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.
 
Jonathan Tweet

Comments

@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 wasnt describing human beings. I was broadly refering to biological beings of a physical sex category. The correct usage of hermaphrodite cant apply to humans because it carries with it conditions of functional norm and reproductive capability of a particular kind.
 
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Also intersex people cant even be hermaphrodites. I dont know why people use hermaphrodite to refer to them. Its hurtful to most of them and inaccurate concerning all of them. Whoever is using hermaphrodite in such a way doesnt know their biology too well. Or they at least dont know the particulars on human intersex people too well.
 

Galandris

Adventurer
Also intersex people cant even be hermaphrodites. I dont know why people use hermaphrodite to refer to them. Its hurtful to most of them and inaccurate concerning all of them. Whoever is using hermaphrodite in such a way doesnt know their biology too well. Or they at least dont know the particulars on human intersex people too well.
The original legends didn't really detail with biological exactitude what happened to Hermaphroditos after he was fused with Samalcis. I think the current, biological use of hermaphrodite appeared later and supplanted the original meaning currently assigned to the intersex word. I've never heard of hermaphrodite used for people but I postulate it's like when people use steward for flight attendant: just a dated use.
 

ad_hoc

Hero
The 5e PHB is a perfect example of using the term 'hermaphrodite' while not meaning harm.

The first printing used it. It was then removed after WotC was informed about it.

It would be problematic if they kept it. As is, it was just a mistake.
 

Coroc

Adventurer
That's true. Maybe in the Forgotten Realms, the men wear the chainmail bikinis, and the women wear the full plate.

About time.
You surely talking about men wearing the chainmail bikinis as a trophy on their spear and the woman impressed by it greeting the warrior with a plate of food and beverages ?

Argh dam... wrong thread :p

Just joking, your wording asked for it :)
 

Coroc

Adventurer
I've got a one-word solution for you.

Eggs.

Think about it. Just ... not too much.

Wanna play an elf now? Didn't think so.
Do dwarf eggs have beards?
Are dwarves nursed with ale instead of milk?
What day do Dragonborn celebrate the Layday or the Hatchday?

So many questions...
 

Coroc

Adventurer
Are you sure about that? You're worried about the laying ....

But who do you think has to sit on the eggs until they hatch, hmmm?

HINT: Not the female elf. She gets to go out and PAR-TAY!
And comes home and lays strange looking eggs ....
And drow sometimes put one of their eggs in an elf nest when the male elf dozes off.
And the drow hatchling throws all the elf hatchlings of the tree and grows fat.
 

Sadras

Adventurer
I think Odo's gender was a purely cosmetic choice.
It is interesting - what made them choose "gender" or various heights...etc
I mean the shapeshifters were all still very individually minded, despite having joined the Great Link, hence them not being identical (when out of it).

It had no reproductive meaning.
Doesn't this part of your post relate to sex rather than gender?
 
The original legends didn't really detail with biological exactitude what happened to Hermaphroditos after he was fused with Samalcis. I think the current, biological use of hermaphrodite appeared later and supplanted the original meaning currently assigned to the intersex word. I've never heard of hermaphrodite used for people but I postulate it's like when people use steward for flight attendant: just a dated use.
In a biological context it was never used to refer to humans except in error as nothing is biologically hermaphroditic unless one of the specific associated patterns of reproduction are present and exclusive. The word's origin of course predates its use in biology but its use in biology never could apply to humans without a mistake happening somewhere along the line (though historically mistakes of that exact kind definitely happened, even at those times the nature of its meaning in biology made this usage of hermaphrodite incorrect even by the standards of biology in their day)
 
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Do dwarf eggs have beards?
Are dwarves nursed with ale instead of milk?
What day do Dragonborn celebrate the Layday or the Hatchday?

So many questions...
Dwarves give live birth.

Dwarves' right nipple is actually a belly button.

Dwarves' right nipple (while in utero) attaches an umbilical cord from their liver directly to their mother's liver.

Dwarves are born with their beard. Its 9 months of built up 5 o'clock shadow (this is often known as "dwarven after bearth") so when the baby dwarf comes out what then ensues is what to outsiders seems like the weirdest variant of the magician's top hat and endless scarf trick.

This is typically used to swaddle the baby.

Dwarvish babies will continue to absorb alcohol from their 12 foot beard, nursing for the next 6 months.

During this time the beard will slowly empty of alcohol and turn into an incredibly tightly curled beard over time, having not actually gotten any shorter and instead having really just coiled up.

Next time on nat geo (faerun) we will observe as our camera teem documents how dream vestiges migrate to national capitals, the place of their birth, to spawn during election seasons.
 

Horwath

Adventurer
I think Odo's gender was a purely cosmetic choice. It had no reproductive meaning.
No, but he took clearly male role.

He was in relationship with Kira Nerys and she is portrayed as hetero female.

And antagonist Female Shapeshifter clearly adopted female look(mostly).

So I guess in D&D shifter can portay anything they want.
 

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