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TSR Running list of potential problematic issues in TSR era DnD

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Faolyn

Hero
Here are two quick examples that illustrate my comment above. Two pieces I recently had commissioned. Both were diverse artists I had hired. One is an artist of Mesoamerican heritage, doing a piece inspired from their culture. The other is from an African American, but his dress is wholly European. I should have caught that and did better.
So... because he has darker skin, he can't wear armor from another culture? Or his culture couldn't have developed plate armor on its own? I'm confused here.
 

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HJFudge

Explorer
So... because he has darker skin, he can't wear armor from another culture? Or his culture couldn't have developed plate armor on its own? I'm confused here.

I probably shouldn't put words in anyones mouth, but as I understand it the argument is that it is a lack of representation of cultures other than European that is the issue at hand.

That is the argument anyway. Whether or not it has merit...well, that largely seems to depend on your politics/worldview outside of the game.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
This isn’t offensive. It’s also not gate keeping. Examples from the real world include people with degrees, requiring certain levels of education. Actors need to have a certain level of charisma to succeed. Navy seals, a more apt example, require extensive physical and mental training. Astronauts require mental and psychological trainings above and beyond intense physical conditioning. Army airborne rangers require intense physical training.

1. Gatekeeping: the activity of controlling, and usually limiting, general access to something.

So, yes, that is BY DEFINITION gatekeeping.


2. This would be a wonderful example, if this was REAL LIFE. But it's a game with (for example) randomized ability scores. So there is something unbalanced and unfun with GATEKEEPING in that manner- limiting the access to the best abilities by requiring the player to already have the best abilities. (The balance in the older editions was often "achieved" either through handwavium, like the optional psionic rules, or bizarre rules that were more of a hindrance to the party than the character- like no baddies with the Paladin).

3. Whether you find it offensive or not, I find it annoying; kind of like your response. YMMV.
 

HJFudge

Explorer
1. Gatekeeping: the activity of controlling, and usually limiting, general access to something.

So, yes, that is BY DEFINITION gatekeeping.

Oh cmon. Thats a useless definition of gatekeeping. By that definition, this site (and almost any other) is gatekeeping because you gotta sign up in order to post. They are 'controlling and limiting access' by requiring you to sign up.

And sure, maybe, but thats not problematic nor is it offensive.

2. This would be a wonderful example, if this was REAL LIFE. But it's a game with (for example) randomized ability scores. So there is something unbalanced and unfun with GATEKEEPING in that manner- limiting the access to the best abilities by requiring the player to already have the best abilities. (The balance in the older editions was often "achieved" either through handwavium, like the optional psionic rules, or bizarre rules that were more of a hindrance to the party than the character- like no baddies with the Paladin).

3. Whether you find it offensive or not, I find it annoying; kind of like your response. YMMV.

Sure you can find it annoying. Thats a style choice. Nothing wrong with that. But lets not pretend there is any moral aspect to it AT ALL.
 

Clearly you hadn't read enough Robert Asprin. A trollop is a female troll.

I can remember asking my parents all sorts of questions like that growing up, though. Like after we watched Ghostbusters. "Mom, what's menstruating?"

Sparked quite an interesting discussion around the dinner table. Poor Dad. All he wanted someone to pass the potatoes. Instead his 12 year old blindsides him with questions about what a cheap trollop etc is. He's sitting there in stunned silence with an odd look on his face having barely avoided dropping the potatoes. His 10 & 12 year old kids are staring expectantly at him. And Mom says something along the lines of "This questions all yours honey." & get's up to tinker with something on the stove (I think she was trying very hard not to die laughing).
Dad did answer our questions.

The last time I had cheesecake was when I realized that I really was lactose intolerant. Sigh...

Last time I had some good cheesecake was about, six weeks ago IIRC? The Italian takeout place I ordered from had cheesecake on the menu and my mom was like "well order it then." The only bad thing about cheesecake is that it is rich and I don't really want my arteries to get clogged. Also a lot of places will make it pricey and only give you like a sliver/small piece. The cheesecake at Walmart isn't too bad either.

There's like two illustrations of women in the PHB. There are five in the DMG, but in only one, maybe two, are they depicted as PCs. Other than that, the most you find are in the Monster Manual. Definitely not the best look. And no people of color.

1. Art. Personally, I still love the B&W line drawings and classic fantasy art. But they aren't inclusive or representative, and definitely not very welcoming to female gamers. Art that is more representative of the wide diversity of players we have today would be better.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
You’re again projecting. Big time. The original comment implied an issue with monotheism. That you all can’t see that this approach is disclusive as opposed to inclusive is kind of saddening. It’s also very strongly gate keeping and projects onto people the idea that a whole group of people is one thing because it focuses on the negative as opposed to looking to the future. Again the approach should be open hand of embrace of the future instead of pointing a finger where three more are just pointing back at you. Products like the aforementioned Maztica are problematic but Volo’s commentary on Orcs? Orcs aren’t real! Anytime I’ve played with someone who turned out racist they didn’t need fake fantasy races to express their prejudice. They just used human cultures to express their disdain for fellow humans.
Well, you managed to take the complete opposite interpretation of the meaning of what gatekeeping is, so congrats?

Again, no one is saying you can't have monolithic depictions. The problem we are seeing is that ONLY monolithic depictions are made. This has been explained to you over and over and yet you insist on acting like you're being attacked and making up strawmen because someone mentions how there should be more diversity compared to how it was done earlier. I find that extremely disingenuous.

So I'm going to ask you again. Stop threadcapping.
 

Faolyn

Hero
I probably shouldn't put words in anyones mouth, but as I understand it the argument is that it is a lack of representation of cultures other than European that is the issue at hand.

That is the argument anyway. Whether or not it has merit...well, that largely seems to depend on your politics/worldview outside of the game.
But on the flip side, there's also the problem of indicating "all non-white/European cultures are low-tech/use 'tribal' gear." Neither of those are good things, especially if a fantasy setting.
 


Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
So... because he has darker skin, he can't wear armor from another culture? Or his culture couldn't have developed plate armor on its own? I'm confused here.
Not at all. It was simply an observation that when we include diverse ethnicities, we often portray them as being part of a european culture. Like putting a black man in plate armor. It's still european culture, and we're still not depicting african (any african) culture.

It would be like depicting native americans in our art, but only in western white attire and saying we're being diverse for including them. Needless to say, taking a diverse person of color and depicting them in eurocentric attire has about a million problematic issues going on from a historical standpoint. Like how we did that as a way to eradicate their culture.
 

HJFudge

Explorer
But on the flip side, there's also the problem of indicating "all non-white/European cultures are low-tech/use 'tribal' gear." Neither of those are good things, especially if a fantasy setting.

I, personally, agree. Fixing problematic things is a sisyphean task. There really isn't any clear definition on it and it's really hard to get a consensus.

That said, the point of the thread is to pick out things people find problematic and discuss it.

Or your identity - which is exactly why the issue has merit.

Not everyone with the same identity has the same opinion and I find it problematic that you think that they do.
 

Faolyn

Hero
Products like the aforementioned Maztica are problematic but Volo’s commentary on Orcs? Orcs aren’t real! Anytime I’ve played with someone who turned out racist they didn’t need fake fantasy races to express their prejudice. They just used human cultures to express their disdain for fellow humans.
The problem with Volo's commentary is it uses the exact same language used to dehumanize actual people in the real world. It doesn't actually matter that orcs aren't real or aren't based on any one specific culture.

So the options are, either the commentary is bad, or Volo himself is a racist. I actually like the latter as a concept, but it's not really supported by the text. At least with the Van Richten's guides, it was obvious that everything he was writing was his own beliefs and sometimes the actual DM's info sidebar contradicted him.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
I, personally, agree. Fixing problematic things is a sisyphean task. There really isn't any clear definition on it and it's really hard to get a consensus.

That said, the point of the thread is to pick out things people find problematic and discuss it.



Not everyone with the same identity has the same opinion and I find it problematic that you think that they do.
A thing doesn't have to affect you in order for it to have merit. Good Lord....
 

HJFudge

Explorer
A thing doesn't have to affect you in order for it to have merit. Good Lord....

Where, exactly, did I mention anything about any of this affecting me or not affecting me?

I merely stated that whether or not you accept and agree with the arguments made in this thread depends on your politics and worldview. Which is true.

People with the same or similar identities can, and do, have different politics and worldviews. Their identity has nothing to do with how they view the argument.
 

Faolyn

Hero
I, personally, agree. Fixing problematic things is a sisyphean task. There really isn't any clear definition on it and it's really hard to get a consensus.

That said, the point of the thread is to pick out things people find problematic and discuss it.
Not at all. It was simply an observation that when we include diverse ethnicities, we often portray them as being part of a european culture. Like putting a black man in plate armor. It's still european culture, and we're still not depicting african (any african) culture.
It is a sisyphean task, and made more difficult by the fact that we can just make up cultures wholecloth. For instance, we could create a society that was very similar to, say, Maasi culture (to take one at random from the internets) in terms of beliefs, social structure, religion and mythology, etc., but also say that they used more metal armor and weapons, and include the reasons why in their cultural history. But it's also hard to tell if that is OK.
 

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
Not at all. It was simply an observation that when we include diverse ethnicities, we often portray them as being part of a european culture. Like putting a black man in plate armor. It's still european culture, and we're still not depicting african (any african) culture.

It would be like depicting native americans in our art, but only in western white attire and saying we're being diverse for including them. Needless to say, taking a diverse person of color and depicting them in eurocentric attire has about a million problematic issues going on from a historical standpoint. Like how we did that as a way to eradicate their culture.

If I were to design a game, I'd avoid trying to depict real life cultures at all, no Asian, no European, no African. The pitfalls are too many: you risk being accused of cultural appropriation, you risk being accused of depicting people of culture A in the trapping of culture B, you risk what you mentions, if you depicts a real life culture, you'll risk to be accused not to include enough of them or worse of mixing disparagely several distinct cultures as a single one... I am not sure it's worth the risk having ANY culture in a published product today evocative of a real life culture (and with gender equality and magic, I think any culture depicted in the game can be distinctive enough from any real life culture. Eberron's Breland is beginning 19th century England and Aundair is France, but it's a deliberate risk taken by the author, not because aspects of the Eberron world necessitated having not-France and not-England and couldn't produce truly original cultures based on the premises.
 

HJFudge

Explorer
It is a sisyphean task, and made more difficult by the fact that we can just make up cultures wholecloth. For instance, we could create a society that was very similar to, say, Maasi culture (to take one at random from the internets) in terms of beliefs, social structure, religion and mythology, etc., but also say that they used more metal armor and weapons, and include the reasons why in their cultural history. But it's also hard to tell if that is OK.

Yes there is a very uncertain line between Appropriation and Representation and what something falls under is very much up to the viewer. Everyone's got different lines on this.

There is value in the discussion, but that value gets lost when people start One True Way-ing everything.

I'm okay with someone disagreeing with me on what constitutes appropriation. I recognize I am not the sole arbiter in all of this. When I am at my table, I have tools to actually fix all of this. I can simply ask my players (who are not all white dudes with beards) what they think and if/when they DO raise a concern, to address it without judgment or censure. The company, WOTC, does not have the tools to fix it in any satisfying manner. As the variety of threads on this and similar topics illustrate.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
If I were to design a game, I'd avoid trying to depict real life cultures at all, no Asian, no European, no African. The pitfalls are too many: you risk being accused of cultural appropriation, you risk being accused of depicting people of culture A in the trapping of culture B, you risk what you mentions, if you depicts a real life culture, you'll risk to be accused not to include enough of them or worse of mixing disparagely several distinct cultures as a single one... I am not sure it's worth the risk having ANY culture in a published product today evocative of a real life culture (and with gender equality and magic, I think any culture depicted in the game can be distinctive enough from any real life culture. Eberron's Breland is beginning 19th century England and Aundair is France, but it's a deliberate risk taken by the author, not because aspects of the Eberron world necessitated having not-France and not-England and couldn't produce truly original cultures based on the premises.
So how do you depict, in art, any character without any cultural artifacts whatsoever?
 


Faolyn

Hero
If I were to design a game, I'd avoid trying to depict real life cultures at all, no Asian, no European, no African.
Agreed. What I like to do is grab some interesting base concepts from a variety of cultures and blend them together, while removing as much of the real world as I can. As per below...

So how do you depict, in art, any character without any cultural artifacts whatsoever?
Somewhere in another thread, I took the idea of the katana and brought it down to the base concept: it's a weapon that's only to be used by a certain caste, who must follow a specific code, and it's made by folding fairly poor-quality steel a zillion times until its really strong (I realize it's more complicated that that).

So in a fantasy world, you have a people--which can be of any species--that uses a weapon made of what others would consider a sub-par material, but the material is treated in such a way that it's actually really effective. And only a certain group of people within that culture can use the weapon. The weapon can be made of anything, from poor-quality steel to magic wood to monster teeth, and the subgroup can be anything from a caste to a specific order of warriors to people who are all born with one purple eye. And the code they must follow would probably take at least some cues from bushido, or European chivalry (which is actually quite similar), but could easily include other details based on whatever species you're dealing with.
 

Stormonu

Legend
The original comment implied an issue with monotheism.
As the original commenter, I can clearly say you are in the wrong - that was not what I was saying at all. The problem is that the game allows for pantheons, but priests (and often characters) cannot Derive their abilities from alternating or multiple sources. Even worse, you can only draw power from one aspect of that single source.

Theros is the only product I have seen attempt to break away from this, and has a system that allows tracking of devotion to possibly multiple deities.
 

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