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D&D General Do Your Human Characters Match Your Ethnicity (etc)?

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
I am white and Hispanic, and most of the human characters I’ve played in D&D have been white or nondescript mixed-race. My characters range all across the gender, sex, and sexuality spectra though, whether human or otherwise.
 

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CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Not really, no. I tend to be all over the place with my characters. Over the last four years, I've played the following characters:

Cielo Azul: genasi (air) sorcerer, originally from the Plane of Air and sent to the Prime Plane to learn about her mother's side of the family. She is female, cis-het, and speaks with a Southwestern American accent (and I sprinkle them liberally with Spanish words and phrases.) Her skin is pale blue, but she would probably select "Hispanic" on a government census form here in the Real World.

Fafnir, Caller of Gales: dragonborn cleric of Bahamet (Storm domain). Nonbinary and asexual. When rolling up stats, I rolled a natural 5, and I put it into Dexterity--because of that, I gave them the Soldier background and a mithril leg brace. (Old war injury.) Speaks in a raspy, serpent-like voice similar to the Sleestacks of "Land of the Lost."

Weylen Cairn: human paladin who had contracted lycanthropy. He was male, White, cis-het, and I gave him Blackwall's voice (from the Dragon Age: Inquisition video game). Alas, he died on an ill-fated ocean voyage and was replaced with...

Vale Arborlon: human sorcerer, who had been warped by druid magic into a half-dryad hybrid. He would probably be classified as White (non-Caucasian) on a government census form. He speaks with a clipped, abrupt "television announcer" accent, and he is male and asexual.

Malachi Bontraegr: human warlock of the Raven Queen, with a custom background (he barely survived a vampire attack when he was younger). He was White, cis-het, married father of two, and had a Southeastern American accent. He was killed by a kraken in the later chapters of Storm King's Thunder.

Belarius Castella: (current active character) Dragonmarked human wizard of House Cannith. He is black, cis-het, and speaks with an American accent and a deep voice. For his character portrait, I use the Teferi planeswalker from Magic: the Gathering.

(I'm a White, cis-het male who grew up in Southern USA.)
 

aco175

Legend
I cannot remember playing a human in the last 30 years in any of my games. Even all the non-human characters are male and even with sexual situations hardly coming up in game, they were all heterosexual. Growing up none of the group I mostly played with played outside of this with one person who played woman roughly 1/2 the time.

All of this was mostly backseat unless it was needed, like when you need to know if your PC is right-handed or left-handed. I recall one of the older books say you should k=just be whatever your handiness is in real life for your PC. We must of just went with that for all the rest.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
Most of the times, or something relatively close - like scandinavian-type Illuskans from FR, Nords from Elder Scrolls , or nordic dwarf. I always get some sort of impostor syndrome when playing another specific ethnicity/culture, and I get too self-conscious about blatant stereotypes and bad accents to enjoy myself. So it doesn't matter if they "look" different (being elven or halfling or whatnot); ultimately they are more or less like my own culture.

Even when I play something different (truly alien characters notwithstanding), I still tend to play them as my culture (as integrated third or fourth generation immigrants).

In all honesty, I find the balance between inclusion of ethnicity/cultures different than my own, and cultural appropriation/stereotyping, difficult to achieve...

[edit] revised stance after further reflection:

Different ethnicity: very often.
Different culture (including that matching the said ethnicity); very rarely.
 
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Retreater

Legend
(Speaking when I get to be a player, which happens rarely.) Yeah. I guess most of my characters are white males, same as me on the surface, but different in many other ways. The settings I have typically played in assume a white default, generic Eurocentric fantasy. I have played aliens and droids in Star Wars, a mutant vulture in TMNT, but in most fantasy games (D&D/PF/etc), it's the white default that has been around for decades. One outlier I had was a teenager of East Indian decent in Shadowrun. However, even if the setting was in another culture, I would probably play a white guy.
Why a "guy?" Because if you're a female character, my experience is that someone is going to hit on you. I don't want to roleplay that with a DM (or other player). It's not right, and I don't do it in my games when I DM, but I just don't want to put up with that crap. I'm here to adventure, not to find romance. If I had a female character, she would be similarly focused on the mission, not getting free drinks at bars. (This has been a near 100% occurrence in every game I've played in that had female PCs.)
Why "white?" I don't want to risk being offensive. As someone who has done a lot of community theatre, I would never dream of playing Othello (or any other PoC character.) It's not my place to pretend to be another human ethnicity. I will do it for NPCs for limited times, as a novelist might try to write a black character, but I don't want to perform another ethnicity.
 


prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
In the past, most of my characters were a lot like me. Now, that's a good deal less true.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
White straight guy here.

As a DM I eventually have to play pretty much everything under the sun as an NPC, with - I'll freely admit - varying degrees of success: some character types, ethnicities, etc. are simply easier for me to portray than others.

As a player, my own characters end up about 50-50 split in total between males and females.

They're almost always white, or close, but within that are based on various different ethnicities both real and fictional.

Most but not all are straight, and level of promiscuity varies between characters from "frigid-or-repressed" to "try-anything-anytime" to "only-within-marriage" to "can't-be-bothered-I'm-too-busy-adventuring" to various other degrees - they're all different.
 

the Jester

Legend
All of this was mostly backseat unless it was needed, like when you need to know if your PC is right-handed or left-handed. I recall one of the older books say you should k=just be whatever your handiness is in real life for your PC.

Interestingly, I have a system for determining handedness in my games!

You roll 1d20 and 1d12. If the d20 is higher, you are right handed. If the d12 is higher, you are left handed. If they match, you are ambidextrous.
 

the Jester

Legend
When it comes to humans in my D&D campaigns, there is only ONE human race.

There is no sub-races.
There is no black, white, yellow, etc.
There is no Asian, European, African, etc.

The ONLY time I would consider such, is if I am in a RPG like Conan/Hyborian Age, where such things are part of the actual game/world.

Otherwise, a human is a human, PERIOD!

A player has the option to customize them with hair and eye color ONLY if they wish.

And even then, regardless of if they do or do not, it does not effect any game mechanics.

Okay, but how do you describe a given human? What color is his or her skin?

I agree that altering game mechanics based on ethnicity is troublesome, and I don't have a problem with what you're describing; but there are times when almost every group goes around and describes their characters. Sure, there's only one human race, but what do they look like? And though it may not matter in terms of mechanics, I started this thread out of curiosity about how we all represent our characters. I know one guy who, when he plays a variant human (the ones that start with a feat), always makes them ethnically non-white. He's not trying to be racist there; but as a white guy, it just feels right to him that "alternate" means anything that doesn't look like him. (And he seems to be oblivious to the idea that, yes, an alternate human could in fact be any ethnicity- the "alt" part is only mechanical. Despite my mentioning it on more than one occasion.)
 

the Jester

Legend
Most but not all are straight, and level of promiscuity varies between characters from "frigid-or-repressed" to "try-anything-anytime" to "only-within-marriage" to "can't-be-bothered-I'm-too-busy-adventuring" to various other degrees - they're all different.

On that score, my favorite of my characters was a very hot female elf who would be happy to sleep with anyone once she got to know them a little, but the catch was that, for an elf, getting to know you a little usually took longer than a human lifespan.
 

ccs

41st lv DM
When it comes to humans in my D&D campaigns, there is only ONE human race.

There is no sub-races.
There is no black, white, yellow, etc.
There is no Asian, European, African, etc.

The ONLY time I would consider such, is if I am in a RPG like Conan/Hyborian Age, where such things are part of the actual game/world.

Otherwise, a human is a human, PERIOD!

A player has the option to customize them with hair and eye color ONLY if they wish.

And even then, regardless of if they do or do not, it does not effect any game mechanics.

Yeah, but if there's no black/white/yellow/assorted pinkish & brownish tones/etc, what color are the humans?
I get that it makes no social difference, & certainly doesn't have any mechanical bearing, that's all fine & dandy. And not having any color, though a very odd human trait, is certainly..... inclusive.

But when I ask you what my character sees, what do you describe to me? Saying "He's Human colored." is bad storytelling as it doesn't reference anything.
Worse, it's going to inspire me to ask you ALOT of stupid descriptive questions about what color non-human things are.
We'll start with Drow....

If I paint a human mini for my character, what color do I make it? I ask because looking at my paints there's many of shades of everything on my rack, but "Human" isn't one of them.
And no matter what color I paint it, how is that not customizing my character?
 

Kinematics

Adventurer
Physically? Basically none. I do my best to make each new character unlike any other character I've played, so even if there was at some point in the past a character like me, there hasn't been one since.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
I'm very guilty of making my D&D characters idealized versions of myself. Even my Half-Orc Paladin while having green skill still has the same hair and eye color as I actually do. Now the characters' ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation have never come up in any of my games, but if they did they would be the same as my own.

Boring I know but this kind of 'power fantasy' is just about the most excellent escapism from my even more boring life.
 

Hussar

Legend
I DM and have done so far more than I've played. I've also, on various platforms, been playing online via VTT for about 20 years. Judging from the images that players choose for their character portraits, the vast majority will choose ethnicities very close to their own.

To be fair though, this is a bit of a chicken or the egg issue. If you want to find an image for your fantasy character that is outside the stereotype, it can be very difficult. You want to have an image of a human knight? Well, that human knight image is almost always going to show a white dude. Your knight is a black woman? Yeah, good luck with that.

Heck, I remember back in the late 2000s playing a Dark Sun game where I was playing a human warlock who was a Sidar from one of the city states (Raam AIR, although it's been a while) and I wanted to find a portrait of a wizard/warlock that wasn't white but also wasn't a tribal shaman. Never did find a good image for that. Pretty much the only thing I could find at the time was Jafar from Disney's Aladdin. :/

But, yeah, in any case, IME, players will choose images that dovetail with their ethnicity unless they are specifically playing a character that doesn't.
 

DammitVictor

Druid of the Invisible Hand
At the risk of sounding glib, it's rarely an option in games I play-- I am not white, I am primarily Germanic and Celtic, American ranging from fourth-generation immigrant to the people who watched the Mayflower landing.

A lot of D&D settings are made up of thinly-veiled or deliberate nod-and-wink analogues to real-world cultures, but I've never felt as if my cultural heritage has been represented by any of them-- there are always "Barbarians from the Frozen North", but they don't much look like my Nordic ancestors. Except for the Dwarves and (sometimes) the Elves, the Scots-Irish analogues are just vestiges of forgotten cultures within the English analogues-- don't get me started-- and there's nary a trace of the cultural forces that shaped my Irish-American roots. There are very rarely analogues to American Indian nations in D&D settings and when there are... they're not like my cultural experiences at all.

And that's probably a good thing, because nobody wants to play those games.

In more general terms... in D&D, my human PCs are always male. If my character is not a mammal, and their species is not strongly gendered, I often go female because I find it amusing to misgender mammal PCs and then correct them when they refer to my character as he. (Unless it's not funny, then it fades into the background until "go lay eggs" becomes an excuse for why I need to go do something.) I play more nongendered characters or completely genderfluid characters, such as changelings, than female characters.

To the extent my characters have a sexual orientation at all, they're only vaguely heteroseuxual and it's mostly in the background. Theoretically, I might play other sexual orientations-- most likely pan-- in a game where the other players are interested in exploring romances... otherwise, my characters are only heterosexual for political reasons.
 

DammitVictor

Druid of the Invisible Hand
I'm very guilty of making my D&D characters idealized versions of myself. Even my Half-Orc Paladin while having green skill still has the same hair and eye color as I actually do. Now the characters' ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation have never come up in any of my games, but if they did they would be the same as my own.

There is this, but since I always thought of myself as being multiracial... my characters tend to have darker skin and straighter hair than I have.
 

One time I asked how people here were with Humans that had skin and hair colours that no human in this world have naturally (such as dark grey or blue skin or natural green or blue hair), along with mixtures of features that are plausible in our world but not likely common at all (like East Asians with naturally blonde hair).

Most admitted they don't think of such things, but were more willing to have "unnatural" hair colours or mixed features that are quite rare naturally in our world. Most felt unnatural skin colours might cross the line on what they feel is Human and could go too far into things such as Planetouched and other hybrid near-Human races.
 

J-H

Adventurer
I don't care for all the political/token inclusivity/virtue signaling stuff, so I just look for what's fun to play. So far that's included a shady halfling of indeterminate ethnicity, and a Russian-accented Native American from the far north.

I'm basically limited by what sort of accent I can pull off. I can do Russian consistently, German if I want to, Indian unreliably, and some sort of Gaelic-ish thing at an even lower level of success.

Most of my time has been DMing, so for that I looked up a few tips on having a Romanian accent, and then ended up with something that sounds closer to Russian anyway. The 3,000 year old Mummy Lord was Egyptian, but who the heck knows what that sounded like anyway, right?

Overall, more of my concepts tend to be Native American-to-Inuit than anything else, because that's something that I'm familiar enough with to pull off.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
There is this, but since I always thought of myself as being multiracial... my characters tend to have darker skin and straighter hair than I have.
I think it's nice to be able to, how shall I put it? Explore or maybe even flex a part of yourself like that.

In perhaps a similar but much more superficial way my characters also tend to be (ok not tend to but actually every time) a few inches taller than I actually am, or more in the case of a Goliath. It's not that I'm short. I'm above average height. It's that I'm 1-2" shorter than my dad and brothers and wouldn't it be fun if in this game 'I' (that idealized version of myself) wasn't.
 

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