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So, leafing through the Ghosts of Saltmarsh, something struck me, and I think it's a key to a lot of the issues I've been ranting about off and on in #DnD over the last few years. I'm calling it "Outsider Writing Bias" right now, but I probably come up with a better term.
The crux of the idea is that #DnD modules, materials, and so on are overwhelmingly written from the perspective and in the mode of outsiders (the adventuring party) arriving in location, taking things in hand, and saving the day while the local yokels watch in awe and amazement.
Which means that when the location the party is going to shifts to a non-European coded area; things get racist and colonialist fast because of the extra baggage around it and an implied, if not meant or intended, White Man's Burden vibe that happens because of the approach bias.
This is why, in the case of Salt Marsh for example, no locals are really doing anything. They have no agency to act because the assumption in the writing is that assistance *has* to come from out of town, and *cannot* be local. It also explains why there's no stat blocks...1/2
2/2...for non-standard player races in books like ToA or Saltmarsh. The assumption Outsider bias' effect is such that no one stops to think "Hey, think someone might want to play X?" to the point where even if their stat blocks are in another book, there's no direction to it.
Maybe this could be better framed as "Outsider Resolution Bias", wherein the resolution of any and all problems in the work must be undertaken by people from outside the area the events are happening in, resulting in a complete lack of local agency.
This is why Chult was so damn uninspiring. There was no agency or vitality on the part of the Chultans to do anything except help the Outsiders or wait for Outsiders to fix all their problems. In the Saltmarsh book, there's so much possibility... but they're waiting on Outsiders.
And yes, there are backgrounds in the book; but they're just maritime/seaside backgrounds. They could have been included in ToA, DH, or SCAG and no one would have blinked an eye at their absence in GS. Which reinforces my point more, that Outsiders are the expected route.
This is further reinforced by the Zero-to-Hero nature of the new campaign books and the GS adventure book (because its adventures are linked, unlike TYP). They're not like old modules where there were different starting levels. They're made to take you from 1-12 or thereabouts.
So not only are you Outsiders coming in, you're at the start of your adventuring career and wandering into a mess of more experienced NPCs who, for some bizarre reason, have been rendered incapable of taking action to resolve or even adequately address their own problems.
And all this works to make areas outside the assumed starting point, which in FR is the Sword Coast, less attractive to be from and develop into more comprehensive locations. The result being patchwork world building where an artificially created and maintained sense of...1/2
2/2..."what's popular" means that other areas only get growth and development if someone with clout takes person interest in developing them. Examples in FR are things like the detail poured into Calimshan vs scanty details on "The Shining South". Or The North vs everything.
So basically the planners and writers end up in a feedback loop of their own making, reinforcing their ideas of "what the players want/are interested in", and prone to giving up quickly if there's not immediate equal interest in a new area or concept. or worse, leaving...1/2
2/2...information out of a product because they assume it's "boring" or "uninteresting" to the players, meaning that import things that could move a sub-setting from "adventure tourism" to "let's base our campaign from here" never gets out; guaranteeing the former.
So, yeah, there it is. Outsider Resolution Bias and its potential effects on adventure design, world building, and end user use. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but I think it's a problem that's stopping #DnD from being the best it can be.
Well, this has blown up! If you haven't yet, check out my blog, POCGamer, and my video podcast, Lore Diver! Want to show your appreciation and help a brother out? You can buy me coffee at ko-fi.com/pocgamer

Have a great weekend!
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