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


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Vaalingrade

Legend
Hiya!

They are all the same... not attributing to real people in reality. I think that's where we aren't seeing eye to eye.

In ALL of those cases, I'm not actually doing anything to anyone...because they are all fictional characters.

Here's exactly where the 'they're fictional' argument breaks down: How would you feel about a player coming to your table playing a character who is a purposeful real world racial stereotype?

Is that okay because it's 'fictional' too? Please explain why or why not.

If it's not okay, how does that differ from mocking neurodivergent people?
 




A lot of his argument was that the game (D&D) was training kids to be morally bad people in real life.
Here comes the new moral panic, same as the old moral panic.

But I don't think you can really take a "you are Jack Chick with a different moral fixation" argument very far with anyone here. They are, after all, presumably all on board with the proposition that we should play TTRPGs, something which Chick was distinctly not on board with.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
If I understand what you said correctly, part of your position is that being able to act out doing something in-game correlates to real-life behavior.

Have I understood that correctly?

It seems to me that it isn't about "acting out doing something in game". The game isn't the issue - it is the behavior in a social group that accepts and reinforces it.

It is about being comfortable mocking people for what they are. Playing D&D, or going bowling and telling slur-laden jokes with your buddies is much the same in that regard. The material bit is having a protective social unit that allows you to engage in such discriminatory nonsense, and feel like it is socially acceptable to do so.
 

Argyle King

Legend
It seems to me that it isn't about "acting out doing something in game".

It is about being comfortable mocking people for what they are. The game is not the material bit. Playing D&D, or going bowling and telling slur-laden jokes with your buddies is much the same in that regard. The material bit is having a protective social unit that allows you to engage in such discriminatory nonsense, and feel like it is socially acceptable to do so.

I think that's a fair assessment.

If slurs and such are involved, I think that's taking more steps.

Hypothetically, would bowling while discussing the XP values of killing be viewed by you as better or worse?
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
If I understand what you said correctly, part of your position is that being able to act out doing something in-game correlates to real-life behavior.

Have I understood that correctly?
You have not.

Let me try explaining it a different way. Imagine, for a moment, that you’re someone who isn’t very bright. Like, not severely so, but you struggle with a certain complex tasks that your peers seem to be able to grasp with ease. Imagine that, for all your life, you’ve been mocked for this. In school, other kids called you names and did cartoonish impressions of you. Now, imagine you hear about this game called D&D. It sounds fun. You give it a try. While playing this game, one of the other players at the table plays a character with an 8 intelligence (slightly below average). They portray this character as practically incapable of counting past 10. They talk in a voice that sounds a lot like the voices your bullies used to use when doing mocking impressions of you. Everyone else at the table laughs at his antics. How do you think this would make you feel? Do you think you would want to keep playing this game?

Now imagine instead that you’re someone who just straight-up doesn’t like people with mental disabilities. You know that isn’t a very popular opinion, so you mostly keep it to yourself. But behind closed doors, you just don’t like them. Now imagine you also play D&D. And one of your friends who plays it with you has a character with 8 intelligence, and plays him like I described in the previous paragraph. How would that make you feel? Would you want to keep playing D&D? Would you perhaps be more willing to risk letting a joke at the expense of the mentally disabled slip from time to time with that group?

Now think about what kind of environment such portrayals might foster in the long-term.
 


Mordhau

Adventurer
Part of the issue here with this thread is there is no real clear behaviour being discussed.

If for example I know a nuerologically divergent person and I based my character on that person and I also make them a figure of comic relief then it seems hard to say I am not doing something wrong.

1) I am not actively hurting that person (presumably). They will never know what I am doing so they will not be hurt by it directly (in theory). So as people have said, the issue is not direct harm or offence.
2) By doing so I am normalising mocking mentally disabled people. Everyone is laughing at my impersonation so I am normalising the impression that such people are worthy of mockery. This seems to be the main argument, and it's a plausible one. I probably am reinforcing certain attitudes and behaviour - though it might be possible to argue that in circumstances in which everyone knows the behaviour would be wrong in other circumstances to argue that it is a form of cathartic taboo breaking. (I tend to find it dubious that this still doesn't involve some kind of normalisation).
3) You are being inauthentic. (I've seen no one make this point yet, but it seems pretty obvious to me). You are behaving in a way that should it be recorded and shown to someone who is not present but would be hurt by it you would feel ashamed (one would hope). A behaviour that is only ok so long as it is hidden is a dubious one. (This assumes that we do value authenticity of character - but this is a pretty strong element of our culture. We tend to be hurt when we find out that people we know are behaving inauthentically with us in even minor ways.)
 

It seems to me that it isn't about "acting out doing something in game". The game isn't the issue - it is the behavior in a social group that accepts and reinforces it.

It is about being comfortable mocking people for what they are. Playing D&D, or going bowling and telling slur-laden jokes with your buddies is much the same in that regard. The material bit is having a protective social unit that allows you to engage in such discriminatory nonsense, and feel like it is socially acceptable to do so.

Yes.

Where the comparison to murder fails is that it's a fictional character killing somebody. Yes, it's you the player controlling that fictional character, but it's still happening in fiction.

When you roleplay certain character traits with hurtful stereotypes the hurtful thing isn't happening in-game, it's happening at the table. Your character isn't mocking people, you the player are.
 

You have not.

Let me try explaining it a different way. Imagine, for a moment, that you’re someone who isn’t very bright. Like, not severely so, but you struggle with a certain complex tasks that your peers seem to be able to grasp with ease. Imagine that, for all your life, you’ve been mocked for this. In school, other kids called you names and did cartoonish impressions of you. Now, imagine you hear about this game called D&D. It sounds fun. You give it a try. While playing this game, one of the other players at the table plays a character with an 8 intelligence (slightly below average). They portray this character as practically incapable of counting past 10. They talk in a voice that sounds a lot like the voices your bullies used to use when doing mocking impressions of you. Everyone else at the table laughs at his antics. How do you think this would make you feel? Do you think you would want to keep playing this game?

Now imagine instead that you’re someone who just straight-up doesn’t like people with mental disabilities. You know that isn’t a very popular opinion, so you mostly keep it to yourself. But behind closed doors, you just don’t like them. Now imagine you also play D&D. And one of your friends who plays it with you has a character with 8 intelligence, and plays him like I described in the previous paragraph. How would that make you feel? Would you want to keep playing D&D? Would you perhaps be more willing to risk letting a joke at the expense of the mentally disabled slip from time to time with that group?

Now think about what kind of environment such portrayals might foster in the long-term.

I agree with all of this.

AND....it occurs to me that maybe we should stop emphasizing the RPG context. Some people keep defending all sorts of behaviors because "it's just a game". And maybe, by only focusing on what happens at a D&D table, we're clouding the water. Because I don't think the question is really whether it's ok to portray the neurodivergent in a mocking way in a roleplaying game, but rather whether it's ok* to do so in a social activity with other people, of which RPGs are but one example.

*"ok" in the sense of is "is it making the world slightly better, or slightly worse?"
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Hypothetically, would bowling while discussing the XP values of killing be viewed by you as better or worse?

Game combat is not real combat*.

But if you mockingly play a low-Intelligence character, or mockingly tell jokes, you are engaged in the activity of mocking. You aren't pretending to mock - you are actually doing it, just in a different medium. Mocking in song, mocking in prose, mocking in doodles, mocking in RPG play - it is all still mocking.



*If you are talking about assigning XP values to real people, however, that's a different story. I'd find that problematic. Similarly, building a dungeon in which the monsters are directly representative of your classmates and teachers would be a problem.
 


Argyle King

Legend
You have not.

Let me try explaining it a different way. Imagine, for a moment, that you’re someone who isn’t very bright. Like, not severely so, but you struggle with a certain complex tasks that your peers seem to be able to grasp with ease. Imagine that, for all your life, you’ve been mocked for this. In school, other kids called you names and did cartoonish impressions of you. Now, imagine you hear about this game called D&D. It sounds fun. You give it a try. While playing this game, one of the other players at the table plays a character with an 8 intelligence (slightly below average). They portray this character as practically incapable of counting past 10. They talk in a voice that sounds a lot like the voices your bullies used to use when doing mocking impressions of you. Everyone else at the table laughs at his antics. How do you think this would make you feel? Do you think you would want to keep playing this game?

Now imagine instead that you’re someone who just straight-up doesn’t like people with mental disabilities. You know that isn’t a very popular opinion, so you mostly keep it to yourself. But behind closed doors, you just don’t like them. Now imagine you also play D&D. And one of your friends who plays it with you has a character with 8 intelligence, and plays him like I described in the previous paragraph. How would that make you feel? Would you want to keep playing D&D? Would you perhaps be more willing to risk letting a joke at the expense of the mentally disabled slip from time to time with that group?

Now think about what kind of environment such portrayals might foster in the long-term.

How I would feel would depend upon more context than what is given here.

Assuming the specific people, specific situation, and specific behaviors you've outline - I imagine I might feel a particularly negative way.

But even that depends. Are the other players random people at Adventurer's League?

If so, I can imagine that being off-putting and offensive. (Truth be told, I already find some of the behavior at AL somewhat off-putting at times.)

Are the other players people I've known for a while? Razzing each other isn't entirely off brand for my friends. Though, I'd concede there's a line between normally giving each other crap and making it hurtful.

As for the second scenario you've outlined:

No, someone else's behavior wouldn't prompt me to feel that I should use slurs that I would otherwise be uncomfortable with using.

While I do not have personal experience with harboring bigotry, I would imagine that someone with a burning hatred of a group of people would try to find ways to act upon that which extends beyond the play-space of a D&D group.

If I were someone harboring resentment toward people with cognitive disabilities and found that I was spending my leisure time belittling and torturing imaginary caricatures of such people, I believe there would come a point when I would need to re-evaluate my own life and what lead to that being a highlight of how I'm living week-to-week.
 

Argyle King

Legend
Game combat is not real combat*.

But if you mockingly play a low-Intelligence character, or mockingly tell jokes, you are engaged in the activity of mocking. You aren't pretending to mock - you are actually doing it, just in a different medium. Mocking in song, mocking in prose, mocking in doodles, mocking in RPG play - it is all still mocking.



*If you are talking about assigning XP values to real people, however, that's a different story. I'd find that problematic. Similarly, building a dungeon in which the monsters are directly representative of your classmates and teachers would be a problem.

The first part of your statement is why I made the comment I made a few posts ago.

The lines being drawn between what the game is really teaching someone to do has, in the past, varied depending upon the argument being made.

Taking that further, my next question would be: how interactive does a play experience need to be before it is considered real?

That's a question which leads into how other entertainment media (books, movies, video games, VR, and etc) are sometimes critiqued against real-world violence or whatever a particular critic feels is morally wrong behavior.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
The first part of your statement is why I made the comment I made a few posts ago.

The lines being drawn between what the game is really teaching someone to do has, in the past, varied depending upon the argument being made.
Nobody is talking about what the game is “teaching someone to do.”
 

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