D&D General Fantasy Racism in D&D

Voranzovin

Explorer
The PC I'm playing right now is actually mildly bigoted...against his own half-elvish ancestry.

The campaign takes place in Sigil, so the DM gave us a fair amount of leeway to construct the prime material plane we come from. I thought it would be interesting to subvert some of the common tropes about Elves. In this world, they're not a proud and magical elder race--they're dirty hippies who spend all their time in the forest getting high on trees, and humans do not like them. In the popular human imagination they have a lot of the worst connotations of the Fair Folk, including, among the most bigoted, the (entirely false) belief that they steal human babies to create new elves.

Imagine you met a homeless person in a modern-ish city who was almost supernaturally beautiful, speaks like Legolas--the trees and the grass do not now remember them: Only I hear the stones lament them: deep they delved us, fair they wrought us, high they builded us, but they are gone, they are gone, they sought the Havens long ago, probably has unknown magical powers, and never sleeps, and you might get some idea of why humans regard them as alternately pitiful, dangerous, or insane. Humans being what we are, this turns very easily into hate.

My character's father probably intended to stick around and be a good dad by human standards, but he got distracted and whoops, a decade and a half went by and his son grew up without a father. Felix is not happy about this. He's also not happy about having to deal with anti-elvish bigotry, which paradoxically assumes both that he must be a conniving and untrustworthy fey mastermind and that he must be an incompetent wastrel who only graduated summa cum laude from a magic academy because his fey ancestry gave him an unfair advantage in magical studies. (It didn't. He learned to be a wizard the hard way, just like everybody else). He went through a period as a teenager of idolizing his elvish heritage, and was then bitterly disappointed by the actual elves he met. The result is that he both suffers from anti-elvish bigotry, and engages in it, distrusting other elves on sight. He learned elvish because one must do so, as a wizard, to decipher some ancient magical writings. He primarily uses it to tell anyone who wants to talk to him about the melody of the light on the leaves of the mallorn tree to **** off in their own language (which was itself something of an achievement--it actually takes quite a lot of linguistic acumen to figure out how to swear in elvish).

Now that he's in Sigil where elves are treated very differently by the society around them, he may get something of an awakening about this. But the campaign hasn't really gone in a direction that would force him to come to grips with it yet.
 
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DammitVictor

Druid of the Invisible Hand
I am inordinately fond of playing the half-orc Fighter/Assassin who grew up on the streets with a burning hatred orcs-- for the sake of his poor saintly mother-- and no real love for humanity, either, until by some contrivance he learns that it was his mother who was the orc, that he may have been orphaned but he was not a bastard, and that his father was actually a hero of some renown.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
For the most part, it is. Humans are hardwired to protect "us" from "them". It's not going away any time in the near (or far) future. That's why anything that focuses on how different groups of people are, no matter how well intentioned, generally tends to inflame racism and other schism. The only solution for racism is to make race not part of the definition of "us" or "them". Which is a lot easier said than done.

Thats not entirely true, while humans are very tribal we know that in Roman/Greek times (for instance) that colour wasnt really an issue. The main division had Ethnos/Natio (Nation of origin) as the defining feature that distinguished people as Foreigners.
While the phenotype of both Africans (dark skins) and Germans (pale skins, blond, blue eyes) were both commented on by Romans and Greeks as being defects varying from the Roman standard, there was no stigma beyond its foreigness.
Africans (Aethiopes) were not uncommon throughout the Roman Empire (including Britain) and participated fully as normal citizens. Most of the slaves in Rome were of European origin

Racism as we know it today is a 19th century creation arising from colonisation.
 
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Mercule

Adventurer
Thats not entirely true, while humans are very tribal we know that in Roman/Greek times (for instance) that colour wasnt really an issue. The main division had Ethnos/Natio (Nation of origin) as the defining feature that distinguished people as Foreigners.
While the phenotype of both Africans (dark skins) and Germans (pale skins, blond, blue eyes) were both commented on by Romans and Greeks as being defects varying from the Roman standard, there was no stigma beyond its foreigness.
Africans (Aethiopes) were not uncommon throughout the Roman Empire (including Britain) and participated fully as normal citizens. Most of the slaves in Rome were of European origin

Racism as we know it today is a 19th century creation arising from colonisation.
I think your example actually is strongly in line with my point. I never said that color was inherent to the us/them dichotomy. It happens to be the axis around which it's spun for the last few centuries, but that's beside the point. Humans tend to view this tribally, even if that tribe is large and/or completely separate from biology (look at college sports). The fact that Greco-Roman prejudice managed to integrate various "races" but retained prejudice along other lines is exactly what I was saying about xenophobia.

And, yes, they did retain stigma. It's just that there was a degree of Roman-ness (we'd call it imperialism) and a path to becoming "more Roman". Exactly what that looked like depends on what era you're talking about. During the Kingdom period, even when they controlled most of the peninsula, if you weren't from Rome, you had a different set of laws and tax code.
 
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AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
Just understand that, when the focus is on differences and division, it serves to deepen the division. And, humans will naturally find some way to identify "the other". I think it's possible to fix the racial rift, but I'll side with MLK over Malcolm X, every day of the week. Unfortunately, we have more Malcolm X right now. That may be political, and I apologize if it is. There's a political banner at the top of the site, though, so I assume it's an allowed topic.
Not in this thread, it's not. This is not on topic.
 

Mercule

Adventurer
Not in this thread, it's not. This is not on topic.
Fair. I reread the topic, rather than the specific post. You're correct that I wandered off-topic. It's a mighty-fine line to toe. I'll go back and remove that paragraph. Remove or leave your quote of me, as you see fit. I'm not backing away from the statements, just agreeing that they don't belong here.
 

jgsugden

Legend
I've had it as a theme in many campaigns and many isolated adventures. Rather simplistically.

However, I am trying to reconsider how to approach it in the future, and what I've done in the past will likely not be a large factor in the decision.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Depends on the setting, to be honest.

In Forgotten Realms, I run things as close to the Core assumptions as possible, leaving room for the orc or drow PC who breaks the mold. They are going to be looked at askance until they prove themselves to be an ally, not a threat. That said, most are given the benefit of the doubt unless they are acting aggressive or there are a lot of them.

In Eberron, its far less pronounced. There is some prejudice against shifters, warforged, and changlings (and some general distrust against goblins, orcs, and monstrous races due to thier position in the war) but there is far more Nationalism than Racism; a human would care if an goblin was Breeish first, goblin second.

In Ravnica, your guild means far more than your race ever will. Race is practically a non-issue, save maybe for Simic Hybrids.

In Greyhawk, even the "good" races exhibit some intolerance against each other. Elves look down thier noses at humans, dwarves and elves still engage in skirmishes over pride and resources, a tiefling is automatically assumed to be a spy of Iuz and half-orcs are routinely blamed for crimes they didn't commit. Needless to say, orcs and drow don't get a fair shake here and most react to that with a hefty dose of returned prejudice.

In Sigil, nobody cares who you are or what you look like Berk!

In Ravenloft, everything not human (or can pass as human) is feared. Elves, dwarves, and halflings get some pass (depending on the domain) but the farther you go from that, the more likely the torches and pitchforks are coming out. of course, an individual domain will break this general assumption (like Sithicus).

I haven't run (or know enough about) Athas, Krynn, Exandria or Theros to give a clean accounting for them, but my limited knowledge runs a similar gamut to those above.

I change it to match the setting.

If Drow raid and are lolthites being a Drow is gonna be rough.

I've had PCs impale them or encounter them staked out into the ground if captured.

If I'm running my Drow as evil but very reclusive no one really knows they exist so they get a pass as "funny looking elves".

Elves are baddies in current game. They're not killed on site but rarely travel solo. The only Elf they've met is a shifty one with an escape plan.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
Update (see my post #37):
We finished the one-shot in two sessions.
Both groups went into the haunted house. The all-human NPC group explored a little bit on their own and tripped a trap. They headed back to town while we stayed to figure out the mystery. Back in town they told everybody we were goners, and they left. We did figure it out and went back to town. Everybody looked at us like we were monsters (as before) and ghosts (new) and likely dangerously powerful (new).
 

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