D&D General The Art and the Artist: Discussing Problematic Issues in D&D

Lyxen

Great Old One
What I am talking about:
  • If someone affected tells me that the cover blurb on my copy of Oriental Adventures leans heavily into the exocitification of culture that's been damaging to people, I try to believe them, even if I'm really keen on my samauri and sohei character concepts and I like old kung-fu movies.
  • If a woman in my D&D group (or outside of it) rolls her eyes and grimaces at seeing cheesecake art on an old Dragon magazine, I pay attention to that.
  • If my neighbor's non-binary teenager wonders why all the relationships represented in the WotC hardbound adventure book I let them borrow are heterosexual, I try to listen to the point behind the question. And I believe that they see the exclusion that others might not see, and I believe that they are affected adversely by that exclusion.
  • If a gamer in my group tells me that my depiction of fantasy slavery in my fantasy game strikes too close to reality and sucks the fun out of the game, I'm going to believe them.

I do NOT say:
  • No, no. It's an homage to Eastern cultures! The writers don't have racist intent.
  • But at least the half-naked woman is a strong role-model! Look, the male barbarian is wearing less than she is!
  • I prefer to keep gender politics out of my fantasy game. No, no, representing ONLY heteronormative relationships is NON-political.
  • It's just a game. I'm not trying to be offensive. You want to play or not?

I believe that they notice these things, that those things are in the work, and that it affects them. Does that help?

That is a great post, we (hopefully) come back to the OP and the question, especially about the first two points. Isn't the explanation more simply that these are old books from an era when most people had not realised the impact of their personal work and were only "people of their time" ? Of course, it does not make it right, but it certainly does not make the authors bad persons, it's just that we have (thankfully) come to realise that we should do better, and indeed this kind of mistakes are not made anymore. But does it really need extrapolating into "the past was very bad and they were all bad people ?"

Also, the main problem here, is that D&D was certainly not mainstream at the time, I think it's hardly fair to crucify them to follow the global trends of their time. Again, it does not make it right, but should they be specific targets, especially since most of the products are not harmful and, at least by my experience, D&D has always been a very welcoming community (for example, in engineering school, the French system of grandes ecoles being what it was, there were very few non-white people, but they were almost all members of the D&D club - although to be fair, our geekiness exiled us all together to the basement of the school) :) ).

Finally, for the last two points, I think it's as much a question of table rules and the themes of the campaign, as well as the limit of comfort for the players, as outlined, I think pretty well, in Tasha's.

For all these reasons, and while I totally support your perspective (it required a lot of coaching from my daughters, but I'm getting there), I want also to preach some moderation about the subject. Yes, D&D has followed some bad trends in the past, but it's much better, lots of efforts are being made and they will continue, but it's not an inherent flaw of the game or even its components.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
OK, then I'm good that I took that tone and posted that content, since at last you have admitted that all that is needed are minor and easy fixes. Because, before that, your posts were all about "significant harm", so what "significant harm" has been done ? To whom ?
Umm… to trans women by JK Rowling (and TERFs in general)? That’s the only significant harm I noticed being discussed here, and I just read through the whole thread earlier today.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Umm… to trans women by JK Rowling (and TERFs in general)? That’s the only significant harm I noticed being discussed here, and I just read through the whole thread earlier today.

Fine, but that is not D&D, which is what I've been discussing all along this thread (as much as I could).
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
That is a great post, we (hopefully) come back to the OP and the question, especially about the first two points. Isn't the explanation more simply that these are old books from an era when most people had not realised the impact of their personal work and were only "people of their time" ?
Well, first of all, I don’t think it’s true that most people didn’t realize the impact. I think plenty of people were very well aware, those people just didn’t have much of a platform and either weren’t heard or weren’t listened to at the time. Second of all “it was a product of its time” rings a bit hollow as a defense when you are engaging with it today, despite presumably now realizing the impact it has. Now, that’s not to say you shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy things that are products of their time, only that you should be critical of them while doing so. Acknowledge their flaws so that we can learn from them and hopefully not reproduce them.
Of course, it does not make it right, but it certainly does not make the authors bad persons, it's just that we have (thankfully) come to realise that we should do better, and indeed this kind of mistakes are not made anymore. But does it really need extrapolating into "the past was very bad and they were all bad people ?"
I don’t think anyone is saying the authors were bad people (assuming we’re talking about D&D, that is). Personally I don’t give a hoot what kind of person Gary Gygax or any of the other creators of classic D&D were. I’m critiquing their work and its effects, not their character.
Also, the main problem here, is that D&D was certainly not mainstream at the time, I think it's hardly fair to crucify them to follow the global trends of their time. Again, it does not make it right, but should they be specific targets, especially since most of the products are not harmful and, at least by my experience, D&D has always been a very welcoming community (for example, in engineering school, the French system of grandes ecoles being what it was, there were very few non-white people, but they were almost all members of the D&D club - although to be fair, our geekiness exiled us all together to the basement of the school) :) ).
People have had quite varied experiences with the welcomingness of the D&D community. I think it’s more productive to focus on how we can continue to make the hobby more welcoming to more people than to quibble about how welcoming or unwelcoming it is or used to be.
Finally, for the last two points, I think it's as much a question of table rules and the themes of the campaign, as well as the limit of comfort for the players, as outlined, I think pretty well, in Tasha's.

For all these reasons, and while I totally support your perspective (it required a lot of coaching from my daughters, but I'm getting there), I want also to preach some moderation about the subject. Yes, D&D has followed some bad trends in the past, but it's much better, lots of efforts are being made and they will continue, but it's not an inherent flaw of the game or even its components.
Yeah, no doubt D&D started out really awesome in a lot of ways and has improved in a lot of other ways since. There’s still room for it to keep improving in new ways, and hopefully always will be. Don’t mistake critique of the game’s current or past flaws for condemnation. We all love the game and want it to keep getting better.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Or realise that this is yet another piece of fascist mythmaking. The train upgrades started before Musssolini took over Italy, and he didn't get them to run on time so much as suppressed it when they didn't. He did, however, have the stations improved in the tourist areas.
Well, yeah, fascists are horribly incompetent at actually running things - I would say comedically so, except that the consequences of their incompetence are real, which makes them sad rather than funny.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Well, first of all, I don’t think it’s true that most people didn’t realize the impact. I think plenty of people were very well aware, those people just didn’t have much of a platform and either weren’t heard or weren’t listened to at the time. Second of all “it was a product of its time” rings a bit hollow as a defense when you are engaging with it today, despite presumably now realizing the impact it has.

Again, don't confuse the impact it has now with the (absence of) impact it had back then.

Now, that’s not to say you shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy things that are products of their time, only that you should be critical of them while doing so. Acknowledge the its flaws so that we can learn from them and hopefully not reproduce them.

And if you're read my post, it's exactly what I'm advocating.

I don’t think anyone is saying the authors were bad people (assuming we’re talking about D&D, that is). Personally I don’t give a hoot what kind of person Gary Gygax or any of the other creators of classic D&D were. I’m critiquing their work and it’s effects, not their character.

And again, it's all I'm asking there.

People have had quite varied experiences with the welcomingness of the D&D community. I think it’s more productive to focus on how we can continue to make the hobby more welcoming to more people than to quibble about how welcoming or unwelcoming it is or used to be.

It's not a question of quibbling, what happened happened, and for me it was certainly positive in many ways, so as long as we examine the past critically, we might as well note the good points as well as the bad.

Yeah, no doubt D&D started out really awesome in a lot of ways and has improved in a lot of other ways since. There’s still room for it to keep improving in new ways, and hopefully always will be. Don’t mistake critique of the game’s current or past flaws for condemnation. We all love the game and want the game to keep getting better.

This matches my sentiments exactly, it's just that although I know this is the internet, the aggressiveness of some in particular about the past is a bit grating.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Again, don't confuse the impact it has now with the (absence of) impact it had back then.
Wait, are you seriously suggesting these things didn’t have any impact back then?
And if you're read my post, it's exactly what I'm advocating.
I did. We are in agreement about that.
And again, it's all I'm asking there.
Asking whom? Again, I don’t think anyone here is saying EGG and Company were bad people.
It's not a question of quibbling, what happened happened, and for me it was certainly positive in many ways, so as long as we examine the past critically, we might as well note the good points as well as the bad.
What I’m saying is, it was positive for you and negative for others. I don’t see any value in arguing over how welcoming it was. The relevant point is that it could have been more welcoming, and it still can be.
This matches my sentiments exactly, it's just that although I know this is the internet, the aggressiveness of some in particular about the past is a bit grating.
And the defensiveness of others in particular about the past is equally grating. No doubt we’re all quite thoroughly grated, which makes us prone to behave gratingly in turn. Perhaps we could try to focus a little more on the content of each others’ arguments rather than the grating ways in which they make them.
 


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