D&D General "Red Orc" American Indians and "Yellow Orc" Mongolians in D&D

Zardnaar

Legend
It's kind of weird reading contemporary reviews and not seeing any mention of the racism or bad taste mockery in Orcs of Thar. I was twelve in 1988 so a lot it would have just gone unnoticed by me as I didn't have an appreciation of the wider world. But looking at it for the first time now, yeesh! Part of me wonders how it could have even been published. Then again, it was just a six years later that World of Darkness gave us their version of the Romani. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised about Thar.

2-3 years before that book was published it was illegal to be gay and at school we could still get hit with a strap, older brothers got the cane at high school.

Revenge of the Nerds movie same decade, various other movies.

Two years before the first positive depiction of a gay person on TV that I can recall. The USSR was still a thing.

33 years before that (same amount of time since it was published) it was 1955.

Things can change a lot in a short amount of time. I would be more surprised if things didn't change.
 

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MGibster

Legend
2-3 years before that book was published it was illegal to be gay and at school we could still get hit with a strap, older brothers got the cane at high school.
I got "licks" at school after Thar was published. I think 1989-1990 was the last time though it was a big paddle in Texas.

Revenge of the Nerds movie same decade, various other movies.
Sure. Interestingly enough, the plot of Porky's II: The Next Day (1985) revolves around our heroes thwarting the machinations of a religious leader who enlists the aid of the KKK to stop an interracial kiss in a production of Romeo and Juliet at the local high school. The part of Romeo is played by a Seminole and the part of Juliet by a white actress. The climax of the film comes when our plucky teens lures a group of klansmen to a darkened school gym only to turn on the lights revealing the bleachers filled to the brim with Seminoles.

Things can change a lot in a short amount of time. I would be more surprised if things didn't change.
I get that things change. But from what I remember of the 80s, mocking American Indians was bad. And that's why Orcs of Thar surprises me in a way that something similar from 1920 wouldn't. Even a crummy teen sex comedy didn't make the Indians the butt of the joke. I can only surmise that TSR got away with this product because it had a relatively small audience and the lines of communication between consumers, creators, and the world at large wasn't nearly so great as it is now.

Two years before the first positive depiction of a gay person on TV that I can recall. The USSR was still a thing.
I'm pretty sure the USSR was just a faction in Twilight 2000.

I haven't seen Porky's II in about 36 years. How the hell do I still remember the plot?
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I got "licks" at school after Thar was published. I think 1989-1990 was the last time though it was a big paddle in Texas.


Sure. Interestingly enough, the plot of Porky's II: The Next Day (1985) revolves around our heroes thwarting the machinations of a religious leader who enlists the aid of the KKK to stop an interracial kiss in a production of Romeo and Juliet at the local high school. The part of Romeo is played by a Seminole and the part of Juliet by a white actress. The climax of the film comes when our plucky teens lures a group of klansmen to a darkened school gym only to turn on the lights revealing the bleachers filled to the brim with Seminoles.


I get that things change. But from what I remember of the 80s, mocking American Indians was bad. And that's why Orcs of Thar surprises me in a way that something similar from 1920 wouldn't. Even a crummy teen sex comedy didn't make the Indians the butt of the joke. I can only surmise that TSR got away with this product because it had a relatively small audience and the lines of communication between consumers, creators, and the world at large wasn't nearly so great as it is now.


I'm pretty sure the USSR was just a faction in Twilight 2000.

I haven't seen Porky's II in about 36 years. How the hell do I still remember the plot?

Can't recall anything Porky related. 1992 was last time I know of a teacher caned a student. He lost his job.

I remember thinking the bullies on the Simpsons were nice. Ours used weapons from woodwork class, sporting equipment (only one javelin impalement), concrete walls, stairwells things like that.

Chisel scar 1992 in my wrist, pencil scar 1983 near my kneecap.
 

I got "licks" at school after Thar was published. I think 1989-1990 was the last time though it was a big paddle in Texas.


Sure. Interestingly enough, the plot of Porky's II: The Next Day (1985) revolves around our heroes thwarting the machinations of a religious leader who enlists the aid of the KKK to stop an interracial kiss in a production of Romeo and Juliet at the local high school. The part of Romeo is played by a Seminole and the part of Juliet by a white actress. The climax of the film comes when our plucky teens lures a group of klansmen to a darkened school gym only to turn on the lights revealing the bleachers filled to the brim with Seminoles.


I get that things change. But from what I remember of the 80s, mocking American Indians was bad. And that's why Orcs of Thar surprises me in a way that something similar from 1920 wouldn't. Even a crummy teen sex comedy didn't make the Indians the butt of the joke. I can only surmise that TSR got away with this product because it had a relatively small audience and the lines of communication between consumers, creators, and the world at large wasn't nearly so great as it is now.


I'm pretty sure the USSR was just a faction in Twilight 2000.

I haven't seen Porky's II in about 36 years. How the hell do I still remember the plot?
Fans of the most recent winner of the World Series still mock American Indians
 

Voadam

Legend
It's kind of weird reading contemporary reviews and not seeing any mention of the racism or bad taste mockery in Orcs of Thar.
For me it was weird to read this in the more in-depth Shanon Applecline description on the PDF page

"Love It or Hate It? "The Orcs of Thar" may be the "GAZ" supplement that's generated the most wildly divergent responses: some people love it because of its groundbreaking, in-depth detailing of multiple humanoid cultures; while other people hate it because it's one of the funnier "GAZ" books and that extends to the Jim Holloway artwork, which is among his silliest."

I went in wanting an in-depth detailing of multiple humanoid cultures. I was interested in a cool monstrous point of view player and region sourcebook. I was not expecting a lot of Looney Tunes style dumb ethnic caricature humor. A lot of the culture in-world was explicitly knock offs of other cultures in the Mystara world but generally dumber and weaker. I was disappointed.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
What, are you a prophet? You're speaking pretty authoritatively for someone who's not a representative of Wizards of the Coast.

Or are you really just saying that you personally wish for no amends to be made?
Mod Note:

To everybody- this isn’t a binary situation, and lots of possible options going forward exist.

Putting words into another poster’s mouth is pretty poor discussion form. Not constructive, and could be very detrimental to your cause.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Yes, GAZ10 is one of those "somes." I've always thought though, that the disclaimer is rather lame corporate-speak. It's only slightly better than nothing. It basically means:

"We're not going to bother looking at the specifics of what's problematic in any of these legacy publications. And we're not going to admit or apologize for any specific thing. It's enough of a symbolic gesture that we put a nicely-worded generic disclaimer on everything pre-5E. We say that's enough. These depictions are wrong, but we're going to continue to rake in $10 for each PDF sale! In the end, it's the bottom line that we care about."

Do I have a specific suggestion for how WotC/Hasbro could make amends?

1) Well, ideally each legacy product which has major "ethnic, racial, or gender prejudice" would be looked at by a team of professional cultural consultants.

2) And their findings would be published in a DRAGON+ article. Where WotC would apologize for specific portrayals.

3) It would be such a healing gesture to bring in the original authors (in this case, Bruce Heard), and editors and artists, and let them apologize on DRAGON+, and say some really beautiful, conciliatory words which are vetted by the cultural amends team. Like R.A. Salvatore's recent words on problematic aspects of the drow, which I think was a beautiful gesture.

4) The DRAGON+ article would then be forever linked to the DriveThruRPG product page. It would be a truly healing gesture.

Like WotC says: "Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible."

Then teach us WotC! Teach us and explain exactly where you (including TSR) failed to practice the principle that "diversity is strength" in the past. And in the present: because GAZ10 and other problematic products are still "D&D products." How are you going to make GAZ10 "as welcoming and inclusive as possible"? "As possible" is a tall order.

WotC's disclaimer ends with the statement:
"This part of our work will never end."

Okay, get crackin'! You said this part of your work will never end. So put together a standing team of cultural consultants, and start the amends process. This would be an ongoing DRAGON+ feature. It'll take years, and that's okay. Because this work will never end!

5) Besides educating folks through the amendatory DRAGON+ articles, I'd also suggest that a large portion of proceeds of problematic legacy PDFs be perpetually donated to an appropriate charity. In the case of GAZ10, I'd personally suggest the Lakota Waldorf School...they could use the money. Yet I'm sure there are plenty of worthy Indigenous American and East Asian charities which WotC could identify, even in the Renton-Seattle area. However, the more specific the better. For example, GAZ10 contains distasteful content specifically related to the Vodun (Voodoo), Lakota (Teton Sioux), Nakota (Assiniboine/Stoney), Kanienʼkehá꞉ka (Mohawk), Apsáalooke (Crow), Mongolian, Tibetan, Chinese, and Bhutanese cultures, and perhaps others. It would not be hard for WotC's cultural amends team to do some web research and find a charity related to each of those cultures. And sort of divvy up the PDF "amends royalties" based on approximately how many distasteful jabs each culture received. (For example, there are only three sentences which buffoonishly refer to Vodun spirituality, but many paragraphs which refer to "Red Orcs.")

I realize that admitting anything would be a courageous opening of a can of worms. Corporations are not always known for their courage. And I realize that it costs money to have cultural consultants comb through legacy books. But sometimes ya gotta put your money where your mouth is.
TBH, I think this is nice, but impractical on many levels. We’re talking about a commercial producer of games, not an educational institution.

IMHO, disclaimers on problematic legacy products is sufficient in most cases, in terms of their continued sale. For the worst cases, the products should simply be withdrawn from the market, much like the estate of Theodor Seuss Geisel has done with some of his books.

However, that does need to be supplemented by clear policies and possibly even institutional structures to prevent history from repeating…or rhyming.
 

GreyLord

Legend
For me it was weird to read this in the more in-depth Shanon Applecline description on the PDF page

"Love It or Hate It? "The Orcs of Thar" may be the "GAZ" supplement that's generated the most wildly divergent responses: some people love it because of its groundbreaking, in-depth detailing of multiple humanoid cultures; while other people hate it because it's one of the funnier "GAZ" books and that extends to the Jim Holloway artwork, which is among his silliest."

I went in wanting an in-depth detailing of multiple humanoid cultures. I was interested in a cool monstrous point of view player and region sourcebook. I was not expecting a lot of Looney Tunes style dumb ethnic caricature humor. A lot of the culture in-world was explicitly knock offs of other cultures in the Mystara world but generally dumber and weaker. I was disappointed.

That is an interesting take. Orcs of Thar are one of the Gazetteers that I do not have (and from reading this thread, it may be one of those that I don't want to get in the future).

I understand that it was groundbreaking in another way. Orcs of Thar allowed people to play a multitude of various goblin races before it was the thing to do. People were finally allowed to play multiple Goblinoid races and others that were generally considered monsters.

These included kobolds, goblins, orcs, hobgoblins, gnolls, bugbears, ogres and trolls (according to wikipedia). That makes it quite groundbreaking in some ways, indicating even as it was disrespectful in many ways, it also would engender (perhaps) some respect in regards to players playing them as PC's and bringing a more personalized touch from players (hopefully).

I can see how it could be both loved and maligned at the same time.

That said, I don't think I have any plans on getting it in the near future, or perhaps ever, after reading this thread.
 

JediSoth

Semi-Professional Author
Epic
For a lot of Americans, contact with Native Americans is pretty much limited to the names of geographic locations.

So true. Everyone who's come to Gen Con in the last 18 years has traveled to Indiana, the Land of the Indians, much of which was stolen from the Miami. IIRC, the US government made a bunch of treaties, created lines of credit for a lot of the tribes and communities, let them run up the debt, then seized their assets when they defaulted on their debts (when the government wasn't outright ignoring the treaties they made).

A lot of the Midwest is like that (Milwaukee isn't a European-derived name), so TSR definitely should have known better, but Americans* are very consistent is ignoring their history of genocide and proud of their racism.

* #NotAllAmericans, obviously, but you KNOW what I mean.
 

Chief Sitting Drool is very bad seems to be one of those juvenile bad jokes from the 80's.

But yes culture is subjective. What cultures find acceptable varies by time and location.

In the 80's that was bad taste imho even then but it was acceptable enough to publish.

Looking at what else was done in the 80's though..... What was acceptable is shocking now. I could rattle off a few things that were legal back then but yeah.
I think there is a big difference between 'what you can get away with' and creating a setting that is not offensive.

I disagree that wether a portrayal of a culture is offensive, is entirely subjective. It isn't. There are ways to do so without being disrespectful, regardless of what year the material is published. I've seen it done respectfully and tastefully many times in computer games.

For example, the popular MMO Guild Wars has its Nightfall campaign, which takes inspiration from a wide array of African cultures in a way that is not offensive in the slightest. In fact, it is quite beautiful. It is like a love song to all the beautiful architecture and traditional clothing, mixed with a savanna and desert climate.

And then Guild Wars 2 brought the setting back:


Representation is also very important. Especially in RPG's which are all about creating your own character, there should be wide representation. You should be able to make black and asian characters, with black and asian hairstyles. There should be more than just your typical fantasy Europe setting. I want to traverse dunes, explore pyramids, climb pagodas. There's such a wealth of culture to be inspired by, and it is easy to do so in a respectful manner, if you just hire the right people to do it.
 
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Aldarc

Legend
Do you have a source on that? Because that's almost exactly what happened for much of the native populations.

Source: How smallpox devastated the Aztecs – and helped Spain conquer an American civilization 500 years ago
The devastation of the local populations of the Americas is also what led to the importing of enslaved peoples from West Africa and the rise of the Atlantic Slave Trade.

For example, the popular MMO Guild Wars has its Nightfall campaign, which takes inspiration from a wide array of African cultures in a way that is not offensive in the slightest. In fact, it is quite beautiful. It is like a love song to all the beautiful architecture and traditional clothing, mixed with a savanna and desert climate.
Nightfall was probably the best expansion for Guild Wars 1, while Path of Fire was likewise an absolutely amazing expansion for Guild Wars 2. Elona is probably my favorite region of Tyria in the game.
 

Relevant to this thread I feel the minor moral panic about Ace supposedly being "too violent for kids" was related to fears about race and culture. Specifically Ace was coded in such a way that she was basically a "b-girl" in the 1980s sense, i.e. she had a boombox, hair tightly braided on top of her head, a baseball bat, baggy jacket, etc. (though she's from the future and not from Earth). Hiphop was pretty huge at the time, and there was definitely moral hand-wringing about it (hell I went to breakdancing classes in the late '80s lol). As speaking out about her appearance etc. might have been seen as racist or bordering on it, instead there was moaning about her "violence". Which was pretty funny given the lack of concern about far more violent characters previously. It didn't last, but sadly neither did Doctor Who :(
It was earlier series that attracted a lot more flack than those. By then Doctor Who was a lot less popular, and therefore attracted less attention. Particularly of note for horror content where series' 12 to 15 (1974-77).

This gave us, amongst others:

The Ark in Space (Alien body horror - Dr Who did it before Ridley Scott)
The Sontaran Experiment (torture)
Genesis of the Daleks (Nazis)
The Seeds of Doom (Dr Who remade The Thing before John Carpenter)
Horror of Fang Rock (no survivors)
Image of the Fendhl (Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn)

Not sure how some of these would go down if made today, really.
 

It was earlier series that attracted a lot more flack than those. By then Doctor Who was a lot less popular, and therefore attracted less attention. Particularly of note for horror content where series' 12 to 15 (1974-77).

This gave us, amongst others:

The Ark in Space (Alien body horror - Dr Who did it before Ridley Scott)
The Sontaran Experiment (torture)
Genesis of the Daleks (Nazis)
The Seeds of Doom (Dr Who remade The Thing before John Carpenter)
Horror of Fang Rock (no survivors)
Image of the Fendhl (Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn)

Not sure how some of these would go down if made today, really.
God I need to find the channel I can rewatch 1970s Who on. Last time I saw that sort of stuff I was single-digits age, and yeah I do remember it being absolutely terrifying.
 



5) Besides educating folks through the amendatory DRAGON+ articles, I'd also suggest that a large portion of proceeds of problematic legacy PDFs be perpetually donated to an appropriate charity. In the case of GAZ10, I'd personally suggest the Lakota Waldorf School...they could use the money.
That seem to me as a wicked strategy!
I’m sure you don’t hope that Wotc sell that much Gaz10 pdf, but at the same time you will hope better funding for the school.
Asmodeus could not offer you better deal!
 
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To find each such legacy product, they have to comb through every legacy product to find all those instances.
He said "major", so nah, not really. You could rely on reader flagging (just set up an email for it or w/e) to get a priority order of which ones people saw as most problematic. It might not be perfect but it would likely be pretty close to accurate.
 

He said "major", so nah, not really. You could rely on reader flagging (just set up an email for it or w/e) to get a priority order of which ones people saw as most problematic. It might not be perfect but it would likely be pretty close to accurate.
It could be sabotaged by review booming from anti-woke nutjobs.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
He said "major", so nah, not really. You could rely on reader flagging (just set up an email for it or w/e) to get a priority order of which ones people saw as most problematic. It might not be perfect but it would likely be pretty close to accurate.

There are no, or close to no, non-problematic titles from the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

If you can't find something that has racism, you will find something that has sexism. If it's not in the text, it's in the art.

Not to mention that there are no standards for such a thing; I think everyone can agree that GAZ10 is particularly bad. But what about B2 and its invocation of mental illness and issues regarding the possible killing of humanoid women and children? Or the depictions of drow in some artwork? Or the depictions of women in a lot of the art?

That's why they are using the standard disclaimer. Even for this product- its content may be offensive to American Indians, but it also offensive to a lot of other people.

And for a product that isn't exactly a big seller.

I think it is good and proper for people to go back and critique the culture of the past. The OP did some great analysis. But, absent special circumstances, there shouldn't be an ongoing obligation to correct the work of the past. One of the few benefits of the so-called "long tail" commerce method is that we are able to get things that we didn't used to have access to because they are old or out-of-date or don't have much of a market- books, movies, media of all kinds. But the past always is a mirror of the society from which it came from (which I assumed was a "duh" kind of observation, but maybe not?) and if we insist that everything from the past be brought up to current standards, there is a fair amount that just won't be provided any more.

...I'm waiting for the critical eye to be turned to some older 3PP supplements, myself. Obscurity is the sole solving grace.
 
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There are no, or close to no, problematic titles from the 70s, 80s, and 90s (at a minimum).
I feel like there's a typo in this sentence but I'm not sure what you're trying to say. The "at a minimum" doesn't seem to work with the rest of the sentence though.

Non-problematic instead of problematic maybe? If so I'm not sure that's really true. I think there are probably plenty that accidentally dodge any significant problematic stuff.

But I don't think that's really a problem. I think he said "major", and if you just let people email you or click a button after they've bought something on DM's Guild or w/e, the major offenders would get many times more hits than the other ones, and you could just have someone slowly working through it all.

I'm not sure where "correct" comes in. Acknowledge, though, is helpful. I don't think you need to hit every product. I do think there are ones as bad as this which perhaps deserve more than the disclaimer.
It could be sabotaged by review booming from anti-woke nutjobs.
Meh. All they'd do would be to get the order of approach wrong, and you could quickly dismiss them. You keep a spreadsheet and if they make you look at X book first and it's obviously fine, you check it off and ignore future reports on that unless someone like emails with specifics.
 

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