The Camel’s Head is In D&D’s Tent

Most of us are familiar with the parable of the camel’s nose under the tent:

One cold night, as an Arab sat in his tent, a camel gently thrust his nose under the flap and looked in. “Master,” he said, “let me put my nose in your tent. It’s cold and stormy out here.” “By all means,” said the Arab, “and welcome” as he turned over and went to sleep.

A little later the Arab awoke to find that the camel had not only put his nose in the tent but his head and neck also. The camel, who had been turning his head from side to side, said, “I will take but little more room if I place my forelegs within the tent. It is difficult standing out here.” “Yes, you may put your forelegs within,” said the Arab, moving a little to make room, for the tent was small.

Finally, the camel said, “May I not stand wholly inside? I keep the tent open by standing as I do.” “Yes, yes,” said the Arab. “Come wholly inside. Perhaps it will be better for both of us.” So the camel crowded in. The Arab with difficulty in the crowded quarters again went to sleep. When he woke up the next time, he was outside in the cold and the camel had the tent to himself.

(Author unknown)

Well, as predicted, that’s exactly what is going on with Wizards of the Coast and D&D. It was only three weeks or so ago that some of us in the OSR raised the alarm about the disclaimers that were attached to all D&D products published before 5th edition (or even after). We warned that this was just the camel’s nose under the tent, and only presaged more censorious actions to come.

“Nonsense!” the politically correct SJW crowd tut-tutted; some in the comments of this very blog. It’s a “…fact that WotC is saying it’s going to keep everything up” said commenter Jozxyqk. “There’s no mention to a censorship behavior or any content twisting” said commenter Chiomago. “WotC chosen not to modify / “wash” legacy books” said commenter BB.

Well guess what. WotC just did exactly what we said they would do, and what those commentors (and other apologists for the disclaimers) said would not happen. They have taken a published adventure, scrubbed the “offensive” material from it, and republished it.

The disclaimers were the nose of the camel. The “revamped” version of books is the head and neck of the camel.

Coming in October is the “Curse of Strahd Revamped” boxed set. A re-working of a 2016 book, the changes from the original are discussed in this unboxing video, starting at the 8:15 mark:

Basically, they’ve “changed certain sections of the adventure to make sure the depiction of them [the Vistani] was handled better.” This despite the fact that the Vistani are a completely made-up race, one that doesn’t exist in the real world. Sure, they’re based on classic tropes and stereotypes of real-world Romani, but they are not the same thing. Unless, of course, you think that Romani can actually use the Evil Eye or cast curses on people. Or that they’re inveterate drunkards and thieves. Because if that’s how you see the real-world Romani, that’s your problem, and you’re the one embracing racial stereotypes.

Romani do exist. Vistani don’t exist (and neither do the Rhennee or Atloi, who are also loosely based on tropes and stereotypes about Romani). It’s a very simple thing to understand.

They also changed the character of Esmeralda, who is missing a leg, and who is described as trying to hide that fact. Apparently that was “offensive” and “hurtful”, so a creative choice was altered to accommodate the whining of a few complainers.

Indeed, they even say that “It’s an ongoing process. Even books that we publish, we can change and amend in future printings. … So we sort of think of our books as being in a constant state of flux”.

And that, right there, is the thing that I and others warned would happen. And now it’s happening, way more quickly than I feared, but there it is.

But wait, it gets better!

Even having done this, it’s not good enough for some SJW’s! That’s right, the fine folks over at Gizmodo have taken issue even with the revamped version of this adventure.

…it will likely take more than a handful of granular changes to fully expunge offensive undercurrents from the setting. And while there’s a real opportunity here to do better work—the aforementioned diversity pledge also mentioned future works that will feature the Vistani people and aim to complicate their depictions—starting that work with a fancy collector’s edition feels less like a promise to do better and more like a victory lap.

That’s right! They want to “fully expunge offensive undercurrents from the setting.” And if you think they’re going to stop with Ravenloft, you are sorely mistaken.

Once you bend the knee to these people, once you apologize or change your artistic vision to accede to their demands, those demands will never stop. There will always be something else that offends someone, and if someone is offended, then that person must be coddled and mollified. Wizards of the Coast has gone down the rabbit hole on this one, and they will find it never has a bottom. And they’re taking D&D with them.

Fortunately, I still have books on my shelves and pdfs on my hard drive. But the fact that they have demonstrated a willingness to go back and literally re-write history, in the finest tradition of the Ministry of Truth, should be disquieting to everyone.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

15 thoughts on “The Camel’s Head is In D&D’s Tent

  1. Boohoo the sjw’s don’t like racism.
    Personally I’ve never prescribed to the sjw label, but I still find this content disturbing.

    The fact that the vistani are appropriating the culture of the romani and are depicted in an ugly manor is the problem. The romani culture IS romani, and if you’re giving that culture to a group of people and disrespecting the vistani, you’re also disrespecting the romani.

    1. SJWs are the real racists. 
      This started with people making a big deal about OA.  But Lodoss has knights.  What’s the difference?
      Fuck whitey, that’s the difference. 
      They’re not offended, the point is harassment. 
      Racist AND Orwellian.  Sit and spin. 

  2. Really? You’re coming to this guy’s blog to argue the semantics of cultural appropriation for a fictional ethnicity in a game of make-believe… for what? So leftists can continue their cultural dominance unabated?

    Moderates, centrists, conservatives, and classical liberals have allowed the radical left to do whatever it wants in the name of “progress”. No more, I say. Get the hell out of here, Kevin!

  3. “Fortunately, I still have books on my shelves and pdfs on my hard drive.”

    This is what baffles me the most on why folks are so upset. We ALL have shelves full of original work, no one is going to break into our homes with black markers and redact “objectionable material”. If you don’t LIKE the new material, don’t purchase or play it.

    1. Are you sure nobody is going to break into your home and burn your books? It sounds rediculous, sure, but look at all the other crap that the leftards are doing.

      1. And here it is, the paranoia, the “leftards”, the imaginary breaking into houses to burn books, the “SJW” (the way this term is used is just plain sad, especially by Joe in a way to discredit people fighting things like racism). Sorry Joe, but your politics are hurting your reputation and your little company. Can’t wait for November to clean out all you idiots.

        1. If you think the vast majority of Americans aren’t going to fight against the radical-left with tooth and nail, every fiber of our being, on the off-chance Biden wins in November, you’re in a dream world… or perhaps a Marxist utopia.

          Anyone believing that things may “go back to normal” if Trump is voted out is sadly mistaken. There’s no more normal. Normal’s gone, folks.

    2. Then you’re not thinking about the consequences. When people started to be kicked off platforms, the refrain was “build your own platform”. When people built their own platforms, we saw entities such as payment processors, banks, credit cards, and internet providers shutting them down. Now we see actual individuals and their families having their personal credit card accounts shut down. Important elements of what made us a high-trust society are being eroded rapidly.

      Beyond that what happens if you have a fire and/or data loss? What if you’re not willing to pirate all the PDFs, or would have preferred higher quality version, or would rather paid for the content fairly? What if you find great value in old works, and would like to see that value available to future generations?

      You’ve entirely missed the point of the parable. The social norms of freedom of speech are being eviscerated in the West. As Venger Satanis says above, there is a standing complaint about the depiction of a culture, when in fact the work in question is using a fictional culture with some roots in the culture being “defended”. Just as with the Orcs, are we truly to believe that fictional creatures and cultures must be defended? Some say these are mere dog whistles for racist contextual embedding – but I refuse to accept any approach to understanding that claims to know the mind and motivation of others. Especially where such mind reading grants them great power to inflict their will.

      If the complaint is actually “cultural appropriation” well… I don’t believe that’s even a real thing myself. Nor do most of the people in the cultures supposedly being appropriated from what I’ve seen.

      Couched in terms of fairness, anti-racism, justice, and respect – what we’re seeing is the raw exercise of power over culture and thought. It’s a tangible threat, when content creators I know personally fear that their treatment of Orcs will be declared racist, and they will face a backlash that will destroy their tiny business.

      It’s a threat when my CEO demands I recite a pledge in favor of ideals I find repugnant, and if I refuse well…. I’m employed at-will right, so what’s the problem?

      I’m not going to spend the next 6 hours writing an essay and adding references, so I’ll close by noting that he’s *already* said he won’t be purchasing the new materials. His concern is one about first principles, I find it hard to believe people can’t understand that.

      1. It’s almost as if principles are gone. People wonder aloud why bother fighting for them. Why bother fighting for one’s principles? Jesus Christ! What kind of feeble minded, weak willed apologists are we living amongst? Appeasement? Yeah, that doesn’t work. We fight back. That’s how we win the culture war and forge our own destiny.

  4. It’s not new material; they’re censoring existing material. That’s the problem. They won’t break into your home, but you may discover that you can no longer re-download your original PDFs, or replace a hard copy because they’re no longer available. Have you read 1984?

  5. For principles to be gone would require people to have held them to begin with.

    It’s a sad state of affairs, but for most people it certainly seems their list of “principles” begins and ends with “Does this make me happy?”

    Mired in pure emotive “thinking”, one simply cannot build a framework of understanding for anything more complex. Complexity requires thinking and understanding. Thinking and understanding require study and thought of all relevant concepts, not just those one finds pleasing… and it requires the ability to discriminate between ideas/concepts that may, at surface level, appear to be functionally identical but fundamentally aren’t were one to do more than scratch the surface.

    But digging in to extract fundamental understanding, even for topics one finds no objection with requires effort. Effort is taxing and thus something those mired in the bog of hedonistic “thought” will avoid at all costs, especially if any degree of understanding necessarily introduces conflict with previously held belief. After all, once one has erected a sufficiently complex belief system, correcting a cascading error becomes a painful nightmare. Better to ignore the crumbling facade. Fixing it would be too difficult, too painful. We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

    Principles like those that form the fundamental core of Liberty are largely beyond the ken of most today. They take effort and a willingness to experience unpleasantness. Why do any of that when soma is free?

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