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

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
The long and short of it is that alignment at this point is on life support and I wager it will be slowly removed before 6e. There will be certain tendencies (fiends being malevolent, celestials benign, fey amoral, etc) but very shortly, every monster will be equally likely to be "good" or "evil".

Then every alignment debate will cease and be replaced by ethical and moral debates about justifying violence against opposing groups. D&D realpolitik.
I sure hope so!
 

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I had thought Drow coloration was intended to be a palette swap of High Elves. (I based this upon how they were described in the 3rd Edition books.)

Note: Some of what follows includes descriptions which are stereotypical in nature. I am not in any way endorsing said stereotypes. My intent is to use language which I'm guessing may have fit the mentality of how a creature (or characters) were drawn during a different era.

However, there exists (older) D&D artwork which does not illustrate them as described, instead choosing to incorporate some African-American features. I have no evidence to back this up, but -if I had to guess- I think that a lot of Drow women were stand-ins for the stereotype of a "strong powerful black woman," and it was an exploration of some artist's fantasy to think about being dominated by a strong woman. Here is an example.

Drow are (in fluff) described as something of a perversion of "normal" (for a lack of better words) society, so, through the lens of an older American culture, the idea of a domineering, voluptuous, and dark-skinned woman ruling over males would have been counter-culture to the "norm" of a light-skinned ("white") male, at the head of the household, and with his lithe and dainty housewife. I believe there is some evidence of this found in looking at what the beauty ideals of that period of time were, and by looking at what were considered the traits of a "good woman" of the time. There is historical evidence to show that beauty norms were often constructed in such a way that African-American women were allowed to be viewed as sexual objects, but they were not allowed to fit into the categories associated (at those times) with being pure, womanly -or whatever buzzword was used at the time. I have no evidence at all to suggest this had anything to do with why an artist decided to start incorporating (what could be seen as) African-American features into the dominatrix look of D&D Drow matriarchs, but that's my random guess at what might be a motivation (based upon having casually studied the subject and having some anecdotal experience with a mixed family).

(Though, there could be some argument that the picture was loosely based on Tina Turner's character from Mad Max; that can be seen here.)

I'm inclined to believe there is less of a problem when Drow are portray as illustrated here.

Though, that too leads to problems because it leads to the idea that the majority of D&D creatures have European features. What is the answer to having more diverse features but also being against certain features being used in artwork? Is it better for a product to ask for an art direction which is wholly alien from the features seen around us in day-to-day life? I'm not asking these questions to be funny or dismissive.

I'm genuinely curious because most of these discussions have a tendency to point out what is "wrong," without offering much of a solution for how to build a game/product in a way which corrects the problems -and does so in a way which still produces a product recognizable enough for an audience to connect with. I believe that most successful fantasy -even if it's some completely gonzo fantasy- still has some underlying human element (whether that be in emotion, look, tone, or whatever) upon which to build and with which to bring in an audience.

Another interesting question which arises is whether or not diversity includes inclusivity in being villains.
Obviously an entire race/ethnicity/identity should not be vilified; however, I'm curious to hear those advocating for more diversity among the heroes of a story are also okay with someone who looks or lives as they do being chosen to be the "bad guy" of a story. Would a contemporary audience automatically assume offense in response to villain who were part of a marginalized group? Is it considered out of bounds to (say for the sake of example) have the evil wizard in the tower be trans? How do villainous characters intersect with a push toward diversity?
 

Can we stop with the "there's no racism here, just you projecting or wanting to see racism because of you're own issues" please? That's no different, and just as unhelpul, and just as untrue, as saying people who want all orcs to be evil their campaigns are racist.

if a lot of people are seeing issues, that doesn't mean we're all just projecting and seeing racism where there is none. You're not the only one to keep inferring or implying this argument of projection. If you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there. And I can't help notice these dismissive arguments like that are from people who most notably aren't part of the demographic that's been impacted, so if you can't see it, maybe you should ask yourself why, instead of ascribing disingenuous motivations to others who do.
And most of the people seeing issues aren’t part of the demographic that they’re alleging is being impacted either. So if we’re agreed that white people aren’t qualified to speak on the subject, that goes for both sides.

As far as I can tell only one person of colour has commented on the issue (post #12), but presumably his opinion is being discounted because it doesn’t fit the narrative.
 



Sacrosanct

Legend
And most of the people seeing issues aren’t part of the demographic that they’re alleging is being impacted either. So if we’re agreed that white people aren’t qualified to speak on the subject, that goes for both sides.

As far as I can tell only one person of colour has commented on the issue (post #12), but presumably his opinion is being discounted because it doesn’t fit the narrative.
Yeah, if only there were people of various minority groups who have expressed these same problematic issues....

You've got to be kidding me. You do realize that this topic has been around a lot longer than this particular thread, right? With many other participants over many different platforms over the years?
 

Bagpuss

Adventurer
but it's nigh-impossible not to look at the drow--black-skinned and cursed to be evil--and not think of the Curse of Ham (as interpreted by the founders of the LDS).
Well it is if you were brought up CoE and had never heard of the Curse of Ham until you mentioned it. Seems another US culture thing. Edit: Also checked with my RC wife and she’s not heard of it either.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Eberron from the very beginning stripped off the "always" dial from creature alignment and attitude for anyone that was native to it. Anyone who was a bad guy or bad girl was an individual who made a choice to be bad or was corrupted by extra-planar bad things. You could be an evil Human, evil Orc, evil Elf, evil Gnoll, evil Warforged, evil Gnome, evil Gold Dragon etc. etc. etc. But no entire group native to the land of Eberron was called evil "just because".

And the game did not break down because of it, nor did it cause any sort of uproar or issue with the playerbase.

So if in subsequent books and/or editions down the line WotC adapts Eberron's methodology over to the base game... I really don't think we're going to see any problems. Because the number of players who think the game needs to have "always evil" native creatures is not actually that large... PLUS if it's not in the book they're going to just add them in themselves anyway. If they think orcs in general should be evil... then they'll make them evil. Regardless of what the books say.

At the end of the day... this to me all comes down to one primary thing... ego. We LIKE it when the things we enjoy are written "for us". When the game's attitude matches our own, it feels good. When our attitude is matched by the game it means we are a part of the full culture of what we like. But if we ever have preferences the game doesn't support, it means to get what we want we have to go "against the current" and create our own version instead. And that means we are (at least in this instance) no longer a part of the greater culture of the game. We feel abandoned... just like the 3E players did when 4E came out or the 4E players did when 5E came out.

And while all of us could play whatever "older version" we prefered... our egos still take the hit. And which is why people try so desperately NOT to see changes come to D&D... so they never have to be the one to get left behind. Unfortunately though... it's going to happen to all of us sooner or later in some form or fashion.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Well it is if you were brought up CoE and had never heard of the Curse of Ham until you mentioned it. Seems another US culture thing. Edit: Also checked with my RC wife and she’s not heard of it either.
It's more 15th century Catholic than American. It just ended up as a justification for slavery of Africans, so, of course it made its way here and took root. And its persistence into the 20th century had a lot more to do with the Mormons using it to justify not ordaining black priests (as late as 1978) than American culture, per se.
 

Scribe

Hero
And the game did not break down because of it, nor did it cause any sort of uproar or issue with the playerbase.

So if in subsequent books and/or editions down the line WotC adapts Eberron's methodology over to the base game... I really don't think we're going to see any problems. Because the number of players who think the game needs to have "always evil" native creatures is not actually that large... PLUS if it's not in the book they're going to just add them in themselves anyway. If they think orcs in general should be evil... then they'll make them evil. Regardless of what the books say.
Right. However I wonder if people who want that basic 'these are good, these are bad, they fight' even play Eberron?
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Which is absolutely a valid way of playing the game. Other people just want simplistic good guys and bad.

Why can't we have both?
We can. No one cares if you use orcs as an evil unnatural fungus that grows in dark places and produces a mockery of true sentient life. Hell, few people will be upset if a published setting does so, especially if it also uses warforged as the natural world's response to that, creating champions whose purpose is to go out and find the corruption causing this strange blight and end it, or something interesting like that.
People who want to play orcs will be annoyed by it being orcs that are that thing, rather than a new type of monster called blightspawn or something, but whatever.

Absolutely nothing about the core books saying orcs can be any alignment, right in the playable writeup and the MM stat blocks, stops you from playing your way.
Seems quite arbitrary to me to say that categorization is bad in some cases but not others.
Do you even realise that you just said that categorizing two things differently based on literally any factors is arbitrary? Do you realise how completely absurd that is?

Different cases aren't arbitrary, they're different because the components of them are different. A DnD Demon is a completely different kind of creature from any humanoid. More different than a dragon is from a human, if we want to bring more complexity into the comparison.

"Has offspring in a natural way, involving some kind of gestation and birth, with traits passed down from parent to offspring, and offspring then generally being raised by the older generation, with the ability to differ in opinions, priorities, values, and beliefs, from generation to generation and within a generational cohort, to build and improve upon that with others have built"

Is inherently different from,

"Is generated randomly from the elemental energy of the Abyss, existing only to destroy and consume and attain more power, with no inherent relationship to others except in the most general sense of being vaguely the same kind of creature or not and sharing the goal of universal cosmic annihilation or not."

There is nothing arbitrary about distinguishing between those two groupings.
LOL as someone raised Mormon, I didn't default to that ever in my life.

I just see a fantasy race of elves. /shrug
That's privelege. Nothing wrong with having privelege, but willfully refusing to even consider hearing and understanding viewpoints that come from a lack of that privilege is not great.
Maybe it's just an American thing? I don't make these assumptions and associations.
No, I assure you Black Europeans, Afro-Latin folk, and many Indigenous folk, also see it quite clearly, not to mention Africans in African nations where white people have directly controlled and ruled over by force majority Black nations within living memory.
Drow are not onyx skinned because they are evil.

They are evil because they have an evil racial god.
They are evil, other elves are almost never drawn as anything but very white and are default-good. Only by willfully refusing to see the problem can someone possibly not see it.
If we wish to get into objectification of women in Fantasy art well that's been done, and it's a product of the timeframe in which it's foundations were established.
No. The fetishization of Black women is not the same subject as the general objectification of women. It is a very specific problem, and is not just the product of a particular time, it is a pervasive and ongoing problem that persists today.
I see a fantasy race, and I don't associate it with reality.
Privelege is very convenient.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Do you feel the portrayal of monstrous humanoids in RPGs has had an actual affect on the way real life minorities are/have been treated? I'm with you up until that point.
Absolutely. If nothing else, it makes the game far less approachable for them. Nobody wants to spend their free time playing make-believe that a feature they have in real life is a universal signifier of evil in the imaginary world. And the fact that people who don’t share that feature do seem to enjoy pretending that, makes it hard to know if these are really people you want to be spending your time with.
"Oh man, they used black skin to denote badness? yeah thats pretty cringe. (handwaves) Look now they are super pale. Or instead of being marked by black skin cause evulz, they instead are marked with glowing magical runes due to their betrayal of the Elven Queen."

Problem solved.
Ok, so let’s do that in the actual books instead of putting it on players and DMs to do.
That other people don't care and will just run it as is has no effect on me NOR does it have any affect on anyone in real life whatsoever.
Except, again, it makes the game far less appealing to people. That’s a very real effect it has on people.
"Well, mr/mrs. minority, I WAS going to treat you well but you see, you remind me of a drow in D&D and they are OBVIOUSLY bad so...I am sorry, no equal treatment for you!" - This has never happened.
Obviously. That’s blatant hyperbole and also not how bigotry works.
In fact, one might argue that using a stereotype in a game setting and then having the game illustrate the falseness of that stereotype is a very good learning moment for a younger player.
If the game actually demonstrated the falseness of in-universe stereotypes (like, you know, by not having races actually be inherently evil), you might have a point.
Of course, no matter what the 'official' lore is I'm just going to make my own anyway so... /shrug.
Right, so it wouldn’t harm your game at all if changes were made to make the game more welcoming to maginalized people by default.
 
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Scribe

Hero
They are evil, other elves are almost never drawn as anything but very white and are default-good. Only by willfully refusing to see the problem can someone possibly not see it.
And that is specifically called out in the reference materials for DMG. Elves SHOULDNT be all White.

That's art director and artist failing to adhere to the material.

I'm not interested in the white privilege angle so, carry on.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Eberron from the very beginning stripped off the "always" dial from creature alignment and attitude for anyone that was native to it. Anyone who was a bad guy or bad girl was an individual who made a choice to be bad or was corrupted by extra-planar bad things. You could be an evil Human, evil Orc, evil Elf, evil Gnoll, evil Warforged, evil Gnome, evil Gold Dragon etc. etc. etc. But no entire group native to the land of Eberron was called evil "just because".

And the game did not break down because of it, nor did it cause any sort of uproar or issue with the playerbase.

So if in subsequent books and/or editions down the line WotC adapts Eberron's methodology over to the base game... I really don't think we're going to see any problems. Because the number of players who think the game needs to have "always evil" native creatures is not actually that large... PLUS if it's not in the book they're going to just add them in themselves anyway. If they think orcs in general should be evil... then they'll make them evil. Regardless of what the books say.

At the end of the day... this to me all comes down to one primary thing... ego. We LIKE it when the things we enjoy are written "for us". When the game's attitude matches our own, it feels good. When our attitude is matched by the game it means we are a part of the full culture of what we like. But if we ever have preferences the game doesn't support, it means to get what we want we have to go "against the current" and create our own version instead. And that means we are (at least in this instance) no longer a part of the greater culture of the game. We feel abandoned... just like the 3E players did when 4E came out or the 4E players did when 5E came out.

And while all of us could play whatever "older version" we prefered... our egos still take the hit. And which is why people try so desperately NOT to see changes come to D&D... so they never have to be the one to get left behind. Unfortunately though... it's going to happen to all of us sooner or later in some form or fashion.
Each campaign can, and in many cases should, have their own lore. That doesn't mean that every DM should have to make that lore from scratch.

Alignment is just one small piece of the story for most monsters, but if you take it out and then still describe them as evil have you really changed anything? If you take away the default lore what do you have left?
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
And that is specifically called out in the reference materials for DMG. Elves SHOULDNT be all White.

That's art director and artist failing to adhere to the material.

I'm not interested in the white privilege angle so, carry on.
I don't care what you're interested in. You don't get to decide what the conversation is.

And who in the book making process caused all the elves to be white is utterly meaningless. The book made it to print that way.
 




if a lot of people are seeing issues, that doesn't mean we're all just projecting and seeing racism where there is none. You're not the only one to keep inferring or implying this argument of projection. If you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there. And I can't help notice these dismissive arguments like that are from people who most notably aren't part of the demographic that's been impacted, so if you can't see it, maybe you should ask yourself why, instead of ascribing disingenuous motivations to others who do.
This. Also, a lot of the comments about "reading into the situation" amount to people "if they didn't intend to be offensive, it isn't offensive..." which isn't how it works. If somebody is hurt by what you say, it doesn't matter if you intended to hurt them or not, you still hurt them. Triply so when dealing with matters of historical and systemic oppression and prejudice; if you're in a privileged social position, you don't get to decide which of your comments marginalized people are allowed to be hurt by.
Yeah, if only there were people of various minority groups who have expressed these same problematic issues....

You've got to be kidding me. You do realize that this topic has been around a lot longer than this particular thread, right? With many other participants over many different platforms over the years?
Also this. Most of the criticism isn't happening here, but instead is coming from the Twitter profiles of 3rd party game designers, stream hosts, and other "geek culture" figures (and even some WotC contractors and employees). Suffice to say, there are BIPOC people -- the impacted demographic here -- who know how tabletop games work, and are not happy with the way D&D models race; some have written off D&D entirely for it, others still engage with the game and the brand but really hope for its improvement. ENWorld is not representative of the discourse.
 


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