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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

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
As I recall none of those were available for the general public, only RPGA members and people doing organized play, but that's just a memory from a long time ago.

The Gazetteer was widely available in game stores and the Living Greyhawk campaign ran at conventions all over the US and many internationally as well. So, yeah, available to the general public.
 

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billd91

Hobbit on Quest
I don’t get this take. I actually really liked the Greyhawk take on the ethnicities. It included most of the breadth of real humanity without either just taking real world stereotypes as-is or just switching the name tags. Do I want those to carry into other settings? No, but I don’t want the ethnicities of any other setting transferring, either.

Did you miss the end of that paragraph in which he mentioned the Touv had a penalty to Int? Dark skinned ethnic group with a lower Intelligence? I can see avoiding even touching on a hint of that.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
Being a student of History, the use of "Men" to mean "every person in the world" is not strange to me. Instead it is ultimately inclusive. (Read the Declaration of Independence as an excellent example.)

I rather like alternating 'he' and 'she' for player-directed text describing the generic 'a character'. In my own adventure texts I alternate by the paragraph, for ease of editing.

P.S. Best "looks like a D&D iconic" was the druid with an antler headdress.
 

And Redgar was the only iconic character's name I could actually remember. Without looking it up I guess the Wizard's name is Mialee or something like that?

It was Regdar not Redgar. Also, Peter ADKISON, not Adkinson, though that's a deep cut inside joke from these message boards.

Okay, let me see if I can remember this.

Barb - Krusk
Bard - no idea
Cleric - Jozan
Druid - ?
Fighter - Tordek and Regdar
Monk - Ember
Paladin - Alhandra
Ranger - Sivis?
Rogue - Lidda?
Sorcerer - Hennet
Wizard - Mialee
 

Went and checked:

Bard - Gimble (gnome male), Devis (half-elf male)
Druid - Vadania (half-elf female)
Ranger - Soveliss (elf male)

I mostly just recall the ones who had 'personalities' in the Iconics threads on these messageboards.
 


doctorhook

Adventurer
does Eberron even have a fantasy Asia place? as someone of East Asian descent I too love seeing Asian representation in fantasy settings, but for an actual setting like Eberron I prefer there's like an actual reason ("reason") you might see an Asian person. I don't wanna say something like "forced diversity", but I do find it weird when a video game is like "your character can look however they want!" "oh cool, but why am I the only person of color in a game full of white people? like what's my ethnicity in this world?" "your what now??
Eberron sort of avoided this question altogether by not really having any parts of it traceable to a “real-world” equivalent. In this way, basically any appearance could be suitable for a human.

If there is a “fantasy Asia” in Eberron, it’s probably Riedra, but that’s a tenuous connection at best. It’s described in a way that reminds me of authoritarian communist China, rather than generic “fantasy Asia”. Others may disagree.
 
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Coroc

Hero
I sometimes include actual RL events or trends into my games, often in a satirical way. But I will not elaborate here, because there is a small border between satire and political incorrect these days and I do not want to hurt any ones feelings.
 

NaturalZero

Adventurer
"Leaving politics out" is an inherently political move.

Yup.

Creating a story, game, franchise, etc, means making decisions about what characters you create and present. If you're choosing to include white people, people of color, women, lbgt folks, at al, then some are going to see this diversity as "political" because it's a decision that varies from how things where designed in the past. On the other hand, if everyone in a fictitious world is straight, white, and male, that is just as much a conscious decision to present a concept that explicitly does not reflect the demographics of our world.

Artificially deciding that everyone is straight, white, or male is just as political as deciding that diversity is important.

Eberron sort of avoided this question altogether by not really having any parts of it traceable to a “real-world” equivalent. In this way, basically any appearance could be suitable for a human.

This is what I like to see in settings. I'm bored to death with speculative fiction where you have Fantasy Europe next to Fantasy Asia and Fantasy Middle East, or whatever. It just seems like lazy and derivative. Why wouldn't most of the population of Breland look "Asian" or "African"?
 


None of my group, black, white, male, female, etc, cared about any of this stuff that people are "bringing to light" nowadays. If you're down to game you're down to game. Everything else is just politics, and the gaming table doesn't need real-life politics, we hear enough of that in real life.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
None of my group, black, white, male, female, etc, cared about any of this stuff that people are "bringing to light" nowadays. If you're down to game you're down to game. Everything else is just politics, and the gaming table doesn't need real-life politics, we hear enough of that in real life.
So, just to clarify, you object to the inclusion of women and people of colour in your D&D books, because merely even acknowledging that those people exist and including them in a D&D book is “politics”? And you have enough of those people in “real life”?
 

So, just to clarify, you object to the inclusion of women and people of colour in your D&D books, because merely even acknowledging that those people exist and including them in a D&D book is “politics”? And you have enough of those people in “real life”?

Now you're just twisting my words. What I'm saying is if you're down to game you're down to game. None of my players ever gave a second glance to the politics of the outside world where D&D is concerned. What I said has nothing to do with what you said.

Edit: I've said my opinion and that, dear readers, is my opinion. Doesn't have to be anyone else's and it doesn't have to start a conflict. Peace be with you!
 



Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Now you're just twisting my words. What I'm saying is if you're down to game you're down to game. None of my players ever gave a second glance to the politics of the outside world where D&D is concerned. What I said has nothing to do with what you said.

With respect - the article, and ensuing thread is ostensibly about representation in art and language within the rulebooks.

When you give an unqualified, "everything else," what do you figure folks were going to think?
 

Jay Verkuilen

Grand Master of Artificial Flowers
I didn't mention singular 'they,' but I remember when it started picking up currency. I feel kinda young compared to the English Language, itself, but I guess 'new' is relative.
Evidently it's not all that young. It existed in the past in various forms but was stamped out in the 19th Century by the Victorians when the English language was regularized. (Similar things were going on in many other countries at the same time.) So in a lot of ways, the language is reverting to an older pattern by using "they" for a gender neutral singular. En français there is "on" which does exist in English as "one" but it sounds kind of ludicrous and awkwardly formal, especially in conversational speech: "One does not simply walk into Mordor."
 

Jay Verkuilen

Grand Master of Artificial Flowers
"Leaving politics out" is an inherently political move.
Certainly, but it's also using a game as a break from the relentless drumbeat. It can be a way for a table that has people of divergent views to get along. I play with some folks I consider long term friends who don't all get along politically, for example. One reason that's been able to happen is because we have a general norm of "keep the politics out of the game." Obviously, that's not 100% possible (or desirable) but we do try.

Clearly this depends on how things happen in specific cases and it can easily become stifling. In this day and age of negative partisanship and polarization, that is a bit subversive insofar as it allows people who don't agree politically to maintain relationships when many forces push for pillarisation.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Evidently it's not all that young. It existed in the past in various forms but was stamped out in the 19th Century by the Victorians when the English language was regularized. (Similar things were going on in many other countries at the same time.) So in a lot of ways, the language is reverting to an older pattern by using "they" for a gender neutral singular. En français there is "on" which does exist in English as "one" but it sounds kind of ludicrous and awkwardly formal, especially in conversational speech: "One does not simply walk into Mordor."
One does not simply talk about representation in gaming 😉
 

Arnwolf666

Adventurer
Yeah, the best thing to do is just to hire them/consult with them in the first place. Having representation in the book is not the same as having representation behind the book.

I recently created my list for top ten movies of the 2010s and was a bit surprised to see 5 of them were women-led.

Of course, 0 were directed by women. I should look up the writers too, I bet few of them had women contributing to the writing too.

Things are getting better in Hollywood but that doesn't mean they don't have far to go.
And have money to pay consultants. This way we can crowd out independent poor artists from competing with deep pocket people and corporations.

it’s a good idea, but it can go overboard expecting every young artist to have the resources to do these things. Many great literary works were done by People with little to no resources.
 

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