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D&D 5E Revising Classic Settings

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
The problem of 'problematic material' is not as difficult as it is being made out to be. Suggestion #1 sounds like "Vietnam War outcast" dialed up to 11, so a group of players who engage with the situation can figure out - in-game or away-from-table - that the answer lies down the road of mental healing.

The point of a re-release of Dark Sun is not to protect the players from the bad stuff, but to allow them to confront the bad stuff. Doing so in imagination is practice for being able to confront IRL bad stuff, if/when that should be thrust upon you.
 

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Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
How do we frame this in such a way that a white, western male might have the same visceral and instinctive revulsion to a dark campaign element like chattel slavery that, while realistic, can be offputting and denigrating to players? This is difficult to do, considering the protective ruling class bubble that colonialism, historical revisionism, etc. provide, but I'll give it a shot:

1) A nation has suffered a protracted, seemingly endless war. Returning soldiers, mostly men, have been largely abandoned by the crown to live in squalor and mental decay . The terrors and specters of war have become so collectively profound that they've manifested as actual monsters, stalking the alleys and gulches of the capital. Suicide is so prevalent among returning soldiers that a new demigod of death has arisen to embody it.

2) A nation of minotaurs keeps white human males (the paler the better) as sexual chattel, raising and breeding them over generations to rape. They're like pets, to be displayed wherever the proud minotaurs travel in their mercenary companies.

3) All younger brothers of the first born male are made into eunuchs to insure an uncomplicated line of patrilineal heritage. This is common practice.

4) When they come of age, men are judged by the dominant religion to be either worthy of conjugal relations with women or made into a second class of males. They cannot marry, the are barred from types of military service and women who respect their own social status avoid being in their presence.

Fun, no?/s

If you add any, or a few, of these elements to a game I can assure you your players will give you long, sideways glances and mutter "what the fu..." under their breath. Even if you added these scenarios with the intent of addressing them as the inhumane abuses they are - as "maturely as possible" - many players would simply not want to go along for the ride. And they'd be right to do so.

I'm more open to a case being made for non-chattel slavery (ie. prisoners of war, convicts, interlopers) like the Drow art suggests, but that would have to be outlined by a DM with zen like sensitivity.

This is one of the biggest strawmen arguments I've ever seen on ENWorld, and that's saying a lot.

If you the DM know that someone at your table is uncomfortable with slavery, DO NOT INCLUDE SLAVERY IN YOUR GAME. This is a breach of player trust, and it is a game meant FOR FUN. Players who are made uncomfortable by a weird DM is decidedly "not fun."

That does not mean that writing a fantasy setting that has slavery in it is suddenly out-of-bounds. Slavery is morally repugnant, it is meant to be fought against. If the PCs want to live in a Dark Sun city and fight against the oppressive rulers who allow and propagate slavery, they should be able to do so. A setting book tailored for this gameplay is perfectly acceptable, and has been published as recently as 4th Edition.

If slavery is not something the players want in their game (in any form), it should not be there. In another example, if I have a player suffering from PTSD in my game, I'm definitely not going to throw their character into a battlefield, even though this is a very common thing in D&D.

If we try and make D&D sanitized of all controversial topics, the game cannot exist. It is at its core a combat simulator; violence is often (and usually in all its forms) morally wrong. It is the DM and PCs who must come together in a social contract to avoid content that makes people uncomfortable, and allow them to partake in content they all can enjoy.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
This is one of the biggest strawmen arguments I've ever seen on ENWorld, and that's saying a lot.

If you the DM know that someone at your table is uncomfortable with slavery, DO NOT INCLUDE SLAVERY IN YOUR GAME. This is a breach of player trust, and it is a game meant FOR FUN. Players who are made uncomfortable by a weird DM is decidedly "not fun."

That does not mean that writing a fantasy setting that has slavery in it is suddenly out-of-bounds. Slavery is morally repugnant, it is meant to be fought against. If the PCs want to live in a Dark Sun city and fight against the oppressive rulers who allow and propagate slavery, they should be able to do so. A setting book tailored for this gameplay is perfectly acceptable, and has been published as recently as 4th Edition.

If slavery is not something the players want in their game (in any form), it should not be there. In another example, if I have a player suffering from PTSD in my game, I'm definitely not going to throw their character into a battlefield, even though this is a very common thing in D&D.

If we try and make D&D sanitized of all controversial topics, the game cannot exist. It is at its core a combat simulator; violence is often (and usually in all its forms) morally wrong. It is the DM and PCs who must come together in a social contract to avoid content that makes people uncomfortable, and allow them to partake in content they all can enjoy.

I cover this on session 0.

R13 with F bombs and the world is unfair by modern standards.

May include slavery, genocide, corporal punishment etc and you can get executed for insulting the monarch or other authority figure.

Basically Game of Thrones minus the rape.

If something bad (read fatal) does end up happening to your character it happens off screen and you create a new character.

Most of the time I don't include those elements but they exist.

Currently running a Drow campaign so yeah slavery, sexism and racism are in game. Covered in session 0 and the players wanted a Drow Campaign.
 

Faolyn

Hero
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.
Problem is, you already have that in D&D anyway. Lots of people have made angsty backgrounds of having escaped abusive parents or being the sole survivor of a murdered family or massacred town, even if they never experienced abuse or the loss of a loved one by violence. Those are pretty standard backgrounds, along with searching for long-lost family member/lover/mentor or getting revenge on person who murdered family member/lover/mentor, which are also things that real people have suffered through and the player might not have.

As for bringing an ugly real thing, that's what session 0 is for. "Technically, there is slavery in this setting. Should we retcon it out of the game and say it doesn't exist, have it completely in the background, or have it there up front and you guys can choose to deal with it as you feel like?"
 

Faolyn

Hero
An episode from 1999?
Have you watched any TV from this century?
I'm going to butt in for a second.

The recent She-Ra cartoon had mind-raped, mind-controlled slaves in the last season. While it may not have the same visual horror of the typical image of a beaten slave in chains, it was definitely horrible. And it was a major plot point that was seen as something to defeat.

That's the dang point. Slavery shouldn't be escapist for done for fun. You shouldn't pretend to be a slave for your own amusement. It doesn't NEED to exist in our DnD and our fantasy fiction. It's something we play so we don't HAVE to think about all the horrible stuff going on in the world. Why do we need to be reminded of slavery and rape and hate crimes in our free time? Not when we can just as easily avoid it
While I definitely agree that it doesn't have to be included and shouldn't be forced on anyone, it's still something that can be agreed on table by table. If wouldn't include rape or hate crimes in any of my games, and if you were my player, I wouldn't include even background slavery.
 

You do not have to include every single race from the Forgotten Realms into every other setting. That's one of the biggest criticisms of the Forgotten Realms is how much of a kitchen sink it is. Dragonlance is memorable because it doesn't have half the races as you expected. Of the seven non catch-all settings less than half of them have dark elves. What you leave out is just as important as what you put in.
This is something I would actually like to see as a DM suggestion in the DM's Guide. Or at least imply that the world one sets their campaign in have a standard rule set to match said setting, including races. Heck, for me, I'd even go so far as stating preferred classes.
 

Problem is, you already have that in D&D anyway. Lots of people have made angsty backgrounds of having escaped abusive parents or being the sole survivor of a murdered family or massacred town, even if they never experienced abuse or the loss of a loved one by violence. Those are pretty standard backgrounds, along with searching for long-lost family member/lover/mentor or getting revenge on person who murdered family member/lover/mentor, which are also things that real people have suffered through and the player might not have.

As for bringing an ugly real thing, that's what session 0 is for. "Technically, there is slavery in this setting. Should we retcon it out of the game and say it doesn't exist, have it completely in the background, or have it there up front and you guys can choose to deal with it as you feel like?"

Agreed, but if (for argument's sake) I had a player in my group who was the real-life survivor of a murdered family, i'd have no compunctions about saying in session zero "no 'survivor of murdered family' PCs in this campaign" and not including last-survivor-of-murdered-family plotlines.

I think the issue with slavery in Dark Sun (and I say this as someone who absolutely loves Dark Sun) is that it's absolutely integral to the setting. Lack of water, gods, and metal, magic draining life, despotic sorcerer-kings ruling city-states, psionics, slavery and gladiatorial combat. Those are basically the pillars of Dark Sun right there.

If you want to run an campaign (for instance) in as-written FR, and not include murdered families, then yeah, you can do it and not notice the difference. Murdered families certainly happen in FR (hell, so does slavery), but the setting isn't built around them, FR isn't the 'murdered family' campaign world in anything like the way DS is the 'slavery' campaign world. It's a lot harder to have an as-written Dark Sun campaign that didn't feature slavery on a reasonably regular basis.

Would it stop me personally running or playing a Dark Sun game? Hell no. Like i said, I love the world, but on the other hand, i have no personal skin in this game. But if there was someone in my group who did have issues about playing in a game with slavery in it, then I'd look at another setting, because if it;'s not fun for them, it's not fun for them, and it's not my job to self-administer amateur therapy through kicking imaginary slavers in the head if they don't want to do that. (And on the other hand, if I was in a game and one of the PCs started setting themselves up as a slave trader or buying slaves or whatever, and the player was all 'I'm just roleplaying, it's what my character would do!', then there'd be some fairly frank OOC conversations happening about that too.) I suspect WotC won't want to present that binary take-it-or-leave-it choice to their customers though, and that the 5e iteration of the setting will be altered to accommodate to reflect more modern thinking. For instance removal of support for PC templars, who are after all the brutal enforcers of a tyrannical slave state, i think is almost a certainty.
 

Faolyn

Hero
Agreed, but if (for argument's sake) I had a player in my group who was the real-life survivor of a murdered family, i'd have no compunctions about saying in session zero "no 'survivor of murdered family' PCs in this campaign" and not including last-survivor-of-murdered-family plotlines.
Right, and that's (and the rest of what you said) a perfectly reasonable approach. I do that as well.

I think that WotC would include the slavery issue if they revamp DS, although I also think they would turn half-dwarfs and half-giants into full-fledged lineages instead of having them be the product of ongoing rape. Heck, I can see them retconning their origins to having been entirely the creation of psionics.
 

I also think they would turn half-dwarfs and half-giants into full-fledged lineages instead of having them be the product of ongoing rape. Heck, I can see them retconning their origins to having been entirely the creation of psionics.

Yeah, that’s the sort of change that’s just a no-brainer imho. Doesn’t really impact the way the setting plays at all, but removes stuff that’s be pretty skeezy to quite a lot of people.

Hell, they were already halfway there in the 2e line - from memory, halfgiants were the result of long-ago tampering by the sorcerer-kings but were self-perpetuating now, while in the very early stages of the 2e line there was a novel character whose dwarf father and human mother were a genuine partnership, and whose mother survived the pregnancy (and went on to kick a lot of heads afterwards).

Slavery is a tougher fix, but these are low-hanging fruit.
 

If you the DM know that someone at your table is uncomfortable with slavery, DO NOT INCLUDE SLAVERY IN YOUR GAME. This is a breach of player trust, and it is a game meant FOR FUN. Players who are made uncomfortable by a weird DM is decidedly "not fun."

That does not mean that writing a fantasy setting that has slavery in it is suddenly out-of-bounds. Slavery is morally repugnant, it is meant to be fought against. If the PCs want to live in a Dark Sun city and fight against the oppressive rulers who allow and propagate slavery, they should be able to do so. A setting book tailored for this gameplay is perfectly acceptable, and has been published as recently as 4th Edition.

If slavery is not something the players want in their game (in any form), it should not be there. In another example, if I have a player suffering from PTSD in my game, I'm definitely not going to throw their character into a battlefield, even though this is a very common thing in D&D.

If we try and make D&D sanitized of all controversial topics, the game cannot exist. It is at its core a combat simulator; violence is often (and usually in all its forms) morally wrong. It is the DM and PCs who must come together in a social contract to avoid content that makes people uncomfortable, and allow them to partake in content they all can enjoy.
"If we try and make D&D sanitized of all controversial topics, the game cannot exist." That's true. But individual controversial topics should still be something you opt into. They shouldn't be a major focus of a product.
Slavery is a huge trigger. Right up atop the list with colonialism, sexual assault, and child endangerment. It's hard to think of a more divisive issue that carries more baggage.
Dark Sun's a campaign where slavery is major. Slavery's in every single city. It's tied into the backstory of humans and muls and half-giants.

Wizards is always gonna to publish big audience products. Always. Safe products. Middle of the road. Specially now when DnD is bigger than ever. They're not gonna to do weird, niche experimental products anymore. That's for those secondary publishers, like Kobold Press or Monte Cook Games.
Just like if someone at your table is uncomfortable with something you do not include it in your game, if the MAJORITY of the DnD audience is uncomfortable with something they won't publish it in a book. Or do their best to make it optional.

Wizards is trying extra hard to move past its racist origins at the moment and earn some goodwill. They're not gonna endanger that with Dark Sun. That's be like doing Maztika or Kara Tur. Wrong product at this time.
Maybe for 6th Ed. Dark Sun was just released last edition. Seems fair to give a campaign that wasn't updated to 4th Ed a chance instead.
 


Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
"If we try and make D&D sanitized of all controversial topics, the game cannot exist." That's true. But individual controversial topics should still be something you opt into. They shouldn't be a major focus of a product.
Slavery is a huge trigger. Right up atop the list with colonialism, sexual assault, and child endangerment. It's hard to think of a more divisive issue that carries more baggage.
Dark Sun's a campaign where slavery is major. Slavery's in every single city. It's tied into the backstory of humans and muls and half-giants.

Wizards is always gonna to publish big audience products. Always. Safe products. Middle of the road. Specially now when DnD is bigger than ever. They're not gonna to do weird, niche experimental products anymore. That's for those secondary publishers, like Kobold Press or Monte Cook Games.
Just like if someone at your table is uncomfortable with something you do not include it in your game, if the MAJORITY of the DnD audience is uncomfortable with something they won't publish it in a book. Or do their best to make it optional.

Wizards is trying extra hard to move past its racist origins at the moment and earn some goodwill. They're not gonna endanger that with Dark Sun. That's be like doing Maztika or Kara Tur. Wrong product at this time.
Maybe for 6th Ed. Dark Sun was just released last edition. Seems fair to give a campaign that wasn't updated to 4th Ed a chance instead.

I've already argued my point with slavery so I won't bother reiterating it, especially since 5E has already depicted slavery (I even included an image of it's usage in Mordenkainen's ToF). It is hyperbole to say that slavery is as large a trigger for people as sexual assault or child endangerment. I won't even say WotC is ok publishing "safe middle of the road products" when they published Tome of Annihilation (which has quite a lot of colonial references) or Descent into Avernus (Satanic Panic anyone?).

And saying the majority of the D&D audience is uncomfortable with slavery is a very different thing than saying a majority of D&D audience wouldn't want to fight against slavery in their games.

And your point on skipping Dark Sun because it was recently in 4E is backwards... it got published then because it's popular. It is one of the most likely to return, because it's still popular (at least more than Mystara, Birthright, and even Dragonlance).

To illustrate my point, here is a Tweet by Kristina Arielle (a more famous D&D player and POC) announcing her role in a live-play of a Dark Sun campaign.

 

I've already argued my point with slavery so I won't bother reiterating it, especially since 5E has already depicted slavery (I even included an image of it's usage in Mordenkainen's ToF).
And ya don't think Wizards might change in response to feedback to TOME OF FOES?

And there's a pretty big difference between some members of two races in one setting using slaves and every major city using slaves? You can use the Forgotten Realms without invoking slavery at all but you can't use Dark Sun.

And your point on skipping Dark Sun because it was recently in 4E is backwards... it got published then because it's popular. It is one of the most likely to return, because it's still popular (at least more than Mystara, Birthright, and even Dragonlance).
Was popular. With old gamers. Who are now outnumbered by new gamers who have no attachment to Dark Sun.
Like how Ravenloft became Wizard's biggest hit of a campaign despite not being hugely popular in 3rd Ed.

To illustrate my point, here is a Tweet by Kristina Arielle (a more famous D&D player and POC) announcing her role in a live-play of a Dark Sun campaign.
That's nice. Does that mean every African American is now cool with white people pretending to be a freed slave?
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
Was popular. With old gamers. Who are now outnumbered by new gamers who have no attachment to Dark Sun.
Like how Ravenloft became Wizard's biggest hit of a campaign despite not being hugely popular in 3rd Ed.

I don't see any evidence for Ravenloft being WotC biggest hit of a campaign... it's popular because Curse of Strahd was released, a very well-written adventure. I don't know how you can make an argument that Dark Sun is less popular than less-supported settings, there's no evidence for this at all. I'll even provide the only evidence for setting popularity that exists, here;


The popularity of settings in the survey fell into three distinct clusters. Not surprisingly, our most popular settings from prior editions landed at the top of the rankings, with Eberron, Ravenloft, Dark Sun, Planescape, and the Forgotten Realms all proving equally popular. Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and Spelljammer all shared a similar level of second-tier popularity, followed by a fairly steep drop-off to the rest of the settings. My sense is that Spelljammer has often lagged behind the broad popularity of other settings, falling into love-it-or-hate-it status depending on personal tastes. Greyhawk and Dragonlance hew fairly close to the assumptions we used in creating the fifth edition rulebooks, making them much easier to run with material from past editions. Of the top five settings, four require significant new material to function and the fifth is by far our most popular world.

That's nice. Does that mean every African American is now cool with white people pretending to be a freed slave?

Dude, another strawman. Obviously not. But that doesn't mean ever AA is uncomfortable with it, or even most AA.

I see no reason for why a setting like this should be banned from republication if it is written by a diverse team of authors and sensitivity consultants. Hell, they've done the exact same thing for Ravenloft which also had some controversial material in it. That means things about Dark Sun should be changed and updated for modern sensibilities, but it doesn't mean it is off the table entirely.
 

Faolyn

Hero
Was popular. With old gamers. Who are now outnumbered by new gamers who have no attachment to Dark Sun.
Like how Ravenloft became Wizard's biggest hit of a campaign despite not being hugely popular in 3rd Ed.
In the dndnext subreddit, whenever someone asks what setting people want the most, Dark Sun is usually in the top two or three answers. And I'd guess that dndnext is populated by far more younger gamers than this forum.

That's nice. Does that mean every African American is now cool with white people pretending to be a freed slave?
That's up for each table to decide.
 

dave2008

Legend
This is something I would actually like to see as a DM suggestion in the DM's Guide. Or at least imply that the world one sets their campaign in have a standard rule set to match said setting, including races. Heck, for me, I'd even go so far as stating preferred classes.
FYI, the Theros setting restricts the racial options to PHB and the ones provided in the book (no elves or dwarves even!).
 



dave2008

Legend
Ooh, thanks. I will check it out.

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overgeeked

B/X Known World
That is not correct. They are actively working on two classic settings. However, the said they would like to get to all of them. Now, I find it highly unlikely they will get to all of them, but I am optimistic that they will not stop at the two the currently have in the pipeline.
Where specifically did they say that? Because the last info I heard about it was as the poster you're replying to said, they announced three classic settings returning. They did not announce all of them will return. Only three. There absolutely could be more in the offing. But that's not the announcement they made.
 

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