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The Proper Use of Nudity in FRPG Art


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Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I can think of a bunch of situations where that is not the case.

You can easily be offended by racist art that does not attack your own race for instance.

You can feel that vulgarity is offensive without feeling that it is an attack on you.
Even if it isn’t attacking your race in particular, that you are offended by it probably indicates it is attacking your friends, family or values.

Indirect though it may be, that’s still an attack on you.
 

Kaodi

Adventurer
I think that the difficulty for RPG products that some may view as transgressive comes down in part to the reality of group dynamics: for the most part it is hard enough to find a group of people who want to play the same game on the same schedule without factoring in variable tastes and narrative expectations.

Playing D&D or any other RPG is not like paying to go to the movie you want at theatre. It is more like watching the TV in a common room.

I have no idea whether you could even sell enough copies of an erotic coffee table art book depicting a more sexualized fantasy world a la Game of Thrones or True Blood to make it worth it. Not because "free porn" is everywhere - contextual porn is not quite so common as that. But simply because people are probably not going to want to spend the money for a crunchless product. But you cannot gatekeep crunch behind exclusive art choices.
 


Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
what even is an "unintentional attack"?
Exactly what it sounds like- an attack that lands on a target you do not intend to hit.

To use an extreme RW example, a man took a new rifle out on his yacht and went out quite a ways. He fired it towards land. It killed a woman driving along the costal highway.

Same kind of thing happens with all forms of communication, art included. I know of a former klansman who quit the white supremacy movement when he realized the rhetoric of his local leadership included attacks on the developmentally disabled. The man had a brother with Downs. He realized they were coming for HIS family.

Ask an Australian aboriginals person how they feel about tourists walking on Uluru. But if you ask the tourists, few of them actually intend to offend.

There are numerous occurrences of music, film and other art forms that have used elements from other cultures that those cultures find deeply offensive, possibly sacrilegious. It is rarely done with the intent to offend.
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
A further thought.

To me, the fundamental question is; Is it better for the hobby to have more people playing?

Again, totally just speaking for myself, the answer is an unqualified yes. It makes the hobby more socially acceptable, it ensures that we still have a hobby in the future, it makes it easier to find players and DM's. It means that there's more money for creatives to bring out more goodies for me to enjoy. So, yeah, it is better for the hobby to have more people playing.

Which, alternatively, means that anything that results in less people playing is bad. Adding nudity to gaming art has not increased the number of gamers over the years - no one says, "Hey, yeah, I totally got into AD&D for that succubus picture." OTOH, removing cheesecake art from the game has coincided with huge growths in the hobby. Additionally, other companies, like Paizo, had moved down this road, pathfinding a route so to speak, even before WotC did it, so, there is a considerable precedence here.

So, in what way does the game or the hobby benefit from using this type of art?

Oh, and on a total side note - I too am a cis white dude creeping up very close to 50. Sigh. So, yeah, take from that what you will. And, I've got a stack of Heavy Metal magazines to prove that I'm hardly a prude when it comes to art. But, again, time and place. I love artists like Luis Royo. Fantastic stuff. Frazetta, Vajello, Julie Bell. All fantastic stuff. Love it to pieces. However, I don't think that they really have a place in D&D material. Or, at least, not without some set up first.
I'm going to try to lay out a different view on the matter...but it's easier to do so via subject matter rather than visuals because I can articulate so mething that is personal to me.

I do not like roleplaying romance in my games. It makes me uncomfortable. I really only have romantic relationships stated matter of factly, never do I indulge in playing out a scene between individuals (PCs or NPCs alike). Same goes for sexy time encounters. It's just a topic that I don't enjoy roleplaying, have no interest in exploring in an RPG, and quite frankly would be happy never existed.

I don't begrudge others from including romance/sex in their games. I'm sure there are many many people who find that the spice that makes the game worth playing.

This in mind, I don't think it is fair for me to advocate removal of something from the game that I dislike just because it's a sore spot for me.

Now, to transition this to pinup artwork in the game, my personal view is that I can take it or leave it. I don't actually pay that much attention to art in general (other than monster art I show to players) and I have yet to run into anything in RPG art more aggregious than what you can see on Witcher or GoT or at the beach.

Where I take issue with your blanket statements is that you are stipulating that some things are factually true ...

1. A majority of female players did not engage with DnD because of artwork contained in it's books.

2. The rise of female players is caused by (at least in part) better depictions of female characters in the artwork.

While both of those statements MAY be true, I don't think we have enough data to actually answer those questions factually. You may see the trends and assign art as a factor, but there very well may be many more female gamers who push past the content they don't enjoy (like I do with romance/sex) rather than treat it as a hard stop to using that material.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
And now we get to the "What is art, and what is it for?" portion of our discussion.
There’s no objective definition of art. It’s all subjective.

Art is what the artist says it is. See Duchamp’s Urinal, Mapplethorpe’s Piss Christ, stuff like Andre’s Equivalence VIII, or works by Christo, Pollack Mondrian, Warhol, Rothko, or Kostabi.

But it is equally true that just because it is art to one person, it isn’t necessarily true that it’s art to all people. Maybe not to anyone else. That list above? I don’t even consider all of them artists. But someone does.

(Shrodinger’s cat thus becomes the final arbiter on if something is art or not.)
This is simplified in this case, as we are talking about art for commercial reproduction and distribution. If you are trying to make money at art, and do not care how it is received, you are not going to be making much money. This is art as communication, and proper communication requires consideration of the audience as much as the speaker.

If artists and publishers really don't care what people think of the art, why isn't it in crayon scribbles by a 5-year-old?
I was just addressing the creative freedom assertion above.

Short of actual problems with the laws of physics or man, the only thing actually stopping you from creating something is YOU.

Now, if you want your work to be commercially successful, that’s a different consideration entirely. Than, you do have to take your intended audience’s sensibilities into account.

In an early interview, members of Garbage talked about how their earliest efforts were so experimental as to be unsalable…until Shirley Manson was brought in as the vocalist. Shirley’s head snapped around to tell her bandmate off for implying she was the reason they curbed their experimentation. Backpedaling, clarifying and reframing initiated immediately.
 

S'mon

Legend
Where I take issue with your blanket statements is that you are stipulating that some things are factually true ...

1. A majority of female players did not engage with DnD because of artwork contained in it's books.

2. The rise of female players is caused by (at least in part) better depictions of female characters in the artwork.

While both of those statements MAY be true, I don't think we have enough data to actually answer those questions factually. You may see the trends and assign art as a factor, but there very well may be many more female gamers who push past the content they don't enjoy (like I do with romance/sex) rather than treat it as a hard stop to using that material.

I have seen trends over the years, GMing a lot in RPG student clubs and then later Meetups in London. Vampire: The Masquerade was the '90s was the first RPG to get a really substantial proportion of female players. It had sexual themes (and art). Running public RPG games at University, I don't remember TSR art being an issue, female D&D players were a minority but that was unlike Traveller - no women played Traveller at all, as far as I can tell. This was not because of the art.
One thing I remember that is not part of the general narrative afaict is that 4e D&D, while not a great success, brought in a much higher proportion of female players than 3e had. The look of the art may have been a factor. And 5e D&D much more again, of course. While I love a lot of Clyde Caldwell art, I suspect that 5e with him as the cover artist would not have had the same effect. IRL, people rarely feel 'attacked' or 'harassed' by commercial art at the kind of levels discussed here, but I do think it has an effect, as do other elements and themes. Eg I'd never seen multiple black players* at one Meetup game table until I played Tomb of Annihilation - and several African people I know commented how much they loved the Black Panther film.

*I later GM'd for one, a young black woman. Her favourite PC Nemesis was a topless busty blonde white Amazon warrior woman (originally an NPC she'd asked to play as a PC) with a photo pic that would meet with STRONG disapproval from many here. :D
 



Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
An example of art that actually is an attack on someone! :D
Yes…on one level.

But he was also using the piece to reveal- in an inflammatory manner that hid his other message- something artists have known for centuries. Namely, that uric acid was used to artificially patinate certain statuary, including religious ones.

Say your church’s statue of a saint was stolen or destroyed. You commission a replacement. In order to have it look more like the piece it will be replacing, you ask for it to be aged to resemble the other statues in the church.

By the time the church has its replacement installed, it has been subject to immersion in urine for quite some time.

…but it’s not like that fact was communicated to the patrons or public.
 


S'mon

Legend
Religion/politics
Leaving aside Marxist dialectical framing, I do think people immersed in a particular culture may be unaware of 'attacks', because they are so ubiquitous ('systemic'). One that occurs to me is the very common anti-Catholicism in mainstream British Establishment culture; nowadays most frequently expressed through an Atheist lens, but really still owing a lot to traditional Protestant Reformation anti-Catholicism. I think because I was raised an atheist in an Ulster Protestant milieu, it's easier for me to see this than it is for many English people raised in a largely post-Christian milieu. I think this kind of subconscious ('systemic') stuff can also feature in racial depictions, and to a lesser extent in 'objectifying' depictions of women, the latter two much moreso in a US context than in other Anglo countries, just as Establishment anti-Catholicism is much more 'systemic' in a British context than in the modern USA (pre-WW2 USA was quite different). Visiting the US from the UK, and marrying an American, I know I was nearly as shocked by US Patriarchalism (sp?) as by the racial polarisation. I don't think Hollywood or the news media really inform at all about the cross-national cultural differences. And the Americans I know who've settled in the UK keep expecting to see US-style sexism and racism in everyday interactions ("That Yorkshireman called me Love!") while being oblivious to UK classism & sectarianism.

Edit: So I guess what I'm saying is, while it is hard for me to emotionally understand people who see eg a sleazy Avalanche Press cover, or old Mongoose Publishing stuff, as a sexist 'attack' on anyone, I do intellectually somewhat understand where this view is coming from.
 
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Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
Strawman - I didn't say it was the only drive. So, what follows after this is not terribly relevant.

Well, you wrote that "This is simplified in this case, as we are talking about art for commercial reproduction and distribution." and I countered your argument about "simplification" about art is by narrowing it to commercial art destined to the general audience, by pointing out that (a) some art was produced without commercial intent even in the context of TTRPG (b) being commercial doesn't mean it necessarily target the masses, two arguments that were extremely relevant to the simplification I thought you proposed. If you didn't intend to narrow the discussion to commercial art, then I didn't understand your point, and effectively what followed was irrelevant. Please do not assume I am arguing in bad faith when I fail to understand what was your point, the hostility doesn't make me want to discuss with you anymore.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
There’s no objective definition of art. It’s all subjective.

Don't really need an objective one for this discussion - just a functional one, meaning, a definition of the function of art, as used in RPG products. Heck, we don't even need an explicit definition, but we ought to agree that there's some specific functions in mind. And, for RPG products, they mostly depend on the opinion of the person buying the product.

Art is what the artist says it is. See Duchamp’s Urinal, Mapplethorpe’s Piss Christ, stuff like Andre’s Equivalence VIII, or works by Christo, Pollack Mondrian, Warhol, Rothko, or Kostabi.

Yes, but as you've effectively noted, if nobody else says it is, the artist has done something for themselves, and that's all. Art without communications is a solo practice, with an audience of the artist, and no others.

I was just addressing the creative freedom assertion above.

Yes, and I was trying to put that into a useful context for discussion on an RPG board, in which creative freedom is not the sole, or necessarily even the largest, consideration. This lofty "I am an ARTISTE!" stuff is largely immaterial when talking about selling RPGs, because there's that annoying bit about selling - which means making something that people want to buy.
 


In the end, I'm so we all can agree that ultimately no matter how you feel about this subject matter there is one certain fact that is unshakeable or true, especially here on Enworld. If your Pro then you are automatically seen as wrong for it and no thing will ever change that fact short of Orcs/Drows, Halflings with 20 STR, Paizo's announced/unexplained removal of redacted: your cat has been confiscated for heresy and other lockable topics.
 


Voadam

Legend
Even if it isn’t attacking your race in particular, that you are offended by it probably indicates it is attacking your friends, family or values.

Indirect though it may be, that’s still an attack on you.
I feel it would be a mistake to conflate an attack upon someone I care about or my values as an attack upon myself.

I also feel it would be a mistake to conflate offense with an attack.

I would consider it an unnecessary escalation to treat something that offends my values as an attack upon me.

Ridicule and mocking and such can be an attack, but I think conflating offending and attacking is a mistake in such a discussion.
 

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