DDAL Racism and DDAL4-1 [Spoilers]

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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.
 

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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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