Oriental Adventures, was it really that racist?

Status
Not open for further replies.

ryu289

Villager
From here:
Wizards of the Coast continue to bend the knee to the people shitting on them! In this case, Daniel Kwan, the guy who threw such a naughty word fit over the AD&D 1E Oriental Adventures book being sold online that it resulted in WotC adding disclaimers to all of their old PDF products and Kwan earning an award, was apparently approached by WotC to talk about Asian representation in D&D. When he said he'd only do it if he was allowed to rehash the "harm" these old, out-of-print books and campaign settings caused, WotC actually said yes!

What the actual naughty word?! Why are they intent on feeding the hand that bites them?! I know they got their ass kicked quite a bit recently for this, Orion Black, several "racist" Magic cards, and who knows what else, but to think that the only lesson they've taken away from this is to say "thank you, sir, may I have another?" is mind-boggling to witness.

Well here is the thing, did Kwan have a point? Sure people might say "let us have fun" but I suspect that to Asian and Muslim characters, seeing their culture reduced to a theme-park version would be turned off for understandable reasons.

Off course:
SO LEAVE THEM ALONE AND DO SOMETHING FOR YOU.
They are no more "stereotypical" than the depictions of the western middle ages in other books.
This was the first thing fans pointed out and the response was basically "lol wypipo's feelings don't matter."
What's even the excuse? They can't claim colonialism or slavery. Historically, their empires, the ones this sourcebook is based on, were more powerful than ours a lot of the time. The Mongols conquered more of Europe than the English did of China, and now China's a world power. Japan only got naughty word with AFTER they declared war on half the world and lost.
There isn't one? Most people here are sane, rational, reasonably intelligent folks, so legitimate questions like this surely come up pointing out the fallacies in their arguments. What I've taken to reminding myself is these are not rational agents we're dealing with. These are people who are operating constantly in insanely high levels of cognitive dissonance and see nothing wrong with it. To paraphrase Kyle Reese: "they can't be reasoned with. They can't be bargained with.."
Well here's the thing, they are playing with the idea that all Asian cultures are interchangeable. Korean, Chinese, and Japanese cultures are all mixed together and considering their history with each other, is something they wouldn't like. Now saying "western middle ages" is disingenuous since much of Fantasy is based on J.R.R Tolkien and his fictional version of BRITAIN in general. It's not based on a stereotype of Europe as a whole, Middle Ages or otherwise, and either way, this is simply going into tu quoque territory. And really, you are losing quite a bit of nuance and storytelling ideas by doing this.

But what are your thoughs...was it that bad back in ye olden times?
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Mod Note:

This topic has been discussed several times recently, in various threads. Most of those threads wind up getting closed, and people threadbanned, given official warnings, and all that nonsense.

Thus, there's a major question of whether dragging up a bunch of stuff from reddit, to relitigate the issue here, is particularly valuable. If you are going to post in this thread, please make it valuable, or just walk away. The thread is warned from its very inception to be on best behavior, so there is no excuse for breaking the rules, or otherwise acting like a jerk. Got it, folks?
 

ryu289

Villager
Mod Note:

This topic has been discussed several times recently, in various threads. Most of those threads wind up getting closed, and people threadbanned, given official warnings, and all that nonsense.

Thus, there's a major question of whether dragging up a bunch of stuff from reddit, to relitigate the issue here, is particularly valuable. If you are going to post in this thread, please make it valuable, or just walk away. The thread is warned from its very inception to be on best behavior, so there is no excuse for breaking the rules, or otherwise acting like a jerk. Got it, folks?
I understand. I wasn't aware of any previous discussions on the topic. I am asking in good faith.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I understand. I wasn't aware of any previous discussions on the topic. I am asking in good faith.
Mod Note:
For crying out loud. I just mentioned there's no reason to break the rules. I even gave a link to those rules.

And the first thing you do? Respond to a moderation post, which is a thing the rules tell you you're not supposed to do!

How about you go read the rules before continuing. If you have questions, please ask them in a private message, not in the thread.

Also, in the future, you can try searching on a topic to see what kind of discussion there's been on it lately.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
Now saying "western middle ages" is disingenuous since much of Fantasy is based on J.R.R Tolkien and his fictional version of BRITAIN in general.
This isn't really accurate. Tolkien pulled from pretty much all European cultures. For example, Gandalf is clearly pulled from the Finnish hero Väinämöinen, and the whole premise of his story comes right out of Nordic folklore. And outside of Tolkien, medieval fantasy, at least how it's been depicted in media and games like D&D, is a conglomeration of many European cultures, from French, to German, to Welsh, etc. Just look at Appendix N.

But all that said, doesn't mean it makes it right when doing it to east Asian cultures. As an interesting anecdote, western cultures tend to mix and match many east Asian cultures like we did with OA, but after I lived in Korea for a few years, not only was the individual cultures clearly unique, but I could easily tell difference between Japanese, Korean, Chinese, or other nationalities when I saw them in the street. I'm not trying to be racist by mentioning that, only pointing out how when one is immersed in a region with neighboring cultures, you actually start to see those differences and notice them, when you don't normally do that when you're on the other side of the globe. And thus was the cause of one of the problems with OA, as Daniel Kwan had brought up.
 


TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
I am just curious if there will be any actual references to the Oriental Adventures book. Like the actual text. Before this thread is closed.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Was Oriental Adventures really that racist?

Yes.

Kwan, and many others, are right. The person you quoted . . . . I can't say much about, their toxicity is hitting all of my anger buttons.

When predominately white gamers say things like, "It's just fantasy" or try to pass things off as "not that bad" . . . . I'm more inclined to listen to folks of Asian descent. I don't listen to folks who are just salty that times have changed and they can't just blindly appropriate other cultures without repercussions anymore.

OA was not deliberately racist, Gary Gygax (the author) had a love and respect for Asian cultures and wanted to celebrate them in D&D. But he was ignorant of the larger issues of systemic racism and "orientalism" and ended up coding all of that pretty heavily in the book. The discussions society has today about race and systemic racism just weren't that prominent back in the 70s, 80s, and even 90s. I'm not mad at Gygax, but I won't be playing in any games that use OA as is, and I expect better of modern designers.

If you listen to Kwan's podcast, Asians Represent, the discussions sometimes get a bit random, but they do a good job discussing the systemic racism against those of Asian descent in a lot of geek culture. It's usually Kwan, and three to four others of Asian descent, all geeks, some gamers, most are academics. They don't represent all Asians, nor do they try to, but they simply have discussions about things that many of us who are not Asian would never think about. It's eye-opening. To dismiss their concerns is . . . . to be blind to your privilege, IMO.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Was Oriental Adventures really that racist?

Yes.

Kwan, and many others, are right. The person you quoted . . . . I can't say much about, their toxicity is hitting all of my anger buttons.

When predominately white gamers say things like, "It's just fantasy" or try to pass things off as "not that bad" . . . . I'm more inclined to listen to folks of Asian descent. I don't listen to folks who are just salty that times have changed and they can't just blindly appropriate other cultures without repercussions anymore.

OA was not deliberately racist, Gary Gygax (the author) had a love and respect for Asian cultures and wanted to celebrate them in D&D. But he was ignorant of the larger issues of systemic racism and "orientalism" and ended up coding all of that pretty heavily in the book. The discussions society has today about race and systemic racism just weren't that prominent back in the 70s, 80s, and even 90s. I'm not mad at Gygax, but I won't be playing in any games that use OA as is, and I expect better of modern designers.

If you listen to Kwan's podcast, Asians Represent, the discussions sometimes get a bit random, but they do a good job discussing the systemic racism against those of Asian descent in a lot of geek culture. It's usually Kwan, and three to four others of Asian descent, all geeks, some gamers, most are academics. They don't represent all Asians, nor do they try to, but they simply have discussions about things that many of us who are not Asian would never think about. It's eye-opening. To dismiss their concerns is . . . . to be blind to your privilege, IMO.
Actually, OA was written by Zeb Cook, though Gygax was credited as the author and Cook as the editor. Apparently Cook found Gyhaxes draft embarrassingly stereotypical, so set out to rewrite from the ground up in a more culturally sensitive manner: he really hit the books, and used every book on Asia available st the Lake Geneva public library.

Which is kind of gobsmacking: what must the original draft have been like?
 

Irlo

Adventurer
I loved AD&D 1e OA when it was released. Within a few years I became more worldly and started to smell the ick-factor. Even so, I bought the 3E update hoping for something better, and, I don't know, maybe it was better? Probably not. Kwan's analysis was too long for me to sit through in its entirety, but he and his group were right about a lot of things. Yes, it's a racist work.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Actually, OA was written by Zeb Cook, though Gygax was credited as the author and Cook as the editor. Apparently Cook found Gyhaxes draft embarrassingly stereotypical, so set out to rewrite from the ground up in a more culturally sensitive manner: he really hit the books, and used every book on Asia available st the Lake Geneva public library.

Which is kind of gobsmacking: what must the original draft have been like?
Thanks, I seemed to remember someone else being the primary on OA, but when I looked it up just now, Gygax is given top billing of course.

Okay, so, I'm not mad at Zeb Cook! :) He's good people, and I have faith he did his best with the resources available at the time. I'm curious if anyone's ever asked him, decades later, his thoughts on the book . . . .
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
From the DMsGuils history (which predates any current controversy getting. Ig):

"David "Zeb" Cook was consulting on the project because of his interest in Japanese history and culture. As a result, when Marcela-Froideval turned in a manuscript for the book that was just 30-60 double-spaced pages, it landed in Cook's lap. Gygax then wrote Cook a contract to prepare the book on his own, with just 4-5 months to go on the deadline."

"Everyone agrees that the resulting manuscript is 100% Cook's own, perhaps inspired by some of the ideas suggested by Gygax and in Marcela-Froideval's notes. However in much later years Gygax would claim that Cook "ramrodded" his book through TSR, with the intent to "sink Francois' material", and that he did so by taking advantage of the fact that Gygax was "engrossed in the business affairs of TSR"."

"Both Cook and the book's main editor, Mike Breault, disagree with this interpretation of events. Cook points toward his contract and says that Gygax was fully informed on how the book was being prepared."

"Whatever the specifics, the book’s accepted origins are: Gygax came up with the idea; Marcela-Froideval wrote a manuscript that wasn’t published; and then Cook wrote a manuscript that was."
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Thanks, I seemed to remember someone else being the primary on OA, but when I looked it up just now, Gygax is given top billing of course.

Okay, so, I'm not mad at Zeb Cook! :) He's good people, and I have faith he did his best with the resources available at the time. I'm curious if anyone's ever asked him, decades later, his thoughts on the book . . . .
Oh, man, I tell you, I would love to see Zeb Cook, James Wyatt, and the Asians Represent crew do a panel. James Wyatt, as the author of the 3E OA, has been very supportive on social media of the Asians Represent crew, and owned the criticism he got as valid.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
I loved AD&D 1e OA when it was released. Within a few years I became more worldly and started to smell the ick-factor. Even so, I bought the 3E update hoping for something better, and, I don't know, maybe it was better? Probably not. Kwan's analysis was too long for me to sit through in its entirety, but he and his group were right about a lot of things. Yes, it's a racist work.
Yeah, the Asians Represent episodes go on for hours, and the conversations tend to ramble a bit.

If I remember correctly, the consensus of the panel was that OA 3E was better than OA 1E . . . . but still suffered from many of the same issues. As does some of the Asian representation even in 5E.
 


Alzrius

The EN World kitten
seeing their culture reduced to a theme-park version
I can't help but notice that none other than Jon Peterson takes to the comments of that Analog Game Studies article to point out that it has serious flaws, saying "There are serious questions about the reductionism and appropriation inherent in simulating both the real and the imaginary, but we can’t engage them through a distorted historical lens. This is becoming tiresomely familiar as the method by which Analog Game Studies approaches D&D."
 

Mallus

Legend
Do I think OA was racist? No.

The name is an embarrassment. But that was true back in the 1980s when it was first released. Aside from that the book displays the depth and historical accuracy I expect from an AD&D supplement :).

Note: this isn’t a dismissal of other people’s criticisms. Nor is it an exercise of my privilege (complicated as that may be), since I had the privilege of being called an ‘oriental boy’ more than once growing up.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
I am just curious if there will be any actual references to the Oriental Adventures book. Like the actual text. Before this thread is closed.
So we have at least go the authorship of the book.

And of course, happy new year!
Huh?

I think you are trying to imply some of us are criticizing Oriental Adventures without having read it . . . virtue signaling, if you will. If that is your assertion, I'll not engage with you any further.

I'm a white guy who purchased Oriental Adventures (both versions) off the shelf when they were first published. I loved them, and didn't see any issues with them at the time. In fact, I assumed they were loving, respectful, accurate (if fantastical) interpretations of Asian cultures. It took listening to Asian voices discussing the orientalism of the books to open my eyes, relatively recently, but prior to my discovery of the Asians Represent podcast. I've gone back and read through my copies again (I've got it all on digital, my physical copies are long gone), and yeah, it's all there.

Zeb Cook was not a terrible racist for writing the original Oriental Adventures as it was, he just unwittingly passed on the systemic racism that is, well, systemic in Western culture. I was not a terrible racist for purchasing the book and using it in my games, nor were any of my fellow grognards who are all now pushing 50 (or more).

As Umbran has pointed out, we've had this discussion here multiple times before, no need to get into the weeds again. If you haven't yet, listen to some of the Asian voices who are critical of Oriental Adventures, the Asians Represent podcast is a good start if you are genuinely interested in an Asian perspective.

If anyone does have any sections of the book ready to quote, by all means, bring it into the conversation. But those of us not willing to take the time . . . again . . . does not make our issues with the title not legit.
 


I had OA back in the day, but I don't recall much about it, except that I thought the older Bushido game was better. Has L5R taken any flak?
 

Status
Not open for further replies.

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top