D&D 5E D&D's Inclusivity Language Alterations In Core Rules

Many small terminology alterations to 2014 core rules text.

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In recent months, WotC has altered some of the text found in the original 5th Edition core rulebooks to accommodate D&D's ongoing move towards inclusivity. Many of these changes are reflected on D&D Beyond already--mainly small terminology alterations in descriptive text, rather than rules changes.

Teos Abadia (also known as Alphastream) has compiled a list of these changes. I've posted a very abbreviated, paraphrased version below, but please do check out his site for the full list and context.
  • Savage foes changed to brutal, merciless, or ruthless.
  • Barbarian hordes changed to invading hordes.
  • References to civilized people and places removed.
  • Madness or insanity removed or changed to other words like chaos.
  • Usage of orcs as evil foes changed to other words like raiders.
  • Terms like dim-witted and other synonyms of low intelligence raced with words like incurious.
  • Language alterations surrounding gender.
  • Fat removed or changed to big.
  • Use of terms referring to slavery reduced or altered.
  • Use of dark when referring to evil changed to words like vile or dangerous.
This is by no means the full list, and much more context can be found on Alphastream's blog post.
 

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darjr

I crit!
Teos brought this up at the creator summit several months ago and now has gone through many of changes that have been done, many or most of them changed since March of last year.

He hopes in covering them he can show how WotC is showing a way forward for other creators to do the same or at least consider changes to their own material.

He details quite a lot of the changes by showing passages next to each other and highlighting the change verbiage. There are quite a lot of them. He then covers it in a video as well.




I agree with Teos here in his final thoughts too.

I am glad Wizards has made these changes, though ideally they would share their approach with the industry. They don’t have to do so, of course, but it would have a positive impact on the hobby and encourage dialogue amongst companies and freelancers.

If we are serious about creating a better hobby, we can benefit from examining the latest approaches. Sharing approaches and discussing them with creators and communities you trust is a great way to improve as a creator or GM.

The changes above shouldn’t be treated as the only approach or the final approach. How we address these issues is changing rapidly. I may have described items above imperfectly, though I have made the effort not to do so. When publishing a product, we want to hire a sensitivity reader who can ensure our product is well written and reflects the latest approaches.
 



JEB

Legend
Very interesting, though many of these changes aren't actually that surprising, if one's been paying attention to the zeitgeist.

Two small ones that stood out to me, however:
  • "barbarian horde" becoming "invading horde." Maybe just a change to avoid confusion with the class. Or maybe a hint at a name change for the class, too?
  • Removing the reference to drow being transformed into driders. Driders going to have a different origin in 2024? Maybe they're going to separate them from Lolth?

Also, I agree with @Alphastream that it's far from ideal that they've switched from overt errata documents to covert updates. They should be transparent with these changes.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
"barbarian horde" becoming "invading horde." Maybe just a change to avoid confusion with the class. Or maybe a hint at a name change for the class, too?
I mean, I would love if they changed the Barbarian's name (I keep asking them to in the Surveys,!), but probably they just want to make it less "Barbarian = bad" ti a fairly uncontroversial "invader = bad." After all, if you are in a small village, you won't care if the houses are being burned by Genghis Kgan or Julius Ceasar. Burned is burned.
 

J-H

Hero
"And to think they call THIS civilization? Blasted bloody humans!" - Korgan Bloodaxe (dwarven mercenary)
Civilization can be a relative term. The dwarves and elves often seem to have a better claim to it than humans in some settings.

I'm not a fan of the way the language everywhere is getting excessively smoothed-out and less tropey and descriptive. We lose some detail and diversity within the setting that way. However, from a corporate standpoint, it's a safe choice to avoid the risk of getting hit by an online mob when something 10 years old suddenly gets noticed, so it makes sense.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Very interesting read. There are a few cases where I would probably have taken a different approach, but overall they seem like changes for the better, and it makes sense that a huge publisher like WotC would want to err on the side of caution.

The one change that stood out to me as a bit misguided was removal of a section about how a male cleric would go against the typical gender roles in drow society, which might be a reason for such a drow to leave for the surface. Speaking as someone who is pretty familiar with going against typical gender roles, I think it’s a shame to cut this. I can understand if they want to avoid implying that drow have a monoculture, but I don’t think it’s bad for specific cultures (lolthite drow, for instance) to have strict gender roles that some characters might defy. On the contrary, I think there’s great value in the room that creates for portraying characters escaping persecution based on their relationship with their society’s gender norms. Especially when such societies are depicted as evil. Disappointing, considering the language changes around sex and gender looked excellent otherwise.
 

WhatLiesBeyond

Explorer
A lot of these are appreciated, certainly, but I feel like making subtle wording adjustments without being upfront about addressing the issues of decolonization in gaming won't lead to much headway. It's the same issue that I have with Wizards' overly vague statements on legacy products. A company should be upfront about what specifically was wrong with a specific choice so that they know how to avoid these issues on a preventative and structural basis.

This will mean getting subject matter experts and consultants in the room as the game is being designed, not just as a smooth-over in the later editing stages. I've seen firsthand how teams can benefit immensely from the proactive involvement of trained sensitivity readers and similar specialists, and I believe that such roles should be an industry standard (this also includes properly paying and crediting such folks for the work they do).
 

However, from a corporate standpoint, it's a safe choice to avoid the risk of getting hit by an online mob when something 10 years old suddenly gets noticed, so it makes sense.
That should not be the only intention. Calling people with real concerns a mob is quite dismissive and shows a lack of understanding.

I am glad they are changing the way they describe people as a whole. Or associating evil things with a whole group of people.

I also like the idea of not calling people slaves, but enslaved. That shows way better that they are victims. Not that slave is an inherent attribute of some people.
 

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