D&D General Modules with a political message?

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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
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America has so many monarchists because we have so many monarchs!

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Is it not exhausting to think on that level (i.e. where everything is political)?
Not really? Just because I recognize that everything is political doesn’t mean I’m constantly engaging in political analysis.
Sometimes people just want to kill bad things.
Sure, everyone wants to shut their brain off and engage in some recreational abnegation from time to time.
 

Absolutes are not really your friend here. If we look closely at this, we are apt to find it is hyperbolic, or requires either a highly restrictive definition of what constitutes, "art," or an exceedingly broad view of what is "political".

In preschool, my neighbor's child was given a page to color, with a vaguely human figure that he could use to represent anyone he wanted. He chose me, oddly enough, so the page now hangs on my refrigerator. It is certainly a piece of self-expression, so should qualify as "art", if not "good art". But the kid was 4 years old - there's a long stretch there that a four-year-old child was making a political statement with it.
unless we intend to face a discussion on a very high cultural, semiotic and aesthetic level, we can safely take the affirmation that all art is political for a good synthesis, perhaps a little rough, of a shared concept, namely that the human expression always reflects an ideal tension about how the world should be as opposed to how the world is. I would not begin to make specious distinctions.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Politics isn't just about the state and state power. It may also be between groups in society.

Definitions:
#1: "the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power
#2: "the activities of governments concerning the political relations between countries"
#3: "the academic study of government and the state"
Only when we get to #4 do we get anything approaching your claim
#4: "activities within an organization that are aimed at improving someone's status or position and are typically considered to be devious or divisive"

I would argue that the 4th definition of politics, and the one you claim is an extension of the natural definition by metaphor. Entomologically speaking, the term is Greek and relates to government and government solely. To claim everything is politics is to claim that everything belongs to the public sphere and is proper domain of government and law. It is to suggest that nothing is in the private sphere, no action is personnel, and all things you engage in are properly regulated by your neighbors. It's an argument to justify absolute totalitarian authority. I've been watching Andor and I'm sure the Empire agrees everything is political.

I don't.

Everything is political to you implies you are a totalitarian. In fact, the concept of "everything is political" is heavily related to very concept of totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is totalitarianism precisely because the state assumes everything is political and nothing divides the public sphere from the private and the state has every right to regulate every aspect of life because everything is political.

I'd like to think that the people here going "everything is political" merely are repeating something that they heard on social media or otherwise haven't fully thought out the consequences of their claims. But sometimes, I have difficulty doubting the intelligence and sincerity of my fellow EnWorlders.
 

pemerton

Legend
unless we intend to face a discussion on a very high cultural, semiotic and aesthetic level, we can safely take the affirmation that all art is political for a good synthesis, perhaps a little rough, of a shared concept, namely that the human expression always reflects an ideal tension about how the world should be as opposed to how the world is. I would not begin to make specious distinctions.
There are other ways in which all art can be political, which include @Umbran's example or at least stuff in its neighbourhood.

It's not uncommon for young children who are not white, but who live in predominantly white societies (eg Australia), to draw themselves as white - because this is the form of depiction of humans that they are enculturated into.

That's political, in at least one sense of the word - as in, it is a direct manifestation of a political state of affairs. The fact that white children don't experience the same confusion/distortion/erasure in relation to their identity (many concepts might be applied here, and I'm not intending to prejudge what is the right one) is likewise a political state of affairs, which their drawings also manifest.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Definitions:
#1: "the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power
#2: "the activities of governments concerning the political relations between countries"
#3: "the academic study of government and the state"
Only when we get to #4 do we get anything approaching your claim
#4: "activities within an organization that are aimed at improving someone's status or position and are typically considered to be devious or divisive"

I would argue that the 4th definition of politics, and the one you claim is an extension of the natural definition by metaphor. Entomologically speaking, the term is Greek and relates to government and government solely. To claim everything is politics is to claim that everything belongs to the public sphere and is proper domain of government and law. It is to suggest that nothing is in the private sphere, no action is personnel, and all things you engage in are properly regulated by your neighbors. It's an argument to justify absolute totalitarian authority. I've been watching Andor and I'm sure the Empire agrees everything is political.

I don't.

Everything is political to you implies you are a totalitarian. In fact, the concept of "everything is political" is heavily related to very concept of totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is totalitarianism precisely because the state assumes everything is political and nothing divides the public sphere from the private and the state has every right to regulate every aspect of life because everything is political.

I'd like to think that the people here going "everything is political" merely are repeating something that they heard on social media or otherwise haven't fully thought out the consequences of their claims. But sometimes, I have difficulty doubting the intelligence and sincerity of my fellow EnWorlders.
“If I ignore definitions that are inconvenient to my position, I can make yours look bad!”
 

There are other ways in which all art can be political, which include @Umbran's example or at least stuff in its neighbourhood.

It's not uncommon for young children who are not white, but who live in predominantly white societies (eg Australia), to draw themselves as white - because this is the form of depiction of humans that they are enculturated into.

That's political, in at least one sense of the word - as in, it is a direct manifestation of a political state of affairs. The fact that white children don't experience the same confusion/distortion/erasure in relation to their identity (many concepts might be applied here, and I'm not intending to prejudge what is the right one) is likewise a political state of affairs, which their drawings also manifest.
It could be a simple manifestation of how a baby brain works.
It could happen in every society in which the numbers are disproportionate.
Without other consideration we can address it as a simple demographic distribution conseguence, without talking about politics at all.

Why do you suppose that it has to do with a subalternity of black people condition (that could be political indeed)?

But it is out of topic, just a curiosity.
 



pemerton

Legend
It could be a simple manifestation of how a baby brain works.
It could happen in every society in which the numbers are disproportionate.
Without other consideration we can address it as a simple demographic distribution conseguence, without talking about politics at all.

Why do you suppose that it has to do with a subalternity of black people condition (that could be political indeed)?

But it is out of topic, just a curiosity.
I have never heard of the child of a British colonist in India or Kenya drawing themselves as brown or black.

The phenomenon I described is closely connected to related things, like children trying to scrub off their skin in the bath, or asking their parents when they'll turn white. All of which are, in at least one obvious sense of the word, political phenomena - they manifest political states of affairs.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I'm not a MOD, but let me say that I believe turning this thread toward definitions is a very immature way of conducting the debate that leads only to flame war. Both sides.

I don't know how we can hold even a conversation without definitions, much less hold a debate. I'm not sure how definitions are immature.

"‘And only one for birthday presents, you know. There’s glory for you!’
‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory,”’ Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”’
‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument,”’ Alice objected.
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’

But as for your specific point, I think that if everything is political, then what are we supposed to talk about at EnWorld?
 

I hope we can reach a common agremeet point: to stop the hate and the intolerance we have to promote the respect for the human dignity.

I don't like any stereotypes. How to explain it politely? In your stories you can add some "femme fatal" some times, but not too many times, because then it might start to seem misogyny. Do you understand? Something like this happens when you use too many times the trope of "sinister minister". It is not only annoying but also it may become even dangerous. I can become other path of hate, and cause more damage than racism or homophobia.

I think it would be more useful if the fiction was used to show the fallacies used by populists and demagoges, for example fallacy of false middle point, of false Scottish, false dillema, ad populum, ad verecundiam/magister dixit, ad misericordiam..

In the past screenwritters of comics maybe wanted to tell about the troubles in the society, but now a lot of people don't feel wellcome and they have lost interest into those comics. They have chased the readers away and it is their fault. This is a clear example of mistake what should be avoided by the rest of companies in the entertaiment industry.

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I have never heard of the child of a British colonist in India or Kenya drawing themselves as brown or black.

The phenomenon I described is closely connected to related things, like children trying to scrub off their skin in the bath, or asking their parents when they'll turn white. All of which are, in at least one obvious sense of the word, political phenomena - they manifest political states of affairs.
There must be a better (read more suitable) word for this than lumping it into politics or describing it as political phenomena. Surely.
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
To briefly address the actual topic of the OP. A lot of this depends on the way you view "political." In a very narrow sense, there are very few D&D modules that "political" (intended to overtly advance a partisan position). On the other hand, I think that all D&D modules are political, in the sense that they reflect, reify, or subvert expectations of the people that made them, which are part of the political reality of the time.

If this is too abstract, I will be more concrete with two examples.

First, a module. B2 (Keep on the Borderlands) is a classic of D&D history, and a well-known module. I am reasonably certain that Gygax had no political intent in writing the module. I am reasonably certain that most of the people who went through the module (especially at the time) didn't think that there was anything political about it. And yet ... it is intensely political, in the way that it reflect a particular ideology of the time (blah blah semiotics blah blah Barthes' Mythologies etc.).

To start with, the very concept of D&D at that time was rooted in American exceptionalism and myths of the Old West; yes, it had the additional trappings of fantasy, but fundamentally it was borne from the Western, and from a generation of adults that grew up on that genre. The saloon becomes the inn. The adventurers are the gunslingers. Authority is weak or absent. Power is achieved through violence; both good and evil are simply manifestations of that violent impulse.

B2 makes this more explicit- while some liken it to generic "colonialism," it is actually much closer to a fantasy re-imagining of the old Western trope- you have a stockade in the wilderness, and there are "savages" (ugh) that threaten the march of civilization. Again- this isn't just an adventure- this is the assumption that there is a worldview. Civilization is good. Violence is appropriate against others that keep you from expansion. Etc.

This can be seen elsewhere; an easy example is the birth of Paranoia as a separate game system. I love Paranoia, but it is also certainly a product of the Reagan 80s in America. Once you strip away all the (awesome and funny!) trappings, you are left with a system that teaches you that government is not just bad, but also completely incompetent. Again, the things that happen in the game are almost never a reflection of the idea that the Computer is necessarily evil, but instead a reflection of an ethos that government is bad, government is incompetent, and the worst of it is when government is trying to help you (The Computer is your friend ....).

In pointing these things out, I don't mean to yuck on anyone's yum. I also don't think the people who write these are necessarily even thinking about what ends up being reflected (this isn't deliberate and intended allegory, like Narnia) I still love playing Paranoia. But to not acknowledge there is a lot going on that is inherent in the work is not accurate. IMO.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
In the past screenwritters of comics maybe wanted to tell about the troubles in the society, but now a lot of people don't feel wellcome and they have lost interest into those comics. They have chased the readers away and it is their fault. This is a clear example of mistake what should be avoided by the rest of companies in the entertaiment industry.
Well, that's the crux isn't it? The idea that welcoming in someone else is interpreted as making the prior residents unwelcome. That's privilege for you. It wants what it has always has and doesn't give up easily. And it ties right in with definition number six (cynically omitted from an earlier post):
  • the assumptions or principles relating to or inherent in a sphere, theory, or thing, especially when concerned with power and status in a society
Inclusion is about making sure people aren't excluded or made to feel excluded from societies - in your case comic book readers, but also among gamers, public society at large, etc.

But you think the solution here is to avoid efforts to include because the prior in-group defines sharing inclusion as excluding them? Honestly, that morally and ethically shouldn't fly.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I'm not a MOD, but let me say that I believe turning this thread toward definitions is a very immature way of conducting the debate that leads only to flame war. Both sides.
I didn’t turn the conversation towards definitions, I pointed out the absurdity of trying to use some definitions and ignore others to paint one’s opposition as holding a different position than they purport to hold (a thing someone else was attempting to do.)
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
But as for your specific point, I think that if everything is political, then what are we supposed to talk about at EnWorld?
The rule is against discussing politics not against discussing anything political. The latter would of course leave nothing to discuss.
 


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