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

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
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.
That may play a role, but it’s also a diversionary tactic. Tons of hateful groups engage in silly rituals and practices (see also: the proud boys reciting names of breakfast cereals while getting repeatedly punched) specifically to make themselves harder to take seriously.
 



turnip_farmer

Adventurer
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.

I grew up with Warhammer long before I was ever really exposed to DnD, so orcs and ogres are very different in my conception.

Ogres, to me, do indeed just seem like bigger more brutish humans. To the extent that when they made Space Ogres for Warhammer 40k they were, indeed, just humans that had mutated in isolation somewhere in the cosmos over the millenia.

Orcs, on the other hand, are something completely different. They don't have societies like we would think of them; they don't have females and don't have children. Orcs are more a force of nature than a collection of thinking individuals.

It took some effort to readjust my notions of orcishness to play DnD and grapple with absurd concepts like a half-orc.

None of this is really relevant to the conversation, I am just rambling my thoughts. But it's interesting how these ideas develop. Warhammer fans can sometimes get very angry when people mention the racist implications of the Warhammer mythos, and will often angrily insist that orcs are based on football hooligans so cannot be racist. But then you have savage orcs, whose iconography is largely based on cartoonish versions of African cultures.
 

J-H

Adventurer
40.9 minutes longer than such accusations deserve.

The Wired article is about a "study" done by a "social scientist" at a politicized upper-class university in a highly politicized state in the US. In other words, it's done by someone without a real job in an environment that's highly intolerant of dissenting viewpoints.

"Sod off swampy, get a real job and stop trying to cause trouble for people who just want to have fun."
There is no good faith presumption any more from the attacking side, so don't extend the same to them. Certainly don't give them coverage or passively spread their views by talking about their crap.
 

Speculative fiction from decades ago, even some Disney productions, may have got some unconfortable stereotypes, and maybe productions from today will need some disclaimer about "it is not our intention to promote anticlericalism or hate speech against religious communities".

Some players may be racist or intolerant but the true D&D doesn't promote hate speech against people from real life. Before we should wonder about if Warhammer 40.000 and the xenophobes space marines are promoting totalitarism. Or we could talk about the red paladins, the antagonists from Netflix's "Cursed", or the Gilean republic from "the tale of the maid".

I say it again, and time after time if it is necessary: reporting hate speech is not enough, we have to use speculative fiction to teach and to promote the respect for the human dignity, the core of our rights as citizens and people. We have not only to stop the hate, but making efforts for a mutual trust between everbody.

* Lovecraft had got predjudices, but this usually is forgotten.

* Should we report manwha fantasy if this too human-centric and not enough inclusive with fantasy races?

* Has anybody complained about the darkspawns from the videogames "Dragon Age"? Then why complains about Tolkien's orcs or D&D gnolls?

* Take care with your words. If the other side suspects you are trying to manipulatin emotionally appealling the feeling of guilty and shame then they will not want to keep hearing you. Be absertive and diplomatic, and try to get their trust.

* Today Disney's "our dinosaur is missing" may be tagged as sinophobic, but when I watched it being a child my respect for Chinese people was not worse, maybe thanks "Kung Fu" serie, a door what helped me to know more about Chinese culture. Sometimes I can say some horrible things against the current Chinese goverment, but this doesn't mean I despise China, I don't at all. I can talk about the "rotten appels" or the "black sheeps" but being respectful with the rest of the group.

* I am afraid 2021 will be the year of a new Satanic panic, and this will be worse. The good new is teorically the RPG franchises will not affected, or at least not before videogames with lot of gore and extreme violence (Mortal Kombat, Doom Eternal..).
 

Oofta

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

D&D vastly over simplifies most things down to a sentence or two whether that's how armor and weapons work to skills, professions, areas of expertise. It's a game. It has some simplified versions of reality like HP and monsters in order to make things easy to grasp.

There are a lot of compromises in D&D to make things easy to grasp. Those compromises and simplifications aren't perfect, but they are just compromises and simplifications. That doesn't make it racist.
 


D&D vastly over simplifies most things down to a sentence or two whether that's how armor and weapons work to skills, professions, areas of expertise. It's a game. It has some simplified versions of reality like HP and monsters in order to make things easy to grasp.

There are a lot of compromises in D&D to make things easy to grasp. Those compromises and simplifications aren't perfect, but they are just compromises and simplifications. That doesn't make it racist.
I think this is where we have disagreed in the past, Oofta.

I totally agree that D&D simplifies many things. But I would argue that simplifying how armor works is vastly different than ascribing the values of a culture onto a single race.

I really do believe that scribing the values of a culture onto a single race, whether that's a made up race or not, is racist.

I don't think it's done in D&D in order to be purposefully racist.

But racism doesn't have to be purposeful!

I totally understand that you do not see the practice of ascribing the values of a culture onto a single race as racist. I'm not going to try to convince you otherwise.

I do see it as racist. So in my own D&D games, at my table, I make sure cultures are not defined by race. There might be a dominant race (this village of artisanal muffin bakers is mostly tortles), but I'm going to make sure that every Tortle is not an artisanal muffin baker.

I actually think WotC believes the same thing! But in the effort to keep D&D simple and fantasy oriented, they sometimes fall back on old, harmful practices.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I think this is where we have disagreed in the past, Oofta.

I totally agree that D&D simplifies many things. But I would argue that simplifying how armor works is vastly different than ascribing the values of a culture onto a single race.

I really do believe that scribing the values of a culture onto a single race, whether that's a made up race or not, is racist.

I don't think it's done in D&D in order to be purposefully racist.

But racism doesn't have to be purposeful!

I totally understand that you do not see the practice of ascribing the values of a culture onto a single race as racist. I'm not going to try to convince you otherwise.

I do see it as racist. So in my own D&D games, at my table, I make sure cultures are not defined by race. There might be a dominant race (this village of artisanal muffin bakers is mostly tortles), but I'm going to make sure that every Tortle is not an artisanal muffin baker.

I actually think WotC believes the same thing! But in the effort to keep D&D simple and fantasy oriented, they sometimes fall back on old, harmful practices.
The culture or alignment of any race (or other monsters) in the books are just the defaults. There have to be some base assumptions. I think the nature of the game requires easily identifiable bad guys for most people.

Beyond that, we'll just have to agree to disagree.
 

When I was a kid, some poor woman got completely lost in our neighborhood, saw us playing with a bunch of other kids, and asked if we knew where some street was. We didn't, and she drove on.

The neighborhood gossip, a woman who was always upset about some imminent doom or another, lived across the street from us, was told be her boys that somebody had asked them for directions, and raised a panic about strangers abducting children. There were multiple parental meetings, phones ringing off the hook and total hysterics in the neighborhood. If you weren't on board with it, you didn't care about Stranger Danger. You were part of the reason millions of kids get abducted every year. Tales continued to spiral out of control, I remember my mother telling me that she heard from another parent that somebody got out of a car, grabbed me by the arm, and tried to take me with them. The police even came and questioned people about it.

If you know somebody's child has been abducted, you should call the cops. Definitely. No doubt about that. Yep.
 


There might be a dominant race (this village of artisanal muffin bakers is mostly tortles), but I'm going to make sure that every Tortle is not an artisanal muffin baker.
D&D has already been like that for decades.

It hasn't presumed that each and every last member of every fantasy race is nothing but a stereotype.

In 2000, in 3e, we got descriptors of "always" or "usually" or "often" with alignments to describe how often they lived up to typical alignments. In 3e, orcs were "often chaotic evil", meaning they could be any alignment, and more were chaotic evil than any other alignment, but many would be other alignments. . .and removing arbitrary racial restrictions on character classes meant there was nothing saying you couldn't have a Lawful Good Orc Paladin. They'd be uncommon, but it could happen.

If anything, D&D has long encouraged the idea that even among heavily stereotyped fictional races, there are always exceptions to the stereotypes. . .the whole Drizzt Do'Urden series is built on that idea.
 

Mistwell

Legend
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.
Who said their opinion should have more power in the conversation? I am just saying give them a fair listen before judging their opinion without even hearing it. That's not more power - that should be the floor level of consideration for a complete stranger you know nothing about other than the color of their skin and rough age level.

You cannot know what their perspective is, whether they really are outsiders to the conversation or are not really in the situation, without at least hearing what they say. It's not like bigotry only takes a couple of forms. There are people who have experienced deep, immense levels of discrimination in their lives but you wouldn't possibly know it from simply looking at them (my grandparents were that). And then there are people who have lived very privileged lives but you also wouldn't know it from looking at them. You're essentially arguing Umbran is able to assess a person's life experiences from the color of their skin and age in some meaningful way.

I hope to live in a society where we in the very least we're willing to hear what the dissent thinks, without dismissing them because they are the dissent. That is how bubbles of thought are created, where we don't value differing perspectives and limit our information to only the perspective we already started with. Certainly you can dismiss dissent after you've heard what it is and have objections to it - but dismissing it because it's dissent and comes from someone of a certain skin color or age seems at best unproductive and at worst harmful to growth.
 

D&D has already been like that for decades.

It hasn't presumed that each and every last member of every fantasy race is nothing but a stereotype.

In 2000, in 3e, we got descriptors of "always" or "usually" or "often" with alignments to describe how often they lived up to typical alignments. In 3e, orcs were "often chaotic evil", meaning they could be any alignment, and more were chaotic evil than any other alignment, but many would be other alignments. . .and removing arbitrary racial restrictions on character classes meant there was nothing saying you couldn't have a Lawful Good Orc Paladin. They'd be uncommon, but it could happen.

If anything, D&D has long encouraged the idea that even among heavily stereotyped fictional races, there are always exceptions to the stereotypes. . .the whole Drizzt Do'Urden series is built on that idea.
Yep, I agree with this! I think D&D has been moving in the right direction for a while.

It just boggles my mind when some people defend how it used to be, as if that's how it is now.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
We're geeks, we're outcasts, we're the kind who take in fellow outcasts. . .we're not bigots.

We are geeks. We were outcasts1. We are ready, willing, and able to turn virtually anything into "Us vs Them". We are happy to define outgroups to make ourselves feel strong.

"Fake geek girl" and "not D&D" or "not real roleplaying" put the lie to the idea that we have been particularly welcoming.




1. Not really any more - maybe many older gamers were outcasts in their time, but what was once outcast-geekery is now normalized.
 


turnip_farmer

Adventurer
But the 5E orc doesn't have the alignment qualifier that the 3.5E orc has.

The introduction to the 5e Monster Manual says this, however

"The alignment specified in a monster's stat block is the default. Feel free to depart from it and change a monster's alignment to suit the needs of your campaign. If you want a good-aligned green dragon or an evil storm giant, there's nothing stopping you."
 

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