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D&D 5E Revising Classic Settings

Faolyn

Hero
Yea? Really? Is this the Cindarella version of slavery then?
Within Darksun, slaves of the sorcerer king get to slaughter each other in the arena, or be sacrificed for the glory and power of the sorcerer king, but ok thats not as ugly as rape, is it?
No, it's the version of slavery that makes it more palatable for the purposes of a game. In real life, all slavery is bad, and exists whether we like it or not. In a fantasy game, we can outright say that in this world, there is no sex slavery or rape; that it just doesn't happen. Like when Gygax decided that firearms simply couldn't work in D&D and mixing saltpeter, sulfur, and charcoal did nothing but make a stinky smoke.

Also, imagine, if you will, that the PCs are enslaved. (Let's also imagine the players consented to such a possibility occurring, which is the only way I personally would allow the PC to be enslaved.)

Scenario 1: House slave. The PCs now have access to improvised weapons (such as kitchen knives), can boobytrap the house, poison their owner, or possibly work to undermine their owner in other ways, if they decide to play the long game.

Scenario 2: Arena slave. The PCs now have access to real weapons, other arena slaves who might want revenge, and can possibly even rile the peasant audience into revolting, if they're charismatic enough.

Scenario 3: Forced breeding/sex slave. The PC is likely naked with no access to any weapons or armor or any other support, and no agency, unless they can convince the DM that "has vagina dentata" had always been on their character sheet. Also, this overwhelmingly affects one sex over the other.

And while getting rid of all slavery would change quite a bit of Dark Sun, getting rid of sex slavery wouldn't change anything at all, especially if you make half-dwarfs either a fertile race or no more different than half-elves in terms of how they're made, treated, and the mother's survival chances, which I recall were really low for muls.

Also, there's probably more gamers who have been sexually abused or assaulted than have been actually enslaved, so having non-sex-related slavery is likely to be far less personally upsetting than having sex-related slavery.

And just because those two races are highly in demand, e.g. for manual labor, guard and army tasks, free or enslaved, this does not mean that every other classic DS race cannot be enslaved also (or the product of forcebreeding born into slavery , just born to two similar species as enslaved parents eventiually).
I think the phrase here is "duh." However, if half-dwarfs can only be produced by forced breeding, then that means that all PC half-dwarfs are affected by that. If I choose to play an Athasian halfling or elf or human, I can choose my parentage.
 

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MGibster

Legend
No, it's the version of slavery that makes it more palatable for the purposes of a game. In real life, all slavery is bad, and exists whether we like it or not.
Bingo. Even our violence is sanitized and there's nothing wrong with that. D&D is not really the game I'd use to have such heavy topics as sexual assault. I don't mind if some other games touch on the subject, but for me at least, D&D is a beer & pretzels good v. evil type of game that's supposed to be fun and light hearted.
 

Coroc

Hero
No, it's the version of slavery that makes it more palatable for the purposes of a game. In real life, all slavery is bad, and exists whether we like it or not. In a fantasy game, we can outright say that in this world, there is no sex slavery or rape; that it just doesn't happen. Like when Gygax decided that firearms simply couldn't work in D&D and mixing saltpeter, sulfur, and charcoal did nothing but make a stinky smoke.

Also, imagine, if you will, that the PCs are enslaved. (Let's also imagine the players consented to such a possibility occurring, which is the only way I personally would allow the PC to be enslaved.)
In Athas everyone can be a slave real quick because it is a standard sentence (justified or not) a Templar can hand out. So that is part of the setting, most players interested in playing DS probably know that chances are that they might be enslaved at one point or the other wfor whatever reason. If in doubt then session 0 helps, as always.
In fact the basic 2e module (considered by some a s railroading but it is ane excellent primer) gets the PCs enslaved real fast.

Scenario 1: House slave. The PCs now have access to improvised weapons (such as kitchen knives), can boobytrap the house, poison their owner, or possibly work to undermine their owner in other ways, if they decide to play the long game.

Scenario 2: Arena slave. The PCs now have access to real weapons, other arena slaves who might want revenge, and can possibly even rile the peasant audience into revolting, if they're charismatic enough.

Scenario 3: Forced breeding/sex slave. The PC is likely naked with no access to any weapons or armor or any other support, and no agency, unless they can convince the DM that "has vagina dentata" had always been on their character sheet. Also, this overwhelmingly affects one sex over the other.
Ok the fanged m*m* as last resort defense, that is rich. But you know, in modern times there is such a thing like being a slave limited to sex slavery, in ancient times (Late Stone age to Antique which is the baseline for most DS cultures) they did not make any differences on the "purpose" be it for work, fight in the arena, victim of sadistic psychopaths or pleasure, a slave was most ofte not categorized as being one or the other.


And while getting rid of all slavery would change quite a bit of Dark Sun, getting rid of sex slavery wouldn't change anything at all, especially if you make half-dwarfs either a fertile race or no more different than half-elves in terms of how they're made, treated, and the mother's survival chances, which I recall were really low for muls.

Its like getting rid of injuries in combat, on some topics you cannot really cherrypick, even in an idealised game scenarion.
I see it like that: No wrong in your PCs parents were forced to conceive your Character, you do not have to describe the act in pictures.
Things like that can be cleared up with a kind of social contract among grown up people. The player with the lowest threshold on what is uncomfortable in explicit speech or plot sets the communication standard.

Also, there's probably more gamers who have been sexually abused or assaulted than have been actually enslaved, so having non-sex-related slavery is likely to be far less personally upsetting than having sex-related slavery.
And i bet even more gamers have been mugged or physically assaulted in some way in their lives, and a some might have (had) substance problems, so what now? No robbers, thieves, assaults, beatings? No alcohol? I get that sexuality in games is not everyones thing and i respect that. But if kept abstract, i do not see any problems for an average grown up person if his PC heritage is from a rapelike situation because he chose Mul. Chances are high the PC does not even know his parents.

I think the phrase here is "duh." However, if half-dwarfs can only be produced by forced breeding, then that means that all PC half-dwarfs are affected by that. If I choose to play an Athasian halfling or elf or human, I can choose my parentage.

See you can choose your parents up to a point. What if your DM decrees your social status is maximum low society commoner, or if you insist that your family is one of the rich noblesse, then they got over cross with some templar at some point who enslaved them?
A nice background is one of the finer things of the game for those interested in deep RP (like me) because it gives the DM something to work with. What you do not get is fictional parents of your char that somehow are immune to the common aspects of the game world e.g. getting enslaved.


Bingo. Even our violence is sanitized and there's nothing wrong with that. D&D is not really the game I'd use to have such heavy topics as sexual assault. I don't mind if some other games touch on the subject, but for me at least, D&D is a beer & pretzels good v. evil type of game that's supposed to be fun and light hearted.

It is the personal style how people prefer to play it out on the table. Just because HP are a purely mathematical help method does not mean that you have to shun every mention of gore and such if your group is fine with it. I mean you might do it as you said, and i give you this, that D&D system is not optimised for those details, but it is in no way difficult or impossible to describe nasty things, as pure fluff.


Addendum: You do both know that halflings and thrikreen are cannibalistic in Darksun, do you?
Actually that means a halfling or thrikreen might eat a fallen comrade to not get anything to waste.
Darksun is not your simple "oh lets get 5000 Zorkmids in diamond dust somehow, and find a cleric of sufficient level to raise our comrade."
 
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MGibster

Legend
It is the personal style how people prefer to play it out on the table. Just because HP are a purely mathematical help method does not mean that you have to shun every mention of gore and such if your group is fine with it. I mean you might do it as you said, and i give you this, that D&D system is not optimised for those details, but it is in no way difficult or impossible to describe nasty things, as pure fluff.
When I say that violence is sanitized what I mean is that the game doesn't really explore the trauma that surrounds it. Most D&D games don't feature half-orcs crying out for their mothers while they lay dying with half their insides on their outsides, we don't dwell on the farm boy who left with a big smile on his face to begin his adventuring career but since his return he doesn't smile at all, and every bandit a PC kills is just another mook laid low without any thought given to his parents, wife, or children he might have. The death of my NPC enemies is no more consequential than the death of a Storm Trooper.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
I think Dark Sun would lose absolutely nothing of its essential character if the sterility and forced-breeding aspect of muls (and the name) was retconned out of existence, and they just became half-dwarves.
Athas would lose a simple way to evoke the atmosphere that the powerful usually treat the powerless with contempt and disrespect if the name 'mul' were erased. That easy insult, available at the drop of a hat. "Who is that, carrying the noble's luggage?" "A mule."
 

That this convo has been derailed by a debate on slavery for 175+ replies of its 226 total replies is a big warning sign that slavery is controversial. Shocker!
And if that's happening in a place full of grognards who know Dark Sun and love it, then the reaction among younger fans without the nostalgia will be that much more dramatic. And likely angry.

Dark Sun just ain't a good idea right now. Not without removing slavery from most lands. Which they could do. It'd be a smaller change than what they're doing to Ravenloft.
 

Sithlord

Explorer
I think it would be interesting to re-imagine Dark Sun in those terms. But ... that would be controversial, no matter how deftly done. "Look, here's an RPG that lets you play a fictionalized version of America's chattel slavery system .... " would go over ... not so well.

That said, I did want to say that Dark Sun has traditionally been viewed in terms of the classic Roman slavery system- which is to say, not chattel slavery, but instead something that was more an issue of conquest and money- slavery was something that anyone (including nobility) could fall into because of debt, and that a slave could free themselves of upon payment. This Roman influence is echoed both by the nature of the setting (Gladiators to entertain the free people and other slaves) as well as in the writing (stating that a person can be born to slavery, captured into slavery, or become a slave by judgment or debt).

TLDR; I wouldn't change the nature of the Dark Sun setting vis-a-vis slavery to make it reflect American, instead of Roman, antecedents. All slavery is bad, but American race-based chattel slavery is, you know, really bad and doesn't make for a fun & diverse game. IMO.
There is nothing wrong with slavery in dark sun. These are primarily evil cities run by evil sorcerer kings. I can think of nothing more evil than villains that practice slavery. Is it even possible for the young players to play an rpg set in Ancient Rome or Ancient Greece or ancient Egypt, Persia, Babylonia, Assyria, etc. just because it exists in a setting doesn’t mean we condone it.
 


Sithlord

Explorer
When I say that violence is sanitized what I mean is that the game doesn't really explore the trauma that surrounds it. Most D&D games don't feature half-orcs crying out for their mothers while they lay dying with half their insides on their outsides, we don't dwell on the farm boy who left with a big smile on his face to begin his adventuring career but since his return he doesn't smile at all, and every bandit a PC kills is just another mook laid low without any thought given to his parents, wife, or children he might have. The death of my NPC enemies is no more consequential than the death of a Storm Trooper.
Most d&d games don’t even touch on the horror of post traumatic stress. What would a person be like that had killed as many people as PC’s. What would a person be like that has been brutally beaten with a sword, axe, hammer or whatever he like. And it’s done multiple times to pc’s throughout their characters life. We don’t go there because it’s a game and psychiatry and sociology and world economics aren’t what we are playing.
 
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The issue isn't that "slavery is controversial". It isn't, it's pretty unanimously considered a bad thing. The issue is, parents tend not to consider it appropriate subject matter for the early teens who are Hasbro's core target audience.

It's easy enough to add "R rated content" at home. It's a lot harder to take it out of print books you are buying for your 12 year old child.
 

Sithlord

Explorer
The issue isn't that "slavery is controversial". It isn't, it's pretty unanimously considered a bad thing. The issue is, parents tend not to consider it appropriate subject matter for the early teens who are Hasbro's core target audience.

It's easy enough to add "R rated content" at home. It's a lot harder to take it out of print books you are buying for your 12 year old child.
I don’t even think they can publish a d&d game on how most teenage boys play d&d. I know when I was teen they wouldn’t be allowed in public.
 

I don’t even think they can publish a d&d game on how most teenage boys play d&d. I know when I was teen they wouldn’t be allowed in public.
Sure. But it's usually parents who buy the books and decide what is appropriate, not the children. WotC want a wholesome image, whatever immature kids get up to when unsupervised.
 
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Mind of tempest

Adventurer
That this convo has been derailed by a debate on slavery for 175+ replies of its 226 total replies is a big warning sign that slavery is controversial. Shocker!
And if that's happening in a place full of grognards who know Dark Sun and love it, then the reaction among younger fans without the nostalgia will be that much more dramatic. And likely angry.

Dark Sun just ain't a good idea right now. Not without removing slavery from most lands. Which they could do. It'd be a smaller change than what they're doing to Ravenloft.
the question would then be what settings they can bring back the others are super similar to what we already have and no longer have the selling points they used to.
 

the question would then be what settings they can bring back the others are super similar to what we already have and no longer have the selling points they used to.
I don't think it matters their old selling points matter anymore.

There are more new players than old now.
Based on the released demographics, 55% of DnD players wouldn't have been old enough to play during the 2nd Ed setting boom. And 70% would have been 15 or less in 2000 when 3rd Ed was released.
Any setting book they release has to appeal to that 70% of players who have no nostalgia rather than the sub-percentage of the the 30% who were old enough to remember 'n' love Spelljammer and Mystara.

They could do anything and if they market it right and make it cool enough, people will buy. They could turn Birthright and Hollow World into hit settings now.
 

the question would then be what settings they can bring back the others are super similar to what we already have and no longer have the selling points they used to.
The other option is to create new settings, which don't have any baggage. They lose out on nostalgia but I don't know how much of a loss that really is.

The real loss, from the accounting perspective, is that they have an asset (IP) that isn't doing anything, which isn't a loss but is a waste.
 

Mind of tempest

Adventurer
I don't think it matters their old selling points matter anymore.

There are more new players than old now.
Based on the released demographics, 55% of DnD players wouldn't have been old enough to play during the 2nd Ed setting boom. And 70% would have been 15 or less in 2000 when 3rd Ed was released.
Any setting book they release has to appeal to that 70% of players who have no nostalgia rather than the sub-percentage of the the 30% who were old enough to remember 'n' love Spelljammer and Mystara.

They could do anything and if they market it right and make it cool enough, people will buy. They could turn Birthright and Hollow World into hit settings now.
they could make them hit settings but they would have to know how to sell them which I am not certain of, plus getting people to care about a setting book means they have to add a mechanic system that dm's might want or races, classes and items that player want and we are running out of those fast as with out proper setting support they get supper similar super fast.
 

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