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

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.
Popculture perpetuates icons of wizards who are elders or children.

Relatively speaking, children and elders are more androgynous. Children havent fully developed sexually yet. Meanwhile, elderly males and females go thru hormonal changes that make them more androgynous, both behaviorly as well as physically similar to each other.

A dude in a longbeard signifies elderliness, and when accompanied by other symbols of femininity, becomes more overtly androgynous.

I am focusing on masculinity (an attractive virile jock) versus androgyny (whether youthfully pretty or agedly wizened). But consider the 3e icon Mialee, being a female who is likewise stereotypically androgynous for a wizard.

D&D tends to stereotype magic as a heterosexual union of masculine and feminine − an androgynous conflation. Compare Jung Mysterium Coniuntionis. The uncritical use of this trope can become a heterosexist sexism, that inadvertently stereotypes the androgynous gender.

I want to see goodlooking wizard jocks (and some of these gay masculine couples), and by extension, more gender diversity among wizards.



I also want to avoid tropes that exoticize an ethnic group, making them "magical" as a stereotype. (Compare how such a trope alienates and dehumanizes Roma, for example.) By extension, I want to see ethnic diversity as normal among magic tropes.

I want to see sexy white men who are wizards. Without attempts to distance or alienate this identity group. While within a context of normal human diversity among wizards.

Every kind of human is mysterious and magical.
 
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the Jester

Legend
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.

But this is a part of our culture that is sexist. Just like calling a man "womanly" as an insult is.

Language changes and evolves over time, and this is a perfect example of an instance in which we should embrace it going forward. By 3e, the language in many of the core D&D books had evolved; in class descriptions, they gendered the pronoun based on what gender the iconic pc (e.g. Mialee, Tordek, etc) was, so half were "he" and half were "she".
 

DMMike

Guide of Modos
Note: I do not want this thread to be an argument of what's really offensive and what's not., or if the writers back then were bad people. I want participation about what things you find/found troublesome in prior TSR era D&D that would turn you away from the game if presented it now, not from a rules/mechanics standpoint, but from a presentation perspective.

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.
The most offensive thing I remember from TSR D&D was that elves had level caps. I recognize that some people may not find this offensive.

"Chris, the non-binary-identifying rogue, stealthily approached the campfire which was surrounded by ten cis-white-men. They had a Wand of Fireball, and they were willing to use it. Once Chris got into range, they used the wand, but it backfired, and they died a fiery death."

See the problem here?
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
"Chris, the non-binary-identifying rogue, stealthily approached the campfire which was surrounded by ten cis-white-men. They had a Wand of Fireball, and they were willing to use it. Once Chris got into range, they used the wand, but it backfired, and they died a fiery death."

See the problem here?

That can be re-written to be clear, and to use "they" as an appropriate pronoun, in roughly the same way that any sentence that's unclear without the Oxford comma can be re-written to be clear without it. (And, to be clear, I have a mild preference for the Oxford comma.)
 

"Chris, the non-binary-identifying rogue, stealthily approached the campfire which was surrounded by ten cis-white-men. They had a Wand of Fireball, and they were willing to use it. Once Chris got into range, they used the wand, but it backfired, and they died a fiery death."

See the problem here?
Heh, yeah. The problem is "white" makes less sense.

I have never self-identified with the weird American term "white". Much of my background comes from two European ethnicities that I do identify with. But the word "white" that includes Italian and Polish and German, not at all in any way. "White" isnt me.

Moreover, the American ethnic group "white" makes decreasing sense, when "white" families and "black" families intermarry normally. Latino are already a continuum. Maybe during the historical slavery as it took place in America, the artificial separation of "white" Pan-Europe and "black" Pan-Africa might have made some sense.

But today "white" and "black" are increasingly meaningless.



In D&D, it is normal to describe complexion as part of a visual sketch. Compare the extraordinary fascination with the appearance of elven complexions in old school D&D. As part of a story where normal to describe physical appearance, mentioning skin color, hair color, and eye color can be interesting. Mentioning choice of clothing can be interesting. Clothing and ornament often signify gender, whether masculine, feminine, androgynous, or nonbinary.

To specify, between the colors white and black, "nonbinary" is like gray, a neutral blend that is ambiguous and subtly in between, while "androgynous" is more like a checker pattern, assembling pronounced aspects from both edges of the gender continuum.
 
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A lot of things people might take offense at today, would have NOT been accepted if done a different way in the 1980's or 1990's.

I remember a High School English teacher lecturing our class (circa 1995) on why "they" as a singular pronoun instead of "he" or "she" was inappropriate and they'd strongly mark down any paper that tried to use a gender-neutral "they". . .and that you MUST use "he" when describing someone if you don't know their gender and that "he or she" or "they" are outright wrong.

Using "he" as a generic singular third person pronoun was the linguistic norm until the 21st century, to the point that schoolteachers still actively taught it that way. A generic singular "they" would have stood out like a sore thumb. As I recall, a lot of works in the 1990's had a generic disclaimer that using the pronoun "he" was not intended to presume gender. . .because it was still generally accepted as the generic pronoun instead of "they".

As for the issue of the game focusing on white European cultures. . .that was the general presumption of not just D&D, but a lot of fantasy in general, that it is essentially based on Western or Central Europe but with monsters and magic (and polytheism). Think of foundational fantasy works like Lord of the Rings, that no doubt were on players minds when they played that had that presumption. A highly diverse fantasy setting that wasn't firmly rooted in assuming a pseudo-European setting would NOT have been what players were expecting. Players were certainly open to "foreign" settings, but "Magical Western Europe" was still very much the assumed default.

There have been small but notable changes to language and culture in the 42 years since AD&D 1e and 31 years since AD&D 2e was published, and D&D reflects the language and culture of those eras.
 

MGibster

Legend
Popculture perpetuates icons of wizards who are elders or children.

Based on icons that predate modern pop culture.

A dude in a longbeard signifies elderliness, and when accompanied by other symbols of femininity, becomes more overtly androgynous.

The long white beard represents masculinity and is about as far from androgynous as you can get.

I am focusing on masculinity (an attractive virile jock) versus androgyny (whether youthfully pretty or agedly wizened). But consider the 3e icon Mialee, being a female who is likewise stereotypically androgynous for a wizard.

I think describing anyone with a long flowing beard as androgynous is simply going to lead to confusion. But okay, no reason to belabor the point. I see where you're coming from even if I don't agree with your interpretation.
 



FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Heh, when artificial intelligence makes humans obsolete?

I expect human identity groups will suddenly find much in common with each other.

you’ve got much more faith in AI than I do.

Unless we hit a technological breakthrough soon computers won’t get that much more powerful than they are now.
 


Lylandra

Adventurer
"Chris, the non-binary-identifying rogue, stealthily approached the campfire which was surrounded by ten cis-white-men. They had a Wand of Fireball, and they were willing to use it. Once Chris got into range, they used the wand, but it backfired, and they died a fiery death."

See the problem here?
Let me edit this for you...

"Chris, the rogue, stealthily approached the campfire which was surrounded by ten lightly skinned men. The rogue had a Wand of Fireball, and they were willing to use it. Once Chris got into range, they used the wand, but it backfired, and the rogue died a fiery death."

first, this is certainly not how you'd introduce Chris' nonbinaryness, this would have to be made clear in a different context. So I'd use a gender-neutral pronoun and leave everything else up to the reader's mind (who would probably thing "huh? Why isn't Chris a 'he' or 'she' " anyway). Same with the men. You don't have to specify if they are cis or trans, for that context they are just men. And using too many pronouns isn't good style after all, so just switch to alternative descriptors like "rogue" or "Chris" or "insert previously used descriptive adjective".
 

you’ve got much more faith in AI than I do.

Unless we hit a technological breakthrough soon computers won’t get that much more powerful than they are now.
Language capability of AI seems on schedule.

I still expect Turing Test by roughly 2025.

Singularity, when AI designs future generations of AI, around 2040 or 2045, seems plausible.

Our generation will experience the end of the world as we know it. Yet the buildings that we live in will still look moreorless the same.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Language capability of AI seems on schedule.

I still expect Turing Test by roughly 2025.

Singularity, when AI designs future generations of AI, around 2040 or 2045, seems plausible.

Our generation will experience the end of the world as we know it. Yet the buildings that we live in will still look moreorless the same.

you have much higher hopes for ai than I do.
 


Let me edit this for you...

"Chris, the rogue, stealthily approached the campfire which was surrounded by ten lightly skinned men. The rogue had a Wand of Fireball, and they were willing to use it. Once Chris got into range, they used the wand, but it backfired, and the rogue died a fiery death."

first, this is certainly not how you'd introduce Chris' nonbinaryness, this would have to be made clear in a different context. So I'd use a gender-neutral pronoun and leave everything else up to the reader's mind (who would probably thing "huh? Why isn't Chris a 'he' or 'she' " anyway). Same with the men. You don't have to specify if they are cis or trans, for that context they are just men. And using too many pronouns isn't good style after all, so just switch to alternative descriptors like "rogue" or "Chris" or "insert previously used descriptive adjective".
Let me edit it further:

"Chris stealthily approached the campfire which was surrounded by ten lightly skinned men. The rogue had a Wand of Fireball, and they was willing to use it. Once Chris got into range, they used the wand, but it backfired, and the rogue died a fiery death."

If a verb conjugates differently based on number, then use the singular form for singular pronouns.
 

you have much higher hopes for ai than I do.
People didn't have high hopes for computers when they first were invented. Come to think of it, most revolutionary technologies had plenty of doubters.

Besides this being a bit off topic, I think a lot of the stuff we think is fine will be seen as offensive as the future, because that's how civilization works. We evolve.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
People didn't have high hopes for computers when they first were invented. Come to think of it, most revolutionary technologies had plenty of doubters.

Besides this being a bit off topic, I think a lot of the stuff we think is fine will be seen as offensive as the future, because that's how civilization works. We evolve.

Most epic failures when it comes to revolutionary technologies have plenty of doubters as well.
 

I’ve come to the conclusion that the word "problematic" is almost entirely useless if you actually want to address and solve issues. Everything is and isn’t problematic, and we can spend years in pointless debates. In my opinion, what really matters is what some people may find offensive, and that’s best dealt with by every gaming group, and what’s oppressive, and that should be dealt with by WotC.
 

Raduin711

Adventurer
Let me edit it further:

"Chris stealthily approached the campfire which was surrounded by ten lightly skinned men. The rogue had a Wand of Fireball, and they was willing to use it. Once Chris got into range, they used the wand, but it backfired, and the rogue died a fiery death."

If a verb conjugates differently based on number, then use the singular form for singular pronouns.

I would personally advocate for using the more natural-sounding conjugations. Nonbinary folks are already fighting an uphill battle getting people to use they instead of he or she, and getting people to use funny-sounding conjugations like "they is" and "they was" might be a bridge too far. The rules of language are based on usage... I suspect we will see "they are" being taught as the appropriate conjugation for a singular nonbinary person before we see "they is."
 

Halloween Horror For 5E

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