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General Problematic issues with TSR era D&D from a modern lens

There’s a blog that critiques AD&D monster manuals:

Personally, sphinxes stand out to me because some of them reproduce through rape. So I’m quite glad that 5e turned them into celestials summoned into existence by prayer or divine fiat.
 

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MGibster

Legend
Personally, sphinxes stand out to me because some of them reproduce through rape. So I’m quite glad that 5e turned them into celestials summoned into existence by prayer or divine fiat.
What edition of D&D had them reproduce via rape? Was it something implied or outright stated in the monster manual?
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
What edition of D&D had them reproduce via rape? Was it something implied or outright stated in the monster manual?
First edition AD&D, the non-human-headed sphinxes (blanking on the names) pursued unwilling gynosphinxes.
 

One thing I want to point out is that this was also frowned upon by the gaming community back then. To a lesser degree than today, certainly, but this was called out in Dragon magazine #39, back in 1980. I can't deny that the opprobrium is much greater now, but I think it's important to know that this was recognized as sexist even in 1980. The article is definitely worth taking a gander at.

  • chainmail bikinis with nipples, strength caps for women, and harlot tables are almost universally frowned upon by the current gaming culture.
 

jgsugden

Legend
One thing I want to point out is that this was also frowned upon by the gaming community back then. To a lesser degree than today, certainly, but this was called out in Dragon magazine #39, back in 1980. I can't deny that the opprobrium is much greater now, but I think it's important to know that this was recognized as sexist even in 1980. The article is definitely worth taking a gander at.
"Laura Roslof said that the men she has been involved in gaming with seem to expect females to wait obediently by the door while they (the males) sort through the treasure. She said that wouldn’t be so bad by itself, but then the men usually refuse to provide females with a fair share of the loot."

So they had a ways to go, still...
 

I want participation about what things you find/found troublesome in prior TSR era D&D that would turn you away from the game.



Regarding imagery, there is a form of sexism when ...

Nonmagical archetypes like fighter tend to be depicted as shorthair cleanshaven jocks in masculine clothing, while magical archetypes like wizard tend to be depicted as longhair longbeard in somewhat feminine robes.

The stereotype feels problematic. I tend to identify more with the magical archetypes, and also identify more with the masculine archetypes. So I notice the stereotype of the nonmasculine magic more than other gamers might.

It is similar to sexism that makes every fighter a man and every wizard a woman. But here, I suspect, the stereotype is more about the masculine gender versus the androgynous gender.

Of course, there is room for androgynous wizards, with reallife tropes too. But also there is room for masculine wizards, as well as other wizards of feminine or nonbinary genders.

Conversely, there is room for androgynous fighters, as well as other genders as well.

Diverse representation and images help.

I want to see more images of goodlooking cleancut wizard jocks.
 

The only thing that bothered me back then was the strength restriction on female characters. I almost dropped it immediately. It took a group of women at my table to see the folly of this. It was my second year as a DM and I was 13 years old at that time. When I said that to my DM (he was 17) his girl friend punched him on the shoulder and said: "If a 13 year old can see that, so should you!". He did the same in his games.
 

First edition AD&D, the non-human-headed sphinxes (blanking on the names) pursued unwilling gynosphinxes.
There’s plenty of other monsters whose shtick involves non-consensual or dubiously consensual sexual situations. Particularly when a monster is stated to be exclusively of a single sex.

I know some of this goes back to folklore from around the world trying to impart a moral message to never sleep with strangers (e.g. succubus, lamia, deer woman, kishi, jorogumo, alligator husband, etc). I think the subject should be treated respectfully whenever it comes up, because it is very easy to do badly.
 

D&D was full of stereotypes, and while I think someone who is white can write a game about Asian, African, or other cultures can be done, it should be done with consultation from members of whatever culture you're writing about.
I'm going to clarify it should be done with consultation from an expert of the culture, not necessarily a member of the culture. There are people who are experts in understanding a specific, usually because they're devoted to it. I myself have a love of ancient/medieval Japanese culture, but I'm in no way an expert. I have a friend however, that despite being an African American is so devoted to it that he studied it in college, then moved their to teach English. When I think of him, it's hard for me to think of him as anything but Japanese, despite the fact that he's gaijin.

Gender pronouns. Most of the text, when talking about an individual, referenced "he". I think this should move to "they". Years ago in my own writing I thought I was inclusive by alternating between he and she, only to realize later I was excluding an entire group of people.
I'm going to disagree with this one, but simply because of the fundamentals of the language. In English the male gender (in the original literary sense) is considered proper use when referring to a mixed group. For example, "man" and "mankind" refers to all people, regardless of sex or gender. The problem is that the term gender has changed from being just a literary term to being somewhat synonymous with sex, creating a level of confusion between the two uses.
 

lavamancer

Villager
My only issue from a thematic stand point was the close reliance of the design of 3.5 pact magic on goetia. It didn’t bother me per se, but anyone knowledgeable who wanted to raise a fuss could have done so and maybe given WotC a, perhaps deserved, black eye.
 
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I'm going to disagree with this one, but simply because of the fundamentals of the language. In English the male gender (in the original literary sense) is considered proper use when referring to a mixed group. For example, "man" and "mankind" refers to all people, regardless of sex or gender. The problem is that the term gender has changed from being just a literary term to being somewhat synonymous with sex, creating a level of confusion between the two uses.
I wouldn't say "is" at all anymore. I don't believe APA or MLA or Chicago support this grammar anymore. I think they all support "they" as the neutral pronoun today.

It certainly was true in through the mid 90s when it started to get real pushback, but 1e and 2e authors could rightly claim it as the preferred and accepted style of the day. However, "he or she" was also very common in the 80s and 90s, in spite of how awkward it becomes after repeated use.
 

I'm going to disagree with this one, but simply because of the fundamentals of the language. In English the male gender (in the original literary sense) is considered proper use when referring to a mixed group. For example, "man" and "mankind" refers to all people, regardless of sex or gender. The problem is that the term gender has changed from being just a literary term to being somewhat synonymous with sex, creating a level of confusion between the two uses.
Human, humanity, humankind.

For gender indefinite, I tend to use "one, the one, oneself", or switch to plural, "they, themself".
 

First edition AD&D, the non-human-headed sphinxes (blanking on the names) pursued unwilling gynosphinxes.
Per the AD&D 1st Edition Monster Manual, the ram-headed sphinxes are criosphinxes and the hawk-headed ones are hieracosphinxes. Both forms are male only, as the only type of female sphinx is the gynosphinx. A gynosphinx is only interested in mating with an androsphinx, but she gives birth to either a gynosphinx (if the offspring is female, despite the father's type) or the same type as the father (if the offspring is male). So by definition, all criosphinxes and hieracosphinxes are the products of rape (or at least were back in AD&D 1E).

Johnathan
 

Lord Twig

Explorer
The only thing that bothered me back then was the strength restriction on female characters. I almost dropped it immediately. It took a group of women at my table to see the folly of this. It was my second year as a DM and I was 13 years old at that time. When I said that to my DM (he was 17) his girl friend punched him on the shoulder and said: "If a 13 year old can see that, so should you!". He did the same in his games.
While that is an interesting anecdote, it does not match my own experience. I played in the early 80s with a few female players and not one of them questioned the limit on female strength. The fact is men are, on average, stronger than women and it is also a fact that no woman is as strong as the strongest men. That's just true.

There were probably a couple of other reasons that no one I played with worried about the strength limits. First, we were pretty strict on the rolling of stats. The odds of getting anything over 18/75 strength is pretty small anyway. Then on top of all that, once you got gauntlets of ogre power or a belt of giant strength it didn't matter what you rolled for strength at all. So why even worry about it?

Now I'm not saying we should bring back limits on strength or anything like that. It is a fantasy game, and in a fantasy world women can be just as strong as men physically, it's just not true in the real world.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
I always found the strength limitation to be singling out a single statistic real-life difference. No one thought about other obvious biological differences, like, changing your save vs. poison based on your body mass, or making several dex-based skills be penalized with increasing height, or letting smaller characters consume less rations per week. Let alone the unrealistic weapon mechanics. It is as if some guys are unknowlingly wired to try make their own RL group the best in game as well.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
While that is an interesting anecdote, it does not match my own experience. I played in the early 80s with a few female players and not one of them questioned the limit on female strength. The fact is men are, on average, stronger than women and it is also a fact that no woman is as strong as the strongest men. That's just true.

There were probably a couple of other reasons that no one I played with worried about the strength limits. First, we were pretty strict on the rolling of stats. The odds of getting anything over 18/75 strength is pretty small anyway. Then on top of all that, once you got gauntlets of ogre power or a belt of giant strength it didn't matter what you rolled for strength at all. So why even worry about it?

Now I'm not saying we should bring back limits on strength or anything like that. It is a fantasy game, and in a fantasy world women can be just as strong as men physically, it's just not true in the real world.
1E was the only one to do it. Even from a simulationist pov however the strongest women in 1980 had 18/00 strength.

Such a women would be unusual/rare but they do exist.
 



MGibster

Legend
Nonmagical archetypes like fighter tend to be depicted as shorthair cleanshaven jocks in masculine clothing, while magical archetypes like wizard tend to be depicted as longhair longbeard in somewhat feminine robes.

The stereotype feels problematic. I tend to identify more with the magical archetypes, and also identify more with the masculine archetypes. So I notice the stereotype of the nonmasculine magic more than other gamers might.
I don't think anyone looks at Elminister and thinks he looks feminine. A wizard's garb is based on the type of clothing worn by the wealthy or the scholarly in days gone by. We still wear such clothing at high school and college graduations and court rooms (in some countries). And of course the beard represents not just masculinity but also knowledge and power. So when you see a dude in a robe with a long flowing white beard you know he's wise and knowledgeable.

I want to see more images of goodlooking cleancut wizard jocks.
In my last D&D campaign I described an NPC wizard as Terry Crews in a robe.
 


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