For those not tracking, Unearthed Arcana is one of D&D’s oldest and oddest traditions. Originally released as a life line by Gygax for 1e AD&D after TSR’s early financial practices almost sank the operation, it has become a repository for experimental rules and concepts in 5e. Effectively an ongoing playtest effort, classes, subclasses, and more that are close to being publishable often see their first public appearances there. This month saw the release of “Gothic Lineages”, which may mark an actual step towards dealing with some of the issues around race in D&D.
It’s been a year for D&D. The year started strong, but rapidly devolved into scandal as their claims of diversity and inclusion came into question and began to collapse under serious scrutiny following the revelations of former marginalized employees. I even formally announced that my D&D related material was all on hold until there was concrete movement on the deep issues around race that the game had suffered from for decades. But there was a lifeline. Prior to the scandals breaking, Jeremy Crawford (D&D’s current principle rules designer) announced that they’d “heard” us, and that changes were coming later this year (2020) to address this long standing set of problems.  So how did that go down? Time to break the pause on D&D posts.
In the late 1980s, Palladium Books was a plucky up-and-coming RPG publisher. They’d netted the highly successful Robotech cartoon’s licence, and had also landed the then underground comics sensation Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles licence. It was time to push forward with an idea they’d established in 1984. It was time… for Ninjas & Superspies. The game’s first release was in 1987, with a revised edition in 1990. Its final official expansion was in 1995 with Mystic China, and since then has only been intermittently supported in the Rifter magazine. So let’s dive in on the overarching aspects of this game.
So, I was driving home and tossed in The Rat Pack Live at the Sands for the ride. I was muttering to myself about Dungeons & Dragons and other fantasy games and how they treat both POC and non-humans as being less dimensional and nuanced. This had been set off by reading through my shiny new pdf copy of Tiny Dungeon 2e, where I was simultaneously elated at the variety of player races and depressed by the stereotypes applied. So, mid-mutter, Sammy Davis Jr came into the set, and I heard his iconic line of “Integration! Integration!” So let’s talk decolonization and integration. And yes, I’m picking on D&D in this, because it set the pattern.
Magic. It’s a core component of fantasy, but is often unevenly distributed and developed. On the outset, this seems sensical, until you dig into it a bit. At that point, other disparities and issues come into sharp relief. So this is a short post on decolonizing magic.
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