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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

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Chaderick

Explorer
Political correctness in all instances is just another way of saying being a decent person

Another word for Political Correctness is "compassion."

But people get all bent out of shape when they have to get mad at you for being compassionate.

The wrong people run the naming game. Political Correctness was created as a derogatory, and the people who care allowed it to come into use.
 




ad_hoc

Hero
Political correctness in all instances is just another way of saying being a decent person

Just covering myself as I don't know the history of the term.

A quick Wikipedia search yields this sort of thing:

"In the early-to-mid 20th century, the phrase politically correct was used to describe strict adherence to a range of ideological orthodoxies within politics. In 1934, The New York Times reported that Nazi Germany was granting reporting permits "only to pure 'Aryans' whose opinions are politically correct."[2] "

And

""In the early eighties, when feminists used the term 'political correctness', it was used to refer sarcastically to the anti-pornography movement's efforts to define a 'feminist sexuality'."[13] "

So in that context being anti-sex worker was considered to be 'politically correct'.

But yeah I'm sure you're right about all the modern uses just being the right using it as a pejorative against basic decency. I'm not current on many things.
 


Jay Verkuilen

Grand Master of Artificial Flowers
Recognize that for some folks like one of the players you described, someone like me even existing is considered a "current political topic".
Certainly.

Thus, in order to maintain your truce, you would have to erase from the existence of your game world, for example, all trans folx. I would imagine anybody one the LGBTQ spectrum would qualify as well.
I won't claim things are always clean-cut---Lord knows we can fight about enough already, as many groups do. We have chosen to keep current politics outside the game as much as possible due to the propensity for it to derail the game. (People have whatever discussions they want outside the game, and do so on their own time.) But I wasn't even thinking primarily of issues like personal identity. For example, as a DM I would think hard before writing a scenario that had a character that strongly resembled a current politician as either hero or villain.

I'm not gonna tell anybody what they should or shouldn't do in their own personal home games; you do what works best for you and your players. But if you think you game is not political, then based on this description you appear to be wrong about that.
Any choice one makes is political insofar as things are allowed on or kept off the agenda. I have played with groups that had different players, tensions and comfort zones, and hence different consensuses.

What is a "straightforward" character to you? Are they straight, white, and male?
In retrospect, I don't think that was a great term for what I was trying to express. I apologize for the confusion. I meant elves, dwarves, halflings, humans, set in the anodyne setting of the Forgotten Realms, "traditional" fantasy tropes, if you will. I'd say we have for the most part (explicitly or implicitly) chosen to focus on issues like the PCs' sexuality minimally---think how a war movie or many video games won't put focus on this aspect of their characters' lives. So if the characters are "defaulting" to being straight and most PCs have been male, I guess; that does describe the players, though.
 
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Arnwolf666

Adventurer
have you... ever looked at the Monk entry in the first PHB? they're very explicitly supposed to be East Asian monks who learn kung fu. there's a reason TSR decided they shouldn't be a core race in 2nd edition.
Yes. And maybe in some alternate universe something like lung-fu developed in something that is alot like Europe.
 

Jay Verkuilen

Grand Master of Artificial Flowers
How does diversity in the art and text of D&D books cause arguments at the table?
The folks who get offended are usually the kind of people experience a good bit of reactance about "woke" culture. They're often the same folks who get ticked at modern movies, comics, etc., having a broader cast of characters.
 

Jay Verkuilen

Grand Master of Artificial Flowers
They were in a late 2e product, much to my distaste. It was unnecessary, and unwarrranted in the face of how the GH ethnicities were presented prior to that.
That's... distasteful. I agree that in general they'd done a good job of not making any one of the cultures clearly "good" or "evil", although the Suel were generally speaking portrayed as villains, at least culturally, having originated in a necromantic magocracy.
 



Jay Verkuilen

Grand Master of Artificial Flowers
ah yes, the long history of buddhist monks in europe learning martial arts is why we have the monk class in D&D I forgot, lol.
The monk class clearly happened because back in the '70s when it was devised everybody was kung fu fighting.

Lots of early D&D tropes are best understood as "here's this thing in pop culture taken from Tolkien (rangers, hobbits, etc.), Kung Fu (monks), Leiber (thieves' guilds), Conan (barbarians), etc., and here's how you, mere mortal, can play it." It was basically a pastiche of many sources which themselves were pastiches.
 

Arnwolf666

Adventurer
The monk class clearly happened because back in the '70s when it was devised everybody was kung fu fighting.

Lots of early D&D tropes are best understood as "here's this thing in pop culture taken from Tolkien (rangers, hobbits, etc.), Kung Fu (monks), Leiber (thieves' guilds), Conan (barbarians), etc., and here's how you, mere mortal, can play it." It was basically a pastiche of many sources which themselves were pastiches.

I loved those
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Martial arts exploded on the American pop culture scene in the early 70s. Bruce Lee in the movies, Kwai Chang Caine on TV, and, the nominal inspiration of the D&D monk, Remo Williams, in print.

Rather than say, "sure, your fighter can learn unarmed fighting styles," 0D&D gave us the Monk. Perhaps understandable, at time, but still orientalist.

No class sucked outright pre-Essentials, the 4e Monk was just, perhaps a bit weirdly, made Psionic.
I had no problem with the psionicization of the monk in 4Ed. To me, “chi” or “Ki” might as well be another name for power points or whatever you call the energy source for psionics.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Boy. You guys see racism in everything. If someone wrote an alternate universe about a nation called xiaokfjehhdhh and they looked Asian. And they happened to invent a telephone I guess that would be racist to you.
Wellllll...

The AD&D monk class elements were clearly taken from legends and wushu depictions of asian martial arts. Meanwhile, the class art and minis were inspired almost exclusively by western monasticism.

Having spent a LOT of my life around christian clergy- including MANY monks- I can say I never saw any of them attempt a Flying Mare Kick*, nor use their rosaries as nunchucks or chain-whips.

Nor, for that matter, do D&D monks (at least up to 4Ed) have any of the out of combat abilities we associate with clergy and that are often modeled with spells in game. Given that christian monks are priests, that’s a bit of a giveaway as well.



* nor a Holy Mary kick
 

Arnwolf666

Adventurer
Wellllll...

The class elements were clearly taken from legends and wushu depictions of asian martial arts.

Meanwhile, the class art and minis were inspired almost exclusively by western monasticism.

Having spent a LOT of my life around christian clergy- including MANY monks, I can say I never saw any of them attempt a Flying Mare Kick*.





* nor a Holy Mary kick

and things evolve differently in different universes.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Political correctness in all instances is just another way of saying being a decent person

Eh, not if you know the history of the term. It's one of the reasons I have always disliked it as a self-identified badge of honor for being decent and respectful. Sticking with its historical context, it's a much better fit for something else that, if I named it, would definitely be a partisan tangent and frowned upon in this forum.
 

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