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

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MGibster

Legend
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.
After moving to a remote area of Arkansas, I managed to locate a nearby gaming group that graciously invited me to participate in a game. They were using 1st edition rules (this was back in 2001) which didn't thrill me, but I decided to participate in the hopes of having a little fun and meeting new people. At some point during the game, one of the players, a black guy, exited the room and another player referred to him using a particularly hateful epitaph and none of the other players at the table batted an eye. Shortly thereafter I made my excuses, beat a hasty retreat, and never heard from them again. And, no, I didn't tell them why I was leaving so abruptly. I was in the home of what were essentially strangers surrounded by their friends who I did not know and decided a confrontation at that point wouldn't do me any good.

So you're right. There are bigoted jerks who happen to enjoy role playing games. I can't really comment on the video for two reasons. I haven't actually watched it and since I haven't read the article they're referencing I wouldn't be able to judge whether or not their comments about it were on point.
 

Warpiglet-7

Adventurer
D&D fans being racist because some ideas in game fiction are considered problematic makes as much sense as calling someone who eats pancakes racist because some people bought Aunt Jemima pancake mix.

bought past tense because the brand rightly realized what they were depicting and won’t continue with that imagery.

If you are bothered by something about the game, change it. But lumping everyone in with bad ideas because something in the game is offensive is...offensive.

push for some change if you are so driven but the whole guilt by association thing actually leads to resistance to good ideas.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
...
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.

I think this bears repeating. When I [was] running game days, everyone was welcome as long as they got along with others reasonably well. The externals of the person were ignored, they were embraced as a fellow gamer. Didn't matter who you were, new people were always welcome.

Gaming groups in my opinion have a great way of pulling people together from across the spectrum in ways you don't get with other activities.
 
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beast013

Explorer
Supporter
There are numerous races in D&D. To me, that means diversity exists in D&D. Regardless of the race, anyone can play their character as a horrid person. Embrace the diversity and play the game. Weed out the idiots as you go along.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
We're geeks, we're outcasts, we're the kind who take in fellow outcasts. . .we're not bigots.
Don't ever ascribe traits to entire groups. That's always been the entire point of all of this.

Some of us geek and outcasts ARE bigots. And trying to deny that is just trying to absolve ourselves from any responsibility or looking inward. It's like saying "Oh, male geeks and outcasts could never get girlfriends, so if they did they'd been the most attentive and supportive boyfriends ever... they'd never sexually assault a woman!" Which we know for a fact ISN'T TRUE as well.

You can be a geek and an outcast and still be a piece of s***. Just like you can be the poster child for the traditional "popular cool male"... and actually be a good and stand-up guy (rather than the arrogant, obnoxious, toxic masculine we usually use that stereotype to prop up.)

Everyone is different. And sticking our heads in the sand about who we are isn't going to help. Instead, shine a light on ourselves and just see how dirty we actually are. And if we don't like what we see... try and change.
 

Mistwell

Legend
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.
Are you not an older white man who just talked about racism? Did you not just lecture about being dismissive, while...being dismissive?

Seriously, the excuses people use to not listen to potential dissent before dismissing that dissent is disappointing. If the color of their skin makes you think they cannot have an opinion worth listening to, maybe that's your issue and not theirs. If their age alone makes you think they cannot have an opinion worth listening to, maybe that's your issue and not theirs. Perhaps judging them on their color of their skin or age is not an admirable trait you should be using, in itself, as a means of declaring a human's opinions not worthy of consideration?
 

Mannahnin

Adventurer
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.
Orcs are an interesting case. They don't exist in historic folklore. There are a couple of poetic references, to the best of my recollection, before Tolkien invented the species. In Beowulf, from which he drew the name, orcneas is just a generic reference to an evil spirit or wicked creature.

Tolkien himself wrestled with them, and whether it made sense in his worldbuilding for them to be irredeemable or innately evil. He went back and forth on it. Later he opined in letters that orcs are really something of a metaphor (though he usually didn't care for metaphor or allegory) for the cruel, debased and warlike side of mankind, and that "orcs" were to be found among the worst people on all sides of WWII, for example.

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.
Yes and no. I think there are some shallow and immature folks on social media who do indeed sometimes make mountains out of molehills. And that the nature of media is to amplify outraged and outrageous voices, especially as there are incentives for it. Advertising revenue and sharing/"engagement"/likes demand clicks. And sensationalism gets more clicks.

But I do think there are also plenty of people making a good-faith effort to understand and critically interrogate some stuff we've ignored or not thought hard about in the past. They're doing legitimate work to help society progress and make it more inclusive.

D&D definitely has some very colonialist concepts underpinning it, and some racist stereotypes have poked in here or there. Which makes sense. Human beings were responsible for writing it, and lots of humans have some pretty racist ideas. OTOH, the archetypal multiracial adventuring party also exemplifies different people from different backgrounds with different strengths and skills coming together to work in a good cause and fight evil. So D&D has some strong positive aspects as well.

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.
I've seen both in the... 30-odd years I've been playing and interacting with other gamers. Some ARE bigots. Many others deeply take to heart the messages of diversity and of unity and tolerance seen in major geek media like Star Trek and Lord of the Rings.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Don't ever ascribe traits to entire groups. That's always been the entire point of all of this.

Some of us geek and outcasts ARE bigots. And trying to deny that is just trying to absolve ourselves from any responsibility or looking inward. It's like saying "Oh, male geeks and outcasts could never get girlfriends, so if they did they'd been the most attentive and supportive boyfriends ever... they'd never sexually assault a woman!" Which we know for a fact ISN'T TRUE as well.

You can be a geek and an outcast and still be a piece of s***. Just like you can be the poster child for the traditional "popular cool male"... and actually be a good and stand-up guy (rather than the arrogant, obnoxious, toxic masculine we usually use that stereotype to prop up.)

Everyone is different. And sticking our heads in the sand about who we are isn't going to help. Instead, shine a light on ourselves and just see how dirty we actually are. And if we don't like what we see... try and change.

On a somewhat related note. Growing up I was a nerd. In the 80s. So yeah, I was subject to all the bullying, and made my own assumptions about jocks, preppies, etc. And made all the stereotypes about them.
My oldest stepson was a jock. And the most popular kid at school. totally opposite of me. Watching him grow up, and all the friends he hung out with, I realized that cliques? The kids are all the same, just different interests. There were just as many poor and abused kids on the football team as there were stoners or skaters. And there were just as many upper class kids who were preppies who were also part of the computer club. There were just as many kind and nice kids on the basketball team as there were in the yearbook class. The sooner we realize that we're all the same (every group has good and bad, and none of us is a better or worse group than the other), the better for everyone. We might get bullied by that jock, but we have no idea what their life is like at home. And before someone says nerds don't bully because we aren't physically strong enough, that's not true at all. Bullies will bully in ways in which they have power over another, any kind of power (not just physical strength), and geeks and nerds are no different.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Are you not an older white man who just talked about racism? Did you not just lecture about being dismissive, while...being dismissive?

Seriously, the excuses people use to not listen to potential dissent before dismissing that dissent is disappointing. If the color of their skin makes you think they cannot have an opinion worth listening to, maybe that's your issue and not theirs. If their age alone makes you think they cannot have an opinion worth listening to, maybe that's your issue and not theirs. Perhaps judging them on their color of their skin or age is not an admirable trait you should be using, in itself, as a means of declaring a human's opinions not worthy of consideration?
I think both of you have a point.

I think you are right in that using someone's age or skin color as a reason to not listen to them is rather silly and dismissive. Everyone can have a say.

But at the same time I think Umbran is right in that if you aren't a part of a group that is claiming a problem, your voice doesn't get to have more power in the conversation in order to say the problem isn't real. We should take your outsider status to this conversation with a grain of salt. I'm not saying your voice shouldn't be heard... but we should at least acknowledge that you aren't necessarily seeing things truly as they are because you aren't inside the situation. And hopefully (general) you can recognize that while you might try to visualize walking in another person's shoes... you aren't ever going to be actually wearing them, so don't make definitive statements on whether or not they fit.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
And let me just say to anyone who thinks D&D gamers don't have bigots in our fandom, one of the largest social sites that caters to the OSR on the internet has posters who not only aggressively espouse their bigotry with blatant racist and sexist phrases, but with the events of the past few years, actively endorse and support killing other people who don't agree with them, and not only are they not sanctioned on these popular boards, but endorsed by the moderation team, let alone tacit approval by most of the members. (many of you are probably also members there and know exactly what I'm talking about)

so yeah, finding bigotry in our community is easy. Which again, is very sad. And IMO, cannot simply be ignored because it doesn't impact me. As a while male, that would be me using my inherent privilege to ignore how others not like me are being disparately treated. So I'll call it out when I see it, and as an indie publisher who is a fan of the OSR, use my tools and resources to fight it in the OSR when I see it by working to make my products better, and more inclusive.
 

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.
I can't help but notice that KKK titles have, for at least a century and a half, been... strongly evocative... of fantasy and myth: Grand Wizard, Goblins, Cyclops, Ghouls, Hydras, Titans. Maybe it's just that there's a lot of white supremacists who are attracted to reducing complex, thinking populations and nuanced issues into two-dimensional fairy-tale epics where one side is incorruptibly pure and the other is irredeemably evil.
 

Orcs are an interesting case. They don't exist in historic folklore. There are a couple of poetic references, to the best of my recollection, before Tolkien invented the species. In Beowulf, from which he drew the name, orcneas is just a generic reference to an evil spirit or wicked creature.
There are a handful of literary references predating Tolkien where they seem to be used interchangeably with ogres, as brutish, hostile humanoids that threaten humans. Tolkien certainly popularized them, but didn't invent them whole cloth. The etymology of Orc comes from the same origin as Ogre, and before Tolkien, the two were sometimes used interchangeably.

Yes, it's a wiki article, but someone there put in a lot of effort tracking down pre-Tolkien literary references to Orcs (in the same sense as Tolkien used them, as barbaric and monstrous humanoids, instead of just a vague and poetic term for a monster) Orc - Wikipedia
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
One more thing that I think is important to note...

What constitutes an -ism and an -ist... changes over time.

I wonder if perhaps those of us who are members of Generation X and older (of which I am myself) are looking at today's society through the lenses we used to look at society when we were growing up? I mean for me personally... I look at how my parent's generation and my grandparent's generation acted when I was a youngster, and I sometimes can't help but think "Wow, things were WAY WORSE for all the different types of people back then! Our young people today have no idea how good they have it!"

Which might be true in a certain objective state... but it doesn't mean by any stretch that just because things might be "better" now comparatively... doesn't mean they are actually GOOD. There is still SO MUCH that could be better for everyone. And it is the highlight of personal arrogance to believe that what is happening right now is so good that nothing has to change.

Or more to the point, that YOU don't have to change.

"I saw how bad things were when I was a kid and I learned from all that... so how I am now is GREAT! Why can't people recognize that?"

And the answer of course is that none of us are as good as we might think. Especially because a lot of the problems come from who we are when we AREN'T actually thinking about them. Unconscious racism, sexism, transphobia etc. are things. So let's all try and stop denying that our s*** don't stink. Because it does. The only difference is that we've been living in it for our entire lives and thus we just don't notice the odor anymore.
 

Mannahnin

Adventurer
There are a handful of literary references predating Tolkien where they seem to be used interchangeably with ogres, as brutish, hostile humanoids that threaten humans. Tolkien certainly popularized them, but didn't invent them whole cloth. The etymology of Orc comes from the same origin as Ogre, and before Tolkien, the two were sometimes used interchangeably.

Yes, it's a wiki article, but someone there put in a lot of effort tracking down pre-Tolkien literary references to Orcs (in the same sense as Tolkien used them, as barbaric and monstrous humanoids, instead of just a vague and poetic term for a monster) Orc - Wikipedia
Sure, yeah, I'm aware of those. The couple of references seem to be a variant term for an ogre. Maybe I'm splitting hairs to distinguish between a term for a singular monster (ogre/orke) and a species of brutish footsoldiers to an evil overlord. But it's really only Tolkien's invention which has any parallel at all with racism, because he's the one that made it a species (of sorts).
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
I can't help but notice that KKK titles have, for at least a century and a half, been... strongly evocative... of fantasy and myth: Grand Wizard, Goblins, Cyclops, Ghouls, Hydras, Titans. Maybe it's just that there's a lot of white supremacists who are attracted to reducing complex, thinking populations and nuanced issues into two-dimensional fairy-tale epics where one side is incorruptibly pure and the other is irredeemably evil.
I also have a majority germanic/nordic heritage. so yeah, nazis and white nationalists co-opting my heritage is nothing new. Thanks Hitler!
 

Sure, yeah, I'm aware of those. The couple of references seem to be a variant term for an ogre. Maybe I'm splitting hairs to distinguish between a term for a singular monster (ogre/orke) and a species of brutish footsoldiers to an evil overlord. But it's really only Tolkien's invention which has any parallel at all with racism.
I think that's beyond splitting hairs.

In a D&D context, the difference between ogres and orcs is literally just one is a little taller and even stronger. They're both brutish humanoids. . .like people, except more muscular, and taller, and hairier, and uglier, and scary and violent. In a generic D&D context, just add a few more hit dice to the Orc and you've got an Ogre.

Humanity has always demonized the outsider, treated the invader as something less than human. Orcs are a fantasy device that is the embodiment of many millennia of humans seeing invading, barbaric, brutish hoards on the horizon. They stand in for the armies on the march in the World Wars. . .or for the Mongolian Horde, or the Germanic and Celtic tribes that Rome fought against, or the Ottoman Empire and their invasion of the Byzantine Empire and Eastern Europe.

They aren't a racist stand-in for any human population, they're a generic stand in for how humans have always seen invaders and hostile outsiders. . .but they allow the game to depict the hostile, foreign, barbaric enemy WITHOUT making it a matter of demonizing any real or fictitious human group.
 

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.
"a couple of older white men talking about racism? Not sure that's going to be relevatory (sic)."
Dismissing people, opinion unheard, due to their skin colour and age, isn't that the very definition of bigotry?
 

I think that's beyond splitting hairs.

In a D&D context, the difference between ogres and orcs is literally just one is a little taller and even stronger. They're both brutish humanoids. . .like people, except more muscular, and taller, and hairier, and uglier, and scary and violent. In a generic D&D context, just add a few more hit dice to the Orc and you've got an Ogre.

Humanity has always demonized the outsider, treated the invader as something less than human. Orcs are a fantasy device that is the embodiment of many millennia of humans seeing invading, barbaric, brutish hoards on the horizon. They stand in for the armies on the march in the World Wars. . .or for the Mongolian Horde, or the Germanic and Celtic tribes that Rome fought against, or the Ottoman Empire and their invasion of the Byzantine Empire and Eastern Europe.

They aren't a racist stand-in for any human population, they're a generic stand in for how humans have always seen invaders and hostile outsiders. . .but they allow the game to depict the hostile, foreign, barbaric enemy WITHOUT making it a matter of demonizing any real or fictitious human group.
I agree that in D&D orcs are not being used as an allegory or replacement for one kind of human being. At the same time, the way orcs (and drow, and elves, and halflings...) are described uses the practice of ascribing the values of a culture to one singular "race." And whether this race or culture is real or imaginary, the act of ascribing the values of a culture to a single race is, in itself, a harmful practice.

The big difference to me is in the following two models:

A) orcs are barbaric raiders

B) there are barbaric raiders, and some of them are orcs

In example A, the "race" of orcs is being defined by the values of a culture (barbaric raiders). In B, the values of a culture are separated from race.

Obviously no orcs in real life are being harmed by being depicted as barbaric raiders. But I would argue that the very act of ascribing the values of a culture to a single race is harmful, and it's harmful to those who act it out playing the game because it's an unhealthy practice.
 

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