What We Lose When We Eliminate Controversial Content

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Part of it is oppositional. Someone might actually be angry about the thing but others are just angry about how the other guy was angry about the thing when the shoe was on the other foot.

A bit tangentially - now that GRRM has been mentioned it still sticks in my craw a bit when at the end of Game of Thrones people called it "Arya invents colonialism." That was a snide remark because of her skin colour, and had nothing to do with the story or the world or anything else. No one was saying, "Moana invents colonialism," even though what she was doing was literally the exact same. The way people frame things is always coloured by other debates.

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Not your screen monkey (he/him) 🇺🇦🇵🇸🏳️‍⚧️
A small ripple of a couple of posters grumbling is hardly a major reaction.

And the overall reaction to everything that Paizo does regarding these kinds of issues is almost always positive.

IOW we don’t see multiple threads sprouting up about how Paizo hates free speech and is destroying the hobby and they all hate gamers.
I think this really is a mistaken impression. Paizo does something and it's discussed in a handful of places and where else?

But WotC does something with a far bigger following? It's going to be discussed a lot more by a lot more people.

IF there's a significant difference in the proportion of responses that blow a gasket vs pat them on the back compared to WotC, that might be caused by Paizo's history of doing a few of these things like including LGBT character having already shaken a number of reactionaries out of their following.
That said, whenever Paizo missteps or includes something dismissed as "edgelord" the pitchforks come out and you'd think they were betraying everyone personally by eating their puppies right in front of them (with the salad forks, even).

Honestly, having witnessed reactions to both Paizo and WotC on downplaying slavery-heavy material, I'm not sure I'm seeing a whole lot of difference.

Thomas Shey

Yeah, go to PF-centric areas and I promise you there will be plenty of discussion when they screw the pooch. But in general, and especially here, the density of people who give a damn about WOTC is much larger.

That's not how I remember news of Paizo's new stance on slavery being received.
Well, let's hope that this thread doesn't also suffer from an untimely demise.

This approach - to simply remove references to slavery - actually seems entirely reasonable to me. If a kingdom is "wicked" in a canonical setting - say the Great Kingdom in Greyhawk, or Thay in the FR - it would appear sensible to me to allow individual campaigns to manage what that entails, without going into specifics. This is a question of what each table decides and is comfortable with.

We don't really need to know the details of slavery in a published mainstream setting, or of racial persecutions, or rape as a weapon of war - or really anything which, when examined, is apt to elicit extreme discomfort or act as a trigger. Big publishers aim their products at a wide audience, including children, and also need to consider their responsibility to parents in their choices. While I think a direct corollary with the Satanic Panic is misplaced, I do think there are some parallels - which is to say that a game which seeks to successfully capture an audience of young, impressionable minds needs to be sensitive to the prevailing cultural mood, whether reasonable and justified or not.

I don't think this is a question of "sanitizing" a product or setting, but more about providing an uncontroversial baseline, and I think that the space which is left - whether it be with regard to eroticism, or mental illness, or institutional slavery, or anything else which might cause a parent to raise an eyebrow - is ripe for investigation by small publishers, if that's the route they want to go. Whether they address any such issues intelligently and thoughtfully is another matter, of course, but it's not WotC's problem, and nor should it be.

The entire premise of D&D is already patently absurd, so I don't see how removing controversial elements somehow makes it less believable. And with something as charged as slavery - the legacy of which remains a gaping wound in the collective psyche - omission of the phenomenon altogether is a sound choice. Because if it is included, it leads to questions of what exactly does that entail? - and that is a topic which the D&D ruleset is entirely unequipped to handle.

At your own table? Play whatever and however you agree, of course.

Well, considering the bulk of RPG designers have historically males of North American or European nationalities, and that’s only beginning to change significantly in the past couple of decades, I don’t have much of a problem with that. It’s very hard to claim misappropriation of culture in a game when the manglers are from or are relatively adjacent to those cultures.

It’s a bit of a clearer issue when the misrepresentations are being done by those with no significant connection to the cultures being sloppily portrayed.

Mark Antony minted coins featuring her profile, and they look fairly Grecian. While it’s a contemporary image, it was probably created by a Grecian or greek-trained artisan. Her depictions in hieroglyphs look pretty typical of other Egyptian rulers.

Which is more accurate?

The Egyptians made Octavian look like a traditional pharaoh so phenotypic accuracy was not really important in depicting their rulers.


As they did with the Mwangi Expanse, too. When you take on these sorts of projects where you are drawing upon different cultures it is best to have people from those cultures writing and reviewing because they will catch things that you probably will not. There is not nearly as much risk to these projects as people think there are, the problem is that some companies are more comfortable with bringing in the right voices for it than others.
Maybe I am missing something, but the writers of that book were mostly American and a few from SEA as far as I can tell.


The fact that there are popular childrens IPs that arent scary has nothing to say about my post. Finding an example contra isn't at all the same as a refutation. Nor does the nonsensical index to edgelord whatnots help clear the waters.
I genuinely don’t know what you’re saying here.

The thesis that we have to include miserable, scary history as part of our world building, otherwise our games will be narrative wastelands, simply isn’t true. “But look at all the stories we can’t tell without a history of slavery!” You can tell a thousand stories without a history of slavery.
The enduring popularity of ghost stories and spooky mysteries for kids is an undeniable fact.
So is the enduring popularity of happy, cheerful stories without terrifying things for kids. Kids like a lot of stuff. I don’t know what that has to do with whether campaigns ought to have a minimum RDA of Grimdark.


Loud voices on the internet can be just as influential as any government in this matter. It's not the 1st Amendment, but the principle of restricting free speech remains the same.
So those “loud voices on the Internet” are not also free speech somehow? And “loud voices on the Internet” are in principle exactly the same as the state exercising its power to suppress speech?



Do you scrub your world of slavery and other historical crimes? If so, how do you encourage heroism? If not, what do you do to mitigate the real potential discomfort such subjects can cause? Do you make different decisions based on the specific game or setting? Do you run historical games, and if so do you "soften" history to make it palatable?

I think that in general, things should not be 'scrubbed' but you absolutely must be sure that when you do present such content that it is not presented in a way that perpetuates stereotypes; this can occur through simple inattention to the actual source material. When you build out everything you know based on stuff you've read in popular fiction or seen on TV - particularly something prior to, say, 2000 CE - it's likely to be wholly or partially based just on stereotypes.

I generally don't scrub anything from my game worlds, even if I'm running historical themed games like Call of Cthulhu. At the same time, I try try ask players beforehand - even if I've known them for quite some time away from the table - 'OK, is X, Y, or Z going to cause you, personally, some problems and, if so, how can I present that in a way that does not cause you problems'. This just keeps either party from being blindsided by something.

A few years ago,. I related in a thread about a player that sees a particular thing coming - in this case, zombie children - and says 'that is probably a deal breaker for me, and I'll have to quit the session'. I had no idea; apparently any sort of 'child endangerment' trope trips his trigger if it goes much past 'kid are in a bus about to go over a cliff' into actual depictions of such consequences. So. I recalibrated on the fly and changed that part of the scenario.

Since then, I've asked people beforehand about certain things that could be problematic - like 'so,. say if you were hit with a classic love potion that made you madly infatuated with the first person you saw' type of thing. Sometimes it deviates into spoiler territory but I'd rather mildly spoil a surprise than ruin someone's night because it brings up memories of the time they almost got drugged and raped.

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