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

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Where I believe that became problematic is when artists and writers started to illustrate those "baser instincts" using elements of real-world ethnicities.
Which, unfortunately, dates back to the same novels that brought us Orcs - Lord of the Rings.


And you don't have to take anyone's word for it, Tolkien himself said orcs in a movie should look like:

"squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes: in fact degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types."

Note Mongol refers to what we'd call "East Asian" here, he's using it in the old racial sense (which even people my age may have seen in textbooks when they were very young, though it's gone now).

Worth noting that culturally the orcs aren't like that - in fact they seem to basically be the worst of human nature, as you say, albeit expressed in a peculiarly "working class soldier" kind of way. The fact that orcs basically sound like working-class southern English people, specifically maybe Cockneys is not likely to be an accident (though I think it's probably a harmless bit of classism - and I am technically a Cockney).

Years ago, I remember playing the Ultima games. For most of the games, gargoyles were viewed as "evil." However, one of the games turned that idea on its head, as it was revealed that their culture was simply different -and they had been attacking you because actions taken by the protagonist (you) had been harming them.

I wish I could remember which entry in the series that was. It's a game containing ideas which I believe would be applicable to this discussion.

EDIT: I think it was Ultima 6: The False Prophet.
Yup, it was U6, the first Ultima game I played, and it BLEW MY TINY MIND when I realized the Gargoyles were actually being perfectly reasonable and not evil. Admittedly I was like 11 or 12, but that was powerful and effective - just because it looks scary and acts in opposition to you, doesn't make evil, pay more attention!
 
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40K's Orks are an interesting popular take that gives orcs a fairly alien biology and reason for being violent brutes with some comedy.

I mean, "Cockney Football Hooligans with technology that works because they believe it will" is pretty damn inspired. Honest stroke of brilliance. Gork n' Mork fo'evah.

It's also worth noting one of the biggest influences on "What an Orc is" is also Warcraft, which also showed a more complicated take on Orcs way back in the mid-90s. People have been able to play these races for decades now in those games. You probably have a lot of kids who know Orcs from those games rather than D&D.
 



Argyle King

Legend
Which, unfortunately, dates back to the same novels that brought us Orcs - Lord of the Rings.


And you don't have to take anyone's word for it, Tolkien himself said orcs in a movie should look like:

"squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes: in fact degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types."

Note Mongol refers to what we'd call "East Asian" here, he's using it in the old racial sense (which even people my age may have seen in textbooks when they were very young, though it's gone now).


Yup, it was U6, the first Ultima game I played, and it BLEW MY TINY MIND when the Gargoyles were revealed as actually being perfectly reasonable and not evil. Admittedly I was like 11 or 12, but that was powerful and effective - just because it looks scary and acts in opposition to you, doesn't make evil, pay more attention!

I completely agree that basing a (for lack of better words) "evil" version of humans on a real-world culture is bad.

So, for me (from a design perspective,) I'm curious to hear ideas concerning how illustrate something which is identifiably a branch of humanity, but without having it resemble any of the human cultures around us.

While orcs are usually pointed to as an example of getting things wrong, I think it happens with elves sometimes too. While looking through some of my older RPG stuff, I notice that the cliche sexy elf chic often seems to be given vaguely Asian features. I think that could be viewed as offensive by some, in that (much like what I mentioned earlier with Drow having sexualized African-American features) it's objectification of an ethnicity through euro-centic eyes and standards of womanhood/femininity.
 

TwoSix

"Diegetics", by L. Ron Gygax
It's also worth noting one of the biggest influences on "What an Orc is" is also Warcraft, which also showed a more complicated take on Orcs way back in the mid-90s. People have been able to play these races for decades now in those games. You probably have a lot of kids who know Orcs from those games rather than D&D.
It's tough to find a better example of "Orcs as individuals" than looking at the differences between Thrall, Garrosh, Saurfang, Nazgrim, and Draka.
 

I love the 40K Orks. Though I don't play 40K anymore, I had to pick up the new Ghazghkull Thraka mini (it's so awesome!).

A RAIT KRUMPAH 'E IZ! AN' LOOK, DERE'S MAKARI!

99120103079_ThrakaLead.PNG


It's tough to find a better example of "Orcs as individuals" than looking at the differences between Thrall, Garrosh, Saurfang, Nazgrim, and Draka.

Yeah, while I'm a Warhammer guy forever, I do kind of wish I kept up on the lore of Warcraft. I remember playing the first two games way back in the day. Still kind of sad that adventure game didn't come out...
 

Oofta

Legend
I mean, the better question seems to be "Why are people so attached to an older, less interesting version than this new, cool version someone else came up with?"

Like, why don't we just go to what Eberron created as the standard? It's far more interesting and much less problematic.
So what would that amazing new standard look like? Is there any room for "generic bad guys"? Not ones I have to come up with an in depth back story. I think most of those are just as flawed as different species being different.

We don't go with Eberron because it's a very specific campaign where the details (and generic bad guys) only make sense for that setting. Good news though, if you like the way Eberron did it, do it! Congratulations! Problem solved! 🥳
 


So what would that amazing new standard look like? Is there any room for "generic bad guys"? Not ones I have to come up with an in depth back story. I think most of those are just as flawed as different species being different.

We don't go with Eberron because it's a very specific campaign where the details (and generic bad guys) only make sense for that setting. Good news though, if you like the way Eberron did it, do it! Congratulations! Problem solved! 🥳

I mean, most stuff is campaign specific to FR nowadays. If they wanted to release something generic, it wouldn't be hard to adapt the Eberron Orc. And you could always still use them as "generic bad guys": they're easy enough to simplify down for people at your table.

bandits solve that nicely.

There's never a lack of badly-intentioned whatevers when you need 'em.
 

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