D&D General On Early D&D and Problematic Faves: How to Grapple with the Sins of the Past

This is what I said, in part anyways, on the other thread and got lambasted for it. I don't care what Gygax did, I don't understand why him being sexist 50 years ago effects me today and the games I run. I had said that yes we should recognize that there were some things of the time that were off according to today's standards; but honesty, that's was then, this is now. So what if the man was sexist, and? Why should that have any bearing on the games I run now?

It's the same for anything, art being the main example here. What does some artist being a garbage person before I was even thought to be conceived, have any bearing on if I enjoy their music or not? I just don't get the mindset. What does it matter? Can no one separate the artist from the art, or come to the understanding that people on a individual level are complex beings that have more to them than just their flaws. Everyone has flaws, everyone has a complex reason for those flaws; they really shouldn't be rendered down to nothing but their flaws.

Point being, people should really separate the art from the artist, the creator from the creation; most times people know that the person that created what they are enjoying is garbage about something, they just don't care nor let it effect their enjoyment of that particular thing.
 

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Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
In have family members and other loved ones who her "one issue" directly harms and she gives not just her voice but her money to. So you can forgive me for exercising my right to not only not give her money, but judge those who do.
I don't judge others for buying her books (we all make our own choices), I'm just not sure I could do it at this point. And for my part it really is a combination of my personal social circumstances and the fact that she is so very clear and direct about her agenda. There's no ambiguity about what she believes and what she's done and is doing.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I don't know that I have the energy for these sorts of discussions anymore (just getting older and less concerned about what other people think about things I believe). However, while I don't agree with everything here (after all there is A LOT there lol) I think you make a very reasoned and nuanced point. My view probably comes from growing up from reading a lot of old books as a kid, having an interest in history and having to read primary sources but also coming from a family where art, music and movies were highly valued. I tend to not worry about the moral character of the artist and focus more on the quality of art they produced. I even think the better artists usually are the more flawed people. I also can get over whatever warts and boils are in a work of art pretty quick, as I am so accustomed to seeing warts and boils. Doesn't mean I agree with the warts and boils but I can just mentally note the context, the flaws of the person who made it, etc. Like everyone else, I do have lines, but I am not a big believer in moralizing about those lines (as I think everyone has to decide for themselves how they are going to interpret a given work and how a work impacts their sense of morality). That is probably a byproduct of growing up in New England and wanting nothing to do with Puritans or Victorians. I think we do run the risk of becoming a bit like Salieri in Amadeus when expect too much alignment from our artistic idols with our own values (it would be nice if every author I liked agreed with all my beliefs and checks off every box on my moral checklist, but usually the person with the talent to make the thing in question is deeply flawed: @Snarf Zagyg gave a good list of some people in history who had issues but made great art). Wagner would be a good case in point. I have serious problems with his ideas, with how his music was used, and I take those kinds of concerns very personally, but I also can't deny the incredible beauty and power of his music. I wouldn't want to be denied the magic of something like Siegfried's Funeral music because of that unfortunate history. And I wouldn't want the world to be denied it. People should make their own choices of course. I understand why some people can't abide his music.

I will say, I think we all could benefit from taking a step back and thinking about how our reactions to these topics are impacting our interactions with other forum members and other gamers.
Agreed. History is full of awful people by modern standards, but that doesn't change anything about what happened or it's value. It's just another data point, and not I think the most important one.
 



We don't put tricky issues into our games. World is full of them so don't wanna have them in fun goblin time. We are even trying to avoid political chats as Europe recently beset by rise of elected worries at both ends spectrum.

Some topics are fine as they are beyond all doubt worthy of battling against ( slavery in a fantasy game, soviets/nazis in pulp, trying to stop virus/parasite in a sci fi etc).

If a game needs proper trigger warnings that's a good thing. A note saying a book holds difficult historic views is a good thing.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Point being, people should really separate the art from the artist, the creator from the creation; most times people know that the person that created what they are enjoying is garbage about something, they just don't care nor let it effect their enjoyment of that particular thing.
I think everyone's on a sliding scale of what they'll tolerate.

Can you still enjoy the Usual Suspects, despite the presence of Kevin Spacey? How about House of Cards, where he's the star?

Do you still watch Woody Allen movies, even the ones -- like Manhattan -- that are explicitly about him creeping on young women?

At the far end of the spectrum, I don't think many people would be able to say "sure, he's separating the art from the artist" about someone who collects the works of a failed Austrian painter who went into politics after his art career was a flop.

Everyone has a line. It's just a matter of deciding where that is.
 
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Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
I think slavery in RPGs, especially older style D&D is a tricky subject because while the text may make it clear that the slavers are evil and bad, the open nature of play and the fact that human (or humanish) chattel have value in a game where success is often judged by how much value the characters can accumulate makes the evil of engaging in the slave trade potentially tempting.
The presence of slaver NPCs in no way introduces that idea to players. We've all had groups that decide to try and invent gunpowder or flying machines or the infamous peasant railgun, independent of what's happening in the game world or what the DM or rest of the group wants.

If your players are going to engage in slavery for fun, don't play with that group.
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
I think everyone's on a sliding scale of what they'll tolerate.

Can you still enjoy the Usual Suspects, despite the presence of Kevin Spacey? How about House of Cards, where he's the star?

Do you still watch Woody Allen movies, even the ones -- like Manhattan -- that are explicitly about him creeping on young women?

At the far end of the spectrum, I don't think many people would be able to say "sure, he's separating the art from the artist" about a failed Austrian painter who went into politics after his art career was a flop.

Everyone has a line. It's just a matter of deciding where that is.

I think that this lies at the heart of why the conversations can be so fraught. The (very long) essay I wrote identifies the issues, but at the core the problem with the discussions is that many people want the line that they have to be the line that everyone has.

Which ... doesn't work. As I wrote, the perfect is the enemy of the good, and we are all hypocrites about something. But discussing the issues is the best way to identify how we should approach it. As Socrates said, I drank what?

Um, I mean, The unexamined life is not worth living.

Generally, I think that it's helpful to think of some of these things in the following way:

1. Is this an artist, or an art issue? In other words, is the problem just with the artist, or is that problem reflected in the art? To use your examples, The Usual Suspects has Kevin Spacey in it, but the actual work doesn't reflect what is problematic about him. On the other hand, some of Woody Allen's movies do reflect some of the issues that make him kind of a creeper.

2. Does your patronage matter? This is the JK Rowling conundrum. Buying D&D books doesn't support sexism (as far as I know!). But JK Rowling still profits from the Potterverse, and money that goes to that goes to specific anti-inclusive causes.

3. Is this a current issue? I believe in fearlessly looking at history, but the past is different. That doesn't excuse actions, but I also think it's easier to separate the art and the artist when there has been the passage of time. We can talk about the issues of the artist, but properly contextualize them. For example, the re-examination of Gauguin (vis-a-vis Tahiti) is overdue, but while it isn't fun, it helps put his later art in a better perspective.


But yes, the line is different for everyone. To give you an example, I was at a Madonna concert (her most recent tour) and she had a sequence that had her "dancing" with Michael Jackson as a tribute with Billie Jean playing. The crowd roared. But I have to admit, my initial reaction was ... ick. I was able to enjoy it, but it was a visceral feeling at first.

I think that issue (the line issue) is why the discussions can be so contentious. When someone says, "This is my line. Therefore, you have to have the same line," that's going to raise hackles. On the other hand, when someone says, "How dare you criticize this person who made something I like! I just want to like something without ever thinking about bad stuff!!!!" .... well, that's not a great attitude either.

Oh, that Austrian artist? That's not a line. When I say it's different for everyone, well, if you don't have that line, I don't want to know you.
 

I think everyone's on a sliding scale of what they'll tolerate.

Can you still enjoy the Usual Suspects, despite the presence of Kevin Spacey? How about House of Cards, where he's the star?

Do you still watch Woody Allen movies, even the ones -- like Manhattan -- that are explicitly about him creeping on young women?

At the far end of the spectrum, I don't think many people would be able to say "sure, he's separating the art from the artist" about a failed Austrian painter who went into politics after his art career was a flop.

Everyone has a line. It's just a matter of deciding where that is.
For one, never watched Usual Suspects nor House of Cards, never appealed to me really, so I guess I can't really say either way. In fact, I don't think I have actually watched anything with him in it. So yes, in that case I can separate the actor from the movies, because if I were to watch it, not really knowing him through his movies, it wouldn't really impact me. I read far more as a child and teen (even now really) than I did watch movies. That and I was outside a lot but that's a whole different topic.

As for Woody Allen, yeah I can watch them. I know he's a weird and sketchy person (I'm trying to avoid the profanity filter as I had other choice words for his behavior), but that's him and not the art. Sure, it puts a whole new perspective on the move Manhatten, but not enough to make me drop it completely. In honesty, I think I watched that movie twice in my whole life, and one of the times was for a school thing...I can't remember what for, but I remember sitting in class watching it and pausing it here and there to talk about stuff with the teacher. You can enjoy things without the person that made them, you can enjoy pieces of art, books, items, music, all without having any affiliation with the artist. I don't worship these people, nor do I give a single flying pig about what nonsense they have decided to ruin their career with. They want to do their nonsense, let them; not my bigtop, not my circus. None of that takes away from the piece itself for me.

As for Austrian Artist Turned Poitician, you're right, a lot of people won't separate the "art from the artist" as it were, I certainly won't (personal family stuff). Though, you will have people point to numbers and stats during his political run and before he "put his art on display" as it were, that the numbers show that he was doing good for his country. Even if that were the case, and lets assume they are right; that's a small fraction of good he did against a whole torrent of bad. Though, couldn't this be part of the topic of accepting all sides from things from the past? How do I put this...If we are willing to accept that people did a few garbage things while on the whole being a overall okay person, and that we to reflect on that and try not to repeat it; should we not then accept that an overall garbage scum person did a few good things, even by accident, and that we reflect on that and try to figure out how to do those good things without the garbage parts? For the record, I'm in no way trying to make this Austrian Artist Turn Politician into anything sympathetic or whatever, I'll be the first to fight anyone trying to make it a legit thing. I'm merely using it as an example to try and get my point across here. I don't know if it's coming across properly...I'm sorry if it's not. Overall what I'm trying to say is, we need to acknowledge all sides of a person's history, as well as history as a whole, learn from it, and hope to never repeat the bad, and build on the good.

You're right those, everyone's limits are their own and if someone chooses to not buy something, participate in something, or use something because of a person associated with it and their flaws, that's perfectly alright for them, there ar epeopel that are goign to do it in celebration of those flaws which...well it's weird, but that's there perogative I guess, and there are those that are in between that will make their own choices. Everyone needs to respect those choices and let people be.
 

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