Now I could write an entire post on my own and probably not get anything wrong. But this is the sort of the thing that seemed to call for a “guest lecturer”, as it were. So I thought I’d let Chris Chinn start us off (image insertions are purely mine), and then I’d highlight a few especially egregious examples.
Specific Examples: Less Recent
Because I think we could all benefit from some examples of Shit Not To Do, here is a TOTALLY NOT EXHAUSTIVE list of shit you should strive to NOT emulate.
1. Oriental Adventures is REALLY THE WORST
These are all images that I pulled from different Oriental Adventures titles. YES IT WAS A SERIES.
But wait! The shitty racist stereotypes weren’t just in the art! Nooooo. There was shitty racist stereotypes written into the rules! For instance, the first illustration there, the yellow-peril-wizard there, was for a class called the Wu Jen. Well, as this conversion of the Wu Jen for use with later editions of D&D shows, the Oriental Adventurers were just a vortex of shitty, shitty racism:
Certain taboos must be abided by in order for the Wu Jen to sustain his magic. Examples include:
- Cannot bathe
- Must bathe frequently (at least every other day)
- Cannot sit facing a certain direction
- Cannot touch a dead body
- Cannot wear shoes
- Cannot drink alcohol
The DM and player should feel free to create their own taboos, as long as they are as restrictive as the examples above. Taboos should relate to purity or cleansing of the body.
2. Steampunk Musha: Victoriental Adventures
Oh god. So OF COURSE this was a KickStarted project and OF COURSE it raised more than 400% of its goal. The worst part is that clearly the creator thought that he was being SO CLEVER.
“Let’s see. I like Oriental Adventures. What would make that better? Steampunk? Sure. Everybody loves Steampunk, right? But what would I call it? Steam Oriental Adventures? Oriental Adventures Steampunk? OH WAIT.”
Also. Here’s some of the art.
3. STOP USING STEAMPUNK. STOP IT.
I talked about Into the Far West in the first part of this series of posts. But here’s some art to reinforce how bad it is.
For this point, I’m going to be a bit vaguer because I’ve actually seen these offenses in multiple recent works, some of which have current crowdfunding efforts or sites that I don’t want to direct traffic to. So forgive me while I quote myself while simultaneously remaining intentionally vague:
1. Don’t use symbols with religious or spiritual meaning to another culture – it belittles the meaning behind the symbol and dilutes the importance of the symbol
2. Don’t reinforce negative stereotypes. That just adds to the toxic background radiation that forms the dominant view of minorities
3. Be mindful of your place in a system where white artists routinely profit off of performances of cultures that aren’t their own. See Katy Pary’s geisha performance, or Miley Cyrus using black culture like a costume.
Coming back to number 1 – religious and spiritually significant symbols. The use of Vishnu, Shiva, and Bodhisattvas – these are all things that are part of living religions currently being practiced in India. Add in stereotypical “monsters” like cannibal sorcerers, which play right into #2 and reinforce a whole host of ugly stereotypes about “savage” Indian mysticism and thugee cults and the like. And then for good fun, maybe you could add in some Untouchables, and maybe give them some magic powers. Because what could be wrong with saying that a group of real-life people who face real-life oppression get oppression superpowers so in fact their oppression is actually good for them?
There are a lot, a lot, A LOT of white authors who publish lazy pastiches of “awesome” stereotypes of foreign cultures because they think it’s “awesome” and they can make a quick buck. And what we NEED more of in gaming is inclusive settings that manage to portray non-European cultures as complex and HUMAN, not just as a collection of stereotypes
Actually, you know what? If you’re writing a game setting based in India, it probably would be best to avoid mentioning Indian religion at all.
5. Anything that uses the word exotic.
Exoticization of foreign cultures, especially Asian cultures, has a long and troubled past in gaming. Exotic is not a compliment. Period. Full stop. End of sentence. Have you used it anywhere in your game material? Well go remove it. And then go remove all the synonyms. And then go remove all of the sections that read as OOOOO EXOTIC. That shit is toxic. Cut it out.
 Seriously, I could write an entirely separate blog about the fucked up ways in which Asia and Asians are portrayed in games
 Because HEAVEN FORBID that shit piles like Oriental Adventures remain unconverted for use with later editions of D&D. THAT JUST WOULDN’T DO.
 You heard me. WHITE.