• Welcome to this new upgrade of the site. We are now on a totally different software platform. Many things will be different, and bugs are expected. Certain areas (like downloads and reviews) will take longer to import. As always, please use the Meta Forum for site queries or bug reports. Note that we (the mods and admins) are also learning the new software.
  • The RSS feed for the news page has changed. Use this link. The old one displays the forums, not the news.

Do orcs in gaming display parallels to colonialist propaganda?

Status
Not open for further replies.

Doug McCrae

Adventurer
[MENTION=6688277]Sadras[/MENTION] I'm mostly just trying to answer the questions posed by the OP -

Do orcs in gaming display parallels to colonialist propaganda? So I see people online claiming that orcs (or drow or any other savage humanoid race) often unconsciously represent cruel stereotypes of people of color and promote a colonialist narrative.
 

Bedrockgames

Villager
It's surely not a conspiracy theory to say that colonialist narratives and other racist ideas informed the authors of Appendix N works, and other 20th century media such as Westerns, and that those ideas made their way into 5e D&D both directly (ie from those media) and by way of earlier editions.

Also the thread title merely asks whether there are parallels with colonialist propaganda, which is a lesser claim. Frex there is a parallel between Warhammer's skaven and Nazi ideology but it's almost certainly merely an unfortunate coincidence.
Look at the OP again. It isn’t merely about whether parallels exist. It is about whether orcs promote a colonialist narrative.
 
It's surely not a conspiracy theory to say that colonialist narratives and other racist ideas informed the authors of Appendix N works, and other 20th century media such as Westerns, and that those ideas made their way into 5e D&D both directly (ie from those media) and by way of earlier editions.

Also the thread title merely asks whether there are parallels with colonialist propaganda, which is a lesser claim. Frex there is a parallel between Warhammer's skaven and Nazi ideology but it's almost certainly merely an unfortunate coincidence.
While there are parallels, the intent, context, and effects are highly different.

Racist propaganda are not works of fiction. They are lies deliberately crafted to obscure or refute the truth and to create a negative view of real people and presented as the truth.

Fictional accounts of orcs and other creatures are explicitly not those things.
 

Sadras

Explorer
@Sadras I'm mostly just trying to answer the questions posed by the OP -
Ofcourse, and I'm mostly just trying to state that in order for one to not see influences of colonialism, western bias and 19-20th century thought of what is unknown and monstrous you'd be left with maybe modrons (a relatively mechanical and futuristic being free of racial entanglements). I think we are on the same page, no?
 

Doug McCrae

Adventurer
It is just super common stuff you see if you read a lot of history where settled groups who perceive themselves as civilized describe the people around them who pose a threat as non-civilized.
D&D wasn't inspired by a wide reading of history. The only history that went into it was some medieval military history, which gets you polearms, plate mail, etc. Most of it is from Tolkien, Howard, Lovecraft, Burroughs and other relatively recent (ie last hundred years or so) fantasy and sci-fi novels, comic books, tv shows, movies, and the wider cultural environment. We know this because we know D&D's sources. Vampires are from Hammer horror. Walking skeletons are from Harryhausen, etc. We know all this stuff, it's been covered in great detail on social media for years.
 

Bedrockgames

Villager
D&D wasn't inspired by a wide reading of history. The only history that went into it was some medieval military history, which gets you polearms, plate mail, etc. Most of it is from Tolkien, Howard, Lovecraft, Burroughs and other relatively recent (ie last hundred years or so) fantasy and sci-fi novels, comic books, tv shows, movies, and the wider cultural environment. We know this because we know D&D's sources. Vampires are from Hammer horror. Walking skeletons are from Harryhausen, etc. We know all this stuff, it's been covered in great detail on social media for years.
But all those sources were inspired by a wide reading of history. Conan certainly was. Harryhausen certainly was. Not to mention so many of the other writers on Appendix N. Even if you just stick with vaguely European, a lot of these tropes about non-civilized and savage invaders can be applied to groups like Vikings, Celts and Germanic tribes as well.

EDIT: Also D&D is much bigger than Appendix N now. We are not just talking about orcs as they were conceived by Tolkien, or Gygax, we are talking about what they mean in D&D today and in RPGs in general today.
 
Last edited:

Sadras

Explorer
You know on the flipside of this argument...
Given the burning bloodlust, powergame-y, stat-dumped, critical-hitting, raging, murderbobo-ing, looting, pilfering, intimidating, deceitful, unethical, overly-righteous, preachy, delusional, power-hungry, boozing attitude of many PCs, I'd have to seriously question the idea that they are civilised any more so than the orcs.

The savage invader moniker can easily be turned onto the PC since he is the one who is constantly invading, exacting savagery for the primary purposes of becoming better at it. In order to shake this idea of the PCs being colonialists we need to play more nuanced more enlightened characters otherwise we perpetuate this colonial spirit.

Any moment now @Doug McCrae will post excerpts from prominent colonialists and compare them to various texts within the Player's Handbook. :p
 

Bedrockgames

Villager
You know on the flipside of this argument...
Given the burning bloodlust, powergame-y, stat-dumped, critical-hitting, raging, murderbobo-ing, looting, pilfering, intimidating, deceitful, unethical, overly-righteous, preachy, delusional, power-hungry, boozing attitude of many PCs, I'd have to seriously question the idea that they are civilised any more so than the orcs.
That is a completely cool approach to play. And it is one where you might need to employ the orc trope in order to make your point.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
Nope. But, we do need the option. Juliet of Romeo and Juliet was played by a boy for a long, long time. Does that mean that every single stage and movie production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet must feature a boy playing Juliet?

We're obsessing with Tolkien because invoking Tolkien is pretty much the same as Godwinning a thread. It must be obsessed over. :D But, if you'd like, we can point to a swath of works all the way up to current day showing the direct connection between "brutish humanoid" and depictions of various minorities.

The fact that suggesting that PoC play elves in the new Amazon version of LotR creates a storm of folks coming out of the woodwork to decry it, shows that this isn't just some academic issue that only a few people know about.

It shouldn't matter one whit that PoC play elves in Tolkien. If they want to have Idris Alba play Elrond, it shouldn't matter at all.

But it does. And that's the problem.



So, when a player declares that he's slaughtering the non-combatants, orc babies for example, you have zero problem? It's perfectly acceptable to commit genocide on these creatures? After all, they have no free will. They aren't capable of anything but evil, so, killing them is perfectly fine, regardless of circumstance.

I don't know about you, but, that notion makes my skin crawl. Why not just use demons? After all, that's what you've done - made demons (unredeemable evil) and put them in meat suits that are linked to racist depictions of minorities.

You really have no idea why someone seeing that might have an issue?
It more I don't care if the someone online has an issue as at our table orcs are just evil orcs. Having 1-2 HD demons swarming around the Prime material plane with the same frequency doesn't work with the fiction of the setting. And honestly until this thread I had never had anyone say to me that orcs were a stand in for blacks or some other ethnicity and it never occurred to me. If some view them that way fine, I encounter those who find offense and various -ism's pretty much everywhere, sometimes validly. But good old 1e out of the MM orcs work just fine for our game of dungeon bashing and loot taking and everyone at the table just view it as a game of maybe heroic adventurers, fantastic locations, and the monsters who are holding their loot. The monsters are just monsters. Orcs are orcs, gnolls are gnolls, etc. So do I get it that people have used bestial language to describe real life ethnic groups? Of course. Does that mean I'm going to avoid using bestial descriptions of chaotic monsters in my games? Of course not. Again orcs are orcs and they are creatures of chaos and evil. Not as pure concentrated evil as demons but fundamentally tainted by design.

As for the wee orcs. Doesn't come up that much in the game since usually they don't encounter the massive tribe, just warrior raiding outposts. But I'd give 1 XP for the orclings. Most of the XP is in loot anyway.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
Let's see.

@Doug McCrae makes reasoned arguments, citing the source material. And notes that he is saying, per the OP, that this is about-

"Do orcs in gaming display parallels to colonialist propaganda? So I see people online claiming that orcs (or drow or any other savage humanoid race) often unconsciously represent cruel stereotypes of people of color and promote a colonialist narrative."

You know ... parallels .... unconscious representations. Not that every D&D player and DM ever is a racist.


Meanwhile, other people are all like -Nah. That's a bunch of academic gibberish. Working class people in Boston when I was growing up were never racist.*

Or variants of, BUT WHAT ABOUT VIKINGS!**

Good talk. :)


*I'm guessing it wasn't Roxbury. Not to put too fine a point on it, but from Charles Stuart to Adam Jones, it's not common to use the Hub as the go-to example for color-blind bona fides.

**Yeah, I am simplifying and parodying positions here, but ... well, look at the last few posts. It's hard to move forward if you can't even acknowledge the past.
 
Last edited:

Sadras

Explorer
But I'd give 1 XP for the orclings.
The laugh is for this comment, otherwise I'd have given you an XP.
You seriously give 1XP for orclings, so you're incentivising them to become baby-slayers in your game? Very King Herod/Joffrey of you :lol:

I suppose it is like those video-games that incentivise bad behaviour. Usually when I have done that it (introduced wee-folk) it is to raise a complication/dilemma. Once a PC druid retired his character by declaring that his druid would take and raise the surviving 4 wee-gnolls in an attempt to extinguish their inherent evil taint.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
The laugh is for this comment, otherwise I'd have given you an XP.
You seriously give 1XP for orclings, so you're incentivising them to become baby-slayers in your game? Very King Herod/Joffrey of you :lol:

I suppose it is like those video-games that incentivise bad behaviour. Usually when I have done that it (introduced wee-folk) it is to raise a complication/dilemma. Once a PC druid retired his character by declaring that his druid would take and raise the surviving 4 wee-gnolls in an attempt to extinguish their inherent evil taint.
I was kind of joking there. though if you were taking it out to the logical extreme killing orclings before they can become full sized evil pig nosed brutes you are really just making your job easier on yourself so it should be full XP.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
Let's see.

@Doug McCrae makes reasoned arguments, citing the source material. And notes that he is saying, per the OP, that this is about-

"Do orcs in gaming display parallels to colonialist propaganda? So I see people online claiming that orcs (or drow or any other savage humanoid race) often unconsciously represent cruel stereotypes of people of color and promote a colonialist narrative."

You know ... parallels .... unconscious representations. Not that every D&D player and DM ever is a racist.


Meanwhile, other people are all like -Nah. That's a bunch of academic gibberish. Working class people in Boston when I was growing up were never racist.*

Or variants of, BUT WHAT ABOUT VIKINGS!**

Good talk. :)


*I'm guessing it wasn't Roxbury. Not to put too fine a point on it, but from Charles Stuart to Adam Jones, it's not common to use the Hub as the go-to example for color-blind bona fides.

**Yeah, I am simplifying and parodying positions here, but ... well, look at the last few posts. It's hard to move forward if you can't even acknowledge the past.
You also have to understand where these people are coming from, such as where Holocaust denial is fine as "Free Speech," and their leader posts threads about supporting neo-nazis as they assault women, gays, etc., plus Rosa Parks is evil; and if you dissent, you are banned. Just saying. We're giving them a much better chance, or forum for their views then they would ever give us.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
You also have to understand where these people are coming from, such as where Holocaust denial is fine as "Free Speech," and their leader posts threads about supporting neo-nazis as they assault women, gays, etc., plus Rosa Parks is evil; and if you dissent, you are banned. Just saying. We're giving them a much better chance, or forum for their views then they would ever give us.
Well ... I wouldn't go that far.

I can't speak for everyone in this thread (and there were a few dubious posts earlier), but I think some people struggle with some of these ideas. Mostly ... well, mostly old white guys.

And I can somewhat sympathize with that, being an older white guy. It's hard to come to terms with things you took for granted for a long time. I mean, I want to think that I've done well in life because I'm awesome and smart and amazing and good looking and people like me.

THEY REALLY REALLY LIKE ME! :)

But it's also true that I've had a lot of things break my way, because of ... well, you know ...

And it's not just that. I mean, I like the things that I like! I don't want to think that some of those things might be ... well, maybe not wholesome? Not perfect in every way? Thinking about that makes me uncomfortable, and I don't like to feel uncomfortable.

Also? I'm used to having my opinion and voice heard. And so I don't understand when my opinion of how other people feel isn't valued. I wish I was totally joking here ... but I'm not.

Things change. I'm trying to change, too. I'm hoping that impulse includes more of our friends, here. :)
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
Well ... I wouldn't go that far.

I can't speak for everyone in this thread (and there were a few dubious posts earlier), but I think some people struggle with some of these ideas. Mostly ... well, mostly old white guys.

And I can somewhat sympathize with that, being an older white guy. It's hard to come to terms with things you took for granted for a long time. I mean, I want to think that I've done well in life because I'm awesome and smart and amazing and good looking and people like me.

THEY REALLY REALLY LIKE ME! :)

But it's also true that I've had a lot of things break my way, because of ... well, you know ...

And it's not just that. I mean, I like the things that I like! I don't want to think that some of those things might be ... well, maybe not wholesome? Not perfect in every way? Thinking about that makes me uncomfortable, and I don't like to feel uncomfortable.

Also? I'm used to having my opinion and voice heard. And so I don't understand when my opinion of how other people feel isn't valued. I wish I was totally joking here ... but I'm not.

Things change. I'm trying to change, too. I'm hoping that impulse includes more of our friends, here. :)
I was just stating my experience with some of them.

Sure, I hope people change. TBH, I don't expect people to be perfect, but if they double down on the dumbness, well ...

You are right, there is a situational awareness to it all.
 

Bedrockgames

Villager
You also have to understand where these people are coming from, such as where Holocaust denial is fine as "Free Speech," and their leader posts threads about supporting neo-nazis as they assault women, gays, etc., plus Rosa Parks is evil; and if you dissent, you are banned. Just saying. We're giving them a much better chance, or forum for their views then they would ever give us.
I am not interested in getting into cross forum drama but anyone who saw my posts as those topics came up would see, with the exception of things like free speech (which I believe in very strongly) I was opposed to each of those things. And very vocal about my opinion.
 

Sadras

Explorer
You also have to understand where these people are coming from, such as where Holocaust denial is fine as "Free Speech," and their leader posts threads about supporting neo-nazis as they assault women, gays, etc., plus Rosa Parks is evil; and if you dissent, you are banned. Just saying. We're giving them a much better chance, or forum for their views then they would ever give us.
So if people don't agree with everything, they will be equated to the vilest RL people of history. Seems fair, nothing wrong with that, carry on regardless. I wonder how many will take issue with this post. :erm:
 
Last edited:

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
I am not interested in getting into cross forum drama but anyone who saw my posts as those topics came up would see, with the exception of things like free speech (which I believe in very strongly) I was opposed to each of those things. And very vocal about my opinion.
I'm not interested in the drama either, you survive because you are a mod there. Still it behooves the subject to merely state the truth of the matter.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Advertisement

Top