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TSR Running list of potential problematic issues in TSR era DnD

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HJFudge

Explorer
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.

You could still be probably accused of appropriation because you were using what they call 'coding', or words that have traditionally been used to represent a specific group (in this case its a part of that groups culture).

Would the accusation come off as silly? To me, yes. But there would be a segment who would see it as anything but.
 

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billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
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.
But how do you draw or paint it? How do you give it a visual without incorporating a cultural artifact?
 

Thanks, at this point (it's been years), I'm used to it. And there are many substitutes that you can barely tell aren't the real thing. A good cheesecake slice, though, I've yet to really find something that is close enough to not remind me of how good the real thing is.

Oy, my condolences. That sucks.

Back to the subject at hand, the thing about equity and inclusion is that it's not a destination, it's a journey. People make mistakes, learn, do better. There's never a point where you say "oh good, we are now inclusive and done with that."
 

HJFudge

Explorer
Back to the subject at hand, the thing about equity and inclusion is that it's not a destination, it's a journey. People make mistakes, learn, do better. There's never a point where you say "oh good, we are now inclusive and done with that."

It makes me philosophically uncomfortable to think that there is a point where we can never, as a culture, be Inclusive. The idea of an unwashable stain that can never be cleaned is a very religious one that I just do not like, conceptually.

I can unwaveringly and with 100% confidence point to my gaming table and say "We are inclusive." As a statement of fact. A destination reached. We do not discriminate based on political opinion, race, gender identity, skin color, anything.

That said, a company with millions of customers might find this much harder to do. Impossible? I...actually am not sure, to be honest. I do not think it is possible in todays climate, let us say.
 

ccs

41st lv DM
So how do you depict, in art, any character without any cultural artifacts whatsoever?
1200px-Stick_Figure.svg.png
I think this'll cover it. Lacks something though....
 


auburn2

Adventurer
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.
Some people are going to have a problem regardless. If you put him in African garb, some will appreciate the diversity represented in such a depiction, while others would see it as either cultural appropriation or tokenism.

The big problem is stereotypes. When context and meaning are not clearly and unequivocally spelled out people are going to make a judgement based on their own biases, stereotypes and assumptions. Some people will see lack of African culture, other people will see cultural appropriation when it is included. Certainly both of these things exist and without knowing the intent or frame of reference of the person who drew the depiction, you can't really say what it is or isn't.

People's opinions on on inclusion and diversity or lack thereof are usually framed in stereotypes rather than in in context or in actual meaning. For example, above you use the term "person of color", you could have instead used "colored person". If you did your sentence in the English Language would literally mean the same thing, your point would still be every bit as valid and the point you were intending to make would be the same either way. However it would not be taken the same. Both of these phrases mean the exact same thing; yet one is strongly associated with inclusion, while the other is strongly associated with racism. The reason they are taken differently is the stereotype associated with what kind of people have historically used these terms.
 
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ccs

41st lv DM
No no, that white skin tone is non-representative and you are assuming the base culture is white. Also the eye-shape is also non-representative and problematic. Not to mention the fact that such an image plays into 'Thin is In' beauty stereotypes.
No, the skin tone here is black. The white is just the paper he was drawn on showing through.
 

I fail to see why it should make you uncomfortable. The act of being a good person is one that continues throughout life.

It's not that we are guilty of some misdeed by default, it's that our understanding of the world is evolving and continues to evolve. Ten years ago, I don't know that I would have known what an ace person was, or the term nonbinary. Times will continue to change.

It makes me philosophically uncomfortable to think that there is a point where we can never, as a culture, be Inclusive. The idea of an unwashable stain that can never be cleaned is a very religious one that I just do not like, conceptually.

I can unwaveringly and with 100% confidence point to my gaming table and say "We are inclusive." As a statement of fact. A destination reached. We do not discriminate based on political opinion, race, gender identity, skin color, anything.

That said, a company with millions of customers might find this much harder to do. Impossible? I...actually am not sure, to be honest. I do not think it is possible in todays climate, let us say.
 

HJFudge

Explorer
I fail to see why it should make you uncomfortable. The act of being a good person is one that continues throughout life.

It's not that we are guilty of some misdeed by default, it's that our understanding of the world is evolving and continues to evolve. Ten years ago, I don't know that I would have known what an ace person was, or the term nonbinary. Times will continue to change.

Because the statement: There's never a point where you say "oh good, we are now inclusive and done with that."

Directly implies one can never be inclusive. Of course one can reach a state of inclusivity.

Much like one can never be free of sin in a religious context, this statement and those like it (inclusivity isn't a destination) says that one can never be free of non-inclusivity. That we as a people/culture/society can never be inclusive, that there will always be some things we do or say that are non-inclusive. Much like no matter how much you do or say, you are never going to be free of original sin according to some religions.

I disagree with the premise. I think there is very much a point one can reach and say "We are inclusive."
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I believe that’s the point. Why not have a cleric who gets their powers from multiple gods?
Too easily meta-breakable, for one thing.

If one's deities (and thus Clerics) each have specific spheres of knowledge or influence, allowing someone to be a Cleric to multiple deities at once opens that character up to being able to access far more spheres than it should.

Ditto if one's gone so far as to break out spell lists or even individual spells into deity-specific variants. A simplistic example: a water deity might enhance all water-affecting spells for its Clerics while reducing the effectiveness of their fire-based spells; a fire-based deity might do the opposite. Allowing a Cleric to gain powers from both deities means both types of spells get enhanced without a corresponding drawback.

This also puts Clerics from races or cultures that only have one deity (e.g. Dwarves in many settings only have Moradin) at a distinct disadvantage.

Also, in the fiction this assumes the deities get along with each other, which ain't always the case; meaning a DM would have to do quite a bit of work to come up with all the deity combinations that could support a Cleric along with those that could/would not. Not too onerous if your setting's entire pantheon is only 15 or 20 deities that don't overlap very much; a bigger headache when you've got well over 70, as I do; or over 125, as my current DM has.
 

Are we going to ignore the fact that the demonic, occult, and violent content that offended people 40 years ago still offends a lot of people today? Or are there certain kinds of offence over D&D that we're treating as legitimate and others that we aren't?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
3. Gatekeeping classes. One of the frustrating things with the way that TSR D&D was built was that they always "gatekeeped" classes and abilities behind absurd requirements; in effect, in order to get super-cool abilities, you already had to have super-cool abilities! That's why you got those ludicrous requirements for psionics, or the 17 Charisma for the Paladin, or any of the other numerous "pre-requisites."
To me this one's a strong feature, not a bug.

How else can you mechanically enforce that some classes are common both in the game and the setting, while others are rare?

For example, in 1e anyone with half a brain can be a Magic User but to be an Illusionist takes a lot more. Hence, Illusionists are nowhere near as common as MUs in the setting, and I want this to be reflected in their relative commonality among PCs.
 

Again, no one is saying that's a problem. The problem is when the game of D&D is being presented as monotheistic. What I mean by that is that while yes, there certainly are polytheistic religions in D&D, the game makes those religions for all intents and purposes monotheistic because clerics are always depicted as getting their powers from one god they worship. The game was basically Christianized from the beginning, and never stopped being so. Many religions, even those depicted in the game, were where followers prayed to many gods depending on what they were wanting. So clerics of those mythologies should be depicted as getting their powers from many gods, not just one. Which is how the game has been from the beginning.

And again, since it apparently keeps getting lost. NO ONE IS SAYING WORSHIPPING ONE GOD IS BAD. It's the lack of other representation that is problematic.


Primo, it's not monotheism - it's monolatrism - worship of one god. Basically all clerics in average D&D setting will agree other deities exist.
Second, it's not really that weird in terms of priesthood - many polytheistic religions that had enough well people and stuff, had separate clergies for various temples, with specific duties based on specifics of gods. In a village - one would expect some elder to perform basic rituals for all gods, and of course most of population would by polytheistic in practice. And TBH aside of this weird naughty word in Forgotten Realms it seemed like that in most of D&D.
Tertio, so priest getting powers from one specific deity is quite realistic and historically sounds concept - but monolatry as social norm is not.
Quatro, of course D&D detieis generally work differently than either Abrahamic God, or pagan gods, so I'd say - some aspects of D&D will simply be d&d.

Yes, but "European style" is just as much a pastiche, in D&D. Norman knights, and Hungarian boyars, and Spanish conquistadores, and Teutonic crusaders, and Polish hussars, and Pictish warriors, are all "European", yet nobody bats an eye when they get lumped together as "vanilla D&D" style.


TBH most of those styles are not really that well represented. I mean probably fictional Cymmerian style get's more love than Eastern Europe or Picts, or even Roman legionary. Also boyar is descriptor of higher noble rank in Rus (and successory states or influenced states like Lithuania), Romania, Bulgaria - it's not proper term for Hungarian warriors / nobility.

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.

Also... artist is Black American not African, so he's probably overall closer to European culture than Yoruba or Zulu ones.

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

So, yes, that is BY DEFINITION gatekeeping.

Yes, but terms have context not just pure definition - in culture gatekeeping is usually linked to certain practices keeping large demographics out of culture consumption. Mechanical limitations - are generally not gatekeeping unless they are created in significantly demographic-offending ways. Otherwise we could call ANY RULES AND LIMITS in game - gatekeeping. But guess what without rules and limitis generally there are no games.

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.

That's like very subjective opinion about what's fun or not. For many it's better to roll paladin once per 50 characters than just nerf him (and in those edition of D&D PC's were much more expendable than in 3,5 forward.
And especially in old - "rulings not rules" style it's also one quite easy to drop - like racial class levels which were commonly dropped.

Are we going to ignore the fact that the demonic, occult, and violent content that offended people 40 years ago still offends a lot of people today? Or are there certain kinds of offence over D&D that we're treating as legitimate and others that we aren't?

As a Roman Catholic I have to say if D&D get any proper occult content in it, I'd respect them way way more. Instead it's about as occult as Harry Potter - which is not at all, with magic serving only as a gaming / plot device for GM / Rowling, without any interesting metaphysical stuff behind it.

I'd gladly see Satanic Patanic be 200 times as big, for some smart and crafty metaphysics in D&D, but nope.
 

Except, if you listen to equity and inclusivity experts, they say just that - it's an ongoing process, not a destination. It's something that society has to strive for, not something that you can rest on your laurels with, There are also just so many systemic issues that it's taking generations to address. Even if there was a "done" state, as a society we are nowhere near it. And the games we play, the stories we tell, must be a part of that work.

Because the statement: There's never a point where you say "oh good, we are now inclusive and done with that."

Directly implies one can never be inclusive. Of course one can reach a state of inclusivity.

Much like one can never be free of sin in a religious context, this statement and those like it (inclusivity isn't a destination) says that one can never be free of non-inclusivity. That we as a people/culture/society can never be inclusive, that there will always be some things we do or say that are non-inclusive. Much like no matter how much you do or say, you are never going to be free of original sin according to some religions.

I disagree with the premise. I think there is very much a point one can reach and say "We are inclusive."
 

HJFudge

Explorer
Except, if you listen to equity and inclusivity experts, they say just that - it's an ongoing process, not a destination. It's something that society has to strive for, not something that you can rest on your laurels with, There are also just so many systemic issues that it's taking generations to address. Even if there was a "done" state, as a society we are nowhere near it. And the games we play, the stories we tell, must be a part of that work.

That is what some say, and that currently is the political fad, yes.

There are alternate viewpoints. For some reading in that venue I suggest basically any content by the whipsmart Ph.D. John McWhorter.

 


MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Might be a good idea to have the first post in the tread edited to consolidate the actual, useful contributions. I suppose it was inevitable that this thread would be derailed into debates about whether the discussion should be had rather than having the discussion.

Anyway, I'm old enough to see the game evolve through a number of phases. Remember when it was no longer acceptable to reference devils and demons? Now they are back in vogue.

We've gone from eye-rolling bikini male and topless muscle men to more "appropriately" attired warriors...but maybe we'll go too far towards prudishness. Different cultures treat nudity differently. From the Celts and Norse berserkers, to some Indian aesthetic warriors, Greek and Sudanese wrestlers, Maori warriors, and Viet Cong sappers, history is replete with nude warriors. Maybe the problem was that the skimpy dress didn't go far enough and didn't involve enough skin tones. And perhaps all this concern with too much skin being shown is vestiges of a puritanical past.

Listing Hindu gods was problematic and they were quickly removed from Deities and Demigods, but we still have Celtic, Egyptian, Norse, and Greek Pantheons used in 5e, listed as "Fantasy-Historical". Are neo-paganists just too small of a minority to be concerned about? Would you rethink your use of Thor or Odin in your game if a player practiced Asatro, for example? We stat out Asmodeus, despite the role that figure plays in many religions.

But if we are to cave into people's religious sensibilities, there are large numbers of believers from major religions who object to magic being depicted in a positive light.

Ultimately, if you are designing and want to sell a game you need to determine who your audience is, who you are willing to offend, and how to avoid unfair treatments of those who may have been portrayed poorly in the past. In order to give examples of what to avoid from the TSR days, it is not enough to know that you want to be more inclusive and avoid negative stereotypes, I need to better understand who you don't mind offending.

For me, that would probably be religious extermists and authoritarian regimes. But beyond that, any attempt to be more inclusive and to avoid negative stereotypes is still gong to offend some people. That doesn't mean one shouldn't try to be more inclusive and more positively portray groups that have been marginalized in the past. It does mean you have to ignore some complaints.
 


HJFudge

Explorer
The actual definition of a word is a useless one?

Okay then! That's ... well, that's a something!

For the purposes of this discussion it very much is. A much better one is found in the Urban Dictionary:

Gatekeeping:
When someone takes it upon themselves to decide who does or does not have access or rights to a community or identity.
"I love punk bands like Green Day!"
"Ugh, they're not even punk. They totally sold out."

"Oh man, I love Harry Potter. I am such a geek!"
"Hardly. Talk to me when you're into theoretical physics."

"Erika Moen is my favorite queer cartoonist."
"She's not queer, she married a man!"
"Quit your gatekeeping. No one died and made you Queen of the Gays!"
 

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