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

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Limit Break Dancing
The solution is clearly to gaslight the people who were bald-facedly insulted by these depictions until they believe they were touching tributes they should be thinking the authors for.
Gross, I know right?

"You're overreacting."
"There's nothing to be upset about."
"This is fine, you're just too sensitive."
"You've been listening to the wrong people."
"This isn't really a problem."
...and so on.

Hi, could you clarify this phrase: "I tickle on the recurring founding" ? I realize we're not all native English speakers - and I welcome that - I just want to make sure I understand what you're conveying.

Amends certainly won't come if no one calls for it. I'll move on when I wish.
Asking for sharing profits from Gaz10 or similar products even if they are transformed in an educational mission, seem bizarre, tickling, incongruous. But as some say, money has no smell.

Asking for amends can be a long path when you deal with corporations and governments, I wish you meaning and satisfaction all along the road.

Again, this is a distraction. The OP is talking about an issue of today, with potential ways to address it today, within the realm of RPGs.

What 18th and 19the century people thought that established the problem is appropriate to study - but I question whether this thread is the place for that study. Roman conquest really doesn't tell us what WotC ought to do about their legacy product, or what they should do going forward.

I mean, that's what I was trying to address with my statement: the misconceptions of the Romans are a systemic problem with how we view history from the perspective of the conquerors and their own justifications for invasion. The yarn of "They brought civilization!" is indistinguishable from the modern "White Man's Burden". The idea of bringing civilization caused us to rip the children of indigenous people from their families and put them into places where they were forced to learn our traditions and history at the cost of their own culture... and too often their own lives.

As it stands, I didn't bring it into the thread, but felt it inappropriate to let such an assertion go unchallenged. Didn't mean for it to become a full-on tangent, but here we are.

Re read the Orcs of Thar to see the OP points. From a modern point of view, he is 100% right. From an 80s point of view, it is highly debatable that it was solely depictions of or real world ethnicities.

I'm not sure what distinction you're making here. Yes, 1980s TSR was a different context than 2020s Wizards. Yet I honestly don't see what "debate" could be had about whether GAZ10 depicts real world ethnicities...when the book itself says so.

"These names are often found in Yellow Orkian and Hobgobland Tribes. Names with a vaguely Mongol ring will do fine here." -PG, p.41

"Hutai is a middle-aged hobgoblin with Asian features." -DMB, p.12

In GAZ10 are several references to the "red orcs" being similar to the Atruaghin Clans. See the "red orcs" section of my original research post. In GAZ14: The Atruaghin Clans, p.3 states: "Much of the information presented in this book is based on the culture of the various tribes of Indians that lived throughout North and Central America prior to the invasions and exploitations of European colonists."

I focus on the "red orcs" and "yellow orcs" because those terms are based on real-world racial slurs. Yet, to thoroughly respond to your assertion, GAZ10 also states that the humanoids learned "Norse culture" (DMB p.4) and that the Ogremoorians have names which are "vaguely reminiscent of India." (PG p.41)

If TSR explicitly states that those game cultures are inspired by real world ethnicities, how can that be "highly debatable"?

It is clearly stated that the orcs try to emulate their most successful and nobler foes, but failing to succeed in that respect. If the red orcs are trying to emulate the nobler and more successful humans it does mean that the author were respecting the nation the orcs were trying to emulate...

The orcs here are a parody and has always been. But it is clear that they fail to emulate more nobler and successful nations.

Helldritch, I totally understand the line of thinking that you and Glen are offering. Yet, as another poster said: the in-world fictional context is not the primary concern here.

No matter what in-world justification is "clearly stated," that does not give the designer a carte blanche to use real-world racial epithets, and to then entwine those with buffoonish misappropriations and mischaracterizations. To go back to my example of "Nigoro Black Orcs"; how does it sound if we plug that into your hypothesis?:

"It is clearly stated that the Nigoro Black Orcs (who follow Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben of the chiefly line of Frederick Droolass and Sojourner Doof, and who love chicken, chittlins, and watermelon, and who have the option of taking the Black Minstrel, Mammy, and Gangsta character classes, and who will try to "put a cap in yo be-hind", just like the Red Orcs will try to "scalp" outsiders)...if theses Black Orcs are trying to emulate their most successful and nobler foes—in this case the African-inspired Tanagoro peoples of the Divinarchy of Yavdlom—but the Black Orcs are failing to succeed in that respect...If these Nigoros are trying to emulate the nobler and more successful Tanagoro humans it does not mean that the author was disrespecting the real-world nation the orcs were trying to emulate, in this case, African culture."

This line of argument seems to be strangely unaware that orcs are fictional, and that whatever real-world racial epithets are presented in the book were written by a real-world author. That is the primary context. The in-world fictional context is secondary.

But it can lead to confusion and that is understandable.
Who's confused here?
For me, that book never was such a good one as one paragraph [of disclaimer] does not justify the amount of parodies we can see and that [disclaimer] paragraph can easily be passed over or forgotten. A clear warning is/would've been much better in that case.
I appreciate that we agree on this.
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And, folks, let us be clear about something - Roman occupation of these places isn't analogous to the issues highlighted in this thread. Because the Romans left those places, and didn't massively displace the native population. It is entirely reasonable for a modern German or Brit to view ancient Roman occupation differently, because, well, the Germans and people of the British Isles are still the majority populations in their spaces. The Native Americans... aren't.

So, maybe rethink whether this argument has much relevance?
The Celtic Romano-British where displaced - later by the English (Anglo-Saxons). The Anglo-Saxons largely followed the Scandinavian legal code. A more Romanised code was reintroduced by the Normans.


Getting lost in fantasy maps
For research discussions purposes, a possible fair look at how Mystara treated American Indian culture as represented by “humanoids” as years advanced to 1994, a peek at the Savage Coast presentation of the Yazi. Even central Asian cultures by the Yazak, FWIW.

The Yazi being the plains and southwestern American Indian representation in the setting expansion. Without too much spoiling DM knowledge PCs wouldn’t know, the Yazi gnolls didn’t adopt any culture but the goblins would have adopted the settled gnolls’ culture. They’re not shown with the mocking that Orcs of Thar does. But they are presented as a raiding threat to the colonizing cultures of humans and demi-humans, with the gnolls now said to be recently peaceful and willing to conduct trade. The humans/demi-humans of Cimarron are shown more humorously than the Yazi, fwiw.


I thought the Ferengi were satire of unbridled capitalism.
You get different answers depending on where you ask. The point is there's really no such thing as a bank slate because we fill those spaces with our own worldview.

Since hosting PDF products is almost costless, then how about sending some of that "easy money" to ethnonational charities who are slurred and lampooned in such products?

If I felt a product were detrimental to a group I belonged to, I don't think I'd accept any proceeds generated by it. But, no, on general principal I don't think WotC has any moral obligation to send money to anyone.


Moderator Emeritus
I thought the Ferengi were satire of unbridled capitalism.

They are.

Two things can be true. Since their introduction the Ferengi have repeatedly been presented with various coded anti-Semitic tropes. I do think that DS9 did a lot of work to make them a richer and more diverse people, but didn't always do enough in my view. Honestly, save for Quark, Rom, and Nog (and sometimes even them) anytime Ferengi show up on a Star Trek episode I shudder in anticipation of the cringing I will likely do at least one time during the episode.

You get different answers depending on where you ask. The point is there's really no such thing as a bank slate because we fill those spaces with our own worldview.
Except like in GAZ10 when the authors explicitly state that they are basing the culture off the real world and then use slur-adjacent, at best, terms to represent that culture.

There's no need to obfuscate the issue on this module.


Limit Break Dancing
I was curious about the reception that this book received at the time of its release, so I did a little bit of digging around to see what I could find. And the answer is "not much," sadly. In 1988, the Internet was quite new, and there wasn't a such thing as a "comment section" or a "blog." So reader reviews from the time are scarce, and typically only available from TSR or TSR-affiliated sources.

The first review I found was in Dragon Magazine (Issue #148, August 1989), written by Jim Bambra. It reads more like ad copy than a book review; problematic elements are either ignored entirely, or spun to be hidden positives. In his review, he writes that the book brings the D&D game back "to its roots by allowing players to take on the roles of monsters: dirty, smelly, depraved humanoids, the kind of scum that players love to hate." His conclusion is that The Orcs of Thar is "high quality," and that it is "wonderfully conceived and executed. Even if the idea of having humanoid characters doesn't appeal to you, the background material (in the Orcs of Thar) still makes it a valuable contribution to your campaign."

And that's it. I haven't found any other reviews or write-ups for this book from the 1980s or 1990s that weren't ad copy.

Branching out into the 21st Century:

The Amazon page has a handful of reader reviews.
There are only three reviews: a four-star review from 2000, a five-star review from 2009, and a three-star review from 2013. All three of the reviews are brief, and indicate that it is a great item for collectors. The 2013 review includes a strange "funny world unlike ours (humanoids)" statement, without any context.

Here's a review, written by Age of Ravens in 2012:
The author's conclusion is that the reader "might feel let down and assume the book will just be silly," but suggests "if you press on and ignore that, focusing on the actual background and material given for the Broken Lands and its people, you'll find surprisingly rich work." The author admits that "it takes some effort to tease that out--and there's less of it than one might like."

The review on DriveThruRPG can be found here:

And this is the review that I have the biggest problem with, because of this statement here:
DriveThruRPG said:
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.
That's right: you either love it because it's "groundbreaking," or you hate it because it's "funny."

However, it's the only write-up that includes the Wizards of the Coast disclaimer "We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today", etc. And this is appropriate, since to my knowledge, this is the only place where this book can still be purchased (PDF only, $9.99USD). Still, that dismissive "you don't like this because you don't like funny" really sticks in my craw.
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Since hosting PDF products is almost costless, then how about sending some of that "easy money" to ethnonational charities who are slurred and lampooned in such products?

I think I explained it, but I will again since you asked. I would caveat this by saying that just as you found it unfortunate to receive pushback someplace else for your accurate observations, you probably should realize that many people are unlikely to be blunt with you about your proposed remedies here because this place has a different policy.

1. Most legacy products have serious issues. Whether it's the obvious errors of commission (such as the ones you pointed out here), or the inevitable errors of omission (the absence of representation), they will have the problematic issues because they are products of their time. Trying to determine how much "better" or "worse" a particular product is becomes a fool's errand in many ways, simply because most of the products either reflect or do not reflect particular issues that went mostly unobserved at the time; and, as I noted before, these issues are particularly apparent with humor.

2. Nearly costless does not mean costless. While I don't know what WoTC's deal is with DTRPG, I assume they negotiated something less than the standard 30% sole source. Probably a good deal less. Still, they have operating costs associated with their legacy products, and have to give up a cut of the proceeds. Let's say it's 80% pure profit. That means that, assuming it never goes on sale, every single copy of GAZ10 sold would provide $8 of pure profit. Pretty good so far, huh?

3. Okay then, but how many copies do you think they sell? Honestly? I think 10 copies a month is generous, but I'd be happy to be corrected. So let's say it's 50 copies (that's 600 copies a year, which I would be SHOCKED BY). That would make it quite the outlier! And it would provide ... $400 of pure profit per month, and $4800 per year. Which, again ... really generous (IMO).*

4. Here's the thing, though. You're specifically asking for this to apply to all legacy products. All of them. You are well within your rights to ask for that! But that's where you and I will disagree. I think you are correct in your analysis, but I also think that these are historical (legacy) products, and as such a disclaimer is sufficient. Otherwise, this quickly ends up being not cost effective, given that there are so many legacy products, and so many issues. And what you believe is fearmongering, I think is a rational belief that most corporations don't want to deal with products that cause a lot of controversy, and little profit.

5. Then there's the issue of the charitable selection. You concentrated on the slurs toward American Indians and suggested (IIRC) a Lakota charity. Great! But they weren't the only ones that were insulted, were they? There are insults towards Asians, towards women, towards black Americans... there's a lot that didn't age well. So this, too, becomes yet another issue of covering the corporate behind- when everyone gets insulted, you just end up with a charitable donation to some pabulum charity, like the United Way (ugh).

6. Now, here's the rub. Maybe you think that this specific product is so offensive it has to be dealt with- obviously, the peanuts generated by it don't really matter, and it's almost tokenism at that point, right? But there's so many products, from the ones that people keep calling attention to (GAZ10, Oriental Adventures and its progeny, Ravenloft, etc. etc. etc) to all the issues in all the books (like the casual misogyny that I mentioned above). Any review would find these issues.

So in the end, what do you think a rational company would do? Enter into an endless cycle of publicly apologizing and making amends and paying money to charities for products that don't even make them much money, or just pulling the whole thing?

...that's not fearmongering. That's capitalism. Ferengi-style, "oh, maybe we do have some anti-Semitic tropes" capitalism.

Again, I will reiterate that I appreciated the research and work you did in the OP. But people can disagree with you on the proper course of action. Just because you correctly understood that something from the past was problematic, doesn't mean people have to agree with your proposed solutions.

*These figures are hard to come by, of course. I'm basing it off of what has been reported by other people and extrapolating. I'd love to see some real figures!


Except like in GAZ10 when the authors explicitly state that they are basing the culture off the real world and then use slur-adjacent, at best, terms to represent that culture.

There's no need to obfuscate the issue on this module.
There's a lot of threads going on in this discussion, but my comment wasn't specifically about GAZ10. I agree there's no ambiguity there.

Two things can be true. Since their introduction the Ferengi have repeatedly been presented with various coded anti-Semitic tropes. I do think that DS9 did a lot of work to make them a richer and more diverse people, but didn't always do enough in my view. Honestly, save for Quark, Rom, and Nog (and sometimes even them) anytime Ferengi show up on a Star Trek episode I shudder in anticipation of the cringing I will likely do at least one time during the episode.
I wouldn't agree that was true quite "since their introduction", but rather it's something that rapidly developed as they actually tried (ineptly) to give them a saner and more personable backstory. Initially they were something else, with the only really arguable thing being having a larger nose and being greedy, otherwise they were sort of barbarian-y - I know that despite seeing loads of anti-Semitic propaganda at school (we were studying WW2 and The Merchant of Venice at the time), I didn't make the connection until later on. They were sort of weird greedy slaving barbarians initially. As they became more cultured and money-oriented it become more obvious (I remember finding it a little concerning part-way through DS9), though at the same time their portrayal continually softened and angled more positive.

Also reminds me The Magnificent Ferengi is one of the best and just least-expected episodes of Star Trek in existence. A friend reminded me of, I'd forgotten, and I literally thought he was making it up. How would Star Trek have a "Weekend at Bernies" episode? And yet it did. Plus Iggy Pop!

It's also kind of a weird situation because the Bajorans were also presented with coded Semitic (rather than purely anti-Semitic) tropes, specifically with quite an Israeli vibe at times, and yet were clearly positive. And they were both heavily on the same show. Also arguably the Betazoids are presented with coded Semitic tropes at times.

There's a lot going on there, probably a thesis or three in there somewhere.

I agree with the OP's original analysis, and I think it is important to critique the past.
That said, I strongly disagree with the [...] OP's labeling anyone who disagrees with him as "fearmongering."
Snarf Zagyg, I only used the term "fearmongering" once (in post #298) in regard to Zardnaar's repeated assertion that if I raise a fuss, Wizards will just take GAZ10 away.

(However, having experienced some of the unsavory undercurrents in the D&D fan community, I'm beginning to think that would not be such a bad thing after all!)

Yet I've never suggested just sweeping GAZ10 into the closet. I suggested a fully positive, doable, healing course of action.

Furthermore, Zardnaar would intertwine that with dishonest recaps of my proposal, falsely stating that I was asking Wizards to rewrite the book, and to expurgate passages from the book, and thus portray me as a "censor."

DriveThruRPG does not list specific sales numbers, but we know that B/X and BECMI aren't widely played now in general from overall market numbers, and I would be shocked if a specific issue of the Gazetteer sells more than 10 copies a month. This barely qualifies as peanuts.
Presently, sales of Mystaran Gazetteers may be peanuts. Yet Hasbro has devoted precious ink and page-space to keeping Mystara in the consciousness of the present generation: through Mystara's mention in the 5E Basic Rules and DMG, through the Goodman Games' reprints of Mystaran modules, and through the suggested placements of 5E modules in Mystara (e.g. Ghosts of Saltmarsh).

I am glad for the day when Mystara receives the full 5e treatment. Yet, as another poster stated, there are some landmines which need to be cleared. That's what amends are for.

Otherwise, the peanut may turn out to be a boulder.

More importantly, the OP doesn't specify what the specific issue is that he has with the product - no, I'm not being facetious here. I understand the analysis and I agree with it.

I'm astounded. Between my research post (which is very specific!), and my asking for a specific course of direct amends, how can the specific issues be unapparent to you?

Yet I'll take the opportunity to recap the two main issues:

1) A Wizards product features real-world racial slurs: "yellow orcs", based on the slur "yellow man", who have "ugly [...] pekingese faces"; and "red orcs" with "red hides", based on the slurs "redman" and "redskins." These epithets are as serious as the n-word.

2) While my research is not generally opposed to fantastic adaptations of real-world cultures, when those adaptations are intertwined with racial epithets, this cannot help but be disrespectful misappropriation. Furthermore, even without the "yellow" and "red" epithets, this product contains egregiously buffoonish and insensitive portayals, for example Red Orc "scalping." This wronghood is intensified when the culture is a marginalized / indigenous culture.

And I'll try to address your questions:

But is the issue that this legacy product is still available, and people can still be exposed to it? Or that it ever existed and caused harm?

The issues are that:

1) Wizards has made money, and continues to make money, off a product that features real-world racial slurs.

2) Wizards is hiding behind a blandly worded boilerplate disclaimer. Wizards itself admits that "ethic, racial, and gender prejudice" is "wrong." Yet the genericness of the disclaimer is not commensurate with the specificity of the "wrongfulness."

3) And so I find the current remedies* to be insufficient and not commensurate with the ugliness which Wizards has been profiting from.
*(Namely, a generic disclaimer on legacy products, Crawford and Perkin's statements that legacy products are not part of the 5E canonical story, and an increasingly sensitive and culturally informed approach when designing new products. These are steps, yet I perceive they are not commensurate or sufficient.)

4) It's a matter of rightness that a significant portion of the proceeds of this product go to charities which represent the specific cultures who are slandered in the product.

5) GAZ10 is only the tip of the iceberg. Yet an amends process centered on GAZ10 could serve as a template for addressing other problematic legacy products which contain "ethnic, racial, or gender prejudice." With fans empowered to flag products in a crowdsourced way, and a standing team of Wizards cultural consultants working their way through each flagged text, and presenting periodic amends articles on DRAGON+, ideally with beautiful, healing words of amends from a member of the original product's design team.

6) Like Wizards says: "this work will never end." Which is true in regard to future products. But, in regard to making amends for prejudiced legacy products, that is untrue; because there are only so many instances of prejudice in legacy products. Even if there are several hundred products which contain prejudice, the specifics can be intelligently gathered and admitted, and amends can be made through an educational DRAGON+article, along with perpetual donations to specific charities.

7) It's a matter of education and healing for Wizards to undertake a course of amends. I laid out a reasonable, doable pathway. I seek to help make Wizards' words come true: "D&D teaches that diversity is strength."

And now it's personal. Since I've been "roughed up" and dogpiled and dishonestly misquoted by some D&D fans for voicing this. I'm tired of bumping up against a co-dependent fannish desire to "keep up appearances."

That's what I am getting to- it is entirely possible to agree with the OP's analysis, and still, in good faith, disagree that action must be done to rectify this.
You could say the same to the persons who brought forth the original concerns which led to Wizards taking the action to rectify the mischaracterization of Romani culture. You could likewise proclaim: "Its entirely possible to agree with their analysis that the Romani culture has been misportrayed, and still, in good faith, disagree that action must be done to rectify this."

This extrapolation of current beliefs on to the past, while great for sharpening our critical thinking and helping us appreciate where we are now, does little good.
What you say is a contradiction: critical thinking and appreciation are not "good"?
The past should remain a mirror that we hold up to help us realize where we are today- not a place we keep returning to so that we can improve it.
I'm not seeking to textually "improve" or "redo" or "rewrite" GAZ10. I am seeking to improve the present (and the future!) of the D&D community through a conscious and beautiful amends process, which will heal 40 years of "ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice."
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Every time the depiction of humanoid creatures comes up in these discussions there are always people who say they see no analogue between fantasy representations and real world cultures and that the former couldn't possibly be based in the latter. So I think it's very helpful to document and analyze the history of fantasy representation (and very interesting that when you do that, people come out and say "well, that's obvious, so obvious we don't need to talk about it!").

I think donating small amounts of proceeds from pdfs is not the most helpful thing wotc could do. I think the most helpful thing they could do is a) hire and empower BIPOC people at all levels (design, creative, management, etc) and b) be mindful of how they represent otherness in their products going forward.

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