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.