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

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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.
You know drow are based in large part on Melniboneans, right? As are pale, decadent Targareans.

It's one of those heads you lose, tails I win kind of paradigms. Evil group is dark-skinned? Racism. Non-evil group is dark-skinned? Irrelevant. White group is good? Racism. White group is evil? Irrelevant.

D&D giants. Fire giants are black, because they're black in Norse mythology, where black is associated with the earth and with fire. Frost giants are pale because they're associated with ice and snow. What inferences can we draw about racism and culture from these depictions? None.
 

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Sacrosanct

Legend
You know drow are based in large part on Melniboneans, right? As are pale, decadent Targareans.
They probably don't know that, because it's not true. Out of Gary's own mouth as the where he came up with them:

"Drow are mentioned in Keightley's The Fairy Mythology, as I recall (it might have been The Secret Commonwealth—neither book is before me, and it is not all that important anyway), and as Dark Elves of evil nature, they served as an ideal basis for the creation of a unique new mythos designed especially for the AD&D game."
It's one of those heads you lose, tails I win kind of paradigms. Evil group is dark-skinned? Racism. Non-evil group is dark-skinned? Irrelevant. White group is good? Racism. White group is evil? Irrelevant.

No it's not. Again, because apparently this bears repeating, when all or near all dark skinned races are described as evil, and all or near all pale skinned races are presented as good, that's a problem. We're not talking about how races are described in a non-D&D work of fantasy. We're talking about how they are presented in the game of D&D. And having one example out of many that might be the exception does not prove there is no issue.
 

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.
There's no reason to believe the discourse of twitter is representative of widely held beliefs either. Twitter is the farthest thing from a window into social norms.

It brings to mind efforts to use the term "Latinx." You may well use social media where it's the norm. But it's anything but the norm among Latinos, among whom only 23 per cent have even heard of the term, and only 3 per cent use it.


If those numbers surprise you, it could be because you spend a lot of time on social media platforms that bear no resemblance to the general population.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
It's one of those heads you lose, tails I win kind of paradigms. Evil group is dark-skinned? Racism. Non-evil group is dark-skinned? Irrelevant. White group is good? Racism. White group is evil? Irrelevant.

D&D giants. Fire giants are black, because they're black in Norse mythology, where black is associated with the earth and with fire. Frost giants are pale because they're associated with ice and snow. What inferences can we draw about racism and culture from these depictions? None.
Funny, but diversity will buy you a bit of leeway in these sorts of things. The giants are diverse in coloration so their evil doesn't correlate with skin tone. Meanwhile, taking a look at the 1e Monster Manual's description of elves, all the good ones are pale of complexion while the black ones are evil. Whoops!
 

Remathilis

Legend
I doubt that the alignment system "is on life support" as you describe, @Remathilis. But if I'm wrong, it's easy enough for me to add back in. (shrug)
Alignment as is has nearly no mechanical benefit, other than some corner case rules with artifacts and other magical items. Soon, it won't be used to describe common attitudes of monsters and PC races. Its only being used for deities, planes and individuals, which is the barest use you can have for it. If it went missing utterly now, the amount of rewriting you'd have to do is minimal. I just don't see there being much use for it if it's not going to describe much anymore...
 

They probably don't know that, because it's not true. Out of Gary's own mouth as the where he came up with them:

"Drow are mentioned in Keightley's The Fairy Mythology, as I recall (it might have been The Secret Commonwealth—neither book is before me, and it is not all that important anyway), and as Dark Elves of evil nature, they served as an ideal basis for the creation of a unique new mythos designed especially for the AD&D game."
The dark elves of folklore are primitive. They don't live in decadent cities, worship demons, torture slaves, and indulge in narcotics. Melniboneans do. Moorcock was a major influence on Gygax (it's always where the law/chaos thing came from). Drow are a synthesis of Norse folklore dark (earth) elves, and Melniboneans.
 

No, you're cautioned that if you do change them that you do so with some consideration.

I've not seen a baby with hair finer than the one you're splitting here.

Gender-based stat limits are crap, nothing changes by taking them out. Race-class level limits can be taken out IF one tones down some of the benefits those races get in play. Race-class restrictions and ability score prerequisites (for class) are things I fully endorse.

The point isn't to enumerate your opinions on those changes. The point is that even if 1e & Basic were open to changing things, often the more questionable elements were not among those the game made open to change.

If one wants to change things it helps if one knows what one is trying to change. If alignment guidelines were never given for the monsters I for one wouldn't have known for a lot of 'em what they were intended to be, either due to lack of familiarity with their original source (until playing D&D I'd never heard of a Ki-rin, for example) or because D&D was their original source (e.g. bulette, mind flayer).

I don't think this argument passes the smell test.

Firstly, DMs already have to make this same decision with neutral-aligned creatures... such as bulettes.

Second, most TTRPGs don't have anything like an alignment system at all and they don't have any difficulty presenting which NPCs the PCs are only meant to talk to and which NPCs the PCs are only meant to fight. Many RPGs only have humans in them, too. Indeed, D&D itself doesn't have any difficulty with that distinction with humans.
 

Funny, but diversity will buy you a bit of leeway in these sorts of things. The giants are diverse in coloration so their evil doesn't correlate with skin tone. Meanwhile, taking a look at the 1e Monster Manual's description of elves, all the good ones are pale of complexion while the black ones are evil. Whoops!
Drow aren't in the 1E monster manual. And elves are described as having a range of colourings (wood elves are tan to brown), as are dwarves and gnomes. They were drawn as white in the earliest books (as are orcs, by the way) because it's very difficult to draw dark-skinned humanoids in black and white ink drawings.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
There's no reason to believe the discourse of twitter is representative of widely held beliefs either. Twitter is the farthest thing from a window into social norms.
It's not just twitter, just a quick google search has revealed the following articles or blog posts by journalists, game industry heads, or other subject matter experts: Cecilia D'Anastasio, Andrew Limbong, Jeremy Crawford, Lauren Frazier, Jeremy Blum, James Mendez Hodes, and Daniel Kwan. All people who have led discussions about how elements of D&D have been problematic when it comes to race/gender presentation. None of whom are straight white men. And yet, you insist on handwaving this mountain of evidence that a lot of minorities are seeing problems, and instead are claiming that BIPOC aren't seeing issues, and we must be projecting.

It's telling, to be honest.
 

There's no reason to believe the discourse of twitter is representative of widely held beliefs either. Twitter is the farthest thing from a window into social norms.

It brings to mind efforts to use the term "Latinx." You may well use social media where it's the norm. But it's anything but the norm among Latinos, among whom only 23 per cent have even heard of the term, and only 3 per cent use it.


If those numbers surprise you, it could be because you spend a lot of time on social media platforms that bear no resemblance to the general population.
The people I'm talking about are creators in the TTRPG industry. Some have them have worked on D&D, whether with WotC or independently, while others among them feature different RPGs as the focus of their portfolio. Their subject expertise makes them more relevant to this discussion of RPGs than random people, particularly for those of them who are BIPOC and thus can reinforce their criticisms of RPG mechanics with not just academic theory but also their personal experiences. It just so happens that Twitter is their preferred communication channel due to its convenience and short form. Some of them also operate personal websites or write for magazines and journals, but Twitter is where they get the most engagement due to the nature of the medium.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Drow aren't in the 1E monster manual. And elves are described as having a range of colourings (wood elves are tan to brown), as are dwarves and gnomes. They were drawn as white in the earliest books (as are orcs, by the way) because it's very difficult to draw dark-skinned humanoids in black and white ink drawings.
Clearly, you do not actually have or have not consulted the 1e Monster Manual. Look it up. This conversation will wait.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
The dark elves of folklore are primitive. They don't live in decadent cities, worship demons, torture slaves, and indulge in narcotics. Melniboneans do. Moorcock was a major influence on Gygax (it's always where the law/chaos thing came from). Drow are a synthesis of Norse folklore dark (earth) elves, and Melniboneans.
Gary said what the inspiration was. And they weren't from Melniboneans. That's your assumption. A false assumption since we literally have the answer from Gary himself. Repeating a false thing doesn't make it true. So you're going to have to provide a pretty compelling argument with a lot of evidence if you want me to take your word about where drow came from over the word of the guy who was the one who came up with them in the game.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Drow aren't in the 1E monster manual. And elves are described as having a range of colourings (wood elves are tan to brown), as are dwarves and gnomes. They were drawn as white in the earliest books (as are orcs, by the way) because it's very difficult to draw dark-skinned humanoids in black and white ink drawings.
Wrong. Again. From the 1E MM:

Drow: The “Black Elves,” or drow, are only legend. They purportedly
dwell deep beneath the surface in a strange subterranean realm. The
drow are said to be as dark as faeries are bright and as evil as the latter
are good. Tales picture them as weak fighters but strong magic-users
 

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.
I challenge you to use pen and ink to draw a character with bronze skin.

Look at the pictures in the 1E MM and the other early D&D books: all humanoids are white. Elves, dwarves, orcs, trolls, ogres, goblins. All drawn white. Even though the descriptions have their skins range from white to bronze to read to purple. Because black and white pen art literally has to be black and white, and you can't make out features on a purely black figure.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
Alignment as is has nearly no mechanical benefit, other than some corner case rules with artifacts and other magical items. Soon, it won't be used to describe common attitudes of monsters and PC races. Its only being used for deities, planes and individuals, which is the barest use you can have for it. If it went missing utterly now, the amount of rewriting you'd have to do is minimal. I just don't see there being much use for it if it's not going to describe much anymore...
Where have you seen the suggestion from WOX that all creatures will have alignments defaults removed?? Mindflayers, Beholders, Dragons etc?

Also, WOC are very much using alignment to describe NPCs of all types.

What has Alignment got to do with Racism? Beyond default assumptions about humanoids?
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
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.

Well, this post from the first page sure became prophetic.
 

Mannahnin

Adventurer
Moorcock was a major influence on Gygax (it's always where the law/chaos thing came from).
No, I don't think the historical record bears this out. Both Gygax and Moorcock got the Law/Chaos conflict from Poul Anderson, specifically Three Hearts & Three Lions (trying to remember if it also comes up in The Broken Sword).

Of course the High Elves and Dark Elves of Games Workshop's Warhammer (getting Law & Chaos third hand, at this point) were certainly influenced by fellow-Brit Moorcock. Perhaps not coincidentally, GW's High and Dark Elves are the same species and physically pale.
 

No, I don't think the historical record bears this out. Both Gygax and Moorcock got the Law/Chaos conflict from Poul Anderson, specifically Three Hearts & Three Lions.
Gygax credited both Anderson and Moorcock as influences. In this interview he specifically cites Moorcock for the law-chaos thing.


And Melnibonean mythos was one of only three based on fictional works (along with Newhon/Lankhmar and Cthulhu) included in Deities and Demigods. It was clearly a big influence on D&D.

Someone would have to be blind to miss the parallels between Melniboneans and drow:

Slim
Refined
Haughty
Decadent
Live in a fantastical city
Sadistic
Keep slaves
Enjoy torture
Have contempt for other peoples
Use narcotics
Use sorcery
Feud and scheme against one another
Worship demons
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Right, and as with CoS I assume things will be addressed. I just don't believe Orcs or Drow are standing in for real world culture.
No one is saying they are. An element of a work of fiction doesn’t need to be a direct stand-in for something in the real world to communicate messages that are relevant to the real world, nor do the messages a work communicates need to be intentional.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Wrong. Again. From the 1E MM:

Drow: The “Black Elves,” or drow, are only legend. They purportedly
dwell deep beneath the surface in a strange subterranean realm. The
drow are said to be as dark as faeries are bright and as evil as the latter
are good. Tales picture them as weak fighters but strong magic-users
Moreover:
1e MM under elves in general said:
Description: Elves are slim of build and pale complected. Their hair is dark, and their eyes are green. Their garb is typically pastel and of blue or green or violet (but often covered by a greenish gray cloak).

And of the specific groups that have info about complexion:
Aquatic - greenish silver
Wood elf - "Their complexions are fair..."

So, yeah, when your evil variety is dark but everyone else is light, it may not have been intended to be racist, but it sure is tone deaf to the concern.
 

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