D&D 5E Fivethirtyeight Article About D&D Race and Class Combos

No, that's not how we end up with misunderstandings. If I say Tolkien's racial patterns are deeply problematic, that's not "sit{ting} around calling each other racist." It is a statement directed at the writings of someone, and even if you ignore the ellipsis and claim I'm calling Tolkien racist, that's still not "each other".
An argumentative response, not a productive one.

Source? I'm not necessarily going to buy that comment, seeing as most Englishman would have no little to no contact with the Empire at large. To the average Englishman, I except the Empire was little more than an abstract concept and, possible, a source of exoticism. Most of the English population, I would assume had little knowledge of the horrors which occurred throughout the larger empire except under the obscuring lens of British propaganda.
Tolkien was born in what is now South Africa, although he would have had little memory of his life there as he moved to England permanently at age three.

I think more troubling than orcs is that all the non-white humans (say, Haradrim and Easterlings) are all Sauron's minions.
Woses: Skin color not specified, but clearly a different race than the humans of Gondor and Rohan. Material culture seems to resemble Amazonian tribes. Longtime victims of persecution because of their perceived ugliness. Implied to be the descendants of the people who inhabited the whole area before the Rohirrim, um, "moved in". Sympathetic and on the side of the heroes.

There is a frequently-overlooked recurring theme in Tolkien about the grievances and concerns of the forgotten peoples, the little guys. You see it in the Woses, the Ents, and even the Hobbits themselves.
 
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prosfilaes

Adventurer
If Tolkien had been more culturally inclusive, for which of his other progressive failings would we (by which I mean "you") be criticizing him?

What other things would you support including in current games if Tolkien had been more cool with them? Because that's what this is about, not Tolkien.
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
Yes, the school of deconstructionism analyzes texts in that way, but is but only of many styles of critical analysis.

I didn't mention deconstructionism; I mentioned "reader-response criticism", which largely wouldn't give a flip about Dante and Germanic mythology and other junk that most readers weren't familiar with.

I have said nothing of the LotR film. I haven't seen it, and therefore have no opinion on the matter.

That's a failure for understanding reader-response criticism of the books and of D&D's use of the races.

To the average Englishman, I except the Empire was little more than an abstract concept and, possible, a source of exoticism. Most of the English population, I would assume had little knowledge of the horrors which occurred throughout the larger empire except under the obscuring lens of British propaganda.

Note we're talking about an Oxford don here, not the average Englishman. And the British propaganda that told them it was okay to rule over Africa and India is sort of the problem here.

It is just as likely that we have become a society obsessed with fighting and/or cementing racial divides and are looking at past works with an eye to discovering racial bias rather than allowing the greater picture of the western literary tradition speak for itself.

Looking at the works of an Oxford don at the height of empire for how the world he lived in affected what he wrote seems quite in line with most serious literary criticism. It seems naïve, or at least narrow to act like the works of an author can be studied by just looking at ancient literary tradition.

Unless you want D&D to remove the dualism of allegoric good and evil (which is one option)

D&D 5 offers drow, tiefling and half-orc as core races. There's a reason why I talked about Lord of the Rings races and old-school D&D.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
That's a failure for understanding reader-response criticism of the books and of D&D's use of the races.
Er...huh?

How can WotFE's lack of opinion on something s/he hasn't seen be construed as a failure of any kind? Something doesn't make sense here...

D&D 5 offers drow, tiefling and half-orc as core races.
One of which is there due to Tolkein and has been around since 1e if not earlier; while the other two...meh, whatever.

Lanefan
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
How can WotFE's lack of opinion on something s/he hasn't seen be construed as a failure of any kind?

The point of reader-response criticism is that what's interesting about a text is how the reader responds to it; you can't know how modern-day readers respond to the books without being familiar with the movies. More importantly, modern D&D players are likely to have their perceptions of these races affected by the movies, likely more than the books. In discussing the Tolkien races and D&D, the movies are as important as the books.

One of which is there due to Tolkein and has been around since 1e if not earlier; while the other two...meh, whatever.

But half-orc is not a Tolkien race, and it complicates this simple duality that's being argued for. The existence of the other two races tells us that stereotypically evil races can be good in D&D 5.
 

I didn't mention deconstructionism; I mentioned "reader-response criticism", which largely wouldn't give a flip about Dante and Germanic mythology and other junk that most readers weren't familiar with.

That's a failure for understanding reader-response criticism of the books and of D&D's use of the races.

Reader-response opens the box of misinterpretation of the author's intention. Like with the average romantic comedy, miscommunication holds no interest for me.

Note we're talking about an Oxford don here, not the average Englishman. And the British propaganda that told them it was okay to rule over Africa and India is sort of the problem here.

Looking at the works of an Oxford don at the height of empire for how the world he lived in affected what he wrote seems quite in line with most serious literary criticism. It seems naïve, or at least narrow to act like the works of an author can be studied by just looking at ancient literary tradition.

As I said, bringing in the fact that all of the humans who joined Mordor where non-white changes the game and reveals a more sinister or at least discomforting side of Tolkien's writing. I'm arguing purely about orcs and other non-human monster, which much more so than the other races of men, as a symbol of allegoric evil.

D&D 5 offers drow, tiefling and half-orc as core races. There's a reason why I talked about Lord of the Rings races and old-school D&D.

Seeing as the races of LotR hold very little to the old school D&D races of the same name, I don't see the relevance of Tolkien in the conversation at all. LotR disinterested Gygax; it shouldn't come as a surprise that they races aren't identical and are, in many ways, quite far removed from Tolkien's depictions (see BX Elves for details).
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
But half-orc is not a Tolkien race, and it complicates this simple duality that's being argued for.
I thought Bill Ferny's southerner friend was supposed to be, if not half-orc, at least part-orc. He's described as "looks more than half like a goblin".
The existence of the other two races tells us that stereotypically evil races can be good in D&D 5.
That sort of thing has been around since 2e and Drizz't, if not earlier. As an occasional exception for story purposes it's fine...makes for good drama sometimes...but as a baked-in assumption of the overall game? No thanks.

Lan-"and this is in no way to be construed as approval of any kind for the existence of Drizz't himself, as the world would be a better place without him"-efan
 


prosfilaes

Adventurer
Reader-response opens the box of misinterpretation of the author's intention.

Just like a scale opens the box of misinterpretation of the color of an object. Author's intention is at best overrated; many hacks grinding out what the commercial machine needs has produced much better work than many an inspired amateur with high hopes and dreams, and nobody cares about author's intention until the work or author is canonized. In the 1950s and 1960s, nobody picked up the Lord of the Rings with a good idea of who Tolkien was, and many of them with little idea who Dante or Beowulf were. The text had to stand by itself. Even today, why should what Tolkien intended be more important than what he wrote and what people read from what he wrote? Particularly when talking about D&D and Tolkien's effects on it, both the published version of D&D and what's getting played out on tables?

Seeing as the races of LotR hold very little to the old school D&D races of the same name, I don't see the relevance of Tolkien in the conversation at all. LotR disinterested Gygax; it shouldn't come as a surprise that they races aren't identical and are, in many ways, quite far removed from Tolkien's depictions (see BX Elves for details).

Again, the authorial intent of Gygax doesn't mean much to most of the people playing D&D. Certainly quoting BX, a work by Moldvay, based on a work by Holmes, is an example of the problem of Gygax's authorial intent. While I would guess (from his recommendations) that Gygax was a subscriber to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction it wasn't huge then (60k subscribers), and even less so now. I can't tell you exactly what fantasy looked like to D&D players in the 1980s, but today it looks a lot like Tolkien, Lovecraft, and Dragonlance and Drizzt.

The races aren't identical. But the main old-school D&D races, the elves, dwarves, humans, and hobbits halflings are exactly the major protagonist races of the Lord of the Rings, and I suspect when you say "elf" or "dwarf" to D&D players, the majority or at least the plurality of them will visualize the LotR movie versions of Legolas and Gimli.
 

R_Chance

Adventurer
A few comments on Tolkien and race...

Dwarves were short, stout, rude and... ugly (to Elves anyway). They were not as fair (skinned) as Elves. But, they were good (if sometimes greedy).

Some of the main villains were Numenorian like the people of Gondor. The Witch King of Angmar was (before wraith-hood), a white / "European" type. As was the Mouth of Sauron. So were the Black Numenorians who ruled over the Southrons. Black referred to their hearts, not their skins. Given the Elvish blood of Numenorians you could argue they were a race of Half Elves (Elvish blood gave them the longer life span they enjoyed).

The undead army Aragorn used were (before death) white; as were the Dunlendings who fought for Saruman against the Rohirrim who had stolen their lands. I'm not sure what the Woses were, other than prehistoric and pre civilized.

Haradrim were, by description, "middle eastern" and other Southrons were apparently black, The Variags of Khand and Easterlings were never that well described. None of these peoples were portrayed as inherently evil; they came from lands dominated / controlled and corrupted by evil (including the Black Numenorian rulers mentioned above).

The Numenorian kingdoms, and the Dwarves and Elves of Western Middle Earth were besieged by Evil from all sides (and inside as well). Many of the men serving Evil came from outside the "European" setting of Western Middle Earth and were, probably, intended to be non European. They, when defeated were often taken prisoner and not just slaughtered. There were nationalistic rivalries in play as well (for example between the mounted Rohirrim and the mounted Haradrim cavalry forces and the Dunlendings versus the Rohirrim). The enemies were exotic and fierce but not inherently evil.

Orcs were inherently evil. They originated as Elves corrupted by Morgoth and were the polar opposite of Elves. Elves were tall, slim, straight, fair skinned and good. Orcs were short, stocky, bandy legged, swarthy and evil. They did not represent any human race. They were a representation of good corrupted into evil. Tolkiens Elves were rather "angelic" and his Orcs were fallen angels / demons. Morgoths other creations, Trolls, were inherently evil as well. None of these beings did well in sun light which represented "good". they were creatures of Darkness / Evil who hated it even if they could stand it.

Tolkien is more complex in his representation of peoples than many give him credit for. The world he created encompasses absolutes of good and evil as well as the petty evil (and nobility / good) of other beings. When you discuss it without recognizing this you are missing the point and misrepresenting the ideas encompassed in the work.
 
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Frankie1969

Adventurer
Wow. I'm kinda intrigued by the way this thread has gone COMPLETELY away from the original post, but not "read six pages of comments" worth.
 


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