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D&D 5E Revising Classic Settings

squibbles

Adventurer
The prob is that having slavery encourages the players to be "oppressions tourists." It turns real people's pain into their characters tragic emo backstory. And brings an ugly thing people might want to escape into their DnD. [...]
I recognize there's a logic to that as a general principle, but where it applies to slavery in Dark Sun it seems like a strange argument to me.

Dark Sun has oppression of many kinds--slavery, but also genocide, totalitarianism, and state organized ritual murder--all part of a system of destruction that is gradually ending life on the planet. It wouldn't be a good source of escapism for the many people who have lived with the specter of those other evils either, if that's what they were looking for.

But for groups of players who are looking for grimdarkness in their entertainment media, it seems like it's okay for them to enjoy it, no?
 
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TheSword

Legend
The prob is that having slavery encourages the players to be "oppressions tourists." It turns real people's pain into their characters tragic emo backstory. And brings an ugly thing people might want to escape into their DnD.

It comes up a couple times in the BlackAF panel in D&D Live 2020
That is a fair reason not do these things.

The downside is that if that were the case a broad swathe of artistic expression wouldn’t be possible... at least 4 Assassins creed titles for example, anything set in ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, medieval Scandinavia.

There is a difference between saying that I don’t want to be sitting across the table from someone playing an escaped slave, and saying No one anywhere can play an escaped slave including the DM.

I’m uncomfortable with the blanket statement that no one anywhere can represent slavery in a game. As detestable as it was/is, it is a part of human existence, along with the other bad things I have referenced. Now if there was a conversation here about how to reference it sensitively, then that would be a different question. Shutting it down completely, as a history student, feels disproportionate and deeply troubling.

Now a completely different question is whether WOC can be bothered to go to the effort, when they have lots of other IPs.

I hope they chart a middle path, reference it, but in a sensible, mature non-sensational way. With advice written by POC on how not to be a douche about this stuff at the gaming table.
 

I think here's where we're having the disconnect, as I'd argue very strongly that Dark Sun doesn't centralise slavery. Its a setting element, yes, but a central one? You can very easily have adventures in Dark Sun where it will never come up. I would not call it a central element in Dark Sun at all.
I would argue that it does make it central. The fact that you can have entire adventures avoiding it doesn't mean it isn't. The same is true of literally any setting that centers a certain idea. You can run a Planescape adventure where no-one uses a portal or talks philosophy. You can run a Ravenloft adventure that doesn't involve the Mists and isn't very scary (I think that's most Ravenloft adventures actually). And so on.

But as soon as you go to any major town or encounter a big caravan or the like, slavery is going to be everywhere. The DM and players may not want to engage with it, but the setting seems pretty clear about it. The issue with slavery in particular is that the US is still recovering from that fact that barely 150 years ago they had chattel slavery (the worst form of slavery) in full force (not as something half-forgotten or decaying). And slavery in DS tends towards being chattel slavery (certainly Muls make it clear it is). So turning it into entertainment, which is what this does, effectively, without being disrespectful/weird, requires a level of engagement with the consequences of slavery that is probably not something Dark Sun really wants to engage with.

To put it another way - using it as a cheap background element that's constant and never actually looking at it in a serious way is a problem. Maybe it won't be a problem in another 50-150 years. Maybe it feels like way less of a problem in countries which weren't engaging in chattel slavery 150-odd years ago.

And I don't think it's really necessary to make it focused.

Personally I think Dark Sun needs a serious re-working, from the ground up, and I say that as a huge DS fan. Keep the basic concepts and visual style, but take an "anything can go" attitude to specifics beyond the concepts.

That's Dark Sun's whole thing. The world is dead and there's people trying to make it worse. You have the chance to stand up against them and make it better. Its Mad Max or Conan. Honestly there's a good argument for enviromentalism being a strong theme in it.
Yes absolutely. It's post-post apocalypse. Not peri-apocalypse or immediate post-apocalypse. I don't think it's even an argument that environmentalism is a theme. It definitely is. It's about as subtle as a brick to the face! :) It's part of why DS is even more relevant now. Especially with cryptocurrency and NFTs and so on, which whilst not yet primary contributors to climate change, use more and more energy every year on pointless idiocy (and seem likely to grow exponentially), which feels very akin to Defiling.
I’m uncomfortable with the blanket statement that no one anywhere can represent slavery in a game.
Who is saying that though? I haven't watched the full panel, do they say it there? No-one in this thread has said anything like that.

What I am saying, for example, is that if you're going to make chattel slavery a major theme of your setting, one that's nigh-ever-present (in the City-States at least), you either need to really engage hard with the horrors of that (not really suitable for a WotC D&D setting imo), or y'know, not do it, which means having it not be a major theme.

That doesn't mean you can't have chattel slavery, let alone other forms of slavery, in your setting, but they should probably not be ever-present nor key to entire races existing. Look at other historical forms of oppression and slavery - particularly indentured servitude and use those as your main forms, and probably have City-States that don't use slavery but are horrifically oppressive anyway.
The downside is that if that were the case a broad swathe of artistic expression wouldn’t be possible... at least 4 Assassins creed titles for example, anything set in ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, medieval Scandinavia.
All those games massively downplay slavery and oppression, note. In Odyssey, which is the one I've played most, it's barely even a thing to a highly-unrealistic degree (just about everything about the people in the game is unrealistic, which is fine).

AC actually did have a spin-off game, possibly two, that engaged pretty hard with slavery (I forget the names, it was around the time AC Black Flag was the main game), and which were actually I thought fairly well-regarded for their treatment of it (I could be misremembering).
 
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Mind of tempest

(he/him)advocate for 5e psionics
I would argue that it does make it central. The fact that you can have entire adventures avoiding it doesn't mean it isn't. The same is true of literally any setting that centers a certain idea. You can run a Planescape adventure where no-one uses a portal or talks philosophy. You can run a Ravenloft adventure that doesn't involve the Mists and isn't very scary (I think that's most Ravenloft adventures actually). And so on.

But as soon as you go to any major town or encounter a big caravan or the like, slavery is going to be everywhere. The DM and players may not want to engage with it, but the setting seems pretty clear about it. The issue with slavery in particular is that the US is still recovering from that fact that barely 150 years ago they had chattel slavery (the worst form of slavery) in full force (not as something half-forgotten or decaying). And slavery in DS tends towards being chattel slavery (certainly Muls make it clear it is). So turning it into entertainment, which is what this does, effectively, without being disrespectful/weird, requires a level of engagement with the consequences of slavery that is probably not something Dark Sun really wants to engage with.

To put it another way - using it as a cheap background element that's constant and never actually looking at it in a serious way is a problem. Maybe it won't be a problem in another 50-150 years. Maybe it feels like way less of a problem in countries which weren't engaging in chattel slavery 150-odd years ago.

And I don't think it's really necessary to make it focused.

Personally I think Dark Sun needs a serious re-working, from the ground up, and I say that as a huge DS fan. Keep the basic concepts and visual style, but take an "anything can go" attitude to specifics beyond the concepts.


Yes absolutely. It's post-post apocalypse. Not peri-apocalypse or immediate post-apocalypse. I don't think it's even an argument that environmentalism is a theme. It definitely is. It's about as subtle as a brick to the face! :) It's part of why DS is even more relevant now. Especially with cryptocurrency and NFTs and so on, which whilst not yet primary contributors to climate change, use more and more energy every year on pointless idiocy (and seem likely to grow exponentially), which feels very akin to Defiling.

Who is saying that though? I haven't watched the full panel, do they say it there? No-one in this thread has said anything like that.

What I am saying, for example, is that if you're going to make chattel slavery a major theme of your setting, one that's nigh-ever-present (in the City-States at least), you either need to really engage hard with the horrors of that (not really suitable for a WotC D&D setting imo), or y'know, not do it, which means having it not be a major theme.

That doesn't mean you can't have chattel slavery, let alone other forms of slavery, in your setting, but they should probably not be ever-present nor key to entire races existing. Look at other historical forms of oppression and slavery - particularly indentured servitude and use those as your main forms, and probably have City-States that don't use slavery but are horrifically oppressive anyway.
should a thread be made for such a discussion? as oddly dark sun is more close to familiar to me than makes sense for my age bracket and it seems worth talking about?
 

TheSword

Legend
I would argue that it does make it central. The fact that you can have entire adventures avoiding it doesn't mean it isn't. The same is true of literally any setting that centers a certain idea. You can run a Planescape adventure where no-one uses a portal or talks philosophy. You can run a Ravenloft adventure that doesn't involve the Mists and isn't very scary (I think that's most Ravenloft adventures actually). And so on.

But as soon as you go to any major town or encounter a big caravan or the like, slavery is going to be everywhere. The DM and players may not want to engage with it, but the setting seems pretty clear about it. The issue with slavery in particular is that the US is still recovering from that fact that barely 150 years ago they had chattel slavery (the worst form of slavery) in full force (not as something half-forgotten or decaying). And slavery in DS tends towards being chattel slavery (certainly Muls make it clear it is). So turning it into entertainment, which is what this does, effectively, without being disrespectful/weird, requires a level of engagement with the consequences of slavery that is probably not something Dark Sun really wants to engage with.

To put it another way - using it as a cheap background element that's constant and never actually looking at it in a serious way is a problem. Maybe it won't be a problem in another 50-150 years. Maybe it feels like way less of a problem in countries which weren't engaging in chattel slavery 150-odd years ago.

And I don't think it's really necessary to make it focused.

Personally I think Dark Sun needs a serious re-working, from the ground up, and I say that as a huge DS fan. Keep the basic concepts and visual style, but take an "anything can go" attitude to specifics beyond the concepts.


Yes absolutely. It's post-post apocalypse. Not peri-apocalypse or immediate post-apocalypse. I don't think it's even an argument that environmentalism is a theme. It definitely is. It's about as subtle as a brick to the face! :) It's part of why DS is even more relevant now. Especially with cryptocurrency and NFTs and so on, which whilst not yet primary contributors to climate change, use more and more energy every year on pointless idiocy (and seem likely to grow exponentially), which feels very akin to Defiling.

Who is saying that though? I haven't watched the full panel, do they say it there? No-one in this thread has said anything like that.

What I am saying, for example, is that if you're going to make chattel slavery a major theme of your setting, one that's nigh-ever-present (in the City-States at least), you either need to really engage hard with the horrors of that (not really suitable for a WotC D&D setting imo), or y'know, not do it, which means having it not be a major theme.

That doesn't mean you can't have chattel slavery, let alone other forms of slavery, in your setting, but they should probably not be ever-present nor key to entire races existing. Look at other historical forms of oppression and slavery - particularly indentured servitude and use those as your main forms, and probably have City-States that don't use slavery but are horrifically oppressive anyway.

All those games massively downplay slavery and oppression, note. In Odyssey, which is the one I've played most, it's barely even a thing to a highly-unrealistic degree (just about everything about the people in the game is unrealistic, which is fine).

AC actually did have a spin-off game, possibly two, that engaged pretty hard with slavery (I forget the names, it was around the time AC Black Flag was the main game), and which were actually I thought fairly well-regarded for their treatment of it (I could be misremembering).
Great so if it’s presence is possible, what we’re talking about is how it can be dealt with as a topic responsibly. I’m all for that.

It sounded like it was being suggested that the topic was off the table. Glad it’s not.
 

Dark Sun is a distopy, but we should take care about some threads becoming taboo too fastly. Some episodes of Law&Order: Special Victims Units is about sexual slavery. Are we going to ban Law&Order? Machismo (male chauvinism) is wrong, but in woke fiction, even marvel and DC stories there are sexist characters to be reported, not to be promoted. Athas suffers a total ecological disaster, but the message is we have to avoid this in our real life.

We can agree we should avoid frivolity about some serious threads, but if there is some complain, it should be first against the literary saga of the world of Gor (this is like mixing planet romance with 50 Gray Shades). There are slaves in the fiction about Conan the Barbarian.

In Dragonlance not only Caramon became a slave, but also a gladiator in the arena.

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And we can't slavery in evil realms, for example drows or illithid domains.

* Some tropes can be tolerated but when they are always linked with negative stereotypes. For example a villain can be a no-Caucasian human, but then others from that ethnic group should be in the side of the good guys. A religious zealot or a preacher/false prophet can be an antagonist, but then also other believer characters have to be showed to mark faith doesn't the end nor the reason neither the mercy.
 

That is a fair reason not do these things.

The downside is that if that were the case a broad swathe of artistic expression wouldn’t be possible... at least 4 Assassins creed titles for example, anything set in ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, medieval Scandinavia.
Theros was set in ancient Greece/ Rome and it managed to ignore slavery. Because it's a fantasy game and not historical fiction.

There is a difference between saying that I don’t want to be sitting across the table from someone playing an escaped slave, and saying No one anywhere can play an escaped slave including the DM.

I’m uncomfortable with the blanket statement that no one anywhere can represent slavery in a game. As detestable as it was/is, it is a part of human existence, along with the other bad things I have referenced. Now if there was a conversation here about how to reference it sensitively, then that would be a different question. Shutting it down completely, as a history student, feels disproportionate and deeply troubling.

Now a completely different question is whether WOC can be bothered to go to the effort, when they have lots of other IPs.

I hope they chart a middle path, reference it, but in a sensible, mature non-sensational way. With advice written by POC on how not to be a douche about this stuff at the gaming table.
Added emphasis.
Because you're correct. A "no slavery" rule would be unenforceable. DMs and players can do whatever they want. But that don't mean Wizards gotta do a setting that puts slavery at the forefront when they could do DRAGONLANCE and GREYHAWK and AL QADIM instead.
 

Dark Sun is a distopy, but we should take care about some threads becoming taboo too fastly. Some episodes of Law&Order: Special Victims Units is about sexual slavery. Are we going to ban Law&Order?
Naw...
But if there was only going to be THREE classic TV shows remade (joining five other TV show) , would the show about sexual slavery be the first choice?

Even Law & Order didn't start with SVU. That came after ten years of regular L&O. (And the idea of doing a show heavily focusing on sexuality based crimes drew headlines and controversy on its premiere.)
 

My father sometimes sees it, but I feel unconfortable when I think about the horrible things happening in the real world, but that serie shouldn't be cancelled. I trust nobody who tries fixing everything with new rules, orders or banning because he doesn't hope free citizen to do the right actions when you explain the reasons.

Some animes not only show slavery but even some main character sidekics are former slaves themself, even children.

There was a episode of the legendary journeys of Hercules about slavery with Lucy Liu.

Should I ask to cancel movies about pirates? My land was victim of pirates and slaver trafickers. Some weeks ago I read about fishers in Almeria, Sourth-East Spanish coast, almost catched by Frenchs...to be sold as slaves in the north of Morocco. The coasts of my land being attacked by Otoman pirates to catch slaves. But Hollywood movies don't tell about pirates as slavery traffickers.
 

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