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D&D 3E/3.5 Diversity in D&D Third Edition

With 3rd Ed, our main goal was to return D&D to its roots, such as with Greyhawk deities and the return of half-orcs. By staying true to the feel of D&D, we helped the gaming audience accept the sweeping changes that we made to the rules system.

One way we diverged from the D&D heritage, however, was by making the game art more inclusive. People of color, for example, were hard to find in earlier editions, and, when they did make appearance, it wasn’t always for the best. Luckily for us, Wizards of the Coast had an established culture of egalitarianism, and we were able to update the characters depicted in the game to better reflect contemporary sensibilities.

dnd-party.jpg

A few years before 3E, the leadership at Wizards had already encouraged me to go whole-hog with the multicultural look of the RPG Everway (1995). In this world-hopping game, we provided players and Gamemasters with scores of color art cards to inspire them as they created their characters and NPCs. The art featured people and settings that looked like they could have come from fantasy versions of places all around the earth, and the gender balance was great. I once got an email from a black roleplayer who said that Everway had forever changed the way he roleplayed, so I know that the game’s multicultural look was meaningful to some gamers out there. With D&D, we took the game in the same direction, but not nearly as far. The core setting has always resembled medieval Europe, and we expanded the diversity of the characters while still maintaining the medieval milieu.

The characters that players see the most are the “fab four,” the four iconic characters that we used repeatedly in our art and in our examples of play. Two are men (the human cleric and the dwarf fighter) and two are women (the elf wizard and the halfling rogue). Given the demographics of gamers in 2000, the implication that half of all D&D characters are female was a bit of a stretch. The only complaints we got, however, were about the introductory Adventure Game, where the characters were pregenerated, with names and genders assigned to them. Some young men would have preferred fewer female characters and more males to choose from. None of us worried too much about those complaints.

In addition to the main four characters, we also assigned a particular character to represent each of the other classes, with that character appearing in examples of play and in art. The four human characters comprised a white man (the cleric), a white woman (the paladin), a black woman (the monk), and an Asian man (the sorcerer). The remaining four nonhuman iconics were three men and one woman. It was a trick to strike the right balance in assigning fantasy races and genders to all the classes and to assign ethnicities to the human characters, but the iconic characters seemed to be a big hit, and I think the diversity was part of the appeal.

Somewhat late in the process, the marketing team added Regdar, a male fighter, to the mix of iconic characters. We designers weren’t thrilled, and as the one who had drawn up the iconic characters I was a little chapped. My array of iconic characters did not include a human male fighter, and that’s the most common D&D character ever, so the marketing team gave us one. We carped a little that he meant adding a second white man to the array of characters, but at least he was dark enough to be ambiguously ethnic. Regdar proved popular, and if the marketing team was looking for an attractive character to publicize, they got one.

Back in 1E, Gary Gygax had used the phrase “he or she” as the default third person singular pronoun, a usage that gave the writing a legalistic vibe that probably suited it. In 2E, the text stated up front that it was just going to use “he” because grammatically it’s gender-neutral. Even in 1989, insisting that “he” is gender neutral was tone deaf. By the time I was working on 3E, I had been dealing with the pronoun issue for ten years. In Ars Magica (1987), we wrote everything in second person so that we could avoid gendered pronouns. The rules said things like, “You can understand your familiar” instead of “The wizard can understand his/her/their familiar.” In Over the Edge (1992), we used “he” for the generic player and “she” for the generic gamemaster, which felt balanced and helped the reader keep the two roles separate. That sort of usage became standard for Atlas Games’s roleplaying games. Personally, I use singular-they whenever I can get away with it, but 20 years ago that was still generally considered unorthodox. For 3E, I suggested that we tie the pronouns to the iconic characters. The iconic paladin was a woman, so references to paladins in the rules were to “her.” I thought we’d catch flak from someone about this usage, but I never heard fans complaining.

One topic we needed to settle was whether monsters that were gendered as female in folklore, such as a lamia, should be exclusively female in D&D. I figured we should ditch gender limits wherever we could, but an editor argued that gender was important for the identity of a monster like the lamia. I asked, “Is that because it is in woman’s nature to deceive and destroy men?” Luring and destroying men is a common trope for female-gendered monsters, with the lamia as an example. “Yes, it is” said the editor, but she was laughing, and I had made my point. You can see an illustration of a male lamia in the 3E Monster Manual.

While we incorporated Greyhawk’s deities into 3rd Ed, we had no intention of picking up Greyhawk’s description of various human ethnic groups, corresponding more or less to ethnicities found on Earth. For gamers who cared about the Greyhawk canon, the Asian sorcerer would be from a lightly described territory to the west and the black monk would be a “Touv” from the jungles of Hepmonaland. Touvs in 2E were defined as having a penalty to their Intelligence scores, and we sure didn’t want to send any players in that direction. In 3E, the Asian and black characters were just humans, full stop.

The good news is that the gaming audience rolled with the iconic characters featuring people of color and women. With 5th Ed, the design team picked up where we left off and have pursued diversity further. The diverse cast of characters goes a long way in making D&D look modern and mature.
 

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Jonathan Tweet

Jonathan Tweet

D&D 3E, Over the Edge, Everway, Ars Magica, Omega World, Grandmother Fish

Zardnaar

Legend
Yes. That's the point. Not a whole lot of people know what the SOE was, or that it existed, or how heavily women were involved. Thus the game, to put a focus on some oft-ignored heroes.

That's

Mind if I ask your opinion on this art?

IMG_20191210_104422.jpg


Running an Egypt themed game. Still ended up with a bit Viking and Not Italian.
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
One of my favorite things is being told to tone down my existence in order to give enough space for people who don't want me to exist to not have to think about my existence at all, because that's going to be the best way to "make progress".

If you need me, I'll be over here, existing as little as possible, so people can stop being fatigued by me.
I’d rather you go ahead and exist harder, but I won’t try to tell ya what to do.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
See, this is all not only more reasonable but also very different from the post that I quoted, where the presence of a female gunslinger, a thing that was not that uncommon, was enough to "alienate" a good chunk of the audience.

Out of curiosity, let's say your black investigator is being played a black player, and they ask if you can tone down the racism because, in their words, they get enough of that in real life (or, alternatively, a female player playing a female investigator asking to tone down the 1920's misogyny). How do you react?
As a Swarthican-American caramello black dude, if I’m roleplaying a “minority” character in a historical/quasi-historical/alt-history setting where that minority would be oppressed in some way, I’d expect some kind of problems arising from his or her minority status. If that gets handwaved away, I find that disappointing.

(One of the reasons Will Smith’s Wild, Wild West bugs me so is that- while there were a few black Secret Service agents in that time period, none of them would have made a good undercover agent due to the societal restrictions of the day.)

And likewise, if I’m playing a PC in a Sci-Fi or fantasy campaign of a type that is despised in the setting, I don’t want his negative baggage glossed over. The downsides are part of why I made the character.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
Mind if I ask your opinion on this art?

View attachment 116710
Does every clump of bulrushes along the not-Nile have a baby-sized basket peeking out of it?
I cannot tell if the structure behind the people is a gate or the door to a building; it is set square-on to the viewer.
Do you want the dry sand right up to the water's edge? No mud, no weeds or ornamental plants or anything?
Waterfront property with no apparent use - must be somebody important's "lake cottage"

It looks like Egypt at first pass, a few choices of details that could be done differently.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Does every clump of bulrushes along the not-Nile have a baby-sized basket peeking out of it?
I cannot tell if the structure behind the people is a gate or the door to a building; it is set square-on to the viewer.
Do you want the dry sand right up to the water's edge? No mud, no weeds or ornamental plants or anything?
Waterfront property with no apparent use - must be somebody important's "lake cottage"

It looks like Egypt at first pass, a few choices of details that could be done differently.

Irrigation canal;)
 




Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
Yes, the end does not always justify the means. For selfish people it does, for normal people it does not.
Still for me considering myself a logic thinking person, i tend to analyse the speech, not the speaker.
It is not, that i never knowingly did something irrational in my life, but for some topics i would prefer a more rationale approach, just to convince those who are open to logic but not so much about feelings, especially those feelings whith which they cannot identify.
Or maybe i see some things as being to easy God knows....

I'm actually not really talking about the "ends justify the means," rather more how any argument made by bad people to justify bad behavior should inherently be considered untrustworthy.

Consider Ozymandias from Watchmen; he kills hundreds of thousands (maybe a couple million) in New York to save many more millions and the world from a possible nuclear war. This is the "ends justify the means," example.

But Ozymandias, even though his plan is pretty insane, actually does have good intentions, and as far as the book states does not have any ulterior motive beyond wanting to prevent a nuclear war (a fairly moral goal, done with fairly immoral means).

This is very different than what I am saying is so wrong about agreeing with a racist's goals. If you're supporting the opinions of people who are making them for their own selfish reasons, you're inadvertently supporting selfish immoral people, and their goals.

If Ozymandias was secretly a raging psychopath that wanted to destroy New York not because it would prevent nuclear war, but because he would enjoy it, how we view Ozymandias inherently changes. It would also make keeping Ozymandias' actions secret (which all the people who know of his plan save Rorsarch do) much harder to feel comfortable doing, as you're allowing a very immoral act made for selfish reasons to go unpunished. It would in effect make Rorsarch POV (to expose Ozymandias) the moral thing to do. To do otherwise would allow a psychopath to go free, and perhaps continue to kill (as the massacre would have happened regardless of the nuclear war justification). Whether or not it prevents nuclear war is unimportant in such a circumstance.

It's why Ozymandias actions are at least justifiable, but the Comedian's actions (rape, murder, war) almost entirely immoral; the intent behind them is what makes them viewed differently, even though the outcome is ultimately similar. It's one of the reasons the Comedian is so terrified of Ozymandias' plan; that he'll not only outdo him in devastation, but do it for the right reasons.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Viking trade routes included the Mediterranean and Egypt. A viking boat on the Nile is not that far fetched.

Not really, but when the players pick an Egyptian setting and then all want to ply Vikings it would be stupid.I allowed it because its only 1 player but I ended up with 0 not Egyptian humans but got Minotaurs, Half Orc, Not Viking, Not Italian. The Aasimar and Ravenfolk made a bit more sense and Minotaurs exist in that location in that setting, I was hoping for a not Egyptian human though. Then one player wanted a Samurai (sobs).


If you want to play Vikings, pick a Viking game.
 




Hussar

Legend
Actually, I did miss that line. I had to go look up the Touv, since I only used the gold-and-red box, written by Gygax, and they weren't part of that. This is where the fan base splinters, too: I don't really consider anything not written by Gygax as canon to GH. In the red-and-gold box, the four races presented are equal in status and stats.

Swimming a long way upthread, but, I'd point out that this choice is pretty... umm... well, it leaves out pretty much anyone who isn't European or at least European adjacent. The four original races were, pretty much "Roman" (Oeridian), "Germanic" (Suloise), "Arabic"(Baklunish) and "Celtic" (Flan). That's leaving a LOT of different folk by the wayside. Not really something you want to follow if inclusivity is a goal.
 

Hussar

Legend
To me, it felt strange, I never made the link with the iconic characters. But the apparently random pronoun swtich was not detrimental to my understanding of the text, despite not being a native reader, so I wasn't affected by it.



The diversity of characters in the art of a fantasy RPG can't be a better representation of real-world people. They're depicting a fantasy world, so, they can be all-white male if the settings tells us that only white male are adventurers. If you play an historical game where PCs are samurai, set in the Japanese Kamakura period, no, you can't play a white person. Neither can you play a halfling. If the settings tells us that genders enjoy a perfect equality, I'd expect to see commonly female adventurers, criminals, political rulers, military... in this setting (for internal consistentcy) and in illustrations depicting it. The weirdest thing to me is settings where they say "everyone is equal in this setting" and have 100% male rulers, heroes and antagonists.

By the same token, having characters that were Chinese, Indian, and Khmer would not be out of place at all. In fact, NOT seeing images set in Japanese Kamakura period where this wasn't shown would be off putting and strange and a re-writing of history. After all, at this point, there were numerous exchanges, particularly at high levels, between Japan and various other countries in East Asia and Asia Minor. Never minding contact with Mongol traders which would bring goods from all over the place.

History is FAR more diverse than many give it credit for.
 

Hussar

Legend
It is very interesting to me what people twig on when it comes to what they find "out of place" in fantasy art.

I've always been a bit of a buff about sailing ships. Just really like them. And then, I started actually looking at the ships that were actually being depicted in fantasy RPG's. And, for the most part, they were 100% dead wrong. Like, "Columbus flying in a Spitfire" kind of wrong. Multidecked, multi-masted, ships of the line complete with gun ports sailing into Waterdeep. :erm: Things that would not have looked out of place during the 19th century (and quite possibly into the early 20th century) being sailed by orcs. That sort of thing.

Drives me straight up the wall. It really does because it's quite obvious that the artist has done zero research and basically drawn whatever the heck he felt like and plunked it into the RPG book. Grrr.

OTOH, seeing women soldiers (Boudica anyone?) or various ethnicities ( a Black Samurai perhaps?) do not phase me in the slightest. Mostly because I can fine examples of these kinds of exceptions. Which, if I can find examples, means they probably weren't as rare as one might think.

But a schooner? Yeah, if you have that level of technology that lets you build that ship, you're not in the Middle Ages anymore.
 

Coroc

Hero
I'm actually not really talking about the "ends justify the means," rather more how any argument made by bad people to justify bad behavior should inherently be considered untrustworthy.

Consider Ozymandias from Watchmen; he kills hundreds of thousands (maybe a couple million) in New York to save many more millions and the world from a possible nuclear war. This is the "ends justify the means," example.

But Ozymandias, even though his plan is pretty insane, actually does have good intentions, and as far as the book states does not have any ulterior motive beyond wanting to prevent a nuclear war (a fairly moral goal, done with fairly immoral means).

This is very different than what I am saying is so wrong about agreeing with a racist's goals. If you're supporting the opinions of people who are making them for their own selfish reasons, you're inadvertently supporting selfish immoral people, and their goals.

If Ozymandias was secretly a raging psychopath that wanted to destroy New York not because it would prevent nuclear war, but because he would enjoy it, how we view Ozymandias inherently changes. It would also make keeping Ozymandias' actions secret (which all the people who know of his plan save Rorsarch do) much harder to feel comfortable doing, as you're allowing a very immoral act made for selfish reasons to go unpunished. It would in effect make Rorsarch POV (to expose Ozymandias) the moral thing to do. To do otherwise would allow a psychopath to go free, and perhaps continue to kill (as the massacre would have happened regardless of the nuclear war justification). Whether or not it prevents nuclear war is unimportant in such a circumstance.

It's why Ozymandias actions are at least justifiable, but the Comedian's actions (rape, murder, war) almost entirely immoral; the intent behind them is what makes them viewed differently, even though the outcome is ultimately similar. It's one of the reasons the Comedian is so terrified of Ozymandias' plan; that he'll not only outdo him in devastation, but do it for the right reasons.
Well that reminds me about a discussion in my country about the theoretic reactions on the situation that a plane gets hijacked and the hijacker threats to steer it into some populated building. The question was wheter a combat aircraft pilot is allowed to shoot it down for the greater good.
The juristic opinion based on the laws in the country where I live is astonishing to some, but nevertheless quite logical. It is forbidden to even sacrifice one innocent to save one million lives. You cannot weigh up human lives versus other human lives, to do so would be highly amoral.
A defense minister or government ordering the downing of a hijacked plane to prevent greater loss of lives would have to instantly resign, and would be due to a murder investigation and the pilot carrying out the downing would be held for accomplice.
For some this is hard to understand, but it is the most basic human right, the right to live. It is no different for victims in a captured plane than for potential victims on the ground. (Also there is something about determination in this hypothetical situation, for you cannot be sure about the actions of the hijacker until it is to late, in other words, there could be the possibility that his threat was a bluff)
 

It is very interesting to me what people twig on when it comes to what they find "out of place" in fantasy art.

I've always been a bit of a buff about sailing ships. Just really like them. And then, I started actually looking at the ships that were actually being depicted in fantasy RPG's. And, for the most part, they were 100% dead wrong. Like, "Columbus flying in a Spitfire" kind of wrong. Multidecked, multi-masted, ships of the line complete with gun ports sailing into Waterdeep. :erm: Things that would not have looked out of place during the 19th century (and quite possibly into the early 20th century) being sailed by orcs. That sort of thing.

Drives me straight up the wall. It really does because it's quite obvious that the artist has done zero research and basically drawn whatever the heck he felt like and plunked it into the RPG book. Grrr.

OTOH, seeing women soldiers (Boudica anyone?) or various ethnicities ( a Black Samurai perhaps?) do not phase me in the slightest. Mostly because I can fine examples of these kinds of exceptions. Which, if I can find examples, means they probably weren't as rare as one might think.

But a schooner? Yeah, if you have that level of technology that lets you build that ship, you're not in the Middle Ages anymore.

Yes, fantasy is very confused about what the level of naval technology was in the middle ages. Remember, gunpowder was in general use long before galleons appeared.

Everyone was tooling about in these bad boys.

cog.jpg
 

Haircuts are another thing though - how much art depicting medieval fantasy actually uses hairstyles from the historical era? None, because we think it makes the characters look like dorks (pageboy haircuts), bikers (long saxon or germanic hair) or some sort of weird punk subculture (hello Norman "lets shave the back of our head and leave the rest au-naturale)
1_normanhairstyle.gif
 

It is very interesting to me what people twig on when it comes to what they find "out of place" in fantasy art.

I've always been a bit of a buff about sailing ships. Just really like them. And then, I started actually looking at the ships that were actually being depicted in fantasy RPG's. And, for the most part, they were 100% dead wrong. Like, "Columbus flying in a Spitfire" kind of wrong. Multidecked, multi-masted, ships of the line complete with gun ports sailing into Waterdeep. :erm: Things that would not have looked out of place during the 19th century (and quite possibly into the early 20th century) being sailed by orcs. That sort of thing.

Drives me straight up the wall. It really does because it's quite obvious that the artist has done zero research and basically drawn whatever the heck he felt like and plunked it into the RPG book. Grrr.

OTOH, seeing women soldiers (Boudica anyone?) or various ethnicities ( a Black Samurai perhaps?) do not phase me in the slightest. Mostly because I can fine examples of these kinds of exceptions. Which, if I can find examples, means they probably weren't as rare as one might think.

But a schooner? Yeah, if you have that level of technology that lets you build that ship, you're not in the Middle Ages anymore.

On the topic of women warriors we probably also have to remember is that most people, male or female, in history actually didn't want to go and fight, not unless they vastly outclassed their opponents. Pre antibiotics any injury was potentially faithful. Want to know why so many became priests, monks or nuns? Education and basically the chance to opt out of war and childbirth, the two most dangerous activities for either sex. Sure, life might be hard in service of the church, but your chances of living to a ripe old age was much higher.

So, sure, there were a few women warriors. But not a lot. But we should ask why would we expect there would be a lot? Who would choose that life?
 

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