DDAL Racism and DDAL4-1 [Spoilers]

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Mirtek

Hero
perhaps this game is not for you?

Dungeons & Dragons (abbreviated as D&D[2] or DnD) is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game (RPG) originally designed ...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dungeons_&_Dragons
So a an adventure featuring blackface would be OK?

For all the sensivity that american companies show to the racial issues perceived in the US they overlook how badly Roma are discriminated in Europe today still.

While from an american view European comanies may be guilty if many racial fauxpax, no European company would date to create a group like the vustani or gur in this day and age

Just last year there's was a public discussion in germany whether the dish "Zigeuner Soße" should be renamed for being a racist slur.

In the last there was a sweet called "Negerkuss" which long since has been renamed to "Schokokuss" for this reason.

The whole Roma issue just seems to be below the US radar, but they are a very current issue in Europe.
 
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delericho

Legend
Rather than worry about PMs and all that, I've opened this up for comments:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1_QuFrRa3aEBmWD363zufVQTQjMrI_wuJp9QH3JVN6-w/edit?usp=sharing

I'll email it as well. But if this issue is important to you, or if you don't actually think it's a big deal, your comments are appreciated.

That's pretty good. I'd remove your "intentional jab" though - I don't think it really adds anything, and it also relies on the context of the other article. I'd stick with "for bros killing monsters", or something like that.
 

Mirtek

Hero
America's a weird place. We have a professional football team whose name is an ethnic slur.
The issue is that the Roma in Eastern Europe (not that Western European countries are much better whenever Roma try to escape the oppression by migrating West) are still where the oppressed minorities in the US were prior to the civil right movement.

They still have their camps raided, are not admited into stores and restaurants, and even spit on on the streets, etc.

While not all is well in the USA today, at least there's are no longer separate Water dispensers only for white people.
 

delericho

Legend
While from an american view European comanies may be guilty if many racial fauxpax, no European company would date to create a group like the vustani or gur in this day and age

To be honest, I doubt WotC would create such a group today either - the Vistani and the Gur were created back in the 80's.

Indeed, if this was 'just' about the Gur in the FR, I suspect they wouldn't have featured in a storyline and would have been quietly retconned out of the setting. (And by the same token, I'll be surprised if they ever revisit Matzica or The Horde again.)

But the current storyline is mostly in Ravenloft where the Vistani are a much more integral part of the setting and therefore harder* to remove. And it appears that they've chosen to connect the Gur from FR with the Vistani from RL, which doesn't seem unreasonable. Hence their reappearance in this adventure.

* That said, it being hard isn't sufficient justification not to do the right thing - if it were decided that the Vistani had to go, then they should take the step and deal with the fallout. (NB: the key word in the previous sentence is 'if'.) Even saying "we'll deal with it when the time is right" wouldn't be enough, since too often that somehow results in the time never quite being right.

Perhaps should do is get an official update of the Vistani (and the Gur) up onto the DM's Guild site ASAP, significantly revising these cultures and, in particular, firmly breaking the link to the real-world groups that were their original inspiration. I'm not sure that's an absolute fix, but it would be a strong step in the right direction, I think.
 

Curse of Strahd is a setting based on the tropes of old Victorian and pulp horror, not a hate speech tract against a specific group. While I support the OP's right to their own interpretations I do not share that opinion and know enough to separate entertaining literary stereotypes from reality, as I do when reading the works of Mark Twain, R.E. Howard or Edgar Rice Burroughs.

ETA - I've read the AL response and appreciate the measured and mature approach taken there. I would not deride a player for their views at my table, and would appreciate that we could have a good conversation on that opinion and the how it relates to the game being played.
 
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RCanine

First Post
That's pretty good. I'd remove your "intentional jab" though - I don't think it really adds anything, and it also relies on the context of the other article. I'd stick with "for bros killing monsters", or something like that.

I was originally much harsher and toned it down a bit. Here's the thing: in an essay ostensibly about being culturally sensitive, using a literary device where you present women in a way that is interchangeable with words like "loot" or "property" and have it still make sense does more than undermine your point. It alienates exactly the audience that you're hoping to reach.
 

delericho

Legend
I was originally much harsher and toned it down a bit. Here's the thing: in an essay ostensibly about being culturally sensitive, using a literary device where you present women in a way that is interchangeable with words like "loot" or "property" and have it still make sense does more than undermine your point. It alienates exactly the audience that you're hoping to reach.

I don't disagree. But if you want to make that point in your rebuttal you should make that point in your rebuttal. Don't go for an "intentional jab" - there's a real chance you'll be misinterpreted; there's also a chance you'll come across as passive-aggressive and weaken your other (good) points.
 

TwinPeaksGuy

Explorer
I keep circling back to remembering the recurring kerfuffle over teaching Twain's "Huck Finn" in schools, on the grounds that a certain unpleasant word is used. The complainers invariably missed the point that Jim was shown to be head and shoulders a better human being than the bigoted whites Huck encounters. Depicting prejudice is not the same as endorsing and promoting prejudice; depicting prejudice can be a powerful tool in combating it.

Can't wait to play this adventure, and reading the text if I can arrange it. I'd been lukewarm on the setting and considering skipping the season, but now I'm interested. Interested in about the same way I'm curious to read both Das Kapital and Mein Kampf on the grounds that there are people who don't want others reading such "dangerous" books.
 

RCanine

First Post
I keep circling back to remembering the recurring kerfuffle over teaching Twain's "Huck Finn" in schools, on the grounds that a certain unpleasant word is used. The complainers invariably missed the point that Jim was shown to be head and shoulders a better human being than the bigoted whites Huck encounters. Depicting prejudice is not the same as endorsing and promoting prejudice; depicting prejudice can be a powerful tool in combating it.

You're 100% right. The problem isn't that the adventure depicts prejudice it's that it appears to validate prejudice through it's organization and presentation as a small part of a larger story.

The AL dudes have actually been pretty awesome about inclusivity, they just made an easy-to-make mistake. The problem now is that they've compounded it with a knee-jerk response that could be the poster child for how not to respond when someone tells you that you've hurt them.
 

TwinPeaksGuy

Explorer
The problem now is that they've compounded it with a knee-jerk response that could be the poster child for how not to respond when someone tells you that you've hurt them.

I'll form my own opinion on the content itself once I've read it or played it, thank you. The response seems perfectly reasonable to me.
 

TwinPeaksGuy

Explorer
I've now read the module. I don't see a great deal to object to. The slur "gypsy" is never used. That settled townsfolk are often distrustful of nomads (and often for good reason, nomads are often in desperate situations) is a simple fact of sociology probably predating written history, and is of itself unremarkable. Any insistence that "they are Gypsies" is sheer laziness, identical things can be and are said about Irish Travellers (think Brad Pitt in "Snatch"), Hobos in Dustbowl-era America, and other nomad subcultures and ethnicities. Stereotypes are at work, but none of them are genuinely exclusive to a specific ethnic minority, and rather than being reinforced those stereotypes are actively called into question and found wanting. We are indeed in a situation quite similar to that of Huck Finn: bias is portrayed in service of questioning and undermining it.

I can agree with offense being taken when it is meant, but this seems to be a case of taking offense where it doesn't exist, inventing it out of whole cloth for the sheer joy of expressing outrage. There is tension between townsfolk and nomads: the plot unwinds in pursuit of resolving the tension. Both townsfolk and nomads are so generic they can't convincingly be linked to anything IRL.

I find it extremely telling that those townsfolk clinging to their prejudices and closing their minds are proven wrong, as Aya Glenmiir predicted. The thieves aren't evil, they did bad things for good reasons- motive is always a factor, and can even distinguish one crime from a similar crime. "The ends justify the means" is not a foolproof moral code, but it's so often invoked it's hard not to see it being very seductive for terrified nomads, lacking in security even in relatively good circumstances.


I have the following objections:

On page 6 the Gur are incorrectly referred to as a race. They are an ethnicity.

The bulleted list near the end of page 6 lacks a bullet discussing Sybil. Information about this character is crucial and should get an earlier drop than it does presently. It's in the player handout, its omission here is an editing flaw. There should be parallelism between the list and the handout. It is also muddled in the text and should be added to page 6 and the handout that the thieves are respectively Sybil's son, husband, father, and grandfather, which should be a huge red flag that whatever's going on Sybil is at the center of it.

These are editing issues, but relatively minor compared to some other modules.
 

warfteiner

First Post
The adventure is in the process of being re-edited. To be frank, there are some artifacts in there of previous versions - so I'm not sure if version control went sideways on us or what, but some of those gaffes are fairly embarrassing and will be going away.

I can confirm that we are indeed changing the term from "race of humans" to "ethnicity of the human race".

As for the other points: I've spoken with Travis Woodall and he's been taking a lot of extra time to ensure that the update serves to meet the needs of the community at-large.

Thanks, all!
 

delericho

Legend
I've now read the module. I don't see a great deal to object to. The slur "gypsy" is never used.

...

Any insistence that "they are Gypsies" is sheer laziness...

Although they're not referred to as such in the module, they are explicitly connected in the established lore (again, "Heroes Lorebook", p.60). And the Vistani are even more explicitly connected - the "Realm of Terror" book in the Ravenloft boxed set has an entire chapter about them, titled "Gypsies".

You can argue that the connection is due to those works being products of their times (they are, after all, more than 20 years old), and you can certainly argue that they've since moved beyond those roots (though I'd then ask: where?). But those connections are there. Claiming that making the connection is "sheer laziness" just doesn't wash.
 

TwinPeaksGuy

Explorer
Although they're not referred to as such in the module, they are explicitly connected in the established lore (again, "Heroes Lorebook", p.60). And the Vistani are even more explicitly connected - the "Realm of Terror" book in the Ravenloft boxed set has an entire chapter about them, titled "Gypsies".

You can argue that the connection is due to those works being products of their times (they are, after all, more than 20 years old), and you can certainly argue that they've since moved beyond those roots (though I'd then ask: where?). But those connections are there. Claiming that making the connection is "sheer laziness" just doesn't wash.

Haven't read those, wasn't aware of them. If the objection is to those parts of the lore, perhaps then the complaint should be against re-releasing either without a bit more attention in the editing department. Such blatant ethnic stereotyping is, in addition to being offensive to the targets, simply poor storytelling and insulting to the intelligence of many readers. The adventure itself is a decent statement opposing discrimination and stereotyping.

Not being aware of them, the temptation to jump straight to stereotypes and clichés straight out of Bram Stoker seemed almost understandable (if a DM was in a hurry and going for the lowest common denominator stereotype everyone at the table might have heard of), if intellectually lazy. Thus my comment.

As presented in the adventure under discussion, the Gur get a pretty fair shake. They're neither angels or devils, and the prejudiced townsfolk of the crossing emerge in a worse light than when they started.
 

delericho

Legend
Haven't read those, wasn't aware of them. If the objection is to those parts of the lore, perhaps then the complaint should be against re-releasing either without a bit more attention in the editing department.

I'll be quite interested to see what (if anything) Curse of Strahd has to say about the Vistani. I fear the answer may be "not much".

As I've said elsewhere on this thread, though, one thing I'd quite like to see is an official update of some sort on the DM's Guild which could then update the lore and, ideally, explicitly break that connection. That would mean retconning at least some of the pre-existing lore, but it could actually make the Vistani fit better into Ravenloft if done well.

As presented in the adventure under discussion, the Gur get a pretty fair shake. They're neither angels or devils, and the prejudiced townsfolk of the crossing emerge in a worse light than when they started.

Yeah. My major issue was the use of the word 'race' instead of 'ethnicity', which has been acknowledged as an error and will be corrected (and kudos to them). And, as noted, I'm somewhat uneasy about the use of those cultures in general, for the reasons discussed at some length.

But as far as the individuals in the adventure, I think that's fair - I'm not calling for a whitewash, since that doesn't help anyone either. :) The one thing I would have preferred would be for the PCs to be introduced to the majority Gur culture first, and then introduced to the stereotypes. That's probably a stronger sign that "something's amiss here" than the word of one NPC, even a recurring one. But that's not a big deal.
 

Ganymede81

First Post
I think at least some of the problematic nature of the description of the Gur comes from the fact that, while Gypsy often has a pejorative connotation in Continental Europe and is often considered an ethnic slur there, that same pejorative history does not exist in the United States, where Gypsy is considered largely an innocuous synonym for Romani.

The thousand miles of the Atlantic goes far in softening a term for American audiences.
 

TwinPeaksGuy

Explorer
I've had a quick look around, and noticed something interesting: Both the "Realm of Terror" and "Heroes' Lorebook" supplements mentioned as inflammatory were not even published by WoTC. They were published when the rights were owned by TSR. Some other Ravenloft stuff was apparently published by White Wolf under license up until 2005, no idea whether it's overtly or subtly offensive.

To put this another way: I'm good with calling someone out for poor behavior of their own, but not for the poor behavior of others. WoTC is not TSR. Wizards has very little to apologize for so far, other than under-resourcing editing on AL adventures.
 


The problemati race term usage will be changed.
The thing that some people live up to the stereotypical view of them is no problem. It's only really problematic when everyone of them is.
 

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