But you are good guys fighting bad guys!
Content Note: Rape, Sexual Assault
Yesterday OneBookShelf released its updated policy. While I think it's a good thing that there is now a policy, I have several issues with it. Many of my issues, especially the lack of an actual apology for the way Steve Wieck acted are covered by this article.
Here, however, I want to concentrate on a particular portion of the post describing the new policy and the reasoning behind it.
2. When we were first alerted to the offensive nature of the book, I used administrator privileges to download and skim through a copy of the book. At its core, the book was an adventure supplement where the goal of characters was to stop demonic entities who were perpetrating sexual violence and murder. The rapists were clearly the villains to be stopped, something that I believe many critics of the book could not have known from the book's title and vague description.
Sounds possible right? Those people who reacted to the limited information they had just over reacted because they had no idea what was actually in the book. As others have put it, the book really is about good guys fighting clear (if perhaps ill-advised design wise) bad guys. Silly SJWs!
Except it's not an accurate portrayal of the book. Yes, the characters in the book are categorized as bad guys (there's a caveat here that I'll go into later). Yes, the players are intended to fight them (again another caveat). However, it is not true that the goal of the players is to stop these NPCs because they are the bad guys or villains. That is one of several options offered AND in multiple suggestions the player characters could have completely different reasons for wanting to participate in the Tournament including that the player characters themselves are bad guys.
I had included the screenshot of this section yesterday, but I think it's worth writing out the content so it is accessible to everyone.
Involving the Players
It's possible that the player characters might get involved in the Rape Pure for reasons of their own. While it's likely the heroes might encounter one or more Rape Pure Fighter's on their own terms, attacking the fighters in ambush, on the street. However, the campaign might take a dark turn that drives the heroes into the Rape Pure itself.
It's possible to compete in the Rape Pure and keep your honor. Sexual violence is a threat, but (usually) not a requirement. It's not necessarily to violate a fallen adversary, only kill them, and most adventurers hold moral codes that demonize rape, but not cold blooded murder. Of course, it's possible that your player characters are pure bastards, and are every bit as horrible as the Rape Pure's worst fighters.
Among the reasons that players might be forced into the Rape Pure:
- Kidnapping is the most obvious route, as someone precious to the characters is stolen and claimed as a tournament's prize.
- The player characters are hunting a particular horror, possibly Taru Tsuyoi himself, and the Rape Pure is the only place they know he'll be, making the bout their only viable avenue of attack.
- Martial artist PCs might enter the bout to test their skills and build a reputation among the deadliest fighters in any of the three realities.
- The heroes might belong to one of Black Japan's military or police organizations, sent undercover to put a stop to these atrocities once and for all, their consciences be damned.
- A Rape Pure bout might be cover for an unrelated matter, such as a meet with a contact, or an assassination that takes place in the chaotic press of the crowd.
- The heroes might be tasked with finding and rehabilitating a Rape Pure fighter, likely a Fallen Eyrines, rebuilding the warrior's soul and reawakening his or her honor.
Also, while the involvement section says it's likely the player characters would meet one or more of the fighters on their own terms (meaning outside of the tournament), the supplement doesn't provide any suggestions for setting that up. Instead we get the rules of the tournament, a d20 random table of places where a tournament might take place, and a d20 random table of who is in the crowd watching the tournament.
Additionally, remember that caveat that the NPCs and creatures presented in the book are all the "bad guys?" Well one of the ways to involve the player characters is as an attempt to find and rehabilitate one of the fighters, in particular one of the Fallen Eyrines. I think it's important we look at that description.
Fallen Eyrines – CR 6 – Medium LE Human Monk (hungry ghost) 7 – A former vigilante who discovered she had more in common with the Rape Pure monsters she was killing than she realized
She fought her first Rape Pure bout for the best of intentions.
Undercover to save a woman’s life and sanity, or to kill some sadistic motherfucker who used his dick like a weapon. She took the kill-shot and realized she liked it. She fought another bout, killed another monster, but she took her time with this one. Made the kill hurt. She could’ve pushed the bastard’s nasal cartilage up through his frontal lobe, ended it instantly, but she didn’t. She broke fingers, snapped rips, dislocated knees, severed testes. Enjoyed the work, the kill. She enjoyed the next kill, breaking some Rape Pure bastard with her strong bare hands even more, not even noticing that her anti-rapist supernatural talents were starting to sting every time she activated them.
A few more kills under her belt, and when she tried to call upon her Eyrines power, her hands burned. She realized what she’d become - a monster getting a thrill off domination and violence. She was only one thin moral notch above the men she was killing. She left the Okinawa safehouse, knowing she wasn’t worthy of sanctuary there anymore, and worried her former sisters might execute her. Or worse yet,rehabilitate her.
Now, she keeps to the shitty neighborhoods. To the shadows and the capsule hotels, always sits with her back to a wall. The other Rape Pure fighters want her cunt, carved out and put on a plate. The oni she used to want the same damn thing. Her sisters? Do they still have her back? She doesn’t know. Probably not. The only thing that makes her feel even remotely human is the call to a new Rape Pure, Hell’s very own ringbell. She either kills another human cockroach, or she gets killed herself and the nightmare is over. A win either way.
We can understand wanting to explore that line between hero and monster, right? But if we are to believe the narrative, that the players only play good guys who are out to hunt down these rapists, does this not undercut that? A fallen Eyrine is not a clear cut "bad guy" but rather a warning of what happens when one attempts to view the world in such stark terms. Likewise, the intent from the section on including players is that this character is meant to be someone the player characters can try to redeem. The intent is not that they should fight her, although as with everything in this book, they can if they want to.
Now, I don't want to be misunderstood. I am in favor, in general, of having shades of grey in my game. I actually fear oversimplification and the reduction of most everything into terms of good and evil, lawful and chaotic, more than anything in this book.
But what I am tired of are people who present a false narrative of what is in the book, particularly trying to explain this book as a book full of bad people that the players, as good guys, are intended to fight. While it likely makes the people saying that feel better, it's just not true. You don't have to condemn it for what it is (although you can if you want to), but don't misrepresent it either.
Furthermore, even if that narrative was true, that doesn't protect the book from criticism. As Steve does point out, at least some of the content was not written in a way sensitive to the subject. I'd argue it is way more than just some but that's another matter. We need to be able to discuss this content and not be told by the distributor that we're wrong for doing so. We need to be able to discuss this treatment and not have that criticism be dismissed because they are bad guys.
And this is why the discussions that surround these products are often so toxic. People dismiss saying, "oh it's not that bad" or "well, that's not what was intended," when, in reality, it actually is that bad and intent doesn't matter when discussing the harm done. When other people call them on it, they say it's the people raising the concerns who are toxic. BULLSHIT.
And this is not about removing all books that deal with difficult or dark topics. Are there some people who are calling for that? Sure. But the vast majority are saying that they want to have a discussion about how these topics are presented. If people are allowed to say that they think this title should be present on OBS, you have to allow for people to say the opposite, especially if you say you value free speech. Saying that something shouldn't be there doesn't magically make it not there. In this case, a thorough review was done before it was fully removed from OBS and the current policy proposal reinforces that with the exception that it might not be available during the review IF it looks questionable.
However, until Steve can demonstrate that he understands what people were actually saying (he doesn't have to agree, just demonstrates that he understands), I'm sorry, I can't use the site anymore. I'm looking into removing the urls that I have on this site that point to OBS and I'm telling Jeff that I, personally, will no longer direct people to D&D Classics on the Tome Show podcast. Before backing any future Kickstarters, I will ask if they have alternatives to OBS for distribution and if not, sorry, I will not back. I will work with all creators to find alternatives to buying their products but I cannot and will not support OBS because I can't trust Steve's judgement at the moment.