Oriental Adventures is a hardback supplement for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st edition) that provides rules and setting material for playing a campaign inspired by the Far East, rather than the medieval Europe-inspired setting assumed by most D&D books. The setting provided by the game is Kara-Tur, which was later incorporated into the world of the Forgotten Realms.
Although three names appear on the cover, including Gary Gygax, the book was written solely by David "Zeb" Cook based on notes by François Marcela-Froideval. Cook later incorporated new game mechanics introduced in this book (like non-weapon proficiencies, essentially early skills) when he wrote Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition.
Reception and criticism[edit | edit source]
Oriental Adventures was popular on its release, and well reviewed by the (primarily white and Western) critics of the time. It led to a series of Oriental Adventures products released by TSR for both 1st edition and 2nd edition D&D, as well as an updated version of Oriental Adventures for Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition in 2001.
However, since then it has been severely criticised for its orientalism and its harmful stereotypes of Asian people and cultures, as well as other issues such as game mechanics that encourage racism (e.g. through the new Comeliness ability and its interactions with Charisma). Between March and June 2020, Daniel Kwan and DM Steve of the Asians Represent podcast streamed a 13-part deep dive review and reactions to reading the book, attempting to fairly consider its good and bad points but ultimately highlighting its problematic content.
On 17 June 2020, following widespread discourse about racism in D&D (notably the depiction of evil cultures like orcs and drow) and just before the finale of the Asians Represent series, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) released a statement about diversity and Dungeons & Dragons, promising to address problematic elements in their game material and to listen to the diverse community of D&D players who had raised concerns. There was, at the time, no mention of Oriental Adventures or other legacy titles from previous editions of the game. On 28 June, Daniel Kwan tweeted that WotC's statement rang hollow, particularly because titles like Oriental Adventures were still being sold on sites like DriveThruRPG and Dungeon Masters Guild, meaning that WotC was continuing to profit from racist material. This led to Kwan receiving racist abuse online and being accused of being a "book burner".
- Main article: Wizards of the Coast 2020 product disclaimer
Almost two weeks after Kwan's tweet, WotC started to put disclaimers on the product pages for its problematic legacy titles like Oriental Adventures, and put out a new statement condemning the harassment of people (like Kwan) who raise such issues. Kwan responded by applauding the positive step that WotC was taking and vowing to continue holding them to account.
As of August 2020, the disclaimer that is included at the top of product pages for Oriental Adventures is as follows:
- We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.
References[edit | edit source]
- "Diversity and Dungeons & Dragons". dnd.wizards.com. Retrieved 2020-08-04.
- Andrew Girdwood (2020-06-29). "Unbreakable author wants D&D to pull Oriental Adventures from shops". Geek Native. Retrieved 2020-08-04.
- Jeremy Blum (2020-07-11). "'Dungeons & Dragons' Book 'Oriental Adventures' Receives A Sensitivity Disclaimer". Huffington Post US. Retrieved 2020-08-04.