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

cowpie

Adventurer
You don't remember the 80's I do.

By the context of the time no one cared. There's worse in 80's pop culture eg movies.

Not saying it's right or wrong but you're injecting modern concepts backwards in time.

Doesn't work like that.

Personally I think the Mystara gaz series is a bit pants for multiple reasons thinly veiled reskins being one of them.

Here's your fantasy Mongol rip off, here's your fantasy Italian rip off etc.

Or context it's been 30+ years since that book came out. 30+ years before that book isn't that far removed from the events of WW2.

Certainly we can all rag on this obviously crappy product, which I'd argue was somewhat cringey even for the standards of the time (there would be people who'd certainly take issue with this then), but to add to your comment, is this still happening today in RPG products, 33 years later?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

You don't remember the 80's I do.

By the context of the time no one cared. There's worse in 80's pop culture eg movies.

Not saying it's right or wrong but you're injecting modern concepts backwards in time.
This is absolutely false.

Little Big Man was 1979. It's a problematic movie in it's own way but it very clearly illustrates how attitudes had changed, at least among people who cared to educate themselves. And someone deciding to base stuff on other cultures should be doing that. I mean, OA is criticised, but there's actual research and consultation with Japanese people and so on there. Whereas this is just heartless racist mockery. "Big Chief Sitting Drool"? I mean jesus bro, you're trying to tell me that was "A-okay" in 1988? Because no. I was 10 in 1988, and even in the UK I would have known that was wrong. I mean, I knew calling Native Americans "Indians" was wrong at that age.

Don't try to pretend that in the 1980s no-one knew or cared about this stuff.

As for "Well lots of the Gazetteers were basically giant racist piles of racial stereotypes featuring non-white races frequently being projected on to non-humans" (and not demihumans, whereas vice-versa didn't happen at all AFAICT - I'm open to counter-examples, and they may exist because Mystara had so much in it, but all the "white" races/cultures I can think off-hand seemed to projected on to humans or demihumans), that's not the sterling defence you think it is. That's actually an unintentional condemnation.
 
Last edited:

Zardnaar

Legend
Religion/politics
This is absolutely false.

Little Big Man was 1979. It's a problematic movie in it's own way but it very clearly illustrates how attitudes had changed, at least among people who cared to educate themselves. And someone deciding to base stuff on other cultures should be doing that. I mean, OA is criticised, but there's actual research and consultation with Japanese people and so on there. Whereas this is just heartless racist mockery. "Big Chief Sitting Drool"? I mean jesus bro, you're trying to tell me that was "A-okay" in 1988? Because no. I was 10 in 1988, and even in the UK I would have known that was wrong. I mean, I knew calling Native Americans "Indians" was wrong at that age.

Don't try to pretend that in the 1980s no-one knew or cared about this stuff.

As for "Well lots of the Gazetteers were basically giant racist piles of racial stereotypes featuring non-white races frequently being projected on to non-humans" (and not demihumans, whereas vice-versa didn't happen at all AFAICT - I'm open to counter-examples, and they may exist because Mystara had so much in it, but all the "white" races/cultures I can think off-hand seemed to projected on to humans or demihumans), that's not the sterling defence you think it is. That's actually an unintentional condemnation.


Some people did care but it wasn't exactly mainstream is what I'm saying.

I can't really go into to much detail due to board rules. Things were different.


Case in point but a picture paints a thousand words.

I like the BECMI adventures the setting not so much. The adventures have various issues as well but generally they're good/interesting.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Some people did care but it wasn't exactly mainstream is what I'm saying.

I can't really go into to much detail due to board rules. Things were different.


Case in point but a picture paints a thousand words.

2-3 years before that book came out here it was illegal to be gay, legal to rape your wife and legal to strap or cane kids at school.
Are you really choosing to spend your time and energy arguing that "people in 1988 didn't care about Native Americans so it's okay that they published racist materials"?

It just seems like a really weird angle to argue.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I worry that people are now so sensitive to making mistakes that they won't set games in other cultures or times, like the Chinese Silk Road, or an Islamic Golden Age themed setting, and ultimately I think that's a shame and not a good thing for cultral understanding or general intellectual curiosity.
See that's the thing:

If you do it, you are bound to get some things wrong. We all have biases we don't even realize we have. Some of those wrong things could be quite offensive.

If you don't do it, you don't do the research that increases your knowledge of other cultures, every game is fantasy generic Europe.
 


Some people did care but it wasn't exactly mainstream is what I'm saying.
I don't agree that it wasn't mainstream. It just wasn't dominant. Those are different things. And 1988 was not 1984, culturally, especially with regards to racism.

Also I'm a bit confused, Reagan's primary platform was economic rather than social, and AFAICT race wasn't a huge part of that particular election (unlike some others). So I don't really see how that supports your point. Looking at the media of the US from 1980 to 1988 you can see a pretty clear decline in racism, and attempts to move away from racist stereotypes.

This is two years before Dances With Wolves for goodness sake. And you're trying to tell me people would have thought "Big Chief Sitting Drool" the "Red Orc" would have totally A-okay in 1988 even when it very clearly would not have in 1990? Because I'm not really buying that.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Are you really choosing to spend your time and energy arguing that "people in 1988 didn't care about Native Americans so it's okay that they published racist materials"?

It just seems like a really weird angle to argue.

No I'm claiming things were different back then. There's lots of 80's stuff that has aged terribly but a book like that wouldn't have offended that many people back then. Even if it did they would get ignored.

Not right no but yeah there's plenty of stuff from back then in pop culture one can find.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
See that's the thing:

If you do it, you are bound to get some things wrong. We all have biases we don't even realize we have. Some of those wrong things could be quite offensive.

If you don't do it, you don't do the research that increases your knowledge of other cultures, every game is fantasy generic Europe.
I think the key is to work with people who do have a connection to or expertise in the history and culture so it's not just from one author's perspective.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
No I'm claiming things were different back then. There's lots of 80's stuff that has aged terribly but a book like that wouldn't have offended that many people back then. Even if it did they would get ignored.

Not right no but yeah there's plenty of stuff from back then in pop culture one can find.
Racism isn't about offense. It's about maintaining existing oppressive power structures. This RPG text maintains the power structure of the time because it portrays Native American cultures as monstrous and worth mocking.

That was wrong then, and it's wrong now.

Edit: also I want to say this thread started with and has some extensive research and expertise. To dismiss it all as "a product of its time" seems antithetical to the spirit of the discussion.
 

Have times changed, or have they stayed the same?
Nowadays it's very risky to be this level of racist, because you're going to get in a lot of hot water.

But people still do come out with products which are pretty damn racist, and it happened quite a lot up even past 2010, though it's usually some random wildly racist element in an otherwise-sane setting.

Thankfully consistent opposition to this kind of stuff is making it rarer. But even with 5E there are serious mistakes from time to time. For example, with Orcs, the very negative description of them in Volo's unfortunately basically exactly matched how some ultra-racist pre-1960s textbooks described Black people. Was it conscious or intentional? Almost certainly not. Was the result of people growing up in racist culture and internalizing certain stuff unconsciously? Yeah quite likely. So it still happens a bit.
 

cowpie

Adventurer
I don't agree that it wasn't mainstream. It just wasn't dominant. Those are different things. And 1988 was not 1984, culturally, especially with regards to racism.

Also I'm a bit confused, Reagan's primary platform was economic rather than social, and AFAICT race wasn't a huge part of that particular election (unlike some others). So I don't really see how that supports your point. Looking at the media of the US from 1980 to 1988 you can see a pretty clear decline in racism, and attempts to move away from racist stereotypes.

This is two years before Dances With Wolves for goodness sake. And you're trying to tell me people would have thought "Big Chief Sitting Drool" the "Red Orc" would have totally A-okay in 1988 even when it very clearly would not have in 1990? Because I'm not really buying that.
Agreed, Big Chief Sitting Drool is beyond stupid, and there were a lot of people at the time who would have looked at it, and while they might not have acted outraged, would have found it racist and in extremely poor taste.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Nowadays it's very risky to be this level of racist, because you're going to get in a lot of hot water.

But people still do come out with products which are pretty damn racist, and it happened quite a lot up even past 2010, though it's usually some random wildly racist element in an otherwise-sane setting.

Thankfully consistent opposition to this kind of stuff is making it rarer. But even with 5E there are serious mistakes from time to time. For example, with Orcs, the very negative description of them in Volo's unfortunately basically exactly matched how some ultra-racist pre-1960s textbooks described Black people. Was it conscious or intentional? Almost certainly not. Was the result of people growing up in racist culture and internalizing certain stuff unconsciously? Yeah quite likely. So it still happens a bit.

I tends to be on a vastly smaller scale now. Less of it and it's not on the cover eg X8 Drums of Fire Mountain.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I would also like to gently point out that there isn't anything inherently wrong with drawing real-world inspiration for works of fiction.

Just understand that it will be impossible to do so without some degree of appropriation and/or misrepresentation...otherwise, it would no longer be a work of fiction. So when you write, do it carefully and thoughtfully, with lots of research and feedback, or you will run into problems. And if your intent from the beginning is to mock, disenfranchise, or "joke around about" a real-world group of people, you should scrap the idea completely.
 
Last edited:

Zardnaar

Legend
Agreed, Big Chief Sitting Drool is beyond stupid, and there were a lot of people at the time who would have looked at it, and while they might not have acted outraged, would have found it racist and in extremely poor taste.

I didn't see a lot of Mystara stuff until the mid 90's. I thought it was poor taste/Stupid.

Fart jokes in print form. We had the RC but not the Mystara line the Ylaraum book was the first GAZ I saw and yeah.

Didn't get to read the rest until pdfs were a thing.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I don't agree that it wasn't mainstream. It just wasn't dominant. Those are different things. And 1988 was not 1984, culturally, especially with regards to racism.

Also I'm a bit confused, Reagan's primary platform was economic rather than social, and AFAICT race wasn't a huge part of that particular election (unlike some others). So I don't really see how that supports your point. Looking at the media of the US from 1980 to 1988 you can see a pretty clear decline in racism, and attempts to move away from racist stereotypes.

This is two years before Dances With Wolves for goodness sake. And you're trying to tell me people would have thought "Big Chief Sitting Drool" the "Red Orc" would have totally A-okay in 1988 even when it very clearly would not have in 1990? Because I'm not really buying that.

Hollywood skews differently than USA as a whole.

See the 1950's or anti Vietnam War movies late 70's and 80's.

Just something to be aware of.
 

Silvercat Moonpaw

Adventurer
See that's the thing:

If you do it, you are bound to get some things wrong. We all have biases we don't even realize we have. Some of those wrong things could be quite offensive.

If you don't do it, you don't do the research that increases your knowledge of other cultures, every game is fantasy generic Europe.
Research is hard. Just knowing how to research is hard.

I'm not saying that to excuse not doing the right thing. But I can see how if you both don't want to cause offense and don't want to work yourself too hard one might choose sticking to the cultures you don't have to worry about.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
We had the RC but not the Mystara line the Ylaraum book was the first GAZ I saw and yeah.
You're gonna think I'm pulling your leg, but I had just pulled down my copy of GAZ2 from the bookshelf to compare it to this one. :)

The differences between Emirates of Ylaruam and The Orcs of Thar are night-and-day...the tone, the artwork, even the the use of real-world names and historical events were done in a much more vibrant (and tasteful) manner. It's really not a fair comparison.
 

cowpie

Adventurer
I didn't see a lot of Mystara stuff until the mid 90's. I thought it was poor taste/Stupid.

Fart jokes in print form. We had the RC but not the Mystara line the Ylaraum book was the first GAZ I saw and yeah.

Didn't get to read the rest until pdfs were a thing.
I pretty much skipped these for the same reason -- a lot of the subject matter seemed racist, the bad ideas in some of the products (like the fart jokes) and the general trend of TSR pumping out subpar products meant that I didn't want to buy any of this stuff.
 

I didn't see a lot of Mystara stuff until the mid 90's. I thought it was poor taste/Stupid.
The first Mystara thing I came across was the Shadow Elves thing, with cool underground elves being poisoned by what is basically a nuclear reactor and it was kind of badass/amazing plus I loved the Shadow Elves themselves.

So my bro and I picked up more Mystara stuff. And it was like that meme with the kid grinning and then his jaw drops and he looks upset. Because wooooow most of Mystara was not up to that quality level, it seemed to be basically "Stereotypical presentation of Earth culture with animal-people!" or "Stereotypical presentation of Earth culture with demihumans or humans!" and so on, just like, endlessly.

All these stereotyped cultures from different periods just sitting right next to each other with some dodgy races assigned to them.

We were what, 12-14? And we thought it was dumb as hell. It doesn't look any smarter from 43.

But I'll always have the Shadow Elves!
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top