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D&D 5E Don't play "stupid" characters. It is ableist.

ad_hoc

(he/they)
When you play 'stupid' characters are you are saying that there are stupid people and then you are imitating those people.

The idea of 'stupid' and 'smart' is rooted in ableism.

Don't use stats as an excuse. Having an 8 Int means (basically) that the character is slightly worse at memorizing facts than an average human.

Do have traits and behaviours which hinder the character (if you want).

Maybe they are not very knowledgeable.

Maybe they don't pay attention much of the time.

Maybe they engage in risky behaviour and think rashly.

Maybe they lack confidence because they have been called 'stupid' their whole lives.

Maybe they find themselves in a culture which is very different than their own and they struggle to adapt. Their common isn't very good and the way they view the world is different than those around them.

There are lots of possibilities to create interesting characters rather than just a walking insult and punching bag.
 

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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
When you play 'stupid' characters are you are saying that there are stupid people and then you are imitating those people.

Well, given that we are coming up on Thanksgiving, I can reliably tell you that not only are there stupid people, but I will be forced to sit and eat with them for hours.

It is possible that I will survive, either through noise-cancelling earbuds, copious amounts of alcohol, or (checks notes) ... both.
 

cowpie

Explorer
Characters are fictional, and fictional things cannot really hurt you. If an RPG character is portrayed as "stupid", usually as a simple caricature, they are just make believe. As long as the players are able to separate reality from make believe, then nobody will take the "stupid" character's behavior seriously.

This is like saying that if you play a Friday the 13th RPG, then you think this actually promotes a guy in a hockey mask killing camp counselors. It's just make believe. It doesn't mean you are pro-murder, pro-hockey mask, pro-maniac, or anti camp counselor. It's only a movie, and respectfully, RPGs are only games we are playing, while eating Cheetos, and drinking Mountain Dew with our friends.
 



cowpie

Explorer
Tripping and hitting your head actually hurts you. Sitting in a basement, privately playing an RPG does not. While there are stories that have affected people's opinions, a story one plays in one's basement is not going to have any real affect on all of history and fiction. It's not going to really affect the world at all.
 




cowpie

Explorer
You could perpetuate harmful stereotypes which goes beyond your table. Being mindful of this isnt being too sensitive or unrealistic.
Sure, it's possible, but if you understand sophisticated comedy, and are mindful, then you should be able to play a stupid character that doesn't perpetuate harmful stereotypes. For example, I once played a PC that was like the black knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He was definitely a stupid person. However, he was a ridiculous caricature who no one in their right mind would actually think was a realistic depiction of a real person, or hurting anyone. The whole point was to poke fun at macho hollywood movie stereotypes. It's obvious from the whole cartoon-ish scene he was in. Do you really think that's being "ableist"?
 

Tripping and hitting your head actually hurts you. Sitting in a basement, privately playing an RPG does not. While there are stories that have affected people's opinions, a story one plays in one's basement is not going to have any real affect on all of history and fiction. It's not going to really affect the world at all.
I may have errored in thinking that your D&D games involved more than one person. Those other people can be hurt by the stereotypes you perpetuate. And you can be hurt by theirs. Recognizing this means that your stories have power.
 


cowpie

Explorer
I may have errored in thinking that your D&D games involved more than one person. Those other people can be hurt by the stereotypes you perpetuate. And you can be hurt by theirs. Recognizing this means that your stories have power.
We all have a session zero where we mutually agree this is ok, and no one has a problem with it.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
Characters are fictional, and fictional things cannot really hurt you. If an RPG character is portrayed as "stupid", usually as a simple caricature, they are just make believe. As long as the players are able to separate reality from make believe, then nobody will take the "stupid" character's behavior seriously.

This is like saying that if you play a Friday the 13th RPG, then you think this actually promotes a guy in a hockey mask killing camp counselors. It's just make believe. It doesn't mean you are pro-murder, pro-hockey mask, pro-maniac, or anti camp counselor. It's only a movie, and respectfully, RPGs are only games we are playing, while eating Cheetos, and drinking Mountain Dew with our friends.
Your analogy doesn’t work because the original critique isn’t “playing stupid characters means you’re pro… stupidity(?),” it’s “playing stupid characters is distasteful because it reinforces stereotypes about neurodivergent people.”
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
Sure, it's possible, but if you understand sophisticated comedy, and are mindful, then you should be able to play a stupid character that doesn't perpetuate harmful stereotypes. For example, I once played a PC that was like the black knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He was definitely a stupid person. However, he was a ridiculous caricature who no one in their right mind would actually think was a realistic depiction of a real person, or hurting anyone. The whole point was to poke fun at macho hollywood movie stereotypes. It's obvious from the whole cartoon-ish scene he was in. Do you really think that's being "ableist"?
Just going to point out that none of what you’re describing here is particularly sophisticated comedy. But no, the black knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail is not ableist. He’s also not the kind of “stupid” character OP is talking about.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
When you play 'stupid' characters are you are saying that there are stupid people and then you are imitating those people.

The idea of 'stupid' and 'smart' is rooted in ableism.

Don't use stats as an excuse. Having an 8 Int means (basically) that the character is slightly worse at memorizing facts than an average human.
I go by the original idea that a non-extreme Int score vaguely equates to an IQ score divided by ten. Thus, Int 8 represents an IQ in the high 70s or low 80s. Play that as you will.
Maybe they don't pay attention much of the time.

Maybe they engage in risky behaviour and think rashly.
Both of these are traits I ascribe more to low Wis than low Int, and both are common features of the numerous low-Wisdom characters I've played. :)
Maybe they find themselves in a culture which is very different than their own and they struggle to adapt. Their common isn't very good and the way they view the world is different than those around them.
This one, while good for roleplay, isn't necessarily tied to Int. in that any character no matter how smart could run into the same problems.
 


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