DDAL Racism and DDAL4-1 [Spoilers]

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RCanine

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.

Is considered by whom? By Romani? It seems hardly relevant if non-Roma Americans consider that word an ethnic slur.
 

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delericho

Legend
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.

That's true. But WotC own the rights, are making use of the pre-existing lore (and deliberately so - Ravenloft is some of their biggest IP, and the Vistani are a key part of Ravenloft), and haven't taken steps to disassociate themselves from that lore.

But, yes, it's important not to blow this out of proportion: I'm not calling for heads to roll, calling for a boycott, or anything like that, and I have made sure to thank them for their responses to correct the problems. Speaking for myself (and only myself), I'm highlighting some material that I think is problematic, and that's all.

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.

Indeed. But that's slightly complicated if the book notes that the stereotype is just that but then only actually introduces you to a very small number of individuals, almost all of whom do live up to the stereotype.
 

Ganymede81

First Post
Is considered by whom? By Romani? It seems hardly relevant if non-Roma Americans consider that word an ethnic slur.

You'd think, but language is far more complicated than formulating a list of bad words and good words. Words that might be considered offensive often depend on time, place, context, and history, and an offensive word in one part of the world might not be offensive in another.

Consider the dreaded N-word. Highly offensive, but a uniquely American invention; derivations of it are spoken in other parts of the world but are not considered anywhere near as offensive.

But yeah, language is weird that way.
 

RCanine

First Post
You'd think, but language is far more complicated than formulating a list of bad words and good words. Words that might be considered offensive often depend on time, place, context, and history, and an offensive word in one part of the world might not be offensive in another.

...

But yeah, language is weird that way.

It's weird in another way too: you can use the passive voice to hide the subject of your sentence to make its meaning unclear. Let's take your previous statement:

Gypsy is considered a largely innocuous synonym for Romani

This could mean:

  • Romani consider the term innocuous.
  • Non-Romani consider the term innocuous.
  • Both/neither/etc

The only important meaning is the first one, but I'm guessing reality is closer to the second.

Passive voice is a tool of people being intentionally deceptive, so I recommend avoiding it.
 

kalani

First Post
Without going into too much detail - Gypsy carries similar connotations to Eskimo (in respect to Inuit) or Indian (in respect to the various Native American tribes). Neither are appropriate terms for their respective peoples.
 


flametitan

Explorer
What I might do for this adventure is add another Gur NPC, and instead of running the set-up as written, I'll have Aya usher the party over to a table with the new Gur NPC, who then explains what's going on, and that they're scared that the people around Phlan will form an angry mob to try and drive out the rest of the Gur because of this. Ideally this should add a layer of reinforcement to the idea that Gur are not purely a culture of thieves, and probably just want to be left alone.
 

delericho

Legend
What I might do for this adventure is add another Gur NPC, and instead of running the set-up as written, I'll have Aya usher the party over to a table with the new Gur NPC, who then explains what's going on, and that they're scared that the people around Phlan will form an angry mob to try and drive out the rest of the Gur because of this. Ideally this should add a layer of reinforcement to the idea that Gur are not purely a culture of thieves, and probably just want to be left alone.

Yep, good move. IMO, of course. :)
 

Cascade

First Post
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".

... but it could actually make the Vistani fit better into Ravenloft ...

We ran lots of tables at a local Con this weekend. I played and ran AL all weekend (4-1,2 and 3).

The common term Vistani is prevalent. It means the Ravenloft fantasy gypsies...I never saw any real world connection in any of the events.

Most people that play and remember them originally as such. The players actually don't even like the word Gur and most don't even come to these boards. People seem to play D&D to get away from real world stuff, not have real world culture and events creep into their fantasy worlds.

After some reflection, this subject isn't that important for me to bother.

/enjoy
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Considering how good AL adventures have been with including gender and sexual diversity (as mentioned on another thread in this forum), I was really disheartened to see the antagonists of the first AL adventure for Season 4 to be stereotypical "thieving gypsies". Spoilers below.

It's a game, not real life. Any game racism is not bad like it would be in real life. Further, such "racism" is expected and proper in a medieval setting like D&D campaigns are set in. They are not "enlightened" modern societies.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The problem is the text being unaware of its racism. It's because it uses appropriated racial stereotypes as a basis for characters, and presents them as truth, rather than unfair generalizations. It's like the dude at the last con I went to that put on blackface to read some lines from a Drow during the epic. There was nothing racist about what he said, but it was ignorant of the cultural baggage there.

Show me the text that presents the stereotype as truth for the real world and not for the game world. If you can't, then the "truth" is only truth for the game and there is nothing racist about it in the real world.

People who go out of their way to be offended in the real world by something that only applies to the game world have in effect, offended themselves and I have no sympathy for them.
 

TwinPeaksGuy

Explorer
That's true. But WotC own the rights, are making use of the pre-existing lore (and deliberately so - Ravenloft is some of their biggest IP, and the Vistani are a key part of Ravenloft), and haven't taken steps to disassociate themselves from that lore.

So if my house was used as a meeting space for the KKK I need to spend the rest of my life assuring people I don't support that?

No, I'm not buying that. WoTC and the writers it contracts with are responsible for their actions, and don't need to disclaimer everything to death over content written by other writers for another company. Assuming anything else is to use the same logic that demands the Muslim living down the street apologize personally for 9/11. Which is to say: it isn't actually logic, just feelings running amok.

Indeed. But that's slightly complicated if the book notes that the stereotype is just that but then only actually introduces you to a very small number of individuals, almost all of whom do live up to the stereotype.

But the thing is, they don't, not really. Sure, they steal, but we get insights into WHY they steal, and it isn't just because they steal for a living. They steal to survive in a way that's not at all different from the way Jean Val Jean steals to survive in Le Mis, and he's the freakin' hero of the story. If they stole the way a junkie boosts a stereo to get a fix, we might not have any sympathy at all, but in the hands of a good DM hardly anything needs to change for the whole trope to have been re-spun, if not subverted.
 

delericho

Legend
So if my house was used as a meeting space for the KKK I need to spend the rest of my life assuring people I don't support that?

If your house had been used as a meeting space for the KKK, wouldn't you redecorate promptly on moving in? If you didn't, and left their trappings up, then yes, I'd assume you supported them.
 

Dracoprimus

First Post
Gypsy is very much considered a perjorative by many Romani, the people it is used against. Just because the US doesn't have the same historical context as Europe for the word, doesn't mean we get to ignore that context. Just because one person of that descent doesn't find it insulting doesn't mean that others of that descent won't be offended.

WotC has made some active efforts to make Dungeons and Dragons inclusive. And Adventurers League is also committed to providing a welcoming, inclusive environment for playing DnD. When someone voices a concern, responding with "maybe you're playing the wrong game" or "you are just being too sensitive" are NOT the attitudes that Adventurers League is looking to foster. "It just won't be the same without this term" is not a good enough reason to callously ignore the sensitivities of an entire ethnicity.

We really should NOT be at page 5 of this topic and STILL trying to debate whether it's ok to use this term. The AL admins have already said, here and on Facebook, that the term is NOT to be used. SO, if you are running this module, as part of AL, please do NOT use the term.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Gypsy is very much considered a perjorative by many Romani, the people it is used against. Just because the US doesn't have the same historical context as Europe for the word, doesn't mean we get to ignore that context.

All the same, just because that context exists, does not mean that deliberately using the word in a different context causes the original context to affect us.

For example, the context in which you just used it excludes any pejorative context that exists. The same goes when a game changes the meaning and names, and then applies that change to their game. At that point, any context in the real world is gone and you have to go out of your way to be offended by it.

Just because one person of that descent doesn't find it insulting doesn't mean that others of that descent won't be offended.

There's nothing wrong with offending someone who goes out of their way to be offended. Literally every action and statement on Earth is offensive to someone, even the act of trying not to offend everyone over every little thing.

If you're going to tiptoe on eggshells in order to try not to offend someone, not only are you going to fail, but you are going to have a far more disrupted life. It's just not worth it. Avoiding the worst and most blatant things is about the best you should do.
 

Pauper

That guy, who does that thing.
It's a game, not real life. Any game racism is not bad like it would be in real life. Further, such "racism" is expected and proper in a medieval setting like D&D campaigns are set in. They are not "enlightened" modern societies.

That's fine if you're able to provide a perfectly bright line between what happens in the fiction -- what the characters are experiencing -- and what happens at the table -- what the players are experiencing. Considering that many players, for better or worse, invest a fair amount of their own personality in their characters, for those players, what happens to their characters also, in effect, happens to them as players.

Even more to the point, given that this edition of D&D is intentionally more inclusive of traditional minorities than other editions, there's an increased opportunity that players will encounter NPCs that share some of their own ethnic or other traits -- transgender players will find that their characters encounter transgender NPCs, for example. The inclusiveness thread also notes other examples where players have been pleased to discover NPCs that 'represent' them in-game, and how that representation makes them feel more welcome at the table. Except now, you're arguing that, because the setting is intended to be 'medieval' and not 'enlightened', it's actually OK to show those NPCs being discriminated against or worse, because that's history for you!

Bottom line -- WotC has presented the Forgotten Realms as an enlightened fantasy society. The Realms are arguably more enlightened than our own society in many ways; for example, the weird-looking dragonborn generally don't get much of any negative repercussions for their appearance. Even player character tieflings and drow, descendants of traditional enemies of the 'enlightened' races, don't encounter much in the way of overt racism as PCs -- those races are judged on their actions, and villainous tieflings and drow (as with villainous humans) are judged as villains for what they do, not what they are.

tl;dr - it's a game, but people play that game in real life. You wouldn't use history to justify ridiculous high taxes, so don't use it to justify making other players at your table feel uncomfortable.

--
Pauper
 

TwinPeaksGuy

Explorer
Gypsy is very much considered a perjorative by many Romani, the people it is used against. Just because the US doesn't have the same historical context as Europe for the word, doesn't mean we get to ignore that context. Just because one person of that descent doesn't find it insulting doesn't mean that others of that descent won't be offended.

WotC has made some active efforts to make Dungeons and Dragons inclusive. And Adventurers League is also committed to providing a welcoming, inclusive environment for playing DnD. When someone voices a concern, responding with "maybe you're playing the wrong game" or "you are just being too sensitive" are NOT the attitudes that Adventurers League is looking to foster. "It just won't be the same without this term" is not a good enough reason to callously ignore the sensitivities of an entire ethnicity.

We really should NOT be at page 5 of this topic and STILL trying to debate whether it's ok to use this term. The AL admins have already said, here and on Facebook, that the term is NOT to be used. SO, if you are running this module, as part of AL, please do NOT use the term.

The term "Gypsy" doesn't even appear in the module. Even if it does get used by a DM, I'm still not sure there's a problem, because the Gur are revealed to be frightened desperate people rather than evil by choice. The prejudice voiced by the villagers gets its fangs pulled in the story, so they're already vindicated. They are trying to defend themselves against a great evil (which you need for there to be a semblance of plot) and we get told up front not to make easy assumptions and take things at face value which proves good advice.

I do like what WoTC's doing with inclusivity in the game and at the table, but I also think there's an element in society that will choose to see prejudice anywhere and everywhere just for the sheer righteous joy of whining about it. If there's one person on this thread who actually is Roma, has read the module and its apologia from WoTC, and is still determined to be offended, I'll be very surprised. Most of the complaining sounds very much like it's coming from folks who are offended on someone else's behalf. I've read the relevant adventure and response, and as I've said before it adds up to a portrayal of prejudice in service of proving it misguided, just as was done in Huck Finn. If only Suits of the Mists was as beautifully executed.
 

Dracoprimus

First Post
All the same, just because that context exists, does not mean that deliberately using the word in a different context causes the original context to affect us.

For example, the context in which you just used it excludes any pejorative context that exists. The same goes when a game changes the meaning and names, and then applies that change to their game. At that point, any context in the real world is gone and you have to go out of your way to be offended by it.
actually, the opposite is true. Just because we've ignored a context for decades doesn't mean that context is no longer there, it IS.


There's nothing wrong with offending someone who goes out of their way to be offended. Literally every action and statement on Earth is offensive to someone, even the act of trying not to offend everyone over every little thing.

If you're going to tiptoe on eggshells in order to try not to offend someone, not only are you going to fail, but you are going to have a far more disrupted life. It's just not worth it. Avoiding the worst and most blatant things is about the best you should do.

"Everything is offensive, therefore nothing is offensive" is not a valid defense. Particularly when a group, in this case Adventurers League, is actively trying to be inclusive. The effort to not use a clearly offensive term is not greater than the offensiveness of the term.

Again, at this point Adventurers League is not trying to defend the use of this term. If you really need to sue the term, do so outside of AL. I COULD try the "maybe you're playing the wrong game" response, but, really, you are NOT going to find an organized play program that will support indiscriminate use of pejoratives.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
That's fine if you're able to provide a perfectly bright line between what happens in the fiction -- what the characters are experiencing -- and what happens at the table -- what the players are experiencing. Considering that many players, for better or worse, invest a fair amount of their own personality in their characters, for those players, what happens to their characters also, in effect, happens to them as players.

If someone invests to the point where in game racism becomes out of game racism, that's 100% on them and 0% the responsibility of the game. At that point, they should take a step back and probably play a different game.

Even more to the point, given that this edition of D&D is intentionally more inclusive of traditional minorities than other editions, there's an increased opportunity that players will encounter NPCs that share some of their own ethnic or other traits -- transgender players will find that their characters encounter transgender NPCs, for example. The inclusiveness thread also notes other examples where players have been pleased to discover NPCs that 'represent' them in-game, and how that representation makes them feel more welcome at the table. Except now, you're arguing that, because the setting is intended to be 'medieval' and not 'enlightened', it's actually OK to show those NPCs being discriminated against or worse, because that's history for you!

There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING that is exclusive about in game racism. If you bring your own personal racism into the game and are offended by it, it's on you. Nobody is excluding you except for you.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
actually, the opposite is true. Just because we've ignored a context for decades doesn't mean that context is no longer there, it IS.

Um, no. Nobody gets to determine context for me, but me. If my self-determined context is different from yours and you incorrectly apply your context to me, you are the one in the wrong and any offense taken is your fault, not mine.

"Everything is offensive, therefore nothing is offensive" is not a valid defense. Particularly when a group, in this case Adventurers League, is actively trying to be inclusive. The effort to not use a clearly offensive term is not greater than the offensiveness of the term.

That's not my argument. My argument is, "Everything is offensive, therefore it's a waste of time and effort to try and not offend anyone for anything less than a blatant major offense. Minor non-offensive things that people go out of their way to be offended by are their fault, not mine."
 

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