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D&D General Old School DND talks if DND is racist.

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jasper

Rotten DM
Nick Cole responses to upcoming Wired article which hints that DnD fans are racists. Nice Cole is author. His books are Ctrl Alt Revolt, Soda Pop Soldier: A novel #1. Kind of cyberpunk.
Both people wander all over the subject. IT is about 41 minutes long.
 

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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
First D&D is Satanic. Then it's Antisocial. Now it's Racist.

Well, yeah. I mean, not the Satanic part, but...

D&D is people. Lots of people. And, much as we may like to think otherwise, there's nothing about RPGs that selects against any of the bad traits of humanity.

So, racism, sexism, and such - you'll find them here, like you'll find them anywhere. The question for each of us is whether we dismissively wave it away, or whether we look at it and work to change that.

I haven't watched the video yet, but... a couple of older white men talking about racism? Not sure that's going to be relevatory.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Any summary? I don't really want to make the time to listen to it, but I am curious.

Are there a few sentences here and there in the books that could be interpreted as racist? Sure. Is the game overall racist? I don't think so, no more than any other mass entertainment. It's virtually impossible for something like D&D to not have small bits and pieces that can be cherry picked to make a case for anything you want.

People see legitimate issues in the culture at large, D&D is a big target, I think many of the issues are projection. Doesn't mean we should not try to be aware of the issues, but D&D is just a ruleset.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten


jasper

Rotten DM
Any summary? I don't really want to make the time to listen to it, but I am curious.

Are there a few sentences here and there in the books that could be interpreted as racist? Sure. Is the game overall racist? I don't think so, no more than any other mass entertainment. It's virtually impossible for something like D&D to not have small bits and pieces that can be cherry picked to make a case for anything you want.

People see legitimate issues in the culture at large, D&D is a big target, I think many of the issues are projection. Doesn't mean we should not try to be aware of the issues, but D&D is just a ruleset.
Best summary I can give. Some players maybe racists but the Author of the article is just picking on D&D to get notice.
 



Mallus

Legend
So let me do an 'old man in before the lock' and add my hastily-considered thoughts:

1. Personally speaking, I haven't found D&D and its community to be racist. I say this as a person of color, whose first long running D&D group was %75 people of color. I freely admit some of this amounts to mere good fortune.

2. Intellectually speaking, yeah D&D has a lot of racist elements inherited primarily from the fiction that inspired it. But I like a lot of that fiction, and moreover it holds no sting for me; I can chalk it up to reflecting the attitudes & culture of its time, as all fiction does, one way or the other.

3. Theoretically speaking, a lot of the racism D&D gets accused of is race essentialism, which is oddly also prevalent in certain kinds of social justice rhetoric, as scholars like Adolph Reed at the University of Pennsylvania like to point out.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
As an old school gamer myself, and someone who enjoys the OSR and TSR era D&D (started in 81, and kept playing AD&D as my preferred edition all the way up to 2012 when the 5e playtest came out, and I still play it), I have noticed a disturbing trend that the OSR is becoming worse and worse with the number of racists/bigots in that fandom. Maybe it's a reaction to modern D&D becoming more inclusive so they rally around the OSR, but you can't be part of a large OSR group online anymore without quickly seeing people parrot bigoted statements and ideas. And as a fan of the OSR, that both saddens me, and angers me.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
In which case, wouldn't the best solution be to ignore them..?
Eh... no, I wouldn't say 'ignore' the author of the article... but rather acknowledge what the author is saying, and then just check ourselves as we play.

When we play, will our characters or the game world do things that would be considered racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist, ageist, etc. etc. if they were a part of the "real world"? If so... then we just try and recognize whether we are propping up those things in the game as being "right" and "good" or point out to each other and ourselves that they are "wrong".

When Hollywood makes a movie about the Holocaust, that doesn't mean its "representation" on screen means Hollywood is supporting the Holocaust. Likewise, if someone writes a book about those people who fought against the Equal Rights Amendment (like Phyllis Schaffly) it doesn't mean that the author is also in favor of disregarding the rights of Women. You can create things that show the worst parts of our culture while also being against them.

And by the same token... if a D&D game has tieflings as a race ostracized and shunted off to their own sections of a town, it doesn't mean the players who are playing the game that have this are in favor of doing that to people. It just means the players are trying to represent something fictionally that has actually happened in our pasts and in many places still happens... and it's how those players resolve those scenarios that will give us hints about how they might actually think about it. And as the guys mentioned a bit in the video... the hope would be playing a tiefling that fights against that racial repression, and becomes a hero despite it.
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
That video is too long. I might skim a transcript - but I don't have faith it'd teach me anything new.

That said,

I think D&D can be racist (and in many ways it is) without meaning that its players are necessarily racist. A lot of it is baked in from its sources and even from its creators (I give serious side-eye to Gygax's claim to be a "biological essentialist"). But some of it is also built into the assumptions of who plays and how that I have encountered in my nearly 48 years of playing. It is sexist in many ways, too. (My recent hunt for diverse female minis has reinforced that).

I am doing my best to consciously expunge or properly frame these elements in my games because I'd rather fumble with handling it than continue to reinforce it either unconsciously or knowing it but pretending it has no effect.

I have been a member of these boards since their inception (with a big break) and have seen a variety of threads on this topic, but I will say that it fills me with some hope that this conversation is being had in the mainstream discourse (or close to it anyway) and more people seem open to discussing it.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
As an old school gamer myself, and someone who enjoys the OSR and TSR era D&D (started in 81, and kept playing AD&D as my preferred edition all the way up to 2012 when the 5e playtest came out, and I still play it), I have noticed a disturbing trend that the OSR is becoming worse and worse with the number of racists/bigots in that fandom. Maybe it's a reaction to modern D&D becoming more inclusive so they rally around the OSR, but you can't be part of a large OSR group online anymore without quickly seeing people parrot bigoted statements and ideas. And as a fan of the OSR, that both saddens me, and angers me.

This. I love old D&D despite some of its issues, not because of them.
 

This thread will not end well.
No.

It won't.

It's far too fashionable now to take something, call it some form of bigotry (racism, homophobia, sexism, transphobia), and raise a stink on social media all to drive likes/clicks/views. While bigotry is a very bad thing, there seems to be an active effort to try to find anything in a LOT of popular culture that can be called those things, and I think it's just for the social media likes/views/clicks etc.

This will almost certainly be filled with revisionist history, people taking things from older editions out of context (including words or terms), people looking to be offended and searching for a reason to be offended, people calling anyone who disagrees "racist".

People will take monsters that were taken from historic folklore, like orcs, and try to reinterpret them as some modern racial insult. People will complain that a game that has its roots in fantasy settings based on medieval Europe hasn't always reflected 21st century American norms of diversity.

I'm sure I won't change any minds with this, but I'd like to say that in the roughly quarter century I've been a part of the gaming community, it's been one of the most inclusive, tolerant subcultures I've ever known. We're geeks, we're outcasts, we're the kind who take in fellow outcasts. . .we're not bigots.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
I think D&D can be racist (and in many ways it is) without meaning that its players are necessarily racist.
Yep. A point I try to make sure I emphasize when I talk about how old school D&D can have racist or bigoted aspects. I even wrote a blog post about it when talking about why I started working on the Chromatic Dungeons project. Being a fan of old school D&D doesn't make you a racist; there are ton of elements one can enjoy that have nothing to do with racism or sexism. However, refusing to acknowledge how old school D&D was presented and how some of those things were pretty problematic is a problem. Or worse, doubling down with how those problematic issues aren't problematic and people are just "looking to be offended." That's where the issues is.
 


Sacrosanct

Legend
That is not remotely my experience - whether it be the marginal days of geekery to the current moment of popularity.
Indeed. In fact, groups like white nationalists intentionally look towards outcasts as potential recruits. A place where they can finally belong and be part of a group, and to emphasize how "they" have been treating your wrong and unfair they've been to you. It's recruiting 101.
 

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