Samurai Crawl Classics? Nope.

Growing up in Iowa, I fell in love with First Edition AD&D. My favorite gaming books included Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures. Nowadays both of those books have some pretty ugly racial biases associated with them. I don’t love those books for the racist content, though.

I’m backing off of the idea.

The intent is to uplift and respect other cultures, or at least show a modicum of sensitivity.

Most of the changes I wanted to make were nominal. There are a few deviations from the regular Dungeon Crawl Classics rules, mostly new classes. I was basing bits and pieces off of the often maligned AD&D Oriental Adventures, but not entirely. The other question I was struggling with was an actual setting for the thing.

The base DCC setting is keyed more toward European medieval fantasy, maybe? I think that’s a fair statement. It’s certainly based off of a game that was clearly medieval European fantasy.

AD&D inspired me to explore another culture.

The often maligned Oriental Adventures.

Unfortunately, in this case, I was raised in the U.S. Everything about me screams “Midwestern white guy!” at 100 yards. I can’t change that, as much as I’d like to sometimes. I’m sorry to say I’m stuck with it.

Growing up in Iowa, I fell in love with First Edition AD&D. My favorite gaming books included Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures. Nowadays both of those books have some pretty ugly racial biases associated with them. I don’t love those books for the racist content, though.

Quite the opposite, actually. I fell in love with Japanese and Chinese culture as a result. I still want to visit Japan. I used to want to live there. Chinese food was the mainstay of my diet for many years. As a result of being so interested in Japan, China and other cultures I studied anthropology and sociology in college. Thanks AD&D for getting that particular ball rolling.

It makes me sad when I see people getting torn apart on Twitter and elsewhere for producing what are being considered racist materials. The post that brought the problem to my attention is here. I’m not directly involved with this product in any way, but it seemed okay at first glance. The product in question is an upcoming Kickstarter, so there’s still time for it to change although it’s not looking likely.

Sometimes I don’t think it’s entirely intentional. I’m not apologizing for blatant racism. But as has been said about AD&D Oriental Adventures and subsequent works, sometimes the intention is to emulate and show appreciation for those cultures. We didn’t have sensitivity readers back in ye olden days of the 1980’s.

How many other middle America white kids got introduced to other parts of the world through D&D? How many Dungeon Masters looked into ancient Egypt, the Aztecs, or Malaysian culture while digging for inspiration in their D&D games. Where is the dividing line between “This is really cool! Let’s include it in the game.” to “Let’s make fun of this ‘foreign’ culture?”

I wish to be considerate of cultures and the values of others.

So, what’s the solution?

I’ve put some thought into it. Regardless of what game system I decide to use, my next fantasy campaign world is going to contain specific elements from various other real world cultures presented respectfully. For example, there will be samurai, loyal to a code similar to Bushido. I intend to have a group of elite weapon masters somewhat similar to the way Kensai were presented. Priests will have Ofuda and carry staves with rings. Shamanism is definitely going to be a thing in my world. Magic Users will have an elemental tradition and possibly a code they have to follow. Yes, there will be ninja because I think they’re cool.

Some of the elements I loved from those old AD&D books are amazing for use as game elements. I love martial arts. The old OA build-your-own martial arts system was my favorite thing about that book. Monks are totally going to have access to that.

There’s a twist.

There’s an interesting old RPG called Skyrealms of Jorune. It was super creative both in presentation and system elements. The game had a lexicon all its own. I admire that game because they rewire the GM and players’ mindsets to fit their game. It’s completely unique among RPGs.

What if someone designed a fantasy RPG in that fashion? What if we change up the nomenclature entirely. What if I institute a blend of Chinese Imperial culture with a Japanese shogunate and call it something completely new?

What if we have katanas, but we don’t call them katanas? What if they’re Orcish Warswords? or Dwarven Honor Blades? The common sword of the realm is the Jian. (Chinese Longsword.) Hopefully I’ve made my point.

We’re not restricted to one culture.

I still intend to have some of the same old Tolkien-esque European fantasy elements. Oh, and dinosaurs in places. To top that off, we’re still going to borrow from a lot of the usual game references.

You know, monsters from the OG Monster Manual. I’ll still beg, borrow, and steal demons (Oni) from Warhammer Fantasy, D&D 3E and 5E. I’m possibly pulling in a couple of races from other games as well. I like Earthdawn. What can I say?

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you have a fantastic day! I appreciate you.

First Level “Noob” Stamp

I had this DM once (Okay, more than one over the years) who had every NPC treat our characters like total noobs. My character wasn’t a dufus and yet…

I had this DM back in the day who treated our characters like our levels were stamped on their foreheads.

On one of those rare occasions when I got to play instead of DM, my best friend ran D&D for us and it was fun. It was a good game, but one thing that used to seriously bug me was when we encountered practically any NPC of any importance. It was like we had our character levels stamped on our foreheads because we were treated like total nitwits at low levels and maybe a little respect at mid levels and a reasonable amount of respect at high levels.

Was it an outcropping of BECMI and old school AD&D that had our character classes attached to these sometimes silly titles? Seriously, I’d be a level 8 Fighter for life… It’s not like my character walked around introducing himself as Benedon the Acolyte. My friend who we’ll refer to as Todd was already name-impaired enough and “Butt-Stomping Butt Stomper” really needed no further introductions. But all of our characters, regardless, were treated like noobs and it didn’t matter what we did, either.

Make me a Level 8 Fighter.
Borrowed from AD&D First Edition.

Save the whole kingdom from a Drow invasion? Noobs. Peasants. Losers.

Save the whole kingdom from a rampaging Black Dragon? Yup, we were still insignificant. I mean, that one was kinda our fault for looting her dungeon and killing all her minions, but…

Walked around town bristling with magic items and shiny armor getting our castle built? Well, at least our gold was good. But the NPCs always seemed to know our levels regardless.

It didn’t change when we got to college.

Different group with a different DM in college asked me to sit in on his game. I played a cleric again. They always need a healer… We were still playing BECMI, modified heavily with house rules. Like to guess how our characters were treated by every NPC we met? Yup. “Chumps.” “Noobs.” “Idiots.”

The major difference was it didn’t even matter what level we were. I started doing things just to get noticed by the royals. I turned entire waves of an undead army. I healed rooms full of the sick and injured. I rezzed an entire unit of dead soldiers. (Heh heh. Spell points. No mats.) I got some negative attention from a couple of gods on that one, though. Still, we were the Rodney Dangerfields of that D&D world.

The crazy part of this story is: these weren’t even new DMs! Both DMs in question had multiple years of experience as a DM and as a player. I might have made that mistake with my first campaign, but since then? No way. Every NPC has a different personality from the stable boy all the way to the queen and treat PCs accordingly. It’s all about respect.

The lesson here is:

DMs wear many hats and study many subjects.

Please don’t do this to your players! I would like to think roleplaying has evolved well beyond over simplified interactions with stereotyped characters. I strongly urge DMs to treat the characters in a way respective to their station and behavior. People should be reacting reasonably in character.

Yes, royals will treat peasants like… well, peasants. Mileage may vary depending on the kingdom. The innkeeper and the barmaids will generally treat paying customers with respect so long as they don’t torch the place and kill everyone. I think we get the idea.

You can’t get it “wrong.” Certainly you don’t have to be perfect. No player should have to take acting lessons. No DM should ever have to study, uh- Sociology, Anthropology, Archaeology, World History, Ethics, Economics, Creative Writing, Acting, Art, Philosophy, and Engineering in order to build a world and run a game. Just play the game and be decent to each other.

If your DM seems to be dumping all over your characters in game, maybe it’s time to chat with them outside of the session. It’s a simple conversation to have. Please listen with curiosity. Maybe the Duke is a really snooty dude, the innkeeper is reminded of someone they truly despise, and the local sage looks down on everyone. If it keeps happening, try talking to the DM again, or just find another game. Trust me, DMs learn what not to do next time when their players start bailing out.

Out in the real world: please treat everyone, especially your DM, the way you would want them to treat you. Be kind. Be gentle. Take care. See you soon.

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