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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.

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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

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Zardnaar

Legend
OMG that must have been heavy cavalry then :p

They usually did a number on women, it's one reason Elizabeth I was the Virgin Queen.

Also see Theodora of Byzantium, Henry VIII wives, Christina of Sweden iirc, various wives of the Roman Emperors. Wrong side of court intrigue you get your name dragged through the mud. Could also depend if you are the queen or the queen consort.
 

Hellcow

Adventurer
I haven't had an opportunity to read the entire thread, but one thing caught my eye and I'm curious...

For example, among the 14 dragon-marked houses, 12 are led by males and 2 by females.
Where are you getting this figure?

Of the thirteen primary dragonmarked houses, seven have male leaders, four (Jorasco, Sivis, Phiarlan, and Lyrandar) have female leaders, and two (Cannith and Tharashk) have mixed leadership. Add in House Tarkanan (led by Thora Tavin) and the line of Vol (in the form of Erandis) and that would end with 7 led by men, 6 by women, and 2 mixed.

Beyond this, a larger point is that the houses aren't established as being institutional patriarchies (or matriarchies). CURRENTLY there's more houses with male leaders than female leaders, but if Trelib d'Medani died tomorrow, the house could be led by a woman next week. Breland is currently ruled by King Boranel, but it was Queen Wroann who led it into war; of the surviving Five Nations two are led by women and two by men, and Cyre was ruled by a queen until the Mourning.

And the two DM houses with a matriarch are Ghallanda (house of taverns, so... barmaid?) and sivis (house of communication).
I'm not sure what you're trying to say with Ghallanda. First of all, Ghallanda has a male baron; you may be mixing it up with the other halfling house, Jorasco, which has a female leader. But also, what do barmaids have to do with anything? Ghallanda is the backbone of the hospitality industry: food services and lodging, with a thriving side business in concierge services and information. It's not "The House of Barmaids."
 


Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
Where are you getting this figure?

Of the thirteen primary dragonmarked houses, seven have male leaders, four (Jorasco, Sivis, Phiarlan, and Lyrandar) have female leaders, and two (Cannith and Tharashk) have mixed leadership. Add in House Tarkanan (led by Thora Tavin) and the line of Vol (in the form of Erandis) and that would end with 7 led by men, 6 by women, and 2 mixed.

I probably counted inexactly since you're obviously more knowledgeable on this setting as I am :)
First, I miscounted Thuranni into the list of house, hence the 14. For Lyrandar and Phiarlan, I was misled by the Eberron wiki at fandom.com which mentions leaders of these two houses as barons (while it uses baroness elsewhere for female title holder), but I should have checked further. Cannith is majoritarily male-led (Merrix and Zorlan vs Jorlanna), same with Tharashk (Kundar and Daric vs Maagrim) and I counted them according to rounding rules, hence my results. But, to be exact, you could say it's 4.6 out of 13.

I did'nt include Vol and Tarkanan because they don't hold power openly among the society and really don't compare with the other houses.

Beyond this, a larger point is that the houses aren't established as being institutional patriarchies (or matriarchies). CURRENTLY there's more houses with male leaders than female leaders, but if Trelib d'Medani died tomorrow, the house could be led by a woman next week.

I didn't imply it was set up to be institutionally enforced, hence the comparison with real-world companies administrators (where such an imbalance in some countries prompt legally-enforced gender quotas). I even said it could be a statistical happenstance.

I'm not sure what you're trying to say with Ghallanda.

Just a joke. It works with the house of nurses :) Didn't mean as criticism of the setting.
 
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Hellcow

Adventurer
For Lyrandar and Phiarlan, I was misled by the Eberron wiki at fandom.com which mentions leaders of these two houses as barons (while it uses baroness elsewhere for female title holder)
That's an easy mistake to make, especially with fantasy names! In the context of the dragonmarked houses, "baron" is a unisex title, so that's an error on the part of the wiki - though I'm sure there's a canon book somewhere that also gets it wrong.

Ultimately, you are correct: there are more male barons than female barons. But that's more supposed to be a coincidence of the moment that an institution; if Yoren d'Ghallanda dies, Fairhaven could take his place.

I did'nt include Vol and Tarkanan because they don't hold power openly among the society and really don't compare with the other houses.
Which makes sense - I was just thrown off by the "14 houses" statement and thinking Tarkanan might be number fourteen. With that said, Thora and Vol are powerful female leaders within the world. If you look to the leadership of Sharn's major criminal organizations, the Boromars have a male leader, Daask and Tarkanan have female leaders, and the Tyrants are nonbinary.
 



The Tyrants are an organization of changelings—shapeshifters who typically have a fluid relationship with gender.
Ahhhh

Wouldnt that make their gender "unspecified but definitively binary?"

Hmmm...i suppose they could shape shift into something that has no sex or is hermaphroditic.

Interesting. Thanks.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
Ahhhh

Wouldnt that make their gender "unspecified but definitively binary?"

Hmmm...i suppose they could shape shift into something that has no sex or is hermaphroditic.

Interesting. Thanks.

The general reading is that changelings have a biological sex, but being able to actively change their bits to appear as a female human, male elf, male hobgoblin or a female orc basically at whim the idea of gender doesn't really apply to changelings as a culture.

One of the examples that a changeling community might have a shared persona for say the healer. Any changeling acting as the healer takes on the persona of Taldor the male elf surgeon. Even if Tak (female) Nat (male), Bort (male), and Flur (male) each take turns they are acting in all respects as a male one day, but they might also be Lylla the female human inquisitive the next day.
 

Ahhhh

Wouldnt that make their gender "unspecified but definitively binary?"

Hmmm...i suppose they could shape shift into something that has no sex or is hermaphroditic.

Interesting. Thanks.
Just so you know, being intersex and being gender nonbinary isn't the same thing.

A changeling can wear many masks and live out many personas, male, female, and other all the same. That doesn't have any impact on their core personality, which can identify as male, female, or NB.
 

Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
Ahhhh

Wouldnt that make their gender "unspecified but definitively binary?"

Hmmm...i suppose they could shape shift into something that has no sex or is hermaphroditic.

Interesting. Thanks.

@PsyzhranV2 covered this mostly quite well, but I'll add that we try not to the use the term "hermaphrodite" to describe human beings (or their near-equivalent, talking as we are about D&D races) as it is scientifically misleading in describing the types of humans it is typically used to describe, and it is also considered stigmatizing towards intersex people.
 


Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
@PsyzhranV2 covered this mostly quite well, but I'll add that we try not to the use the term "hermaphrodite" to describe human beings (or their near-equivalent, talking as we are about D&D races) as it is scientifically misleading in describing the types of humans it is typically used to describe, and it is also considered stigmatizing towards intersex people.

I think Son of the Serpent used it bona fide thinking the changeling can take the form of a snail (they can't) or illithid (which I guess have "no sex" but I that's not something that was explored in any games I played).
 
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Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
I think Son of the Serpent used it bona fide thinking the changeling can take the form of a snail (they can't) or illithid (which I guess have "no sex" but I that's not something that was explored in any games I played).

Oh, I didn't think there was an ill intent behind it, just a FYI because a lot of folks don't really get any kind of exposure to or awareness of intersex people in spite of being more common than a lot of folks realize. Best estimates of the intersex population (which is itself a pretty broad umbrella describing a number of different possibilities outside of the predominant two sets of sexual characteristics) place them as a little less common as redheads.
 

The general reading is that changelings have a biological sex, but being able to actively change their bits to appear as a female human, male elf, male hobgoblin or a female orc basically at whim the idea of gender doesn't really apply to changelings as a culture.

One of the examples that a changeling community might have a shared persona for say the healer. Any changeling acting as the healer takes on the persona of Taldor the male elf surgeon. Even if Tak (female) Nat (male), Bort (male), and Flur (male) each take turns they are acting in all respects as a male one day, but they might also be Lylla the female human inquisitive the next day.
Ah. So their sex is explicit but their gender is binarily arbitrary (because they add no axis).

Thats actually even more interesting than i assumed.
 


Just so you know, being intersex and being gender nonbinary isn't the same thing.

A changeling can wear many masks and live out many personas, male, female, and other all the same. That doesn't have any impact on their core personality, which can identify as male, female, or NB.
Yes. Non binary is over used though. Speaking from experience (some signifficant amount of my background is in the psych field) people apply "nonbinary" a bit too widely. It causes taxonomical issues. Basically, non binary is only applicable when an axis is added or something is outside of the normative spectrum. You see there are a lot of binary-specific things that are not hetero normative. Nonbinary actually should only be used for persuasions outside the binary spectra. Anything else is just sloppy.
 

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