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General Two underlying truths: D&D heritage and inclusivity

TaranTheWanderer

Adventurer
But, that's not the "meat" of the issue, nor is it delving deeper. The meat of the issue isn't "what about evil bad guys" because "evil bad guys" is not an issue. No one has a problem with evil bad guys, because, well, bad guys are supposed to be evil. So, your Hitler Lich would be perfectly fine. He's a BAD GUY. It would only be problematic if the victims were presented as deserving to die and be turned into mindless undead, or if Hitler Lich were somehow justified in his actions.

So, why not talk about them? Because these issues are non-sequiturs that only serve to confuse the issue. Why are you talking about "evil bad guys" when no one has an issue with evil bad guys?

It's why this topic is so frustrating.

A: We want to change the language used in some monsters so that it no longer parallels real world descriptions that were used to denigrate and dehumanize people.
B: I don't see the problem with this language, so, you must have some other problem. What about being evil?
A: No, no, we want to change the language used in some monsters so that it no longer parallels real world descriptions that were used to denigrate and dehumanize people.
B; I don't see the problem with this language, so, you must have some other problem. What about this other monster that's completely unrelated to what you brought up?
A: No, no, we want to change the language used in some monsters so that it no longer parallels real world descriptions that were used to denigrate and dehumanize people.
B: I don't see the problem with this language, so, you must have some other problem. What about these monsters over here that are completely unrelated to what you are saying?
A: No, no, we want to change the language used in some monsters so that it no longer parallels real world descriptions that were used to denigrate and dehumanize people.
B: I don't see the problem with this language, so, you must have some other problem. Why won't you talk about these other issues. They are important aren't they? Why aren't they problems for you?
A: No, no, we want to change the language used in some monsters so that it no longer parallels real world descriptions that were used to denigrate and dehumanize people.

Wash, rinse, repeat for page after page after page.

Even if you don't agree with the interpretation, that doesn't meant that there is some other problem. Your (and I'm using you here in the general sense of anyone reading this) inability to empathize with other people's issues is the key issue here. Even if you don't have a problem with the language, how is it in anyone's interest to keep insisting on other justifications? Why not actually take a look at what is needed to resolve the issue - minor editing of a couple of monsters in such a way that the core of the monster is largely unchanged, as has been REPEATEDLY shown in this thread - instead of continuously searching for some sort of other reason?
I haven't been disagreeing with you. You've been interpreting my words as disagreement though. See, I think you've missed most of the point. But this is why i'm extracting myself from this discussion. I don't want to have to reiterate a point I've mentioned 5 times only to have it misrepresented as an argument against the points you're making.
 

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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I'm not moving the goal post anywhere, just pointing out that we don't need apply real world ethics and morality to fantasy scenarios.
Those fantasy scenarios will be played by real world people. And while you may want to, they do not, in general, so completely dissociate from the real world while playing that the ethics and morality in the scenario may be arbitrary. Which real-world ethics and morals need to be reflected in your game does depend on your players.

You presumably know the needs and wants of your players, and can presumably tailor the morals and ethics of the scenarios you present to their tolerances. WotC does not have that option. They are selling to a general audience, and so their materials have to stick pretty close by the real world.
 

Mercurius

Legend
Those fantasy scenarios will be played by real world people. And while you may want to, they do not, in general, so completely dissociate from the real world while playing that the ethics and morality in the scenario may be arbitrary. Which real-world ethics and morals need to be reflected in your game does depend on your players.

You presumably know the needs and wants of your players, and can presumably tailor the morals and ethics of the scenarios you present to their tolerances. WotC does not have that option. They are selling to a general audience, and so their materials have to stick pretty close by the real world.
I don't disagree, but that's not really what I was trying to get at. A lot of these discussions are based around applying real world perspectives to fantasy contexts, which I see as, at the very least, an unnecessary transposition from one context to another; in this case, reality to fantasy. I think it also has to do with a limited conception of what fantasy is, both historically and in terms of the creative act itself.

The sentence of mine that you quoted was derived from a discussion on the duergar in which I was saying that the duergar story only has to make sense unto itself; we don't need to apply real-world ethics and ideology and coherency to the fantasy world. Fantasy, by its very nature, is the act of playing make-believe, of playing with What Ifs. What if a world existed in which evil was a real thing, and there were entire races of people who were evil? There is absolutely nothing wrong with that assumptive scenario within the context of fantasy; but what has happened is that many people (mis-)apply real world ideas into this fantasy context: "But that doesn't make sense--no race of people is inherently evil!"

People play first-person shooter games. I'm personally not a fan of video games, but I take it that (most) players aren't actually interested in killing people. They are entering a "fantasy world" in which they are soldiers, doing things that they might find morally reprehensible in real life. The morality of the fantasy context is different from the morality of the person playing their game.

As I said in one of these threads, I don't actually like playing evil characters. There are limits to what sort of fantasies I will willingly engage in, so I'm not saying that real world morality is entirely dissociated from whatever forms of fantasy I engage with. Fantasy can even be employed as a context to play out moral issues and quandaries. But the key is that the morality is relative to the context of the game, or setting, itself.
 

Campbell

Legend
All art, even art meant to provide a diverting escape, is grounded intimately in the human experience. When we create or portray a character we being guided by our instincts and insights into the ways that human behavior works. We cannot really help this process. We are social animals and understand the world by our relationships with one another.

This is just as true when it comes to characters who are not literally human. Even when we are writing or portraying characters who act in very inhuman ways we do so based on our judgments about humans. The power of fantasy and science fiction from my perspective is not to get away from telling stories about the human experience, but to experience it in new ways by exploring what other ways we could organize ourselves - what cultures we could form. In many ways I consider science fiction and fantasy uniquely political because we can explore cultural norms in ways we cannot in other genres.

Obviously we can write and portray characters who have different sorts of morality than our own. Exploring things from a different perspective is one of the virtues of all fiction. However, as audience members we are also human beings who have real human feelings and experiences. We relate to fiction as humans. We cannot help it.

This is a good thing by the way. It helps to develop empathy and compassion for people who are not like us. It helps us to see the world from different perspectives. It helps us to imagine the world as it could be or as we fear it might someday be. Art makes us more human - not less.
 

I don't disagree, but that's not really what I was trying to get at. A lot of these discussions are based around applying real world perspectives to fantasy contexts, which I see as, at the very least, an unnecessary transposition from one context to another; in this case, reality to fantasy. I think it also has to do with a limited conception of what fantasy is, both historically and in terms of the creative act itself.

The sentence of mine that you quoted was derived from a discussion on the duergar in which I was saying that the duergar story only has to make sense unto itself; we don't need to apply real-world ethics and ideology and coherency to the fantasy world. Fantasy, by its very nature, is the act of playing make-believe, of playing with What Ifs. What if a world existed in which evil was a real thing, and there were entire races of people who were evil? There is absolutely nothing wrong with that assumptive scenario within the context of fantasy; but what has happened is that many people (mis-)apply real world ideas into this fantasy context: "But that doesn't make sense--no race of people is inherently evil!"

You seem to want to erect this massive wall between "fantasy" and "reality" and no judgement can pass through that wall. But this misses the point so utterly, that I can't even find the words to explain it to you.

If I accept your premise as true, that you (As in any reader of any fantasy) cannot apply real world perspectives, ethics, or ideology to a fantasy story, then fantasy stories are worthless, meaningless, and boring.

Analogies are always a terrible idea, but let me go ahead and just start throwing them around.

I have on my shelf a "superhero" story. It falls under fantasy in that it is not real. Superheroes do not exist, superpowers do not exist. Within this story the main organization for superheroes abducts children with powers and trains them to be child soldiers, sent on kill missions against any hero that leaves the organization, because that person is a villain (by the way, this is the Velveteen Vs. series if people are interested)

Is this organization right to do so? Wrong to do so? By your premise, I cannot say. I literally cannot say that training children to kill traitors is wrong, or evil, or good, or anything. It is a fantasy story. Real World Ethics do not apply.

I have another story, (Starlight by Brandon Sanderson) in this story, an alien who is under judgement for whether or not it should be born, risks its future existence by defying orders to fight against a space monster and save trillions of lives on a space station.

Is this person brave? Cowardly? Good? Evil? Again, by your premise, I cannot say. I cannot say that choosing to risk your own life to protect the lives of others is good or brave or despicable. It is a fantasy story. Real World Ethics do not apply.


Now, perhaps you will say that I am meant to judge these actions within the context of the story, is the story presented in such a way, to tell me how to view that action. That tells me whether or not these actions were good or evil.


That means that I am meant to judge actions, based on the narrators judgement. Which leads me to a third book.

In this book, which I do not remember the name of, nor will I give the author any business if I could, a man recieves a message in his brain that he will gain power if he kills three people in the next minute. He hates people, so he does so. And he is reborn with the ability to control insects. He is a tiny gemstone, buried underground. He gains more power by killing more living things. At the climax of the story, he is controlling a swarm of wasps to torture and kill a family of five. He takes great pleasure in doing so, and finds the act very rewarding. Funny too since he has the insects stalk them for about a day, and the people are completely unaware that he exists, or that these are anything other than normal wasps.

Judging this story based solely on the morality it presents, in this world of the book, murder and torture are fulfilling and amusing actions that have great rewards attached to them. This is truth, because it is presented to us in this story, and this is a fantasy story, so only the morality within the story applies.



This is why your continued assertions fall apart Mercurius. We have to be able to apply real world ethics and reasoning to our stories. Otherwise every author would have to explain why kindness is good and torture is bad.

And yes, we also have to judge the story by the story, by the assumptions it makes. The Addams family is a comedy, their actions which would be horrific and deadly in the real world are nothing more than silly antics within their own world. But, that is the power of comedic stories. They can break the rules, and set new ones. But, if you want me to take your fantasy story seriously, instead of as a poorly written comedy, then you need to apply enough reality to make it grounded.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
You presumably know the needs and wants of your players, and can presumably tailor the morals and ethics of the scenarios you present to their tolerances. WotC does not have that option. They are selling to a general audience, and so their materials have to stick pretty close by the real world.
They don't need to stick close by the real world at all.

They just need to make it reasonably clear if and when they're not - a simple catch-all disclaimer like "This is a work of fiction and is not intended as any sort of guide to anything in the real world we live in" can cover a lot of ground there.
 

Hussar

Legend
They don't need to stick close by the real world at all.

They just need to make it reasonably clear if and when they're not - a simple catch-all disclaimer like "This is a work of fiction and is not intended as any sort of guide to anything in the real world we live in" can cover a lot of ground there.
Yes but that’s a bit of a cop out isn’t it? Yes, we know this is bad but because we put up a disclaimer, you lose the right to complain about it.

Why not just excise the objectionable stuff?
 

Bagpuss

Adventurer
We want to change the language used in some monsters so that it no longer parallels real world descriptions that were used to denigrate and dehumanize people.
The problem with that is at some point or another all negative language has been used to denigrate and dehumanize a section of society, so are you saying we can't speak negatively about any monsters?
 

Hussar

Legend
The problem with that is at some point or another all negative language has been used to denigrate and dehumanize a section of society, so are you saying we can't speak negatively about any monsters?
And here we have exhibit A. Right back around we go.

We've already talked about goblins and there's no real problem there. Ogres? Trolls? Giants? Not a problem. Demons, devils, dragons? Yup, no problems.

But, sure, let's jump right back on that slippery slope argument yet again, because, hey, we haven't beaten that to death have we?
 

Bagpuss

Adventurer
We've already talked about goblins and there's no real problem there.
I've seen others disagree, but certainly they don't seem to be the main target at the moment.

Ogres? Trolls? Giants? Not a problem. Demons, devils, dragons? Yup, no problems.
Ogres are more or less giant orcs, so I'm not sure what difference is enough to give them a pass?

I suspect Trolls, Giants, etc. are getting a pass as they are established in folklore? The fact that much of this folklore is based on the "fear of the other" which is a criticism thrown at orcs seems to be ignored at least at the moment.
 

Aldarc

Legend
The problem with that is at some point or another all negative language has been used to denigrate and dehumanize a section of society, so are you saying we can't speak negatively about any monsters?
I think that it means that we shouldn’t talk about most creatures in a way reminiscent of how white supremacists talk about fellow humans. I’m not sure why people have such difficulty with stepping over a bar as low as that.
 

TaranTheWanderer

Adventurer
I'm back.

I think there are several issues here that people are worried about:

1. Censorship, changing sensibilities and the ability to have discussion.

Why not just excise the objectionable stuff?
To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic Novel that has, on and off in history, has been the target of censorship. Pulled from schools and libraries and various special interest groups wanting to take it out of print.

Would it be better to 'edit' the book to make it less offensive to more modern sensibilities or does it have value for what it is?

I have on my shelf a "superhero" story. It falls under fantasy in that it is not real. Superheroes do not exist, superpowers do not exist. Within this story the main organization for superheroes abducts children with powers and trains them to be child soldiers, sent on kill missions against any hero that leaves the organization, because that person is a villain (by the way, this is the Velveteen Vs. series if people are interested)

Is this organization right to do so? Wrong to do so? By your premise, I cannot say. I literally cannot say that training children to kill traitors is wrong, or evil, or good, or anything. It is a fantasy story. Real World Ethics do not apply.
So should you no longer have stories about child abduction or child abuse or are these stories only acceptable if the villain is doing it? What if someone is the victim of child abuse, should the book be changed or taken down?

In this book, which I do not remember the name of, nor will I give the author any business if I could, a man recieves a message in his brain that he will gain power if he kills three people in the next minute. He hates people, so he does so. And he is reborn with the ability to control insects. He is a tiny gemstone, buried underground. He gains more power by killing more living things. At the climax of the story, he is controlling a swarm of wasps to torture and kill a family of five. He takes great pleasure in doing so, and finds the act very rewarding. Funny too since he has the insects stalk them for about a day, and the people are completely unaware that he exists, or that these are anything other than normal wasps.

Judging this story based solely on the morality it presents, in this world of the book, murder and torture are fulfilling and amusing actions that have great rewards attached to them. This is truth, because it is presented to us in this story, and this is a fantasy story, so only the morality within the story applies.
Is it wrong or even in bad taste to have a book that glorifies torture and killing? Are there no discussions to be had? Is a book to be changed or shelved because it is morally depraved? To me, That conversation, in itself, is worth having.

This is why your continued assertions fall apart Mercurius. We have to be able to apply real world ethics and reasoning to our stories. Otherwise every author would have to explain why kindness is good and torture is bad.
I'm not sure Mercurius is saying we should divorce our own experience and morality or that of society from the book. I think he's saying that something isn't inherently immoral just because it depicts immoral/amoral behavior.

Just because literature depicts something that people find offensive, must it be changed?

2. Future Materials

It's been stated several times that 'only orcs and drow' are going to be changed so people should just stop arguing and that discussing things like Necromancers isn't an issue so stop playing gotcha.

The issue is that sensibilities change. Today it's Orcs and Drow but what about in five years? It really is an issue if the answer to #1 is, change it, take it off the shelves and censor it. That limits discussion. It sets a precedent as well. Today, Necromancers(or goblins, or Giants) aren't a big deal but it doesn't mean they won't be in the future. It just might be the thing you didn't think was offensive. Will there be no room for your opinions or sensibilities when they change it?

What kind of effect will it have on published materials if writers must worry about their stories being changed or censored because it no longer fits the sensibilities of the day, or a specific group? Does it limit the material we will have access to? That is a personal concern for me. Who should be the judge of what material I'm allowed to read? Whoever shouts the loudest?

2. WotC responsibilities

Is it the responsibility of Wizard of the Coast to censor the content they provide? Are they essentially selling 'toys' that should be moral or can they be edgy and provocative? Is it their responsibility to be the moral compass of their consumers? In the end, They are a company and they have a reputation and they want to sell books. I think it goes without saying that they want to publish material that is 'responsible' and inclusive, and they should. But Should all past material be changed? Can we still be inclusive by saying, "This was thing back then but now it's not."

This illustrates progress and understanding for the society we were. "can you believe people used to smoke in airplanes?! that's crazy!"

In the end, I feel, they want to expand their base so they'll do whatever makes them more successful.
 
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Aldarc

Legend
These were all conversations that past writers and publishers for D&D have faced in their own time as well about various related issues (e.g. misogyny, homophobia, racism, etc.) and the hobby has survived with little difficulty. We should not spend our time worrying where to draw the arbitrary line in the sand about “what’s next?” and let the game evolve with the sentiments of the changing body of people who play it. The game is for the people, not the people for the game.
 

Hussar

Legend
I've seen others disagree, but certainly they don't seem to be the main target at the moment.



Ogres are more or less giant orcs, so I'm not sure what difference is enough to give them a pass?

I suspect Trolls, Giants, etc. are getting a pass as they are established in folklore? The fact that much of this folklore is based on the "fear of the other" which is a criticism thrown at orcs seems to be ignored at least at the moment.
As @Aldarc said, the fact that trolls, giants, goblins and ogres are not described using language reminiscent of white supremacists means that they aren't really an issue.

Maybe it would help if you actually READ what people are complaining about, rather than inventing things that they aren't complaining about?
 

I suspect Trolls, Giants, etc. are getting a pass as they are established in folklore? The fact that much of this folklore is based on the "fear of the other" which is a criticism thrown at orcs seems to be ignored at least at the moment.
I think the large "Single entity or tiny group" monsters are getting a pass not because of the folklore roots but because of the social structures and a lack of mapping. No one sees themselves as eight foot or more tall, and ogres and trolls almost never have complex societies. Meanwhile orcs are on a human scale and have more social interactions.

Alternatively what @Hussar said may be more accurate.

Edit: More accurately I'm going for why the association doesn't get made much in the first place. Hussar is going for the complaints themselves.
 
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TaranTheWanderer

Adventurer
These were all conversations that past writers and publishers for D&D have faced in their own time as well about various related issues (e.g. misogyny, homophobia, racism, etc.) and the hobby has survived with little difficulty. We should not spend our time worrying where to draw the arbitrary line in the sand about “what’s next?” and let the game evolve with the sentiments of the changing body of people who play it. The game is for the people, not the people for the game.
In my entire post, you focused on 'What's Next'. I think there's way more in there. I mean, you've spent most of this thread defending the change to orcs. Was that a good use of your time?
 

Hussar

Legend
I'm back.

I think there are several issues here that people are worried about:

1. Censorship, changing sensibilities and the ability to have discussion.



To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic Novel that has, on and off in history, has been the target of censorship. Pulled from schools and libraries and various special interest groups wanting to take it out of print.

Would it be better to 'edit' the book to make it less offensive to more modern sensibilities or does it have value for what it is?
Are you seriously comparing To Kill a Mockingbird to the Monster Manual?

Note, "pulled from schools and libraries" isn't quite the same thing. Also note, there are significantly different reasons why To Kill a Mockingbird was objectionable at the time. So, in other words, you are again dragging in material that has NOTHING TO DO with what we are talking about.

So should you no longer have stories about child abduction or child abuse or are these stories only acceptable if the villain is doing it? What if someone is the victim of child abuse, should the book be changed or taken down?
A: We want to change the language used in some monsters so that it no longer parallels real world descriptions that were used to denigrate and dehumanize people.
B: I don't see the problem with this language, so, you must have some other problem. What about being evil?

Is it wrong or even in bad taste to have a book that glorifies torture and killing? Are there no discussions to be had? Is a book to be changed or shelved because it is morally depraved? To me, That conversation, in itself, is worth having.
A: We want to change the language used in some monsters so that it no longer parallels real world descriptions that were used to denigrate and dehumanize people.
B: I don't see the problem with this language, so, you must have some other problem. What about being evil?

I'm not sure Mercurius is saying we should divorce our own experience and morality or that of society from the book. I think he's saying that something isn't inherently immoral just because it depicts immoral/amoral behavior.

Just because literature depicts something that people find offensive, must it be changed?

2. Future Materials

It's been stated several times that 'only orcs and drow' are going to be changed so people should just stop arguing and that discussing things like Necromancers isn't an issue so stop playing gotcha.

The issue is that sensibilities change. Today it's Orcs and Drow but what about in five years? It really is an issue if the answer to #1 is, change it, take it off the shelves and censor it. That limits discussion. It sets a precedent as well. Today, Necromancers(or goblins, or Giants) aren't a big deal but it doesn't mean they won't be in the future. It just might be the thing you didn't think was offensive. Will there be no room for your opinions or sensibilities when they change it?

What kind of effect will it have on published materials if writers must worry about their stories being changed or censored because it no longer fits the sensibilities of the day, or a specific group? Does it limit the material we will have access to? That is a personal concern for me. Who should be the judge of what material I'm allowed to read? Whoever shouts the loudest?
A: We want to change the language used in some monsters so that it no longer parallels real world descriptions that were used to denigrate and dehumanize people.
B: I don't see the problem with this language, so, you must have some other problem. What about being evil?

Are the descriptions of necromancers using denigrating language? No? Then why are you bringing it up, yet again?

2. WotC responsibilities

Is it the responsibility of Wizard of the Coast to censor the content they provide? Are they essentially selling 'toys' that should be moral or can they be edgy and provocative? Is it their responsibility to be the moral compass of their consumers? In the end, They are a company and they have a reputation and they want to sell books. I think it goes without saying that they want to publish material that is 'responsible' and inclusive, and they should. But Should all past material be changed? Can we still be inclusive by saying, "This was thing back then but now it's not."

This illustrates progress and understanding for the society we were. "can you believe people used to smoke in airplanes?! that's crazy!"

In the end, I feel, they want to expand their base so they'll do whatever makes them more successful.
A: We want to change the language used in some monsters so that it no longer parallels real world descriptions that were used to denigrate and dehumanize people.
B: I don't see the problem with this language, so, you must have some other problem. What about being evil?

When "all past material" is up for change, then you have a point. Until then, you're not actually engaging with the topic at hand but are still swirling around in the air of "whatabouts" trying to invent issues that don't actually exist.
 

Aldarc

Legend
In my entire post, you focused on 'What's Next'. I think there's way more in there. I mean, you've spent most of this thread defending the change to orcs. Was that a good use of your time?
My focus speaks more to the limitations of writing on my phone while commuting than anything else.

I believe that it has been a good use of my time. My mind has changed on a number of issues, though not always all at once, because people planted the seed in my mind and heart through raising a basic awareness of the issues. I may have ignored it or dismissed it as a problem, but what has been seen can’t be unseen. And there will always be a part of your mind, as it was with mine, that will remember these conversations about those problematic aspects of the hobby.
 
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TaranTheWanderer

Adventurer
When "all past material" is up for change, then you have a point. Until then, you're not actually engaging with the topic at hand but are still swirling around in the air of "whatabouts" trying to invent issues that don't actually exist.
Some past material is up for a change. Also, Oriental Adventures is being asked to be pulled from the shelves. Everything you mentioned in your post before that is just a repetition of things you've said about my posts and have completely missed the mark.

B: I don't see the problem with this language, so, you must have some other problem. What about being evil?
I never said this. I never said you have a problem or that I don't see the problem. Try reading it without thinking I'm disagreeing with you and then maybe you'll understand. Otherwise, it's pretty pointless.
 
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Scott Christian

Adventurer
Is this organization right to do so? Wrong to do so? By your premise, I cannot say. I literally cannot say that training children to kill traitors is wrong, or evil, or good, or anything. It is a fantasy story. Real World Ethics do not apply.
I am sorry Chaosmancer, I really don't get it. I know you are against the bolded. That real world ethics do apply. But my take is some real world ethics apply to some fantasy cultures. Other fantasy cultures, not so much. That's why fantasy is unique. It is why exploring other cultures in real life is interesting. Sometimes their ethics bring unique points of view.
In your example you cannot say it is right or wrong. I know in real life we can. But, depending on the point of view in this fantasy story, it may be right. It may be wrong. Again, in fantasy, good people can do bad things for good reasons; bad people can do good things for bad reasons. Ethical parameters all depends on who is telling the tale...
Have you read Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James? (Excellent fantasy book!) It is a great example of this.
 

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