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Has Chaosium gone fully woke?


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I have purchased and enjoyed around $1,000 of Chaosium books over the last few years, but I have noticed a disturbing trend in the material.

There have been changes to the material over the years to appease the woke crowd, including race/gender swapping characters in newer versions of pre-written scenarios (ignoring verisimilitude in favor of political activism) and the use of a non-existent singular "they" which makes it read like it was written by a 3-year-old who doesn't understand the English language. I was willing to overlook these, however annoying and confusing it may be to read incorrectly written sentences, and I can change the NPCs to suit the game I am running. But I have noticed that the latest iteration of the character sheets have replaced the field for Sex with Pronoun, which makes no sense at all.

What purpose does it serve, other than to appease a woke crowd, who probably does not make up even a tiny fraction of your customer base? Shall the NPCs also have pronouns? What about the monsters? My depression-era investigator is very concerned about using the correct pronoun for that cultist while he chops off his--- I mean they/them's arm to stop him--- I mean they/them from summoning Dagon, who is very concerned that you use the correct pronouns for his minions as you slaughter them all. What purpose does this serve in the game, other than to virtue signal to the woke crowd that you are not engaged in wrong-think, and are in fact promoting party-approved political propaganda in your entertainment products?

Edited by Welkin
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It's nonsense. All it's doing is dumping more work on the GM, because I've got a lifetime supply of the old pronouns, and see no reason to switch.

But it will impact my willingness to buy more products, at least until they stop discriminating against me.

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They has been a singular pronoun for the entirety of modern English and has antecedents in earlier forms.

As well, the past is more varied than you are giving it credit.

However you play your game, have fun!

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I’m sorry to have to tell you that the 3-year old who used the singular “they” understands the English language far better than you. The singular “they” has existed for hundreds of years. 

Oh and the “they/them’s”, try “their”. 

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6 hours ago, Welkin said:

and the use of a non-existent singular "they" which makes it read like it was written by a 3-year-old who doesn't understand the English language.

bro the singular epicene usage of "they" in English is older than the singular usage of "you". Chaucer used it in the 1300s and Shakespeare uses it constantly. It has never not been a part of English. Source: I am a linguist.

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In the 1980s, when less than 10% of all gamers were female it wasn´t a problem that NPCs were 90% male as well. *
Today with about 60/40 division in between male and female players the player characters will most likely also be about 60/40 male/female. 
IMHO it is a good descision to recognise this in the NPCs as well. 
Otherwise it would feel odd, that the PCs have a higher female to male ratio than the "rest of the world " (aka NPCs). 

If you want to play your Cthulhu 1920s-Real-World-correct then you will need to change most NPCs to male... and force female players to play male characters most of the time. You can do so, but that seems unfair to the female players to me. 



* I don´t get into the people who recognise themselves as diverse. I will stick to male/female here, to keep thinks simple, not because i don´t recognise anything outsode of the male/female range. 

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15 hours ago, JDS said:

It's nonsense. All it's doing is dumping more work on the GM, because I've got a lifetime supply of the old pronouns, and see no reason to switch.

But it will impact my willingness to buy more products, at least until they stop discriminating against me.

Failing to discriminate against other people -- recognizing and including them -- is not "discriminating" against you.
Think about that for a while.

"Gaming" is not a pie with only "x" slices, where someone else's slice comes off of your own plate.

Including others doesn't exclude you.  Unless, of course, you choose to exclude yourself, simply because others are being included.  To me, that looks like a pretty decent functional description of racism (or sexism, or etc).  I hope you didn't mean it that way.

 

Edited by g33k
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16 hours ago, Welkin said:

I have purchased and enjoyed around $1,000 of Chaosium books over the last few years, but I have noticed a disturbing trend in the material.

To be honest, it is not disturbing to me, it is a welcome trend.

 

16 hours ago, Welkin said:

There have been changes to the material over the years to appease the woke crowd, including race/gender swapping characters in newer versions of pre-written scenarios (ignoring verisimilitude in favor of political activism) and the use of a non-existent singular "they" which makes it read like it was written by a 3-year-old who doesn't understand the English language.

My main RQ2 character was a gender-swapped character in 1982, starting out as a woman and then changed to a man by attuning a cursed item.

In all my Jonstown Compendium supplement, I use they, rather than him, wherever I can. It's only polite.

I learned that "they" could be used as a singular pronoun when I was in school, in the 70s and 80s, so it is not new.

16 hours ago, Welkin said:

What purpose does it serve, other than to appease a woke crowd, who probably does not make up even a tiny fraction of your customer base? 

Personally, I would rather alienate the small minority who campaign against wokeness than the small minority that are woke.

Actually, I would prefer not to alienate either, but given the choice I am happier to alienate the anti-woke brigade.

Apologies if that includes you.

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Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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15 hours ago, Welkin said:

I have purchased and enjoyed around $1,000 of Chaosium books over the last few years...

So have I.
 

15 hours ago, Welkin said:

... I have noticed a disturbing trend in the material.

Chaosium material is of VASTLY improved quality; it is widely recognized as some of the best in the industry!  Chaosium is winning awards at an incredible rate.  Their business is WAY up (in terms of sales, number of titles produced, etc.)

I see nothing disturbing in this trend.

15 hours ago, Welkin said:

...

There have been changes to the material over the years to appease the woke crowd, including race/gender swapping characters in newer versions of pre-written scenarios (ignoring verisimilitude in favor of political activism) and the use of a non-existent singular "they" ...

Let me be brutally frank:  gaming (and geek'dom in general) has longstanding problems with racism, sexism, &c.  It is not just historical, but is ongoing to this day.

Trying to counteract that?  Call it "woke" if you want, but realize that in this context:  being woke is a good thing.  So this "accusation" is actually praise!

Others have already dealt with your complaint around "singular they," but I will add one more point -- the OED's point:
https://public.oed.com/blog/a-brief-history-of-singular-they/
https://www.oed.com/oed2/00251026  :  "... applicable to one of either sex (= ‘he or she’)."
There is no higher authority on English than the OED; people taking a stance against this usage are simply, factually, wrong.
 

16 hours ago, Welkin said:

... other than to appease a woke crowd, who probably does not make up even a tiny fraction of your customer base ...

Given (as mentioned above) Chaosium's modern sales numbers & awards, the (very strong) evidence is that Chaosium's customer base and sales-numbers is better off with these editorial choices, than with appeasing an anti-woke crowd.
 

Make of that what you will; but I assure you that the new Chaosium folks are quite good at this business, so -- again -- your argument does not seen to have merit.

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9 hours ago, AndreJarosch said:

... If you want to play your Cthulhu 1920s-Real-World-correct then you will need to change most NPCs to male...

I'm pretty sure that -- even in those antediluvian days -- the world was very close to 50% female.

FWIW:
 - In 1849 Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to earn an MD and practice medicine in the USA
 - In 1871 Harriet Cooke was the first woman to become a full professor at a university in the USA
 - About 1884 "Nellie Bly" (Elizabeth Cochran) was the first woman to become an investigative journalist in the USA

I'm sure I needn't mention scientific figures such as Mme.Curie & Ada Lovelace.  But these sorts of figures -- scientists, journalists, scholars -- are the archetypal CoC characters.

In the 1920's, I don't see any reason to limit portrayal of PCs or NPCs by gender; even noticing that "most" journalists or scientists or etc are male, we also notice that RPG characters are -- by their very nature -- exceptional cases, not necessarily following "statistical averages."  4d6-L, anyone?

 

Edited by g33k
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28 minutes ago, g33k said:

I'm pretty sure that -- even in those antediluvian days -- the world was 50% female.

FWIW:
 - In 1849 Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to earn an MD and practice medicine in the USA
 - In 1871 Harriet Cooke was the first woman to become a full professor at a university in the USA
 - About 1884 "Nellie Bly" (Elizabeth Cochran) was the first woman to become an investigative journalist in the USA

In the 1920's, I don't see any reason to limit portrayal of PCs or NPCs by gender.


I am totally with you, but in 1920s CALL OF CTHULHU a female PC will have more problems in society, even in western countries, than their male counterparts. 
So a lot of the investigators, played in a historical correct representation of the 1920s, would be male to get the job done. 
 

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3 minutes ago, AndreJarosch said:


... in 1920s CALL OF CTHULHU a female PC will have more problems in society, even in western countries, than their male counterparts ... 

I am not entirely clear your idea of "fun" (as you present it here) would be all that fun, for most of the players I've gamed with.
 

5 minutes ago, AndreJarosch said:

So a lot of the investigators, played in a historical correct representation of the 1920s, would be male to get the job done. 

Look up Nellie Bly (the journalist) and then come back to tell me about how she couldn't "get the job done."

Another interesting figure (across the pond in Jolly Ol') is Edith Garrud, well worth a bit of study!
 


I stand by what I wrote previously:

39 minutes ago, g33k said:

... In the 1920's, I don't see any reason to limit portrayal of PCs or NPCs by gender ...

 

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3 minutes ago, AndreJarosch said:

I am totally with you, but in 1920s CALL OF CTHULHU a female PC will have more problems in society, even in western countries, than their male counterparts. 
So a lot of the investigators, played in a historical correct representation of the 1920s, would be male to get the job done. 

Journalists, gangster's molls, and old biddies of independent means make excellent female Investigators. Also, there are no reasons why people cannot play female adventurers, as many female adventurers are in books. Look here for an enormous number of female detectives.

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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2 minutes ago, g33k said:

I am not entirely clear your idea of "fun" (as you present it here) would be all that fun, for most of the players I've gamed with.

I am well aware of most of these woman. I am playing CoC since 1988, so i did my research. 

And i don´t present you my "fun", as i play with about 40% female players, and characters, at my gaming table. And i think that is good as it is. 

I just point out that if cthuloid investigations had to be made under simultanistic 1920s background conditions these would most likely less women. 
Which i find myself nothing that should be followed. 

1920s Call of Cthulhu is more liberal for women, then the real 1920s were. 

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10 hours ago, AndreJarosch said:

In the 1980s, when less than 10% of all gamers were female it wasn´t a problem that NPCs were 90% male as well. *
Today with about 60/40 division in between male and female players the player characters will most likely also be about 60/40 male/female. 
IMHO it is a good descision to recognise this in the NPCs as well. 
Otherwise it would feel odd, that the PCs have a higher female to male ratio than the "rest of the world " (aka NPCs). 

If you want to play your Cthulhu 1920s-Real-World-correct then you will need to change most NPCs to male... and force female players to play male characters most of the time. You can do so, but that seems unfair to the female players to me. 



* I don´t get into the people who recognise themselves as diverse. I will stick to male/female here, to keep thinks simple, not because i don´t recognise anything outsode of the male/female range. 

oh no i play elf games but i have too limited a brain to understand gender or fun

side question, this is clearly a troll raid, why are the moderators not locking this

Edited by Qizilbashwoman
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47 minutes ago, g33k said:

I stand by what I wrote previously:

1 hour ago, g33k said:

... In the 1920's, I don't see any reason to limit portrayal of PCs or NPCs by gender ...

 

May I join you and add my hero and Albert’s as well!
emmy noether

Emmy Noether

32 minutes ago, Qizilbashwoman said:

side question, this is clearly a troll raid, why are the moderators not locking this

Yes, I am thinking the same. I have put in my 3 cents, ate some popcorn and will now depart the thread.

Cheers

 

... remember, with a TARDIS, one is never late for breakfast!

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16 hours ago, Welkin said:

I have purchased and enjoyed around $1,000 of Chaosium books over the last few years, but I have noticed a disturbing trend in the material.

You should try to be objective here. Regardless of the alleged infusion of Chaosium's product with "wokeness", everyone can see that the main trend in the material is very positive. Others have pointed that out above. The books are of higher quality than ever, with better art, expanded and interesting writing, and slowly improving composition. (If only they got rid of all those annoying typos...) This is probably the most important factor in determining whether you should buy their books. If I was only reading books, listening to music, etc., of creators that agree with me politically, I would never open a book by Dostoyevski or listen to the Queen.

16 hours ago, Welkin said:

There have been changes to the material over the years to appease the woke crowd, including race/gender swapping characters in newer versions of pre-written scenarios (ignoring verisimilitude in favor of political activism) and the use of a non-existent singular "they" which makes it read like it was written by a 3-year-old who doesn't understand the English language. I was willing to overlook these, however annoying and confusing it may be to read incorrectly written sentences, and I can change the NPCs to suit the game I am running.

I am against "wokeism" myself and disagree with the people above, who try to pretend that to be woke means to be "aware of social problems." Being a member of a certain "important" minority and a foreigner living in the USA, in my personal experience, I have never met more biased, hurtful, and ignorant people than those who called themselves "woke."  Maybe I shouldn't generalize, but I try to avoid engaging with them whenever I can. As you can already see from the responses of fellow posters, they are quick to judge and condemn without giving them the benefit of doubt (not to say respect or kindness.) They do not want to hear you, just call for the closure of the topic. Believe me, most people are not like that, and there is a silent majority of people who share your concerns.

However, I do not think, as you suggested in the title, that "Chaosium is fully woke." As others said, the pronoun "they" has its history in English literature. In principle, there is nothing wrong with using it to refer to a single person. Furthermore, there is nothing "woke" about gender/race-swapping of NPCs (you probably mean Masks of Nyarlathotep here). It often makes the story more interesting and rich and can be defended just on this single basis. (Personally, I would say that only the introduction of Wycroft's daughters in the Australian chapter instead of Aboriginal workers felt completely unnecessary and based solely on the "natives can not be evil" attitude. But I am probably wrong here.) As a game master, I enjoy roleplaying NPCs that are not all white American men, and come from different backgrounds, even if it might be historically inaccurate.

17 hours ago, Welkin said:

But I have noticed that the latest iteration of the character sheets have replaced the field for Sex with Pronoun, which makes no sense at all.

Here I have to agree with you. Changing "Sex/Gender" to "Pronouns" on character sheets does not make any sense from the gaming perspective on several different levels. For instance, when I make a character, what matters is their identity, not how people refer to them. I want to know if my PC is a woman or a trans-woman, not what is their "pronoun." Anyone can have any pronoun, and it does not contain any relevant information about the character. When, in 20 years I will look at my old character sheets, seeing "her," I will not remember whether I played a woman, trans-woman, non-binary person, drag queen, a man dressed as a woman to hide his identity or anyone else that happened to like this pronoun. This is just one of many problems. I agree that this change is illogical and clearly a thoughtless try to follow some of the weirdest fashions of the western world. If you travel outside of the US, Canada, or England, not only the majority of the population of the world will tell you that it is absurd, but even the majority of native liberals/ progressives.

18 hours ago, Welkin said:

What purpose does this serve in the game, other than to virtue signal to the woke crowd that you are not engaged in wrong-think, and are in fact promoting party-approved political propaganda in your entertainment products?

I still tough think that this is a minor issue. The more worrying and subtle problem is when Chaosium, in their products, takes stance on certain subjects fully in line with some chewed version of Foucalt's or Derrida's postmodernism from American universities. They often assume the stunted "power dynamics" narrative or false "oppressor-victim" dichotomy; see, for example, some sections of MoN, Terror Australis, or Children of Fear. Their claims about diversity and inclusion of various perspectives in their setting books are inconsistent and leave out a huge chunk of the indigenous populations. For example, there is usually no coverage of religious traditions in their sourcebooks, despite most of the societies and their cultures in the 1920s being deeply rooted in a religious belief. For purely gaming purposes, I needed to know what kind of protestants were there in Berlin and what was specific about them (same for German Jews) and could not find any useful information in the book. I had the same problem with the Australia book. Nothing in MoN. Nothing in the 7ed Rulebook or Investigator's Handbook. So I, as a game-master, have no clue what church-going looked like in the 1920s, and can not really accommodate my players who decided to have highly conservative, Anglo-Saxon characters because writers have a huge blind spot for a particular part of human culture. In Harlem Unbound, which actually describes the Jewish community in a very helpful (game-wise) manner, the author, on the other hand, deals with racial subjects in a rather extreme way. He adds unnecessary controversial statements that shocked my black friends at the gaming store, and who deemed them completely nonsensical. At first, as a foreigner, I thought that there was something wrong with me, but they explained that no one reasonable believes in some of these weird ideas.

19 hours ago, JDS said:

But it will impact my willingness to buy more products, at least until they stop discriminating against me.

I think this is an equally nonsensical statement. I truly believe that Chaosium has good intentions and cares about making every gamer welcome. They probably just try to follow a particular "trendy" (and loud) flavor of social theories that actually have very little to do with the reality of minorities or people that historically were discriminated against. Despite that, I think that they are still very balanced and cautious not to disrespect anyone, which is the most important thing. I guess, with the political polarization in the US, especially on the internet, they might feel like dancing on the edge of a razor blade. The fact that they publish something that you disagree with is not even close to real discrimination. 

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11 hours ago, PersonOne said:

I truly believe that Chaosium has good intentions and cares about making every gamer welcome.

11 hours ago, PersonOne said:

Despite that, I think that they are still very balanced and cautious not to disrespect anyone, which is the most important thing. I guess, with the political polarization in the US, especially on the internet, they might feel like dancing on the edge of a razor blade. The fact that they publish something that you disagree with is not even close to real discrimination. 

Even if I (politely) disagree with a good part of your post, this part is excellent. Well said.

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23 hours ago, PersonOne said:

... Believe me, most people are not like that, and there is a silent majority of people who share your concerns ...

As a point of fact, most of the USA believes that the nation has a very-serious racism/discrimination problem.

NBC 2018 - https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/poll-64-percent-americans-say-racism-remains-major-problem-n877536
PewResearch 2019 - https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2019/04/09/race-in-america-2019/
Monmouth 2020 - https://www.npr.org/2020/06/21/881477657/poll-majority-of-americans-say-racial-discrimination-is-a-big-problem

Now, whether those people are "woke" (and whether that's good or bad) is a matter of some debate.  There are plenty of people for whom being "woke" is a good thing (the term originated with progressives as a self-label, and was co-opted by the far-right) and think people who use it as a perjorative/criticism are simply ignorant of the facts... or are, to some degree, racists.

For myself, I think the use of "woke" as a perjoratives isn't automatically a sign of that; but it shows a way of thinking that's profoundly  informed by the conservative-media-bubble, and consequent close-mindedness (as with anyone who consumes from one media bubble (and from the social-media &c that in turn act as echo-chambers for the bubble)).

 

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... In Harlem Unbound ...

It's worth noting that Chris Spivey's Harlem Unbound was published by his own company; only the 2e refresh came from Chaosium, but it was still basically Chris' work, not "Chaosium's."

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... the author, on the other hand, deals with racial subjects in a rather extreme way. He adds unnecessary controversial statements that shocked my black friends at the gaming store, and who deemed them completely nonsensical ...

Could you cite some examples, please?  Because I haven't delved into H.U. personally; but what I have seen and read -- and talked to friends about, who DO have it -- suggests your reaction (and your friends') isn't the usual one.  I too include "black friends" in my commentary group, fwiw.
 

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... there is usually no coverage of religious traditions in their sourcebooks, despite most of the societies and their cultures in the 1920s being deeply rooted in a religious belief ...

AFAIK, many RPG publishers (by policy) try REALLY hard not to "gamify" any real-world religions that have current, living worshipers/adherents.  I don't know this is the case with Chaosium and the issue you address here, but offer it as a perspective worth considering...
 

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