you need help with that.

I mean... maybe they hired him on the strength of his pitch? I dunno, feels like it's possible.

But then why, having hired POCGamer and substantially revised his work, don't you run the final draft by him—especially when (it seems, from other contributors' reports) you were doing just that for other contributors? I suspect the answer must be either
A) you hit a hard deadline and had no time to do so;
B) you had some (as yet, and probably indefinitely, publicly undisclosed) reason to believe that doing so might cause you more problems than not doing so;
and/or C) you fucked up.

Given what happened last summer, it feels like C) is the choice here. It really does feel like Wizards has some problems they need to take care of.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
There's a whole lot of speculation, and we'll never know the real truth unless WoTC speaks out, which will never happen, so...we're just left with speculation and one side.

I suspect most editors will back me up on this, but I don't think many people realize that when you're doing layout, every word matters to get things to line up neatly. I can't count the times when I've written something, then when it comes time to do layout, I have to rewrite, cut, omit, and add text to get it to align with page count, column size, picture frames, etc. Literally every page, and often the very character count of the word I'm using matters. In layout, size does matter, and it matters a lot lol. An 8 letter word vs a 6 letter word does make a difference. How much of the changes were done for this? Only Kim Mohan knows exactly.

Speaking of Kim, we know who the editor was. It was Kim. So when people say WoTC is being racist for what they did, they are saying Kim Mohan is racist. Is that true? I don't know; I don't know Kim Mohan personally. But it seems easier to say a company is racist than saying that person is, but it wasn't the company who edited it, it was Kim personally. So if you (general you) think what happened was racist, then you're saying Kim is racist. Just throwing that out there.
 

The Glen

Hero
I suspect most editors will back me up on this, but I don't think many people realize that when you're doing layout, every word matters to get things to line up neatly. I can't count the times when I've written something, then when it comes time to do layout, I have to rewrite, cut, omit, and add text to get it to align with page count, column size, picture frames, etc. Literally every page, and often the very character count of the word I'm using matters. In layout, size does matter, and it matters a lot lol. An 8 letter word vs a 6 letter word does make a difference. How much of the changes were done for this? Only Kim Mohan knows exactly.

Don't get me started on widows, orphans and Dead Space. I've worn out more than one copy of roget's trying to find a replacement word to pull a line up because the character count is one letter too many. Once you get handed a final draft, you are the only person that decides what goes in. The last thing you need is a bunch of people telling you how to do your job when you got a deadline looming. It's called a final draft for a reason.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Don't get me started on widows, orphans and Dead Space. I've worn out more than one copy of roget's trying to find a replacement word to pull a line up because the character count is one letter too many. Once you get handed a final draft, you are the only person that decides what goes in. The last thing you need is a bunch of people telling you how to do your job when you got a deadline looming. It's called a final draft for a reason.
Layout designers aren't typically given carte blanch to edit text.
 

jeremypowell

Adventurer
I highlighted the bolded area because this absolutely doesn't seem to be the case: we know from his own telling on his website that his supervisor for the project helped him out from the pitch to the final draft, with assistance on what seems like a variety of areas. We can also see from his own telling of what he wanted to do (again, on his website) that his own version of the final cut comes somewhat close to what was printed, but with mostly the context of the plot missing. In fact, the editor seems to have taken away most of the "mystery" part given that they basically removed most of the research side of things, which seems to really cut against the whole point of the book.
You're right. Reading it over, I think that wasn't a fair characterization for me to make. I retract that.

Here's a better version of what I mean: saying "I do not use premade adventures, and I am not familiar with building 'conventional' D&D adventures. I fully expected that my adventure would be edited and altered to patch its faults and issues" sounds an awful lot like "I don't read short stories, and I am not familiar with how conventional narratives in the military sci-fi subgenre are written. But since I've been contracted to write a conventional military sci-fi short story by the largest, most corporate, and most conventional military sci-fi publisher, I fully expect that the publisher will edit my manuscript into a publishable short story."

"I'm not familiar with writing in X genre but I've written something in X genre anyway" is a pretty familiar refrain heard by anyone in the publishing business, and is never a positive sign.
Given that the process he describes in writing his draft wasn't really hands-off, this whole thing feels wrongheaded. Also don't understand why his previous work or lack thereof even warrants talking about here.
Again, you're right. "Hands-off" wasn't a good choice of words.

POCG's previous work or lack thereof does matter. Mentioning it is not intended as a way of discrediting him. If anything, it's the opposite.

It does seem to me that aspects of his behavior here were unprofessional, as I mentioned—but that's to be expected if he's not actually a professional in this business! If he doesn't have any prior publication experience at all, then in my opinion it's his publisher's responsibility to treat him with greater care than if he's an old industry veteran. Part of Candlekeep Mysteries's mission statement was to highlight creative talent that didn't have this level of exposure before. This includes a laudable demographic diversity focus; my current play group includes two Asian Americans who were both overjoyed to read not just one but two adventures from members of that demographic in this book. But (again, from what I can tell) even in that context POCG is less experienced in adventure writing and in RPG publishing than most of the book's other contributors, many of whom have created and published RPG material in one form or another before.

Maybe I'm wrong about this (it wouldn't be the first time), but take a look at his (excellently clear) outline of the process in his "Part 1" blog post: it appears he wasn't involved at all in the editing after the playtesting period began, and expected that he would be, and was hurt that he was not involved.
This is bad excuse for taking out the lore. This is a book about mysteries which starts in a library filled with knowledge from across the Realms. The whole point of these things is to learn stuff. It's one of the primary appeals of mysteries: to find answers.
It wasn't an excuse, it was a (possible) explanation. I want more lore, not less, in adventures from WotC! But WotC doesn't. Just because POCG wrote 7,000 words doesn't mean all 7,000 of them were the kind of material WotC wants to use in an adventure.
I mean... maybe they hired him on the strength of his pitch? I dunno, feels like it's possible.
Of course they liked his pitch. And also wanted to hire a demographically diverse slate of writers. Those are both legitimate motives.
So if you (general you) think what happened was racist, then you're saying Kim is racist. Just throwing that out there.
If we say "John is racist," that carries a different valence than does "John said something racist." Every subtlety makes a difference here; even "John is a racist" feels different from "John is racist." I think the addition of the word "primitive" to this adventure was racially insensitive. I wouldn't be comfortable calling someone "racist" for using a racially insensitive term like "primitive," in the absence of other malfeasance. I think the recent expansion of the meaning of the word "racist" to include all manner of racially insensitive speech acts is unfortunate, because I think the negatives to putting people like whoever added this term to this adventure and David Duke in the same category outweigh the positives. This is a controversial opinion. But one thing shouldn't be controversial: the person who added this racially insensitive language still shouldn't do it, and should know better by now, especially if they're editing a project for WotC!
 

Justice and Rule

Adventurer
@jeremypowell

Yeah, my biggest issue was with your initial framing. I could quibble more, but we're in "agree to disagree" territory, so better to just move on with the discussion.

@Sacrosanct

I have no actual knowledge of the person, but it's worth noting that you don't need to be an out-and-out racist to do insensitive things, and that WOTC has had recent problems with it. As it stands, WOTC has a problem when it comes to sensitivity and while this isn't the biggest or worst instance of it, it's disappointing because we know they've issued statements that they're trying to be better. This feels like something where they should have been more careful, and it definitely feels like WOTC should keep better communication to prevent it from happening again.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Speaking of Kim, we know who the editor was. It was Kim. So when people say WoTC is being racist for what they did, they are saying Kim Mohan is racist. Is that true? I don't know; I don't know Kim Mohan personally. But it seems easier to say a company is racist than saying that person is, but it wasn't the company who edited it, it was Kim personally. So if you (general you) think what happened was racist, then you're saying Kim is racist. Just throwing that out there.
That’s not how systemic racism works. Kim Mohan, as an individual, probably doesn’t consciously hold racist views (I don’t know anything about them, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt.) They certainly have unconscious racial biases - everyone does. But ultimately, I’m not really interested in what they think or do as an individual. They contribute to the larger apparatus that is Wizards of the Coast, and in that contribution, have furthered its systemic tendency to silence PoC voices. That doesn’t make Kim Mohan a racist, it is simply one more example of the systemic racism endemic of the company.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I will say, while the Panzer Lion / PoC Gamer situation is unfortunate, I do appreciate their break down of how the writing process went and their comparison of their original vision with the published draft. I think it sheds a lot of light on why WotC published adventures are the way they are. When I read how they cut out the deep lore and complex NPC motivations in favor of a simple adventure that can easily be adapted to other settings, or how they took an investigative hook with a branching path and simplified it to an NPC giving you directions and advice to the DM to make one branch “show the players it’s in error,” I can’t help but think of other adventures like Water Deep Dragon Heist. I had already suspected that one was the result of a hack job to an initially much more complex adventure.
 

ardoughter

Hero
Supporter
Wizards as a company, during the 4e era fired a bunch of people a week or 2 before Christmas for several years running. From that I think we can safely say that it is insensitive as a company. That is not to say that Wizards does not have a racism problem, because, while "two swallows do not a summer make", it could be a start of a disturbing trend.
That said, it should be noted that it has a history of insensitive HR decisions and anyone thinking of freelancing for them should be aware of this.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
You're right. Reading it over, I think that wasn't a fair characterization for me to make. I retract that.

Here's a better version of what I mean: saying "I do not use premade adventures, and I am not familiar with building 'conventional' D&D adventures. I fully expected that my adventure would be edited and altered to patch its faults and issues" sounds an awful lot like "I don't read short stories, and I am not familiar with how conventional narratives in the military sci-fi subgenre are written. But since I've been contracted to write a conventional military sci-fi short story by the largest, most corporate, and most conventional military sci-fi publisher, I fully expect that the publisher will edit my manuscript into a publishable short story."

"I'm not familiar with writing in X genre but I've written something in X genre anyway" is a pretty familiar refrain heard by anyone in the publishing business, and is never a positive sign.

Again, you're right. "Hands-off" wasn't a good choice of words.

POCG's previous work or lack thereof does matter. Mentioning it is not intended as a way of discrediting him. If anything, it's the opposite.

It does seem to me that aspects of his behavior here were unprofessional, as I mentioned—but that's to be expected if he's not actually a professional in this business! If he doesn't have any prior publication experience at all, then in my opinion it's his publisher's responsibility to treat him with greater care than if he's an old industry veteran. Part of Candlekeep Mysteries's mission statement was to highlight creative talent that didn't have this level of exposure before. This includes a laudable demographic diversity focus; my current play group includes two Asian Americans who were both overjoyed to read not just one but two adventures from members of that demographic in this book. But (again, from what I can tell) even in that context POCG is less experienced in adventure writing and in RPG publishing than most of the book's other contributors, many of whom have created and published RPG material in one form or another before.

Maybe I'm wrong about this (it wouldn't be the first time), but take a look at his (excellently clear) outline of the process in his "Part 1" blog post: it appears he wasn't involved at all in the editing after the playtesting period began, and expected that he would be, and was hurt that he was not involved.

It wasn't an excuse, it was a (possible) explanation. I want more lore, not less, in adventures from WotC! But WotC doesn't. Just because POCG wrote 7,000 words doesn't mean all 7,000 of them were the kind of material WotC wants to use in an adventure.

Of course they liked his pitch. And also wanted to hire a demographically diverse slate of writers. Those are both legitimate motives.

If we say "John is racist," that carries a different valence than does "John said something racist." Every subtlety makes a difference here; even "John is a racist" feels different from "John is racist." I think the addition of the word "primitive" to this adventure was racially insensitive. I wouldn't be comfortable calling someone "racist" for using a racially insensitive term like "primitive," in the absence of other malfeasance. I think the recent expansion of the meaning of the word "racist" to include all manner of racially insensitive speech acts is unfortunate, because I think the negatives to putting people like whoever added this term to this adventure and David Duke in the same category outweigh the positives. This is a controversial opinion. But one thing shouldn't be controversial: the person who added this racially insensitive language still shouldn't do it, and should know better by now, especially if they're editing a project for WotC!

@jeremypowell

Yeah, my biggest issue was with your initial framing. I could quibble more, but we're in "agree to disagree" territory, so better to just move on with the discussion.

@Sacrosanct

I have no actual knowledge of the person, but it's worth noting that you don't need to be an out-and-out racist to do insensitive things, and that WOTC has had recent problems with it. As it stands, WOTC has a problem when it comes to sensitivity and while this isn't the biggest or worst instance of it, it's disappointing because we know they've issued statements that they're trying to be better. This feels like something where they should have been more careful, and it definitely feels like WOTC should maybe keep better communication to prevent it from happening again.

To be clear, I'm not saying either of you have said WoTC is racist. Only that in general, I've heard several people claim that WoTC is racist by doing this, and what I mean is that we know who made these changes, and it was Kim Mohan. So for those people who have said WoTC is racist, what they actually are saying is Kim Mohan is racist, since Kim is the one who did this, not WoTC. I suppose my point is it's easier to say "company X" is racist because there's no human tied to that and you don't have to worry about defending your accusation. And it's harder to say "person X" is racist without additional back pedaling or suddenly a bunch of other qualifiers added that weren't added when you (again, general you) said WoTC was racist, because now it's personal to someone directly.

Like you say, it's very nuanced, and I've observed that when you (again, general you) level accusations, it's much easier to level more serious accusations against entities than against actual people when it shouldn't matter.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
To be clear, I'm not saying either of you have said WoTC is racist. Only that in general, I've heard several people claim that WoTC is racist by doing this, and what I mean is that we know who made these changes, and it was Kim Mohan. So for those people who have said WoTC is racist, what they actually are saying is Kim Mohan is racist, since Kim is the one who did this, not WoTC.
I don’t think anyone is saying “WotC is racist for doing this,” they’re saying “this is yet another drop in the bucket of racist outcomes that have resulted from WotC’s business practices.” Nobody is calling any individual WotC employees racist here. They’re pointing out that, once again, the business structures at WotC have resulted in a person of color having their voice not be heard.
I suppose my point is it's easier to say "company X" is racist because there's no human tied to that and you don't have to worry about defending your accusation. And it's harder to say "person X" is racist without additional back pedaling or suddenly a bunch of other qualifiers added that weren't added when you (again, general you) said WoTC was racist, because now it's personal to someone directly.
It’s not just easier to say a company is racist than to say a person is racist, it’s saying something completely different. Again, I don’t know Kim Mohan, but I expect they probably don’t consciously hold racist views. That doesn’t mean they can’t contribute to a system that marginalizes people of color. Indeed, they seem to have done exactly that here. That doesn’t make them racist. It’s just another example of the systemic racism at WotC.
Like you say, it's very nuanced, and I've observed that when you (again, general you) level accusations, it's much easier to level more serious accusations against entities than against actual people when it shouldn't matter.
Funny, I would argue that trying to boil racism down to a problem of individual bad actors is far less nuanced than recognizing that complex systems can produce racist outcomes without conscious intent driving them.
 

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