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Ripple Effect of D&D's Statement on the Rest of the RPG Industry?

Retreater

Legend
There is a mighty long thread already on here about D&D's statement about races going forward. I am wondering if this might have a ripple effect on the rest of the RPG industry, since D&D is the biggest name in the industry. I apologize if this has been discussed in the (very long) other thread, but I didn't want to go through 100s of posts to find the answer or derail that conversation on a tangent.
And let's try to keep this discussion friendly, just as speculation about the future of the industry with other settings, systems, and publishers.
I'll post my thoughts below.
 

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Retreater

Legend
So there are obviously some literary-based RPGs that have very racially problematic inspirations: Call of Cthulhu (Lovecraft), Solomon Kane and Conan (Robert E. Howard). What would those games look like to try to remove racism from them? Is it even possible? Both CoC and SK are set in fantastical versions of our world in which racism was a reality. It also comes through strongly in Conan.
Look at CoC's well-regarded "Masks of Nyarlahotep." You travel around the world and run into stock characters and stereotypes: Australia, China, Africa, the Middle East.
 


Chaosium has not been silent on current events. But as far as I can tell, aside from two paragraphs tucked away in their FAQ, that's it. They are publishing Harlem Unbound, 2nd edition, which is a good thing. But, as far as I'm aware, they have never acknowledged their very real complicity in glossing over Lovecraft's vitriolic racism in the past.

I think that there's definitely a path forward for the IP. For my part, I prefer to focus on those authors that directly work to redress Lovecraft's wrongs, rather than Lovecraft's own works these days - Tom LaValle, Ruthanna Emrys, for starters. Heck, the upcoming HBO Lovecraft Country adaptation is probably going to be the most prominent directly Lovecraftian work in years.

Not to neglect R.E. Howard's works, which are also are pretty racist (and sexist: Frost-Giant's Daughter, anyone?). At a quick glance, Modiphius talks about it in a podcast tucked away on their website, but that's it. Nothing more recent.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Aleena died for your sins.
So there are obviously some literary-based RPGs that have very racially problematic inspirations: Call of Cthulhu (Lovecraft), Solomon Kane and Conan (Robert E. Howard). What would those games look like to try to remove racism from them? Is it even possible? Both CoC and SK are set in fantastical versions of our world in which racism was a reality. It also comes through strongly in Conan.
Look at CoC's well-regarded "Masks of Nyarlahotep." You travel around the world and run into stock characters and stereotypes: Australia, China, Africa, the Middle East.
As a long-time fan of the cosmic horror of Lovecraft and the sword and sorcery of Howard, I think it's important to be able to acknowledge that they remain problematic. I do not believe it is possible to enjoy them without understanding the context or to simply turn a blind eye.

I quoted the following in a separate thread, and it is worth repeating here:

Far from outlandish eccentricities, the fears that generated Lovecraft’s stories and opinions were precisely those of the white, middle-class, heterosexual, Protestant-descended males who were most threatened by the shifting power relationships and values of the modern world.

Alan Moore, in The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft. (Norton, 2014).


There is value in understanding these things; both why they can be problematic because they reflect the times (for example, passages from Howard exemplifying attitudes regarding other races and colonialism), and to a deeper extent, understanding how, for example, the intense racism and fear of the other of H. P. Lovecraft in inextricably linked to the birthing of cosmic horror.
 


shesheyan

Explorer
As a long-time fan of the cosmic horror of Lovecraft and the sword and sorcery of Howard, I think it's important to be able to acknowledge that they remain problematic. I do not believe it is possible to enjoy them without understanding the context or to simply turn a blind eye.

I quoted the following in a separate thread, and it is worth repeating here:

Far from outlandish eccentricities, the fears that generated Lovecraft’s stories and opinions were precisely those of the white, middle-class, heterosexual, Protestant-descended males who were most threatened by the shifting power relationships and values of the modern world.

Alan Moore, in The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft. (Norton, 2014).

There is value in understanding these things; both why they can be problematic because they reflect the times (for example, passages from Howard exemplifying attitudes regarding other races and colonialism), and to a deeper extent, understanding how, for example, the intense racism and fear of the other of H. P. Lovecraft in inextricably linked to the birthing of cosmic horror.
You need to add Body Snatchers and Zombie survival games to that list. The body snatcher's mind control and infected zombie's mindless behaviours have represented many unconscious fears of the occident over the years. The immigrants, the communists and more lately anonymous religious fervour.
 

Tun Kai Poh

Adventurer
Honestly, they're pretty late to the party and playing catchup.
Agreed, WotC is behind on this compared with many other companies.

The change is coming from the grassroots up, and I've been seeing the indie scene on itch doing a lot more for diversity than the big companies.

One structural imbalance that is making things difficult is that Kickstarter doesn't support many countries where exciting ideas in game design have been happening. Of all the #RPGSEA countries, Singapore is the only one where you can run a Kickstarter campaign. Malaysia? Thailand? Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world? The Philippines, a hotbed of RPG creativity? Nope.

The only way we can show up on Kickstarter campaigns is to hop on board a project set up in another country. So in terms of crowdfunding, we're gated off.
 


Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Agreed, WotC is behind on this compared with many other companies.

The change is coming from the grassroots up, and I've been seeing the indie scene on itch doing a lot more for diversity than the big companies.

One structural imbalance that is making things difficult is that Kickstarter doesn't support many countries where exciting ideas in game design have been happening. Of all the #RPGSEA countries, Singapore is the only one where you can run a Kickstarter campaign. Malaysia? Thailand? Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world? The Philippines, a hotbed of RPG creativity? Nope.

The only way we can show up on Kickstarter campaigns is to hop on board a project set up in another country. So in terms of crowdfunding, we're gated off.
Why is that? Legal stuff? Banking infrastructure?
 

Tun Kai Poh

Adventurer
Why is that? Legal stuff? Banking infrastructure?
Unfortunately I'd be glad if they could give us a direct answer. Only 22 countries are eligible to launch Kickstarter projects.

Malaysia has pretty good banking infrastructure and the reason a lot of companies set up here is because of our legal system based on UK law (because we were colonised).

Haven't gotten a straight excuse from them all these years, but based on the reasons they started in Singapore, they may be following the money people - if your country has a lot of backers, they may let that country join their elite club.
 

There is value in understanding these things; both why they can be problematic because they reflect the times
This is something that should always be taken into consideration when looking into things in the past. If you've read the mathematical story Flatland, you might have noticed the significant sexism in both the 1st and 2nd dimensions. it's jarring to the modern reader, but at the time it was written, women were considered "lesser" than men, and this concept comes through in the writing. When looked at in context of the times, it shows the failure of the times and the progress made since.

Another thing that is important to look at is if it is a trope that's utilized, rather than a direct form of prejudice. For example, a lot of the writings about "savage Africa" were written by people who'd never been anywhere near it, and knew nothing but the existing tropes used by others. To me, this is very different than an author who makes direct prejudice against a known group (as Lovecraft did), since the first can be attributed to ignorance, rather than malice. It doesn't make it right, but ignorance is much less of a sin than actual malice. Fortunately for us, in the modern age we have access to a million-fold the amount of information those in past had, leaving those with actual prejudice very little room to hide.
 

You can create stories where some characters from minorities can have got some negative traits. When is it wrong? It wrong when a group only has got negative traits, and only other group has got the positive traits. You can produce a movie about martial arts where the hero is caucasian and the villain is Asian, but to be pollitically correct some Caucasians should be in the faction of the bad guys, and some Asian characters should show positive traits. You can produce a movie about the maffia, but not a production where all Italoamericans only have negative traits.

And if you really want to fight against the racism, then you have to defend the Natural Law and ethical principles as the respect for the human dignity, the basis of our rights as citizens. Without the respect for the human dignity then you will fall in the dark side of the Force, Nietzche's warning will come true: "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster".

* In some years in the future the trope "faith vs reason" will be politically incorrect (and totally false currently. You haven't to choose only religion or science, because you have got both, and who says only one is a lier),
 

Tallifer

Hero
This shift by the larger publishing companies should maintain the niche for smaller publishers who are willing to be more risqué. And I do not mean egregious things like Fatal. There will always be people who enjoy games closely based on King Arthur, Tarzan, Middle Earth and Cthulhu.
 

bloodtide

Explorer
I doubt much will change. Maybe each book will have a "Social" page explaining how the game specifically supports whatever social ideas the current public pop culture promote. And then the rest of the book will be a RPG book.

Maybe at worst each book will have Social Sidebars. So every time there are five goblin bandits there would be a huge social sidebar explaining that not ALL goblins are bandits, and that these five goblins ONLY specifically chose to be bandits and all other goblins are a rich, deep, diverse culture of all sorts of people and ideas and everything else.
 

pemerton

Legend
So there are obviously some literary-based RPGs that have very racially problematic inspirations: Call of Cthulhu (Lovecraft), Solomon Kane and Conan (Robert E. Howard). What would those games look like to try to remove racism from them? Is it even possible? Both CoC and SK are set in fantastical versions of our world in which racism was a reality. It also comes through strongly in Conan.
I think this whole question is very difficult, because it is very hard to prise those pulp adventure stories off their pulp tropes; and those tropes are rife with racism and sexism.

I'm a huge fan of Greg Stafford's Prince Valiant RPG, but the scenarios ("episodes") in the book feature pretty standard pulp tropes like seductive women who use their sexuality to manipulate men; and wild Huns who play a similar role to orcs in D&D.

Tolkienesque fantasy is inherently reactionary, which makes it hard to present it in a liberal or egalitarian vein.

I think that sci-fi RPGing might be an easier place to start.
 

I think that sci-fi RPGing might be an easier place to start.
Maybe. Even in the fairly ideal world of Star Trek, the various versions of the Enterprise and crew still discovered and/or battled with plenty of alien species that were not as advanced in thinking/culture/peacefulness/etc as the Federation. Just look at the Klingons as an example and how they changed over the decades of shows and movies. As open-minded and everything that Roddenberry was, do you think the Klingons weren't a stand-in for any real-life Earth cultures or peoples?
 

pemerton

Legend
Maybe. Even in the fairly ideal world of Star Trek, the various versions of the Enterprise and crew still discovered and/or battled with plenty of alien species that were not as advanced in thinking/culture/peacefulness/etc as the Federation. Just look at the Klingons as an example and how they changed over the decades of shows and movies. As open-minded and everything that Roddenberry was, do you think the Klingons weren't a stand-in for any real-life Earth cultures or peoples?
Certainly agree re Star Trek. And Star Wars is no help.

Bladerunner has strong gender roles and draws race/ethnicity in broad strokes, but it might be a better starting point?

Perhaps Alien also.
 

MGibster

Hero
So there are obviously some literary-based RPGs that have very racially problematic inspirations: Call of Cthulhu (Lovecraft), Solomon Kane and Conan (Robert E. Howard). What would those games look like to try to remove racism from them? Is it even possible? Both CoC and SK are set in fantastical versions of our world in which racism was a reality. It also comes through strongly in Conan.
What do you mean remove racism from them? Lovecraft's bigoted views were part of what influenced him and it's too late to change that now. But it's easy enough to run CoC adventures that don't include depicting anyone who isn't a white Anglo Saxon as a degenerate.
 

Tun Kai Poh

Adventurer
I like how Cthulhu Dark (Kickstarter extended book version) deals with Lovecraft's tropes - encouraging the GM to remix and reskin the Mythos entities and cults to keep players on their toes, completely tossing Derleth's idea of canon out the door (Lovecraft didn't care so much about consistent canon, which is something I actually agree with him about). Plus encouraging scenarios where the PCs are far from the top of the social ladder, making them the underdogs. At the same time, in the expanded Cthulhu Dark GM advice, the ultimate Mythos horrors tend to manipulate or hide behind power structures (colonial overlords, corporations, rich old men). Players will get to punch up instead of down.

I wrote about it here:
 
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